1 November 2002
Dark, foreboding questions

Last night I was sitting at my desk, waiting for the arrival of various ghosts and goblins, and, in tune with the date, I was contemplating the kinds of pain and sorrow that I could reasonably expect in the next few years, other than the obvious one of going to work. Two things hit me at once: I have a dental appointment next Tuesday, and right after that appointment, I get to stuff myself into the voting booth.

Okay, not the stuff of medieval torture chambers, but certainly enough to register on the Discomfort Meter. And since I'd already picked out my candidates, I figured I might as well do some research on the bevy of State Questions on this year's ballot. The results, such as they are, can be seen in The Vent. As for the ghosts and goblins, they apparently got the night off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 AM to Soonerland )
On the Fritz

The irrepressible James Lileks (well, I certainly haven't repressed him, and I wouldn't encourage anyone to try) discloses Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Walter F. Mondale*.

*but the Democratic Party prefers you didn't ask

Everybody's heard about the bird

Lynn Sislo is not impressed with Oklahoma cockfighting or its boosters:

I can't tell you how appalled I am that there are actually some people so lacking in shame that they come right out in public — on television — and defend cockfighting as just another form of entertainment, like we were trying to ban baseball or something.

Well, of course not. Nobody bets on baseball. Except Pete Rose.

Lynn continues:

Apparently these pro-cockfighting people don't realize, or more likely just don't care, that cockfighting is the ultimate symbol of backward, stupid, white trash, low-life, scum of the Earth, low down filth that even a snake wouldn't slither over for fear of contaminating itself. Is it any wonder that the rest of the country thinks Oklahoma is backward? But of course we don't care. We are Oklahoma and we're proud and we must keep the rest of [the] country from stealing our children and contaminating them with those evil 20th century ideas.

Taking the last point first, the country isn't stealing our children; they're high-tailing it out of here first chance they get.

But I wrestled with this question (which is, incidentally, State Question 687) for half a day, and while I suspect I find the cockfighting culture, such as it is, every bit as distasteful as Lynn does, I'm not ready to baldly go where so many have gone before and say, "I hate this. Let's ban it." If I could ban everything I didn't like, there wouldn't be a hell of a lot left.

Still, the ban is likely to pass — last poll I heard projected 62 percent in favor — and being excessively introspective by nature, I have to wonder: how much of my position is based on rock-bottom conviction, and how much is an effort to persuade myself that I'm much more open-minded than anyone else thinks?

Welcome to Dustbury, where every guess comes with a second-guess free.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 PM to Soonerland )
Minor skirmishes

Some people are unaccountably proud of taking Michele at A Small Victory off their blogrolls. Reason enough for me to add her to mine, I'm inclined to think.

And the Professor reports that his October bandwidth was 261.45 gb. For comparison purposes: dustbury.com October bandwidth was 0.651 gb.

Update, 2 November, 9:30 am: Mike at Cold Fury knows exactly what sort of crap up with which Michele has been putting.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 November 2002
Dead heat on the merry-go-round

A month ago, I'd have told you that Steve Largent, former First District congressman now running for governor, was a shoo-in. Now I'm not so sure. The gap between Largent, a Republican, and Democratic rival Brad Henry, is within the margin of error of your favorite poll. And Independent Gary Richardson is actually not trailing by much; instead of the expected two or three percent for someone outside the D/R axis, Richardson is pulling more than 20 percent in the polls.

The usual last-minute sources of campaign funds are coming through on schedule, and the advertising blitz is on. This one, I think, is going right down to the wire.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:19 AM to Soonerland )
Greatest Hits, volume VIII

Originally posted 7 June 2002

Automotive magazines are routinely pilloried these days for such grave breaches of the peace as feature articles on sport-utility vehicles ("Isn't this supposed to be a car magazine?"), payola from advertisers ("The PDQ-10 was two-tenths of a second slower in the quarter but you ranked it first, no doubt in exchange for that two-page spread right after the letters column, didn't you?"), and, perhaps most heinous of all, testing vehicles that mere mortals couldn't possibly afford. The July issue of Automobile exemplifies this latter offense with a cover story featuring five cars of varying degrees of superness (the least-expensive being a Mercedes-Benz), averaging around 489 hp, being driven in Italy fergoshsakes. How are Carl and Lenny in Springfield supposed to relate to that?

The answer, I would argue, is that they're supposed to be motivated to drive, even if it's some disreputable middle-80s rustbucket with no more sporting credentials than Ralph Nader. One of the advantages of living here in the Big PX is that we still have a fair amount of wide-open space that (sometimes) can be traversed at wide-open throttle, and despite the best efforts of twee types who think we should be happy to ride the bus with all the other [fill in vague ethnic or socioeconomic pejorative], Americans, by and large, keep the pedal to the metal. And it actually may be, in some ways, more fun with less car; my innocuous little sedan with its modest 130 hp obviously won't flatten corners of the autostrada at triple-digit speeds, but I can run all day at six or seven-tenths without incurring the wrath of The Man. Provided I don't do anything stupid while running, that is. And many moons ago, I got enough seat time in a Maserati Quattroporte (you gotta love a language that has a word as luscious as that to mean something as mundane as "four-door") to learn a healthy measure of respect for a machine that pays you back for not paying attention by putting you into a ditch. Or worse.

Next, an Islamist/English phrasebook

Today Susanna Cornett unveils another of her considerable talents: the ability to take the ossified prose of the Arab News and turn it into actual, comprehensible English. How valid is her translation? The editors most certainly would not be pleased with the results, testimonial enough to its accuracy.

More tweakage

After one or two false starts, I am phasing in the Trackback system. For most people, this will make no difference, inasmuch as scarcely anything here is ever linked by anyone, but there's a lot to be said for keeping up with the Joneses. (No, Quana, this is not directed at you.)

The really detail-oriented readers will notice that the shade of blue used for links has varied substantially in recent days. Do not adjust your monitor. I think I'm going to keep this one. And yes, the left-hand column is slightly lighter than it used to be.

Before you ask: No, I'm not putting in a WeatherPixie. Actually, I've already done one, for the perfunctory page I keep at AOL for the benefit of chatters, and while it would be absurdly easy to copy the code over here, I figure my load times are long enough already. Rumors that I would recode the Pixie to look like Susanna Cornett are unfounded and have no basis in fact, and what's more, they aren't true, either.

I am trying to think of a better way to organize the blogroll without getting a third-party application involved. Suggestions are welcomed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:08 PM to Blogorrhea )
Carl Hellish reporting

One thing I learned today: I should not be allowed near an anagram generator.

My apologies to the following bloggers:

RESONANT TUSCAN (Susanna Cornett)

SHALL ACCRUE (Rachel Lucas)

HARK LEGGY TORY (Gregory Hlatky)

A SAD YEMEN (Dean Esmay)

NYLON DREG LENS (Glenn Reynolds)

SWAN LED ON (Dawn Olsen)

SONIC LEER (Eric Olsen)

JOHN CENSOR LASH (Charles Johnson)

DAMN ELM GRACE (Megan McArdle)

NET CHASM HAPPEN (Stephen Chapman)

NUANCE OR SLIME (Laurence Simon)

A RADAR SHRINE (Andrea Harris)

ELK JAIL MESS (James Lileks)

AMAZON JEEP FEUD SHY (Pejman Yousefzadeh)

Cue "Too Much Time on My Hands"....

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 PM to Blogorrhea )
3 November 2002
Is there a song in here?

Michael of 2 Blowhards, having been exposed to Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" (the extra R is for extra raunch, I suppose), wonders, quite reasonably:

When did singing become a matter of vocal gymnastics instead of carrying a tune? I may be wrong, but I'm guessing it was about the same time pop music stopped being about songs and started being about sonic-effects-set-to-beats.

Which, says Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly in his print review of Faith Hill's Cry (a collection viewed favorably at this site), was the 1980s:

[T]he last pre-Mariah epoch, when white chicks could sing the blues (or some adult-contemporary variation thereof) without opening a can of whup-ass. You can imagine how a browbeater like Christina Aguilera might murder a ballad like "If This Is the End"; ditto American Idol's cast of scary melisma freaks.

But Willman is grumbling about the torturing of melody, not its complete and utter absence, so while the time-frame seems to fit, there's something else at work here, and I think it's that anyone with a hundred bucks' worth of electronic gizmos and a rhyming dictionary seems to be racing to cash in on hip-hop while it's still commercially viable — and while our soi-disant culture mavens are still willing to pretend that it's the Authentic Voice of the African-American Street instead of a substitute for that old suburban mainstay, the garage band. Some great music has come from garages, and undoubtedly there will be some raps that stand the test of time, but music historians of future centuries, I suspect, will consider both these genres mere footnotes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:03 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Neatness freaking

For a single guy in his forties, I am relatively tidy: while I make no claims that either my kitchen or my bathroom is suitable for computer-chip fabrication, my bed is made daily, my socks are picked up, and my car does not serve as a rolling trash cart. (She Who Is Not To Be Named once commented that "This doesn't look like you just drove two thousand miles in it.")

There is, of course, a downside.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:44 AM to Dyssynergy )
Sometimes I could just screen

Canadian author Rohinton Mistry has cut short his book tour and gone home, complaining about racial profiling at American airports. Alfred A. Knopf, Mistry's publisher in the US, issued the following memorandum:

As a person of colour he was stopped repeatedly and rudely at each airport along the way — to the point where the humiliation of both he and his wife has become unbearable.

Cato the Youngest comments:

Obviously, we need to start hiring more literature majors as airport security guards, because the only way to have known Mr. Mistry was not a terrorist, without searching him, was for the guards to have recognized him. Yes, we need more literate airport security guards, that's the ticket.

Mr. Mistry was born in India and has no ties of any sort to Islam.

For some lit majors, working as an airport screener might mean a substantial boost in pay. And Cato's quite-reasonable bottom line is this:

[I]t is unfortunate that law-abiding people such as Mr. Mistry are subjected to extra scrutiny at airports. It is unfortunate that we need any security at airports. Unfortunately, we do, and I would rather see screeners offend ethnic Middle Easterners and Indians than waste their time on 80 year old French grandmothers and elderly US Congressmen.

There's simply no way to do this with any degree of effectiveness without offending someone, a situation that likely applies just as well to blogging as it does to airport security.

For your consideration

Not that anyone takes my advice on anything, but these are the results I'm looking for on Tuesday:

Governor: It's hard to work up much enthusiasm for any of these guys. Brad Henry is your average faceless Democrat, and the GOP's Steve Largent basically does what he's told. That leaves Independent Gary Richardson, who is a flake. But he's an independent flake, and weirder yet, he's not trailing by much. At the very least, he would make things interesting, and in Oklahoma, where the governor's powers are rather sharply circumscribed anyway, "interesting" counts for more than you'd think it would.

Lieutenant Governor: Republican Mary Fallin has done this job for four years without causing too much grief. But Laura Boyd, one of the smartest (if occasionally one of the more quixotic, for a Democrat anyway) state legislators we've had in recent years, is running against her, after going nowhere in the governor's race in 1998, and I'd like to see her back in the public eye.

US Senate: This boils down to a choice between former Democratic governor David Walters, ambitious but deeply flawed, and incumbent Republican Jim Inhofe, who has no depth of any kind. It's Walters, barely, but he isn't going to win this one anyway.

US House, District 1: John Sullivan, the Republican incumbent, has been mostly an embarrassment. I don't expect much better from Democrat Doug Dodd, but rotating the idiots is closer to my idea of democracy in action.

US House, District 2: The GOP's sacrificial lamb in the most Democratic district in the state is one Kent Pharaoh. Incumbent Brad Carson will wash him into the sea.

US House, District 3: Frank Lucas, who used to represent District 6 back when we had a District 6, is easily the best of the current Republicans in the state delegation; the Democrats didn't even bother to put up an opponent this year. There's an Independent running on general principles, but Lucas is the master of this domain.

