pretty neat little trick, eh? 
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HappyScrappy is run by Jason Feifer, a freelance writer in Massachusetts.

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Crowd pleasers
Favorite features such as Scamming the African Scammer and rock-star cybersex

I can't draw
Yes, it's possible for brilliant comics to be drawn poorly. Very poorly.

Dirty Laundry
A magazine of open letters.

Choose your own adventure
You're in control, so don't screw it up.

The dustbin
A collection of content from happyscrappy's early days

Blog archives:
July, 2004
June, 2004
May, 2004
April, 2004
March, 2004
February, 2004


Archives: July, 2004


Wednesday, July 21

From the Unflattering Alibi Department:
Scott Barratt, 26, has been accused of an embarassing string of home break-ins near Boston, in which he enters while people are inside and then gets into scuffles with them. But wait, says his mom -- he couldn't have been the one behind these crimes. Why? Writes the Boston Globe, "The elder Barrett, who lives in the same building and baby-sits her son's 3-year-old child, said her son has a full schedule attending alcohol, drug, and domestic violence counseling and does not have time to break into houses in the neighborhood." Oh, well, that's comforting.

Table scraps:
:Remember the nutcase who made Big Macs
his primary diet since 1972, and was featured in "SuperSize Me"? Well, he died. Actually, no, just kidding. He just ate his 20,000th Big Mac. And no, he said, "you cannot have the carton (containing the celebrated sandwich) because it’s not for sale. You can’t buy it from me.”
::Whoa, here's some bottom-of-the-barrel campaigning. Bush is now claiming that his reelection will ensure U.S. safety -- thus essentially arguing that electing Kerry will make the country unsafe. Remember Michael Moore's argument that the government uses scare tactics to get what it wants? Well...
:::How lame is lame? What about rigging a local battle of the bands?
::::Google is good. Google is great. Google is better than it was in 1960.
:::::P. Diddy is at it again, remixing old classics into a little slice of thug life. But this time, he's ripping off New Hampshire's "Live free or Die" slogan. P. Diddy's message? "Vote or Die." Not so thug this time, Diddy-o, but at least for the first time ever, you've got a worthwhile message.

Here's one way to protect natural resources
The Wall Street Journal (no link available, because the bastards have a pay-only site) had a funny piece yesterday about the luxury treatment given to the Olympic torch as it makes its way around the globe. A staff of 110 handlers, along with 20 ceremonial virgins, have been assembled to care for the torch, and and it's being transported in two different planes. For safety's sake, the torch is split into six lanterns, and three are carried on each plane. Explains Spyros Lambridis, the torch's ambassador, "That way, touch wood, should one of the planes go down, we have a back up." Although, wouldn't that be the least of his worries? A plane goes down, you presumably lose 55 handlers -- and more importantly, 10  virgins. But so long as it doesn't go down in the ocean, the last thing you'll be missing is fire.

The bottom of the barrel starts scraping
Now, now children, settle down. The National Enquirer had the scoop on Michael Jackson's impending quadruplets, and Us Weekly ripped the story off and claimed it was an "exclusive." But let's not get too mad about it. The Enquirer's editor is running around making news networks credit the Enquirer for the story, and Us Weekly editor Janice Min defended her paper by saying, "They may have [had the scoop]. but we don't pay for stories. People don't recognize reporting in the supermarket tabloids because of the compromised way in which they gather their material." Would it make you both feel better if I said that you both suck? And that you both have compromised ways of gathering information? And that neither of you are actually performing journalism, or are worthy of being trusted in any way? Or that both of you actually are considered supermarket tabloids? There, see? Don't you feel better? You're not so different after all!


Tuesday, July 20

Table scraps:
:James Brown: funk legend, lots of hair, inspiration for a timeless "get in the hot tub!" Saturday Night Live skit, and now, confirmed by this video clip, totally out of his mind.
::Grandma soothes robber to sleep with prayer, milk and a banana.
:::For the sake of humanity, for the sake of ever having lives that don't solely revolve around the Internet, for the sake of romance and beauty and happiness, please, oh please, make this not be real.
::::Here's the good news, Mr. Lunkov: you're clearly very alive. Here's the bad news: your ex-wife thought you died in February, and buried you.
:::::A group of mentally and physically handicapped people travel the country interviewing everyone they can find, and then it gets edited down for a movie called "How's your news?" And in very typical South Park fashion, random people are saying the movie is exploitve, while the people actually involved in the movie have a different take on it.
::::::If ever there was a rude awakening after surgery, it was this surgery...


