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Into every week, a little Friday must fall…

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Ward Churchill. I bet you thought he was long gone. Nope. D-Day is Tuesday. Keep an eye on jwpaine’s place, Pirate Ballerina, for the latest news on everybody’s favorite pretend injun.

sock it to me

July 20, 2007 — 6:37 pm
Comments: 22

Stalking the BBC

Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
Reg: Fuck off! We’re the People’s Front of Judea

——————————————————————————–
Reg: If you want to join the People’s Front of Judea, you have to really hate the Romans.
Brian: I do!
Reg: Oh yeah, how much?
Brian: A lot!
Reg: Right, you’re in.

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However bad our media is, the BBC is shockingly worse. Smug, bitter, anti-West, pro-just-about-anything-else — I swear, they work “George Bush is stupid” jokes into the cooking program. It’s like swimming through a leftoid fever dream.

Brits are required to fund the BBC by paying a hefty annual license fee. A colo(u)r TV license currently stands at £135.50 annually, which is…$278.14627 per today’s exchange rate. Free if you’re old, half price if you’re blind (I guess they figure blind people aren’t using the video portion. Maybe they recycle it).

Having ‘customers’ that are forced to pay up whether they like your product or not is bad, m’kay? Brits of the conservative persuasion (a small, angry tribe) are justly furious at the BBC’s clear ideological bent, but they have no recourse. Being stuck in a situation they are utterly helpless to change makes people mad, and mad is going to spill onto the web.

The best blog tracking the BBC was Biased BBC. I’ve read it for a couple of years, but it’s been going for five. In my time, there wasn’t a whole lot of action in the main posts; the good stuff was in the comments. An open thread there will typically run for a couple of hundred comments, most by good and conscientious regular commenters. Trollage was minor.

Sweet deal, huh? An excellent, popular blog that writes its own damn self…?

I guess not. Someone with a set of keys decided to impose a little authoritay on the place. Have you ever seen someone get hold of the moderating stick and go nuts? It’s an ugly scene. It’s like a blood frenzy. It starts with “off topic” posts and naturally moves to the posts that complain about the deletions, and then to any complaints and settles into a cranky, arbitrary, uneasy place, where no-one knows quite where they stand. For a blog that relies so heavily on commenters, it was a suicidally arrogant act.

This happened when I was away at Weaselfest last week, so I didn’t see it in realtime. I’m not a contributor there, anyhow. A faithful reader, but the BBC is not (yet) imposed on me by force, so I seldom have much to add. But that alpha wolf shit really gets my knickers in a twist, so I pulled my link (that’s right — offa my blogroll! They’ll rue the day they angered a weasel. Rue, I say!)

I repeat: Being stuck in a situation they are utterly helpless to change makes people mad, and mad is going to spill onto the web. A couple of different schismatic sites sprang up and fizzled. One looks like it’s got the right attitude and is going to stick: BBC-Biased — Exposing the bias of the BBC.

Keep an eye on it. It’s picked up several of the better commenters from the old site, and will undoubtedly pick up more when word gets out (it’s hard to leave a breadcrumb trail in a place where posts disappear).

I’ll even put it on my blogroll (my blogroll!) if I can remember where I left the keys…

sock it to me

— 9:07 am
Comments: 34

They get the last LOL

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There’s been a certain amount of hatin’ on the lolcats lately. But check out this Business Week article on blogs that make money (Cheezburger is the third one in the slideshow). BW estimates Cheezburger is pulling in $5,600 a month in ad revenue.

Now, that’s not a spectacular amount of scratch for the big blogs (witness some of the others on the list), but Cheezburger only started in January of this year. And it’s entirely driven by user submission. Who’s LOLing now?

My promise to you, my faithful minions: I will never sell out. Not unless I really, really need the money.

sock it to me

July 19, 2007 — 4:30 pm
Comments: 22

Mmmm-mmm! That sure is a fine-looking big black bag

Assault case dropped

A Bahraini man has filed a complaint against a Saudi who assaulted him and used abusive language at Seef Mall. The accused started beating the Bahraini after he claimed the man had stared at his wife who for the record was completely covered. The accused apologised during interrogation claiming that
he had got jealous after he thought he saw the man stare at his wife.
The Bahraini dropped the case against him.

sock it to me

— 1:33 pm
Comments: 34

Happy anniversary!

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Thirty eight years since Ted Kennedy’s Midnight Car Wash. Howie Carr is all over it.

sock it to me

July 18, 2007 — 5:42 pm
Comments: 28

M.K. Brown; like the forties, but all trippy and melty

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This is Mary K. Brown, my favorite cartoonist. Actually, I think most people refer to her as a surrealist rather than a cartoonist. I believe a more accurate diagnosis might be “elevator does not go to top floor.”

She did a number of cartoons for National Lampoon (during the funny years), including features like Inroads into Science and Mercury, Messenger of God. Eventually, she got a regular small strip in the cartoon section, Aunt Mary’s Kitchen. I managed to pick up more of her stuff in comic anthologies. I found Self Portrait in one of these.

She did some kids’ books (which really do not properly mine her rich vein of lunacy) and, I believe, some fine art (which I can’t seem to find online any more) but, really, has had a surprisingly small lifetime output. Also, she was born in Connecticut (eventually) and she answered my fan letter (briefly and politely). That’s all I know about her.

I don’t think I can explain what it is about her drawings (and writings) that hits me just right. Somehow she manages to capture a whole scary but somehow oddly familiar world of melted snapshots and corner-of-the-eye hallucinations. Poke around her site and see if you can see it. She had a definite influence on my work as a young artist, which was tragically unfortunate, since I was a technical illustrator.

Why now? I was squinting at giant chalk Homer, trying to work out if the feeling was amusement or embarrassment, and it made me think of Dr. N!Godatu. This was a short cartoon M.K. Brown produced that ran between segments of the Tracy Ullman show in the ’80s. It alternated with a cartoon called the Simpsons.

The Simpsons swiftly elbowed Dr. N!Godatu out of the nest. Can you imagine how hard that must suck? It’s like being the girl standing next to the girl discovered by the bigtime Hollywood movie producer. It’s like picking the winning lottery number the week before it’s the winning lottery number. Honest to god, I think I’d go step in front of a bus.

sock it to me

— 12:54 pm
Comments: 4

It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know

Oh, hey, I almost forgot to tell you. At the reunion last week, I learned that Fred Thompson used to mow my first cousin’s other grandmother’s lawn. Yes, that Fred Thompson.

It’s all about the connections, baby.

sock it to me

July 17, 2007 — 4:21 am
Comments: 17

Get it offa me! Get it offa me!

Yipe! I’ve been tagged with a meme. I’ve been dreading this moment. At least this one doesn’t ask any questions about CD’s I’ve bought or books I’m reading. That would be embarrassing. This one is eight habits or facts about my favorite topic: me.

1. Fact: I can wiggle my ears. In fact, I can wiggle each ear individually. In fact, my head muscles are preternaturally mobile, like a tabby. If I spot someone I don’t like, my whole scalp dances involuntarily.

2. Habit: I have a song I sing to my lima beans. The lyrics go, “lima beans, lima beans, limabeanslimabeanslima beeeeeeeeeeeans.” This is so onerous, I usually end up having peas instead, even though I really like lima beans. I don’t have a pea song, thank goodness.

3. Fact: I have ugly, gnarly feet. My mother used to say, “never mind, honey. Peacocks have ugly feet, too.” Yeah, but peacocks have a glorious fan of blue iridescent feathers sticking out of their butts. What do I have?

4. Habit: just inside the door, there’s a bowl that I empty my pockets into the moment I walk into the house. Keys, glasses, watch, small change, post-it notes. Sometimes I poke through the old notes. They are like messages from another planet. I seldom have any idea what they mean or who those people are I was supposed to call. And yet…they all sound so urgent and important.

5. Fact: I used to have double-jointed thumbs. I could grab either thumb and push it all the way forward until it touched my inner forearm, or all the way backward until it touched my outer forearm. I just tried to do it for the first time in years. I can’t. And it hurt like a bastard. Also, I read the article at the link and it scared me.

6. Habit: On weekends, I put chocolate, cinnamon and flaked chili into my coffee (fact: it makes me poop like a goose).

7. Fact: I have one of those preposterous 10-syllable cornpone Southern names. Thanks, Mother. She said she thought I might want to take up acting someday. In Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, apparently.

8. Habit: when I get down on all fours to play with Damien, he periodically turns around and waggles his ass-end at me. I finally figured out he was feigning a scent-mark. I thought maybe a puff of air on his nethers would startle him out of the impertinent habit, but after the first couple of times, he actually developed a taste for it. Now he waggles his ass and backs toward the stream of air. I can’t help myself. It’s howlingly funny.

Yes. That’s right. I go home at night, get down on all fours, pucker up and blow on my cat’s rectum. And it’s really nobody’s business.

Errr…thanks Geoff. Hm. I’m going to tag-back BONGO MIRROR and whitishrabbit out of pure vindictiveness.

sock it to me

July 16, 2007 — 11:29 am
Comments: 25

Let’s talk whiskey!

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I love whiskey, which makes me feel pretty stupid. All that money and snootiness and bullshit and, really, whiskey is only old stank barrel-flavored vodka. Word.

There are four factors that affect the old stank barrel flavor of whiskey:

What the alcohol is made from
How thoroughly the alcohol is distilled
The container it is aged in
How long it is aged

I suppose you could add “what sort of water it is diluted with afterwards,” but the sort of airy-fairy people who style themselves connoiseurs of the taste of water, for chrissakes, really get on my nerves. So…no. Shan’t.

What the alcohol is made from

Yeasts eat sugar and pee ethanol. Deal with it. So, you can feed yeasts on sugar or molasses (rum), or fruit (wine, brandy) or honey (mead).

Starch can be converted to sugar by enzymes released when grains are sprouted. A malt is a grain that has been sprouted to release enzymes and then heated to arrest further growth. (This is where peat comes in; the malt for some Scotch whiskies is heated over peat fires).

So that adds corn (bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, moonshine), rye (rye whiskey, rye beer), barley (beer, Scotch whiskey), rice (sake)…wheat, sorghum, millet, potatoes. Koolaid. Table sugar. Doritos. Whatever. Any old carb. Most alcoholic beverages are made from more than one of these things, mashed together into a mash.

How thoroughly the alcohol is distilled

If I were to seal you in a box, you’d soon breathe up all the air, replace it with carbon dioxide, and die in a puddle of your own filth, gasping for release. Well, that’s what happens to yeast when it reaches a certain concentration; it eats all its food and drowns in its own pee. That’s why unfortified wine has a maximum alcohol content of around 14%. In technical terms, 14% is the yeast-to-pee death ratio.

distillation-alembic

To get alcohol purer than that, you need to distill it. Turns out, that’s really very easy (and fairly illegal. Just saying). See, water boils at 212° F and alcohol boils at around 170° F. So, you heat the mash in some kind of alchemical doohickey just until the alcohol turns into vapor but the water doesn’t, then collect, cool and thereby condense the vapor until it turns back into a liquid. Voilà! The miracle of booze!

Commercially distilled ethyl alcohol is getting on for chemically pure. I know you think you can taste the difference between cheap vodka and the expensive stuff, but you can’t. And, frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of telling you so.

For the purposes of whiskey, however, too much distillation would make all that pretentious peaty, single-malty shit look pretty silly. So spirits for whiskey are distilled until they are about 95% pure.

The container it is aged in

Oak barrels, generally. Bourbon, to call itself bourbon, must be aged in new, charred white oak barrels (so does Tennessee whiskey, but its unique attribute is an initial slow filtering through a big stack of charcoal). Scotch whisky (and rum) are often aged in old bourbon barrels. Scotch is also sometimes aged in old port wine or sherry casks. One year, Sandy Claws brung me a sampler of little Glenmorangies aged in different sorts of casks; you really can taste the difference. It was de-lightful and in-toxicating.

How long it is aged

Rum can be aged for as little as a year, though it is usually longer. Whiskies can be aged for as little as three years, but again…usually more. Higher heat and humidity make spirits ‘age’ faster. As whiskey ages, alcohol is constantly escaping from the barrels, enveloping the distillery in a sweet, boozy vapor traditionally known as the “angel’s share.” By the time the barrels are opened, the volume of liquid has been reduced by as much as half. Whiskey at “cask strength” is generally 50-60% alcohol and is then diluted for bottling to 40-46% alcohol, and sometimes (controversially) filtered as well.

So, that’s it. Whiskey is vodka that has been soaking up burnt wood for a decade. Doesn’t that sound lovely?


Before anyone thinks of correcting my spelling, it’s “whiskey” in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and Japan and “whisky” in Ireland and America. Per the ATF, the official American spelling is “whiskey” but everyone ignores the ATF. Hooray for everyone. [Correction! That’s backwards. Other way around. “Whisky” in Scotland, Wales, Canada, and Japan and “whiskey” in Ireland and America. Sheesh.]

Here’s a nice glossary. And here’s a good whisky blog. Here’s another. And here’s information on the American Whiskey Trail, as fine a way to spend a Summer vacation as a weasel ever did hear.

sock it to me

— 6:01 am
Comments: 22

Friday the 13th! of July

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sock it to me

July 13, 2007 — 11:09 pm
Comments: 13