Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Now for that red hot scoop that I promised earlier. Just as we were coming to grips with last week's exclusive IAAFOTS report that Jennifer Aniston has been seen canoodling with Jonathan Lipnicki comes this bombshell from our far east bureau:


HANOI (IAAFOTS) - Vietnamese police have sent a popular American actress to "re-education camp" in a widening crackdown on rampant prostitution, state newspapers said on Friday.

Police detained Glenn Close, known for her roles in such films as Fatal Attraction, Dangerous Liaisons, and The Chumscrubber, and sent her immediately to "re-education camp" for sex workers on evidence she was involved in a high-class call girl ring charging $500 to $1,000, they said.

She will spend 18 months with other inmates who work and attend lectures designed to reform their ways, slightly longer than the usual sentence of six months to a year.

Ironically, Ms. Close, 58, had most recently been seen by audiences portraying a police officer on the long-running Michael Chiklis series The Commish. Representatives for the FX network report the actress had announced that she would not be returning for a second season, but declined further comment for this story.

Prostitution is illegal but widespread in Vietnam, where personal incomes have been rising as the communist government liberalises the economy.


So my birthday celebration on Saturday was very enjoyable - kangaroo tastes pretty much like very tender beef rather than rabbit, if you were curious. After dinner we had a few drinks at a nearby bar and then the majority of the celebrants travelled over to Brooklyn where there was a house party which turned out to be fairly sedate, but after all the food and wine I was feeling very nappish and was content to go home without any huge and crazy blowout. I've got a few more presents now, too: a swell artsy pillow with a squirrel design from some gallery in Brooklyn (this one is still under construction so I can't absolutely confirm that it is swell, but I think it's probably a good bet), a stylish diorama with a deer, and DVDs of L'Age D'Or, A Face In the Crowd, and Season One of Aqua Teen Hunger Force! The deer pictured above was in the front yard of the building in Carroll Gardens where we believed the party we went to after dinner to be (as it was the address we had been given) but it turned out the party was somewhere else entirely; the photos I posted on Saturday (actually on Sunday but I dated them the 28th) show 1) a bunch of balloons at 53rd and Broadway from the 23rd that I assume had something to do with the Letterman show, 2) my birthday guests, who were not really demonic robots who shoot laser beams from their eyes like they appear to be, though that would be something if they were, huh? and 3) travelling toward the Brooklyn Bridge we passed these sheep in City Hall Park. So there you have it, I am now 37. In my dotage I have once again neglected to think of a new weekly topic, by the way; from now on I think we'll just have a topic when I come up with something good (or something good is suggested to the tipline). I do have a shocking new piece of made-up celebrity gossip to share once I have another minute, though, so check back for that!

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Friday, May 27, 2005

To wrap up Birthday Eve, I link to this list of pickup line first drafts from McSweeney's, folks who can have a tendency to get on my nerves at times, but do not do so over the course of this list. Dave "Sucks" Eggers remains hated, however.

It's not at all related to this Viewmaster image of hungry bears, but tomorrow's my birthday! Some friends and I will be going to this restaurant Public, which I'm really looking forward to. They've got kangaroo on the menu, and I am curious about that (my guess is that maybe it tastes like rabbit, but I think that is mostly based on their shared love of hopping). Oh, this reminds me that I'd meant to share an article I came across on an upscale London restaurant which has roast and braised grey squirrel with redcurrant jus and garlic mash on its menu earlier in the week but got preoccupied and forgot. Anyhow, back to my birth. Last year I listed a few other people who were born on May 28th, like Wendy O. Williams and the Dionne Quintuplets (and, of course, Kylie Minogue) so this year I'll post a few links to people who died on my birthday: Unity Mitford, Audie Murphy, and Phil Hartman. Additionally, tomorrow will be one of two days during the year on which sunrise and sunset occur along Manhattan's street grid centerline. Most exciting, though, is a shared birthday that I'd somehow overlooked in the past: the Chrysler Building officially opened on May 28, 1930. This being the 75th anniversary of that event, today's Times has a bunch of interesting articles about the best-looking skyscraper in this or any other city (and this now reminds me - when the hell is the Cremaster Cycle coming out on DVD? It was supposed to be over a year ago). And finally, I've gotten a few gifts already from my mom that I'm very happy about, the second and third volumes of Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts series. Anyone with any interest in Peanuts is definitely encouraged to check these volumes out, they are beautifully designed and many of the strips were never republished before (even though there are 20 gazillion Peanuts collections out there, they overlap and especially in these early years only some of the strips ever got collected). Another nice thing about these first 3 books is the ubiquity of Patty and Violet, who had largely disappeared from the strip by the late 60's - I really like they way they're drawn (except in some background scenes Patty completely disappeared once Peppermint Patty showed up; Shermy vanished too, but I don't care so much about Shermy). Also got the Found book, finally. Not that you read this, but thanks mom!

After an unseasonably cold and dank week the weather is once again feeling springlike today, and in the springtime a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of raccoons. Also, I may have run out of interesting new information about the jackalope. So what have our rascally ring-tailed friends been up to recently? Same old, same old: rifling through garbage, menacing construction workers, attacking men of the cloth, and perpetrating home invasions:
"It really went crazy in the bathroom," Giguere said. She could imagine what was going on behind the door while the raccoon squealed, screamed, and broke several decorative items. Giguere said the raccoon bit into her facial cream, spreading it all over the floor and walls.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Jonifer Affair: True Love or Publicity Stunt? A wary public is questioning yesterday's exclusively made-up IAAFOTS report on the burgeoning romance between Jennifer Aniston and Jonathan Lipnicki. Among the evidence leading some readers to cast doubts on this latest celebrity coupling is the following transcript of a CNN interview with Mr. Lipnicki:

CNN: I don't want you to feel uncomfortable here. This is the most important question. When I told people that I was going to talk to you - most of them were women or girls - they all went, "Oh, Jonathan, I love Jonathan." That's what they said. They said, "I love Jonathan. I'm so excited, say hello for me." Do you like girls?
LIPNICKI: No, not really.

Lest anyone be concerned, let me assure you that I have not stopped exploring the world of the jackalope yet, I've just got a big project at work that's occupying most of my time this week. Today's jackalope revelation: they're real! Or at least some rabbits get a disease that causes bony growths on their heads that can look like horns, a fact discovered on this site (and backed up by The Straight Dope) which also has many interesting historical pictures and links to other information about jackalope-like creatures. For instance, the rasselbock: Which organism ranks among the rarest curiosities in the animal realm of the Thueringer of forest? Which interested animal, nature and hunt friends do not want no more over that hardly admitted Mammal know, and how and where it drives its secret nature? These answers are answered to you here! Other related animals apparently include the Nashornhamster, the Tatzelwurm, and the slope chicken. Also mentioned on both those sites is the wolpertinger, though I'm not entirely sure yet what they have to do with jackalopes: The Wolpertinger, the dance music duo for each cause does not have to do anything with Bavarian yodelling insanity. We play naturally also Bavarian people music. Mainly however dance music like modern people music of the Paldauer, Klostertaler or apron hunters.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Since I was unable to get any other media outlets interested in my 100% genuine Donald Trump scoop last week (because evidently his "rebuild the twin towers" and Trump University publicity stunts are much more newsworthy than the fact that an Apprentice 4 task was responsible for putting the lives of some of New York's Finest and other less-fine citizens in jeopardy) I've decided to try some blatant fabrication instead. EXCLUSIVE! Reeling from the constant coverage of ex-husband Brad Pitt's romance with Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston has found refuge in the arms of new love-interest Jonathan Lipnicki, IAAFOTS reports. Spread the word. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Howard Morris, who died on Saturday, in "The Education of Ernest T. Bass".

