Tuesday, November 12, 2002

NOT ALL MEMORIALS ARE CREATED EQUAL: Any suckas who don't think the Vietnam War Memorial is heroic enough or something, send them to Geitner Simmons. Via Donald Sensing.

Monday, November 11, 2002

LAKERS TWO-MAN ARMY: Blame Mitch Kupchak:

Jerry West took a front-office position with the Memphis Grizzlies over the summer, and in his first offseason managed to add two quality players -- Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek -- to his team's rotation. It may not seem like a big deal, but that's two more than Mitch Kupchak has been able to find since taking over the reins of the Lakers from West three years ago.

While the players West brought to Los Angeles -- Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Devean George and Brian Shaw -- went about winning three straight titles, Kupchak's additions have provided precious little help.

That wasn't a problem as long as Shaq was around to carry the mail for the Lakers, but his absence has exposed all manner of holes in the rest of the roster. The team is now 2-5 despite the fact that Kobe Bryant is averaging nearly a triple-double.

By John Hollinger.

Friday, November 08, 2002

THE ACOMPETITIVE NATION: One thing I noticed at the last Olympics is the fact that India--the second-biggest nation on Earth--stinks at sports. So I'm reading all the iSteve articles and I noticed this:

Once again, however, the biggest loser in the Olympics was India. For the second straight Games, its one billion people brought home - a single bronze medal.

Indians just don't seem to care about any sports besides cricket. Even in field hockey, a game they ruled through the middle of the 20th Century, they stunk up the place again.

Perhaps Indians are just too cheerful, friendly, and polite to care much about winning at sports. Interestingly, their few sportsmen tend to come from the traditional warrior racial groups like the Sikhs. The British recognized that the Sikhs, along with the East Asian Gurkhas of Nepal, made the finest fighting men in South Asia. Sikhs remain the backbone of independent India's officer corps. Similarly, guys named Singh (i.e. Sikhs) hold about half of India's national track records.

It's long been theorized that militaristic nations should be best at sports, since sport is fundamentally training for and recreation from fighting and hunting. This correlation, however, has proved hard to test since practically every nation on Earth has a pugnacious history. Ancient nations that didn't like war tended to be put to the sword.

The most obvious exceptions: the peoples of India, who have repeatedly been the passive victims of invaders. So perhaps there is something to this old saw after all.

At the same time I thought the ultimate or the most universal form of competition would have to resemble a Bollywood musical. Universal in the sense that those musical numbers involve men and women in a weird form of mock sexual competition. That makes no sense...
TOWARDS A SHAQLESS LEAGUE: Steel O'Neal realizes his mortality in this Boston Globe article:

''I don't bounce back like I used to bounce back,'' O'Neal said. ''It's just one of those things. They know and I know I'm not the same person I was when I came into the league.

''I was 19 years old, and I could do anything. I never got hurt. But the sun doesn't always shine forever.''

In fact, O'Neal revealed last night, he can see the end of his career coming, and it could be much sooner than most Laker fans think.

''I always said when I wasn't winning championships, `All I want is to win one, then I can stop,''' Shaq said. ''But now that I have three rings, I want to get five. After I get five, I'm going.

''And, when it comes time to [write] my book, I want everyone to say, `He was dominant to the end.'

''Patrick Ewing was once a dominant player. At the end of his career, he's coming off the bench for Orlando.

''That's not how it's going to go for me. When I win that last championship, I'm going to say, `You know what? I'm done.' You won't ever see me out there, playing eight minutes a game, trying to hit short jumpers instead of dominating inside like I'm supposed to.''

My own enthusiam for the Lakers losing to the Celtics last night was tempered by the knowledge that it'd all be different if Shaq was out there. But I'm enjoying this unpredictable Shaq-free part of the season, and looking forward to a time when there isn't just one guy with such a huge impact on the rest of the league--or at least when said guy isn't on the same team with Kobe Bryant.
FUN: Is reading all the articles at the Steve Sailer site. I looove dat man. Here's his discussion with readers of his "Is Love Colorblind?" article.
THE TROUBLE WITH DAWKINS: His kneejerk, oppressive atheism is his least appealing feature, and leads me to think--maybe not exactly logically, more of a hunch--that his reductionism is wrong too. I dunno.
INTELLECTUAL ANALOGY OF THE DAY: Stephen Jay Gould is to evolution what Camille Paglia is to art. And you can make the same analogy with their two magnum opi, The Structure Of Evolutionary Theory and Sexual Personae. Yes.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

NBA REALIGNMENT: Jack McCallum put his potential NBA-with-new-Charlotte-franchise realignment up and now I'm going to put mine up, because it's fun. Here goes:

NORTH AND EAST CONFERENCE

EASTERN
Boston
Cleveland
New Jersey
New York
Philadelphia

COMMENTS: This is a hard group to deal with because you know the NBA isn't going to break up the Knicks-Celtics-Nets-Sixers. I stuck in the Cavs.

CENTRAL
Chicago
Detroit
Milwaukee
Minnesota
Toronto

COMMENTS: These all logically fit together for me, kind of like the NFC Central or whatever they're calling it these days.

MID-SOUTH
Atlanta
Charlotte
Indiana
Memphis
Washington

COMMENTS: Every realignment plan is going to have some leap of logic, and mine is sticking these five teams together. Indiana is sandwiched between Mid-West and East and thus is squeezed south. There's not enough room for Washington in the Northeast so it goes here too. The other three are in the middle of the South. I think Indiana is culturally closer to the South than the Mid-West anyway, so here you go--my grand flawed beautiful Mid-South division.

SOUTH AND WEST CONFERENCE

GULF OF MEXICO
Dallas
Houston
Miami
New Orleans
Orlando

COMMENTS: I like this one, there's no absurd sticking of Florida teams in Eastern conferences that I hate. All of these cities are in the South geographically speaking but are not exactly what we think of as being "The South"--Texas is Texas, New Orleans in New Orleans and the Florida cities are transplanted Easterners. So here they are, pariahs dotted along the Gulf coast.

MOUNTAIN & DESERT
Denver
Phoenix
Sacramento
San Antonio
Utah

COMMENTS: The two bits of weirdness here are taking San Antonio away from the Texas teams and Sacramento from the California teams. But an all-California conference isolates either Portland or Seattle and thus cannot be done. Sacramento is the best choice to move to a different division, it's miles from the Bay Area but it might as well be light years. San Antonio is the furthest West of the Texas teams so Tim Duncan and company get stuck in here. It's a fun little small market division.

PACIFIC COAST
Clippers
Lakers
Warriors
Sonics
Blazers

COMMENTS: The Pacific coast becomes one big line of basketball hate. There's so much NBA history here--past glory (Warriors), past, present and future glory (Lakers), one of the all-time worst franchises in sports history (the Clippers) and one of the rare enduring NBA rivalries (Portland and Seattle.) I would love this division.

There you have it, the conferences bisect the United States with an imaginary diagonal line that goes from Washington to the northen border of Florida. I don't know how to do the playoffs, maybe the six division winners and the top ten teams after that in an NCAA-like cross-nation bracket. It would work for me.
NO CONTEST: Was the movie I saw last night on cable and it's notable for the high-concept casting of Roddy Piper, Shannon Tweed and Andrew Dice Clay in the same Die Hard retread which suffers from not having Alan Rickman as the bad guy (though the Diceman is still entertaining in this role) but Shannon Tweed is about a zillion times less obnoxious than Bruce Willis--so it evens out. Roddy mows down a bunch of people before he dies, I guess he had it in his contract that he needed a big body count if he was going to get pasted by Shannon Tweed twice during this thing. Plus there's Robert Davi in this too, and you might not know the name but you probably know the face--it's one of the classic bad complexion faces that you always recognize on teevee. A novel B-movie, though not as good as you'd think given the cast.
LATEST RIDICULOUS INTERNET TEST: Results are in:



I thought for sure I'd come up Jeffersons, but there you go. Via Ann Salisbury.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

BELOW MEDIA RADAR: You know, if I didn't read War Liberal I wouldn't know that there's a practical tie in the Alabama governor's race.
LAUTENBERG WON: And all you hear on the radio is people talking about how Forrester was going to roll back abortion rights--as if he could. Cretins. Sheep. A pox on the people of my state, for not doing what the people of Minnesota could and throwing off septugenarian tyranny from the Democratic party's past. Dang it.
NBA LEAGUE PASS: The ultimate time-sucking vortex that I will love and hate over the next six months. I am now acquainted with all of the Golden State Warriors. I am a KING.

The Rockets are becoming my must-see team, I tune in initially to se if Yao Ming does something cool (he hasn't yet) and end up being impressed with the rest of the team. They're the youthful-promise team the Clippers could be if Rudy T. was coaching them.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

WILDERNESS OF NATIONAL ENQUIRERS: The Top 100 Celebrity Trainwrecks of the 20th century. Via the DVDVR board. There are some good, atypical choices in there, along with the classics.

UPDATE: The R. Crumb entry:

R. Crumb is much like Woody Allen in that they are both undeniable geniuses, but they're both old cranky pervs with really skunky fetishes, who prattle on for hours about boring obscure blues musicians from the turn of the century and "fancy themselves a bit of a musician." In fact, R. Crumb and Woody Allen may be the same person. Have YOU seen them in a room together?

