Archive for April, 2002

Majority Believes in ESP

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002

from the watch-me-bend-this-spoon dept.

A new survey conducted by the National Science Foundation finds that belief in “pseudoscience” is relatively widespread and growing among Americans. Among the other goodies contained in the results is the interesting factoid that only 45% of those surveyed knew that the statement “Lasers work by focusing sound waves” is false. (Hint: Think light, people.)

Darryl Strawberry Gets 18 Months

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002

from the victimless-crimes dept.

After violating his probation for the sixth time, former baseball star Darryl Strawberry has been sentenced to 18 months in prison. His crime in this case was that he broke the rules of the residential treatment center he was staying at by 1) smoking, 2) having sex with a resident, and 3) trading baseballs for cigarettes. Whew; good thing we’ve got him back behind bars.

‘Bondwoman’s Narrative’ Authorship Researched

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002

from the slavery-from-the-inside dept.

An interesting (to me, at least) story is the effort to identify the author of The Bondwoman’s Narrative, a novel written in the 1850s that describes the life of a fugitive slave. Although accounts of slave life have a long history in this country, with early works like Uncle Tom’s Cabin having been among the bestsellers of their day, nearly all of those books, even those purportedly written by blacks, were actually written by whites. The Bondwoman’s Narrative is different, though; experts believe the novel may actually have been written by an escaped slave. One of the most interesting pieces of evidence: the way the author introduces black characters simply as people, not bothering to mention their blackness until subsequent events in the story make it clear.

McCartney Halts Auction of ‘Hey Jude’ Lyrics

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002

from the antiques-roadshow dept.

Paul McCartney (excuse me; Sir Paul McCartney) has obtained a court injunction halting an auction of the original handwritten lyrics to ‘Hey Jude’, claiming the lyrics had disappeared from his home under mysterious circumstances. The best part of the story is the original response given by Christie’s, the auction house, which had appraised the value of the sheet of notebook paper at more than $100,000: that if Sir Paul wanted his lyrics back, he should just bid on them at the auction. The judge said, uh, no.

Jesse Ventura On the Ropes

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002

from the schadenfreude dept.

Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler and political independent who won the Minnesota governor’s race a few years back, has been facing some political setbacks lately (budget problems, a disdainful legislature, and low poll numbers), and his opponents in the mainstream political parties are piling on.

Wiccagate Probe Urged

Tuesday, April 30th, 2002

from the freedom-of-worship dept.

From the L.A. Times comes the story of a recent pagan ceremony in Lancaster, CA, that was disrupted by Satan-fearing Christians who surrounded the pagans, quoted scripture at them, and blared Christian pop tunes. The pagans called the sheriff’s department, but either because the disrupters included people with ties to the department, or because the sheriffs were just too darned busy (depending on who you ask), no one responded for more than four hours. Now the pagans want the disrupters prosecuted under hate-crime laws, but apparently the law only protects religious services conducted inside a “tax-exempt building.”

Chinese Chef Busted for Opium Seasoning

Monday, April 29th, 2002

from the wonder-if-it’s-one-of-the-Colonel’s-11-secret-herbs-and-spices dept.

From Guardian Unlimited comes the story of Bi Jingxiang, the owner of a restaurant in Beijing, who has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for sprinkling ground opium on his spicy fish dishes. The District People’s Court apparently didn’t buy his claim that the drug is a traditional condiment renowned in his hometown for its many beneficial effects.

Dean To Out Deep Throat

Monday, April 29th, 2002

from the silly.-everyone-knows-it-was-Hal-Holbrook. dept.

John Dean, the Nixon lawyer who served four months in prison for his role in the Watergate cover-up, has announced that on June 17, the 30th anniversary of the break-in, he will spill the beans on who “Deep Throat” really was. (For those of tender years who don’t remember Watergate, Deep Throat was the shadowy guy in the parking structure who gave sinister dramatic hints to Redford – er, Woodward – on where the bodies were buried in the White House, allowing the Washington Post to keep the story in the headlines until Nixon went batshit and resigned.)

Yarkoni Shunned for Criticizing Israeli Army

Monday, April 29th, 2002

from the questioning-authority dept.

The L.A. Times has the story of Yaffa Yarkoni, a 77-year-old Israeli singer well-known for her renditions of patriotic songs. Interviewed on radio shortly after she viewed images of the destruction in Jenin, Yarkoni criticized the West Bank incursion, likening Israeli actions to that of the Nazis during World War II. “We are a people who have been through the Holocaust. How are we capable of doing these things?” In response, the Israeli performing artists’ union cancelled a scheduled tribute to Yarkoni, her own performances have been cancelled, and she reportedly has received so much hate mail and so many angry phone calls that she now fears to appear in public.

Review: Who’s Who in Hell

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

from the get-your-obituaries-here dept.

From The Observer comes a review of Who’s Who in Hell, journalist Robert Chalmers’ new novel that focuses on the adventures of newspaper obituary writers. Or something like that; I got a bit lost part way through the review. But it still sounds fun.

Lerner: Jewish Critics of Israel Not ‘Self-Hating’

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

from the convenient-labels,-pesky-facts dept.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, a leader of the Tikkun community, has an excellent opinion piece in today’s L.A. Times: Israel’s Jewish Critics Aren’t ‘Self-Hating’.

Blueprint for Gulf War II

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

from the just-like-the-last-gulf-war,-only-better dept.

The New York Times (via the Financial Times) has a story outlining likely scenarios for dubya’s upcoming Gulf War: The Motion Picture. Originally the plan had been to launch the war this fall, but now the big thinkers have pushed the war’s debut back to early 2003, with the extra months being used to wrap up that pesky Israeli-Palestinian plot line.

NRA Claims Responsibility for Dubya Election

Sunday, April 28th, 2002

from the bragging-or-complaining? dept.

The National Rifle Association claimed responsibility for the latest Bush presidency at the organization’s annual convention yesterday. By denying Gore votes in gun-happy states like Arkansas, West Virginia, and Tennessee, the theory goes, the NRA played a critical role in conveying the election to Bush. True enough, I suppose, but no greater a role than was played by Ralph Nader, Jeb Bush, Kathleen Harris, and the U.S. Supreme Court in giving dubya that little Florida “victory.” Anyway, the story reminds me of the child-gun safety lecture I attended the other day, and the funny/scary bumper sticker my friend Conner told me about: “You can have my gun when you pry it from my curious 8-year-old’s cold, lifeless fingers.”

International Spy Museum to Open

Saturday, April 27th, 2002

from the spy-vs.-spy dept.

Coming soon to the nation’s capital: the International Spy Museum, where visitors will reportedly be assigned new identities upon arrival, then will be quizzed during their visit to see how well they remember their cover stories. Mm, okay.

Four Arrested in Who Wants To Be a Millionaire Scam

Saturday, April 27th, 2002

from the cheaters-never-prosper dept.

A fourth person has been arrested in connection with an ongoing investigation into alleged cheating on the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire television program – the original, British version, not the American version with Regis Philbin that is (thankfully) no longer running 24/7 this side of the Pond. Investigators believe that contestant Major Charles Ingram was helped to win by a conspirator planted in the audience who used carefully timed coughs to feed him the answers.

Man Bites Dog

Friday, April 26th, 2002

from the well,-slamms-him dept.

It’s basically just a sad story about someone with poor self-control taking his frustrations out on his pet, but I’m passing on this link for another reason: It’s an object lesson in my own stupidity. See, I saw the headline Fort Lauderdale man jailed in puppy slammming death, and immediately had to follow it to find out what this weird new verb (“slammming”) referred to; obviously it was some new street argot I hadn’t picked up on before this. It didn’t occur to me that a mainstream news site like the Miami Herald’s, with a fancy serifed type treatment on their logo and everything, would let a simple typo like that propagate to the four corners of the Web.

Mapping the Mind of Bill Gates

Friday, April 26th, 2002

from the better-bring-your-GPS dept.

Andrew Orlowski at The Register has a cool piece where he tells it like it is with respect to Bill Gates’ antitrust testimony. Word.

Squirrel Intifada at Stanford

Friday, April 26th, 2002

from the cute,-furry…-and-deadly dept.

From Yahoo News comes the story of suicidal squirrels that have taken to leaping out into the path of oncoming cyclists at Stanford University. Students are reportedly suffering mental trauma over the attacks, causing some to question the morality of their own presence on the 8,180-acre campus. “The squirrels were here first, I know, but I need an education, don’t I?” sobbed Katie Founds, distraught after nearly biking over the body of a dead squirrel. Meanwhile, the school’s administration says it will not be intimidated by the rodent onslaught. “We will never give in to terror,” vowed University President John Hennessy.

No Sanity Test for Love

Friday, April 26th, 2002

from the judges-are-no-fun dept.

Killing a very funny story before it even had a chance, Judge Robert Alsdorf has ruled that celebrity widow Courtney Love does not have to undergo psychiatric testing. The testing had been requested by the two surviving members of Nirvana, who are engaged in a long-running legal dispute with Love over the Nirvana back catalog, and who argued in court that her mental problems were causing her to make irrational business decisions.

Alternative to Big Bang Theory Offered

Friday, April 26th, 2002

from the science-messing-with-our-heads-again dept.

Challenging the widely held theory that the universe came into existence in a Big Bang, physicists Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok have proposed that instead, the universe has undergone an endless series of expansions and contractions. I’m not sure why, but these sorts of cosmological debates always strike me as funny. Your mileage may (almost certainly will) vary.