The following is from The Andy Griffith Show Book by Ken Beck and Jim Clark:

Ernest T. Bass is Mayberry's wild man from the mountains. In general he is a loveable nuisance, not just for the Darlings but for Andy and Barney and just about anybody who has a glass window. That's because Ernest T. is a chronic windowbreaker. Sometimes he throws rocks; sometimes he throws bricks; but he's breaking windows all the time. After his first confrontation with Bass, Andy said, "If you were to ask me, this Ernest T. Bass is a strange and weird character."

"Just plain ornery is what he is," responded Briscoe Darling.

"He's a nut!" Barney concluded.

Ernest T. wears a worn-out hunting cap, a long-sleeved cotton undershirt, trousers, and a black vest. Bass is not really a mean person, but he did try to kill a mockingbird once. Andy tries to teach Ernest T. the ways of society, but it all comes to naught at a party where Andy passes Ernest T. off as his cousin Oliver Gossage from Raleigh. At least Mr. Bass learned how to say, "How do you do, Mrs. Wiley?"

While attempting to court Charlene Darling Wash, Ernest T. brags that he is the best rock-thrower in the county and that he's saving up for a gold tooth. He plans to knock out the three teeth in front and put the gold one in the center and "leave space on each side so it'll stand out better that way, 'specially when I'm dancing." Eventually, he does get a gold tooth, but it's just gold leaf that he has done by the sign company (it costs him $1).

Ernest T. gets his chance to sweettalk and woo Charlene with his charming ways, but he never does win her heart. Later, he comes down to Mayberry to join the Army. Andy and Barney try to warn the recruiter. "He's curious," says Barney. "He's a troublemaker," says Andy. The 112-pound Bass impresses the sergeant with his feats of strength: "I can do twenty chinups with one hand. I can dip into a barrel of water and fetch out a watermelon with my jaws, and I can chuck a full-growed sick jackass over my shoulders and tote him five miles to the doctor."

Ernest T. never does make it into the Army, but at least he does get a uniform-Barney's. Ernest T. needed it to impress the girls back home. He confesses to Andy: "As clever and as goodlooking as I am, I just can't get a girl. I got looks, brains, personality; I kiss good. The only thing standing 'twixt me and sweet romance is a uniform." For a while, Ernest T. courted Hogette Winslow, the daughter of Hog Winslow, but he hit her on the head with a rock. She needed seven stitches. (She wound up marrying the taxidermist who sewed her up.) Ernest T. eventually finds sweet romance with Ramona Ancrum, his "Sweet Romeena." He also refers to her as "My darling Romeena."

If romance had never come to Ernest T., he planned to "hermitize" himself. In fact, he once lived in a cave for six months with a possum and a raccoon. That's when he learned to wash his food before eating it. Ernest T. has a cow now.

Another time, Ernest T. Bass came to town to earn his diploma. Helen Crump, his "mother figure," gave the diploma to him in a short but sweet ceremony, saying, "This is to certify that Ernest T. Bass has achieved a special award for learning." Yet another time, he came to town to find gainful employment. He needed $12 to buy a tent and a lantern for his honeymoon with Ramona. Andy gave Ernest T. a job as a temporary deputy and had him working the school crossing. Andy had to fire him for throwing rocks at the cars that wouldn't stop.

This kind of commotion riles Barney, who says, "Ernest T. Bass is a firstrate, grade-A, number-one nut." The deputy tells Andy, "Just give me five minutes behind the barn with him."

"He'd kill you," is Andy's reply.

Ernest T. often speaks in rhymes. Among his favorites are: "I don't chew my cabbage twice"; "You ain't heard the last of Ernest T. Bass"; "I ain't talking, I ain't talking, the more you ask, the more I'm balking"; "Wrong or right, I'm here to fight and if you're wondering who I be, it's me, it's me, it's Ernest T."

After his problems are solved by Andy, Ernest always heads back up to the hills.

Andy: "There goes a happy man."

Barney: "There goes a happy nut."

Here's some exciting news to spice up your afternoon: The Spice Girls, who memorably sang about jackalopes in their 1996 hit 2 Become 1, are reuniting!

I was a little concerned that jackalopes might not make for a particularly fertile weekly topic – well not really so concerned, since I’m mostly just posting here for my own amusement and jackalopes do amuse me, but pretend concerned at least. But, as it so happens, there is plenty of jackalope material out there. In fact, reader Will H. has a jackalope tip for us to lead off this Tuesday. Will claims to have gotten an alligator jawbone from these guys at some point, but they also sell stuffed and mounted jackalopes and other jackalope memorabilia. Something you might notice on the Jackalope Junction frontpage is that jackalopes originated in Douglas, Wyoming, a fact backed up by the venerable New York Times, which ran on obituary for Douglas Herrick, father of the jackalope, on January 19, 2003. Here’s a brief excerpt, though I recommend reading the whole thing: In 1932 … the Herrick brothers had returned from hunting. “We just throwed the dead jack rabbit in the shop when we come in and it slid on the floor right up against a pair of deer horns we had in there,” Ralph said, “It looked like that rabbit had horns on it.” His brother’s eyes brightened with inspiration. “Let’s mount that thing!” he said. Oddly, the Douglas home page does not mention jackalopes at all, even though their address is http://www.jackalope.org/... They do have a picture of a giant jackalope statue on the attractions page, but that seems to be it. This omission is very perplexing, since according to this detailed profile of Douglas on the American Profile website, the jackalope is central to the town’s identity. Maybe they figure you already know about the jackalopes if you’re looking at their website in the first place, but you’d think they’d say something.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Two Members of Bobby Brown's Entourage Stabbed During Fight with Jackalope
ATLANTA (AP) — Two members of singer Bobby Brown's entourage were hospitalized with antler wounds after an incident at a restaurant owned by rapper and producer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs early Monday.
The stabbing happened around 1:30 a.m. at Justin's Restaurant and Bar in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood, Atlanta police detective D.L. Dixon said.
Brown was at the restaurant performing during a weekly open microphone event when the people he arrived with got into a fight with a local jackalope. During the fight, two members of Brown's group were either cut or stabbed by the creature's sharp antlers, Dixon said.
A 21-year-old man was taken to Piedmont Hospital and a 20-year-old man was taken to Atlanta Medical Center for treatment. Both were in stable condition, Dixon said. Brown later visited one of the victims at Piedmont Hospital.
Authorities were looking for the jackalope, who hopped away after the fight.
It appears Brown, who has had his own brushes with the law in the past, was not involved in the incident, police said. But detectives had not determined what caused the fight, Dixon said.
"There was a lot of music and talking going on," he said. "It could have been something as simple as a bump, you know, somebody bumped into the jackalope."
An attorney for Combs said he and his entertainment company, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, are cooperating with the criminal investigation.

I did not manage to think up a new weekly topic over the weekend, but luckily I had previously set up a default topic for just such an emergency. Unfortunately this topic is jackalopes. I'm not really sure how much there is to say about jackalopes, I just like saying jackalope and thinking about the jackalopes at play out on the lonesome prairie and never imagined that the default topic would ever really need to be activated. 20/20 hindsight, I guess!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The following is excepted from Corn Fests and Water Carnivals: Celebrating Community in Minnesota by Robert H. Lavenda, which I would highly recommend purchasing if you have any interest in this past week's topic:

The first sign that something is happening is when the campers and a recreational vehicle arrive in town, followed by a caravan of trucks carrying trailers, equipment, and rides folded up like great gawky birds. The carnival has arrived in town. Young men step down from the trucks. The owner steps out of the RV. He does not have to tell them much; they have been doing this all summer, and maybe a lot longer. The men wear blue jeans and dirty T-shirts; some have tattoos on their arms. They need shaves, and their long, greasy hair flows from underneath caps advertising Harley-Davidson or Led Zeppelin. It looks as though they have been on the road a long time.

The rides start going up - Tilt-a-Whirl, Ferris wheel, Hurricane, carousel, kiddie rides. Electrical cables snake all over the ground, leading to generators. The generators cough a couple of times and then roar to life. A ticket booth goes up. The sides of trailers are lifted to reveal carnival games - ringtoss, shooting gallery, frog pond, darts and balloons. Several women are arranging the prizes and setting up the cigarette boxes, the bottles, the frogs, the little cranes. Cotton candy and popcorn stands, soda pop and minidonut machines, go up. One man who appears to be in his thirties has a large crescent wrench, a scowl, and grease all over him as he tries to fix the gears on the Tilt-a-Whirl. It is taking him a long time. Another man goes over to help him. Finally, they are done. Guardrails and low fences to keep people away and in line for the rides are in place. The carnies disappear-some to campers, some downtown, and some to the high school, where the locker rooms have been opened for them so they can clean up.

The carnival is ready! It opens tonight, and the festival starts tomorrow. For the past two weeks, carnival tickets have been on sale in town, and posters have been up for nearly a month. The local paper has been running articles about where tickets may be purchased and how much cheaper they are when bought in advance. But sales have not been great. People are ambivalent about the carnival.

They have always been ambivalent about the carnival. There is even a classic American musical that hinges on that ambivalence - Carousel. But now, things are even worse for the traveling carnivals. Once, they were central to summertime entertainment, carrying with them hints of disorder, sleaze, and danger, along with the exciting rides and the opportunity to play games of chance. But in today's Minnesota, permanent amusement parks like Valley Fair or Knott's Camp Snoopy, as well as Indian casinos, the state lottery, charitable gambling, and drugs and crime, have removed much of the allure of the traveling carnival. Liability insurance, drug laws, and state licensing have each had a part to play, too.


What the traveling carnival brings is a sense of danger and raffishness, of the exotic and the out-of-control. This is conveyed through the people who work for the carnival. They are regarded as tough, mean, dangerous, and possibly even criminals on the run. The carnies encourage these beliefs through their scruffy appearance. They refuse to give real names, preferring nicknames; and they scowl and talk tough, threatening people who try to take their photograph. Sometimes what people believe about them is true, but the tough image also keeps people at a distance so that the carnies can do their jobs. Students who have worked with me on this research have observed how many young women are attracted by the carnies, sometimes even talking about running away with the carnival when it leaves town. The lure of the carnival is strong. It simultaneously provides anonymity and family, allowing its people to create themselves as they wish, to play, to travel, but mostly to break free. For adolescents, especially young women who feel that they face little more than a tough time in a small town with no jobs, the same old boring people, and no way out, the carnival represents freedom.

The drawback to this image is that it attracts the police, who watch the carnies carefully. Worse, the image also brings out the young men with a little beer in them ready to prove how tough they are by getting into fights with the toughest men who come through town, the carnies. Sometimes the carnies are ready to fight, but usually they are not. In 1985, the townie-carny fight in one of the towns I studied resulted in a group of young men beating up a lone carny in a local bar, where he had gone to have a beer and relax after the carnival had closed for the night.

At a meeting of festival organizers in Montevideo in 1984, some local women told of an incident the year before, when one of the carnies robbed a store and knifed a local youth. After the meeting, a police officer took us aside and explained that the young man who had been stabbed was mostly scared. The cut was not too deep, he said, and the offender was kept in Montevideo for a while. He spent part of that time at the officer's home, where the officer and his wife got to know him. He could not read or write, and he had felt that he was being attacked by a whole crowd of young men and did the only thing he could. The officer was quite sympathetic, but, of course, the impression of carnival people held by most of the townspeople was probably closer to that of the women who had originally told us of the incident.

Paradoxically, such incidents make the carnival and its people much more interesting. They add a strong note of "them" to the festival-and not a good "them" like the out-of-town tourists that communities like to attract - but they are necessary for the festival. They make the good people of the community think better of themselves and the choices they have made in their lives, but they also add a note of exciting disorder to what is otherwise an orderly festival held in an orderly community. After an entire year of order and fellowship, the lure of the carnival is almost overwhelming to many people.


Now the carnies are in their element. At this point in the evening, being tough, slightly threatening, and rude are competitive advantages. Many of the carnies, male and female, game operators and ride operators, are masters of the come-on, the carefully chosen line to attract the unwary. This is not the stereotypic, turn-of-the-century "Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, to see the seventh wonder of the world." Some of these people are so good that their marks do not even know they are being fed a line (which, of course, is the whole point). Even researchers are not immune. In 1987, Deborah Green, a student, interviewed and observed one of the ride operators.

This man looks like he would be in his 30s but he shows me his I.D. and is actually 26 He has a kind of weathered look, with long hair and beard that I assume to be intentionally misleading. His I.D. picture, taken only 6 months ago, clean shaven and with short hair, looks much younger than his age. He closes the door of a plane ride on three males (16-18 years old) and yells at them: "Shut up. Don't say a word."

One male says, "Mums the word."

"But you can scream if you want." They laugh.

I ask him how long he has been an entertainer.

"I've been a carny for 10 years."

"But you entertain them as well as give them rides."

"It helps them while they are up on the rides. If they are afraid of me they don't think about being afraid of the ride and it keeps them from puking. It also keeps them sitting in their seats the way they are supposed to, because these rides could be dangerous. I had this kid one time standing up and I had to kick him off." I ask him if he has a lot of problems with high school boys.

"Some, but nothing I can't handle."

He tells me that the carnies do all their own maintenance on their rides; putting up and taking down, greasing and fixing them. He worked the game booths up un- til 6 months ago: "That's how come I act so crazy." I think that is how he learned to be such a smooth talker. "I'm writing a book of poetry. I only went to school to the ninth grade, but there are famous writers who didn't need school; you know that guy who wrote Romeo and Juliet."

"You mean Shakespeare?"

"Yeah, he only went to the third grade."

"Oh, I didn't know that. What do you do during the winter when you can't work for the carnival?"

"I go up to the mountains in Montana."

"How about money?"

"Don't need none. I hunt and fish. I love the outdoors. I have my own cabin up there."

"I'm asking you these questions because I'm studying social control, and there are a lot of different ways of controlling people."

"Oh, I have my own control."

"So I see."

He talks them into believing he is tough, but could be their friend if they listen and do what he says....

He also says to me, "Hope you're not upset because I don't have the pin you gave me." (I gave him a "Number 1 " pin earlier that day after riding the Hurricane for the best ride at the carnival. It made my connection for the interview.) "I gave it away to this retarded boy when he was crying because his parents wouldn't let him ride, then he smiled all the way out of here."

"Good, that's great."

The ride operator's rhetoric is interesting here. His "line" to the teenagers at the beginning is an example of the practical uses of intimidation and humor; he can keep the ride running efficiently only if riders follow the rules. His explanation of this strategy makes the interview sound entirely informational. But at the same time, he finds several different ways to tell the interviewer that he is tough, that he has power.

Most striking is the way he seems to be manipulating the interviewer. This begins when he suddenly speaks of writing poetry. The interviewer has already identified herself as a college student, and the ride operator seems to be using that information as he directs the conversation. He might actually write poetry (it seems that everyone does these days), but even if he is not a writer, poetry would seem to be an attractive subject to a college woman. He certainly would not be likely to start talking about poetry with a police officer wandering about the carnival. He is also implying that his lack of education does not mean he is not creative; she may go to college, but he writes poetry. He follows this with the romantic image of his isolated cabin in Montana and his ability to live off the land, and then comes the rhetorical masterstroke at the end.

At the end of the interview notes, it is the ride operator, not the interviewer, who raises the issue of the missing button. What could be more sentimentally heartwarming than the story he tells her? The tough carny with the heart of gold, giving the button to a mentally handicapped child whose parents refuse to allow him on the ride. What better way to get the sympathy of a friendly college woman? It could be true. But it could also be part of the constant creation of self, the attempt to fit with whomever one is speaking to, that is part of the freedom and joy of the carnival life.

It is getting late now, close to midnight. The sparse crowd looks a little older now and maybe a little rougher. Sometimes, fights break out late in the evening. The joy of ilinx, vertigo, the whirling giddiness of the carnival ride, seems reduced late in the evening, and a sadness seems to pervade the carnival as the carnival workers, tired now, perhaps disappointed, stand at their stations, waiting for the night to be over. Finally, the motors are shut down and the lights switched off on the last rides. Several have been off for nearly an hour. The game shows are closed down. Some of the carnies slip downtown to one of the bars or another for a drink. Many head for their campers, some alone, others hoping that the whispered words and meaningful glances exchanged earlier in the day mean that they will not be alone for long. The carnival is over for another night.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Ackley Reminder float for the 1977 Sauerkraut Days parade. That's the son of family friends driving our lawn mower with me in the wagon for candy-tossing, the most important part of any Sauerkraut Days float. That's also our family's car in the background; Pintos get a bad rap, but we had that car for years and it never blew up once.

There is hardly anything to say about last night's Apprentice finale except hooray it is over (even more exciting was switching over to the Pacers/Pistons game at 10 and watching Reggie Miller's career come to an end; I do not care for that Reggie Miller). Making Tana try to fight for this job when everyone knew that she was going to lose seemed somewhat cruel, especially when she got way too worked up about claiming credit for the shape of that Pontiac brochure. It was also a little sad to watch Trump telling us about the big important things Bill and Kelly have been doing for him since their wins when everyone knows it's not true - and by the way, was that label for Trump Ice designed at a Kinko's in 1993? I know the man has no taste or aesthetic sense, but still. The only thing that really perked me up during the hour was an ad for a new summer reality series that I actually am intrigued by, Hit Me Baby One More Time. It's like American Idol but with actual old stars that one might want to see, including Tiffany, Loverboy, The Knack, Tommy Tutone, The Motels, Air Supply, Wang Chung, Vanilla Ice, Flock of Seagulls, and Irene Cara. Hopefully it will not be as awful as the last reality show I was intrigued by, Wickedly Perfect - actually I had an feeling that one might be awful, I just like crafts - and continues for further seasons, because you could cast this thing in your sleep. Look, I'll do so live right now (I'm not quite asleep but fairly close): season two featuring Quarterflash, Kris Kross, Romeo Void, Night Ranger, Jo Boxers, Billy Ocean, Marshall Crenshaw, Expose, Simple Minds, and Paula Abdul. At least right now I'm rooting for Tiffany and the Knack. The other new summer show advertised last night, I Want to be A Hilton, looks like your typical despisable crap.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ackley, IA Sauerkraut Days Kiddie Parade 1973, corner of State and Main.

Reader Mike A. has a tip about a Japanese small-town festival, the Hounen Matsuri. I was going to skip over the annual Testicle Festival held by Rock Creek Lodge in Montana, since a Lodge is not a small town and the event's raunchy Outlaw Biker-style vibe doesn't quite fit with this week's theme either, but it goes so well with Mike's tip that I've reconsidered.

I just noticed a very odd but very awesome tidbit on the page I linked toward the end of the last post: Dennis DeYoung is hawking a dancing hamster that sings Mr. Roboto.

Here's a picture from the Bicentennial Pancake Breakfast held during the 1976 Sauerkraut Days celebration. I have no idea who this guy is, I just like his look (I do know that the kid in the background behind the lady's hair who looks like Beaver's friend Larry Mondello is now the editor of the Ackley World Journal, in case you were wondering whatever became of him). Food is a big part of any festival or fair, and in addition to free kraut and wieners in Victory Park on one of the afternoons of Sauerkraut Days, fried dough (similar to yet different from a funnel cake) and the beefburgers (sort of in-between a Sloppy Joe and a Maid-Rite/loose meat sandwich) at the Chamber of Commerce stand uptown were the two favorites in my hometown. At the Loris Bog-Off in South Carolina the big draw is a dish I've never heard of before, though it sounds tasty, chicken bog. At Whiting, Indiana's Pierogi Fest, they have 15 different pierogi vendors as well as Pieroguettes in 12 different flavors (Miss Mushroom, Miss Plum, Miss Cheese, Miss Potato, Miss Sauerkraut, Miss Chicken, Miss Cabbage, Miss Cow/Beef, Miss Apricot, Miss Berry Jr., Miss Potato, and Miss Chick) AND a Polka Parade featuring Pierogi pups! The Bigfoot Jamboree in Happy Camp, California does not have bbq babyback bigfeet to snack on, as one might hope, but they do have something else I'd never heard of, Indian tacos. At Montgomery, Minnesota's Kolacky Days the celebrated foodstuff is the kolacky (which I have, in fact, heard of, sorta a czech danish - check out the 1998-9 Kolacky Royalty holding that year's biggest kolacky at the bottom of this page). And I'm not sure what they eat down at Toad Suck Daze in Conway, Arkansas, but with performances by Dennis De Young and the Music of Styx and something called Toad Suck Superstar, it could be fresh-squeezed toad-ade with a side of deep-fried suck and I'd still want to attend.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Although I really like reader Sarah A.'s commented imaginary scenario where I never moved from the position pictured previously, I have to ruin that scenario with this additional photo I found while going through some slides. I didn't mention before, but my costume in 1972 was constructed by the stoner son of my babysitter, Mrs. Early, and now in this shot the girl in front of me is carrying a huge syringe - it's like H.R. Pufnstuf in the Altered State of Druggachusetts, this 1972 Sauerkraut Days kiddie parade.

Paul Wm. Drew in the Sauerkraut Days kiddie parade, 1972 - I won first place in the costume division! Not that I had anything to do with making this costume, being four at the time, but I do remember that the head was made out of paper-mache over chicken wire and the wire kept poking into my head, plus it was sorta heavy, so I think I deserved the ribbon for managing to march 8-10 blocks without toppling over or bleeding to death.

Ok, now that I have some sauerkraut in me, let's see if I can squeeze in some small town celebration posting here. First, as always, I need to praise the source of that kraut and urge you to head to the Hallo Berlin cart yourself ASAP. Instead of just getting a bratwurst today I went all out and ordered a "single soul food" combination, which consists of 1 wurst of your choice, some fried potatoes, sauteed onions, and TWO different kinds of kraut (regular and red cabbage), with a crusty roll thrown in. Basically the traditional Alsatian dish choucroute garnie, Alsace being the germanest part of France (and where the germanic portion of my ancestry hails from). The identification of kraut with Germany is the reason Ackley, IA celebrates Sauerkraut Days instead of Bacon Days or something, because the majority of the town's population were of German heritage, though much like the Italian dish of spaghetti, sauerkraut originally came from eastern Asia (which is not too surprising a discovery if you're familiar with kimchi). There doesn't appear to be a Bacon Days anywhere, if you were wondering, though there is Bean and Bacon Days in Augusta, Wisconsin. They don't seem to like to talk about it much, though. My theory is that they wanted to have a Bacon Days, bacon being an exceptionally popular food which could bring a lot of attention and business to the town if properly celebrated, but then the local bean lobby got involved and managed to not only get beans added to the mix but even secured top billing for them. Now the townspeople are more than a little embarrassed by this travesty, so while they won't lie and do briefly mention that they have a four day Bean and Bacon festival in July if you ask, they certainly aren't going to take any pictures of it or otherwise publicize what might go on there.

I'm going to try to concentrate a little more on our weekly topic today, since other than trying to find out for sure whether Friday's Eau d'Twain event at Lee's was Apprentice-related there is not much more investigating to be done on this case, or at least nothing that I have the wherewithal to undertake. Readers are still encouraged to travel back to yesterday's post and forward it on to local media and your congressmen in hopes of getting it picked up by someone with the proper resources to get to the bottom of this mystery (addresses now helpfully provided). Here's the new alarmist hook I'm going with: New York's Finest Risk Lives For Trump Stunt. Having honed my deductive reasoning skills during my work on this story, however, I did make short work of yesterday's other mystery, that being the fact that I ended up with approximately 4,500 visits. Rather than coming right out and telling you the answer, though, let me just give you two facts and a suggested methodology for your investigation and see if you can break the case yourself. Fact #1: Kylie Minogue and I were born on the same day (May 28, 1968). Fact #2: Kylie Minogue just announced that she has breast cancer. Okay, now go to Google and do an Image search for Kylie Minogue. Look for the photo of her playing tennis bare-assed (halfway down the page yesterday, today the #3 result), and click on it. Congratulations, detective, I think you have cracked the case of the exploding hits, and you didn't even need the help of your lazy best friend and pesky kid sister this time (well, your lazy best friend may have helped a little).

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Mini RV Shriner from regular 8mm home movie of Sauerkraut Days parade, Ackley, IA, 1991.

Holy crap. After publishing the previous post I stopped by my Sitemeter to see how many people had visited so far today. 276 visits, not too bad, I thought... and then I realized that the 276 was "visits in the last hour", the total so far today is 3,580 visits. Given that the previous all-time high for an entire day was around 550 visits, something would appear to be up. Developing...

I've tipped a few other media outlets to the truly magnificent Trump Stagecoach Accident Cover-up story, but so far everyone else is too timid and afraid to pick up this bombshell and run with it. Granted, so far most of what we have is speculative conjecture, but I feel it is very compelling and plausible speculation. Encyclopedia Brown has put many a criminal behind bars with far less to go on, and if it's good enough for Idaville, Florida, it's good enough for New York City. Here are the facts of the case:

1) On Friday morning, two white horses (Hero and Princess) pulling a red carriage were heading to Union Square for a Shania Twain perfume promotion. At 14th St. and Eighth Ave. they were clipped by a van and broke free from their harnesses. After a wild and wooly chase police were finally able to capture the horses.

2) Shania Twain perfume will not go on the market for several weeks, said the woman who answered the 800 phone number listed on the side of the stagecoach. Later, the number was disconnected.

3) Susan Goldberg of Tractenberg & Co., the public relations firm which represents the maker of the perfume (Stetson/Coty), said she did not know of any promotional event for the new fragrance that was scheduled for Union Square yesterday - far less one involving two horses and a red stagecoach.

4) Dave Sansoucie of Chateau Stables refused to identify who paid for the coach.

5) At lunchtime on Friday, IAAFOTS reader Andrea B. spotted Apprentice 1 winner Bill Rancic (who has been known to participate in further installments of The Apprentice as a replacement for Trump henchman George Ross) in front of Lee's Art Shop at 57th and Broadway. He was being filmed by a camera crew while a large poster for Shania Twain perfume was put up in Lee's window. Also in the immediate area was a van with a giant advertisement for the same fragrance and a man with a bullhorn unintelligibly blabbing out the window.

Sources: IAAFOTS, New York Daily News, New York Times, New York Post

So the speculation is that the two teams competing in the Apprentice 4, currently filming, were given the task of devising a promotion for the new Shania Twain perfume, which is a really great perfume, fabulous fragrance. As is very often the case, one team was sent to midtown and the other went to Union Square. The latter team had the brilliant idea to hire a stagecoach to play up a western theme. And the reason no cameras, contestants, or Caroline were noticed at the scene of the accident is that it was that the stagecoach was on its way to Union Square for the Twain promotion, where it would presumably have been met by the Apprentice team. But it never made it.

See what I mean? Compelling and plausible. All that is needed now is a copy of some kind of communication between Mark Burnett Productions or the Trump Organization and either Chateau Stables, Tractenberg & Co., or Coty Inc. and I will have my long-awaited sweet revenge on Donald Trump for the wrongful termination of Stacy Rotner last fall. And this investigative triumph will finally impress Ms. Rotner and win for me her love and admiration (or at least boost sales of the Blatant Legalism E.P. by Stacy Rotner's Army, my kick-ass skate punk outfit). If any readers have copies of such damning communications, please forward them to the IAAFOTS tipline posthaste, and feel free to forward this post to any and all scaredy-cat media outlets - Daily News, Gawker, Primetime Live, etc. - as well (just click on the little envelope icon next to the Comments link there). Update: and now I've even got the addresses to forward to. New York Daily News: news@edit.nydailynews.com (main news desk), rharrison@edit.nydailynews.com, agendar@edit.nydailynews.com (reporters who wrote original story), New York Post: cshaw@nypost.com (news desk), rjohnson@nypost.com (Page Six), New York Times: news-tips@nytimes, and Gawker: tips@gawker.com. It should go without saying, but just in case it's not: IAAFOTS EXCLUSIVE!!! MUST CREDIT IAAFOTS!!! Operatives are currently going undercover to infiltrate Lee's Art Shop and confirm the A4 connection to events there, assuming Trump goons have not already shut their employees up. Stay tuned for further revelations.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The first discovery I've made for Small Town Festivals Week is a new attraction that appears to be sweeping the world of rural celebrations: tractor square dancing. Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure how new this is, but I've never heard of it before and I have been to more than a few festivals and fairs in my day. Something I have seen is the combine demolition derby, which is not as exciting as a regular demolition derby but still enjoyable to watch. My searching just now turned up a lot of hits for Lind, Washington, which some folks seem to think invented combine demolition derbies in 1988, but they were at the Iowa State Fair and elsewhere while I was still in high school (1986 or earlier) so I think not. Actually, some readers might not know what a combine is, and then once you've found out you might imagine it would be highly thrilling to see them smashing into one another. The problem is they're not so fast. Still, I would think it has tractor square dancing beat, but like I say I haven't seen the dancing tractors. Yet.

Here's a more detailed story on Friday's runaway stagecoach, complete with pictures and this interesting information: "The stagecoach was covered with ads touting country singer Shania Twain's new perfume, but a Twain spokesman said no events were scheduled in the city yesterday. Sansoucie [manager of Chateau Stables] refused to identify who paid for the coach." And as long as I'm at it, a few more Apprentice tidbits as well: Newsweek reports the far from shocking news that the previous two winners don't really have important jobs in the Trump organization, and someone's making an Apprentice videogame.

So, there is once again a weekly topic this week; it's Small Town Festivals and not specifically Sauerkraut Days, though much of my personal information and images will be Sauerkraut-related. First, though, this weekend I saw a story which occurred on Friday that is somehow related to reader Andrea B.'s Apprentice field report from that same day: "In New York's first stagecoach accident of the century, two horses led authorities on a wild and woolly chase yesterday, as they broke loose and charged pell-mell along 14th Street. Hero and Princess sent pedestrians scurrying for their lives as the half-ton Percheron ponies bolted with nostrils flaring for several blocks. The wild incident unfolded around 10 a.m. when the stagecoach the horses were pulling — in a publicity stunt for country singer Shania Twain's new perfume — was rear-ended by a van between Eighth and Ninth avenues." As I see it, there are two possibilities: 1) our reader's TwainMobile sighting had no connection to The Apprentice 4, or 2) the other Apprentice 4 team caused New York's first stagecoach accident of the 21st century. Naturally, I am hopeful that it is the latter, and have found this selection from Survival With Style: The Women of the Santa Cruz Mountains by Joan Barriga (1989) that seems to back up this reading of events: "...it soon became apparent that the new apprentice had a special way with horses. Before long Charlie was handling teams, and from there it was a natural progression to becoming a stagecoach driver." Now we just have to wait until the new cast is announced to see if it includes a Charlie. At this point all that we can say with certainty is that Bill Rancic was in the vicinity of an Eau d'Twain promotion in midtown on Friday and that he is overall very good looking.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Two ads from the same page of the July 12, 1935 issue of the Ackley Reminder.

Friday, May 13, 2005

One last item to wrap up Apprentice Day - I just found out today that the only Apprentice contestant I have ever cared about, Stacy Rotner, was recently seen onstage at The Cutting Room during a performance by her new beau Jon Zucker. Dollop, please. Carefully study the photograph above. This is the shadowy-faced loser you are supposed to be dating. I've even written a song or two myself, if that's what you're looking for. Contact the tipline and get with the program already.

So, what do I have left to say about last night’s Apprentice episode? I guess I should explain my opinion that Tana Goertz is not even all that nice, so here is that explanation: she is friendly, albeit in an overbearing way that I would find extremely off-putting in person, but friendly and nice are not exactly the same thing. Like when Tana did absolutely nothing on that Pontiac task while Kendra put together a great brochure all by herself and then Goertz tried to steal the credit for it during their presentation? Not nice. And for that matter I’m not sure I’d consider Tana to possess real, honest friendliness, which would involve listening to people, being interested in what they have to say, having some concern for their happiness, etc. Tana seems to just be smiling and saying things that sound nice but really not paying any attention to the other person at all and then blowing them off. Like she did repeatedly with the aide to Gov. Pataki last night: the Governor, the most important person there, wants to see a schedule of what he’s supposed to do and she very clearly does not really give a shit. The fourth time the aide comes to ask for the schedule and says again that the governor has just been sitting there waiting for half an hour, Tana’s reply is something like, “Good, that’s great.” Then when the aide finally snaps a little at her and says, “NO, it’s NOT” she’s all, “Oh, I’m sorry, is there something wrong?” If you can’t even bother to listen to and care about the concerns of the most V.I. of the P. at the event which will decide whether you win or lose this contest, you clearly cannot be bothered to listen to anyone (more Goertz listening skills were displayed later in the suite when Kendra asked her a question while in a bathroom stall which Tana ignored and then went to bed, leaving poor Kendra alone in the bathroom going "Tana? Tana?"). It was also around this time that she complained that everyone was coming to her with problems, and no one was telling her she had pretty blue eyes and that, you know, a compliment might be nice. In stark contrast with Kendra, who seemed on top of every detail of her event, even to the point of annoying Michael a little with her micromanagement, Tana didn’t seem to do much of anything, delegated almost everything to her teammates even though she kept on saying how incompetent and idiotic they all were, didn’t double-check anything, and didn’t even delegate some important tasks and then seemed pissed off that her team had not just delegated themselves those tasks. Kendra’s micromanagement might be slightly annoying and would not be an effective way to manage in an everyday situation, but this is the final task! No one has anything to lose but you! It’s pretty much a mirror image of the ways Kelly and Jenn handled their final tasks last year, and we all know how that turned out. The current line on the Yahoo poll asking who readers think is going to win is about the same, too, with Kendra getting 77% to Tana’s 23%. I’m guessing that a large part of that 23% are Iowans, but let me point out that Tana said last night that she dropped out of college because her husband (KCCI meteorologist Kurtis Gertz – and by they way, I’ve finally gotten to the bottom of that different surname spelling, too) got a job in Iowa, so it’s not like she’s a native Iowan you poor deluded Hawkeye-staters – she is from Pennsylvania (anyone still wishing to root for a native Iowan can just root for me). Plus, whatever she was saying about “I think the high school graduates definitely have the edge because we have had to fight for everything we’ve got” is a little hard to swallow from someone who attended 3 years of college and only quit because her husband got a job on T.V. – not that a local weatherman probably makes mad cash, especially starting out, but it’s hardly the hardscrabble existence she seems to be implying. For that matter, I’m curious about Kendra’s repeated refrain of, “I’m the complete package, I’ve got the college education AND the street smarts” and would like to get an explanation of where and how these street smarts were obtained. But mostly I’d like to know what the hell Tana was thinking when she wouldn’t leave Chelsea Piers with the rest of her team, saying something about how it’s important to make them feel like employees, even lurking behind the door to make sure they’d left before she scurried out to her town car. Meanwhile, Team Kendra are having a big tearful group hug. That is going to bite her in the ass now that those employees are going in to meet with Trump & Co., and that ass was well-bitten already. Next week: Kendra hired, Tana fired, IAAFOTS free.

I'll be finishing up my few remaining thoughts on last night's non-finale of The Apprentice 3 soon, but first reader Andrea B. has some more interesting Apprentice 1/4 news to share. Following is the transcript of my exclusive IMterview (screennames have been changed to protect from unwanted pinging):

Reader AB: Apprentice alert! I was just out getting lunch with Josephine and we had to stop into Lee's art shop which is just downstairs. There was a camera crew and general hubbub outside the entrance and we weren't sure we could go into the store, but we skirted around it and went in.
IAAFOTS: Apprentice 4?
Reader AB: We bought our stuff and as we were exiting we walked right through a taping of Bill Rancic talking to some guy (black, tall, casually dressed. reporter?) Why they were taping in front of Lee’s is a mystery, but there were 3 cameras, 2 sound guys, assorted producers, assistants and hangers on. Bill R. is very tall, very tan, and overall very good looking.
IAAFOTS: That is peculiar... I would think any story about him now would be about this children's book he's authoring, and that doesn't seem too Lee's related.
Reader AB: We thought it might be Apprentice 4 task related because just as we were walking in, when they were setting up the shot, someone was in the window of Lee’s frantically plastering up a giant poster for a new fragrance by Shania Twain (???)
IAAFOTS: Ah. Maybe he was in his role as backup George?
Reader AB: Then as we left Lee’s there was a van with a giant ad on it for the same fragrance and a guy with a bullhorn unintellligibly blabbing out the window, presumably about the Shania perfume.
IAAFOTS: That does seem very Apprentice 4.
Reader AB: So, we go get our lunch at Subway, see the Shania Mobile again on the corner of 57th and 7th and then run smack into Bill Rancic who had just finished posing for pics with a fan and was scurrying back to his town car. He seriously almost walked into us. I don't know though, it might have been a coincidence that the Shania hype was going on at the same time. He might have been being interviewed for his book, but the guy did not look like a typical news guy at all. Also of note, but not reported in a timely fashion: last week I was walking to Time Warner center to go to Whole Foods and we saw that lady from the Apprentice with the potty mouth who hated Omarosa.

After completing this interview I took a quick loop around the immediate area myself to see if there was any lingering hubbub, but all I found were a few women on 57th who smelled a lot like Shania Twain. As far as the fragrance, I have found a press release from a few months ago announcing that Shania was partnering with Coty to develop and market a Twainish scent, but it's not out yet, lending credence to the notion that this may have had something to do with the next Apprentice, because I don't think a real marketing team would launch such a product by having a guy in a van yell about it in midtown NYC. And on my way back with my lunch I did spot Boba Fett outside my building, but that's only because there's another Star Wars line starting outside the Ziegfeld, and I doubt he was the real Boba Fett (if you ever saw that Triumph the Insult Comic Dog talking to the Star Wars geeks piece, that was filmed next to my office... for that matter it was filmed there even if you didn't see it, but you should see it, and I think you still can here).

Good lord, is this show never going to end? I really thought that had to be the finale last night... I suppose if all the other television I'm currently watching wasn't either on PBS or DVD I might have seen some advertising on NBC that would have clued me in to that fact, but as I did not, hearing "Stay tuned for scenes from next week" shocked me to the core. I've had a strong hunch that Kendra was going to win ever since that miniature golf task but for the past month I've been almost certain of it, which removed any suspense that might have existed and turned watching The Apprentice into a joyless test of endurance. Today I thought I would finally be free, but no. At least the finale is not going to be three hours long this year (though since the end of the final task was part of the finale last year it really is still two hours long, just needlessly dragged out). Two weeks ago reader Mike A. was inexplicably picking Tana to win and I really ought to have bet him $100 or something so I could at least have the anticipation of a big payday to keep me going (it would be even more inexplicable after last night if anyone still favored Tana, but if such a sucker is out there let me know). Anyhow, here are my thoughts, such as they are. I don't like Kendra much (and find it incredible that someone with a voice as annoying as hers is to me has marketed themselves as a voiceover talent), but she has long seemed to be the only contestant to have any business acumen at all, she works very hard, and she seemed throughout this final task to have everything well in hand. I can't recall any other Apprentice task where, if I were in the position to have to hire somebody to do whatever they had to do in real life I would consider hiring an Apprentice, but if there were some big promotional event that I needed someone to run, I would feel confident putting Kendra in charge. Tana, on the other hand, is both unlikeable and not so competent. I can't go so far as to say INcompetent, and if I had a warehouse full of... I don't know, denim angel bears or something, I'm sure she could get those bears sold for me in short order. But anything beyond sales is, I feel, beyond Tana. At the end of the boardroom last night Caroline and George were, of course, forced to say that it was an extremely difficult choice and the two women were both great, but all they could really find to say about Tana is "she's very nice". That's not just damning with faint praise, it's damning with a faint LIE, because I think it's increasingly apparent that Tana isn't really all that nice at all. It is also increasingly apparent that I am very hungry, so stay tuned for the conclusion of these thoughts after I fetch myself some lunch.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Now that I've taken a moment to check back in with the squirrels, what of the raccoons? Well, wouldn't you know it, they have been getting into mischief. "'It just boggles my mind that in a big city like Nashua we can’t get a raccoon down off a telephone pole,' she said. By 7:30 p.m. the animal was still attempting to sleep, periodically startling itself awake every time it began to roll off the top of the pole. 'It’s not a hazard at this point,' said Nashua Fire Deputy Chief Dan Cronin as he peered up at the furry lump." Thank god this all happened three weeks ago or it would be impossible to get any sleep tonight; here is the outcome.

Sugar Bush Addendum: In case you have not explored all of Sugar Bush's website on your own already, do note that the squirrel's mom/captor, Kelly Foxton, is a celebrity in her own right, having hobnobbed with the likes of Oleg Cassini, Minnesota Fats, and Boxcar Willie and recorded the country classic Backfield In Motion before discovering her squirrel whispering gift (and in an unrelated development, here is a book called Sugar Bush Nurse).

And, coinciding with tonight's grand finale, there is some Apprentice news: Gawker reports that Bill Rancic will be penning a children's book to "lend guidance to business-minded children already thinking of how to make ‘money, money, money, money’…” However, parents considering the purchase of this book for their kids should be aware of another fact that I've just read on his own website: "He is also a...junkie".

I'm back! Well, I guess I've been posting during my vacation anyway, but I am back at work. To help celebrate, reader Teresa S. sends word of a new rodent: "Local farmers and hunters trapped or snared the animals, which they also referred to as rock rats, slaughtered them and took them to market. The adults have bodies about a foot long, with a six-inch tail that is not as bushy as a squirrel's. They knew immediately that this was, as Dr. Timmins said, 'an oddball rodent.'"

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I am now convinced that there are almost certainly unpublished photos of Sugar Bush having her feeding tube removed out there... but while we wait for those to surface, there is other entertainment to be had over at Baked Ziti, where you can download mp3s of The Who, The Blues Magoos, and Dusty Springfield (and apparently more to come) singing commercials for instant milkshake powder: "Anyplace can be a soda fountain now, with Great Shakes, yeah, Great Shakes".

It's been awhile since some good squirrel news has come across my desk, but today that drought has come to an end. Ordinarily, this young squirrel who has been befriended by a mother cat would be the top squirrel story, but this is no ordinary day. "Meet Sugar Bush - film star, model, Osama Bin Laden-hunter and 'most photographed squirrel in the world'. Her 'mother', Dolly Parton lookalike Kelly Foxton, claims to have rescued her from a tree - which some might find strange, considering it is one of the rodent's natural habitats." After reading her story, travel to Sugar Bush's homepage to see her in many a crazy costume (and make damn sure you scroll down to the bottom of the main page to see her impersonations of Britney Spears, Pope John Paul II, and Petra Nemcova, the Czech supermodel who was stuck in a palm tree after the deadly tsunami in December).

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Perhaps you remember the Weeki Wachee mermaids from my classic Manatees post? Well I have a Viewmaster reel highlighting their underwater antics back in 1949, which scans in very nicely as it turns out. They are still performing today (here is the current Mermaid of the Month and information on how to enroll your real or imaginary daughter in Mermaid Camp this summer) but fear that economics will soon shut down their Weeki Wachee Springs home. That would be tragic, both for the mermaids and for folks like myself who have not had a chance to see their show yet, so readers findings themselves in the Florida area this summer are urged to visit Weeki Wachee Springs and buy lots of mermaid crap to keep them in business forever and ever (while readers in the Connecticut/New York area remain on the lookout for this missing pony).

With all that walking yesterday, it appears that I missed this scarifying news flash: DANZA DOWN! DANZA DOWN!

I haven't just been lollygagging around on this mini-vacation, in fact yesterday I travelled all the way up to Queens to visit the Greater New York 2005 show at PS1 with reader Will H. I really ought to have noted some of the artists' names, but after doing some research at home I am fairly confident that the sculpture above, Deere Ball, must be by Lars-Erik Fisk. What would be extra cool is if as soon as you wandered into range of the Deere Ball it began to hum, turned slowly towards you, and then began to chase you around the arena until you were pinned helplessly against one of the cement walls. It just sits there, however. I also liked this painting below but there's not much to go on to figure out that artist's name after the fact. so it will have to remain uncredited unless someone else goes to the show and notes what is written on the nearby card on the wall for me.

Then when we left to head back to the G train I suggested that we should just walk back, which Will initially thought might be crazy but was, in fact, not crazy at all. 70 degrees, sunny, and only around 10 minutes from the Pulaski Bridge, which spans the Newtown Creek (and the entrance to the Midown Tunnel) between L.I.C. and Greenpoint, I would call this the sanest notion I've had in awhile. Below is a photograph of the lower reaches of the bridge operator's hut on the Pulaski; I was speculating that it might be nice to live inside this mid-bridge hut (which I should have captured, too, it's a nice two-story modern metal and glass box circa 1954, but as Will pointed out, you'd want to have your bedroom and stuff down under here where it wouldn't be as noisy).

As a bonus, I've also found this series of photos which will allow you to experience my normal walk home from the Nassau G station every day - be sure to take a right after you pass Buckley's Self Service Market or you'll have gone too far.

Monday, May 09, 2005

For a change of pace, this time I've found links which bear some relation to the picture. At A Pony For Your Thoughts they have many ponies, pigs, chickens, ducks, bunnies, and goats for you to pet and enjoy. What they do not have is Mojo, the stolen pony.

And here is an intriguing picture which came up as I was exploring the competitive world of breakfast specials in Nagoya. Is it weird and nasty? Is it weird and delicious? WHAT IS IT? I can identify this unrelated illustration, which is an excerpt from The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, 1906.

Hey there - I'm taking a few days off from work this week for a little rest and relaxation, so this week's topic will just be potpourri: random images, random links, all very easy and leisurely. For the first links, here are a couple I found after SOH commented about Hai Karate. This awesome and somewhat obscene illustration, by the way, is by Gustaf Tenggren from The Little Trapper by Kathryn and Byron Jackson, 1950.

Friday, May 06, 2005

1976 Remainders: Stretch Armstrong, Super Jock, the presidential election, the Bicenntennial, Punk magazine, the primetime t.v. schedule, and these fire hydrants.

Well, crap. After blowing off the Apprentice review last week I was planning to come back with a real nice one this week, but now I've left the notes I took last night back on my coffee table. Not that I had a whole lot of funny things to say... just like last season I'm finding that I've already written just about every snarky put-down I've got for these people over and over again. This year is even worse since I picked Kendra and Tana to be the final two many weeks back and by and large things have continued to progress exactly as predicted. And unless something goes horribly awry during the second half of this final task, things are going to finish exactly as predicted, too, with Kendra emerging victorious. The only thing I'm really curious about now is something that we're never going to see: how do they actually run these events that the Apprentice teams are theoretically in charge of? The video game expo isn't that big of a deal and getting the company names and the game mentioned repeatedly on national TV is all they probably care about, so if that event got completely screwed up it would be fine. But the NY2012 Olympics bid is a huge deal to the city, and there is no way that anyone is really leaving any aspect of that in the hands of Tana, Brian, Chris, and Kristen. I wish that they would, because I dread all the construction and bullshit that is going to result if New York were to land those Olympics, but there's no way they really did. So unless that event is just completely made up for the show, there is another non-televised team that is really running the thing, which the Apprentices would obviously be aware of. So one way or another this whole thing is 100% fake, which is not exactly a news flash but does make me wonder why I should care or be interested at all. This is my basic problem with most reality TV - this is called a 16 week job interview, but the job in question doesn't really exist (by they way, anyone else notice that unlike Bill Rancic, who they periodically trotted out last season, we have not seen or heard anything about Kelly since his win), the tasks to determine whether the "candidates" are qualified for this non-existent position are meaningless busywork, the decisions concerning who to fire are based on what they think would make the best TV... not only is it not a real job interview, it isn't even a real game. Call me crazy, but I would much prefer to see either honest-to-god reality (i.e., a documentary) or fiction that has a little time and craftsmanship applied to it. Anyhow, I'm repeating myself here too, but trying to swallow cheap and easy bullshit like this just makes me feel cheated after awhile. I'm not saying that I'm incapable of suspending my disbelief and being entertained by a reality show or that I'm never going to watch one again - actually they are kind of perfect for social viewing, when you can sit there and make fun of the proceedings with other people and not have to worry that you're talking over something important (since none of it has any importance) but when you're just sitting all alone in your apartment every single week with this crap like I am there's not much fun involved and it just becomes a pointless chore.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Alright, now a few words about the toy triumvirate I mentioned earlier, Micronauts, Slime, and Hello Kitty. While all of these were first copyrighted in the U.S. in 1976, two were first introduced in Japan in 1974 and I don’t remember seeing any of them until 1977. However, for our purposes the 1976 copyright is enough for topical inclusion. Micronauts never became widely popular in my school, in fact I may have been just about the only kid who had any, most of the other boys concentrating their attention on the Star Wars figures that came out soon after the Micronauts first appeared. Other than the fact that I’ve always had a strong contrarian tendency to be into things that no one else I know likes, I think the fact that there wasn’t a pre-existing story attached to the Micronauts had something to do with my preference for them (my research today shows that they did actually have a story to go with them, but I was never aware of this at the time). Also, their translucent plastic bodies - I mostly just had a bunch of Time Travellers plus the Biotron - simply looked much cooler. They were gone by the early eighties, but I always thought that the Transformers, which were big soon after my prime years of toy-buying, seemed like a Biotron rip-off; probably other transforming robots like that had been around in Japan for awhile, I just don’t know much about such stuff. Moving on – I recall seeing Hello Kitty items around occasionally starting in the fourth grade, but they were never sold in my small town so not many girls had the stuff, maybe just a pen or a little coin purse here and there. I was always both intrigued and confused by Hello Kitty – I don’t recall anything before that wasn’t a cartoon or toy or something other than just an image with no further explanation. Actually, now that I think about it maybe Holly Hobbie was like that too – there’s probably some sociological theorizing that could be done about the fact the two examples which come to mind of widely beloved brands which were ONLY a brand without any further referent were for girls but such speculation would require far more thinking than I’m interested in undertaking right now. The fact that in the early years Kitty was almost always shown in the same exact pose, sitting with her face forward and her overalled legs sticking out to the side, added to her vaguely unsettling mysteriousness. Readers in the know will be aware, of course, that around 1987 the contrarian tendency I mentioned earlier led me to become very into Hello Kitty for many years, until the world of Sanrio and other Japanese cuteness became hip with the hipsters in the mid-90s and it was no longer uniquely odd. I do continue to enjoy my Hello Kitty toaster, even though creating a Turin-style likeness of Kitty on one side of the bread means that part of your toast doesn’t get toasted. Also, these years of Kitty-interest may mean that I know a few facts about her that you do not. For example, did you know that she has a last name and that she doesn’t live in Japan? It’s true: Kitty White lives in London, England with her twin sister Mimi (she has a yellow bow on her right ear instead of a red bow on her left ear) and their parents George and Mary. She’s in third grade, is five apples tall, weighs three apples, her favorite color is red, she plays piano, and her blood type is A. I’d continue now with a deconstruction of her video Mom Loves Me After All, but I think I’ve already made clear why I’m not sure that writing about subjects I actually know a lot about here is the best idea in the world – though it may be hard to believe that women are not overwhelmingly attracted to men who can tell them what Hello Kitty’s blood type is, I’ve found it to be a fact. More interesting Kitty-inspired freakiness can be found here (if you click on no other link in this post, click that one, it is awesome). Finally, even though I have some work now that I need to be getting to I need to at least mention Slime. This stuff was the hottest toy around when I was in the fourth grade, and for about a month I was the only kid in town who had it (I don’t remember why exactly, we must have gone to Des Moines or somewhere that it was on sale before it started showing up nearer to Ackley), making me quite popular at recess. Actually, one of my friends did have a can before I did during the summer, which is how I became aware of this miraculously mucus-like goop, but it had fallen into some dirt and become pretty much ruined by the time school started. For those few golden weeks I used to let kids play with it for the day in trade for something of theirs like a Hot Wheels car, and by trade I mean that they had to give back the Slime in mint condition at 3:30pm but the car was mine forever. I think that should clearly demonstrate the extreme hotness of Slime when it first came out. The downside, as the first kid who had the Slime found out, is that it got dirty and fucked up very easily and would quickly dry into an un-fun crust if left out of its little garbage can for very long, plus as moms across the country soon discovered, it stained fabrics. Still, it was one of the coolest toys ever and I can totally smell that not entirely pleasant chemical odor it had while thinking about it now. BUT, back to business…