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


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