FBI Director James Comey writes in a letter sent Friday to congress that the bureau is investigating more emails related to Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email server. In previous congressional testimony, I referred to the fact that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton's personal email server. Due to recent developments, I am writing to supplement my previous testimony
In connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contain classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation.
Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony.
The letter's vague. Everyone is losing their shit over it, either thinking it's saying more than it is (there's no suggestion that it's her email), or finding its lack of detail suggestive of a partisan effort to spread fear and doubt days before an election.
The earlier investigation led to Comey announcing that Clinton's use of personal email was inappropriate but not worthy of charges.
UPDATE: Get this: it's apparently got something to do with Anthony Weiner's teen sext stuff.
Federal law enforcement officials said Friday that the new emails uncovered in the closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server were discovered after the F.B.I. seized electronic devices belonging to Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, and her husband, Anthony Weiner.
The F.B.I. is investigating illicit text messages that Mr. Weiner sent to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.
The implication is that Huma Abedin's device has email to or from Hillary on it, and therefore vanishingly unlikely to make a difference to anything.
Here's Newsweek on why Comey might have been forced to turn this into an October surprise.
UPDATE: Looks like a dead dud.
I just bought this ten-pack of 16-ounce pub beer glasses on Amazon for $12. They have great reviews on Amazon. I don't know how long they will be at this price. They been as high as $25 recently. UPDATE: Price is now $26!
I'd like for you to meet one of my favorite people in the whole world. He's a private guy and though he's okay with my writing this post, he'd rather I kept his identity a secret for now. He calls himself The Toadman. But I should warn you, what you are about to read isn't what you'd expect. He doesn't lick toads for fun, eat amphibians or live under a bridge. He simply loves toads more than anything in the world and what he does in his free time proves it.
If you ever meet The Toadman, he'll seem just like anyone else in the Motor City. He'll probably talk about Michigan State University, the Detroit Tigers and how great it is to live in his hometown of Clawson. But what you won't get right out of the gate is what I call his "green side". That's the side of him that's comfortable discussing his life-long passion.
Since we were kids, The Toadman has been obsessed with frogs and toads. The day I got my drivers license he talked me into traveling 20 miles north to a swampy area because "that's where they have the best ones". I know it sounds strange, but just as a bird watcher is able to detect the presence of certain birds by how they chirp, The Toadman is able to do the same with toads. It's uncanny really.
Did I mention that for the past 2 decades he's lived with toads and sometimes sets up professional photo shoots with them? Just look at the size of his favorite googly eyed friend, Toad Ramsey. That portrait is ridiculously huge!
Sadly, Toad Ramsey is no longer with us (God rest his frog soul). He was named after a baseball player from the 1880's who became famous for inventing the knuckle curve ball. It seemed that Thomas H. "Toad" Ramsey had severed the tendon in the index finger of his pitching hand and there was no way for it to apply pressure to the ball from that finger when thrown. When other pitchers saw his throws curve the way they did, they deconstructed his grip and the technique lives on to this very day.
The Youngstown Vindicator described his pitches on January 6, 1923:
“The ball would leave the hand and go on a straight line to the plate, then suddenly shoot down. Ramsey’s curve was pronounced by experts to be the perfect demonstration of rotating a sphere."
In 1888 the Toad Ramsey baseball card became available and my friend has built a little house for the one that he owns. He explained that the card isn't especially valuable and though he did it to protect it from direct sunlight, it was also because toads are mostly nocturnal.
As you can see, Toad Ramsey will live safe and sound forever under a gigantic portrait of himself.
We should all be so lucky.
Earlier this year, The Toadman attempted to contact the spirit of Toad Ramsey through a Ouija board. What he found was that Mr. Ramsey doesn't like being called "Toad" at all. He'd rather be called by his given name, Tom.
I'm sure you're glad that's straightened out.
In 2003, The Toadman's Fantasy baseball team (named The Clawson Toads) won the World Championship title besting more than 200,000 teams in the ESPN's Baseball Challenge. That year everyone in town got a Clawson Toads baseball shirt to celebrate.
The Toadman followed CNN trucks around town while wearing his shirt in hopes of getting some well deserved airtime. And at 3:28 PM, on December, 12th 2003, my friend hit 4.5 seconds of pay dirt.
This footage became especially important when he found himself in a battle with editors of Wikipedia. It seemed they didn't think the Clawson Toads were important enough to have their own article. After 2 years of tireless battling, The Toadman's wikipedia page was taken down and the sleepy city of Clawson, Michigan has never been the same.
But life goes on for The Toadman and he is currently working on his will that states, "Upon my death, I leave everything I own to the Clawson City school district as long as Clawson High School changes their mascot from whatever it is to a toad".
And that seems fair to me.
In 1896 two New Jersey clam diggers made a bold bid for fame: They set out to cross the North Atlantic in a rowboat, a feat that had never been accomplished before. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow the adventure of George Harbo and Frank Samuelsen, which one newspaper called “the most remarkable event in the way of ocean navigation that ever transpired.”
We'll also meet some military mammals and puzzle over a thwarted burglar.
It’s a big world we live in, full of fortune-telling fox-woman hybrids, libraries where books are chained to the shelves, rusting shipwrecks, and amusement parks at the bottom of salt mines. The website Atlas Obscura collects the most intriguing of them, and now Atlas Obscura is in book form, perfect for flipping through while waiting for water to boil. It’s plentifully illustrated, with photographs or drawings on every page.
This is not The Book of Lists, and it is not for young children. Many of the entries concern war or atrocities, and some photos are gruesome; the world is full of mummified limbs. The authors treat the subjects respectfully, and have done their research. The story of the Bicycle Tree in Washington State, for example, has both the glurgy and the factual versions.
Some entries are not location based, such as the two pages of entheogens from around the world, or the list of abandoned nuclear power plants. But most entries have the latitude and longitude for each attraction, and sometimes street addresses; you could use this as a guidebook for a particularly unconventional wanderjahr.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Morton
Workman Publishing Company
2016, 480 pages, 7 x 10.5 x 2.1 inches (hardcover)
$21 Buy a copy on Amazon
I’ve often wondered, as I suppose any parent has, what would continue to bind me to the earth if my child died.
I don’t know, is the answer. I have two close friends who’ve had young children die, and another friend whose one son committed suicide and the second died of brain cancer. Not sure how they start their days, what they think to push them forward, where their strength comes from. But they have gone on with their lives. I don’t see their pain, but it must lurk somewhere.
Perhaps if you’re a religious person you may find some hope in the belief that sooner or later you will be reunited with your loved one, however there is no such consolation for an atheist such as myself. The thought of your child dying seems that it would be an end to all … why write a book, take a trip, watch a movie, eat a meal, take the garbage out? What could seem to have any importance at that point. Still, my friends have persevered. Perhaps it is their spouses that provide the anchor.
My own little bundle of joy is now 15 years on this earth, fiercely smart, strong both physically and mentally, yet willful, torn by the contradictions of adolescence, looking for a way forward. Sometimes, well often actually, I am accused of various unspeakable acts, of being old, and so on. Everyone told me that these years would come, but it’s hard to conceive of the hurt and difficulty when they suddenly appear one day: seeing the sweet smiling face of the flesh of your flesh suddenly turn into cold contempt. Fortunately there is often a smile not far off.
And yet my child is still the gravity holding me to the earth; a hug worth more than a world of riches; and if I can only coax a laugh once a week instead of daily, it will have to do. And it does.
But children do die, and parents struggle to hold on to … something. In this Sunday’s New York Times Jayson Greene penned a solemn essay of both death and life beyond: Children Don’t Always Live. It begins:
My daughter, Greta, was 2 years old when she died—or rather, when she was killed. A piece of masonry fell eight stories from an improperly maintained building and struck her in the head while she sat on a bench on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her grandmother.
It’s worth a read if you can muster your courage.
(Image: Flickr/Jeff Kubina)
I was Googling the name of a talented juggler named Lindsay Benner one evening to find out if her first name was spelled “say” or “sey.” As usual, I often search in “Images” because more interesting things turn up as I scroll down the page. In this case, and Yahweh knows why, I came across a photo of Harry Chapin. Not a juggler, not related to Lindsay Benner. Many of you might not even remember who he is, but I did and so clicked on the image. It led me, shockingly, to the blog of a friend of mine—a magician by the name of Shawn McMaster. He had written an appreciation of Chapin, who died at age 39 on the Long Island Expressway, his VW bug getting squashed by some asshole in an 18-wheeler, setting Chapin’s car on fire and burning him alive. I loved Chapin, and had first attended a concert of his by chance in upstate New York during a summer in the late 1970s when some friends dragged me along. Saw him about four times after that. A great guy and a champion of the hungry—one day you should read about him.
While I was watching a performance of his on YouTube (the great rabbit hole of all holes), I noticed on the right side, where all sorts of other performances by Chapin were listed, a deleted scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Clicked on that and watched it, then made a note to watch that episode at a later date. Then I saw a “Behind the Music” show on Harry Chapin from VH1 (remember those?) on the right side, and clicked on that. Watched a few moments and then got a strangle hold on myself and commanded myself to STOP. Bookmarked it for later watching and went back to work. Total time lost: about an hour.
Not bad, only an hour. I call it “bouncing and blobbing,” which is my poetic way of referring to loping from place to place on the internet until you notice that the sun has gone down, you missed dinner, and it’s time to hit the mattress.
Bouncing and blobbing … is it a part of your life? Damn straight it is, and don’t you lie to me honey (channeling Foxy Brown here, another movie I blumbled across on YouTube late one night, which coincidentally co-starred my friend the late Tony Giorgio, a great magician and dice hustler who went straight and became an actor).
Bounce, bounce, bounce, blob, blob, blob, the time and energy getting drawn out of me like some soul-sucking digital vacuum clamped onto my eyeballs and forcing my fingers forward on the keyboard. Except when I am commanded to stop, and watch, and listen, and then stop and watch and listen to something else, and then to something else (Anthony Newley and Sammy Davis, Jr. doing a crazy 1970s pop medley on some British TV show) which leads me to a pathetic video of Newley singing later in his life just before kidney cancer killed him, which I discovered by blopping to some article on his entire life story that took another 25 minutes to read. And then somehow I started watching clips of the Graham Norton show, which is really wild and bizarre. Then, of course, there is always Carpool Karaoke with James Cordon and … whomever (and thus I learned that Brittany Spears can’t sing, and won’t sing, while Michelle Obama can rock it, and Lady Gaga has some real pipes).
What causes this disease? I’m tired of the election, tired of Wikileaks, tired of the insanity on Facebook (which used to be fun, and sometimes still is, like when I just start scrolling down the “Home” feed and find a link to a video of Astrud Gilberto singing “The Girl from Ipanema” with Stan Getz saxaphoning in the background, which makes me think of her singing “It Might as Well be Spring,” which is a wonderful song from the 1945 film State Fair by Rogers and Hammerstein, which I then have to go find on YouTube and listen to. She goes off key for a moment and that’s bothered the hell out of me for 45 years).
Oh, right, tired of the day-to-day corruption in governments around the world, tired of the idiots who voted for Brexit and then realized they didn’t know what it meant, tired of nothing but bad news from the middle east, various Arab countries involved in war, and more shitty news about Boko Haram and ISIS, and tired of reading in The New York Times about the corrupt idiots in the New York City government who’ve been trying to build a subway line down Second Avenue SINCE 1920 and the first three stations are just going to open … soon. It’s the end of 2016. Is this the fucking Twilight Zone or what? Sometimes I am reduced to watching cute cat videos on The Dodo via Huffington Post via Facebook.
