Friday, March 31, 2006

Goodbye Greenbacks

Six months ago I read about the latest redesign of US money to help prevent counterfeiting, but I didn't actually see my first new $10 bill until today. I went to the bank to deposit a check and get some cash and my envelope contained two brand new crisp yellow bills. I did a double take while counting it when I remembered that the $10 bill had received a facelift similar to the ones that the $50 bill and the $20 bill got a few years ago.

By itself, it just looks like Hamilton's head has been enlarged and "We the people" has been added, but next to other bills, you realize how little green ink is used. Going back and looking at all three new bills together, I really noticed that the $20 bill has a bluish tint to it while the $50 bill has a pinkish hue. So I guess our money will look less and less like the greenbacks of old and more closely resemble the multicolored monies of other countries. Personally I think it's kind of cool because I was a nerdy kid who liked to check out the World Book Encyclopedia article on money from time to time just to see all the pictures of the difference bills. That and I've been making sure to keep my collection of state quarters up to date. I guess that makes me a casual numistmatist!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Roxi and the Lafayette Airport

Check out my Grope for Luna post about the Times of Acadiana article covering air travel in Lafayette, LA. The added bonus is a picture of Roxi featured prominently in the Times article!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Revisionism hits the Beatles...again.

In yet another case of asinine revisionism, the forthcoming repackaging of Beatles material will feature an edited photo on the cover.

"Record company bosses have decided to erase evidence of Ringo Starr, John Lennon and Paul McCartney smoking from the compilation LP 'Capitol Albums Volume 2', which is to be re-released on April 3. Cigarettes have vanished from the bandmembers' hands, as well as two of the drummer's fingers which were holding the offending object."

First of all, what Photoshop hack cut of Ringo's fingers? How hard is it to erase a cigarette really? If you don't think it can be a near seamless edit, look at what else has been done with the Beatles and their cigarettes before.

As recently as 1996, when the Beatles second "reunion" single "Real Love" was released, the cover featured a '60s era picture of the lads in which Ringo appears to be making a really half-assed Peace Sign. Or is he?

No...Ringo was holding a cigarette in the original picture. The powers that be decided it just wouldn't be right for people to think that a rock and roll musician would ever hold or smoke a cigarette.

A similar incident occurred with poster versions of the famous Abbey Road album cover. On the album cover, Paul is clearly holding a cigarette in his right hand, but in poster size prints of the cover, the cigarette is gone.

This kind of revisionism is so irritating because it is just so pointless. The Beatles were smokers! They took a lot of drugs, drank a lot of liquor and had a lot of pre-marital sex! George Harrison died of cancer possibly related to smoking. Excising cigarettes from pictures of the Beatles doesn't change any of that! This PC nonsense is nothing new but what purpose does it really serve? I don't think a picture of Ringo smoking will be the pivotal factor in a kid deciding to start smoking. That usually comes from a little closer to home. In fact, most of the "fragile youths" that must be protected from themselves probably don't really have a clue who the Beatles are let alone that they partook of the evil tobacco. Instead these kids are going to think that Ringo only had eight fingers. Sigh...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ask and you shall receive!

I was going to just post a comment on my previous entry to address katielady's question of what Tom Cruise has done to set the crazy bar so high, but then as if given by Xenu himself, this story appeared on the Internet today. It has been rumored that Tom is insisting that Katie Holmes follow L. Ron Hubbard's delivery rules and be completely silent during labor in order to keep from scarring the child. Today the story became more real when friends of the couple were photographed bringing posters into their house with reminders to Katie. The most visible was: "Be silent and make all physical movements slow and understandable."

Now I know that none of this mentions any wacky names for the child, but my assertion that Tom has set the bar high for celebrity craziness was more of a generalization on the LA culture as a whole. Ridiculous names for their children is only one example of the insanity that has gripped Hollywood. And in case you want a refresher on how Tom has seemingly cornered the market on crazy, WWTDD has an excellent roundup of his exploits.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Even more on celebrities with stupid names

A few months ago Roxi and I both blogged about silly names that celebrities saddle their children with. The one that got me to write my last post was Bob Geldof's daughter Peaches and how she complained that her ludicrous name has made her life "a living hell." Apparently she doesn't hate her name and can't wait to name her daughters Apple Delight and Cherry Vanilla. It must be hard being a celebrity and always having to come up with ways to "out crazy" each other in public. Tom Cruise has set the bar pretty high.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Leprechaun or Crackhead?

While Roxi and I were enjoying our St. Patrick's Day with friends in the Smokies, the residents of Mobile, AL were looking for a visiting leprechaun's pot 'o gold. Or maybe it was just a crackhead. Watch video of the news story at Grope for Luna.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wind Rider Lodge

I've been pretty busy this week with my jobs and have been trying to find a good time to blog about my trip to the Smokies last weekend. So tonight, I finally have some time and I started thinking about what I was going to write. As I started thinking (and writing) about the details of the trip, it dawned on me that some of my most regular readers were on the trip with me. So I re-evaluated the amount of details that I would go into. I've decided to hit the highlights and leave out some of the less important details. So without further ado...

Roxi flew into to Nashville on Thursday afternoon, and due to a flight cancellation on their trip, so did Joel and Katie from New York. Together, we left Nashville bound for Townsend, TN and the Wind Rider Lodge. Mike and Jennifer from Austin, TX had arrived at the cabin earlier in the day and were joined by Tim, Lidia and their daughter Ana from College Station, TX a few hours later. Due to the flight problems, Joel and Katie were without luggage for the night and possibly through the next day, so we made an impromptu stop at an Old Navy in Knoxville so that they could get a few things for the first day at the cabin. After a trip to the grocery store for breakfast and dinner supplies for the next couple of days, we were back on the road for the short trip to Townsend.

Townsend is pretty small and the Wind Rider Lodge was very secluded. It was pretty disorienting navigating the dark mountain roads at night, but we made it in time for a late dinner. The cabin was great. It was all wood and had an amazing view of the Smokies.

On our first day in the mountains, we made a long, slow drive through the Cades Cove loop and saw the beautiful Smoky Mountains.

On the second day we planned a hike through a different part of the park, but in order to get there, we had to drive through the mountain towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Note to readers: NEVER go to Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg. They are both horrible eyesores. Pigeon Forge is a town of go-cart tracks and putt-putt golf courses. Gatlinburg was a traffic jam. After sitting in the traffic for about fifteen minutes and only moving a few yards, we decided to ditch that plan and head for a different hiking trail. We decided to hike to Laurel Falls.

We finished our day stopping at The Sinks and Miegs Falls before heading back to the cabin.

Sadly, that was all the time we had in the Smokies, but we will return. It is just too beautiful and there is still lots of park to be explored. Plus we have a lot more hot tubbing to do in those mountains!

South Park Rules!

South Park is still awesome! Chef did indeed return last night and dialogue was supplied by Issac Hayes, but it was obvious that it was strung together from past shows which was part of the joke. On top of that, Trey and Matt only shied away from making fun of Scientology by not naming it. They did continue to ridicule it as well as Issac Hayes. The whole thing made for a great half-hour of TV. If you want to know what happened and don't mind the end being spoiled, read about here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chef is back. Did I call it or what?

The new season of South Park starts tomorrow night and the first episode will focus on Chef. About five years ago, Trey Parker and Matt Stone became so proficient with producing episodes of the show, they were able to make fun of extremely topical stories. They produce episodes in about five days, sometimes finishing an episode mere hours before it is to air. So it comes as no surprise to me that they would play up last weeks decision by Issac Hayes to quit the show. So Chef will live on, but for now he will be voiced by someone else.

Since I have been out of the loop over the weekend, I was doing a little reading associated with this story and a more sinister angle has emerged. The episode that caused Issac Hayes to quit was to be re-run last week but was pulled at the last minute. (Watch the episode here.) Rumor has it that Tom Cruise threatened to boycott promotion of his upcoming Mission: Impossible 3. Viacom is the parent company that is releasing Mission: Impossible as well as the company that owns Comedy Central, home of South Park. Apparently, Viacom caved although one has to wonder what kind of clout Tom Cruise has these days after numerous manic episodes on talk shows last year.

On top of all that, an even more bizarre story appeared concerning what exactly happened with Issac Hayes. Issac Hayes suffered a mild stroke in January and has since made little to no statements on his own. Instead, he has a Scientology handler speaking for him and this article contends that is was the handler, not Hayes, who made the decision to quit the show. If this is true it is both scary and sad. I like to keep an open mind about things, but I just can't give Scientology the benefit of the doubt here. Too many weird things seem to be going on in stories about Scientologists. Unless they stop being so damned secretive, people aren't going to trust the organization or its motivations.

Back To Reality

I haven't blogged for several days due to a long weekend trip that Roxi and I took with several of our friends to a quiet cabin in the Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee. It was a really great cabin with a beautiful view. We had a wonderful time and despite the travel problems people had getting there and getting home. Now that I am settled back into reality, I hope to get a post up about out trip today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"The Cars" are having a reunion?

Today I read about a reunion of the great New Wave band The Cars. Apparently this has been rumored for a while although it's the first I hear of it. However this should not really be considered a reunion because two of the most important members won't be onboard. Bassist/vocalist Ben Orr died six years ago and lead singer/rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek is opposed to a "greatest hits" tour. I am all for reunions if there is a market for them and the principle members are all involved but this sounds more like Creedence Clearwater Revisited (only two original CCR band members and neither is John Fogerty). They might as well admit they will be a glorified tribute band and call themselves "You're All I've Got Tonight" because that's what The Cars fans will be thinking without Ocasek's signature vocal style and Ben Orr's beautiful voice on "Drive."

Monday, March 13, 2006

Chef quit his gig in South Park

Issac Hayes, the voice of Chef in South Park, has quit the show due to Trey Parker and Matt Stone's take on religion. He claims that a "line has been crossed."

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins. Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

Of course, by "religious beliefs" he means Scientolgy, by "people" he means stinking rich, guilt-manipulated celebrities and by "disrespects" he means the recent episode of the South Park that exposed viewers to Xenu, the extraterrestrial basis of his religion.

Co-creator Matt Stone responded by saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem -- and he's cashed plenty of checks -- with our show making fun of Christians." Stone went to say that he and Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

I sure would respect Issac Hayes decision a lot more if he didn't undermine his credibility by keeping quiet about episodes making from of Christians, Jews, Muslims and Mormans, but what do you expect from Hollywood. Plus, I haven't kept up with all the most recent episodes of South Park but I haven't seen Chef in quite some time. So really, this isn't a big loss for the show at all. In fact, it will probably make for a very entertaining episode very soon. I'll be looking forward to that!

Google Mars

First Google took the United States by storm, then they conquered the Earth and quickly looked beyond the planet to capture the Moon. With nothing left near our planet, they moved to the next closest celestial object, the mysterious red planet of Mars! I especially like the feature identifying the landing sites of all human explorations to the planet.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March Madness

I'm not much of a basketball fan, professional or otherwise, but I am always happy to see good things happen to Texas A&M. In his second season as head coach, Billy Gillespie has made the Aggie players and fans believe at a campus dominated by football. The team played hard this season and have been rewarded with an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in nearly twenty years! The Aggies will be taking on Syracuse in Jacksonville, FL on Thursday. Gig 'Em Aggies and BTHO Syracuse!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Vicarious Girl Scout Cookie Sales

We are well into Girl Scout Cookie season and I have already enjoyed two delicious boxes of All Abouts. But while I was out running errands today, I was reminded of something funny in the sales tactics I've seen so far this year. The first time I bought a box of cookies, the table in front of the store I was at was being manned by a scout and her mother. When I inquired about Shortbread cookies, the mother was quick to tell me about other varieties and generally work the sale. It wasn't until I paid my money that the scout herself had to cut her mother off to get a word in edgewise. Similarly, the second transaction I made about a week later went off in much the same manner. I didn't by any cookies today, but I did notice that yet another parent was dominating the sales over the scouts at the table.

I know that the parents are helping out so that their daughters will get as many sales as possible but it seems to me that they would also want to let the scouts do much of the work themselves. The more I thought about it, it seemed like some of these mothers I have encountered were more excited about selling the cookies than their daughters. I can't help but think of parents, especially fathers, who push their football, baseball and basketball playing sons to achieve greatness that they themselves were unable to accomplish as youths. These fathers look to their sons to compensate for their unfulfilled dreams vicariously. I can't help but wonder about the motivations of some of these scouts' mothers. In any event, I thoroughly enjoyed my cookies this year but have probably had my fill until 2007!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Conan in Finland

Several weeks ago, Conan O'Brien traveled to Finland to meet the female president who bears a striking resemblance to him. What precipitated this meeting actually started when some Finnish viewers informed Conan of his resemblance to their president, Tarja Halonen. His show airs in Finland and became increasingly more popular during Halonen's recent re-election campaign when his show aired some very funny American style attack ads against her competition. Halonen was re-elected and so Conan made an official visit while his show was being pre-empted by the Winter Olympics. While visiting, Conan made several appearances including one where he said he would be seeking a position as President Halonen's Minister of Sauna Inspections. Here is a fan site that detailed the many articles and video clips from his trip. But the coup de grace is happening tonight when Conan's entire show will be devoted to his week long visit. I wonder if Triumph the Insult Comic Dog also made the trip!

The Rise of a Powerful Third Party

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recently said that he believes that a well financed third-party candidate will likely emerge as a challenger in the 2008 or 2012 presidential election. I agree with him and I think that it will probably happen sooner than later. American politics is very narrow in the grand scheme of things with the division between traditional Democrats and Republicans being a very narrow margin on the full political spectrum. However some more liberal and conservative movements are much more involved in writing part platforms in recent years and this is causing alienation of traditionally centrist Americans. This coupled with the fact that both parties and the media at large have made sure that on controversial issues, one has to be in lock-step with one party or another. Such "polarization" has really made bipartisanship and common ground hard to find. There are no political parties for pro-life gun-control advocates as there is no party for pro-choice second amendment advocates.

In his farewell address as our nation's first president, George Washington spoke of his fear of what comes with political parties:

[A political party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another; foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passion. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose; and there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

Most of the things that Washington feared have come to pass. This has led to voter apathy among other things. Most people in America are not easily defined by a party because it is truly impossible to be in 100% agreement with anyone else over every issue. There will always be liberal and conservative ideas of various extremes, but human beings are not so easily classifiable by the positions that each party espouses on the ten or so "core issues." Things are not black and white (or Red State and Blue State) in this country although membership in each party depends on that being the case. There are more positions on an issue than simply for or against and there are countless permutations of issues that one can support or denounce. It is for this reason that I do see the likelihood of a third party candidate and possibly more parties appearing in the future. The idea of Red States and Blue States is insulting to those who do not completely support either party's platform. We have more in common than we are given credit for and it's not a question of if, but rather when someone will campaign on those ideas. It might be some time before a third party candidate occupies the White House, but it would improve the dialogue if one or more other voices joined in the debate.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Dana Carvey Show

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes the older I get. I mark certain parts of my life by the movies or albums that I loved at the time. It is upon reflection that I suddenly began to realize that I am getting older very quickly. The first time this occurred was more than five years ago when I was watching Back to the Future on TV and it was being presented as a classic. Then I did the math in my head and realized that it had been fifteen years since I had seen it in the theater. Last year we passed the twentieth anniversary of the release of that fantastic movie and that just blows my mind.

A couple of months ago I was thinking about the criminally short lived Dana Carvey show. I thought about how the cast of relatively unknowns are essentially a who's who of cutting edge comedy. I remember watching that show during my second semester of college and then it hit me. This weekend will mark ten years since the show premiered. Unbelievable!

My good friend Chris and I absolutely loved the absurdity of the sketch show, but apparently it was too much for the Disney owned ABC to handle. In their defense, the first sketch of the first show featured an address from President Clinton in which he took his "I feel your pain" message to disgusting levels. He opened his shirt to reveal that he had gotten breasts implanted so that he could nurse babies. He then went on to revel that he had several more sets of nipples implanted so that he could also nurse dogs and cats. Of course there was milk seeping out of the prosthetic nipples and live cats and dogs were lapping it up. This was on in prime time! I remember my dad saying, "What the hell is going on here?"

The show went on for only six more episodes, but they included some of the funniest sketches I have ever seen on network television. But that is no surprise considering who was writing most of the jokes.

Dana Carvey: Obviously everyone knows him from Saturday Night Live in it's early 90's heyday. He played George H. W. Bush better than the man himself. He was the Church Lady, half of Hans and Franz and of course the ever lovable Garth Algar in the Wayne's World sketches and movies.

Steve Carrell: The 40 Year Old Virgin and clueless boss on the amazingly well done American version of The Office. Of course this was after some masterful reporting on The Daily Show.

Stephen Colbert: Perennial Daily Show reporter and now fake pundit on the hilarious Colbert Report. He can also be seen as the arrogant and insecure Chuck Noblet on the ingenious Strangers with Candy, perhaps my favorite live action show ever on Comedy Central.

Dave Chappelle: The comedian who would literally rule the earth right now if not for his breakdown last year. Despite that, he is still regarded by many as one of the funniest men alive. Chappelle's Show spawned some truly memorable sketches as well as a few annoying catch phrases. But imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I saw him do stand-up at a small club in Atlanta six years ago and had to wonder why he wasn't a bigger star. All changed a few years later.

Charlie Kaufman: Writer of some of the most inventive movies I have seen in a major theater. Most writers as truly creative would hope to get their films into an art house. Kaufman has had major hits in Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and my personal favorite, Adaptation. Plus he wrote for Chris Elliott's cult classic show Get a Life.

Robert Smigel: This guy is the true unsung hero of comedy. Hardly anyone recognizes him in his bit parts in Adam Sandler movies, but most people know at least one character he has created. He is literally the man behind Conan O'Brien. Conan is funny, but Robert Smigel is the writer and the voice behind all of the celebrities that Conan does fake interviews with on his show. He is also my favorite Conan character, Triumph the Insult Comic. He created TV Funhouse cartoons for the Dana Carvey show but took them to Saturday Night Live after it's demise. He's probably the only thing still funny about SNL right now. His full length TV Funhouse show was my favorite puppet based sketch show on Comedy Central (take that Crank Yankers!).

So this March 12, I might be watching the first episode of the new season of The Sopranos, but I will be thinking of Dana Carvey and hoping that one day the powers that be will put together some kind of DVD collection of the episodes. I just gave them a big list of marketing material, so hopefully they will see what a great collection of talent they have in their vaults. And they better hurry! I don't know how long my VHS tapes of the shows will last!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Small Town Syndrome

In a story happening close to where I live, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into why Coopertown, TN Mayor Danny Crosby has blocked T. Allen Morgan from paying a speeding ticket. Morgan was driving through the town of just over 3000 people when he was stopped for a speeding ticket.

This is where the story gets good: Morgan wrote a check to pay the ticket and in the memo line he wrote "FOR SPEED TRAP" and drew stars around the words. Mayor Crosby refused to take the check and says that Morgan has to appear in court or write a new ticket without the words "speed trap" on it. Who does this guy think he is? As was pointed out on, he even looks like Boss Hogg! (The real one not that lame Burt Reynolds imitation.) I'm sure the TBI will set him straight and if not there are probably plenty of lawyers willing to help Morgan go after some of that handsome speeding ticket revenue Coopertown generates.

Dr. Veit Elser: Physicist, Inventor and Su Doku King

While working on an algorithm to improve X-ray diffraction microscopy, physicist Veit Elser has solved all Su Doku puzzles. One of the many other applications for his algorithm is to solve the fun and often frustrating puzzles. So he is the true Su Doku Master. I guess it's time for me to find a new goal!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Best Picture?

The only Oscar nominated movie that I actually saw ended up being the upset winner for Best Picture at last night's Academy Awards ceremony. When I saw the result on the web this morning, I immediately thought of the only Netflix review that Roxi has ever written. About Crash she wrote: "This show sucks." I give it a little more credit in that Don Cheadle gave a strong performance, but the I didn't appreciate the highly hypocritical Hollywood message. So I didn't hate it, but I didn't like it either. What else is new? And don't take my word for it. Check out what the Filthy Critic had to say about it (foul language alert!).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

"Real Life" Simpsons

Check out this very cool promo opening created for "The Simpsons" in England. It uses real actors who bear slight resemblances to the characters and acting out an almost shot-for-shot version of the famous opening sequence. Pretty cool even if the show itself hasn't been worth watching for more than ten years.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

For the Arrested Development Fan

Word on "the street" is that Showtime has picked up the Fox-cancelled Arrested Development for 26 episodes. The problem with the internet these days is that some dude sitting in his house could have written a blog post that some lazy reporter passed off as fact, and now it's all over the internet and newspapers. So maybe I'm perpetuating a rumor that might or might not have one bit of truth to it. For that reason, I am not going to believe any of this until Showtime makes some kind of announcement.

More on the Wright Amendment

Yesterday, Joel alerted me to an article in the Dallas Morning News about the Wright Amendment. The Dallas Morning News feels that their paper is so important, it requires registration to read their articles. In case you don't want to register (I can't blame you), I'll summarize the story for you: Some people like the Wright Amendment, some people don't. That's pretty much it. Nothing really new in the story but it's kind of surprising to see the part about Bill Frist trying to get Tennessee added to the growing list of states that have direct access to Love Field. The letter I got from his office last year sure sounded more like he was going out of his way to take no position on the issue. But at least the debate seems to be alive. I urge everyone to read the opposing positions of the major players: Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. The free market is supposed to dictate the price of goods and services, but unreasonable restrictions nullify the natural order of business. Personally, I think that American Airlines is terrified of the thought of having to offering competitive fares to and from Dallas, but that's just my opinion.