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Archive for November, 2009

Here in the hyperactive offices of The Curmudgeon, we’re rushing here, running there, general hustling and bustling, and that’s just getting to the coffee room.  Needless to say, accidents will happen, and on more than one occasion, a hospital visit has been a needed if distasteful necessity.  This is why I found a hospital sign in Elmhurst, Queens, honest, refreshing really, and just stating it like it is.

None of this arrogant “Gods of Medicine Reside Herein” for them, no superior Peoria General Healing Center West do they proclaim, instead choosing an advertising, catch-their-attention, we’re open for business approach.  Well, they didn’t make the decision.  Fate did.  And fate is sometimes one funny dude…or chick.

Some choice lights burnt out on their neon sign, morphing their “Elmurst” neon into “Im hurt.”  Noticed by a passerby who took this picture, it was brought to the attention of The Guy Who Publicly Deals With Colossal Screw-ups.   It was a surprise to him.  “We’re going to get this fixed?” he asked.  Um, we don’t know…that’s what we’re asking you.  “Oh,” he said, “Yes.  I mean, we’re going to get this fixed.  Removing the baboon heart on that botched liver transplant will have to wait.”  Okay, he didn’t say that last one, but he might have.

I think they should leave it.  It says what it is, does, and promises.  They could win some kind of advertising award.

“Ow!  My brain!  Im hurt.”  Clearly, the person who utters these words wants to go to Elmhurst Hospital.

Simple.  Just watch out for the baboon hearts.

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Here in the watch-dog offices of The Curmudgeon, we love to expose misleading and downright criminal advertising.  For example, when a soup ad shows a vegetable soup in a bowl that appears to be packed to nearly overflowing, which then turns out to be because they put marbles in the bowl first so the vegetables would be pushed to the top.  Makes a pretty, appetizing picture, but unfortunately, a crock.  And it’s not a crock of soup.  But the “it” it is a crock of also begins with the letter “S.”

So my curiosity was peaked when I learned that Universal Pictures had airbrushed out the two black actors who appeared in the movie out of the posters which were used in Europe, whereas the American posters clearly have the black actors in them (albeit way in the back).  At first, I was surprised at Europe and wondered why they would find this necessary.  But it was Universal Studios who made the decision.

The movie is Couples Retreat, which doesn’t look all that good to me anyway, and the black actors are Faizon Love and Kali Hawk.  They have remained mum on the subject as far as I can tell, but they’re actors.  They have to work in that tinsel town.  They ain’t rocking any boats, not if they know what’s good for their careers, and who wants to hear them bitch anyway?  Not me.

It’s odd and unfortunate but what is to be done about it?  Nothing, and here’s why:  Universal owns this property and it is their right to market it any way they want.  For some reason, they have decided that the movie will do better in Europe without the African American actors on it.  Movie studios spend millions and millions figuring out this marketing stuff and you can bet they know what they are doing.  The studio claims that the revised advertisement aimed “to simplify the poster to actors who are most recognizable in international markets.” (Huffington Post, Nov. 16, 2009)   Mmm…otay.  I can just hear them:  “Hey, those marbles are showing, get them out of the bowl.

So, it says more about the attitude of Europe toward blacks than it does about Universal’s view of them, unless the story about the “recognizable” actors is true, and perhaps it is, except I don’t recognize all of the actors in the poster.  Do you?

Maybe the reason is much more complicated, and not as simple as merely saying it’s racist.  I just don’t know and I don’t have time to devote hours to developing an understanding of the onion-like layers of race issues among people of the world.  People go to war over crap like this.

And maybe that’s the problem.

We don’t have time to reason, but plenty of time for killing.

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pyramid memphistours.net

memphistours.net

Here in The Curmudgeon office, I sit in my office, sphinx-like, surveying not only the crack staff, but injustices, cruelty, ignorance and bone-headed behavior around the world.  When I call my employees the “crack staff,’ I mean I think they are on crack, but that is neither here nor there.  No, I wish to speak of famed Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who apparently has more cracks in his head than the pyramids themselves.  He publicly called Beyonce “stupid.”

beyonce

Doesn't look stupic to me.

