1 August 2004
Once the stuff of dreams
It may not be true that everything old is new again, but I was never comfortable with the idea that everything old was destined for the trash heap.
So I was heartened to see that Susanna Cornett's appreciation of all things Victorian reaches even further than she might have imagined.
Flash in the pan
Well, maybe next year.
The Oklahoma City Lightning ran into some serious Detroit Demolition in last night's NWFA title game; the maidens from the Motor City put the hurt on the stormin' Sooners, 52-0. The Demolition have now won 31 in a row; I'm wondering if maybe they could actually handle one of the scuzzier NFL teams.
Where was this on Flag Day?
Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham, Texas, maker of one of the more highly-prized brands of ice cream in these parts, has come up with an oddball flavor called Heart of America, which is something like this:
The ice cream is divided into three sections similar to Neapolitan Ice Cream. One part is a vanilla ice cream with a cherry sauce swirl, a second part is strawberry ice cream with milk chocolate hearts and the third section is vanilla ice cream with a wild blueberry sundae sauce swirl.
Strange concept, but it works though frankly, I think the chocolate bits detract from the red, white and blue theme.
A brief position paper
(This is twice I've ripped off a topic of Dave's in a single week. Hmmm....)
2 August 2004
Me, I want a Hula Hoop
In the Seventies, I found myself with entirely too much free time and a four-track tape recorder. Enlisting the aid of family members to figure out what sort of trouble we could get into with this combination, we hit upon the absurd notion of copying phonograph records to tape, replaying the tape at a slower speed and overdubbing our voices, then playing the tape at its proper speed and listening to the weird rodent noises we produced.
Which, of course, is how the late Ross Bagdasarian created the Chipmunks way back in 1958. Issued on Liberty 55168, "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" sold about four million copies, and was reissued yearly, continuing to chart as late as 1962.
Smartasses like me, of course, continued to screw around with the concept, and it was inevitable that it would be at some point deconstructed: Sean's Said the Gramophone blog is offering a 4:43 slowed version of TCS the single was timed at 2:17 which lets you hear each voice Bagdasarian used at more or less its original pitch, "sounding," says Sean, "like an accountant, a hot-dog vendor, and a lunatic." Which describes Simon, Theodore and Alvin rather neatly, come to think of it.
(Via Phil Dennison, who says, "IT IS A MILLION TIMES BETTER THAN ANYTHING ON THE RADIO." What does that say about radio?)
A matter of record
Cast your threats upon the water, and they shall come back and soak your shoes.
Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, thought it would be a really neat idea to publish the names and addresses of everyone in northern Ohio who had been issued a concealed-carry permit. His explanation:
We were able to do so because the state legislature, bowing to Gov. Bob Taft's threat to veto a bill with no public access provision at all, gave the news media access to the list. The general public is not allowed to see it.
And, like the governor and millions of others across the country, we believe licensure information of all kinds should be open to public view.
Persuaded as I am that information about gun owners should not be compiled into any sort of database at all what's to stop a crook from stealing their weapons one at a time, or a politician from stealing them en masse? putting these records into play is simply reprehensible.
The advocacy group Ohioans for Concealed Carry responded by publishing Clifton's name and address and other details which could be easily found online. Clifton, of course, was not happy with this development:
The posting, I gather, had two purposes. The first was to say "turnabout is fair play": Public records are public records, and you're not exempt.
The second was to intimidate. Why else run a map?
[W]e simply hope to see if Mr. Clifton is as big a believer in open access to public records as he claims.
I'd say they got their answer.
And further, says OFCC, noting that four other Ohio papers had printed similar lists:
[T]he media exception to the protection of these records should be removed immediately. These newspaper editors have proven they cannot handle the responsibility.
I have a feeling this story is a long way from being over.
(Via Ravenwood's Universe)
One on one
You know, those boring old monogamists may have been onto something.
Really. "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study" [it will cost you $5 to read the whole thing] is a National Bureau of Economic Research study by David G. Blanchflower (Dartmouth) and Andrew J. Oswald (Warwick). The idea: to link the common happiness survey to information on sexual behavior.
The following executive summary, sort of, appears in The Atlantic (September, "Primary Sources"):
Married people have considerably more sex than swinging singles and gay divorcees, and the "happiness-maximizing" number of sexual partners in a given year is almost exactly one. Rising wealth has no positive effect on the frequency of sex, and increased education actually has a slightly negative effect, particularly among men. (This is unfortunate news for the well-educated, since they are the group for whom sexual activity has the highest impact on happiness.)
Did I mention I quit school after ten years? :)
To expand on that "almost exactly one" business, from the actual paper:
How many sexual partners in the last year will maximize a person's happiness? Although persuasive cause-and-effect is clearly difficult to establish in cross-section data, the simple answer according to these GSS data is one sexual partner. In this sense, our work has conservative implications. After some experimentation, we report this monogamy result, in Table 3, simply as the variable 'single partner'.
Table 4 looks in more detail at the type of sexual partner. We find, for instance, that people who say they have ever paid for sex are considerably less happy than others. Those who have ever had sex outside their marriage also report notably low happiness scores.
[Preceding paragraphs © 2004 by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald.]
"GSS" refers to the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.
I learned two things from this report:
(1) My instincts aren't entirely unsound, after all;
(2) Seventeen cents a page for downloaded material apparently doesn't faze me.
3 August 2004
It was right here a minute ago
Ms. Christine has found out, mercifully not the hard way, that if you lose your ticket on Southwest Airlines, you have to buy a new one, and wonders why:
When you reserve your ticket, you give them your name, address, more than likely a credit card or bank card number, they put this into a thingy called a "computer", for security reasons they run various background checks and also store this information in the computer. Right along-side your flight info. It's all there. All the time. When you show up at the airport to check in, whether an e-ticket or regular check-in, they print off your ticket, check your ID, and off you go. I'm assuming, unless their programmers are complete morons, that the information isn't purged when your ticket is printed.
Of course, it may be the case, not that the programmers are total morons, but that they're working to the specifications demanded by total morons. This is a situation that exists far beyond the airline industry.
I want to know why they can't print another ticket if you lose your ticket, or get all the way to the airport and realize that you left it at home, or in the rental car, or whatever.
Why not tack on a $20 fee to re-print the ticket and call it, officially, the "idiot charge"?
Call it a Federally-mandated surcharge under Section ID-10T, and stamp the replacement ticket accordingly.
Pennies pinched, no waiting
The city of Kingfisher, thirty miles from northwest Oklahoma City, has been in a financial bind; its accumulated deficit had grown to nearly $1 million, a lot of debt for a city of four thousand people. "We would have found ourselves bankrupt in 18 months," says City Manager Doug Enevoldsen.
They're not out of the woods yet, but fiscal year 2004 ended with a surplus of $193,000 following Enevoldsen's austerity program.
Perhaps ironically, Enevoldsen himself owes his position to budget cuts: he was let go from the Department of Tourism last year as part of the state's austerity program.
I mention this because, well, I have this weird idea that governmental units should not spend more than they can reasonably expect to receive.
Quietly into the night sky
During World War I, the Service Flag, known more descriptively as the Blue Star Flag, was seen throughout the land, a simple banner with a blue star representing a family member serving overseas, the blue star replaced by a gold star should he be killed in battle. The practice continues to this day; if you haven't seen one lately, well, this Newsday scribe seems to think we've lost interest in such things:
Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, it's hard to escape the reality that America doesn't have much stomach for fighting anymore. Support for Operation Iraqi Freedom stood at 76 percent in April 2003, according to Gallup. Today, support has sunk to 47 percent. What's caused that huge drop? Mostly, U.S. fatalities just over 900. Heck, during the U.S. Civil War, both sides lost many more men than that in single afternoons, and the fighting lasted four years. But today, America finds itself in a "post-heroic" culture, mostly because of small families. To put it starkly, mothers won't part with their only son, who might also be an only child.
Somehow this doesn't seem plausible. A lot of things have happened since, say, the founding of the Gold Star Moms, and decreasing family size is certainly one of them, but I'd argue that diminishing support for the war is at least partly due to the ongoing efforts by papers such as Newsday to make sure we get a steady dose of bad news from Iraq. Some bad news, of course, is inevitable, and not even the most avid hawks will give this operation a grade of A-plus myself, I'm inclined to award a "gentleman's C" or thereabouts. And if we are indeed in a "post-heroic" culture these days, I suggest it has something to do with the post-World War II fascination with antiheroes, once literary curiosities, now durable archetypes.
Geitner Simmons inquires:
I hadn't heard about the small-families aspect as a factor shaping American public opinion. Is [James P. Pinkerton, the Newsday columnist] on the mark, or is that just op-ed hyperbole?
That, I couldn't tell you. On the other hand, Pinkerton was using this example as an illustration of how our future will be inextricably intertwined with robotics, of all things, so I'm going to assume at least standard fanboy levels of hyperbole.
4 August 2004
Not to be confused with 98.6, but still, it's good to have it back again, "it" being the Carnival of the Vanities, presented this week by Seldom Sober in cooperation with the Office of National Blog Control Policy. ("This is your brain on blogs. Any questions?")
As always, it's worth reading, even if there's something of mine in the mix.
Revenge of the Parental Unit
I mean, really: Top Ten Things You May Not Know About Dawn Eden, by Dawn Eden's mom.
The next fifty or sixty are probably just as fascinating, but I can wait. And anyway, it's not like nothing unusual has ever shown up on The Dawn Patrol; my actual phone number turned up there once, though this was my fault and it's not like Dawn ever calls anyway.
Where the elite meet for defeat
John Kerry, says New York Daily News columnist Zev Chafetz, is "the captive of the overbearing, elitist wing of his party," and as such, is sure to lose:
John Kerry is not a bad man. He probably wouldn't make a bad President. But he is a bad candidate in a terrible situation. He represents the wing of the Democratic Party that is imbued with a sense of its own moral, intellectual, cultural and social superiority. In short, he is the standard bearer for the unbearable.
But surely he can dispatch the fumbling, inarticulate George W. Bush in the debates. Or can he?
Democratic true believers think he'll kill Bush, one on one. That's what they thought about Al Gore, too.
Actually, Democratic true believers still think Al Gore won.
(Via La Shawn Barber)
And no write-ins, either
D. Frank Robinson, who's running as a Libertarian for the 5th Congressional District seat currently held by Ernest Istook, was last mentioned here in connection with his plan for greatly expanding the size of the House of Representatives. He posted a comment to that item, which I reprint here:
As of this date [08/03/2004], it appears more likely that Oklahoma may be the only state without any Libertarian candidates on the ballot this year. Our case is still pending, but unless we get a favorable decision by mid-September, it looks like a fugitaboutit. Well, just push on to 2006. Hip deep in the big muddy in Oklahoma and the big fools say to circulate a petition!
This is, of course, because Oklahoma, alone among the fifty, expects a party to get signatures from five percent of the state's registered voters, more than 36,000 signatures in all, to be granted access to the statewide ballot, effectively locking the two major parties into permanent primacy. By contrast, Texas, six times bigger, demands only 45,540. (This enormous number of signatures extends to initiative petitions as well; to get a State Question that amends the Constitution on the ballot requires 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election [link requires Adobe Reader], which for November 2004 would be over 155,000 signatures.)
I've complained about this sort of thing before, and I suppose at some point I'll be complaining about it again. We should be encouraging political organizations, not trying to strangle them in their cribs.
A hint of tint
Inasmuch as it's been hours since I linked to anything of Michelle Malkin's, I commend to you her Media Diversity Test, something she wrote to tweak the Unity Journalists of Color, in convention in the District of Columbia this week.
Out of a possible 100 points, Malkin of course scores an even 100. How would you fare? Give yourself five points for every Yes answer.
1. I have never voted for a Democrat in my life.
2. I think my taxes are too high.
3. I supported Bill Clinton's impeachment.
4. I voted for President Bush in 2000.
5. I am a gun owner.
6. I support school voucher programs.
7. I oppose condom distribution in public schools.
8. I oppose bilingual education.
9. I oppose gay marriage.
10. I want Social Security privatized.
11. I believe racial profiling at airports is common sense.
12. I shop at Wal-Mart.
13. I enjoy talk radio.
14. I am annoyed when news editors substitute the phrase "undocumented person" for "illegal alien."
15. I do not believe the phrase "a chink in the armor" is offensive.
16. I eat meat.
17. I believe O.J. Simpson was guilty.
18. I cheered when I learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured.
19. I cry when I hear "Proud to be an American" by Lee Greenwood.
20. I don't believe the New York Times.
Assuming that in #19 she really means "God Bless the USA", I check in with a 55.
5 August 2004
Really heavy plastic
The folks at Columbus Bank and Trust Company (Member FDIC) won't say so on their Web site, but they are apparently the vendors of the Aspire Visa card, an offer for which crossed my threshold yesterday, and which provided undue levels of mirth.
Unlike some other cards I've seen, this one doesn't demand a fistful of fees before activation. On the other hand, Aspire isn't about to lose any money on this deal: the preferred interest rate is a whopping 29.75 percent, increasing to 35.75 in the case of delinquency. For someone who doesn't qualify for the preferred rate, it's 35 percent, increasing to 41 percent for deadbeats. And incidentally, these are variable rates: should the prime rate rise, which Mr Greenspan says it will, these rates rise right along with it. I suspect the Mob has more generous terms than this.
Having successfully (for now) fended off a card issuer's attempt to get 16 percent out of me on a card they gave me at 8, I can assure you, I'm not even thinking about applying for this little darb, even with its lofty (ha) $3250 credit limit.
Pushing the warmer buttons
I was still leaning Bushward until he started seriously pushing the FMA and, as he continues to push it, it's clear that he wasn't just doing a minimum amount of lip service required to placate certain quarters until 2 November he appears willing to expend some political capital in support of this atrocious amendment. It's hard for me to even describe how much this angers me pushing for a jurisdiction-stripping measure or an amendment explictly leaving it to individual states I could buy I'm enough of a federalist to be willing to let Alabama not recognize same-sex marriage if they don't want to those I could forgive and possibly, if worded correctly, or as part of the right package deal, support. But pushing to everywhere and for all time disallow same-sex marriage (and civil unions, as language as written almost certainly would have) that's pretty much unforgivable in my eyes. Kerry's certainly no great crusader for gay rights, his own opinions are cloudy, but he appears willing to keep the issue in stasis during his term, and if that's what I can get, I'll take it.
Conventional wisdom holds that there are relatively few voters still undecided, that most of the electorate has already thrown in with Mr Kerry or with Mr Bush. For Laura, Bush's ongoing opposition to same-sex marriage pushed her into the Kerry camp. If she's at all typical, and I have no reason to think she isn't, it will be a single issue, though not necessarily this issue, that eventually pushes the remaining fence-sitters to one side or the other.
The candidates, of course, will do their best to complicate this process by harping on their plans for the future. It would be well to remember that their actions in the past tend to be a more specific indicator of their actual positions, and a more reliable predictor of the actions they would take once inaugurated. In our Bizarro World political environment, though, the candidates don't really run on their records; they run against the other guy's. The plight of the undecided voter in the so-called "battleground" states I'm officially still wavering, but I don't think it matters, since the President will almost certainly carry Oklahoma will be more difficult than usual this year, I think.
(Update, 9:15 am: Ralph Nader is on the Diane Rehm Show, saying, among other things, that it's necessary to look at what a candidate has done, not at what he has promised. Hmmm.)
One of these things is like the others
When a critic says a work is "derivative," what does he mean? If he's talking about a musical work, Lynn's on to him:
Derivative [is] a favorite word of those who look down on anything composed after 1930 or so that has an actual melody.
Oh, my. An actual tune. Nothing innovative here. Let's give it a brief, superior sneer and move on to this piece for percussion ensemble and tuba, written by an expatriate Lithuanian lesbian in response to the cruel treatment she received on a visit to Baltic Avenue in Atlantic City.
Dissonant? Atonal? Cacophonous? You betcha. But it's not derivative, and that's all that counts.
(So much for my future as a music reviewer. And Lynn's better at it anyway.)
Hit me with your best series of shots
On 31 July, a Barbados sheep was euthanized at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose, Texas; it had tested positive for rabies.
Which means that the children who visited Fossil Rim's petting zoo during late July were exposed to the disease. Sheep don't bite very often, but licking the face or an open wound is quite enough to pass on the infection.
The Children's Animal Center at Fossil Rim will be closed for 90 days; you can read the official announcement here [requires Adobe Reader].
6 August 2004
Lovely span, wonderful span
It's no secret that many Oklahoma bridges are in wretched condition. And there's one particular bridge that, as far back as I can remember, has always been in wretched condition: the Walnut Avenue overpass, which connects the Deep Deuce and Bricktown areas. (Walnut, south of Main, becomes Mickey Mantle Drive.)
Three years ago, a move to tear down the bridge entirely was foiled when then-Mayor Kirk Humphreys discovered that under state law, the Union Pacific railroad, whose tracks run under the bridge, could be billed up to half the cost of repairs.
The city has the money to fix the bridge the Walnut Avenue project was funded in a 1989 bond issue but the railroad has yet to consent to the repairs. In the meantime, Paul Brum, the city engineer, says that beams under the bridge are deteriorating, and therefore the bridge is closed until further notice; repairs should take about a year.
Packing the carpet bags
I tell you what, if Alan Keyes can get settled into his new home in Illinois between now and the first Tuesday in November, I'd say it's prima facie evidence that he has both enough presence of mind and physical stamina to be a United States Senator.
I do think, though, that he might be well advised to consult with the junior senator from New York, whose experience in executing a similar maneuver could prove useful.
The limits of bareability
Evolving Beauty [title page possibly not safe for work, subsequent pages almost certainly NSFW] is a collection of photographs by Eric Boutilier-Brown.
I find myself torn on the issue of these nude photographs. Obviously these are real people, without clothes, and a real person photographed them. Issues of modesty (or the lack thereof) are rampant, and not, in my judgment, unimportant. However, the photos that I like the best are not overtly sexual, but rather positioning the human body as an element of nature, the juxtaposition a celebration of the beauty of the human form and its connection to other parts of nature. The images where the model is the central point, not the blending of the model and nature, I find much less compelling and nothing out of the usual. I find myself philosophically opposed to nude photography, yet aesthetically drawn to the photos of the type I point out above. I don't think nudity in and of itself is wrong, and I think we should all be comfortable with our bodies. However, I agree both theologically and practically with the Biblical strictures of modesty, for exactly the reasons the Bible states that it's important. Our society is too cavalier about both sex and nudity already.
It's a dilemma. And I'm not quite sure how to resolve it.
I think part of the problem is the coupling of "sex and nudity" as a single concept, as many people (though not Susanna, I suspect) do; while nudity certainly facilitates sex, it doesn't imply it, unless you've somehow acquired the notion that apart from bathroom functions, the only reason to take off your clothes is to have sex. Any semi-serious skinnydipper knows better than that.
Still, discerning intention occasionally requires some work. Flashing a barista is very likely an act of exhibitionism, something not to be encouraged officially. (My apologies in advance to baristas.) Camping nude in a national park (which is not generally illegal under Federal law) probably isn't, but it could be. Dressing up with the hope that one's garb will lead to what Helen Gurley Brown once called "getting Dial spelled backwards" likely is.
I'm not going to suggest that everyone shuck his duds for the sheer delight of it. (Of course, if you do, I'm not going to complain, unless you do it in my driveway.) But it might not be a bad idea to create a little Garden of Eden of your own, outdoors if you dare, indoors if you don't provided, of course, you keep in mind what happened in the first one.
(Disclosure: Written while dressed.)
7 August 2004
This morning's nightmares
No changes in drug consumption, mind you: just a wider spectrum of really bizarre ideas that obviously reside somewhere in the back of my head.
The roof is leaking in the converted Sherwin-Williams store (or whatever the heck it is) where I live, and nobody answers the phone, so I drive up 4th Avenue in search of assistance, only to be stopped by flood waters which aren't exactly raging but which aren't going to allow passage either. The ferryman says I'll have to leave my car behind, but he has a chair left, into which I scramble. It's more of a bar stool with a back, actually; nice cherrywood finish. Amazing how it holds up under these conditions.
After which I am unceremoniously dropped into some dismal landscape in which the name of Lileks is occasionally spoken, usually in hushed tones, maybe reverent, maybe fearful. I get it, I thought. This is one of his dreams. Let's hope not. I have to admire some of the construction work a machine that can fabricate funnel cakes and nunchucks simultaneously deserves some sort of accolade and I had to grin at the idea of Alice B. Toklas having a recipe for summer sausage, but this clearly wasn't the place for me. Lileks himself appeared briefly in a doorway, looking rather like Dave Barry, had Marcellus from Pulp Fiction gotten medieval on Dave Barry's ass.
Cut to the sneak preview of a new non-Star Wars film by George Lucas, and while I forget the title, I figured the best I could hope for was something other than Willow II. Maybe THX 2100. No such luck. It came off more or less like Henry V in Space, and the much-hyped "surprise plot twist" wouldn't have surprised anyone old enough to have gotten through potty training. The credits, though, were full of in-jokes, and cards in the seatback pockets obligingly detailed every last one of them. I stayed long enough for the lights to come back up, whereupon the theater operator cut to a local radio station doing a pitch for some car show, and as I left, I heard my brother doing a creditable Darryl Starbirdesque "BE THERE!"
Downstairs, I sought to get the bad taste of Lucas out of my mouth with an arcade game, and the only one open was a truly bizarre thing with an ersatz Dick Tracy theme. It was your basic shoot-'em-up, yes, but sometimes when you shot 'em, a voiceover popped in with a list of reasons why you shouldn't have. "Political correctness," I sighed, and the fellow next to me, who in fact had been doing those voiceovers, said, "Well, it's a living."
After that, waking up was actually an improvement.
Worse, they called him a lawyer
A California attorney, claiming he was the subject of abuse on Yahoo! message boards, is assembling a class-action lawsuit against Yahoo! on behalf of Californians who have been similarly picked on. Apparently the cruel words came fast and furious:
[Stephen] Galton is a partner in the firm of Galton & Helm, which specializes in insurance law. He registered to use Yahoo message boards in early 2004 in order to respond to a negative late-2003 post about one of his clients, which he did not identify in the suit.
After Galton posted his response, under the screen name "stephengalton," he was subjected to name-calling by various other users of the message boards.
One user, a person using the screen name "mumioler" who had posted the original messages about Galton's client that started the dispute, wrote a series of new messages calling Galton a "shyster" and an "overly robust geezer that makes a living walking behind the elephant with a shovel."
Other users also took personal shots at Galton, and he filed suit in April of this year against them. At the same time, he sought their personal information via a subpoena from Yahoo. The company, the suit said, responded with incomplete or inaccurate information.
I used to get called names a lot when I was a kid, and when I was a kid I used to try to make them stop. I outgrew it. Galton didn't.
And Galton will probably have a hissy fit over his new prominence in the search engines, too.
This reminds me of an incident twenty-odd years ago in which Car and Driver ran a column which castigated the legal profession for various offenses against motoring enthusiasts. An attorney wrote in to cancel his subscription in protest; the magazine printed his letter, along with the following response:
Perhaps you'd be interested in subscribing to our sister publication Ambulance and Chaser.
All by itself, that was worth a three-year renewal.
Saturday spottings (with vegetables)
I was threading my way back from Sears' repair location, which is tucked away southwest of the Capitol complex, and eventually I found myself at 23rd and Classen, where Beverly's Restaurant had been bulldozed into oblivion to make way for the city's 726th Walgreens store.
Beverly's, of course, was an Oklahoma City staple for years, and their Chicken in the Rough was briefly franchised to other eateries. And while this location had been closed for some time, Beverly's Pancake Corner, west of Penn Square, still serves breakfast and lunch, so it's not the end of an era. Yet.
Besides, it could have been worse. Walgreens at first tried to get a different corner of this intersection: the one occupied by the Gold Dome.
North of 23rd, the new Asian District signage is in place, white on red in the sort of font one expects to find in ads for Chinese restaurants. A letter to The Oklahoman last week complained about the whole idea:
Since when can Oklahoma City Councilman Sam Bowman and his steering committee decide for the city to allow people to put up signs designating a certain district for a certain group of people? Will the Chamber of Commerce and other city leaders let Hispanics and any other group decide to put up signs on city property to claim a certain district?
The chamber's Drew Dugan says putting a brand on a district gives the business owners "pride." He may see it that way, but I don't think the majority of the citizens would agree. Why segregate an area for any group of people? I thought we were getting away from identifying any group of people from everyone else.
Which is a reasonable point, but identifying a mile of Classen Boulevard as an Asian District hardly constitutes segregation. For one thing, it's not a reflection of housing patterns; Americans of Asian descent live all over the city and in the suburbs, not just around this area. For another well, Tom Waken, who owns property on Classen and elsewhere, and who sits on the Asian District Commission, sent this to the Mid-City Advocate:
The Asian business people staked out Classen Blvd. in 1975.... they are responsible for bringing Classen from a dying area to a place where business is thriving and property owners and business owners are paying more taxes into the city's treasury than they were previously.
I am for any ethnic group who will build up our great city to proudly display their own district with their signs. It is good for everyone who lives in Oklahoma City.
And that initial arrival of Asian-owned businesses got this area, and the strip of 23rd just to its east, known informally as "Little Saigon," a name which has persisted all these years; it's not like anyone should be at all surprised by this.
Will we eventually see Latino (around, say, SW 29th and Western), African-American (NE 23rd and Martin Luther King), even gay (NW 39th and Pennsylvania) districts? I'm thinking we will, and I'm thinking it's just fine with me.
8 August 2004
The soul of the city
The transformation of the record business into the Music Industry basically spelled the end of the regional hit, the record that all the locals dearly loved and which the rest of the nation unaccountably spurned, ending up way below Billboard's Top 40 as a result but still able to bring back memories.
The archetype for this situation might be Bob Seger, who cut more than a dozen singles in the late Sixties and early Seventies that sold in the high five figures in his native Detroit and apparently nowhere else; of the lot, only "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," credited to the Bob Seger System and issued on Capitol 2297 in 1968, made any serious chart noise, topping out at #17. It would be six years before Beautiful Loser made him a household name in more than a handful of households, and "Night Moves" was still yet to come.
The Detroit soul scene included one monolith Motown and one scrappy little competitor, Eddie Wingate's Golden World/Ric-Tic group, which Berry Gordy eventually bought out, ostensibly to get Edwin Starr, Wingate's biggest act, perhaps more likely to keep the Funk Brothers from moonlighting on other people's records. There were major soul scenes in Memphis and in Muscle Shoals, and minor soul scenes in dozens of other places.
One of those scenes was in Columbus, Ohio, and the man behind it is Bill Moss, who at the time was a DJ at WVKO radio and who had cut a couple of records in the late Sixties that went nowhere in particular. In 1970, Moss called for local talent to fill up a local show and maybe fill out the roster for a new record label; the first release on Capsoul (short for Capital City Soul, of course) was Marion Black's "Go On Fool" b/w "Who Knows", issued as CS-20. "Go On Fool" was an extended lament in Toussaint McCall mode, which was picked up for national distribution by Avco Embassy. But the real gem was the flip: "Who Knows" was a spirited shuffle with gospel overtones which got far more airplay. While both sides obviously sold the same, neither individually made the Hot 100.
Still, it was enough to get Bill Moss going. He built a small studio and wangled some local financing, and in 1971 issued perhaps the most remarkable disc of his career: "You Can't Blame Me", CS-22, by "Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum & Durr," a group of Columbus kids who up to this point had been called the Revelations. Hawkins didn't actually exist this was a typo by Moss, who apparently forgot Al Dawson's real name when he typeset the labels but the one who got the attention was Virgil Johnson, who sang in a quavering yet somehow never thin falsetto that beautifully offset the bumpy bassline and the staccato shouts from the background. Not willing to be a big fish in a small pond, Johnson eventually betook himself to Los Angeles and promptly disappeared.
By 1974, Capsoul was still holding its own, having issued a dozen singles and one LP Gently Down Your Stream (CSLP-370) by the Four Mints, then the label's most consistent act when the bankers decided that they'd had enough: Bill Moss, they said, was "too emotionally involved" with Capsoul. Moss' studio was padlocked; he spirited away the master tapes and stored them at a friend's house. Flood waters came, with the results you'd expect; disheartened, Moss took what little inventory he had down to a record-pressing plant in Cincinnati and had it recycled.
And that might have been the end of that, except for one minor detail: memories don't die as easily as vinyl does. Bill Moss dabbled in politics, eventually serving on the Columbus school board; he still does a radio show for WVKO. Once in a blue moon, someone would ask to license Capsoul tracks, and Moss would say thanks, but no thanks.
Then Ken Shipley, late of Rykodisc and now running his own boutique label, got a whiff of "You Can't Blame Me." He drove to Columbus to talk to Moss, and this time Moss said yes. Nineteen tracks, all painstakingly remastered from vinyl pressings, are compiled on Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label, the first release (literally: #001) from the Numero Group. If you grew up in Ohio or thereabouts, you may remember some of these tracks; if you didn't, now's your chance.
JFK version 2.0
Hint: it's not an upgrade.
Andrea Harris isn't pleased with this product either:
I can't believe this is the best candidate the Dems could come up with. He makes Clinton look like a shining knight in comparison at least Clinton had the balls to actually dodge the draft instead of mincing through what read to me like four inept months of scratch-tending and grunt-bothering, and then coming home to grandstand against the war for political gain. Then again, maybe that's all part of the Plan: the Plan to make Clinton look so attractive by comparison that we'll all fall for Hillary when she runs in 2008 just so we can have the Big He hanging around the White House again.
For a couple of putative backwoods Arkansawyers, Bill 'n Hill seem awfully well-versed in all things Machiavellian.
Then again, John Kerry did get three Purple Hearts. Just ask him.
The original Hellfighter
Red Adair, who started out as a roughneck in an Oklahoma oilfield in the Thirties and wound up the go-to guy when your oil or gas well was on fire, died this weekend in Houston at 89.
After World War II, during which he was part of a bomb-disposal unit, Paul N. Adair went to work for Myron Kinley, who had built a business controlling oilfield fires, and set up his own company in 1959. He stayed with it for thirty-five years, taking on the scariest assignments imaginable and inspiring the 1968 film Hellfighters, starring John Wayne and crediting Adair as technical advisor though it was the Wayne character's assistant, played by Jim Hutton, who proved to be the real hothead on screen.
In 1991, Adair, then seventy-six, was brought in by the Kuwaiti government to tame the dozens of oil wells set ablaze during the Gulf War, a project predicted to last three to five years, which Adair's team finished in less than nine months.
Red Adair feared no fire, on earth or elsewhere; he quipped in 1991 that he'd struck a deal with the devil "to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won't put all the fires out." Myself, I rather think he's gone somewhere with better climate.
A cute little booger
Nissan has been schlepping this teensy car around the show circuit, and it's in production for the Japanese domestic market. The Moco hews closely to the Japanese minicar spec 3.4 meters in length, 660-cc engine and will be available with optional all-wheel drive. Oh, and Nissan's not actually making it at all; it's a rebadged Suzuki MRwagon. Despite its confused parentage, it's selling well in Japan.
There's probably no market for the Moco in the US, mostly because Americans don't have much interest in cars a foot shorter than a Mini Cooper fercryingoutloud, but at least partially, I suspect, because the growing Latino submarket isn't likely to be delighted by a car whose name means "snot" in Spanish.
9 August 2004
Later this week I will trudge across town for my first meeting with an orthopedic surgeon, who will review the results of my recent MRI (not good) and will make recommendations for treatment (not cheap).
Interestingly, I have been in somewhat less pain in recent months, which I attribute to an increase in sunshine, an increase in the diversity of my movements going to work and working in the yard affect the knees differently and, for all I know, divine intervention. (Not that it would occur to me to cry O Lord, take this burden from me; I always assumed He had more important things to do.)
By the end of the week, I'll know more.
From the Department of Low Expectations
While I get an occasional attaboy for this site design, I feel compelled to point out that it's simple and uncluttered because that's about the extent of my design abilities; there is no shortage of people who can produce really excellent yet still highly-readable pages, but I'm not one of them.
On the other hand, try as I may, I can't seem to muck it up as badly as Microsoft. Here's Phil Ringnalda on the new MSN blogs:
The HTML is, of course, execrable. The one possible way they could have gotten some approving buzz from tech bloggers was to use extremely clean (X)HTML, but given the apparent total lack of a corporate culture believing that code is poetry, at least when it comes to HTML, there was little hope of that. It might be possible to persuade Microsoft tools to produce valid HTML, but judging by what mostly comes out of them, they must think of HTML as a hot dog factory, where nobody in their right mind would ever look inside.
Having seen some of the hash that emerges from FrontPage, I'm afraid even to look at this stuff.
And, of course, there's this:
To the surprise of exactly nobody, when I clicked the signup URL in Firefox, I was told to get a better browser. Instead, I switched to Internet Explorer.
What, precisely, is IE better than? Lynx?
I'm still on a relatively old (2.64) version of Movable Type. I think I'll stay put.
It's a long, long time
Terry Nichols drew 161 consecutive life terms without parole today for his role in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
The sentence was issued by US District Judge Steven Taylor after the jury failed to agree on a sentence. In addition to the life terms for the murder charges, Nichols received shorter terms on arson and conspiracy charges, was fined $30,000, and was ordered to pay $5 million in restitution and legal fees, plus $161,000 toward the victims'-compensation fund.
Once the proceedings in Oklahoma are wrapped up, Nichols will return to federal custody in Colorado, where he is already serving eight life terms.
Who's edits the newsletter?
MAPS for Kids is the successor to the original Metropolitan Area Projects plan that renovated so much of downtown Oklahoma City. The plan, funded by a temporary sales tax (seven years), will take ten years to implement completely. Half a billion dollars will be pumped into Oklahoma City Public Schools, and $150 million more into suburban districts that overlay parts of the city. The Chamber of Commerce has begun sending out a quarterly newsletter called Transformations, to advise us taxpayers where the money is being spent. From the looks of this sidebar on page seven, apparently none of the $650 million went to proofreading.
10 August 2004
Popping a couple of time capsules
Unexpected parcel last night, which turned out to be 32 pages of biographical material on my old high school class, issued for the 35th reunion last month (which took place about the time I was returning from the World Tour). It was gratifying, I guess, to see that some of the couples were still together after all these years. Most of the class stayed pretty close to home; the committee had obtained addresses on about four-fifths of us, and I'm 1230 miles from the school, good for third-farthest away. (We have one alum near Austin, Texas, twenty miles farther out, but the winner, by a considerable margin, is between Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, California.)
And yes, alas, a dozen or so are gone. Inevitable, I suppose, but still it tugs at me.
The biggest kick? Following up on the Web and finding an Al Hirschfeld drawing of one of us. Not that I'd ever fall back on "I knew her when."
(Update: Added link to school site.)
Crushing dissent fashionably
Steve Skubinna poses a question to Andrea Harris, and offers some answers:
What kind of footwear do you use when crushing dissent? Hobnailed jackboots are generally de rigueur for us fascists, but they?re so clumsy, as well as noisy. When you did the Goth thing I suppose you wore Doc Martens and they'd crush dissent damn well. A pair of Nancy Sinatra boots made for walkin' would be the obvious choice. Too obvious.
My favorite boots are a pair of Cabela's ultralight kangaroo hiking boots. Best pair I ever had, no break in period, light and flexible. One drawback is they are so light you can't count on their inertia in crushing, you need lots of leg action. I am a swimmer, so no problems there, but it does take it out of you, using the kangaroo boots. After I crush the dissent I like to spray Roundup on the remains just to prevent it sprouting again.
Maybe you ought to consider a pair of those Rosa Krebs stiletto shoes Lotte Lenya used in From Russia With Love? Of course, that?s not so much a crushing action as a stabbing one. "Stabbing dissent" doesn?t have the same ominous ring, but it would make an excellent name for a rock band.
Being something of a traditionalist, I think there's still a place for the jackboot; tried and true, it still packs a wallop, delivering a full measure of imagery with each and every step. Besides, if the future is indeed, as Orwell says, "a boot stomping on a face forever," you can bet it's not an Ugg boot.
That said, should Ann Coulter or Laura Ingraham prefer to crush dissent in strappy sandals, I'm probably the last person in the world to object.
What's brown and sounds like a bell?
Apparently five American girls, according to the Social Security Administration.
Name by name, but not by nature, one hopes.
The sweetness of sixteen
Grameen ("Rural") Bank is an anomaly among financial institutions: 90 percent of its shares are owned by the poor people of Bangladesh whom it serves. (The government in Dhaka owns the remaining ten percent.)
Grameen's specialty is microcredit, and here's how it works:
The assumption is that if individual borrowers are given access to credit, they will be able to identify and engage in viable income-generating activities simple processing such as paddy husking, lime-making, manufacturing such as pottery, weaving, and garment sewing, storage and marketing and transport services. Women were initially given equal access to the schemes, and proved not only reliable borrowers but astute enterpreneurs. As a result, they have raised their status, lessened their dependency on their husbands and improved their homes and the nutritional standards of their children. Today over 90 percent of borrowers are women.
And the story of one of these women is at the heart of the motion picture 16 Decisions, named for the philosophies underlying Grameen Bank lending. I haven't seen it yet, but Christine has it's running on the Sundance Channel, which is outside my cable tier for now and she was moved:
I am both inspired and humbled. Inspired by the many women in Bangladesh who have taken control of their lives and families, not out of the need to be "heard", "recognized" or "validated", but out of sheer necessity and because it's right. And I am humbled by the grace and fortitude that these women exhibit in their every action.
Words to live by, and not just for women either.
11 August 2004
Accidents waiting to happen
The mix is perfect: two or three inches of rain, which means that drainage, theoretical at best in some parts of town, has become all but nonexistent; street lights being turned off because, after all, it's sunrise; and winds howling from the north at 40 mph or thereabouts. An eleven-mile commute is no treat under the best conditions; add all this and you've got a recipe for disaster.
Not that anything befell me today. Under hazardous conditions, my tendency is to put the hammer down and keep it there, reasoning (if that's the word) that the sooner I finish the trip, the sooner I get away from the hazards. This actually seems to work far better than it deserves to.
You just turn your pretty head and walk away
My goal, my diplomacy, my statesmanship is to get our troops reduced in number and I believe if you do the statesmanship properly, I believe if you do the kind of alliance building that is available to us, that it's appropriate to have a goal of reducing the troops over that period of time.
Whatever the hell that means. (And they say Bush has trouble with the language.)
The implications, however, seem clear enough. Notes Mitch Berg:
If Kerry wins, and his "peace" with "honor" agenda takes office, then the terrorists will know one thing; there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's one year away.
If there's anything that guerrillas like more than fighting major armies, it's not fighting major armies. Laying low for a year, in exchange for greasing the skids on a Kerry-led pullout, is a fast, cheap way to return to power in Iraq. Everyone "wins" (if you ignore freedom-loving Iraqis, as John Kerry, the French, Germans, Russians and large parts of the State Department do); Kerry gets his foreign-policy "win" on the cheap (short-term, anyway), the French and Germans get their client back, the terrorists get to fight the scrubs for all the marbles when the US is gone, and the pan-arabs and islamofascists get to win by default.
Which may be an exaggeration, but riddle me this: In the Sixties and Seventies, John Kerry (d)evolved from a marginal hawk to the shrillest possible dove. At the 2004 Democratic convention, he made all sorts of hawkish noises. What in this man's history would make anyone think he might actually have meant any of them?
(Via Steve Gigl)
Of crocodiles and cuttlefish
For the most part, she was delighted, though she was dismayed to see a peripheral argument among the pilgrims whether Shakespeare was a Roman Catholic, of all things taking center stage. "Somewhere along the way," she says, "the idea of examining and celebrating G. K. Chesterton's life and career got buried." Nonsense in the wrong place? Perhaps.
I rather think she'll have more to say in the next couple of days, but for now, let's welcome her home. (I, of course, followed the other way home: I stayed there.)
(Update, 4:45 pm: Gawker welcomes Dawn home with their infamous Five Questions.)
You take one down and pass it around
Ninety-nine Carnivals of the Vanities on the Web.
This week's edition is presented by The Smallest Minority with the obligatory Suitable Theme; as always, it's your quick-and-easy guide to last week's best blogging.
12 August 2004
38911 BASIC bytes free
And remember: if you LOAD [filename],8, it loads to the bottom of the BASIC program area, whereas if you LOAD [filename],8,1, it loads at the location specified in the program itself. (Of course, if you just type LOAD, it pulls the first program off the Datassette.)
I think. After a couple of decades, it's hard to be sure without access to the original hardware.
The Stepford waifs
If you're going to dress like this, you should probably not be in front of Lynn at the video store:
The first thing I noticed the thing I would have very much preferred not to have noticed was her sky blue, meant-to-be-seen underpants with hearts and the word "cutie" repeated around the waistband. Waistband isn't really an accurate term in this case because the top edge of the underwear was nowhere near the girl's waist. Over that garment or perhaps I should say "below," as it was mostly below she was wearing baggy, plaid pants that looked like men's pajama bottoms. These pajamas exposed the top two or three inches of the underwear, hanging precariously on her thin, straight hips as if by magic or perhaps they were sewn to the underwear. I don't know how else they could possibly have stayed up. To top it all off she had a thin white knit camisole and I thanked my lucky stars that I was behind her the whole time because I did not detect anything underneath, although, to judge by the rest of her, she probably didn't have anything to put in the appropriate topside undergarment if she had had one.
As far as this visible-underwear business goes, while I suppose I should appreciate a peek at something I have no reason to expect to see on a regular basis, there's still Lileks' Law of Lingerie, which I've invoked before:
It is not normal clothing. It exists for one purpose: to be, eventually, visible for a very short time. If it is visible for a very long time and I am trying to be delicate about this then it is not doing its job.
Some people simply ask too much of their underwear.
Just scraping by
"It's not a question of if you'll need that knee replaced," said the doctor. "It's a question of when."
Okay, then. When?
"By the time you're sixty," he said. Nine years and odd, at best.
In the meantime, there is arthroscopy and, um, debridement. (As in debris, which will presumably be removed.) It's a simple procedure, I am assured, but all it does, really, is buy me some time.
And I'm fine with that. I don't think it will keep me from having to have the whole nine yards within the next nine years, but never underestimate my capacity for procrastination. (And if you do, take your time doing it.)
Only in New Jersey
Let it be said, right up front, that not everyone in the Garden State is a fan of soon-to-be-ex-governor Jim McGreevey.
Still, I suspect he's going to come out of this scandal smelling, if not like a rose, certainly like some pricey Calvin Klein foo-foo juice: by coming out of his self-imposed closet, McGreevey, at least to some folks, is going to look like some sort of sexual martyr, sent to his political death because he had the temerity to express the love that dare not speak its name. "I am a gay American," indeed. Jeff Jarvis reports that over in Philly, the Inquirer newsroom actually cheered at that admission. Yep, he's an adulterer, and he's gone out of his way to find a wholly-inappropriate job for his presumed boyfriend, but dammit, he's a member of a Protected Minority now, and if we say anything bad about him, why, it's our homophobia showing through, nothing more.
Truth be told, I really don't think New Jersey gives a flying fish about McGreevey's sexual orientation; it's been muttered about in muffled tones for years. "It makes," as he said, "little difference." Here's what Jeff Jarvis thinks of the guy:
He was a rotten governor. I voted for him. I was wrong. He messed up the budget, robbing the "rich" to buy votes from the middle class. He messed up development issues, pissing off both sides. He made lots of hiring mistakes. He was a suburban mayor who did not have the experience to be governor.
And the worst is apparently yet to come.
13 August 2004
So this is Christmas
Huh? What? It isn't?
Well, would one of you be so kind as to inform young Johnny Kerry?
A lot of people have a stake in the outcome.
Going in circles
Getting through Tulsa is perhaps more difficult than it needs to be, and existing bypasses don't really bypass much. (Not that we can brag all that much over here in Oklahoma City.)
Hence: I-844, an idea for a 194-mile beltway around Tulsa and Tulsa County. Mile 0 is set at the presumed junction with the Turner Turnpike near Bristow.
Martin McMahon, who came up with the idea, explains:
I realize this Beltway, or anything even remotely resembling it, isn't gonna be built anytime soon, certainly not within my lifetime, but it would be useful. It would, for example provide a much more direct route for anyone from Claremore to Joplin, or from Stillwater to Lawton, wanting to see Woolaroc. For some truckers the Beltway would provide a more direct route to where they're going, greatly easing traffic congestion within Tulsa proper. And as someone who lives in Tulsa I can honestly say we need all the help we can get.
I wonder if they'd try to turn it into a toll road, in the manner of the Kilpatrick Turnpike around the northwest quadrant of Oklahoma City.
Jonesing for the 'burbs
The Illinois Housing Development Authority is putting 49 communities on notice that they will be required to offer more affordable housing under a new state law.
The list of towns where less than 10 percent of the housing is considered affordable will be officially released Thursday, and Kenilworth, Oak Brook, Palos Heights and Inverness are among them.
Affordable-home prices in communities on the list are considered to be about $125,000, and affordable monthly rents are about $775. Those figures are determined by federal statistics that take into account income and the cost of housing in the Chicago area.
In general, housing is considered "affordable" if you don't have to spend more than 30 percent of your gross income for it. For someone making less than $2583 a month, $775 monthly rent is not "affordable." (The comparable figures for Oklahoma City for fiscal year 2004 are $1870 and $561.)
What does this new Illinois law require?
The plans must include a way for the municipalities to make 10 percent of their housing affordable, set aside at least 15 percent of new development as affordable or increase overall affordable housing by 3 percentage points.
Which is easier said than done, says Brett Blomberg, mayor of the comparatively posh village of Lincolnshire:
Lincolnshire's Blomberg questioned how a $123,720 house could be built in a town where the median home price is $400,000 and going up quickly.
"Homes are being purchased in Lincolnshire for the purpose of tearing them down and rebuilding, and [homeowners are] paying between $400,000 and $450,000 just to tear down a home," he said.
The last time I got onto this subject, I came up with this marginal wisdom:
Conventional wisdom holds that there are two kinds of residents: those who want to live at point X, and those who have no choice but to live at point X. It can probably be assumed, in the absence of de jure segregation, that the latter condition is mostly a function of economics; I could theoretically choose to live in, say, a spiffy new subdivision on the edge of town, but I couldn't possibly pony up the price of entry. At every price point, there is someone who can afford it, and someone else who can't. I imagine it wouldn't be difficult to find somebody who couldn't afford to live in my neighborhood.
At my income level, I couldn't possibly hope to live in a place like Lincolnshire. In a society with some measure of rationality, I would be urged to do one of the following: either improve that income, or go live somewhere I can afford. The town can't legally keep me out probably wouldn't dream of keeping me out but there's no justification for forcing a property owner in that town to sell to me, or to rent to me, at a price far below what he wants and can get.
This is not to say, of course, that I object to people living beyond their means. I do, however, object to government policies that encourage it, and to being taxed for the benefit of those thus encouraged.
Watching the taxman
The Tax Foundation's new quarterly newsletter TaxWatch is pitched at those of us who didn't major in economics. Judging by the first issue [requires Adobe Reader], I'd say it hits its target pretty well; it's perhaps a touch too splashy, but it's solidly written.
Andrew Chamberlain has the cover story this quarter: a comparison of Bush and Kerry tax proposals. Of course, what I really want you to read is the Tax Foundation's list of criteria for good tax policy, incorporated therein.
14 August 2004
But it's a classic!
You know the feeling. People have talked it up for the longest time, maybe you've heard a track on the radio that you liked, and so you plunk down your coin of the realm for the album, peel off the shrinkwrap, and lie back, waiting to be transformed. And forty or fifty minutes later, you look up, stare disbelievingly at either the ceiling or the stereo, and mumble: "That kinda... sucked."
Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics [Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books], compiled and edited by Jim DeRogatis and Carmél Carrillo, is dedicated to the proposition that you may be right. The cover blurb barely scratches the surface:
It is a spirited assault on rock's sacred cows and a defiant slap in the face to the narrow and hegemonic view of rock history presented by the Baby Boom generation of critics.
Okay, docked a point for using "hegemonic," but "spirited" doesn't come close to describing the sheer glee with which these thirty-four writers eviscerate some of your (and my) favorite albums. Your friend and mine, Dawn Eden, even takes on an unreleased "masterpiece," the Beach Boys' Smile project, whose reputation seems to rest solely upon the notion that if one wigged-out genius (Brian Wilson) is good, two wigged-out geniuses (add Van Dyke Parks) must be superlative.
Why is punk poet Patti Smith lionized? Melanie Haupt explains:
I think that no one really finds her music palatable, but one's hipster cred goes through the roof when partygoers do the CD-scan in their host's home and see something as inaccessible as Smith in the collection. It's kind of like going through Navy SEAL training it's hard as shit, not everyone makes it through, and those who do are considered badasses by the rest of us.
Not that, say, Jim Morrison has any badass credentials: "The Ashton Kutcher of his time."
If you've ever wondered what's so damn great about Sgt. Pepper's or Exile on Main St. or even Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Kill Your Idols tells you in no uncertain terms: not much. If this book stops you from buying even one of these CDs from amazon.com because you need $13 more to qualify for free shipping, it's done its job.
Doing the math
Inspired by Jay Tea's calculations, I'm looking at my own 2000 and 2003 numbers, and the figure that jumps out at me is this: in 2003, I paid $41 less federal income tax than I did in 2000, despite an increase in taxable income of $2279.
My effective tax rate, for this particular tax anyway: 2000 12.38%; 2003 10.69%. Not perphaps as inspiring as Jay's rate, which was sliced in half, but definitely an improvement. (Like Jay, I had no change in filing status or exemptions during the period, and both of us claimed the standard deduction.)
On the question of health insurance: for me, the employer picks up the entire premium (one advantage of tenure), though copays and deductibles are rising steadily.
What Jay thinks:
So, am I better off than I was four years ago? I'd have to say, in ways I can attribute to the government, not just "yes," but "HELL, YES!" The only area I'm doing worse in is in regards to my health insurance, and that I squarely blame on John Edwards and his ilk.
I know it sounds selfish, but there's an old saying that "all politics is personal." I have done better under the Bush administration, and Kerry has picked a running mate who exemplifies the one part of my personal finances where I'm getting screwed. And looking at how my employer is doing and extrapolating what I can from that, I hope for the general health of the economy that Bush is re-elected.
I have to demur to some extent there are many factors besides the hyperactivity of trial lawyers contributing to the rapid increase in health-care costs but my major worry here is that a Kerry administration would think I make too much money (ha!) to deserve any kind of tax relief and would promptly start turning the screws a little tighter.
And forget that business about selfishness. There is no reason on God's green earth why anyone should feel compelled to pay more tax.
Saturday spottings (part cinq)
The transformation of the Samurai Club on May south of Grand into well, I have no idea what's going to replace it continues apace: the new architecture is Standard Suburban Medical Office, minus the bogus roof extensions over the doorways, which could mean almost anything. No signage yet; in fact, the old Samurai marquee is still in place, with only a few missing characters here and there.
Tuesday marks the opening of the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, the last of the MAPS projects, at 300 Park Avenue. And "300" seems to be something of an understatement: the facility stretches across the entire 300 block, from Harvey to Hudson. It's an imposing structure; the only trick is actually getting there, since Harvey terminates at Park and it's one-way north, meaning you have to take either Hudson or Robinson south, meaning quite a roundabout if you're coming from the downtown Business District where all the signs are. Still, accessibility wasn't a problem Friday for the book-passing ceremony, in which books were literally handed down, one person to the next in an enormous chain, from the old library at 131 (not 301) Dean A. McGee to the new one.
A nearby salon is pitching "pedicures for men and women," which at least seems nicely nondiscriminatory, and to tell you the truth, I was at least slightly tempted: while my instincts tend toward the retrosexual, I am also sufficiently self-indulgent to be able to come up with a justification for it. Besides, I'm somewhat curious as to whether they'd charge me extra for these size-14 clodhoppers.
15 August 2004
Yard signs have yet to come into full bloom for the November election in a quick run through my neighborhood, the only ones I spotted were for the two State House candidates who survived their respective primaries, a couple of Tom Coburn signs, and a single Kerry/Edwards sign but bumper stickers are starting to appear hither and yon, and one I hadn't seen before turned up yesterday on a Dodge Magnum wagon in Arrest Me Red with a cardboard dealer plate: Buck Fush.
Which begs the question: Is it technically a bumper sticker if it's not placed on the actual bumper? This one, along with Lick Bush in 2004, which I have seen before, was placed along the lower edge of the rear window, which in a Dodge Magnum wagon is about four feet off the ground.
We've been framed
To create bias in a news article, it's not necessary to misstate the facts; it is necessary only to establish a specific point of view as the default. Susanna Cornett calls this "framing," and she's written extensively on the subject.
It would be possible to tell the exact same story that is told in the Post news analysis, but put a completely different spin on the facts, by simply changing the tone, the facts that are highlighted, and the point of view that is emphasized.
The same facts, yet an entirely different analysis. Is this possible? As an experiment, Patterico rewrites the story, completely inverting its political predilections in the process, and the only surprise comes from how easy he makes it look. Bias lurks in even the smallest throwaway phrases; no wonder there's so much of it.
But surely there must be someone
Don't count on it. (And don't call me Shirley.)
Of course, I never once envisioned that eight years of cluttering up the Web, as I have, would fill even one of the empty lines on my dance card, but on the other hand, what else is there?
