John Oliver on duck stamps

September 27, 2021 • 1:30 pm

Here’s John Oliver this week on Federal Duck Stamps, an American tradition and a requirement for duck hunters (oy!) Oliver seems to be under the impression that all ducks have long corkscrew willies, but he’s wrong. But this is pretty funny, though, describing mutual animosity between duck artists and even submitting his own designs (there’s an annual contest for the stamp’s design, with the latest one required to be in the possession of all duck hunters).

 

Oliver is actually auctioning off his four designs for duck stamps, and you can see the designs and make your bid here.  First watch the video, then make your bid! (Click screenshot below to enlarge.) One of them is already up to $20,000!

 

By the way, the Post Office has also issued regular postcards this year (with the “forever” stamp that doesn’t go up in price), and they feature a beautiful mallard drake. But where’s the hen?  A kind reader sent me a fistful of these:

 

h/t:  Steve, Paul

Lovely BBC video of meerkats standing on videographers

September 12, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are a type of social mongoose that lives at the very southern part of Africa. We all know them and love them because they’re cute and they stand on their rear legs when surveying their surroundings for danger.  The BBC’s Planet Earth has filmed them so extensively that they’ve become inured to the presence of humans, and even stand on photographers’ bodies and heads.

Here’s an adorable and short BBC video showing this behavior. Look for a quip about the size of the director’s buttocks!

Finalists: 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

September 3, 2021 • 2:15 pm

I love wildlife photography contests, but am always surprised that the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards is among the best of them. I’m not sure why, as animals aren’t usually doing funny stuff, but it may be a combination of humorous photographers and discerning judges.

At any rate, the finalists for the 2021 Awards have been announced, and you can see them online here, along with previous years’ winners as well. There are a LOT of good entries, and I’ll show you just a few of my favorites among the finalists. This seems an appropriate way to start the three-day weekend (Labor Day). Thanks to the several readers who sent me these links.

. . . and my favorite.  WHO’S a bad otter?

Sarah Silverman hosts Jimmy Kimmel’s show, disses podcasting

August 19, 2021 • 12:45 pm

Reader Enrico told me that Sarah Silverman hosted Jimmy Kimmel’s show twice this week (they used to be a couple).  Even though I’m no longer as smitten with Sarah after I discovered that she endorses BDS, I still had to watch the four clips on YouTube. Here’s one of them.

The one below was fairly good, though I thought the segment with Louis Virtel was pretty weak and not funny at all. But I greatly enjoyed “the greatest plague facing our nation,” which turns out to be PODCASTING. It begins at 8:20. (Siverman does, by the way, have her own podcast!)

It does seem that everyone who used to write prose (with the exceptions of Dawkins and Pinker) has turned to podcasting, and, as you know, I can’t listen to them. They go on for hours, and yes, I know that some of them are absorbing. But the turn to podcasting has to reflect things like people’s increasing need to multitask rather than read (which you can’t do while cooking), itself perhaps a result of Internet-lowered attention span, and maybe to the fact that it’s simply easier to do a podcast, especially if it involves a conversation, than to write something substantive.

Sarah’s right: everybody’s getting into the game. Bari Weiss, for example, seems to have abandoned writing on her Substack site and gone to podcasting. The pieces on her site are all written by others. The result: I don’t get the chance to read her, and I don’t listen to her.  And if lots of good writers transition to podcasting, well, the quality of writing will go down.

But I still love Sarah—all Jewish boys do.

The other three videos of Sarah hosting for Kimmel are here, here, and here.

Phone booth prank

March 24, 2021 • 2:00 pm

This is a new version of the old Candid Camera pranks, but better. It involves a Universal Studios phone booth offering free pictures, along with a live human masquerading as a robot voice. To me, at least, this is hilarious.

The “please use less tongue” command at 1:55 made me laugh out loud, which I rarely do. Same with the B&D bit at 9:30!

