April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Update: Day 17

The WHO today upgraded its Swine-o-meter to level five, in light of what appear to be cases of human-to-human transmission in two separate countries, and strong indications in general that a pandemic is "imminent". What this essentially means is that the doctors at the WHO are now a bit more concerned than they already were about the whole palaver.

The next phase in the WHO's alert cycle is six, "Pandemic", which is followed in particularly disastrous cases by phase seven, "Pandemonium", phase eight, "Pandora's Box", and of course, phase nine, "Pan's Labyrinth". At that point our only hope is a shift to phase ten: "Panacea".

Meanwhile, the European Commission has proposed changing the name of the disease from swine flu to novel flu, in order to prevent unduly damaging the pork industry. I say BACK OFF, European Commission — like people need any more encouragement to stop buying novels. Why don't you do something useful and call it "sub-prime mortgage flu", or "lead-tainted Chinese toys" flu?

In other news, apologies for the crass self-promotion in the title graphic. But if you all vote a lot now, I'll get my $500 and then I can take it away again.

April 29, 2009

You Can't Say That on the BBC, Kenya?

From BBC NEWS | Africa: Kenyan women hit men with sex ban
Women's activist groups in Kenya have slapped their partners with a week-long sex ban in protest over the infighting plaguing the national unity government. . . .

Patricia Nyaundi, executive director of the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida), one of the organisations in the campaign, said they hoped the seven-day sex ban would force the squabbling rivals to make up. . . .

But the BBC's Anne Waithera in Nairobi says the campaign is likely to meet stiff resistance from some men.
It's almost too easy.

April 28, 2009

Football Zing = GOOOOOOOOOAL?

From Newsvine: Bayern Munich fires Juergen Klinsmann as coach
BERLIN — Bayern Munich fired Juergen Klinsmann as coach on Monday, ending his two-year contract with the defending German champions after less than a season.
The decision came as a real blow to Klinsmann, who, as is his custom in such situations, fell to the ground in histrionic tears while grasping a randomly selected body part.

April 26, 2009

Swine Flu Over The Cuckoo's Nest

[Readers using Safari or Internet Explorer will have limited access to certain jokes in this post.]

Okay, so I feel like I should be a little cautious in blithely dismissing the severity of this swine flu outbreak that the slow Sunday news cycles have pounced upon — but I really do feel like, at this point, what the media is doing should still be classified as counter-productive scare-mongering.

Consider, from Newsvine: Is swine flu 'the big one' or a flu that fizzles?
Is this the next big global flu epidemic that public health experts have long anticipated and worried about? Is this the novel virus that will kill millions around the world, as pandemics did in 1918, 1957 and 1968?

The short answer is it's too soon to tell. . . .

"We have no clue right now," [said Michael Osterholm, a prominent expert on global flu outbreaks]. "That's the problem."

. . . Predicting influenza is a dicey endeavor, with the U.S. government famously guessing wrong in 1976 about a swine flu pandemic that never materialized.

"The first lesson is anyone who tries to predict influenza often goes down in flames," said Dr. Richard Wenzel, the immediate past president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. . . .

[Acting director of the CDC Richard Besser] also repeated what health officials have said since the beginning — they don't understand why the illnesses in Mexico have been more numerous and severe than in the United States. In fact, it's not even certain that new infections are occurring.
So, basically, what you're telling us is, NOBODY KNOWS BLOODY ANTHING. But?
[PAST] FLU PANDEMICS HAVE . . . KILLED AN ESTIMATED 20 TO 50 MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE [!!!!!!!]
"But wait!" I hear the staunch defenders of the media cry! "The press are only reporting the facts! And by raising public awareness they might help limit the spread of the virus!"

Right, yes. "Facts," like:
The New York Post's front page headline on Sunday was "Pig Flu PANIC!!!!!."

The CONCERN!!!!! level rose even more when federal officials on Sunday declared a public health emergency . . .

TROUBLINGLY!!!!, more severe cases are also likely . . .

More DISTURBING!!!!, this virus seems to spread among people more easily than past swine flus that have sometimes jumped from pigs to people.
And, I'm sorry, but all the "public awareness" campaign is going to do is get hypochondriacs to congregate in emergency rooms along with people who ACTUALLY have swine flu; it's not really helping anyone. As one member of the press put it in a refreshing moment of sanity:
If you had the flu bad enough to start endangering you, you would feel so awful you would want to go to the doctor anyway.
So, yes, I am dutifully knocking on wood as I write this, but, please, let's restrain our panic until it's actually clear one way or the other whether we have a problem.

April 24, 2009

Conversations With Greatness CXXVIII



Apologies for the delay in this week's instalment.

April 22, 2009

Boom and Busts

From AOL News: Economic Crisis Hits German Sex Industry

Place your bets now on how many double entendres I can massage out of this article (that one doesn't count).
In one of the few countries where prostitution is legal . . . the industry has responded with an economic STIMULUS PACKAGE.
Okay, that was a little easy, but still: TWO.
[Karin Ahrens, manager of the "Yes, Sir" brothel in Hanover] told Reuters revenue had dropped by 30 percent at her establishment while TURNOVER had fallen by as much as 50 percent.
Wait, so people are only doing it in the missionary position, now? (THREE.)

Here's another easy one:
Anke Christiansen, manager of the "GeizHaus," said the effects of the economic crisis were clear. "The regular customers who used to COME by two or three times a week are only COMING by once or twice a week now."
FIVE.
Ecki Krumeich, manager of upmarket Artemis Club in Berlin, said . . . "Our philosophy is: we provide an important service and even in a recession there are some things people won't DO without."
Indeed, some people just won't DO at all. (SIX.)

And now, my favourite:
Amateur prostitutes — mostly women with low-paid careers — [are] increasingly turning to prostitution TO MAKE ENDS MEET.
SEVEN. Splabango!

If you guessed I could make seven double entendres, congratulations. You win another double entendre. Oo-er.

April 17, 2009

April 16, 2009

I'm Not Sure Why, But…

…For some reason, after years of nothing, hilarious spam messages have continued to roll into my mailbox in the dozens over the last week. Is it some new viral marketing campaign? Have I somehow been added to a list, somewhere? Do I have a sign on my back? Whatever the reason, it's now time for another hilarious look into...

The Pundigrionatic Annals of Spam!

Spam supports the arts!
You can even show your instrument at the exhibition.
Spam is in league with the SUV industry!
You will need to buy rubber friends of a bigger size.
Spam advocates bizarre lower body tattoos!
Chicks will be at a loss for words when you take your pants down.
(With continued apologies and a promise of future royalties to Mariana.)

April 15, 2009

Oddball + Talent = Heartwarming?

Apparently I'm a little late to the game with this one, but I thought I'd take a minute to discuss international reality TV sensation Susan Boyle. Says Netscape Popeater:
Susan Boyle, a 47-year-old contestant on 'Britain's Got Talent,' unexpectedly wowed Cowell and the other two judges, including Simon-like Brit Piers Morgan, with her rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Miserables.

Boyle, who hails from a small village called West Lothian…
I mean, everything in Scotland is a small village, right? The towns, the cities, the counties — that place is so quaint!

Anyway, you can watch Boyle's performance on YouTube, and though it's seven minutes long, I'd actually recommend it — otherwise the rest of this post won't make quite as much sense.

So, in her pre-performance interview, Boyle explains — sorry, "admits", says Popeater, because this is such an awful thing — that she has never been married or kissed ("But that's not an advert!"). She then walks on stage, and, let's call a spade a spade, she looks frumpy and she's a bit socially awkward, and everyone in the audience is laughing at her and expecting a total train-wreck. Except then she launches into a pretty amazing rendition of the Les Mis song and suddenly everyone is cheering and the three judges are all looking extremely relieved that they're not going to have to send her packing. Because then they might have looked a bit superficial.

No, instead, they showered her with such unqualified praise as:
"That is the biggest surprise I have had in three years on this show. When you stood there with your cheeky grin and said, 'I want to be like Elaine Paige,' everyone was laughing at you. No one is laughing now! That was stunning… I'm reeling from the shock!"
Gosh, thanks Piers Morgan! May I have another? Of course, you didn't come out and say "You're an ugly old coot with a few loose screws," which makes you a much better person than me, I suppose, but it was pretty well implied by the "WHAT A SURPRISE!" thing, wouldn't you say? Maybe you should have just stuck to the "That was stunning" part — you know, the actual compliment you paid her?

But don't worry, I'm sure your colleague will be a little more tactful.
"I am so thrilled, because I know that everybody was against you. I honestly think that we were all being very cynical, and I think that's the biggest wake-up call ever. I just want to say that it was a complete privilege listening to that."
"…Because it assuaged my upper-class, attractive-person guilt about all the horrible things I was thinking about you before you started singing." No?

In fact, Simon Cowell, bizarrely, was the most tactful of the lot, even if he was completely tongue-in-cheek about it — perhaps because by the time it was his turn to weigh in he had realised what condescending pricks everyone else sounded like:
"I knew the minute you walked out on that stage [raucous laughter from rest of audience/judges] that we were going to hear something extraordinary, and I was right. [Cut to hosts backstage, saying "What a load of tosh."] Susan, you are a little tiger, aren't you?"
Did I mention that they're playing inspirational score music in the background this whole time? Because, wow, it is really inspirational to see several hundred people treat a genuinely talented singer like a freakin' charity case just because she has a set of eyebrows to rival Peter Gallagher. And, oh, yeah, I'm a superficial bastard for pointing out that she's not exactly a looker — because it would have been precisely as heartwarming to see an attractive person sing well on one of these talent shows. I mean, that never happens, right?

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, use your Twitter accounts and take us out on a high note!
aplusk: This just made my night.
mrskutcher: You saw it made me teary!
Sigh.

April 13, 2009

Meta-Procrastination

Fellow Facebook-users will doubtless have noticed the increasingly irritating "define yourself through obscure cultural references" quizzes that more or less dominate the news feed these days. I understand that completing these quizzes is a particularly rewarding form of procrastination, as you get to waste time AND discover something about yourself, but I haven't tried one — I like my procrastination old school.

So I'm going to blog about it.

Here are my top ten Facebook quiz results that I'd get, if I had my way.

10. Andrew took the "What event from the year 1403 are you?" quiz, and the result was: "Ming Emperor Yongle moves the capital of China from Nanjing to Beijing".

9. Andrew took the "What particle accelerator are you?" quiz, and the result was: "The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider in Brookhaven, NY".

8. Andrew took the "What typo are you?" quiz, and the result was: "Teh".

7. Andrew picked his five "favourite woods": Teak, Mahogany, Pine, Cedar, and Oak.

6. Andrew took the "What Muppet would you have been if you were a different punctuation mark because of what feminist theorist you are?" quiz, and the result was: "Kermit?"

5. Andrew picked his five "most underrated musical notes": A, C#, D, E♭, F

4. Andrew took the "What time of day are you?" quiz, and the result was: 5:43 p.m.

3. Andrew took the "Which member of the 81st United States Congress are you?" quiz, and the result was: James C. Auchinloss (R) New Jersey.

2. Andrew picked his five "best letters": A, N, D, R, E

1. Andrew took the "For what reason do you most regret ever having joined Facebook?" quiz, and the result was...

April 12, 2009

Shocking News



I believe he also predicts change in Iraq.

April 11, 2009

Tortured Simile of the Week

From Newsvine: AOL: You've got irrelevancy?

Time Warner is, apparently, thinking of unloading beleaguered internet provider AOL on an unsuspecting buyer, in an attempt to tighten up its balance sheets — and in an emesis-like bout of nostalgia, MSNBC.com writer Suzanne Choney reflects on the company that first groomed America for an illicit meeting in the playground of the internet.

And, yikes, if you think that was an awkward trope, get a load of this one:
AOL’s decline is somewhat like watching the aging of a smart but aggravating uncle who once taught you how to drive, then missed no opportunity to make each car trip a misery with his harping about the way you handle the road. You appreciate what he did for you, but it came at a cost.
Sorry, what?

Choney goes on to list a number of endearing features of the once-great internet giant, such as its user-friendliness, its pant-wetting excitement at the arrival of each new mail message . . .
And who could quibble with the charming 1998 movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan?
Um, hello, Andrew Ladd here. I could quibble with that movie. It was just Sleepless in Seattle with a web browser. And, if I recall, it portrayed Barnes & Noble executives as having even a tiny shred of humanity — ha!

This is the most writerly rant I've posted in a while.

April 10, 2009

April 09, 2009

With Apologies to Mariana

Spam is concerned about your DIY projects!
Small tool is for peeing, big tool is for more serious things.
Spam supports petting zoo entrepreneurs!
You might be making millions by showing your beast in the public.
Spam demands jihad!
Sharpen your arms in holy war vs epilepsy seizures.
Spam should move to Vermont!
i look for girls with purses that compliment mine
Spam disses Clooney!
Even famous movie stars would give up everything for a bigger tool.
Spam admires the Mona Lisa a little too much.
Now you can have a real masterpiece inside your pants.
Spam fundamentally misunderstands holiday spirit!
Now you can stuff her like a Thanksgiving turkey by giving her more meat.
(Spam arrived in my mailbox in a cavalcade of hilarity on Monday, and I felt the need to share.)

April 08, 2009

In Orthodox Judaism, Newspaper Reads You!

From The Guardian: Israeli papers brush women out of cabinet
Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver, the two [female] ministers, simply "disappeared" from a photograph of the new cabinet in the [ultra-orthodox] weekly newspaper Shaa Tova, with black holes visible in the spaces where they had been standing. Meanwhile, in the newspaper Yated Neeman, male cabinet members were blown up and superimposed on to the images of the two female ministers in the frame.

Shaa Tova told the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv: "Anyone who is acquainted with the ultra-orthodox press knows that from time immemorial, ultra-orthodox newspapers avoid publishing pictures of women."
"On the fifth day, God created censorship"?

The Beeb has the pictures, doctored and otherwise, and I have to say, the ultra-orthodox Jewry have some pretty incredible… Photoshop artists.

I suppose I should be outraged by this flagrant sexism and oppression of women, but to be honest I'm having trouble getting worked up about it. Like I said about that Outremont YMCA a few years ago, it's not as if the these ultra-orthodox Jews are actually imposing anything on anyone. Okay, so to us Secularised, Enlightened Liberals™ it might seem a little kooky to pretend that female politicians don't exist, but honestly, who reads ultra-orthodox Israeli newspapers except for the ultra-orthodox Israelis who already think that, anyway? My impression is that the ultra-orthodox Jewry actually go pretty far out of their way to make sure that they do keep their own values and beliefs to themselves, which, in the grand scheme of things, makes them about as dangerous as the Amish.

So why is everyone making such a big deal about this? To be honest, if the most horrific news to come out of Israel this week is a few scandalous Photoshops, that's fine with me.

Tomorrow: penis jokes!

April 03, 2009

Conversations With Greatness CCXXV

Double Entendre of the Decade

I'll get around to putting up a CWG later today, I promise, but first I had to share this story.

From Newsvine: Nevada lawmakers squeamish about prostitution tax
[Nevada] has not collected a dollar in taxes from prostitution since it was legalized in rural counties more than 30 years ago, and it's doubtful that it will anytime soon.

A bill that would levy a $5 tax on sex acts appears to have no chance in the Legislature, even though the state is facing a more than $2.8 billion revenue shortfall.

"I don't know why people won't recognize that we have a legal industry," said Sen. Bob Coffin . . .
. . . who is one of the state's biggest proponents of prostitution as a source of revenue. He added:
"I'm willing to go in and do the dirty work if no one else will."
Coffin says that the state is desperate for money to fund essential public services, and also assured legislators, presumably with a wink, that:
"I will go anywhere to do that."
Ick.

April 02, 2009

A Royal Mess: Redux

The Obamas are in Britain right now, and as part of their busy schedule are meeting the Queen for the first time. I was going to write a humorous imagined transcript about what might have happened during their meeting (it was going to involve the words "hope" and "change" a lot, along with a bound and gagged Prince Phillip, and it was going to be hilarious) — but then the actual meeting was so ridiculous on its own that it seemed pointless to try:
[An eyewitness] said: "There was a bit of a bottleneck as all of the leaders filed out so the Queen started chatting to Michelle Obama. She appeared to look up at her and make a comment about how tall she was.

"As she did, she put her arm around Mrs Obama and rested her gloved hand on the small of her back."

Almost simultaneously, Mrs Obama put her arm around the Queen's shoulders rather more firmly.

"The pair then looked at their feet and appeared to be discussing their shoes."
The moment quickly turned sour, however, when Princes Phillip and Harry entered the hall dressed in black face and full Klan regalia, respectively.

Also, since I know you all love it when I link myself, here's what happened when the last president met the Queen.