Sunday, March 31, 2019

Another Sign Of The Apocalypse: Super-Crazy QAnon Conspiracy Book Selling Like Hotcakes

The idiots of Qanon prove that there are zillions of suckers
born every minute. 
These are the kinds of stories that just make me want to give up.

A book called, "QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening" was a big boffo seller on Amazon, at least earlier in March.  

QAnon, for those who mercifully haven't heard about it yet, is probably the most bonkers conspiracy theory in history.

The basics of the conspiracy are that the world is run by a Satanic cabal headed by Hillary Clinton. She and other prominent Democrats also supposedly run a child sex ring in the nonexistent basement of a Washington DC pizzeria.

Moreover, according to this wild and stupid conspiracy, Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are secretly working together to destroy this evil cabal.

As NBC reported in March , the book was at No. 9 in all books about politics and No. 1 in all books about "Censorship."

Apparently, "QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening" is full of garbage that comes at you willy-nilly.

NBC describes it thusly:

"On one page, the book baselessly claims that the United States created AIDS, polio, Lyme disease, some natural disasters, two Indiana Jones movies and the Pixar movie Monsters Inc."

Wow, that's some busy government we have doing all that! I wonder why this secret cabal took the time to make these movies?

NBC's report goes on helpfully:

"The book posits that Monsters Inc shows off a government plan to collect children's blood 'that gives (government figures) some form of high or youthful look."

Oh. But then why doesn't Hillary Clinton not exactly look like a spring chicken? Oh, sorry, we're not supposed to question the logic of these insane conspiracies, are we?

The reason that this weirdness is doing well on Amazon has to do with the old, sad fact in America: There is a sucker born every minute.

Social media has been playing wack-a-mole with these whackadoodle conspiracies. NBC quotes conspiracy theory research Mike Rothschild saying YouTube recently changed its algoritms to make it more difficult for the grifters pushing Qanon to make monetize their video creations.

So, Rothschild said, these grifters are no dummies: "They absolutely exploited flaws in Amazon's algorithms." The book, Rothschild said is "a bold new step in the endless grift at the heart of Q."

In an earlier article from last August NBC tried to explain why people fall for conspiracy nonsense that is batshit crazy.

People have always thought that many things don't happen by chance. There's an underlying reason. That's how conspiracy theories are born.

I get the NBC story on why people believe conspiracy theories, but I'm still struggling with how people get to that state of mind.  According to this article, people who are generally anxious and feel like their life is not fully in their control anymore, gravitate to conspiracy theories.

Alright, so I get it how people believe in things like a conspiracy over the assassination of JFK, even if the theories are pretty off. But how do people get to insane things like Qanon?

What's really dangerous is the people like Alex Jones who peddle conspiracy theories to the masses.  I'm sure he doesn't believe the crap he spouts. He knows he can make money off it because of all the gullible people out there.

As points out, these gullible people are willing to believe the global elite are planning to murder 80% of the world's population, that children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre were just crisis actors that were part of a "false flag." Jones had a guy on his show and demonstrated support for the dude who was claiming that the 2,000 children that go missing everyday are being sold to Mars as sex slaves.

There we go again. The strangest conspiracy theories involve sexual crimes against children. I'm glad people are fighting back. Jones is being sued for his terribly harmful antics, and it's not going well for Jones at all. 

The best explanation for Qanan and its popularity that I've seen came from columnist Clarence Page.

He writes:

"The Qanon theory, whatever its origins, sounds tailor-made for core Trump supporters who need supporting arguments for the alternative scenarios spun by the White House, conservative media and other Trump allies.

Qanon is scary partly because its promoters want it to be. 'Triggering the libs' or 'owning the libs' - i.e doing things specifically to upset liberals - is its own reward to many on the right. But paranoid politics can pop up on all political sides - and often does."

Unfortunately, the game of "owning" the other side, the enemy, has become more important than facts in this world. The most dangerous part of all this is that when we ignore facts for fun and profit, those facts always come back to bite us on the ass. Often with tragic results.

