Sunday, January 31, 2010

It Had Better Be Tonight

Here is the English-language version of Meglio Stasera, as sung by lounge singer Buddy Greco.

Meglio stasera
Baby go go go
Or as we natives say
"Fa subito!"

If you're ever gonna kiss me
It had better be tonight
While the mandolins are playing
And stars are bright

If you've anything to tell me
It had better be tonight
Or somebody else may tell me
And whisper the words just right

Meglio stasera
Baby go go go
Or as we natives say
"Fa subito!"

If you're ever gonna hold me
It had better be tonight
Or somebody else may hold me
They might make me feel just right

For this poor Americano
Who knows little of your speech
Be a nice Italiana
And start to teach

Show me how in old Milano
Lovers hold each other, oh, so tight
But I want you sweet paesana
It had better be tonight

Meglio stasera
Baby go go go
Or as we natives say
"Fa subito!"

Ate Berries In the Canaries

This is a new OPI color I bought at Target yesterday. It's called "Ate Berries In the Canaries," and it's from their Espana collection.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Meglio Stasera

"Meglio Stasera - Fran Jeffries, born Frances Makris on 18 May 1937 in San Jose California, was a singer/actress/model in the 1960s and early-1970s. She had a cameo role in the 1963 movie "The Pink Panther," in which she sang this song "Meglio Stasera" (It Had Better Be Tonight)."

We watched the movie The Pink Panther last night, and this song and dance number was arguably the best scene in the movie. It's a visually lush film--Yves Saint Laurent did the costumes, including a hot pink ski sweater, bright yellow turtleneck, deep orange glittery gown, and those amazing haute couture giant fur hats of the sixties. If you enjoy sixties fashion, this movie will not disappoint.

It's kind of a weird movie in some ways because the pacing is very slow. Modern audiences aren't used to this style of film. You have to have the patience to sit back and let it slowly unfold, because the plot works itself out in a meandering, leisurely way. It was filmed in the Italian Alps and the streets of Rome, so the scenery is dazzling. The movie also stars one of the prettiest actresses I have ever laid eyes on; her name is Claudia Cardinale. She looked to me a little like Natalie Portman and a little more like Catherine Zeta Jones, but more beautiful than either one. Because it's so visual and slow-paced, this is really a movie to see in the theater if you can, or at least on a large, high-definition TV.

As the very first Pink Panther movie, it hasn't yet turned into what the Pink Panther franchise later becomes--a star vehicle for Peter Sellers. So it's surprising to watch this one and realize that that Peter Sellers isn't even the main character yet. The Clouseau character isn't as exaggerated as he later becomes and he actually speaks with a fairly normal mild French accent, although he still lovably stumbles and trips his way through all of his scenes. (And he's cute in the scene above, where he gamely allows Fran Jeffries to pull him onto the dance floor.)

Oh, also there is a scene with a big costume ball, which I loved because I love Halloween. It's fun to look at the different costumes. I spotted Lady Godiva, the Mad Hatter, a mermaid, a zebra, a knight...and two gorillas!

Note: If you watch the clip above closely, you can spot a young skinny Robert Wagner. He's wearing a yellow V-neck sweater.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Homicidal Soul

"Sometimes when I feel like killing someone, I do a little trick to calm myself down. I'll go over to the person's house and ring the doorbell. When the person comes to the door, I'm gone, but you know what I've left on the porch? A jack-o-lantern with a knife stuck in the side of its head with a note that says "You." After that I usually feel a lot better, and no harm done."

--Jack Handy

Short Hair

For some reason, the stylists at Gene Juarez often seem to me to be cold, bitter, and depressed. But you can usually get a pretty good haircut there.

My previous long-time hairdresser, Secondary Jennifer, had a baby. After the arrival of Baby Julian, she cut her hours waaaay back, making it much more difficult to see her. For the past year or so, I've been cutting my own hair, using some professional tools I bought online. It's been working out pretty well but it got to the point where I just really wanted to get a professional haircut again.

Today I took the day off work and went to see someone called "Riley" at Gene Juarez. I'd never met her before so I didn't know what to expect. I tried to find some photos of the cut I wanted (short but soft in the back and sides, full in front) but I didn't manage to find any.

When Riley walked up, I was pleased to see that she herself sported exactly the hairstyle I wanted! So I just told her, "I want your hair!" and she did an amazing job of replicating it on my head. She did seem kind of withdrawn and unhappy, like all the Gene Juarez stylists do, but she was perfectly pleasant to me and did beautiful work.

In my book, a good hair day = a good day!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here Come the Girls

Guy first alerted me to this commercial (or "advert" as they say in England) for Boots, which is a ubiquitous English drugstore (or "leading pharmacy chain.") Apparently, they produce a special "Christmas advert" every year. This one from 2007 is so cute.

Here are some fun facts about Boots:

"The Boots Company, commercially known as Boots, is a leading pharmacy chain in the United Kingdom, with outlets in most high streets throughout the country.

"Boots was established in 1849, by John Boot. In 1920, Jesse Boot sold the company to the American United Drug Company. However, deteriorating economic circumstances in North America saw Boots sold back into British hands in 1933 with the grandson of the founder, John Boot, who inherited the title Lord Trent from his father, at the head of the Company.

"Boots branched into dentistry in 1998, with a number of stores offering this service. Boots sold its Do-It-All home furnishings chain to Focus in 1998. Boots also made a venture into "Wellbeing" services offering customers treatments ranging from facials, homeopathy, and nutritional advice to laser eye surgery and Botox but these services were abandoned in 2003. In late 2004 Boots also sold off the Lasix eye surgery services to Optical Express. Boots has also diversified into the research and manufacturing of drugs. It developed ibuprofen, a painkiller.

