Thursday, April 30, 2009

This time letter omission deliberate and for good cause

In a forgotten corner of Washington, DC's Ellipse (ellipse corner?) stands a rusted, slovenly statue of a little known American general. The 9ft figure was dedicated in 1983 to honor the Vietnam War veteran General Edward S. Ngton (pronounced ngton), a highly decorated soldier-turned-general. The statue's current condition reflects just how far the hero has fallen from the public's thoughts—although, pigeons seem to recall.

This is where the Washington Nationals enter the picture. Last week, at the fault of a uniform company, two Nationals players wore jerseys with the letter "O" missing from the team's name—Natinals. Yesterday, playing against the Phillies in Philadelphia, another letter went misplaced as the team donned shirts with no "I" in the city's name—Wash ngton.

"[Yesterday's omission] was not a mistake," said Pat Ulmer, Nationals director of marketing. "This was done to raise public awareness of the neglected General Ngton statue in President's Park."

The message was clear on the jersey: Wash Ngton. It's a direct challenge to the city of Washington and the federal government to wash, polish, clean or do whatever necessary to restore the lost luster to the general's likeness standing in the shadow of the White House.

"Yes, the government should step in," said Katy Donnbach, 39, a Nats fan from Adams Morgan. "But so too should the citizens of DC. Ngton led the fight for DC government representation for goodness sake."

More than his efforts in the war—Ngton was born in Hanoi and moved to DC at age four—the general is known for his vigorous campaign for the District of Columbia to have taxation with representation.

As it currently stands, Washington, as noted on the city's license plates, has taxation without representation. The District, a federal zone and not a state, taxes its businesses and citizens yet they have no voting representation in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Ngton, behind his war valor, fastidiously lobbied Congress to grant statehood to Washington, which would have given its residents their deserved voice. Ngton organized thousands of rallies and was the editor of Dumb Tax, a quad-monthly leaflet.

"This is the reason the statue is holding 50 thumb "tax" in the right hand and one "dumb" tack in the left hand," said Senator Arlen Specter(R), er (D).

"The uniform company did not commit a second error," reiterated Ulmer. "We proudly omitted the "I" for the general. Now let's wash Ngton."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rescued ship captain a huge fan of Spinal Tap

New York--The rescued captain turns his hat to eleven. "I wear the hat that Rob Reiner wears in the movie whenever I'm on the sea commanding a ship," said Captain Richard Phillips, during a tell-all interview with MSNBC. Phillips was referring to the USS Coral Sea hat worn in the hit mocumentary This is Spinal Tap. The hat was with the captain during his time as a hostage with Somali pirates. "I actually sent the Navy Seals back for the hat after I left it in the pirates' boat. Those guys are awesome."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

White House: 'Flyby was scheduled for April 1st.'

New York City received quite a scare yesterday when a 747 jetliner flew unnecessarily close to the Manhattan skyline while being closely pursued by two fighter jets. The plane, as it turns out, was Air Force One, however,President Obama was not on board.

The low-flying jet sent paranoid office workers and commuters into the already crowded streets where individuals prepared for the very worst.

"I really thought we were in for another horrible day," said Freddie Salmon, a downtown office worker employed near the Battery. "We all evacuated the building and stared into the sky. I mean really stared."

The White House released a statement saying that the Manhattan flyover was originally scheduled for April 1st as a prank, but that the original memo calling for the stunt was "caught up in other paperwork."

Pilots, receiving the memo late, were only told that it was for a public relations photo op and decided to carry out the plan despite its almost one month tardiness.

We recognize the seriousness of this incident and want to apologize profusely to the understanding citizens and workers of New York City. We in no way set out to alarm residents today, but sought to alarm residents almost four weeks ago on April 1st.

Had the fly over occurred on its intended date of April Fool's Day we would not be apologizing, but would be accepting congratulations for a prank well done. It is our belief that New Yorkers would have found such a stunt clever and, eventually, comical after creating only minor hysteria. The intern responsible for the misplaced memo has been terminated.

New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried desperately to contact Chesley Sullenberger, the Hudson River water pilot hero, for advice on how to handle the incident.

"I called Sully, but there was no answer," said Bloomberg, who also claims to have tweeted the highly celebrated pilot several times yesterday. "He's been avoiding my calls, but I genuinely felt this was a legitimate reason to call."

Yesterday, Air Force One flew under the spans of several East River bridges including the Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. This was after the jetliner nearly touched down in Central Park and came within inches of both the Chrysler and Empire State Buildings.

Then in a daring maneuver, after turning west toward New Jersey, the plane flew between the financial district's skyscrapers to enter the Holland Tunnel and emerged over the Garden State seconds later.

"When I saw Air Force One fly into the Holland Tunnel I knew it was a prank," said Harriet Wilson,55, a Port Authority worker. "Others were still worried, but I knew only Air Force One could do something like that."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

US Air using long overhead compartments to attract rowers

US Airways is refitting 8 of its Boeing 747's—under 2% of its fleet— in an effort to attract more passengers flying to Philadelphia this spring. The target market is the collegiate rowing teams throughout the country traveling to City of Brotherly Love—a US Air hub—for the Dad Vail Regatta.

The regatta is the largest intercollegiate rowing competition in the country, where entries can surpass the one hundred mark and often do. This year the event falls on May 8th and 9th.

The jetliners are being refitted so that individual overhead compartments will be joined to form one long storage area to accommodate rowers' sculls (boats).

Programs attending the race come from as far away as California, Alaska and, yes, even Hawaii, forcing athletes into long, exhausting road (or boat) trips and unnecessary time away from classes.

California's Pepperdine University has booked the first flight offering this service and the rowers all seem to be looking forward to the shorter travel time.

"We usually drive cross-country to Philly for the race, which is exhausting," said Pepperdine's head coach John Farrows. "We will be much more energized this year and the boats will feel like they are more part of the team."

Ten years ago the University of Hawaii crew team was forced to row, for ten days, from Honolulu to the California coast because no airline could easily fit their sculls. Arriving in Los Angeles they chartered a bus and trailer to Philadelphia, needless to say, that was their first and last Dad Vail Regatta—they finished one place below last.

"It was a harrowing experience," said Rainbows head coach, Hugh Kellerman, about the journey from Hawaii to California. "We lost five good rowers during that crossing. Yes, we're going to Philly this year, but on US Air."

Sculls will be loaded and offloaded through the cockpit windshield in the front of the plane with the help of the pilots, copilots and flight attendants. Then after being carried down the aisle, rowers will takeover to hoist the boat overhead and into place, much like loading onto a trailer.

Overhead units are not the only feature to be refitted, as seats will be elevated several inches so that up to four boats fit comfortably under the two rows. This brings the total capacity for sculls to six per 747.

"We're pleased with the response to the new product," said US Air public relations manager, Leslie Bayliss. "We have sold ticket packages to over 20 schools including Anchorage State (their first regatta), Michigan Agriculture & Mining, Seattle and Northern Cal."

Sadly, the elongated compartments and elevated seats mean no pillows or blankets and a massive loss in legroom. Stiff necks, pneumonia, and leg cramps are expected to be only minor side effects from the prescribed refitting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American finishes 1st (2nd and 3rd) in Boston Marketathon

In the 12th annual Boston Marketathon American, Ryan Delton, 32, from Rapahonick, MA, took home the Golden Stuffing Trophy for the second time in three years. Americans have dominated the event from its inception in 1995 capturing the top ten spots every year except 1999—that year a Canadian finished second.

The Boston Marketathon is a highly competitive and selective 26.2 mile driving, eating and running race. Participants are required to eat one meal at all 17 Boston-area Boston Markets in no more than five hours by way of car, but may only drive 26.2 miles while running (or walking) the remaining distance.

