Thursday, August 31, 2006

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Writers: Daphne Oz

Is this writer's head too small for her body? Could it be because of her Dorm Room Diet?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Videos: Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant training video for Microsoft. Funny. Here's the second one. From 2004, apparently.

Physiology: The Tetris Effect

What do you see when you close your eyes?

I've been working on a Simpsons jigsaw puzzle, so I see Homer and Bart and Krusty. The so-called Tetris effect. I also get it after weeding in the garden: when I close my eyes, I see weeds shooting out like fireworks.

The Wikipedia article cites this study which found that even amnesiacs, who couldn't remember playing Tetris, still experienced the Tetris effect.

And so you can get hooked all over again, online Tetris.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Cryptic Crossword: 6x5

 1 2 3


4. Girl gets pain in both sides. (6)

5. Female author Blyton strays, almost has sex. (6)


1. Woman receives most of divested phone company. (5)

2. Asexual girl, both cold and hot, backs man's title. (5)

3. Well-endowed lady at heart. (5)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Business: German Brothers

What is it about German brothers who start a business together that causes them to feud and create competing companies?

The Aldi supermarket chain was founded in 1948 by Karl and Theo Albrecht. They split up in 1962 because one wanted to sell cigarettes at the checkout counters and the other didn't. So now it's Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud.

adidas was founded by Adolf Dassler; Puma was founded by his brother Rudolf after a mysterious falling out.

And then there was the Austrian house-painting firm of W. & A. Hitler, who parted acrimoniously because Werner thought they should use an undercoat of lead-based paint, and Adolf thought they should invade Poland.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Media: Dallas Morning News

Dalllas Blog names some Dallas Morning News writers taking the buyout offer. Includes my two favourite DMN columnists, Ed Bark and Scott Burns. Love the comment by "Glen":
But then, I'm not down there stirring my coffee with a Cue Cat, filling it to the rim of my old TXCN mug. Maybe I just don't have the vision.

Media: News Anniversary Stories

Don't you hate "anniversary stories" in newspapers and on TV - like the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina? It's called a newspaper, not an oldspaper.

But I hope you'll forgive me for bringing up one anniversary: the 150th anniversary of the death of Preston Himmelfarb. Himmelfarb (a distant ancestor of mine, if I may so brag) is credited with the invention of the cowcatcher on locomotive engines. Despite what Wikipedia says, Charles Babbage merely refined Himmelfarb's idea by using a metal frame on the front of the train. Himmelfarb believed in the "set a thief to catch a thief" theory, and who better to catch cows, he reasoned, than a cow? "The bovine mind is an intricate and elegant machine," he wrote (perhaps overestimating the intelligence of cattle). "Its ways are not known to mere humans. Put place a cow securely on the frontmost part of a moving steam-engine, arm it with lassos and other means of entrapment, and this cow shall catch any of its brethern which may wander too close to the steam-engine."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Health: Gout

Jared Leto has Gout. He joins other famous sufferers, like Isaac Newton, Benjamin Disraeli, Nostrodamus, and Charles V or I. Serves him right for how he treated Angela Chase.

Gout always reminds me of Ronnie Corbett's joke about the soldier in a train compartment with a vicar. The soldier looks up from his newspaper and says, "Excuse me, Padre, but what's 'gout'?" The vicar primly replies, "Gout is a disease which afflicts those who abuse wine and spirits, who feed their gluttonous appetites, and who engage in decadent debauchery, commiting sins of the flesh. Why do you ask, my son?" The soldier points at his newspaper. "It says here the Archbishop of Canterbury's got it."

Bonus: The Two Ronnies' "Mastermind" sketch (which also mentions the Archbishop of Canterbury).

Hoax: Toilet Spider

Women did not die from spider bites in a Chili's restroom (or any other restaurant).

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Astronomy: Pluto

The International Astronomical Union has decided that Pluto is no longer a planet. "Not planety enough," in the words of one astronomer.

Coincidentally, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has voted that "The Adventures Of Pluto Nash" shall no longer be considered a motion picture. "Movies should offer entertainment and enlightenment," said AMPAS president Burt Young, "and that piece of crap offers neither."

Meanwhile, the lyrics of Cole Porter's "(I'm) Always True To You In My Fashion" have decided to expunge the line, "Mister Harris, plutocrat, wants to give my cheek a pat". From now on, it will be, "Mister Harris, dum-di-dat, dum-di dum-di dum-dum-dat."

Videos: Hacks

Video of a Coke machine "hack" - although all he gets is a "menu" of different numbers. And where does a bottle of Coke cost $1.50? I thought $1 was bad enough. Here's a similar Pepsi hack.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Music: The Triffids

Great musical news courtesy of Turquoise Days - The Triffids' albums are being reissued with bonus tracks. (Check out the video for "Wide Open Road", download some tracks and follow the links to the official sites.) First up is "Born Sandy Devotional". One of my favourite CD listening memories is playing that album in a rental car as I drove from Ayers Rock/Uluru to Alice Springs on, as it happens, a wide open road. The official Triffids site is maintained by their pedal steel guitarist, "Evil" Graham Lee (one of the best nicknames in rock).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Movie Quiz: A Minus

A single letter 'A' has been removed from these movie titles, changing their plots in the process. Name the original movie and the new title.

  1. In the first film of a sci-fi franchise, the crew of a spaceship makes a horrifying discovery: someone has filed a legal claim against the ship.
  2. Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman, terrorised in her apartment by Oscar Wilde. Luckily, he has to leave when the sun sets.
  3. An archeologist races against Nazis to find a biblical relic - and to fulfill the outrageous clauses added to its contract.
  4. Two straight men accidentally rent a "gays only" android, and must act gay in order to keep it.
  5. A reporter researches an article about a woman notorious for leaving her grooms-to-be at the airport.
  6. A textile worker fights to unionise a mill, while facing discrimination because of his sex-change operation.
  7. A "swinging" couple gets more than they bargained for when they invite their neighbor into their bed: parasitical insects infest their hair.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Technology: Batteries

Irish firm claims to have created "free energy" technology. Batteries that give out more energy than you put in. The company, Steorn, took out an ad in the Economist (does anyone read the Economist who isn't flying transatlantic?) challenging the world's scientists to investigate their claims. They have a video too. Neither chap seems very credible - there's something about the way they move their mouths when they talk. And the analogy of "if you walk up a hill, and then walk back down, you've gained energy" - what???

So it a hoax? Fraud? (Steorn says they also "address counterfeit crime in areas such as plastic card fraud and optical disc fraud".) PR stunt for some other business? We'll see.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Videos: Humourous

O! News - parody of E! News with excellent celebrity impressions. I found it searching for Sarah Alexander, the feline star of Coupling. She's dating one of the makers of the video. That's her beside "Al Pacino", played by her boyfriend (who also did the voice of Darth Maul).

And here's a picture of Sarah in (appropriately) a catsuit.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Religion: Ole Anthony

Dallas Observer article on church leader Ole Anthony. He was behind ABC's exposure of televangelist Robert Tilton in 1991. This article paints his church/foundation as a cult - or cultlike, at least. (Thanks to Shell for the heads up.)

The Trinity Foundation carries a more favorable New Yorker profile from 2004. Joe Bob Briggs is a follower. The Wikipedia piece says that the Trinity Foundation was behind that Tilton/flatulence video I posted recently.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Names: Fake

Does anyone else get spam with Jamaal Wheatcraft as the sender or subject? A Google search throws up surprisingly few results, and none with both names together.

Vernon Bear is often used as a fake name for test bookings in the travel industry (as in GetThere training manual).

I wish I could remember the fake name used by airline staff (AA anyway) when they call the Cargo department about transporting a coffin, in front of a relative. They ask for "Jim" somebody, I think.

John Doe is used in legal cases for someone unknown or anonymous.

Alan Smithee is used for anonymous movie credits. "The O.J. Simpson Story" may be his best work.

Any other fake name conventions?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Music: Mush-Mouthed Singers

Who are the mushiest-mouthed singers of all time? I heard John Hiatt singing "Drive South" last night, and it sounded like he was gargling potato salad.

Darius Rucker aka Hootie, of course.

Tindersticks singer Stuart Staples is described on Wikipedia as having a "smoky baritone", but sometimes that smoke becomes sludge (in a good way).

Google has 77 results for mushmouth "Thom Yorke". 783 results for mushmouth "Bruce Springsteen". 1,380 results for mushmouth "Bob Dylan".

Jazz singer Mary Stallings says she learned from Dinah Washington: "you don't need to sing mush-mouthed to have soul".

And, while not musical, let's pay tribute to Bill Thompson, who provided the voice of Droopy. He did not do the voice of Droopy knockoff, Inspector Willoughby.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Music: "Baba O'Riley"

Robb wants to know why the Texas Rangers play the Who's "Baba O'Riley" before their home games. "Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals"? Major League Baseball players still receive a meal allowance when they're on the road. "Don't cry. Don't raise your eye. It's only teenage wasteland"? As we all know, there's no crying in baseball. "Oh, oh, teenage wasteland. They're all wasted!" Are the Rangers trying to tell us something about the players' use of alcohol and greenies before, during and after games?

I think it's an awful song because of that cacophanous synthesizer intro. Apparently, the theme is based on an algorithm using some Iranian-Indian dude's vital statistics.

Do you know any otherwise decent songs that are ruined by an ugly intro or outro?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Celebrities: Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow's "I Am African" ad (for African AIDS relief charity). Inevitable parodies at Gawker and Defamer.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Astronomy: Moon

NASA explains the Harvest Moon. It's the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox. The Harvest Moon has the smallest difference in moonrise times between consecutive days.

Each month of the year has its own moon name. Which of them are song titles? "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young. "Pink Moon" by Nick Drake. "Hunter's Moon" by Thin White Rope. Incredibly, no one has written a song called "Beaver Moon".

So what do you call the big yellow moon that hovers over the horizon? I don't know. Big yellow moon? But why does it appear to be so big?

The "Moon Illusion" explained.

And what is a Killing Moon? It's a moon that will come too soon.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Videos: Humourous

Vh1's Best Week Ever presents a revamped trailer for Mel Gibson's "Signs (of Anti-Semitism)".

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lyrics Quiz: Bed

Bed-related lyrics quiz.

  1. These are the days when you wish your bed was already made.
  2. She got pictures on the wall, they make me look up from her big brass bed. Now I'm running down the road, trying to stay up - somewhere in her head.
  3. Well by the force of will, my lungs are filled and so I breathe. Lately it seems this big bed is where I never leave.
  4. Giving me head on the unmade bed, while the limousines wait in the street.
  5. Sleight of hand and twist of fate. On a bed of nails she makes me wait.
  6. I got up to wash my face. When I come back to bed, someone's taken my place.
  7. But I kind of like the feel of this extra few feet in my bed.
  8. I get up in the evening and I ain't got nothing to say. I come home in the morning. I go to bed feeling the same way.
  9. I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire. Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire.
  10. "Hey, that was great," he said, "I wish we could stay in bed. But I got to be at work in less than an hour."
  11. Tuesday, Wednesday, stay in bed. Or Thursday, watch the walls instead.
  12. ...Fifteen of those are nights. Can't sleep when the bed sheet fights its way back to your side.

Bonus: I don't know any of their songs but I like this line by the Handsome Family: "Liza Minnelli spent a month in her bed, certain that Skylab would fall on her head."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Baseball: Preppy Names

Who has the preppiest name in baseball?

I've got to give the nod to Chase Utley.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Media: Video Round-Up

Band Names: Numbers & Letters

Robb had an idea for a list of band names that include any alpha-numeric character. That seems a little broad to me, so instead, here are bands with both numbers and letters, but no actual words.

(Note: letters that spell a word are not allowed. So no 808 State or 10,000 Maniacs. No S Club 7 or The B-52s. And it's Us3, not US3.)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Movie Quote Quiz: F***

Name these movies that use the F-word.

  1. F*** it! F***! F***! F***! F***! F***ity f***!
  2. How the f*** am I funny, what the f*** is so funny about me?
  3. Don't be tellin' me about foot massages. I'm the foot f***in' master.
  4. Well, f*** me gently with a chainsaw. Do I look like Mother Theresa?
  5. "What's your name?" "F*** you. That's my name."
  6. Don't f*** with the babysitter.
  7. I didn't ask for a f***ing psychological lecture. I only asked for a f***ing light.
  8. You are the vulgarian, you f***.
  9. Did you f*** my wife?
  10. Go f*** yourself, San Diego.

On a related note, you haven't watched "Deadwood" until you've seen it on Sky with sign language. A guy stands in the corner and signs the dialogue. Despite its frequency, I couldn't make out the sign for "f***", but "c***s***er" was pretty obvious. What really cracked me up was when there was no talking, and the signer turned sideways to watch the action.