Thursday, October 31, 2002

Truly Scary

We think of witches as cartoon or fairy tale figures today--or as dabblers in new-age paganism. But it's worth remembering that witchcraft was once deadly serious business in America:

NY Times: They Called It Witchcraft (requires free, one-time registration)

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Wham, Bam, a Poetry Scam

Watch out for poetry "contests" in which all entries "win" and then the "poet" gets hit up for the cost of buying the resulting anthology. The worst (or at least, the biggest) offender is Here's an amusing link to a ludicrous poem that was submitted to their ongoing contest and was declared a winner because of its "unique perspective" and "artistic vision."

Nicky Nacky Noo by Stephen Abutlol

Monday, October 28, 2002

The Ugliest Butterfly

It's an insult to Lepidopteras everywhere.

Overly aggressive marketeers at Microsoft (can you imagine such a thing?) have been sticking colorful butterfly decals all over everything in midtown Manhattan. No, they haven't gone all warm and fuzzy inside. It's all part of a campaign to promote the (ugh!) MSN Internet service, which, for some incomprehensible reason, uses a butterfly as its logo. Now Microsoft has apologized to the City of New York and offered to peal off the stickers. Shame on you, Cousin Billy! Read on:

Microsoft apologizes for NY decals

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Bad Haiku

Dear little puppy
Alone in the soft sunlight
Smashed to smithereens

Saturday, October 26, 2002

"The Eighth Wonder of the World"

Took my 11-year-old son, Philip, to see King Kong last night at the Loew's Theater (a refurbished movie palace from the 1920s) in Jersey City. It was a restored 35mm print, with scenes deleted in the late 1930s reinserted. Philip didn't say much about it, but he was clearly impressed, as was I. He had never seen it before; I had only seen it (many years ago) on TV (as a feature of Monster Movie Matinee--ie, with commercials). The special effects are, of course, primitive by today's digital, Jurassic Park, standards, but the story is entertaining enough to make up for it. (Story always trumps effects--are you listening, Hollyweird?) Fay Wray, the damsel in distress that the giant ape carries to the top of the Empire State Building, was very appealing--I had forgotten that. And she sure can scream!

King Kong (1933)

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Beautiful (Exquisite, Splendiferous) Words

Find exactly the right word (and a beautifully designed site) at:

Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus

What's interesting here is that alternative terms are displayed in graphical form, as a constellation surrounding the search word. Insert "beautiful," for example, and you get an animated starburst of synonyms.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

That Nigerian Spam Scam

Surely you're among the millions who routinely receive ugent pleas from Nigerian bureaucrats, ex-officials, widows of dictators, etc. You know the one: "Help me get $40 million out of my country (or a Swiss bank account). Just send me your bank account number . . . ."

As incredible as it may seem, there actually are people who fall for this scam, which does originate in Nigeria--in Nigerian cyber cafes, to be exact. Read all about it:

The Nigerian Nightmare

Monday, October 21, 2002

Haiku 14,798

I would like to find
A clearing in the deep woods
Beyond sunlight's reach

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Sorry to disappoint you . . .

Here are some of the search terms that people have used over the last day or so to reach this site:

"nude gunnison"

Apparently, this is someone looking for information about Gunnison Beach, the infamous nude beach at Sandy Hook, on the Jersey shore. I visited it by mistake last summer (and wrote about it here [scroll down]). Believe me, it's nothing to get too excited about if you're a voyeur, but I suppose it would be fun if you're really into skinny dipping. (I'm not.)

"nude beach vacation 2002 my +wife"

How nice that you and your wife have interests in common.

"ben curtis nude"

I wrote something about Ben Curtis, the "dude, you're gettin' a Dell" guy, here (scroll down) a while back. Nothing about him taking his clothes off, though. Why anyone would want to see him naked on the Internet is beyond me.

"elizabeth taylor nude cleopatra"

I think she did do a nude scene in Cleopatra, but I believe it was a bath scene and you couldn't see all that much of her--she was mostly under water and may not have been completely nude. If she did a real nude scene that was cut from the film (as, alas, so much other material was), do tell . . . .

My advice to anyone interested in building traffic for their blog is to write about nudity, nudes and going nude as much as possible.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

A Delicious Word

Do you hear colors? Do you taste sounds? Then you may be among the lucky few who "suffer" from a brain abnormality called Synesthesia. (Either that, or you're taking a lot of LSD.)

Read more:


Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Points to Ponder

From the Amazing Facts list:

"The New York phone book had 22 Hitler's listed before World War II . . . and none after."

Sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone left in the world today named “Hitler.” Presumably, anyone with that surname changed it after World War II, for their own personal safety, if for no other reason (and there were plenty of other reasons). I wouldn’t want to be walking around with a name like “Bin Laden” or “Oswald” or even “Booth,” either. (Although there was the actress Shirley Booth, well known in the 1950s and 60s, who apparently didn’t have a problem with it [?]—even though John Wilkes Booth was part of a famous 19th century acting family!) It’s bad enough carrying the “Gates” surname and being asked constantly if I’m related to you-know-who.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The Difference a Century Makes

It sometimes seems to me that the 20th century was more like two or three centuries in one, in terms of technical advances and changes in Western living standards. Here are some interesting numbers from Strange Cosmos.

U. S. Statistics for 1902:

The average life expectancy in the US was forty-seven (47).
Only 14 Percent of the homes in the US had a bathtub.
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost eleven dollars.
There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California. With a mere 1.4 million residents, California was only the 21st most populous state in the Union.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
The average wage in the US was 22 cents an hour.
The average U. S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
A competent Accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a Dentist $2,500 per year, a Veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a Mechanical Engineer about $5,000 per year.
More than 95 percent of all births in the U. S. took place at home.
Ninety percent of all U. S. Physicians had no college education. Instead, they attended medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and by the government as "substandard."
Sugar cost four cents a pound.
Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.
Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
Canada passed a law prohibiting poor people from entering the country for any reason.
The five leading causes of death in the US were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke
The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska hadn't been admitted to the Union yet.
The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented.
There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
One in ten U. S. adults couldn't read or write.
Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores.
Eighteen percent of households in the U. S. had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Scary Stories

With Halloween coming, you may want to investigate the AUDIBLE SHRIEK THEATER.

It's collection of old radio horror stories, available in streaming audio format. My advice: lie in bed with the covers over your head as you listen to these.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

Bad Dream

Last night, I dreamt I was standing in the local park (where I was on Sept. 11, 2001), looking at the New York skyline, as the top of Empire State Building crumpled. Then all the domes on top of the World Financial Center buildings blew off. Then a dark cloud blew across the river toward the park, and people started screaming. I was hit in the shoulder by a piece of plastic debris with a metal spring hanging from it. I hit the ground as the cloud blew past and I started to cry, then woke up with a start. It was morning.

I'm not sure, but this may have something to do with the following ominous news:

In Latest Strikes, Officials See Signs of Revived Qaeda

First paragraph: "American officials say they fear that attacks attributed to Al Qaeda in the past week and taped messages from the group's leaders signal the beginning of a new wave of terrorist activity and possibly a large-scale attack."

This is frightening stuff, considering that Al Qaeda's modus operandi is to launch major attacks at one-year or year-and-half intervals.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Quote of the Day

"Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film."
--Steven Wright

A publisher called me today to ask me to proofread a book about Alzheimer's disease. That got me thinking about memory and what an odd thing it is. I often think of it as like a time machine: I'll start thinking about something that happened years ago, and for a few moments, it's as if I'm back there, reliving it, feeling the same emotions again . . . . It's funny what sticks in your mind. I remember certain conversations from years ago, word for word, but if I mention them to the person I was speaking with, they often look at me as if I'm crazy. "I don't remember that," they'll say, shaking their heads. The opposite happens, too. "Remember when . . ." someone will say, and I don't remember, and I think "No, that didn't happen." Then later, if I think hard, it sometimes comes back to me. I guess it's all there, really, hidden in the synapses, and it's just a matter of finding the right pathway back to it. Or something.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

The "Death Card"

So the DC-area sniper who's been shooting innocent people from a distance has left a clue: a Tarot card, the "death card." On the card he (?) wrote, "Dear Policeman, I am God." Am I the only one who thinks that this sounds like a plot device from a B movie or a cheesy TV cop show? In any case, the "death card" doesn't mean what most people think it means:

The Tarot's Death Card: A Symbol of Transformation

Monday, October 07, 2002

Sola lingua bona est lingua mortua

Impress your friends! Say it in Latin:

Latin phrases for all occasions

Saturday, October 05, 2002


In the mood for some arty Flash animations and experimental music? Hurry on over to:

Modern Living

Creepy, alienated and existential, but with a twist of humor--just the way I like it!

(Thanks to Boing Boing)

Friday, October 04, 2002

Nuns' Views on the News

A group of nuns comment on issues in the news at:

Carmelites of Indianapolis

They have some refreshing, original perspectives--too bad the site is weekly not daily.

(Thanks to Breaching the Web)

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Mug Shots of the Rich and Famous

Microsoft boss Bill Gates (no relation?) was photographed by the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police in 1977 after a traffic violation (details of which have been lost over time). Here's the mug shot:

Bill Gates mug shot

You'll find more police mug shots of famous people at:

Arresting Images

(Thanks to The Presurfer)


So funny I forgot to laugh . . .

According to scientists in England (at the University of Hertfordshire's "LaughLab"), the world's funniest joke has been discovered after a year-long search. People around the world were invited to judge jokes on an Internet site as well as contribute their own. From 40,000 jokes and two million ratings, this one was deemed the funniest:

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them
collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes
are glazed. The other guy takes out his phone and calls
the emergency services.

He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?"

The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First,
let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard.
Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

Amusing, yes. Laugh out loud hilarious? No. (Not for me anyway. Maybe I'm out of touch with the rest of humanity.)

Read more about this at World's Funniest Joke.

A friend writes:

"Hmmm ...funny, maybe. But funniest? Nah.

Reminds me of an old Monty Python sketch where British scientists during WWII were trying to come up with the world's funniest joke, to use it as a weapon. They came upon one so funny -- and so lethal -- that they had to use several translators who would translate just one word of the joke apiece into German. One translator came across three consecutive words and was hospitalized. The soldiers would each be given a single word to shout out in German until they got through the whole thing, and you'd hear German soldiers laughing in the bushes until they fell out, dead. It continues on in that vein. Now *that* was funny."

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Headed for extinction?

Despite worldwide reports--including some from such major news media as CNN and ABC--the UN's World Health Organization has not concluded that blonds will soon become extinct. How did this rumor get started, and why are people so anxious to believe it? Read more: