April 30, 2005

But Can They Avoid the Business Week Curse?

GIVE THEM CREDIT for ignoring the augurs and the auspices. Just days after Business Week had blogs prominently featured on the magazine's cover -- thus signaling the end of blogging as we know it* -- a team of bloggers has announced they're going to start a blog-based advertising network and a blog-based professional news service, among other projects.

I do wish the guys luck in their endeavor, and I think the first half of their project could Actually Make Money Someday, provided they're able to a) work out the technical specifics; b) make the product specialized enough to serve both advertisers and blog-writers; c) keep costs very low; and d) convince people with shrinking marketing budgets that blog advertising is the most cost-effective place to spend their dollars.

Certainly there's a potential demand on the blog side for such a service, because it would be useful; but would there be demand on the marketing side? That I don't know.

As for the blog news syndicate, it's a nice idea, but I can't for the life of me figure out how they'll make money. The only workable model for that is advertising-driven, because established media and bloggers alike just won't pay for the content -- or if they do, they won't pay enough to pay the bills. So I'll have to see the success to believe it.

But who knows? Perhaps our intrepid bloggers could break the Hideous Business Week Curse, which has bedeviled investors and the companies, products and services they like for -- Gad, near on a quarter-century. Perhaps they could just pull it off.

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* Many Rant readers know about my long-standing fascination with the Business Week Curse -- and Henry Copeland has a great post explaining it in detail -- including a photo of the infamous Feb. 14, 2000 cover, which reads simply: "The Boom."

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Holy ... Toledo. BW's Stephen Baker, writing on the magazine's blog: "It hurts to admit it, but Henry Copeland mounts an uncomfortably convincing case that a BW cover story can be a curse." Hey, maybe the BW guys do get blogging, after all!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:46 PM | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Fun in the Sun

THIS IS Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president. In this Associated Press photo, he is clearly having a fun time visiting the pyramids at Giza. Yeah, he seems downright thrilled. The high temperature on Wednesday, when this picture was taken, was 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Notice the man has not even loosened his tie. Maybe it's just me, but proper protocol should dictate that a head of state gets to loosen his tie when he's out in the frickin' desert. I mean, my God. He's the leader of the second third most-powerful country on Earth. He ought be allowed.

One can only imagine the fun President Putin would have if he went to Libya, or something.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 08:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 25, 2005

Bravo!

LILEKS has written a great Bleat decrying Best Buy's annoying tendency to ask for one's personal information at the checkout counter. Of course, it's not only Best Buy which does this, but if there's anything that makes me want to snap at the surly underpaid checkout teen, that's frickin' it.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:18 PM | TrackBack

More Shenanigans from Home

GEE. WOULDN'T IT BE NICE if my hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich., was actually in the news because something good happened there?

Yeah, yeah. I know. Too much to ask, apparently. Dig this story from Editor and Publisher magazine:

When reporter Craig McCool and photographer Mairin Chapman of The Kalamazoo Gazette went to a local party to research a series on drinking among young adults, they saw nothing wrong with partaking of the libations themselves.

But editors did. The result: The two were dismissed, and the paper ran an editor's note this weekend explaining the incident.

"Their conduct is unacceptable and violates the standards that we uphold every day as journalists," Editor Rebecca Pierce said in the note, published Saturday. "We don't condone it and we can't ignore it."

Pierce, who could not be reached for comment Monday, seemed to indicate that the pair's transgression took on more severity because it involved their reporting on how heavy alcohol consumption can be dangerous. "It's a sad statement to our readers that our behavior in any way would obscure this serious and pervasive problem in our community," the editor added in the note.

Well, it certainly wasn't bright for these two to go out and drink while on assignment. Jesus. When you're working, you stick to water or diet soda. There's no reason at all why these two couldn't have asked for water or some Diet Vernors*, both of which should have been easily obtained even if they were out on North Pitcher Street at 3 a.m. But they have been cashiered and that is that.

As a former Kalamazoo resident, though, I have to ask: why the big focus on Demon Rum? There were a few more pressing problems last time I checked, but maybe Kalamazoo's leaders have cleaned up all the drug trafficking and violent crime, fixed the roads, attracted bunches of new employers and while they were at it, got a bunch of decent restaurants**.

