Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sunday Dinner is Leftovers Again

Another day (only this and three more to go) to finish the longest slog of this manuscript. I will make it, I'm now convinced, but I still require unslacked productivity. So, I will offload the collection I didn't get to this week. Linky Leftovers again? Don't whine when you should be grateful I even post on Sundays. Most blogs don't, and I can't think why I started. Oh right- dull life, obsessive temperament. Many of these articles are substantial. I promise not to be hurt if you don't read them all.

1) This NYT article about grown children stealing from their parents' homes was sad. The excuse was that these amused parents think of their kids as pals. Assuming you're past college age, when was the last time you raided a friend's home for used underwear?

2) NYT offers yet another slice of the defective, I mean privileged, life. I do not believe wealth conveys idiocy, but it sure doesn't exclude it either. Here's what the moneyed vacationers do to out-exclusive each other. So frighteningly herdlike and needy. Don't tell me these sheep are worth placating, or that I should flee the city to spend weekends surrounded by these same wastrels and morons that blight my weekdays.

3) Gateway Pundit posts a letter from Zimbabwe that's heart-breaking. If I had a team of super psychics that could stop Mugabe's heart... Well, I might at least try to scare him into a deathbed conversion to humanity. Something drastic has got to change, and we must help it.

4) I didn't know idiopathic sex reversal, a spontaneous natural sex change phenomenon, existed. Tim Blair has more news about a fellow, now femme blogger. Here are pics from the transformation which he'd fantasized since childhood and which he intends to complete with hormones and surgeries by next January. It's astounding that it's possible for the brain to overhaul the body this much.

5) Radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys makes some good points if overall I find her, well, too radical. She disregards the sensual pleasures inherent in some rituals of balming and brushing, but I understand her concern that the modern style of displaying unburdened female sexuality confuses liberation with ho-bagness and only subjugates and objectifies women in men's eyes.

6) On a related topic, the "real" women of the Dove campaign face cheers and critique. When I saw the bus shelter with this picture of Stacy, I thought she looked so gamine, like a sweet girl-next-door caught in the middle of changing clothes. Everyone's allowed their tastes, but I think these women look real and vulnerable and adorable for it. In their tighty whities, they look more exposed than most supermodels wearing only sneers and hair gel. It's a nakedness that's charming, not lurid or exploitative.

7) 2003 UB313 is a planet bigger than Pluto and further away. Along with figuring out what makes the cut for planethood, and if this qualifies as the 10th planet, I hope they give it a kick-assier name.

8) In response to the EU's ban on tobacco advertising, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle loads up. As you may have read, I'm agin' bossin' people around to this degree, so while I acknowledge ciggies are stone-cold killers not to mention smelly hole-burners, I must applaud the libertarian insouciance. This decision is for people, not governments.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

With Jimmy Hoffa's Pen, I'll Write a Lousy Sentence

Edward Fitzgibbon, 1850 (click to enlarge)
Courtesy of Rauner Special Collections Library at DARTMOUTH.

1) Today marks the 30th anniversary of the disappearance (and presumed death) of union boss and convicted criminal James Riddle Hoffa. The strange case is entertainingly recapped here with all the details of clothes, cars, habits, and a frozen salmon.

2) Most ballpoints tend to blob and smear, which annoys me, but I admire their humble ubiquity. Drawn! pointed me to a nifty flash site showing an album of work by several artists using only ballpoint pen. And how they employ the splatter. Super cool.

3) Delight! Luxuriate! Wallow and Bask!
Here are 2005's Bulwer-Lytton contest winners and as usual, they're awful.

An international literary parody contest, the competition honors the memory (if not the reputation) of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). The goal of the contest is childishly simple: entrants are challenged to submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels. Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii" (1834), which has been made into a movie three times, originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

A couple of my favorites were one where I purely loved the topic and another that exhibited the kind of logic that makes me love Terry Prachett. Congratulations, scribes, you stink!

After months of pent-up emotions like a caffeine-addict trying to kick the habit, Cathy finally let the tears come, at first dripping sporadically like an old clogged percolator, then increasing slowly like a 10-cup coffeemaker with an automatic drip, and eventually pouring out and noisily wailing like a cappuccino maker complete with slurping froth.
Chris Bui-Pensacola, FL

Wet leaves stuck to the spinning wagon wheels like feathers to a freshly tarred heretic, reminding those who watched them of the endless movement of the leafy earth-or so they would have, if only those fifteenth-century onlookers had believed that the earth actually rotated, which they didn't, which is why it was heretical to say that it did-and which is the reason why the wagon held a freshly tarred heretic in the first place.
Alf Seegert- Salt Lake City, UT

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hairy Purple Bison Caught Smoking in Town Hall

John Heilprin / AP file, Click to enlarge

1) Updates in Hair: In Aruba, on the duct tape, not the girl's. The pond by the Marriott is still being drained. I fervently hope there will be a resolution at the bottom. In Canada, on the bushes, not Bigfoot. Darn squared!

2) Purple Coneflower, otherwise known as Echinacea, has no effect on colds according to a comprehensive new study reported in the NYT. But one of the doctors involved plans to keep using it himself, And of course, they didn't even try my ecky-chamomile-peppermint-goldenseal-chicken soup- tobasco blast smoothie. Too afraid to handle the doozy.

3) Maybe it's cruel or dismissive, but I don't consider Tucker Carlson the hard-hitting brainiac who asks the questions I need answered. Except this once. In this transcript, he properly nails a NJ state senator to the carpet for their proposed ban on smoking in cars. What if I'm just driving through the state? Will there be cartoon posters at the state line? In the interview, the senator cites hand-free phones as a move up in safety, even though the widely-disseminated data shows little improvement . (BTW, I agree with the Kentucky editor's take.) Meanwhile, smokers who already pay high sin taxes on their cancer sticks and are increasingly barred from puffing in public places have become the beaten dogs of policy. NJ wants to kick them again for what they do in privacy and that ain't my idea of freedom.

4) I often enjoy Townhall, some columnists quite a bit more than others. I haven't read much of Mark Tapscott, but his piece on citizen journalists monitoring Big Government has good logic and enthusiasm. So why, oh why- in the worst tradition of the MSM- does he begin with a lie?

It’s happened twice in the last six months – heart-rending tragedies quickly seen around the globe up close and personal, thanks to on-the-scene citizen journalists of the digital New Media world exploding all around us courtesy of the Internet.

He's talking about the Dec. 26th tsunami and the 7/7 bombings! Is there an alternate continuum where that isn't seven months, but instead, compresses itself to six? Do not misstate, embellish, or force things into shapes that you find pithier to wordsmith, or you've learned nothing about why and how the blogosphere's working.

5) In redemption, here's a better-founded piece by Townhall columnist Jeff Jacoby with shocking historical incidences of incapacitated doddering by Supreme Court Justices who wouldn't retire. Not everyone's 65 or even 95 is the same, so I wouldn't like to see an age limit, but the 18-year term limit would enshrine the notion that SCOTUS service is not for a lifetime, and make consequentially easier the institution of other intervening provisions during that term in cases of gross unfitness.

Rock on, ya'll. I continue to crank the verbiage. Special shout out tributes to a soap-eating legend known as the "worst puppy in the world."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Two more in the Essential Panoply of Minor Virtues

Late post, manuscript casualty. But I'm so freaking edified with the progress I'm making.

Thank Votan the weather broke. NYC does not get as hot or cold as Chicago, but the last two days of heat plus humidity have made going outside more like stepping into a soothing steambath. Provided the steam is urine-infused vapor forced through an exhaust-scaled tailpipe.

I've written before about politeness as a potential savior of the world. The live-and-let-live juice that Lileks hopes will keep the world smite-free. However, according to Woody Allen, "eighty percent of success in life is showing up." Allen says nothing about promptness.

Well, Mary Blevins, who worked the counter at Junior's in Brooklyn for 43 years with unflagging pleseantness is my idea of modern saintliness. Perhaps it's because in my life, I've struggled with tardiness and inconsistency that I so admire her. Perhaps it's the blue eye shadow.

"Mary has the right attitude, and the right work ethic," Mr. Rosen said. "And I can't tell you that I remember her missing a day of work or ever being late."

The JS may want you to register for this article about Willie Jude's 32 years of service in Milwaukee's public schools as a principal and administrator, so I'll excerpt what I noticed.

Willie Jude was in high school in rural Mississippi in the early 1960s when a teacher brought in a telephone to show to the students. It was the first time Jude set eyes on an actual phone...But Jude also says the world of his parents offered things that the world of today's parents of MPS students lacks - strong parenting setting good standards for kids, to name one...

Show up and show up on time. Both in his years in the MPS central office and in its high schools, Jude made a priority of fighting truancy and - something he considered just as serious - tardiness. He says parents and MPS don't do enough in dealing with these.
"There are two major things that businesses are complaining about (related to the high school graduates). Tardiness and attendance. They go together into attitude and relationships. (Business executives say) if a kid comes in here punctually and they have a pleasant attitude, we can train them... "Once a student is punctual and in school, a lot of other problems begin to disappear."

Promptness and Reliability don't cost big money or require an advanced degree to understand, and yet they are so often defining characteristics of the successful and admirable.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Look, Ma- Bob's a Blogger

Click to enlarge. See Ephemera Now for more.

Forgive me for not assuming that MSNBC was all up in my particular flavor of Kool-Aid, because now I've got to give them the props on the BOB.

It's impossible to pithily convey the importance of Husker Du to my musical and social development and even my occasional regression. Just know there are precious few names of equal altitude in my personal pantheon and the man behind the Du and other great music is Bob Mould. Coinciding with the release of his latest album, Body of Song, Reuters did a very nice, two-page article about his history and musical evolution.

As it turns out, since 2003, Bob's been a bloggin'. As you might expect, his blog's got publicity info, but it also has pictures and birthday shout outs to friends, tech gripes, and stuff that struck me as surprisingly normal-sounding for the hostile and sad, hermetic artist of years ago. What was coolest, though, was discovering we'd shared a certain internet synchronicity.

Bob linked T-ball's most "disturbing" story on July 19th, I had posted on it July 17th. Living near the epicenter of recent activity, Bob had a string of cat hoarding posts (with other new incidences I hadn't seen!) on July 12th, July 14th, and July 15th. Independently, I was making with the blah-blah on it by July 19th.

It made me feel somehow, after all these years, we're still circling the same drain.

P.S. The picture has nothing to do with Bob, but refers to a small and tasty road trip I'm taking with a friend next week. Dear friend, if you can stand the wait, your very own copy of Bob's latest is already in my suitcase. We'll whine the miles away.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Can I Get a Side of Miso with the Sasquatch?

If all I do in this life is facilitate understanding between the field of cryptozoology (see item #3) and the common man, I'll feel vindicated in having existed.

In the hottest Sasquatch news, a Canadian lab will perform DNA testing on hairs collected in Teslin, Yukon in connection with an alleged sighting.

University of Alberta wildlife geneticist David Coltman, who agreed to do the tests as a favor to a colleague, said on Monday that scientists have cataloged the DNA of nearly all large animals in the Yukon such as bears and bison. "So we'll compare it to all of that, and if it doesn't match anything, then it's potentially interesting," said Coltman, who suspects the hair was actually left behind by a much more mundane Yukon bison.

Boy, oh boy! I can't wait for the results, and come October, there's gonna be plenty to jaw about at the 5th Annual Texas Bigfoot Conference.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Links without the Usual Side Dish of Fatuous

So far, I've been telling myself I could succeed with the manuscript while still behaving almost as usual, but I can't. This week won't be normal, and I'll be less normal than ever, but it can work and it will. I cannot abandon La Blog, and do not wish to, but my attentions will be less devoted. You'll probably prefer it.

Here's a proposal that I agree will help people get much cheaper, catastrophic health insurance. It's based on leveraging interstate markets and competition, whoda thunk I'd like

Leaving on a faucet by the gallery staff's backroom sink isn't hyperaware social commentary, it's simply laziness and BAD ART. I have a dripping refrigerator and ever-running toilet which I had planned to get fixed, Now, I believe I'll stage an exposition of conservation satire.

This is a wonderful article on why libraries still need physical books. I had intended to save it until I could elaborate with my own serendipitous discoveries of ephemeric bookmarkery and marginalia and to add my opinions of the thrilling and necessary kinesthetic engagement with subject matter, not to mention my commentary on the doom of books too nichebound to be scanned electronically but that are, nonetheless, the product of years of worthy effort. Conversely, much of the original content online- like this for example- comes without extensive footnotes, appendices, or figures. Much of what's free online is the result of seconds or minutes. I don't feel like an explorer or treasure hunter finding even a great new site. But a book, especially a neglected, forgotten one ignites the imagination. I want to touch the aesthetic and thoughtful product of serious obsession and thorough editing. That's worth studying.

Online research has become essential for speed and scope, but not depth. Why would you cripple other equally or more valuable resources in its favor rather than incorporating it as an enhancement? I can't believe the perception of byte versus book exists for true scholars who are greedy for access to whatever goodies they can get. The book's prototypes, unlike our earliest electronic playback media, have lasted for millenia, and are still usable today. Doesn't that kind of continuing robustness tell us something about the format?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Island's Missing Person and RIP to my dear MF

click pic above to enlarge
Triptych in seed by Alan Carpenter, copyright 1999.
Thanks, Dr. Sanity, for making me #6 in today's Carnival of the Insanities.

1) At last, I have the fresh news you searchers are demanding about a person gone missing during a late night jaunt on a tropical island!

Gilbert Dewey Gaedcke III might not be who you assumed I meant, but dammit, he is a human being, and he has been missing from an island for days. And he also played a foolish part in his vacation misfortune by making an ill-advised night trek, even if his was across desolate black lava fields. And a teenager is involved, since that's who spotted him from a tourist helicopter ride. It's got everything minus the Dutch. No loss there. (I kid whom I love.) This Missing In Paradise story has all the best elements of the other one and a happy ending, too! Vote for Dewey!

2) I am saddened by the loss of another Welker. No matter how inevitable, it's always sorrowful. The esteemed accordionist Myron Floren has died at the laudatory age of 85. In a fitting tribute to a lifelong entertainer, his family has requested donations to the USO in lieu of flowers. Here are excerpts from the most feeling obituary I found in the Herald-Zeitung of New Braunfels, Texas (near San Antonio.) I truly wish more people wrote obits like this. I excerpt and rearrange liberally.

Because of another engagement, Myron Floren will not be coming back to Wurstfest, and our signature sausage and heritage festival will never be the same...News of Floren’s passing came from Wurstfest spokesman, Herb Skoog, who said the entertainer best-known around the world as Lawrence Welk’s accordion-playing sidekick, succumbed to a long illness...

"He was our headline entertainer from his first appearance in the Wursthalle in 1968 through his last show in 2002.” In all, Floren played at Wurstfest for 34 years, only missing 1998 to recover from heart surgery...Skoog said a lot of people scoffed at the idea a national television performer like Floren would consider coming to New Braunfels..."In all the years he entertained at Wurstfest, he remained our ‘Happy Norwiegan.'"

Skoog said Floren had passed a very bad time, and his family suggested he lie down and sleep. A couple hours later, they realized he’d slipped away to play his instrument for the angels...“With the passing of Myron Floren, the Lord has a new, talented member to add to his fold..."

Also, just because she's one of my favorites and patron saint of the insane, please enjoy the saintly stylings of today's honoree, St. Christina the Astonishing, a stander in freezing water and sleeper on rocks who hid in ovens or simply levitated to avoid the odors of other humans.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

TiVo, China, Dalrymple down The Well of Bad Decisions

The great thing about pulling up a cup of stupidity from this well is that it never runs dry. I just accumulate accounts of poor decisions in my favorites list until the overflow forces me to share from my plenty.

1) TiVo, of which I was an early adopter and ravingly enthusiastic advocate, continues to falter. They have not provided the interface changes we'd like (see some from Lileks' rant halfway down the page), and have been unforgivably slow in rolling out an HD version. Perhaps the last and fatal sign of their dancehall floozy's betrayal of us that brung 'em is that ignoring one of the features that people love most, TiVo's finding new ways to force us to see ads. Unlike other of their technical "upgrades" which roll out behind schedule if at all, I'd just read about this new development when I saw annoying flashing in the top-right of my screen, nagging me to hit the thumbs-up to learn more about Saturn. It wasn't an educational segment about the planet. It's like TiVo's begging to be put out of its misery.

2) In other bogus technical news, if you hadn't heard, companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, and Cisco are actually helping China to implement its censorship policies against its connected citizens who use forbidden words like "democracy" online. I am not one who believes every corporation and its leadership are simply evil, grasping immoral sociopaths. However, on this issue, these companies are DEAD WRONG. Aside from the moral backwardness of companies that flourished because of America's open environment helping enforce repression, China has proven to be an inconsistent respecter of the give-and-take business model. You help modernize their businesses, but they don't allow you open access to their consumers. I think this decision is short-term greed overwheming prinicipal and even commercial prudence. It's a mistake to dance with the devil and think he won't do you wrong. It's a sin to help him.

In better news, here is the spankin' fresh Carnival of Chinese Blogs, where you can support and read the content that leaks through the filters. Also, in the listed Adopt a Chinese Blog program, you can mirror a Chinese blogger's content on your pages or server. That way, if they get shut down locally, they still have an online forum that can't be erased by the Party.

3) Theodore Dalrymple, the British doctor who's practiced in prisons and among the impoverished, whose cultural commentary and writing I adore, has been booted from book reviewing for being too old. It seems impossible to me that his successor could do anything but worsen the content of the "august journal." Here's an example from last month of Dalrymple's review of One Nation Under Therapy for the New Criterion. In fact, Dalrymple's authored several books himself which were critically well received. Whoever prefers a sassy, edgy review written in postmodern pablum has proved themselves both insipid and optional. Dr. Dalrymple is neither.

Friday, July 22, 2005

For the Bittersweet, Gabba Love of Rockin'

Yesterday I delayed this post, hoping to write something thoughtful about the 2001 rock documentary Won't Anybody Listen that I saw last weekend, (great goodies on their site BTW), but I still don't have time to describe with eloquence how sad and true, but totally worthwhile I found it based on my own history as member of an uncelebrated, striving band. Furthermore, I was forgetting that one of the best things about the web is being able to refer to the work of people who've had time to think.

This is part of Randy Lewis' review for the LAT: It paints with unyielding honesty a business in which music is often treated as an afterthought, and in which the players rarely know just how heavily the deck is stacked against them. Kelemer began filming the Rogalas' band, Anaheim-based NC-17, with the simple goal of producing a concert tape to sell to fans. As he monitored their progress, he watched (and kept filming) as their career path took one harsh twist after another, down a sometimes heart-wrenching, sometimes stabbingly funny, ultimately disillusioning road that leads to riches and glory for a select few.

From the TV Guide review: The beauty of Kelemer's choice of subject — probably accidental, since he befriended the band while he was still in high school, but propitious nonetheless — is their fundamental ordinariness. They're talented, but not phenomenally so. Their music is easily categorized without being completely generic. They're dedicated musicians who'd like to be successful — not rock star rich, just able to quit their day jobs, which range from legal assistant to boiler repairman. No one's a crash-and-burn junkie, and for all the inevitable friction between band members, there isn't a flaming jerk in the bunch. Over the course of the film they get some solid breaks, every one of which evaporates. And yet with the exception of Perron, who has a crisis of faith and goes home to Colorado, the band plays on.

Some might find it depressing, and I'll admit I was afraid I would, but I was too fascinated to look away. In return, I got confirmation of my worst fears, but also recollections of some fantastic times, and a renewed feeling of solidarity with all those who live to rock.

Speaking of borrowing brilliance, here's Bummer Girls' poignant and lovely tribute to growing up, rocking out, and finding yourself within the insane joy of the Ramones. Read the whole thing. I excerpt freely to tempt you:

The Ramones were the soundtrack of my emergence from dorky bookworm to....a pot smoking dork who actually had friends. Up until that time I had only and solely been my much more popular and cute sister's fat and unattractive older sister. Mike and Nick and Jim and Jeff and Gina and Kim and Shelley. ...we'd all sit around in Mike's basement talking, playing "power hitter in the dark" and listening to the Ramones, or the Talking Heads or the Jam or Iggy...I found who I was, somewhat, in Mike's basement. Funny what a little acceptance will do for a girl...

Gabba Gabba we accept you, we accept you, one of us

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Almost the Blackout-iversary, Teflon Brownout Today

UPDATE: I'm an idiot. I read through yesterday's Carnival of Education more than twice just for browsing before noticing my NEA post had made it in. Thanks to The Education Wonks for hosting, and if you want a great potpourri of the macro to the micro, the sublime to the ridiculous in education, check out these posts.

UPDATE 2: crap, Crap, CRAP! Just heard about the new London bombings. Is this supposed to make us more complacent or madder? Makes me want to find my infidel's Beatle boots and go kick the 3 Cs out of the responsible someones.

The above picture from Shag was just to prove I could. I followed the same exact process the first two times I tried, but this time it worked. Oh well. I have a couple of great, non time-sensitive topics queued up for posts, but I want to write a bit that's intelligent(ish) around them, and I'll need more spare brains than I have available, so here's what I've got today.

1) The afternoon of August 14th, 2001, when I'd been living in Manhattan for about a week and the piles of cardboard boxes were still high, the power went out around 4pm. Reports later called it the biggest blackout in American history (of course, it hit Toronto, too), but my personal odyssey didn't last much longer than 26 hours. Sure, food was spoiled and it took a while for local stores- which carry just-in-time inventory concepts to an extreme- to recover and replenish, but the worst only lasted from one afternoon to another. Still, it was a very long day. When uncertainty is king, time drags.

Being on the 28th floor, it was an ordeal to get down to the street by the steep concrete stairs, especially for the dogs' needs. Also the internal stairs were Sheol-black, and holding a dog in my arms meant a flashlight in my mouth. We could more easily manage the 4 floors up to the roof, but the pooches were freaked out enough about the new surroundings and the newly vague concept of "outside", which now meant not just outside our door, but outside the hallway, elevator, lobby, and front walk. Experimentation proved they wouldn't relieve themselves on the top of the building. So, quad-busting trips down and up with the shortest-legged dog in arms. The biggest problem was lack of water. We had some drinking water in the fridge, but we hadn't immediately filled the tub to aid toiletry or washing hands or sponging the pervasive stickiness, so that meant more up and down to street level where flushing pressure was provided by non-electric forces and the aquifer.

Mostly, we stayed on our balcony with binoculars and the battery-powered shower radio, listening for updates and predictions and watching the fleets of military and news helicopters. We could have camped downstairs, I suppose. Everyone was on their most generous behavior, but if community spirit prevailed, so did ad hoc partying. Since we live among so many bars and restaurants and delis, it was a little wild and wooly at the darkness of street level with the mass quaffing of beer and ice cream before it got overly warm. Also, the police and fire trucks ran up and down the avenues with their spotlights and sirens blazing and blaring to dissuade miscreants which added another jarring vibe to the whole thing. From our balcony, we could see the lit candles in other high rises around us. Across the surreal darkness of the cityscape, the twinkles were beautiful little demonstrations of life and solidarity. I wish I'd had a camera capable of rendering it. I'll have to replay the memory to make sure it sticks.

After a poor night's sleep, the next day we found a pizzeria cooking the last of its already-made pies in its gas oven. We snapped one up, and there wasn't even any price gouging. We took it to a bar serving beverages in plastic cups with a token scatter of pebbles from their last melting pile of crushed ice. After gobbling some slices, we shared the rest with the other schmoes. By 6pm, the Mayor had annouced his house's power was back on and Gracie Mansion is geographically close to us. By 6:30ish, we were electrified, too. Welcome back flushing toilets! I was very glad the cause wasn't some more nefarious thing and that the restoration was so efficient. It was an adventure, and I was impressed by my fellow citizens' response, but I don't want a repeat.

Yesterday, slipped under every door and placarded in the lobby was an admonition to residents to avoid brownouts today in the 5 boroughs by restricting electricity use between noon and 6pm. So, today our blinds are closed like it's a sickroom. There's no A/C on in the bedroom and the new, more efficient unit in the living room is set to low, and I'm sitting close to it. I have all the unrequired appliances off save the electric alarm clock, this computer (which may qualify as an essential device) and the stove nightlight I need to see in my windowless kitchen. I can live with all of it as long as the bathroom works, but I wish I didn't feel so fragile and interdependent. My prayer intentions for the day are for a breakthrough in technology that will provide cheap, renewable, clean, and plentiful energy to the world. 'Cause I love me some electricity. Can't bossa nova if the records won't spin.

2) Those grasping Luddites, the exTORTion lawyers, are suing Du Pont for $5 billion over non-existent chemical exposure from Teflon-coated cookware. I wish they'd get jobs picking up highway litter or something else of public benefit.

(UPDATE: Michael Fumento, the author of the link above, is a discredited creep. Your humble author still believes the litigation is without merit or basis. However, I must alert you that this article link may be dead, as this man was, quite unfortunately, a paid mouthpiece.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Be the Sales Pitch

If you care, A/C got replaced the same day. Puppy ankle's looking good. Still cranking on the manuscript, and I'm making very edifying progress. I'm almost, but not quite proud of myself. There is still a long haul to go, after all. So, another slapdash entry here.

Someday, all the searchers for text on the blonde teen missing from the island will be gone, and my hits will drop precipitously, and we'll be back to our intimate crowd: you, me, the people who join us from arcane searches for midgets and woodpeckers. Meanwhile, if you came here for the blonde teen, I'd love it if you'd tell me in the comments what you'd hoped to find. Maybe I can provide some flimsy version of your expectations.

From the gossip and entertainment industry site, Defamer, which I'm often too "outside" to decode, I found this link to a blog I'm currently enjoying: Query Letters I Love.

I've written before about the process of pitching novels and how it compares to film. These are actual screenplay pitches that some wisely-anonymous entertainment-type posts for general mockery. This seems cruel (and it is), but it's also amusing and enlightening if you weren't sure why most modern movies suck donkey balls. Reading these skidmarked ideas, I hope you'll realize some of their craptastic nature is built into the design. Even a great film would be reduced to inanity by this format. But as I imagine people who've migrated to L.A. to leap into film careers sitting around the Big Boy regurgitating ideas in smeared ball point into their spiral notebooks of genius, it's funny. Maybe it's just grim. Look, I'm on a deadline and under pressure not to screw up my own execution of what began as a good idea. I'm assuming the temporary license of being heartless about other people's spitballed notions.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Cat Ladies Expanding their Territory

UPDATE: Welcome to attendees of the Carnival of the Insanities. Come on in, the crazy's fine.

The A/C unit has been replaced, and I'm relatively motivated to work, as soon as I shower and take the delicately ankled one back to the vet for follow-up.

So here's an odd phenomenon to consider: pet hoarding. People, usually older women (but not exclusively) collect stray animals (not always cats) and keep acquiring more animals even to the point of accumulating cadavers. As professionals begin studying this strange and sad behavior, I am facinated by what causes it and what can be done to help. And I applaud the recognition that it's a personal crisis, not mere eccentricity or quirkiness. It doesn't demonstrate generous love for creatures by tragically failing to provide good stewardship and then compounding the error with new animals.

One argument with the article, though. Despite the fact it apparently takes more than a few hundred animals to shock your seasoned control officer, forget the headline, this phenomenon is not ordinary.

When you open your frou-frou coffee, cats from the barista's hoard won't spill out. When you go to the ATM, the teller's cats won't paw you through the cash slot. They won't be lurking in the photo envelopes at the drug store or meowing from every corner of the photocopy room at work. You won't see people with kitty faces sticking out of every pocket at the fish counter of the grocery. No matter how popular you are and how many people you know, you've probably never been invited to a house like the one in this article, thank Jah.
Silly headline, bizarre but true story.

Monday, July 18, 2005

History distracts from crummy A/C

Reading that today, in 64 A.D., the Great Fire of Rome first blazed that would destroy 2/3 of the city, I feel like a jerk whining about my broken living room A/C. I reported it to the doorman who will report it to the super who will dispatch a maintenance guy. Although I have confidence that this telephone game will work, I don't know when. Until then, I'll have to camp in the still-chilled bedroom. I dislike being limited to one room, since I already spend the majority of my days between just two. My kitchen's as small as the bathroom and they don't really count as rooms, per se, do they?

I remember reading that Sue Grafton said she gets up each day, showers and dresses as if for a regular job before going to her office to write. Turns out, she's up early and exercising first, too. Balzac spent hazy days in his dressing gown. Solomonic in my wisdom, I split this wide difference. Each day, before beginning more serious matters, I emerge onto the Manhattan thoroughfares, dogs in tow, well-groomed enough to face strangers and acquaintances, fresh enough not to embarrass them or myself. However, this lofty standard suffers under the current wilt of omnipresent perspiration.

Also today: In 1925, Hitler published the first volume of Mein Kampf. In 1936, the Spanish Civil War began. In 1969, Mary Jo Kopechne died as the passenger in Senator Ted Kennedy's car. A recap written last year of that strange and unusual drama is here. (ht: Michele Malkin).

Which is all by way of saying that I know my petty annoyances and disruptions pale in comparison, and wouldn't survive a ranking by importance within even my life much less the nation or the world. And today I wanted to say how immensely I appreciate that feature of history, even such as recent as Chappaquiddick. Over time, events are distilled to the most potent, and partaking of them is wonderful medicine for the self-absorbed. Like sweaty little me.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Why We Need Hell

For a guy so defectively competitive that he'd pay a child to assault a mentally disabled kid so he couldn't play his three innings of T-ball and screw up the team's chance TO WIN!

Many may not believe in crusty olde-tyme virtues like nobility, aid to the weaker, and grace in victory as well as defeat. Many may not believe in the notion of Hell. But immoral freaks like this are why I think we could use them.

WaPo: Almost, Not Quite Catching On

Here's David von Drehle's article from the Washington Post's Sunday magazine. It's 5 mostly-short pages through topics and background related to the rise of political blogging. I liked much of it, but a few items jumped out at me in the lurking-behind-the-lamppost way. I promised myself I wouldn't Fisk, but doggone it, see if you perceive the 7 offenses that I did.

I learned about the article from Michele Malkin. Betsy Newmark's response to the article is here and Barbara O'Brien's here. They'll probably all think I'm nuts.

1) From the second page (bolding mine): The two women are standing one Monday morning inside the National Air and Space Museum, beside an exhibit of Cold War nuclear missiles. Get it? They're arguing about a war while standing next to a Soviet SS-20 and an American Pershing II. They're here at the invitation of The Washington Post Magazine, because we wanted to see what happens when you pluck hostile bloggers from the ether and cause them to spend a day together, sightseeing and arguing in the nation's capital.

To me, the delayed revelation of the article's set-up and snarky aside betrays that DvD realizes how contrived it is. Either go full-bore or don't, but don't be deliverately jive, man, and then tell me you were just foolin'. That's the littlest nitpick.

2) The conversation between Barbara O'Brien and Betsy Newmark is recounted repetitively as she-said/she-said-something-different. Point for counterpoint, zinger for stinger, tit for tat... This bored me while it supported the oft-heard claim that bloggers, unlike "real" journalists, don't care for evidence, just hyperbole and opinions. The author moves on to recount the depth of journalists' fears for the fate of the world as well as their own hides, the personal backgrounds of both women and popularity of their blogs, as well as the answer to every scrivener's favorite fan question: When do you blog? Perhaps he could've asked if they prefer blogging longhand, or whether their pets ever step on the keys. Finally on the article's last page, he writes:

And you can't help being impressed by how much these women know. They know the infant mortality rate in Mississippi, and the average annual return on stocks over the past century. They know the difference between "add-ons" and "carve-outs" in the context of Social Security reform. They distinguish between libertarian and conservative with the taxonomic precision of Agassiz, and they bring the same intensity to the distinctions between the progressive and Clintonian strands of the Democratic Party. Between them, they have informed opinions on topics ranging from European unification to the 1980 NBA finals to the inner lives of cats.

Really? The inner lives of cats? Does the fact that DvD ends the paragraph with that point diminish the power of the first sentence, or is it the fact he happily lets you settle in for the article's bulk with the perception of the women as merely stubborn partisans and purveyors, albeit proudly in Newmark's case, of trivia. I'm just wondering whether the treatment of these women as tit-for-tatters first, proud mommies second, and only finally as people with a tangential concern for facts isn't purposeful.

3) He makes the general assertion, perhaps unintentionally, that bloggers aren't open to opposing views or content. Bloggers scan for bits of evidence that fit into their existing views and then generalize from there. For example, supporters of the Iraq war will notice an article that seems to suggest some progress -- an insurgent leader captured, a new school opened -- and infer a universe of good news from that piece. Elsewhere on the same day, opponents of the war might find a piece of discouraging news -- an interview with a gloomy Iraqi leader, another suicide bombing -- and infer a mirror-image universe. There is no truth, only image universes. He further confesses that Professional columnists have always been choosing tiles and creating pictures of the world. The Internet has opened that process to everyone -- and with an intriguing twist: Now we can all watch as the process unfolds.

This simultaneously portrays journalists as subjective, even extraneous manufacturers of reality while implying we shouldn't be too judgemental, since truth can't be known and we're not willing to listen to opposing views anyway. It's too much effort to untangle this relativist apologia, but I will argue that I have read this article, though I doubted at the outset whether I'd agree with its conclusions. I'm engaging with the author's premises, trying to reason in a lucid manner, but holding firm to the belief that things can be known. Stalin was a mass murderer. The Eur0pean welfare state is under pressure from declining population, revenues, and employment. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is not extinct. We may disagree on the sequence, causes, or weighting of facts, but things can be known, otherwise we stick our thumbs up our behinds and cry mama for eternity.

4) DvD laments the threat to the tone of public discourse by comparing it to increasing Scoville units for food, and wags that he can't print without repercussions some of the habanero-hot criticisms blazing across the blogosphere. Okay, but what about the contemporary commentary of Ann Coulter vs. Maureen Dowd? Not graphically crude or obscene, but I'd argue that in print they're just as pointed. (My metaphor is stabbiness not spiciness.) Perhaps the journalistic hand-wringing seemed ingenuous after the author himself recounted that James Thompson Callender, a publisher of sexual scandal and heated rhetoric in President John Adams' day, called JQA a "repulsive pedant," a "gross hypocrite," a "hideous hermaphroditical character" and "one of the most egregious fools upon the continent."

5) The multitudes of new blogs don't last, a characteristic often used to discount them whole-cloth. Here, the lack of dedication and consistency is faulted, but sympathetically compared to the historical example of Horatio Nelson Taft who began fresh journals for three years in a row, but never finished a whole year's worth of contributions.

Now this was a man whose children were playmates of Tad and Willie Lincoln at the White House a few blocks away. His daughter, Julia, played the piano as Abe Lincoln listened wistfully. His next-door neighbor was John Philip Sousa. In April 1865, Taft's older son, a doctor, happened to be at Ford's Theatre the night Lincoln was assassinated, and he remained with the dying president through the night. If this man couldn't keep his blog -- er, journal -- going, what hope is there for dull Daves and plain Janes?

This obviously occurs and especially within the tail-end, niche-interest, personal blogs. Also, blogs that arise because of a particular event or situation get dusty as time passes and circumstances change. There's no inherent culpability in that, but it sounds a little like DvD's implying one shouldn't bother starting at all. Most importantly, here's where one of the worst features of the article makes its apparation: the repeated mischaracterization of historical writing and debate as blogging. Yuck.

6) DvD blurbs some history of American political discourse. Quite aptly I think, he compares modern bloggers, in intent if not method, to the gazetteers and pamphleteers of the Revolutionary period and beyond. But, he employs a silly device by repeatedly referring to figures like Hamilton, Madison and Jefferson as "paleo-bloggers" and the Federalist Papers as a "blog" as well as the New York and Chicago Tribunes. Just trying to get the kids to grasp the dead-tree past? Or is the logical alternative too painful to consider? That rather than retrofitting the most important political speech of its day to clumsily declare it bloggy, reason prods a look forward, to recognize the similarities and thus predict that the most important political speech of our futures will be provided and debated in the blogosphere.

7) It's worth reading his recap of national news reporting and the rise of so-called "objective" journalism which would have shocked the industry's founders. This is a big admission, though he does not decry the subsequent elevation of the title "journalist" to holy order, especially not after instructing us in pity for these selfless who carry the burden of the world's cares for half of page 3.

All told, it wasn't badly researched or written. And even if I suggest that the journalist's inner conflict slightly overtook the thing, twisting the manner of telling and his logic, I grinned at what followed his final sentence.

David Von Drehle is a staff writer for the Magazine. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m. at

Friday, July 15, 2005

Meddling in Hawaii and My Soda Pop

1) In a previous post, I expressed the thought the proposal to establish a separate "native" or "aboriginal" Hawaiian state was crapulent. Townhall has two follow up articles, one about the Constitutional basis (lack, rather) for new racial segregations, and another about the practical consequences when people in every state of the union can claim exemption from national law by "tribal" membership.

"For the last time, give me back my weed trimmer and pay me for the snowblower you took last year, or I'm calling the cops."

"Sorry, dude, you'll have to file a greivance with the Native Hawaiian Tribal Council."

"What are you talking about? You were born in Jersey, and your parents ,too. You still live in your grandma's house!"

"Ah, but my great-great grandmother was one-quarter aboriginal Hawaiian. Stop oppressing me!"

2) Can I tell you how freaking tired I am of people stickering my world for my own good? Now, the nannies at the Center For Science in the Public Interest want the government to mandate warning labels (some call them health messages) on soda cans in case you didn't realize excess calories contributed to paunch and sugar to tooth decay. Jacob Sullum takes on Paul Krugman of the NYT who's on a recent crusade about obesity and how the government needs to step in yadda, yadda, because we're so stupid, stupid, stupid and can't tell ice cream isn't a vegetable.

I'm more concerned about overweight children because parents and guardians supply their options for living. If you're a parent with a fat, unfit child because you stock the pantry with crap, I will HOPE (not regulate, not monitor) that you'll care enough to serve the occasional salad or non-fast food. As important as food quality, I'd HOPE you'd consider controlling portions, the number of snacks and empty calories, and getting your and the rest of the family's butts grooving to the old-fashioned fun of "sports and activities." But even if you don't do that, and especially if you don't, I don't merit a flyspeck of authority over how you live, and no government bureaucrat spending our taxes for us does either. I damn sure wouldn't let you tell me. Despite Morgan Spurlock's excessive displays, I really don't think America's weight issue is that millions seriously believe Cheetos and Mickey D's are health food. So get off me, all you uber-labeling, finger-pointing, joyless and dessertless busybodies!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Elvis Will Help Me Face My Private Truth

Ever spend your time ignoring something so important that you're almost impressed by your own stubborn backwardness as you do it? I have been consciously ignoring that I will fail utterly to complete my manuscript if I keep up the gut-busting length of my recent posts.

In sad news from Memphis, USA Today reports that Elvis' longtime cook, W. Pauline Nicholson, has passed away at 76. As those who knew the man age, someday we will only be left with the flat images and historical records of his deeds. Savor these first-hand accounts while ye may.

If you wish to discover the heartwarming (even burning) homestyle recipes that make the southern soul crinkle, here's Brenda Butler's classic Are You Hungry Tonight? And proving that the light still burns, unwavering, here's info for the upcoming October release All Cooked Up by Donna Presley Early.

Perhaps it was the spiritual nourishment of the fried peanut butter and 'nana sandwich that grounded me, reminded of my identity and my goals, and brought me to my senses. I must get to work. For myself and the King.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's About the KIDS! NEA ad Absurdum

First, thanks to Dr. Sanity for linking to my LAT vs. Harry Potter post within her own deconstruction of same. Now, for more mindlessness.

Today, Michele Malkin's blog highlights a few of the recently adopted positions of the National Education Association, the less-than-voluntary union of American teachers. While she highlights a few with which I disagree: a call for troop withdrawal from Iraq (anti-nat'l security and illogical, too), defeat of CAFTA (anti-free trade, hate that), and need for debt cancellation for foreign nations (do I need to repeat how destructive this is?), my largest beef is that none of this has anything to do with educating American children.

I admit disliking the fact that teachers' union memberships are compulsory whether or not teachers agree with the organization and its practices. I dislike that union reps routinely audit classrooms and parking lots after school to take disciplinary measures against teachers willing to give a scintilla more effort toward their students than the union contract guarantees. I really, really dislike that while facilities are crumbling and supply cabinets are empty and violence by students increases and textbooks are in short supply and academic competency diminishes and the most talented educators burn out in discouragement at the complacency and corruption of bureaucracies above them, the NEA has adequate time and resources to pursue the following , all adopted or deemed deserving of further discussion.

- New Business Item 2 (Revised)
NEA affirms and supports the decision of the Executive Committee to participate in the national Wal-Mart Consumer Education Campaign initiated by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Further, NEA strongly encourages state and local affiliates and individual NEA members to participate in this campaign.
- New Business Item 78
NEA will urge its members that they "do not shop" at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club due to Wal-Mart's anti-union, low-wage, low-benefit policies that have left its employees in need of hundreds of million of dollars in public aid for various health care and social safety net programs. Just because many teachers have to use their own time and dip into their small checks to subsidize class materials doesn't mean they should be allowed to shop for bargains.

- New Business Item 5
NEA Human and Civil Rights Department will begin in 2005-2006 to implement programs and activities, as a part of NBI 13, of 2004, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic merger of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Teachers Association (ATA), which occurred in 1966. We'll use your money to pay for a party celebrating our own existence.Yay!

- New Business Item 8
The NEA President, Reg Weaver, will direct the HIN to write an article on health problems from exposure to fragrance chemicals in NEA Today.This will include a questionnaire for membership using a variety of methods such as an online NEA web site posting, form in the article and questionnaires available at the 06 RA Hall of Health. The results will be published in NEA as well as posted on the NEA Web site, including a list of products identified by members as triggering health reactions.The questionnaire results will be posted to the NEA Web site.
- New Business Item 75
The NEA will declare a designated area of the NEA/RA and related meetings and activities a fragrance free zone. Non-scientific questionnaires on fragrance chemicals? Fragrance-free zones? How they'll enforce that, I'd love to know. I sure hope it costs a lot and takes a long time. They must have extra resources now that American education's fixed and the largest issues of teachers' working conditions are all peachy.

- New Business Item 30
NEA will undertake a two-tiered campaign to educate the public about the alternative governance arrangements required of schools in year 4 of program improvement under the so-called No Child Left Behind Act and promote option (V) restructuring as the most reasonable under the circumstances. Specifically... I just thought it was interesting in a Freudian way that they say it's the "so-called" No Child Left Behind Act. You may disagree about its effectiveness, but I didn't think the name of the thing was in question.

- New Business Item 32
Move that NEA, utilizing existing policy, study the feasibility of initiating a boycott of Gallo wine. - New Business Item 47
The NEA will inform members about reasons for the boycott of Gallo wines called by the United Farm Workers, AFL-CIO.The NEA will ensure that Gallo wines are not served at any function of the Association. If anyone deserves a drink after work, it's educators, and they should have whatever they'd like. This targeting of companies because of their stand on the overarching union concept or an affiliated union's gripes is not only bad policy but, might I mention, UNRELATED to EDUCATING AMERICAN CHILDREN. The NEA wants members to further diminish their personal freedom of choice to protect the survival interests of an entity that they had no option to avoid joining.

- New Business Item 38
NEA Representative Assembly directs President Weaver to express NEA's opposition to the annual observance of "Take Your Child to Work Day" during the traditional school year to the appropriate organization(s). We request this worthwhile day be observed during a non-attendance day for students (or one with less impact on student learning). It's hard for me to believe one "field trip" has more impact on student learning than the shortened class periods, school days, and academic years which we're only beginning to see remedied on school-by-school, district-by-district bases, and which the NEA opposes.

- New Business Item 45
I move that NEA investigate the establishment of an affordable/workforce housing programs for members. Perhaps supporting merit pay and attacking the systemic fiscal corruption in the union and municipalities that skim potential salary resources before they reach the personnel budgets would help.

- New Business Item 53
The NEA deplores the inappropriate use of words such as "retarded" and "gay." The usage of slurs like this is demeaning in nature and conveys a negative stereotype. Whenever derogatory and abusive language is used in the public limelight the NEA, state and local affiliates should regularly and aggressively respond. The first sentence just made me laugh, inappropriately, I admit.

- New Business Item 59
The NEA through the Health Information Network will promote research and resources on women and heart disease by means of articles in the NEA Today, using the NEA website,
an exhibit booth at the annual Representative Assembly, This Active Life Again, they're doing so great with education, let's move onto science and medicine. NOOOO!

- New Business Item 60
NEA-HIN will coordinate resources and provide information through existing NEA publications and the NEA website to members regarding diseases that impact the learning environment as a result of the emotional functioning of students diseases and health conditions not widely publicized, such as Alopecia Areata, Lupus, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, any illness or disease that may cause temporary or permanent hairloss or baldness, etc. I do pity the hairless, but the question is whether the union should divert teachers' dues to deal with this niche issue among all other items needing attention?

- New Business Item 81
The NEA shall research the possibility of offering, as part of the existing training program, either regional or national levels of training that would support the significant history of labor unions. The training will have a focus that emphasizes delivery of age appropriate curriculum to students. From the cradle, you will be taught to love your overlords.

- New Business Item 88
NEA will ask the NEA Health Information Network to provide information to members regarding "acceptable" mercury levels set by the past administration as compared to the higher levels recently adopted by the present administration, and to educate members about the adverse impact of mercury exposure on student learning. Additionally, NEA will monitor the lawsuit Environmental Defense v. EPA, which challenges the EPA decision to increase mercury emission levels. NEA also will explore the feasibility of filing an amicus brief if and when the case is appealed. Instead of grappling with health and science issues from their inexpert position, perhaps they might address member concerns about deficient science curricula as compared to the rest of the world and the nationwide difficulty in attracting and retaining qualified science educators.

- New Business Item 91
In the interest of member health and safety at NEA sponsored events; NEA will explore alternatives to using LATEX (natural rubber) products (such as latex balloons and gloves) during NEA sponsored events. Another red-hot topic.

There's much more, like how much they DESPISE the idea of Social Security Reform even though it would allow working-class people like teachers (I don't know if they die younger from stress, but I wouldn't be surprised) to pass a legacy onto their families instead of forfeiting a challenging career's worth of contributions into the big black gov't chasm. Of course, the hierarchy of the NEA is just such an abyss. And we can't even see what proposals they're rejecting. Is it all wacky stuff, or were they measures to address the real problems? Outsiders can't tell from the website.

May the NEA one day be held accountable for its lousy stewardship of the dues and interests of its hard-working members and for its disservice to the children whose education it claims to support.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Live Blogging BBC's Stenchriffic Murder in Suburbia

Most of my recent visitors are still people who've misspelled the name of The Teen Missing from The Island. My pride precludes me from mentioning it again simply to drive further traffic, but I suggest multiple manglings of popular subject names as a strategem for those seeking to increase blog hits, especially from abroad. Alas, I want readers, even an intermittent acquaintanceship with people enjoying these kind of somethings to capture or divert their attention. My last NH post still has a working link to the topical Yahoo News Feed for persistent seekers. But with all that's happened in the world since then, I don't know why the unflagging interest in the absence of dramatic new developments.

Speaking of drama, in my role as nibbler of the dry rind of culture after better writers and thinkers have cored out the good bits, I documented a show from TiVo to prove that not all British mysteries deserve automatic esteem. Can I say I live blogged it when it was only live as I watched it from TiVo and I'm posting it here a day later?

BBC America's rebroadcasting this series called Murder in Suburbia which involves a pair of detectives. The hook is they're both women, but of very different types and surnames, though I get who's Ash and Scribbs confused. The website says that "instinctive, chaotic and street-smart Emma teams up with meticulous and often stubborn Kate," but I never heard them called that. Anyway, one has blonde hair with hanks that fall around her face and the other has dark hair swept up into a tight, French twist. One's in jeans and tees, the other in suits, get it? And they're in Suburbia! The entry's already long, and I promise I've trimmed down to the silliest, most illogical aspects. You may assume the depth of characterization by my substitution of types for names.

:00) Pretty blonde teen being pursued, hides behind gravestone to chant something unEnglish right out loud so that her pursuer can easily sneak around and.. Spiky knife, she's a dead girl.

:01) Blonde detective accidentally bloodies her boyfriend's nose after he asks her to play-struggle before sex. Might be the performance, no hilarity ensued for this viewer.

:02) No one comments on pentagram necklace or the athame for stabbling which was conveniently left behind. In this scene and most to follow, acting consists of the two detectives looking at each other, wide eyes versus narrowed squint, after everything IMPORTANT.

:03) Odd girl who found the body is your standard-issue, unpopular high-schooler tormented by all. She's in a chimp suit which, again, reads better than it played. When will the fake costume party ruse stop working? Never on TV.

:04) Drunken, postcoital teen party where dead witch girl was earlier. Meet school's rich bitch, dead girl's best friend until becoming her rival for the wimpy naked boy tangled in the sheets.

:06) Strange choirmaster at school's impromptu floral shrine to the fallen student. Missed the bandages on his hand? They'll be highlighted every time we see him just in case.

:07) Steely headmistress at school day after daughter's murder. Dialogue more wooden than the Ark. Locker produces pentagram-decorated journal full of numbers and a twiny doll pierced with a pin. Why stashed in searchable locker? Not smart but Boo scary!

:011) No forensics or boring cop stuff. Detectives ferry evidence to local priest who knows about hex dolls. Gotta watch that competition! Map from dusty tome shows witches' presence for 500 years. Enlightenment drove them from cities, but they secretly flourish here. IN SUBURBIA! Seeing the journal, priest pulls numerology book from shelf. Unusual for Christian clerics to have comprehensive occult knowledge with accompanying library?

Spooky Minute :13) Black cat on church gravestone and Blonde feels watched.

:14) Overbearing police superior arrives. She's an older, hard-nosed, fuzzy-haired, smokin-drinker who barks how she thought they saved murder for weekends in suburbia. Also how city folk don't get their milk delivered daily, so they're more attached to facts. Huh? Blonde likes the Dragon Lady, Brunette doesn't. Because they're different, see?

:16) Might forget the setting until the high school choir sings a song with the unforgivably heavy-handed refrain ".... in suburbia." Wimp boy's an Olympic-caliber track star (of course) with undiagnosable knee ailment "the specialist" can't figure out. Seems plausible.

:18) Odd girl dreamily tells Brunette about killing witches on hallowed ground to send them to Limbo (why not Hell?) for eternity.

:19) Detectives approach the choirmaster as we hear him singing " suburbia" to himself. Detectives flash around evidence bag with hex doll to attract attention.

:23) Choirmaster makes lecherous intimations about rich bitch and dead girl, "one blonde, one brunette." GET IT? Detectives ask to see beneath bandage simultaneously disclosing more evidence. Dead girl had self-inflicted hand wound, perhaps part of a spiritual bonding ceremony. Wha? Remarkably, this causes the choirmaster to show them a jagged, unspiritual-looking cut.

:25) Blonde looks up to see faces including bitch and odd girl packed together, staring from the school's windows. Horrifying if you're frightened by lip gloss and uniforms. Ooops, Fire alarm.

:26) Accident with a tea towel in Food Tech, but during evacuation, detectives' car had window smashed and hex doll is gone! At HQ, Dragon Police Lady is mad. She's moving closer to take charge with her smelly cigarettes 24/7. Oho!

:29) After decoding the journal (snap, done-never explained), we learn dead girl's sluttishness included wimp AND choirmaster who's immediately interrogated and answers in annoying rock song snippets.

:30) Asking wimp about sex with dead girl the day she died, we learn nothing, but get to see his stoned/pouty-lipped portrayal of stripping to shower.

:35) At school shrine to dead girl, rich bitch stomps bouquet from wimp to pieces. Standing mere yards away in otherwise empty lot, detectives are quick to notice and stop her. Rich bitch asserts dead girl's hoodoo magic powers while Brunette mocks on.

:37) At her own door, Blonde gets being-watched feeling again. Candles line the hallway, she reaches for cricket bat. I swear I haven't watched, but I'll guess it's freaky boyfriend with romantic surprise to cause her to accidentally bash him again. Yup. Ambulance. Big ha.

:38) Dragon Lady's swilling Jack Daniels and demanding they crank the heat on choirmaster. Dead girl's phone rings inside evidence bag with text message to meet at school in an hour. But doesn't everyone who'd call her already know she's dead? Never mind. Blonde and Brunette go.

:40) Prowling the school separately, walkie-talkies go dead (never explained), lights go out. Using flashlights, they find each other in basement where red scrawling's on the wall in alien language. Pentagram's on floor with candles a-smoking. They rush through boiler room to find two dangling hex dolls representing them! Eek!

:44) Cue the priest. Purpose of dolls' pin placement was to "blind and deafen the investigation." Unecessary, I'd say. Priest reads graffiti as Romany- a linguist as well as occult historian- saying "the Dark Lord is with you." Our blasphemous man-o-the-cloth says boiler room provides light, heat, and moisture: the Occult Trinity. Spells cast here would be specially effective and detectives should "take care" (no elaboration) when they dispose of the hex dolls.

:45) Odd girl's missing. Dragon Lady talks about her reputation, blah, blah, chance of double homicide. Do as she says, blah, blah, focus on choirmaster.

:46) Choirmaster admits sex with dead girl by shrugging, admits he saw odd girl last night. Odd girl came onto him, garters and lingerie. When rejected (not his type of jail bait?) she blames dead girl for zero-affection curse, and admits she stole original doll from detectives.

:48) Realizing odd girl will need to "take care" destroying the doll in order to null the no-love curse, Blonde and Brunette run again to the priest who indexes exact instructions for effigy disposal at the"spot where the witch died." Why hasn't odd girl broken the spell yet? Because, priest says, "there's a time for everything. Dates are important..." Blonde refers to dead girl's journal she's still carting around for dates. Finds feast of Lupercalia which Father Pagan looks up in his Big Book of Not Christianity. It's TONIGHT!

:54) Sirens blaring, cops reach cemetery before midnight to find rich bitch and odd girl fighting for doll next to small fire. Brunette threatens not to let odd girl burn it, failing to break the spell, unless she confesses what happened to dead girl. Wimp appears, yelling at Brunette not to burn doll. It doesn't represent odd girl, he says, it's HIM! Dead girl convinced him his orthopedic problems were hex-related, told him to meet her. When he arrived, dead girl cut her palm in preparation for handfasting, handed him the knife, and he snapped.

:55) Favorite line: "She said she'd cure my knee so long as we became one person for the rest of eternity." Followed by: "She was evil. She had these powers....I just wanted to be free of her. Even then, my knee didn't get better..." Brunette lets the wimp (who easily squats down by the fire - I did laugh at that joke) say a little rhyme before casting the doll into flames.

:57) Dragon Lady says "Well done. Good instincts....Gimme serial killers and gangland slayings any day of the week." All female police smile at each other. Their dolls hit the fire.

:58) Blonde with battered boyfriend in cast. Starting over. She's made dinner. With mushrooms... She's forgotten he's allergic to mushrooms! Brunette shows up as ambulance leaves for zinger, "One more date and you'd have killed him."

Simply execrable. I'm Leonard Pinth Garnell.

Monday, July 11, 2005

L.A. Times obtuse, half-baked, thickheaded

The last few days, I've been particularly heavy on links and light on original thought, but I'd run dry on commentary until today. Read this L.A. Times op-ed by Joel Klein, titled eloquently Hogwarts fans, you're stupid, stupid, stupid.

As Stein does, let's tackle the obvious first, although, unlike his article, I will attempt to progress beyond it. He uses his finely-honed taste to judge the first 50 pages of the first Harry Potter book as witty, imaginative, and fast-paced. Many of us modern readers find that combination rarer than we'd like, but Stein implies you're a moron if you continue reading or detect more than the plot maneuverings of a kiddie story. Though fairies as such don't play a role in the Potter books (as yet), when Stein dismisses them as fairy tales, I think I know what silliness he's attempting in his fumbling way to communicate.

Of course, such a broad category of fairy tales would naturally include some of our earliest literature, stories rife with ethical dilemmas, with heroes and magic and monsters, stories like Beowulf and the Iliad. However, most thinking folk don't consider these merely ripping adventure yarns for antiquity's children. These tales, which might have survived due to their popularity in their own times, serve as anthropological documents. Just like modern fairy tales, they provide explanations of the living conditions, value systems, and culture of their eras, as well as being our best record of certain historical events. They examine themes of loyalty, love, sacrifice, the cruelties of politics and tragedies of the human condition. Children and adults would have heard the legendary stories of their civilizations repeated, teaching them their pasts, giving them a safe introduction to hard truths, and demonstrating their society's preferred qualities and response to adversity. In more contemporary analogs, the stories of the Brothers Grimm are quite dark. Acts of sadism and trickery are common, and though cleverness and bravery are celebrated, they don't always triumph. Grimm tales don't encourage children or anyone else to trust things at face value, and with their impoverished orphans and frail, crippled creatures, they provide the comfort of companionship to those suffering painful lives.

But fairy tales aren't worth reading, Stein says, because they "simplify the world down to good and evil." Has he read what he's condemning? To be accurate, he specifically condemns the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and E.B. White, other authors in which deluded readers and scholars detect thematic subtleties beyond the mere he-said-she-said of plot schema. With such incisiveness, Stein may yet believe Orwell's Animal Farm to be a happy-time tale about the countryside.

Ah well, if we must eliminate discussing layered content since Stein can't perceive it, could he have instead discussed the books' popularity itself in an interesting, coherent way? He might have examined J.K Rowling by examining the similar sensation of Hans Christian Andersen in his day. What about L. Frank Baum or J.M. Barrie? What were the respectable adults saying when those authors' works first crossed age barriers to find such huge and devoted audiences? Besides recent attention to Barrie vis-a-vis Neverland, there are new biographies of Andersen that could've provided historical viewpoints of what made his work, and by comparison Rowlings', so universally compelling. Though, to be fair, I can't suppose a man who solely uses his grandmothers for quotes would be expected to have background or facts at hand.
Stein does deprecate his vocabulary and his own negligible bibliophilia before berating the LAT's readers that they ought to choose to read things with more complexity, and henceforth, to omit reading his columns we must infer. But my strongest intent is not to defend the Potter series, which doesn't need it, or to defend the aesthetics of visual art in modern animation which are inarguably groundbreaking and breathtaking. Mostly, I want to point out how clearly this piece demonstrates the L.A. Times' descent into fishwrapping irrelevance.

Joel Stein's article is a lousy bit of writing and a worse piece of journalism. His goal may have been to goad the public to reaction by attacking its beloved, especially in the heart of entertainment land, where Harry Potter and friends have been a boon to parents and media companies alike. But I had assumed something more discerning than calling them stupid, stupid, stupid would've been required for publication. And while I am reading and focusing on Stein and his employers today, I probably won't again. And not because I disagree with what I can locate as a premise in this scattered, inarticulate op-ed. But because it's puerile, both badly written and worse conceived. I, like every other reader, deserve better.

When the L.A. Times experimented with Wiki-style contributions to their editorials, in two days they'd shut down the thing due to porno spam. Well, hell- anyone with an e-mail address could have seen that one coming. People actually expect more from a paper than a careless pass-through for morons, thus my objection to Stein. Would it have been so hard to set up a language filter for mass deletions and to station an editorial assistant, even an unpaid college intern, to screen the rest before accepting for post? Sure, you'd have to dedicate a whole person to your interaction with your reading public. Sure, you'd probably have to highlight some of the best and most representative posts to encourage lively contribution. Sure, you'd actually have to hold up your side of the conversation by investing in it with human capital not just opening a message board under your domain name. But why should you bother to listen besides telling, in a decreasingly cogent manner, might I add? Why should you bother to hire intellectually engaged journalists who write pieces substantive enough to deserve discussion and who are unafraid to respond to questions and critique? Why should you indeed? After all, people are always going to read the LAT anyway?...Right?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

More Linkliciousness for Your Bad Selves

Again, I'm overflowing with content to share, but no commentary. It is the weekend, you know, and I'm taking it easy by just loading the buffet and leaving the rest to you.

1) Trouble Sleeping? Here's the lowdown on how your pillows affect the equation. I must fault the NYT for not including the sleep marvel we've been rocking at the homestead. It's weird to get used to, but good. The buckwheat-hulled support of Sobakawa Powa!

2) This article examines the still cash-friendly culture of NYC's Chinatown with its love of safety deposit boxes, especially those in fortunately designed spaces and with lucky numbers. Chinatown is a magnet for immigrants and a trusted place to do business, even if you have to commute to your bank from the outer boroughs.

3) What do you call an expert in the lore of creatures whose existence has not yet been substantiated, i.e. Sasquatch, Nessie, the Yeti? A cryptozoologist, of course.

4) Tom Rogers died at 87. And we care why? Because he invented Charlie the Tuna, and helped develop the Keebler Elves and Morris the Cat. This guy had a colorful life, delivering for bootleggers and writing pulp detective fiction, doctoring scripts and writing comedy. This is an example of a dyed-in-the-wool writer who contributed something of value, even if it wasn't profound or literary. I salute the pulp artists everywhere.

5) Does this common virus most of us are carrying have the potential to target and defeat cancer cells? It's being given serious scientific attention.

6) This woman scammed aspiring writers using two different identities and claiming, at different times, that both died in the September 11th attacks. Super bad karma. This vampire of hope's going to jail.

7) Turns out our early human ancestors were ecologically unfriendly, killing the megafauna for food and their own peace of mind. I told you no one wants that prehistorically giant stuff around.

8) Proving that most "talent" is idiotic, an R&B singer who was present but uninjured in the London bombings asks for prayers for his emotional distress.

9) A panda cub was just born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C., but did they have to say it was the size of a "stick of butter?" So... hungrry....

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I Cannot Wait to Kick it Sev-Style. Gimme Gulps!

Another hodge podge with just incidental politics. Tim Worstall liked my Pratchetty tribute to Britannia enough to comment, which was a thrill, being so far under the radar that I'm floorboarding with the gum wads.

1) Well, I won't say all my doubts are allayed, and I know it's no one's duty to allay my precocious anxieties, but the following poll of Brits was edifying to see. (ht: Roger L. Simon)

Brits don't hate the Muslims in their country generally, they hate the terrorists specifically. They're rightly proud of themselves for their emergency response, and they're determined to see terrorists arrested. There's support for monitoring suspicious persons and factions before they strike, which is a sea change in the hands-off (and no extradition) policy toward internationally-sought criminals that have previously found safe harbor there. As a measure of their dedication to the goal of security, there's even rising support for national ID cards (which actually I don't believe are effective as well as disliking such loss of liberty anywhere), but they'll decide for themselves. We can truly say that about Britain: even under its monarchy, the place is set sp so that when the subjects are strident, their voices are the loudest and most important determinant of national policy. Whatever course they take, the Brits will decide for themselves. Wish I could say that about everywhere.

2) So many consumer items (like movies) fail, because they're so poorly adapted from a good idea that they squeeze all the fun and sense right out of them. This hilarious review of the pathetically awful Fantastic Four ATV toy (do I mean to imply the toy or the movie is pathetically awful?) from the Portland Mercury is foul in its language and inarguable in its conclusions.

3) Want to be healthier, more active, and happier with your body? STOP DIETING! Here's the research that says it's okay to stop freaking out and feel good.

4) It's about time this barren island got something good. 7-11 is returning to Manhattan! Hell, yeah! Is it too much to ask for the Upper East Side next? If you show up, I promise to get the bird women and sporties hooked on Gulps and Slim Jims pronto!