1 November 2004
Season's bleatings

The weather was sufficiently nasty last night to keep the ghouls and goblins away from my door, but the real weirdness started this morning: for a couple of weeks, it will actually be almost daylight for the last segment of my morning commute.

(Saturday, the sunrise was at 7:49, the latest — per the clock, anyway — it ever happens; this morning, post-DST, what sun we got, which wasn't much, started at 6:50. The dead-of-winter sunrise runs 7:40 or so.)

And a cold front is poised to slice through the area today, spelling the end of the easy part of the fall and the end of the outdoor-frolicking period. This is when we get serious about winter.

Some things, however, don't change; about a mile from the Grey Cavern where Treadmill crosses 42nd, the familiar fragrance of eau de polecat wafted into the ventilation system, just like it does in the spring and the summer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Weather or Not )
No more 2000s

From Robert Hayes at Let's Try Freedom, a declaration for our times — well, for the next four years and one day, anyway:

If John Kerry wins the election, reasonably fair, reasonably square, then he becomes my President and your President.

If George Bush wins the election, reasonably fair, reasonably square, then he remains my President and your President.

This is my pledge, my promise, my what-have-you. It's written down, in black and white. Call me on it if I renege.

I ask everybody who reads this to do two things if they agree with me.

One, say it loud and say it proud, the winner of the 2004 election is my President, and whether I like him or not, whether I agree with him or not, I'm not going to be a Michael Moore-style flaming gasbag asshat about it.

Two, pass the link along. Send it to your friends, post it on your blog, whatever. It's important. We are one country, and we have to pull together whether we agree with one another or not.

Emphasis in the original. And consider it done, sir.

I may have my flaming gasbag asshat moments, but I'm damned if I want to see a repeat of last election's brouhaha, and I refuse to contribute to starting a new one.

This was passed on to me by Francis W. Porretto. Thank you, FWP.

Recommendation recap

While David Letterman was still at NBC, he sat for a Playboy Interview, and he was asked why he was reluctant to give political endorsements. He said something to the effect that he'd hate to imagine someone thinking, "Well, hell, Letterman likes him, let's vote for the son of a bitch."

I can't imagine anyone taking my advice, but one last time, this are my suggestions for 2004. Do with them what you will.

President: George W. Bush (R)

US Senate: Sheila Bilyeu (I)

US House: Bert Smith (D)

Corporation Commission: John Wylie (D)

State House 87: John Morgan (D)

Oklahoma County Sheriff: Stuart Earnest (R)

Oklahoma County Clerk: Carolynn Caudill (R)

State Questions:
YES: 705, 706, 707, 708, 712, 714, 715
NO: 711, 713

I admit to knowing nothing of import regarding the judges running on a retention ballot, and make no recommendations for same — though my own practice has been to return to office anyone who hasn't given me a reason not to.

For more information and/or lame justifications:
state and local races
Presidential race
state questions

And the inevitable prediction

Bush 300, Kerry 238


See also Les Jones's Blogger Roundup.

(Update, 3 November, 2:25 pm: Assuming 286-252 holds up, as it appears it will, the Prescience Award goes jointly to James Joyner at Outside the Beltway and Stephen Green at Vodkapundit.)

Reporting on Tulsa time

Michael Bates, proprietor of BatesLine, arguably — at least I've so argued — the best (mostly) political blog in Oklahoma, will be live-blogging Soonerland election results at The Command Post. We are indeed fortunate to have coverage of this quality for our little red territory.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 November 2004
To do my patriotic chore

It was cold and blustery and damp, but I've lived here long enough to know that it takes glare ice to make much of a difference in turnout, so I figured I'd pull in at about 6:40. About fifty folks had had the same idea, only slightly earlier, and there was, at least among this group, considerable sentiment for opening the polls at 6 am instead of 7.

Still, things worked with commendable efficiency; I spied one spoiled ballot — replaced on the spot with a new one — and one voter who was shunted to the side while someone researched his address change, but everyone else breezed through the two lines (divided alphabetically), and a dozen booths, plus three sit-down areas for wheelchair users, accommodated the crowd with, if not exactly ease, at least a general lack of hassle. The box counts the ballots as they're inserted, and mine, number forty-five, went into the slot at precisely 7:15.

And I was glad to have done the deed, and gladder still that I hadn't waited until this evening, when things are likely to get seriously hairy and, weatherwise, quite a bit wetter.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:54 AM to Soonerland )
We got your urban sprawl right here

The new Mosher-Adams Street Atlas for Oklahoma City is out, and it shows seven hundred new streets since last year's edition, the biggest increase ever. A few of these, I suspect, come from outlying towns which, due to suburban expansion, are now practically suburban themselves, but the city itself is growing at a steady pace; the 2003 population estimate is 523,303, up 3.4 percent from the 2000 Census figure of 506,132. The metropolitan area, at 1,085,282 in 2000, reached 1,126,709 in 2003, up 3.8 percent, and projections [link requires Adobe Reader] by the Center for Economic and Business Development at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford anticipate 1,221,552 by 2010.

It's too early to proclaim the death of the classic boom/bust economic cycle that has dictated Oklahoma's destiny for a hundred years, and indeed many of the state's rural areas are still largely in decline, but for one of the few times since the Land Run, Oklahoma City has turned into something of a destination for migrants, not just from poorer parts of the state, but from out of state as well. Maybe the ghost of Tom Joad will be getting some well-deserved rest.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:59 AM to City Scene )
Out of the mouths of babes

Em describes her first vote, at age 3:

After [Mom] finished, we went over to the pint-sized voting machine that was set up for all the kids who came with their parents. You could cast a vote for George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.

I took the poker for my punch card ballot, and carefully weighed my options. This was serious business, after all. After a minute of reading, however, I realized that something was wrong with my ballot. I turned to my mom and asked, "Mom? Where's Geraldine Ferraro?"

Good question. Where is Geraldine Ferraro these days, anyway?

(Via Em's big sister Erica, also a babe.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:46 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Unpacked

Terry Knight, born Richard Terrance Knapp in Flint, Michigan in 1943, has died in Temple, Texas, the victim of a stabbing. Knight, a DJ at fabled CKLW radio in the Motor City (technically, Windsor, Ontario), had joined a band called the Jazz Masters, which became Terry Knight and the Pack, who cut a few sides for Flint's Lucky Eleven label, distributed by Cameo-Parkway, of which the biggest was a remake of Ben E. King's cover of an Italian pop tune retitled "I (Who Have Nothing)," which made it to #46 in Billboard in 1966. When the Pack broke up, Knight took drummer Don Brewer and guitarist Mark Farner with him, brought in bassist Mel Schacher from ? and the Mysterians, and christened the threesome Grand Funk Railroad, whom he produced and managed through 1972.

In Temple, Knight lived with his daughter and her boyfriend; the boyfriend has been charged with Knight's murder.

Looking ahead

The City Council is apparently going to shrink by two: Ward 4 Councilman Brent Rinehart is leading in the race for District 2 County Commissioner, and Ward 8 Councilman Guy Liebmann looks like a lock for House District 82. Mayor Cornett will have to call special elections to fill whatever vacancies are created.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are jumping the gun, but only a little: Tom Coburn declared victory over an hour ago, and about 9:00 the GOP decided that they'd won control of the state House. So far, the numbers are continuing to go their way.

Seven of the nine State Questions will pass, and 707 and 713 are leading, but just barely.

The State Election Board is posting their latest numbers here.

(Update, 10 pm: 707 is falling behind; 713 is starting to lose steam.)

(Update, 11:15 pm: 707 is back on the plus side; 713 is stabilizing at around 52 percent. Trebor Worthen has won House District 87. John Whetsel will return as Oklahoma County Sheriff, and Carolynn Caudill will return as County Clerk. Bert Smith didn't beat Ernest Istook, but he got a lot more votes than I thought he would. And, well, Sheila Bilyeu pulled over 70,000 votes, which means that a lot of people wanted nothing to do with either Brad Carson or Tom Coburn. Carson's concession speech, incidentally, was a lot nicer than any of his ads.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 PM to Soonerland )
3 November 2004
Pouring over the results

Rain.

It started between nine and ten last night, about the time most of the state races were called. It continues to fall, and will likely continue to fall most of the day.

On the morning after the night before, I offer my congratulations to the winners and my condolences to the losers. The people have spoken, and in the best Oklahoma tradition, we said our piece and then got the hell off the stage. The rain will wash away the detritus of the election, the negative campaign ads, the temporary animosity steeped in the heat of the moment, all the things that divided us those many months. And the sunshine will return: it may not be as warm as we might like, and for a while it may not last as long as it used to; but it will return, a reminder that there are things beyond politics, beyond the power of mankind.

We now resume life as we know it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Weather or Not )
An impeccable pecking order

Traditional media — at least, a hefty percentage of them — seem to hate bloggers in general. But within blogdom itself, there is an obvious hierarchy, which looks something like this.

(From Random Acts of Reality via Syaffolee.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:28 AM to Blogorrhea )
Thank you, John

In the long run, it's the right thing to do.

(Update, 1:20 pm: And a pretty good speech, too.)

I want it, I want it

As if the ordinary Chrysler 300C wasn't spiffy enough, now there's a Hurst Edition.

The obvious inspiration was the '70 Chrysler 300 Hurst, but anyone who's ever had a fondness for traditional V8-powered American iron should find something to like about this big Moparmobile.

Besides, it's got a Hemi.

(Via Jalopnik.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Driver's Seat )
A price far above rubies

Actually, I haven't priced any rubies lately, but work with me here.

Here in the oil patch, the price of crude is always a topic of discussion, and with the price hovering in the low $50s of late, and gas prices running $1.85 per gallon around town, speculation as to what will happen at the pump next week is always rampant. And at some point in today's speculation, we wandered off-topic to the question of More Expensive Liquids, of which the most expensive, of course, can be found in the cartridges of your inkjet printer.

The common comparison, of course, is with Dom Perignon, but since not even The Donald buys Dom in 42-gallon barrels, we decided to do the math one more time. An HP 56 cartridge (black and white) for the DeskJet I use at work runs $35 and contains 19 ml; one liter of the stuff — 52.6 cartridges full — comes to $1842. Multiply by 159.05 liters per barrel, and you're looking at $292,900 for a barrel of ink.

The plastic shells? Well, I send those back to HP for recycling, so I figured it was easier to take them out of the equation, but surely they cost something.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:06 PM to PEBKAC )
Rather a lot of us, actually

Mike Clingman of the Oklahoma State Election Board reports that 1,463,875 votes were cast in the 2004 general election, beating the 1992 record by seventy thousand.

Oh, we have a few provisional ballots: 2,603 of them. I leave to someone more involved than I the question of why Ohio, with three and a quarter times the population, should have fifty times as many provisional ballots.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:02 PM to Soonerland )
Triple One

The 111th edition of Carnival of the Vanities awaits you at Quibbles and Bits, and, well, they stayed up late counting everything. Tune in to see if they have any provisional bloggage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:58 PM to Blogorrhea )
4 November 2004
Welcome to the isolation booth

Caren Lissner apparently isn't surprised:

ABC News says that their exit polls in the heartland show that moral issues were their most important issues when voting, and Iraq is down around fourth. These folks aren't as worried about being hit by terrorists or the war in Iraq as they are about abortion and gay marriage? Actually, not surprising on certain levels. To some people, if it hasn't hit you directly, it doesn't exist.

How "directly" does it have to be? I'm five miles as the grackle flies from where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City used to be; I literally heard the blast at 9:02 that sheared off the front half of the structure. (Nineteenth of April, 1995; it was in all the papers.) Terry and Timmy and whatever John Does may have been associated with them surely pass any conceivable global test for terrorism.

(Via Dawn Eden, who knows where I live.)

The over/under on the culture wars

If I hear one more commentator grousing about how it's all because of those horrid religious conservatives, I'm apt to say words which would not be appropriate for the sanctuary. Here in Soonerland, the shiny side of the buckle on the Bible Belt, conventional media wisdom says that everyone emerged from the church to go vote for the ballot initiative (SQ 711) opposing same-sex marriage. And while 711 won easily, the two state-lottery measures, which won somewhat less easily, drew more actual ballots (not-yet-certified state vote totals are here), and even 711 proved to be less popular than the measure to abate property taxes on disabled veterans (SQ 715), which no one characterizes as conservative. The prevailing belief in The Area Formerly Known As Kerryland seems to be that social conservatives are small in number and decidedly weird; I'm not much of a social conservative myself, but I find it hard to see them that way — perhaps because they live over on the next street, as opposed to, say, way beyond the Hudson.

James Joyner amplifies:

Given that a Republican president won a re-election on a conservative platform, that conservative Republicans won most of the vacant Senate seats, that Republicans have now won seven straight majorities in the House, and that gay marriage bans were enacted in 11 of 11 states they were on the ballot, one might get the impression that there is some sentiment out there for conservative policies.

Gee, ya think? But that couldn't possibly be, could it? I mean, isn't conservatism an oddity committed by and for odd people? Yet the Republicans still picked up those big numbers. There's only one other explanation: the center looked both ways, and decided to ignore the leftists.

And boy-howdy, they hate that.

Title of the week

Susan B. at LilacRose channels Cash Flagg Ray Dennis Steckler:

The Incredibly Strange Liberals Who Stopped Thinking and Became Mixed-Up Moonbats*

Yeah, I know a few of those too.

Point of order: being on the left side of the spectrum does not, ipso facto, make someone a barking moonbat. I've known too many counterexamples personally to believe that particular slander. On the other hand, the putative Reality-Based Community takes an awful lot of things on, well, faith.

They fought the law

State Question 711, which barred same-sex marriages and which passed Tuesday by a three-to-one margin, has now been challenged in court. Two couples from Tulsa have filed a lawsuit in US District Court which seeks to overturn both the Oklahoma statute and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Apparently this suit has been in the works for some time, but the plaintiffs decided to wait until SQ 711 was passed.

Senator James Williamson (R-Tulsa), who sponsored the legislation in SQ 711, says he thinks it will stand up to the court's scrutiny; the suit will probably be heard some time next year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:37 PM to Soonerland )
5 November 2004
100% Arafat-free

Of course, this doesn't mean a healthy diet for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority won't necessarily benefit from the eventual passing of Arafat, either, says Meryl Yourish:

They need to have him as a puppet so they can continue his murderous, thieving ways. Or prevent some kind of civil war as the remaining terrorists grab for the power. Here's hoping they do eliminate each other. I'd be perfectly happy to have Hanan Ashrawi be the only remaining senior palestinian leader left. I may disagree with every word she says, but she hasn't ever sent teenagers out with bombs strapped to their chests.

Meanwhile, if you were planning to mourn this fellow, you might take a look at some of these.

Update, 8 am: While Arafat continues as the Muslim equivalent of Schrödinger's Cat, I am reminded of this bit of speculation I did last fall:

The Israelis, for their part, are still talking about sending Arafat into exile, and more than one minister has suggested that they might as well kill him. I'm not sure either of these is such a great idea: exile will merely give Arafat an opportunity to regroup his forces elsewhere, and killing him — well, the Arab world loves its martyrs, and loves to avenge their deaths. The solution, I think, is going to have to be a Latin American-style "disappearance", after which which no one will know for sure whether he's alive or dead. It might be worth it to hire some al-Jazeera technicians to fake up some regular TV appearances by Arafat during his, um, absence — hey, they do a bang-up job of keeping Osama bin Laden "alive" — and preserve the mystique. Under this plan, everybody wins: the Israelis get plausible deniability, the Palestinians get the leadership they deserve (and they say nature hates a vacuum), and Colin Powell gets someone to clean out his garage once a week.

Assuming by now Colin Powell isn't already cleaning out his desk.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Dyssynergy )
Gearing up for 2008

The bottom line on ballot access in this state is still "It takes too many signatures," and the resources that must be devoted to gathering those signatures are considerable. The obvious question, therefore, is "How many signatures would not be 'too many'?"

One suggestion: one percent of the votes cast in the last general election, which would be a shade under 15,000. Still sounds like a lot, but getting a Presidential candidate on the 2004 ballot required over 37,000 signatures, so a one-percent threshold should certainly be easier to reach.

My own thinking, right this minute, calls for a flat 10,000 signatures to gain party recognition, maybe half that for a Presidential candidate, though I'm willing to entertain other ideas. The hard part, of course, will be persuading the legislature, which is made up entirely of members of major parties, to go along with changes like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:51 AM to Soonerland )
Turning purple

Neither vivid red nor solid blue, my little corner of Oklahoma City is decidedly divided, as many Democrats as Republicans, with a salting of independents, third-party types, and, I suspect, a fair number of folks who are utterly indifferent to it all. Running just north is a street which contains five churches in the space of one mile; in the 49 weeks I've been here, while occasionally a flyer is left at the door, only one of them has contacted me personally through outreach, which is not at the level of what I'd consider annoying. Of the five churches, only one of them is what I think of as a conservative evangelical congregation in the present-day sense — I had attended one such church when I was younger and presumably less wicked — but that wasn't the one who sent the guy to ring my doorbell.

