Tuesday, April 16, 2002

ARENA LEAGUE OPENING WEEK: Is this week, but nothing is on tv unless you've got a team in your local area. This is sort of a reorganizing year for the AFL, I think, what with the contractions off-season and all the expansion teams slated for next season, plus the NBC contract. Over on the DVDVR board I'm running the third season of the AFL Highway To Taylor Ham --a spinoff of the NFL Highway To Ham-- where you win some sweet delicious pork roll if you pick enough AFL, NFL Europe and other ridiculous sporting events right, so feel free to play along.

big apple blog bash; click for details

Just spreadin' the word.
NBA: Rapmaster Robert has his latest NBA article up over on Hoopsworld, where he makes the case for Pau Gasol, Rookie of the Year. I would comment more but I haven't seen a Grizz game this season. Barkley sure loves yelling "PAU!" over Grizzlies highlights on TNT, though.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

WUSA OPENING DAY: Was yesterday. Is the WUSA the most diverse professional sports league in the world? In the Charge-Beat game yesterday, we had representatives from Japan, England and France, and of course the assorted Americans and Chinese. The Cyberrays-Breakers game (yes, there were two televised WUSA games yesterday; meanwhile AFL opening day on Friday isn't going to be on anywhere nationally as far as I can see) had some of those mono-named Brazilians in it, like Pretinha. And I believe there's Scandinavians in the league. I know the NBA has a lot of foreign players in it too, and from all over, but the overall proportion of foreigners in the WUSA seems greater. It's like watching UN debates if they played soccer instead of debating and were all women. Or words to that effect.

Anyway, San Jose beat Boston thanks to Brandi Chastain, New York beat a Hamm-less Washington, the beloved Charge defeated Atlanta as greatest player in the history of England and Seton Hall Kelly Smith scored on a penalty kick, and San Diego put the winning goal in their own net and lost to Carolina. Attendance was lousy everywhere except Atlanta. Then again, the MLS keeps chugging forward even though their attendance remains not much better, so maybe that isn't that big a problem, relatively speaking.

Friday, April 12, 2002

PLAYBOY TACKINESS WATCH: As Karin pointed out recently, Playboy is not above any form of sleazy opportunism. Now Chuck Kuffner brings the news that they're published the photos of a 37-year old former stripper who was elected and then recalled as mayor of a little town in Colorado. Thanks Hef, that's something we all want to see.
THE ANDREA HARRIS REDESIGN: Dahling, you look mahvelous. I love the gif. And that new slogan is the funniest since Reynolds changed his. Bravo, bravo.
CIRCUMCISION CIRCUMLOCUTION: Andrew Sullivan goes off on a tangent in his reaction to the news that "women whose sex partners are circumcised may be less likely to get cervical cancer:"

The argument against infant male genital mutilation is that it is the permanent, irreversible disfigurement of a person's body without his consent. Unless such a move is necessary to protect a child's life or essential health, it seems to me that it is a grotesque violation of a person's right to control his own body. It matters not a jot why it is done. It simply should not be done - until the boy or man is able to give his informed consent. And to perform such an operation to protect the health of others is an even more unthinkable violation. It's treating an individual entirely as a means rather than as an end. I'm at a loss why a culture such as ours that goes to great lengths to protect the dignity and safety of children (and rightly so) should look so blithely on this barbaric relic.

I dunno --I'm with him when he says that it's something that is questionable in the sense that it causes a lifelong change on people (the very young) who cannot argue the matter. Then again, you could say the same thing about braces. But I have always found arguments comparing circumcision to the actual barbaric practice of female circumcision pretty absurd; female circumcision removes the clitoris, which is pretty essential to female pleasure, whereas male cirumcision removes the foreskin, whose role in male pleasure is mostly unknown unless you're an Internet crank. Besides, doesn't circumcision stop the spread of AIDS too?

Then Sullivan says this:

Yes, I know there are religious justifications for it. But even so, religions should not be given ethical carte blanche over the bodies of children. Would we condone a religious ceremony that, say, permanently mutilated a child's ear? Or tongue? Or scarred their body irreversibly? Of course not. So why do we barely object when people mutilate a child's sexual organ?

The thing is, I think circumcision got started in this country for pseudoscientific reasons, like it cut down on masturbation or something. I think it cuts down on genital stink, too, which means it is just part of the general American obsession (not quite at Japanese levels) with hygiene and physical beauty, along with deodarants and tanning salons and gyms and Soloflexes and perms and retainers and everything else that keeps us looking and smelling better than the rest of the world. And --I mean, come on-- the cut dick just looks better than the uncut dick. That foreskin thing just looks ridiculous, and don't give me any crap about Nature's Way --none of us are natural anymore. Hey, watch me channel Paglia: the circumcised American penis, with its clean, rocketship-like appearance, represents the power of American technology and modern knowhow in the world today. Or something like that. Anyway, circumcision is not genital mutilation --it's genital enhancement. Get it right. But Sulli has a point on the personal-liberty issue, which never stopped anybody from getting aborted, but that's a different issue. Okay, back to the studying aether.

Hey, I wonder what Bennett's take on circumcision is? I'm guessing he has one, being the manliness expert and all. He's like the Robert Bly of blogdom --in a good way, if you're one of those who is not drawn to hate Robert Bly; I understand some are. But I am not.
NOT GOOD: Distorting The Medium brings the news of somebody planning a live-action Hollywod version of Akira. That just sounds like a bad idea, but they guy they got working on it is doing other comic book features --Ghost Rider and League Of Extraordinary Gentleman-- so we shall see.

Distorting also has the rundown on the Episode Two script.
I APPRECIATE BILL SIMMONS: ESPN has mostly guys who have real life press or literary credentials writing for them, even on Page 2. I think Simmons is one of the few who has made a name for himself from writing on the Internet, and it shows in his enthusiasm and his willingness to wrap up the NBA season using quotes from Rounders. (Read part one then part two.) It shows in his counter-intuitive arguments too, unless he actually understands the NBA better than most writers, Internet or not. Anyway, here's Bill:

To David Stern and the NBA in general ... could this season have gone any better? The new rules served their purposes to a tee (increasing scoring, jump-starting fast breaks, changing the tempo and giving NBA fans the best product we've seen in 10 years). Those phenomenal draft classes from '95 to '99 finally started hitting their collective prime. The Pistons and Celtics finally turned things around, giving the league two more marquee franchises for April and May. Three likable players (Pierce, Nowitzki and McGrady) emerged as legitimate superstars. And it promises to be the most competitive playoffs in recent memory.

And if that wasn't enough, MJ returned and pulled a Pink, gettin' this party starrrr-ted by playing 60 games, hooking himself up to the Juvenation Machine for two months, raising interest in the NBA, touching a whole new generation of fans, making everyone in the league a boatload of money ... and gracefully disappearing down the stretch (thanks to his aching knees). Now the New Guys take the reigns.

Contrast this with something found in this piece by Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News-Tribune, also published today:

I agree with the silvery tongued D. Stern that this has in fact been a pretty good season in the NBA, given that a few playoff spots in the East are still to be determined, and seeding in the West changes by the day.

But with all due respect to Stern -- whom we should nickname Rumpelstiltskin because he spins so much gold -- there actually have been some disappointments in the 2001-2002 campaign.

Michael Jordan's aching knees brought the Wizards' playoff run to a screeching halt.
The most obvious, of course, is that Michael Jordan did not complete his season with the Washington Wizards. Actually, the more baffling question about Jordan is what ever happened to his divorce? Now that is a disappointment.

Imagine all the grit and gristle that would have come out of that thing. One day, you hear that Juanita is going to take the children and hole up in their 150,000 square-foot mansion like the family in Land of the Lost, and I get interested. The next, Juanita says everything is hunky dory, and she holes up in her 150,000 square-foot mansion like the family in Land of the Lost, and Michael continues to drive the kiddies to college. I wanted details. I wanted smut. I wanted fresh material for The Enquirer and, well, ESPN.com. That is my biggest disappointment.

Barring that, though, I'd have to list MJ's season-ending knee injury. I'll be honest, if the Wizards made the playoffs, I was going to vote Jordan as the league's MVP. I nearly gave him the award just for getting that team close to .500. I mean, have you see that group of players. Christian Laettner? Jahidi White? The fact that Jordan had them believing in themselves is something of a miracle in itself, and I would have liked to see what he did on the national stage of the playoffs. Now, we'll have to wait, hopefully, for next season, and by then maybe Michael and Juanita will be fighting again and we can double-dip.

You see the difference? Or am I just making this up? Old Media Guy: MJ's comeback a disappointment because the Wizards didn't make the playoffs. New Media Guy: MJ's comeback great for the league as it led to a lot of sellouts and to renewed mass interest in the league. Again, maybe Simmons just knows the NBA better than most, or maybe just throwing your thoughts out there in the Internet leads to better things than sticking to the daily grind-out-the-copy newspaper grind. This is, as ever, a completely unsubstantiated point.

Also interesting is that Simmons thinks the current league is the best it's been in ten years. This means --in his opinion-- that the bulk of the Jordan years were not that good --I guess in a competitive sense, but maybe in an aesthetic sense as well. Huh. Something I hope he explains further at some point.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

MORE NORML: Smoking marijuana does not have a long-term effect on intelligence. And "under certain test conditions, the complex way alcohol and cannabis combine to affect driving behaviour suggests that someone who has taken both may drive less recklessly than a person who is simply drunk" says an earlier New Scientist story. Apparently the increased awareness that pot engenders gets people to slow down because they know they're impaired. But read the whole thing. Pot remains the dumbest part of a very dumb drug war.
COLD WAR REDEUX --I MEAN REDUX: Charles Murtaugh --reacting to a bit of Glenn Reynolds reader mail-- is non-bullish on our relationship with Europe, and France in particular:

It may actually be that the first Cold War was the only thing holding back this second one, at least if it is true that the Gaullists are spearheading it. Even before September 11, Americans were routinely treated with especial contempt by the French, and it sounds as if it has only spread through the Continent since then. A friend of mine was stuck in Belgium in the days after the terrorist attacks, and he tells me it was all he could do to not resort to fisticuffs in response to the endemic anti-Americanism.

And to think I was watching the Marseilles scene in Casablanca a few days ago and thinking to myself, "How could anybody hate the French?" And I never really thought of Casablanca as a propaganda movie, though there is a lot of pro-France and anti-Germany in it --though what movie didn't at the time? This American French hate (and the French American hate) must be a more recent development, having its roots in I don't know what. French humiliation at loss of position in the world? That seems more likely; after the New Wave in movies, France hasn't had a lot of impact in anything cultural. And politically they're known for fighting losing battles in former colonies. So I'm guessing the France-America hate has its roots more there than here, since America was by-and-large an admirer of France since its inception --all that Lafayette and Statue Of Liberty stuff counted for something.
CULTURAL PREFERENCES WATCH --SORT OF: Noble pervert Fred Lapides links to a page full of pictures of Japanese women in tiny tiny one-piece bathing suits --think Phantom Lady but tinier-- which apprently were or are in style there. This is one of those times where I wish I lived in the hyper fashion-conscious suppress-your-individuality nation of Japan, where the women will wear the tiny outfits if it is in style at the time. Of course by the time I got there the fashions will have gone 180 and the girls will be back to wearing knee-length 19th century things --such is my luck.

UPDATE: Upon further review it appears I have been fooled by an obvious bit of Photoshopping. In my will to believe the Japanese girls were wearing these tiny things I looked past the blurriness of it all --it is in fact of set of pictures of naked women whose naughty bits have been cleverly edited away, and is now more and less intriguing than it was before. More because of the sheer effort it took to paint tiny elaborate outfits on naked people, and less because the naked people were, in fact, naked and not wearing tiny outifts. We regret the error.
SHOUT OUTS: Thanks to Last Page and Media Minded (who is way outre than me) and Louder Fenn (yes, I answer to Jason, even on the Internet) for their recent mentions. And Andrea wrote in to tell me that bailz had kind words for me too. Thanks, bailz! Though I have no idea where the Australian interest is in this blog --I hope you're not confusing my AFL with yours.

Jim is making mention of me blogging when I said I was going to be studying. Man's gotta blog though, know what I'm sayin'? But I reenter sporadicness again after today. I think.
SITUATION NORML, WE'RE ALL FINE HERE....HOW ARE YOU?: Mike Bloomberg featured in big pro-pot ad. This is going to be NORMLs version of all those Drink Milk milk moustache ads:

The advertisement is part of pro-marijuana group The NORML Foundation's $500,000 campaign that will feature Bloomberg, who was quoted in a 2001 magazine article as saying he had smoked marijuana and liked it. The group said this is the largest ever ad campaign calling for the reform of marijuana laws.

``You bet I did, and I enjoyed it,'' Bloomberg said in an April 16, 2001, New York magazine article, before he was elected mayor, in response to the question if he had ever smoked marijuana.


The text of the ad said NORML applauds Bloomberg's candor, and lumped him in with former President Bill Clinton, New York Gov. George Pataki and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as another public official who it says has admitted he smoked pot.

``Millions of people smoke marijuana today,'' said NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, a lawyer who says he has been smoking pot for 30 years, at a midtown news conference on Tuesday. ``They come from all walks of life, and that includes your own mayor.''

This could be perhaps leading to a full-scale media blitz involving magazine ads and billboards featuring famous people smoking a doobie --like that famous Jimi Hendrix picture. Neat.
SHORT TRACK: Apolo Ohno less welcome in South Korea at the World Cup than Osama bin Laden as voted by South Korean college students. Get over yourselves, South Korea! You just won and won and won some more at the worlds in Montreal and you're still bitter over the Olympics?

But then I read this part: "Filling out the ranks of undesirables at the May 31-June 30 World Cup soccer finals was U.S. comedian Jay Leno and Brigitte Bardot, the former French actress and strident animal rights campaigner." Any nation that finds it in themselves to hate the inexplicably popular Jay Leno is fine with me.
FIGURE SKATING: Michelle Kwan wins an award I've never heard of for being the most idealistic amateur athlete of the year or some such. I guess this is some kind of compensation for being completely non-bitter after two Olympics without gold medals. The obvious question, of course, is: by what standards is Kwan an amateur? What about all those Chevy ads? Figure skating is weird because the moment you turn "pro" is the moment you cease to compete in an actual competitive sport and turn to Ice Capades or Stars On Ice or what have you. Which isn't even a sport in the pro wrestling sense because they don't pretend it's anything competitive. Stars On Ice therefore could be improved by turning it into a league of its own with internal rankings and champions and rivals and everything that makes a sport go. I swear it could work.
NHL: Montreal Canadiens clinch playoff spot the night team captain Saku Koivu comes back from cancer. For the first time in a long time, five of the original six are in the playoffs. Yes, the Rangers are --as ever-- the ones that couldn't hold up their end of the deal.
CBA: The Dakota Wizards beat the Rockford Lightning for the title. I offer this without comment.
NBA: Nets win first division title ever after not making the playoffs last year. They need three wins to take the Eastern Conference and get homecourt advantage --which inexplicably is good for the Nets, who have a great home record despite playing to the apathetic Jersey crowd. The Nets are two-time ABA champions (the Spurs, by the way, are the only former ABA team to win the NBA title.)

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

VINCE CARTER: Marc Stein poo-poos the Ewing Theory as applied to the Carter-free Raptors. Marc, you're no fun at all.
LIBERTARIAN WATCHING: I thought Justin Raimondo was just trolling Virginia Postrel with his latest, but Andy Kashdan had problems with her "antiwar libertarian" post and days before Justin did. Hopefully Fearless Reader of Libertarians Jim Henley will have something on this at some point.
MORE PALESTINE: Ye gods, read the entire Jim Henley response to Steven Postrel. Is good, is very good. A small sample:

Let me be clear: when I say "repressive regime," I mean not Israel as a whole, or the Israeli government as such. But I do mean the Occupation. All the defensive blather about how really the Palestinians have it much worse in Arab countries does not mean that they do not, in an absolute sense, have it bad in the West Bank and Gaza. Nor does the fact that there was a time, at least, when the Occupation made military sense. Countries can't become prisoners of their own illusions about themselves.
ANOTHER PALESTINE ANGLE: Suspected Palestinian collaborators are publicly executed without trial. I hate to use the f-word --using the term fascism on the Internet is just slightly more credible than using the term Hitler on the Internet-- but this is fasctacular.

For the "Did you know?" file: "In the last intifada, from 1987-93, more than 800 suspected collaborators were killed by fellow Palestinians."
THAT REMINDS ME: Thinking about there being an arena team in practically every state makes me wonder if there's a blog in every state. I have yet to see the blog from Hawaii or Alaska, unless I have and don't know it.
ARENA: Ipse Dixit has the first arenaball report of the young season. He watched Louisville play Memphis in an af2 contest and seemed to enjoy it for what it was --cheap weird indy football. Check the franchise list --you've probably got an arena team near you.
EWING THEORY IN ACTION: Dan Patrick on how the Raptors are good all of the sudden without Vince Carter:

This winning streak is a slap in Vince's face. The team comes alive when he goes out? That has to be troubling. The team is spreading the ball around. They're not waiting around for Vince. The guys know that they can do something with the ball rather than wait to see what Vince has. Are the Raptors a better team without their most talented player? I don't know the answer to that, but the evidence is troubling. I think it's hard to say it's a coincidence that they've won without him.

Carter gets picked on a lot in part because he has all those endorsement deals and is all over the tv despite not having a good record as his team's go-to guy. Maybe he has a good agent, which means Iverson's agent has to get on the ball. Unless Iverson is so protective of his image that he just can't do a lot of commercials as they would require him to be in a role where he would be less legit or what have you. Like, the smiling Sprite drinker Kobe has been playing lately. And what's up with that new one in the Sprite "express yourself" or whatever series, where Kobe's high school teachers and his (I guess) Philly barber were telling him to hit the books and that "he could have been an oceanographer." Oh my gosh, if he'd done that, he wouldn't be playing professional basketball right now, is the message of that ad. Hey dinks: most people can't play basketball like Kobe Bryant, most people should be encouraged to hit the books and become oceanographers, and your commercial stinks on ice. (The underlying theme of those commercials is that it is never warm or sunny in Philadelphia. Thanks, that's so true.) So pack it up, Sprite. Even the current less funny incarnation of the Seven Up Guy is funnier than your Kobe wackiness.

Monday, April 08, 2002

BONFIRE OF THE GUCCIONES: The Daze Reader points out that the New York Times has a story on the financial woes of Penthouse story. Bob Guccione is trying to blame it on Internet porn --hey, just like my local news stations do in child abduction stories-- for the failure of Penthouse, but as the story makes clear Guccione's failure has to do with him trying to do too much:

For three decades, the effusively decorated house served as a headquarters for Mr. Guccione's far-flung interests. Neither satisfied by nor ashamed of his status as a pornographer, Mr. Guccione sought to wriggle out of the pigeonhole and overreached in the process. His efforts at more general interest magazines — Omni and Longevity — failed. He spent millions on an unsuccessful attempt to develop small nuclear fusion reactors, financing a team led by Robert W. Bussard, a nuclear scientist.

"Those kind of mistakes can be devastating," said Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler. "The secret to my success is that I stayed away from what I didn't know."

Mr. Guccione's gamble on Atlantic City was probably his costliest. In 1978, he announced plans for a $200 million casino at a site on the Boardwalk. He never received a gambling license, and the four-story steel structure sat rusting for 10 years while an elderly homeowner, Vera Coking, held out and stymied him. Mr. Guccione switched his efforts to a joint venture with Ramada Inn to develop a $140 million luxury club near the entrance to the city. That fizzled, as well, and he sold both parcels, with the proceeds being used to pay down a $28 million loan from Kennedy Funding of Hackensack, N.J. Calls to Kennedy Funding were not returned.

"Larry Flynt is right!" --your Simpsons quote of the day. (From the Stephen Hawking episode.) The other big porno mags (Playboy, Club, and Hustler) don't seem to be in any danger of going under --Flynt opened a lame-sounding Hustler strip club in San Francisco recently, in fact (again via Daze.) Though Flynt apparently isn't taking much risk with that:

The thing is, Flynt has almost nothing to do with the Hustler Club. He merely sells his name, and that of Hustler, for a small portion of the proceeds. Another company, SAW Productions, owns and operates the club, along with the infamous Condor Club nearby, said Lt. Bruce Lorin, the San Francisco police officer who deals with city permits for such clubs.

In other words, it's just another North Beach strip club.

The NY Times article offers one more explanation for the fall of Penthouse: the 1997 decision to go hardcore:

"In the end, the decision to go hard-core is part of what brought Penthouse down," said Dian Hanson, a former editor of Leg Show, an adult magazine, who is now working on a two-volume history of the men's magazine industry. "Penthouse had a name and a reputation, but when people looked inside, they were shocked at what it had become. Once they went hard-core, they lost a lot of their placement at newsstands. Men's magazines are an impulse buy. It takes a lot more determination to drive to a windowless cinder block building out on the highway than picking up a magazine while you are out buying some milk for your family."

One more Daze item: a transcript of Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live trashtalking the Hefner girlfriends. The pyschopathology of Hugh Hefner has gone mainstream.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

POSTING BECOMES SPORADIC: As I enter the pit of mine own education. But do please check back in.

Friday, April 05, 2002

OLYMPICS: The IOC gives Athens a good report card. I'll believe it when I see it --2004 still looks like trouble to me.
QUOTELOG: Virginia Postrel: "Eric Alterman is another matter, but he writes for The Nation, which is as marginal as any blog." With apologies to Photodude.

UPDATE: Oh, one more. Rabbit:

But does it make sense to write "self-disciplined", or isn't "disciplined" enough, and "self-disciplined" is one of those faux words that David Foster Wallace would roll his eyes at and then never come back to my humble blog. (David! Please! Come back! Don't be so prejudiced against those who are less detail-oriented than you because they spent their high school years prancing around in a cheerleader uniform and therefore had much less trouble getting laid than you did and therefore they had better shit to do than to parse semantics! They probably even put that the wrong way, but it's only because their brains are clouded by last night's Survivor episode, which they watched because they know how to relax, unlike you, you fucking prolific freak! Just because they drank too much and chased man-titty in college instead of reading their Sartre doesn't mean they don't have something to offer the world, if only to the world of like-minded morons! Maybe you'd like them, if you knew them! Maybe you'd like them, if you got off your soft ass and called them up, they know you're teaching over there in Pomona where their brother went to school, they know you're a big fucking deal but you still sit at home bored and lonely, hoping to spend time with former cheerleaders who think you're fabulous because they're slightly shallow and like soft, hairy men who wrap their massive brains in dew rags to keep the cold and damp out.)
MAYBE THOSE ROYAL FAMILIES HAD THE RIGHT IDEA: Informative Charles Murtaugh post on the ethics and risks of first cousins getting married. Did you know that first-cousin reproduction is less risky than in vitro fertilization?
UNINTENTIONAL GOOGLEBOMB WATCH: Mike Sanders mixed matter and anti-matter and accidentally unleashed the googlebomb on a different subject. Which I won't recreate here, despite to say it involves the certain Swedish love interest of a certain Cablinasian-American. If you know what I mean.

Wait, reading farther down the page I read this is actually a controlled experiment in Google manipulation. Mike, no! We don't know what messing with the Google aether will do --there could be a chain reaction resulting in the spontaneous meltdown of evey page Google has ever indexed. There's some things Man was just not meant to know, and the mysterious internal workings of Google is one of them.

You canna change the laws of physics.
LONG NATIONAL NIGHTMARE OVER REDEUX: Knicks miss playoffs for first time since 1987. Thank you, Portland TrailBlazers. Thank you, Maurice Cheeks and Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace. The NBA-watching audience of America and the world has one less unwatchable playoff series. Well, I don't know how watchable some of the Eastern series are going to be --but still. If you can knock off the Jazz that would be another, but that's a stretch.

Hey, is redeux a word? I can't find it in any dictionary but type it in google and you get a ton of entries. Is it, like irregardless, a non-word in general circulation?
CLIPPERS WATCH: Lose to Mavs 115-90. The dream is over for this season.
PUBLIC STATEMENT OF REGRET: I have been getting a bunch of hits lately for the Kiana Tom pictures, which I do not have nor know where to have. But --cripes!-- Playboy is only five bucks, go buy a copy. Anyway, I deeply regret my unintentional use of the googlebomb in regards to this subject, and apologize to the porn surfers and their families who have suffered from the lack of stark naked fitness instructors upon these pages. There you have it.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

ANOTHER WATCHMAN HEARD FROM: Fooling around in the Blogdex I find The Comedian. I wonder if he's met Dr. Manhattan yet.
I AM A CLINTONISTA: Reading this Josh Marshall post about Clinton-hating --Josh thinks that Clinton is just as sleazy as any other politician, he just has more candor about it-- leads me to dig up the greatest Clinton-hating article I ever read from the Reason archives: Edith Efron's Can The President Think? Read it if you never have.
OTHER AMERICAN TALIBANS WATCH: Ken Layne links to this article about a guy at Camp X-Ray who says he's an American. American because he was born in Baton Rouge, but his parents moved back to Saudi Arabia soon after so the unnamed officials in the article are not even sure if he speaks English or not. I dunno. Does your citizenship relapse if you never use it?
WORTH READING: Bill Simmons has his Top 40 NBA Players list up. Check it out. I think Bill's of two minds on Shaquille O'Neal; he's had him as "the greatest Second Banana of all time" before (this time it's Kevin Garnett) yet he thinks a vindictive Shaq could find a way to dominate the league if the Lakers ever slighted him. Bill also has Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson as the three greatest competitors in the league --can't disagree with that. And he's joined the Ben Wallace lovefest.
KOBE BRYANT: NOT MICHAEL JORDAN QUITE YET: Man the Nets escaped by the skin of their teeth last night. I know, Kobe got hit on the head on that final shot, but he still looked like he was going to pull off some Jordan-level heroics and send the game into overtime --though it was Kenyon Martin's dumb foul that put the Nets in that position in the first place. It's weird thinking the Kobe is only 23 despite being in the league for forever and is only going to continue to improve.

By the way, I couldn't help but notice this quip:

"New Jersey drew its sixth sellout crowd of the season, with many of the fans cheering loudly for the Lakers."

Welcome to New Jersey, where you pretend you don't have any kind of regional identity. Sixth sellout? After leading the Eastern Conference for just about the whole season? Cripes, those are Devils-esque numbers. Maybe the Nets will pull a 1995 Devils and beat a hugely-favored team in the finals, as whatever team comes out of the West is going to be. Maybe not.
DURN: Jeff Van Gundy isn't coaching the Mystics after all. Via OurSportsCentral. Pat Summitt is consulting them, but I'd rather Pat coached the Bulls or something. Not that it matters who coaches the Mystics, they have the best attendance in the league despite having always stunk, which is one of those things I haven't seen a good explanation for --either it's a lot of lobbyists buying up tickets or people in Washington have a love for women's basketball. Maybe Jim has a theory.
BASEBALL: Allen Barra deconstructs the simple big markets=baseball success argument. He's responding to this New York Times article by Nicholas Dawidoff in particular:

If winning were simply a matter of a large payroll, then why couldn't Mr. Dawidoff and everyone else have predicted that the Arizona Diamondbacks were going to win the World Series last year? Why in fact don't the Atlanta Braves win the World Series every year? Surely it is apparent to Dawidoff that the enormous Yankees payroll of recent seasons has not gone to free-agent superstars but to reward the Yankees' largely homegrown talent for what they have already won.

I have my own problems with the Dawidoff piece, like when he says:

Part of the reason many of America's finest writers, from Walt Whitman to William Carlos Williams and Robert Frost, have been drawn to baseball is that they felt the game stood for some of the very best aspects of being American. "It's our game," Whitman wrote, and it "belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution's laws." As a professional game played by men sized and shaped like average citizens, baseball has always seemed to represent the virtues of honest competition and fair play. It is enormously alienating to most fans — for whom baseball is an escape from the prosaic matters like wages and budgets — that it has become impossible to talk about the sport without talking about money.

Let's not forget that that particular list of America's finest writers lived in an era when baseball was all people had to watch. The post-modern era has a zillion different sports to watch and I think you could argue any of them as being representative of fair play or democracy or the American way or what have you. Paglia thinks football is the American sport, and you could make a case for pro wrestling on the cultural level. I like baseball as much as the next guy, but I can't take arguments of baseball essentialism telling me why it's the One True American Sport --it's an unnecessary argument, as unnecessary as baseball's antitrust exemption (and I'm suddenly thinking the two are related in an unconscious way.) Just watch the game and enjoy it; there's no need to invoke Walk freaking Whitman.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

DEBUNKING REVISITED: Reading some of the flap and the impassioned responses to the existence of a book that claims the Pentagon did not get hit by a plane on September 11, here's the debunking of that that was posted by Andy Kashdan a while back. I love the fact that the debunking brings in one conspiracy theory to debunk another, that it's government spooks who are feeding this rumor out to reduce the credibility of their opponents:

Note the timing of the phony story, appearing just at the right moment to distract attention away from the Israeli spy scandal, right when the United States, even as it tries to conceal the existence of the spy ring, rounds up the Israelis and deports them..

Even now, after more photos have been released of the plane's impact into the Pentagon, the shills are still wandering around the internet, trying to keep the "debate" going over whether there is an airplane or there isn't. The aircraft itself isn't the issue; tricking the public into paying attention to the debate is the real goal because if the public is paying attention to the various parties pretending to argue over whether there is an airplane or not, then the public is NOT paying attention to what the government spooks don't want the public paying attention to, namely the Israeli spies and their connection to the events of 9-11.

This is why, even though the claim that Flight 77 had not hit the Pentagon never explained where flight 77 went off to if it didn't hit the Pentagon, even though photos have surfaced of the aircraft debris and even though there are witnesses that saw the plane, the spooks are working even harder to try to keep this story alive; to manufacture a false debate as an attractant, because this is the only way they can control what the public is looking at, to keep the public from looking at the spy scandal and what it means that the United States Government CLASSIFIED the evidence that linked those Israeli spies to the events of 9-11.

Everyone who is still trying to keep this missing plane story alive, to manufacture a controversy where none really exists, to distract from the Israel spy scandal, is either an idiot or working for the governments of the United States and of Israel.

Indulging yourself in a conspiracy theory is like telling a lie: one begets another, until you're so surrounded with half-truths that you can't separate fact from fiction anymore. Kind of like parts of a good Philip K. Dick novel.
SHORT TRACK: Exists even after the Olympics. South Korea won the women's team title and China the men's in Milwaukee on Sunday. Up next: the Worlds in Montreal. I can't find the barest hint that any of this is going to be on tv, though.
CLIPPERS WATCH: Scott Howard-Cooper brings the tempered enthusiasm on ESPN.com, saying 1. it would take a miracle for the Clippers to make the playoffs at this point, and 2. that isn't so bad after all:

It all comes with the backdrop of a season in which the Clippers showed this is something worth keeping together. Capacity crowds are the norm at the end of the season. Richardson is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year; Olowokandi, getting better by the month, for Most Improved Player. Brand will make the trade with the Bulls the right move even if Chandler turns into a star. General Manager Elgin Baylor should get some attention from his peers for Executive of the Year. Alvin Gentry won't get much play for Coach of the Year, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't, given that the team has made the massive jump the last two seasons on his watch. He has given a young team breathing room while getting smarter on the court, while he's stressed attitude and comportment as much as defending the pick and roll.

Combined, it has gotten them this far, with the rest up to Sterling. It has gotten them all the way to missing the playoffs and still being able to feel good about the season. Realistically.
DANG IT: It would've been nice if Alex Beam had tossed me a link when he was mentioning my blog there. I need the traffic from anti-blog articles, I really do.
SEARCHES THAT FIND ME: I'm number 75 for this version of looking for the Kiana Tom pictures in Playboy. If you don't find them: She looked good, the evil Hefnerizing process did not succeed in making her look nonethnic or blonde. In fact, the Hefnerizing removed all trace of the cosmetic surgery Tom is rumored to have had, so maybe artificiality complements artificiality and Kiana Tom is the perfect person to be in Playboy.
NORTH KOREA WATCH: Corsair: "North Korea is not only the wackiest place on earth, it is also the scariest." He has the evidence and Star Trek references to prove it.
NCAA: Tony Woodlief has the same favorite college basketball team as me. And for similiar reasons; he doesn't mention them but he hates the Cameron Crazies too:

My team, Anyone But Duke, won the NCAA men's basketball championship last night. It's not that I have anything against the Duke players, or even their rat-faced, take-a-year-off-when-my-team-is-likely-to-have-a-losing-record coach. It's their students.

Preach on, brotha Tony.

The students who threw sugar packets on the court during their first home game against Maryland following Len Bias's cocaine overdose. The students who taunted North Carolina player Scott Williams after his father killed his mother before shooting himself.


The thousands of pasty, vile, displaced New Jerseyite students whose presence is a perpetual stain on the honor and dignity of my home state.

Yeah! Stick it to the man! Tell those lousy little New Jerseyites --WHA? Yeah whatever, Carolina boy. You and I both know the vast majority of caterwauling idiots in Cameron are born-and-bred Carolina types, probably high on Vicodin and Jim Beam since they only got a few days furlough from the work-release program. Or something.

Maryland, who Is Not Duke, won, by the way. The game lacked the drama of an NIT semifinal game --but at least Maryland won. UConn, on the other hand, won the women's title. I can't hate UConn the way I can hate the Lakers or Duke since those two usually find a way to let the other team into it for a little bit before pulling away. UConn games lack even that drama. I thought women's basketball has progressed to the point where there was more than one good team, so maybe UConn's win is the last gasp of the old days where there were only a few good teams and tons of blowouts --or maybe they are just that good.
REVERSE ENGINEERING: That Chinese spaceship looks a lot like one of our old space capsules, don't it? I wonder why they started with capsules and not something shuttle-like. Too expensive, I guess, unless the shuttle really is a hideous boondoggle and waste of taxpayer resources. But the Chinese have no fear of boondoggles in principle, obviously.
CULTURAL PREFERENCES: Check out the Yahoo robots slideshow and wonder why the Japanese are the only ones building humanoid robots in the year 2002. Our American robots tend to be oversized radio-controlled cars that fight each other on television --an idea stolen from British robots, I think. But they're not consumer goods, or even luxury consumer goods as the Japanese robots seem to be. And --being radio-controlled cars-- they don't do much in the way of self-motivation, which, rudimentarily, the Japanese ASIMOs and whatnot appear to have. I guess the American love of cyberspace makes it more likely that we run our simulated lifeforms on computer screens and not with crude matter. Or else the Japanese love of conspicuous consumption creates new and cooler toys for the public.
SLOW-DEVELOPING SCANDAL WATCH: Fred Lapides links to an article about the Taiwain influence-purchasing scandal Josh Marshall originally reported on. And on and on. This is a lot less fun than the last Taiwan scandal.
HISTORY LESSON: Nice little lesson in the history of India, including such important dates as the formation of the modern state and the emigration of the Kolkata Libertarian, can be found here.

Monday, April 01, 2002

OPENING DAY: Matt Welch has a report on the Angels' opener, among other things. I guess he missed that LA Times piece about how people on the West coast aren't supposed to care about baseball:

"I was brought up in a pressure-packed situation in Boston," Vaughn said before the Mets played the Dodgers in an exhibition game last week. "Overall, the East Coast is a get-it-done-yesterday type situation. And I seem to thrive on that. Not necessarily for the publicity, but the situation. That's the way it is."

Piazza believes there is "more of a football mentality on the East Coast. You lose a game, it's like the end of the world.

"I remember a few years ago, [the Mets] opened the season with a $70-million payroll, in 1999. The first day, we lost to the Marlins and the back page the next day said, '$70-Million Flops.' You laugh about it. Next day, we won the game and it was, 'Mets Get Their Money's Worth.'

"A lot has to do with the blue-collar work ethic of the towns back East. It's reflected in the media, in the whole roller-coaster ride of the media there. You can be a hero one day, next day you're a goat. One day you're the greatest thing since Mickey Mantle, the next day they want to run you out of town."

Philadelphia Phillie Manager Larry Bowa previously coached in Anaheim and managed in San Diego. He has seen major league life from both sides of the country and maintains that "overall, there's more of a sense of urgency to excel on the East Coast. They don't have a lot of other things to do, whereas on the West Coast, the fans have a lot of stuff to do out there. It's more laid-back. It's a little more casual. It's really a form of entertainment for them.

"On the East Coast, it's, 'Hey, we want you to win at all costs. It's our summer, don't screw it up.'"

On the East Coast, a defeat is treated "like a death in the family," Bowa said. "Especially if they have high expectations for you and you're floundering early. I mean, you turn on a radio talk show and you get buried, everybody's getting buried....

"You can feel that, that urgency as soon as you take the field. Obviously, they're a lot more vocal. If you don't do well, they let you know about it. I'm not saying they don't boo on the West Coast, but it's very minimal compared to the East Coast."

Part of it can be attributed to location. So it's July in Southern California and the Angels are losing? So let's surf/kayak/jog/roller-blade/golf the blues away.

Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens says he has "seen a few times in Anaheim where a guy is throwing a cool game and people get up in the fifth, sixth or seventh inning and head for the beach."

Me personally, I can't start following baseball until the (lousy stupid) Lakers win the inevitable championship and another team's name is inscripted on the Stanley Cup. (The Devils got a chance, I swear.) And then there's the AFL, WNBA and WUSA. But when all that's done with --yes, baseball operates on such a mammoth scale timewise that three minor pro sports complete their entire seasons within baseball's regular season-- I'm right there with baseball. In the meantime I'm sure Ken will have lots of baseball love. I mean, I'm always up for going to a baseball game but as for actually following the sport over a 162-game season --man, just like those supposed West coast baseball fans and the beach, I got other stuff to pay attention to.
THAT LAKERS-SPURS GAME: With Duncan getting hit as he was going for the winning shot? No foul was called. It's just one of the infuriating things about the game of basketball, that it is so open to referee manipulation, and the most dependent on officiating of the four major sports. You watch basketball knowing sometimes the officials are going to stink. This was one of those times; I mean, I only caught the last five minutes, but Tim Duncan really got hacked.

The Albert/Walton/Jones combination, by the way, is the least credible announcing team on national television --"national" to exclude local broadcast teams who aren't supposed to be all that credible. Marv Albert is all right, he's good when he has Fratello there. But Walton and Jones are just there to have little fake fights with each other like wrestling announcing teams do sometimes. It's not as entertaining as they or NBC thinks it is. Hopefully when ESPN and ABC get the NBA, they'll lay off the cuteness and bring in people who aren't trying to put themselves over all the time.

Sunday, March 31, 2002

HAPPY EASTER: Off to eat meatballs.
CLIPPERS WATCH: When it mattered the most the Clippers could not get the job done against the Jazz. 4 and a half back and sinking fast. Crud.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

COOL: The We are full of shit. blog finally noticed me. Awright! Those guys are way cool.
THE GRIZZ: The Rapmaster actually watches Grizz games, and has written an appreciation of Jason Williams who is never on tv anymore because he's not on the Kings anymore. Check it out.
PALESTINE WRAPUP: Here's some responses to the Passover murders. Mark Byron:

Last I checked, Palestinians are people, too. If it comes down to a game of kill or be killed, I'll help man the rifles to defeat the jihadistas, but let's not forget they are God's creation as well. I'd also like a shot of some of the Arabs to find Christ (many already have, there's a sizable but dwindling Christian presence in the West Bank) rather than arbitrarily condemning the lot to Satan.

While the US will likely run peace missions in the months and years to come, realists within the administration will understand that such diplomacy will be mere window dressing. A peace treaty assumes that their is a possible union on interests that can be achieved. Israel’s existence is anathema to a plurality of Palestinians and the irredentist element isn't going to go away for a generation at minimum. Israel can't accept the descendants of the refugees of the late 1940s back into Israel, for they will outnumber the Jews. Israel isn't giving up East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount just to see Hamas have a free base in the new Palestine, so the Friedman Plan is a non-starter.

The pre-Oslo paradigm of running the West Bank as a colony won't work in the long haul, as a democracy doesn't handle being a colonial power well. The semi-autonomous PA doesn't work either, as they don't have the ability or will to be an effective government and have become a de-facto guerrilla army. There are two long-term options for the West Bank that Israel can live with. The first is an autonomous, better-organized and demilitarized Palestinian government living behind big walls; the second is ethnically cleansing the area, kicking the Palestinian residents elsewhere.

Given that the second option would bring a pan-Islamic response that would bring nuclear and chemical weapons to bear in the battle, the ethnic cleansing option isn't palatable for now. I expect to see Israel decide what areas it wants to have control of and build an Iron Curtain-level defense perimeter. However, if the Palestinians continue to launch attacks from the areas they control, the ethnic cleansing option could still come into play in a few years, and millions may die in the battle. The eschatology junkies are going to have a field-day in the months to come.

Megan McArdle, who writes from the perspective of a North Irish-American who can still 'work up a towering head of righteous anger on the subject" of the British occupation of Ireland --I'm a quarter Irish and I can do the same thing:

A lot of people, when talking about the Palestinians, seem to forget that they have gotten an immensely raw deal. For reasons that were totally out of their control, they've been forced off their land and herded into camps. The Israelis (be honest) treat them like second-class citizens and can often be caught saying the kinds of things that Ian Paisley says about my kind.

That it is a better deal than they would be getting in Jordan doesn't make them feel any better about being the assigned toilet-cleaners and ditch diggers of Israel. That Israel deserves a homeland is probably not real compelling for the people who were on the land the Israelis are now calling home. That they are stuck in the camps because other Arab nations are playing politics with their lives is true, but they're still sitting in those camps looking at land that used to belong to them. It may be that the descendants of the person actually responsible for the Northern Irish plight are sitting fat and happy in England, and shooting them would produce a satisfactory revenge. But when the protestants are sitting right there, talking smack about me and my family, it's hard not to get justifiably enraged. So I think that when we talk about the Palestinians, we can't just dismiss their rage. What I would like to do to Osama, every Palestinian who's lost a brother or a neighbor or a husband or a son to the intifiada would like to do to the Israelis.

But we can say to them: there are two just claims to this land, and yours lost. We will never, ever allow you to do to Israel what you are planning in your darkest heart. So think of something else you'd like -- money, land elsewhere, citizenship in another Arab country -- because you will not be permitted to push the Jews back into the sea no matter how long you wait. We will not grow weary of standing against barbarity.

Because the flip side of understanding Palestinian's just rage is understanding that it has many unjust manifestations.

They do not have a right to blow up civilians.

They do not have a right to wipe Israel off the map.

They must not be allowed to make a "peace" deal that is only another stage in the fight to push the Jews back into the sea.

No matter how just their rage, it does not justify blowing up children. And as long as they will not accept that Israel, too, has a right to exist, they cannot be treated with. Israel cannot allow a Palestinian state unless that state is genuinely interested in peace. Which they aren't -- the polls showing 2/3 favoring a sort of "final solution" to the Israeli problem may have suspect methodology, but I have seen nothing in the media or otherwise which would suggest that they are wrong. And Arafat's regime is clearly trying to ensure the next generation is just as filled with hate by printing libelous slanders against Jews in the state-sponsored textbooks. We feel bad for the Palestinians because they got a raw deal -- but that doesn't mean we can uproot Israel to comply with the Palestinians' ideas of fair.

UPDATE: Megan wrote in with the above post, saying the previous one was a draft and this is the final version. Just some tweaking, I guess --she added the Osama reference. But substantially it's the same post.

Grasshoppa who points out that Israel's interests are not always American interests (as the Israeli art students story should make clear):

It’s long past the time for the US to take the reigns off Israel, but it won’t happen. The US needs Israel to keep taking in on the chin (more like in the balls) while it continues its Sisyphean mission to garner support for an attack on Iraq. Memo to VP Cheney and the State Department: when Crown Price Abdullah and the Vice President of Iraq are seen kissing hellos at the Arab summit (as shown in the Reuters photo on the Ha’aretz homepage today), you’re not going to get any support from the Arab world for an invasion of Iraq. Besides, the US, like the rest of the world is enamored with the Saudi “peace plan” that was adopted by the Arab league, which is the same tired conditions dragged out like a set of home movies every ten years. I expect the next declaration from the Arab league will be of a really neat invention: it’s round and rolls on the ground, and by Allah, they’ve called it “the Wheel.”

But this grasping at the Saudi plan is just symptomatic of a larger problem of the Western World fooling itself about Arab intentions. The Arabs do not want peace with Israel, they want Israel in pieces until they get all of it. Don’t believe me? Just look at the words of the late so-called moderate, Faisal Husseni who described the Oslo peace process as a Trojan Horse. Take a look at the maps used by the Palestinian Authority that replace Israel behind the green line with “Palestine.” Listen to the words of Hamas and Hezbollah. They all say the same thing: Israel cannot exist.

As usual, Israel stands alone in it’s fight for survival against the Arab world. True, the United States has been a good ally, but the US has its own interests that it must pursue and those interests don’t necessarily align with those of Israel. And unless Israel decides to roll over and die, no country in the world will support her if she does what needs to be done. After a 50+ year hiatus, Jew hunting is in season again. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the debacle that occurred in Durban, the blatant anti-Semitism published throughout the Arab media, the more subtle anti-Semitism in the European media, or most telling, that Islamic Fundamentalists and David Duke can agree with each other. We even have European intellectuals comparing Ramallah to Auschwitz. Moreover, there’s been nary a peep from the Western world concerning Ken Layne ’s story about the $25,000 bounty provided to the families of those glorious suicide bombers by none other than Saddam Hussein. Not one country lifted a finger to counter the anti-Semitic diatribes at the recent UN Human Rights committee in Geneva. So I say to you, Ariel Sharon, do not worry about the reaction of the global community because they will hate you no matter what you do. Do not listen to the likes of those Jews who think that if we only give the terrorists what they want, they’d leave us alone. As yesterday's bombing showed, only the opposite is true. The Palestinians have no respect for the Israelis; they see them as soft and week. The feel they can maim and murder Jews on the holiday that celebrates our freedom. But we are no longer free; we are prisoners of the fear caused by these terrorists, and unless the Israel government (and perhaps Jews all over) do something painful and decisive, we will remain prisoners...that is of course until we are all murdered.

Dr. Weevil:

I don't know that I've ever been particularly pro-Palestinian. I always thought that the refugees ought to be invited to settle in the houses abandoned by the hundreds of thousands of Jews driven out of the Arab countries to Israel. That seemed a fair trade. And I can't recall ever not loathing and despising Yasser Arafat and, well, every other self-appointed leader of the Palestinian cause.

However, I was never entirely hostile to the Palestinians until September 11th. When I saw the crowds cheering on the destruction of the World Trade Center, my immediate reaction was "these people will never have a homeland of their own".

It seems to me that the Palestinians are going down the same path as the 'Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam', and that it may already be too late to turn back. The Sri Lankan Tamils were genuine victims of severe discrimination, and this would have justified quite a lot in the way of resistance, perhaps even armed rebellion. But after so many years of grinding brutality (heartily reciprocated, of course) and mass murder, so many assassinations by suicide bombers who were often young women, the Tamils seem to have lost most of the sympathy they once had from the outside world, and quite rightly.

Even if they win, it is hard to believe that a Palestinian (or Tamil) state built on a stinking heap of corpses of women and children could be anything but a hellhole for centuries to come.

Ken Layne after Dr. Weevil:

Dr. Weevil says he used to be much more sympathetic to the Palestinians. Me too. And I still am to some degree, because the Palestinian people are no longer seen as people but as this thing you move around from Israel to Jordan to Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, because nobody really wants them. They're a cause, like baby seals or whales or whatever. Reading the NYT yesterday, I started laughing over Lebanon's demands for the alleged Saudi peace deal. Lebanon just wants to get rid of the Palestinians. Anything else is gravy.

It's pretty clear that a wrecked people -- the Arabs of the Palestinian areas -- is used by everybody in the region. Saudi Arabia uses them as dishwashers and construction workers while using them as a political cause to keep Saudis from storming the castle. Iraq uses them as a tool of terror, to keep Arab attention away from Saddam's happy invasions and slaughter of any troublesome Arabs and Muslims. Syria has the usual problems with fundamentalist nuts, so Syria destroys the militants and then plays Palestinian footage on the teevee. It's those Jews! They're the problem! Egypt still struggles with its relations with Israel, so Egypt lets its media scream and yell about the Palestinian problem and the wicked Hebrews.

I've known Palestinians in the United States. They don't have a lot of love for Israel, obviously, but they got out of the West Bank and Gaza to live a decent life in a decent country where they can make a living and own a decent house with city services and schools and parks. Give somebody a chance to earn a living and drive a Mustang, and suicide bombing is no longer such a swell option.

This is, of course, the best possible option: make them all Americans. Israel doesn't want them, and they're pawns used by the Arab powers who won't let them inside their borders either. So bring 'em all here and let them enjoy our relatively peaceful economic dynamism, as opposed to the cultural dynamism --where blowing yourself up is the highest reward-- they are trapped in now. This is the least likely solution, of course, but if ever a people were tired and poor, the Palestinians are it.
MORE MOVIES: Salon has the transcript of the Miramax pre-Oscar Hollywood in-joke skit performed this year by Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Apparently this actually happened --it's not a comedy bit or anything. Note the fixation on butt sex jokes.
MOVIES: Color of Night has inexplicably been all over the digital cable lately; it's a famous flop of a movie known for having Bruce Willis' privates (a rarity) and Jane March's privates (freely available through other sources.) My cursory research reveals there's quite a lot of culty love for it on Amazon; Richard Rush's previous movie, The Stunt Man, is an acknowledged classic. Why Rush hasn't done more I have no idea.
HUSKIES: Diane Pucin appreciation of the UConn women's basketball team. Connecticut is my guess for the first non-NBA area to get a WNBA franchise. Swin Cash, by the way, has one of the greatest athlete names I have ever heard.
TEST: Getting rid of comments. They slow me down, man.

UPDATE: Now they work again. I regret my loss of faith in YACCS.

UPDATE UPDATE: That is to say, I deeply regret my loss of faith in YACCS.
WATCHING TNT POSTGAME: Both Kenny and Charles love Ben Wallace. I think I share that sentiment, both from watching Pistons-Celtics on Sunday and from Ben's freakish hair tonight against the Knicks. Current Pistons first round opponent: the Hornets. Huh.
HALLE BERRY, AFRICAN AMERICAN: The Captain asks the rhetorical question we were all asking ourselves when we weren't cringing internally during the Berry Oscar meltdown, and makes a point:

This is a picture of Miss Berry with her mother, Judith. If Miss Berry is "black" because her father is black, why isn't she "white" because her mother is white? (I know the answer, of course.)

Tiger Woods keeps running into this one. When African-American activists try to claim him as a sterling example of African-American achievement, he protests that he's also a Thai-American. (And when he competes in Thailand, the locals always rally to his support as a home-town boy, because they think of him as Thai. Which, indeed, he is.)

I guess the difference between Berry and Woods is Berry has consciously decided to call herself black while Woods has consciously decided to call himself cablinasian --a word he made up to encompass his white/black/Thai/Chinese/Native American roots. I mean, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan and (at least at one time) the Nike marketing department insisted he was black, even though Woods never did. A lot of people got on his case for having the nerve to choose his own race. In this stage of the game, though, you can choose your own race if that race happens to be in your genetic makeup. I, as a Dutch-Irish-Italian-German person, would be a total poser if I decided to call myself black, but if I want to break the ice with that dark-eyed olive-skinned girl at the party by making reference to my Italian heritage (my great-grandfather,) hey, more power to me. Not that that's going to work --it won't, I'ma guessing-- but at least it's legit. Social reality probably trumps genetic reality a majority of the time in determining what race you are, people's perceptions of you counting for so much and all, but genetic reality has the advantage of being objectively verifiable. Like when Tiger says he's a quarter black, a quarter Thai, a quarter Chinese, an eighth Indian, an eighth white --those are numbers and they're true.

The Monstah, by the way, puts the Berry win in historical perspective and provides the reading list for those who doubt it was history-making. Angela Bassett still woulda made a far better Storm, though. And I am still a nerd.
ADVOCATE FOR INSTABILITY: You leave They Call It Flit alone for a few days and Bruce comes back with a ton of good stuff, of which this is the tip of the iceberg:

As that recent New Yorker piece everyone’s talking about amply demonstrates, Iraqi Kurdistan is the closest thing to a pro-American Muslim state that exists in the region. Yet Wilsonian determinism dictates it must forever be under the thumb of whoever rules in Baghdad. This is clearly unacceptable. The biggest destabilizing act the U.S. could create right now (and easily defendable at home and abroad) is not this silly pretext of UN inspectors vis-a-vis Iraq, but the recognition of Kurdistan as its own country, backed by American occupying force. The impact would be to send ripples through the whole regional system, not to mention cripple Iraq far more than inspectors would. But that’s what you do when the chess pieces are lined up for a stalemate: you upset the board. The short-run result could be blowback, and even a regional war, but the long-term result, as the strength of the western economic system and the energy of the resurgent Kurds, inevitably made itself felt, would be a deep penetration of American values into all the immediately surrounding countries and beyond, leading hopefully to a series of internal revolutions in other countries that America could then capitalize on down the road. In the meantime, the threat of weapons of mass destruction would likely be lifted off both America and Israel, as the Arab countries focussed on this new, more urgent threat.

Read Bruce's three-part analysis sequentially: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
SOLDIERS AND CITIZENS: Jim Henley makes the point I haven't seen made in a lot of places:

While following links from the Layne piece on Iraqi support for suicide bombers, I read about two distinctly different suicide bombers. Here is one:

At about 11.30pm they walked into Jerusalem's crowded Ben Yehuda pedestrian shopping mall and, in the midst of the bright lights and chatting teenagers, pulled the detonators. Nails and shrapnel, mixed in with the explosives, mutilated anyone within 20 feet of these two exploding human bombs. Eleven Israelis were killed and 37 injured. There was little of the bombers left to pick up.

And here is another:

In June this year, Ismail Masawabi, 23, drove a car packed with explosives into a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip and waited for a passing Israeli patrol. When they were within range, he flicked a switch on the dashboard and blew them and himself up. He killed three soldiers.

The first is a terrorist, and contemptible. The second, a guerilla, and not. One reason it's easy to dislike the Palestinians is that few of them seem to see the difference. That can be said of some American pundits.
POP SCIENCE EXPLAINS IT ALL: Financial Times article pointing out that the game theory taught in business school reeks of faddishness:

Recent work by Kesten Green, a researcher at the Victoria University at Wellington, New Zealand, supports the belief that game theory is a poor way of trying to predict the outcome of complex situations.

Mr Green recruited a number of game theory enthusiasts and asked them to predict the outcome of six bargaining situations. The scenarios he described were thinly disguised adaptations of real-life conflicts: a wrangle between artists and government over financial support; a conflict between a pharmaceuticals company and the consumers of one of its drugs; a spat between sports team owners and players over broadcast revenue rights.

To set a benchmark, he also recruited students and asked them to predict the outcome of the same scenarios, based only on "unaided judgment", or common sense.

The game theorists proved no more proficient than the students. In some situations, game theory was less accurate than unaided judgment. Students asked to role-play the scenarios - "you be the union boss and I'll be the chief negotiator" - were the most accurate of the lot.

It's probably stating the obvious, but the article points out the vast gulf between game theory taught in mathematics departments and game theory taught in business schools. Is there any good science fiction based on game theory? I'd like to know; as a theory it's never been something that set my imagination on fire but I'm sure somebody's turned it into imaginary-world gold.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

OSCARS THE HORROR, THE HORROR: Mac Thomason has the picture of Paltrow in all her freakishness from Sunday night. He also reports the news that Speedy Gonzalez isn't allowed on Cartoon Network anymore. Says Mac:

In other words, it's okay to show cartoon characters with American accents acting silly, but not those with Mexican accents. So even though Speedy is basically in the Warner Brothers tradition of heroes attacked by larger, stronger foes (who want to eat them) but who wins out largely by intelligence and skill, he's a negative stereotype and must be kept away from the tender minds of children.
NBA: Clips lose and Utah wins, which puts the Clippers 3 and a half games back. Meanwhile the Nets without Kenyon Martin got blown out by the freaking Hawks. Great. Tonight is Sixers vs. Nets, a game that divides my loyalties. I'll probably end up pulling for the Sixers as the Nets are young and should have a bunch of chances in the future, whereas the Sixers are going to be in trouble whenever Dikembe retires, unless I'm just underappreciating Iverson's ability to carry a team on his back.

Hey, who's going to be MVP this year? I think it's between Iverson and Kidd, since they stand out as being the most important players to their teams. I mean, the Lakers are the best team in the league but who are you going to say is more responsible for that --Shaq or Kobe? As long as those two are on the same team there's always going to be too much speculation about who is making the Lakers great, and guys like Iverson are going to keep getting the MVP. Which is fine with me; I, like Bill Simmons, would rather see Kobe on a Sixers-like team than depending on Shaq half the time.

Via Slate comes this LA Times mock NBA draft which ranks pretty much every prospect in the world including high school juniors. Here's the top ten:

1. LeBron James, 6-7, 210, junior, Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary High--Supposed to combine best parts of Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. No, really.

2. Jason Williams, 6-2, 195, junior, Duke--Some say he's not really a point guard and takes bad shots. OK, and their point is? Coach Mike Krzyzewski turns him loose because he carries his team. Williams does everything well, except shoot, which he does really well. Think: bigger, more explosive Phil Ford.

3. Yao Ming, 7-5, 283, Shanghai Sharks--Looks like he's coming. NBA guys containing their excitement because he'll need time to adjust and may always be a finesse player. On the other hand ...

4. Qyntel Woods, 6-8, 225, sophomore, Northeast Mississippi College. A scout, sent to Booneville, Miss., in January, found colleagues from half the league on site. Admirers say he's in the mold of (you're kidding, right?) Tracy McGrady.

5. Mike Dunleavy Jr., 6-91/2, 220, junior, Duke--Once a scrawny guard, now a full-size NBA small forward. Fine passer, good shooter, son-of-coach feel for the game. Some scouts even mention (sober up) Larry Bird. Says he'll stay.

6. Dajuan Wagner, 6-3, 200, freshman, Memphis--Hyped to alarming proportions, didn't turn out to be Allen Iverson or Steve Francis but did improve. Says he's staying, which is a good idea.

7. Amare Stoudamire, 6-9, 240, senior, Cypress Creek (Fla.) High--Some see OK skills, some see none, but, says a GM: "He'd be one of the toughest guys in our league right now."

8. Drew Gooden, 6-10, 230, junior, Kansas--Athletic, puts up numbers. Will have to show he can stand in against bigger pros so it's probably not a good idea to go around saying they look "fat and happy."

9. Jared Jeffries, 6-10, 215, sophomore, Indiana--Second-best prospect Bobby Knight ever landed, after Isiah Thomas.

10. Chris Marcus, 7-1, 285, senior, Western Kentucky--Sat out most of season because of foot injury and never caught up, but has only to show he's sound to move up. Not athletic but huge with a nice touch.

Read the whole thing. The writer, Marc Heisler, points out while this is good for the NBA it's bad for the NCAA, which is I guess why coaches are becoming more and more prominent as the true stars of the college circuit. Hey, I watch Temple because I know John Chaney is going to put an entertaining team out there every year, so I find nothing wrong with the coaches being the stars. But don't expect any more Bird-Magic or Ewing-Olajuwon finals.

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

SITTING IN THE LIBRARY: I come across a few copies of the Saudi Medical Journal and in my head automatically called it the Filthy Saudi Medical Journal. Thank you, Ken Layne.
FROM THE YOU CAN GET AWAY WITH INSULTING PEOPLE IF YOU'RE ONE OF THEM FILE: Salon ran an interview with Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore's ambassador to the UN who wrote "Can Asians Think?" --a title obviously designed to get people talking. From the interview it sounds like a cultural version of The Mystery Of Capital:

SALON: You mention in the book that some people were offended by the title. Who was offended and why? What do you mean by "Can Asians think?"

KM: We live in a politically correct age. The idea that you can actually ask whether or not ethnic groups can think upsets people. I have friends who travel on planes with the book and the guy or lady next to them will say, "How can you read a book like that?" I keep emphasizing that this is not a frivolous question. What happened was that the International Conference on Thinking had its biannual meeting in Singapore some years ago and they wanted a Singaporean thinker to give one of the keynote addresses. That's when I thought of the question.

The reason why is actually quite simple: In the year 1000 the most successful, the most flourishing and the most dynamic societies in the world were Asian. Europe was still struggling out of the Middle Ages and North America hadn't been discovered. One thousand years later you get the exact reverse of that: the most dynamic and flourishing societies are in North America, Europe is one tier below and Asia is far behind. And my question is why? How did societies that were once at the leading edge of global civilization lose an entire millennium?

SALON: Is it that they fell behind or is it that there were certain things about Western societies that were so advanced and progressive?

KM: It's a combination. There was a magical leap in the Western mind.

SALON: What do you mean?

KM: There was the Reformation, the Renaissance, the scientific revolution -- wave after wave of advancements. I'm curiously a child of both the East and the West and the only advantage this provides is that I can actually enter the mental universes of Asia and of the West. By being able to do so, I can see that there are two different mental universes. They haven't become fused into one mental universe. To me, it's quite puzzling that so many Asians can't realize that they have to ask very hard questions about themselves if they want to succeed and not waste another millennium.

Read the whole thing. I would page Andrea for dirt on the guy but she's in Perth. Stay away from the Perth Pink, Andrea. This is a bottle with a message in it and the message is "Beware." This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding. And so on.
OSCARS: Ken has the entire Halle Berry grand mal posted.
CLIPPERS WATCH: Clips lose to Spurs. Yeah, the Sonics wooped the Jazz so no ground was lost but ground could've been gained, too. C'mon, Western Conference, the Clippers are the only team who aren't scared shitless or obsessed with beating the Lakers. Let them in.

Monday, March 25, 2002

FASCINATING BLOG POST OF THE DAY: One woman's brush with porno greatness. Tanya found via Alley Writer Yack.
SO TWO KOREAS WALK INTO A BAR: Mac Thomason has the inspired dialogue upon hearing the news that North Korea and South Korea are talking again. Think "Akbar and Jeff."

By the way, this does not sound like a fair trade:

In addition, YTN, a South Korean news cable network, quoting a presidential source it did not identify, said North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong Nam, was likely to attend the opening ceremony and match of World Cup soccer, which opens in Seoul on May 31. South Korea, meanwhile, will reportedly send food and fertilizer to the North and send visitors to a major North Korean festival next month.

"So we'll send you our fake president and you send us food, fertilizer and people to show up at a ceremony for Dear Leader. Deal?" Maybe the South will keep the North open as a hideous dystopian theme park to remind us all what happens when whole nations go crazy.
OFF-SEASON BCS HATE: Interesting Inquirer article on how the six leagues who make up the Bowl Championship Series (which is football) dominate the NCAA tournament (which is basketball). The writer, Frank Fitzpatrick, is arguing for a trickle-down effect where the money gained from the BCS football games enriches the athletics programs of the entire university, basketball included:

Not since Nevada-Las Vegas in 1990 has a non-BCS member won an NCAA tournament title.

While many of these schools are not themselves football powers - Duke is a perennial ACC loser, while Connecticut only recently upgraded to Division I-A football - they all share in the benefits that wealth from that sport brings to their leagues.

The 68 BCS colleges spent more than 21/2 times more on athletics than their 250 less successful Division I basketball rivals in the 1999-2000 school year. The revenue gap was even wider, with the football powerhouses taking in nearly 31/2 times the average for all Division I institutions.

According to 2000 tax returns, the latest figures available, the big six conferences reported total income of more than $413 million that year, dwarfing figures from mid-major and smaller Division I leagues.

The SEC listed income of $94,084,512, the Big Ten $84,313,058, the ACC $82,045,439.

Meanwhile, the Missouri Valley (Southern Illinois) and the Mid-American (Kent State), the two non-BCS conferences with teams still alive in the tournament's second weekend, reported totals of $4,365,204 and $1,946,955, respectively.

The Atlantic Ten Conference, a mid-level league that includes Temple, La Salle and St. Joseph's, listed a figure of $8,066,281. This year, for the first time since 1990, the A-10 had only one entry in the NCAA's 64-team bracket.

"The gap [in income] is football money," said A-10 commissioner Linda Bruno, whose basketball members - except Temple - do not compete at Division I-A in football, "and there's nothing we can do about that."

Said Bill Bradshaw, the former La Salle athletic director who now holds the same position at DePaul of Conference USA: "We're always looking at rules that will level the playing field. But with the incredible difference in budgets, I'm not sure you can."

The average athletic budget for a Division I school in 2000, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, was $11.2 million. For those colleges in BCS conferences, the figure was $28.7 million.

The revenue differences are even more striking. BCS members took in $37.5 million in 2000, according the Chronicle. For all others in Division I, the figure was $11.1 million.

Just how football revenue translates into basketball success is difficult to track. However, experts say, the relationship can be seen in several areas: in bigger, better basketball facilities that, in turn, help produce even more revenue and lure the best recruits and coaches; in the ready-made bases of fans and donors that accomplished football programs have built; and in increased media exposure.

"Of course there is a trickle-down effect," Bruno said. "But I don't want to posture us as having had a down year in basketball just because we don't have that kind of football money. Obviously, it would be nice if we had all those kinds of facilities and resources [that BCS schools have]. But we don't. And sometimes that can hurt you."

Last year, nearly 90 percent of the $150 million paid to teams that played in football bowl games went to BCS schools, according to Daniel Fulks, a Transylvania (Ky.) University professor who has studied athletics financing. The average revenue from TV and bowl deals for BCS institutions was $5 million, compared with $1 million for other Division I-A football schools.

While this year's men's basketball tournament included the customary early-round upsets, those long shots almost always vanish by the time this wildly popular event reaches its final weekend. That means the BCS conferences are controlling both ends of the tournament: Selection Sunday and the Final Four.

The six leagues have filled 98 of the 137 at-large bids since 1999. In the last decade, only two non-BCS schools, Massachusetts in 1996 and Utah in 1998, have reached a Final Four.

"The BCS is turning Division I into haves and have-nots," San Diego State president Stephen Weber, a persistent Bowl Championship Series critic, said last year.

I think he'll come closer to proving his point if he can show that BCS schools are dominating in other sports too, or explain why that is or isn't relevant. But leaving that aside this is one more reason to dislike the BCS. And hate Duke.
SCIENCE FRICTION: Nick Marsala has some comments up on my comments on a post of his; I was wondering how science fiction is going to stay vital in an era where science fiction is becoming reality. The Arrogant One sayeth:

So does Hard and Soft Science Fiction drive our technological development? No. Human creativity and ingenuity drives that. Science Fiction is merely one of the mediums in which we express ourselves to those of us who can’t quite understand all that over complex tecnhobabble munbojumbo. However, one *can* argue that Science Fiction and Fantasy helps perpetuate the creativity, by those who read the already written text, and then take it to the next step that the previous generation of writers couldn't quite reach. As Science Fiction becomes Science Fact, those of us alive right before or during its introduction into the real word, can see the reality in which it affects us, and takes it to the next logical (or not so logical) steps.

Nick is right on; science fiction lets reality emerge from science facts, unlike mainstream literature which is all about a shared social reality. Actually, I don't think the facts or ideas that underlie a science fiction story have to be of the physical sciences (not that Nick was saying that), otherwise my fave Philip K. Dick gets eliminated as a science fiction writer. To Dick, I think, science fiction was something where you could have an idea and let it shape reality and then have people who had to live in that changed reality and see how they made out under the new conditions --Dr. Bloodmoney being an outstanding example of this. I'm babbling. My point is that SF is where ideas take precedence over everything else as far as determining setting goes, and these ideas can come from anywhere between physics and metaphysics. As long as ideas are things that change the world, you've got science fiction. If ideas are just more words in conversations, you've got literature on your hands. Of course you can find things that will defy categorization, but SF as the genre where ideas determine setting is what I think covers the most ground if you're debating what is or isn't SF. It's the best I can think of right this second.
MORE MOVIES: Amy Langfield actually saw the winner in the foreign film category and recommends it. I check my local artsy-fartsy theater and do not see in on the horizon, unless they already had it. They are playing Korean blockbuster Shiri right now, though --an art film only in the sense that it has subtitles.
MORE OSCARS BY THE WAY: Choice snippet from the aforementioned Wilson-on-Salon wrapup:

Halle Berry made history last night, not so much for being the first African-American woman to win an Oscar in the Best Actress category, but for freaking horribly, uncontrollably out and making the worst , most hysterically rambling, discomfiting and liquefied acceptance speech in Oscar's 74-year history, and I thought Julia Roberts was going to hold that title for a long time. I know it was a big deal for Halle, who claimed her award for All Black Women Everywhere Ever, but her acceptance tantrum had such an alarming cringe factor, I had to leave the room. When they tried to pry her off the stage, she made that screeching Bilbo Baggins monster addiction-face when he Wants the Ring. It was a heavy, strange, grand-mal meltdown. America squirmed.