Thursday, April 17, 2014

Food for Body and Mind


Yesterday my son Matt sent me a link to a post at brainpickings.org that he figured would appeal to me as a reader and a lover of good food - Fictitious Dishes: Elegant and Imaginative Photographs of Meals from Famous Literature. It's a review of a book by artist and illustrator Dinah Fried* that serves up a collection of photographs of gustatory high points from literature. Here are two examples ... the gruel that led Oliver Twist to ask, "Please, sir, I want some more":


And the tea party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:


Food and literature go together. One of my favorite novels is Es muss nicht immer Kaviar sein (It Can't Always Be Caviar) by German author Johannes Mario Simmel. It's the story of mild-mannered banker Thomas Lieven, who is framed by his business partner, coerced into becoming a secret agent for multiple countries, and turned into a professional criminal and a resistance fighter during World War II. Mr Lieven's hobby is gourmet cooking, and when he's faced with a difficult problem, he clears his mind by preparing a meal ... and all the recipes are included in the text. I read the book in German, but it's been translated into English as The Monte Cristo Cover-Up, which is a stupid title that has nothing to do with the story, but what can you do? The translation is adequate, but the original German is much better**.

Celebrate National Library Week by reading a good book while you enjoy a good dinner. Life doesn't get much better!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* And how appropriate a name is that for the topic, eh?

** Which is often the case when books are translated.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Library Week


I don't know how I missed it, but this week (April 13-19) is National Library Week. This is truly cause for celebration, particularly with the price of books - and even e-books - being what it is ... how grand is it that you can read just about any book you want, any time, for free*?

Here are a few thoughts and links in honor of libraries and the librarians who operate them ...

You may remember this link from yesterday's post - 24 Awesome Librarian Tattoos.

Nine reasons why librarians are awesome ...




It's a library! Turn off that cell phone, put away the iPod, and be quiet so that others can read ...


A library doesn't have to be huge, but it can always be beautiful ...




The ultimate wireless device ...


And your final thought for this celebration of National Library Week ...


Have a good day. Get thee to a library**. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Well, not totally free, because you're paying for it with your taxes ... but considering some of the other things our tax dollars are used for, I think it's a good investment.

** Sorry, Ophelia.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ink? Think!


I don't think I've ever made a secret of the fact that I don't think much of tattoos, especially big, garish tattoos on ladies. To me, putting a tattoo on a lady is like painting a handlebar mustache on the Mona Lisa, but worse. Ink is something you should apply to paper to create a nice letter to ol' Bilbo, not something you should inject into your skin.

Of course, not everyone thinks the way I do. For instance, I always thought of librarians as elderly ladies with white hair pulled back into a bun, granny glasses suspended on a chain over their cardigan sweaters. I never thought there was a whole set of tattoos that would appeal to librarians ... until I ran across this article on Mental Floss: 24 Awesome Librarian Tattoos. Who knew?

But I digress.

To help answer the question, "what were you thinking??", here's a decision chart on whether or not you should get that tattoo ... click it to big it ...


And if, after all that, you still want a tattoo, try this one ...


Or listen to Jimmy Buffett's great song, "Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling."

Or go back and read my July 2008 diatribe about tattoos, The Straight Skin-ny

Just think before you ink. Please.

Have a good day. Preferably without epidermal art. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Monday, April 14, 2014

I Spoke Too Soon ...


One of my readers gently criticized me some months ago for naming the Ass Clown of the Month too early, an action which might discriminate against better candidates that might emerge in the later days of the month. While I recognized the strength of the argument and have since tried to wait until at least the middle of the month to name the dishonoree, I sometimes make the call early ... as I did this month (see the announcement, made on April 4th, here). It seemed like a good idea at the time.

But another candidate so outrageous has emerged that I'm tempted to announce a second* award for the month. And since it's my blog, after all, I think it's within my power to do it.


Therefore, with a roll of drums and a sad shake of the head, I announce the second Ass Clown of the Month Award for April 2014 to

Mike Huckabee


While addressing a red-meat conservative crowd at the inaugural New Hampshire Freedom Summit, Mr Huckabee was quoted as saying, "My gosh, I'm beginning to think that there's more freedom in North Korea sometimes than there is in the United States." He went on to complain about security requirements at airports, claiming that they imposed more ID requirements than voting.

