Thursday, December 15, 2005

YOUR MISS MANNERS QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is it more polite to knock on a bathroom door, or test the doorknob to see if it's locked or not? Testing the doorknob at first seems to be the ruder action--you're jarring somebody in the midst of a private bodily function. Yet, if you knock, you're putting the burden on somebody to respond to you. And who likes talking to anyone in the midst of a good number two? Not me, that's for darn sure. Testing the doorknob answers the question "Is this bathroom occupied or not?" in a quiet, efficient manner, and may be, in the final analysis, the best action. Of course, this depends on the assumption that everyone locks the door to the bathroom when they go in--and they bloody well should--but if that assumption does not valid there will be problems, to put it mildly.

Testing the doorknob and THEN knocking and asking "Hello?"--because you didn't like the answer you got from just rattling the doorknob--is, of course, completely idiotic.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

THE ALWAYS QUOTABLE GILBERT ARENAS: On the current fortunes of the Clips and the Wiz:

Both are "two franchises that have been in the doghouse for centuries now, so it's great for both teams that we've got off to good starts," said Arenas, who won the NBA's 2002-03 most-improved-player award.

That's actually literally true.

Friday, October 28, 2005

A DEEP SPACE NINE POST: Because Netflix lets me. There should be a Star Trek rule than any episode with Troi's mother in it is going to be goofy crap.

Friday, October 21, 2005

THIS COULD BE DISTURBING: But not only am I Laura Roslyn:

You scored as President Laura Roslin. You may be ill but you have a job to do. Fate has put you in a powerful position by accident, but it turns out you are damn good at it. You are no warrior, but in the political arena you are without peer.

President Laura Roslin


Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)


Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)


Dr Gaius Baltar


Tom Zarek


CPO Galen Tyrol


Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)


Number 6


Col. Saul Tigh


Commander William Adama


What New Battlestar Galactica character are you?
created with

But I am equally three of the main female leads at once. Then I'm Baltar/Chief/Apollo/Zarek at once. I'm not Six or Tigh, and I'm certainly not Adama. Interesting.

Via Galactica Blog. An interesting Internet quiz produces unexpected results, in my opinion. Or it could be deeply flawed and that's why it's giving me and others these indistinct results. Possibly it's both interesting and flawed, much like the humanity on display in the new BSG. And with that little bit of overcuteness this post ends.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

TWO GREAT RECENT INTERNET SHITFITS: That I have noticed recently:

1. Maggie Gallagher vs every single Volokh commentator. Via Crooked Timber. She does that whole bizarre intellectual conservative argument against same-sex marriage, done without resorting to homophobia, and thus it never really holds up logically.

2. James Kochalka vs Seth. Via Heidi McDonald. Seth does not actually appear in the thread, but he gets made fun of quite a bit in really entertaining ways.

There you are.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL: Steve Clemons on Judy Miller.

Friday, September 30, 2005

THE ALA MOST CHALLENGED BOOKS THING: The one where you list the books you've read that are on the list. I suck:

5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Sex by Madonna (I have "read" this, but not read it, if you know what I mean)
26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard (Underrated Landis movie, by the way.)
Blubber by Judy Blume
47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Huh? Methinks if people actually read more of the science fiction in the library, a lot more of it would be challenged.)
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (AGAIN with the Blume hate.)
Native Son by Richard Wright (Another one I don't get. Is it because a black guy is the villain/antihero?)
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman (Seriously, I've read this! There was a copy at my grandparents' house.)

I guess Stranger in a Strange Land isn't controversial anymore. Anyway, all the porn I've ever watched is also banned from public libraries, so TAKE THAT, MIDDLE AMERICA!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

HECKUVA JOB, BROWNIE: You're not an administration employee anymore, so get to Congress and start heavily selling the "It was Blanco and Nagin's fault!" line, and basically come off as much of a belligerent ass as possible, since that seems to work with the base. The check's in the mail.