Do watch the whole thing. Whoever the woman is who makes up these spontaneous bits, she’s very clever.

h/t: Nicole

A Seussian poem by Bret Weinstein

March 13, 2021 • 1:30 pm

By now you know that Dr. Seuss Enterprises has discontinued printing six of his books because they contain “offensive images.” I agree that two of those books are, as they say, “problematic,” but am not quite sure about the other three.  It’s their call, of course, because it’s their books. But I hope that libraries don’t dump them. (Knowing librarians’ widespread defense of the First Amendment staunch opposition to censorship, I think they’ll be kept behind the counter.)

Now comes Dr. Bret Weinstein with a poem about the whole kerfuffle. And it’s a pretty good one, too: written in Seussian style with (generally) proper scanning and rhymes:

h/t: Lynne

The Unhappy Meal

March 9, 2021 • 8:45 am

Here is an idea, which is mine.  I may have mentioned it before.  Since 1979, McDonald’s has sold what they call “happy meals“, which are supposed to cheer up kids. They consist of a main item, like a hamburger or chicken nuggets, a side item, like apple slices or fries (“chips” to you Brits), and a drink, which can be milk or juice. There is also a toy on the side, often connected with some promotion like a movie. (See the latest menu here.)

But not all kids are well behaved! At times when your child is acting up or difficult to handle, you might take them to McDonald’s for what I call “The Unhappy Meal”, designed to disappoint the child rather than cheer him up.  These don’t exist, of course, but it gives me the opportunity to think of what would be the McDonald’s meal that would most put off a tyke.

Here’s one suggestion:

Main course: The McLiver Sandwich®: Fried liver and onions on a bun with Secret Sauce

Side course:  Brussels Sprouts with garlic dipping sauce

Drink: Fresh kale juice

The toy: A folded-up Saturday New York Times crossword puzzle with a miniature pencil

You are welcome to suggest others.

The McLiver sandwich

More about Dr. Seuss, but with humor

March 5, 2021 • 1:15 pm

By now you’ll know that Dr. Seuss Enterprises has decided not to continue printing six of his books on the grounds of racist imagery. Having seen the images, I do think they’re offensive, and so I don’t mind if those who have custody of his legacy stop printing these books. Here are two of the images, and I have to say that while they may have been mainstream at one time, they don’t belong in children’s books any more:

 

 

 

That said, I certainly don’t think they should be removed from libraries!

Here are the six no longer printed:

  • “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”
  • “If I Ran the Zoo”
  • “McElligot’s Pool”
  • “On Beyond Zebra!”
  • “Scrambled Eggs Super!”
  • “The Cat’s Quizzer”
In response, and according to the Streisand Effect, all of the canceled books have sold out at Amazon and other booksellers, but his other books are doing great business, with 9 of the top 10 books on the Amazon’s bestseller list being Dr. Seuss books. As CNN Business reports, “While Dr. Seuss Enterprises has not announced the discontinuation of any other books, fans and collectors seem to be stocking up just in case.”

As many know, Seuss was also an antiracist later in his life, and one of his books, The Sneetches and Other Storieswas explicitly aimed at showing people that superficial differences in appearance were meaningless. In this case, the Sneetches were birdlike creatures, some of whom had green stars on their bellies. This led to “othering” and a huge fracas. As Wikipedia notes, “‘The Sneetches’ was intended by Seuss as a satire of discrimination between races and cultures, and was specifically inspired by his opposition to antisemitism.” (I presume the green stars were analogues of the yellow Stars of David worn by Jews during WWII.)

But not so fast. Thanks to my colleague Brian Leiter, who somehow found this piece and highlighted it on his website, saying “This is amusing. The anti-Irish racism is indisputable!” Yes, someone has found a way to make The Sneetches not only racist, but anti-Irish as well. Click on the screenshot to read a short and funny parody of Cancel Culture.

 

Here’s a small excerpt of the anti-Sneetch screed. First you’ll have to learn a bit about Monkey McBean; here’s the Wikipedia excerpt of McBean’s behavior in The Sneetches:

An entrepreneur named Sylvester McMonkey McBean (calling himself the Fix-It-Up Chappie) appears and offers the Sneetches without stars the chance to get them with his Star-On machine, for three dollars. The treatment is instantly popular, but this upsets the original star-bellied Sneetches, as they are in danger of losing their special status. McBean then tells them about his Star-Off machine, costing ten dollars, and the Sneetches who originally had stars happily pay the money to have them removed in order to remain special. However, McBean does not share the prejudices of the Sneetches and allows the recently starred Sneetches through this machine as well. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next…

Finally, just an excerpt from the post above:

Further, The Sneetches is clearly a swipe at people like [Robin] DiAngelo. After all, DiAngelo, like McMonkey McBean, makes lots of money by offering partial but incomplete solutions to people’s racism. By portraying McMonkey McBean as an absurdly opportunistic sociopath, Seuss is in effect describing DiAngelo as an absurdly opportunistic sociopath. But that’s not fair. After all, DiAngelo strongly encourages us to continue to categorize people by race, while McMonkey McBean’s actions eliminate the possibility of racism by destroying people’s capacity to think in terms of race. There’s nothing more racist than that!

Finally, notice that McMonkey McBean has an Irish-sounding name. As a non-white, Irish person, I’ve notice that Seuss frequently uses the “Mc” prefix in his cartoon names when he wants to make a character seem silly or ridiculous. This reveals Seuss’s own anti-Irish racism–a form of racism which continues to pervade universities to this day, and from which even the high priest of anti-racism DiAngelo suffers. (DiAngelo regards Irish people as white, which means she endorses and perpetuates British imperialism and erasure of Irish identity. It is thus morally imperative that she be cancelled, and if you buy her new book, you are a racist.)  Could you imagine if Seuss used, say, Swahili-sounding names like this in the effort to make someone seem silly or ridiculous? But of course in the United States, a remnant of the British empire, anti-Irish racism is not only permitted, but routinely condoned.

Cancel Dr. Seuss. A world in which no one pays attention to whether sneetches have stars or none upon thars is nothing to celebrate. To dream of a world in which all people sing together “free at last” is a KKK fantasy.

Almost sounds like Titania McGrath, doesn’t it?

New Zealand tourist campaign against social media

January 28, 2021 • 2:00 pm

Count on the Kiwis: they don’t take themselves—or anybody else—too seriously. In this case, they’re mocking tourists who visit New Zealand and spend much of their time taking shots for Instagram and other “socials”. This campaign, mounted by New Zealand’s tourist agency, excoriates those who miss the scenery so they can show themselves in it (and I share that scorn).  As the Guardian reports:

New Zealand’s tourism agency is seeking to edge out influencer-style photoshoots at tourism hotspots with a tongue-in-cheek campaign against “travelling under the social influence”.

In a video, the comedian Tom Sainsbury stars as a lone ranger in the “social observation squad”, chiding tourists for perpetuating tropes such as a hat-wearing woman in lavender field, a man quietly contemplating on a rock, and “a classic one in these parts: the summit spreadeagle”.

Here’s the main ad: “Travelling under the social influence”:

The call by Tourism NZ to skip the cliche social media shots and “share something new” follows the launch in May 2020 of its Do Something New campaign to boost domestic tourism while borders remained closed to international visitors.

Travellers were encouraged to share their creative travel shots with #DoSomethingNewNZ to go into win a $500 domestic travel voucher.

“We noticed that the same pictures or poses kept coming up, time and time again, no matter the location,” Bjoern Spreitzer, Tourism NZ domestic manager, was quoted as saying by Stuff. “There are so many incredible things to do in New Zealand, beyond the social trends.”

Two short supplemental ads: “Man on a rock:

Instagram has driven the popularity of a few scenic spots in New Zealand, including the tree in Lake Wānaka and the day hike to Roys Peak nearby.

In 2018 a photograph of the “social media queue” on the track went viral for showing the behind-the-scenes of the “summit spreadeagle” shot.

. . . and “Run me over risk” shot. I have to admit that I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the middle of roads taking pictures like the two at the bottom. But I didn’t intend to be in the shots! Besides, there’s hardly any traffic out of the cities.

Two of my “middle of the road shots”: Kea and Kiwi (crossing)

And yes, a lavender field, not fully in bloom (it’s owned by a member of Heather Hastie’s family). But no fedora!

I can’t believe it’s been nearly four years since I visited! I want to go back very badly.

Jacinda: I’m vaccinated now. Will you let me in?

h/t: Jez