December 31, 2004

Look out -- giant wardrobe malfunction!


Michael Powell and John Ashcroft are going to have to tag-team this one.

Permalink: 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2004

Face the nation


I'm thinking about all the destruction in southern Asia and the paltry amount of aid that some countries are donating, and this accidental juxtaposition of two images from a spread of AP photos on Yahoo! News seemed unbelivably appropriate. Take from it what you will.

Permalink: 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2004

Table scraps:

TWO IMAGES TO make you say, "What the hell?" Lady of the cliff, and lady of the llama.

TWO OVERPRICED CLUB New Year's Eve party invites to make you say, well, I have no idea what to say about these. Party with the Black Eyed Peas, and with some porn star.

FUN WITH MUSIC! Here's a really interesting mix of dozens of Beatles songs into one really fun tune (via Boing Boing), and the pathetic case of Nickelback blatantly ripping itself off.

PERFECT TIMING: ABC declares 2004 the Year of the Boob, and this family gets a boob on the boob tube during Christmas.

"SORRY, PHOTO NOT available." I wonder why.

Permalink: 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2004

Well, don't keep me in suspense!


I got this message inside a fortune cookie over the weekend, when I went to a Chinese food place because my normal pizza stop was closed. It was semi-decent, but I forgot to ask for no MSG, which I don't take well to. By the time I saw that fortune, I figured Elisha Cuthbert was about to walk in and deliver the message, "You look like you're about to puke."

I didn't. And she didn't. These fortune cookies don't know shit.

(Oh yeah -- there's no Fear of Sex today. It will return next week.)

Permalink: 12:56 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2004

Multi-purpose, just like nature intended


No, you're not the only one to think naughty things about the Banana Guard, one of the more frivilous products available. The BG, of course, is basically a banana-shaped lunchbox that, according to its site, "allows for the safe transport and storage of individual bananas letting you enjoy perfect bananas anytime, anywhere. " But check out the fifth question on its FAQ page:

Q: "Is there a battery attachment?"

A: No. The Banana Guard was designed for its intended purpose only as a device to prevent banana trauma during transport.

Yeah, and that's why the Banana Guard comes in colors named "Passionate Purple" and "Pretty in Pink," right? Hey, at least it's dishwasher safe.

Permalink: 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

Table scraps:

CAN YOU GUESS which blog entry was written by a drama-rama young Internet diary writer, and which was written by a robot?

CHRISTMAS AT THE Rumsfelds was a real blast. There weren't enough people to serve the food, and he forgot to tell guests when the party was ending, but boy, the lighting of the tree was something special.

TURN ON AN ambulance siren in a small, glass-windowed room. Also in the room are a half-dozen deaf people, who play cards, read books, etc., oblivious to the 120-decibel noise. The WashPost's humor columnist takes a shot at conceptual art.

THERE IS AN epidemic of sexual abuse in Amish culture, but it rarely goes reported. When it does, it's rarely punished. Legal Affairs has a great investigative piece on the problem.

THE GODFATHER IS not pleased, and heads of lettuce may roll. Check out this rare moment from the classic trilogy, courtesy of my friend Zack.

"HER ONLY DANCE for her senior prom was on the sidewalk to a song playing on the radio," said a lawyer for a girl who was barred from prom last year. A sob story, right? Then again, she was barred because she was wearing a dress styled as a giant confederate flag.

Permalink: 10:25 AM | Comments (1)

December 23, 2004

So wait, it's not Chris-mas?

Check out this excerpt from an article about "The Polar Express" in Slate today:

William Broyles, who co-wrote the screenplay with Zemeckis, adds that he made no effort to embed any biblical messages in the Christmas movie. "We were very determined not to make [the movie] sectarian or of a particular religious faith in any way."

What? No particular religious faith? You mean, a movie about Santa and Christmas was supposed to have no particular religious faith? That's absurd! I'm not sure who's supposed to be more shocked at this -- the Christians who have been whining incessantly about how Christmas has been diluted, or Jews and Muslims who must shrug once again and say, "Fine, we know Christmas is everywhere this time of year, but seriously now: We don't celebrate it."

I've had the following conversation at least 15 times this week:

Person: Got any good plans for Christmas?
Me: No, I'm working.
Person: Oh, that's too bad.
Me: No, not really. I'm not Christian.
Person: Oh. But that's still too bad -- working Christmas.
Me: No, really, it's not. I volunteered to work. Christmas is just another day for me.
Person: Oh. That's -- that's still too bad.

