Friday, March 22, 2002

LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE OVER: Duke loses. And loses on a Jason Williams clank. I'll have to find a postive reason to watch the tournament now; Kent State becomes my rooting interest, I think. Villanova plays Temple tonight without Lynn Greer in the NIT and I'm going to the Nets game. It is good to be a basketball fan.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

VIVA LA AMERICA: I take the Mexicans-are-taking-over pieces in places like National Review and WorldNetDaily only half-seriously, or less, but this doesn't sound good:

Writing in National Review (October 12, 1998) Jorge Amselle (like Linda Chavez, a pro-immigration Latino Republican) warned that, "The Mexican government through its promotion of bilingual education and of dual nationality and voting is actively subverting the assimilative process of Americanization…."

Amselle was referring to the official Mexican government policy of acercamiento ("getting closer" or "establishing a bond") to "Mexican communities abroad," meaning both Mexican citizens living in the United States and Mexican Americans who are U.S. citizens. This policy was started by the old PRI regime and has been considerably expanded by Fox. The spirit of this policy is exemplified by Juan Hernandez, a Texas-born Mexican-American dual citizen, who is Fox's cabinet minister for Mexicans Abroad.

Hernandez told Nightline that "we are betting" that Mexican-Americans who are American citizens (even after several generations) will "think Mexico First." Hernandez and other Mexican officials continually repeat the refrain that Fox is the leader of 120 million Mexicans, 100 million in Mexico and 20 million in the United States. Since this concept would, by definition, include not only Mexican migrants who sometimes work north of the Rio Grande, but also millions of American citizens of Mexican descent, many of whom were born in the United States — it is clearly in contradiction to traditional American principles of civic assimilation and immigrant loyalty.


That Hernandez guy is a Texan; I thought Texas Mexicans were different from California Mexicans in being better assimilated and not crying out for the Old Country. Am I mistaken? As for this offering dual citizenship deal, I mean, other countries do it --I think my mom is eligible for Irish dual citizenship as the granddaughter of Irish people. But nobody questions Irish Americans doing that, I guess because nobody doubts their loyalty (I doubt their attachment to a country they've mostly never seen, but whatever.) So I don't know if doubting the intentions of Mexican people is a double standard in action or real suspicions of the Mexican government trying to get the feds to pay benefits for their people. That "think Mexico first" thing is not too heartening, but, again, no one gets on Irish or Italian people obsessed with their ethnicity --so I dunno.
SPORTS HATE: Are you following the Hlatky-Cornett NCAA trashtalk fest? You should be, it's a fun one.
RABBIT TRACKING: Read this one. It rules. The women's World Figure Skating championships are on Saturday on ABC, by the way.
TOUCH THERAPY: Forget Lasik, what you really need is a slap upside your head:

A light tap on the side of your head could one day restore your eyesight, believe scientists. The tap would tighten a band of artificial muscle wrapped round your eyeballs, changing their shape and bringing blurry images into focus. While the idea has a high 'yuk' factor, the people behind it are confident it will be a safe and effective way to improve vision.

Of course the headline was misleading --the tap is a button on the side of your head that activates an eyeball-stretching device that a surgeon installed in there. Dang it, I thought it was proof of voodoo medicine, or of the "if it's broke, kick it" school of appliance repair. Ah well.
NBA: Mark Byron is as pleasantly surprised at the Pistons' season as I am at the Nets'. I don't like either of our teams to make it out of the East, though, as long as the Sixers are playing. But I could just be pulling for the Sixers because I think they're the only team that has a chance at whoever the Western champ is going to be. Unless there's a miracle Michael Jordan run, which could happen.
AFL: NFL owners have declined to exercise their option to buy 49% of the Arena league. I hope the AFL's tv deal wasn't based on NFL participation. Via ArenaFan.

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

NEOCON DECEPTICONS: Washington Post story on the secretive William Kristol mafia trying to smuggle neocons onto the White House staff. There's a lot of them:

Shattan, who worked for Kristol when he was Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff, will join Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully and Cheney speechwriter John McConnell, both of whom also worked under Kristol on the Quayle staff. Fellow Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner worked for Kristol when he was chief of staff to then-Education Secretary William Bennett, while National Security Council speechwriter Matthew Rees worked for Kristol at the Standard.

Nor is it just the wordsmiths. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is a Kristol acolyte from the Quayle days, while drug control policy chief John Walters worked under Kristol at the Education Department. Jay Lefkowitz, the new director of Bush's Domestic Policy Council, was Kristol's lawyer. Other Kristol pals include NSC Senior Director Elliott Abrams, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Leon Kass, the head of Bush's bioethics panel. The tentacles reach into the kitchen cabinet, too: Al Hubbard, a close Bush friend, was Kristol's deputy on the Quayle staff.


Via Andy Kashdan.
SHUT UP, KITT, YOU BOTHER ME: Knight Rider might get made into a big-screen movie. Hasselhoff probably won't reprise his role, but maybe they can have the same snarky British accent on KITT.
HATE WATCH: Plato's Cave points out this article about just how much people hate a winner. These researchers "designed a new kind of experiment, played with real cash, in which subjects could anonymously “burn” away other people’s money -- but only at the cost of giving up some of their own." But:

Despite this cost to themselves, and contrary to economists’ usual assumptions, 62% of those tested chose to destroy part of other test subjects’ cash. In the experiment, half of all the laboratory earnings were deliberately destroyed by fellow subjects.

More:

It was made clear to all subjects that burning others would reduce the cash of the person choosing to burn.

The economists expected little burning, and especially that the laboratory subjects would stop destroying other people’s money once the price reached 0.25, but in fact they found that even this high price did little to stop people from annihilating other people’s wealth. Most individuals still chose to hurt others, despite the large cost to their own pocket.

The researchers found that those who gained the most additional money at the betting stage burned poor and rich alike, while disadvantaged laboratory subjects mainly targeted those subjects they saw getting what they perceived as undeserved financial windfalls.

The authors conclude that “our experiment measures the dark side of human nature.”


The author of this post concludes economists are the scientists least likely to understand human nature. They're intelligent as the next Ph.D. but lack the misanthropy to be found in various degrees in the rest of the sciences, thus they go into the science of "rational self-interest." Thanks, guys, for surprising yourselves. And for proving clinically the existence of the hate that knows not reason.
LITERARY RANKINGS REDUX: Thanks to Dane Carlson for the Book magazine "100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900" list. I'm looking and I don't see Superman anywhere on it. The Cat in the friggin' Hat makes it and Clark Kent doesn't? They didn't stiff the genres entirely though as Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter and Tarzan are on there. Glad to see literary types still have no problem stuffing science fiction. Thanks, jerks!
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS PLAYOFF WATCH: The Clips are 35-33 with 14 games remaining, 7 at home, 7 on the road including one at Sacramento and one at Utah. The Jazz are 36-31 with 15 games remaining, 7 at home, 8 on the road, including games in Dallas, Los Angeles (Clippers and Lakers) and Seattle. Getting into the playoffs is very doable for the Clips, I think. And nobody wants to see Utah in the postseason anymore (like in the East nobody wants Miami in the postseason anymore; thank you, Sixers.) Let's go Clip-pers clap clap clapclapclap.

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

NIT: Temple pulled off the win over Louisville in a wacky wacky game where the hockey rink underneath was threatening to rise up and consume the court in its icey maw, Rick Pitino had to get on the house microphone and convince the fans to stop throwing cigarette lighters on the floor, Lynn Greer went out for like the last minute after a slip and Temple was inexplicably awarded the ball after another ice-fuelled slip carried another Temple guy out of bounds. Great game; Temple is so entertaining during the postseason because they get down by a lot and then have to make these miraculous comebacks. Up next is Villanova in a Big Five contest that will surely rock.
DOES MY IRRATIONAL HEART GOOD: Hey all you Ayn Rand skeptics out there, have you visited Questions for Objectivists lately? It's a ton of fun. And Rand jokes are great at parties.
KIDS THESE DAYS: Orchid points out an old Salon interview with the author of The Sex Lives Of Teenagers. Searching for The Sex Lives Of Teenagers on amazon turns up this book as well, and I just want to add that if I was a teenager I would never read the book that had a bunch of grinning teenagers on the cover. But that's an aside. The author, Lynn Ponton, is a psychoanalyst, and you have to take that into account when listening to her, knowing that psychoanalysts love telling stories (like case studies, or huge mythological systems spun off from case studies; Carl, Sigmund, I am looking in your direction) and the points they offer as to saving your psyche are usually perfectly debatable. Not that you should dismiss psychoanalysts out of hand, but you shouldn't think what one of them preaches is going to work for everybody. Obvious, I know, but whatever. Anyway: Ponton makes the equivalent of pro-choice arguments in the abstinence-vs.-condoms debate: kids are going to fool around anyway, so we might as well make sure they know what the hell they're doing. Abstinence programs, she thinks, only cause problems, and have results I'm sure their backers never intended:

SALON: One of the things that I found interesting in the recent study on teenage boys' sexuality is that while 50 percent of boys claim to have received oral sex from a girl, only one-third claim to have performed oral sex on a girl. Has the emphasis on avoiding intercourse put girls at a disadvantage?

