Thursday, October 2, 2014

Other Lawsuits

Isabella Tanikumi, who also goes by L. Amy Gonzalez, alleges "Frozen" is based on 18 elements from her memoirs "Living My Truth" and "Yearnings of the Heart," which chronicle her upbringing in the Andean mountains of Peru.  The federal lawsuit, filed Sept. 22, states the similarities include character names, as well as the relationship between the main characters. "Frozen" earned more than $1 billion at the box office and is the highest-grossing animated movie of all time. - Janelle Griffin, NJ.com

Harris Shatner, a cat-tower upholsterer in Queens, alleges that the film Pinocchio stole portions of his life story.  "I was swallowed alive by a giant whale for several days," he says.  "It was a harrowing experience.  My only companion in that terrible darkness was a talking wooden puppet."  Regarding the puppet, Shatner admits, "I may have hallucinated that part."  He is suing Disney for $12 million, and the author of The Book of Jonah for $5 million.

Cleavis Billingsley, a sex worker in Reno, Nevada, has brought suit against Disney's film Sleeping Beauty because she alleges it was a flimsy rip-off of her tell-all biography, Chastise Me with Scorpions, in which she recounts a summer she cohabitated with six employees of the Eureka County Mining Company.  Billingsley is suing for $6 million.  They took an episode of my life I spent in a shotgun shack in the desert, having savage sex with up to seven men at a time, and they made it into something cheap and tawdry.  In that stupid movie, those men were all little.  Believe me, they were not little."

Cranston Revell, a retired animal trainer, is suing Disney for $7 million for its film Dumbo, which he claims was taken without permission from his own life story, A Loss too Heavy.  Revell's trained elephant Jumbo, either operating under the delusion he could fly, or else clinically depressed, managed somehow to climb to the top of a trapeze and throw himself into the center ring.  "Jumbo had a lot of guts," Revell recalls, wiping a tear from his eye at the memory.  "It took weeks to clean up the mess."  Revell is suing for copyright infringement and emotional distress.  Currently he is owner/operator of Jumbo Burger in Sarasota, Florida.

William Shakespeare has come back from the dead to sue Disney for one of its most popular features, claiming it plagiarized major plot points from his own history of the arch-villain Richard III, which Shakespeare had originally entitled, The Lyin' King.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Historical Perspective

When you're young, you think history is something that's "back then," over and done with.  What you begin to appreciate as you get older, is we live history; the past and its consequences are with us now.  Many world-changing events, which I have personal memories of, are only vague jumbled notions to my daughters' generation.

For example, the fall of the Iron Curtain, they don't even know what that means.  Well, I remember it, and it made quite a clang, I can tell you.  I remember Reagan saying, "Mr Khruschev, tear down this wall."  And Khruschev, he didn't like that.  He pounded his shoe on the table and promised he would bury us, but guess who ended up getting buried?  That's right.  Kennedy had gone over the year before and said, "Ich ben ein Berliner," basically saying he was a Berliner, but no one back in the US even bothered to check his birth certificate.  I mean, the guy had just admitted to being a foreigner for Pete's sake, but in those days they were worried about him being Catholic.  

Kennedy ended up getting assassinated, which was a national tragedy, of course, but you have to admit, he was one hard sucker to kill.  He'd gone to the grassy knoll to meet Marilyn Monroe; these days any president would smell a trap right away.  "Grassy knoll?  Nothing doing!"  But Kennedy was young and idealistic and shows up.  Naturally, just about everyone who could tote a gun was there, too: Sam Giancana, of course, Fidel Castro, John Connolly, Frank Sinatra, Lyndon Johnson, I think even Jackie got in a couple of shots.

People always ask, do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot?  Well, I remember where I was, and if anybody asks, it was not on the grassy knoll.  No way was I on the grassy knoll.

Fidel Castro, that was another one.  What a kook!  Of course, these days he's just an old fart, but in those days he really got around.  He was always hijacking planes.  He'd be getting on a plane, and the stewardess would say, "You can't get on this plane, Mr. Castro."  And Castro, he'd say, "I'm just going to Chicago.  I won't hijack this plane, I promise.  What would I want with another plane?"  And they'd let him on and next thing, guess what?  He hijacked it.

And then there was Nixon.  What a piece of work Nixon was.  He went on TV saying a supporter had given his family an adorable cocker spaniel named Checkers.  Real sentimental, you know, hit you right in the soft spot.  Interesting fact: people who listened to the speech on the radio, thought Nixon won; people who watched it on TV, thought it was the dog.  Anyway, Nixon said, if we didn't vote for Eisenhower, he'd shoot Checkers.  Naturally, Eisenhower won in a landslide.  In one picture, Truman holds up a newspaper with the headline, "Eisenhower beats Truman."  Truman's grinning ear-to-ear because he knew the dog would live.  Nixon would do anything to win.  He later sent Checkers to Vietnam.  Heartless bastard.

Nixon later got his comeuppance, though, when he opened the Watergate and flooded the Tennessee Valley.  Americans finally said, "enough is enough."  The joke was on us, though, because we couldn't find a new president.  We insisted on someone who hadn't taken bribes, or sold influence, or drowned an intern, or rigged an election, or spied on an opponent, or unlawfully abused his power in any way.  Turned out, finding an honest politician in DC was like looking for a virgin at a Clemson game.  Finally we settled on Gerald Ford who was so honest, he didn't even wear a football helmet.  Said it wasn't fair to the other team.  Ford ended up pardoning Nixon, so maybe he wasn't so honest after all.  People kept trying to shoot Ford, but they were all women, so naturally they missed.  They kept saying, "Jerry, why don't you come to the grassy knoll with us?"  But Ford said, "Even I'm not dumb enough to fall for that one."

I remember all that.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Iron Son-in-Law

Last Sunday I watched my future son-in-law complete an Iron Man in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  An Iron Man, in case you didn't know, consists of a two-mile swim, a one-hundred fourteen mile bike ride, followed by a grueling twenty-six-mile marathon.  By law, anyone blogging about the Iron Man must use the adjective "grueling" at least once, and the authorities were watching anxiously to make sure I got it in.

You'd think with a sport like this, they'd have a hard time lining up suckers competitors, but actually there's loads of them.  They were lined up for what seems like a mile waiting their turn to jump in the river for the first leg of the race.  Glenn was with a couple of his buddies, Wade and David.  Prior to the swim, his friends stripped to their swim gear and were nervously - not pacing, exactly - you can't properly pace while standing in line - but they were pacing in place, if such a thing is possible.  There was a twitchiness to their movements, they seemed on the verge of slapping their chests.  But not Glenn.  He was admirably relaxed and didn't remove his sweat shirt and pants until the very last minute.  It was a cool outside, and there was no point being uncomfortable.

Glenn was on the swim team in high school and college, so the swim is his strong suit, not to mention, swimming in the river he was boosted by the speed of the current.  After he got in the river, we watched the other swimmers downstream a little while, their splashing in the distance looked like bait fish jumping, in the memorable simile of Glenn's dad, Brian.

Then we went to the transition area to see Glenn get out of the water and onto his bike.  We didn't see him again until the transition from his bike to the run.  Athletes left their bikes with volunteers and had to trot a fairish distance, wearing either socks or their click-in bike shoes.  Glenn was a longer time appearing than expected, and Spencer speculated that went the volunteer took his bike, Glenn had forgotten to remove his GPS watch, which he'd clipped on the handlebars.  Sure enough, Glenn told us as he came running by, this is exactly what happened, and he'd had to run back and get it.

Evidently, this is Glenn's race-day MO; at least one thing goes wrong.  Once, he forgot his swim goggles, and had to do the backstroke.  On one memorable occasion, he forgot to bring shoes.

This is not to ridicule Glenn, just the contrary.  In addition to being a test of physical stamina, the Iron Man is a serious time commitment and a not inconsiderable expense.  I won't even tell you how much the bicycles cost, but it would make you blanch.  But although Glenn is committed, he never takes himself or it seriously.  Some Iron Men participants are regular snoots, but not Glenn.  He's friendly and affable to everyone, and if something goes awry, he doesn't pout like a prima-donna.  "Okay, I don't have goggles.  I'll do the backstroke."  "I don't have shoes.  I'll buy some shoes."  "Left the watch on the bike.  Oops."

Here's a picture of Glenn mid-gruel of the marathon portion.  He'd been in strenuous activity for about nine and a half hours with two and a half hours left to go.  It had started raining, and by now his shoes were probably wet and beginning to feel like cinder blocks on the ends of his legs.  It had been dark when he'd started the race that morning, and it would be dark when he finished.

Look at him smile.

We love you, Glenn.  Welcome to the family.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bernie Mandelbrot

Benoit Mandelbrot created this visualization of his famous set,
but his brother Bernie was the first to point out, "It looks like
someone's butt, or else like a bunch of turtles."
Benoit Mandelbrot's little brother grew up in the shadow of his more famous sibling, and yet according to many, Bertie had "more sense" and "better hair."  "Why can't you clean your room once in a while," Mrs. Mandelbrot used to berate her oldest son.  "Look at Bernie."


Mrs. Mandelbrot was to play a crucial role in her sons' development.  "You're both equally smart in different ways," she liked to say.  "Bernie understands fractal geometry, and infinitely reducible non-repeating self-similar patterns, Bertie is very good at getting good TV reception, most of the time.

Both boys grew up to make important contributions to mathematics - Benoit Mandelbroth posited a set of complex numbers for which the orbit of zero in a complex plane under iteration of the something or other, I  mean, who really cares anyway, whereas, Bernie stated the theorem that if everyone divides the check equally, it still isn't fair if one of you got a side salad and a mixed drink, and everyone else just got the entree.


Bernie's inquiries also led him into the field of relativity; he was the first to point out, that if two observers, traveling relative to each other at three quarters the speed of light, each would observe that the other's clock was running 12.5% slower, and yet neither one would be able to make it to the bank before it closed on Saturday, not if he needed to get by the dry cleaner, too.  This led to the inevitable conclusion that the universe is constantly expanding, which is why you can never fit into the pants you wore in high school.


Predictably, rivalry between the two brothers was intense, and not always amicable.  Benoit refused to let Bernie stand behind him, and Bernie suffered from a lifelong fear that Benoit would put something in his socks.  Nevertheless; Benoit offered grudging admiration for his brother, saying, "He has achieved the pinnacle of moronic reasoning."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Organized Misdeeds

Al Capone was successfully prosecuted, but his distant cousin,
Joan Capone, continued to operate with impunity.
Most people are unaware that such an organization exists, that the vast majority of petty nuisances and minor social infractions are masterminded by a tightly-knit body.

Organized Misdeeds grew up in Sicily as the slightly simple-minded and more annoying baby brother of Organized Crime.  

In addition to bootlegging, drugs, prostitution, and gambling, Organized Crime, or as it was called, Cosa Nostra, "our thing," extorted small businessmen for protection money with veiled threats such as, "Vinnie, nice bakery you got here.  It'd be a shame if something happened to it,"  Whereas, Organized Misdeeds, or the De Chi E Questa Cosa, "whose thing is this?" operated more insidiously.  Typically, they'd see a sandwich, say, that Vinne was saving for later, or maybe a slice of red velvet cake, and they'd say, "De chic e questa cosa?" and when no one answered, they'd eat it themselves.

While Mafiosos faced occasional criminal prosecution, Organized Misdeeders operated below the law's radar, and thus wreaked havoc with impunity.  For one example, 1931, the year Al Capone was found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to a dose of syphilis, his half-cousin, Joan Capone, was caught with fourteen items in a "ten items or less" grocery lane, and got nothing worse than a "Oh, come on," from the exasperated fellow-shopper behind her.

Today, Organized Misdeeds is a vast international network coordinating such misbehavior as taking up two parking spaces by parking over the white line, being rude to restaurant wait staff, or talking loudly during movies.  The internet has opened a whole new field for Misdeeders, allowing them to post pictures of food on Facebook or take constant selfies or text friends during meetings.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Popular Kids

Remember the popular kids in high school?  There was the bossy one with the weight problem, the cute guy who was quiet, the not-as-cute-guy who was loud and silly, the sassy girl?  Their table at lunch was set off from the others, like they were too good to eat with everyone else, even though we were all eating the same pork nuggets and over-boiled vegetable mush.

Remember them?

Remember how much fun they always seemed to have and how they'd sometimes burst out in laughter, like life was one big party, only you hadn't been invited?  Speaking of parties, they always had parties, right?  Like they'd either be talking about the party they had last weekend or the party this weekend, or even the party tonight.

Well, they're still around, much older now, of course, but they haven't changed much.  You always used to tell yourself that life would catch up with them, that they wouldn't always be "the popular ones," that one day you'd show them.  Well, guess what?  They're still as popular as ever, and they still sit at the same table at lunch.  It's a secret table in a special restaurant no one knows about or can get in unless you're one of the popular kids.  And they talk about parties they went to and parties they're going to, neither of which you were invited to.  

And they go to IHOP and don't tell you.  Or maybe, you might get a text, "WE @ IHOP JN US" or however popular kids would text a message like that, only if you go to the IHOP don't bother, because they'll already be somewhere else, and if you run into one of them later, they'd be all sorry and say it was a big misunderstanding, and they meant to text you when they went to the Cheesecake Factory, and they told Lance to be sure and text you but Lance didn't do it because you know what a goof-troop Lance is.  Only you'll know it wasn't a slip-up, they did it on purpose, and they thought it was funny because that's how popular kids roll.

What's that, you say?  You say I'm full of it?  You say the popular kids don't still get together?  You say that you've got friends and loved ones and you've got a life?  You say you don't care what other people do, you're happy with yourself?  You say you're pretty popular yourself.

Oh, please.

If you were one of the popular kids, you'd be riding around with them right now.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pop-Tarts, The End is in Sight

Underground Storage Facility, Yucca Mountain
This week, Pop-Tarts turns 50.  Yep, fifty years ago, Pop-Tarts were introduced for the first time to the consuming public.  The shocking news is, soon there will be no more.

This has been a closely-guarded secret until now, but the fact is, the original batch of Pop-Tarts produced in 1964 was the only one ever made.  Owing to a misplaced decimal in the original invoice, Kellogg's manufactured over a trillion Pop-Tarts in one year.  The Pop-Tart factory has since been shuttered and demolished, and the accountant responsible for the error disappeared soon after the fiasco.  His body has never been found.

The excess Pop-Tarts have since been stored deep under the Yucca Mountain in Arizona, along with depleted Uranium isotopes and 50,000 back issues of George Magazine.  Ever since, Kellogg's has been extracting them on an as-needed basis for retail sale.  Using special high-powered syringes, the original fillings have been replaced with new flavors from Disney Princess Jewelberry to Guava Mango.

The executives at Kellogg's calculated that the supply of Pop-Tarts would last well past the year 2214, when a secret scientific report reveals that the sun will explode engulfing the inner planets and destroying all life except for earth's billionaires and their chosen concubines, who will escape and a fusion-powered spacecraft.  Their confidence was further boosted by critical reception, which ranged from "nauseous," to "not recommended for eating purposes."

Unfortunately, no one anticipated the public's voracious appetite for processed breakfast treats.  Moreover, Pop-Tart consumption was further fueled by a packaging snafu.  Each Pop-Tart, a single serving, is wrapped in a foil sleeve with one other Pop-Tart.  This means that the typical consumer, having opened the foil, will eat both Pop-Tarts, fearing spoilage of the remaining.  (This fear is unfounded: Pop-Tarts are impervious to spoilage.)  There being two foil containers in the typical box, the other Pop-Tart pair rattles in the box like an orphan until the consumer, deluding himself that he is saving shelf-space in his cabinet, the eats the other pair as well.  Thus, a typical American consumer eats four times as many Pop-Tarts as the wildest and most optimistic forecast estimated.

Think about the last Pop-Tart you had.  Was there anything about it that suggested it was not fifty years old?  Would you have applied any adjective to it such as "fresh?"  That's because every Pop-Tart you've ever eaten was made in the middle of the last century.

And now they are running out forever.

Whether this is good news or bad, is for you to tell.