One day I hit rock bottom, The Lost Weekend, when I accidentally clicked on a box on the right side of YouTube about “The Pimple Popper.” I watched one, and then another, and then “the biggest pimple ever popped” and then on and on for several hours. Omigod … my life had turned into a never-ending cyst-popping pile of pus and sludge of some sort. People getting squirted on, skin exploding, people cursing and covering their noses from the smell.
This is the modern definition of Jean-Paul Satre’s play No Exit.
Try to turn off your computer. I dare you.
A few weeks ago my good friend John Park created a video demonstration of how to hack the famous Happy Chewbacca mask to trigger your very own audio files. And when my sister Christina told me she was building a Chewbacca-Pinata costume for her son, I naturally shared John’s video with her.
What my sister ended up creating was the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen.
But before sharing some pics and a video of the costume in action, I wanted to set the bar very, very low by showing images of other homemade Chewbacca costumes I found online.
It's like looking in a Chewbacca mirror!
Yes, you can purchase this one!
And this is my favorite one of all. The caption under this photo read, “Look at Chewbacca’s feet!”.
The truth is, that’s all I’m looking at.
So now that you’re primed for awesomeness, here are some pics of the creative process and a video of the finished product.
Christina started with an ordinary fleece jacket and started attaching strips of paper to it in layers.
She kept working upwards and onto the store-bought Chewbacca mask. And Ryan just kept standing there.
Christina made Chewbacca-pantaloons by applying the same paper layering techniques onto a pair of sweatpants.
Holy crap is that a fantastic Chewbacca-Piñata costume, but from what I can tell there is a fatal flaw.
The costume is called a “Chewbacca Piñata” and piñatas are meant to be hit with a stick or a baseball bat. If I had my way, to avoid a run-ins with stick carrying bullies, the name would be changed to something simple, like for instance, “Chewbacca”.
If you’d like to make your own Chewbacca Piñata, follow this link but be warned, it’s going to suck about 40 hours of your life away.
May the force be with you.
We’ve come to a pretty pass when the ‘National Examiner’ report that “Frozen Zombie Killers Coming to Life” is actually one of the more accurate stories in this week’s tabloids.
Never letting the facts get in the way of a good story, the ‘Globe’ cover hails its “world exclusive” story: “Whitney Houston Exhumed!” Hardly surprising it’s a world exclusive, since the late singer has not been exhumed, as we learn inside the ‘Globe,’ under its pleading headline: “Dig Up Whitney’s Body!” Evidently “legal experts” are calling for her exhumation to prove that Houston’s 2012 drowning death was murder. Except their “legal expert” is actually a tame “Hollywood private eye."
Rachel Ray now reportedly weighs 277 pounds and has been ordered by doctors: “Diet or Die!” according to the serial fat-shaming ‘Globe,’ whose cover screams that she is “Eating Herself to Death!” At least she’s a celebrity TV chef, so she should have fun doing it. Did the ‘Globe’ team of highly-trained medical reporters put her on a scale, or hack her latest cholesterol test? Of course not. They simply eyeballed it, like “I Guess Your Weight” hucksters at a county fair. And they found a doctor "who has not treated her” to warn: “The excess pounds she’s now carrying bring the definite possibility of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart failure or even cancer.” What about hypertension, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, breathing difficulties, infertility and sleep apnea? Why not throw the whole medical dictionary at Rachel Ray, because she’s no longer rail thin? I’m only surprised that the ‘Globe’ didn’t adopt its usual approach to celebrity health and warn that Rachel Ray has only weeks to live. Which reminds me - Nick Nolte is still alive and kicking, more than two months after the ‘Globe’ assured us he would die. Can it be long before the ‘Globe’ editorial board put out a “hit” on Nolte, if he keeps flaunting their reports of his imminent demise?
Singer Cher is another star the ‘Globe’ keeps telling us is at death’s door, yet who refuses to believe her own press. She went and ruined the weeks-to-live narrative by announcing a major concert tour, launching in February. Undaunted, the ‘Globe’ this week tells us that Cher is “calling it quits” - after her tour is over. As if.
The Donald Trump-loving ‘National Enquirer’ continues its fair and balanced election coverage with this week’s cover proclaiming: “Hillary Blackmailed FBI to Kill Corruption Probe!” The Democratic presidential candidate allegedly dug up dirt on investigators to kill the Whitewater probe two decades ago. That must be why nobody has ever heard of the Whitewater investigation and it disappeared without trace. Right. An unnamed “White House insider” reportedly “made calls to people” to “silence witnesses and bury evidence.” And Hillary ordered this alleged cover-up? Well, no. Supposedly it was “contacts in the White House who worked for Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes.”
Close enough. I’m sure that will stand up in court when President Trump brings Hillary to trial.
Medical stories dominate the tabloids, such as the ‘Enquirer’ claim that singer Britney Spears “tweaks her twin peaks!” which is their 8th-grade way of saying she has had breast reconstructive surgery. Except she hasn’t. As the story later admits: “. . . she’s dying to undergo major nipple and areola rejuvenation.” Because in the tabloid world the Thought Police have jurisdiction, and Britney is guilty as charged - assuming she’s even thinking about it.
‘Us’ magazine’s cover claims that Tom Cruise is “Choosing Scientology Over Suri,” explaining that a five-day visit in July with his daughter was the star’s first contact in months. I’m no apologist for that dangerously misguided cult, but the story begs questions that ‘Us’ fails to address. Clearly Cruise could be spending more time with his ten-year-old child, but ‘Us’ mag seems to have opted for the easy explanation, without asking what other dynamics might be in play. Is he choosing Scientology, or is he choosing work? In the four years since splitting with wife Katie Holmes, Cruise has filmed six movies in locations from Iceland to Louisiana, and has two lined up for next year. Does Cruise not want Suri with him on film sets, where she could spend lonely hours in double-wide trailers waiting for him? If Suri has been branded a “suppressive person” by Scientology authorities, as ‘Us’ implies, surely Cruise wouldn’t be permitted to spend any time with her, let alone five days. Does Katie Holmes want Cruise to see Suri, or is she limiting Cruise’s parental visits? Does Cruise think his daughter will fare better with a stable home life rather than being shunted back and forth between warring exes? These are hard questions; it’s no wonder that ‘Us’ avoids them.
Fortunately, we have the crack investigative reporting team at ‘Us’ mag to tell us that ‘The View’ cohost Joy Behar makes a “fabulous lasagna” and has “gorgeous feet,” that Rumer Willis carries knitting needles and yarn, melatonin-tinged water, and lip balm in her Cleobella tote, and that the stars are just like us: they sip boba tea, play golf, and (assuming that His Holiness the Pope is a “star”) play foosball.
‘People’ magazine devotes its cover and five pages inside to the “Hunt for the Long Island Serial Killer." The shocking story of ten women whose bodies were found buried along New York’s Gilgo Beach was horrifying when they were discovered in 2010 and 2011. But what makes them such big breaking news five years later? Perhaps it’s because, by some wild one-in-a-million coincidence, the murders are also the subject of a two-part TV special airing next month, produced by . . . ‘People’ magazine.
Which brings us back to the "frozen zombie killers coming to life,” for as the ‘National Examiner’ explains: “As Earth warms, deadly prehistoric viruses are unleashed on humanity!” And that’s not terribly far from the facts. Global warming thawing the Arctic tundra has caused an epidemic among Siberian nomadic herders, hospitalized by an Anthrax outbreak that scientists believe was unleashed by rising temperatures. Anthrax spores can survive frozen in human and animal remains for centuries - undead, like the bacterial version of zombies - and the ‘Examiner’ rightly reports: “There are other pathogens out there, too.” Admittedly, the tabloid’s photo of an actor in full zombie make-up, blood-spattered with rotting flesh, broken teeth and lividity-dappled skin implies that it’s human zombies rising from the grave, but let’s give credit where it’s due to a rare accurate story in this week’s tabloids.
Onwards and downwards . . .
Nintendo sales training video from 1992. Er, as the fellow says, "Hasta Luigi, baby."
Oregon artist James Landgraf designed a cute little “Dabuccino” water pipe that looks like a Starbucks Frappuccino. He made 500 to sell, but Starbucks was not amused, and successfully sued him for "trademark dilution, trademark infringement, and copyright infringement." Bummer.
As republicans seem to do these days, incumbent GOP senator Mark Kirk tossed a racist slur at his opponent, Representative Tammy Duckworth, out of pure reflex.
In a debate on Thursday night, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth — an Army helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in a crash in Iraq — talked about her family's long history of service in the military.
"My family has served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution. I'm a daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation. But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound," Duckworth said. "Because people are quick to sound the drums of war, and I want to be there to say this is what it costs, this is what you're asking us to do ... Families like mine are the ones that bleed first."
Kirk, given 30 seconds to respond, was curt, answering only: "I'd forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington." The moderator then moved on to the next question.
The remark was flippant and racially charged but also incorrect. Duckworth was born in Thailand to a Thai mother of Chinese heritage and an American father who was a U.S. Marine. A Mother Jones profile of Duckworth's 2012 House race notes her father, a World War II veteran, traces his heritage back to the American Revolution.
With a 20 percent increase in patients during the Major League Baseball playoff games in Chicago, the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center is preparing for a very busy World Series weekend there. Of course they expect alcohol-related injuries, from falls to DWI-related auto accidents, but cardiac issues are also expected to drive emergency room visits from emotional fans.
(Watching the baseball games) could increase their level of anxiety, hence exasperating some of their cardiac issues," emergency department director Anna Scaccia told WGN-TV.
"Taking their medication as prescribed per their physician, trying to stay as calm as possible. I know that can be difficult.”
(image by Brent Payne, CC via Flickr)
My darling Cavalier, Pretzel, gets yucky tear stains that don't smell too great. Well and Good Tear Stain for dogs cleans them up.
Pretzel, like many of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I've lived with likes to sleep on my head. Luckily, I'm bald and this serves as a heated, and kinda snuggly, stocking cap. Unfortunately it can smell really, really bad when her tear ducts have formed crunchy masses of fur under her eyes, and around her snout.
The stuff works quick and easy, just apply the remover to a cotton ball or a paper towel, and wipe away the stinky stuff.
I don't know the source of this hip glossary that translates beatnik slang into the King's Jive but it would be such a gas if tuned-in cats spoke like this (even if they never really did). (via Weird Universe)
If you're like me, you get frequent calls from scammers based in India pretending to be from the IRS. They threaten to come to my house or place of work to arrest and jail me unless I pay them alleged back taxes in the form of gift cards(!). They are laughably bad at trying to con money (see my post "An IRS scammer called me and I made him mad"), but they do well with seniors and immigrants.
According to an article on Vox, "IRS Inspector General Russell George said his department heard from about 2 million people who said they received these calls — about 10,000 of whom admitted to paying the scammers, to a tune of about $50 million. And that’s just the people who contacted them."
In order for these scams to work, the Indian scammers need to employ criminals in the US to deal with the gift cards. On Thursday 20 people in the US were arrested for allegedly participating in a fake IRS ring.
This flowchart describes how the IRS scam works.
This thrilling stabilized video of Steve Storey tearing down a mountain bike trail reminds me of the speeder bikes ripping through the redwood trees on Endor. Only real.
I enjoy Samuraiguitarist's spaghetti western cover of Europe's "The Final Countdown" much more than the 1986 original below.
What's the difference between modern memes and old ones? Edwardian-era bigots used paint, not MS Paint. Adrienne LaFrance writes on "The Weird Familiarity of 100-Year-Old Feminism Memes." Even the same embittered mirthless "humor" prevails—the same fears of emasculation, too—though I rather like this one: