Friday, August 30, 2013

FAMW: Improv Everywhere: “Black Tie Beach”

Need a quick gimmick for the Labor Day weekend?

For the Fourth Annual Black Tie Beach, produced and directed by those madcaps at Improv Everywhere, hundreds of participants spent a day at the beach in black tie attire. They covered Coney Island and Brighton Beach with a diverse group of people of all ages laying out, playing games, and swimming in the ocean in formal wear. Agents were instructed to find cheap tuxedos and ball gowns at thrift stores for the occasion. Unfortunately, they were not aware that black tie before six in the evening (except for Fourth Degree Honor Guards of the Knights of Columbus) is totally inappropriate. But here it is, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Have a great holiday weekend. "Summer's almost gone, winter's comin' on ..."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: “Dream”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

On this day, the fiftieth anniversary of the famous “I Have A Dream” speech by the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr, we present a recording of "Dream" from the 1975 album of the same name by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Jeff Hanna - Vocals, Guitars, Slide Guitars.. Jimmy Ibbotson - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, ARP, Accordian. John McEuen - Banjo, Mandolin, Fiddle, Acoustic Guitar, Dobro, Lap Steel, Electric Guitar. Jimmie Fadden - Drums, Percussion, Harmonica. Produced by William McEuen. Recorded in Colorado at Applewood Studio, Golden, and The Caribou Ranch, Nederland.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Monday, August 26, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Saint Zephyrinus Edition)

Ever wonder what it's like when the fog rolls in? Well, you haven't seen a rolling fog until you've seen it in Lark Harbour, Newfoundland. Get a look at this, along with exciting color commentary there, eh?

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Science marches on, including at the behest of those who obviously did not learn anything from watching the movie Jurassic Park. (BBC)

Meanwhile, in a case of less-weird science, confirmed or otherwise lazy bachelors, as well as the savvy traveler, all have cause to rejoice, at one less thing to wash quite as often. (The Daily Beast)

In more scientific news, one man calls upon mathematicians of the nation to unite, for they have nothing to lose but their security clearance. Or something. (Slate)

On a lighter note, if you ever wanted to feel like walking on air, or aren't too afraid of heights to try it, here's a flight you won't want to miss -- if you can afford it. (

Closer to the ground, voters in the northeast corner of Colorado are voting to secede from the Centennial State. What will they call the Fifty-First State? Notice from the illustration how it tucks very neatly under the western extension of Nebraska. Maybe they can call it ... Colobraska! (Washington Times)

Finally, and speaking of living dangerously, ever wonder why everyone else on the road is such a lousy driver? Probably the same reason you are. Actually, there's ten reasons. The last one might surprise you. (The Guardian)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Not-So-Epic Graduation

Thirty-five years ago today, I was awarded my degree as a Bachelor of Science in Design from the University of Cincinnati. Looking back on that evening, I can still remember ... how little there was to remember.

I had made a decision during my junior year, in lieu of any prospect of an academic minor in multimedia, to enroll in two film classes. One was a "Film Design" class in my own graphic design department, the other was an "Introduction to Film Production" course taught by the fine arts department. In the former, I did an animation in Super 8 format, while the latter was more ambitious, requiring a one-minute live action or animation piece in 16mm. I got an A in the fine arts class, but the sum total of workload was more than I could handle, and my academic advisor allowed me to take an incomplete with two of my courses. The price of the department's indulgence came a year later, when I did not graduate with the other twenty-six students in my graphic design class, but had to finish during the summer quarter.

We assembled on that August night in the basketball arena on campus. There was the usual jocularity amongst the tasseled masses, of course, to listen to a keynote speaker whose name I forget to this day. (My already-departed classmates were treated in the spring to the "boy mayor" of Cincinnati, one Jerry Springer. I met him once. He was just as obnoxious back then.) At the end of the proceedings, we were to line up and receive our degrees. It was then that the students from the College of Design, Architecture, and Art, were directed the other way, to the back of the room, where a folding table was being hastily assembled for the dean of our college, who arrived with an assistant, each of them carrying a cardboard box. Our names were called, and we received our "sheepskins" in about as unceremonious a fashion as one could imagine.

When it was over (such as it was), I met my brother Steve and sister Mary, and we headed uptown to Pleasant Ridge, to my Aunt Marge and Uncle Bill's place on Grand Vista Avenue. Their house was just down the street from where a scene from "Rain Man" was shot in 1988 starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman -- yeah that's it in the picture -- but that's another story. Anyway, we arrived at the porch, and Mom came out. That's when ...

She hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Now, Mom's parents were not much with familial affection, especially Grandpa, not because they were cold, but it was just their way. It tended to rub off on Mom. In fact, Dad tended to be more affectionate towards us kids than Mom. The thing is, she had never done that before that I could remember, and I don't know what I did to make her start then and there.

It certainly wasn't relief that the expense of college was over. I paid half my way through college through my internships, and Dad financed the other half. While other kids went to Florida on spring break, I spent my breaks doing production work for a free-lancer named Tom Newsome. He taught me a lot that I didn't learn in school. I also got to be a teaching assistant that summer, in lieu of Independent Study. I learned a lot there too, like how being a teaching assistant wasn't all it was cracked up to be. I put my plans for graduate school aside.

And with that, the tradition of an anticlimactic college graduation was begun, one continued by my son Paul earlier this year, when he graduated fere cum laude from the ├╝ber-prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, with a 3.4 grade point average. Naturally, he carried the tradition a step farther than me. he didn't bother showing up. (My GPA was 3.0, by the way. Don't ask.)

At the end of the day, I might have been better off considering the experience I gained from both the delay, and the circumstances that caused it. I was aspiring to a specialty that was yet to be invented, one that I only could conceive in vague terms, and would only be realized with the advent of the personal computer, the graphical user interface of the Macintosh, and the advent of the internet. With a bit more nerve, I could have been Nick Selby before there was a Nick Selby.

But that's another story too.

Friday, August 23, 2013

FAMW: (The Middle Class Liberal) Well-Intentioned Blues

With the impending 50th anniversary celebration of Dr Martin Luther King's "March on Washington" and his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, we take you back to the late 1970s, when the National Lampoon Radio Hour, and this tribute to the caring and sharing of all those who strive to solve the Nation's problems with someone else's money. Lead vocal and guitar by Christopher Guest, back-up vocal and banjo by Mark Horowitz, music by Christopher Guest, lyrics by Sean Kelly, produced by Bob Tischler and Christopher Guest -- all that for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Walk Off The Earth “Royals”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

We've seen these guys before, haven't we? Walk Off The Earth is from Burlington, Ontario, and one of the guys who plugs the other videos towards the end only sounds Australian. Don't ask me why. Apparently their specialty is "low-budget" videos of originals and covers. That's pretty obvious here, since there wasn't much overhead for scenery.

We'll keep watching these guys, of course, because this looks like fun. On the other hand, running behind the camera to keep circulating the ukuleles -- well, that ain't for the squeamish, don't you think?

Or don't you?

Monday, August 19, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Saint John Eudes Edition)

In this clip, actor Ashton Kutchner accepts this year's Teen Choice Award, and shares “things I learned when I was Chris.” The result is actually worth the four and a half minutes that it takes to sit through it. Even the stars of Hollywood start at the bottom.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Remember the "miracle priest" that showed up at a plane crash in Missouri, gave somebody the Last Rites, and disappeared? Well, in case you don't venture around the Catholic blogosphere much (which is not all it's cracked up to be, so, you know ...), here he is. (The Blaze)

Speaking of miracles, has the Messiah returned? Not if a judge in Tennessee has anything to say about it. And the mother's name isn't Mary, so we all knew how this would turn out, didn't we? (WBIR-TV)

The conventions of how those of certain demographic groups are politely addressed would appear to be subject to change, and not everybody outside of elite academic circles necessarily gets the memo, including those in the food service industry. (Chicks on the Right)

Speaking of saying the right thing, those of you planning on international travel had best learn how to answer the phone in other countries, or even more people will end up being offended. (Aren't we all just a little touchy of late?) (Gizmodo)

Finally, if you wonder whether the educational system in America has improved, consider the requirements of an examination in the eighth grade only a century ago. (Huffington Post)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, August 16, 2013

FAMW: Ray William Johnson “Amazing Sign Language Lady”

Yes, we concede that a CONTENT ADVISORY may be in order for some in our target audience. But we couldn't resist the opportunity to show the possibilities open to the use of sign language interpretation. Video pundit Ray William Johnson provides insight as to how deaf people use their senses to get in touch with ... well, the one sense that is found wanting. And so it goes for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Just ignore the naughty bits. You've done the same for others.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Sufjan Stevens “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

Sufjan Stevens is an American singer-songwriter from Detroit, Michigan. Known largely for combining electronica with roots rock -- it's not a new concept, especially lately -- here he takes to the banjo, playing in the clawhammer style native to the Southern mountains, while giving new life to an old hymn, one penned by the 18th century pastor and hymnist Robert Robinson in 1757.

Monday, August 12, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Saint Clare of Assisi Edition)

This morning, you can spend two and a half minutes watching Anthony Weiner lose it (again), this time while mocking a British television reporter in the course of his run for mayor of New York City, or ...

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

Speaking of losing it, an ABC newsman became an ABC newswoman, and two days later, went back to being an ABC newsman. Naturally, he (or she) can explain. (World News Daily)

Elsewhere on the "idiot box," MTV is putting out a call for talent to do a program on previously unexplored territory, at least for them. (Entertainment Weekly)

In yet another story of the best laid plans of mice and men, a 47-story skyscraper was built in Benidorm, Spain, for which one detail somehow missed the drawing board. (Gizmodo)

Hey, they can print three-dimensional objects now, can't they? Well, that's not all they can do in the lab, as science marches on (although you may want fries with it). (BBC)

Finally, a bit of sage advice for all you women out there who want to keep the man in your life happy, although some might argue that such counsel is a bit, uh, dated. (mental_floss)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saint Laurence

“With the robe of joyfulness, alleluya,
Our Lord hath this day clothed His soldier, Laurence.
May Thy faithful's joyous assemblage clap their hands
More cheerfully than they have heretofore.”

(from the Mass of Saint Laurence, Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion Press)

+    +    +

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Laurence. He was archdeacon of the church of Rome in the third century. When the Emperor Valerian had Pope Sixtus II and six other deacons executed in 258 AD, Laurence (also rendered in English as "Lawrence") was left in charge.

Now, back then, for a deacon to be left in charge, this actually meant something, inasmuch as deacons were responsible for the temporal goods and charitable works of the local church. On August 6, Laurence met with Sixtus in the latter's prison cell. The boss laid out the plan; no, we're not leaving forever, you're joining us in four days.

Laurence saw this as a good time to come up with a plan of his own.

Laurence distributed the funds of the local church among the crippled, blind, sick, and indigent of the city. When arrested by the Emperor, Lawrence was commanded to produce the goods. Laurence produced what he called the "true treasure of the Church" -- you guessed it; the crippled, blind, sick, and indigent of the city.

The emperor was not amused.

Legend has it that Laurence was martyred by being roasted on a gridiron. It is also said that, at one point, Laurence told them when he was done on one side, and could be turned over. Modern scholars have suggested that the determination of this method of torture is probably a misreading of the original accounts.

Anything to take the fun outa this, huh, guys?

And so, Laurence is pictured holding a book of records, a money purse, and/or a gridiron. His image is generally found on one of the "deacon's doors" with the iconostasis of any Eastern church.

Laurence is also the patron saint of cooks. Not to mention librarians, libraries, lumbago, paupers, poor people, restauranteurs, Rome, schoolchildren, seminarians, Sri Lanka, stained glass workers, students, tanners, vine growers, vineyard owners, wine makers (whew!), and ... me!

That's because I was named for my uncle, Lawrence Rosselot (pronounced "ROSS-uh-low," from the province of Alsace in France, so the "T" at the end is silent), my mother's brother, who died in a farming accident before I was born.

Finally, on the eve of his feast, one may look up into the night sky (at least in the northern hemisphere) and what are known as “the burning tears of Saint Laurence” may be viewed by the naked eye. This is the meteor shower that follows the pasage of the Swift-Tuttle Comet, and precedes the one near The Perseides.

Sure, you missed the one last night. But you've got the next week to see some action. Especially if you go to a place out in the country where there are no city lights to be found.

But all the stars will be there.

Friday, August 09, 2013

FAMW: How to Have a Recreational Argument

It's a slow day here at Chez Alexandre, after spending over six hours running errands from one place to the next. We'll just leave it at this item from Basic Instructions for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Art-For-Art’s-Sake Theatre: Do You “Yahoo!”?

Time once again for our usual midday Wednesday feature.

The online service known as Yahoo! has been in a bit of trouble lately, probably because they're not as good as Gmail. Thankfully, they have identified the problem, and are rolling out the solution on a daily basis until the 4th of September -- with a new logo. What follows here is undoubtedly all the sketches that were proposed, before eventually settling on the final design, which will eventually be seen on, you guessed it, the 4th.

Until then, here's the process in a nutshell, to the tune of Hellogoodbye performing "When We First Met."

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


He said, write down the vision
    that you had,
    and I wrote what I saw.

I saw the world
    kissing its own darkness.

It happened thus:
    I rose to meet the sunrise
    and suddenly over the hill
    a horde appeared
    dragging a huge tarpaulin.
They covered unwary land
    and hapless city
    and all sweet water
    and fields.
And there was no sunrise.

I strained my eyes for a path
    and there was no path.
I bumped into trees and the bushes hissed at me,
    and the long-armed brambles cried in a strident voice:
    never through here!
But I struggled on, fumbling my beads of no.

I came to a dark city where nobody knew
    that there was darkness.
And strange! though there was no light I still coud see
    what I did not want to see:
    people who moved to the loveless embrace of folly.
They ate her gourmet foods; they drank her wine,
    danced to her music that was crazed with rhythm,
    were themselves discord though they knew it not,
    or if they knew, cared less.

Outside the city wall I stood in thought,
    parried a moment with a frieghtening urge
    to court the darkness;
    but I held back, fearing the face of love.

Crossing a field I wandered through a desert
    when suddenly behind a rock I found
    a little sagebrush where a fire was burning,
    shining and dancing. After my first amazed
    worship of silence I was loud with praise.

I watched with fear the darkness circling it.
    lunging against it, swirling a black cloak
    to suffocate the light,
    until the shades broke loose and one by one
    in terror fled.

The flame burned on, innocent, unimperiled.
There was no darkness that could put it out.

-- Jessica Powers, aka Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD

Monday, August 05, 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy ...” (Our Lady of the Snows Edition)

First, a personal note. Paul graduated, and will be moving to his job in Seattle eventually. Both of us have visited the city, this writer has extended family there, and father and son have discussed retiring there. He thinks I'd like it there. I probably would, but I told him it probably wouldn't like me. The video clip to the right tells why.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on planet Earth:

On second thought, before we go elsewhere, the folks at KOMO News fail to mention exactly what they mean about a "brown bag" being offensive. Naturally, yours truly knew all along, and now you can too. (Incidentally, the custom has worked both ways, depending on the venue.) (KIRO-FM)

Meanwhile, here are some words that the City of Seattle and their Thought Police can eliminate instead. (KIRO-FM)

If you've been wondering about what to do with those regenerated cells you have lying around the laboratory, here's an advance in modern dentistry that makes good use of ... let's just call it an endless renewable material. (BBC)

Speaking of being renewed, Twinkies are on the way back to your favorite convenience store. There are a few changes, like a smaller size and a longer shelf life, but it's nice to know that at least one thing won't change -- for the moment. (BuzzFeed)

How about some news you can use? If you're taking a plane anywhere sooner or later, here are ten things you can do to save your life (if it comes down to that, obviously). (The Art of Manliness)

If you're moving to a new city, and don't have a lot of room for household items, someone finally perfected the manufacture of furniture from corrugated cardboard. (I tried to do this in the late 70s when I got out of college, but that's another story.) (Gizmodo)

Speaking of adapting, it would appear that the mother of all "big box" stores has occasionally boxed up and left. What do you do with an empty Walmart, other than turn it into a megachurch? (WebUrbanist)

In a related story from the same source as the above, if Lego had made this forty-five years ago, yours truly might have majored in architecture instead of graphic design. Ah, 'tis another story for another day, but for now ... (WebUrbanist)

Finally, watch the first two minutes as Pat Robertson continues to lose his marbles one at a time. As the Psalmist wrote: “Lo, sons are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 126/127:3-5) (Kathy Schiffer, Seasons of Grace)

And that's all the news that fits. As the week goes on, stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Friday, August 02, 2013

A Bedtime Story

A Mom visits her son for dinner who lives with a girl roommate.

During the course of the meal, his mother couldn't help but notice how pretty his roommate was. She had long been suspicious of a relationship between the two, and this had only made her more curious ...

Over the course of the evening, while watching the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between him and his roommate than met the eye.

Reading his mom's thoughts, his son volunteered, "I know what you must be thinking, but I assure you, we are just roommates."

About a week later, his roommate came to him saying, "Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the silver plate. You don't suppose she took it, do you?"

He said, "Well, I doubt it, but I'll email her, just to be sure." He sat down and wrote:

Dear Mother:

I'm not saying that you 'did' take the silver plate from my house, I'm not saying that you 'did not' take the silver plate. But the fact remains that it has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.

Love, your son.

Several days later, he received an email from his Mother which read:

Dear Son:

I'm not saying that you 'do' sleep with your roommate, and I'm not saying that you 'do not' sleep with her. But the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her OWN bed, she would have found the silver plate by now, under her pillow.

Love, Mom.

The son could always explain that his roommate prefers the couch, don't you think?

Or don't you?

(H/T to Debbie Rosselot.)

FAMW: “I Knew You Were Tribbles (When You Dropped In)”

Call it my perpetual weakness, but however much I commend her for her success, I never get tired of poking fun at Taylor Swift. Apparently, neither does webcomic artist Josh Millard. Here's a parody of her song "I Knew You Were Trouble" that's also a handy recap of the Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles, with video featuring footage from the latter. Words, music, bad singing voice, and editing, all by Josh Millard.

Star Trek footage is used with loving optimism, and most likely without permission or shame -- a man after my own heart, for this week's Friday Afternoon Moment of Whimsy. Who could imagine that it wouldn't stop there?