1 April 2003
As projected here last weekend, the board of the Oklahoma City Public Schools will shut down seven schools after the completion of the school year in an attempt to save some money. Chairman Cliff Hudson said he'd rather close some buildings than lay off teachers.
It's going to be tight at some of the surviving facilities for the next couple of years.
Blogging from the shadows
Much as it pains me to do so, I must report that in thirty-odd months of daily blogging, I have received exactly the same amount of attention from the Professor (which is to say, zero, zilch, nada, zip, bupkis) as Kate has.
As distinctions go, I've had better.
Desperation is Job 1
Ford's current advertising tagline is "If you haven't looked at Ford lately...look again."
Unless you happen to work in automotive advertising, in which case you've probably already atrophied from the clavicle up, you're going to translate this in the back of your brain as "We don't suck as much as you think we do."
Even Ford enthusiasts are largely unenthusiastic about this pitch. I'll be surprised if it lasts as long as Buick's ridiculous "It's all good" slogan, since replaced by a lame evocation of mid-20th-century automotive designer Harley Earl, whose name is likely to have meaning only to the 70-year-olds who buy LeSabres.
But we're so diverse!
Jessie Rosenberg of the excellent Discriminations blog has weighed in on affirmative action as practiced at American universities not on the blog, but in the "Main Line Voices" department at The Philadelphia Inquirer. It's a "major fad," she says, and takes it from there:
The percentage of students categorized as "Hispanics" in a college means nothing. What about the percentage of radical libertarians? Speakers of Elvish? People who can recite the first 100 digits of pi? These are the categories that matter. I'm not a "white." I'm a physics major, a conservative, and my ancestors are from Russia, Ireland and Romania. I have no more in common with a recent immigrant from Germany than I do with one from Ghana, but I'd certainly like to talk to both as individuals. That's what diversity is truly about.
For the record, I am one-quarter Latino, have trouble with ten digits of pi, and have met only a handful of Germans and no Ghaniffs. :)
I wonder if speakers of Elvish will be present when the Supreme Court hears the Michigan law school preference case today.
They said it couldn't be done
I never have been able to come up with a good three-column layout for this site, owing to a dreadful lack of time and an equally-dreadful lack of talent.
Meanwhile, Phillip Coons forges ahead with four columns. Dayum.
2 April 2003
Stipe facing the music
And it's not a tune he particularly wanted to hear, either.
Gene Stipe, state senator since the Pleistocene era, has entered a guilty plea, admitting that he did in fact skirt election laws to funnel $245,189 to Walt Roberts' 1998 Congressional campaign. He could be fined twice that much $490,378 although it is not clear whether he will be required to serve any hard time. Formal sentencing will be in mid-June.
Just got my first look at the renovated acdouglas.com. Apart from the photo of Michael Moore in the first column, it's splendid.
The Food Police get into position
A bill being considered by the Connecticut legislature would outlaw, among other things, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in school cafeterias.
Section 1(b) is the crux of this particular biscuit:
No local or regional board of education shall allow the sale on school premises of the following items:
(1) Chewing gum, soda water, or water ice;
(3) Any juice product that contains less than ten per cent full-strength juice by volume;
(4) Any item containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil; or
(5) Any other item that contains more than eight grams of fat per one ounce serving.
What does the Law of Unintended Consequences say? The head of the Connecticut Food Service Association has an idea:
"Students would be left with no food choices. I predict students will either run to a local fast-food restaurant or go without lunch. Then what would we have accomplished?"
Why, we've shown them that when the government does something laughably absurd, it will be justified by telling you it's for your own good. This, of course, will help to develop the proper level of respect for law.
Pining for the fjords
According to Venomous Kate, Saddam Hussein is very much like the Norwegian Blue, with the possible exception of the plumage.
(Not via InstaPundit)
When NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr started his All Things Considered commentary on Peter Arnett today, I just knew he was going to take Arnett's side.
And I was wrong. Schorr castigated Arnett for "serving as an instrument of Iraqi propaganda."
I expect this will go up on Schorr's War Essays page later this week.
(Update, 9:20 pm: It's up now in RealAudio. Scroll to "Arnett's Disservice".)
Good God, y'all
Starr, born Charles Hatcher in Nashville in 1942, was one of the biggest acts on Detroit's tiny Ric-Tic label, with hits like "Agent Double-O-Soul" and "S.O.S. (Stop Her on Sight)", powered by moonlighting members of Motown's Funk Brothers house band. When Motown bought out Ric-Tic and the rest of Ed Wingate's family of labels, Starr moved to Gordy, where he continued to have hits, notably "Twenty-Five Miles" and the epic "War". In the late Seventies, he scored with dance numbers, and eventually, like so many American R&B acts, he found greater success in Britain.
"War", issued on Gordy 7101 in 1970, spent three weeks at #1; Starr's vocal and Norman Whitfield's Wall of Damn Near Everything production made this one of the truly unforgettable records of Motown's pre-funk period. "It had no responsibility for ending the war in Vietnam," noted rock writer Dave Marsh certainly no more than, say, Freda Payne's "Bring the Boys Home" but its status as cultural icon seems assured. And what is your record collection, or at least mine, worth without it? Absolutely nothing.
Say it again.
3 April 2003
Do you want to play a game?
The House has passed Governor Henry's lottery bill, by the now-usual 52-49 margin. HB 1278 creates the lottery, defines where the income will be spent, and directs the Governor to call the election, which he's planning for the fall.
There's a second bill Senate Joint Resolution 22 which calls for another election to amend the state constitution to permit this lottery in the first place. (The state constitution is about the size of a Chevy Suburban, and nowhere near as easy to work on.) We're still a long way from voting, but the hurdles are diminishing.
Saddam is dead, says Glenn Reynolds. While debate continues over whether he's merely dead or really, really most sincerely dead, Reynolds is willing to be put to the test:
If I'm wrong, all [Saddam or Osama bin Laden] has to do is to appear on video and repeat this: "No matter what it says on GlennReynolds.com, I'm still alive." Ten simple words.
To quote the Great One himself: Heh.
Waiting for the storm
You know it's coming.
There's a tiny space between the clouds where the sun shines just as bright as can be, but otherwise the sky looks like something you scraped out of a garage-sale coffeepot. You listen for the thunder and reset your mental clock to register in seconds. As you round the corner, you catch just enough reflected glare to make you hope for enough rain to wash the top layer of crud off the car.
You know it's coming.
What you don't know is what will come with it. Will it be straight-line winds, depositing the trash (and sometimes the trash can) from half a block away in front of my door? Will it be the sort of lightning that defines shock and/or awe? Will some galactic equivalent of Tiger Woods spend two hours on the practice tee at Cloud 8, propelling balls of ice incredible distances? Will it be, heaven help us, all of the above?
You don't know. All you know is that you know it's coming.
Or it might not. For every storm that stopped and spent the night, there's another one that took a detour and dropped on somebody else.
Welcome to Oklahoma. It's spring, dammit.
4 April 2003
Getting a Vedder perspective
Pearl Jam played Oklahoma City's Ford Center last night, and if anyone had been upset with the band for Eddie Vedder's Dixie Chicks impression the night before in Denver, it really wasn't in evidence. Before the concert, the band issued the following statement:
Dissension is nothing we shy away from it should just be reported about more accurately. Ed's talk from the stage centered on the importance of freedom of speech and the importance of supporting our soldiers as well as an expression of sadness over the public being made to feel as though the two sentiments can't occur simultaneously.
The determination of the exact quantity of spin contained therein, specified in degrees, is left as an exercise for the student.
And after a brief exposition, Vedder pointed to his close-cropped scalp and said, "How could we not be for the military? I mean, look at this effing haircut!"
Okay, he didn't say "effing". But that was the end of that. There was music to be played.
Paging the IATA
As far as the US is concerned, the major airport serving Baghdad is now called "Baghdad International Airport". Your travel agent, assuming he's goofy enough to book you a flight there in the next couple of days, will continue to use the three-letter code "SDA", which presumably is derived from the airport's previous designation as Saddam International.
Will there be an effort to change the code as part of the ongoing process of de-Saddamization? I doubt it. Historically, it's damned difficult to get an airport code modified, even if it truly sucks.
We lose a good journalist
Michael Kelly, columnist for The Washington Post and editor-at-large of The Atlantic Monthly, has been killed in a Humvee accident while traveling with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq.
Kelly, 46, who stepped down as The Atlantic's editor-in-chief last year to get back to his reportorial roots, was the first casualty among "embedded" American journalists. Under Kelly's guidance, The Atlantic had become less sleepy and more pointed, and pushed toward a centrist, occasionally conservative point of view, reflecting Kelly's own politics, the departure of Mortimer Zuckerman from the publisher's office, and the need to distinguish the magazine from the competition in general and the reliably left-wing Harper's in particular.
I have a feeling I'm going to miss this guy.
Okay, Iraq is getting "regime change" as specified. But to what is the regime being changed?
Lynn Sislo has been thinking about this:
The U.S. Constitution was not the beginning of democracy but merely a leap forward in the long evolution of democracy.
The Arab world has not been a part of that evolution. I am not saying that they are not capable of democracy or that they do not deserve it but extreme caution is needed to prevent "majority rule" from becoming a "tyranny of the majority" that might be as bad for some Iraqis as the tyranny of one man.
A tyrant with a mandate is still a tyrant.
Here in the Big PX, we're still fine-tuning our republic, though we've been at it longer than damned near anyone; still, we've got the basics down. And we should be pushing, not for some generic "democracy" that serves as somebody's personal fiefdom (yes, Mr Mugabe, I'm talking to you), but for a system that has a chance of making everyone's life better. Of necessity, it's going to look a lot like our system, and the time to get used to it starts right about now.
In the most recent chapter of his ongoing Book of Numbers, Oscar Jr. considers the postings on this site, and after applying the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula, determines it to be written at a grade level of 9.6: that is, between ninth and tenth grades.
I find this conclusion inarguable most of what I post is sophomoric, or almost so but there's a small credibility problem, in that Oscar, in describing his 11-blog sample, pronounces mine to be "popular". As if.
To the last detail
My current desktop computer was assembled by a local builder to my specifications, largely because if I'd bought all the parts myself and done all the scutwork, it would have saved me a whole fifty bucks and cost me the remaining skin on the knuckles of at least one hand.
Still, this is relatively easy to do for PCs: you pick a box and a board, snap in a CPU, add peripherals, get the freaking operating system installed on the fifth try, and you're done. It's decidedly more difficult when you have to select a consumer product that doesn't afford you a choice of interchangeable options; you have to be able to specify exactly the performance level required, and harder still, you have to be able to convey that specification to a retail person who's about to go on break.
If ever I have to do this, I want Sarah Bunting by my side. Here's how she went shopping for a cosmetic I think of as simple but she recognizes as incredibly nuanced:
I marched up to the makeup counter at Saks and told the lady, "I want a mascara that will stay on during a daring underwater escape, followed by a make-out session in the rain, capped off with a torrid shower scene, and by 'stay on' I mean 'not run, smudge, slump, leak, or move at all until I dip my eyelids in witch hazel laced with hydrochloric acid.'"
