1 January 2006
This is the time of year when the voice of the Predictor is heard in the land. Sometimes this voice is grandly general, sometimes it's foolishly precise, but it's well-nigh inevitable this time of year.
Hence: an open thread for you to make some calls of your own.
My own 2006 agenda
Butt-head (this is too coherent for Beavis) once said, "I don't like things that suck." In the spirit of this declaration, I'd like to announce that for the coming year, I plan to do fewer things that suck. (Writing things that suck, alas, is a different dynamic entirely.)
Besides that, the following items are on the list:
None of these should be particularly difficult.
I'd call it a one-liner
I'd complain about this, but unfortunately, it's exactly my own position on the matter:
FYI I refuse to use strike-through when I write my articles because I think it's
And it occurs to me that were there some HTML tag to duplicate the childish^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hinfamous backspacing trick we used to use in 7-Bit Heaven, I'm sure it would have descended into cliché just as quickly.
Assuming you don't lose your phone
I can see the demand for this. The Texas electronics firm Keyless Ride is introducing a new remote-control system which permits you to access your existing keyless-entry system with devices other than your fob: a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, perhaps.
So if you lock your keys in the car, you just hop on the cell, dial up a code, and the door pops open.
(Or, if you're a cheap so-and-so like me, you have a spare key in another pocket.)
Ode to a road
What's the most famous road in America?
Right you are. But Route 66 is less than a pale shadow of itself these days, more memory than actual roadway, and the remaining drivable sections of it are slowly, sometimes not slowly, being reincarnated as tourist traps.
That leaves the crown to the New Jersey Turnpike, a supersized ribbon of asphalt and angst that bisects the Garden State, the subject of a six-page tribute by David Holzman in the February issue of Car and Driver.
I first drove the Turnpike in 2001. Having only just finished a vaguely-similar road in Pennsylvania, I was filled with trepidation: C/D's own Brock Yates had once described the Turnpike as the American equivalent of MiG Alley, and, well, I'm no fighter pilot. It took only a few miles, though, for me to realize that if I were going to get into trouble, it would be caused by some nimrod with out-of-state plates: someone like, um, me.
Holzman's piece doesn't romanticize the Turnpike, but neither does it complain: the article, like the Turnpike itself, simply is, and in true Jersey fashion, it doesn't much concern itself with your reaction. The usual names are checked, from Bruce Springsteen to the Barista of Bloomfield Avenue, and there are the obligatory mentions of the delicate scent of sulfur dioxide and Paul Simon's whine about counting the cars with Kathy. But what matters here is the road, and whether you think it's the nexus of American despair or simply the least-complicated way from Point A to Point B, last year motorists and truckers rolled up more than six billion miles and paid $440 million in tolls.
The Interstate system, which wasn't even on the drawing boards when the New Jersey Turnpike was built, was intended as a reasonable facsimile of the German autobahnen. The Turnpike never had any such international ambitions: it's as American as apple pie and more so, lately, than Chevrolet. Houston architect R. Gregory Turner explains:
The turnpike is a swaggering giant that plows through the industrial heartland of the East Coast, overpowering even the mighty landscape of refineries, airports, and tank farms that have the temerity to get in its path. It is a muscular 12 lanes wide, formed of masses of concrete, steel, and asphalt. It is not a subtle roadway, it is straightforward; indeed, it is virtually straight! Its beauty is in its simplicity.
Mr Turner, I should point out, used to live near Exit 9.
And for a lot of us, when we think of New Jersey, we don't necessarily think of the Boss, the corruption, the chemicals, The Sopranos, or even the Shore; we think of the New Jersey Turnpike, and we wonder if we're going to run into beach traffic.
The winds hit 45 mph on a regular basis this afternoon, and the temperature was an amazing (and a record) 75 degrees. Perfect weather for grass fires, and they got bad enough on the northeast side of town that an evacuation order was issued for an area centered on NE 63rd between Coltrane and Sooner, an area largely rural, but only about two to three miles from I-35. Farther north, fires near Guthrie forced the closure of the highway for an hour or so.
Winds are slowing down now, but relative humidities are still low and won't climb much tonight. Monday will be cooler; however, temperatures will rise sharply again on Tuesday.
2 January 2006
Justices Youngman and Dangerfield dissent
You wouldn't think this could be quantified, but apparently Supreme Court records show that Antonin Scalia is 19 times funnier than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Transcripts of oral arguments have often been punctuated by a simple [Laughter] indication, but until October 2004, it was not possible to identify the Justices by name.
Now it is, and Jay D. Wexler, a law professor at Boston University, has been crunching the numbers on the wisecracks. Scalia, says Wexler, is responsible for some 77 "laughing episodes"; Ginsburg, only four. (Clarence Thomas, who tends not to say much during oral arguments, is credited with none.)
The methodology, of course, is not perfect: [Laughter] can indicate anything from a chuckle to a guffaw.
(Via Alan Sullivan.)
Keystone Lake-based Start Pictures is working on The Buckle: Gays in the Bible Belt, a documentary by producer/director Todd Roberts and writer Tim Cornman.
Start Pictures seeks the personal stories of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people that live or have lived in the state.
"We are not taking a one-sided approach, though," Roberts said. "We also want to represent the families and friends of gays, clergy, elected officials and the Oklahoma population at large."
Cornman and Roberts being straight guys, it will be interesting to see how they sort things out. I honestly don't know how I'd handle such an assignment.
File this under "Support your local indie filmmakers."
Hand over the BTUs and no one gets hurt
Natural gas supplies from a pipeline running from Russia into western Europe have dropped by more than a third, and the Russians claim that Ukraine, whose quota has been cut off by Russia for nonpayment, is stealing the gas.
Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, supplies about one-quarter of the gas used in western Europe; Italy, France, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary report they're getting 24 to 40 percent less than expected. Ukraine denies that it's siphoning off the gas, and contends Moscow is trying to punish Kiev for seeking greater ties to the West by quadrupling the price of gas.
Even the higher price $230 per thousand cubic meters, or about $6.51 per thousand cubic feet is roughly comparable to the rates paid in the European Union, and a bit lower than the current price in the US.
Update: The US has weighed in on the issue. Says Sean McCormack of State:
Such an abrupt step creates insecurity in the energy sector in the region and raises serious questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure.
As we have told both Russia and Ukraine, we support a move toward market pricing for energy but believe that such a change should be introduced over time rather than suddenly and unilaterally.
McCormack apparently did not define "over time."
Update, 3 January: The Russians aren't backing down, but they've turned the gas back on.
Mr. Right turns up a helpful article by Wayne Bruce, DVM, on the care and feeding of the moonbat (Lunaris vespertilio). Emphasis is laid upon the necessity to spay/neuter, and there are gratuitous references to patchouli, Kool-Aid, and Oliver Willis.
What's that you say? Wingnuts? I just take one out of the toolbox when I need one.
Regular readers will recall my occasional differences with my health-insurance provider, identified as "CFI Care," usually with a disclaimer: "Not its real initials." Although it may be cute, it's just a substitute, and I've often wondered if maybe I'm doing a disservice to the general public by not revealing its real initials, even as I insulate myself from the slings and arrows of outrageous corporate lawyers.
Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times has run into a similar situation. Someone swiped his debit card; his bank decided that the $2000 or so that was siphoned out of his account constituted legitimate withdrawals and will not compensate him. Here's what he said:
The reason I'm not divulging my bank?s name as much as I would love to is that it wouldn't be right for me to use the influence of the newspaper to get my money back. The average Joe can't do that. And besides, I want to see if in the end, my bank (a large national operation that will no longer have my business when this is over) does the right thing for the right reasons.
I have a slightly better soapbox than Joe does, and I'm usually reticent about spilling the beans unless I am really, really ticked off. (The loss of two grand would qualify as at least two, maybe three reallys.)
The Consumerist, where I found this, is wrestling with the same question. Suggestions from the field will be welcomed.
There's no other word for it, but it's a W, and when you've had only twelve in twenty-nine games, you'll take it. (Yeah, I know, the Bees had only two in 29 games last year, but that's ancient history.) It was, said Gerry Vaillancourt, "a game where you just gut it out." Ultimately, the Hornets managed a bit more in the guts department, fighting the Charlotte Bobcats to a tie after the first quarter, building up a mere one-point lead at the half, and finally pulling away in the final four minutes, 103-86.
I don't know if Byron Scott was frustrated coming into this game, but he used only seven players tonight, and J. R. Smith wasn't one of them. Chris Paul got 24 points and 11 assists; David West dropped in 20 points more. Speedy Claxton and Rasual Butler combined for 25 points off the bench.
3 January 2006
Challenging the Crosstown
Some of my mumblings from last spring:
I took a spin over to Union Station, 300 SW 7th, which isn't the easiest place to get to in this city. (Robinson south from downtown, then hang a right on 7th.) In the hands of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, the station is serving as, well, not much of anything these days. (Amtrak's Heartland Flyer stops at the old Santa Fe depot north of Reno on E. K. Gaylord.) Virtually all of the vintage rail infrastructure is still viable, were the city to pursue a light-rail transit system, although it's scheduled to be trashed once I-40's Crosstown route is rerouted literally through the old railyard. ODOT, of course, insists that "the integrity of [the station] will be maintained".
[Note: The first link in the above paragraph has been changed from the original post.]
Ground has been broken for the new road, but, as Zen master Yogi Berra might have said, it ain't over 'til it's over. I missed this last week apparently it was in the Norman Transcript but Doug Loudenback exhumed it for OKCTalk.com. Dig this:
A Washington, D.C., attorney, working on behalf of several central Oklahoma organizations, has filed a challenge to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's Crosstown highway relocation project by objecting to the legality of BNSF Railway Company's line abandonment.
If the 2.95-mile stretch is permitted to remain abandoned, said Fritz Kahn, an attorney working on behalf of Common Cause Oklahoma, North American Transportation Institute and the Bio-Energy Wellness Center in Oklahoma City, construction would be allowed to proceed on a 10-lane Interstate 40 extension.
Backing organizations claim that to make way for the construction much of the infrastructure that would allow for the future development of a rail system would be destroyed, including a direct route to Will Rogers World Airport from Union Station in downtown Oklahoma City.
The NATI is Tom Elmore's group, which has been fighting this alignment of the Crosstown for years. I'm not even going to ask what the Bioenergy Wellness Center, which is a holistic-medicine/acupuncture place in the Asian District, is doing here.
The legal wrangling began Nov. 7, just days shy of the BNSF's approved abandonment date, when Kahn submitted a formal protest to the Surface Transportation Board. Though the line abandonment was approved in late November, Kahn has kept up his effort to fight the Surface Transportation Board's decision. Most recently, Kahn submitted documents to the board Dec. 23 detailing company names and situations he claims directly contradict BNSF's statements that the abandoned lines weren't used by local traffic.
"I came in on the 24th hour," Kahn said. "But what we were saying is that the notice to abandon the line should be vacated ab initio, because it contains false and misleading information."
John Bowman, project manager for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said a main line and a spur will be allowed to remain at Union Station. Additionally, Bowman said, a Union Pacific rail line will be moved south of the station to allow for the installation of a second useable line in the event passenger rail activities return.
ODOT's argument has been that if we really want rail transit, well, we've got the Santa Fe station right downtown, though there is an abundance of neither track nor parking in the vicinity of the Santa Fe, and there'd still be the need to coordinate with Amtrak.
I'll say again what I said then:
I have my doubts that there ever will be a light-rail transit system in central Oklahoma, but I am quite sure that if there is, it will cost a lot more than it would had the Union Station railyard been left alone.
Which, of course, may be the whole idea: to make it too expensive to consider.
No tunes left behind
There's no other way to say this quite the way Donna says this:
I have a playlist in Rhapsody devoted to songs about butts.
[Emphasis in the original.]
"Honey, does this song make my playlist look bigger?"
Contributing from Day One
Well, maybe Day 150 or so.
After the birth of a child there's always the temptation to say "Yes, it's cute, but what can it do?" Until recently the answer was simply "lie there and cry," but now babies can be put on the payroll, so to speak, almost as soon as they are born.
On the downside, this presumes a level of dryness which may not always be realizable, or perhaps a level of wetness you might not wish to have distributed.
Jack will talk
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, says The New York Times, will cut a deal with federal prosecutors: he will plead guilty to three felony counts fraud, public corruption and tax evasion in exchange for his cooperation in going after the Big Boys.
We'll see if Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), who received $6000 from Abramoff, since given away, and $23,000 from his associates in previous years, says anything.
"Aviator," in the Lincoln lineup, was seen as the junior Navigator and a notch up from its Mercury and Ford cousins. Now it's about to become the MKX, a fragment of a Scrabble® rack that doesn't score well in Ravenwood's Universe:
Call me crazy, but I prefer my cars to have a name rather than the alphabet soup letters that are so popular now-a-days. I guess I just don't have time to remember all those letters. I don't own a Lincoln, although I did once take a look at the Aviator and other models. I would not have even considered buying anything called the MKX.
I blame this on Honda, which sold bazillions of Acura Legends and Integras before deciding that they'd rather be known for Acuras than for the bazillions of Legends and Integras on the road. Now there's the RL, the TL, the TSX and the MDX, and can you tell anything about any of them from this jumble of consonants?
If you're going to have alphanumerics, they ought to be at least hierarchical: BMW sells a 3-series, a 5-series, a 6-series and a 7-series here, in approximate order of price (the 6, sold only as a coupe, is pricier than the 7 it most closely resembles, though there are other 7s), plus high-performance M versions (for instance, M3 and M5). No harder to comprehend than, say, the TTLB Ecosystem.
Ford, at least, was ingenious enough to come up with a scheme to name all its SUVs with E words (Explorer, Expedition, Escape) and its cars with F words (Fusion, Focus and stretching it a bit Five Hundred). And no, I don't want to hear your F word for a Ford car. Chevrolet, of course, has its own collection of C words. But Chevy was the major practitioner of the fine art of naming vehicles after places no one would ever see them: think Bel Air or Biscayne. (They still sell Malibu and Monte Carlo, even today.) And Hyundai has named its two SUVs after Western cities: Santa Fe and Tucson. Might there be a Reno in its future? Dodge has already locked up Durango, after all.
Toyota used to have a whole bunch of C words of its own: Camry, Celica, Corolla, and the earlier Crown, Corona and Cressida. I always coveted the Cressida, and once suggested to a dealer that they develop a Troilus package for their pickup truck. This got as much response as you think it did. They occasionally did deviate from the scheme, though: there was, for example, the MR2, almost immediately dubbed "Mister Two" in the press, a tiny two-seat roadster that had just about enough cargo space for a Hershey bar if you didn't get the kind with almonds.
Disclosure: I drive a Mazda 626. This meant more back when they had 323s and 929s on the lot.
Normally I wouldn't grumble about new construction in Buffalo (that's New York, not Oklahoma), but this particular deal sounds venal enough to have been cooked up in Tulsa. The Greater Buffalo Blog reports:
Here's one that deserves to go down in flames: The new headquarters for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western New York, the local nonprofit medical insurer, on 15 acres of land behind City Hall. It is a local parlor game to rue development mistakes of the past. Yet, with Blue Cross, we are going to be saddled with a project that breaks all the rules of citymaking. We'll pay for the pleasure, too. The deal includes, for starters, a $10,000,000 federal tax benefit, a taxpayer-funded $14,000,000 state environmental clean up that a private owner was obligated to pay, a probable city payback for a $16,000,000 parking ramp, and the selling of a 6.5 acre public parcel of land assessed at $3,500,000 to a private developer for $1. All this merely to move a local company from one city neighborhood to another.
Some of the gory details:
The project site is isolated, at least five blocks from any streetfront retail (about 2,000 feet), and seven blocks from Lafayette Square, the closest concentration of commercial activity. This is much too far to induce retail sales.
In a region with mass transit in a downward spiral of service cuts and declining ridership, we are exchanging a headquarters building located on five bus routes and Metrorail, for one that is four blocks from the nearest bus stop.
Over 50% of downtown land is devoted to parking, including several underutilized public parking ramps, yet a 1600-car, $16,000,000 ramp is to be built expressly for this building's employees, likely at city expense.
The shape and placement of the buildings is such to lead one to believe the encroachments on [Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency] land are done to trigger some kind of funding or tax abatement for the developer, and fees for BURA.
Urbanistically, the building and its public areas are sited so as to discourage pedestrian activity, forfeiting the opportunities presented by the corner of 7th and Court streets. Architecturally, it will be a cheap, tawdry, and altogether unavoidable monstrosity that destroys the architectural and historical presence of John Selkirk's landmarked Gas Works façade of 1859.
They say "façade" for a reason: that's all that's left of the original Gas Works. The building itself was demolished in 2000, at which time it had been on the National Register of Historic Places for twenty-four years.
The new building appears to have little relationship to the old structure but appears to have been a stock plan from an office park plopped down in the city next to the gasworks.
Buffalo's preservation ordinance sets forth a number of criteria for review of a proposed improvement. Among them are scale, relationship of building masses and architectural details including materials, colors and textures. There seems to have been no attention to any of these.
Additionally, the building fails to make itself part of the urban fabric but creates an island for itself.
Drawings of the new facility along the bottom of this page. "HealthNow" is the parent company of BC/BS-WNY.
Oh, and Buffalo is trying to land a Bass Pro Shops store too.
Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson
To the left, an ad in this week's TV Guide. To the right, an ad in next week's TV Guide. I yield to no one in my admiration for this pose, but there is such a thing as overkill, and this is it. At least Maureen Dowd hasn't decided to make use of this particular pop-culture reference yet. (Click either to embiggen.)
4 January 2006
Best of '05?
This seems to be a new trend at New Year's: picking one's best post of the previous year.
I don't know if I really want to reread all 2,161 posts I made last year geez, that's almost six a day but I'm willing to listen to recommendations.
For now, though, the one I'm perhaps most proud of, or anyway least embarrassed by, is this one, which came out in the very first week of the year, suggesting it's been downhill ever since.
FEMA shows up
Well, their checkbook showed up, anyway: the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved reimbursement grants (at 75-25) for firefighting expenses in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
Meanwhile, small fires continue to crop up, and the chance of rain between now and next week is somewhere between not much and nil.
Microloans take a different twist
Kiva is a variation on the microcredit theme: the site maintains a list of borrowers, and anyone with a PayPal account can lend any of them as little as $25. Kiva works through the Village Enterprise Fund, an African organization which provides seed capital to small entrepreneurs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, word of this got to the left side of blogdom first; I'm on record as being a fan of microcredit in the Third World, but I missed the introduction.
What I love about this, and about groups like Modest Needs, is that 1) I understand what it's like to need just a little more to get by, and that 2) as someone with generally only a little to give I can really see the difference I'm making.
Really big disasters tsunami, Katrina, and the like get all the attention and most of the dollars; operations like this remind us that it's not some distant mass of humanity, but individual people, who occasionally need help.
Surlywood has one of those monitored alarm systems, with a phone connection, a battery backup, and a REALLY loud siren, which requires a permit from Oklahoma City ($20 initially, $5 a year thereafter). My annual permit expires at the end of December; on 26 November I sent my renewal application. (My bank reports that the city cashed my check on the 30th.)
The 2006 sticker has yet to arrive, so this morning I called the OCPD to see what was going on. Apparently the poor soul on the phone had been getting a number of these calls: as he tells it, they had outsourced production of the permit decals, and late last year they changed suppliers and the new supplier is way, way behind. (I got the distinct impression that it wasn't the OCPD who wanted to change the contract.) In the meantime, he said, not to worry, and if by some fluke I'm written up for an expired permit, they'll take care of it.
I don't feel better, exactly, but at least I'm not alone in my plight.
Update, 5 January, 5 pm: The new decal has arrived.
Also, those sharp spikes have got to go
There was a time when I imagined haranguing Slaughterville, Oklahoma for its name was about as dumb a stunt as PETA could pull.
Dawn Carr, PETA's director of special projects, says the group asked the National Park Service in mid-November for permission to hang a 70-foot-long pleather belt, worn low in the style of the Olsen twins, around the waist of the Statue of Liberty. But by December, the Feds had nixed the request, responding in a letter that "while adding a 'pleather belt' might seem like a great idea to some," the statue's fans "expect to see this icon as it was originally created. Our policies do not permit an alteration of this kind, even on a temporary basis. [We] realize that this cause is very important to you and your organization and believe with your creative talents and imagination you will find other avenues to pursue."
"We knew it was a long shot, but we're dreamers," says Carr. "You never know how the spirit might take people during the holiday season."
Shucks, why not temporarily replace the torch with a Bud Light? At least Anheuser-Busch would pay for it.
(Via Lawren, who says: "I can see ole Lady Liberty in a Chanel suit, clutching a Fendi bag, or wearing a gorgeous strand of Mikimoto pearls, but pleather? Those folks at PETA must wear and smoke a lot of grass.")
Are we not men? We are Bevo
Some reasons Berry Tramel says we should be pulling for Texas over USC in the Dilemma Bowl:
1. The streak. I don't think USC is going 13-0 next season. I don't think the Trojans can reach 48 straight. But you never know. No reason to monkey with it. End the streak now.
3. Big 12 pride. Miami 37, Nebraska 14. LSU 21, OU 14. USC 55, OU 19. The Big 12 is making like the AFC of the '80s, developing a well-deserved reputation for gagging in the big game. Another flop job will make it official: The Big 12 is a fraud.
12. Blood pressure. Rancor is bad for the soul. The best way to deal with an enemy is to make them your friend. So spit out your anger and swallow your pride, if not arsenic, and cheer on Texas.
Yes, there are nine other reasons.
Beyond that, deponent (who attended a school in Austin which shall remain nameless) saith not.
They played that on the Ford Center PA about halfway through the third quarter, and by then the Hornets could have been waving at them; it was 72-50 at the time. Miami would narrow the gap, what with Dwyane Wade getting a triple double, Jason Williams banging down the treys, and Shaq being, well, Shaq, but otherwise the Heat were cold after the first quarter, and the Bees chalked up a win, 107-92. Byron Scott played everyone (except the Officially Injured) tonight, and six Hornets got double figures, led by Desmond Mason with 24 and David West with 20.
This is only the second time this season the Hornets have had two consecutive 100-point nights and the first time, they lost both those games.
One more game in the home stand: Friday night, against the Trailblazers.
5 January 2006
It's no particular secret that you can block most of those unsolicited credit-card offers with a phone call: 888-5-OPT-OUT.
Unfortunately, what I want is to block one particular card issuer who has cheesed me off more often than I'm willing to endure, without necessarily killing the flow from other issuers who might have favorable deals. I suppose I'm going to have to write them and complain.
At some point, inasmuch as I've overhauled my plastic portfolio twice in the last six years, I ought to sit down and write a summary of my experiences with the Big Boys in the industry which is almost all of them now.
The disengagement begins?
The Hornets plan to move two January games scheduled for Baton Rouge, La., back to Oklahoma, including one possibly in Norman at OU's Lloyd Noble Center.
The games to be moved are Jan. 13 against Sacramento and Jan. 18 against Memphis. An announcement from the Hornets is expected today.
The Sacramento game is the one being considered for the Lloyd Noble, what with a Bon Jovi concert booked for the Ford Center that weekend, and I think it's a safe bet the Kings will happily play the Bees anywhere other than the, um, home hive.
No word yet on the last three Baton Rouge games; the official story so far has been that they're considering moving them to the New Orleans Arena. In the one outing in the City of the Red Stick, the Hornets drew a meager 7300, only halfway filling up the Pete Maravich Center, about thirty-eight percent of capacity at the Ford, where the Hornets have sold out four of the last five.
Update, 6 January: The Arena it is.
I wasn't sure if I wanted to go to the usual trouble of looking up a cute numerical reference, since the newest Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Harshly Mellow, doesn't bear the usual weekly numeric identifier although with HM assuming command from the retiring Bigwig, the "Mark II" designation affixed by Zeuswood is certainly legitimate.
No exploding steering wheel
Since the government demands airbags only on vehicles weighing 5500 lb and under, look for the 2009 model Cross Lander to gain about 1100 lb of road-hugging weight. And no, this shouldn't be difficult; Kia's first Sedona minivan weighed 4700 lb or so, a direct result of corporate penury at the time, they couldn't afford any of the usual automotive weight-saving techniques and still meet their price point.
In the meantime, US-bound Cross Landers will bear a government-inflicted warning label. When they'll actually get here, of course, remains to be seen.
Brad Berens, executive editor for iMedia Communications, talks to Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, and one thing he'd like to know is how to tell the Good Blogs from the Bad Blogs:
On the consumer side, the great thing about blogs and blogging is that any thoughtful, engaged citizen with a browser and an internet connection can become a media voice in just a few minutes. On the corporate side, this is great if the citizen is a thoughtful and engaged customer. But the terrible thing about blogs and blogging is that any meathead with a grudge or too much time on his hands can have the same megaphone. Whose job is it to tell the engaged customers from the meatheads?
A certain degree of cynicism when dealing with the promises of faceless corporate hegemonies is needed to actually appreciate their slickness: these aren't things we need, these are things we want, and therein really lies the allure. When companies can afford to launch multi-million dollar advertising complaints to blunt the sharpness of consumer's complaints, it's important we remain all the more persistent and vigilant in our complaints. But omnivorous, purposeful cynicism devours itself. Because of this, theres an odd contradiction: to be effectively cynical about consumerism, one at heart has to be a fair and enthusiastic consumer.
The razor's edge of being a critic is whetted on actually having a great deal of fondness of that which you criticize, and I think it's that fondness which separates the "thoughtful, engaged citizen with a browser" from the "meathead with the microphone". So when Berens asks whose job it is in companies today to separate the one from the other, I think it's a dual responsibility: on one hand, companies need to realize the validity of complaints from consumers, but on the other hand, consumers have an even harder task, because they need to introspectively judge the validity of their own complaints.
Five points off for "hegemonies," a word which grates like Dragon Lady nails on a fresh chalkboard, but otherwise this makes sense. The next question: can this premise be extended to political bloggers? Obviously the "fondness" is present: there's a reason for that term "political junkie," after all. And junkies of both political and shopping persuasions have a distinct tendency to conflate needs and wants. The difference? Government, unlike retail, has no particular incentive to be responsive.
Then again, how much has Dell learned from Jeff Jarvis?
Just to prove it can be done
Forms W2 at 42nd and Treadmill were distributed today.
6 January 2006
The new McCarthyism
As in Charlie McCarthy. Think about it for a moment: Edgar Bergen made history as a ventriloquist. On the radio. At least you never saw his lips moving.
2006: Sirius, one of the two satellite radio services, has struck a deal with Playboy Enterprises to produce a Playboy-branded radio show.
History in the making? Not likely. Something about this doesn't make sense, even to me, and I'm the guy with the database of women you can't see.
Then again, they keep telling us that aural sex really isn't sex.
(Brian J. Noggle can't see this either.)
This is no time to stand Pat
It's a rhetorical question, says Andrea, but it's a question just the same:
Why do people still pay any attention to what Pat Robertson says?
The answer, of course, is that they don't; the massive expansion of Christian media in recent years, largely under the national radar, has relegated him to the status of one voice among many, and not the loudest or clearest voice either. The reason he gets play in Big Media is twofold:
For that segment of society who considers religion well, this religion, anyway an oddity committed by and for odd people, Pat Robertson is their worst fear personified; it would never occur to them that he's basically just a Bizarro World transmogrification of Al Sharpton.
And no, the right wing doesn't embrace him either: Robertson was one of the original prototypes for the term "idiotarian". If Pat Robertson did not exist, it would not have been necessary to invent him, but the temptation to do so would probably have proven irresistible.
Down here on the ground
The first time I heard Lou Rawls, I didn't know who it was; all I knew was that someone was singing some serious counterpoint to Sam Cooke on "Bring It On Home To Me," and I wondered if I'd hear him again.
That was in 1962, and I didn't know that Rawls had already been signed to Capitol, where he would record a series of jazzy R&B albums. He didn't chart a single until 1965, a version of the standard "Three O'Clock in the Morning," but the next year, the soulful "Love Is A Hurtin' Thing" proved that he could stay up a lot later than that.
Lou stayed with Capitol until 1970; his last hit for them was a cover of "Bring It On Home To Me," which makes perfect sense. He moved to MGM, then to Philadelphia International, where he discovered he could fit in beautifully with the Gamble-Huff machine's dance anthems.
Cancer hit Lou twice: his lungs in 2004, his brain in 2005. The combination of the two proved lethal in 2006. He will be remembered for a handful of movies, a lifetime of service, and a collection of memorable recordings. He was either 70 or 72; the number matters less than the fact that he was here.
Nick Lachey says he used to walk around in Jessica Simpson's shoes.
Incidentally, shoes of identical length, if size X in a man's style, are size (X + 1.5) in a woman's style at least, on the American scale.
It helps when the rules make sense
The Oklahoma Tax Commission has sent me a Form 1099-G, and I know why: I itemized deductions in 2004, and this means that the tax refund I received is considered income for 2005. Nothing startling about that.
However, something doesn't quite add up: the amount specified on 1099-G exceeds the amount of the refund by an amount which happens to equal the amount I kicked in for use tax.
I have emailed the OTC with a query, and also asked why they didn't bother to include the $45 rebate that popped up this fall. (Best guess here: they haven't gotten the records back from Bank of America, to whom they outsourced the sending of the actual rebate checks.)
Well, sort of. The third quarter was an utter disaster: just barely into it, Chris Paul tore a ligament in his right thumb, and he'll be out for at least two weeks; the Hornets managed a pathetic 11 points in 12 minutes. Juan Dixon, who got a season-high 28 against the Bees at Portland, did almost as much damage in Oklahoma City, scoring 27.
And yet the Hornets, having gone from 19 points up to six down, survived, slapping down the Trailblazers 90-80, winning their third in a row for the first time in almost two years. You have to figure Kirk Snyder will be starting for a long, long time; he picked up 22 points, cleared six boards and blocked four shots. David West pulled off the double-double, with 19 points and 13 rebounds.
A quick trip to Atlanta to meet the Hawks, and then the Pistons come to town Tuesday. What happens on Friday is still unclear; Sacramento will be here, but the exact location of "here" is yet undetermined.
Update, 9 January: "Here" has now been determined: it's the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, which officially seats 11,528 for basketball though legend has it that for OSU and Texas games, they've shoehorned in as many as 13,000.
7 January 2006
Fatuous Flashback 15
How conservative is George W. Bush? Well before he got into his present job, the answer appeared to be "Not very":
[T]he more I look at him, the more I think the Republicans have figured that the only possible replacement for Bill Clinton is, yes, Bill Clinton. Bush has the same lack of commitment to issues, the same semi-clouded past, the same urge to procure cash. About the only thing the Shrub's Clinton impression seems to lack is a girlfriend on the side. For the sake of all of us, let's hope he doesn't go there.
(From Vent #180, 9 January 2000.)
In response to unprecedented demand, I have compiled a list of my dealings with ten credit-card issuers, some of which worked out very well, and some of which didn't work out at all. When it got beyond 7k, I figured it was Vent material, and so it wound up as Vent #468.
As always with such things, past performance is no guarantee of well, much of anything, really.
Another one fights the rust
The curtain will close on this site on January 9th, 2006. That's when the contract with my webhost expires, and I shall not be renewing. I'd like to thank those of you who've stuck with this humble site for over three years and bother reading my assorted ramblings.
I've learned a lot by playing with the blog format, the most essential of which is that I truly have nothing so earth-shattering to say that it must be presented to the world as fast as the words can travel the distance from my brain to my fingertips. There is a joy to savoring one's own words and one's own thoughts, allowing them to ripen and age appropriately before making the decision as to how, and even if, they will be shared with the world. While I am done with blogging, for now, I will never say never again, and I am far from done with writing. The topics brought forth here spirituality, the role of work in our lifestyles, friendship, the art within our souls, anger at greed and injustice and cruelty, living one's best life and being true to one's own self, are subjects I will continue to explore in both fiction and non-fiction. But in the balance of my life, for all blogging has given me, in the end it has taken me away away from relationships, away from life's work, away from sky and sun and fresh air, away from true writing.
While my own experience hasn't followed the same pattern, I can understand the need to get away from the blog: its demands are endless, its rewards sporadic, its ultimate importance undetermined. But I believe that writing is no less true, or at least no more untrue, just because it conforms to the blog format: sonnets and screeds, epics and whimsy, stories long, short and really short, all seem to coexist just fine.
The need for speed is another matter. When news runs on a 24-hour cycle, matters of little import are accelerated into a prominence which in the long term they will not deserve: I spent part of this morning rereading my January 2003 archives, and some of the tempests of that time's teapots produce barely a memory bubble today.
I will, of course, look for Edward under his real name on a bound volume; but I will miss the ability to click on him.
Quote of the week
Found at Ravenwood's Universe:
Bush had the nerve to stock the Mine Safety and Health Administration with people from the MINING INDUSTRY! The horror! What's next, packing NASA with rocket scientists?
They call it "Dean's Song"
Well, actually, they call it "Sam's Song"; when Bing Crosby recorded it back in 1950, it didn't occur to him to retitle it "Bing's Song" or, for that matter, "Gary's Song," what with Gary Crosby singing along with his dad. Bing just didn't do things like that.
On the other hand, Dean Martin, even in the presence of Sammy Davis, Jr., had no such compunctions.
Welcome to the 21st century
The Oklahoman is running ads for Brokeback Mountain.
If this sounds odd to you, you haven't been here very long.
It could have been much, much worse. Chris Paul is out, Kirk Snyder took ill at halftime, and Speedy Claxton dislocated his ring finger in the second quarter. Claxton made it back in fact, he scored 29 points, his career high but the depleted Hornets fell to a comparatively healthy and hot-shooting bunch of Hawks in Atlanta, 101-93. David West picked up 22; J. R. Smith, back in starting rotation, scored 7.
So much for four in a row. The Bees fall to 15-18, with the Pistons coming Tuesday.
Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas got eight points, three rebounds and an assist in about 27 minutes of playing time.
Dat ol' debbil moon
A judge in Montgomery County, Maryland has ruled that mooning someone does not constitute an act of indecent exposure.
Raymond McNealy, 44, of Rockville, had a dispute with a neighbor; he expressed his opinion in a graphic, if not necessarily callipygian, manner. Originally, the courts found against McNealy; in his appeal, he claimed that state law demanded a more, um, frontal assault for conviction, and this week the appeal was upheld.
Counsel for McNealy remarked that the decision should "bring comfort to all beachgoers and plumbers" in the Old Line State.
8 January 2006
Beyond the flip-flop
Last summer I said something about prizing the ability to look really good in really insubstantial shoes.
Well, you can't get much more insubstantial than this.
And so we turn to escapism
Meanwhile at the Baxter Building, Reed and Sue Richards are facing a formidable foe: the government, which considers that they, in their capacity as half the Fantastic Four, are endangering their children (Franklin and Valeria), placing them in potentially life-threatening situations this saving-the-world business clearly has its difficult aspects and which will confiscate the youngsters pending a formal hearing.
(Through issue #533, in which Torch and the Thing, meanwhile, are going to engage Bruce "Hulk" Banner, and not during a period of Bruceness either. This is, after all, a comic book.)
So what's changed?
Not much, really; it's hard to imagine Tom DeLay stepping down at all unless he was at least somewhat satisfied that it would be business as usual in the House.
Now if he'd actually resigned his seat, instead of just his position as Majority Leader, it might have had some impact. But that wasn't going to happen, and everyone knows it.
I expect the Democrats to make some small Congressional gains in this year's election, but I don't think this action will have much impact either way: DeLay still has a fair amount of clout; the Democrats will likely not succeed in painting DeLay's old pal Jack Abramoff as a purely-GOP bagman; the election is still nine months away.
The world is treating me bad
A University of Chicago survey suggests that Americans are suffering greater misery: 91.5 percent of us suffered at least one "negative life event" during 2004, up 2.4 percent from a previous survey in 1991, and the average number of NLEs was a whopping 4.3, up from 3.8.
The NLEs are on a scale from 1 to 100: the worst is the death of a child, which scores 94.3. The least-miserable event reported in the article is feeling ill enough to seek medical treatment, which scores 51.6. This sounds rather high, and suggests that the scale can't possibly be linear how can two trips to the doctor (103.2) be worse than losing a child? but it does suggest that there is plenty of room on the scale for minor inconveniences. For example:
(Original survey found via such small hands.)
Forces of nature
The third of May, nineteen ninety-nine. Some of the strongest winds ever measured on planet Earth are passing literally within a few hundred yards of my door. Everything I've been taught tells me to stay inside, batten down the hatches, and wait. And yet I'm standing outside, watching what I can through clouds that go beyond grey, beyond black, to some non-color that surely exists only at the end of the world, because I can't look away: this is one of two primal forces of nature, and, I realize, the only one I will ever experience.
Brokeback Mountain is about the other. No one, I suspect, can prepare for passion at this level: it simply is, and everything you've been taught is pushed to the background, biding its time for an inopportune moment to remind you of its presence. And yet this particular primal force doesn't demand either Sturm or Drang, something director Ang Lee well knows. Sweeping and sumptuous visuals aside, this is a deliberately small film: it keeps its focus on the two leads and the different ways they come to grips with the same fact, and in more than one scene, the words that go unspoken cut closer to the heart than the words you hear out loud.
Which is why this isn't one of those tedious "message" pictures that go out of their way to beat you over the head with whatever bit of philosophy is au courant for the moment: every scene, every line, every offhand gesture is bent to the service of the story of these two men. And in that specificity, paradoxically, lies its universality: denied easy access to the stereotypes we might desire, we are forced to look at these characters in comparison, not to a pattern, but to ourselves. Brokeback Mountain speaks to everyone who's ever had to cover up the most important facts of his life.
Or her life; the audience when I attended was about sixty percent women. For this is, when you think about it, a "chick flick," a classic Hollywood weeper, gender considerations notwithstanding. I can understand why some men might shy away from it; I found the sex scenes between the two guys a bit gruesome. But then, I found their sex scenes with the women they married to be just as gruesome: any points they scored for "normal," they lost for "obviously going through the motions." Ennis did love Alma; Jack might even have loved Lureen; but those relationships would inevitably have to take second place behind what happened up on that damnable mountain back in '63.
Manipulation of the audience? Certainly. That's why we go to the movies in the first place. Moralists will no doubt point out that there is a price for giving into one's desires; I would remind them that there is also a price for suppressing them. Brokeback Mountain tallies them both, side by side.
9 January 2006
In search of Rose
For some inscrutable reason, about five dozen folks wandered into this site over the past couple of days looking for quotes from Dame Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), who wrote twenty-odd novels; a paragraph from one of them (The Towers of Trebizond, 1956) is reproduced here.
Since it's fairly certain that Dame Rose is still dead, and since most of the requests came from MSN Search, I have to assume that something on MSN referred to Macaulay for some reason. If you happened to see it, I'd appreciate knowing just what was going on.
In the meantime, here's another Macaulay quote, because I can:
Work is a dull thing; you cannot get away from that. The only agreeable existence is one of idleness, and that is not, unfortunately, always compatible with continuing to exist at all.
Things to do in [trochee] when you're dumped
Update, 11 January: Well, this is cute. There's a comment here, identified as from a member of a police department I shall not name, requesting information on this matter. I, of course, didn't have any, and said so. This is the response I got:
There has been a complaint submitted to the [municipality name redacted] Police Department. I would appreciate a phone call. These postings are irritating in nature and would be appreciated if they were taken off the site.
Inasmuch as there is no indication that any of the other half a dozen or so sites who picked up on this link received any similar communications, I'm going to assume that the major objection was actual mention of the town name in the title. Since it's largely irrelevant except for prosodic purposes, I've opted to delete that name; I've also fuzzed up the comment for concealment purposes. (No sense blowing his cover.)
On the other hand, if I deleted everything that might irritate someone, you'd be looking at a blank page right about now.
For at least twenty years, there have been rumors of a live-action film version of the Sixties animated TV series The Jetsons, and now it appears they might actually pull it off. So far, we know they've gotten the family cast:
So: Jason Alexander or Danny DeVito as Mr. Spacely?
Something about this project disturbs me greatly (memories of Rosie and the originals, no doubt). On the other hand, I'd love to see how they make George's car fold up into a briefcase.
Not a swing voter
The "Tax-And-Surrender" party is not out of power because of some quirk of fate, but because their principles, such as they are, are odious. I would no sooner vote for a Democrat than for a Baathist. No, not even a "good" Democrat, like Zell Miller or Joe Lieberman. If they?re so good, how come they?re Democrats?
Hey, some of us have to watch the building until the grownups come back.
(Disclosure: I voted for Lieberman in this state's Presidential primary in 2004, for all the good it did.)
Now this is gutsy
Who knew Ted Kennedy had a dog named Splash?
(Via Michelle Malkin.)
Those, um, cheap rhetorical devices
"On its face, the assertion threatens to undermine the fundamental constitutional principle that it is for Congress to write the laws and for the executive to, well, execute them."
It?s the "well" in that sentence that gets under my skin. It's right up there with "um" on the annoyance scale.
Which prompted the following comment from reader Harry Arthur:
"Um" and "well" are used as means to condescend to the perceived lesser intellectual capabilities of their readers. It's just more of the same smug, "I'm just so much smarter than you" MSM attitude. I call it the "lecture mode" whereupon they deem to reveal some secret "truth" to we unwashed, backwards rubes out in the hinterlands. Unfortunately for them, "Joe Sixpack" sees right through their smug, self-satisfied, condescending twittery.
Inasmuch as one of the more blatant users of this particular rhetorical device is, um, well, yours truly, I demur. For one thing, I'm hardly "self-satisfied." For another, I have a fair number of readers who strike me as being quite a bit brighter than I am, and hardly any who qualify as "unwashed, backwards rubes." (So far as I know, they at least wash.)
Mostly, when you see "um" on these pages, it's a variation on the also-overused <em> tag; it's a combination of "emphasize this" and, where appropriate, "write your own joke." I have faith enough in my readers to believe that they can, and will. And, well, I think Mr Sixpack (and Mr Arthur, should he read this) would notice this immediately.
Less news, less talk
The Oklahoma City market (population about one million) can probably support two stations with this format [news/talk], but three?
No, not three.
WKY radio has given up the format. In fact, they've largely given up English; the station is now broadcasting a Spanish-language music format which seems to be basically the same thing owner Citadel is running on KINB (105.3), but a few seconds out of sync. I suppose this means it's not technically a simulcast.
Coverage of Blazers hockey will presumably continue in English; I have to assume there isn't as yet any demand for hockey coverage en español. (Operative word: "yet.")
WKY, of course, was the flagship radio station of the Oklahoma Publishing Company for many years; as one observer noted on a radio message board, "I bet old man Gaylord is spinning in his grave about now."
KOKC, the #3 news-talk station, now rises to #2 although with the numbers they get, I'm still inclined to think of them as #3.
Dustbury: the series
Despite the fact that I live a dull Midwest nonexistence or would, if I, you know, actually lived in the Midwest Mister Snitch sees this lack of activity as perfect television-sitcom fodder.
Shows about nothing have taken off before. Plus, his pining for unattainable snarkgoddess Maureen Dowd (a central theme of the show) makes the concept soar. This one's American Splendor meets Sideways, meets Seinfeld. Frequent appearances are made by Janeane Garofalo, playing Charles' archenemy, Maud Newton. Next-door neighbor Sean Gleeson stops by frequently to mooch food, get away from the wife, and involve Charles in crazy get-rich-quick schemes.
I never thought Maud Newton was all that arch. (Sean, in fact, lives more than three miles from me. Then again, so does Maureen Dowd.)
Charles falls in a well, just before the Super Bowl. Rather than spoil the party, the gang lowers him down a laptop and some Cheetos.
"What's with the orange?"
"Oh, I was just adding some highlights to whatzername's hair."
The gimmick here, of course, is that any time someone else is speaking, the screen width >NARROWS< to simulate a blockquote.
I have to assume that this is payback for faithfully watching Parker Lewis Can't Lose all those years. "You're not the Nixon of love!" cried Frank Lemmer.
10 January 2006
Holding out for a heroine?
In a statistical sample, the mode is the value which occurs most often. It might be near the median, but it doesn't necessarily have to be: not all curves make nice bells.
Which is by way of introducing Tyler Cowen's concept of the Modal Spouse:
I define a modal wife (or husband) as a person you would have married (could have married?) had you met them at the right time, unattached, and under normal life conditions. The number of modal wives is typically greater than or equal to the number of real wives, although clever philosophers will recognize possible [sic] counterexamples.
Under one view, you have hundreds or thousands of modal wives, most of whom you never meet. (How many does the average person meet, how soon do you know when you meet one, and how confused would you be if they were all in the same room at once?) Your correct dating strategy is to cast your net very widely, and hope to find and marry one of these people.
This is, of course, not the only view available:
Under another view, modal wives are no big deal. Your so-called "modal wives" are no better for you than, say, the best woman you could pick out of a lot of thirty eligibles. The key inputs for a good marriage are attitude and a minimum degree of compatibility, not search and discovery.
If this is true, searching for modal wives, or perhaps even thinking about the concept, can make you worse off. The quest for the perfect mate makes it harder to come to terms with what is otherwise a compatible marriage. Which perhaps is all you are going to get anyway. Marriage is good for you, and don't be too fussy, this is not iTunes. Too much choice, or too much perceived choice, is problematic.
Wait a minute. There are thirty eligibles?
This is, in essence, a restating of the old principle that "the perfect is the enemy of the good," which goes back at least as far as Voltaire. And settling for what you can get (call it Option Two) is presumably more likely to produce positive results than waiting for what you think you really want (Option One).
Except, of course, that I've already exercised Option Two, and made a botch of it. (Well, I had help; normally it takes two pairs of shoes to kick a marriage to the curb.) Bottom line: either a choice which has proven itself to be suboptimal, or a choice which likely will produce no results whatsoever. It might be easier just to throw I Ching.
Out the window, if need be.
(Via Jacqueline Passey.)
If I were writing the textbooks, anyway. The world is dressed in white except for the roads, shiny ribbons of dark grey, wet but nothing more.
How often do we get these? Not very.
And it's odd that almost all the precipitation we've had since mid-autumn (which is not much) has been in the form of snow: maybe three inches, which in terms of actual moisture is barely enough to water one's lawn.
Marked for death by Information Services (8)
A slow and torturous demise for the slob who picked up a couple of cartridges for a DeskJet and then neatly parked the empty boxes back on the shelf, creating the illusion of greater stock than was actually on hand.
Update, 10:50 am: Confession received from slob.
Write what you know
Creative writing teachers should be purged until every last instructor who has uttered the words "Write what you know" is confined to a labor camp. Please, talented scribblers, write what you don't. The blind guy with the funny little harp who composed The Iliad, how much combat do you think he saw?
Probably none until he tried to collect royalties.
Obviously I need to write more articles on dating.
(With thanks to Agent Bedhead, who caught this before I did.)
Advantages of Western civilization
Somehow I can't imagine this catching on in the States:
According to the religious edict issued by Rashad Hassan Khalil, a former dean of Al-Azhar University's faculty of Sharia (or Islamic law), "being completely naked during the act of coitus annuls the marriage".
The religious decree sparked a hot debate on the private satellite network Dream's popular religious talk show and on the front page of Sunday's Al-Masri Al-Yom, Egypt's leading independent daily newspaper.
I've got to wonder if this is why he's the former dean. But it gets better:
During the live televised debate, Islamic scholar Abdel Muti dismissed the fatwa: "Nothing is prohibited during marital sex, except of course sodomy."
For his part, Al-Azhar's fatwa committee chairman Abdullah Megawar argued that married couples could see each other naked but should not look at each other's genitalia and suggested they cover up with a blanket during sex.
Suddenly, demure Wendy Shalit comes off as a wild-eyed libertine.
The only way this could possibly be beneficial is if one of the participants looks like me.
With Chris Paul back and in close to top form, the Hornets played even with the Pistons for half the game in fact, they had a three-point lead at the half but Detroit took command in the third quarter and would maintain it the rest of the way, winning 96-86, their 27th win in 32 games. Rip Hamilton did the most damage, scoring 30 points.
It wasn't all bleak: five Hornets scored in double figures, and David West once again pulled down 20. But a loss is a loss, and the Bees fall to 15-19.
Two days off, and Sacramento comes to town or, more precisely, to Norman.
11 January 2006
The return of strange search-engine queries
Once again, actual questions that led people to this site.
does faith hill own the warner bros. nashville record label? No. And come to think of it, neither does Warner Bros.
who is smarter man or woman? Woman. She doesn't ask questions like that.
mazda are built here? Only the Mazda6 are built here.
is she into you? Not likely.
how long to keep yogurt beyond sell by date? I'd suggest no more than ten minutes.
why is there oil mixed with the coolant in dodge neon? Um, you blew a head gasket?
where is the cd4e transmission manufactured? Batavia, Ohio.
what's it like to live in western Oklahoma? It's very nice, if you don't insist on seeing foreign films every night.
Is Powerball coming to Oklahoma? Starts tomorrow, 12 January.
Time has come today
Or maybe it hasn't. This came from the local Mazda store:
According to our records, it has been approximately 5 months since your last service, which means you are now overdue for the following service:
6 Month Interval Service
Which means, if I read this correctly, that I was one month overdue the moment I left the dealership.
In the fall of 1943, according to legend, a US Navy ship was supposedly dematerialized and transported by means unknown from Philadelphia to Norfolk, in something known familiarly as the Philadelphia Experiment. The vessel involved was reported to be the USS Eldridge, DE-173, a Cannon-class destroyer.
If you prefer your 173s a bit more tangible, The Hip and Zen Pen is hosting Carnival of the Vanities #173, the latest installment of the original weekly blog compendium, dozens of great articles (and one of mine) just a click away.
There is only one issue
And if the Democrats can't bestir themselves to bring it up except in the vaguest possible fashion, Brian J. Noggle is here to help:
Judge Alito, assuming that your wife were raped by Satan and impregnated, would you not then support abortion? Indeed, would you not, for the betterment of mankind and service to God, use a spoon and a penlight yourself to rid this world of the demon spawn, even if your wife were in her third trimester?
Joe Biden should have asked this. He needs the publicity for his Presidential bid, and if past performance is any indication, he could have read it right off the screen without worrying about attribution.
Update: What was I thinking? There is no spoon.
The Gas Game (January)
What we're doing here is trying to quantify a decision I made last fall: Oklahoma Natural Gas offered a Voluntary Fixed Price rate of $8.393 per dekatherm for twelve months, which I turned down because gas was rather a lot less than that at the time.
Unfortunately for me, it's rather a lot more than that right now:
The February bill is normally the worst of the year anyway, so I'm not exactly looking forward to next month.
Have you cuddled your cactus today?
Inasmuch as I'm supposed to be pining for this, um, "unattainable snarkgoddess" (a phrase for which I score an actual Googlewhack as of this writing, though this post will eventually trash it), here's a not-entirely-random Maureen Dowd description from this denunciation of a Norwegian quota system by E. M. Zanotti:
Sure, women don't hit the upper echelons, but could that be because some women might happen to not want to hit the upper echelons, work three thousand hours a week, and end up alone and bitter like Maureen Dowd? Sure, she believes she out of a date because everyone just thinks she so wonderful, but let's hit the Earth for a second: MoDo is about as cuddly as a cactus, and twice as pretentious.
"The cactus is our friend." Maria Muldaur, "Midnight at the Oasis"
Actually, cacti don't strike me as particularly pretentious, except for the saguaro, and that could be just a trick of perspective. They sure are prickly, though.
12 January 2006
Last spring, when I drove the entirety of Grand Boulevard, I noted that the pavement south of NE 36th Street was deteriorating, which could be taken as a euphemism.
The city has now decided to do something about it. From the Consent Docket from last week's City Council minutes:
Agreement with Oklahoma County Commissioners of Oklahoma County for Street Improvements PJ-OK-93, Grand Boulevard, NE 36th Street to NE 30th Street and NE 34th Street and Grand Boulevard to 510 feet east, January 3, 2006 through June 30, 2006.
This will be useful when they start seriously promoting this Adventure District business the Oklahoma Railway Museum is right along this stretch and it will make some of my drives home a little less stressful.
While we're discussing this area of town, I note with some sadness the closing of the Krispy King chicken joint on 23rd west of I-35. Popeye and the Colonel presumably are feasting on its bones.
Let there be lights
OG&E, embarrassed by two much-publicized power outages in Bricktown, is taking steps to address the issue.
The first outage, on 17 December, lasted 3½ hours, and was traced to corrosion on a pole crossing arm near I-40. All such arms along this corridor have now been replaced.
The second, a two-hour blackout on 2 January, was blamed on a malfunctioning switch.
But the real problem, apparently, is that all of Bricktown is served by a single substation: when it goes, everything goes. The utility is planning to alter its grid to serve half of Bricktown from a substation on Classen west of downtown, and is contemplating the possibility of splitting the district into thirds, bringing in a substation from the Health Center area.
Capacity, said OG&E, is not the issue; it's a lack of backup.
Then again, after the first outage, they said that the issue was the failure of the Corporation Commission to grant the company the full amount of their most recent rate-hike request.
Let's see Clarissa explain this
Melissa Joan Hart and hubby Mark Wilkerson are celebrating the arrival of their first child, Mason Walker Wilkerson, all nine pounds of him.
At least she won't be calling him Fergface.
In search of the lost chords
Someone has come by looking for an MP3 file of John Cage's infamous 4'33", a three-movement piano piece which contains in aggregate four minutes and thirty-three seconds of rests, but no actual notes. (Previous discussion here.)
Now I'm wondering if maybe I should go ahead and put one together. This is one of the few pieces I can play, after all.
Kim du Toit came up with a list of a dozen icons that define America, and at the very top was the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, a car that even today is recognizable seemingly from blocks away, even by people who claim they can't stand cars.
Robert Cumberford, then on the GM design staff and now Automotive Design Editor of Automobile, said last year that the '57 came out the way it did because the promised new bodyshell wasn't going to be ready in time, and they had to do the best they could to disguise the '55-'56 bodywork. While the '55 is decidedly the simplest and arguably the purest incarnation of this generation, the '57 is clearly bolder and no doubt this is why it gets the nod over its older sister.
And those rubber boobs on the front? Cumberford says that they were intended to be chrome, but they tended to smash the taillights of the car in front on the transporters.
As for the '58 with that fancy new bodyshell forget about it. Almost everyone else did.
I am not unsympathetic
Steve Gigl nominates a phrase for oblivion:
I would be happy to never hear the phrase "I don't disagree" ever again.
I wonder what he thinks of this site's slogan.
13 January 2006
The Jack and Ennis Show
If you were wondering if anyone in this state (besides me) would go to see Brokeback Mountain, hear this from GayOKC.com's Rob Abiera:
Jackie Faubus at Harkins Theatres tells me that Brokeback Mountain made $40,000 in its opening weekend here in OKC, and that $15,000 of that was at the Harkins Bricktown. The other $25,000 was split between the AMC Quail Springs and the Spotlight 14 in Norman.
Compared to nationwide per-screen averages for any movie, that's still pretty spectacular even the biggest blockbuster opening at 3000 screens on its first weekend tends to make less than $10,000 per screen.
AMC was also impressed:
According to AMC Entertainment's Melanie Bell, "Brokeback Mountain is playing well at AMC Theatres in Oklahoma. In fact, last week AMC Southroads 20 (in Tulsa) and AMC Quail Springs 24 (in Oklahoma City) ranked in the top ten in terms of grosses for this film in the AMC circuit."
The obvious point, says Abiera:
The movie has to be pulling in more than just Gay people in order to get numbers like that.
Which doesn't surprise me in the least.
They don't even eat animal crackers
[T]oday I was scared, nay, shocked by reading on one wall the following highly disturbing message: "Vegan Jihad!"
The image of some anaemic hordes of frail, weakly, wild-eyed hippies in Birkenstocks impaling common citizenry with broccoli, throwing melon bombs and committing terror attacks with lemon curry (in accordance with Vegan Cook Book secret chapters, suras 11-19) scared the carnivore in me quite a bit.
Now which is worse: a Vegan book of recipes, or a Vogon book of verse? Choose your answer carefully.
Will Mr. Six retire?
Buried in a story about the shuffle on the Six Flags board of directors was this bit of alarming news:
Six Flags said it signed OgilvyOne Worldwide to enhance direct and interactive marketing efforts nationwide. The company also said it would put its advertising contract with Michigan-based W.B. Doner & Co. up for review. That contract expires in June.
Mike Antinoro, executive vice president for entertainment and marketing, said Doner has helped create brand awareness for Six Flags. The agency developed a campaign around the popular Mr. Six character.
"We're now in the process of analyzing every aspect of our business, and we're looking forward to Doner's participation in the process as we investigate how to most effectively build on this awareness," Antinoro said in a statement.
"Put up for review," to my mind anyway, translates as "Gawd, this stuff sucks."
I'm thinking old man Six is about to be put out to pasture.
With the arrival of Jack FM in the Oklahoma City market okay, it's in Blanchard, fercrissake I figured this commentary by Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams might be pertinent:
Why give a radio station a guy's name? Because you can't get the hots for something called Smooooth or Lite. But Jack? That's someone you banged, or wish you had.
In the ensuing weeks, Jack has become my new constant companion. He's like the investment banker I used to date. The guy had a ponytail. He was a soulless yuppie douche bag. But he radiated horniness, and there are times in a woman's life when that's just her type.
While the deluge of business-related articles written about Jack lately have focused on his ADD-level playlist and efficient elimination of costly on-air personalities, the real secret to Jack's allure is his blatant 24-7 fixation on sex. Sure, hooking up is an inevitable motif in any pop-based playlist. But Jack is never more than one song away from another ode to shagging. "Justify My Love" follows "Let's Get It On" follows "Give It to Me, Baby." Which is followed by an ad for car insurance, just to mess with my head.
It occurs to me that no one ever says this about Bob.
It's your night in the barrel
Members of the House of Representatives shall be chosen each two years by lot from among the adult citizens of each congressional district.
Just like jury duty, but for twenty-four months.
On second thought, strike that second drawback: we already have a surplus of really stupid bills.
William F. Buckley Jr. once opined that he'd rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Boston phone book than by the 2000-member faculty at Harvard. I can't help but wonder what he would think of this idea. I suspect it would not sit well with the American left, which would reject it, not so much because it sounds somewhat Buckleyesque, but because their particular concept of government calls for Great and Sweeping Ideas, which J. Random Voter is presumably not likely to come up with on his own if suddenly he's thrust into the House. Not that the right is exactly devoid of elitism, as Harriet Miers could probably tell you.
Oh, and one more drawback:
Nobody, not even Robert McHenry, said it was a perfect scheme.
Am I a "center-right" blogger? Maybe, maybe not. But I have no problem endorsing this:
We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.
We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.
But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.
As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
I trust that bloggers to my left, and the Democratic leadership, will be similarly motivated to support reform efforts.
We'll never know if moving this game from Baton Rouge to the Lloyd Noble Center really made any difference to the players; Desmond Mason has seen the place before, but he played here as a visitor in the Bedlam Series.
The Hornets didn't spank the Kings as badly in Norman as they did at the Ford for the season opener, but 90-76 is nothing to sneeze at, and while the Bees had another one of their patented lousy third quarters a meager 17 points Sacramento was worse.
Notable: the return of Bostjan Nachbar, who's been on the bench since the 28th of November; Rasual Butler sank four treys (in four attempts) and a couple of two-pointers; Chris Paul still seems to be well.
Now 16-19, the Hornets head for Houston tomorrow.
14 January 2006
Fatuous Flashback 16
As close as I ever got to Scott Ott-style reporting:
Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich today lashed out at the Bush administration's space-exploration proposals, calling them "ill-advised" and "unnecessarily bellicose."
"The very idea of going to Mars," said the former Ohio Congressman, "encapsulates everything that's wrong with George Bush. In the first place, it's a red planet. This is yet another example of the Bush administration's schemes to reward its friends and punish its enemies. There is no evidence that Karl Rove, or any of Bush's advisers, made the slightest effort to locate a blue planet for exploration."
Another problem, said Kucinich, is the nature of Mars itself. "It's the planet of war. How many times must we go through this? War, war, war. It's the only thing George Bush knows."
The Kucinich campaign has yet to release formally any alternative plan for space exploration, but the candidate hinted at some of the ideas he'd like to see in such a plan. "We're looking towards Venus, which is, after all, a planet of women, who have been cruelly underrepresented in the space program up to now, and then, perhaps in our second term, Vulcan, where war and hatred have been replaced by reason and logic. As Americans, we deserve no less."
(From "Dennis gazes skyward", 9 January 2004.)
Congress not quite tossing its cookies
Dozens of U.S. senators are quietly tracking visits to their Web sites even though they have publicly pledged not to do so.
Sixty-six politicians in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are setting permanent Web cookies even though at least 23 of them have promised not to use the online tracking technique, a CNET News.com investigation shows.
This is, I strongly suspect, one of those instances where Hanlon's Razor applies.
George Carlin famously noted (on his Class Clown album) that there were seven words you can never say on television, and when this routine was played on New York's WBAI radio, the FCC decided that you couldn't say them on radio either.
Where can they be said? At the FCC's Web site, apparently: a manager at WFMU fed these words and several others into the fcc.gov search facility. The results are startling, but probably not surprising; it's always the censors who have the most extensive collections of smut.
Don't even ask about the "Alaska pipeline."
(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)
Self-absorption points: 5
I was standing at the meat counter at the supermarket, and I looked down at the package I've just been handed. "Okay. That leaves the ribeye."
"That is the ribeye, sir," said the clerk.
I looked at the package again. Still said it was pork chops.
I handed it back. "Oh, okay. Could you please relabel this so I'll know what I'm pulling out of my freezer next week?"
Which he did, and his gratitude was almost comically profuse. It took me a few seconds to figure out why: while I, wrapped up in my own little world, was thinking in terms of my convenience, he was thinking in terms of what would happen to him if they'd figured out that he'd inadvertently tagged something priced at eight bucks a pound for three bucks a pound. It could have cost him $5; it could have cost him something worse.
File this under Accidental Good Deeds, I guess.
Worst. Seder. Ever.
Some people argue that all families, no matter how loving, are dysfunctional. It could even be true: nothing in life runs quite as smoothly as we might hope.
Salvador Litvak's When Do We Eat? amplifies this concept, as it examines a family seemingly more in bondage than bonded to one another. Michael Lerner is Ira Stuckman, who prides himself on conducting the World's Fastest Seder; this year he will be foiled by wife Peggy (Lesley Ann Warren), who is in one of those Back to Tradition modes, and the fact that none of his children seem to be on his good side.
Things start out badly and deteriorate from there, and it doesn't help when Ira's stoner son slips a tab of Ecstasy into his dad's antacid except, somehow, that it does help. And before this night, so different from all other nights, is over, every single member of this family including Jack Klugman, as Ira's father will find release from that bondage.
When Do We Eat? played here last summer; in fact, it won Best Narrative Feature at the deadCENTER Film Festival, though I somehow managed to miss it. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art screened it this weekend as part of a "New Jewish Cinema" series. The small but vocal crowd loved it, and I did one actual spit take. And you'll get your chance to see it: ThinkFilm has picked up distribution, and plans to release it on the 7th of April.
Just in time for Passover, of course.
Rockets in their pockets
The trip to Houston did some good for the Hornets, who beat the Rockets for the third time this season, 86-80.
It wasn't pretty, at least in the first half, as Houston discovered that they can play good ball without either Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming, but the Bees' defense eventually wore them down. Rasual Butler didn't pick up a trey tonight, which is unusual; David West picked up a sprain in the fourth quarter, which is scary.
Five Hornets, including West, scored in double figures; P. J. Brown got the double-double on 13 points and 10 rebounds.
To Charlotte on Monday afternoon, then Wednesday it's the Memphis Grizzlies, in a game moved out of Baton Rouge to the Ford Center.
15 January 2006
The strength of a cardboard belt
Whose idea was it to groom New York Governor George Pataki for a Presidential bid? Blame Mel Brooks, says Michael Bates:
Pataki is "Springtime for Hitler" the sure-fire flop and his political consultants are the producers. They'll butter him up, appeal to his vanity, and convince him to run. They'll get him to raise a pile of money, which won't be tough for the governor of a large and wealthy state, and they'll spend it for him over the course of '07 and early '08. They can make all sorts of promises in the course of raising money, because they know the candidate will never be in a position to keep those commitments. They'll setup fundraisers, mass mailings, and media buys, and add a percentage to each one, in addition to their monthly consulting fees. When the campaign falters, no one will blame the consultants, who, after all, didn't have much to work with, and they will live to consult again.
There is no shortage of unscrupulous political consultants who will flatter a candidate into running, preferably a candidate who is wealthy enough to self-finance. For this sort of consultant, a successful campaign is one in which the check clears.
Bialystock and Bloom, of course, ended up in the slammer selling shares in a prison musical. These guys never learn.
Welcome to Euphoria
One of the weirder manifestations of the last couple of years in fact, I date its beginning precisely to the move out of the exurbs and into the city, which would be November 2003 has been the curious but undeniable sense of "All's right with the world," a concept otherwise utterly foreign to me, that seems to accompany me during the drive home from some cultural or sporting event if at least one of the following two conditions is met:
I haven't quite figured out the dynamics. However, that strange feeling clearly does not set in when I'm coming back, say, from a movie matinee in the suburbs. I did not feel it returning from Brokeback Mountain last Sunday; I definitely felt it last night on the way back from When Do We Eat? And I don't think the subject matter of either film made any difference.
My current thinking, subject to change, is that the introduction of either one of the above variables is creating an enhanced sense of belonging to the city, to the community, to something greater than just myself. This makes a certain amount of sense on the downtown-vs.-suburbia question, not so much on the time of day. I'm wondering if maybe the nighttime scenario is based on some subconscious assumption that, were it not for the empty seat next to me in the car, I might conceivably have had a date.
Whatever the explanation, I was downright gleeful weaving my way through Mesta Park on the way back home last night, singing along with the stereo (to some of these tunes) and generally acting like I was having a blast. Which, for nine bucks ($7 at the box office, $2 to park), wasn't a bad deal at all.
Yet another "Will they stay?" article
The Hornets started out, after all, as a Charlotte team, so I tend to give some additional weight to Charlotte pundits in this matter.
The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell, looking toward the future of the Bees:
Oklahoma City is already a phenomenon. Ford Center is packed or nearly packed every night and the volume would remind you of Charlotte Coliseum, circa 1990. The NBA loves virgin territory that was [owner George] Shinn's original sales pitch for expansion to Charlotte and OKC is just large enough to support one major-league team.
From what I hear, the Hornets generate about $1 million in revenue every home game there. Their lucrative cable-television deal with Cox transferred to Oklahoma City, because Cox operates both there and in New Orleans.
Shinn is genuinely conflicted about New Orleans for practical and sentimental reasons. I'm sure he doesn't want to be remembered as the guy who moved a team twice in five years.
But this time he bears no fault. Hurricane Katrina didn't just wreck New Orleans, it emptied the city. The arena can be fixed, and will be in time to host three Hornets games this season. But will there again be the population and corporate base to support a team, particularly with the NFL pressuring the Saints to stay there as well?
Whatever you think of Shinn, the man knows a good business deal. Whatever flaws the Ford Center has as an NBA venue can be fixed. Oklahoma City sees the Hornets as validation, and that town will keep buying tickets and T-shirts.
Who would turn his back on that?
Then again, it's not just up to Shinn, and the NBA's David Stern, who has to sign off on any such thing, isn't giving any hints that he would.
And we will not engage in any New Orleans-bashing, unlike, say Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who will play the Hornets in the Big Easy this season, and is quoted by Bonnell thusly:
Hopefully they've drained the mud out of the building, and the termites aren't going to eat the buildings away by the time we get down there.
Now that's just harsh, Phil. And some of those Louisiana boys are going to be anxious to make you pay for that.
16 January 2006
All four one and one four all
I was going to pass this one by, but Diane asked, and, well, Diane is swearing off one of those horrid drugs these days it's the one that involves sticking burning leaves in your mouth so I don't want to get on her Bad Side, assuming she has a Bad Side. So here come the Fours, and none of them are in any particular order:
Four jobs you've had in your life:
Four movies you could watch over and over:
Four places you've lived:
Four places you've been on vacation:
Four blogs you visit daily: More like forty-four, but here are the first ones I usually hit:
Four of your favorite foods:
Four places you'd rather be: This involves company, rather than locations, and I don't think I want to get too awfully specific. Sorry.
Four albums you can't live without: Assuming compilations are forbidden:
Four vehicles you've owned:
Four people to be tagged: Take it if you want it. I'm not one to be pushy.
From the Birmingham jail
Four years ago, I posted part of a letter written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while he was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama in April 1963.
I reread that letter in full today you can, too, if you so desire and found a different part to highlight today.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. We we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.
In the streets of Oklahoma City today, there will be two marches: one the official parade, which starts at 2 pm at 7th and Robinson and proceeds through downtown; and, perhaps more pertinent, a silent march from the Ralph Ellison Library to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, which begins at 9 am.
Now this is a legacy
To my parents' generation, Martin Luther King Jr. was either an impassioned visionary or a pain-in-the-butt rabble rouser, depending on what side of the civil rights issue you stood. To my generation, he was a man before his time, without whom the civil rights movement would barely have registered on the political scales of the South. To my son's generation, he's "that guy who made the 'I Have a Dream' speech." Kind of like how Lincoln is "that guy who wrote the Gettysburg Address" and Washington is "that guy on the one dollar bill." While my son's historical knowledge needs some shoring up, I'm encouraged by the fact that he doesn't see Dr. King as anything unusual he's just another famous guy who did what needed to be done. In the same manner, his friends aren't black, or white, or Asian, or Hispanic, or anything else; they're just "the guys."
Which is, of course, exactly the desideratum of "I Have a Dream."
My parents grew up with racism. I grew up dreaming of the death of racism. Perhaps his is the first generation that will grow up wondering what all the fuss was about.
If we give them a chance.
They weren't quite Good Charlotte today, especially during the second quarter, when the Hornets outscored them 41-20. (It was a 25-25 tie after the first.) The Bobcats did what they could, but never quite got back into the game, and the Bees chalk up another W, 107-92.
Six Hornets got into double figures; Chris Paul scored 24, including 12 of 12 from the line, and David West pulled a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Of course, the important number here is 18, which is the number of games the Hornets won in 2004-05 and the number they've won in 2005-06 with 45 left to play. But you play them one at a time, and in the next one, they face the tough Memphis Grizzlies at the Ford.
The return of "separate but equal"
The amazing thing is that it's happening in 2006:
Under the guise of multiculturalism, the Presiding Judge of the Maricopa County [Arizona] Superior Court, Barbara Mundell, has set up separate race-based courts for defendants convicted of aggravated DUI?s. Defendants who speak Spanish are sent to their own Hispanic court, which is conducted by Judge Mundell in Spanish. Prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, and members of the public must ask for headphones, if available, to have the proceedings translated into English. Very little is recorded, so it is impossible to determine afterwards with accuracy such things as the circumstances surrounding a decision to sentence a defendant to jail for violating probation.
Native Americans are segregated into their own court, and are required to show up together on one designated day each month. They are required to participate in sweat lodges and talking circles, regardless of whether their tribe historically participated in such activities. Some of the Native American and Hispanic DUI defendants have objected to the separate courts. All other DUI offenders, whether white, black, or other race or nationality, are assigned to standard DUI Court.
This would seem to be a screaming violation of the Equal Protection clause, but Judge Mundell demurs: she says that the initial trial of a defendant is not heard in these courts, and therefore it's okay. And what's more:
Judge Mundell has stated that she would be happy to set up separate courts in other languages for African-Americans, Asians, and other ethnic groups if there were sufficient numbers to justify each court.
I believe this qualifies as "unclear on the concept."
(Via Jeff Quinton.)
17 January 2006
Now here's a quirky query: "the phone number of the devil".
I doubt that it's in area code 666, which is as yet unassigned, or in 616, which is in Michigan. (Let's not hear from someone at 616-666-xxxx.) Acting on the premise "Lead us not into temptation, because we can find it ourselves just fine," I suspect that the Prince of Darkness has one of those annoying toll-free numbers that spells something, like 800-FOR-HELL. (He doesn't have that particular one, because this guy does.)
Anyone got a better version of the 411?
The royal flush
Today city crews will begin draining the Bricktown Canal and the Eastern Basin of the
The bottom of the Canal will be cleaned of whatever debris and sludge has accumulated since the last scouring in 2004; it will take approximately two weeks. (Last time, says The Oklahoman, the stuff was six to twelve inches deep.)
The Basin work will take about a month and a half: a wall near Regatta Park will be rebuilt, and the Eastern Avenue Dam will get new debris traps.
Maintaining uniform bellicosity
Vinton-Shellsburg School in Benton County, Iowa is the home of the Vikings and the Vikettes.
Students and townsfolk are divided over this name for the girls' teams: some want to preserve three decades of tradition, others see the "-ette" suffix as an insulting diminutive.
Normally I tend to side with the traditionalists, but "Vikette" grates on me; it sounds like an anonymous backup singer.
How about "Valkyries"?
(Via Tongue Tied.)
A hull of an improvement
Today there are gift cards, phone cards, all sorts of cards that are used once, maybe a few times at most, and then thrown away, adding a few inches to the mountain at your local landfill and, if incinerated, yielding up some yummy toxic wastes.
Enter Arthur Blank and Company, which has a new card design that doesn't clutter up the place indefinitely or give off that dreaded burned-PVC vapor. It's made from corn, and it's specifically designed for minimal environmental impact.
Arthur Blank, based in the West Roxbury section of Boston, says it can produce these cards for only 10 percent more than the standard plastic stuff, and expects to convert about half its existing gift-card business to the new CornCard.
Dear Mr. Mayor
I think it's a swell idea that you're going to run for another term.
I think it's rather less swell that you're flirting with the idea of running for the 5th District Congressional seat 90 days after the election.
Quote of the week
I talked to my Senators, Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, last night and they promised to use every euphemism at their disposal to make it appear that they are agreeing with me.
Greater devotion hath no Congressional delegation.
At the top of Midtown
The two buildings, the hotel tower and the storefront, will be converted to approximately 38 rental units, with the first floor of the tower devoted to commercial space.
Cost of this project is just over $8 million; construction could begin by late February.
18 January 2006
Maybe I need a bigger bird
A research team at Carleton University in Ottawa has concluded that the time it takes for a visitor to judge a Web site is no more than 0.05 second.
The Canadian team showed volunteers glimpses of websites, lasting for only 50 milliseconds. The volunteers then had to rate the websites in terms of their aesthetic appeal.
The researchers found that the speedily formed conclusions closely tallied with opinions of the websites that had been made after much longer periods of examination.
Gitte Lindgaard, lead researcher of the paper, expressed her surprise at the results. "My colleagues believed it would be impossible to really see anything in less than 500 milliseconds."
I think that at the heart of the matter is the template: not the one used to construct the site, but the ones we use for comparison which we keep in the back of our heads. We may not be 100-percent thrilled with our own sites, but we know what we like, and, perhaps more important, what we don't like. Armed with this information, we can judge a site on an aesthetic basis, or on any other basis we can process quickly enough. For instance, if your criteria for rejection include "too many overly-cute titles" and "articles about Maureen Dowd," I expect you'll be gone from here well before those 50 milliseconds are up.
(Via Population Statistic.)
Back to the shadows again
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Michael Fortier, having served the bulk of his 12-year sentence, will be released Friday.
Fortier, who did not take part in the actual bomb placement but who assisted bomber Timothy McVeigh with his preparations and lied to federal authorities about them, struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for a shorter jail term. He will remain under some unspecified form of supervision for three years following his discharge from the federal prison system.
No announcement has been made as to where Fortier will go; he had been a resident of Kingman, Arizona prior to the 1995 bombing.
Addendum, 7:45 am: Chase McInerney looks at the man and his mission, such as it was.
T minus six months
But now comes the tough love, and here we speak directly to the unborn Infangelina, as it glows elsewhere in its celestial holding cell: yes, you'll be beautiful, genetically flawless, and famous from the moment you're born. Yes, you'll be received by the public like some combination of the dauphin heir and a foolproof new diet drug. You will be worshipped. You will be gobbled.
But not yet. And not by us.
Because you already have such a high risk factor of Michael Jacksonitis, we won't help incubate the virus. You're going to have to earn your fame. Not just by mewling and twitching and being all cute and baby-like. Not just by casting your poor adoptive siblings in shadow, those who were rescued from unfortunate conditions only now to become the most Outshone Kids in Human History. Oy, talk about issues. Talk about therapy.
But you, The Infangelina, will need to, you know, do something. You run the risk of becoming the biggest Paris Hilton of all time. So no sooner will you come tumbling out of the womb and dazzling us with your glory, then you need to pick up a guitar. Maybe write a book. Adopt some pets. Make your papa proud and become an architect. By which we really mean, become a grounded, well-rounded, compassionate person, so that you'll be able to handle all the attention, once the whole healing-the-lame, making-the-blind-to-see stuff starts.
It occurs to me that this might be worthwhile advice to the future children of normal people as well.
I sold the words today, oh boy
John Lennon's handwritten draft version of the lyrics to "A Day in the Life" is being offered at sealed-bid auction; bids will be accepted through the first week of March.
Bonhams auction house expects the manuscript to sell for around $2 million "based on market history." The last time it was on the market was 1990, when the estate of Beatles road manager Mal Evans sold it at Sotheby's for $100,000.
Andrew reports to Colbert
Well, actually, he now answers to Time Warner, but this is a worthy Sullivanism from The Colbert Report:
The only way you can trust anybody who blogs is by following them and making sure they?re not full of it all the time. The one sign of a good blogger is that he immediately corrects a mistake. And unlike the New York Times, where they can put all of their millions of mistakes in a little box in the corner every day which you never read, a blogger has to fess up, right there, just like you do every night.
(Found at Gawker.)
Wounds from the salt mine
"Um, they had this data two days ago."
"That's a different department. The department we send stuff to doesn't have it. We'll need to shoot it up over the line, and follow with hard copy by mail."
Size of hard copy: 683 pages. (Size of file sent: 1042 KB.)
Incidentally, this incident testifies to the value of capitalism. Were we dealing with a real company that has to make real money, instead of a nonprofit that answers to no one but its amen corner, we'd see a lot less of this sort of foolishness.
The 174th weekly edition of the Carnival of the Vanities is now up at Free Money Finance, with seven days' worth of nifty bloggage available for your perusal.
If anyone cares, 174 MHz is the very bottom of the so-called VHF-Hi television spectrum, at least for now: channel 7 runs from 174 to 180 MHz. Legend has it that ABC hurried to snap up channel 7 for its owned-and-operated stations back in the day because they'd heard a rumor that the VHF-Lo segment (54 to 88 MHz, channels 2 through 6) would be reassigned by the FCC, leaving them first on the dial.
It's a roller coaster, I tell you
The Hornets were up 48-39 at the half, and one of those patented Terrible Third Quarters brought things to a 62-62 tie after three. But the Bees would not be denied this time, dropping the Memphis Grizzlies, 87-79, winning their fourth straight, something that hasn't happened in a couple of years, and squaring their record at 19-19.
Five players in double figures tonight, led by Chris Paul with 16; P. J. Brown scored 15, and David West, with a 10-point outburst in the fourth quarter, got the double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds). Chris Andersen, over the flu, came within one rebound of a double-double of his own (10 points, 9 rebounds). But really, this was a triumph for the defense, who held the Griz to a mere 38 percent from the floor.
(I just noticed: the Hornets, so far in January, are 7-2. P. J. Brown, interviewed after the game, explained: "We're growing up.")
Three games coming up on the East Coast: Washington Friday, New York Saturday, and Boston on Monday. The Spurs come to the Ford Center a week from today.
19 January 2006
Gargoyles in heels
How much plastic surgery is too much? Peppermint Patty has examples, starting with Melanie Griffith:
I'm getting older, I have wrinkles and things settling in places I didn't know they were able to go, and I really don't have a fundamental objection to plastic surgery for those who really want it. I've seen good surgery that has made people feel great about themselves, but their goal wasn't to stay looking like they were 22 forever. But, Melanie, sweet Mother of God, you were and are a beautiful woman without the size 14 lips and the skin pulled so far back that you probably have a banana hairclip on the back of your head holding it that tight. How could you think this is an improvement?
And then there's Jessica Lange:
For the love of all that is good and beautiful about women, please stop committing this violence on your face! Eyebrows do not belong halfway up your forehead, seemingly held up by invisible wires, looking like they belong to the person behind you. Many years ago I read an interview you gave, and this was when you had wrinkles starting. You looked like a woman should look, and you were still incredibly smoldering. In that interview, you stated you would not do plastic surgery, that wrinkles were a part of you and your life. Apparently you changed your mind ... the one that is tucked and sucked behind those overarched, way-too-high caterpillars masquerading as eyebrows.
I was never all that fond of Melanie, but Jessica Lange? You might as well paint a Porsche with a roller.
(Scary photographs at the link.)
Some things I can understand them finding at the bottom of the Bricktown Canal: cell phones, sunglasses, car keys. I can even sort of imagine how the skateboard got there, and you can write your own story for the table and chairs from one of the nearby restaurants.
But a BMX bicycle? This has to be a Cruel Prank.
Oh, and there were a few fish, which have been transferred to Bass Pro Shops for the next 90 days. (The big ones will stay in Bass Pro's tank; the little ones, following classic sportsman protocol, will be thrown back.)
The udderlying cause
There are times when I read something, write a link to it, and think "Maybe this isn't the time." And it sits out on the desktop somewhere it's not even in the actual blog database waiting for me to get off the dime and either run the damn thing or forget I ever saw it.
After four days, I've decided to opt for the former. From Arizona Watch, Benway's explanation of why we have an illegal-immigration problem in the first place:
We've voted ourselves all these safety nets and government benefits as citizens of this country, and we'll be damned if we're going to start giving these benefits away to someone new. It costs too much. We don't want to pay for it. Besides, we have a "right" to American jobs ourselves, even if we don't want them.
That is the immigration debate in a nutshell. Our lips are locked on the government teats, feeding on the milk of privilege, and we don't want competition.
There will be no solution to illegal immigration until the taxpayers stop rewarding themselves unearned benefits. Eliminating the welfare state removes many of the incentives to illegally immigrate. If you've got to pay for your kids to go to school and pay for your own healthcare, only the truly motivated are going to immigrate, and those who do will be valuable additions to our country. But if we're going to deny these incentives to immigrants, then we must also deny them to ourselves. The alternatives are either the current situation, or a slave state, with a second class of immigrant persons laboring to ensure a fat government teat upon which citizens suckle.
Okay, hardline and then some. Of course, we are paying for school some of us are, anyway just not directly. And I don't believe for a moment that the vast majority of immigrants will end up as parasites.
But given the choice between building a wall and tearing down the welfare state, which do you think will actually happen?
900 calories to open the door
Forty bucks gets you into this year's Chocolate Decadence on 9 February. It's a fundraiser for the historic Automobile Alley district, held in the Hudson-Essex building at 825 North Broadway, and all sorts of neat (and pricey) stuff will be auctioned off, but the drawing card is of course the chocolate, desserts from the city's finest eateries plus LIT's infamous Chocolate Martini.
I don't dare get within a mile of this event.
One more resident of Loud City
Apparently my assumption that no one ever takes my advice on anything was off by one.
The midnight mover
Conventional wisdom has it that Wilson Pickett, who died today of a heart attack at 64, was the least subtle of all soul singers, always right up in your face, never relaxing for a moment.
I'm not buying. I'll gladly concede that Pickett's style was loud and proud and leather-lunged, and that he wasn't the best ballad singer Stax or, for that matter, Atlantic, who wound up with his contract ever saw; but geez, the man was versatile. Who else would have had the temerity to cover the Beatles ("Hey Jude"), Steppenwolf ("Born to Be Wild"), Free ("Fire and Water"), and, by God, the Archies ("Sugar, Sugar"), and get chart singles out of every one?
Still, my favorite Wicked Pickett track is "Funky Broadway," a song recorded first by its composer, Arlester "Dyke" Christian, a few months earlier in 1967. The Dyke and the Blazers version is indisputably funky, but Dyke's monochromatic, almost skeletal approach to this tune makes you wonder why they bothered to do five whole minutes of it; the record company wisely separated this into Part I (the hit) and Part II. Pickett, for his part, gets through the tune in 2:30 or so, and he seems to be having a whole lot more fun on his street. Some of that fun was no doubt inspired by the legendary Muscle Shoals crew at Rick Hall's Fame Studios, but I'd like to think he was tickled by the pretentiousness of some of the stuff that was written about him back in the day. From The Sound of Wilson Pickett (Atlantic 8145, 1967), the very LP on which "Funky Broadway" appeared, comes this verbal sludge:
[Pickett's] output of notable recorded performances will continue inasmuch as the record buyers of today are more discerning than ever before and they quickly differentiate between what is legitimate art and what is spurious.
The proper response to that, from Pickett's hit "Land of 1000 Dances":
20 January 2006
The Snitchmeister recommends that I read this book, and of course I shall, since it fits neatly into an ongoing research project, something along the lines of "If I'm so wonderful, why am I stuck at home this Friday night?"
Short answer: "The Hornets are playing the Wizards."
Entirely too long answer:
To borrow a phrase, I live with dust on my heart. It's uncomfortable, it impedes breathing, and it probably smells funny too. It is not, however, particularly lethal.
This paragraph by one of Glenn Reynolds' readers has been getting lots of play this week:
As a 48-year-old never married single man still in decent shape, successful and now retired, and having weathered the "feminist" cultural storm still raging since my teens, I can tell you that even your having read Norah Vincent's book, you STILL have no idea of the anger, the hatred, the vengeance and the pain so many otherwise attractive and available women are afflicted with. It is an epidemic of conflict and self-distortion that begins and ends with an impenetrable sense of entitlement, based on a false sense of victimhood, and for which not just any man but every man must pay forever for the restoration that's never good enough.
As a 52-year-old once-married (score that as a fluke) single man in suboptimal condition, hardly successful and a long way from retirement, I can tell you that while I have no doubt that some such women may indeed exist, I've never seen one: at least I've never been subjected to lengthy expositions of said anger and hatred and vengeance and pain, and I went to the trouble and expense of buying Maureen Dowd's book with the expectation of actually finding one. What I got was snark and petulance and more snark, which is something less than endearing, I suppose, but hatred? Not even close.
So maybe it's just me? Certainly I don't suffer from an exaggerated sense of entitlement:
My birthright, so far as I know, is to draw a finite number of breaths, and that's the end of it; anything else that happens during the interim is a matter of chance.
Nor do I buy into the notion that there's someone for everyone: there is a certain amount of symmetry in the world, but not that much.
But sometimes the simplest explanation is the most plausible. Love is two souls moving in the same direction; my particular path, torturously winding and lacking in both definition and destination, can be safely presumed to be of no interest to anyone but me.
Had I that sense of entitlement, I could rail about the general unfairness of life. But Babylon 5's Marcus Cole has the better argument:
You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe.
There is no one for me, and there is never going to be. I accept this situation with approximately the same composure, even complacency, with which I accept my utility bills; I may complain once in a while, but the only rational response is to write the checks and live another month.
And, of course, to catch the Hornets game. (They're playing the Wizards tonight.)
Taking a stand against evil
Rep. Guy Liebmann (R-Oklahoma City) has prefiled House Bill 2083, which if passed would permit the filing of lawsuits against purveyors of spyware and other scummy software.
Under 2083, service or hardware providers, or the Attorney General, would be allowed to sue anyone or any entity who "deceitfully" plants unwanted software on a computer.
Slowly but surely
Arkansas-based Dillard's, Inc. has announced plans to close three of its department stores, including the Heritage Park Mall store in Midwest City, which will shut down in March.
No other Dillard's stores in central Oklahoma will be affected.
This announcement comes at a particularly critical time for the troubled mall's new California-based ownership, which has been seeking new tenants to fill its abundance of vacancies and is spending serious bucks on refurbishing the place.
I have to wonder if maybe the old-fashioned department store, as a concept, could be on its last legs, what with the rise of specialty retailers, online shopping, and that other Arkansas-based chain.
Personally, I blame Charming Billy
Cherry pies are the only frozen fruit pies that must meet quality standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. Other fruit pies including apples, blueberries and peaches are exempt.
The FDA created the rule more than 30 years ago. At least 25% of the pie by weight must contain cherries, and no more than 15% of the cherries can be blemished. No one recalls why cherries were singled out. "We likely issued the one standard because we were petitioned to," FDA spokesman Michael Herndon says.
Perhaps they anticipated, even feared, that everybody must get stones?
Nobody beats the Wizards
Which is not quite true Washington had lost 20 of 37 coming into this game but tonight I think they could have beaten anybody. The Hornets didn't do anything wrong, particularly: in fact, Chris Paul pulled down 28 points, a new career high; the third quarter wasn't at the usual level of awfulness; and the Bees shot a respectable 49 percent. But it didn't matter: the Wizards came out fast and furious, they led by 11 after the first quarter, and they made it stick, 110-99.
Oh, well. Tomorrow: Knicks at knite.
21 January 2006
Fatuous Flashback 17
An early-morning encounter with a member of the Anti-Destination League:
I'm pretty sure the Dwight David Eisenhower National Defense Interstate Highway System and Cobalt Testing Range, or whatever the hell it's officially called, was never intended for commuters; the very word "Interstate" would seem to make that clear. Still, if a road is there, you tend to use it, and I don't have any particular qualms about using it for the bulk of my newly-tripled commute.
On the other hand, I've got to wonder about that character in the purple Dodge with no license plate (he had a cardboard placard in the rear window indicating the number of the plate he presumably had lost) this morning. It was bad enough that he was in the right lane of the Northwest Distressway signaling left; eventually he figured out that he was wearing out his blinker and followed the lane up the approach to the Belle Isle Bridge and I-44, a ramp cutting the tightest possible curve to match the curvature of the bridge itself. Once in place on the freeway, he promptly exited at Western Avenue, having driven barely half a mile on I-44. Why did he bother? Admittedly, surface streets in this area border on the incomprehensible, but we're talking a few blocks at most. This can't be what General Eisenhower had in mind.
("From the days when TG&Y issued licenses", 21 January 2004.)
The book of exodus
In the recent sessions passed, the legislature has passed "Right to Work" and "Workers Compensation Reform" bills, all touted as saviors of jobs and imperative to creating new jobs in Oklahoma.
The increase in job holders in Oklahoma from November 2004 to November 2005 was 1.1%. These statistics don't distinguish between part-time and full-time workers because some companies claim 28 hours per week is full time.
These measures were sold on the premise that they would have salutary effects on job creation, and such effects have yet to materialize to any great extent; literally for decades Opubco and various Chamber of Commerce types preached the gospel of right-to-work, and when it finally got here, its effect on actual employment proved to be essentially nil.
Let it be said up front that cutting the costs of doing business (such as that workers-comp reform) is usually a Good Thing, and that low taxes are to be preferred to high taxes. But the state seems convinced that if it hits exactly the right combination of "incentives," the floodgates will open, and that's simply not true. Says Boyte:
Our state leaders must change their long held convictions that today's reality contradict. Some other formula exists other than the short-sighted low-wage, tax give-away model.
I'm not sure that there is a formula that works infallibly different companies will have somewhat different priorities but the "Come Exploit Our Serfs!" approach isn't working very well at all.
Elvis was here
The first real recording studio in Nashville was "The Castle" in the Tulane Hotel, 8th Avenue North and Church Street, opened by three engineers from WSM radio in 1945. At the time, Nashville was hardly "Music City USA," a term apparently invented by a WSM announcer during a 1950 broadcast, but things were starting to percolate, and in 1954, RCA Victor, which had made a number of recordings at The Castle, decided they needed a facility of their own in town.
Nipper's first Nashville digs were at 1525 McGavock Street, in a building owned by the United Methodist Television, Radio & Film Commission. In January 1956 a fellow named Elvis Presley arrived, having been acquired by RCA from Sam Phillips' Sun label in Memphis, and tracks were laid down, one of which was "Heartbreak Hotel," which sold in the jillions and topped the charts. (Its B-side, "I Was the One," made the Top 20 on its own.) By 1957 RCA was a powerhouse in Nashville, selling both country and pop, and ponied up the bucks for a brand-new studio on 17th Avenue South and Hawkins (now Roy Acuff Place), which became known as "Studio B." ("Studio A" was actually built later.)
Not much happened at 1525 McGavock after that until the arrival of Jim Owens Productions in the 1980s, for which I am eternally grateful. (Two words: Lorianne Crook.) And not a whole lot happened after Owens and company moved on, circa 2000; Winston Rand reports that the building is being replaced by a parking lot. Studio B, meanwhile, has been turned into a museum and learning laboratory.
If there's a lesson here, it's simply that not everything we'd like to save is going to be saved and that I'm never going to see everything I wanted to see. What made 1525 McGavock interesting to me, apart from the Crook and Chase connection, was this bit of weirdness: one of the goals of the RCA crew was to be able to duplicate Sam Phillips' slapback echo in the studio, despite the fact that Sam had actually created the sound, not with studio acoustics, but with a carefully-timed tape delay. I thrive on stuff like that.
Shorter bin Laden
(No, that's not a relative.)
Deciphering Al-Qaeda statements is not Chase McInerney's specialty, but I think he flat-out nailed this one:
1) Just 'cause you haven't heard from us doesn't mean we're not still scary; and 2) Let's talk.
If that doesn't sound like a terrorist organization on the ropes, I don't know what does.
I told someone at work this week that "Geez, Tupac Shakur puts out a new CD every year and he's been dead since '96. Why should anyone be surprised when there's a new bin Laden tape?"
Maybe they (or al-Jazeera) should call it a "remix." It might get slightly less disrespect over here in Skirt Heaven.
In the far-too-distant past
Whenever I list what I think are the Best TV Shows Ever, it never occurs to me to even consider MST3K. Not because the show wasn't good, but because it's simply incomparable to anything else. It is and was one of the unlikeliest TV shows ever made, it was never wildly successful in the ratings, it had cancellation hovering over its head for at least half of its ten years (and was, in fact, cancelled on one channel, only to be reborn on another between seasons seven and eight). It was long and unwieldy, running two hours. It demanded concentration on multiple levels from its viewers.
Oh, and the worst movie ever riffed upon? Monster-A-Go-Go (421):
No monster. Twenty seconds of pseudo-Go-Go. Ninety [CENSORED!] minutes of disconnected shots of feet walking down halls, washed out stock footage, and ponderous narration that fails to make any of it make sense.
In other words, just marginally worse than Laserblast.
Back in the New York groove
Chris Paul played his very first college hoops at Madison Square Garden (Wake Forest vs. Memphis), and I think he was happy to be back: he scored 27 and contributed 13 assists as the Hornets piled up some serious points at the expense of the Knicks, 109-98.
What's more, the Bees forgot to go cold in the third quarter, outscoring New York 31-20 over the period; there was a brief drought in the fourth, but by then the damage was done. Five Hornets scored in double figures; Rasual Butler got 12 points on four treys.
Back to .500, and off to Beantown to meet the slumping Celtics on Monday before returning Wednesday to the Ford, where the Spurs will be waiting.
22 January 2006
The mockumentary form didn't originate with This Is Spinal Tap, but Tap gave it its marching orders: show us something we wouldn't have seen otherwise, and make it funny.
Last night I got to see a picture called Making Arrangements, written and directed by Melissa Scaramucci, produced by her and Peter Austin Hermes (also director of photography), and it takes orders very well: it blows the lid off the allegedly-placid world of the commercial florist, and it's funny as hell.
Shot in 2002 in Oklahoma City, standing in as a mid-America Anytown the COMMERCIAL VEHICLE decal on the shop's van bumper gives it away, and there's a brief glance of a Braum's bag Making Arrangements is set in an upscale flower shop called "Flowers By Design," which is going through a fairly hectic period already (two weddings, a couple of parties) when one of the biggest names in town suddenly drops dead and the demand for flowers really good flowers, not the mundane stuff indulged in by hoi polloi goes completely off the scale. And of course, the staff of Flowers By Design work in perfect harmony to make sure everything happens exactly the way it should.
There might have been an instance or two when the ostensible documentary crew seemed a bit too omniscient for maximum plausibility, but this is a quibble: the characters are strongly detailed and intelligently developed, a neat trick considering how much of the film was actually improvised on the spot, and while you can see the conflicts coming, you can't predict more than a shot or two ahead. And what makes this story work is the Us vs. Them dynamic: yes, the customer is always right, but more often than not, the customer is a tremendous pain in the ass. (Hint: do not order black roses, even if you're dating a Goth girl.)
Making Arrangements is not being screened locally at the moment; I snagged a copy on DVD by way of IndieFlix.com, where it is selling well, and deservedly so. I laughed a lot, and so will you.
There she is
For some reason, Oklahoma produces more than its share of Miss America winners: Jennifer Berry, Miss America 2006, is the fifth* in 85 years, minus a few years when the pageant was suspended. Given that the Sooner State has maybe 1/80 of the nation's population, we're clearly punching above our weight class. I leave for someone with greater vision than mine the task of explaining why things have worked out this way.
As for Miss Berry, she's twenty-two, a student at OU, and she'll receive a $30k scholarship, presumably for when she finishes her year-long speaking tour.
* Previous winners:
1967: Jane Jayroe
1981: Susan Powell
1996: Shawntell Smith
The official list through 2005 is here.
Prescriptions from on high
Steven Streight, the Blogger Occasionally Known As Vaspers The Grate, has offered up what he calls "slapdash suggestions for improving the Blogosphere 2006" in the hopes of propelling this weird little entity a little farther into its inevitable evolution.
Streight, to his credit, identifies his particular biases right up front:
I am assuming that blog pioneers, innovators, consultants, and authors truly wish to see the blogosphere refined, dignified, and blossoming into new and beneficial forms. Not "anything goes" mutation blogoids that violate user expectations and frustrate the typical reader, but real progress in blog functionality, efficiency, connectivity, syndicated delivery, and interactivity.
"Beneficial," of course, is in the eye of the recipient, and I'm not sure how "typical" my readers are. I'd love to know, though, what Streight considers to be mutant.
This section struck me at an odd angle:
Every blogroll is a new hub in the blogosphere within the web of the internet. Your blogroll acts as a transitory portal for your blog readers, a gateway to recommended blogs and web sites you feel might benefit them in some way.
Blogrolls are an indication of your blog's credibility. One way to assess, evaluate, or judge a blog that is unfamiliar to you is to check the blogroll, who is in it, and who is excluded.
Unless Einstein or Euclid or someone changed the math on me while I wasn't looking, I assume that anyone who isn't on the blogroll is excluded pretty much by definition.
I do admit that when I encounter an unfamiliar blog, I examine its blogroll, although I do try to avoid making too many conclusions based upon what I find therein. (Nothing surprises me more than finding myself on it.) And God forbid anyone should try to determine anything from my blogroll. Kottke used to stick his blogroll under the heading NOT RECOMMENDED AT ALL, which I keep forgetting to rip off.
And herein lies wisdom:
Keep a handy list of titles, blogger names, and URLs of new blogs you want to add to your blogroll. Don't worry if these blogs reciprocate by blogrolling you, because nearly none of them will.
At any given moment, I have four or five under consideration.
On the question of comments, Streight says:
Respond swiftly, politely, and completely to every comment, as much as possible. Some comments need no reply. Most do. Don't leave your commenters hanging, wondering if you even care or pay any attention to other people's opinions and insights.
I think I've done acceptably well in this regard, although as everyone knows by now, I don't actually care about other people's opinions and insights. :)
And this makes sense:
Don't underestimate the power of lurkers. One may suddenly jump out of the shadows and post an astonishing comment, then you never hear from them again.
Well, there was one yesterday I hope I never hear from again. (Don't go looking for it; it's been deleted.)
There's a lot more in Streight's suggestions, though I suspect that the blogger most likely to follow up on all his ideas is the blogger who values, more than anything else, being recognized by Dave Winer.
(With thanks to Doc Searls, whom you should not hold responsible for any of this.)
A picture with altitude
Once in a while I take a look at Hornets Central, an OKC-based message board devoted to the NBA team temporarily housed here, and as you might expect, there is a lot of back-and-forth between Oklahoma City fans and New Orleans fans regarding the team's future.
Most of said dialogue is pretty predictable, but this one piece of snark is so spectacularly barbed I had to sneak a copy of it over here. It's used in the .sig block by a user/moderator identified as "JWHornet," and, well, it speaks for itself:
23 January 2006
The Great White North polls
Prediction on the Canadian election, from Bleeding Brain:
New Democrats: 41
Bloc Québécois: 63
Prediction from Ginna Dowler:
New Democrats: 34
Bloc Québécois: 63
No majority for the Conservatives, certainly, but not too bad a place to be, if it comes off that way.
A few things I wonder about, since my knowledge of Canadian politics is spotty at best:
This will have to satisfy my political jones until they open up the filing period (this week) for mayor of Oklahoma City.
Greatest pickup line ever
Oddly enough, it showed up in the Mayor's State of the City Address:
A friend of mine was recently sitting in a restaurant and noticed a woman kept staring at him. Every time he glanced in that direction, she was staring at him.
After this continued for several minutes he finally went over and approached the woman. He said, "I couldn't help but notice that you keep staring at me."
The woman blushed and said "I'm sorry, but you look just like my third husband."
The man was a little flustered and all he could mutter in return was, "How many times have you been married?"
The woman said, "Twice."
I'd be flustered. Flummoxed. Flabbergasted, even.
George Orwell may or may not have said "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." (It sounds like Orwell, but it hasn't turned up in his known writings.)
"Evil people sleep peaceably in their beds at night because tenured wackademics and left-wing media sheep stand ready to make excuses on their behalf."
Bob, to his credit, doesn't mention Orwell.
Finagling is Job 1
When General Motors announced its restructuring plan, word came down from Detroit that it didn't matter what kind of incentives were offered to keep, say, Oklahoma City Assembly open: what's done is done, and that's that.
The assembly plants which are speculated to be most at risk for closure are in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; Atlanta, Georgia; St. Thomas, Ontario; Cuatitlan, Mexico; and most important to many of our readers, the Wixom plant here in Michigan. The reasons for targeting these plants have to do with their age, their product lines and their lack of flexibility. There's another reason which makes this round of cuts more like Survivor than previous rounds.
And that reason is, as a source from the inside of Ford's executive office told me earlier today, "we have to play the states against one another". Over the past week, as targets have popped up in the media, states and their leaders have been scrambling to offer tax credits and any other incentive from their individual economic development toolsets they may have to keep their plants up and running in their states.
Which is what happened with GM; the General subsequently rebuffed the states. The Ford situation apparently will be different:
[T]his is all part of Ford's strategy. Their goal appears to be to announce a number of facilities to close that is larger than the actual number they need to close to reach their targets. Then, as in Survivor, the states and their elected leadership will compete against each other to see who can put together the most valuable economic development incentive package possible.
And the least valuable, presumably, will be voted off the island. Will this work any better? Too early to tell.
Update, 11 am: Here's the official Ford announcement. This line at the bottom of the list of plants to be idled is the kicker:
Two additional assembly plants, which will be determined later this year.
At least as flexible as a Thunderbird ragtop going over a railroad track.
A chap named Thomas Jones once said, "Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate."
Steve H. says three people absolutely loathe him, and it was pretty much inevitable:
All you have to do in this life to make people hate you is to tell the truth and do what you think is right. If you keep your mouth shut or tell little white lies, and you go along to keep from rocking the boat, you'll go to your grave without a single enemy, or functioning testicles. Most people do their best to blend in with the herd. Anyone who shows any integrity gets nailed to a cross.
This doesn't work in reverse, though: just because you have trials and/or tribulations, it isn't a sign that you're on the side of the angels.
I don't think anyone actually hates me, though I can think of one or two who would probably be more comfortable if I'd forget to pay my hosting bill (which, incidentally, is paid through December). Nothing personal, necessarily; it could simply be that my somewhat-contradictory persona as a moderately-apolitical political junkie I'm a big fan of gridlock, which offends that segment of the electorate which thinks that government should constantly be doing something is something they reckon ought not to be encouraged, especially since my readership has grown beyond people who have me on speed dial.
So I'm not in the same boat as Steve. But you probably won't find me next to Moira Breen either:
I have been, however, even more bewildered by people who take a shine to me for no reasons I can fathom.
The combination of brilliant (so I read) and gorgeous (so I am assured by David Fleck) is always a draw. Not that I ever had any substantial quantities of either.
Not quite at 15:00 yet
The problem with that cliché about "pure as the driven snow": have you ever actually driven in snow? We're talking some seriously scuzzy stuff.
Some of that scuzzy stuff was on the ground the last time Boston played the Hornets, and the Celtics spanked the Bees rather convincingly.
Some of that scuzzy stuff was on the ground tonight as the Hornets visited Boston, and the Celtics, once again, spanked the Bees rather convincingly, 91-78.
It didn't help that the Hornets shot a horrid 35.5 percent from the floor, and that the dreaded third-quarter slump not only returned but managed to persist into the start of the fourth. On the upside, David West dropped in 21 points, and J. R. Smith looked like the J. R. of old, scoring 16 in the fourth.
And while they're back under .500 again, 20-21 at the halfway point is six or eight games better than anyone predicted back in October. Not that this makes anyone feel any more comfortable about playing the Spurs day after tomorrow.
Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas got half a dozen minutes on the court: he connected on one shot, pulled down an offensive rebound, and got a steal.
24 January 2006
On the prowl
Maureen Dowd is in Australia to promote Are Men Necessary?
Since the formal release date is the 30th, obviously she has some time to kill, and the Australian reports the following (down near the bottom of the page):
This time she plans to track down an Aussie bloke she had a crush on when she was 20.
I have a feeling there's one hell of a story here and I probably don't want to know what it is.
(Via Tim Blair.)
Half a mandate
New Democrats: 29
Bloc Québécois: 51
While playing with the CBC's Flash site, I noticed that Barry Devolin (Conservative) held the seat in Ontario's Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. Feel free to write your own joke.
No, it's your store
This could get complicated. Albertsons, which had been looking for a buyer for its grocery chain, got three: rival SuperValu will buy most of the grocery stores, CVS will acquire standalone Sav-on drug stores, and 655 stores in the West, including Oklahoma, will go to an investment group led by Cerberus Capital Management.
The divestiture of the Western stores has suggested to some analysts that Cerberus and friends aren't interested in the grocery business, particularly; they just want the real-estate properties that come with the stores. Cerberus begs to differ:
Cerberus' business is taking underperforming assets and making them perform. They have a pretty good track record of doing that, and that's the commitment with Albertsons. Our plans are to operate the stores under the Albertsons name. We will maintain the same benefits plans and programs for all employees.
SuperValu already owns the Sav-A-Lot stores in the state; it could simply be that they didn't want to run two chains side by side.
In Boise, headquarters of the Albertsons chain, the outlook might be less rosy:
The Big Promise made by Albertson's CEO-of-the-moment, Larry Johnston:
"We are also pleased that in addition to maintaining a presence in each banner's headquarter city (Jewel-Chicago, Acme-Philadelphia, Shaws-Boston, Albertsons-Los Angeles), SUPERVALU has stated that it intends also to maintain an important presence in Boise, Idaho for the foreseeable future."
[W]ould anyone care to wager on the exact duration of "the foreseeable future"?
Not me. I can't see that far.
I am a regular Albertson's shopper have been for a few years but I'm not emotionally wedded to the place.
Eight bucks a pack
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, apparently upset that there are still New Yorkers who smoke, is proposing to raise the city's tobacco tax another 50 cents per pack, bringing the combined city/state levy to $3.50.
"We're trying to save the lives of our children," he said on one of his periodic pilgrimages to Albany.
At this price, it might be cheaper to move every child in the Big Apple to New Jersey and be done with it.
Lesley has a list of things she'd just as soon never again hear spoken by some guy, and I suppose it (sort of) speaks well of me that I've only said one of them myself.
(When I was in fifth grade. Sweden and Finland, as I recall, were also in Scandinavia.)
And this would seem to be so obvious as to go without saying, but apparently not everyone has caught on:
If you want to have a relationship, you will need to put up with the other person's issues. The key is to figure out which issues you can deal with and which you cannot. If you are having trouble finding someone who has issues you can deal with, the problem is likely with your expectations, not with the vast majority of the opposite sex. (Nor, incidentally, should it be particularly shocking that a group of people with similar experiences will share similar issues.)
Actually, my problem is with finding someone who can deal with my issues, which are vast (or at least half-vast) and complex, reason enough, I suppose, to keep the door closed.
News item: CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Brothers television network said Tuesday that they will close their respective UPN and WB networks and jointly launch the CW network.
Top ten network names rejected before coming up with "the CW":
Check your local listings.
Addendum: Any similarity to this is almost certainly deliberate.
No more Persiaflage
Couldn't we just arrange for Ted Kennedy to take Ahmadinejad for a little ride? Perhaps around Cape Cod, somewhere.
We could call it "an attempt to normalize relations."
25 January 2006
(Somewhat) conventional wisdom
Random thoughts on the new CBS/Time Warner "The CW" network, previously mocked here:
As to the merger itself, it was unexpected, but rather easily explainable: UPN continued to lose money; the WB was profitable, but just barely.
I can't really tell if I'm at 4.5 or at 9.
Loath and vicious
Buffalo's The Beast has issued its annual list of the 50 most loathsome people in America, which is always fun, not necessarily because I agree with every last selection, but because it's jam-packed with seriously deranged venom, a major source of delight here in post-civil America. Republicans outnumber Democrats on the list, but Republicans are ostensibly running things, so their potential for loathsomeness presumably gets kicked up a notch. This pattern, interestingly, did not hold for Bernard Goldberg's book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (And Al Franken Is #37); I think this is because Goldberg overstates the importance of Hollywood liberals, to the extent that it's possible to overstate the importance of Hollywood liberals.
Numero Uno on the Beast's list, to everyone's relief, is Pat Robertson; #4, to no one's surprise, is you. Or maybe me.
This might be the best line in the bunch. Regarding #15:
Rove is decidedly not a genius; he is simply missing the part of his soul that prevents the rest of us from kicking elderly women in the face.
(Via Michelle Malkin, #49, who has her own nominee.)
Addendum: There ought to be room for the person who dropped by this morning with the following search string: WHERE IS THE CLOSEST WALMART TO FORD FIELD IN DETROIT WHERE I CAN PARK A MOTORHOME OVERNIGHT.
Checking the chain for pull vectors
Gotta be some sort of InstaBot.
The 175th Carnival of the Vanities has appeared at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity; it's the latest edition of the first and still the oldest weekly blog compilation.
Paragraph 175 was the section of the German penal code that the Third Reich expanded to wield against homosexual men; persons convicted under 175 wore the infamous pink triangle.
(Does anyone still read these bits of numeric trivia?)
What we're looking for
The generous Jessa Jeffries offers to save the Department of Justice $8 billion, and frankly, I think the DOJ should take her up on it; it's not like they're going to accomplish anything useful along these lines on their own.
(Via skippy's friend Carnacki; some salty language at the first link.)
Adventures in listlessness
What kind of night is it when the league champions shoot a meager 37 percent and still win by sixteen points?
Yep. The Spurs were flat; however, the Hornets were utterly wretched, shooting 31 percent. On the radio, Sean and V. wound up in a Biblical discussion with 2:30 left, perhaps in the hope that lightning would take out the Ford Center and put an end to the misery. No acts of God, though, and San Antonio finally won it, 84-68, in a game apparently nobody wanted. I expect someone to report tomorrow that the weird January weather in Oklahoma City caused the rim diameters to shrink.
Somehow I don't think Memphis will be quite so ragged come Saturday night.
26 January 2006
The Mayor likes his job
Given the sheer number of Republicans who have expressed interest in the Fifth District seat being vacated by gubernatorial wannabe Ernest Istook, it wouldn't seem to make sense to add yet another one.
Candidates for Mayor of Oklahoma City must file by Tuesday.
Scott speaks up
No one will ever accuse Hornets coach Byron Scott of beating around the bush. The de rigueur radio debriefing after last night's debacle never came off, and I'm willing to bet it's because he used the time he normally spends on chatting with the broadcast guys to chew out the team for a lackluster (read: "awful") performance.
And when it was rumored in the fall that the team might deal with Indiana for the occasionally-problematic Ron Artest, Scott said that he'd rather not:
I always thought I could coach anybody. I don?t know about Ron, though. Unbelievable talent, nobody's denying that. I don't want to mess up our chemistry. Ron Artest, as great a player as he is, he scares me.
Artest, incidentally, will not be joining the Bees: the Pacers swapped him to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic.
Was the front office listening? Maybe.
Of course, the biggest question facing the Hornets is "Where are we going?" Scott says he likes it fine here in the Big Breezy:
I would love to play here. I think our guys are enjoying it. The fans have been unbelievable. Out of our 12 home wins, I think our fans out there have won half of them. So, I would prefer to stay here.
Is the front office listening? Maybe.
Life in the Big City
City Hall seems to be pleased with the results of a survey of resident satisfaction with city services, in which Oklahoma City was generally highly regarded by the respondents.
The condition of city streets, unsurprisingly, inspires the least satisfaction: 54 percent rated their reaction as "Dissatisfied" or "Very dissatisfied." Nothing else was even close. (Thirty-two percent viewed the condition of the public-transit system negatively.)
In an effort to get a better grip on individual sections of the city, I read the entire 164-page report, and a few things jumped out at me:
The city has made the entire report available as a PDF file here.
At least they're not stuffy
I see plenty of pigeons; I don't believe they are exactly enhanced by fluffiness.
Anyone got any starving grackles?
Save us, for we are morons
The RIAA continues to plead for a "broadcast flag" to thwart copying of its precious content. There was a Senate hearing Tuesday, and FMQB reports:
[RIAA head Mitch] Bainwol told the Senate that the issue is "not casual recording by listeners. It is not taping off the radio like we used to do. We are talking about allowing broadcast programs to be automatically captured and then disaggregated, song by song, into a massive library of music."
... yeah, a massive library of low-quality sounding music. Anyone who is capable of bothering with song-capture technology would probably rather just buy a CD: the bit-rate for the new HD radio is a pathetic 64 k in the main channel and 32 k in the side channel (though this isn't entirely comparable to MP3 bit-rates, mark Station Manager Ken's words ... the sound quality will be far worse than analog FM).
Which, inasmuch as analog FM (1) cuts off abruptly above 15 kHz and (2) is almost invariably compressed to within a centimeter of its life, suggests that the New! Digital! Radio! is going to be no match for a really good AM setup and AM hasn't been worth copying since Todd Storz / WABC Musicradio 77 / Guglielmo Marconi [choose one] died.
Worst. Team Name. Ever.
Houston's new Major League Soccer team will be known as "1836".
I hereby retract anything untoward, unkind, or unsupportive I ever said about the Stanford Cardinal [singular].
Better ideas or at least no worse here.
Dying to be on TV
Britain's Channel Four will be airing a series called Dust to Dust in which a terminally-ill volunteer will be put on camera after he's died; the series will then trace the decomposition of the corpse during regular updates.
And to think I refused to watch a train-wreck of a series like Skating with Celebrities.
27 January 2006
A million litigation cases
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Seattle Attorney Mike Myers lists as plaintiffs two Seattle residents, Shera Paglinawan and Stuart Oswald, who each received or purchased [James Frey's A Million Little Pieces] "before news of the book's falsity was disseminated."
The suit, apparently the third of its kind to be filed across the nation, seeks class-action status against Frey and the publisher.
Myers distinguished his suit from actions filed in Illinois and California by saying only his seeks compensation on behalf of consumers for "the lost value of the readers' time."
Myers alleges several legal causes for the suit, including breach of contract, unjust enrichment, negligent misrepresentation, intentional misrepresentation and violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.
Remember, you can't spell "class action" without "ass."
The Year of the Dog rolls over
After a successful run in Bricktown, Oklahoma City's celebration of Tet, the lunar new year, moves this year to the Plaza Conference Center, 4345 Lincoln Blvd., mostly because it holds about the same number of persons and will cost the sponsor the Vietnamese-American Community of Oklahoma City less money.
The official celebration is Saturday from 2 to 5:30, followed by a dance that evening; attendance in recent years has been generally around 3,000.
Debuting this fall on The CW
The CW network is being formed from the remains of UPN and the WB; it's reasonable to suspect that this Frankennetwork (not to be confused with Air America Radio) might air some programs from one, some programs from the other and, per Hatless in Hattiesburg, some combinations thereof:
It may be too late to hope for 7th Heaven Smackdown, though.
Factoids? We got some
Playboy has a page every month called "Raw Data," described reasonably enough as "significa, insignifica, stats and facts." Once in a while there's something worth mentioning here, but the February issue hits the trifecta.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that raising the price of beer 20 cents would cut gonorrhea rates among young adults by almost 9%.
That isn't on the CDC's Alcohol Factsheet, but this is: "For every 1% increase in the price of beer, the traffic fatality rate declines by 0.9% (Ruhm, 1996)." I'm just waiting for someone to pitch the idea of increasing beer prices by 111 percent in the expectation that the action would almost completely eliminate traffic deaths.
According to insurance company Progressive, 35% of Americans would change political parties for $500.
I can be bought, but not that cheaply. Maybe they mean "on primary-election day."
44% of women say they can't enjoy sex with a less intelligent partner.
Go back to sleep, Maureen.
Off the edge
His name was Nicandro Govea-Rodriguez, he was seventeen, and the week before Christmas he jumped off the overpass known as the "Fort Smith Junction", where I-35 and I-40 join together east of downtown for a mile or so.
Govea had been driving a van owned by a Texas construction firm working on the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Midwest City's northern edge; Maria Ruiz, a restaurant owner in Norman, offered to drive the lad's remains back to the other side of the Rio Grande.
The van, it was announced, had been stolen, but in Govea's personal effects an extra key was found, which suggested to Maria Ruiz that the company knew he was driving the van.
Did the company know Nicandro Govea-Rodriguez was an illegal immigrant? Did it let him drive the van knowing he did not have a driver's license? Did it have other illegals on its payroll? Did it have worker's compensation insurance to pay for the boy's death if indeed he had permission to drive the van at the time of his death?
The Oklahoma Department of Labor has started asking some questions of its own. Deputy Commissioner Trey Davis:
If he was in any aspect on the job, whether driving to the job, or running an errand or otherwise in the scope of his employment, then my position would be that he would be covered by worker's comp and as such would be entitled or his family would be entitled to the death benefit.
And Congressman John Sullivan (R-OK), a critic of the Bush administration's immigration policies, adds that "There's no will to enforce any of these [immigration] laws."
A reader of this site wonders:
So, now I'm wondering, could there be ANY connection 'tween this story and the 18 loose illegals whose chase was responsible for the paralyzation of our local Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer (I DO hope people keep him in their thoughts!!)
I'm inclined to doubt it; while no one knows for certain how many people are here without documentation, I think it's a safe bet that there are too many of them to know each other personally.
Solutions? I wish. But the present approach to the matter of illegal immigration, which is basically "look the other way and hope nothing happens," doesn't seem to be working very well at all, and there's something deeply unsettling (not to mention incredibly expensive) about the idea of trying to build a wall between Us and Them, especially since the vast majority of Us seem to be descended from people who used to be Them.
Eat the beetles
What, you mean that really is bug juice?
Food makers may not want to dwell on it, but the ingredient that gives Dannon Boysenberry yogurt and Tropicana Ruby Red Grapefruit juice their distinctive colors comes from crushed female cochineal beetles.
Pressed by consumer advocates, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to ... require companies to disclose when a food contains beetle-derived colorings.
Under current FDA regulations, food labels must identify certain man-made colorings by name, such as FD&C Red No. 40. But for carmine, cochineal and other naturally occurring ingredients, companies can use terms such as "color added" or, oddly, "artificial color."
[An] advocacy group, and a small but vocal group of consumers who are allergic to the ingredients have pushed for stiffer rules.
Joining the chorus are vegetarians, who don't want to eat insects, and consumers observing kosher dietary practices. ... "There are a lot of people who will not be happy to know that they are eating products that contain dried beetle."
Wait a minute. Bugs aren't kosher?
Leviticus 11:20-23 [ESV]:
All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground. Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind. But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.
Of course, "all fours" makes little sense in the context of insects, unless they're limping. But no, apparently bugs aren't kosher, and just to make sure:
Of the "winged swarming things" (winged insects), a few are specifically permitted (Lev. 11:22), but the Sages are no longer certain which ones they are, so all have been forbidden.
Doesn't seem to matter how you kill them, either.
Within shrieking distance
Last paragraph of this Vent, 1 January 2006:
Playboy will take submissions for a "Women of the Blogosphere" pictorial, which will appear in early 2007. No one you ever heard of will be in it.
Announcement today [probably not safe for work]:
Playboy.com seeks the sexiest women of the MySpace community to pose for a nude Playboy pictorial.
Well, at least it isn't Tripod.
And with only four strings, yet
(Sent me by Greg Brandt, who knows a thing or two about strings.)
Not the way he intended to fly
Under the agreement between the NBA and the Players Association, exact details of the matter are not available to the public; however, cause for disqualification, instead of a mere fine and/or suspension, would include use of cocaine, meth, acid, or opiates. Andersen will be barred from the league for a minimum of two years.
This year the Birdman, in 32 games, averaged 18 minutes per game, 5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
28 January 2006
Fatuous Flashback 18
Sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is a keen grasp of the obvious:
In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft made the following startling declaration:
"To the extent the open-source model gains increasing market acceptance, sales of the company's products may decline, the company may have to reduce the prices it charges for its products, and revenues and operating margins may consequently decline."
In a footnote, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates noted that rainfall is sporadic at best in the Mojave Desert, and that children under six should not drink bleach.
(From "And bullet holes may affect respiration", 5 February 2003.)
And they're out of here
Frontier City and White Water Bay will complete their 2006 seasons before being put on the block; what happens after that is pretty much up to the buyers.
Update, 11:30 am: The question you really want answered is answered by new Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro:
[Y]es, there will be room for Mr. Six, although he might find himself with a little more free time. Love him or hate him, Shapiro said the wacky octogenarian mascot helped raise awareness for the Six Flags brand.
Hold on a second. There were people who hated Mr. Six?
Yakety yak (do talk back)
There are somewhere around 13,000 comments posted here, which is not a particularly high number by the standards of blogs higher (and by some lower) on the food chain.
I suspect, though, that there are scant few Big Media guys who get this much feedback, as Atrios notes:
A thing which I only came to realize recently is just how little reader feedback most reporters get, even post Al Gore's benevolent gift of the internet. Even reporters/columnists/etc who prominently display their emails get very little reader feedback. I was quite stunned to realize that the amount of reader feedback most reporters get even now is about the amount I was getting after I'd only been running this lemonade stand for a couple of months. Bloggers get a huge amount of feedback relative to their readership size, both in comments and in email, and I was shocked to realize that this wasn't something most print journalists experienced.
James Joyner thinks it's simply that things work differently on this side of the Great Scriveners' Divide:
This is indeed an odd thing, presumably just a function of the culture of blogs, where readers come in as equals and expect to participate, versus newspapers, where readers are simply consumers of information passed down from on high. Even though OTB tends not to generate the level of comments as other similarly-trafficked blogs, I still get hundreds of emails every single day. (Every comment posted on the site is instantly emailed to the post author.)
There's only the one post author here, except under unusual circumstances, but I do pull down 30 to 40 site-related emails every day.
Which suggests a question: Would the newspaper and TV-radio guys see themselves as better off if they did get this level of feedback? Or would they throw up their hands in despair and drop all their email in the bit bucket? To Atrios, at least, it's routine:
[E]verybody [in blogdom] deals with the feedback, and anyone with even a modest amount of traffic deals with quite a lot of it.
Of course, we don't have those editors and factcheckers and other forms of insulation, either.
Quote of the week
What we can expect from the new Canadian government, from Colby Cosh in, of all places, the Los Angeles Times:
Canada remains in 2006 largely what it was in 2005 a country where cigarettes are taxed 300% to 400% but heroin is free to addicts; where gay widowers have an easier time obtaining their pension entitlements than World War II veterans; and where a woman can go topless in public unless she has hate literature tattooed on her breasts.
Actually, there's more to it than that:
Canada currently has no laws in force concerning abortion; you can legally perform one in a shop window, though it's hell on lunchtime pedestrian traffic. When asked whether he intends to challenge this status quo, the new prime minister has often been quoted as saying, "Whoa! Look at the time! Hair appointment!"
Well, probably not often.
(Thanks to Matt Rosenberg.)
We're just not buying
[I]f cars are lasting longer in the market wouldn't it be logical to conclude that this would drive down demand for new cars? And if that's true, couldn't it also be true that this increased durability has played into the woes faced by Ford and General Motors of late?
Foreign auto makers have long outstripped domestic car companies in terms of producing durable automobiles, so I would expect that the increases in longevity detailed [here] have to do, mostly, with an increase in the quality of domestic car craftsmanship. And if product turnover in the domestic auto market has decreased it means that domestic car companies, primarily Ford and General Motors, are selling fewer cars.
Domestic car craftsmanship is better than it used to be. Unfortunately, the Japanese have continued to improve even as Detroit did its darnedest to catch up, with the results you'd expect. (The Europeans, for some reason I'd guess too many gee-whiz electronic gizmos have been slipping of late.)
A bigger factor in the decline of Detroit is its persistent last-generation thinking. I got a look at a shiny new Chevrolet Cobalt the other day. It's very sensible, screwed together well, and possessed of an interior which is obviously inexpensive yet doesn't scream CHEAP! at you from every plastic surface. Definitely a quality piece. On the other hand, so was my daughter's '99 Toyota Corolla, and that was two vehicles ago for her.
Detroit's biggest hits for "hits," read "anything for which they don't have to offer rebates and incentives" are the cars that don't follow someone else's lead, the vehicles that you simply can't get anywhere else. The Chrysler 300, the return of the traditional American big RWD sedan with an extra helping of road sense, has no Japanese equivalent at all, and the closest thing to it, the Mercedes-Benz E-class, will easily cost you ten to twenty-five grand more. (The 300, by no coincidence, got many of its underpinnings from the outgoing E-class.) Ford's Mustang is the last surviving pony car, and the new one evokes more of the spirit of the mid-1960s original than did any of the Mustangs that followed. Chrysler's pocket-sized panel truck, the PT Cruiser, sells as well as ever. The one derivative American car that's a hit is the Pontiac Solstice, the first American roadster that can play on the same field with Mazda's MX-5/Miata; it's sold out for the rest of the year. (A Saturn version, tagged Sky, follows.)
Where Japan (accompanied increasingly by Korea) is eating Detroit's lunch is in the mid-sized sedan segment, where Toyota's Camry and Honda's Accord finish one-two (once in a while two-one) every year. Against this two-headed juggernaut, Ford put up the same Taurus for ten years. Oldsmobile, which used to own this segment (can you say "Cutlass"?), is deader than Francisco Franco.
And with the average new car pushing $28,000, people hate car payments more than ever, especially with 72-month notes. (I hated my 60-month note, and paid it off in 53.) With that kind of money at stake, it's hard to imagine a situation in which buying a new car would be cost-effective compared with fixing up the old one.
Point to ponder: I drive a mid-sized sedan with a Japanese nameplate that was built in Michigan with 60 percent domestic parts by a UAW crew. It is now six years old. The one thing that has failed on it is the knob for the seat-height adjustment on the driver's side: it's cracked and falls off the threaded bolt. And frankly, if you had to sit under me for half an hour a day minimum for the better part of six years, you'd be cracked too.
Two out of three ain't bad
The first two Grizzlies/Hornets games were won by whichever team was at home; after falling behind early, the Bees won the third at Memphis, 95-86.
With the Birdman gone, P. J. Brown played longer than usual, and he seemed to be enjoying it, picking up 18 points and 9 rebounds. David West disappeared into the locker room near the beginning of the second half to get retaped; once back on the floor, he hit nine shots in a row, singlehandedly disposing of the third-quarter curse. (West finished with a double-double, 19 points and 12 rebounds.) And Speedy Claxton got 20 from off the bench, 18 in the first half. Pau Gasol played all but two minutes of the game and scored 25 for the Grizzlies despite heavy Hornet defense.
Now up to 21-22, the Bees open a three-game home stand on Monday against the Bucks, followed by the Bulls on Wednesday and the Lakers on Saturday.
29 January 2006
How K. West was one
I have stayed away from the subject of Kanye West's fatuous Rolling Stone cover, largely because I was hoping he'd find it worthwhile to follow its example: throw himself into the ocean, say, and then show up at Sean
Admittedly, it never once occurred to me that someone would actually take this man seriously; I mean, I care as much about what Kanye West thinks of American culture just about as much as I care what Ashton Kutcher has to say about superstring theory, which is a number that approaches zero as quickly as it's possible to get there. But maybe that's because I'm over 40:
All of you commenting about Kanye must be 40 yrs. old or older. Young people, such as myself, can care less about Kanye's political rampage. When he said that Bush did not care about black people, he was only saying what almost every black person wanted to say. Kanye has the youth rapped up in his fingertips. He wants the same recognition from the grown folks. I understand Kanye completely. When your an music artist, your suppose to walk down the same path everyone else did in the past. However, Kanye is making his own path. He is redefining what pop artists is actually capable of doing. You all need to stop looking at things in black and white. Kanye is practically defying the laws of music artists and I love him to death for that.
The preceding brought to you by one "bigballs," commenting at In the Agora, wherein Joshua Claybourn has some semi-kind words for West's oeuvre: "Observe his music in a vacuum and it deserves tremendous acclaim." I'll pass, thank you; to obtain that vacuum, I'd have to go look for something else that sucks that much.
Long walks on the beach, my eye
Kathleen Fasanella pulls from her vintage book collection an odd little 1945 tome by Thomas Horton called What Men Don't Like About Women, and I suppose, judging from her description, it could just as easily have been titled Are Women Necessary?
With the war on, I don't know how he got it published although he does write excruciatingly well. He's also vitriolic, contemptuous, misogynistic and contradictory; the only women he thinks are of any value are prostitutes. For some reason, he likes prostitutes, considering them to be virtuous gems of femininity.
There's an article by Horton under the same title in the July 1939 Esquire, which suggests to me that he put out a couple thousand words, was thrilled to see them in print, and thus spent the next six years, four of them possibly in uniform, thinking of ten or twenty thousand more. Here's a sample from the book:
Occasionally life gets so complicated that the only refuge seems to be a walk in the park, on the sea shore, or just in the street. When a man gets into his funk, eternal romantic that he is, he often picks for his companion a woman to his boundless regret. The fact is that it is absolutely impossible to have a pleasant time walking with a woman. She will stop at store windows, she will chatter about her bowel movements, she will relate the sad tale of what her nephew said last Thursday to her uncle from Poughkeepsie, she will orate on the value of women getting together to reduce the price of fur coats for working girls, and so on when all the man wants is the mere presence of a silent sympathizer. The result of such a walk, of course, is that the man returns home in lower spirits than before and determined never to see that chatterbox again.
Truth be told, were I a girl, I don't think I'd hang around this guy either; I mean, he just stands there and doesn't say a word.
How it's done
There is but one Decision Tree, ordained by the Almighty and formatted for your convenience by Francis W. Porretto, and it goes like this:
There might be some human endeavor which this does not cover, but if so, it's one I have yet to discover.
Many are cold, but few are frozen
January 2006 bids fair to become the second-warmest January on record in Oklahoma City, with an average temperature between 47 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit. (Records go back to 1891; the warmest was January 1923, at 47.8; the average is 36.7.)
December, by contrast, started out very cold, ended fairly warm, and overall averaged slightly below normal (38.9 versus 39.5).
Yesterday's downpour really wasn't much of one 0.22 inches at the airport, slightly less up around my part of town and it brings the total precipitation since the first of November to a parched 0.55. At least we're not being freeze-dried.
Where the gripes of Roth are slurred
Some fast-talking female voice just dropped two-thirds of a message on my machine to warn me about how County Commissioner Jim Roth is using his office to "advance the homosexual agenda" or some such twaddle, and urged me to attend a meeting tomorrow at which he's speaking. (I assume this is the meeting in question; the voice managed to botch up the location.) Inasmuch as I'm inclined to think Jim Roth is the only Commissioner who's actually somewhat sane he described himself during his 2002 campaign as a "penny-pinching Democrat," which is not at all a bad thing to be, especially when the two other guys on the Commission seem mostly interested in petulant power grabs I am not about to take advice from some bungling telemarketer in Wayne, Michigan.
By the way, it's 734-298-7803, if you see it on your Caller ID, assuming that's the real number; and if it's not the real number, that's another reason not to trust 'em.
A thousand miles apart
It's times like these I yearn for an uncomplicated place like, oh, Normal, Illinois.
30 January 2006
Last year the Midtown Redevelopment Corporation was willed into being, and I suspect that their first order of business was to answer the question "So where is Midtown, anyway?"
Their answer: 4th to 13th, Broadway to Classen, but pointedly not including Broadway itself, which is considered part of Automobile Alley, part of DowntownOKC's turf. This fills in the space south of Heritage Hills and Mesta Park nicely enough; it also overlaps (slightly) the Arts District, right around the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Inasmuch as no development is going to take place at the Memorial, I don't see this as being a major problem.
Following the DowntownOKC model, the Midtown folks have carved up their area into six districts, which I suppose I'd better learn.
Yet another vinyl component
Of course, if all you want to do is fill up an iPod, this is probably not the tool for you, and as of last night at 9 pm, four people had written me about Ion's iTTUSB two-speed USB turntable, which plugs into the USB port on your sound card, assuming you have a USB port on your sound card. (Mine doesn't, but then it's old.)
The Ion comes with Audacity recording software, which I haven't tried, and has already drawn a lot of discussion at Engadget, not all of it positive, despite the fact that it's not supposed to ship until mid-April.
Don't leave Rome without it
Milan's Il Giornale reports that Premier Silvio Berlusconi has vowed complete sexual abstinence until Italian elections in early April.
A popular TV preacher on the island [of Sardinia], Rev. Massimiliano Pusceddu, had hailed the twice-married premier for opposing gay marriage and defense of so-called family values, and promised that his followers would support the conservative leader because "if the left wins it will be the moral end for this country."
Berlusconi, 69, replied: "Dear Father Massimiliano. I thank you a lot. I will try to meet your expectations, and I promise from now on, 2½ months of absolute sexual abstinence, until April 9."
[insert Bill Clinton joke here]
(Via white pebble.)
Addendum: Rachel notes that Berlusconi apparently didn't consult his wife before taking the pledge, and wonders: "Maybe it was her idea?"
What's your name? Have I seen you before?
[T]hough we give you the option to post letters anonymously, we strongly prefer that you sign them with your real name. First of all, it's a tradition in the world of "letters to the editor." Beyond that, we believe that signed letters and comments tend to reflect more considered thinking and our decade-long experience with online interaction bears out that belief. We know that some of you might be thinking, "Gee, when future potential employers are Googling my name, do I really want them to see this rant?" Maybe that's simply good motivation to write something that you'll be proud of. If you think you won't want to stand by your letter years from now, you might reconsider whether you want to post it at all.
To put a little more encouragement behind our request that you sign your letters, from now on we'll tilt our Editors' Choices toward letters that come with names attached. (Letters signed with "handles" instead of names are still eligible, but names are preferred.) We might still on occasion highlight letters that are completely anonymous, if there seems to be a logical reason the writers may have chosen to hide their identity. But that will be the exception, not the rule.
Yes, they were thinking about that Washington Post debacle.
A guy with nothing to lose
Cam Edwards reports on an email urging a filibuster against Samuel Alito forwarded by ABC Radio VP/Affiliate Relations David Kaufman from his abc.com email account, yet and wonders:
Sean Hannity, employed by ABC Radio, could certainly say, while on the job, "You should not support this filibuster." Mark Levin, while on the job, could say the same thing. Should Dave Kaufman be able to say the opposite while he's on the job?
Jim Geraghty (same post) notes:
I don't know if Kaufman's e-mail is a firing offense at ABC, but companies have the right to set policy, and can warn their employees that if they behave in a manner that harms the company's image, they're out of there. At the very least, don't do this kind of thing from your work e-mail account.
Which is about where I am, I'd say: I don't have any problem with Kaufman advocating this position or that, but he ought to have a separate email account somewhere to cover matters, lest it be assumed that he's speaking for ABC.
And it occurs to me that Kaufman may not really give a flip anymore, since Disney is about to sell off ABC Radio anyway and Kaufman could well be looking for work shortly.
The Bucks stop here
Once again, Milwaukee's Michael Redd had the Hornets' number, picking up 32 points and six rebounds, but this time the Bees won it, on a last-second (literally) shot by David West, 94-93, evening the series at 1-1 for the year.
West got yet another double-double with 24 points and 15 boards. Neither team shot particularly well, but Redd owned the second quarter, and while the Hornets weren't bad in the third, the Bucks poured in 35 points during those 12 minutes to grab the lead.
The Bees are now back to .500 (22-22), with the Bulls and the Lakers due later this week.
31 January 2006
Sending the bill to Vicente Fox
South Carolina State Rep. John Graham Altman (R-Charleston) has suggested charging Mexico $1 million for each illegal alien it allows over the border, to be deducted from US aid programs.
Altman, interviewed by television station WJEA, also urged jailing business owners who hire them:
Altman said the issue is as much about the people who employ illegal aliens as the immigrants themselves. "Until we put three or four CEOs in jail, they won't think we're serious," Altman said.
He said illegal aliens are exploited because they receive low wages or no pay at all, no health insurance and no retirement.
The Charleston Trident (three-county) area has approximately 50,000 Latino residents, half of whom are Mexican.
(Via Jeff Quinton.)
Your regular Desiree Goodwin update
The latest in the ongoing Desiree Goodwin saga: the Harvard librarian ran for, but did not win, two positions in the university's Clerical and Technical Workers union, one on the union's executive board, the other as representative from the Graduate School of Design.
"Bad attitude? Moi? Why the **** would you think that?"
(Via Fark; possibly not safe for work)
Keeping an eye on the team
The quick-and-dirty broadcast package put together for the Hornets when they fled New Orleans for higher-and-drier Oklahoma City called for all 82 regular-season games on the radio, with Oklahoma affiliates added to the existing Louisiana/Mississippi network, and 65 games on Cox Sports Network, which, conveniently enough, had been doing the games on New Orleans-area cable. Something similar is no doubt in the works for the 2006-07 season.
If you don't have cable, you go to a sports bar that does, or you listen to the radio. Simple enough. But as King Kaufman points out at Salon.com, the trend is toward fewer options, not more:
Sports have long since left poor people behind in the arena by pricing tickets beyond their means, and now they're in the early stages of leaving them behind on television and radio too.
Pensioners who have loved the Boston Red Sox through decades of futility were recently informed by the 2004 World Series champs that the number of games on free TV starting next year will be a convenient, easy-to-remember zero, except for the odd late-season Saturday game on Fox.
The St. Louis Cardinals this winter announced that their games are moving from the clear-channel behemoth KMOX to a smaller station the team bought an interest in, a move influenced by the rise of satellite radio, which figures to lessen the need for teams to broadcast on huge stations or cobble together a team network over a wide area.
Yeah, well, it sucks to be poor. No surprise there. But:
Nobody ever went broke with a business plan that targeted people with money and ignored people without it. But I wonder if some politician, somewhere, will mount an effective argument that if the sports industry is going to gorge at the public trough, in the form of stadium subsidies and tax breaks, it has a responsibility to make its product available to the public. All of it.
The Hornets, to their credit, have kept prices comparatively low: admittedly, it costs more to be right behind the bench, but it's still possible to get $10 seats, though the average is more like $30-40. And while Oklahoma City's agreement with the team guarantees them a specific return, the city isn't having to write big checks; local fan support has been more than enough to meet the revenue guarantee. (Which, of course, will be a sticking point for 2007-08, when New Orleans expects the team to return, but that's another issue.)
For cities where access to games is becoming limited, Kaufman recommends:
Cable-bill subsidies maybe. A team-sponsored cable package for qualifying customers that includes the local broadcast stations plus the team's games. There are ways to take care of the people who are being shut out of the sports world for lack of funds.
Cox's lowest-end package (Limited Basic), at least in Oklahoma City, does include Cox Sports coverage of the Hornets.
And at least he didn't propose Federal Ticket Stamps.
Fake but inaccurate
The trouble with the memoir racket is that most folks who lead interesting lives don't want to write and most folks who do want to write have lives that consist of sitting around in their underwear staring at the keyboard and getting up to refill the coffee mug every 20 minutes. Hard to work that up into anything "brave" and "inspirational."
Um, I don't drink coffee.
(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)
Make that three grandchildren
Just arrived (well, not just, but in the last few hours): Jackson Marshall Hill, height 20¾ inches, weight 8 lb 8 oz, and, uncharacteristic of my clan, four weeks early.
Photo to follow when I get one; Russ and Alicia are fine, and Laney is mesmerized by this sibling business.
I think we can take this as official
From NBA.com (and how come it isn't NBA.net?):
NBA Commissioner David Stern announced today that the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets will return to the Ford Center in Oklahoma City to play 35 home games during the 2006-07 regular season. The Hornets will play six regular season games at the New Orleans Arena.
"While the NBA and the Hornets remain committed to returning to New Orleans, we have agreed with Louisiana and SMG officials that, for now, our collective interests are best served by having the team play the bulk of its 2006-07 schedule in Oklahoma City," Stern said. "However, we are hopeful that the team will be in a position to return to New Orleans full time beginning in the 2007-08 season."
In addition, Stern announced that the league will enter exclusive negotiations with city and state officials to hold the 2008 NBA All Star Game in New Orleans.
Which I, cynical to the last, read as "You have to give us something."
From my New Year's odds:
The Hornets will return to New Orleans for 2006-07: 1-8
Like that was difficult.
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