February 27, 2010

Microsoft Word Fail

Can anyone spot the problem with Word's built-in suggestions, here?

Maybe this is why some of my students are so f&#!ing illiterate.

February 26, 2010

February 24, 2010

Department of the Bleedin' Obvious

There's something about this headline that just isn't that surprising:

AOL News: Killer Whale Kills Again at SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld has "initiated an investigation to determine, to the extent possible, what occurred," which might seem like asking a stupid question ("oh, it was a KILLER whale"), except that SeaWorld's General Manager and impromptu spokesperson is none other than one DAN BROWN, so I'm guessing the whale was actually trying to cover up a Templar conspiracy or something.

SeaWorld has also evacuated all visitors from the area surrounding the whale's tank. Just in case...?

Speaking of obvious headlines:

Newsvine: ‘Millennials’ an always on, texting generation

Gosh, there's another piece of news I never would have expected. People born after 1980 use more technology than their parents! Who knew?

Tell me, internet, do you have any more startling revelations to share before I get back to work?

AOL Spinner: Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmaglij Comes Out

Someone in Vampire Weekend is GAY? I DON'T BELIEVE IT.

February 21, 2010

Flogging A Hobbyhorse

It's time now, once again, to return to bashing my favourite pseudo–news outlet, AOL's Daily Finance: Give The National Enquirer a Pulitzer Prize? Why Not?
After hinting that it wasn't going to allow The National Enquirer to compete, the body that oversees the Pulitzer Prizes has reversed course and decided to accept the tabloid's submissions. This isn't going to please a lot of old-school journalism grandees, but it was the intellectually honest thing to do. Nice job.
Oooooh-kaaaay... I am willing to go along with this, despite your apparent conflation of "old-school journalism grandees" and "people who actually read newspapers", because I am morbidly curious as to what your argument is...
To understand why the Enquirer ought to be eligible, all you really need to know is that the Pulitzer committee's eligibility criteria range from vague to subjective to nonexistent. Is the Enquirer's reporting "distinguished"? That's a matter of opinion. Does it adhere to "the highest journalistic principles"? Well, probably not all the time -- but, then, who does?
Ah, of course: the Dick Cheney school of journalism.

Incidentally, DailyFinance author, I realise that your last sentence was meant to be a rhetorical question, but I'm going to answer it anyway: YOU don't adhere to the highest journalistic principles all the time. I'm surprised you can even spell "journalistic principles". What this "column" basically boils down to is, "sure, the Enquirer doesn't meet the Pulitzer criteria in a conventional way, but it sort of does and anyway the criteria don't really matter". That is some great fucking insight. A+.

Also, how does any of this explain why allowing the Enquirer to remain eligible is "the intellectually honest thing to do"? How can you be intellectually honest with regard to standards that have no real meaning? FFS.

Incidentally, I'm actually pretty sure the author of this column is not a total bonehead, because in his last paragraph he does a 180-degree turn from the "intellectually honest" garbage and says:
No, the National Enquirer isn't the kind of publication upon whom Pulitzer judges usually bestow their blessing, and perhaps with good reason (emphasis mine)
Which suggests to me that he is quite aware he's whistling Dixie and would like to leave himself the room to step back from the giant, journalistic dookie he's just dropped (if you'll permit a mixed and distasteful metaphor).

But dude: if you know it's bullshit, don't fucking write it just to fill your post quota. In this "fragmented, rapidly mutating media environment," as you so tritely put it, we need more than ever for our columnists and journalists to act as a thoughtful filter to the news, not a "take a position for the sake of it" one. Get it sorted!

February 19, 2010

February 17, 2010


When I started writing my thesis last semester, I also started getting home delivery of the New York Times — believe it or not, the idea was that it would free up time to work. (By resolving to get all my news from the paper, I removed any excuse for dicking around on news websites, which I'm sure takes up more time per day than reading a newspaper; besides, I can read the newspaper during my hour or more of commuting each day.)

Anyway, that's all been great, but I must say that, having on a whim decided to look at the BBC today, I hadn't realised how much I was actually missing it. I'm still a Brit at heart, after all, and there's something deeply comforting about reading the sorts of British news that simply wouldn't ever make it to the Times. Like this:

BBC News: Voters know me from Gavin and Stacey, says Prescott

The article claims that at least two voters in Mr Prescott's constituency pledged to vote Labour solely because of his appearance on the show (which is hilarious, if depressing), and also reveals some fantastic new items of Prescottiana:
The Hull East MP, who has admitted suffering from the eating disorder bulimia, said he loved [fasion expert Gok] Wan's Channel 4 programme How to Look Good Naked, particularly one which featured a disabled woman.
And if the words "Prescott" and "naked" together in a sentence haven't made you recoil from your browser window in disgust, there's also this:
Mr Prescott is also a fan of micro-blogging website Twitter, telling BBC Radio 5 live that they key to good "tweets" was "to be yourself and use humour".
(Dedicated readers may remember my last tribute to Prescott back in 2006, along with accompanying quiz.)

It's not just Prescott, though. Where else but Britain can you find news items about German trains being too English, and the advertising watchdog issuing statements about TV adverts being too loud. (Direct quote: "We noted that the maximum subjective loudness of ads was consistent with other ads during the break, but that it was not well matched to the overall sound levels of the programme.")

Actually, though, apparently the loud adverts thing isn't as British as it sounds:
In the US, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill to curb loud advertisements.
So that's what they've been doing all this time!

February 16, 2010


If past performance is any indication (which, as a former investment bank employee, I know is not the case), this year is technically a road trip year for me (see, for context, 2006, 2008). And though I'm not entirely sure if or how I will be able to squeeze a road trip into the murky and hectic not-too-distant future that is my summer, I've been feeling those wanderlusty stirrings again this month — so this morning I planned a route, for shits and giggles if nothing else (N.B. I would actually start at point B and end at point A):

View Larger Map

Some key points:

•Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park (America will explode all over my windshield).

•Four new states to add to my tally: South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, and, if I take a short detour, Montana (and honestly, when you're already driving 1,600 miles, what difference does a short detour make?).

•Crater Lake, Oregon, which my dad had recommended to me when I took my first trip to Oregon in 2006 (and which looks hella awesome), but which I never managed to visit.

•The World's Biggest Little City, or whatever it's called. This last one is obviously kind of contingent on whether Mallory can manage to be in Reno at the same time, and if not I'll probably head to the coast after Crater Lake and revisit 101 north for a while 'til I drive back inland to Portland and a flight home.

Or, more likely, I'll probably keep on working two jobs until July, then spend a week moving and the rest of the summer in my usual damp cave in Edinburgh. But I can dream, right?

February 12, 2010

Conversations With Greatness CCLXVIII

700th pundigrions post. Sign of misspent youth. (Is it youth, still? Or is really a sign of misspent adulthood now?)

February 11, 2010

Mamma Mia

In a refreshing departure from the norm, the most bewildering thing to come out of Italy this month has nothing to do with Silvio Berlusconi; instead, it's a YouTube clip of former boxer Mike Tyson competing on the Italian version of Dancing With The Stars.

The clip is bizarre as much for the show's format as for Tyson's attempts at the jitterbug — mainly because the announcer speaks Italian with an American-English accent, and lapses into an odd sort of pidgin between the two languages when introducing Tyson and, later, the judges.

Meanwhile, as I said, Tyson comes on and gives his own, fairly lacklustre interpretation of the jitterbug in which his "partner" dances helplessly around him as he rocks out almost entirely oblivious to her presence. He ends up, after not quite ninety seconds, looking like a deer caught in the headlights and dripping with sweat ("See, even great athletes get tired and sweat!" says the host), and receives a standing ovation from the crowd ("You were just so good!"). He also receives a reaction from the judges that seems inexplicably positive until you remember that he was undisputed heavyweight champion, lost only six fights in his professional career, and served time in prison — and then fucker bit someone's ear off. I certainly wouldn't want to tell him to his face that he sucked at dancing.

Indeed, the first guy seems to be positively shitting himself, exclaiming that Tyson has "an extraordinary gift!" and then comparing him to Barishnikov and Nureyev ("but not because I'm scared!" he adds, with a pleading look towards the audience). He's followed by a female judge — with a dog on her lap, for some reason, though it certainly seems to give her more of a sense of security, because all she says is "well, he didn't do much, but you could really tell he has good rhythm."

Tyson is then awarded 47 out of a potential 50 points by the studio judges, though at the end of the day, from what I can tell, he still lost to another couple. I guess Barishnikov is safe, after all...

February 10, 2010

There's Something Scwewy Going On Awound Here...

Speaking of funny screen grabs from the Times:

February 09, 2010

Department of Yearning For Typos

Seen in the NY Times today:

It's funny because it looks like 'crap'.

February 07, 2010

Andrew's Horn: Toot toot toot!

Back in my McGill Improv days, during Vaganza 2006, we played a game of Old Job/New Job (in which a character in a certain occupation performs his/her duties in a way that is influenced by his/her previous occupation, e.g. here), and for the scene's basis whoever was hosting selected, from the audience suggestions, a judge who used to be a cowboy. This was around the time that Brokeback Mountain was everywhere, and a punchline instantly came into my head — so I jumped up and barrelled through a relatively forgettable scene in order to get to the relatively hilarious kicker: "I wish I knew how to acquit you."

Ever since, that has been my improv glory story — the moment in a show that I always remembered most fondly, and with the most pride — and I still occasionally tell people about it. Last night, though, I think I may have topped it.

For Kitsch In Sync's February show, the tradition has long been to fill it with Valentine's Day/romance-themed material, and so Friday night we subbed our usual punning game of 185/187 with something called Pick-up Lines — in which an unwitting audience member is brought onstage and made to sit there silently while the troupe tries out pick-up lines inspired by various audience-suggested words.

About three or four in, our host called out "paper clips" as our new topic, and after a few seconds of frantic thought I came up with what I think is, in addition to being puntastic, actually a pretty legitimate line:


"Hey baby, I hope you brought paper clips with you, because we're going to have some trouble keeping our sheets together tonight."

Thank you, folks. I'll be here all week.

February 06, 2010

Also: Skinny Jeans

Snagged from Very Small Array (mouseover for the punchline):

February 05, 2010

Conversations With Greatness CCLXVII

Take that, ideologically confused populists!

February 04, 2010

We're Number One! We're Number… Oh

From the front page of today's NY Times print edition: Coatbridge Journal - For Scots, a Scourge Unleashed by a Bottle
COATBRIDGE, Scotland — What is it about Buckfast Tonic Wine that makes it so alluring to consumers and yet so repulsive to politicians?

Perhaps it is its special caffeine-and-sweet-wine recipe, which allows overly enthusiastic consumers to be tipsy and bouncy at the same time. Perhaps it is its array of snappy nicknames, including “Wreck the Hoose Juice” — hoose being a Scottish pronunciation of house — [or] Coatbridge Table Wine (others call it “loopy juice,” or, adding their own twist as they channel Travis Bickle, “Who’re you lookin’ at?” wine.)
I'm so glad that Buckfast is the reason Scotland is bursting into the global public consciousness these days. After the whole Trainspotting thing we were really sitting in too positive a light.

Any other gems to stoke my patriotic spirit, NY Times?
On average, Scots age 16 and older drank the equivalent of 12.5 quarts of pure alcohol each in 2007, the eighth highest rate in the world.
(I think my own alcohol intake at sixteen probably accounts for about half of that.)
The drink is favored by young, rowdy men with a taste for making trouble — “neds,” they are called in Scotland.
[N.B. Women can be neds too, actually. We're an equal opportunities horrific binge-drinking culture.]
Hard-core aficionados drink two or three bottles in succession, right down. “They say it doesn’t taste the same out of a glass,” explained a passer-by, Martin Rooney, 48.

“It goes straight to your head,” he said, “but it’s not my cup of tea.” (Mr. Rooney noted that his cup of tea is half a bottle of vodka a night.)
Oh, COME ON! Where are you interviewing these people, anyway? The Paisley drunk tank on a Friday night? [N.B. The Paisley drunk tank = Paisley]

At least they didn't mention the knife crime.

February 03, 2010

Outrage Outrage

Seen on Netscape:

NO! That almost never happens!

And then, a little lower:

Am I the only one who finds all these firestorms and protests and scandals and shocking revelations and outrages a little exhausting all the time? I'm expected to get worked up about so much these days it's no wonder I'm vitamin deficient.

Anyway, the Obama firestorm is all about some offhand (and totally unreasonable) remark he made the other day about how people who don't have a lot of money shouldn't gamble.
Obama told his audience: "When times are tough, you tighten your belts. You don't go buying a boat when you can barely pay your mortgage. You don't blow a bunch of cash on Vegas when you're trying to save for college."
Obama's crucial mistake was forgetting that if idiots don't piss away their money in Vegas, then the billionaires who make their money there will have marginally fewer billions lying around — and that gets them worried, so they do stuff like laying off staff and cutting wages, and then there are even more people in the country who shouldn't be blowing cash in Vegas and the circle of life is complete.

Naturally the Nevada political establishment is up in arms about the president's irritatingly accurate logic:
"I don't know if Obama has a problem with Las Vegas, but I have a problem with Obama," Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip, said in an interview. . . .

[Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] issued a statement saying he told the White House "the president needs to lay off Las Vegas and stop making it the poster child for where people shouldn't be spending their money."
Mr Reid continued: "Vegas is busy enough being the poster child for horrible, horrible life decisions, thank you very much."

Meanwhile, Vanity Fair is causing howls of protest because Hollywood makes a lot of movies starring white people. Quite why this is Vanity Fair's problem is still a little opaque to me, and frankly the implication of the whole scandal seems to be that if they had only thrown Gabourey Sidibe in there then America would have no racial problems whatsoever — but I guess bloggers need something to write about (and, hey!, here I am).

Sometimes I wish I could return to a time when news was actually news.

February 02, 2010


On the front cover of the NY Times science section today:

The Miracle of Vitamin D: Sound Science Or Hype?