No, it's not too bad! Not everyone in the country celebrates Christmas, even if everyone in the country has to suffer through Christmas television specials and Christmas music in every store and Christmas decorations on every street corner. That, folks, is why it's more appropriate for people, especially store employees, to say "happy holidays," and therefore not assume that every person they see is Christian. Not everyone celebrates it, and some people (read: me) get downright annoyed when Christians assume everyone is decking the halls. But don't tell that to these people, because they don't want to hear it.

Permalink: 09:06 AM | Comments (4)

December 22, 2004

Table scraps:

PREPARE YOURSELF FOR the most embarassing moment of this man's life. (video)

GOOGLE'S ADWORDS PROGRAM isn't as smart as it seems to be. But then again, maybe people actually are looking for sexy dead singles and WMD's on eBay.

WHO IS DUMBER: The burglar who took a long nap in a car two blocks from the scene of a crime, or the police who took so damn long to find him sleeping there?

THE BARK MITZVAH boy spent most of the evening under the table, but the rest of the guests seemed to have a blast.

THE HEAVIEST 110-pound woman alive? Here are photos of strong men who are unable to lift her, and there's video of it about halfway through this cheesy promotional video.

HERE'S A CLEVER experiment to illustrate how e-mail addresses get picked up by spammers. From the site: I will use that address to put a single post on a single Usenet message board -- something like "Hello, world." ... If and when messages appear, there is no way that the sender can possibly, in any way, shape, or form, claim that someone requested information using it, or signed up for mailings, or has any kind of relationship with any "business partner."

Permalink: 10:50 AM | Comments (1)

Oh come on, we know something about Africa

Typically, as I'm sure you all know, an African scam e-mail purports to be from an assistant or relative of an obscure African leader, which lends it some appearance of legitimacy while also making it impossible to confirm. But yesterday, I received an e-mail from supposedly the personal assistant to Charles Taylor, a man accused of war crimes who probably came pretty close to being assassinated by America -- or, as the e-mail writer innocently explains, he "recently stepped down" from his post. Come on, African scammer: The only way you could have chosen a more obvious former African leader is if you claimed to work for Nelson Mandela.

Here's the e-mail:

Continued after jump...

Permalink: 10:21 AM | Comments (3)

December 21, 2004

Fear of Sex, part V: Mental images 'n more!

In this week's episode of Fear of Sex, the authors of the 1922 non-classic "Ethical Sex Relations, or The New Eugenics" try explaining the various sicknesses that could cause an inflated libido. Listen up, because this just might be the only time you encounter an argument that suggests constipation is a turn-on. Then after the jump, I've got a brief photo tour of the book we've been suffering through for the past month. See the insanity for yourself! But first...

Page: 122
Chapter title: There Seems to be a Sex Mania in this Civilization
Section title: Causes of Sexual Excitability

Too frequent irritation of the genitals, onanism, intercourse too frequently repeated, alcoholic stimulants and condiments in excess, and also lack of exercise, are the main causes of sexual excitability.

Treatment for sexual excitability consists of removing or remedying the causes as above given. The following articles of food should be avoided: Highly seasoned food, cheese, all rich foods, salted and acid food, meat should be eaten moderately. The system should not become constipated, as that irritates the genitalia and increases the inflammation. Carbonated waters and all alcoholic drinks must be discarded or forbidden. Exercises such as the strength of in the individual will permit should daily and systematically be engaged in. It is also best that the body and mind be constantly and properly employed.

In women sexual excitability is often caused by local diseases, the cure of these diseases must therefore be wrought and the remedy will thus be an accomplished fact.

Continued after jump...

Permalink: 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

Was "culture clash" on the calendar?

A reader named Kristin wrote me and made an excellent point on this Chicago Tribune story, which is about a fight that broke out when some people accidentally stumbled upon a transgender fashion show. Here's the lede, followed by another graf from the story:

A scheduling mix-up is blamed for a weekend melee between parents of young children and participants at a transgender fashion show at a North Side YMCA, WGN-Ch. 9 reported.


A scuffle broke out when some parents allegedly directed sexual slurs toward transgender models and guests, WGN reported. Chicago police and private security guards were called after someone threw a chair, and the sound was mistaken for gunfire.

Writes Kristin: "Am I the only one to think that this should not be blamed on scheduling, but intolerance?! That lede just seemed so bizarre to me." No, no, you see, it's only natural for parents to attack transgender people. If the YMCA allowed those types inside, it's their responsibility to make sure they don't interact with anybody else. Otherwise, well, you know -- things happen.

Ok, just kidding. Kristin's totally, totally right about this.

Permalink: 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Eat this, if you must


Look at the slogan for this candy bar: "makes a nice light snack." Is that not the wimpiest sales pitch you've ever seen? If Donald Trump, the king of over-hype, were marketing this bar, the slogan would be something like, "Better than hot, anonymous sex!" But no. Coffee Crisp is stuck with "makes a nice light snack." Its slogan might as well be:

• "eat it with a shrug"
• "maybe something you'd like to try"
• "we won't be offended if you don't like this"
• "...if you've got nothing better to eat"

No wonder nobody's heard of it.

(That photo was taken over the weekend, when a friend of mine brought those two bars to a holiday party. He said Nestle primarily sells it in Canada, and tried introducing in the U.S. but failed miserably. Go figure.)

Permalink: 09:21 AM | Comments (0)

Table scraps:

HOW MUCH DID our ancestors stink? Pretty bad: Personal grooming, such as it was, focused entirely on appearances. People washed their faces and hands sometimes but refused to immerse their entire bodies except on doctors' orders.

TOO MANY PEOPLE don't know how to use quotations. Luckily, someone has put together a "gallery" of "misused" quotations to point out what should be the obvious "shortfalls" in other people's grammar.

IMPRESS YOUR FRIENDS by accessing the internal computer of a Coke machine. Instructions (which I haven't tried myself, but plan to) are here.

THE INTERVIEW PORTION is simple. One contestant last year was asked, "What is your favorite color?" She responded, "chicken," and everyone laughed. A beauty pageant for mentally challenged women draws much enthusiasm, and some protest.

THOSE WHO LIVE here say the town has never before received such a powerful economic boost. Barceloneta, a small island in Puerto Rico where Viagra is made, enjoys a boost while giving old men a boost of their own.

WELL, HERE'S AN offer that's hard to refuse.

ANOTHER FUN GOOGLE bomb: Google the word "failure" and check out the first result. (And note the second -- the left is still ahead of the Google bomb game, but the right is quickly catching up.)

WHAT'S BETTER THAN a guy with an accordian playing old political jingles? Actually, don't answer that.

Permalink: 12:03 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2004

Warning: photo may be too racy for Michael Powell


A reader alerted me to the amusements of, a picture-hosting service. You upload a picture, it gives you a url for free, and off you go. As a trade, I suppose, the site makes it fairly easy to access all the uploaded photos -- including, as you might imagine, the one I found above. I would love to know why that photo was taken.

Anyway, this is worth at least a minute or two of your time. Just go here, and scroll through. Most of the time you'll get nothing more than boring people pictures, but some are pretty funny and others are, well, others.

Permalink: 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

Table scraps:

THIS JUST MIGHT be the best cartoon t-shirt design ever.

THE JUDGE WHO just about begged for a reaction with his Ten Commandments robe got what he wanted, and now, of course, he's playing modest.

EVERYONE ELSE HAS had more sex than you? This bunny feels your pain.

THINK MISSOURI IS too lax, as only one of three states to allow prisoners to play video games? Consider the rationale, from a Department of Corrections spokesman: "We let them play these games so they are not spending their time assaulting our staff.” Hard to argue with that!

WHICH WEB ADVERTISEMENT ploy do people hate the most? Pops-up in front of your window? An ad that covers what you are trying to see? One that occupies most of the page? This guy did a survey to find out. The answers are, well, not that surprising.

HERE'S ANOTHER NO-BRAINER survey: It turns out 90 percent of teleconference participants aren't paying a damn bit of attention.

WANT SOMETHING ELSE to worry about? Terrorists can quite feasibly down planes with lasers!


Permalink: 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2004

Living step stools


I randomly stumbled upon this photo from someone's Indonesia tour diary while doing a Google image search recently, and had to stare at it for a minute to realize the kids aren't behind the water buffalo -- they're on them. They're like, water buffalo surfing. And the kid on the right appears to take it a step further -- kung-fu water buffalo surfing. How is that not an olympic sport?

Anyway, I'm impressed.

Permalink: 12:08 PM | Comments (0)

Sinners in the hands of an angry judge


Conservatives like to talk a lot about "judicial activists," who are basically judges that make decisions they don't agree with. But an actual movement of judicial activism seems to be cropping up, as now another southern judge has decided to plop the Ten Commandments down in his courtroom -- but this time, on his robe. Here's a bit of info on it:

A judge refused to delay a trial Tuesday when an attorney objected to his wearing a judicial robe with the Ten Commandments embroidered on the front in gold. ...

Circuit Judge Ashley McKathan told The Associated Press that he believes the Ten Commandments represent the truth "and you can't divorce the law from the truth. ... The Ten Commandments can help a judge know the difference between right and wrong."

He said he doesn't believe the commandments on his robe would have an adverse effect on jurors.

"I had a choice of several sizes of letters. I purposely chose a size that would not be in anybody's face," he said.

Well, yes, that was very thoughtful of him. And we can now expect another round of religious fervor that completely misunderstands what the point of a courtroom is. Listen, judge, before you even start rallying the troops behind some "the court is anti-Christian" movement, let's get this straight: The court is supposed to be impartial. It's why you wear the damn robe -- so you don't come in wearing, say, an NRA or MoveOn shirt, and show the whole courtroom your bias. And yes, the Ten Commandments shows a bias. It shows a religious bias. A Jew or Muslim wouldn't, and shouldn't, feel comfortable in your courtroom, not if you're wearing a big billboard of another religion. You might as well be wearing a robe like the one I made in that photo above.

I can't wait for the moment when...

Lawyer: So, Phil, when you were robbed and beaten by the man you identified as the defendant, where were you?

Phil: I was coming back from my mistress's apartment in--

Judge: What? Phil, are you married?

Phil: Y-- yes, your honor.

Judge: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife!

Phil: But, uh, she's not married.

Judge: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife!

Phil: But--

Judge: Case dismissed! You're guilty, sinner.

Phil: But I'm the victim!

Judge: Guilty!

Think it's far-fetched? Well, not when the man making the decisions is wearing a robe with laws that he isn't hired to enforce. This isn't an issue of religion, it's an issue of impartiality.

Permalink: 09:45 AM | Comments (5)

December 14, 2004

Even terrorists learn their ABC's

First, look at this:


Now, get a little closer:


See those kids? Do you see them? Makes you sick, doesn't it? Makes you want to just throw up and then go bomb some Arabs, huh? Maybe some terrorist-loving anti-American thinks those pictures are pretty, but I think we all see what's going on up there. Yeah, those kids may look clean-shaven, but they might as well be wearing big beards and hiding AK-47s under their knickers, just ready to attack our troops and our dignity and our way of life and everything we stand for. They hate freedom, dammit! Just look at them: They might act like they're saying the pledge of allegiance, but some of them are using the wrong hand to cover their chest! The wrong friggin' hand! Terrorists, all of them. Real Americans know better. I bet these kids don't even have American flags attached to their Humvees. What? They don't even have Humvees? Why, those terrorists...

...anyway, if you think that little diatribe is nuts and not very amusing, you're right. But unfortunately, you're not living in Orlando, where people actually complained -- seriously, totally complained -- that the Orlando Sentinel had run those photos along with a story about a new law requiring schools to replace their flags with bigger flags. The photographer said he didn't even notice the kids' mistake until the complaints started coming in. Here's this from the paper's ombudsman:

The left-hand salute caught quite a few readers' attention:

David Flax speculated by electronic mail, "I believe you printed the photo of the two boys in reverse . . . ."

Letitia McAuley of Orlando wrote, "I feel it is an insult to our flag."

Jack Rodriguez of Winter Park called to ask, "Why did you allow this to happen? . . . You make the American people look stupid when you do things like this."

For the record, the photos were not reversed.

The teacher, who also received a couple of anonymous letters about the pictures, responded, "We work on left and right, as part of our math curriculum," adding that for children in kindergarten, saluting the flag is "a fairly new concept."

Is that not, well, too baffling for words? People are getting worked up about five-year-olds who somehow, unlike the rest of us, weren't born with the knowledge of which hand to use when saluting the flag? They're kids, people! Kids! They just don't know any better! Do we really need to discuss this? Let's take the ultra-patriotism down, oh, at least one or two notches.

Permalink: 08:12 AM | Comments (2)

Fear of Sex, part IV: Save the children

In this week's edition of Fear of Sex, we're going to take a break from the book we normally cite, and instead marvel at a 1905 newspaper article I stumbled upon recently. It resembles the other fear-mongering we've suffered through in previous editions, particularly in its insistence that sex can somehow cause insanity. Except in this case, it's not quite sex, if you'll see what I mean...

Kissing is Mild Insanity
Board of Education proves it by Tests on Children
New York World, January, 1905

The affections are being made a test of a child's sanity in the public schools of New York city by the board of education.

If dainty Flossie, with her flaxen curls and laughing eyes, walks past the desk of Tom, Dick or Harry without a single mother's son gazing adoringly at her, then these boys are OK'd. And in their turn, if every girl bids her beating heart be still when Dick stands on his head behind the teacher's back, or Reginald reaches the head of the spellnig class, then she need fear no more to be dropped into the backward class.

But if, on the other hand, Tome is unable to subdue his increasing fondness as day after day passes, and in a moment of forgetfulness puts his arm around Flossie's waist and kisses her, his time has come and to the "backward class" for him.

This has been the fate of scores of unfortunate youths of the New York public schools. For four years the test has been tried, and classes are rapidly increasing.

Continued after jump...

Permalink: 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

Can a newspaper masturbate?

Well, at least somebody loves the Palm Beach, Florida New Times. The alt-weekly had run an absurd piece last month attacking the Tribune company -- owner of both the local daily paper and the New Times's alt-weekly competitor -- and the only real reporting it had done was talk to two New Times employees. The whole thing smacked of self-importance, so I wrote a letter to the media website Romenesko saying so. After it appeared on the site, I got an e-mail from the New Times editor that said, "We'd like to print your posting on Romenesko as a letter to the editor....Just need the city you live in..." So, I told him, and then kept a watch for the letter to appear.

Guess what? No letter. However, two positive letters did appear about that same piece, one of which -- if you can believe this -- was written by New Times employees! So, let's recap: New Times writes article in which the only reporting done was by talking to New Times employees. Then New Times runs a letter from New Times employees praising that piece. Jeez, this paper doesn't even need readers -- it has its sources and its audience all inside the building!

Permalink: 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

Table scraps:

REALLY NOW: WHO couldn't have expected that a anti-bullying bracelet -- basically a rip-off of those "Live strong" yellow bands -- would have resulted in the kids who wear them getting beaten up by bullies? Seriously.

BILL MURRAY MAY be living the life aquatic on screen, but Steve Zissou is actually living the life attorney in Queens.

COULD THIS BE the worst first paragraph of a music review ever? Behold: Anyone who's suffered a loss knows that at some point, the spastic blur of sudden pain must eventually flow into sadness. Angst's geography--the rocky territory covered by all the hewing and crying, the wringing and wrestling--progresses toward an inevitable limpness that, when allowed to wilt fully, unfurls then disintegrates, leaving in its aftermath the delicate and far-flung threads of acceptance. I don't know about you, but after reading that, I feel a spastic blur of sudden pain.

HERE'S TO ALL the employees who tape their passwords to their computers.

A TEACHER'S APPROACH to talking with parents about abstinence-only programs: I suggest that first they have to decide: Do I want to give a message that emphasizes chastity before marriage over other considerations, or do I want to frame abstinence in the sense of postponement until a young person is able to handle the responsibilities involved? There is often much soul-searching involved in facing this question, but it is the key to communicating effectively.

HOW DID A group of well-educated, intelligent women get sucked into one man's insane cult? The answer isn't simple.

AND TO THINK, I have a connection that could have gotten me a reporting gig in Bennington, Vermont, and I turned it down. Little did I know, it's home to rampant college nudity. How was that not mentioned before?

Permalink: 09:54 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2004

This is kinda stretchin' it, dude

The AP highlighted a scholarly paper by a linguist from the University of Pittsburgh, who has spent time deconstructing the word "dude." It has some fairly good observations -- that "dude," for instance, is a word men use for each other to show they're close-but-not-too-close, which is in response to our culture's appreciation of male bonding but fear of homosexuality. But in much the same way the word "like" has been deconstructed, the linguist has also examined the various uses "dude," and came up with this:

The four-letter word has many uses: in greetings (“What’s up, dude?”); as an exclamation (“Whoa, Dude!”); commiseration (“Dude, I’m so sorry.”); to one-up someone (“That’s so lame, dude.”); as well as agreement, surprise and disgust (“Dude.”).

Not so fast, dude! In almost all of those, he's focusing on the words and sentiment around the "dude," not on the word itself. Replace them with, oh, the name "Alfonso," and you get the same thing: in greetings (“What’s up, Alfonso?”); as an exclamation (“Whoa, Alfonso!”); commiseration (“Alfonso, I’m so sorry.”); to one-up someone (“That’s so lame, Alfonso.”). The last one -- or, at least, the surprise and disgust parts -- could also be replaced with "Alfonso," but the meaning is all in the tone and context.

Anyway, nice try. Mark it 8, dude.

Permalink: 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2004

The passion of Jerry Falwell's wife

I kept reading the CNN transcript referenced in the last post, and came across this quick statement from Jerry Falwell:

FALWELL: James, having been married 47 years to the same woman and having never touched another woman except my wife, Macel, and my wife having never touched another man in 47 years, I can tell you that is the best deal. And that's the deal we ought to be teaching our kids.

Take a look at the wording there: James has "never touched another woman except (his) wife," while his wife has "never touched another man in 47 years." Oh daaaaaaaaaaaaaamn, Jerry! Before your wife married you, she was going around touching other men? Where'd she touch them, Jerry? What a fox!

Permalink: 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

Nine months after a lonely night

Sorry if I'm a little preoccupied with this issue of false information being taught in government-funded abstinence-only programs. I just read Frank Rich's Dec. 12 column about America's attitudes towards sex, in which he wrote this:

Elsewhere in "Kinsey," we watch desperate students pepper their professor with a series of uninformed questions: "Can too much sex cause cancer? Does suppressing sex lead to stuttering? Does too much masturbation cause premature ejaculation?" Though that sequence takes place in 1939, you can turn on CNN in December 2004 and watch Genevieve Wood of the Family Research Council repeatedly refuse - five times, according to the transcript - to disown the idea that masturbation can cause pregnancy.

...and I thought, no! Not possible! Somebody is going to go on television and actually say that masturbation can cause pregnancy? (And then I thought, hey, if that were actually true, the same right-wing religious nuts who promote this idea might not like how it could explain Jesus's birth. After all, Mary could have been a virgin, but one night while she was all alone...)

I mean, really, teaching this junk to kids who might not know any better is one thing, but actually discussing it with adults who can't be fooled? No! Perhaps I'm just too isolated, and haven't come in contact with people this far removed from reality, but I had to see this for myself. So, I tracked down the transcript, which came from a show during which they spoke about the congressional ("Waxman") report on those abstinence programs. Here's the conversation:

Continued after jump...

Permalink: 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2004

What's wrong with this picture?

From Mediaweek:

The number of indecency complaints [to the FCC] had soared dramatically to more than 240,000 in the previous year, [Chairman Michael] Powell said [to Congress in February]. The figure was up from roughly 14,000 in 2002, and from fewer than 350 in each of the two previous years. There was, Powell said, “a dramatic rise in public concern and outrage about what is being broadcast into their homes.”

What Powell did not reveal—apparently because he was unaware—was the source of the complaints. According to a new FCC estimate obtained by Mediaweek, nearly all indecency complaints in 2003—99.8 percent—were filed by the Parents Television Council, an activist group.

From Michael Powell's NYT editorial:

In recent years, complaints about television and radio broadcasts have skyrocketed, and the F.C.C. has stepped up its enforcement in response. Advocacy groups do generate many complaints, as our critics note, but that's not unusual in today's Internet world. We are very familiar with organized protests when it comes to media issues, but that fact does not minimize the merits of the groups' concerns.

Permalink: 08:22 AM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2004

Fear of Sex, part III: Don't look down!

In this week's episode of Fear of Sex, the authors of the 1922 non-classic "Ethical Sex Relations, or The New Eugenics" confuse us with mixed messages. So far, we've been told it's best to keep our hands to ourselves, but now it seems we shouldn't even do that. In fact, doing so might cause even more damage. Those of you who have seen "Kinsey" (and I highly advise it) will recognize some of the scare tactics used in the following excerpt.

Page: 55
Chapter title: The Solitary Vice

The subject before us, though exceedingly disagreeable to discuss, needs no apology for its introduction here. But a short time ago it was thought improper to even allude to such a subject as masturbation; fortunately, however, people have awakened to a realization of the direct consequences entailed on all those who practice this secret vice, and appreciate the important fact that the only hope of removal lies in its being fully and generally understood.

That masturbation is revolting and disgusting, every parent of children and every one else realizes; and for this reason there is a natural delicacy in speaking on the subject to young people. Yet when it is remembered that so many miseries arise from it, and that it is so prevalent among youth, no parent should allow feelings of absurd delicacy to endanger the health, and even life, of son or daughter.

Continued after jump...

Permalink: 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

Table scraps:

THERE IS NO better name for a message board than Sweet Jesus I Hate FOX News.

THIS ARTICLE IS as much a public service as it is a piece of information: From the New York Times, a piece headlined What Corporate America Can't Build: a Sentence. Yes! It's true! It's shocking, and I see it every day -- in press releases, in professional reports, in everything. Everyone needs to understand: If your writing is clearly devoid of grammar, you look stupid. Plain and simple. It's a problem.

HERE'S SOME CHRISTMAS cheer for you. And by cheer, I mean, cheer for Christmas-haters like me.

LYNCHING IS ALIVE in Mexico, where residents know the police are too corrupt to stop crime themselves. From the blog of an American living in Mexico, here's a summary of recent lynchings, as well as why one of them turned out to be different.

REASON WHY AMERICANS seem so damn gluttonous #2985: Because chairs on luxury cruise liners are collapsing.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER WHO took that great shot of a soldier smoking (recall the bizarre criticism it received from anti-smoking activists) wrote a short essay about the day he snapped it.

