Telmetale of Stem or Stone

Happy St. Patrick’s day. Zinzin has a post featuring a video (audio with pictures) of James Joyce Reading Finnegans Wake, from 1929, with the text to follow along. But first, and before you quaff or even lay eyes on your first Guinness of the day, make sure you have a hearty and nutritious breakfast:

Night now!
Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night night! Telmetale of stem or
stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters
of. Night!

~James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, p.216 lines 2-5


Canada Obscura

Since Halloween is here, it’s time to once again face our fears and contemplate our scary neighbor to the north, Canada. In honor of the Halloweenery that has engulfed North America on this festive Day Before the Day of the Dead, we offer a primer on some of the more esoteric Halloween traditions unique to the land up north:

In Canada people welcome trick-or-treators by placing pumpkins called jack-o’-lanterns in their windows.
Also in Canada it is bad luck for a black cat to cross your path, enter your home, or even enter your ship.

In Canada people give trick-or-treaters sweets to make sure they are not played a trick on.

Children make Jack-o’-lanterns for hallowe’en.

Dressing up as witches, ghosts and beasts for trick-or-treating is done also.

I know, I know, it sounds like Jabberwocky to us readers in the USofA, and seems to make no sense whatsoever. You’ll just have to trust my sources that in Canada it’s all perfectly logical.

So, a Happy Halloween to you then, eh?

BONUS MATERIAL: As an extra quasi-holiday featurette, I’ve created the following poem, “Canadian Halloween”, from the 69 words quoted above, put into random order using a random number generator:

enter witches
they sweets path a In trick-or-treaters trick
as make is people enter make
by your is called Canada

pumpkins people
cat luck and jack-o’-lanterns black
not home your it done in your for hallowe’en
Jack-o’-lanterns Canada
even their for your to Children in played

In Also or on also
placing sure ship up are Dressing welcome
give to a bad beasts
Canada trick-or-treators
ghosts windows cross for


Get ready for an explosion of branded Internets

Whatever you think about the domain name system, it’s been pretty effective in allowing the World Wide Web to expand so rapidly over the past two decades. And for most companies, “.com” has been THE place to park your brand. But that may all change soon.

ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is the non-profit, global coordinator of the Internet’s naming system. ICANN’s global Internet regulators met today in Singapore to “finalize rules for a major expansion of ‘generic top-level domains,’ that will clear the way for new offerings like .law, .coke or .nyc. Sites with those endings are expected to start rolling out late next year.” tells the story in Forget .com, here’s .coke:

“Today’s decision will usher in a new Internet age,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors. “We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration.”

Now, before you get all excited and start dreaming of registering “.wordlab” or “.snark” domain names, note the “gotcha”:

Crawford thinks dot-brand sites will be a hit with major companies. In addition to marketing benefits, they could help on the security front: HSBC, for example, could tell customers that a purported HSBC site isn’t legitimate unless it ends in .hsbc. And a company like Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) could market products at cellphones.verizon and store locations at losangeles.verizon.

But these benefits don’t come cheaply — or easily. ICANN charges at $185,000 per domain application, which Crawford says typically must include about 150 pages of policy documents.

Technical setup takes another $100,000 or so, he says, and upkeep can cost an additional $100,000 each year.

So there you have it — only “major companies” who can afford the cost and regulatory overhead will be able to buy into this, and the result will likely be more brand clutter and confusion, with new domains like .coke, .pepsi, .verizon, .hsbc flooding the Internet with millions more corporate websites. No longer would users just go to to find out — wait, why do users go there? — whatever they need to find out, but potentially there might be thousands of separate .coke sites. Any large company could basically build its own Internet now — imagine a self-contained, Chromewashed .google empire. And forget about just one “iCloud” for Apple — they could create a mega-cloud of .apple websites.

