Friday, November 8, 2013

Healthcare.gov -- Do the Math




(Federal contracting) PLUS (web development) MINUS (potheads + pirates) DIVIDED BY ([GOP + TP] X [ISP=AOL]) = what could possibly go wrong?


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed: Magic and Loss



[NOTE: Most of the posts on this blog have been parodies, until now. There's just nothing funny about losing Lou Reed. This tribute was written by a longtime friend of Angela Motorman & Co.]


I saw Lou Reed perform for the first time in April 1966 at the Open Stage on Bleecker Street, where the Velvet Underground appeared with Nico for their first long gig as part of Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable. My best friend from prep school Carolyn and I sat right next to the stage, so our view of the band was close up and vertical.

I have no idea how I was sufficiently hip to want to go to this concert. I was still in prep school, FFS, although I did spend every weekend in The Village. I wore black patterned tights, hand-crafted dangly silver jewelry, and smoked a lot of French cigarettes. It's safe to say I had my mind blown by The Velvet Underground, although I was under the influence of nothing stronger or stranger than Canadian Club and water.

I liked them enough to make an effort to go see them again a few months later at an extremely weird venue: a Labor Day concert in a HS gym in Provincetown, where Carolyn and I sat on the floor near a guy who started smoking smoking weed. We moved away from him because we were afraid of catching the high.

If I ever owned the banana peel album on vinyl, it long ago wandered off with some former roommate. I alternately loved and was appalled by his music in the intervening years -- I thought he'd lost his mind several times, and maybe he did. This year I've been following him on Twitter, where whoever controlled his account was posting archival pics about once a week. Right after he got a new liver last spring, he checked in personally with a current portrait, in which he looked phenomenally healthy for a guy who'd just cheated death for about the 12th time.

When I heard he had died this weekend, my first impulse was to make sure as many people as possible remember what I think is not just his greatest album, but one of the best albums ever done in any genre by any artist: 1992's elegiac "Magic and Loss", a concept album written after the death of two close friends. Below is the video of the title cut and lyrics, followed a link to the original Rolling Stone review. The whole album is worth seeking out.

Because if there were two things Lou Reed knew better than anybody, they were magic and loss. I'm so privileged to have witnessed some of that.

                                                                          ------------------------------------------
MAGIC AND LOSS

   When you pass through the fire, you pass through humble
   You pass through a maze of self doubt
   When you pass through humble, the lights can blind you
   Some people never figure that out

   You pass through arrogance, you pass through hurt
   You pass through an ever present past
   And it's best not to wait for luck to save you
   Pass through the fire to the light

   Pass through the fire to the light
   Pass through the fire to the light
   It's best not to wait for luck to save you
   Pass through the fire to the light

   As you pass through the fire, your right hand waving
   There are things you have to throw out
   That caustic dread inside your head
   Will never help you out

   You have to be very strong, 'cause you'll start from zero
   Over and over again
   And as the smoke clears there's an all consuming fire
   Lyin' straight ahead

   Lyin' straight ahead
   Lyin' straight ahead
   As the smoke clears there's an all consuming fire
   Lyin' straight ahead

   They say no one person can do it all
   But you want to in your head
   But you can't be Shakespeare and you can't be Joyce
   So what is left instead

   You're stuck with yourself and a rage that can hurt you
   You have to start at the beginning again
   And just this moment this wonderful fire
   Started up again

   When you pass through humble, when you pass through sickly
   When you pass through I'm better than you all
   When you pass through anger and self deprecation
   And have the strength to acknowledge it all

   When the past makes you laugh and you can savor the magic
   That let you survive your own war
   You find that that fire is passion
   And there's a door up ahead not a wall

   As you pass through fire as you pass through fire
   Tryin' to remember it's name
   When you pass through fire lickin' at your lips
   You cannot remain the same

   And if the building's burning move towards that door
   But don't put the flames out
   There's a bit of magic in everything
   And then some loss to even things out

   Some loss to even things out
   Some loss to even things out
   There's a bit of magic in everything
   And then some loss to even things out

   -- Lou Reed, Magic And Loss

Monday, April 1, 2013

Kmart Sued by McDonald's for Copyright Infringement over Easter-themed TV Commercial

 (10-Minute Updates)
     April 1, 2013

News Index From The Associative Press

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Filed at 4:20 p.m. E.D.T.

