Tuesday, February 20

Happy Valentine's Day. Now Give Us Money.

I was a little perturbed to receive the above message on Valentine's Day from the Emory Association of Alumni.

I don't know what discomforted me more -- the rip-off of the MasterCard "Priceless" advertising campaign, or the awkward attempt to link Valentine's Day to a fundraising pitch -- but the overall effect was a little, well, creepy.

I can't help but think of Benjamin in "The Graduate," so unsure and so unnerved by Mrs. Robinson's advances. How would I respond to a similar situation, but one in which Anne Bancroft's role is being played by my alma mater, a leading academic and research institution?

Me: For G-d's sake, Emory University. Here we are. You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You... put on music. Now you start opening up your personal life to me and tell me your other donors won't be home for hours.

Emory University: So?

Emory University, you're trying to seduce me ... into making a donation.

Emory University laughs.

Me: Aren't you?

Emory University: David, I am not trying to seduce you into making a donation.

Me: I know that, but please, Emory University, this is difficult...

Emory University: Would you like me to seduce you into making a donation?

Me: What?

Emory University: Is that what you're trying to tell me?

Me: I'm going home now. I apologize for what I said. I hope you can forget it, but I'm going home right now. I'll send you a check later.

At this point, some sort of poignant Simon & Garfinkel song would start playing. In another scene, I will ask someone how I should pay for the money I've pledged to Emory. The response will be just one word: "Plastic."

Sunday, February 18

Today's Memo: Salton City

To: Salton City Chamber of Commerce
From: Dave
Date: Saturday, Feb. 17, 2007
Subject: Marketing

After visiting Salton City for the first time today, I have thought of a marketing tagline to help promote your community to tourists. It is:

Salton City:
Come for our pungent sewage-like scent,
Stay for our festering fish corpses

What do you think? I believe we've got another "What Happens In Vegas..." or "I (Heart) NY" campaign on our hands!

Friday, February 16

Hair Apparent

Greetings from Tampa International Airport's Airside E. Looking at some of my fellow travelers this morning, I can't help but wonder if (a) there exists a national association of people with bad comb-overs and (b) if they're holding a convention this weekend. If these things are true, it would explain the preponderance of folks here who have swept their stringy hair across their bald pates in the most unconvincing of fashions.

Wednesday, February 14

Today's Flackery: Just Read! Florida

I don't know how I ever ended up on the Florida Department of Education's media e-mail list, as I am a business reporter. Nor do I know why this particular agency decided to call its literacy program Just Read, Florida! thereby requiring reasonably educated people to look like idiots because they're forced to stick exlamation marks in the middle of sentences.

However, I do know that it's funny when words are accidentally omitted from press release headlines. Case in point:


Just Beware Hazardousness, Florida!

What The L?

I'm a big fan of the Google doodles, but today's left me somewhat puzzled:

The chocolate-covered strawberry is a nice touch for Valentine's Day, but why did Google get rid of the L? All I see is the word Googe, which sounds like it should be slang for something naughty.

I pointed out the missing L to The Talented Mr. Stanley at work today. His replied:

The stem of the strawberry forms an L. Not a good one, but one nonetheless.

I responded by accusing Doug of being a Google apologist. That wasn't really fair of me. I should have called him a Googe apologist.

Today's Memo: NASA

From: Dave
Date: Feb. 14, 2007
Subject: Admission Impossible

I just took the new NASA Astronaut Screening Test. Can I go into space now?

Tuesday, February 13

He Loves Me!

Britt had this beautiful bouquet delivered to my office today:

He loves me!

He explained in the card that he wanted me to be the first person in the newsroom to receive Valentine's Day flowers. He also remembered how late my flowers arrived last year, and he didn't want my desk to sit empty for any part of Valentine's day.

I thought Britt's day-before-Valentine's-Day surprise to be sweet and thoughtful. And it did make me feel extra special today.

I love you Britt. Happy early Valentine's Day! Here are some pictures that remind me of our adventures around the world, and our lazy days at home:

Happy Valentine's Day, Sparky.
Love, Skippy

Recycled Content: Go Bolts!

I arrived at work Monday morning to find a large pile of snow outside the News Center. This was somewhat disconcerting because my office is in Tampa, a city not prone to random snowdrifts. It turns out the snow was dumped on our doorstep by the Tampa Bay Lightning, which is trying to drum up some support as we head into the NHL playoffs.

