Archive for August, 2004

It’s gotta be true, ’cause you read it here!

by Pierre, August 11th, 2004

Brazilian scientists have decoded the genome of the coffee plant, according to the BBC. Bully for them! But…

Having studied 200,000 strands of DNA, they have identified 35,000 coffee genes, a combination of which gives the drink its aroma and flavour.

“We are going to create a super-coffee that everyone can benefit from eventually,” [the agriculture minister Roberto Rodrigues] told reporters in Brasilia.

He said this would be achieved naturally through cross-pollination of coffee plants and not through genetic modifications in a laboratory.

200,000 strands of DNA, huh? Each one hand-picked and roasted to perfection, I bet. And the flavour of those genes! Cafezinho, genezinho, as long as they love their mother…

And isn’t it wonderful how DNA sequencing suddenly lets coffee pollinate itself?


Dada! Dada! Dada!

by Pierre, August 11th, 2004

In a post-modern neo-surrealist fit of existential à-proposism, famed star of the DVD Jenna Jameson is set to sign her literary opus How to Make Love Like a Porn Star on Tuesday, August 17th. Where else but at the Virgin megastore…

Ya just can’t make this up!

You call that an udder?

by Pierre, August 10th, 2004

This is an udder!

The BBC reports:

One of Australia’s largest agricultural shows has been engulfed in scandal after four people were disqualified for “udder-tampering”.

Two cattle owners and two groomers were excluded from the Royal Queensland Show for injecting an unknown substance into their cows’ udders to make them larger.

I say … Oy Vieh! (more…)

Just (Don’t) Do It

by Linus, August 10th, 2004

By the not-packed state of things, it’s pretty easy to tell that I am heading off to Amsterdam tomorrow. I might be a bit more sanguine if the laundry were done, but hey, that’s what the last minute is for: doing everything you didn’t do in all those other minutes.

Some fun, then, before we go. The boldface titles are links to sources, today; you can’t make this stuff up.

A Guy Walks into the Bar: In Hong Kong, government prosecutor Roderick Murray drank two martinis and a few beers, then headed in to court to whoop it up at a sentencing hearing. He giggled, clapped, drummed his fingers on the desk and wore sunglasses in session until the judge took offense, and then retreated outside where he posed as Rodin’s “The Thinker” for photos. Fraternity stunt? Reality show? Too many Twinkies?

No Ifs, Ands, or Butts: At a July wedding in Manila, ex-cousin-of-the-bride Benjie Ganay slipped and touched his cousin’s bootay as he fell. The bride’s father, Eladio Baule, got angry at this, and rounded up his son, another cousin, and a handy nephew to defend the bride’s honor. So they hustled Ganay off to a “secluded place,” stabbed him to death, roasted the body with kerosene and coconut leaves, and then ate some bits and served other leftovers to the rest of the wedding party. Presumably it tasted like chicken.

Don’t Know Much About History: If you live in the 53 states of the U.S.A., with its four branches of government (legislative, executive, judicial and administrative), you’re surely familiar with the two houses of Congress - the Senate for Democrats, and the House for Republicans. And you’ve probably read that famous Arthur Miller play, Death of a Traveling Salesman. If so, you are a student, probably Hispanic, in L.A.’s California Alternative High School, where they taught you all of the above and charged you as much as $1,450 for a worthless paper that said “Diploma” on it. Either that, or you are the Republican candidate for President; one of those two things.

Seconds of Pleasure, 107 of Them: While your mileage may vary, Berlin’s Humboldt Uni(versity) tells us that the male orgasm lasts 10 to 13 seconds. I had never counted. Female orgasms are reported lasting between 7 and 107 seconds, with muscle contractions measured as long as 51 seconds. Me, if I had an orgasm for 107 seconds, I’d probably never walk again. Confirming a truly sad state of affairs, this sexology page reports, per Kinsey, that 75% of men reach orgasm within 2 minutes, which has got to suck. Women average 20 minutes to reach orgasm, with the shortest reported time to orgasm clocking in at a scant 15 seconds. They don’t give her phone number.

Nothing Else Matters: I’m not sure how I could have missed the 2004 International Conference About Nothing this past February, but I’ll make it up somehow. Meantime, the inimitable, inevitable, ineffable popular astrologer Rob Brezsny has this message to Tauri for the week ending tomorrow:

To hint at the potentials of the coming week, I’ll appropriate the words of avant-garde music composer and author, John Cage. In describing his work, he once said, “I have nothing to say/ and I am saying it/ and that is poetry.” Here’s an altered version, Taurus, created especially to suit your current astrological needs: You have nothing to do/ and you are doing it/ and that’s your genius.

Which about sums it up.

Eli, Hale

by Linus, August 9th, 2004

Eli at Work Toys in Boyland
Eli with Lobster Pot An Eli's Day is Never Done
Water Sports Let's All Go Fly a Kite

Last weekend I was up in Maine with my family, sneezing up the state, eating everything that wasn’t nailed down, and hanging out with my folks and extended sibs: Dad the Painter, Mom the Birdwatching Retired Attorney, Ballet Dancer Brother who rarely comes by these parts, Travelin’ Brother who is back from Australia or someplace equally upside-down for a spell, and un-Googleable Sister and Bro-by-Marriage.

Sister and Bro-by-Law are pretty invisible from the Internet, which is probably because they’ve got their real-life hands full with little Eli. At a tickled three and a half years, Eli the Nephew is the first child in our immediate family. And since this is a blog, there he is. Innee cute?

Spruce Bruce

by Linus, August 5th, 2004

Like Arthur Dent of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I never mastered Thursdays. Or at least that’s what it feels like today, and it’s Thursday, isn’t it? Q.E.D.

And don’t get me started on mathematical induction, while we’re being postulationist: in high school my friends Michael and Michael and Michael and I once used that happy device to prove that everyone in the world was named “Michael” (with Linus in the rôle of the Exception That Proves The Rule). There was a minor logical flaw, as I recall. But surely just a little one.

Today’s New York Times has a beautiful op-ed piece written by international local hero Bruce Springsteen. I’m often on the fence about the opinions of our actors and musicians. Many - not all - are thoughtful and worthy with ideas; many more are not. Bob Dylan had something to say; Jimi Hendrix, even covering Bob Dylan, was not perhaps quite the same sage, though the words had power in his mouth.

Bruce Springsteen’s article is short and strong, and worth reading.

It is through the truthful exercising of the best of human qualities - respect for others, honesty about ourselves, faith in our ideals - that we come to life in God’s eyes. It is how our soul, as a nation and as individuals, is revealed. Our American government has strayed too far from American values. It is time to move forward. The country we carry in our hearts is waiting.

Anyway, politics is in the air, as it so frequently and blessedly is not in these parts. I chalk it up to Thursdays. I never did get the hang of Thursdays.

Link via Cipherdom — thanks for the fingerpost, Vernam.

Did He Say That Out Loud … ?

by Linus, August 5th, 2004

For best results it generally goes like this:

1. Think.
2. Talk.

Otherwise you end up with hilarious and perhaps revealing babble. Viz:

George W. Bush: Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

Well at least that’s out in the open at last.

The Associated Press appears to have changed the title on its news feed, but from what I can sift this first went out on the wires as “Bush Insists His Administration Seeking ‘New Ways to Harm Our Country’.” It still reads that way on the San Francisco Chronicle and at Tampa Trib sites, at least.

First noted at Psychotria Nervosa. Oh, the bill he was signing? It’s for 417.5 billion-with-a-B dollars for more war, because we don’t have enough already. Some of it seems very solid (e.g., the 3.5% pay raise for troops, though we don’t know whether that goes to grunts or to brass or to everyone), but I’ll leave that punding for other pundits.

21st Century Schizoid Pocketknife

by Linus, August 5th, 2004

Better than a tricorder

This is how I know it’s the future. We’re sliding backward far and fast if you want to talk culture, progress, empathy, equality, understanding, illumination, justice, prosperity, or benevolence — but man, we sure have some cool toys. This Swiss Army knife has a stainless steel blade, scissors, a nail file with screwdriver, a ballpoint pen, a red LED light - and a 64 meg USB memory card (or upgrade to 128 megs).

But where’s the fish-scaler?

In the can’t-please-’em-all department, I was kvelling about this to a friend last night. He nodded, unimpressed. “Yeah,” he said, “but there’s no camera.” Sheesh.

All Of The Above

by Linus, August 4th, 2004

I’m on the cell this morning with Vikki Walls from the Dewey Beach Music Conference & Festival, one of my favorite annual late-September events. Dewey Beach is a terrific conference, and I love it as much for the meeting and greeting and the enthusiastic young bands as I do for the effulgent juxtaposition of business and beach. Last year I went with Pierre, the year before with She Who Will Not Be Named.

Vikki has a new intern named Nikki, which I heard on the machine as Micki. At first I think I’m talking to Micki, who is really Nikki, who turns out to be Vikki. Eventually this all gets sorted out. A few blocks later we’re finishing up at the subway station when a woman charges up to me.

“I need a writer, I’m looking for a writer,” she says. She’s wearing a disheveled late-model business contraption in a pastel shade of lime green that looks like it planned to be blue but changed its mind at the last minute.

“Hold on,” I say. “What?” Since both of these could be directed at either Vikki or the Woman in Green, both of them are confused. “Wait,” I say, pointing at the woman. “Not you,” I say, pointing to Vikki, who can’t see me point. “Talk talk talk,” says Green Woman, waving one hand, the other on her hip, sullenly put out.

Vikki and I hang up. “I’m looking for a writer,” says Green, not missing a beat. She fishes a torn piece of cardboard out of her clutch; it’s a testimonial, in an uncertain and painstaking hand, promising that she hasn’t had a drink in 20 years, or 20 days, or 20 minutes, or something. I can’t make out the signature but I have a feeling it reads “Love, The Bartender.”

“You’re a writer. Don’t say you’re not, you’re a writer. I can see it.”

It goes downhill fast. I can’t fathom what she’s trying to get across and that piece of cardboard keeps coming out and waving around. We establish that she hasn’t had a drink and doesn’t belong in the insurance industry (but who does). She doesn’t seem to be asking for money. Whatever she does want, I fit the bill. It occurs to me that this is the bit when

  • The Terminator chasing her shows up and kills the guy she’s talking to;
  • The enemy spies chasing her start shooting up the real estate;
  • The vampire/werewolf chasing her materializes and havoc ensues;
  • The alien scheme to gather chemical life force from unsuspecting earth males abruptly involves separating said earth males from their skins, which will be used later as handy disguises;
  • Our chilling saga continues in the next issue of this Grant Morrison story, and boy does it end badly for the extras; or
  • I get cooties.

I’m tempted to wait around to see if it’s (c), because if so Kate Beckinsale can’t be far behind. But I have a sinking feeling it’s (f), so I run.

Note to Powers That Be: portentous messengers of fate are best deployed after I’ve had my coffee. Those sultry dark-haired pixie ones work just about every time. Especially when there’s, you know, chemical life force that needs gathering.

Anyway, this will teach me not to wear Hawaiian shirts to the office.

Et Tu, Peter Pan

by Linus, August 3rd, 2004

Times Square underground is like Sigil, the City of Doors, in that it can take you anywhere, often when that is not where you want to go.

For the unwary, Times Square is a time sponge. You ride the #2 train (say) into the IRT station with the clock at 2:47 (say), perfectly lubricated for a sober 2:55 arrival at your 3 p.m. meeting four blocks away. But the clock reads 2:51 when the train doors open, 2:52 when your feet touch the platform. You swarm up onto Broadway at 2:56 - nine minutes? who sets these clocks, anyway? - and sprint the distance, dodging traffic, collapsing into the building lobby at 3:02. When you lurch out of the elevators at 3:06 they are waiting for you, crisp and faintly vague. “No, you’re not late, I was just having a cup of coffee.”

You are a blotchy streaming mass of discomfiture, and a pen has broken in your right pants pocket. You will not know this until you reach in and streak ink along your fingers. The gods hate you. You will sneeze, and wipe your face with the pen hand. Later, at home, you will discover what your cat/ dog/ bird/ snake/ otter (choose one) has done on the couch. On the book you left on the couch. On the library book you left on the couch. On the overdue library book you left on the couch.

But in skilled hands, when your heart is pure and your quest is worthy, Times Square can act as a sort of time machine: thus the name. You ride the #2 train (say) into the IRT station with the clock at 2:47 (say), which looks grim for your 3 p.m. bus from Port Authority, a long avenue-stretch tunnel away and the ticket still to buy. But take the stairs up, to the headwaters of the escalator down to the #7 tracks, not down to the tunnel, and when you rage up the joining stairs halfway along the clock says … 2:48. It’s 2:49 at the exit.

Ignore the crowded Greyhound ticket office, of course. Duck into the empty Peter Pan terminal next door, where the sign says “ATLANTIC CITY CASINO BUS LINES.” Glance at the clock as you settle into line, two scant riders away from the ticket window. It’s 2:49 still. The round trip to Boston is a trim $30, unexpectedly on sale. The ticket is time-stamped 2:51, and Gate 84 is right downstairs. The world, last sunny Friday, is my erster.


Time was, Greyhound seated every passenger at major stations along their route. If the bus held 40 and there were 41 passengers, number 41 got a bus to himself. It might not have been the soundest policy, but once upon a time in America the customer was king, and if you sold a ticket you had to honor it.

But it’s 2004, even counting the effects of Times Square. Two dozen people already in line, along with my time-traveling self, have to make do with the 3:30 bus. These days, when the bus fills up the waiting rest are out of luck, at least until the next scheduled departure. And the in-drive movie is Bringing Down the House.

Thinking fast, I take the pens out of my pocket.