Wednesday, June 29

Some Advice?

I am fortunate enough to have a significant other who will read to me and has a good reading voice, as well. This reminds me of camping with my father, who read Huck Finn to me, in dialect, many times on those trips. I love to read and I read a book about every two days, but there is something different, and special, about the experience of being read to.

Right now, we are reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is a good book, though not the best for out-loud reading. I picked it because I didn't think that he would pick it up on his own, but he just finished and liked the very interesting science fiction book, The Speed of Dark, which also focused on a character with Autism.

My question is this: Do you have any advice on books that lend themselves to be read out loud? I have tried searching the internet for a list of such books, but all I come up with is children's lit. (I refuse to believe this is because I am an odd person with an odd request.) Help me out; we are almost done with our current selection.

Obligatory Gmail invite give-away

If you are interested in a Gmail account (how everyone on the planet does not have 10 of these by now is beyond me), I have 50 invites. Again.

Gee, mail me at: deadmandancing at (of course, replace the "at" with the @).

Seriously, I really like Gmail, and you probably will, too.

That whimpering sound you hear is the death of my innocence

Per an old article in the Hattiesburg American (second story) The International Checkers Hall of Fame (!) in Petal was started in 1979 by Charles Walker, who
. . . said he loved the game of checkers so much that he wanted a place where people from around the world could come and see his checkers memorabilia and play the game with him.

At the mansion, Walker raised his family, set Guinness world records by playing the most games simultaneously and hosted international checkers tournaments.

Well, Mr. Walker also had slightly less altruistic resons for the Hall of Fame, apparently, as he plead guilty today of laundering drug money through the organization.

Looks like you got zugzwanged, Mr. Walker.

Tuesday, June 28

Ah, the joy of unintended consequences

Get a load of this site. Justice Souter never saw this coming.

--thanks to Darren for the link

Saturday, June 25

Those Krazy Klan Klowns

I watched part of the Killen civil rights murder trial here on Mississippi Public Broadcasting and man, was it sad. Everybody--defendant, judge, lawyers--all looked worn out. The courtroom's plywood decor was "Early Exhaustion." The camera dude was too slow to pan. The pace was glacial with sometimes 15 or more minutes of everyone sitting there silently, waiting for--what? You couldn't tell because the sound guy was too worn out to correct for the judge's muttering. The star witness the day I watched was the almost 90 year old mother of civil rights worker Andrew Goodman, with other witnesses "appearing" postmortem through transcripts read in a monotone.

I, of course, was weaned on L.A. Law and am a current fan of the "Law and Order"-type shows. With that fictional background and the recent circus of the much-too-real Jackson trial, I suppose it is not surprising that I kept waiting for the defense attorney to jump up and righteously object something. I keep waiting for the "sexy" testimony and it was clear that the lifeless prosecutor was just going though the motions.

I wanted this trial to be a just a little more sensationalistic--didn't these people know they were on national television? But what it was is another sadly accurate, worn out chapter of the age-old story of race and murder in a little, sad, and worn-out town in my homestate.

However, it did remind me of a funny anecdote. Back when I worked in a small Mississippi town for a mental health place, one of our case managers had as a client the schizophrenic Grand Dragon of the local KKK. She, a no-nonsense black lady I'll call Mary, had been doing home visits with him for years, when one day he met her at the door. "Mary," he said, "You know I like ya and all, but I can't have you coming out here any more." She asked him why, and he says, "You're ruining my reputation."

Too Personal

Here's the text of a personal ad I found in the Hattiesburg American several years ago. I hope they hooked up. . . .
To the nice young lady I saw at Red Arrow on Monday: You had some hair missing & had a limp like me. You drove a gray van with a Handicap tag. Please give me a call collect anytime. My name is George. (Phone # redacted.) P.S. I had the little black dog.

Sunday, June 19

Blooming Mississippi

Mississippians have some sort of sick fascination with the state flower, which like all flowers is simply the plant's sex organ. The magnolia, however, is a particularly overblown, ostentatious sex organ, and boy, do we love them. I have seen 6-foot tall magnolia paintings, ceramic magnolia ashtrays, magnolia aprons and puff-painted magnolia sweatshirts, primary-colored magnolia flags, and entire magnolia-themed bathrooms. Here's a tip: unless you are Georgia O'Keefe, sweetie, you cannot render this damn flower as well as you think you can, and there are probably more hand-crafted magnolias in circulation than are produced in every magnolia tree in Mississippi each year anyhow. Just stop it, already.

The Red Hat Society
A couple of years ago, I walked into a New Orleans-themed restaraunt in Hattiesburg to a sea of red hats--plumed, laced, jauntily placed. I had heard of this! These were a local group of the Red Hat Society, ladies "of a certain age" who had (ostensibly) embraced the devil-may-care paen to older-age, "I Shall Wear Purple," by Jenny Joseph. I loved this idea. I love non-conformists of any stripe. I am fascinated by taggers, Travellers, and transvestites, just to mention some of the T's.

Well, since I was the editor of a small magazine in Hattiesburg at the time, I approached the group (probably about 150 present that day) to see if I could talk to some of them and score an interview with the "Queen." The ladies I spoke with that day were very sweet and offered me their Red Hat business cards along with the Queen's phone number. So I call her for an interview--a sympathetic interview, mind you. No snark.

Once again, I had gotten the idea of something confused with the that thing in practice. This also happended to me in high school, when I, not fashionable (or rich) enough for the rich kids; not quite smart enough of for the geeks; not atheletic; not musical; just a reader and a big mouth, I decided that the punks were for me. They didn't care what you looked like, right? Be yourself, and all those other poseurs could just leave us alone. Well, no. I didn't wear enough black, and I didn't like spending Saturday nights destroying the IHOP, one of the few places that would let us sit there for little money, for which we rewarded them by making huge messes for minimum-wage employees to clean up. I wasn't a very good punk, either. But I digress.

The Red Hat Queen was suspicious. What is this for? Who was I, exactly? She would have to call someone higher up (?) to approve the interview. Turns out, as I should have known all along, that the Red Hat folks are rich, white ladies who are playacting at being unique by gathering in full-regalia (their phrase, not mine) in huge groups in upscale restaurants. I never did get that interview.

Well, fuck you, Red Hat ladies. And fuck you, too, magnolia artistes.

Saturday, June 18

Here's a Little Something while you wait.

Here are a few links I've liked this week. Nibble on these while I put the finishing touches on my next, meatier post.

Cows say "mer." Bzzzpeek, a cool audio demonstration of how animals sound in various regions.

Though it is not 'new' news, this week I heard that the star of one of my very favorite silly websites, Oolong, the pancake-wearing rabbit, is dead. But he has passed the crepe crown on to Yuebing.

Booksfree is the Netflix of books. Interesting idea, but whither the old Interlibrary Loan? Bookcrossing is the site of an even better idea for booklovers.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a guide to the legal ramifications of blogging. Good read that may help you avoid getting your ass fired. But if you get fired anyway, don't make the mistakes that these job applicants did.

Finally, here's yet another take on the Midget issue (posted about earlier here and here), this time from the sexy lead actor of The Station Agent, Peter Dinklage. (This picture does not do him justice.)

--Thank you to the great Grow-a-brain site for several of these links.

Monday, June 13

Prodigal Kitty

Well, two weeks and a day after Alex cat disappeared, and after I had just begun to be able to think of him without tearing up, we hear a knock at the door. (Alex uses the screen door as a huge door-knocker.) In he walks, weary and looking a little beat up. He ate and sat in my lap and purred, then ate some more. I cried, and he ate. I asked him, "What happened to you?" but his mouth was full and he couldn't tell me. It was an eating/bliss fest. Until.

Until he caught sight of the kitten I had gotten to take my mind off of Alex's disappearance. I could see him thinking, "Damn, I went out for a pack of smokes and you replace me?! After 10 years of mutual devotion? Aw, hell no!" Kelty, the new baby (named after the up-market camping equipment guys, because cats are all about some camping), has been a real charmer and no matter how many times Alex hisses and swats, Kelty comes back for more. I hope this eventually wears Alex down, but so far it is rather tense.

My theory is that a dog got after Alex, because he has a new patch of missing fur that looks like healed scratches. So, he takes off running and later finds himself lost. I also think someone was looking after him, because though he was very hungry when he got home, he hadn't appeared to have lost any weight. To whoever you are, I thank you, and I hope you don't end up getting him back because he has given up on me.

Friday, June 10

Nigerian Scams taken to a new low

I saw a belated but fairly interesting story on 419 scams on NBC this week, which reminded me that I intended on blogging about an overlooked aspect of these scams.

The Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) is a 24/7, toll-free system that the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing use to make telephone calls to the hearing world. It is one of a few government programs that work extremly well with no direct cost to the user. Unfortunately, teen-age boys and scam artists appear to be on the verge of bringing the system down.

Follows is a repost of the article that I posted to Boing Boing several months ago about the 419 scams and TRS. Can you tell I'm pretty hot about the whole thing? The bulletin-board I reference is a great read--lots of TRS operators blowing off steam about their jobs in a way thats make me glad that I am only a telephone bill collector, and how often do you hear that?

Nigerian Scams Using IP Relay (original Boing Boing post)
Relay operators, who help the Deaf with phone calls, are required not to interfere with phone calls. People can even make drug deals on the phone, and the relay operator is not supposed to do anything but convey the information. Boing Boing reader deadmandancing reports that relay operators have their own forum to discuss situations in which they know one party in a phone call is being scammed. Some offer hints on how to get around the rules and report suspected fraudsters.

Deadmandancing says: "IP Relay is free to use, and is intended for the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing/Speech Impaired to be able to comunicate through operators to non-impaired friends, family and businesses.

"The site is a forum for these operators, and boy are these guys PISSED at having to spend literally hours a day helping Nigerian scam-artists abuse the system to prey on businesses. The operators are required to remain 'transparent' -- they must repeat verbatim what is said by the scammer with no commentary, and are not allowed to disconnect even the most blatantly abusive calls.

"This form of the scam is harmful on many levels and endangers a useful, free service for the Deaf. Big Telecoms seem to have little interest in stopping these guys due to the $1.35 they get per minute per relay call.

"The forum has general ranting along with some interesting and inventive methods operators have devloped to try to put a stop to some of this, often with the real possibility of being fired."

Got a call that I wasn't sure about then found out it had to do with a flight to you-know-where. Didn't have a whole lot of information from the least not enough to make a decent report. So, I got on relay and called the sugar mamma back. She thought I was the perp the whole time and gave me all the information I asked for. Reported to the credit card company and the airline. The perp is going down hard.
In the last week, my reports have saved well over 10,000 dollars in fraudulent activity. I'd say that was well worth it. The confidentiality clause that you signed doesn't mean you should have to compromise your moral obligations. I find it ethically and morally reprehensible that relay centers enforce rules that protect people who phone in bomb threats, discuss details of crimes, and prey on the innocent and I will not be bound by a contract that my conscience won't let me follow.
Link to the 419 scams TTY forum.

Thursday, June 9

Sign me up for that!

I got to browsing through other petitions on Petition Online after my last post and thought I'd pass a just a few of them on to you.

Wednesday, June 8

Knickers in a Twist, Redux

Not content with merely voicing horror at the "Rent my Daughter/Son" sites, someone out there has decided to DO SOMETHING about it.

I support activism, even when your site is ugly and your cause is a little flaky, but our friend Snopes has this to say about Online Petitions.

In other follow-up news, here's a pretty interesting discussion between Roger Ebert and Daniel Woodburn, actor and Little Person, about the use of the word midget. (Are you listening, Dead-Pan Ann? :)

Tuesday, June 7

Mabel is Unstable

Here's a great collection of vintage pharmaceutical ads. Many Most of these are scary--check out the little epileptic girl on the swing, the little boy cracked out on Nembutal, and compazine for the arthritis sufferer? Geez. How many of these medications are still on the market? But at least you know what the company was attempting to treat with these ads, which were, I believe, mostly directed at doctors. Today's ads frighten me even more--"Ask your doctor if XXXXX is right for you" when you don't even know what the hell it's for. But don't get me started on the travesty that is Big Pharma.

Speaking of drugs, here's a neat list of fictional drugs in literature and movies. Note: Soma was first a fictional drug in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, but is now a real muscle relaxer. Creepy.

Monday, June 6

Dave Devries's Monster Engine

What a neat idea. I have to say that even the original children's versions show more talent than my drawings, though. Via

Sunday, June 5

Mississippi Yearning

Here's my response to yet another story about us hicks in Mississippi:

Aaargh! I hate these stories! The man was old, rural, most likely poor and living in a state that is still dealing not only with our racist past but also the media's glee at continuing to portray all of us as neandertals. Perhaps the man didn't want to discuss the issue YET AGAIN, and on his own property. Rednecks are everywhere that there is rural poverty, and I don't expect older folks with little social education beyond home learning to be terribly enlightened. I hate that this old fool did this, but I also hate that this is all that reporter is going to bring home from his visit.

And, Scared of Mississippi, the scariest thing is that if you were to come to Mississippi and start asking questions about Emmitt Till,at least of people under 30, you'd most likely get a lot of blank looks.

As you can see from the internal confusion of my own post, Mississippi continues to be a contradiction--yes, we are still dealing with racist issues (as well as sexist issues, as this big-mouth broad from Hattiesburg, MS well knows), but can't a single damn reporter come here and not interview the toothless old guy at the feed store? How about a college professor with two Fulbrights? How about a straight-edge punk band? The Lesbian couple that run Camp Sister Spirit in Southern Mississippi? The editor of the Jackson Free Press? Mississippi is more than one stereotypical old white dude with chaw in his mouth.

Saturday, June 4

Pathetic Pet Posting

So, much like Hattiesburg's famous Casey the Pomerainian, my Alex cat has gone missing. Casey has been gone and obviously pathologically missed by his owner for 5 years at last count. Local paper The Hattiesburg American ran a daily ad for Casey for many years, and I think still runs one on Sundays. We tried to talk to the owner (whom I can't help but imagine as the stereotypical old lady) 2 years ago for a story for the now broke-down local mag The Breakdown, and she refused to speak with us. Hmmph--what good is that ad gonna do you if you won't take calls? I also checked with The American to see if they were charging her for the ads--they aren't, I'm glad to report.

I felt bad for the lady and old Casey (who has a medical condition, natch) even before my Alex took off, and I do understand how she can still be waiting and hoping to get her dog back. I have looked in the neighborhood and asked the pound, but in my experience old cats don't die, they just wander off and leave you forever wondering. Instead of a 5-year-long lost ad in the paper, though, I am only going to offer this pathetic plea: If you see a raggedy-old black cat missing some fur in the Avenues, please shoot me an email.

Wednesday, June 1

On the other hand, this looks legit

Well, the rent my daughter and son sites below are just really nicely done parody sites with a creepy edge, but the Rent a Midget site looks legit to me. And what do I think of this? It's tacky, it ain't PC, and the site design is horrible, but these guys are adults, and the entertainment industry is has been a going concern for Little People for years. What does it say about you if you decide you'd like to "rent a midget for an hour of shenanigans and tomfoolery!!!"? I probably wouldn't like your party, but then again, you probably wouldn't invite me.

Update on Tal

As noted below, Tal DeCell is ill and in the hospital. I went up to Tal's Sunday to check the condition of the place to see if having a benefit show was feasible. You who have been there in the past few years know that as his health worstened, so did Tal's cleaning habits and the place was pretty atrocious. I will spare you the details. . . .

Anyway, the guys who are running it now, Lyn and John, have really cleaned the place up and are very nice guys, to boot. The PA is functional and the stage has a riser, new carpet and no dog shit. (Whoops, darn those details.)

The bar and Dead Man Dancing are in discussion about a benefit to take place in August. Please contact me if you are interested in playing or helping out in any other way. I will certainly let the town know the details about the show when the time gets nearer. And watch this space!

I also wanted to take a moment to say thank you to Mugshots, especially Ron Savelle. They have supported Dead Man Dancing under previous management, and have been just wonderful under the new management as well. If you haven't been there in a while, go by and check it out--place looks great and the food is spectacular.

©2005 TC Byrd - All Rights Reserved

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?