Stay Free's Best of 2005
Hell, everyone else is doing it so we will too. Here are a few of the best - or, at least, most popular - Stay Free! posts and articles from the past year.
An Inquiry into the Effects of Preservatives in McDonald's Food, or, What Does the Fungus Know That You Don't?
Our at-home test of the difference between McDonald's and local fast food.
How Did Mad Hot Ballroom Survive the Copyright Cartel?
An interview with documentary producer Amy Sewell
Hiking through Manhattan
Stay Free! talks a walk on New York's deserted Highline
American Science, R.I.P.
Inspired by the "American Science" series of U.S. postage stamps, we created parody stamps that look just like the real thing - only featuring God, Bush, and Rick Santorum, and William Jennings Bryant in place of the scientists. Download 'em, print 'em in color, and scare your friends.
Meet me before first period
Procter & Gamble's launches pre-menstrual tampons; a spoof by our man Torchinsky
Taking the permission society seriously
Carrie asks the copyright authorities for permission to sing "Happy birthday" to her father
Does watching TV make you stupid?
A review of Stephen Johnson's overhyped nonsense
Carrie's rant about the latest book I haven't read, Malcolm Gladwell's BLINK
Advertise on my colon!
A thoughtful response to eBay "human" ad auctions
Can't a gay Batman get a break?
DC Comics goes after painter Mark Chamberlain
Sucking on the tit of McDonald's
An actual ad from McDonald's ad agency in Austria
This Month in New York City Critical Mass OR How Much Does It Cost the City to Run One of Those Police Copters All Night?
Matt Ransford recounts a Critical Mass ride in April
George Jetson gets a present from Dove
Charles Star notices that a new ad campaign makes more than your hair look fuller
Never too young to look younger
I remember the first time I felt old. It was 1989 and 17 year old Michael Chang had just won the French Open. I suddenly realized that I was 18 and had accomplished nothing. Fortunately my natural laziness prevented me from doing anything drastic like, say, trying to accomplish something.
I suppose feeling old when young is pretty common, but doing nothing about it may not be. The AP reports that there is a surprising trend among today's twentysomethings to use anti-aging products and wrinkle treatments. Alas, although the truth hurts, these kids have the right idea.
Maria Esther de Capovilla started using Oil of Olay at 17 and today she doesn't look a day over 95.
From reading my occasional posts here, you might get the sense I spend the bulk of my time watching TV, eating pizza, and reading Friendster messages from imaginary Russian women. And that's basically the truth. But I do have my "classy" moments. Last night, for example, I took in an evening with the New York Philharmonic. (OK, OK, a friend who was leaving town gave me her tickets, but still.)
The jeans-wearing friend who accompanied me wondered if she was underdressed. I was able to assure her that all was fine, as soon as I noticed a gentleman in the front row sporting a Lou Piniella jersey.
But my purpose today is to open up a discussion with those of you more familiar than I am with classical music performances. Specifically: What is the mad obsession with coughing?!?
In the Playbill, in the User's Guide to the New York Philharmonic, there is a "Quiet, Please" subsection. It states, "We offer you cough drops during winter-month concerts. Please help yourself—helping you feel better, and helping us all to be a quieter audience. Natural Her Cough Drops—Courtesy of Ricola USA, Inc."
OK, fair enough. An attentive, quiet audience is always appreciated. Here's the kicker, though. The music starts up (Weber's Bassoon Concerto, followed by Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Silbelius's Symphony No. 5). We reach a pause at the end of the first movement, and my friend whispers that applause should be held until the end of the entire piece. Applause was the only noise held, however. The audience took the opportunity to cough, hack, clear throats, blow noses, and emit inhuman grunts. From every corner of Avery Fisher Hall arose a repulsive symphony.
Is it psychological? Since we are allowed to cough during that brief window, we must cough? Certainly they weren't collectively holding in coughs for 15-minute stretches? It was surreal. It was gross.
On a completely different topic, and more rhetorically: Of all those Eastern European who write to me on Friendster, how come it has not once been guest violinist Julia Fischer?
Gelf Magazine is running an interview with me regarding Panexa, our drug ad parody. Jason Torchinsky actually wrote the text of the ad - and I don't mean to steal his thunder - but he was unavailable due to a death in his family. (It's hard to lose a parent, so send Jason some love, okay?)
Jews Gone Wild!
And they say the Jews are repressed. Sunday's New York Times had this advertisement for JDate - apparently, your source for kosher three-way action.
Happy Holidays, indeed.
Suddenly Panexa doesn't sound so bad
It apparently isn't enough for the pharmaceutical industry to price drugs so high that people in impoverished countries can't afford them. The high prices inevitably result in the production and sale of dangerous fakes, so the drug companies actively suppress the information.
Drug companies collect information about fakes but hide their dirty laundry behind trade secrets claims and PR. The American Prospect's chilling account of Glaxo SmithKline's malfeasance in connection with the trade in counterfeit Halfan (an anti-malarial) in Africa includes more corporate double-speak, denial of responsibility, "misplacement" of records and manufactured excuses than you would think could fit in a single article. The death toll from BigPharma's refusal to publicize and prevent the sale of diluted or fake drugs may never be known but is clearly quite high.
As is often the case, I'm horrified but not surprised that this is going on in the Third World because it is going on right here. In 2002, Kansas City pharmacist Robert Courtney was sentenced to 30 years in prison for diluting the cancer drugs Taxol and Gemzar, killing 17 and injuring many more. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly both settled civil cases arising out of Courtney's prosecution because BMS and Lilly both had records that showed that Courtney sold three times as much of those drugs as he purchased. Both companies denied any responsibility, of course.
On the other hand, chimps can be quite charming
According to The Scotsman, Josef Stalin tried to create a race of "super warriors" by cross breeding people with apes.
[E]xperiments [in West Africa to impregnate chimpanzees] ... were a total failure. [The program director] returned to the Soviet Union, only to see experiments in Georgia to use monkey sperm in human volunteers similarly fail.
I may not be an expert on Stalin's Soviet Union, but am I the only person who thinks that the Scotsman is using the phrase "human volunteers" a little loosely here?
More Postcards from Hawaii
I am back in Hawaii again visiting the in-laws for the holidays. When Cynthia and I were here last September we came across some weird signs and flyers. (And yes, the Polaroid of the $9,999 rock is currently framed and in our dining room at home.)
How long before they figured out they needed to add "the band" to the flyer? How many shows with angry crowds yelling "We want Arsenio! Get off the stage!"
The closer you look at this thing, the better it gets. I'd like to imagine that DJ Sounds and Lighting is an actual person. Imagine, over the speakers in a dark club you hear, "Ladies and gentlemen, make some noise for DJ Sounds and Lighting!"
Happy Chanukkah, Merry Christmas, and all that.
Clear Channel: truth in broadcasting?
You've got to love Clear Channel. Ever the trend-setter, the company has started selling naming rights to the newsrooms of some of its radio stations. Come January, listeners of WIBA-AM in Madison, Wisc., will begin hearing reports from the Amcore Bank News Center, while WISN-AM in Milwaukee offers reports from the PyraMax Bank News Center (and has, in fact, for the past two years).
With corporations sponsoring everything from city parks to school gymnasiums these days, this move should come as no surprise. But I don't know whether to blast Clear Channel or thank them. I mean, hey, as long as you're going to sell out your newsroom you might as well be upfront about it. And when it comes to shameless grabs for cash, I much prefer this to launching bogus pirate radio stations and pretending to have local DJs.
Documentary films and fair use
If you read our interview with the Mad Hot Ballroom producer last summer, you already know the kinds of things documentary filmmakers have to deal with to clear the copyrighted works in their films. With the movie industry refusing to acknowledge the role fair use can and should play in filmmaking, the situation has been looking pretty grim. Fortunately, the Center for Social Media has stepped up to help right this wrong by releasing the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement on Best Practices in Fair Use - a simple, straightforward guide for filmmakers.