Somehow I doubt this.

After all, we are discussing Kalamazoo, Michigan -- a fourth-rate, crime-ridden Rust Belt city, the type of place where people move because there's work, and only because there's work.

Not that there's much work to be had, of course. For at 8.2 pc, Kalamazoo's unemployment rate is almost European in scale. Its crime rate is so stunningly high that it makes New York look calm in comparison. And if you really want proof about how bad it is, go check out my old high school's Web site.

Yeah. Hoo boy.

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* Note to New England readers: "Vernors" is Michigan's version of "Moxie." It is known for its "distinct" (read: undescribable) flavor, which is so distinct that things are said to taste like Vernors instead of vice versa.

** Actually, it's been ten years since I've been back, so maybe ol' K'zoo DID manage to get a bunch of decent restaurants over the years, even though it lost population. Then again, maybe it didn't manage. But there's a silver lining to every cloud -- for Theo & Stacy's is still open!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 22, 2005

Freakquilibrium

SO EVERYONE is talking about "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything." Despite the silly title -- it's not as if economists were known for marching in lockstep -- it's not a bad book, and has some interesting insights from the mind of lead author Steven Levitt, an economist at the University of Chicago.

It is presently ranked No. 2 on the Amazon.com book sales chart, which would suggest the proper price equilibrium for the 242-page book is presently more than the $25.95 cover price (and $19.77 Amazon.com price). However, supply and demand curves do shift, and I daresay they will eventually with "Freakonomics."

As a regular buyer of books, I think the book is overvalued at $25.95 and also at $19.77. If I had to buy it again, I might wait for the trade paperback version or a remainder copy. It's an entertaining book, but based on its content and length, it only has an inherent value of $14 or $15 -- and less if one doesn't use it as a reference, something for which I do plan on using it.

Still, that says something for the book, because it is extremely interesting and I wanted to read more from Dr Levitt after reading "Freakonomics." As such, readers might it worth ponying up $25.95, $19.77, or what not.

Two essays really stood out in my mind. The first was a clever one dealing with the economics of an inner-city narcotics enterprise. The study looked at why exactly so many drug dealers live with their mothers, and as it turns out, it's because drug-dealing is very much based on a winner-take-all compensation scheme. The guys at the top (in this case, that guy was a college graduate with a business degree!) make money hand over fist, but the vast majority of those in the gang make practically nothing. Plus, they're gonna get shot. But the details in this are so fascinating that, compared to other essays, it adds a disproportionate amount of value to the book.

The second essay dealt with the socio-economics of children's names, and there are all sorts of data and anecdotes here that one just has to read to believe. For instance, there is reportedly -- reportedly -- a parent now living in the United States who actually named her daughter Shithead. Pronounced differently, of course, but the given (one hesitates to say "Christian") name was spelled Shithead. I shit you not.

Other essays in "Freakonomics" look at what makes a good parent, how school teachers are like sumo wrestlers, and other odd topics.

So, like I say, it's an interesting book, although one word of caution: easily-offended or high-strung people should probably give it a pass. (If your name is "Ricky," "Cody," or "Travis," you'll definitely want to give it a pass). Six case studies in all, some of which have been mentioned before in the press. It's also a good reference book. Whether it's worth $20 ... well, that's up to you.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:05 AM | TrackBack

April 18, 2005

The Cruelest Month

Oh No!
It’s Time for Yet Another Installment of …
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED

A Semi-Recurring Rant Feature

AH, APRIL. The cruelest month, according to Eliot, who undoubtedly knew such things quite well. However, I’m quite pleased with this, as it means I get to be especially sarcastic in my responses to this month’s Your Search Engine Queries Answered, a sort of how-you-doin’ guide for all those folks who arrive here via Google. With that out of the way, let’s get to work!

QUERY: paragraph on comparing an orange to a tangerine

ANSWER: It sounds like you’re taking Freshman English at a college or university of your choice! Or, rather, Freshperson English. Or is that Freshpeople English? Or maybe Freshpeople Lingua Franca?

