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Monday, May 19, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Ghost of the Machine

This Monday begins my first full week sans home computer in about five or six years.

Last week my trusty (albeit slightly rusty) IBM™ Aptiva booted up its last, leaving a mess of valuable data in the lurch that I'll have to have extracted post-mortem. Oh, we had tried backing up the data. Unfortunately, the CD-RW drive decided it didn't have time to waste on silly tasks like backing up files and stubbornly refused to recognize any disc inserted into its geared tan maw.

Our machine had been experiencing plenty of trouble lately; the cooling fans were making a dreadful whine, and somehow the RAM was being occupied with phantom duties that left precious little resource time for ordinary tasks like writing papers and checking e-mail. Then, somehow all the desktop icons and taskbar ceased to work. Windows™ continually returned error messages I'd never seen before. Finally when the computer was restarted (after a routine vacuuming of the dust-laden interior) the monitor went blank. No boot-up, not even with my rescue disks.

I fear I may have static-zapped the poor thing into oblivion...I'll never know. I feel like the Dr. Kevorkian of computers; I know just enough about them to get me in serious trouble.

Was it a virus? No such luck. Repeated scans with anti-virus software turned up nothing out of the ordinary, although it could be some exotic as-yet-uncharted virus. I'm left with the conclusion that that little 333 MHz machine simply died of old age - or was possessed (no, the numerical significance of the processor speed was not lost on me; thank you, St. Thomas Aquinas). Who knows.

So we're in the market for a new computer. I don't want to spend a ton of money, but I want a good solid machine that will be serviceable for at least the next few years. I'm checking my Dell™ catalog (my work machine is a Dell) and stopping by the campus computer store to see how much machine I can get for the least amount of money. Sure, the dream machine would have about one gig of ram, a monstrous striping hard drive, a giant flat-screen display and CD and DVD-burners up the wazoo. But alas, we can't have everything.

I'll settle for a machine that doesn't scream at me in the middle of the night like a banshee.




Friday, May 16, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Musings of a Leg-Powered Luddite

Call me a curmudgeon, but I'm not exactly enchanted with the concept of the Segway™ "personal transportation device."

I just don't really see the sense of having another machine that reduces the amount of physical activity the human body has to perform. After all, aren't we already sedentary enough? Many of us spend our workdays planted in chairs in front of computer screens, then hop into elevators and have our bodies carried to our homes, where we proceed to sit once again. If we get used to any more "labor-saving", our mortal coils will start to get a little redundant.

Basically I see the Segway™ as a sort of stand-up wheelchair for the otherwise ambulatory - you know, a glorified version of those electric supermarket carts intended to allow the infirm, elderly or extremely obese to navigate the aisles without incurring the wrath of the speedy, inconsiderate highly-mobile.

Maybe the device does have some legitimate uses: I can see them being used by mail carriers, meter maids and others whose daily labor entails hours of thankless legwork. But why would an otherwise able-bodied person need or want one? I can see it now: the perfect luxury gift for the video-game addicted couch potato who has everything.

Have we grown too lazy to stroll? Will walking become one of those manual tasks relegated to the poor - while allowing those who can afford the Segway™ to roll about faster and taller that the hoi polloi? Do we really need these rolling speed demons mingling and colliding with the trudging masses on sidewalks and in traffic intersections, frightening children, dogs and old people?

I, a mere leg-powered Luddite, say nay. Let us not go rolling into the great unknown like carted cattle, but walking proudly like human beings.

After all, we're the only species that can.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
It must be something in the air...could it be the dreaded spring-that-just-won't-come, vernum interruptus? In this morning's daily dose of bloggery, I found two sweet accounts of comebacks and karma that put a unique smile on my face. Walk in my office right now, and you'll see an expression on my face reminicent of both the Mona Lisa and Alex from A Clockwork Orange. It's all because of those posts and the fact that my DVD box set of the X-Files Season 7 finally arrived yesterday.

Clouds, tornadoes, lightning storms of Rocky Horror Picture Show dimensions - it's been the Spring From Hell in the Midwest.

That does it. Tomorrow we're going to IKEA to see the yin-yang tables and the Gutvik bunk beds; at least we'll have a better shot there than getting seats for The Matrix Reloaded. We'll save that for next week, after all the fanboys have gone home to bed.




Wednesday, May 14, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Chutzpah Files: Really Annoying People

While the practice of maintaining good karma dictates not speaking ill of others, the practice of maintaining sanity often dictates mentioning them (at least anonymously) in a blog. So, in the healthful interest of venting bilious humour, here are three examples of extremely annoying people I've encountered since Sunday. Normally this wouldn't merit a blog post, but three instances in as many days qualifies as a statistically significant cluster.

The Hair Emergency

This morning on the Metra train heading down to 59th street, a twenty-something woman diagonally in the row behind me proceeded to blast her 'do with hairspray for what seemed like two whole minutes.

On the train. In today's terror-twitchy atmosphere I'm suprised someone didn't start shouting, "poison gas! poison gas!"

The smell was gagging me, so in disgust I waved my hand in front of my face to dispel the alcohol- and perfume-laden cloud. Lady, you do that in a bathroom; not on a crowded commuter train, you ditz.

Ms. Moneybags Orders Tea

At dinner two evenings ago, a group of four (a middle-aged man and woman and a teen boy and girl) at our favorite vegetarian place on Broadway managed to yak through their entire conversation discussing nothing but money - i.e., complaining about how expensive their utilities are, how many million some building just got sold for, and how much their friends' salaries were.

When the older woman asked the waitress how much a cup of tea was ($2.00) the woman seemed astonished, and went on and on about what a ripoff it is to charge so much money for a cup of tea. "Just how much does a teabag cost you people? You're making two dollars here, two dollars there...ugh!" Mind you, these people weren't exactly hurting for money. I had seen them pull up in a shiny new black Mercedes.

Tacky, tacky, tacky. You're in a restaurant, not your Aunt Zelda's kitchen. If something's too expensive, don't order it, or don't patronize the restaurant again. If you're feeling bold, you can offer a "Gee, that's pricey. I'll pass." But I think berating the waitstaff for the price of items on the menu is about as effective as yelling at a checkout cashier because the price of melons went up: the person you're complaining to probably isn't setting the prices, and making a fuss over two dollars in public is just not a classy move. It's crass.

She reminded me of the psychotic paperboy hounding John Cusack in Better Off Dead: "I want my two dollars! TWO DOLLARS!"

Mr. Cellphone Puts His Money Where His Latte Is

And worst of all, last Sunday at our local Rogers Park Starbucks™ I was in line next to a silver-velvet-track-suited Jheri-curled cellphone junkie who screamed at the baristas because he had to wait for his latte instead of having it made the second he asked - he basically thought he was King Poobah, and wanted the whole place to stop for his damned vanilla-orange latte - and he was going to make a royal stinking fuss until he got it.

"You took my money, and now you tellin' me I have to wait? I can go someplace else and give them my money!"

Thankfully, to the two young female baristas credit, they told him in no uncertain terms that he would get his latte when his order came around - and that they had tried to talk to him but he couldn't hear because thoughout his entire tirade, he was on a call.

If he could only see he wasn't coming across as an in-control, dominant "playa"; what he looked like was a fool. What kind of man drinks a vanilla-orange latte, anyway? If you're going to be an @$$hole, order a red-eye espresso, black. Sheesh.




Tuesday, May 13, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The $%!t Hits The Fan

Those bleedin' bahstids at Microsoft UK...it turns out that the entire iLoo Internet-ready toilet press hullaballoo was a hoax - yes, a hoax. They had me hook, line and s(t)inker with that one. However, I don't feel so bad, considering even CNN, ZDNet and MSNBC and took the "bait."

There may be more than just a bad smell surrounding this deception, I'm afraid - a British man claims that Microsoft stole his original idea for the iLoo hoax, and it's possible the computer giant's scandal may turn into a pay toilet.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WebWurst Strikes Again: The Cookie Crumbles?

Just when you though you've seen every frivolous lawsuit, this one takes the cake...er, cookie.

A British-born lawyer based in San Francisco (notice how it's almost always the lawyers coming up with these asinine lawsuits - don't they have enough real kvetchers to keep them busy?) has filed suit against Kraft, Inc. for allegedly using an "inedible substance" in the manufacture of Oreo™ cookies. What is this "inedible substance"? Stephen Joseph claims that the trans-fatty acids used in preparing the black-and-white treats are a "known harmful substance," and is taking advantage of a provision of the California civil code that holds manufacturers liable for common products if not "known to be unsafe by the ordinary consumer."

Never mind the fact that the vast majority of commercially-processed foods use some type of hydrogenated fat in their lipid content - a lawsuit like this could be extended to just about anything. Quoth lawyer Joseph:
"I am probably full of hydrogenated fat because until two years ago I didn't know about it. I resent the fact that I have been eating that stuff all my life."
I'd say he's full of something, but it ain't hydrogenated fat. To mis-quote both Nike™ and "Wierd Al" Yankovic, "Just Don't Eat It".




Monday, May 12, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"This Is A Test, Only A Test..."

Lucky us. Chicago and Seattle will be participating in a national Homeland Security defense drill codenamed Topoff-2 - the country's first large-scale test of terrorist preparedness since 9/11. This afternoon Seattle officials will stage a mock "dirty bomb" explosion, complete with hazard-suited emergency responders, fake "reporters", and over 100 "bomb casualties".

Here in the Windy City the test is a little more subtle, but no less frightening: officials here will test the spread of a biological warfare agent, a strain of "pneumonic plague". In days, participants will begin filtering into area hospitals with flu-like symptoms, and will undergo evaluation, quarantine, and treatment with mock antibiotics.

Listening to radio this morning, the test is big news because city leaders want everyone to be aware this is only, repeat only a test. The last thing they need is a public panic over a rumored biological attack. I've personally seen the havoc a single abandoned bookbag can have on the subway system, so a mock bio-terror attack of this scale brings to mind some awful "War of the Worlds" scenario.

However, the good part is at least we'll have some idea of how prepared we are as a city do deal with this type of situation. That'll make me feel a lot better than having a roll of duct tape in hand.

More details at CNN.com, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Department of Homeland Security.

So, fellow Chicagoans, be prepared to anything over the next week or so.

Even bubble-suited government people.




Thursday, May 08, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
British Toilet Obsession Gone Too Far?

This story was just too delicious to pass up: Microsoft's UK division is apparently developing a toilet with built-in Internet Access, the iLoo.
From CNN: "The Internet's so much a part of everyday life now that surfing on the loo was the next natural step," MSN marketing manager Tracy Blacher said. "People used to reach for a book or mag[azine] when they were on the loo, but now they'll be logging on."
Tracy also gave The Mirror some juicy advance word on this high-tech W.C.:
The loo is kitted out with a plasma screen, which has an adjustable height level, and a wireless keyboard (all waterproof), so users can merrily surf away as they go about their business. There'll also be a six channel surround sound speaker system under the sink unit for users to stream music from the internet. MSN as ever don't forget a single feature. Tracy Blacher from MSN says: "The MSN iLoo is no bog-standard affair. We are looking at vacuum-powered options and the very latest broadband technology for the best loo surfing experience ever."
MSN's forum features a discussion on the finer points of the wired potty, such as what operating system it will use.

Jolly good idea, I say, as long as they don't install webcams - and do remember to wash your hands after you use the mouse.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
under crossed wires
His footsteps shuffle down the narrow hall
under the sixty-cycle hum
of fluorescents and motors
and gray transformers
singing in harmony.
Chainsaws outside my office window;
the Winter Garden is cut to order
for the ambulance sirening west down the Midway.
The door opens, squeaks, and closes.
Like it has every day
since May of nineteen seventy five.
The workmen take their sandwich break with dusty helmets
ringing ears and gritty eyes
Did you bring the wire? he yells
I sip green tea and
my veins relax
I slip outside, down through
the keyhole
behind the door

L. Reznicek
(sigh)...it's Thursday.




Wednesday, May 07, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Suburban High-School She-Devils

Think that college frat boys are the sole purveyors of ridiculous, violent hazing pranks? Think again. Here in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, a group of Glenbrook North High seniors - girls - recently inflicted mayhem on some female junior classmates that sent five to the hospital with undisclosed injuries.

This scene, captured on amateur video, reads like some bizarre offspring of Stephen King's Carrie and MTV's Jackass. From CNN:
One girl walks behind the seated girls and slaps them on the back of the head. Another girl holds up what appears to be an intestine. At least one girl reported having a pig's intestine wrapped around her neck. Basically it started out as a fun hazing like our initiation into our senior year," one girl who had been injured said. "About 10 minutes into it, everything changed -- buckets were flying ... people were bleeding. Girls were unconscious."

Dozens of students had come to watch the event. "When I looked up and I saw blood, I knew that this wasn't right," another girl said. "This is from a paint can being thrown at me," she said, pointing to her shoulder. "Tabasco sauce, vinegar and stuff like that [was put] in my eye." Witnesses also reported urine, feces and fish guts were thrown, and others said they had been forced to eat mud.
Who are these kids from a "nice" Chicago suburb - and how the hell did they learn to be this evil? Remember, these kids will be sharing dorms, apartments and locker rooms with your kids next year.

In a few years, they will be co-workers, bosses, wives, and most frightening of all - parents.
"Oh, honey, we had some great times back in high school! Remember the time I almost strangled Heather with a pig intestine? And the time I beat Lisa over the head with a bucket after throwing sh*t on her? What a blast!"
Oh, for shame. Am I the only one getting seriously disturbed by this concept?




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Moo.

Listening to Chicago Public Radio this morning as I drove down to work, I did a double-take:
"Traffic delays on the Eisenhower [Expressway] this morning due to a furniture problem, police expect to have it cleared up shortly..."
Furniture problem?

The announcers later clarified that a kitchen cabinet had apparently fallen off a vehicle and was blocking a lane.

It made me remember a blog post I'd read recently on Chicago: Howtown on the Make, on who "The Hicks" are, and where the "hick line" is as you go further from the city center...there's some dispute as to who the hicks in Chicagoland are. Indiana? Don't even go there.




Monday, May 05, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Radio Days: Dead Air

Last night I had another episode of my recurring "radio station" dream.
Once upon a time, I worked as a DJ at a radio station in Plattsburgh, New York. Okay, it was during the late 80's and early 90's. The FM station's (WGFB 99.9 FM) 100 kilowatt signal covered a healthy portion of the Quebec broadcast market including Montreal, and the AM station (WEAV 960) was a small "sister station" - but the funny thing was, one person manned both stations simultaneously. Remember, this was before the industry had widespread digital pre-recorded programming that let DJ's blabber for half an hour into a computer, then go home while the machine automatically interspersed their soundbites between Britney Spears and Madonna tracks.

Back then, Britney Spears was in diapers.

The one-DJ-two-stations feat involved recording voice and announcement tapes at strategic times to play on the partly-live "automation-assisted" FM station, while entertaining the rest of the folks on the AM "live" station - and while operating the station's switchboard and answering the doorbell. Later, we had a new mixing board that allowed both the AM and FM stations to be fed into one board, but each was still programmed differently. It was a rather ass-backwards operation - having the double-duty on-air staff be the receptionist - considering there was usually someone in the office. Plus, we often worked split shifts that required us to start the broadcast day at 5:00am, work until 10:00am; then return at 4:00pm and work until 7:00pm. This allowed the station to get by with one "drive time" DJ through majority of the broadcast day.

In effect it was like having the public exposure of working at two stations in a major broadcast market, but at a fraction of major-market pay. The honest truth of the matter is that your garden variety local radio DJ usually makes less than $10 per hour. At the time, I made considerably less than that. If I told you what my hourly pay rate was back then - as a "morning radio personality" - you would (a) gasp, (b) roll on the floor laughing, or (c) call me an idiot for working there for seven full years. All of the above would be fair reactions, in my opinion.
In my recurring dream I am always late to work and the station is empty; there's dead air, the phone is often ringing and the person on the other end of the line is either my boss or some irate caller. But the surreal-ly disturbing part is that I can never find the right music and none of the equipment works. I think it's a variation on the "naked in public" dream.

Sometimes, the turntables and tonearms are jelly-soft, or the "carts" are filled with tangled loops of magnetic tape and have snarled up the player heads. For those that haven't worked at a radio station, a "cart" (short for cartridge) is an endless-loop playback format that looked a lot like a 8-track tape (and sounded about the same), but was still in use less than ten years ago - at least at the station I worked at.

In my nightmare I don't recognize any of the artists and songs. They are all some sort of ungodly amalgam of adult contemporary, rap and urban music - probably the effect of someone's late-night jeeping past my bedroom window - and I grow increasingly panicked until I wake up.
For several years, at the real-life counterpart of this nightmare station we had an hourly "clock" that dictated which category of song got played at which position during the hour. A "red" song was a new, hot-rotation hit; "yellow" was a recurrent (six months to one year old) song, and "green" was an oldie. The definition of "oldie" was rather broad, and often encompassed anything from Taylor Dayne's "Tell It To My Heart" to "Flowers on the Wall" by the Statler Brothers.

