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August 31, 2005

katrina isn't the only woman making her debut

While the devastation that Hurricane Katrina left behind along the Gulf Coast weighs heavily upon us all we must realize that the news does not stop, that events of great importance still demand our attention and that they are neglected at our peril.

We speak, of course, of Martha Stewart’s new television series.

A spin-off of the original “Apprentice,” Martha’s new show follows the basic formula of The Donald’s version but with subtle changes to reflect the uniqueness that is Martha.

The first order of business was coming up with Martha’s own version of “You’re fired.” The producers originally wanted a catch phrase that was more attuned to current pop culture trends. But early versions such as, “You killed my son in an illegal war you murdering liar,” was considered “too angry.” And, “You have no shnizzle in your monizzle,” was considered “too Snoop Dogg,” while “I’m going to stick a shiv in your gut as soon as the screws leave,” was considered “too Shawshank Redemption.”

Eventually it was decided to go with something that better captured the essence of Martha. While not officially revealed, industry gossip has it that the show’s catch phrase will be, “You just don’t fit in.”

If this were a show about who gets to sit at the cool table in the cafeteria, it would work well.  As a power phrase for an industry titan, well, it’s only slightly better than, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

To further contrast Martha’s Apprentice from The Donald’s, dismissals will take place in a “conference room” not a “boardroom,” and contestants will live in a “loft” instead of a “suite.” While other details were not released we can only assume that the contestants will walk on “avenues” instead of “streets,” sit on “stools” instead of “chairs,” and eat “danish” instead of “pastries.”  With bold changes such as these, it's almost like an entirely new show.  It's exactly this kind of courage to go beyond the tried and true formulas that makes television programming the truly diverse medium it is today.

Like the original Apprentice, Martha’s version will also include product placements by corporate sponsors. No word yet on whether ProTech’s line of electronic monitoring systems (now available in the latest fall colors) will be among them.

And finally, the show’s theme song will be a personal favorite of Martha’s: "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics.

And here we were pulling for “Police on My Back” by The Clash.

J.

August 31, 2005 at 11:53 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 30, 2005

we feel better now about spending $3 for a cup

To the growing list of things once thought harmful but now considered beneficial such as alcohol, chocolate, leeches and sucking chest wounds (okay, so the evidence on that last one is anecdotal) we may now add that American classic, the cup of coffee.

Legions of office workers will attest to coffee’s employment preservation properties given its ability to prevent people from passing out face first into their Pop-Tarts. In fact, it is widely believed that were it not for coffee, Microsoft’s PowerPoint presentation program would have been a crashing failure, given its ability to induce comatose-like states in anyone subjected to its display (particularly its array of standardized templates many of which now come with a warning from the Surgeon General urging people to go out and take a smoking break instead).

It is these stimulant properties of coffee that have long attracted fans who desire the pick-me-up of methamphetamine but don’t want the annoying side effects of raging paranoia. (Of course, raging paranoia can be useful if you are a CIA agent, congressman, or Oliver Stone.)

As it turns out, coffee contains not only caffeine but also significant quantities of anti-oxidants which are believed to help stave off the onset of age-related diseases such as cancer. This additional attribute might help quell the animosity that has long existed between coffee drinkers and tea drinkers, the latter of which have not only openly displayed a certain smug superiority regarding the health benefits of tea but are also suspected of owning cats.

Here at Planet Moron we applaud these efforts to find benefits in our vices and look forward to the day when the cancer-fighting properties of Cap’n Crunch, Girls Gone Wild videos and playing with small bits of string are finally revealed.

J.

August 30, 2005 at 11:45 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 29, 2005

where's peta when you need them?

Regular patrons of the London Zoo were greeted this weekend with a new exhibit with unexpected inhabitants: Eight human beings.

The concept of humans as zoo animals is one largely unexplored, if by “largely” you mean fewer than ten thousand times in books, movies, short stories, magazine articles, television series, lunch boxes and a handful of breakfast cereals.

The exhibit helped to further various important fields of scientific study including determining once and for all the level of interest humans have in seeing people running around naked (a lot!) and how effective is the use of public institutions in furthering personal political agendas (not too shabby either!).

Simon Raynor, head of communications for the Zoological Society of London noted that "More humans are born every day than there are gorillas in the world" in a manner that suggested that he thought this was a useful statistic. In that spirit, we note that more recordable DVDs are manufactured by one factory in Malaysia each day than by all the gorillas in the world (wow!) and that if you were to stack all the townhouses built in the past year end to end, they would tower a distance towards the moon that would be quite impressive were someone to actually calculate it.

The exhibit displayed the sign: “Warning: Humans in their Natural Environment." And while the habitat the humans were using lacked a Taco Bell, iPod charging cradle and the USA Network, the inhabitants still managed within the first 45 minutes to become hopelessly deadlocked over a new constitution. However, they did agree to go to war against the Sloth Bears.

"We wanted to find a way to show the impact humans have on the planet in a very visual way," said Mr. Raynor. "We are almost like a plague on the planet."

Well, maybe some of us are.

J.

August 29, 2005 at 12:26 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 27, 2005

weekend arts & leisure – farmer’s markets

In many urban and suburban areas, farmer’s markets have changed over time from places to buy and sell assorted farm produce to places that are just a Radio Shack away from becoming strip malls.

Entering a modern farmer’s market you are likely to find yourself confronted with an array of hand-painted light switch plates, dried flower arrangements, used books, and assorted handicrafts the sole purpose of which appears to be to sit about looking handcrafted.

Should you inquire as to where there might be, say, potatoes, you are as likely to be directed to the table specializing in potato sculpture (by local artists!) as one that sells actual potatoes meant to be, oh I don’t know, eaten perhaps.

Years ago I enjoyed going to the farmer’s market held in Old Town Alexandria in Virginia. This was before it had become overrun with rail-thin forty-something women with impossibly small dogs and unlikely colored hair looking for heirloom tomatoes for a marinara recipe that they discovered last summer in this delightful out-of-the-way bistro in Milan that you just must, MUST try!

Me, I’m usually looking for an ear of corn for a boiling water recipe I discovered in a delightful out-of-the-way corner of my mother’s kitchen in the Poconos.

Having grown weary of the tiny dogs, hand painted scarves (by local artists!), Skeletor clientele and the burden of having to chose among 43 different varieties of peaches when all I really wanted was, you know, a peach, I have since started going to a smaller farmer’s market in an area known as “Arlandria.”

Arlandria is located between Old Town Alexandria and Arlington and is considered the “affordable” section of Alexandria by which is meant you only have to be a practicing attorney to be able to live there, not necessarily a full partner in the firm. The area has become an interesting mix of Hispanics, artsy white folks and twenty-something professionals who believe they have automatic street cred because Hispanics live two blocks (two blocks!) away. It is in fact one of my favorite places if only for the hardware store (with the big sign out front, “Hardware Store”) which is scarcely larger than my living room but has pretty much anything you need.

The Arlandria farmer’s market is frequented by people who don’t appear to have dressed specifically for the occasion and have with them dogs that are unlikely to be chased by squirrels. Items offered for sale are without exception, edible. Because this is the Washington DC area you do have the organic meats and cruelty-free plums of course but that just means I can get bacon and tell my wife it’s “healthy” and eat plums without guilt. (Finally!)

You can also get things like jars crammed full of pistachios and honey. When I first came upon these I asked the folks selling them what you do with them. “We don’t really know,” was the reply, “It just seemed like a good idea.”

These are my kind of people

It remains to be seen whether the Arlandria farmer’s market will be able to stay true to its roots or instead succumb to the  forces of entropy in which all ordered systems inexorably evolve towards their low-energy state of maximum chaos:  the macrame potholder.

Me, I’ll be on the lookout for the first “by local artists!” sign.

J.

August 27, 2005 at 03:19 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 26, 2005

grazie mille!

In an action reminiscent of the French resistance and the Underground Railroad of pre-Civil War days, members of the Italian Red Cross in Iraq hid four terrorists from the United States military and smuggled them past check points so that they could be treated for their wounds at a Red Cross hospital.

Much like those oppressed individuals fleeing the savagery of the Nazis or those seeking freedom from the diabolical institution that was slavery, the smuggled Iraqis hoped to perhaps one day live in a world where they could continue killing American soldiers.

It’s kind of the same thing.

The retiring chief of the Italian Red Cross, Maurizio Scelli, is careful to point out that the four Iraqis were only “alleged” to be terrorists. Sure, their compatriots kidnapped two innocent young Italian women and threatened to kill them unless the Red Cross met their demands to protect and treat the four Iraqis but to simply label these individuals as “terrorists” certainly fails to capture their totality as human beings. Perhaps they are also carpenters, or concert pianists. One may very well be the guy all the other terrorists count on to lift their spirits with his quick wit and flair for creating shaped charges. We have to be careful not to be too smug or judgmental.

And sure, they had been wounded in “battle” but hey, that could have happened anywhere. Lebanon maybe. Or a Manchester United football match.

In order to sneak these alleged terrorists who were supposedly wounded in some alleged battle against possibly Liverpool hooligans past American checkpoints and to a Baghdad hospital, they hid in Red Cross ambulances under boxes of medicine. Some might suggest that this violates a tacit agreement between the Red Cross and combat soldiers in which it is understood that the Red Cross will not, say, smuggle your enemy past your checkpoints in Red Cross ambulances hidden under boxes of medicine.

Well, okay, if you want to be a real stickler about it.

J.

August 26, 2005 at 11:07 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

you’d think the colorful shirts would be enough

Implementing the provisions of a law passed just last year, Hawaii has capped the wholesale price of gasoline in the state.

Using a formula that is based on the price of gasoline in places that are not Hawaii, the state comes up with a price that reflects what gasoline would cost Hawaiians, were they living someplace else.

The plan has many benefits. First, rather than allowing a free market of supply and demand that takes into account hundreds of variables, many unknown and unmeasured, as they change from minute to minute throughout each day based on the thousands of decisions made by users and suppliers alike (yeah, like that’s going to work) Hawaii has “experts” simply tack on shipping costs to the price of gas in places like New York and Los Angeles to come up with a number. Doesn’t that sound much simpler?

Second, Hawaii removes the middle man in the setting of prices. Also, the beginning man. And all the ending men too. In fact, pretty much all the former decision makers are replaced by just a handful of government officials who, you know, went to college and everything.

Living in one place, but paying prices based on living someplace else could really catch on. South Dakota, for instance, could collect data on the price of oranges in Florida and then tack on a UPS charge and be done! And why should a condo in New York cost so much? Why not just figure out what it would cost in Duluth, and then add in the cost to move it?

Hawaii itself may want to expand the program to include other high-priced items such as… well, everything other than coconuts and lava.

Some are concerned that capping prices at arbitrary rates that don’t capture true market conditions might create shortages. Tim Evans, an oil analyst at IFR Energy Services in New York dismisses that concern by noting that “The fact that their pricing mechanism is market-related minimizes the risk that a physical shortage would arise.”

At least not in New York.

J.

August 25, 2005 at 01:37 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005

american bandstand only with weapons

In a scenario long feared by Pentagon planners, a simmering dispute between the followers of Black Sabbath and the adherents of Iron Maiden has finally erupted into violence.

While both are broadly considered followers of the belief system known as “heavy metal,” there has long been a feud between the two sects over who in fact “rules” and in whose presence fans are least worthy.

The general hostility recently reached a boiling point at an Ozzfest concert in Devore, California when Black Sabbath fans using Improvised Throwing Devices pelted Iron Maiden leader Bruce Dickenson with eggs and bottles.

Pentagon officials are concerned that they may be called in to mediate. “Look,” said one four-star general, “we’re stretched pretty thin already. Between the war in Iraq and that whole thing between Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, I don’t know where we’re supposed to find the resources to deal with this.”

The general’s concerns are well founded. There are military planners old enough to remember the 60s, a time of great upheaval as the battle between the Beatles and the Beach Boys spilled onto the streets of America. The conflict escalated with the release of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds which was followed in short order by the retaliatory Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the Beatles.

“That’s a genie you can’t put back in the bottle,” said one historian of the time. “That was when we entered the ‘age of the concept album,’ and there was no turning back.”

Those hoping for UN intervention are likely to be disappointed as it is widely believed that such an action would jeopardize Kojo Annan’s burgeoning trade in bootleg copies of “Powerslave.” And Karl Rove’s proposal to send Judas Priest as an emissary were dashed when he was informed that Judas Priest is a band not a person.

The only good news is that both bands have promised to adhere to the Concept Album Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We can only hope.

J.

August 24, 2005 at 11:51 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

WWPRD?

Applying the principles of Christian philosophy developed millennia ago to the complex situations that we routinely confront in everyday modern life has long vexed theologians. For instance, what should a practicing Christian do about a situation in which a foreign leader holds political views that are considered to be objectionable? Thanks to the pioneering work of Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition, we have our answer:

You “take him out.”

Calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Robertson demonstrates that Christianity isn’t going to take a back seat to any Muslim fatwa.  It also sheds light on the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” Now we know. Jesus would go kick some Venezuelan ass.

Bringing back the vengeful God of early Christianity may just catch on as a kind of retro chic, like bellbottoms and foreign military quagmires.

It is difficult to know how seriously to take Robertson as he has in the past called for the State Department to be blown up by a nuclear device, a position held by very few outside of Paul Wolfowitz. 

For their part, Democrats condemned Robertson's statements and demanded that he apologize to the socialist leader and promise to stop calling for his assassination.

After all, Hillary still needs a running a mate.

J.

August 23, 2005 at 11:38 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

atvs don’t kill children, people kill children

What is the first step in the grieving process when your 12-year-old child is killed because you allowed him to ride a 500-pound adult-sized ATV without a helmet?

Blame someone else, of course.

The ATV industry is a good place to start. Clearly, they have not done enough to make parents aware of the fact that ATVs that are built for adults are the very same ones that are built for adults. This is a common source of confusion among modern parents and may explain why so many young people wear such baggy clothing: Their parents have been shopping in the wrong departments.

ATV manufacturers should also take much greater care to point out to purchasers the many dangers posed by gravity, which if misused, can lead to tragic consequences.  As Ellert Keezer, one of the founders of “Concerned Families for ATV Safety” said, "I never knew that they tipped like that.”

Many parents are simply unaware that heavy vehicles with powerful engines operated by middle-school-aged children without adult supervision just might be somewhat dangerous.

As a result, Concerned Families for ATV Safety is pushing the federal government to create new regulations that would require among other things assorted warnings to be provided when purchasing an ATV.

Perhaps a copy of Newton’s “Principia” would help.

J.

August 22, 2005 at 01:03 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 19, 2005

day 14 at the crawford cave

Camped outside Osama bin-Laden’s vacation cave, grieving mother, Aaliya Said has vowed that she will not leave until the reclusive Al-Qaeda leader agrees to meet with her.

Ms. Said lost her son in the battle of Fallujah last year and has become an outspoken critic of Al-Qaeda’s role in the Iraqi conflict.

“It’s a disgrace,” she says, “He went in there with too few terrorists. Where is this coalition he promised to put together? You don’t see Hamas in there. You don’t see Hezbullah in there. Who does he have? Some second-rate Baath party members? You call that a coalition?”

Bin-Laden has stayed close to his “cave away from cave” throughout the protest, clearing old mines and catching up on fatwas. It’s a way for him to get away from the hustle and bustle of his work cave.

Bin-Laden’s supporters point to the effect of a biased media for much of the leader’s current troubles. Observed one aide, “Every time you turn on the news, it’s some election, or a school being built, or people going about their daily lives. Would it kill them to show the bad side sometimes?”

Those backing Ms. Said’s cause blame the whole thing on the “neo-imams” within the bin-Laden administration who had pressured the leader to move into Iraq. “He should have stayed focused on America," noted one critic. “He said he was going to get Bush 41, well guess what? He’s still out there, touring tsunami-hit areas and helping Muslims, while we’ve got our guys stuck in Iraq blowing up Muslims. Wait, that didn’t come out right…”

Bin-Laden’s advisors are split on the best course of action. Some believe they should simply shoot her where she stands for her insolence while more moderate elements believe she should be granted an audience with the Al-Qaeda leader. And then shot where she stands.

J.

August 19, 2005 at 10:46 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack