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.
TEMPLE: Still trucking and playing Memphis tomorrow at Madison Square Garden. I expect in that venue Lynn Greer to come out in the fourth quarter like Willis Reed and save the Owls from certain doom. Or possibly not.
BY THE WAY: Ginger had a similar reaction to mine when Akiva Goldsman won: The guy who wrote Batman Forever won an Oscar? Freakin' A, bubba. And Ron Howard beating Peter Jackson and Bob Altman is clearly not a case of the guy with the best body of work up there winning either.
OSCARS: Somebody at Salon remembered Cintra Wilson's phone number (or she remembered theirs --much more likely) and she covered the Oscars. The rabbit got herself some Salonnage too. Ken had continuing coverage up all evening long. My initial thoughts were: Halle Berry? You're kidding me. Not that I saw Monster's Ball but I saw X-Men and she was an afterthought in freakin' X-Men. I am going to go out on a limb and say her getting the Oscar was completely politically oh-we're-so-sorry-black-actors motivated, while the Denzel win was due to him being the best actor not named Russell Crowe out there --Crowe having gotten on everybody's nerves in the past year. So the Washington win is much more legit than the Berry one --and funny how the first "black" actress to get the big one is obviously biracial. The Oscars: Only partially meritocratic since 1928.
WRESTLING, NONPROFESSIONAL: A reader, named joe reader, pointed out the college career of Cael Sanderson who went 159-0 in four years at Iowa State. I know nothing about amateur wrestling, watching it every four years like everybody else, but this is, of course, impressive. I bet Vince McMahon already has plans for him.
FIGURE SKATING: Irina Slutskaya finally beat Michelle Kwan at the World Championships, which is the only place Kwan's beat her the last 10 times they've skated against each other. Was it on tv and I missed it? I was watching Saturday night, flipping between that and basketball and once I saw ice dancers coming out I figured tonight they were just putting the short program on. But next week is just the Exhibition of Champions so --sheeoot.
I AM AN IDIOT WATCH: I confused A Dog's Life with the Junkyard Blog in a previous post. The former actually involves a Dog, the latter only hints at it. I can only blame myself.
WEEKEND NBA WRAPUP: Marc Stein on ESPN brings the tough news that whatever we may wish otherwise the Lakers are still the clear favorite to win it all. Watching them play the Kings yesterday I discovered I don't have a problem with Shaq and Kobe --Shaq's an amiable goof with freakish natural size and talent, and Kobe doesn't annoy me nearly as much as Jordan ever did-- but I still hate Phil Jackson. Someone else on ESPN is actually claiming this is the Kings' year. When franchise player Chris Webber actually makes the shot that gives his team the win with four seconds to go, I'll believe that.

The Nets beat the Bucks and the Hawks this weekend. Ken and I actually witnessed the Nets blowing out the Bucks; I think the Bucks are going to be always the bridesmaid, never the bride for many years now. Maybe the Nets will wind up the same way, but there's every reason to be optimistic with their future. Well, I think so. All we need is crazy Mark Cuban finally getting the right team together to defeat Buddhist claptrap-spouting Jackson and the Lakers and the Nets can play for the title. Provided they get past the Sixers, of course --who are such an intense team. They're very much the Temple Owls of the NBA in not having the most talented team but in finding ways to win when it counts. Me and Ken also debated who the most famous New Jerseyan was. He said Sinatra, I said Springsteen. I swear there's more stations playing playing Springsteen these days, but Ken pointed out older people are more likely to know Sinatra than the Boss. So it's debatable.

Clippers watch: Still not in the playoffs. Dang. C'mon, Stockton, Malone, it's time to bow out gracefully and let the Clips in. You're just going to get embarrassed again. The world needs the Clippers in the playoffs.

Friday, March 22, 2002

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

Thursday, March 21, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2002

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 18, 2002

INTERESTING ESSAY: Jennifer Szalai on the existence of evil:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 16, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 15, 2002

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

At least it was warm in Jersey today.

Thursday, March 14, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2002

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2002

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

Monday, March 11, 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 10, 2002

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

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

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

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

One more book for the "read this" list. One of the Amazon reviewers sums it up thusly: "An attempt to bring neuroscience to bear on love. Not particularly rigorous, but charming in its efforts. One of its main points- that love is very much a physical (body to body) phenomenon, is not very original but well told. And I find the phrase 'limbic brain resonance' strangely poetic."