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June 30, 2004

Would You Like Pepper With That?

I think it would be fun to be a waiter because whenever you gave a customer his food you could poke him in the chest with your finger and shout "You got served!" That joke would never get old.

June 29, 2004

Veep-Stakes

As I've mentioned before, I don't really give a rat's ass who Kerry picks for VP. But, that said, it would be kind of fun to see John Edwards matched up with Dick Cheney in a vice-presidental debate. It would be pretty much exactly like that one episode where Buffy the Vampire Slayer goes head-to-head with Dracula.


Behind The Scenes: The Making Of "Veep-Stakes"

Me: Hey, who was the Big Bad in the first season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

The Queen: What?

M: I'm writing something for the yeti and I've trying to remember who the main villian was in the first season of Buffy.

Q: Dracula?

M: No, although she did meet Dracula once. That's who I've currently got in the post, but I thought it might be funnier if I used the name of the head bad guy in the first season.

Q: The Ubervamp?

M: No, he was in the last season.

Q: It was some super vampire guy.

M: Right. And he had a name.

{pause}

Q: Fred?

M: So, you're bored of this conversation, is that what you're saying?

Q: Pretty much.

June 28, 2004

On The Ball

The weekend started with a literal bang here in the Baldwin household, as the nation of Taiwan attempted to kill me and my child. It was a little after ten on Friday evening, and I was trying to get The Squirrelly to sleep by holding him while bouncing up and down on an exercise ball in a darkened room. Then, just as he closed his eyes and started to breath deeply, the ball beneath us decided to embark on a new career as a big piece of ruptured plastic. One moment we're merrily boinging up and down, the next we're laying there with dazed looks on our faces, I sprawled cockeyed against the wall, The Squirrelly several feet away on his back, looking like two guys waking up on the morning after a particularly enjoyable bachelor party.

While I lay there wondering what the hell had happened, The Squirrelly leapt into action, quickly inhaling all of the oxygen in the room and expelling it in the form of a banshee-deafening wail. This was, of course, followed mamaseconds later by The Queen charging into the room (though she had doubtlessly already been mobilized by the sound of a small explosion emanating from our room). She saw The Squirrelly on the ground, bellowed "DID YOU DROP THE BABY?!!," and then stabbed me in the heart with a screwdriver. Or, at least, she would have, if she had been in possession of a screwdriver, and if I hadn't hastily gestured towards the limp and damp remains of the ball to justify my apparent decision to lounge nonchalantly in the corner of the room while the kid lay on the floor screaming.

The casualties of the calamity were as follows: one red mark on The Squirrelly's noggin, one aching tailbone on papa's hindquarters, and a lot of anxiety for The Queen, who spent the remainder of the evening looking up "brain injuries" in The Baby Book (while I repeatedly pointed out that (a) the baby had not been "dropped on its head," as some spouses in the household were alleging -- he had merely tumbled out of my arms after I hit the floor -- and (b) I don't see anyone looking up "Ass, broken" in The Husband Book, so what say we spread the sympathy around a little bit, hey?).

Later, reading the fine print on the body ball box, we discovered the true culprit: the Taiwanese, who apparently sanction the manufacture of shoddy goods within their borders. Or maybe they encourage it, and intend to seize control of our nation after wiping out an entire generation of American babies (and daddies!) through the export of defective "Gaiam Balance Balls." America, remain vigilant!

Actually, there is another possibility. In the childcare classes we took prior to the birth, the teacher spoke about the absolutely necessity of a "body ball" to sooth cranky infants. When someone asked if the balls ever pop, the midwife said, oh no, that could never happen, because a typical ball has a burst weight of 800 pounds, at which point I loudly guffawed (because, c'mon: "burst weight" is funny) and the teacher looked a little irked. So I may have been on the receiving end of some midwifey fertility goddess hex. Wouldn't be the first time.

Anyway, you'll be glad to know that there was no long-term damage to either the top end of baby or the bottom end of daddy. And the very next day I bought a ball with burst weight of 1000 lbs., taking pains to select a model that had been made in China. TAKE THAT TAIWAN!!!

Appropo of nothing, here's Louie Cat traipsing through a Squirrelly photoshoot:

June 25, 2004

Bladder Lad

The other day I rewatched X2: X-Men United on DVD, and it reminded me of something I wanted to mention in my original review but omitted because it gave away the end of the movie. So if you haven't seen the film yet, here there be spoilers.

Anyhow, when I went to see X2 in the theater I did something I never do; namely, visit the concession stand. I dunno what possessed me, but something about the prospect of seeing Hugh Jackman in leather made me want to have snacks on hand. So I got some popcorn and, of course, several cubic feet of cola. All I wanted was a "small," honest, but you know how these things are rigged against you, where it's, like, you can get an additional 128 oz. for only seven cents, and if you don't go for it the cashier looks at you like you must be the stupidest thing ever to claw its way out of a grave and wander around in search of brains, so you're, like, "oh, what's seven cents compared to the withering scorn of a nineteen year-old making minimum wage?" and the next thing you know you're staggering away with cup of Dr. Pepper the size of Kirsty Alley.

And then, for reasons as inscrutable as Mona Lisa's smile, I proceeded to drink the whole damned thing before the open credits had concluded. Well, I think we all know where this is going.

So there I am, an hour or so into the film, with an Extended-Family-Sized Soft Drink firmly lodged in my Medium-sized nether regions. Now usually I'm pretty pragmatic about these things, and will flee to the restroom at the first twinge of discomfort, knowing that the longer I wait the more reluctant I'll be to leave as the movie builds toward its climax. But director Bryan Singer did a pretty good job of making a movie without a single pee-able moment, what with the punching and the shooting and the more punching. So I'm sitting there waiting for the characters in the movie to decide to do something boring, like go see one of the Matrix sequels or whatever, when suddenly the X-Men announce that they have discovered the enemy's secret hideout and they're heading over there prontoismo to kick some mutant tail. And I'm, like, "Buh? We're already heading to the big finale? Maybe this is only a 90 minute movie or something." And I decide I can make it to the end.

Alas, dear readers, X2: X-men United is not a 90 minute movie. It is, in fact, a 135 minute movie. And the secret hideout, it turns out, is conveniently located inside a dam -- a dam, I might add, which soon becomes damaged due to metahuman fisticuffs. From that point on we are treated to 45 minutes of pipes groaning with burgeoning water pressure, walls bulging under increased strain, corridors flooded by rushing torrents of liquid, and, ultimately, the disintegration of the dam itself, an event which precipitates an enormous wall of water shown rushing headlong at the audience, all while that cola continues to steadily drip-drip-drip into my bladder like some demonic IV feed.

Somehow, and despite all this, I made it to the first nanosecond of the closing credits, at which point I sprinted to the restroom as quickly as advisable under the circumstances. But the superhuman effort I'd exerted to get that far probably would have gained me admission into Dr. Xavier's School For The Gifted.

Come to think of it, that reminds me of another motion picture + urination story. (I got a million of 'em.) Several year back I went and saw Lawrence of Arabia at a local art house theater. At the end of the 215 minute movie I joined quite a sizable line at the men's bathrooms. The facilities had two urinals, and while men were constantly cycling through the one of the right, the one of the left was seemingly inhabited by a gentleman taking the longest, marathon piss I've ever had the good fortune to witness. He outlasted the three guys in front of me in line and was still there as I occupied the second urinal. A few moments after my arrival, however, he managed to wrap things up. As he rezippered, he turned to me and loudly exclaimed "Thank God that was a movie about a desert!"


The Bad Review Revue

The Chronicles of Riddick: "Riddick-ulous." -- Megan Lehmann, NEW YORK POST

Garfield: "You'd have to be a real asshole to hate this movie. Sadly the task falls to me." -- Marrit Ingman, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

Soul Plane: "An hour and a half of real airplane turbulence is better than sitting through Soul Plane." -- Sara Gebhardt, WASHINGTON POST

The Stepford Wives: "So god-awful it falls into the category of needing to be seen to be believed. " -- Karen Karbo, PORTLAND OREGONIAN

The Terminal: "Interminable." -- Joe Morgenstern, WALL STREET JOURNAL

June 24, 2004

Games: Hansa

I'm not a big fan of abstract games. That's what I keep saying, at least, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Much of that evidence has been provided by Michael Schacht, who has designed a number of games I quite like, including one of my favorites Web of Power. And now I find myself enamored with Schacht's most recent release, a enjoyably agonizing little gem called Hansa.

The gameboard shows nine Hanseatic cities, connected by a web of water routes and home to an assortment of consumer goods. The players, meanwhile, are merchants on a ship zig-zagging across the Baltic sea, visiting the various cities as the vendors ply their trade. The crucial point here is that all of the players are on the same ship, and only control it on their individual turns.

At the start of the game each player receives three coins and places markets in some of the cities. Players then spend their turns sailing the ship from its current location to a new destination -- in accordance with the route lines, and spending a coin to do so -- and taking actions: buying goods, establishing markets, or selling goods. To buy a good, a player takes one of the good counters from the ship's current city and pays one coin to whomever has the most markets in that city. To establish new markets, a player discards a previously purchased good and places 1-3 markets in this ship's current city. To sell goods, a player turns a number of previously purchased goods face down (adding them to his score pile) and removes one market from the ship's current city (if the player has no markets in the current city, he may not sell there). Complicating all this is the restriction that a player may take more than one action in a city at a time. At the end of the game, players receive points for all the goods they own, and two points for every city in which they have at least one market.

What makes the game hum is the clever (and often maddening) way in which money, goods, and markets are intertwined. Owning the plurality of markets in a city is always a boon, not only because other players will pay you to buy goods there but because you can take goods from that city for free. The coins you receive from your markets can be used to purchase goods, and these goods can be later discarded to establish still more markets. This would be a powerful positive feedback loop were it not for two limitations: each player only has a total of 15 markets, and every time you sell goods (a necessity, if you wish to win) you remove markets from the board.

Hansa is very much a tactical game rather than a strategic one -- that is, every turn you evaluate your current position and decide what to do, with little focus on long-term planning. In that respect, each turn of Hansa feels like solving a little puzzle, as you noodle out where to buy and sell goods, establish markets, and sail the ship, all with a finite number of coins at your disposal. These kind of mental gymnastics might become taxing over a long period of time, but I find them quite enjoyable over the course of Hansa's typical 45-60 minutes playing time.

Unlike some of my previous recommendations, this one isn't necessarily for everyone -- although the rules couldn't be simpler, playing well does require a willingness to mentally crunch the permutations before making a move. But for folks game for a little analytic reasoning, Hansa is about as addictive as they come.


Sexual Congress

Okay, so Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan may have taken his former wife to "bizarre clubs" around the world and pressured her to have sex with him in front of complete strangers. But should that automatically disqualify him from serving in Congress? I mean, sure, the guy has some flaws, but let's not forget that he took down an international drug cartel, helped America recover from a devastating terrorist attack, and pulled the nation back from the brink of nuclear holocaust. Isn't this someone we should be rallying behind?

On the other hand, I think he was also the soldier Tom Hanks saved in World War II, so maybe he's already used up his good luck.

June 23, 2004

Side-By-Side In Sisterhood

Now that I've regained my masculinity, I guess I can start making sweeping sexist generalizations again.

What is it about women that make them constitutionally incapable of walking Indian-Native American file, even for the briefest of moments? I have a number of running partners, many of whom are female -- The Queen, her friends, some coworkers here at the office -- and one thing that's always struck me is that while men will quickly assemble into a line when the trail narrows, women will often steadfastly refuse to deviate from their side-by-side formation, even if it means slowing to a crawl, hunching their shoulders forward, and moving within picometers of their companions to navigate a bottleneck.

And it's not just on the run: in the mall, on the sidewalk, on the escalator... Is it because women are so egalitarian that no one wishes to assume the lead? Or are they so independent that they refuse to literally "fall in line"? For whatever reason, the behavior seems endemic to the whole sex. I've noticed this phenomenon so often that I've started to wonder if it is, in fact, the origin of the phrase "walking abreast."

June 22, 2004

Books: The Last American Man

I haven't really been keeping up with my book reviews, but since I recommended The Last American Man over at The Morning News a few weeks back, I figure I could at do the same for my readers over here.

Those of you unfortunate enough to be adults may remember a spate of books released in the mid-90s that purported to tackle the thorny issue of "masculinity." The tomes tended to come in two varieties: those that analyzed the issue from a feminist perspective and urged readers to identify their masculine side and then quash it in favor of nurturing their inner womyn, and those that warned that the former were turning us into a nation of simpering nancyboys and encouraged men to combat this creeping menace by making more of an effort to behave like an asshole.

