1 January 2003
To help ease the pain of that abrupt shift from 2002 to 2003, Solonor's Groovy Grove of Mystical Wonders is providing the appropriate shade for this week's Carnival of the Vanities. For those keeping score, this is installment #15.
And speaking of ongoing features, there's a new Vent. For those keeping score, this is installment #323.
Not ready to face the light
Well, I'm not, but Andrea Harris certainly seems to be: she's blogging at a new address in Spleenville under the title Too Much to Dream.
Very much on a human scale
One of the reasons I have resisted getting a pet is that I know the poor creature's time on earth is short, and dealing with the end of that time is likely to cause me the sort of emotional upheaval I would prefer to avoid it's not exactly like losing a family member, but it's close enough.
A couple of weeks ago, Alan Sullivan described the last few hours of his beloved retriever:
I kneel to rub her head and neck, then I press my cheek against the soft fur of her shoulder. Long and rangy for a Labrador, Maud has shrunk from a robust eighty pounds to a gaunt sixty. Her limp flews tremble with pleasure at my attention, and the rotten teeth chatter. Those teeth are her bane. She can scarcely eat any more, and she wouldn't survive another major round of dentistry.
All right, I'm rationalizing. And I keep thinking that Steve or someone else might contemplate similar rationales over me some day.
The vet comes in three hours.
I had read that when it was a new entry, and I promptly put it out of my mind alongside the other things I'd rather not contemplate. And it stayed there until yesterday, when Bill Peschel reported on the death of the family's senior house cat:
Ever try to explain to a five-year-old girl about death? It wasn't pretty. Nor to hold your 12-year-old son, who grew up with the cat, as he's sobbing into your chest, full of understanding that, eventually, we all go, and that, if he's lucky, he'll get to bury his mom and dad before he, too, shuffles off into eternity.
There really isn't anything else I can say after that.
2 January 2003
Kind of a drab
An old friend of mine used to sign into the local dialups as "Dull N. Boring". (I asked him once, "What's the N for?" "Null," he said.)
Mr Boring has no real input into this site, but clearly it is informed by his spirit: on the splendid table that is the Blogosphere, I'm purveying, at best, a can of sub-Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee pasta-like substances. A dented can, at that. Still, this isn't the dullest Web site in the world it's only a tribute.
(Muchas gracias: LilacRose, now in new digital digs.)
A few good men
Sometimes I schedule a book for future reading on the basis of the title, and the title doesn't have to resonate positively, either; Barbara Dafoe Whitehead's Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman, a title I would love to hate on general principle, will simply have to be read.
In the meantime, the author has been interviewed for Atlantic Unbound, and some of her observations did strike me at, um, interesting angles.
Several women mentioned that at times in their life they felt that their intelligence or intellectual achievement seemed to work against them in their romantic relationships with men, but most women felt that there were some men "out there" who would be attracted to smart women. The problem was finding them.
The inference, as I see it: all else being equal, we guys would prefer to be the brains of the operation. This is certainly true of some of us; historically, I have often been drawn to women of greater intelligence than mine, but there's always that nagging thought in the back of my mind: "If she's that smart, what in the world would she want with the likes of me?" The author does in fact touch upon this phenomenon; asked if some men felt they "were being spurned because they aren't impressive enough", she replied:
[S]ome men did, yes, but they tended not to be four-year college graduates. They were guys who were not quite so well-educated and felt that many women looked down on them.
I think there's more to it than that I don't think I'd be any more desirable (or, more precisely, any less undesirable) with a sheaf of postgraduate degrees but frankly, what would a plumber have to say to an art historian? Or, for that matter, what would an art historian have to say to a plumber?
[T]he standard for someone who you'd want to spend your life with hinges much more today on emotional intimacy. It takes some trial and error and a pretty prolonged and dedicated search to identify the kind of person who is emotionally in sync with you and who is able to communicate and listen to trouble talk.
And when there is a perceived socioeconomic gulf, the ability to communicate becomes even more critical; the lack of common experience means that more often than not they'll be scratching around for conversational topics. According to the standard stereotype, men don't really want to talk about things, and maybe there's some truth to that, but the man who can't talk, I suspect, is no real improvement over the man who won't talk.
Women, I have always believed, have a Mate Template of sorts, and whether a man has any chance with her depends on how closely he conforms to the standards she has proposed. Some points are more negotiable than others, and perhaps some won't budge in the slightest, but ultimately, what determines the course of the relationship is how much she's willing to compromise on that template. (Men's selectivity is somewhat less linear, I think.) I don't want to get all Mick Jaggery here, but he was right: you can't always get what you want. Still, some do seem to get what they need.
3 January 2003
It's not easy being screened
Millions of people at America's airports. How do you determine who's just a passenger and who's a terrorist? The new IMAO Frank Test for Terrorists avoids the hemming and hawing and cuts directly to the ten questions that need to be asked. What's more, the Test prescribes a quick and effective means of removing terrorists once identified:
If the test reveals the person to be a terrorist, proper procedure should be for the ticket taker to pull out a gun and unload it into the person while shouting, "Take that, you dirty terrorist!" I know that if I see a terrorist gunned down in front of me just before boarding the plane, I'll feel much safer.
I think he'd feel even safer seeing two of them thus ventilated, assuming they travel in pairs, but certainly this is a start, and let's face it: you don't get this kind of innovative thinking from the likes of Norm Mineta.
You're working in a software package, and at some point you encounter a dialog with a single option: Exit Program. What do you do?
If you said anything other than "exit the program," you probably work here.
Record label gets clue, film at 11
The legendary Vox label has released some 5000 recordings since its birth in the late Forties, and very few of them are available on Compact Disc. Shoving a lot of reissues onto the market is expensive and carries no guarantee of any return on investment. What to do? Vox's answer is Vox Unique, a service by which someone from Vox will go pull a master from the archives and run you off a copy on CD-R for twenty bucks (thirty if it takes two of them). No liner notes, scant artwork, but I suspect a lot of these will go to people who have worn out their old Vox (or Turnabout or Candide) LPs, who already have the pertinent information. And if you've always wanted a copy of Kissing, Drinking and Insect Songs (the Sine Nomine Singers, on Turnabout 34485 from about thirty years ago), now's your chance.
(Via Hit & Run)
The road twice taken
Those wonderful folks at Blogcritics come up with some truly excellent original material.
And then there's their new link button, which says "You're entitled to our opinion," which is also truly excellent, but which, alas, is not original.
Oh, well, you can't have everything.
4 January 2003
North Korea's born-again Stalinists have been making trouble lately, and the Bush administration hasn't come up with much beyond "You break your end of the nuclear agreement and you expect us to pay you for it?" A reasonable response blackmail is not something to be encouraged, after all but probably not enough to banish Kim Jong Il to the back burner.
Even the Democratic Leadership Council thinks this is a reasonable response, but they balk at the notion that the US can go it alone:
[T]he Administration needs to abandon the unilateralism of past policy towards Pyongyang and quickly engage South Korea, Russia, China and Japan in regional talks aimed not only at containing but in reducing the perennial danger posed by a bankrupt state with loopy leadership and loose nukes.
These five-way talks should begin with ensuring the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear program, but should quickly encompass a broader deal in which U.S. troop levels in South Korea are scaled down in exchange for a stand down of North Korean artillery and rockets aimed at its neighbor. Moreover, the talks should focus on a deeper solution to North Korea's economic problems that will not leave Pyongyang perpetually rattling a saber with one hand and rattling a cup with the other. Economic assistance from the United States or from anywhere else should be made strictly conditional on two things: an end to North Korea's one big export program dangerous weaponry and an agreement to emulate China's free enterprise and trade zones, opening up a semi-medieval country to fresh winds of change and genuine economic development.
I have some qualms about this. Were I to recommend free-enterprise role models, I think China would be fairly low on the list; while there are plenty of proper money-grubbing capitalist dogs making actual money, Beijing still seems be obsessed with the glory days of being the Protector of Albania and other counterproductive Maoist memories. Still, if anyone can get Kim's attention, it's the Chinese. Which makes me wonder: why drag Japan and Russia into this?
Anyone who read this log on the first of December (I know there must be at least three of you) noticed that I had mostly kind words for Shania Twain's Up!, with perhaps a hint of puzzlement over the necessity for separate green (down-home Nashville) and red (pop-rock somewhere between Abba and Def Leppard) and blue ("world music" for issue outside the US) mixes of the nineteen songs.
I have now seen the video for the first single, "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" And I should not have been surprised to observe that the version played on CMT seems to contain almost, if not exactly, the green mix, while VH1 has a copy with the red mix. And I can appreciate the marketing effort here, but turn down the sound and actually look at the silly thing, and you'll witness a lame retread of themes that looked absurd twenty years ago in Tron. The whole thing reeks of "Well, we've got more money than God, let's spend some of it."
Dear MTV (yet another Viacom outlet): It's about time for Shania: Unplugged.
Which, of course, refers to the OTC stock symbol for something called Titan Technologies, Inc.
As for TITT itself, it's selling, as of this moment, at twenty cents a share, and the tout says that it "can easily reach $2.00 in a very short period of time." (Emphasis in the original.) Maybe it can, but I see no reason to be hopeful.
The ragtag bunch of losers known as the Earth Liberation Front (no link; I have some standards) is claiming responsibility for setting jugs of gasoline under six sport-utility vehicles at a Girard, Pennsylvania dealership and igniting them. Three SUVs were destroyed; three jugs failed to ignite.
What I want to know is this: Why in the hell are these people wasting fossil fuels? Don't they read their own propaganda?
(Muchas gracias: duckboy online.)
5 January 2003
And now, the news
Radio station KOMA has been vending oldies for some time now, both on FM and on AM. It's not purely a simulcast: the AM breaks away for five minutes of CBS news at the top of the hour, something the FM listeners presumably don't want. (The AM also carries Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor weekdays.) None of this presents a problem, except that the AM breakaway is abrupt; if there happens to be a song playing, too bad. And five minutes later, when the FM simulcast is restored, it's just as abrupt.
Now when I was growing up, some actual thought was put into how to segue into the news. Most of my listening in the early-to-middle-Sixties was straight Top 40 stuff, informed (this being South Carolina) by heavy R&B influences, and what was usually chosen as a suitable Last Song of the Segment was something with a fairly ornate outro that could be talked over during its last couple of seconds. The archetype, I'd say, might be "Summer in the City" by the Lovin' Spoonful, which gathers its forces for one final blast of electrified ferocity before settling into a quick fade. Cold endings usually did not work well in this context.
None of this matters particularly in 2003, I suppose. And the FM facility probably draws four or five times the listeners of the AM outlet at least within the market area. But KOMA pumps out 50,000 watts due west and north. With much of the AM band given over to talkers and sports, it's one of the few actual music stations you can pick up in the middle of nowhere at four in the morning, and I suspect someone else, hundreds of miles away, is just as annoyed by this station's sloppy practices as I am.
Trailers for sale or rent
The American movie-going public has apparently adjusted to five or ten minutes of advertising before the Feature Presentation. We don't like them, mind you: we're just resigned to the inevitable.
This sort of blasé acquiescence hasn't made it to China yet. Zhang Yang, upset because the 9:30 showing of Hero was delayed until 9:34 by advertising, filed suit against the theater and the film distributor, demanding the removal of the ads and a refund of his 40-yuan admission (not quite five bucks), plus an additional 40 yuan as compensation. Zhang Yang, as it happens, is a lawyer. Of course, had this happened in the States, there would be a class-action suit and demands for damages in the millions of dollars, which, after legal fees, would eventually be paid off to members of the class in buy-one-get-one-free coupons for Raisinets.
There is a marked dearth of home-schooled youngsters that is to say, zero in the National Honor Society. Not a reflection on the students; it's just that NHS has chapters in schools, and that's that.
Now there's an honor society for home-schooled kids who excel. In 1999, the first chapter of Eta Sigma Alpha was founded in Houston. Now the organization is going national: it has spread to at least ten states and more than twenty chapters.
Why bother, you ask? Membership in NHS scores points on college applications; membership in Eta Sigma Alpha, which has standards even higher than NHS, will eventually score points for the home-schooled. And it's one more step toward burying that stereotype of home schooling as a tool of fundamentalist Christians to ensure that their spawn grow up pious and dumb.
(Muchas gracias: Mrs. du Toit.)
6 January 2003
The Vegas idea
Penn and Teller live in the deranged metropolis of Lost Wages, Nevada, which means that they don't have to seek out showbiz: showbiz looks for them.
Once a year, Penn puts out a list of films, bands, acts, and whatever he watched during the previous year, not so much because he thinks we should care but because it fits in with his need to document everything. The 2002 list, for some reason, is smaller than 2001's.
Teller? He didn't say a word. Go figure.
Still up to date in Kansas City
Someone who presumably had heard Wilbert Harrison once too often posted the following plaintive search at Google: "Is there a 12th Street and Vine in Kansas City?"
Well, yes, sort of. There is a 12th Street, and there is a Vine Street. But they do not intersect anymore; Vine now terminates at 13th.
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote the song, lived in, um, Los Angeles. (Come to think of it, there's no "34th and Vine" in L.A., either, effectively evicting that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth.)
Reverend Al, the bloggers' pal
The air abounds in snickers, and no, not the candy bar; I'm talking about Al Sharpton's Presidental ambitions, and the reactions thereto. To my knowledge, the first full-fledged blog endorsement of the Sharpton candidacy came from Kevin McGehee's blogoSFERICS. And it's not because Mr McGehee desires to see him elected, particularly:
It is long past time for the Democratic Party to put its nomination where its mouth is. If race deserves to be a defining issue in American politics, let's open the debate.
Actually, I think you could open the debate with (or, more interestingly, force the debate upon) any of the current Democratic field; apart from melanin levels and not having spent a lifetime on the public payroll, what's the difference between Sharpton and the competition?
Of course, I don't expect many to follow Mr McGehee's lead. A more typical response is this one from Acidman:
If I could buy him for what he's worth, then sell him for what he THINKS he's worth, I could retire tomorrow.
And that was one of the nicer things he said.
The group known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has announced a boycott of KFC because of alleged animal-rights abuses which, given PETA's predilections, probably includes being served on a plate.
Perhaps miffed at being left out of the proceedings, members of the Earth Liberation Front are reportedly getting ready to fire-bomb a Pizza Hut.
7 January 2003
There is almost always something to keep me awake when I really, really need to be sleeping. Lately it's a low (below 50 Hz) rumbling that I can't localize but which definitely isn't originating within my living quarters. Obviously something somewhere besides my nerves is vibrating, but what? The upstairs flat has been vacant for two or three weeks, and if it were their heating unit, which is directly above mine, it would shut off once in a while, and even if it didn't, I should still be able to hear it more clearly from directly below, and I can't.
If it varied at all in pitch, I'd think "subwoofer," but this is pretty constant. I tell you, stuff like this will kill me even faster than work.
One of the very first pages on this site, going all the way back to May 1996, was titled Bottom 20 of the Top 40. It was, as you might have guessed, a list of twenty tunes which at the time I thought had been insufficiently reviled.
Now appearing at Solonor's Groovy Grove is a list of Worst Songs, a list far more extensive than mine and which includes some songs I would actually defend if no one was looking (Terry Jacks' take on Jacques Brel's "Seasons in the Sun", which, as English-language versions go, is far better than Rod McKuen's, and it's McKuen's lyric, mostly), some songs I sort of enjoy (Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes"), and some songs I dearly love (almost anything by the Four Seasons, but "Dawn" in particular).
That said, there are two songs that get top dishonors from both of us: Paul Anka's creepy "(You're) Having My Baby" and the Captain and Tennille's chirpy "Muskrat Love". If you own a radio station and these are on your playlist, this is why we're listening to your competition.
("Judy's Turn to Cry"? The nerve.)
"My passions lie here in the Senate." And with that observation, Tom Daschle opts out of the 2004 Presidential race.
Jeebus. If the herd thins any faster, the Democrats may wind up having to drag Al Gore, kicking and screaming, back into the fray and oh, the fireworks you'll see.
Watts: so good about goodbye?
Kevin McGehee waxes so lyrical today about former Representative J. C. Watts (R-OK) that shortages of lyric wax are breaking out all across the nation.
Having watched Watts ascend (and occasionally slide sideways) for these many years, I can't say I really miss the guy, but then I figure most Oklahoma politicians are a few years past their sell-by dates anyway. Watts, at least, went out on top. Had he run for another term, he'd have won, no matter how they redrew the district lines, and forget about that "safe minority district" crapola; the Fourth District that elected (and re-elected) Watts was two-thirds white. You can point out that, well, J. C. was a football hero, and therefore, if not on par with Jesus Christ, certainly on the level of John the (Southern) Baptist, but if pigskin prowess were that overwhelming a criterion, Steve "This is BS" Largent would be Governor today.
Kevin McGehee speculates further that Don Nickles, having given up his shot at being Majority Leader, might step aside to make room for Watts in the Senate. This talk was a lot more common inside the D.C. Beltway than it ever was along I-35, I assure you, and it's diminishing further now that Oklahoma has a Democrat in the Governor's mansion. But I have no doubt that if Julius Caesar Watts really wanted another term in Congress in either house he'd have no trouble getting it.
8 January 2003
Coming around again
Were this television, the audio would be compressed into one indistinct mass, and cue the voiceover: NOW That's What I Call Blogging 16!
Mercifully, this is not television if it were, I'd have been cancelled years ago so instead I shall merely suggest a trip to Carnival of the Vanities #16, this week hosted by The Eleven Day Empire. Not available in stores.
Reaching for the sky
On the 26th of May, 2002, a barge took out a 400-foot section of bridge on Interstate 40 in eastern Oklahoma near Webbers Falls, dropping ten vehicles 50 feet into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people were killed.
The monument planned for the Webbers Falls area the bridge has since been reconstructed and reopened will stand fourteen feet tall (of course) and will be topped off by the sculpture of a girl, her arms raised skyward, to commemorate the youngest victim, a three-year-old Arkansas girl. The monument will be constructed in part with metal from the wrecked bridge.
Assuming there is a World Tour 2003, and further assuming that the monument will be completed by mid-July when WT03 is most likely to occur, I'll schedule a side trip to see it up close.
A new face at the Garden
For reasons undisclosed, apparently Joe Garagiola will be replaced in the broadcast booth at the Westminster Kennel Club show this February by CBS weatherman Mark McEwen.
I was sort of hoping for Fred Willard, but I see no reason to be picky.
(Muchas gracias: Gregory Hlatky.)
In one general direction
It's said that if you're twenty and you're not liberal, you have no heart, and if you're forty and you're not conservative, you have no brain. What does this mean as fifty arrives? I have no idea, and I prove it in the latest issue of The Vent.
9 January 2003
Man smart, woman smarter
[O]nce the initial lust is gone, and you realize you have to literally define your words to the guy you're dating, the relationship generally just ends.
This does work both ways; of course, it could simply be that I hate having to explain myself. And while I'm no Einstein (not even Bob Einstein), I'm not quite as dumb as I seem.
Positive tunnel vision
It's called the Metro Conncourse, and no, that's not a typo: it's named for Jack Conn, chairman of the old Fidelity Bank downtown, who with Dean A. McGee led development of Oklahoma City's pedestrian tunnels. The first link, under Broadway at Park Avenue, opened in 1931; over the years, the network of tunnels has expanded to most of downtown. Recently, Bricktown, east of downtown and off the Conncourse, has gotten most of the attention, and the tunnels have been mostly neglected.
Until now. A $3 million master plan for renovation of the tunnels will attempt to make them hip once again, with improvements to both the tunnels and the sidewalk entrances, and the addition of historical galleries to brighten up the rather bland interior. With the new plan comes a new name: "The Underground". Maybe too hip for this crowd, but I've always thought that the tunnels were one of the niftier aspects of downtown, and perking them up is something that's long overdue, especially if downtown promoters expect to pick up on any of the Bricktown frenzy. It's probably not possible to extend The Underground to Bricktown the canal might get in the way but right now, it's more important to remind people that it exists at all.
10 January 2003
Two hundred so far
I used to throw the Charleston Evening Post into ninety-one yards six days a week. It wasn't much fun, but it did teach me the importance of drudgery as a means of putting coins in my pocket, and besides, I didn't have to get up at three in the morning to throw The News and Courier.
As in many other cities, co-owned morning and evening papers were fused into one. But if this fuzzes up the family tree a bit, well, one thing is clear: the original Charleston Courier put out its first edition on 10 January 1803, and today's Post and Courier is celebrating its 200th birthday. As a former reader and, um, independent contractor, I tip my hat to the paper that did as much as any single publication to teach me to read, both the lines of type and the messages in between.
"I don't get it," says your friendly neighborhood doofus. "Iraq may or may not have nukes, and they're about to get incinerated. North Korea definitely has nukes, and we're tiptoeing around them."
Your point being?
"Well, if we're not going to fight Pyongyang, why are we going to fight Baghdad? Did they suddenly find oil in North Korea?"
Ah, yes, the oil thing again. Well, actually, no, they haven't found oil in North Korea; if they had, there might be an outside chance of averting mass starvation north of the 38th assuming the government didn't suck up all the revenues for itself, which, Stalinist bunch that they are, they most likely would.
But why aren't we drawing the same line with North Korea that we are with Iraq? It all boils down to Who's In Your Neighborhood. Iraq is surrounded by a ragtag collection of emirates and such which could be Saddam's for the taking, should he so desire. (In the case of Kuwait, circa 1991, he did so desire, and there's no reason to think he's mellowed.) North Korea, should it try to extend its influence beyond its borders, will run smack dab into South Korea and Japan, which are backed by the US, and China, which isn't, but which also isn't likely to take crap from Koreans.
It's, it's - well, it's Hans Blix!
Ryan Rhodes has a really Sweet song for the UN inspection team. Laugh out loud. I did.
11 January 2003
How long can this go on?
Breathes there a man with soul so dead who never to himself has said: "Jeebus, I could run this place better than these clowns"? Somehow I doubt it. In my own office, this utterance is heard roughly sixteen times a week, and not just from me.
Besides, what qualifications could possibly be required? Secra can certainly fill the bill at her workplace:
I'm cute. I smell good. I'm reasonably calm in a crisis ... unless it's messing up my hair. I know almost all of the words to "Working In A Coal Mine."
She also proposes policy changes, the most truly innovative of which is "Walking away from a paper jam will be considered a dismissable offense."
Oh, well, we'll never lure her away from the Bay Area.
Biting the hand, etc.
On this basis, by now I probably should have been disemboweled, pounded into a paté, ground into powder and poured into a sewer grating.
Ditch, ditch, ditch
Rep. Leonard Sullivan (R-Planet Delusional) thinks the North Canadian River, which snakes its way through the middle of Oklahoma City, should be renamed the Oklahoma River. "I can't see any good reason for Canada to get all of that publicity," says Sullivan, perhaps hoping to set off a firestorm of protest in Ottawa.
But of course. And what better name for a stream which needs mowing twice a year, whose banks overflow at the slightest provocation, than "Oklahoma"?
Why, the Beaver River, which is what the North Canadian is called above the confluence with Wolf Creek. Of course, not everyone will be happy with a name like Beaver, either.
Personally, I blame Taco Bell
The radio-listing site 100000watts.com reports a minor Texas contretemps: the Spanish-language simulcast of KESS (AM) Fort Worth/KDXX (FM) Lewisville, inaugurated this past Wednesday as "La Raza 107.9", was abruptly rebranded on Thursday as "La Que Buena".
Somehow, I find it hard to believe that Hispanic Broadcasting, which operates these stations (the company is not actually owned by persons of Hispanic extraction, but someone should have known this), wasn't aware that using the name "La Raza" might have repercussions. Or maybe they all drive Chevrolet Novas.
Tall and tan and young and lovely
Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim with a lyric by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, "The Girl from Ipanema" was a huge hit (#5 in Billboard) in the States in 1964, in a recording by Stan Getz and João Gilberto for Verve, with Jobim himself at the piano and Gilberto's wife Astrud on the English-language (by Norman Gimbel) vocal. The picture it paints in the mind is vivid indeed, but it never occurred to me to assume that there was a model for it.
Now comes word that The Girl herself, Helo Pinheiro, now 55, will appear on the cover of Playboy's Brazilian edition in March, alongside 24-year-old daughter Triciane. I simply have to get a copy of this for historical purposes, of course.
12 January 2003
There exists as a legal construct in some parts of the country something called "covenant marriage", designed by churchly types to be harder to get out of than the standard variety. (In Oklahoma, this is not a particularly difficult task, as the laws here are flexible, even bendy; I have yet to see anyone claiming, say, "watching too damn much football" as grounds for divorce, but it seems to fall within the guidelines.)
Yesterday a clergyman, having read the piece I wrote on it or maybe not having read it, given its slightly-jaundiced tone wrote me and thanked me for this bit of outreach, and suggested a link back to his own ministry, for the greater glory of the Lord and all that. There are times when someone else's earnestness outweighs my snarkiness, and this was one of them, so I duly tacked on a new paragraph.
Besides, given my tendency to look for connections where none likely exist, this weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the one time I took this particular step, a step for which I was poorly prepared and which led to some serious backpedaling not too many years later, and while I'm not arguing that what goes around comes around, certainly what goes around leaves little reminders of where it's been.
Jumping the snark
A quick run through the last thousand entries or so reveals that I toss off the term "snarky" or some variation thereof with the same sort of heedless elan as a four-year-old who's just learned a cuss word. What, in fact, constitutes snarkiness? Here's my take:
If you blog about Pete Townshend's interest in child porn, that in itself isn't snarky.
If you title that blog entry something like "The Kids Are Alright", that's snarky.
Sit right back and you'll hear a tale
Tom Carson's seriously-wacko novel Gilligan's Wake isn't quite as Joycean as the title implies, though the opening section, in which the narrator, claiming to be one Maynard G. Krebs, discovers that he's not hanging with the Beats by the Bay after all but is in the Mayo Clinic's Cleaver Ward, overseen by the stern Dr. Kildare F. Troop, is riddled with enough entendres, double, triple and fourple, to live up to Finnegan's standard.
From then on, it's every storyteller for himself. A Navy man tells tales of WWII-era PT boats with Quinton McHale and Jack Kennedy; a millionaire describes his role in the rise of Alger Hiss and his all-too-loveless marriage; his wife recounts life in West Egg during the Jazz Age and a friend named Daisy; a star of B (and occasionally C) pictures meets up with the Rat Pack; a young woman from Kansas finds fascination at the Sorbonne; and somehow all of their lives are intertwined by the machinations of an evil genius a professor, in fact.
As a metaphor for 20th-century American history, Gilligan's Wake works better than it has any right to. Audacious and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, it's a glorious confection, with a high incidence of "What the hell was that?" Lots of brain candy, though the flavoring masks empty calories here and there; I don't see this becoming America's answer to Tristram Shandy or anything, but it's a good way to spend a three-hour tour.
Everybody into the pool!
Two thousand three will apparently be the Year of the Dead Pool. Laurence Simon's Amish Tech Support Dead Pool has over 100 contestants, and I suspect that the simpler Indo-Pakistani Deadpool, in which all you have to do is guess when the first nuke is dispatched from Islamabad or New Delhi, may draw even more.
13 January 2003
Greatest Hits, volume IX
Originally posted 14 January 2002
It might be possible to describe a rainbow to someone, to explain the order of the colors, to convey some sort of scientific explanation for the reason it exists. For some people, for whatever reason, the description will have to suffice; for others, the rainbow must be seen to be believed. And once seen, it is never forgotten. There are many other phenomena, perhaps more dazzling on the surface, maybe more forceful in their presentation, possibly more complicated in their composition. But the rainbow, having been observed, having left an imprint on the soul as deep as its colors and as wide as its span, is not so easily replaced.
"Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît pas," said Pascal: "the heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing." My knowledge of reason is questionable, of hearts perhaps more so, but occasionally I know a truth when I see one.
Waiting for the third shoe to drop
First it was Joe Strummer of the Clash.
Then it was Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees.
Bigwig knows, and he's truly sorry. Really.
On the street where you blog
Of the various sites purporting to list just where one's blog falls in the general scheme of things, I find myself most often at BlogStreet, not so much to see my blog in the Top 500 (where it has never been and likely never will be), but to see some of the weirder artifacts derived from their database.
The one that perplexes me right now reads as follows:
Total Blogs: 50446 Total Links: 151278
That's only about three links per blog.
Maybe I shouldn't be kvetching about my lowly position (1657th) after all.
Update, 14 January, 11:00 am: Evidently I misinterpreted that little factoid - see Comments.
Fashion statement of the year
Inexpensive, yet irrepressible. What more could you want?
(Muchas gracias: Rachel Lucas.)
14 January 2003
The lexicographers of Room 101
First, the dictionary definition:
proselytize, v. intr. 1. To induce someone to convert to one's own religious faith. 2. To induce someone to join one's own political party or to espouse one's doctrine. v. tr. To convert (a person) from one belief, doctrine, cause, or faith to another.
Now maybe it's just me, or maybe it's just a sign of the times, but I never hear this word from someone who is actually trying to perform the act described in definition 1. Where I do hear it, mostly, is from people complaining that some religious um, "faith-based" organization is doing this, possibly with government money: "Don't look, Ethel! They're proselytizing!"
Now the First Amendment, quite properly, restricts the government from pushing one denomination or another, and if tax money is going into this sort of thing, complaints are in order. But what has happened is that the very word that describes the process, however innocent, has acquired a negative connotation, and those who aren't inclined to think kindly of religious groups in the first place (and I'm discovering that there are more of them than I thought) are more likely to use it, not as a description, but as a bludgeon.
And so the language is further debased, and another thoughtcrime is entered into the dictionary of Newspeak.
It appears we will no longer be able to experience The Spoons Experience; Spoons, citing the usual Real Life concerns, is going to give it a rest.
He's not retiring entirely, though, so watch for him in a comment section near you.
Auto insurers always have an explanation for why your rates are incredibly high. In this part of the world, it's theft: cars are stolen here at a brisk clip, some destined for chop shops, others for faraway buyers who ask no questions. In California, it's the high cost of doing business in general. In New Jersey well, it's New Jersey.
And in Floyd County, Virginia, it's deer. Fred will explain.
15 January 2003
When, precisely, is the Dead of Winter? Where I live, you can make a case for this week. The 40-year average of temperatures bottoms out during this period (at 46 high, 26 low), then slowly turns upward. And contrary to most people's intuition, the sunrise gets as late as it ever does (7:40 am) this week. (The solstice is indeed the shortest day of the year, about nine hours and 45 minutes, but the sunset reaches its earliest point 5:15 pm in early December. I attribute this situation to the state's position near the far edge of the Central time zone.)
By these standards, spring is on the way: today's average high is 47 and the sunrise is at 7:39. Perhaps needless to say, it's supposed to snow tonight.
I saw it posted there
Well, it was just seventeen,
Most states are suffering budget woes these days, and Utah is no exception. But few observers expected the axe to fall on the highest-profile appointment in the state, porn czar Paula Houston, who will be out of a job on the first of April. The Utah legislature had cut the $150,000 for Houston's office out of the state budget; Attorney General Mark Shurtleff realigned services in an effort to keep the program going, but faced with $750,000 in cuts to his budget this year and possibly more of the same next year, the AG pulled the plug.
I am reasonably certain this does not mean that West Valley City (Houston's home town) is going to start looking more like West Hollywood.
The Misery Brook interceptor
There isn't a whole lot of news value here, unless you happen to live in the neighborhood; I just like saying "the Misery Brook interceptor". It seems like there ought to be a science fiction and/or fantasy story lurking behind that phrase.
Beffa swore vividly we pretended to cover our ears and abruptly stood up. "Well, what are we going to do about this?"
"We don't have a lot of choice," said Number Four. "The Frenesi have already annexed the section nearest to the crater. They're bound to get here sooner or later."
"Will an Interceptor do the job?"
Number Four shrugged. "Maybe. The standard-issue Interceptor will just barely slow them down. We need a 24-incher at least."
Beffa frowned. "Cap won't go for this. We used one of those at Misery Brook and it took us the rest of the war to pay for it."
"You think the Frenesi are gonna have an installment plan?"
"Point taken," said Beffa, turning back towards the comm desk.
16 January 2003
Dream a little dream of greed
On general principle, I refuse to watch things like Joe Millionaire.
What principle, you ask? I did time in pre-AOL chat rooms in the Eighties, and even then, the dating/mating ritual was seventy to eighty percent artifice, and most of the balance actual fraud. And back then, only the best and the brightest (well, and me) would be willing to spend a week's pay every month to observe this phenomenon.
So these days, I have to rely on other people's takedowns of these tawdry telespectacles, and fortunately, The American Prospect's Noy Thrupkaew is on hand to point out how Joe Millionaire is like lobbing a rock into a tree full of howler monkeys. Thrupkaew's most illuminating observation:
It's a bit horrifying, the way many of the women fight to be chosen by someone they don't even know. He's like a prince, they keep whispering, as they try to elbow their way into a fairy tale. Pick me, love me! I haven't seen such strenuous preening since I watched a dog show.
Gad, I hope Greg Hlatky doesn't see this.
(Via Hit & Run)
Update, 9:45 am: Monty Ashley at TeeVee tosses in this perspective:
I think I've figured out what really bothers me about it. The gimmick that the so-called millionaire really only makes $19,000 a year is phrased to suggest that therefore, he doesn't deserve love.
Does this mean I'm only half as undeserving?
Scratch and discard
In case anyone had any doubts about it, Governor Henry was serious about that we-need-a-lottery business he was spouting before the election. He's got a sponsor for a lottery measure in the State House, and is shopping for a Senate sponsor. The Democratic establishment seems to be viewing the prospect favorably; the Republicans, dominated by conservative Christians, are likely not keen on the idea, but I believe they'll go along with Henry's call for a referendum, since this issue has been up for a vote before and it has always lost.
Last month, I raised the spectre of tribal gaming as a potential threat to a state lottery. Henry isn't worried; he says the tribes don't have the infrastructure in particular, they don't have enough retail access to implement a lottery large enough to present a threat.
If the Guv gets his way, the referendum will be in late summer. I want to see the particulars before I decide how I'll vote on it.
And now, the news/talk
It's official: Renda Broadcasting's KOMA will drop the oldies on the AM side and switch to news/talk some time next month. How well they will fare is anyone's guess. KTOK, a Clear Channel station which has had this format to itself up to now, has a strong syndicated lineup (including Rush Limbaugh) but a decidedly weak news operation. And both stations' ointments have a fly to deal with: WKY, once its acquisition by Citadel is approved by the Feds, is also going news/talk. The Oklahoma City market (population about one million) can probably support two stations with this format, but three? The markets closest to Oklahoma City in size Rochester (New York) and Louisville have only one each. Then again, those stations score top ratings, which KTOK doesn't.
17 January 2003
A bustle in my hedgerow
And a considerable row it is; being a defensive person by nature, I have constructed my 401(k) accounts in such a matter that dismal stock-market performance is largely offset by gains in other areas. While this hedging wasn't as startlingly effective last year as it was in the two years preceding, I did manage to hold my losses (the fund manager calls them "negative returns", which is a tad too euphemistic to suit me) to less than 3 percent, which, given yet another year of stocks in the toilet, isn't all that bad.
Younger and more aggressive investors, as you might expect, took it on the chin, or perhaps in more painful locations. Of course, if stocks actually turn upward for an extended period, the way they used to in the Good Old Days, their portfolios will perform better than mine, but in the meantime, there's still time to change the road they're on.
From bad to worse
Sometimes the simplest questions stir the greatest passions.
"Which is worse?" asks Joshua Claybourn. "Communism or terrorism?"
The comments are instructive. (My own contribution, at #3: "You can have terrorism without communism, but the historical record suggests that you can't have communism without terrorism.") And another question comes to mind: does the ongoing war on terrorism constitute Cold War II?
Hit me with your rhythm stick
I tend to give relatively little thought to the matter of contraception, partially because I had The Operation in 1981, but mostly because the number of sexual partners I have had in recent years can be counted on the fingers of no hands.
Patty at Pdawwg, however, has given it a lot of thought:
[I]f you ask me, getting rid of The Pill strikes me as a good idea. Who thought it was a spectacular idea to prevent conception by shutting women's bodies down from their natural functioning? Surely all the money spent on developing the birth control pill could have been better put into really good equipment (I'm thinking like those way cool blood sugar machines they make for diabetes monitoring that my dad had) that with 99% accuracy shows a woman's fertile time so all she need do is abstain to prevent conception.
Instead we take drugs that can lead to "nausea, vomiting, bleeding between menstrual periods, weight gain, breast tenderness, and difficulty wearing contact lenses" for the minor side effects and blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, worse migraines, faster-growing tumors, increase the need for insulin for diabetic women, increased depression, irritability (like we need more of that!), water retention, leg cramps.
If this is the best medical science can offer us, I'd prefer a vet.
I suspect that were something like this offered to us guy-type persons, we would run like hell. Of course, were we the half of the species that got pregnant in the first place, world population would be something like 300,000 and they'd give out two-for-one abortion coupons at the Hy-Vee.
18 January 2003
An exceedingly minor milestone
As of this week, dustbury.com in its Movable Type incarnation (which began in late August 2002) is actually averaging (slightly) more than 1.0 comments per post.
This is, of course, no great shakes delightful extroverts like Rachel Lucas can pull dozens of comments on every single post but there's some small comfort in knowing that I'm not just talking to myself here.
Technically, bloggers do not deconstruct: they fisk. And while the technique of fisking owes much to Jacques Derrida's theory of deconstruction, it owes nothing to Derrida's penchant for revisionism: texts are fisked because of what they say, not because of what we think they ought to say.
[H]e is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States a species whose gullibility ranks them somewhere between nine-year-old boys listening to spooky campfire stories and blissful puppies chasing after nonexistent sticks into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale.
I've always aspired to some form of post-postmodernism myself, and generally fallen flat.
What would Derrida think about fisking? I don't know, and Goldblatt doesn't say, but I suspect that he'd take exception to it, if only because the fisker bases his interpretation on the assumption that the author of the text being fisked actually intended it to read that way, whereas Derrida, I surmise, would be predisposed to assume that there is some deeper subtext somehow being missed. And I'd take exception to that, since most of the Truly Fiskable seem devoid of depth; indeed, some meet the qualifications for bas-relief.
(Muchas gracias: Cinderella Bloggerfeller.)
Carry on, my wayward sunworshippers
Jeff Jarvis, in the wake of 9/11:
So you can sneak a bomb in your shoe. The only solution is to fly naked. You can't bring anything on board; it all has to be shipped separately on cargo jet.
They weren't thinking about security, I suppose, but take a look at this:
Passengers aboard a May 3 chartered flight from Miami to Cancun, Mexico, dubbed "Naked-Air,'' will be free to drop their pants, shed their bras and underwear and move about the cabin au naturel. Castaways Travel, a Houston-area travel agency that specializes in "clothing-optional trips,'' is offering what it bills as the world's first all-nude flight for $499, round-trip.
Would I fly this thing? I don't know. Certainly if She Who Is Not To Be Named could be lured into the deal; but I am reasonably certain that whatever her wildest dreams, this isn't among them.
19 January 2003
Rock down to Eclectic Avenue
Peter Schickele opens his weekly radio show with a quote from Duke Ellington: "If it sounds good, it is good." And Schickele's selections are nothing if not eclectic; over the years he's played everything from the Allman Brothers to Jan Dismas Zelenka. But Schickele's a white guy, and a Midwestern white guy at that, and according to our self-appointed Ministers of Cultural Diversity, he must therefore be counted among the oppressors. No claim is made that this is why funding for Schickele Mix seems to have evaporated, but sometimes I wonder.
Meanwhile, David "Clubbeaux" Sims has had it up to here with this sort of thing:
[T]hese multicultural asswipes thought they were doing themselves a favor by forcing black, Hispanic, Caribbean, Indian, Native American and whatever the hell cultures down the throat of the 87% of Americans who are of British ancestry, what they really did was reduce America to a series of ghettoes. White Americans have proven, over time, to be the most fair-minded, open-minded, culturally sensitive people on the face of the earth in world history, but never has any identifiable cultural demographic been more vilified for being culturally insensitive. Nobody ever ever criticizes blacks for not listening to bluegrass, but whites are routinely criticized for not listening to the rap stool pounding out at offensive volume from the car next to you at the stoplight, where your three-year old has to listen to "F-word my ho" this and "F-word" that. That's the end result of "multiculturalism," being forced to endure absolute garbage just because a non-WASP is perpetrating it.
I'd quibble with that 87-percent figure, and I'm not quite sure what he means by a "rap stool", unless he's referring to a product of defecation which he very well could be, given some of the, um, crap on the radio these days but definitely he's on to something. I have, or can get, access to an almost infinite variety of music, and my tastes do range fairly widely, but given my nonstatus as Person of No Recognizable (or Exploitable) Color, it is presumed that if I scorn some particular marketing category, it must be because of some toxic animus towards those individuals who produce it. (Translation: "You don't like hip-hop? So how long have you been taking marching orders from Trent Lott?")
This, of course, is horse puckey. Rap, like any other cultural endeavor, is subject to Sturgeon's Law. And when it was literally fresh, it was new and startling and entertaining. Then someone got the idea that it should be promoted, not as a genre, but as an Authentic Folk Voice, bluegrass with sidewalks and manhole covers, and distaste for it could be explained only by the most vicious racism. It's been going downhill ever since. I'm not suggesting that we pluck kids from the inner city and give them a daily dose of Debussy or anything, but letting them grow up with the descendants of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown as role models isn't doing them one damn bit of good, either.
Romulans bearing two zero nine, mark six
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) is persuaded that we ought to find $7 billion in the budget to pay for outfitting commercial jets with anti-missile systems. "We can't stop everything bad from happening," says Boxer, "but we can take prudent measures."
This, of course, runs counter to standard leftist dogma, which states that you can stop everything bad from happening, if your government is big enough and sufficiently staffed with people with the Correct Mindset.
Taken all by itself, this might look like a sign of sanity in the Senator. But one question remains unanswered: do missiles pose a threat to commercial jets? Paul Musgrave at Hoosier Review isn't so sure:
It is difficult to believe that missiles designed to work in combat situations are readily available and a threat but could be defeated by relatively simple countermeasures. I'm hardly an expert, but I suspect that Stingers and Redeyes were built to outsmart the sorts of countermeasures that we could place on 747s.
And why would Boxer be proposing such a thing, anyway? The only thing I can figure is that she's scared of being shot out of the sky, and she's willing to make the airline industry spend a million bucks per plane for some form of reassurance. In this case, she would be better served and less expensively, to be sure by driving. You can get a whole lot of SUVs for that kind of money.
There hasn't been a really good answer to this since Johnny Carson retired ten years ago.
Until now, courtesy of Weetabix:
[I]t is 5 degrees outside. And that?s straight temperature. Not including wind chill, which brings it down into the range of Colder Than The Uterus of Donatella Versace.
Every time I see that, I have to clean the monitor. Again.
Where the pockets are deepest
First, the families of a pair of DC-area sniper victims announced they would sue Bushmaster Firearms and a gun dealer for ostensibly making it possible for the snipers to pick them off.
Next, Hilary Rosen of the Recording Industry Association of America announced that local ISPs should be required to pay the RIAA for allowing their customers onto peer-to-peer file-swapping networks.
Finally, the Farmers and Miners Bank of Oronogo, Missouri is expected to announce that it will file a claim for damages against the Ford Motor Company, one of whose vehicles was used by Bonnie and Clyde as a getaway car following the robbery of the bank in 1932.
20 January 2003
On the 30th of March, 2001, I said this:
The search engine Google claims to have indexed over 1.3 billion Web pages; inasmuch as they've definitely hit all of mine the GoogleBot checks in here at least once a week I'm tempted to believe it. Sturgeon's Law, of course, mandates that 90 percent of these things are, um, crud, but that still leaves at least a hundred million pages worth reading, though clearly some are worth far more than others.
There wasn't any point to that observation then, and there isn't much point to it now except to mention the date, which was, I repeat, 30 March 2001.
Which was the last time the women of UConn lost a basketball game.
Fifty-five wins in a row! And everyone thought last year's national-championship squad would be done in by graduation. The men's record 88 games from 1971 through 1974 by John Wooden's UCLA squads might actually be broken by this time next year.
What this day is about
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a speech from the Lincoln Memorial, a speech which forever will be designated by its most stirring phrase: "I have a dream."
The speech, which Dean Esmay has thoughtfully reproduced today, is a stark reminder of the way things used to be, a benchmark by which we can measure how far we have come and how far we still have to go.
There's little more I can say, though I'll point you toward my visit to Selma, Alabama two summers ago, a trip which in retrospect is starting to look like a pilgrimage.
What the deuce?
Once I quit answering the phone, things got pretty quiet around here; the hateful little box hardly even rings anymore. When it does, though, the odds are it's something strange.
For instance, why on earth would anyone from ESPN call me? It's represented on the Caller ID screen as belonging to ESPN, and cross-referencing the number places it firmly in Bristol, Connecticut, which is ESPN's home base. (I actually drove past it during last year's World Tour.) The most likely explanation is that someone misdialed by a digit or so, but I somehow find it hard to believe that there are people in a Major Entertainment Organization who dial as sloppily as I do.
21 January 2003
I tend to look askance at all things related to the Super Bowl, if only because they peg the Hype-O-Meter and it's a pain in the neck to have the device recalibrated afterwards. On the other hand, some of the peripheral statistics are occasionally amusing.
For instance: The California Avocado Commission predicts that during the Bucs/Raiders clash, some 40 million pounds of the green stuff, mostly in the form of guacamole, will be polished off by America's couch potatoes. That's gonna take a lot of chips.
For those keeping score: The biggest month for avocado consumption is May, what with both Cinco de Mayo and the Memorial Day weekend to keep us busy.
Laggards and blackguards
They're called "left-lane bandits," and you've certainly seen them, sitting in what's supposed to be the fast, or at least the passing, lane, traveling at a speed which they think to be conspiciously law-abiding. While these characters probably deserve whatever they get, it's probably not advisable for you to administer same, says Moira Breen:
Yes, slow drivers are annoying. They may have a reason for driving slowly. Or they may just be being pissants. But even if the latter is true, tailgating will not make them accelerate. And the driver's pissantry does not abrogate the laws of physics governing stopping distances.
Better, perhaps, to let the lessons be taught by Kenworth and Peterbilt. That massive grille looming seemingly right behind one's back seat has a way of motivating even the most militant member of the Anti-Destination League.
Brunswicks and Oranges
In a lifetime of fifty years, give or take a few weeks, I have spent maybe a total of six days in New Jersey. And while some fascinating things have happened to me in the Garden State how many people can say that they've trodden the Boardwalk at Seaside Heights in wing-tips? its contribution to what I am is necessarily fairly small. (Well, yes, there was that meeting with Susanna Cornett, but she's not really from New Jersey, if you know what I mean, and this is where I got my first real-life glimpse of SWINTBN, but she's not really from New Jersey, if you know what I mean.)
To grow up in New Jersey is to grow up an existentialist, to realize the world is indifferent, if not downright hostile. You have to be on the lookout for other people's bullshit, because you're constantly being told that where you're coming from is useless. After a while, you realize that a lot of political and social distinctions are not about reality and truth, but about people trying to put you in your place so they can better regulate your behavior.
Come to think of it, it's not all that different from growing up in South Carolina, another state routinely maligned by people who really should know better, or living in Oklahoma, yet another.
22 January 2003
The remains of MLK Day
Kevin Holtsberry is disturbed by what he saw on Dr. King's commemorative day:
I had a hard time celebrating MLK day because every time I turned on the radio or TV I had to listen to someone explaining how the President was a hypocrite or how Trent Lott was the real GOP. Martin Luther King, Jr. succeeded to the degree he did because he made Americans realize how much we had in common black and white. He called us to live up to our ideals. Too many of those who consider themselves his followers appeal not to what we share as Americans but what separates us. They don't call us to live up to our ideals but ask us to reject those ideals or face the wrath of the race mongers. You are either with us or against us they shout demanding uniformity in the name of diversity.
Wrathful souls, those race mongers.
But he's right, of course: forty years after "I Have a Dream", the dream has been defiled by a pack of opportunists, seeking privilege where Dr. King sought only equality, while the rest of us, black and white alike, are busy trying to get some work done.
18, and I don't know what I want
Now go read, dammit.
Monday, a task force led by Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune will discuss the disbanding of the Tulsa Philharmonic, and what, if anything, can be done about it. The orchestra's board, seeing no way to get around a debt load of $1 million, has suspended the rest of the season and closed the office.
We know this situation here at the other end of the Turner Turnpike. The Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra folded in 1988. It took some doing, a lot of donations, and some concessions from the American Federation of Musicians, but we have an orchestra again. There's really no reason they can't do the same in Tulsa.
A Mauldin farewell
Something I noticed:
It's very tough to live in this country and cling to young ideals. Some people have been able to do it, but they are rare, and any of us who thinks he can do it before he tries it is guilty of considerable smugness.
Cartoonist Bill Mauldin said that in 1947, when he was twenty-five. Of course, he'd been through a lot more than most of us: he'd enlisted in the Army at eighteen, and when he wasn't toting a rifle, he was drawing cartoons for the newspaper of the 45th Infantry Division. When the 45th was dropped into the middle of World War II, Mauldin found himself in Europe, where the Stars and Stripes started carrying his stuff, bringing him high praise from the enlisted men and, at one point, a world-class ass-chewing from General Patton. Back home after the war, he took up editorial cartooning, which he'd probably be doing right now if pneumonia and Alzheimer's hadn't killed him off this morning.
Bill Mauldin was 81 years old. I'd like to think that Willie and Joe, his two WWII dogfaces, lived long and happy lives themselves.
23 January 2003
Patent nonsense (2)
SBC Communications, whose main contribution to the Internet up to this point has been putting perennial money-loser Prodigy out of its misery, is now claiming a patent on the invention of HTML frames.
I expect Bill Gates will now demand royalties from the people selling Ginsu knives (only 19.95!) for daring to use the number "95", which is, after all, a version of Windows.
Not a birthday, exactly
I made a point of keeping my mouth shut yesterday, the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, mainly because I felt I didn't have anything to add to the debate, although I must point out in passing that however impassioned one's defense of Roe, it will likely never be as eloquent as some of its denunciations.
In Oklahoma, Rep. Kevin Calvey took advantage of the, um, festivities to announce a bill which would require the State Department of Health to issue a standard abortion information packet, and would impose a 24-hour waiting period before the procedure can be undertaken. While Calvey didn't go into a lot of detail regarding the contents of the packet, it can be safely assumed that it's not all sweetness and light, and the state ACLU, right on cue, complained.
And round and round we go again, Roe, Roe, Roe, not at all gently and not even slightly merrily. [Obvious next line excised because, well, it's obvious.]
On the ziti beat
Have you heard this before?
"Listen, guys, they've got a new chef and they say it'll be much, much better. They promise ..."
Page has definitely heard it before. What's worse, she's hearing it again.
Fried chicken is really hard on a keyboard, though. Trust me on this one.
Trust the Force, Angus
Okay, the first question on your mind is probably not "What if Star Wars had been set in Scotland?"
Well, move it up a few notches on the brain pan, and see the vector the one and only Gregory Hlatky has found connecting Alderaan to Edinburgh.
End of an era
The radio/TV-listing site 100000watts.com reports that W52CT, a low-power TV station on channel 52 (natch) in Nashville, has become an affiliate of the America One network. Previously, the only thing the station had been showing was the usual color-bar test pattern.
For nine years.
I wonder if they beat out Donahue in the ratings.
24 January 2003
During the winter, the resident birds serve as a sort of aural thermometer: when the temperature drops into the single digits Fahrenheit, as it did this morning, they keep their big beaks shut. If you're far enough out in the sticks, which I'm not at the moment, you think you can actually hear tree limbs freeze.
Closer in, the predominant sound is water running either people are letting the faucets drip so that the pipes don't freeze, or the faucets (and everything else) are dripping because the pipes have already frozen.
Still, there's something peaceful about the whole scene. Or there would be, if I didn't have to drag myself off to work.
Jerry Springer has been characterized as a sleazeball TV host for so long it's hard to imagine how his public image could possibly get any worse.
Well, it can. Replace, if you will, "sleazeball TV host Jerry Springer" with "Senator Jerry Springer".
That sound you hear is the popping of the third seal.
(Muchas gracias: Kevin McGehee.)
Music industry saved, film at 11
Well, maybe not. But Record Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen, who has done more to destroy the Big Five music firms' relationships with artists and consumers than a whole server farm full of Napsters, is leaving her post at the end of this year, and her replacement, as yet unnamed, is bound to have a better, or at least less pathological, grasp of the situation.
I just wish she was taking Jack Valenti with her.
You can't get much more apropos than that, n'est-ce pas?
25 January 2003
According to Dean Esmay, who knows about this sort of thing, UUnet had some major problems last night, which might have been the result of a Denial of Service attack. As a result, Net traffic was snarled, and some data packets never went anywhere at all. Indeed, there was about a 30-percent reduction in overnight traffic at this site.
Tonight, however, there will be a 100-percent reduction at this site: my little row of the server farm is being physically relocated, as in "Okay, load that box on the truck, Jim," some time around midnight CDT. How long this will take, I don't know; I expect to be up and running Sunday morning without incident.
(Update, 6:30 pm: Apparently it was a DoS, but not aimed at UUnet; it was an exploit of an existing security hole in Microsoft servers that not everyone chose to fix when the patch was issued. And this explains why I was still getting traffic: this site runs on a Linux box.)
No wax tadpoles, though
In 1903, having detected a demand for safe, quality, affordable wax crayons, Binney & Smith Company, 81-83 Fulton Street, New York City, introduces a box of eight for a nickel Black, Brown, Orange, Violet, Blue, Green, Red, and Yellow and devises the name "Crayola". The rest, as they say, is history, and if you grew up in the States, it's likely part of your history too.
(Oh, those fat Besco crayons that were flat on one side so they wouldn't roll away? Also a B&S product, hence the name. Hard to chew, though.)
A star is born
As a prominent member of the D list, I have the honor of occasionally finding A-level stuff and pointing you toward it, usually with words of praise.
For this, I can find no words, except that you must read it and that you will never, ever forget it.
Keith Bradsher, the New York Times hack who spewed out that anti-SUV book last year, is apparently going wider with his campaign: his publisher has kicked in a few bucks' worth of underwriting to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of Car Talk, the popular NPR radio show. (I caught the first sponsorship announcement on show #304, this weekend.) By no coincidence, the brothers had been conducting a campaign they call Live Large, Drive Small, which needs (and, frankly, deserves) no explanation.
Much is made of the fact that SUVs, being taller, have a higher center of gravity, and therefore are more likely to roll over than real cars. Now real drivers "On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers," explains Volkswagen are aware of this and conduct themselves accordingly behind the wheel. Your basic leftist, on the other hand, resents the very idea that different people have different skill levels, and seeks to replace it with criteria of a more political nature. Out here in the Real World, we tend to think that if some idiot goes too fast around a curve and rolls his expensive new toy, well, the word "idiot" is pretty much self-explanatory. Proponents of the Nanny State, however, demand that we be solicitous of idiots, and in fact encourage them to employ solicitors when idiocy produces undesired results.
As usual, most of the proffered "solutions" do nothing for the problems they imagine. Changing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards will have exactly zero effect on the vehicles already on the road. If they seriously wanted people to get into smaller, more fuel-efficient automobiles, they would push for a substantial (at least $1.00 per gallon) increase in the gas tax. But they won't do that, because it would affect everyone with a gas tank, including themselves; what they really want to do, of course, is to punish Those Other People.
In the long run, what does all this mean? Backlash, baby, backlash. When all is said and done, Keith Bradsher may wind up selling more sport-utility vehicles than Cal Worthington ever imagined.
26 January 2003
One common complaint from abortion-rights advocates is that the opposition is unyielding, implacable and adamantine. I assume that by making this complaint, they wish to position themselves as flexible and open to compromise.
Karl Born, writing in Hoosier Review, describes one particularly warped incident at Indiana University. The IU chapter of Campus for Choice had posted a list of firms to be boycotted for supporting "anti-choice, anti-women causes." One of the targets was Wendy's. Why? "Dave Thomas is very anti-choice. Thomas was adopted and believes all women facing unwanted pregnancies should give their children up for adoption."
This contains, so far as I know, three words of truth: "Thomas was adopted." And also so far as I know, Dave's foundation has as its primary goal finding homes for thousands of children already born; adding to the waiting list is a secondary consideration at best. But that's not the real point. What I want to know is: Does Campus for Choice believe that if a woman decides to go through with the birth and give up the child, she has not made a choice? Or that she has made a wrong choice?
Maybe I'm missing something here, but on the face of it, this looks every bit as dogmatic and inflexible as the anti-abortion folks are supposed to be.
Oh, and Dave? I think I'll have a Classic Double with Biggie Fries and a Frosty. And if you would, see what Joshua Claybourn is having.
Back at the old stand
Total downtime was about five hours, which wasn't too bad, all things considered. Normal operation, to the extent that any of this can be considered "normal," was restored slightly before 5 am. Planned downtime, to be sure, is much more pleasant than unplanned downtime and it's easier to schedule, too.
You can't keep a good virus down
(Muchas gracias: Doc Searls.)
The Painter of Light
Alexandra, poking her head Out of Lascaux, poses a perfectly reasonable question:
[W]hy do "we", the artsy crowd, despise Thomas Kinkade so much? He has painted some beautiful works, mixed in with the syruppy sweet English country garden/gazebo things. I mean, if he had been doing the same stuff in the 1880's, he would have been as revered as Renoir (who was rather a hack himself, I must add). He also owes a lot to Caspar David Friedrich in his palette. So do we scorn him because he mass produces this stuff, thereby becoming a millionaire? Or is it because it's so pretty?
That's some of it, I think; if he did one-hundredth the volume and charged one thousand times as much, he'd probably get more positive reviews from the cognoscenti, who believe with all their sniffy little hearts that anything owned by someone who has a big-screen TV to watch the Green Bay Packers can't possibly have any merit whatsoever.
I snagged a 2002 Kinkade calendar once upon a time, and reported on it as follows:
Kinkade has a mind's eye way better than 20/20; the scenes, mostly pastoral with a couple of nods to city life, are sentimental and idealized, yes, but he gets the details right, and unless you're predisposed to sneer at everything sentimental and idealized, a stance I am not prepared to sustain for extended periods, you might find yourself actually responding emotionally to the images he creates. This may not be the world we know, but it's a world we wish we did know.
27 January 2003
1520 and all that
Apparently somebody wants oldies on 1520. In the wake of KOMA's announcement that they will drop their musical programming on the AM band in favor of news-talk, WWKB in Buffalo will attempt to recreate their Top 40 glory days (when they were WKBW) as KB1520.
Directional antenna arrays, of course, still exist, so bereaved KOMA listeners will likely have no luck trying to tune in WWKB. Still, it's nice to know someone thinks the format is still viable in 2003, nearly forty years after Beatlemania.
Seeing through it all
One of the great fears of advancing biomedical technologies is that they will eliminate the conditions that form our personalities, that make us who we are. Being profoundly nearsighted has been a defining aspect of my life since I was a little girl. If my myopia could have been cured at an early age, I would have turned out different in some way (and so would chapter three of The Future and Its Enemies, where contact lenses play a major illustrative role). But now that my near-sightedness is mostly gone, I don't miss it a bit, or feel any less authentically myself. The same is true of migraines and depression, two other personality-shaping ailments I've mostly eliminated with drugs in the past six months. Suffering doesn't build character; it warps it.
I suspect I'd be warped even if I hadn't suffered anything at all, but the idea that we are merely the sum of our experiences has always bugged me, and I'm always delighted to find a reason to reject it.
License to kvetch
Last year, the Oklahoma legislature, noting substantial increases in the state's Spanish-speaking population, passed a measure written by Sen. Bernest Cain (D-Oklahoma City) to make the state driver's test available in Spanish though it has yet to be implemented because of a lack of funding.
This year, there's a new bill, courtesy of Rep. Ron Kirby (D-Lawton), which would require that all "official state business" be conducted in English. Cain says that Kirby's bill will supersede his; Kirby says it will do no such thing. It seems likely that if Kirby's bill should pass, the state Supreme Court will wind up deciding the matter.
And language isn't the only issue with driver's licenses this year, either. In the 1970s, state law mandated that anything on your head except prescription glasses be removed before taking the photograph to be affixed to your license, a law which remains in effect. There are no religious exemptions, for Muslim women or Roman Catholic nuns or anyone else, but here's where it gets interesting: the vast majority of license renewals are issued, not by the Department of Public Safety, but by independent agencies contracted by the state, and the law provides no penalties should the agencies fail to comply. I expect the law will be rewritten eventually, but not this year.
Not a lot of BTUs
From the Department of "Geez, I wish I'd said that":
[E]veryone with a "No Blood For Oil" bumper sticker can try opening a vein and seeing how well it heats their house.
Who did say it? Aurora Leigh at Memento Mori.
28 January 2003
It's only rock and roll
Yeah, and a Porsche is only a car.
No, I'm not going. In my present emotional state, which may be best described as "insufficiently repressed", I don't believe I could handle it.
And the Stones on the same night as the State of the Union address? Obviously this isn't the situation for which they wrote "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" but it seems to fit just the same.
Standing in the shadows of lust
Donna filed this under "Been there, done that":
It is Sunday night and I am bored. That explains why I went on Match.com and looked up the losers who corresponded with me last Summer and then dropped me faster than a hot potato after one measly date. Can you believe most of them are still there!?! Certainly makes me feel better.... as if the onus is not on me. Online dating was a pulverizing experience and I am glad I threw in the towel-- Never Again! Although, I do get a sick thrill out of perusing Match.com just to see how many desperate, single men are out there.
Oh? How many?
Never mind. Don't answer that. Our numbers are legion and our dance cards are empty, and some of us should be left on our side in the dark until we mature.
Tutu: solid flesh
John Perazzo did a pretty good job of slicing and dicing Bishop Desmond Tutu in FrontPage last week, but as always these days, it takes a blogger to really finish someone off. In this case, it's Patty at Pdawwg.
Tutu is quoted thusly:
"We're giving up on a fellow human being when we demonize a fellow human being," he said. Exhorting his listeners to remember that Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda members are also children of God, he stated that "the Christian God we worship gives up on no one."
To which Patty says:
Who said we gave up on them? If we send them to God, he can figure out the state of their souls.
Once again, Tutu, as quoted in FrontPage:
"[S]ome of the greatest saints in the Christian firmament were notorious sinners," [he said], and wondered aloud whether such people as Mary Magdalene and St. Francis "would have survived indictment" in the United States.
Patty knows better than to buy into this one:
I missed the part in Butler's Lives of the Saints where Mary Magdalene and St. Francis induced others to blow up innocent civilians.
Desmond Tutu, man of God and Nobel Peace Prize winner, yet. Jeebus. How did he ever get out of pushing a barrow in the marketplace?
Pretty much the entire dating cycle is beyond my comprehension, so I am always interested in other people's methods, especially when they're less unsuccessful than mine.
On the other hand, this technique of Dawn Olsen's seems awfully familiar somehow:
My idea of dating has always been to zero in on my subject and then confuse them with a befuddling mix of flattery and abuse.
On the basis of the available evidence, I surmise that she is more efficient than I.
29 January 2003
In one hour alone of [a British TV production of] Sons and Lovers, there were nine explicit sex scenes involving full-frontal nudity and all of it filmed without recourse to hair remover. If this sends a shudder down your spine, you're not alone. After all, it has somehow become the accepted wisdom that women should be bald from the forehead down, save for a mild eruption at pubic level and only then if it's kept as trim as a well-groomed box hedge.
Not even I would have had the nerve to use the term "box hedge" in this context. And American television, at least the ad-supported stuff, probably isn't ready for D. H. Lawrence, let alone female hirsuteness. It took Playboy sixteen years (!) to get up enough nerve to display any shrubbery at all.
But back to this Guardian piece by Mimi Spencer:
You might hate the bitter truth, but it has everything to do with the fact that men prefer us that way. And if that's the case, surely this is something we should have overcome by now in the same way that we have ditched eyelash-fluttering, corsetry and bustles.
Eyelash-fluttering is passé? Horrors!
Truth be told, I really don't believe that a guy's level of, um, enlightenment correlates particularly well with his enthusiasm (or lack thereof) for body hair; historically, testosterone has demonstrated itself to be quite indifferent to ostensibly higher brain functions.
I will state for the record that it is most unlike me, upon seeing the drapes, to speculate as to the nature of the carpet. (This is undoubtedly due to the fact that I can imagine no circumstances under which I would be able to make the comparison with any degree of precision.)
Back to Mimi:
In her study on the relationship between a woman's politics and sexual orientation and the shaving of her legs and underarms, Dr Susan Basow, professor of psychology at Pennsylvania's Lafayette College, found that the majority of women who did not shave their legs identified as "very strong feminists and/or as not exclusively heterosexual", and the major reason they did not shave was for political reasons.
Was "Who the hell has time?" one of the options on the questionnaire?
Really, I don't expect anyone to endure the torment of a bikini wax (I assume it's a torment; I'm in no mood to check this empirically), but I wasn't that crazy about Helena Bonham Carter before she played Ari.
Oh, and the Number One sign your next-door neighbor is a Playboy Playmate: Her lawn is completely bare, except for a narrow strip on each side.
19th nervous breakdown
While your father's perfecting ways of making sealing-wax, the rest of us are reading the nineteenth weekly edition of Carnival of the Vanities, this week hosted (because he said so) at Ipse Dixit. As always, it's the best of the blogs, plus a few snide comments from yours truly, and is not to be missed.
Trying to get the feeling again
Not exactly a true-blue spectacle, but okay, if you say so.
(Also posted to Disturbing Search Requests)
What price spam?
It wasn't that long ago that Condé Nast was practically giving away its magazines; I remember renewing Wired for a year for twelve bucks. It probably costs that much to mail the damn thing.
Comes the renewal notice for Vanity Fair: one year $24, two years $42 "Preferred Rate". Preferred by them, maybe. I balked and went to the Web, where their fulfillment house offered two years for $30 if I coughed up my email address.
So, in exchange for a fistful of highly-filterable emails, I'm up twelve dollars. Should you, dear merchant, wish to bribe me similarly, you know where to find me.
30 January 2003
In Dodd we trust
Thanks to 150 (!) referrals from Carnival of the Vanities, this site hit the 500-visitor mark yesterday for only the third time ever. I don't know whether this should be credited to the ingenuity of C. Dodd Harris IV, who wrote up the descriptions, or to my own indecisiveness which article to send? which led me to turn in two submissions, but being the sort of person who ducks credits for things (thereby simplifying the task of ducking responsibility when they go wrong), I'm going with Dodd.
The book of numbers
You can definitely tell that Oscar Jr. is starting to get into the groove here; he's churned out a piece which is called, so help me Hannah and her sisters, A Preliminary and Shoddy Statistical Analysis of the Heights of the Blogosphere.
Crunching data from the Myelin Blogging Ecosystem, Oscar has determined that, on average, ten extra blogs in your blogroll will get you four extra links in return. I'm not sure exactly when you're supposed to add those ten to achieve the desired effect, and I have some general qualms about futzing with blogrolls the ninety or so blogs I list are there because they are regularly read, not because I think I stand to gain anything from their presence but it's an interesting statistic nonetheless, and I'd like to see someone do a study on how many links you can garner from delinking someone or from demanding that someone else delink.
Four score and seven edits ago
Well, this is kinda semi-neat: Abraham Lincoln's 1863 address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania as a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. (I live for the moment when PowerPoint perishes from the earth.)
(Before you ask: Yes, I've seen dustbunny.com. It's great.)
For my Carnival visitors
There's a whole lot here to read, some of which is actually worthwhile.
If you'd like to improve the odds of finding a good read while you're surfing, Bill Peschel keeps a list of Best Internet Essays of 2003, and he's averaging about five or six a week. A couple of them have been linked from here; one of them actually originated here.
And if you've seen all the Carnival entries and all the other ephemera of the blogosphere and would like to do this sort of thing yourself some day, Tim Dunlop has some excellent advice. (How excellent? It made Peschel's list.)
Thanks for coming.
31 January 2003
Powerful bleats and japes
Yeah, I know, everyone reads Lileks anyway, but I just loved this particular bit:
[W]e use one of them all-natch'ral peener butters. No, I do not have to go to the co-op, scoop it from a flyblown communal vat with a wooden spoon, put it in my reusable crock and carry it to the barter-counter with the handy hemp handle. This brand of all natural PB is made by Smuckers. (Always wondered if they really knew how odd their ad campaign sounds: With a name like Smuckers, it has to be good. By this logic, Dodgammed Sassmole Skithead Futtersmuckers would taste even better.)
I'll be sure to ask for it at the Piggly Wiggly.
Sudden flash of insight: Once Iraq is, um, subdued, the most productive thing we can do is open up the society to Western wackiness. Wouldn't you just love to see the first Piggly Wiggly supermarket in Baghdad?
I tell you, this Lileks guy makes you think.
There's one in every organization
"You're pretentious," she repeats.
I wait a moment for some sort of explanation, clarification, or additional commentary, but none comes. "Why," I ask, "do you say I'm pretentious?"
"Look at you," she says. "Sitting there reading your book."
"Reading on my lunch hour makes me pretentious?" I ask.
"Sitting there where everyone can see you, reading a book no one else would understand, so everyone can see how smart you are, it's pretentious."
This woman has issues, you think? You haven't heard the half of it.
And actually, neither has anyone else, as of this writing; Edward, his storyteller instincts honed to a fine edge, is letting the details accumulate rather than jumping to the punchline. Look for the entries titled "Pretention" and read upward.
Second season on The WB
Some rejected TV series, courtesy of Mimi Smartypants:
Vasectomy 2003: Medical shows are always very popular with certain demographics. An hour of guys in sweatpants putting icepacks to their groins is going to be great.
Saved By The Bells, Bells, Bells, Bells, Bells: Wacky hijinks ensue when Edgar Allan Poe is resurrected, transported forward to our time, and enrolled in a Baltimore public high school. (Or maybe we should set in the 1980s. Can't you just see E. A. Poe wearing a shirt that says RELAX or CHOOSE LIFE?)
My So-Called Dentist: He is not a real dentist, but don't tell our contestants!
Tiny Henry Rollins In A Jar: Sitcom. Henry Rollins is shrunk to the size of a cricket and put in a jar by an adorable six-year-old girl with pigtails. She gives him a stick to climb on and another stick to bench press and she loves him very much. Every episode ends with a self-glorifying spoken word piece and a Macintosh product placement.
And, of course, So Much More.
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