2008nov01. This was the first year in many I was able to give treats to the kiddies, so I stocked up and when that doorbell rang, I was on the scene chucking cans brimming with Duncan Hines® Creamy Home-Style Classic Chocolate Premium Frosting into awaiting sacks. “Pace yourself,” I advised the children while watching suddenly much-heavier goodie bags rip from their tiny hands. So rich. So moist. So very Duncan Hines®. When I wanted to change things up, I gave away bottles of Karo® Lite/Light/Dark Corn Syrup (Lite has 33% less calories, Light is lighter in color, I don’t know what Dark’s deal is – maybe it’s more mysterious?) wrapped in orange and black bows. “Chug-a-lug, my halloweenie friends!” Karo®. Pour out the possibilities.
If cookies are set before subjects who have been told that no one else in the experiment wants to work with them, they eat twice as many as those who have been told that everyone else in the experiment wants to work with them
“No one likes you. Even the cookies don’t like you. Now what? NOW WHAT?” When you pull out a little bit, it makes for an even bleaker image. A human lies to another human to see how sad it can make it feel (the experimenters call it the erosion of will power ... come ON). Then the lying human makes little check mark motions on a clipboard and gets funding for another year. The lying human goes home and eats some cookies and looks out the window.
[ ... ] Americans should give their all to thank our president. They should empty out their IRAs, they should leave their homes, they should give up health care, they should pay to bomb/unbomb Iraq. Thank YOU, Mr. President! We have hurt the fweelings of our president! Who will buy our president a bwig teddy bear? A fluffy one with a big red bow. I mean fuggin’ BIG! You know, big enough that it would take like four adults to move the bear around in a comical, haphazard fashion. There, there, Mr. Bush. ¶ You know who else had low approval ratings? Truman. And look, now he’s the seventh most popular president in HISTORY! Bush will receive similar treatment from future historians, probably around the second term of president XP938721 ([DRP – Disemboweling Robot Party] 4012-4020).
Wow. I wonder when Murdoch’s greasy hand will start smearing the editorials ... I wonder if that will ever happen [FX: makes stupid face while miming a penis repeatedly penetrating a vagina or other handy orifice using a total of three fingers].
2008nov05. Change. I am sure that among the many, many changes America is in store for, one of the most sorely needed after looking at red and blue colored states is instant runoff voting. So I’ll be waiting for that, ‘cause this time the choice was between a guy who voted for the bailout and a guy who voted for the bailout; a guy who wanted to kill people in other lands for another 100 years and a guy who was fine with telecoms passing American’s phone/email conversations along to the NSA. Instant runoff is about as likely as getting rid of the electoral process, which is to say, not at all. Why, it reminds me of an article a friend wrote so many years ago, about how the two-party system takes care of its own and will never change. Join my party, The Nonist Interdiction Uprising, in which government hacks and cigar-puffing big business suits will be stripped down, slathered with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and be made to fight each other in gladiator battles in the parking lots of ruined big box retailers. At night? Laser Floyd: The Wall.
2008nov07. Something something Friday, something something free.
Jason Hackenwerth, balloon twisting
The Constitution-free Zone encompasses two-thirds of the population.
NYT: Super-local chocolate
Meiji Jingu at night.
Game: Gotta make some more goddamned factory balls
Correspondence: An overdue account. Look at the other things as well. It is mostly good, and I am not saying it is entirely good because I haven’t seen it all yet, not because there is bad.
Item: Vogelzang Barrel Stove Kit. What to do with all of your leftover toxic waste barrels? Make them into barrel stoves!
BBC pictograph news. Wow. What? What? Also, background: unicycle.
Pix: wool tree
Zero Punctuation: Saint’s Row 2.
Quiz: Hundred most common words. I kept typing “bananas” over and over and over. It is #101.
Interview with Chico Bicalho. Toys. More. More (main). Weblog. Wired article.
Video: Cat attacks cardboard package sleeves.
WSJ: In-depth, shocking report on Pillsbury’s new “I guess click your feet and that is like supposed to remind you of our processed factory rolls” campaign hailed as innovative ‘injection advertorial’ ... the cratering economy will make whores of all of us. Who wants me? $50 an hour. I am your worst desires. No freaks.
Factory balls. Factory rolls.
2008nov11. Michael Lewis: The End. Wow. Lewis finds smart needles in the stupid tranche haystack and for dessert, has dinner with his former CEO. Wiki: Liar’s Poker. To make your reading time even more surreal, hit his mansion piece in which he rents a mansion, price unseen.
2008nov11. A brief programming interruption here – QI, the BBC comedy panel game television program scheduled to resume programming in early 2009, will have a special charity-support episode aired on BBC Two November 14th. We now return you to Reality Show Asses: The Microfame-Obsessed Smear Your Screen Suckfest ’08, brought to you by Prell.
2008nov18. It has come to my attention that at some point, I published totally fabricated excerpts for the 2008 publication The Fruit Hunters  by Adam Leith Gollner. This is my favorite book of the year, easily. What follows are actual excerpts from the actual book. Here is an introductory photo essay that has a link to this poster of the exotic fruits of Hawaii (available here).
A plaque identifies the tree as a sapucaia. In season, the cupcakes grow packed with a half dozen seeds shaped like orange segments. At ripeness, these burst through the base, scattering on the ground. Impatient young monkeys sometimes punch into an unripe muffin and wrap their fingers around a fistful of nuts. Because their cognitive faculties are not developed enough to understand that extracting their paws requires letting go of the nuts, they end up dragging their sapucaia handcuffs around for miles. [pg 2]
Within the tens of thousands of edible plant species, there are hundreds of thousands of varieties – and new ones are continually evolving. Magic beans, sundrops, cannonballs, delicious monsters, zombi apples, gingerbread plums, swan egg pears, Oaxacan trees of little skulls, Congo goobers, slow-match fruits, candle fruits, bastard cherries, bignays, belimbings, bilimbis and biribas. [ ... ] There are thousands upon thousands of fruits that we never imagined – and that few of us will ever taste, unless we embark on fruit-hunting expeditions. [pg 6]
Nowadays, fruits have become part of the daily grind. We have unlimited access: they’re sold year-round, they’re cheap, and they shrivel into moldy lumps on our countertops. Eating one is practically a chore. Many people dislike fruits. Perhaps that’s because, on average, fruits are eaten two to three weeks after being picked. [ ... ] Many of the fruits we eat were developed to ship well and spend ten days under the withering glow of fluorescent supermarket lights. The result is Stepford Fruits: gorgeous replicants that look perfect, feel like silicone implants and taste like tennis balls, mothballs, or mealy, juiceless cotton wads. [pg 14]
A pineapple is an inflorescence that fuses many berry-like fruitlets into a thorn-tipped aberration. [pg 23]
One of the most extreme examples of a hitchhiker fruit is the Sumatran bird-catching tree. Its fruits are covered with tiny barbed hooks and a sticky gum that glues itself to birds’ feathers. Certain birds carry the fruit to other islands; less fortunate ones get their wings jammed by it, and they end up dying at the tree base, becoming fertilizer. [pg 26]
Corn is believed to have evolved from a minuscule grain called teosinte, slightly bigger than an earwig. It took thousands of years of human selection for teosinte to become the size of a human finger, then thousands more years to become the thick cobs we slather with butter today. [pg 48]
Bubble gum used to come from chicle, the latex of the sapodilla tree, also know for its sweet chico fruits. [ ... ] Today, gum is made with a plastic oil derivative called PVA (polyvinyl acetate). [pg 52; mmmmm]
At the end of WWII, the British government allocated one banana to every child. Evelyn Waugh’s three children were giddy with excitement on the great day their bananas arrived. As Auberon Waugh recalls in Will This Do? their joy was short-lived: the bananas “were put on my father’s plate, and before the anguished eyes of his children, he poured on cream, which was almost unprocurable, and sugar, which was heavily rationed, and ate all three ... He was permanently marked down in my estimation from that moment on, in a way which no amount of sexual transgression would have achieved.” [pg 53]
Fruits could replace many toxic cleaning products (most of which contain artificial scents like “fresh citrus”). [ ... ] My Parisian friends do their laundry using soap nuts, the dried fruit of the Chinese soapberry tree (Sapindus mukorrosi). These berries contain saponin, a natural steroid that turns frothy and bubbly in water. I tried it; my laundry came out clean and smelling great. [pg 58]
Although most of Miami’s fruit hunters following importing protocols, some skirt regulations. For that reason, government officials at the USDA have started conducting armed raids on rare fruit growers, bursting into their backyards with attack dogs. [ ... ] “They came in here like the goddamn Gestapo,” he says angrily. “It was like they were gonna save us from terrorism. Six agents burst in and started rifling through everything trying to find illegal seeds. They orchestrated it like it was a big drug raid. It scared the shit outta my wife, not to mention my customers. They photographed stuff, and confiscated seeds. They thought I had smuggled ‘noxious weeds’ in from Asia. They were after an illegal seed that was one-sixteenth of an inch long. My palm seeds were an inch long. They didn’t know a noxious weed from a palm seed. They wouldn’t know a noxious weed if it grew in their butt. I got a five-million-dollar business here; you think I’m gonna grow an illegal plant and screw it up? They took three of my palms – palms not known in cultivation – and they killed them. They all died.” [pg 67]
“Up to the end of the middle ages, grafting was considered a secret by the initiated and a miracle by the public,” wrote Frederic Janson. Some believed that, for a graft to hold, it was necessary for a man and woman to make love in the moonlight. At the moment of climax, the woman was to secure the graft between the tree and its new limb. [pg 69]
At one point, he says, incredulously, Clift was offered a job working with fruits in Costa Rica. He decided to drive down from Florida. In Guatemala, his suitcases were stolen. In El Salvador he was sleeping by the road when someone robbed the clothes off his back. He continued to drive in the nude. Abandoning the car in Nicaragua, he proceeded to walk the rest of the way to Costa Rica, living on jungle fruits and trekking naked through forests for weeks. [ ... ] at another point, Clift had been hired by a wealthy Thai family to create the world’s biggest tropical fruit garden. He was forbidden from sending seeds to other fruit enthusiasts, but was caught in the act. His hands were to be chopped off as punishment. Luckily, he managed to escape, fleeing Thailand. [pg 71]
As Thomas Jefferson said, “The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” This rationale was how Jefferson justified smuggling rice out of Italy (risking execution) and hemp seeds out of China. [pg 84]
As Richard Campbell puts it: “You fly into the closest airport, drive through town, peer into backyards, and find the guys who know where the best stuff is. Then you say, ‘Hi, I’m from America, I’m crazy and I want to look at your mameys.” [pg 85]
Armed with a name, I immediately uncover some online images. Not only is the lady fruit real, but it is easily the sexiest fruit in the plant kingdom. Its risqué shell is a life-sized simulacrum of the female reproductive region, including hips, an exposed midriff, two thighs and a pudendal cleft – complete with a tuft of alarmingly lifelike hair on the mons pubis. From the back, it bears a striking resemblance to a woman’s derriere. [pg 109]
Another farmer I spoke to referred to industrial peaches as “plastic Kraft dinner fruit created by dead brains.” [pg 196]
Apples can spend close to a year sitting in oxygen- and carbon-dixoide-controlled cold-storage facilities. [pg 205]
Ackee, the national fruit of Jamaica, is tricky: when underripe, it contains hypoglycin, a violent purgative that can make you vomit until you die. [pg 249]
How can you not want to try these awesome fruits described within the book like so: “maple syrup pudding,” “cherry cola,” “lemon meringue pie,” “snowy, sweet, cotton-candylike,” “vanilla cream,” “lemonade-infused cotton candy,” “chocolate pudding,” “raspberry jam,” “strawberry milkshakes,” “Froot Loops,” “coconut flesh, only sexier,” “vanilla ice cream,” “pear cream custard,” etc.
Organizations etc mentioned in the book: North American Fruit Exporters (see their supply source page), Rare Fruit Council International, California Rare Fruit Growers, Fruit Gardener Magazine, Fruit Lover’s Nursery, Figs 4 Fun, Hawaii Fruit, Durian Palace (temporarily (?) down), NYT Bill Whitman obituary, Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables, Five Decades with Tropical Fruit, The Duchess of Malfi’s Apricots, and Other Literary Fruits, The Anatomy of Dessert, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand Epitaph for a Peach, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden.
In 2007, officials revealed that five per cent of applicants to Oxford and Cambridge had embellished their application forms with material taken off the Web. Explaining why they wanted to study chemistry, two hundred and thirty-four applicants cited word for word the same example, “burning a hole in my pajamas at age eight,” as a formative experience.
Which reminded me a lot of similar vegetable trucks roaming the streets of my youth. To check out Mr. Okra in action, please view this video from Morning 40 Federation. If you are very eagle-eyed, you will notice that the bar one of the band members is thrown out of is this bar, BJ’s, where the next-day party was held and Morning 40 Federation played. It all comes together. Mr. Okra paintings. More info.
2008nov26. Cardhouse consigliere Tom B raised an exception with the New Yorker excerpt concerning plagiarism in college applications. The original article is nowhere to be found, but an article referencing the study seems to indicate that, at the very least, students from Cambridge and Oxford were only a part of the larger sample, whereas the New Yorker article pins “five per cent of applicants to Oxford and Cambridge” to the wall with online-based plagiarism. Wrong. Tom pointed out other bits of hand-waving in the excerpt, but as he writes, “This is the kind of digging that the journalists should be doing surely – that’s to a large extent the point of them.”