UPDATE UPDATE: Hey, Tripod stinks, so here's the Google cache.
NBA HAPPY STORY: A little bio of 29-year old Rockets rookie Juaquin Hawkins, who finally made an NBA roster after years of summer and foreign leagues.
ALL RIGHT WITH WORLD: Nets 4-0, Knicks 0-4.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

DAWKINS VS. GOULD: Goodshit takes us to this TAP article by Harvey Blume on the loss of Stephen Jay Gould and the potential loss of his multi-levelled and non-reductionist point of view on evolution. Writes Blume:

Gould's science and literary style owed more to art and artists than to algorithms. His opponents' approach to art, on the other hand, is, as a rule, so doggedly reductionist as to sow doubts about their whole enterprise. It is painful, for example, to read Wilson, so often a superb writer himself, as he attempts to squeeze every artistic motif known to man into a few universals consistent with a genetic approach to human culture. Gould was concerned that human culture and history not be boiled down to code. There were times one felt that what offended him most about his foes was not the particulars of their argument but the relentless monism driving it. He called Pinker, Dennett, Dawkins, et al. hyperselectionists, pan-adaptionists and, when truly annoyed, out and out Darwinian fundamentalists. But sometimes he simply called them hedgehogs. The hedgehog, according to one of his favorite parables, knows only one thing and is determined to explain everything with it. Gould identified with the fox, which is a pluralist; Darwin was a fox, he said, and nature is, too.

It's a real good introductory article if you're curious about the whole Dawkins vs. Gould thing, though this one is written with a pro-Gould slant. Which I approve of.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

PLAY MISSISSIPPI BURNING FOR ME: John Scalzi trashes the Confederacy because the Confederacy wrote slavery into their constitution which only makes sense but then loses me when he says that Southern people should get some non-Confederate symbols to express their heritage and comes off like the member-of-the-side-who-won he probably is. For I know of The Confederate Mack and know that symbols can transcend their origins. Yes I do.

Actually I just wanted to say "Play Mississippi Burning For Me."
RALPHPETERSWATCH: Vodkapundit sends us toward new stuff from the great Ralph and we enjoy it because he gives the always-scary Donald Rumsfeld what for:

Last year, Rumsfeld was on his way to being a failed SecDef. He had alienated the military and Capitol Hill. His arrogance convinced him that the uniformed leadership had nothing to offer; his "whiz kids" were there to teach the generals and admirals what war was all about. He pontificated about defense reform, while neglecting the military's practical needs.

The 9/11 attacks saved Rumsfeld's job. He proved a great SecDef for the first year of the war against terror. A man transformed, he demonstrated exceptional crisis skills. In his press briefings, he became the no-nonsense voice of a resolute country. He won me over, as he won over millions of others.

Now, it appears that his success has led him to an imperial level of arrogance. He seems determined to impose two badly flawed policies on our armed forces, ignoring the judgment of the military's most thoughtful leaders. Either - or both - may prove tragic.

And he ends with:

Rumsfeld likes to strut upon the stage, projecting courage in his disputes with the generals and admirals. But guts aren't required. The law gives him the power to bully military officers. If he's a real man, he'll take on Lockheed Martin.

But don't count on it. It's easier to ignore the generals, then blame them when the body bags come home.

This Halloween, there's no doubt whose spirit will haunt the halls of the Pentagon.

Unlike Vodka I am way ready to believe Ralph on this because he is Ralph and I respect his opinion and am more inclined to trust him than Rummy. Plus nigh-personal attacks in the New York Post always work for me.
POLITICO BLOG JAM: Jim Henley sends us over to the new Stand Down blog, which is devoted to opposing the war on Iraq, but with the unique angle that it's a "left-right blog" and aims to involve posters of all kinds of political stripes. That's quite the all-star roster they got there. It should be fun, and a good antidote to the view that warbloggers speak with one voice on this here issue.
ENN BEE "A": Both of the Bill Simmons NBA Conference previews are up now, but because this is the NBA in 2002, the really interesting stuff is in the Western preview. Here he is on the team that I am hyped to see for some reason--maybe even more than the Rapmaster--the Memphis Grizzlies:

As Pete Carroll would say, "I'm as shocked as you guys!" Once Drew Gooden started slapping 20-10's on everyone in the preseason, it pushed me over the edge. Drew Gooden! Who knew? I'm so excited about the Grizzlies, I'm dusting off the old Hubie Brown impression:


"Okay, you're Jerry West. You have Drew Gooden, who plays hard every night, crashes the boards, and does all the Little Things that helps your team win. You have Shane Battier and Michael Dickerson, who also love ... doing ... the Little Things. Then you have two athletic bodies with upside, Lorenzen Wright and Stromile Swift. You have Wesley Person and Gordon Giricek shooting threes. You have Jason Williams pushing the ball and CREATING scoring opportunities. And you have a premier offensive player in Pau Gasol, who commands double-teams. Now you're getting easy points, you're getting threes, you're wearing out other teams, and you have a GENUINE OFFENSIVE OPTION at the end of games. You're also not as bad as you were defensively last year. And you have a fan base that WANTS to win. Everywhere you look, you see upside, nothing but upside."

On the Houston Rockets, who he has finishing fourth in the West:

I love the NBA. Have I mentioned that? Here you have the Rockets, who were already one of the most fun teams in the league ... and now they have a 7-foot-5 Chinese guy playing center. It's too good to be true. Stevie Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Eddie Griffin, Glen Rice, Mo Taylor, Rudy T., Moochie Norris, Moochie Norris's hair, Kelvin Cato's Burmese snake, and a gigantic Chinese guy who also happens to be the most intriguing new player in the league. I still think he will be a modified bust -- Rik Smits with 20 times more distractions -- but Bob Ryan swears up and down that Yao Ming will eventually become the most important player in the league. And Ryan has forgotten more hoops than I ever learned.

Now I'm torn. When I was stating the case against Yao last June, one of the things I worried about was his personality -- every video clip of him in China looked like a hostage video, like the camera could pan back a couple of feet and you would see a gun being pointed to his head. And yet, by all accounts, Yao seems much happier in America. Just yesterday, I was reading a story in which Yao was startled after hearing a teammate say "What's up?" because the sound of the phrase resembled a Mandarin obscenity. So after they cleared up the confusion, Yao started shouting the phrase to everyone, and it's become a running joke in the locker room. Can you imagine Mobley and Francis saying "Wassup, Yao?", Yao breaking into hysterics, and then everyone attempting a nine-step handshake? These are the things that need to be televised.

Anyway, I'm digging the Rockets, not just because I might have been wrong about Yao, but because Francis and Taylor are healthy, Griffin is ready to make The Leap, and there isn't a better coach on the planet than Rudy T. If anyone can figure out how to make this work, it's him. Better yet, this is fun. I like having a 7-5 Chinese guy on the Rockets who may or may not be the future of the NBA.

Passages like this are why I dig Bill Simmons, not because I believe the Houston Rockets are going to finish fourth in the West--that seems pretty unlikely--but that Bill Simmons loves the Houston Rockets and gets his enthusiasm for them across. I like the Houston Rockets more for reading this.

And here he is on the Kings:

And yet, there are some jarring similarities here to Isiah's Pistons teams of the late-'80s. Remember how Detroit could have beaten the (banged-up) defending champs in the '87 Eastern Finals, if not for Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley banging heads in Game 7 (like Peja's sprained ankle), or the Basketball Jesus singlehandedly saving the day in Game 5 (like Horry's back-breaking shot in Game 4)? The next season, those same Pistons regrouped and toppled their bitter rivals in six games. As the old saying goes, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

In other words, I'm picking the Kings.

The NBA started last night and the Magic beat the Sixers and the Spurs beat the Lakers and I watched most of the latter game, looking for the sweet Lakers loss and got it. This should be a fun fun season.

UPDATE: Oh, and the Marv/Czar/Van Gundy announcing trio was completely topnotch last night and I hope ABC goes with them on the big games. Their subdued sniping at each other is just a million times funnier than the Marv/Walton/Jackson cutesy-poo fights were.
THE OLD "WHAT IF BARRY SANDERS HAD EMMITT'S LINE" ARGUMENTS: I'm reading the new TMQ while waiting for the Simmons Western Conference preview to get posted, and Easterbrook offers a pretty good refutation to the "if only Barry had the Cowboys' line" argument:

But TMQ wonders, why were his teams always so crummy -- wasn't Sanders partly to blame? He was self-centered, aloof, concerned exclusively with his stats. Sanders refused to block -- became angry on the couple of occasions coaches tried to put in plays in which he was a blocker or a decoy -- and never learned anything in the passing game beyond the screen pass. He staged unexplained walkouts, and was often uncommunicative; frequently denounced the Lions in public and endlessly complained about his pay, though Sanders was always among the best-paid backs. Then he got mad, took his ball and went home.

In short, Barry Sanders was a jerk, and his me-first character is a reason the Lions usually were losers with him on the field. In a weird way, you sensed Sanders actually wanted the Lions to be losers, so he'd be the only exciting thing about the team and so he would never be tested under the ultimate pressure of the Super Bowl. Remember how poorly Sanders performed in his few postseason tests -- such as his minus-1 yard rushing day against Green Bay in the 1994 playoffs? Whenever the pressure was on, Barry folded.

It's sort of like the argument that guys putting up great numbers on lousy teams are part of what is making those teams lousy--their too selfish or in roles unsuited to their talents or something. Of course, Corey Dillon isn't supposed to be a jerk and the Bengals stink so it's not always truth. I dunno, I always liked Barry and am prone to the Barry=best ever because of the ridiculous numbers he put up, but his postseason is a knock against him unless you want to blame Wayne Fontes.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

RADIO DAZE: Anyhow, all this radio talk reminds me of this old Virgina Postrel commentary about her thermostat:

My new thermostat was designed by brilliant morons.

It helps to explain why we can see computers everywhere but in the productivity statistics: In too many cases, computing power still makes ordinary tasks more complicated than they need to be‹or used to be.

The old thermostat had a clear knob for setting the desired temperature. It simultaneously showed you how hot the room already was and how hot you wanted it to be. It had two simple switches, one for setting heat and one for setting fan or auto. Henry Dreyfuss and Carl Kronmiller's design of the round Honeywell wall thermostat is a touchstone of great industrial design: simple, elegant, considerate.

I'm thinking you could say something similiar about the new radio in my bathroom: it has this horrible digital readout for the radio where every possible station has to be recognized--in other words, every digit and every tenth you could add to that digit is on there, like 90.1, 90.2, 90.3, etc. And I have to press and hold this button down to get past these stations, which is time-consuming. The old radio had a dial, you could tune the stations in by hand and get just the right spot and get from one end of the FM band to the other extremely quickly. What possible advantage is there with the digital readout, other than knowing exactly where you are at all times? The cd player broke on the old stereo and I am stuck with progress, horrible progress. Hear my lamentations, oh Internet.
POP LOVE: But there is no reason not to love pop because No Doubt's "Underneath It All" is on the radio now, setting things right. No Doubt adds to all the other styles they've embraced over the years and made beautiful with this one, which is reggae-like and slow-building and fun. They are a Blondie for the new millennium, conveyors of sweet perfect pop.
POP HATE: Lileks got the new EW and posted something about the inherent ridiculousness of Avril Lavigne. He's not familiar with her music--he says once you get past thirty you "live outside the rules of radio"--but I still got the radio on and I wish to register a complaint about "Sk8er Boi" which is infecting the airwaves right now. It's musically okay but starts out with something like "there was a boy/there was a girl/can I make it any more obvious?" and--I mean--it's so jarring in a bad, pointless way. And she has this horribly affected lisp (lisp would be pronounced lishp but only sometimes.) God, I hope it's affected; if it isn't I apologize. And there's this line where her and her boyfriend "rock each other's world" and you hear something that sounds like a slide whistle--they're hinting at the intensity of their relationship using a slide whistle. It is the Song I Must Turn Past when scanning the radio--a spot usually occupied by whatever Lenny Kravitz's last song was. But maybe I'm not the target audience.

Monday, October 28, 2002

NBA HATE: If you missed it, Rick Fox and Doug Christie exchanged punches on the court Friday night (Fox's was more like a judo-or-something palm to the face, while Christie's was definitely an uppercut to the chin) and then Fox ambushed Christie in the back. It was great and it looked so much like a wrestling fight--sudden announcer confusion, cameraman rushing to the back, Shaq and Vlade all of the sudden standing there yelling at each other--that I thought it was staged. I mean, especially with Shaq's involvement--that guy has a love for drama. And I bet the Kings' security guy loved shoving Shaq away. No word that I've seen yet on whether the lady with the purse seen rushing back there was Doug Christie's wife.
SPIRITED AWAY: From the back of the back of The Gormenghast Novels, which I checked out again to read the second book and which Andrew O'Hehir probably implausibly cited in his review:

[Peake's books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience. --C.S. Lewis

The same thing applies to Spirited Away.
A MUCH, MUCH BETTER BAG THAN THAT FREAKING BAG IN AMERICAN BEAUTY: BugPowder sends us over to Two-Handed Man's interview with Peter Bagge, which is wide-ranging and great. I hadn't even thought of his color HATE! issues in the way he was thinking of them, but it makes sense:

THM: How did the move from working to black and white to working with colour make your job as an artist harder and/or easier?

PB: My work habits generally remained the same, but what I was going for stylistically changed drastically. The basic art and stories in the colour HATEs were much more dense, intense and personal than in the earlier HATEs. As a result, I kept the linework cleaner and added colour to make it both easier to read AND digest. Those colour HATEs were much sadder and complex than the earlier ones, which basically were just Archie and Veronica/relationship nonsense.

THM: Hey, that's true. There was less of a wild carnival atmosphere, but the stories had a lot more emotional depth to them, as Buddy and Lisa got serious about making it work. And the colour made it look less like an underground comic and more like a nice classic Sunday strip.

PB: Yeah, the colour belied the content. There was a bit of a contradiction there. I basically was doing what Chris Ware (creator of the Acme Comics Library, published by Fantagraphics-THM) became more celebrated for, which was combining traditional, iconographic comic art and colours to tell rather grim subject matter.

THM: So the `friendlier' look that the colour gave it helped the audience deal with material that was stronger and more serious. Smart.

PB: I dunno how smart it was. I don't know if people appreciated what I was trying to do, for the most part. Some people did, but certainly not all.

THM: Maybe not on a conscious level, but it works on the level of being a well-told story, and that's where it counts.

PB: Those colour HATEs were the best things I've ever done by far. I'm extremely proud of them. I seem to be better-known and celebrated (if at all) for the early black and white HATEs, though.

My Ware-exposure is somewhat limited, but I can tell you that I can't see why he's gotten all the "best cartoonist of his generation" nods when good ol' P. Bagge's more mature HATE! being right there. Well, maybe they're different generations, but still. I think Bagge is perfectly justified in being slightly bitter here. The interview also brings up the Peanuts influence on HATE!:

THM: You're a big fan of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, but I don't seem to see any Schulz influence in HATE. What do you like about him?

PB: Well, from the late 1950's to about 1970 Schulz was the best cartoonist in the world. I loved the way his characters interacted, especially Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown. The ones starring those three were brilliant. And I see a similarity (which sometimes borders on being a rip-off) between those strips and many of my early comic strips. Girly Girl and Chucky Boy were Lucy and Linus, basically.

It's true the Schulz influence crops up in the character interactions. Another Schulz thing is the way Bagge--instead of using a bunch of different things--perfected his own style to such a degree that HATE!, like Peanuts, speaks a unique iconographic dialect. And both of their styles are inherently interesting--the facial expressions, the crazy tongues in Bagge--so perefecting said style is a very good thing. HATE! is only HATE! and Peanuts is only Peanuts. Something like that. And there's this "say it ain't so, Pete" moment: "I think that older, stable and mature people outgrow their need for fiction PERIOD. They're no longer searching for themselves or `the truth' because they've already found it." And he completely insults the Stones, gaining points with me, and fritters away those points by loving The Beatles, but regains them by putting The Beach Boys on the same level as The Beatles, which works for me because I think a lot of my Beatles hate comes from me thinking that there are people on their level and nobody evey mentions them or at least it comes across that way in the media. Plus The Beatles are too precise and emotionally distant to be of any use to me. But anyway, it's a great interview for us Bagge fans.
CLIPPERS WATCH: In the comments in one of those posts down there Bill Barnwell directed me to John Hollinger's alleyoop.com--the basketball page for thinking fans--which has Hollinger's previews for the East and a fascinating defense of The (Other) Donald:

Now let's get back to the media. They blew it on the Rashard Lewis saga in Seattle, and they're blowing it here too. The thing to understand about Brand and Miller not getting extensions, which the press has been so slow to realize, is that the teams are holding all the cards here. Rashard Lewis found it out the hard way -- Seattle offered $60 million, and it was written that the Sonics were making a huge mistake by underpaying when Lewis wanted the max. But under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Sonics were the smart ones -- they kept their guy for less money, and knew darn well that he wasn't going anywhere.

Look forward to next summer. Brand, Miller, Odom and Maggette will all be restricted free agents, which means the Clippers can tell each of them "get an offer and we'll match it; otherwise you're this year's Rashard Lewis." It might sound mean or draconian, but the fact is agents are still making demands based on the old agreement, and smart teams are realizing the rules have changed. Meanwhile, if Brand or Miller gets hurt, the Clips will have saved themselves a ton of cap room by not committing the dough ahead of time.

Finally, there's one other reason to think The Donald has changed his stripes, at least somewhat: Wang Zhizhi. Would The Donald of old have signed this guy to an offer sheet when a minimum wage guy could do the job just as effectively? Conspiracy theorists think he wants Zhizhi so they can have a cheaper guy at center when Olowokandi walks (for his maximum contract, guffaw, guffaw); to me, I would want Zhizhi for the more simple reason that he's better than Olowokandi.

As I said at the top, maybe The Donald will prove his stripes after the season, letting all his best players walk and cementing his place among the all-time worst owners. But when I consider the collective bargaining agreement, the fact that the teams are holding all of the cards in free agency, and how wildly overrated Olowokandi has become, I have to ask: isn't The Donald doing everything exactly right so far?

Hollinger's team previews are worth checking out too.

UPDATE: These previews rule. Here is the Kings' weakest link:

Nothing -- The only two weaknesses on the Kings' roster are "third-string point guard" and "Rick Adelman's beard."

The Kings are so strong at so many spots that they can suffer an injury to their second-best player and still nearly beat the world champions in a seven-game series. They can lose their best player for 20 games and go 15-5 without him, as they did to start last season. They have three quality centers in a league where most teams don't have any. None of their top nine players are below average defensively, and only Doug Christie, their best perimeter defender, is below average offensively. They have four players on their bench who would start for at least half the teams in the league. Their big men handle the ball better than most guys who are six inches shorter, and everyone on the team can shoot.

Summing it up, this team has only one weakness: Shaquille O'Neal. That's all that stopped them last year and is probably all that stands in their way again.

I love this game. Say that in Dikembe Mutombo's voice in your head for additional comedic effect.

Friday, October 25, 2002

HISTORY LESSON: Evan Daze sends in this corrective to my primitive history of the blog:

I don't dispute that September 11 was a watershed event
in the world of blogs (and in other things, natch) or that
that generational divide exist or that Instapundit was revolutionary.
The political blogs also seem to have innovated a greater
sense of community, with whole bunches of people writing
on the same topic and linking to each other's items and debating
(or agreeing with) each other, like a good Usenet group; you didn't
see much of that before, but now it's getting pretty common
across the board. I just blanch at the "blogs before 9/11 were
either all-tech or teenagers writing about daily minutiae" notion
that pops up now and again.


There you go.
NBA PREVIEW HATE: Marc Stein on ESPN proclaims Lakers-Kings the best rivalry in the NBA, and I would agree with that. I mean, there aren't a lot of other candidates; there's Lakers-Blazers (which exists to a large degree in the minds of the Blazers) and possibly Mavs-Spurs. Everything else is pretty burgeoning, plus having one team win all the time isn't providing the drama a fine rivalry would--and thus I express my distaste for the Jordan era in general. But I think the NBA is entering into a new era of greatness in terms of really entertaining and competitive basketball, so maybe we'll see some other ones crop up.
NBA PREVIEW LOVE: SI has their list of the Top 20 Games you should watch in the upcoming season. It's SI though, they say weird things sometimes in trying to appeal to a bigger audience, like:

Oct. 30: Utah at New Orleans It doesn't get any better than this. Not only does it mark the NBA's return to New Orleans, but also, for added effect the Hornets get to play the holders of their rightful name. Incidentally, could you imagine being one of the players 24 years ago and being told you were leaving New Orleans for Salt Lake City? No wonder they won only 24 games the next year; most of the players were probably clinically depressed.

Or this:

Nov. 23: Seattle at Dallas Please, please God, let these two teams meet in the playoffs. These two were born to face each other. Both shoot the lights out, neither has a care in the world about such annoyances as defense and rebounding, and each has a highlight-film dunker (Desmond Mason, Michael Finley) to jazz things up when we get tired of all the 3-pointers. The over on this game will be about 250.

Every Mavs game is a must-see game, they're like the Rams when the Rams were a travelling roadshow of fun fun fun. But all is forgiven when the writer, John Hollinger, says:

Dec. 13: New York at Miami The rest of the games on this list are games to watch. This is a game not to watch. These two teams were hard on the eyes even when they were good, because they were conspiring to ruin basketball, but now that they both stink it's a coma-inducing experience. As an added bonus, there's the hypnotic effect of those bright yellow seats in American Airlines Arena, practically screaming out, "Look at me. I'm empty. I've been this way for years. Help." I repeat, DO NOT watch this game.

Knicks/Heat jokes always work with me, it's half of the fun of Bill Simmons columns. Anyhow, it's kind of a goofy list, more of a vehicle for comments about the NBA than a compilation of Games You Should Watch. We can agree on this one:

Jan. 17: L.A. Lakers at Houston Yao Ming, this is Shaquille O'Neal. Welcome to the NBA. Try to stay in one piece.

But, really, any Mavs game should be watched. As well as any Kings/Lakers game or any Blazers/Lakers game. Watch the Spurs and Clippers too, and check in on the beloved Nets to see how Dikembe's working out, and the Rockets as we track Yao Ming's progress. And check in on the hated Knicks for the latest debacle.
NBA ON NB......ESPN: Slam Links sends us over to this preview of the NBA's first season on ESPN:

"It's cool. It's happening," ESPN lead analyst Bill Walton said Wednesday as the network trumpeted a production that just might make some of us give up street luge.

"Our viewers want athleticism," said Jed Drake, an X Games guy who joined ESPN in 1980 and will be the executive producer for 76 regular season games, mostly on Wednesdays and Fridays, plus the first two rounds of the playoffs and the conference finals.

Drake said focus groups helped inspire jazzy new cameras, audio, graphics and animation. Hey, it can't hurt. Ratings on NBC sagged from 3.3 in 1999-2000 to 2.9 the past two seasons.

There will be a camera that hovers over the court. In time, there will be cams in the floor under the baskets. The theme music was composed by Boris Zelkin - yes, that Boris Zelkin, whose credits include the movies "Lion King," "Crimson Tide" and "Broken Arrow."

Wait, there's more.

"We will have an aggressive studio operation that will be more athletic- and performance-based," Drake said. "It's not necessarily who's leading at the end of the first half."

"It's cool. It's happening."--Bill Walton. Live in fear, NBA fans.
SPIRITED AWAY: Now rating a 98 on Metacritic. It's just that good, peoples.

UPDATE: From the O'Hehir Salon review:

To those who want to ask practical questions, such as whether "Spirited Away" is an appropriate movie for children, I have no answers. Arguably it isn't an appropriate movie for anybody. It will disturb you as much as thrill you, make you wonder whether the boundaries between life and death, reality and fantasy, imagination and insanity are ever what they appear to be. But if your child, or you yourself, has a wild and dreamy streak and an appropriate contempt for high-minded adult certainties and well-adjusted behavior, then by all means don't miss it. Just remember the rules: Hold your breath while crossing the bridge, and don't wink at the Radish Spirit.

Any movie that arguably isn't appropriate for anybody probably should be seen by everybody. Yes.

UPDATE: Something influencing my Spirited Away love, I'm thinking, is living in a country where it isn't a big old phenomenon and the number one all-time box office hit like it is in Japan. Seeing something out of its pop cultural context means you're probably missing a lot of things, but to see it in its full context you'd have to actually be Japanese--so it isn't worth worrying about to begin with. Probably.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

WELL HOW ABOUT THAT: Major League Baseball considering moving the Expos to Boston next season. Via Andrew Olmsted. Huh. Boston could conceivably support two teams, in terms of population and--more importantly--in terms of being an actual baseball city, unlike the various Florida cities MLB has stuck franchises in over the years. It could work.
ACTUALLY: Following this whole Dash/lgf blog FIGHT! thing has been more interesting to me in a sociological kind of way than anything else. Bennett, in his Bennett way, kind of says what I was thinking:

Anil Dash, in case you live in a cave, is a New York web elf of South Asian descent who started a smear campaign against Charles Johnson a few weeks ago, implying that Little Green Footballs was a racist site because it features commentary on the Arab Muslim press instead of commentary on Java applets and other tech trivia as it once did.

Not so much the smear stuff but the comment on "Java applets and other tech trivia" which was, as far as I can tell, the state of blogland pre-9/11, pre-Instapundit. Because before that time you had to know a little HTML or whatever the kids are using these days to get yourself a blog. Or that's what it seemed like. Then Glenn Reynolds came along and legitimized Blogger, so it was suddenly okay for somebody to just push their thoughts out there without, you know, any knowledge of web design or coding or whatever other things I am terribly terribly ignorant of. Which should have been obvious to anybody who ever read the Drudge Report, but still, the way Glenn did it in his encouraging, here's-what-I-think-howzabout-you? way started the ball rolling, combined with how easy Blogger is for us HTML simpletons (there's reasons why I haven't updated my YACCS code) and how much we all needed to talk after 9/11 led to this explosion in blog content, if not necessarily blog form.

I think I'm going off on a tangent; the point is, the subtext of the Dash-lgf conflict (as I hinted at earlier) is between Generation One of bloggers, who were tech-geeky in spirit and were left-leaning, sort of, but mostly apolitical, and Generation Two, who were dorks of a thousand stripes with (maybe only in my case) minimal design knowledge but, whether left or right or libertarian, had strong political opinions. Generation Two values content more than form, and while we may be geeks we're not strictly tech geeks and I guess that's the key difference. And lgf, by the way, is keeping track of the difference; Charles has his bloggage sidebar and his anti-idiotarian sidebar and never the two will meet, I guess. Maybe Generation Three will be some perfect synthesis of form and content and I will stand from afar and hate them for having neat webby things. Or maybe I just prefer the no-nonsense readability of a Blogger template.

To sum up my long, rambling point: the lgf/Dash brouhaha is on a secondary level part of a long-simmering fight between Olde Tech Blog and New Blog Of Ideas, which of course owes its existence to the Olde Tech Blog but stands in opposition to it in valuing non-tech content above all. Okay? Okay.
MAVSLOVE: Marc Stein says the Mavs will add defense to their gameplan this season. Remember, their old gameplan was to score so many points that it didn't matter if they played defense or not, and so they got smoked by the Kings in last year's playoffs. And one more reason to love the Mavs: NBA cult figure Raja Bell--best known for his part in truly great and heroic upset the Sixers had over the Lakers two years ago in the championship--has made the team. Of course, it's scary that Don Nelson considers Raja to be "the only real stopper I have" but I'll still watch.
SPIRITED AWAY: Freaking ruled it. I still have the whole movie buzzing through my head the next day, the weird character designs, the scary witch with the giant Mardi Gras head who becomes less scary as the movie goes on. There was a lot of puking and some blood but none of it I would call gross--it's, like, aesthetic puking or something. And there's a giant sludge monster with a wizened old spirit inside. People get turned into animals and things like in Pinocchio but they get to come back from it, proving (again) that Miyazaki has much less severe and more generous instincts than Disney, the guy people are always comparing him to. The move moves from menacing into looking past menacing into a whole 'nother realm of fun and weirdness and takes you with it. I recommend it.
MING DYNASTY BEGINS: Report One and Report Two from the Houston Chronicle on Yao Ming's preseason debut. It's the same line on him from the world games: lots of potential, not ready for the NBA right this second.
FUEL FOR THE FIRE: That gun rights article from the new Reason is finally online. This part is what stood out for me:

Historically, America has had a high homicide rate and England a low one. In a comparison of New York and London over a 200-year period, during most of which both populations had unrestricted access to firearms, historian Eric Monkkonen found New York’s homicide rate consistently about five times London’s. Monkkonen pointed out that even without guns, "the United States would still be out of step, just as it has been for two hundred years."

Legal historian Richard Maxwell Brown has argued that Americans have more homicides because English law insists an individual should retreat when attacked, whereas Americans believe they have the right to stand their ground and kill in self-defense. Americans do have more latitude to protect themselves, in keeping with traditional common law standards, but that would have had less significance before England’s more restrictive policy was established in 1967.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

ELDRED VS. ASHCROFT UPDATE: LawMeme sends us over to eldred.cc, which is the case's official site--I didn't know cases had sites, but here it is. They also point out Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic on Eldred, who hits 'em where it hurts:

Decades from now Rehnquist and his conservative colleagues will be remembered above all for their decisions restricting Congress's power. These decisions have been legitimately criticized for being based more on an abstract devotion to states' rights than on the text and history of the Constitution. Now the Court has before it a law that is constitutionally offensive on every level: It clashes with the explicit limits on Congress's power set out in the text and original understanding of the copyright clause, it represents a naked transfer of wealth to a handful of greedy heirs of pop-culture icons from the '20s, and it threatens to constrict public domain on the Internet for generations to come. If the Court sets limits on Congress's power in the context of commerce but not in the context of copyright, the only difference would be one of political perspective. If there ever were a case in which it makes sense to hope that the conservatives are true to their purported strict constructionist principles, this is it.

And there's this:

But far from being persuaded by Lessig's argument, Chief Justice Rehnquist suggested it was unprecedented. "Every morning," Lessig recalls, "I wake up with an image of the Chief Justice in my head saying, `Well, counsel, maybe the fact that nobody raised this question for one hundred fifty years indicates that there is no issue here.'" But there are, Lessig notes, several reasons that no one has challenged retrospective copyright extensions in the past. In the eighteenth century "exclusive rights" in intellectual property meant only the right to print and publish. Today, by contrast, thanks to a vast expansion of copyright protections in 1976, a single copyright includes the right to control derivative works, public performances, and display rights. When copyright only regulated commercial publishers, there was no reason to object to a retrospective copyright extension because publishers, on balance, benefited from the extension more than they were harmed by it. By contrast, in the Internet age, every citizen is a potential publisher, and every publication on the Internet runs the risk of clashing with the tangle of rights that copyright law now protects. Today, a retrospective copyright extension benefits a handful of commercial publishers who hold the most valuable copyrights--such as Disney and AOL--but it harms the millions of citizens, scholars, librarians, and students who want to use historical material in ways that aren't commercially viable.

Go Larry go! Whose blog (in addition to having tons of Eldred stuff) directs us all to Aaron Swartz's blog who sends us to this list of books you cannot read in these United States, because you're not paying for them. Like with all those roms to obsolete video games you can't download to play on your computer because somebody conceivably could make money off them. Right.
MAKES ME MAD: Reading this old Wall Street Journal story that Diana Hsieh linked to about Americans trapped in Saudi Arabia just gets on my bad side. I repeat myself: why couldn't a candidate looking to knock off Bush in double-O-4 get a million miles off an anti-Saudi platform? You know? Being anti-Saudi makes sense to me. It should to a lot of potential voters. I don't get it.
THIS ISN'T GERMANE TO ANYTHING BUT: Jim's post on the ineptness of both sniper and policeman, and the sniper's rage at not being taken seriously, reminded me of the funniest Cowboy Bebop episode where Spike and the Cowboy are trying to one-up each other in their pursuit of the Teddy Bomber, who just gets madder and madder as nobody listens to his goofy message. Like I said, this isn't relevant to anything, I'm not saying the various agencies involved are tripping over each other--and if they are it's not in a comic way, more of a pathetic way. But that's a real funny episode if you need a laugh.

And I heart the words of Jim Henley, and am as grimly amused as the next person by what he reports:

Unqualified Offerings knows what you are thinking! Jim, if there's investigative incompetence, the FBI must be involved somehow! You are a terrible cynic, loyal reader. That notion is absolutely...correct:

One law enforcement official said the man believed to be the attacker failed to get through at least three separate times.
A follow-up call went through, but an FBI trainee who answered the phone did not recognize the call for what it was and cut the conversation short, the official said.
"The individual taking the call did not understand the importance of what was happening," the law enforcement official said. "She pretty much blew him off."
One official described the caller as "extremely angry." The caller, he said, used such phrases as "Just shut up and listen," or "Hear me out," or "I am God," or "I'm in charge."

This is moving the sniper's psychology from cold-and-calculating into the area of steady hands 'n' infantile rage. Jerk.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

AM I IMPERIAL OR NOT?: Comments on a Bill Quick post inspire Bruce R. to post up something on why America is not an empire, not yet, because of our experiences with the Philippines:

So, five years after America is finally free to engage in imperial adventure, they do. They get the Philippines out of it. But the ensuing four years of pitched battle with the Filipinos proves deeply dehumanizing. It's a course entered into already amid much doubt... Kipling's "White Man's Burden" was aimed at Americans hesitant to join the European mugging of the colonies. And some ignorance... President McKinley justifies it by saying it'll bring "Christianity" to the Catholic Filipinos. But by 1901, it's clear that Americans just aren't inclined to be casual about the stories of cruelty coming back home... so they start the switch to something rather novel for the times, a policy of restoring as much autonomy as possible to the lesser countries they happen to capture, albeit within an American economic sphere of influence... it's a policy they've followed more or less up to today.

I believe the Philippines experience also had a profound impact on the opinion leaders of the time, particularly presidents Roosevelt (who took office after the worst atrocities had ended), Taft (himself once administrator of the Philippines) and Wilson. In the early 1890s, Roosevelt is talking about America seizing hold of its destiny and spreading its reach; in 1905 he's pledging to Latin America that the U.S. has no territorial designs in the Western Hemisphere, and saying the U.S. must act maturely and fairly to the Filipinos. It's not stretching it too far to say that Quick, when he argues that America is not an imperial nation, is channelling the Rooseveltian consensus, post-1901. But, like Kurtz's killer in Apocalypse Now, the U.S. had to go into the heart of darkness, complete with water torture and reconcentrados, in order to firmly reject it. One could argue the Iraq situation is going to test the firmness of that rejection before long, so I do believe it's worth revisiting exactly what America turned its back on.

There's also a link to this overview of the "Pacification of the Philippines." But go read Bruce's post, there's quotes by American soldiers who committed atrocities, stuff that isn't too well-known today. I think Bruce is arguing that the Philippine experience was traumatic enough to get America to swear off imperial ambitions, so maybe that (the traumatic part) is why it's such a barely-discussed period in American history.
SNIPER WATCH: Susanna gives her best guess as to who he is, and why he isn't this Al Qaeda fella they keep talking up on the teevee.
RANDOM NFL COMMENT: Have the Sunday night games all been great games this season and the Monday night ones typically stinky? Even the Ravens jumping all over the Broncos was entertaining due to the emergence of Todd Heap and the fact that the Ravens seemed to be losing their grip on the lead throughout the second half. Maybe I just like the ESPN broadcast team better. I dunno.
BASKETBALL LINX, Y'ALL: Reader Bob Jones said I need more basketball links, and I agree, so he gave me these links to an article on Wang Zhi Zhi (a little out of date, as I believe he's signed with the Clippers) and Popeye Jones. Both are in Sports Page Dallas, the web version of what appears to be a free sports weekly, like The City Paper but for sports. How great is that? Dallas basketball fans already have a great fan site, by the way, Mike Fisher's DallasBasketball.com--Fisher being a Dallas sports radio talk show host--which I came across during my Mavs-love of last postseason.

One week til the season starts.

Monday, October 21, 2002

POST OF THE DAY: Read lowflyin lolana, she has something to say.
THE ELECTORATE OF MY STATE STINKS WATCH: Lautenberg is up 8 points on Forrester, and the cynical ploy by Jersey Democrats to put a non-Torricelli candidate on the ballot to take advantage of a citizenry that votes blindly Democratic except when said Democrat has blatant ethics problems has appeared to pay off. How revolting. The question in my household is, why didn't the Republicans just go for tit-for-tat and draft mega-popular ex-governor Tom Kean? His cushy job can't be keeping him entertained. Probably because they're inept and ideologically inbred and couldn't get behind a real man's man like Bret Schundler for governor a few years back, so we got stuck with a complete hack like McGreevey in our highest office. My people, my people.
BREVITY SOUL OF WEBLOG WIT: So says Jeff Jarvis:

You see, sometimes it's important to know when to shut up.
If I had something to add to the Iraq debate -- in facts or reporting or perspective or wisdom -- I'd add it; I'd have added it long since.
But I don't. So I should get points for adding nothing.
For if we are not careful, weblogs will turn into catalogues of "what I think about..."
When people could publish their own web pages, they too quickly became catalogues of "my CD collection." As if anybody should care.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

MAGAZINEWATCHING: The new Reason (which goes on-line eventually) has a as-good-if-not-better-than-anything-I've-ever-read-in-Analog alternate worlds story by Charles Paul Freund about all these different Palestines. Our Palestine is mentioned briefly and is not portrayed as ideal--this being Reason, the alternate Earths where all the citizens of Palestine were peaceful and prosperous due to free-market values were the ideals. And it is hard to find fault with that.

The new National Enquirer has a report on a profanity-laced exchange between Jesse Jackson and Steve Harvey at a Rainbow PUSH fundraiser. The Enquirer reported it like this:

"It all started when Jesse overheard Steve say that some people--and here he used the 'n' word--were blowing the 'Barbershop' jokes about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King out of proportion," said the eyewitness.
"Jesse stopped in his tracks, turned to steve and said, 'Who are you calling a n-----?'
"Steve immediately became defensive. He tried to explain to Jesse that the dialogue in the movie was nothing to get upset about.
"Jesse pointed his finger and said it WAS something to get upset about because it was totally disrespectful.
"Then Steve accused Jesse of being a hypocrite.
"He said Jesse was publicly pretending to protect the honor of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., but in reality was really upset because a character in the movie said 'F--- Jesse!'--and laughed.
"Steve said, 'Let's just get down to it, dog! It's not about nobody but you! But you ain't s---!'"


People stood between them so a fight would not break out. Plus Alyssa Milano and Justin Timberlake are an item, Michael Jackson's nose explodes again and sniper coverage, all in the new Enquirer.
GENRE THEORY TIDBIT: The genre of superheroes are best understood as the third type of idea-centric or "speculative" fiction, and not just simply as power fantasies. The superhero genre makes ideas into people, while fantasy makes ideas into culture and science fiction makes ideas into material things. They are related because they give ideas primacy over characters and use ideas to tell the story, as opposed to social, realistic fiction where the interplay of the characters tell the story. Yep.
WOW: The 3 bruces have a really impressive blogroll, and not just because they stuck me in there.

Friday, October 18, 2002

YOUR BUSH FAMILY NOTE OF THE DAY: In reference to Noelle's parents blowing off her court date:

What is it with these people? Where do they come from? What world do they live in?

I mean, I know there's something badly wrong when the scion of Connecticut and Maine yankees takes as his first name that of a Confederate cavalry general. But even so, one of the first and most important duties of a parent is to show up for one's children's criminal court appearances.

Thank you, Brad DeLong, who I was hipped to via the Jane Galt blogroll.
GEOPOLITICS SUMMARY: Bargarz tells you everything you want to know about our post-Bali, post-North Korea has nukes world, including a completely reasonable Saddam and Hitler comparison.
EASES THE PAIN: Bird the size of a plane spotted in Alaska. Woman bites man to death. Girl in her underwear. Two headed snake--which I'm sure is a sign of some sort of impending event. Thank you, Yahoo Most Popular.
COMICS CONTENT: I haven't read enough Mark Millar to have a good opinion on his comics, but his column for CBR is pretty great. This week he's got the Top Ten Comics You Haven't Read; here he is on Superman #400, revealing his old-school sensibilities:

SUPERMAN #400 by Eliot S! Maggin and Various is, quite simply, the best Superman story ever published. Yeah, I know that bearded chap from Northampton was very, very good and Byrne's revamp is actually a lot more fun than it seemed at the time, but this one really kicks both their arses. The story starts in the present day and snakes its way forward to the end of time as we watch the legend of Superman dissolve into a distant memory. It's such a brilliant piece of writing and was my single, biggest inspiration when I was writing 2003's Superman: Red Son. Anniversary comics come and go, but they all suck Iraqi cock when they're compared to this baby. Chaykin on the cover, Frank Miller, Jim Steranko, Al Williamson, Klaus Jansen, Moebius, Wrightson, Brian Bolland, Will Eisner and Marshall Rogers on interiors. With an introduction by Ray Bradbury? Fuck, it's so good they put poor Frank Miller on the BACK cover. The more I think about this one, the more I'm happy that America stayed out of the war for a while and let Seigel and Shuster concentrate on getting the ball rolling.

And here's comic I've never even heard of:

LCD by Keiron Dwyer. It takes a lot to shock me, it really does. I can sit through any movie, read any comic, snigger away at any horror novel. Piss Christ didn't shock me. Damien Hirst didn't shock me. Gilbert and George didn't come close. LCD did. Keiron Dwyer scares the shit out of me because he puts down on paper things people shouldn't even be thinking. He self-publishes stuff I'm sure people are in jail for. I picked one of these up in San Diego a couple of years ago and was too scared to even try to bring it home through airport security. Believe me, they're really THAT BAD! I've never read one of his superhero comics, but I somehow can't imagine Captain America saying "you wanna see what I found in this dead bum's ass?"
CRIPES: Speaking of the NBA, I don't give a crap about how Bill Simmons went broke in Vegas, I want his NBA season preview and rundown. Like yesterday.
MAGAZINEWATCHING: Neat little article in the new SI about The Punch when Kermit Washington took out Rudy Tomjanovich one night in 1977. It's pretty even-handed, similar to the treatment Washington got in The Breaks Of The Game, leaving me with the impression that Kermit Washington is a good guy who made a bad mistake that he has never completely owned up to.
BALI WATCH: Andrea has sent us over to this David Mendoza piece on Alternet, a site I probably don't have a good reason to not read. He lives there and has a first hand-report:

Today I spent the day on Monkey Forest Road hustling blood donations from tourists. The hospitals desperately need "western" blood types, as Asian blood types tend to not match westerners. Many Balinese had gone to donate blood but their blood could not be used except for the Indonesians injured in the blasts, of which there were many. A volunteer/donation site was set up in Casa Luna restaurant in Ubud for food, money and clothing. In Indonesian hospitals food must always must be provided by families, so the injured and their friends and families had little access to food. Donated food and water were being loaded into vans to take to the hospitals.

The tourists on the streets that I approached for blood were almost all willing. One woman, a nurse on vacation from Holland, had volunteered the day before at the main hospital, and when I approached her for blood she burst into tears and mumbled to me about her time there yesterday.

The clinic ran out of needles, a lot of blood was collected and it will begin again tomorrow morning at 9am. People asked if I thought it was safe to stay and if they should maybe leave. Before, I always reassured them that Bali was safe. I could only say, I hoped so, and that I thought Ubud was safe but I didn't know anymore.

The location of the bomb is one of the most crowded on Bali. It’s packed with tourists and local Balinese and other Indonesians who sell cigarettes, water and food on the streets in front of the tourist spots and work in the discos and restaurants, or just hang out there on Saturday nights. People live in the back of their shops and there are private Balinese houses and boarding rooms for workers tucked between the bars and restaurants. There are small shops that sell food to locals next to shops that sell souvenirs to tourists. It is a densely populated area. One entire block was destroyed. Not just the discos where the bombs went off, but the shops, restaurants and houses surrounding them. The fire finished what the bombs didn't.

Real good piece--which is actually an e-mail he sent in to Alternet.
SO NOT DAWKINS VS. GOULD UPDATE: Tim Noah wrote his Chatterbox about it today and gleans from Mrs. Gould's corrections to the Langewiesche World Trade Center articles six things he got wrong:

1. The most loot-worthy cache at Ground Zero was $250 million in gold and silver ingots stashed in a vault belonging to the Bank of Nova Scotia that was buried under the collapsed Building 4 of the World Trade Center. It was never disturbed. But Langewiesche reports that when a team was finally able to reach it, it discovered that "others had been there before, attempting to pry open the vault's door and to cut it from above, in both cases unsuccessfully." Unbeknownst to Langewiesche, the police ultimately concluded that the initial team had been wrong—the damage had been caused not by attempted burglary, but by "old distress."
2. Langewiesche reports that the firemen lost 343 people "out of a force of 14,000." The actual size of the fire department force (during fiscal year 2002) is 15,000. This discrepancy probably reflects when Langewiesche or the Atlantic's fact-checkers checked the figure, which of course never stays static—people are constantly being hired, fired, and retired. In that sense, it's probably unfair to call this an error at all.
3. Langewiesche reports that "as many as 250" firefighters "lay unaccounted for in the ruins." The actual number was 253.
4. Langewiesche reports that diesel excavators uncovered the remains of a fire truck driven underground by the collapse of the South Tower. Inside were found piles of new jeans from the Gap. "It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell, and that while hundreds of doomed firemen had climbed through the wounded buildings, this particular crew had been engaged in something else entirely, without the slightest suspicion that the South Tower was about to hammer down." The jeans weren't from the Gap; they were from Structure. Shearer also denies that the jeans were "stacked neatly" and answers Langewiesche's speculation that they were stolen with the somewhat less persuasive speculation that they were blown in. Langewiesche answers that he has the details of this scene "from more than two people" and that "not to write that story would have been propagandistic."
5. Langewiesche writes that "after the site matured," there were no volunteers on the pile—only on its periphery. Apparently he overlooked Rhonda Shearer and her daughter, London Allen.
6. Langewiesche describes looking out a window "one day in spring" and seeing an exposed PATH train. The PATH train was exposed between Feb. 20 and March 1, so it couldn't have been spring (which didn't start until March 21).


Noah points out these are pretty middling errors and I would tend to agree. The most problematic one is the firetruck with Gap jeans that were actually Structure jeans which comes down to whose version of that scene you believe. But Shearer's call for the shredding of the book--as opposed to just debunking it--is killing her credibility dead with me. I like my theory that the massive gravity of Stephen Jay Gould's intellect was the only thing keeping Shearer's in its orbit, which is now spinning out of control and causing all kinds of havok to the citizens below.
SMACKDOWN WORKRATE REPORT: Dean has written it, and posted it, so you can read it. A sample:

Undertaker is so hilarious as the tiny headed sad sack trying to convionce his wife that he isn't porking leathery and squinty strippers. Me -n- mulDOOMSTONE make each other spit beer out of our mouths making Jerry Lewis sounds while UT rambles on about all the girls he's fucked. HOYVIN GLAVINE! I'm SORRY, PRETTY LADY! OYV, I couldn't control it and now... it's getting little again... guuulllloyvin...

And:

The Main Event was fucking BEAUTIFUL. Benoit and Angle are MAGIC and the crowd goes apeshit for Angle and Eddy feels it and goes completely Villano 3 rudo as a motherfucker. Benoit goes fucking crazy with the suplex-drenched ass-stomp and the Steel Reserve kicks completely in by the time the chair spots hit. Chavo- God bless him- gets soooooo smoked by everybody but is completely game about being beaten to death and getting out of the way of Eddy. This is wrestling you don't get anywhere else on earth and you should thank your lucky motherfucking stars that it's on your free TV. I know I do.

That main event did rule. And Dean rules for letting me put the yuks into this weblog.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

BLOGBACK BLOWBACK: One of the old Titans of Blogland is harshing on lgf, who has joined the new race of warbloggers in this our Olympian era. I think that metaphor holds water. Via rc3.org.
YIKES: Godless Capitalist gives us the connection between Grand Theft Auto 3 and the sniper. It's one of those "bubbling thoughts in the collective unconscious" deals.
VALUE OF CONCEPT "RACE" WATCH: I missed this in my blogless August, but Steve Sailer gave his best guess at the riddle.

UPDATE: Reading Steve's site I get a link to this amazing 5-year old article he wrote for National Review that confirms things I thought were just anecdotal: there's a lot more white guys running around with Asian girls out there than the reverse. And a lot more white chicks running around with black guys than the reverse. Clips follow:

In the 1990 Census, 72 per cent of black - white couples consisted of a black husband and a white wife. In contrast, white - Asian pairs showed the reverse: 72 per cent consisted of a white husband and an Asian wife.

Sexual relations outside of marriage are less fettered by issues of family approval and long-term practicality, and they appear to be even more skewed. The 1992 Sex in America study of 3,432 people, as authoritative a work as any in a field where reliable data are scarce, found that ten times more single white women than single white men reported that their most recent sex partner was black.

Few whites comprehend the growing impact on minorities of these interracial husband - wife disparities. One reason is that the effect on whites has been balanced. Although white women hunting for husbands, for example, suffer more competition from Asian women, they also enjoy increased access to black men. Further, the weight of numbers dilutes the effect on whites.

More:

In 1990, 1.46 million Asian women were married, compared to only 1.26 million Asian men. This net drain of 0.20 million white husbands into marriages to Asian women is too small to be noticed by the 75 million white women, except in Los Angeles and a few other cities with large Asian populations and high rates of intermarriage. Yet, this 0.20 million shortage of Asian wives leaves a high proportion of frustrated Asian bachelors in its wake.

Black women's resentment of intermarriage is now a staple of daytime talk shows, hit movies like Waiting to Exhale, and magazine articles. Black novelist Bebe Moore Campbell described her and her tablemates' reactions upon seeing a black actor enter a restaurant with a blonde: ``In unison, we moaned, we groaned, we rolled our eyes heavenward . . . Then we all shook our heads as we lamented for the 10,000th time the perfidy of black men, and cursed trespassing white women who dared to 'take our men.''' Like most guys, though, Asian men are reticent about admitting any frustrations in the mating game. But anger over intermarriage is visible on Internet on-line discussion groups for young Asians. The men, featuring an even-greater-than-normal-for-the-Internet concentration of cranky bachelors, accuse the women of racism for dating white guys. For example, ``This [dating] disparity is a manifestation of a silent conspiracy by the racist white society and self-hating Asian [nasty word for ``women''] to effect the genocide of Asian Americans.'' The women retort that the men are racist and sexist for getting sore about it. All they can agree upon is that Media Stereotypes and/or Low Self-Esteem must somehow be at fault.

Fascinating stuff from the eternally fascinating sex-culture-science nexus. I hope it hasn't been debunked somewhere.

UPDATE: One more quote because I love this stuff:

Much more practical-sounding advice would be: Since there are so many unmarried Asian men and black women, they should find solace for their loneliness by marrying each other. Yet, when was the last time you saw an Asian man and a black woman together? Black-man/Asian-woman couples are still quite unusual, but Asian-man/black-woman pairings are incomparably more rare.

The processes of the sex-culture-science nexus follow their own internal logic.
57 TALKING HEADS AND NOTHING ON: Sweet Virginia points out the obvious in her clear way:

If you're an American who gets most of your news from television, you probably think of the bombing in Bali in the same category as an earthquake in Armenia—a tragedy with no effect on your life. After all, if it were important to Americans, wouldn't the TV news play it up more? Instead, we've been getting 24-7 sniper coverage (including about five minutes worth of new information in every four or five hours), with occasional nods to the importance of Cuba and the oh-so-surprising results of the Iraqi elections. And while the newspapers and magazines have done a better job, they're still sniper obsessed.

The sniper story is legitimate, of course. It's scary, it's a mystery, and it's close to home, especially for the Washington-based press corps. But it doesn't deserve wall-to-wall coverage, especially when there's nothing new and intelligent to say. The Bali bombing, by contrast, is both a horrible tragedy and a huge international story, with major implications for the war on terrorism. This attack, like 9/11, was brutal, indiscriminate, and aimed at our culture and civilization. And on the other side of the world, it has had similar emotional effects.

I only wish the array of talk show hosts on Fox/CNN/MSNBC were blanketing us with Bali coverage like they are with the sniper. Or gave it equal time or something. Flipping through those three stations last night all I got was killer psychology experts and ballistics experts and whoever else they brought in who had a sniper opinion. At least we got blogs.

UPDATE: Angela Bell directs us to Wayne Robins on OJR, who was thinking something similiar to "at least we got blogs" but more like "at least we got this Internet" and newspapers who put their articles online.

QUOTE: "I feel for Noelle, but I also feel for the numerous people Jeb has condemned to decades in prison for their diseases." Tell 'em, Atrios.
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF TURNABOUT AND FAIR PLAY: Cory Doctorow sends us all over to this NYT rundown on intellectual property rights in developing countries, and how we Americans abused foreign copyrights when we were making a name for ourselves and now how we've turned into The Man keeping the little guy down by insisting the poor li'l nations of the world adhere to our standards. Gawd, I just talked myself into being a fan of Chinese pirates. Huh. Anyway, it's a neat read.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

BUNCHA PRUDES, OR NOT: Daze sends us over to this NYT review of a book that breaks down Americans' views on sex during the Victorian era:

Horowitz finds that her subjects did not have one unified understanding of human sexuality but rather ''contending conversations,'' the result of a society ''split along many lines, economic, religious and ideological.'' Her book is therefore not only the latest corrective to the notion that there was some monolithic ''Victorian sexuality''; it also rejects the approach to studying the history of sexuality established by Michel Foucault, who suggested that what people said about sex had some ''seamless'' relation to how they practiced it. ''I perceive more disjuncture and internal conflict,'' Horowitz writes. To that end, she has established four ''frameworks,'' within which people could imagine sexuality ''from a distinct cultural perspective.'' These competing frameworks -- a vernacular tradition rooted in oral culture; an evangelical Christianity suspicious of sex; a ''reform physiology'' committed to spreading accurate information about sexual functioning, including birth control; and a view that ''placed sex at the center of life,'' and whose proponents ranged from Mormons to women's rights leaders -- became the basis of furious debates, scandals, witch hunts and crusades.
A FINE POINT TO MAKE: "I've noticed that a significant number of atheists out there are of the embittered kind, the sort who don't so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him. Of course, this isn't really atheism, since while it professes to disbelieve in God, it secretly acknowledges Him."

Thank you, Hokiepundit.
RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Post-modernism is to culture what multiple/parallel universes theories are to physics. You know--because in both cases everything ends up existing anyway or has its own validity just by virtue of existing. There. You. Go.
EASES THE PAIN: New get your war on. Via boing boing.
BALI CONSPIRACY THEORIES: Orrin Judd brings credence to the "it wasn't Islamists" arguments.

UPDATE: A rebuttal: "National police spokesman Inspector Gen. Saleh Saaf denied a report in The Washington Post that a former Indonesian force member had confessed to building the bomb." Via lgf. And I can't find the article in question on The Post's site.
SO NOT DAWKINS VS. GOULD: MediaMinded is pointing out that Stephen Jay Gould's widow is out to discredit those completely great William Langewiesche WTC articles from The Atlantic. I'd link to the actual NY Oberver article MediaM. links to, but it refuses to load. I need to read it. I mean, what's her motivation?

UPDATE: Double-M is right--this looks like a doozy:

On Tuesday, Oct. 15, North Point Press, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, shipped out copies of American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center, by journalist William Langewiesche, an account of the cleanup at Ground Zero by the only reporter granted unrestricted access to the site. The book was originally a three-part piece in The Atlantic Monthly which, with its unusual level of detail and ambition, made for early Pulitzer buzz. The book will be The New York Times Book Review’s cover review on Sunday, Oct. 20, after which Mr. Langewiesche will embark on a 15-city book tour.

But just in time to complicate the publication of this otherwise highly praised book, an unlikely protester named Rhonda Roland Shearer has appeared. Ms. Shearer, a 48-year-old artist and the widow of the Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, is on a personal crusade to debunk Mr. Langewiesche’s reportage, derail his Pulitzer hopes, and see the book recalled and destroyed.

More:

Becky Saletan, the editorial director of North Point Press, said she was informed in early September that Ms. Shearer had complaints about American Ground. But Ms. Saletan added that she had not yet received the 33-page rebuttal. "It was news to me that there was any move afoot to get the book recalled and destroyed," she said.

She noted that Jeffrey Goldberg’s forthcoming review in the Times Book Review calls the book "truth unclouded by sentiment." Of the book’s author, she added, "I know his sourcing is impeccable."

If Shearer is anything like her husband, she's probably does have a nice-sized sentimental streak. Hey--was Gould's massive intellect the only thing reigning her in all this time? More:

Ms. Shearer, who did not lose any family members in the attacks, said that her efforts have the support of Marian Fontana, who lost her husband, firefighter David Fontana, in the disaster and now heads a powerful constituency of family groups. The chief of operations of the FDNY, Salvatore Cassano, has also expressed support, Ms. Shearer said. "The family members are thinking of how they could do a lawsuit," Ms. Shearer said. "Everybody hopes that this will just go away in retraction, apology and book-shredding." Reached for comment, Chief Cassano said, "There were a lot of statements that the author made that have no substantial background to them."

More:

But Ms. Shearer and her supporters focus much of their anger on statements in part three of The Atlantic series, entitled "The Dance of the Dinosaurs." There, Mr. Langewiesche reports that last autumn, a fire truck was unearthed from the rubble that was loaded with brand-new blue jeans, and it appeared that its crew had spent the time in which the first tower was burning stealing blue jeans from the Gap and loading them into the cab of their truck. The article reads: "It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the looting had begun even before the first tower fell, and that while hundreds of doomed firemen had climbed through the wounded buildings, this particular crew had been engaged in something else entirely."

Ms. Shearer says the excavation of the truck in question took place at night, not in the afternoon, as Mr. Langewiesche reported, and that the jeans found near and around a fire truck were actually Structure brand, and that they’d been blown around the cab of the truck and were not neatly stacked, as Mr. Langewiesche had it.

"They didn’t even fact-check with the Gap. They weren’t even in the south tower. That’s how pathetic he is," Ms. Shearer said.

Ee-yikes.
COOL: Marvel is bringing back their Justice League ripoffs who took on a life of their own, the Squadron Supreme.
OH LORDY: Bill Walton has a Page Two column. Via Rapmaster. It's full of random personal details as Bill goes about his daily life--it's almost like a blog.

Me and my brother play the Bill Walton game sometimes, by the way. It's when you take some perceived fault with something and plus it into a standard bit of Waltonspeak. Like: "C'mon, Dunkin Donuts! The grand stage of American donut shops--and you're selling apple crumb donuts? That's HORrible!" The HORrible seals the deal, of course. It amuses us.
OUR FINEST THIRD WORLD CITY: Miami. Via P&F. I remember reading an interview with Mira Nair and she was saying something like how she loved Miami since it gave off a different vibe than any other American city and I remember retorting in my own head well, of course, it's the only American city that's a part of the Third World. No further put-downs are necessary.

And I think 60 Minutes did something this week about how congressional types are swinging towards normalization of our relationship with Cuba, so we could get in on the tourist market there and buy the damn cigars again, but as long as there's a Bush who needs electing in Florida and there's a Bush in the White House, that seems less than likely.
NON-AMERICAN FOOTBALL: Brooks pasted up a BusinessWeek article on the MLS and WUSA so we could all read it. As you may have guessed, neither league is doing so hot:

The painful truth is that since the 1970s, soccer leagues big and small have folded--lost in a haze of Hail Mary passes, three-pointers, and stat-smashing home runs. Today, both pro leagues remain financially frail. MLS has accumulated losses of $250 million to $300 million since its inception. And WUSA was forced to solicit new funds from main investors such as Cox Communications, Comcast, and John S. Hendricks, founder of the Discovery Channel, after burning through its five-year budget--$40 million--in its initial season. It now has backing for the remaining three years of its five-year plan but won't disclose how much more investors have put up.

And yet soccer leagues can always find people wanting to buy in. Do speculators admiring the franchise values of your average NFL team still consider soccer the final frontier of major league American pro sports? Like, thinking, "If I can just get in on the ground floor of this, I can make a mint like the old-time NFL owners." So these leagues keep cropping up and going bad, like when Bullwinkle used to try and pull the rabbit out of his hat--you knew it was not going to work. Personally, I think what the MLS has working against it is that it is not the best soccer league in the world--which is what is working for the WUSA, which is the best women's soccer league in the world. Then again, the NASL has Pele and they still went bust, but wasn't there a brief flowering of huge crowds in the NASL? Google says no, there wasn't, so there you go.

I also like pro women's soccer's chances in this country because it is a nascent cult sport and all a cult needs is some followers and it can be sustained in perpetuity. Plus it remains a tiny league and hopefully will not overreach; I can see moving a team to Portland, but other than that the WUSA is good like it is. It also has Lorrie Fair going for it. And Heather Mitts. Yes it does. It's completely invisible on the national sports radar except to its cultists, and as long as it has enough of those and remains the fun little low-rent league that is, it'll be fine. MLS has the stink of "we still can't get people to watch" all about it, on the other hand, something the pioneering WUSA does not have.

All those sports business speculators should''ve been trying to buy into the Arena League anyway, which hits primetime broadcast teevee next season and has seen its franchise values go up over the years. Even if it crashes and burns XFL-style in rating terms it'll survive, since it has built an audience for the past twenty years and isn't a made-for-tv product like the XFL was. Of course, this is a different set of circumstances as NBC is using the AFL as its ultimate anti-NBA weapon, which sounds like a crummy, shortsighted plan. But we'll see.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

BALI UPDATE: Andrea See sends us over to "Indonesia bombed into awareness" from the Asia Times, which is mundane and pessimistic and not, like, concerned with the world as a vast chessboard and a nice contrast to the Peters bigthink. Check this out:

The run of violence since the fall of Suharto in 1998, no matter how it's categorized, is a rich vein for conspiracy theorists. Many contend that forces loyal to the deposed strongman hope to destabilize the country and reassert their grip. Security forces unable or unwilling to staunch the bloodletting and a political class bred under the Smiling General's New Order add to suspicions that bombings, separatist movement attacks (see Indonesia's gold standard, Asia Times Online, September 7, 2002), and communal violence are a wayang kulit (shadow puppet) show by a hidden puppeteer awaiting a desperate nation's call to emerge.

Copying the signature of international terrorists could be a new scene in that play for power. Or, as Ba'asyir asserted on Indonesian television Sunday, the Sari Club bomb must be a US plot to manufacture evidence for its claims of terrorism in Indonesia, since local groups could not assemble such a large explosive device.

The fundamentalist cleric is right that the size of the bomb and the sophisticated tactic of detonating a smaller bomb nearby to funnel more traffic to the main blast location, rules out a gangster war or local prostitutes angry over being banned from the clubs earlier this year. But it rules in international terrorists (Ba'asyir includes the US on his list) and security forces.

And:

The only possible motives evident in Saturday night's blast were to kill the most foreigners possible, to demonstrate the impotence of Indonesian law enforcement, and/or to further undermine confidence in Indonesia's struggling economy by hitting a major center of foreign exchange and international investment.