Proving that "your mileage may vary," the OkiePundit seems to be awash in evangelicals:

I have them in my family, living next door, at the workplace, they are everywhere here. And they are voting. The churches have become a center of partisan (Republican) agitation. Every week there is a voting information table at my church and it is loaded with right-wing Christian propaganda. The pastor tells us to vote for Godly people and leaves little doubt as to who those people are. It's difficult to get through an entire day here without an evangelical trying to "save" me into his or her particular brand of Christianity.

Now when I lived way out on the east side, I got more visits, largely from members of black churches, which given the population distribution in that quadrant is unsurprising, but none of their representatives ever struck me as being particularly insistent or coercive. And since I'm an irritable old cuss by nature, I have to conclude that they didn't go out of their way to bother me.

Obviously you can't extrapolate from here to a hundred miles up the turnpike, but something seems to be different around Alfalfa Bill's place. Speculation is welcomed.

Sit iucundus tibi dies

Apparently there is still no Latin word for "blog".

This strikes me as implausible; I mean, surely the Greeks have a word for it.

(Via Sean Gleeson.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 PM to Blogorrhea )
6 November 2004
De colores

A friend from blueland writes:

The social studies teacher at our school is up in arms over the fact that the media is saying Bush won by a mandate. I think she's wrong; she claims that mandate means a huge majority of the popular vote and she thinks 3.5 million votes isn't a mandate. I say she's wrong, but I'm not sure how to disprove her.

I pointed to this now-fairly-ubiquitous USA Today map which colors each county in 49 states (Alaska doesn't do counties as we know them) according to how it voted, which might have done the trick.

As of this morning, that map was still in the Blogdex Top Ten, a couple of slots below Jane Smiley's hatchet job in Slate with the subtitle "The unteachable ignorance of the red states." I'll quote just one paragraph:

Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a "knock-down-drag-out," where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today's red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights. When the forces of red and blue encountered one another head-on for the first time in Kansas Territory in 1856, the red forces from Missouri, who had been coveting Indian land across the Missouri River since 1820, entered Kansas and stole the territorial election. The red news media of the day made a practice of inflammatory lying — declaring that the blue folks had shot and killed red folks whom everyone knew were walking around. The worst civilian massacre in American history took place in Lawrence, Kan., in 1862 — Quantrill's raid. The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled 265 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them in front of their wives and children. The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are — they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence.

If you look at that USA Today map one more time, you'll see exactly one county in Kansas that's colored blue: Douglas County. The seat of Douglas County is, um, Lawrence.

The sensible person will of course argue, "Quantrill's Raid was over a hundred years ago. How could it possibly have any relevance today?" It doesn't, unless you're an aggrieved leftist desperate to make a point. (And Quantrill's Raid, incidentally, was in 1863.)

Back in the New York groove

BatesLine has a funny piece about cranky liberals in Tulsa, a fraction of which seem to feel that but for the grace of God — well, were there actually a God, you know — they'd be right at home in Manhattan:

[Y]ou have a minority of that minority who are stuck here against their will. NPR on the FM dial, home delivery of The New York Times, Borders, Utica Square, the museums, the opera, the ballet, and the coffee bars (local indies and national chains alike) all help to insulate these folks from the indignity of living in Oklahoma.

Of course, if they want a real taste of the New York experience in the Bloomberg era, they're welcome to come down the turnpike to Oklahoma City, where we fine people for dropping sunflower seeds on the street.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Soonerland )
Digital rights mismanagement

Costa Tsiokos considers the freebie CD packed with the November issue of Wired and points out one potential stumbling block for Creative Commons licensing:

[T]he makeup of the disc is a perfect example of the marginal support the Creative Commons scheme can expect to receive. Major acts like the [Beastie Boys] can afford to lend their support, because they've already made their money from their years of work in the "old" music business. Obscure and unsigned acts latch on strictly as a way to gain wider exposure and dissemination of their work.

Yet as a showcase, the Wired CD doesn't show much. Tracks that wouldn't make the final cut on moneymaker albums? It gives Creative Commons a poor image.

I haven't played that disc yet, but I can see where this leads. And a two-tier copyright system, with some works protected under the traditional system and others released to Creative Commons, is very likely, I think, to result in exactly this reaction to most potential purchasers: "He must not think much of it if he's letting it go out like that." Cynicism of the marketplace? Maybe. But it's the marketplace that rules in these matters.

For the record, stuff on this site is covered under traditional copyright, though the 1998 revisions to the federal copyright act motivated me to repudiate all extensions beyond the Berne Convention's provision of protection for 50 years following the death of the author — like all this stuff isn't already forgotten while I'm still alive, fercryingoutloud.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Saturday spottings (everywhere a sign)

This being possibly the last really warm (middle 70s) Saturday until spring, I loaded up the CD player with Carolina beach music and hit the streets with the windows down.

Signs all over town are showing name changes. The Hilton Inn Northwest is mutating into a Crowne Plaza; Eckerd's drug stores have dropped their old logos, though relatively few have any CVS signage up.

And sometimes there are signs in response to signs. Back in June, Texas-based IBC Bank completed its acquisition of what used to be Local Oklahoma Bank, and this fall they had rented billboards around town saying "IBC is LOCAL", a reference to the name change. Little Advantage Bank, based in Spencer, put up some billboards of its own on the east side saying "We Really Are Local."

Advantage Bank, I note, used to be Spencer State Bank, back when you'd think that a state-chartered bank in Spencer would almost have to be named that. Steve Martin once observed that banks have to be named something like "Security National Trust and Federal Reserve," because "nobody's gonna put their money in 'Fred's Bank'," and I once faked up a radio ad for "State City National Bank and Truss Company" for reasons which are mercifully lost to history. Fred may have failed to get his name on the sign, but bank names have definitely taken a turn for the weird: the new bank in the tower at 1601 Northwest Distressway, a building named with brazen simplicity "The Tower," is called "Valliance Bank," which to me sounds like a fatal collision of "valley" and "dalliance." Not that I'd ever engage in such a thing, though Ondrya Wolfson might:

I am a Val, I know. But I live in, like, a really good part of Encino so it's okay.

Okay, fine, for sure, for sure. Sheesh. Meanwhile, in a less-than-really-good part of Oklahoma City, the Riverfront Skatepark is nearing completion: most of the concrete is in place. And regardless of what you may think of sk8terbois, this is a Good Thing: cleaning up the banks of the newly-christened Oklahoma River is essential to making it a serious destination for travelers and bored-out-of-their-skulls locals.

Finally, one last sign: Hyroop's, styled "The Big and Tall Place," probably should have thought twice before proclaiming a "Store Wide Sale," and definitely shouldn't have proclaimed it on the side of a big fat balloon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:37 PM to City Scene )
Playing the numbers

The Oklahoman had a few charts in the Sunday edition (not on the Web site yet) that struck me as interesting. It's no secret that here, as in other states, voter registrations were way up this year; they report that in 74 of the 77 counties, there were more new Republicans registering than new Democrats, and in two counties — Alfalfa and Harper — the number of registered Democrats actually dropped. Only in Oklahoma County (which includes most of Oklahoma City) did new Democratic registrations outnumber new GOP registrations, though they were pretty close in Tulsa County.

Still, even after that GOP upsurge, only 19 counties have Republican majorities; the Democrats have majorities in 58. And yet not one county gave more votes to the Kerry/Edwards ticket than to Bush/Cheney.

It's anybody's guess what will happen in 2006. I don't see any of the five House members (four Republicans, one Democrat) being replaced — Senator Inhofe will only be four years into his current term — but the GOP has control of the state House for the first time in ages between now and then, and Governor Henry, a Democrat, will be up for re-election in '06.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:58 PM to Soonerland )
7 November 2004
Justice much as you can stand

One of the rotating quips (alas, uncredited) in the "It Is Written" section on the front page reads like this:

Social engineering is to engineering as social disease is to disease.

So where does social justice fit in? Right about here:

Justice is that virtue by which one accords to others that which is theirs by right. It, along with prudence, fortitude, and temperance constitute the cardinal virtues. The term right is, unfortunately, frequently used very loosely. If one says, for example, that the unemployed have a right to work or the needy have a right to assistance, this is not strictly correct. There is neither a legal nor a natural right here so the claim being made is actually a claim in charity rather than a claim in justice. And that's what a lot of people seem to mean by social justice.

I suspect that the term social justice, in the sense of Christian charity, is frequently used by those who want to harness the power of government which in my view is properly restricted to claims of justice, to claims of charity while separating charity from its real nature as a theological virtue.

I might go so far as to say that there's an unspoken call for vengeance behind the veil of "justice": the desire to see plutocrats exiled to, well, Pluto; the urge to punish the wealthy (except, of course, for those who contribute money to The Cause); the inexplicable hatred of inanimate objects like Evil SUVs.

Certainly sounds like a social disease to me.

Film at eleven dot net

It's called Blogumentary, it's, well, a documentary about blogs, and unlike previous such efforts, it's not devoted to fawning over the A-list. A rough cut was shown at the City Pages Get Real Documentary Film Festival in Minneapolis, and Erica was there:

I thought [filmmaker] Chuck [Olsen] did a pretty good job of capturing the idea of what blogging is and the phenomenon that it's become. The political stuff, the personal stuff, the interaction and the relationships people develop, blogs as a grassroots organizational tool and a communication medium. I recognized a lot of the folks he mentioned and screenshots he showed. It was clever. It was funny. He talked about Plain Layne being a man, Dan Rather and the false documents, Trent Lott's resignation, bloggers getting married, and the Howard Dean campaign, amongst other things.

I wonder if we can get a print here for next year's deadCENTER.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:44 AM to Blogorrhea )
That '70s smarm

Do you live in a room like this?

Here we have a mix of old green crap, new green crap, and some stunning green transitional crap, all of which serve to give this room the exhausted, mealy flavor of overcooked vegetables.

If you must see this — and trust me, you must — well, it's Lileks. Do you need another reason?

Of course you don't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:44 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Horsing around with tax rates

The hotel-room tax in Oklahoma City was fixed at 2 percent in 1972, and has been there ever since. On the 14th of December, the city will hold an election to increase it to 5.5 percent, largely to pay for improvements to livestock and horse facilities at State Fair Park.

In announcing the election in the CityNews flyer in November utility bills, the city introduces this array of numbers:

The hotel tax has been at the current 2% rate for more than 32 years. Even at 5.5%, Oklahoma City's hotel tax would still be far below most other cities, including our main Texas competitors. Dallas, for example, has a 13% hotel tax, Fort Worth's is 15% and the San Antonio hotel tax is almost 17%.

A bikini of a paragraph, this is: what it reveals is interesting, but what it conceals is vital. What you're not being told here is that in addition to that measly two percent, travelers are being hit with the full sales-tax package, state, county where applicable, and city; lodging in Oklahoma City is ultimately taxed at a rate of 10.375 percent. I grabbed my handy Choice Hotels Directory, which got some heavy use this summer, and sure enough, most of the inns in the city are listed at that tax rate, give or take some rounding somewhere.

So if this measure passes, tourists will be forking over 13.875 cents in tax for every dollar of room rate. This is still lower than Fort Worth or San Antonio, but the city is making it seem like visitors have been getting the screaming deal of the century here, which of course they haven't. Meanwhile, the City of New York makes do on a mere 13.625% plus two bucks a day.

I'll still probably vote for the increase — we really do need to spruce up the horse facilities around here — but somebody at City Hall should have taken the time to give that tax comparison some actual legitimacy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:21 PM to City Scene )
8 November 2004
Live from Jesusland

What the hell have the Democrats been drinking? Michele knows:

I do believe the Democrats have just switched one brand of Kool-Aid for another. Their new drink is Jesusland flavored and they are swallowing it by the gallon.

If you read them correctly — and I'm not just talking about the fringe elements here, but your everyday journalists, talking heads, bloggers and Democrat on the street — the Christians are coming and they are going to burn crosses on your door and kidnap your heathen babies.

Under the circumstances, it would seem prudent to examine a place where the Christians already are and see what has been happening. By some strange coincidence, such a place starts right outside my front door.

And what is happening? Nothing.

Oh, yeah, we passed that anti-gay-marriage referendum. Big whoop. Same-sex marriage was already illegal in this state. Abortion? Nothing going on. Gambling? Established a state lottery, of all things. Prohibition? Still county option. Divorce? Still among the highest rates in the country. Desperate attempts at censorship? Dead issue.

I suppose you could find yourself stifled by the atmosphere, if your idea of communication involves needles, but I assure you, I've been here thirty years, and very seldom have I felt the Overly Churchy breathing down my neck. Then again, I haven't been indoctrinated to despise them in the manner approved by the social arbiters of Blueworld, either.

Overheard in front of the radio

Diane Rehm: "Yasser Arafat lies in a French hospital...."

Person in my office: "Why not? He lies everywhere else."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Dyssynergy )
Nothing is better for thee than D

Lynn Sislo prepares to depart the limbo of Independents for what may be a more dangerous abode:

[B]eing an Independent is like being asked out by two guys and refusing to date either of them because they both have good qualities and bad qualities. Nobody's perfect and no organization is perfect but there are advantages to commitment. Therefore, before the next election I am going to register as a Democrat.

The most obvious advantage is that I will be able to vote in the primaries. At this early stage, there is a good possibility that I will vote for Senator Clinton, assuming of course that she runs. I admit that I used to be in the Hillary hating camp (although "vague contempt" would more accurately describe my feelings) but I've been looking at her voting record at Project Vote Smart and based on that alone she is someone I would definitely feel comfortable voting for, though I don't agree with her on every issue. I will also be keeping an eye on the voting records of other likely candidates. However, in November 2008 I will vote for whichever candidate seems to me best able to lead the country regardless of whether he (or she) is Democrat, Republican or third party. So the Democrats still need to shape up if they want my vote.

My own contempt for Senator Clinton is a bit less vague, but I can certainly understand wanting to take part in the primary, something that hasn't been open to Independents on a regular basis; the law now provides that "[r]egistered Independent voters may be eligible to vote in [a] party's primaries and runoff primaries if authorized by the party," though it's unclear just how likely a party — other than the Libertarians, who actively sought this provision — would be to grant such an authorization.

And although Lynn and I don't agree on a whole lot, I'll be happy to see her on the Democratic rolls; if there's one thing the Democratic Party needs right now, and will need just as much in 2008, it's people who can be thoughtful without being hostile.

Facelifting the Electoral College

The last paragraph of a Houston Chronicle editorial objecting to the Electoral College:

[A]n October Gallup poll showed that 61 percent of Americans favor amending the U.S. Constitution to elect presidents by direct vote rather than electors. In a year when the election process was mercifully low on snafus, a serious reform of the electoral system — perhaps apportionment of each state's electors according to the popular vote or number of congressional districts carried — is ripe for national debate.

As an experiment, The Prop, resting up in Pavement Narrows, New Jersey, dropped the current system into his spreadsheet, noted the results — Bush 286, Kerry 252 — and twiddled the numbers as follows:

Take the Congressional district electoral votes in each state and award them proportionally by the result of that state's popular vote. Give the 2 Senatorial electoral votes to the winner of the plurality. E.g. in NJ the popular vote went 53% to Kerry, 46% to Bush. NJ has 13 Congressional Electoral votes plus 2 Senate Electoral votes. 53% of 13 rounds off to 7 votes plus Kerry gets the 2 Senate votes for his overall win: so Kerry = 9, Bush = 6.

According to this formula, Oklahoma goes from 7-0 Bush to 5-2 Bush. And what's the total overall?

Applied to all states this year President Bush gets... um... 286 Electoral Votes and Senator Kerry gets 252.

Well, um, okay.

What is desired by most of the critics of the Electoral College, I suspect, is a system whereby anyone named George Bush automatically loses.

9 November 2004
Fantastic plastic lover

Michele has debuted I Have That On Vinyl, a place to indulge her nostalgia (and yours) for the pop-culture artifacts that seemingly haunt us all. As the sort of person who owns a Wagner Ring cycle and all of Debbie Deborah Gibson's teen-dream discs, I know exactly (well, to within a couple of blocks anyway) where she's coming from: sometimes our reaction to these things, however many years after the fact, is startling, even scary.

I can see an apologia for the Partridge Family coming on.

Along the paper trail

Today the State Election Board will certify the election results, which means that any recounts have to be completed by today.

And it appears there will be one: for State House District 78, apparently won by Jeannie McDaniel (D) over David J. Schaeffer (R), 7892 to 7858, a difference of thirty-four votes. There were approximately 29 provisional ballots, and Michael Bates reports that there were some ballot-scanner issues in one precinct.

Of course, what's important here is that we actually can recount these ballots. Says Bates:

The fact that we can have this recount and cope with a voting machine problem is an indication of the superiority [of] Oklahoma's approach to counting votes. We fall short in voter authentication, but there is a tangible, persistent record of those votes which are cast, unlike the touchscreen systems and the old-fashioned mechanical tallying systems which leave no records, at least none which can be verified by the voter and which are human-readable.

And we could improve our level of voter authentication just by looking at the voter-ID cards issued by the state. (I always present mine, mostly because I have a fairly common name and having the card handy makes it unnecessary to ask for middle initial or street address or other identifying factors, but that's just me.) But by and large, the system we have is pretty darn good, and what's more, it's pretty darn cheap; you can buy a whole lot of low-tech scanning devices for the cost of a single touch-screen.

(Update, 8:45 pm: Michael Bates reports that Jeannie McDaniel did win House District 78, by a margin of 24 votes. And there's a second recount, in Senate District 32 — Comanche County — which hasn't been completed yet: Randy Bass (D) led Kenneth Easton, 9809-9774, though so far Bass' lead has been cut to 30.)

(Update, 8:10 am, 10 November: The Bass-Easton recount finished with Bass ahead by 51, 9854-9803. The Lawton Constitution doesn't apparently archive stories, but for now you can read it here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 AM to Soonerland )
I [snicker at] Huckabees

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and his lovely bride are apparently about to convert their Arkansawyer-Standard Marriage to one of those newfangled Covenant Marriages, as described here.

I'm torn on this particular issue. On the one hand, I am not overly fond of divorce, having gone through one myself, and I've been persuaded for some time that the grounds for divorce in this state are perhaps a bit on the lax side. (Contrary to popular belief, failing to cover the spread at OU-Texas is not considered legal grounds in Oklahoma.) But I'm not so sure that the answer lies in creating a two-tier system: some people may want a double-secret-probationary marriage, and I'm the last person in the world to want to dictate the vows they should take, but if we have a second class of marriage, we don't have much of an argument should some future legislature want to create a third, or a fourth, or a sixty-ninth. In 2002, the Oklahoma legislature considered a measure of this sort, but House and Senate versions could not be reconciled, and the bill was killed.

Rita notes that only about 600 couples have taken this step since Arkansas' covenant-marriage act was enacted in 2001; I'm surprised there have been that many. Governor Huckabee would like to see a thousand couples taking part in the conversion ceremony in North Little Rock on (gag) Valentine's Day.

Maybe what really bugs me about this whole business is this: If a couple really, truly wants a stronger commitment than usual, and is willing to forgo what protections (if that's the word) are offered by way of divorce, do they really need a law to back them up? Try as I may, I can't help but see an element of gimmickry here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:17 AM to Almost Yogurt )
It's worse than that: he's not dead, Jim

Dear "Mainstream" Media:

Have you had your fill of wallowing in Arafat yet? This ongoing death-watch of yours has gone beyond tedious, beyond maddening, and is now just a few ticks this side of completely insane. It's bad enough that you've spent the last few years trying to elevate this common terrorist to the level of a World Leader, but now you fawn over him as though his departure were something of a tragedy.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Nobel Peace Prize. Believe me, Yasser Arafat's contributions to world peace are right up there with Jeffrey Dahmer's contributions to nutrition research. If prizes of this sort were required to be based on meritorious service they'd have discontinued the Emmy awards for news two decades ago.

All anyone needs to know is this: first, when he's not only merely dead, he's really most sincerely dead; and second, whether that ragtag collection of street urchins you people have been trying to pass off as a legitimate state is going to take some positive steps toward becoming less of a boil on the world's behind. And being the generous soul I am, I'll answer the second question for you: No.

You complain that the FCC fines you for "indecency." Be grateful they can't fine you for irrelevance.

(Update, 11 November, 4:44 am: He's dead, Jim.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:27 PM to Outgoing Mail )
That night in Berlin

It almost slipped my mind, and it shouldn't have: it was fifteen years ago that the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.

In November 1989, I was running a FidoNet echo and reading a lot of others. And a chap named Wolfram Sperber dropped into INTERUSER, and we dropped everything, because he was there, man. I saved his story, and it's followed me through half a dozen computers since then, which is a neat trick considering I was running a Commodore 128 at the time.

Sperber's story follows the jump; thanks to Baldilocks for the memory jolt.

After all these tremendous news from here and Germany at all, I feel the need to send a report to you all from Schoeneberg in West-Berlin about the "first night" from Nov. 9th to 10th.

At noon time on Sunday I'm sitting at my keyboard, listening to TV-Transmission of Beethoven's 7th sinfony from the Berlin philharmonics: a special free concert to our guests from the GDR... (Yesterday more than half a million has been in this part of the City where some 2 million people are living. It was reported that more than 4.3 millions of visa were given until now, i.e. for more than one fourth of the population of a state).-

You all get informed very quickly by your own mass media, and I don't want to duplicate lots of news...

What I want to describe, are my own adventures in that first night:

In the last weeks I had begun to look regularly at the GDR-Television: It had changed from the most uninteresting channels to the most exciting ones, and so I used to see them every day. - Transmissions of international press conferences had shown us the latest news from the official source directly... On last Thursday about 7 p.m. at the end of one of those transmissions I heard the longwinded formulated message, which was quotated in the West-TV-News some 20 minutes later (without special comment).

Without boasting, I can state to have recognized the real meaning of this complicated sentences at once... Some moments later I formulated the sentence "That means, the wall has fallen down just now!" This thought made me very excited. At once I began to phone friends, relatives, family in Berlin and West Germany. All reacted unbelieving to the unbelievable, some assuming I would tease them or something like that. So I had to substantiate the consequences of the message.- I dialed again. My conviction grew from one moment to the next and I wrote down some short messages to Fido and another Berlin Mailbox...

Interesting for myself now! The first thought and feeling I've got was NOT one of joy, but one of worry: Now the real chaos would arise here. I feared that all the events of the last weeks and months could have been preliminaries only, and just the practical aspects of the run from East to West would plunge us into huge problems.

So it took me some time not to worry, and better be happy :-)

(Till this Sunday it's the time of euphoria on the streets. Next week we have to deal with some problems...)

Evening main news at 8 pm ("Tagesschau") kept me in suspense, channel-crossing I spent the next hours in front of my TV. It needed some two or three hours until they formulated the short- and long-term meaning of this sensation clearly.

The first live reports from some checkpoints were shown. At this time, about 10 to 11 p.m. in the night, the first people from West Berlin arrived there, awaiting things or people to come. About midnight I decided to take my car. One moment I asked myself if I should quit it because of pure sensation seeking(?), but then I thought of the historical dimension and started.

There is a big boulevard in West-East-Direction leading through the Brandenburg Gate: In East Berlin it's called "Unter den Linden" (a historical boulevard of old Berlin), in West Berlin it's called "Street of June the 17th" (remembering those days of the year of 1953, when the revolt in the GDR was put down). When I arrived after 2 km at "Big Star" (traffic circle) this 8-track-Autobahn in the middle of the City already was overcrowded with cars and pedestrians, police cars with red lights (resp. "blue lights" here).

[Frenetic applause for Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin philharmonics just now on TV!]

Where to get a parking place now? I'd really luck to get one just in the forest, where it was forbidden, of course. ("Tiergarten" is our "Central Park")

[TV reports that not less than one million people are awaited from the other side today!!]

Walking, hurrying with hundreds of people I arrived at Brandenburg Gate after some 800 meters. There is no checkpoint but this is the most symbolic place of the wall. The NBC-Team already had built a small platform, and on their vans I read "Miet mich mal..." / "Just hire me...".

The American correspondent (Tom Broker ?) was rehearsing his part, being told new details every minute. Time for the the main news at home. Somebody grinned "These Americans, must have their scenery here, of course,..." Well, several other TV-Teams were working, too.

[Just now a picture from Brandenburg Gate: "Meet the press"]

The first four or five people had climbed upon the Berlin wall dancing in a storm of applause, and under the beams of two water-cannons from the other side (where we could not look).

The visitors' platforms, of course, were overcrowded. When I could get a short look from there over the wall, I saw some dozens of people in front of the gate coming to blows with the "Vopos". After a short time the frontier guards moved back to form a chain, rectangular to the wall, closing the areas on the left and right side.

More and more people climbed up, some had pick-hammers and begun to thump at the wall. I put a stone as a souvenir... (it's rather curious: It looks just nice, anyhow - this splinter and symbol of suppression and sorrow from that building surrounding us over a distance of 45 km, pop-art-painted over and over since years).

Some hundreds of Western people pushed onto this wall, one helping the other to climb up there.

I did it, too. There were a lot of discussions between all the people, one strange to the other. At the other side we looked at about hundred of people, which were dancing in front and under the Gate. It took me some time to understand that these were not East Germans but ours. The frontier soldiers had given up.

I talked with another man, and we decided to try it, too: We jumped down to the East, walked slowly through this Gate, the first time in our life and felt a little bit weired about all that...taking the last pictures of the film.

We could not recognize, whether the street was closed after about hundred meters and slowly approached: Small groups (from the West) in hotheaded discussions with very young guards. (I saw the strained and some helpless expression in one's eyes: "So what do you want to hear from him just now?!")

The nearly full moon in that clear and cold November night over us, we slowly began a walk on this boulevard "Unter den Linden", passing the Humboldt University, looking at shop windows ("Meissener Porcellaine") in the other part of this world in our own town, drinking champagne from the bottles of others. We felt that all was possible in this night. There were no excesses.

All Restaurants were closed at this after-midnight-time (normally). More and more pedestrians walked in both directions. We noticed that most of them were West Berliners. The first of them now arrived from the left side, from Friedrichstrasse (which is crossing there and leading to Checkpoint Charlie). - Then East Berliners, but much less, joined us, hesitating, it seemed to me; cars passed, hooting already. At the subway-/suburban line station there is a checkpoint. One of the many paradoxons of Berlin: Some lines from West and East are crossing there in the middle of East Berlin, but separated from each other. (Normally you are passing this station as West Berliner in transit without control and you are going underneath through the area of East Berlin. Big Walls are separating platforms for the two streams of traffic of East and West.)

We'd got the idea to call by phone to the West there. Of course, we had no GDR-coins. Three or four times we asked some people in the hall for changing some money, but we failed - all West Berliners! When I asked a couple the woman gave me coins, and she did not understand at all when I said: "Do you know already, what happened? We are from the West and just have climbed over the wall at the Brandenburg Gate. The frontier is open! Hundreds are here" The man asked something I've forgotten. Then I told it to her again. Only just she got it: She turned, silent and began to cry, quiet... Next moment they were away.

It was not possible to make a call! Phone boxes were occupied by West Berliners, nobody knew the "dial prefix" to the West. Then the lines were just blocked...

On our way between 2 and 3 a.m. we walked some kilometers to the North were more and more people filled the streets, laughing, singing, taking pictures and some videoing. - It seemed more and more like a festival, but not really euphoric or carnival-like at this hour, rather in some disciplined manner.

How to return? We decided to go to checkpoint Invalidenstrasse, from where the first life news via TV had arrived me in the evening. Gradually the street filled like in the rush hours on Saturday afternoon.- A lot of small talks into all directions.

Hard to say, whether more people from the West came from there or people from the East went with us now. Then two young families with small children passed in a hurry, everbody with a bag or suitcase in each hand. I asked them "You want to leave?" The short and some breathless answer was "We don't trust to changes, we want to go just now!"...

At the frontier (crowds of people and cars from both sides) I asked a customs officer: "How do you feel at this moment?" Laconically he answered: "Quite well, but more I'd prefer to lie in my bed!"

Then we stood a little bit at the first car, which was waiting for the permission to pass: We talked with two young men sitting in their Russian "Lada". The driver, a 23-year-old, said repeatedly: "I can't believe it. We just heard it and decided to try it at once. I'm feeling stabbing pain in the chest. It is nearly too much for us!"

They intended to visit aquaintances anywhere in West Berlin, where they never had been before, and asked for the way. We entered their car, an officer friendly said: "Wait some minutes, we are doing Entry now, I'll give you a sign". - Our hosts in the car stayed worrying and doubtful. After some ten minutes we passed the frontier.

So it happened, that I left in this night about 3.15 a.m., as a Pseudo-"East-German" in a Russian car taking the applause and cheering from hundreds of West Berliners we passed in a narrow lane step by step! :-))

First we went to Brandenburg Gate again: They wanted to stand there (at the other side) and have a look from there. It sounds curious, but it's true: their names were (nearly) ours: Ben-Karsten the one, Wolf the other.

What remains to report is: We spend the next hours of that night in the centre on and around "Kudamm"-Avenue, Memorial Church and so on.

There, at 4 and 5 a.m. in the morning, streetlife looked like at 9 or 10 p.m. in the past hot summer nights. Kudamm was closed for cars, except the "Trabbies" and "Wartburgs" (East German cars); again we joked about our "privilege".

Hard to get something to drink or eat, only some bars were opened. The Turkish "Kebab"-Station was selled out (no more bread available). All these people did what they are used to do (as they said): Standing patiently in a queue...

About 5.45 a.m. we leaved: Karsten for a short sleep before work, I (happy to sleep long, because of no duty for working the next morning), and our guests made their way for a visit anywhere in town with my road-map as a little help.

From the moment, we stood just on the top of the wall, we felt the historical meaning of this extraordinary night, and all the following what happened afterwards and what will happen in future let me feel the urge to write down this saga to spread it over the world.

It's a long and only a very personal story in the flood of news and reports you can get in these days. I wanted to use Fido-Computer-Netfor something more important (to me) than all the common Net-Messages of everyday..

What I hope now is:
-that no dangerous conflicts will arise at this obsolete frontier or in any part of Germany
-that there is no chance for any roll-back in the future.

One word at the end to future developments: The question of Re-Unification of Germany for me and (I think) the majority of people in West and (that seems sure) in East is no topic! Instead, unification of Europe should be the aim!

Not only because of fears and reservations of our neighbours in East and West (which, I think, are understandable, but not really justified). Just because of the future era, where national states are getting more and more unimportant.

In this sense we all applauded yesterday evening at Brandenburg Gate (where I was once again under thousands of people): A banner of Europe was fixed at the wall and on a street-lamp in front of the the chain of GDR-soldiers: They now stand again on top to prevent people from climbing up. "Well, we must have order!" (telling you that from "Prussia" :-)

But I'm sure, at least after one year we all will have walk there, on the ground, and in both directions.

Thanks for your patience to read this long story,

Ciao,
*** Wolf ***

--- FD 2.00
* Origin: To make my Point > FidoNet WestBerlin (2:245/10.22)

10 November 2004
The Nickster is five

About five years and six and a half months ago, I let it be known that First Grandchild was on the way, and She Who Is Not To Be Named took it upon herself to predict the child's birthday: "November 10th. Same as mine."

She was, of course, accurate: Nicholas Cole Havlik indeed arrived on the tenth, to the amazement of the attending physician, who had predicted some other date. And while she doesn't go out of her way to remind me about how accurate she is, this is one of those times when she doesn't have to.

(No, I'm not telling you how old she is. Sheesh.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:58 AM to Next Generation )
One hundred twelve

112 is the official emergency telephone number for the European Union.

And 112 is the number of weeks we've had the Carnival of the Vanities, the weekly compendium of high-quality bloggage, which this week is hosted by Let's Try Freedom.

No comparison is intended or implied. (911, apparently, won't be coming up until 2020 or so.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
Out of sight, out of reach

American drivers of a certain age will remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, inflicted on motor vehicles sold in the States around 1980: not only did it top out at a mundane 85 mph, but automakers were required to give special prominence to the national 55-mph speed limit. This was every bit as stupid as you think it was, and was eventually abandoned, as was the double-nickel itself. The thinking, and I use the term loosely, was that if the speedo only reads 85, everyone will assume that this is the maximum speed of the car and no one will drive faster than that. The far more common response, of course, was "Hmmm. Wonder what happens if I peg this baby?" The Law of Unintended Consequences at its finest.

And although this scheme didn't work worth a damn in the States, it's enjoying an inexplicable revival in usually-sensible Australia; the premier of the state of Victoria is proposing a 130-kph maximum (80 mph, more or less) for speedometers fitted to vehicles sold in Oz. What's more, he says, eventually he wants the actual top speed reduced. (Victoria, I assume, is the Australian equivalent of a Blue State.)

There's no way to predict how the Australian Transport Council will respond to this notion, but Tim Blair has a recommendation: if we must specify a top speed at all, let it be, oh, 300 kph.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Driver's Seat )
As endorsed by dhimmicrats

Once upon a time, Christopher Hitchens asserted that he's an atheist, and then some:

I'm not neutral about religion, I'm hostile to it. I think it is a positively bad idea, not just a false one. And I mean not just organized religion, but religious belief itself.

He hasn't changed his mind on the subject, but he's persuaded that some of those beliefs are worse than others:

[A]ll faiths are not always equally demented in the same way, or at the same time. Islam, which was once a civilizing and creative force in many societies, is now undergoing a civil war. One faction in this civil war is explicitly totalitarian and wedded to a cult of death. We have seen it at work on the streets of our own cities, and most recently on the streets of Amsterdam. We know that the obscene butchery of filmmaker Theo van Gogh was only a warning of what is coming in Madrid, London, Rome, and Paris, let alone Baghdad and Basra.

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine — disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO — described as the victims of "despair." The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as "insurgents" or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

Score one for Jesusland. The American left will support damned near anything so long as it sounds sufficiently anti-American.

(Via Common Sense and Wonder.)

(Aside: This piece was completed long before it got a title, and when I finally came up with one, I reasoned, "Surely someone has used this term before." So I sent "dhimmicrats" to Google, and back comes this: "Did you mean: democrats"? Case closed, and thanks to Aaron.)

Hoping for a spectacular finish

What guy doesn't want this?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:25 PM to Driver's Seat )
Where the cheapskates are (the sequel)

The Catalogue for Philanthropy has issued its new Generosity Index, which this year, much like last year, argues that blue-state residents are chintzier than folks in the red states. Michelle Malkin breaks it down by electoral-vote winner. And Oklahoma, fourth last year, has moved up to third.

Before anyone goes into full-fledged Gloat Mode, I should point out that questions exist about the methodology used to calculate the Index. This not being my area of expertise, I suggest caution before using these findings to flay your stingy neighbors.

(Tilt of the shawl to Susanna Cornett.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:22 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Eighteen with a Googlebomb

This is just wrong. Somebody got here today by searching for mary kate and ashley nude McGehee.

Then again, it could be worse: he (I assume it's a he, and frighteningly enough, it's from a University of Oklahoma IP) could have been looking for "mary kate and ashley McGehee nude," which no one is prepared to tolerate.

(Oh, and if you're looking for pictures, McGehee doesn't have any.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:49 PM to Blogorrhea )
11 November 2004
One among many

Thirty years ago today I was standing on a mountaintop at the Edge of Nowhere, or so it seemed, staring into the face of the enemy, and I knew he was staring back.

Not that anything scary was about to happen. There was a rather large body of water between us, and even on the clearest of days I couldn't see him and he couldn't see me. Still, I knew he was there, and I assumed he knew I was there, and a few dozen other guys were making a list and checking it twice and delivering it to the commanding officer. They were doing their job, and I was doing mine.

And a few months later, that particular job came to an end; I left this post, a little older, maybe a little wiser, an unexpected medal added to my uniform, and after a few days of R&R — well, maybe some R, but not a whole lot of R, if you know what I mean — I reported back Stateside and was assigned to the Reserves for three more years.

This was before "Be all that you can be," and I've never been sure I was all that I could have been. But we had a mission, and I was part of it, and I'd like to think that I had something to do with the fact that the enemy no longer exists.

That enemy, anyway.

On this day of remembrance, there are millions more with their own stories to tell. You've already heard mine.

Artificial unintelligence

I've read enough post-election rants to last a couple of lifetimes, and while the gloating from conservative types has been something less than muted, the agita from the left has managed to sound seriously deranged yet somehow all of a piece. "If I didn't know better," I thought, "I'd swear this stuff was being artificially generated."

It appears that I didn't know better after all.

Quote of the week

You really need to read the entirety of Douglas Kern's dismembering of the hapless Eric Engberg at Tech Central Station, but the choicest bit comes at the point where Engberg complains that bloggers and such like don't have access to the "experts" employed by Big Media, to which Kern replies:

What were you [specifically, Slate] thinking — publishing information without access to the cautions being provided by the [National Election] pool's experts? That's halfway to being a hate crime. Why, journalism without expert gatekeepers is like ice cream without Worcestershire sauce.

I anticipate a rocky road for big-name journos over the next few years.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:48 AM to QOTW )
Wow, I coulda had a LOAD "*",8

Sandy, my modest little sedan, rolled up her 38,911th mile today.

And 38911 may not mean much to you, but it does to me.

12 November 2004
Minor adjustments

Some of the category archives here have grown to a megabyte and more, which is hell on load times and doesn't exactly enhance the rebuild speed. Two of the larger categories, Almost Yogurt and Dyssynergy, underwent a weeding process, and a new category, PEBKAC, was created for computer-related items that used to fall routinely under Dyssynergy.

This isn't going to make a big difference — taking, say, 75 items out of a 600-item archive still leaves that archive fairly huge — but every little bit helps.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 AM to Blogorrhea )
Insert Steelers reference here

Just how big is Fallujah? Matt Deatherage looked it up:

According to Wikipedia, Fallujah had a pre-war population of 350,000.

That's the size of Pittsburgh. The one in Pennsylvania, not the one in Kansas (that one's "Pittsburg" anyway.)

So when you hear the 101st Fighting Keyboarders foaming at the mouth to "raze Fallujah to the ground," or braying that anyone smart would have left the city by now, substitute "Pittsburgh" in your mind and you'll see the scope of the problem.

Oh, I don't know; a lot of smart people have left Pittsburgh.

But underestimating the magnitude of a task is nothing new for the Bush administration either; while they have the long view down cold, counting the number of steps between Point A and Point B is not their strong suit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Dyssynergy )
We have our reasons

Jonah Goldberg digs deeply into the thought process:

It is no more rational to vote based on a desire to do "good" than it is to vote based on a desire to do God's will. Indeed, for millions of people this is a distinction without a difference — as it was for so many of the abolitionists progressives and civil-rights leaders today's liberals love to invoke but never actually learn about.

They drop names to obtain street cred. Here in Oklahoma, the number of people who invoke the name of Ralph Ellison seems to exceed the number of people who have actually read anything Ellison wrote by a factor of two, maybe three.

Love, in fact, is just as silly and superstitious a concept as God (and for those who believe God is Love, this too is a distinction without a difference). Chesterton's observation that the purely rational man will not marry is just as correct today, because science has done far more damage to the ideal of love than it has done to the notion of an awesome God beyond our ken. Genes, hormones, instincts, evolution: These are the cause for the effect of love in the purely rational man's textbook. But [Bill] Maher would get few applause lines from his audience of sophisticated yokels if he mocked love as a silly superstition. This is, in part, because the crowd he plays to likes the idea of love while it dislikes the idea of God; and in part because these people feel love, so they think it exists. But such is the extent of their solipsism and narcissism that they not only reject the existence of God but go so far as to mock those who do not, simply because they don't feel Him themselves. And, alas, in elite America, feelings are the only recognized foundation of metaphysics.

Being the INTJ type myself, I obviously have no future as a postmodern metaphysician.

I might add that this disdain for the divine does not equal an insistence upon the concrete: it's perfectly respectable to concern oneself with, even to obsess over, the supernatural, so long as it's clearly divorced from that icky "religion" stuff.

This is not to say that no religion exists on the left, and I'm not about to say, for instance, that John Kerry's Catholicism is somehow bent and twisted because his official position on abortion is in opposition to that of the Vatican. I know not the man's heart; for all I know, he may be horrified by the very idea but suppresses that horror because it wouldn't sit well with the Democratic base. But another can of worms awaits an opening: whether voting against what you perceive as your spiritual interests constitutes hypocrisy, or something much worse.

(Poached from Justin Katz.)

Chills to come

Wx graphic from NewsOK.comDear NewsOK.com: In case you hadn't noticed, it's November, fercrissake. The likelihood that we're going to have anything recognizable as a "heat index" in the next four months or so is, shall we say, decidedly on the low side. Not that I'm looking forward to wind chills, of course.
   
Update, 2 pm: We get results:

Wx graphic from NewsOK.com


That you, Hibbard?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:39 AM to Outgoing Mail )
Hope I die before I get arthritis

Oops, too late.

Meanwhile, Michele wants an upper age limit on rock performers on stage:

Is there anyone out there who still wants to stare at David Lee Roth's crotch as he attempts a balls-defying split? In leather pants? Hey, these guys can make all the records they want, but I think we need to put a stop to the full-on stadium shows the Viagra generation of rock stars are still putting on. Fifty year old men should not be singing lyrics like She said 'I'll show you how to fax / In the mailroom, honey / And have you home by five' to throngs of barely dressed, barely teen girls. Fifty year old men should not be stomping around a stage in ten inch heels and make up while exhorting the crowd to rock and roll all night and party every day. It's just wrong.

Actually, the part that hurts is this one:

Some day the old guy at the end of the bar will accept the fact that he just doesn't have it anymore. I'll kind of miss him winking at me, but we'll always have the jukebox.

With my luck, it will be packed with disco.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:48 PM to Almost Yogurt )
13 November 2004
Giving back

Dr. William S. Spears (OSU '62), founder and CEO of Energy Education, Inc., has bestowed upon his alma mater the largest gift in the history of Oklahoma State University. The amount of the gift was not disclosed, but it was sufficient for OSU to rename its School of Business after Dr. Spears; The Oklahoman reports that it exceeds the $70 million given to the school by oilman T. Boone Pickens (OSU '51), for whom the school's football stadium was renamed this year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Soonerland )
Skirting the issue

I get ten or twelve hits every week from search engines with the string "great legs," which generally leads the searchers to this four-year-old Vent to which I haven't paid a great deal of attention in recent months. Inexplicably, out of eleven million or so possible Google hits, that piece came in at #19, way ahead of anything else on the subject in all of blogdom.

It is, I must assume, at least a reasonable possibility that there are bloggers with great legs. Then again, the words of Cynthia Heimel keep jumping into my head:

We have no faith in ourselves. I have never met a woman, who, deep down in her core, really believes she has great legs. And if she suspects she might have great legs, then she's convinced she has a shrill voice and no neck.

I'm not sure I believe that in its entirety. I am, however, surprised that this is a topic that the Blogosphere™ has thus far managed to avoid; the only semi-serious discussion (which I, alas, helped to precipitate) was an Ann Coulter vs. Katie Couric competition, won by Coulter. And Coulter's blogging is sparse at best, while Couric doesn't blog at all.

On the Ann/Katie fuss, I commented:

[I]f we end up debating "Which female blogger has the best legs?" I plan to abstain. In the parliamentary sense, of course.

We didn't end up debating that, which is probably just as well, since it's utterly irrelevant; I'd hate to have to find a correlation between, say, sparkle of prose and smoothness of shin. (Actually, I'd probably enjoy the research, but I'd be frustrated at the results, or lack thereof.) But this damned persistent guy-ness keeps me wondering, and there are a few who, I think, or perhaps just imagined, have dropped subtle hints that they provide a measure of this sort of eye candy in addition to their manifest textual brilliance — not that I'll ever know.

Out of four thousand or so blog posts, this one, I suspect, will be the one I will most regret.

You gotta believe

It's persisted for many years, despite the presence of nay-sayers who don't see any evidence to support it, and people are perfectly willing to bend it to political purpose. Yes, folks, it's a religion — this one:

[I]t's a funny thing about the Marxist outlook. Somewhere along the way, it ceased to be a political ideology and became a de facto religious faith. As the twentieth century wore on, Marx's prophesy of a world divided along economic fault lines rather than national and cultural ones looked increasingly ridiculous.

Today, though long discredited by history, the Marxist faith continues to thrive. Its faithful would have you believe that it is an ideology for the rational skeptic. Don't be fooled. It is a fanatical religious faith, too fortified against the sway of established history to be considered anything else.

As in 1914 with the dawn of WWI, liberals can't seem to make sense of the conservative electoral victories of last week. Their worldview, rooted in Marxist dogma, simply cannot adequately account for why Americans seem not to care about their "economic interests." Nor can it explain why Republican appeals to cultural values resonated significantly more powerfully than Democratic appeals to a sense of economic victimization.

Not surprisingly, a substantial number of liberal pundits have spent the previous week seething with indignant rage that ordinary Americans are so unwilling to trade away their core cultural and religious values in exchange for economic advantage.

How, they wonder vainly, can Americans care more about "guns, God and gays" than their own "economic interests?"

And so in a twist of poignant irony, the high priests of a faith that holds wealth and greed to be the greatest sins have been reduced to complaining, essentially, that Americans are insufficiently materialistic.

[Link added by me.]

Well, the high priests exempt themselves, of course:

Why shouldn't those of us on the coasts feel superior? We eat better, travel more, dress better, watch cooler movies, earn better salaries, meet more interesting people, listen to better music and know more about what's going on in the world.

My reasoned response, from a religion with more demonstrated staying power:

And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.

If you're keeping score, it's Matthew 1, Karl 0.

Saturday spottings (open up your heart)

The clouds hung overhead all day, and by sunset they were ready to drizzle, so I didn't get to see a whole lot outside today. I must, however, note a correction to a previous edition: whatever that is at the east end of Bricktown, it's not the Embassy Suites hotel, which is apparently awaiting negotiations with adjoining properties to make sure everyone has enough parking spaces. The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority is reportedly considering granting hotel operator John Q. Hammons an extension of six months before he starts construction.

Meanwhile, I was inside at the west end of Bricktown, watching The Incredibles at the Harkins. And while there's a certain amusement value in noting that this is the second film in a row I've seen which features nasty robots with tentacles, what matters here, as is always the case with a Pixar film, is the story. And I don't care if it is animated; you will not see a better action-adventure film this year — or next. The internal geekboy, of course, sprung from my head at the end of the credits to bounce Fantastic Four comparisons off the remaining handful of stragglers, and yes, there are some marked similarities, superpower-wise, but Fox's upcoming FF movie, ostensibly due on the Fourth of July, has its work cut out for it if it hopes to come even close to this league, and that's quite 'nuff said.

Just when I was getting used to credit cards that are credit-card-sized, a bank which shall remain nameless sent me a teensy 2.5-by-1.5-inch cardlet with a hole punched in the corner, presumably for use on a keychain. I don't think so. ("Hello, Mr. Hill? We found your keys, and oh, by the way, you're $10,000 in debt.")

And thanks be to Mac Gayden and Buzz Cason, who wrote "Everlasting Love," to Robert Knight, who recorded it in 1967, and to those drivers around Penn Square who didn't take umbrage while I was singing along with it at damn near the top of my lungs this evening. Probably to Elastigirl.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:39 PM to City Scene )
14 November 2004
Prolonged bounce

People hate Wal-Mart for lots of reasons: they don't like the crowds, they don't like having to park in the next county, they don't like the idea that somebody else (not them, of course) would drive twenty-five miles to save 99 cents on a box of Tide rather than walking into Ma and Pa Kettle's old gen'l store.

This is, however, the first instance I can recall of someone hating Wal-Mart because they expect to collect their unpaid debts:

She asked for my ID, proceeded with the return procedure and then gazed up at me. "I'm sorry, ma'am, we cannot take this back. You have a bad check with Wal-Mart, you have to call this customer service number."

This was a huge embarrassment. In a day of debit cards, I have not written checks in years for in-store purchases. I did not remember having a bounced check at Wal-Mart. At this point, getting the $10.88 back was not important. I felt like they were making me out to be some scumbag looking to get money. It's not like I was doing something illegal, like stealing a DVD player and then trying to get store credit.

On the way home, I called the customer service line to inquire — closed for the weekend. I did call this morning, Monday, and found that I had a bounced check in 1997 — when I was a sophomore in college, my first year in my own apartment, and with my own checkbook. Ooops. I was eighteen and made a mistake. The amount? About $20.00. I am sure I was charged a fee from my bank at the time, and almost a decade later, I am sure that $20.00 was written off as a loss for the Waltons. The past came back to haunt me — one bounced check at a discount chain eight years ago. I am not a teenager anymore, but a young professional with a career, a house, and the means to buy a real leather coat.

Last I looked, bad checks were illegal.

And I must say, if 42nd and Treadmill were as hard-nosed about collecting from deadbeats as Wal-Mart apparently is, there would be suicide on a Guyanese scale. I can assure you, I would not miss these characters (calling them "customers" is an insult to the people with whom we do actual business) with their lame excuses and their inflated senses of entitlement. Fortunately, The Powers That Be are starting to see things my way.

(Via Always Low Prices.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:40 AM to Dyssynergy )
Unique and tenacious, yet

The World Council of Churches has expressed its "condolences" to the Palestinian people upon the death of Yasser Arafat:

President Arafat will be remembered for bringing the Palestinian people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing their national home.

For "unique and tenacious contribution," read "willingness to engage in any nefarious activity up to and including mass murder." Christopher Johnson sees how this same principle can be extended:

Let's see now. Adolf Hitler will be remembered for bringing the German people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of the establishment of the dominance of the Aryan race. Josef Stalin will be remembered for bringing the Russian people together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing a socialist Russia. Pol Pot will be remembered for bringing the Cambodian people together (out in the country) and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of establishing a new Cambodia. Osama bin Laden will be remembered for bringing Muslims together and for his unique and tenacious contribution to the cause of reestablishing the Caliphate.

Anyone remember when evil was something that churches were supposed to, you know, oppose?

We said zero tolerance, dammit

Somehow I got it into my head that privately-operated schools might be a little saner, a little less obsessed with process at the expense of results.

It's probably a good thing I didn't put money on that premise, according to this Reuters ("One man's news service is another man's slush pile") report:

Cartwheels and handstands have gotten an 11-year-old girl temporarily bounced out of her Los Angeles-area school. Deirdre Faegre was suspended for a week after repeatedly disobeying school officials who told her not to perform gymnastic stunts during lunchtime.

"Our first concern is the safety of all children," San Jose-Edison Academy Principal Denise Patton told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Patton said Deirdre could accidentally strike another student, or injure herself, and other children could get hurt trying to imitate Deirdre, who has been doing gymnastics for five years.

There's only one possible response to this, and Kimberly Swygert, no slouch herself at doing the 'wheel, has already made it:

California, California — can we talk? Someone is not telling you what you need to hear. Apparently, you've spent the last 30 years surrounded by snake-oil salesmen pushing bogus child-rearing theories about self-esteem, creativity, the evils of discipline, and the supposed fragility of children. At some point, you've become convinced that it makes sense for the State to do everything in its over-reaching power to prevent children from ever encountering anything nasty, offensive, challenging, problematic, or painful. You've become convinced that no child should do anything unless all children can do it without fear of any pain being involved.

The kind of place, in other words, where even superheroes could be sued for saving lives.

