The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum

The Harmful Rays of the Moral Vacuum
Please be advised that for your safety you must exit this blog on foot, calmly and quickly.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Some local flavor

I'm very sorry to make you jealous, but tomorrow morning I am going to see the oral surgeon to have my two remaining wisdom teeth taken out.  When I did the left side, I only had local anesthesia.  This time, I have wised up and will be requesting an IV full of Valium and a man sized hit of nitrous.  Hopefully the process will go better this time than the last.

I doubt I will be writing an entry tomorrow, as I will be on the mend.  So tonight I thought it would be fun to write about a few odd things I saw in the neighborhood today.  The first comes courtesy of the restroom at a local cafe.  I was feeling down this morning and needed an affirmation.  A little positive reinforcement.  And that is what I saw this sign...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mysterious Empty Mansions

Here's a cool story I picked up from the MSNBC website.  It is replete with copper magnates, political intrigue, and mysterious empty mansions.  Huguette Clark is the only surviving heir of William A. Clark, who was a United States Senator and the second richest man in America way back in the days of the robber barons.  Huguette is older than God, and has no heirs of her own.  And no one knows where she is.

It is presumed that she is in a nursing facility somewhere, but any inquiries as to her whereabouts are rebuffed by her lawyer.  He refuses to divulge her location even to her surviving relatives.  She dropped out of the society pages in the 1950s, becoming a recluse and leaving behind her a trail of empty mansions.  One of them is in California, and has never been lived in, yet has been maintained by caretakers for decades.  She also had a lavish pad on Fifth Avenue and a Connecticut estate which she reportedly purchased as an escape from the horrors of a coming nuclear war with Russia.  She is attempting to sell most of these properties for tens of millions of dollars, and hasn't lived in them for decades, if at all.  She is about to turn 104 years old, but according to her lawyer has all of her faculties and regularly gives him instructions.  Wherever she is.

The backstory is equally as cool.  Her father, William A. Clark rose up from a modest upbringing in a log cabin to become a the copper king of Montana.  He was one of the true robber barons, and cared for little but his own growing wealth.  He was notorious for dispensing bribes, and bought his way into a United States Senate seat.  He served for one term, though he insisted on being referred to as "Senator Clark" for the rest of his life.  He moved his family to New York, and died at 86 years of age.  He was laid to rest in a cemetery next to Woolworths and Astors.  Definitely worth checking out the full story and cool pictures here.  Be sure to click on the "photo narrative" version at the top of the page to view the slideshow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Awful Products as Seen on TV: Pos-T-Vac

Today's post concerns the sensitive subject of erectile dysfunction, and a most unusual product whose makers claim is the cure for that bedroom predicament.  I expect both of my readers to handle this subject with a level of maturity appropriate to the vein in which this post was written.  Haha, I said "handle" and "vein."  So for those of you who think you can limp through this, on to the meat of the post.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Billz travel dispatch

Having recently returned from a business trip to Washington, D.C. I would like to share some experiences and observations from my travels.  First, I have a new favorite fake word: Manthropomorphism. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wednesday odds and ends (but hold the crust)

As mentioned previously, I spent this past weekend with my lovely Mrs. visiting our nation's snow covered capital.  I am leaving early tomorrow morning for D.C. again, this time for business.  But I didn't want to leave without mentioning a few odds and ends that are on my mind.  Trust me, this is really important stuff.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Everything looks swankier in a brandy snifter

Way back on April 7, 2001, a Saturday Night Live sketch aired featuring guest host Alec Baldwin and longtime cast member Horatio Sanz as two Italian American gentlemen, presumably from either Long or Staten Island, who operate a photography studio called "Lasting Impressions."  Their specialty is adding "elegance" to your favorite photo by digitally placing the image inside of a brandy snifter.

The sketch is hilarious.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to find a video clip, but you can read the script here.  It doesn't do it justice, but it will give you the idea.  In a case of art imitating life, I found this thread from 2007 on a photography website.  I almost wish that the woman's posting was written tongue-in-cheek, but I don't believe that is the case.  If you have the time, you really must read the whole thing.

To summarize, she is looking for a wedding photographer for her daughter, who just got engaged.  She wants to provide her daughter with "only the best" and has her heart set on a picture of her daughter and son-in-law inside of a brandy snifter (which she refers to as a sniffer).

Many people offer earnest and patient responses, including one photographer who explains that the look, which was achieved through double exposure, was very popular in the 60s and 70s, but most serious wedding photographers consider the technique to be dated and cheesy.  One person even links to the script of the SNL sketch.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the mom of the bride-to-be eventually chimes in to say that she has been fired from the task of selecting the photographer, but she will find someone to create the brandy snifter pics using Photoshop.  Perhaps she can call the guys at Lasting Impressions?

True gluttons for punishment should check out this slideshow from the same photography site.  It's called "wedding fantasy" but I think you'll agree that it's more of a nightmare.  Cheesy double exposure shots were apparently all the rage at one time.  Apparently, there are examples of such shots dating back as far as the Victorian era.  I guess you could charitably argue that the overall effect is classic.  But it makes me appreciate my wedding photographer, Chelsea Nicole's take on classic that much more.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Feature: Awful Products As Seen on TV

I am a longtime fan of the schlocky commercials and lengthier infomercials that marketers use to hawk their dubious products on late night television.  It was well reported last year that producers of infomercials were experiencing a boon due to the recession.  The makers of products such as the Snuggie who otherwise would have been unable to afford prime time advertising found that their ad dollars stretched much further due to the downturn.  Despite the recent and untimely death of pitch man par excellence Billy Mays, the "As Seen on TV" industry seems to be thriving.  Which brings me to a the introduction of a new feature of this blog, Awful Products As Seen on TV.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nuclear Winter

We finally got some of the snow yesterday that has been crippling the Washington, D.C. region.  It wasn't anywhere near the magnitude of D.C.'s "snowpocalypse," as a certain AccuWeather forecaster would gladly attest.  The record setting snowfall in the Capitol region has been so severe in recent days that D.C. area governments ceased snow removal due to "extremely dangerous" conditions.  Guess what my weekend plans are?  The wife and I are taking a long planned trip to D.C. as she has never been there.  Hopefully at least something will be open by Saturday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Billz Classics: I did it my way.

I return today with another edition of the ever self-indulgent "Billz Classics."  But first, a disturbing news item which was submitted to me by a friend.  It seems that in the Philippines, where karaoke is an unaccountably popular pastime, people are really killing 'em with the Frank Sinatra classic "My Way."  Or to be more accurate, people are being killed for performing the song.  Gives new meaning to a rough crowd.  Damn it, Philippines, did the Chairman of the Board teach you nothing?  The good life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal.  Yes, the good life lets you hide all the sadness you feel.  It does not, however, give you license to hack someone with a machete because they suck at crooning.  Incidentally, Frank hated "My Way."

Now for the "classic" blog entry, which was written on November 1, 2006 under the title "Whosoever shall be found without the soul for getting down..."

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gives new meaning to the phrase "throwing a bomb"

In honor of today's Superbowl XLIV, here's a post on a football of a different kind.  The nuclear football is a briefcase that is carried by a military aide who is always in the presence of the President of the United States.  It has the power to unleash a devastating attack the likes of which the world has thankfully never seen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Food Review: Pepsi Throwback (plus two bonus beverages)

For those who are keeping track, this is my fourth posting about beverages.  I should have called this BevBlog instead of the Moral Vacuum.  Not "Bev" for beverages, but because I hold the deep seated belief that I am an 87 year old woman named Beverly trapped in a man's body due to a failed physics experiment.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Billz Classics

A few days ago, I stumbled upon my long neglected MySpace page.  It was a bit of internet archaeology, so to speak.  I read through some of the blog entries I posted to the page.  Since a few of them are good for a laugh, I thought I'd start posting occasional excerpts here with a bit of commentary under the general banner of "Billz Classics."  (Less stuffy than Masterpiece Theatre, but more self important.)

If this new feature is annoying to you, please give me feedback and I will cease and desist.  I value both of my readers very deeply.  Clearly I was even more misanthropic a few years ago than I am now, and my hatred of mass transit ran even deeper.  This first entry was written on Monday, October 30, 2006 under the title "I was waiting for a cross-town train in the London underground when it struck me..."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Lost Roadside

One of my favorite web destinations is Lost America, which showcases the work of photographer Troy Paiva.  Paiva specializes in night photography.  His preferred subject is what he calls "the abandoned west."  Using elaborate lighting and exposure techniques, he takes haunting shots of the abandoned motels, junkyards, brothels, military installations, and houses that dot sleepy desert roads.  I've wasted many hours over the past few years looking at his images.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wait a second, Doctor! What is it you're prescribing me?

What follows are some of the incoherent ramblings and disparate thoughts I had over the day.  I would like to start this post off by leveling the harshest possible criticism towards pharmaceutical maker Eisai Company.  But what wrong have they committed?  Are they exploiting their employees?  Releasing medications to the market without adequate testing?  Using aggressive sales tactics to encourage doctors to over-prescribe their products?  I'm afraid it's far worse than that.