DEMOCRATS WOULD SERVE themselves well to listen closely to this man, who has a great understanding of how Republicans are winning the war on words. Take, for example, his explanation of how Bush won an argument on tax breaks by calling it "tax relief": "For there to be relief there must be an affliction, an afflicted party, and a reliever who removes the affliction and is therefore a hero," Mr Lakoff writes. "And if people try to stop the hero, those people are villains for trying to prevent relief." That frame explains the trouble Democrats had when speaking against Mr Bush's plans. "The conservatives had set a trap: the words draw you into their world view."

WHOA, ROAD RAGE! A woman ran over two boys after they accidentally hit her SUV with a golf ball.

Permalink: 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

Say your prayers, take your vitamins, and conduct your global free-trade negotiations, brotha!


Like Hulk Hogan warming the crowd up before a big fight, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick is seen here cupping his hand to his ear before embarking upon a five-nation Africa tour to push global free-trade negotiations.

But what exactly does that mean? It means that if Zoellick doesn't get his way, Alberto Gonzalez has written a memo authorizing him to...

• Export Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak off the top ropes and through a negotiations table

• Execute the ol' Sweatshop Chop on South African President Thabo Mbeki

• Enter into a bilateral agreement between his foot and Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgis's face

• Give Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki a No-tarrif Nosebleed

• Embargo Botswana President Festus Mogae's arms and legs, and import him into a steel cage

Permalink: 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Table scraps:

METAL DOODS DROOL too. Here's an undeniably mean joke, in which some guys placed a fake online personal ad from a heavy metal girl, and then posted all the responses. Conclusion: some metal guys are classy. And by classy, of course, I mean they write things like, "I make a lot of porn movies and want to make a metal one with you as the star."

BEST FIRST SENTENCE of a television review ever? This from the Boston Globe's review of the TV movie "Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven": "It turns out that the five people you meet in heaven are going to bore you to death all over again." Hah!

HOPEFULLY EVERYONE HAS already learned from the mistakes of 1990s-era websites, but just in case: Here's a great listing of every annoying feature not to include on your website.

"WHEN OZZY THREW a block of wood over a fence and shattered the window of his noisy neighbors during the first season of 'The Osbournes,' it was just a sound effect and a phony reaction shot. We wanted to believe so badly in reality TV that we believed a man so feeble he can no longer remember whether or not he ate a live bat could somehow throw like Curt Schilling." And so it goes in "reality television" world, where -- no surprise -- just about everything is scripted. (And if you click on the link, be sure to check out the pdf of an actual Queer Eye script. Hysterical.)

PLUCK YOUR TWANGERS and play with your balls? Those were the instructions from Rainbow, an apparently real British children's show in the 1970s and 80s, whose innuendo couldn't have been more blatantly sexual in this clip.

PROGRESS OR PANDERING? It's hard to tell exactly what's happening here, but Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has at least admitted that federally funded abstinence programs need a "review," following a Congressional report that showed the programs are teaching wildly false information.

Permalink: 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2004

The invisible hand of Michael Powell

FCC Chairman Michael Powell, the King of the Indecency Witch Hunt, had an editorial in yesterday's New York Times that illustrates just how completely mixed up both he and his organization is. He wrote:

Some have also questioned why the commission is unwilling to issue rulings before a broadcast, as was the case with the recent network showing of "Saving Private Ryan," a film the commission had previously held was not indecent. While ABC and its affiliates understandably would have liked to know the program was in bounds before proceeding, the precedent of submitting programming or scripts for government review borders dangerously on censorship.

Point taken. But his habit of arbitrarily punishing broadcasters after a program airs has only made everybody skiddish, and therefore forced broadcasters to self-censor and avoid worthwhile programming -- ultimately causing the same result Powell claims to avoid, but in a way the government can disavow. That's not exactly upholding the intent of the First Amendment, is it?

Understand, I'm not arguing for an FCC review of material before it airs; I'm saying the FCC should go back to operating the way it did before Michael Powell drowned it in ideology. Let the market dictate public airwaves. -- or better yet, leave the responsibility up to parents, who have every constitutional right to turn the television set off. That way, their children won't see whatever it is they're afraid of, and the rest of the country can enjoy and benefit from a free media.

Permalink: 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

Table scraps:

IT'S "JEEE-LICIOUS!" We all know the story of the $28,000 grilled cheese sandwich, and now we also know how to make our very own holy toast.

DON'T SMILE OR say cheese, at least while you're posing for your visa or passport photo. New guidelines prohibit toothy smiles. It sounds a bit silly, but as a reader wrote to me, "I know smiling is everyone’s natural reaction when a photo of them is being taken, but it is kind of weird how most people smile in their ID pictures when I think about it, because it isn’t your normal expression." Good point.

HOW DESPERATE IS the White House advance team to make Bush look like a hero? How about a backdrop that appears to show him sitting among people who actually won a war?

