Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Slate has a short article on what happens to cartoon characters when the actor who provides its voice dies. The recent passing of what some wags have called the "Pooh trifecta" -- John (Piglet) Fiedler, Paul (Tigger) Winchell, and Howard (Gopher) Morris -- made it a timely subject, if a bit morbid.

Its morbidity quotient is increased by the anecdote about Disney Studios being deluged by resumes whenever one of its voice actors passes away. Actors have to seize opportunities as they arise if they want to keep working, and it was probably their agents (who everyone knows are heartless) who licked the envelopes anyway, but it's a side of show business most people probably don't want to see.

The article did, correctly, point out that Winchell and Morris haven't done those voices in a while, having been replaced by soundalikes some years back. (Morris was a very busy man, and Winchell's voice, Disney management felt, had become too raspy to sound like himself.) Rather conspicuously, since they illustrated the article with a shot of the Pooh characters, the author didn't mention that Winnie the Pooh himself has been voice by a soundalike since the late Sterling Holloway's retirement in the 1970s. (I know, it's hard to think of someone who's been doing the work for twenty-five years as "the new guy", but he's still "doing" Sterling Holloway.)

A mention of Jim Henson wouldn't have gone amiss here, although puppets and cartoons aren't quite the same thing. The Muppeteers had retired Rowlf (the piano-playing dog) as a speaking part in Henson's memory, although his face still pops up from time to time. (Surely you didn't expect them to retire Kermit the Frog.) Unfortunately, they've reversed themselves on this, and Rowlf has started talking again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"Something like this is difficult to explain to superiors"

Yahoo (Reuters) | Somebody's sure to notice this...
A Taiwan stock trader mistakenly bought T$7.9 billion ($251 million) worth of shares with a mis-stroke of her computer, meaning her company is looking at a paper loss of more than $12 million and she is looking for a new job.

The trader with Fubon Securities mis-keyed in a small order from Merrill Lynch Monday, creating confusion when many small firms inexplicably surged the 7 percent trading limit.

"Something like this is difficult to explain to superiors," a Fubon executive said Tuesday.

Fubon said that the trader was unfamiliar with new computer systems and would be fired.

"There is a paper loss of more than T$400 million," said the executive.

"However, with a good outlook for stocks in the second half, there are no plans to sell the shares in the near term."
See also Bloomberg.

Monday, June 27, 2005

"A woman with three children under the age of 10 wouldn't think my schedule looked so busy."

1010WINS (AP) | Garrison Keillor Tackling Many Projects
Lake Wobegon's gotten a little more stressful these days. Shooting begins Wednesday on a film version of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," bringing him together with director Robert Altman and a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Lindsay Lohan.
Lindsay Lohan?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Sunday paper

Iowa State | The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race
By Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs and Steel)

To science we owe dramatic changes in our smug self-image. Astronomy taught us that our earth isn’t the center of the universe but merely one of billions of heavenly bodies. From biology we learned that we weren’t specially created by God but evolved along with millions of other species. Now archaeology is demolishing another sacred belief: that human history over the past million years has been a long tale of progress. In particular, recent discoveries suggest that the adoption of agriculture, supposedly our most decisive step toward a better life, was in many ways a catastrophe from which we have never recovered. With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | Parent files complaint about 70 ‘sexually explicit’ books in school libraries
The Fayetteville School District has a procedure for parents to file formal complaints against school library books they find inappropriate.

But what if the number of books is 70?

That’s how many alleged sexually explicit books local resident Laurie Taylor claimed she found during a personal "audit" of the library system.

Taylor, who has filed previous complaints against school library books, claims the books in question contain segments on "threesomes, teenage sexual foreplay, detailed sexual escapades, explicit homosexual affairs, despicable language, dangerous instruction and promotion of sexual behavior."

Taylor listed seven of the alleged objectionable books in an e-mail Wednesday to school board members and Superintendent Bobby New.

They were "The Homo Handbook: Getting in Touch with Your Inner Homo" by Judy Carter, "The Other Woman" by Eric J. Dickey, "Rainbow Boys" by Alex Sanchez, "Doing It" by Melvin Burgess, "Choke" by Chuck Palahniuk, "GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Queer and Questioning Teens" by Kelly Huegel and "Forever" by Judy Blume.

Wall Street Journal | 'You're Reading...What?'
Hilary Armstrong was happy to see her 12-year-old daughter Katherine reading at the kitchen table one afternoon -- until, that is, she glanced at the back of the book jacket. "I was mortified," says Mrs. Armstrong. The book, which her daughter got from a friend, had a blurb on the back that read, "After all, no one really wants to go to college a virgin."

The San Francisco mom allowed Katherine to finish the novel, one of the popular "Gossip Girl" series, but started keeping closer tabs on her daughter's reading material. She wishes the book business would help out. "It would be nice if they had a big rating on it, like at the movies," Mrs. Armstrong says.

It's the summer book season: Do you know what your child is reading? To appeal to teens brought up on suggestive music videos and cable-TV shows, publishers are releasing more books full of mature themes and unflinching portrayals of sexual activity, with young protagonists the same age as their target readers. One publisher is venturing beyond its titles on dragons and bunnies with "Claiming Georgia Tate," about a 12-year-old girl whose father pressures her into a sexual relationship and makes her dress like a prostitute. In "Looking for Alaska," prep-school students watch pornography and pass the time binge-drinking. Coming this fall is "Teach Me," in which a male high-school teacher has sex with a student.

...The subject matter is rarely clear from a book's title or graphics. "Rainbow Party" features tubes of lipstick on the cover -- though it isn't about girls discussing makeup, but a teen oral-sex party.
I'm such an old fogy.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

There goes the neighborhood | Government Power to Take Property Backed by Top Court
Local governments have broad power to take over private property to make way for shopping malls, office parks and sports stadiums, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

The court said government agencies can constitutionally take property in the name of economic development -- and even transfer it to another private party -- as long as the landowners receive compensation. The 5-4 ruling today came in a case involving land near a Pfizer Inc. plant in New London, Connecticut.

...New London is seeking to raze a residential neighborhood to make room for a five-star hotel, luxury condominiums and office buildings near the Pfizer research facility. The city says it is trying to reverse decades of economic decline.

New London's development plan, enacted in 2000, calls for the takeover of 115 homes and small businesses in the 90-acre Fort Trumbull neighborhood adjacent to the Pfizer facility.
If it wasn't clear before, it is now: Collective rights are more important than individual rights. The framers of the Constitution really meant that offices are more important than homes, and that big offices are more important than small ones, because local government defines "more important" as "pay more taxes".