Thursday, February 28, 2002

BLOGGER WISHLIST: The most obvious one, of course, would be Camille Paglia. I'm thinking giant Steven den Beste-sized posts but completely rambling and weird. It would rule.
SPORTS SECTION: Mario Lemieux is done for the season most likely. Michael Jordan might be too, but, according to Jim Henley, if the Wizards don't stink when he's away it will be due, in part, to Jordan's managing of the franchise. Says Jim "This year's team is very mediocre without Michael Jordan, which is way better than stupendously bad, which was what the Wizards were before Jordan put on his management suit."

MORE METABLOGGING: Dan Hartung of the MIA Lake Effect offers these on comments in the midst of this discussion on blogging:

The 'warblog' community may have its faults, among them clearly being not knowing the history of the blog very well, and a tendency to snigger and self-congratulate, but it is not insular. I have been introduced to more new blogs daily by so-called warblogs, as well as continually being impressed with the collegiality and mutual respect of voices ranging from the Naderite left to the Randian right. (Chomsky left and Robertson right excluded by default.) Though the key binding principle has been a general support for the war in Afghanistan, critical voices regarding the expansion of the war, for example to Iraq, have not been excluded. At the same time the warblogs themselves have inspired more strong new voices to begin blogging. (Some of the faults of the community are simply lack of experience.) The luck of it is a smattering of semi-pros with links to paying journalism, which has given some of these folks a higher profile than a new blogger in any other sub-community could ever expect, even more than many respected bloggers who've been doing it for years (self included). There seems to be some envy directed that way that I can explain but not condone. All in all, I think it's an excellent example of the 'emergent community' factor. What I see is a wide range of people who are inspired to self-appointed punditry, which may be seen as a challenge to the 20th century trend of centralized, editor-controlled, old-boy-network mass media; but a century ago, at least, this type of writing and intellectual exchange was simply the norm. It's a return to earlier patterns of communication, only with technology that expands the audience far beyond anyone's imagination then.

Via Megnut again. Blogging on blogging is cool and everything, but I think I'm going to try and leave it to the professionals like Mike Sanders when I can. It looks like Mike is trying to cover the whole of blogdom, from the looks of his links and his articles. Good luck.
PLAYBOY IMPROVING?: Blogatelle directs me to this report on this site --which is a rumor site about internet pinup girls, like a lowbrow Daze Reader; I love the Internet-- that Jennifer Love Hewitt will be in Playboy, which is kind of what I mean by having naked pictures of people when we want to see them naked and not years after the fact. Meanwhile the Tony Pierce blog points me in the direction of Internet Gossip which covers the whole world of online culture. Or at least the seedier side of it. It is a big World Wide Web.
RANTBLOG: Fred Pruitt defends the term "warblog":

Rantburg is a warblog. It started out the evening of 9-11 as I obsessively started collecting things to try and make some sense of what had happened. I put it on Blogger at the beginning of November because it had some neato features that I didn't have the time to write into my own software, only to end up taking it off because of its reliability problems. I occasionally veer off-topic, usually because something is so laughably stoopid it deserves to be noted, but my primary focus is and will remain terror networks and their mechanics. It's a big enough subject to take too many hours out of my day that should be devoted to work, talking to the Little Woman or doing whatever else people do when not sitting in front of a computer - I'm not sure what that is, it having been so long.

This site wouldn't qualify as a warblog under Fred's definition, but I still think those of us who turned to blogging as a result of September 11th should be called warbloggers --it's what brought us here.
AINTNOBADDUDEGATE: Photodude theorizes.
SMART MULTIPLIER: The Rabbit answers a letter from a Hostile Geek in the form of a list of things that he should be doing better, or more of, and this list should probably be read and e-mailed around, as well as the rest of the post. I won't blog the whole thing but just most of Heather's response:

Are you afraid of having too much fun? I don't know. I think that chances are, like many dysfunctional young neurotics today, you are merely bad at:

1. Feeling vulnerable
2. Following
3. Giving up control
4. Waiting (in joyful hope)
5. Watching
6. Not saying everything that's on your mind
7. Not getting aggressive in order to push away your vulnerability
8. Feeling instead of thinking
9. Being in the moment
10. Not falsely manipulating a situation so that it adheres to your prior notion of what it should be

In other words, you would make a very bad disciple.

Or, say you stumbled on John the Baptist, ranting and raving in the desert. Would you give up your previous life, go with the flow, and follow him to the ends of the earth, perhaps selling grilled cheese sandwiches or whimsical leather bracelets to fund your trip?

No. You'd have his head on a platter.

You're nervous not only because you don't like feeling out of control, but also because you're imagining some kind of intense silver-screen-style interaction, and you're trying desperately to squeeze reality into this preconceived vision you have of How It Should Look/Feel. But life is far more intense than a movie, as long as you're able to let go and allow each moment to unfold as it will. Stop letting your neurotic mind strangle the life out of everything.


1. Yield
2. Let go
3. Follow
4. Stay open

And if you really want to seal the deal, I'd suggest pumping up until you have great big man-titties and an ass like a basketball.

I call her Rabbit sometimes because I can't always spell her last name. But I always look forward to her posts, which happen infrequently enough that you can follow them all.
JAY ZILBER: Has his blogger wishlist up. Jim Shooter, Jay? You're kidding. Insert New Universe joke here. I mean, he'd never blog unless he thought he could make money off of it.

But I always liked Secret Wars.
NORTH KOREA WATCH: Michael Wells has the shiznit.
BATTLE OF THE PSEUDONYMS: Charles Dodgson punches Johnny Student right in the mush.
HEFNER WATCH: Here's Oliver Willis on how to save Playboy, which I will counterblog:

No more airbrushing. Women's skin just shouldn't glow

Agreed. Women are not cars --though one of Hefner's achievements is the conflation of the two. And no more airbrushing private parts into mysterious shadowy areas. Either take another picture or publish what you have.

Get cartoonists with a sense of humor that have been out in the public since 1972 and aren't just adding boobies to the New Yorker's toons

Just get rid of the cartoons, nobody likes them there or in the New Yorker.

No more Pamela Anderson

Agreed agreed.

More non-Blondes. Barbie's all nice and good but you can only take so much

Agreed to the nth degree. Sadly, I don't think it'll happen until Hef's dead and thus prevented from forcing his "girlfriends" upon the rest of us.

Resist the urge to go "hardcore". That's Penthouse's territory. Do your thing, just do it right.

I dunno, I've said this before but I think Playboy might ultimately be a transitory magazine in the world of pornography, that made sense in the more prudish 60s but doesn't now. If we want cheesecake we got Maxim; if we want hardocore we got every magazine that is not Playboy. Playboy the magazine only exists for the distribution of Playboy the brand.

More imaginative photo shoots. Take a cue from Sports Illustrated and find amusing old buildings that look nice behind a naked woman. Yes, we know we get bubbles with the girl "washing the car" but frankly there's not a lot more you can do with that

Yes. The centerfold formula is worn out and predictable. So are the centerfolds.

Girls with glasses. Trust me.

I'd go for that.

Taller girls. Don't ask, do.

I think this is a lot to ask for. The neat thing about Playboy is that it gives jobs to girls who are highly good-looking but too short to be fashion models. This is a good thing.

Overall, just stop being such prudish stuffed shirts. You don't have to be unrepentant beer swillers like the frat boys at Maxim but you shouldn't emulate their fathers either. Aim for the frat boys' older cousin who has a job but likes to hang out with the guys ever so often.

Good idea but another that I don't think has a chance of happening until Hefner is dead and gone. He's spent his whole life living the idiot "Playboy philosophy" of naked ladies being one more trapping in a sophisticated gentleman's life and is always going to right up to the final Viagra-fuelled heart attack. That Hefner bashing article is making more and more sense to me.
AINTNOBADDUDEGATE: Continues to unfold. I tried the same thing but I'm not Ken Bernstein --I mean, Ken Goldstein. Goldstein.
LONG TYRANNY OF DENTISTS ENDED: The Dreaded Purple Master has the scoop. Sounds promising if you can live with mutant bacteria living in your mouth.
COOL: Tracy Quan has a blog. Via Instapundit. Now there's even less of a reason to question one's self for being to cheap to buy Salon Premium. Unless Paglia still doesn't have a blog. Nope. But goll! --those are some interesting search results. Look, more on the Paul problem.

