Saturday, November 29, 2008

Boob Job Piggy Bank Makes a Great Gift Idea. . . If You're an Idiot

A recent post in Contexts magazine reveals one of the signs of the Apocalypse: A boob job money jar you can purchase on a website. For girls.

That's right. You can teach your young daughters fiscal responsibility and artificial self-esteem by getting them this money jar.

Or if you're not comfortable with this as a gift for your daughter, get it for one of your female coworkers. Have a good chuckle at the look on her face when she opens her gift. Enjoy a good laugh just before she slaps your face. Have a hearty guffaw as you're fired and hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit.

If you're not convinced the site is aimed toward girls -- and not a gag gift website -- check out this image from the front page.

("Hot Science Teacher?!" Yeah, right.)

Frankly, this is a horrible gift for a young girl, whether it's given in irony or she chose it. Some of the comments on the Contexts page said this was more of an ironic/gag gift, rather than a serious one. Even if this won the Most Ironic Gift for 2008, what kind of creepy parent gets this for their kid?

Bottom line is this: if you get this for a female co-worker or your daughter, you get what you deserve: lawsuits or children with emotional issues.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Monty Python Channel Now on YouTube

Monty Python fans rejoice! The creators of the Dead Parrot sketch, the Lunberjack sketch, and the Cheese Shop Sketch now have their very own channel on YouTube.

No longer will you have to watch entire episodes on DVD just to get to the best bits. No more sitting through How to Defend Yourself From Fresh Fruit just to see Lemming of the BDA. No more "The Larch" just to find Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge. And definitely no more searching for Python sketches online, and then scrolling through countless sucky spoofs, parodies, and send-ups of your favorite sketches trying to find that one gem.

Instead, just go to, search for Monty Python, and you'll be taken immediately to their channel where you can enjoy Argument Clinic to your hearts content.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

How the Lawyers Stole Christmas

How the Lawyers Stole Christmas

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

The city of Louisville is really quite lucky
They are the best town in all of Kentucky.
They have city pride, and a great big horse race
And a warm friendly feeling, like a hearty embrace.
Their mayor had a plan that he liked a lot
But some lawyers out west, oh no, they did NOT!

They tried to wreck Louisville's whole Christmas season
You don’t need to ask why, we can all guess the reason.
They may just be lawyers trying to cause an upheaval
Or maybe they were just this side of evil.
But Louisville’s mayor gave the best reason of all
"It appears (their) hearts are two sizes too small."

Their holiday fest had a kids' story theme
A tasteful affair, nothing extreme.
The city was planning its holiday celebration
To give the Louisvillians a sense of elation.
"Light Up Louisville" is the annual theme
They would light all the lights to make the place gleam.

They wanted more than the same Christmas tree
A Grinch-themed display they wanted, you see.
They wanted to use all the characters too
Like the dog-turned-reindeer and Cindy Lou Who.
They wanted a display they'd call LouWhoVille,
But a cease-and-desist letter gave them a chill.

From the west coast law firm of DLA Piper
A letter shot forth like a terrorist sniper.
From a woman attorney named Barbara J. Orr
The lawyer to whom was given this chore.
It came without wrapping or major fanfare.
But the words on the page gave the mayor a scare.

"You must stop this poor plan," warned Barbara J's letter
"Stopping this madness is what you had better."
The lawyers said the city did not have permission
To use Dr. Seuss' holiday composition.
"We own the rights, and you cannot use them
We’re simply afraid that you might abuse them."

This story is from the Associated Press
They are the ones who reported this mess.

They said the Visitors Bureau of Louisville
Was banned from using the name LouWhoVille.
It made the mayor’s office rather upset
To be faced with a legal copyright threat.

The letter was dated November Thirteen
The one that was sent by the Copyright Queen.
"You have not been licensed to use Seuss’ works"
Now the press thinks the lawyers are a big bunch of jerks.
But Louisville rebounded, regrouped and moved on
Their "Light Up Louisville" fest was not done.

The office of the mayor said they had complied,
And they wouldn't let lawyers hamper their pride.
They came up with plans that would work in a pinch
They got rid of the theme and a real costumed Grinch.
They're still lighting their lights, they’re still singing their songs.
They're ringing their bells, their horns and their gongs.

They'll do it without Grinches, they'll do it without Whos
They'll do it without roast beasts or sweet Cindy Lous.
The Lou-villians will have their own Christmas cheer
The lawyers won't stop it from coming this year.
I hoped the lawyers would have good cheer to impart
(You can make your own jokes about their lack of a heart.)

Just like the Whos who showed true Christmas spirit
Louisville's pride just won’t let them quit.
They won't let Barbara J dash all their plans
They'll have a good time, every woman and man.
The lawyers all said, "you can’t mess with our biz"
But now everyone knows who the real Grinch is.

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A Real Live RickRoll at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

There was a real live RickRoll with a real live Rick Astley during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

According to Wikipedia, the Internet's infallible authority on everything, a Rickroll is a practical joke where a person finds a link to something interesting and cool, like the Laughing Stalk blog, but the link actually goes to a Rick Astley video, usually the Never Gonna Give You Up video.

Special thanks to Wil Wheaton for the heads up. And for those who laugh at me for using Blogger, Wil uses Typepad. So nyah! (I don't actually know if that's better or worse for me.)

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Ann Coulter's Jaw Wired Shut: Best. Miracle. Ever

To all my agnostic and atheistic friends, especially the liberal ones:

You can't tell me there's not a God anymore.
Ann Coulter's jaw has been wired shut.

Coulter, the pretty-yet-evil right-wing crazy woman, who believes that all Democrats are going to Hell simply because they're Democrats, will not be allowed to say anything for weeks. Needless to say, the blogosphere is alight with schadenfreudic delight at Coulter's silencing.

Okay, okay, she broke her jaw falling down some stairs. And I feel bad that she hurt herself. I just don't feel bad that as part of her recovery process, she won't be allowed to spew her hatred and venom on the airwaves for several weeks.

Best. Miracle. Ever.

(Thanks to my friend Douglas Karr for the heads up.)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

13-Year-Old Boy Arrested for Farting

“Hey kid, what’d they arrest you for?”

“I farted during computer class.”

A 13-year-old Stuart, Florida boy was arrested -- arrested! -- for farting during computer class. According to a story in the Stuart (Florida) News, the unnamed boy had been continually disrupting class by breaking wind and shutting of his classmates computers.

The last person to be arrested for farting was Antonio Cruz of West By God Virginia, who farted at a Charleston police officer and was then charged with battery. (But not ass-ault. Apparently Charleston police officer’s don’t have a sense of humor.)

According to a report from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office on November 4, a school resource officer (which apparently is not a librarian) arrested the boy after he confessed. The boy was charged with disruption of school function. He was then released to his mother’s custody.

The resource officer, Warren Pettaway, wrote in his report that he asked the boy if he deliberately farted in his teacher’s general direction.

The unnamed lad then said Pettaway's father was a hamster and his mother smelt of elderberries.

"He subsequently informed me it was factual, and I informed him as a result of his behavior he was being charged with Disruption of a School Function," said Pettaway’s report, using big words and looking all smart. (Translation: “The teacher smelt it, the boy dealt it. So I arrested him.”)

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Governor Sarah Palin Interviewed While Turkeys Killed in Background

I used to work in the poultry production industry for about 10 years. We sold supplies and equipment to poultry farmers around the world, although we never dealt with the actual birds. So I understand what goes on in the animal production world. And that is, animals are grown, animals are killed, animals are eaten.

I think animals need to be treated with respect and honor, since they're giving our lives so we can live.

Still, it's a little awkward when you're Sarah Palin, sitting Governor and former VP candidate whose still in the news, and you pardon a turkey for Thanksgiving. But then you give an interview where all the unlucky candidates are being killed. In the background.

To be fair to the guy in the background, this is how turkeys are often killed, at least on the farm. He's not doing anything wrong or cruel (although I recognize that my vegan friends will vehemently disagree with me).

But still, Governor Palin is either still gaffe-ing it up after the campaign, or she's trying out for a spot on Saturday Night Live. She either needs to fire her press secretary, or at least hire one. A trained professional would have spotted the incongruity of the event and the background.

Be sure to watch the whole interview. Governor Palin's statement between 2:00 and 2:16 are priceless. You just can't make this stuff up.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm one of Indianapolis' Top 50 Bloggers!!!

According to Kyle Lacy, I'm one of Indianapolis' Top 50 Bloggers.

I know the list isn't actually ranked, but I'm clinging to that #2 spot and rubbing Patric Welch's face in it. Take THAT, Mr. My Blog is Read by Thousands of People Because I Post Good Content Every Day!!!

A few blogs that I'm proud to be associated with:

Douglas Karr - Technology and everything web - Anytime someone mentions his name and mine in the same sentence, I'm so proud. At least as long as that sentence isn't "Erik Deckers can't hold a blogging candle to Doug Karr."

Chris Baggott - Blogging and SEO - See Doug Karr above.

