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Things I've Found 49 (One Man's Vice is Another Man's Hootenanny)—7/8/2005

by Mark Rose

Let’s All Hear It For Vice! The "Vice Fund" is a mutual fund concentrating on socially irresponsible stocks. You can invest in alcohol, tobacco, gambling, etc. Think it’s funny? For the 12 months ending May 31, it returned 22%. The Standard & Poor’s 500 returned only 8%. http://www.vicefund.com/.

Our ever-continuing obsession with absinthe has stumbled across this site that seems rather comprehensive: http://feeverte.net/. We promise, this will be the next to last thing we say about the drink. Maybe.

An interesting interview with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. You hope that the newly-elected government can continue to thrive. http://www.nationalreview.com/nordlinger/nordlinger200506080746.asp.

I love crazy food sites and James Lileks’ book The Gallery of Regrettable Food is one of the finest books I own. Here’s a new site that attempts to make fun of unusual foodstuffs. Not as funny as some but he has some great examples. And for those East Coasters out there, Utz Potato Chips makes an appearance in Gallery Five: http://kookychow.com/kookychow/.

Play Monopoly with real-live London cabs. I’m not kidding. It’s a sponsored game from the folks who make Monopoly. Very strange. You choose a cabbie from a list and they’ve installed GPS units in each cab. If they happen to drive buy the properties you own, you get money in your online account. It works best if you’re in the UK and have a cellphone to get SMS updates but it’s still an interesting idea: http://www.monopolylive.com/.

My Dog Bit Me. I had a nasty scratch on my arm, and so I applied one of these bandages: http://www.mcphee.com/bigindex/current/11476.html.

Ikea ads are racier in other countries than they are here in the States. Check out this one on the value of tidying up, and if you’re easily offended, don’t bother. http://www.big-boys.com/articles/tidyup.html

Here’s a remarkably fun search tool. It’s a Farm Subsidy Database from the Environmental Working Group. Search by name or state to see who gets subsidized by the American government for growing crops on their land (or not growing them sometimes). You might be surprised. For instance, billionaire Ted Turner has scored over half a million dollars from the US Government in the past eight years. And how about the Mellencamps of Indiana? Singer John Cougar Mellencamp helped to start Farm Aid but it turns out that his family has raked in more than $1.2 million in government subsidies since 1995. I think he’s doing better farming than he is at singing. http://www.ewg.org/farm/

Does the phrase "rare and vintage musical electronic toys" amuse you? Does it make you go whooowanggaaaa, give me the link!!. Well, then, here it is: http://www.miniorgan.com/. Seriously, this is really cool for fans of old technology. Worth a few minutes.

OK, Jack In The Box still has the best ads overall but Burger King is making a huge run for the money with their bizarre plastic-faced King mannequin, and some fairly clever marketing gimmicks like this site: http://www.sithsense.com/flash.htm. Basically, it’s a 20 Questions Game that you play with the Lord of the Dark Side, Darth Vader. Takes a while to load, but it’s worth it. Think of an object and Darth will attempt to guess it...and he’s good! Er, good at guessing, he’s bad normally, I mean. (Try to think of a good one to get the Easter Egg on question 19.)

As my readers well know, I think Paul Krugman is one aspect of the Anti-Christ. Now, Daniel Okrent, former public editor of The New York Times, is taking my side. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with someone from the NYT but here you go: http://www.poorandstupid.com/2005_05_29_chronArchive.asp. The link goes to a website that chronicles some of Krugman’s insanity, but it also has links to the actual forums of the New York Times where this controversy is being played out (free registration is required at the site). Krugman, an economist at Princeton, has been well-known for years to be fudging the statistics he uses in his column. But before you go patting Okrent on the back just yet, how about this quote from what is supposed to be an ombudsman: "I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data." That makes me shudder. Let’s be honest, is there really any point to an op-ed page in the newspaper?

If you manage to read one sporting book this year, please make sure it’s: Janet Guthrie: A Life at Full Throttle by Janet Guthrie from Sport Classic Books. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1894963318/qid=1120770963/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/002-9425726-0645637. Guthrie was a pioneer in the 1970s, qualifying and racing well at Indianapolis long before Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher or the most recent media heartthrob, Danica Patrick. Even more impressively, Guthrie made it where racing is REALLY difficult: NASCAR. Open-wheel racing is great and the rest of the world understands it better, but in NASCAR, three-tenths of one single second separate you from being a Top Ten finisher to someone who is four or five laps down. And Janet Guthrie competed and did well in the world’s most competitive auto racing series. She finished sixth at Bristol! If you’re a NASCAR fan, you know how amazing that sentence is. If she was running now, we’d be talking about her as a goddess, let alone Rookie of the Year. But she ran in the supremely unenlightened 1970s when sponsors just couldn’t be bothered to give a damn. Her book isn’t a bitter feminist manifesto. I think she knows she was just ahead of her time in this country. But it must be bittersweet for her to see the love foisted upon Danica Patrick and think about the undeserved vitriol she had to suffer just to be able to compete. Look, there are so few good biographies published in a year, and there are even fewer biographies about sporting figures, especially one that isn’t ghost written or an As Told To By. Guthrie can freaking write, and she explains exactly what is so appealing about auto racing. And damn it, she deserves a lot better than she got. Buy this book, you won’t be disappointed.

Obligatory Support Our Troops link: http://bandsforfreedom.com/en/. If you like those colored bands that everyone wears (one color for breast cancer, one for torture survivors, etc. etc.), then this is the nicest one I can think of: a red, white and blue colored band that says you believe in Freedom. They’re 2 bucks apiece and that’s good money spent well.

And on that note, until next time a fond adieu.