October 31, 2009

Vidal Statistics

In an interview with the Atlantic this month, author Gore Vidal passionately defends fellow creepy old dude Roman Polanski, who is currently in Swiss prison awaiting extradition procedures for his 1977 rape conviction.

With characteristic calm and objectivity, Vidal said:
I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?
You could at least put down your cocktail for a second.

Vidal goes on to claim that Polanski was skewered by the "anti-Semitic and anti-fag thing going on with the press" at the time, and disputes "the idea that this girl was in her communion dress, a little angel all in white, being raped by this awful Jew, Polacko – that’s what people were calling him." Mr Vidal then adds that the version of the story being peddled by the press today differs substantially from the vituperative gay-and-Jew-hating that pervaded coverage back in the 1970s: "There was a totally different story at the time that doesn’t resemble anything that we’re now being told," he said.

Well, Gore, I took the liberty of looking up exactly what the press said about the case at the time, and gosh!, are you right! What a witch hunt!
A lawyer representing the family read a letter before Judge Laurence J Rittenband, saying . . . the family was "not seeking incarceration" of Mr Polanski, only an admission of wrongdoing and a rehabilitation program. . . .

The assistant district attorney also said the judge could recommend that Mr Polanski, a French citizen, not be deported. (Grace Lichtenstein, The New York Times, Aug 9, 1977.)
I guess Polanski was also feeding Gore Vidal Quaaludes at the time.

October 30, 2009

Conversations With Greatness CCLIII

THREE communism jokes in a row! I'm on a roll!

October 29, 2009

Seriously, Emerson?

So, under Emerson College's frankly RIDICULOUS new swine flu "prevention" policy, ANY person with any "influenza like illness (ILI)" — because saying "fever" or "cough" would be too simple for a COMMUNICATION SCHOOL — is requested by the Centre for Health and Wellness to self-quarantine for a minimum of four days.

That is, you don't have to HAVE swine flu. Indeed, as I understand it, they don't even bother testing for it, and instead assume that anybody with an "ILI" — that's a fever or a cough, remember — is infected, despite public health evidence that Boston is one of several U.S. cities that has a nationwide low of swine flu infections right now.

Anyway, having established that anyone with a fever or a cough is a deadly killing machine, Emerson requires such individuals, as I said, to self-quarantine for a minimum of four days. That means (I'm paraphrasing from the official Emerson H1N1 policy here):

1. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR ROOM. If you have to leave your room, in order to, say, eat, or go to the bathroom, WEAR A BANDANA OR FACE MASK TO PROTECT OTHERS, both from your germs and from the sight of your pimply adolescent skin.

2. If possible, LEAVE CAMPUS and recuperate at a friend or relative's house. Because although H1N1 is highly infectious to other Emerson students, there is nothing wrong with taking your germs onto public transit systems. (Anybody not actively involved in bringing innovation to communication and the arts is not worth saving, anyway.)

3. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ATTEMPT TO LEARN ANYTHING. You may not go to class, extra-curricular activities, the library, the Writing and Academic Resource Centre, or, indeed, anywhere that might involve taking advantage of the $20,000 tuition bill you paid for the year.

It's this last rule that particularly irks me, because I have a student with "ILI" who has been barred from attending my class for this entire week by the college health centre. That means missing three class meetings, which is enough, according to several other official Emerson policies, to lower a student's final grade. So I'm required to reduce this student's final grade per one official policy, because the health centre doesn't issue "sick notes" to excuse a student's absences (as per another official policy), even though they can simultaneously require that same student to miss enough classes to lower their grade per ANOTHER official policy! It is fucking ABSURD.

In conclusion, our dean of students is the boss from Dilbert. Apparently.

October 28, 2009

Babelfish Poetry, Part III

One in a continuing series of poems written by me, A. Ladd, but mostly by the Babelfish translation engine.

Berlusconi has met the Pope.

It has been a short talk,
On the track to the Roman airport;
Witnesses tell of cordial expressions
And an affable talk.

After the encounter,
Berlusconi has accompanied the Pope
To the ladder of the airplane
That has carried him to Praga;

And to the festivity of the Pardon.
Look for it in the Spring 2010 issue of Broken Coffeepot Review.