PONTON: Absolutely. It has shifted the focus. One of the negatives to abstinence-only education is that within many of those programs, maintaining virginity is the top priority. So it's to girls' advantage to view oral sex, or even anal sex, as not being "sex." Oral sex and anal sex have always been there. I did my first study on oral and anal sex rates among teens in the early '80s. We surveyed kids in San Francisco and found very significant rates, even for anal sex. I was surprised: Twenty percent of girls reported that they were having anal sex. So that's been around for a long, long time. It's nothing new.

I actually think that vaginal or penetrative intercourse [among teens] is probably declining slightly. And that's consistent with the decline in pregnancy rates, and other things would indicate that. But we would hope that [a decline in teen intercourse] would result in girls' having increased self-esteem and feeling better about their sexuality.

What seems to be happening is that girls are still being pressured to serve boys -- and that's what I hear about, you know, that all boys now expect oral sex, that the boys themselves say, "This isn't sex," and that they are intent on getting it. It's put more pressure on girls in this area.


Cripes, where were the failed abstinence programs when I was in high school? My acutely wasted youth feels even more acutely wasted at this moment. Dang. Speaking from a completely selfish point of view, I mean. But what does Ponton expect? Idiot kids not to be idiot kids? I guess she's going for marginal improvement in the lives of teenagers, so at least they don't do something completely catastophic.

The paperback version, by the way, has the grinning teenagers, unlike the hardcover version which seems to offer Grim Reality.
HOLY CRUD: I am the dryer version of the filters lowflyin' lolana uses to see the world. Tremble, ye mortals.
INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM AT ITS FINEST: Two journalists expose a Toronto baglady for a fraud and a cheat. Via Recovering Liberal.
SPINSTERS: Lee Ann explains the origins of the last names of black people, among other things. Check the article she links to for more.

Monday, March 18, 2002

INTERESTING ESSAY: Jennifer Szalai on the existence of evil:

The contemporary, secular left does not see it as an indictment when others accuse it of approaching morality from a relativist perspective. Rather, it believes that it is a considered response to the fury of reactionary impulses, whether these be religious or political in nature. The inclination to suspend judgement, to appreciate complexities, to look for the structures that impel and constrain human activity: these are all admirable traits upon which intellectuals often like to commend themselves. To them, a lack of such attitudes explains many of the world's tragic events. To take a relativist view is to guard against demonising our enemies in a rush of pathos and resentment; it makes us more empathetic, encouraging us to view even the terrorists of 11 September as just another group of human beings.

More:

But suppose, for a moment, we were to come to a point where we amassed all of these "root causes" and then arranged them into a narrative resembling a "logic" behind 11 September; what kind of story would satisfy our craving for "cause and effect"? What kind of structural factors could completely account for the magnitude of the intended carnage? We can try to say that 3,000 office workers were incinerated "because" of American hegemony in the Middle East or Israeli barbarism in Palestine; we can try to say that 800,000 Tutsis were butchered "because" of the legacy of Belgian imperialism; we can try to say that six million Jews were murdered "because" of the Treaty of Versailles, or "because" Hitler was an illegitimate child. All of these factors surely helped to create grievances, and these grievances surely helped to create the events that followed. After a certain point, however, they ceased to contribute anything, as what was to follow exceeded any sense of necessity that characterises the causal relationships we desperately seek.

This dark space - this gap between what would conceivably constitute a necessary response and what could only be considered a horrifying excess - deserves a name.


Via the Yahoo evpsych list.
WELL-WRITTEN LIBERAL WEBLOGS: Nick Denton and the Interesting Monstah (scroll down to 3/13) have their lists up. I am pleased to find the War Liberal, Mac Thomason, on both lists.
WRESTLEMANIA: Was a kind of okay show. The Rock-Hogan match was the highlight of the show, even though Vince decided he needed a crowd-reaction-free Triple H-Jericho match as the main event. Which, I mean, should be the main event as it was for the title and all, so maybe that couldn't be helped. The Rock-Hogan thing was done as sort of changing of the guard thing, with old guy Hogan passing the torch to Rocky. The Toronto crowd was completely in Hogan's corner for most of the match, up until the point where Rocky kicked out of the Hogan legdrop and everybody was astonished. I was thinking, "finally, somebody kicked out of that stupid legdrop." Both guys played to their strengths --getting the crown involved is both of their basic strengths-- and it was a fun match to watch, even for a Hogan hater like myself. Thankfully Steve Austin beat Scott Hall, so we won't be seeing another "NWO gets all the wins" saga like we saw in the good times/infuriating times glory days of WCW. The always great jdw has his thoughts up.
MARCH MADNESS IN THE MCI CENTER: My brother John had tickets for the UConn-NC State and Maryland-Wisconsin doubleheader. We were there as impartial observers, as neither of us had a lot of rooting interest in any of the teams present, though both of us will be World's Biggest Gary Williams Fans if Maryland plays Duke at any point. And John was pulling for UConn at some point, I think mostly to cheese off the Wolfpack fans (there was a lot of them) who haven't been in the tourney for a long time.

We were way in the upper deck so I rented a pair of binoculars to watch for cheap fouls and to ogle the cheerleaders. I think I witnessed an actual Clash Of Cultures in having the Wisconsin and Maryland cheerleaders on the same floor at the same time; the Wisonsin girls were attired like the cheerleaders in Hoosiers, the Maryland ones were attired like the cheerleaders in Showgirls. Wisconsin girls: ribbons in the hair, long sleeves under the cheerleaders outfits, attractive in a wholesome way. Maryland girls: hair all done up, visible makeup, tiny outfits. And the male Maryland cheerleaders barely did anything. I think they were the bouncers.

Biggest Clash of Cultures moment: the Maryland Laker Girls are out there doing a decidedly non-elaborate routine involving holding up Go Terps signs, just being in the we're-foxy-chicks, you-cheer-now mode. The Wisconsin cheerleaders male and female respond by going into an amazingly hilarious synthesis of line dancing and what was thought to be polka by those around me. Swing your partner dosey-do right out there on the hardwood. The Wisconsin Cheerleading Team: Letting it all hang out.

Maryland destroyed Wisconsin, by the way. Wisconsin fans can take solace in the fact that the Wisconsin band destroyed the Maryland band by being much louder, funner, and by playing a five-minute Queen medley that included "Fat Bottom Girls." I was grooving.
VIRGINIA: Yes, you can spend your Sundays listening to NASCAR on the radio in Virginia. How great is that? Shawna Robinson didn't finish this time, which was a shame. I am pulling for Robinson to do well because if she does it will make NASCAR the sport where men can complete on equal terms with women, and I don't know any other sport where that might be possible. Maybe billiards, but I haven't seen enough of those supposedly epic Jeanette Lee-Allison Fisher matchups or seen enough of it general to be able to judge. I have personally been smoked by both male and female pool players, so it seems like a good candidate for a true feminist's dream sport to me.
MID-ATLANTIC BLOGFEST: We started off in Taliano's in Takoma Park, and MapQuest did not fail in getting me there. I was the penultimate person to arrive, but there was still beer and pizza left so I had some. Me and Jim b.s.ed about the CFL and poutine and the relative merits of the current Justice League cartoon versus Batman The Animated Series. I also met Jim's wife Tracey, who is as beautiful and intelligent as Jim is. Wait...

A jazz band started playing in back of us, or in back of me actually, so we decided to go someplace quieter, one of those sit down and chatter coffee houses.

On the way over Dave revealed to me his status as a former gameshow champion. That's so impressive, not just knowing things but being able to recall them under pressure. We also expressed our mutual admiration for the juicy juicy squishy squishy blog.

