Woman of influence

Four years ago today, Benazir Bhutto, the first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim state, was assassinated; an al-Qaeda minion claimed responsibility, but few, in and out of Pakistan, seemed to believe him.

That very day, a picture of Bhutto turned up in my browser cache, and I filed it away; I stumbled across it again last night while scrounging for Rule 5 material. I was reluctant to use it, not entirely sure that it was genuine.

Eventually I found an image from a newspaper in Montenegro that used the photo, but I was still a bit uneasy.

Bhutto family with Indira GandhiThen this showed up in a tab:

We can see where Benazir’s head was at here. She’s 18 and makes a small effort to wear a tunic but the flip in her hair and the “Free to Be You and Me” feel of her bell-bottomed outfit say more about the West than the East. It’s like she’s doing California doing India. Mrs Gandhi’s hair says she has better things to do than henna and primp. And Zulfiqar’s suit clearly echoes his time studying at Oxford. In other words: western and secular.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, of course, was Benazir’s dad, then the President of Pakistan.

Which brings me back to this photo, which surely dates to her period of self-exile in Dubai, from 1998 until the fall of 2007, when she thought she’d struck a deal with Pervez Musharraf. In Dubai, perhaps, you can get away with this:

Benazir Bhutto in later years

Which means she was somewhere between 45 and 53, and that particular set of numbers was finally what persuaded me to run the photo: she was within a few months of my age.

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And then there was one

Former Tulsa Tribune staffer Jeff Kauffman remembers the last days of the Joint Operating Agreement between the Trib and the Tulsa World:

Society changed, technology changed, and the JOA that helped both papers for so long became a critical lifeline for the Tribune and a lead anchor for the World. The agreement was set to expire in 1997, but negotiations had to begin five years prior.

The World’s management did its homework, saw the same surveys that showed that people had begun to depend on the local paper for the local story, preferring to get national news from cable programs and evening broadcast news. To face the competition, new computer systems were required, modern presses were needed to bring photographs and graphics to life. Changes had to be made and the Tribune was in no position to dictate conditions.

Jerry Pogue, who’d worked at both papers, told it this way:

“The World said, ‘We have no intention of negotiation. You can close up shop now, or you can wait and die.'”

Then again, says Kauffman, perhaps the Trib died at the right time:

When the Tribune closed, there wasn’t the Internet to compete with for eyeballs and ad revenue. The Tribune staff didn’t have to endure the round after round of layoffs that would have been inevitable. It never fumbled with clumsy online versions, trying to mash a square paper in the round hole of the Internet. Its standards for journalism, story telling, accuracy, and adherence to style were high until the end. It won awards and it revealed crooks and it made a difference in the community. What more could you ask from a local newspaper?

From my own archives:

In the Tribune’s last op-ed, Ben Henneke, president emeritus of the University of Tulsa, once a World staffer, mused:

“I know many of the editorial staff at the World. They will try to be evenhanded, fair, impartial, wise and many-voiced. In the future it will be volitional. It was mandatory when there was a Tribune.”

I suspect I’m one of the last people on earth who actually prefers an afternoon paper. (Opubco put the Oklahoma City Times out of its misery in 1984.) Then again, it’s not like anyone consults me on such matters.

Further exploration: The last days of the Tribune.

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A hundred years from now

Bill Quick started up Daily Pundit on Christmas Day 2001, which is widely regarded as a Good Thing. And I’d love to know the definitive answer to this question he poses:

It’s been a hell of a ride. I’m looking forward to another hundred years of it, and hope you are, too. I just wonder how I’ll be delivering the free ice cream a century from now, though.

Assuming that yes, he’ll be around in 2111, here are the Top Ten ways the Blogosphere (a term Quick put to good use) will be different:

  1. Mommybloggers will be supplanted by Grannybloggers
  2. Amish go electronic, will set up videoblog called “TheeTube”
  3. A sample of Gutenberg’s DNA will be used to create a clone, which will then demand royalties from the by-then-defunct Movable Type platform
  4. Mickey Mouse will finally be out of copyright
  5. Top-level domains with fewer than 11 letters will no longer be offered
  6. Google “upgrades” your thermostat
  7. Glenn Reynolds Enterprises charges 21 cents to use the word “Heh”
  8. WordPress will actually figure out how to maintain a database with a minimum of overhead
  9. Al Gore is burned in effigy for inventing the Internet
  10. Robert Stacy McCain will get invited to a convention

Disclaimer: Whatever disclaimers may be necessary in 2111 are herewith invoked, just in case.

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Where have all the buyers gone?

Each week, The Week has a two-page spread called “Best Properties on the Market,” usually with six or seven homes (or whatever) scattered hither and yon, including price information and contact person. And at the end of the year there’s “Best Homes of the Year,” featuring earlier Best Properties and what happened to them.

This year, what happened to them is not pretty: of the seven Best, only two have sold, and of the five remaining, four have had their prices cut. The biggest drop: a 146-acre spread near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, including a four-bedroom house designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen. The $4.9 million price tag has shrunk to $3,450,000. Wheeler & Taylor has the listing for this property. I don’t really expect any of you to show up in the Berkshires with a hatful of cash, but hey, I’m just doing my part for the realty-based community.

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A Wolf hunt of sorts

After the Orlando game, I said something to the effect that “the T-Wolves don’t figure to be the patsies they were last year.” And they didn’t; Minnesota was never out of this game — “a grinder from the start,” said radio guy Matt Pinto — until 0:03, when Kendrick Perkins put the kibosh on a Michael Beasley jumper and then calmly sank two free throws to put it just out of reach, 104-100.

This was Ricky Rubio’s debut, and whatever the Wolves wound up paying for him, it was worth it: the man is harder to track than the Higgs boson. He didn’t score a lot in 26 minutes — six points — but he served up six assists and pulled in five rebounds, eluding Thunder defenders all over the court. And while the Minnesota long-ball game was largely thwarted, Beasley and Kevin Love simply switched to shorter shots and rolled up 46 points between them. With this much going on, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were going to have to switch to Batman and Robin mode.

Which they did. KD had 33 points, Westbrook 28, and they drew fouls from all over, sinking all 15 of their free throws. Which is a good thing, because fouls were being called left and right all night — except when they weren’t. (Dallas expat J. J. Barea evidently is going for Best Supporting Actor.)

But look at this by quarter:

OKC  23  29  26  26  104
MIN  24  22  26  28  100

Nobody had time to dominate anyone else, not even the Dynamic Duos on both sides.

One night off, and then another back-to-back: at Memphis Wednesday, and at home against the Mavericks on Thursday. Here’s where we find out if last year’s Grizzlies were a fluke. (Hint: They weren’t.)

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And to think we mock Metta World Peace

The former Daniel Knox-Hewson, twenty-three, has changed his name via deed poll to Emperor Spiderman Gandalf Wolverine Skywalker Optimus Prime Goku Sonic Xavier Ryu Cloud Superman Heman Batman Thrash.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see his monogram. And the same goes for his best bud Baron Venom Balrog Sabretooth Vader Megatron Vegeta Robotnik Magneto Bison Sephiroth Lex Luthor Skeletor Joker Grind (previously the somewhat more prosaic Kelvin Borbage).

Whether these somewhat-contrived names will stand the test of time remains to be seen; no one, for instance, seems to remember composer Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm.

(Note: “Metta World Peace” is the artist formerly known as Artest, as in Ron Artest, as in Los Angeles Lakers.)

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His name was never mud

First, The Song:

You wouldn’t know it from the mono clip, but that song was recorded in 10-track (!) way back when. The existing stereo mixdown is, um, kinda weird.

From the liner of the one and only Music Machine LP (Original Sound, 1966):

You have just purchased a most unique machine. It has five moving parts but uses no oil. It runs on high-octane acceptance. Its components are soul, unity, communication, and originality. It will never clang, rattle, ping, knock, hiss or break down. Occasionally it will hum, though intricate and precise are by no means delicate. From time to time, this machine may require a tune up, but at no expense of inconvenience to the consumer. Major or minor adjustments are possible only through the developing factories or Original Sound. These adjustments are unnecessary however, your machine is flexible yet solid and made to last.

Eventually, four of those five parts moved on, leaving Sean Bonniwell to carry on. He kept the Music Machine name, sticking his own in front of it, for one more album, then disappeared into soft-rock oblivion. (Yes, he could do that sort of thing; he’d started out as a Sensitive Folkie, after all.) An autobiography (Beyond the Garage) appeared in the 1990s.

The story apparently ended Saturday with Bonniwell’s death in California. I didn’t hear about it until Sunday, through this Holly Cara Price tweet. Music Machine bassist Keith Olsen went on to produce a few zillion albums; the other members seem to have dropped out of sight. Still, there’s The Song, and it’s not going away.

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We toll you once, we toll you twice

The Feds impose an excise tax of 18.4 cents on every gallon of gas. In the past, I’ve suggested that this might be bumped up a bit. A recent poll, though, indicates that I’m very much outnumbered:

58% prefer tolls to pay for new lanes or highways compared to 28% for increased gas tax, according to a recent Reason-Rupe (R-R) poll of 1,200 people. There’s 77% opposition to raising the federal gas tax and only 19% support. 65% of people think federal gas tax money is spent ineffectively to 23% who think it is well spent.

A clear majority according to the R-R poll support tolls — 59% — when they save drivers a “significant” amount of time. There’s 57% support for converting HOV lanes to HOT.

(Full report in PDF format here.)

Update: Not applicable in Georgia.

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Presenting the lovely Kitty White

Celebrity culture has grown to such an extent that anyone who’s ever had a word with Ryan Seacrest is now deemed a “star.” So it’s somewhat heartening to see that the editors of Elle’s Taiwan edition have given a cover to someone who is legitimately a household word:

Hello Kitty on the cover of Elle Taiwan

Considered vis-à-vis her main competition, Kitty is arguably not a sheer force of nature, but I suspect Kitty’s probably easier to dress than Miss Piggy, no small consideration for a fashion mag.

(Oh, and Kitty White is apparently her real name.)

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Strange search-engine queries (308)

It’s Boxing Day, so let’s pull back the cardboard flaps for just a moment and see what’s hiding in the server logs.

six pack precision:  You should insist upon it: after all, you paid for more than 5.87 units of beer.

wireless lace bra victoria’s secret:  Even with a double D, you should not expect 3G speeds.

partilly bra girl:  She’s the one with the, um, iPad.

“hype is the death of all”:  Were that the case, we’d never have made it to Super Bowl XLVII.

conjectulation -premature:  I’m sure there’s an ointment, or something, for that.

“why would we want to have a whole bunch”:  As the guy from Lay’s Potato Chips used to say, betcha can’t eat just one.

mitsubishi car spoilers:  Some say a car is spoiled just because it’s a Mitsubishi.

elvira wardrobe malfunction:  Hardly. That’s what they were originally designed to do.

gwen stefani tech:  You’ll notice that her wardrobe never malfunctions, either.

Wilderness Dreams Women’s Thongs & G-strings:  Methinks your subconscious is having a malfunction of its own.

landrover douchebags:  You’re more likely to see them in Range Rovers, actually.

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White Kryptonite

By no means is the Orlando Magic a one-man operation, but bottling up Dwight Howard puts that much more pressure on the rest of the roster, and in years gone by, the only way the Thunder could contain Howard was with the double-team. No more. Kendrick Perkins is one of the few centers who can go one-on-one with Howard, and while Superman got his usual allotment of rebounds — fifteen — he was held to a Clark Kent-like eleven points, and the Thunder sent the Magic home to the tune of 97-89.

Maybe Howard was distracted with all that trade talk. I don’t know. But Perk had no trouble getting his goat, at the expense of a technical. Other Magic men stepped up: Ryan Anderson hit six of twelve treys and reeled in ten boards, and Jameer Nelson had a pretty good night. But the second unit was fairly ineffective, with the exception of Von Wafer, brought in with nine minutes left, who hit both his shots from the field and five free throws. Probably a good thing he didn’t start.

Scott Brooks is still throwing curves through the rotation, bumping Kevin Durant to power forward now and then while finding minutes for ten players. Still, KD was out there for 37 minutes, pulling in 30 points, though he had a bad night at the foul line: six for eleven. Fortunately, James Harden, bidding for Sixth Man of the Year, took up the slack, hitting ten of twelve and contributing 19 points. (The entire Orlando bench had 25.) Interestingly, both KD and Russell Westbrook served up six assists; I’m thinking Brooks has finally gotten the word out on movement with and without the ball, since I don’t recall any moments when people were just standing there, an occasional issue last season.

This abbreviated season is going to be very wearying, I have a feeling. There are five games this week; even as we speak, the Thunder are headed north to Minnesota, where the T-Wolves don’t figure to be the patsies they were last year. Still, if we can take Superman, we ought to be able to take anyone.

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The peace process

(Note: Originally posted Christmas Day 2001.)

Most of the time, day or night, you can turn to one of the news channels and see footage of people killing one another, or heads of people talking about people killing one another. And if you do this often enough, you might conclude that peace as a concept is as remote as Neptune, and as unlikely to be reached in your lifetime.

And this conclusion works, sort of, if you are inclined to define “peace” as something contingent upon the absence of war. In which case, erase “Neptune” and replace with “Betelgeuse”: man’s inhumanity to man is a seemingly-permanent feature of the landscape, at least to the extent that man himself is a seemingly-permanent feature of the landscape.

But it’s not every man, on either end of that equation. Like so much else, peace, as a process, must begin with the individual. And peace on an individual level is more complicated. Life itself is fraught with conflict: things just refuse to fall into nice, neat little patterns we can follow by rote. At some point, we are faced with questions as basic as “Should I stay or should I go?” Can you just walk away? Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can’t.

When I was younger, so much younger than today, a radio station once had the temerity to follow John Lennon’s “Imagine” with his “Working Class Hero”, a mordantly bitter tune that demonstrated pretty convincingly, at least to me, that the lightest and brightest of dreams could — maybe even had to — coexist with fear and loathing and disillusionment. Finding a balance therein is, I think, one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I suspect it will take me the rest of my days. But it’s a conflict from which I cannot walk away.

A short time later, I was in the Army, and during this time I had some cards made up which identified me as “Specialist, United States Peace Force.” Unofficial, of course. Some noted — some will note, even today — that I wore a uniform and carried a rifle (and sometimes more), and that by so doing, I belied my own self-description. I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now. The argument that you should never, ever strike first is awfully close to the argument that you should never, ever take vitamins. I don’t know any homeowner who will say, “Aw, let’s give the termites a chance.” If conscience demands, as it will, that we think things over before we commit ourselves to some frightful war in the Middle East, it demands also that we consider the consequences should we walk away.

Peace on the individual level: “Can you live with the decisions you have made?” I’m working on it. And thank you for working on it for yourself.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled greeting-card sentiment.

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As David E. reaches 4500 rpm

An item from Jack Baruth’s Christmas list:

Let’s get Car and Driver and Road & Track off the newsstands. And AutoWeek while you’re at it. Seriously. Those of us who remember these magazines in their prime (not that AutoWeek ever had a prime, but you get the idea) are just depressed by reading them now — and the younger drivers don’t care. Close their doors and give existing subscribers, none of whom paid more than $6.95 a year anyway, their choice of Grassroots Motorsports or Shaved Asians to finish out their terms. Reading these once-great magazines now produces the same uncomfortable feeling I had when I heard that Jaco Pastorius had died in a gutter. Let’s make the dignified choice.

Well, actually they found Jaco badly injured in a gutter; he died, comatose, ten days later. The bouncer who had bounced him thence served a brief jail term.

Oh, and I paid a whole ten bucks for C/D last time around. Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention.

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The 38th of Cunegonde

Last year, Russia cut back from eleven time zones to nine. These guys argue in favor of cutting back to zero:

[W]e recommend the abolition of all time zones, as well as of daylight savings time, and the adoption of atomic time — in particular, Greenwich Mean Time, or Universal Time, as it is called today. Like the adoption of a modern calendar, the embrace of Universal Time would be beneficial.

For example, the adoption of Universal Time would give new flexibility to economic management in the vast East-West expanse of Russia: everyone would know exactly what time it is everywhere, at every moment. Opening and closing times of businesses could be specified for every class of business and activity. If thought desirable, banks and financial institutions throughout the country could be required to open and to close each day at the same hour by the world time. This would mean that bank employees in the far East of Russia would start work with the sun well up in the sky, while bank employees in the far west of Russia would be at their desks before the sun has risen. But, across the country, they could conduct business with one another, all the working day.

Then again, the Chinese (does anybody else?) really know what time it is: the whole enormous land mass is considered to be in a single time zone (UTC+08:00), though it’s wide enough for five.

Messing with the clock, however, isn’t quite enough:

We propose a new calendar [pdf] that preserves the Sabbath, with no exceptions. That calendar is simple, religiously unobjectionable, business-friendly and identical year-to-year. There are, just as in [George] Eastman’s calendar, 364 days in each year. But, every five or six years (specifically, in the years 2015, 2020, 2026, 2032, 2037, 2043, 2048, 2054, 2060, 2065, 2071, 2076, 2082, 2088, 2093, 2099, 2105 … which have been chosen mathematically to minimize the new calendar’s drift with respect to the seasons), one extra full week (seven days, so that the Sabbath is unaffected) is inserted, at the end of the year. These extra seven days bring the calendar back into full synchrony with the seasons. In place of Eastman’s 13 months of 28 days, we prefer 4 identical quarters, each having two months of 30 days and a third month of 31 days.

Is this extra week to be dubbed December 32 through 38, or is it just, you know, there?

Of course, the true horror of this scheme, from my point of view, is that it makes February even longer, and who the hell needs that?

(Via Fausta’s blog. Title poached from the Firesign Theatre.)

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Still more songs in the key of me

The third collection of songs that made me what I am today, whatever that may be.

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And what a night it was

Monday night on Leno: Sandra Bullock, resplendent in what may be my favorite shade of blue, and Diablo Cody, almost certainly about to crack everyone up.

Sandra Bullock and Diablo Cody on the Tonight Show

This is one of those moments that plays hell with my Crush-O-Meter: I’m never quite sure which way it’s going to deflect.

Update: Laura asked about the shoes, so…

Sandra Bullock and Diablo Cody on the Tonight Show

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