1 May 2004
Oh, and Gulliver says hello
The Warrior Poet doesn't quite grasp what leads people to give names to their naughty bits. What does one get out of it?
Familiarity? Emotional distance? Division of responsibility? "Sorry, that's not me, that's Lucy and Ethel"? "Don't mind Fernando, he's a little frisky tonight"?
Perhaps it could be this:
If it's recognized, even laughingly, as a separate entity, I'm less tied to [A] its behavior and [B] other people's behaviors towards it.
The male of the species being routinely accused of being led around by the thing, I'm not surprised that there might be a tendency to dissociate oneself from it. On the other hand, or perhaps both hands, I seldom hear of women who are, um, overtly rack-directed.
Perhaps there's some significance to the name chosen, but if, for instance, William F. Buckley, Jr. should refer to the resident unit as "The Brobdingnagian Protuberance," well, I'd just as soon not know about it.
Cold and calculating
If, like me, you've listened to John Kerry rattle off an endless stream of answers that somehow don't mesh with the actual questions being asked, and wondered "What the hell is this man thinking?" well, Baldilocks has figured it out:
[I]nstead of answering a given question truthfully and taking the accolades or lumps for that answer, John Kerry attempts to spot-calculate which answer will accrue to him the most votes. He takes a mental poll for everything. So when he gets asked stupid, insignificant crap regarding his/somebody else's medals/ribbons, his mental poll reflex sends out conflicting information at any given time. Why? Times change, and his answers, his truth, must change with them.
And if he does this badly with stupid, insignificant crap, imagine how he'll stumble if he's asked something important. (One question which occurs to me: "How is cutting taxes for me, a low-paid corporate drone, while simultaneously raising taxes on the guy who owns his own business, going to generate one job, let alone ten million?)
The number of votes he will accrue from this household hovers right around zero. Besides:
Doesn't the idea of having a guy like that as president especially during wartime just give you a warm fuzzy feeling? Me neither.
At this point, I find myself wishing that Dennis Kucinich (!) had emerged as the Democratic front-runner: he may have barked at the moon once too often, but even when his answers were palpably absurd, you knew he was serious about them, that he believed what he was saying. The only thing John Kerry is serious about is the care and feeding of John Kerry.
(Update, 10 pm: Bruce takes exception to this. In very large print.)
Bullet the blue grass
There are no neutral colors in Kentucky. Positioned as it is, adjacent to the somnolent Midwest and the hard-luck Appalachians, yet very much a part of the South, it's a crossroads of cultures, and inevitably a crossroads of conflict: the sun may be probably is shining, but just the same, you're standing on dark and bloody ground.
The Shooting Gallery, an alt-country outfit from Louisville, knows all this stuff. Dark and Bloody Ground, the band's independently-released CD, fuses the blackest, bleakest mountain themes to spirited rockin' country backgrounds, tales of people you'd like to know more about, but you probably shouldn't approach too closely if you know what's good for you. "Harlan," set in that coal-mining county in southeastern Kentucky, explains the milieu:
Where the devil had cursed the land
And the company owned his soul
He had all that he could stand
Of digging in a deep black hole
Down in Harlan, bloody Harlan
Under conditions like these, the strongest and bravest of us might snap, and those of us who don't think of ourselves as especially strong or remarkably brave, which is most of us, feel for these characters, even as we wait for the retribution, divine or otherwise, we know is coming.
This particular musical river has been fed by many tributaries, some well-known, some less so. I hear traces of Neil Young and the Band, of Merle Haggard and Lefty Frizzell, and, perhaps unexpectedly, U2; while there's no The Edge-like signature guitar sound per se, John Ashley's vocals dance around the periphery of the notes, sometimes hitting them square, sometimes grazing the corners, like Bono soaked in George Dickel. "Northbound Train," written by guitarist Brent Thurman, evokes Jerry Lee Lewis at the end of his rope.
Of course, you should run right out and get this CD, and assume the risks that come with these twelve tracks. I'm not saying that this is a dangerous collection, that you're jeopardizing your immortal soul merely by possessing it. But late at night with the shades drawn and one too many drinks well, there's a reason that the last name in "Thanks to...", after all the friends and well-wishers and equipment suppliers, is Ed Gein. Dark and bloody, indeed.
Did I hear someone say "quagmire"?
Iraq, it goes without saying, is not Vietnam.
Of course, things that go without saying usually end up said anyway, so:
Iraq is not Vietnam.
Note-It Posts, to amplify this point, offers the Top Ten Ways You Can Tell Iraq Is Not Vietnam. A sampling thereof:
10. In all the radio traffic that Fox News has broadcast coming from Iraq, we haven't heard the phrase "Charlie" used a single time.
3. 2004: Smallpox vaccines. 1965: Penicillin shots.
2. John Kerry got two paper cuts and a stubbed toe last week, and hasn't received a single Purple Heart for his pain and anguish.
Seven more where these came from.
2 May 2004
One word: plastic
An interesting sidebar in the May/June Mother Jones by Dave Gilson and Jennifer Hahn, who put together a list of the ten largest credit-card issuers and matched it up to the political contributions collected from them by the major parties from 2000 through February 2004. Admittedly, this is an issue to which I give not a whole lot of thought; my major concern with a credit card is trying to reduce the amount of interest and fees collected from me.
Citigroup, the largest card issuer, has forked over $8.8 million in contributions, more or less evenly distributed between Democrats and Republicans, the GOP having a slight edge. For six of the other nine, the GOP has more than a slight edge: #2 MBNA has paid out $6.3 million, over $5 million of which went to the Republicans which is no surprise, since recently-retired MBNA chairman Charles Cawley is a major Bush fan and #3 Bank One sent two-thirds of its $3.3 million to the GOP.
In the other direction? Well, there's Providian, probably by no coincidence the issuer of a Democratic Party affinity card, whose contributions total just under a million dollars, 53 percent of which went into Democratic coffers.
And if you're thinking that maybe you'd just as soon have a card company that doesn't spend a lot on political contributions, your best pick among the top ten is Capital One, which peeled off less than $900,000.
From the Department of No Surprises
Piled higher and deeper
It is agreed that there is a massive overproduction of Ph.D.'s, and that departments that are contributing to this massive overproduction of Ph.D.'s are grossly irresponsible toward grad students even as they serve their own needs very well (they get the cheap labor they need to get freshman comp taught, and they get a pool of smart, interesting students to whom faculty can administer narcissistically gratifying graduate courses). Usually, the solutions offered to this problem run along the lines of suggesting that fewer Ph.D.'s should be produced, that those that are produced should be better supported, and that "The Profession," as comprised of hundreds of discrete departments, should renew its commitment to the tenure track by, well, being very committed to it (this commitment in turn is organized around an ideal of hiring as many TT faculty as possible, cutting back on adjunct labor as much as possible, and placing as many newly minted Ph.D.'s as possible in TT jobs). It doesn't work, and it can't.
But one reason is that the problem of what to do with all these Ph.D.'s is too narrowly defined. It's true that a Ph.D. in English or history is not a terribly magnetic job qualification outside academe. Such degrees can, in fact, be positively detrimental to one's extra-academic job hunting, in large part because there exists beyond the academy a not entirely unwarranted belief that humanities Ph.D.-types are the prospective employees from hell incapable of meeting deadlines, incapable of communicating clearly, contemptuous of taskwork and pragmatic problem-solving, incapable of working well with others. It's a stereotype, and an often unfair one. But it doesn't come out of nowhere, either.
What to do with all these people? She has one possible solution:
There is one market, though, that is WIDE OPEN for humanities M.A.'s and Ph.D.'s, and that is the independent school market. "Independent" is mostly a contemporary code word for "private," though it can also mean "charter." Your Ph.D. or, if you are ABD, your M.A. is a very attractive qualification in this market. In contrast to the public school system, it counts as a teaching qualification (thus preventing you from going back to school to get a highly redundant ed school teaching certificate). Independent schools are eager to add people with advanced degrees to their faculty in part, this raises the profile of the school and looks good to parents and donors, but far more importantly, these schools recognize that refugees from academe can make marvelous high school teachers. They know this to be true because their faculties are already full of them.
How do we know she's serious? She's taking this step herself, leaving the faculty of an Ivy League university to teach English at just such a school, emboldened by the experiences of those who have gone before her:
I've met a number of such refugees from a number of schools this year. The schools themselves have been as different from one another as people are but at all of them, the refugees say, entirely independent of one another, that the work they have found in the world of independent school teaching far surpasses the academic life. All say they are able to do the sort of intensive, personalized teaching they dreamed of doing as college teachers, but could not do in a higher ed setting; all say they feel more intellectually alive than they did in academe; and all say, too, that they have a much greater sense of purpose and of professional satisfaction than they did in academe. They are palpably happy, and the differences they are making in kids' lives are real and meaningful. They also have summers off and, having jumped the assembly-line production schedule of the academic track, can follow the far more ethical and constructive course of pursuing their own research and writing projects when and as the spirit moves them.
Far be it from me to suggest that the turmoil just beyond the tenure track is breeding Bolsheviks or anything like that, but I've always believed that if you're doing something truly worthwhile with your life, you're just a tad less likely to veer off into the Land of the Moonbats. (This belief, of course, is wholly independent of my own experience, but then I've never felt I was doing anything particularly worthwhile; my days in the military impress me a lot more today than they did then, owing to a steady, if insufficiently steep, decline in my level of immaturity.)
And this suggests a path for the public schools as well, inasmuch as their current obsession with credentials is almost certainly keeping them from attracting the best people. They're meeting the needs of the teachers' unions, perhaps, but they're not necessarily meeting the needs of the students.
Tales of the unexpectable
Things I didn't expect to encounter, but did, this very day:
A shrinking price gap between 87-octane gasoline and the ostensible premium (91) grade. It used to be about a quarter; now it's down around twenty cents. I'm thinking, what with prices increasing, that nobody around here wants to be the first on the corner with two-dollar premium while the "cheap" stuff hovers around $1.759.
Vinyl siding on Dear Old Dad's place. I always thought he hated that stuff. Then again, at seventy-seven (next month), he probably hates the thought of painting even more.
A cover version of Liz Phair's "H.W.C." By a, you should pardon the expression, boy band, yet. (Damned good, too.)
3 May 2004
A storm story
Here in Tornado Alley, there's a tendency to become complacent: we see the warnings on TV and we think, "Oh, well, it's another one." If it's coming our way, we fumble to remember our safety precautions; if it's not, we shrug.
Five years ago today, no one shrugged. No one had time to shrug. It was the first F5-level tornado ever seen in the city, the very top of the Fujita scale, and the damage started at unimaginable and worked its way up from there.
From my notes at the time:
At its peak, the funnel was nearly a mile wide, and its easternmost flank ventured to within half a mile of this desk. At least, that's what they said in the newspapers; what I saw looked more like a matte painting from a science-fiction film, and an ill-lit one at that. The electrical power went dead here almost immediately, and was not restored until the next day. The only actual damage to my premises, though, was some ostensible surface excitement added to the top of my car, courtesy of a barrage of high-speed ice balls. Given the sheer strength of this storm bigger vehicles than this were picked up and dropped across the street or in front of houses or even into houses I'm not inclined to complain a great deal about a handful of dimples.
By the time the storm had passed my area, it had dropped below F5 level, so I managed to avoid seeing the worst of it. South and west of me, though, it was a war zone: nearly two thousand homes destroyed, six thousand more damaged. There was speculation that the storm had actually reached F6 levels; subsequent research seemed to establish that it hadn't, but at this point, it was like wondering, after your car had been totaled, if the turn-signal lever still worked.
[N]o one really believes it's over. You can't watch destruction at this level, even at a "safe" distance, without something happening to you. The deeply religious, and we have lots of them, saw this as a severe test of their faith; the vast majority of them, I believe, held on. For those of an environmentalist bent and perhaps also for those who scoff at such things the storm was a none-too-gentle reminder that Nature always gets the last word.
For the most part, rebuilding has been completed; the former Tanger Outlet Center in Stroud, still in ruins, will be rebuilt as a medical center starting later this year.
Today will be placid, this morning chilly, this afternoon sunny, winds on the light side. Fortunately.
An excess of nostalgia
She's fifty today, and has three (almost certainly) lovely girls.
But to me, she will always be fourteen.
Before you ask: Yes, I'm over her. But that first rush of emotion, the first ray of hope in a life mostly distinguished by a general lack of it that, I miss.
I was holding out for "Satisfaction"
The British magazine Total Guitar, having polled its readers, has released its list of the greatest guitar riffs of all time, and topping the list is Slash's opening to the Guns n' Roses classic "Sweet Child O'Mine".
The lick I thought might have won, from Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," placed fourth.
Five years ago, a similar poll picked Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," which finished #3 this time.
Once again, open for business
Attorney General John Ashcroft, at the dedication of the new Federal Building:
This gathering, this building, this city are clear evidence, a demonstration of the kind of spirit in America showing that men and women who are allowed to breathe the bracing air of freedom will always come together to defeat tyranny, the tyranny of fear and hatred.
The new structure is one block from the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
My bags are packed, I'm ready to go
"Even if you're not single," says Men's Journal (June '04), "it's nice to be in a place with some eye candy." Accordingly, they recommend the following communities:
These are the cities with the best female populations, as measured by the male-to-female ratio, the average female body mass index, the percentage of college grads, and percentage between the ages of 18 and 40.
That's what they said: "best female populations."
I have always assumed that my own criteria were dubious, arbitrary, and generally shameful, and no doubt they are, but I cringe at the thought that there are guys far more shallow than I.
Especially if they have dates.
4 May 2004
In terms of terms of opprobrium, one of the most useful is the vernacular term for a certain bodily orifice possessed by all and viewed negatively by most. Use of this term, like the object whose name it borrowed, is pretty universal; George W. Bush once used it to describe a New York Times reporter.
Eventually some people tired of the term let's face it, the word gets lots of use and variations were tried; arguably the most successful was "asshat," popularized by, among others, Rachel Lucas and Fark. Not only did it share a substantial number of letters with its parent, but it managed to evoke a chuckle or two even as it vilified the person to whom it was applied.
But now even "asshat" is being gentrified. Laura at Oddly Normal has described certain minions of the Nanny State as "rectal milliners, the lot of them," and just yesterday, Robert Prather at Insults Unpunished said of Ted Koppel: "Add him to the list of those wearing rectal chapeaus."
Who knows where this derrière derby will end?
Feel the Bern
The national anthem of Switzerland, Alberik Zwyssig's 1841 "Swiss Psalm," text by Leonhard Widmer, is overtly religious, sexist, and generally outdated. Even the Swiss Federal Council says so. But they're not going to change it.
When the Psalm was officially proclaimed to be the national anthem in 1981, after many years of unofficial use and twenty years as the "provisional" anthem, the Council declared that the Psalm was "a purely Swiss song, dignified and ceremonial, the kind of national anthem that the majority of our citizens would like to have." And the Swiss do not undertake change lightly.
There are four verses to the Psalm, though usually only three are translated into English.
(Via Tongue Tied)
Paragraphs of doom
Matt Deatherage has been following the strange tale of Brian Robertson, a high-school student from Moore who happened upon a text file containing what purported to be evacuation orders in the event of some unspecified disaster. Robertson read the file, found inspiration therein, and wrote a short story about an armed assault on his school.
In a normal environment, it would have ended there. But we live in the Age of Zero Tolerance, so when the school administration found the story, they called the cops, and Robertson was charged with a felony: under a 2001 let's-make-sure-we-don't-have-another-Columbine bill, it was illegal to "plan, attempt, conspire, or endeavor to perform an act of violence," and Robertson's story, viewed through the eyes of Zero Tolerance, looked like a plan. The charges looked even sillier once the case came before a judge, and were duly dropped, but inasmuch as it took over a year to bring the case to trial, Oklahoma law forbids expunging Robertson's record.
Until now. The Legislature has passed a measure which redefines the law to require malicious intent and provides the authority to clear the records of those charged under the previous version.
[S]imply writing the story as before is no longer a thoughtcrime; the state has to prove you intended to carry out the plan.
Which is, of course, as it should be.
We're finally on our own
I was thirteen in 1970, but for years I accepted the popular notion that the riot at Kent State was nothing but a peaceful demonstration of gentle flower children who were ruthlessly attacked for no reason by drooling prognathous-browed Neanderthals in National Guard uniforms. Perhaps if I had actually watched the news with my parents instead of regarding such as part of the uninteresting duties of maturity that my tender years gave sanction to avoid, I would not have spent so many years under this delusion.
I'm having a little problem imagining brows as prognathous, but otherwise this is much like what I was thinking at the advanced age of Almost Seventeen.
Iraq, of course, is not Vietnam it's not even "exactly similar" and I wouldn't expect people who protested the war in Iraq to be strictly comparable to people who protested the war in Vietnam. Certainly some (though by no means all) of today's antiwar types are a rather surly, uncommunicative lot, something I don't remember being characteristic of the flower children. (I, of course, was surly and uncommunicative in those days, but then I have always been such.)
But I have to wonder: was I giving Vietnam protesters in 1970 a pass because I was rapidly closing in on draft age and therefore might have had some reason to identify with them? I can't find much common ground with today's antiwar left; has it changed, or have I?
When George Burns was 85, he said something to the effect that he was expecting to live forever: "Very few people," he said, "die after age eighty-five."
George, alas, is gone, but the Carnival of the Vanities, now in episode #85, is still at it. This week, the Carnival is hosted by Thief's Den, and bloggy goodness shines through every strand. Or something like that.
Read. This. Now.
DoggerelPundit presents: Press' Snide Story.
Mad Magazine hasn't been this good in years.
5 May 2004
Points on the curve, as determined at Altered Perceptions:
Lust is a Hershey bar, a Ford Fiesta and a walk in the park. Love is Godivas, a Rolls Royce and gazing down at the world from Pikes Peak.
Now to find a term that fits a random Skittle, a clapped-out Chevy Vega, and the view from the inside of the car wash.
Do as we say, but not here
Minus the buzzwords, this seems reasonable enough:
Adolescents tend to overestimate the extent to which their peers are participating in risk behaviors. In almost any functioning social system, the majority of individuals are making healthy decisions and are avoiding risky behavior. However, many individuals in the majority typically believe that they are in the minority i.e., that "everyone else is doing it." Such misperceptions can be harmful because they can provide a sort of false peer pressure, encouraging young people to take risks that they would rather avoid. Programs employing a social-norms approach attempt to correct misperceptions by providing accurate information about true peer norms, either through instructional activities or through social marketing campaigns. Developed over the past decade or so, this approach has been quite successful in reducing risk-taking behavior in the area of drinking and drug abuse.
William F. Bacon, PhD, who came up with this, is associate vice president for research and evaluation at Planned Parenthood of New York City, and his statement appears on the Planned Parenthood Web site.
You might assume from this that the organization actually seeks to reduce "risk-taking behavior." A glance at their Web site for teenagers, Teenwire, suggests otherwise. Dawn Eden has done more than glance, and she's appalled:
The main story linked on Teenwire's front page is "Be Prepared for the Prom," which informs teens that prom night is a big night to lose your virginity. It seems that all that talk on Planned Parenthood's main Web site about changing teens' "social norms" and upending the "everybody's doing it" philosophy is sooooo last year.
At the very least, there's a serious disconnect between what Planned Parenthood is telling adults, who write the checks, and what they're telling teenagers.
As the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.
The benefactor factor
Over the past few years, National Public Radio received a fair chunk of change from Archer Daniels Midland, an agribusiness conglomerate which regularly comes in for criticism from the sort of people who listen to National Public Radio. I don't think that ADM was necessarily trying to buy NPR's silence, but their presence in the listing of supporters sounded somehow peculiar, and lately it seems to have disappeared.
In the absence of ADM, Wal-Mart has been kicking in some heavy dollars to NPR, which has run rather a lot of news pieces which could be construed as critical of the retail giant; even Jeffrey Dvorkin, the NPR ombudsman, has felt compelled to justify taking Wal-Mart's money to aggrieved listeners.
Now if we could just get the real story behind Jennifer and Ted Stanley.
6 May 2004
How high the wall?
[W]ho gets to decide what is classical and what isn't?
[W]ho will be the great composers of the future and who will be the also-rans?
On the second question, at least, she's made up her mind: it will be the verdict of history that determines future entries to the Pantheon. And certainly she's right, although one inevitable side-effect will be the eventual neglect of composers who just missed the cut, which is unfortunate but probably unavoidable, and we won't always have Karl Haas to dig up "Rare and Well-Done" works for us.
But that still leaves the first question unanswered: by whose authority does a musical work become worthy of consideration for admission to the Basic Repertoire? What process weeds out pieces A and B in favor of C? In this era, the music that sounds most "classical" is film music, but clearly not everything that makes it into a motion-picture soundtrack isn't classical.
That leaves the field open to gatekeepers, with, says Lynn, mixed results:
An academic elite has assumed the role of preserving quality and tradition. This is good. But has this elite gone too far? It's one thing to protect an ancient and living tradition from the ravages of pop culture but quite another to lock it in an ivory tower so high and remote that few dare approach if they even know it exists at all.
She dismisses "trash classical" like Bach for Dummies, which fits with the premise of avoiding contact with that horrid pop stuff. Here I demur. Even if it's pitched at "dummies," it's still Bach and can still be appreciated by someone who knows the name of Schmieder's catalog. I'm not worried that the classical "market," as it were, is going to be overrun by barbarians: classical music will always be a minority taste. But there's no reason it shouldn't be a minority of, say, twenty percent, instead of two or three.
Nichols' defense goes wide
It was never any secret that Terry Nichols' defense, which is scheduled to present its case starting today, would attempt to show that there were other conspirators in the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, and they got their first courtroom victory very quickly: the presiding judge has ruled that fingerprints found in Timothy McVeigh's car and in his hotel room can be examined. The defense contends that the prints were left by members of a group of white separatists, and that they had a substantial role in planning the bombing.
There was no reported response from John Doe No. 2.
More jacket fluff
Edward Ocean wants to know:
Is it a new law that all books about Bush now must have white covers with red and/or gold lettering?
Guns R Us
Governor Henry signed Senate Joint Resolution 54 today, which calls for the Department of Commerce to work together with Murray State College in Tishomingo which, coincidentally, offers an Associates degree with gunsmithing specialization to come up with incentives to attract manufacturers of firearms to the Sooner State.
Senator Jay Paul Gumm (D-Durant) explains the rationale:
This is a multi-billion dollar industry. But those high-dollar manufacturing jobs are in states where those companies aren't even wanted. There are 75 major firearm manufacturers with facilities in 12 states. I think if we get the word out about what we have to offer in terms of education programs and economic development incentives, we could bring some of those jobs here.
The OkiePundit is not particularly impressed:
Focusing on attracting a few gun manufacturers may or may not be a worthwhile economic development strategy but the important point to remember is that the Legislature should be focused on establishing strategic objectives in conjunction with Commerce but not micromanaging to the point of passing unfunded mandates requiring Commerce to redirect its meager resources to pet projects. Perhaps semiconductor chip plants or aerospace companies would be a better target for the recruitment effort but with the dolts at the Legislature consumed with gunsmithing and gay marriage the economic development resources of the state can't be expected to take priority.
And Commerce, with its "meager resources," is somehow going to be able to land a semiconductor foundry or a defense plant? (Admittedly, gay marriage gets a lot of press around here, but it's utterly irrelevant to this discussion except to the extent that a cheap shot was needed.)
I doubt much of anything will happen with SJR 54, but I plan to be amused if some gun maker does announce plans to open a facility here and the Usual Suspects chime in with "Well, we need jobs, but not these jobs."
7 May 2004
Enough with the farging apologies
[Abu Ghraib] is a real scandal, worthy of real attention but it's now moved past reality to the point of being overhyped by people whose real goals have nothing to do with justice.
As usual, he's accurate and patient. Andrea Harris is just as accurate, but not even slightly patient:
The heck with all the good that we have done in Iraq; instead, against every principle of liberal thought, the actions of a handful of butthead MPs just invalidated over two hundred years of history nay, the entire two-thousand years of history since the death of Christ which was, of course, exclusively the fault of Americans.
At this point all I can do is laugh. These people don't want to live, they don't want to carry this civilization into the future they don't want to give it even as long as the Romans gave theirs. They had 800 years we don't even get to make 250? Sometimes I think that the Baby Boomers not only want to spend all the money before they go, they want to take the civilized world down with them. And I am nagged by the feeling that even our government is sliding closer and closer to embracing this viewpoint witness the grovelling before the entire Muslim world today for something that, should it have been done by military personnel in, say, Syria, would have been considered four-star fine treatment.
My take on this is simple: We owe apologies, and perhaps damages, to the prisoners who were mistreated. To most of the rest of the world, which has shoved its collective nose into this matter for no other reason than because it can, we owe nothing. To the Arab world, which routinely pulls crap far worse than anything we did, we owe less than nothing.
I hope this doesn't jeopardize my Boomer standing.
If you wandered back to Rachel Lucas' place and noticed that she was sold out of her classic "Imagine No Liberals" coffee cup
Well, I got two. Nyah.
Of course, what's important is not that she's out of cups, but that she's (almost) back at the blog, just the way we'd always hoped.
We apologize for the previous apology
This apology appeared on Outside the Beltway and will not be repeated.
[Cue the Trondheim Hammer Dance]
But it smelled phishy
You know, if I'd seen this email, I'd have turned it in to the security folks myself.
I mean, it's not like I've never seen this sort of thing before.
(Courtesy of The Critical 'I'.)
Tightening the city belt
The new fiscal year starts 1 July, and Jim Couch, who twiddles the purse strings down at City Hall, is in a glum mood. In the news flyer that comes with the utility bill, he spells it out in no uncertain terms:
We asked every department to submit a budget cut of 2.5%. Even though the economy seems to be improving, we still have to cut the revenue increase is not enough to keep up with the rising cost of employee pay and benefits.
On the upside, this doesn't sound anywhere near as bad as last year's budget.
The City Council will hold two public hearings on the budget before it comes up for a vote.
8 May 2004
The bill for restoration of the downtown Skirvin Hotel is now calculated at $46.4 million.
The City Council will consider the package next week. Under the final agreement, the city will lend the Skirvin Partners development team $18.4 million; should the reborn Skirvin Hilton be staggeringly successful, the city stands to turn a tidy profit, and if the hotel is a total flop, the city will be on the hook for only about $4 million.
I doubt seriously it will flop. During the somnolent years, we got by with one downtown hotel; new development is now supporting three, and the two new arrivals in 2006 not only the Skirvin, but also an Embassy Suites on the eastern edge of Bricktown fit into the dreams of downtown planners with surprising precision.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau has projected that for Oklahoma City to compete for major regional conventions and for sporting events like the Big 12 basketball tournament or the NCAA regionals there should be 1250 to 1500 hotel rooms available near downtown. Right now, there are 931: 395 at the Westin, 311 at the Renaissance, 225 at the Courtyard by Marriott. There will be 245 suites at the Embassy, and the plan for the Skirvin calls for 238 rooms, bringing the total as of mid-2006 to 1414.
You know, this could work.
The discreet sarcasm of the bourgeoisie
McGehee reads Das Kapital so you don't have to.
Yet another example of the overwhelming generosity of the Blogosphere.
At least they didn't propose "freshpersons"
The four-campus Connecticut State University system is discontinuing use of the word "freshmen" and replacing it with "first-year students."
"The whole notion of coming in with one class and leaving with that class," said Peter M. Rosa of Student Affairs, "is more historic than actual."
Although course materials will not be immediately revised to reflect the new terminology, blog items referring to this decision will continue to be sophomoric.
Normally, Page Three of The Oklahoma Observer is where Frosty Troy gets snippy.
And once in a great while, he goes way beyond that, as he did in the 10 May issue:
The new NRA online talk show will feature Cam Edwards, formerly of OKC's KTOK. When he's not on the microphone, he will be changing Charlton Heston's bedpan.
Exiled to Cyberia
"Cyber" bothers Erica:
Er, I guess it's more of a prefix.
No, it can be used as a word.
That's how I hate it most. But I hate it as a prefix, too.
It's easy to hate. As I once said:
"Cyberspace" itself was a reasonable coinage, its forebear "cybernetics" having been established for a good half-century or so by now, but not everything lends itself to being cyber-ed not that anyone will be dissuaded by that simple fact.
Then again, I suppose it's a good thing we're overworking a prefix, instead of a suffix, this time. If I hear of just one more political scandal referred to as Something-gate, I swear I'm going to cyberbarf.
Which I've done rather a lot in the eight years since I posted that.
9 May 2004
Actual end of an era
For those of you who were wondering when Top 40 AM radio officially ended, the answer is "this past Thursday," when WQMA, licensed to Marks, Quitman County, Mississippi, ceased operations on AM and moved its programming to an FM station about 20 miles away in Clarksdale.
According to Scott Fybush, who keeps track of such things, this was the last standalone AM Top 40 outlet in the nation.
Not available in all areas
"Another evil corporation," quips Baldilocks, "mismanages its money, puts out an inferior product and goes under."
Which is how the system works. Air America Radio isn't quite dead it won't keep still, anyway but what's the problem here? Admittedly, these folks evidently couldn't run a roadside fruit stand, but is it all ineptitude, or is there no market for their product in the first place?
Over at coffeegrounds, the Proprietor leans toward the former:
[T]here probably is a market in radio for left-of-center political talk, but if (when) Air America goes down in flames no one will want to risk it again for a long time. Lord knows I wouldn't leave it in the hands of NPR who seem to be combining the worst of the Left's fractious squabbling with a bone-headed version of the Right's focus-group capitalism.
Having been part of a few focus groups in my time, I rather expect that when the Final Judgment is read, I can count on an extended stay at One Brimstone Place.
Speed is of the essence
But not too much speed, evidently.
The previous item linked back to two TypePad blogs; TrackBacks were duly sent to both. Only one got through, and this curt missive appeared in the log:
You are posting Trackbacks too quickly. Please try again in a couple of minutes.
By "a couple," they mean "four or five," because trying again in two minutes generated the same response.
Of course, weblogs.com will refuse a ping from this entry because it's within half an hour of the last one.
The truly right stuff
This week in Vent #388: "Wouldn't you really rather be a Republican?"
In a word: no.
Meanwhile, the Amish spurn Kia
Aaron Robinson of Car and Driver (June '04) detects mixed signals from the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG:
The E55's oversize wheels, quadraphonic tailpipes, and tasteful sill skirts beckon discerning adults looking for warp-speed wa-hoos! But the murky interior is about restraint. It's all black, as if a coal shaft had collapsed around you. Even the wood trim is stained the color of soot. The only dazzle allowed is the silver gauge fascia and a few razor-thin chrome streaks on the dash. The apparent message: With horsepower comes equivalent responsibility. The E55 is the supercar for Lutherans.
I remember when C/D said of some Honda (probably an Accord) that its primary appeal would be to Presbyterians. I'm not a wild and crazy guy myself, but I have no reason to think that either denomination is utterly devoid of wack-job gearheads.
And come to think of it, the E55, besides being about three times beyond any conceivable automotive budget I might have, inverts my own particular desiderata: while I don't want some blindingly-flashy Atari dash, I'd much rather have the bucks spent on spiffing up the interior than on a bunch of obvious Arrest Me parts for the outside.
10 May 2004
The delicate balance of nature
A Really Large Tree sits on the property line, overhanging my front yard and the one just east of it. If ever it has to be cut down, presumably both owners will have to consult.
Early this morning, the combination of fierce winds and relatively dry wood resulted in the fall of a ten-foot branch, and amazingly, it dropped right along the property line for about two feet, anyway. The rest of it was blocking the street.
I hauled the debris into my yard for eventual disposal, reasoning that well, I saw it first.
Hold the figs
Hardly anyone, even among his most enthusiastic fans, will characterize George W. Bush as an industrial-strength intellectual. And that's fine with W.; he has that distrust for "pointy-headed intellectuals" made famous by, among others, George Wallace.
Which is not to say that Mr Bush doesn't have a point. Dan Lovejoy has looked into the matter, and he sees a philosophical antecedent to the President's thinking:
Newton's laws of physics work so well we can do incredibly precise mathematical calculations with them. Are they 100% accurate? No. They are a highly accurate description of how bodies in motion work. But they are wrong. And the weirder the conditions, the wronger they are. If something goes too fast, or gets too small, Newton's laws break down completely. But for from molecule sized things to solar-system type things moving at a small fraction of c, Newton works pretty well.
In the real world, as opposed to the arcane conditions that are examined in the laboratory, we can do just fine with the simpler explanations. As with Isaac Newton, so too with George W. Bush:
Once we've mastered Newtonian physics, we might be able to touch Einstein. That leaves us with the Bush Doctrine. Is it a perfect understanding of the world? Far from it. But it is certainly useful for crafting wartime foreign policy. Not until we've made peace on our terms can we try to reach out and resolve the "root causes" problem. It's too complex to fix now, and we've gotta fix the problem of Islamist terrorism NOW. We can't wait for the UN to save us, or for programs to reverse the trend.
[S]ome would argue, I think rightly, that we didn't do enough research. We didn't plan well for the occupation, and we certainly didn’t get our WMD intelligence right.
And I say so what? We acted correctly on the intelligence we had at the time. We couldn't wait until the threat was imminent, and we didn't. The decision was sound the implementation, flawed.
Applying Newton's laws of motion to the Middle East:
1. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
Stagnation, of course, is as uniform a motion as you'll find; Bush obviously believes that things aren't going to change on their own.
2. The relationship between an object's mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors; in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.
Pushing the Middle East in a direction it would rather not go requires a different vector, and more force than it would require otherwise.
3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Obviously and fiercely so.
This analysis presumably fails at the quantum level were you to ask Bush about string theory, he might well suggest that it would be a good idea to string 'em up but for things that can be measured by ordinary benchmarks, Bush is as Newtonian as they get.
Oh, about that chart floating around the left side of blogdom purporting to show that states that voted for Gore have higher average IQs than states that voted for Bush I first caught it here well, forget about it. It pins the Bogosity Meter.
Meanwhile, Kimberly Swygert would like to know:
The website which had the most to do with spreading the bogus graph now claims it was all a joke. Would these liberal "hoaxers" be laughing if, say, a rumor was spread that women's studies majors and Democrats all had demonstrably lower IQs? Or would that be termed "hate speech"?
We shouldn't have to wait too long for a test case; I suspect that political IQ tables are going to be this year's affirmative-action bake sales.
A buck a burger
By convention, the Good Stuff goes on the top shelf, and that's where my supermarket of choice has been stocking Laura's Lean Beef, a product which immediately spawned two questions: "Do they really think they can get that kind of money for this?" and "Who the heck is Laura, anyway?"
The latter question, at least, was answerable on the Web. Laura Freeman, who gave up journalism to run the family's central-Kentucky cattle operation, moved into the high-end, low-fat, no-additives beef business in 1985; last year she sold $100 million worth of the stuff, every pound raised without dosing the cattle with antibiotics or growth hormones. The least I could do, I figured, was check it out.
"Lean," it turns out, is an understatement. The burgers I bought claimed a mere 8 percent fat (there's also a 4-percent version), and I'd be surprised if they had that much. My usual ploy of stuffing them side by side on George Foreman's grill and expecting the eventual shrinkage to make them fit on the surface failed miserably. Normally I pull them off the grill and drop them on a plate covered with paper towels to soak up liquids; the towels got damp, but they didn't get the drenching I'm used to.
Laura and company don't raise all those cattle themselves, of course: they buy from outside producers, but they're extremely finicky about what they take. I tend to take "low-fat" claims for meats with a grain of seasoned salt, and indeed there was a dust-up last year between Laura and the Center for Science in the Public Interest; the Center found some samples that didn't match their labeling. Then again, CSPI lives in constant fear that people might actually enjoy eating.
Is all this worth four dollars a pound? And, dear God, what must her steaks cost? For now, though, I'm giving Laura at least one thumb up, and will sample more of her wares next time I pass by the top shelf.
Meeting of the masterminds
We aren't all that interested in social activities, and instead lead a very rich inner life (I). We interact with the world by looking for the essence, the underlying theory of why (N), so that we may predict and sometimes control rather than merely sensing and accepting what's around us. We value logic (T) over feeling, and we hate dithering around without drawing conclusions (J).
Aw, come on, just a little dithering?
The real issue, of course, is that this test, and many other psychological tests, rely on introspection to arrive at their results. There's nothing wrong with introspection, of course, but self-deception is not an entirely uncommon phenomenon it is simply not the case that we are all smarter, better-looking, and more ethical than average, yet far more than 50% of people would assent to each of these statements on an individual basis, and quite possibly, more than 50% would assent to the conjunction of all three statements.
I'm sure there's some degree of correlation between the results of the temperament sorter and the mind and life of the subject, far more than there is, say, for astrological readings, but I'm not at all comfortable trusting it to any significant extent.
Mental note: Resist temptation to invite Laura to visit Lake Wobegon.
Actually, given the truly godawful amount of introspection in which I've indulged over five decades okay, maybe I didn't do so much of it before I learned how to walk with the exception of one severe blind spot, I'm generally pretty accurate.
And, as with an amazing number of memes in blogdom, I was there first, and was duly ignored.
11 May 2004
Attached to that piece on Bush as Newtonian strategist a piece, incidentally, for which Dan deserves more credit than I is a comment about how we're ignoring the "root causes" of the mess in the Middle East.
Which is true only if you're ideologically disposed toward misidentifying those root causes. To the left, all ills are caused by poverty, all poverty caused by corporate malfeasance, all corporate malfeasance aided and abetted by the likes of George W. Bush, and well, Bush Is Evil, case closed.
Of course, Islamic fundamentalists get not one but two free passes from the American left: after all, your friendly neighborhood jihadi is not only nonwhite (and therefore oppressed), but non-Christian (and therefore not likely to picket an abortion clinic). At worst, they're the Dr Pepper of religious movements: so misunderstood. All that money they raise to support suicide bombers and other terrorists why, that's charity, and how much did you give last year?
At Exit Zero, Mary boils it down to the crucial stuff:
The 'morality' of Islamic fundamentalists is the morality of the Thousand Year Reich. It's the morality of hate and intolerance. I'm very proud of the fact that these fascists are our enemies. It would worry me if they weren’t.
And why are they our enemies? Explanation courtesy of Francis W. Porretto:
The world's 1.3 billion Muslims are the most squalid, backward, unfree peoples in the world. How could this be? They've been perfectly faithful to the dictates of the Prophet. They were promised dominion in this world and Paradise in the next. What went wrong? Allah's enemies must have plotted against them! The Jews! The Christians! Wipe them out, institute universal shari'a, and surely all will thereafter be well!
When they say "universal," they mean to include you, Lefty.
There are basically two choices here:
1. Wipe out the lot of them and be done with it;
2. Wipe out the loudest of the bunch and see if the rest have enough sense to cool their jets.
Either way, there will be wiping. Count on it.
An argument with bite
Ostensibly inspired by what he read here, Mike in Little Axe has posed the following question:
If a pack of brown pitbulls killed a loved one, which option would you choose to prevent others from suffering the same fate?
1) Kill the pack of dogs.
I point out only that pit bulls, like jihadi, are the way they are only because of the instructions they received from their masters: there's nothing inherent in their genetic code to make them anything more than snarly. As Oscar Hammerstein once noted, "You've got to be carefully taught."
The city of Denver, incidentally, is prone to option 3.
Blogdom is, of course, thrilled that the Democratic National Convention will grant press credentials to bloggers, and indeed this strikes me as a step forward.
He'll probably break no hot stories (like you'd expect any from a convention), but the off-camera stuff, the writing of the platform and the adoption of the rules for the next campaign, likely matters more.
Inhofe weighs in, flabbily
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), at the Senate hearing on the events at and around Abu Ghraib:
I'm probably not the only one up here that is more outraged at the outrage than we are by the treatment. These prisoners, you know they're not there for traffic violations. If they're in cellblock 1-A or 1-B, these prisoners, they're murderers, they're terrorists, they're insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands and here we're so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.
That's so like you, Jim. Considering there's a good chance they were arrested in error Coalition MI types estimate 70 to 90 percent were we have even less excuse to treat them badly.
A reader, citing the Inhofe quote, writes in:
[C]onsidering what you've said about the issue being overhyped, i certainly hope you won't associate yourself [with] Inhofe's stupidity.
I try not to. I have enough trouble associating myself with my own.
I have no doubt that some horrible things are going to happen as this war continues. That's the nature of war, after all. It's part of Jim Inhofe's job to keep an eye on these things. If he's not interested in doing his job and judging by the querulous quote above, he seems offended by the whole idea he can, and should, be replaced.
Album title of the year
Aren't they all?
12 May 2004
Shot by both sides
Susanna Cornett points to this Charley Reese column, ostensibly about Michael Moore, which offers an explanation of the difference between rights we have and rights some of us think we deserve. And that difference?
The best way to understand the difference between a true right and a falsely claimed right is that a true right does not compel anyone else to do anything except leave us alone.
That's why it is wrong to say that people have a "right to medical care." To say this implies that someone else must be compelled to provide it. Medical care that is affordable is a desirable social goal, but it is not a right. Ditto education, housing, jobs and other economic benefits.
Reese goes on to provide a definition of a truly free society:
A truly free society is one in which people can think, say and do what they please as long as they don't infringe on other people's rights to think, say and do what they please. No one has a right to not be offended. No one has a right to demand that others agree with him or her. No one has a right to utter defamatory falsehoods. The reason maintaining a free society is so difficult is that it butts heads with the itch many people have to control other people.
And am I imagining things, or has there been an upsurge in itchy buttheads in recent weeks?
Some controls are necessary to create the order and predictability a society must have to function, and societies also make laws delineating moral boundaries. The head-butting comes from competing views of what those controls and boundaries should be.
I don't think we'll ever get everyone to agree on the location of those boundaries, but the phrase that pays is "competing views": each gets its chance in the marketplace of ideas. If some of them get shot down, well, that's the way the system works. A surprisingly large number of people believe that if their trial balloons don't fly, it's the result of a conspiracy by Those Other People; it can't possibly be because their ideas were laughed off the market.
Gray skin rots in the hot sun
I fought the lawn, and the lawn won.
Actually, I'd subdued about 94 percent of the area in question when the mower sputtered to a halt. Out of gas. Screw this, I thought, and went back inside to catch my breath and start dinner.
Later, I popped back into the yard, surveyed the scene, and contemplated the possibility of finishing up, when a wandering cloud, obviously tickled at the prospect, dumped a lot of water on the premises and moved on just as fast as possible.
So six percent of the back yard gets ignored this time around. Fortunately, it's not one of the areas that grows most quickly.
Long novel, no verbs
A minor sensation in France, perhaps: Le Train de Nulle Part, "The Train to Nowhere," 233 pages without a single verb.
Author "Michel Thaler" (a pseudonym), per a review in Le Nouvel Observateur, perhaps misogynistic, in spite of a statement to the contrary by Thaler's publisher.
No English translation yet, sorry; twenty euros (plus shipping) for the original French not in my present budget.
Closest English equivalent: Gadsby, a 1937 novel by Ernest Vincent Wright, 50,000 words without a single letter E.
Confessions of a Political Junkie (now there's a title) is happy to present Carnival of the Vanities #86, this week's summation of all that is good and blogworthy, and so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo. (Different strokes for different folks, as they say.)
And curse Sir Walter Raleigh
The two measures, despite a 44-cent-per-pack difference, are much alike. Henry's package calls for increasing the current 23-cent tax to 78 cents, and using much of the difference to finance health-care initiatives. In addition, the Governor wants to toss out the state's capital-gains tax and eliminate the trigger mechanism that raises the top income-tax rate when revenues fall short.
The GOP pushes the tax all the way to $1.22, supports the health-care measures, and will phase in a reduction of the top income-tax rate.
I'm a nonsmoker the easy way, so the bill which passes probably a compromise package at the $1 level will put a few coins in my pocket, since the top income-tax bracket is set so low that even I pay it. But I'm still disturbed by the manifest belief of politicians on both sides that it's okay to stick it to smokers. (Can you say "oppressed minority"? Sure. I knew you could.) And what kind of world is this where Republicans push for a tax increase and a bigger tax increase than the Democrats seek, yet? The Legislature is evidently smoking something that the state doesn't tax.
13 May 2004
"They say I'm a killer"
Everyone's doing research in genetics and nobody's doing service. Because it's too controversial to help mothers so that they can give birth to healthy babies.
What's with this outburst? Totally unbidden, sneering all the way and anyway he thinks those mothers should abort those babies who aren't healthy.
Dr Watson has never been exactly secretive about his views, but there's a difference between merely reading about them and hearing them expressed at high volume on the other side of the room.
There was no way that I could argue with him it wasn't the time or place, and I don't believe I could have swayed him. But I'm sure he could see the emotions on my face the desire to be respectful, mingled with stifled horror and pity.
I could only wonder what would make someone whose work had brought so much healing decide that the best way to prevent sickness is to kill people.
For some reason, I find myself thinking of Ike Turner, unquestionably one of the major architects of rock and roll, and by all accounts someone you definitely didn't want to date.
If there's a Deep Truth here, it's this: doing good things, even great things, doesn't assure you a position on the side of the angels.
What's a Grecian urn?
Up to now, efforts to quantify physical attractiveness have relied on arbitrary measures like the millihelen, which is defined as that quantity of beauty required to launch one ship.
Obviously something this banal wouldn't do for People's 50 Most Beautiful People: they must have science, and indeed they do. Per Dr Francis Palmer's point system, you get 75% of the points for your cheekbones, 10% for eyes/eyebrows, 7% for lips, and 2% each for jaw, chin, and neck; sleek nose; clear skin; and "general harmony of features."
There are, I think, major problems with this formula. For one thing, it makes me look a lot better than I actually do: the cheekbone/jowl conflict doesn't compute. More to the point, it makes the preposterous assumption that every last bit of visual appeal is located in areas north of the clavicle. A certain consistency is to be desired, I suppose I'm not all prepared for someone who looks like Sharon Stone from here down and like Broderick Crawford from there up but as a practical matter, not everyone's best feature is facial. Sometimes it's not even tangible.
Pencils at the ready
Rhode Island blogger Justin Katz isn't the sort to put all his words on the screen; he's a member of the Third Thursday Writers' Group, which meets every second Tuesday (just kidding) at The Redwood Library and Athenæum, the nation's oldest (257 years!) lending library, in legendarily-gorgeous Newport. What's more, Katz' Timshel Literature operation publishes the Group's annual volume, The Redwood Review, a trade-paperback-sized collection of the best the Group has to offer. Beautifully designed and crisply written, this series is definitely worth your time; it's a reminder that however wonderful bloggage can be, there's still no substitute for words on a page.
A man and his dreams
Like most people, I have a list of Dreams Unfulfilled; once in a blue moon well, actually, I'm now averaging one every other year, which is better than I had any reason to expect I manage to cross one off.
The automotive section of this list has been kept deliberately small, mostly to dissuade me from assuming mountains of debt in pursuit of something thereupon. Still, I've gotten back into road-trip mode, something I gave up too many years ago; I've actually driven a Maserati (okay, it was a Quattroporte, but it's a lot more of a Maser than that godawful Chrysler thing); I've seen Duesenbergs in the
However, I have never, ever seen a Tucker.
Preston Tucker never managed to get series production started on his rear-engined marvel back in 1948, and only 51 cars were built on the pilot production line. But forty-seven of them are still around, and one of them (serial #1043, if you're keeping score) sold at auction this past January for $495,000. There isn't a chance I'll ever get any seat time in any Tucker, but see one I shall, some day.
(Hmmm. 1948 again. Regular readers will remember that Surlywood was built in that mysterious year, five years before my birth. What other secrets have been waiting for me these five and a half decades?)
14 May 2004
Vent #226 (Christmas 2000) begins this way:
The late musicologist and audiophile Edward Tatnall Canby used to say that the length of your perceived memories is a constant, that as you get older the years get closer and closer together, like the calibrations on a VU meter as the volume as your volume diminishes into inaudibility.
Which may or may not explain this phenomenon:
"The Breakfast Club". Yes, the movie. We've all seen it. Brian and his soup. I distinctly heard a ruckus. Molière really pumps my 'nads. You remember. It was released in 1985.
There is a brief scene in "The Breakfast Club" where Judd Nelson's character, the stoner earring guy, mimics the signature riff from Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love". He knew it, we knew it; he dug the song, we dug the song.
Which brings me to "Disraeli Gears", the Cream record where that song first appeared. It was released in 1967.
The distance between "The Breakfast Club" and today is about 19 years, give or take the vagaries of release dates and premier venues and such. The distance between "The Breakfast Club" and "Disraeli Gears" is about 18 years.
We are farther from Judd Nelson's stoner earring guy than he was from Cream's first record.
Disraeli Gears was in fact the second Cream album, but the point stands: the calibrations on our individual memory clocks do not necessarily reflect exact chronological time as the scientists know it.
Phil Dennison is similarly amazed:
[T]he first rock record I ever purchased was Get The Knack. That album came out in 1979 25 years ago! The Knack's biggest song, "My Sharona," enjoyed a bried resurgence in popularity in the Gen-X film Reality Bites. That movie, believe it or not, is already 10 years old. So we've already achieved 67% of the distance from Reality Bites that it had over "My Sharona."
One of the Office Babes is named Denise, and she was not around when Randy and the Rainbows sang about someone of that name way back in 1963. I ripped the 45 and installed it as an MP3 at work; she was amused by the song, and surprised that it was over with in a brief two minutes. I wonder if her dad remembers it, and whether he'll feel like he was hit with a ton of bricks when he realizes it's 41 years old, most of his lifetime and twice hers.
Don't call it "infrastructure"
Three teenaged boys at the Tecumseh Detention Center last year received breast-reduction surgery at a cost of approximately $14,000. The state Health Care Authority refused to pay for the operations, deeming them not medically necessary, and duly advised the Office of Juvenile System Oversight, which shuffled some personnel in response.
It occurs to me that if these lads were unhappy with their boobage at 15, they're going to be utterly despondent at 50.
The hook for Bob Mondello's review of Troy on NPR's All Things Considered today was reasonable enough: while Hollywood has often dredged up stories from the Roman Empire, tales from the glory that was Greece are few and far between.
Okay, fine. I'd just as soon not remember most of Clash of the Titans just now. Mondello was his usual glib self, and then came the obligatory bumper music: the last few bars of the fourth movement of Gustav Holst's The Planets, the movement titled "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity." A Roman god. In fact, the Roman god.
I don't think this was the sort of jollity they intended to bring.
The price of fame
[T]he main reason I believe one of the worst possible fates in life would be to become famous is because when you become famous, people like me sit around in their pajamas on Friday afternoons and write snotty things about you on their web sites.
Obviously I have a long way to go; at worst, I get characterized as grumpy.
15 May 2004
We can't get no satisfaction
Are we living in the age of Cotton Mather? Some people, reports Andrea Harris, seem to think so:
It is the twisted reasoning of some people that persons such as Lynndie England are "forced" to become skanky sluts because of our sexual repression.
"Twisted" doesn't even begin to approach the sheer anfractuosity of the matter: the assumptions which must be made to characterize our society as sexually repressed require not only the suspension of disbelief but the denial of the obvious and the redefining of the terms. It's perfectly obvious to anyone who's paying attention that people are doing whatever, and screwing whomever, they choose; there is no Department of Copulation Control knock, knock, knocking at your front door demanding that you disengage immediately or face the wrath of John Ashcroft.
The very existence of John Ashcroft, however, enrages these people. Their demand for complete freedom includes a demand for complete freedom from criticism, especially criticism from persons in power: the moment someone says anything that can be construed as unfavorable, why, it's the stomp of a million jackboots in stern synchronization. And it's got to be at least a million, because there's a conspiracy out there to repress us all.
I can't tell you what truly motivated Lynndie England. Maybe it will come out in a court-martial. But I'm not buying the notion that she's simply responding to the pressures of society, or that it's an inevitable consequence of war, especially a war of which the Libertine Elite does not approve.
(Disclosure: Written while unclad.)
Joe South, in one of my favorite songs, said this:
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes
But before you start that hike, Susanna Cornett whispers words of wisdom:
The problem with moral relativists is that "if you just walked a mile in their shoes" business. Some behaviors are just wrong on their face, regardless of culture, time, circumstances or provocation.
Grayscale would not exist were there neither black nor white.
I come by my pack-rat tendencies naturally. This afternoon my older brother (well, he's not older than I am, but he's older than the other one) and I went through a few cubic feet of Mom's detritus, things she'd piled up for reasons of her own, and apparently there's some kind of gene for this that I picked up and that he either missed out on or worked diligently to suppress.
There were newspapers announcing various events: Kennedy's election and assassination, Gordon Cooper's space flight. There were things that were deemed necessary for future reference: a handwritten promissory note for the purchase of the Chevrolet, the service contract (ten years!) on the piano, various bank statements. There were inexplicable items of infant clothing in varying degrees of disrepair. There were snippets of school-related ephemera, sometimes mine, sometimes sister Brenda's. And there was a lot of personal correspondence, some of it from persons neither of us could name.
At some point, my children are going to have to inventory some of the accumulated debris from my life. I'd like to think I've done a better job of documenting my existence, but you'd never know it by reading this stuff.
Since Movable Type 3.0 is proving to be more controversial than anyone expected, I'm providing, as background information, some of my own site statistics. How you use them is entirely up to you. The first three items include MT database entries only.
Total entries: 2,644
Interestingly, I've been on the receiving end of five pings today, which is a record for the site. I have no idea why.
16 May 2004
The next-to-last Democrat
Remember the concept of the Loyal Opposition? Emperor Misha (only his best friends dare to call him Darth) knows what it means, and he's
[T]his nation, every nation, needs a loyal opposition, and there was a time when the Democrats were just that. A check and a balance, just as the other major party, the Republicans, were a check and a balance to them.
Sure, it leads to compromises that have left me furious many a time, but I'm sure that this is an emotion felt on the other side of the aisle in equal measure. The important thing about a loyal opposition is that it tends to keep both sides at least relatively honest, forces them to weigh their options and think through their positions instead of just ramming them through without fear of opposition or consequences, and that's important.
Unfortunately, the Democrat Party that filled that role so well in the past is no more. It has been hijacked by screaming fanatics so deliriously hungry for power that they'd sell their own country to the wolves to lay their hands on the reins again, and such a party is worthless. No, it's more than that. It's dangerous. Lethally dangerous.
They shy away from no tactic, no matter how dangerous and damaging to this war for our existence that we find ourselves forced into. They care not one whit what the consequences of their lies, slander and divisive methods are to the safety of all of us, they care only for one thing: Power.
And not only that, they fail in the duty of a serious and worthwhile opposition, the very reason that such a thing is important: They offer no alternatives. All they have to offer is "anybody but Bush", at any cost.
The handwriting started appearing on the wall, I think, with the wholesale rejection of the Presidential candidacy of Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Democrat not at all out of step with the rest of his party except that he understood the war effort and the necessity of bringing it to a proper conclusion. And in response, members of his party turned out in droves and voted for people who promised to turn tail and run instead. Joe's war stance wasn't significantly different from the President's, after all, and the current belief in the Democratic power structure is that if George W. Bush says the sky is blue, there's obviously some GOP conspiracy, no doubt engineered by Halliburton, to suppress all those other colors.
I'm not defending everything that's been done in Iraq by any means; in fact, I think the Bush administration made a ghastly error in judgment by disclosing to the American people the fact that the Iraqi people are people who would like to live their lives with some measure of freedom. Had he characterized them instead as, say, organisms which should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, the Left would be lining up to demand the removal, by any means necessary, of Baathists, private militias, disgruntled Shi'a, and all the other Middle Eastern miscreants who are complicating the, you should pardon the expression, peace process.
Meanwhile, John Kerry, a man with exactly one actual conviction that John Kerry should be President moves swiftly to assure the corrupt and the corruptible that under his Administration, the International Community, those wonderful folks who were conspiring by Saddam's side all those years, will once again be the Source of All Wisdom and that all their work wasn't in vain, and that the United Nations will be restored to its former glory, as theatre (and occasional paymaster) for the world's despots.
So I wait for the Democrats to come to their senses. Which they will, eventually. I figure one good drubbing at the polls should do the job. And it can't be this "yeah, but we really won" crap that we had to endure in 2000; it's got to be at least 350-188 in the Electoral College, and the GOP has to pick up seats in both houses of Congress. It's got to mean a new entry on Terry McAuliffe's résumé, and a large hole in George Soros' wallet. It's got to be big enough to leave them wondering "Where did we go wrong?"
I just told you. And once you've cleaned up your act, I'll still be here. Because, after all, I am the Loyal Opposition.
Constitutionally Re-Affirming Principles
Brock Sides would like to see "a Constitutional provision forbidding the use of contrived acronyms in the titles of bills."
He is not alone in this desire.
Stabbed, not stirred
Quentin Tarantino, having successfully killed Bill, wants a shot at James Bond.
At least he's picked the right Bond story. Casino Royale is one of two Bond tales for which the descendants of Albert B. Broccoli do not control the movie rights the other is Thunderball so it should be at least reasonably simple to negotiate the rights. I don't think the Broccoli operation will willingly release Pierce Brosnan to play Bond for Tarantino, though.
Would I go see this? No doubt. The 1967 original was made as a deliberate spy spoof, and a remarkably unfunny one at that; the best thing about it was the Tijuana Brass recording of the Bacharach/David title tune (A&M 850, #27 pop in Billboard). It's about time someone did this story justice.
16 trees, and whaddya get?
When I bought this place last year, I was aware that one of the prices paid for the premises, in addition to two-point-something years' salary, was the necessity of doing yard work. And while I don't much enjoy it, it does get me out in the sun once in a while, and it does provide me with some worthwhile (they tell me) exercise.
On the other hand, Velociman sees no such upside with his purchase.
Where's that Lomotil plug-in?
McGehee's comments are broken, owing to a UCV* issue with Movable Type 3.0.
[T]his poor little blog has not had and will not have comments available. How shall I put it? It's like inviting a bunch of strangers into your house and having them raid your refrigerator. Is my bandwidth to be consumed by every passing stranger who has diarrhea of the keyboard (to use my lovely bride's felicitous phrase)? Just look at some of the nut-cases and obsessive commenters on other blogs and you may understand, while still not approve, my stance.
Not to mention the people who want to sell you low-cost, misspelled drugs.
*Unprecedentedly Crappy Version
17 May 2004
Gonzo with the wind
You've undoubtedly already read this from Lileks, but I simply must mention it here, partly because Lileks is always quotable, but mostly because the gentleman in question was a topic of discussion this weekend while my brother and I were deconstructing some of the mental edifices we had built over our formative years.
The gentleman in question is Dr Hunter S. Thompson, and, says Lileks, his influence remains considerable:
He's the guy who made nihilism hip. He's the guy who taught a generation that the only thing you should believe is this: don't trust anyone who believes anything. He's the patron saint of journalism, whether journalists know it or not.
The generation that followed, of course, will go "Who?" and will eventually get around to rebuilding what the Boomers tore down for the sake of cool.
At the stroke of midnight, City Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
I am seriously torn on this issue. On one level, I'm thinking, "Well, it's about damn time." On another, I'm wondering about all the dire consequences predicted by opponents, and how (if?) they're going to materialize.
I can't say I'm delighted with this development. Still, I'm going to back off. If this is truly The End Of The World As We Know It, we'll know it soon enough. And if it's not, we'll know that too.
In the meantime, congratulations to the happy couples. (I always cry at weddings.)
Old Media vs. New
If you're an Old Media person given to really idiotic statements, you'll get clever, pointed rebukes like this and like this and like this and like this.
Now me, I'm presumably one of those New Media types, if only because I've never made a dime on the dead-tree market, and for my idiotic statements, the best I can get is this. (And what's more, there are lapses in the truth therein; the only time I have a "high, squeaky voice" is during karaoke sessions, and then only when I'm singing outside the three and a half notes that comprise my natural range.)
Oh, well. You can't have everything.
Nature abhorred it, too
"I'd like to return this, please."
"Certainly. We'll be happy to refund your money. What was wrong with it?"
Gonna party like it's 1899
Traditional and Biblical names seem to be the norm these days in Oklahoma; four hundred boys born last year were named Jacob, with Ethan, Michael, Joshua and Caleb rounding out the Top Five.
Meanwhile, 388 girls were named Emily; Madison (can we blame this on Daryl Hannah?) was second, followed by Emma, Hannah and Abigail.
Considering this is the state that produced builder Never Fail, cardiologist Safety First, MD, and one-time Attorney General Larry Derryberry, I'm surprised at the conventional sounds that some of these names seem to make.
Then again, my daughter, born here in the Okay City, came this close to being named Penelope Layne. I'm sure she's grateful for the change of heart.
Baby, scratch my back
When Bass Pro Shops announced they were locating a store in Broken Arrow, a southeast Tulsa suburb, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth down here at the other end of the Turner, inasmuch as Oklahoma City put up $18 million or so to land a Bass Pro location for the east end of Bricktown and apparently the company didn't ask anything from Broken Arrow.
Or did they? Michael Bates has connected the dots and found what looks like a very suspicious trail: Tulsa may have helped Broken Arrow snag the Bass Pro store in exchange for BA support of the Vision 2025 package. Inasmuch as BA, like most Tulsa suburbs, stands to pay more in taxes than it stands to gain in actual V2025 projects, there'd be no real reason for BA to support the package unless there was a little something to sweeten the deal.
That sound you hear is Kirk Humphreys breathing a sigh of relief.
18 May 2004
We just want to pump you up
At least they pump it for you here in New Jersey. But at these prices, I'd kind of like to see it delivered in a crystal decanter.
I paid $1.899 this past weekend over at Ollie Octane's; saints be praised that each of those gallons is propelling me just over twenty-five miles.
Take this job and picket
Contracts between SBC and the Communications Workers of America run three years, and the last four contracts were reached with relatively little grumbling and/or sabre-rattling.
Not this year. The contract expired six weeks ago, and while negotiations have continued on and off, CWA has now announced a 24-hour strike notice. A strike isn't exactly inevitable at this point, but neither side, I think, really wants to avoid it: the union would like to appear just as hard-nosed and militant as possible, and the company would save a few bucks on payroll while the picket lines are up.
One sticky point was health care for pensioners. (Disclosure: I worked for the company long enough to qualify for the minimum retirement benefit.) Around Christmas, SBC sent a letter to retirees informing them that they would have to start paying the premiums for their health insurance. Benefits for retired employees, though, are not a mandatory bargaining issue, and under labor law not sufficient justification for a strike. Much of the negotiation since the April expiration of the contract has been devoted to getting this issue off the table; eventually, SBC agreed to delay the implementation of their plan for at least five years.
But with the pensioners now presumably taken care of, there are still thorny issues to be dealt with. One of these, unsurprisingly, is job security. SBC is moving into other areas wireless, DSL, satellite and CWA wants a piece of that action.
I'm guessing, at this point, that there will be a strike of about three weeks, about as long as it lasted in 1983. (Been there, carried that sign.) This enables the union to appear strong and forthright, and saves the company a few bucks before it caves in.
Rolling over the counter
As of this writing, Robert Prather's Site Meter is sitting at 476,658. If at all possible, he'd like to push it to the half-million mark by next Wednesday, the second birthday of his blog. You can help by clicking here.
(Aw, go ahead. You've already given me my increment for the day. Maybe in a couple of months I'll reach 476,658 myself.)
My trash ain't nothin' but
A wastebasket in my office is in serious disrepair, and presumably at some point it will be replaced with a new one.
And then we'll wonder: "What do we do with the old one?"
But not for long.
Fest or famine
(Note: This is, or at least comes across as, an attempt to talk out of both sides of my mouth. Really.)
Too often we overlook the less than immediate effects of public investments. For instance, festivals like Mayfest are important tools to promote the "livability" of a city. While I doubt that many people would move to Tulsa just to attend Mayfest once a year they might see it as a factor in determining their choice of where to live. Having "places to go, things to see" might not be as important as job relocation or overall cost of living but it does contribute to the overall appeal of a city. Younger people especially see entertainment options as important considerations when choosing a city.
But that's only half the story he has to tell:
This past weekend I also attended the Renaissance Faire in Muskogee. I have a friend that is part of a show there so I went to see him do his act and to take even more pictures. From what I know, the Ren Faire does not operate with any public funds. You pay to get in and you pay "event prices" for food, drink, merchandise and other "special" events you want to participate in. You choose the level of financial investment you are willing to make and if gawking at women with pushed up boobs and hearing all manner of bad medieval accents is not your thing it doesn't cost you a penny to stay away. A publicly supported event would cost you money whether you choose to attend or not.
True enough. Getting a few bucks from the government might be nice, but there are always strings attached, and they may not be strings you like. Better to keep one's distance. Besides, most of these operations have learned how to turn a buck on their own. At the Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City, the Arts Council gets a piece of anything sold on the premises; what's more, they solicit donations directly. I'm sure my one afternoon at the Festival, during which I spent $150 or so, generated a fair chunk of change for the Arts Council, likely far more than they'd get from me were I taxed to pay for it.
This is not to say that government has no role whatever in creating or maintaining "livability" certainly the city of Oklahoma City didn't shy away from ponying up some funding to restore the Skirvin Hotel but the city expects to turn a profit on this deal, and any dollars they make from the Skirvin are dollars they don't have to siphon from me. And while the Skirvin deal presents philosophical problems I expect to hear from the Oklahoma Libertarian Party presently about how awful it is I still think it will work.
Something to stamp out
"Our work force," says the United States Postal Service, "is focused on the worldwide movement of messages and merchandise."
And, at least in one unnamed post office (ZIP code 55xxx), the delivery of unsolicited political commentary.
19 May 2004
I don't believe this
"Darn those Unitarians!" says the old joke. "They burned a question mark on my lawn!"
Suddenly it's not quite so funny. A Unitarian Universalist church in Denison, Texas has lost its tax-exempt status because, says Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, it does not have one system of belief.
Jesse Ancira, counsel for the Comptroller's office, says that the criterion for the tax exemption is simple: the group must have "a belief in God, or gods, or a higher power." Most of the groups turned down are distinctly outside the mainstream, but the Unitarians (who merged with the Univeralists in 1961) boast two US Presidents: John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams. Not that they'd ever boast, of course.
Notes Patrick Nielsen Hayden:
This kind of story always provokes the suggestion that maybe nobody should get a tax break for calling themselves a church, which would have the salutary effect of getting the government out of the business of ruling on what is and isn't religion. In the real world, however, that isn't going to happen. Meanwhile, to the State of Texas in 2004, a money-making racket founded by a third-rate science fiction writer qualifies as a "religion" and the faith of Ethan Allen and Daniel Webster doesn't. This is what barbarism looks like.
Name of said racket withheld for obvious reasons.
Buffeted by all sides
If I learned anything in my three trips to New Jersey, it's that a really good waiter is worth his weight, if not necessarily in gold, certainly in stacks of currency; the fellow who worked our table those nights definitely earned the $150 or so tip he got from our $700-ish dinner tab. I don't think we ran him ragged, exactly, but we didn't make it especially easy on him either.
The Interested-Participant, meanwhile, has happened upon a survey which refutes the general notion that wait staff are low-skilled, low-wage personnel. At entry level, earnings of $17 per hour are typical; an experienced waiter makes around $22 an hour. These earnings are supplemented by the occasional free meal. Tips, of course, are taxable, and most of them are duly reported to the IRS.
I knew I was in the wrong business, but then I always have been.
All new for '87
Ed Brayton's Dispatches from the Culture Wars hosts Carnival of the Vanities #87, yet another in the longest-running Best of Bloggage series, and culturally, Ed's treated this one with careful but blatant minimalism. (Bless you, Ed.)
As always, it's worth your time and clicks. (Even my submission.)
It's here, it's short, get used to it
Communications Workers of America will walk off the job at SBC Friday just after midnight, but the union said its members will return Tuesday morning.
As strikes go, this is both fairly short SBC was struck for three weeks in 1983 and decidedly unusual: how often does a union tell you exactly how long they'll be on strike? A good-faith gesture, perhaps, but in my opinion a fairly strange one.
Seize the, um, day
I had totally forgotten that May was National Masturbation Month.
Not that I have time to participate. I'm horribly overworked at the shop, as is the case every May, and it takes every last bit of energy I have to squeeze out the occasional blog entry or two.
In fact, apart from Palm Sunday...er, never mind.
20 May 2004
His eye is on the sparrow
And apparently on Juliette as well.
(Muchas gracias: McGehee.)
Sony, which already owns two movie studios Columbia and Tri-Star is going for the trifecta. The Japanese electronics giant has revealed that it is negotiating to buy MGM, controlling interest in which is held by investor Kirk Kerkorian through his Tracinda Corporation.
This strikes me as more of the "synergy" delusion that nearly killed the corporation formerly known as AOL Time Warner. Sony obviously wants to sell gear to deliver its branded content, but by and large, consumers don't give a flying fish about branded content: they want content and they don't care who owns it.
Interestingly, most earlier MGM films are owned by Time Warner; Ted Turner bought MGM in 1986, kept the film library, and sold off the studio. The highlight of the current MGM library is the United Artists series, which includes the Pink Panther movies and James Bond. (MGM and UA wound up together because Kerkorian had acquired UA in 1981.)
I reprint this item from On the Table at Autoextremist.com, just as a reminder:
Notice the hue and cry lately across all spectrums of the media from whining motorists who are shocked shocked that their various vehicles get worse mileage than the EPA estimates claimed they would? And the loudest whining seems to be coming from motorists who bought hybrids and expected the sun, moon and the stars from their vehicles only to discover that they're getting much worse mileage than promised. Message to all offended motorists: Pay attention to the words on your EPA mileage label that says, "Your mileage may vary." Because it will, and it does. Then get over it.
There is, of course, the question of how quick I'd be to post this if I were getting lower mileage than the EPA estimates on my own vehicle.
Besides, the very nature of a hybrid makes it almost impossible to match the numbers on the antiquated EPA test. What's more, some vehicles have been tailored to get the maximum numbers possible on the test some Corvettes "encourage" you to shift from first to fourth while accelerating.
But what do you expect? These are government-approved numbers; they'll never be better than "close enough for government work."
WHERE'S THE FREAKING FIBER?
Less than 1 gram, they admit: if you need more fiber (and you probably do) you'd probably be better off eating the box and pouring the cereal into the bird feeder.
Come to think of it, when the musical Stomp played here, one of the participants, reports the Oklahoma Gazette, not only used a copy of the alt-weekly as a percussion instrument but actually stuffed pages from it into his mouth. From the Gazette's "Chicken Fried News" section:
[W]e have said for a long time that the Gazette offers food for thought, but we never looked at it as something you pour in a bowl and douse with milk.
I don't envision this idea catching on enough to expand Gazette circulation locally, let alone in St. Louis, but hey: it's fiber.
21 May 2004
Because clues aren't for everyone
Today's spam comes from one "Clifford Fergusson", though it's signed by one "Maxine Carson", identified as "Supervising Regional Executive for Oklahoma City". This being spam, I assume that both of these names are fraudulent. Not that it matters, particularly, since this particular example is so badly executed:
We monitor homes in Oklahoma City whose owners are making unnecessary extra payments on their home. In looking for qualifying participants, we came across your property at [address snipped].
Brief: In February 2004 we developed 3 new financing strategies that will eliminate the extra payments you are making. We choose carefully who we select as the criteria for qualification is stringent.
Even briefer: In February 2004 I wasn't living at the address you listed, and I never owned that property. Obviously your "stringent" qualification isn't worth a pint of marmoset urine.
The link below is to your online account where you can view your information and verify that it is correct.
Tucked away at the bottom is a postal address:
800 N. Rainbow Blvd. Suite 208
Las Vegas, NV 89107-1103
Which matches the WHOIS record for 22.214.171.124, the IP tucked into their reply URL. About two minutes of Googlage turned up in that very same little suite:
Must be one hell of a boiler room. Interestingly, John Reyes, listed as the contact for Ambro, actually lives in Clifton Park, New York, and to be fair, if I had to share space with all those other operations, I'd move across the country too.
Time to get in line
Norah Jones is coming to town, and tickets just went on sale (top $58.50 plus whatever they can stick you with).
She'll be at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City on 20 October.
(Five months in advance? Is this typical for major events? We've only had this humongous concert venue for a year or so.)
Works of mercy
If you have any dealings with my ex-wife this weekend, please be kind.
While she'd normally be enjoying a few days off, most of that enjoyment this year is likely to be overwhelmed by the cruelty of the calendar.
(The infernal consistency of the darn thing. Had I my druthers, she'd be able to knock off a few months for every year she spent with me; on the other hand, she'd likely claim that every year she spent with me aged her a few extra months, and we're back to square one.)
I'm not even going to pay her back for the moderately snide card she sent me for my 50th.
And unto us it shall be stuck
Fritz Schranck picked up this explanation of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's "FAIR" tax plan:
The McGreevey proposal would raise the top marginal income tax rate to 8.97% from 6.37%, and he defends it by claiming it would apply only to 28,000 people, or 1% of all Jersey taxpayers.
If you're in New Jersey and you're howling about this, please note that the top marginal rate in Oklahoma is 7.00 percent, and it applies to a whole lot more than one percent of us including, horrifying as it may seem, me. Governor Henry's tobacco-tax hike, passed by the Legislature, will cut this to a slightly-less-unpalatable 6.65 percent.
Of course, we don't go out of our way to slap asinine acronyms on things (Oklahoma City's Metropolitan Area Projects MAPS notwithstanding). Fritz doesn't think much of them either:
I really despise the increasing use of acronyms to push legislation. This time it stands for Fair And Immediate Relief. It could have just as easily been titled Seeking Higher Income Taxes, which would have had the distinguishing benefit of being true.
Death and taxes were always certain; bilious nomenclature is becoming so.
(Update, 5:10 pm: Someone asked about the state brackets, so here they are. If you don't want to burn your eyeballs on the Tax Commission's so-very-1995 Web page, the top marginal rate kicks in at a taxable income of $10,000 [single] or $21,000 [married filing jointly]. Under the law, you can optionally subtract the amount of Federal tax paid and refigure, but the top rate goes to ten percent if you do.)
Things I learned today
As Roseanne Roseannadanna was wont to say, it's always something:
All in all, a fairly informative sort of day, although I probably could have done without discovering that my 50-foot extension cord is twenty-nine feet, six inches long.
22 May 2004
Labrador Retrievers come in three flavors: black, chocolate and yellow. Labs tend toward a gruff sort of handsomeness, and they are the single most popular breed right now, as measured by American Kennel Club registration data, so there are going to be a lot of people taking pictures of Labs.
There is a downside to this, though, and Fred First has been there:
What's a photographer to do? After being the owner-companion and image-maker for two black labrador retrievers, I was well aware of the photographic impossibilities of getting a proper exposure in a scene containing green leaves, blue sky, gray-brown tree trunks AND a pitch-black dog. Most of my pictures of Zachary, our first black buddy, or Buster our pal who died not quite a year ago show a dense blue-black dog-shadow devoid of details or color, save the brown eyes, white teeth and pink tongue. I reached the conclusion that it just was not possible to get an acceptable photograph of our dogs except perhaps on very overcast days when the exposure latitude between the darkest object (always the dog) and brightest object were somewhat less severe.
When Buster died, we couldn't bear another black lab. There were too many memories, we'd call the new one either Zach or Buster, no matter what we named him. So we decided on a "yellow" lab which truly is a misnomer. Tsuga is somewhat tawny, barley-colored in tail and feet, but for the most part, he is a white dog. And here we go again. How does the photographer avoid producing a dog-shaped white blob with features only, perhaps, in the darker aspects of the face and paws?
But Fred doesn't whine about problems; he scratches around for solutions. And sure enough, he has one:
This challenge, then, lies before our clever canine breeders: The quest, of course, is to find a new coat-color gene and breed it into the race. The final product: Joining the ranks of the yellow, the chocolate and the black: The Neutral-Gray Lab! At 18% reflectivity, the dog could be both a gauge of mid-range reflectance and an ideal subject for pet photography. Future generations of image-making dog-owners will create a demand for this new breed, and labradors around the world will finally have their kind look good in pictures.
This seems to be encroaching on Weimaraner territory, but I like the idea. The national breed club for the Lab, however, probably won't; they consider any departure from the canonical colors to be a disqualification, as does the AKC in competitive events. Still, normal people, as a rule, don't schlep their dogs to the show circuit, so I suspect that should there be a demand for neutral-colored Labs, eventually there will be a supply.
In Köchel's listing, it's K. 467; we know it as Mozart's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 21 in C Major.
I say "we" because apparently there are a lot of us: a search for "mozart k. 467" at amazon.com produced 499 hits, and rather a lot of the offerings, even the serious ones as distinguished from, say, Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music list K. 467 with the additional title "Elvira Madigan."
This title, of course, was not affixed by Mozart. (If I remember correctly, his only piano concerto to which he gave an additional title was No. 9, K. 271, "Jeunehomme," which he composed for a pianist by that name.) Elvira Madigan is the title of a 1967 film by Bo Widerberg that found surprisingly wide acceptance in the counterculture of the day, and which featured the Andante from No. 21; the classical record business being in one of its periodic sloughs of despond at the time, it seemed only logical to pitch issues (or, better yet, reissues) of No. 21 with the connection to the film played up.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. It's not like titles haven't been applied after the fact before Schubert certainly didn't come up with "Unfinished" for his Symphony No. 8, and while he might have agreed with "The Great" for No. 9, he never heard it played in his lifetime, depriving him of an opportunity to say so but somehow it's hard to think of "Elvira Madigan" up there in some musical Pantheon alongside, say, "Appassionata" or "Waldstein."
(Parenthetical note: One music writer whom I have unfortunately forgotten suggested many years ago that all the additional titles, he at one time had thought, were the names of people the composers wished to honor; there was some complicated exposition to describe, for instance, the meeting of Ludwig van Beethoven with French expatriate music publisher Jean-Richard Lester "Les" Adieux.)
(Second parenthetical note: The previous note was in parentheses; isn't describing it as a "parenthetical note" superfluous? And isn't this one more so?)
Still, The Industry has to move CDs, or whatever medium will replace them, so get used to it: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 21 in C Major, K. 467, "Elvira Madigan." It's not without precedent: "Coronation" wasn't Mozart's idea for No. 26 (K. 537) either. And if a smidgen of Mozart's immortality should rub off on Bo Widerberg, so be it; Mozart has plenty to spare, and it gives me an excuse to go see Widerberg's movie.
(Disclosure: This was prompted by listening to a recording of No. 21 this morning, specifically Gulda's with Abbado and the Vienna, from 1975. Alan Blyth's liner notes one should always read liner notes make passing reference to "Elvira Madigan," though it's not mentioned on the front cover.)
Why I don't work in radio
I mean, I have the face for it, but the voice is not good and the occasional improvisation is not allowed.
Na, na, na na na na, late at night, these things come to me, and this one hit me last night: the "I Count the Tears" set, which includes, in addition to this classic Pomus/Shuman number recorded by the Drifters, the following selections, in numerical order:
Yes, that's the same Dickey Lee who was going to drown himself in the dirty old river that runs by the coal yard in old Shantytown for the love of Patches. And if you've counted the tears, you've come to 14,003,316.
Special Bonus Selection: "Let's Live for Today," the Grass Roots (1967), a remake of a song by the Italian band the Rokes, whose chorus bears exactly the same relation to "I Count the Tears" as does Shania Twain's "C'est la Vie" to Abba's "Dancing Queen", as noted here.
Ne plus ultra
What are you doing here? There's a new Bill Whittle essay, and it's better than anything he's ever written.
Except, of course, for its second half.
I'll quote you half a paragraph, but by the time it's over, you'd better be over at Bill's reading the whole thing:
Sam Houston was a deeply flawed man, but he had thick skin and that in itself goes a long way when you are planning deep. Sam Houston didn't give a tinker's damn about Glory or Honor. Sam Houston wanted Texas. Like the equally wily and patient George Washington before him, Sam Houston wanted to win. And they did win. And that is why there will be no major metropolitan area named Kerry.
There are FOUR lights!
But there are five types of blogs, says Soggy Pigeon.
And, of course, there are weird mutant strains as well. I see this place as mostly #3 (Personal) with an overlay of #1 (Whine/Bitch/Complain).
23 May 2004
Bitter irony of the day
Why search engines, even the most sophisticated, will never, ever replace good old fashioned human research:
Can one cry and guffaw at the same time?
For this they skinned a sheep?
Phil Libin's brother Mark just got his B.A. from Columbia, and while this is clearly an Important Milestone, Phil thinks the impact is lessened by the physical appearance of the actual diploma, which, he says, looks like "the university seems to have merely cut-n-pasted his name into nonsense baby-talk stolen from a blogger.com template."
Worse than that: it's in ALL CAPS.
I never was a big fan of those ornate Teutonic fonts in which maybe twelve or thirteen letters out of twenty-six were easily distinguishable, and Columbia deserves credit for going to a more modern typeface, but still it's in ALL CAPS.
And with that more modern typeface, an affectation is revealed: a reversion to the Latin V instead of U, reminding you of those earliest days of Columbia when it was still part of the Roman Empire. The top of the diploma reads CVRATORES VNIVERSITATIS COLVMBIAE, which, as we approach 2800 A.U.C., strikes me as, in the immortal words of Swiftus, "Nuts. N-V-T-S, nuts."
More or less untouched
There are lots of reasons for getting a marriage annulled: the discovery of fraud, the failure by one partner to dissolve a previous marriage, the involvement of Britney Spears. One which comes up occasionally is failure to consummate the marriage, which at least is relatively easy to define.
Unless, of course, you're dealing with the new same-sex marriages, in which case the old definition apparently doesn't mean anything. The question is fairly obvious, I think: what specific sexual act must be performed to constitute a consummation? "How could two people," asks Mike Pechar, "get married when the nature of their relationship inherently meets the criteria for nullification?"
The issue, as I said a couple of months ago, "gets more complicated the more you look at it." I'm not saying all the issues are intractable, but there certainly are a lot of them.
24 May 2004
What if all the public schools were good?
Wave [the wand], and underperforming rural and inner-city schools magically produce outcomes every bit as good as those produced by the best suburban districts. Does everyone win? No. Here's what happens. Poor families, obviously, benefit. And affluent urban property-owners, the kind of people who, like my parents, raised a family in the city because they could afford to send their kids to good private schools, make out like bandits. If you think real estate is expensive in New York (or Washington, DC) now, just see what would happen when young professional couples face reduced financial pressure to move out to the 'burbs when they want to have kids. Conversely, however, suburban property owners are screwed, since a significant proportion of their home equity is tied up in the proposition that owning property in District X entitles your children to a superior education.
Certainly this would be interesting to test in Oklahoma City, where two-thirds of the city area is actually located in suburban school districts, the result of greatly expanded city limits overwhelming the same old school-district lines from the Pleistocene era. You can be sure that a real-estate agent here will ascertain within the first fifteen seconds whether you have school-age kids, and if you do, you will be directed to Edmond (north) or Putnam City (west) or Moore (south) or Mid-Del (east) unless you absolutely insist on something in the central city. (I am a couple of blocks from a school in the Oklahoma City district; I have no idea of its reputation.)
It's that mystique that ratchets up home prices in the neighborhoods around White Station High, and causes homes to sell 10 days faster than most Zip Codes in the metro Memphis area. Prudential Realtor Laura Zarecor sold her clients' home at 4792 Cole in two weeks. One open house is all it took.
Of course, my house sold in four days with no open house, but I was looking for something other than a school with a superlative rep.
Meanwhile, should my brother move, they won't bother showing him anything over here; he's living in the Putnam City district now, and he'd prefer to stay there so long until the Resident Kid graduates. This is, I rather think, the majority viewpoint in such areas.
Right now, though, I'm not persuaded that in an area like Quail Creek, through which a school-district line runs Edmond to the north, Oklahoma City to the south there's that great a difference between the halves of the subdivision on otherwise-similar houses.
And acting in one's own self-interest, says Yglesias, has a back-door effect of sorts:
I rather doubt that anyone is consciously motivated to keep bad schools bad simply because doing so is in their economic self-interest. Nevertheless, people certainly are aware that property values and relative school quality are related. And self-interest has a way of creeping into people's behavior, consciously or otherwise.
This seems true enough, though there are a lot of factors contributing to property values, of which perceived school quality is only one.
Don't leave Rome without it
Dawn Eden noticed this Reuters ("One man's news agency is another man's septic tank") story in The Boston Globe that draws an unwarranted conclusion in its very first sentence:
Pope John Paul yesterday repeated the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to homosexual marriage, for the first time since Massachusetts became the first US state to allow same-sex weddings.
"Family life is sanctified in the joining of man and woman in the sacramental institution of holy matrimony," he said in an address to visiting US bishops.
The Associated Press coverage of the same address notes the following:
[John Paul's] speech on Saturday about family life contained no reference to the debate raging in the United States over decisions by some authorities to allow marriage between homosexuals.
"No reference," says the AP, but Reuters construes it as "repeated... opposition." What's wrong with this picture? Here's the complete text of the Papal address: decide for yourself.
And Dawn would like to know if this Reuters practice is extensible to more mundane stories. An example:
I could say, "One black coffee, please," and Reuters could write, "Dawn Eden Denies Business to Dairy Industry."
It could be worse. They could have accused her of profiling. ("All these other java variants around, but no, she picks on the black one.")
(Update, 11:40 am: Matt Deatherage looks at the AP and Reuters coverage of Fahrenheit 9/11 at Cannes, and finds the AP headline neutral, the Reuters headline ridden with bias.)
I live in what the city calls an Urban Conservation District, which means more or less that they'd like for this neck of the woods to continue to look as much as possible as it did when it was carved out of a farm in the late 1940s. To support this notion, there are some restrictions on building and on rebuilding. I knew this when I bought the place, so it's not like I'm hostile to the concept of preservation.
Still, sometimes it's possible to overdo it. The National Trust's new list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places includes the entire state of Vermont, for one reason alone: Wal-Mart is putting seven superstores in Deanland.
Trust president Richard Moe explains:
If they are built as proposed, these seven huge new stores will change the character of their communities and the state of Vermont. We're not saying that communities shouldn't allow big-box stores but if they choose to do so, they should be aware of the consequences, including the possible impact on jobs, traffic, the environment and locally-owned businesses. New stores should complement existing businesses, not devour them but there are communities all over America whose downtowns have been devastated by the arrival of big-box retailers. Vermonters shouldn't let that happen in their state.
Which begs the question: If an operation like Oklahoma City-based Six Flags were going to put seven theme parks in Vermont, which likely would play hell with traffic and the environment, would the National Trust be similarly up in arms? I rather doubt it. Wal-Mart, to preservationists, is the Great Satan, its machinations motivated by pure evil, its stores a repository of all that is banal and consumption-oriented.
Vermont was the last state to get a Wal-Mart store the first one opened in 1995 in Bennington and the existing stores were subject to the provisions of the state's Act 250, which is intended to guard against the very situations the Trust decries. If the proposals for the new stores fail to meet the Act's ten criteria [link requires Adobe Reader], Vermont can forbid construction. In the past, Vermont has had no trouble enforcing Act 250; if all seven of the new Wal-Mart stores are built, it should be safe to assume that the company has met the requirements of the state's Environmental Board.
Target apparently has no stores in Vermont. I wonder if they would get the same response from the National Trust if they'd planned seven Super Targets for the state.
(Suggested by a Fark item)
Unofficial celibacy timeline
Note: I reprint this only as a public service; I am not able to corroborate any individual entry personally.
1 - 3 days: Romantic Glow
4 - 30 days: Dull Ache
31 - 90 days: Depressed and Sad
91 - 180 days: Frightened and Angry
181 - 225 days: Forget About Sex
226 - 365 days: Remember Sex and Get Desperate
366 - 666 days: Flirt with Pretty Chicks
667 - 800 days: Flirt with Ugly Chicks
801 - 990 days: Prepare for Self-Castration
991 - 999 days: Divorce Wife
1000 days +: Point of No Return
Courtesy of gratiot.pitas.com (18 May '04, 10:14 pm).
25 May 2004
It's time to play Map That Route
World Tour '04 begins around 5 July, and unlike its predecessors, it is not designed to land in New Jersey halfway through; it's not that I'm turning my back, or my trunk lid, on the Garden State, but this year I need to do something a little bit different.
There are basically two goals for the Tour this year: to see if Dave has been pulling my chain all these years about the Great MT North, and to avoid going through Denver at any cost. Neither of these should be especially difficult. I'm envisioning a straight shot into Nebraska, following the river into Wyoming, and then tacking along whatever diagonals I can find; the return trip will probably be I-94 east to Fargo and I-29 south to KC, lest the kids feel neglected.
This will fill in a minimum of five states on my Already Visited map, leaving only nine or so to go; I could probably manage one or two more, but given the price of fuel these days, I'd just as soon not flirt with penury any more than is absolutely necessary.
(Update, 7:45 pm: Susanna Cornett [be still, my heart] is making noises about a road trip, though our paths likely won't cross. You'd think she'd at least want to see a city whose mayor is named Cornett. [Okay, that's still enough. Sheesh.])
New improved GanderSauce™
A question from Ravenwood's Universe:
Kerry is considering delaying his acceptance of the Democrat nomination, in order to bypass campaign finance legislation. Now, if a candidate can delay their nomination acceptance in order to delay accepting $75 Million in federal funds, is it not conceivable that they time the nomination acceptance to maximize the funds available. I mean, if Bush chooses to continue with private funding, can't he theoretically delay his nomination acceptance until a week before the election and then receive $75 Million in public money to boost his campaign at the end?
It would be most amusing to see a DNC protest if he did.
But I think there's at least a measurable chance that the Democratic machine will shut down this idea, in the hopes of reminding John Kerry that it's bigger than he is.
According to some (Sam Phillips included), the first rock and roll record, issued in 1951 and credited to Jackie Brenston and his Dixie Cats (actually Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, for whom Brenston usually played sax). Credits aside, this was a car song about an Oldsmobile, in fact.
Oldsmobile is no more, alas, but 88 lives on: Carnival of the Vanities #88, hosted by Spot On this week, gives you a fast read on the best of the blogs, and after all, fast was what that original Rocket 88 was all about.
Blue hair day
To the somnolent old coot in the faded grey Buick:
Fifty-four in a 60 zone does not confer upon you any moral superiority.
Enjoy your membership in the Anti-Destination League.
The secret of NIMBY
One of the things on my never-published (and with good reason) Things To Do Before I Croak list is "Dance naked in a thunderstorm."
I'm starting to believe that the possibility that I might actually do this, now that I have a semi-suitable venue for same, is warding off rain; precipitation is running about two-thirds below normal this month, and this is normally the dampest time of the year.
(No, I'm not getting out of bed at two in the morning to do this, unless I can't sleep to save my life.)
Occasionally the blog of The Dallas Morning News comes up with a zinger. This letter came to editorial writer John Chamless:
While a great many more "liberal thinkers" may be tempted to work for major media outlets, the owners and controllers of those outlets are overwhelmingly conservative. The ownership gets to decide what is covered and how. If they don't like the product, those "liberal" employees may not be around for long.
Rod Dreher (25 May, 6:14 pm) fielded this one:
That's nonsense. I used to work for the NYPost, which of course is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Rupert was way too busy to dictate our coverage. Nobody there ever told me what to write even when I, as a film critic, trashed movies produced by Fox, which Murdoch also owns. In fact, I can't think of a single newspaper I've worked for in which the owners micromanaged coverage. This is a liberal fantasy. I recall Murdoch on one occasion told the editorial board of the Post what to write it was a trade issue with China but that was it. He was hands off and the paper's metro columnists were all pretty liberal.
In the long and occasionally storied history of The Oklahoman, there are instances of exactly just such micromanaging, but E. K. Gaylord was no Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. is monstrously huge; the Oklahoma Publishing Company has seldom owned more than a handful of papers and the occasional broadcast outlet. Murdoch hired people to run the New York Post for him; Gaylord wore the publisher's hat and the editor's eyeshade simultaneously. And so far as I know, and however far to the right his paper positioned itself, E. K. Gaylord was a registered Democrat until the day he died, perhaps a recognition that for much of its existence, Oklahoma was a one-party state. (Son Edward L. Gaylord, who ran the paper for almost three decades after E. K.'s death in 1974, was too.)
Would Opubco ever hire a left-leaning reporter? I'd say it's a safe bet that they have though a writer who was interested in advancing a leftward agenda probably didn't last too long at Fourth and Broadway, and I don't think things have changed much since the paper relocated to the Black Tower.
26 May 2004
Where the obvious fails
If you've ever run an IT shop, you already know this:
A printer with a powered stacking device, once that device malfunctions, is far less efficient than a printer with no stacking device at all.
If you didn't know this, you probably work here.
Nothing new under the sun
I do hope that wherever she might be, she is having a reasonably good time.
Based on a theme
The now-forgotten motion picture Celsius 127 premiered nearly sixty years ago, during a time when the Allies seemed to be hopelessly bogged down in their quest to put an end to the Axis plans for world domination. Billed as a documentary, Celsius 127 was actually more of a polemic, an attempt to whip up anti-American sentiment by suggesting that the President had deliberately misled the public about his desire to keep the nation out of what had started out as a purely European war, and following up that suggestion with edited newsreel footage of the most unfortunate occurrences during that war. The film's regard for truth is exceeded only by... well, just about everything, actually.
Greg Hlatky, not only a wiser man than I but a better film critic as well, has the details of this bilious little artifact. Fortunately, we live in more enlightened times; a blatant propaganda piece like Celsius 127 could never be made today.
It's a sweep, sort of
The jury took about five hours to convict Terry Nichols on all 161 state counts of first-degree murder today, plus a charge of arson.
Around the first of July, the penalty phase should be completed; Nichols will draw either life in prison (which duplicates the federal sentence he's already serving) or execution by lethal injection. The testimony, already gruesome, will likely become more so as the jury weighs the options.
If you live near a commercial classical music station well, never mind, you probably don't. There are very few of them left, even in the largest cities.
If I've counted correctly, this leaves one commercial classical station in Texas: WRR in Dallas. (The last one of note in Oklahoma was KCMA, licensed to Okmulgee but based in Tulsa, which after four years of so-so business switched to "soft oldies" in 2001, a format which by all accounts is doing so-so business.)
27 May 2004
Drippity drop and then some
Okay, it wasn't much of a thunderstorm.
But I gotta tell you, it was one hell of a dance.
Blog vs. Blog
One thing about Joe Scarborough: his tastes are eclectic. Consider this list of his favorite blogs:
SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY's favorite blogs include Wonkette.com and Gawker, of course, InstaPundit, Dawn Patrol, AndrewSullivan, and the ArmedProphet.
Media mogul who pays the bills:
TTLB Ecosystem standing:
Number of posts weekly:
References to C. S. Lewis:
Number of penis jokes:
Times I read daily:
I could go on, but obviously I have.
The Cos of it all
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Eugene Kane took Bill Cosby to task for having the temerity to suggest that some of the problems in the African-American community are self-inflicted. The money quote:
Sometimes, beating up on defenseless people is just being a bully.
If you were wondering where the idea of a "cult of victimhood" comes from, you've just seen a source.
A couple days later, Cosby called Kane and expressed some sympathy for Kane's views, but repeated his call for greater responsibility. Kane said he wasn't in the habit of taking things back, but that he had framed Cosby's remarks poorly. And the two ended up, if not as best buds, at least somewhere near the same page. Maybe.
(Muchas gracias: Justin Katz.)
What not to wear
The story so far:
Obvious question: "What kind of world is this when 15-year-old girls are talking about bondage?"
Less-obvious question: "Bondage requires pants?"
Wait 'til you hear his bark
The Party is dominated by a combination of old-line rural Yellow Dog-type Democrats and a few urban unions. What these people don't understand is that their image does not appeal to urban progressives who are [increasingly] registering as political independents. Those that are registered as Democrats would bolt the party for a moderate third party if one was ever realized. Urban progressives and moderates find the Democrats' embrace of society's pariahs, from cockfighters to trial lawyers, very disconcerting.
I am reasonably urban, not especially "progressive" in its most common political definition, I voted against the cockfighting ban, and I'd probably even vote against a trial-lawyer ban if one were placed on the ballot after all, you never know when you might want to sue someone but as pariahs go, these are small-time at best. Now when the operators of chop shops and meth labs start lobbying the Capitol, that's when I start to worry.
And I wonder if "moderate third party" isn't perhaps a contradiction in terms. However close to the edge the major parties may venture, sooner or later something, usually the desire to get elected, drags them back towards the vacuum at the center.
A salute to a reader
J-P (he's always been that, and yes, I know what the letters stand for, I think) LeCompte has been reading this site for God knows how long, and somehow, despite this wholly negative influence, he not only managed to finish high school but wangled a commendation from his peers for "most likely to cure cancer" or something similarly useful, and well, inasmuch as I am old and never metastasis I ever liked, I figure I owe him props for a job well done. (Among other things.)
Good show, J-P. May your compass always point in the same direction as your heart.
28 May 2004
You can't lose 'em all
Some time early in 2004, one of the Big Three credit bureaus suffered some sort of collective brain fart, and all manner of questionable information was scattered across my record, with decidedly negative results. It took until late March for me to discover what had happened, and three letters, three phone calls, and various Anglo-Saxonisms later, the record is now properly expunged, which means that my point score will rise slightly and my Get Out Of Debt plan will be shortened from its current 4,000 years to 3,987 years and 4½ months.
Float, float on
"Angels can fly," observed G. K. Chesterton, "because they can take themselves lightly."
As a rule, Dawn Eden takes the train, but she knows the joke is on us all:
Faith, like humor, is all about having a sense of the fantastic and feeling deep inside that the people who puff themselves up are the very people that need to be brought down. Especially if that people is oneself.
One of my internal alarms goes off at the point where I cross the line into self-importance, which may be one reason why I am uncomfortable with many of our current crop of leftists, who strike me as a generally dour and humorless lot. This is not to say that there aren't nauseatingly-earnest people on the right I swear, the Oklahoma GOP recruits candidates from a roster of the humor-impaired but the liberal notion of Creating Utopia seems to lend itself more easily to unnecessary seriousness than does the conservative concept of Trust But Verify.
So in the unlikely event that I start acting like the second coming of Ozymandias, look upon my works, ye Mighty, and guffaw. The one inescapable fact about life is that we won't get out of it alive at least, not in the physical sense.
There's a little strip of paper hanging in my office with the following equation:
1 manager = 1,000,000 micromanagers
Rounded down from 1,048,576, if you insist.
It's not George W. Bush's style to micromanage things, which prompted this remark from Andrea Harris:
The delegation thing is a method of governance, one which is not unique to Bush. Personally I think it is a more sensible approach to the job than the sort of micromanagement said to be the technique of a Former President Who I Will Not Name, but YMMV. I find it interesting, however, that this has become a favorite criticism of the anti-Bush contingent. In that, and in the accusations of intellectual inadequacies, I sense a whiff of wistful yearning for something more of a Leader than representative democracy can supply.
A Dear Leader, perhaps? Given the tendency of the "anti-Bush contingent" to fall along the Democratic Party / Big Government axis well, what could be Bigger than our very own despot?
Oh, that's right; they think we have one. Sorry I missed all those people thrown into prison for posting anti-Bush messages.
We own you
"University of Georgia" is a trademark owned by well, it's not the University of Georgia, who forgot, or something, to renew the trademark when it expired in 1997.
Which probably wouldn't be that big a deal, except that the University of Georgia Foundation, which has now registered the trademark, was about to be cut loose by Georgia's Board of Regents and reduced to unofficial status; it's entirely possible that the University and the Foundation could wind up in court over this bit of branding.
In terms of theoretical potential mischief, this surpasses the previous record: the reliably left-wing Harper's Magazine licenses the name "Harper's" from HarperCollins, a publishing house owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, a group associated with the right wing. There has never been any indication that HarperCollins might pull the magazine's license, or that of Harper's Bazaar, owned by the largely-leftish Hearst group, but today the unexpected is commonplace.
29 May 2004
Art at an angle
The central city by the Mid-City Advocate's reckoning, the 25 square miles bounded by Reno, Portland, 63rd and Kelley is a hodgepodge of architectural styles, reflecting both the diversity of individual tastes and the wide variance in personal income that prevailed in the first half of the 20th century.
One of the quirkier areas is the Paseo, which is highlighted by a Spanish Revival shopping center built by G. A. Nichols in 1928-1929 as "Spanish Village." Not only did it contrast with nearby neighborhoods in Prairie or Craftsman styles, but it wasn't even on the city grid; the street designated "Paseo" wanders more or less down a hill southeastward from 30th and Dewey to 28th and Walker, and a couple of cross streets hit it at angles you don't want to negotiate at high speeds. When people and money moved out to the 'burbs, the Paseo remained in something of a time warp; eventually it became, due to relatively low rents and lots of small spaces suitable for studios, a hub for local artists. In the middle Seventies, those artists put together a street festival, which was successful enough to run for a second year, and a third.
And now a twenty-eighth. Cam Edwards, who used to live just off the Paseo, once described the event this way:
[T]he arts festival in the Paseo is smaller, more local than the big festival in downtown during April. The art is a little more experimental, the music a little more granola-based, and the crowd a little less like the crowd at the state fair. Less spandex leggings, more freakish piercings.
I should fit right in when I wander down there this afternoon.
Another one rides the bus
J. M. Branum has caught a glimpse of a Yahoo! banner ad which reads as follows:
$167.00 is all it takes to buy BUSH a one-way ticket home. Chip in $50 now!
And, as one would expect, a link to the Kerry campaign.
Mr Branum has researched the matter:
[T]hey goofed up. I checked Greyhound.com and it would only be $147 to go from Washington to Waco (the closest big city to his ranch) and he could even go cheaper if he did the 7 day advance fare.
There being a two-month gap between Election Day and the Inauguration, I'd say there was certainly enough time to plan such a trip, should it become necessary.
One advantage of being me (and believe me, I look hard for such) is that not only can I link to good stuff other people have written on their sites, but I can link to good stuff I have written on their sites.
The Proprietor at coffeegrounds did a nice piece this past week about the importance of trees, which ended with a paragraph about poet Joyce Kilmer, which prompted me to exhume a quip from a couple of World Tours ago. It borders on giggleworthy.
Party with the arty
As planned, I slid over to the Paseo today for the opening day of the Arts Festival, and it was a fairly complex compound of both familiar and surprising elements.
Of course, parking was going to be a chore; I wound up at a convenience store on the southern periphery, which was selling spaces (they had three or four) at three bucks a car, about the going rate. I pulled in next to a fiftyish woman in the shortest possible skirt and black tights, which is of course always a delight; turned out she was one of a couple dozen tap dancers who were scheduled on stage in a few minutes.
The wind was its usual intractable self staff at the Paseo Café found themselves chasing after an umbrella which had reached escape velocity but considering the ghastly levels of humidity today, every breeze was welcomed, even the ones that threatened to tear your precious parcel out of your very hands.
The crowd, as anticipated, was closer to boho than to boardroom, but not that much closer; I didn't see more than a handful of potential contestants for a Willie Nelson lookalike contest. And suddenly an old friend popped out of nowhere. It is a measure of the level of seclusion I'd maintained in years past that among the first ten words she spoke were "What are you doing here?" And it is a measure of how much things have changed that I had an actual answer.
What? Oh, yes, the art. Lots of stuff on display; I wound up with a print from an artist who's already represented on my walls. I didn't hit up any of the food vendors this time, fearing that the combination of unfamiliar victuals and unfriendly humidity would knock me for a loop. But as street scenes go, I figure I'm ahead of the game if I can fit into one for a few hours.
Your basic cold day in hell
All the flapdoodle over The Day After Tomorrow, and I didn't even bother to read the credits.
A 20th Century Fox release of a Centropolis Entertainment/Lions Gate/Mark Gordon Co. production. Produced by Mark Gordon, Roland Emmerich. Executive producers, Ute Emmerich, Kelly Van Horn, Stephanie Germain. Co-producer, Thomas M. Hammel. Directed by Roland Emmerich. Screenplay, Roland Emmerich, Jeffrey Nachimanoff; story, Roland Emmerich, suggested in part by the book "The Coming Global Superstorm" by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber.
Dear Al Gore: When are you going to do something about global dumbing?
30 May 2004
Last night in Tornado Alley
By now, we know the drill. Forget about the local broadcast stations; channels 4 (NBC), 5 (ABC), 9 (CBS), 25 (Fox) and 52 (independent) pitch their entire schedules to give you block-by-block, sometimes even pixel-by-pixel, coverage of That Big Damn Cloud. What we want to know, of course, is "Where is it?" and "Which way is it moving?" The latter question is usually simple: the way these things develop, they tend to move west to east. So we're looking for more, um, nuanced coverage, to project the path using a whole continuum of trajectories. About the time the storm left Geary, I figured it was going to track right along 178th Street, and decided not to give it any further thought, since its closest approach to Surlywood would be about eight miles.
And that's pretty much the way it went. The most surprising aspect of it, I think, was that there was only one really big storm heading our way; often they travel in pairs or worse. Not this time. There was another storm, way up toward the Kansas border, but it was given relatively short shrift, probably because the people up there are watching Wichita television.
So get busy already
Last week I made vague references to a list of Things To Do Before I Croak, but didn't actually post the list, largely because a substantial number of the items contained therein are some combination of the following: (1) illegal in some jurisdictions; (2) likely to result in damage of some sort, probably expensive; (3) damned embarrassing.
Meanwhile, Capitalist Lion has his list, which numbers thirty-five, and obviously he had no qualms about posting it. (For the record, I've completed a mere nine of those 35, and missed a tenth by this much: I've never quite made it to 150 mph on a public highway.)
Spring 1868. General John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a support organization founded by veterans for veterans, issues the following as General Order No. 11:
The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
This wasn't the first Memorial Day, technically; the townspeople of Waterloo, New York had inaugurated just such an observance two years earlier. But General Logan's call to honor fallen soldiers resounded nationally, and five thousand turned out at Arlington National Cemetery on the thirtieth of May, placing flowers and placards and gifts on the resting places of twenty thousand.
Two years later, General Logan spoke at Arlington, and this is part of what he said:
This Memorial Day, on which we decorate their graves with the tokens of love and affection, is no idle ceremony with us, to pass away an hour; but it brings back to our minds in all their vividness the fearful conflicts of that terrible war in which they fell as victims.... Let us, then, all unite in the solemn feelings of the hour, and tender with our flowers the warmest sympathies of our souls! Let us revive our patriotism and love of country by this act, and strengthen our loyalty by the example of the noble dead around us....
I come from a family with strong ties to the military. Both my parents were sailors, and my father had served in the Army before joining the Navy. A brother served in the Navy; a sister took on the duties of a soldier's wife. But it took me rather a long time to understand the "noble dead"; I knew nothing of death except that it was a scary prospect, and I didn't see nobility as being part of the package.
The first inkling of what it meant came during Basic Combat Training in 1972. I was eighteen, grossly immature, and generally scared spitless. The guys with the funny hats who dragged us out of bed at 0500, well, they were just an obstacle, to be endured and then to be forgotten.
Except that they knew things. They weren't scholars issuing position papers from ivory towers; they were men who had Been There, who had faced real enemies, and who had come back to show us pathetic slobs how to face real enemies ourselves. There were things you did, and there were things you did not do, if you expected to come back yourself. And since we were all green as hell and totally lacking in life experience, what we wanted more than anything else was to be able to come back.
So we learned. We fired (just as important, we cleaned) our weapons, we studied simple tactics, we got used to sleeping with the rocks and the ticks, we got to the point where we weren't as embarrassingly bad as we had been a couple of months earlier. And the NCOs, who up to then had never been satisfied with our performance, pronounced themselves satisfied: we were going to be all right.
Most of us did come back. But some did not, and we found ourselves grieving for them and for their families, because we knew that it could just have easily have been us. Their sacrifice was received and found worthy. Noble, even.
I thought about this during the dedication of the World War II Memorial this week, especially when that old soldier Bob Dole explained why it was happening:
What we dedicate today is not a memorial to war. Rather, it is a tribute to the physical and moral courage that makes heroes out of farm and city boys and that inspired Americans in every generation to lay down their lives for people they will never meet, for ideals that make life itself worth living.
I hope, as I slide into old-soldier status myself, that I've done my best to live up to those ideals.
31 May 2004
And what's more, it's late
I think one of your "things to do" items should be "post the list."
So get busy. You have until 8 a.m. tomorrow.
Well, it obviously didn't happen, and no way am I going to divulge every last item I have cluttering up the back of my mind. But I did open this door, so to speak, and no one in his right mind refuses Page anything, so I'm tossing up a few more items from the list, mostly without regard to any criterion of reasonableness.
1. I would like to get my driving skills honed and polished to the point that I can drive in One Lap of America, the mildly-tamed descendant of the original Cannonball Run with a run-what-you-brung ethic. Entrance requires, among other things, two stints in racing school and $500,000 in liability insurance.
2. Just once, I'd like to get my Sullivan number down to 2.
3. I don't know whether this is even possible or not, given the various physical factors involved and the track record of my more reptilian side, but I would like to have a purely nonsexual relationship with a woman of indeterminate age that is conducted, to the extent possible without running afoul of local laws, entirely without clothing. Just someone to hang with, so to speak, and talk to.
4. Route 66 is more an historical artifact than an actual highway these days. Part of its allure, I have always believed, was that it cut an odd swath across the country: south across Illinois, turning southwest at St Louis, finally heading straight west at Oklahoma City. There are, however, still-extant US routes that cut even stranger diagonals than that: 52, which drops from the very top of North Dakota to midtown Charleston, South Carolina, and 62, which runs from El Paso to Niagara Falls. I hope to drive both in their entirety while they're still around.
Now imagine the ones I didn't tell you.
I can't swear to what it was like all day, but a spot-check of three burial parks suggested that a lot of people took time out today to pay tribute to those who served.
And while I didn't gather any statistics last year, it seems to me that there were a few more flags flying around town this year. (I have decided that mere window placards are inadequate to the task, and will acquire a new flag for next time around.)
Holding out for... what?
Francis W. Porretto fells a romantic fantasy with a single bullet:
"The one," or some variation on the theme, is the reason most romances fail. A lot of younger folks carry an idealized picture of romantic bliss in their heads. They insist on comparing their current romance to that picture, and their current beau to the demigoddess of their fantasy. Besides being monstrously unfair to any human lover to do such a thing, it guarantees dissatisfaction from one end of life to the other.
To insist on "the one" is to insist that some real woman mold herself into a reproduction of your fantasies. It's a demand for a golem, not a wife. Every real lover you'll ever have will be irritable, distractable, ornery, perverse, and independent of mind. How could it be otherwise? Other people never live up to our hopes for them. Not even the best of them, and not even when you've made it crystal-clear what you want and expect.
Which is perfectly true, but then he threw this in:
You don't have a lot of time to work. Most of us form our opinions of most of us within the first couple of minutes after being introduced. There's no way to recover from a major blunder committed in that precious opening interval. There's no way to recover if she adjudges you vapid, colorless, or spineless, either.
Mental note: Leave after three minutes. Saves a lot of trouble in the long run.
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