Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Baby boasts well-formed third arm

A Chinese boy born with an amazingly well-formed third arm faces surgery to remove the spare appendage -- but doctors aren't sure which arm they should cut off. Personally, I think they should leave him be: He's bound to be 50 percent more efficient than your typical tot!

(Via Coast to Coast A.M.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

'My Friend Jim' video hits YouTube

It took a bit of prodding by friend of TDA Bill Wiest, but now our homegrown video for the timeless loser classic "My Friend Jim" is available to see (and more importantly share) on YouTube.

A little background: We shot the crazy thing in Stevens Point, Wis., and San Francisco. We spent our shoestring budget almost entirely on pizza and beer. Playing the title role of Jim is Bret Hagen, who slings guitar and sings like a banshee with me in the Electric Boogie Dawgz. (It's a little scary how naturally he took to the play actin' involved in recreating the role of a natural-born bum, I must admit.)

Anyway, if you've never seen the video, feel free to give it a gander -- hope it gives you a chuckle or three. And please send it to all your friends and rate it (especially if you think it's OK or better). I hear all the kids are doing it.

Ohio man patents cordless jump rope

Lester Clancy invented a cordless jump rope to aid the clumsy. The Mansfield, Ohio, man just received patent No. 7037243 for his gadget for the ungainly, which uses weighted handles to simulate that (patented) playground feel.

"If you are still jumping, you're still using your legs as well as your arms, and getting the cardiovascular workout. You just don't have to worry about tripping on the rope," Clancy told the Associated Press.

The Patently Silly website does its own riff on the bizarre invention: "Strawberry shortcake / Huckleberry pie / It's a patent on nothing, my, oh my!"

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some paperwork to file for my new wireless chicken wire. Cluck, cluck.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Rental car comes loaded -- with a snake

As I look forward to yet another summer on the road, I must admit to a bit of trepidation when I read the story of the Kentucky man who found a live, 2-foot-long ball python in his rental car.

Dan McBride, an assistant athletic director at Eastern Kentucky University, found the snake lying on the dashboard of his car and -- here's the really unbelievable part -- thought it was a rubber reptile left there as a joke. He even went so far as to pat the thing as he started to drive off. He got a shock when the snake lifted its head, according to the Associated Press report.

I'll bet. I've never noticed a drop-down for "with luxury snake" in the Priceline car-rental form, but you can bet I'll be keeping my eyes open in the future.

Ghost ship drifts into Barbados

A ghost ship, a phantom crew, a dying man's last letter, 11 petrified corpses -- what more do you need out of a gruesome news report? The Guardian has the whole, haunting story, and for once a tale of immigration gone horribly wrong does not mention the U.S.-Mexico border.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Watch Out For Those Washington Worms

Gardening is a big deal up here in the great Northwest, but for now on I'll be digging a little more carefully. I don't want to wake up some sleeping giant that will rip my ankles off. Holy "Dune", Batman!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Font problem solved lightning-fast

After my pleading post about identifying the font used for Bill's cafe logo, I did a Google search and stumbled upon's WhatTheFont Forum. I posted my sad little query, and had an answer in, I don't know, maybe five minutes. I walked away from the PC and the answer was waiting when I got back, courtesy of philippe2.

What a great tool! Once again I'm humbled by the Awesome Power of the Internet. Thanks, philippe2, and thanks

What the heck is this font called?

I'm working on a menu for this sweet little cafe in San Francisco run by a real wacky guy who goes by the name of Bill Schwartz. The place is called the Last Laugh Coffee House, and it's got a cool logo (ain't it cool?).

My question is: What font did the designer use to create the logo? I'm hoping to use the font in the rest of the menu, and I can't figure out what it's called. Help!

P.S. Free double macchiato (or whatever you want, really) to whoever gives me the name. Of course, you'll need to pick it up in person at the corner of Dolores and Valley in Frisco, probably during regular business hours. Thanks kindly.

Hoffa search leads to cupcake cash

A Michigan bakery is cashing in on the renewed search for Jimmy Hoffa by selling cupcakes with green plastic hands stabbing through chocolate icing. The creepy confection (see the picture!) brings to mind the long-vanished union honcho, buried alive and grasping vainly for the sky.

They're selling like, well, hotcakes, and the bakery has ordered 700 more green hands to keep up with demand.

"I never dreamed it would take off like this," said Laura Helwig, co-owner of Milford Baking Co. "We're just trying to have fun with the whole thing."

Now that's the kind of thing that makes America great!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Boon for beach-going beer drinkers

Reef's ingenious Fanning Sandal boasts a built-in bottle opener that's bound to come in handy when you're hitting the beach. What will they think of next?

(Via Gear Factor)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Madonna's mad quest for convtroversy

The Daily Mail's rather scathing review of a Madonna concert makes the big, big show sound like an over-produced horsies-and-bondage nightmare.

The best line, delivered about Madonna's ceaseless flaunting of her overly toned body: "Even the bouncers looked scared."

So, what's TDA got planned on the summer stagecraft stunner front? Um, we might bust the bubble machine out of the dusty attic and rip through some new songs for the tour. See you there.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Worst essay about an awesome steakhouse

It's not like I've come to expect great writing from the San Francisco Chronicle. But this extended Sunday riff on Harris Ranch -- a big meat oasis on I-5 halfway between Frisco and Los Angeles -- smells about as bad as the Coalinga feedlots.

It's also not like I enjoy taking potshots at local writers, but this is just so bad I can't resist. Forget the pseudo-literary crap, Mr. Taylor: At Harris Ranch, it's all about the meat, baby.

And you, fellow traveler -- if you're hitting that north-south California artery, be sure to stop in at Harris Ranch for the finest meal you'll find in those parts. It's a TDA tradition, and one that will leave you feeling fine.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Will the real Hamsterman please stand up?

Friends of prankster Luke Trerice turned a room of the Washington man's apartment into a human-size hamster cage complete with shredded newspaper floor covering and giant exercise wheel and water bottle. Don't miss The Olympian's precious pix that go with the write-up.

The rodent-style remodeling came as payback for a 2004 stunt that left Chris Kirk with severely aluminum-foiled room. (These creative and talented guys obviously have waaaaay too much time on their hands.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pack rat stashes 70,000 beer cans

Collecting beer cans was a hot hobby when I was a kid, but a Utah man who stopped tossing his trash took the idea to an extreme when he let 70,000 empties pile up in his Ogden townhouse.

Property manager Ryan Froerer told KSL TV the sight was "the sickest thing he's ever seen." So many beer cans were piled on the floor that they blocked the front door from being opened.

The mess -- the output of a man who allegedly averaged 24 beers a day for 8 years -- has since been cleaned up. And so has the guy who made it: He's supposedly on the wagon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Moonshine makes the car roll cheaper

A Tennessee company is selling an ethanol still that lets DIY moonshiners take revenge on Big Oil at the fuel pump. The 190-proof grain alcohol the apparatus distills works great for penny-pinchers who want to cut fuel costs, according to Dogwood Energy, the company that is helping motorists tap the awesome power of moonshine.

"You can save a lot of money. That’s what this is all about," said Shelley McClanahan, a spokeswoman for Dogwood, whose warehouse is just 5 miles from the Jack Daniel's distillery.

Consumers will need a permit to start cranking out the white lightning, and must promise to poison their output so nobody will be durn fool enough to drink the stuff. But a batch of shine costs only about 75 cents per gallon to produce, and using the ethanol to cut gasoline can drop the price per gallon of blended fuel to $1.09, the company says.

I'm pretty sure this wasn't what George Jones had in mind, but, hey, these are strange times in which we live.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bin Laden's a dish best left unserved

Attention restaurateurs: Next time you need to name a super-spicy dish, don't invoke the name of the world's No. 1 terrorist.

That's what Wahid Totkhyl did, and it got him nothing but complaints from outraged customers, according to The Sunday Mail.

"I don't see what all the fuss is about," he said. "I don't agree with everything he has done but it seemed like a good name. Some people laughed and some complained but it's just a curry."

Now the Bin Laden curry is off the menu -- guess the foolish food-slinger figured out that paying culinary tribute to the world's most-wanted man is no way to curry favor with customers. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bay Guardian spills ink on accordions

This summer Frisco festival calendar proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the typewriters used by scribes at the San Francisco Bay Guardian *can indeed* type the word "accordion."

Sure, the listing is slightly snarky, and it doesn't even mention rock (which is what TDA will do when we headline the event). But hey -- we extreme squeezeboxers will take what we can get:

Accordion Festival Join hundreds of people who think the accordion is the coolest instrument ever created at the 15th annual San Francisco Accordion Festival. Entertainment for the afternoon is all-accordion, all the time in its various Cajun, zydeco, conjunto, polka, and Parisian musette incarnations. Noon-6pm Del Monte Square Courtyard, 2801 Leavenworth, SF. Free. (415) 771-3112.

Get details at All Things Accordion (a site run by former TDA squeezer Tom Torriglia) or the Del Monte Square website.

Scottish woman seeks U.K. accordion shrine

A woman from Black Isle (love those Scottish names) is showing off part of her massive accordion collection at a Highlands museum in hopes of someday establishing a permanent display.

"There is a fantastic museum in Castelfidardo in Italy which inspired me and, as there is nothing similar in the U.K., I'm working on it," Caroline Hunt told the BBC. "I would love to find someone between Perth, Inverness and Fort William who would like to set something up, or who is looking for an extra tourist attraction so these instruments can eventually be on permanent display."

She put together her private collection, which includes accordions made between 1840 and 1960, over the past 12 years. It's grown so big that she's stashed squeezeboxes at various friends' houses.

Good luck getting the permanent museum together, Caroline. That would be just one more reason to visit Scotland.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Creepiest mirror ever

Want a Big Brother-style mirror system that monitors your bad habits around the house, then shows the hideous physical toll your hard-living lifestyle will take on you? That's what Accenture's Persuasive Mirror claims to accomplish.

Unless it's all a spoof. Dear lord, please let it be a spoof.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

UFOs just puffs of plasma?

Scientists at Britain's Defence Intelligence Staff think they've figured out what's causing all those dodging, darting lights in the night sky.

Here's the scoop, according to U.K. paper The Sunday Times: "Glowing 'plasmas' of gas are created by charges of electricity. Air flows then sculpt the plasmas into aerodynamic shapes which appear to fly at extraordinary speeds through the sky."

The dismissive report throws cold water on the whole UFO field, even going so far as explaining away the massive black, triangular objects reported by so many people (including Coast to Coast A.M. radio legend, Art Bell).

"The space between two plasmas sometimes 'forms an area ... from which the reflection of light does not occur,' giving the impression of a 'black "craft," often triangular and even up to hundreds of feet in length,'" the paper reports (quoting the report).

Although the Sunday Times admits that some UFO sightings are probably experimental craft operated by earthly militaries, the whole plasma things sounds an awful lot like the swamp gas crutch used since the '60s to discredit anomalies.

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Ready for Derby Day? Yum Brands is

On this high holy day of horse racing, Churchill Downs and the fast-food hucksters at Yum Brands are nosing out tradition in a race to corporate-sponsorship hell.

I wrote about the sickening sponsorship before, but I still can't keep from getting irritated every time I think about what those marketing mavens have done to the Derby (or even what they've done to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell -- remember when those places actually served good food a family could enjoy on a lazy Sunday afternoon? There was nothing like a great big bucket of love back in the good ol' days.).

While thoroughbred trade mag The Blood-Horse is going by the official name ("the Kentucky Derby, presented by Yum Brands"), the Lexington Herald-Leader is sticking with the race's original, unadorned title and running a story about reactions to the deal.

Jonathan Blum, senior vice president for public affairs at Yum, calls the sponsorship "tasteful but also highly visible."

OK. But I think Los Angeles "branding expert" (is he a rodeo pro?) Rob Frankel hits the nail on the head. "It's just one more sellout," Frankel says. "Why would you let something with the history ... of the Kentucky Derby be dragged down into fried chicken and a paper cup full of Pepsi?"

Amen, brother.

I love Kentucky. Had a great time when TDA played the Kentucky Bourbon Festival (even if it was "dry Sunday"). My favorite band of all time, Nine Pound Hammer, is proudly Kintuck. I could live on Ale-8. And my family tree grows up from just north of the Ohio River in a part of the Buckeye State that seems an awful lot like the Bluegrass State (with the snakes but without the bluegrass).

But one of the greatest things about Kentucky is its proud traditions (and fried banana peppers). I hope the people at the Derby figure that out by next year, and return the race to its unsullied form. Lose the logos and keep your soul.

P.S. Next time I'm in the Bluegrass State, I'm going to have to try Hall's on the River and some of the other great-sounding Kentucky restaurants anointed by Southern Living.

P.P.S. Bonus for reading through this entire nostalgic rant: a great mint julep recipe from Epicurious.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Accordion almost shanghaied in Shanghai

A quick-thinking and honest taxi driver saved a 10-year-old squeezeboxer competing in the Shanghai International Accordion Week from having her instrument stolen. After Qin Sheng accidentally left her accordion in the back of his cab, big-hearted hack Yu Shihe spotted a subsequent customer attempting to make off with the lost squeezebox.

"Without the warm-hearted and honest taxi driver, we won't have the chance to show off our music at the competition," said Qin.

The whole charming tale is recounted in sparkling English in the Shanghai Daily.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

Flaco gets ready to rock Cinco de Mayo

The Kansas City Star drops a spicy interview with Tex-Mex squeezebox legend Flaco Jimenez, who's playing at Fiesta in the Heartland. Among the more amusing revelations: 1) Most Mexicans don't know who he is because south-of-the-border stations don't play his music so much. 2) He prefers his deeper-sounding Gabbanelli accordion to his Hohner, which he says "yells more." 3) "Flaco" means "Slim."

OK, that last one probably wasn't exactly a huge mystery to Spanish speakers, but I never knew what "Flaco" meant. Taqueria Spanish will only get you so far.

'I have Nixon's half-eaten sandwich'

That's Steve Jenne's bizarre claim to fame, which landed him a spot on the game show I've Got a Secret, according to The State Journal-Register. His story of traveling with the sandwich makes airport jaunts with accordions sound almost simple (not to mention the special challenges posed by Illinois tornadoes).

Jenne got his star turn after his deli relic appeared in Weird Illinois, which sounds like an interesting read. Wonder if Suzanne's birthplace is listed?

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Horsemen of the accordion apocalypse?

More than 500 accordion players are converging on Shanghai to compete in China's biggest-ever International Accordion Week squeezebox smackdown. Better brace for swarms of flesh-eating locusts and rivers of blood.