Anyhoo, son, here you go. Remember that the orange symbolizes many things, all of them somehow related to race, gender, ethnicity and social status. For instance, the orange can symbolize how the heretic English ran roughshod over the Irish for three centuries via the cruel boots of the Orangemen, or Orangepeople, or simply the Orange, as Syracuse calls them now. But if that doesn’t fit in with your theme, you can also use the orange to symbolize the prison-industrial complex, the struggle for environmental justice in newly-developed areas, or the Boxer Rebellion. Use your imagination.

As for the tangerine, the tangerine can be used as an interesting “dichotomy” subject. For instance, compare and contrast how tangerines are represented both in college football (i.e. the Tangerine Bowl) and something really odd, like a modern-art exhibit at your college museum. You won’t have any trouble missing it – it will be down in front, while all the good paintings will be in back. But if that doesn’t fit in with your theme, write up something about how Americans’ preference for oranges over tangerines, tangelos, and other tropical fruit is proof of the nation’s cultural imperialism.

So there you go – some tips on comparing an orange to a tangerine. I hope it proved helpful. Oh, and one final tip – for the love of God, whatever you do, don’t buy any grapes.

QUERY: soccer haikus

ANSWER:

It’s one-nil again
The fans are getting angry
Go cut off the beer

Hearts booed the Pope
But the pathetic yobbos
Didn’t check the score

There. How’s that?

QUERY: what I shall say at the birthday

ANSWER: Well, shouldn’t you know? Anyway, it’s probably not a good idea to be nasty about how the birthday boy (or girl) is getting on a bit. Nor is it polite to make smart remarks about the cheap gift you brought. Also, buy a nice bottle of wine, will you?

QUERY: why do rich people live in monaco

ANSWER: Because Monaco doesn’t tax them.

QUERY: aol cancellation

ANSWER: I wish you luck.

QUERY: eugene oregon in the seventies

ANSWER: I don’t think it’s changed all that much in the ensuing three decades.

QUERY: ford taurus no heat

ANSWER: Ohhhhhhhh. There’s no heat in your Ford Taurus.

Admittedly, having that happen would suck. I know, because back in 1996, it happened to me as I drove home from the University of Michigan in my old 1987 Mercury Sable, which at the time was practically the same car.

I mean, dig this: I’m driving up on North Campus to get to the 23, so I can avoid the day-before-Thanksgiving crush down on Washtenaw Avenue. Much to my surprise and annoyance, I discovered the car’s fan had gone kaput, and as such, the car overheated roughly a quarter-mile from the expressway.

Not. Extreme.

Thank God for small miracles, however: it was like ten degrees out. This meant I could air-cool the engine all the way back to Cleveland, a trip that generally took between three and four hours. Unfortunately, the defroster had also broken and so apparently had the heater. This meant I was traveling in a car where the air temperature was well below freezing, and I was forced to stop every hour or so in search of shelter to warm up. And it’s no fun drying out one’s socks in the men’s room of a gas station near Toledo. Meanwhile, as I was freezing in the car, any time I drove slower than 60 mph, the car would start overheating again.

My advice to this particular person is that he ought begin saving for a down payment on another Ford Taurus.

QUERY: letter of sacking employees

ANSWER: I hate to break this to you, but you can’t send a letter, because your firm will then be known as the firm which fired its employer via letter. As this is the age of the Internet, you’ll be screwed. Therefore, you’re actually going to have to act like a human being – or at least delegate that responsibility – and tell them in person.

QUERY: diamonds as investments

ANSWER: Oh, dear God, no. I’m not even a fan of going all-out on one’s wedding ring, although even I recognize the need for buying a decent diamond for that particular occasion. One wants her to say yes, right?

Still, diamonds are a crappy investment for a few reasons. First, you’re spending vast sums of perfectly good money on very sharp and very shiny rocks, which may or may not hold their value over time. They will almost certainly not hold their value in a time of war or calamity, because everyone ELSE is going to be selling the family diamonds at the same time, and the market will be flooded with them. You’ve seen “Casablanca,” you know I’m right. Plus, since you’re not an expert on diamonds – who the hell is? – you’re almost certain to get screwed in the selling process anyway.

But back to the ring question for a moment. God knows I’m not saying men ought not buy diamond rings – for better or worse, buying them for one’s intended is recognized tradition now. Furthermore, one ought spend a good bit of money on them, because failing to do so invites trouble. Still, though, I think a man should be reasonable about it, because while a diamond represents everlasting love, it also represents an amazing amount of dead capital. It’s an asset but it’s not an asset, because if you ever had to hock it, your wife would kill you. On the other hand, she also might kill you if she found out you spent ten or twenty thousand on the ring, but didn’t have enough for a down payment on a home.