US House, District 4: The old stomping grounds of J. C. Watts. Longtime GOP attack dog Tom Cole is certainly more interesting, and possibly less annoying, than colorless Democratic state rep Darryl Roberts.

US House, District 5: Anything sentient, and some things that aren't, would be an improvement over Republican incumbent Ernest Istook. Neither Democrat Lou Barlow nor Independent Donna Davis has impressed greatly, but then, they don't have to; I'd prefer Davis.

Attorney General: It's Democrat Drew Edmondson over Republican Denise Bode; Bode was unimpressive during her stay at the Corporation Commission, and Edmondson annoys the state's fat cats, always a good sign.

Superintendent of Public Education: I've supported Sandy Garrett, the Democratic incumbent, in the past, but I think she's stayed too long and become too entrenched. I have some qualms about Lloyd Roettger, the GOP challenger; still, it's time for a change at this office, so here's to Dr. Roettger.

Labor Commissioner: Had Tim Pope won the Republican primary for this position, I'd have voted for him, if only because he was actually willing to question whether the post was worth keeping. Incumbent Brenda Reneau Wynn, who did win the primary, has always rubbed me the wrong way, and she has the unique distinction of being the only statewide officeholder ever to have a Tulsa World endorsement revoked. On the other hand, Lloyd Fields, last seen as a Democratic state representative, has thus far given me no reason to think he will do much to improve the system.

Insurance Commissioner: (Yeah, I know, why is this an elective office?) Incumbent Carroll Fisher, a Democrat, is fairly innocuous; opponent Doug Barry, a Republican, argues mainly that he's not Carroll Fisher. Advantage, such as it is: Fisher.

Auditor and Inspector: I'm inclined to give this one to Democrat Jeff McMahan, protégé of retiring auditor Clifton Scott, whose track record was pretty decent, though I see no real faults in Republican Gary Jones.

And that's the way I see 'em. That and $2.99 (plus tax) will get you one of the cheaper combo meals, if you don't upsize anything.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:35 PM to Soonerland )
This year's State Questions

Briefly:

693, 696, 697, 701, 702, 703: YES.

687, 698, 704: NO.

My reasoning, or lack thereof, can be seen here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:39 PM to Soonerland )
Standing in

Eric McErlain lived near Bloomington's old Metropolitan Stadium for six months, which you'd think (if you were a New Yorker of a certain political bent, anyway) would be enough to qualify him to be a Senator himself. But Mr. McErlain has no such lofty ambitions. Instead, he's offering to Governor Ventura a list of Minnesotans who might serve as the state's junior Senator while the Mondale/Coleman race is being fought over in the courts. Who's on the list?

You know, this could work.

Quiet time

Amizadai from Girl Unravelling sets the scene:

On Friday, I visited a graveyard. It wasn't to visit anybody. I just came across it after a meeting with a potential client. I was crossing the over-head bridge on my way to the bus-stop, wondering what to do in the two hours left before my next appointment when I saw some graves on the other side of a fence. The graves looked really old, and some of them had been dug up and their headstones broken. It piqued my curiosity, and seeing how I had time to kill, I decided to try to get in and take a look [at] them.

It's a long story, but the story of a cemetery is inevitably incomplete without the stories of its inhabitants, and Amizadai's narrative, which touches lightly on what little she can know of those stories, is to me very moving, perhaps because it is simple and unpretentious and has no agenda to push. There's a peacefulness to it all, a gentle rebuke to those of us who scream in fear at the thought of our own demise, even as we pretend to accept it.

4 November 2002
Scraping by

Today marks the official opening of Windshield Ice Removal Season, which I find decidedly annoying, since the normal low temperature for this date is 44 degrees Fahrenheit, substantially above the freezing point. Then again, temperatures have been below normal for nearly a month — this October was tied for the third coldest on record — so, if anything, I am surprised it took this long.

I realize that there are some people who absolutely delight in this stuff. I am not one of them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Weather or Not )
Full circle

Verbatim, a major manufacturer of optical recording media, has announced a CD-R designed to look like a 45-rpm record. I simply have to get my hands on a box of these.

(Muchas gracias: Boing Boing.)

What's next in Ankara?

Prime Minister Bulent Eçevit, seventy-seven years old and in failing health, probably never thought he'd lose this badly. But his party got fewer than 10 percent of the votes in the Turkish election, meaning they will get no seats in Parliament. Meanwhile, as projected here earlier, the AKP (Justice and Development Party) under Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept to 34.2 percent of the vote, enough under Turkish law to form a government without having to seek a coalition partner.

Erdogan himself cannot become Prime Minister — in 1998, he was convicted of inciting religious hatred and was barred from seeking office for five years — which has prompted worries that the next occupant of the post will be a mere figurehead. Quickly, though, Erdogan moved to answer some of the more obvious questions which arose from the AKP victory: no, Turkey will not abandon its uniquely-secular position in the Muslim world, and no, Turkey is not backing away from its hopes of becoming part of the European Union.

The Turkish military, Cato the Youngest notes, "has historically been willing to throw out any government that threatened the secular order established by Ataturk." And indeed, the AKP victory is generally attributed more to dislike of the Eçevit regime than to any deep-seated desire among the Turkish electorate to follow the lead of the Islamic fundamentalists on Turkey's flanks.

It will be an interesting time, to say the least.

Do you swallow it in spite?

Anthony James "Lonnie" Donegan, the king of British skiffle, has died at the age of 71. He first hit big in 1956 with a version of "Rock Island Line", but he is best remembered in this country for the transcendent "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight", recorded in 1958 but which somehow took three years to chart (as Dot 15911), peaking at #5 in the fall of 1961, and leaving one further question unanswered:

"If tin whistles are made of tin, what do they make foghorns out of?"

He'd sing another chorus, but he hasn't got the time....

5 November 2002
Drop in any time

The Tylers never give up.

Having successfully relocated FM stations from Ada to Newcastle (KKNG, 93.3) and from Clinton to Okarche (KTUZ, 106.7) to reach the Oklahoma City market, the Tyler group had up to now been stymied in its efforts to move its Tishomingo station (KTSH, 99.7) to Tuttle.

The FCC, noting that there is now adequate service to Tishomingo from another station, has given its tentative blessing [link to Adobe Acrobat file] to the KTSH move, with a couple of kickers: Tyler must bear the expense of moving two other stations to other frequencies. KXLS in Alva will jump slightly, from 99.7 to 99.9, and KWFX in Woodward will move from 100.1 to 106.3. And Tyler will be allowed to operate in Tuttle with only 10,500 watts, less than half the power authorized in Tishomingo. This action dooms K259AM, a 75-watt translator on 99.7 rebroadcasting KLVV in Ponca City, though this is probably no big deal since the same programming is carried by Oklahoma City's KYLV at 88.9 with 4400 watts.

No, I don't know what format Tyler is planning, though it's likely not the sort-of-classical format they've been running down by the Red River the last couple of years. And while I've been railing against this sort of thing for years now, the FCC apparently feels that if these stations aren't allowed to play Musical Frequencies now and then, some of them will wither and die. Meanwhile, local radio continues its inexorable march to Metro Radio, shedding every last vestige of community in a desperate search for an audience that is mostly bored with existing offerings. No way can this be a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Overmodulation )
Decline and fault

Keith Olbermann asserts:

Take as your starting date almost any time since Lincoln was shot and you can trace an overall — if not consistent — loss of brainpower among the chief denizens of the White House. This is not likely to right itself.

I must have missed Warren G. Harding's Nobel Prize presentation somewhere along the way, but Olbermann insists that it's all perfectly obvious. Of course, Olbermann also thinks voting should be mandatory, a premise that is at the very least arguable.

If today's politicians seem to lack a philosophical bent, it's because so many of them think the basic issues are settled, and they're content to take their turns at the reins of the Nanny State. And as I get older and more contrarian, I become increasingly vexed with a political establishment which can argue with a straight face that one of the most important issues facing America today is how the government will help me buy drugs.

The time has come

One hour to go before the polls close, and the state's estimate of one million voters strikes me as just a hair on the low side. At my precinct, there was a steady stream at 5 pm, but with a dozen "booths" available, things moved quickly enough; I was in and out in less than three and a half minutes. Then again, I knew (in fact, most of you knew) exactly which boxes I was going to mark.

Projections of winners, you ask? Too early yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:00 PM to Soonerland )
And when the smoke had cleared...

Goodbye, Steve, and don't let a towel hit you in the keister on the way out.

Brad Henry, who wasn't even the front-runner in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, appears to have won all the marbles tonight, sliding past Steve Largent in what was thought to be a safe Republican slot. In his report for Fly Over Country, Chris explains why:

  1. Most important reason, he ran a race that treated the Governorship as already his. Meaning, he didn't run a race. Brad Henry outhustled him.
  2. The Independent/Crazy Guy, take your pick, drew votes from Largent.
  3. The voting on the whether to ban cockfighting in OK. Southeastern/Eastern OK, where most of the cockfighting takes place is HEAVILY Democratic, and a lot of people got out to vote against the ban who probably voted for Henry.

Makes sense to me.

On the other hand, the GOP doesn't have a whole lot else to cry about; they will still hold all but one seat in the state's Congressional delegation, returning three incumbents and holding the District 4 seat vacated by J. C. Watts. (The Fox News site called District 4 for Democrat Darryl Roberts about an hour ago, which may have been a typo, since they hadn't called Districts 2 or 3, which were never in doubt; AP and other sources have called District 4 for Republican Tom Cole.)

But what you really want to know is: what about those cocks? Back and forth, up and down, all night, so far. But with 90 percent of the precincts reporting, the cockfighting ban was starting to catch on at the 54-percent level, and it looks like it will hold up.

The Oklahoma State Election Board will certify results on or before Friday afternoon, and they'll be readable here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:36 PM to Soonerland )
6 November 2002
The morning after the night before

Tom Brokaw, I have to assume, was having a bad night. Fairly early on, Rush Limbaugh, invited to NBC's talking-heads party, explained that 2002 was only the beginning, and pointed out that when the Democrats were scratching around for Senatorial candidates in New Jersey and Minnesota, there were no up-and-coming youngsters, no potential Presidential candidates down the road: the best the party could do was to trot out elderly museum pieces. Faced with this less-than-startling revelation, Brokaw managed to give off an expression somewhere between disturbed and dyspeptic.

Meanwhile, life goes on for the rest of us, with the possible exception of Terry McAuliffe, who likely will be drubbed out of the Democrats' front office. I rather think he won't be missed.

And then there was one

Apparently Los Angeles isn't going to be split down Mulholland after all. While a slight majority of residents of the San Fernando Valley voted to secede and form their own city, the measure was rejected by the rest of L.A. by a two-to-one margin. Pollsters speculate that the western portion of the Valley, more affluent, was far more willing to say goodbye to L.A. than the east. Still, things will be different in the City of Angels, if only because the Valley has made it quite clear that business as usual is not acceptable on the far side of the Santa Monica Mountains. Will Los Angeles grant more autonomy to the Valley, or to Hollywood, which also lost a secession vote? The structure of city government, I think, is likely to change substantially over the next few years.

What's the relevance to Oklahoma? Consider its capital. Oklahoma City has 510,000 people spread over 604 square miles. The North Canadian River runs south of downtown, effectively dividing the city in two, and each half scorns the other. (In the early days of the 20th century, these were, in fact, two separate cities.) City services have yet to be extended to areas annexed decades ago. "It can't happen here," we are assured. I'm not so sure.

Waxing Roth

I mentioned this race way back in August and apparently never followed up on it. Anyway, in case anyone was asking, Jim Roth has defeated Beverly Hodges, 55 to 45 percent, to win the Oklahoma County District 1 Commissioner position.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:45 PM to City Scene )
UnTwained masses

Okay, you've got an English class to teach, more literary than grammatical this semester, and one of the books you have to cover is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. What's first on your list of things you need to make this work? Enough copies to go around? Tom Sawyer as a prerequisite? If you're in Portland, Oregon, at the very top of the list is, of all things, sensitivity training. That whirring sound you hear is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, subterranean pinwheel.

How in the world did we ever get to this sorry state? Erin O'Connor explains:

Literature teachers and literary "theorists" have long used (I mean used) literature to further a distinctly left-leaning multicultural agenda — to study English in school today is to become sensitized to how literature has historically been an instrument of both power and resistance; it is to absorb the etiquette of "diversity" by way of — as the truth of — literary history. It is to "learn" about oppression. Huck Finn is a favorite stomping ground for English teachers who use literature to stage politicized discussions about the various -isms; assessing the quality and caliber of the novel's "racism" has become something of a pedagogical sport in recent years — as if pejoratively labelling a work of art were an act of interpretation, as if stroking our enlightened egos at Twain's expense could even begin to do justice to the complexity and enormity of his deceptively simple little novel.

It's not just Twain's expense, either; to the extent that our children are herded through this "multicultural" charnel-house, they are deprived of the opportunity to make up their own minds, to learn how to decide for themselves what a book like Huckleberry Finn — indeed, any book — really means.

(Muchas gracias: John Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 PM to Almost Yogurt )
7 November 2002
Last gasp for fighting fowl

Oklahoma State Rep. Frank Shurden (D-Henryetta), one of the more reliably loose cannons in the legislature, has announced that he's planning a bill for next session to reduce the penalties for cockfighting imposed by the newly-enacted ban. No one, says Shurden, should have to serve jail time for participating.

And Shurden may have an ally in Governor-elect Brad Henry, who in the past has characterized the penalties as too severe and yesterday said that the cure might be worse than the disease.

What is most likely to happen, with or without Shurden's bill, is that cockfighting will eventually become one of those laws which is enforced selectively: the state is likely to look the other way unless they're trying to stick it to someone for some other reason. In rural Oklahoma, things will go on pretty much the way they always have.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:16 AM to Soonerland )
Skies and screens of blue

James Lileks, waxing philosophical about the interaction of the divine and the damnable:

This is where computers meet the realms of philosophy: if a thing is impossible, yet appears before you, then it obviously is not impossible. Yet it is not possible for it to be possible. All those philosophers who wondered if it was possible for God to create an object He could not move are missing the point. If God is running Windows, then He will just get an error message informing Him that the object does not exist.

And, being God, He will have known in advance He would get that message.

And I thank Him that He apparently doesn't think in hex; I have enough trouble with ten commandments, let alone sixteen.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to PEBKAC )
This place SUX

Airports have three-letter codes. O'Hare in Chicago is ORD; Los Angeles International is LAX (I often wonder about those guys wearing "LAX Security" patches); Baltimore-Washington is BWI. Sioux City, Iowa is SUX, and you can imagine what they think of that.

Anyway, the FAA was asked back in March to change the code, and now has declined to do so. Airport officials in Sioux City may try again, but for now, they're stuck with what they have.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
Yours for a pledge at the $360 level

Those of us who blog swear by, and occasionally at, our templates. Yes, I know, I did this site for years with no content-management system (and, some might say, no content either), and there are still manually-maintained blogs out there, but the point seems relatively inarguable just the same, and I assure you, I didn't spend a great deal of time reinventing the wheel every day. Data-entry types, of course, are hopelessly tethered to various Templates of Doom.

Then again, that's all computer stuff. Do other more-or-less-cultural activities have the same need for ready-made, fill-in-the-blanks packages? Michael at 2 Blowhards is persuaded that there's some sort of PBS Documentary Kit out there, and all you need are the following:

  • Shots of sunsets.
  • Shots of water.
  • Shots of empty Colonial-Williamsburg-style interiors.
  • Shots of nothing in particular framed by leafy trees.
  • Tracking shots over old piano keyboards.
  • Slow zooms back from old sepia photographs — repeat this move endlessly.
  • Nothing-in-particular passages from letters, to be read in nothing-in-particular "period" tones.
  • Period songs, to be performed in a prissily nostalgic style.
  • For background music, lean heavily on the plink-plonk of a lonely solo piano, or the pulseless noodlings of a ruminative guitar. If you really want to knock 'em unconscious, have a banjo player pluck a few strings really, really slowly.

Time to set free the Ken Burns within you, say I.

(Update, 10:26 pm: Reformatted slightly, but no textual changes.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:58 PM to Almost Yogurt )
8 November 2002
Okay, maybe a little bit about oil

The Fed has cut interest rates yet again, by half a point, and the market has responded with yawns. Mark Byron points out that with the federal funds rate down to 1.25 percent, there isn't a whole lot of maneuvering room left for the Fed. The real shot in the arm, says Dr Byron, will come with the neutralization of Iraq, which will take some of the uncertainty out of both oil prices and global trade. Bottom line?

[H]aving a solid success in Iraq will shut up a lot of the Euroweenies and their allies around the world, will lower oil prices and give the world economy a boost of confidence. Right now, Tommy Franks can do more to boost our economy than Alan Greenspan can.

Big fun on the bayou

The balance of power in the Senate is settled, but there's one seat still in doubt: in Louisiana, where Democrat Mary Landrieu led the pack but failed to win a majority. Under the Tabasco State's laws, this means a runoff, in which Landrieu will face Republican front-runner Susan Terrell. And it means that Landrieu also faces a dilemma; she took so much trouble to separate herself from the goofiness of the national Democratic organization that, from a distance, she was almost indistinguishable from a Republican. The electorate, she perhaps fears, will reason that the choice is between an ersatz Republican and a real one, and will vote accordingly.

What to do? John Rosenberg suggests Landrieu ought to take a three-pronged approach: make Bush-like utterances on the war, come off as a traditional quasi-populist Democrat on most domestic issues, and adopt the following possibly-controversial position:

Come out swinging against all forms of racial discrimination, including affirmative action/preferential treatment, criticizing Bush and the Republican establishment of timidity for refusing to push this issue, for not having the courage of their stated convictions. This will offend black leaders, but it is less clear that it will offend black voters, who may in any event prefer and come out for a liberal candidate who is offering them no race-based favors over a conservative candidate who is offering them no race-based favors. And it will help with everyone else.

I have some doubts about this — by most accounts, black voters are nearly as conservative as white voters, and far more conservative than black leaders — but I'd like to see her try that myself, just to see what difference, if any, it makes in the African-American vote. I have had for some time a gut feeling that the only remaining proponents of racial preferences are the people who are making a living as advocates for such; the rest of us, regardless of color, are likely sick of the whole concept and wish it would go away already.

Spehling kountz

First Union is a big bank; its name appears on lots of people's checks throughout the eastern United States. Apparently it's still unfamiliar to some people, though: a Jacksonville, Florida woman was busted for allegedly trying to cash a forged payroll check for a phony company, drawn on, um, "Frist Unoin" Bank.

It could have been worse. Had she waited another month, she would have had to try to spell "Wachovia".

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 PM to Dyssynergy )
9 November 2002
Assigning blame

What happened to the Democratic Party on Tuesday? A thirty-year member (that would be, um, me) points a finger (no credit for guessing which one) in today's edition of The Vent.

A reason to celebrate

Steven Den Beste reminds us that with the Republicans controlling the Senate, Fritz Hollings (D-Disney), ousted as Chair of the Commerce Committee, is no longer in a position to give much of a push to his miserable "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act", a bill with five co-sponsors, four of them Democrats. The Captain had previously derided this measure as the "MPAA/RIAA Wet-Dream Act of 2002", and he was being generous.

Is the CBDTPA well and truly dead? Not necessarily, but Den Beste looks at it this way:

[Hollings] might try to introduce that bill next year, anyway, but he won't have much luck with it. There's little chance of something like this getting the time of day in a Republican-controlled Senate. I certainly don't think that it's because of any kind of noble impulse by the Republicans; it's just that they'll think that the computer industry is a lot larger and more important to the US than the record and movie industries, and the computer and semiconductor companies all hate it, not to mention the Republicans' general antipathy to that kind of government meddling in business affairs.

And, lest we forget, Hollywood's tendency to pour money into Democratic campaign coffers.

You wanna know why all the bloggers hated the Democrats, Bunkie? It's because all the bloggers have computers.

Baked beans are off

Today's spam, claimed to be from the dubious address <zondervan2227e82@yahoo.com>, is fairly standard pornucopia effluent, with invitations and links to <3xgirl.com>, <sinfulmpegs.com> and <glamoursluts.com>, all of which are herded together along with God knows what else under the general heading of <servergod.com>, operated by one Robert Sudduth in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, a regular visitor to the database at SpamCop.

Most perturbing, perhaps, is that "zondervan" in the bogus email address. The real Zondervan is a legitimate publisher of, among other things, Bibles; I guess Sudduth figures nobody will set a spam filter for the word.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 PM to Scams and Spams )
Listening to Victoria

Last year about this time, I was going on about something truly bizarre in the Victoria's Secret catalog, a publication which apparently is mailed to everyone on the planet except me. As before, I obtained a copy from my old friend Nova, who claims to actually wear some of this stuff. (I will, of course, take her word for it, as the likelihood of getting to inspect her underthings for myself is vanishingly small.) She made it quite clear, though, that the replay of last year's hyperbauble, the ten-million-dollar Fantasy Bra (the sort-of-matching panty is included in the, um, package this year), is not something she would choose to wear even if she could afford it, for reasons having to do with hygiene and/or insurance. I think that's what she said, anyway; looking at the pictures in the catalog, I found it not especially easy to pay attention.

There's also a Star of Victoria diamond pendant for under a grand (well, two dollars under a grand), which goes well with this, but I rather imagine it goes well with most things.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 PM to Dyssynergy )
10 November 2002
Born on this date

1483: Martin Luther, primary player in the Protestant Reformation

1610: Ninon de L'Enclos, Frenchwoman of prodigious desires

1759: Friedrich von Schiller, German dramatist and poet

1925: Richard Burton, English actor

19xx: [Details deleted, on the off-chance that the person involved might see this, something not likely to happen with, say, Schiller]

1999: Nicholas Cole Havlik, esteemed grandson and world-class wrecker of furniture

Felicitations to all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to Dyssynergy )
Check it and see

I'm not particularly hot-blooded, but I am running a fever of a hundred and three, and it's severely affecting my ability to come up with Neat Stuff for this section.

Fortunately, the December Car and Driver is here, and as always, it's packed full of quotable goodies.

Patrick Bedard, on the Washington-area red-light cameras:

The argument for them starts out with one foot on a banana peel and the other on a fast freight. On the one foot, it maintains, speeding and red-light infractions are so serious they need 24/7 enforcement with an unblinking eye. On the other, they're so insignificant that we needn't bother with the usual constitutional niceties such as right to a trial and innocent until proven guilty and the right to be confronted by your accuser.

Just send in your check, and don't bother us with your sniveling "yes, buts."

If reducing violations were really the point, then D.C. would follow the example of nearby Fairfax County, Virginia, which chopped red-light running to less than 1/10th its former rate at the corner of U.S. 50 and Fair Ridge Drive. The miracle was accomplished by lengthening the yellow to 5.5 seconds from 4.0. No civil rights were trampled in the process.

But there was a casualty. With citations dropping to less than one a day, the ticket machine is a total wreck.

John Phillips, reviewing the don't-call-it-a-BRAT Subaru Baja:

Our test car sported the optional Hella roof-top spotlights ($395) that resemble Lucifer's horns. Using these lights while the car is in motion is illegal approximately everywhere, such that someone's crack legal team ordered them wired to illuminate only when the hand brake is engaged. The lights do flip flat, though, so you can shine them through the sunroof and directly down your girlfriend's blouse. Plus, they remain blazing even when the engine's off, affording you an excellent opportunity to sample the entire line of Sears Die-Hards.

It does strike us, however, that cuteness — a property the Baja flaunts like Larry King wears shoulder pads — is a trait that robust American males do not expect to find in their trucks. A cute truck is like a jockstrap with floral embroidery. A cute truck is like a riding mower with a spice rack. Like cuddling after sex. Possibly you get the idea.

Twenty-four years I've read this magazine, and I could do another twenty-four if I live that long. If this fever doesn't break, though, I won't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 PM to Driver's Seat )
Our day will come

Michele at A Small Victory is looking for bloggers who are also veterans. If this describes you — it certainly describes me — please let her know.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
11 November 2002
On the eleventh

"It wasn't me who started that ol' crazy Asian war," the song goes. "But I was proud to go and do my patriotic chore."

And yes, I suppose it was a chore, in the strictest sense of the word: first we take care of business, then we can sit back and swap stories.

Some people will look at that word "proud" and grimace. "How can you possibly feel any pride in what you did?" Well, I did it well, and at the time, it seemed like exactly the right thing to do. Thirty years later, it still seems so.

No regrets from this former Army man; I wore the green, like so many others my age, and fortunately, most of us came back from where we'd been.

You don't have to spend any time remembering me today, but please do think of your friends and mine, your relatives and mine, who took on this "patriotic chore" themselves. And say a prayer, if you would, for those who didn't come back.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Dyssynergy )
Icing on the cake

The United States Arctic Research Commission, noting that the polar zones are warming more quickly than the rest of the globe, has projected that in five to ten years, it will be possible to sail through what is now the Arctic ice cap at least a couple of months out of the year, cutting 6800 miles off the shipping distance from Asia to Europe. For supertankers, which have to round Cape Horn because they can't get through the Panama Canal, the difference is over 11,000 miles.

Assuming the Commission has called this one correctly, the fabled Northwest Passage is here at last, too late for Henry Hudson and Martin Frobisher, but on time to be a genuine boon to today's global commerce. And to think we did it all with our modest little SUVs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Dyssynergy )
The next two (four? six?) years

The Baseball Crank explained it all over at Dr. Weevil's place:

We had ideas, and we had passion; they had only hate and fear and paranoia. The long-term problem for the Democrats is that they must now choose between the broad appeal of a moderation that excites nobody, and the targeted zeal of an extremism that echoes down an increasingly narrowing hallway.

That's me: the unexcited (and unexciting) moderate.

Is that Nancy Pelosi I hear shrieking down the corridor?

Be very afraid

The last time Susanna Cornett missed anywhere near a whole week of bloggage, it was the week which began on 14 July, when she and I had lunch.

Now I'm scared.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 PM to Blogorrhea )
I just want to stop...and thank you baby

Johnny Griffith, piano and organ mainstay of the Motown "Funk Brothers" house band, has died — ironically, right before the Detroit premiere of the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, a history of the musicians who made what Berry Gordy Jr. called "The Sound of Young America".

Griffith played on literally hundreds of sides, from pure pop (the Supremes' "Stop! in the Name of Love") to gritty soul (Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine") to gutbucket funk (Jr. Walker's "Shotgun"). To Berry Gordy's dismay, the band would occasionally do outside sessions, which is how Griffith became the king of the Capitols' "Cool Jerk" and practically a second voice on Barbara Acklin's "Am I the Same Girl" (then a first voice, as the backing track became a bigger hit, as "Soulful Strut" by Young-Holt Unlimited).

Johnny Griffith lived 68 (some sources say 66) years. Some of the records on which he played just might go on forever.

12 November 2002
Quick turnover

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm glad to see Bill Quick back at the old stand.

Yeah, I hate popups too, but I hate losing top-class reading material even more. And unlike most of us out here in blogland, Quick is a professional writer; it's damned difficult to blame the man for wanting to turn a buck once in a while.

Besides, this blogging thing gets in the way of real life now and then. Just ask Toren Smith.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to Blogorrhea )
Sounding the toxins

John Chuckman's latest for Yellow Times, titled A toxin in the blood, contains the expected high level of blither, but what's most frustrating about it is — well, read this for yourself:

This government has given America corruption, poor appointments to important posts, a huge and wasteful increase in military spending, not a single worthy humanitarian initiative, and it has set its jaw in grim contempt for the sensibilities of virtually the rest of the planet. It is determined to launch a war for which there is not one sound reason, a war that promises to send the world into a downward spiral of resentments, uncertainty and death.

Mr Chuckman, having fled the premises during a previous war, probably won't buy "Those sons of bitches are trying to kill us, you nitwit" as a "sound reason," despite the fact that the aforementioned SOBs took out a couple of thousand of us last year. (It was in all the papers, so I'm sure he heard about it.)

"Corruption"? We had that before. "Poor appointments"? We had those before, too. A "huge and wasteful increase in military spending"? Huge, yes; but if we are now able to thumb our noses at the rest of the world's sensibilities, it seems to me that we got our money's worth.

What would Mr Chuckman consider a "worthy humanitarian initiative"? Finding homes for Palestinian militants before they wrap themselves in Semtex and mail themselves to Israelis for Chanukah? Sending food to Zimbabwe so Robert Mugabe can complain about its potential genetic background?

And enough of Bush's nonexistent desire to emulate Hitler already. So far as I know, the only time W. has ever said anything even slightly positive about anyone named Adolph was that one day at the ranch when they were trying out a new meat tenderizer at the grill.

(Muchas gracias: Silflay Hraka.)

Vexillologically inflammable

Over at Rottweiler HQ, Exhibit A in the Free Speech Museum, Flag-Burners' Annex:

"Free Speech" means exactly what it says, even when exercised by Idiotarian Imbeciles who wouldn't be worthy of kissing the boots of the heroes that died to protect that right.

Still, if you're thinking about burning a US flag in front of Misha, I suggest you think again. He quite properly supports your right to do so, but he also quite properly supports his right to respond. And you will probably not like his response.

13 November 2002
It's that time again

While hands are wrung at the seeming (and, I think, synthesized) return of Osama bin Laden, blogdom turns its attention to what really matters: the Carnival of the Vanities, now in its Mark VIII incarnation.

I have noticed that I tend to plug the Carnival more enthusiastically during weeks, such as this one, when I have no entries of my own. Not that I'm inclined to pay the guy with the really nice leather couch thirty thousand dollars in $150 increments to tell me why.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
Where you lede, I will follow

A service for journalists, wannabe journalists, J-school dropouts, and the occasional blogger: Vicky at Liquid Courage, noting that no Federal holiday is complete without a speech by the President, is offering a handy, only-minor-assembly-required kit to produce your opening line. And what's more, it's easily updatable, making it usable through the terms of the next ten or twelve Presidents.

Satanic Utility Vehicles

The Evangelical Environmental Network and Creation Care magazine are asking one and all to ask themselves: What Would Jesus Drive?

"Economic issues," says Rev. Jim Ball of EEN, "are moral issues," and their upcoming ad campaign will exhort the faithful to consider the effect on God's gardens before rendering unto Chevrolet the forty grand for a Suburban.

There is, of course, Biblical precedent for this. In Acts 2, the car pool was invented: the disciples apparently managed to get to the first Pentecost in one Accord.

(Muchas gracias: Bob Whaley at Cruel Shoes.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:15 PM to Driver's Seat )
Corrida de toros

Apart from the usual Hollywood distortions, I know nothing about bullfighting. I've never been within five hundred kilometers of Pamplona; I skipped Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon; I haven't seen Almodóvar's Matador. I didn't even pick up Herb Alpert's "The Lonely Bull" until three years after its release. Repeat: I know nothing about bullfighting.

Your standard animal-rights types will be more than happy, I'm sure, to tell me that it's nasty and horrid and brutal and such. On the other hand, Jesus Gil, who has actually toiled in this particular vineyard, finds it eminently defensible:

There is very little that is predictable in a bullfight, and the "score" doesn't have to be "Matadors 6 Bulls 0" — there are times (admittedly few) when a bull performs so well in the ring that he is cured and sent to the farm to live the rest of his life as a seed bull. Actually, this is the dream of every aficionado — to see the bull go out alive.

If that's so, why are they almost always killed?

[T]he reason the bull is killed is actually the Vatican's fault. Even threatened with excommunication the Spaniards continued celebrating bullfights, where the bull was used over and over — and large amounts of people were killed. So the Vatican issued a Papal Bull (no pun intended) saying essentially, "one man, one bull."

I still don't think I want to see one of these things up close and in person, but it's always nice to hear the other side for a change.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:30 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Judging the judge, revisited

Michael McConnell is Presidential Professor of Law at the University of Utah. His thinking is conservative, his reputation is sterling; even his opponents joined in a letter supporting his nomination to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, as mentioned in this very space a couple of months ago.

Well, evidently not all his opponents; a group called Alliance for Justice has found a fair number of leftish jurists to sign their names to a letter opposing McConnell's nomination. [Link to Adobe Acrobat file.]

John Rosenberg has this to say:

What is noteworthy here is not so much that some professors oppose McConnell's appointment but that they do so in such shrill, out of control language, regarding him as the second coming of Attila the Hun (or maybe even worse, Robert Bork).

It's of a piece, I think, with some of the other life-as-we-know-it-is-over screeds that have been multiplying in the wake of Republican electoral successes. Sometimes I think they really want the sort of comic-book pseudo-fascism they imagine, just so they can taunt the rest of us: "We told you so!"

14 November 2002
In the fall, if at all

It's been a weird sort of autumn. After an October which tied for the third coldest in recorded history — of course, in Oklahoma, that means "since 1889" — November has been relatively normal, at least by the standards of Soonerland, but the winds have been shifting back and forth so fast that an actual golden-brown leaf, its cycle finally complete, will stay on the tree for a matter of seconds before it vectors into your neighbor's yard. For people who love autumn foliage, this generates mixed emotions at best.

Then again, I know from mixed emotions. Something from here got linked at Metafilter, which is a first; on the other hand, it wasn't because of anything brilliant I had written.

In the unlikely event that I do write something brilliant, I may actually have to start tooting my own horn.

Cocks and other American oddities

Yeah, I know: The Guardian. But Matthew Engel actually manages to make some sense of the Oklahoma cockfighting dust-up:

[L]ike certain Oklahoman sheriffs who have grumpily muttered that they have better things to do than deal with damn fool stuff like this, I have severe doubts about this particular law's enforceability....As thousands of years of trying to ban prostitution have shown, it is mighty difficult to make anything illegal where cocks are concerned. And as the US draws in more and more migrants from countries such as Mexico, where cockfighting remains part of the culture, this will get harder, not easier.

And a point I myself made somewhere along the way:

A cockfight is a bloody business, involving tying knives to the birds' feet to make it even bloodier, but they are pampered until they get into the pit — and how come this cruelty is a political issue, and the treatment of our dinner is not?

Then again, it wouldn't be The Guardian without a shot at what's really bothering them:

This is not, however, the prelude to a ban on shooting, the more so as the infinitely richer and more powerful gun lobby has been greatly strengthened by the Republicans' successes last week....Personally, I feel a lot less alarmed by the atavistic rural barbarism of cockfighting, than by the shooters' insistence that, in order to preserve their sports, it is necessary to veto any laws that might make it easier to prevent murderous maniacs terrorising millions for weeks on end.

Somehow I have a feeling that if there had been a cockfighting referendum in, say, Gaza, there wouldn't be any snide references to "murderous maniacs".

(Muchas gracias: Andrea Harris.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Soonerland )
Broadcast snooze

Christmas music is bad enough on the 24th of December. On the 14th of November it is an abomination. Now add three dollops of synthetic Nashville twang, and you have "The Bull's Country Christmas", the Bull in question being radio station KQBL. There's just one catch: this isn't airing on KQBL, but on KMMZ, the erstwhile "Memories 96.9".

This much I know: Citadel, one of three major group owners in town (the others being Renda and — gag — Clear Channel), has negotiated a Local Marketing Agreement with Chisholm Trail Broadcasting, the smallish state chain which owns KMMZ. Under the LMA, Citadel will assume responsibility for programming the station, in exchange for an undisclosed percentage of revenues.

This much is speculation: Citadel will move KQBL's programming to 96.9 on or about 26 December. The alt-rock "Spy" stuff, currently heard at night on WWLS-FM (105.3), will take over at 104.9. Evenings on WWLS-FM will return to simulcasting its AM facility, known familiarly as "The Sports Animal".

Why is this happening? I suppose it's another splash in the ongoing pissing contest between Citadel and Clear Channel. And it gets better: The Oklahoma Publishing Company has agreed to sell WKY, the oldest AM in town (it goes back 80 years or so, and OPUBCO has owned it for 74 of those years), to (wait for it) Citadel. WKY is currently programmed under an LMA by, you guessed it, Clear Channel.

In the meantime, Renda's three stations are all comfortably perched in the top six, and they couldn't care less about any of this stuff. Nor do I, really, except for its amusement value, since most of my radio listening is to that weird NPR and PRI stuff.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:16 PM to Overmodulation )
A song by Saddam

Well, it started out as a song by Paul Simon; if nothing else, I've proved that my scansion can be as idiosyncratic as his.

Cue the guitarist, and:

An autumn day,
It's the middle of November.
I say, "Go home,
Take your damned inspectors, nothing here to see!"
'Cause the only thing that matters here is me:
I am Iraq, I am defiant.

I build bombs,
An arsenal of mayhem,
That none will take away.
I put my trust in Allah that I will prevail,
And in turn, my god assures me I won't fail:
I am Iraq, I am defiant.

Don't talk of war.
Well, I've played the game before;
It's quite a recent memory.
I do not fear the Yankees, or their putrid stench;
If I need to, I'll call Russia or the French:
I am Iraq, I am defiant.

I have my guards,
And artillery to defend me.
I am shielded from their bombers.
Hiding in my room, fearing not the tomb -
I stand by - "Holy shit, that one came close!"
I am Iraq, I am defiant.

(And Iraq never learns,
And a tyrant finally dies.)

Obviously "Weird Al" Yankovic has nothing to worry about from the likes of me.

Thanks to Bob Radil, who suggested this (though not to me, actually) on rec.music.rock-pop-r+b.1960s. (Yes, I still read Usenet. Who knew?)

And apologies to Mr Simon. I admit, this one is even worse than "I Am a Schmuck (I'm from Lawn Guyland)", which I shan't repeat here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 PM to Dyssynergy )
15 November 2002
The power of pasta

If I remember correctly, the oldest woman ever to appear in a Playboy pictorial was fifty-five. (This would be Nancy Sinatra; how does that grab you, darlin'?) Still, there are names on the magazine's wish list who will never be removed no matter how old they get, and one of those names belongs to Sophia Loren, who reportedly is miffed for being offered only £100,000 for doffing her designer duds. This does not mean that if Hef ups the ante, she'll do the deed, but the sheer thought of it — well, do I actually want to see a 68-year-old Italian woman in a reasonable semblance of her birthday suit?

If you've read this site for more than twenty seconds, you already know the answer.

Being objective about subjectivity

This is something I've pondered myself once or twice, with results so inconclusive they don't even deserve to be called "results". From Lactose Incompetent:

There are days when I feel that, if I had it all to do over again, I'd specialize in English Lit, hoping that in some way I'd learn how to read critically, to distinguish good writing from bad using more subjective criteria than "I like this" and "I don't like...that".

I can usually distinguish bad writing — give me ten minutes and I'll give you paragraphs full of it — but spotting good writing is a trickier business. Not as tricky, however, as producing it:

Perhaps I'm merely suffering from America's Cult of the Individual, that each person should choose their own path, make their own choices, decide their own destiny. My writing style is a hodge-podge of bits lifted from authors I enjoy, blended into a sassy compote with my own speech pattern.

I wish I had the temerity to describe what I write as having "style".

But I do understand the "hodge-podge" bit: sometimes I think I'm doing the prose equivalent of Peter Schickele's Quodlibet, in which every single musical phrase is lifted from some other, presumably better work.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Almost Yogurt )
A Goofy comparison?

Aimee Deep notes that both al-Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden and Disney chairman Michael Eisner had been keeping a low profile, only to resurface this week, and asks the question no one else dares ask:

Now they both reappear together ...

Plus, they're both tall and egomaniacs.

Has anybody ever seen these two guys in the same room at the same time?

Gee, you think we should ask Koppel?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 PM to Dyssynergy )
16 November 2002
Weapon of mass distraction

Anna at Belligerent Bunny has a grand and glorious tale about a missile we don't have, but ought to, and theoretically still could. Even the name — Tacit Rainbow — is spiffy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:40 AM to Dyssynergy )
The War of 1812 is over, too

Al Gore just can't get it through his head that he lost.

But being the inventive type that he is — after all, he strung up with his bare hands that very first T1 line between MIT and the Pentagon back in '69 — it was inevitable that Gore would resurface with a new, more efficient way to count votes.

And it was also inevitable that the plans for the system would be leaked, and Marc Lundberg, proprietor of Quit That, has the details. I have to admit, it's disarming in its simplicity.

A pack of Peter Parkers

Hmmm...

He would turn down relationships with people he loved because he knew his presence in their lives endangered them. He would get fired because saving people made him chronically late for work. He would leap into harrowing situations to save people, knowing most of them were scared of him, and that if he wasn't careful the cops would try to nab him. The press always vilified him, lumped him in with the criminals he tried to stop, and even though he succeeded time and time again at getting the bad guys and saving the good ones, he never outlived his bad rep.

J. Jonah Jameson dumping on Spider-Man again? Well, yeah. But, as Bryan Preston points out, the ol' web-spinner gets about the same sort of press as your average conservative Christian: if it's at all positive, it's probably grudgingly so.

E pluribus units

"One of the more repugnant features of our modern society," says Kim du Toit, "is how we have become increasingly used to treating individual human beings as mere ciphers." There are situations where this is excusable — the military, for one, because it's one environment in which the individual truly must be subordinated to the group, and in prison, for another, because if you've gotten there, it's part of the price you pay. (I point out that otherwise, the military and the correctional system are not all that similar, no matter what I told Major Whatzisname back in 1974.)

Back to du Toit:

But I resent the way that corporate "Personnel" departments have become "Human Resources" departments, as though we individuals are just office supplies or raw materials. I remember once threatening one of these "HR" people with a punch in the face if he ever again used the term "headcount" in my presence, to refer to human beings.

I think it's actually worse than that, and I think we can blame the government for it. Under our preposterous tax code, those of us who work for someone else are not assets of any sort, any kind of investments: we are expenses, pure and simple, and it's unrealistic to expect corporate types, forever mired in their bean-counting milieu, to be able to make any kind of connection between Badge #521 and Fred over in IT.

And it doesn't much matter how big the corporation is, either. Were I to leave 42nd and Treadmill, the place would take a substantial productivity hit and would lose one of its few remaining connections to reality — it was explained to me just this past week how burning up a couple thousand bucks or so a year on a publication that no one reads and no one will read, which in fact is viewed by its target audience as an annoyance, is considered a brilliant effing idea — but as far as they're concerned, it's just a couple of accounting entries to change and a COBRA form to fill out.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 PM to Dyssynergy )
17 November 2002
No Peking

Jonathan Zittrain and Benjamin Edelman, working for the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law, have an ongoing project to document Internet filtering in various forms and fashions. One of the subprojects this fall is the determination of sites blocked by the government of the People's Republic of China. Described as "an experiment in open research," Zittrain and Edelman have worked up a system whereby any URL can be entered and then tested in real-time (within two minutes) to see if it is accessible to Chinese Internet users.

Needless to say, I had to try this out for myself, and by gum, according to this testing regime, this site is blocked. Presumably no one from the Chinese mainland is authorized to view any of my stuff. This explains one phenomenon: an earlier version of the Music Room here was once duplicated, from first byte to last, and pasted onto some Chinese Web site. They even copied my counter code, which is how I found out about it in the first place. The hits (never more than one or two a day, but what the hell) dried up this summer, and perhaps now I know why.

(Muchas gracias: John Little, The Blogs of War. He's blocked too.)

I'll take Character Assassination for $200

A number of people have asked me, given my status as Repository of Unrelated Factoids, why I haven't tried to get on the TV game show Jeopardy! My standard answer — "I have the charisma of Sam Donaldson on Quaaludes" — seldom mollifies them, but eventually they stop asking.

However, David "Clubbeaux" Sims has made the effort, and while I'm in no position to award charisma points, I'm sure he's a lot more interesting than I am.

Gul takes the reins in Turkey

As noted previously in this space, Justice and Development (AKP) party head Recep Tayyip Erdogan, barred from Parliament, will not be able to serve as Prime Minister despite winning more than enough votes in the Turkish general election. Erdogan has now submitted three names for consideration to Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and Sezer has chosen Abdullah Gul, 52, once Minister of State in a 1997 coalition government formed by the now-outlawed Islamist Welfare Party. There is still speculation that Erdogan will be pulling Gul's strings.

A reminiscence of sorts

I never knew Jenkin Lloyd Jones, who worked his way up the ranks at The Tulsa Tribune to the publisher's office, but anyone who cared anything about Oklahoma journalism in those days knew his work, and mourned ten years ago when the Tribune closed its doors. A few thoughts along these lines, this week in The Vent, now in issue #317 with no (well, not much) sign of slowing down.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:39 PM to Soonerland )
18 November 2002
A bridge too fallible

When The Road Information Program announced in May that Oklahoma had the worst bridges in the country, almost none of us were surprised; while only one bridge in the state (I-44 at 51st in Tulsa) made the Bottom 100 list, fully a third of the state's bridges are considered "structurally deficient," and another 7 percent are "functionally obsolete."

Bringing all these bridges up to spec would cost about $5.4 billion, which of course we don't have. Senator Jim Inhofe is chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which means that he may be able to scare up a few more dollars in federal highway funds. In an unexpected move, Robert Milacek, a Republican state senator from Enid, has proposed a state vote on an increase in fuel taxes to pay for improvements. The alternative? Perhaps federal "wheel stamps," to help pay for auto suspension parts broken while trying to traverse these battered old bridges.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:09 AM to Soonerland )
Too familiar a view

I really think this guy at Lactose Incompetent has actually worked here; either that, or it's just as bad the world over and we are all screwed. Neither of these is comforting.

The corporate world is naught except high school revisited, a Hellish school system from which there is no summer break and no hope of graduation in a scant four years. Managers act as upper classmen intent on demonstrating their power and authority over the lower caste; co-workers are of the same genus and phylum of bullies, nerds, pets, and Big Men on Campus. The human resources department are cast in this drama as twisted guidance counsellors concerned less with your development than in your obedience to policy and procedure.

I do my best to get a summer break in spite of them. Otherwise, this is spot on; as the bottom-ranking nerd, I have no hope.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:59 AM to Dyssynergy )
(I Can't Get No) Punctuation

The chief RockSnob, DragonAttack, with the able assistance of the Aspiring Pirate, has charted for your delectation forty-five (of course, it had to be 45) songs with parentheses in their titles — something to peruse the next time you feel like a bullet (in the gun of Robert Ford).

Pitchforks, Aisle 23

Wendy, aka Weetabix, describes the shopping on the far side of the Styx:

I hate going there. I hate it. I hate it so very much. When I die, I won't be surprised to find that hell is one big Wal-Mart, with Satan's mother running check outs and his sloe-eyed demons all standing by the door greeting everyone. I hate going to Wal-Mart, especially on a Saturday afternoon. It always has this feeling of urgency, like the hours before a big storm or the day after Thanksgiving. People are grabbing things, carts are overflowing, merchandise is lying on the floor and people are walking over it. Everything is permeated with the smell of popcorn, dirty diapers and retardation. It's as if the mere presence of cheap plastic crap makes people lose their minds. Things that would not be acceptable in normal society become acceptable in Wal-Mart. Or perhaps they pipe in some kind of gas that makes everyone dull and listless, stupid and slow like cattle. Everyone but me, who runs through there like a maniac, trying to get out before I am infected with the listless sort of wide-eyed expression and have the urge to walk sluggishly down crowded aisles and then stop short with no warning and be enthralled by a display of Wesson Vegetable oil for $1.49. Or maybe the siren call of low, low prices only affects white trash.

I dunno. I'm kinda white and fairly trashy, but I do my best to avoid Le Mart du Wal. I'll occasionally set foot in a Sam's Club, generally to buy incredible quantities of something I wouldn't want to be seen buying at Albertson's, but actually to visit a Wal-Mart? That's just not on the agenda. And it's not your standard left-wing Exploiter of Peoples argument, either; I figure any retailer that isn't exploiting us greedy buyers is only a few pages away from Chapter 11. I just don't deal well with Incredibly Huge Crowds. I don't go anywhere the day after Thanksgiving, for that reason alone.

And where was I four hours ago? The checkout line at Target (which, of course, is pronounced "tahr-ZHAY"). And they had (O frabjous day!) those Verbatim CD-Rs designed to look like 45s, priced way higher than any other recordables on the shelf ($8.49 for a box of ten with full-size jewel cases). Would I have driven the extra 0.4 mile to Wally World to save maybe sixty cents on these? Not likely.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:07 PM to Dyssynergy )
19 November 2002
Flying feathers

How predictable was this? District Judge Willard Driesel has granted a temporary injunction barring enforcement of Oklahoma's new cockfighting ban in the area of his jurisdiction: Choctaw, McCurtain and Pushmataha counties. A permanent injunction will be sought; the state has already announced it will appeal the judge's decision.

Judge Driesel, for his part, has a problem with the ban as written: "You're making extinct the very bird the state says it is trying to protect." If he'd stopped there...but no. Instead, he took the plunge into Preposterous Metaphor Land with this whopper: "We punish child molesters but don't prohibit the raising of children."

Anyone up for a statewide ban on schoolyard fights?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 AM to Soonerland )
Minority retort

What's a "Culture Representative"? At Tufts University in Medford (pronounced something like "Meffuhd"), Massachusetts, it's a reserved minority slot in the student government, intended to ensure that those who have been historically underrepresented have some sort of voice and some sort of recourse against abuse.

Enter Rob Lichter. Writing in the Tufts Daily, he disclosed the existence of a previously-ignored minority:

Conservatives are a distinct minority here at Tufts, and consequently, the concerns of our community are not adequately represented. Conservative students have been harrassed and physically assaulted, their media stolen and vandalized. Hate messages have been scrawled on bathroom walls and dorm whiteboards, and individuals have been verbally berated and ridiculed.... Has the Senate passed a resolution asking for dialogue with conservatives? No. Has the Bias Response Team [considered] these problems with the same seriousness they show other minorities? No.

Jeff Jacoby, in an op-ed in The Boston Globe, is sympathetic:

Real diversity encompasses the spectrum of human variety — a vast array of tastes and talents, beliefs and backgrounds, passions and personalities. What passes for diversity on campus and wherever the left holds sway is an impoverished fraud. Depressing that it should still be necessary to say so.

Meanwhile, Lichter and other conservatives at Tufts continue to pursue a Culture Representative position, motivated by the not-exactly-unspoken desire to undermine the whole system. There's a faint hint of "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" here, but nobody said the process was going to be either easy or pleasant.

(Muchas gracias: Erin O'Connor.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Round, round, get a round

In fact, get a hundred rounds. It's National Ammo Day, a day to celebrate the Second Amendment and, just incidentally, to scare those folks who think firearms are just too icky for words or too horrible for mere mortals to own.

Embrace the many-colored beast

There will be no more "420 Specials" at Your Pizza Shop in Canton, Ohio; the Repository reports that shop owner Pat Koury, responding to a request from a DARE official and a memo from the head office, has taken down the offending signs. "420", of course, is widely believed to be drug slang, though I have yet to meet a single stoner who responds to the number.

Your Pizza Shop is located at, um, 420 12th Street Northwest.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:21 AM to Dyssynergy )
Next time, don't ask

Columnist and "liberal iconoclast" Harley Sorensen asks the following "rhetorical question with no response required":

Suppose there was such a thing as a time machine. Suppose all the bad-guy Germans of the 1930s and 1940s — the Gestapo, the Brownshirts, the Blackshirts — were fed into the time machine and emerged as modern-day Americans. Suppose they all still held the beliefs they had when they died.

So my question is, Which political party would they support now, Democratic or Republican?

Sorensen, as it happens, was using this opening as a wedge to take a potshot or three at the nascent Department of Homeland Security, but there is an answer to his question. Gregory Hlatky takes up the query:

Well, if you consider some of the features of the Nazis — an obsession with racial characteristics, an overweening sense of having been oppressed by larger forces, and a belief that private means should be subordinated to the ends of the State — I think the answer is pretty clear, don't you?

He shoots, he scores.

20 November 2002
Lessons from life (one in a series)

Tape drives interpret the position of the write-protect device differently from the way you or I (especially I) would do it.

Are we having funds yet?

Contrary to popular belief, reports Radley Balko, corporations funnel far more money to the left than to the right.

How can this be? Balko points to a couple of contributing factors:

[L]efties tend to flock to non-profit and philanthropic careers more than market lovers, who tend to pursue careers in business....This means that leftists have taken over the philanthropy wings of corporate America. They've now risen to positions where they're signing the checks distributed by, for example, the Ford Foundation.

Does money from the Ford Foundation count the same as money from Bill Ford's personal checking account? The Feds may disagree, but I figure it probably does. Balko continues:

[L]eftist groups are great at arm-twisting for donations. Jesse Jackson and his Wall Street shakedowns are a notorious example. But the NAACP, NOW and the green groups are good at it, too. "Give to us or you hate women." "Give to us or you hate black people." "Give to us or you hate the environment."

The GOP hasn't asked me for anything, since I'm not a member, but I don't know anyone who's received a Republican fund-raising letter that boiled down to "If you don't give us money, you must be some kind of liberal."

Balko doesn't dig into the psychology of the matter, but I have to wonder if maybe some of the corporate types who write checks to groups which actively oppose their interests do so in the vain hope of buying, or at least renting, their silence: "Here's fifty grand. Please shut the hell up." I can't recall any instance in history when this actually worked, though I'm certainly amenable to an empirical experiment, price available on written request.

Looking out for number one

The Citadel/Clear Channel pissing contest goes on.

I mistyped the URL for KQBL, Citadel's country station in Oklahoma City, which is www.1049kbull.com, as www.kbull1049.com, and got sent to KTST, one of Clear Channel's two country stations in the market.

Incidentally, neither kqbl.com nor ktst.com will take you to either station site.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:48 AM to Overmodulation )
Will blog for food

Miss Christine takes a dim view of tip jars:

Blogging is NOT a job. Everytime I see a pay-pal button asking for donations so some schmuck can get paid for aimlessly rambling on a web page, I am insulted. Because really folks, that is exactly what it is. Self indulgent rambling. No one depends on your weblog for critical information. It's still more akin to some deep-seeded exhibitionist tendencies than news reporting.

Possibly even deep-seated, at least from where I sit, but I'm not quite so sour on the concept. Yet. If by some fluke of nature I start pulling 2,000 visitors a day instead of 2,000 a week, it won't cost me one dime more to operate this site. Let it become 20,000 a day (yeah, right), and maybe I'll get worried.

Besides, were it not for self-indulgent rambling, I'd have a lot less to read in the evenings.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 PM to Blogorrhea )
You could look it up

For poor Page, "RTFM" is honored mostly — make that exclusively — in the breach:

If you're a user, you're not expected to know everything there is to know about a system. Fair enough. That's why people like me are paid to write instructions, documentation, and manuals, whatever, for you. But if I take the time to write it, you can take the time to read it. Show some initiative, for cryin' out loud!

Unfortunately, this willful sort of ignorance extends into other areas of technology. I've been known to hang out on a couple of automotive message boards, and when the Same Damn Questions recur, I'm not above being snippy enough to tack on "Further details can be found in Section [whatever] of your owner's manual." And, sure enough, the next reply is I bought it used and I don't have one.

Well, why the hell not? You can't go to the dealership and plunk down $25 for something to show you how your expensive little playpretty actually works? I bet you spent more than that upgrading your goddamn stereo, you corksoaking icehole. But no, you'll be back here in three months begging for help with your "check engine" light because you can't bear the thought of paying the shop to hook up a scan tool.

And then I erase all that and type "See your nearest authorized dealer for a copy." Wonderful things, those Terms of Service.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 PM to PEBKAC )
21 November 2002
Bound to rebound

Dr. Earl Leathen Warrick, one of the "founding fathers", if you will, of Dow Corning, has died in Orange County, California.

Warrick, born in 1911 in Butler, Pennsylvania, devoted his career to polymers and elastomers; he invented silicone rubber and held, singly or jointly, 44 US patents.

It was a failed experiment, though, that perhaps brought Warrick his greatest fame. During World War II, Warrick and fellow researcher Rob Roy McGregor were trying to work up a synthetic rubber that could serve as a workable substitute in the wake of wartime shortages. "3179 Dilatant Compound" really wasn't suitable for tires or weatherstripping, but it did have quite a bounce to it, and they took it home to the kids. Dow Corning had no particular interest in selling children's playthings, so it was left for some astute marketing type to buy up lots of the stuff, seal it into little plastic eggs, and spread it across the land, where you and I eventually spread it across the Sunday funnies.

You can still buy Silly Putty today; in fact, you can buy Dow Corning's original 3179 Dilatant (call it Sensible Putty) directly from their Midland, Texas facility — if you're prepared to order at least two 50-lb cartons.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Blame it on the Casanova

Susanna Cornett is not one to mince words, anyway:

If a man goes Lothario on me, I?m likely to go Lorena on him.

I could argue, I suppose, that "that's not my style," but that would imply that I actually have a style.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:40 PM to Table for One )
Unintellectual property

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act doesn't affect me," you sniff. "I don't download music and I don't pirate software. All those people complaining about it — nothing but a bunch of thieves trying to justify themselves."

Well, think again, chum, and by "again" I mean "once." Storm Concepts operates a site called FatWallet.com; its members utilize an extensive array of message boards to swap information about bargains available online. Perfectly harmless, right? Then some big-name retailers threatened the site with legal action under the DMCA, claiming that their sale prices are trade secrets, hence actionable. Subsequently, FatWallet.com asked members to refrain from posting prices from those retailers, lest the lawyers escalate the attack.

Now ask yourself: Are people who are trying to save money thieves? If you're prepared to answer "Yes" to this question, I fully expect you to pay full MSRP on your next car, and to brag about it to all your neighbors. I expect you to call the police and complain about everyone in line during two-for-one Wednesdays at Whataburger. And I expect you to take the standard deduction on your Federal tax return for the rest of your unnatural life.

Or you can do us all a favor and fall on your sword right now. If you don't have a sword, get one. And don't expect a discount.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:36 PM to PEBKAC )
22 November 2002
Cannon fodder

Now here's a headline: Join U.S. military, degrade humanity. Is it Fisk? Pilger? Chomsky, fercrissake? Nope. Just an English major at San Diego State, unaccountably posted to the job of Opinion Editor at the student newspaper, who's already decided that those who wear the uniform of the United States of America are dupes at best. To give him the maximum amount of credit, well, yes, that qualifies as Opinion. I assume that it's based on his extensive experience with PlayStation2, since obviously he's not going to sully his precious bod with something as mundane as fatigues.

What do you get when you take the oath? Says this Opinion Editor, you get the opportunity to "be a tool for imperialism and bastardize human life all around the globe." Admittedly, more than a few of the troops overseas have gotten some of the locals in a family way, but I'm sure this isn't what he meant by "bastardize". "In actuality," he says, "our military is designed for aggression. In the modern world of diplomacy and nuclear capability, our need for physical defense is extremely less than the number of troops and size of our budget."

(Aside: What the hell kind of English major comes up with a phrase like "extremely less"?)

So in this modern world (apologies to Tom Tomorrow) there are but two options: diplomacy and nukes. If we can't talk Saddam into disarming, we can always roast him and the rest of Baghdad over an open fire. I'm sure this isn't what the kid meant to say, but it sure sounds like what he said.

And "when you join the military, you give years of your life to corruption and death. Today's soldiers are not heroes deserving of unconditional respect — they are enforcers of economic domination with blood on their hands." I've been out of the uniform for almost a quarter of a century and I resent the hell out of that; imagine how well I'd take it were I still a soldier.

Michele at A Small Victory has seen this sort of thing over and over again:

Not one of these cowards ever thinks of what would happen if the U.S. just disbanded its armed forces and sat back and observed the rest of the world in action. They never think about the consequences of not going into these countries, of not fighting for democracy and freedom. They only think of what will look good on their protest signs. They think they are so brave and daring, but the real brave and daring ones are out their making sure that this country remains a place where dissent can be voiced without fear.

I don't know how cowardly this guy is, but I'd bet he's got WarbloggerWatch bookmarked.

Oh, well, he's still young. He'll grow out of it. Right now, though, he presents a compelling case for reinstating the draft.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:51 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Nashville nattering (follow-up)

On the 8th of October, I said a few things about Tim McGraw's recording "Red Rag Top", chief among which was a statement to the effect that it was not, in my view, an endorsement of abortion.

In a comment to that post today, a reader from the "100% pro-life" camp amplified this statement, and this was the clincher:

No woman can respect a man that would let her kill their child.

In response, I suggested (perhaps feebly) that it might not have been her idea in the first place.

I don't think this topic is quite dead yet, so feel free to weigh in, either here on on the original posting.

23 November 2002
There's a kind of Hush

It's called Help Us Silence Hollywood, and it's getting some play in blogdom. The crux of this particular biscuit:

We, the undersigned, being of sound mind and strong viewership, would like to petition both Hollywood and the news media in order to restrain celebrities (movie & TV stars, pop & rock stars, producers, directors, etc.) from capitalizing on their celebritihood to sound off on whatever issue-du-jour comes rolling along to which they must bear witness. It is our deeply held belief that, on an extremely sunny day, only ½ of one percent of these stars could pass an entry-level college final relating to the political event for which their feet are oft found wedged deeply in their mouths (see B. Streisand, A. Baldwin, M. Moore, H. Belafonte, S. Penn, J. Fonda, W. Harrelson, M. Sheen, E. Asner, J. Lange, et al, etc., ad nauseam) and thereby merit no ink nor air time. It is ruinous enough for the civic culture to hear TV anchors who wouldn't know a "demand curve" from their elbow yammer on and on about the economy, but the glitterati sermonizing to us about America!?

It's clearly time to demand some evidence of educated brain waves prior to handing the public megaphone to celebrities. It is also our belief that if not for showing off their silicon, facelifts, and/or hairplugs on the silver screen, most of these knuckleheads would be modeling underwear at Wal-Mart, working third tier escort services in Jersey, or removing asbestos from tire factories in Detroit. And, as such, the news industry must restrain from entering these vacuous remarks into the public domain until said celeb has passed the appropriate college-level test corresponding to their tirade at hand.

Various examples follow. There's little to dispute in the description — for every David Duchovny, just this far from a Ph.D., there are likely dozens of Melanie Griffiths who barely escaped Krispy Kreme — but I'm not signing off on this thing. Hollywood types have the same Constitutional rights to make blithering, idiotic statements as the rest of us. Here in the Land of Blogorrhea, our job is to fact-check their asses, not to silence them.

(Muchas gracias: Rachel Lucas, who reproduces the complete text of the petition.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
You'll always find the unusual

Kambers has sold gifts and luggage in Oklahoma City since 1922, and for half of those eighty years, their TV spots were done by Eleanor Kamber, daughter-in-law of the founding family. It's a small sort of celebrityhood, to be sure, but I suspect anyone who spent more than a few months in this part of the world would have recognized her on sight. The store has moved several times — from downtown to Penn Square to Northpark to its current location on the eastern edge of Nichols Hills — but the one thing you could always count on was Mrs. Kamber.

That is, until this week, when health problems finally caught up to her; she died late Thursday night, at the age of 92. The store will remain closed through Monday noon, following services at Temple B'nai Israel. (Yes, Virginia, there are Jews in Oklahoma.) Her advertising tag — "You'll always find the unusual at Kambers" — is a local cultural icon, alongside "Boomer Sooner" and the B. C. Clark jingle.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:01 AM to City Scene )
Yugo your way

In 1985, Malcolm Bricklin decided that what the US market needed was a really cheap car, and the next year he began selling a couple of Fiat 128-based cars built by Zastava Motor Works in the Serbian sector of Yugoslavia. The Yugos sold well at first; in fact, they sold so well that the Serbs squeezed Bricklin out and took over US distribution themselves, which proved to be a serious mistake.

The bigger mistake, though, was selling a car based on the Fiat 128, a model so ancient even Fiat gave up on it after 1978. And the usual Fix-It-Again-Tony woes that dogged the 128 were just as evident in the Yugos. Production ended in the early 90s, at least partially because the Zastava plant was damaged in the Balkan war.

It is now 2002, and Malcolm Bricklin has decided that what the US market needs is a really cheap car. Next year he plans to sell a line of four vehicles not even slightly based on Fiats, built by Zastava Motor Works, using engines from Peugeot. No attempt will be made to claim any connection with the ill-fated Yugos of yore; Zastava's cars will bear its own badge.

ZMW.

Well, okay, no one will likely confuse any of these with those driving machines closer to the ultimate. The real question is whether American consumers, who generally prefer to buy loaded luxoboats, will consider something priced below even South Korean levels. If Bricklin can find 60,000 buyers a year, he'll make a fortune. If he can't — well, as Peter Noone once said, "Second verse, same as the first."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Driver's Seat )
And the language that he used

Jesse Walker, at long last, has seen a Dylan concert, and one thing perplexed him: the emcee's intro, which went something like this:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the poet laureate of rock'n'roll. A man closely identified with the '60s counterculture, who then disappeared into a haze of substance abuse in the '70s, only to find Jesus at the end of the decade. By the end of the '80s, most people wrote him off as a has-been, but in the late '90s he turned his career around with some of the strongest work of his career. Ladies and gentlemen, Columbia recording artist Mr. Bob Dylan!"

Walker wonders, not unreasonably:

Did Dylan write that long and not so flattering speech himself? Or was an overzealous announcer fired as soon as he stepped down from the microphone?

I'd like to think #2, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't #1 either. For some reason, Dylan seems to invite this sort of drivel; the fawning tripe Pete Hamill wrote for the Blood on the Tracks liner is the archetype.

And Walker reports that he'd thought briefly about yelling "Judas!" during the set, which, were I in charge of the accounting, would earn him lots of extra karma points.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:10 PM to Tongue and Groove )
You can leave your hat on

From somewhere in his vast Text Repository, Pejman Yousefzadeh read this:

[A]ccording to myth, God put hair on our heads to remind us of the presence of death.

This makes no sense. As I get older and presumably closer to death, there is less hair on my head. The urgency of the reminder is evidently diminishing.

Pejman, of course, will live forever.

More than a mouthful is improbable

For years, I have cherished the delusion that the true bird of love is the swallow. What was I thinking?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:53 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Cannon fodder (the sequel)

By now everyone has read the saga of Joe Zarro, kid journalist at San Diego State, who took it upon himself this week to badmouth the armed forces of the United States of America. The response from blogdom was immediate and forceful, which should surprise no one.

And it probably should surprise no one that not everyone at SDSU buys Zarro's mindset. In the next day's Daily Aztec letters column, Maureen Hammerquist of the University's enrollment services makes it quite clear:

I'm married to a man who has worn a military uniform for the last 18 years. He has always performed to his best and strived to better himself while putting his life at risk on more than four deployments and in more than two war zones. I take your editorial statements personally because of my strong opinion that your blanket statements don't accurately reflect the true duty of the men and women in service to our country.

My grandfather also wore a uniform and served his country in World War II. He then went on to serve for 22 years as a U.S. Congressman. Does this mean that he is twice the tool for imperialism and twice the "bastardizer"? You wouldn't think so if you knew what he stood for, and, gasp, in spite of the political party he represented.

That's the trouble with those damn generalizations: they're just so, um, general.

And finally:

As a spouse, I may not always like all the negativities associated with the military lifestyle, but I am proud of what my husband does and what he represents. He saves lives, and who knows, one day one of the lives he saves could be yours.

Let's hope that by then this kid's education has included a couple of courses in gratitude.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:14 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
24 November 2002
The divine warranty card

Note: I didn't write this. It was posted to Usenet many years ago and a copy has been sitting in my Temp folder all this time, and I figured I ought to do something with it.

***************

God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage. In order to better serve your needs, He asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions.

1. How did you find out about your deity?
__ Newspaper
__ Bible
__ Torah
__ Television
__ Book of Mormon
__ Divine Inspiration
__ Dead Sea Scrolls
__ Near Death Experience
__ Near Life Experience
__ National Public Radio
__ Tabloid
__ Burning Shrubbery
__ Other (specify): _____________

2. Which model deity did you acquire?
__ Jehovah
__ Jesus
__ Krishna
__ Father, Son & Holy Ghost [Trinity Pak]
__ Zeus and entourage [Olympus Pak]
__ Odin and entourage [Valhalla Pak]
__ Allah
__ Satan
__ Gaia/Mother Earth/Mother Nature
__ God 1.0a (Hairy Thunderer)
__ God 1.0b (Cosmic Muffin)
__ None of the above, I was taken in by a false god

3. Did your God come to you undamaged, with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes?

__ Yes __ No

If no, please describe the problems you initially encountered here. Please indicate all that apply:

__ Not eternal
__ Finite in space/Does not occupy or inhabit the entire cosmos
__ Not omniscient
__ Not omnipotent
__ Permits sex outside of marriage
__ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
__ Makes mistakes
__ Makes or permits bad things to happen to good people
__ Makes or permits good things to happen to bad people
__ When beseeched, He doesn't stay beseeched

4. What factors were relevant in your decision to acquire a deity? Please check all that apply.

__ Indoctrinated by parents
__ Needed a reason to live
__ Indoctrinated by society
__ Needed focus in whom to despise
__ Imaginary friend grew up
__ Hate to think for myself
__ Wanted to meet girls/boys
__ Fear of death
__ Wanted to piss off parents
__ Needed a day away from work
__ Desperate need for certainty
__ Like organ music
__ Need to feel morally superior
__ Thought Jerry Falwell was cool
__ Shit was falling out of the sky
__ My shrubbery caught fire and told me to do it

5. Have you ever worshipped a deity before? If so, which false god were you fooled by? Please check all that apply.

__ Baal
__ The Almighty Dollar
__ Left Wing Liberalism
__ The Radical Right
__ Beelzebub
__ Bill Gates
__ Barney The Big Purple Dinosaur
__ The Great Spirit
__ The Great Pumpkin
__ The Sun
__ The Moon
__ Elvis
__ Other: ________________

6. Are you currently using any other source of inspiration in addition to God? Please check all that apply.

__ Tarot
__ Lottery
__ Astrology
__ Television
__ Fortune cookies
__ Ann Landers
__ Psychic Friends Network
__ Dianetics
__ Palmistry
__ Alcohol
__ Bill Clinton
__ Amway
__ CompuServe
__ Jimmy Swaggart
__ Wandering around a desert
__ Insurance policies
__ Barney T.B.P.D.
__ Other:_____________________

7. God attempts to maintain a balanced level of disasters and miracles. Please rate on a scale of 1 - 5 his handling of the following (1=unsatisfactory, 5 = excellent):

a. Disasters:
  1  2  3  4  5  flood
  1  2  3  4  5  famine
  1  2  3  4  5  earthquake
  1  2  3  4  5  war
  1  2  3  4  5  pestilence
  1  2  3  4  5  plague
  1  2  3  4  5  Spam
  1  2  3  4  5  AOLers

b. Miracles:
  1  2  3  4  5  rescues
  1  2  3  4  5  spontaneous remissions
  1  2  3  4  5  stars hovering over jerkwater towns
  1  2  3  4  5  crying statues
  1  2  3  4  5  water changing to wine
  1  2  3  4  5  walking on water
  1  2  3  4  5  getting any sex whatsoever

8. From time to time God makes available the names and addresses of His followers and devotees to selected divine personages who provide quality services and perform intercessions in His behalf. Are you interested in a compilation of listed offerings?

__ Yes, please deluge me with religious zealots for the benefit of my own mortal soul.

The beat goes on

Cambodia is thought of as primarily a Buddhist nation, despite the best efforts of the communists to eradicate Buddhism from the country. There exists a small Muslim minority, known as the Chams, descended from what was once an Indo-Chinese empire that was destroyed by Vietnamese in the fifteenth century. The Chams' version of Islam is far removed from that of the bloodthirsty Wahhabi; Arabs, therefore, have taken it upon themselves to "purify" the beliefs of the Chams, and you can probably predict the results should they succeed.

Chrui Changvar has written up the details in Le Monde; Cinderella Bloggerfeller has translated the Le Monde article into English.

A tweak of the beak

It's a safe bet that no one knows for sure just how things are going to work out with this new ban on cockfighting. Last week, a judge ordered a temporary injunction against its enforcement in three southeastern counties.

Perhaps we can learn something from Kentucky's experience. Cockfighting has been illegal in Kentucky for over a hundred years, but it still goes on, and law enforcement gives it a relatively low priority; last year, Mike Hall, Pike County Attorney, asked about those priorities, snapped, "As soon as we get rid of all the drug problems and drunk driving and domestic violence, I'm going to ask the police to mount an all-out effort against chicken fighting."

I suspect this may take a while.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:25 PM to Soonerland )
25 November 2002
And the freezer is open

Temperatures pushed into the 70s Saturday, and that was the end of that. This morning, just about the entire state is below freezing, and it won't get much above that for most of this week. Mercifully, it's actually colder than last week's projections, which means that the freezing rain with which we were threatened will likely fall as snow, which is a lot less of an annoyance, especially if you have to drive to work.

(Typical normal range for this week: low 34, high 55.)

What I want to know, though, is whether gas prices will pick up again by Thursday. Right now, nonbranded outlets are vending 87-octane unleaded for a measly $1.119 — perhaps less in other parts of the metro area — and I have an 800-mile trip scheduled for later this week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 AM to Weather or Not )
Holding back

I think perhaps most of us have felt this way at one time or another:

Normally when I don't update, it's because I don't have the words, or they come at the wrong moments. I have the words now, the eloquent phrases that have spun themselves into poetry in my mind. I have the words, but forgive me for not sharing them. Some things are meant to fuel the self and be savored.

Few of my phrases are eloquent, fewer still lend themselves to becoming verse, but there are always going to be things I can say, but won't.

There are always going to be things I did say, but shouldn't have, but that's a tale for another time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to Blogorrhea )
Ahead of Tyler, even

How is this possible? "Madison...is now the second most popular name for girls in the United States." So reports Kevin Lauderdale, and by "now" he means "born in the year 2001."

There are, evidently, a lot of parental units out there who really liked Splash, or are hoping their daughters grow up to be Moxie. I mean, what other possible explanation is there?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:53 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Wired, or tethered?

The quest for Newer and Cooler Stuff isn't doing us a whole lot of good, says Trinity:

MaryJane, my 1974 Volkswagen Beetle, is still running, still beautiful, still anti-air conditioning, anti-power locks, anti-power windows, anti-anti-lock brakes, totally air-cooled, sputtering piece of good German machinery. I don't need an airbag. I don't need a rollover bar. I don't need cup holders, or a fancy extra outlet for my non-existent cell phone that doesn't keep me connected to the digital world. Technology is supposed to "free" us from our daily struggles, make our lives more convenient. Well, I don't think so. I think technology is just putting more chains and shackles on our limbs. What do I need a cell phone for? There are payphones everywhere. I don't need to fork out $35.00 a month for a nifty little phone that has games and a cute little 'N Sync-specialized ring and a corny message for my voice mail. I don't need a pager. Who is going to page me? God? Am I the President of Iraq? Do I NEED to be paged?

[Mental note: This is not the place to mention my nifty little phone that plays "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". Even at under $20.]

"Anti-anti-lock brakes". I like that. There's something vaguely disquieting about turning a major driving function over to a bunch of microchips; I still get slightly queasy at the thought of cruise control, fercrissake.

I'm not giving up my cupholders, though.

26 November 2002
Rooked in the Queen City

Rookwood Exchange, they call it, and when it's done, it will be a major commercial development along I-71 in suburban Cincinnati, valued at $125 million. And all they have to do is, um, get rid of the people who actually own the property. This might be a problem, since some of them don't want to leave.

Today, the Norwood City Council will consider whether to conduct an "urban renewal study," widely viewed as the first step towards seizing the homes under eminent domain. One problem: the neighborhood doesn't come close to meeting the city's definition of "blighted," which would seem to make the study superfluous — unless, of course, you're the developer and you'd like to force the issue.

The eminent Gregory Hlatky delivers some condemnation of his own:

Any councilman who votes for this study should be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail.

In response, they will probably enact a feather tax and an import quota on tar.

Want some seafood, Mama

Well, there's the Port of Catoosa, outside Tulsa, which actually supports a fair amount of shipping (barging?) traffic, but other than that, we're pretty much landlocked here in Soonerland. We don't care. You walk into Albertson's and head for the Butcher Block meat counter in the back, and you'll find that two-thirds of the space is used to display shrimp and fish and lobster and crab, and only a smidgen of it is that fake "krab" stuff made of ground mopheads. There were even dolphins at the Oklahoma City Zoo, until some of them took ill and the zoo eventually decided to close the exhibit.

No dolphins at the new Oklahoma Aquarium, which will open in the spring near Jenks. They expect half a million visitors a year, and I can't imagine them missing the target; we do love our wet stuff.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:51 AM to Soonerland )
Genuine draft

As a footnote to my sub-Strykerian contribution to Joe Zarro's fifteen minutes of fame, I said something to the effect that "he presents a compelling case for reinstating the draft."

Now if you really want a compelling case for reinstating the draft, I suggest this rant by Kim du Toit. And this bit I want to emphasize:

The maturing process... is accelerated. I've never spoken to a single person who did not admit that, one way or another, they grew up quickly in the Armed Forces. Once you have been subjected to the harshness of military life, you are less likely to complain about trivial bullshit once you are back in civilian life. You don't have to experience combat, by the way, for this to occur.

No argument from me. About a third of our BCT company, back in 1972, had come in through the draft, and for about the first week they pissed and moaned about the horribleness of it all. By week 7 they were practically indistinguishable from the volunteers.

The small-l libertarian side of me applauds the all-volunteer army on a purely philosophical basis, and I have no plans to pester my Congressman to reactivate Selective Service, but I refuse to believe that somehow we are a Better Place because we don't currently have a draft.

I don't have all my DA Forms 3686 from those days, but apparently once I made the lofty grade of E-2 I was pulling down the princely sum of $320.70 a month. Then again, it wasn't like I had a whole lot of expenses, and in the thirty years intervening, I have rediscovered the lost art of complaining about trivial BS.

27 November 2002
Carnival!

Yes, buoys and gulls, it's time for another exciting installment of Carnival of the Vanities, where ordinary bloggers demonstrate their talent for the extraordinary. (I can say that because I don't have any entries in the Carnival this week; the overall average will lurch upward a couple of ticks due to my absence.) Read one, read all, but read, dammit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 AM to Blogorrhea )
On the corner, 12th Street and Vine

Actually, I won't be standing at that particular intersection at all, but following Wilbert Harrison's lead (by way of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, with a wave to Little Willie Littlefield), I'm going to Kansas City. (Kansas City, here I come.) This is basically a command performance: the children have commanded that I appear, or else. And they're just shrewd enough not to specify the true dimensions of "else".

The downside of this, or perhaps the upside of this, is that there will be a lower level of bloggage through the end of the week.

(See? It's possible to make an announcement of this nature without any reference to a frozen dessert.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:58 PM to Blogorrhea )
28 November 2002
Up to date in Kansas City

Things I noticed today:

The foliage season is over in Kansas. Every last leaf has been blown, either onto the ground or into somebody else's yard. We're talking seriously bare trees.

Somebody thought "The Salty Iguana" was a good name for a quasi-Mexican restaurant.

And somebody went to the trouble of chalking "HI VICKIE" on the Woods Chapel Road overpass, easily visible from I-470. More visible, in fact, than most of the official highway markings.

Other than that, not a whole lot is going on. Yet.

29 November 2002
Until it's time for me to go

One does keep busy under these circumstances. Last night, we took a drive through something called Christmas in the Park at Longview Lake Park in Lee's Summit (remind me to find out just who the hell Lee is), with 160 or so animated displays using a quarter of a million lights. I decided the following: (1) I really, really hate daytime running lights on automobiles, and (2) there are some immensely-talented people in these parts.

Today I met up with Miss Christine, who runs the Narsissy blog. She was at work, but I caught her fairly early in the day, before she'd had time to get incensed at the sort of goofups (see 21 November) who insist on doing industrial-strength shopping on days like this, so she came off as incredibly likable — no surprise to me, of course.

Back home tomorrow, barring catastrophe.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:50 PM to Blogorrhea )
30 November 2002
Road noise

And the prodigal returns.

I realize that nothing, not even US highways, are forever — consider the bloody dismemberment of Route 66 in favor of a fistful of Interstates — but how many signs can you slap on one road? There's a stretch of I-35 through southern Johnson County, Kansas that's also signed US 50, US 56 and US 169. And they wonder why they needed those extra lanes.

They call it the Bedlam Series, the annual meetings between the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, and no matter what the sport — for all I know, they might compete in intercollegiate saxophone-polishing — the turnout is high. How high? I was southbound on I-35 at Oklahoma 51, the major route to Stillwater, and northbound traffic trying to exit onto 51 was backed up approximately 10.3 miles (figure 12:46 for "Black Cow", skipping "Aja", then "Deacon Blues", divided by 74 mph).

Speaking of 74 mph, turnpike service areas are your friend. Yes, they charge a few cents extra per gallon. On the other hand, when states like Kansas which are now putting entry time to the exact second on toll tickets figure out that they can compute your average speed when you turn in that ticket, a few minutes' layover at Phillips 66 may be just the thing that keeps your average speed below the speed limit. Of course, you can crawl along at 62 mph, but this irritates everyone else.

So much for tales of the turnpike. Regular bloggage resumes whenever.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:36 PM to Driver's Seat )
Titleist balls

Ravenwood, in the process of complimenting a blogger (who shall here remain nameless) for astutely-chosen article titles, observed:

I rarely re-visit the headline after the first go 'round. Perhaps I should.

The real question here, I think, is "Will a really good title bring attention to an article?" I believe that it will; in fact, although I read The Greatest Jeneration fairly often, I would probably have skipped over this item were it not for its title, which is so good I'm going to have to wait a discreet interval before swiping it. And if I had skipped it, I would have missed a good, solid Jen rant.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:10 PM to Blogorrhea )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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