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bring back the bustle

   tissot400x20Women were undeniably hot in the 1870’s. How do I know this? There are pictures to prove it.crose1marb450victorian-bustle-dresses-form-wwwvintageconnectionnet
The bustle combines two of my favorite things in fashion: putting women in cages and exaggerating a their proportions into something so bizarre it looks more like a cartoon than a human body.dress

I say, bring back the bustle. Not as a novelty or a wedding gown, but an everyday wardrobe choice.

This is a win-win. Men: can you imagine your wife in a better outfit? Her waist tied to a slim 7 or 8 inches, her backside highlighted by a metal contraption that may or may not be related to an umbrella. Women: are you tired of those strange dudes leering at you while you’re out doing your business, living your life? You can hide weapons inside your bustle. I’m not talking about that sissy mace you hide in your purse. I’m talking bear traps, nun chucks, jars of antimatter that will create world-devouring black holes.

Let’s take one of the best ideas from the Victorian era and make it vital again. Bring back the bustle!

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Obama ’36

malia-obama-2036Thanks for voting America! This blog, along with approximately 69,492,376 Americans, buoyed Barack Obama onto the throne of democracy. Are we done? Heck no. We need to begin to plan for that sad day when President Barack will no longer be constitutionally able to serve as Commander-in-Chief. We must turn our thoughts to the future. Not the near future, but a date more distant: the year 2036.

Malia Obama, whose interests include soccer, dance and drama, will be 35 in time for the Presidential Election of 2036. What we need in 2036 is someone who will lead us toward an even better future.

The years 2008-2016 were very good for this country. Then there was the historic election of 2016, in which elder statesman Jimmy Carter was finally allowed to serve his second term of office. After four years President Carter stepped into a time machine and sent himself 30,000 years into the past, where he helped nomadic tribes in what is now the Middle East prevent the warfare that would mark that region for all of human history.

In 2020-2028 Chelsea Clinton became the first woman President, making our country the first to manufacture and export hover cars. As the daughter of a former President, she would be compared to another child of a former President who was also President himself. She was thankfully superior in all respects. It is said birds alighted upon her shoulders and sang their sweet melodies as she prepared to sign the historic worldwide energy treaty that would, in essence, eliminate all pollutants from the air, sea, and land.

2028-2036 would provide an interesting twist to Presidential politics, as the first non-American-born citizen became Commander-in-Chief.
Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A name begging to be in large, bold type. With an impressive resume including Terminator 2, Kindergarten Cop, Total Recall, Twins, Junior, Predator, Conan the Barbarian, Pumping Iron, and Jingle All the Way, the Prezenegger brought a new brand of justice to the executive branch of government. He may have played by his own rules, but you can’t deny his effectiveness. When an evil alien brain sent an army of oversize spiders to control the planet, the Prezenegger was there with a hand-held nuclear bomb. He tossed it at just the right moment to blow that alien brain right back to hell. And when the Supreme Court was about to criminalize all methods of birth control, the Prezenegger blew them up too. Take that, John Roberts! You evil bastard.

President Arnold paved the way for a different kind of President. By the time 2036 rolled around, the country was ready for peace again.

Malia Obama was born on July 4, an apt date of birth for Commander-in-Chief. Although some would question her relative inexperience, she would soon prove all the naysayers to be nothing more than whiny little nobodies.

It’s true, her allergy to animal dander, which almost resulted in her and her sister to be dogless back in 2009, was a worry for foreign policy wonks. What if she were to meet a camel in Cairo and sneeze all over it? Or a cow in Dehli? These worries were soon put to rest after a successful visit to the Middle East and Europe in Spring 2037.

Furthermore, her training in soccer, dance and drama proved exactly what was needed for domestic affairs of the day. It may not have seemed obvious in the hazy days of 2009, but in 2036 soccer, dance and drama were just what is needed for Leader of the Free World.

This blog is a proud supporter of Obama in 2036.

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Memorial

We cannot get rid of mankind’s fleetingly wicked wishes. We can get rid of the machines that make them come true.

I give you a holy word: DISARM.

–Kurt Vonnegut

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lake powell and the colorado river

lakepowell_19990325Thanks to NASA and the Landsat 5 satellite, we have this series of images of the water level in Lake Powell and the river that feeds it, the Colorado. Lake Powell, as readers of this blog are no doubt aware, is a man-made lake at the head of the Glen Canyon Dam.

Due to a natural scarcity of water in the southwest, Lake Powell hasn’t been at full capacity for (I don’t know how many) years. I’m one of those canyon-huggers who believes the dam should be taken down so the Colorado can deliver its nutrient-rich silt downstream to the Grand Canyon. Not to get all Lorax on you, dear readers, but I think the fish need the water more than the region needs the negligible amount of electricity the dam produces.

In any case, the images are worth checking out. On the same website you can see satellite pictures showing how much Dubai has grown in the past 9 years. Gosh, I remember when it was a wee lad of 1.130 million.

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guess who thinks I’m an idiot?

ford-is-stupidIn the country I call my own, America, innovation is supposed to reign supreme. The free market economy will produce the best products at the lowest prices. In that way, old, outmoded products will be replaced with modern, more efficient ones.

That is an America that doesn’t actually exist. In that America, the domestic car companies that recently were given billions of our tax dollars would have been out of business long ago. We’d all be driving sleek, efficient Japanese hybrids or (gasp!) electric automobiles.

In the real America, American automobile companies have been stifling ingenuity for at least the past four decades. Instead of spending their hard-won money on research and development, building the next super-selling car, they lobbied Congress to keep fuel efficiency down and to keep foreign car companies from importing their products. In short, they sought arrogantly to maintain the status quo. Companies designing automobiles were more concerned with maintaining immobility in the market instead of moving forward, an irony I’d savor if it wasn’t at the expense of the health of me and billions of people I happen to share the planet with.

The Big 3 spent billions of dollars over the years stagnating the market, telling themselves that Americans wanted to buy the cars they were making. Guess what happened? Nobody wants to buy their cars. But worry not for Chrysler and GM: they get our money anyway directly from our pockets, via the government. We can’t have these huge companies laying off hardworking Americans just because their corporate offices are composed of brain-dead business school dropouts who spend more time playing golf than considering what kind of car a person would lay down $25,000 to buy.

Flush with losses, Ford decides the best thing to do is blow it on a website. According to an ad I saw in the New Yorker, Ford is “see[ing] the future differently” by designing hybrid cars. Gosh, it seems like only yesterday the first hybrid car was sold in mass quantities to the public. How 12 years slips away so quickly.

Don’t make the mistake that I am in any way blaming Ford’s marketing department or those brave souls who had to design an ad campaign and website explaining how optimistic Ford is about its future. They had to work especially hard to convince the American public that we are either stupid or incredibly naive. A company so opposed to innovation for so long is now fighting for its very existence, and some poor web designer was given the task of telling us that Ford has suddenly changed! for the better!

Ford is, in its own words, “driving in the right direction,” but that metaphor is incorrect. They are being pushed, kicking and screaming, by an overly patient American public who they have continually let down time and time again.

In the same ad campaign, Ford bravely announces they will have plug-in vehicles by next year or so. This comes a mere 170 years after the first electric car was built (thank you, Scotland). We can’t say Ford didn’t spend a lot of time on design.

Thank you, Ford, for opening yourself to mockery and showing us all how out of touch the Big 3 car companies truly are. May you choke on your own exhaust.

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Oregon’s Greatest Newspaperman

pittock6In 1853, Portland, Oregon was a one-newspaper town. The weekly paper, the Oregonian, was nothing more than a collection of stories of the End of Times, gruesome logging accidents, and poorly drawn sketches that passed as comics. A young upstart by the name of Henry Pittock bought the paper for $12 and the promise to never, ever drop Mary Worth from its pages.

Henry increased circulation by printing lies, innuendo, and scandal. He tried to change up the comics pages, but reader outcry forced him to keep every strip that originally appeared in the paper. That is why today, after over 150 years, the Katzenjammer Kids can be found causing shenanigans next to Doonesbury.

With funds rushing in from his newspaper, as well as an above-average take from his sheep ranching operation, Henry began planning his masterpiece. It was to be the grandest house west of St. Louis. It would overlook the Willamette River, Portland’s early industrial center, and the grassland that would later become Gresham. Henry would also have a commanding view of Mount Hood, Oregon’s highest peak. Finally, Henry would install a giant telescope with which he could spy on every Portlander at his whim. He would collect this information to put into future editions of the Oregonian.
pittock3 pittock2Pittock Mansion was built on Portland’s West Hills and stands even today as a symbol of the dominance of the American Newspaper. It is said that Henry, forward thinking man that he was, picked the spot for the mansion so that it would block TV reception for all of Portland.pittock1 pittock5
Built on an ancient Indian burial ground, the Pittock Mansion took five years to complete. It started as a sketch on one of Henry’s many, many cocktail napkins and soon thousands of coolie laborers were hauling granite up the hill to begin construction. Over 400 of these nameless workers died during construction, a troubling fact that caused Henry to increase advertising in his newspaper to procure more cheap laborers.

At 16,000 square feet, the Pittock Mansion could easily have housed all of Portland’s orphans, but Henry had better plans.

There, among the clouds, Henry livedpittock7
with his wifepittock8
and their cat
pittock4
and literally dozens of Pittock children and grandchildren [not pictured].

It was in his mansion that Henry Pittock, the man who brought the printed word to so many barely-literate Portlanders, breathed his last breath. It is said that among the countless curses to his enemies, Henry’s dying words were to his dear readers: “Please, whatever new news-carrying contraption that comes along in the future, do not forget your local paper. And for the love of God, give young cartoonists a shot.” Only time will tell if his last wishes are to be followed out.

Henry’s body, in accordance with his will, was taken into his backyard that looked out over all of Portland. There he was thrown into a giant bonfire fueled by a local rival newspaper, the Portland New York Times (its name was later shortened when it’s offices were moved to the East Coast). The ashes of Henry Pittock rained down on Portland that day, ashes that soon turned to mud because it was raining that day anyway. Though his physical presence is gone, we will never forget Oregon’s Greatest Newspaperman, Henry Nixon Pittock.

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Tycho Brahe: Master of the Universe

Brahe-nose-damagedIn these hard economic times, the first to take a hit are often the most in need. Dreamers, thinkers; these highly-skilled but undervalued members of society never get the money they deserve to pull off those feats of magic we routinely expect from them. I’m talking of course about astronomers.

It wasn’t always this way.

Back when the world was flat and God was King, a Danish astronomer worked in his underground laboratory. Tycho Brahe flaunted his noseless face and died of a urinary infection; he was an astronomer among astronomers, a man among men. He looked through a lens in the mid to late 1500’s to see what few other men saw. He made his own conclusions, he advanced scientific knowledge, he fought and he swore. Let us sing the praises of Tycho Brahe, astronomer extraordinaire.

Tycho Brahe was a metal-nosed star gazer. He lost a piece of his nose in a rapier fight. Instead of the more traditional wax nose, Brahe brazenly drew attention to it by installing an alloy of gold and silver (and probably copper). This gave him an air of superiority whenever he had to look down his nose at lesser astronomers.

Not to let his nose outshine his other eccentricities, Brahe owned a pet moose while he worked as Danish Royal Astronomer. Sadly the moose’s life was cut short when it ingested too much beer, fell down a staircase, and broke a leg. A metal leg for the poor beast was unfortunately not an option, and it died.Uraniborg_garden

The Danish King gave Brahe an island where he could study the stars in peace. Now, history has shown that no good comes when men are given islands. Dr. Moreau, John Hammond, Rupert Murdoch: men make bigger mistakes when they rule a lonely island. Brahe took his island and had a castle built upon it and named it Uraniborg, after his mother, Borg.

Brahe loved the stars, but he loved women and fighting even more. When his good eye was not glued to the end of a telescope, it was leering at the prettiest Dane, Kirsten Jörgensdatter. Kirsten could not deny the metal-nosed rebel astronomer for long, and she became his child bride. She was 80 years younger than Brahe when they married. Fortunately she aged faster than Brahe and by the time of his death they were only twelve seconds apart.Stjanrborg_400

Brahe’s goal was to purify astronomy and raise it to perfection. Astronomers of his day were often synonymous with soothsayers and moose doctors. The public perception of a man who spent his nights peeking into the cosmos was wary at best. Brahe insured his name would be inscribed in the history books by taking copious data which would later be used by his protege, Johannes Kepler, to figure out the three laws of planetary motion. Kepler’s laws have since been broadened not only for our solar system, but for all heavenly bodies that orbit other bodies.

Brahe also discovered that comets did not exist in our atmosphere but in space. This angered the Comet God, who pelted Brahe with tiny comets for the rest of his days. Many a visitor to Uraniborg noted that it appeared to be hailing all the time, even indoors.tycho+supernova+remnant

After his run-in with the Comet God, Brahe trod lightly upon matters of the Church. When he discovered stellar parallax, a phenomenon that proved the universe was larger than a dome containing the sun and a few planets, Brahe kept his mouth shut. It was one of the few times he did so.

His twenty-year tenure as Royal Astronomer ended when he was fired by the King of Denmark. His temper was the culprit, and although Brahe fought hard against losing his temper ever again, that fight was a losing battle. He and Kirsten moved to Prague, where they could keep drinking and swearing without fear of job loss.

In 1600 Brahe employed Johannes Kepler. They became fast friends. Kepler was the Robin to Brahe’s Two-Face. In fact, Kepler was by Brahe’s bed when he died, even recording his last words: “May I not seemed to have lived in vain.”

It is commonly thought that Brahe died of a bladder infection, but new evidence indicates he was poisoned by mercury. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Brahe sat too long at a royal dinner when really he should have used the bathroom. Not to be seen as improper, the metal-nosed rebel astronomer sat in agony through an eight course meal as his bladder screamed in protest. The nobleman whose house Brahe was visiting insisted on recounting his “waterfall and white water rapids” story, complete with gushing, rushing sound effects. Brahe could have keeled over right at the table, but years of propriety forced him to sit still. If a bladder infection was not the culprit of Brahe’s premature death, then certainly manners were a leading cause.

Brahe was 54 when he died, in 1601. His name, his fake nose, and his inventive use of foul language will live on. The stars will never be the same now that they have been studied by Tycho Brahe.tychotomb

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jaguar in tucson

I am greatly saddened by the second loss to the feline community in such a short span of time. It was not my original intention to report on the death of a jaguar, but nature has a way of doing whatever the heck it feels like.

A jaguar was captured near Tucson, Arizona yesterday. The big cat had been previously outfitted with a small, unobtrusive satellite-tracking collar:Collared Jaguar
Officials became concerned when the jaguar cut way back on his daily wanderings. Concerned, the officials transported jaguar to the Phoenix Zoo, where he was pronounced “alive” by a wildlife veterinarian.

Later yesterday the vet had to euthanize the jaguar. He was suffering from kidney failure, something his years of heavy drinking no doubt had a major factor in. I am positive it had nothing to do with the large metal collar clasped tightly around his neck. No age or living relatives were reported. This jaguar will be missed.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the only news outlet brave enough to report on this elusive creature, jaguars generally live in South and Central America. They used to travel north, from Arizona and Colorado all the way up to the San Francisco Bay area. Those days ended when the United States government encouraged ranchers to shoot any and all jaguars. More recently it has been unheard of to spot a real, live jaguar in the States. Until now.

For an animal to travel from Mexico to Tucson undetected is quite a feat. Though details are not forthcoming, it is has been speculated that the jaguar was acting as “coyote”: running illegal immigrants into the United States. Either that or he was merely roaming his natural territory in search of food and a mate. It will never be known what the jaguar was thinking in the days before his untimely death.

Falling Rock applauds the courageous jaguar. We extend our sympathies to his family and to jaguars everywhere. If heroism is doing exactly what you want, when you want it, then jaguar is a true hero of our time. I hope his journey, from somewhere in Mexico to the Tucson mountains to the Phoenix Zoo, shines as a beacon of hope (or, Hope Beacon) to other jaguars. This land is your land, jaguars. Long may you run.

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Feline Farewell

SOCKSI am greatly saddened by the loss of the National Cat, Socks Clinton. He passed away at home on February 20, 2009.

The age of Socks is under some dispute. One article claimed he was 18 at the time of his passing, but the Wikipedia article on him says he was 19. Either way, he clearly lived a long and happy life, dying in the arms of his owner, former Clinton secretary Betty Currie.

Though Socks will always and forever be remembered as First Pet of the Clinton Administration, during his term in office he came under attack by a large and annoying dog the Clintons adopted in 1997. Buddy, likely a Cuban spy, took the White House by storm and nearly ended Socks’ reign three years early. Fortunately, Socks’s popularity and military acumen ensured his power would not be usurped by that slobbering canine.

The Clintons, for reasons unknown, decided to keep Buddy and ditch Socks after leaving the White House in 2000. As always, Socks landed on his feet. Mrs. Currie, a woman who should have a highway named after her, took Socks in his fruitful post-White House years. Like a popular former President, Socks continued his good work even after the national spotlight shone elsewhere. Unlike Bill Clinton’s checkered record after office, Socks stuck to his ideals. According to Mrs. Currie, Socks “love[d] to be in the sun and love[d] chicken.”

Socks, we will miss your catlike reflexes, your engaging Press Briefings, and your beautiful white whiskers. The world has lost one of the great cats of our time.

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happy president’s day, mr. lincoln

abelincolnAbraham Lincoln may be my favorite President. He was known for his eloquent speaking style, he wore a hat and a beard, he was unusually tall and during his time many people remarked at what a strange walk he had. Oh, and he freed the slaves and kept the Union together.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois. It has been preserved by the Park Service, along with a block of its neighbors. Lincoln lived within walking distance of his law practice and the state legislature building. I can imagine his friends and neighbors watching him walk to work every morning; they would have had time to get to know the intricacies of the man’s style.lincoln-house

In honor of President’s Day, I’ve written a weeklong story about Dee meeting the Lincoln Squirrel. She needs the help of a speechwriter, and since the man himself is not able to oblige, the squirrel steps in. You can read the entire story by clicking on the link above, or read today’s strip here.lincoln-general

Happy belated birthday, Mr. Lincoln, and happy President’s Day.