In addition to companies, non-profits, NGO’s, citizen groups, artists and any sort of non-corporate entity that can raise the funds could also create its own self-contained micro-Internet. Imagine legions of fans registering .gaga, .bieber, .kanye or .diddy domains for their fanblogs, with all that registration money going directly to the artists instead of GoDaddy. That is, if there’s anyone left who wants to have their own website, when a Facebook page is probably all they need. We’ll see.

It’s enough to make your head spin. And in the not-too-distant future, people will misplace websites and domains the way they misplace car keys. Honey, where did you park my files? Was it at,,,,,, or

Of course, there will be apps to help you remember where you put your digital life. Oh-yes-there-will-be.apps.


Celebrating great names: Chardonnay Hooker

I was briefly watching the local news last night, which I rarely do, and I caught a glimpse of this interview during a story about Southern California wildfires:

Chardonnay Hooker

Now that’s a great name! Like a Bond Girl. And kudos to Chardonnay for not being shy about having it and putting herself out there. And good luck battling those wildfires!

For the rest of us who aren’t so lucky namewise, here is a Bond Girl name generator to help spice up our personal nomenclature. My Bond Girl names are Tawnie Small and Yoko Dos, both of which I quite like.


Welcome to Spyburbia, USA

Telefon“They couldn’t have been spies…Look what she did with the hydrangeas.

Spyburbia, baby — you heard it here first!

How do you fool so many in suburbia for so long? “She said they were from Canada.”

Yes Virginia, there really are spies everywhere, even in your neighborhood. Especially in your neighborhood, most likely. And if they say they’re from a mysterious blank spot on the globe called “Canada”, call the FBI immediately. [In Ordinary Lives, U.S. Sees the Work of Russian Agents]

Anyone remember that ’70s Charles Bronson B-movie classic, Telefon? As Wikipedia reminds us,

During the Cold War of the 1950s, the Soviet Union planted a number of long-term, deep-cover sleeper agents all over the United States, spies so thoroughly brainwashed that even they didn’t know they were agents; they could only be activated by a special code phrase (a line from Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” followed by their real given names). Their mission was to sabotage crucial parts of the civil and military infrastructure as a precursor to a possible US/USSR active conflict or war.

I think ol’ Bob Frost was probably one of those secret agents as well. Just look at this video — something just doesn’t look quite right:


Great Recession stages of grief in songs of “can’t”

The Great Recession of 2008-09 has so scarred us all, it seems fitting to process it culturally through the Stages of Grief. Inspired by this Wordlab Forum punnery that moved me from “quant” to “can’t”, I started thinking of songs whose titles include the word “can’t”, as in Can’t Buy Me Love, in terms of finance and the recent economic meltdown.

So to make all this cant even campier, let’s process our collective trauma over the Great Recession through the Sages of Grief in songs of “can’t”, leading off with an extra stage that sets-up our cultural addiction to the dream of spectacular profits:

1. Addiction — Show me the money!

You Can’t Resist It
Money Can’t Buy It
I Can’t Wait
I Can’t Decide
Can’t Say No
Can’t Stay Away
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
Can’t Fight This Feeling
Can’t Slow Down
Just Can’t Get Enough
I Can’t Help Myself
I Can’t Quit You Baby
Can’t Live Without You
I Just Can’t Help Believing
I Just Can’t Wait to Be King

2. Shock and disbelief — Housing prices can’t go down!

I Can’t Be Bothered
Can’t Believe It
Can’t Take It In
Can’t Happen Here
I Can’t Tell You Why
I Can’t Explain

3. Denial — It’s just a blip on the way to greater market value.

It Can’t Rain All the Time
Can’t Stop Me
Can’t Tell Me Nothing
You Can’t Take Me
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
Rudie Can’t Fail
I Can’t Go For That
Can’t Give Up Now
You Can’t Catch Me
You Can’t Bring Me Down
They Can’t Take That Away From Me

4. Anger — Bernie Madoff did what with my pension?!!!

I Can’t Stand the Rain
Can’t Stand You
U Can’t Touch This
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
I Can’t Outrun You
You Can’t Win
Can’t Stand It
I Can’t Stand It No More

5. Bargaining — Mr. Banker, will you renegotiate my mortgage?

Why Can’t You See
I Can’t Do It Alone
Why Can’t I?