We hunkered down in the back of the coffee house and I watched the epic Thomas Nephew-Wil Wilkinson debate on drug legalization. Thomas was making points that no good can come from people seceding from society in a drug haze, whereas Wil challenged Thomas to explain what an addiction was and tried to catch the logical inconsistencies in Thomas' arguments. I am unwilling to declare a winner at this point, but it was a good fight.

At some point I was getting coffee with Tony and he asked if I had read his "Who You Callin' Unilateral?" post yet. I had to admit I hadn't; I forget sometimes that Tony and Will Vehrs run a bunch of different blogs, and visiting the Quasipundit blog does not mean I'm reading all of what the Quasipundits are writing. But I have read it now and recommend it; it's all about how the United States isn't quite the lone cowboy its critics believe it is.

Tony also told me about his crazy old boss who forced him to read The Economist every week --the horror!-- and about the specific snobbiness of high-class D.C. bars, where "Who do you work for?" is the first question asked in place of "How ya doing?"

Thomas started a group discussion of "How do you think the war is going?" and I responded with some asinine comment about it being a smashing good war. I am a fool. Jim expounded on his theories of the imperialist wing of the Republican Party that make me all paranoid.

The coffee shop started to close up and we could feel the daggers-from-the-eyes hate from the people who were working there, so we decided to move it to the Tastee Diner. I gave Eve Tushnet a ride over and discovered that D.C., like New York, is a city you can grow up in and never have to learn how to drive a car. She also mentioned her friend's band, The Black Eyes, and I thought they were called The Black Guys. Hilarity ensued. Eve was the lone self-defined conservative there that evening, unless you count me, being a conservative on alternate Sundays and Thursdays.

I got a real tasty bacon cheeseburger; sitting in front of me Corsair The Rational Pirate had coconut custard cream pie, just like what Humphrey Bogart got hit with by Elmer Fudd many years ago. Corsair (Disneyland, by the way, needs a ride called Rational Pirates of the Caribbean, they could engage in swarthy debate with audioanimatronic cretins) made the point that Sunday morning talk shows would be tons improved if they held them in diners. He's right; those cuppa coffee shows are already diner conversations almost.

The conversation meandered into gay rights and what the actual percentage of gay people in the population is and Eve talked about how studies show that homosexuality is one of those rare things that middle class Americans are willing to judge as being immoral even in this day and age. I was kicking myself as I drove to my brother's place for not making the Paglia point that according to her male homesexuality is always threatening whereas female homesexuality is sort of trendy and not a big deal for most people, but maybe you're not supposed to mention Camille Paglia in polite conversation.

The party broke up around one or so and we all went our separate ways, promising to do this again sometime soon. It was a real fine time hanging out with these guys --Matt Welch is right about the simple pleasures of hanging out with smart people. And we had cute waitresses at both Talliano's and the Tastee Diner. An evening completely well spent, and Jim assured me afterwards that it was not too dorky to come all the way to Takoma Park for the blogfest. Cool.
RANDOM THOUGHT: That occurred to me while driving south on 95: a state cop on the road with you is like the pace car in NASCAR, everybody lines up behind and waits for the trooper to drive off and stop somebody. Then voom --back to the racing. There is a certain amount of strategy to driving on the interstate.

Saturday, March 16, 2002

LOUSY NEWS: A Taliban-style militia has emerged in the Kurd-controlled northern area of Iraq, which I think is still patrolled by US and UK planes. They don't sound good:

The group – Ansar al-Islam – emerged just days before the Sept. 11 attacks on the US. It delivered a fatwa, or manifesto, to the citizens in mountain villages against "the blasphemous secularist, political, social, and cultural" society there, according to Kurdish party leaders.

Since, Ansar al-Islam has nearly doubled in size to 700, including Iraqis, Jordanians, Moroccans, Palestinians, and Afghans – a composition similar to the multinational Al Qaeda network. Villagers here claim it has ransacked and razed beauty salons, burned schools for girls, and murdered women in the streets for refusing to wear the burqa. It has seized a Taliban-style enclave of 4,000 civilians and several villages near the Iran border
.

The article has some speculation that Saddam Hussein may be funding these guys, to destabilize his Kurdish opposition. But the more likely inspiration is Al-Qaeda:

"We have captured two of [Ansar's] bases and found the walls covered with poems and graffiti praising bin Laden and the Sept. 11 attacks on the US," says Mustapha Saed Qada, a PUK commander. "In one, there is a picture of the twin towers with a drawing of bin Laden standing on the top holding a Kalashnikov rifle in one hand and a knife in the other." He adds that the group has received $600,000 from the bin Laden network, and a delivery of weapons and Toyota landcruisers.

In an interview with the Kurdish newspaper Hawlati, the group's leader, Mala Kreker, declared bin Laden the "crown on the head of the Islamic nation."


You can tell they're trouble because their first priority is oppressing women. Of course, can a Taliban-style group take over a relatively stable area like Kurdish Iraq? They succeeded in Afghanistan because, I've heard, people were sick of fighting for twenty years straight. Maybe they don't have a chance in a place that already has beauty salons. Or in a place of obvious interest to the United States, of course, though I don't think our government considers anyplace beneath its interest anymore.
DUKE: I don't know how Coach K does it, but he consistently, year after year, finds players who annoy me. I mean, Wojo, Cherokee Parks, Battier with that goofy clapping, friggin' Laettner stepping on somebody --there's always at least one guy like that, that K recruits because they must annoy the opposition as much as they annoy me. This year's suspects: Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer. Thank god there's an NBA for watching basketball games where actual athletic skill takes precedence over lousy little head games. Yeah you heard me.
MID-ATLANTIC BLOGFEST: Still tonight. You know you want to.
NIT: Tark retires. And --unlike John Chaney-- Andy Wojnarowski has no love for Tark:

It was his first trip back to The Strip as Fresno State's coach, and Jerry Tarkanian walked courtside at the Thomas & Mack Center, counting the hours until tipoff. Suddenly, he turned wistful. What there had moved Tark, you wondered. What had triggered the melancholy washing over him?

It had to be the national championship banner, right? Perhaps Larry Johnson's retired No. 2 jersey? Maybe Tark heard the distant sounds of one of those brilliant victories: The band blasting the shark song, a sellout crowd serenading him with the chants of "Re-bels, Re-bels."

As it turned out, that would be asking too much of the man. Far too much.

Back in the winter of the 1995-96 season, Tarkanian lifted the shade into his soul. He pointed to a luxury box, a suite school officials apparently gave him as part of his package and which he sub-leased.

"They gave us a box for $20,000 a year, and we used to lease it out to the rodeo," he told me. "And we'd make something like $24,000 -- or $26,000? -- on the rodeo people."

"Yeah," Tarkanian sighed, "this place is really special."


That first link there suggests that Tark's presence in Fresno is responsible for getting a new arena there, even though they never really won anything under his tenure. I guess that counts for "putting Fresno State on the map."

NIT Watch: Villanova and Temple: still alive. Princeton lost by a point. I usually pull for Princeton post-season, the basketball team anyway --the lacrosse team wins far too much.
IDENTIFY THE SPEAKER: Of this quote:

He said I was bowing him, or whatever, but he does the same thing to everybody, he does the same thing to me. He hits me in the back all the time and I don't complain. I don't say anything. Then he gets hit, he wants to cry and he wants to whine. He needs to grow up.

That's right, it's Michael Olowokandi on Shaquille O'Neal. Utah needs to bow out gracefully so we can get the opening round Clippers-Lakers hatefest.

Friday, March 15, 2002

TEST DONE: I got into that studying zone where everything makes sense and you're not just glancing over your materials anymore --you're there, man, in every little electron transfer. I studied the way all true men do: by listening to B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland live in concert on my headphones repeatedly. That'll put you in the zone, open up the synapses or what have you.
BERKELEY BLOGFEST: It sounded like a ton of fun. Looked that way too. And the basketball gods added insult to injury by having Cal beat Penn. Dang.

At least it was warm in Jersey today.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

SO GREAT: Slate publicly annihilates the guy who duped them last week with the bogus diary entries last week. Via Ben Domenech.
PEIRCE QUOTE OF THE DAY: Or why I love 19th-century genius/hermit Peirce:

It is terrible to see how a single unclear idea, a single formula without meaning, lurking in a young man's head, will sometimes act like an obstruction of inert matter in an artery, hindering the nutrition of the brain, and condemning its victim to pine away in the fullness of his intellectual vigor and in the midst of intellectual plenty. Many a man has cherished for years as his hobby some vague shadow of an idea, too meaningless to be positively false; he has, nevertheless, passionately loved it, has made it his companion by day and by night, and has given to it his strength and his life, leaving all other occupations for its sake, and in short has lived with it and for it, until it has become, as it were, flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone; and then he has waked up some bright morning to find it gone, clean vanished away like the beautiful Melusina of the fable, and the essence of his life gone with it. I have myself known such a man; and who can tell how many histories of circle-squarers, metaphysicians, astrologers, and what not, may not be told in the old German story?

Found here.
DREAD PRIEST OF THE HARD LEFT: Here's Charlie Murtaugh on the latent religiosity of Noam Chomsky. In the absence of any overt religious beliefs, Charlie thinks the Noamster has created private and unstated religious beliefs for himself that in essence justify terrorist attacks as punishment for sin:

Why not commit evil acts, when it's so obvious that so much evil goes unpunished? If we accept the existence of God, and of an afterlife, we can at least fall back on the threat of Hell, but if like much of the Left we take for granted that God is dead, we are faced with limited options: we can revel in absolute amoralism, a stance too rigorous for most human beings; or we can look for a morality that arises as an "emergent property" of society itself, in which impersonal forces take the part of God in punishing evildoers. What else but religious fervor can explain the dream of a self-organized proletarian revolution, slowly building force to sweep away the wickedness of capitalism?

Charlie goes on to speculate that Chomsky in an unconscious way sees the 9/11 terrorists as the Furies of Greek myth. Not that there's anything wrong with Chomsky having a bit of a vision of the cosmos for himself, but if you broke bread with him and told him you were interested in joining his church and asked if he had any pamphlets or anything --and you put it to him in those terms-- he'd probably look at you like you were crazy, unless he's got a sense of humor about it. Which I haven't really detected from the minimal writings of his I've read. I must admit I find the unstated religiousity of political or scientific movements (as in the Darwin Wars) pretty fascinating, since atheism seems to be the most logical choice as far as religion goes for modern intellectual people but most people don't pull a Dawkins and out-and-out say "I am an atheist" and brag about their atheism. So in Chomsky's case we can probably speculate that he as a scientist is trying to rationalize his unmentionable and embarassing religious beliefs that evil is always punished by always finding just one more "fact" to prove his case. Whereas if he just started calling himself Highfather Noam of the Neo Manicheans or something we'd all be better off.

Not that you have to start your own church to have religious beliefs. But I think Charlie's point means that there still isn't a lot of room for religious impulses in science today, which is a pity considering how hardwired for religion we are. Science still has to come to terms with religion, even though religion hasn't done so hot a job coming to terms with science either. But that doesn't mean science can wish religion away.

Hey, in Peircian terms the neurobiology of religion proves the existence of God. If I remember his speculations on why people discover the right answers to questions more often than they should if they were just randomly guessing at things. Don't ask me to explain any more than that.
DUKE'S ON THE COVER OF SI THIS WEEK: Jinx don't fail me now. The Jinx would've worked on Ohno if it wasn't for infamous official's decisions, so I think the Jinx hasn't lost all of its power yet.

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

GARY FARBER IS MY AROUSAL CENTER: Gary finally responds to the ranks of the ignorant who have no idea what an amygdala is. He's far too modest to go into detail about such a sensitive portion of his anatomy, but I have no such qualms:

1. An almond-shaped neuro structure involved in producing and responding to nonverbal signs of anger, avoidance, defensiveness, and fear. 2. A small mass of gray matter that inspires aversive cues, such as the freeze reaction, sweaty palms, and the tense-mouth display. 3. A primeval arousal center, originating in early fishes, which is central to the expression of negative emotions in man.

Usage: Many gestures reflect the amygdala's turmoil. In an anxious meeting, e.g., we may unconsciously flex our arms, lean away, or angle away from colleagues who upset us. Lip, neck, and shoulder muscles may tense as the amygdala activates brain-stem circuits designed to produce protective facial expressions (see, e.g., TENSE-MOUTH) and protective postures (see, e.g., BOW and CROUCH). The amygdala also prompts releases of adrenaline and other hormones into the blood stream, thus stepping-up an avoider's response and disrupting the control of rational thought.


There ya go.
HOLY SMOKES: Stephen Jay Gould is coming out with a 1400-page book. He must be trying to smite his enemies with sheer tonnage. Me want read now.
RELAPSED CATHOLIC: Gives us the popup-laden hosted-on-Angelfire Christians Evangelizing Catholics page, confirming your worst fears about Born Again Christian types. Remeber that Peter Bagge Reason cartoon? Remember that panel with Bagge talking to an otherwise sensible evangelista who says "I was a Catholic before I found Jesus." "?!? But, aren't Catholics--" "What, Christians? Of course not." It's like that. Read here why the Church is, in fact, an anti-Christian cult.
AMY WELBORN: "Bizarre Times. Pretty Stupid People." On people leaving tributes to the 9/11 dead at the New York, New York complex in Vegas.

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

GONE FISHING: Or studying benzene rings. Be back in a few days unless I start slacking. In the meantime here's Project Gutenberg, there's probably something worth reading in there.

Monday, March 11, 2002

PUBLIC REMEMBERING: The LA Times runs this story on the Towers Of Light/Tribute Of Light memorial. Excerpt:

"Tribute of Light" is that rare public art project that, when announced, immediately captured the popular imagination. It just seemed—right. Its cause was taken up at once, in press accounts and magazine stories. Dozens, even scores of other proposals for memorial projects have been floated in the aftermath of the towers' collapse. "Tribute of Light" is the one that always seemed inevitable.

The article, written by Christopher Knight, makes the point that the Light project is sort of a first draft as far as a permanent 9/11 memorial goes. He goes into the potential dangers any lasting tribute will face:

As a reporter for the Wall Street Journal wrote not long ago, years from now, when a memorial to the tragedy of Sept. 11 does rise from the rubble, one thing is almost certain: Someone will be unhappy. Memorials, because they touch deeply personal emotional chords, are extraordinarily difficult to design.
The worst-case scenario is a fiasco like the design for the World War II Memorial on the National Mall. Although that world-changing event ended a half-century ago, and a certain degree of unanimity might be said to prevail over its outcome, the memorial currently being built in Washington has proved to be sharply divisive. On one side stand those who applaud its vocabulary of triumphal forms, as well as its insertion between powerful memorials to presidents Lincoln and Washington. Lined up on the other side are those who believe the turgid bombast of the design is ill-suited to the ordinary citizen-soldiers and civilians at home who secured the victory, and they lament an imperial monument arising on ground where generations of disenfranchised Americans petitioned their government in the cause of civil rights.


Knight goes into successful memorials, like the Lincoln or Vietnam ones, and who will decide the final shape of a WTC memorial. Interesting read.
REMEMBERING: Sean McCray has some links to various bloggers' reactions on 9/11. And Ken has his up. My local paper, the Inquirer, which has a terrible website, has a story on a survivor who was on the 78th floor of the South Tower when the plane hit. My own memories are of my co-worker telling me the UPenn station reported a plane crashing into the World Trade Center and her saying "it must be serious, this station never puts any news on." I took out the black and white tv from under my desk that I keep there to listen to March Madness coverage once a year and put it in the office and watched. It was the only tv in my office so people were filtering in all day to catch up. And then I went to class that afternoon and had Howard Stern on the radio since he was right there, and I remember noticing for probably the first time the huge American flag flying over the Flower World in Pennsauken. Driving to class I pictured the other people on the road with me, no doubt fixed on the radio coverage like me, but still driving to class or to lunch or whatever. It felt weird, because it was weird --everything had been disrupted.

So I made it to class but don't remember what we did, I just remember wanting to get the lab over as soon as possible. Like a lot of us that day I had a real thirst for information, which is my explanation for the warblog explosion, a lot of people just trying to get as much information as possible and sort of cope. The central horror for me of that day remains people who were getting coffee one minute and the next having to decide between death by fire and death by jumping. That's what sticks with me, for whatever reason.

UPDATE: Fred Pruitt has his rememberings up too.
THE FROMEGA CODE: Neat little NYT piece by Sherry Turkle (who wrote this) about the relationship between Lord Of The Rings and computer progamming and progammers. Sample:

In many ways, Middle Earth, the universe of "The Lord of the Rings," is like a computer program, rule-driven and bounded. In the early 1970's, the computer scientists at Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory were so enamored of the books (they were first published in the 1950's, but did not gain popularity in America until a decade later) that they designed three elfin fonts for their printers. Two of the researchers wrote a Tolkienesque, single-player quest game that became known as "Adventure"; it spread worldwide via the nascent Internet.

The personal computer movement of the 1970's and early 1980's was deeply immersed in Middle Earth and translated it into hugely popular (and enduring) role-playing games like "Dungeons and Dragons." When the pioneers of personal computing organized their conferences, they used the metaphor of medieval "faires." In 1993, a computer science student who now works for Microsoft put up the first Web site about Tolkien. Today there are about 856,000 sites devoted to the author and his work.


Via the null device.
AND: The Rallying Point has the complete lyrics for the Uncle Fukka song from the South Park movie up. That song must've set a record for sheer amount of profanity per second.
MARCH MADNESS: Gonzaga got shafted. Penn got a pretty good draw, playing in Pittsburgh and all. And thank you, Pundit21, for bringing the opening salvo of Duke hate.

Sunday, March 10, 2002

LOVE STORY: How can you not want to read a book called A General Theory Of Love? Lynn O'Connor at the Human Nature Daily Review gives it a good review; it sounds intriguing for those of us intrigued by psychobabble:

Therapists from contemporary, “relational” persuasions concern themselves with the patient’s unconscious interacting with the therapist’s unconscious. In A General Theory of Love, Lewis et al. demystify this phenomenon; they describe the patient's limbic system connecting to the therapist’s limbic system, its that part of the unconscious mind interacting. The authors, in their discussion of the limbic system, the center of the emotions, and the unconscious mind make clear that they are not referring to the Freudian unconscious, that maladaptive “cauldron” of aggressive and sexual impulses. Nor do they give credence to the Freudian theory of personality development, psychopathology or psychotherapy. Instead they are speaking of the highly adaptive and prosocial cognitive unconscious, including both the cortex and limbic system, both of which are interacting in therapy and all other intense human relationships, and most centrally in mothers and children.

It sounds like some kind of retro-Freudianism in blaming your childhood for your problems, but they locate the source differently, in the limbic system. More:

Second only to the mother and child connection, they focus on the adult marital or partner bond. It may be that we have far more limbic connections going all the time than is suggested. In recent research on women's use of one another to reduce stress and in reaction to external difficulties, it is demonstrated that this leads to less stress hormones than are found in men in reaction to for example, job stressors. While men tend to withdraw, isolate and suffer from a surge of stress hormones, women congregate and bond. It is suggested that this may lead to longer lives, as well as to more immediate comfort to say nothing of less stress related neurochemistry. I would imagine that in some cultures in which romantic love is not what brings people together in the marriage union, and where strong attachments are to more than a marriage partner, the need for limbic attachment is still being tended to. I'm suggesting that love exists in a myriad of human relationships. While our culture may be sick in its denigration of limbic attachment between for example, female platonic friends, or men who like to talk about feelings with their buddies, nevertheless many women and men find ways to get around this, or simply ignore it.

One more book for the "read this" list. One of the Amazon reviewers sums it up thusly: "An attempt to bring neuroscience to bear on love. Not particularly rigorous, but charming in its efforts. One of its main points- that love is very much a physical (body to body) phenomenon, is not very original but well told. And I find the phrase 'limbic brain resonance' strangely poetic."
COPENHAGEN FOLLOWUP: Jeremy Olson of We Are Full Of Shit. points out this Slate article by Jim Holt on what people get wrong about Heisenberg and his famous uncertainty principle. And some other things about him:

Heisenberg, one of the inventors of quantum mechanics, was the leader of Hitler's atomic bomb project during World War II. After the war, he claimed that he had deliberately sabotaged the Nazi bomb effort. Many believed him. But last month, his protestations of innocence (indeed, valor) were revealed to have been almost certainly a lie. Letters written by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, released to the public for the first time, make it pretty clear that Heisenberg was doing everything he could to produce a nuclear weapon for the Third Reich. His failure was due not to covert heroism but to incompetence.

Apparently Heisenberg was one of these genius-klutzes who knew what he knew but probably couldn't open a bottle of wine without hurting somebody. (I exaggerate.) Holt has a larger ax to grind though:

Those who, prior to last month's revelation about Heisenberg, wished to stress the supposed murkiness of his wartime motives often reached for a metaphor from his physics: the uncertainty principle. Michael Frayn did it in Copenhagen, his play about a mysterious 1941 encounter between Heisenberg and Bohr. Thomas Powers did it in Heisenberg's War, the 1993 book that defended Heisenberg's claim to have destroyed the Nazi bomb project from within. David C. Cassidy did it in the very title of his 1991 biography of Heisenberg, Uncertainty. They should all have known better.

And they're hardly alone. No scientific idea from the last century is more fetishized, abused, and misunderstood—by the vulgar and the learned alike—than Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The principle doesn't say anything about how precisely any particular thing can be known. It does say that some pairs of properties are linked in such a way that they cannot both be measured precisely at the same time. In physics, these pairs are called "canonically conjugate variables." One such pair is position and momentum: The more precisely you locate the position of a particle, the less you know about its momentum (and vice versa). Another is time and energy: The more precisely you know the time span in which something occurred, the less you know about the energy involved (and vice versa).

How could this principle of physics be applied to Heisenberg the man? In the postscript to Copenhagen, Frayn writes, "There is not one single thought or intention of any sort that can ever be precisely established." Well, maybe; but the uncertainty principle applies to pairs of properties. In Heisenberg's case, the relevant pair is motivation and competence. How willing was he to help Hitler? How competent was he to produce an atomic bomb? But notice that there is a positive relationship between our knowledge of one and of the other: The more certain we become that Heisenberg was willing to serve the Third Reich, the more certain we become that he was incompetent to produce a bomb. This is not the uncertainty principle, but its exact opposite. Evidently, knavishness and incompetence are not canonically conjugate variables.


Neat little read. I still want to see Copenhagen, tho'.
AND NOW THE WRAPUP FROM THE ECONOMICS-SPORTS NEXUS: Lessee here, the final medal count for the US of A was 34. They predicted us getting somewhere around twenty. So here's the box score: America 1, Harvard Economists O. U-S-A! U-S-A!

Insult to injury: Penn won the Ivy. They're the only Big Five team in the tourney this year.

UPDATE: Matt Welch has more Harvard hate on a completely unrelated subject.
DISORDER INSIDE AND OUT: The New Scientist has the story that some people can somehow read the structure of chaotic systems, and explains, if you were ever wondering, the difference between random action and chaotic action:

Richard Heath, who has now moved to the UK's University of Sunderland tried to identify people who can do this by showing volunteers a list of eight numbers and asking them to predict the next four. The volunteers were told that the numbers were maximum temperatures for the previous eight days. In fact the numbers were computer-generated: some sets were part of a chaotic series while the rest were random.

Random sequences are by their nature unpredictable, whereas chaotic sequences follow specific rules. Despite this, chaotic sequences are very hard to predict in practice because of the "butterfly effect" - even an unmeasurably small change in initial conditions can have a dramatic impact on their future state.

Nonetheless, Heath found that a quarter of the people he tested could predict the temperature for at least the next two days if the sequence was chaotic, rather than random, even though there is no obvious pattern to the figures.

"The $64,000 question is what is going on in their heads," says Heath. He is now planning studies to find out whether the skill is related to specific personality types, or to aspects of intelligence such as mathematical ability.


He thinks this is why some people are so good at playing the market --they have chaos decryptors as part of the architecture of their minds. Cool. I love these reports from the economics-physical sciences nexus.
GET YOUR GIANT ROBO ON: Mark Bowden in today's Inquirer is on the flying-under-the-radar cold fusion in a bottle of acetone story. Says he:

We can no more easily imagine a world of limitless low-cost energy today than a 19th-century person could imagine the Concorde. But cheap fusion would have a much more fundamental and far-reaching effect on civilization than the invention of the airplane and jet engine. It would shatter one basic, seemingly immutable law of economics - that energy is rare and, hence, valuable. Energy could become more plentiful than rain. Think of all the worldwide disaster scenarios that would ruin!

Right now, oil helps define the world's politics and economy. One deep cause of our current troubles in the Middle East is our need for an uninterrupted, low-cost supply of it. It's a finite source, so someday it is going to run out. As it dwindles, we can expect the price of oil to go up and up (both in monetary and political terms). Among other things, this would be likely to aggravate the existing, alarming, and growing gap between "have" and "have-not" nations. One might foresee more dark days ahead.


I will leave the question of what free limitless energy would mean to those better versed in economics, but Bowden does make a Romeresque point:

Just a hundred years ago, the primary means of transportation worldwide was the horse. An ambitious pessimist, charting the steady increase in horse ownership, might have projected a future horse overpopulation crisis and foreseen problems, say, in breeding that many healthy animals, or disposing of that much horse manure.

That is a silly example, but my point is that a vision of the future based on existing trends is almost always wrong. There are things we cannot foresee, both bad and good. And throughout human history one of the most consistent positive variables has been technology.


Science fiction has come up with the free limitless energy thing before; the two I'm most familiar with are the anime series Giant Robo and the Nancy Kress Beggars novels. In Giant Robo --well, it was more of a stylistic throwback to old Japanese adventure cartoons that happened to use limitless free energy as a plot mover. The Beggars novels depicted a world where, yes, everybody lived without want but there were class divisions between the vast unwashed masses and those who maintained the free energy. Both are worth your time and effort to seek out.

And speaking of the predictive value of science fiction, Blogatelle reports that puzzling X-rays are coming from Jupiter every 45 minutes and not from where X-ray pulses should be coming from. Get Your Space Odyssey On indeed.
DRUNKEN BASTARD AT ONE IN THE MORNING POST: I love you all, my fellow bloggers. TTHPT --as Bill The Cat used to say.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

TARIFFS: Thomas Nephew has the posting equivalent of a monster dunk over a seven-foot-two center on the whole Nick Denton-inspired tariff non-issue issue.
GIANT ROBOT TEST RESULTS: I am completely jealous of Monkey's results. And Damian Penny has his up. This is my favorite test yet, every result appeals to my dorkish fannishness and my childhood identification with giant robots, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was true of a lot of us out here in warblogspace, thus the robot test (like the gun test) is something we all can enjoy without shame --unlike say the Muppet test. Though Emily Jones has no problem publishing her results for both. Giant Robot, by the way, is a fine fine magazine that's not about giant robots.
ROY: Peter Briffa has more. And he makes the counter-intuitive argument for Russ Meyer, Conservative Filmmaker.
BARKLEY: Oliver on Sportsfilter started a thread on that Sir Charles interview. I think the weirder thing about that story is that Jack McCallum (who wrote it) claims that the Ernie-Kenny-Charles TNT show is the best studio-produced sports show ever and I find it hard to disagree with him. He compares it favorably to the Fox NFL show, saying it comes off as forced sometimes and I completely agree; those guys are forcing themselves into laughing at their own jokes and being all buddy-buddy all the time. No four grown men can possibly enjoy each other the way those guys do, but I guess Fox puts some kind of premium on attitude. Whereas the TNT show you get what you get and It Is Good.

Jack McCallum needs a blog.
I KEEP FORGETTING TO MENTION THIS: But the DVDVR Playaz have the road report up of last Saturday's ECWA Super 8 up. The Super 8 is an annual tournament held in a church meeting hall in Newport, Delaware that showcases some of the best talent on the indy wrestling scene; it was as great this year as ever. Even the battle royal was good --won by Prince Nana, who has a pompous African prince gimmick and was totally funny throughout in the cowardly heel role, he spent most of the match avoiding the other competitors and won by having his manager distract the last guy in the ring, last year's Super 8 champ Low-Ki, while Nana came around and dumped him out of the ring-- though the Scoot Andrews-Billy Fives ladder match for the title was laughable. Low-Ki sure beat the crap out of idiot-gimmick king Japanese Pool Boy though. The Xavier-A.J. Styles match was top of the line. People say jazz is the only native American artform but professional wrestling is surely another one.
MOVIES: What if you made a movie and nobody came? Would said movie still be said to exist? Gawd this looks stinky:

Running late to meet his wife and young son at a downtown high-rise, he witnesses a catastrophic bomb blast kill his family before his eyes. The explosion is credited to "The Wolf," an infamous rebel leader in Colombia's decades-long civil war. The intended targets were members of the Colombian consulate and American intelligence agents. Gordy's wife and child are considered "collateral damage," innocent people who lost their lives for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gordy's only consolation is the hope that justice will prevail for the loss of his family.

Of course justice isn't happening and Arnold has to track down The Wolf, who I doubt will replace the Harvey Keitel version from Pulp Fiction in the public consciousness. Give it up Arnold clap clap clapclapclap. If this movie was popular we'd see endless criticisms as it probably plays fast and loose with the facts in Columbia and our presence there and the War on Drugs and all, but it isn't so we have nothing of that nature to read. This probably qualifies as a conservative movie too, just not any you'd want to watch on purpose. But I proably shouldn't pan it just because Eraser was terrible so no more.

Friday, March 08, 2002

OBLIGATORY SIMPSONS POST OF THE DAY: Greatest emoticon ever right here.
MARK CUBAN WATCH: Little post from Alice this time linking to an actual free Wall Street Journal article about how Mark made his fortune and how he's keeping the fortune afloat now. Pro lacrosse on high definition TV? Sign me up.
IN A PARALLEL BLOGGERVERSE: Two science fiction writers who happen to be bloggers debate "The Death Of Scarcity" at a tech festival. In our bloggerverse Glenn Reynolds and Mickey Kaus talk about "My Life As A Blog" at a public university. This isn't a parallel universe in a Crime Syndicate kind of way, it's more of a Justice League versus The Avengers kind of thing where fans of both can endlessly debate their respective merits. This is a good thing --it's good to have more than one frame of reference. And apparently I can only argue metaphorically and never with an airtight logical argument. So be it, Jedi.
RUN RUN AWAY: Jubal Harshaw, Robert Heinlein's alter ego, refers me to this Chicago Tribune story about William Heirens, who may or may not be a serial killer. Harshaw says:

William Heirens, then a bright high school student, and since the first prisoner in Illinois to get a college degree behind bars, was charged with triple murder in 1946. He was injected with sodium pentothal, and, WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE PENTOTHAL made a “confession” that eventually led to his conviction. There were “inconsistencies” in the physical evidence presented, and prosecutors admitted that they would have had a hard time convicting him without the “confessions.” Though another man had already confessed to the murders, Heirens is still in prison, now 78 years old.

For those of you who haven’t seen someone injected with sodium pentothal, let me try to explain the problem here. Sodium pentothal, aka “truth serum” makes people tell the truth only in the comic book world. Here in the real world, it does NOT make people tell the truth. In low doses, sodium pentothal can make people babble incoherently, and frequently repeat whatever they are told (an event called "echolalia"). Imagine being bone-tired, drunk, and stoned, all at once. What someone says under the influence of sodium pentothal has as much relation to the truth as what you would expect to come out of the mouth of someone who’s been awake for 48 hours, just finished with a fifth of scotch, and on his tenth doobie.


There does seem to be a real divergence of opinion regarding this guy though, about whether he did it or not. But Harshaw's point about a sodium pentathol confession being evidence is obviously right. There's a point here about the limits of science, and about a bygone era where people could believe there was a clear test, like an injection or the polygraph, that would prove if people meant what they were saying beyond a shadow of a doubt. But that never happened and we still have to make up our own minds about what people are really thinking based on their words and actions until we all evolve giant brains and vestigial legs and have super-monkeys build us wheelchairs. So it goes.
WAR STORY: That Don't Be A Shamed fella provides the link to this story about a soldier (from New Jersey) who risked life and limb to get the right position on a bunch of Al Qaeda types who kept jumping out of their cave and taunting him and his troops. It's a neat little story, reminding me of the kind of thing I might have read in G.I. Combat when DC was still publishing an honet-to-god war comic. Or some of those EC Frontline Combat reprints, or the Wayne Vansant stuff I read during the eighties black and white comics craze. Something where it took actual wit and ingenuity to solve a problem, like Batman in his Sherlock Holmes mode but at war. Those G.I. Combats were great because they were cheap, they were 80 pages, and they involved a tank in World War II that was haunted by the ghost of Jeb Stuart. Very great, if I remember it all right.
TINY NUKE IN NYC FOLLOWUP: CNN says the guy who was talking about a missing Russian nuke is "a fabricator" and a charlatan too, no doubt. Via Dave Tepper.
BLOGIC OF THE SPHERES: Or Music Of The Blogs, whichever bad joke you prefer. Stacy suggested I get the Rate Your Music comment service and so I have. And so now you can rate my music, since music is an artform and Steve den Beste in his manifesto says his blog is a work of art so maybe mine is too or at least it's blurring the line between art and criticism. Or whatever; it's called Rate Your Music and it makes comments for my posts. Fin.
TESTING TESTING: Here's Jacob Sullum on those dern tariffs.
TESTING AGAIN: Linking to the latest Jim Treacher.
TESTING: My new comments dealie by linking to this fine Kolkata Libertarian post about giant death robots. I'd love to have the one that looks like the head on the Pringles can from the Giant Robo opening. Or Omega Supreme, I'd have my own fortress. Enough.

UPDATE: My test results are back and I'm proud of them.


Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?
SILLINESS: Blogatelle sends the news that the correct color of the universe is more of a beige that a turquoise, now that they look at it. I never understood the point of this study to begin with --I mean, it's the average color of the universe, not what the actual color of the universe. I mean, what would the point be of getting the average color of the Mona Lisa or any other painting you care to mention? Well, if you were an art scholar you could take the average color of the various paintings of various eras and see how that has changed over time if it has and then make grand pronouncements based on that data. Which you can't do with the average color of the universe as we only got one of those that we can really examine. This is, like, cute science. Right?
HOLY CROW: The Editor sends word that the Midwest Conservative Journal is ad-free. You may now click fearlessly.
FUNNY: That pugnacious Pundit 21 has the Frank & Ernest strip that incensed the Libertarian Party enough to comment on it. They sound like NOW or somebody in their fearless humorlessness:


But the problem is that the comic distorts what Libertarians believe, said Winter.

"Libertarianism is a philosophy that defines the proper relationship between individuals and government," he said. "According to the Bible, the Ten Commandments are instructions from God. It's not our job as Libertarians to tell people what is or isn't a proper religious belief. That's why a Libertarian wouldn't 'go bananas' about the Ten Commandments.

"A Libertarian may or may not agree with your particular religious beliefs. But a Libertarian would respect them, and allow you to practice them in peace. That may not be as funny as a Frank and Ernest comic strip -- but it's the truth."

So, are Libertarians going to "go bananas" on artist Bob Thaves?

"Of course not," said Winter. "If I ever met him, I might have a frank and earnest conversation about what Libertarians really believe. Then I would congratulate him for creating such a consistently funny and clever comic strip."


"Frank and earnest conversation." He must be the last person in America reading Frank & Ernest, by the way. Bill Winter must've missed the Family Circus where Dolly told Bil Keane, "You can't make me clean my room, I'ma libertarian." I swear that's funny, Family Circus jokes are comedy gold; whenever Bill Griffith wants me to laugh at a Zippy, he'll throw in a Family Circus reference. Or he would if my local paper still carried him. Maybe I can get some back issues from Fantagraphics...
STEEL TARIFFS: Nick Denton has the links and links and the tempered outrage we were all looking for.
KRISPY KREME: Net income doubles. Within the past year we've just been getting them in the stores here in South Jersey, but there's still no actual Krispy Kreme stores like I've seen in my trips to Richmond. All we got is Dunkin Donuts around here, which is fine with me, their coffee rules and who doesn't like a nice Boston creme? Entemann's also makes a fine fine variety pack --cinnamon, coffee crumb, chocolate-covered. Out-standing.
HEFNER WATCH: Hef made this chick a Playmate?
PSEUDONYMOUS BLOGGER WATCH: Jubal Harshaw posts. That's so great. Via Fevered Rants. But why are there so many Heinlein dorks in blogspace and hardly any Dick dorks? If I'd known there was going to be such a dearth, I'da billed myself as Mr. Tagomi or Horselover Fat or Leo Bulero or somebody. Or "The Three Blogmata Of Palmer Eldritch."

Thursday, March 07, 2002

HANDEDNESS: Photodude links to the news that left-handers have different brains. I will withdraw, like he did, the meat of the article:

People who grow up left-handed have a different, more flexible brain structure than those born to take life by the right hand, say researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, who used twins to study heredity.

The reason is that right-handers have genes that force their brains into a slightly more one- sided structure, according to research published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Left-handers appear to be missing those genes.

"There really is a difference in brains that results in a more symmetric brain in left-handers, where the two sides are more equal," said UCLA neurogeneticist Daniel Geschwind, who led the research team. "There is more flexibility, and that is under genetic control."


In Toynebeean terms lefties are the creative minority driving civilization. I'm sure this is the consensus opinion of modern history and biology.
OBLIGATORY SIMPSONS REFERENCE POST OF THE DAY: Ooh! I have been zinged and I love it!
DILFER: Excess Bloggage has news and an appreciation.
IDIOCY WATCH "WHERE ARE THEY NOW?" REPORT: Arundhati Roy is spending a night in jail for saying bad things about the Indian Supreme Court. The AP piece adds:

A two-judge panel said she was guilty of "scandalizing it and lowering its dignity through her statements." It said freedom of speech does not grant anyone license to do that.

Roy faced up to six months in prison for contempt. The court said that in sentencing her to one day, it was "showing magnanimity of law by keeping in mind that the respondent is a woman."


You might remember Roy from her appearance in the TNR Idiocy Watch with these comments:

But who is Osama bin Laden really? Let me rephrase that. What is Osama bin Laden? He's America's family secret. He is the American president's dark doppelgänger. The savage twin of all that purports to be beautiful and civilised. He has been sculpted from the spare rib of a world laid to waste by America's foreign policy... Its marauding multinationals who are taking over the air we breathe, the ground we stand on, the water we drink, the thoughts we think. Now that the family secret has been spilled, the twins are blurring into one another and gradually becoming interchangeable.

She actually had the honor of appearing twice there. And her brother is goalie for the hated Avalanche.
THAT CHARLES BARKLEY INTERVIEW: I don't think it's online anywhere, but you can get what was left on the cutting room floor here. Choice snippets:

"The only team in my era that could beat the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq was the 1985-'86 Boston Celtics. First of all, Robert Parish couldn't stop Shaq, but he would make him work on defense. Then they'd come back with Kevin McHale and make Shaq work harder. Dennis Johnson could body up and make it hard for Kobe. And McHale and Larry Bird would absolutely kill the Lakers forwards."

"ESPN has made the game a highlight reel, and it's been a detriment. If you make three spectacular dunks that's all the fans see. Dunks or flashy plays -- that's what kids today think of as good basketball because ESPN tells them that. Kids have no fundamentals, and, worse than that, they have no coaching. Any kid who becomes the star of his AAU team gets no instruction because the coach is afraid to coach him. That is screwed up."

My fave, as a Sixers fan:

"If I'm lucky enough to go into the Hall of Fame, I'll go in as a Philadelphia 76er. I don't think I was always treated well there, but you should go into the Hall with the team you had your best years on, even though I was the MVP in Phoenix."

Watching Charles last night on TNT made me think of what Ken said about Howard Stern in his response to me, in particular this part: "The show has a raw honesty completely unheard of in any form of media, and it's incredibly refreshing." You could say the same thing about Barkley on TNT. Or I, at least, would say it.

Ken sticks by his Howard-love and so does Jeff Jarvis. Ken adds: "Okay, the show's still largely made up of topless dancers and the retarded, but it's slightly more complicated than most people think." It's definitely complicated, and I would never want to match wits with Stern myself. If Stern is a painter, topless dancers and the retarded are his brushes, the American radiosphere his canvas. Ah yes. I'm not saying I don't like him, just pointing to the fact that his mode involves tearing apart people who don't realize how goofy they are. Trying to train the cold eye of armchair psychology on the Stern phenomenon, is all.

Meanwhile it seems that what should really be in every market is jazz radio stations. I love mine.
HOUSTON BLOGFEST: Went off fine, it seems, without a lot of hoopla, or fanfare, as one would expect from good-natured and plainspoken Texas folk.
MORE TARIFF COVERAGE: Jason Soon links to this article, which theorizes the tariffs are evidence of Bush's pragmatic nature:

So Bush is a hypocrite, right? Not exactly. In fact, the contradiction is explained by politics. The Bush administration wants freer trade, but it has to manage this goal around a number of roadblocks in the US political system.

Bush sacrificed free trade principles in regards to steel to win over Congress so he could get that whole fast-track trade negotiating power later:

To secure trade negotiating authority, Bush either has to buy support with pork barrelling or make concessions. He's working to secure that authority. Before Christmas, he won that authority from one branch of Congress, the House of Representatives, with a one-vote majority. But it was costly. He had to agree to consider imposing temporary restrictions on steel imports, to come back to Congress for separate approval for sensitive agricultural items and to restrict access to textile imports from developing countries. And he still has to win the support of the other branch of Congress, the Senate, for the negotiating authority. This is expected in April. More concessions may have to be made.

That Victorian weirdo Chuck Dodgson has more.
RALL DEFENSE: Found here, from a self-proclaimed friend of Rall. Via Sulli. The Rall strip down the bottom there I don't think anyone can have a problem with. Rall is a wildly inconsistent cartoonist, ranging from funny to completely offensive; he does not pick his targets too well, methinks. There's a good debate at The Comics Journal message board on the strip, where Rall himself posts sometimes.
MCJ: The Editor reports on the long-standing imperialist designs we have had on Canada. I dig the Journal, even if I have to click through those dang popups to read it.

The Editor also has a short post on the steel tariffs. Dang it, Editor, I want outrage.
STEEL TARIFFS: Follow the story along with The Financial Times. I second Matthew Yglesias with the "where's the conservative coverage?" comments. Glenn Reynolds has recused himself, I should add.
NEW DVDVR: Greatest wrestling review on planet found here.
HE DID RESPOND: Josh Marshall crushes my odds by responding to Natalija Radic. Man, I can't believe I bet the company payroll on that. Not tonight, not to Gil. Josh still refuses to use the word "blog" (he's used it exactly once). Meanwhile Andrew Sullivan is linking to Patrick Ruffini and Derek Lowe. Thus endeth the journalist-blogger gossip report for today.

Wednesday, March 06, 2002

DC BLOGFEST: Rescheduled and rechristened. Details here.

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

MORE ON CRYTPIC MILLER COMMENTS: Max Power has the dirt. Apparently Kobe's had certain relationship problems over the past few seasons, though, as Max wisely points out, it's all rumor and innuendo at this point.
MORE THAN PORNO: The Andreas Hofer sideblog introduces me to the Sensible Erection blog. He says it's a NC-17 Unablogger but I consider it more of a Boing Boing where they have no qualms about posting pictures of people in the act of physical intimacy in addition to the other weird stuff. For an actual warblog with the occasional bit of smut I recommend Links I Like --and Cheesecake!.
SPELLING BEE: Schadenfreude: schadenfreude \SHAHD-n-froy-duh\, noun: A malicious satisfaction in the misfortunes of others. It took a whole Google search but now I get this.
ARENABALL NEWSBITS: Jay Gruden is sticking with the Predators. I though he was going to coach and play quarterback, but apparently it's just the latter. And did you wonder what NBC is replacing the NBA with? Yep, the AFL. Both those items via Arenafan. I can't wait for Ahmad and Costas to sit around analyzing Sunday's Grand Rapids Rampage game. Meanwhile I can't figure out what national channel the AFL is going to be on this year. Maybe there isn't one.
NETS ON TEEVEE WATCH: This schedule is kind of okay --Nets play the Raptors next Tuesday, then the Sixers, and then the Lakers and Magic in April. Somehow the Knicks visiting the Lakers is on NBC this Sunday. That better be a typo.
RIME OF THE ANCIENT DONKEY: Like I've said before, The Donkey's poetry makes you want to weep openly --it just gets to you. Follow it up with a little asparagirl. For roughage.
WORD ON THE LAKER GIRL STREET: Has it, Instapundit Yay, Drudge Nay. Read all about it here.
KING OF ALL BICOASTAL MEDIA: Jeff Jarvis has the Howard Stern appreciation comments:

There's all this hubbub right now about David Letterman going or not going to ABC from CBS for $20 or $30 million, depending on whom you believe (Howard says he'll stay at CBS and he leaked the ABC story to put them in a bind). I like Dave.
But Howard is bigger than Dave. He captivates America -- mostly male America -- every morning. I first discovered him when I watched his show for TV Guide and I was surprised how much I liked him. I wrote then that contrary to what you'd think, Howard is best taken in large doses. He's a taste you acquire quickly. So I started listening to him. I quoted him to my friends in the office after my morning commute. They all started listening to him. We all listen to him. Howard is a media virus. He spreads.
Howard should be making at least what Dave and Jay make; he should be in every market; he is bigger than his competitors or detractors want to admit.


I dunno --can he be in every market? You look South and you get nothing, Stern-wise; advertisers won't buy his time and maybe Southerners just prefer other people. Stern, like Rush Limbaugh (another guy who is bigger than his competitors or detractors would like to admit), should not be dismissed out of hand. He's really funny sometimes, but the criticism Harvey Pekar had for David Letterman can be applied to Stern as well: a smart guy who puts some real morons on the air. Of course Letterman has to take his morons winkingly serious, while Stern mostly makes fun of his morons, but there you go.

The Stern phenomenon must be addressing something that's not being covered by mainstream pop culture --probably a guy's perspective on sex free of caring what girls think about sex. The Limbaugh phenomenon probably addresses the secret conservatism of a lot of people, so I wonder if his numbers will/have gone down in the O'Reilly era. Maybe not; they're on at different times, different media and everything. I don't think Limbaugh and Stern compete with each other either (do they? Does the one ever acknowledge the other?) Having carved out distinct empires out of the American mind, they're probably content to leave the other alone, like Rome and China or something. Stern is probably the king of all he surveys; it's just that what he surveys has its limits. Like anything else.

And he isn't king of anything until he releases a few albums. Nimoy: The True King of All Media.
OH YEAH: New Hitch. Thanks, Bruce.
WARHOL THE COLLECTOR: Little piece on the subject. They might be talking out of their butts a little bit at this point:

By presenting a focused, carefully selected group of objects from Warhol's collection, this exhibition aims to demonstrate that for Warhol, collecting was not merely a leisurely pursuit, but in fact represented a vital form of artistic practice. Through collecting, Warhol found another forum to explore his ideas about history, nostalgia, popular culture and consumerism, themes that are central to other areas of his work.

Or else, you know, the neat stuff a famous artist collected is valuable because it belonged to him. You think? Speaking of obsessives, Derek also had a link to the on-line Kooks Museum, maintained by Donna Kossy. No Szasz, though. Donna should hook up with DC and produce The Big Book Of Cranks. I'd buy one.
COLD FUSION: Derek Lowe brought the news yesterday; I read the papers now and find followup in The New York Times and The New Scientist. The New Scientist one won't load right now; the Times story is already pouring cold water ("Claim of Small-Scale Fusion Produces Early Skepticism") but you know what a bunch of killjoys they are.

Monday, March 04, 2002

DC BLOGFEST: Just announced. Join Messrs. Henley and Nephew for an afternoon of sophisticated adult entertainment. I may have thrown in that adult part, but whatever --it will be sophisticated.
BLADE RUNNER: Is on the SciFi channel right now. Blade Runner is one of those movies I have to watch whenever it is on. I'm drawn to it, because of its PhilDickian origins, its sense of importance and tragedy, its whole pace. I go to bed at eleven now, unless my hideous blogging addiction takes over.
MORE NBA: What does Reggie Miller know about Kobe Bryant? As in when he says ""Kobe has other issues he has to deal with. This had nothing to do with me or the basketball game played on Friday evening." Well, maybe nothing, says Ray Ratto:

This is not to say that Miller has some sort of goods on Bryant. One, we don't know to what Miller is referring, and two, we don't know that whatever it is Miller is referring to is actually true.

We just know that it is cryptic enough to cause mischief, which we suspect was probably the whole idea to begin with.


Also on ESPN: Sixers still the team to beat in the East. I believe it.
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM YESTERDAY'S SIXERS-RAPTORS GAME: Is Derrick Coleman actually playing well? He looked like it. It seems like that complete houseclearing is paying off now for Larry Brown. The Sixers really choked out the Raptors in the fourth quarter, Iverson went crazy making steals; I know the Raptors have lost like ten in a row but it still was impressive. Vince Carter isn't impressing me, though.

Thinking of the Raptors makes me wonder why they succeeded while the Grizz failed in Vancouver. Is it because Toronto isn't really a part of Canada and nobody goes to Argos games anymore and they're secretly self-hating and wanting an NFL franchise? And, likewise, did Vancouver push out the NBA for patriotic reasons? Jim thinks we should break up Canada to give us Americans an Olympic hockey edge; I say we let Toronto secede and join the States as they clearly want to do so they can get the NFL franchise they've always wanted. It's only patriotic.