To me, this seems infinitely more complicated than, say, "512 megabytes of SDRAM".
5 April 2003
Keeping it on the Cam
Cam Edwards, who presides over the morning-drive news at KTOK in Oklahoma City, has started blogging, and there's bite to go with his broadcast bark. Linking to a piece by a Democratic Underground type who claims to live in this neck of the woods, Cam observes:
When you say something like "Speak the truth about the evil being done in our name," you should at least be brave enough to use your real name.
Like, say, that courageous Columbia professor Nicholas De Genova, who most recently distinguished himself by skipping a class he teaches, claiming he had received death threats after his "million Mogadishus" comment. What can be going through his head? "The use of force by the American imperialists can never be justified. Now where's that goddamn security guard Columbia was supposed to send me?"
Of course, with Cam on the scene, now I can concentrate on obscure pop-culture references, complaints about the weather, and fluffy bunnies.
Well, maybe not the bunnies.
We get letters
Margaret Atwood's "A Letter to America", which started out as an op-ed in Toronto's The Globe and Mail, tries very hard not to sound accusative or bitter, and for the most part it succeeds, but some of its points deserve a response.
What's being done to Iraq, she says, pales in comparison to what we're doing to ourselves. For instance:
You're gutting the Constitution. Already your home can be entered without your knowledge or permission, you can be snatched away and incarcerated without cause, your mail can be spied on, your private records searched. Why isn't this a recipe for widespread business theft, political intimidation, and fraud? I know you've been told all this is for your own safety and protection, but think about it for a minute. Anyway, when did you get so scared? You didn't used to be easily frightened.
The latter question is easily answered: 11 September 2001. However, it's no particular secret that some of our law-enforcement types have always had a wish list of things they would love to do if only that damn Constitution didn't keep getting in the way; the war merely provides an excuse.
You're running up a record level of debt. Keep spending at this rate and pretty soon you won't be able to afford any big military adventures. Either that or you'll go the way of the USSR: lots of tanks, but no air conditioning. That will make folks very cross. They'll be even crosser when they can't take a shower because your short-sighted bulldozing of environmental protections has dirtied most of the water and dried up the rest. Then things will get hot and dirty indeed.
We're definitely back in an advanced stage of Deficit Inattention Disorder, though the fact that the number of balanced budgets we've had in half a century can be counted on one's fingers without having to take off more than one mitten makes me worry just a bit less about the sheer volume of red ink. I doubt, however, that "most", or even much, of the national water supply has been rendered unusuable, and I can't bring myself to blame drought, which your standard insurance weasels consider an Act of God, on the Bush administration.
You're torching the American economy. How soon before the answer to that will be, not to produce anything yourselves, but to grab stuff other people produce, at gunboat-diplomacy prices? Is the world going to consist of a few megarich King Midases, with the rest being serfs, both inside and outside your country? Will the biggest business sector in the United States be the prison system? Let's hope not.
King Midas, as I recall, was just as capable of damaging his position as of enhancing it; there's a self-correction cycle built into the process. And for a "torched" economy, we seem to be doing pretty well: the war has business expansion largely on hold, but that's obviously a temporary anomaly, and some businesses are truly in trouble, but much of that trouble is due to failure to respond to public demand (the airlines) or attempting to keep a dead business model on life support (the record industry) or believing despite an utter lack of evidence that economies of scale can be derived from operations that really have nothing in common (AOL Time Warner).
If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They'll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They'll think you've abandoned the rule of law. They'll think you've fouled your own nest.
The world is a glass house let's watch it with those flying pellets.
There's no doubt that we could be doing a better job of upholding our own traditions. And one of those traditions is to blow off criticism from the postmodernist and premedieval sectors, neither of whom have anything to contribute to anything resembling a world dialogue. If we claim to have the moral high ground, it's not because we claim to have video of [insert name of deity here] saying so; it's because we have the track record to back it up.
Dear Ms. Atwood: Your concerns are noted, but don't worry about us. We'll muddle through this somehow. And thanks for writing.
For some time now, there's been some general uneasiness about the placement of items on Google's News pages. Now it seems that Google's very definition of "news" is arguable: The Register reports that corporate and NGO press releases can be, and occasionally are, considered to be "news" in the estimation of Google, and that Google has had to backpedal on its claim that the selection is entirely computer-based. How bad is it?
[A] search for "cluster bombs" on Google News yielded five stories, and four of them were press releases. Only one was a "news story".
I ran this search myself, and this time more than five stories came up, but the first few pages were indeed larded with press releases. Under pressure, Google has announced the release of official guidelines for what is, and what isn't, a news site, which are supposed to be due some time Monday.
A fortress deep and mighty
At JoniElectric, the statement that many of us would like to make but comparatively few of us have dared:
I'm on the computer because I wish to avoid human interaction.
Geez, if only they'd had these things at the start of the Eisenhower administration.
Actually, during the last two World Tours, I did manage to do the in-person meet/greet thing in a few instances, and I was startlingly successful (translation: there were moments when I didn't look like a complete idiot). I might do it again for WT '03 if circumstances permit. But absent a truly cataclysmic lifestyle change (translation: none of your business), I'd just as soon be left alone the other 49 weeks of the year.
(Muchas gracias: Venomous Kate, by way of no, I've already used that joke.)
6 April 2003
A monumental moment in history
One of the most curious incidents in Oklahoma history occurred literally on the first day of Oklahoma history. This was April 22, 1889, and settlement was being opened up in what was then known as Indian Territory, in a manner that was both highly unorthodox and uniquely American: basically, you park on it, you own it. Thousands of quarter-sections and city lots were claimed in the first few hours after the opening gun, and by the next morning, two cities with populations of 10,000 or so, their populations largely housed in quick-and-dirty shacks or hurriedly-pitched tents, stood where there had been nothing more than railroad stops before.
That was the original Oklahoma Land Run, which settled the central part of the eventual 46th state. An event like this seems utterly unimaginable in the not-exactly-freewheeling 21st century, which may explain much about why down in Norman, dozens of cast bronze figures are being assembled for the first-ever Land Run Monument, to be built along the Bricktown canal east of downtown Oklahoma City. Completion will take four years, but the first few figures will be emplaced later this month and will undoubtedly shake up travelers on the Crosstown Expressway.
Meanwhile, back at the left
I was relatively restrained, say the commenters, on that Margaret Atwood piece, and well, to me it seemed the appropriate timbre for a response: when you're scolded by a maiden-aunt figure, it's not particularly useful to lash out with intemperance.
On the other hand though the same wing some people are just asking for it. In this spirit, I give you Alan Bisbort of the Hartford Advocate, who offers the following under the implausible title I Miss America:
Next to the high crimes and low misdemeanors perpetrated by this Bush administration, Nixon's sins seem, well, if not quaint, then understandable within the context of the times. Even though he will forever bear the blame for the expansion of the Vietnam War with his bombings of Cambodia and Laos and the terrible "blowback" they bred it should be noted that Nixon inherited that war from two Democratic predecessors, that the largest troop escalations were done on Lyndon Johnson's watch.
Ironically, beyond these much more serious sins, the crimes that led to Nixon's impeachment hearings and resignation in August 1974 seem so, well, tame: he bugged the campaign headquarters of a Democratic opponent (George McGovern) whom all polls indicated he'd beat in a landslide in Nov. 1972 (he did). And, then, when the press discovered that this break-in led back to the White House, he covered it up. That's it. Sounds like standard, and unchallenged, presidential protocol these days.
Indeed, the crimes of George W. Bush ON A DAILY BASIS surpass the collective crimes of Richard Nixon's entire presidential career.
Say what? "On a daily basis"? I'll grant you that Watergate was every bit the "third-rate burglary" it was reputed to be, but the subsequent stonewalling came perilously close to being an impeachable offense, back when that term actually meant something. (The Clinton proceedings, I think, lowered the bar for impeachment to approximately the same degree that Clinton lowered his shorts.) Is there a Bush "enemies list"? The guest list on The O'Reilly Factor doesn't count. Has Bush moved to sack persons who might present a legal threat, as did Nixon with erstwhile Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and assistant AG William Ruckelshaus? Is there anything on Dubya's CV that looks even remotely like this?
Oh, wait, you're not through. Okay:
So, why aren't people more outraged by the current White House's abuse of power, unprecedented in American history?
What could be more criminal than to start a war by invading another country that poses no immediate threat? What could be more criminal than starting this war by using fictitious documents, photographs and threats of retaliation against countries, and longtime allies, that will not go along with this charade? What could be more criminal than to perpetrate, and escalate, this terrible bloodshed even as we speak? What could be more telling about this Little Caesar in the White House that, even as he needlessly puts our brave, dutiful soldiers in harm's way, he is cutting the benefits to veterans of previous wars? What could be more criminal than to loot the U.S. Treasury to conduct a blood-for-oil feud, then pass the cost on to generations unborn?
Let me guess: You're upset because we didn't send the Marines to Riyadh on the 12th of September. Oh, you're not? Wasn't that enough of an immediate threat? Or is it going to take mining the runway at Bradley International to get your attention? It obviously can't be some sudden concern for Iraqi civilians, since Saddam routinely whacked more of them on a, um, "daily basis" than we've managed in half a month so far. You want criminals, Al, you're looking at the wrong end of the pipeline.
And if you're this upset about some imagined "blood-for-oil" feud and by the way, in the unlikely event that anyone is engineering a trade, I take type A, RH-factor positive, and Castrol 10W-30 the very least you can do is refuse to participate. Separate yourself from all things oil-based. Sell your car. Rip out that heating system that burns up so many gallons of the wicked stuff every winter. It's the perfect day to do it, what with spring on the way, and what's that? Ten inches of snow due today? Well, damn. But we can't let mere weather interfere with Doing the Right Thing, can we? Put on your mittens and tear out that furnace.
I miss the America that stood up to Richard Nixon. Even Dick Nixon looks good to me now.
I'm a registered Democrat, and the fact that Nixon was President when I turned eighteen is a major reason why, but I'll tell you what, Al: when Connecticut secedes from the Union, I'll send you a couple of bucks to help finance a Nixon memorial in downtown Waterbury. Until then, if you're going to keep recycling this "Bush is Evil" tripe, you'd be better off keeping your trap shut or letting it freeze shut.
7 April 2003
Time stands still
I guess it always will.
Out the front door at the usual time. Temperature around freezing: check. Stiff north wind: check. Sunrise not even slightly in evidence: check.
Yep. It's the second week of February. I have no idea why all these postings are coming out with April dates on them.
The city of Moore, a suburban enclave between Oklahoma City and Norman, is considering a ban on tobacco use in municipal parks. It's not an issue of air quality, exactly: rather, it's that parents whose children participate in sports are apparently setting a bad example by lighting up a Winston between innings.
Tobacco is destined to become this century's Victorian erotica. Eventually, only rude old gentlemen will own tobacco products, and their heirs will be duly shocked when the estates are probated and the boxes in the attic are opened.
Amazement by the mile
Oscar Jr. is surprised, although I'm not sure whether this surprise is due to discovering that I am a registered Democrat, or to the fact that I admit it.
