Never thought I’d say this, but I have that Hannah Montana song down cold. I am ready to rock. Figured out a way to funk up my part – and if the mental image that provokes doesn’t cause deep cringing, well, thank you. As I said, I’ll post a video of this performance. The collective age of the band is over 200 years, I think, but I’ll be switched if we still can’t kick out the jams. Whatever the hell that means. Have we kicked out the jams, guys? No, some jams remain in close proximity. Let’s try them again. Okay, but this jam-kicking is hard on the bunions.

New Dr. Scholl Pads for Aging Rockers! Jams kicked with the heedless glee of a 20 year old.

I am not, however, getting my ya-yas out. The ya-yas are wrapped in a Freak Flag, which I will not be flying.

You know, we already have seventy-year-old rockers.  Dick Dale is 71. Seventy is the new 18, I guess. The other day I was listening to an old radio drama from the 40s; the police were interviewing a grocery store owner. An old guy. His voice was tired and worn and he referred to his wife in that indefinable tone that suggested a bony dessicated creature in a grey dress with a bun of white hair, sitting at home worrying about Sonny, who was in the War. He gave his age as 52. An old man. If there was a 70-year old, he was either a pathetic rummy everyone called “Pops,” a loser jailbird everyone called “Pops,” or a rich cranky invalid millionaire who barked orders at everyone from the humid confines of his orchid hothouse. The idea of a 70 year old picking up a trumpet and blowing off the roof – unthinkable. And yet we’re supposedly the youth-fixated culture.

Cold day; got up to about two and a half degrees before it fell down and gave up. I’m used to it. I get up, check the temp – ONE – and shrug. You get used to anything. If it rained flaming hamsters every morning you’d walk to the bus stop with a steel umbrella and a shovel.

Interesting news on the job front: the paper is bringing in outside consultants to fix the slide. If I were king of the forest, I’d rip up the entire model. Drop the ad rates, make it up with quantity, zone the ads. Go to a tabloid format with big wood on the front page: Five word headlines. Make every section live, so no one’s writing Monday for Friday. Hire five metro columnists and twenty reporters.  Raw video in every online version of a story, when possible. Chisel the words THROW DEEP AND SWING HARD over the door. That would be a start. There’s more, but I dasn’t.

I am tired of dasn’ting.

Ah well.

This was my favorite story of the day: British book awards council turns down a story based on the Three Little Pigs because “The subject matter could offend Muslims.” The fact that no actual Muslims seemed to be offended was irrelevant; one or two excitable sorts might frown hard on the frank insensitivity inherent in the depiction of porkers, so better to find something non- controversial, like a story about a pudding that counts to three then back to zero again. (Don’t forget who invented zero, after all! Bonus points.) It would be one thing if the offending pig-thing had been quietly ignored, but the BBC story seems to suggest that the judges were open about their reasons for poleaxing the tale. It’s the usual sonorous blather masking the usual cultural cringe:
But judges at this year's Bett Award said that they had "concerns about the Asian community and the use of pigs raises cultural issues".

The Three Little Cowboy Builders has already been a prize winner at the recent Education Resource Award - but its Newcastle-based publishers, Shoo-fly were turned down by the Bett Award panel.

The feedback from the judges explaining why they had rejected the CD-Rom highlighted that they "could not recommend this product to the Muslim community".

These idiots would have demanded that Pink Floyd put a black plastic band around the cover of their “Animals.” Give them a few years, and they’ll start soft-pedaling the venerable English bulldog as a national symbol.  You suspect that one fatwa against the color red from a nutwad imam ranting in a storefront would result in the Beefeaters forced into in a dun-colored uniform.  But it gets better.

They also warned that the story might "alienate parts of the workforce (building trade)".

The judges criticised the stereotyping in the story of the unfortunate pigs: "Is it true that all builders are cowboys, builders get their work blown down, and builders are like pigs?"

These are judgments and decisions made by people who, one suspects, have never poked their heads out of the bubble that extends over the entire professional caretaker class. You really have to have multiple years in higher education to craft a statement so packed with radiant stupidity. Is it true that all builders are cowboys? No. The likelihood that 100% of the British construction trades are populated by laconic men wearing chaps, a Stetson and a sidearm is small, and the paucity of actual cowboys in England will probably mitigate against an impressionable child making this inference. Is it true that builders get their work blown down? No. It is also not true that Winnie-The-Pooh is a bear who walks erect and has a kangaroo as a neighbor. It’s called a story. This may come as a grim revelation to people who only read their kids bedtime stories about a Bangladesh seamstress who successfully repays a microloan, but kids like made-up stuff, and can tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Which makes them eminently unqualified for a position in a government book-award granting organization. Is it true that all builders are like pigs?”

No. On the other hand, some builders are like pigs, specifically the third pig who chose brick. The story of the Three Little Pigs was a famous Depression-era Disney cartoon that hit a sweet spot in the national mood. Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? In retrospect, that wasn’t really the lesson, since the pigs who sang the song had reason to fear the wolf, due to substandard construction techniques. Does this mean all cowboy pig builders use straw? No. But the third pig, who planned ahead and built for the storm, was able to shelter his feckless brothers when the wolf came, and afterwards everyone could scoff at the wolf. Lesson learned.

All the brave people waiting for things to get really bad so they can put on their V for Vendetta masks and upload YouTube videos of themselves writing graffiti on stop signs will roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders at this, because A) it’s just more wingnut hyperventilation, B) the people who get exercised have a deeper agenda, which probably involves deportation and gas chambers, and C) it’s just pigs, man. Well:

Becta, the government funded agency responsible for technology in schools and colleges, says that it is standing by the judges' verdict.

Of course it is.

Merlin John, author of an educational technology website which highlighted the story, warns that such rulings can undermine the credibility of the awards.

"When benchmarks are undermined by pedestrian and pedantic tick lists, and by inflexible, unhelpful processes, it can tarnish the achievements of even the most worthy winners.

"It's time for a rethink, and for Becta to listen to the criticisms that have been ignored for a number of years," said Mr John.

Not necessary. Anyone who submits a cracking good children’s story with pigs will probably face an editor who smiles, taps the manuscript, and makes a slightly pained expression.

“It’s a brilliant story,” she’ll say. “It’s Becta-award winning stuff, really it is. But could we make the hero a sheep?”


Thursday means the ongoing Sears 1973 catalog project, now renamed “Le Chic, C’est Bleak.” The graphics have been redesigned to reflect the typeface used by the company. Ugly all around, but what can one do? Thursday also means Bleat Radio Theater, and this one’s a treat.

I’ve been on a “Pat Novak For Hire” jag lately, which is a bad idea all around. It almost spoils Dragnet. Once you hear Jack Webb play a sour burly unlicensed private eye from the wrong side of the waterfront you never quite see him the same way again. If you listen to more than two shows, you start thinking in the ridiculous showy hard-boiled patter that made the show so popular. It’s Chandler-plus, every line. If you listen to more than three, you realize that every show was the same. I mean it: they all travel the exact same arc. We meet Pat Novak down by the waterfront; he gives us a prose-poem about the perils of living by your wits in the damp dank Frisco piers. Then he’s hired by someone – a strange man or a dame with more curves than a sack full of eights (see? It’s contagious). Murder follows quickly; usually Novak gets sapped unconscious and wakes up next to a dead man. Happens weekly. To every client. You’d think word would get around.

Soon we meet Sgt. Hellman, who loathes Novak and can’t wait to put him away for something. Unlike the usual banter between PI and cop, Novak and Hellman really hate each other.

Pat goes to the bar to find his legman, Jocko. He’s a drunk. He’s drunk at the time, but manages to spontaneously compose an erudite encomium on the human condition or Pat’s place in the world, after which Pat tells him to stuff it, and gives him a job. The scene always ends – and I mean, always – with Jocko calling Novak “lover,” followed by mincing mocking wa-wa-wa music.

The dame often gets shot in the last scene, but has enough breath to go out in style. Then Novak recaps the solution to the crime in between a few heavy sighs, and nothing really makes sense. It doesn’t matter. The plot was just a skeleton on which the writer hung his pulpy dialogue.

The first is from February 20, 1949.  You’ll enjoy the fellow who plays Hellman. And dig this, cats and kittens: it was a comic book. In 2006.