Friday, March 29, 2019

A New Low In Obnoxious Advertising

One of those obnoxious ads in the waters off lower Manhattan
As anybody who knows me realizes, I have no patience for the desperate, loud, constant barrage of advertising.

It's possible to make advertising that is engaging, entertaining and makes you want to buy their products. That concept is rare, though, as most advertisers seem more intent on insulting us, rathern than engaging us.

Most advertisers seem to think the more you annoy us, the more likely we are to buy their wares. I have not gotten anyone to explain how that works, if it does.

A new low in advertising has come on the waters of the Hudson and East rivers surrounding the big lights of Manhattan.  Barges now ply those waters with obnoxious LED billboards. As the New York Daily News reports:

"The city filed a lawsuit Wednesday aimed at sinking the billboard-carrying barges that float on New York waterways.

City attorneys write that the company behind the LED advertisements, Ballyhoo Media, has brazenly disregarded requests to dock the barges because they are a public nuisance, distract drivers and violate zoning regulations."

I can see why New York City officials are exasperated with these barges. As New York City Councilman Justin Brannon said in the Daily News:  "At a time when every square inch of our world feels like it's covered in advertisements, visual pollution is a real thing, and our waterways should be off-limits. Drivers along the water don't need more distractions and when kids in Bay Ridge go to Shore Road Park, they don't need to be barraged by flashing lights advertising the latest video game."

True, a big city like New York has plenty of bright lights and advertising. It's turned Times Square into one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world.

But the advertising like that doesn't have to be everywhere. That's why Manhattan has both the dazzling advertising lights of Times Square, and the relative quiet and trees and lawns of Central Park.

However, plenty of advertisers and ad agencies think they must blind and deafen us constantly, because that way we'll buy, buy.  Ballyhoo Media, the company behind these obnoxious floating barge billboards is one of those.

The website for Ballyhoo Media was interestingly down for maintenance Wednesday and Thursday, which is interesting.

Infuriatingly, Ballyhoo Media might still get away this. The company pulled the same stunt in Miami Beach. The Florida city tried banning the advertising barges, but Ballyhoo successfully argued that Miami Beach doesn't have jurisdiction over the water, so their awful visual pollution remains.

Ballyhoo is likely to make the same argument in New York.

The Miami New Times said Adam Shapiro, owner of Ballyhoo, gave this spin on how supposedly great these floating advertising barges are. Shapiro said the barges are a quicker way to reach customers and make announcements. He pointed out there have always been advertisements at the beach.

Well, yeah. You can go up to the boardwalk and look at all the advertisements you want, or you could turn around and have an uncluttered view of the water. You have a choice. Ballyhoo Media wants to take away that choice.

Shapiro made the same argument, that his company is just wonderful, in response to the New York lawsuit. Talk about gall and gaslighting with this statement!

"We love the waterways and have developed this platform to be an asset to the community.....Ballyhoo has proven to provide unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that has been received with overwhelmingly positive community support. We are confident that New York City will see the value and excitement we bring to the waterfront."

I hate to break it to him, but the yelling and screaming Shapiro is hearing is not "positive community support," it's community rage.  But enjoy your delusions, sir.

Unfortunately, this will only get worse. We've probably been sentenced to dozens of these companies clogging beautiful waterways, along with lake and ocean front tourist spots with these outrageous LED ads.

Want to give up on the beaches because of this and stargaze instead? Looks like you're going to be out of luck there, too.

As and other media outlets have reported, a Russian startup called StartRocket wants to put billboard advertising in space, because apparently, stars and planets are ugly but advertisements  in the sky for chicken wings and cola are majestic. describes this hellish idea: "Imagine this: you've just fled from the city to your nearest national park to gaze deeply into the infinite abysss of space and contemplate how your own existence fits into the curtain of the universe. Then out of the corner of your eye, you see brigh white letters spelling "KFC" spring across the horizon in a long arch."

Yeah, lovely.

It seems that advertising company executives are so full of themselves that they will believe any branding about themselves that they imagine. It can't even enter their mind that almost all of the rest of us think they're obnoxious. The guy with the ads in space idea, Valadilen Sitnikov says this: "It's human nature to advertise everything... Brands are a beautiful part of humankind."


I once read a short story where everybody in the nation was forced to view advertising every waking hour through some sort of hologram that everybody was required to operate.

It doesn't seem like we're that far from that horrible dystopian life.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Randy Rainbow Is Feeling Conflicted Over The Mueller Report We Haven't Seen Yet

Just as I expected, Randy Rainbow has a new video now that Robert Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General.

As we now know, the report apparently doesn't say Donald Trump criminally colluded with Russia. But he's not "exonerated" either, despite the spin you hear from the White House and his Republican patsies.

All these mixed messages has us all feeling conflicted, including Randy Rainbow.

So, the latest parody is called "The Mueller Blues," to the tune of Sondheim's "Buddy Blues."  Another classic, including the murderous crime of Sarah Huckabee's pink blouse. Here you go:

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Another Reason To Avoid Florida: Poison Toads

Another reason to "love" Florida: Hordes of poisonous toads are
invading some neighborhoods 
Generally speaking, I'm the kind of person who likes frogs and toads.

Where I live in New England, they never cause much trouble at all. They just eat annoying mosquitoes and other biting and damaging insects. What's not to love?  

Florida, of course, does everything differently, and often, worse. Which brings me to some toads in the Sunshine State that make me want to stay far, far away.

They're called cane toads, and lately, they've been taking over neighborhoods in much of southern Florida. Worse, they're poisonous. Dogs and cats love to catch toads. They put these toads in their mouths, the toad secretes a toxin, and the pet dies.

Humans can get ill from these things, too.

Since these toads are invasive, they have few natural predators and are overwhelming some areas.  As USA Today notes, local news stations in Florida have been broadcasting images of these toads clogging pool filters, hopping in large crowds across driveways and partly covering lawns.

Individually, the toads look cute, even though they are poisonous. The huge numbers of them look like a horror movie.

This outbreak of marauding toads was probably brought on by humid weather, a rainy spell and a surge in temperatures into the 80s and low 90s. The epicenter of this invasion seems to be Palm Beach Gardens neighborhood of Mirabella where people can't bring their pets outside and children can't play outdoors because there's so many poisonous toads.

One resident, Jennie Quasha, told television station WPTV, "I just see a massive amount of toads and frogs everywhere, covering every square inch....You can't even walk through the grass without stepping on one."  Quasha said hundreds of them were in her swimming pool. So much for a nice leisurely dip in the pool on a humid Florida afternoon.

Exterminators can get rid of some of the toads, but it looks like people will have to let nature take its course. The numbers of toads will go down, but they won't disappear entirely.

Which is another reason to not enjoy the Sunshine State.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Maple Sugaring Time In Vermont Gives Us Another Reason To Hate Squirrels

A maple sugar maker shows some tubing chewed up by squirrels.
Trees are tapped in Vermont and the sap is flowing in sugarbushes as the annual maple season in the Green Mountain State is in full swing.


It's all good news except for one thing: Squirrels are interfering with this maple enterprise.

People think squirrel, chipmunks and such are cute and I suppose they are.

They are also a nuisance, as anybody who tries to keep their bird feeders full for the birds and not the rodents. And as any gardener can tell you whos perennials are wrecked by squirrels.

It turns out maple producers in Vermont and elsewhere have had it, too. As has been widely reported in Vermont by the AP and others, squirrels are battling to prevent us from enjoying this year's crop of maple syrup.

Sugar makers rig plastic taps and tubing which lead the sap from sugar maples to holding tanks. The contents of those tanks are boiled down to make maple syrup. However, squirrels have been busily chewing up the tubes, apparently in an evil plot to divert the sweet sap to themselves.

As the AP reports, that forces sugar makers to work long and pricy hours repairing the lines and seizing the sap back for us humans:

"That means producers must go out into sometimes deep snow to find and replace the camaged lines that transport the sap from the maple trees or other chewed or missing equipment, which producers say can be time-consuming and expensive."

The squirrels apparently know how to make things particularly tough.  They try very hard to scatter the damage, making things all the harder. The AP again:

The trouble is the squirrels could take one bite of tubing and move another 100 feet where they take another bite, making the damage hard to find, said Lyle Merrifield, who is president of the Maine Maple Producers Association.

Clearly, squirrels are out to get us. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Voice Actor Hilariously Scams Scammer

A voice actor in California recently helped a friend deal with an employment scammer.

In the first half of the video, below, she explains the scam and how she sets up her trolling. (The little detail about the Santa Monica Solid Waste District is fun.)

Then she puts her voice talent skills to work. Listen to what she has the scammer spell whil trolling him.

I love revenge like this.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Burned Up Toasted Tesla On Lake Champlain Getting Lots Of Attention

A burnt up Tesla on the ice, Shelburne Bay, Lake Champlain
Vermont seems to be a bit of a magnet for weird mishaps.

Which is why I wasn't totally, 100% shocked when a 2019 Tesla Model X recently went up in flames atop the ice on deeply frozen Shelburne Bay in Lake Champlain.  

I guess it was such a big deal that web sites all over the place picked up on the story. This includes Jalopnik and Popular Mechanics wrote up articles about this unfortunate Tesla.

Popular Mechanics had this likely explanation for the blaze

"The specific cause of the fire is as yet unknown. People on Tesla forums who saw the crazy pictures began to speculate about insurance fraud or someother oddball explanation, but the most likely explanation would be battery failure. If damaged, lithium-ion batteries can rapidly discharge their stored energy in the form of heat, leading to an inferno. The bigger the battery, the bigger the fire.

Teslas necessarily have a giant battery pack, so if the car suffers sufficiently severe impact, it can go up in flames."

The driver of the car reported hitting something on the road, perhaps a rock or a big pothole or frost heave, reports Seven Days. The motorists said he smelled something odd after hitting whatever he hit. That might have damaged the battery, leading to the Tesla fire a little later on Shelburne Bay.

As the fire raged, the Shelburne Fire Department wisely decided not to drive their 50,000-pound fire truck out onto the ice to put out the blaze, notes Seven Days.  So the Tesla burned to a crisp.

By the way, the fire didn't melt too much of the ice and let the Tesla fall through because most of the heat of the blaze was directed upward, away from the ice.

It's the owner's responsibility to get the Tesla off the ice. And you wouldn't want it to sink into the water when the ice melts, due to a pollution risk.

The Burlington Free Press says a towing company got the wreckage off the ice a few days ago, but it wasn't easy. It had frozen back onto the ice, and had to be pried loose.

Here's a YouTube video, taken on the day they were trying to get the remains of the Tesla off the lake:

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Mad Gardener Might Have Booby Trapped The Pansies With Bombs

Gardening usually makes people happy, like the pair in this stock photo.
But a German gardener apparently took his job very, very angrily. 
One of my jobs, in the warmer time of year, is to tend peoples' gardens.

I'm happy to report I've never had any kind of serious dispute with any of my clients. But if I did, rest assured I wouldn't go to the lengths a gardener in Germany seems to have done.

BBC reported this about the German gardener:

"Bernhard Graumann 59, was found dead on Friday. Police believe he may be behind an explosive trap that killed a 64-year-old doctor on the same day. Two other people with connections to Graumann were injured by an exploding piece of firewood in their home."

A 37-year old woman threw the log in a wood stove, unaware it was booby trapped. It exploded, injuring her and her daughter, age 4. The mother and daughter's injuries weren't life threatening, but still.

Another booby trapped log was found at another house where Graumann had dispute with the homeowner, but the homeowner found it. Police were called, and they blew it up away from anyone and anywhere it could cause harm, the Associated Press reported.

At least 60 people have called a hotline set up after these incidents. The people were worried they'd had a dispute with Graumann and might have been targeted.

Authorities suggest anybody who had a conflict with Graumann while he tended their gardens maybe ought not totally trust their plots of daffodils and early spring vegetables.

You never know what might explode.

Police searched Graumann's home, where they found gunpowder and other items covered by German explosive regulations, says the BBC.

I've always thought of gardening as a peaceful endeavor. It gives me a sense calm, serenity, even when I'm working for a nitpicky client. I think that's true of just about everybody who gardens.

Which tells me this Graumann character in Germany really had problems.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Randy Rainbow Alert: Yet Another One, As Naturally We Get A Trump/Kim Summit Edition

Randy Rainbow is at it again, this time skewering Donald Trump
and the recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Randy Rainbow keeps cranking them out, and I dutifully post them in this here blog thingy.

I'm a fan boy, deal with it.

This time the tune is "He's In Love (And We're All Going To Die.)" This cheerful tune is a parody of the song from South Pacific, "I'm In Love With A Wonderful Guy."

At the start of this video, like all Randy Rainbow videos, it starts with a "news" interview. This time Randy introduces President Donald Trump as "the castoff from Bachelor Hanoi." This, of course focuses on the star-crossed recent summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

I won't give away anything else, but one is full of zingers, as usual. And as always, this video is a delight.


You Must Watch/Hear This Jennifer Hudson/Sir Tom Jones Performance From The Voice UK

Jennifer Hudson and Sir Tom Jones performed an epic
duet during an episode of The Voice UK 
Jennifer Hudson and Sir Tom Jones are judges on this season of The Voice UK in Britain.

The Voice, for those who don't watch reality shows, is one in which accomplished singers act as judges and pick worthy contestants based on their voices, not their looks. (The judges listen to contestants' auditions facing away from them.)

Once contestants are selected as the show's season progresses, contestants pair off in "battle rounds" in which the judges pick one of two contestants who perform duets.

During a break in The Voice UK, fellow judge Olly Murs was asked what his dream battle round would be. He responded he'd like to see Hudson and Jones go at it.

So they did, with "It's A Man's Man's World," you know, the Etta James classic.

The result from Hudson was what you'd expect out of her: Just incredible vocals that will blow you away. The surprise, at least to me, was Jones, age 78. He totally knocked it out of the park, too.

It's totally worth watching and listening to this "battle round." Here it is:

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

"Superstore" Ad Is A Wonderful Biting Commentary

I usually have little patience for TV promos, you know, those things networks play during commercial breaks telling you how wonderful the upcoming season of whatever show will be.

Right now, though, NBC is promoting a new season of "Superstore," a comedy I actually like quite a bit because of its somewhat cynical, but accurate and biting take on the service economy and large corporate retailers.

I actually think the promo is terrific. Yeah, on one level it's just telling you to watch the show. But it really hits at the daily humiliations many people in service jobs have to endure at the hands of soulless, cheap and abusive corporate offices. And the awful things these workers must wear on the job!

Not all corporations are like that, of course, but a fair number are. So I like how this promo skewers this piece of society and capitalism.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

Crazed Man Holding Pillow Outside In Minnesota? Maybe

People in Jordan, Minnesota thought this was a deranged man
standing out in the street. It was just a cardboard cutout,
but I suppose the mistake was understandable
Police in Jordan, Minnesota got a weird call the other day.

It was freezing cold, and a person reported a deranged man standing motionless outdoors, with no coat on, hugging a pillow.

Police raced to the scene, only to find a cardboard cutout of MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.

Well, that was an easy mistake. If you've seen any of the company's TV ads, he does look like he's a bit much. And the premise of the ad is something: A sleepy couple encounter Lindell inside their bathroom medicine cabinet.

I don't know about this company's pillows, but I do know if this medicine cabinet encounter happened to me, I'd probably never be able to sleep again.

According to Jordan, Minnesota police, "Those cardboard cutouts sure can look real from a distance and the caller certainly was not wanting to get too close thinking who is this deranged person standing outside in the cold hugging a pillow."

Or, for all we know, the person who called police knew it was a cardboard cutout but was still freaked out anyway. A plausible scenario, don't you think?