October 27, 2009

Maybe It's Time To Check Out That Gift Horse's Teeth

Received the following in the mail yesterday:

WOW! A gift for me!1 What generosity! What largesse! And it's not even THANKSGIVING yet! Tell me more!

"Lemme give you a liddle friendly advice, pal: I really tink dis is a gift you should not refuse, you understand what I'm saying? Udderwise, you know, who knows what hawrrible accidents might happen to you in de next year. Capiche?"

October 26, 2009

Non-metaphorical Metaphor of the Day

From The New York Times: A Nation Battling Flu, and Short Vaccine Supplies
Earlier this month, the government was forced to announce that only about 28 million doses [of the swine flu vaccine] would be available by the end of this month, about 30 percent below the 40 million it had previously predicted. . . .

Some companies hit bottlenecks in putting the vaccine into vials.
Companies producing the nasal version of the vaccine also experienced some congestion.

October 23, 2009

Conversations With Greatness CCLII

I can't remember the last time I actually did communism jokes two weeks in a row.

October 19, 2009

Brown Stain

From BBC NEWS | UK: PM warns of climate 'catastrophe'
Gordon Brown said negotiators had 50 days to save the world from global warming and break the "impasse" [in current climate change talks].
Or what? The bus will explode?

So, apparently, tired of being the most boring and ineffective prime minister in British history (sorry, Pitt the Younger), Gordon Brown is now taking a page out of the Bond villain school of politics. Any other wild and completely baseless threats you'd like to make, Gordie?
"Once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can ever undo that choice."

. . . The costs of failing to tackle the issue would be greater than the impact of both world wars and the Great Depression combined, the prime minister said.
HOOOOOOLY CRAP! Someone is going to nuke the ozone layer?! And then NO future action, EVER, will be able to undo ANYTHING?

To prove he was serious about his claims, Mr Brown then globally warmed a small section of the English countryside — though he was careful to emphasise that the destruction wrought by that tiny demonstration was nothing compared to the global catastrophe the world faced if they didn't give into his demands.

Look, Gordon, I have tried to give you a chance, and God knows I love the Labour party — but at this point I will happily take Cameron over your incompetent fuckwittery. Please hold an election and go away.

October 18, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Media-Obsessed Society Scorned

From BBC NEWS | Americas: US balloon boy case 'was a hoax'

The latest shocking news in the ongoing Balloongate saga is that authorities have decided to charge Colorado parents Richard and Mayumi Heene with a number of different crimes, including conspiracy and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, all based on the accusation that the entire incident was a deliberately staged hoax.

So, let me get this straight.

This family released a weather balloon, then told the authorities their son might be inside said weather balloon, and now the police are threatening them with jail because everybody so thoroughly bought it? Sorry, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this whole "hoax" would have been fairly innocuous if the media hadn't made such a retarded circus about it.

Okay, so I'm being a little facetious, but it seems to me that it's pretty disingenuous to blame the family for trying to create a publicity stunt when the only reason such a stunt is even possible is that we're all living in a culture that gets so unreasonably excited about stuff like this; if all the TV news outlets weren't so ecstatically shitting themselves immediately about the prospect of filling two hours of airtime, then what reason would the Heenes have had for doing anything in the first place?

I mean, even supposing that the entire thing was deliberately planned by the Heenes, just try and imagine it happening without the existence of CNN et al. TRY IT. Do you really think the Heenes would be getting charged with anything if a couple of cops had wasted their time with absolutely no media attention? Of course not! They'd probably get a slap on the wrists and a withering look and an admonition to check the attic first, next time. "Contributing to the delinquency of a minor", though? Give me a break.

And what about this supposedly damning piece of evidence that the kid thought he was "putting on a show"? A show for whom, huh? The cops? The neighbourhood? No! For the same freakin' people who already paid them oodles of money to make a spectacle of themselves on FOX; give them attention for doing stupid shit, and OF COURSE they'll go and do some even stupider shit to try and hold it for a little longer. THE MEDIA IS MAKING TODDLERS OF US ALL.

I hate to get all academic on you, but can we just talk for a moment about how on the money Jean Baudrillard was? (Sorry, but it cost $100,000 for me to learn this stuff — I'm not going to pass up a perfect opportunity to show it off.)

October 16, 2009

October 14, 2009

The Following Is A Pained Advertisement

Today I saw an internet ad for Coke Zero — the product so-called, by the way, because of the amount of personality you'd have to possess to give a shit about the one-calorie difference with Diet Coke — and I was eventually redirected to a relatively new marketing campaign that describes itself as The Facial Profiler, a "social experiment" to connect people around the globe.

Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty, I'd like to make it clear, since most of the "bloggers" covering this so far seem to be thinly-disguised corporate shills, that this is one of the stupidest and most vacuous marketing campaigns on the planet right now, and if you fall for it you deserve to — well — drink a fucking Coke Zero, for a start.

Anyway, The Facial Profiler begins with a simple premise ("simple" not as in "easily understood", but as in "of abnormally low intelligence"): "If Coke Zero has Coke's taste… Is it possible that someone out there has your face?" Oh my God, this Shockwave file is right! Logically unconnected statements DO go together! (Backup slogan: "If Coke Zero has Coke's taste… Is it possible that someone out there is named Simon?")

Then, after stunning us with its Sherlock Holmes–like deductive reasoning, The Facial Profiler goes on to explain that, using the same state-of-the-art technology developed by "governments and international security agencies", it will — are you ready for this? — find someone else in the world WHO KIND OF LOOKS LIKE YOU.

You just blew my fucking mind, Facial Profiler.

But proprietary government technology inexplicably on loan to a soft drink manufacturer isn't the only weapon in The Facial Profiler's arsenal. Oh, no. It also uses Facebook; with Coke Zero's "one-of-a-kind app", Facial Profiler will connect you to whoever else looks like you on the social networking site, and then you can trade recipes, or Ritalin dealers, or something.

So, what do you need to do to sign up for this life-altering "social experiment"? Simple! Just give the Coca-Cola corporation unrestricted access to all the personal information and photographs that you have on Facebook, and it will do the rest — whatever horrifying invasion of privacy "the rest" means.

Brave new world.


Speaking of advertising, and of being an old fuddy-duddy prescriptivist or whatever, no matter how many times I listen to the voiceover in this commercial, I can't hear anything except "Dominatrix do it on command" — which is so HORRENDOUSLY WRONG I can't quite believe my ears. Hello, pistachio guys? Dominatrices? Dominatrixes? Or did you just think to yourselves, "Hey, it's a foreign-sounding word, it probably follows some weird pluralisation rule"? Jesus. I think my new slogan is going to be Doesn't anyone own a fucking dictionary anymore?.

October 13, 2009

Armageddon A Bit Worked Up About All This...

One of my students the other day submitted a paper to me about how the end of the world was fast approaching [editorial comment redacted], in which he liberally used the word Armageddon to refer to said catastrophic event.

In fact, since Armageddon means, according to both OED and MW, a dramatic/catastrophic/decisive conflict, it is, strictly speaking, incorrect to use the word to refer solely to the end of the world via other means — even though the end of the world is often presumed to be a by-product of Armageddon. But when I brought up this particular example with a few other people in the writing department here, they were relatively sanguine about its more generic usage. ("It'll be in the dictionary soon," said one of them.)

Now, as near as I can tell, the only reason for the widespread acceptance of this MISTAKE is the Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer/Bruce Willis box office crapfest of the same name that was released in 1998, presumably without anyone involved consulting a dictionary, in which the world (nearly) comes to an end because of an enormous asteroid impact. And while normally I, too, am relatively sanguine about pop culture affecting the lexicon (I can't get through a day without saying D'oh), this is different: this is pop culture corrupting a very specific existing item in the lexicon, and to me that seems like something over which knickers should be got in a twist. Besides, are we really okay with new generations of children learning to speak English from Jerry freakin' Bruckheimer? Because, let me tell you, I am, on principle, not okay with children learning anything from Jerry Bruckheimer, and I don't see why vocabulary should be any different. What's next? U.S. History according to National Treasure?

So please, next time you happen to be in charge of a group of young minds, make sure you impress upon them the real meaning of Armageddon. Preferably without practical demonstration.

October 09, 2009

October 08, 2009

Conversations With Greatness: The Deleted Scenes

I loved the Swine Flu character and wrote a bunch of strips in one go back in May. This one was due to go up around the time of the Iranian elections/Michael Jackson's death/etc. and so I ended up pulling it to make way for more topical stuff. But still — what an epic pun, right?

October 07, 2009

Conversations With Greatness: The Deleted Scenes

CWG CCXXX turned into a Leno zing, for some reason; this was a slightly different version of that strip. I personally liked this one better at the time, and still do — but I thought the reference was maybe a little TOO obscure, which is why I canned it.

October 06, 2009

Conversations With Greatness: The Deleted Scenes

...and this is the second Iran joke I decided not to publish at the time.

October 05, 2009

Conversations With Greatness: The Deleted Scenes

I couldn't really gauge how appropriate it was to joke about Iran's election debacle earlier this year, so I ended up doing a bunch of strips with varying levels of seriousness. This is one of two more irreverent ones that never made the cut.

October 04, 2009

Conversations With Greatness: The Deleted Scenes

"Canada" turned out to be a great recurring character during the presidential primaries in 2008, but even before I came up with that, I knew I wanted the country to feature in the strip somehow. This was my first attempt.

October 03, 2009

Conversations With Greatness: The Deleted Scenes

Way back towards the end of CWG's second year, I did a series over the summer of strips "guest edited" by other famous cartoonists. XCIII was allegedly guest edited by Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) — and though I ended up going with the more straightforward joke, I remained particularly fond of the one below, because I felt like it was a much better sendup of an actual Calvin and Hobbes strip.

October 02, 2009

Conversations With Greatness CCXLIX

NEXT FRIDAY will mark the 250TH INSTALLMENT of Conversations With Greatness, so this week we're having a SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE EVENT. Every day for the next six days, come on back to see a new "blooper" or "deleted scene" — all the spare strips and back-up jokes I put together and then never used, from the last five years — leading up to the fantastic, star-studded 250th strip next Friday, October 9.

My thesis is going really well.

October 01, 2009

Roman Holiday

You know, I made a conscious decision not to blog about the Roman Polanski story when it broke last week because I didn't think I had much else to add to the debate. But it's been so stubbornly refusing to die — and grating on my nerves a little more acutely each day that it doesn't — that I'm just going to come out and say it:

Send the guy to fucking jail already.

Now, look, I'm not being a complete Neanderthal here: I understand that The Pianist was a very good movie (sorry, film). And I get that maybe the LAPD didn't handle the case as well as they could have — and, gosh, I know we all hold the LAPD to such high standards of efficiency in every other situation — but the man drugged a thirteen-year-old and then took her to bed. I don't care how many great films he's directed, I don't care how upstanding a citizen he is these days, I don't care what a great father he is. I even don't care if he had a cameo in a Jackie-fucking-Chan movie (and he did): the man committed a crime, pled guilty to that crime, was convicted of that crime, and now he needs to go to jail for it — and everyone needs to stop getting their ascots in such a twist.

Among Polanski's defenders is philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who dismissed the rape as "a youthful error" — presumably meaning "youthful error" as in, "an error involving a youth", because R-Po himself was in his forties at the time, and I think French philosophers are probably the only demographic to whom "forties" counts as "young".

Also on Polanski's side is a group of one hundred or so film industry leaders, who released a petition this week expressing "stupefaction" with his arrest. Among them — and this is so ridiculous it kills me — is WOODY FUCKING ALLEN. Don't get me wrong, here, I love Small Time Crooks as much as the next guy, but when did we start taking advice from Woody Allen on appropriate behaviour towards minors? Who's next? Gary Glitter? R. Kelly? JUST SEND HIM TO FUCKING JAIL ALREADY! It'll take a few measly months out of his already richly-lived — clearly — life, and then he can probably direct an Oscar-winning film about the experience and all these ridiculous film industry leaders will have something to be happy about again.

And in the meantime, I can stop reading every day about how paedophilia should be fine if you're an artist, and get back to having faith in society.