Saturday, September 30, 2006

Gentlemen, start your steam engines...

The antiquated looking machine pictured above was invented by the French Artillery Officer Joseph Cugnot in 1769. It is considered by many to be the world’s first self-powered vehicle or “automobile”.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr. Cugnot is also credited with the world’s first automobile accident since his steam powered vehicle, moving at a mind blowing two miles per hour, crashed into and demolished a stone wall on it’s maiden voyage.

Which of course raises the question what the hell kind of stone wall falls apart when it’s hit by something going at 2 miles per hour? If I ever go to France I’ll have to remember not to lean against any old buildings.

Anyway, Cugnot was undeterred and spent the next year building an even larger version for the French War Ministry. Since the name of this blog includes the word “drive” in it, I feel it behooves me to try to recreate those moments when Cugnot demonstrated his "new set of wheels” on a street in Paris:

(Two generals, one very old and a magistrate are standing with Cugnot in front of his vehicle)

Cugnot: Gentlemen, I thank you for this opportunity. Prepare to be amazed as I start my machine and proceed to move five tons at a speed of nearly four miles per hour.

Old general: Sacrebleu! Is it possible? Can humans even survive such speeds?

Young general: What are you talking about? Your own horse can go faster than that.

Old general: My Fou-Fou ? I can assure you sir that my horse has never run away from anything in his life. You had best watch your tongue or I’ll have to insist on a duel of honor.

Magistrate: Enough nonsense, let us proceed. I have two beheadings and a hanging to preside over and I don’t want to be late.

(Cugnot starts up his vehicle, which roars to life and starts to pull it’s heavy load. The distinguished onlookers gaze intently as it slowly moves to the end of the cobblestone street, only to see it crash on to it’s side as it attempts to turn the corner.)

Old general: I’m the first to admit that I’m not up to snuff on all this new technology, but I must say that I’ll be damned if I can see how that can be of any use.

Young general: Well, at least the walls of Paris are still standing.

(The magistrate summons the gendarmes)

Magistrate: Arrest that man and impound that…that...“vehicle!”

And so off to jail went poor Mr. Cugnot, making him the first person to be arrested for being a reckless motorist. So the next time you’re involved in a little fender bender or even a twelve car pile up, take a moment to think of this forgotten hero of French engineering history.

Monday, September 25, 2006

You don't say...

Do you ever find yourself wondering how something began? Me neither, nevertheless, today we take a look at the little known origins of some familiar things…

Acupuncture: was accidentally discovered about the year 2800 BC, by a sadistic tailor by the name of Huang, who used his wife as a human pincushion. It is said that he died from disappointment when he realized that this had only made her healthier, and she went on to live another twenty years with the tailor’s handsome young apprentice.

Chewing gum: was invented and promoted by the European aristocracy as a way of placating hungry peasants by giving them something to chew on, thus creating the illusion that they’d actually eaten. The plan seemed to be working until the King of France decided for some reason that all the gum in his country would be sugarless. This of course, enraged the peasants and led to the French Revolution.

Tattoos: tattooing was first practiced during the Stone Age by cannibals in the Amazon, not on themselves, but on their victims and usually indicated whether that person was to be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Some anthropologists believe that the fat ones may also have been tattooed with a “high calorie” warning, but this is mere speculation.

Hypnotism: the first person to be credited with possessing the power to hypnotize people was the ancient Greek mathematician Theoplopolese. A man said to be so mind numbingly dull that just being in the room with him was enough to induce a trance. Although every student at the University of Athens was required to take his class, not one could actually remember it or explain why they would start to cluck like a chicken when anyone snapped their fingers.

So the next time you’re at a social gathering that’s getting a little dull, just whip out a couple of these fascinating tidbits…you should make quite an impression.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Spaced out...

As you may already know, the space shuttle was recently sent up again and the crew has been busy with the construction of a space station. I don’t really know exactly what it’s going to be used for, but in case there are long periods when there are no astronauts working on science type stuff, I’ve come up with some alternative uses for the space station:

A new "secret" CIA prison

The next presidential library

A Star Trek themed bordello

The setting for a new reality show called "Battle of the Mustachioed Stars", featuring Tom Selleck and Geraldo Rivera in the first episode.

A maternity ward for privacy obsessed celebrities…I’m talking to you Angelina Jolie!

The first orbiting Wal-Mart

Headquarters for the Michael Jackson Search for Extraterrestrial Boys Program

A mandatory retirement home for all radio talk show hosts

Personally, I’m hoping for the reality show…come on Tom, kick his ass!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

This post is brought to you by the letters T, W and the number 10...

There was a time when parents looking for children’s programs had to turn to public television. The explosion of cable television has changed all that and now kids have more choices than they can shake a stick at (it’s just an expression kids, don’t go around shaking sticks or you’ll poke someone’s eye out).

So I’ve come up with some ideas for new kids shows to help public TV compete with the likes of Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network:

Fightin’ Tykes: This is one of those rare shows that parents (or at least dads) will enjoy watching too. Hyperactive kids from all over the country climb into a boxing ring and pummel each other for three rounds. They’ll be wearing protective headgear of course…they’re already hyperactive, we don’t want them brain damaged as well.

Drawing with Captain Peggy: Inspired by the popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, kids will learn the basics of drawing from the androgynous and unthreatening Captain Peggy and Polly the hermaphroditic parrot.

Xenophobe Corner: Kids need to know that the world can be a scary place and with gruff but lovable uncle "Xeno" as their guide they will learn all about the dangers posed by foreigners.

Madame Pasha’s Psychic Playhouse: Do your kids know how to read tarot cards or palms? Do they know how to handle a hostile poltergeist? Well, they will if they watch this show hosted by the mysterious Madame Pasha, former psychic adviser to celebrities like Nancy Regan and Montel Williams.

"PC" Pete’s Puppet Parade: Parents who believe they are raising the leaders of the future will want to make sure that their kids tune in to this show. "Politically Correct" Pete and his puppet friends will teach them how to express insensitive and even offensive ideas in ways that not even the most vigilant members of the PC police will be able to object to.

Well, I’ve got go and start thinking up merchandising angles for these shows…I’m guessing that the parrot will be a big seller.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm Ok, You're Ok...

It seems that no matter what the problem is, someone has written a self-help book dealing with it. Here are a couple that I think are destined to become bestsellers:

"Stop Spoiling Your Inner-Child" by Dr. Gustav Von Liebergeitzel.

This eminent psychologist is known as the "Bavarian Dr.Phil" and even has his own brand of "down home" sayings:

You can try to waltz through life, but that won’t stop the chaffing in your lederhosen.

Sounds like a load of schnitzel to me!

You can bet your mamma’s strudel on it.

Just because Fritz has a Fräulein, doesn’t mean he isn’t ‘playing’ in the oompah band!

Yah right…and my grandmother was head of the Luftwaffe.

The Bavarian Daily News says, "You will buy this book…Now!"

For those of you suffering from a malaise of a more spiritual nature there’s this one:

"How to Win against Sin!" by Pastor John H. Coprolite.

Whether it’s adultery, stealing, substance abuse or gambling, the good pastor has been through it all and now he offers up to you his hard won knowledge.

From his humble beginnings preaching at rural tent revivals to the glory days of his multi-million dollar TV ministry it’s all here, along nuggets of wisdom like:

Just because a hooker is mute, don’t mean she won’t tell.

The Internal Revenue Service…government agency or godless tool of Satan?

Casinos really do have cameras everywhere!

Sometimes the devil comes dressed as an angel of light…sometimes as a sixteen year-old blonde cheerleader from Wisconsin.

So if your soul is worth saving go out and get this book.(all proceeds go towards the Pastor Coprolite legal defense fund)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

For art's sake...

Back in 1982 or thereabouts, Sylvester Stallone donated a statue of himself as Rocky to the Philadelphia Museum. It resided there for a few months before being sent to some sports arena before it was finally put into storage.

It looked like Rocky was down for the count, but wait! Not so fast chief, it seems the Philadelphia art commission has voted to put it back!

My sources tell me that Stallone was so thrilled with the news that he’s decided to start the Stallone Foundation, which will offer financial help to artists creating the type of art that Sly cares deeply about, such as:

Paintings on velvet

Butter sculpture

Graffiti (so long as it’s not painted on anything owned by Mr. Stallone

Sad clown paintings

Works done with an Etch-a-sketch

Balloon animals (believed to be a personal favorite of Mr. Stallone)

Hey, if he’s into art made from pipe cleaners, dried macaroni and glitter I could have it made!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Hooray for Hollywierd...

I thought I’d give this gossip columnist thing a try. Here are some tidbits from Tinseltown that you might not have heard:

Tom Cruise, Margot Kidder, Anne Heche and Martin Lawrence have joined forces to open their own mental health facility. According to a statement released by the actors, the facility is to serve as a place of refuge from the insidious influence of psychiatry, illegal drugs and alien abduction and/or probing.

Sharon Stone’s vagina has reportedly filed for a trial separation citing irreconcilable differences, but a source close to the pair said they have been fighting since the box office flop of Basic Instinct 2.

In an appearance on The View, Ms. Stone’s vagina had this to say: "Look, let’s not mince words here. I’m the only reason she’s a star. Before I made my screen debut in the first Basic Instinct movie, she was a nobody!"

A spokesperson for Ms. Stone said "she and her vagina are trying to work things out and hopes that everyone will respect their privacy during this difficult time."

Following the recent death of talk show host Mike Douglas, there was a mix up when the funeral hearse accidentally wound up at the home of aging actor Michael Douglas. Sources say it took Catherine Zeta Jones four hours to convince her husband to come down from the attic.

50,000 copies of Paris Hilton’s CD are reportedly missing. Officials for Homeland Security have expressed concern that they may have fallen into the hands of terrorists and could be used as instruments of torture…at least to anyone with good taste in music.

Now that is a scary thought.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Like a rolling gallstone...

Well, I guess it’s official…Bob Dylan has become an old fogey. Now, it was well known that Dylan is getting old, but that’s not the same thing. Not everybody who grows old becomes an old fogey…old fogeyness is a state of mind.

As evidence of Dylan’s slide into old fogeydom, I offer the following statements taken from a recent interview:

"You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like static."

At first it might sound like the usual cranky complaint of an aging generation on the music of a younger one, but Dylan is also reported as saying that even his records sounded better in the studio than on the disk. That pretty much renders his comments incomprehensible, which when combined with his use of the word "modern" generally means it’s old fogey time.

If you’re still not convinced, here are a few more signs that Dylan has become an old fogey:

He is always yelling at the tour bus driver to slow down.

Has been known to lecture groupies on the importance of getting enough fiber.

Not only does he think motorcycle helmets are a good idea, but believes people should wear them while riding escalators.

He says that everyone on TV is talking too fast and wearing too many bright colors…it gives him a headache.

Canceled subscription to Playboy and signed up for Readers Digest.

Has a large collection of sweater vests.

Old fogey syndrome can strike anyone and there’s no know cure…well, death eventually takes care of it, but lets hope science can come up with something less drastic.