1 February 2004
First there was the original post (which this morning I can't seem to find for some reason), and then The Professor was all over it:
Wonkette has so infuriated the Rittenhouse Review that it's adopting a "choose me or choose her!" approach. ("If you link to 'Wonkette' through your blogroll you cannot and will not enjoy, for what that might be worth, a link from The Rittenhouse Review.") Is that wise?
But what's most amusing about this is that Ana Marie Cox, who puts together all this stuff, is at least as far left as James Capozzola himself; in a radio interview for WAMU [requires RealAudio], she reveals that she actually voted for Nader in '00 not that it matters a whole lot, since she lives in D.C. and all.
I note that Capozzola has switched his endorsement this year from Kucinich to Kerry; there's still time for most of you to order new bumper stickers.
Recidivist par excellence
There are those who complain that the state of Oklahoma executes juveniles; I'm starting to think we're not executing enough of them.
Cheesy movies, the worst we can find
Apparently we truly can't control where the movies begin or end; the SciFi channel has finally quit showing reruns of the last three seasons (the only ones to which they had the rights) of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
This isn't exactly surprising when production ended in the late 90s, it should have been perfectly obvious that the reruns would end in the not-too-distant future but it's still a shock to the system, since MST3k was arguably the last comedy show with any legitimate claim to innovation.
CT points out that there wasn't much chance of a revival anyway:
There had been rumors ever since the original episodes ended in 1999 that Sci-Fi would pull the plug at some point; I think it's amazing that it's maintained its life-after-death existence for this long. It had definitely become untenable, because the rights to many of the original movies they used had expired, and re-purchasing those rights just didn't make sense (thus the ever-decreasing number of reruns they could air). It was just a matter of time.
Which rights, I presume, have to be renegotiated for the video issues as well, which haven't exactly been pouring out of Rhino lately.
Oh, well. Push the button, Frank.
2 February 2004
Now that it's over
Well, yes, I'm going to forbid my daughter to see Justin Timberlake, which is probably about as difficult as telling her to avoid gargling with bleach, but the most telling comment about yesterday's Bowl (they tell me that there was a football game, of all things, going on in the background) came from Linda Richman, by way of Robb Hibbard:
Kid Rock is neither a kid, nor does he rock. Discuss.
And that's the end of that.
Update, 9:05 am: Well, almost. Greg Hlatky points out that this was to be expected:
It was a cheap vulgar moment from a cheap vulgar company during a cheap vulgar show during a cheap vulgar sporting event. MTV's aim was right at its demographic: sullen pimply hormone-soaked adolescents of all ages. And they hit their target dead on.
And frankly, Janet Miss Jackson if you're nasty has generally been the least annoying member of the family; this may have been a setup, but I'd like to think they didn't warn her in advance.
Man in a hurry
Wesley Clark's campaign expenses in Oklahoma have gone up by $450.
Leaving McAlester for Oklahoma City this weekend after a campaign appearance, Clark's three-car entourage was busted by state troopers for doing 88 mph in a 75-mph zone [scroll to bottom]. Clark staffer Reid Cherlin, driving the lead car, says he had the cruise control set on 83 mph, presumably in the belief that ten percent over will not get you a ticket.
Each of the offenses carries a $150 fine.
And they all look just the same
The Oklahoma primary is tomorrow, and it's time I checked to make sure everything is in order before I trot off to the polls:
Tempest in a C-cup
A regular reader complains about the coverage of the uncoverage of Janet Jackson's frontage:
This whole piece of absurdity is going to take on the same biblical proportions as Dean's Unholy Scream. Both events are hugely blown out of proportion; both events were staged; and both events deserve nothing but a glancing nod and toss to the garbage heap.
It is most unbelievable the airtime and press coverage both these events have garnered. In the grand scheme of things, our society is beyond pitiful that we will spend weeks concentrating on one man's scream and another woman's exposed breast.
But of course. They are the very definition of trivial. But trivial, as it happens, is what we do best; if we expended this much energy on dealing with, say, governmental and corporate corruption, or what's going to happen to the Federal budget when all these damn baby-boomers retire at once, we'd run the risk of actually accomplishing something that various groups of people manifestly don't want accomplished and will resist to the bitter end. What's more, it would stretch the national attention span well beyond what's considered to be its upper limit.
Give us something insignificant, however, and our species shines: oh, if we could only ask Robert Jenkins about his ear.
3 February 2004
If it's Tuesday, this must be primary
There may be as many as half a million voters today in the Oklahoma Presidential primary, and the vast majority of them will likely be Democrats; there are just about as many Republicans as Democrats in this state, and there is, technically, a GOP race, but I doubt there will be an enormous amount of turnout, since President Bush is headed for a coronation at the party convention this summer. Still, I'd like to see some votes for Bill Wyatt, if only to get Bush's attention.
Me? Well, as a registered Democrat in a closed primary, I don't have the option of supporting Wyatt. On the other hand, the candidates on my ballot strike me as something less than inspired. And while the differences among their domestic policies are largely trivial will we spend too much, or way too much, on health care? exactly one candidate seems to grasp the notion that there are more immediate threats to the Republic than a percentage point or two of taxation, which is why when I'm through with my dental appointment today, I will grit my semi-sparkling teeth and pull the lever for Joe Lieberman. Yes, he spends money like a 21st-century Republican; yes, he's a common scold, occasionally rising to the level of uncommon scold. But in 2004, the desired characteristic, in true Firesign Theatre tradition, is Not Insane, and rather than opt for the bumbler, the banshee or the Botoxed, I'm going with Joe.
Flying back to Rio
[A]pparently, the Academy has now adopted the Byzantine eligibility rules favoured by the Grammys, by which songs from the same album are eligible in consecutive years, unless they're songs by U2 or Santana, in which case they're eligible in perpetuity, or until they win, whichever comes sooner.
Such a Valentine's day deal: For fifty bucks, one of the half-dozen barbershop quartets of the OK Chorale will bang on the door of your Significant Other, present a card and a long-stemmed rose, and sing two songs.
That is, if said S.O. lives within about a 14-mile radius of downtown, which pretty much eliminates anyone I'd consider for this gift.
When no nukes is good nukes
Remember when leftists were the ones who worried about nuclear proliferation? Mark Steyn does:
When nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, the Left was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute, and the handful of us who survived would be walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now anyone with a few thousand bucks and an unlisted number in Islamabad in his Rolodex can get a nuke, and the Left couldn't care less.
I never did quite buy that "mutual assured destruction" business it seems unlikely that both sides could inflict absolutely equal damage, and anyway Oceania/Eastasia/Eurasia/whoever would be accused of targeting the inner cities rather than the suburbs, thereby demonstrating hideous and unacceptable prejudice against the socioeconomically challenged but armed societies, back then, were generally acknowledged to be polite. Some of them still are.
Still, politeness is a virtue mostly unknown to the mad medievalists of the Middle East, so I'm pleased to report that taking away their armaments, even the most insignificant Weapons of Half-Assed Destruction, pays dividends in two ways: it assists in assuring our survival, and it serves as an object lesson to our multiculturalists, who persist in believing that any society which doesn't have a McDonald's is superior to any society which does.
The old "balance of power" shtick is dead, and good riddance. How many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned? So long as we're threatened by terrorists, the answer, my friend, is "Blow it out your ass."
Play me or trade me
This evening, this very site was the #1 Most Traded on BlogShares, with 20 transactions in the past 24 hours.
Didn't make a dime on the deal, of course.
Watch party of one
First post, 8 pm: The polls closed about an hour ago; John Edwards has a very slight lead over Wesley Clark, hovering around the 30-percent mark, with John Kerry back in the lower 20s.
KOMA is reporting that in Oklahoma County, Howard Dean managed a reasonable second and Joe Lieberman actually made double digits, but out in the rural areas it's almost all Edwards and Clark.
Turnout seems pretty good; I was the 346th voter in my new precinct, two hours before closing. (In a strange twist of fate, the person right in front of me was the previous owner of my house; she's definitely gotten prettier since she moved out of here, and obviously she hasn't moved very far if she's still in the precinct.)
Update, 8:30 pm: Bill Wyatt has gotten almost 7 percent of the GOP vote with half the precincts counted.
Update, 9:05 pm: KTOK is reporting that with 75 percent of the numbers in, Edwards and Clark are still in a dead heat at 30 percent; Kerry has risen to 26 percent; Lieberman will apparently beat Dean for fourth.
Update, 9:25 pm: With 1942 of 2237 precincts in, the Clark-Edwards difference is 0.02 percent (71 votes); Wyatt is up to 9 percent for the GOP.
Update, 9:40 pm: KOMA has called it for Clark.
Update, 9:45 pm: Clark has opened up a 700-vote lead; Wyatt is over 10 percent.
Update, 9:55 pm: Clark's lead has grown to over 1000, which should be enough to nail it down. Edwards is a very close second, Kerry not quite so close a third; Al Sharpton outpolled Dennis Kucinich to pick up sixth place.
Deaniacs were lined up in the median on the Northwest Distressway this afternoon; I hope none of them threw themselves into ongoing traffic.
The numbers will be posted by the State Election Board here; the results will not be certified as official until next Tuesday.
4 February 2004
Sign seen in the window at Flip's Wine Bar & Trattoria:
VOTE NOW WHILE YOU STILL CAN
A few people took this warning seriously: turnout was pretty decent, even on the GOP side where there was less of a race, and state party officials beamed, noting that the largely-bipartisan decision to move the primary to early February had paid off in vastly greater interest by both voters and candidates.
No doubt about it: this is going to be one heck of a ride between now and November.
And Mr Clean is sexist
Increasingly, intent is completely irrelevant. All that matters is that someone felt offended. There doesn't even have to be specific use of offending words; even similar sounding words can lead to trouble. An example was the use of the word "niggardly" in the District of Columbia, which forced a mayoral aide to resign.
And, of course, no teacher dares assign Joseph Conrad's The Person of Color of the Narcissus these days.
Curious to see the extent of this sort of thing, Scheie went looking for a household product that is seldom seen these days: Spic and Span, which was spun off by Procter & Gamble in 2001 but which is still being manufactured.
Thus motivated, I investigated, and verified that the original surname of Manny, Moe and Jack, the Pep Boys, was not, as I had imagined, Pepstein.
Well, I like 72 myself
A perfectly cromulent Carnival of the Vanities is up for your reading pleasure at Pete's A Perfectly Cromulent Blog, and while I'm not in a position to judge cromulence levels, I can assure you that once again, the Carnival features the best of last week's bloggage in a single, link-ridden page.
Blame the Baptists
It's a popular game here in Soonerland; if for some reason (and there's always some reason) the state gets some derisive coverage in the pop press, well, it's all the fault of those wacky fundamentalists.
Over the years, I've demonstrated that I'm not above this sort of thing myself, which illustrates a truism: hardly anyone in the middle, and absolutely nobody on the left, ever has a kind word for Christian conservatives.
Like most truisms, this contains a fair amount of falsity. I commend to you the following example, from the March 2004 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, which isn't up on their Web site yet. According to Colonel Tom Wilhelm, defense attaché at the American embassy in Mongolia, a chap somewhat in Wesley Clark's political neighborhood who admits to voting for Al Gore in 2000, the "flowering of the middle ranks," as correspondent Robert D. Kaplan describes it, and the marked improvement in overall discipline since the days of Vietnam, are in no small part due to an influx of Christian evangelicals into the Armed Forces over the past decade or so. Says the colonel:
[Their] zeal reformed behavior, empowered junior leaders, and demanded better recruits. For one thing, drinking stopped, and that killed off the officers' clubs, which, in turn, broke down more barriers between officers and noncoms, giving the noncoms the confidence to do what majors and colonels in other armies do. The Christian fundamentalism was the hidden hand that changed the military for the better. Though you try to get someone to admit it! We never could have pulled off Macedonia or Bosnia with the old Vietnam Army.
Inasmuch as Wilhelm was there, in Macedonia anyway, I'm inclined to take his word for it.
5 February 2004
Don't blame anybody
In fact, the connection between any of these and any single violent act is tenuous at best. We make these assumptions because we can't handle the idea that some people, indifferent to the tenets of a civilized society and irrespective of circumstances, are going to do Bad Things; surely there's some way we can reach them, make them see the error of their ways.
Andrea Harris knows better:
[T]here is a point where we say human beings should be considered knowledgeable of right and wrong, and at the very least we could stop pretending that adults who choose criminal violence are doing so due to pressures beyond their control instead of consciously choosing the path of evil.
The thing the appeasers don?t want to accept (because it threatens their own sense of power and their view of how the world works) is the fact that violent people are not so because we treat them inhumanly, but because they have already decided that we are not human at best we are obstacles to their desires. Confronting them and calling them on their behavior calling it what it is shocks them into at least realizing that they are dealing with another human being like themselves; and paradoxically gives them the respect they supposedly crave. For example, for decades we in the West or at least, the intellectual elite treated Muslim fanatics like little children stamping their feet whenever they spouted threats. Far from allaying the hatred that they felt for us, this attitude merely fed the flames, and the results we saw on September 11th, 2001 (among other dates).
I don't believe anyone is entirely beyond redemption, at least in the Scriptural sense, but until Ludovico arrives with his technique, we're going to have to deal with sociopaths in the time-honored fashion: isolate them, put them where they can't do any further damage. Obviously there are degrees of depravity the Palestinian suicide bomber is more of a menace to society than the suburban shoplifter but neither is entitled to a free pass, and I don't much care which theory about extenuating circumstances gets trotted out.
Tuesday I plugged the OK Chorale's Singing Valentine offer.
It occurs to me that you might conceivably want to have female voices in four-part harmony, in which case be advised that the OKCity Chorus is offering a Singing Valentine package of their own.
A little reminder from Bruce:
This election cycle we will hear Democrats attacking corporate lobbyists. What's wrong with the country is that these corporate lobbyists have climbed into bed with Bush and are sucking the treasury dry and robbing ordinary people of their livelihoods. This is what they'll say, and they'll be right. But we should not be so presumptuous to assume that once The D's regain the mantle of power they will kick the lobbyists out to the curb with righteous indignation. I can make a pretty clear prediction that even if a Democrat wins, we will not see the general nature of Washington change. No matter how nice it sounds when Kerry uses his line about "don't let the door hit you on the way out!" we should not expect to see televised images of lobbyists dressed in their suits standing on street corners holding "Will pimp for government money" signs. Not gonna happen.
Or, in Pete Townshend's phrase, "Meet the new boss same as the old boss."
The last clause of the First Amendment keeps Congress from infringing upon the right of the people "to petition the government for a redress of grievances," and inasmuch as corporate structures are considered the functional equivalent of persons (see Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific, 1886), you're pretty much always going to have corporations with grievances (such as, say, insufficient profits) which they would like Congress to redress.
Of course, your non-profit organizations tend to be just as corporate, and therefore just as legally corporeal; the Sierra Club theoretically, at least has the same Constitutionally-mandated access to Congress as does ExxonMobil.
Lobbyists, like the poor, are always with us; they just wear more expensive suits.
What do British MP George Galloway, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and the Minister of Forestry of Myanmar have in common?
Answer: While Saddam Hussein was handing out bribes to the likes of Jacques Chirac, he was apparently awarding millions of barrels of oil to those three and many others for, um, services possibly to be rendered, a serious perversion of the oil-for-food program. Mr Galloway, President Megawati, and the unnamed Myanmar minister are listed as having received vouchers for one million barrels of oil (call it $30 million or so), and they're hardly the largest recipients of Saddam's largesse.
Alan Sullivan, who has reproduced the complete list as released, sees a slogan just waiting to be turned into a meme: No oil for blood! And I suppose there's some comfort in knowing that Saddam, ruthless killer that he was, also dabbled in more mundane offenses.
6 February 2004
Don't go there
What's the worst possible vacation spot for children? An abandoned steel mill? The Michigan caucuses? The back seat of Michael Jackson's car?
Why, it's the Big Rock Candy Mountain!
I mean, lemonade springs might be nice if you don't mind total immersion in something yellow and spewing, and I'd love to see a bulldog with rubber teeth just once, but cigarette trees? Why, John Banzhaf would have a myocardial infarction.
Yeah, I know. Haywire Mac wrote this as an ode to the road, to the hobos who hopped freights and such; he wasn't thinking about the kids at all. But eighty years later, "Big Rock Candy Mountain" has somehow become a song for children, and the youngsters don't seem to be any worse off for it though I suspect today's vendors of tunes for tots don't bother to do the last couple of stanzas, sparing your grandchildren and mine the scary image of a lake of whiskey. Or worse, of stew.
(Inspired by Dawn Eden, which is getting to be a fairly common occurrence these days.)
Gimme that old-time precision
As a person who owns a brace of Betamaxes, I appreciated this DragonAttack dialogue greatly:
Second Shift Jerk: Is that an MP3 player?
DA: No. It's a cassette player. I reject technology.
2SJ: You have technology on you right now.
DA: I reject selective technology. I don't have an MP3 player. Or a CD player.
2SJ: So, do you have an 8-track player?
DA: I have two.
I suppose I should go look for an 8-track player, just to fill the void well, a void in my life. And yes, this explains much about why I passed up version 5.2 of some horrible godawful spawn-of-Satan piece of "financial" software today in favor of my existing installation of the merely-sucky version 2.24: if you can't prove to me it's actually better, I don't want it.
Speaking of Betamaxes
Which I do, on occasion.
Today Wonkette has dubbed Howard Dean "the Betamax of political contenders," which fits just perfectly: the picture might appear better to some people, but playing time is definitely short.
Stamping out Stipe
One aspect of Gene Stipe's guilty plea hadn't occurred to me: Stipe controlled five radio stations in southeast Oklahoma, and the Federal Communications Commission could theoretically deny license renewals to those stations because of Stipe's sentence.
Perhaps fittingly, Richard Lerblance, who was elected to fill Stipe's old Senate seat, has applied to the FCC to purchase the two Stipe companies which own the stations. (Little Dixie Radio owns KNED-AM and KMCO-FM McAlester and KESC-FM Wilburton; Bottom Line Broadcasting owns KTMC-AM-FM McAlester.)
7 February 2004
The land of chad
Two nightmares (for the price of one!) last night, and while the one where I'm trapped on a game show hosted by the evil twin of Don Francisco might have been marginally more entertaining, the one that spawned the afterthought and therefore the blog post is the one about the old IBM punch-card system. I spent some time at a Model 029 punch, and to this day the sight of one of those cards makes my eyes glaze over.
The afterthought went something like this:
Each 80-column card (there were 12 possible punches in each column, but no more than three could be used) represented 80 characters, which today we would describe as 80 bytes.
As of this morning, this Web site was using 57.125 megabytes of disk space, which is awfully close to 60 million bytes. Which means that to reproduce this site on punch cards would require, oh, 750,000 of them.
I guess it's time to do another backup.
[W]e're paying off a coupla cars and a mortgage.
Fifty thou/year will buy a lot of beer, or a little less beer and a house.
I make rather less than fifty thou a year, so I buy even less beer.
The old grey whistle-pig test
Groundhog: The other other white meat.
Don't take my word for it. Ask Fred.
Ahead of the curve
"Entering Oklahoma set your watch back 90 years."
Actually, despite the old joke, sometimes we manage to be contemporary. Our semi-electronic voting system is speedy, far more reliable than anything they've come up with in benighted states like Florida, and dirt-cheap to operate.
Sometimes we're even ahead of our time. Who else in 1937, eleven years before the birth of Al Gore, would have thought of taxing the Internet?
No, really. From the instructions from Form 511, the Oklahoma income-tax form, page 10:
If you have purchased items for use in Oklahoma from retailers who do not collect Oklahoma sales tax, you owe Oklahoma use tax on those items. Use tax is paid by the buyer when the Oklahoma sales tax has not been collected by the seller. Individuals in Oklahoma are responsible for paying use tax on their out-of-state purchases.
Which, of course, includes all that stuff you ordered from nevermindwhereweare.com.
Conveniently, the use-tax rate is usually equal to the sales-tax rate: 4.5 percent state, plus county and city levies if any. (Here in the Big Town, it's a startling 8.375 percent.)
Businesses, who have had to keep books on this matter all along, have been paying this tax on a regular basis last year, the tax brought in $92 million or so but this is the first year that the Tax Commission has attempted to collect it from individuals through the income-tax return; they hope to increase the take fivefold.
And if you haven't saved all your receipts from online purchases ("if", he says), the state suggests an estimate of 0.056 percent of your adjusted gross income: if you made around $30,000 in 2003, your presumed use tax is $17. I don't expect anyone to go to jail over this, but a lot of people are going to be caught off guard.
More than a mouthful
Google was unable to turn up any Milton Berle kielbasa recipes.
(Muchas gracias: JaxVenus, Days Gone By.)
I know I'll never lose affection
Fifteen-year-old Emma Zevin lives in San Francisco, and she is not thrilled with the present-day pop scene. Entertainment Weekly (#751) quotes her as follows:
I think most pop music today is sort of stupid, geared to people who just want to be cool for listening to it rather than who actually like it.
Emma is currently completing her collection of Beatles CDs.
I wouldn't have thought, forty years after the fact, that the Four would still be considered Fab, but in some small way I feel that my musical tastes, such as they are, have been vindicated.
And you know, that can't be bad.
8 February 2004
Tales of the unexpected
A very busy Saturday, with two stories to recount.
Last month we were introduced to FergNet, our most recent facsimile of a health-insurance plan, and in said introduction I reckoned that the name-brand drugs prescribed for me would be a couple of bucks cheaper.
This notion, of course, violates the First Rule of Health Care: "If you can afford it, the price is too low." And indeed, when I presented a prescription, the pharmacist looked at his terminal screen, raised an eyebrow, looked at the screen again, and pronounced solemnly: "Since this calls for a sixty-day supply, they expect you to pay two copayments, one for each thirty-day quantity."
Sneaky little devils. So instead of $2 ahead, I come out $28 poorer. Six iterations of this, and well, it won't matter, because someone else will be taking over the company plan by then and will have a different bag of tricks altogether.
Later on, I had wandered into Borders for something or other, and was greeted by a chorus of Camp Fire Girls vending their usual array of chocolate-covered carbs. I gave them my standard putoff "Let's see if I have any money left after I go through the store" and continued into the heart of the stacks, emerging with a couple of periodicals and a hardback or two. I did, in fact, have enough for a box of goodies, and the Official Adult Supervision, while fumbling for my change, gave me the "Don't I know you from somewhere?" look.
Which he did. Back in the 80s, he had run one of the larger Apple-based BBS systems around town, named for a Robert Asprin series, and I was one of the users thereupon. Of course, back then, I was still in fictional-female mode, so I was duly introduced under the pseudonym, which I acknowledged, noting that "That was years ago."
But by then three pairs of nine-year-old eyes had grown to saucer size. "You used to be a girl?"
I explained the story as best I could, and they seemed content with the explanation. Passersby, who heard only bits and pieces of the tale, tended to look at me funny.
Oh, well. My Warhol-approved 15 minutes stretches another couple of nanoseconds.
(And I'm going back to the "CFI Care" term for our health-care provider, because it's funnier.)
Straining at GNATs*
*Garish Name Application Techniques, which have acquired staggering popularity in today's Congress, and have achieved prodigious levels of banality in so doing. Prime example: The USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym of such mind-numbing idiocy that if Ashcroft and company don't disown the whole package over Constitutional concerns, which they won't, they ought to can it for having a stupid, maudlin, wretched name.
And God forbid someone should concoct some legislation whose purpose is, say, Keeping Internal Terrorism Threats Everywhere Neatly Suppressed.
This year, Lyric Theatre, the mainstay of local musical theatre, decided that there might be some audience for off-Broadway, non-mainstream stuff, and established something called Second Stage to mount productions that you might not think would go over in sanitary central Oklahoma.
Judging by the crowd at the Civic Center's Little Theatre today, they needn't worry. Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest, Second Stage's debut offering, satirizes that American institution nine ways from Sunday, mocking insipid talent competitions, brainless "spokesmodels" and vapid production numbers, and throwing in just a hint of backstage backstabbing. It's screamingly (I almost said "hysterically," but that wouldn't do, would it?) funny, and the ending might be different every night, since members of the audience actually pick the winner. (Earning the tiara today was Miss Great Plains, who in her talent spot performed a bit of wayward oratory called "I Am the Land.")
All in all, it was a wonderful two hours of silliness, complete with an actual wardrobe malfunction, made more ironic by the fact that the victim also serves as Lyric's costume designer. (Of course, as a Southern belle, she never lost her sense and sensibility for so much as a second.) I have no idea what the second offering from Second Stage will be, but I'm there, Jack.
9 February 2004
One brief shining moment
Or at least, an awfully damned hot one, and one which proves the old saying "Garbage in, garbage out."
I wake up to the droning automated voice of the National Weather Service's VHF radio station (162.40 MHz), and this morning it was duly recapping yesterday's statistics: low 25, high 109.
One hundred and nine?
Trust me, it didn't feel like that when I was walking from the Civic Center to the Sheridan-Walker parking garage. But somehow this bogus number (the high was more like forty-nine) got into the database. (Here's a screen shot of the local NWS data page, before they get around to fixing it.)
Normal high for this date is 52 degrees.
Where the bois are
Try as I may to be, um, heteroflexible, I have a great deal of trouble keeping up with the new taxonomy of gayness; there are so many groups and subgroups (and subsubgroups, and no domme jokes, please) that it's well-nigh impossible for someone outside the community to get the hang of it, so to speak.
And just when I'd figured out LGBT, too.
(Bubba, of course, considers them all a mass of undifferentiated preverts, but then he'd include peace activists, environmentalists, and about two-thirds of the Democratic party under that label too, so it's not as precise as he'd like to believe.)
(Via Tongue Tied)
Trippingly on the tongue
Is George W. Bush inarticulate? Jane Galt responds, "What if he is?"
I watched the Bush performance [on Meet the Press] and I thought it was okay. Not inspiring, but I didn't expect it and I'm not convinced that the measure of a president is how well he looks on television. Especially now that I've done some TV work. Verbal fluency is a good measure of how verbally fluent you are, not how smart or competent, or how well you make decisions. It is the conceit of academics and journalists that the one talent they all have in spades is the one that is absolutely necessary for any important job. And how would we feel if the NCAA started telling us you couldn't be a sports journalist unless you can run a 4-minute mile?
The best mile I've ever run is 5:53; obviously I have no business covering sports especially now, when walking a mile will probably destroy what's left of my knee joints. (Which is probably not true, but I'm in no mood to test things, and I just popped another Bextra.)
If academics and journalists were the only ones who got to vote a situation, I suspect, they would find most desirable the President's halting speech might be a drawback. Personally, I like the idea that he has to think it over before he comes out with something. To me, it helps to dispel the notion that Bush is nothing more than Karl Rove's carefully-coached sock puppet; I mean, if he'd memorized all these lines, he'd have a smoother delivery, right?
Besides, however effective I may be at getting words onto the page or the screen, I fumble and hem and haw and choke whenever I'm called upon to address X+1 individuals, where X is equal to or greater than 0, so I have a certain amount of sympathy for W. I just wish he'd figure out "nuclear", if only because "nucular" reminds me of Jimmy Carter.
10 February 2004
HREFed up like a deuce
Have you ever sent someone an email asking for a link back to your site?
Lynn's thinking runs something like this:
Asking for a link seems rather bold, though certainly not totally unacceptable, so if you're going to ask for a link it seems to me that you should show that you actually know something about the blog you're requesting a link from and express some interest.
It's never occurred to me to ask for linkage; usually I insinuate myself into someone's consciousness by loading up his comment section. (I once emailed a blogger about something or other, and she wrote back wanting to know how come I didn't plug my own site in said email; apparently she thought it was standard operating procedure, and maybe it is.)
Once in a while, I'll get a request of this sort; I do try to look at any URL that's sent to me, and if I find something worthwhile, I'll usually give it a plug, though getting on my blogroll is seldom (never say "never") instantaneous and rarely likely to result in increased traffic unless you're pulling something like five hits a week and three of them are yours.
No Cokes for you
A measure to ban soft drinks and sweets from grade-school vending machines failed to get past the Senate Education Committee; the final vote was an 8-8 tie, which doesn't necessarily mean the bill is dead, but it's certainly coughing up blood.
It wasn't quite a party-line vote, either. Six Democrats and two Republicans voted for the bill; six Republicans and two Democrats voted against it. Generally, the proponents agreed that too many kids eat too much junk; opponents argued that these matters should be settled at the local, rather than the state, level.
Before the Tragical History Tour
In 1966 the Rutles faced the biggest threat to their careers. [Ron] Nasty in a widely quoted interview had apparently claimed that the Rutles were bigger than God, and was reported to have gone on to say that God had never had a hit record.
The story spread like wildfire in America. Many fans burnt their albums, many more burnt their fingers attempting to burn their albums. Album sales skyrocketed. People were buying them just to burn them.
But in fact it was all a ghastly mistake. Nasty, talking to a slightly deaf journalist, had claimed only that the Rutles were bigger than Rod. Rod Stewart would not be big for another eight years, and certainly at this stage hadn't had a hit. At a press conference, Nasty apologized to God, Rod and the press, and the tour went ahead as planned. It would be the Rutles' last.
(Dear Dawn: Yes, I do pay attention.)
So much at steak
Poor old Dr Atkins. Poor old fat, dead Dr Atkins.
This is the crux of the high-carb biscuit:
Dr Atkins weighed more than 18st when he died after a fall on an icy footpath in New York last April.
The post-mortem report was revealed in the Wall Street Journal, which received it from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which opposes the Atkins Diet.
Eighteen stone equals 252 pounds.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, apparently, is a front group for PETA, which certainly explains why they'd oppose the Atkins Diet.
Remind me to grill a rib-eye this evening.
The needle and the damage done
Tattoo parlors, for some inscrutable reason, remain illegal in this state.
By driving tattooing underground, our state's current laws create a potential public health crisis. Tattoo artists should be licensed, as they are in neighboring states.
Besides, having to drive to Gainesville burns up a whole lot of fossil fuel.
11 February 2004
Our congratulations to Ch. Darbydale's All Rise Pouchcove you can call him Josh the four-year-old Newfoundland who won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show last night.
Memo to an unnamed official
Had it been so damned important, do you really think they'd have put you in charge of it?
Carnival time once more
Seventy-three men sailed up
Well, okay, they didn't say anything about the Carnival of the Vanities, now playing this week at On the Third Hand, but if they had, they might have mentioned that for the 73rd time, it's the best of the week's bloggage for your inspection, so ride, Captain.
Just a quick mote
What is that whooshing sound that you hear? It is all the hot air escaping from the self-styled "blogosphere." The blogosphere is the alternative reality Internet world, supposedly populated by vast communities of keyboard tappers linked by the World Wide Web. This campaign season, for the first time, the blogosphere had its own presidential candidate: Howard Dean.
Actually, it's not "self-styled'; it was Bill Quick's idea.
And if Beam thinks that Blogdom Assembled somehow embraced Dean to a greater extent than did Democrats voting in the primaries which is to say, hardly at all he needs to fire the person he hired to read blogs to him. (I hear kuro5hin has a couple of prospects.)
(Muchas gracias: ronbailey.)
Many levels of license
Religious conservatives, says Adam J. Bernay, are missing one obvious point in the gay-marriage debate:
[T]heir insistence on the State's regulating moral and religious issues has done nothing more than debase the Sacred and has turned religious sacraments and morals into political footballs. There are lots of issues where this has become a problem: ordination, burials, freedom of speech from the pulpit, and many more?but none has become a thornier problem than marriage.
Religious conservatives are missing the obvious answer to this issue: return the "regulation" and "licensing" of marriage to the private sector, and the recognition of such to the people. This will take this issue out of the hands of those who want to use it to force religious conservatives to accept their "life partnerships" as equivalent to marriages under our religions.
Well, okay, if you say so. How is this power to be wrested from the State? Is there popular support for a referendum on the matter? Do religious non-conservatives or the non-religious have their own interests, their own reasons to want to preserve the status quo?
So simple, this solution, that it automatically sets off the Huh? detector in the back of my head.
Marriage is, or ought to be, something other than, in Dawn Eden's phrase, "governmental sanction of sexual practices." Does the answer lie in taking the government out of the equation altogether? I'm still pondering this one.
If nothing else, this debate should silence, at least for a while, that old saw about how you "can't legislate morality." Actually, it's one of the few things you can legislate you don't hear anyone saying you can't legislate thermodynamics.
12 February 2004
This is something Lileks said, but I wanted a copy of it here as a reminder to well, me.
When you are presented with new facts that blast apart your old beloved precepts, you either reexamine what you believe, or you hammer the new round pegs into old square holes. We all know people who refuse to revise their past, who've fixed their identity in a Golden Age and resist any attempts to revise their judgments. They?re stuck in a world where Hotel California is a bitchin' album and WKRP is classic TV and vans with airbrushed scenes of surfer girls are the apotheosis of automotive art and there was this one Saturday Night Live skit where Reagan like totally lost it and went all mental, and . . . those were the days, dude.
Fine, whatever. This much is true: when you're 50, holding on to the details of your 20-something convictions is like being 40 and trusting the insights you had when you were ten.
In view of the above, I believe it is a Good Thing that I was not blogging in the middle Seventies, or even keeping a handwritten journal: much of what I said, what I did, in those days would be unrecognizable at best and indefensible in any case.
Says you, John
Senator John Edwards was grilled (actually, sort of warmed over) by Katie Couric on NBC's Today show this morning, and in the wake of various Kerry and Bush stories, she asked him about his own military experience.
Which he didn't have; he pointed out that he's 50 now, and by the time he turned 18, the draft was pretty much done away with, so "I did not have to serve."
I'm 50 now, and I still have my draft card, and I still have my draft lottery number (which was twenty-five). John Edwards is not quite six months older than I am; I rather doubt that they'd cancel the draft for him and then bring it back for me.
(Update, 1:30 pm: I poked around the Selective Service System site and got Edwards' lottery number, which was 178. Certainly he was never actually called for the draft. Still, the way he answered this morning there's video on the MSNBC site linked above [requires Windows Media Player 9] could lead someone to think that he'd somehow gotten away with something. Or worse, that he thought he'd gotten away with something.)
This, mind you, while the city (connected to the usual conduit for federal funds) is getting ready to spend $350 million or so on a rerouting of Interstate 40 south of downtown which will trash five rail lines already in place.
I have my doubts about light rail in places as spread out as this Oklahoma City covers over 600 square miles all by itself, and the suburbs will presumably want a piece of the action but if we're seriously going to consider it as an option, ripping up rail lines for the sake of I-40 is utterly insane; not even Phil Hartman could sell a bill of goods that preposterous.
Deficit spending for one and all
Last fall, I reported on the upcoming Democratic Party credit card, issued by Providian, a bank which has been working to upgrade its portfolio from the largely-subprime accounts that nearly drove it to bankruptcy in the late 90s.
I have now received a promotional offer for the Democratic Party Platinum Visa, and from the looks of things, Providian is still thinking like a subprime lender: I mean, 17 percent? The big print, of course, is devoted to a balance-transfer deal of 3.99 percent, which runs out in September. The designated DNC rebate is 1 percent.
I haven't seen an offer for the Bank One Republican Victory Fund Visa, but I suspect the terms might be better; the card I do have from Bank One runs less than 10 percent, and the best deal I've ever wangled from Providian is, yes, 17 percent.
It didn't help that in the same mail there was an offer for a MasterCard from Capital One, another issuer I have forsaken in search of lower rates, for 12.9 percent. (On the other hand, C1 wanted an annual fee, which the Democrats didn't.)
Memo to an unnamed school
13 February 2004
Get it now before it works
Literally for months, Windows Media Player's auto-update feature has been nagging me to upgrade to version 9, and finally I bit the bullet yesterday and downloaded the 13-megabyte package.
This morning, of course, there was a new "security update."
Let it be said that all software beyond the level of Hello, world! has bugs and/or "random features" and/or "undocumented functionality." Still, any Microsoft package rivals the Albert Hall for holes.
The drought has reached Nowata
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, apparently satisfied with having trashed the memory of Dr Robert Atkins, has gone back to its primary function: haranguing perfectly innocent towns into changing their names.
In years past, they've concentrated on New York towns: first Fishkill, then Hamburg. (How they managed to miss the Catskill Mountains is beyond me, especially since they went there to pester producers of foie gras.) Now they've turned their attention to Oklahoma, and the town of Slaughterville, south of Norman, which is of course named after grocer James Slaughter.
Other towns in Oklahoma which probably should fear for their identities:
Battiest: Insults persons with psychological disorders. (Actually, it's pronounced "bah-TEEST".)
Beaver: Offensive to women. (See Beaver College oops, Arcadia University.)
Bowlegs: Mocks a
Bushyhead: No comment.
Kremlin: Obviously a leftover KGB plant.
Slapout: Promotes violence.
Warr Acres: Promotes lots of violence.
Yukon: Named after a sport-utility vehicle.
And God forbid anyone should spell Tulsa backwards.
(Muchas gracias: Cam Edwards.)
(Update, 18 February: Slaughterville says "Neigh"...er, "Nay".)
What would a Constitutional amendment defining marriage strictly according to Old Testament principles look like?
I suppose that depends on which principles you choose to read.
(Muchas gracias: JP LeCompte.)
14 February 2004
It's just another show
Joni Mitchell has the jump on me here:
I've looked at love from both sides now
With this thought in mind, and this being the feast of Valentine, patron saint of jewelers and greeting-card manufacturers, I have chosen to celebrate with a 25-track mix tape that captures both the frolic and the frustration of the day. I have no reason to think that the musical selections therein will do anything for your love life, but they will demonstrate both acceptable taste and relative diversity, neither of which is likely to hurt. The period covered is 1959 to 1972, which inevitably brackets the time when I first became aware of the existence of girls and the time when I realized that they weren't going to be aware of mine.
Or not. After all, it's love's illusions I recall, and just as perplexingly, it's more likely to be Judy Collins' version of "Both Sides Now" I recall than Joni's.
Last year I was bemused to be on the receiving end of the World's Smallest Instalanche: while others linked by the Professor bask in hundreds, even thousands, of visits, the best I could do was fifty-three.
Yesterday I was surprised to discover that an item posted here had been rejected by Fark. (If you're curious, it was the one about the death of Weekly World News editor Eddie Clontz.) I know this because all links submitted to Fark are posted at their premium service, TotalFark, and as of this morning twenty-two TotalFarkers have dropped by.
I keep telling myself that I'm happier at the top of the D-list than I would be at the bottom of the A-list, but I'm not quite sure I believe me yet.
Kaptain Ketchup's alleged tomato
So far, things haven't moved much beyond the Hysterical Rumormongering stage.
I'm inclined to agree with this observation by Charles Dodgson:
[T]he Republicans were sure to have something like this going at fever pitch sometime before election day, whether there's any truth to it or not, and regardless of the checkered histories of nationally prominent Republicans. Bring it on. If the Democrats can't deal with it, they're doomed anyway. And if they handle it well now by bringing up and focusing on real issues and real achievements while the Republicans rant about their own ritual purity it may at least be old news by the fall.
And "ritual purity"? "We befoul the air, we take bribes under the table hell, we take bribes over the table but by God, we keep our pants on."
A few things I spotted today while wandering about town:
At 50 Penn Place, I found myself parked next to a Volkswagen Cabrio with a "Re-elect Gore 2004" sticker. Did I miss something?
Jim Tolbert, who owns, among other things, the Full Circle Bookstore at 50 Penn Place, is running for mayor of Oklahoma City the election will be 24 February and inasmuch as he lives around here, most of the yard signs that have sprung up in lieu of spring foliage are Tolbert signs. Curiously, he even has yard signs in Nichols Hills, which is outside the city limits; Tolbert may have friends in this old-money enclave, but he won't get any votes there.
Sign at a jewelry store on May Avenue: Valentine's Day Nomination Bracelets. Admittedly, I don't have an actual Valentine, and I have no reasonable expectation of ever getting one, but it bothered me no end that I had no idea what a Nomination Bracelet was. (Now I know.)
And for some reason, almost all the copies of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue in the rack at Albertson's were turned upside down.
First I look at the source
You read enough bad press about Windows, you start to wonder just what sort of horrible things really are inside that mass of code.
(Via Rocket Jones, who always suspected as much.)
15 February 2004
We'll show those Canadians
Last year, Rep. Leonard Sullivan was trying to drum up support for renaming the North Canadian River (so called because it lies north of the Canadian River) the Oklahoma River.
Sullivan's idea went nowhere, but it's resurfaced this year in a reduced form: Senate Bill 1259, now out of committee, would rename the segment of the river that runs through central Oklahoma City seven miles from Meridian to Eastern to, yes, the Oklahoma River.
I couldn't tell you if anyone from Canada came through here with the idea of naming two rivers after his homeland, but French explorers and traders were active here in the late 17th and early 18th century, ending presumably around 1762 when France signed the Louisiana territory (which included Oklahoma) over to Spain so they wouldn't have to give it up to the British. (Spain traded it back to France in 1800, just in time for France to sell it off to the nascent United States.)
Proponents of the change are always citing the tourist trade as justification. Personally, were I just visiting town, I'd be more curious about a river called "Canadian" way down here than I would a river called "Oklahoma," but maybe that's just me.
It's all in how you say it
Philip Glass to do Stephen King. Philip Glass to do Stephen King. Philip Glass to do Stephen King. Philip Glass to do Stephen King. Philip Glass to do Stephen King. Philip Glass to do Stephen King. Philip Glass to do Stephen King.
Well, okay, they spelled "Philip" with two Ls, but that may have been part of the gag.
The vertical fudge factor
Figures lie, and liars figure, and sometimes you get the worst of both worlds: take a look at this graph of US casualties in Iraq.
I haven't checked the actual numbers, but even if they're absolutely correct, there's a blatant bias in the way the graph is designed: unless some of these deaths are somehow reversed something not seen in the Middle East for around 1,970 years, and then only once the curve can never go down. At best, there will be some sort of plateau of finite duration; otherwise, it keeps going up and up.
Which, of course, is what the designer intended, with the hope that you will assume from the shape of the curve that things are getting worse and worse in Iraq.
Ten years from now, we'll probably see this guy day-trading in the bond market.
It's not just spammers who pass on those weird tales of herbal concoctions that are alleged to increase one's wangage; the questionable products are also occasionally advertised in national magazines. I found one such in the classifieds in Car and Driver, tucked in among sellers of, um, spare and replacement parts.
The stuff in question costs $60 for a month's supply quantity discounts are available and in answer to the reasonable question "What the hell is this?" the following is stated:
[name of product withheld] is a powerful natural penis enlargement formula that increases penis size, stronger erections and maintains your sexual virility. We also included some of the same type of herbs found in Polynesia where the men of the Mangaian tribe have sex on the average of 3 times a night, every night. While this is not what you may wish, it is nice to know your sexual performance can improve substantially.
"This is not what you may wish"?
I assure you, the decision is not entirely mine.
And about those Mangaians: I was unable to document that sexual-frequency claim and, truth be told, if I were similarly busy I wouldn't have time to fill out the damn questionnaire but I did find this reference:
The Mangaian people...believe that if you don't have sex at least 3 times a day you will go insane.
With that kind of pressure, they're probably enjoying themselves every bit as little as the desperate clod who spends sixty bucks to address the wrong inadequacy.
16 February 2004
A crock of discs now
This oughta be good: Writer (and iconoclast) Dawn Eden has signed on to do a piece for Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics, a compilation due this summer from editor (and iconoclast) Jim DeRogatis. The premise is simple enough: are all those revered rock classics of yore deserving of reverence?
In a word, no. Even works I dearly love, like Pet Sounds, have their detractors, and as we all know, it's far more fun to be snarky than to be solemn. Eden is taking on Brian Wilson's oft-bootlegged but officially-unreleased Smile, and from the bits and pieces I've heard over the years, I suspect there's a darn good reason, beyond Wilson's raging pathologies of the moment, that this stuff has stayed in the can. I'm definitely looking forward to this compilation, even as I contemplate the possibility that some of my sacred cows will end up as Quarter Pounders with Cheese.
As the pages turn
There was no way I could pass up David Kent's debut novel Department Thirty. For one thing, Kent lives here in town; for another, it takes a certain amount of chutzpah to put out a novel about shadowy anti-government conspirators. In Oklahoma City. In 1995, yet.
But this isn't some variation on a theme by Timothy McVeigh. Kent's scruffy hero, Ryan Elder, comes home to Oklahoma after being sacked from yet another radio job, and his parents seem strangely distant, even cryptic.
And then they kill themselves.
What all this is about takes a while to unfold. Some of it is sort of predictable, some of it isn't, but all of it moves at decently high speed, and you know there's bound to be a screenplay in there somewhere. (Of course, if they do make a movie out of Department Thirty, they won't film it here; they'll throw in some exterior shots of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and shoot the rest in Vancouver, so this is one of your few chances to tour the Okay City's meaner streets.) It's a good read, and I'm looking forward to Kent's next book.
The face of The Man
Getting across the Potomac isn't the easiest thing in the world; I've only done it once, and I'm not exactly champing at the bit to do it again.
So I probably won't see the outcome of this little dust-up, which involves the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. The Wilson is currently being redesigned, and a Maryland official has decided that, hey, you know, as President, Woodrow Wilson was a segregationist and well, we don't want a bust of him staring at us over here in Prince George's County, which is about 60 percent black.
Admittedly, Wilson's stance on segregation was not what anyone would call enlightened. But the Maryland official isn't objecting to Wilson's name being on the bridge; she objects to having his image displayed. In her estimation, he "deserves less attention." Note that she didn't say he deserves no attention.
There are times I wish I could split hairs with this degree of precision.
(Via Ravenwood's Universe)
Number of days without setting off alarm system accidentally: 70
17 February 2004
Gonna go to the place that's the best
Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things is compiling a list of well, let him tell you:
I'd like to compile a list of songs from groups that are not chiefly religious bands (no Gospel bands and Christian rock, in other words) but that cite the Bible, Catholic liturgy, or other explicitly Judaeo-Christian sources. This should be more than simple references to God and religion.
I want to put this together with artist's name, name of the song, the lyrics in question, and a short reference to the religious source (so people will know what exactly the source is). I'm interested in seeing the allusions and references as indications of the impact of religion on popular culture, so for this purpose it doesn't really matter whether the references are entirely flattering or not.
He starts with a few dozen; by the time you read this, there may well be a few dozen more.
What's most interesting here, I think, is that certain of our cultural mavens are persuaded that this particular brand of spirituality is obsolete, that no one pays attention to it anymore and yet there is no shortage of evidence to the contrary.
If Blogspot is doing its usual "I Can't Find That" shtick, the list begins at 3 February, 10:43 am.
It's the same size hat, though
Alisha Virginia Oulette has been fighting fires in Danvers, Massachusetts for six and a half years.
When she signed up with the department, she was Albert James Oulette; in compliance with the Benjamin Standards of Care for M2F transsexuals, she has begun to live openly as a female. Surgery is still a year or so away.
Danvers has never had a female firefighter before; city officials don't expect any problems.
(Via California Yankee, who, unlike me, was restrained enough to avoid making any sliding-down-the-pole references.)
Don't lay that trash on Oklahoma
Lynn, we know, is fond of this state, its people, its flora and fauna, sometimes even its weather.
She draws the line, however, at the Legislature, and offers by way of illustration three particularly dumb laws.
No doubt she could come up with more without a whole lot of effort.
So where's spring already?
Well, it can't be too far off. While today was the first day since the 25th of January with actual above-average temperatures and about time, too the real harbinger of spring is the ever-lengthening day, which finally reached 11 hours today after bottoming out at a painful 9:35, on its way to the twelve-hour equinox. (For summer buffs, the longest day of the year at this latitude runs 14:25.)
I still have half a dozen bare trees, but their time is coming.
That's all it took
Various sources, none of them yet linkable, have reported the death of singer Doris Troy yesterday in Las Vegas.
Born in New York in 1937, Doris Higginsen "Troy" was her grandmother's surname started singing jazz in the late Fifties and writing songs on the side as "Doris Payne". In 1963 she cut a solo demo of "Just One Look," which she'd written with Gregory Carroll, with whom she'd sung in a group called the Halos; Carroll produced. When the Sue label balked at releasing it, she took it to Jerry Wexler at Atlantic, who promptly put it out and watched it rise to the Top Ten. Over in England, the Hollies were big fans; they cut both "Just One Look" and her later "Whatcha Gonna Do 'Bout It". The Stateside hits dried up rapidly, and she moved to the U.K. She signed to the Beatles' Apple label in 1969, where she cut an album. The background still beckoned, though, and Troy contributed vocals to lots of British discs, most notably Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. And the musical Mama, I Want to Sing!, written by Troy's sister Vy Higginsen, is based on Troy's own story.
By most people's reckoning, I suppose Doris Troy could be considered a "one-hit wonder." But oh, that one hit!
(Update, 18 February: Here's David Nathan's tribute from soulmusic.com.)
18 February 2004
A shot in the dark
Terry Nichols, on trial for 161 cases of murder in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, apparently has floated the idea of pleading no contest to the charges in exchange for an agreement from the prosecution not to seek the death penalty.
Don't count on this motion going anywhere; I'm inclined to think that had Nichols, like co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh, been sentenced to the Super Shot for the Federal charges on which they were convicted, there wouldn't be any support for trying Nichols on state charges in the first place. And The Oklahoman pointed out last week in an editorial that Nichols could have copped a plea long ago, suggesting that it might have been more favorably considered before all the trial mechanisms were set into motion.
But that was then. Unless something wholly unexpected takes place in the next couple of weeks, the trial will begin as scheduled on the first of March.
(Update, 8:45 am: Cam Edwards isn't surprised that the prosecution isn't biting: "The whole reason Nichols is on trial is so we can kill him.")
We'll see that and raise you one
Last week, PETA offered twenty grand worth of soy products or something to the folks in Slaughterville, Oklahoma, in the hopes of persuading the town to change its name to "Veggieville".
Bill Hightower, who raises Limousin cattle in Slaughterville, came up with a counteroffer:
We'll give them $20,000 worth of hamburger if they will move to India where they will be appreciated.
I need hardly add that the town is retaining its name, and beef is still what's for dinner.
Born under a bad sign
Somehow, "lucky" is not my most immediate reaction.
At least I don't show up for "miserable failure".
This year's matryoshka
To know recursion, you must first know recursion.
If that makes sense to you, you'll understand Slice City, a Sims game that is actually played by Sims.
And even more Vanities
19 February 2004
Arse over teakettle
Apparently the British are as obsessed with home-improvement television shows as we are, and thousands of Brits, motivated by the tube, have ripped out their carpeting to reveal the wooden floors beneath. (My daughter, when she bought her house, did exactly the same thing; it's unclear how far the family tree extends into England.)
Unfortunately, just because you can walk on carpeting doesn't mean you can walk the same way on wood, especially highly polished wood: the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is reporting that injuries due to falls on indoor floors have quadrupled in the last five years.
Two words: "area rugs."
The San Francisco tweet
I'm not inclined to get worked up over the current flap over gay marriage in San Francisco; I mean, isn't there always a current flap in San Francisco? So if Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to try to add his name to the Civil Disobedience Hall of Fame, it's fine with me.
Still, the very definition of "civil disobedience" indicates that a law has been broken. Civil-rights marchers in the South, forty-odd years ago, were prepared to take the consequences of their actions. I'm not quite persuaded that Mayor Newsom is prepared to take the consequences of his.
Update, 11:05 am:
If a state passes a law that old people have to get a vision check before getting a license, and a local DMV office decides that is unfair to old people and issues licenses to them all and their friends from out of state as well, how is that different that what is going on in SF?
If this civil disobedience in SF goes unpunished, I want to put a Starbucks in next door to my house. Surely I can find a government drone that believes the zoning laws are unjust.
I admit to a certain amount of bemusement by all this. Whatever I may think of gay marriage which at the moment is actually fairly close to this, minus an imprecation or two, subject to change without notice I really can't work up much enthusiasm for Newsom: it's not like he's exactly putting his life on the line for this cause. (A visit to Selma, Alabama might be in order.) Still, I know better than to underestimate the power of small gestures.
It's a(n un)clean sweep
Here's one for the theologians in our midst:
Is there any human act that can be said to violate all Ten Commandments at once?
Terence Jeffrey, editor of Human Events, says: Yes, there is.
(Via Hit & Run)
A minor millstone
Uh, make that milestone.
Tomorrow this site will get visitor number 400,000.
Will it be you?
(Update, 3:19 pm, 20 February: If you're the IE5.0/Mac user at 18.104.22.168, somewhere in the Mountain time zone, you're the one.)
UltraTart will honor the tradition of Lent by giving up something very dear to her.
And from the looks of things, it will be effing difficult.
(Not safe for some workplaces)
20 February 2004
We still have to buy her friends
For those keeping score, I live about halfway between Nichols Hills and the Paseo. There being no specific doll for this neighborhood, I have to
Asphalt letter 23
Rep. Ernest Istook on the condition of Oklahoma City's Northeast 23rd Street:
When someone drives through, they think, "My goodness, this looks bad." When you walk along the street, it looks worse. You see close up the cracks, the crumbling, the signs of deterioration.
And those signs start at Kelley Avenue, a couple hundred yards from the entrance to the Governor's Mansion. So it's a Good Thing that our share of the federal pork distro this year will include $500,000 to help defray the expenses of cleaning up the busiest street on the east side.
The effect on Oklahoma City's African-American community, for whom 23rd is arguably the primary business thoroughfare, is less clear. On the downside, some marginal firms may be forced to move, especially if the street, as I expect, is widened. But what remains, based on what the city was able to do on Northwest 23rd, will probably look a whole lot nicer, which may spur new development in the area.
It goes to show you never can tell
Lesley at Plum Crazy passes on this insane but simple meme:
[T]urn on your mp3 player, set it to random, and list the first 20 songs that play, regardless of how embarrassing.
Well, okay. There are 1331 songs on the playlist on this box, mostly fairly mainstream. Let's see what happens:
1. "Silhouettes," a case of mistaken identity in the Herman's Hermits remake.
2. "Wonderland by Night," Bert Kaempfert's lovely instrumental with a hair-raising trumpet part.
3. "Zip Code", the Five Americans once again turning a communications medium into a song (cf. "Western Union").
4. "No More Mr. Nice Guy," the Alice Cooper manifesto.
5. "Flowers on the Wall," the Statler Brothers statement on loneliness.
6. "Loser," transmogrified from the Beck original into ultra-lounge by Richard Cheese.
7. "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", B. J. Thomas reminding us of Butch and Sundance.
8. "Diamonds and Rust," in which Joan Baez remembers what used to be.
9. "Wild Thing," an example of Boston Soul from the pseudonymous "Senator Bobby."
10. "The Loco-Motion", a little bit of rhythm and a lot of soul from Little Eva.
11. "Let Me Go the Right Way," a very early Supremes track with Florence, rather than Diana, on lead.
12. "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," another shot of B. J. Thomas, this time channeling Hank Williams.
14. "Walk Away," Donna Summer's blend of torch and dance.
15. "Kazooed on Klassics," by the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra, which I hope needs no explanation.
16. "Electric Avenue," in which Eddy Grant anticipates a department at Montgomery Ward.
17. "Courtney Love Stinks," a Bob Rivers Twisted Tune.
18. "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," dark sarcasm from Pink Floyd.
19. "When Liking Turns to Loving," Ronnie Dove on the cusp.
20. "Metamorphosis," a ten-minute sonata of sorts by a mid-Seventies version of Curved Air.
If nothing else, this might explain why I usually keep the radio on the classical station, or spin one of the 40 CD-Rs I store at deskside.
Coming from behind
This gay-marriage business will be a big issue this fall, says House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas):
[Americans] have been tolerant of homosexuality for years, but now it's being stuffed down their throats and they don't like it.
You know, Tom, the throat is only one possible route.
(Via Wonkette, who was actually even less subtle than I.)
21 February 2004
Watching the mirror
The first rule of ticket quotas is: you do not talk about ticket quotas.
The second rule but never mind, you can see where this is going.
An Oklahoma City police officer is claiming that he has been harrassed for failure to enforce those, um, nonexistent quotas, and his attorney claims there are actual OCPD internal memos which state the precise numbers for one particular division.
The OCPD Public Information Officer issued the following statement:
The police department has an activity tracking system to monitor different law enforcement actions. The police department's activity program does not have a quota in any one of these categories, including traffic citations.
This could get complicated very quickly.
(Update, 27 February, 4:45 pm: The police chief explains why it's not a quota: officers aren't told they must reach a certain level of points and aren't punished or rewarded by their point totals.)
Vinny Ferrari has been listening to the radio again, and he's detected what Susanna Cornett (gawd, I miss her) might call "framing bias", pointing out that ABC's coverage of the San Francisco gay-marriage imbroglio was a tad less than evenhanded:
I noticed [Peter] Jennings repeatedly referred to the court challenge of the mayor's allowance and the legality of the unions as being led by "conservative" groups, and even heard right wing being bandied about on another station.
However, no one referred to the gays being married or the people cheering them on as left wing or liberal.
I don't think that this is necessarily a liberal (in the present-day sense) cause, and indeed most of the opposition is coming from conservatives, but his basic point that in Big Media, conservatives are almost always identified as such, suggesting that they're somehow a departure from the norm seems pretty sound. I got a whiff of it yesterday during NPR's coverage of the Iranian elections, which they cast as a clash between the "right wing" and the "reformers" as though reform in Iran was something engineered by the left.
And similarly, if you hear the phrase "public-interest group" on the radio, eight times out of ten they'll be talking about liberals.
Barefoot and bathetic
A common complaint among guys of a certain age has to do with the general dearth of Major Babes: they may know lots of women, but no one that will really knock your socks off, you know?
Given the emphasis we tend to place on the visual, I've generally assumed that since I know a fairly substantial number of women who are eminently capable of destroying my entire sock wardrobe with a couple of glances, my tastes, if that's the word, are fairly small-c catholic.
And indeed, after following this link thoughtfully provided by Michele, which brings up a fairly lengthy test (presented by Match.com) that purports to determine the ingredients that contribute to that sock destruction, I felt I had confirmed my thinking on the matter, inasmuch as in the test, just as in real life, the women I found most attractive from a purely-physical standpoint didn't look that much alike. Obviously, I felt, I had fairly elastic standards of beauty.
And then came the bombshell in the middle of the results, which I quote:
It's official: You're "picky." The fact is you are drawn to the most beautiful of the beautiful. You know what you like in women and are more selective than most men your age. Your tastes seem instinctual. You'd make a great casting agent, because you have a good eye for women who have "star quality." In real life, your high standards may be an obstacle for you. It's hard to find a woman with the strong features you like, who's also well-rounded in other ways. Still, you know the importance of a real physical "spark" in a relationship, and aren't willing (or able) to settle for less. The challenge is finding a woman who really wows you physically, even if she's not the most attractive woman in the room.
In addition to being unappealing, overbearing, mercurial and generally annoying, now I'm also excessively (like 98th percentile) selective?
And come to think of it, I haven't bought any socks in over a year.
22 February 2004
When your vantage point becomes increasingly blogocentric, as mine seems to have of late one reason I still write those Vent pieces is to remind myself that there is something beyond the daily grind we tend to forget that there are still other forms of discussion out there.
A fellow named Sean wrote me to plug something called Volconvo, a squoze-down term derived from "volcano" and "conversation", which isn't a blog at all, but one of those script-driven message boards (specifically, an Invision Power Board). I gave it a once-over, and mercifully, it's generally sane and by all appearances effectively moderated I didn't see anything that reminded me of Freepers in full drool or the tortured illogic of the Democratic Underground, and apparently Mike Godwin got the day off.
Sean writes that he's "trying to make a difference, ever so slowly." I'd say that he's got the right idea.
And the task falls to Dawn Eden, who was assigned duty on a two-page color section devoted to The Passion of the Christ that appeared in this morning's New York Post. (The paper's Web site, as of a couple minutes ago, contained only the intro.) Part of that duty was to determine how closely director Mel Gibson had hewn to the text of the Gospels.
Her conclusion: It's a mixed bag.
While The Passion may indeed be an inspired film, no one seeing this film should think they're getting the pure gospel truth. It's colored throughout with imagery which, while it may be in keeping with Roman Catholic tradition, is nonetheless distinctly extrabiblical.
This might explain John Paul II's reported enthusiasm for the film, anyway.
Still, whatever Gibson's vision, give him credit for sticking to it, and for going outside The Industry to sell it. Had this been the usual Hollywood biopic, we'd probably be yawning at the prospect of Ashton Kutcher in Dude, Where's My Cross?
Stay on your side
The ubiquitous Jersey barrier does a good job of preventing crossover accidents it's pretty darn difficult to get into the opposite set of lanes but it's expensive to install and not exactly lovely to look at.
Enter the Brits, with a system called the Brifen Wire Rope Safety Fence, an unobtrusive four-cable guardrail system developed in the late 80s that's designed to be inexpensive to install and maintain: a Brifen installation costs roughly $200,000 per mile, less than half the price of concrete, and a post or cable damaged by impact can usually be replaced by a single worker with no heavy equipment.
The Brifen debuted in the US on a short (0.2 mile) stretch of the Lake Hefner Parkway in Oklahoma City in 2000, extended to the entire seven miles the following year. The Parkway, which runs from I-44 north to the Kilpatrick Turnpike, saw six fatalities due to crossover accidents in the three years prior to the installation of the Brifen; there have been none since. Encouraged, Brifen set up a US manufacturing facility on Oklahoma City's south side, and the system has been installed on highways in Colorado and Ohio.
The Oklahoma Gazette is reporting that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has ordered the Brifen for 6.3 miles of I-35 through Norman. Construction will be mostly at night and on Sunday morning, and will be finished, says ODOT, by May.
Who's gonna drive you home?
When Governor Schwarzenegger moved to roll back California's motor-vehicle license fees, prompting the usual suspects to challenge the move in court, the city of Berkeley calculated that it would lose $1.3 million, and decided there had to be another way to pry money out of the owners of those hateful belching machines.
What they came up with was a tax on owners of multiple cars. The amount has yet to be determined Councilman Kriss Worthington, who owns no cars, says the "outer edge" might be $1000 and there's some doubt as to how it could be implemented in the first place, but details like that won't stop Mayor Tom Bates:
If we had the option, we'd do it in a heartbeat. We feel cars are a luxury that is expensive for the community.
Meanwhile, across the Bay, Assemblyman Mark Leno has proposed a measure to return the license fee in San Francisco to pre-Schwarzenegger levels. Personally, I think that if San Francisco needs an infusion of cash, they should just increase the current $82 marriage-license fee to maybe, oh, $1000 at the "outer edge."
23 February 2004
Grey and loving it
From Blue Rinse to Blue Jeans is the title of a new British study which asserts that the age of fifty, a number fraught with anxiety for some of us, will become increasingly less traumatic as life expectancy increases about seven years over the next thirty and new technologies address the usual health issues.
The fly in this particular ointment, of course, is the fact that said new technologies cost money, and it will take some time for them to become sufficiently entrenched to be affordable by mere mortals. Still, the pace of change is picking up, and recent history suggests that hardly anyone will be left out completely; even in semi-socialist Britain, the life of someone meeting the contemporary definition of poverty scarcely resembles the lives Hobbes once characterized as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
I suspect the curve will turn upward even faster once the baby-boomer generation gets out of the way.
(Suggested by Fark)
The myrmidons of The Washington Times are quick to point out that while the paper was indeed founded by members of Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, Moon himself does not exert editorial control. And this would seem to be at least partly true: for instance, the Times endorsed the war in Iraq, which Moon has opposed.
Still, I wonder sometimes how closely Moon watches what's going on. Today I pulled up this Mark Steyn piece from the Times' Web site, and the page load halted partway through. A popup box then appeared to advise me that Korean-language support (!) was going to be loaded. I've never seen that before at the Times.
(If you want to read the Steyn article, which nicely skewers John Kerry, I suggest you use this link instead.)
S-Bob be chillin
American Greetings, perhaps in a hurry to get the shipment to Wal-Mart before the Sons of Sam pitched a fit, accidentally misprinted a batch of SpongeBob SquarePants Valentine cards, rendering the young aquatic fellow, not in his usual diaper-interior yellow, but in the deepest ebony.
Or perhaps not. Printing for these is outsourced to China, and presumably they wouldn't know SpongeBob from dim sum.
(Snarfed from Tongue Tied)
The song remains the same
One of the more curious arguments coming out of the Democratic side of the aisle lately runs something like this: "If you vote for Ralph Nader, you're really voting for George W. Bush."
The premise, one supposes, is that in states where Nader has measurable strength, he may draw away enough disaffected Democrats who can't bear to vote for Al Gore and Dubya will collect those electoral votes in the end. A vote for Nader, therefore, must be a vote wasted. The usual Friends of Al will actually say so, in so many words.
The proper response to this, I submit, is "So?" How is it Ralph Nader's fault if Al Gore can't hold on to his traditional Democratic base? Isn't it entirely possible that some people might actually want to vote for Nader? Where does Al Gore get off thinking he has the right to claim all the votes of registered Democrats and that includes mine, dammit as his own?
Nader has the right to do whatever he damn well pleases. Any vote [that] Nader gets will be one that he earned. Simple as that. The presumptious attitude that all votes "belong" to either the (R) or the (D) is ridiculous. Any vote that a person willfully cast for another candidate other than them is "Stolen"? Give me a break.
Plus ça change, and all that.
24 February 2004
It's a zoning issue
John Leo sneers at it:
Kansas City is establishing a "compassion zone" for homeless people just outside the downtown freeway loop. This is an upbeat way of announcing that the downtown area and most of the rest of the city are now compassion-free zones from which vagrants and homeless people will be expelled.
Well, it's not quite that simple:
There is advantage to the homeless in having them spend their days nearer the emergency shelters where many of them spend their nights. Better than wandering the streets of downtown all day.
And that's the aim here, building a daytime drop-in homeless shelter within easy walking distance of the City Union Mission and reStart Inc. Hence the compassion zone.
Still, whatever the motivations, the result is pretty much what Leo describes. Having spent a brief period many years ago without a roof over my head, I rather think I'd be incensed at being effectively walled off from part of the city. On the other hand, I don't think Kansas City aspires to be the next San Francisco, either.
Check your tinfoil supplies
Rudolph Giuliani was in town yesterday to accept an honorary doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. "Yes, we should be afraid," he said. "No, it should not stop us."
A guy in the crowd was evidently not stopped. He stood up and yelled something about how the al-Qaeda network had had nothing to do with the World Trade Center bombings, and Giuliani knew it.
And who was responsible?
"Wal-Mart did it, and you know it," said the guy.
The fellow was eventually propelled from the premises, and Giuliani shrugged. "I am used to protesters."
Still: Wal-Mart? Somewhere in this state there must be a meth lab putting out defective product.
Eric Scheie takes a look out back of the barn:
Because it is quite clear that [John] Kerry thinks his service in Vietnam gives him the moral authority to make 2004 the Year of the Chickenhawk, I think examining the logic of the central premise is in order.
Let's take, um, Gus Hall and George Lincoln Rockwell. The former headed the Communist Party, USA, while the latter headed the American Nazi Party. Both served in World War II; Hall in the Navy, and Rockwell too (the latter distinguishing himself as a fighter pilot).
Clearly, Hall and Rockwell would be more entitled to serve in the government, or to comment on foreign policy, than any of the "chickenhawks" Kerry complains of.
And it gets better:
In the United States Senate, 19 Republicans are veterans, while only 17 Democrats are.
In the House, there are 57 Republican veterans to 43 Democrats.
Simple math. If you disallow all non-veterans from voting [in Congress], then the Republicans would have an even bigger margin of control than they do now.
One of these days John Kerry will figure out that "I'm an effing war hero" counts for a hell of a lot less than he thinks it does. What are the chances it will be before the election?
Center of the horseshoe
Oklahoma City elects a Mayor today, and turnout seems to be heavier than I had anticipated: at 4:50 pm I was the 534th voter in the precinct. (By contrast, I was #346 at about the same time for the Presidential primary three weeks ago.)
Conventional wisdom says they'll finish in this order: Tolbert, Cornett, Peak, Hayes. I'd like to buck said wisdom, but I suspect it might actually be right this time.
(Update, 9 pm: Not this time. Mick Cornett is on top perhaps aptly, inasmuch as his watch party is at the city's one and only revolving restaurant, on top of the United Founders Tower and from the looks of things, he'll get enough votes to avoid a runoff with Jim Tolbert. Now comes the next question: who will fill Cornett's Ward 1 Council seat?)
Another brick falls
Okay, so I'm a Deborah Gibson fan. I've never denied it. And as long as we're on the subject, here's what she's up to:
COME SEE VH1's NEW SHOW "KARAOKE CLASSIC"
VH1 will be taping an Orange County [California] episode of its brand-new nationwide search for the greatest entertainer in all of Karaoke! The new program features So-Cal's top karaoke talent competing for a $500 first prize and the chance to go to VH1's Karaoke Classic Finals in Reno, NV! And the show is hosted by KROQ's Stryker and 80's superstar Deborah Gibson (formerly Debbie Gibson)!
And you can be part of the action!
Not only will the audience get a chance to see and cheer some of the greatest local performers, selected members of the audience will be picked to be televised judges and commentators. These special folks will give their opinion on the competition and decide who moves forward on the show!
Where: The Starting Gate, 5052 Katella Ave, Los Alamitos, CA
Admission is free and the Starting Gate will be offering $2 Smirnoff Ice drink specials all during the show! Bring your friends, cheer for your favorites and maybe even get your chance to be the next big TV singing critic! Don't miss out!
For more details call 310-907-2668
Explanation: It's customary to razz Big Media for regurgitating press releases; I wanted to see what it was like.
And the Debster, before you ask, is thirty-three years old, and has a new album of show tunes.
25 February 2004
Carnivals are forever
Seventy-five Carnivals of the Vanities have now made it down Main Street, and this week's edition is hosted by Da Goddess, along with a subtle reminder: blogging, like so much else in life, requires a certain amount of support.
Don't miss it.
Post-election pundit syndrome
If there's a lesson in yesterday's election, it's this: money doesn't buy seats anymore. Jim Tolbert spent roughly three times as much as any other candidate and pulled less than 30 percent of the vote. And on the other side of the equation, political novice Marcus Hayes spent something like twelve dollars and pulled more than seven percent, finishing above one of the old-pro pols.
More than anything else, I think, this was a contest to see who could rock the boat the least. By general agreement, the MAPS projects have awakened what had been for too long a sleepy city, and no one made any suggestions about screwing around with the process. A little fine-tuning, yes; a firm hand on the finances, certainly; but we're not going to mess with what's working for us. Mayor-elect Mick Cornett should have no problems maintaining continuity during his two-year term, and we wish him well.
Welfare vs. diversity
Wait a minute. Those things don't conflict or do they?
It was the Conservative politician David Willetts who drew my attention to the "progressive dilemma". Speaking at a roundtable on welfare reform, he said: "The basis on which you can extract large sums of money in tax and pay it out in benefits is that most people think the recipients are people like themselves, facing difficulties that they themselves could face. If values become more diverse, if lifestyles become more differentiated, then it becomes more difficult to sustain the legitimacy of a universal risk-pooling welfare state. People ask: 'Why should I pay for them when they are doing things that I wouldn't do?' This is America versus Sweden. You can have a Swedish welfare state provided that you are a homogeneous society with intensely shared values. In the United States you have a very diverse, individualistic society where people feel fewer obligations to fellow citizens. Progressives want diversity, but they thereby undermine part of the moral consensus on which a large welfare state rests."
And even Sweden is becoming less homogeneous; Stockholm expects to be seeing twice as many immigrants over the next ten years.
Goodhart's essay, published in the Guardian following its appearance in his magazine Prospect, has provoked considerable dismay among British leftists, who tend to believe that they can embrace both multiculturalism and a modified form of socialism with few if any consequences. But, says Goodhart, there are factors working against the combination:
[A] generous welfare state is not compatible with open borders and possibly not even with US-style mass immigration. Europe is not America. One of the reasons for the fragmentation and individualism of American life is that it is a vast country. In Europe, with its much higher population density and planning controls, the rules have to be different. We are condemned to share the rich cannot ignore the poor, the indigenous cannot ignore the immigrant but that does not mean people are always happy to share.
A universal, human rights-based approach to welfare ignores the fact that the rights claimed by one group do not automatically generate the obligation to accept them, or pay for them, on the part of another group. If we want high tax and redistribution, especially with the extra welfare demands of an ageing population, then in a world of stranger citizens taxpayers need reassurance that their money is being spent on people for whose circumstances they would have some sympathy. For that reason, welfare should become more overtly conditional. The rules must be transparent and blind to ethnicity, religion, sexuality and so on, but not blind to behaviour. People who consistently break the rules of civilised behaviour should not receive unconditional benefits.
One could argue, in fact, that staying on the dole indefinitely is an infraction of "the rules of civilised behaviour." I am most assuredly not fond of working for a living, but if I expect to have a roof over my head and a small number of creature comforts, I have no choice; further, if others do seem to have such a choice, I want to know why. And surely I'm not alone in this attitude.
On balance, diversity the genuine article, not the fabricated figures inflicted upon us in its name is a good thing; were I inclined to avoid it, I never would have moved back into the city. Still, the nature of the American melting pot is that sooner or later, preferably sooner, we shed our hyphens and our own personal versions of apartheid and become, well, assimilated. (A pox on the Borg for investing that term with such an unfortunate set of connotations.) The Constitution, after all, begins "We the People"; there are no qualifiers or subdivisions. And by and large, We the People will put up with a heck of a lot, so long as we don't have to pay for it.
26 February 2004
Surges of Passion
No, I didn't go see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ yesterday. As a general rule, I don't see anything the day it debuts, especially if there's a lot of buzz, and Passion, I suspect, now owns the world record for buzz.
Besides that buzz, there were plenty of church groups here who booked entire screenings the Wednesday-evening service is de rigueur for many congregations which means that even had I been inclined to go look for a seat after a ten-hour work day, I probably wouldn't have found one.
Still, it's a film I'll have to see at some point. Meanwhile, the first-night crowd seemed to respond with a combination of shock and awe, which strikes me as a good sign.
The passing of Lady A
A converted moviehouse on McLemore Avenue in Memphis. The sounds of soul waft up from the studio, into the control room, and out into the street. And presiding over it all, Lady A.
Estelle Axton and her brother Jim Stewart formed Satellite Records in Memphis in 1957 to record local musicians. They scored a substantial national hit "Last Night" by the Mar-Keys before discovering that there was already a Satellite Records on the West Coast, prompting a name change. STewart plus AXton became Stax.
And Stax, in the Sixties and early Seventies, was the most serious rival to Motown in the creation of that marvelous music known as Soul. The Stax house band, Booker T. [Jones] and the MGs [Memphis Group], backed up Sam and Dave, Rufus (and daughter Carla) Thomas, and scored hits on their own; sister label Volt was the home of Otis Redding.
In 1968, Stax, having been shafted in a distribution deal with Atlantic to make a long story short, Atlantic wound up owning the entire Stax catalog up to that point allowed itself to be acquired by the Gulf + Western conglomerate. G+W hadn't a clue about the record business, though, and Jim Stewart by now Estelle had retired from day-to-day operations bought back the company, which continued to flourish with the Staple Singers and Isaac Hayes until an even worse deal with CBS sent Stax spiraling into Chapter 7.
Estelle Axton died Tuesday in Memphis; she was 85. The old theatre on McLemore Avenue is gone; the Stax Museum of American Soul Music is planned for the site. The memories, and the music the post-Atlantic recordings are now owned by the jazz label Fantasy of course live on.
Says the eminent Rocksnob DragonAttack:
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that being a woman running an integrated studio in Memphis in the sixties was not always the easiest task in the world. But she (along with her co-founding brother) got the job done, and for that we should be grateful.
I know I am.
If you've ever felt the need to send me a buck or two to cover my ever-expanding expenses well, forget about me and send it to Dean and Rosemary, wouldja please?
The shadow of Jim Crow
The Oklahoman has an interesting exhibit this week: photos of five Oklahoma City segregation ordinances, enacted from 1916 through 1934. From the vantage point of the 21st century, these seem downright medieval, but while all of them have been stricken from the books, there are reminders of their existence in the distribution of the city's population even today.
From Ordinance Number 1824, March 1916:
[I]t shall be unlawful for any white person to use as a residence, or place of abode or to establish and maintain as a place of assembly any house, building or structure in any block, as same is hereinafter defined, on which seventy-five percent or more of such houses, buildings or structures are occupied as residences, place of abode or public assembly by colored people, and twenty-five percent or less of such houses, buildings or structures are occupied as residence, place of abode or public assembly by white people.
[I]t shall be unlawful for any colored person to use as a residence or place of abode, or to establish and maintain as a place of assembly any house, building or structure in any block, as same is hereinafter defined, on which seventy-five percent or more of such houses, buildings or structures are occupied as residences, place of abode or public assembly by white people, and twenty-five percent or less of such houses, buildings or structures are occupied as residence, place of abode or public assembly by colored people.
Sure enough, a later paragraph defines "block," just in case there might be any doubts.
This ordinance was modified by the next ordinance, to make allowance for servants and such, and to define "white" and "colored" blocks more specifically. By the Thirties, the arbitrary 75-percent figure had been modified to an arbitrary 51-percent figure; eventually, all the rules were thrown out. Still, as late as 1970, Oklahoma City was considered 90 percent segregated the Bureau of the Census compiles a Housing Segregation Index improving to 68 percent in 2000. Zero is probably unattainable, given human nature; still, progress is being made. And as a practical matter, most present-day segregation tends to be economic rather than racial; someone making $12,000 a year would find it difficult to buy into my neighborhood, simply because of the prevailing prices, and I certainly can't afford something in the higher-lux areas a mile and a half from me.
I don't pretend for a moment that people in Oklahoma City, or in the United States in general, live in perfect racial harmony. But the stark reminders of what used to be should make us feel slightly better about what is.
Birthday suits, sort of
When last we left former news anchor Catherine Bosley, she had resigned her position at an Ohio television station.
Now Mike Pechar reports that Bosley is suing a number of Web sites that have been carrying the photos of her taken at that infamous Key West party, hoping to stop distribution. Says Pechar, it's probably too little, too late; is there anyone who hasn't seen them?
The general thinking around here is mostly "How do we get Amy McRee to take her clothes off?"
27 February 2004
Where the bucks are
Forbes has issued its annual list of the World's Richest People. As usual, admission to this club requires a net worth of $1 billion US, and two Oklahomans made it to the list this year. Interestingly, both of them tend to be somewhat reclusive, and both of them tend to give it away nearly as fast as they earn it.
Number 159 ($3 billion) is George Kaiser, head of Tulsa-based Bank of Oklahoma and Kaiser-Francis Oil Company, and founder of many charities which at his insistence do not bear his name.
Number 514 ($1.1 billion) is David Green, head of Oklahoma City's Hobby Lobby and Mardel stores, who supports local antipoverty efforts and Christian missions overseas.
For the record, my own net worth doesn't extend to ten digits; it's more like four. I note, though, that (1) at least it's positive, something it hasn't been before, and (2) I owe George Kaiser a rather startling sum. (Bank of Oklahoma holds my mortgage.)
(Disclosure: When this was first posted, the "startling sum" was actually spelled out.)
Crapshoots R Us
SB 553 will only allow certain favored groups and individuals to get in on the act, and since the legislative leaders are in control of who will get in on the act, you can bet they will be richly rewarded by these favored few once they leave office.
Which is nothing unusual where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. What should have we done?
If you're going to open the state up to casino gambling, just repeal the prohibitions against games of chance, and let anyone who wants to open a casino do so. Regulate the industry only to the extent necessary to ensure that the rules of the game are followed no loaded dice or stacked decks.
Governor Henry, who has pushed for this measure, points out that any revenues generated will be earmarked for education, except for $250,000 allocated to the treatment of gambling addiction. This is the sort of thing that almost guarantees support from the Ed Biz, which welcomes anything that brings in more money. Bates is not impressed:
I hear that the OEA is lobbying for this bill. It's a shame that an organization that claims to be devoted to education is pushing an industry dependent on mathematical ignorance.
They are indeed pushing it. According to the OEA's Legislative Update, one of the Association's goals is:
Providing support for the gaming compact between the State of Oklahoma and the native tribes, which is likely to produce substantial new revenues for state government without a tax increase.
Read: "substantial new revenues for us."
I don't doubt for a moment that they could use the money, and it's conceivable that some of it could be used wisely, but something about all this rubs me the wrong way.
Sheer marketing genius
Dear folks at CD Baby:
Wouldn't this be a great time for a $13.86 sale?
28 February 2004
How Mick did it
Before the actual balloting for the election of the Mayor last Tuesday, I'd made a rough guess of how the votes would fall, and I'd decided that Jim Tolbert would rule in midtown, that Mick Cornett would sweep the newer developments farther from downtown, and that Marcus Hayes would run strongest near the Capitol and points east.
Now that the votes by precinct have been released, I see that by and large I had the right idea, but I underestimated Cornett's strength in midtown. My edge-of-midtown precinct, which I figured would be evenly split between Tolbert and Cornett, went for Cornett 54 to 38 percent. Tolbert did rule in the Historic Districts Heritage Hills, Crown Heights, and such but that was the extent of his dominance; he wasn't even close on the southside. Hayes did best where I thought he'd do best, but he picked up more votes on the periphery than I expected. Almost certainly he'll be back in some fashion.
Things happen in elections that aren't always predictable except in retrospect see Mike Donovan's comments to this post for an example but they don't seem to keep us keyboard-strained wretches from trying.
If you hung around Nashville's Music Row, you probably knew the late Gene Hughes as a promo man par excellence.
But Gene Hughes was a singer, and a darn good one, and you might even have heard him: his voice is out front on the Casinos' lovely 1967 version of John D. Loudermilk's "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye".
When Gene died earlier this month, I figured there would be some perfunctory news coverage after the fact. What I didn't expect was a tribute on the comics page, especially in a perennially-outside-of-time strip like Nancy. But here it is, with Sluggo singing "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" to Nancy.
My thanks to the Gilchrist brothers, presently the proprietors of Ernie Bushmiller's classic comic, for this lovely little bit of remembrance; it had me singing along with Sluggo and, of course, with Gene.
Minor touchup work
As far back as I can remember, the lot on the northeast corner of NW 59th Street and May Avenue has contained a Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppe of the old school, a little mock-clapboard building with a simulated boat hull seemingly aground on the roof, as though the flood waters had only just receded.
A couple of weeks ago, they posted a CLOSED FOR REMODELING sign. Today I watched some of that remodeling, which involved three bulldozers.
Truth be told, I have no idea what's going to happen with the now-vacant lot. Did LJS decide it was too small? Negotiating the parking area was tricky, more so when they added the drive-through.
Actually, that's not quite true. I know one thing that's going to happen: semi-severe stormage tonight and tomorrow, which should produce some nifty red mudslides. If they get past Monterey Jack's, they'll ease down the hill right into Barnes & Noble. And anyway, should I feel the need for sort-of-fast seafood, I'd just as soon drive the five miles to the nearest Captain D's.
Standards of proof
"President Bush," writes Brian Brus in the Oklahoma Gazette, "recently has had a hard time proving his whereabouts in 1972 to the satisfaction of political opponents. Even after the White House released military records from his service in the Texas Air National Guard, some still questioned whether he completed his military duty and unfavorably compared his wartime service to that of his likely Democratic presidential opponent, decorated combat veteran John Kerry."
What does it take to prove one's whereabouts? Brus hit up a number of public figures in Oklahoma and demanded, "Where were you in '72?"
Governor Henry wasn't in the military at all; in fact, reports press secretary Phil Bacharach, he was in the fourth grade at Sequoyah Elementary School in Shawnee, and he has the report cards to prove it.
Former governor George Nigh was in the Navy in the middle Forties, but where was he in 1972? "I was lieutenant governor of Oklahoma," he said. Asked if he could document this claim, Nigh asserted: "I'm sure there's some sort of travel voucher I turned in."
Should anyone ask, I was in the Army for most of 1972, and I still have copies of orders and payroll forms if anyone needs to verify this.
Greatest Hits, volume X
Originally posted 5 July 2001
She might have been ten, she might have been twelve; it would never have occurred to me to ask. And she'd chosen the middle swing from the row of three, because there was much more room to swing, not only to and fro and up and down, but also side to side. I smiled at her as I stumbled down the hill towards the "cluster boxes" that the Postal Service finds so endearing and the postal patrons find so annoying.
"Whatever happened to my youthful exuberance?" I muttered to no one in particular while I pulled bill after bill out of its dingy receptacle. I mean, I don't have the urge to clamber onto a swing and get myself airborne or anything; the cruelty of gravity is something I'd just as soon not face. But here she was, a pretty girl on her way to becoming a beautiful woman, seemingly paying no attention whatsoever to the unending pressures from a culture she barely knows. "Grow up! Find romance! Spend money!" Who needs this sort of foolishness? Let her fly while she can, and let her grow up when she's ready.
By the time I'd started back up the hill, she'd moved to the far side of the playground, perhaps because she thought there would be fewer creepy old guys with twisted grins passing by. The twenty-first century refuses to be ignored, even by twelve-year-old girls. Even if they're ten.
29 February 2004
The Second Lady at Bowling Green
Rammer attends a fundraiser for Rep. Paul Gilmore (R-Ohio), where the keynote speaker is Lynne Cheney, and reports as follows:
Her remarks were unremarkable, but she worked her way through the prepared speech in yeoman (yeowoman) fashion. She began by noting how fortunate she is to have a front row seat for the history that is unfolding. Listing the accomplishments of the Bush administration, she paused to praise the troops. She discussed economic policy before tearing into the other party's leading candidates. Her best cut was, "Listening to them talk, it seems as though they are against even the things that they are for."
Just as I expected her to wind it down, she instead had saved the material that most mattered to her for last. With the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court and an Associate Justice in attendance she called for the end of the "abuse of the Constitution" by the other party in the U.S. Senate that was blocking the opportunity for votes to be taken on the President's Judicial nominees. Pounding the podium, she concluded her remarks with a call for support and redoubled effort to secure Ohio for the Bush-Cheney ticket.
Nothing remarkable, in other words, but perhaps an indication of what we can expect in the pre-convention period before the gloves really come off.
Rammer notes that Mrs Cheney's speech was given before dinner, "for security reasons no doubt," after which she was presumably whisked away to an undisclosed location.
I had just moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 1961, and being in an occupation which took up most of my time third grade I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the radio beyond the Top 40 tunes (and the occasional oldie) being vended by WTMA. I knew there was radio outside the Low Country at night, it was possible to grab stuff like Nashville's WLAC, playing the latest R&B, or St. Louis' KMOX, where I could get the Cardinals' games but most other South Carolina stations were 5 kw or less and never made it into Charleston at all.
Which is how I managed to miss the flap over the first shock jock worthy of the description, a fellow named Charlie Walker, from WDKD in Kingstree.
Charlie Walker, by all accounts, was way over the top, considering the sanitary standards of the early Sixties. He ragged on local luminaries; he transmogrified town names (Andrews became "Ann's Drawers"); he invented straw men to trash. A sample:
He says: "I believe that old dog of mine is a Baptist." I asked him why he thought his old dog was a Baptist and he says, "you know, Uncle Charlie, it is that he's done baptized every hubcap around Ann's Drawers."
And one day, when the phone calls to the station manager were running higher than usual, Charlie Walker said something like this:
Now I done got sick and tired of all you fools giving me the devil about what I said about ol' so and so. Listen to me. Any of y'all out there that don't like what I said, y'all can all come up here to this radio station, and just kiss my ass...it's tied up right here at the back of the station!
The FCC hadn't defined "indecency" yet, perhaps because they couldn't imagine it. WDKD management had been blowing off the complaints, but when the Feds started making noise, the station began to sweat.
And after an investigation and a hearing, the FCC found that Walker's radio show contained "coarse, vulgar, and suggestive material susceptible of indecent double meaning[s]," and imposed the death penalty: not on Walker, but on WDKD, whose license was summarily revoked. (Does this sound familiar?)
The usual appeals followed, and a compromise of sorts was reached: WDKD was allowed to resume broadcasting, but Walker's third-class FCC license (then required for on-air personnel) was modified to specify that at no time could he broadcast live. For the rest of his career, Charlie Walker was on tape-delay.
And that career continues into the 21st century, seven seconds behind the rest of the world. The South Carolina legislature even honored him during the 2001-02 session. Today Charlie Walker writes a column for Kingstree's weekly News, and is revered as a solid citizen of the South; you'd probably never know that he'd anticipated Howard Stern by thirty or forty years.
(I am indebted to Jay Braswell, longtime SC and Georgia DJ, now a broadcast consultant in Hawkinsville, Georgia, for recounting this story at a radio message board I frequent.)
I'm not quite sure where this came from my cousin Linda apparently found it in her mother's effects and sent it along but I'm guessing it was taken in very late 1954 or early 1955, which would make Dear Old Dad twenty-seven years old, and me somewhere between one and two. I note with some bemusement that bad hair days seem to run in the family.
(The original is torn and discolored here and there; I have cropped out most of the anomalies. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that one of the parts torn away actually contained the when-and-where details of this photo. Not that I can prove it, of course.)
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