"It takes a lot of planning," said Jenny Shoemaker, race organizer, about the strategy for winning. "There is no set course. Eaters have to find the most efficient way to use the allotted 26.2 miles of driving to reduce overall foot miles."

Required menu items include: three Chicken Carver Sandwiches, one Meatloaf Carver and two Crispy Country Chicken with Country Gravy meals. Runners may choose any other meals from the menu to complete the 17 needed and must consume one piece of cornbread at each sitting.

Several "Gravy Tables" will be set up to provide runners with hydration during the running portion of the race. Last year's lemon-lime flavored gravy will be unavailable this year due to copyright laws with the name Gravy-ade.

This year's Marketathon was the largest yet drawing 253 racers from 41 states and 18 countries. The top non-American finisher was Sean MacDunagy from New Zealand who finished 22nd. As the overall competition heats up so too does the macaroni and cheese.

"Rotisserie chicken topped with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, aged Cheddar, and our own creamy Dijon mayo. Served on your choice of a white or multi-grain roll. Tender breaded, all-white chicken breast baked until crisp and topped with creamy country gravy," sang Delton, the event's anthem to the tune of God Bless America, while standing atop the podium yesterday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


"SING ON A LONG DRIVE." Harry's answer to 'What would you do to pass the time on a cross-country road trip?' during an interview with Comcast SportsNet's Michael Barkan in August of 2005.

"I just went down to the concession stand and they were OUTTA BEER."—During a late-inning blowout victory over the Chicago Cubs in 2003.

"GREAT CRAB!"—At the urging of Phillies fans in a packed seafood restaurant in Stone Harbor, NJ, Harry stood and called out his fondness for the local crustaceans during MLB's All-star break in 1995.

"WATCH THAT BABY!"—After Phillies second baseman Juan Samuel ripped a foul ball into the first base stands at Veteran's Stadium narrowly missing a newborn child in July 1987.

"And from the land of HIGH FLOWERING RYE..."—Announcing Chris Coste, Phillies catcher, who hails from the large rye-producing state of North Dakota.

RIP Harry

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

97 years later Titanic iceberg still at large

Halifax, Nova Scotia—Ninety-seven years after the R.M.S. Titanic was struck by an iceberg in the north Atlantic Ocean, sinking the ship and killing 1,527 passengers, the massive frozen "island" still roams free today. On the night of April 14, 1912 the cold, sadistic iceberg committed the heinous crime only to float quietly into the frigid night.

In January of 1913 the ship's owners—the White Star Line—placed the Nova Scotia division of the Canadian Naval Police (CNP) in charge of the investigation because of its proximity to the site of the sinking. The White Star Line had tried unsuccessfully for almost nine costly months to apprehend the iceberg.

Over the years authorities have questioned hundreds or perhaps thousands of icebergs, but have never been able to pinpoint the culprit. As recently as 2005 an iceberg displaying brown horizontal line markings, possibly made from the hull of a ship, was arrested and later released when police confirmed the color of the Titanic did not match.

Most agree, however, 1944 was the closest this case came to being solved. During World War II the North Atlantic was overflowing with war ships and submarines. A report of a strange glacial mass containing a single Titanic life preserver flooded into the CNP headquarters in Halifax both from the Allies and the Germans—there were numerous German passengers aboard the Titanic. When the CNP arrived at the given coordinates only the preserver was found with no iceberg in sight.

"As the years pass we lose more and more eyewitnesses," said Ramty Coobers, a high seas crime specialist with the CNP. "There are only a handful of survivors remaining who can positively ID the guilty one."

Police are still going on the most accurate description of the iceberg from an anonymous survivor on that disastrous night almost 100 years ago:

It struck the ship with such mercilessness and rage. It rose into the sky as far as I could see. If I had to guess, maybe, eight stories tall. It was wide, wider than wide could be, probably the width of two football (soccer) fields. Oh, and it was extremely icy ... like a big block of ice. Ice all over the place. Yeah, that's right, it was like a big ice mountain I tell ya. An unsinkable ice mountain.

The Nova Scotia authorities feel that global warming may have greatly altered the iceberg's appearance, which could make identifying the mass almost impossible. Other experts claim a strong possibility exists that the original mass may have broken into several smaller 'bergs. Icebergs have been known to do this when attempting to conceal their identity.

"There's a good chance the iceberg is about one fourth or one fifth the size it was in 1912," said Coobers. "It may look completely different because our atmosphere is warming."

Some CNP officers did take some relief in knowing that if the iceberg has not yet already melted away then it will most assuredly be gone within ten or fifteen years.

"That would not make me feel any better." said special agent Veronica Nelson, with regards to the iceberg melting naturally. "My father, my father's father and my father's father's father worked this case. I want to catch this thing before it melts. I personally want to be the one who puts a hairdryer to this thing."

The other theory is, in a desperate attempt to run from authorities, the iceberg risked a long journey southward toward Antarctica and was unable to survive the warm air and water temperatures that make their home in the tropics.

Whatever the clues or theories may be, this destroyer of luxury passenger ship lines never paid the price for that egregious act on that early spring night ninety-seven years ago.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Siren usually signaled for Twister not twisters

Sillenger, AK--The deadly tornadoes that ripped through this secluded community, and much of the southeast last week, left a path of unimaginable destruction. The vicious storms also sparked widespread fires leaving hundreds homeless. Because Sillenger has been lucky enough to dodge the path of category-rated tornadoes for the last 25 years the town's preparedness was, in essence, null. This became apparent when the U.S. Tornado Investigation Authority (USTIA) discovered that Sillenger's twister sirens, fixed high atop the town's unstable water tower, have not been sounding for wind-manufactured twisters, but have been sounding for Milton Bradley-manufactured Twisters (not the baseball player). "The town was very flexible during the investigation," said a USTIA official. After years of tornado-less tornado seasons, Sillenger's populace elected to use the alarm system to signal game time. The game of choice for this close-knit borough of 879 is Twister--the colored-dot-mat-contortion game. "The sirens were sitting there rusting away and so we used them to alert everyone that it was time to play Twister," said Sillenger's mayor, Betsy Rumbard. "People played at home or in the community center and it brought us all closer together." When the alarm sounded last Friday, instead running from the twister citizens ran toward the Twister ... with deadly results.

Friday, April 10, 2009

GM to Congress: 'We will build Yugos!'

Detroit, MI--General Motors Corporation announced a plan to save the company from dissolving, which, if happens, would put over 200,000 autoworkers worldwide into the unemployment line. Though the price of oil has dropped, compared to mid-2008 levels, American car manufacturers are still reeling from the troubled economy. The plan calls for the world's largest automaker to exclusively produce Yugos--and some Yugo SUV's-- and 'only borrow a little bit more money from the U.S. government.' Yugos, whose production ended last November, were Yugoslavian (Serbian) affordable, subcompact cars, arriving on the U.S. auto market in the 1980's. The plan was presented to the United States Congress on Thursday in a well organized, 200-slide PowerPoint presentation complete with over 1100 pie charts and pie graphs. "There were a lot of circular charts and graphs and, frankly, they were very convincing. The Yugo idea is brilliant. I bought one in 1987 for $350 and it came with a case of Keystone Light, which, of course, I refused," said U.S. Senator, Robert Casey Jr.(PA).

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Somali pirates refer to hostages as Gopher, Doc, Isaac or Vicki

Mogadishu, Somalia–Somali pirates have struck once again this time attacking an American-operated ship reportedly transporting relief aid (cargo specifics have not been confirmed). The waters off the Horn of Africa have become a pirates' playground for passing cargo and passenger ships for several years.

Based on survivors' accounts, an attack usually begins with the pirate ship spotting a possible victim then steering the smaller, quicker vessel alongside the ship. The Somali pirates then simulate a party on deck complete with music, food and dancing.

This only lasts for several minutes before the pirates uncover AK-47's and grenade launchers to fire warning shots into the air and shout "pull over" into a large cardboard megaphone. Despite their large cache of weapons, very few hostages have ever been hurt during the attacks.

"We thought they wanted to party," said Greg B., a navigation mate aboard an oil tanker, which escaped an attack last month. "[The tanker crew] came on deck and we were all dancing. I never would have guessed they were pirates. Man, those pirates can dance. Luckily, we got out of there before they could come aboard."

Most of the Somali pirates are able to at least speak broken English enabling them to communicate at an elementary level with the ship's crew to make ransom demands. Some pirates, however, have a strong command of the language from watching and studying American television and film.

While there are many Somali pirates—some experts estimate thousands—they all seem to share one quirky trait--perhaps, rooted in their English studies. The pirates almost always refer to the seized crew members individually, even on cargo ships, as characters from the 70's and 80's American television show The Love Boat. Often attempting to match the character name to the hostage holding the identical position.

"One pirate threatened our ship's purser saying,'How you like that Gopher? Gopher like?' while threatening him with a pistol. How does he know about Gopher?" said Jim Tyler, a survivor from last October's pirate attack on the British ship Thames the Breaks.

The leader of a January 2008 pirate attack, however, was unable to pronounce Stubing, as in the Pacific Princess' Captain Merrill Stubing. Hostages tried desperately to keep themselves from laughing in front of the pirate who repeatedly mangled the pronunciation.

"The man in charge[pirate] kept screaming Stubbin' and not Stubing," said survivor Carol Daniels. "We all knew who he was referring to."

Strangely, the pirates usually call the female hostages Vicki no matter what their position on the ship. In addition, borrowing the trademark pose from the show's bartender, Isaac Washington, the sea criminals will smile and point both index fingers with arms bent when the captured crew readily cooperates or when receiving ransom payments.

In the age of satellites and pirated DVD's (Somali pirates claim they do not pirate DVD's) American television can be seen most anywhere on the globe from the great deserts to the highest peaks. Government officials in Somalia, Yemen and Kenya along with the CIA believe the pirates use the show as a training video to better understand the layout and the crew of a potential target.

"Our intelligence tells us they've been studying The Love Boat for some time," explained CIA official, Frank Tenley. "We hope to God they don't get a hold of Riptide."

Monday, April 6, 2009

Organizers still scrambling a month before huge Chunnel celebration

On May 6, 2009, the largest party ever, celebrating a tunnel, will be held in Folkestone, England in honor of the Channel Tunnel's 15th anniversary. Still the world's longest tunnel beneath a body of water, the Chunnel connects Great Britain to mainland Europe, which is why many in Britain also refer to the passage as the Continent Connector.

"There are still so many things that need to be completed before the big day," said Megan Worthington, Chunnel marketing manager responsible for the British half of the anniversary celebration. "There's tea to be made, crumpets to be heated and rain to be expected."

English footballer David Beckham will make an appearance to dribble a commemorative soccer ball half the length of the 30-mile tunnel then passing off to former French footballer Zinedine Zidane. The two will have a commemorative handshake and commemorative headbutt before the French star continues the dribble into France.

"We still don't have the Chunnel logos imprinted on the balls," said Worthington, who took this task on personally. "If you want something done right ..."

In addition to athletes partaking, actors Jude Law, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet will perform a short play depicting the history and importance of the tunnel to Britain and northern France.

Arts and crafts makers from all over the United Kingdom will sell their wares at a carnival set up at the entrance of the Chunnel, which, incidentally, will be closed to rail travel for the entire day.

"I've spent the last year making these," said Laura Chaucer, pointing to a large pile of 'Chunnel' leg warmers and oversized wrist bands depicting one of the seven wonders of the world. "It's like putting your leg or arm right into the Chunnel."

There will also be a potato sack race that runs the length of the tunnel, a 30+ mile hop to France. French officials said they expect each race participant to pass through customs at the halfway point.

The How Many People Can Fit In the Chunnel stunt still does not have a moderator as claustrophobia has frightened most potential hosts away.

Planners are crossing their fingers that Jude Law and company remember their lines, Laura's leg warmers stay dry and potato sack hoppers remember their passports.

"I think we'll be ready," said Worthington. "I'm just going a little bit mental right now because it's the 15th anniversary of the Continent Connector. I totally feel for the person in charge of the French tribute to the tunnel."

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Citi Field further from La Guardia, noise

New York, NY—The New York Mets expect jetliner noise to be slightly less of a problem this year with the opening of their new stadium Citi Field (not pictured). The new field is located adjacent to the team's former home, Shea stadium (pictured, top stadium on right). The team has forever battled plane noise do to its proximity to La Guardia Airport (top of photo), less than a mile away. "Even though the new stadium will be only several hundred feet further west it will make a difference. Although, probably not a big difference, but it could make a huge difference," said Professor Frank Neuman, Queens College sound reverberation expert.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In 222 and 222A disputes are settled with cotton candy, curtains

Fighting has long been controversial in hockey, but in recent years its existence and usefulness has been strongly contested. Many ask, how can a legitimate sport allow two people to viciously attack one another with real intent to harm? How do league executives allow such brutality in such a graceful sport? And, incidentally, what's with all the ice?

The Philadelphia Flyers, and most NHL executives, want hockey to be for everyone, but the club realizes that fighting may not be suitable for all fans and may be driving some away. Because of this the team is offering fans attending the games—mostly parents with small children—the opportunity to be shielded from the often gory fracases.

The organization has offered two family seating sections in the Wachovia Center for some time. Sections 222 and 222A carry this designation and both fans and team officials have been delighted with the results. The family sections offer reasonably priced admission—$10 child tickets and $20 adult tickets. Fans sitting here are usually shown on the JumboTron at some point during the game and the popcorn and cotton candy vendors patrol the area like on safari.

“We have a blast,” said Mike Reynolds, father of 3 young sons who all recently attended the Flyers-Panthers game on March 26. “It’s affordable and most everyone sitting here is courteous and low-key. Oh, and the cotton candy is to die for.”

Most parents, however, choose to sit in the family section for one reason: hockey fights do not exist in 222-222A Wachovia Lane. When the gloves drop so too does an opaque curtain from the rafters of the Center that would make Broadway jealous. The heavy-duty curtain drops in front of the section as well as the adjacent aisle sides drowning out all sight of the ice and most arena sound.

“Originally, the curtain only dropped in the front of the sections blocking the view of the ice. Then parents became concerned over the effects of their children being able to hear neighboring [sections] 223 and 221A cheering the fight on. We extended the curtain coverage up the aisles,” said Flyers public relations manager Tim Kerrton.

“I love hockey and my kids all really love the game, but, frankly, I don’t want my children watching fights,” said Frank Dilinger, father of Caitlyn, 8, and Tyler, 10. “In most movies bare knuckle fighting, which draws blood, will earn that film a rating of PG-13 or PG-14 and the same standards should go for hockey.”

When the curtains are dropped a short video is projected onto the front "obstruction screen" showing a short video—The Greatest checks in Flyers History. As bodies hit the boards and Plexiglas shatters, speakers blare the Guns N’ Roses’ hit Welcome to the Jungle. The entire process takes only seconds and, when the fight concludes, only seconds more to bring the family sections back to game action and away from the video.

"When my classmates talk about the fights from the night before," said Tyler, "I laugh because there is no fighting in hockey. I laugh out loud."

So conscience of the NHL’s brutal fighting that one local giant cable company is offering parental control devices for blocking hockey fights from fans under the age of 21. Parents can now program their TV to block out the fisticuffs with a giant blue blob and replace excited, urging announcer voices with audio of blue whale cries from the North Pacific Ocean.

“The customers spoke and we listened,” said a representative from the giant cable company based in Philadelphia. "That's what we do."