Actually, it's an ego thing: in the GOP I'd be just another member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy®, while as a Democrat I get to (pretend to) be the Voice of Reason.
The very basis of life, after all, is surprise. I mean, why shouldn't ABC switch to all reality shows, all the time? Why shouldn't Microsoft buy a blog? Why shouldn't Johnny Cash cover a Nine Inch Nails song? I mean, some of these things are even true.
Weapons of mass defoliation
Sarin gas? Nope. That facility near Baghdad was actually a production site for pesticides.
Then again, I was once hosed down with malathion don't ask and I assure you, I didn't like it much.
South Park overrun by Canadians
Despite my relatively high proximity to the place, I've never actually set foot in Colorado. And if The Fat Guy has assessed the place accurately, I may not want to:
I am severely under-impressed with this so-called Western state of Colorado. Where are all the hard-drinking mountain men and women? There's nothing but a bunch of ragamuffin, dreadlocked, stinky white kids in Birkenstocks here. But I know how I'm gonna feed myself in a few years just open up a ski/hike/bike shop here. None of them ever go out of business, and there are about 80 of them in spitting distance. It's an amazing economic study, and I suspect propping up by rich parents and spouses in a few cases. I mean, how many backpacks can one person buy?
I'm sure someone (probably in the People's Republic of Boulder) has calculated the optimum backpack-to-Birks ratio.
Connecticut is starting to look better as a vacation destination, despite the distance.
Debbie Hitler's looking for a husband
This is probably not the best time in the world to be named "Saddam Hussein".
Especially if you live in Norway, fercryingoutloud.
Saddam Hussein, a young Iraqi Kurd refugee who arrived in Norway in 2001, has petitioned the Oslo government to change his name officially to Dastanse Rasol Hussein.
(Muchas gracias: Jesus Gil, who probably has thought about changing his given name once or twice.)
8 April 2003
Meals Rejected by Ethiopians
Susanna Cornett's evocative piece about Army C-rations (which she at first misidentified as MREs, but no matter, and anyway almost all of her pieces are evocative) reminded me of my days in fatigues, so long ago that one's MOS was expressed in Roman numerals, and my first experience away from the mess hall, out on some practice bivouac.
Fortunately, I can't remember the song I wrote about one particular package I do know that it was hard as hell to get reasonable scansion out of any verse that contained "Ham, Water Added, and Eggs, Chopped, Canned" but two things I have learned over the years since then:
1. When you're hungry enough, minor aesthetic considerations fade into the background;
2. On most airlines, getting C-rations could be legitimately considered an upgrade.
Welcome to Planet Delusional
"Iraq," said Ambassador Mohsen Khalil at an Egyptian news conference, "has now already achieved victory apart from some technicalities."
Gee, you think this argument will work for the Kansas Jayhawks?
FrontPage news at The Ville
David Horowitz, whose evolution from Sixties leftist to staunch conservative has raised hopes in some and eyebrows in others, is inarguably one of the more interesting characters on the right side of blogdom. His Web outpost, FrontPage Magazine, publishes some excellent conservative writing.
And Brent at The Ville has snagged an exclusive interview with Mr Horowitz, which I just finished reading and which I recommend to everyone of every political persuasion.
The Agonist and the eczema
[N]obody plagiarizes MY stuff. I would be flattered if someone did, but only a really desperate, mind-numbed individual would WANT to.
Over the years, I've found bits and pieces of stuff I've done in, um, unauthorized mirrors. Sometimes it's almost amusing. Then again, if I were living off the income from this site, I'd be annoyed. (I'd also probably be starving, but that's another story.)
A reader's greatest fear
Things may have changed since The Lord of the Rings series began, at least for some people, but few things upset me quite as much as seeing that a book of which I am inordinately fond is about to turn into a motion picture how can they possibly do it justice?
Next month I have to come to grips with the BBC Films/Independent Distribution Partnership's production of Dodie Smith's late-Forties novel I Capture the Castle, a book I first read in high school and dust off every other year or so just to reacquaint myself with the residents of ruined Castle Godsend and to see if I'm still in love with Cassandra Mortmain. (I tend to be, shall we say, frustratingly constant in my devotion, particularly when it is not returned, which is almost always the case.)
I could boycott the movie on general principle, and there's always the chance that it won't play here at all after all, they may need extra screens for The Matrix Reloaded but even if I can avoid the theatrical release, I'll still have to contend with the eventual DVD. Fortunately, the canned synopsis floating around seems remarkably true to the storyline, and the Samuel Goldwyn company, which is distributing the film in the US, has a reputation for picking up the Good Stuff.
Then there's that R rating, about which I have some misgivings. Yes, there's some brief nudity in the book, but it's fairly nonsexual in nature. (Cassandra takes a bath; Topaz, the free-spirited stepmother, is wont to "commune with nature," which Cassandra decides to try for herself just once.) This, of course, reflects the collapsed state of my libido: I don't think I can handle seeing an object of my affection in her birthday suit. (I am, of course, amenable to testing this thesis.) And there's something a trifle disquieting about seeing something I read when I was fifteen being turned into an R-rated film. Still, this isn't exactly Disney material. Then again, neither was Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, at least at first.
9 April 2003
Exceedingly minor historical event
Be it noted that this site is seven years old today. (However, it reads at a 14-year-old level.)
And in a rare bit of theatrical timing, Ye Olde Site Meter, which picked up the count on the day this domain was established (at which time it read 6,444, the last reading from my original front page), has clicked over past the quarter-million mark. (#250,000 came in from Blogosphere.us, which would be filling the void left by the departure of Daypop if Daypop were in fact departing.)
Thank you all. I couldn't have done it without you. At the very least, I would have worn out the F5 key.
We have all been here before
Once again, Solonor Rasreth, more or less 50 percent elf, presents The Carnival of the Vanities Episode 29, more or less 100 percent good reading from your favorite blogs plus some you might have missed along the way. As always, it's not to be missed.
Some Canadian chap (I presume) wandered in here in the wee hours of the morning searching for "Venomous Kate" and photo. Of course, he went away empty-handed, unless he was typing with one hand to begin with.
What's odd about this is that Kate's Electric Venom site was the third site listed in the search results, above mine, but below two links to Acidman. If this suggests something, I don't want to know what it is.
"Hummer" is a trademark of GM Corp.
Please tell me this isn't catching on.
A clean muzzle of health
When last we heard about Danny, the Pekingese who took Best in Show at Crufts, there were rumors that the dog had undergone surgery before the event, and the Kennel Club was going to investigate.
They have, and this is the report: yes, there was an operation, but no, it wasn't intended to compensate for a cosmetic defect. The poor dog had a throat problem which was corrected, nothing more.
Greg Hlatky, who's had to spend a few zillion dollars on veterinarians himself over the years, has further details.
10 April 2003
Google's Kinda Like News
Last weekend The Register broke the story that Google News was actually accepting press releases from nonprofits and from corporate PR departments and passing them off as, well, news; some of you may have read about it here.
It gets worse. The Register has now determined that Google, far from allowing some presumably independent computer program to select its news links, is actually selling them, and the company is looking to hire someone to, um, "develop...relationships with news sources." And this, mind you, while Google maintains that placement on the Google News page is selected by computer.
I don't have a particular problem with paid links, so long as they are clearly identified as such; however, I would be much happier (as would The Register) if Google would spell out its policy on these things in something resembling plain English.
Neener, neener, Janeaner
ABC television is developing a sitcom to star outspoken war critic Janeane Garofalo as what else? a TV producer. No pilot script is available, so I have no idea whether Garofalo's character is the sort of person who, say, considers dictators like the late Saddam Hussein to be the moral equivalent of the American President, but at least one prowar group is threatening to boycott the network if Garofalo's show airs: "We do not wish to see the faces of liberal Hollywood," said a statement emailed to ABC.
Actually, her face isn't her best feature, but that's another issue. I have always been a Garofalo fan, but it's been increasingly difficult in recent months as she's sunk further into Hollywood's moral, um, quagmire.
Meanwhile, LGF's Charles Johnson would like to know if Janeane is planning to apologize to Dubya as promised.
Spammers are nothing if not indiscriminate; the turgid spew that constitutes the average penis-enlargement ad is bestowed more or less equally upon those who own a version of the organ in question and upon those who do not. This could perhaps be explained away as nondiscriminatory we are all wangs, says Frank J. but it strikes me as somewhat profligate: half of this advertising, in true John Wanamaker style, is wasted.
The latest of these annoyances popped into my mailbox with the usual pitch, an origin somewhere in Brazil (and a bogus "remove" address that appeared to be German), and the tag: "Bigger than Shaq's!" Now I know the NBA is overrun with bombast and boastfulness, but I don't recall ever seeing a reference to the dimensions of Li'l Shaquille. Is this something of renown that I've missed, or should I start pestering Snopes about it?
11 April 2003
Not zoned for red lights
DavidMSC, who used to live in these parts, may well be surprised at this. Or he may not, depending on how jaded he was back then.
Anyway, there's a fairly innocuous strip mall along Air Depot Blvd. in Midwest City, housing insurance agents, a Furr's cafeteria in one corner, a Kinko's in another, a children's dance studio and apparently a brothel.
The most interesting remark in the wake of the operation's bust was one by the owner of the dance studio, who said, "We suspected it was a prostitution ring from the day they first started moving in because they could never give us a straight answer as to what kind of business they were." I'm just wondering what they wrote down on the storefront lease.
Grover puts it over
If you didn't know Grover Norquist, you might let his name trip over your tongue and then you'd decide he's the sort of guy whose Hollywood-ized life story would be played by Wally Cox. But Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, is no milquetoast P. J. O'Rourke once characterized him as "Tom Paine crossed with Lee Atwater plus just a soupçon of Madame Defarge" and when the ACLU invited some prominent conservatives to join a panel this week on civil liberties in general and the USA PATRIOT act in particular, Norquist was in rare form.
According to a Jake Tapper report in Salon, Norquist, citing the tendency toward mission creep in law enforcement, something the PATRIOT act accelerates, quipped that few complain about it because most people think, "Do whatever you want to guys named Guido that doesn't affect me." But sauce levels between geese and ganders can be equalized in a flash: "Someday Hillary Clinton's going to be attorney general and I hope conservatives keep that in mind."
Ouch! Barbara Comstock at DOJ complained, "You can't pass laws based on the fact that you think there are going to be corrupt people who misuse the system some day." But at the very core of conservatism is the belief that people are flawed and some of them will mess up: sooner or later, there are going to be corrupt people who misuse the system. All the better, then, not to provide them the opportunity in the first place.
And Norquist wasn't through. "I would support legislation that would sunset all legislation passed during a time of war," he said. "And I would vote against any legislation somebody felt they had to name 'PATRIOT'," a cumbersome acronym he said was chosen because "it looks bad on a 30-second commercial to have voted against it."
No wonder this guy isn't in Congress.
A little bit of rhythm and a lot of soul
Eva Narcissus Boyd was the regular babysitter for Louise Goffin, daughter of lyricist Gerry Goffin and composer Carole King. One day, King was doing some keyboard noodling, Eva picked up the beat and started dancing, and Goffin got an idea for a lyric.
Goffin and King booked studio time and brought Eva in to sing on a demo of the new tune, which they intended for Dee Dee Sharp as a follow-up to "Mashed Potato Time", and when it was finished, they realized that they didn't need the demo or Dee Dee; here was a powerhouse single, ready to go. Issued as Dimension 1000 in June 1962, "The Loco-Motion", credited to "Little Eva", shot all the way to #1.
Little Eva scored a few more hits, plus a weird duet with Big Dee Irwin on "Swinging on a Star", then faded, but for a while, she had the hottest voice on the radio. And now she's gone, not quite sixty years old, though her record of course will last every bit as long as dancing will.
Everybody's doing a brand-new dance now....
For all of you demanding a picture of the new granddaughter well, here's a picture of the new granddaughter.
(If you missed the original intro, this is Laney Paige-Marie Hill, born 29 March at around three in the morning, six pounds thirteen ounces, and 18.5 inches tall. God forbid I should ever have to relearn these statistics in metric.)
(This was edited at 9:50 am Saturday to add the second paragraph and to reshuffle the formatting slightly.)
12 April 2003
Lunch is on him
Many of us, from Bart Simpson on down (or on up), have suggested to individuals: "Eat my shorts." And we say this, knowing full well that shorts are never actually eaten.
Well, almost never.
A friend drops off the blogroll
A blogger I know has decided to retire from the fray, and here's why (no link, she's pulling the goodbye page):
It was always my intention that I share [my] experiences with others in hopes that someone would be able to relate or possibly learn. Just being able to share my experience at all has been a great source of comfort to me. However, much of what I write I would never want my family or co-workers to have access to without my express consent. That is hardly possible when all they have to do is Google me and there it is.
I understand, believe me. Few people can maintain an open-book life; the only reason I appear to get away with it sometimes is because I hold back at least as much as I reveal.
From the net to the fishbowl: is anyone still surprised?
Where have all the liberals gone?
Jeff Jarvis draws the map:
[S]omething has happened to the left, or rather, its vocal leadership. It got hijacked by an orthodoxy of offensiveness that is, by political correctness, which cares more about words than actions or people, which stifles freedom of expression rather than protecting it. It got shanghaied by a not-in-my-name selfishness. It got coopted by a haughty condescension. This is not the left-liberal-Democratic movement of the masses; this is the movement of the elite; this is the PBS left. This is not the movement of action but of inaction. This became the movement of no-no-ishness, wagging fingers and tsking tsks at the other side; it became about being against something rather than being for something.
I like that: "the PBS left". They vote with their dollars for their particular news slant, and they bewail the fact that others vote with their remotes for some other brand. (And without getting any tchotchkes in return, even.)
13 April 2003
The blues, or at least the greens
I figure, I'm a Baltic Avenue sort of guy; I'd like to stay away from Mediterranean if possible been there, didn't like it but my aspirations don't rise much beyond Oriental or Vermont or Connecticut.
My daughter recently bought in on St. Charles Place, and while she was here in town this weekend, we somehow wound up doing a brisk impromptu tour of some of the higher colors on the board. We didn't get to Boardwalk, what with the big metal gates and all, but we did spend a few minutes on Park Place, and we hit some of the newer developments on the far side of Free Parking.
"When I see one of these places," she said somewhere around Ventnor Avenue, "I want to go up to the door and ask them, 'What in the world do you do for a living? How can you afford a place like this?'"
I said something like "You never know. Maybe the meth lab finally paid off."
We passed a teardown, where a grand old house from the Twenties was being replaced with something maybe more modern, certainly twice the size, and I pointed out that this was a small but annoying trend: "You'll find this sort of thing in new developments also: houses about twice as big as they ought to be for the lot. There's a whole subdivision full of McMansions that way." I gestured in the general direction of the Water Works.
"They have no yard," she complained. "I gripe about my yard, but at least I have one."
On the far reaches of town, we passed a new development going up. Gated, of course, and the sign contained the following requirement: Minimum 3200 sf.
"Thirty-two hundred!? That's three times the size of my house!"
"Fairly standard for new construction in this area," I said. "You live in 1067 square feet?"
"About twelve hundred. How could you possibly keep a place like that clean?"
"If you can afford the mortgage, you can probably also afford to have someone come in three times a week and cycle the dust."
"I wouldn't have it," she declared. "Seventeen hundred is big enough for me."
"Especially since you don't actually have it, huh?"
"Exactly." This child is way too much like me for her own good.
We took a run to the opposite end of town, to a development called Rivendell, mostly because I figured she'd be amused by the very concept, and somewhere east of Lorien Way (very much in the spirit of Marvin Gardens) I introduced the very same Monopoly metaphor I've been abusing here.
"I love these places," she admitted, "but I really don't want to live in something like this. It would be nice, though, to get a house up on St. James Place."
"It might at that," I agreed, and we turned around and headed back towards the railroad tracks.
And the Fates high-five one another
I believe I have discovered the point where laughing and crying converge.
Too many fossils in this coal
Lynn Sislo wants to know:
Why can't we sue software companies for being a pack of idiots?
Because we agreed not to when we clicked on that "I Accept" box in the installation routine, thereby legally binding us to their definition of "warranty", which translates roughly as "Tough tesseracts, Casper, you're on your own."
Of course, the very nature of software complex at the migraine-inducing level, yet viewed by the end user as nothing more elaborate than a garden rake almost certainly insures that we will view it negatively.
Something I wish I'd said
U.S. has Saddam's DNA, presumably from Peter Arnett's blue dress
As they say south and/or east of here, "Dayum."
14 April 2003
It only hurts when I awake
Although I'd just as soon not get a rerun of the last one, which was weird beyond even my standards.
Owing to some weird affirmative-action program, it seems I've gotten myself accepted at a college which shall go unnamed as a girl. Finding this more amusing than appalling, I duly show up to matriculate, only to discover that the Student Health Center is running chromosome checks on a random basis; apparently they've been scammed before. Still I'm resolved to brazen it out, until I discover that Penn and Teller, on a cross-country college tour, have arrived on campus, and not only do P&T have a reputation for exposing frauds, but Penn actually knows me from way back when. (So does Teller, but Teller isn't going to say anything about it.)
So, as Eric Burdon used to say, we gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do, and while searching for a way out as the forces begin to converge I'm due at the Health Center momentarily, and Penn's on the way to see me I find myself assisted briefly by a woman who has no particular interest in either me or my scheme, but who has decided that helping me escape will annoy the administration.
The only real question here, I suppose, is how much of a dosage adjustment this mandates before I turn into a ramblin' wreck. (Oops.)
We got your tort reform right here
The lawsuit...claims damages of $150,000 per copyrighted work...for up to 700,000 files.
For those of you who don't have a calculator handy, they are suing four college students for more than 96 BILLION dollars. And that's just ONE of the cases.
So, what you have NOW is, not only is the RIAA shutting down corporate websites who are trying to make money... NOW they’re suing college students, who can probably barely afford their next dinner not provided by the dining hall, and who probably make about $8,000/year, much less afford a lawyer for the years that they may be stuck in legal wrangling. It's ridiculous and it should make you sick to your stomach. See, there's another group in the United States that use similar strong-arm tactics to intimidate their marks into submission, but we try to put the Mafia in prison all the time.
Not that the record industry has ever had any connection to the Mob, of course.
Dick Cheney dip
Not an editorial comment: a recipe by Amy Langfield. What a friend we have in cheeses.
(Muchas gracias: Matt Welch.)
My personal one-strike law
Compared to the stereotypical Average American Consumer, I am way low on the Fickle-O-Meter. I still have my 1974 stereo (and quadraphonic!) receiver and speakers, and one magazine subscription that has run since 1978. I've kept the same bank account for twenty-eight years, despite the fact that the bank has changed hands twice during that period. In short, I am generally a loyal customer, provided you don't try to stick it to me and once you do, you're history.
Relegated to the past tense this afternoon: my long-distance company for the past two decades. (I won't mention any names, but I'm sure they made a mint off me during those months when I was always talking and talking.) Never before have I seen a firm actually lose an electronic payment. My bank was incredulous "How could they do that?" but after checking to see that yes, the payment was sent in a timely manner, and no, the recipient never heard of it, they promptly reversed the charge to my account. I wrote the offending firm a check for the entire balance and promptly switched my LD service to someone else offering the same rate. And if you've switched LD services lately, you know that this is not something to be undertaken lightly; anti-slamming rules, to prevent unauthorized changes, make authorized changes exceedingly cumbersome. Still, as the phrase goes, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.
And, just incidentally, the new LD provider was happy enough to offer me a better rate than what I'd had or what I'd asked for, once they heard I was leaving That Other Firm.
Where the Left is cracking up
Mark Steyn, in The Daily Telegraph, has isolated the discontinuity:
It seems very odd that the Left, which routinely bemoans the injustice of Barbara Bush's son having greater opportunities than the son of a crack whore in the inner city merely because of an accident of birth, then turns around and tells 20 million Iraqis that they have to accept their lot and live in a prison state forever.
Steyn's being overly generous. It's a farging travesty.
15 April 2003
1040 or fight
What to do with Saddam's stragglers, partisans and malingerers? Jesse White's Tax Day 2004 letter to Iraqi taxpayers posits one possible solution:
[T]ax collection is proving a surprisingly effective means to rehabilitate former functionaries of the deposed Ba'ath regime. Imprisoned veterans of the Fedayeen, who previously showed little interest in building a freer, more prosperous Iraq, have jumped at the chance to work for the new Iraqi Revenue Service. Commissioner Qusay is particularly interested in introducing something he calls Sirat al-Jahim, which I'm informed translates roughly as the alternative minimum tax.
Some things never change. [sigh]
If you scroll to the bottom of this item, you'll discover that Larry King has a certain fondness for thongs. At least it's not in the Marv Albert sense, thank heaven; still, there's something a trifle disconcerting, at least to me, about the whole septuagenarian-gawking-at-fortysomething-woman scene. (My father is 75, and his wife is 50, but I've never known him to gawk.)
Um, that was research, dammit, and I made a point of avoiding the more prurient stuff.
A matter of cooperation
This takes some serious choreography:
And Laertes and the Queen fall, and Fortinbras is left to find someone to mop up.
Or something like that.
Like I should give design advice
Nobody should have pinstripes in the background except, of course, the Baseball Crank.
(Another dandy Sekimori screen. Of course.)
Target of opportunity
How could I possibly miss this?
At Lucky Leo's Amusements, patrons who shell out $5 get to fire 60 paint balls at a human decoy dressed in military fatigues and wearing a rubber mask resembling [Saddam Hussein]. The name of the game: Shoot the Geek.
Oh, wait: I didn't.
(Muchas gracias: greeblie blog.)
16 April 2003
It must be love
Despite Ms. Wurzer's obvious elite media biases and her occasional failings as a broadcaster, I'm still crazy about her. Of course I'm an admirer of her looks, a tantalizingly inaccessible ice queen beauty. But I also like her attitude which is professional and polite, yet with a subtext of bitchy intolerance. And she conveys it with a voice that's warm and throaty yet slightly nasal, which always makes her sound as if she's just getting over a head cold. She is, in a word, perfect. (Inaccessible ice queen beauty, sublimated bitchy intolerance, and a head cold a uniquely Minnesota concept of eroticism).
Diane Rehm's kid sister?
Only in Oklahoma, it seems, can a feeble 0.44 inches of rain turn into a storm of epic proportions. The winds were blowing 40, 50 mph, occasionally hitting 75 or 80, and the power was cycling at semi-regular intervals, to the point where I started yelling "Don't even bother! Leave it off until it's going to stay on!"
Which, eventually, it did, and I awoke to an alarm clock with battery backup that had gained thirteen minutes overnight, and a VCR forlornly flashing "1:00" in the next room. (It's one of those newer models that automagically adjusts for Daylight Saving.) And something took out the central boiler, so this morning's shower was a special treat, with water seemingly imported all the way from Hudson Bay, kept at a scientifically-controlled 2 degrees Celsius for maximum discomfort.
We can't control everything, of course every spring storm is a reminder of exactly that but if we could, we'd probably muck up stuff worse than we have. And I really don't think we could improve much on this morning's full moon, a picture right out of your Kids' First Book of Astronomy, low enough to the horizon that if you stayed in the left lane, you'd think you could drive right up to it.
But . . . 0.44 inches of rain? That brings us up to just about four inches for the year, at a time when we've normally had seven or eight. Too early to mention the D word, maybe, but I have a feeling this summer is going to be a scorcher.
Not one bodice ripped
Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl. I don't know what percentage of literature follows this basic pattern, but it's got to be considerable; writer-director Preston Sturges, in the Forties film The Palm Beach Story, sums up all this arcane man/woman stuff as "Topic A", and he wasn't exaggerating a bit.
If you tell the tale from her point of view, you inevitably end up with something called the Romance Novel, a genre of fiction scorned by readers of lad mags and embraced by women (and a few men) for whom this simplest of stories neatly splits the difference between fantasy and fact. Susanna Cornett, a respected fantasy figure in her own right, has done, shall we say, lots of research in this area:
I have, in my life, read literally thousands of romances, and I still get breathless over a hunky Aussie rancher.
Said rancher is an archetype: if you seek to win her heart, a resemblance to him is a definite plus. And truth be told, I'm not exactly immune to this sort of thing myself.
Scare quotes, I'm gonna miss you most of all
Okay, it's not like PETA was selling ad space to KFC or anything, but it's still weird. (Click here for a larger version, including the URL of the site where, quite by chance, it was found.)
17 April 2003
And we need new logos, too
Beginning June 16, Spike will be the latest moniker for The National Network (TNN), which changed its name two years ago from The Nashville Network.
Hmmm. I wonder if this sort of thing will catch on elsewhere in the cable industry....
You know, this could work.
The gift that keeps on giving
The lovely Michel no longer has to go through life as a 34A; she has successfully raised $4500 at her Web site to cover the costs of, um, rack renovation.
No word on whether she's going to raise any additional funds for a back brace.
(Via The Register)
It's Carnival time once more
Make mine zinc
Head of marketing: "OK, does anyone here know anything about science? What's better than platinum?"
Designer: "My computer is made of titanium. It's pretty solid. And the screen is huge. Have you seen that commercial with Mini Me and..."
Everyone: "Titanium! Of course! That's the answer!"
There's just one problem with that answer: titanium cards are not necessarily better than platinum. They may carry platinum-level credit limits, but they may not have platinum-level bells and whistles. Neither Visa nor MasterCard defines titanium benefits; these are determined by the individual card issuer. Gold and platinum cards, however, come with standard benefit packages.
The back of MasterCard's current Platinum Cardholder Benefits guide offers this hint:
These benefits are provided exclusively with MasterCard Platinum cards that have a credit line of $2,000 or more, or otherwise with cards expressly offered with such benefits by the issuer.
And only a few of them are provided with my titanium card; I get no roadside assistance or extended-warranty protection from it. (I do have a platinum card from another issuer, which explains why I have the benefits brochure.) Of course, this should be obvious: titanium see your periodic table is lighter than either gold or platinum.
Wonder what I can get with a depleted-uranium card?
18 April 2003
The world according to Jesse Jr.
I don't always call attention to a new Vent, sometimes because it's intensely personal and I'd just as soon not have everyone read it right away, and sometimes because I can't believe I wrote something that ridiculous. (These two situations, incidentally, are not at all mutually exclusive.)
On the other hand, the current issue, #337, might actually be of interest. "Saint Paul" at the Minnesota blog Fraters Libertas dug up some House resolutions authored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), and I found them sufficiently appalling to reprint.
With commentary, of course.
The post-Gaylord era starts here
There have been many dynasties in American newspaper publishing, but few of them lasted as long, with as few members, as the Oklahoma Publishing Company's Gaylord family.
Edward King ("E. K.") Gaylord bought into the struggling Daily Oklahoman in 1903; by 1918, he was running the place. And E. K. continued to run the place for decades, which prompted local wags to point out that son Edward L. Gaylord would be at retirement age by the time E. K. stepped down.
As it turned out, E. K. never did step down. In May of 1974, the 101-year-old publisher sat down at his desk for the last time, and never got up. Edward L., then 55, quickly assumed command, and never let go.
Until now. Edward L. Gaylord has announced he will retire from the paper next month; former Oklahoman advertising director David Thompson will return to take over as publisher, and Ed Kelley, who has been overseeing the editorial page, will become editor. The family connection will continue: Christy Everest, Edward L.'s daughter, is already serving as president of OPUBCO.
I really don't expect any changes at the paper: it's privately held, deeply (sometimes wackily) conservative, and perplexed, like many American dailies, by stagnant circulation figures. Still, The Daily Oklahoman has outlasted all its competitors the last, The Oklahoma Journal, folded in 1980 and I can't imagine it going away no matter what sort of gee-whiz technological media appear in the next century or so.
Why stop at Spike?
As mentioned here previously, The Nashville Network/The National Network/The New TNN is about to morph into Spike.
TeeVee's Philip Michaels has a better name for it.
Movin' on up to the East side
I dunno. I could afford to buy in, I suppose, but I suspect the upkeep would kill me.
(Muchas gracias: Nova H.)
What about protecting the wetlands?
About 350 entries ago, I posted something vaguely concerned with body hair on women, and to this day I still get four or five hits a day from Googlers searching on the term "bikini wax", despite the fact that I'm way, way down the list, about sixty pages below Ken Layne.
And if said search-engine users were disappointed before, they're going to be more so now, since I'm speaking, not of the Brazilian bikini wax, but the North Dakotan bikini wax (if images of Grant Wood's American Gothic are now rushing through your head, I'll have what you're having), which is now legal in the Not-Quite-Saskatchewan State as of August first, just in time for pre-winter.
19 April 2003
Rachel Lucas may think she's released her Inner Dork by listening to Lionel Richie, but in reality, she's simply responding to that easiest-to-spot, hardest-to-explain part of every good pop record: the Hook.
And she says so herself:
The whole song [Richie's "My Love"] is good, but the best part is one little syllable. After the little instrumental part with the flute where he says "anymore" three times, Lionel goes, 'oh' just before launching back into the chorus.
That little 'oh' is just awesome. He says it like he means it. Listen to it if you can you'll see what I mean.
I know what she means. Every great 45 of the last 60 years or so has one part that's just a little bit greater, a section that reaches out and grabs you by the ear. In, for instance, "Give Him a Great Big Kiss", the Shangri-Las' best record (if not their biggest), the hook is in the second call-and-response, where the music, except for the rhythm, fades away and the most important question of them all is dealt with directly:
"Whaddaya mean, is he a good dancer?"
"Well, how does he dance?"
You can practically see the sigh: "Close. Very, very close."
And sometimes the hook is there because it isn't there. Toward the very end of "Turn! Turn! Turn!", the Byrds intone, "A time for peace / I swear it's not too late," and suddenly the song is grinding to a halt except that you're counting, two, three, four, filling in the space before the return of the drum and the beginning of the outro.
Self-important artistes scorn the hook. And they wonder why their CDs sit on the shelf.
Looks like a war zone
Electricity and running water are scarce in postwar Iraq. I know this because NPR has managed to mention this situation on every single program this week except maybe Car Talk. The ill-concealed subtext: we have no idea how these poor people are suffering, since nothing like this ever happens over here.
This conforms to a basic leftist recipe: mix compassion and smugness, beat endlessly, bake halfway. The icing on this particular subtextual cake: it's completely wrong.
I wish to register a complaint
Dear Sir or Madam:
For some unaccountable reason, this month's subscription copy was fitted with the wrong cover, an error which stood out blatantly. I mean, a magazine that does not have Jennifer Aniston on the cover? What were you thinking?
I expect to be mailed a copy of this issue with a suitably Jencentric photo on the cover, or, should none remain available, an extension of my subscription to compensate for the loss. I feel that this is a perfectly reasonable request; unlike, say, Ravenwood, I am not threatening to cancel forthwith.
Thoughts on the 19th
Actually, I worked diligently at not having any thoughts on the 19th, but thunderstorms this morning immediately prompted "Geez, I wonder if this is going to affect the memorial service downtown?" and that was the end of that.
And yes, the ceremony to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was affected it had to be moved indoors because of the weather but there was no way it was going to be stopped.
The tradition of 168 seconds of silence at 9:02 am was observed. General Rita Aragon of the state's Air National Guard received two flags from the memorial, one of which will be delivered to General Tommy Franks at Central Command. (General Franks, you'll remember, got his commission in 1967 at Fort Sill, just down the road.)
Venomous Kate weighed in today with the thought that Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the bombing and subsequently executed, got off easy:
Say what you will about capital punishment (but don't say it to me because my views won't be swayed on this), but dying by injection is humane. It is easy. Sterile. There is no way that the dread he felt waiting on death row, walking down that corridor for the last time, or having his arm swabbed before the needle plunged in could ever measure up to the heart-beat of terror his victims felt as the sound of the blast ripped through their ears and the weight of the building fell on them.
I'm not so sure I want capital punishment to be particularly gruesome there have been moments when I wasn't entirely sure I wanted capital punishment at all but were it possible to bring him back to life and execute him again, again, and yet again, once for each of his 168 victims...no, that's not enough either.
20 April 2003
PBR for our times
The late Waylon Jennings sang of getting "back to the basics of love" in a relentlessly-untrendy place: Luckenbach, Texas. Shortly thereafter, of course, Luckenbach became hip, and eventually succumbed to a disease once described by Zen master Yogi Berra: "It's so crowded, nobody goes there anymore."
Bret Schulte of The Washington Post sees the beginning of another back-to-the-basics movement, this one packaged in bottles and cans:
Pabst Blue Ribbon, a forgotten if not forsaken brand, once the solace of the beleaguered working man, and, regrettably, a beer often associated with what people in polite company call "trash," has staged a surprising comeback. The resurgence is mostly among young adults, led by colleagues such as snowboarders and indie filmmakers.
Sales of Pabst are up 5 percent; package sales (as distinguished from over-the-bar sales) are up 12 percent. You could explain part of this as being simply a reflection of the general lack of health in the economy, but while PBR is cheap, there is no shortage of cheap beers out there. There's another factor at work here:
Pabst caught on among some elusive Gen-Xers for other reasons, namely because of what it isn't: mainstream.
The popularity of PBR is a lesson in reverse psychology. Young adults have taken to the beer because it wasn't forced down their throats. Like ugly clothes and extreme sports, Pabst's value lies in its expression of individuality and choice, a rejection of consumer society by those who feel manipulated by it. Pabst's selling point is its distinct unpopularity, its unself-conscious existence among beers that reinvent themselves as regularly as political candidates.
Of course, this lack of trendiness is itself sort of trendy, and fads die as quickly as they are born, but it does my old blue-collar heart good to see people bellying up to the bar and ordering the sort of beer that the self-proclaimed cognoscenti actively scorn. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a Falstaff revival.
Update, 6:55 pm, 21 April: Fritz Schranck will have you know that there were beers, even beers produced by Pabst, that didn't come up to the high standards of PBR.
I was restocking Coca-Cola this weekend to the dismay of health-care professionals, dentists, indeed everyone except the supermarket, I go through an amazing quantity of the stuff when I had the bright idea of checking out the competition. I don't mean Pepsi or Royal Crown; I'm familiar with them, and I grab a bottle of RC now and then to revisit my younger days, when a carton of RC was the favored promotional giveaway by the local Top 40 station and I was desperate for free stuff. (Besides, She Who Is Not To Be Named...but never mind about that.) What I mean are the new Muslim-oriented knockoffs, conceived (I presume) in response to the opening of a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Israel, both of which promise to kick in some of their receipts to, um, causes of interest to their customers. Not being particularly willing to import any of this stuff, I settled for browsing their Web sites.
Qibla-Cola, which pledges on every bottle "10% of profit to 3rd world causes", may seek to position itself as the anti-Coke, but it emulates the Coke model almost entirely: in addition to the flagship brand, there are Qibla 5 (Sprite), Qibla Fantasy (Fanta Orange), and Qibla Water (Dasani), and diet versions of all but the latter. No Qibla al-Pibb yet, but give them time. The Qiblas come in 500ml and two-liter bottles; cans are promised soon. Qibla-Cola's ad flyer (a two-meg PDF file, which strikes me as overkill) proclaims "Time to make a choice!" and presents the slogan: "Liberate your taste." Almost amusing, really.
On the other hand, Mecca-Cola is deadly serious. How serious? Their slogan is in French: "Ne buvez plus idiot, buvez engagé!" And, indeed, the parent company is called Mecca-Cola Beverages France. (They're hiring, incidentally.) Even the English-language pages contain the French slogan, translated as "No more drinking stupid, drink with commitment!" Mecca-Cola kicks in 20 percent of net profit to its causes, half to "Palestinian childhood" (does this include Semtex?) and half to local NGOs in its distribution areas. In a bizarrely Cokelike gesture, their signature product is called Mecca-Cola Classic.
I have, of course, no idea how these concoctions taste, but I suspect they're at least potable, perhaps on par with, say, budget-priced Wal-Mart knockoffs. And it's probably a Good Thing to see Muslim capitalism at work, if only because there are going to be imams here and there who are appalled by the whole concept. Still, pouring money into Palestine is rather like well, drink enough cola, regardless of brand, and the metaphor becomes obvious.
21 April 2003
Smoke 'em if you got 'em
Licensed to Kill, Inc. is a Virginia-based tobacco company. I think. Certainly that's what it says in their corporate charter. Whether they'll actually market any of their product line remains to be seen: certainly I haven't seen any at the local stores yet. Still, considered solely as a vendor of agitprop, they're already way ahead of those schnooks at the American Legacy Foundation.
The chromed exhaust of Dorian Gray
Occasionally staff meetings get off-topic given the topic, this is usually more a blessing than a blunder and one of our younger mediumwigs (a step below the bigwigs) acknowledged that yes, he'd added some custom bits to his car, and he was grateful for our fulsome praise. "It makes me feel like a kid again," he said.
Being twice this, um, kid's age, I thought about this for a moment, then tried to figure just what I could do in the realm of automobilia to rejuvenate my old, decrepit self. Most bolt-on baubles are horrendously tasteless, and I'd certainly want to avoid that. (Our staffer's installation, by comparison, is relatively restrained, and will not be mocked here.) But aside from, oh, 70 or 80 more horses under the hood not available without serious mods and a seat more Barcaloungeresque, I really couldn't think of anything I could do to improve my daily ride. Chaps this age suffering from the stereotypical mid-life crisis usually go and trade for a BMW 5-series if the budget permits, or a bitchin' Camaro if it doesn't; I don't see these as reasonable options at this time. Besides, the Camaro is out of production, a blow not only to us recidivist adolescent wannabes, but also to thousands of women named Donna.
Besides, I don't particularly want to feel like a kid again; I was a weedy, inept, generally unwanted kid. I'd just like to find some way to stop feeling so damned old.
I don't know why I didn't think of this:
"I want a well-paid job. I have no imagination, I am anti-social, uncreative and untalented," read an advertisement posted by Angelika Wedberg, 30, in the [Swedish] daily Goteborgs-Posten on Sunday.
Actually, I know why I didn't think of that; the slots at 42nd and Treadmill that fit that description are already filled, and have been for some time.
Zircon in the rough
You know the joke:
"Is that a real Rolex?"
"Well, if it ain't, I'm out twenty bucks."
Adjust for inflation: something called QualityWatchWorld spammed me today with an offer of, and I quote, "Italian-crafted Rolex only $65 - $140!!" This, I presume, would look splendid hanging on my wrist as I drive my Burmese-built BMW over to Philly's Phaux Phurs.
Something called ATWGS is mentioned in the fine print, so I decided to run them through the search engines, and found this, which is a bit more upfront:
If you are looking for the ideal gift but would prefer to spend $50-$200 on Italian or Japanese crafted replica, don't hesitate.
From the looks of things, this spam has been around awhile. Meanwhile, I'll look elsewhere for the "ideal gift," thank you.
A soul whose intentions are good
Fiery singer Nina Simone, a classically-trained pianist who perhaps found her greatest fame as an American civil-rights icon the searing "Mississippi Goddam" ("and I mean every word of it"), written in 1963 in response to the bombing of an Alabama church, is only the beginning died today at her home in France. She was seventy years old.
Simone's influence far exceeded her meager chart placings (only one Top 40 hit): her 1959 recording of "I Loves You, Porgy" is definitive, and she inspired artists as disparate as Aretha Franklin, who covered Simone's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" to stunning effect in 1972, and the Animals, who pounced on her 1964 single of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and turned it into a British Invasion smash.
(Dear Page: Thank you for passing this on.)
22 April 2003
This time of year, I generally emerge from the front door about ten minutes before sunrise, and there's a chorus to greet me: hundreds, maybe thousands, of local birds, some small, others not so small, all chirping and cheeping and twittering and those other verbs we use to make their sounds seem insignificant compared to our own. Two octaves of this stuff, staccato here, fermata there, a quarter-rest somewhere in the mix if you're really paying attention, and while I have to assume that most of them are oblivious to my presence a few designated guardians have presumably issued an Intruder Alert, which I, the visiting dullard, cannot distinguish from the flow of conversation there's still the sense that they're putting on a show, that they've waited all night for this.
Much is made these days about how our urban landscapes are supposedly inhospitable, even hostile, to life, usually from people who seem to believe that everybody should live in a facsimile of the San Diego Zoo. Life, of course, pays no attention to these people. And tomorrow, same time, same trees, the avian chorus resumes.
The manufacturer of Plan B, a so-called "morning-after" pill designed for after-the-fact birth control, has requested the FDA to take the drug off prescription status.
I don't have a problem with the concept generally please note, this is not RU-486, the so-called "abortion pill", or a variant (486DX?) thereof but one question gnaws at me: Plan B is, in essence, a standard contraceptive pill packing a very high dosage. Routine doses are still on prescription. (As George Carlin grumbled back in 1971, "You still need a note to get laid.") There's something slightly weird about having to get a prescription for a standard dose of something while the blockbuster dose is right there on the shelf next to the Pepto-Bismol. If the FDA approves the change for Plan B, shouldn't all contraceptives of this sort come off prescription? If your answer is something like "Good Lord, nine-year-old girls would be buying them," you can see why I might be concerned.
I hasten to add that my interest in this is purely academic: my children are grown and can make their own decisions, and, well, it's not like I'm going to be putting anyone in any particular jeopardy.
Eliminating We Five and U2, but not Them
Phil at The Third Kind announces that his band will now be known as The Fragments, and offers this theory on naming bands:
The band names that are easiest to remember and get recognized more easily are either plural nouns with the word "the" in front, or single-word names.
The Beatles; Cream. Seems reasonable enough.
To cite an exception: Whatever happened to The The? And are the two Thes pronounced the same, or should they be different? (I tend to read it as "thuh THEE".) Then again, should I really care about a band that has a link to Robert Fisk (yes, the Robert Fisk) on its front page?
From the Department of Official Denials
So far as I can ascertain, it is not true that Oil-Dri Corporation of America, the manufacturer of JonnyCat litter, forced The Blogger Formerly Known As Juan Gato to give up his name so as to facilitate the company's expansion into the Mexican market.
Repeat: So far as I can ascertain, it is not true. It's a filthy lie.
Fearless five-day forecast
It's going to rain if not tonight, then tomorrow, and certainly by Sunday.
It has to. This is the week of the downtown Festival of the Arts, and the Fates would like nothing better than to see 150,000 people (a reasonable daily attendance figure) soaked to the gills.
The same rule applies, incidentally, to the State Fair of Oklahoma in the fall.
Robert Fisk, cash cow
Vin Crosbie at Poynter Online reports that the British newspaper The Independent, in an effort to make some money off its site, will charge £1 for online articles by Robert Fisk.
Actually, if The Independent really wants to make some serious cash, what they should do is register Robert Fisk's name as a trademark, and then demand royalties every time a blogger Fisks somebody.
(Via Jeff Jarvis, who asks, "Did they ever think that the readers of Alternet don't have disposable income?")
(Update, 24 April, 11:20 am: ScrappleFace notes that Congress was considering a bill to impose Fisking royalties six months ago.)
23 April 2003
Every week, the Carnival of the Vanities is fresh and new, and this week's edition at The Kitchen Cabinet, the thirty-first in the series, is no exception. Drop in and do some baskin'.
Getting a handle on spam
The new Oklahoma anti-spam law, signed yesterday by Governor Henry, strikes me as relatively toothless. It does prohibit spoofing email or Web addresses, and it does require ads to state that they are ads in the subject lines porn ads must contain the string ADV-ADULT but until there are provisions to hunt down spammers and disembowel them on streaming video, there will be little or no effect on the state's email users.
The trouble with take-home pay
I can definitely relate to this:
I just closed the deal and sold my first fine *cough* art piece. The money from selling my stained glass window is enough to get me an extra month's ren—
Um, enough to cover rent and make life a little easi—
"Psst. Over here."
What? Who's there?
"It's your camera, I really could use some more memory. I saw a 128meg card on sale."
No. Later, ok?
"Hell-ooo? Darrrling! It's your wardrobe talking. Is it 1998 again? You really need some new digs, sweetie."
No! You're inanimate objects! You're not supposed to talk! Ahhhh!
About the only way to avoid this is to live in constant denial, which is even less fun than it sounds, but the alternative is five or six digits of debt and eventually throwing yourself upon the mercy of the court.
I mention this because I got my Target Rewards 10-percent-off certificate yesterday, and I could use a new TV for the bedroom.
Let us now praise Dr. Frank
I have a choice of two dialups, cruddy and cruddier, and eventually one of them decided to let me download Dr. Frank's spiffy "Democracy, Whisky, Sexy" in all its barely-compressed glory. And damn me if this isn't a dandy little tune. Someone, reports the Doctor, classified it as a cross between "Imagine" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", which seems a fair-enough assessment, though I see "DWS" as the logical extension of Tom T. Hall's 1975 "Faster Horses (The Cowboy and the Poet)", which lists its own American desiderata: "It's faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money."
Of course, "younger" these days doesn't mean what it used to, if it ever did cf. "I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now," one of Dylan's back pages but I'm not about to quibble with those other three things.
From the "Santorum Sucks" file
24 April 2003
The hair on my head is a fragile little plant, easily blown about by the prevailing winds, and broken off at the slightest bit of pressure: if I inspect my modest brush, I'll find fragments, sometimes entire strands, that couldn't stand the strain of contact with a thin plastic dowel.
Drop that same hair into the tub drain, and by some alchemy the plumbers' union dares not describe, it acquires the strength of Kevlar, and can be removed only by low-yield explosives or by chemicals that would make Acidman antsy.
Somehow it just doesn't seem right to blame it all on soap.
More from the "Santorum Sucks" file
Jeff A. Taylor, on Reason's Hit & Run:
[Senator Santorum is] one of those pols and they come in all flavors who gets a look of stark terror on his face if his aides stray far from his side. His struggle to form a lucid thought under questioning isn't the mark of an evil man, just a dumb one.
On the other hand, in the unlikely event that he should actually introduce legislation to convene Bedroom Police, he will slide over from Dumb to Evil without the slightest bit of, um, friction.
The last Santorum piece (I hope)
(I beat dead horses; I don't sleep with them.)
I liked this Kevin Holtsberry observation:
Obviously we can ban bigamy, polygamy, and incest without making adultery illegal because we are doing it right now.
What Santorum has done, in typical GOP fashion, is to create a controversy without touching on the central issue involved. The issue is not whether the Supreme Court views state laws banning consensual acts as unconstitutional but whether the Texas law is an overreach by state government at the expense of people's rights.
Just so. It would be nice for the Supremes to decide once and for all whether these things should be regulated; it would be even nicer if Texans (and residents of other states with similar provisions) would look at their law and ask "Do we really need this?"
If I don't seem particularly blue, it's because I'm not holding my breath waiting for either of these to happen.
Replace the giblets at 30,000 miles
You just don't get a lot of energy out of a ton of turkey waste compared to a ton of carbon-based feedstock. A ton of coal produces 20.48 million BTU of energy. A ton of turkey waste (using the man in the story as a benchmark) would produce about 450 pounds of oil, or about 70 gallons, or around 10 million BTU, a figure that agrees well with the DOE figure of 12 million BTU per ton from poultry litter. Why buy a cow when you can get milk at the store? For sheer bang per pound (and dollar), oil, natural gas and coal are hard to beat.
And who knows how the market will respond?
Let's assume that this technology really produces "4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year." What will dumping that much oil onto the market do to the price? Even producing it at $10 a barrel might not be economical.
From my perch here in the oil patch, I can testify that when the price drops, the drilling stops.
There's some symmetrical appeal here call it an extension of the proverb "Waste not, want not" but this particular flavor of biomass isn't going to displace good ol' dinosaur juice any time soon.
25 April 2003
Out on a (fairly short) limb
By this time next year, there will be either two Shiite theocracies in the Middle East, or none.
I tend to lean toward "none", for basically the same reason as Weevil: "Double or nothing is a dangerous tactic." And the mullahs, I think, simply don't have the capacity to inflict themselves on New Baghdad while simultaneously quieting the Tehran street: they can take on the Sunnis, or they can take on their own citizenry, but not both.
This is probably not the time to bring out a "If You Ain't Muslim, You Ain't Shiite" bumper sticker, either.
Not Bobby Bare, though
My list of People I Would Like To See, Just Once, In Their Birthday Suits is reasonably extensive, I think, but there are quite a few names quite a few names associated with country music, in fact higher on the list than those of the Dixie Chicks.
And there's always the question of whether Jeff Jarvis, who invented Entertainment Weekly way back when, would ever have imagined such a thing. (Jarvis did, briefly, put up a satire of the EW cover, but the less said about that, the better, especially since he's pulled it off his site already.)
Still, times are changing. The Dixie Chicks get naked on a magazine cover; Playboy's Playmate of the Year doesn't even rate a cover this year. Anne Garrels of National Public Radio contemplated doing nude broadcasts from Baghdad as a safety precaution. Various bloggers have put up pictures of themselves or others in varying degrees of undress. (No, I won't; I cannot afford to assume the responsibility for monitor damage.) I suppose this is a great time to be a voyeur, but frankly, I don't have the time.
Two, and it's a trend
Last week, I mentioned that Reuters was buying ad space on Blogspot.
As of last night, and possibly earlier, so was The New York Times.
"Will being owned by Google do anything for Blogger?" Evidently it will.
He ate all her Krispies, too
So what would you do if you got a few minutes alone with Condi Rice? No, I mean besides that.
Actually, there's no reason for either of us to answer this question: this is why we have Frank J.
Leave it to me to find what might be the least interesting item in a Lileks Bleat. Then again, maybe it's more interesting than I think:
I have Instapundit as my home page; it's certainly more interesting than a news site, does not contain 4,573 graphic elements, or a survey (Do you believe that Laci Peterson would have approved of the Dixie Chick's comments?) or ten subcategories about things I am not likely to read.
Which, of course, makes perfect sense. My browser starts with a blank page, because...well, just because. I am told that one reader of this site starts a browser session with this page, which is astounding.
So what's your start page? (This does not seem to apply to AOLers, who get forcefed whatever AOL Time Warner Altria Nabisco Chevron chooses to shove at them.)
The sheriff's wish list
On the 13th of May, Oklahoma County residents (including yours truly) will vote on a proposed 0.4 percent sales tax increase, the estimated $30-35 million proceeds to be earmarked for the office of Sheriff John Whetsel.
Among other things, the sheriff wants to hire 145 new employees (including 100 for the county jail), expand existing programs and upgrade equipment.
Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys shot the sheriff down: "It's too large," he said, "it's too loose, and it goes on for too long." The mayor also announced he would head up a campaign to defeat the measure. Should the tax pass, the combined state/county/city sales tax in OKC would rise to 8.775 percent.
Best. Post. Ever.
No, of course it's not mine.
It's Tim Blair's, and quoting even one sentence of it would destroy its gorgeous continuity.
Assuming (a safe assumption these days) that Blogspot's archive links are hosed, and not in the Hanes Silk Reflections sense, you want the Friday, 25 April, 6:30 pm item about R. E. "Ted" Turner.
26 April 2003
Six-foot-eight LeBron James, 18, about to finish up his years at Akron, Ohio's St Vincent-St Mary High School, has declared himself available for the NBA draft.
Laurence Simon doesn't have a problem with this:
He's especially heroic and magnanimous for not wasting one college's valuable educational resources that would have landed him and then had to pretending to teach him for four or five years while exploiting his ass for the lucrative NCAA motherlode. In addition, he won't waste a whole bunch of legal expenses that university would have inevitably resulted from his accepting gifts from the alumni association.
And were he to spend those four or five years at, say, the University of Oklahoma, he probably wouldn't even end up with a sheepskin. (Automotive upholstery doesn't count.)
Received wisdom (one in a series)
Peppermint Patty was explaining how it is she came to embrace Catholicism it's a good story, and probably should be read alongside Craig's account at MTPolitics when she popped this bit of wisdom into the light:
There is no proof to faith, but I know absolutely that life isn't just a series of coincidences.
Eighteen words. In a lifetime, I've spent probably eighteen thousand saying the same thing less precisely.
Next: Armed Robbers Support Group
An operation called EMarketersAmerica.org (dot org?) is suing antispam groups, charging that they harass legitimate businesses.
Max Power reports that he went looking for a copy of the complaint at the group's Web site, but "it's been shut down for spam violations."
Around the corner from Luddite Lane
According to the warning sign posted just beyond its intersection with West 33rd Street, Technology Drive in Edmond, Oklahoma is a dead end.
Some people in California are eating their hearts out right now or would be, if said hearts weren't technically animal tissue.
27 April 2003
So much for "no connection"
Some of the critics of the war in Iraq have contended that the coalition has failed to demonstrate convincingly the existence of a link between Baghdad and al-Qaeda. Does this mean that they will change their tune, now that a link has apparently been verified?
I have my doubts, really not about the link, but about the ability of said critics to admit that they might have been wrong about something. Still, I'm willing to be shown.
The future of the personal voice
According to core mythology, some bloggers are Linkers, and some are Thinkers, and any meeting of the twain is because the rest of us are looking for a niche Somewhere In Between.
Mark W. Anderson, already established as a Thinker, is persuaded that the balance has to shift towards Thinking:
[T]he overwhelming majority of weblog operators have yet to move beyond the passive to the active voice, a transition that may well be required to move the phenomenon from the neo-underground status it currently occupies and into the accepted realm of viable, alternative news and information source many of the format's adherents clearly want. That a further majority of bloggers express worldviews through the aggregating and filtering of third-party works is instructive in this regard, not necessarily as a failure to execute the successful logistics of news-gathering but perhaps of the failure to imagine a set of possibilities found outside the currently-accepted boundaries of the format.
It should be pointed out here that most of us have day jobs that don't permit us to gather a whole lot of news on our own, and that those who have day jobs which involve gathering news are expected to do so for their employers, not for blogdom.
And while aggregation and filtration of third-party works is indeed a part of this blog, I was writing feature articles of a sort for a good five years before the Big Blog Boom of 2001.
Anderson correctly notes that the audience for blogs is, at the moment, decidedly limited:
Currently, most blogs are written primarily for other bloggers, as the general professional, educational, and access-to-technology levels needed to read them act as a sort of barrier to entry, should we wish to admit it or not.
Certainly most blogs are read primarily by other bloggers, for exactly those reasons. But I don't think I consciously shape anything I write for a blogger-heavy audience, and since most people who are driven to blogging seem to have gotten there by reading other people's blogs, this may be a circular pattern based on a self-fulfilling prophecy. Had Andy Warhol lived, he might have said that in the future everyone will blog for 15 megabytes.
So what will happen in the next few years? Anderson sees the Thinkers far outstripping the Linkers:
Weblogs represent exciting possibilities precisely because of their personal inclusiveness, elimination of the obstacles to publishing, and the sense of self-empowerment they embody. However, in a very real sense, when a weblog adopts as its mantra the realm of the political or cultural coin, it sets its sights higher than the rest, if only in wanting to effectively communicate the opinions and perceptions of its author. Should the author in question undertake the daunting task of wishing to change the hearts and minds of his or her readers, however imperceptibly, perhaps it is in the means in which that effort is undertaken that provides the best possible chance of success, not simply the expectation that the collection of the works of like-minded individuals represents either instruction or argument in and of itself.
Here we get into the realm of intention. I've never seen myself as a force for social or political or cultural change; I do this blog because I consider it part of the ongoing process of defining my self, and if someone's opinion (or, for that matter, mine) gets altered somewhere along the way, well, these things happen. By Anderson's definitions, I am destined to be less successful than other bloggers, but the blog future he sees is stronger of purpose, more goal-oriented, than today's rather random, even haphazard, mix. And he may be right; with any revolution, even one as minor as this, there is bound to be some kind of shakeout. Still, I'm just contrarian enough to think that some of us who stand at odd angles to the prevailing winds will still be standing five years from now.
Follow the yellow school board
Alexandra thinks we need to pay more attention to the man behind the curtain (9:13 am, 27 April, if Blogspot archives are their usual gassy selves):
My son was reading The Wizard of Oz in his 5th grade class. I was surprised at first, thinking they would avoid anything with "wizard" in the title. But I looked at the text. They changed much of the wording for fear of I-don't-know-what. It was as grey and lifeless as the Kansas plains Dorothy lived on. I was glad I had the real text at home, to show him what they were doing to it. He agreed that it was not right, and I made sure he let the teacher know not that she could or would have done anything about it, just as a reminder that someone is watching. Perhaps we should all remind the schools that we are watching. Or perhaps we should make Fahrenheit 451 required reading for all textbook publishers and school boards.
I worry that the schools are getting reminders (dis)courtesy of an effete corps of illiterate snots who are convinced that 90 percent of the curriculum is intended as subliminal indoctrination into the Dark Side. They come from all edges of the political spectrum, but they all spew the same vaguely-veiled threat: "You're not teaching my child that!" Eventually, of course, they teach no one's child anything.
And Fahrenheit 451, I predict, will go over their heads, at an altitude where it will be totally unrecognizable, as Mark Twain might have predicted.
28 April 2003
P with E
Just like it sounds: this was a common pejorative used by my mother from time to time. She never explained what it meant, and given the circumstances under which it was used, it never seemed like a good time to ask.
She's gone now cell growth gone awry, early 1977 and it was much, much later when I broached the topic to my brother. He, of course, knew what it meant. (In her later years, he was paying more attention to these details than I was.) And sometimes, I must admit, I did behave like a prick with ears.
Just a random thought; then again, today would have been her 75th birthday, so maybe it's not so random after all.
Three little words
New Bill Whittle.
That's all you need to know. Get ye thence and learn.
Gaylord is gone
A mere ten days ago, I reported on the transfer of power at the Oklahoma Publishing Company, prompted by the upcoming retirement of longtime editor/publisher Edward L. Gaylord.
Gaylord's health had been deteriorating, but few outside the family knew how much. Now we know: he died last night, one month short of his 84th birthday. Cancer, that damnable stuff.
Services are Wednesday at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, a facility that benefited greatly from Gaylord's largesse over the years.
I've spent much of my life sniping at Gaylord and his paper and his politics, but I'm not about to deny that his impact on this part of the world has been genuinely profound, his influence keenly felt, his generosity gratefully received.
The man from Whitwell, Tennessee who had his scrotum chewed off by his so-called live-in housekeeper has decided to drop domestic assault charges.
No comment. I mean, really.
(Via DiVERSiONZ, may his pain diminish.)
Nineteen years in a row I'd predicted the Playboy Playmate of the Year, and nineteen years in a row my prediction was wrong.
As always, I post my selection in early January, and as usual, the PMOY is announced in the June issue. Did I bring my batting average up to a slightly less embarrassing .050 this year?
29 April 2003
Piling high and deep
If your eyes glaze over at a title like Media and the social construction of crime and policing: Process and Effect, you're probably not alone; its very flow suggests industrial-strength academic word-crunching. And that's precisely what Susanna Cornett is going to have to be doing: that's the title of the core proposal for her doctorate, which she will submit to her faculty advisor this week.
Sounds serious, right? And of course it is. I do hope she is able to retain some semblance of her sense of humor through it all. She's posted the actual proposal (it's on Blogspot, so archive pages may be flakier than country biscuits) for those of us who keep wanting to know where the heck has she been fercryingoutloud.
And when it's all over and she's torn out far less of her hair than she thought she would, she'll lean back and say, "You know, that was a darn fine job." Count on it.
Take the A list
Today is Duke Ellington's birthday, and the local classical station, which runs a daily segment on composers born on this date, just finished playing a respectful (and not, in my opinion, particularly swinging) arrangement for brass ensemble of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and a suitably-pensive solo piano performance of "Solitude".
I have to wonder what self-described "music elitist" Lynn Sislo would make of this; I suspect it's something along the lines of "This is all very nice, but what's it doing on a classical station?" God forbid she should find out they produce a local program devoted to film scores.
As any Dixie Chicks fan will be happy to tell you, the country-music establishment is conservative, even reactionary, and the sort of vague leftish sentiment espoused by the Chicks in recent times is not looked upon kindly by Music Row.
Still, occasionally something sneaks out of Nashville with impeccable left-wing credentials; Fragments from Floyd presents a not-necessarily-definitive list.
It takes an airbrush
Photoshop was never meant to be used for such things.
(Mental note: Do not annoy Rachel Lucas.)
Shoes for industry
I yield to no one in my fondness for strappy sandals, but £1 million seems a bit excessive.
(Muchas gracias: Venomous Kate, who presumably could do them justice.)
Bibbiti, bobbiti boos
No, really. I mean, he truly hates it:
It's a horrible annoying video, worse than Barney at his smarmiest, or Barbie at her boobiest. The heroine is Walt Disney's blandest of all time, not to mention the crappiest female role model for little girls since Marie Antoinette. She makes Snow White look like a paragon of forcefulness.
It's hard to decide which is worse in the movie, the off hand yet absolute depiction of women as powerless objects, or the horribly twisted sexual subtext of the whole thing. As Song of The South is to African Americans, so Sleeping Beauty is to women.
Can anything be done about this?
Someone should remake this movie with a man as the sleeper, and a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed Briar Rose as the rescuer. Have her invade the witch's castle amid a torrent of gunfire and acres of blood, execute Maleficent with a graphic shot to the back of her head, light a cigarette and leave the prince to his slumber.
At the very least, she'd be a better role model for my daughter [than] Disney's limp blonde noodle is.
Methinks Bigwig is too fond of Lara Croft for his own good, but I have to admit: of all of Disney's "classic" films in the vault, Sleeping Beauty is probably the one I'm least likely to buy on DVD.
I'll have to ask my daughter (age 25) about this.
Score one for the Good Guys
Tom Ridge put down his color chips today to announce that Mohammed Al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who assisted in the rescue of PFC Jessica Lynch, has been granted asylum in the US under the rules of "humanitarian parole".
Al-Rehaief, his wife and their five-year-old daughter arrived in this country on the 10th of April. They will be allowed to remain indefinitely, and in one year they can apply for permanent residency.
No meeting has yet been scheduled with Lynch, who is at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, still recovering from her injuries.
We're getting pretty good at this doing-the-right-thing stuff, I think.
The thirty-second Carnival
And no, that doesn't mean you can read it in thirty seconds; the Carnival of the Vanities is meant to be lingered over, digested, and appreciated.
30 April 2003
I don't become fully functional on weekdays until well past the time I get to work, so it's a good thing for me that the morning ritual is sufficiently fossilized that I can go through it half-asleep with no ill effects, at least until I head out the door.
While loading up the bag this morning, I felt a large plastic object blocking the descent of my lunch into its proper slot, and after popping the pertinent zippers, I discovered that I was still schlepping along an ice scraper, for those horrible days during the winter (about 90, as a rule) when it's below freezing and I am still somehow expected to be able to see the road during my morning drive.
Now I could argue that I was just being prepared; climatology records show that we have had freezes on the last day of April. The last time, however, was 1907.
I really need to get out of this rut.
Hit the road, Jack
You'd never know it by looking at suburban surface streets at 5:10 pm, but driving not the mindless Point-A-to-Point-B rote you look at every day, but actual, honest-to-Fangio driving is something of an art form.
I'm not sure that Chrysler's new The Art of Driving promotion, offering participants a chance to play epicure while they sample the newest vehicles, is quite the way to make this point, although pushing Celine Dion tickets might inspire people to drive at high speeds in the opposite direction.
On the other hand, Mazda's Rev It Up program, in which you get to prove your mettle in a specially-prepped Mazda6, may be too much for some people: it's a racing school, or at least as much of a racing school as can be squeezed into one day and a $39 fee. And I have to admire the FAQ, which starts with the simple question "What is the meaning of life?"
Life is all about variety, change, new experiences. To live your life to the fullest you need periodic adventures. You need to challenge yourself.
Which reminds me: World Tour '03 is coming up this July, and at the heart of it is about 4500 miles of driving, on the superslabs and through the twisties, in big cities and small towns and everything in between. Everyone should do this at least once; this will be my third time, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.
Next: the Auckland A's
What makes this even weirder is that the government had first gone to the World Intellectual Property Organization and charged that Virtual Countries, the Seattle-based firm that owned the domain, had no right to it because "New Zealand" was a trademark belonging to the nation and Virtual Countries had no legitimate interest in it. WIPO, unimpressed by this argument, dismissed New Zealand's claim.
So, unable to force the domain owner to give it up, the government hence, the taxpayers decided to buy it. I can conclude only that they wanted this domain very, very badly.
Would newzealand.co.nz have been so bad?
(Via Tim Blair)
Eternity in the Garden State
According to Susanna Cornett, this is the beauty of New Jersey:
It chips away at you, all day. You fight traffic to work. You deal with bad attitudes and political pandering and 31 flavors of accents and nothing's ever easy, horns blowing all day outside. You drive home and women lean out their car windows and curse each other while your car is between them. You drive around the block for 20 minutes to find a parking space two blocks from your apartment building only to find the tiny entry is nearly blocked because SOMEONE put a baseball glove in the mailbox of one of your fellow apartment dwellers so the door won't hardly open. And this door, there's only so much room to squeeze through, the one opposite opens into the entry too so you have to get all the way in and close the first door before you can open the second door but the BLASTED BASEBALL GLOVE is making the mailbox take a gouge out of you, and you manage a smile at the thought that this is one more reason you're glad you don't have implants.
Like more reasons were needed?
Actually, I can appreciate some of this. Brock Yates once said that the New Jersey Turnpike was the American equivalent of MiG Alley, and I have no reason to doubt him; usually it's somewhere around Exit 7 when I recall just why it is that racers wear gloves. On the other hand, if anyone in Jersey ever cursed me (and that includes you, Susie Q), I don't remember it.
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