Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New Year's Resolutions: Never Say Diet!

Just kidding. The title of this post is an idiotic catch phrase dreamed up by a publishing executive who wanted obese housewives to think he was clever and understood their troubles. Forget that. Nevertheless, trendy diet regimens that one finds detailed in popular self help books are generally equaled in their frustrating uselessness only by their obnoxious ubiquity. With that in mind, please enjoy the following video.

Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Right now I'm watching a vintage episode of the late 70s/early 80s sitcom Alice, which you'll remember was set in a diner wherein the eponymous main character pursued the vocation of waitress. In this installment ("The Wild One," originally aired on December 11, 1981) Alice has an aggressive new suitor, a hard-edged biker names "Bones," played by none other than late night TV kingpin Jay Leno.

Yes, kids, that really is Jay Leno. No one is born on the A-list.

In a way the role is fitting given Leno's well known love for motorcycles, though I must say he comes across as the least believable head of an outlaw biker gang this side of The Village People. That said, God bless you, ION network, for keeping this gem in syndication.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Nature is fucking hardcore"

It seems I've become painfully parochial when it comes to the offerings of humor-related websites, because I've just become aware of the profanity-infused weirdness to be had at Cracked.com. This might be because, when I was a kid, Cracked magazine was a painfully unfunny also-ran to Mad, which, to be honest, itself loses a lot of its edge once one approaches traditional Bar Mitzvah age.

So I was especially interested to read the "5 Most Horrifying Bugs in the World" entry. Here is a taste of just their #5, complete with a scary background music clip from some nature documenting TV show. This one is about the Japanese hornet, known to scienticians as "Vespa japonica". When I first saw the name I assumed that Vespa Japonica was the title of a sequel to The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, wherein yakuza types travel to the streets of Rome to mix it up La Dolce Vita style, but I was terrifyingly wrong. Read on:

Here's how the Japanese hornet treats other insects (and would presumably treat us, if we were small enough). An adult hornet will fly miles to find some squishy shit to feed to its children. Often times, it finds its food in, say, a hive inhabited by thousands of bees.

What to do? Well, Vespa japonica sprays the nest with some of the acid/pheromone and brings in reinforcements, usually consisting of 30 or so fellow hornets. They then descend upon the beehive like an unholy plague of hell-born death engines and proceed to make this world a scary goddamned place. This is maybe 30 wasps against 30,000 bees and the 30,000 bees do not stand a chance.

Behold the hornets systematically seize them with huge, wicked jaws and literally fucking cut them apart, one by one by one by fucking one. In three hours, there are piles of limbs and heads and just fucking bits of things that could possibly have been alive at one point, and the hornets have stormed the hive and flown away with all the bee's children. Who will then be eaten.

Nature is fucking hardcore.

Note to self: avoid Japan. Forever.

One Last Heath Ledger Link

Alonso Duralde's 2006 interview for The Advocate.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Three Delicious Degrees of Separation

So I'm sitting here watching Ace of Cakes, my favorite Baltimore-based cake-themed show currently on cable television.

And suddenly I remember how excited I should be: I just found out that someone I know knows Duff's dad, who (presumably) knows Duff himself pretty well. We're practically bros. I hope I can get him to introduce me to Geof someday.

Forget the Tweak

Don't even try to jinx this thing, ESPN.com. Tom Brady's ankle is made of pure fucking adamantium and you know it.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Cold and Victorious

It was a chilly day in Foxborough, but the Patriots were able the keep the Chargers to field goals while themselves completing three touchdowns. And so went game 18 - another one in the win column.

With the Giants' somewhat unexpected victory against Green Bay, Superbowl XLII is set. There will be a lot of preperation to do before the big day, though. I wonder if there's anyplace in DC that can do one of these:


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Destiny Awaits

The Patriots have entered the post-season, and all doubts about them going all the way should now be set aside. They played a strong game against the Jaguars and came out on top, 31-20, to advance to 17-0-0.

The best play of the game came, of course, from my boy Tom Brady, who knows how to fake out the defense like nobody's business. Let's let Judy Battista of the New York Times explain:

When the Patriots got near the goal line, they opted for subterfuge. With Faulk lined up in the backfield, the Patriots faked a direct snap to him. Instead, the ball was in Brady’s hand. Evoking the Statue of Liberty play, he turned his back to the defense, keeping the ball hidden on his hip. By the time he spun around, Welker was so open in the back of the end zone that he was waving as if for a fair catch. The touchdown pass gave the Patriots a 21-14 lead and made the rest of the game seem inevitable.

“I’m looking for my Academy Award on that play,” Brady said.

You've got my vote. You can put in on the shelf next to your Super Bowl XLII ring.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Great Movie Countdown

YouTube user AlonzoMosleyFBI has created a very entertaining parody of the AFI centennial "Top 100" lists of movies. It's a countdown of movie quotes that include numbers, from 100 down to 1. See how many you can identify.

And if you didn't recognize them all and are just dying to know, the list is explained here.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Good Old Days?

The current issue of the Economist has an excellent article which evaluates the competing arguments about the origin of human civilization: to wit, were we better off as hunter gatherers? Did organized agriculture ruin a prelapsarian idyll? The story starts with one of the only remaining hunter gatherer societies on earth, the residents of the Sentinel Islands, in the Bay of Bengal:

In 2006 two Indian fishermen, in a drunken sleep aboard their little boat, drifted over the reef and fetched up on the shore of North Sentinel Island. They were promptly killed by the inhabitants. Their bodies are still there: the helicopter that went to collect them was driven away by a hail of arrows and spears. The Sentinelese do not welcome trespassers. Only very occasionally have they been lured down to the beach of their tiny island home by gifts of coconuts and only once or twice have they taken these gifts without sending a shower of arrows in return.

Several archaeologists and anthropologists now argue that violence was much more pervasive in hunter-gatherer society than in more recent eras. From the !Kung in the Kalahari to the Inuit in the Arctic and the aborigines in Australia, two-thirds of modern hunter-gatherers are in a state of almost constant tribal warfare, and nearly 90% go to war at least once a year. War is a big word for dawn raids, skirmishes and lots of posturing, but death rates are high—usually around 25-30% of adult males die from homicide. The warfare death rate of 0.5% of the population per year that Lawrence Keeley of the University of Illinois calculates as typical of hunter-gatherer societies would equate to 2 billion people dying during the 20th century.

At first, anthropologists were inclined to think this a modern pathology. But it is increasingly looking as if it is the natural state. Richard Wrangham of Harvard University says that chimpanzees and human beings are the only animals in which males engage in co-operative and systematic homicidal raids. The death rate is similar in the two species. Steven LeBlanc, also of Harvard, says Rousseauian wishful thinking has led academics to overlook evidence of constant violence.

Read the whole facinating thing here.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Paging Willard Scott

The British literary quaterly Granta is about to celebrate its 100th issue, and Simon Garfield tells the story of where the magazine came from and, just possibly where it might be going.

[Former editor Bill] Buford, who is 53, is now a staff writer on the New Yorker, where he must conform to house-styles and age-old constrictions, but at Granta in 1979 it was like a playground. The first issues took over Buford's Cambridge rooms, where he was studying for a second degree in English (he soon established himself as the dominant and bullish force in the editorial partnership). He remembers sheets of film on every surface, and a final editing process that involved scissors and tape. The design - not as clean or well-spaced as it is now but nonetheless sturdy and readable - was based on an American academic quarterly. Buford intended to return to America after the first issue but when it sold out its run of 800 copies and a subsequent reprint, he thought, 'Maybe there's something here...'

The cost of a subscription was set at £3.50, although it wasn't specified how many issues a reader would receive for this investment (which was, it turned out, one of the best omissions Buford ever made). The magazine moved to premises above an art gallery, and then above a hairdresser. 'For the third issue,' Buford says, 'I got a manuscript sent to me by Tom Maschler from this new guy that everyone was excited about called Salman Rushdie.' This issue, Granta proclaimed in its portentous and painful way, 'collects work from writers and critics which suggests it might be the end of the English novel, but also the beginning of British fiction'. Clearly something was changing. Martin Amis and Ian McEwan came to Cambridge to read work in progress, and admission fees helped pay the rent. Buford recalls a later conversation with Amis in which the novelist said: 'If you were a literary fiction writer and you were a kid, your horizon was empty, there was really nothing else going on. People weren't writing fiction or talking about it - everyone wanted to work for the BBC.'

When the Rushdie manuscript came in, later to be published as Midnight's Children, Buford says: 'It was everything you wanted a British writer to be doing - it had narrative flair and culture and history, and it was very aware. Everything then broke open.'

Buford is also the author of a memoir of football hooliganism, Among the Thugs, and the very entertaining chronicle of his culinary adventures in America and abroad, Heat.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

What if I'm Wrong?

These days I'm reading The God Delusion by my personal jesus, Richard Dawkins. I've watched a lot of video clips of RD on the lecture/book tour circuit, and this very short clip has become my personal favorite. Watch and enjoy.