April 30, 2010

April 29, 2010

Mein Field

Potential disaster: attempting to write "please see me to discuss it further" on a German student's paper. One unfortunate typo and you've got an internal review on your hands.

April 28, 2010

Walka Walka Walka

I'm probably late to the party with this one (as usual), but today I discovered that there is a game available for the Wii called "Walk It Out!", which is a self-described, straight-faced "walking simulator":
Walk It Out!'s uniqueness lies in the gameplay where players walk their way throughout an expansive world of fields, stadiums, parks, ocean sides, suburbs and other metropolitan areas.
Gosh, isn't technology marvellous? Though I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for Ubisoft's long-rumoured breathing simulator!
Go straight or take a turn and follow the road less traveled to unlock in-game items, songs and bonuses. The more you walk, the more you discover and explore!
Wow! No more treadmills for me! Thank God there's finally a way to walk and explore stuff at the same time!
Because of the easy to learn controls, players of all skill levels can get up and walking quickly!
"Easy to learn controls" = the ability to walk?

Now, I'm all for innovative ways to get kids exercising, but do we think that maybe families should be TAKING THEIR KIDS FOR WALKS instead of buying a Wii game to approximate the experience? I'm looking at you, Dad (video). Good grief.

April 26, 2010

Anything You Can Do...

I think I'm beginning to hate blogging.

Not my blogging, of course, which is still charming and hilarious ninety-nine times out of a hundred (obviously), and not the blogging of the dozens of thoughtful, intelligent writers who I read on a regular basis; against the crusty old print-good-online-bad folks, and along with CNF, I believe that a well-conceived blog post, by an author with something to say, is just as satisfying as any other well-conceived piece of writing, in any medium.

But I do tire of the hundreds of bloggers out there who are paid to comment on stuff, and therefore end up commenting on stuff even when they have absolutely no meaningful opinion to express whatsoever.

Case in point: this insipid item from the A.V. Club about Saturday's episode of SNL. What does the author have to say about Saturday's episode of SNL? NOTHING. Her opinion is basically that it wasn't amazing but it wasn't terrible either, and it takes her EIGHT HUNDRED WORDS to say so. A few excerpts:
I was a pretty happy camper.

If it wasn't hilarious it was infectious.

There were several sketches last night that went that way, maybe not comedy gold but something about them was just silly enough that I went along with them.

Not everything was great but I'm not filled with rage about it.

As I've said I'm a sucker for any SNL episode where we see new material, and if that's combined with an enthusiastic host and a good dose of weirdness, I'm in.
So, to summarize, you enjoy television that has original material, engaging performers, and some offbeat humour. STOP THE PRESSES! SERVERS!

I might be able to put up with such wishy-washy "reviewing" if the actual analysis of the episode had any bite to it, but the author's reasons for liking some parts and not others are just as hollow:
I couldn't hear all the lyrics but the ones I did hear were funny.

The address from the President might have been a cutting commentary about the government's relationship with Wall Street but it wasn't funny.

And I thought the "2010 Public Employee of the Year" awards ran on too long.

"Update" was a good mix of jokes, characters and commentary.

The last sketch was appropriately bizarre, charming, disgusting and funny.
Oh, now I get it. You liked some parts of the comedy sketch show because they were funny, and you didn't like other parts of the comedy sketch show because they weren't funny. Hold on while I call the Pulitzer committee.

I think the high point of the entire post, though, is the author's trenchant commentary on MGMT's musical performance:
I think I like the music but wasn't so much a fan of the singing and lyrics although it was remarkable how half the band looked like Elvis Costello and "Weird Al" Yankovic. I also liked the faces the guitarist made.
Now, look, I can suspend my guilt about all the money that gets spent on pop culture commentary these days — rather than getting spent on, say, fighting poverty/famine/global warming/whatever — and in principle the idea of an 800-word blog post about a single episode of SNL doesn't offend me in the slightest; that's pretty much the premise of the A.V. Club, after all, and I read it fairly regularly. But if I'm going to sit down and read 800 words I want there to be a payoff, you know? I want there to be a firm opinion or some insightful observation at the end of it that makes those 800 words worth my time.

But in so much blogging neither of those key components is present (another example: what if movies had no plot or character?), and so it seems hardly surprising that those crusty print lovers don't take blogs seriously as journalism, or as writing, or as anything, really, beyond self-indulgent, self-referential chaff.

None of which is meant to imply, I should reiterate, that I agree with the crusty print lovers — only that I think blogging, like all writing, can be awful as easily as it can be great, and that bloggers as a whole could tilt the scales significantly towards the latter if they would just shut up, and sit on their hands until they actually have something intelligent to say. Is that really so unreasonable?

April 24, 2010


So it turns out that the real culprit behind the recession is not so much evil bankers or Ponzi schemes or the dangerous risk-taking culture of Wall Street, but the fact that at least sixteen regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission, many of them relatively high up, were less interested in blowing the whistle and more interested in polishing the whistle, if you catch my drift. According to the AP (quoted in the Times):
A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office.…

An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.”
Wah-wah. I guess the feds should stop worrying about people at Goldman Sachs and start worrying about people holdin' their sacks — it sounds like the problem isn't with J.P Morgan but with pee pee organs. (Not investment bankers, but...). SPLABANGO!

The best part about all this, in terms of inspiring yet more populist rage with the financial system and/or the government, is that some of these people were earning almost a quarter of a million dollars a year (!!!) to beat off to the latest from "Skankwire.com" all day when they should have been, I don't know, stopping Lehman Brothers from collapsing. Oh well. At least it's pun gold.

Other financial terms that sound like euphemisms for masturbation:

"Hedging Your Bets"
"Shorting Your Trades"
"Taking A Long Position"
"Pricing Your Derivatives"
"Diversifying Your Portfolio"

And, of course:

"Liquidating Your Assets"


April 23, 2010

April 21, 2010

Quadruple Entendre Of The Day

Seen on BBC News:

Someone at the BBC is having a laugh. All that headline needs is the last word lopped off and some commas to set up a non-restrictive clause, and you've got yourself the start of an erotic short story. (Or the end of an erotic short story, I guess.)

April 19, 2010

Maybe I Should Try Lemon Juice

Got the following, extremely bizarre piece of spam the other day:
Hello Doctor,

Please check your fax machine there will be patient conditions report
Please urgent reply me.
Now, normally I would have completely disregarded a message like this and trashed it for all eternity — except that it's signed by a "Dr. JK Hidden". As in, "hidden joke" in text speak, no? So what am I missing? Is there some secret message in here that I'm failing to grasp? Or is it just one more coincidental, randomly generated spam name?

April 16, 2010

Conversations With Greatness CCLXXVII

That's right, folks — it's U.K. election season! Let the esoteric gags begin!

April 15, 2010

Thanks A Lot, Iceland

From BBC News: Dust from volcano closes Scottish airports
All flights to and from Scotland's airports have been grounded as a plume of volcanic ash drifts across much of northern Europe.
Sounds like... a pain in the ash?
Aviation expert Jim Ferguson said: "Volcanic ash and aeroplanes do not mix."
Gee, I'm glad we have aviation experts to explain the complex realities of the situation to us.

On the other hand, the ash cloud did keep Kenneth Clarke out of Scotland for a few extra hours, so I guess it's not all bad.

April 14, 2010

More From The Annals Of Rejection Slip Wording I Could Have Done Without

Dear Mr. Ladd,

Many of [our] submissions inspired us and exerted a strong pull on [our selection]. Even so, I am sorry that your submission did not make our short list.
You know, I appreciate the candour — or its motive, at least — but a simple "no" would have been fine, thanks.

Also, my cocksucking boil-ridden asshole of a neighbour stole my fucking paper again today, like the cocksucking boil-ridden asshole he is. What is the fucking matter with people?

Rants will cease tomorrow. Scouts' honour.

April 13, 2010

The Continuing Saga Of Periodical Thief

As regular readers will be aware, I have occasionally had problems this year with neighbours stealing my newspaper. This week, while I was away in Denver, said neighbours kicked the offensive up to the next level (offensive in both senses of the word): they stole my mail.

Well, so, okay, they stole one particular piece of my mail and that piece was my copy of the New Yorker, which isn't quite as bad as stealing an actual letter, but still: FUCKING SERIOUSLY?

You might reasonably ask how I know my New Yorker was stolen — rather than, say, not delivered by an errant postman — and here is my answer: the little subscription card that falls out of the New Yorker each week was still lying in the mail room, AND, after I had scribbled on said subscription card a note to the effect of "Please give me my fucking magazine back, motherfucker" (minus profanity and plus niceties, but you get the idea), my New Yorker was mysteriously back in my mailbox within eight hours. BUSTED.

Now I just need to decide whether or not to report him using the handy United States Postal Inspection Service website. It's a shame mail theft is no longer a capital offence.

April 09, 2010

April 06, 2010

Annals of Orthographical Curiosities

I'm going to Denver tomorrow for the always entertaining AWP Conference, and today had to call my airline because their website wouldn't let me check in online. It turned out that they'd swapped my confirmation number for a new one without telling me (I love it when airlines do that), but the woman I spoke to was very helpful and with a minimum of fuss read me my new one, the last digit of which was:

"E... as in X-ray."

...which I'm pretty sure is not standard NATO phonetics — but I did manage to check in after that, so I suppose I shouldn't complain.

April 04, 2010

I've Pad Better

Since it was Easter Sunday today, and the Red Sox's opening game against the Yankees, I thought it might be a good time to sneak into the Apple store downtown and fiddle around with an iPad in relative quiet. (I was mostly right — I did still have to wait for a few minutes to get my hands on one, but the crowd was made up entirely of hipsters and foreigners, i.e., people who do not celebrate/care about/have any knowledge of Easter or baseball. I believe there were also some hipster foreigners there, who really can't do anything except follow around indie tours.)

Anyway, my thoughts:

•It's too heavy for a newspaper/magazine/book replacement, and too small for a video-watching device.

•The on-screen keyboard doesn't really work as a keyboard. Some reviewers who've had it to practice on for a while already say it gets a lot easier, but I suspect if you actually want to try and do work on it (I was sort of imagining it as a good way to squeeze some writing into those awkward fifteen minute gaps during the day, without having to lug around a laptop) you're looking at another $70 for an external keyboard — and then you might as well be lugging around a laptop, anyway. (N.B. Yes, I know I could write longhand in those awkward fifteen minute gaps, but it really doesn't suit the way I compose, and anyway I can barely read my handwriting when I'm scribbling with any sort of speed.)

•It's just generally kind of unimpressive — there's none of that wow factor like there was using an iPhone for the first time, and I was bored after about three minutes.

I did, however, satisfy my Apple consumer lust by purchasing a Magic Mouse. It's a pretty little toy and a really intuitive way to navigate web pages, in particular — but the allegedly improved tracking engine still won't work on my desk without a mousepad, and I was little disappointed that the first thing I had to do was download a third-party patch to restore all the functionality of my old Mighty Mouse (like summoning Dashboard and Expose without having to use the keyboard). The weird thing is that the patch is so simple and the extra functions so easily accomplished by the hardware that I'm not sure why Apple wouldn't have built it straight into the OS to begin with.

The underlying pattern here — the iPad as "the best browsing experience you'll ever have" and the Magic Mouse as a web-geared peripheral — seems to be that Apple is focusing a little too much these days on the web as the be-all and end-all of personal computing. Certainly it's a big one and I can see why, in trying to attract more novice users, it's the one they would want to make work best — but there are a lot of other things I use my computer for, and part of the reason I like Macs is that they've always done those other things better.

So I hope they remember, as they continue to push this apparently new strategy of web-centrism, that some of us occasionally use our computers for non-Facebook related activities as well...

April 02, 2010