Well, there's this.
16 August 2004
Those oldies but goodies
I've been sweeping up all sorts of "classic" rock and roll lately, from, ah, a variety of sources. Seldom has the experience of hearing it again today matched the thrill I got from hearing it thirty years ago.
For me, the formative year was 1961, the beginning of an unprecedented (for my family, anyway) eight-year stay in one place, the year in which I was granted access to my very own radio. This morning, I popped a compilation of 1961 tunes into the car to see if I'd gotten bored with them yet.
And from the opening riff of Del Shannon's "Runaway," I knew I hadn't; even now, forty-three years after the fact, the thrill is there. And it held up, through "Quarter to Three," through "There's a Moon Out Tonight" (a 1958 track reissued that year), all the way to the Marcels' gleeful expropriation of Rodgers and Hart's "Blue Moon."
So what's the difference between FWP and me? He's slightly older, but not enough to mark any sort of generational rift. I interpret his "thirty years ago" statement to be general, and not a specific reference to 1974, a generally crappy year for pop music other than R&B.
Maybe it's the idea of albums versus singles. I subscribe to the mostly-unpopular (but now easily verifiable in the age of downloadable music) notion that albums tend to be, in critic Dave Marsh's phrase, "singles separated by varying amounts of filler," and many, perhaps most, of the acts of this period ran out of things to say long before the end of Side Two. But FWP isn't saying whether his boredom comes from individual songs or from an elpee's worth of toons.
And to be upfront about it, I never much cared about the ages of the performers on my little plastic waffles; it is at least somewhat true, as FWP says, that "it was music made by the very young, to appeal to the very young" R&B, at least when I was that age, was primarily oriented toward adults no matter who the buyers turned out to be but the credibility of any particular act, to me at least, never seemed to be dependent upon its chronological age.
So is my nostalgia more advanced than FWP's? I don't think so. I still delight in hearing songs from this period I'd never heard before, songs for which there's no specific connection in memory. When questions like this arise, I tend to fall back on the wisdom of Sylvester Stewart: "Different strokes for different folks."
And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo.
Mending fences in Trenton
The Universal Donor points out that it's not like this is the first time there's been a case of adultery in the Tri-State Area:
Turns out that despite the happy family image [Governor McGreevey] projected for most of his career, things weren't all tea and crumpets in Trenton. More hypocrisy from politicians! Will it never end? Still, didn't Rudy Giuliani cheat on his wife, too?
And you didn't see Rudy quitting his job over it, either:
He stuck around and didn't even really seem ashamed, saying things like "What, you don't like my new girlfriend? Why don't you come on down to the Bowery... we'll settle this old school, with a couple spaldeens and a brickbat. You hold the spaldeens and I'll bash your face with the bat!"
[Expletive deleted for reasons of, well, um, people looking over my shoulder.]
How likely is it that McGreevey could pull that off? Not very. So:
McGreevey shouldn't retire. He should apologize, buy New Jersey a box of penis-shaped chocolates, and let's all agree to move on. And I think that if he sang his apology [to] us, up here on our balcony, we'd be his forever.
Does AM radio make you sick?
Well, maybe not you or me. But a study in Korea suggests a 70-percent increase in the incidence of leukemia in persons living near AM broadcast towers.
Before you swear off your favorite talk show, though, please note that the Korean study was limited to individuals living in the vicinity of 100,000-watt transmitting facilities; US AM stations max out at 50,000 watts, which would imply a lower risk, and where space is available, their towers tend to be located in areas with relatively low population. Further, the Koreans caution that their study does not establish a direct link between high-power AM waves and cancer.
FM stations here in the flyover zone are allowed 100,000 watts under certain circumstances, but FM waves, which differ substantially in shape and frequency from AM waves, were not implicated in the study.
Where the rubber meets the road
Hanah Metchis at Reason discloses that while India gets lots of condoms from the First World, what with AIDS and humongous population growth and all, not all of them are being used in accordance with the label instructions:
Of the 891 million condoms meant to be handed out free, a considerable proportion were acquired by road-building contractors who mixed them with concrete and tar and used the mixture to construct roads, rendering road surfaces smooth and resistant to cracks.
It would never work in Oklahoma; we're used to our roads being ribbed for extra, um, whatever.
(Title swiped from Shannon Love)
17 August 2004
Geez, it's hot in here
Well, it's not, actually, but were I attending one of the local schools, I'd probably be saying something like that towards the middle of the day. In an effort to get everyone off the premises by Memorial Day, school districts had been starting classes as early as the second week of August.
Then in 2002, Tulsa Public Schools, the state's largest district, moved their start date to early September; they've since realized some $380,000 in savings simply from not having the air conditioning cranked up to August levels for two weeks.
Oklahoma City Public Schools followed suit last year, saving about $125,000, and will start classes this year on the 30th of August. (Suburban districts are on their own schedules; Norman starts on the 25th, Putnam City the 26th, Edmond the 23rd.)
Three schools in the Oklahoma City district are on a year-round schedule: Horace Mann, Sequoyah, and Westwood. They started classes 22 July; after each of the first three nine-week sessions, there's a three-week break, and after the fourth, a seven-week summer break. How this affects utility costs, I don't know; the district says the reduced downtime in the summer has brought about some academic improvement.
Take a bite out of crime
A report has found that 83% of suspects bitten by sheriff's dogs in Los Angeles County were minorities, and recommended that Sheriff Lee Baca's crime-fighting strategies be "rigorously rethought."
Of course, since minorities are now the majority in Los Angeles County, it might be reasonable to ask if 83 percent of suspects, bitten or unbitten, are minorities. Not that the Times would ever ask such a thing.
Patterico has even more questions, none of which seem to concern the Times.
It's only words (which might rhyme)
And if words are all they have to take your heart away, they just might have their work cut out for them; many wonderful ingredients are combined to make the best rock and roll songs, but inspiring lyrics seldom will be found among them. ("Rock lyrics are doggerel, maybe." Dave Marsh)
Those surly folks at The Hatemonger's Quarterly would like your nominations for the worst single line in, as Casey Kasem used to call it, "the rock era." I rather expect that their mailboxes will overflow rather quickly with genuine, unadulterated dreck.
(Via Reflections in d minor)
Your basic triple threat
According to the flyer in this month's utility bill, the city of Oklahoma City is setting up a drop on Saturday, 11 September, at the Fairgrounds, for the following sorta-hazardous wastes:
I've got to wonder how they decided on that particular grouping. They won't take tires at the Household Hazardous Waste facility.
18 August 2004
Meanwhile at First Baptist
And I mean first; a British archaeologist, after five years of research, has concluded that a cave on the Israeli Kibbutz Tzuba was the base of operations for John the Baptist.
The cave, about two and a half miles from John's birthplace at Ein Kerem, features a pool of water which would be just perfect for, you guessed it, baptism, and art on the cave walls seems to illustrate a Nazarite, which John was.
None of this is necessarily conclusive, but real-world corroborations of Gospel events have been few and far between, and while a certain skepticism is probably healthy at this point, I have a gut feeling (if that's the term) that this might be the real deal.
Is that a real poncho?
After looking at the new stuff for fall in the rag mags, I'm inclined to think that fashion that isn't somewhere between absurd and abominable, be it from the Seventies or any other decade you can name, isn't really fashion at all. People with actual style tend to stick with it, year after year.
Come to think of it, that's what I do, and I have no discernible style whatsoever.
One Hundred Weeks of Carnival
Which is not a novel by Gabriel Gárcia Márquez, but the duration of the remarkably-persistent Carnival of the Vanities, in a special 100th Anniversary Celebración at Fringe. Bloggy goodness and beads what more could you want?
Inspection under way at Krusty Burger
(Via Hit & Run)
19 August 2004
Next: codpieces with condoms
I mean, really, a pro-choice thong?
Is it just me, or does it look like they ("they" being Planned Parenthood, its affiliates, and its friends) are pulling out all the stops to make abortion not only socially acceptable but downright cuddly?
The ad copy for the thong shouts, "Buy your pair now before they are all gone!" I assume the "they" refers to the product and not future generations.
Actually, that was one of the milder things she said.
Some of us over the years have been uncomfortable with the whole idea of abortion but haven't been quite ready to call for an outright ban. But if its proponents are going to treat it as some sort of lifestyle choice, of no more importance than "Hmmm, flats or heels tonight?" well, let's just say they're setting themselves up for a lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences.
Yeah, yeah, I know: it's a routine medical procedure. So is vasectomy, and they don't have thongs for that.
Oh, wait, they do.
Jeebus. Welcome to the Age of Trivialization. Please take a logo-branded seat and wait your turn.
Hanging up the ol' gown
Thompson's attorney had this to say:
He actually considered not retiring so he could see this through. But the allegations have been so disruptive, he wanted this to go away.
The allegations, filed by Attorney General Drew Edmondson this summer, included a variety of acts The Oklahoman describes as "genital-related."
Thompson's trial, scheduled for 13 September, will presumably be called off.
Degrees of suckage
I had played Scoundrel Days by a-ha and thought it was excellent. Much to my surprise, it was not the bad kind of excellent, which is the kind of excellent where the music is terrible but it dredges up fond memories of buying Teen Beat.
This is extensible at least as far back as, oh, early Herman's Hermits.
"I'm Henry the eighth, I am...."
That was then - this is coming
Tulsa author S. E. Hinton, who's scarcely been heard from since Taming the Star Runner sixteen years ago, finally has a new novel coming out, and this time it's not aimed at young readers.
Hawkes Harbor, published by New York-based TOR Books, is due 15 September.
Hinton's The Outsiders, published in 1967 while she was still a student at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, is the best-selling young-adult novel of all time.
A uniform approach
Jeff Quinton, the Backcountry Conservative, is compiling a list of bloggers who are serving or have served in the US military, and I rather suspect there are a lot more of us out there.
If you're just tuning in, well, I'm not inclined to go scan my DD 214 just now, but I did serve in the Army from 1972 through 1975, with three years of mostly-inactive Reserve time ending in 1978. (If anyone cares, I trained as a 71B clerk-typist but wound up in the then-new MOS of 75C: personnel management specialist. Yes, friends, I was geeky even in fatigues.)
If you blog and you'd like to be on the list, send Jeff Quinton (who was in the S.C. Army National Guard) a Trackback to his post.
20 August 2004
Fear strikes out
People, usually well-meaning, will tell you to your face "it's just a number," but every time the Odometer of Life rolls over another digit I feel something of a twinge. (Heaven help us all when it rolls over two digits at once.)
Still, once you've done enough of these, the presumed panic eventually gives way to a sort of contentment? Michele has calculated that the answer can be 42:
Let's take stock of things here, to give this questionable fear of 42 some context: I love my life. I really like my job and all the people I work with. The thought that I'll be there the rest of my working days does not depress me at all. We just became first time homeowners. In short time, I will be a business owner. My marriage is great. My kids are wonderful. My entire immediate family is healthy. Sure, money is tight, but I've already accepted that will always be the case. I already have everything I need and most things I want. I have wonderful friends. I'm satisfied with what I have done with my life and what I'm doing now. The future looks good.
There's a lower incidence of rose colors in my own spectrum, but this is what I wrote at the moment of fiftyness:
For roughly twenty years, I've been more or less content to go with the flow, to let the chips fall, to pile up the clichés. Something I'm not sure what has set up a diversion. Something has changed. And perhaps that's my task for the next five years: to figure out exactly what that something may be.
So I have to clean yet another house, sort through the emotions, the neuroses, the random thoughts, find out what's worth keeping and what can be tossed. It's a scary proposition, to say the least. Yet somehow, I'm not particularly scared.
And maybe, just maybe, that's what's changed. Fear may do you some good when you're younger; at fifty, it's just one more thing that gets in the way.
In retrospect, the fears I had didn't do me much good at all, but it took me entirely too long to start clearing them out.
And actually, forty-two is quite a nice age: still young enough to care about things, but old enough to know when not to give a damn. I have a feeling Michele's going to like it. A lot.
The tao of Popeye
"I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam."
Bruce grasps this concept better than most, or at least better than I do sometimes:
I guess I've always been about "being" and less about "doing".
This is the path of doom. It leads nowhere but here, right where I am, happy with myself but with very little tangible that I can point to as my accomplishments. But I still have acceptance by the people that matter to me the most, and those that couldn't live with my lifestyle have moved on.
You can go on and lead a perfectly happy life always seeking the acceptance of others or society at large, but you'll have to move from one surrogate to another, always climbing to another peak, always looking for a taller one.
When Paramount took over production of the Popeye shorts from the Fleischer studios, they deemphasized his Everyman nature in favor of making him, if not exactly a superhero, certainly larger than life. Even as a kid glued to the television on Saturday morning, I objected to this sort of thing: wasn't life large enough already?
Popeye didn't need to do much. And if he never quite secured the exclusive rights to Olive Oyl, well, he was always able to deal with the occasional spate of Blutality. For him, that was quite enough.
Governor Brad Henry, stumping for a state lottery at the Oklahoma Municipal League, gave out with this howler:
If it's immoral, then you know, I suppose it is. I don't think the leaders of all of our neighboring states, except Arkansas, are immoral because they decided an educational lottery was the thing to do. I think it's smart.
A small sampling
Women in gourmet food stores are far more likely than men to help themselves to food-goodies as they shop.
I'm inclined to believe it's just as true at more mundane markets; last Wednesday at the neighborhood store, I was in the checkout line behind a woman who had bought a $1.29 bag of chips and had finished off roughly half of them during the five-aisle trip to the register.
She was profusely apologetic, though the clerk seemed more amused than horrified, and I tossed in a remark to the effect that "If they're that good, I should have bought some of them instead of [holding up bag] this."
More often, though, it's half-empty 20-ounce beverage bottles.
(Update, 21 August, 8 pm: Syaffolee says: "The problem, in my mind, is the reason [Blowhard and yours truly] think women do this. It is not about a woman's attitude toward food. It's about control.")
21 August 2004
Close enough for jazz
My knowledge of jazz is something less than encyclopedic; I'm not even necessarily prepared to state that I know it when I hear it. Still, there is a smattering of jazz on my shelf from a variety of periods okay, there's a lot of Charlie Parker, mainly because I discovered Bird when I was very young and it's been accumulated without much regard to whether Dan Morgenstern would be appalled at my lack of taste.
Mark Anderson, the American Sentimentalist, recommends "Go with what feels good to you":
By ignoring "accepted" tastes and failing to listen to critics, coupled with a willingness to try anything once, any dedicated music listener can develop a collection of favorites in no time.
Which is true of other musical genres as well, to be sure. In the meantime, here's Anderson's Top 20 plus five, and he makes a good case for putting any of them on your music shelf or mine.
Michael Bates is an at-large delegate from Oklahoma to the Republican National Convention, and he's addressed this letter to the chairmen of all the state delegations:
[We will be] looking ahead to 2008 we as delegates will vote on the rules which will govern the Republican Party until the next convention, including the 2008 presidential nominating process. The decisions we make at this convention will shape the contest for our party's next standard-bearer, and it's important that we make the most of this once-every-four-years opportunity to reexamine our rules.
Going as far back at least 10 years, there has been a growing sense that the current system of front-loaded and plurality-take-all primaries does not serve our party well, and that the problem is only getting worse as more states move their primaries earlier. At best, we may well find ourselves in 2008 in the same awkward position that the Democrats are in this year. The nominating process would be effectively over eight months before the election, and the party would be stuck with a presumptive nominee who fails to inspire the grass roots of the party and fails to appeal to the American electorate as a whole. At worst, the shortened primary season may not give us enough time to learn about the candidates. Damaging information may emerge about the presumptive nominee during the many months between clinching the nomination and the convention. Under the current rules, if such a flawed candidate refused to step aside, the convention would have no choice but to go ahead and nominate him.
Leading up to the 2000 convention, the Brock Commission studied reforms and brought forward a recommendation known as the Delaware Plan, which would have addressed front-loading by putting the most delegate-rich states at the end of the primary calendar. The plan received the endorsement of the Republican National Committee, but in the Rules Committee it was killed as the result of lobbying by political operatives who were focused on short-term advantage rather than the long-term health of the Republican Party.
First off, I don't think for a minute that Bates is suggesting that John Kerry step aside in favor of someone the Democrats might actually like. Kerry meets the party's quintessential requirement: he is not George W. Bush.
The Delaware Plan, written largely by Wilmington attorney Richard A. Forsten, calls for the twelve smallest states and the District of Columbia to vote in February, the next larger states in March and April, and the largest in May. Its advantages seem apparent: the first batch of states will have relatively low media expenses, which theoretically should allow a greater number of candidates to test the water, and since the last 12 states have nearly half the convention delegates, the nomination likely won't be locked up until May.
"Likely" doesn't mean "always," though, and concerns by big states that they might be cut out of the action have led to developments such as the California Plan, which introduces random factors to mix up the rigid stratification implied by the Delaware Plan.
Still, there's one question that won't go away: do we need primaries at all? Would we be better served if we followed the Iowa model, caucuses starting at the precinct level? Would voters have more interest? Judging by primary turnouts, they could scarcely have less interest now.
Where the heck are my drugs?
The envelope said:
Here's $20 to try a pharmacy that's not closing... not changing names... not changing management.
Walgreens, never noted (in this market, anyway) for its reticence, sent me this in the mail with one of those conditional-purpose checks for $20, presuming that it could lure me away from The Drug Chain Formerly Known As Eckerd's, whose stores here will presumably be changing to CVS.
This is very much in keeping with Walgreens' "In your face, Eckerd" marketing plans: it seems that every new Walgreens store in this area is located as close as possible to an Eckerd's. In my neighborhood, you can find Walgreens at 5120 North May; Eckerd is at 4805. Near where I used to live, Eckerd has a store at SE 15th and Air Depot; Walgreens bought a dormant branch-bank location across the street and built a new store.
What's really neat about this sort-of-check, though, is that it doesn't apply to prescription co-pays; you have to fill a prescription and then buy $20 worth of nonprescription stuff to get the credit.
Saturday spottings (yet again)
The Montgomery, Richard Tanenbaum's transformation of the old Montgomery Ward store downtown into upscale corporate apartments, continues; I have no idea what he's done to the interior yet, but an enormous amount of accumulated crud has been scraped off the art-deco exterior at 500 West Main, and I can only wish he could work similar magic on the former Holiday Inn next door, newer yet somehow grubbier. The Montgomery, we are assured, will open in October.
Also being spruced up are some long-abandoned buildings along Walker, including a couple of former car dealerships, which are being converted into fresh office space. When the 65-foot clock tower on the northeast corner of 4th and Walker was built this past spring, it looked ever-so-slightly silly, but now that work has progressed, it fits nicely into developer Rick Dowell's design scheme. Eventually Dowell wants to build a high-rise residential tower, assuming the market for downtown housing isn't saturated any time soon.
Then there's the headquarters of Oklahoma City Beautiful, which has moved a mile up Classen without actually leaving its building: the original structure, near the now-departed Beverly's on the corner of 23rd, was picked up, driven up the street, and deposited near Memorial Park at 36th.
Of course, not everything I saw today was a sign of Better Times Coming. Up on the Lake Hefner Parkway I caught sight of a Scion xA with the vanity tag BRITFAN. Britain? Britney Spears? Brittany spaniels? Who knows?
22 August 2004
Endorsed by the Silly Party
The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban the use of Silly String in the Hollywood district on Halloween, citing environmental and security considerations.
Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents the 4th District, including part of Hollywood, says if the stuff makes it through the sewers at all, it can harm marine life, and what's more, it can endanger mounted police on patrol.
And I rather think that if people are disgorging more than a quarter-mile of the string at a time, it's going to make a hell of a mess.
Still: Silly String? All these years, and suddenly now it's a threat? I have to wonder how an anti-Silly String measure would have fared in pre-Bloomberg New York City.
(Update: In comments, Vickie points out a precedent.)
And we mean it, too
Sooner or later, you'll see a sign by the side of the road that says SPEED LIMIT ENFORCED BY AIRCRAFT. If you're like me, you'll look up through the sunroof, note the presence of, well, nothing, and shrug.
(Come to think of it, I don't have a sunroof anymore, either.)
Quote of the week
I'm sure y'all have seen that bumper sticker that says something to the effect of, "It'll be a perfect world when schools have all the money they need and the military needs to hold a bake sale to buy a new jet."
It'll be a better world when military personnel in war zones have all the body armor they need and politicians can only annoy me with their commercials once a week rather than every fifteen minutes.
The latter is probably coming before the former, but thumbs up to both.
(Yeah, I know, I haven't done enough of these to justify the "...of the week" description. You know where the line for refunds starts.)
For sale by somebody
I usually don't read the real-estate section of the Sunday paper. For one thing, most of the actual for-sale ads run in Saturday's edition; for another, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon. For some reason, though, I took a peek at today's selections.
Traditionally, ads of this sort are believed to require multiple grains of salt to counteract the evasions, misdirections, and outright fibs that are supposed to be inherent in the selling process. I didn't find a lot of those, though I was amused by one little place pitching itself as being in the "Crown Heights area," which is true if your definition of "area" is sufficiently broad. (Douglas Place sits north of Crown Heights; this house is on the opposite side of the street from the northern boundary of Douglas Place.) It's probably just as "absolutely darling" as the ad claims I think that's a reasonably spiffy neighborhood but Crown Heights it ain't.
On the other hand, some ads score for Brutal Truth. On this presumed handyman's special on the southside: "Not scared of repairs?" And one rental ad, for a westside apartment, cuts to what's really important: "No One Upstairs."
What caught my eye fastest, though, was a feature article on this. Yes, it's just slightly ostentatious, and yes, it's expensive $1800 was the quoted price but damn, it put a wobble in my Thou Shalt Not Covet stance.
23 August 2004
Working for The Man
It's a few minutes before sunrise, I'm threading myself through a slalom of side streets before I drop onto the Northwest Distressway, and a pickup truck is parked by the curb. It is, of course, huge, but not so huge that I have to adjust my path, and as I approach its massive hindquarters I see the license plate: THE MAN.
All these years I've been working for The Man, and now I've moved into The Man's neighborhood? Obviously he knows he is, after all, The Man so I have to assume that it's due to the forbearance of The Man that I am allowed to remain here for the time being.
I will, of course, be careful not to disturb The Man's truck.
Toward a far, far better world
Joshua Claybourn is back for just a moment. Then again, all of us are here for just a moment in the grand scheme of things; please spend some of your time reading about the last few moments of Joshua's mother before she took her place in the sky.
And welcome back, JC.
Surly is as surly does
The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports that if you're in a negative mood, you're a more reliable eyewitness than another observer who might be bright and chirpy. Professor Joseph Forgas of the University of New South Wales says:
Our recollection of past events [is] more likely to be contaminated by irrelevant information when we are in a positive mood. A positive mood is likely to trigger less careful thinking strategies.
A further experiment suggests that people in a bad mood demonstrate more effective critical thinking and communication skills. Again, Professor Forgas:
This supports the idea that mood states are evolutionary signals about how to deal with threatening situations. That is, a negative mood state triggers more systematic, more attentive, more vigilant information processing.
By contrast, good moods signal a benign, non-threatening environment where we don't need to be so vigilant.
Remind me to post a copy of this report at work.
No left left behind
It's been thirty-five years, and still the Sixties refuse to die, says the Prop:
Over in Cambridge [Mass.], of course, Kerry is just one more Capitalist to be lined up against the wall after the Revolution. The Sixties still live in Cambridge, right down to the tenured Marxists from the local Ivied Halls urging their students to put down those Vegan burgers, put on their sandals, come out of that tattoo parlor and march for Change! So help me, I was handed a flyer for a "people's" lecture on the "legacy" of Jacques Derrida by a panhandler on Harvard Square. I suddenly felt all groovy inside.
The distance between grooviness and nausea isn't what it used to be, if indeed it ever was.
And while we're sort of on the subject, it seems like a good time to trot out this January '03 post, which glossed over the fine art of fisking in the light of postmodern deconstructional techniques, and in the process of dropping Jacques Derrida's name, pointed to a Mark Goldblatt piece at NRO that gave Derrida some deserved derision:
[H]e is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States a species whose gullibility ranks them somewhere between nine-year-old boys listening to spooky campfire stories and blissful puppies chasing after nonexistent sticks into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale.
Shouldn't be too difficult to deal with said legacy, I suspect at least, for anyone who was able to figure out on the first try that My Mother, the Car was fiction.
(With thanks to the much-missed Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who inspired that original post.)
Originally, Strengthen the Good was going to focus on "micro-charities": "charitable opportunities that are simple, personal, non-bureaucratic [and] inspiring."
That was before Hurricane Charley.
While there will undoubtedly be small causes to come, the immediate need is for big, big help.
And you can be part of it. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, in a Florida town that was lucky enough to miss the worst of Charley, has promised to match any contributions to its special Charley relief fund up to $100,000.
If you have friends or family in Florida, or even if you don't, please think about joining in.
(Muchas gracias: Michele at A Small Victory.)
24 August 2004
If you're of a certain age, you hear Jackie Gleason as Joe the Bartender, calling offstage to Frank Fontaine as Crazy Guggenheim, and then going through some of the oldest shtick in the vaudevillian's trunk.
And very likely, you loved it. I did. Larry Miller did. And you were always amazed at how that ancient lush was able to turn off the tics and the popping eyes and the slurred speech just long enough to sing one of the Old Songs exactly the way it was supposed to be sung, only better.
He may have been a lush, perhaps, but he wasn't ancient: in 1962, when Gleason signed him up for his variety show, Frank Fontaine was only forty-two. He sang because he'd always sung; he'd fronted Vaughn Monroe's big band in the Forties before discovering that he could also be funny.
Today, it takes two parts snark, one part misplaced irony, and two parts loudness, blended not especially well, to produce a unit of Standard Comedy Product. Sometimes it's even amusing. But more often than not, I'm wondering just where the change came, and just who it was who decided that the proper place for comedy was right in the audience's face.
Probably the same guy who decided that the Old Songs should be warehoused at the museum, I guess.
(Courtesy of Dawn Eden, who wasn't there, but who understands just the same.)
No votes for you
State Question 711 [link requires Adobe Reader], scheduled for the November ballot, would define marriage to be between one man and one woman, would prohibit the granting of the benefits of marriage to persons who are not married, and would forbid the state to recognize any nonconforming marriages from other states.
The ACLU has announced that it will challenge the measure with the intention of keeping it off the ballot entirely. I'd already decided to vote against 711, on the basis that it effectively prohibits any form of civil union or domestic partnership; however, I'm not keen on keeping it away from the electorate, just on general principle.
Meanwhile, Lucifer's doubled the ice order
Saith the Professor:
Over 260,000 pageviews yesterday, which is a new record, I believe. Now if I could just get a dollar for each one. . . .
I'd be quite content with a mere dime for each of the 900 I got.
This took some Deep Thought
How does one afford the incredible price of dinner at Milliways?
All you have to do is deposit one penny in a savings account in your own era, and when you arrive at the End of Time the operation of compound interest means that the fabulous cost of your meal has been paid for.
This, many claim, is not merely impossible but clearly insane, which is why the advertising executives of the star system of Bastablon came up with this slogan: ''If you've done six impossible things this morning, why not round it off with breakfast at Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?''
While I have no reason to doubt the existence of the star system of Bastablon, I suspect its advertising executives are purely fictional unlike this.
(Via some Vogon at Fark)
The left edge of the monolith
San Diego's KPOP has abandoned its adult-standards (songs like Frank Fontaine used to sing) format and has picked up, along with some new call letters, the liberal Air America Radio programming.
The Timekeeper sees some cognitive dissonance in the making:
What I found amusing is who owns [the station]. It's Clear Channel Communications; you know, the Nazis (or less commonly, just plain fascists) who rank somewhere below Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove (although they apparently are not as bad as Bush or Cheney). I wonder how the lefties are going to spin this.
They probably haven't even noticed yet.
Which suggests to me that they're less interested in ideology than in trying to make a few bucks off Young Frankenlisteners.
25 August 2004
"All professions," said George Bernard Shaw, "are conspiracies against the laity." Kim Powers and Dennis Bridges would probably agree at this point.
Powers and Bridges, operators of Memorial Concepts Online, sell funeral caskets over the Internet. They discovered that they could not sell them in Oklahoma, Powers' home state, without being licensed by the Oklahoma State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, a process which would require them to undergo, among other things, a 60-credit program of undergraduate training. Noting that very little of said program actually has anything to do with selling caskets, they sued the state, charging that the state board imposed "unreasonable and arbitrary barriers to entry into the casket retail market."
They lost; they appealed; they lost the appeal.
Judge Tacha of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals writes:
[W]hile baseball may be the national pastime of the citizenry, dishing out special economic benefits to certain in-state industries remains the favored pastime of state and local governments [note omitted]. While this case does not directly challenge the ability of states to provide business-specific economic incentives, adopting a rule against the legitimacy of intrastate economic protectionism and applying it in a principled manner would have wide-ranging consequences.
[B]esides the threat to all licensed professions such as doctors, teachers, accountants, plumbers, electricians, and lawyers, see, e.g., Oklahoma Statutes, title 59 (listing over fifty licensed professions), every piece of legislation in six states aiming to protect or favor one industry or business over another in the hopes of luring jobs to that state would be in danger. While the creation of such a libertarian paradise may be a worthy goal, Plaintiffs must turn to the Oklahoma electorate for its institution, not us.
And Fritz Schranck observes:
The plaintiffs' effort to restore some semblance of free market capitalism is certainly admirable. They obviously still have their work cut out for them in the Oklahoma legislature.
Indeed. In the past five years, three bills to break up the Board's monopoly have been introduced into the state House, and none of them went anywhere. The Oklahoma Constitution, a monster of a document which manages, sometimes micromanages, everything that happens in the state, isn't particularly amenable to amendment, not so much for any inherent characteristics but for the general unwillingness of lawmakers to reduce the amount of oversight they're allotted.
In the meantime, if you want to be buried here, you'll get a quality box from a professional who is licensed by the state. And you'll pay through the nose for it.
(Update, 2:45 pm: Todd Zwycki isn't impressed either: "[G]iven the complete lack of any link between box-selling and embalming, it is surprising that the funeral home directors don't just go ahead and have their monopoly extend to all forms of box-selling, including cardboard boxes and luggage." Please don't give them any ideas.)
The instinct to survive has been suppressed by an irrational, hare-brained desire to be "tolerant" and open even if it means the end of our way of life and our very lives.
She's talking about our apparent unwillingness to do anything about our porous national borders. The 9/11 Commission has been no help:
For our tax dollars, a group of "bipartisan" policy wonks had no deport-them-back-where-they-came-from kind of suggestions. Instead they spouted the same weak-kneed mumbo jumbo that made us vulnerable in the first place and offered similar inane reasoning that will lead to another attack. (Did you know that Middle Eastern men are sneaking across the southern border along with Mexicans?)
My prediction: If George Bush and his cronies don't seal up the southern border or at least allow border agents to threaten to shoot border jumpers, the next commission 4/13, 11/21, 12/25, whatever will conclude what the 9/11 commission concluded: immigration enforcement in the United States is slack, but we still don't want you to do anything about it.
Of course, we'd probably have to seal the northern border after that; Canadians aren't immigrating in large numbers, but terrorists will take any entrance they find open.
(Aside: This year's World Tour brought me to within one block of the Canadian border; I obviously can't predict what might happen if someone made a mad dash across the line, but on that sleepy Sunday morning, it was hard to imagine that anyone would have opened up a can of Rapid Response.)
Neither Ms Barber nor I qualify as wild-eyed xenophobes. Here's the bottom line:
I had the good fortune of being born in America, and it pains me to see its ideals crumbling before me. I don't jealously guard our country's benefits; I want others to share them, but only if they go through the proper channels. Being a U.S. citizen is a privilege. That means no one who is not a citizen has a right to be here, and we are not required to keep them here.
Nor are we required to step lightly, lest we hurt their feelings. Illegal aliens the term we used to use before they came up with the shallow non-description "undocumented workers" didn't belong here in the best of times; they certainly don't belong here now, while we're under attack by roving bands of terrorists who hate what we stand for but have no qualms about taking advantage of us while they're on the premises.
Can this possibly be Quentin Tarantino's blog?
Roger Avary, Tarantino's cowriter on Pulp Fiction, doesn't think so:
Quentin would never in a gazillion years use the term "editing suite" and then know or care enough to guide someone to specific P2P client software. He's retarded when it comes to things like that, and simply doesn't care.
And there's always this issue:
[D]oes anyone really think that if QT did have a blog that [he would] host it on Blogspot?
I dunno. I figured he might be, um, retarded when it came to things like that.
The Free Speech Film Club at the Norman Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1309 West Boyd, has reportedly booked a screening of Robert Greenwald's documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, tomorrow evening at 7 pm.
So says the Oklahoma Gazette, anyway; neither the Fellowship nor the official screenings list has a Web reference to it. I'd make sure it was really there before driving over to Norman; the Gazette is usually pretty reliable about these things, but things can change in a hurry around here.
26 August 2004
101st in a series
It's the Back-to-School Edition of Carnival of the Vanities, presented by Martin Lindeskog's EGO blog and, well, it's EGO, it should be capitalized, right?
Once again, a week's worthy of high-grade bloggage in a single source. You can't beat that with a laser pointer.
Now it's an eyesore
In 1962, the shiny new All Sports Stadium opened at the Fairgrounds, a home for the city's brand new minor-league baseball club, the 89ers.
In 2004, the Niners are now the RedHawks and play in Bricktown; All Sports Stadium has sat vacant for four years, below contemporary minor-league standards and nowhere near "accessible" in the ADA sense.
The Fairgrounds Trust has now declared the stadium "surplus property," the first step towards demolition.
I spent quite a few evenings in the old ballpark way back when; it was pretty decent for its time, but its time is long gone. Still, it's going to be odd driving I-44 past 10th Street and seeing nothing on the corner.
Fears on trial (part two)
The first part is here.
Daniel Fears goes to trial on the 13th of September, and his defense team, from a firm which unabashedly promotes itself as specializing in "press-intensive" cases, will most likely try to demonstrate that young Mr Fears is utterly lacking in mens rea. Local prosecutors will have less razzle-dazzle at their disposal, which in a Court TV world might put them at some sort of disadvantage; however, I have to wonder just how much a jury of small-town Oklahomans is likely to be impressed by a passel of city slickers from Tulsa. Even as the population of the state gradually shifts toward the cities, the rural/urban disconnect remains very real, and it could conceivably work against the defense.
Maybe. We shall see.
Drowning in a sea of Super Soakers
Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch wants your guns. His Gallagher-esque Bash-O-Matic device quickly reduces those pesky firearms to a heap of rubble, thereby contributing substantially to the level of public safety in the Teensy State With The Incredibly Long Name.
Um, what's that? Lynch is collecting toy guns?
Tragic accidents happen because children and adults alike find it hard to distinguish a toy gun from a real gun.
Only if they have no experience with guns at all, which of course Lynch thinks would be really keen.
27 August 2004
8 simple facts about my daughter
1) She's engaged.
2) I suspect it was her idea to have her fiancé request my blessing, so to speak.
3) She owns what she says is the only house in the county that doesn't have a basement.
4) She wears a size-ten shoe when she's not wearing an eleven.
5) Her profile at one of those portal sites, under "Hobbies and Interests," lists the following: "Home improvement and death metal."
6) Her sense of humor is generally described as "warped." (Gee, I wonder where she got that?)
7) She had been given up for dead a couple of hours before she was born.
8) Which was on this date, twenty-six years ago.
Happy birthday, baby girl, you... you grownup, you.
(Addendum: Well, yeah, it's this guy's birthday, too.)
[They] don't mean to offend when they bring up my heritage. They mean it as a compliment in that "Negroes have rhythm" sort of way. But it is, to say the least, an uncomfortable feeling.
For once, I am grateful for the weird tangles in my family tree, whose roots extend to Mexico, Syria and Lebanon, and the British Isles, with stops God knows where in between.
From bad to worse
Francis W. Porretto reviews the last forty years of Democratic presidential candidates, and shudders to imagine what might be next.
Far be it from me to attempt to complete his thoughts, but surely 2008 will be a step in the right direction, if only because it's difficult to imagine how things could get much worse. (Hillary, you say? Well, she has her faults, not to mention the Big He always trying to burst out of the shadows he so justly earned, but there's no way on God's green earth she'd conduct a campaign as ineptly as John Kerry.)
I should also point out that I voted for five of the candidates he lambastes.
SQ 711 update
As mentioned here Tuesday, the Oklahoma branch of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to keep State Question 711 off the November ballot.
I haven't seen the text of the suit yet, and the Oklahoma ACLU has yet to post any details at its own Web site, but right now I'm thinking that their best hope is the ever-popular Mere Technicality: the measure calls for three related but discrete actions, and the state Constitution frowns on laws that do more than one thing at a time.
It's a mad, mad, mad, mad Max
Robert Hurt is a dentist (with that name, it figures) in Phoenix, he sees the November election as a Tweedledum/Tweedledee clash, and he proposes an alternative:
If you're pleased with the way things are and want 4 more years of the same then, by all means, vote for Mr. Bush. If in some way or another you think that Mr. Kerry will improve the situation then be sure to vote for him. But if you believe that our country should embark on a different, more positive course then consider making the effort to write in Mel Gibson for President on Nov. 2.
Um, we (that is to say, "they") don't allow write-ins in Oklahoma, and I'm not at all sure Mel would be pleased with a presidential draft, but hey we could do worse.
28 August 2004
We're at the copier station: Valerie is making copies because sometimes that's what she does, and I'm there because Valerie is there and she's awfully pretty. For some reason we got onto the subject of real estate, and I mentioned that my house was built back in 1948. "I don't know when mine was built," she said, at which point I darted back to my cave and called up the County Assessor's database.
I returned and announced: "Nineteen fifty."
"How did you find that out?" Valerie asked.
And she followed me back to the cave, where on the screen was a description of her house, its current market value, and every ownership change on it since, well, 1950.
Most people who have seen this database in action have been impressed that something like this was available in this putatively hick burg. Not Valerie. She was utterly horrified that any bozo from off the street could call up intensely-personal information like this. I pointed out that in years past, any bozo from off the street could walk into county offices and request exactly the same data: real-estate transactions are a matter of public record, after all.
She was not mollified. And she was even more upset when she caught sight of the name of her ex-spouse, who at one time was a co-owner of the house: presumably she got it in the divorce settlement. "They had to execute a transfer to put it in your name. He's a former owner. Of course his name will be on there." I can certainly see why she wouldn't want to be reminded of the guy and what kind of guy lets someone like Valerie get away, anyway? but divorce proceedings, too, are a matter of public record.
I don't think she was about to cry, but I've misread her before. Still, she seems to have a point: is it now too easy to access public records? It's not like J. Random Stalker is going to have a much better shot at her; he's got to know how to work the database, which has its quirks, and none of its contents are indexed by search engines, so merely Googling her won't produce any of this information.
I suppose it's a good thing I didn't bring up the GIS mapper, which presumably has an aerial view of her property.
See how serious we are?
About ten weeks ago, Susanna Cornett cast aspersions on the whole idea of nude protest:
I've never quite gotten why stripping down to bare skin must be seen as some type of political statement. The stated reason is that it's showing your vulnerability, it's showing how much you're willing to risk to make a point, etc.
Except, of course, that it doesn't actually do that:
[T]he mental imagery of a bunch of old flabby men whipping past in the all-together aside, protesting nude is less about protesting and more about exhibitionism. I'm also not moved by those "empowered women" who formed the word "Peace" with their naked bodies. None of them made true sacrifices, at least not the kind that actually move forward a cause. It is, ultimately, all about self and self-actualization.
Despite my status as an old flabby man in his birthday suit, I had to agree with her assessment. At best, a nude protest tends to trivialize the cause supposedly being advanced. And yes, I'm aware of the presumed body hangups of our ostensibly Puritan society and all that, and they don't make the slightest bit of difference; unless nudity is actually germane to the issue say, trying to get a section of public beach set aside for clothing-optional use it reduces the credibility of the protest.
Older than I, but not flabby, Acidman says basically the same thing, but more directly:
Literally showing your ass DOES NOT reinforce whatever argument you have. Pulling a stunt such as that one makes you appear to be a crazed, leftist flake a typical, left-dingbat, screeching, feces-flinging monkey. By the time you are arrested for lewd conduct, nobody remembers what you were protesting.
What were those people in New York screaming about, anyway?
Potter lacks the flavor
The J. C. Potter Sausage Company of Durant, Oklahoma, which to me has always set the standard for pork products you'd rather not see in actual production, has bastardized its otherwise-excellent product line by adding get this a "CarbSmart" sausage biscuit at 7g "net carbs" per.
Even assuming that net carbs actually mean anything, an assumption I'm not prepared to make, this is just wrong. Nutrition experts of the Nanny State of course condemn stuff like sausage biscuits, as they do anything you're actually inclined to enjoy eating, and one should probably not make a habit of having these things for breakfast day after day, but one or two a week is well below a lethal dose, and screwing around with a perfectly-good product just to appeal to government bean counters and fad-diet carb counters is, in my view, a lose-lose situation.
Besides, these things, when prepared according to the package instructions, taste like a sponge that's been used to clean out a grease trap. And to add insult to injury, the price was 60 cents per box more than the standard variety, which for some inscrutable reason was sold out.
It had to be the corporate office in Chicagoland; nobody in a place like Durant, Oklahoma would ever come up with an idea this lame. For food, anyway.
After seventy-two years, KOMA has disappeared from the AM dial; the blowtorch station at 1520 has decided to carry on as KOKC. (The KOMA call is retained on their affiliated FM station.)
As someone noted on a radio discussion board, "Todd Storz is spinning in his grave." At 45 rpm, no doubt.
Games people play
You remember the Olympics, of course: an R&B group who first charted with "Western Movies" (Demon 1508) way back in 1958 and continued to chart as late as 1966.
In 1984, the Games of the XXIII Olympiad were played in Los Angeles; Rhino Records, based in Los Angeles, decided to mock some of the official pomp and circumstance by issuing an LP called The Official Record Album of the Olympics (RNDF 207), which indeed leads off with "Western Movies" and includes most of the group's chart hits, including "Good Lovin'" (later redone by the then-Young Rascals) and "Big Boy Pete" (a Don and Dewey number which sort of inspired the Kingsmen's "The Jolly Green Giant").
And Peter Ueberroth, head of the L.A. Olympic Committee, was indeed wroth, and filed suit to have the Rhino album suppressed.
I mention this because this week, the IOC has had its jockstraps in a wad over a Bush-Cheney political spot that suggests that "this Olympics, there will be two new free nations," though the five-ringed logo is not present.
So now you can't even say 'Olympics'? How exactly do you trademark a word that has been in common useage for a thousand or so years?
Oh, and Ueberroth's lawsuit against Rhino? He lost. Richard Foos, one of the original Rhino Brothers, pointed out that the possibility of confusing their LP with the, um, "official" Olympics recording was slight indeed:
Anyone who could mix up an album cover of four pompadoured black men in 1950s gold rock 'n' roll suits ... with that of a nondescript package highlighted with Roman numerals [containing] such songs as "Grace (The Gymnasts' Theme)" is probably in such wretched shape that we have serious doubts that they could find their way into a record store.
29 August 2004
As a person of only-slightly-peccable male credentials, I spend probably too much time in the contemplation of the mystery that is woman, and the following is excerpted from yesterday's not-entirely-random thoughts.
Mary Sauer is an American pole-vaulter; she appeared unclothed in the September Playboy "Women of the Olympics" pictorial. I of course had checked out the fine print, and had found this little gem:
I'm afraid of heights. But when I pole-vault I can't tell how high in the air I am. I'll go driving down the freeway and see an overpass sign that reads CLEARANCE 14 FEET, 10 INCHES, and I think, Wow, I've jumped over that.
Yesterday I was westbound on the Northwest Distressway, approaching May, and there's the overpass, just about that height, and I thought, "Wow, she's jumped over that." Which is probably not quite accurate she's cleared that height, yes, but I don't think she'd have made it across all four lanes and the guardrail. Still, for me anyway, it's an image as indelible as the photo that starts on page 132.
I had concluded, after too many fashion magazines, that while there actually are women this tall and that thin, it's the purely artificial photographic environment which creates the illusion that they're actually somehow attractive, and besides, they never, ever smile.
Two of them were in front of me in the checkout lane yesterday. Under the cold, hard, fluorescent lights of the workaday world, these two youngsters, dressed just this side of casual flirty, were, um, downright gorgeous. And worse, they were smiling. Apparently they were stocking up on party essentials, and Mom, who was busy writing the check, seemed to be in a good mood, considering she had just spent $300 and odd. (Mom, a little shorter and a little less angular, was pretty hot herself, but we won't go there. At least, I won't.)
Finally, an exhibit on the subject of why I've got it bad for Aisha Tyler, from her book Swerve: Reckless Observations of a Postmodern Girl, on why doing charity work makes you more interesting:
The next time you're out with a bunch of people and they're all babbling on about how their new SUV came with six cup holders instead of the standard factory-issue four, or how they're pissed because they couldn't find a pair of Super Humanity Force Five Superlow Cut Frayed Über-Denim jeans, you can talk about how you spent a weekend building a house for a low-income family and learned how to use a compound mitre saw. In metric. They will be cowed. But they will also be fascinated. Girls will think you've got balls, and boys will imagine you with a hammer in your hand, wearing nothing but a utility belt. Everybody wins.
Did I mention indelible images?
Actually, none of these were spotted today, but I forgot to do a "Saturday spottings" this week, and anyway a couple of those would actually turn out to have been detected on Friday, fercryingoutloud.
One of them involved Major Tom, wherever he may be: parked in front of one of those Nichols Hills demimansions, I saw two huge (given the width of NH streets, which isn't much) trailers identified as coming from "Ground Control," which turns out to be a landscaping/yard-maintenance operation way out in the northeast quadrant. Small thing, perhaps, but I assure you, had Timi Yuro not been on the stereo at that moment ("What's a matter, baby, is it hurting you?"), I'd have burst into a couple of stanzas of "Space Oddity." I have no shame.
A few blocks south of there, the building which houses a well-established cosmetic-surgery practice is getting, um, a facelift.
And seen in the parking lot at Albertson's, this bumper sticker: "John Kerry for President of France."
Whip it good
Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, making a possibly-idle threat:
I'd guess most would think it barbaric, and in a way it is, I suppose. However, I think we underestimate the barbaricity of the alternative that seems to be our society's replacement punishment for such crimes. Incarceration itself, of course, is also not pleasant to endure, especially for prolonged periods (i.e., more than "until you calm down", as parents are fond of saying), and I think it would take a bit of argument to justify the proposition that, say, a year in prison is any less cruel than thirty lashes.
And that's not the only selling point, either:
It would cost us, as a society, far far less to administer than long-term incarceration. I haven't priced horsewhips lately, but I bet they're well under $35,000 per thirty lashes.
Easily. I say, let's do it in memory of Groucho.
30 August 2004
Leaving the summer behind
Carole King's second solo record for Dimension (1004) was "School Bells Are Ringing" b/w "I Didn't Have Any Summer Romance," the perfect combination of songs for this time of year. (Inexplicably, it was released in November 1962.)
And we might as well face it: this summer is done for. The days, once fourteen and a half hours, now squeak by under thirteen; they'll be down to twelve in three weeks or so. School buses have started to appear on suburban streets. We're still seeing afternoon temperatures around 90, but that's normal for this time of year.
So how was it? Not bad. I got through another World Tour with no untoward incidents. I feel better than I did at this time last year, though I'm starting to manifest symptoms that might suggest some anxiety about my upcoming surgery, minor though it be. Still, I'm not at all inclined to turn back the clock to the Bad Old Days; for all the fun I had during those summers, it might as well rain until September.
A screaming comes across the screen
When I was much younger, I read V. and The Crying of Lot 49, which managed to persuade me that Thomas Pynchon was some kind of weird virtuoso, man; I've got to see what comes next.
What came next was Gravity's Rainbow, which shared the National Book Award in 1974. (A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer was the other laureate.) Gravity's Rainbow "puts the world of manipulation and paranoia within the perspectives of history," said Ralph Ellison at the NBA ceremony that year, and maybe it does, but it's as thick and impenetrable as the hull of a German V2 rocket.
I was twenty-two when I first tackled this book, and I've made three subsequent tries; I got through it completely only once. I rather think I've discharged any obligation I may have had to this book. Syaffolee, in her twenties, is even less impressed:
Every two pages, I wanted to scream and hurl the book hard enough that it would crash through the wall and conk the person next door unconscious. What was Pynchon thinking? Or more accurately, he wasn't thinking at all. If this book was a person, it would be an automaton with all the grey (and white) matter blown away except for the brain stem. On the surface it's just one big phallic metaphor as obvious as a guy with a tent in his pants. Look deeper and you might as well go insane by gazing into an encyclopedic Pandora's box. Don't try this one out unless you're a masochist who enjoys painful lobotomies over a nice relaxing weekend.
On the upside, I did manage to work "Tyrone Slothrop" into my late-Eighties list of suitable noms de screen, though it was never received as well as, for instance, Patty O'Furniture.
She's gonna buy her a Mercury
You ask men if Mercury is high on their Desired Vehicles list, and even the Steve Miller fans laugh at you.
You ask women, and they shrug.
Ford, having asked both, has apparently decided that the guys aren't coming back indifferent sales of the now-defunct Marauder sedan, the one semi-sporty product in the line, would seem to bear this out and will now pitch Mercury vehicles more directly toward women 35 to 50.
This may be the last stand for the 65-year-old marque, which in recent years has seemed to exist only to give Lincoln dealers something to sell at lower price points. Ford is taking a fair-sized risk here, given the scorn with which gearheads tend to view "chick cars," but the new Mercurys are not likely to be wussmobiles: women are just as demanding as men when they buy, and their priorities aren't all that different. A lead foot is a lead foot, even if it's wearing a strappy sandal.
Don't shade your eyes - plagiarize
As a young girl, she is essentially trapped in Gateshead. This sprawling house is almost her whole world. Her life as a child is sharply delineated by the walls of the house. She is not made to feel wanted within them and continues throughout the novel to associate Gateshead with the emotional trauma of growing up under its "hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart."
On the other hand, though I am not a lawyer don't even play one on TV I'm pretty sure this doesn't.
Marked for death by Information Services (7)
And, in fact, by anyone who's ever received a call from them: the sleazeballs who have tweaked Caller ID to read 000-000-0000, a violation of FTC telemarketer rules, which is evidently intended to evade telco blocking technology.
I never answer my phone anyway, but having it ring every twenty minutes and seeing these miserable jerkwads on the screen is beyond annoying; anyone who is positively identified as having done this should be forever barred from wired, wireless, or VoIP service.
After being horsewhipped, of course.
31 August 2004
Things I learned today (5)
Or within the past couple of days, anyway.
And, of course, the quest for knowledge goes ever on.
How dry I am
So I got home around 5 pm, wheeled out the mower, wrestled the front yard into submission, and by 5:25 I was crawling into the shower.
Which turned out to be a bad idea; those wonderful folks at the gas company had sliced through the water line, and even my Super-Velocity Ultimate Vortex shower head was unable to spit up more than a few bits of drizzle.
Full service was restored somewhere around 9:30 pm. The break occurred on the other side of 50 Penn Place; I wonder if they had to put up with it.
Taking the long view
"I don't think you can win [the War on Terror]," said George W. Bush. "But I think you can create conditions so that ... those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."
Which strikes me, frankly, as a fairly sane assessment of the situation. It is literally impossible to wipe every last terrorist off the face of the earth. And bad ideas have a way of surviving well beyond their sell-by date: despite the implosion of the Soviet Union and the shredding of the Iron Curtain, we still have Communists scattered hither and yon, clinging desperately to their discredited delusions. There are even converts to the cause: in some circles, pink is the new red.
Radical Islam, which is at least as bad an idea as Communism, and in some regards worse, isn't going away any time soon. Your friendly neighborhood multilateralist thinks it can be bottled up, buried in bureaucracy, bogged down in red tape. He ignores the Islamist disregard for the niceties of civilization and the conventions of contemporary life. And obsessed with al-Qaeda, as though it were a brand name like, um, Heinz®, he overlooks the fact that there is no shortage of Islamic militants who owe no particular allegiance to Osama bin Laden. (Again, the Communists provide an example: the world is awash in Reds, but actual Bolsheviks are few and far between. And not even Communists agree on everything.)
In time, radical Islam will be deposited unceremoniously in the dustbin of history where it belongs. Between now and then, Mr Bush seeks to make life difficult for those who practice it and for those who, for whatever reason, help prop it up. (Yes, European Community, I'm talking to you.) To those who score a win only if someone signs the official terms of surrender, it may not look like a whole lot of progress. But considering what's happened so far two whole nations mostly out of the thrall of extremists, and a third (Libya) trying to mend its ways I'd say we're moving in the right direction.
Take a bite out of spam
It's probably overkill for an individual user at my volume level (150-200 a day), but we're trying this contraption out at 42nd and Treadmill, and in its first half-hour of operation it trapped 100 or so items of dubious provenance.
Given the amount of time we waste processing and tossing that
My main-page template was thoroughly hosed today; until such time as I can restore the old one, this will have to do. My apologies.
(Update, 6:10 pm: I think we're back to normal. Of course, I could be wrong.)
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