Author Archive

Banned Books Week 2013

Friday, September 20th, 2013

jbc’s recent posts about “Eleanor and Park” make this an opportune time to point out that next week is Banned Books Week 2013.

The website is a great resouce to learn about the attempts at censorship in schools and libraries across the country, and what you can do to help fight back.

I would also like to personally recommend that folks check out Americus — a really great, all-ages appropriate, graphic novel about fighting censorhip in a small town library against a Harry Potter-esque fantasy novel. It came out a few years ago, but uplifting stories about overcoming intollerance never really go out of style.

Statistics (Can) Lie (If You Want Them To)

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

It’s really nice when you get an opportunity to stop, step back, take stock, and really admire the way satire can point out how easy it is to (mis/ab)use statistics: Voting Democrat Causes Cancer.

The real humor I find in the whole thing, is the way this is overtly presented as a direct corollary to claims by Democrats advocating Health Care reform, with out any apparent consideration that this is the sort of thing lots of different groups do to add legitimacy to their position(s).

Like Climate change deniers … just to pick an example off the top of my head.

Marathon Woman

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

It takes a lot of balls to be a firefighter, and it takes a log of balls to file a fraudulent workers comp complaint, and it takes a lot of balls to compete in marathons.

But it really really takes a Ginormous set of Cajones to do all three.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the “ Liar of the Week” (TM) Christina Hijjawi who surrendered to police today after a warrant was issued claiming she had bilked San Francisco for $140,000 in workers’ compensation and disability benefits while training for and competing in ultra-marathons, triathlons, and other extreme endurance events.

Congratulations Christina, you are an inspiration to aspiring Liars everywhere.

Disclaimer: “ Liar of the Week” is not a real competition nor is it endorsed by or jbc. Or for that matter, hossman.

fREADom of Information

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

With the economy in shambles and the election as depressing as usual, I thought I’d try to lighten the mood a bit by reminding people about Literary Censorship, and the attempts of narrow minded people to suppress materials from public libraries.

Yes that’s right, it’s time for Banned Books Week, September 27 to October 4, 2008. The American Library Association has a lot of great background material on Banned Books Week, as well their annual list of most frequently challenged books from last year. (A challenge is when someone formally requests that a book be banned/removed from a library)

So do yourself, your community, and the world a favor this week: read a banned (or challenged) book; buy your children a banned book and talk to them about the issues of censorship and why that particular book scares people; visit your local library and make a donation, ask the librarians how they deal with attempts to ban books and if there is anything you can do to help preserve intellectual freedom.

Hillary Clinton, Hero?

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

I don’t really know who this Alex Balk guy is, based on some of the other things he’s posted he seems to generally be full of shit, but there’s something about his arguments that Hillary Clinton is deliberately acting like A Tool to make Obama look Great in a way no one else can that makes me stop and wonder.

If 1/100th of this idea is even remotely close to being true, then politics in the USA is even more horribly manufactured then any nightmare I ever imagined.

FEMA Fakes Press Briefing

Friday, October 26th, 2007

The main U.S. disaster-response agency apologized on Friday for having its employees pose as reporters in a news briefing on California’s wildfires that no journalists attended.

FEMA had called the briefing with about 15 minutes notice as federal officials headed for Southern California to oversee firefighting and rescue efforts. Reporters were also given a phone number to listen in but could not ask questions.

…with no reporters attending and a FEMA video feed being carried live by some television networks, FEMA press employees posed questions for Johnson that included: “Are you happy with FEMA’s response so far?”


Libby Will Do No Jail Time

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Judith Miller sat in jail for 85 doing what she felt was right: protecting the identity of a confidential source. She was released only after her source, Scooter Libby, finally consented to her letting him name him. Libby was subsequently found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements (under oath) and sentenced to 30 months for his crimes, but he won’t be spending one day in Jail, because President Bush commuted his sentence for being “excessive

Where was Bush’s rubber stamp when Miller was in Jail? And if 30 months is too excessive for Libby’s crimes, how about serving 85 days he took away from Miller because he wasn’t man enough to step up and admit what he had done?

Pictures Lie, and Potter Fans Take it Seriously

Friday, May 11th, 2007

I’m a sucker for stories about doctored photos, but this one actually has a happy ending.

The folks over at “The Leaky Cauldron” (AHPNATT … All Harry Potter News, All The Time) posted an irate (but very well done) editorial recently on an Ad the IMAX website had been running for Harry potter that was very clearly a Photoshop modified version of a stock poster for the 5th Harry Potter movie. Now this shouldn’t really be a surprise — I’m sure even the poster was Photoshoped to add “mood” to the original source photos; but what was changed for the IMAX ad was to make the boobs of a 15 year female character bigger. This got the attention of some mainstream press, and Warner Brothers forced IMAX to pull the Ad, since it was not approved by them.

Which goes to show, just because photos lie, doesn’t mean you can’t call bullshit and make them stop.

RV Voters for Truth

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

“As you may have heard, South Dakota has just passed a law outlawing all abortions except when the life of the mother is at stake” … but did you kow that South Dakota’s voter registration laws are specifically designed to encourage “RV Voters” — people who are registered to vote in the state even if they are only there for a week or two camping trip each year?

Registering to vote in Sout Dakota just to try and sway future elections may seem far fetched, but it’s aparently quite practical, and there are evidently some other handy benefits.

Who Wants To Potty, Because It’s Time To Die!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Elmo, one of the most popular Sesame Street characters in the past decade, is at the center of yet another marketing nightmare. Last fall, the Elmo Knows Your Name doll made some news when people realized you could program Elmo to say anything you want. But this week, Elmo reached a new low: A woman in Dallas bought a copy of Potty Time With Elmo, a talking book with buttons that play audio clips of Elmo giving encouraging advice to toddlers. But one of the buttons in her copy of the book makes Elmo laugh, and then say “Who wants to die?” like some sort of 1960s BatMan villan.

There are at least two seperate videos of the woman and her copy of the book available…

Some people online have speculated that the word “die” is the where the recording cuts out of something else (lie “try to go potty”) but other sources indicate the phrase played when the same button is clicked on other copies of the book is “Uh-oh! Who has to go?” — So I don’t see how it can be a glitch, someone did this on purpose. News reports all agree that the company that makes the book has recieved “several complaints” so presumably this isn’t the only copy with this behavior.

As you would expect, dozens of ebay auctions have poped up for RARE Potty Time With Elmo Book ” Who Wants To Die ” NEW.

(Thanks to the Colbert Report for bringing this to my attention)

Trailers Can Lie

Sunday, October 9th, 2005

I know one of jbc’s favoite themes is “Pictures Can / Can’t Lie.” So I couldn’t resist posting these spoof trailers from the folks at PS260 (A video marketing production company)…

  • The Shining – A touching family comedy about a young boy looking for a father figure, and a struggling novelist looking for meaning in his life.
  • West Side Story – A Suspense film like no other: In the summer of 1961, 14 square blocks of Manhattan were quarantined due to an outbreak of unknown origin. This is the story of those few survivors who managed to escape from The Infected.
  • Titanic – Horror on the high seas knows no limits.
  • Cabin Fever – A tale of love and loss as a terminally ill girl takes her four best friends on one last summer trip to to say goodbye.

Controversial Books: They Aren’t Just For Burning

Sunday, September 25th, 2005

It’s that time of year again. September 24th to October 1st is Banned Book Week, sponsored by the American Library Association. This is a great week to go to your neighborhood independent book store and pick up a banned book.

My personal favorite has to be Captain Underpants for “offensive language and modeling bad behavior”. Have a sense of humor folks, seriously.

Darwin Has A Posse

Sunday, September 18th, 2005

If you’ve been living under a rock the last few weeks (or the Astrodome perhaps), you may not have heard that the issue of “Intelligent design” is going to court next week. Today I saw one of the most interesting and rational commentaries on the subject to date, from a Presbyterian Pastor whose encouraging his parish to attend a class titled: “Evolution for Christians“.

I agree that science and religion answer very different kinds of questions, so I worry about the doors of science classrooms being opened to intelligent design … I would be very upset if the biology teachers at Robinson Secondary School, where my children are students, departed from the mechanics of mitosis and began to bring their Mormon or Methodist or Muslim beliefs into discussions of why God chose to create cells.

I also really like the comments from a psychology professor in his parish…

“intelligent design theorists don’t scientifically establish divine creation at all — they merely try to represent scientific problems as evidence of scientific inadequacy.” They assume, for instance, that since the human eye is marvelously complex, and since scientists cannot map a complete evolutionary path for it, then it must be a product of an intelligent designer. But the eye actually shows many signs of having evolved, including a number of defects that no intelligent designer would ever include — light receptors in the back of the eye, for example, behind blood vessels that obstruct the view. “Accusing a God of [designing] such a thing seems rather insulting, actually,”

Darwin Has a Posse Sticker

And while we’re on the subject of Evolution, those who are interested should acquire some Charles Darwin Has A Posse stickers and plaster them all over God’s big blue bowling ball. There’s no better time then now.

Fully Informed Jury

Thursday, August 11th, 2005

I was in Top Dog the other day, waiting for my dog and purusing the social comentary on the walls (looking for something I hadn’t seen before) when a leaflet I had seen before (but never read) caught my eye: “A Primer For Prospective Jurors“. My recently recieved jury duty summons is probably what motivated me to read it while I ate — and I found it fairly interesting…

Once on a jury, must I use the law as given by the judge, even if I think it’s a bad law, or wrongly applied?
No. You are free to vote on the verdict according to your conscience. You may not increase the charges, but you may choose to vote to acquit, even when the evidence proves that the defendant “did it”, if your conscience so dictates. And if you think the charges are too high, you can ask the judge to tell you about any reduced charges of which you might, in good conscience, be willing to find the defendant guilty. The same options apply if you learn that the evidence, though true, was gathered in a way that violated the rights of the accused, or if you believe that the government is just trying to flex its muscle by making an example out of the defendant or feel that you were not allowed access to some of the facts of the case, or that victimless crimes should not be punished-or for any other reason you believe that justice will not be served by finding the defendant guilty or liable as charged. You have the power to render a conscientious verdict.

This power to “do the right thing” and bring in a conscientious verdict, even when the defendant is — by the letter of the law — guilty or liable, is the very backbone of our jury system.

It lead me to the “The American Jury Institute and Fully Informed Jury Association” website(s), which then lead me to another interesting read: Jurors’ Handbook: A Citizens Guide to Jury Duty.

All of which makes me a little sad that I allready check the “I am exempt because my obligation was satisified in the last 12 months” box on my summons.

On Violence and Freedom

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

There are two things that I read the other day that I wanted to post about. Individually, they probably wouldn’t have motivated me enough to bring up the old Editing screen, but having read them a few hours a part — they really caught my eye.

The first comes from a monologue in John Brunner’s The Jagged Orbit. Written in 1969, I can best describe it as a distopian prediction of race relations and racial equality on par with Orwell’s prophecies on privacy…

How could you expect a man to be a good neighbor when he’s spent years shooting at shadows, moving tree-branches, silhouettes on window-shades? Hos could you expect him to be a good citizen when he’s seen his government authorize the killing of thousands, millions of other human beings? How could you expect him to be a good father when he’s spent his early twenties torturing children to get information about enemy troop positions?

The second quote comes from Hunter S. Thompson in the May 2005 issue of Playboy Magazine. The article is a loose collection of thoughts on a variety of subjects. This coming from “On Free Will” …

In Orwell’s 1984, rigidity is imposed by the will of the state. Whereas with soma in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, it’s the will of the people. I’ve always operated on that second theory. Nobody is stealing our freedoms. We’re dealing them off. That’s the dark side of the American dream.

I don’t really have anything to add to them, I just thought they were interesting. Seperately, and together.

The Only Reason I Wish I Had A Brother

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

I could swear this was the plot of a (post shark) “Happy Days” episode: Texas Candidate Admits Using Twin as Stand-In.

As usual, the local press has more complete details.

California Organ Donors Database – FINALLY!

Monday, April 4th, 2005

I’m normally all about the quirky, offbeat, absurd news – but not today, this is important:

The myth is that once you signed up to be a donor at the Department of Motor Vehicles, your name and data went into a central registry. Not so. There never was such a registry, making it uncertain that such preferences were noticed or honored. Donor networks say less than 10 percent of the driver’s licenses with dots are produced when needed. Often the person dying doesn’t have a license along when brought to a hospital, and relatives don’t always know that the individual signed up to donate organs.

Starting today, there is an official Organ and Tissue Donor Registry for the state of California. This is a really great program, the kind of program that can really save lives — too bad bureaucratic shit prevented it from going into effect 4 years ago.

If you live in California please consider registering, and if you ever get a chance thank Sen. Jackie Speier.

Prosecuting Traffic Offenders — Whatever the Cost

Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

Let’s say you are driving to work, and eating an apple in your right hand. Now let’s say, that at some point during your drive, you make a turn — maybe you can hold the apple while turning the wheel with both hands, maybe you only use one hand, let’s not speculate. Now let’s consider some questions…

  • Are you guilty of “not been in full control of [your] car” ? … possibly.
  • If a police officer feels you were not in full control of your car, should he cite you? … probably.
  • If you contest said traffic citation, does the government have a responsibility to the public interest to prosecute you? … sure.
  • Should the prosecution expend time/effort/money to present video evidence from a patrol car, a police helicopter, and a police plane? … um, well … i dunno about that.
  • Should said video evidence be obtained of an empty intersection, long after the incident, without documentign anything about your driving on that particular day, or anyother day — just what the route you were driving that day looks like? … fuck no, whose lame ass idea is that?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Northumbria Police.

The taxpayers of Northumbria are lucky that someone has some common sense: the woman being prosecuted stoped contesting the charges when she found out the public had already footed an estimated court cost of £10,000, and that her appeal would cost another £10,000 … all to collect £160 in fines.

Do What You Love, Unless Your Parents Don’t Like It

Saturday, January 15th, 2005

Management consultant William Fried has given a presentation entitled “The Secret of a Happy Life” to the same CA middle school for three years straight on eighth-grade career day. In it, he “counsels students to experiment with a variety of interests until they discover something they love and excel in.” This year, in response to some followup questions from the students, he acknowledged that it was possible to make lots of money as an exotic dancer — and that the bigger your bust size, the bigger the pay check.

Aparently the principal wasn’t very happy about this.

None of this really surprises me.

What really ticks me off is the last comment in the article: “one mother said she was outraged when her son announced that he was forgoing college for a field he loves: fishing.” Maybe it’s just me, but if you’re going to have a speaker come to the school to talk about having a happy life, you shouldn’t bitch that he encourages your kids to pursue whatever makes them happy. I have a lot of friends who have taken good jobs for good money and burned out in only a few years — because they didn’t love it.

So let me just put this plea out to all the parents out there: Don’t worry about how much money your kids will grow up to make, worry about whether or not they will be miserable.

Family Values: The War, and the FCC

Thursday, December 16th, 2004

Two items in today’s SF Chronicle caught my eye. The first was Jon Carroll’s weekly column in which he points out a disturbing trend in american media since the election: The war is getting less attention even as it gets more deadly. Why? Because the media failed to understand that faith and family are important. Bush may feel like he earned policital collateral in the election, but just because he got elected for his values, doesn’t mean we aren’t still fucked in Iraq — and it sure as hell doesn’t mean we should stop asking questions about how we can fix it.

The second article was Tim Goodman’s weekly TV column, in which he returns to the issue of the FCC and the PTC (for those of you who missed it, it seems that 99.9% of the “indecency” complaints the FCC receives are all from one conservative advocacy group). As Goodman points out, the FCC doesn’t initiate investigations of TV networks. They wait for the public to complain — one or more complaint — and then check to see if there’s merit.

For example: NBC was asked by the FCC to turn over tapes of the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Olympics. It seems that someone — maybe even just one person, or some folks at the PTC, perhaps? — thought there was too much dirty dancing from the Greeks. So Goodman proposes that people who think things over at the FCC are getting ridiculous should take matters into their own hands. Tell the FCC what you think of their policies; “clog the system” by telling them what shows you think they should investigate for (artistic) indecency.