Yes, we actually did play those songs next to one another at WGFB. In waking life.
In my dream I dig and dig through boxes and racks looking for a song to play, or a commercial that's scheduled but I can't find anywhere. When I open the mike, I have absolutely nothing coherent to say.
However, what's really interesting is that I have never had "television station" nightmares about the NBC affiliate I worked at from '96-2000, WPTZ-TV. Hmm. I wonder if that's because I had a really cool boss and co-workers. At the radio station, co-workers had the unfortunate habit of dying on me.

My immediate boss and program director died of pancreatic cancer two years after I left the radio station; another DJ finally succumbed to the cystic fibrosis he battled all his life, another was killed in a fiery head-on car crash at the age of 25, and yet another died of kidney cancer shortly after I started working at WPTZ. Longtime Plattsburgh DJ Gordie Little recalls this story in the local paper, the Press Republican.

I wouldn't call these fantastic odds, considering no more that ten people worked at the radio station at any given time: secretly, I suspect the place was cursed.
What's truly creepy is that the last DJ I mentioned, Bob, was in my dream last night. He appeared alive and well, although he passed away on May 21, 2000. In this dream, he had just stopped by to help me find some music to play.
Thanks, Bob M. I hope you're doing well wherever you are, up in that "big station in the sky".

The Irony of It All: Here's the short, sour story told in RadioSpeak™. In 1996, WGFB-FM in Plattsburgh, NY was "LMA"-ed to a station in Burlington, Vermont and format-swapped into a Modern Rock station called WBTZ, The Buzz (not to be confused with WPTZ-TV, the television station I worked at). All of us were fired and replaced by a staff of tattooed college kids with tongue piercings lead by a girl who called herself The Monkey (bitter, moi? Non!).

Not that I have nothing against tattoos (I have one myself), but tongue-piercings should be anathema to anyone that makes their living with their speaking voice. Divine karmic punishment for playing Taylor Dayne back-to-back with the Statler Brothers,perhaps?

On the plus side, the call letters WGFB came home westward to roost. They now belong to a station called B103 in Rockford, Illinois. I can just fold my arms behind my head and smile at it all.




Friday, May 02, 2003
Yes, We have No Bananas...Period. 
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The Health News Digest reports that the banana could be extinct in as little as a decade. How can this be? Apparently, all commercially-grown bananas are produced asexually, and are essentially clones. Dr. James Pierce, associate professor of genetics and biotechnology at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, says:
"Because the bananas we eat are triploids, they can only be grown, not through sexual reproduction, but asexually," says Dr. Pierce. "Since bananas are sterile, they are basically cloned and are bred to be these beautiful yellow fruits that are sweet, have no seeds and last very long. There is no variety since there is no sexual reproduction. Bananas have the same genotype or genes, and are essentially identical clones."

So is the banana as we know it doomed? Some researchers claim the delicious, yellow fruit could become extinct within the next 10 years. Dr. Pierce says the amount of money and pesticides needed to preserve the banana against the Black Sigatoka [fungus] is growing. "Plants have to use lots of fungicides because this fungus, like many microorganisms, is becoming resistant to the chemicals' effects," he says."
If we've ever needed a bigger wake-up call about the ill-wisdom of cloning - especially of the human sort - I think this is it. No bananas in ten years??? Good heavens, think of the constipation!

Good Kitty

A Grist Magazine cartoon by Suzy Becker...ha.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
"This, too, shall pass."

Last night, I had a chance encounter with one of my upstairs neighbors that haunts me this morning. Isn't it funny how you can live in the same building with someone for years and never cross paths, never notice one person's sudden absence?

That's the strange paradox about neighbors and apartment buildings; in our bid to retain anonymity, even the shortest physical distance could easily be an ocean away. Neighbors pass unseeing in the halls with scarcely a greeting, our only knowledge of one another muffled music, thuds, squeaks, and flushing toilets.

Our next-door neighbor Dawn is moving out this weekend into a new condominium with her fiance Chris. Since they're consolidating apartments, she's giving away a lot of her furniture and housewares to save to trouble of carrying them out of the building, and her two dresser-drawers are being taken by a lady who lives upstairs on the third floor of our wing. I'll call her "Jenny."

Jenny looks to be in her early to mid-40's, hair tinted in the fashionable reddish shade many city women wear in lieu of a straight brunette color, but in an oddly stiff style. She seemed a little "off" or distracted. We even silently suspected she might be "under the influence," although we smelled no liquor.

Her apartment is spare and clean, the bedroom is visible to our left. After brief introductions - yes, we had never crossed paths, despite living only a feet feet apart - we checked out the old dresser drawers Jenny was trading for Dawn's, and we'd offered to perhaps take Jenny's old ones. It's the old "city apartment switcheroo". The dressers were "Mid Century" early antiques in fair condition - an interesting pale green Jazz-age color with retro brass fittings, but too large and heavy for our decor. Nice - but just not our type.

I noticed a large framed photo on top of the taller dresser of a middle-aged man with a crew cut and mustache. He looked almost military except for the gold loop in his ear. The placement of the frame struck me at the time as unusual, almost like a small shrine. He looked familiar. Where had I seen him before?

We told her we'd think about the dressers, and suggested to Jenny that perhaps the Broadway Antique Market down the street would purchase them since they specialize in pieces from the postwar era. We said our brief goodbyes to Jenny, as she closed her door with a soft click.

The three of us walked downstairs to our floor and Dawn pulled us aside in a hushed whisper.

"Did you know what happened to Jenny? She was about to get married, when her fiance was killed in a car accident two months ago."

"You know what else," Dawn continued, "She was having these really bad headaches, and when she went to the doctor she found out she had an aneurysm that could burst at any time. She went in for surgery two days after her fiance died - that was his picture on the dresser. They told her if the aneurysm burst she'd have only about 20 minutes to live.

Now she's got to start all over again."

We all fell silent for a moment as the pain behind these facts sunk in. It dawned on me that Jenny's rather unusual hair was probably a wig, and her stilted speech and distractibility the result of her cranial surgery and of her recent great loss. If that isn't a case of life dealing someone lemons, I don't know what is.

I was struck by the fact that we'd probably seen Jenny and/or her fiance at some point in the two-and-a-half years we've lived in our building.

But we didn't even notice he no longer existed.

It made me think of how no thing and no person in our lives should be taken for granted, because no matter how certain a thing seems, it can be taken away in a flash by Fate. Back when I was working in radio this was one of the songs I'd play a lot; I was reminded of the words today.
"Lying here in the darkness
I hear the sirens wail
Somebody going to emergency
Somebody's going to jail
If you find somebody to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the door...

And in these days
When darkness falls early
And people rush home
To the ones they love
You better take a fool's advice
And take care of your own
One day they're here;
Next day they're gone."

-- Don Henley, "New York Minute"
The lesson that was driven home last night was that the present moment is the only one you have any certainty of. Make no assumptions before you know the facts, and don't wait until tomorrow to say what you need to today.




Thursday, May 01, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
WebWurst Returns, In The Flesh

This being May Day - when all good pagans dance around the Freudian symbol of their choice - it's the perfect day to examine the state of the sausage...so to speak.

And like the sausage, the Internet is still the world's finest ground-up mix of oddments and cast-off information under one mouse. Case in point: prior to this morning, I had never known of the existence of:

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, whose primary purpose is to promote the consumption of nitrate-laced, intestinal tissue-encased ground hogflesh (good heavens, I've been reading too much Lileks lately!). If you click on their Patriotic Food survey, you'll see the evidence behind their claim that the aforementioned seasoned hogflesh is the epitome of "American Patriotic Cuisine." Click a little deeper on the "A Project of the American Meat Institute" icon, and you'll "link" to www.meatami.com, which could be faux-French for "meat friend."

You'll find headline articles on how the cost of implementing the 1996 Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (PR/HACCP) has been "seven times higher than anticipated" - translated, meat-packing companies are crying "fowl" at having to shell out a measly 1 percent more cash to make sure we get reasonably E. coli and trichinosis-free meat on our tables.

(P.S.) I am not a vegetarian. Yet.

Or, Balloon fetishists - don't worry, all's left to the imagination here. A website full of photos like this one, the "60-inch Giant Head With Nose Shape Balloon," is perversely fascinating yet delightfully baffling - like a dirty joke you don't get, but everyone else is laughing at. I can only imagine what the Goodyear Blimp does for these folks.

Or strangest of all, that the 6 million or so punch card ballots (complete with hanging 'chads') from Florida's infamous 2000 Presidential election debacle are still in storage limbo awaiting their ultimate fate. Julian Pleasants, a University of Florida history professor, said destroying the ballots "would leave a hole in U.S. history". I'm sure the pun was intended.
From CNN: "I'm sure a lot of people would just like to forget about it," he said. "But this is the only presidential election decided by the Supreme Court. If you don't have a ballot, how do you understand the difference between a hanging chad and a three-corner chad, or between a pregnant chad and a dimpled chad?"
How, indeed. What sheltered existences we live until the Great Bratwurst of Life swats us greasily across the cheek.




Wednesday, April 30, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Don't Bother With The Reading Glasses

Yesterday I decided to switch to a larger, easier-to-read font for this blog; it's now a size-2 Georgia/Garamond/Serif without justified alignment, which seems to be much easier on the eyes. A size-1 Georgia is too small and serif-y for any but the lowest resolution screens, but I find the size-2 makes for pleasing boldface and italic script. I hope you find the change a positive one as well?

Maybe it's just me, but that size-1 Verdana I used (and which I used to like on so many other blogs) was starting to give me a headache. Next project: figuring out how to use Cascading Style Sheets. These days, only dinosaurs like me don't use them yet.

Here's a link worth a chuckle or two, The Chortler's Spanglés Lesson Number 1: El Presidente Jorge Bush speaks with Condoleeza Rice.




Tuesday, April 29, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait...Even If It's 20 Years

When I was in my teens and early 20's I was a huge fan of the Runaways and Joan Jett.

They were the bomb. In my 16-year old eyes, they were chicks my age who apparently had the cojones to tell the establishment to f*** off, and break the boundaries of common conservative housefrau sensibility with pulsing hard rock-n-roll that could drive a kid like me to distraction heh, heh.

Don't get me wrong; I make no apologies for my teenage naivete. After all, it's one of the onion-layers of my current self - without which, I'd be a layer or so less interesting.

You see, I've been waiting for the release of this long-in-the-works film project for a couple of years now: Victory Tischler-Blue, a former Runaways bassist who's now an independent California filmmaker has created a critically-acclaimed-prior-to-its-release biopic of this girl band that changed the rules...or at least broke most of the them. Never mind that artists like Lil' Kim, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot or Pink put their wild ways to shame in the two-double-oh-trey; but my, these are different times in which we live in. We're talking about pioneers.

Sacred Dogs Entertainment is slated to release Edgeplay sometime in 2003, as well as Naked Under Leather, a biopic in the works on the groundbreaking rocker who influenced Joan Jett in the early 1970's, Suzi Quatro. Suzi's still alive and well and rocking in the UK...and she's got a BBC radio show you can listen to online.

The Runaways movie, a Suzi Quatro movie, and the new Exorcist prequel? Oh, man...whatta died-and-gone-to-heaven movie year for yours truly!

FilmThreat.com has a four-part interview with Victory Tischler-Blue on the making of Edgeplay. In her 2003 interview with Chris Parcellin, she says,
"The subject of The Runaways, for most of our parents, is a tough one, because just on a very base level, it required our parents to trust blindly people they didn’t know and, in all honesty, didn’t really want to know. It required our parents to let go of their teenaged girls and allow them to travel around the world, virtually unchaperoned, with a bunch of strangers. It required our parents to block out what their minds were screaming and listen only to their hearts – and that was to let us all go and realize our ambitions."
On one of the former Runaways - ironically the one most commercially successful today - who reportedly stonewalled the project repeatedly,
"For any artist, the greatest gifts are the freedom of speech and the ability to create. For another artist, especially one who has benefited so much from those freedoms, to set out to deliberately compromise, interfere with and block someone else’s right of freedom of expression by bullying and threatening nuisance lawsuits because that artist can afford to, makes me sick."
Problem was, back then in the 80's I didn't see or understand the behind-the-scenes manipulation the band members had to undergo at the hands of an unscrupulous manager, and just how little real empowerment came with the sound and fury. Thankfully, things are often different now, almost 30 years later. I heartily recommend this interview; it's an eye-opener.

Frankly, I think all the Machiavellian bullsh*te she's had to wade through to make this movie - from former bandmembers to ex-manager Kim Fowley himself - is a "high-boot" mark, even for the entertainment industry. You have to give this woman a ton of credit for making Edgeplay happen at all. I, for one, can't wait to plunk down my money to see it.

Note to Victory - you go, girl, all the way. Do not let anybody get in the way of letting your voice and vision be heard. When the lights go down and the chairs are on the tables, the only way an artist's soul rests is when its will is done.

(P.S.) I can not wait to see what wild search terms lead surfers to farkleberries after this posting...




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Home Alive

From Evanston, Illinois, just a hop north of my apartment, comes a surprising news development. A 6-year old named "Eli Quick," who was brought to St. Francis Hospital by a man claiming to be his father (who subsequently disappeared) may turn out to be Tristen "Buddy" Myers, a North Carolina boy missing from his home since 2000.
from CNN: "On February 3, a man walked into an Evanston hospital with a boy who he said was his son. The man said he wanted the boy evaluated for "aggressive behavior," said Jill Manuel of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Hospital workers saw that the boy, between 6 and 8 years old, was dirty and "obviously had not bathed or changed clothes in days," Manuel said. The man also threatened to leave the boy at the hospital, prompting workers to report the situation to a Department of Children and Family Services hotline. Police were called and discovered a warrant was out for the man's arrest on a retail theft charge. He was taken into custody, and the boy was placed in a foster home, Manuel said.
Authorities are awaiting the results of DNA tests to confirm the child's identity.

It's been over two years since Tristen Myers was reported missing...that's a long time in the life of a child who was a pre-schooler when he went missing from his Roseboro, NC, backyard. But if authorities don't find the man who brought him to St. Francis back in February, the sad truth is we may never know the real story behind "Buddy's" disappearance.




Monday, April 28, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Hello Kitty(TM) is the trademark of Sanrio Corp., and this image is intended to be satirical.  We have to write this, because Hello Kitty(TM) is indeed watching.To be perfectly honest, I've never watched the Hello Kitty animated series; but I'm simply flabbergasted by the mindboggling range of merchandise Sanrio has managed to whip up based on this little white creature that looks like a marshmallow Peep.

Hello Kitty is everywhere.

She's no spring chicken...or is that spring kitten...she's been around since 1974, the year Richard Nixon resigned and India conducted her first nuclear test. Coincidence? Perhaps.

Even Santa Claus doesn't have as many domestic uses, and he's just a seasonal character. At the risk of inflaming the pious masses who burned Beatles albums by the gross after John Lennon's ill-fated boast, one could say Hello Kitty is more popular that Jesus.

Here's what I mean. You can buy Hello Kitty golf clubs, microwave ovens, underwear, sandwich irons (!), baby silverware, cellphone covers, toothbrushes (manual and electric), adhesive bandages, adult novelties (I kid you not), handbags, shoes...I could fill pages.

This list doesn't include the myriad incarnations of Hello Kitty wearing different clothes and accessories, and her dozens of auxiliary marketing tools - er - friends.

Granted the majority of Hello Kitty products are sold to pre-teen girls, harried mothers, hip middle-aged women - and of course gay men, but you're talking about a segment of the population that tends to have plenty of discretionary income. As an ex-writer of TV commercials, I am utterly in awe of whichever marketing genius managed to keep the Kitty cash rolling in for so long. My hat's off to you!

Let's psychologically analyze the benevolent, mouthless (and thereby lacking a posterior orifice?) being that is Hello Kitty.

One could say she is the yin archetype to the yang of overbearing modern metallic masculinity. Our heroine is the anti-GI-Joe, the anti-Hulk...the anti-Goliath and the anti-Osama Bin Laden. No one ever put Hello Kitty's face on the nacelle of a B-52 bomber, on the casing of a nuclear warhead, or on a M1 Abrams tank. At least not to my knowledge.

soft white bright kitten
mouthless; tells no lies. Yet she
makes filthy green cash


Sanrio Say: Make Kitty, not War.




Saturday, April 26, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Hidden Monsters in the Midst

Those of you that read farkleberries know that crime and punishment are a frequent theme, but I hadn't taken the time yet to post about one the biggest cases in the headlines - the Scott Peterson murder case. What Peterson is accused of doing - murdering and decapitating his very pregnant wife around last Christmas Eve, then dumping her body (and that of their unborn son, Connor) in the San Francisco Bay where the bodies would wash ashore months later - is so monstrous and repulsive it defies reason.

The case is such a tangled web that it will take an O.J. Simpson-style trial to sort out the details.

What I find so confusing and disturbing is Scott Peterson's on-camera sangfroid. So far he's acted a lot more like a featured star on "Lives of the Rich and Famous" than a grieving husband and father-to-be, and in interviews with Diane Sawyer he seems almost too calm and too glib to believe. On Thursday night's ABC News special, I thought I caught a glimpse of a smile on his face when Sawyer questioned him on the details of the night Laci disappeared.

It may have been the half-grimace of a man trying valiantly to suppress tears; but why suppress tears when you've lost your family, the world is watching, whispers say you are a prime suspect, and you're being judged by a television audience of millions?

Scott Peterson's family seems unanimous in their belief that he is a truly good man, utterly incapable of the crime he is accused of - at least, they are showing a unified front to the cameras. What's true is that right now the prosecution's case is mainly circumstantial, and it will be hard to develop a clear-cut case against Scoot. Even in modern-day criminology, where DNA testing can identify and match biological material to within a miniscule fraction of total certainty, the fact is that Laci was Peterson's wife, so her DNA and physical evidence will be found scattered widely all over the crime scenes.

In Peterson's exclusive interview with Sawyer, he said:
"Violence towards women is unapproachable...it is the most disgusting act, to me."
If the case bears out that Scott Peterson did indeed kill his wife and son, then the most disturbing thing about this case isn't that committed the crime. It's that he managed to conceal this murderous potential so seamlessly for so many years - from his family, friends and acquaintances, his wife - from just about everyone around him.




Friday, April 25, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
If Der Gutvik Is Rocking, Don't Come-a Knocking

I can see how this would be embarrassing for the squeaky-clean prefab furniture moguls at IKEA:
From Ananova: "Ikea has apologised after accidentally naming a child's bunk bed after an obscene German expression. The Swedish firm didn't realise the problem until after the £110 bed went on sale across Europe. The wooden bed is called the "Gutvik" which means "Good f***" in German. (If you've taken high-school German, you know the letter v is pronounced f, which etymologically explains a lot)

But the Swedish firm's adverts for the bed were hastily withdrawn from windows and papers after it was pointed out to bosses what the words meant in German. IKEA spokesman Sabine Nold, 40, said: "Yes, we do have a bed of this name that is on offer in our stores at the moment.

"It is the name of a tiny Swedish town. We did not realise that it could also be taken as something obscene."
What I'd like to know, is why they named a Swedish town that way in the first place?




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Chicago's Monster of the Midway

A few weeks ago I mentioned that new book out by Erik Larson, Devil in The White City. Well, now there's a documentary on out on DVD - "H. H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer" by John Borowski. Looks creepy and interesting...thanks for the heads-up (or is that heads-roll?), Rabbitgirl.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Florida Strikes Down "Scarlet Letter Law"

It's about time. Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals Wednesday struck down the state's infamous "Scarlet Letter Law." From CNN:
The court...said the state failed to show how the rights of the father or the state could outweigh the privacy rights of the mother and child "in not being identified in such a personal, intimate and intrusive manner."

"It subjected women to public humiliation and harassment for no benefit," said Mariann Wang, an attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. The law required a mother who wanted to put her child up for adoption to take out newspaper advertisements listing her name, age and description, and the descriptions of any men who could have been the father. The ads had to run once a week for a month in any city where the child was believed to be conceived.
I'm glad to see some level-headed people finally saw through this "law" that seemed like something straight out of the 18th Century. Unbelievably, this 2001 statute actually required women who were victims of rape or sexual assault to publish the details of the incident in newspapers (including the incident date(s), and their names), in case the "father" chose to claim his parental rights to the child.

A revised bill is expected to establish a database where potential fathers can register their infomation, and thereby claim paternal rights should a child they fathered go up for adoption. From UPI:
The revised bill is making its way through the Florida Legislature. It is headed for a vote on the floor of the House but has two more committees to clear before it reaches the full Senate. Sponsors of the original bill said it was intended to improve the adoption process. They said the advertisement requirement was not designed to punish women, but to make sure fathers had a chance to know about their children before they are adopted. But officials involved in adoptions said the newspaper provision caused some women to cancel the adoptions rather than face public humiliation.

"Mothers who found out early enough were actually having abortions," said Angela Quick of the Family Support Center in Port Orange. A Palm Beach County attorney challenged the law on behalf of six women, including a 12-year-old rape victim. The judge ruled that rape victims do not have to advertise, but that only applies in Palm Beach County. State Sen. Lynn Ormond, R-Ormond Beach, sponsored both the revision in the Senate and the original bill when she was a House member.
Of course, a person might wonder about the parental suitability of a man who waits until he sees his name in the "baby for adoption - possible fathers listed" section of a newspaper to come forward.

There. Now maybe I'll stop boycotting Florida orange juice; the old 1970's Anita Bryant flap was bad enough before the last Presidential election and this boondoggle happened.




Thursday, April 24, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
James Lileks, Where Are you?

When I clicked my www.lileks.com blogrolling link this morning to read the daily Bleat, I wasn't greeted by the site's usual retropsycho graphics and sardonic wit.

Instead, the browser opened on a idiotically cheerful "Future Home of a Dotster Registered Domain!" splash page. James! Did you forget to pay your domain regisration fee? Bleat addicts are jonesing as we speak!




Wednesday, April 23, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Directions: Open Mouth, Insert Foot, Brush Vigorously

It's not that I'm particularly surprised by Republican Senator Rick Santorum's (PA) recent anti-gay comments, prompted by Texas' ongoing Supreme Court case regarding sodomy laws:
[AP, 4/21/03] "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
...but this isn't just another example of backwater prejudice, it's just plain bad logic.

It's along the same lines as arguing that allowing people to eat meat is tantamount to promoting cannibalism.

Now, I'm sure there are some hard-core animal rights folks who might agree with that last comment, but that's hardly the mainstream of American sentiment. Sodomy laws have been in effect in many states for well over a century (or two, perhaps three). But while they've been on the books since great-great-great-grandpappy's time, one of the most odious things about them is the fact they're almost always selectively enforced.

What does "sodomy" mean? A lot of people think that sodomy laws are aimed strictly at male-to-male sexuality, but the traditional legal definitition of sodomy in many jurisdictions is any non-procreative sexual act. I'm sure it will come as no surprise that even heterosexual folks have been known to transgress that boundary occasionally.

Sodomy laws are a "penalty of convenience" that a prosecutor is free to invoke when it suits them, because they are almost never used to regulate heterosexual "violations" even though that is clearly within their scope.

Rather, they are used as a legal form of discrimination against gay and lesbian individuals in court cases involving primarily nonsexual matters such as employment, property or adoption cases. Sodomy laws are often pulled out as a "wild card" in court to sway legal cases against gay people...as in: "Of course we have to (a) take this person's children away, (b) fire this person, (c) Nullify this will.

Why? Because they're criminals! They commit the crime of sodomy in their homes!"

Of course, if you agree with these laws my argument probably won't change your mind. But looking at the matter in legal terms, how far do you think we should allow the government's (and the law's) reach to regulate and criminalize the details of our daily lives? Our personal records and credit histories? The workplace? Public parks and accomodations? The Internet and e-mail?

How far? If you ask me, I think the bedroom door is as good a place as any to draw the line.

By the way, I appreciate The Bleat's take on the issue:
"Santorum's remarks are not a recipe for electoral success in the 21st century. Things are balanced right now - a Democratic presidential candidate who insists that the Statue of Liberty’s mannish features prove she’s an example of transgendered statuary will find no national sympathy.

And a Republican who seems inordinately bothered by the fact that police can’t kick down a door and taser lesbians for snoring in a common bed - well, he’s toast, too. But the Democrats only need to be silent to win this issue. They win it just by being Democrats. Republicans lose the issue by raising it.

Come out with guns blazing, demand that the Supreme Court slam their big gilded gavel down on the very concept of sodomy, and they run the risk that people will go to the dictionary, look up the word, and say: I ain’t giving up that for a capital gains tax cut. Not on this or any other six planets."




Tuesday, April 22, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
I'll Have Whatever The Peacock's Smoking

Just when you thought prime time had permanently mired in the bilgey soup of reality-TV, an NBC executive has come up with a concept that blows "American Idol" and "Jackass" out of the water. From the Philadelphia Gay News:
According to a report in entertainment industry publication Variety, the Peacock network has plans to continue its “Must See” success with a prime time computer-generated animation series featuring a family of white lions who work as performers in the Las Vegas “Siegfried and Roy” show. Yikes. The network has given the series, tentatively titled “Father of the Pride,” a 13-episode commitment for 2004 thanks to a personal pitch by DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg told Variety that the idea for the comedy, which will feature “Shrek”-like animation, came to him while watching Seigfried and Roy perform for 'probably the 10th time.'

It sounds like Seigfried and Roy might want to file a restraining order.

'I was sitting there watching the show, and when all the lions came out, I thought, What must they be thinking right now? And what if we saw the world through their eyes?”' Katzenberg said.
Sounds like a sure-fire hit with the over-70 Florida tanning-bed crowd.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
What a Fun Guy
Tom Volk's Fungi pageWhile browsing author Neil Gaiman's blog, I came upon this link, to University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse professor Tom Volk's Fungi page.

The man knows his 'shrooms: you can browse the Fungus of The Month (wait'll you see the centerfolds), Fun With Puffballs (who'd have though they'd be a boon to the gluteally-challenged?), or his many other mycologically-delicious pages within. Huzzah!

Frankly, the giant Calvatia puffballs give me the creeps, even though they're reputed to be very tasty...I'd try them once, but as cartoonist Bob Kliban (who must undoubtedly have been a huge influence on "Far Side" Gary Larson, one of my faves) once noted, "Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head."




Monday, April 21, 2003
 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Archaeologists Find Ancient Village In Illinois

This is potentially a very interesting discovery - the ruins of an ancient village dating back to 600 to 800 A.D. were found recently during a fill-dirt dig near Damiansville, Illinois, about 35 miles east of St. Louis. This is just a short distance east of the Cahokia Mounds National historic site in Collinsville, location of a historic native American civilization that "disappeared" over one thousand years ago. I've been to Cahokia once, but I would love to return and explore the park in more detail...there is a delightful sense of age and history there, a special 'spirit' to the place that is hard to describe.
The Birdman Tablet found at Cahokia Mounds, Collinsville, Illionois
What struck me most when I saw the items found at Cahokia is their unusual resemblance to Mesoamerican art, similar to the Mayan or Atzec peoples'. If you look closely at the Birdman Tablet, one of Cahokia's most famous artifacts, you can see the striking similarities - the distinctively curved facial profile, the anthropomorphic bird/man/god imagery - that seem to be influenced by the ancient deities of Central America.

I'm curious to see what secrets will be uncovered at this new archeological site...I'll keep you posted.




 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Search Me

I really get a kick out of the bizarre and ridiculous combinations of words people sometimes type into search engines - that lead to my pages! The phrases below are all actual search parameters that have led people to my website (thanks to Jonno.com's "come to me" sidebar feature for the inspiration)...it's not that I necessarily have content that matches the full search term, but somewhere on an indexed webpage, the individual words appear in some permutation.

There's the merely strange:

Barbecue cartoon squirrels
Fancy iron grill alphabets
Cornell sunshine
Breads by Brother Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourette
Using ammonia to get rid of squirrels
Cook ham overnight
Scully is abducted by a lunatic
Captain Howdy’s number
Squirrels in dryer vent
Shag carpet remnants

...and then there's the downright scary:

Enlarge wasp penis
Small body meat pieces
Male POW rape

Ooooo...kayyyyy...? Let's just say I'm glad I didn't meet these folks in a dark alley.