Monday, October 27, 2008

Want to Feel Rich? Ok, You’re One of the Richest People in the World

Seriously, if you have a toilet to flush you’re doing better than one billion people on earth. That is the number of people who do not have a sanitary system of any kind where they live. One third of the planet is that poor. Having to cancel your Netflix subscription doesn’t seem like such a hardship now does it?

If you make $10,787 a year, the U.S. poverty line for an individual, you are in the top 13% of wealth in the world. If you make the median salary of a U.S. man, $43,460, you are in the top 2.17% richest people on the earth. Source:, which has a cool calculator that allows you to put your wealth in international perspective. Type in your income and see how rich you are.

If I Were A Rich Man - Topol

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Her Name is Rio-- No, Really, her name IS Rio

Jim Geraghty over at the National Review engaged in a little smirky sacrasm defending the GOPs challenges of registered voters in New Mexico. He noted that there were a number of problems with newly registered voters in that state that indicate widespread fraud. His piece de resistance? A registration for someone claiming to be "Duran Duran.":

Now, unless A. Serwer thinks that there is actually a registered voter named "Duran Duran" in New Mexico, he ought to refrain from sputtering that those who disagree with him are 'racist' and 'paranoid.'

The person who is "Duran Duran" almost certainly voted under their real name, and thus got two votes in the primary. God knows how many of those 27 others exist; for all we know, one person might have cast all of them. Anybody who voted once had their vote diluted by the guy who cheated to vote two to twenty-seven times.

Check and mate A. Serwer! Oh, but hold on a minute. There's one little detail I should mention. Duran Duran is actually a voter. Geraghty was forced to tag this amendment to the end of the story:

UPDATE: I am floored by the fact that the white pages for Albuquereque, New Mexico has a listing for "Duran Duran." Mea culpa.


Come Undone - Duran Duran

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Slate magazine is writing an obituary of the term "schadenfreude." The new fun failure expression is "fail."

In an article entitled "Epic win: Goodbye schadenfreude, hello fail." Christopher Beam traces the origin of the expression to a 1998 Neo Geo arcade game called Blazing Star. If you beat a level, the screen flashes with the words: "You beat it! Your skill is great!" If you lose you're chided with this poor Japanese to English translation: "You fail it! Your skill is not enough! See you next time! Bye bye!"

It also introduces the current word for a form of schadenfreude, lulz, the questionable pleasure of hurting someone's feelings on the Web.

Schadenfreude is so 2007. I fail it. Bye Bye.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hard time for Mimes

The Gawker is reporting that economic hard times are having a devestating effect on mimes, although they haven't been talking much about it.

Silence is golden - Tremeloes

Weather Control by 2000?

In honor of the news that my book Blame it on the Rain, which discusses how weather changed history, is soon to be published in Polish…

Paleo-Future, a Web site devoted to past futurism, recently posted a clip from a 1966 program 2000 A.D. The clip predicts a 3 day work week by 2000.

From there it goes on to predict weather control: "My estimate is that we will start to work seriously to modify thunderclouds to reduce lightning. I think that we'll be able to have some sort of estimate of whether we can control tornadoes and such local severe storms."

Weather control is no mere whimsy. As I noted in Blame it on the Rain, scientists (and quite a few quacks) have been working on it for years. They're just not very good at it.

In the late 19th century the Weather Bureau and the Department of Agriculture funded various tests in which explosives were unleashed in the clouds to release their rain. Money that The Chicago Times believed would have been “less ridiculously employed if it were devoted to the attempted manufacture of whistles out of pig’s tails.”

One of the first successful attempts was in 1946 when a high school dropout named Vincent Schaefer, who was employed by General Electric, flew above the Schenectady, New York clouds and dropped six pounds of dry ice into them. The result was snow.

A year later, Schaefer and Irving Langmuir, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, tried to change the course of a hurricane threatening the Florida coast. They dumped almost 200 pounds of dry ice into its eye. As they predicted, the storm changed direction. The experiment would have been a complete success were it not for the fact that the new path put the storm on a collision course with Savannah, Georgia, where it did about $5 million in damage.

As early as 1957, a report of Eisenhower’s advisory committee noted that weather control could become a “more important weapon than the atom bomb.” In 1966, the U.S. got a chance to try it out. “Project Popeye” dispensed a rain-making agent into the clouds of Vietnam and extended the monsoon season in order to increase the mud on the Ho Chi Minh trail—the main enemy supply route to South Vietnam. Whether or not these attempts were successful depends on whose report you read.

Of course, American generals were not the only ones to think of this. In Soviet Russia scientists were looking for ways to modify weather using laser technology. Recently declassified documents in England reveal that a storm that dropped 9 inches of rain in only 21 hours in August of 1952 came after a secret rainmaking experiment in which the military seeded clouds with silver iodine powder. The storm created a flood that swept through the costal town of Lynmouth destroying bridges, buildings and roads. The flood killed 34 people.

Weather control seems, for the foreseeable future, to remain the stuff of science fiction.

I Cant Stand The Rain - Tina Turner

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lazy Post of the Day

Earlier on this blog, in an entry titled "Changing My Name to AIG," I featured Arlo Guthrie's performance of Tom Paxton's Changing My Name to Chrysler. Well, looks like Arlo's changed his name again. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Fun with Family Values

There are so many lovely ironic tales of "family values" politicians falling from grace that Schadenfreude, Baby! did not even need to include Mark Foley. Remember Mark Foley? Two years ago CNN viewers were invited to obsess over his sexual e-mails to male congressional pages.

"After being caught sending explicit emails to underage boys, Florida congressman Mark Foley has resigned," Jay Leno quipped. "So his seat is up for grabs, which is what got him in trouble in the first place."

Foley slunk off in humiliation and in rode a Democrat, Tim Mahoney, on a white steed promising to restore integrity to the office. A socially conservative married father, Mahoney ran on a “Faith and Families” platform.

If you've followed politics at all, you've probably already guessed the punch line. Mahoney has bonked himself into a scandal of his own. He had an affair with one of his staffers and just for good measure, fired her in a mean and nasty recorded telephone call and then agreed to pay her $121,000 in hush money.

This story just goes to show that family values hypocricy is not the sole property of the Rebpublican party. But wait, our friends at Political Irony have pointed out yet one more twist in the story.

" will be difficult for Republicans to wave this an example of how Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans, because Mahoney was actually a Republican who was recruited to run as a Democrat against Foley in the first place. Since being elected, Mahoney has voted with the Republicans almost as much as he has voted with the Democrats."

Oh dear.

Cartoon © Chan Lowe

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Political Parties

The legal blog Infamy or Praise has a regular feature it calls Thank God its Schadenfreude. On September 12, it refrenced a story in The Register about an Australian government minister, Matt Brown, who was forced to resign after an embarassing boogie woogie in his tiny whiteys during a drunken party at his Parliament House office.

The greatest part of the story was the quote by the minister's boss state premier Nathan Rees, who told Fairfax Radio Network: "I subsequently put it to former minister Brown late last night that there are too many reports of you in your underwear for me to ignore."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Broke Brokers Nothing New

According to Sereno Pratt’s book The Work of Wall Street: “The word broker is old. The early English form was broceur. By some it is believed to be derived from the Saxon word broc, which meant, misfortune and the first brokers indeed appear to have been men who had failed in business as principals and been compelled to pick up a precarious living as agents.” Too much greed, too many gambles, bad luck and out and out stupidity have all been known to lead to financial ruin.

The Internet and the news media continue to buzz with people describing their sense of pleasure at seeing the rich fare poorly. The number of "schadenfreudes" in recent news stories are too numerous to recount. The Boston Phoenix added a little color today by coining "schadenfreude-riffic."

"Turns out, Wall Street’s just as fallible as me," wrote Kara Baskin. "I know it’s kind of unpatriotic and cruel, but there’s something schadenfreude-riffic about watching arrogant and formerly rich assholes scurry for help, tails between their legs. The New York Times said it best: 'Wall Street traders began to believe that the values they had assigned to all sorts of assets were rational because, well, they had assigned them.'”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our Winning Word: SADENFREUDE

Sadenfreude n. An emotion that combines joy in another's misfortune tempered only by the overriding sense that the misfortune is going to have some serious and sad consequences.

Seeing fat cats laid low has always produced an emotion the Germans call Schadenfreude, defined in English as "joy in another's misfortune." I should know, I wrote a book on the subject, Schadenfreude, Baby! published by Lyons Press.

The past few weeks have been a good time for Schadenfreude watchers. If you have a Google alert set to "Schadenfreude" you have seen it go crazy recently with observers of all stripes expressing something other than empathy for failed investment bankers. But it's hard to feel too gleeful. The emotion we're experiencing is different than our old school Schadenfreude over Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton.

“There would be something comical, even pleasurable, in watching the frenetic agitation of the banking world”, wrote Laurent Joffrin, editor of LibĂ©ration newspaper, “if millions of jobs were not at stake, not to mention the economic balance of the planet.”

We need a new word to describe the mix of emotions we're feeling which is why I called for submissions from the general public on my blog

The winning word was submitted by Tom Lennon of England who coined "Sadenfreude: Taking pleasure from others misfortune while feeling rather sad about it."

Other entries included karmaglee; desletsenium, a mix of three different latin terms for a regretful feeling of Schadenfreude; Eupheria or Schadenfreude tinged with fear of impending financial doom; trickledownpathoshumorism, and Himmeldonnerwetter, "brought to you by the same folks that gave you schadenfreude!"

Related neologisms submitted included "neoconomitus -- the shared malaise that comes from failed neoconservative economic policies and practices;" "Har-de-harbinger, Something that foreshadows an ominous-yet-funny event;" and "Fucosthriveudie-meaning financial officers of a company will always thrive, even if those they have scammed or let down financially die."

Congratulations Tom on your winning submission. Although the contest is now closed, please feel free to keep posting your words and suggestions. I've enjoyed your creativity.