May 31, 2006
Did you know that there are people who get aroused by exposure to sunlight, and that they technically have a condition called actirasty? I got that from this page of unusual sexual terms, but I didn't copy and paste it. I couldn't: If you type any key when you're on that page, a little box pops up to smugly inform you that "Control+C won't work either." Well, jeez. A little over-protective, aren't we?
Blocking keys on a site might make a slight amount of sense if the page contained some very sensitive, unique and wholly original material. But this doesn't: It's just a collection of scientific terms -- and if any of them were original to the site, the factual premise of the site would be ruined. Not to mention, it's still possible to highlight words and go to Edit > Copy, and this stuff can be found elsewhere.
Still, it's fun to search around and find words like sophophilia, or sexual gratification from learning. Imagine a classroom full of those people.
With no links, this post is pure self-promotion
For anyone who lives in the northeast and wants to pony up $4 or loiter in a bookstore, I direct you to my first contributions to Boston Magazine -- and with it, I think, my first contribution to a publication that I can't share here because it doesn't reproduce itself on the web (although they just launched a new site, which looks really good). I have a piece about the wedding band biz from the point of view of one of its most successful bandleaders (page 30) and an item about a Cambridge psychotherapist who specializes on helping artists, some of whom think that suffering is good for their work (page 36).
Update: The wedding band item is now online, although of course it looks way better in print.
May 30, 2006
♣IF YOU'VE SEEN the new X-Men movie, it may amuse you to learn where a line from the movie came from. And while we're visiting YouTube, here's some viral video makers (with their own website) and a ninja explaining podcasting and net neutrality. (Thanks to Steve for the latter two.)
♣GNARLS BARKLEY HAS some damn catchy tunes, and I love that their website plays a bunch of them in full. It's been my soundtrack as I write this post.
♣OH, IF ONLY Barry was old enough to make a joke about wet dreams. Although, if he were old enough to make the joke, he probably wouldn't want to sleep in that bed anymore.
♣I'VE READ A bunch of blogs' weepy final postings, but this one is especially sad. (That is, if it's real. I have no idea.)
♣AND THEN, THERE'S this.
May 25, 2006
My (informal) reference letter from the New York Times
Although it happened two weeks ago, I didn't learn until yesterday that Al Siegal -- the man Seth Mnookin called "the institutional memory and conscience of The New York Times" -- retired after a four-decade career there. The news reminded me of a rewarding e-mail exchange I had with Al in 2004 -- one that, for reasons I can't remember, I was too afraid to post on the blog, but was proud enough to save for future relishing. Now, I suppose, is the time to flaunt it.
On Dec. 30, 2004, I looked at the front page of the New York Times and saw, in part, this:
On the very right, the first sub-hed screamed, "BUSH SPEAKS OUT." The story was about Bush and other world leaders pledging to help the victims of the tsunami that slammed into parts of Asia. "But that's wrong!" I said to myself, probably aloud, because I get geekily passionate about these sorts of things. I wasn't upset about the aid pledge; I was irritated that one of the most respectable newspapers in the country, like so many before it, misused the term "speaks out." It's a pet peeve of mine. So I wrote William Safire a letter, hoping to inspire an "On Language" column:
Dear Mr. Safire,
Perhaps I'm being too picky, or am interpreting the phrase incorrectly, but I have always believed that the term "speaks out" is misunderstood. To me, when somebody speaks out, they are raising their voice above that of an institution that has suppressed them. A whistle-blower, for example, speaks out. So does a prisoner being abused in Guantanamo Bay. However, when somebody makes a statement about something they are directly or indirectly related to, or decides to finally take a stand on an issue they have previously been silent on, they are simply speaking -- or perhaps speaking up. They are not, however, speaking out.
This has always been my interpretation. And yet today, on the front page of the New York Times, I see this: "Bush Speaks Out." It's just under the paper's lead, "World Leaders Vow Aid as Toll Continues to Climb," but I am unsure of exactly what Mr. Bush is speaking out about. He is indeed speaking, and has, after a strange few days of silence, finally spoken up. But has he spoken out? I say he hasn't.
I was hoping you could clear this issue up for me. Did "speaks out" ever refer to a specific type of speaking, or has it always meant, essentially, "speaks publicly"? Did the New York Times use this phrase incorrectly, or do I?
Thank you for your time,
On January 5, I got an e-mail from Al:
Dear Mr. Feifer,
Bill Safire has shared your note with me (though I don't know whether he also plans to mention it in his column).
My first impulse was to scour the dictionary definitions and defend our headline. My second -- and current impulse -- is to tell you that you're absolutely right.
I also plan to tell the staff, in our post-mortems.
Thanks, and regards.
I must have read that e-mail 50 times. I forwarded it to all my friends. I should have made a damn t-shirt out of it. I heard Al has a good sense of humor, so the next day I replied:
Dear Mr. Siegal,
Thank you for your note, and for taking my linguistic nit-picking seriously. When the time comes for me to apply for a position at the New York Times, I'll be sure to include a copy of it in my application to show that Mr. Allan Siegal once wrote that I was "absolutely right."
And he responded:
With any luck, I'll be retired, and the person you tell will point out (correctly) that "absolutely right" is redundant.
Well, Al, your luck held up. But hey, I did write for the paper once before you left. The headline was just fine, thanks.
May 24, 2006
Taping calls? Who are they, NSA researchers?
Meanwhile, a crude translation of the Nigerian monkeys' language indicates that one of them recently inherited a large stash of bananas, but cannot retrieve the fruit without help from a kind foreigner such as yourself.
$10 goes to the first guy who answers this personal ad, puts on a fake German accent and takes this woman out on a date
I am a 28 yo female who has travelled to some interesting places around the world. I am attractive. I'm only interested in European guys and would like to meet some interesting new people in and around the city.Must be attractive single and between the ages of 28-45. Send a picture. Euro only. Later!
Ok, ok, I'll up the prize. How's 10 euros?
May 23, 2006
Pearls Before Swine, one of my favorite comic strips, ran a funny piece today about inappropriately saying “you too” when someone wishes you well. This happens to me at the airport all the time.
Ticket lady: “Have a nice flight!”
Me: “Thanks, you too. Er, I mean, uh, thanks.”
When I was getting lunch today, I heard another thing that shouldn’t be said during a specific interaction. I bought a veggie wrap, and the girl who made it handed it to me and said...
Girl: “Here you go.”
Girl: “Good luck! I mean, uh, have a nice day!”
Good luck? Is there something I should know about my lunch?
May 22, 2006
♣SOME PEOPLE OBSESS over the wedding announcements in the Sunday New York Times. Like, obsess. But the only reason I venture that far back into the Sunday Styles section is to sometimes check out the Vows feature, thereby reminding me that there is at least one job at the NYT that I wouldn't want to have. Interviewing happy newlyweds to write an article about their love? Barf. ...well, ok, who am I kidding? I'd take the job anyway.
♣I GOOGLE MYSELF with embarassing regularity, and luckily have found only one other person with my name. I didn't like it. But when you have a common name like Jen Dole and you start Googling yourself, well, there's going to be trouble.
♣NOT REALLY NEWS: The fight against spam continues. But hey, it's an interesting article anyway.
♣THE AMATUER MODELS of Baltimore live in strange bedrooms.
♣THERE'S NO SHORTAGE of stories about lousy Internet dating, but here's one more.
♣AND THEN, THERE'S this.
May 19, 2006
Or, hey, we could just neuter our young
Some woman named Denise Noe (a pseudonym if I've ever heard one) thinks she has the solution to teenage pregnancy -- and it has nothing to do with the traditional abstinence vs. safe sex debate. For consequence-free intimacy, she says, teenage girls should encourage their boyfriends to use strap-on dildos instead of their own attached apparatus.
A teen girl who possesses a strap-on may suggest to boys that they perform a sex act that is kinkier but far safer than the ones boys usually suggest to girls. Boys can be expected to differ greatly in their reactions to such suggestions. Some are certain to Just Say No. Others will enthusiastically answer, “Yes!” Many, perhaps most, will balk as the girl coaxes (sound familiar?). However, none will get pregnant.
That's some logic for you. It'd also be kinkier but far safer for the girl to dress up in full, medieval knight armor, and then let the guy hump her metallic leg. It may not be fun, but hey, nobody's making babies.
And anyway, Denise, what about the guy who uses the strap-on? You show me a teenage boy who would willingly replace his penis with a dildo, and I'll show you a teenage boy who wasn't ever really at risk for getting a girl pregnant.
May 18, 2006
This post is just an illusion. Nothing to see here.
Oh, boy. It's days like these that I need a blog intern. I spent the weekend and earlier part of this week in Florida, got back at 1 a.m. Tuesday, had to work the next morning, and spent today mostly braindead. So to compensate and yet maintain today's lameness, I'm going to give you the digital version of a small, shiny object: an optical illusion my dad forwarded me.Continued after jump...
May 12, 2006
♣CAN YOU BE busted for creating graffiti when, in fact, you're just selectively cleaning the street? I don't know, but it's a pretty good idea.
♣A FEMINIST THEORY college professor is dismissing the hoopla surrounding her posting nude photos on her blog: "They’re just tits," she says. Sounds reasonable to me, but I think we've all learned that America isn't quite mature enough for the "they're just tits" defense. I wish her luck.
♣FROM THE 'DUH Department': The AP apparently considers it news that James Frey admits his second book, My Friend Leonard, isn't entirely real. But, uh, considering the first book was exposed already and the second book is about the same life he didn't lead, wasn't this obvious already?
♣AND THEN, THERE'S this.
May 11, 2006
When feet are made for kicking
You never know what’ll get someone’s attention. At the beginning of this month, I mentioned foot fetishes in a post, and that prompted a reader to point me toward this crazy story of a guy who was busted for licking women’s feet in the NYC subway. And that, in turn, reminded me of a wacky foot fetishist that called girls when I was in college.
He was known pretty widely; upperclassmen would warn freshmen about him. Somehow, he had phone numbers to all the dorm rooms, and he’d call them at random. If a guy answered, he'd hang up. If a girl answered, he'd play a little game with her that went something like this:
Him: Guess who this is!
Her: I have no idea. Who?
Him: No, you have to guess.
Her: Uh, give me a hint.
Him: If you take your socks off, I'll give you a hint.
Seriously strange. Apparently it went on for years. He'd exhaust the phone numbers he had, and then just ring them up the next year. You’d think the Internet would make crap like this extinct. After all, once-lonely fetishists can now find all sorts of freaky people who share their desires. Why hassle the uninterested?
May 10, 2006
And you’re flat, and you’re landlocked, and...
By no original or intelligent design, this is turning into Bash The Midwest week here at HappyScrappy. First, all that stuff about Indiana. Today, an opinion piece of mine ran in Boston’s Weekly Dig, an alt-weekly out here, and it takes some (loving) shots at Minneapolis. Really, though, this one is about Monopoly’s current poll to determine the destinations on its next board. I was originally just going to post a link to the poll as a Table Scrap, but then had the idea for the column. So, I held off until now. To review: You get a delayed link, and I get a few bucks. Sounds like a deal to me.
May 09, 2006
Indiana: Hey, at least it’s free of tsunamis
Here’s a little more elitist yuck-yucking over my weekend trip to Indiana.
Gnaw Bone isn’t the only place with funny name. South of it, for example, is a town called Floyd’s Knobs. But when I drove by a road named Scarce of Fat Rd., I had to pull over so I could run underneath it and pinch my belly. Are you taking notes, Indiana? This is how us cultured folk do things.
And of course, you know you’re in middle America when you walk into an art gallery, see a painting of prayer hands, and then look beyond it to find statuettes of bald eagles with American flags.
If a GOP politician ran this shop, he’d be accused of pandering to the base. But in fact, this place is real. Just let that sink in for a moment.
Nearby were hats with Confederate flags. Down the street in Nashville, IN, at a place called J Bob’s, J Bob himself showed me all the various Confederate-themed knives and sharp objects he carried. Why are these here, when Indiana wasn’t even a Confederate state? “It’s heritage,” he said. Can someone explain to me why we use the word “heartland” for this area?
Meanwhile, when you’re in middle America, you’re never far away from meat. Want a store devoted solely to jerky? You got it:
But it wasn’t all scary. Here’s a bench outside a fudge shop:
Can't argue with that. And the fudge was good, too.
May 08, 2006
Because when you're in a town called Gnaw Bone, you can’t really be home to a world famous veggieburger
I spent the weekend in Indiana to see my sister graduate from IU. It was my first time in the state, and I expected to see nothing but cornfields. I was wrong: There were fields of stuff that didn’t look like corn, the occasional town, and then more fields of stuff that didn’t look like corn. Maybe it’s not corn season.
IU is in Bloomington, and it sustains a fun little college town. But really, when you travel all the way to a place like Indiana, a bunch of bars and quirky student-run restaurants isn’t the best glimpse of rural America livin'. So yesterday, before we went to the airport, we ventured through the mystery fields to see what we could find.
Through a roundabout way, we ended up in a town called Gnaw Bone. Its population, as best I could learn, is about 200, and its primary attraction is an old gas station-turned-meathouse called Gnaw Bone Food & Fuel (pictured above). For anyone hunting for a fulfilled stereotype, here is your primary destination. The inside of the station is full of mostly empty shelves and coolers. For a bottle of water, look elsewhere. The sparse stock is limited to chips, soda, BBQ sauce and, curiously, a small rack of old cassettes from old acts like James Brown and REO Speedwagon. But nobody comes for that stuff. They come for the meat.
The tenderloin was apparently a favorite of legendary IU basketball coach Bobby Knight, and was even featured in Gourmet Magazine -- thus proving, in the latter instance, that uppity food reviewers really do think they’re keeping it real by occasionally eating in the boonies. It must have local allure as well, because there’s a constant stream of people coming in. In the 20 minutes we were there, we must have seen the entire population of Gnaw Bone.
At the counter, a young girl with braces and a Playboy bunny visor will take your order. Then you can either take the food to go, or eat in the next-door “dining room” -- or, as we outsiders might say, an empty garage with some folding tables. Because I’m a vegetarian, I was afraid to even order the fries. My dad got the tenderloin, though. He enjoyed it, but wasn’t as pleased a half-hour later when he said it was still making its presence known.
What’s fun and rhymes with gadenfreude?
You guessed it: schadenfreude! Kaavya Viswanathan’s tremendous fall inspired me to research the word, and my essay about it went up today at The Morning News.
My one disappointment with the research is that I was unable to learn how or why the English language accepted the word "schadenfreude" instead of its equivalents in other languages. I'm sure the answer's out there, but I wasn't able to find it in time. It could be any number of things, from the timing and influence of German immigrants to our importation of other German psychology-related words. But I suspect there’s also a less flattering reason: because American stereotypes of humorless Germans fit very nicely with this word. It's natural; Americans think, "Of course the Germans have a word for this!" One linguist told me there’s probably some truth to this, but because I couldn’t nail it down, we left it out of the piece.
May 05, 2006
How many fingers are on your nose?
Because this guy, well, he's got 22. When he wants to pick his nose, he's got a lot of options.
(Translation: It's a busy, not-time-for-blog day here. Fingers on your nose!)
May 04, 2006
Maybe they're just friends. Yeah, that must be it.
How fragile is the male ego? So fragile that when a guy sees an attractive girl with a sleazy guy, he thinks, "What’s she doing with him?" -- and that of course translates into, "I’m so much better than him. What’s she not doing with me?" This is basically how I spent every waking moment in high school. Of course, little did I know the answer back then was, "Because your hair is absurd, you're wearing the clothing of someone 100 pounds heavier than you, and you spend your weekends at an arcade." But hey, a boy can dream, can’t he?
Anyway, this is all a lead up to today’s guilty pleasure: Hot Chicks With Douchebags, in which guys go to laugh at lame-looking guys that they’re extremely jealous of.
May 03, 2006
Sweet! Sweet. Swett. Swwtt. Sswtt. sswww...
It turns out that if you make a lot of cupcakes and put M&Ms on top, and then don’t eat all of them in time, the M&M coloring starts melting. This is a few things. One, it’s pretty gross. Two, it’s confusing. M&Ms can last a long time. In fact, we put our leftover M&Ms in a bowl on the same day we made the cupcakes, and they’re just fine. That was about two weeks ago. So, why the bleeding cupcakes? Surely there’s some reasonable, very obvious explanation, but it escapes me.
Here’s another view:
One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong. One of these things is not like the other... because it looks like large, circular mouse poop.
That joke would make a tiny bit of sense if the rest of the M&Ms looked normal, but they don’t. Still, it’s the best I got, folks. Enjoy it.
Find those Greek tutors on your own
Talk about timing. Last week, I illuminated some of the hidden meanings written in the Boston Weekly Dig's escort ads. Yesterday, the alt-weekly decided to stop running the ads. The Dig: Saving you money, and working out your forearm.
But worry not, good people of Boston. There's always Craigslist's casual encounters page -- and that sex is free! (Or, uh, so I assume.) In tribute, here are some choice quotes from the fine people you'll meet there:
- The jokester: "Looking for 28-45 year old adventurous woman to join me for Kowloons Comedy Thursday night. Robert Schimmel is the headliner and he's hilarious. After some good comedy and some tasty "Island" concoctions we can adjourn to some concockting of our own."
- The sleazy metaphor maker: "Let me teach you a few things that you won't learn in College and help you out at the same time. Clean cut, cut and well endowed. Class begins as soon as you are accepted in to school"
- The bullshitter: "I'm looking for some BBW's or curvacious women to hang out with. I don't expect anything except to just go out and have fun, so don't be scared that I'll be expecting sex or anything!"
- The straight shooter: "If you're an attractive lady with some nice breasts and just want 'em played with here I am."
- The poet: No quote. This monstrosity has to be seen in its entirety.
May 01, 2006
Two days late, but I'll share my opinion anyway
The double Bush act was entertaining and Stephen Colbert was funny but surprisingly full of recycled material, yet what really struck me about the White House Correspondent Dinner on Saturday was Valerie Plame. When I first saw her on television, shown on CSPAN responding to Colbert's joke about accidentally mentioning her name, I didn't think much of it. But yesterday, when I was reading the Washington Post's piece about the event, her name came up again and it struck me: Valerie Plame, the Woman Who Should Not Be Named, was in a big room surrounded by the journalists that once wanted quotes from her and the politicians who hate her husband and probably authorized the leaking of her name. They were all there, along with Alex Trebek and Ludacris and other people who had nothing to do with her or politics or anything else. Just there. Not getting things from each other. Not hiding things from each other. Just all accounted for, under one roof, laughing and enjoying themselves, reveling in each other's presence.
That's when I finally realized why, year after year, this event strikes me as so odd: It's not just because it seems somehow unwise, in an age of general media distrust, for tons of journalists to publicly hobnob and laugh and break expensive bread with the politicians they cover and the celebrities they have nothing to do with. Instead, it's so odd because when all these people are in one room together, they seem at ease, outside their normal roles as secret-keepers and secret-getters. They look like a cast at the Oscars -- the actors who played the hero and the villain sitting side by side, sharing a laugh, no longer embodying the people we met them as. The White House Correspondent Dinner makes politics look like political theater -- not the metaphorical type, which we see every day, but the literal type in which everyone plays a character on a stage and then takes off their costumes and goes home as friends.
It makes everything feel a bit insincere, as if the roles these people play out in front of us aren’t real and lasting. It’s like we’ve finally caught them after hours, their ties loosened, trading notes after the big show. And while I know it’s not like that, it sure feels that way when watching through a tiny television window. But only for a while. The real theater -- that is, the act of everyone getting along -- ended before the dinner did, when Bush stopped smiling during Colbert’s routine and gave him a straight-faced acknowledgement at the end. Laura Bush didn’t even get out of her seat to greet him. And then, once Colbert sat down, George and Laura got up and left, and the night was over, and everyone went back to their places.
Oh! Oh! And she’s gotta be from Turkmenistan!
On Sunday, as you see above, someone found my site after Googling “sexy women in flip flops trampling on things.” No doubt, our friendly searcher -- who was from the UK, if you’re curious -- has a fetish for such things. It’s probably a wacky spin-off of a regular foot fetish. And hey, everyone’s got their thing -- brushing teeth, balloons, whatever. If you’ve got a fetish and can find someone who enjoys it as well, good for you. But of course, if you’ve got a fetish and can’t find someone who enjoys it, then you’re a guy talking like a 5-year-old during sex and freaking out your boyfriend.
But I must wonder: When does a fetish get too complicated? How many elements are too much? Foot fetish seems simple enough, but what of a foot fetish in which sandals must be worn? Sandals stomping on things? Sandals stomping on small, shiny objects? Shiny objects from China? Just how specific do people have to get in order to get off? That must be frustrating; it's like directing a play. "Ok, places everybody!" the complifetishists must shout, as 20 people scramble to get the lighting right, get the costumes on (or off, as the case may be), push the buttons in just the right order. And here we thought a normal orgasm was exhausting enough.