Joe Wikert - Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog - Mention the Amazon Kindle Reader, and Joe Wikert's name follows soon thereafter.

Ruth Holladay - All The News Not Fit to Print - Former Indy Star columnist has more bite than she used to after she left the Star. If you're tired of the national content posing as local in the Star, read Ruth instead. Once Matthew Tully and Bob Kravitz get fired leave the Star, there won't be any more reason to read it.

Emily Sutherland - Everything Gaither. . . and some personal stuff" - Hey, I know her! I even referenced her in a blogging discussion panel a few weeks ago! She even hat tipped me in her own personal blog, and I promised her a response. So: Hi Emily!

Hope Baugh - Everything Theatre - I'd love to get a job blogging restaurant reviews. If I can't get that, I would love Hope's job. She writes about the theat-ah scene in Central Indiana.

As I look over the list, I can see I'm in very stellar company. And it's an honor to make the list, especially at #2. Even if it is a random list. (I'll just leave that part out in case I ever get to brag about this at my high school reunion.)

You can read the entire list 52 bloggers at Kyle Lacy's blog.

Update: Lorraine Ball listed me in one of her favorite 50 blogs too. I'm number 41, and I beat Guy Kawasaki, who's at #46. So take THAT, Mr. Everyone Hangs On My Every Word Because I'm So Smart! Lorraine Ball likes me better. Nyah!

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This Movie Will Make You Smile -- "Validation"

Start your week off right, do yourself a favor, and watch Validation. It's well worth the 16 minutes. It even made me a little verklempt, especially near the end.

This movie will make you smile, because it's about you: someone who is great, special, and wonderful.

I love Hugh Newman's outlook on life and easy ability to make everyone feel good about themselves. I wish I was more like Hugh.

Have a wonderful day!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nicolaus Copernicus' Remains Finally Discovered

Polish archaeologists have identified the remains of 16th-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, whose theories identified the Sun, and not the Earth, as the center of the universe.

In his book, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, Copernicus said there is no one center of all the planets, and that they all revolve around the sun as their mid-point, and therefore the sun is the center of the universe. This is known as the heliocentric theory, as opposed to earth-centric, which Ptolemy believed, and the Catholic Church forced Galileo into espousing.

The discovery of Copernicus’ body finally ends centuries of searching for his final resting place.

Surprisingly, his remains were found at the outskirts of the cemetery, and not in the center, as previously believed.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mayor John Moloney of Mount Isa is Australia's Top Sexist for 2008

Congratulations Mayor John Moloney of Mount Isa, Australia for winning the top award for the most sexist public comment of 2008.

Moloney won the award for inviting ugly women to move to his little mining town, saying they could easily find a man, since there was less competition.

Moloney offered his controversial proposition in August 2008 as a way to help solve the shortage of women in his outback town. His comments offended men and women of Mount Isa, who said it was an insult to their town.

According to an Agence France Presse story, the winner of the Ernie award is chosen by the volume of boos and jeers given to each nominee during the annual women-only Ernie Awards in the New South Wales parliament.

The purpose of the Ernies is to shame men for “outrageous sexism.”

Sexism (n.) - Discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of the opposite sex.

Irony (n.) - A group of Australian women who gather at a women-only event solely to shame and embarrass men for “outrageous sexism.”

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Friday, November 21, 2008

UPDATE to Attleboro, Mass sends 1-cent bill to 74-year-old blind woman

In a story I posted earlier today, Eileen Wilbur, a 74-year-old blind woman, received a bill for one cent from the city of Attleboro, Massachusetts, claiming an overdue water payment. The city's utility threatened to file a lien against Eileen's house if they did not receive remittance for this staggering debt.

After this story received national attention, people from all over the country mailed in the necessary one cent to pay Eileen's bill.

According to a story in the Associated Press, Mayor Kevin Dumas (that's doo-moss, not the other thing you were thinking) says the whole situation was blown out of proportion.

Notably, Mayor Dumas does not say who blew it out of proportion. But if the news coverage was any indication, I say it would start with the agency that sent a bill on a piece of paper that cost more than the amount Eileen owed.

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Grinch of the Week: Attleboro, Mass sends 1-cent bill to 74-year-old blind woman

Boo, Attleboro, Massachusetts! Boooooo!!!!!

City officials sent 74-year-old Eileen Wilbur a bill for one cent and the threat of a lien against her house and a $48 overdue fee if she didn't cough up the charge from an overdue water bill.

Eileen, who is blind, has apparently been on the lam from the city for this hefty bill since as long ago as July 2007. She pointed out to the Attleboro Sun Chronicle that the stamp for the bill cost $.42.

Now I'm no accountant, but even I know that $.01 minus $.42 equals negative $.41. That's just not good business.

City Collector Debora Marcoccio said all collection letters are automatically printed out, and are never reviewed by staff before they're mailed.

"My question is, how come it wasn't paid when the (original) bills went out?" she told the Sun Chronicle.

Ooh, that's a good point. That method of blaming the victim -- especially a 74-year-old blind widow -- is always a good one, and I am now firmly on the side of the heartless city officials.

Give me a break! Eileen is being blamed for not paying a one penny bill by a group of people who, by their own admission
  1. Don't review bills before they're sent out;
  2. Want to blame a blind woman because she didn't pay one cent;
  3. Thus forcing them to spend a few bucks printing, inserting, and mailing her bill to her, then spending a few more to open, process, and track her check.
All of which will net the city of Attleboro minus eleventy-stupid dollars.

Attleboro, if you want to save yourself some money, time, and PR headaches like this one, find a quick and easy way to review bills before they're sent out. A trained monkey could review everything in Excel and drop out everything below a quarter with a simple macro. Find the monkey, hire him, and pay him whatever he wants.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Laughing Stalk annual tradition - The retelling of ‘Twas the Month Before Christmas

‘Twas the Month Before Christmas

It’s just not the holidays unless Erik’s whining about the commercialization of Christmas. So we’re continuing the Laughing Stalk tradition, and reprinting the reader favorite “Month Before Christmas.”

'Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the town
Halloween decorations were just coming down.

I went to the mall for a weekend reprieve
And saw such a sight that I could not believe.

The place had gone crazy, the mall was just packed.
With new clothes and new toys and cheap plastic sacks
The store owners were praying and pulling their hair
Desperately hoping we'd spend money there.

When in one of the stores there arose such a clatter
I thought to myself "Now what's the matter?"
Away toward the noise the crowd flew like a flash
And knocked an old woman right on her caboose.

The cheesy green lights and the canned Christmas music
Made me realize no word rhymes with "music"
What I saw next made me scream and turn pale
A red and green sign said "We're having a sale!"

With a perky sales clerk, so cheerful and quick
I knew in a moment I was going to be sick!
She herded us in like sheep to the slaughter,
"Come in and buy things for your sons and your daughters!"

"We take Visa and Mastercard and Discover!" she chimed.
"American Express, credit cards of all kind!
From the back of the store, all the way to the front
Everything is on sale, there is no need to hunt!"

With the power and fury of an eight-point earthquake
The people were drawn in like a fat guy to cake
And into the store, the crowd they just flew
But what they were after, I hadn't a clue.

And then with a shudder, I heard behind me.
The ear-piercing scream of a child, age three
He gave a shrill shriek that would curl your hair
He yelled at his parents, "Hey let's go in there!"

"I see lots of games and toys," yelled the runt
"Why can't we go in there and get what I want?!"
I looked at his parents, all haggard and worn.
Their faces were bruised, their clothes, they were torn.

Their eyes, how they drooped. Their coats were all muddy.
She was missing her shoes, his nose, it was bloody.
He clung to his wallet, she clutched at her purse.
They tried not to explode as they held back a curse.

"You've got enough stuff already," the two parents said.
But the child just screamed and cried and turned red.
"What's the matter?" I asked, though I wished I had not.
They said "You can guess at the problem we've got."

"We're shopping for Christmas, for family and friends,
But it seems like this madness goes on without end."
"We've been here since morning, looking for sales.
But we've spent too much money. We feel like we've failed."

"Credit cards, debit cards, checkbooks and cash,
It's only November, and our budget has crashed."
Then the child came running and shouting with glee
"Hey, I found something else! You must come with me."

And I heard them exclaim, as they left with a grunt,
"Merry Christmas to you, though it's not 'til next month!"

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Update to Ye Gods! Be God's article - BMV Overturns Ban on License Plate

Update to Ye Gods! BE GOD'S License Plate Banned in Indiana

In an article in this morning's paper, the BMV loosened their restrictions on Liz Ferris' denial of the BE GODS plate.

Staring down the twin barrels of a First Amendment lawsuit, BMV Commissioner Ron Stiver overturned a previous ruling that denied Ferris a license plate she had held since the late 1990s.

Ferris had had the same plate for eight or nine years when she missed the deadline to renew last fall. "No problem," she thought. "I'll just renew in March." She submitted the $48 fee with her application, only to be denied her plate under a new rule that had gone into effect in December 2007.