You know this guy.  If you’ve ever watched a documentary about the pyramids, tombs, or antiquities, he is in it.  He is Egypt’s chief Egyptologist—a government position—who has something to say about who can film what, where and when.  He probably insists on his appearing in the film before granting permission.  Though he is an expert, he is also well-known as an arrogant ass.  He has frequently insulted non-Arabic speakers, in his language of course, believing they cannot understand his language.

So here’s how the dung went down:   Hawass (pronounced Haw!Ass!) was giving Beyonce a personal tour of the Giza Pyramids where Beyonce would be doing a photo shoot, and Beyonce wasn’t showing enough interest in the pyramids (or Hawass).  According to rnbmusicblog.com:

I showed her the Sphinx and I gave her a book on King Tutankhamun,” Hawass said. The renowned Egyptologist allegedly became angry denouncing Beyonce’s attitude. “She’s a stupid person and she doesn’t understand a thing and she doesn’t want to understand. She’s coming here to take pictures and that’s it.”

He gave President Obama the tour a couple of weeks ago, but there are no reports of him calling the President “stupid,” but that doesn’t mean he didn’t.  So why is he giving Beyonce’ a tour in the first place?  Could it be his sense of self-importance?  His thinking he’s “all that and a bucket of humus.”

hawass_lg

Does Hawass smell like a 5000 year old corpse?

Many archaeologist’s are so mad about the incident they could suck his brains out with a straw and mummify him.  They say its time the whole world saw what an haw!Ass! he really is.  One archaeologist said, “He insults and is so controlling that it has become extremely difficult to work in this country,” and still another said, “We are talking about an Egyptian government official and he goes and says something like this? Come on, this is very rude and totally undiplomatic.”  Both of them spoke on condition of anonymity since their current projects are funded by the council controlled by Haw!Ass!.

Maybe Beyonce seemed disinterested because she was trying to get her nose to where she could breathe in some fresh air.  I mean, maybe Haw!Ass! has really bad B.O.?  He certainly looks a little greasy and smelly.  If I ever go to Egypt, I want Beyonce to give me the tour, not that smelly guy.

If Beyonce is stupid, I sure like me some stupid.

(Information  for this story came from rnbmusicblog.com, theboombox.com, http://www.israelforum.com, and thefrisky.com.  There are no reports that Hawass actually smells bad, but his behaviour stinks.)

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flasher senaleko flickr

senaleko/flickr

Here in The Curmudgeon edifice, we are what you might call a “flashy” group, but we are not flashers, at least not that I know of.  That is to say nobody has been caught.  Of course I am not counting our yearly Mardi Gras celebration, where there is some flashing, but the wholesome, feminine kind.  Not so for an act perpetrated on a public New Zealand bus.

A man showed his New Zealand sausage roll to a female bus passenger, who did what any modern, intelligent, progressive woman would do.  She screamed.  She screamed bloody murder.  She wouldn’t stop screaming.  So what does a bus driver do with an hysterical screaming woman aboard?  In New Zealand, he alters his course and drives straight to the nearest police station.  Only by the time the driver gets there, he is nervous and panicky, so when he opens the bus door and gets up, he forgets to put the bus in neutral.  Well, the crazy lady is still screaming, so he can perhaps be excused this temporary lapse in caution.  The bus is not so forgiving however, and it lurches forward and crashes into the police station entrance.

The interesting thing is the flasher was just 14 years-old, so it probably wasn’t a sausage roll, or even a banger, but more like a little sweet gherkin.  The woman reacted absolutely wrong.  What she should have done—and I’m telling all females this–laugh your ass off.  Oh, yes.  Laugh, laugh, point at it, laugh.  Now I don’t know what kind of a reaction a flasher wants in a woman, but I think it’s probably along the lines of shock and awe.  I can guarantee he doesn’t want her to laugh.  No man wants that.  No man can stand that.  Indeed, that gherkin would have retracted back into his pants like a turtle’s head back into its shell.

Police charged the 14 year-old alleged flasher with pulling out an indecent act…er, I mean…carrying out an indecent act.

All this trouble because one stupid kid whipped out his alleged hot dog.

Wait. It wasn’t a hot dog.  It more like a Little Smokey.  Now that’s a scream.

(Some information for this story from The New Zealand Herald.)

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mangee flickr

Photo by Mangee on flickr

Here in the astute offices of The Curmudgeon, we are, for the most part, an educated mish-mash of personalities and talents.  I would suspect that not everyone got the best report cards on their block—their proud mama’s showing the undeniable evidence of the very cards to anyone they could get into a corner—but that matters not to me.  It only matters if they are good at their jobs.  Still, speaking for myself, I would have liked to have better grades.  Imagine the feeling that swept over me when I read that there was a school with budget problems, that in their divine it’s-the-kids-that-matter wisdom, put their grades up for sale.

“Foul,” I cried.  The cash-for-grades scheme came to light when the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. raised concerns about it.  As it was, for a mere $20 dollar donation a student would have gotten 20 extra points, 10 points each on two tests of the students choosing.  To put it in context, this meant that a student could significantly increase their grades in two different subjects.  From a B to an A, or a D to a C, for example.

My school offered no such program and I’m pissed about that.  I could have said, “Mom, I’m flunking Advanced Trigonometry.  Can you loan me $20 bucks?”  Maybe then I would have gotten into Yale.  Let it be known here that I did get into Yale, without bribing my school, but in fairness to Yale, it was in the Drama Department, as an actor.  Not the same standards are applied there as say, biology. Still pretty high standards though.  I didn’t go. Mom said it was too expensive.  So I switched to Ithaca.  Wouldn’t let me go there either.  Turns out she didn’t want me to go anywhere, bless her heart, and that is the one and only thing I regret between myself and my parents.  She meant well, however.  Yes, um, let us matriculate back to the story…

The plan was working, but fortunately or not—depends on your point of view—when the school district administrators became aware of the absurdity, put the kibosh on it.  They said A; stop this shit, and B; any extra credit given will be revoked, and finally C; give back the money you dumb asses.  Sorry to use their official language there, but in the interest of accuracy…

In defense of the payola scam, Suzie Shepard, the principal said, “”Last year they did chocolates, and it didn’t generate anything.” (News and Observer, Nov., 11, 2009)  State officials didn’t like it either, I mean, the negative publicity sucks, and they and all kinds of scholars have come forward to wax eloquent on “wrong message” and other noble subjects.

I do, however, want to make a couple of observations:  When the government introduced the “No child left behind initiative”, and tied federal funding to grade requirements, did the schools rise to these new, necessary levels?  Of course not.  They lowered their standards and gave higher grades for crappier education.  They lowered their standards. That’s why kids can graduate from high school and not even know how to read and why America’s school system sucks and we trail many other developed nations in education, and actually producing products, and other things too numerous to mention.  We’re supposed to be the best?  This is a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.

Secondly, show them the money.  You’ll deteriorate as a country if you don’t teach your children well.  (Crosby, Stills, Nash, written by Graham Nash, 1970)

And as everyone knows, you get what you pay for.  Buy some damn books and pay the teachers well.

Show them the money.

(Information for this article came from The News & Observer, in an article by Lynn Bonner.  This is, however, an editorial.  If you want a news story, you could look it up, as Casey Stengel used to be credited for saying, but it was really coined by James Thurber in his 1941 short story, “You Could Look It Up.”  Hey you could look it up, in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. )

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typewriter Valeriana Solaris

Photo by Valeriana-Solaris/flickr

Here in the beehive offices of The Curmudgeon, it is pleasant to hear the tap-tap-tapping of  tiny little fingers on the keyboards.  Unfortunately, all the tap-tap-tapping is coming from my office.  I am participating in the National November Writing Month, wherein you write a novel of 50,000 words are more during the month of November.  That’s why I’ve handed this column over to the staff, which is why it isn’t getting done.  I’ll have to take away their company cars, and restrict use of the Bentley.

How, Crusty, you may ask yourself,  can you expect to write a novel in such a short amount of time?  Here’s the thing:  It doesn’t have to be good.  You’re not supposed to go back and fix things, or correct things, or spell check, but rather just keep writing.  Even if you don’t know what comes next, keep writing.  The point is to get a novel completed.  You can go back and fix things later, after you have a rough draft.

This has always been my problem. I must make a chapter perfect (or as close to perfect as I am able) before I continue.  Eventually, I don’t continue.  I become frustrated.  So I think, “This is the thing for me.”  And due to my nature—and the fact that I write pretty fast anyway—I do go back and fix a little, but not too much.  And it’s working.  As of last night, I was about 1000 words ahead of being on track to finishing on time…and it’s pretty good.

vintage typewiter letters Nir Tober

Photo by Nir Tober/flickr

I didn’t know what comes next, or who the characters were going to be, or what the plot was, or how it would end, but it all magically appeared, stepping into formation like a well-trained soldier.  Is it putting a grind on my schedule?  Yes, it is, but I’m loving it, and I’m going to have a novel when I’m finished.

So my point is, you can do it too.  Start tomorrow.  To write a 50,000 word novel, you have to average 1666 words per day, and it doesn’t matter if you’re starting late.  Set your own schedule and stick to it.  Do it in two months if you want.  Thats only 833 words per day.  And at this point, this post you’re reading is 385 words NOW.  Piece of cake.  That’s almost on pace to write a novel in 4 months.  Surely you can double it?

Of course, you’ll miss all the groovy prizes, (a certificate and your name on some honor-roll thing, wow), but the biggest prize is all your very own.  Your novel.  Here’s the link for NaNoWriMo, if you’d like to check it out:  <http://www.nanowrimo.org/>.  And this is how many words it takes to finish in four months…NOW.

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front page

Movie poster from 1931 film, The Front Page

Here in the editorial offices of The Curmudgeon, I have sometimes been know to rant and rave about poor writing executed by a member of the staff.  Not too much, but sometimes.   Never mind that I am guilty of my own share of mistakes and crappy writing, but I’m the boss.  When they become the boss, they can write crappy too.

But I don’t recall having ever punched a writer in the kisser (though I may have kissed a writer in the puncher).  It’s just not the type of thing you expect in this day and age of political correctness and the threat of lawsuits that has us all walking around on metaphorical rice paper.  But at the Washington Post, the good old days are here again, at least briefly, when veteran Washington Post Style editor Henry Allen punched a writer smack-dab in his chicklets.

It should perhaps be mentioned that the Style section of the Post is often derogatorily referred to as the “sandbox,” since it is often staffed with young and inexperienced reporters.  The brouhaha went down like this:  The editor said to the writers of the article, “This is total crap. It’s the second worst story I have seen in Style in 43 years.”  One of the writers said back to him, “Don’t be such a coc**ucker!”   Well, nobody calls Allen a coc**ucker.  An ass*ole, sure, a dic*wad, okay, but not a coc**ucker.   So Allen threw the reporter to the floor and let the fists fly, right in front of the big boss’ office.  Bad move.

Allen was later called into his boss’ office, the door solemnly shutting behind him.  His contract is up later this year.  He probably wont be back.  Who has time to worry about the quality of work anyway?

Allenl is almost 70 years old and a former Marine who served in Vietnam.  In 2000, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.  I think both his military training and his criticism skill helped him here.  Truth is, he misses the old days, when newspapers meant something, and editors would say, “I don’t care what you have to do, just bring me that story! Occasionally, if you were lucky, you might even hear, “Stop the presses!”  You think they stop the presses nowadays?  Do you know how much it costs to  stop the presses?  Besides, the presses probably aren’t even in the building, but across town, the state, the country, or even the world.  Who the hell knows anymore.

Hey, that gives me an idea.  That sounds like a story.  A BIG story.  Excuse me while I speak to my staff.

Stop the Internet!  I’ve got a story!”

(Information for this story came from the Washingtonian, in a story by Harry Jaffe, Nov. 2nd, 2009.)

(Correction:  Thanks to notification by the brother of the stlyle editor of the Washington Post, this article as been corrected.  It originally reported that style editor Ned Martell threw the punch, but he didn’t.  He assigned the story, but it was Sr. Editor Henry Allen who through the punch. – CC)

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