Sunday, November 27, 2005

Remember before Festivus got so over-commercialized? This once pleasant, anti-holiday joke has become exactly that which it was started to protest.

Festivus was introduced to the American public on a Seinfeld episode back in 1997. Frank Costanza (George's father) invented the holiday in response to the insanity and commercialization of the more traditional winter holidays. An un-adorned aluminum pole is the sole decoration for the holiday. The Festivus celebration includes such activities as the airing of grievances (you get to tell your family members how they pissed you off over the past year) and the feats of strength (wresting or other physical competitions). As a Seinfeld episode it was very funny.

But then, last week I saw a TV ad for Festivus Wine. Thinking it was not real wine, but rather a clever promotion for the new DVD release of the Seinfeld show, I went to the web site advertised and was shocked to see that it is, in fact, a real wine. Then, on a morning talk show, was a guy named Allen Salkin promoting his Festivus book.

My visit to Amazon also found a book by the true creator of Festivus, Seinfeld writer Dan O'Keefe. His book, The Real Festivus, is perhaps the only product made by anybody with any connection to Seinfeld. You might think, then, that Dan is the only person with any right to cash in on the idea. Except that it was actually Dan's dad who came up the idea about 30 years earlier.

A few more clicks and searches turned up multiple sites selling Festivus poles, and even a listing about Festivus in the Wikipedia.

Which brings me back to the start. As a Seinfeld fan, you know I love the concept of Festivus. But isn't the heart of the concept that it's a do-it-yourself anti-holiday? Doesn't all this success turn it into another mass-produced parody of itself? And if Festivus is now mainstream, what is there for the rest of us?

I'd take this time to tell you about St. Monty's Day, a holiday created by a few of my friends and I back in Jr. High School. But I don't want that to get ruined by success too.

Friday, November 25, 2005

For an example of somebody with an incredible amount of talent, and entirely too much time on their hands, see Main Street in Ruins.

I'm sure you've seen detailed mini-villages that go along with model railroads, but this guy has gone a few steps further. His town is huge, incredibly detailed, and has been hit by disaster. Brilliant modeling, great photography, and a sick sense of humor - what a combination!

(And, if you like, you can click from there over to "Main Street Restored", but it's not nearly as much fun.)

Meanwhile, hope your Thanksgiving was pleasant.

Monday, November 14, 2005

It's music and art time today at Ken's blog...

On the music front, I've recorded the classic "Ring of Fire" in honor of the new Johnny Cash bio-movie. I've actually always wanted to record this, and figured I'd better get it out before the film, rather than appear to be doing it just to jump on the bandwagon after the film.

Ring of Fire was written by Johnny's wife, June Carter, and her writing partner, Merle Kilgore, about falling in love with Cash while both were married to others, and Johnny had a drug problem. Years later they were each single, and Johnny was clean, and they finally wed. They were together 35 years until her death in 2002.

(You can also access my other recordings, if you dare.)

On the art front, my cousin, Rick Lipson, finally has a web page up of his recent paintings. While my "music" is just a hobby and a bit of a joke, Rick's art is quite serious and quite good. Check out his work at Rick is also scheduled to be the featured artist next month on

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Yesterday, Leslie and I spent part of our day making phone calls asking people to vote No on propositions 74, 75, & 76; Governor Schwarteneger's attack on teachers, nurses, and firefighters. Leslie is one of the union reps for her school this year, so I accompanied her to make the calls (mouth healing nicely now).

Most of the people we reached were very polite and agreed to support us in defeating the Governor's agenda, a few disagreed, but were still polite about it. Only a handful of rude people, which was a very positive sign. Unfortunately, though, the largest group of numbers were no good; either disconnected or just wrong numbers.

Anyway, here are my recommendations for Tuesday's Special Election in California:
  • 73 - Abortion; parental notification & waiting - NO
  • 74 - Teachers; waiting period for permanent status - NO
  • 75 - Public Employee Unions; Cut 'em off at the balls - NO
  • 76 - State School Spending; Roll back previous guarantees - NO
  • 77 - Redistricting; Judges panel does it immediately - NO
  • 78 - Prescription Drugs; Industry's voluntary plan - NO
  • 79 - Prescription Drugs; Mandatory reform - YES
  • 80 - Electricity Providers; Re-regulate - YES

For me, the only tough decision in the batch was proposition 77, the redistricting. It's obvious that legislators drawing their own districts is flawed. That's been known for 200+ years. But I don't like this particular approach, the implementation (do it now, based on the 2000 census), or, frankly, the messenger. As part of Arnold's agenda, I just don't trust it or him.

As to the confusion between propositions 78 and 79, I side with the consumers for real reform. If the drug industry was willing to voluntarily discount drugs (as 78 calls for) they could do it now, without this phony attempt at reform. The drug companies, however, are spending a fortune to confuse the public as to which proposition is the real deal.

After the calling, and dinner, we went to see Capote, produced by and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Great movie. Fascinating and terrifying in an understated, get under your skin, and absorbing manner.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Seinfeld's Soup Nazi is back, and coming soon to mall near you...

The former purveyor of one of the finest soup stands in the nation is now turning his attention to franchising his famous soup in a chain of soup kiosks. Those who've tried the recipes say they are no match for the original.

Read the full article at

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