Wednesday, April 25, 2012

At Large Fake News Wednesday: GOP Fears Illegals Will Hoard Asteroid Mining Jobs

WASHINGTON (CAP) - A proposal to begin mining asteroids for natural resources has GOP lawmakers up in arms over the prospect of illegal aliens taking asteroid mining jobs from Americans.

"It's grueling, dangerous and unappealing work - just the type of job that illegals will flock to," said Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican. "We should be shooting American minorities and welfare recipients into space, not criminal alien Mexicans.

"Er, or criminal alien Irish, Polish and Swedish people either," he added.

The group behind the asteroid mining plan includes Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt; film director James Cameron; former Microsoft executive Charles Simonyi; and Bruno Tonioli, Dancing With The Stars judge and one-time presidential contender.

"Asteroid mining would be hot, it would be sexy - it would be like Armageddon Jiggy Wit It!" said Tonioli, rotating his midsection and crudely miming a hand-held jackhammer.

And Cameron, whose movie Avatar depicted a corporate venture to extract natural resources from another planet, noted the plan would continue his efforts to live out aspects of all of his films, such as when he undertook a pioneering deep-sea dive to the sunken Titanic, or had his skeleton replaced with indestructible metal, reportedly to take part in next year's Tour de France.

The group has yet to say whom their ideal asteroid miners would be, but Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) noted that mining nickel on an unstable rock hurtling through space may prove to be the type of job that "Americans just won't do."

"I don't care how many times they've seen Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck do it on TBS - we can't even get Americans to pick oranges," said Conyers.

"Dude, I need a job, but there is no [expletive] way I'm going to dig up some asteroid," said Josh Elkind, 21, who graduates from college this year. "What if I'm, like, off-planet when a new iPad comes out?"

Meanwhile, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) has proposed a bill he says will prevent illegal alien incursion into the fledgling asteroid mining industry and help solve another pervasive societal problem.

House Bill 3471 will require welfare recipients to serve at least six months asteroid mining before they can be issued an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, explained Gallegly. "The bill also allows for funding for subsidized day-care centers on the asteroids, so single mothers can drop their kids off on their way into the space mines," he explained. As for safety, all day-care centers will be equipped with escape pods, he noted.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Column: Famous last words from Bobby Valentine

Last week, new Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine had this to say about superstar third baseman Kevin Youkilis: “I don’t think he’s as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.” It’s curious that he would say this, if for no other reason than that Youklis could bludgeon him into oblivion with just one twitch of his tremendous bald head.

But beyond that, it seems odd that a brand new manager would mouth off to the press about one of his players, which is the type of thing that gets players angry, owners agitated and, eventually, managers fired. (Remember how Billy Martin would just walk into a room and George Steinbrenner would fire him? Now that was baseball!)

That’s until you consider maybe that’s exactly what Valentine wants. After all, quitting just two weeks into the season wouldn’t look good for anybody, but given the way things are going, it’s reasonable to assume he’d rather be anywhere else: Texas, New York, Japan, seating patrons at his restaurant in Connecticut, etc.

Take this past weekend, when the Red Sox were up 9-0 over the Yankees. FOX left the contest briefly to broadcast the end of Phil Humber’s perfect game, and when they came back, the Red Sox were strewn across the burning, bloody field like a squadron of slaughtered orcs. And Valentine had that look on his face that he seems to be perfecting, halfway between “What just happened?” and the one Mel Gibson had when they eviscerated him at the end of “Braveheart.”

In fact, one can only assume that in the wake of the Youkilis comment, Valentine is spending most of his free time coming up with other things he can say over the course of the season to get the ownership to put him out of his misery. Things like:

April 28: “What’s up with that David Ortiz? I never understand a word he’s saying.”

May 5: “Dustin Pedroia — meh. And he’s kind of short for a ballplayer, don’t you think? Yep, short and bald.”

May 19: “These players are OK, but I don’t see anyone who could hold a candle to an Aaron Boone.”

June 2: “That Carlton Fisk home run? I still say it was foul.”

June 14: “Yastrzemski … What’s that ‘z’ doing in there? Suspicious if you ask me. I’m just saying.”

June 28: “It’s just a wall, people. A big stupid green wall.”

July 14: “You know what I like to do for fun? I watch the end of Game 6 against the Mets over and over again, and just laugh and laugh and laugh.”

July 28: “I’d like to introduce my new pitching coach, Grady Little! Oh, you’ve met?”

Aug. 4: “I was thinking of growing a mustache like Dwight Evans, but then I thought, why would I want to look like an oversized Maltese?”

Aug. 11: Bloody sock my [bleep].

Aug. 15: “I don’t think Johnny Pesky’s been as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason. Ow!” [gets hit by beer bottle]

Aug. 27: “Release me from my contract or you’ll never see Ted Williams’ head again.”

Of course, if Valentine makes it through to September he might as well stick it out until the end of the season — management probably won’t ask him back, but he can always parlay his year in Boston into something more satisfying and less likely to get him booed. And when he does, I have a feeling I know what he might wind up saying to Red Sox fans.

“Would you like a table for two?”

Monday, April 23, 2012

AT LARGE FAKE NEWS MONDAY: Twitter Teens Discover Three Stooges Were Real

SAN FRANCISCO (CAP) - Twitter was abuzz this week with incredulous tweets from teenagers throughout the U.S. who expressed amazement at discovering that the Three Stooges were apparently real people.
Nobody told me the stooges were real ... ? How am I just finding this out?! posted @lizamagong after seeing the new film version of The Three Stooges directed by the Farrelly brothers.

And @BabyDee22 sounds similarly surprised, tweeting: Guys, the Stooges were real dudes in like the 20s or something! #mindblown.

After some back-and-forth, general consensus among the teens seemed to be that, while they had at first thought the Stooges were newly invented movie characters, it turns out they were actual people with a superhuman capacity to withstand punishment delivered via eye pokes, nose pulls and blows from sledgehammers.
I guess they made all these B&W documenteries about them? I asked my grampa & he said they wore shorts, tweeted LuvCarly67, apparently referring to the short subjects made by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Curly Howard during the 1930s and 1940s. And @sammyLoveB tweeted, They had to keep replacing Stooges because they kept killing each other w/ hammers n sh-t. #gangsta.

Oddly enough, the tweets drew the attention of popular Twitter contributor and film critic Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago), who insisted that contrary to what the teenagers believed, the Stooges were not in fact real but actually fictional characters played by actors. The Stooges were about as real as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, tweeted Ebert.
Also, here's my losing entry in the 331st New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest, he added.

But apparently Ebert's tweets just confused many of the teens further. For instance, @BoonAss899 replied, WTF is a Bugs Bunny? AYSOS? lol. And very few other teens follow Ebert's tweets, opting instead to follow Twitterers like @ladygaga.
Monsters, just found out the 3 Stooges were real - WTF? @ladygaga tweeted yesterday afternoon.

Even Sarah Killen, the woman whose Twitter feed was made into a television show after Conan O'Brien chose at random to follow her, weighed in, saying that she didn't know if the Three Stooges were real or not, but that she still thought that peanut butter was yummy.
I still can't believe I followed this girl, tweeted @ConanOBrien later that day.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Friday, April 20, 2012

You remember record stores -- don't you?

The other day my kids were watching an old episode of “Drake & Josh,” which is a Nickelodeon show that, like all the other Nickelodeon shows, is about young teenagers yelling at each other. What was interesting about this particular episode — which I can only assume took place during the shows original run of 2004-2007 (I looked it up) — is that it had several scenes that took place in a record store, and it might as well have been set in a milk truck or a cobbler’s shop. Teenagers in a record store? That’s so … well, not today.

As depressing as that concept was (even more depressing than Nickelodeon shows usually are), there is something we can celebrate: Tomorrow, April 21, is officially the most exciting day to be in a record store in 2012. It’s Record Store Day, and if you’ve been at your local independent record store when the doors opened on this day over the last few years, you can attest to the party atmosphere. Frenzied vinyl collectors scoop up the limited-edition specials, clerks give away bags of cool stuff, there’s candy … it’s enough to make you want to hug the heavily pierced person trying to elbow you out of the way for the last copy of that 7″ Clash reissue.

Bruce Springsteen, as has been his practice for the last few years, has his own special offering coming out, a 7″ vinyl single of “Rocky Ground” b/w “The Promise” from his 2010 Asbury Park "carousel" concert. (Whether it will be spelled “The Pomise” is yet to be seen.) But with special releases by Eddie Vedder, Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, fun., Grace Potter and dozens of others, it’s worth a trip down to the record store no matter what you wind up leaving with.

And don’t forget not to wait a year before going back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Column: Newspaper jobs just got worse, somehow

These days, when I tell people I’m in the newspaper business, they tend to respond with that look — you know, the one that, to a casual observer, would seem to indicate I just told them my kids had been put into a foster home, or that my doctor just gave me six months, tops. It’s a mixture of concern, pity and a sort of abject incredulity. Sometimes I even see it in the mirror.

Unfortunately, I fear it’s only going to get worse now that the Wall Street Journal has reported on’s “Worst Jobs of 2012,” with the fifth worst being, yes, “newspaper reporter.” To which I can only say: Lumberjack, dairy farmer, oil rig worker and enlisted soldier, you’ve been pwned! Boo-ya!

Actually, I was a little taken aback by newspaper reporter’s high showing. Yes, it can be a tough job, in that it basically hinges on bothering people all day long, sort of like a telemarketer who writes down and publishes everything you say. But unlike some of the other professions on the list, there’s not much chance of our subjects falling the wrong way and crushing us or exploding suddenly in a massive fireball. (Unless maybe your paper is in New Jersey.)

Still, to be a “best job” a job apparently has to have just the right combination of a good work environment, a high salary and low stress. In other words, it has to be a job that doesn’t exist here on earth, but rather in some whimsical make-believe workplace full of imaginary responsibilities and stunningly generous bonuses. (Sample jobs: Unicorn groomer, Goldman Sachs executive.)

So the No. 1 best job is of course “software engineer,” although I question how good a work environment that could be, given that every day when you went into the office, you’d be surrounded by software engineers. (Just a little high-tech IT humor there.)

As for jobs that are still among the worst but supposedly not quite as bad as newspaper reporter, these include waiter/waitress, dishwasher (dishwasher!) and meter reader. This is surprising, because if you’re a meter reader you’re basically stuck reading meters now and forever, but if you’re a newspaper reporter and you work hard and put your time in, you might eventually be able to leave the business and become a meter reader.

And it’s true that journalists often wind up going into other lines of work, mainly because they get tired of their parents reading lists of the worst jobs and calling them all panicky about the remaining student loan payments. But the ones who stick it out probably do so because they’re not looking for low stress and high salary, for a good reason: They are insane. Wait, I read my notes wrong. It’s because they want to use their gift to inform people about things that are important in their lives. You know, things beyond what their meter says.

And that, I guess, is what separates newspaper reporters — who will be the iPad and magic web cloud and direct-to-your-optic-nerve reporters of the future — from the dishwashers of the world, no offense to dishwashers. What these journalists do is a calling, and it’s relevant, and it’s important … I’d argue at least as important as clean dishes.

So my message to reporters, along with their beleaguered editors (and yes, whiny columnists too), is to soldier on. Wear your worst-job status as a badge of honor as you uncover the important and even the mundane stories that illuminate the world we live in, and be confident that your industry’s so-called “hiring outlook” will eventually turn around, since what you do will be necessary well into the future, no matter what form it takes.

And if anyone gives you that look when they find out what you do, try to resist conking them one. They might fall the wrong way and crush you.

This week's New Yorker caption contest entry

In retrospect, it may be a little wordy (click on image to see the larger version):

Post your entry here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Hero Mayor Rescues 277,140 From Newark

NEWARK (CAP) - Mayor Cory Booker is being hailed as a hero this week after personally saving 277,140 local residents by hoisting them up and carrying them out of Newark.

"I did not feel too heroic," Booker told reporters afterwards. "It all happened very, very quickly and I just feel very blessed that everyone got out of Newark alive. Or out of Newark, period.

"Also, my back is killing me," he added.

The incident began around 9:30 p.m. Thursday as Booker was en route to his Newark residence. Two members of his security detail - already waiting outside for the mayor - noticed that thousands of city residents were living in Newark.

The mayor quickly sprung into action, immediately hoisting residents over his shoulder and running through Newark, making his way through smoke and smog and depositing them over city lines before eventually collapsing onto the sidewalk.

"The smoke and smog is typical, but usually I'm not carrying people," he noted.

According to authorities, the mayor and his security detail carried 50,000 to Bloomfield Township, 70,000 to Irvington Township, 60,000 to Elizabeth and 90,000 to Jersey City and Bayonne.

"Most of them were very grateful, although a good number of the ones we brought to Bayonne decided they were actually better off in Newark and went back," said Booker, who noted he would have carried them all the way to Staten Island "if it wasn't for the Kill Van Kull."

The Kill Van Kull is a tidal straight separating Bayonne from Staten Island and not in fact a barbarian soldier/king created by writer Robert E. Howard, although "a lot of people make that mistake," said Booker.

"I started swimming people across, but after the first one or two thousand I decided, this is ridiculous," recalled the mayor. Instead he fashioned a giant raft out of discarded PVC pipe and bungee cords for residents seeking to further their journey, and then went back to carrying the rest of the residents out of the city over land.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Experts Skeptical About New Google X-Ray Specs

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. (CAP) - In the wake of widespread skepticism over Google's Project Glass "augmented reality glasses," industry experts are now questioning whether other proposed Google products, such as its "X-Ray Specs" slated for release next year, will be all the developers are promising.

Pietor Menstry, an MIT Media Lab researcher, told Wired magazine that it seems very unlikely that users will really be able "look right through the flesh and see the bones underneath," despite the claims of several ads Google took out in popular comic books.

"And as far as seeing through clothes, forget it," said Menstry. "We've been trying to come up with glasses to do that for 30 years. It's a lot harder than it looks."

The X-Ray Specs are among a long list of products supposedly being developed by Google, many of which have researchers and tech pundits questioning whether the company will really be able to deliver, or whether it's talking up the products just to generate PR buzz.

Among the products allegedly in development:

  • Secret Spy Scope, a "pen-sized pocket scope" for sporting events, spying, counter-spying and looking at women in bikinis.
  • Miniature Secret Camera, a camera "so small it fits in a cigarette pack."
  • Trick Black Soap, a bar of soap that looks like a regular bar of soap, but "victim washes face and gets blacker and blacker."

"Our research has found that there is a tremendous interest among the general public for these devices, along with other planned Google releases like a trick baseball, onion gum and monster-size monsters," said Dr. Francis Spitznagel of the Pew Research Center. But he also noted that if they don't come to pass, there could be a public outcry.

"We've also found that our researchers would be very happy to test the X-Ray Specs, especially the researchers who've been working on our project about superheroine bust size," he added.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Column: What's with all the Bruce bashing?

I will admit to a certain lack of objectivity when it comes to Bruce Springsteen: I discovered his music as an impressionable teenager, at that exact time when you’re ready for what’s coming out of your radio to be about something other than girls and dancing and pop fantasies — although definitely those things too.

These days, though, I remain faithful to Springsteen mainly because he still has something to say — he’s engaged in the world around him, his work and his sound continue to evolve, and at 62 he’s somehow still bringing it on stage, as he likes to say, “night after night after night after night.”

But I figure even if he’s not exactly your thing, you have to respect his body of work, and his longevity, and his work ethic, right? There’s no reason to, say, revile him with the intense, burning hatred of a thousand suns. Oh, there is? My mistake.

Yes, as tends to happen every time Springsteen ramps up a new album and tour, critics have jumped up not simply to parse the vagaries of his latest album, “Wrecking Ball,” but to declare him a worthless, no-talent phony who’s somehow managed to hoodwink millions of unsuspecting fans — not just into buying his albums and concert tickets, but into believing this manufactured corporate hack is worth even a second of anybody’s time.

Take Victor Fiorello’s piece for Philadelphia Magazine on “Why I hate Bruce Springsteen,” which is so all-over-the-map — He’s from New Jersey! He wears an earring! — you have to wonder if it’s actually just a brazen play for Google hits. And John Sharkey III in Philadelphia Weekly trots out the argument that Bruce is a fake when he sings about the working man: “How did he pull it off?” Sharkey asks, intimating a vast conspiracy worthy of a Warren Commission report.

I admit that when I read screeds like this, I have to ask myself: Am I the one who’s crazy? I consider myself a smart person who knows a little bit about music — have I somehow been tricked into thinking these songs are about something? Is that feeling of elation I get at his concerts a mere mirage? Is Springsteen in fact a hologram?

It doesn’t help that the standard arguments never seem to hold water. I don’t see how Springsteen can be declared a fake just because he’s made money; he grew up poor with an often unemployed father, and we all know you are who you are well before you hit your 20s – that’s why people who grew up during the Depression still sit around with the lights off. Your childhood stamps you forever, and in Springsteen’s case it’s provided the thread of his entire career.

What most confuses me, though, isn’t the criticism but the unabashed hatred, the seething bile, the utter contempt for Springsteen’s stupid, deluded devotees. What’s driving it? I don’t like Rod Stewart’s 47 albums reinterpreting the Great American Songbook, but I don’t begrudge his fans their enjoyment of them, or want to strangle him in his sleep, usually.

I guess one possibility is jealousy: Can these writers simply not believe they’re still slogging away anonymously while Springsteen continues to log No. 1 albums and sold-out tours? I find it interesting that, in a particularly frothing piece, the Montreal Gazette’s Juan Rodriguez wears a bad review he gave Springsteen in 1977 as a badge of honor, like some old folkie still yelling “Judas” at Bob Dylan for going electric in 1965.

Or is it that these critics are completely disconnected with what it’s like to be a real, actual human being? Jon Caramanica of The New York Times decries “the sodden workingman empathy” of Springsteen’s new song “Jack of All Trades,” saying it “literally made me nauseous.” Meanwhile, the day the song debuted, the E Street Radio satellite channel was deluged with calls from people saying they felt the song could be about them, or a friend or a loved one. It spoke to them, and not in a nausea-inducing way.

Maybe what it comes down to, though, is that for whatever reason these critics are irrevocably put off by the way this man’s music actually helps people better understand the world, or carries them through some of life’s toughest moments. Or by how his concerts — those legendary three-hour celebrations of life and love and rising up from the depths — send them out into the night, exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.

They just can’t grasp it, so instead they pile on, and try to poke holes in his image, and make fun of his earring and the fact he’s from Jersey — and for that I feel sorry for them. I hope someday they find something that means to them what Bruce Springsteen’s music means to us.

But until then, guys … Leave us out of it.

MORE ON BRUCE: Energy, emotion propel Springsteen in Boston

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

AT LARGE Fake News Tuesday: Romney To Launch 'Capitalism Comedy Tour'

MILWAUKEE (CAP) - Convinced that injecting some levity will help his bumpy GOP presidential primary bid, front-runner Mitt Romney has dubbed his remaining campaign stops to be a Capitalism Comedy Tour, and promises to show through the use of "funny, humor-like statements" the value his business background would bring to the White House.

His new strategy started off with a bang last week, when he told a "humorous anecdote" about the time his father closed a Michigan factory, laying off all the workers, and moved it to Wisconsin. "And if you think that's bad, when I got my hands on it I moved it to China! Hoo-hah!" added Romney.

"Just kidding, just kidding," he said. "I didn't move it to China. I leeched all the money out of it, liquidated it and flipped it for a profit!"

"Er ... Is this thing on?" he added.

Romney's new strategy drew immediate fire from his GOP rivals, particularly former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who declared that "everybody knows" he's the funny one. "Just ask my first two wives!" he said. "Boo-ya!"

Asked if that means he was joking about his planned moon colony, Gingrich responded that he was actually dead serious about that.

As for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, he called Romney "the least funny Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama."

Confronted later by reporters about the statement, he insisted that he'd been taken out of context, swore at them, and, taking a page from 2008 presidential contender John McCain, slaughtered them in a bloody, violent rage.

As for Ron Paul, he responded to news of Romney's comedy plan by telling a joke: "Hey, whatever happened to me?" he asked, and then broke down in tears.

Romney, meanwhile, continues to hone his material on the road. "So a corporation walks into a bar," he told a crowd in Racine yesterday. "Bartender says, we don't serve your kind in here. Corporation says, hey, corporations are people too! Hey-yo!"

He followed that up with, "The doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn't pay his bill, and he had no insurance, so he died. Hey heidi ho!"

Later that day in Madison, he said, "So my gardener walks in my house the other day and says he's not making enough to feed his family. So I said, you're fired! I like being able to fire people. Hey bo diddley!"

The joke failed to get a laugh, although most in the crowd agreed the drummer playing rim shots was a nice touch.

[Read the rest at CAP News.]