Monday, July 19

Table scraps:
:If you look six generations backwards -- or, about 150 years -- and focus only on parents of parents, you'll by looking at 64 people, about 1.56% of which share your last name. That, and more, in these nifty little charts. (From the people who brought you the Bush-and-Kerry-are-16th-cousins connection.)
::Dep. Sec. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz traveled to Omaha and met with some reporters there, and his public affairs guy demanded that any quotes of Wolfowitz be attributed to "a senior Defense Department official." That's routine stuff in Washington, but as a Kansas City Star reporter said, nobody's going to be fooled out there -- Paul may have been the only senior Defense Department official in the whole damn region, let alone just Omaha.
:::Here's a website that answers the most burning question on your mind -- well, that is, if the most burning question on your mind is "Is it november?"
::::This land is my land. This land is his land. This land is, well, everyone's, right? Go watch this really excellent political spoof. I promise, it's worth all the time it takes to load.
:::::Ayn Rand would be so proud of Harry. A French professor argues that "Harry Potter ... appears as a summary of the social and educational aims of neoliberal capitalism."
::::::It turns out that the pet goat story Bush read to second graders during the 9/11 attacks -- a scene laid bare in "Fahrenheit 9/11" -- is actually part of one company's bizarre educational philosophy. Here's an article about it, and here's a behind-the-scenes explanation from the author.

Your bank account is judging you
I just deposited a check into my savings account, and then recognized what just might be the most pathetic, and yet truthful, modern sign of moderate financial stability. And it is this: Having enough money in your savings account for the monthly interest to actually pay for the bank account's monthly fee. I use Fleet, which charges an absurd $7 a month. My interest rate is -- well, I have no idea, but it's pathetic enough for me to earn mere pennies a month. And when -- or if -- I ever have enough money in that account to be earning seven stinkin' bucks a month, and thus will have for free what really should be free anyway, then I shall consider myself a success.

Multimedia for the whole family!
Gather 'round the kids and neighbors for a healthy dose of -- well, no, you probably want to leave the kids and neighbors out of this. But snuggle up to your computer and take a gander of this comedy site my friend Zack has put together, choc full of funny prank calls and movies. In particular, check out his version of American Beauty, and a call featuring the whitest of white rapping.


Friday, July 16

There's more to politics than rock-n-roll
There have been a lot of rockers (and punk rockers) working to get Dubya out of office, but so far I'm mostly impressed with whatever country team was put together to write a one-minute jingle for Paul Babbitt, a Dem seeking a congressional seat from rural Arizona. Its lyrics include: "Those fat cats up in D.C. get fatter every day / but when do I get something for the taxes that I pay? / In rural Arizona, seems we don't get nothin' back / Sure, they're building schools, but they're over in Iraq." Take a listen to the thing -- it's easily the catchiest political jingle I've ever heard, and it pissed off his opponent.

Franken O'Franken
I decided to spend some of my last free weekday afternoon listening to Al Franken's show on Air America, since I hadn't actually listened since I tuned in for about five minutes of choppy Real Audio feed on his first day of broadcast. It's good to see that he's changed the name of his show from "The O'Franken Factor" to "The Al Franken Show," thus finally dropping that stupid referential name, which had always said to me, "We're not offering original content, we're just being reactionary" -- something I think liberal products are far often too guilty of.

But, for some reason, he's adopted a game called "Wait, Wait, Don't Lie To Me" -- a a little call-in quiz show that asks listeners to judge Scott McClellan statements. Good idea, but again -- why the rip-off name, this time from NPR's "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me"? (Not that lifting NPR names is new to Air America; its morning show is called "Morning Sedition.") At least ripping off a conservative program's name makes some sort of lame point, but ripping off NPR -- a straight-up news source often accused of having a liberal bias -- is just stupid. I don't think the importance of a name can be understated -- it's a signal of the intent and thought of the people behind it, and a name that doesn't stand on its own is never flattering.

Table scraps:
:Be like Mike, the advertisers say. But really: Don't. I've watched this little clip over and over, and the best I can guess is that this child thought he could jump a lot farther than he really could.
::Since writing "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them," Al Franken has clearly moved on to other things. Bill O'Reilly, however, is still so furious about the book that he's dropping vague and absurd threats to go to London and sue.
:::Well, this is mighty unfortunate: an official metal sign at Ground Zero carried the wrong date of the terrorist attacks -- Sept. 11, 2002.
::::What do you do if you receive a note that says, "I have solved the black hole information paradox and I want to talk about it"? Well, if you're an organizer of the 
17th International Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in Dublin, Ireland, and the note came from Stephen Hawking, you let the man talk.
:::::Visitors to Miami's trendy Coconut Grove area, you may rest easy. Your car is being protected by the parking meter fairy.
::::::Perhaps the most impressive thing about this piece -- "My Son's Appearance on Fresh Air" -- is how totally dead-on the Terry Gross dialog is. Although, the rest of it's pretty funny as well.
:::::::Since the advent of braille, people with fine vision have been trying to find a way to make the language sexy. (OK, that's probably not true at all, but stay with me here.) And now, they've found the answer: put braille on the chest of t-shirts.
::::::::The president, in his own words, wants you to know what things he is not. And those things include poet, lawyer, doctor and bean counter.

Fear of a nude planet
Apparently standards for proper parenting are directly disproportional to how much clothing the parents wear. That is to say, parents are free to drop their children off for the day at an average day camp. But, if devout nudist parents want their children to go to nudist camps, they've got to be there the whole time. If not, says a Virginia judge, they probably hate their children. "People who love their children or grandchildren will make a modest adjustment to their schedules so that their children and grandchildren can have this unique experience," he said in a ruling yesterday. Obviously, attending a camp all day, every day, for the entire summer is a little more than a modest adjustment to a parent's schedule. In fact, it's a downright unreasonable thing to ask of anybody. What this really says is that, even in a private environment, America is intolerant of nudity. John Ashcroft, I'm sure, showers while fully clothed.

Things may get a bit different around here, but hopefully not too different
Here's a little heads-up that today is my last day as a full-time freelance writer, which means it's my last day where I spend the workday sitting in my bedroom. On Monday, I'll magically be gainfully employed as a staff writer for a mid-sized daily newspaper, which means, among other things, I may not have as much time to post on this blog. But wait! Before you throw yourself out of that window, let me add this: I intend to update this thing on at least a mostly-daily basis, if not daily, so hopefully things won't be too different than they are now. I'm thrilled that this page gets the traffic it does, and I have no intentions of letting that slip away. So, keep on stopping by. I'll be here. Thanks.


Thursday, July 15

Southwest, the official mile-high club?
I'd imagine being single outside of college must suck, since the opportunities to just sort of casually bump into another single person are few and far between. But hark, what's that in the air? Pheromones? Cupid? No, just Southwest Airlines, which is trying to bill itself as a flying matchmaker. Is it working? At the very least, Southwest says so. With its open-seating policy, it claims, people can check each other out at the terminal and then choose to sit next to each other during the flight. It's really playing the angle up -- in-flight snacks are called "love bites," in-flight drinks are "love potions," and its stock ticker symbol is LUV. But while branding is all well and good, I'm not buying into this idea until the airline starts handing out in-flight love blankets -- for, well, you know. Then wings will really be spread!

Post-script: Not everyone is filled with Southwest lovin', apparently. The company's CEO abruptly resigned today. It seems profits weren't rising the way they should have. So, forget above-ground booty -- will the company even give him a kiss goodnight?

Table scraps:
:How do you demean a newspaper editor? Just ask Newsday, which took a woman off the news desk and made her scan through comics to check for drawn butt cracks.
::Here's a little bit of fun with English translations! Check out number five on this FAQ, which invites you to read its "lifeless description."
:::Bush traveled to an ice cream shop in Wisconsin and, quite frankly, I have no idea what happened next.
::::Neil Smither watched "Pulp Fiction" and had an idea for a new business: clean up bloody death scenes. Years later, he's rich -- but not for nothing. How would you like to deal with something like this: The most memorable job, yuck-wise, was probably the guy who died while taking a bath. He went undiscovered for days and had gotten so bloated, says Smither, that "he corked up the tub.'' There was just no getting him out. So Smither had to puncture a hole in him, then take a hose and pump that's used to empty out water beds to deflate him.
:::::So, what's it like spending a day at Belmont racetrack? Pretty boring if you're not, uh, betting on the horses.

Illinois is saved! Illinois is saved!
Sadly, the world will not be treated to regular Senatorial moral proclamations like this one, which former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka produced yesterday: "What's the matter with right and wrong? Talk about right and wrong. It's either right or wrong. There's no in-between. And I'm not going to change, and you're not going to change me." But you see, he said, you must see that he is not going to run for Senate, and the Senate will not have him because he's not running, you see. He has prior commitments, commitments that he made prior, and so running for Senate is something he can't do if being a senator requires him to run. Got that?

Post-script: Well, just for the hell of it, I'd like to note another instance in which the DrudgeReport was totally wrong. Yesterday morning, Matt Drudge posted a note saying, "FLASH: Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka will announce this morning at 9:30am he intends to run for senate in Illinois, says well-placed source..." Of course, as you just learned, Ditka did the exact opposite. Can Drudge please stop posting "exclusive" information, and just link articles? That way, he doesn't have to keep embarassing himself.


Wednesday, July 14

Table scraps:
:Want to play rock-paper-scissors with Saddam? Be careful, he cheats!
::Feeling safe in Mexico? The country's attorney general isn't. Writes The Register:
 Mexico's attorney general has taken the unusual step of having an "anti-kidnap" chip stuck in his arm and then making the fact public - thereby ensuring that anyone lifting señor Rafael Macedo de la Concha will be certain to remove said limb at their earliest convenience.
:::Boston Red Sox fans should love this: Jim and Andra Siscel have attended a baseball game in every major and minor league stadium in the country, and guess what the only stadium was where they didn't root for the home team? You got it -- Yankee Stadium.
::::Oh no! Today would have been an awfully bad day for my high school self. Back then, I was a die-hard Miami Heat fan, and considered Patrick Ewing and Shaq my sworn enemies. Now, years later, I don't care so much about the NBA, but I do still consider Shaq to be one of the reasons professional basketball has become so labored and boring. And wouldn't you know it -- he was just traded to the Heat. Oh, sad day!
:::::Hooray for public information! Here are a few great sources for finding out all the things you're legally able to know: CriminalCheck.com, for just what it sounds like; FundRace.org, for who's given to what presidential campaign; Newsmeat.com, for who's given to what political organization; PublicData.com, for lots.
::::::Former military men, now conscientious objectors, are taking their cases to the Internet. Meet Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey.

I'm such a freakin' disappointment
The summer issue of Zink Magazine just hit the stands, and it has a great letter to the editor about an article I wrote back in April. The piece was about desensitizing creams, and I got fairly personal in it -- but, more out of fear than anything else, I didn't actually use one on myself. Instead, as a joke, I put it on my finger. That didn't go over well with one reader, who wrote:

NUMB NUTS
I eagerly opened up to page 42 of the April 2004 issue to read all about the penis-numbing creams that were available on the market and to hear thoughts from a male's perspective, only to be rudely disappointed upon hearing that the writer was 'not brave enough to find out first-hand.' Did he really think that putting it on his finger was a legitimate alternative? Everyone knows that fingers and penises are drastically different. He came off sounding hugely ignorant and close-minded. Now I have a visualization of him in my head and he has a unibrow.
 -Kelly

Come on now -- a unibrow? How unfair! And I totally realize fingers and penises are drastically different. Oh well, you can't please 'em all. Still, pretty funny letter.

When saying it enough makes it untrue
Here's the thing about Fox News: it's extremely conservative. That's so blaringly obvious that it's pointless to even explain why. But here's the other thing about Fox News: by maintaining that it's "fair and balanced," it is making liberals so furious that they're casting doubt upon the existence of Fox News's conservative slant. How so? Consider this.

There are some things that are just a given -- smoking causes cancer, the sky is blue, Donald Trump has awful hair. They achieve that status when discussion on them has come to a close -- for instance, when reporters no longer think it's necessary to explain that smoking causes cancer when writing about anti-smoking efforts, because readers just accept it as true, whether or not tobacco companies dispute it. Therefore, the strongest argument you can make is no argument at all. Why even discuss this? It's fact. Ever listen to conservative radio? That's exactly how they make their point.

This is really what should have already been achieved with Fox News. But it hasn't. Why? My guess is because liberals are so hard up for Fox to admit its own bias -- something it just won't do, at least not officially -- that they keep trying to produce more evidence. The latest, of course, is the documentary "Outfoxed" -- which, for full disclosure, I just ordered yesterday. And while all the proof liberals offer up is good and legit, it means one important thing -- that there's still a discussion going on about this topic, which means that it hasn't been translated into fact yet. It means that the Boston Globe just wrote, "Among media watchers, a debate has long raged about whether Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel is the 'fair and balanced' antidote to pervasive liberal media bias that it claims to be in its promotion or a megaphone for spreading conservative dogma." But I ask, what debate? Long raged among media watchers? Really? Who, besides people who work for Fox News?

The fact is this: While all this proof, as well as "Outfoxed," may be good and valuable, all it's really doing is keeping this issue alive as a question, and not as what it should be -- a declartive sentence.

Antifreeze straight, no chaser 
Slate.com's "Today's Papers" section claims that a sign that the apocalypse is upon us is a headline in today's USA Today -- "Organic Pet Food Sales Rising." But I think the real sign of the apocalypse is something highlighted in another Slate feature, which explains why antifreeze is so damn tasty, and why state and federal lawmakers are working to legally force antifreeze makers to add something bitter to their batter. It turns out that the chemical used in antifreeze is extremely sweet, but also extremely deadly. And while some murderers use it as poison, some people die just because they allegedly liked the taste and didn't realize it was dangerous. So, what do we call a situation when people are drinking poison because it tastes so yummy, and the government has save people by making it less of a tongue delight? That's right -- the apocalypse.


Tuesday, July 13

Republicans, don't be so hard on yourselves!
Perhaps this isn't even worth mentioning, considering it's just another instance of the knee-jerk Republican criticize-America-equals-hating-America mentality, but I just can't help myself. Some group of blind flag-wavers is now offering W Ketchup, which carries the tagline, "You don't support Democrats. Why should your ketchup?" (LowCulture muses, "The glaringly obvious joke would be, 'Would you like freedom fries with that?'") Unfortunately, though, the makers of W Ketchup (herein known as T-Mowk) don't realize they're only attacking a life-long Republican (who only recently changed parties) -- and one that's poured millions of dollars into Pennsylvania, home of Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the most hateful and conservative lawmakers this country has to offer.

For instance, T-Mowk might remember that Teresa Heinz Kerry, heir to the Heinz fortune and John Kerry's wife, is a life-long Republican who very clearly only changed party affiliation because her husband is running for president (much to her chagrin). Or, that she's taken over the chariable trusts started by her first husband, the late Republican senator John Heinz. Therefore, I don't really understand what T-Mowk's message is -- boycott Heinz products to hurt charity? To hurt a fellow Republican for marrying a Democrat? (Reminds me of Dubya's "You're either with us or against us" remark.) Because it has some loose connection to John Kerry? What is it?

Table scraps:
:The glitziest fashion spread in the history of Vogue is not as good an advertisement for clothes as a nudist magazine's simple black-and-white photo of a pudgy middle-aged couple just sort of standing there buck naked. So says a WashPost reporter, after viewing some nudist magazines.
::What happens to your online self when you die? This isn't the best article in the world, but it raises a really good, fairly creepy question.
:::Most nights, up to a dozen reporters can be found lounging around the pool at the Hamra, a delicious oasis that, with its palm trees, deck furniture, cheap beer, and social chit-chat, makes me think we’re all in a Melrose Place spinoff series. But aside from the lounging, reporting in Baghdad, this reporter writes, is a scary experience.
::::A sign of the dot-com bust going boom again? Bloggers are starting to rake in thousands of dollars a month in adveritsing revenue. (But not me, at least not right now. I've never even looked into it, mainly because I like having the site ad-free. I hope you agree.)
:::::Coming to newsstands in September -- an extremely dangerous weapon, both for your body and mind. Why? One word: Vogue. Normally just a weapon against those with original thoughts, this one's rumored to clock in at more than 850 pages. That means that when you see someone in the midsts of a fashion emergency, you can just throw Vogue at them and create a medical emergency as well! Sure, it might be mean, but it'll keep the offender off the streets, right?

I wanna wake up in a city that's fast asleep
Frank Sinatra sure chose the right city to sing about, because it would have been a pretty different song had he taken a bus four hours north to Boston. Up here, the city has the stamina of a newborn baby -- well, check that. Newborn babies wake up during the night. Boston has the stamina of a dead baby.

Don't get me wrong; I really like Boston. I'm planning on moving closer to the city within a month. But if ever there was an emblamatic moment of this city's inability to maintain a nightlife, it's when the city refused to allow Democratic National Convention parties to stretch the normal city rules. Here's an exerpt from the Boston Globe:

Shutting down early is, according to Patrick B. Moscaritolo, president of
the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, ''part of the Boston
package."

''It's what you get when you choose Boston," he said. ''You get the history,
the uniqueness of Boston, the fact that it's an easy city to get around and
has great museums and attractions. But you also get the 2 o'clock closing -- that kind of continued overlay of 300 years of the Puritan ethic."

Not so in New York, of course. Republicans meeting in August will be free to hit bars and clubs until 4 a.m.

''So what?" said Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who said he considered letting some restaurants and clubs stay open past 2 a.m. but decided against it, partly because he didn't want to be accused of favoritism. ''Boston is unique; our commercial districts abut residential districts. We've done well with the hours in the past."

Well, Mayor Menino, your words are exactly what's wrong with Boston. The city goes to bed early, and you scoff at anyone who thinks that's a problem. And while we're at it, what city doesn't mix commercial and residential areas? When you move to a city, you should expect noise on the street. Ever wonder why New York City is such an attractive place? It's not because the motto is, "Lights out at 10 p.m."

A friend of mine, and longtime Bostonian, has a somewhat different take, though. He says Boston should always be open later, but that it would be insulting if the city had done so just for the DNC -- an event that's forcing half the city to close down, much to the chagrin of just about everyone. He writes, "If they ever decided to open up the bars and clubs until 4 a.m. just so some degenerate, pimple-faced DNC staffer, fresh out of college that mommy paid for, could get his weasel greased in the back room of Jose McIntyre's, I would shoot John Kerry myself." (Note to Secret Service: that's just hyperbole. He plans to vote for Kerry, not kill him.)

Don't do it, dopey Ditka!
Clearly, Mike Ditka doesn't read my blog. But wait! He's dopey for another reason. Remember that rant about how fame doesn't equal political stealth? Well, the former coach of the Chicago Bears is thinking about running anyway, and told a television reporter that he could "be a better senator then Ted Kennedy." So, there's lots of pity to go around here -- pity Chicago, pity Mike Ditka for being so dumb, and pity his poor wife, who told the Sun-Times, " he decides to (run), I'd divorce him."


Monday, July 12

Trump Dumps the Chump
How'd you like my attempt at a tabloid-like headline? Sure was better than "Trump Slams Bush on Iraq," which is what the NY Daily News wrote. But regardless, the message was interesting: Trump, a (surprise surprise) Republican, doesn't approve of Bush. But -- something the NYDN didn't report -- he's been generous enough to give $2,000 to both Kerry and Bush. I thought this was a pretty interesting picture of how business and politics mix.

However, a more interesting picture is on the front page of today's Washington Post, which investigates House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's illegal courting of companies, including Enron, to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund an extremely sketchy redistricting plan in Texas. Will this send Tom down in flames, to the depths of hell currently occupied by Enron? We can only hope.

Stop -- Edwards Time
John Kerry could not have brought John Edwards on board at a better time. Every editorial cartoon about Edwards being the charming addition to Kerry's stodgy blandness is totally on target, and no better example can be found than in this excerpt from an interview with the New York Times:

Q.In a poll we did recently, we found that a majority of Americans thought that because of the administration policy onIraq, the chance of a terrorist attack had grown. Do you guys agree with that?

KERRY: I believe that the overall conduct of this administration's foreign policy the war included, the management of Afghanistan, the diversion from Afghanistan, away from Al Qaeda, the lack of cooperation with other countries, the lack of adequate attention on homeland security, all together -- has not made America as safe as we ought to be given the options available to us in the aftermath of 9/11.

Q.That's too mushy. Are we more or less vulnerable to a terrorist attack?

KERRY: Look, because I didn't answer your question the way you want me to doesn't mean my answer is too mushy. What I said is very clear. That there are a whole series of events that have not made America safer. ...

EDWARDS: The way he answered that question, the way John just answered that question, is the way the question should be answered. Because things don't fit into boxes in this world. Any more than the things that affect American families here at home fit in boxes. You know, it's not health care, and then in another box, jobs, and then in another box, tuition. They all come together to affect the lives of Americans. It's also true that when you're evaluating what the effect has been of this administration, you can't look at Iraq in isolation, because Iraq acts in concert with what's happening in Afghanistan, what's happening with the war on terrorism in general, what's happening with the deterioration of our relationships around the world all those things go together in order to evaluate what the impact is.

It's beautiful, isn't it? Both these guys are trying to dodge this question, but their approaches are totally different. Kerry dodges by giving you the verbal equivalent of a stale dog biscuit to chew on, and when he's called on it, he just give you another helping. Then Edwards comes in, and dodges by giving you something else -- it isn't really what you asked for either, it's it goes down smooth, and it leaves a nice after-taste. It's exactly what Kerry can't do -- be clear, concise, and interesting. Oh, Edwards, you are right on time.


Friday, July 9

Duck Cheney says, "Civil liberties are quack"

I made that graphic for no better reason than I had accidentally written "Duck Cheney" in an e-mail earlier today, and thought it was worth seeing in action. But, boy, just look at that thing. Uglier than a Florida duck, he is! I bet Cheney would be the kind of duck to eat your bread and then shit on your lawn. I don't like duck hunting, but in this case, I think I'd make an exception. (But there's one thing I can't decide on: does he look better with the duck beak, or a fleshy one?)

Table scraps:
:A NYPost employee has said that the paper's enormous mistake on Tuesday was due to a hot tip from none other than the paper's media mogul owner, Rupert Murdoch.
::Not that this is much of a surprise, but it should be noted that bad things happen when someone tries to jump over a fence topped with razor wire.
:::Here's a fantastic suggestion on how to respond to Bush's cocky comment about what differentiates Edwards from Cheney, which he explained this way: "Dick Cheney could be president." Writes Daniel Radosh: "
If I were making an ad for MoveOn, I'd just repeat that soundbite for 30 seconds, distorting it each time to make it scarier and scarier, and end with a card saying, 'What more reason do you need?'"
::::Well, folks, it seems the Bush administration isn't even trying to cover up its cover ups anymore. The Pentagon has announced that -- oops! -- documents from exactly the period of time during which Bush's military record has come into question were inadvertantly destroyed. Shucks, sorry!
:::::I haven't seen any "True" dating ads yet, but a blogger named Lindsay makes some great points about them. See this, and then this.
:::::::Fundamentalist Christians? Big Bellies? Dudes wearing aprons? A few gals admit the unlikely things that they find sexy. Prepare for a deluge of mail, girls.
:::::::What was a cute little kitten doing three miles off-shore? Who knows, but his name is now Nemo.

And your mother was great last night, too.
Let's say you're a big-shot in government -- for example, the California Secretary of Education -- and you're out for a photo-op. In this case, let's say you're at a library. Of course, you're going to want to banter a little, to show you're human and fun and feel comfortable in your arena. Nothing hardball, nothing to make headlines. Just, you know, a little clip on the nightly news, or in the local paper. And oh, look, here's the perfect opportunity: a little girl named Iris has told you that her name means "Egyptian Goddess." What do you do?

You could say, "That's a beautiful name." Or, "It fits you perfectly." Or even, "Are you an Egyptian Goddess?" (And then the girl would giggle and say, "No!" and you could say, "You could have fooled me!" and everyone would say, "Oh, how cute.") But if your name is Richard Riordan, you might have other ideas. Like this:

The conversation, videotaped by KEYT-TV, took place Thursday at a promotional event for summer reading at Santa Barbara's central library. The unidentified girl, who appeared to be a preschooler, asked Riordan if he knew that her name meant "Egyptian goddess."

Riordan replied, "It means stupid dirty girl."

After nervous laughter in the room, the girl again told Riordan the meaning of her name.

"Hey, that's nifty," he said.

Oh yeah, and there's video.

Only if there'll be beer at the polls
What is it with celebrity and politics? A campaign started to run John Cusack for President. An entire state handed its future over to a musclehead who wants to kill puppies. Some wacky dude is trying to draft Mike Ditka for Senate.  Does this say more about our relationship to celebrities, or our understanding of politics?

Each one is coming out of some form of desperation -- Cusack because the world is desperate to dump Bush, the Governator because of the recall confusion, and Ditka because the Illinois GOP is scrambling like mad to find a replacement for its sexpot former candidate. As a reader of this page wrote me, "Nice how the Republicans know they need a celebrity like Ditka to have a chance of winning with their current reputation in Illinois." So, maybe that's it. Celebrities are like the mommies of politics. The kids can go out and play -- run a Senate race, register people to vote -- but when things get messy, mommy's gets called to clean things up. Somehow, people with no political experience are considered the sure bet in a political race. Again, does this say more about our relationship to celebrities, or our understanding of politics? I have no idea.


Wednesday, July 7

Dr. Phil the pill
Ah, I knew I didn't like Dr. Phil! Honestly, I don't really know anything about him, nor have I had any interest in reading anything about him, but his mere television omnipresence made him terribly annoying. And now, thanks to this story about a reporter who struggled to write a book while Dr. Phil stonewalled her, I have an actual reason to dislike the guy. He's a jerk who doesn't trust reporters. And really, that's good enough for me.

In a New York minute...
Yesterday afternoon, as my NY day wrapped up, I called a friend of mine and we decided to meet in Times Square. We called each other back when we were both in the area, and talked signs for a bit -- "I'm lear the Lion King sign!" "The what? I'm by the Coke sign." -- until I passed by a group of ganster-looking guys posing for a photo with Samuel Jackson. Yes, Sammy-fucking-J.

"Quick, find me, Samuel Jackson is standing right here," I tell my friend. Then I grab a Metro -- that crappy free newspaper -- and start waving it in the air, so he can find me in the crowd. He sees it, and we hang up. Then I look over to see the gangster guys walking away and Sammy just staying right... where... he... is. That's when my friend appears, and tells me I'm standing in front of the wax museum.

Table scraps:
:If you happen to live near Milwaukee, may I note that I wrote a piece for this week's Shepherd-Express, the city's alt-weekly, about pre-"Fahrenheit 9/11" hubbub.
::Don't mess with Texas. Really, though. If you do, they'll send a cease-and-desist letter because, it turns out, the phrase is copyrighted by the state Department of Transportation for its anti-litter campaign. In the last year, 23 letters have been sent to retailers.
:::John-John -- a strong presidential ticket, or a Hollywood-style love affair? (Meanwhile, Salon.com has a great headline for the Edwards-Cheney competetion: "The smile vs. the scowl". And here's an explanation of what happens to all the money Edwards raised for his presidential bid, now that he's a VP nod.)
::::Just in time for anybody who was waiting for a new one, another episode of Gary Benchley: Rock Star has been posted.
:::::Consumers spend billions of dollars every year on cough syrup, so it may come as something of a surprise when researchers declare that the best remedy for a cough isn't syrup at all. In fact, it's a simple glass of water.

Finally, the Johns are united as one

I made that graphic during the primary season, but its seems appropriate enough to dig back up now. The moral, of course, is that John-John is a good political ticket, but not a good eye-swapping duo. Or something.

Tabloid newspapering at its very finest
I was in New York City yesterday, and a friend told me early that morning that Kerry had picked Edwards. That's what I was hoping for, and was glad to hear it. But then, at about 5 p.m., we walked by a newspaper stand and I saw the New York Post's cover, which said Gep was the VP. That, I thought, is a huge and embarassing mistake for Kerry. But, much to my delight, it turns out it was just a huge and embarassing mistake for the Post! So, to celebrate it -- that is, aside from me buying a copy and hanging it above my desk -- here's a compilation I made of what other newspapers are writing about the incident.


Monday, July 5

Connections lost and never found
I read through some of the Craigslist Boston "missed connections" today, and came across two pretty interesting ones. First, a lesson in poorly delivered compliments: I see you on occasion at school, and you look jubilant. You face reminds me of a child's who is proud, strutting in their superhero underoos and a towel as a cape. And second, a connection that should remain missed: you're sure to be a horrible parent when the kid is born.

Education in the arcade
I went to Dave & Busters with a friend last week, mostly just to kill some time. We walked around the arcade, talking about all the time we spent in arcades in high school, and then came across an abandoned bucket of tickets. Each ticket at D&B is worth two points -- points are then redeemed for prizes -- and it says so on every single little ticket. So, we brought the bucket to the prize window, where an employee weighed the tickets and then told us we had 77 points.

There isn't much you can do with 77 points, but we started looking around for what we could purchase anyway. And then it hit me: how, when every ticket is worth two points, did we possibly end up with an odd number of tickets? We went back to the employee, who explained it this way:

"Oh, that's because we automatically add four points to your total."

That, of course, would still make an even number. But, someone had recently stolen a small television set from under this guy's eyes, his boss was none too happy, he was pacing around a bit, and we decided we better not push the finer points of math upon him right now. So, our 77 points it is.


Saturday, July 3

Army PsyOps + hapless Iraqis = great photo op
Remember that toppled Saddam statue from the early days of the American invasion? I, like millions of other people, stopped what I was doing that day and watched live coverage of that event, assuming it was a true moment of Iraqi celebration. I feel pretty stupid now. Turns out, the toppling was a stage-directed moment courtesy of the Army's psychological operations units, which rounded up a bunch of Iraqis and then toppled the statue while they were around. No joke. This is from today's LA Times, which had a chance to review the Army's internal study of the war:

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

I wonder what other moments in this war were faked. Iraqi children making nice with the soldiers? Bush giving Saddam a noogie? Of course, we know Bush's Thanksgiving turkey was just decoration. It's getting pretty hard to trust what you see over there.


Friday, July 2

You call these benefits?
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons posted a job opening for an editorial assistant, and opens the ad with this:

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons has an exciting opportunity for a motivated, detail-oriented, creative candidate. We offer a competitive salary and exceptional benefits, including BC/BS PPO & HMO packages, dental, 401K with company contribution, pension, disability, and more!

What, no complimentary nose job? No face-lift discounts? What kind of crap-ass benefits are these? I bet "dental" just means cleanings and cavity fillings, not replacing an entire mouth of teeth because they're not white enough. Come on now, ASPS! Your employees deserve better.

Table scraps:
:Here are three very different series of photos to check out: One, Saddam Hussein's point-by-point guide to pointing. Two, a guy who created his own monster super soaker, and then transformed it into a flame thrower. And three, a sad, hopefully faked tale of a momma and her duckies.
::What's on Dick Cheney's iPod? Wouldn't you
like to know!
:::A state trooper shoots her brother in the leg after an argument over a tub of butter. But, she insists, it was
accidental.
::::"There is, short of murder, not much that is more horrific in America than purposely trying to stop people from voting," said the vice chairman of New Hampshire's Democratic Party, who just learned that the GOP intentionally
jammed phone lines two years ago so voters in Democratic districts couldn't call for rides to the polls. Since the GOP is the king of calling things that go against its morals unamerican, I wonder what they consider this to be...
:::::Former National Enquirer editor says celebrity obsession isn't bad simply because people like it. "The way to look at it is, what does your reader want? If a huge majority of America wants that information, it’s your job to get it to them. If the American people want it, how can it be all that wrong?" Uhh, well... it's probably not even worth going into it, huh?
::::::Is this the future of American currency? Maybe, but it's most likely just garbage.


Thursday, July 1

Table scraps:
:Some unfortunate incidents involving food: a 17-year-old girl wearing a Chuck E. Cheese costume was attacked by an angry parent, a rooster loves hanging out at a local Chick-fil-A, and a woman finds a toad in her McDonald's salad.
::Well, this should be embarassing for just about any NPR staff member under age 65. The company's ombudsman wonders, are its music reviews too hip for its audience? (My answer: No, not unless you're hoping your entire audience will die in the next two decades.)
:::In 1947, Ron England bet his brother that he could collect one million pennies. Years later, he did it -- but his brother doesn't remember the bet, and Ron can't find anyone willing to cash out $10,000 in pennies without charging a fee. 
::::With the new Spiderman movie out, our thoughts inevidably turn to the sad reality of our non-superheroness. (Also, the sad reality of our inability to make $40.5 million in one day.) Usually, I just shrug and sigh. This guy, though, writes an open letter to a radioactive spider.
:::::And speaking of superheroes, here's a fun collection of great comic book covers and really crappy ones.
::::::OK, here's the thing: this guy's name is Kinky Friedman, and he's running for governor of Texas. He also has his own line of coffee and salsa.

Do not call it 'ping pong.' Seriously.
Here's what I learned after writing a piece for the Boston Globe about competetive table tennis players: They do not -- not! -- play "ping pong." They hate "ping pong." That's a game played in the basement. Table tennis, meanwhile, is something else entirely. Table tennis is something they will whoop your ass in. Well, technically, they'll whoop your ass in ping pong as well. But they'd prefer not to.

One of these things is not like the others...

Listen, all politics aside, can we just at least agree that Sony Pictures could have saved some money on all the make-up they put on the Waynes Brothers, and just had Paula Jones play both parts? That's all I'm asking here.

What me, daily?
Well, hello there! Sorry it's been so slow on the blog lately. I've been busy busy. I'll try to get some more content up here later today, but for now, let me direct you to a really well produced, extremely sad series about the first child in Colorado to be diagnosed with AIDS. That was in 1983, and he's still alive and well.

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