For his inability to distinguish between transportation security requirements and legitimate concerns on both sides of the voter identification controversy, and between both of those and the actions of a despotic government that imprisons tens of thousands of its citizens in labor camps and regiments the remainder to a degree unmatched anywhere in the world, Mike Huckabee gets the nod as our second Ass Clown of the Month for April, 2014.

And this guy wanted to be president.

Oy.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Third, actually, since this month was a dual award.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Poetry Sunday


This has been the sort of absolutely glorious weekend (weather-wise) that we don't get all that often here in NoVa. Yesterday my daughter and I took Leya and Elise into DC to see the cherry blossoms (now at their spectacular peak) and enjoy the Japanese street festival, and in addition to allowing the girls to have a fun time, it gave their grandfather a chance to see all the beautiful ladies who've spent the last few months hiding themselves under multiple layers of heavy clothes. And with that introduction ...

Gavin Ewart was a British poet noted for his witty and humorous commentaries on human behavior. Many of his poems were irreverently erotic, and this led to one of his his books - The Pleasures of the Flesh - being banned from sale in the shops of British retailer W. H. Smith. This somewhat racy poem by Mr Ewart seemed appropriate for this weekend's glorious weather ...

Young Blondes
by Gavin Ewart

A religious poem

Young blondes are tempting me day and night.
Young blondes in dreams trouble my restless sight.

With curly heads they rampage through my thoughts,
Full-bosomed in their sweaters and their shorts.

Or lie sunbathing on an impossible beach
Naked, aloof, continually out of reach.

On the mind's promenade, above the rocks,
Young blondes go sauntering by in cotton frocks

Or flatter cameras with their negligent poses
Or drenched in moonlight gather midnight roses.

While I am eating, smoking, working, talking
Through long romantic gardens they are walking.

Protect me, Lord, from these desires of flesh,
Keep me from evil, in Thy pastures fresh,

So that I may not fall, by lakes or ponds,
Into such sinful thoughts about young blondes!


As comedian Sam Levenson once said, lead us not into temptation ... just tell us where it is and we'll find it.

Have a good day. Watch out for blondes. And brunettes. And especially redheads. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cartoon Saturday


Three more days to tax day. Oy. How about some other news ...

A man wanted for causing a horrific traffic accident at a day care center in which one child was killed and 14 others injured has turned himself in to police; a virulent stomach virus sickened 83 persons on board a cruise ship; a 16 year-old Pennsylvania boy faces four counts of attempted homicide and 21 counts of aggravated assault after he went on a rampage at his high school, stabbing fellow students with a pair of kitchen knives; security researchers discovered a fatal flaw in a key Internet safety feature that keeps email, banking, shopping, passwords and communications private; and newly elected (and married) Louisiana Representative Vance McAllister asked for forgiveness from God, his family and his constituents after being caught on video making out with a female staffer.

Someday, we'll have a week when we don't need the cartoons. This one isn't it. Let's get going ...

We have an eclectic mix of cartoons for you today, leading off with our theme set for the week: cartoons related to language and reading ...

Sometimes you don't want the other person to use the right word ...


If you've worked in government or big business, you'll sympathize with this one ...


When you get to be a parent or a grandparent, you need to be careful what you say ... you never know who will repeat it at an inopportune time* ...


If you can't write well, there are always ready-made cards with the right message for the occasion ...


As we get older, we sometimes need help with our reading ...


And you really need to read the words carefully to avoid misunderstandings ...


There's an old florists' ad that tells you to "say it with flowers," and I wrote a post last year about the language of flowers. But you still need to watch your language ...


Perhaps Kathy and The Scholastic Scribe can tell us whether their weddings went like this ...


Moving on to other topics, one wonders how some celebrities do their charitable giving ...


And finally, I think most of the ladies can relate to this one ...


It looks like it's going to be a glorious day here in NoVa. We'll be setting up a Skype call in a little while so that granddaughters Leya and Elise can talk with Agnes and her dad in Germany, and after that I plan to spend the rest of the day playing the Marquis de Sod and whipping the yard into shape. Tomorrow should be beautiful, too, with clear skies and temperatures nearing 80 (that's 26 degrees for those of you who think in Celsius). We've gone from heavy snow and polar vortices to the weather we usually expect in August**. Go figure.

Have a good day and a great weekend. Don't forget the sunblock. See you tomorrow for Poetry Sunday.

Bilbo

* You can trust me on this one!

** Nevertheless, the advice I gave my friend Rie still stands: don't put your winter coats into storage just yet, or we'll have another blizzard for sure.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Plumbing the Editorial Depths


It's been two weeks ... time once again to scrape the bottom of the editorial barrel ...

I love a restaurant with a good selection ...


Perhaps you need a little something for an appetizer while you're waiting for that Mexican buffet ...


And what else would you eat with those tasty ass crackers? ...


Can I pay for it with play money? ...


If he's that competent, why isn't he running for Congress? ...


Must be the same mystery meat that the airlines use in their in-flight menus ...


I've actually used this sort of bathroom tissue. Charmin it ain't ...


Voodoo safecrackers ... they're the worst ...


Ummm ... okay ...


How to save money on translation services ...


And there you have it ... yet another reason why proofreading is not a bad thing.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday.

Bilbo

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Would You Wish on Your Worst Enemy?


There's an old expression that we sometimes use when confronted with something really awful: I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Which begs the obvious question: what would you wish on your worst enemy?

As it happens, someone has already thought about that, and offers you a resource to identify things to wish on your worst enemy. You can check out the entire list here, but if you just want a few to start you off (with a few additions of my own), here you go ...

Utterly indestructible clamshell packaging on everything they buy.

Flimsy one-ply toilet paper everywhere they go* (this one's for you, Eddie!).

A predisposition to hitting "Reply All" by accident.

Seat back, meal on lap, drink in hand, telephone and remote on the other side of the room.

Mosquito bites between their toes.

The world's smallest bladder.

Their name on every telemarketer's call list ...



A seat next to a proud and long-winded grandparent on very long flights. In coach.

So, Dear Readers, what would you wish on your worst enemy? Leave a comment ... we can use the ideas.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* So to speak.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Free Speech for Me. For You, Not So Much


I read a fascinating article yesterday on Atlantic.com - The Culture of Shut Up, by Jon Lovett.

In the article, Mr Lovett discusses how our tendency to shout down or shut out people with opinions other than our own, to vilify those who think differently rather than we do, is killing our entire concept of free speech. Here's what I thought was the best quote out of the article:

"The right to free speech may begin and end with the First Amendment, but there is a vast middle where our freedom of speech is protected by us - by our capacity to listen and accept that people disagree, often strongly, that there are fools, some of them columnists and elected officials and, yes, even reality-show patriarchs, that there are people who believe stupid, irrational, hateful things about other people and it's okay to let those words in our ears sometimes without rolling out the guillotines."



We live in a time when we don't have to listen to speech we don't want to hear. If you're a hard right conservative and you're offended by the very existence of a liberal mouthpiece like MSNBC, you can listen to Fox News all day. If you're a hard left liberal and you can't believe anyone would listen to the bilge masquerading as fair and balanced news on Fox, you can listen to MSNBC. Neither one of you ever has to listen to the opinions of the other and weigh those opinions in your own mind, without the filtering of your chosen media outlets.

What this means is that all too many of us live in self-reinforcing echo chambers where we hear only what we want to hear, and wonder not only why anyone would want to listen to that other junk, but why anyone should be allowed to utter that other junk.

This is what I find particularly evil - the idea that people with wrong ideas shouldn't be allowed to express them. Some people, particularly on the left, believe that some ideas aren't just wrong and offensive, but are so wrong and offensive that they shouldn't be allowed to be expressed at all. Speakers are shouted down or find their invitations cancelled for fear of controversy or - worse - violence. People who advocate ideas that most people consider offensive are stifled ... victims of Mr Lovett's culture of shut up (read his article for a lengthy list of people who've been told to shut up because their opinions ran contrary to popular opinion).

There are a lot of people out there I think are stupid, with whose positions I strongly disagree. But is either of us well served when we prevent the free exchange of ideas? I've always believed that the cure for really stupid ideas is to force them to compete in the give and take of the intellectual marketplace, where their stupidity can be exposed for everyone to see. Sadly, we don't do that. We decide that we need ... and everyone else needs ... to be protected from those ideas, and we make rules to prevent them from being expressed ... even though that convinces those whose speech is stifled that they're really right, because we're afraid to listen to their version of the truth. Here's another quote from Mr Lovett's article:

"We need to learn to live with the noise and tolerate the noise even when the noise is stupid, even when the noise is offensive, even when the noise is at times dangerous. Because no matter how noble the intent, it’s a demand for conformity that encourages people on all sides of a debate to police each other instead of argue and convince each other. And, ultimately, the cycle of attack and apology, of disagreement and boycott, will leave us with fewer and fewer people talking more and more about less and less."

It's frustrating, but we need to listen to the people we think are hopeless dumbasses.

After all, we may end up having to vote for them.

Have a good day. Listen to all sides of the argument, then make up your mind. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Shaggy Dog Stories


The shaggy dog story is one of my favorite types of joke. It's usually an extremely long-winded story characterized by excessive and often irrelevant detail and finished off by an anticlimax or a totally unexpected punchline that's either irrelevant or a complex pun. Here are three of my favorite shaggy dog stories ...

An Indian chief had three wives (or squaws, in the language of the time). He was a vigorous and virile man, and soon all three of the squaws were pregnant. As the time of their confinement neared, the chief ordered that comfortable beds be prepared for each of them. The two junior squaws received beds made from the soft, prepared hides of wolves, while the third - favorite - squaw had a bed made from the very rare, imported hide of a hippopotamus. In due time all three squaws went into labor and delivered their children: the two women who slept on the beds made of wolf hides each had a single child - one a boy and the other a girl. The third squaw, however - the favored lady who slept on the bed made of the hippopotamus skin - bore twins, a boy and a girl. When the chief was notified of this, he thought for a while and then nodded sagely. "Makes sense," he opined. "The squaw of the hippopotamus hide is always equal to the sum of the squaws of the other two hides."

A man living in a remote village in Africa came down with a terrible stomach ache. He tried all the usual folk remedies to relieve the condition, but nothing worked, and so he finally broke down and went to his tribal shaman for help. The shaman studied the man carefully, then thought for a few minutes, consulted his notes, and decided on a course of action. He told the man to bring him a strip of untreated rawhide about a foot long. The man brought the rawhide thong to the shaman, who tied seven equidistantly spaced knots in it and gave it back to the sufferer. "Take this thong home with you," the shaman said, "And starting tomorrow, each day I want you to bite off one of the knots, chew it up, and swallow it. On the seventh day, after you eat the last knot, your stomach problems will leave your body when you go to the bathroom and excrete* what's left of the thong. The man went home and, as directed, ate one knot each day for the next week. But ten days later, he was back in the shaman's tent, complaining that his stomach ache was still there, and worse than ever. The shaman was puzzled and examined the man closely. Finally he sat back and shook his head in dismay. "I don't understand," he said. "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."

Everyone knows the story of how the legendary Carthaginian general Hannibal attacked Rome by doing the unexpected, leading his army over the snow-covered vastness of the Alps to attack from the north - the direction the Romans never expected. But as with all military campaigns, the tactical success of Hannibal's campaign depended on the logistics of supplying his army and getting it over the mountains. Most of the credit for this goes to Hannibal's chief of logistics, a brilliant Carthaginian engineer named George who designed huge racks made of logs that could be piled high with the army's tack and pulled along by the elephants that were the army's primary beasts of burden. George built the racks, the soldiers loaded them with supplies and equipment, and the army set out into the Alps with the elephants stoically pulling the enormous racks up the steep grades. Near the summit of one of the alpine passes, one of the elephants slipped on a patch of ice and stumbled, causing the leather straps that fastened the rack to his mighty shoulders to break ... and the heavily-loaded rack began a long, uncontrolled slide down the mountain. The huge rack thundered down the icy slope, gathering speed as men and beasts frantically leaped out of the way to avoid being crushed by its tremendous weight. As it roared along, it struck one of the war elephants, flipping it into the air, and dumping its riders to the round; the elephant landed on top of the speeding rack, bellowing in terror as its unexpected transport raced down the mountain. Far down the line of march, two weary, footsore Carthaginian soldiers were trudging along when they heard shouts and screams and a loud rumbling noise ahead ... they looked up and saw bearing down on them an enormous rack, loaded with supplies and with a huge elephant on top of the supplies, bellowing and roaring in fear as the rack sped faster and faster down the mountain. The two men leaped aside just in time to avoid being crushed by the speeding rack, and as they slowly got back to their feet and looked at the rack disappearing down the mountain, one man looked at the other and gasped, "Holy moley, what was that?" The other soldier looked down the mountain and replied, "It's a ramblin' rack from George's tack with an elephant engineer!"

Shaggy dog stories. Apply with care.

Have a good day. Send me a good joke if you have one. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* I wasn't going to use the more graphic, earthy term ... children read this blog, after all.