"In 2005 the Company considered moving into selling sex toys but then announced that they had decided not to."

Heartwarming Rescue of Cute Polish Dog

Dog drifts 75 miles on ice, rescued in Baltic Sea

WARSAW, Poland – A frightened, shivering dog was rescued after floating at least 75 miles (120 kilometers) on an ice floe down Poland's Vistula River and into the Baltic Sea, officials said Thursday.

Now his saviors just have to figure out who really owns him.

Four people have already claimed him, but so far rescuers say there's been no wagging tail of joy from the miracle dog they nicknamed "Baltic."

The dog's frozen odyssey came as Poland suffers through a winter cold snap, with temperatures dipping to below minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 20 Celsius).

The thick-furred male dog was found adrift Monday 15 miles (24 kilometers) out in the Baltic Sea by the crew of the Baltica, a Polish ship of ocean scientists carrying out research.

Researcher Natalia Drgas said Thursday the rescue was difficult and at one point it seemed the dog had drowned.

"It was really a tough struggle. It kept slipping into the water and crawling back on top of the ice. At one point it vanished underwater, under the ship and we thought it was the end, but it emerged again and crawled on an ice sheet," Drgas said.

At that point, the crew lowered a pontoon down to the water and a crew member managed to grab the dog by the scruff of his neck and pull him to safety.

Too weak to shake off the frigid water, Baltic was dried and wrapped in blankets. After he warmed up, he was massaged, fed and soon got on his feet to seek company, Drgas said.

A firefighter in Grudziadz, on the Vistula river 60 miles (100 kilometers) inland from the Bay of Gdansk, told The Associated Press the dog was spotted Saturday floating on ice through the city. Firefighters tried to save him but could not approach the dog due to shifting ice sheets, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Baltica crew, now moored in the port city of Gdynia, have been searching for the dog's owners, ship captain Jerzy Wosachlo said. So far four people have claimed him, but Baltic has not claimed any of them back, Drgas said.

The dog didn't welcome the first two people to come for him, keeping his distance and showing no recognition toward a couple on Wednesday and a woman on Thursday who both said he was theirs. Two other would-be owners were still en route to Gdynia for a possible reunion.

Once in port, the brown-and-black mongrel was taken to a veterinarian, who found him in surprisingly good condition and estimated his age at around 5 or 6 years old. Veterinarian Aleksandra Lawniczak said the 44-pound (20-kilogram) dog was clearly frightened but in strikingly good shape and had suffered no frostbite.

A dog with thick fur and a layer of fat can survive such cold conditions for as long as eight days if it has water to drink, Lawniczak said.

She described Baltic as a friendly dog who was clearly well treated before getting lost. Wosachlo said the research team is prepared to adopt Baltic if his original owner is never found.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Johnny," the Terrifying Ventriloquist Dummy

Jennifer and Diana recently introduced me to Country Magazine. It's intended "for those who live in or long for the country." They bought a whole bunch of old issues (going back to the 80s) at a garage sale, but I just checked online and it looks like the magazine is still going strong. They even have a free newsletter you can sign up for. Here's a little bit about them (from their own website):

"Country and Country EXTRA are known for vivid color photos of the countryside. They’re so lifelike you feel like you’re right there alongside our photographers on a photo tour along the backroads of rural North America.

"Country EXTRA also contains many of the popular features from Country, including “Quotes from the Country,” “ Country Churches” and “Little Humor.” Some unique features in Country EXTRA are the “Country Primer” and “Cabin Fever.”

"The “Country Primer” sheds a little light on some aspect of life in the how cowboys make coffee in metal pots over the campfire. In other issues, you learned why covered bridges are covered, why country roads meander and how to cook up a mess of dandelions and other spring greens for a nutritious salad. “Cabin Fever” invites you to look at a reader’s weekend getaway or country log home."

Sounds pretty awesome, right? Beautiful rustic scenery, homespun wisdom, the peace and tranquility of the natural world, and--AHHHH! What the fuck is that?

Why, that's "Johnny," the ventriloquist dummy of a farmer in Kansas. The caption claims that rural audiences love his brand of humor...but I think they're just scared shitless. "Just laugh at the puppet, kids, and maybe he'll go away." That puppet is inordinately scary.

Seriously, though, what a cool farmer. Although I do think maybe he shouldn't drive the tractor while practicing his act (as he claims in this article). It's not safe to operate heavy machinery while puppeteering, Greg!

Talented Farmer Is Certainly No Dummy
He works hard to stay on speaking terms with his collection of characters.

Taking the words right out of his mouth is something that happens regularly to Greg Claassen of Whitewater, Kansas. But Greg doesn't mind one bit. You see, he's a ventriloquist.

"Because I grew up with a farming background, I tend to do a lot of shows for agriculture companies and rural audiences," relates Greg, who has performed in 42 states. "I average about 120 shows annually and am gone about 150 days out of the year."

Between performances, Greg helps his brothers on the family farm as much as he can. "I especially try to be around during harvest," he notes.

Greg became interested in ventriloquism at age 12, when he saw a performer at a National Pork Producers Convention that he was attending with his dad and brothers.

"When I saw him, I told myself, 'I've got to learn how to do that,' " Greg says. "About a year later, my mom found a correspondence course for ventriloquism.

"Like any thing you do, you have to practice a lot to get good at it. I practiced my act while driving the tractor in Dad's fields. Doing fieldwork can sometimes be tedious, so practicing my ventriloquism helped pass the time.

"Anybody can learn to become a ventriloquist. It's just like learning to play an instrument. You need some talent, but it really comes down to desire and lots of practice.

Greg likes to compare himself to a magician. "A ventriloquist is fooling your ears, much like a magician fools your eyes," he explains. "I have to give the illusion that the dummy is real. The audience has to believe that I'm carrying on a conversation with a real person."

The dummies Greg uses in his act are called soft puppets and are made out of rubber and foam. It's a lengthy and costly process to make each one.

"I'll come up with an idea for a new character and then talk to a figure maker," Greg says. "We'll discuss the dummy's personality so the builder can visualize what it will look like."

Then the builder will make sketches and rough models until Greg approves the final version. From the start of the idea to the finished product, it can take over a year to complete a new character.

"The soft puppets range anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000," Greg continues. "The wooden dummies are even more expensive. They can easily run $10,000."

Greg emphasizes the fact he provides a clean act for his audiences. It's just something that comes naturally from his upbringing.

"I want to give my audience a good fun time and plenty of laughs," he states. "I understand rural America's sense of humor.

"Growing up with an agriculture background, I think I know what country folks will like. Whether there's a 4-year-old or an 84-year-old in the audience, my humor will appeal to them.

"Being funny is the key to being a good ventriloquist. Sure, the technique of not moving your lips has to be good, but it's not the most important element.

"Take the famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, for example. His lips moved when he performed. But his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, seemed real to the audience, and that's what was entertaining.

"If you'd like to contact Greg to perform at a function, he can be reached at 1- 800/293-8669. He promises he won't give you any double-talk."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shahrukh Khan

Regular Beebo reader D7ana alerted me to this really cool Shahrukh Khan doll! Unfortunately, he's only available from Amazon UK and it looks like they are currently out of stock. He is part of a Bollywood Legends series.

You can check out D7ana 's awesome doll collection at Philly Collector. Shahrukh is not currently in her collection, but she has ordered some of the other Bollywood dolls (Mr. Hrithik Roshan, Ms. Kajol, and Ms. Priyanka Chopra).

Here are some more doll and Shahrukh Khan fun facts:

Welcome to the exotic & wonderful World of Bollywood.
Now you can bring their stars to your homes.
These dolls are truly authentic & approved replica images.
The range includes of 4 of the most successful Bollywood actors.

Hrithik Roshan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol & Priyanka Chopra.
Each doll comes with traditional Indian clothing.
The male dolls come with an additional Western outfit.
Also includes background information about the actors.
So you can learn all about your favourite stars.
Collect them all!
For ages 3 years and over

Shahrukh Khan (born 2 November 1965), sometimes credited as Shah Rukh Khan, is an Indian actor and a prominent Bollywood figure, as well as a film producer and television host.

Khan began his career appearing in several television serials in the late 1980s. He made his film debut in Deewana (1992). Since then, he has been part of numerous commercially successful films and has earned critical acclaim for many of his performances. Khan has won thirteen Filmfare Awards for his work in Indian films, seven of which are in the Best Actor category.
Khan's films such as Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Chak De India (2007), Om Shanti Om (2007) and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008) remain some of Bollywood's biggest hits, while films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Veer-Zaara (2004) and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006) have been top-grossing Indian productions in the overseas markets, making him one of the most successful actors of India.

Since 2000, Khan branched out into film production and television presenting as well. He is the founder/owner of two production companies, Dreamz Unlimited and Red Chillies Entertainment. In 2008, Newsweek named him one of the 50 most powerful people in the world.

In 2007, Khan replaced Amitabh Bachchan as the host of the third series of the popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. The previous had hosted the show for five years from 2000–05. On 22 January 2007, Kaun Banega Crorepati aired with Khan as the new host and later ended on 19 April 2007.

On 25 April 2008, Khan began hosting the game show Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain?, the Indian version of Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, whose last episode was telecasted on 27 July 2008, with Lalu Prasad Yadav as the special guest.

Secretaries We Admire

Peggy Fair is a fictional secretary par excellence. In addition to being a snappy dresser (a requirement for any secretary, real or imagined), Peggy is organized, efficient, resourceful, and 100% reliable. She needs very little instruction. Her boss, private detective Joe Mannix, has only to casually utter a few key words in her general direction; the next thing you know, Peggy is coolly presenting him with a neatly typed list of, say, every cab driver in the greater Los Angeles area whose name begins with 'M.' She's that good.

Peggy's full resume can be found at TV Acres:

"Born and raised in Los Angeles, Peggy is a widow, very efficient, and a former Department of Motor Vehicles employee. She now works as the full-time employee of Joe Mannix, an Armenian private eye who lives and works at 17 Paseo Verde Drive in West Los Angeles.

"Peggy married police officer Marcus Fair in January of 1961. They had a little boy named Toby later that year. Unfortunately, Marcus died in the line of duty on March 1968. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Peggy’s only relatives include her mother and some family that lives in Chicago.

"Peggy uses her contacts with the DMV when conducting background checks for Joe‘s clients and sometimes goes undercover as a maid, or hooker to help solve a case. She once even helped Joe battle foreign agents who set out to assassinate African Premier Obuko who was being treated incognito in a nearby hospital.

"Most of the time Peggy likes her job, but from time to time, Peggy quits the employ of “Mr. Mannix” when angered by Joe. But after an appropriate cooling off period she returns to work. When not mad at Joe, Peggy will offer him advice or sometimes even loan him money when he's short of cash. A loyal friend, Peggy was also on hand to nurse Joe through a stretch of temporary blindness when he was shot by a killer's bullet.

"In turn, Joe helped Peggy clear the name of her late husband Marcus Fair, when his name appeared on a list of policemen who were being paid off by a burglary ring. Joe also came to the rescue when Peggy and her son, Toby were held hostage by people who desperately needed a roll of incriminating film and when Peggy was held in the clutches of syndicate thugs who have mistaken her for a potential informer.
"When not helping out Joe Mannix, Peggy is helping her own friends, like the time her friends Brad Turner and Jimmy Whitewing were wrongly accused of murder and Peggy let them hide in her apartment; or the time Peggy's friend Glenn Gerard, a one-time juvenile delinquent (now reformed) was sought for the commission of a crime.

"Occasionally, Peggy finds time for a love life. Her romantic interests included dating a guy named Gabe Johnson who turned out to be a prison road-gang escapee falsely convicted by a sheriff of a small southern community; and boyfriend Floyd Brown whom Mannix accused of stealing of 45 cartons of morphine.

"When not being kidnapped or placed in other perilous situations, Peggy enjoys listening to music (jazz, blues, pop), eating soul food and watching old Humphrey Bogart movies. She also finds time to be a secretary for the local Boy Scout troop meetings. At work, Peggy likes to dress smart. She especially likes short skirts that show off her lovely legs. But, when her boss Joe Mannix fails to notice her new outfits, well, let's just say, it doesn't make Peggy's day."

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Secret Greatness of Gavin MacLeod

To my mind, Gavin MacLeod is a secretly amazing actor. Why? Because, unlike actors who essentially portray the same character over and over in every role, Mr. MacLeod achieved the rare feat of creating not one, not two, but three very memorable TV characters who are each totally distinct and separate from one another.

I'm referring, of course, to the acerbic but neurotically lovable copywriter Murray Slaughter from Mary Tyler Moore; the avuncular yet imposing authority figure Captain Stubing from The Love Boat; and last but not least, tubby criminal mastermind "Big Chicken" from Hawaii 5-0.

"Big Chicken" is one of the all-time great TV villains. In this scene (posted above), he threateningly sings "Ain't No Big Thing" from a prison shower in a weird attempt to intimidate Gerald O'Loughlin. And, okay, maybe this performance falls short of the mark in terms of being "harrowing" or even "powerful"...but it is most definitely unforgettable television.

Huge Spaz Falls, Rips Picasso Painting

I'm glad this didn't happen to me!

NEW YORK (AFP) – A significant Pablo Picasso painting was damaged after a woman attending art class lost her balance, fell into "The Actor" and tore it, The Metropolitan Museum of Art said.

The unusually large canvas, measuring 77.25 by 45.38 inches (196 by 115 centimeters), sustained a vertical tear of about six inches (15 centimeters) in the lower right-hand corner in the accident on Friday.

The museum, located on the eastern edge of New York's Central Park, did not elaborate on why the woman fell.

But The Met said the damage did not impact the "focal point of the composition" and that it should be repaired in the coming weeks ahead of a major Picasso retrospective featuring some 250 works at the museum opening on April 27.

Repair work should be "unobtrusive," it added.

Painted in the winter of 1904-1905, the work hails from Picasso's critical Rose Period, when the artist shifted from the downbeat tones of his Blue Period to warmer, more romantic hues.

The period also hints at Picasso's later embrace of abstraction with his signature cubist style.

Donated to The Met by automobile heiress Thelma Chrysler Foy in 1952, "The Actor" features an acrobat striking a dramatic pose against an abstract backdrop. It was painted on a used canvas that already contained a painting.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bollywood Video

It's fun to watch a Bollywood movie once in a while. They are fun and light and colorful. Guy and I look for ones starring Shahrukh Khan (above) or Amitabh Bachchan.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


This is what I had for breakfast this morning. It's 2 fried eggs with a little bit of smoked Spanish paprika on 2 slices of Dave's Killer Bread (toasted).

Guy took the photos, but my camera has a "face recognition" feature. When he took the photos, the camera thought the fried eggs were eyes--it told him: "closed eyes detected." Ewww, kind of creepy.

Creation of the Humanoids

Guy's post about Creation of the Humanoids the other day got me thinking again about this movie and how much I liked it.

It's a low-budget, crappy-looking science fiction movie from 1962. One of my personal heroes, Andy Warhol, liked to say that Creation of the Humanoids was his favorite movie of all time. I guess, coming from him, I didn't take that statement too seriously at first. It seemed like the kind of smart-assed thing that Andy liked to say but not really mean (like when he wrote in his diary about feeling star-struck when he met "the Fonz" at a dinner party).

But once I saw the movie, I thought, "Wow! I think he actually meant it!" It's the kind of movie that creeps up on you. When you first start watching it, all you notice is the stiff, stylized acting and low-budget special effects. But as the movie builds, and explores some really interesting and complex philosophical ideas, it starts taking on a life of its own. By the end of the movie, I felt emotionally moved, and like I had experienced something of true substance.

Some movies are less than the sum of their parts. You know how you can watch a big-budget movie, where everything looks right, starring great actors, with a perfectly fine script...but somehow it doesn't add up to anything? Maybe it lacks some X factor that makes everything come to life.

Creation of the Humanoids is the opposite of that; somehow it adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Even though the costumes are cheap and the acting is weirdly self-conscious and the pacing is oddly theatrical and slow, it has that magical X factor that brings it all together.

If you're curious to check it out, Guy strangely posted the entire movie on his blog yesterday. Or you could probably rent it from Netflix or buy it cheap online.

Here is a summary of the plot of the film:

"The Earth is suffering the after-effects of nuclear war; the human birthrate has fallen so much that the population is declining. The "humanoids" of the title are advanced robots created to serve human beings. A human scientist, Dr. Raven (Doolittle), has developed a technique called the "Thalamic Transplant," which transfers the memories and personality of a recently-deceased human to a robotic replica of that person. The human-humanoid hybrids that result awake from the process unaware of their own transformation.

"A quasi-racist human organization called the "Order of Flesh and Blood" opposes the robots, whom the order disparagingly refers to as "clickers." One of the leaders of the Order, Capt. Kenneth Cragis (Megowan), discovers clues that lead him to fall in love, and discover the secret not only of the robot's human "replacement" program, but also of the future of himself, his new love, and the human race as a whole."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Big Mac Wrap

Ewwwwwwwwwwww! What is that clown thinking?

Full disclosure: I love cheeseburgers. But this doesn't even look good to me:

McDonald’s Big Mac snack wrap has arrived in Chicago and the Golden Arches on Thursday confirmed plans to mate the dollar menu with the breakfast menu on a national basis. The Big Mac snack wrap is a cross between McDonald’s popular chicken wraps with its iconic Big Mac burger.

The new wrap features a sliced burger patty, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but no sesame-seed bun. Oak Brook-based McDonald’s began testing the item at 400 U.S. restaurants last month. Over roughly the past week, the company began rolling out the Big Mac snack wrap throughout the country, including in Chicago.

More than 50 percent of McDonald’s U.S. outlets now have it, and national advertising for it is slated to begin this month, said McDonald’s spokeswoman Danya Proud. Meanwhile, McDonald’s unveiled its plans Thursday to offer a $1 breakfast menu nationally for the first time, a strategy initially reported by the Tribune last month.The company has offered a $1 breakfast menu in select markets before, and implemented the concept in the Chicago area in August.

Nationally, the breakfast dollar menu will feature a sausage burrito, a sausage biscuit, a sausage McMuffin, a 12-ounce coffee and hash browns. National advertising for dollar breakfast items is slated to begin in early January, Proud said.

The dollar breakfast menu comes amid a backdrop of slowing traffic at fast-food restaurants and increasing price competition. McDonald’s is the leader in the fast-food breakfast arena. But breakfast and lunch sales throughout the fast-food industry have been hurt by rising unemployment.


As mentioned in a previous post, I'm reading a really interesting book right now called The Family That Couldn't Sleep by D.T. Max. It's about an Italian family that is prone to an extremely rare neurological illness--rare for the general population, that is, but not for them. About one person in 6 million gets fatal familial insomnia, but in this family, it's more like one in two.

It's a fascinating book that covers all sorts of ground, everything from Italian culture and history to the personalities of brilliant, egotistical scientists, and the mad cow scare in England in the 1990s.

I'm up to that last part (mad cow) right now, and I've been learning some really interesting facts about BSE or "bovine spongiform encephalopathy." I remember in the 90s, the common belief about mad cow disease was that if you happened to eat infected meat just once in your life, you could end up developing mad cow disease 50 years later. That's no longer really believed to be true (although, who knows?):

"It can be estimated, based on a European Union scientific committee's work, that the English ate as many as 640 billion doses of BSE during the crisis as a whole [1980s-1990s]. As it happens, BSE crosses from cow to human only with difficulty, but this fact wasn't anything the British government knew. They underestimated the initial threat, ignored the unique nature of the disease agent, and allowed bureaucracy and cattle industry profits to trump speed and openness. When in doubt, they formed a committee. The one thing they had on their side was luck. Fortunately, prions aren't as infectious as, say, the flu. If they were, only long-time vegetarians would be alive in England today."

In other words, the good news is, it's not that easy for humans to get mad cow disease. The bad news is, the English government didn't actually know that during the 10 year lag between realizing there was a problem and actually doing something about it. It's only dumb luck that kept millions of people from dying of mad cow, instead of the 160 or so people (mostly teenagers, for some reason) that actually did.

Anyway, getting back to that decade-long lag during which the British government pretended they were protecting the public and that they had it all under control when, in reality, they totally did not...Here's a morbidly funny anecdote from the book about that:

"British beef and its promoters fought back. The agriculture minister, John Gummer, fed his daughter a hamburger at a TV photo-op. (But four-year-old Cordelia made a face that suggested she'd rather be eating anything else--it was later reported that she found the hamburger too hot--and the moment registered in the British mind as only a failed photo-op can. The phrase 'doing a Gummer' remains in British political lexicon for such moments.) Officials went on tour to try to persuade English schools to put beef back on the menu. The Meat and Livestock Commission, a government-funded organization that helped promote British farm products, sponsored a contest to find 'the tastiest and most innovative children's novelty meat product.' The winner was 'Oinkies,' a combination of sausage meat and cheddar balls."

Mmmm, Oinkies. I have to admit, that actually sounds delicious to me. But it also reminds me of this Kids In the Hall skit about "Poreef," the disgusting pork-beef hybrid that featured "low price" as its only convincing selling point:

May Somebody Melt Some Lead Into Satan's Ear

In my household, we're very superstitious about knocking on wood. It's not so surprising in my case, since I'm kind of a big flake, but you wouldn't expect someone like Guy to be superstitious; he's otherwise so coldly logical.

However, once I did a little research, it all made a lot more sense. When Guy utters something that seems to be tempting fate--then looks wildly around the room for a piece of wood to knock on, unable to rest until he's done so--he's not really being illogical at all. He's simply letting the wood spirits know he is there. That's just plain good sense:

"The phrase is used by people who rap their knuckles on a piece of wood hoping to stave off bad luck. In the UK the phrase 'touch wood is used - often jokingly by tapping one's head. The derivation may be the association that wood and trees have with good spirits in mythology, or with the Christian cross. It used to be considered good luck to tap trees to let the wood spirits within know you were there. Traditions of this sort still persist in Ireland."

Wikipedia offers this comprehensive tour of knocking on wood around the world:

In Belgium (Flanders), they say: "hout vasthouden", which would translate as "touching or holding wood". If possible when saying this, they touch a table or door or something else made of wood.

In Denmark, "bank under bordet" (knock under the table) is a commonly used phrase, which is often used as a part of the phrase "7-9-13, bank under bordet", where "7-9-13" is just another way to say touch wood.

In Germany, the version "auf Holz klopfen" (knock on wood) can be accompanied by the phrase "Toi, toi, toi" (probably derived from the Old German word for 'Devil' or from other traditions of spitting over your left shoulder three times for the purpose of warding off the Devil) which is still used as a charm to ward off evil or as a good luck charm for thespians out of superstition that wishing an actor good luck brings the opposite.

In France, "toucher du bois" is used with the exact same meaning.

In Italy, a similar superstition exists, it's said "Toccare ferro" and the meaning is similar: one must touch metal, preferably iron.

In Netherlands, the term "afkloppen" (knock off), is used, sometimes accompanied by "op ongeverfd hout" (on unpainted wood).

In Norway, the term "bank i bordet" ("knock the table" or rather: "knock the wooden board" ('bordet' is an ambiguity)), is used. In Norway, it is also sometimes used to stress that you're telling the truth (akin to saying "I swear to god that...").

In Poland, the version of this charm is "odpukać w niemalowane" [knocking on unpainted (wood)]. As the name of the charm suggests, the charm only works if one knocks on unpainted wood.

In Portugal, the version, which has a similar meaning to the others all around the world, is called "bater na madeira", and when someone does this, "lagarto, lagarto, lagarto" (lizard) is uttered.

In Switzerland, the Swiss German version is "Holz alange" (touch wood) – but while saying it, knocking on or tapping wood is still required. A simple touch is not enough.

In Sweden, the phrase "ta i trä" (touch wood) is commonly used as a part of the phrase "peppar peppar, ta i trä" (pepper pepper, touch wood), the double "pepper" also being used to ward off a temptation of fate. It's often shortened to just saying "peppar peppar" while knocking on wood.

In Turkey, "tahtaya vur" (knock on wood) is used. Usually, someone else will answer: "Şeytan kulağına kurşun" (May somebody melt some lead into Satan's ear).

In India, it's said as "Nazar Na Lage" (let there be no evil eye), and in Hindi, the meaning is similar. It is used when something seems too good, like saying "touch wood"; it's said as "Kannu pada Pooguthu" (let there be no evil eye), in Tamil.

In United States, It's predated by a much more popular and more meaningful saying "Stomp on Wood" which was used in the early 1800s. It was said to originate from early settlers when they would stomp the floor in their log cabins to avoid bad luck. The saying "Knocking on Wood" was recorded only after the early 1900s.

Wedding Cake Dress

"Here's a way to have your wedding cake and wear it, too: a one-of-a-kind bridal gown with a full skirt made of - you guessed it - flour, sugar and loads of frosting.

"The wedding cake dress was created by Lukka Sigurdardottir and documented on the blog Gather and Nest in photos that show a woman wearing the whimsical creation as another person cuts out a delicate slice to reveal a rainbow-colored filling."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Una Notta In Bianco

How do you lose sleep in Italian? I just learned (from a book I'm reading called The Family That Couldn't Sleep about an Italian family with a rare neurological disorder) that suffering through a sleepless night in Italy is referred to as "passer una notta in biano," literally "spending a white night." The origin of this phrase has something to do with summer solstice and polar latitudes and midnight sun. I don't know, I'm not a scientist. The French have a similar expression, "faire une nuit blanche."

Wikipedia informs me that all-night arts festivals (which borrow their names from this expression) are popular in Europe. In America, we don't really support the arts per se, but we do have our own proud tradition of drunken co-eds flocking to our beaches every year during the popular "Spring Break" celebrations, occasionally documented by independent filmmaker Joe Francis (currently serving time in prison for getting a little too "enthusiastic" in the making of his art films). What? Don't you like art?:

"Nuit Blanche (literally White Night or All-Nighter in French) is an annual all-night arts festival. Its exact beginning is disputed between Paris, St Petersburg, and Berlin, but, taking elements from all of these, the idea of a night-time festival of the arts has spread around the world since 1997, taking hold from Montreal to Madrid and Lima to Leeds. A Nuit Blanche will typically have museums, private and public art galleries, and other cultural institutions open and free of charge, with the centre of the city itself being turned into a de facto art gallery, providing space for art installations, performances (music, film, dance, performance art), themed social gatherings, and other activities.

"Some cities use the French phrase Nuit blanche (or Nuits blanches, if the event is spread over more than one night). Some use the same words in their language: White Nights, La Notte Bianca (Italian), La Noche en Blanco (Spanish), Noaptea alba (Romanian), Nata e Bardhe (Albanian), Baltā Nakts in Latvian. Others invent their own names, such as Lejl Imdawwal ("Lit Night") in Maltese, Virada Cultural in São Paulo, Taiteiden yö ("Night of the arts") in Finland, and Kulturnatten ("Night of Culture") in Copenhagen.

"The current all-night festivals have their roots in several cities. St Petersburg, for two hundred years capital of the Russian Empire and still a major European cultural centre, is one of the world's most northerly cities, and as such has long summer days broken only by a brief period of twilight from mid-May to mid-July, the celebrated phenomenon known as the white nights. This led to the annual celebrations known as the White Nights Festival, which features months of pop culture (e.g. the Rolling Stones in the open air at Palace Square) and high culture events ("Stars of the White Nights Festival" at the Mariinsky Theatre), street carnivals, and the Scarlet Sails celebration, known for its fireworks. So "white nights" in the Russian context is both a natural phenomenon of the summer, and a long-standing cultural festival that spreads over weeks or months in midsummer.

"Another similar festival that contributed to the White Nights came out of Germany. The first Long Night of Museums took place in the newly re-united Berlin in 1997 with a dozen participating institutions and exhibitions; the number has risen to 125, with over 150,000 people taking part in the January 2005 night. The idea has spread to other cities: in addition to the Langen Nacht der Museen in Berlin, there is a museums-n8 event in Amsterdam. The third strand that has contributed to the international Nuit Blanche concept is the event of that name launched by the Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë in 2002.

"Wherever the idea originated from, and whatever names are used, the White Nights have expanded dramatically, with events in over 120 cities."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr.

I can't believe I forgot to give a shout-out to Martin Luther King yesterday. Whenever I read his writing, I am amazed by how fresh, relevant, and radical it still is. I think he's one of the smartest people who ever lived, and he is one of my personal heroes (yeah, I know that that is not really original). Happy birthday.

A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan.

I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons--who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man.

Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.

When we ask Negroes to abide by the law, let us also declare that the white man does not abide by law in the ghettos. Day in and day out he violates welfare laws to deprive the poor of their meager allotments; he flagrantly violates building codes and regulations; his police make a mockery of law; he violates laws on equal employment and education and the provisions of civilservices. The slums are the handiwork of a vicious system of the white society; Negroes live in them, but they do not make them, any more than a prisoner makes a prison.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

Beebs and Deebs

Drawing by Guy

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Daves I Know

Feline Beebo reader Francine helpfully reminded me of this awesome Dave-related song from Kids In the Hall. Daves, huh?

Thanks, tiny Miss Fran! May your chin scratches be many, and your hairballs be few.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Charlton Heston "Books On Tape"

Charlton Heston (as portrayed by Phil Hartman) records the audio version of Madonna's book Sex.

Oh, Phil. The world misses you! Come to think of it, we miss you too, Charlton.

Madonna, unfortunately, is still with us.

Pants On the Ground

I don't watch American Idol, but 62-year-old "General" Larry Platt's audition has been making the Internet rounds, and I have a weakness for truly bad performers. Anyone who auditions for that show with an original song entitled Pants On the Ground is okay in my book.

Dave's Killer Bread

If you live in the Northwest, you may recently have noticed a new product in the bread aisle. Initially, I noticed "Dave's Killer Bread" primarily because I find the name Dave inherently funny, and there's also a doofy portrait of him on the label.

Still, in the frenzy of post-work grocery shopping, I didn't really give Dave much of a second thought, until one day my friend John conversationally mentioned, "Have you tried Dave's Bread? It's really good!"

He went on to describe Dave's backstory, about how Dave is an ex-con who has changed his life for the better, partly through his new vocation of baking bread.

I could ignore Dave no longer. How many loaves of bread have this much personality??

So, the next time I was at QFC, I went straight for Dave's Killer Bread. I excitedly read Dave's "origin story" to Guy, who agreed that it was cool.

Meanwhile, I noticed a tall long-haired beefy guy shopping a few steps away from us, and in my weird delusional mind, I said to myself, "Hey, that's Dave." I made eye contact with him and we exchanged a polite smile; so now I was having a little fantasy that Dave was overhearing our conversation and thinking, "Hey, they like my bread! Right on, man!"

Clearly, I'm insane. But the funny part is that when I told this to Guy later, he said he'd been thinking the same exact thing. Except he's even crazier than me, because right after discussing the bread, I was choosing a peanut butter, and Guy suggested Adam's, and I said, "No, I'm sick of Adam's." Guy said that, at that moment, he had a paranoid fear that "Dave" was actually "Adam" and he was now mad at me for insulting his peanut butter. He imagined him saying, "Thanks a lot, lady!" before storming off.

In conclusion: I am crazy, but Guy is crazier. Oh, and also--John was right! It is really good bread!

Note: I had to do a close-up of the cute graphic below. It looks like a slice of bread playing cards with...some grains?? Well, Dave was a drug addict for many years. I guess we have to cut him some slack.

Read more about Dave at:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teddy Hilton

Even if you don't like Perez Hilton, you have to like his dog. That little guy is ridiculous:

Rats Playing Basketball

Rat enthusiast Zoe brought this exciting phenomenon to my attention. This opens up an exciting new world of sports for rats. I forsee rat golf, rat tennis, rat hockey--the possibilities are endless:

For a dozen rats in Alliston Reid's behavior analysis psychology class at Wofford College, it was all about the love of the game. And treats, of course.

While Benjamin Johnson Arena may have been rockin' Monday night for the men's basketball conference home opener against Appalachian State, a packed McMillan Theater next door had its own electricity earlier in the day with the thoroughly unique "Hoop-Rat Classic."

Throughout this semester, Reid's students in the freshman introductory course have been working in teams of two to individually train each of the 12 rats to compete one-on-one in a 2-by-1-foot makeshift hoops court created to scale by Reid.

To score, the rats pick up a small ceramic ball with their paws or -- in the case of the advanced ones -- their teeth, and dunk it through a basket. The incentive is a tasty food pellet; the psychological basis is classic positive reinforcement.

"The reason (for doing this) is, first, it's fun for the students, and second, the series of behaviors is the exact same techniques you would use to train children as parents, or if you're a coach training athletes," said Reid, who added the rats also enjoyed and looked forward to playing. "The behavioral principles for learning are exactly the same."

After weeding out five of the weaker "players" last week, the top seven advanced to Monday's single-elimination tournament, where some displayed Michael Jordan-esque efficiency.

"We were pretty amazed by it," said student Tarah Taylor, from Orange County, Calif. "We didn't think the rats would perform as well as they did. It's been a fun experience for us and we learned a lot."

This was the second time Reid has conducted the experiment. The first was 2002, and back then, it garnered national media attention. Reid tried it again this spring with his new behavior analysis course, but the rats weren't quite ready for prime time.

"(It's a) chain of many, many, many different behaviors that the rat has to learn," Reid said, "and almost none of them are natural for a rat."

Reid said this semester he provided more structure to his students to help them take the rats through the 50 different steps required to turn them into furry Kobe Bryants. The students worked seven days a week with the rats, and even became emotionally attached to them.

The winner was Pandora, a slender albino trained by Kaitlyn Rebollar and Glenn Hope, who plans to purchase an elaborate, seven-story rat cage from the Internet and adopt the girl after next semester. According to Rebollar, the rat never once bit her through all the coaching.

"I've really enjoyed this," she said as Pandora scurried along her outstretched arm. "I consider her a personal pet and friend from spending so much time training her."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Loved You In "Breaking Away"

I wasn't really aware of the existence of sea slugs until I did that post about the green sea slug yesterday.

Also, I didn't know how good-looking they are, compared to their land-based brothers. They are the Dennis Quaids, Jeff Bridges, and Alec Baldwins of the slug world.

Dannii's Hair

Dannii Minogue--sister of Kylie--has the best hair ever. Why don't more celebrities get this haircut? It's so cute!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Green Sea Slug

State employees, huh?:

A green sea slug appears to be part animal, part plant. It's the first critter discovered to produce the plant pigment chlorophyll.

The sneaky slugs seem to have stolen the genes that enable this skill from algae that they've eaten. With their contraband genes, the slugs can carry out photosynthesis - the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy.

"They can make their energy-containing molecules without having to eat anything," said Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Pierce has been studying the unique creatures, officially called Elysia chlorotica, for about 20 years. He presented his most recent findings Jan. 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Seattle. The finding was first reported by Science News.

"This is the first time that multicellar animals have been able to produce chlorophyll," Pierce told LiveScience.

The sea slugs live in salt marshes in New England and Canada. In addition to burglarizing the genes needed to make the green pigment chlorophyll, the slugs also steal tiny cell parts called chloroplasts, which they use to conduct photosynthesis. The chloroplasts use the chlorophyl to convert sunlight into energy, just as plants do, eliminating the need to eat food to gain energy.
"We collect them and we keep them in aquaria for months," Pierce said. "As long as we shine a light on them for 12 hours a day, they can survive [without food]."

The researchers used a radioactive tracer to be sure that the slugs are actually producing the chlorophyll themselves, as opposed to just stealing the ready-made pigment from algae. In fact, the slugs incorporate the genetic material so well, they pass it on to further generations of slugs.
The babies of thieving slugs retain the ability to produce their own chlorophyll, though they can't carry out photosynthesis until they've eaten enough algae to steal the necessary chloroplasts, which they can't yet produce on their own.

The slugs' accomplishment is quite a feat, and scientists aren't yet sure how the animals actually appropriate the genes they need.

"It certainly is possible that DNA from one species can get into another species, as these slugs have clearly shown," Pierce said. "But the mechanisms are still unknown."

Iguana Wish You a Nice Day

Monday, January 11, 2010


Before Snuggie, before Slittie, there was...Sockee.

Available nowhere.

Concept and graphic by Guy.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Well, Guy dragged me to Up In the Air over the weekend, and I'm so glad he did. It was the best movie I've seen in a long, long, long time. I enjoyed every single minute of it, starting with the opening credits which were both visually and musically interesting.

This is the song that opened the movie. It's a cover of This Land Is Your Land by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I think there's no point in covering a song unless you add something unique to it. This cover definitely accomplishes that.

Extreme Sqwerl Close-Up

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dirty Martini Compliments of Fishstick

I bought a cute little bottle of Absolut vodka the other day and made myself a dirty vodka martini. I loved it! (This is the photograph I took of it.)

Guy doesn't respect vodka-based drinks, but I liked the lack of gin taste in my martini.

Even though I know Gwyneth's dirty martini recipe wasn't exactly original, I still have to give credit where credit is due. She gave me the idea to try it. So, here's to you, Fishstick!

Do you have any favorite toasts? This is mine:

Here's to those who wish us well,
All the rest can go to hell!