Community Events: Neighborhood Warning Night


Lesser Pompous Lakes, All Residential Neighborhoods, 6:30 – 8:30 pm: All residents are requested to go to their windows and look up and down the block to identify the most petty things their neighbors are doing that still annoy them. Get some sheets of paper and write these things down, then wad the papers up around rubber erasers and after ten or fifteen minutes go out and throw these things at the relevant neighbors. Meanwhile in the confusion a small squad of pranksters from South Lesser Pompous Lakes will be able to sneak in to City Hall and leave the cow. No don’t write that part in the e-mail to the newspaper, Jeremy. No, it isn’t funny to pretend we’re going to tell them why we’re doing it, now delete it before you hit send

Advertisements

Georges Melies: Baron Munchausen’s Dream, and, yes, that includes spiders


To kick off the weekend and give myself time to prepare statistics, let me offer another Georges Méliès short, 1911’s Baron Münchausen’s Dream. This is longer than last week’s entry, and it’s just about as long as his famous A Trip To The Moon, but the short still has much of what makes Méliès films so distinctively him. Most of the story is set up as a dream, which gives Méliès free range to have bizarre stuff just happen. I’m also amused that there’s scenes featuring Münchausen and his reflection in the mirror, which sounds like nothing until you realize that if there were a mirror there then you’d clearly see the camera and stage crew and, for that matter, the street outside the glass-lined studio where they filmed. You’ll figure out the sensible way they did the trick.

Again I apologize for not having a proper archival-quality link, but, if this embed should die please let me know and I’ll try to do something about it.

What You Missed, At Lunch


Here are some of the things you missed at the fast food place during lunch:

Karen-with-a-y (we don’t know either), the cashier, is explaining the new Reuben sandwich to Craig, who’s never liked Reubens, although not to such an extent that he’d volunteer to jump into an alternate timeline where he sandwich was never invented. Actually, sometimes he gets a Reuben just because he enjoys how much he doesn’t like the taste or the texture or anything about it, especially grilled. Karen-with-a-y is explaining that their particular Reuben substitutes a chicken-based bologna-like substance for the corned beef, and uses cheddar in place of Swiss cheese, and the sauerkraut is replaced with a very dry cole slaw, and they’re making it with bleu cheese dressing. At this point Craig is just dragging out questions about what else is substituted because as far as he can tell the only actual part of the Reuben left is the rye bread, and he’s about to learn they’re serving it on a kaiser roll instead. Neither knows why the billboard out front spells the sandwich “Rueben”.

Underneath the ventilation system pumping enough heat to melt the styrofoam cups, the Books We Were Supposed To Read In School literary society is going over this month’s text, E M Foster’s Howards End, to correctly rank the order in which each character needs to be punched senseless. Mary-Lane, trying desperately to remember any of the characters from the book she’s spent the last two weeks reading, nominates “the fellow who’s starting a little automobile factory”, which draws general support as definitely deserving to be in the top five at least. A careful examination would reveal that they seem to be bringing a character from Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons into the book, and not really fairly at that, but then Helen-with-an-e (no idea) is still sufficiently angry at Alec Clare from back in Tess of the d’Urbervilles that this drives the entire conversation, and everybody agrees he’s the most punchable character even in the eight books they’ve read since that one. While agreed to this point, Jack finds he is completely unable to deploy the trivia he found instead of reading the last quarter of the book, that the words “here”, “our”, “thought”, “through”, “Tibby”, and “why” all appear in the book 126 times each. James-with-a-j (as you’d expect) meant to agree to all this more prominently but found that a little too much work and settled for putting slices of lemon in his Diet Coke.

Carol is repeating to her group the story of how she went out of her way to warn the person watching over the self-service check-outs at the supermarket that someone, not her, abandoned a bag of frozen shrimp by the start of the check-out lane, and something should be done about that. She expects her friends to be more in agreement that the ages she spent at this — others would estimate it at about ten seconds — are probably why she’s been running behind schedule all month. While her heroic acclaim is slow to come everyone does agree that the shrimp shouldn’t have been abandoned like that and certainly somebody ought to have done something about that.

Vladimir, who had been staring at an empty table with a pile of napkins atop, has noticed that a button’s popped off his winter jacket. He’s never buttoned his jacket, not even when he tried the jacket on in the store, because he’s always afraid of buttons popping off and now to have it just come off by itself feels like a particularly unnecessary insult on the jacket’s part. He buries the loose button in the jacket pocket, which he never uses because he’s always sure he’ll forget whatever he’s put in there, and discovers the button that came off the other side of the jacket last winter that he resolved to get sewn back on just as soon as he thought of it. On reflection, he can’t figure where either button should go.

Pamela, taking her order out, crossed the street not because she needed to but because cars in both lanes of the road opposite saw her and came to a full stop. Given this attention it was too embarrassing to keep going where she actually meant to be.

Overall it was probably less awkward to bring lunch today.

Are they really kitchen science comics?


Over on my mathematics blog is a fresh collection of comic strips that talk about mathematics subjects, and a couple of those get into talking about stuff you might eat or at least have around the kitchen. I’d like to offer something else for loyal readers here or those who’ve already seen the mathematics blog, but I just haven’t found anything to match, because I’m hard at work trying to think of a way to build my normal once-a-week long-form essay out of the best idea I have right now, which is, “unconvincing declarations of innocence”. It’s going to be a heck of a ride until press time, for me at least.

Robert Benchley: How To Understand International Finance


[ I am surprised I haven’t posted this before. In this essay from 1922’s Love Conquers All, Robert Benchley explains modern finance, using the example of the German war debt to make it all surprisingly clear. As with all great humor, it’s pretty true. ]

It is high time that someone came out with a clear statement of the international financial situation. For weeks and weeks officials have been rushing about holding conferences and councils and having their pictures taken going up and down the steps of buildings. Then, after each conference, the newspapers have printed a lot of figures showing the latest returns on how much Germany owes the bank. And none of it means anything.

Now there is a certain principle which has to be followed in all financial discussions involving sums over one hundred dollars. There is probably not more than one hundred dollars in actual cash in circulation today. That is, if you were to call in all the bills and silver and gold in the country at noon tomorrow and pile them up on the table, you would find that you had just about one hundred dollars, with perhaps several Canadian pennies and a few peppermint life-savers. All the rest of the money you hear about doesn’t exist. It is conversation-money. When you hear of a transaction involving $50,000,000 it means that one firm wrote “50,000,000” on a piece of paper and gave it to another firm, and the other firm took it home and said “Look, Momma, I got $50,000,000!” But when Momma asked for a dollar and a quarter out of it to pay the man who washed the windows, the answer probably was that the firm hadn’t got more than seventy cents in cash.

This is the principle of finance. So long as you can pronounce any number above a thousand, you have got that much money. You can’t work this scheme with the shoe-store man or the restaurant-owner, but it goes big on Wall Street or in international financial circles.

This much understood, we see that when the Allies demand 132,000,000,000 gold marks from Germany they know very well that nobody in Germany has ever seen 132,000,000,000 gold marks and never will. A more surprised and disappointed lot of boys you couldn’t ask to see than the Supreme Financial Council would be if Germany were actually to send them a money-order for the full amount demanded.

What they mean is that, taken all in all, Germany owes the world 132,000,000,000 gold marks plus carfare. This includes everything, breakage, meals sent to room, good will, everything. Now, it is understood that if they really meant this, Germany couldn’t even draw cards; so the principle on which the thing is figured out is as follows: (Watch this closely; there is a trick in it).

You put down a lot of figures, like this. Any figures will do, so long as you can’t read them quickly:

  • 132,000,000,000 gold marks
  • $33,000,000,000 on a current value basis
  • $21,000,000,000 on reparation account plus 12-1/2% yearly tax on German exports
  • 11,000,000,000 gold fish
  • $1.35 amusement tax
  • 866,000 miles. Diameter of the sun
  • 2,000,000,000
  • 27,000,000,000
  • 31,000,000,000

Then you add them together and subtract the number you first thought of. This leaves 11. And the card you hold in your hand is the seven of diamonds. Am I right?

The Thing About Medusa


So, if Ben “The Thing” Grimm were to fight Medusa, would he have to avoid seeing her? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen, he’d be turned into even more stone? I feel like there’s probably an implicit answer in that The Thing is still around in comics, I think, and surely the Fantastic Four battled Medusa at some time in the 60s because if it was the 60s and you were a superhero you just did that sort of thing, battling ancient Greek mythological figures, possibly in space. So The Thing is still around, and you don’t see Medusa’s face slapped all over comic books, but that’s surely just because she’s waiting to be rebooted into a new movie series of her own, right? And that means he probably handled things just fine.

Anyway, I feel like there’s probably someone well-versed in the details of the Marvel comic books universe who could tell me with certainty about their fight and whether he had to do anything special, but, I dunno. I feel vaguely bad when I can effortlessly explain subtler points of 1980s G.I.Joe episodes to people, and I don’t want to make the Marvel comics expert have to feel like that too.

Dream World Investment Tips: My Little Pony Edition


I admit normally my dreams seem to contain warnings about how to practically navigate various life scenarios. This one seems different. I’m pretty sure that this dream is telling of the next big fad in indoor mall-based entertainments, and it’s obviously got to be acted on soon because indoor malls have maybe four years left before the last one closes down.

Anyway, according to my dream, the next big fad especially among fraternity brother-model young males, is going to be renting these cheap but surprisingly well-crafted My Little Pony costumes and wandering around the mall just looking like the one that’s a kind of dusty grey. I don’t know why this would suddenly be a fad, much less how you could make these surprisingly flexible foam costumes, which are seamless except for the zipper up front, wearable for only five bucks an hour, but I have to admit, I love seeing the ordinary crowd wandering around a shopping mall with a surprising number of grey My Little Ponies puttering around silently.

This may be because along the way, all the vacant stores in shopping malls are apparently turning into unattended arcades, with another big attraction being a two-person replica of the contestants booths from Hollywood Squares, I’m guessing so people can play their own version of the game against a video monitor and recorded answers and all that. As a game show fan from way back, I approve, even if I never much cared for Hollywood Squares. It’s all a step towards getting Card Sharks back on the air.

Statistics Saturday: Where I Am Ticklish


Place Am I Ticklish There?
The belly Yes.
Armpits Hoo yeah.
Knees Yup.
Lower Back Yes, really.
Shoulder Blades Honest.
Hair Don’t roll your eyes. It’s true.
West Virginia What? I’ve been tickled there.
Wrists Well, I am very ticklish.
Forehead Not so much, there, actually.

Georges Melies: The Skipping Cheeses (or: Is Brie Murder?)


I’m afraid this short doesn’t appear to be at archive.org, so I can’t be so confident that the embedded link will work indefinitely into the future. If it doesn’t, well, let me know and I’ll try to do something about it.

I wanted to share Georges Méliès’s 1907 short Les Fromages Automobiles, and if you think it’s a whimsical fantasy about cars made of cheese I’m afraid you’re just being silly. The English title at least as rendered on a recent set of DVDs of Méliès films is The Skipping Cheeses and that’s surely more something to giggle about.

The story meanwhile enjoys the simplicity of a dream: a cheesemonger boards the trolley, with her cheeses hid in a basket; the smell of them causes everyone else to look around and suspect everyone but the new arrival of causing the strange odor. When she’s found out, the police are called, and she’s hauled off on a count of transporting cheese on a public conveyance. Then the cheeses hop out of their basket and follow her into court, whereupon the brie (at least according to the DVD narrator) leaps up and smothers the judge. It’s really the classic story, inspiring as it does grand thoughts of “Wait, what?” If you get past that, you can file the image of vengeful cheese away for a more conveniently-timed nightmare.

Escaping to Lansing


Disasters not afflicting Lansing: Hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanos, pop singers, scorpions.

The local newspaper mentioned that at South By Southwest a trade group from the Lansing area advertised to whoever’s interested in this sort of thing the proposition “Escape To Lansing”. The big selling point — and the one that’s on their web site — is that Lansing is free of many disasters which make it annoying to do business, to wit:

Hurricanes. True. Mid-Michigan is admirably hurricane-free, what with most hurricanes refusing to tromp over the Appalachian mountains and deal with trying to follow the highways around Toledo.

Scorpions. I can’t dispute that the Lansing metropolitan area has a pretty low number of scorpions, and most of those who are around are either in their designated pens within the pet shops or are work-study students helping make sure that visitors to the college or university library are briefly examined by eye and grunted at before they finish entering or exiting. I have to question whether scorpions are a major problem in most business districts, however. If they are then maybe startup businesses just need to buy screen doors.

Radioactive Gas. I hadn’t imagined that Lansing ever had a problem with radioactive gas emissions gathering to dangerous levels, but now that they’re going to the bother of telling people there’s no radioactive gas it’s started to make me worry. They maybe shouldn’t have raised the issue.

Earthquakes. Michigan has a very low earthquake risk, with the greatest hazard being earthquakes which other states or Canadian provinces hold and which spill over owing to inadequate soundproofing in the walls between states. The upper peninsula was subject to a series of earthquakes in the mid-19th century as the copper underneath it was dug out and turned into telephone wires in New York City and Boston, and the remaining crust collapsed over and over again, but the ground has mostly settled since then, and any attempt to get an earthquake going will be dampened by abandoned mining equipment. No serious risk there.

Justin Bieber. This seems petty. Pop stars are a fundamentally unpredictable, whimsical force of nature, prone to blowing into our lives and inspiring tiresome conversations about how we don’t like them and then blowing back out again, sometimes leaving us with a song we can’t quite get out of our heads. We have little to fear from them, and they pay for their existence by giving entertainment journalists something to talk about which isn’t lists of TV shows you won’t watch. They should be appreciated for how they enrich life’s tapestry of things we don’t really have to do anything about.

Tsunamis. Actually, the adorable little wave they use here makes me think of the original Bell Atlantic logo. While it’s true Michigan had very little phone service by Bell Atlantic before it changed its name and become a more annoying company, I don’t see why South By Southwest attendees would be particularly impressed by this. If they didn’t want to do business with Bell Atlantic they could as easily do that in Austin.

The 1984-era Bell Atlantic logo, with a little wave for the crossbar of the A.

Volcanos. Michigan hasn’t had an active volcano in about 2.5 billion years, but it seems presumptuous to say that companies would want to relocate to mid-Michigan just to avoid volcanos. Obviously companies that do volcano tours are going to be attracted by having volcanos, but what about places that hope to get in on something igneous? Maybe they’re figuring corporate headquarters can be away from the magma action and this will be somehow worth it in the end. I don’t know.

Sharks. I’m fairly sure there aren’t many shark attacks even in the business districts of coastal towns. I have to imagine a company that’s routinely losing key personnel or equipment to shark attacks, and isn’t in the shark-annoying trade, is screwed up in fundamental ways. If they relocated to Lansing they’d probably just get lost in the woods and see their business plan get eaten by squirrels.

I notice they don’t say a word about the ice storms causing blackouts or that stretch in early February when it got so cold all molecular motion ceased. Well, it was a harsh winter but we do generally have indoor heating. They also don’t mention that in Lansing you’re relatively unlikely to be surrounded by Texans, which I’d think would be a selling point in Austin. But they didn’t ask me to contribute promotional material.

Also, apparently Lansing has a 3-D Printer you can use, if you need it. Sold!

Next, the Comics


Over on my mathematics blog I had a fresh collection of mathematics-themed comic strips to talk about, and I want to make sure people who missed that had some kind of warning about it. So, ah, warning.

Mort Walker's _Beetle Baily_ of 24 August 1957. Apparently the General has a niece.

For those who weren’t so interested in that, I offer the above installment of Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey, from the vintage comics collection at comicskingdom.com. One of the wonderful things about the Internet has been that comics syndicates have made the ancient runs of comics more available. At its best, this lets you see now-stagnant comics in their prime and understand why (say) Hi and Lois became part of the default comics page. When it’s not doing that, you can at least get interesting observations such as (a) apparently General Halftrack had a niece, at least in August of 1957, and (b) this comic strip originally ran three days after the Soviet Union launched the world’s first successful intercontinental ballistic missile.

Little Bits of Gratitude


When I got to thinking the other day about stuff to be grateful for, most of my thoughts came back to me not singing. I don’t want to suggest that you should stop being grateful I’m not singing for you. It’s just there are plenty of other things to think about with gratitude. Some of them are obvious; for example, if you’ve got a roof over your head, that’s something to be grateful for. There should be a bit of sub-gratitude reserved for the walls which hold the roof up above your head, since if the roof is just resting on the ground you’re probably doing a lot of crouching and that’s not good for your knees, if they’re very much like mine. I don’t want to complain about that, and you can be grateful for that too.

Warnings From The Dream World: Trans-Dimensional Travel Edition


So, yeah, apparently I’m getting warnings about possible troubles while I’m dreaming again and I share this one with you because it seems like it could be of use to pretty near anyone. I’m breaking up what is really one sentence into a couple paragraphs for easier reading. You’ll thank me when you see the wisdom my subconscious is depositing on you.

Suppose that you should happen by some means to fall into an alternate timeline and are in the San Francisco of a much more totalitarian, police-state United States.

If the only way you have of getting home is to make a desperate cross-country trip to New York City, with your only real guidance a crude, placemat-type mat that promises if you head far enough north from San Francisco you’ll meet I-75, which in this abomination of a timeline then goes more or less due east towards Manhattan …

And if you reason that before setting out with precious little of the cash currency for the alternate-United States that it’s worthwhile stopping in to a relentlessly average San Francisco-area shopping mall to take in a movie at the multiplex …

And if you try to pay for the movie using your credit card from this your home timeline and the cashier keeps fingering it curiously and ultimately has to go back to discuss it with the manager and this sets off a long series of negotiations among the multiplex’s staff about the validity of this curious negotiable instrument …

Then you should really cut your losses and just give up on seeing the movie, because the argument with the multiplex staff about it after they’ve swiped your card and whether your payment is in a valid tender or whether it’s even remotely compatible with the credit card swiping devices of this alternate history is not a productive use of your time. Bluntly, even if you argue yourself into the theater, the kerfluffle is just going to attract the local police — as it likely would even in our non-dystopian timeline given how heated it is getting — and their report is just going to call attention to the really terrible secret police, and the movie just is not worth it. Seriously. Let it go. Save the argument about the negotiability of a credit card from another timeline for something worthwhile, like the gas station.

I probably shouldn’t have to explain all this, but believe me, it’s very frustrating especially when you realize that the movie ticket argument is not the one you should be having right then and there.

The Chuckletrousers Decades


So back on the 17th of March, 1994, the newspaper-syndicated humorist Dave Barry was reading something on Usenet, which was becoming a thing back then, and he wanted to write back to his friend who was there, and as is the fashion, he wrote a snarky little thing that used a couple of the words you can’t use as a newspaper-syndicated humorist, and made prominent use of the name “Mister Chuckletrousers”, which he’d recently picked up on a trip to Britain from a headline he didn’t understand. And after finishing his little reply he realized that instead of replying to the author, he’d replied to the post, putting it out for everyone in the newsgroup to see.

The newsgroup, where he’d been lurking, was alt.fan.dave_barry.

This was rather an exciting time to be in alt.fan.dave_barry, as you might imagine, as it set off a lot of debate about whether this was actually Dave Barry or just someone pretending to be him, and what the “Mister Chuckletrousers” thing could possibly mean, and, well, if it was him then what did it mean that the guy the group was gathered round to talk about was actually there in the group listening? Which doesn’t sound like anything today, but back in 1994, you only got direct contact with people you were a fan of by the traditional methods, like, their being minor characters on a Star Trek series and your going to a convention and paying money to get their autograph.

Anyway, somehow, the guy Dave Barry was responding to didn’t see it, and asked if someone could send him a copy of the post, and the newsgroup displayed an electrifying energy and complete lack of common sense and a few days later the guy asked that people please stop as he had received 2,038 copies and didn’t need any more.

Over the coming weeks there’d be confirmation that the Chuckletrousers Incident really did happen and really did involve Dave Barry: a guy who shared his ISP said it was him (and who could doubt that?), a mention of Chuckletrousers came up in his columns, and then, the number 2,038 started getting mentioned when the text needed some arbitrary number to be included. Eventually Dave Barry himself described the incident for his book Dave Barry In Cyberspace, which is the sort of late-90s explain-the-Internet book that’s fascinating because it captures a bunch of the memes and obsessions of the Internet of the summer of 1997. Both Chuckletrousers and 2,038 still turn up in Dave Barry’s writings, a little joke sent out to a community of people who witnessed flaming Pop-Tarts (which is what the Internet did back before the Mentos and Diet Coke thing was discovered) that has long since left behind alt.fan.dave_barry.

I also delurked on alt.fan.dave_barry in the middle of March, 1994, but nobody noticed at the time.

I also meant to write this in mid-February, because my brain insists on thinking this all happened shortly after Valentine’s Day that year, but it didn’t, so I didn’t, after I checked.

Statistics Saturday: Unsuccessful Search Terms


Here are some search terms which have not brought anybody to this blog:

  • advanced dishwasher repair
  • unnecessary parts of the horse
  • what philosophical school was founded by anophelinae
  • bricks without brickiness
  • ironical HTML tags
  • when does a trapezium become a trapezoid
  • how to draw circles
  • dont the beatles have this song about kangaroo dave
  • when do you say ironical instead of ironic now that its not like 1925 anymore
  • misspelled kinks lyrics

[ Meanwhile, over-researching this has revealed to me that people have come to here after searching for, among other actual things I did not make up, “collared lemming ogilvie”, “iso 9000 humor”, “genius hamsters”, “you might also like:”, “do indianapolis 500 rules prohibit snails from racing”, and “change tagline in wordpress”, all of which brings me more delight than making this stuff up does. ]

Betty Boop, MD


To continue the theme of a cartoon on a Saturday morning, I have here the 1932 Fleischer Studios cartoon Betty Boop, M.D.. Unlike last week’s A Hunting We Will Go this one isn’t able to structure its “big heap of jokes” into a way that feels quite natural: it looks much more like the animators thought of everything they could do based on Betty Boop, Bimbo, and Koko the Clown selling the snake-oil Jippo, and whatever was best made the cut.

But what it lacks in a narrative structure it makes up for in weirdness. Fleischer Brothers cartoons have a reputation for seeming deranged, with a reputation for psychedelic weirdness. That’s put to good effect here. A succession of characters drink some of the Jippo, and something weird happens, and the weirdness just keeps ratcheting up. Any cartoon studio might think of the joke where an old man drinks Jippo and becomes young, and an infant drinks it and becomes old; but it’s very black-and-white Fleischer to have the guy pouring the Jippo on his peg leg and … well, just see, and if your jaw doesn’t drop at least a couple times you aren’t paying attention to the cartoon. It’s a short which inspires the question, “Wait, what?”

I’m No Good At Music


There are a number of things that any of us should be grateful for. I estimate the number of things to be at least fourteen. But I think the biggest thing any of us can be grateful for is that I’m not singing for you right now. Very likely I’ll never sing for you. You probably won’t believe just how very good this is for you. Fundamentally, I’ve got a deep incompetence about music.

I used to play the violin in elementary school. They trained us in the classic sequence: “Jingle Bells”, and then “Memory” from Cats, and then the Theme to Masterpiece Theater, and I was all right on the notes where you don’t have to put your fingers on the strings, which are like one-eighth of the notes any song expects. For the rest, again, there’s this wondrous sequence of approximate notes that nobody even knew violins could produce, and certainly not that they’d produce on purpose. The violin teacher was nice, though, and often interrupted class to ask whether the song was “Memory” or “Memories”, which could take the whole day to not resolve, while she walked down to the far end of the hallway. I gave up the violin in middle school, where the hallways were shorter.

Heck, I’m even shaky at listening to music. Like, I’ve seen other people turn on the radio and they get all kinds of songs and musicians and musical styles and such. I try it and it’s pretty near always playing “Friday I’m In Love”. It’s a fine song, sure, but there must be something I’m getting wrong if that’s always on. If I try the Internet radio then they’ve got Dennis Day singing “Clancy Lowered The Boom”, which is a less fine song, the kind that makes me want to walk to the far end of the hallway.

I’m not talking about my voice just being untrained, although it is, because the last music teacher who listened to me singing looked sadly at me and walked to the far end of the hallway, and that was elementary school, when they had a good thing to say about your skills in coloring because you managed to stay mostly within the bounds of the school building.

There’s this part of singing, though, where your voice is expected to hit some note. Most songs are kind of fussy, you’re supposed to get this one particular note that the songwriter expected and was planning around. Maybe you can go into a different octave and find some compatible note, but, that’s not me. I have a hard enough time hitting any note, whether or not it’s in the song and whether or not it’s any note that any human agency has ever been capable of. The correct response to stop paying attention to me and hope I’ll stop, and since I’m not paying attention to me, I keep going. I know, but it makes sense in the middle of the tune.

Worse, most songs require whole dozens of notes, some of them not the same one you started with, and there’s just no hoping I’ll get to any of those either. My chance of getting back to the note I started on are pretty much nothing either. This is why I’m better off sticking to my skill in turning songs into Morse code and a string of humming. Nobody cares about what note you’re humming, because if you’re humming people either don’t pay attention or else they’re looking for things to complain about what you’re doing, and either way it doesn’t matter what you’re doing.

You’d think some practice could train me out of this, but, no. I’ve tried playing Beatles Rock Band, for example, and that gives this little indicator about whether the pitch is too low or too high, and I find, like, in the midst of “Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” that Ringo gets out from behind his drums and slugs my avatar and George just walks sadly down to the far end of the hallway. Paul and John just bury their heads in their hands.

Overall, I like music, and think it’s a fine concept. I’d like to be on better terms with it, but I just haven’t got the knack. I’ve got the Cure, but see where that’s gotten me.

Disappointed In Big Banana News


I guess I just was thinking the wrong thing is all. When the headline said that Fyffes and Chiquita were going to create the biggest banana firm, I imagined they were working together to produce truly astoundingly big bananas, ones of such massive size that they fit even more awkwardly in the shopping cart, ones that dominate the breakfast nook table where we keep them until we realize we forgot we have bananas and have to throw them out. I was thinking of bananas that reach to a brobdingnagian dimension of, like, maybe an inch longer than the ones I already buy. (I don’t expect miracles in giant banana-ness, not right away from a new firm.)

But no, they’re not trying to do anything awe-inspiring with bananas. They’re just making two banana companies into one banana company that’s worth more money but doesn’t have so many pesky employees to pay. Boring. Anybody can do that and they don’t even have to show off an impressive banana for it. But at least they’re figuring to call the merged company ChiquitaFyffes, so they’re making some advances in Silly Things We’re Just Going To Pretend Are Words.

They’re hoping to sell 160 million boxes of bananas annually, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they ever realized it was two days after Christmas and said, “You know, 159,750,000 is not that shabby. Let’s knock off till after the new year” and did.

News From Beyond The Weird


I hope you won’t think worse of me for admitting that I read stuff like the BBC’s “Also In The News” page of stories that are maybe unimportant but are interesting and odd, often about eggplants having surprising uses in automobile manufacture or galaxies being found to be akin to peanut butter or, if it’s been a slow-quirky-news day, something got noticed about Genghis Khan. Something that’s had me fascinated popped up on Reuters’s “Oddly Enough” page back on the 4th of March, and I’d like you to savor the piece:

Oops, Congress asked to fix slip-up in Myanmar aid bill

BY ANNA YUKHANANOV

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 4, 2014 7:47pm EST

(Reuters) – The Obama administration is asking Congress to fix a 2012 bill that left a World Bank agency out of a list of 12 international financial institutions that could receive U.S. support to promote development in Myanmar.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) promotes foreign direct investment in emerging markets by protecting private investors from various forms of political risk.

“Because of this technical problem, the United States is still required to oppose guarantees provided by MIGA for private investment in Burma,” the Obama administration said in its budget request submitted on Tuesday to Congress for fiscal 2015, which begins October 1.

Now I realize that you’re all chuckling heartily from that opening, but the article carries on in that vein, explaining how MIGA, with 130 employees, is — brace yourself — one of the World Bank’s smallest institutions, and that the error would if uncorrected prohibit MIGA from carrying out several of its projects in Myanmar, and that relations between the United States and Myanmar have improved rapidly since the military government stepped aside and economic and political reforms began.

I admit I’m just fascinated trying to work out how the article got put into the Quirky News folder and who wrote the headline that promises a giggle at the folly of humanity. But who reports on how that sort of thing happens?