Rock on, Dr. Swygert. And Deirdre — when you make the Olympic team come 2012 (2008?), make sure you forget to mention where you went to school. They don't deserve you.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
15 November 2004
Be there!

If you act now, you, too, can live down the street from Surlywood; the house three doors down has gone on the market.

Built in 1948 and extended a couple of times, this little one-story box offers three bedrooms, a single bathroom, a carport built for two, and a couple of outbuildings. Claimed interior area is 1376 square feet, which seems about right. They're asking $89,900, and being the greedy so-and-so I am, I hope they get pretty close to it. (So far as I know, only one person in recent years paid 100 percent of the actual asking price on this block. Don't even ask.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 AM to Surlywood )
Tinseltown rebellion

The Hollywood creative community, when it's not providing a working definition of the term "oxymoron," is lamenting the inexplicable failure of the majority of American voters to embrace their particular brand of politics. Joanne Ostrow in The Denver Post reports:

"The Hollywood community is incredibly distraught about the election results," said Vanessa Taylor, co-creator and co-executive producer of the WB's Jack & Bobby. "I'd say we're in a state of shocked disappointment."

As distinguished, I suppose, from disappointed shock.

Among writer-producers, Taylor said, "People are saying, 'Should I go work for Planned Parenthood or write my feature film?"' Her attitude is, "If you've got a pulpit at all, use it."

Now that's the sort of 120-degree career change I can't imagine. I mean, Planned Parenthood? Don't they already have enough media mouthpieces? And you know these self-described creative types aren't going to settle for mere scut work like, say, the fetus-disposal unit.

So expect the television schedule to be cluttered with more and more Very Special Episodes devoted to Hollywood's ideas of social injustice, and expect the ratings to continue to fall — and expect George W. Bush to get the blame.

Cable, Ostrow notes, doesn't whine as much as broadcast:

"Our strategy is not going to change at all," said FX spokesman Jon Solberg. FX's cutting-edge fare does very well in the red states as well as in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Season One of the plastic-surgery drama "Nip/Tuck" scored higher ratings in Oklahoma City than in New York or Los Angeles. "There is no measurable skew between red and blue states," said John Landgraf, FX president of entertainment.

Tell that to Vanessa Taylor. Five will get you ten she'll come back with something like, "Oh, well, FX, they're a Fox network," her glossy lower lip quivering in contempt.

As a non-creative person — okay, I've written a few hundred thousand words here, and I did once get what looked like an actual offer to work on a series pilot — I'm not allowed to say these things, but I'm going to say them anyway:

1.  Social relevance plus crap equals socially-relevant crap. A story doesn't gain in importance just because it's been overlaid with someone's political agenda.

2.  Karl Rove did not send you a memo on what you can and cannot say. Neither did John Ashcroft, and neither will Alberto Gonzales.

3.  Complaints from the audience do not constitute censorship. Freedom of speech does not guarantee that everyone will just sit there, smiling, whispering "Oh, that's so true."

I could go on, but why bother? Hollywood listens only to Hollywood, unless someone in New York is signing the checks.

(Via Dawn Eden, who isn't signing any checks.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:57 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Speaking words of wisdom

We are all, I think, slow learners, and some of us think we're slower than the rest. Michele, at least, is no longer concerned with the speed:

I keep going back to that night in Thanksgiving 1998, when I weighed the options of taking a chance at another heart break or not taking the chance and continuing to be this blank slate of a person. Life is all about chances, clichéd as that may sound. And the early fall despair-by-memory that I feel every year always gives way to March. I couldn't have spring without autumn.

I think I finally found what I've been looking for. It's not success, it's not riches or fame. It's just the road. I don't care where the road ends or if I ever get to the end. I've only been looking for the road itself and I finally uncovered it, beneath a pile of burning leaves and four years worth of words piled upon one another like a jagged mountain.

I've certainly learned a lot about myself here, mostly what I'm capable of. I've also learned, in the past month or so, what I don't want and don't need. You would think a person would figure this all out before they were 42 years old. Perhaps some of us are just slow learners. But it's in the learning that we really live.

It's the journey, not the destination. I didn't really pick up on this until around Thanksgiving 2003, when I turned 50.

And there's only one thing you can do with emotional baggage: go somewhere — doesn't have to be a physical place, necessarily — and deliberately leave it behind.

We are, all of us, works in progress. Some of us just take a little longer to see where we are.

Piston slap

As close as I've ever been to Detroit is Allen Park, which is somewhere east of the airport but not quite in the river. This should tell you right up front that I have no first-hand knowledge of America's answer to Pompeii. Still, so long as there are live reports like this one from Agent Provocateur, I need not feel as though my life were somehow still incomplete.

(Note: The full article should be considered Not Safe for Some Workplaces.)

Detroit is a modern day Roanoke colony, but there isn't a soul around to scrawl "CROATOA" into the dead pieces of wood that stick out of the ground and pass for trees around here.

Once you get downtown, it becomes readily apparent how Detroit now exists as nothing more than a science experiment of post-industrial urban decay. Scattered pockets of settlers have taken up residence in various locations — the ironically named "renaissance center", the "Fox theater district", which is as much a cultural district as the home décor section of your local Wal-Mart is a "Modern Art Gallery", and Greektown — which is so named because it is the location of a diner specializing in ground lamb that somehow survived the apocalyptic riots of 1967. Venture far away from these unlikely areas of human interaction and you step into a wasteland.

When it comes to urban revitalization, Detroit's city planners seem to have adopted a strict policy of "don't do for ourselves what plate-tectonics and wind erosion may somehow do for us." Honestly, not a single building has been leveled in Detroit since an incident in 1783 involving a drunken French settler and a confused plough ox. When these buildings do finally crumble to the ground, new buildings are put in their place, and white suburbanites poke their heads up like frightened hedgehogs to investigate. Curiosity normally dies down within mere hours, projects are abandoned, and Detroit circle of life is free to start anew.

I'm reasonably certain that it wasn't always like that, but for now, I'm thinking "outtakes from RoboCop."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:54 PM to Dyssynergy )
16 November 2004
Reefer modness

In Beach Party? Is this even possible?

Donna says yes, and she has the screen captures to prove it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:28 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Now in the easy-Fallopian pack

Thirtysomething years ago, George Carlin was cracking wise about prescriptions for contraceptives — "You still need a note to get laid" — and hinted that someday The Pill would be sold over the counter, in which case it would need catchy brand names: PregNot, Nary-A-Carry, Fetus Fail, Poppa Stopper, Womb Broom.

What Carlin didn't anticipate was a spray-on contraceptive, now being readied for testing in Australia. Dawn Eden, noting that application of the new product is ostensibly "as easy as putting on perfume," has proposed more appropriate brand names: Eau de Baron, Sans Fruites, Spéede.

But the last word remains Carlin's, for he did come up with the ultimate name for this hormonal spritz: "Inconceivable." I can see the ads (and the obligatory "fragrance" strips) in Harper's Bazaar already.

Still unnamed: an oft-rumored but never-developed male contraceptive, which, in the best American "More power!" tradition, could be called "SeedWhacker."

Rice is nice (that's what they say)

I've made a point up to now of not mentioning the ascent of Condi Rice to State, partially because I didn't really have anything to say about it, and partially because I have an insane crush on her and didn't want to sound as gushy as I knew I would. (Smart plus beautiful always gets my attention; now imagine those qualities going all the way to 11.)

Still, I've got to echo these sentiments from Dean Esmay:

[A] little slip of a colored chick from segregated Alabama whose father registered Republican because the Democrats wanted him to count the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to be registered to vote.

Now to be the second most powerful person on the planet and maybe — just maybe, not outside the realm of possibility — the next President of the United States.

Is that freaking cool or WHAT?!

Well, I might question that "second most powerful" business — beyond W., how do you quantify it? — and while at State she'd be fifth in line of succession, I can't imagine even the most lunatic leftist wiping out the first four. And beyond 2008, I rather think the private sector will be that much more appealing to her.

Still, it's always a good thing to have someone like Dr Rice to counteract the pathetic "Give us stuff for we are needy and it's your fault" attitude that infects too much of the black community. And for that alone she deserves three, maybe four cheers.

What I really want to see, of course, is her arrival in Riyadh, as described by Lileks:

I want her to go to Saudi Arabia, and I want her first words upon getting off the plane to be "I'll drive."

Now that's freaking cool.

We may as well try and catch the wind

Mike at Okiedoke turns up a tale of turbines and what they can do, and the models suggest that the more we have, the greater the impact on the weather:

For the study, a [virtual] wind farm consisting of an array of 10,000 turbines with rotor blades 50 metres long was set up in a 97 x 97 kilometre area in north-central Oklahoma.

During the course of the experiment, the turbines were seen to trap a cool nocturnal jet of air, present in the Great Plains in Oklahoma, that separated the cool moist air near the ground from the drier, warmer air above.

The bottom line:

During the day, the model suggests that wind farms have very little effect on the climate because the warmth of the sun mixes the lower layers of the atmosphere. But at night, when the atmosphere is stiller, the wind turbines have a significant effect.

At 3 am the average wind speed in Oklahoma is 3.5 metres per second, but it increased to around 5 m/s in the model wind farm. The model also suggested that the temperature would increase by around 2°C underneath the 10,000 turbines. Over the course of a day this averages out to an increase in ground-level wind speed of around 0.6 m/s and a rise in temperature of around 0.7°C.

And without so much as a single extra molecule of carbon dioxide. Imagine that.

Of course, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, and some of us are already buying the output from wind turbines. Still: 10,000 of them? OG&E's commercial facility is using a total of thirty-four, and they're smaller than the ones described in the experiment: 34-metre blades, rather than 50. I'm inclined to think we're going to have to see some serious conversions en masse to wind power before we start to see major atmospheric disturbances.

Then again, every air mass in the world passes over Oklahoma, or so it seems; the cumulative effect might be greater somewhere farther away. Further studies will obviously be needed.

17 November 2004
Up against the Wal

The merger of K mart and Sears, Roebuck, if nothing else, explains the Big K's strategy in the last couple of years: go through Chapter 11, strip away as much as possible, and try to look like you're worth $11 billion.

K mart will continue to operate under its own name in its reduced marketing area. (All the Oklahoma City stores were closed as part of the bankruptcy restructuring.) Whether K mart stores will accept Sears store cards, or vice versa, remains to be seen; Sears also issues a branded MasterCard, which presumably would not be affected, inasmuch as Citigroup acquired Sears' credit-card business last year.

The usual noises about economies of scale and so forth were made, but the real question has yet to be answered: how does the Sears/K mart combination — how, indeed, does anyone — expect to compete with Wal-Mart?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Dyssynergy )
Holy mackerel, Batman

Last time I had dinner with Fritz Schranck, we had seafood. And it was darn good, too.

I would expect, therefore, that Fritz would take a dim view of PETA's latest folly, and sure enough, he does:

Fish are admittedly interesting and fascinating. They also taste great when they're broiled, with a little butter, salt, pepper, and dill weed.

The crux of the PETA argument, per Bruce Friedrich, director of "vegan outreach":

No one would ever put a hook through a dog's or cat's mouth. Once people start to understand that fish, although they come in different packaging, are just as intelligent, they'll stop eating them.

Uh, yeah, right. Fritz?

Neither dogs nor cats are generally accepted as potential dinners by most Americans. On the other hand, for thousands of years pigs have been generally accepted as far more intelligent creatures than either Fido or Tabby. For those same thousands of years, humans have also managed to find ways to eat just about every cubic inch of a domesticated hog.

I'm thinking that Mr Friedrich's insistence on the intelligence of fish is based entirely upon the fact that they are occasionally found in schools.

And, as Dawn Eden says, "If they're so smart, how come they get caught?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
One thirteen

The 113th edition of Carnival of the Vanities is presented this week by Food Basics, and instead of a theme, there's something remarkable: the actual pitch made by the submitter for each Carnival entry.

Yeah, I know, she did this because she was pressed for time, but I still think it's brilliant.

(Disclosure: I actually sent something this week.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:14 PM to Blogorrhea )
Frank Lucas at USDA?

Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK 3) is apparently on a list of candidates to replace Ann Veneman at the Department of Agriculture.

Lucas has announced that he's "not holding his breath," but at least he has some plausible credentials for the job: he's on the House Agriculture Committee, heads up the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development, and Research, and when he's not in Washington he actually farms (and grazes cattle) in rural Roger Mills County.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:19 PM to Soonerland )
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

The Mad Hibernian wonders if that's all there is:

American conservatives rage against the liberal leanings of The New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, the wire services and the major networks, among others. Still, the alternatives tend to be obviously conservative-leaning outlets, such as FOX News, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, New York Post or talk radio. They all have their uses, but is anyone actually in the middle? For those, on either side, who don't like to live in an echo chamber, there is kind of a missing market. Or, in reality, is being truly "fair and balanced" just a pipe dream?

The facile answer: USA Today, which the Hibernian himself cites in his previous paragraph. But USA Today, still reviled by many as "McPaper," is taken far less seriously than any of the outlets which list either left or right — not, I suspect, because of any perceived neutrality, but simply because it doesn't do the sort of long "think" pieces that some people associate with so-called Good Journalism. Indeed, one of NPR's major selling points during semiannual pledge drives is that it does interminably-long stories.

Which invites another question: does digging deeper into a story inevitably open the door to bias? Can you do, say, two paragraphs perfectly even-handedly, only to let your feelings creep into the picture somewhere in the middle of the third? (I'm not saying that this is the average, only that each writer may have a threshold of his own.)

And while I don't buy the notion that everyone in this polarized age is way out there on the edge of the spectrum and no one is in the middle, I do think most people tilt slightly in one direction or another, and to the extent they recognize that tilt — and to the extent that choices are available — they tend to select media outlets that run more or less parallel to that tilt. If choices aren't available (American cities, except for the very largest, tend to have only a single local daily paper, for instance), the tendency is to take what's there and filter according to perceived need.

In some ways, this is no answer at all: "fair and balanced" is in the eye of the beholder. Still, I can't think of any reason why I'd want it anywhere else.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:07 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 November 2004
Bubbling under

Early spring rains are gorgeous: you can see the leaves unfolding, the petals unfurling, the grass responding as the water falls from the sky.

Late fall rains, however, are annoying, especially when they go on for five or six days. Wet leaves compress into a sodden mass that responds neither to rake nor to blower; trees, already drooping, abjectly surrender. And my office is flooded, which does nothing to improve matters. Still, it's worse in Texas.

If there's a bright side to all this, and trust me, there isn't, it's the fact that temperatures have remained well above freezing through the entire period: otherwise, we'd be digging out from under four or five feet of snow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:18 AM to Weather or Not )
Contraindications

If you pop open a package of Cytotec® (misoprostol tablets), you'll get the following information [link requires Adobe Reader]:

Cytotec (misoprostol) is being prescribed by your doctor to decrease the chance of getting stomach ulcers related to the arthritis/pain medication that you take.

Do not take Cytotec to reduce the risk of NSAID induced ulcers if you are pregnant. Cytotec can cause abortion (sometimes incomplete which could lead to dangerous bleeding and require hospitalization and surgery), premature birth, or birth defects. It is also important to avoid pregnancy while taking this medication and for at least one month or through one menstrual cycle after you stop taking it. Cytotec has been reported to cause the uterus to rupture (tear) when given after the eighth week of pregnancy. Rupture (tearing) of the uterus can result in severe bleeding, hysterectomy, and/or maternal or fetal death.

Scene: A conference room at Planned Parenthood. ROESENCRANTZ and WADENSTERN are at opposite sides of the table. Each is thumbing through a copy of the Physician's Desk Reference. There is no sound but the occasional "Hmmm..." from one or the other. And then....

WADENSTERN: This sounds promising.

ROESENCRANTZ: What've you got?

WADENSTERN [reading]: "Can cause abortion, sometimes incomplete, yadda, yadda, yadda... can result in...." Yes! Here it is! "Fetal death!"

ROESENCRANTZ: Outstanding. Let's get Women on Waves on the horn. And see if we can't get some of this stuff for the home office.

A personal note: I have actually taken this drug, which is also sold combined with an anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac sodium) under the brand name Arthrotec®. Once. It made me violently ill. I decided I'd rather take my chances with the ulcers.

(Via the ever-alert Dawn Eden.)

Without further DeLay

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but whatever it is, it's unsavory and distasteful.

Some of Tom DeLay's henchpersons have been indicted by a Texas grand jury, and it's expected, by some anyway, that an indictment of DeLay himself will be returned. In an effort to insulate DeLay from their own ethics rules, House Republicans passed a measure to allow DeLay to remain in his leadership post pending an investigation of some sort.

A mere indictment, of course, proves nothing. But this action makes it a great deal more difficult for the GOP to cast itself in the role of Moral Guardian, a role it never played convincingly in the first place. Whatever happened to avoiding even the appearance of scandal?

I liked James Joyner's take on this:

The bottom line is that we shouldn't change the rules in midstream for the benefit of someone in power. DeLay should come out against the rule change for the good of the institution and it could be made clear that DeLay's replacement is just keeping his seat warm until his vindication.

Which, of course, he didn't, and they didn't.

It doesn't take much to be more ethical than today's Democratic Party. House Republicans, though, have served notice that it's too much for them to bother with. Seldom do I agree with Nancy Pelosi on much of anything, but it's hard to argue with this:

Clearly, the Republicans do not care about the integrity of their party or the poor example they set for the nation. Their action today demeans the work of all ethical, law-abiding public servants.

Or, in the words of GOP stalwart Joshua Claybourn:

There is increasingly very little to separate Republicans from the majority they once overturned.

Meet the new scum, same as the old scum.

Perfunctory coverage

So I'm reading up (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it) on anchor Sharon Reed of WOIO-TV in Cleveland, who doffed her duds for one of Spencer Tunick's, um, live exhibits, and what occurs to me first isn't "Wow, a babe" or "Surely this isn't La Shawn's kid sister" or anything like that.

Instead, I thought back to the first of the year, when the Catherine Bosley story broke, remembered that she had been an anchor in Youngstown, and wondered: Just what is it in northeast Ohio that seems to make women want to take their clothes off? And is the Repository hiring?

19 November 2004
Inconsistent adherent

As a donor to the local classical-music station, I was entitled to one of their bumper stickers, which duly arrived yesterday. I did not actually put it on my car, which bears no such indicia, not even the AAA oval.

But I'm wondering if maybe I should. Generally, when I listen to this station is when I'm at my desk at work, when I need the relatively placid sounds to offset the chaos around me. (Seriously. I mean, even The Rite of Spring is soothing in the context of 42nd and Treadmill.) In the car, I tend to crank up noises which are loud and have three, maybe four chords. Someone stuck behind me in the usual May Avenue melee might suffer some serious cognitive dissonance were he to notice the sticker, pull up alongside, listen for Ravel, and get an earful of Ramones.

Just a thought.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Halleludicrousness

Regular readers, assuming any remain, will be familiar with Dawn Eden, from whom I crib a great deal of material; beyond the simple fact that more often than not I approach this screen with absolutely no idea what I'm going to type and therefore need all the inspiration I can get, I can count on her for a thoughtful, if occasionally heated, consideration of whatever issue has drawn her attention, and very often we find ourselves thinking along parallel — if not necessarily identical — lines. (This is not to say that I'm trying to bring myself more into line with her dating desiderata or anything; it's simply a fact.)

Her New York Post op-ed on the decision by Columbia High School administration to reduce its holiday-music program to the lowest common denominator is of course critical, but there's one paragraph in the middle that really struck a chord. Describing her own days at Columbia, she writes:

Performing in front of the townspeople, I also learned something about the power of inspirational music to bring people together. I knew that the lyrics about the Messiah weren't about my religion's Messiah. Yet I couldn't help but be moved at how Handel's intensely beautiful music, sung by teenagers in intricate four-part harmony, had such an uplifting effect on the listerners, many also not Christian. It was an awesome thing to sing the opening notes of the "Hallelujah Chorus" and see the entire audience rise as one.

This was in the 1980s. Today, the default assumption is that any reference to some religion other than your own — if any — is somehow exclusionary, even coercive. What have we gained? Is anyone other than Michael Newdow happy at the prospect of confining everyone to his own personal spiritual pigeonhole, lest he be exposed to Something Unfamiliar? When did we become the (Sort Of) United Solipsists of America?

Once again, the nebulous desire for "diversity" brings us closer to cultural Balkanization. The melting pot has been replaced, not with a salad bar, but with a row of safety-deposit boxes. And we are the poorer for it.

(Update, 8:15 am: My favorite atheist understands just fine.)

(Update, 11:00 am: The Barista of Bloomfield Ave. digs up the official policy of the South Orange/Maplewood school district [link requires Adobe Reader; the pertinent section is 2270, starting on page 12].)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:07 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The vinyl countdown

DragonAttack mourns the loss of a record store, and not just any record store, either:

I took it for granted that the store would always be there. I figured that eventually I would be able to (at the very least) resume my three dollar a week LP habit. I knew that the store was having problems and I still didn't make enough of an effort to visit during the tough summer months. There are still other places to shop, but they aren't my happy places. They are just stores.

When I was a kid the record store section of the Yellow Pages was fairly large, chock full of both chains and independents. Great American Music and the Wax Museum slowly closed stores over the years and finally disappeared altogether. The neighborhood stores like Positively 4th Street, Groove Monster, Flipside, InZane, Tatters and Platters, and Garage D'or are long, long gone. Now Root Cellar will be added to the list, and I will become an LP collector with no home base. Please shop at your local music store, or this could happen to you too.

Looks like I have some shopping to do.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:14 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Dozers at the ready

Back in April, Powers Nissan in Midwest City was being handed a condemnation order by Oklahoma County commissioners, hoping to clear away areas near flight paths at Tinker Air Force Base and thereby give the Base Realignment and Closure folks one less reason to put Tinker on their lists of bases to close.

Powers sold the property at 8029 SE 29th Street to the county, which leased it back to the dealership for six months so a new location could be sought. The lease is now up, and the county has now given Powers until the end of the month to vacate.

David Stanley Dodge, one block to the west (Midwest City numbering being what it is, they're at 7609), isn't going anywhere.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:16 PM to City Scene )
None too smooth

Andrea Harris wonders when singing styles shifted:

I think I was going to try to write something about the way what used to be called "bad" — and deliberately bad, not just off-key — singing had become in fact an acceptable mode of expressing oneself musically, and to wonder how and why this came about. This phenomenon — the "rough" voiced singing that Janis Joplin — and Bono, and others — mostly use or used has not only become accepted, but has become the preferable singing technique, at least in the rock and MOR pop venues. It is passing strange that smooth, almost Sinatra-esque singers such as Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop ever made it in the rock world, so much has "rough, emotional, authentic, soul" singing been preferred.

I see two possible sources for this particular phenomenon, one black, one white, both raw and ragged.

The earlier of the two is James Brown's "Prisoner of Love," recorded in 1963, a song previously associated with ultra-smooth crooners like Billy Eckstine and Perry Como. The Godfather of Soul couldn't croon if his life depended on it, so he got the song across the only way he could: by scraping away pop boilerplate and replacing it with his own desperate screams. This wasn't the first time Brown had attempted a pop standard — two years earlier he'd given a similar treatment to "Bewildered," another song from the Eckstine repertoire — but "Prisoner" did well enough on the pop charts (#18 in Billboard) to suggest to Brown that he was on the right track. Not that you could have persuaded him otherwise.

It was about this time that Bob Dylan, possessor of another ravaged rasp, was coming into his own as a folkie. What he lacked in tone, he made up for in transcendence: people were willing to listen to his songs even if he sang them. Still, he didn't achieve truly iconic status until the literally-electric arrival of "Like a Rolling Stone," a six-minute track off Highway 61 Revisited that Columbia issued at full length on a 45, an extended workout for both Dylan's cascade of imagery and his porcupine-on-acid half-growl half-whine. After this made Number Two, the boundaries that had defined popular-music vocals more or less faded into the background; conventionally "pretty" voices might be praised, but they might just as well be scorned.

20 November 2004
Hands off

With Kelo v. City of New London on the Supreme Court's docket this term, the city of Anaheim, California is actually taking steps to avoid this sort of thing in the future. City Council Policy #220, as quoted by Xrlq:

It is the policy of the City of Anaheim that the power of eminent domain not be used by the City Council or Redevelopment Agency to acquire property from private parties, for the express and immediate purpose of conveying such property to any other private person or entity for commercial uses, when there is no public purpose for the acquisition except the generation or increase of sales tax or property tax revenues to the City.

In the New London case, about a hundred homeowners in the Fort Trumbull were to be displaced to make room for a new development next to a Pfizer plant. [Insert Viagra joke here.] The city didn't even claim that the properties to be condemned were "blighted," the usual excuse; the homeowners simply didn't produce enough tax revenue to suit the city. The Connecticut Supreme Court, 4-3, upheld the city's use of eminent domain.

Oklahoma City has not always wielded this particular tool with the greatest wisdom; I'd like to see us adopt a rule similar to Anaheim's. And now, while the biggest project on the table is the realignment of the Crosstown Expressway, would be the perfect time to do it.

The debacle in Auburn Hills

Last night, while I was unwinding in a chat room, someone said "You gotta turn on ESPN right now!"

What I saw was appalling enough, but apparently I didn't see everything, and after reading about it, I'm rather glad I didn't. I don't know if this is the biggest fight in sports history — seems to me that European football riots make this little dustup in Detroit look like a middle-school shoving contest — but it's certainly an embarrassment for the NBA.

Payback, to be effective, must be swift and fierce.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:52 AM to Dyssynergy )
Saturday spottings (wheeling)

The stretch of Broadway from 4th to 10th is known as Automobile Alley; at one time it was the home of more than half the car dealerships in Oklahoma City. After World War II dealers began relocating to the suburbs, and today only two auto dealers operate downtown, neither on the Alley (though Mercedes-Benz of Oklahoma City, at 12th and Broadway, is close). Like many near-downtown districts, the Alley has been getting a facelift lately, and while there are still lots of empty vintage buildings, there are signs of serious commerce: a couple of branch banks, an architect, even a CD store.

I was down the Alley today to drop in at Individual Artists of Oklahoma, which has a gallery between 7th and 8th in what used to be the city's Packard dealership. The main exhibit at IAO this month is "Muse America" by Steve Cluck, a collection of paintings and screenprints that celebrate American womanhood at its brightest, or at least its most brightly-colored. Interesting stuff, and there's a ballot box to vote for the Muse you find most inspiring.

And I should point out that the "Alley" name, while it undoubtedly was chosen for the purpose of alliteration, is a prime example of Oklahoma understatement: this section of Broadway is one of the widest streets in town. Its 100-foot width, according to legend, was chosen because it was wide enough to do a 180 in a horse-drawn wagon.

North of the Capitol, construction continues on the Oklahoma History Center, a new home for the state Historical Society and some spiffy new exhibits. And it's about time they did something north of the Capitol; they've cleaned up Lincoln Boulevard's streetscape, but there's scarcely anything left between 23rd and 36th. While I don't particularly miss the rundown commercial district that used to be there, I'd like to see something on Lincoln that doesn't reflect the state government's ongoing edifice complex.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 PM to City Scene )
21 November 2004
Paper or plastic?

It may not matter in San Francisco, where the city is contemplating charging grocers 17 cents per plastic bag in an effort to discourage their use, inasmuch as they're not recyclable or anything, and will charge just as much for paper bags which are recyclable, to avoid the accumulation of waste — and, I suspect, to avoid being charged with discrimination.

The director of Californians Against Waste uttered the following:

One thing we've learned is that sending a financial signal to the marketplace tends to modify behavior much better than voluntary approaches.

Which is interesting, because it's an indication that the minions of the Nanny State no longer find it necessary to jump through high-minded rhetorical hoops in an effort to justify their latest schemes: they're in this to modify behavior, dammit.

And as always with such things, the marketplace does a far better job on its own.

(Via Fark)

(Update, 3 pm: Fritz Schranck suggests a solution.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
Listing to one side

Around 1989 Dave Marsh put out a brillantly-preposterous (or preposterously-brilliant) book called The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. While I buy into his subtext — while music tends to be doled out in album-sized chunks, those "albums" tend to be, in effect if not in actual chart action, singles surrounded by varying quantities of filler — I had some disagreements with his placements. (Then again, who wouldn't?) You can read the list here; I maintain a Marsh-O-Meter here that counts the number of songs on the list that also reside on my shelf or on a hard drive somewhere.

It would never occur to me to make a list of 1001 greatest songs, largely because I'd always wonder what I left off. And that's a lot of songs: none of our troika of "classic"-type radio stations has a playlist exceeding 500 or so. Besides, quality judgments are tricky at best, and the difference between number 438 and number 468 is probably vanishingly small. When Michele put out her list of her Top 100 (of an eventual 500), she listed them "in the order that they came into my head," which is probably as effective a methodology as you're going to find.

While poking around in one of my yet-unpacked boxes, I turned up an old 90-minute mix tape labeled Best of the 60s, which from the looks of it was done about 1996. Let's see what's on here:

  1. The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night" (Marsh rating: 251)
  2. Little Peggy March, "I Will Follow Him"
  3. The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (5)
  4. Martha and the Vandellas, "Dancing in the Street" (115)
  5. Dee Clark, "Raindrops"
  6. Procol Harum, "A Whiter Shade of Pale"
  7. Los Bravos, "Black Is Black"
  8. The Walker Brothers, "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)"
  9. Percy Faith and His Orchestra, "Theme From A Summer Place"
  10. The Jaynetts, "Sally Go Round the Roses" (377)
  11. The Searchers, "Needles and Pins" (239)
  12. The Temptations, "My Girl" (27)
  13. Gene Pitney, "It Hurts to Be in Love" (360)
  14. The Trashmen, "Surfin' Bird" (119)
  15. Jackie DeShannon, "What the World Needs Now Is Love"
  16. The Zombies, "Time of the Season"
  17. J. J. Jackson, "But It's Alright"
  18. Robert Knight, "Everlasting Love"
  19. Tommy James and the Shondells, "Crimson and Clover"
  20. Spanky and Our Gang, "Like to Get to Know You"
  21. The Grass Roots, "Midnight Confessions"
  22. The Crystals, "He's a Rebel" (248)
  23. The 4 Seasons, "Save It for Me"
  24. The Beatles, "She Loves You" (38)
  25. Linda Scott, "I've Told Every Little Star"
  26. The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City"
  27. Lesley Gore, "That's the Way Boys Are"
  28. The Rolling Stones, "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (6)
  29. The Ronettes, "Be My Baby" (20)
  30. Peter and Gordon, "I Go to Pieces"
  31. The Marcels, "Blue Moon" (513)
  32. Del Shannon, "Runaway" (534)
  33. The Shirelles, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" (105)

Side break after #16.

One historical note: I graduated from high school in 1969, and didn't really discover the, um, "heavier" stuff until I went away to college that fall; shortly after, while Top 40 still had some musical validity, most of the significant musical developments took place elsewhere. Today, of course, Top 40 is where you find the least significant music.

Would I change things for 2004? Maybe. Certainly a "Best of the 60s" collection can't possibly include all my favorite songs, which would extend back into the 50s and forward into the 80s, maybe the 90s. But just playing this old tape — I still have the recorder, vintage 1983, on which it was made — brings smiles.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:54 PM to Tongue and Groove )
The new channel 30

After four years, Equity Broadcasting has pulled the plug on its KQOK-TV, an independent station licensed to Shawnee which never quite caught on with its mix of jewelry sales and religious programming. Back in May, Equity signed a deal to transfer the station license to Oklahoma City-based Tyler Media, which operates four radio stations here; Tyler didn't announce at the time what they planned to do with a television license.

Now they have. The call letters are changing to KTUZ-TV, which matches their Spanish-language KTUZ-FM, and the station will be affiliated with NBC's Telemundo network, the second-largest Spanish-language TV service and one which hasn't been seen on the air or on basic cable in this market before. (Rival Univision has no local affiliate but has had a continuous presence on cable.)

Equity, during the time it owned the channel 30 facility, worked diligently to get the station picked up on area cable feeds, and if I understand FCC rules, Tyler doesn't have to renegotiate with cable carriers until existing contracts run out; they'll automatically take over the existing channel (on Cox systems, it's channel 5).

With channel 30 comes the license for a digital-TV facility, which will operate on channel 29.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:11 PM to Overmodulation )
The annoyance of having Ernest

Yours truly has generally believed that Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK 5), were he to leave office, would not, in fact, create a vacancy; his absence, in fact, would probably strengthen the rest of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation.

Apparently he has no qualms about screwing over his fellow Republicans. Yesterday Congress passed a spending bill which had a provision way down in the fine print that would give the Appropriations committee chairmen in both the House and the Senate the right to examine income-tax returns without regard to existing privacy rules, a provision which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called the "Istook amendment."

Congressional Republicans, thoroughly embarrassed, vowed to hold up that spending bill until the provision is struck; Frist went on the Sunday-morning pundit circuit to vow "accountability" against the culprit, though this time he didn't mention Istook by name.

Given what passes for accountability among Republicans in Congress these days, Istook doesn't have anything to worry about; even if he's named as the culprit, some staffer will be sacked and things will be forgotten the next day. But apparently he's wearing out his welcome in his district: running essentially unopposed this year — the Democrats had a sacrificial lamb in place — Istook managed to pull less than two-thirds of the vote. If there's ever a name-brand Democrat in District 5 who can be talked into running... but let's not hold our breath.

(Original story via Joe Gandelman.)

(Update, 22 November, 12 noon: Joshua Micah Marshall notes the differences between Istook's description of the paragraph and the actual text inserted into the bill, and covers Istook's attempt at damage control.)

22 November 2004
Hotter than a couple of rats

Once in a while, I go on an inexplicable CD binge; the half a dozen discs that showed up this week are unusually noteworthy, and I'll be reporting on them over the next few days.

Tahlequah singer Eddie Glenn's eight-song CD Un-PC is literally so: it was recorded on Eddie's Macintosh. And that other meaning of "PC" is given similar disdain. From "Winnebagos":

They take a quarter of a paycheck that's s'posed to be yours
Just to keep the old codgers socially secure
It's keepin' 'em comfortable but keepin' us poor
And they wonder why we drive so fast.
Well, the reason we're runnin' you down, you old fart
Is we're trying to get to Hardee's, Taco Bell and Wal-Mart
To work for minimum wage and take part
In supporting your wrinkled old ass.

Titles like "Right Wing Girls" might be self-explanatory; titles like "Wool Sock" might not be, unless you've endured a few dozen Oklahoma summers.

This is gleefully sick stuff, it allegedly embarrasses Eddie's mom, and some of it is not safe for work. While the minimalist, voice-with-guitar arrangements might smack of "folk" music, I can assure you none of these tunes will ever be covered by the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary.

There's a second album, called Hick Hop, which I haven't heard yet. I suspect, though, it might be just as much fun.

And speaking of those pesky Boomers

Lileks provides one of his classic rhetorical wedgies:

[E]very generation has something that shocks their parents. Today's parents are horrified by games that let 13-year-old boys steal cars and hire hookers. Well, Elvis bothered people in the '50s. We can't really judge; otherwise we'd just be like our parents, and our entire worldview and our flattering self-regard is based on the fact that we are not like our parents. Were they on the Williams-Sonoma mailing list? I don't think so. So we don't forbid our kids to have these games. We do our part by worrying about them loudly in various media outlets. Preferably TV.

Grateful am I that except in the minor areas of mannerisms and quirk level, my children are nothing like me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Next Generation )
The Drab Four

Michele 'fesses up:

I am not a Beatles fan. I do not like the Beatles. I don't enjoy about 90% of their music. I don't like any of their solo stuff, especially Paul's. I don't particularly hate them, I just don't care for the music — save for a few songs.

There was a time when I would have raised my voice in protest. Today, I can barely raise an eyebrow. And while my shelves are groaning with Beatles stuff, released, unreleased and occasionally disavowed, I have to make this clear: it's okay to ignore the Beatles. Yes, it is. By now, it's pretty clear to me that the Liverpool lads didn't revolutionize music so much as they revolutionized the process of music, and even their technical innovations were adaptations of things they found elsewhere.

Concept albums? The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds not only predated Sgt. Pepper's, but McCartney admitted up front that one of the motivations for Sgt. Pepper's was to outdo Brian Wilson. And if you're looking for actual narrative via pop songs, even Pet Sounds is surpassed by the dozen or so singles James "Shep" Sheppard cut with the Heartbeats and later Shep and the Limelites, a continuous chronicle of a love affair that started before "A Thousand Miles Away" and ended some time after "Daddy's Home".

You want a self-contained band that wrote its own material? Think Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

Incorporating non-rock instrumentation? See Holly and Wilson, supra.

Their influence may be incalculable, but it's also extremely nebulous: what made the Beatles distinctive was their willingness to try anything on a record, yet latter-day recordings described as "Beatlesque" generally don't resort to obvious studio trickery. What power-pop groups drew from the Beatles was the basic two guitars/bass/drums instrumentation, a deployment that predates even Buddy Holly.

Eventually you'll find that what really distinguished the Beatles was their sheer market dominance during the first half of 1964, as their fifth single finally broke through in the US and other labels rushed their previously-failed Beatles product to market, resulting ultimately in that anomalous week in April when the Beatles occupied the first five slots of the Top 10. There's nothing wrong with market dominance, but it's hardly a musical influence, especially today, with a market dominated by recordings where actual music is almost an afterthought.

And in the end, they were just a band that cut a number of really good sides — and entirely too many really unlistenable ones. Any pop history must include the Beatles, but no pop history either begins or ends with them.

Red vs Blue with a Golden overlay

Now here's a premise for a "reality" TV show that has some serious potential, courtesy of Lynn S.:

Pick a small group of students — say, two male and two female — from Berkeley and two male and two female students from Oral Roberts University and have them switch places for a whole semester. Pick only juniors and seniors so they would already be fully immersed in their own school's culture.

And then stand back and watch their brains explode them have to deal with levels of cognitive dissonance that scare even me.

I'd watch this. Wouldn't you?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:07 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Land of the freaked

Where have I heard this before?

Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America. An excellent historian thinks Americans are "the most frightening people in the world," and a foremost philologist sees America as "the most aggressive power in the world, and the greatest threat to peace and to international cooperation." Others call America a "pig heaven," "a monster with 200 million heads," "a cancer on the body of mankind."

Novelists, playwrights, poets, essayists and philosophers depict America as the land of the dead. It is a country where sensitive souls are starved and flayed, where nothing nourishes and everything hurts. Nowhere, they say, is there such a boring monotony: monotony of talk, monotony of ideas, monotony of aim and monotony of outlook on the world. One American writer says "America is no place for an artist. A corn-fed hog enjoys a better life than a creative artist." One intellectual maintains that "the quality of American life is an insult to the possibilities of human growth."

2004? 2000? Nope. Eric Hoffer wrote that in 1970; it's in his book First Things, Last Things.

(And John Hudock remembered it, for which I thank him.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:21 PM to Almost Yogurt )
23 November 2004
A pair from Eric

The Eric label goes back about 35 years or so; I have lots of their reissue 45s, which generally sounded better than the small-label originals they managed to license. In the CD era they're a small player, but one with a solid reputation among collectors of Vintage Pop: an Eric release can be counted on for the best possible sound and a surprise or two.

The two most recent Eric CDs, just arrived here, maintain the company's standard. The Hard to Find 45s on CD series continues with Sweet Soul Sounds, twenty tracks of fine R&B wax, some well-known, some hardly known at all. In the latter category is "I'm the Lover Man" by Little Jerry (later "Swamp Dogg") Williams, a song he'd hoped to sell to Frankie Valli, and which came out with a horn chart by 4 Seasons arranger Charlie Calello. Among the bigger hits on hand is "(I Wanna) Testify" by the Parliaments; any similarity to the Parliafunkadelicment Thang is deliberate, since this mid-60s group was led by George Clinton himself and provided the beginnings of both Parliament and Funkadelic. And there's also Doris Troy's "Just One Look," a recording which has generally sounded pretty crummy on CD until now.

One Eric specialty has been producing stereo mixes for recordings generally available only in mono, when they can get their hands on the original multitracks or stage tapes, and Sweet Soul Sounds has three such, of which the most remarkable is "Dry Your Eyes" by Brenda and the Tabulations, which never sounded so clean before.

Dick Bartley Presents: Classic Oldies 1965-1969 has eighteen tracks, mostly somewhat familiar, though "You Wouldn't Listen," an early Ides of March single, is relatively obscure, and Dee Jay and the Runaways' "Peter Rabbit" is more so. Among the better-known tracks are Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale," in beautiful stereo at last, and the American Breed's "Bend Me, Shape Me," for the first time in stereo at the correct speed. (The original two-track tape was speeded up for the 45.)

The artwork is nothing special, though the young lady in fishnets on Sweet Soul Sounds catches the eye; the booklets, though, are informative, and most important, the sound is great.

When will it ever end?

Supposedly, this weather pattern will finally shift about 36 hours from now, and good riddance. Since the 10th of the month there have been maybe five hours that weren't overcast, and we've had close to half a foot of rain, carefully timed to ensure that the rivers remain just under flood stage. My office is wetter now than it was last Thursday when the seepage started.

Of course, this mess isn't about to go quietly. Between now and tomorrow afternoon, we're being threatened with thunderstorms, another couple of inches of rain, and maybe some snow on the way out. It's not going to stick — ground temperatures are way above freezing — but this is the classic example of adding insult to injury.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 AM to Weather or Not )
1PL8 THX

Nineteen states, including Oklahoma, get by with a single license plate, mounted in the back. I don't know anyone here who complains about that, but apparently there's some sentiment among law enforcement for adding a tag up front. Herewith, an Okiedoke quote of a Dallas Morning News column:

"Do I think it?s a good idea? Yes," said Trooper Pete Norwood of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. He used the example of a convenience store holdup caught on videotape. "If you see a vehicle pull in, back up and pull out, you would hardly ever see the back license plate."

And of course your law-abiding convenience-store robber isn't going to do anything to obscure that front plate.

Being the cranky curmudgeon that I am, I persist in thinking that it's bad enough I have to have one plate. And that plate is there as a registration indicator for the state; law-enforcement applications are inevitably secondary.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 AM to Soonerland )
Two out of three ain't bad

Apologies to Mr. Loaf, but this just shocks me:

Peter Jennings still has a job?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 PM to Overmodulation )
24 November 2004
Magnified love 10,000 times

The first American Boyfriends CD appeared in 2001, a mere nine years after the band was formed; a lot of this has to do with the fact that the Boyfriends' rhythm section, bassist Matt Johnson and drummer Eric Harmon, were otherwise occupied for much of that period as members of the Chainsaw Kittens.

It was worth the wait. What Love Can Be... is not by any means a Kittens album; it's a beautifully melodic collection of, you guessed it, love songs, all of them written by Matt Goad and Richard York, power pop at its very sweetest, with instrumental flourishes here and there that simply dazzle. The most exasperating aspect of it, in fact, is that it took me so long to catch up with Oklahoma City's answer to XTC.

Meanwhile, a second CD is in the works. I promise not to dawdle this time.

Ununquaternium

This is the temporary name of element 114, which, unlike most of the other elements way out in the transuranium range, has a halflife of 30 whole seconds. (By contrast, half of your sample of ununbium, element 112, will be gone in 280 microseconds.)

After 114 weekly editions, I think we can safely say that the Carnival of the Vanities has some serious staying power. This week's edition is hosted by Interested-Participant, and is dedicated to our fighting forces. As always, it's all the blog stuff you missed, and even some you didn't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
A pain in the Istuchas

The flap over Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK 5) and his presumed amendment to that House spending bill continues to generate sub-flaps.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) has been showing off a handwritten copy of the dubious amendment, asserting that it proves no Congressional Republican had anything to do with its inclusion.

Cam Edwards' sidekick Farrah, noting that Stevens says the measure had been cleared by senior Democratic staff, suspects a trap:

So that's how the provision was discovered by Senate Democrats so quickly! They knew what they were looking for, and they knew where to find it.

In light of this new information, I can't help but wonder if this was a set up by Congressional Democrats. Certainly Istook and the rest of the Congressional Republicans were sloppy and allowed this provision to be added without their knowledge. I hold them wholly responsible for missing this. But were Congressional Democrats banking on their sloppyness to set them up?

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has apologized to Rep. Istook.

Istook's own statement is here.

Real-life links

A point to ponder, from Syaffolee:

So I was thinking this morning: What's the degree of separation between bloggers in real life? This is totally disregarding linking and blogrolling. If I read about Blogger X but don't know him/her in real life, how many people do I know in real life who knows that blogger in real life?

It seems to me that the original Stanley Milgram experiments would be no less, and no more, applicable to bloggers than to anyone else; bloggers have a wider circle of people who recognize their names — if they give out their names at all — but I tend to doubt that they actually know more people than average. (Certain A-list bloggers may be exceptions, but their real lives, I suspect, are also exceptional.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:36 AM to Blogorrhea )
Red rubber ball

Well, actually, when the morning sun showed up (around half past nine) it was more of a yellow ball, but I wouldn't have cared if it was chartreuse: at least it was there. Two weeks of life in greyscale played hell with both my sense of well-being and, no thanks to humidity in the 95-to-100-percent range, my damaged knee joint.

The reprieve lasts only a couple of days, though. (Dear Mr. Sun: I should have known you'd bid me farewell. There's a lesson to be learned from this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:04 PM to Weather or Not )
25 November 2004
Notes for a Thanksgiving Day

The really nice thing about this day, of course, was that I didn't actually roll out of bed until a quarter to ten, which, while hardly a record, is the sort of thing that appeals to my less-industrious nature. Besides, I was up late — I am never up late on Wednesday night — watching, of all things, C-Span. It was the Claremont Institute's annual Winston Churchill Dinner, taped last Friday, with an address by Rush Limbaugh, who won the Institute's Statesmanship Award this year. And Rush was in top form, the bombast dialed back, the optimism clearly radiating. Yes, he was among friends, and no one was going to ask him any uncomfortable questions, but it was good to hear him in a positive mode, freed from the need to denounce things, even the things that need denouncing. (Which, among other reasons, is why he's a major player in the media revolution, while I languish down here in the backwaters; I don't do positive as well as I do negative, and hardly anyone does negative as effectively as Rush.)

It occurs to me that Thanksgiving Day is a conservative sort of holiday, anyway: a return, however brief, to the days when family came first, and there was some sort of acknowledgment that all this bounty came from somewhere.

I am fifty-one years old today, and if anyone had a reason to give thanks, 'tis I, if only because I'd never expected to reach the point where I could say something like "I am fifty-one years old today." While I mock my lowly position in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that long ago that I was bewailing it; by any reasonable standards, this must be considered an improvement. And while I still yearn, perhaps excessively, for what I don't have, I have learned how to be thankful for what I do have.

By some strange coincidence, "When I Was Young" has spooled up on the CD changer. Eric Burdon is mourning:

When I was young it was more important,
Pain more painful, laughter much louder, yeah.

Forty or so years after the fact, I find myself disagreeing. Pain is just pain; but laughter is what gets me through the day, and the louder, the better.

Thanks for stopping by.

Time and tides

Last time I picked up a CD by Catherine Marie Charlton, I had this to say:

Way back in, oh, October [2001] or so, I made some favorable reference herein to pianist/composer Catherine Marie Charlton and her collection of piano improvisations called Jeweled Rain.

Before there was Jeweled Rain, though, there was Strange Attractors, a spiffy title indeed. In case you've forgotten your physics, as I surely have, systems in nature tend to display one or more of four different types of cycle, known as "attractors", and the variety characterized as "strange" is a process that is confined, that is stable, and yet nonetheless never behaves exactly the same way twice. (If you have a better, or at least more coherent, explanation, please send it in.) The strange attractor, therefore, is at the very heart of chaos theory — and, if you think about it, most forms of musical improvisation. Ms Charlton, who studied acoustical engineering, obviously knows these things, and what is most distinctive about these performances, it seems to me, is the sense of space that she's developed to surround the usual 88 notes. I wouldn't characterize her playing here as "intimate", exactly; there's always a slight, possibly even measurable, distance between my heart and my head, and this is the area to which Strange Attractors, I think, is addressed. This came out in 1995, and I'm sorry I managed to miss it for six years.

River Dawn, her 2001 release, is something else entirely. Billed as "piano meditations", it's an hour-long piece that, says the composer, "is about the creative flow, energy, calm, peace and sense of freedom that entered my life after finding the courage to follow my passion and live my dreams." We should all be so courageous. There are nine CD tracks, but this is not a collection of nine songs; this is an hour to spend in quiet contemplation of who we are and where we ought to be. I worry that this sort of description might get her shuffled off to some sort of New Age pigeonhole, but then again, there are worse places to be.

Which brings us up to The Undershore, her 2004 release, which, true to form, is not more of the same. On many of the tracks, she's accompanied by percussionist J. Jody Janetta and/or flutist Nikkos. The music is intense, even in its quietest moments (say, "The Lonely Cobbler"), and is almost impossible to relegate to the status of "background" music; even typing this seems like an unworthy distraction while she plays. Three tracks are new versions of selections from her earlier albums, and while they're recognizable as such, Charlton's gift for improvisation makes them new again. Most surprising, perhaps, is her variation on the theme of the folk classic "Shenandoah," which moves slowly and deliberately, like the wide Missouri itself.

They say, if you want to get someone's attention, whisper. Catherine Marie Charlton, on these twelve tracks, speaks as softly — and as distinctly — as anyone.

26 November 2004
I won't fly, don't ask me

It's not that I'm suffering from Fear of Flying, which is more precisely described as Fear of Crashing; I've logged tens of thousands of miles over the years. (There was a brief period in my early twenties when I'd flown more miles than I had driven.) But I seldom bother these days. One reason is simple efficiency: except for the World Tours in the summertime, most of my destinations are fairly close by, and while flying is quicker, there's still the annoyance of lining up ground transportation at the destination point. Unless the fare is incredibly cheap — there once was a time when Southwest offered an occasional OKC-MCI (Kansas City) one-way fare for $19 plus tax — it's less of a hassle to drive.

Nowadays, thanks to what passes for increased airport security, flying isn't even that much quicker anymore, at least in the judgment of James Joyner:

The current [security] measures are not only clearly unconstitutional — government agents performing searches without probable cause or warrants — but expensive, intrusive, and aggravating. Further, they take away much of the benefit of flying for shorter trips, since one has to allow extra time for all this nonsense. Indeed, I chose to drive eleven hours from Northern Virginia to the folk's place in central Alabama rather than pay $500 to fly partly because the post-Thanksgiving security at Atlanta was so ridiculous the last couple of years as to make the trip barely faster than just driving.

When they're telling you to arrive at the airport two, even two and a half hours early — well, I can be almost halfway to Kansas City in two and a half hours. And as I've noted before, my car has never once lost any of my bags.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:46 AM to Dyssynergy )
The big Mo

I downloaded the full 1.0 release of Mozilla Firefox (dated 7 November), and it installed without a hitch. I like it fine.

(Update, 2:45 pm: The following paragraph has been superseded — see Comments.)

[O]ne irritant from the pre-release version inexplicably remains: there's still a link for "Mozilla Firebird Help," and it points to a page that's since been moved. I assume this will be fixed at some point, though for some reason I had assumed it would be fixed by now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 AM to PEBKAC )
When Black Friday comes

Conventional wisdom holds that today is the worst, the most hectic, the scariest shopping day of the year.

Which, of course, is wrong. CardWeb reports on MasterCard's research:

The busiest day of the year most likely will occur on Dec. 23 and the busiest hour most likely will be from 2 to 3 p.m. CDT on Christmas Eve. MasterCard also noted that the two Saturdays before Christmas tend to produce more volume than "Black Friday." MasterCard says it processed nearly 33 million transactions on each of the two Saturdays before Christmas — almost a million more than on the day after Thanksgiving.

Maybe I will go to the mall.

(Update, 2:55 pm: If I do, I'd better walk. A spot-check reveals that it's possible to park at Penn Square, if you're willing to wait for someone to leave.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
Visits to the warmer side

I've been following Tanisha Taitt for six years or so, listening to her demos, sending back what feedback I could, and although she's written literally hundreds of songs, only a few have made it out of her Toronto home: a 1999 cassette titled Praylude, and now, at long last, an actual CD.

Overflow is the title, and although Taitt does her composition on the piano, you won't hear her on the keys here; she leaves the instrumental duties here to co-producer Jordan O'Connor, which is forgivable since she's singing all the background vocals in addition to the lead. The final set differs from what was originally planned — "Through the Sun and Rain," which I plugged here, was dropped, along with a couple of others — but it's a strong lineup just the same. Think Joni Mitchell halfway between Blue and Mingus, then overlay with a streetwise Laura Nyro-esque feel for the language, and you have some idea of what Tanisha is about: strongly confessional, yet always giving the impression that there are secrets still to be revealed.

Once I saw Tanisha Taitt listed on one of those artist directories as a writer of songs that "delicate[ly] blend ethereal and soulful, frustrated and thankful." Sounds about right.

(Note: Slightly expanded from the original text.)

Hold the sticky stuff

Am I the only person in this city who ever buys Kellogg's Pop-Tarts in the unfrosted-blueberry variety? Their status as one of the original flavors hasn't done anything to insure their presence on the grocer's shelf; they seem to show up in the stores about twice a year if I'm lucky. Meanwhile, the sickeningly-sweet frosted versions get more shelf space than ketchup, despite their lack of palatability and their incompatibility with my old-style, uncomplicated toaster. (Something in the frosting seems to melt down into a nasty brown slag; for all I know, there could be plutonium in there.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 PM to Worth a Fork )
27 November 2004
The National Blackguard Association

The Armchair Athletes' NBA Boycott (slogan: "53 disgusted fans and counting") has apparenly inspired NewsOK.com's Sally Allen:

Imagine, a sports world minus the whining and wailing — where character counts more than championships — and consumers can make the call simply by changing channels or closing their wallets.

No longer will children's attitudes be poisoned by greedy, egocentric, semi-psychotic athletes and their vicious, bickering, tantrum-throwing tirades.

Gullible parents won't be guilt-tripped into buying $200 basketball shoes packaged in little black briefcases as if to create the ultimate Nike-contract illusion.

And, God willing, no longer will NBA franchise-wannabes be lured to the Ford Center's annual overpriced October exhibition game.

Imagine, worry-free watching of sporting events. Spending quality time with our families sans explanations of wardrobe malfunctions, sexual assault charges, naked women in men's locker rooms and/or reassuring your 10-year-old that four-hour erections most likely won't ever happen to him.

Me, I've had no trouble ignoring the NBA ever since they decided that it was perfectly reasonable to let a team in Utah be called the Jazz. And I speak as someone who once lived in Los Angeles and never once saw a lake.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:54 AM to Net Proceeds )
Saturday spottings (ice and more ice)

With the ongoing success of the New Year's Eve bash known as Opening Night, going downtown during the holidays is no longer considered weird, and each year a few more stops are pulled out to lure folks into the middle of things.

One of the newer, and neater, of the attractions is Braum's Ice Rink, 9300 square feet of ice-skating space in front of the Music Hall. This is the third year for the rink, and it always draws a good crowd; in fact, the city's cable channel trains a camera on the rink to fill the space between programs, and being the clumsy oaf that I am, I marvel at the sheer beauty of it all. People who hate disco should probably avoid it on Friday nights, but otherwise it's a genuine winter wonderland. A semi-complete list of things going on downtown this year can be seen at DowntownInDecember.com.

Meanwhile, out in the jewelry jungle, something of a shakeout is going on. The Berkey Brothers store on the Northwest Distressway reports in its recent advertising that a competitor bought the building and is not renewing the lease, presumably putting Berkey out of business.

In this little part of the jewelry universe, though, you have Gordons, and you have Non-Gordons. The Gordon's Jewelers chain, which goes back to 1905, is these days a corporate sister to Zales. Outside the chain, there is the Samuel Gordon operation, apparently not related to those Texas-based Gordons, which started in 1904; there is also Alan Gordon, a smaller firm that traces its history back to 1878.

The new guy on the Gordon block is Arthur Gordon, who set up his shop in the late 1970s. I remember it being simply Arthur's Fine Jewelry, suggesting that he didn't want to trade on the surname or be confused with those other Gordons, though eventually Art decided to hang his full name out on the shingle. It apparently didn't help, as he's now got going-out-of-business signs hanging up at his store at NW 70th and May — half a mile north of Alan's place.

Still, the jewelry market in Oklahoma City isn't exactly owned by people named Gordon, as anyone who recalls the B. C. Clark jingle will readily testify.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:07 PM to City Scene )
Gordy to the max

In a few weeks, there will apparently be a six-CD set of the complete Motown singles, both A and B sides, including alternate takes as appropriate — Berry Gordy, in those days, had a habit of pulling a track and then reissuing it with revisions to see if it might do better — for the period 1959 to 1961.

There will be subsequent boxes for the years 1962, 1963, and so on, all the way through 1972. This is a staggering amount of music, with, considering it's going to be twelve box sets and more than 50 CDs, an equally-staggering price tag. I have the majority of the chart hits already, but I really don't see how I can pass this up: there are, I know, tracks by big names that I've never heard — the Supremes' "Your Heart Belongs to Me," their first pop-chart record (Motown 1027) in 1962, comes immediately to mind — and more intriguingly, tracks I don't recognize at all. Inasmuch as it was wholly unlike the Gordy machine to issue throwaway tracks on 45, I have to assume that almost everything here is worth having, and will have to exercise the MasterCard accordingly.

28 November 2004
Dark and dank and dismal

Lest you think I was kidding about how grey and gloomy it's been for most of this month, well, the numbers bear me out.

We got our reprieve for the holiday. Now we go back under the clouds and wait to get soaked again.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:19 AM to Weather or Not )
Viaconned

The beautiful and brilliant Michelle Malkin (a phrase I swiped from Francis W. Porretto) has happened upon a copy of a book/DVD combination titled Remembering Ronald Reagan, bearing the imprimatur of CBS News (!), and sees a serious disconnect in the marketing plan:

What head-in-his-derrière editor at Simon & Schuster came up with this idea?! Here is a simple exercise: Draw a Venn diagram of two sets. Set A is the book-buying population that considers Rather, Stahl, and Wallace "respected journalists." Set B is the book-buying population eager to spend money on a positive remembrance of Ronald Reagan and ever-mindful of the MSM's deeply-held hatred for Reagan and his legacy. The result is what even a mathematically-challenged person like me remembers from from grade school...a disjoint set.

Simon & Schuster, I note, has also just released an audio package called The World War II Audio Collection, by unrepentant plagiarist Stephen Ambrose.

And, of course, there's always the question of why anything from CBS News (with a foreword by Dan Rather, natch) would be shelved under "New Non-Fiction."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Nichols' confession revealed

The Oklahoman is reporting today that during the plea negotiations for his state trial, Terry Nichols admitted that he had had a major role in the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, and that he was unaware of anyone else besides himself, Timothy McVeigh, and Michael Fortier who had any connection to the terrorist act.

Who was in on the plot? Nichols stated:

McVeigh did the planning and was involved in all aspects of the bombing, including carrying it out.

I was involved in the gathering and storing of the components of the bomb, the testing of some of the components, going to Oklahoma City on Easter Sunday to pick up McVeigh, and the actual making of the bomb.

As to Michael Fortier, Lori Fortier, or others, I was unaware of their involvement. McVeigh was very careful to make sure that all discussions were held in private between him and I and, it seems, between him and others.

Prosecutors apparently could not use Nichols' statement against him at his state trial, since he did not testify. Judge Steven Taylor had issued a bar to releasing this and other documents connected to the trial; no one has yet said how the statement was disclosed. Oklahoma County District Attorney Wes Lane said he wasn't the leaker, but he wasn't bothered by it either:

Although I had nothing to do with the release of this document, I cannot say that I am disappointed that the public finally gets a glimpse of my frustration with Terry Nichols, and his refusal to tell us where certain bomb-making materials are still hidden, even to this day. There was no point in talking to him any further.

Nichols has been tried twice: first on federal charges, including seven counts of murder, for which he drew life without parole; later, the state of Oklahoma tried him for the deaths of the other 161 bombing victims, for which he drew life without parole. Michael Fortier is currently serving twelve years for knowing about the bomb plot and not telling anyone, for assisting McVeigh with weapons management, and for lying to the FBI after the fact. Lori Fortier, Michael's wife, was never charged. Timothy McVeigh was executed at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana in 2001 for his part in the bombing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:09 PM to Soonerland )
Running a trace

What I know about this neighborhood is not much, really. I know that C. B. Warr, after whom the enclave of Warr Acres is named, developed this subdivision right after World War II; my house, like most of the others close by, was built in 1948. (Other noteworthy happenings in this year: the founding of Israel, the beginning of the Berlin Airlift, the publication of Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, and a Triple Crown win by Citation.)

Which leads to the question: what happened to the original settlers? A 1907 township map shows everything owned, if not necessarily platted, as far north as Wilshire Boulevard. (Townships were six miles square; the boundaries were Wilshire and Reno on the north and south, and May and Bryant on the west and east.) This quarter-section was owned, says the map, by one Halvor Steanson, for whom Steanson Drive (2800 block West, through this neighborhood only) is presumably named; in 1925, Steanson was still listed in the city directory as a farmer, located around NW 45th and May.

Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Texas reports the birth of Kirk Halvor Steanson in July 1955. Grandson, I'm guessing. Did the Steansons sell out to Warr and move to Texas? One of next year's projects will be to find out for sure.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:15 PM to City Scene , Surlywood )
29 November 2004
Three doors down

There's a big SOLD sign on the house up the street, and a traveling storage bin sitting in the driveway. I have no idea if they got the price they wanted, but the important thing is that they got a buyer within a couple of weeks, which indicates that demand remains strong out in this little corner of town.

I expect they'll close right before Christmas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Surlywood )
Pockets of resistance

Dan Flynn, blogging from bluer-than-blue Boston, crosses the river Charles and finds that for some, the election isn't quite over just yet:

At Harvard University, Kerry-for-President signs still hang from scattered windows almost a month after election day. Throughout the city, pro-Kerry messages adorn bumpers. This is no shock — I still glimpse Mondale-Ferraro bumperstickers on occassion. What is a bit startling is some of the more venomous messages I saw while riding the famous 77 bus to Harvard Square. Someone defaced a statue of the Virgin Mary at a church in North Cambridge by spraypainting a feminist "woman" symbol on it. Past Porter Square, a mural of red and white stripes decorates the exterior wall of one shop. This proved too much for some inhabitant of this supposed bastion of tolerance, who spraypainted the words "End U.S. Imperialism" over the painting of the waving flag. At the Harvard Book Shop, a petition titled — no joke — "Freadom v. the Patriot Act" asks customers to protest Bush administration policies. Grafitti on Mass. Ave. leading to Central Square was more blunt: "Kill Bush."

Down here in Soonerland, things are decidedly more restrained, mostly because Bush got two-thirds of the vote, but it would be a mistake to assume that everyone in town is happy with the results: a couple of blocks from my house, I spotted a Stop sign to which someone had affixed a BUSH BELONGS BEHIND BARS bumper sticker.

Then again, it's been more than a week since I've seen a Kerry/Edwards sticker on an actual bumper, but I'm still seeing a smattering of Bush/Cheney stickers. Is this inertia, or is this gloating? Your guess is as good as mine.

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

Cruel and unusual interpretations

Xrlq points to this Los Angeles Times editorial which says, in effect, that employer-sponsored health plans should not be allowed to exclude coverage for abortion because doing so would "shrink the landmark abortion-rights decision Roe v. Wade to the point where there is no need for judges to formally overturn it."

Meanwhile, Xrlq has gone searching for the Constitutional basis for Roe v. Wade, perhaps expecting to find something like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting a first trimester abortion, or prohibiting the free obtention thereof; or abridging the ability to abort a second or third trimester abortion except to protect the life or health of the mother.

Or, lacking that, perhaps this:

A well controlled Population, being to the status of the United States as a First World Country, the right of pregnant women in the first trimester to obtain Abortions, shall not be infringed.

No luck. Now if Congress actually plans to propose such an amendment to the Constitution, which I tend to doubt, I'd recommend basing the wording, not on the First or Second as above, but on the Third:

No fetus shall be quartered in any uterus without the consent of the owner.

Truth be told, I couldn't think of a reason to differentiate between wartime and peacetime, but perhaps that's another issue.

Weaselboy runs for it

Peter Francis-Macrae has been described as, among other things, "Britain's most prolific spammer" and "a slimy ball of crap." He's currently at large, having apparently fled after being charged with a variety of misdeeds, including screwing with Britain's .uk domain registry and phoning in death threats to a telephone operator.

I mention this because earlier in his career, he issued a threat to, well, me. Nothing came of it, as I expected, but this has pretty much always been PFM's M.O., and the thought that he might wind up in the Hotel Greybar fills me with considerable glee.

My thanks to this chap at UserFriendly.org's message board, who was kind enough to send me enough traffic to tip me off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:47 PM to PEBKAC )
30 November 2004
Wheels within wheels

The collapse of Bloghosts has left rather a large number of blogs out in the cold, including some which I read on a regular basis.

One of these was Marcland, which has now been resuscitated under the name Hubs and Spokes. If you've been looking for Marc, this is where you'll find him.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:08 AM to Blogorrhea )
Everything's going to be ok.gov

Just when we'd gotten used to YourOklahoma.com, the state decided it needed a newer new Web site, and presto (actually, probably fairly lento, at least behind the scenes), there was OK.gov.

And already there's a flap over it: the first version of the front page had pictures of, and links to, both Governor Brad Henry and Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, but some time on Day One, the Fallin references had vanished. Since Henry is a Democrat and Fallin is a Republican, this is an open invitation to conspiracy theorists; Fallin apparently complained to Scott Meacham at Finance, who spearheaded the design effort. Meacham says that there should be links for all statewide officials, or for none, and that's the word he gave to the Web designers. (Henry, of course, is still featured prominently.)

Sometimes you just want to scream in the general direction of 23rd and Lincoln.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Soonerland )
Wings over Shanghai

The first Hooters restaurant in China has opened, and while I wouldn't have thought the Chinese would have any particular problems adapting a formula that is "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined", Costa at Population Statistic has identified two potential translation issues.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 AM to Worth a Fork )
What's it worth to you?

Glen Whitman of Agoraphilia proposes incentives for accurate property valuation by taxing authorities:

My parents' property taxes, like those of many homeowners, are constantly rising — not because the tax rates go up, but because the city keeps raising the assessed value of the property. The assessed value is almost certainly higher, probably a lot higher, than what the property could actually sell for on the open market. The government-employed assessors naturally have an incentive to overestimate the value of property, because doing so boosts revenues.

So here?s my proposal: Any property owner whose property is subject to a tax based on a government-assessed valuation should have the option to force the government to purchase the property at, say, 97% of the assessed value. This would give the state a strong incentive not to overvalue property, since whenever it did so, it could be faced with the losing proposition of buying at above-market value and then selling at actual-market value.

Why 97 percent?

[T]he buy-out percentage would need to be set low enough that if the state?s assessment were approximately correct, most property owners would still choose to sell in private markets.

Makes sense to me. I don't think this particular problem is rampant where I live — Oklahoma County has most recently valued Surlywood at $70,172, which is a bit less than I paid for it a year ago, and the current US News and World Report claims (in a chart that isn't reproduced in the Web version of the article) that home prices in this market rose 17.4 percent in the past year. More to the point, the 5-percent cap on assessed value goes into effect next year on this property, unless I sell. (Fat chance.)

Still, I keep hearing from family members in places like Austin that their property taxes have risen not only out of sight but out of telescope range, and increased valuation, they say, is the culprit.

(Via Jane Galt.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:23 AM to Dyssynergy )
A matter of degree

The difference between a mere misfortune and an actual calamity, according to Benjamin Disraeli:

If Gladstone fell into the Thames, it would be a misfortune. But if someone pulled him out again, that would be a calamity.

In a suggested update to this Vent, a reader, in addition to pointing out that the first WTC attack should have been included among the "terrorist attacks," recommended I include also the construction of the United Nations facilities in New York.

I demur — at the time, it didn't seem so — but if the UN (the organization, not necessarily the buildings) should ever collapse, I plan to list it as a "public service."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:48 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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