discarded lies: friday, september 22, 2017 12:56 pm zst
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ev and zorkie
Haven
After a year of hard work, we’re pretty chuffed to announce the release of zorkie’s best point-and-click adventure game yet: Haven. Due to incurable, multi-drug-resistant optimism, this game has been due for release “next month” for each of the last 10 months. Finally, it’s here! Yay!

You wake up in a hospital room. The staff is dead, a few patients are missing, and you’re not feeling so good yourself. Based on psychiatric practices and the treatment of the mentally ill in the (not so distant) past, Haven is actually composed of two games: Haven: The Hospital and Haven: The Old Asylum. The Old Asylum costs $10 because zorkie’s Mama’s fridge is running and she needs a new one, but The Hospital is free.

Are you alone? Can you get out? Will you solve the mystery of Haven? In order to reach your goal you’ll have to solve puzzles, confer with ghosts, unlock secrets, avenge past deeds, conquer evil, and restore faith in humanity. You have in your possession a pillowcase, a notebook, and a jack-in-the-box, you well-prepared person, you.

What are you waiting for? Play Haven! Click on everything and read every word. If you need help, post a request here. If you're helping someone, please use the handy invisotext function so as not to spoil any puzzles for other people! Click the cardboard box at the bottom left of the screen to see your inventory (the pillowcase), your notebook, and your save game button (that's the jack-in-the-box). You don't need to manually save your game because we do it for you regularly, but if it makes you feel better you can go right ahead.
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zorkmidden
Feed Me, Seymour!
After having been locked in an asylum for several months, it's very refreshing to suddenly be transported to an alternate reality and assume the character of a carnivorous plant named Audrey. It's enjoyable being a carnivorous plant named Audrey; I spent my time chomping on the small pleasures in life like blood, and butterflies, and organic green smoothies that come in a cube. Life was good and I was content until I ate that damn bomb. Who would feed a bomb to a poor plant, you ask? A human, that's who!

Comrades, sane and insane, old and young, feeble and strong, go play Feed Me, Seymour and give a cheers to Sean Gleeson for another fun game!

I made it to Round 3 with a score of 387. And then I ate the bomb.
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evariste
Haven: The Trailer
Are You Otherwise Different Enough?
So a year has rolled around since the last time zorkie had a new game for you, and it's almost time for a new one...in fact, she's spent the past year creating two new games, not just one! They're the best Ferkakta games yet. So cover the dog's eyes, put the cat outside, and settle down with a nice cup of your favorite beverage to get a taste of what's coming and put yourself in that plucky gamer mood by watching Haven: The Trailer. Remember: it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you! And you can rest assured that they are.

PS-make sure your volume is turned up. You don't want to miss the music! Or do you....no, I don't think you do.
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guest author: levi from queens
When Death Is A Good Career Move
First some good news, my eldest just proposed to his girlfriend of ten years; and she accepted. She is currently acting as a singer who dies from excess. The son’s fiancée is tough as nails and in no danger from excess, but she does the part exquisitely. This GA post is just a riff off of her play.

Heath Ledger is currently being widely listed for a posthumous Oscar, even though he did the part of the Joker only second best. Death was a most excellent career move for Heath. Otis’ career took off when he died. So did Tupac’s. As did Jim Croce’s . Janis and Jimmi and Jim Morrison and Hank and Elvis just continued their previously earned fame Sam , gunned down by the companion of a two-bit whore, more or less dropped into obscurity except for other musicians (and me). While I have linked to what I feel to be his best (although light) song – let me also give you Sam on politics and passion (sung by Solomon Burke).

“Nothing can be sadder than a glass of wine alone.” may be the most profound line ever penned.

Death and a most spectacular send-off did nothing immediately for Gram .

For an accreting career move, it is important that you die young – nobody pays attention when an eighty year old dies.

OFF FROM MUSIC AND ON TO LIT:

Several generations of young men have proved that if they could not write like Fitzgerald, they could at least drink like him. F.Scott died in his early forties with an embarrassingly small set of work, but some absolute gems.

Suicide may cause problems with fame.

Hemingway wrote with superb literary craft; but when he blew his brains out, his reputation suffered irreparably. Of course the message of his oeuvre was that one should bear the burdens of life. “If you are big enough and strong enough and good enough, they will get you sooner, but they will always get you in the end.” He should have waited for Them.

OTOH, John Kennedy O’Toole committed suicide in obscurity leaving hundreds of type-written pages strewn about his quarters. His mother gathered those pages up in her arms and took them to the world’s publishers and got her son’s Rabelaisian rollicking work, “A Confederacy of Dunces”published. May God bless her – both for her devotion and her accomplishment.

In 1948, Ross Lockridge wrote, by both the accounts of the day and the only person whom I have ever met who actually read the book, a pretty good novel, Raintree County . He then committed suicide in an effort to goose his fame and book-sales. This effort failed, and my guess is that zero bloggieites have ever heard of him.

I think we may conclude that actual suicide forms a poor career move, but suicide by drugs or alcohol over a period may not be so bad for literary or musical sorts.

POLITICIANS:

St. Abe Lincoln, a superb physical specimen though quite-drawn when he was assassinated had only middling popularity. While I believe that his life and career shone brilliantly, that view held well less than a majority at his death – and many hated him. As his casket slowly rolled around the nation and stunk more and more at each town as he decayed, his fame became firmly cemented. Go to Washington and sit at the feet of the Daniel Chester French sculpture of St. Abe – then read his Second Inaugural and his Gettysburg Address and wipe back the tears from your eyes.

Death was definitely a great career move for St. Abe. The South feels with his “let em up easy” speech that Reconstruction would have harrowed less. Blacks and we children of the GAR are equally certain that he would have done whatever was necessary to quell the violence of the Klan. Perhaps we are both right or wrong -- but as Stanton said – Now he belongs to the Ages.

Death was also a great career move for JFK. Possessed of physical courage and decent intellect, he had exciting times in the White House. While I find his accomplishments there mixed, the American people remain enamored of JFK. If he had lived, he might not have been reelected. (The LIFE magazine cover of December 1963 had a story about how Kennedy could be beaten in 64 – with a tasteful sticker over it placed subsequent to his assassination). MLK fared similarly to Kennedy.

WH Harrison was far too old for death to do much for his career. Garfield got nothing from death (unless you think that the cat is getting something).

Warren Harding received the greatest popular vote majority in American history. He was wildly popular when he died. Yet he now is listed with the worst American presidents. Apparently a couple of his cabinet members were corrupt. Those of us alive in the 21st Century yawn at this. He also had a kakiographer who disappeared into Stalin’s Russia and who wrote about women visited in White House closets by the president – and similar sexual imagery. None of this slime has ever been otherwise substantiated – except about JFK. Nonetheless Harding’s reputation remains in the dumps while JFK’s shines.

As near as I can tell, McKinley was a solid president who led a decent life. Two dozen years of American schoolchildren cursed him because they had to learn how to spell the name of his anarchist assassin, Csolgosz. Death really did nothing for him.

Then there lies Huey Long, the Louisiana demagogue. Robert Penn Warren wrote (what I believe to be) the greatest American novel ever – All the King's Men . Huey formed the biggest piece of the substrate. A senator assassinated ~70 years ago is insignificant --- the subject of a really great novel shall live.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

If you are going to die young, particularly before you have already made an artistic mark, you need to have somebody to carry your torch. John Kennedy O’Toole had his mother. Otis had a song. Gram had Emmilou Harris . But if you should get to choose, choose Penn Warren.

BLOGGING:

Bloggers should live forever and stay forever young (which includes the only clip wherein I have ever seen Dylan smile).

May your hands always be busy.

May your feet always be swift.
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guest author: Sean Gleeson
Swell 3D Q+A
Since the creation and subsequent rise to fame of the website Swell 3D, I have been deluged with many questions about the site, about 3-D technology, and about whether I could come downstairs and wash dishes. While I wish I could reply to every questioner personally, I can't, because I am important now.

That's why I have collected your questions, along with my answers, into an easy question-and-answer format. And I am posting it to this site rather than to my own, because it's not the sort of thing I am interested in publishing at this time.

So, now is your chance! Go ahead and ask me anything.

Why did you make a 3-D website?

It was part of community service plea-bargain. I also had to dig post-holes along US-66, and wash the mayor's car.

Was it hard to do?

No, I used one of those hose attachments with rotating sponges.

Does it get a lot of traffic?

It seemed like a lot, but I wasn't counting.

Do you think 3-D will ever be popular again, like it was 50 years ago?

There is abundant evidence that things are moving in that direction.

What evidence?

Well, there was that Helena Montana concert in July. And in 1983, there was Jaws 3D.

Some say that 3-D is gimmicky, old-fashioned, cumbersome, silly, and useless. What do you say to them?

I just have to chuckle. Are these the same skeptics who said the iPhone was ridiculously expensive, oversized, fragile, lacking in options, and prone to overheating?

They might be.

Look at it this way. Can you think of any new, innovative cool thing that wasn't accused of being gimmicky, old-fashioned, and useless?

Sure, lots.

Well, there you are, then.

I read in Playboy or somewhere that you're the "Johnny Appleseed of 3-D graphics." Is that true?

Close. I'm the Johnny Cochran of 3-D grammatics.

Why did you name the site "Swell 3D"?

I used a domain search tool that instead of checking whether the domains you want are available, just lists all the available ones. It saves a lot of time if you want a dot-com, because there are only 14 of them left. When I saw swell3d.com on the list, I snapped it up.

Which is correct, "3-D" with a hyphen, or "3D" with no hyphen?

The Swell 3D style guide says to mix them up, so we get Google searches for both. Also acceptable are "Britny Spers Maddona Hanamontna Lindsey Lohahn."

And how do you make 3-D pictures?

I do it in Adobe.

Fascinating. How does that work?

You start with a regular picture, and then go to "Filters." Under "Filters," choose "Use previous filter." This will always work, as long as you don't use other filters.

It didn't work.

Interesting. Your copy of Adobe wouldn't be bootlegged, would it?

Why did you make a 3-D website?

You already asked that.

Why aren't there any graphics in this article?

There are. All of the apostrophes are individually hand-drawn.

How do 3-D glasses work?

They work by turning everything blue in one eye, and everything red in the other eye, exactly the way your brain does. Or rather, the way your brain would, if your brain did that. Since it doesn't, the glasses do it instead.

Where do you get 3-D glasses?

Me? I'm surrounded by them. I have hundreds of pairs, and they are scattered around every flat surface in the house. I keep a box of 'em in the car, too, because I need them for driving.

Okay, where do I get 3-D glasses?

At my house. I think I bought all of them. Here, I'll give you this pair.

This one looks like it's been stepped on.

Picky, picky. They've all been stepped on. I have six kids, you know.

Can I see through things with these?

No. Well, windows, I guess. And Barack Obama's rhetoric. But nothing you couldn't see through without them.

Does it matter which lens goes over which eye?

What do you think?

Yes?

Right.

What would happen if I switched them?

Just don't.

I'm going to try it.

Don't.

AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHRRGGGGGAAAAIIIIEEEYYYY!!

I did try to warn you.

I should have listened.

Yes.

Say, can I make my own 3D glasses?

Yes.

How?

You'll need packing tape, a utility knife, and two clear glasses, with no etching or jelly labels on them. In one glass, carefully pour one part vodka to two parts grenadine. In the other, mix three parts gin to fifteen parts blue curacao. Tape the tops of the glasses with the packing tape, so the contents don't slosh out. (Ask a grown-up to help you cut the tape!) Remove your shirt, then hold the red glass to your left eye, and the blue one to your right eye, and enjoy the show!

Why did I have to remove my shirt?

If it will make you feel more comfortable, I'll remove mine.

What was the first 3-D movie?

The first major feature-length 3-D movie was 1948's "Meet the Smelly Foreigners," starring Bud Abbott and Oliver Hardy as two wise-cracking Gypsies in the Amazon rainforest. It was hugely popular, though in later years it was deemed so offensive that everyone involved agreed to pretend it was never made.

Why are 3-D images called "anaglyphic"?

Because they were invented by Ana Glyphik, a Greek painter, poet, belly-dancer, and waitress. Legend has it that she accidentally invented 3-D images while trying to cook podi.

What's podi?

It's a bowl of soup with a foot in it.

No, seriously.

I swear to God, it's a bowl of soup with a foot in it. Look it up.

Oh, jeez, you're right! There's a picture of it. That's gross. I'm going to email this to everyone I know.

Fine. Tell them about Swell 3D, too.
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evariste
The Case of the Missing Marbles
I just learned about the so-called “Elgin Marbles” a few days ago, and I’m fairly outraged. The British Museum, in London, has about half of the surviving sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens. How did this come about, and why is it a problem?

It came about because Greece was occupied by the Turks for about four centuries. Toward the end of that period, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, the syphilitic Earl of Elgin, asked for permission to remove sculptures from the Parthenon and take them back to Britain. The brutes were using the Acropolis as a military fort at the time. The Turks granted their assent. Elgin spent over £20,000 bribing the Turks. That's around £1.4 million in today's money. The marbles are stolen property. Elgin had no right to ask for them; the Turkish Sultan had no right to let him take them. Elgin’s agents spent 12 years carrying out the heist; just 9 years later, Greece declared independence. He stole them in the nick of time!

I refuse to call them the “Elgin Marbles”. Since when do we name things after thieves?

How would the British like it if an American ambassador carted away priceless British treasures with the permission of the French occupation? They wouldn’t like it very much, I bet. There’s really no justification for it. The British Museum is insisting on keeping stolen property.

One of the many specious excuses they give for refusing to return them is that they’re worried other countries would start demanding their own treasures back. In that case, maybe you shouldn’t have obtained so much of your collection illegitimately!

At the end of the Greek war for independence, the Western powers that were Greece’s war allies, including Britain, feared the Greeks would obtain a liberal republican government. So they imposed a Bavarian monarch, some guy named Otto for fuck’s sake, a teenager for crying out loud, on the Greeks! How’s that for irony? The Greek government is recognizably Western; the marbles would be well-cared-for. It’s not as if the Taliban are demanding the British Museum give them statues of Buddha to blow up. The sculptures will be honored and preserved by their legitimate owners. This is really outrageous because Greece was the cradle of civilization. Why shouldn’t they get their stuff back?

The marbles were stolen from the Parthenon. Not a Parthenon, but the Parthenon, one of the great world-historical sites. They are irreplaceable. They are priceless. They must be returned to their rightful owners. How dare Elgin engage in such vandalism, such cultural desecration? They mutilated the Parthenon and chopped up its sculptures to remove them. How dare the British Museum claim the marbles would be damaged if they were returned to Greece? They did fine for, oh, thousands of years until your Elgin came along, stole them, and mutilated them! Not by coincidence, the decay of the ruins of the Parthenon was greatly accelerated after Elgin’s butchery exposed much that had been hidden and sealed to the vagaries of the elements.

Dull is the eye that will not weep to see
Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed
By British hands, which it had best behoved
To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.
Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,
And once again thy hapless bosom gored,
And snatch’d thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!


-Lord Byron

Melina Mercouri was an Academy Award-nominated Greek actress and singer, who later became a member of the Greek Parliament, and then the Minister of Culture. She was an elegant, glamorous woman. When she was the Minister of Culture, she was invited to the Oxford Union to give a lecture; afterwards, she confronted David Wilson, then-director of the British Museum, to demand the return of the marbles. Skip ahead to the 1:30 marker:



Here is a transcript of her fiery, passionate speech at Oxford Union. The facts can’t be argued with. The extent of the injury to Greece’s living soul can’t be exaggerated.

Make some careful copies in plaster for the British Museum to display, and return the originals to the Greeks. There is no other way. Morally, they belong to Greece. Give them back.
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guest author: Sean Gleeson
2007 Weblog Awards Graphics
Kevin Aylward bestowed upon me the honor and the pleasure of designing a new graphic for the 2007 Weblog Awards. After diligent effort, I humbly present to you the fruits of this august commission:

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 320 x 160 pixels

Below, I have several versions of this graphic for bloggers hither and yon to use in their posts and links to the Weblog Awards site. If you require a size or format that is not posted here, please feel free to shoot me an email (sean@gleeson.us) informing me of your requirements, and I can probably oblige you.

Some notes about the design: the icon is an image of the sort known as a "cognitive illusion," a picture that can represent two different subjects, depending on the viewer's inferences. Looked at one way, it is a picture of an award plaque bearing a gold ribbon. Looked at another way, it's a picture of a person in front of a computer monitor which is displaying some text. Yes, yes, it is terribly clever. Avail yourself of the comment form below to let me know your opinion of this graphic. (Don't worry about hurting my feelings, I'm not as vain as you might suppose.)

I am providing this graphic in two different versions, a "horizontal" and a "stacked" version. The "horizontal" graphic has all the type on one line. The "stacked" version has it on three lines. Use whichever version suits your own taste. Each one comes in a width of 500 pixels, 320 pixels, 200 pixels, or 150 pixels. There is also a horizontal 88x21 pixel button.

To use any of these images, please copy it and upload it to your own Web server, or you can source these files directly. And then, please code it to link to http://2007.weblogawards.org/ If you have any problems or questions about how to do that, please email me at sean@gleeson.us and I will gladly help you.

Here are the "stacked" versions of the graphic:

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 500 x 250 pixels
The 500 x 250 stacked graphic (above) wa2007500x250ih4.jpg (Click on graphic to see full dimension.)

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 320 x 160 pixels
The 320 x 160 stacked graphic (above) wa2007320x160lv8.jpg

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 200 x 100 pixels
The 200 x 100 stacked graphic (above) wa2007200x100jm9.jpg

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 150 x 75 pixels
The 150 x 75 stacked graphic (above) wa2007150x75ws7.jpg

Here are the "horizontal" versions of the graphic:

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 500 x 100 pixels
The 500 x 100 horizontal graphic (above) wa2007500x100pc8.jpg (Click on graphic to see full dimensions)

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 320 x 64 pixels
The 320 x 64 horizontal graphic (above) wa2007320x64cp1.jpg

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 200 x 40 pixels
The 200 x 40 horizontal graphic (above) wa2007200x40pk1.jpg

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 150 x 30 pixels
The 150 x 30 horizontal graphic (above) wa2007150x30ns1.jpg

2007 Weblog Awards emblem, 88 x 21 pixels
The 88 x 21 horizontal graphic (above) wa200788x21wl8.jpg

When the time comes, I will have new graphics for Weblog Award nominees, and for winners. Enjoy!
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guest author: Dances With Typos
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
It had been a long ride.

Since the middle of the 1950s, John had formed the original Quarrymen, playing at church bazaars and pretty much anywhere else they were allowed. Doing rockabilly covers of old standards and Elvis and anything they thought they could get a sound out of.

It continued through time, and band member changes, and location changes.

Finally, in the autumn of 1962, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey were ready.

Four years of whirlwind tours, screaming fans, initiation to drugs, trying to make music amid the hurry, hurry, hurry and exhaustion, exhaustion, exhaustion had left them soured on being the Beatles, despite what they had meant to the world of music, and, really, to the world.

They were tired of being the mop-tops from Liverpool, nice, but slightly odd boys who half the time could not hear their own lyrics over the screaming, and at least sometimes, had actually stopped singing and simply mouthed the words knowing that none of the audience would ever be able to tell.

In 1966, the Beatles announced that they would no longer be touring. The announcement was met with stunned disbelief from fans, and snarky comments from some others that they would soon be forgotten without the constant media exposure.

In November of that year, riding on a plane returning home to Britain, Paul McCartney had a thought. Since they were all essentially tired of being "The Beatles," they should do an album, incognito. Choose a new name, essentially new identities, and do whatever kind of music they wanted to do, without concern for sales or popularity.

He presented the idea to the others, along with his half-joking suggestion for a new band name. They loved the idea. They even loved the name.

And so, on December 6 of 1966, the Beatles began recording as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band. It took them 129 days of 12 to 20 hour sessions to finish. This was the first album to use 8, rather than 4, track recording. The first album to include sound effects, orchestras, overdubbing and so many other new things. The effects, the orchestrations, the overall ideas were things that had never been seen before in popular music.

There is really nothing I can say about the result except to note that, to this day, Rolling Stone Magazine names it as the Number One most important rock music album of all time. Oh, and also to note that those who thought the band would fade rapidly away without constant touring were just a bit mistaken, so:

It Was Forty Years Ago, Today...

And, well, you know the rest.

Sergeant Pepper's Album Cover With Legend

Rolling Stone Review

Here's What Wiki Has To Say

Lyrics With Comments By The Beatles
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zorkmidden
The Age of Insufficient Online Cinema
Do you ever feel the urgent need to see some favourite movie? I was trying to sleep the other night and I was trying to think of some movie that would relax me and I thought of The Age of Innocence. I know it's not a masterpiece, I just wanted something 19th-century, big-skirts, mean-morals movie to help me relax as I thought how good I have it in the 21st century and eventually go to sleep. And besides, it's a Scorsese film.

Well, I brought a few of the film's scenes in my mind (mainly the set about New York at the time) and that led me to thinking of Washington Square, another period film, with a fantastic performance by Maggie Smith and an unforgettably horrid dress that the protagonist wore to a ball.

So after thinking of those two films for a couple of nights, I thought how nice it would be to see them again. I went to the video store and looked in the Drama section. They weren't there. So I asked the clerk and after looking at her computer she informed me that they have "Washington Heights" but they don't carry "Washington Square." "What about 'The Age of Innocense'", I ask. They don't carry it. "But it's Scorsese!" I yell. The clerk smiled politely. Seeing how she looked young and inexperienced, I asked the other clerk to look up the movies. Indeed, they didn't carry them anymore. I apologized for making them look twice, silently swore I'd never set foot there again (I've seen all their movies anyway) and went to another video store. They too didn't carry either movie.

Scorsese! They don't carry you! Dame Smith! You're not worth a space on the video store shelf!

I am sickened by this. Sickened. Scorsese!

Anyway, my dear friends immediately tried to ease my suffering by pushing Netflix on me. Netflix doesn't work for me! Netflix works for regular movie people, people who will watch 1-2 movies a week. I don't watch movies regularly but when I do, I will rent a dozen of them and devote the next two days in watching movies. Why should I pay a monthly fee when I don't rent movies every month? And yes I know it averages out but I don't want to get three movies, send them back, wait till more arrive, watch those, send them back, wait again, I don't have the time for this! I want the movies I want to watch to be there and waiting for me anytime I want to watch them. If I think of a movie I want to watch now, I should be able to watch it now! I should not have to wait, I should not have to mail things back and forth and I should not have to pay monthly fees! I want to be the mistress of my fate!

So I started bitching to ev about how I am a person desperately ahead of my time and there isn't enough technology to suit my immediate-movie-gratification needs and how the internet needs an online cinema. As an internet consumer, I should have the right to pay a couple of bucks and watch any movie online, at any bloody time I please. He cleverly suggested that I try Amazon Unbox rentals.

So okay, so perhaps technology is catching up with my demands. But guess what?

That's right. They don't carry either movie.
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zorkmidden
How does one make fun of Hitler?
A new German comedy about Hitler has been panned by critics for a) not being funny and b) portraying Hitler as a pathetic figure that evokes sympathy from the viewer: Germany Not Amused By Hitler Comedy. I don't know if I could find anything funny about Hitler because some people are such monsters that they defy comedy. Charlie Chaplin said he would not have made "The Great Dictator" had he known about the Holocaust.
A German-made farce about Hitler would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. But the gradual dying out of the Nazi era generation has given the country a more detached view of the past.

Younger generations in particular are ready ro laugh about Hitler. A comic series about him by cartoonist Walter Moers has been popular ever since it was launched in 1997 and a video clip from the series in which Hitler raps, sits on the toilet and takes a bath with rubber ducks that sing "Adolf you Nazi pig, why don't you capitulate" has proved a hit among Internet downloads in Germany.

So more than 60 years on from the war, Germany does seem to be ready for a tongue-in-cheek approach to Hitler. The trick now is to come up with a funny one.
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guest author: Amanda Green
Greek food causes Dragons
A Review of Sarah A. Hoyt's Draw One In The Dark

There’s something special about Pete’s Kitchen in Denver. What other Greek Diner can boast that it’s the birthplace of a dragon, a panther and a lion?

Actually, the answer to that is easy. Pete’s is the favorite diner of Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Draw One in the Dark (Baen Books), an urban fantasy set in a fictional Colorado town. Born and raised in Portugal, Ms. Hoyt never knew such wondrous things as diners existed until she moved to the United States. Now, how she got shape-shifting dragons, panthers and lions – and even something that resembles a giant grub – from her favorite Greek diner is enough to make me want to make me want to read the book again but to also make a pledge to visit Pete’s when I’m next in the Denver area.

Goldport, Colorado, the setting for Draw One in the Dark, might be a “fictional” town but every reader will find something about it that will cause him to snap his fingers and say, “I know where that is!” That’s one of the magical elements of Ms. Hoyt’s writing. Fictional or not, every one of us has been through a town like Goldport and will recognize the people who inhabit it.

What makes Draw One in the Dark unique in a market filled with paranormal mysteries, paranormal romances and urban fantasies is the story itself. Ms. Hoyt has created a world populated by believable young men and women who face everyday problems – work, paying the bills, making relationships work – all the while learning to deal with that one secret part of their lives no one else can know about. She does this by not falling into the trap so many other writers have; she doesn’t make a person evil simply because they have this “animal” side to their existence. She recognized that there is good and bad in every person and it is up to each one to fight against the bad and promote the good.

And that is exactly what her characters try to do, with varying degrees of success, in her book. In short, the shifters of Goldport aren’t monsters simply because they are shifters. Those who are monsters are that way for the same reason any of us would be – greed, thirst for power, an overactive ego, etc.

With Draw One in the Dark, Ms. Hoyt has begun a series that is unique in both tone and style. Fast-paced and entertaining, she writes in such a way you’ll cheer for the good guys, hiss the bad guys and find yourself all but salivating at the thought of a sequel.

Of course, then you’ll remind yourself that this all began with Ms. Hoyt’s fascination and, shall we say, near-addiction to Pete’s Kitchen. If this book is the result of eating there, what could she come up with in an Italian diner, or Persian, or -- or -- ….

Is this sort of inspiration limited to Pete’s or is it something we all can tap into at any diner? The mind boggles. I may never look at my favorite diner the same again. Now all I want to know is what Ms. Hoyt has up her sleeve for the denizens of Goldport and those of us anxiously awaiting their next adventure.
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guest author: Mrs. Lewis
In Praise of Purple Prose
I admit it. I read romance novels. But, you know what? Some of them are fun, and more entertaining than the simple boy meets girl, boy and girl have communication problems, they finally say "I love you", and live happily ever after stories you may expect.

One of my favorite authors is Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle. Yes, those are all her pseudonyms. She uses her pseudonyms to keep her various genres separate. Under Krentz she writes contemporary romances, Quick does historical, and Castle does the Sci-Fi/Fantasy version. (Yes Sci-Fi/Fantasy, that's what I said.) There are some consistencies to her writing that are what make her such a pleasure to read.

First of all she has a sense of humor. There's really no point to reading a romance that takes itself seriously. Romance is the ultimate in escapist literature after all.
She tries to keep her lead characters real. They are sometimes described as beautiful (or handsome) but more often there are physical flaws and personality quirks that lend themselves to identifying with the main characters. (After all, why would you want to read a story where you think the main character is a jerk?)
She usually has something in the way of a mystery plot. At least one of the characters is usually looking for something: a treasure or a murderer or both.
Her secondary characters have lives of their own. The detail and the background they provide make for a better story, I frequently find myself laughing at their actions.

Here's an excerpt from "Slightly Shady", written under her Quick name, that should give you an idea of what I mean. (As an aside, who names a romance novel "Slightly Shady"? That brings to mind used car salesmen, not romance--but the title fits the book perfectly.)

Lavinia and Tobias are the main characters. Emeline is Lavinia's niece, and Anthony is Tobias' brother-in-law. (both Lavinia and Tobias are widowed.) This is the first meeting between Emeline and Anthony.

[Emeline:] "Lavinia is convinced that an expensive, fashionable gown is necessary to display my wares to the best advantage. She has concluded that Apollo must be sacrificed to obtain the necessary funds."
"Forgive me, Miss Emeline," Anthony said with grave gallantry, "but any man who could not perceive that your unique charms are best displayed without a gown would have to be a benighted idiot."
There was a short pause. Everyone looked at Anthony. He turned a violent shade of red.
"I meant that your charms would be, uh charming regardless of whether or not you were dressed," he stammered.
No one said a word.
Anthony looked truly stricken now. "That is to say, you would be spectacular in only an apron, Miss Emeline."
"Thank you," she murmured. Her eyes danced.
Anthony looked as if he would very much like to sink into the pavement.


Did you laugh? I can't help but giggle every time I read that part. And yes, I have read this more than once.

Did I mention that I enjoy Krentz's writing?

My only problem with romance novels is the obligatory sex scenes. They're boring. That's right, boring. I think they use stock phrases and cut and paste them from one story to another. Although Quick's scenes can end in absurdity as often as the big "O". And what's with the whole "manhood" as a euphemism? Am I wrong in thinking that what makes a man manly is more than what's in his shorts?

So give romance novels a chance. While not great literature by any stretch of the imagination, they're fun, sometimes silly, occasionally erotic, and entertaining. I would recommend Krentz in any of her incarnations, or more recent Johanna Lindsey novels if you want to try something that doesn't take the "romance" in romance novel too seriously.

Go ahead. I won't tease you.
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guest author: Mrs. Lewis
Almost a Book Review
This was originally going to be a post about "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Not the movie, which we all know and love, but the book. As I tried to write a review of it, though, I realized it was more about first times. You see, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" (more oz info than you ever thought you'd want) is the first book I ever read for myself. The summer between 2nd and 3rd grade we had just moved to upstate NY, and I carried armloads of Oz books home from the library. Their innoncence, joy, and absurdity appealled to me, and the artwork was beautiful. The lasting influence is that I now prefer to read Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, and I enjoy inflicting puns on family and friends. This is a great book to read with kids, and then compare to the movie, because it introduces the idea that movies and tv don't always get the story right, although in this case it's fairly true to the spirit of the story.

How I realized that I was trying to write the wrong post was through a post-concert musing as I walked back to my car. You see, I had just seen Duran Duran in concert, and I realized that the things you love first stay with you, no matter how much you change over the years.

My first book was "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," a wonderfully American fairy tale. The first music I bought for myself was actually three albums I bought as part of a fundraiser in 9th grade--Duran Duran's Rio, The Police's Synchronicity, and Big Country's The Crossing. I still love those albums, and they've influenced what I listen to till this day.

What was your first book? What was your first album? And I don't mean what did other people buy for you--what did you choose for yourself?

And seriously, check out "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." It's a great introduction to American Literature, Fantasy, and Fairy Tales. (And it's fun to read with your kids.)
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zorkmidden
Maybe she should send George a percentage of the money
Kiran Desai is 35 years old, she was born in India and has been living in America since she was fifteen. She's the winner of the Booker Prize, the prestigious literary award which is open only to British and Commonwealth citizens, and she "credits" Bush for her prize. If you want to call an insult to this country a "credit".
The Man Booker Prize is open only to British and Commonwealth citizens and Indian-born Desai has yet to apply for a U.S. passport, although she has lived in New York for 20 years.

"George Bush won once and he won the second time and I couldn't bring myself to (apply)," Desai said late last month in an interview in Toronto as she voiced her disapproval of the president's foreign policy.

"So I really owe George Bush my Booker, in an odd way. It's really very funny."
Let's see, she's been eligible for citizenship for fifteen years but she didn't do it because of George Bush? Talk about cheap shots...
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guest author: Jefe
Fiddle music
I've been putting off writing a series of music posts, focusing mainly on fiddle music and various traditional styles. Actually, I've been putting off recording the samples that I wanted to use to accompany the posts. But then, thanks to Ed & others here, I discovered the vast suppos--er, repository of music videos on YouTube. Here, then, is the first installment, complete with illustrative YouTube links. This post introduces some of the music styles I know (and love) best. It's a very brief overview, by no means exhaustive. Though writing it did make me kind of tired.

When I started learning the fiddle, I wanted to play Irish music. However, I ended up in contact with an Old Time fiddler named Ken Kolodner. It seemed like a good fit, and I figured any style at that point would be fine--learn Old Time now, and switch to Irish later. I soon figured out a couple of things that would change my plan: Ken is an excellent teacher, and I had no desire to change; and I love to play Old Time. So, what's the difference?

Old Time, also called Appalachian music, is the (mostly) fiddle and banjo music that comes from the mountains of the Appalachians. It evolved from the various musical cultures of the immigrants who settled in the mountains, primarily English, Irish, Scottish, and African. The bulk of the style consists of very rhythm-driven square dance type music. Think lots of people packed in a barn, playing music and dancing all night. But it's also an elderly couple strumming a banjo & singing a ballad on their porch, a family jamming together in the kitchen, or a bunch of strangers jumping into & out of a jam session.

Old Time music:
Sugar Foot Rag
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Ashokan Farewell

The atmosphere of typical Irish and Old Time jam sessions is one of the factors that for me really illustrates the difference between the two styles. In an Old Time session (not counting the occassional strict traditionalist ones), the only real 'rules' are to keep on time and generally stick with the chord progression of the tune. Otherwise, feel free to try a harmony, an alternate melody, or, if you're not familiar with the tune, some basic back-up sounds. An Irish session will usually be much tighter, with the musicians playing the same melody, accented and filled out with various ornamentations (sort of the tricks of the trade). If you don't know a lot of tunes and you're not up to the task of picking them up quickly, you'll likely spend a good bit of time with the fiddle in your lap. They are generally very friendly, though, and while your fiddle may be in your lap, you'll probably have a beer in your hand, and the other players will ask around for tunes people know.

Some Irish sessions:
Fiddle tunes in pub session Derbyshire
Irish Traditional Music Session

Scottish fiddle music is another favorite of mine. Personally, I see at as closest to the Old Time style of any of the others. It is also very rythmic. It's often powerful, anthemic type stuff, probably due to its origins in martial bagpipe music, meant to get the troops pumped up for battle (and frighten the enemies). One interesting subset of Scottish music comes from the Shetland Islands. It's a terrific example of how geography influences music. Shetland gets a pretty severe wind coming off of the sea, and trees don't grow above a few feet (which is why a Shetland fiddler friend of mine is intimidated by tall trees), making timber scarce. As a result, houses were built of stone (and small), and the fiddle became a popular instrument, since it doesn't need a lot of wood, and it's easily portable. Because music gatherings required travel by small boat between islands, the fiddle was much more convenient than say a piano or drum kit. Shetland music therefore often consisted of two fiddlers - a master providing the melody, and a second fiddler playing back-up. Tom Anderson is probably the most well-known Shetland fiddler and composer. His songs are played by fiddlers of many styles.

Scottish music:
Mairi Campbell
Alasdair White
Filska (Shetland)
Jenna Reid
Another descendant of Scottish music is found in Nova Scotia, especially the island of Cape Breton which seems to have more musicians per capita than anywhere in the world. With no shortage of timber, drums and piano are often a big part of modern Cape Breton dance music. Step dancing is also a popular accompaniment, with many of their fiddlers known for dancing and playing at the same time.

Cape Breton music:
Natalie MacMaster and her husband Donnell Leahy, two of the best in the world
Natalie at the Black Sheep Inn -
Boston Kiltics Nova Scotia Celtic Fiddle Dance Story & Song

As for what my band plays...well, it's mainly Celtic influenced punk with the one, and Irish pub music with the acoustic band (though we work in some Old Time tunes, and eventually Cape Breton tunes, too). Two of the most popular Irish punk bands are the Pogues (pretty much the originators of the melding of Irish traditional music and punk rock) and Flogging Molly:

Flogging Molly - Drunken Lullabies
The Pogues - Sally MacLennane

While they tend to take Irish trad music and punk it up, we tend to take punk rock and give it a dose of Celtic flavor. Here are a few of the major influences of my acoustic band:

The Dubliners - The Auld Triangle
The Dubliners - Rocky Road To Dublin
The Clancy Brothers - Real Old Mountain Dew
Great Big Sea - Lukey
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zorkmidden
Mansur versus Borat
Kazakhstan has spent $40million to make "Nomad", a film about the struggle of Kazakh tribes to expel Mongol invaders. It's the most expensive film made in Kazakhstan, an effort to improve the country's reputation apparently damaged by Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat Sagdiyev schtick.
Borat’s racist and sexist diatribes as he travels across America in a quest to marry Pamela Anderson, the Baywatch star, have left officials in Kazakhstan fretting that the comedian is turning their country into a global laughing stock.

The anti-Semitic reporter presents his homeland as a place where fermented horse urine is the national drink, women must ride on the outside of buses and homosexuals no longer have to wear blue hats.
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zorkmidden
Boy band, looking for tall, handsome dictator to praise. Mustache a plus.
The boys of the Northern Band, brothers from Yamoun in the West Bank, have finally found stardom with their new song "Hawk of Lebanon", where they sing the praises of Nasrallah. The brothers had also written the Hamas election song, in the same tune as the Nasrallah song, but that wasn't as popular. Probably because Hamas isn't dictatorial enough.
"We used to sing for Saddam," said Saed Akrawi, 26, whose perfume shop in downtown Jenin is adorned with a Nasrallah portrait, next to posters of models. "Saddam is gone. We want someone else to sing for."
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zorkmidden
What would the masses do without artists?
Waleed Ayyoub is a Palestinian artist who specializes in portraits of Arafat, Nasser, and Fidel Castro. These days his number one bestseller is the portrait of Nasrallah, of course. Palestinian artist brings Nasrallah to the masses
Before the Lebanon conflict broke out on July 12, when Hizbollah seized two Israeli soldiers in a raid, Ayyoub might have been lucky to sell one or two portraits of Nasrallah a month. At a cost of $10 each, it wasn't a big money spinner. But now, with no political rally complete without Nasrallah's image being brandished aloft by the crowd or worn on T-shirts, Ayyoub can hardly produce enough pictures of him.

In fact, he's taken to printing cheaper, more-quickly produced posters of the Lebanese cleric, based on his portraits, to make Nasrallah more readily available to the masses. On Tuesday alone, Ayyoub said he sold 1,000 posters of the bearded and bespectacled cleric for $1 each.
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zorkmidden
When publishers are desperate
Simon & Schuster is set to publish "The Expected One" by Kathleen McGowan who claims she's a descendant of Jesus Christ. You'd think that as a proper descendant of Jesus, Ms McGowan would at least iron her clothes before she has her picture taken.
After flying thousands of miles to trace the mythical travels of Mary Magdalene after Jesus’s crucifixion, and having convinced herself that she is a direct descendant of the two, Kathleen has written what she describes as a ‘partly autobiographical’ novel.

Rights to The Expected One have already been sold in 20 languages, and when it is published next month by Simon & Schuster, it is predicted to blaze a trail left smouldering since The Da Vinci Code. Kathleen’s claims are sure to ignite disbelief, cynicism and justifiable anger. Yet she is unrepentant.
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zorkmidden
Ushpizin
I recently watched Ushpizin, one of the best films I've seen in years. It's a funny, sweet and heartwarming story about faith and miracles and it takes place in Jerusalem's Orthodox community. You can read reviews at amazon and imdb.

Shuli Rand, the film's protagonist, is an observant Jew who returned to acting to make this film. His real-life wife, Michal Bat-Sehva Rand, also plays his wife in the film and she's brilliant, a very expressive actor who adds emotional warmth to the movie.

I don't want to give out too much, I'll just say I did cry at the end (and laughed) and this is definitely a film I'll watch again. If you need a small escape or just a small miracle, rent this movie.
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guest author: Howlin' Wolfowitz
The Flecktones - Dancin' in the District
As I've mentioned before, I am something of a Béla Fleck and the Flecktones fan. In fact, I think they are a jaw-droppingly talented set of musicians, playing music that defies genre. And, as a friend once remarked, "none of those guys plays their instruments the way they're meant to be played!"

So, when ev linked to some blog entry that said, in part:
As a recovering banjo player, I can tell you that no matter how many pathetic musicians try to expand the banjo's range, it will never be any good for anything other than bluegrass and possibly ragtime. I've heard of Bela Fleck and Mark O'Connor and all the other goofs who have thrown their time down the toilet, trying to turn the banjo into a versatile instrument. Guess what? It ISN'T. Jazz banjo is shit. Classical banjo is worse than shit. Rock banjo should be a federal crime. Don't get mad at me. I'm just telling it like it is. And time will prove I'm right. It has so far.


I snorted,

And I guess you never actually listened to any Bela Fleck, either. I won't get mad; I'll just disregard all your rantings about music as worthless.


I just so happened to have a Flecktones CD that I had downloaded from here in the car. I put it in the player and couldn't take it out for a week(!) - even listening to it on both legs of several longish trips. Interestingly, the lone reviewer there said

This is a fairly good show. The sound is good--not too distant or muddled, but there is a little too much audience noise at times (i.e., some casual chatting/talking in a few places).
but I thought it was a pretty darned good show, and the audience noise made it feel more like being there.

Anyway, I decided to rip the CDs to mp3s, and upload them here for your listening pleasure, or at least to form your own opinions.

So, without further ado, here's the Flecktones from June 6, 2002 - the "Dancin' In The District concert series" at Riverfront Park in Nashville TN:

Intro - Tuning Jam
Next
Puffy Is Free
Throwdown at the Hoedown
Big Country
Imagine This
Vic Solo
Sherpa
Bela solo
Stomping Grounds
Arjuna
Moment So Close
Hoedown
encore - Flight of the Cosmic Hippo

Enjoy!

For all you nerds, here's the technical recording information. :-)
Oh, and I even found album artwork online!
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zorkmidden
G-had and Che Bin
Because the world needed a rapper who glorifies suicide bombers and Osama bin Laden, British musician Aki Nawaz is producing a "politically challenging" album.
The album, All is War (The Benefits of G-had), contains one track which uses the words of Bin Laden issuing "a statement of reason and explanation of impending conflict" and equates him with Che Guevara. Another forensically recreates a suicide bomber at work. The opening song is a rejection of what Nawaz sees as the hypocrisy and immorality of the west. One supposedly dream-like track predicts the demise of America at the hands of Islam.
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zorkmidden
Books to films
What's the best ever film made from a novel? Check out the Guardian's top 50 film adaptations and see what you think.

Me, I vote for the Talented Mr. Ripley (and it wasn't even in the big 20!)
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zorkmidden
C:FH, it isn't...
Here's another reason you should really play codename:ferkakta hill*. Look what some of your other online game choices are: Anti-Hispanic video games spread on internet.
In "Border Patrol" – one of the more popular Flash games available on the Internet through various extremist Web sites – the object is to "kill" caricatures of Mexicans as they attempt to cross the border and gain entry to the U.S.

Players control a gun and are charged with killing stereotypical Mexicans. Targets include a "Mexican nationalist," who carries a Mexican flag and a pistol; a "Drug smuggler," wearing a sombrero and carrying a bag of marijuana on his back; and finally a "Breeder" – a pregnant woman who has two small children in tow. Aside from the virulently anti-Hispanic themes within the game, it also hints at anti-Semitic myths such as "Jewish control" of the U.S. through an image where the border is represented by a bullet-ridden sign showing an American flag whose 50 stars have been replaced by a single Jewish Star of David.
*who says I don't self-promote...
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guest author: Throbert McGee
The Great Israeli Judenhass Bake-Off
You may recall reading about an Israeli humorist's proposed challenge for Jewish cartoonists to devise the World's Most Anti-Semitic Cartoon -- a clever bit of one-upmanship in answer to an Iranian newspaper's call for cartoons mocking the Jewish Holocaust. And the Iranian challenge, for its own part, was meant to be Islam's oooooh-SNAP! comeback to the Muhammad caricatures published in Denmark. [I'm glad I don't speak Farsi, or I would've been tempted to embarrass Iranian editor Farid Mortazavi by pointing out that most Danes are (at least nominally) Christians, not Jews. Doubtless he would be mortified to learn that his paper had completely misdirected its satirical attack! --Th.M.]

Everyone up to speed now?

I thought the Israeli proposal was pretty hilarious on a conceptual level, but I didn't know that they'd actually gone through with it, until I happened across a flickr slideshow and a related news story in Forward featuring the two winning cartoons as well as the 70+ other entries.





Before we get to the official winners, we'll start with a few of my personal favorites from the also-rans. You can comb through the rest in the flickr slideshow, but be warned that there are quite a few artistic clunkers in the mix, along with a surprising number of entries whose creators didn't quite seem to get the point of the contest.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The infamous blood libel got its due in several of the cartoons, but I thought the one below was the obvious stand-out for its succinctness as well as its artistic polish. [Note: I had to crop it horizontally to avoid downscaling it and thus blurring the priceless facial expressions. -- Th.M.]



While the blood-libel theme, in our time, most often emanates from the Arab/Muslim worlds, some anti-Semitic cliches remain just as popular in contemporary Western circles. In particular, the Western apologists for Palestinian jihad love the sad, head-tilting irony of "Yesterday's oppressed have become today's oppressers." The next cartoon takes that idea and runs with it:



As I mentioned in the intro, some of the participating cartoonists did not quite get the spirit of the contest -- to me, there's a difference between anti-Semitism that hatefully slanders the character of Jews, that which trades on common stereotypes, and that which may simply be irreverent towards Judaism -- e.g., by depicting a rabbi eating a pork chop . I thought it was clear that the contest sponsors had overt Judenhass in mind, but this one got a laugh anyway for its over-the-top treatment of a fairly harmless stereotype:



THE WINNERS!

The contest judges awarded second place to an Australian cartoon that takes Holocaust denial to its logical summit, kinda by way of Capricorn One, the '70s movies about a faked Mars landing. [Among the many entries that didn't get a mention, there was another one that explicitly credited Jews for helping NASA fake the Apollo missions, drawing on their Holocaust-hoax expertise. -- Th.M.]



And now, a drum roll for 24-year-old Aron Katz of Los Angeles, whose cartoon "September 11" won the $600 first-place award. In my opinion, it must've won primarily for the topicality of its slander -- many of the also-rans were just as offensive, and some made me laugh harder. [I did chuckle, but mainly because I immediately recognized that the silhouetted figure was scanned off the Fiddler on the Roof DVD. The fact that the art came from the Topol movie version, and not from a CD of the Zero Mostel Broadway soundtrack, somehow makes it even funnier to me. But heterosexual mileage may vary. --Th.M.]



THROBERT'S PALME de ROSE GRAN PRIX FOR SEXCELLENCE

Finally, the one that I probably would've chosen for first place. It doesn't need much introduction, but I'll just point out artist Eli Valley must've watched his share of Japanese hentai anime. Also, the overt monstrousness of the Jew reminded me less of Arab/Muslim examples, and more of the neo-Nazi/Klan/Christian-Identity style documented in Blood in the Face.

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