YET ANOTHER LESSON for future criminals: Before stealing something, make sure it isn't an item you would have just gotten for free.

THREE CHEERS FOR the man who, just to spite the court, chose to pay his $82 fine in pennies.

POLICE SAY THE monk was trying to break his vow of celibacy when he solicited an undercover police officer he thought was a prostitute. The monk says he was just joking around when he asked the her how much she charged for "full sex" because, you see, he's a celibate monk.

WHAT'S NEW? WHY, Gary Benchley is.

Permalink: 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

Everything but the ol' blindness theory

I've ranted before about how abstinence-only programs are harmful because they actively ignore reality and refuse to teach about safe sex, therefore making students less prepared to make smart decisions. But a report detailed in the Washington Post yesterday unearths even more dangerous faults: These programs are deliberately teaching wrong information. Apparently, these programs aren't even intended to be education -- they're straight-up scare tactics.

Here's an abbreviated version of the story, although I'd highly advise reading the whole thing:

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found.

Among the misconceptions:

• A 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person."

• HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.

• Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.

Congress first allocated money for abstinence-only programs in 1999, setting aside $80 million in grants, which go to a variety of religious, civic and medical organizations. To be eligible, groups must limit discussion of contraception to failure rates.

President Bush has enthusiastically backed the movement, proposing to spend $270 million on abstinence projects in 2005. Congress reduced that to about $168 million, bringing total abstinence funding to nearly $900 million over five years.

Nonpartisan researchers have been unable to document measurable benefits of the abstinence-only model. Columbia University researchers found that although teenagers who take "virginity pledges" may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, 88 percent eventually have premarital sex.

These programs fail in every way: fail to keep kids from having sex, fail to educate them about safe sex, fail to present correct information, fail to seperate fact from opinion. And yet, thanks to the dogmatic views of the Washington powerhouse, more and more tax money is getting pumped into these embarrassments. This is getting really, really dangerous.

Permalink: 12:02 AM | Comments (2)

December 02, 2004

He finally found the White House twinkie stash


Alright, so Colin hasn't put on the dreaded "Lame Duck Cabinet Member 15." That's just a symmetrical flip I did -- but come on, what else was I supposed to do with this weird AFP photo of half of Colin's face? What is it, anyway? A symbolic photo to say, "This guy's almost out of the picture"? Actually, that's not a joke. I bet that's totally what the photograher was going for.

Permalink: 08:26 AM | Comments (1)

Worse than a fruitcake, but just as stale

Looking to buy your politically opposite relatives a doorstop this holiday season? How about a copy of "The Bush Survival Guide"? The folks trying desperately to market this thing -- I posted their first absurd press release just after the election -- have come back for sloppy seconds. Here's the lowest point:

For Republicans, the THE BUSH SURVIVAL BIBLE is the perfect stocking stuffer for their Democrat friends and family. For Democrats, the book’s advice will get you through the holidays, restoring your sense of humor and your tolerance for family members who voted for Dubya.

Isn't that the most shameless and pathetic pitch to Republicans? It's like trying to sell meat to a bunch of vegans by saying their carnivorous friends will love it. In fact, even the press release's author knows this is foolish. Check out the language: In the sentence about Republicans, it says it's "the perfect stocking stuffer for their Democrat friends," while the sentence about Democrats addresses readers directly, saying "the book's advice will get you through the holidays." Oh yeah, that's not obvious.

Full press release, in all its glory, after the jump.

Continued after jump...

Permalink: 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2004

Table scraps:

WINNER OF THE Lamest Attempt To Pick Up A Girl By Showing Your Feminine Side goes to this guy for shopping himself as an Ani Difranco concert companion.

HOW TO PISS off foreigners with a gesture -- uh, I mean, without invading their countries.

THOSE SEMI-NEW AOL commercials really suck, don't they? Three cheers for NetZero for taking them on.

WHAT DO YOU get when you cross Prince with Ronald McDonald? Obviously, the photo on the right. (On the left is some video of -- well, what the hell is it? Some Japanese McDonalds ad? If so, it's pretty terrible. I don't think "sexy" is the first word inspired by a Big Mac. But hey, maybe heart attacks are sexy now. What do I know?)

SO, YOU'VE DIED. Let's review what you did wrong: 1) You bought a lava lamp. 2) You decided to heat it on a stove. I don't think we even need to explain number three.

A LETTER OF mine about the pettiness of alt-weeklies was posted on Jim Romenesko's media blog. Soon thereafter, some guy named Mark Fefer's letter was posted, and then people responded to both. Fefer? Feifer? Let's call the whole thing off.

Permalink: 05:35 PM | Comments (0)