By Angela Motorman
CMI Senior Investigative Editor

Corporate executives for Kmart awoke the day after Easter this year to a hangover more serious than the usual sugar overload. The retail giant received notice today that it is being sued for trademark infringement by McDonald's over an Easter-themed commercial that featured a fictional animal called a "lamb-bit", purported to be half lamb and half rabbit.

In court filings McDonald's claims the Kmart ad damaged its planned introduction of a new menu item by the same name. The "lamb-bit" commercial  gained wide popularity, despite a having only a short run on one cable network, because of rapid viral proliferation as an online video.

"It took almost seven years to develop the recipe for the Lamb-Bit, and we've held the trademark for the since 2009," said McDonald's house counsel T.C. Mits in an interview with trade publication Fast Feasts. "It took Kmart just thirty seconds to undo all that."

Mits added, "No child will ever agree to eat a Lamb-Bit, much less ask for them, after seeing it portrayed as a live, fluffy Easter gift." 

In the commercial, which aired last week in two versions on USA Network, a father played by comedian Owen Smith gives his three young children an Easter present of a white-furred, baa-ing animal with long legs and tall ears, claiming the creature is "half lamb, half rabbit". After the animal runs out out of the house, clacking its hooves on the wood floor, the father is seen calling for it to come back as he posts flyers for a lost lambbit on a utility pole.

The commercial, which last aired on USA Network March 31 and has been removed from both the Kmart website and YouTube, is viewable at the industry site iSpot.TV ( http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7I9x/kmart-easter-shoes-lamb-bit )

Kmart spokesman Dennis Menimen said the McDonald's claim is "without merit", noting that the Kmart commercial used an unhyphenated spelling with no capital letters and never referenced any food item, only candy.

The retail chain, whose clothing line is the subject of the disputed advertisement, has received "nearly a half million email requests for a stuffed lambbit", Menimen added. He indicated the retailer plans to introduce the stuffed lambbit next spring, along with new versions of the popular ad spot.

McDonald's attorney Mits said the food chain had intended to position Lamb-Bits as the newest in a series of bite-sized menu items, pairing the nugget-like chunks of fried lamb with the customer's choice of sauce dips ranging from mild minted yogurt to spicy tomato with coriander and cumin.

Fast Feasts reporter Liz Estrada pointed to the unusually high stakes for McDonald's in defending its trademark in this case, linking to previous coverage of two other menu items that never made it out of development due to similar issues. The cured hot pork cutlet sandwich to be called the Hamlet was cancelled in 2010 after complaints from the National Council of Teachers of English.

In 2012, the chopped and formed fingers of poultry meat dubbed Duck Wings failed after fans of Caldecott Medal-winning children's author Robert McCloskey joined forces with the American Library Association to refuse to make way for the new snack. Not even a campaign by endorsers Phil, Si, Willie and Jase Robertson of the cable TV hit "Duck Dynasty" was able to rescue that promotional effort.

Initial arguments in the case are expected to be heard in July, and the cable industry public affairs channel C-SPAN has already said the proceedings will be televised live.

-----------------------------

Copyright 2013 CMI/Associative Press. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Maddow's Birthday Shocker: "Trust me, you're not ready for this."

TWEATER Exclusive
April 1, 2009
17:15 PM EDT

RACHEL MADDOW: "Trust me, you're not ready for this."