Here's a Bolts-related post from the Daily Dave on Sunday, Sept. 28, 2003:


Complementary spouse Britt Shirley and I met Tampa Bay Lightning winger Martin St. Louis at the grand reopening of a Sunoco gas station yesterday. St. Louis is one of my favorite players, since (a) he's pretty darn good, and, (b) his name is fun to pronounce: mar-TANH san loo-EEY. St. Louis is living proof that not all French Canadian people grow up to become shrilling trilling egomaniacs.

Here are the obligatory photos:

Martin's winning smile. It's such a shame that he's straight.

Britt and Dave put the squeeze on Martin

Some favorable news on the hockey front: Online oddsmakers say the Lightning have a one-in-25 chance of winning the Stanley Cup this year. This is a marked improvement: last year, Sports Illustrated named the Lightning the worst team in the National Hockey League.

It's good to see the hometown hockey team receive a modicum of respect these days -- I suppose last season's trip to the playoffs showed Lightning detractors that we've got some talent here in Tampa. And, on a personal note, it makes me feel good when Britt has the opportunity to root for a winning team for a chance. His beloved Crimson Tide brings him nothing but defeat and heartache these days.

DAILY DAVE QUESTION OF THE DAY: What do you think is the most absurd name for a college sports team? I'll cast my vote for the Crimson Tide, since I never understood the allure of having discolored water as a school mascot. I mean, with a name like the Crimson Tide, how the heck are you supposed to taunt your rivals? (Possible cheer: "Two-four-six-nine / We'll erode your shoreline!") Click the comment link below and cast your vote for the stupidest college team name.

BY THE WAY: If there are no Daily Dave posts tomorrow, you should probably assume that I was smothered in the middle of the night. Britt, a dyed-in-the-wool University of Alabama fan, doesn't like it when I mock the Crimson Tide. He's pretending to be grading exams right now, but I know that he's secretly trying to figure out how to dispose of my body. If he starts making room in the freezer, I'll make a break for the door.

It's A Boy

Lee called me earlier today to inform me that he and Michon are expecting a boy! That's right -- I'm getting a nephew!

I've been telling people all evening that I'm going to be an uncle (as opposed to an aunt). I am not funny and I should not be encouraged.

Here's a picture of the little fella:

I have to admit that I can't discern anything in this sonogram. In fact, the elongated figure near the middle of the image looks a little bit like Snoopy to me. All it needs are floppier ears and a more pronounced nose, like this:

Perhaps this is a bad example. Both characters in this photo have big noses and ears.

Incidentally, Britt and I were the only couple to successfully guess the baby's gender. All the other couples Lee and Michon polled were divided. I based my decision on a gut feeling. Britt figured it would be a boy because male genes in the Simanoff family outnumber female genes in the Foos family: Lee is one of three brothers, while Michon is one of two sisters. I'm quite sure genetics don't actually work this way, but even though Britt's reasoning was flawed, his guess was accurate.

To my little nephew, I promise to be a loving, doting uncle. Please excuse my odd sense of humor. I can't wait to meet you.

Sunday, February 11

Recycled Content: Haiku Vs. Senryu

The following post from the original Daily Dave was published Feb. 13, 2003. You can still find the Esterbrook column outlining the difference between Haiku and Senryu here. Enjoy

So, what exactly is the difference between haiku and senryu? The way I understand it, both are Japanese poetry forms that follow the 5-7-5 syllable scheme, but haiku generally deal with nature and senryu can be about pretty much anything else. Therefore, if you're reading a poem about cherry blossom leaves, you're mostly likely looking at haiku. If the poem mentions dental floss, Derek Jeter or the Dow Jones Industrial Average, I'll bet you dollars to donuts that it's senryu.

Speaking of donuts, let me just state for the record that little powdered donuts are quite tasty. I've probably written a half dozen senryu about these torus-shaped slices of heaven at Simanoff.com. Sadly, all of these were written in the unenlightened days when I called all 5-7-5 poems haiku because I didn't know any better. I must thank Gregg Easterbrook and his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column at Slate.com for lifting me from the abyss and showing me the senryu light.

According to my former Japanese history professor, Mark Ravina, this is how you pronounce senryu:

It is actually tricky because the ryu is one syllable -- not "ree--you" but something that would rhyme with "shoe." Then the final sound "u" is lengthened. So it rhymes with "shoooo." The sen rhymes with "pen." Hope that doesn't clarify anything -- it's not like you're still paying tuition or something.

