Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Washington Post's Style Invitational
The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary,
alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are the winners from the 2005 contest:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Washington Post Neologism Contest
Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism
contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.
Here are the winners from the 2005 contest:
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.),a condition inwhich you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavoured mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men
Monday, December 17, 2007
Cool ad by a snowboarding company
Sunday, December 16, 2007
All Together Now - The Beatles
All Together Now from the Yellow Submarine movie
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Checking on Charity
There are lots of weak charities that do a poor job of putting your donated money to work.
A few resources to help make sure your donations are well used:
CharityNavigator.org, provided by the nonprofit group Charity Navigator in Mahwah, N.J., rates more than 5,000 U.S.-based charities, using information in their Form 990s. The site is free to people who register.
For an idea of how the rankings work, consider the group's take on United Way of America. The charity, which is based in Alexandria, Va., gets three stars out of four for "Efficiency," in part because 90% of its budget went to programs, and it cost only two cents for the program to raise a dollar.
The organization also gets three stars of four for "Capacity," or its ability to sustain itself over time. The group had annualized revenue growth of 21% from 2002 through 2005 and had enough working capital to operate for about eight months without any income.
GuideStar.org: If you want to look at the raw data, GuideStar.org is the go-to organization for copies of a charity's Form 990. It covers 1.7 million groups and has about 3.1 million Form 990 images, many of which are available free to people who register.
The site makes money from a combination of donations and subscriber fees, so not all of the content is free. For instance, a prospective donor can see that the March of Dimes Foundation wanted to continue a $75 million education, awareness and research campaign on premature birth in 2006, and that it has more than 1,000 employees.
To get other details, such as the charity's income and assets, you need a subscription. That will run either $30 or $100 a month, depending on the depth of information you want and other factors.
Give.org, operated by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance in Arlington, Va., reports on whether the approximately 1,200 charities it has evaluated meet the alliance's 20 "Standards for Charitable Accountability." It doesn't do ratings or rankings.
The group's free reports provide information on who runs a charity and list its income, expenses, assets and sources of income. The reports also describe the group's programs; in some cases, this includes a breakdown of how much the group spent on them.
Checking on Charities
December 10, 2007; Page R5
Friday, December 14, 2007
Jazz Film Soundtracks
Oh, goody, yet another list. How f$%&ing original!
For some silly reason, there seems to be all this hoo-haa about the silly Vanity Fair article on the top Movie Soundtracks of all time.
These people are wankers for many reasons: 1) The VF weenies press released to death; b) the article is not even available on line; iii) the editors chose Purple Rain as the greatest film soundtrack of all time.
I remain convinced that the purveyors of these annoying lists select a controversial top pick to generate buzz (tho' you would think this would might encourage online posting).
Regardless, let's not play into their hand. Rather than waste too much time telling you how clueless VF's music editors are, or giving them any linklove, I would rather -- in the spirit of Friday Night Jazz -- compile a worthwhile list of films and soundtracks for your perusal.
A few ground rules:
• We are looking for outstanding soundtracks to outstanding films. (Merely o.k. doesn't cut it).
• Groundbreaking films, soundtracks and performances get bonus points. (Mediocre performances get cut).
• Better non-film versions take points away from the movie soundtrack -- where there are superior versions such as the Broadway soundtrack (i.e., Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, etc.) than those flicks don 't make the cut.
• Pure adaptations of Broadway shows also get cut. In my mind, Cabaret, Chicago, Chorus Line are more filmed stage productions, rather than pure movies. (totally subjective).
Hence, several films failed to make the cut: Apocalypse Now is fantastic in the way it uses music (especially The Doors' The End, and Wagner's The Ride Of The Valkyries), but its not great as a standalone soundtrack; the wonderful My Fair Lady, with Rex Harrison's mediocre voice, and the dubbing of Audrey Hepburn's voice, also doesn't make the cut.
Alternatively, the film can't suck. The greatest soundtrack in the world becomes irrelevant if its attached to a film like, say, Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- a play that sucked two hours out of my life that I will never get back, and will literally regret on my death bed.
These things are totally subjective, and are rarely based exclusively on mere merits. Pink Floyd The Wall was a great album so overplayed when I was in
college, that I simply couldn't pull the trigger on it (the film is a bit
ponderous to boot). Again, these things are very subjective. We can certainly debate the order of any list, or the contents, and we probably will (thats what the comments are for).
Here's my subjective top 15:
1. A Hard Day's Night: A brilliant film and album that both remain as energetic and fresh today as they were in 1964. The Beatles personalities were perfectly suited to the medium, so much so that its hard to imagine a better film/soundtrack combo.
2. Stop Making Sense: Quite simply, the best concert film ever made. Yes, some of you will declare The Last Waltz, (with a few stragglers nominating Woodstock) but there is simply nothing else that ha the combination of showmanship, musical innovation -- and the big suit -- like this film does. Marvelous.
3. Blade Runner: Forget the ponderous and boring Chariots of Fire, THIS is Vangelis Masterpiece. Not only is the music hauntingly beautiful, but it fits the filmscape so perfectly, making it even better than it originally was. We've already spilled so many words about BR, that the less said the better. "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show:
I could try to explain this, but I couldn't do it justice. Find a
theater where this is playing at the midnight show, and go with someone
who's gone before.
5. Garden State: My "surprise" entry. A charming little film with a soundtrack that simply refuses to stop delighting you with its lovely ballads, nearly all of which are by bands which, prior to this soundtrack, were unknown. This disc was played constantly in our car in 2004/05.
6. Harold and Maude: One of the most subversive, outrageously amusing, black comedies ever made -- hysterically funny to boot. Cat Stevens (before he became Yusaf) created a wonderful collection of songs. This is , quite frankly, one of the funniest films ever made.
7. The Graduate: Not only is this a seminal, groundbreaking film, but the soundtrack is phenomenal. The way the various songs are interwoven into the action, mood, psychs of the players is amazing (listen as Benjamin's Alpha Romeo Spider runs out of gas). I don't know if Mike Nichols is a genius, or just gt incredibly lucky. Either way, its a great soundtrack and a great movie.
8. (tie):Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains The Same
The Who, The Kids Are Alright: Perhaps its my age showing, but I have always found each of these to be tremendous films and soundtracks. The Zep concert film was utterly ground breaking; The Who film was a fantastic documentary.
10. West Side Story: Leonard Bernstein's musical update of Romeo and Juliet. The combination of Stephen Sondheim brilliant lyrics, the kinetic choreography and the bravura camera work made for a fantastic wide screen film. The soundtrack created the perfect counterpoint to the dance and action.
Sure, its a bit dated (hence, #10), but it remains an all time great.
11. Pulp Fiction: The film does so many things so well -- but the way the music is integrated into the actual plot is simply terrific. Plus, Travolta and Uma can each dance.
12. Purple Rain: There is no doubt that the purple one can sign, dance, play guitar. Acting, not so much. Regardless, his sheer overwhelming talent is why this manages to get onto my top 10. True Story: We saw this int he theaters in college, and my remark was "He's going to be bigger than Michael Jackson" -- who was huge at the time. Its a toss up if I got that one right.
13. Little Shop Of Horrors: A fantabulous musical/horror/comedy. It's all a whole lot of fun, and the musical styles range from honky-tonk to doo-wop to straightforward rock n' roll. The strength of the film carries what otherwise might have been a mere Broadway adaption into an entire different level.
14. Saturday Night Fever: One of those seminal films that tremendously influenced the culture.
My choice in music was rock-n-roll, and I had little interest in blow-dried hair, white polyester suits, or cruising discos looking for Staten Island bimbos. (but if you wanted to get laid . . . )
The music works as well on its own, as it does as a classic piece of pop history. And John Travolta makes the list twice!
15. The Tao of Steve: Another charming little film that surprises with its wonderful songs. Lovely.
Thats my top list; A few Honorable Mentions are after the jump . . .
South Park - Bigger, Longer & Uncut: You will laugh until you piss yourself. The soundtrack is very very funny.
Sound of Music
Pink Floyd - The Wall
Oh Brother, Wherefore Art Thou
Grosse Pointe Blanke
Sorcerer Lost in Translation
The Virgin Suicides
The Motorcycle Diaries
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
Jesus Christ, Superstar
All that Jazz
Pennies from Heaven
Phantom of the Paradise
Robin & the 7 hoods
Beauty & the beast
If you've hummed along, tapped your feet, or even danced in your seat while watching "Purple Rain," "Saturday Night Fever" or "Trainspotting," you're not alone.
The soundtracks from those movies have been named among the 50 greatest by the editors of Vanity Fair magazine. The full list will be revealed next month in a one-time Conde Nast magazine, Movies Rock, for subscribers of its 14 titles.
"Purple Rain" topped the chart even though it was described as "perhaps the best badly acted film ever," editors at Vanity Fair said, while "Trainspotting" came in at No. 7 and "Saturday Night Fever" was eighth.
"Purple Rain" greatest film soundtrack: Vanity Fair
Wed Oct 24, 12:30 AM ET
Thursday, December 13, 2007
A stunningly beautiful video of underwater Belize, a small Caribbean country in Central America. Fishes and sea creatures dancing to Bolero by Ravel. Just beautiful.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Amazon Reader: Kindle
I never was interested in an electronic reader, but the new Amazon (AMZN) gadget looks quite intriguing: Amazon Kindle "Reader"
This thingie does have some attractive features: The ability to wirelessly grab books anywhere you are is way cool. But this is more than an eBook: It is a wireless device, grabing RSS feeds of blogs, newspaper and magazines. And, unlike Apple's iTunes, you own the books you buy, and if the device is lost or broken, you can re-download all of your Amazon purchases -- at no charge. (Apple's failure to do that is an inexcusable failing, and one of the reasons I hardly buy songs from ITMS).
Can Amazon generate the sort of frenzy reserved for Apple products? Perhaps -- earlier to today, Amazon as saying the Kindle was sold out. However, there are very few companies -- Apple, Harley Davidson (HDI), Tivo -- which have that sort of appeal or can generate that customer loyalty of that sort. I like Amazon, but its doubtful they will ever be in the rabid loyalty group.
Maybe they should tear a page from the Apple playbook -- after Christmas, slash the price 50% or more.
Why? At $150-200, this becomes a more compelling product. Amazon tells me that since the retail price also includes the wireless connectivity, this is already a $150 machine with $10 per month service for 2 years included. But would anyone really pay a $10/mo for the privilege of wirelessly purchasing books?
Some of the initial reviews of the doohickey were pretty good -- endorsements include Michael Lewis and Guy Kawasaki (below), and the NYT's David Pogue.
Criticisms: Version 1.0 has some obvious shortcomings: A few good observations (and one lousy one) via Scoble:
1. No ability to buy paper goods from Amazon through Kindle.
2. Usability sucks. Didn’t they think how people would hold this?
3. UI sucks. Menus? Did they hire someone from Microsoft?
4. No ability to send electronic goods to anyone else.
5. No social network. Why can't my friends see what I’m reading?
6. No touch screen.
The buying of regular Amazon products and send ebooks or other gifts are good suggestions. Social networking ("What I am reading") can easily be adapted to a widget.
In most software products (and this is an embedded piece of software), by version 2.0, the UI gets improved. Perhaps, the build quality/materials will get upgraded. Note that very few devices start out perfect, and even TiVo and the iPod got better over time.
Scoble's all wrong on the touchscreen: You don't really want to smudge the screen you are reading (Besides, I don't believe electronic ink works with touchscreen -- yet).
I would think that after working at Microsoft, Scoble would (heh-heh) know better than to buy 1.0 of anything.
Lets me make a suggestion to help Amazon out:
If Jeff Bezos wants to make the Amazon Kindle "Reader" a breakout iPod-like product, he has an easy solution: Get the price under $200, charge $5-10 per month for the service, and include 2 free books per month at that price. I would also think pre-loading the gadget with a few gratis books was an automatic. Home run!
I am not the road warrior I once was, but if I were, I would definitely have one of these . . .
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Until 2002, these giant creatures were seen only occasionally in Japanese waters. But for the past five years, they have been swarming every year into the Sea of Japan, the water that separates Japan from mainland Asia. During the biggest invasion so far, in 2005, an estimated 500 million jellyfish -- not yet mature -- drifted in each day.
It's hard to calculate financial damage to fishermen, but the Japanese government last year counted about 50,000 incidents of jellyfish trouble. Fish poisoned by jellyfish tentacles die with their mouths agape. That mars their appearance and reduces their value by as much as 20%. "When their mouths are wide open, it means they've died going, 'I'm in pain! I'm in pain!' " explains Mr. Yoshida.
Scientists have various ideas about what causes the outbreak. One has devised a computer model of ocean currents that suggests the jellyfish are breeding off the Chinese coast near the mouth of the Yangtze River. One theory is that pollution, perhaps linked to industrialization in China, is helping create more algae in the sea. The algae are food for plankton, which is food for jellyfish.
Invasion of Jellyfish Envelops Japan In Ocean of Slime
Pink 450-Pound Blobs Clog Nets but Spur New Recipes;
Pointing Fingers at China
WSJ, November 27, 2007; Page A1
Monday, December 10, 2007
Across the United States, the number of severe rainfalls and heavy snows has grown significantly in the last half-century, with the greatest increases in New England and the Middle Atlantic region, according to a report released yesterday
Environment America, a national group that advocates new laws and policies to mitigate the effects of climate change, issued the report.
The report, on the group’s Web site, environmentamerica.org, is an independent analysis of precipitation data from 1948 to 2006 that was vetted by two climate scientists.
It shows that the number of downpours and heavy snows has increased by 22 percent to 26 percent across the country since 1948. Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont were among the states in which occurrences of severe precipitation have increased more than 50 percent, according to the report. In Oregon and Florida, however, the incidence of extreme rainfall dropped slightly, though in Florida the drop was not statistically significant.
Precipitation Across U.S. Intensifies Over 50 Years
Published: December 5, 2007