So she sued the BMV for violating her First Amendment rights to freedom of expression and religion. Stiver wisely gave in, because while it's a small loss today, they still get to keep their "no religious expressions" rule intact.

"Simply stated," Stiver said in a written statement, "if the BMV approves such pro-deity plates as 'GOD CAN,' the agency has no grounds to reject such plates as 'GOD CANT,' 'GODLESS,' or other more extreme anti-deity plates that have been requested and that most Hoosiers would find offensive."

All too true. But that's what the First Amendment protects in this country. Whether we like it or not, the First Amendment protects the things People don't like to hear so they're allowed to say things Power doesn't like to hear.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ye Gods! BE GOD'S License Plate Banned in Indiana

In Indiana, it seems that you can have a license plate that says "In God We Trust," you just can't own a personalized license plate that says BE GODS.

In a story in today's Indianapolis Star, Liz Ferris of Richmond is suing the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) because they won't let her get a personalized license plate BE GODS, even though it's one she's had since the late 1990s.

Keep in mind, this is the very same BMV that was recently embroiled in a legal controversy over the In God We Trust plates.The Indiana Court of Appeals recently upheld the plate's constitutionality, which means it's perfectly okay for the state government to issue license plates that espouse a single religious view.

This is the very same BMV that has issued 2 million of the In God We Trust plates.

This is the very same BMV that has a rule that forbids any reference to religion or a deity.

"If you permit one," Dennis Rosebrough, BMV spokesman, said, "you have to permit all. We believe the better judgment is to not have any references to deity." (Full disclosure: I used to be a spokesman for the Indiana State Department of Health, and have met Dennis a few times. He's a nice guy, so don't hassle him for this.)

Ferris says her "Be God's" message is an infringement on her First Amendment rights -- the part that says Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof... -- so she is suing the BMV with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund of Scottsdale, Arizona.

According to Ferris' suit, nearly 1 in 3 cars on Indiana's roads bear's the In God We Trust plate.

While I'm generally ambivalent about expressions of religion and politics
(I have my own views, and other people can have theirs), I support Ferris' suit and her desires to wear her views on her car. We don't stop people from having tattoos on their face, why stop someone from having a piece of plastic on their car?

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sport Stacking: Pretty Cool, but it's not a Sport

Have you seen the videos of people stacking and unstacking cups?

I don't know that I would call it a "sport" per se, but it is pretty cool to watch.

Pick an activity, any activity, and add speed or style or difficulty to it, and you can make it a competitive event. (However, that does not make it a sport.)

There are world air guitar championships, world texting championships, and even hitting a ball with a stick and then walking after it. None of them are sports though!

I also cast doubt on whether you can call darts, bowling, and auto racing a sport. They are activities, games, and even competitions. To me, a sport is something that makes you sweat when you do it (and with all due respect to my NASCAR-loving friends, wearing a flameproof suit in 90 degree weather doesn't count). But that's another matter entirely, and not one to be taken personally, like a friend from Ireland who got really upset when I told him darts wasn't a sport.

But sport or not, sport stacking looks really cool. You have to stack cups in certain orders and formations, as quickly as possible. Personally, I'm waiting for the Nintendo Wii version.

But New Zealand schools are going a little nuts for sport stacking. According to a story in New Zealand's Stuff newspaper, kids at the Whakarongo School are using sport stacking to improve their hand-eye coordination, getting a little exercise, trying to break a Guinness World Record, and even impressing the girls in class. There is even a team of kids who are practicing to go to the World Cup Stacking Championships in Denver in 2009.

Good luck, Stack-arongo!

Addendum: After reading MzHartz's and Doug Karr's comments below, I have to reassess my statement about car racing not being a sport. I didn't actually realize there was that much physical demand on race car drivers. Plus there's the whole risk of death thing. So, let me apologize to all the NASCAR and open-wheel racing fans out there. Your sport is truly a sport.

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It's Official: 'Meh' is Now in the Dictionary

When I was growing up, I always hated those kids who, when you told them, "'ain't' isn't a word," would holler "is too! It's in the dictionary." They said it with that really snotty, gloating attitude, like their little dictionary victory somehow made them smarter than everyone else.

"'Ain't' isn't a word smart people say," I said to one kid. He threatened to beat me up, but I just said, "Meh."

At least I would have if I had known it was a word.

Because now, thanks to the Collins English Dictionary, "meh," which means indifference or lack of enthusiasm, is now In The Dictionary.

The addition was made as part of Collins' campaign to have readers submit words to the dictionary to be included in the 30th anniversary edition.

"This is a new interjection from the US that seems to have inveigled its way into common speech over here," Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries, told Agence France-Presse.

The word was originally heard on an episode of The Simpsons. Other submissions included words like jargonaut (a lover of jargon) and frenemy (enemy disguised as a friend).

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Ancient Greeks Steal Dead Parrot Sketch

Apparently, the Ancient Greeks were wild about sketch comedy, if a new joke book is any indication. According to a recent Reuters story, a joke book from the 4th century AD, Philogelos: The Laugh Addict, those wacky Greeks had their own Dead Slave sketch, predating the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch by more than a few centuries.

Compare the two:

Monty Python
Mr. Praline: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this parrot what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.

Owner: Oh yes, the, uh, the Norwegian Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Mr. Praline: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'E's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

“A man goes up to a student dunce and says, ‘The slave you sold me died.’"

"By the gods," answers the slave's seller, "when he was with me, he never did any such thing!"

Now, there's no pining for the fjords, or pining for the Pindus, as it were, but it's still fairly funny.

According to Jim Bowen, a British comedian who performs many of the jokes for a modern-day audience, Philogelos is filled with fart jokes, sex jokes, and ugly wives. The "Student Dunce" is also a foible for many of the jokes, probably a precursor to today's blond jokes.

You can find video footage of Bowen performing the jokes in a multi-media ebook at

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Top Ten Most Annoying Phrases in the World

The Top Ten Most Annoying Phrases in the World

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

"Those people at Oxford University sure are smart," said Karl, my friend, literary drinking buddy, and part-time curmudgeon. "Smart and irritating."

What are you talking about? I asked. We were sitting in Van der Weiden's, our favorite Dutch pub. The place was decorated with wooden shoes, replica windmills, and orange soccer jerseys. And a picture of Prince Willem-Alexander, the Netherlands Crown Prince, picking his nose at one of the swimming events at the Beijing Olympics.

"This week they just came out with a list of the top ten most irritating phrases in the entire world," said Karl.

Just ten?

"Well, you've got to draw the line somewhere. At the end of the day, people just don't want to read a lot."

Seriously? I asked, taking a drink.

"Absolutely," said Karl. "I personally have seen most of them used in the last 24 hours."

So what makes them experts on irritating phrases? I asked.

Karl plonked his beer onto the table. "I thought you'd never ask, Kid." Karl calls me Kid, because I'm 20 years younger than he is. "Apparently they've got some sort of database that tracks new words and phrases. They were able to see which ones were used too often or even incorrectly."

So what's on the list? I asked, worried that I was starting something I couldn't stop. He pulled a hastily folded piece of paper out of his pocket, smoothed it out, and slid it across the bar to me. It was the list.
  1. At the end of the day
  2. Fairly unique
  3. I personally
  4. At this moment in time
  5. With all due respect
  6. Absolutely
  7. It's a nightmare
  8. Shouldn't of
  9. 24/7
  10. It's not rocket science
This looks like a call list for Marketing Bingo, I said. I hear business executives and marketing professionals spew this stuff all the time. But Oxford missed some of the best ones, like leverage or synergy.

"With all due respect, Kid, I don't think you know what you're talking about."

Oh yeah? And what makes you an expert on irritating phrases?

"Hell, it's not rocket science. Anyone can come up with annoying phrases. Just the other day, I was taking my niece to a movie, and she's all 'I want to see Role Models,' and I'm like 'No way, José, we're going to see Quantum of Solace.'"

And you were the one with the annoying phrases?

"No way, José. She was."

How is "I want to see Role Models" annoying?

"I don't know. I guess it's the way she said it. Kind of ironic, huh?"

I plonked my beer on the bar. No, Karl, it isn't. It isn't ironic at all. Neither is rain on your wedding day, a free ride when you already paid, or some good advice that you just didn't take. None of that is ironic either.

Karl stared into the dregs of his beer. I knew that look.

Oh jeez, you big baby, are you pouting?


Yes, you are. I ordered a couple more beers for us, and that seemed to brighten his mood a bit. I contemplated the picture of Prince Willem-Alexander going for Olympic gold, while Karl wiped the foam from his lip.

"I guess what I'm trying to say is that we don't see enough people trying to fix the English language, or point out the linguistic foibles that people have. It's a real nightmare, hearing some of the verbal garbage people spew. I hear it all day, every day, 24/7/"

I know what you mean. I hate it when people use those annoying phrases. It really grinds my gears.

"Me too, Kid. Me too. That's why, when someone like Oxford University tries to make our language better, I appreciate their efforts. You know, it's just nice to see someone do something that has a value add to our lives."

A what?

"A value add."

What's a value add?

"Something that adds value."

Then why didn't you just say adds value? Or makes better?

"Cut it out. I just got caught up in the moment."

Or improves?

"I knew I shouldn't of—"

Shouldn't have what?


Shouldn't have what?

"See, there you go correcting me again. You're just a kid, Kid. I'm way older than you, and I've been around the block a few times. I think I know a few things about proper English, and the way everyone talks. So, climb off your little high horse there, and join the rest of us here on Planet Earth. You got me?"

Absolutely. My bad.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank you, Veterans. Have a special Veterans Day

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Walt Whitman (1819–1892), U.S. poet.
Dirge for Two Veterans (l. 33–36). . .

Thursday, November 06, 2008

2008 Ballot Measure Breakdown

2008 Ballot Measure Breakdown

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2008

We all watched history unfold Tuesday night when we elected our first black President, just 44 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed. President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama was born three years before the crucial piece of legislation that eventually paved the way for him to become President of the United States. So for everyone who thought we would never see a black President in our lifetime, you can imagine Obama's excitement when he became one.

I kept my kids up to watch Obama’s acceptance speech so they could say they got to see it. And it's all I heard about the next day from the news and my family. As proud as I am of our new president, I'd like to hear a little more about the rest of the election. And since everyone in the media is talking about Barack “that’s PRESIDENT Hussein Obama to you, buddy,” I want to talk about the part of the election people really care about: state ballot measures.

Let’s start in Iowa, where idiots and insane people are not only allowed to hold public office, now they can even vote. In an attempt to drag Iowa political law into the 20th century, Rep. Pam Jochum has worked for ten years to change political language originally written in 1851 which barred anyone identified as an “idiot or insane person” from voting. The new language now refers to “a person adjudged mentally incompetent to vote.” The measure won by a margin of 4 -1, and idiots now have more rights than convicted felons.

“Certainly the amendment reflects that we, as a society, respect the dignity of people with disabilities,” said Jochum, whose 31-year-old daughter is mentally disabled, which made me feel guilty about that crack about idiots having more rights than felons.

While I'm glad to see Iowans realize that even 157 year old language can be hurtful – especially when you realize that that New Mexico failed to pass a similar measure in 2002 – I still have to wonder what it says about the 20 percent of Iowans who said no to the measure. And more importantly, why can't New Mexicans hop on board the dignity train? Who votes against something like that?

Iowa was originally going to vote on the measure in 2000, but Secretary of State Chet Culver failed to put it on the ballot. See, I told you they could hold public office.

But idiots aren't the only ones claiming victory. The stoners had quite a day themselves. That’s because voters in Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Fayetteville, Arkansas have voted to decriminalize marijuana, while Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Fayetteville voters agreed to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot. For example, in Massachusetts, if you’re caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, you won’t face criminal penalties. Instead you’ll forfeit it to police and pay a $100 civil fine.

Over in Michigan, 63 percent of voters said, “Dude, that would be AWESOME!” to Proposition 1, which allows specially-registered Michiganders to grow, buy, or use small amounts of pot, while the other 37 percent voted to harsh their buzz.

“It appears we came up short,” said Bill Schuette, chairman of Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Kids. “We were severely underfunded, and that’s always a challenge.”

“It’s like those guys had a never-ending supply of cash,” he added. “Cash and Twinkies.”

Claire Luczak said she voted against Prop 1 because she thought it would make things too easy for Michigan’s dopers.

“It would be too easy to get it. I know hundreds of people who smoke pot, and I think people would get it for recreational use and not legitimate reasons,” Luczak told the Associated Press, not realizing that if she knows hundreds of pot smokers, then it's already too easy to get.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, they apparently have enough respect for George W. Bush not to name a sewage plant after him. Either that, or they have more respect for their sewage. Either way, there will not be any sewage plants named after the outgoing President.

Earlier this year, liberal activists got enough signatures to start a ballot measure to rename a city-owned sewage plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant, apparently as some sort of metaphor for what they thought President Bush was full of..

But less snarky heads prevailed, because the measure was soundly trounced 69 to 31 percent. And to show the rest of the world they’re not all a bunch of Bacchanalian heathens, they also defeated a measure that would have decriminalized prostitution by banning police from arresting hookers and their clients.

How frightening is it that San Francisco is more level-headed than Fayetteville, Arkansas?

In the Minnesota Senate race, it turns out Al Franken isn’t good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, not enough people liked him. Franken (D) is just 236 votes behind incumbent Norm Coleman, and is asking for a recount. His deficit has dropped down from 725 on Wednesday morning, which makes the recount a smart idea.

“This is the closest Senate race in Minnesota history,” he told Minnesota Public Radio. “This is just part of the process to make sure that every vote is counted fairly.”

Meanwhile, Coleman is urging Franken to give up the recount to save Minnesota the nearly $90,000 in recount costs. Coleman even said that he would drop out if he were in Franken’s shoes, even if he were trailing by such a close margin.

Suuuuure you would. Dude, you must think we all live in Michigan.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

U.S. News and World Report to stop killing trees

Just heard from a Twitter follower who directed me to an online site that US News and World Report, the #3 news magazine in the country, is dropping their print edition and going strictly to online service. (No, the irony is not lost on me.)

A few weeks ago, I pondered this question a little bit when the Indianapolis Star announced they were switching to a national provider for their local content. Now it seems that US News & World Report has discovered that many of their readers are online, and so are going to quit littering airports around the country.

Is this a precursor to what is going to happen to the newspaper industry? How long will it be before the Indianapolis Star announces they're not in the print business anymore? Or before they start doing a limited print edition and put more of their content online?

More importantly, what will the advertisers say? Whether you like print publications or not, there is just something satisfying about knowing you have a magazine ad. It's permanent, a testament to your existence and marketing spending. An online ad just seems so temporary and fleeting. An online ad can be easily blocked (something I do with AdBlock Plus for Firefox). But you just can't block a print ad without a pair of scissors.

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Create Your Own Suite Talk with Peyton Manning commercials online

Create Your Own Suite Talk with Peyton Manning commercials online

You know those great Peyton Manning MasterCard commercials ( “Cut that meat! Cut that meat!”), and last year’s Priceless Peptalks with Peyton (“Just buy some bigger shirts.”). Now you can send a personalized pep talk from Peyton to your pals, with the new Suite Talk with Peyton Manning.

You just fill out a little online form with your name, your friend’s name, select a couple of options about why he or she is down in the dumps (a case of the 4th downs), how you want to help (get them out of this pickle), and what they need to fix it (a train ride), and you’ve created your own personalized video. From Peyton, to your friend.

They created the video by having Peyton put his hands in front of his face when he says your friend’s name or reason for his ennui. Then, they pre-recorded the different names and problems, which get inserted at the appropriate times.

(Note: If the correct spelling of your name isn’t on there, choose the next closest thing. You can fix it later.)

Check it out and send a little Suite Talk from Peyton to a pal.

Sorry, Suite Talk does not contain congratulatory messages. Only stuff for people having a poopy day.

After the way the Colts have been playing, you have to wonder if Eli Manning has sent any of these to his brother.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Lost in Translation: Email Error Ends Up on Welsh Road Sign

If you read English, you can understand the directions on the sign in Swansea, Wales: "No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only."

In Welsh, it's a little bit different: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated."

According to a recent article on the BBC's website, the Swansea council sent an email request to their Welsh translation service for translation. However, he had the Out of Office Assistant turned on. So what they received back was a note about his absence. Only they thought it was the translation.

"When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh," journalist Dylan Iorwerth of Golwg magazine, told the BBC. Golwg is a Welsh-language magazine.

All official road signs in Wales are bilingual. There is a similar bilingual requirement in Canada for English and French language.

"It's all too common that things are not just badly translated, but are put together by people who have no idea about the language," Golwg's managing editor, Mr. Iorwerth told the Beeb.

A Swansea council spokeswoman said the sign would be taken down and replaced as soon as possible.

The new sign text? "Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients. Sorry, no mailbox here by that name."


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Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween's Ebenezer Scrooge: Shirley Nagel of Gross Pointe Farms, Michigan

If Halloween has an Ebenezer Scrooge, Shirley Nagel of Gross Pointe Farms, Michigan is it.

According to a recent AP story, Nagel denied candy to trick-or-treaters if they were Barack Obama supporters. She allegedly had a sign outside her house that said "No handouts for Obama supporters, liars, tricksters or kids of supporters."

When Detroit TV station WJBK asked her about her small children who were turned away empty-handed and crying, she said, "Oh well. Everybody has a choice." (Special thanks to fellow humor writer Amanda at for the link.)

Look, I may not like a particular political candidate, but I surely would never discriminate against his or her supporters. And I certainly wouldn't make little kids cry about it. Nothing says "compassionate conservatism" quite like making little kids cry.

Nagel may have had an influence on undecided voters in this election. Only she may have just gotten people to vote for the other guy.

So when neighborhood teenagers practiced their choice with Shirley Nagel, did they egg or toilet paper her house? Everyone has a choice, right?
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