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Guerilla comedian Tom Mabe, protesting for gay marriage, America's quickest presidency, super-expert John Hodgman, blue moon myths, Bush humiliated at an honorary dinner, and a Drucker-inspired invitation to focus.

How to defeat a telemarketer
Stop American telemarketers cold with a visit to the National Do Not Call Registry here. Or play a recording telling your callers how "your call is important to us" (download it here from If you're comedian Tom Mabe, you can go further. His latest counter-telemarketing technique, expertly deployed against a hapless satellite TV sales caller, scales, as Reuters has noted, "surreal heights": a fake crime scene, a scolding from a police officer, and much more (hear the hilarious clip here). His early work, "Revenge On The Telemarketers: Round One" showscases a true artist—he manages, for example, to convince one telemarketer that she's been fired—and Mabe's recent album, "A Wake-Up Call for Telemarketers," in which he infiltrates a telemarketing convention, may strike many as justice served.
posted November 26, 2006, 10:35 am

I went to the protest
With a sign saying "Every1 Deserves Equality" (there wasn't enough room to spell out "one"), I went to protest yesterday against Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's A still from a video of the protest rally.energetic effort to strip gays of their marriage rights (if only he could put some of that energy into something more useful, like cleaning the T). The yelling on our side (pro-gay) seemed very loud, with chants like "You lost, go home, get over it," and "Mitt must go!" but Romney's scheduled 1 p.m. appearance was delayed until several buses appeared out of nowhere and unloaded several hundred anti-gay people carrying mass-produced green signs. One of the signs that wasn't mass-produced read "Mitt you did this, you can undo this," prompting a guy near me to say, "That sign doesn't even make any sense." "Our side definitely has sexier people," another guy commented. Someone else noticed that one of our signs had misspelled the word "separate." The faulty sign was taken out of action before appearing minutes later in corrected form, the errant "E" having been replaced by an "A." When Romney's rally finally commenced at 2:20 p.m., with a business-suited soprano's rendering, in obligatory church solo ultra-vibrato, of a strangely extended version of "God Bless America"—"I didn't know this song had so many verses," the sign-makes-no-sense guy said, the number of pro-gay people had grown to a substantially large and boisterous crowd all along Beacon Street from Park Street to Joy Street, spilling out into Beacon Street under the watchful eye of state troopers and down the stone staircase into Boston Common. From my perspective, our crowd seemed to dwarf the Romney crowd, and our shouts and boos to drown out his speech.

See a video in which I appear, briefly, waving the "Every1 Deserves Equality" sign, and read more about what I have to say on gay marriage.
posted November 20, 2006, 1:34 pm

Postscript: a few months later in April, 2007, the Doonesbury comic strip mocked Romney's switching to an anti-gay stance as a shallow ploy to build up his Christian right credibility (he ran for governor of Massachusetts on a pro-gay platform).

President for a day
"What would you do if you were President for a day?" Besides the obvious (placing the current President into a large burlap sack and throwing him in the river), one might also recall from history the story of America's briefest Presidency: on Sunday, March 4, 1849, David Rice Atchison presided over an extremely short-lived Administration lasting only for 24 hours, between POTUS #11 (Polk, who died) and #12 (Taylor, who refused to be sworn in on the Sabbath). Like #40 (legendary napper Ronald Reagan), Atchison spent much of his term asleep: "I went to bed. There had been two or three busy nights finishing up the work of the Senate, and I slept most of that Sunday," he commented. Read the entire story of Atchison's fast-paced Presidential term on the almost entirely accurate Useless Information website here.
posted November 15, 2006, 7:03 pm

John Hodgman, expert
Condescension is only the crazy aunt of knowledge, the Expert expert John Hodgeman.poets tell us (well, the poets who got kicked out of school for setting up Amway distribution schemes), and nobody seems to more artfully combine them both (both knowledege and condescension that is, not school and Amway distribution schemes) like Daily Show correspondent and über-expert John Hodgman, who caught my attention with his superlatively amusing commentary on our Iraq war strategy: "I'm from the old-fashioned school of counter-insurgency, which holds that first you tell them how you're going to kill them, then you kill them, and then you tell them how you've just killed them." Look for the video among my YouTube favorites here. A frequent NPR and Daily Show contributor, Hodgman has a book on the market, The Areas of My Expertise, which I bought for my sister as a selfish kind of gift (the gift gives me a slight and illusory aura of generosity and smartness and something to read on my next visit).
posted October 2, 2006, 12:58 pm

Full moon"Man in the moon, moon in the man."
The full moon followed me home, high above thin, patchy clouds as I walked back from my friend Mike's house. Visit Robert Todd Carroll's Skeptic's Dictionary moon page
here to have your myths about the full moon debunked. Tonight I could clearly see how the lunar mountains and plains seem like a man's face peeking out from inside the moon's sphere. "Once in a blue moon," means, it turns out, roughly every two and a half years: a blue moon is the second time a full moon happens in the same month. The next blue moon is in May, 2007. The 1983 Talking Heads song "Moon Rocks," from the album Speaking in Tongues has the lyrics, "Man in the moon, moon in the man."
posted May 2, 2006, 10:06 pm

Bush embarassed again
It's time once again to note another embarassment for the Bush administration this time in the form of a dinner speech by satirist hero Stephen Colbert who appeared in April at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner with the President in attendance. As an increasingly annoyed Bush helplessly looked on, Colbert, in his mock Bill O'Reilly persona, chastised the press:

I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write, "Oooh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.

You can see the video here, read the transcript here, see the President's increasingly annoyed facial reactions here, as it dawns on even him that he's being made fun of.
posted May 12, 2006, 9:39 am

I belatedly salute business philosopher and philanthropist Peter Drucker--my tardiness owes to a suitably Druckerian dedication to my work, which unfortunately does not include
frequent updates to That There Paul. Drucker believed most people succeed too little by trying to do too much, and advocated they discard much of their nonessential commitments and ferociously focus themselves on the one or few things they do best. Two Motley Fool articles, one by Tom Gardner from February, 2005, which you can read here, and another by Tom Taullie in November, 2005, on the occasion of Drucker's passing, which you can read here, further describe most people's state of being "terribly unfocused," and outline suitable remedy. For one remedy, setting and committing to specific written goals, a study of Yale graduates has often been cited. In 1953, the Yale graduating class was asked if they had written down specific goals. Only 3% of the class had. Twenty years later in 1973, the net worth of the 3% exceeded that of the remaining 97% combined. Or so we have thought: a blog searching for this study, cited on page 200 of Anthony Robbins's best-selling "Unlimited Power," concludes the study was fabricated! However, that hasn't stopped Robbins—he has, among other endeavors, helped fitness guru Jorge Cruise write a best-selling book similarly devoid of specific research citations—and it shouldn't stop you!
posted February 25, 2006, 3:57 pm

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