What does a "presidential exploratory committee" do? Is it just a euphemism for fund raising? A hedge so they can save face if a personal scandal or problem forces them to back out? Does anyone really think and "exploratory committee" will discover something that would make, say, Hillary Clinton, decide not to run for president?
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Studio 60, Kaus vs. Hagel, Bloggingheads, Simmons at the Super Bowl
This is probably the closest thing we have now to the lamented Breakfast Table (and bring back News Quiz! Ah. Good times.)
One of the running themes of bloggingheads is how surprisingly civil pariticpants who had engaged in heated disagreements are to each other on the program. I think it's a simple matter of it being harder to be mean to a face (or "head") than it is to a byline (even though I don't think the paricipants can see each other during the taping).
If Web 1.0 had the effect of coarsening dialogue, since it's easy to fire off a nasty post or e-mail to someone you have never and likely will never meet, perhaps Web 2.0, which enables communication mediums other than text, will correct that a bit.
In order for this to happen, video would have to become the default medium for political debate, which I don't see happening. But something like bloggingheads provides a superior forum for hashing out a debate than dueling blog posts.
Earth to Simmons: We don't. We're glad for you that you've risen from putting together your own website and working like hell at it to achieve success to the point where a trip to the Super Bowl is an annual ritual for you. And I'm glad you're able to have a better time in Miami than you did in Houston or Jacksonville. Really.
But for most of us, a trip to the Super Bowl remains a fantasy that will never be realized. And if we do, we won't give a damn where it is.
Your style of writing depends on a certain relationship with the reader. You write "from a fan's perspective." Well, this fan could care less whether the Super Bowl is played in Miami, Detroit, Peoria, Bagdad, or the surface of the moon. It has no impact on my enjoyment of the game.
Monday, January 29, 2007
(Yeah, this will have to be multiple-parted. Not sure how many yet. I would think at least III, if not VII. I'm just trying to let it unfold. So…)
Tom Cruise Is A Great Actor, Part I
MAGNOLIA: SONGS IN MOVIES
•Respect The Cock, Tame The Cunt
•P.T. ANDERSON MOVIE FROM '99 CAUSES BIRMINGHAM RESIDENT TO LOSE WILL TO GO ON LOVING
[!!!Warning!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! ahead in the 89th paragraph !!!Warning!!!]
There ought to be a new Academy Awards category, something like Best Use Of An Existing Song In A Motion Picture. The problem is, if there were, Cameron Crowe would probably win it every year in which he made a movie. About every few months or so I'll get obsessed with a movie, where I'll watch all or part of it every other night, or a scene from it over and over again. Past obsessions have included American Beauty, Legally Blond, The Day After Tomorrow (Shut up!), Mean Girls, Anchorman, to name just a few.
The last obsession was Almost Famous, to me a nearly perfect film. Certainly the scene on the bus the morning after Russell claims that he's a golden god before jumping off the roof into a swimming pool, and Crowe's karaoke-esque use of "Tiny Dancer", is excellent. But the real musical genius was choosing "Mona Lisa And Mad Hatters" for the scene when Russell blows off Penny Lane at the restaurant from which she subsequently flees in order to overdose on variously colored pills (mostly qualudes we think, and liquor). Pure, unadulterated brilliance. I could go on and on just about Famous, but I'll save that for another time. (Still, if you want to be cured of Cameron Crowe worship, which is in most cases debilitating if not fatal, I'd recommend watching the featurette included in the DVD extras, "The Making of Almost Famous", which is basically a 15 minute metaphor of a step by step guide to self-congratulatory masturbation. What a self-important dick, literally. Throw in some idiotic soundbites from his dingbatted wife, Nancy Wilson, and you'll be throwing glow sticks at your TV set faster than you can say, "Man I really hate hippies.")
Anyways, I'd never seen Magnolia, for whatever reason. I guess I was avoiding it because of outright fear, having recalled folks whose opinion really matters to me (currently in real life that number's stuck at about 3 people) remarking that's it's fairly brutal and unforgiving.
Well, that's putting it mildly. It's over 3 hours long, has the thinnest veil of a plot, the flimsiest interconnectedness of its multiple narratives, and the most anticlimactic ending since the series finale of One Day At A Time.
How it opens doesn't much help either. But we'll get back to that.
Turns out it's also indescribably compelling on so many levels. And the acting is phenomenal, if not, at times, virtuosic. Sorry, folks. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tom Cruise is a very good actor. Great even. This will end up being the performance of a lifetime. This will be the movie people will say, "Wait, what? That's the guy from Top Gun and Days of Thunder? No way!"
Way. More on that later.
So I'm sitting there watching 2 and 1/2 hours of miserable cruelty and man's inhumanity to man and, more appropriately, to woman, trying desperately to find a reason to go out on a date ever again ever, still trying to recover, mind you, from that unforgivable film Closer, or, really, ever to speak to anyone ever again other than my dogs and cat (who, by the way, acted a little weird themselves after the credits rolled)… And then, it happens. One by one, the main characters break out into song in a sort of cross between Rent and Cop Rock. (Okay that's not fair. Rent is such an abomination that by the end of it I was pulling for the AIDS virus to wipe out most of the cast.* And Cop Rock? That's just a cheap shot reference.)
The song is "Wise Up", by Aimee Mann. Each character is given a phrase to sing, and each character seems to be just where we left them (they left us?) the last time we saw them: Melora Walters doing half-a-dozen lines off the coffee table in the living room before her big date, John C. Reilly thanking through prayer a very Catholic Jesus for sending a terrific gal his way to see romantically (the terrific new gal being Cokehead B. Snortington over there of course), Philip Baker Hall in his study throwing back some Jack after having suffered a minor stroke on live television, William H. Macy in his kitchen sitting beneath the giant fake check he won on a game show as a kid, Jason Robards dying a slow and very painful death with Philip Seymour Hoffman as his caregiver, Julianne Moore throwing down in her 'Cedes in an abandoned parking lot with some liquid morphine and various and sundry pills (apparently having raided that pharmacy Penny Lane calls a purse), Tom Cruise in his mobile penis trying to decide if he's going to visit his dying father, and, finally, Jeremy Blackman, who's broken into the library to study with the piss in his pants not even dry yet. Did I leave anybody out? Is that the right order?
It's visually and aurally stunning. You'll recall that Jeremy gets the final refrain, which, instead of "wise up", is "give up".
Magnolia obviously deserves its own post, obviously, but it's that scene that haunts me, mostly because of the song and the photography. "Wise Up" could quite possibly find itself in the perfect song Pantheon.
[Walters] It's not
What you thought
When you first began it
What you want
Now you can hardly stand it though,
By now you know
It's not going to stop
[Reilly] It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
'Til you wise up
[Hall] You're sure
There's a cure
And you have finally found it
[Macy] You think
Will shrink you 'til you're underground
And living down
[Hoffman] But it's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
[Robards] 'Til you wise up
[Moore]Prepare a list of what you need
Before you sign away the deed
'Cause it's not going to stop
It's not going to stop
[Cruise] It's not going to stop
'Til you wise up
No, it's not going to stop
'Til you wise up
No, it's not going to stop
So just... [Blackman] give up...
It's a deceptively complicated little tune. Technically it's in D, but Aimee keeps the tonal center vague because every time it should resolve to D, it actually goes to G. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
It starts off with the piano alternating from Gmaj7 and D as an intro, then under "It's not what you thought", then Bmin to G to D under "When you first began it". More Gmaj7 to D, but then when "Now you can hardly stand it though…", the progression goes from Bmin to G to E7, and repeats the alternating G to E7 until the last of the "It's not going to stop" refrains. This is the heart of the song, the point at which Aimee both declares its tonal center and, at the same time, denies it, because the progression is D to A to C to G to… We're expecting the D, right? Yes. But Aimee pulls the old evaded cadence trick and goes back to Gmaj7, despite even the fact that when the bass comes in it's playing a corresponding D!!! That is so totally and completely fucked up!!!
The second verse is pretty much identical to the first. Then there's a very short bridge, where we alternate from G (not necessarily with the maj7) to E7, again, but elongated under the entire lines, then alternating the way it did in the verses. And then, Tom's singing (along with Aimee) the "It's not going to stop" refrain; when he gets to the last refrain we hear the now familiar D to A to C to G progression, with full instrumentation and background vocals, "So just… give up". Everything drops out but the piano and Aimee and Jeremey, and there's a brutal closeup of Jeremy singing "give up". The camera pulls back, the sound effect of rain gradually eclipses the music, and the montage is over.
I have to confess that the first time I watched the movie, I backed up and watched that scene about 4 times in a row. Bad idea. Because it doesn't get any less melancholy-inducing with repeated viewings. It was on the 4th viewing of this scene when 2 things happened: 1.) I realized why Anderson had his characters singing of all things; and 2.) I realized what the point of the movie was.
Save for Hoffman and Reilly, these characters are pretty depraved. A knee-jerk reaction might be to suggest that having each sing part of a pretty song, real time, makes them seem more human. But it's actually the opposite case: Having each sing part of a pretty song mythologizes each character, allowing us to see them vulnerable, out of body, ethereal. Which allows us to forgive each. If only for 2 and 1/2 minutes. That's why they sing.
As to the point of this beautifully cruel and cruelly beautiful movie? People lie, they're unfaithful, and nobody cares. Still, owning up to your lying and infidelity may seem noble; but it doesn't necessarily follow that you're forgiven. Why? Nobody cares.
Oh, and when it comes to sex, money and power, it's mind-boggling what people are capable of, for better or worse, but mostly worse. Which is what the very peculiar open means to me, namely, it's not so much the destination as it is the journey, whether that journey is unintentionally falling in love with your "mark", or getting shot accidentally by your mother on your way falling down 15 floors to commit suicide though a window washer's safety net that you didn't know about would've broken your fall and saved your life plus the fact that it was you who loaded the gun because your parents fight all the time and that shell was meant for one of them at which point both your parents are charged with manslaughter and you're still dead.
Oh, and irony. Again.
Tom Cruise Is A Great Actor, Part II
•MINORITY REPORT: GOOD GUY AS DRUG ADDICT AS MORAL BAROMETER
•There Really Is Something About An Aqua Velva Man
•AND ETHAN HUNT FINDS HIS "CANNED TOMATOES"
(Or, you know, something to that effect. Be on the lookout!)
*rerun alert, I know
(with apologies to Jon Stewart, of course)
Sure, the process is futile, sure it's a choice of dumb or dumber, Pepsi or Coke (when the choice I really envision is between whiskey and mother's milk), the evil of two lessers, a military- or prison-industrial complex with or without emission controls. So yeah, I'm cynical, I'm jaded, and I have never been much of an activist. But there are certain things you must do to earn your complaining rights, and I've been slacking. What's more, if you're, say, under 50, then you should realize that you're paying for the retirement and medical insurance of your parents, while pretty much abrogating your own. Because those are the people who complain. If you want some of that good pander, you have to do your duty and bitch about what you ain't getting.
I've always voted, but one thing I've never done is write my congressman. My friend (our very own) hipparchia made the point that it's about time we all embraced responsibility as reasonably intelligent people. She's begun a campaign to write every member of the congress, and I support it. I encourage you to contribute your own letters, or else visit, copy and paste and badger your representative. It's your civic duty. And if you don't accept that it is, then you should at least do it to cover your ass when it comes time to make your complaints. That's what motivated me.
Here's my letter to Senator Kerry:
You will perhaps be pleased to know that I voted for you in your last Senate run, and also in your more recent presidential bid. My condolences on the outcome of the latter. I thought your views on a "Manhattan Project" for alternative energy were wise (though understated), and though I wish you targeted us better, I thought that you were in a unique position in that race to capture us voters who believe in both sound budget policy and individual liberties. Again, my condolences--we're all worse off for your defeat.
I am writing because I feel it's my civic responsibility, and one I've forestalled for much too long. I am a 34-year-old research scientist with a young family, and, I think, exactly the sort of person who is under-represented in the political process. Although I vote (registered as unenrolled, but courting Democrats), and although I follow politics with some interest, I have little time for telephone polling and the like. And although I am fairly jaded about the process, I am not without hope. I am a member of the blogging community, and converse regularly with many political activists in that arena.
Getting to the point, here are the priorities that this constituent envisions for the upcoming congressional session:
The administration is making similar motions now as it did in the run-up to the Iraq war. Please Mr. Kerry, insist on the congress' unique right to declare war under the Constitution. Do not let this president act to invade another country.
I remain disgusted with the disingenuous talk about timetables or set deadlines. Immunize yourself from these idiotic slurs, please, especially since it's the language of your opposition. Criteria for withdrawal are certainly reasonable. Please take the initiative to define them concretely. (The president hasn't.)
The president's ethanol initiative is foolish, and amounts to little more than a sop to the industrialized farming lobby (which, I am sure you are aware does not reside in Massachusetts). I encourage you to fund research in solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal power. Coal may work as a stop-gap, but it is damaging to the environment, and contributes to global warming. "Clean coal" still contributes to atmospheric contamination in the form of CO2, and conversion of carbon to carbonate (the product of scrubbing technology) is not very energy efficient, limited so by the laws of thermodynamics.
Energy independence also means conservation (not an easy sell!) and it also suggests making it more affordable to live closer to places of employment. As it stands today, living in a city like Boston means either living beyond one's means or living in crime and disrepair. Although I'm not ideologically disposed to promoting urban welfare, I have to admit that it makes more sense than sponsoring highway development over the years.
Massachusetts, with possibly the strongest technical university system in the country, is in a special position in this regard. Housing can be an economic pillar only so long as there is space for new homes, or as long as we can afford the commute. Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to decline. One reason the U.S. has been competitive in the twentieth century is that we have fostered entrepreneurialism and because we have a superior secondary education system. New technologies need to incubate in this country and grow into real industries to support future economies--this should be a national priority.
Although I realize Democrats have been in a minority for the last several years, your priorities have nonetheless been skewed relative to my own. Medicare legislation, for example, was threatened with a filibuster, but the enemy combatants act rolled through. This is unconscionable. Between this act, the extralegal detention of inmates in Guantanamo Bay, the USA PATRIOT act, and wiretapping withouth a warrant, the congress has abandoned its vigilance under the Bush administration. Now that the Democrats are in a majority, reverse these intrusions now. Please.
Although I am not a zealous user of it, health care is something that frequently occupies my mind. Although I don't like government planning, a widespread insurance model is nearly the only thing that makes sense under the circumstances. Even if the opponents' view is true, that U.S. medical care is superior, then still the universal insurance model should hold. A possible way to communicate this is to discuss how (1) the public health is best served this way, (2) the risk is shared to the highest degree (which is the entire basis of insurance), and (3) it will reduce administrative costs for insurance users. Reports have shown that Medicare, which includes the population most likely to be sick, is more cost efficient than private plans.
Thank you for your time, Senator. I hope that you represent me well in the new session.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
Cross-posted from SportsNut
Last night's falling-backwards goal against the Phoenix Coyotes has not yet been posted to YouTube, nor his even more impressive diving pass for the assist in the same game, but rest assured they will be there soon. The good YouTube elves have shown themselves brilliantly assiduous in uploading Crosby clips.
At a time when the NHL has all but disappeared from American view (coverage up here in Canada has never been better or more extensive -- sorry, suckers)
, YouTube is turning out to be a gold mine for highlights, and Sidney Crosby is the closest thing to a human highlight reel that hockey has seen since Mario in his heyday -- if not since Bobby Orr.
It's not just that he's the first teenager to lead the league in scoring since Gretzky (and if he closes out the year on pace, he'll be the youngest to win the scoring race ever) -- it's that he seems uncontent merely to rack up points, he wants to see how many ways he can do it, bringing an almost NBA dunk-competition stylishness to his play.
He's not too proud to bang in the garbage goals, but he'd much rather make it fun.
He's shown a recent penchant for scoring from his knees; and while hockey fans might appreciate the way he fakes the slapshot and converts it to a no-look pass (very Gretzky play), any sports fan can be wowed when he gets a goal by diving at the puck. (What's so extra-amazing about that one, is it was so exactly intentional -- almost like he and Recchi practiced it that way. "Put it a couple feet ahead of my stick -- no, really, trust me.")
Or how about this one, if you prefer it smooth -- sliding past four Rangers and tucking it in the net like he doesn't even have to try.
This one, I think, is still my favourite, but take your pick. They're all there -- and that's the glory of it.
It seems like the kid's had more jaw-dropping scoring plays in the past year and a half than the entire league managed to produce in the entire decade from 94 to 2004.
But maybe that's unfair. Maybe it's just that, with wall-to-wall [Canadian] sports channels and most of all with YouTube (bless its nerdy little heart), I'm getting not only to see every single one, but re-play them at will, at work, at home, practically learn each one by heart. As far as I'm concerned, Crosby justifies YouTube's existence; and YouTube might just make Crosby a star well beyond the rarefied world of hockey fans.
By the way, as a little bonus -- one of the most frequently re-posted goals on the site is this one, from way back in his Juniors day. The camera-work's sketchy, but it's worth the effort to watch it carefully -- because that goal, my friends, is just batshit insane, no matter how you cut it.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Football, primaries, etc.
You remember John Kerry, right, the guy nobody liked but talked themselves into supporting becaise he was "electable?"
Meet Sam Brownback. Almost everyone I've read on the right seems to like Brownback, but pooh-poohs their own support because they see his candidacy as hopeless. Via Andrew Sullivan, here's a prototype.
Now, don't get me wrong, it's probably true that Brownback will have a hard time winning the vote of anyone who can't refer to the "culture of life" without irony, which seems to be a sizable portion of the electorate. But is does seem odd to see so many saying, "I like this guy, but nobody else will."
For what it's worth, here's my rough preference of the current likely candidates:
There's probably someone I'm missing.
While I'm at Sullivan's site, there's a little tiff between Sullivan and Kaus over Sullivan's characterization of a video from Iraq.
The interesting part to me is the last link Kaus provides outlining the problems inherent in bloggers embedding YouTiube videos. Though I'm not sure the motivations are any different from blogging in general.
Except for one thing --I don't know about most people, but I rarely play YouTube videos embedded in blogs, and do tend to take the blogger's word for it on the contents (at least insofar as I'd generally take that particular's word for anything). It seems one could create a meme by embedding a video and claiming it was footage of something boring but newsworthy. Something that people would believe but not interested in seeing with their own eyes. Nothing pops into mind right now.
If the Colts win next Sunday, it will continue a trend of teams winning championships after they had seemed to pass their peak -- this was not the best season of the Colts' run, similar to the Steelers the previous year. The Cardinals' best year was 2004.
Not sure I have a point, other than that there may be hope for other teams who may think their window is closing.
Prediction -- Many of these recently hired young coaches will flop (not because they're young coaches, but because I'm not sure anybody could turn around teams like the Raiders and Cardinals), and someone like Marty Schottenheimer or Mike Shanahan will win the next Super Bowl and the conventional wisdom will shift to how teams need experienced head coaches.
It's curious why that spanking article stuck in my craw so much. It's not that I want to spank my kids, and I think those so inclined should be discouraged from doing so.
If I wanted to puff myself up, I would say it was a principled stand against government intrusion, as well as an allergic reaction to sloppy argument.
But if I were honest, I think it's because the article deployed many arguments that are ridiculed from the pages of publications like Slate when used in the service of things I support, like abortion restrictions.
Ever seen that artist’s representation of ‘50s icons just hanging out together at some soda fountain? If you’ve been to a Chubby’s, or some other ‘50s redux diner, you’ve seen the image. The same grouping – Humphrey Bogart, James Dean, Marlon Brando (who, unlike the rest, was actually alive, when these paintings began to surface, and Marilyn Monroe, caught in expression of the simple ecstasy of standing over a subway grate – has been replicated as characters in Edward Hopper’s Night Hawks. The idea of the painting, if any could be assigned, seemed to be, “Look, all these icons coulda, shoulda hung together.” Why not? Why shouldn’t have In A Lonely Place-era Bogart, Streetcar Named Desire-era Brando, Rebel Without a Cause-era Dean, and Seven-Year Itch-era Monroe have hung out in another time zone on the wall over the table jukebox? If they had hung out, been friends, would that have changed much the trajectory of their respective lives? Doubtful. Have your friends changed your life’s destiny to any great extent? What put this in mind was listening to the CD with January’s MOJO: In My Room: A Tribute to the Genius of Brian Wilson. The more I listen to the bands covering Wilson’s music or contributing songs inspired by Wilson’s music, the more convinced I am that the man is a songwriting genius. I know the word gets thrown around way too much. I normally hate expansive compliments; they seem so careless, therefore not really meant. What is “I’ll call you” in flattery-speak but to announce you love someone or think he’s a genius? That said, Wilson is supreme among songwriters of the ‘60s for voicing a wistfulness that isn’t necessarily tethered to the ‘60s. sure, other songwriters of the ‘60s and ‘70s have meditatedWilson’s totem themes – quietude, spiritual connection to earth and sea, loss and loneliness, and at least one simple paean to whatever struck the writer at the moment. But, Wilson’s music really goes back to the most elementary joy of creating noise. That’s how pure it is. Dylan? Too complicated. Richman? Too loopy. Drake? Too despondent. Lennon? Too revolutionary. Cohen? Too jaded, then too philosophical, then back to too jaded. It could be an ephemeral thing, this love for Wilson, but so is joy, which is really what’s at the heart of his music. Yank me around to the real reason I started this whole epistle: Friends and the sense of longing and understanding conveyed in Wilson’s music. At some point, I remembered Mike Love’s weird tirade, dissing the surviving Beatles at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. The moment was more memorable for Dylan’s humorous reaction at being glad Love wasn’t presenting to him. Love might be nicer, maybe, if he knew he and his fellow Beach Boys (the real ones, not the buncha replacement guys he touring with now) were the prologue to “Gabbba Gabba Hey.” Especially if Dee Dee Ramone and Joey Ramone were still alive. Those men were sweethearts and Joey, I seem to recall, had a soft spot for the Beach Boys. So, what better artist’s representation than the two deceased Ramones with Mike Love and a benevolent Brian Wilson (a surly Johnny glowering at all the peace, love and understanding while signing away the rights to another Ramones song for a Vonage commercial). Do I dare add to to this rock portrait? I'm gonna add Dusty Springfield. And Mary Wells. And, someone Brazilian. Living or dead. I'm open to suggestions.
by Ducadmo, reposted from Best of the Fray.
Mr. President, there appears to be a lot of scepticism concerning the efficacy of your proposed troop increase in Iraq and your response to the sceptics so far has simply been a challenge to propose a better plan (which may be appropriate at some level, but it's pretty adolecent when it's your only retort). I am one of those sceptics and I will accept that challenge by telling you exactly what is wrong with the plan, why it probably won't work and what you can do about it. But first, allow me to point out what is wrong with your plan.
That's all there is to it. Generally speaking, after six years of witnessing, forgiving, tolerating, and expending our patience - we have pretty much figured out that you are not the sharpest tool in the shed. Generally speaking, neither are the people who surround you with the possible exception of Mr. Rove who does seem to understand the American spirit of resolve, forebearance, and loyalty and has played many of us like a violin. For six years, that political strategy - our willingness to give you the benefit of the doubt particularly in times of war, has allowed you to take advantage of your position as Commander-In-Chief. But even you in your encapsulated environment should have become somewhat aware by the results of the recent election that we no longer put our faith in your leadership. To be blunt - we think you're a loser.
So while replacing Mr. Rumsfeld and a couple of generals may be a good start, it doesn't address the real problem - which is that we simply cannot trust you anymore. And if we don't trust you (and that should be pretty clear by now), then there aren't many in the rest of the world who will rise to your defense. You haven't made a lot of friends now, have you? Even your new Secretary of Defense has admitted as much, declaring that open scepticism of you actions only weakens your position, but that. my friend, is just what we asked these people to do. We wanted people in Congress to make sure you don't screw this up any worse than you have already. And you can do that - with the courage and humility that has been so woefully lacking all these years with my plan which is ...
That's right. Quit. Turn the whole thing over to a new and fresh face. Someone who doesn't wear that 'kick me' sign on his behind. You see, many other democratic nations have this 'no-confidence' procedure which allows them to change horses in mid-stream, but we Americans don't resort to such techniques because it makes us look like we made a mistake in electing you in the first place - which is exactly what we did. I mean, you got into office by a dubious and contentious margin the first time and the second time you had this war thing and we are generally reticent to let one guy start a war and make some other guy finish it, but that's just what's going to happen anyway, so it really is time you move on. Get a real job. I would suggest you consider one that does not put so many lives at risk.
Of course, if you do then the process dictates that Mr. Cheney would take your place and that is the primary reason that we haven't already demanded your head on a platter yet. So for this plan to work, I think it would be best if Mr. Cheney quit first and you and some of your friends figured out who just might be up to the job. That will give the Republicans a chance, you know. If we are going to trust a Republican again in such dangerous times as these, we wouldn't mind the opportunity to kick the tires a little first.
And then I wouldn't have a problem with the troop increase. New troops, new leadership, and a new opportunity to finally 'get 'er done'. An opportunity for all of us here at home and many of our former and potential friends in the rest of the world to lay this thing to rest, bury the hatchet, let byegones be byegones. See? And you - and really only you - could make this happen. Admit that you are not up to the job at hand. In the long run, that would be the greatest service you could provide this country.
I know it's kind of scary, but if you think about it long and hard, Mr. President, it's not only a better plan - it may be the only plan that will work. Then, just maybe an increase in troops would be helpful not only to this nation, but to the people of Iraq - instead of just being helpful to your legacy.
Friday, January 26, 2007
The discussion about the spanking laws reminded me that there was another recent discussion where the fact that a law would not be enforced was considered a feature rather than a bug.
Scouring my brain, it was the torture debate. Those opposed to rigid laws against torture would bring up the "ticking time bomb" scenario. Those opposed would say that there would be some discretion that would be in place so that someone who really saved Manhattan would not go to jail for it. Some, including I think Jonah Goldberg (though i can't find where) argued that if non-enforcement is argued before a law is enacted, it's probably a bad law.
So what makes this case different? A couple things.
Not so for the spanking bans, at least as Bazelon argued for it. The target is those who are chronic abusers, not parents who include an occasional spank in their discipline playbook. (which probably the vast majority of those who would be in violation of the letter of this law). The exception would be those who are prosecuted.
The two situations are different enough that I don't feel conflicted in supporting torture laws and opposing spanking laws.
(click on the logo to go to the post) Clicking on the link kept crashing my browser. Here's the link without the image.
...and tell me what you think of the new decor.
Because you can’t have the best if you don’t have the worst, here’s a (not so) brief rundown of the best of the worst college towns you’ll ever have the misfortune of finding yourself in. In every sense. (Think about it.) So hop in; let's go for a ride.
Home to The University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, or UW-O, or as some who don’t actually attend the school call it, “UW-Zero”, Oshkosh proper boasts 5 hours of daylight from mid-October to late April (when it’s not snowing, of course), the abundant alcoholism of the “townies”, lake flies the size of your thumb all summer long, and a campus that, before 8 jello shots, looks more like a women’s prison.
The upside? It’s not…
That’s right, folks. switters’ very own adopted home town makes the cut. Host to The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Birmingham Southern, home of The Fighting Church Burners, this "Magic City" (or, if you prefer, "Maggot Shitty") offers a first hand look at just why segregation actually does work, but only when you, you know, enforce it.
With a brand new city motto, “Detroit, Where Murder Goes to Die”, this Camel Lot on the Lake is poised for its breakout role as a city of learning so that it can kill you better. Why else do you think there are so many Lebanese immigrants here? Could it be because it looks just a tad too much like Beirut circa 1967?
Have you ever been there? What a hell hole! Home to, among other things, Wayne State University, not to mention a per capita crime rate that would make Roger “Verbal” Kint wet himself, Detroit is constantly reinventing itself so that you won’t recognize it when it comes to shoot you and your entire family in your home in the middle of the night while you sleep.
And the university has responded in kind, with The Graduate School of Homicidal Murder, The Rape and Assault Exchange Program, not to mention the now famous Summer Immersion Program For Would-Be Serial Killers. Who ever said education has to be legal anyway?
Once a thriving publishing hub, Springfield now seems to be a city that can’t decide if it wants to manufacture hillbillies, rednecks, or just good old-fashioned white trash in general. Here you’ll find Wittenberg University, a fairly exclusive liberal arts college that, believe it or not, still has some semblance of a core curriculum and a consistency of architecture. Sort of. Do big column thingies count?
Rochester (New York)
Often referred to as “The Birmingham of the North”, this untidy dump’s claim to fame is the vaunted Eastman School of Music, birthplace of The Vocal Major Attitude Adjustment Clinic (don’t ask). You’d think that the home of Eastman Kodak would be, well, slightly more photogenic. Is that irony? Or just bad timing?
With all the crime of an Oakland but without all the ambience, Georgia Tech’s home town, oft referred to as “The Detroit of the South”, boasts traffic that would make a Los Angelean actually carpool. Back in the late 1960s/early 70s, when Birmingham and Atlanta were vying for the title of Most Fucked Up Out-Of-Control City Infrastructure Anywhere, The City of the Kindness of Strangers stepped up to the plate and built the most incongruous, ill-conceived airport on the planet and sealed the deal. Then all those black kids started disappearing around 1980 and The City of Bruthaly Love was officially christened.
And if that's not enough, consider this: It will take you approximately 54 minutes to get anywhere if you're in your car, even if it's next door. Consistency, folks. That's what sells a town. Pay attention, Chamber of Commerce!
Ames (Iowa [pronounced “Eye-uh-way” by some residents])
Looking for something to do in Ames? Well you might want to cancel any early dinner plans because 1.) looking for something to do in Ames, Iowa is an all day affair, and 2.) there’s not really any place to eat dinner.
Iowa State University, home to The Fighting Really Bad Drivers, is nestled in the bucolic hills of this hungry city, famous for its nutrient-rich black soil, immigrant field labor, and its weekly Farmers’ Market, where farmers try to sell each other Mexicans because they don’t have any money or food because of giant agro-business conglomerates that price the family farmer right into homelessness. Ironic that these brave, hearty souls who once fed the world today can’t even feed their own families. Oh quit your whining, gentlemen farmer, and grow something we really need, like tobacco. Pussies!
Oh, and the winters are long and they really blow.
Vermillion (South Dakota)
'nough said. Although The University of South Dakota, home of The Fighting "Yes-There-Is-To-A-University-Up-Here" Sayers, does happen to be the alma mater of our favorite official representative of The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw. And yes, he was in fact a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Small world.
Almost a complete lack of perspective? Basically.
Judgmentalism as far as the eye can see? Pretty much.
Narrow minded approaches to social issues and current events? You tell me.
A Jesus Camp? I wouldn't be surprised in the least.
Welcome to Lawrence, Kansas, where you'll find more churches than bars, more tornados than the entire Southeast region, and a collective belief system that makes the Puritans look like Unitarians. And with a person-to-gun ratio of 3 to 7, you'll find plenty of unintelligent design, and even less evolution. Birthplace of The Darwin Awards, there's a pretty good chance you'll come across something like, say, the world's biggest poorly designed slingshot.
Relax, she's fine. Way to go, sis!
Whew! Grab your passports, folks, and let's take a little gander at what sort of educational tomfoolery we'll find across the big, huge, giant lake.
Whoa. We're not in Kansas anymore, to be sure. But by the looks of things, we might as well be. Yikes!
The problem with Paris is all the Parisians. You're talking about a group of people that works an average of 28.3 weeks a year, and still can't seem to manage to find the time to bathe. Pepe la Peu, alright. Pepe La Pee Yuu. For the love of God would somebody please light a match or something.
And I hope you're not from Texas. Because if the French were any more snotty to American visitors, they'd be nothing but big giant huge mucus-filled noses. With legs. And arms. Or maybe just hands and feet. (We're still trying to iron out the irony of that metaphor.) The point is, Paris just doesn't provide a student with the atmosphere and culture that a town needs in order to breed academic curiosity.
Snore! Come on. One of the many qualities a town needs in order to foster thoughtfulness and academic rigor in any student is some history. The only thing we found educational about London was the invention of a machine that extracts all flavor out of food, and some rotted textbook called The History of Boiling Meat. I'll pass, literally.
Also known as "The Ames Iowa of Europe". So, yeah, you might want to bring a magazine or something.
Amsterdam (The Netherlands [we think])
Let me ask you this: How in the hell are you supposed to get any studying done if you're high all the time? Oops! Forgot about NYU.
Let me ask you this: Why exactly would I want to study in a region with a 1,000 year history of anti-Semitic genocidal war mongering Aryans trying to improve the human race through selective breeding and not-so-natural selection [nudge nudge]? That's what I thought. Oh no, I'll get my Holocaust™-denying course credit from The Hutton Gibson Pseudo-Catholic Jew Hating Reeducation Center and Day Spa, thank you very much (2-for-1 seaweed wrap every third Tuesday of the month – fuck you, there's an ecumenical precedent [look it up, dumbass!]).
Okay, this place is really lame. Let's pop back over the pond and see where else we need to visit so we know never to go there again. Hmm…
Ever wonder what a town would look like if the city planners had been hammered blind on moonshine and based its design on a strip mall? Well look no further. Home to Mississippi State University's Fighting Separaters But Equalizers, this "Ingrown Toenail On The Foot Of America" says "Southern hospitality" with a capital K, 3 capital K's, in fact, proving once again that it really does take a village to raise an idiot.
Because no list of towns listed for whatever reason would be complete without a nominee from Texas, "The State That Shouldn't Have Been But Is Anyway Oh Fuck", Denton prides itself on being the home team to the North Texas College of Music, famous for its cookie-cutter approach to squirting out indistinct jazzbots whose only claim to fame will ultimately be having attended North Texas. You'll recognize them by all those modal riffs during their solos. Not to worry, graduates. People will always be getting married; thus, people will always need someone to bang out "Satin Doll" and "The Girl From Ipanema" at the reception. (15 minute smoke break max.)
Uhh… Homocide: Life On The Street, The Wire, Liberty Heights? I'd rather take my chances in downtown Baghdad armed with nothing but a quarter-filled sock.
Gosh, surely that should be more than enough for now. I hope you've enjoyed our little trip down Fraternity Row right into Collegeville, population: Keg stand! But remember: No matter where you go, you have to take your self with you. Good luck with that. Because I know, for a lot of you, that's a pretty unattractive proposal, if you know what I mean.
(With thanks to bright_virago)
Emily Bazlon writes in defense of the spanking ban.
To lay my cards on the table, I am not a spanker, but I don't think it's the state's job to tell me not to be a spanker. Especially in a legal environment where actually killing fetuses is a constitutional right. That was brought home with this quote...
Why, though, are we so eager to retain the right to hit our kids?
I'm quite sure most pro-choice people would cry foul if questioned why they were so eager to retain the right to kill unborn children.
I think this rationale is telling...
The purpose of Lieber's proposal isn't to send parents to jail, or children to foster care, because of a firm smack. Rather, it would make it easier for prosecutors to bring charges for instances of corporal punishment that they think are tantamount to child abuse. Currently, California law (and the law of other states) allows for spanking that is reasonable, age-appropriate, and does not carry a risk of serious injury. That forces judges to referee what's reasonable and what's not. How do they tell? Often, they may resort to looking for signs of injury. If a smack leaves a bruise or causes a fracture, it's illegal. If not, bombs away. In other words, allowing for "reasonable" spanking gives parents a lot of leeway to cause pain.
Who should we worry about more: The well-intentioned parent who smacks a child's bottom and gets hauled off to court, or the kid who keeps getting pounded because the cops can't find a bruise?
First the last question doesn't quite square the issue. Perhaps we should have "worried more" about the innocents who were suffering under Saddam's regime than about soldiers who would be killed in a war, but that doesn't mean the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. There's a difference between knowingly causing harm, and realizing that the tools at your disposal to address them may cause more harm than good.
Second, reading between the lines, the message seems to be that the purpose of the law is to get abusive parents that slip through the cracks of existing laws because they don't cause real damage. Non-abusive parents who keep an occasional spanking in their tool box need not worry -- they're not the targets here, even though they would be in violation of the letter of this law.
I think there's a little too much of this kind of thinking in our laws today. If we "know" someone is guilty, but can't quite build a case, then we'll write a broad rarely-enforced law that we can nail them on. So even though we can't nail Marth Stewart on insider trading, we can get her on obstructing an investigation, and throw her in jail anyway.
Maybe this law would initially only be used to go after truly abusive parents who stay inside the letter of current laws. But my concern is that it would later be used to go after people we decide we don't like. Did you take part in an anti-war demonstration? Write a nasty blog about your local government? Defend a murder suspect and get an acquittal? Let's poke around and see what your parenting techniques are...
Yes, officials should not use their power this way, and we should get rid of those that do. But I hope the past several years have taught us that occasionally we elect people who don't always use their powers in the wisest or most ethical ways. Handing them more power is something we ought to do carefully.
Rule of thumb -- if a selling point of a law is conditions under which it would not be enforced, then it's probably a bad law.
The article concludes with this non sequitur:
A hard-and-fast rule like Sweden's would infuriate and frustrate some perfectly loving parents. It would also make it easier for police and prosecutors to go after the really bad ones. The state would have more power over parents. But then parents have near infinite amounts of power over their kids.
That has a poetic parallelism to it, but is nonsense. There is no relation between the power parents have over kids and the proper power the state should have over parents. I have infinite power over what I will have for lunch today. That doesn't justify the state insisting that I not eat soup.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Who is Ken Levine? For starters, he’s not Aaron Sorkin. Never mind that like Aaron, he’s written for TV…, because in spite of that fact, he’s not famous (and apparently Aaron Sorkin is). But I’m getting ahead of myself. We know about Studio 60 because John, curiously, likes to talk about it. Why does John like to talk about it? I’m glad you asked. Because I’m a bit slow (never watched The West Wing), I never put Aaron Sorkin and Aaron Sorkin together. I’m guessing John did, because he watched/liked The West Wing, which is why he watches Studio 60, because unlike Ken Levine, Aaron Sorkin is famous. Or to put it another way, no one ever watched Dharma & Greg because when they think M•A•S•H, they think Ken Levine (except for maybe Ken’s parents). This seems an important point. Or at least I intend to make a big deal of it. But it’s ultimately not a big deal since I’ve concluded that unless tons of people are reading you, there’s little point in writing about TV.
Nevertheless, if you read, as apparently tons of people have, criticism of Studio 60--and about halfway down through the comments--and you benefit from having never watched The West Wing, or knowing who Aaron Sorkin is (any more than you know who the successful but un-famous writes are of other hit shows you watch), it quickly becomes apparent that the chief criticism of Studio 60 is that it’s not The West Wing. And if that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aaron Sorkin is famous, which not only makes criticism of Studio 60 more worthwhile than, say, 30 Rock, but his fame also serves to get the envious juices flowing of all those “successful” but who the hell knew we could be famous too!? television writers. The key words being “juices” and “writers” and what that gets you -- a never-ending stream of criticism.
So if you’re scratching your head at all the criticism of Studio 60, a show decent enough that even my finicky ass enjoys it, wonder no more. It’s a combination of people longing for The West Wing and the unfortunate circumstance of inspiring envy in a group of people who use keyboards the way most of us use a hammer.
Lastly, I’d point out that if the old adage write what you know holds true, and The West Wing really is as good as all that, it’s just a matter of time before Studio 60 becomes the best show Aaron Sorkin ever wrote.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The 2006 Cardinals' championship, and my relative ambivalence toward the team, led me to reflect on what team really resonated with me for my 25 or so years of fandom in St. Louis and Philadelphia. In that time there have been two team I supported that won championshops -- the 1999 Rams, and last year's Cardinals, and one college team, the 1985 Villanova team, that have won championships, and several others have come close. So, I thought I'd start a series with my thoughts about those teams, starting with the 1993 Phillies.
One side thought before I get going -- it seems that Philadelphia teams have had to get rid of more than their share of star players while they were in what should be their prime. It seems like Philadelphia is almost always on the wrong end of a quarter for a dime and two nickels type trade. Off the top of my head, Charles Barkley, Scott Rolen, Terrel Owens, Bobby Abreu, Curt Schilling, and now Allen Iverson have all had to be dealt away with plenty left in the tank because of disputes with management. Maybe this explains why Philly hasn't had a championship since 1983.
The 1993 Phillies
The Phillies had stumbled around in mediocrity for most of the late 80's and early 90's. Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton hung around for a while, but they were not replaced, and the Von Hayes trade put a funk on the organization (even though Hayes turned out to be a decent player).
The Phils had made some good trades in the early 90's to build up their talent base. They sent Chris James to the Padres for Randy Ready and John Kruk. They sent aging closer Steve Bedrosian to the Giants for Terry Mulholland*, Dennis Cook, and Charlie Hayes. And, in a great move, they sent Juan Samuel to the Mets for Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell. They also managed to acquire a struggling right-handed power pitcher named Curt Schilling.
The Pittsburgh Pirates had won the NL East the previous three years, but they couldn't hold on to free agents Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, and their window was closed (and has remained so for the last fifteen years, in spite of a great new ballpark). The Expos had put together a solid group of talent, but they had not quite come into their own yet. So, the field was open.
And the Phillies took it -- this was a team of "characters." You had Dykstra, always with about five pounds of chew in his craw. Kruk was and still is liable to say anything. They had Jim Eisenreich recovering from Tourrette's syndrome. The catcher was Darren Daulton before he found Jesus. Their left field platoon was Milt Thompson, the picture of steadiness, and Pete Incavaviglia, a Three True Outcomes type guy. In the bullpen, you had Larry Andersen, always a source of good quotes, and closing was Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams.
Some teams just feel special from the git-go, and this was one of them. They won what Bill Simmons calls those games -- like staging five run rallies in the ninth inning. Or a 16 inning game on the back end of a double-header on a single by the closer. You always had the sense this team was going places. (unlike, for example, the 2006 Cardinals).
There were oddities, too. The Phillies had spent the previous ten years searching for a shortstop. Jayson Stark wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer back then, and a favorite gimmick of his was to run a list of the dozens of men who had played shortstop for the Phillies since 1982, along with the same list for the Orioles (Cal Ripken).
Anyway, one of the failed attempts was Kim Batiste. About the All-Star Break, the Phillies called up Kevin Stocker, who was to be the now and future shortstop. He did steady the position, but didn't prove to be the franchise shortstop (though the Phils did parlay him into Bobby Abreu). This left Batiste without a position, so manager Jim Fregosi started using him as a defensive replacement at third base. I have no memory of regular third baseman Dave Hollins being deficient defensively, or of Batiste being particulary adept, but for some reason we all kind of rolled with it. I'm sure if this happened today, Rob Neyer and Baseball Prospectus would have published lengthy charts about what a stupid idea this was.
Then, in the first game of the NLCS with the Braves (who were then in the NL West, and had made a furioous comeback to win the division over the Bonds-led Giants), Fregosi put Batiste in at third like he always did. Except the Braves tied the game, and it went to extra innings, and Batiste came up with the winning run on second. And what does Batiste do but smack a base hit over the third base bag to win the game..
This was the summer between my senior year in high school and my first year in college. I worked that summer delivering pizzas at a local pizza joint in South Jeresey. It was always fun to catch bits of the games while I was out making deliveries. I honestly don't remember if I watched any games at the Vet that year -- I think I caught one. Most of what I remember is through the speakers of the Grand Am I used to deliver pizzas.
As I was starting college in St. Louis, it was good to have that connection back to my home area through following the Phillies as they clinched the NL East, and progressed through the playoffs. My grandmother had a stroke shortly before I left, and dies shortly thereafter, so it was good for my father and I to have something to talk about besides that. The Phillies closed the regular season in St. Louis, and I went to the final game, and waited after the game to cheer them on before they started the playoffs.**
I remember jumping in my neighbor's dorm room (they had a color TV) when Mitch got the final strikeout to knock out the Braves.
That the Phils lost the Series to the Blue Jays made the season less than story-book, but doesn't sour it. I think that's why Mitch Williams isn't reviled in Philadelphia the way, say, Bill Buckner is (or was) reviled in Boston. We had all been on a wonderful, unexpected ride, and the car just ran out of gas. As much as Philly fans have a reputation for toughness, we love a team that puts out a full effort, and the 1993 Phillies did that for us.
*Mulholland is responsible for my best in-person fan expierience, as my dad and I watched him throw a no-hitter in August of 1990. So I will always be a Mulholland fan. I especially enjoyed his step-off pickoff move, which essentially shut down the running game when he was pitching.
**Ah, the first semester of college. When time is no object.
Memphis Auditions Blow Lid Off Racism's Melting Crock Pot
IF YOU THOUGHT SIMON WAS CRUEL READ NO FURTHER
Posted Wednesday, January 24, 2007, at 2:52 CST
Uh-oh. Looks like the folks over at American Idol may have gotten caught egging the short bus. Because word on the street is that special ed frag fest may or may not have been staged. (Our sources say it wasn't.)
It's turned into quite the dustup re: Simon/Randy/Paula making fun of the developmentally (and musically, it turns out) challenged. Seems as if the retarded community at large may have taken a severe blow to their collective egos from which they may never recover. Access Hollywood's question of the week has been, "Should Simon apologize?" Answer: Yes. He should say, "I'm sorry you kids are ugly and slow. Next?" (I know, I'm going to hell.)
What a night! Some highlights:
After we're forced to listen to a misguided cheerleader mangle a perfectly good interpretation of what Paul Anka would sound like if he were a brain damaged backup singer for Huey Lewis and the News were they doing all Canned Heat covers, we're treated to a crash course in Southern Ebonics For Dummies 101.
Good thing. Because it's a prerequisite for Southern Ebonics For Dummies 201 when in walks, or, rather, trots Gummy McHorseteeth, who sings what could only be described as ska-meets-rap-meets-Gregorian Chant-meets-running-a red-light-T-boned-by-a-garbage-truck. 3 killed.
Then Urkel has a full-blown meltdown reminiscent of the movie when that one dude finds a penis on his new girlfriend. It was just like that, but without the vomiting. (My vomiting doesn't count.)
That's when I'm beginning to wonder if this particular episode was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Because out comes this perfectly round bearded gentlemen with self-esteem lower than the 2 now famous retards from last week. I really felt for this guy, because his wife was cheating on him, and when he forgave her and said he'd take her back, she said she only wanted to get back together if she could continue to fool around behind his back. What a keeper! But he's not having any of that. And after he becomes America's latest idol, that whore will be begging him to take her back (as long as she can still cheat on him). Then he launches into "Footloose", complete with dance moves which include, but are not limited to, spinning around once on one foot, pointing (at Paula – he's got a bit of a crush), a little clog walk side-step maneuver, the "love windmill", more pointing (vague object in distance sort), and the patented Patrick Swayze half-speed victory walk down aisle circa Dirty Dancing were Kevin Bacon to have played Sean Penn's brother's part in Footloose. No, not that brother. The one who's dead. The fatter one. Yeah, him. Did Kevin win that tractor race, by the way?
Southern Ebonics For Dummies 301, with lab 3 days a week, finds a home in Cleavage T. McFloppington's rendition, almost recognizable during the refrain even, of "Disco Inferno". Unfortunately the only thing that was burning baby burn was Simon's "Saturday Night Fever", which, in most cases, is fatal, if not fetal, position-wise anyway. You're right, my man-boobed limey friend: Quite the "handful" indeed.
Ever wonder what would happen if Fidel Castro and Dolly Parton had a love child? Meet Shawn, sporting facial hair only his mother, and Rick Rubin, could love. After our beloved judges have dispensed with the cursory condescension… Whoops! Turns out Abe Lincoln's got some pipes, shocking our panel. Hey Randy, Paula, Simon: Did you know that Appalachian Folk Music is one of the more complicated styles of music to sing, and that it was born in the hills a cappella, which means that this was the ideal audition setting for Tevye there? Yeah, I didn't think so. Something tells me that our mountain man friend may or may not be in store for a makeover in Hollywood. Either that or the next fashion craze to sweep malls all over the country will be Goth Amish Post Grunge Orthodox Skate Kid Jesus Freak Preppy. The juries still out.
I love it when Randy completely flip-flops, which he did over the "Once In My Life" offering, after Simon said he liked it. Check it out: Randy's Simon's bitch! Randy's Simon's bitch! Own it.
Best dig up your copy of Derrida's Of Grammatology, because Black Elvis is the T.A. in the Southern Ebonics For Dummies Graduate Seminar, and his office hours are severely limited, for good reason. Never underestimate the power of denial, ever. Or of PMS, while we're on the subject.
A veritable seamless transition from Black Elvis' version of "Burnin'" to the "Burnin'" Contestant Montage, which are getting a little old. Still, Seacrest is the funniest, not to mention the smartest, of the whole lot. Which, I suppose, isn't saying much, actually. I'm a fan.
Really good blues singer, best yet, for what that's worth. But when the new father was in front of our judges, I was rolling a joint in another room and missed most of it. Hopefully m'boy Jody doesn't "take the pot" and will fill in the blanks for me.
It's usually around week 2 or 3 of the audition phase of AI that I realize, yet again, that the real fun doesn't start until they're all in California. Still, seeing as how I live in The Ham, and that The Ham, if not The South, has ruled the Idol roost's top 3 consistently for the last 4 years or so, you might not want to miss the Birmingham auditions, whenever they are. 10 bucks to anyone that spots me outside the B'ham Jefferson County Civic Center. Hint: I'm not the one dressed as Boba Fett. Maybe. But I will tell you that there's a better than 50% chance that I may or may not have chosen to sing, as my audition song, the jingle from those Charlie perfume commercials from years ago:
Kind of young kind of now
Kind of free kind of wow
You tell me.
Ghengis Khan -- a scorching critique.
For Gregor Samsa
1. When we were burning the skulls of the Jurchen, failed to provide marshmallows.
2. Rides horse like a girly Tangut.
3. Stinky yurt.
4. Fucked my sheep.
5. Ate all the Golden Peaches of Samarkand himself. Did not ask. Did not leave note. We were planning to make cobbler.
6. Poor disembowler.
7. In Crimea, spared many lives. Wuss.
Dems Iraq strategy. Suburban spread. Sitemeter.
- What needs to be done in/about Iraq?
- What do you think Hillary would do about Iraq if she were president right now?
- What should the Democrats be saying about their strategy for Iraq?
- Form a coalition with the stable Middle East nations and the NATO members to (occupy and) stabilize the country (am I in the ballpark?).
- No idea.
- We’ve laid out a dynamic exit strategy based on shifting contingencies. We don’t want to repeat mistakes. It’s about listening to the experts and being prepared for surprises. If Iraq were an accident victim in the ER, we’d first stop the bleeding, we’d make sure vital signs were stable, and then we’d assess the damages and start reconstruction. Right now in Iraq we need to stop the bleeding.
Sure, it’s a dodge – but isn’t it better than saying nothing (are they actually saying nothing – I haven’t been paying close attention)?
Notes on urban blight and life in the ‘burbs.
The great thing about the suburbs is that we can all have enough space to stretch out. It doesn’t matter so much what our neighbours think about the way we live. No one will complain about our cats. We can give free reign to our unique tastes without the manager coming to our door to tell us that the koi pond we’ve installed in the living room violates the terms of our lease.
When Vancouver confronted the problem of urban blight a few years ago, the city planners developed two key multiuse areas that would draw people of all ages and lifestyles back to the downtown core. In Coal Harbour, the city installed an underground community center with windows right on the seawall, so that you could go to your reasonably priced pilates class and have a view of the joggers and rollerbladers and sailboats and cruise ships, A city-owned, licensed bistro opened up on the seawall behind the art-deco water park. There had always been moorage in both areas, but now tennis and squash courts offered Yaletown residents a greater variety of recreational activities. The courts stand between the public art installation and the kids’ park. The boutiques and the restaurants were already there, but now grocery stores and video stores have moved in next door. The community centres provide daycare for urban parents. People have moved back to the city in droves. These two areas are among the most desirable in the region, and much of the new housing they encompass remains affordable to the average family. Whenever I have guests in town, I take them through both communities. They’re perfect examples of everything that’s desirable about the city.
Sitemeter mystery solved!
Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2007 19:22:53 -0500
Subject: Re: Concerning the lag on sitemeter
Thanks for writing. We apologize for the lag and delays you have been experiencing with our reporting and statistics.
Please be assured that we are aware of the issue and are doing everything we can to resolve the problem as quickly as we can.
The problem you are experiencing is due to a handful of sites on your particular server exceeding normal traffic levels, which unfortunately affects all those assigned to this specific server. While we work to fix the problem we offer a couple choices if you need immediate resolution ˆ
1. You can create a new account, which will assign you to our newest server and thereby provide you with faster statistical updates. You can still log in to your old account if you need historical data. You will however need to replace your old Sitemeter code with your new account code on your sites pages for the new account statistics to function.
2. You may find lag is reduced during off peak hours (i.e. late evenings and early mornings). While this is not a solution it may provide you with a temporary fix while we address the server load issues.
Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this is causing you.
Site Meter Support
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 19:39:56 -0800
Subject: Concerning the lag on sitemeter
Dear Mr. Smith,
I’m writing to inquire about the lag in statistical information on the free sitemeter counter. I have the counter installed on my blogger site. It is also installed on the group blog I belong to, as well as on the blogs of several other group members. Many of us have been experiencing various degrees of lag. I installed a second sitemeter to my blog, and the data on it remains up to date, with the old one lagging hours behind. The group blog’s meter was more than 21 hours behind when I last checked it this afternoon.
Given the apparent age-related lag, it is natural to speculate -- as some are doing -- that sitemeter’s non-paying clientele get downgraded after a time when they do not purchase the upgrade. If this is not the case, I look forward to your explanation.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
It was a cold and windy day, colored Northern California gray. I was a student back then, sitting in the Union cafeteria, working on the daily crossword puzzle. A door opened, a cold draft blew in, and I shivered. Thus began my multi-month odyssey through the medical system. [Open the post to continue...]
Apologies for being a monomaniac. I'm still pleading for your help ( aka, story submissions... private line: email@example.com, business: firstname.lastname@example.org ). Trivia tid-bit... the Open Letter to Jacob Weisberg has been making some rounds, and found its way to my inbox. G_S, you can be an alarmingly insightful guy.
I'd welcome feedback on the story in this post... I hope to use some version of it (one must give of oneself before one can ask as much of others), but I'm open to suggestions.
It was a cold and windy day, colored Northern California gray. I was a student back then, sitting in the Union cafeteria, working on the daily crossword puzzle. A door opened, a cold draft blew in, and I shivered. Thus began my multi-month odyssey through the medical system.
I’ve shivered from cold thousands of times before. Nothing remarkable had ever come of it. But this time, the shuddering didn’t stop. The muscles in my upper body would clench, vibrate and release… over and over again… like a full-body pulse.
I was pretty concerned by this, so I focused all my willpower on bringing the shudder under control. Within a few minutes, my shoulders relaxed. I went to my afternoon class with my hands shaking like a Parkinson’s patient. Later that evening, my right arm gradually quieted down.
“At least it’s passing. By morning, I’ll be fine.”
It was hard to sleep with my arm convulsing every few seconds. I’d lie down, try my hardest to relax, and pray that my left arm would fall to sleep. After several fruitless hours, I abandoned all hope of sleep. I had a productive night, reading through dawn.
The next day, I attended a friend’s dissertation defense. I mentioned my problem, and showed off my arm’s strange performance act. Back then, I was accustomed to all-nighters. This couldn’t be something two days of exhaustion wouldn’t cure. But it was hard to sleep with my arm so hyperactive.
By dawn, I was entering my third consecutive day without sleep. I remember hearing as a boy that a man loses his mind after four days without sleep. An elderly Korean War vet had told me that, and I assumed he had grounds to know. I went to the student health clinic. I was told that the soonest possible appointment would be two days hence.
At the office that afternoon, my boss, an Assistant Dean, noticed that I was haggard and shaking. I explained the situation. She hit the roof and arranged an appointment at the clinic for first thing the next morning.
When I arrived for that visit, I was entering the dreaded fourth day without sleep. All this time, the muscles in my left arm had contracted and released with the distracting regularity of a metronome. The clinician told me I had allergies, and offered some antihistamines.
My boss was livid. I was walking through a dream. Calls were placed to the local hospital—a teaching institution—and I was given a priority neurology appointment for the next day.
The next morning, I was sharing breakfast with a disabled Olympian. She wanted to know what five days without sleep felt like.
“An ocean storm inside an eggshell.” I was spending a lot of energy staying calm—speaking slowly, deliberately, without affect. Emotionally, I was torn up inside—ranging from tears to laughter to anguish within the space of seconds. And all that time, that damn arm just kept pulsing, pulsing, pulsing. I wanted to cut the damn thing off and be done with it.
That afternoon, at my appointment, I was seen by a student intern. She looked at my arm. Took my blood pressure. Looked at my arm. Hit my knee with a hammer. Looked at my arm. Then she left the room.
When she returned, there was another intern. “Look at this.” He looked at my arm. Pulled up my eyelids. Looked at my arm. Pressed my neck. Looked at my arm. They both left.
When they returned, they were accompanied by another man, introduced as the “Chief Resident.” He performed all the same gestures and spent a longer time gazing ponderously at my arm, fist pressed to chin. All three left.
When they returned, they had an older man with them—apparently a full-fledged doctor. Poke and look, poke and look, questions all around. By now, my symptom report had been learned by rote. And out he went, gaggle of residents in tow.
Next came a second doctor, no more successful than the first. When he returned, he brought the whole mob—two doctors and three residents, along with a blonde woman identified as the Chief Neurologist.
“At last, I’ve reached the head of their tribe.”
I was examined anew. I had to repeat my answers to previous questions. I undressed. Was pushed and pressed and poked. The Chief Neurologist fled, leaving her posse behind.
When she returned, she had a bald man with her—a “visiting expert” with a heavy German accent. Looking, looking, looking, then the whole troop stampeded out the door.
I didn’t like what I heard next. Whispery shouts. “It must be a tumor.” “I haven’t seen anything like it.” “So what should we do?” They were conferring just outside the door!
The herd burst back in. Their leader, the Chief Neurologist, asked whether I’d be willing to spend the night?
The rest of the day was an out-of-body experience. I moved through the department like animated meat. Things were taped to my head. Strobes were flashed in my eyes. I was laid onto a gurney. A needle went into my veins. I finally slept.
When I awoke, days had passed. I was fiending for a cigarette. A doctor arrived.
He gave me a long list of conditions I conclusively didn’t have. My arm was still spasming.
“So what is it?”
“We don’t know.”
“So what now?”
“Well, the good news is we know all the things that could probably kill you. And it isn’t any of them.”
“So what is it?”
“We don’t know.”
“So what now?”
“Come back for observation in two weeks.”
“How will I sleep?”
“Take this prescription to the pharmacy. Take a dose of Atavan, a muscle relaxant, every four hours. You’ll sleep.”
The next six weeks were a groggy time. My arm kept twitching, but I often slept.
On my third visit, the Chief Neurologist wanted to know if I was experiencing any stress.
“Well, my arm won’t stop twitching, and nobody seems to know why.”
“Before that. What was your life like?”
“Pretty good. My grades are fine. My jobs are sometimes stressful, but nothing too tough to handle.”
“Jobs? How many jobs do you have?”
“And you’re a student full-time?
“Isn’t that stressful?”
“I haven’t thought of it that way.”
“Has anyone died lately?”
“Did that make you sad?
“Yes. I missed the funeral.”
“Does that depress you?”
“I don’t think so. I hear my cousin brought a gun to the ceremony, so I’m not too busted up over missing it.”
“How’s your love life?”
“Could be better. How’s yours?
“Have you had any romantic stress?
“Unrequited love. But they say that’s a bore…”
“What can you tell me about that?”
”What is there to say? I really like him. He doesn’t feel the same for me.”
“Him? Don’t you mean ‘her?’”
“No, I don’t mean ‘her.’ I mean ‘him.’ He’s a guy.”
“Are you a…” and here, her voice drops to a scandaled whisper, “… a homosexual?”
“That’s a self-hating word. There’s nothing wrong with…” and here she drops back into her hushed register” … with homosexuality.”
“Well, I don’t like that word. It’s a doctor’s word, and it reeks of pathology. I consider myself queer.”
“But queer is an insult.”
“Not to me.”
“Do you hate yourself?”
“Just the opposite. I’m full of myself.”
“How long have you known that you’re a… a, homosexual?”
“It feels long.”
“How did you feel when you came out?”
“Like a weight had been lifted from my soul.”
“I think you’re depressed about being gay.”
“Well, it wasn’t long ago. And that must be a source of stress. I think your arm is psychosomatic. And your recent discovery of your… of your homosexuality… that must be related.”
“You’re saying my arm twitches because I’m depressed?”
“I think so.”
“And I’m depressed because I’m gay?”
“Doest it matter that I don’t feel depressed?”
“How would you be able to tell?”
I was young. And in college.
“I want to prescribe Zoloft, an anti-depressant, and refer you to a psychiatrist.”
“Is there nothing else you can do?”
“I’m pretty sure there’s nothing physically wrong with you.”
“Well, OK then. You’re the doctor.”
My boss was skeptical that I was twitching from depression. But, she knew a wonderful shrink I could see. He was gay too!
By the time I saw him, the Zoloft had kicked in. I know folks whose lives were saved by anti-depressants. So don’t get me wrong when I say that Zoloft offers emotional stability—but only a notch above the humanly tolerable. Being on Zoloft had all the joy of watching puppies die, 24/7. I’d never been so relentlessly and consistently unhappy in all my life.
I didn’t want to kill myself. But I could hardly bear living that way.
After two weeks of sessions, the psychiatrist decided I wasn’t depressed, and gave me permission to lay off the Zoloft. The four-hour depressant struck him as excessive, so I was prescribed a daily dose of Valium before bed.
The next three months were a bizarre time. I struggled through school, cutting back my course load and my work load. A generous friend who’d dropped out into Silicon Valley wealth covered my tuition shortfall. My grades suffered.
The psychiatrist was really interested in my sexual history. He maintained that my arm was a physical problem. We tried a variety of solutions. I took anti-inflammatories. Vitamin supplements. He doped me up with Barbitol (aka “truth serum”) and dredged my subconscious. I’ll never forgive him for turning off the camera when the topic turned to sex. I had demanded a videotape as a precondition to the procedure. The rest of our sessions he would selectively reference things I’d revealed in a conversation only he remembered.
He finally hit upon a radical suggestion—I should see an acupuncturist. I wasn’t a believer in Eastern Medicine, and had begun to reconcile myself to a future as a quivering wreck. But I hadn’t yet disobeyed a doctor. If he thought it might work, why not give it a try?
I expected a timid little Chinese guy, spouting profound non-sequiturs. Instead, I got a boisterous, burly Brooklyn Jew. He gave me a brief personal history—it was the Sixties, flower-child, kicking it in China, learning the art of acupuncture…
“... Do you think Eastern Medicine works?”
“Well, let me explain acupuncture to you. Nobody knows how it works. By all accounts, it shouldn’t. But, it’s five thousand years old, and people can get really good at something with five thousand years of practice, even if they don’t know what they’re doing.”
“Well, OK then.”
I gave him the same report as I’d given the doctors. Sudden shivers. Unrelenting spasms. The end of sleep.
“Did you feel a breeze when you shivered?”
“As a matter of fact, I did.”
“Oh, my gosh! We call that an ‘evil wind!’ I’ve heard of it before!”
“Have you ever seen it before?”
“Well, OK then.”
I was directed to lie down on the table. He started throwing needles into my body like little javelins. I didn’t feel any sensation.
He left the room.
I laid upon the table, pierced like Saint Sebastian. A warm feeling radiated across the surface of my skin. I could sense certain points… my temples, my ankles, my dick… they were alive with sensation.
After twenty minutes or so, he returned.
“Feel any different?”
“Your arm is still twitching.”
“Well, I’ve never seen this before. There was no reason to think it would work. But I’d like you to come back next week.”
He pulled out the needles and instructed me to get dressed. Pulling on my socks, I was surprised to find a needle sticking out of my ankle.
“You missed one.”
“I did? Whoops! Just pull it out.”
I didn’t leave with optimism. The way I saw it, this was another strange remedy tried. Another oddball long-shot for my shrink to cross off his list.
The next day, the twitch slowed markedly. My arm went from convulsing once per second to once per minute. On the second day, it stopped entirely. I’ve gone seven years without an involuntary twitch.
Four days after that appointment, I called the acupuncturist to report my condition.
“It seems to have worked.”
“It did? I can’t say I expected that.”
“Should I come back?”
”No way! Another session might spark a relapse!”
“Who could say? Do you want to find out?”
“Well, OK then.”
And that was that…
[Redacted due to retardation]
Curse of the Golden Flowers:
Hey, Chow Yun-Fat didn't fly on a wire once, nor deliver a single Shadowless Kick! What kind of kung-fu movie is this? The answer, of course, is no kind of a kung-fu movie at all (but... but... Chow Yun-Fat! I feel so cheated). It's actually more a Kurosawa-does-Shakespeare cum Sophocles-on-steroids absurdly-over-the-top incest-fratricide-and-treason with crazy-silent-spider-ninjas dropping-randomly-from-the-sky with deadly-hooked-blades-on-ropes sort of movie, and a dead insanely gorgeous one to look at -- unquestionably the best and most beautiful Kurosawa-does-Shakespeare cum Sophocles-on-steroids absurdly-over-the-top incest-fratricide-and-treason with crazy-silent-spider-ninjas dropping-randomly-from-the-sky with deadly-hooked-blades-on-ropes movie I've ever seen -- but consider yourself warned. Not a Shadowless Kicker, Drunken Boxer or Ass-kicking Renegade from the Shao-lin temple in sight.
Roughly and incidentally, my list of five best kung-fu movies ever: Iron Monkey, Legend of the Drunken Master (aka Drunken Master II [sorry, can't resist the akas]), Fist of Legend, Hero, and the unquestioned greatest of them all, Once Upon a Time in China (aka Wong Fei Hung.) (The sequel is pretty kick-ass too, but later installments get slightly depressing. Law of diminishing yadda yadda.)
Note that three of the movies on the list feature the same character, portrayed by three different actors: Wong Fei Hung. I never made this connection until a few months back when I first watched Iron Monkey, and was wondering to myself why so many kung-fu masters in these movies are also doctors. "I wonder what that means?" I mulled to myself. "Must mean something."
Turns out that it means I'm a little slow and don't pay enough attention ("All those chinese names sound the same to me" -- oops!).
Speaking of retards, beeen mulling now and then over Gregor's eugenics post, and it occured to me that if I were to compile a list of types of human beings the world would be better off for not having been born -- which I wouldn't, but if I did -- not only would the mentally and/or physically handicapped not be on the list, it wouldn't even be a relevant category (if you see what I mean. What an awful inept sentence, btw).
Monday, January 22, 2007
Suppose that I was a volunteer with a humanitarian organization and I was serving a stint in Baghdad when Saddam Hussein wrote from prison to request compassionate visits from our office. In the weeks before he was convicted and executed, I’d go to the prison twice a week and sit with him in a meeting room for an hour or so. He told me stories of his boyhood. Eventually he related episodes of his sexual abuse by an older male relative, now deceased.
He wished to tell this story, he said, because he wanted people to know what had befallen him in childhood. At my encouragement, he forwarded a written account of the abuse to my office, and some my colleagues wrote him letters expressing their dismay and compassion. Others were more skeptical. One, in particular, undertook a cursory investigation and discovered that the man Mr. Hussein had identified as his abuser had in fact never existed. Mr. Hussein’s answer to this was that he’d constructed a fake identity for this person in order to protect his family. His abuser was still alive. Despite this explanation, his credibility suffered. My colleagues moved on to other things.
Mr. Hussein was found guilty and the day of his execution loomed, At the office, I received a note from him once again requesting my presence. He said he had something important to tell me, and I went to meet him at the prison. The story of his victimization at the hands of a pedophile was, he said, entirely made up. He was merely exercising creative license as a writer of fiction. None of it had happened.
Because he had initially gained the sympathy of some of my colleagues, this information distressed me, I sought the advice of the individual who had exposed part of his lie. This person encouraged me to relate this latest disclosure to our organization, so that they might know the full extent of the deception. Though Mr. Hussein had not asked me to keep the information confidential, I wasn’t comfortable putting it in a memo for all to read. I would, I said, seek Mr. Hussein’s permission to disclose it. I made an appeal to Mr. Hussein the day before his hanging, but he requested that I not reveal this last part of his deception. He said he was convinced that his sin was cleansed by his admission to me, but that if others were party to the information, their judgment of him would surely jeopardize his chances for immortality in the afterlife. This seemed so ridiculous to me that I wondered if he even believed it himself.
Nevertheless, I did not tell anyone of his last disclosure. The colleague I had consulted has on several occasions since expressed his dismay at my refusal to speak out. He has not opted to reveal the information himself.
Questions: Is it moral or immoral to keep a liar’s confidences, even from those to whom he lied? What consequences might come about if one were to break such a confidence? Should I have revealed Mr. Hussein's last secret? Why has my colleague not revealed it?
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Thoughts subject to even less than the usual amount of filtering....
I kid, of course, but if the teams were reversed, you know that's what we'd be hearing about the Colts.
But, for example, when the ball was stripped from Michael Lewis, he had both arms wrapped around the ball. I'm not sure how he could have been more secure with the ball short of hitting the dirt at the first sign of contact.
UPDATE: Peter King echoes this nugget -- I just don't think you can build your offense and special teams around not fumbling. And I think fumbles have more to do with the defense and luck than "taking care of the football."
Really -- is there a less risky stand one could take than about how wonderful it is to see two African American head coaches in the Super Bowl, and how this should prove once and for all how capable African American coaches are?
Prediction -- somebody in the next two weeks will say something stupid about this, and will be the media's whipping boy. Think Fuzzy Zoeller and Tiger Woods, or Vijay Singh and Annika Sorentam.
With a president as ineffective as Bush has been, it's tempting to conclude that the bad situation is all his fault, but I think it goes deeper than that. I think we have to take a hard look at the system that has produced someone like Bush as president.
I think part of this is the "Hey -- look at how awful they are!" type of politics. If I can point to something someone on the other side is doing that's worse than what I stand accused of doing, then I don't have to answer my critics.
IMO, this play was introduced by the Clintonites, then perfected by the Bushies. And as far as I'm concerned Ms. Clinton is the standard bearer for this, with her going on the Today Show talking about a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
She either lied or was suckered, neither of which are admirable qualities in a president.
I'm aware that Bush's untruths were of more consequence than his spouse's extramarital sex life. But I don't want a lesser liar; I want a non-liar. That may sound naive, but it's where I am.
I can understand the desire for Democrats to win dirty, after the Bushies had already done it twice. But I'd rather see an Obama presidency built on hope (however amorphously defined) than a Clinton presidency built on how awful Rush Limbaugh is.
Clinton may present Democrats with the shortest path to victory, but I'm not certain it's the kind of victory they want.
Actually, it was a pretty good show. My advice to parents -- either budget in the $8 for the Elmo mylar baloon, or start working on your reasons why you won't spend $8 for the same type of thing you could get at the dollar store.
1. things on your chest ('nuff said).
2. feeling unknown by the telephone.
a. lee siegel.
b. mickey kaus.
c. at least time loves us.
d. brian boitano.
a. too much makeup.
4. lift up the receiver, I'll make you…
a. an underachiever.
b. a wide receiver.
c. a griever.
d. a labrador retriever.
5. i will deliver…
6. be your own, personal…
e. junk bond trader.
7. someone to hear your prayers...
a. for a new computer.
c. more meth.
8. someone who's there.
9. reach out and touch...
c. the borg.
e. the edge.
f. the spanish inquisition.
g. the amazing creskin.
10. ka da - da bum boom…