Mister Rogers, hippie peacenik

In 1983, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired a series of anti-war episodes.

Thirty-four years ago, on five consecutive episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, two feuding sects representing Russia and the United States began stockpiling parts for bombs—at one point stripping the neighborhood’s arts funding to bankroll the build-up.

I guess I’m not too surprised that Fred Rogers would put on shows with a message promoting peace and criticizing building up for war. What does surprise me, though, is that they were yanked from circulation afterwards.

The episodes were pulled from syndication and future releases. While production stills reappeared over the years, and a poor-quality, five-minute clip wound up on YouTube recently, the individual episodes themselves were never surfaced again.

I wonder who complained? I wonder who at PBS listened to those complaints? It’s a disturbing kind of low profile censorship. Now, suddenly, a couple of those episodes have appeared on YouTube in a weirdly timely release. I watched one of them — it was kind of sweet to see a children’s show I haven’t watched in probably 25 years, and it reminded me of what a nice guy Rogers was — and it really is rather explicit. The King has drafted everyone to make bombs, on a kids’ show, in response to the fear that a different puppet was making bombs, and is stripping the kingdom’s economy to the point where they can’t buy record players for the schools.

It’s a fine message. It tells us that there has been some subtle propaganda going on for decades, though, that this was policed off the air.

Worst hike ever

I’ve hiked hazardous routes along the Washington coast — it’s a beautiful place with these gorgeous crescent beaches separated by spectacular rocky headlands — and before you set out you have to heed all the warnings. If you get caught on those headlands when the tide comes in, you may have to choose between going straight up a jagged, overhanging cliff or swimming out to sea in a swirl of complex currents. There are also bears.

I don’t think I’d want to hike the Broomway in England, though.


For one, at low tide, it’s a long gray mudflat. It’s not exactly scenic.

For another, the destination of your walk is a place called “Foulness Island”. This is not a name that would have been chosen by any tourism board. Saying you live on Foulness Island conjures up images of surly, decrepit villains hiding out in hovels and scheming bitterly to murder visitors and steal their shoes to enable escape. It sounds like a place infested with ticks and anthrax.

It’s worse. It’s deadly.

Depending on the time of year, you have a window of three to four hours to explore the Broomway before the tide returns. Unlike other tidal flats where the water gently rises, the speed of the incoming tide is described as faster than a person can run. Even worse, the rising waters interact with outflow from the nearby Crouch and Roach rivers to create deadly hidden whirlpools.

Nearly every site I’ve visited warns that no matter how good a swimmer you are, if you’re caught on the Broomway when the tide comes in, you’re likely to perish.

Still interested in taking a jaunt down the Broomway? You’ll first need permission from Britain’s Ministry of Defence. The military took over much of Foulness Island in the early 20th century for artillery exercises and still controls access. Adding to the path’s notoriety are large signs near the entrance warning “Do not approach or touch any object or debris as it may explode and kill you.”

In case you’re wondering, it’s the first week after Spring break, and I was already fantasizing about exotic island getaways, and this was one of the places that turned up in my google search. I think I need to come up with better search terms. Or erase my contaminating search history somehow.

When a deplorable wanker imagines himself as a supervillain…

I’ve always thought I was incredibly lucky to have such incredibly stupid enemies, but John @Scalzi has topped me. Scalzi has just come out with a new book, The Collapsing Empire. The guy who thinks he is Scalzi’s nemesis, Vox Day, has a small publishing house, and so he rushed into print a book, The Corroding Empire, to compete. Wait, you say, they just have similar titles, that’s not enough evidence to be plagiarism or an attempt to siphon off Scalzi’s sales, could it?

But then you see the covers.


Pathetically obvious, don’t you think?

Even more obvious, Vox Day openly announced his intentions.

When Beale announced pre-orders for The Corroding Empire, he made his mission very clear: He wanted his publishing house to do better than Tor Books and thought outperforming Scalzi with a near-identical book cover would twist the knife, adding What would be more amusing than for The Corroding Empire to outsell and outrank The Collapsing Empire? Then again, Beale’s never shied away from promoting himself or his publishing house through controversial means, including getting his followers to nominate himself and several Castalia House books for Hugo Awards during the Rabid Puppies heyday.

Beale has since announced a reprint that shortens the title to Corrosion, and changes the author’s name to Harry Seldon, parodying a character from Foundation. Some of his followers have also responded by giving Scalzi’s book negative reviews on Amazon.

That’s just sad and pitiful and weak. He’s basically admitted a desire to cling to Scalzi’s coat-tails.

Guess the crime!

Bruno Fernandes de Souza is a soccer player, and he is confident that he is not a bad guy. What crime do you think he committed to warrant a few years in prison?

In his first major interview since being released from prison, 32-year-old Bruno Fernandes de Souza said: “What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy.”

Brazilian goalkeeper who ordered woman’s murder returns to football
“People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude,” he said, according to the Guardian.

God forgave him, and he’s already landed a contract with a team. How bad can it be?

Answer below the fold.

[Read more…]

That’s a Minnesota kind of story

If only we had video of this daredevil stunt.

By daylight, it was clear what happened: The man blew through the stop sign at a T in the road, barreled through a yard and launched his car off a 35-foot to 40-foot embankment, clearing a span of open water on Lake Le Homme Dieu. before landing on the season’s remaining ice, Armstrong said.

The man, James Sundby, 38, of Wadena, had no drugs or alcohol in his system and he doesn’t remember what happened, said Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels.

The guy then staggered into a nearby stranger’s house, turned on all the lights and the TV, and proceeded to relax until he was chased away.

I’m just impressed with how far his car had to fly to clear that open water.


(Alexandria, by the way, is the next big (pop 9000!) city to the north of Morris — we go there fairly often. Now I’m feeling challenged to try the Sundby Leap, though.)


On the penultimate day of Spring Break, I cleaned up my office! It looks…majestic!


Philistines and non-academics may look at that and complain that there are still an awful lot of heaps and piles and what they would call “clutter” everywhere, but the cognoscenti will be more impressed that there are multiple clear surfaces there.

And…ermagerd! The ghost of Charles Darwin has manifested in the room! He’s…smiling! Clearly, my efforts have been blessed.


Got it done. My lab is all cleaned up and shiny and organized, except maybe for the bits behind the camera that you can’t see. So many beakers and flasks and bottles scrubbed! So many jagged shards of glass tidied up, pools of toxic chemicals siphoned off, untriggered bombs detonated, bones of previous adventurers interred!


Tomorrow…my office. This was just the warm-up.