Since I was at Evergreen during the throes of this trend, it was pretty much inescapable for me. And, consequentially, I have an irrational fear of any book that has the word "masculinity" anywhere near it. So the only thing that's more amazing than the fact that I picked up The Last American Man from the library is the fact that I then went on to read it, despite a blurb on the front cover that declared it to be "the finest examination of American masculinity since Into the Wild." And hey, you know what? It was great -- best nonfiction book I've read so far this year.

The Last American Man is the biography of one Eustace Conway, written by his good friend Elizabeth Gilbert. Conway was literally the stuff of legends. As a teen he decided to forego a comfortable existence and live in the wilderness, surviving off what food he could catch or grow, fashioning his clothing out of buckskin, and eschewing even the luxury of matches. Unlike many hermits, though, Conway's desire was not to get away from people -- in fact, he was an extraordinary public speaker, and early on decided that it was his life's calling to proselytize this lifestyle, urging city folk to ditch the suburbs and come join him in the forest. In that end he established the Turtle Island Preserve, where he gave workshops and mentored those who wanted to learn how to live a "traditional lifestyle." He also travelled to schools and conferences as a handsomely paid guest speaker. And, between gigs, he found time to hike the entire Appalachian Trail and ride across the nation on horseback.

In chronicling the life of Conway, Gilbert makes little effort to hide her affection for the subject matter: she freely admits that she's a friend of the protagonist and is obviously not immune to his considerable charms. Even so, she's not afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to Conway's many failings. Gilbert makes it all too clear why a man of Conway's charism nonetheless winds up alienating his friends, family, lovers and apprentices. Indeed, Conway come across less as a paragon of manhood and more like a greek god: larger-than-life, but with a flaw for every virtue. That Gilbert is able to navigate the tightrope between objectivity and personalization is a credit to her skills as an author.

And while I haven't rushed out and purchased a copy of Iron John just yet, I will say that The Last American Man went a long way in destigmatizing treatises on masculinity for me. Better still, I found it an engrossing, funny, and thought-provoking book, one perfect for summer reading on the beach. Or in the middle of a rainforst, whichever you prefer.

June 21, 2004

i.e.

Overheard at work:

Coworker one: I have a great idea for a game. Wanna hear it?

Coworker two: Sure.

Coworker one: Okay, so everyone divides into teams, and on a turn a team draws a card with a word on it and everyone on the team has to shout out as many synonyms for that word as they can in 60 seconds.

Coworker two: That sounds like the most excruciatingly boring game I've ever heard.

Coworker one: And it would be called "syno-names."

Coworker two: What's another word for "terrible"?


The LiveJournal of Zachary Marsh

Hey, whoa, what happened to last week? I posted on Monday, and then I slapped up a half-assed, recycled entry on Tuesday, and then ... it's all a blur.

Anyway, it's Game On again here at the yeti, starting with my latest Morning News article, The LiveJournal of Zachary Marsh.

By the way, here's the full-sized ducks image and the inspiration for the piece.

June 15, 2004

The Works: June

Hey, remember this great post from last week?

I'll be on The Works this evening, talking about three "celebrity blogs" that surfaced over the last few weeks.

Andy Kaufman

  • Andy Kaufman Returns: http://andykaufmanreturns.blogspot.com/
  • The Hoax exposed: http://www.snopes.com/inboxer/hoaxes/kaufman.asp
  • Rance

  • Captain Hoof Blog: http://captainhoof.tripod.com/blog
  • An article about the mystery of Rance: http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/1047

    Washingtonienne

  • An archive of the original Washingtonienne blog: http://washingtoniennearchive.blogspot.com/
  • The days and nights of Washingtonienne: http://www.aolwatch.org/backup/washingtonienne.htm
  • Update: You can listen to the program online here.
    Uh, actually, the program airs tonight, June 15th.

    Also, it turns out that Peter Jackson's next movie will not be entitled Police Academy 8: Hijinks In Hobbiton as I previously reported.

    June 14, 2004

    At The Co-op

    I went to the health food store yesterday with The Squirrelly. While trying to decide which of the many varieties of flaxseed cereal to buy, some guy approached me and said "Boy, that kid looks just like you!" You might find find that a little odd, but it happens to me all the time when I go out wearing my favorite ducky onsie.