Of course, most of my linguistic crusades are short lived, and you should expect me to drop this one pretty quickly and revert back to using the word haiku so that people know what the hell I'm talking about. That's probably a good thing, since explaining the difference between haiku and senryu would take time away from my single-handed effort to keep the subjunctive mood alive in American English.

Recycled Content: The Four Questions

For no good reason, except that I'm in a such a grumbly mood that (a) I'm not afraid to make up words like "grumbly," and, (b) this old post about a newsroom caller gave me a chuckle, here are The Four Questions from September 23, 2003:

I've toured around the world / From London to the Bay. / It's "Hammer, go Hammer, MC Hammer, yo Hammer" / And the rest can go and read The Four Questions:

Q. What is Dave wearing today?
A. Dave is wearing his new gray suit, a white dress shirt, and one of his favorite ties: it's a dark blue tie with pictures of boy reporter Tintin and his faithful dog, Snowy.

Q. What kind of mood is Dave in?
A. Dave is quite relaxed right now.

Q. What are the factors affecting Dave's mood?
A. Dave's work for the day is done, he's taped everything he needed to tape for WFLA NewsChannel 8, and the weekend officially begins in just a few hours.

Q. Has Dave received any funny phone calls today?
A. A cantankerous old man called Dave a little while ago to complain about the H.L. Culbreath obituary that ran in today's paper (link no longer active). The caller was upset because several people in the article claimed Culbreath made Tampa a better place to live. The caller said that this wasn't true, because when he moved to the area in the 1950s, no one had AIDS, people couldn't get lap dances on Dale Mabry Boulevard, and people dressed better for a night on the town in Ybor City. Dave said to the caller: "Surely, you're not saying that H.L. Culbreath, the former head of TECO Energy, is responsible for the AIDS epidemic, lap dances and what kids wear in Ybor?" The man said that yes, people like Culbreath have made this a terrible place to live. Dave pointed out Culbreath's efforts to bring new jobs and a world-class performing arts center to Tampa. The caller said those improvements were only for rich people, and then he said Culbreath's housing developments forced people out of their houses. When Dave pointed out that Culbreath never developed a square inch of land -- it was Culbreath's father that built Culbreath Isles -- the caller said it didn't make a difference, and that we should have written about what the father did anyway. At this point, Dave invited the caller to write a letter to the editor (and he wasn't surprised when the caller said that he wrote letters all the time but they weren't printed) and politely but forcefully terminated the conversation.


Insomnia's great --
I'm watching Monty Python!
WIsh I were sleeping.

A Mother's Modest Proposal

My mother called yesterday to recommend Britt and I announce publicly that one of us is the father of Anna Nicole Smith's baby.

1. We'd be able to obtain a child without engaging the not-always-gay-friendly adoption bureaucracy.
2. We'd be in line for a substantial amount of money.
3. We'd get lots of teevee exposure.

1. At first, the shame and embarrassment of being linked romantically to Anna Nicole Smith.
2. Later, after our claims are disproved easily, the shame and embarrassment of having lied to the general public.
3. Frequent exposure on E! Entertainment Television.
4. Worst case scenario -- my mother's scheme works, and I Britt and I must try to raise a baby that has inherited many of Anna Nicole Smith's genes and DNA. Five years from now, Britt and I are called into the principal's office because our first-grader was discovered trying cozy up to a fifth-grader with a lot of milk money.

Meet The Neice And Nephew

I'll have to wait 'til Monday to find out if I'm getting a human niece or nephew. To tide me over, Lee sends the following video clip of Jackson and Alli -- the non-human nephew and niece.

Friday, February 9

Today's Haiku: Anna Nicole Smith

Inspired by recent events:

Anna, remembered:
Hardly an astronaut, but
A real space cadet.

Wednesday, February 7

'Cuz I Speak Of The Pompatus Of Love

The recent homicidal astronaut news reminds me of certain Steve Miller song:

Some people call me the space cowboy,
Some call me the gangster of love.


Today's Haiku: Lisa Nowak

Ripped from the headlines:

Adult diapers -- for
Homicidal astronauts
Without time to pee!

Sunday, February 4

LiveBlogging The Super Bowl

5:55 p.m.: Hundreds of acrobats and dancers attempt to entertain me in the Carnivale-meets-Cirque du Soleil pre-pre-game show. They fail.

5:57 p.m.: Combos ad ends with the tagline “What your mom would feed you if your mom were a man.” My joy at seeing the subjunctive tense mood used correctly is outweighed by my disgust at seeing someone who looks like Horatio Sanz showing his maternal side. I vow never to buy Combos again. (Thanks to Miss Cherizon, my favorite grammarian, for pointing out that the reminding me that subjunctive is a mood, not a tense.)

6 p.m.: Post-pre-pre-game show begins. Wait, is this the pre-game show? Schmaltz levels are off the chart.

6:03 p.m.: What I am watching is officially the “Built Ford Tough Kickoff Show.” So now advertising slogans, not just companies or products, can sponsor shows?

6:05 p.m.: Phil Simms makes first of what will probably be very, very, very many references to the fact that both coaches are African-American. I pray we don’t have a Joe Biden moment tonight.

6:06 p.m.: Phil Simms predicts weather “will not be a factor.”

6:10 p.m.: Britt, upon hearing The Who’s “Won’t Be Fooled Again” being played as the Colts run onto the field: “What? Wha? What does that song have to do with anything!?”

6:13 p.m.: Either Brian Urlacher is mute, or we’re experiencing our first technical snag.

6:15 p.m.: David Beckham makes appearance in, of all things, NFL Network ad.

6:16 p.m.: Moment of silence for victims of Central Florida tornadoes. A nice touch.

6:17 p.m.: Billy Joel is introduced. Britt wonders why “and terrible driver” wasn’t added to Joel’s introduction.

6:18 p.m.: Tony Dungy appears to be sneering during the national anthem.

6:22 p.m.: Music from “Requiem for a Dream,” Darren Aronofsky’s devastating film about drug addiction and destroyed lives, is used by CBS in lead-in from commercial back to pre-game show.

6:24 p.m.: Chicago wins coin toss.

6:25 p.m.: Ford ad features spokesman who looks and sounds vaguely like Peyton Manning. I figure Ford tried to hire Manning, but he was busy filming, like, 300 other ads at the time.

6:26 p.m.: And we’re off!

6:27 p.m.: Devin Hester returns kick-off for a touchdown. Britt points out that Ohio State began its game against the University of Florida the exact same way -- and that didn’t work out too well for the Buckeyes, did it?

6:29 p.m.: Hester, on the sideline, takes off his helmet. What’s with his little pigtails?

6:30 p.m.: CBS’s player introductions feature a lot of twirling.

6:32 p.m.: Penalty flags make their debut at this year’s Super Bowl.

6:33 p.m.: Camera zooms in on Peyton Manning. I don’t recognize him at first because he’s not hawking anything.

6:34 p.m.: Manning pass is picked off by Chris Harrison.

6:35 p.m.: First ad, for Bud Light, is a blatant rip-off of last year’s great Sprint “Theft Deterrent” ad. Other ads aren’t particularly memorable, although the Blockbuster Video ad is sure to anger the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animated Animals.

6:36 p.m.: Katie Couric promotes CBS News. Britt says, “We’re getting desperate now, Katie, aren’t we?” to no one in particular.

6:37 p.m.: More twirling player introductions.

6:38 p.m.: Two Sierra Mist spots run in the same advertising block. They are much more amusing than the SalesGenie.com ad sandwiched between them.

6:41 p.m.: The rain is really coming down. So the weather won’t be a factor, eh, Simms?

6:43 p.m.: Indianapolis makes its first first down.

6:47 p.m.: Indy touchdown, courtesy of Reggie Wayne. Indianapolis flubs the point after, though. Score is now Colts 6-Bears 7.

6:49 p.m.: FedEx spot contains inaccurate special effects (there is gravity on the moon -- just not as much as on Earth) and “The Final Countdown.” I am not impressed.

6:50 p.m.: Fumble! Indianapolis gets the ball from Chicago.

6:51 p.m.: Fumble again! Chicago gets the ball back. I’m sure the slick ball and wet field has nothing to do with these last two plays because Simms said weather wouldn’t be a factor.

6:54 p.m.: Chicago scores again. Score is Colts 6-Bears 14.

6:55 p.m.: We are treated to our first vaguely homophobic ad of the evening. Thanks, Snickers! After that, preview for film called “Pride” looks like a serious drama -- but, wait, is that Tom Arnold?

6:59 p.m.: All-singing Chevrolet ad is OK, but doesn’t make up for having to watch all those John Mellencamp spots over the last few months. Bud Light ad that follows, featuring Carlos Mencia, is somewhat amusing. The best part of this advertising block, however, is the Late Show promo with Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman -- snappy, funny, just right!

7:04 p.m.: Bears fumble and Colts recover. Wheee!

7:05 p.m.: Peyton misses his target, and Nantz says “a Bear got a paw on it.” He’s so clever.

7:07 p.m.: Flags again.

7:09 p.m.: Two Bears down on the field. Tait gets up, Benson (who ran into Tait) gets a on-field visit from the team doctor and walks off the field two minutes later. It looks like he’ll be OK.

7:13 p.m.: Britt and I discuss the Donatella Versace skit on Saturday Night Live last night. In the skit, Prince (played by Fred Armisen) appears briefly and disappears as soon as Versace (Maya Rudolph) asks him why he’s not at the Super Bowl. I wonder if Fred Armison will be involved somehow in the halftime show.

7:15 p.m.: GoDaddy.com ad features buxom women in tight t-shirts. Coca-Cola ad, which spoofs Grand Theft Auto, is one I’ve seen in movie theaters before. I still don’t know what “The Coke Side of Life” is supposed to mean, though. Is it like the cool side of the pillow? The dark side of the moon? Is it a reference to Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life?”

7:17 p.m.: Second quarter begins. Nantz explains how historic the first quarter has been.

7:19 p.m.: Phil Simms makes reference about Peyton Manning’s “gyrations.”

7:20 p.m.: The Colts make a field goal. The score is now Colts 9-Chicago 14.

7:23 p.m.: Budweiser ad crams cute dogs, parade and Frank Sinatra song into a schmaltzfest. Cheesy spot for Garvin navigation system makes cheesy references to Godzilla movies.

7:25 p.m.: Putting down computer now so I can eat dinner. Mmmm, chili!

7:46 p.m.: I’m back. The chili was tasty. Here’s what happened while I was eating: (a) a Chevy HHR ad featured half-naked men washing cars and I wonder who the ad team is trying to target; (b) the rain becomes so bad that it looks like Vaseline has been smeared on the camera lenses; (c) the Colts score a touchdown and the point after, bringing the score to Colts 16-Bears 14; (d) I see a Budweiser ad that I hope does not start a face-slapping trend; and, (e) an ad, ostensibly for some kind of heart medication, shows a man in a heart costume being attacked by thugs.

7:50 p.m.: More fumbles all around as the second quarter winds down.

7:53 p.m.: Unless I’m mistaken, I’ve just watched an advertisement that relates the struggle for racial equality in the United States to Lay’s potato chips.

7:55 p.m.: Another “Coke Side of Life” commercial.

7:57 p.m.: Adam Vinatieri misses! He’s now 12-13 in the postseason. The first half is now over, which means we’ll now be subjected to the Prince halftime show.

8:01 p.m.: “Blockbuster Total Access Halftime Show” begins. I believe this is an ideal time to take a bathroom break.

8:06 p.m.: The Pepsi Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show begins ... with Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Prince is wearing a powder blue suit and some kind of babushka on his head. He begins the set with “Let’s Go Crazy.” Fred Armisen is nowhere to be seen.

8:09 p.m.: One of Prince’s dancers is wearing some kind of crazy white hat that reminds me of planetary rings.

8:10 p.m.: Marching band accompanies Prince for second song, a mix-up of “Baby I’m a Star” and “Proud Mary.” Great!

8:12 p.m.: Prince rocks out on his third song, “The Best of You.” Isn’t this a Foo Fighters song?

8:15 p.m.: Prince sings “Purple Rain” in the rain.

8:16 p.m.: CBS cuts away from silhouette of Prince playing his guitar when it begins to look like Prince playing with himself.

8:23 p.m.: I can’t tell if a local ad for Jobing.com wasn’t cued up properly, or if it was supposed to look like a mistake to catch viewers’ attentions.

8:26 p.m.: Third quarter begins.

8:29 p.m.: Nantz relates story about Nathan Vasher’s unrequited love for Oprah Winfrey. I hope Steadman is not listening.

8:34 p.m.: It’s pouring, despite the earlier prognostication of Phil Simms.

8:36 p.m.: The camera catches Peyton Manning shouting something. I’m not a lip-reader, but I think Manning is using some very bad words.

8:38 p.m.: Jim Nantz makes a joke about hearing “‘Purple Rain’ in a driving rain.” He must be reading my blog.

8:40 p.m.: A field goal for Indianapolis brings the score to Colts 19-Bears 14.

8:41 p.m.: E-trade ad shows bank employees robbing their customers. It’s followed by a whimsical animated Coke ad, which shows what really happens inside a vending machine, and which I’ve already seen several times in movie theaters. I still don’t know what the “Coke Side of Life” is.

8:43 p.m.: What I’ve learned during the most recent advertising block: Gorillas can talk and they want Bud Light, and Sheryl Crow can sing and she wants Revlon hair coloring products.

8:49 p.m.: Taco Bell, which apparently did not learn its lesson when a talking chihuahua failed to boost sales, has just introduced an ad with talking lions. Nothing says fast food like carnivorous predatory felines.

8:52 p.m.: It looks like the Colts are on the precipice of scoring again.

8:53 p.m.: I stifle my first yawn of the evening.

8:54 p.m.: Phil Simms talks about the “umbrella defense.” Quite appropriate, considering the weather.

8:55 p.m.: Colts kick a field goal, bringing the score to Colts 22-Bears 14.

8:56 p.m.: What is Robert Goulet doing in an ad for nuts? Actually, this is pretty funny.

8:59 p.m.: The much-discussed Kevin Federline spot finally airs, followed by a somewhat funny Bud Light ad with an axe-wielding hitchhiker. Fast food employees around the country are incensed about how they have been portrayed. So are homicidal maniacs.

9:04 p.m.: The Bears score a field goal. It’s now Colts 22-Bears 17.

9:07 p.m.: Jim Nantz talks about Tank Johnson’s criminal record. I’m sure mama and papa Johnson are so proud.

9:09 p.m.: It’s challenge time!

9:13 p.m.: Walter the Amazing Bud Light Attack Squirrel makes his debut.

9:14 p.m.: The fourth quarter begins.

9:15 p.m.: Now Budweiser introduces us to bunch of crabs who mistake an ice chest for their leader. How original! We haven’t seen this before, either with the little green martians in “Toy Story” and the sloth tribe in “Ice Age 2.”

9:18 p.m.: I am starting to feel tired.

9:22 p.m.: The Colts intercept the ball and run it back for a touchdown. The play is being challenged by the Bears.

9:25 p.m.: The challenge is denied. With the extra point, the score is now Colts 29-Bears 17.

9:28 p.m.: A Budweiser spot with Jay-Z and Don Shula appears to have been inspired by the weird holographic video game from “Never Say Never Again.”

9:31 p.m.: Another Colts interception!

9:34 p.m.: I think I just saw a Bears player pat a referee’s butt. Is that allowed?

9:35 p.m.: “Common side effects of Flomax are runny nose, dizziness and decrease in semen.” Um, OK. Thanks for sharing.

9:39 p.m.: Why must I watch an ad for “Hannibal Rising” while I’m trying to eat?

9:47 p.m.: It’s kind of hard to maintain interest in the game. Even though there are three-and-a-half minutes left, the game is all but over and the Colts have all but won.

9:53 p.m.: Britt asks, “Why is this game still going on?” Jim Nantz and Phil Simms fill time by talking about Dungy’s history with the Bucs.

9:57 p.m.: Tony Dungy gets doused. As if he weren’t already wet enough.

9:58 p.m.: It’s official. It’s over. The Colts have won. I'm going to bed.

What I'm Listening To: Lily Allen

I made my father bring back a copy of Lily Allen's CD, "Alright, Still," when he returned from London last month. How was I to know that the album, unreleased in the United States at the time, would be made available here a week after my dad got home?

What's worse -- the U.S. version of the CD has bonus songs that aren't on the U.K. version my dad schlepped home.

Sorry dad.

Anyway, I was hooked the first time I heard Allen on Sirius Radio a few weeks ago. She comes across like a younger, foul-mouthed Kirsty MacColl: she sings from the perspective of an empowered and cynical, yet vulnerable and sometimes vindictive, woman, and she uses ska beats as deftly on "Alright, Still" as MacColl used Caribbean sounds on her last album, "Tropical Brainstorm."

I found Allen's latest video on YouTube this morning. Clever stuff, even if it looks like she's using a rejected doll from the "Chucky" movies:

Saturday, February 3

Goodbye, Watson

Watson Toonces Simanoff, the feline-American writer known for his insightful observations, playful demeanor and world-class biting ability, passed away Saturday afternoon at a medical facility near his home in Huntsville, Ala. He was 16 years old.

Watson was diagnosed with feline lymphoma early last year, and he responded well to treatment for several months. His condition began to worsen about three weeks ago: at that time, family members realized it was becoming increasingly difficult for Watson to eat, breathe, walk and sleep. By the end of the month, it had become obvious that Watson’s quality of life was deteriorating rapidly, and the family struggled painfully before reaching the heartbreaking yet unavoidable decision to end Watson’s life.

Lymphoma was not Watson's first major health issue. He once swallowed a sewing needle, which, he later said, did not taste like chicken. Watson was rushed to the emergency room, where the following x-ray image was taken:

From humble beginnings, Watson grew in both size and reputation, eventually earning the title of America's Favorite Housecat. He joined the Simanoff family in 1990: a tiny ball of black-and-white fur, thrust into the chaotic household of busy adults, hyperactive dogs and noisy teenagers. He was named for Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes' companion.

Watson was animated and playful. He was also an accomplished biter.

Family moves took Watson from Coral Springs to Jacksonville, then to Orlando. After several years there, Watson left Florida and became a resident of Huntsville, Ala. In the Rocket City, he began to explore the growing world of web logs, or blogs. First he began posting comments on his brother’s blog, The Daily Dave. Then he launched his own blog.

As Watson’s presence grew online, so did his fame. In September 2003, he granted an exclusive interview to Mr. Doodle’s Dog, the world-renowned dog blog hosted by fox terrier journalists Nigel and Gimlet.

The interview can still be found online here.

Here’s an excerpt:

NIGEL AND GIMLET: Finally, Robert Frost wrote that the "fog comes on little cat feet" ... how do you arrive?

WATSON: I believe that was written by Carl Sandburg.

NIGEL: What? Really? So much for our research department, Gimlet.

GIMLET: Hey, I'm only familiar with Edward Lear.

WATSON: Well ... I would describe my walk as regal and manly. Whenever I don't quite make the jump I had planned I look around to see if anyone saw me. If they did, then I act like I wasn't planning to jump up.

JOE THE CAT: That's the way to do it ...

In 2006, as his parents prepared for a temporary assignment in the UK, Watson returned to Florida to live with David and Britt, his brother and partner, in Tampa. It was there that Watson discovered a new skill: grading. Watson would often help Britt, a university professor, read and evaluate the papers and tests submitted by students.

Watson was diagnosed with lymphoma about two months after he arrived in Tampa. He began his kitty chemo therapy at Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa.

He continued treatment in Huntsville after he returned home there in October.

Watson will be remembered as a very special cat that touched the lives of many people, and that bit the hands of many people. He was a pet, a friend, a member of the family. He inspired those around him to laugh, to create, to write and to share.

Watson is survived by parents Ann and Don; brother and partner, David and Britt; and brother and sister-in-law, Lee and Michon. Funeral arrangements have not been set. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Watson’s name to the Humane Society of the United States.

Thursday, February 1

Photo Dump: Mary The Trekker; A Trip To The Zoo

Lieutenant Geordi LaShedden
Lieutenant Geordi LaShedden,
chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise

No one puts Rango in a corner
At Lowry Park Zoo,
Rango looks mighty pensive

Rango and another orangutan
Rango gets a friend --
It's an orangutan fiesta!

Dirty dancing
Tamani's aunt prepares for the sun
with a little dirty dancing

Tamani and his aunt get dirty
Tamani joins in the fun

Daal y Llama
Daal y llama

Farewell, Molly

One of my favorite political columnists, Molly Ivins, has passed away.

"There are two kinds of humor," she once wrote.

"One kind that makes us chuckle about our foibles and our shared humanity -- like what Garrison Keillor does. The other kind holds people up to public contempt and ridicule -- that's what I do," she wrote. "Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful. I only aim at the powerful. When satire is aimed at the powerless, it is not only cruel -- it's vulgar."

How sad it is to have one less voice raising a ruckus in America.