QUERY: manchester not suburb of boston

ANSWER: Goddammit, for what people want for a house around here, you’d think Manchester was three blocks from Fanueil Hall. OK, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but my God – the housing here is really expensive, and it’s all based on its proximity to Boston. So yes, we’re a suburb, just like everything else in southern New Hampshire.

QUERY: exceedingly funny politics

ANSWER: You do realize you’re visiting a Web site domiciled in the United States, yes? Exceedingly funny politics is out, my friend.

QUERY: live on $40000 per year

ANSWER: Yes, you CAN do it! Even in Los Angeles!

QUERY: weird conversation starters

ANSWER: Here’s a few of my favorites:

“Say, Jack, I wasn’t saying you were a racist.” (aka “the Benfield manuever”)
“Did you see what Phil just did with the punch bowl?”
“What the hell is this, Mariachi Day? There’s no work for you either!”
“That guy over – oh, him? Just made parole, actually.”
“I’ll have the avocado milkshake.”
“Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia!”
“My rights, please.”

QUERY: war and remembrance soundtrack by

ANSWER: Bob Cobert.

QUERY: getting married in prison

ANSWER: What’s that phrase – oh yes, “bad idea.”

QUERY: songs about abstinence

ANSWER: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

QUERY: britney spears overweighted

ANSWER: According to a proprietary analysis from The Rant Capital Advisors LLC, which factors in BSPR’s merger with an underperforming firm and the combined entity’s pending spinoff of a new product line, analysts have given BSPR a rating of underweight vis-à-vis the entertainment industry as a whole. However, there is a possibility BSPR could be upgraded to market perform in the near future, depending on sales of BSPR’s next album.

QUERY: prospectus of knitting industry in bangalore

ANSWER: Learn Chinese – and quickly!

QUERY: salisbury steak dinner incident with the eagles fans

ANSWER: Now THAT sounds like a movie I’d pay money to see!

QUERY: value of house after loss of roof

ANSWER: Ouch.

QUERY: how many ounces in small movie popcorn

ANSWER: 64

QUERY: which is better - city or suburb

ANSWER: Well, I suppose it depends on what you like, doesn’t it? Personally, I like the cities more than I do the suburbs, for a few reasons. For one thing, I’m single and I don’t mind living in an apartment. For another, I like lots of good restaurants and other cultural activities near where I live. For a third, I actually don’t mind public transport and would use it all the time – if only I lived in a place which had decent public transport.

There are tradeoffs to everything, of course. Living in the cities often means experiencing higher taxes, a greater vulnerability to crime, congestion and pollution. Living in the suburbs often means experiencing higher taxes, a greater vulnerability to the predations of your homeowners’ association, congestion and pollution. Either way, you’re screwed and should move to rural New Mexico, which quite frankly sounds like a hell of an idea, now that my allergies are acting up.

QUERY: shapes of buildings remind you of

ANSWER: Well – with the notable exception of the University of Michigan’s North Campus bell tower – they remind me of buildings.

What’s that, you ask? What’s the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Tower look like? Ah … erm … well, it’s a Giant Triumph of Engineering, and we’ll leave it at that.

Did you click on the link? Yeah. HOLY ...

QUERY: tracheotomy scar

ANSWER: I’d be surprised if they were all that bad these days. I myself have one, and it’s not all that bad, although it is noticeable because – well, you’d have to see it, but it’s as if the skin didn’t heal up right. Still, it’s not something which prompts a lot of discussion, and that was from a surgery done nearly three decades ago. Today, there shouldn’t be any trouble at all.

QUERY: why women love assholes

ANSWER: Ah, Man’s Traditional Great Lament – the object of my affection is attracted not to me, but to that other man, who clearly can’t be a man, because he does not smoke the same cigarettes as me.

Of course, I quit smoking, but you get the drift.

Men react to this situation in different ways, but one unifying force between them is a complete and total lack of understanding of how such a situation could occur. After all, the universe is an orderly and rational place, with physical laws and deep-set moral principles. Therefore, it makes no sense for the woman in question to like the other guy, because … well, it just doesn’t make sense. After all, the guy says to himself, she is all that and a bag of chips, so it makes no sense for her to like that other guy, who is ---

Well, you insert the proper phrase(s). He is a jerk. He is a cad. He is a moron. He has strange and un-American political views. He has no money. He has too much money. He’s uneducated or too educated. He rides a motorcycle. He drives a sedan. He listens to crappy music. He is uncultured. He is pedantic. He talks too loud. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Of course, things perhaps make more sense when one turns the tables and thinks about what some men see in certain women. I am sure there are lots of disagreeable things which women notice about other women, and about which men don’t have a frickin’ clue. The long and short of it is: I don’t know why some women happen to like jerks. But of course it helps to remember that one is only discussing a small portion of women out there, not all of them. After all, your mother fancied your father, no?

QUERY: amor vincit omnia!!!

ANSWER:

(stare at computer monitor, thinking)
(continue staring at computer monitor, still thinking)
(sigh)

Yeah, it does.

Anyway, that’s it for this month’s edition of Your Search Engine Queries Answered! Drop in next month, when we examine … well, more of the same, but it'll be different. After all, I don't know how many pictures of ... uh, Freudian ... bell towers I can dig up.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:52 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2005

All About the Dollars Dept.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY has a really interesting story up about expensive perks given to celebrities. Not so much because of the perks -- but because of the interesting financial analysis related to them.

Apparently, an amazing 5 pc of the price associated with certain entertainment goods and services (e.g. a movie ticket, or compact disc) is directly related to the extravagant offerings such firms must offer their top-tier talent. However, that's 5 pc that could go to the bottom line -- and it seems the companies are noticing that top stars don't necessarily make a top-quality product. Hopefully, the firms will take a closer look at their practices and decide to spend more cash where it seems to count -- on new talent, more experienced crew, better effects, etc.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:59 PM | TrackBack

Pie from the Sky

SOME DECADES AGO, Robert Heinlein wrote a snappy little essay, "Pie from the Sky," detailing some small positives should Western Civilization undergo what he politely termed "the Hiroshima treatment."

His thinking was along these lines: if the Ultimate Disco Inferno did hit -- and Mr Heinlein was of the idea that it someday would -- the survivors would constantly torture themselves with how things used to be. Gee, they would think, wasn't it wonderful when we had air conditioning, the theatre, and the Chicken Fried Chicken at Applebee's, etc.

No, I'm not kidding. Chicken Fried Chicken. With ... *shudder* ... country gravy.

Anyway, Mr Heinlein figured such self-torture wouldn't be all that helpful if one was out trying to shoot rabbits for dinner or what not. Therefore, he suggested such survivors of a nuclear war ought focus on the few good things resulting from the conflict. Not only would one have fewer immediate worries, he figured, one's immediate worries would be the only such worries one would have.

And Gad, did he focus.

No more alarm clocks! wrote Mr Heinlein. No more subway smell! No more annoying neighbors! No more "Hate Roosevelt" clubs! (Mr Heinlein wrote this a long time ago). No more John L. Lewis! No more jurisdictional strikes! No more Petrillo! No more Gerald L. K. Smith!

For those readers who were born after 1950, Lewis was one of the chief men responsible for creating the Congress of Industrial Organizations (the CIO in AFL-CIO). He also ran the United Mine Workers of America, a trade union. Petrillo was another trade unionist: he ran something called the American Federation of Musicians back during World War II. (It's still around, although Petrillo isn't). This tells you about Mr Heinlein's thoughts on unionism.

As for Gerald Smith -- Smith was ... well, he was one member of America's Unholy Trinity of Infamy, back during the Depression. I use the phrase "Unholy Trinity of Infamy" because Smith was not only wrong, he was evil. I mean, for God's sake, he teamed up with Father Coughlin (member No. 2) and Francis E. Townsend (member No. 3). That's proof enough for me the man was dangerous. If you need more proof, consider the following sentence, which Smith used in one of his speeches:

Let's pull down these huge piles of gold until there shall be a real job -- not a little old sow-belly, black-eyed pea job, but a real spending money, beefsteak and gravy, Chevrolet, Ford in the garage, new suit, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus Christ, red, white and blue job -- for every man!

Today it sounds like the speech Dr Venkman delivered to the mayor in "Ghostbusters." Back then, though -- I mean, the man was actually serious.

Anyway, you can see why Mr Heinlein added not hearing about Smith to his silver lining list in the event of a nuclear war. He also saw positives in no longer having "debutantes with press agents" and the end of marketing-driven weeks, e.g. "Eat More Citrus Fruit Week."

I can think of a few more things to add to the list.

No more cable news updates! No more mobile phone problems! No more mobile phones! No more mobile phone users who make a point of taking phone calls in public! No more "convenience fees!" No more annoying "surcharges!" No more screaming investment gurus on television! No more screaming investment gurus on television who scream on about Martha Stewart!

I'd also be partial to not ever hearing about this guy again.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:57 PM | TrackBack

April 16, 2005

Memo to My Neighbors: Thank You

AS I WRITE, I am pretty sure that people in one of the neighboring apartments are enjoying a bit of marijuana. Unfortunately, as one can deduce, they're doing a bad job of hiding it.

It's not that I mind what my neighbors are doing in the privacy of their own home, and I'm certainly not going to rat them out for toking up. But what annoys me is this: the sickly-sweet-burnt stench of grass emanating from their apartment is stinking up the frickin' hallway. I mean, gee -- light some incense and put a towel under the door; both are reasonable ways one could divert attention from one's habit. Even when I smoked -- tobacco -- I generally opened a window and had all these air-freshener thingies around the house. It wasn't something one could easily notice from the hall, at least I don't think it was.

Ah well. It is spring and I suppose I should be ... I don't know, charitable and generous and what not. Besides, my other neighbor -- who takes care of the building through vacuuming the halls and what not -- has just emerged and is busily cleaning. It's that time of year, isn't it?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 01:27 PM | TrackBack

Love This Life

OH MY GOD -- what a week. For it did suck a second time over. I mean, it was that bad. Started out the week putting in a double shift at the office, then followed that up with contracting a particularly vicious malady that had me flat on my frickin' back during the week. Then, at the end, the frickin' market had its worst day in two years, which was even more aggravating. As a young person and "dollar cost averager," I know I'm supposed to actually like that, but even still it's frustrating.

Spot of good news: the car's all set, and it looks pretty promising the thing will make it -- God, at least 10,000 more miles, maybe 20,000. One of the nice things about living out here in the provinces is that people take an opposite view towards their cars as they do in the cities. I can assure readers that, even though my Ford Taurus has 113,000 miles and thus well-past its sell-by date, people routinely encourage me to keep the damn thing. After all, why get a new one if the car still runs, and with the engine it ought last 'til 150,000 miles, etc.

Also: I'm still not smoking, amazingly enough.

As for the blog -- yeah, I've been neglecting it and I'm not pleased about it, because I do enjoy writing here. It's just that some weeks, there's precious little time for one's hobbies.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 09, 2005

Dear God, No!

COOKIE MONSTER reacts with horror as he discovers his hippie colleague (left) has replaced the cast table's standard array of fattening foods with fruits and vegetables. The cost-saving measure led Cookie Monster, who received just one (1) low-carb reduced-sugar carob-chip cookie, to file a grievance regarding prevailing work conditions.

THIS BLOG ENTRY is brought to you by the letter T, which rhymes with P, and that stands for Puritanical.

It seems the people behind Sesame Street are now telling their young viewers they ought not eat bad food. This would be fine, except in the process, they're turning Cookie Monster into a relative health freak. According to the Associated Press, Cookie Monster is now "advocating eating healthy." He even has a special song to mark the switch -- "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food."

I find this situation rather depressing, for two reasons. First, the fact Sesame Street is now informing three-year-olds about proper nutrition means that's not being done in the home, which is where such things should be done. Why is it so many parents aren't making an effort not to buy sugary foods? The kids'll get over not having Cocoa Puffs or what not, won't they?

Secondly, what's next? Will all the puppets start making fun of Big Bird because he's overweight? Will Ernie arrive home to find Bert has gone vegan? Will Bob lead an intervention to combat Oscar's smoking?

Can't we just let the kids be kids for a few years before we expose them to this kind of puritanical meddling?

(via Dan Champion)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 07, 2005

Grits and Polish

SO CERTAIN FOLKS in the Canadian Government don't want the Canadian people to know about certain embarrassing testimony before the Gomery Commission, which is investigating corruption within that Government?

Too bad. Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters has a whole bunch on this, so go read up!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 12:32 AM | TrackBack

April 06, 2005

Hit by Your Own Flack Dept.

C.S. LEWIS ONCE wrote a pretty good formula for analyzing reports of strange, outlandish, or downright surreal happenings, particularly when rational people were doing the reporting. He wrote it in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and I'll summarize it for readers who don't recall it off the tops of their heads:

It's near the beginning, right after Lucy tells her older siblings there's a portal to another world inside a wardrobe in one of the manse's back rooms. The older children, naturally thinking Lucy has gone off the deep end, alert the wise and knowledgeable Professor about the stories, with the clear expectation that he too will find ol' Luce has lost the plot.

However, the Professor -- who has seen some crazy stuff in his day -- informs the Pevensie kids there are three options one must consider: 1) Lucy is lying; 2) Lucy is mad; or 3) Lucy is telling the truth. As it turned out, Option Three was the right conclusion to draw, and soon, the Pevensies -- like millions of children reading the books -- were cleverly drawn into Lewis' religious play.

But that's beside the point for the moment. My question is this:

The New York Post recently reported on the alleged marital troubles between Britney Spears and her husband, That Goofy Looking Guy. The paper said the couple had called an emergency family meeting to discuss the situation, which has reportedly gotten quite serious. Given this, which of the three options mentioned above would explain the following statement from one of Britney Spears' publicists?

A representative for Spears said: "Britney and Kevin were at the hotel to celebrate [sister] Jamie Lynn's birthday. An emergency meeting was called, but only because Britney was afraid her dog, Bit Bit, was pregnant by [brother] Brian's dog, Porkchop — and that would be incest.

"As for Britney and Kevin, they are still together, happy and gearing up to do press on the new show. There will be a magazine cover involved."

For the record, Bit Bit is a chihuahua and Porkchop is a bulldog.

The couple are "staying at a Santa Monica condo now," the rep added.

Um ... well, Duane -- gotta go -- due back on planet Earth.

I mean, I honestly don't know which option to consider, although I damn sure hope it ain't option No. 3. God, can you imagine it -- here you are, with the details of your private trauma being reported, and your PR people instead tell the world that you're an idiot. I would about die of embarrassment if I ever found myself in such a spot.

Then again, I would about die of embarrassment if I found out my PR people had lied, per option No. 1. I'm sure it's not that, though -- because lying about something is stupid, and serving up a bad lie is even worse. Telling a lie that makes people believe the true report is actually true -- it just doesn't work at all.

So that leaves option No. 2, although madness admittedly doesn't fit into the equation here. Instead, the publicist might have actually been erroneously told this was what happened, and as such might have completely believed it, and as such might have had to act rather annoyed if the Post scribe had laughed his ass off upon hearing it.

But that's show business.

(via Steve Silver)

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 11:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Unchained Melody

SIMON FROM JERSEY is counting down the Best 25 compact discs released over the past five years. As Mr Einspahr has excellent taste in music, I encourage Rant readers to go take a look.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 10:02 PM | TrackBack

Ecce Petrus Pontifex Maximus

THERE IS LITTLE one can write about Pope John Paul II which better men have not said more eloquently. But it seems wrong for me to let the passing of such a great leader go unmentioned.

While the Pope’s work meant different things to different people, from my point of view, he had three accomplishments which really stand out from the rest. The first was his work for human freedom, not only in helping overthrow the Communist order in Russia and Eastern Europe, but for continuing that effort at every opportunity – for instance, when he visited Cuba, and Castro was forced to allow Christmas celebrations.

The second was an unwavering yet reasonable stand in support of the Church’s doctrine. This was not something which made his administration especially popular, and there were many in the American wing of the Church who particularly disliked the Church’s refusal to budge on certain issues. And even though I’m a convert, I suppose I’ve sometimes fallen into cafeteria-Catholic mode too. But even as I wished the Church would change its positions on this or that, I never lost respect for its views, for to me they were soundly backed and smartly-argued. That type of rigor, I think, has done much for the Church, and I think the Pope did much to keep things rigorous.

