Thursday, September 27, 2007

Catching Up: Best of 2004: March

This, like others in the series, is a re-presentation of the best items that I passed to friends in my personal newsletter. There were lots of those items, and I am under some time limits right now, so I am trying to catch up just one month at a time. So here are the best from March 2004. Note: these, and other postings, do not consistently seek to be politically correct. That said, they also do not go out of their way to be offensive. They simply reflect a perspective on everyday life that appears to be commonly appreciated among ordinary people. But if anyone wants to question or comment upon any of the posts in my blog, they are definitely invited to post responses in the appropriate space, below. Note also that some of these come from webpages that now seem to be defunct. In the case of quotes, I've provided enough information for you to Google and/or WaybackMachine them and figure out the original sources, if you are so moved. * * * * * A study conducted by UCLA's Department of Psychiatry has revealed that the kind of male face a woman finds attractive can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle. For instance, if she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features. However, if she is menstruating, or menopausal, she is more prone to be attracted to a man with scissors lodged in his temple and a bat jammed up his ass while he is on fire. Further studies are expected. * * * * * Question from a reader: So, Ray, if a Unitarian and a Methodist marry, are they Methotarians or Unitarodists? Reply from another reader: I'd guess that they'd be more ecumenical, and are either Metaridists or Metarodians or Unithorians. * * * * * [P]laywright August Wilson, who was on hand to receive the Freedom of Speech Award, began an autobiographical monologue with a tart, politically resonant wisecrack: "My ancestors have been in America since the early 17th century," said Mr. Wilson, who is of course black, "and for the first 244 years they didn't have any trouble finding a job." ... * * * * * "The 2000 election was a remarkably funny event," said Greg Proops, a comic best known for his appearances on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" "I was surprised that after that election Haiti didn't invade us to install a democracy." * * * * * In 2000, poor diet including obesity and physical inactivity caused 400,000 U.S. deaths — more than 16 percent of all deaths and the No. 2 killer. That compares with 435,000 for tobacco, or 18 percent, as the top underlying killer. The gap between the two is substantially narrower than in 1990, when poor diet and inactivity caused 300,000 deaths, 14 percent, compared with 400,000 for tobacco, or 19 percent, says a report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. * * * * * The specialized definition of downtrodden here is: people with sense forced to observe a large portion of mankind continually trying to pinch its own head off. The goal of the rationally downtrodden is to somehow wrestle the insane bits to the ground before they kill us all. ... Remaining on Madman Watch for long stretches of time has a distinct tendency to result in attacks of profoundly logical depression. ... [F]ears about the unnatural sameness resulting from cloning are far too late in one way: the majority has already been there and had that done, long ago. In every way except the purely biological, too many humans have already been carefully raised as socially engineered monocrops. Original thought is now a severely endangered species. There has been a widespread sterilization project underway for a very long time, directed toward the human mind, and it has been much too successful. ... * * * * * Positive Development in Corporate Law Prison terms for white-collar crimes lengthening. Jeffrey K. Skilling, Enron's former chief executive, and L. Dennis Kozlowski and Mark H. Swartz, two senior executives at Tyco International, could all face more than 25 years in prison if they are convicted. Andrew S. Fastow, the former chief financial officer of Enron, faces at least 10 years in prison for his guilty plea even though he has agreed to cooperate with investigators. * * * * * If you want my title, it's professor of pickpocketry. My wife, Bambi Vincent, and I spend seven months each year traveling the world to film pickpockets and other street thieves who prey on unsuspecting tourists. As a security consultant to business travelers, law enforcement and corporations, I live to expose the latest tricks of scoundrels. After we observe a thief in action, we usually try to lure him into conversation and pick his brain the way he picks the pockets of his victims. Most thieves love to brag, though on other occasions we've had rocks thrown at us and knives pulled on us, and we've been hit and spat upon. I keep my money tucked inside my trousers, in a thin leather pouch that hangs from my belt. I also have a wallet stuffed only with newspaper, which I use as bait. It has been stolen from my hip pocket more than 100 times. Sometimes I confront the thieves and it magically appears on the ground. But other times I steal it back; that's the quickest way to establish rapport with pickpockets. When I invite them for coffee, I think they are in awe, and that is why they reveal their secrets and give me their cellphone numbers. Granted, the phones are usually stolen. Our cameras are no bigger than a dime, hidden inside items like buttons on shirt collars. In London, I was tracking some pickpockets for a news program and had to go to the men's room. The camera was in my eyeglasses, and when I stood at the urinal, I forgot to turn my head. The editors had to do some cutting. I probably have more insight into the subculture of global pickpocketing than any other person in the world, on either side of the law. But that doesn't mean that pickpockets can't outsmart me. Last summer in Rome, my wife and I were packed like sardines in a metro at rush hour near the crowded Spanish Steps. There were 20 people near the door, and 14 were probably pickpockets. A woman was working my hip pocket, gently moving out my wallet. I had a small wireless video camera hidden in a cellphone in my right hand, high up filming the action. Bambi was to my left, with two guys trying for her handbag, which she was keeping an eye on. Another team of three guys was trying to go for a tall American man standing close beside me. I pretended not to notice anything. Unbeknownst to me, they succeeded in removing a small video recorder from a bag I was holding at knee level while I was watching everyone's faces. Embarrassing, yes, but I have to acknowledge the finesse of high-end pickpockets because of the perfection in their combination of stealth and precise choreography. ... * * * * * The Community Service Society studied employment conditions among black men in New York City. Using the employment- population ratio, which is the proportion of the working-age population with a job, it found — incredibly — that nearly one of every two black men between the ages of 16 and 64 was not working last year. ... * * * * * From a Republican: Pythagorean Theorem: 24 words. Lord's Prayer: 66 words. Archimedes' Principle: 67 words. Ten Commandments: 179 words. Gettysburg Address: 286 words. Declaration of Independence: 1,300 words. US Gov't regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words. (Ah, but we forget:) The sometimes erotic, largely ignored Song of Solomon: 2,658 words. The arbitrarily disregarded Jewish laws, repeatedly interminably in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy: over 50,000 words (depending on which ones you disregard!). * * * * * Late-Night Political News (This was when I started a series that continues on my newsgroup to this very day. Here are some of continuing interest -- to me, anyway.) "A California state senator has proposed an amendment to the California state constitution that would lower the voting age to 14. This is ridiculous, do you know what would happen if we allowed 14 year olds to vote? We'd end up with someone like an action hero as governor." —Jay Leno "Here in California gas prices have gone up to more than $2 a gallon. So not only didn't we find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq… apparently we didn't find any oil there either. Didn't we win the war? I thought that gas would be free now." —Jay Leno "President Bush has unveiled his first campaign commercial, highlighting all of his accomplishments in office. That's why it's a 60-second spot." —Jay Leno "The election is in full-swing. Republicans have taken out round-the- clock ads promoting George Bush. Don't we already have that? It's called Fox News." —Craig Kilborn "I heard this today and I thought this was fascinating and interesting. President Bush has two daughters, two beautiful daughters, and they may work on their father's presidential campaign after they get out of college and I thought, well, that's a pretty good move because in this economy, they won't be able to find real jobs." —David Letterman "Martha Stewart was convicted of four counts of lying and obstruction of justice and could serve up to 20 years in Congress." —Craig Kilborn "John Kerry will be the Democratic nominee for president. Democrats finally found someone who is Al Gore without the flash and the sizzle." —Craig Kilborn "Earlier today, President Bush said Kerry will be a tough and hard- charging opponent. That explains why Bush's nickname for Kerry is math." —Conan O'Brien "Kerry has already begun his search for a running mate. They say that because John Edwards still has $50 million in campaign money, Kerry might pick him. Pick him? Hey, for $50 million, Kerry will marry him." —Jay Leno "In a recent interview, Kerry said Clinton was known as the first black president and he'd like to earn the right to be second. Is John Kerry the closest we can get to a black president? How does it make Al Sharpton feel? He's going, hey guys, hello, I'm an actual black person." —Jay Leno "John Kerry has promised to take this country back from the wealthy. Who better than the guy worth $700 million to take the country back? See, he knows how the wealthy think. He can spy on them at his country club, at his place in Palm Beach, at his house in the Hamptons. He's like a mole for the working man." —Jay Leno * * * * * My husband is a liar and a cheat. He has cheated on me from the beginning, and when I confront him, he denies everything. What's worse, everyone knows he cheats on me. It is so humiliating. Also, since he lost his job three years ago he hasn't even looked for a new one. All he does is buy cigars and cruise around and shoot the bull with his pals, while I have to work to pay the bills. Since our daughter went away to college he doesn't even pretend to like me and hints that I am a lesbian. What should I do? Signed, Clueless Dear Clueless: Grow up and dump him. For Pete's sake, you don't need him anymore -- you're a United States Senator from New York now.