    Also, over in produce, I overheard a dialogue between two women. Well, it wasn't so much a dialogue as a monologue, with one woman droning on and on about her strictly-organics vegetarian diet while the other stood there with a glassy look of waning patience. Suddenly the second woman reached out, put a hand on the other's shoulder -- stopping the first woman's screed mid-sentence -- and said, "Listen, I need to run. But I want you to know that I found this conversation very empowering."

    June 11, 2004

    Spellhound

    Man's Best Friend Also A Good Listener: "A recent study reveals that, contrary to conventional wisdom, dogs can understand"over two dozen words ..."

    For the record, the words are:

    FetchSitStayHeelFilibuster
    WalkBallBling-blingComeJägermeister
    PlausibilityNoWaitBarebackingCher
    BedJackalopeGoodNeuterBrillig
    TamaleDuluthCallipygianFoodROTFLMAO
    [ link | Humor]


    June 10, 2004

    DNC Urges Clinton's Demise

    The Democratic National Committee, citing the "unfair advantage" accrued by the Bush campaign in the wake of Ronald Reagan's passing, today called on Bill Clinton to perish in late September or October of this year. "Oh c'mon, you finished your book. What do you have left to live for, Hillary?" asked DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe in a personal appeal to the 42nd President. "Help a brother out -- another Wellstone Memorial would be awesome." McAuliffe suggested to Clinton that he die by "running into a burning building to save a child" or "getting the shiv while thwarting a mugging" for maximum effect. He implored Clinton, however, to assiduously avoid those fatalities that in any way involve oral sex.

    [ link | News]


    June 09, 2004

    Maw Maw

    Here's my prodigy of a son trying to cram an object the size of a cantaloup into his piehole:


    (Don't worry, that's not an enormous 50s-era atom, just a run-of-the-mill winkel. Although it would cool if it were a big atom, because then he'd probably get super-strength or the ability to teleport or something. That's how radioactivity works, as I understand it.)

    We've been patiently waiting for The Squirrelly to develop a personality, but, now that he has one, we're kinda wishing it wasn't that of a insatiable vortex. Trying to put every object on Earth into his yapper has become his full time hobby. He's committed to the cause even while sleeping. Last night I reached out and patted his belly while he slept; he responded by seizing my arm and going at my wrist like it was a cob of corn, looking like the world's most ineffectual wolverine.

    Oh well. It's kind of endearing, watching him endeavor to shove an entire carseat into his mouth with no thought toward what would happen if he succeed. That kind of naive blindness and inability to think about the consequences of his actions gives me hope that, someday, he too will have children.

    June 08, 2004

    Get A Grip

    At work, talking to The Queen on the phone:

    Me: How are you getting downtown?

    The Queen: I dunno, drive, probably. Maybe take the bus. Do you know which bus goes there.

    M: The 37. It leaves that Park & Ride near our house and stops downtown on 4th.

    Q: Ugh -- I'll drive. I've taken the 37 before, and it's always full of hyperactive high school kids. I don't really want to be surrounded by a bunch of teenage boys who don't know how to handle themselves.

    M: Yeah, kids today have forgotten all the essential skills. Why, when I was a teenage boy I handled myself all the time.

    {dead air}

    M: Okay, well, now I kinda wish I hadn't said that out loud at the office.

    June 07, 2004

    Hope Is Our Strategy

    NBC Interview:

    Brokaw: Are you worried that in the next nine months or so before the election, that one faction in Iraq will try to become dominant, and especially since we have a constitution in Iraq now that says minority rights?

    Bush: Yeah.

    Brokaw: What happens then?

    Bush: You mean if that constitution is laid aside?

    Brokaw: Yes.

    Bush: I would hope it wouldn't be. I would hope that the Iraqi citizenry realizes the importance of recognizing the rights of all people within their country.

    The Bush Doctrine in a nutshell: Don't plan for the worst, just hope it doesn't happen. These guys are nothing if not optimistic. Honestly, at some point I expect to Bush to go on nationwide tv and urge all Americans to get in on the process. "Iraq won't fall into chaos if you only believe! Say quick that you believe, America! If you believe, clap your hands. Clap your hands, and our mission in Iraq will succeed."

    It seems like there's room for compromise in our next election. What if we elect Kerry to the presidency so he could formulate and execute a coherent foreign policy, but we retain Bush in a cabinet-level position -- the Secretary of Wistfulness, perhaps -- so he can continue to fervently hope that things turn out for the best?