By the way, check out Ken Layne's blogger wishlist. I want Bill Simmons to start a blog so he can post his "telepathic rants" without fear of reprisal. And I want the Reason Who Am I? and Editors Links pages combined as one blog.
LET US NOW PRAISE BJORN LOMBORGS: This gal gives the Lomborg treatment to the concept of six degrees of separation; it's the "Lomborg treatment" because the gal was actually a fan of the originator of "six degrees" --Stanley Milgram-- but once she did the research the numbers said something else:

Perhaps Milgram was right that we live in a world with six degrees of separation. Perhaps he had discovered a fundamental and universal truth about the human world. But the evidence was simply not there. The inescapable fact is that the great majority of chains were never completed. To put it another way, the vast majority of people could not reach the target person. Of the 296 possible chains in the technical research report , 217 chains were started, and 64 were completed--a success rate of only 29% (Travers & Milgram, 1969). Again, a careful reading of the technical report also shows that the starters had social advantages; they were far from a random or representative group. The three starter groups were: (a) 100 blue chip stock owners from Nebraska recruited from a mailing list, (b) 96 people from Nebraska designated as the "Nebraska random" group [quotations in the original] but actually recruited from a mailing list, and (c) 100 people from Boston designated as the "Boston random" group [quotations in the original] but actually recruited from a newspaper advertisement. All would have had a leg up in making social connections to a Boston stockbroker. The Bostonians lived in the same city. The blue chip stock owners were apt to have business connections to a stockbroker. The Nebraska starters were recruited from mailing lists apt to contain names of higher income people.

Milgram's subsequent study of acquaintance networks between racial groups also reveals not only a low rate of chain completion but also the importance of social divides (Korte & Milgram, 1970). White starters in Los Angeles, solicited through mailing lists, tried to reach both white and "Negro" targets in New York. Of the 270 chains started and directed toward "Negro" targets, only 13% got through compared to 33% of the 270 chains directed toward white targets. The results suggest again that, far from living in a small, inter-connected world, we live in a world with racial barriers.

Via Cursor.
FASCINATING: The first Christian chuch in China was founded back in the 7th century? Wow. It's discovery changes what we thought we knew about Christianity and China, says Martin Palmer, the guy who discovered it:

"It immediately changes our picture of the church in China. Western scholars had said that it was a heretical church, that it had no impact on Chinese culture. And here we see that it was given an incredibly honored position."

Mr. Palmer has long been interested in this Church of the East, whose followers were concentrated in Persia and scattered across the ancient trading routes to China, from Baghdad to Samarkand. Little evidence of their existence survives. The Nestorian Stone, an eighth- century tablet in the Museum of Stone Inscriptions in Xian, tells the story of Christian missionaries arriving in the capital of Changan (now Xian) in A.D. 635 from present-day Afghanistan. And scrolls found in the caves of Dunhuang, on China's northwestern frontier, recount a version of the gospel in Chinese, melding Christian, Taoist and Buddhist imagery

"The scrolls describe a church in which men and women were equal and slavery was forbidden," Mr. Palmer said. "Its version of the Ten Commandments instructed Christians in vegetarianism and forbade the taking of any life. It taught the Taoist notion of original goodness, rather than original sin, and it said the answer to karma and the fear of perpetual reincarnation is Christ."

Palmer also wrote this book (read the reviews there too, they're interesting.) He says later:

He also plans to create a Museum of the West in China. "Just as, sadly, a lot of people in the West view China as a monolithic, totally foreign entity, so many Chinese feel the same way about the West," he said. "The purpose of the museum would be to challenge these views, to say the West has been in China for 1,400 years. It helped shape China and China helped shape the West."

They also bring up the theory that Christianity was tolerated when it was as a bulwark against the spread of Islam. Short but good read. Via the Christianity Today Weblog.
IRAN AND US: This has been blogged around a bit but I love that this happened:

It was during Meybodi's show in September 2000 that this story really begins. As always, calls were coming in from across the United States and Western Europe. And then a call came that didn't sound like the others; it clicked weirdly, like an Iranian phone line. The caller said he was in Isfahan, a city in central Iran, and that he was picking up NITV's satellite signal. Meybodi didn't believe him.

''Who am I?'' Meybodi asked.

''I don't know,'' said the caller. ''But I see you on my TV.''

Meybodi still didn't believe him; nobody did. He asked for the caller's phone number and said he would call him back. Still on the air, Meybodi phoned Isfahan, and sure enough the caller picked up. But Meybodi still didn't believe his story.

Meybodi held up an apple on TV.

''What am I holding?'' he asked the caller. Atabay and a few others drifted into the studio.

''An apple,'' the caller said. Now everyone who worked at NITV was in the studio. They were all Iranians; most of them were middle-aged men; most of them had not been home in more than 20 years; most of them assumed that they would never go home. They were not just physically but also imaginatively cut off from their pasts.

Meybodi picked up a pen. ''What am I holding now?'' he asked.

''A pen,'' the caller said.

''When he said it was a pen,'' Atabay says, ''that's when we began to weep.'' Men with faces that looked as if they had been carved from stone broke down and cried, oblivious of the fact that they were on live television.
MUSIC BIZ: Dr. Frank --actual musician-- follows up on the Ken Layne music column and it could just as easily be published on a major media website:

I'd love to see the industry "shaken up." Maybe it would even be a good thing to get it all out in the open; something like this narrowing process has been occurring gradually for years anyway. (I listen to music all the time, yet like a lot of people I pretty much ignore what the mainstream industry offers. Not on purpose: I'm just not all that interested in being bored.) If artists enter into disadvantageous agreements, they have only themselves to blame. They should strike out on their own instead. But ultimately the economic logic applies to the non-mainstream, too. My small independent low-budget rock band usually spends around $15,000 to record an album. Since we're pretty sure we can sell at least 10-15,000 records, our small independent label can afford to give us an advance to cover this cost. We could reduce the recording budget by cutting corners, but we can't reduce it to zero. Obviously, Reebok isn't going to come to our rescue if such recordings lose their market value and become mere promotional items that can't pay for themselves. Ken's willingness to drive to Bakersfield to buy a CD from Buck Owens rather than buy one at a store or download it is touching. But it's not $15,000 worth of touching. And Buck has already recorded those songs. What about the Buck Owenses of the future?

Read the whole thing. The Dr. also reveals his ethical philosopher results. I'll spoil the joke if I say what they are, but I just want to say I never did quite understand that guy. Or Frank Zappa.
CRIPES: I hate to speak ill of the dead but I'm sick of all the Chuck Jones appreciations. He did good stuff in the 50s and 60s but that's it; there's no reason based just on his work for him to be better known than Bob Clampett or Tex Avery. (Cartoon Network has done shows focused on both those guys, though.) My Jones misanthropy forces me to dig up this old Salon article:

Less enjoyable, perhaps, has been Jones' attempt to spread misconceptions about Clampett, who became a director a year before Jones did. Clampett's early cartoons, unlike Jones', were assured and hilarious; cartoons like "Porky and Daffy" and "The Daffy Doc" helped to define their characters, and their unprecedented pacing almost certainly influenced older directors like Avery and Freleng. Before leaving the studio, Clampett would create Tweety, as well as directing some of WB's best-loved cartoons (like Daffy Duck's stint as "Duck Twacy" in "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery," and the famous adaptation of Dr. Seuss' "Horton Hatches the Egg").

Clampett left the studio in 1946, after less than a decade of directing cartoons, but there's no denying his importance to WB cartoons. But Jones has certainly tried, reportedly resenting what he saw as the tendency of Clampett, in his own way as skillful a self-promoter as Jones, to claim a role in the creation of just about every WB character. The most infamous attempt came in Jones' 1979 compilation film "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie" (which mixed great clips from Jones' classic cartoons with tiresomely twee linking material in the later Jones manner). Near the beginning of the film, Bugs shows a portrait gallery of the directors who contributed the most to his creation. The gallery contains Avery, Freleng, Jones, Robert McKimson ... but not Clampett. It was a startlingly ungenerous gesture; even worse, it was a falsification of animation history, an attempt to erase Clampett from the story of WB cartoons.

Jones hasn't stopped trying to minimize Clampett's contributions to the studio. In "Chuck Amuck" he doesn't mention Clampett once; in "Chuck Reducks" he deigns to mention the name exactly once ("Clampett's Bugs was funny"). And in a 1998 interview with Mania magazine, he said: "As far as I'm concerned the one who mattered the least was Bob Clampett," adding, perhaps in response to the continued popularity of Clampett's cartoons, "Honestly, I think Bob is right in line with today ... Bob was the one who liked all that 'Three Stooges' stuff."

The article also points out how much Michael Maltese had to do with Jones' stuff being funny; you could probably write a good idol-smashing essay about that, like Pauline Kael once did with Orson Welles. Jones' prominence is like Bob Kane being better known than Bill Finger, or (this is less of a problem now) Stan Lee being better known than Jack Kirby. Or Disney being better known that Iwerks. Or Disney being better know than anybody who made cartoons (as opposed to Disney being better known than anybody else who made theme parks, he has it all over Six Flags and Cedar Point and Knott's Berry Farm and anyplace else you care to mention.) OK, I'm done.
AS THE WORLD TURNBULLS: Here's Beauty of Gray on why those doomsday clock scientists are bullshitting you and me. Hint: it's all politics.
CAL FLAP: CalStuff has the Daily Patriot's letter to the editors, which is a good read. I don't think even the most lefty of leftists can defend newspaper-stealing.
LOUSY SITUATION: This article draws my attention to our own internal gulag archipelago:

The United States has achieved the dubious honor of boasting the largest prison and jail population on Earth. It reached this zenith by surpassing cash-strapped Russia -- long its only rival as a society of mass imprisonment -- after Russia released thousands of inmates so as to save money.

A few years earlier, as America rushed to lock up ever more of its population for ever-pettier offenses, the absolute size of its incarcerated population surpassed that of China -- despite China's population being more than four times that of America. According to research by the British Home Office, America now incarcerates over one fifth of the world's prisoners.

Well great. Via the Legion of Doom.

Wednesday, February 27, 2002

MORE HEFNER WATCH: John Sladek is an under-read science fiction writer of the New Wave period --I mean, I haven't read his Roderick books which are supposed to be his best. But I have read The Muller-Fokker effect, which has a Hefner doppleganger named Glen Dale, who publishes Stagman magazine. The funny things about Glen Dale are 1. he's a virgin, and 2. he's never seen a woman naked, so he can't read his own magazine. Yet he has this empire:

Glen Dale's empire was accidental, like a famous pearl. It had begun with a small, quite ordinary grain of irritation --when, in youth, Glen had discovered that he could not, no matter what, get laid.
It was improved and rounded by a few coats of what Glen called "sophisticated seduction techniques". A better bottle of wine, a few more jazz tapes, four-star brandy, tickets to shows, dinner for two, oh yes, and smoking jackets, cocktail shakers...layer upon layer did this poor oyster of a man apply to his misery. Cars, a yacht, the magazine, money, clothes, more of everything, better of each, a glossier magazine, the Stagman Club...until the accident seemed deliberate and fine.
I wonder whether the pearl ever ever chokes the oyster to death?
Eleven million Stagman readers opened their center folds each month to enjoy the twenty-two million well-photographed nipples of Miss Monthly. Then there were the dozens of Stagman Clubs, the thousands of bare-chested girls in buckskin ("Does"), the hundreds of thousands of moist men who, being strictly forbidded to touch the Does, except in the palm with crisp money, came to play. The grandest club of all was here in the Stagman Tower, in the scrotal end. The shank was devoted to magazine offices; the tip, a penthouse for the chief.

It's like Crisis On Infinite Hefners in the above there. But Glen Dale eventually does see the forbidden fruit booty:

A woman stood waist-deep in the water, her naked back squared to him as if posing for a Stagman calendar. She walked out of the water and out of focus. A tune, some tune was playing in Glen's head. He fiddled helplessly with the range adjustment; she has already turned toward him before he found her again. Rotating the little wheel, he turned her from a puzzle of light and shadow into a naked woman drying herself.
The tune wound up to a silent scream as he saw who she was. Then Bette dropped the towel and stretched her arms toward the sun. Glen saw what he had never dreamed existed, and everything else stopped dead. Mental transmission went off the air.
No rose, no eye, no cavern, no labyrinth of mystery --nothing but
a patch of dirty hair!
"Like an armpit! Ugh!" It picked up his limbs and threw him into the lake; without movement he pushed back water and flung himself toward her. Across the quiet lake.

It's a good take on Hefner and the Playboy phenomenon, and one part of a real funny novel. Read it if you can find it.
ALL YOU WEREWOLVES TAKE YOUR PLACES: Brightest full moon of the year tonight.

When you watch the old episodes from the first half of the Decade of Simpsons, you note two things: Homer, in the beginning, was much more malevolent, aggressively clueless instead of cheerfully & passively clueless, and 2) the show often had, gulp, heart. There are some wonderfully sentimental moments in the show. But that was when the people who did it still enjoyed themselves. Now you can smell the self-loathing.
PROTEIN WISDOM: Have the latest mor on cartoon. And I think in the spirit of the BritneyBlog the creaticals have drafted Elizabeth Wurtzel to comment on their posts. Wurtzel is Britney-like in some highbrow way, isnt she?

Sidenote: If I wasn't an HTML boob I'd do one of those get your war on cartoons; the first panel would say:

"Damn man, I got fucking Instapunditted for writing about bearded Spock! Can you believe that fucking shit?"

The second:

"And you followed it up with some nonsense about the moral philosophy of Bizarro Superman! What the fuck were you thinking?"

The third:

Oh, I don't know. God has his reasons for keeping me an HTML boob.
BILL O'REILLY: Has a surprising amount of common ground to stand on with Michael Moore. I don't know what this means. Via Boing Boing.
NEAT: Bob Mould on pro wrestling:

Wrestling is the most dangerous thing I've ever been around in my life. Every night, invariably, somebody would get clobbered with a chair and it's like, get the Novocain, shoot him in the head, 25 stitches and he's good as new in the morning. There is real blood out there. The guys cut themselves. They take a piece of a straight razor and clip off a triangular corner and wrap it up in a piece of gauze, put it in the wristband. The moment they get ready to bleed, usually the bad guy's got the chair and the ref's struggling with him to get the chair out of his hands; the big guy takes the thing out of his wristband, the bad guy hits him, guy goes down, and as he's going down he takes a razor blade and drags it across his forehead.

Why don't they use blood pellets?

I don't know. Pride, maybe. It's weird. I've never seen anything like that in my life. Not in the music business. The music business is a bunch of wimps. And the drug and alcohol thing in wrestling -- I was not prepared for that. They're 300 pounds; they can absorb twice the drugs and alcohol that skinny rock guys can. It's frightening.

Via 13 Labs.
HOLY CROW: Filipino tabloids. And another and another. Via cheesedip. They even picked up on Jayson Williams. It's weird, when they quote people they talk in English but the rest of the text is mostly in Tagalog (or what I think is Tagalog --like I have a clue.)

Things like this, by the way, make me think that whole Anglosphere thing might be a load of crap. Would you extend it to the Philippines? Or Singapore? Hong Kong? Jamaica? What are they --Anglosphere Ionosphere?

Actually, having read Cryptonomicon I think Neal Stephenson would include the Philippines. But that's just him. Or me.
AND IN THIS CORNER: The Paul thing has sparked a ton of good debate and responses. Here's Kevin Holtsberry:

What Chris is guilty of is looking to the bible for comfortable pieces he can pick and choose from in order to satisfy his own personal preferences - this does not work. There are plenty of good works on the consistency of the entire Bible if Chris should choose to seek them out rather than look for guidance from Thomas Jefferson and Albert Schweitzer.

Can you recommend some of those good works, Kevin? But I wonder why you would need it to be consistent, or what's wrong with picking and choosing from the vast buffet that is the Bible. Isn't that a freedom of modern life, to be able to pick and choose as your personal preferences suggest?

HokiePundit has more, including a sort of pocket history of Paul:

On his was to Damascus to persecute the Jews, Paul, known then as Saul of Tarsus, was blinded. During this time, Jesus appeared to him and told him that he was chosen to spread his message. Paul was a very unique man. He was of both Jewish and Roman descent, and was thus a citizen of Rome. He had lived in Greece growing up, and was thus intimately familiar with Hellenistic culture and styles of argumentation. Finally, he was a Pharisee, and knew the Jewish techniques of midrash and parable. If not for his Jewishness, he would never have been accepted by the other apostles. If not for his Greek upbringing, he wouldn't have been able to begin the conversion of the Gentiles, a task the original apostles didn't want. Lastly, due to his citizenship, he was able to have the right to trial in Rome, saving him from his Jewish persecuters once, and allowing him time to write several letters while in prison. Paul was the instrument that allowed Christianity to become more than simply Neo-Judaism.

As I noted before, Mark Byron also did some work resolving doctrinal differences between Paul and Jesus. As for the historical problem Chris raises:

The Apostle Paul was not one of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth (Yahoshua Ben Yosef). Even by the earliest timelines, he didn't show up on the Christian scene till ten years after the execution of Jesus. He was, however, the father of Christianity. Without Paul there is no Christianity. Modern Christianity owes more to Paul than to Jesus. In this sense, most modern Christians are followers of Paul rather than followers of the example of Christ.

Tony Adragna has this to say:

Didn't Christ found the church? Yes, that's very true. But, that doesn't mean that the early church in Jeruselem knew what they were doing. In fact, the early Christians were just about as clueless about the church's mission as any Christian has ever been - so much for fundamentalism (in the sense of returning to the ways of the early church). For instance, we understand that Christ's message is meant for everybody, but the Jeruselem church couldn't get past Judaism. The very first council, held in Jeruselem, was all about dressing down Paul for preaching to the Gentiles. How did it happen that the Jeruselem Christians didn't get the point.

Well, that brings me to an apparent contradiction between Christ's message as understood by early Christians, and Paul's preaching. Reconcile (paraphrased) I came not to break the old law, but to deliver a new one, with Paul's clear break from Mosaic law. You can't do that textually, because where Christ himself does so (especially in an instance where he's confronted on breaking the Sabbath) he does it by proving to his inquisitors that he's not breaking the law (Matthew 12 : it can't be unlawful to do good on the Sabbath). Paul can't do that - he clearly breaks from Mosaic tradition by welcoming into the church uncircumcised Gentiles. Paul goes even further, arguing that Christians are set free from the law of Moses.

How does Paul reconcile the apparent inconsistency? He doesn't! Instead, he makes a logical leap to get at what Christ meant but never actually said:divine mercy and forgiveness are offered in Christ; baptism unites the believer with Christ; the believer is put into the right relationship with God, and good works advance the believer in holiness. Paul doesn't argue, as Christ teaches, that Mosaic law needs be tempered with love and mercy. Paul simply throws away Mosaic law!

Neat stuff all around. I love being Gavrilo Princip sometimes.
ED MAZZA: Today has a report on the obnoxiousness of Russell Crowe and Theo Fleury. Ed thinks you're wasting your time if you go to the bottom of this story and read the poem Crowe wanted to read at an awards show --but I was amused.

"What the fuck is Voltron talking about? Is this some religious thing? Am I fucking being baptized by Voltron?" --get your voltr on

"So, as I understand it, I'm supposed to find time to read a whole bunch of other people's off the wall opinons and then write about how I agree or disagree with them and do the thingie so people who don't know what I'm talking about can click on it to see what I'm talking about. IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!! and I'm sorry I'm yelling, but if I was to say I agreed with something Natalie Solent said, for instance, would other people write about how Stephanie agreed with Natalie but they disagreed and put things in so you could click on both of us? What does the next person do? Agree with the disagreement on the agreement? Is this some kind of internet click letter?" --Stephanie Dupont

"Once I witnessed the two sisters conversing about a party Zoe had given, at which she was outraged by the appearance of freshman girls -- 'and not ugly, dorky ones, either! Pretty ones!'

'And what exactly was the problem with that?' Wiseman asked.

'If you're gonna be in high school,' Zoe replied, with an attempt at patience, 'you have to stay in your place. A freshman girl cannot show up at a junior party; disgusting 14-year-old girls with their boobs in the air cannot show up at your party going' -- her voice turned breathy -- 'Uh, hi, where's the beer?'

Wiseman wanted to know why Zoe couldn't show a little empathy for the younger girls.

'No matter what you say in your talks and your little motivational speeches, Ros, you are not going to change how I feel when little girls show up in their little outfits at my party. I mean, I don't always get mad. Usually I don't care enough about freshmen to even know their names.'

Wiseman rolled her eyes.

'Why would I know their names? Would I go out of my way to help freshmen? Should I be saying, ''Hey, I just want you to know that I'm there for you''? Would that make ya happy, Ros? Maybe in some perfect Montessori-esque, P.C. world, we'd all get along. But there are certain rules of the school system that have been set forth from time immemorial or whatever.'

'This,' said Wiseman, 'is definitely a source of tension between us.'" --best part of that Girls Just Want To Be Mean article

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

DAWSON: Returns from the nether regions of cyberspace to give us this Johnny Cash tribute. So what did you do to celebrate The Man In Black's birthday? I listened to Live At Folsom Prison --on vinyl even, when they used to bleep out cuss words.
CRAPPY NEWS: The tape of the murder of Daniel Pearl may be sold on the streets of Pakistan. Via Amy Langfield.
MORE -ON: Protein Wisdom has the latest get your blank on installment: get your mor on part one and part two. This version doesn't use the f-word so much.
THE DONKEY: Makes you want to weep openly, that's how deep and meaningful his poetry is. Bravo, bravo. Polite applause.

UPDATE: I hear via Kyle Still that Jordan is having surgery and could be out the rest of the season. There's no reason to have the Wizards on tv now. C'mon, Stern. Let's have them Nets.
TOPLESS PROTESTER: Can be found here. I wonder if she's more credible than naked protesters.
MORE GITLIN: The Brothers Judd are not so high on his latest. And they have a ton of Gitlin links.
MURTAUGH: Bullish on a cancer cure.
LAST PERSON ON THE BANDWAGON, WILL YOU PLEASE TURN OUT THE LIGHTS?: I'm the last person in the world to link to this, but here's get your voltr on. I must say, I did not agree with the politics or irreligiousosity of get your war on but it was pretty damn funny, especially when they were dropping the superhero references. AND the Family Circus reference down the bottom here. get your enr on was sort of useless. But get your voltr on keeps the politics to a minimum and allows me enjoy warped representations of an 80s childhood favorite.
NYC BLOGFEST: Raghu has the details if you're in the area.
NEWSWEEK: Has the big story on the Boston priest pedophilia scandal. They engage in psychobabble:

But some researchers think the priesthood may hold a dangerous attraction for pedophiles—not because of the opportunities it presents to indulge their fantasies, but for the opposite reason, that they hope it can help control them. “A very small percentage of pedophiles may go into the priesthood thinking that celibacy will solve the problem they’re dealing with,” says Dr. Frederick Berlin, a psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins who deals with sexual disorders.

And then more from former priest Eugene Kennedy on Father Geoghan:

Priests “gravitate toward male children because they’re male children themselves,” he says. “These men were promoted in the seminary because they were good boys... There was an inevitability for their erotic targets to become children.” Geoghan fits that profile exactly. When he was a young seminarian in Boston, the rector wrote that despite a “very fervent spiritual life,” the 18-year-old Geoghan had a “very pronounced immaturity.”

Via Slate again.
MEGNUT: Wraps up the recent swarm of blog articles nicely. She also claims to be the Ub Iwerks of Blogger --which is news to me but I'm ignorant.
YESTERDAY: Was the 15th anniversary of Marcos being forced out of office in Manila and cheesedip has a post about it. She links to, which looks like a good introduction to the subject.
THERE IS A BASKETBALL GOD: Slate says NBC and TNT are dropping the Knicks from the national TV schedule. Thank you, thank you. The bad news is it looks like they're replacing the Knicks with Wizards games, which is great with Jordan being healthy and everything. Hey Stern, the Nets are right there. You know? The Eastern Conference leading Nets? Remember them? Programming cretins.
ATTACK OF THE CLONE COMMENTARY: Charles Murtaugh responds to Glenn Reynolds here, and even has some nice things to say about Leon Kass. He also has the link to The Chopped-Off Hands Of Star Wars page, which reveals George Lucas's hideous repressed apotemnophilia.
OLD AND CRAZY --BUT AT LEAST YOU'LL HAVE YOUR HEALTH: Derek Lowe has been doing some reading --and some more reading-- and he has the depressing theorizing on the ossification of our personalities, though it doesn't have to happen like that, he points out. He also has good stuff on mental illness:

There are only a set number of ways in which humans go insane. Think of any given case of dementia, and you can come up with plenty of similar ones: you have paranoids convinced that their thoughts are being read - by their TV, by aliens, by invisible beams - or that the people they see on the street are all agents. There are the people who let piles of paper and garbage crowd them out of their houses. And the obsessives convinced that they are good friends with, are going to marry, are already married to some celebrity. You'll certainly find differences among these and among the many other types. But they're variations on the same master templates, differences of degree rather than kind.

Those templates sound like archetypes. Maybe.
TODD GITLIN, QUALITY LIBERAL: Here he is on the SLA. Via Dr. Frank, who also has some thoughts on the subject:

The SLA were indeed murderers who made no sense. But I wish someone would explain how the Weatherman's "chaosify Amerikkka" program is any less nonsensical than the SLA's "death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people." In all sincerity, I cannot tell the difference. Of course, most people involved in the New Left were harmless, idealistic if misguided, non-violent, ordinary folks-- they even occasionally made sense. The SLA monsters are indeed a "special case" in that regard. Yet as to the obscurantism and vagueness (not to mention chutzpah) noted by Gitlin, that seems to me to be the essence of the Maoist and Marxist-Leninist rhetoric of New Left activism, not some bizarre exception. And if the widespread "kill the pigs" ethos did lead some psychos to take it upon themselves actually to kill some pigs, shouldn't those who peddled and promoted that ethos take some responsibility?

Gitlin is one of those guys, like Hitchens, who shed a lot of liberal orthodoxy after the attacks. Or at least the difference between him and the liberal orthodoxy became obvious after the attacks. I wonder if his thoughts on the media have changed as well since then.
GHOST IN THE TIME MACHINE: I think Bjorn Staerk is the last man on Earth reading Time magazine, as he consistently has the links to Time goodies. Here's an interview with one of those Saudi princes.
IF YOU WERE CONFUSED: Jim Henley explains just who he is and who he isn't. I need to read more Gene Wolfe myself.
BLOG THEN METABLOG: Here's Oliver Willis on the Andrew Sullivan blogger manifesto. He brings the perspective the Sullivan manifesto does lack.
ASK THEN RECEIVE: Mark Byron has taken up the challenge of the Paul problem; his response can be found here. I knew he'd have the learned response.

Monday, February 25, 2002

HEFNER WATCH: Relapsed Catholic sends me to this analysis of Playboy that seems out of date in spots to me --but only because it's dealing with an out of date magazine like Playboy. Still an interesting read; I get to these comments down the bottom and enjoy them where not being horrified:

Hiding in plain sight in the June 2001 issue of Philadelphia magazine is Ben Wallace's essay "The Prodigy and the Playmate." In it Sandy Bentley, the Playboy cover girl and former Hefner girlfriend (along with her twin sister Mandy), describes Hugh Hefner's current sexual practices in just enough detail to give you a good long pause:

The heterosexual icon [Hugh Hefner] . . . had trouble finding satisfaction through intercourse; instead, he liked the girls to pleasure each other while he masturbated and watched gay porn.

Yes, you read that right. There it is, attributed to someone who ought to know, the stated fact on the public record. It may seem shocking or it may seem trivial, but it amounts to a significant confirmation that Hugh Hefner embodies what his detractors have been saying for years: All pornography is ultimately homosexual. All pornography stifles the development of genuine human relationships. All pornography is a manifestation of arrested development. All pornography reduces spiritual desire to Newtonian mechanics. All pornography, indulged long enough, hollows out sex to the point where even the horniest old Viagra-stoked goat is unable to physically enjoy the bodies of nubile young females.

Ultimately, Hugh Hefner is an old joke: a solitary master baiter. Armed with two-thirds of the truth and a well-lubricated marketing machine, he has single-handedly stroked the American id into accepting his adolescent fantasy of false desire and technological gratification, a legacy which amounts to our generation's toxic dump.

Those comments about all pornography being ultimately homosexual: I mean, they're true --there's reasons why there's so much gay porn and hardly any lesbian porn-- but they only go so far; it's like saying all fratboys are really gay, or all wrestling is really gay. These things have their gay elements but to say they're gay at bottom is just silly, especially when they are used (as the article rightly points out about porn) to prove heterosexuality in many situations.

And I'm all for Hefner trashing but this guy is way overstating his importance. He was just the first; if he didn't exist, someone would've done something else Playboy-like. But this is a pretty thought-provoking read, if you've got any interest in the subject. Dig this line: "The Playboy Philosophy, which requires women to be thin, infertile, and always available, essentially requires childlessness." I would say Playboy requires women to be thin, infertile, but never available, always an unrealizable ideal --which explains the lack of genitalia in Playboy and maybe Hefner's behavior quoted above. I mean, I doubt Hustler ever retarded anyone's social growth because the ideal reader of Hustler is a solitary masturbator. (I add this because the article opens with this quote: "In launching Playboy, perhaps the smartest thing Hugh Hefner did was in establishing his personality as that of a witty, urbane sophisticate who enjoyed the company of many, many young women. After all, who knows how many fewer copies the magazine might have sold, had he instead depicted himself as a solitary masturbator?") Playboy, on the other hand, he (he is Read Mercer Schuchardt) might be right about it in terms of its negative effects, or its limits as a pornographic magazine; if you substitute "Playboy" for "pornography" in that "All pornography...." paragraph above, I might agree with him. But read it for yourself, it's good.
MORE FROM BLOGATELLE: I keep forgetting about this but Sekimori keeps an archive of all those "What X Are You?" tests on her page. It's on the right side as you face the screen. Go find out which Evil Anime/Sesame Street/Kids In The Hall character you are.
SILLINESS: Via Blogatelle comes this Flasherrific blatant piece of Korean anti-Ohno propaganda. It's great. I love how the conspirators against Kim Dong Sung appear to be Ohno, a French film director, and Abraham Lincoln.
STILL RANKED: For the Jamie Sale nude searches. Yeah, you and me both. But of course she'll probably be in Playboy like ten years after any of us had an interest in seeing her naked. Typical Playboy.
HOLY HANNAH: DC actually released an anthology of old Bizarro stories. That's so great. Bizarro stories were so interesting to me early on, since they took the established comic book order and turned it completely around, and you'd open a random Action Comics or whatever in the barber shop and there would be the Bizarro Justice League and I'd say holy crap to myself and read on, engrossed. Neat neat neat.
LET US NOW PRAISE BEARDED SPOCKS: Like I said before, Justin Raimondo names names and we will see if his speculation is born out; the FBI is denying that Washington Times story, but that doesn't mean anything. But even the FBI has admitted the suspect is an American or at least an employee of America.

Glenn thinks I use the term "bearded Spock" to mean "bizarro," but only use the term in its original sense, to refer to denizens of a universe roughly parallel to my own where, whether by accident of history or by a subtle change in that universe's fabric --as if the very quarks and gluons found there were of a sinister material-- have turned to evil. You know, Kirk is still a womanizing asshole, Spock is still a cold, calculating logician, McCoy is still a curmudgeon, yet they are now on the side of evil and not good. It's in the same half-joking way I refer to the American Samizdat as the Legion Of Doom: people who constantly and consciously take up a contrarian position. Christopher Hitchens, by the way, is a contrarian in reference to other contrarians. It's just the science fiction/superhero comics lens by which I tend to view the world; like Charles Murtaugh, for years I read little else but those.

I mean, today Justin is actually defending Slobodan Milosevic. I guess he never read Safe Area Gorzade. All evidence suggests this. Of course, reading Justin's column makes me think he has more of a problem with double standards than anything else, but come on.

By the way, the term "bizarro" properly used refers to a parallel universe where everything is physically the reverse of our own: up is down, happy is sad, good is bad, etc., and does not refer to actual moral choices and conditions the way "bearded Spock" does. "You might be a geek if": your conception of the moral life takes the form of a Star Trek episode inside your head. I'm done.
HOCKEY: New York Times article introducing me to Jarome Iginla, who I had never heard of before the Olympics but he's the number one goal scorer in the NHL. He's also the first black guy to play in an Olympic gold medal hockey game. Even though he looks like he's black in an Alicia Keys sense of being black. I mean, I'm a frequent participant in the American obsession with race myself, and I think calling Alicia Keys simply black is just weird. Look at her. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: Hus du gezen in deine leiben, she lighter than me. Woof!
SOMEBODY WATCHED THE GLUTTON BOWL: And it was somebody at The American Prospect? You're kidding me.

TAP also introduces me to theologian Stanley Hauerwas, who is apparently one of the more interesting people going in Christian theology today. His latest book, however, was written before the 9/11 attacks, and the pacificism he espoused may be difficult to reconcile with the actual need to defend one's self sometimes. Or one's nation; the article, by Charles Marsh, says:

It is important, too, to keep in mind that the hero of Hauerwas's book, Karl Barth, was not a pacifist; nor was his best-known student, Dietrich Bonhoeffer--arguably the Protestant church's most powerful witness in the twentieth century. Barth made it clear that if the church is faithful to the primary obligation of calling the nations to repentance, it need not be afraid of how to act in a time of international crisis. For the church that does not give easy sanction to war, that in fact constantly seeks to avoid it and proclaims peace alone as the will of God on earth, will be able in a true emergency to tell the men and women who serve the country in the military that even though they now have to kill they are not murderers, and that they "may and must," as Barth says, "do the will of God in this opus alienum of the state."

The case of Bonhoeffer is even more troubling to Hauerwas's pacifism. As one of the few Christian dissidents in Germany and a member of the resistance, Bonhoeffer abandoned his own pacifism in the face of Hitler. Or more precisely, he continued to believe that Jesus taught nonviolent resistance and that Christians were called to witness to peace, but that his historical situation required sinful action for the sake of a greater good. Aware of the human costs of inaction, Bonhoeffer risked the moral consistency of nonviolence on the wager that there is in the Bible an implicit reservation in favor of those obviously extraordinary moments in history that responsible people understand as exceptional. Responsible Christians must sometimes sin boldly. Bonhoeffer died in a concentration camp in 1945 for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. "The ultimate question for a responsible man to ask," he wrote in prison, "is not how he is to extricate himself heroically from the affair, but how the coming generation is to live."

Bonhoeffer is another guy I keep meaning to read, mostly because my dad tried to get me to read him as a youth and I sort of yeah, whatevered him because he was, you know, my dad. But apparently Bonhoeffer is quite the important figure within 20th century theology. I should point out that Marsh is a theology professor, like Hauerwas, so he probably brings his own biases to the table that an outsider wouldn't pick up on. But that review is an interesting review regardless of my ignorance of the subject.
PAGING MARK BYRON: Letter Never Sent has a post on the problem of Paul to Christianity, and has some quotes supporting the argument that Paul contradicted a lot of Christ's teachings. I know this has probably been done to death within Christian circles, but perhaps Mark can hip us to what the solution to the "Paul problem" is --if there is one.
LET'S GO CRAZY BLOGWAY STYLE: Andrea See answered the Mike Sanders "blogrolling" questions, inspiring me to answer them too. I think "blogrolling" means linking to a blog. Here we go:

1) What is my policy for adding a blogroll? And for removing? I add a blog if it's interesting and good to read and I want to keep track of it. I haven't removed anybody yet, nobody has become noninteresting.
2) Who are the candidates to blogroll? And to definitely not blogroll? I think it's mostly whim on my part. What's the difference between this question and the previous one?
3) What will be the order of the blogrolls? And the implications of change? The order refers to the alphabet that I learned in grade school. Maybe I'll organize them at some point into genres or political outlook or something, I dunno.
4) Have I captured the spirit of blogrolling? The spirit of linking to other logs is just the spirit of the Internet as revealed in a little subsection of the Internet: you bring the good stuff with a link.
5) Can I only blogroll a blogger? Who is a blogger? I can link to anybody but I like to keep the blogs separate. A blogger is anybody who posts to a single page in cyberspace that is continually revised, with old entries hopefully shunted off into some archive section.
6) Will I make friends (or enemies) with my policy? I will SMITE MY FOES with my policy.
7) Should I explicitly state my policy? No. Unless I just did.
8) Is Mike Sanders serious about this? You can find out here.

Sunday, February 24, 2002

SPEAKING OF BEARDED SPOCKS: There was a little bit of infighting in over in the American Samizdat crew lately; Kristen Anderson had the temerity to post a link to an article in support of Bjorn Lomborg. Dr. Menlo --the Lex Luthor of the group-- had to set her straight, complete with the photo of Lomborg after --I'm sorry-- dumbshits hit him in the face with a cream pie. This Lomborg thing is revealing to me the cultish aspects of environmentalism, even as they (the Greens) and Lomborg both claim to have science on their side.

The Daily Dose directs me to this slashdot review of The Skeptical Environmentalist, where it is said:

But by attacking the book and the author so shrilly, the environmental community risks its own hard-won credibility. It acts just as Lomborg accuses it, like lobbyists with an axe to grind, not cold-eyed, empirically-minded scientists. Lomborg's study has its flaws, as does any environmental study. But those flaws should be attacked on their merits alone. At its worst, The Skeptical Environmentalist merely muddies the waters of scientific and public consensus on global human environmental impact. At its best it provides a crucial reality check for those who seek profound social and economic changes in the name of preserving environmental sustainability.

As Orchid says: "I still haven't read this book yet, but anything that gets attacked this shrilly I should at least skim." I haven't read it yet either, but dang I need to --The Economist loved it.
ANTHRAX: The Washington Times has picked up the story now, with new details:

Law enforcement authorities and leading biochemical experts familiar with the FBI's five-month investigation said agents targeted the unidentified scientist after extensive interviews with more than 300 persons associated with the government's anthrax program, although no charges have yet been filed.
The scientist was identified from a pool of about 50 researchers known to have the technical ability to produce the sophisticated weapons-grade anthrax strain found in the letters sent to Florida, New York, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., the sources said.
The FBI has known for more than three months that the person responsible for sending the letters was a U.S. citizen and, according to the sources, probably a former scientist connected to the government's biodefense program.

Gosh. I should point out that when I asked why nobody was blogging this, Justin Raimondo wrote in to say he was. He even names names. So he is on the anthrax beat, but I wrote back to say he couldn't be blogging this, since isn't a blog but more of a online magazine. But he is covering the subject, days before Drudge was.

Ken says that Andrew Dodge says getting Instapunditted is like getting knighted in the blog world, but I think getting e-mail from Justin constitutes a similiar honor. In a bearded Spock kind of way.
GETTING OLD: Inspired by that anarchists video game I went into the Toys R Us and tried playing this warplane flying game for the XBox that was sitting there, and crashed within three seconds. I felt like my parents playing Pac Man and not knowing which blotch on the screen was theirs. You kids stay off my lawn.
I TRAVEL THE BLOGWAYS: Amygdala rocks. And I'm starting to dig the high-concept east coast/west coast blog, in which one guy blogs from New York and the other from San Francisco, even though the whole thing never fits in my window. They have a ton of links too. Ken is right about the blog quality explosion.
KWAN: The Rabbit has the vitriol and the voices from God on the subject that we were all looking for. A sample:

And a great cry of "motherfucker" was heard across the land, and the people did weep, and tear their hair."Motherfucker!" they said once more, and raised their fists to the sky, questioning the Lord, "Why another preteen squealer, Lord? Why?"

Ah, sweet sweet bitterness, eases the pain.
DALLAS MAVERICKS: Beat the Kings with their all new, all different lineup. There's a Sportsfilter thread on that trade, raising the prospect of David Stern having to award Mark Cuban the trophy.

Meanwhile, Ken Layne some good points on the Iverson/Bryant debate. Ken thinks that a poor kid emulating Kobe has a chance at being successful at any various walks of life --due to Kobe's sophistication-- whereas a poor kid emulating Iverson only has a chance at being an NBA basketball player, which is obviously unlikely for most poor kids (or anybody). But I think poor kids are pretty unlikely to emulate Kobe, who has never to my knowledge been a poor kid; he isn't exactly from Philadelphia but from Lower Merion, which is right on the edge of the city and a pretty wealthy area, I think. There's nothing in Kobe for a poor kid to emulate, whereas Iverson is a more familiar figure. Maybe his way of "keeping it real" while being a millionaire is sort of a put on at this point, but AI is only going with what he knows. You can fault him for not moving past that yet, but he's less of a jerk than when he started, he's young yet, and --as Ken points out-- he always plays like he means it. I think he's the more interesting player out of the two of them.

Friday, February 22, 2002

SLOBOGOOGLING: My first try, # 456, nets bupkis. So does my second, # 629. Ditto third for # 907. I'm not very good at this. One more try: well, there's something at # 1147 but I'm not sure any of them are the right ones. I give.
DIGITAL EQUIVALENT OF THE ETERNAL TOILET PAPER DEBATE: You know, whether you let the toilet paper hang forward or let it hang from the back? Has to be links open in same window versus links open in new window. I am congenitally unable to enjoy links opening in new windows. I have no rational defense for this. I also prefer the toilet paper hanging forward, if there's a correlation there.
TANGENTAL: My discovery of Old Man Murray leads me to belatedly discover Erik Walpow's gamer's love of America:

I am a gamer. That means I've become too frail to enact any kind of real justice, and so providing real justice will just have to be delegated to those more suited to it. My talent is sitting alone and amusing myself by pretending to be Sylvester Stallone pretending to be Rambo. And if that hasn't made me actually able to eat things that would make a billy goat puke, it has at least transformed me into the perfect weapon for showering America's enemies with towering acts of simulated revenge. What's the point? I am quite possibly the weakest non-baby male in the country, so if I can find a way to strike back, then so can you.

Using the world league option of NHL 2002, my plan was to beat an Arab-Muslim country so bad that they'd be humiliated forever. In preemptive open defiance of what I was sure would be protests from Muslim groups, I christened my plan Operation Infinite Goals.

The whole thing is pretty funny.
MORE ON CORPORATE COOPTING OF THE COUNTERCULTURE: Dave Tepper directs me to this Salon piece by Wagner James Au on State Of Emergency, a video game where you get to fight the faceless evil Corporation in the guise of a street protestor. Says Erik Wolpaw of Old Man Murray:

"If there's one message you can take away from SoE," says Wolpaw of Old Man Murray, "I think it's that capitalism has finally, irrevocably won. Using advanced technology developed in Japan and financed by a publishing company in the U.S., a group of smart people in Scotland has created what's possibly the most useless consumer product of all time ... Playing State of Emergency is like spiking the ball in the end zone of competing ideologies. Feel the burn, Marxism!"

Au also picks up on the corporate funding of anti-globalization angle. It's funny, back in the day I would've read Salon first thing in the morning but now I read a bunch of blogs --so I need Dave Tepper or somebody to tell me to go read Salon. Perhaps the quality of Salon has fallen off as much as people say it has, but maybe, now that the Internet hype is gone, there's less of an intimidation factor at work here where you don't feel like you need a big flashtacular site or have delusions of dotcom big bucks to get yourself yammering on the Internet and there's an inverse relationship between the dotcom bust and the blog explosion. It might be true for me, anyway.
ANIMATION: Via Little Red Bucket of Hate comes this appreciation of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. The appreciation, by Tim Goodman, errs when it says SpongeBob Squarepants isn't meant for adults --it's meant for anyone with a bizarre sense of humor. Which is probably a lot of people; watch a little SpongeBob, man, you're hooked.
RC3.ORG: Rafe Colburn has a neat idea on how to improve Olympic coverage: don't give one network exclusive rights, but allow the various channels to bid on individual sports. That would be super cool, we could get the complete curling coverage on A&E, all the women's hockey games on Lifetime, etc. Coverage would only improve.
OLYMPICS SCANDAL WATCH: The Russians are only still there because the hockey team has a chance at a medal and a chance to beat we Americans. The Koreans are thinking about suing the short track refs in US court. In a case where I don't think anybody impartial thinks they have a leg to stand on, the Russians are protesting Irina Slutskaya's silver medal. Bullcrap, Sara Hughes had everybody beat last night. And there's a shifty rumor that only Drudge has that the US women's hockey team stomped on the Maple Leaf before the game, which Julie Chu denies. Maybe Hayley Wickenheiser made it up to fire her own team up, which is the theory Chu believes. True or not, it didn't work for the US women. Read the whole Drudge post, these two teams really hate each other.
INSOLVENT REPUBLIC OF JAPAN WATCH: Electrolite brings the goods.
RATINGS RANTINGS: Drudge is reporting that figure skating kicked the crap out of everything else, "MORE THAN 4 X AUDIENCE OF NEAREST COMPETITOR" in Drudgespeak. That means figure skating kicked the crud out of The Glutton Bowl, which is a good thing. Not that competitve eating is bad, but thinking that you're going to draw viewers off the highlight of the Olympics by putting on fat guys stuffing their faces is an idiotic programming decision. "Hey, guys won't watch ladies figures skating, let's bring in the hot dog eating contest." Schmucks.
ANOTHER MONONOKE IN STATURE: The latest Hiyao Miyazaki epic, Spirited Away, has bested his previous one, Princess Mononoke, for box office gold in Japan. Both beat Titanic, I think. I'm so there for this one.
MORE ANTHRAX: Blowback has a link to more on the anthrax attack: inside job theory:

An advocate for the control of biological weapons who has been gathering information about last autumn's anthrax attacks said yesterday the Federal Bureau of Investigation has a strong hunch about who mailed the deadly letters.

But the FBI might be "dragging its feet" in pressing charges because the suspect is a former government scientist familiar with "secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," said Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Chemical and Biological Weapons Program.

Rosenberg goes on:

"We can draw a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the Washington, D.C., area," Rosenberg said. "He had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom. . . . There is also the likelihood the perpetrator made the anthrax himself. He grew it, probably on a solid medium and weaponized it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material.

"We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it's likely that he participated in the past in secret activities that the government would not like to see disclosed," Rosenberg said. "And this raises the question of whether the FBI may be dragging its feet somewhat and may not be so anxious to bring to public light the person who did this.

"I know that there are insiders, working for the government, who know this person and who are worried that it could happen that some kind of quiet deal is made that he just disappears from view," Rosenberg said.

"This, I think, would be a really serious outcome that would send a message to other potential terrorists, that (they) would think they could get away with it.

"So I hope that doesn't happen, and that is my motivation to continue to follow this and to try to encourage press coverage and pressure on the FBI to follow up and publicly prosecute the perpetrator."

Here's the Google file on Rosenberg. Why isn't this story being blogged more?
NORTH KOREA WATCH: Bjorn Staerk is on that beat, providing links to Kim Jong-Il's birthday party and an interview with one of his bodyguards. Kim's, not Bjorn's. Check out the dirt the bodyguard has on the Dear Leader:

Kim's real partying took place at one of his two residences in Pyongyang, where he could drink, act the big shot and get close to pretty girls. The beverage of choice was Paekdu Mountain Bulnoju (or Eternal Youth) a fiery liquor made from rice. Female band members and dancers wore micro-minis and tank tops and the men gave them drinks if they performed well. The women were trained not to drink too much but the men, including Kim, usually ended the evening trashed.

During the working day, the drinking started again, sometimes as early as noon (although Kim didn't get sloshed at the office). Kim became furious if he wasn't the center of attention: he got upset if he saw people shaking hands while he was in the room, scolding them for ignoring him. When Kim was in a good mood, he would shower his guards with gifts: deer and birds he hunted and sometimes pineapples, bananas and mandarin oranges—all rare luxuries.

Dear Leader sounds like a fabulous job, except for the hideous repression of your citizens. What I don't get about the bodyguard is that he's just working a day job in South Korea now. Wouldn't you think Seoul would need him for intelligence on the North or something? Or is North Korea so obviously weird that you don't need intelligence to tell you that? Maybe that's the South's plan, waiting for Pyongyang to topple itself over so there's a minimum of armed conflict. I guess.
THE SPONTANEITY OF CHINESE PRESIDENTS: Funny-cause-it's-true article on Jiang Zemin being totally baffled by having to answer spontaneous questions from foreign reporters. They ask him twice about oppression of Christians within his borders and he just ignores them. "Rather implausibly, he also claimed to have no influence over who is imprisoned in China and why." Smirk. Via Drudge.
ON THE PLUS SIDE: The Insolvent Republic is number 10 for this search.
AND IN THE ROLE OF DAN MARINO THIS EVENING: Once again Michelle Kwan loses to a screeching teenage moron, a girl who's never known disappointment or heartbreak or anything. This sucks.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

ALL YOU ZOMBIES: Here's this New York Times article of a few days back with the great title Hijacking the Brain Circuits With a Nickel Slot Machine. If you've got an addiction, your dopamine system could be out of whack. And it all happens unconsciously --hence the zombies reference.
WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO BE A PROTESTOR TOO?: Andrea See argues that NGOs need a good marketing strategy if they're ever going to be taken seriously. She says:

If the corporates can co-opt the 'hipness' of the activist counterculture, why can't the activists fight fire with fire? There should, no, must, be a plan to work out the brand image of each movement, and a co-operative effort to link their brands under one cohesive 'best interests of the world' global brand (where the individual brands are seen as discrete but equally important extensions). Maybe it's cool to be part of a subculture, where the mainstream just doesn't get it, but if we truly desire change in our space, we need to be more pacifist-guerilla marketing about it.

It's sort of a practical suggestion for the protest kids (as Matt Welch always calls them) that marketing is a potent and possibly non-evil or at least morally neutral way to reach people. I would add to this Matt's suggestion that protest kids start reading The Economist.
IMMIGRATION: There's this TNR piece that isn't making a ton of sense to me. Richard Weissbourd writes:

The longer immigrant children live in this country, the worse, on average, their health, their attitude, and their school performance. What's more, with each subsequent generation, immigrant children do worse and worse. On average, first-generation children function at significantly higher levels than do typical American-born children. But, by the third generation, that advantage is gone. To take just one example, the school performance of first-generation Chinese teenagers--one of the highest performing immigrant groups--markedly exceeds white teens. By the third generation, the difference disappears: English proficiency and school performance are inversely related. In other words, while once upon a time people came to the United States expecting to make better lives for their children, today the sad fact is that the more Americanized immigrant children become, the less successful they are.

Once you get outside the first generation you're talking about actual mom-and-apple-pie Americans --so of course they're not going to have the competitive advantage of their forebears' willingness to take a cruddy job because it was better than what they left behind. It's like what the guy's arguing is that Americanization is an insidious process, which, I mean, fine, he can have that opinion and everything, but he doesn't need to tie it in with immigration.
CURLING A GO GO: It has spread to Philadelphia. I'm envisioning a future where curling ice sheets are as commonplace as bowling alleys or pool halls. The article pegs curling as a definite growth sport and you doubt them but then wonder why was curling all over the tv? So maybe that rundown bowling alley on the outskirts of town is going to have a few ice sheets in the future. It could happen.
DRAT: We lost the curling bronze. Bummer.
WHODA THUNK IT: Adam Vinatieri is the Patriots' franchise player. Yes, he's the kicker. That's so great.
DECLINE AND FALLING OF SCIENCE FICTION: Judith Berman issues a genre call to arms. A sample:

Baby boomers--the cohort for whom Golden Age authors evoke fond recollections of childhood--currently dominate sf production and consumption. This supersized slice of the demographic pie has exerted hegemony over the pace and direction of cultural change for decades, but the Age of the Internet and the New Economy have, it seems to me, begun to dethrone them in favor of the 20- and 30-somethings who are as comfortable in the seething, mutating cultural ferment of the web as fish are in the sea. The Internet is perhaps the best symbol of everything disquieting to boomers (and their elders) about the present, including the generational divide with respect to technology. This divide is the subject of the old joke about the 8-year-old being the one who programs the family VCR. Part of what the joke expresses is the fear that members of the younger generation, at ease with all new technology, are growing up strangers to their parents.

Via actual science fiction writer Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.
WEIRDNESS: I keep seeing this quote in the short track reports:

''It's absurd that the Korean was disqualified,'' said Italy's Fabio Carta, who placed fourth behind China's Li Jiajun and Canada's Mark Gagnon. ''I don't know what happened. We should use a rifle on Ohno.''

What is he saying? Does he want Ohno shot?
UTAH WATCH: Via Fark comes the story that Utah leads the nation in prescription antidepressant drug use. The article indulges in the usual sociocultural explanations:

Few here question the veracity of the study, which was a tabulation of prescription orders, said Dr. Curtis Canning, president of the Utah Psychiatric Assn. But trying to understand the "why" has puzzled many, he said.

"The one true answer is we don't know," said Canning, who has a private practice in Logan. "I have some hunches.

"In Mormondom, there is a social expectation--particularly among the females--to put on a mask, say 'Yes' to everything that comes at her and hide the misery and pain. I call it the 'Mother of Zion' syndrome. You are supposed to be perfect because Mrs. Smith across the street can do it and she has three more kids than you and her hair is always in place. I think the cultural issue is very real. There is the expectation that you should be happy, and if you're not happy, you're failing."

The happy thing is an American ideal, but carried to the nth degree by social pressure. But I'm baffled. Mormons can't have alcoholor caffeine but they can have all the CVS pharmacy drugs they want? There's your explanation right there: no caffeine no beer make Homer pester his family practitioner for the sweet sweet legal drugs. There is probably a legalize pot argument here too but its tangental, as if you could prescribe pot Mormons would be able to smoke it. I mean, is that the difference? You can only take scientifically verifiable and approved by the FDA drugs? Or what? Another tidbit:

Utah also leads the nation in the use of narcotic painkillers such as codeine and morphine-based drugs, the study found, and is ranked seventh in total prescriptions overall. Kentucky ranked first.

Church fathers, let them have coffee. They need it.
AND ANOTHER OLYMPIC POST: We as a nation are really kicking the crap out of those aforementioned economists' predictions. They had us at 21 total this year and we've got 26 and I'm guessing with more short track, hockey and figure skating to come, we've got at least another five medals coming. So why were they wrong this year? Did they fail to anticipate us inventing and rehabbing and getting female versions of sports in place? Sort of a version of that Paul Romer thing about economists failing to appreciate the possibilities of new things being discovered. (Read those articles if you can get past the smirky picture.) Maybe.
OLYMPICS SCANDAL WATCH: The Lithuanian ice dancers had their appeal denied. The South Koreans are up in arms about the Ohno gold, like it'll do any good. If this was wrestling Ohno would make a grandstand challenge to Kim; Kim would come out and either tease another race or get his butt whupped for the majority of the race before pulling off the victory by clearly cheating outside the vision of the referee. Sadly, this is less entertaining than wrestling --though I'm still watching.