6. Depression — We’re fucked, and soon we’ll be living in mud huts again.

Can’t Get You out of My Head
Can’t Keep It In
Can’t Stand Losing You
Can’t Get Over You
Can’t Cry Anymore
Can’t Go Back
Can’t Go On
Can’t Get There From Here
Can’t Let Go
Can’t Shake It
Can’t Find the Words
Can’t Get It Out of My Head
Can’t Sleep At Night
Can’t Finish What You Started
Can’t Get Out of What I’m Into
I Can’t Do This
Can’t Stop This Thing We Started
Can’t Stop This
Can’t Go Back Now
Can’t Stop the World
Can’t Let Go
Can’t Get Away
A Fire I Can’t Put Out

7. Acceptance — I don’t really even need a house, now that I have an iPad!

This Can’t Be Healthy
Can’t Deny It
I Can’t Deny
Can’t Have It All
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
You Can’t Turn the Tide
You Can’t Stop the Rain
We Can’t Help You
Can’t Be A Cowboy Forever


Library of Congress acquires entire Twitter archive

Yep, it’s true. See if you can wrap your head around this. The great institution of All Things Worth Saving will now be saving for all eternity the archive of All Things Not Meant To Be Saved: How Tweet It Is!: Library Acquires Entire Twitter Archive. Says the LOC:

Have you ever sent out a “tweet” on the popular Twitter social media service?  Congratulations: Your 140 characters or less will now be housed in the Library of Congress.

That’s right.  Every public tweet, ever, since Twitter’s inception in March 2006, will be archived digitally at the Library of Congress. That’s a LOT of tweets, by the way: Twitter processes more than 50 million tweets every day, with the total numbering in the billions.

They go on to list some noteworthy tweets that may be worth remembering in ten thousand years and beyond:

Just a few examples of important tweets in the past few years include the first-ever tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (, President Obama’s tweet about winning the 2008 election (, and a set of two tweets from a photojournalist who was arrested in Egypt and then freed because of a series of events set into motion by his use of Twitter ( and (

At the current rate of 50 million tweets per day, that’s 18,250,000,000 tweets per year, or 3,832,500,000,000 tweets every 210 years, the amount of time since the Library of Congress was founded in 1800. Of course, once everybody on the planet is tweeting hundreds of times per day, along with their household pets, appliances, and spambots, there could be 50 billion tweets per day. So attention LOC librarians: time to sharpen those pencils and roll up your sleeves — you’re about to get real busy chasing stray tweets.


Mucking About on National Inventors’ Day

February 11th is National Inventors’ Day, this year marking the 162nd anniversary of the birth of Thomas Alva Edison, the Wizard of Menlo Park.

Already by the time he moved to Menlo Park in 1876, Thomas Edison had gathered many of the men who would work with him for the rest of their lives. By the time Edison built his West Orange lab complex, men came from all over the US and Europe to work with the famous inventor. Often these young “muckers,” as Edison called them, were fresh out of college or technical training.

Unlike most inventors, Edison depended upon dozens of “muckers” to build and test his ideas. In return, they received “only workmen’s wages.” However, the inventor said, it was “not the money they want, but the chance for their ambition to work.”

The Wikipedia page for Thomas Edison notes several places and companies bearing Edison’s name:

Though branding is now second-nature for famous people (and their handlers), Randall E. Stross author of The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World asserts that Edison launched the first successful branding campaign-an achievement arguably further ahead of its time than much of his technical output-by embracing the title “Wizard of Menlo Park,” which was coined by a reporter during Edison’s brief stay in that New Jersey town.


The history of Ponzi and his infamous scheme

With the arrest last week of Bernard L. Madoff for what amounts to a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, Mental Floss asks the obvious question: just who is this Ponzi, and what exactly was his scheme?

His name was Charles Ponzi, pictured at right, and Mental Floss notes,

Anyone can work a simple swindle, but you have to be a special kind of con man to have your name become synonymous with “fraud.”

Read the article, it’s a great story. At one point near the end, when his great con was unraveling, Ponzi hired a PR flak named William McMasters,

…but the PR man saw through Ponzi’s lies and renounced his client in the press. James Walsh reprints part of McMasters’ slam of Ponzi in his book, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man. Of Ponzi, McMasters said, “The man is a financial idiot. He can hardly add…He sits with his feet on the desk smoking expensive cigars in a diamond holder and talking complete gibberish about postal coupons.”

Certainly an apt symbol of our own troubled, fraudulent times.


What is Spotted Dick?

In Harry Potter Goblet of Fire, Ronald Weasley tempts Hermoine with his Spotted Dick. ‘Treacle tart, Hermione!’ said Ron, deliberately wafting its smell toward her. ‘Spotted dick, look! Chocolate gateau!’

Strangely enough, Spotted Dick isn’t yet mentioned in the extensive list of misleading food names, although it has its own entry, on Wikipedia.

Spotted Dick

Here’s an interesting little article on the name, and a recipe in case you’d like to eat Spotted Dick in the privacy of your own home:

Spotted Dick, ever a favorite pudding through the years, has as much a spotted history as complexion. As for the name, it’s a case of the chicken and the egg. Known to have been served in Britain for over 200 years, this sweet cakey, currenty treat was a favorite of Captin Jack Aubrey, hero of the Patrick O’Brien novels. Legends trace it back to England, and even Ireland (where it is called Sweet Cake, Curnie Cake or Railway Cake). As old as Christmas Pudding, itself, one has to wonder, where did the name come from?

Is it, as someone has suggested, a derivation of Spotted Pudding? That theory holds that “Pudding” was shortened to “Puddink”, from there to “Puddick” and then just “Dick.” Other histories call it Spotted Dog, and while this may be editing on behalf of good taste, it makes sense.

Never had it myself, but there’s an authentic English pub in Toronto named The Spotted Dick and we ate there!


In God We Trust

On July 30, 1956, the President approved a joint resolution of Congress declaring In God We Trust the national motto of the United States. The words had been used on some American coins before that date but not on all currency, and not without objection. According to a Wikipedia article, Theodore Roosevelt strongly disapproved of the idea of evoking God within the context of a “cheap” political motto. In a letter to William Boldly on November 11, 1907, President Roosevelt wrote: “My own feeling in the matter is due to my very firm conviction that to put such a motto on coins, or to use it in any kindred manner, not only does no good but does positive harm, and is in effect irreverence, which comes dangerously close to sacrilege … it seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements.”


Da Curse of the Billy Goat

The original Billy Goat Tavern location was “born” in 1934 when Greek immigrant, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, purchased the Lincoln Tavern. Billy Goat bought the tavern for $205, with a check that bounced but was later repaid with sales from the first weekend. The tavern was located across from the Chicago Stadium (now United Center) and attracted mainly sports fans. Sianis became known as “Billy Goat,” when a goat fell off a passing truck and wandered inside. Sianis adopted the goat, grew a goatee, acquired the nickname “Billy Goat,” and changed the name of the bar to the Billy Goat Tavern.

Infamously associated with da curse of the Billy Goat, the Billy Goat Tavern is famous now for bringing together some of the biggest names in the trademark lawyer game. Above are Ron Coleman, Marty Schwimmer and John Welch, who got together for a meetup with other trademark law bloggers this week in Chicago. Go Cubs!

Update: John Welch, who grew up in Chicago and is a died-in-the-wool White Sox fan, let us know through Marty Schwimmer that our apparent support for the Cubs really got his goat. 😉

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