"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day 2008

Another Memorial Day is here, and hopefully at some point this weekend while we're enjoying our BBQ cookouts and celebrating the unofficial start of summer, we will remember to honor those who have lost their lives in service to our country. We pay our respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in all the wars the U.S. has fought throughout its history, but the casualties in Iraq are foremost in the minds of many Americans this weekend.

No matter your political stripe or level of support for the war itself, you must admit that over the last five years and counting, those who have suffered most during this conflict (besides the Iraqi people themselves) have been the individual U.S. soldiers who have put their home lives on hold while simply trying to do the job they've been assigned as best as they can. It's dirty, difficult, dangerous work, with the constant risk of injury and death; and as do many others, I make a huge distinction between our troops who voluntarily put themselves on the line every day, and the politicians and policies that continue to needlessly place them in harm's way.

Here's one small way to help. Have you ever passed by someone in uniform in a store, on the street, or in an airport and wanted to thank them for their service, but didn't know how? Perhaps you were hesitant to start what could become an awkward conversation for either of you. Instead, you can wordlessly express your appreciation with something called "The Gratitude Gesture." It's easy; just place your hand over your heart momentarily, then keeping your elbow in place, extend your hand down, palm up. It takes maybe a second, and it's becoming universally recognized as a symbol of respect and appreciation by civilians toward service men and women in public. It's not military, like a salute, and it's non-partisan, non-political, and non-judgmental. It simply says "thanks". And people don't say that enough anyway.

Friday, May 23, 2008

This is an ex-parrot

Remember the 1978 sketch from "Saturday Night Live" with John Belushi as "The Thing Who Wouldn't Leave"? Outside her camp of hard-core supporters, most other Democrats are screaming in horror like Jane Curtain (some quietly, some not) as Hillary continues to ignore the obvious in her increasingly futile bid for the nomination. There is not much doubt in the minds of anyone who is thinking clearly that for a variety of reasons, the Clinton ship is sinking; yet as captain, Hillary is determined to ride it to the bitter end -- even if it tears the party apart. Most major news organizations, including Newsweek and US News & World Report, are beginning to rightfully focus their coverage on the upcoming McCain-Obama contest. The New York Times wrote, "The shrinking candidacy of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has all but vanished from the television set."

Sen. Barack Obama's milestone victory in Oregon this week gave him a majority of pledged delegates to the Democratic convention, and as Hillary's campaign drifts further into desperation, one of the many venues in which she's taking a shellacking is, predictably, YouTube. This video features the versatile Lisa Nova playing Hillary as a delusional Norma Desmond in the final scene of "Sunset Boulevard". (For comparison, you can watch the original clip here.)

And in keeping with the Monty Python theme of today's (as well as yesterday's) post title -- not to mention that we promised the hilarity of dismemberment would soon return to this site -- the next video seems entirely appropriate.

Hillary still has a diminishing window of opportunity to show some class and gracefully withdraw, but that's not likely to happen. She somehow sees herself as destined to make history as America's first woman president, and no doubt must be incredibly pissed off at an upstart like Obama who hasn't, in her mind, paid his dues or waited his turn. For someone like myself who has been so disgusted with the last eight years of The Shrub, I've been audaciously hopeful that America was at last ready to put a sane person in the White House; but if she continues on this path, Hillary may very well lead the Democratic party to proverbially snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. How very sad, and dangerous. I actually do think that someday our first female president could be a Clinton, but I also believe there's a good chance her first name will be "Chelsea".

Thursday, May 22, 2008

And now for something completely different

To balance out my last couple of posts which have inadvertently bordered on the macabre and gruesome, today we present some comic relief in the form of an incredibly cute video of a baby panda sneezing:

If that's not enough for you, here's another "awwwww" photo:

Or you could just go to Cute Overload and be done with it. Our regular (read: "bizarre") blog programming will return soon.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Creepy advertising

Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and for many people that means outdoor cookouts with hot dogs, burgers, Bar-B-Q, and other typical "American" food. Coincidentally, today's post from blog-buddy Supacoo (whose job has relocated her to Germany for the next two years) features a link to the European discount chain ALDI, and offers an entertaining look at how "American" products (and by extension, Americans themselves) are perceived over in Deutchland. Hot dogs in a jar, anyone?

Here is your typical American Housewife, as presented in the German ad:

I don't know about you, but this woman scares the shit out of me. Look at that evil grin and those demon eyes, not to mention that she's squeezing something out of a tube onto my sandwich that appears to be silicone drain sealant. After I choke to death on it, she's going to cook ME for dinner.

Psycho-Wife joins a long and storied history of advertising models who look like they've just stepped out of a horror movie. For example, this kid is either eating a plate of spaghetti, or it could be brains. I'm not sure.

Next, the look on the little girl's face below seems to indicate that she has apparently forced her mother to chop up the family dog in a meat grinder and spread the bloody offal on a sandwich for her:

Whereas there is absolutely no mistaking that this next child is, indeed, the Daughter of Satan:

Mmmm, human hearts on a plate. Bon appetit!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More people who do stuff better than I do

Which would include roughly 99.97% of the Earth's population, but never mind that now. If you are a fan of both photography and music, as I am, you will enjoy visiting stevecarter.com. Steve is an affable English bloke who built a beautiful house on a loch in the Scottish highlands where he lives with his family, including Charlie, a Bearded Collie whom he describes as "somewhat mad". Steve kept a blog to document the construction of his home, which must be seen to be believed. If I ever had a "dream house", it would look very much like the 5-bedroom eco-friendly Finnish log home (with integrated recording studio) that Steve designed and built on 200 yards of coastline in a Caledonian pine forest, with views to die for.

Steve's music is very orchestral in nature; he now composes mainly production soundtracks for film, television, and documentaries after spending many years as a session player in London. Unlike me, he takes stunning photos, which can be seen in great detail (some can be downloaded as wallpaper) on his site. Like me, however, he is an aficionado of Bad Album Cover Art, including this delightfully tacky sample from his collection which has now become one of my favorites:

I'm sure there's an inspirational message here, but I have no idea what it might be, and frankly, I'm not sure I want to know, as somehow this cover suggests the disturbing possibility that Freddie Gage is a mass murderer who has killed and dismembered his entire family and all his friends. At least he was careful not to get any blood on those white boots.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Words on a page

You should read this blog. No, not this blog ... this blog. Here's a few random quotes:
I've never been a fan of those "Love Is" comics (you know, with the naked children with the big methed-out eyes and scary lack of genitalia), but I'm pretty sure they never published one that read: "Love is... giving him sponge baths and cleaning up his poop as he waits for the sweet release of death."


When you live in the same place for too long, the weird stuff starts to blend into the background. I doubt if a farmer has ever looked out on his back yard and thought, "Holy shit, look at all those fucking cows! How the hell did I end up here? Have I seriously not had a friend in the last decade who I haven't milked?"


At some point during the evening, they casually mentioned, as if it was the most normal thing in the world, that their home is haunted by a ghost who likes to play pranks on them.

"At least once a month, we'll wake up under our bed," the husband told us.

"Excuse me?" I asked. "Under the bed? As in... on the floor?"

"That's right," he said with a giggle. "We'll open our eyes and we're staring up at the bed frame, wondering how the heck we got there. It was kinda spooky the first time it happened, but after awhile we just got used to it."
Check it out. Seriously. Good. Shit.

I must admit that it intimidates me a bit to read the work of someone who blogs this well. I know it's stupid and pointless to compare my feeble scribblings to a professional writer with many magazine credits and no less than six published books, any more than it is to judge my crappy 80's songwriting attempts by, say, Lennon/McCartney standards. But even though there's no way in hell I can measure up (nor should I expect to), the same thought nevertheless occurs to me that I had back then, when I thought there might be a chance I could actually become some sort of musical "artist": I am merely average; not terrible, but not great, and certainly not good "enough".

I have long believed that every single person on the planet has emotions and thoughts bubbling around in our brains that can be expressed in some creative way if given the opportunity -- whether it be painting, photography, writing music, poetry, or any other art form. But to me, two primary qualities distinguish "average" from "great"; one, of course, being the quality of the work, but the other being sustainability. For most of us, once we get those few burning thoughts out of our systems and are reasonably pleased with our efforts, we're spent. Done. Pack it up, that's all she wrote. We quickly realize that while we might have a modicum of talent or ability, we have no original thoughts or emotions that haven't already been better expressed by someone else previously.* "Why re-invent the wheel?", a potential artist might logically ask. If I can't be "great", then why bother at all?

Thank God everyone doesn't think like this, however, otherwise there would have been no words written after Shakespeare, nor would anyone have attempted to compose music after hearing Mozart. Much of what's called "the creative process" involves some form of imitation; after all, there are only so many human emotions. How many songs throughout history (or at least within the last 50-60 years) can be distilled, at their most basic expression, down to "I love my baby"?

Nope; I'll keep on blogging, even though so many others do it better. Millions of average writers like myself will continue to spill our average words on the page/screen, in the hope that eventually one of us will create something truly original and noteworthy that stands the test of time. It's human nature, and if we don't strive for it, we'll never achieve it. Thankfully, blogs like the one I discovered today inspire me to keep trying.

*Musically speaking, to a certain extent this explains the "sophomore jinx" that many bands experience; their second effort being vastly inferior to their first, because they've already said whatever it was they had to say and failed to deliver on their initial promise. It is also for this reason that I think the whole idea of a "cover" recording of a signature song already well-done by a famous artist is patently absurd.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another statistically meaningless survey

True confession: one of the reasons I mentioned Woot in yesterday's post is that I am a confirmed gadget freak with a tendency to spend significant chunks of change on electronic doodads that I have absolutely no real use for, just because they have lots of bells, whistles, flashing lights, and are fun to play with. Apparently I am not alone in this gizmo-fetish, as Woot seems to specialize in items of this nature.

Case in point: yesterday I Wooted away $199 on a refurbished Acer Aspire desktop computer. Dumb dumb dumb, I know ... but hey, it was a heck of a deal!! Now, I need another computer around here like a fish needs a bicycle, as we must have at least nine or ten functioning PC's at La Casa De Toastada at the moment. I'm counting my laptop, Mrs. Toast's laptop, a couple of servers, my Internet radio station, a "backup" PC in case one of the servers craps out, and another machine that seems to have disappeared somewhere in the jungle of network wiring in what used to be "the spare bedroom" but is now more commonly referred to as "the computer room". I'm not certain exactly where it is in there, but I have a pretty strong hunch it may be plotting world domination as I write this. It is probably no coincidence that my home wireless 802.11g network is named "Skynet".

Anyway, the main reason I bought this puppy was because it came with a real, legal, licensed copy of Windows Vista. There is nearly unanimous agreement among tech writers that Vista sucks, in fact even entire blogs have been devoted to this point of view. But being a hands-on sort of guy, I wanted to experience this suckage first-hand for myself, and up until now I haven't been able to do so. If it's really as crappy as people say, I can always nuke the hard drive and install XP, but in the meantime I have a new toy to play with which only set me back $70 more than a retail copy of Vista alone. (And it has purty red and green lights! Dang!)

So on to the survey: to get a point of reference before I post anything about this potentially awesome and mind-numbing experience, I'm curious as to what operating system you, dear reader of this blog, have installed on your own computer. If you have multiple machines at home, pick whichever one you're using to read this now.

What computer operating system are you using?
Windows Vista
Windows XP (any version)
Windows 95 or 98
Apple/Mac (any version)
Linux (any flavor)
Other/I have no freaking idea
Get your own damn poll

Thanks for participating. More to come, and I'll try to post a warning if it appears that my network is starting to become self-aware.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Woot me!

I've discovered a new obsession fun diversion: the deal-a-day site known as Woot. Every day at midnight, they put up one item for sale at a ridiculously low price, and when they're gone, they're gone; it could be minutes, it could be hours. You never know what they're going to have for sale in advance, or when an item might sell out, so the only thing to do is go there and check it out every day as soon after midnight as possible, in case it's something you might actually want. For example, just the other day I snagged this lovely Mr. Toast T-Shirt for a mere five bucks:

Uber-fashionable, eh? Of course, I think this one would have been much more appropriate:

Thursday, May 08, 2008

iPope 2.0

Translation Of Papal Message in Yesterday's Post For Anyone Over The Age Of 16:

"Good Heavens! Hello brothers and sisters, it is I, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I'm so sorry I cannot meet with you face-to-face, but it is certainly great to talk to you nevertheless. Are you aware of my age, sex, and current location at this very moment? I am parked right in front of your house in my Papal Vehicle! Oh my, that is so funny, but I'm only kidding you, I have a message from Your Savior Jesus Christ the Son of God: Don't be a person who hates others. I'm chuckling to myself now. You should always bless your girlfriend or boyfriend with many hugs and kisses ... but be sure to do the right thing! What do I mean by this? I mean don't smoke any marijuana, or watch pornography, and most importantly, always remain celibate. Honest to God, I mean it, and not only because your parents are watching you, but remember God is watching you too. So if you are sitting in front of your computer without any clothing on right now, put your pants back on and stop that sinful activity right now, young man! Oh my, that is so funny! Seriously, I must leave you now but I hope you will heed my helpful advice. Remember that you will always be in my prayers. Farewell, and I hope to send you another message at some point in the future."

Should His Holiness find success with this unorthodox method of reaching out to young people on World Youth Day, I can only assume that this would be the next logical step: (Click on image for more detail.)

I am definitely going to Hell for this.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

iPope 1.0 released

Actual News Item:
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict will text message thousands of young Catholics on their mobile phones during World Youth Day in Sydney in July, hoping going digital will help him connect better with a younger audience.
Even though I'm not Catholic, I think it's great that the Pontiff is adapting to 21st century technology. Since Joseph Ratzinger became Benedict XVI, many spiritually progressive types have been hoping that he would embrace a historic opportunity for the church to finally get with the times, modernize, shake off the dust, roll some bones, and pry open some of those old dungeon doors. Well according to the Reuters article, that seems to be exactly what's happening, and I can only guess that an IM from His Holiness might look something like this:


If Pope Benedict is able to get some props from teens as a result of this approach, I hope he will use his newfound street cred to go after Christian Rock, which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. When Jesus returns, I personally think He might be a big fan of Pearl Jam.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Necesito un alka-seltzer, por favor

We're back! Happy Cinco de Mayo from Wind In The Wire.

We've timed our glorious return to the Blog Space in honor of this auspicious occasion. Now, I realize that some people may possibly confuse Cinco de Mayo with a similar ethnic holiday also celebrated in the spring, St. Patrick's Day, but we are here to set the record straight once and for all: St. Patty's Day is generally observed on March 17th, and involves a great deal of celebration and partying by getting totally drunk out of your mind on Guinness Stout, while in comparison, Cinco De Mayo is observed on May 5th (generally speaking) and involves a great deal of celebration and partying by getting totally drunk out of your mind on Jose Cuervo Tequila. This is an important distinction.

But seriously, today is a very important day in Mexican history, as it commemorates the historically significant birthday of, day of independence, er, I mean Battle of Hastings, New Orleans, The Bulge, um, well actually, I'm not sure; maybe one of these folks knows what Cinco de Mayo marks:

Ha ha! We're just kidding! Of course any fool knows that Cinco De Mayo is primarily a regional and not an obligatory federal holiday which marks the initial victory of Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín over French forces in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, a date observed in the United States and other locations around the world as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride. Furthermore, any flea-brain yahoo will tell you that a common misconception in the United States is that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence Day; Mexico's Independence Day is actually September 16 (i.e., dieciséis de septiembre), which is the most important national patriotic holiday in Mexico.

And naturally, it goes without saying (as any five-year old kindergarten student is well aware), that although the Mexican army was victorious over the French at Puebla, the victory only delayed the French invasion of Mexico City, and the French occupied Mexico a year later, during which time French occupying forces placed Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico, on the throne, but the French were eventually defeated and expelled in 1867, and Maximilian was executed by President Benito Juarez five years after the Battle of Puebla.

I mean, who doesn't know that?? C'mon!

So in the spirit of this day marking the defeat of French forces by the Mexican Army, this blog sternly advises you to step away from that croissant and glass of wine, Francois, and have some chips, salsa, a big ol' burrito and some cerveza instead. But when you wake up tomorrow morning and face the prospect of going to work with a God-awful hangover after a night of partying, eating, dancing and drinking, just don't refer to today as "Sicko De Mayo".


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Worst album cover, ever?

If only the human race could be so lucky. Oh noooooooooo, there's more.