If you help us, we’ll help you.
October 2nd, 2010
Here’s some invaluable advice for those of us who get into big-time
legal hot water. I’m an expert on these things, having watched hundreds
of crime documentary episodes on nighttime cable.
1. While barreling down the road with swag or illicit drugs in your car
you might get pulled over by the cops. Nothing works like reverse
psychology, so wave your right to decline a search and tell them to be
your guest. As they rummage around, glance frequently toward the areas
where your stashes are hidden to make extra sure they’re good and
2. If you’ve just killed your spouse, call 911 immediately to
report him or her as unresponsive. Make sure you howl and hyperventilate a
lot. These things will deflect all suspicion from you.
3. Since lawyers just get in the way, always accept any invitation from
the police to join them, alone, in a cramped windowless room at
headquarters. With your wit and sophistication you can handle anything
they may throw at you.
4. That rectangular mirror on the wall? Don’t worry, it’s furnished free of
charge to help everyone look their best. To that end, make sure you don’t
accidentally flick off the light switch (or you’ll see, instead, some people in the
adjoining room glaring back at you). And that security camera, assuming it’s even recording,
is only there to discourage you from freaking out and going for their guns. As long as you
don’t plan to do that you have nothing to worry about.
5. Whatever you discuss with the police will always remain in the
strictest confidence, so don’t hold anything back. As
they’ve already explained, if you help them, they’ll help
If you fess up right off the bat, they’ll tell the judge
how super-cooperative you were and you’ll probably get off with
6. If the cops have to leave the room for a moment, it’s just to
indulge in various woolgatherings that have nothing whatsoever to do
with either you or the case. They’ll be so sidetracked by the time
they return, in fact, that they probably won’t remember anything
inconsistent or incriminating you might have let slip earlier.
I think I’m coming down with pellagra. Please pass me the Coke.
December 26th, 2008
There’s been a recent flap about the FDA cracking down on Diet Coke Plus™, charging
that its nutrient fortifications aren’t high enough to merit legally the “Plus” in
its name and re-emphasizing that the administration doesn’t consider it
appropriate to add such things to snack foods in the first place.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients of Diet Coke Plus to see exactly what
Magnesium sulfate (i.e., Epsom salt)
Phosphoric acid (adds tanginess)
Potassium sorbate (preservative)
Potassium benzoate (preservative)
Aspartame (artificial sweetener)
Natural flavors, something along the lines of:
Acesulfame potassium (artificial sweetener)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Now here’s a more precise listing of the drink’s added nutrients. The RDA
stands for Required Daily Allowance of that nutrient1
, the next column is the upper safe
, and the next is the ratio of the two (“therapeutic ratio”) which gives
a rough idea of the safety margin. I then compare the actual amount of each of these in
the drink with the daily dosage you might find in a health store product.
|Nutrient ||A: RDA ||B: Upper safe limit ||Ratio of |
|Total in 20 oz. bottle of Diet Coke Plus ||Typical supplement|
|B-3 ||16 mg ||35 mg ||2.2 ||15% RDA or 2.4 mg ||500 mg
||B-6 ||1.3 mg ||100 mg ||77 ||15% RDA or 0.2 mg ||50 mg
||B-12 ||2.4 μg ||∞ ||∞ ||15% RDA or 0.36 μg ||500-1000 μg
||Magnesium ||420 mg ||350 mg (!) ||0.83 ||10% RDA or 42 mg ||400 mg
||Zinc ||11 mg ||40 mg ||3.6 ||10% RDA or 1.1 mg ||30 mg
As you can see, Diet Coke Plus’s nutritional assets are pretty scant.
In addition, B-12 is a rather persnickety animal
that doesn’t tolerate stomach acids very well. Consequently
most vitamin B-12 supplements come in the form of sub-lingual lozenges, mouth sprays, or enteric tablets.
Magnesium would appear to have an alarmingly low therapeutic ratio, though as it happens most
people’s kidneys will happily filter out any excess. Those whose kidneys are in any way compromised wouldn’t want to go
anywhere near this stuff without professional medical advice.
Manufacturers like Coca-Cola are in a bind when it comes to marketing nutritionally
fortified snack foods, FDA or no FDA. If they put enough of these goodies into the
product to make any real impact on anyone’s health, there’s the risk that
such quantities might at the same time endanger some of their consumers who have various pre-existing
conditions or take medications that might react adversely.
It would also cost so much that hardly anyone would buy it.
1, 2. From the U.S. National Academy of Sciences for 30-year-old male.
Note: The information above is not to be interpreted as medical advice. If you believe you have a medical condition, see your professional health care provider.
Castle or Corman?
November 12th, 2008
William Castle (1914-1977) and Roger Corman (b. 1926) are known for their [usually]
low-budget, [usually] high-concept movies.
Castle typically incorporated some kind of gimmick into his pictures — joy buzzers
installed into selected seats, nurses stationed in the lobby, a magic coin, a
45-second “fright break” timer overlaid onto the screen, burial insurance for patrons
who might die of shock, and so forth.
Corman is probably best known for 1960’s Little Shop of Horrors
which featured a
human-eating plant and Jack Nicholson as a masochistic dental patient. It went on to
spawn a stage musical — which itself then ricocheted back into yet another
movie, directed by John Waters (who himself grew up as a Castle zealot).
Naturally Vincent Price saw plenty of action with both Castle and Corman. He plays child-killing Richard III in Tower of London
, and in
he exhorts us to “Scream! Scream for your lives!!”
In The Thing With Two Heads
, Ray Milland is a cantankerous and openly racist physician who, as a
consequence of multiple organ failure, has to have his head grafted onto the body of a
black death row inmate played by Rosie Greer. Much of the film consists of this
bizarre Milland-Greer “Thing” racing around the countryside on a minibike.
The one A-list picture in this glorious morass was Rosemary’s Baby
, produced by
William Castle and directed by a new Polish kid hardly anybody had then heard of named Roman
Polanski. Castle himself appears in a cameo as the man waiting for Mia Farrow to get off
a pay phone.
Let’s see if you can tell some of the pictures of William Castle and Roger Corman apart:
1. 13 Frightened Girls (banned in Finland)
2. Attack of the Crab Monsters
3. House on Haunted Hill
4. Let’s Kill Uncle
5. Not of This Earth
6. The Thing With Two Heads
7. The Tingler
8. X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
9. Tower of London
Highlight the answers below with your cursor:
2. Corman [starring Russell Johnson]
3. Castle [starring Vincent Price]
4. Castle [starring Nigel Bruce]
5. Corman [starring Beverly Garland]
6. Corman (producer)
7. Castle [starring Vincent Price]
8. Corman [starring Ray Milland]
9. Corman [starring Vincent Price]
10. Castle [starring Tom Poston]
The Ex-Presidents Club
November 5th, 2008
Harding, telling those damn kids to stay off his lawn
The greatest number of current and former US presidents to survive simultaneously has
been six. This has happened three times. The first of those (4 March 1861 to 18 January
1862) was Van Buren, Tyler, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln. Next (20 January
1993 to 22 April 1994): Nixon, Ford, Carter, Regan, Bush I, and Clinton. Last (21
January 2001 to 5 June 2004): Ford, Carter, Regan, Clinton, and both Bushes.
When Barack Obama assumes office in January 2009, he will — or at least should — have four living predecessors.
Six times there have been no
living ex-presidents. The most recent such interval was
between Nixon’s second inauguration on 22 January 1973 and his resignation on 9 August 1974.
Three US presidents have been survived by their mothers: James Polk, James Garfield, and
John Kennedy. Kennedy’s maternal grandmother, Mary Josephine Hannon Fitzgerald, also
survived him. Only presidents Harding and Kennedy were survived by their fathers.