Rachel Maddow has surprised a lot of people in her young life. At 35, she commands a large and influential audience as the rising star of MSNBC's stable of political talks show hosts, despite having a relatively short background in broadcasting and a distinctly progressive agenda. That she openly identifies as a lesbian is only one of the many factors that make her meteoric rise to stardom surprising.

But nothing she has said or accomplished until now prepared her friends, colleagues and fans as much as her announcement at a private dinner late last night, on the eve of her 36th birthday.

According to Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi, a guest at the dinner who had earlier appeared on Maddow's 9 pm live broadcast, the host had two shockers up her sleeve. First, she announced that her on-again, off-again study of the Qua'an, which friends had known about for over a year, had led her to declare her faith in Islam. As her dinner guests sat in silence, trying to decide how to react, Maddow erupted in laughter. "April Fool!" she said. "I know it's a little early, but I couldn't hold it in any more. Got you, didn't I?"

Initial reaction was mixed, said Taibbi. Not a few of her friends thought the joke was in poor taste, but "a few more glasses of Shiraz and everybody came around pretty well." Then Maddow dropped the real bombshell, very casually this time.

"Oh, and by the way, I 've decided to announce something on the show tomorrow night that will really blow your mind," Taibbi quoted her as saying. "I'm not really gay."

The reaction was predictable. "Give it up, Rachel," said her producer, Bill Wolff. "You're really terrible at this kind of humor."

But Maddow insisted this latest pronouncement is not a joke. "Really, guys, it's true. Ask Susan. I've been working toward this for a long time. The whole point is that it just shouldn't matter who I sleep with, for good or ill. And the fact is, as much as I like her, I don't really sleep with Susan. We're just friends -- well, we're also co-conspirators in the longest-running joke you've ever heard of, but you get my point."

Heads swiveled toward Susan Mikula, long identified as Maddow's partner. Struggling to keep her composure, Mikula confirmed Maddow's claim. "It's true," she choked out between fits of laughter. "I honestly don't know how you all didn't figure it out years ago. The only thing that gets Rachel hot is infrastructure policy, and she's told everybody that like a hundred times."

Mikula continued, "I think Rachel's probably the least sexual person I've ever met. She's a great friend, a great roommate, but she lives in her head, and seems perfectly happy with that."

"Seriously," Maddow interjected, "this was an important point to make, about sexual preference not being a basis for deciding what to think about a person's ideas. It's been sort of nice to be a gay icon, but enough is enough. My work should be judged on the merits, just like everyone else's work should be judged on its merits."

It was at this point, Taibbi says, that one of the female guests, whom he declined to identify, abruptly vomited into a nearby wastebasket. In the ensuing confusion, Taibbi surruptitiously Twittered the basics to his editor. Shortly afterward, he called in to the Rollling Stone office with quotes.

"What was I supposed to do -- ignore the biggest scoop that ever landed in my lap?" Taibbi says, "I was the only person at the table -- besides Susan Mikula -- who doesn't work for MSNBC, and Rachel did not ask for any of this to be off the record. But it wasn't a 12-step meeting, and I'm not an idiot. I can't be expected to maintain confidentiality if the source didn't ask for it."

In the end, Taibbi's story was held by RS editors for almost 20 hours, as they scrambled to make sure it wasn't a second round joke. But MSNBC spokesperson Avril Phoule confirmed just before airtime that the announcement is real and will air tonight in the live show beginning at 9 pm EDT. Maddow's self-outing is expected to follow her interview with former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Taibbi reports that the reaction of Maddow's colleague Keith Olbermann sums up most of the reaction quotes he was able to get ahead of the show: "I know I'm paid to talk for a living," said Olbermann, "but for once, I'm speechless."

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Study Shows Rats Have Better Ethics Than Humans

(10-Minute Updates)
April 1, 2001

News Index From The Associative Press

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Filed at 4:01 a.m. E.T.

In a new study appearing in tomorrow’s American Journal of Socio-Biology, researchers at Flagstaff University’s Mary Coulter Field Institute report findings that argue common lab rats have better ethics than human beings. A ten year series of tests involving carefully randomized human subjects demonstrated far more ruthlessly opportunistic behavior than comparable testing of rats.

“Professionally, this is fascinating, but personally it can get pretty depressing,” said lead researcher Dr. Vishnu Schist, author of the study, “Hierarchy and Self-Denial In Extremis: Socio-Biologic Implications of Reality Testing.”

The tests involved a simulated shipwreck, in which it became quickly obvious that only limited numbers of humans or rats would be able escape. The question was whether anyone would step back to let others go ahead, and in what order.

Scientists were dismayed to find that rats, despite the sterotype, actually proceeded in an orderly and predictable way, letting pregnant females leave first, followed by young rats. Humans, in contrast, shoved aside anyone who got between them and the way out. Dr. Schist said he had witnessed young male humans literally walking over very young human babies in their rush for self-preservation. “They just didn’t care who they stepped on,” said Schist.

The irony is, according to Dr. Schist, that such ruthless self-promotion inevitably leads to destruction of the whole species. So while saving only oneself may benefit the individual, he says, “These rats have a much better sense of the future, and they’re going to outlast us, apparently.”


Copyright 2001 Associative Press/CMI

Senator Apologizes for "Troglodyte" Remark

(10-Minute Updates)
April 1, 2001

News Index From The Associative Press

ASP INDEXES: TOP STORIES | NEWS | SPORTS | BUSINESS | TECHNOLOGY |ENTERTAINMENT

Filed at 4:01 a.m. E.T.

First-term New York Senator Amanda B. Reckondwith apologized today for remarks made on on CNN’s “Spin Room” last night, during which she referred to a witness currently appearing before her Congressional committee as “a troglodyte.”

Reckondwith also told CNN’s Tucker Carlson last night that insurance industry spokesman David Walter should be held criminally responsible if the insurance companies go ahead with their plan to cut reimbursement for asthma and allergy medications. In her statement today, the Senator did not retract this second part of her previous remarks.

The newly-formed Joint House-Senate Committee on Common Sense in Government had called David Walter to testify about the insurance company strategy after hearing that the so-called “Big Three” insurers had jointly hired Dr. Andrew Weil as a consultant.

Ed Bradley of CBS recently reported on “60 Minutes” that Weil believes allergies are learned behaviors that can be unlearned with the aid of psychoactive drugs. In an interview, Weil claimed to have unlearned his lifelong allergy to cats while under the influence of LSD.

Weil’s role as consultant will be to explain to the public the industry’s decision to stop paying for medication for the most rapidly-growing chronic disease in the world. Weil had no comment today as to where allergy sufferers could get pharmaceutical-grade lysergic acid diethylamide to help cope when the insurance runs out, which could come as early as May 1.




Copyright 2001 Associative Press/CMI

Census Missed 1.5 Million Deadheads

"On the road" population moves under federal radar

By Mike Weaver and Neil Ribald
Baltimore Times-Sentinel Investigations Team

April 1, 2001

Does Uncle Sam know who I am? A record number of mostly young, mostly white followers of the Grateful Dead rock bank and its many offshoots are asking that question of federal authorities.

Now an independent review of federal Census data conducted by the Times-Sentinel's investigations team suggests they could be right: The government may have failed to enumerate more than 1.5 million tie-dyed citizens.

In response to complaints from hundreds of Beltway-area residents, the Times-Sentinel analyzed U.S. Census results from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The undercount apparently stemmed from the Deadheads' constant travel and lack of interface with the record-keeping systems of mainstream society. The joint investigations team, working in conjunction with sociologists from Baltimore State University, developed customized software based on the international standard for counting refugee migrations.

A useful point of comparison for researchers proved to be Athens, Ohio, a college town where the caravans of roving Deadheads set down for predictable seasonal visitations. A local radio station there had echoed a call posted on the band's website (www.deadheadcentral.com) for Deadheads to make sure Census would "Count Every Head!" Last year, 1,768 self-proclaimed Deadheads presented themselves to be counted at the federal building in Athens. As a result, notes Mayor Ken Schweikert, Athens' total population surged into a new, and more favorable, lending category for developers.

The Grateful Dead themselves had long predicted that the official head count would not catch up with their peripatetic extended family. Lyricist Robert Hunter told a Rolling Stone reporter in 1998 that Census takers would "need a miracle every day" to reach every bead stringer and grilled cheese sandwich chef in the endless migration.

Not every member of the parking lot community is happy with the campaign to make the census include Deadheads. Several older fellow travelers expressed emotions ranging from dismay to anger at younger fans' eagerness to be noticed by the federal government.

"I didn't go through natural childbirth in an unheated cabin without drugs so she could turn around and do this," groused bead vendor Yvette Wynotte. "The next thing I expect to hear is that she's gone and gotten a damn Social Security number."

"Once they're off the road, it's all over," agreed Angela Motorman, who described herself as the founder and driver of the 27-year-old Great Coastal Axis Liberation Army and Permanent Floating Caravan. "My sister's kid got it into her head she wanted a "traditional" wedding, and for that she needed a marriage certificate, which meant she had to get a birth certificate, and before you could say "Casey Jones" she's walking into court and asking some judge to change her legal name to Jennifer. Like Astromeda isn't her true name anymore!"

Dr. Sybil Fawlty, head of the sociology field program at Baltimore State, had unusually harsh words for the U.S. Census effort to count itinerant hippies, calling director John O'Reilly's original plan "preposterous." Dr. Fawlty continued, "O'Reilly's men never finish the job. They're so clueless they can't even find the door."

Commerce Department spokewoman Avril Phoule defended O'Reilly's work, and denied that the Times-Sentinel study reveals anything new. "These individuals were already reported to have been missed," she said, referring reporters to a press release last week that confirmed 3.2 million people throughout the U.S. were overlooked by Census takers.

"You don't really think we have a million and a half people living completely off the grid in this country, do you?" asked Phoule. "It stands to reason these are weekend hippies who take off their beads and tie-dye Sunday night, and put on Dockers and a tie Monday morning."

Yet the thousands of young neo-Rastafarians converging on the parking lot outside Baltimore's Kurt Schmoke Arena contended that Ms. Phoule has no idea what their world is like. One earth-toned twenty-something man with an oversized candy-striped top hat, introducing himself "Shane from Long Island," protested that he and his "buds" have a right to be counted as Americans. "Man, just because it's a long, strange trip, I mean, sometimes you don't know where you're at, you know? That don't mean nothing. I got rights, too."

Observers of the vagabonds agree that the majority of fans following the Grateful Dead spinoff tours really do not have any fixed address.

"How can you be in two places at once, when you're really nowhere at all?" asked Dr. Philip Proctor of Baltimore State. "Still, we need to know how many bozos there are on this bus, so to speak."

A spokewoman for the band's Census campaign web site (www.deadreckoning.org) vowed yesterday to continue the push for full recognition. Connie Anjan promised to bring their encampment to the suburban doorsteps of individual federal Census officals if necessary. "We're really well-practiced at being mobile," she said, "and we're tired of being invisible."

As the aging children of this ephemeral city packed up their pachouly, glass pipes and embroidery for a move to the next concert site in Buffalo, one thing seems certain. However many they may be, these hippies will get by. With or without a touch of gray, with or without the federal government, they will survive. "No matter what," says Angela Motorman, "we keep on truckin'."

[PHOTO CAPTION/Credit Liz Estrada, CMI] Grateful Dead fans gather in the parking lot at Kurt Schmoke Arena in Baltimore, sharing hand-rolled Mound Builders brand cigarettes from southern Ohio while waiting for grilled cheese sandwiches to finish toasting atop itinerant poet Lance Ryder's two-burner Coleman stove.