Finally, though, what impressed me about the Pope was, well, the Pope. Could we Catholics have asked for a better leader in these tumultuous times? I daresay we’d be hardpressed to find one. He was strong and capable and unbending, but at the same time he was compassionate and sincere and loving. And he was well loved, to the point where many good and loyal Catholics disobeyed parts of his last wishes – the part in which he told them not to weep.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

I Picked a Bad Week to Quit Smoking

JESUS, WHAT A WEEK. So dig this: as I left work here in Manchester today, it was 67 degrees out, sunny, and there was a perfect gentle breeze going. It was therefore perfectly natural that the power-window motor on my car's driver-side door would decide, at 5:30 p.m., to go kaput.

It was also perfectly natural the power-window motor would go out while the window was in the down position. So I just now had to spend a good twenty minutes removing every last scrap of personal crap I had in the car AND the trunk -- including everything from last Friday's Wall Street Journal to the ground-up half of a pay stub I found from my job.

My job in Los Angeles.

Five years ago.

Anyway, this just sucks, and the repair's probably going to run me a good $300 to $400, although hopefully less. Even worse, I'm going to have to use up one of my precious personal days, which I like to save for emergencies. Although this is an emergency, and it'll be a bloody catastrophe if it rains any time in the near future. Cripes.

This is the second Unpleasant Experience I had today. The first was that my cheap imitation mobile phone's memory card bought the farm, and I had to go to the mobile-phone store to get it fixed. They wanted to charge me $25 for a new card, but I prevailed through a rational explanation of how the problem occurred. That is to say, I blamed the phone's shoddy manufacturing, and I mean, my God, I'd just bought the phone last month, etc. etc. So I therefore got a $25 memory card -- which may have cost as much as 50 cents or $1 to mass-produce -- for free. I suppose I ought be happy, except the card ought not have broken in the first place.

Still, there is SOME completely good news. Loyal Rant Readers will recall there was a fire at my apartment building last week. There was really nothing to it, as it was a cooking fire, but it did prompt me to consider renter's insurance. This week, I called my insurer and asked them to throw on a rental insurance policy. The minimum policy provides far more coverage than I could ever need, even at replacement value, and it's definitely nice to have that peace of mind.

I did not, however, expect my insurance company to pay me for having the stuff. Combine the cost of the renter's insurance with the discount on my auto insurance and I'm ahead all of $14 per year. If I had known it would work out like that, I would have gotten the stuff a long time ago!

ANYWAY, I am also proud to announce that I've now gotten through SIX days without smoking a cigarette. It is still quite hard, and I'm getting the sweats and the nervousness, but I'm noticing that I'm losing the "oh my God, I really need a smoke" feeling. And what the hell was I thinking, smoking in my apartment?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 07:47 PM | TrackBack

April 04, 2005

Administrative Notes

THE RANT WILL RETURN on WEDNESDAY, April 6.

However, in the meantime, we did want to mention some Important Changes which have occurred or will occur soon:

SMOKING LAMP OUT: The Rant has now been smoke-free for the past four days, and thus far the switch has gone well. Unfortunately, the staff has developed an awful case of the munchies, and posts may reflect -- say! Fritos!

STYLE CHANGE: Loyal Rant readers are advised of the following change in editorial policy, effective next post: entries which reflect the personal views of Benjamin Kepple, chief executive of Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc., will be written in the first person singular.

This was done because Mr Kepple has finally gotten to the point where he can write using the "editorial we" as second nature, and thus has no further need to practice it. Other parts of The Rant's style guide shall remain the same, however, including the use of "Bermudan English."

DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME: After careful consideration of Administrative Proposal No. 12, The Rant's American operations have decided to follow Daylight Saving Time. Proposal No. 12 would have required entries to be posted with a timestamp reflecting the proper Standard Time; however, the solution for doing so was deemed unsatisfactory.

BLOGROLL UPDATING: YES, we know some of the links need fixed; YES, we'll get to it soon; YES, we've been meaning to do it, it's just that we've found it easier to make the extra click instead of fixing the HTML code.

OK, that's about it. See you all Wednesday night.

-- The Management

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at 09:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack