Friday, October 31, 2008

Move over, plumber

See more Thomas Haden Church videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And the image?

For those wondering the source of the image from "I'm sorry If I have offended your stupidity":

The editorial cartoon was published in April of 1912 by the conservative British humor magazine Punch.

Here's the original:

It was a serious dedication of the "brave men" lost in the Titanic tragedy (sorry ladies, you don't count), so the way I used it might touch on some sensibilities.

If I was a crass person, I would say that I'm sorry if my words and images have offended you.

The thing is, I'm not sorry and I hope you get offended and won't take any non-apologies or non-statements seriously, especially from guys who make statements like those below this post.

Recent non-statement staments

A local candidate for county executive recently said, "Most importantly, I am passionate about making things better for the people of Ulster County."

Not to be outdone, the other candidate said, "I have a passion for making the county a better place and we've got supporters out there who obviously feel the same way I do."

Well, thank you for clarifying your most important policy positions. I feel so informed now about how you feel passionate about making things better by having a passion for making the county a better place.

Non-apology apology: "Mistakes Were Made"

What follows is an entry on the history of a non-apology apology from "Safire's Political Dictionary" by one-time Nixon speechwriter, one-time New York Times columnist, all-time lexicographer William Safire.

mistakes were made: A passive-evasive way of acknowledging error while distancing the speaker from responsibility for it.

Politicians have had frequent occasion to lean on this crutch, a linguistic construction creatively described by William Schneider, at the American Enterprise Institute, as the past exonerative.

President Ronald Reagan took general responsibility in his 1987 State of the Union address for selling weapons to Iran in order to obtain the release of hostages, but sidestepped the rest of the Iran-contra scandal (using profits from the arms sales in an effort to overthrow the government of Nicaragua), saying, "we did not achieve what we wished, and serious mistakes were made in trying to do so." Lt. Col. Oliver North, convicted of ordering the destruction of documents in trying to conceal this activity, had his conviction overturned because Congress had given him limited immunity. The bemedaled Marine said later: "I'm not ashamed of it. People say 'Mistakes were made.' But I'll also tell you lives were saved."

President Bill Clinton resorted to the same passive, impersonal admission in January of 1998, replying to questions about improper Democratic party fundraising activities with the bland "Mistakes were made here by people who did it either deliberately or inadvertently." In March of 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales tried to defuse complaints about the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors, saying: "I acknowledge that mistakes were made here."

The unapologetic apology can be softened even further by prefacing it with a hypothetical "if." Anonymous aides to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied in 2005 that she had admitted to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the U.S. had abducted a German citizen by mistake. Instead, they insisted that Ms. Rice "had said only that if mistakes were made, they would be corrected."

A blame-spreading refinement is to cast the apology in the more distant present perfect tense. PLO leader Yasir Arafat took this tack when fending off criticisms in 2004 by Palestinian legislators, conceding that "Some mistakes have been made by our institutions." Connecticut's ex-governor John Rowland downplayed his admission of guilt to a federal corruption charge the same way, telling the press that "Obviously mistakes have been made throughout the last few years, and I accept responsibility for those."

A skillful further refinement is the subordinate-clause admission or error, compounding passivity and present-perfection with a conditional "whatever," as in this sentence of a George W. Bush speech urging Americans weary of war in the fall of 2006 to stay the course: "Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone."

The artful dodge of the impersonal apology has roots. President Ulysses S. Grant, fondly remembered by grammarians for his activist self-description, "I am a verb," appended a note to his final annual report to Congress on December 5, 1876, acknowledging the scandals that had plagued his two terms in office with the words, "Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit."

A disarmingly honest way of admitting error was shown by New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, criticized in the 1940s for closing the elite Townsend Harris High School: "I don't make many mistakes, but when I make one it's a beaut!" It takes the wind out of the sails of criticism.

When the lexicographer admonished a political figure for using the much-ridiculed "mistakes were made," he replied, not for attribution, "lessons were learned."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just in time for Halloween

This scary mask is available at

Yes, kids, that's Dick Fuld, the former CEO of Lehman Brothers.

Also available at Forbes, a piece written by Steve, ahem, Forbes, called "How Capitalism Will Save Us."

Irony, anyone?

P.S. There are other masks.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Yes, we can ... has?

Remember the Lolcalts?

The odd pictures of a cats with a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters have gone political, via

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yes, we can ... upgrade

"Yes, we can ... get rid of catchphrases" has been upgraded with an image and a very large amount of links.

Every catchphrase has a link to a story or the primary source or a video, like this one for "media elite."

I am: Waiting for my sign

I was doing some research for "Yes, we can ... get rid of catchphrases" on Sen. John McCain campaign Web site, looking for catchphrases, when I ran into this part of his site:

I decided to make a sign to illustrate the column:

Alas, I didn't get my sign, but a torrent of e-mails from what I have to assume was not John McCain at, who called me "My Friends."

I am not making this up.

I also tried this:

I AM: Jesus
THE: Illegal Immigrant

I didn't get a sign either.

To owner of this NOTE!

It would be wise to not leave your threat with written evidence of where you park and where you live.

Otherwise, there will be consequences and "repercussions."

Oh, and needless to say, you don't own Furnace street behind the library.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe the plumber

Joe "the plumber" Wurzelbacher of Toledo, Ohio, seen above watching the debate as his home in this Associated Press photo, was mentioned 26 times during the last of the presidential debates between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. (The other Joe, as in Biden, was mentioned six times).

Wurzelbacher is expected to make more than $250,000, which would make him a target for Obama's tax plan if he were to become president.

He refused to tell news outlets who will be his choice for president after the debates.

This raises important questions:

* What about the rest of the voters?

* What happened to Joe Six-Pack?

But most importantly,

* Why didn't I choose plumbing as a profession?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bitter Critics

The presidents mentioned in "The worst campaign ever -- again" were not the only ones who were criticized.

Check out "When Lincoln Was a Target of Bitter Critics" -- New York Times, Feb. 11, 1908

Click on the link for the Adobe Acrobat file, which looks like this:

Here's a closeup of a quote from President Abraham Lincoln.

What a sucker, indeed.

Another bitter critic

Did Theodore Roosevelt really implied to say that a vote for Woodrow Wilson would risk children and women to be murdered?

Judge for yourself.

Check "ROOSEVELT BITTERLY ATTACKS WILSON," a New York Times article from Nov. 4, 1916, which looks like this.

Do check the PDF file of the Gray Lady's article (click on the image above).

Here's a Roosevelt quote, which I partially used in "The worst campaign ever -- again":

"Insulting" links

-- Time Magazine (Monday, Jun. 20, 1983)

(And, yes, "Poitical")

"Now that's an insult! Top 10 political put-downs"

-- Times of London (April 23, 2008)

"Bob Dole gets the last laugh"

-- New York Times, Nov. 4, 1916.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Missed the Woodstock Film Festival?

Don't worry.
The folks at the festival have posted a multitude of videos on their site and on YouTube.

Here are some of them:

Trailblazer Award winner (and Academy Award nominee) producer and screenwriter James Schamus and Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (both from "Brokeback Mountain" and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon")

Kevin Smith ("Clerks," "Dogma") accepts the Maverick Award.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The "words"

Here are the "words" used in "Webster's words are spaztastic!" along with definitions and use, via Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary:

* idiocracy (adjective) : an incompetent group, class, or government
"Sometimes our government seems like it is an idiocracy."
Submitted by: Taimur on Jul. 04, 2008 15:17

* spaztastic (adjective) : To become overly excited over something so fantastic that you go into uncontrollable seizure-like spasms over it.
"Winning the lottery would be so spaztastic for me right now!"
Submitted by: Sista' Patterson from Pennsylvania on Dec. 26, 2007 13:21

* ridiculosity (noun) : a state of riduculousness
"The far-fetched stories of the old man were pure riduculosity."
Submitted by: Anonymous on Sep. 16, 2005 19:13

* vocabularious
(adjective) : expressed in unnecessary, extravagant, and frequently incorrect terms
"Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson could compete to see who is more vocabularious. or His incorrect usage of obscure terms to impress his date showed he was vocabularious."
Submitted by: Rhonda K. Smith from South Carolina on Aug. 05, 2008 16:15
(adjective) : possessing a rich, lavish, or vast knowledge of words and vocabulary; being able to use words with an artful and intelligent flare
"Although I know it is not an actual word, vocabularious is what springs to mind in order to describe Peter's brilliant and eloquent use of the English language."
Submitted by: K.A. Hoffa from Pennsylvania on Mar. 03, 2008 16:38

* Laughative
(adjective) : likely to laugh
"I am very laughative with my best friend. "
Submitted by: C from Florida on May. 16, 2008 19:07
(adjective) : of or relating to one who laughs a lot
"You have been very laughative today!"
Submitted by: Unknown on Dec. 04, 2007 20:20
(adjective) : -describes a person who has recently had a spurt of laughing or commonly laughs.
"Meagan is very laughative tonight."
Submitted by: Abby Riley from West Virginia on Jul. 18, 2007 21:15

* Ediot (noun) : Someone who thinks he or she can edit—but can't. (Can also be applied to video—a vidiot.)
"She thinks she's an editor, but, looking at that manuscript, I can see she's really an ediot."
Submitted by: Ellyn Hament from California on Feb. 20, 2008 17:31

* Blamestorming (noun):
An intense discussion for the purposes of placing blame or assigning responsibility for a misdeed or failure. Etymology: patterned on brainstorming.
(From Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English)

* scareify (verb) : to frighten or make scared
"I was scareified when thought I was going to crash into that tree."
Submitted by: Anonymous on Aug. 29, 2008 04:04

Wikipedia links

Some stories about Wikipedia's reliability

* "Washington's politicians edit Wikipedia" -- Times of London, Feb. 9, 2006

* Comedy of errors hits the world of Wikipedia" -- Times of London, Feb. 12, 2006

* A History Department Bans Citing Wikipedia as a Research" -- New York Times, Feb. 21, 2007.


A curious thing happened in the making of "Webster's words are spaztastic!"
My editor (Sam Daleo, who retires today but won't give me his parking spot), asked me if "Websterizied" was spelled correctly.

I figured that when you make up a word, you can spell it however you want to, but my initial instinct was to spell "Websterized."
Alas, there were some hits on the Web for that, and I wanted to coin a word for fun's sake (and to make a point, hopefully).
But more mischievously, I wanted to see if people say the word was misspelled.

The Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary entry, which has yet to appear, follows:

Websterizied (adjective): To become a word via Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary
"The words 'spaz' and 'fantastic' were Websterized to 'spaztastic.'"
Submitted by : Ivan Lajara from New York on Oct. 07, 2008 15:14

Whatever happens, Webster already has this:

* webster
(noun) : A person who is always going into different websites.
"The webster spent all afternoon looking for cheap deals."
Submitted by: J.C. from Pennsylvania on Nov. 29, 2007 13:02
(verb) : To look up the definition of a word in a dictionary
"Everytime I come across a word that I dont know I webster it."
Submitted by: Kris from United Kingdom on Jan. 17, 2007 10:14

Webster-site (noun) : the ultimate online dictionary
"Who knows what 'lexpionage' awaits next on the Webster-site?" —Laura Lewis, The Brunswick Beacon, June 30, 2005
Submitted by: Annie Lew from North Carolina on Jul. 13, 2006 17:15

* websterian (web-STARE-ee-in) (adjective) : Used to describe someone/something that is like or similar to a dictionary. (derived from the word "webster".)
"That dude is websterian! He can tell you the definition of anything!"
Submitted by: Anonymous on Dec. 15, 2006 18:44

* websterling (noun) : words that hope to be in Webster's dictionary someday
"The current crop of websterlings caused heated debate among the editors at Merriam-Webster."
Submitted by: Paul Burns from Washington on Jan. 06, 2006 18:54

* Websterner (noun) : One who uses or seeks references from Webster dictionaries/publications.
"Webster dictionaries/publications have always remained most popular source of knowledge. So, just like a netizen for net user, "Websterner" for Webster user."
Submitted by: Mazhar Qureshi on May. 27, 2007 00:42

Create your own word!

Visit Merrian Webster's Open Dictionary and create your own word.

The latest five, as of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, are:

cml (abbreviation) : call me later —used in electronic text messaging
"Gotta go, cml."
Submitted by: Anonymous Oct. 07, 2008 13:27

repayance (noun) : repayment
"Today we'll get pasta which is my repayance to you for yesterday."
Submitted by: Brandon Lockhart from Maryland on Oct. 07, 2008 11:59

gabshow (noun) : a talk show
"Tonight, the gabshow will have an interview with the latest tabloid headline-making starlet."
Submitted by: K.A. Hoffa from Pennsylvania on Oct. 07, 2008 10:20

maherisms (noun) : an utterance or idea put forth by Bill Maher; esp.: highly skeptical criticisms of government and culture.
"I believe that maherisms are based on common sense, which, unfortunately, most people are lacking."
Submitted by: J.C. Moore from Pennsylvania on Oct. 07, 2008 10:09

elderspeak (noun) : a belittling manner of addressing elders by a younger person that often conveys the assumption that the older person cannot understand or hear well
"For people without cognitive problems, elderspeak can sometimes make them livid." —John Leland, NYTimes, 10/7/08
Submitted by: Anonymous on Oct. 07, 2008 10:07

Merriam-Webster asks people to "be responsible"


Monday, October 6, 2008

Another big year

The Woodstock Film Festival wrapped up Sunday night.

There's a certain unnamed festival public relations person who has implied in more than one occasion that the Freeman's coverage of the festival has been inadequate.
For the record, here's a list of the Freeman's festival stories for the past month, in chronological order.

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
WOODSTOCK - Usually uninhibited, actor Jason Mewes was surprisingly apprehensive about baring all in the Woodstock Film Festival's closing night feature "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," said director Kevin Smith.

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
WOODSTOCK - Panelists from Sunday's Woodstock Film Festival's "Movies That Matter: Do They Count?" concluded those movies do indeed count, and sometimes even movies that do not matter also count.

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
KINGSTON - Ron Nyswaner, the Ulster County resident who wrote the screenplay for "Philadelphia" and spoke at the opening of the Woodstock Film Festival awards ceremony Saturday night, noted that Honorary Maverick Award winner Kevin Smith is now "qualified to be a heartbeat away from being the leader of the free world."

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
WOODSTOCK - "Gospel Hill" is about "how we work through our fears," director Giancarlo Esposito says of the movie, which screened on Friday at the Woodstock Film Festival."It's about the human dilemma," Esposito said during an interview on Saturday. "Some of us are followers, some of us are leade...
Top Stories

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
BOICEVILLE - Kaela Smith-Chaves began to lose her motivation to do schoolwork in seventh and eighth grade, recalled her mother, Suzanne Chaves, who was worried at the time about her daughter's transition to the Onteora High School.

Industry pros offer guidance to young filmmakers

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
WOODSTOCK - Mike Caffrey, an 11-year-old Saugerties Middle School student, said the message he took away from the Woodstock Film Festival's "Career Day Roundtable" on Friday was "you need to make it happen - don't just talk about it."
Top Stories

Woodstock Film Festival award winners
Here's a list of Woodstock Film Festival awards handed out Saturday night at Backstage Productions in Uptown Kingston.

* October 03, 2008

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
BOICEVILLE - When Steve Heller saw a large steam shovel clamp at Larry Shurder's Olivebridge sawmill in the early 1990s, he immediately knew what it really was. "I knew it was a tyrannosaurus rex jaw bone the minute I saw it," recalled Heller, the local sculptor and furniture maker who is the subject of the 18-minute documentary "Dinosaurs and Rocketships," which is being shown at this week's Woodstock Film Festival.

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
WOODSTOCK - Even though most of the police depicted in the Woodstock Film Festival's opening movie "Pride and Glory" were corrupt at some level, Gavin O'Connor, the director and co-screenwriter, described it as "a celebration of honest cops."

* October 02, 2008

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
BEARSVILLE - The ninth annual Woodstock Film Festival opened Wednesday with a concert beginning with a West African keyboard percussion performance by Valerie Naranjo, who preceded Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet - but most of the audience was there to see Bela Fleck."He's the best banjo...

Film student's work ethic impresses screenwriter

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
WEST HURLEY - Philip Dorling learned about film through Onteora High School's Indie Programs before he went on to study the trade at the New York Film Academy in Manhattan, but nothing prepared him for the industry like helping to renovate his mother's West Hurley home.

* October 01, 2008

Concert opens Woodstock Film Festival

By Kyle Wind, Freeman staff
Woodstock Film Festival staff, volunteers, and organizers were working feverishly Tuesday to set the stage for the ninth annual festival, which kicks off today with a musical performance by Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet and runs through Sunday.

* September 27, 2008
Freeman staff
Film fest awards ceremony open to public this year
KINGSTON - For the first time in its nine-year history, the Woodstock Film Festival is opening its awards ceremony to the public.The festival runs from Wednesday through Sunday at venues in Woodstock, Rosendale and Rhinebeck.

By Blaise Schweitzer, Freeman staff
Some say that the banjo has roots in Africa, but try to tell that to Africans and witness some vibrant disbelief.That's what banjo legend Bela Fleck discovered during a month-long trip to Uganda, Tanzania, Gambia and Mali three years ago.

By William J. Kemble, Correspondent
WOODSTOCK - Woodstock Film Festival co-founder Lawrence Rejto said on Wednesday that only the closing night film "Zak and Miri Make a Porno" has sold out at the Woodstock Film Festival and that handicapped accessibility will be available for all 129 movies being presented at the annual event.

By William J. Kemble, Correspondent
WOODSTOCK - The Town Board on Tuesday agreed to give the Woodstock Film Festival a discounted rate for the use of town buildings but plans to review complaints that people with impaired vision people are at a disadvantage when buying tickets for the festival.
Regional News

* September 12, 2008

Masterson, Spurlock, Wexler to be on film fest panels

By Kyle Wind, Freemnan staff
WOODSTOCK - Woodstock Film Festival organizers have announced who will participate in the panel discussions at this year's festival.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let the fun (I, mean, debate) begin

Tonight is the vice presidential debate between Republican Alaska Gov. Sarah "I'll try to find you something and I'll bring it back to you" Palin and Democratic Sen. Joe "What am I talking about?" Biden of Delaware.

Expect lots of feet in mouth.

The debate begins at 9 p.m. and will be available online at the CBS News Debate Webcast site.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Meltdown! part II

'Is my money safe?' and other bad questions" is badly based on The New York Times' very good article  "‘Is My Money Safe?’ and Other Questions to Ask."

The difference is obvious: Times headlines use capital letters for all their words. The Freeman's don't.

The reason I felt compelled to write about the meltdown again was this part of the Times story:

"Q. Is it time to buy stocks?"

"A. Like gambling? ..."

No joke.