Saturday, January 31, 2009

Check this out: It's a news report from 1981 about some crazy technology that lets people read a daily newspaper - on a computer! (Thanks to my friend Rob for bringing this to my attention.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sure we have a new president, but I think an even bigger change occurred this month: Mountain Dew became Mtn Dew.

Apparently this “re-branding” is part of PepsiCo’s effort to connect with younger consumers, who, with all their text messaging and whatnot, seem to have developed an aversion toward vowels. At least they could have put a period after "Mtn." (Of course, this is the same company that bottles Dr Pepper.)

While they were at it, PepsiCo also changed the logo of their flagship beverage to this:

I guess it’s supposed to look more like a smile than the old logo, but to me it just looks like somebody talking out of one side of their mouth. Or splitting their pants.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I was overwhelmed by the response to my last post: I received two e-mails suggesting other bizarre and/or nonsensical lyrics. To wit:

I got a lion in my pocket
And baby he’s ready 2 roar

--Prince, “1999”

Okay, the lion is obviously a metaphor for a penis. But, if that’s the case, why does he have a penis in his pocket in the first place? Does he have a hole in his pocket? Or is it somebody else’s penis? (Thanks to Phil.)

The only one for me is you, and you for me

--The Turtles, “Happy Together”

This is a neat bit of lyrical legerdemain. You think The Turtles are saying he’s the only one for her and she’s the only one for him. But they’re really just saying she’s the only one for him – twice. In both cases, she is “for” him. Whether this feeling is reciprocated is unrecorded. (Thanks to The Guv.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

For reasons known only to God, the song that has been resolutely stuck in my head for the past few days is "Guilty," the treacly Barbra Streisand-Barry Gibb duet that was a humungous hit in the early '80s. This song contains lyrics that strike me as unusual, if not cruel:

It oughta be illegal
Make it a crime to be lonely or sad

I understand the sentiment - that, by outlawing loneliness and sadness we might somehow eradicate those two (admittedly regrettable) human emotions. But, even if Congress enacts tough new anti-lonely-or-sad legislation (and with the Democrats in charge, who knows?), what about those few poor souls who, no matter how hard they try, are unable to stifle their loneliness and/or sadness? I mean, is incarcerating the lonely or sad really the answer? Surely it would only make them sadder - though, given prison overcrowding, it might, I must concede, cure their loneliness.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watched the inauguration with about a dozen other Americans at a friend's apartment. I thought the inaugural speech was good, but I was surprised by a glaring error in the third sentence. "Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath," the new president said. Actually, only 43 Americans have taken the oath (though there have been 44 presidents since you-know-who gets counted twice).

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm very sorry that the Eagles lost yesterday. But my disappointment was mitigated by the fact that Allyson and I spent the weekend in Venice.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I am quoted and (more importantly) my book is mentioned in an article about the Steagles in today's New York Times. Click here to read it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I have ten nieces and nephews. Today the youngest of them, Jonathan, turns 18. Happy birthday, Jonathan. And thanks for making me feel so old! ...

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles are just one win away from playing each other in the Super Bowl. How cool would that be – a Steagles Super Bowl!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama had lunch at the White House with President Bush and former Presidents Carter, Bush, and Clinton. It was an historic meeting, and it made for a very good photo op.

The event reminded me of an anecdote in my forthcoming book, Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure.

At Dwight Eisenhower’s first inaugural in 1953, a young freelance photographer named Bob Goldberg snapped a picture of Truman, Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon standing together on the dais. Eight years later, Goldberg asked Harry to sign a copy of the photograph, which the other three men had already autographed. Harry refused. “I wouldn’t sign a picture with that son-of-a-bitch Nixon in it,” he said by way of explanation. “He called me a traitor.” Then he cocked his fist as if to throw a punch. “This is what I’d like to do to him.”

(To read Bob Goldberg’s account of the story and to see the picture, click here.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Turns out my octillion-something tracking number isn’t so big after all.

A friend who works in accounting tells me he recently processed a payment with the following “reference number”:


Wow! For those keeping score at home, that’s two hundred thirteen duodecillion, twenty-two undecillion, seven hundred ninety decillion...

Can anybody top that?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

I recently ordered a pair of eyeglasses on-line (from - highly recommended; no-line bifocals for fifty bucks). Yesterday I got an e-mail telling me the glasses had been shipped via first class mail. The tracking number, I was helpfully informed, is 420201899101805213907334976534. That’s right: four hundred twenty octillion, two hundred one septillion, eight hundred ninety-nine sextillion…

I would guess that this tracking number is greater than the total number of packages all human beings have sent and ever will send - multiplied by, oh, a quadrillion. It seems to me that account numbers, tracking numbers, etc. are, too often, needlessly large and complicated. Why, for example, does our electric company account number exceed the total number of human beings who have ever lived?

In this regard, at least, the U.S. government deserves some credit. At one billion, the maximum possible number of Social Security numbers seems perfectly reasonable.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Happy New Year - except for Maria de Jesus of Portugal, whose brief reign as the World's Oldest Person has ended. Maria died today at 115. Gertrude Baines (born April 6, 1894) is the new W.O.P.

Way to go, Gertrude!