    June 05, 2004

    Friday Afternoon Scrachpad

    Another Item On My Lifetime 'To-Do' List

    Establish a retirement community for washed-up comedians and call it "Wise Acres"

    Our Product Will Make Your Teeth Fall Out

    From: Lamar <pxtmlyrpnzgzgz@pochta.com>
    To: matthew@defectiveyeti.com
    Subject: DREAMS

    OUR PRODUCT WILL MAKE ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE click here!!

    From: matthew@defectiveyeti.com
    To: Lamar <pxtmlyrpnzgzgz@pochta.com>
    Subject: Re: DREAMS

    Thanks for the email, Lamar, but that sounds like overkill. If you ever invent something that can make just some of my dreams come true -- those involving flying, for instance -- while skipping over the ones where I haven't done the required reading for a geography exam or I'm being chased by The Wiggles, feel free to write me again.

    Cheers,
    Matthew

    Links

    Do not start playing Bowman because then you will not stop playing Bowman.

    This shareware text editor is pretty great.

    Nigritude Ultramarine.


    Hoisted By His Own Petard

    In a recent interview, Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, ripped filmmaker Michael Moore for his appropriation of the science-fiction novel's title. "Michael Moore is a screwed asshole, that is what I think about that case," said the 84-year-old writer. "He is a horrible human being -- horrible human!"

    In other news, the latest issue of Rolling Stone features an interview with William Shakespeare, in which the Bard of Avon decries Bradbury's use of the phrase "something wicked this way comes." "That mewling cutpurse plucked the title from the pages of my MacBeth direct," carped the long dead poet and playwright, who later went on to describe Bradbury as "sick in the world's regard, wretched and low, a poor unminded outlaw sneaking home."

    Speaking Of Which ...

    I assumed that someone had already made a porn movie entitled "Something Wicked This Way Comes," but I can't seem to find it via Google. Man, there's a vast untapped market right there: adult films based on the works of William Shakespeare. The Taming Of The Screw. A Midsummer's Night Ream. The Merchant of Penis. The Two Gentlemen of Veronica. And I think we can all agree that Henry VIII could only be improved by the addition of girl-on-girl action.

    Update: In the comments, Marcy says: "I took a class ... called Shakespeare, Transnational Cinema, and Mass Media. We had to read entire essays devoted to the use of Shakespeare in porn films. More information is available here and here." The later page includes a review of -- yes! -- The Taming of the Screw. Thanks, Marcy!

    June 04, 2004

    The Bad Review Revue

    The Girl Next Door: "Director Luke Greenfield, the auteur behind The Animal starring Rob Schneider, wants to pass off this limp-dick farce as social satire. Ha!" -- Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE

    Rasing Helena: "You are likely to encounter more surprises on the way to the bathroom each morning than you do in this film." -- Stephen Hunter, WASHINGTON POST

    The Whole Ten Yards: "Worse than you can imagine. Unless, of course, you've imagined 90-something minutes of bloopers and outtakes that congeal into a story -- much the way a scab is formed." -- Wesley Morris, BOSTON GLOBE

    The Day After Tomorrow: "A shambles of dud writing and dramatic inconsequence which left me determined to double my consumption of fossil fuels." -- Anthony Lane, THE NEW YORKER

    Taking Lives: "A taut thriller filled with chills and sex and frights and mind-blowing surprises! Hawke makes us forget Brando, Dean and De Niro, and Jolie makes us forget all other women in history! Drop the newspaper! Never mind dressing! Run to the box office! I hated it!" -- Shawn Levy, THE OREGONIAN

    June 03, 2004

    Born To Plog

    Hello! It looks like I am receiving a host of new visitors, thanks to a link on Amazon's new Plog page. A Plog, as near as I can tell, is a "personalized log," and is like a "blog" except you can't personalize it. Also, instead of you writing it and other people reading it, robots write it and you read it. Also, instead of being open to the world, only you can see it. But aside from that, it's pretty much nothing like a blog.

    Funny anecdote: I worked at Amazon for a few years, but then they made me put all my belongings in a cardboard box and had security escort me from the building. Hah hah, true story! You might think that would make me bitter -- what with them giving me the heave-ho and now using my work as part of a marking campaign -- and you might further speculate that I would use this opportunity to speak directly to Amazon consumers by badmouthing the company. But you'd be wrong, because I still own Amazon stock. So, if you came here via the Amazon link, please go back to the site and complete your transaction before reading any further.

    Honestly, I harbor no ill will toward Amazon. And, truth be told, they do have some claim on my blog. During my stint at Earth's Biggest Bookstore, part of my duties included blogging, of a sort. For a while I was the liaison between the IT department and customer service , a position that required me to send technical updates to several hundred CS representatives every two hours. As there was often no real news to report, I usually padded the updates with funny stories, amusing asides, and links to notable new websites. (To put in perspective how long ago this was in Internet time, consider that "mapquest.com" was deemed a fascinating new addition to the double-you double-you double-you in 1999.) In other words, I was creating something akin to the contemporary blog. Well, moreso akin than "plogs," at any rate.

    And lookit me now: five years later Amazon cooks up a top-ten list featuring the likes of Lileks and musings of Megnut, and my site is listed smack dab in the middle (until they catch wind of this post, at any rate). What a mad, mad, crazy, man, topsy-turvy world we live in. I guess it's true what they say: purchase crap from Amazon frequently, and drive their stock price through the roof.

    [ link | dy]


    June 02, 2004

    Al Qaida Rebrands Self "MusliMentum"

    The Islamic paramilitary movement formerly known as Al-Qaida today announced that it would change its name to MusliMentum. "Right or wrong, the name 'Al-Qaida' has come to have negative connotations, perhaps due to our unrelenting campaign of nihilistic butchery," said MusliMentum spokesman Khalid al-Mihjim. "Countering this perception by renouncing the use of indiscriminate violence would, unfortunately, violate our mission statement. So, instead, we've decided to give ourselves a new name ... and a fresh start!"

    Al-Mihjim was quick to reassure citizens that, despite the name change, MusliMentum would exhibit "the same level of commitment to horrific acts of terrorism people have come to expect from Al-Qaida."

    The change is one element of a $4 billion rebranding effort on the part of the organization, which includes television commercials showing groups of sleepy cells smiling and planting trees, and the launch of a new slogan "MusliMentum: Barbarism For the 21st Century."

    [ link | News]


    June 01, 2004

    Vice City

    If you haven't already read John Moe's article Pros and Cons of John Kerry's Top Twenty Vice-Presidential Candidates, please do so now. It's great.

    I guess I should care about who Kerry picks, but somehow I can't muster the enthusiasm. The whole selection process seems so clinical, less like picking the second most powerful person in the United States and more like comparison shopping waffle irons on Froogle. They want someone who can deliver a state, can do well in the South, doesn't have any skeletons in the closet, won't outshine the presidential nominee, can spell potatoe, etc. So many things to consider, and all so unfathomably technical and boring. For instance, I bet Bob Kerrey doesn't stand a chance because the campaign thinks a "Kerry / Kerrey" ticket would be too confusing. They probably envision the average voter standing the booth and saying, "Two Kerries?! Whaaa--?!!" and then opting for Bush on on the theory that's he's simpler. (And boy, is he ever.)

    It would be interesting if Kerry picked Kerrey and they called their campaign "Kerry Nation" and went around destroying saloons with rocks, hammers and hatchets, though.

    Most nominees vet vice-presidential candidates with an eye toward balance, looking for someone who's the opposite to provide a well rounded ticket. You know, like how in 2000 Bush was running as a lovable doofus, so they brought on Cheney because he has the charism of e. coli. Since the main charge against Kerry is that he's "indecisive" and "nuanced" and "intelligent," he should probably pick someone unwavering in his convictions, like Crazy Woman Certain That Aliens Told Her To Steal Soup Spoons From Restaurants, or Old Man Driving Aimlessly Around Gerbil Junction, Iowa, Because He's Too Stubborn To Ask For Directions To The Post Office. That would make for some great vice-presidential debates.

    Cheney: Privatizing a portion of Medicare will stimulate the economy, and we'll be harnessing the powers of the market to increase revenue for beneficiaries.

    Old Man: I know where I'm going! I've been to the post office a hundred times!

    Cheney: Your plan, on the other hand, relies heavily on raising taxes.

    Old Man: This is a short cut! I have a map of the entire city in my head!