I love how one of the two mistakes he admitted to (the one I'm not interested in was him blaming himself for not finding a way for Nagin and Blanco to work together) was a failure to properly manipulate the media. A remarkably candid admission from a Bush official about Bush administration priorities.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

BSG: PEGASUS: Criminy. They really set it up so we wouldn't miss these frackers at all when they inevitably get bumped off, eh? Thoughts:

--The Cylon interrogator with the attempted Dr. Light was completely intense and completely unexpected, for me anyway. The whole of the Pegasus--it's just what happens when a military mindset is completely removed from its civilian underpinnings, is I guess is what the lesson is here. The disfunctional Galactica is to be preferred to the orderly and depraved Pegasus.

--And it's nice that they use all the old names from the old show, even though names like "Pegasus" and "Cain" have no mythic resonance on the new show. That is to say, all the old Galactica names were meant to mean something; in the new Galactica they're just names. It's one fictional reality built over another one. I have no other point here.

--I guess the Boomer model is built for head trauma, huh? Shot through the cheek, punched by Tigh, punched by Six, choked by Adama, doesn't flinch no matter how many guns are pointed at her skull, and now beaten by a raper of Cylons. Callie was right: aim for the gut.

--Helo and the Chief on the raptor to Pegasus was so crying out for "Here's another fine mess you've gotten us into" moment. I'll just imagine that did, in fact, happen.

--This was Baltar's most sympathetic episode yet. He's a conniving, self-loathing narcissist, yet his love for his female simulacrum is completely legit. You get the feeling that love is going to be the thing that saves the fleet, in one way or another, however corny that sounds in the abstract.

--I'm sure this has been asked and answered across the Internets before--but I guess the Six model is the only one with superstrength.

--When Helo and the Chief rescued Sharon I was so afraid we were going to get a Reservoir Dogs "He was trying to kill the cop" "What, this cop?" BANG! ending there. Thankfully it did not happen. Grace Park is under contract, so there will always be a Boomer somewhere, but maybe not one we know and love. Hey yeah, Galactica Boomer; does she wake up somewhere brimming with love for the Chief and begin to thaw the cold vast Cylon heart? Sure!

--Hot XO on XO drinking ACTION! The Pegasus seems like it's full of Tighs who don't hate themselves.

--CLIFFHANGER! We know the Galactica will survive; we've read the rumors that the Pegasus crew will not remain for very long. But the new Battlestar Galactica is completely unspoilerable. Shoot, last season we Americans knew everything that was going to happen thanks to the British spoilers--and we still watched. It's not solely the twists you watch Galactica for, it's the way they're implemented and who they affect on the show that's the important thing. So, yeah, I am looking forward to next season, but because I want to see how Baltar interacts with the tortured Six, more than I want to see how Helo and the Chief get rescued. It's just the kind of show BSG is.

--And, oh yeah, Helfer was great in the dual role tonight. If you told me Baltar's Six was always an externalization of his psychosis after tonight, without any actual non-Baltar existence, I'd believe you.

--So we've gone from the Cylons as the villains at the end of last season to a renegade Battlestar at the end of this one. Interesting, that.

--Oh, and Adama goes from embracing tyranny at the end of last season, to moving away from it halfway through this one, to embracing mutiny at the end of this season. Also interesting. Perhaps indicating an inconsistency in his character that should be addressed at some point.

That's all. They sort of replicated last season's finale, except they had the fabulous characterama last week and the "Oh SHIT!" moments this week. Good on them.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

REPORTS FROM THE DEAD CITY: The Inderdictor blog: still kicking, still in New Orleans.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Friday, September 09, 2005

WHEN YOU CONTINUE TO LOSE RALPH PETERS: You know you're in trouble.
B.A. IS A JOKE: One of my favorite commentators, John Emerson, invaded this Crooked Timber thread (via Henley) about how the emphasis on higher education may be limiting social mobility, and linked to his own piece, Forget the BA, which I--a person with a creative writing bachelor's--heartily endorse. Zizka's right--become culturally aware on your own time. Use your education, university-based or no, to get a J-O-B.

I love this passage:

Some years back a sociologist friend of mine told me about a study of why people went to college. None of the reasons given (economic, cultural, etc.) quite explained what was happening. There were too many exceptions, and no matter how you cut it, some students ended up going to college for no apparent reason. His conclusion was that going to college after high school is an "institution" -- like marriage for example. And one of the definitions of "institutions" is that you don't have to give any reason for them except that "everyone does it".

So is Zizka a know-nothing? Not at all. I spend most of my time studying liberal-arts-type stuff on my own. It's my substitute for TV. Books are one of the least expensive forms of entertainment, and if you've got a halfway decent library in town, books are free.

There is really only one sacrifice you'll have to make if you read all the time: if you do that, you can forget about being normal. People will regard you with suspicion. More successful people will fear you because you're smarter than they are and are suspected of having a bad attitude. Self-made men and bitter, unsuccessful people will despise you as a failure. Slackers will avoid you because you're too serious and think too much. So you basically have to give up on all normal human relationships, but given today's baseline for normal human relationships, you may come out ahead on this.

And if you ever happen to be invited into the home of a successful liberal arts graduate, you will have the pleasure of seeing their college books gathering dust on their shelves while they talk to you about their real estate, their hot tub and their yacht.

I would only quibble that, thanks to Netflix, movies are pretty cheap these days too. Not cheaper than free, of course. And the sacrifice of all one's normal human relationships should not be done recklessly either (and I'm not really endorsing that part, more his explanation of the worthlessness of the contemporary liberal arts B.A.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005


It's probably always incompetence, by the way.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

WHEN YOU START LOSING BELGRAVIA DISPATCH: You know you're in trouble. Via Laura Rozen, among others.

Monday, September 05, 2005

AH, GOVERNMENT: Don Gonyea on NPR just said that 1. Bush didn't invite Blanco on his tour of Louisiana today, 2. she showed up anyway, at the airport, to greet him, and 3. they toured at least one shelter together but "kept their distance" from each other once inside.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

IRONIES: You know, it's the conservacons always going on and on about what kind of a message this or that sends to our enemies. But what kind of great power can't even protect its own citizenry? If this was Japan--or the frickin' Netherlands--there'd be giant robot levees around the city of New Orleans, which--as we're all learning now--is an amazingly important port, in addition to being one of our most distinct cities. And it's wiped out.

What a kick in our collective American ass.
YEAH--IT'S LIKE THE ANTI-9/11: Wherein we all unite in hatred for the Federal government. Oh, how I long for the month of Cindy Sheehan....
JEEZ, KATRINA: This is starting to eclipse 9/11 in terms of absolute confusion.
BY THE WAY: CNN is kicking the other two newsnets' butts, if simply by virtue of having live overnight coverage. For instance, rogue Orleans Parish schoolbuses are showing up at the Astrodome posing as Superdome evacuees. (Which is, of course, a problem that will continue as long as everybody knows the Astrodome is a safe haven. They had footage earlier of people being turned away from the Astrodome simply because they weren't coming from the Superdome.) And only CNN has the story.

(And this nation really needs a better way to handle refugees than sticking them in obsolete domed stadiums. Still, if you're going to keep the Astrodome--and it's probably a historical landmark at this point--you should put it to good use.)

Besides, wouldn't you rather hear about a disaster from Aaron Brown than one of those wretched Fox partisans? Hey Brit Hume--nobody gives a flying fart what Cindy Sheehan thinks about the hurricane!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I'M SURE IT'S JUST COINCIDENTAL: But doesn't it seem like it took the looting to get the cavalry called up? I mean, it probably really is coincidental. But it's an uncomfortable juxtaposition: looting footage, the Mayor starts talking tough, police are called away from rescue efforts and onto protecting the downtown.

At least the water levels have apparently stabilized.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

KATRINA KOMMENTARY: It's like some bad Bruckheimer-Bay production. "You survived the hurricane....can you survive--THE FLOOD?" I mean, Sunday night, the newsheads were saying that New Orleans was not going to get dead-on hit like everybody feared, and I think there was a bit of a sigh of relief. But a levee's been breached and every half-hour NPR tells me that New Orleans is filling up with water. Well, great.

And I think we all know now that New Orleans is in the middle of a giant bowl.
THE FAIRLY OBVIOUS JOKE OF THE MOMENT: But--but--the Preznit can't release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve! That would only provide comfort and succor to future hurricanes.

Make that the "very obvious joke of the moment."

Friday, August 26, 2005

UPON FURTHER "KILL BILL" REFLECTION: As well as watching Vol 1 and 2 at near-saturation levels over the past few days (plus both movies are in rotation on one of the Encores this month--those are great movie channels, by the way, even if everything is pan and scan and all the Hong Kong movies are dubbed) I have decided that no, it is not a bad thing that we're sympathetic to O-Ren Ishii. And it's actually good anime, what with the emotion-drenched Italian Western score in the background (by Luis Bacalov, who I've never heard of but apparently he did a whole lot of Western scores. And if you love Tarantino for nothing else, you love him for hipping you to great stuff you never heard of) accompanying O-Ren's mother's blood dripping onto her face. I still--STILL!--don't understand O-Ren getting only half her revenge. She clearly sees who kills her father--she looks up and growls at him! (And I don't buy the "Bill killed O-Ren's father" thing, which is supposed to be something David Carradine confirmed but I can't find proof of him saying that anywhere on the Internets.) It's not her movie, obviously, so maybe she got the other half of her revenge before she got to Boss Matsumoto. Only Tarantino knows for sure. And that's the great thing about "Kill Bill"--you know Tarantino has an idea about what happens to everybody. He's said many times how much he believes that if you're going to build a reality, you better know what's going on in it, even if you don't let the audience know everything. After exploring the groundlings-eye view of his little world in his first three movies, we're now seeing the gods and (mostly) goddesses who inhabit his universe.

My own little stab at the Tarantinoverse: Nikki--Copperhead's daughter--will grow up and take her revenge. I don't know if she'll be successful or not; she's up against at least one monster (The Bride, who admitted her monsterness under the influence of Bill's truth serum, admitted how she enjoyed every single killing she performed in the first volume) and possible a second (the grown BB, who, the child of two monsters, stands an excellent chance of being a monster herself. She probably is one; that little girl they cast as BB, she was cute, but you also got the chance that she knew something that maybe she shouldn't.) Tarantino said Sofie gets all of Bill's money and funds Nikki's vengeance. Maybe we'll get Gogo's sister too. (Tarantino never filmed a big big fight he had written between The Bride and Yuki Yubari, sister of Gogo. Gogo ended up getting Yuki's good lines.) We don't know if Nikki's a monster or not, but when people are justified in taking revenge in Tarantino's world, they succeed (was O-Ren born a monster, or made one? I don't know.) So maybe we can predict The Bride's demise at the hands of Nikki right now, without knowing how BB plays into it. Nikki kills Bride, BB comes after Nikki for more heapin' helpings of revenge? And BB will be successful, since she is the natural born killer where Nikki is not? I dunno. But I can practically guarantee it will be better than the Star Wars prequels.

And--gawd--I love the Kill Bills. I love the DePalma sequence with Elle going out to poison The Bride in the first one. I love the Gogo-Bride fight--it's clearly derived from Master of the Flying Guillotine, with a bit of Raimi stuck in (the comic sound effects, the quick closeups) but it becomes original in the retelling, like Kill Bill itself. I love the Leone-Morricone sequence in the casket, juxtaposed with The Bride's flashback to the Shaolin monastery. I love the Shawscope logo and the "Our Feature Presentation" thing that anyone who has ever gone to a local midnight screening of some Italian horror junk will recognize. I love the Old Klingon Proverb. These are fun fun movies.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

HEY YEAH: I can see closing Ft. Monmouth here in the Dirty Jersey--but why close Walter Reed with all the scores of injured coming back?

....Never mind: they're just building a new one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

THE PROBLEM WITH KILL BILL: It's the anime sequence--it just doesn't fit. It gives Lucy Liu's character a degree of sympathy none of the others got, and makes her future alliance with Bill inexplicable. It's not particularly interesting as anime, either. I don't quite understand why he put it in there.

My theory is: The other genres Tarantino built Kill Bill out of--samurai, kung fu, Italian Western, a little Italian horror; all the seventies schlock genres--that was the stuff he grew up on. But he couldn't have been exposed to anime in great quantities until much later, since it was only sparsely available in this country until fairly recently. It's not something he lives and breathes like he does the rest of the films he uses. It certainly isn't "grindhouse cinema"--it's "your parents' basement" cinema. So--I mean--that explains why it sort of sticks out like a sore thumb in what is otherwise an incredible movie. Why he made the decision to use something he didn't have such a strong command of, when he made so many other good choices in 1 and 2, that I can't explain.

Monday, August 15, 2005

JEAN CHARLES DE MENEZES: The revolting conclusion.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

THE ROBERTS ADOPTION THING: Traven in an Atrios comment thread--here and here--explains why there's nothing shady about what the Roberts did. Via Is That Legal? via Atrios himself. Yes, I followed a link from Atrios to Muller back to Atrios. My thoughts:

1. The circumstances of the Roberts' adoptions is a perfectly legitimate area of inquiry. International adoptions can be shady, and there was a not-insignificant chance something illegal/unethical could have happened in their adoption.
2. The fact that Drudge started this means it was most likely designed to gin up outrage from the right, which is what has in fact happened.
3. You can't judge the Roberts for wanting their children to be of their race; that's probably none of your business. You can't judge them for going international to adopt either--how would you like to worry about regretful birth parents showing up at your door with a legal team for fifteen years? But we don't even know if the Roberts picked their kids for their Irishness or not; as Traven suggests, the veddy Catholic Roberts probably went through a Catholic charity to adopt their newborns, and, as you may have noticed, Ireland is full of Catholics.

As you were.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Friday, August 05, 2005

BSG: FRAGGED: Just wanted to throw my thoughts up here about last week's episode before I got home tonight. The delay, in this case, indicates I wasn't too excited by this episode. Like, I thought Valley of Darkness was saved by strong characterization in the absence of a particularly cohesive plot. But this episode depended on just about everybody acting goofier than they usually act. Consider:

--In the space of a week, the President reduced to mumbling in her cell.

--Tigh hits the liquor a little hard and ends up going over-the-top. He called Richard Hatch "laughing boy," which is funny, but not necessarily something I expect him to say.

--Baltar loses every bit of his reason. He usually has a back-and-forth with Nine, though eventually he does what she wants. But in this episode he is one with his mania.

--And Nine wants Baltar to "be a man"? When was that ever in the Cylon plan? (What is the Cylon plan? Please--please, second season of Battlestar Galactica, do not go Matrix sequels on us.)

--I can see why Crashdown would feel guilty for losing Socinus and especially Tarn (and isn't it cute how BSG redshirts have names?) but his freakout was out of nowhere.

Only the unconscious (Adama), the dialogue-challenged (Lee, Gaeta) and the level-headed crewpeople who are never in charge (the Chief, Dee, Billy) were in character. I did love this exchange, though:

Tigh (snapping): "Why aren't you in the brig?"

Billy (after a pause): " one put me there?"

Tigh: (long stare. Walks away.)

But no Sackhoff and no Park means the show lacked their distinct charms (Sackhoff's moodiness and edgy whimsy, Park's strange relationship with my Tivo's pause button) and when you pull a few people out of your ensemble cast, the show doesn't function as well. But the odd character turns were why this was the first episode I found mediocre.

UPDATE: Oh hey, and did you notice Baltar putting his hand on Female Crewmember's leg just after the Raptor blew up the Cylons? It was either 1. an extremely human moment after a tense near-death situation, or 2. Baltar going riiiiight back into character. I'm guessing 2.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

WOW: That's two urinary incontinence ads in one CBS Evening News commerical break. I guess we know who's watching legacy newcasts.

Friday, July 29, 2005

BLOG VS BLOG: The anthropologists vs. Larry Diamond fans thing had been one of the more interesting blogfights in at least a few months.

UPDATE: Jared Diamond. That's Jared Diamond. I'm sure somebody wants to fight Larry Diamond--just not anthropologists.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

DEFENDERS #1: I won't get it until my comics come in the mail at the end of the month, but Neilalien actually goes to comics shops and he has a page-by-page review up. He really liked it. Ah, DC, you shall rue the day you killed Sue Dibny.* Rue, I say!

*And I know Giffen said they didn't leave because of that. Allow a poor fanboy his conspiracies.
LONDON "BOMBER" A BRAZILIAN?: This story's getting weird.
BSG: VALLEY OF DARKNESS: Let's do a little checklist here, since it will avoid critical thinking for a moment. Plots advanced this episode:

Billy & Dee
Baltar & Six and their mumbo-jumbo
Crashdown: Threat or Menace?
Chief: nicest guy on Galactica
Tigh: biggest dick on Galactica
Helo & Starbuck
Lee Adama, Our Hero
Laura Roslyn, Our Savior
Kat & Hot Dog Survive One More Episode

Plots not advanced:
Either Boomer. (Has one of the main credits players not appeared in an episode before? And Tigh and Chief need to ask their agents why they aren't in the main credits yet.)

And have you been reading Wallwriting's BSG reviews? They're quite good, and he gets them up there fast. I loved his conclusion for "Valley":

It wasn't a terrible ep. There were just so many contrivances. They run into D; and exactly how large a planet is Caprica? Thrace's apartment, the museum, the Cylon base, is it all in the same zip code? They all go to aft damage control. Good stories have events and the characterization and themes are demonstrated by how they work around the events. Bad stories have characters and themes and the events are contrived to work around them to make it easier for the storyteller. This was a bad story.

Yet, the characterization was so good that it's hard to dismiss this ep as a loss. In fact, in so many ways it was a roaring success. I am very glad that they have decided to shuffle which characters interact with each other. It's a great way to shake up a TV series without have to take the tired old route of adding a baby to the series, that always spells the jump-the-shark demise of... oh frak!

Yeah--even when the situations are somewhat contrived--or to put it charitably, when the drama demands the central characters constantly be put it in certain high-stakes situations--the characterization is usually amazing on BSG. And the characters did well this episode; here's more thoughts, in a list:

--Billy and Dee. I love these two--they're like refugees from a John Waters movie or something who keep wandering through this bleak post-apocalyptic show about genocide. It was completely contrived to have Dee be the only live one in a room full of corpses, and yet it gave Billy the chance to show concern in his own repressed, fumbling way. Their final scene, with Billy pulling the curtain on the camera, was cute as all bug-out.

--The Death of Socinus. That's what I thought while watching it--"This is the Death of Socinus, and it will be thought of in that way, with capital letters, as something important that did happen in the second episode of the second season of Battlestar Galactica." Chief arguing with the medic, reminding her that she wanted the medkit and what they lost to get it and now it's too late?--Crashdown refusing to deal the euthanizing dose himself--"He's your man, Chief"--Chief telling Socinus all matter of comforting lies, we not even knowing if Socinus heard them, Cally breaking down, as she always does, and yet continuing, as she always does--it was a great scene. Would that every redshirt got such a scene (and Socinus was essentially a long-running redshirt) they would perhaps fear less the inevitable untimely passing that comes with the shirt.

--Chief and Cally were good in the forest too: Cally comforting him, Chief ignoring her, Cally dropping the mother-frakker bomb, Chief looking back in mock astonishment ("Mother frakker? Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?") and then the hug and the kiss on the top of the head. The Chief takes every death of a man he is responsible for personally, and cares for all the members of his little flock in his understated way (I think he think they're all, like Socinus, "tough kids"); he's like the Adama of the non-coms. He is the Adama of the non-coms.

--Lee's starting to wonder about what the hell he's doing--did you notice that? He told Jammer they'd have to roll a hard six (or was it eight?) and then had to admit he had no idea what it meant. "Just something my dad says." And his end wrap-up with Tigh at the Adama bedside, questioning if he was cut out for whatever it was he just did (shooting a charging Cylon in mid-flight--who is cut out for that?)--it's his brother's death still lingering, of course, but a new kind of self-doubt, one that isn't rooted in "my dad got my brother killed."

--Roslyn: will she embrace full-on messiah-hood or will she just keep letting others talk like she is? They keep teasing us.

--Helo and Kara: Okay, I dig the vibe they were going with the piano in the background and the idea of rest and reflection in the midst of the chaos of this episode. I was actually getting a Blade Runner vibe (the scene where Rachel was playing in Deckard's apartment), but I think I've mentioned before that I think the new Battlestar Galactica is a Star Trek vs. Blade Runner mashup, so I clearly can't be reasoned with. But, as Wallwriting points out:

Speaking of Thrace, it looks like we have an answer to the age old question: How little chemistry could two actors have together on screen? Katee Sackhoff and Tahmoh Penikett have the chemistry of an inert buffer and... something that doesn't react with an inert buffer. Look, that's the best I can do right now.

That was why Boomer and Helo had chemistry--they're both mild actors and mild characters. Starbuck and Helo are supposed to have had a relationship, and I can kind of buy it, actually, Helo being like a "safe"choice for Kara or something, and Helo looks like the kind of affable lug who is deluded by women on a regular basis. But Helo could barely pretend to be interested that Kara's revelation that she's not fighting to get back what she's lost--she fights because she fights. She's Starbuck, the Girl Who Fights. And Helo barely raised an eyebrow.

Wallwriting is dead-on with this, by the way:

I also can't believe it's coincidence that in last week's episode, Tigh had taken a similar assessment of a before and after period in his life and how he liked himself then and now. With Tigh, he doesn't really seem to like himself now. He didn't like himself back then either, but after his commission, something that he once felt would be the key moment where his whole life would come back together into a happy state, even after he gets what he wants, he finds he still isn't happy.

Meanwhile, here's Thrace, who is now doing her own before/after reassessment going all the way back to her knee injury. She knows she wasn't happy back then, but she is happy now. Thrace and Tigh are so similar. She's the self-destructive hot head he used to be, and he's the shell of a human and officer that she could become if she doesn't do something about it now.

And yet Adama loves and needs them both.

Anyway, yeah, this episode was as strong as any other episode of BSG in the characterization department. And that's what you watch it for, I think, and why you don't bother Tivoing Stargate: The Legendary Journeys or what have you. It's what sets this show apart.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

DEAR MEDIA: It's possible I'm the only one who cares about this, but could you please point out that the word "Asian" means something different for Americans than it does for Britons? Asian in American parlance means East Asian and is meant to replace the old racist code word "Oriental;" Asian in British parlance means brown people of Indian or Pakistani origin. We don't have a blanket term for brown people, and they don't have a blanket term for yellow people.

That is all.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

BSG "SCATTERED" THOUGHTS: You know--I was worried they were going to shove Sharon out the airlock. But not I'm thinking, if they do do that, it gives us a perfect chance to do a Cylon's-eye-view of stuff, as she'd just wake up in a new body somewhere. Maybe with her human self intact and questioning the Cylon way. Of course, Tigh remembered that killing her doesn't kill her just in time, since he had all the flashbacks to help him out.

Yes--Tigh got all the flashbacks, so this was kind of the Tigh episode, even though they hit on every subplot: Baltar and Six, Kara hates Boomer, Helo loves Boomer, other Boomer hates herself, Tigh's wife wants to take over, the President is the world's craftiest politician, Lee has issues with Adama and Adama is almost dead. Tigh got all the flashbacks and they were during moments where maybe you would think moments where Adama did something relevant to the situation Tigh was in were. And clearly, Tigh was trying to do what he thought Adama would do. But he kept flashing back to scenes of his friendship with Bill, not to any particular thing Adama would do. So they ended up being more a measure of his affection for the man, which Tigh sort of translated into making the command decisions he's always been crappy at making. So he ended up channeling Adama's leadership due to the personal ties he'd established with him. I thought that was nice.

Helo must feel like a sucker at the end of that brief scene. I'm kind of a believer in complex internal Cylon emotional lives, at least in the human models, so I don't think they'll go down the road that she was only using him, and I can kind of see her leaving since Kara wants to kill her and all. Still--Kara told him so. And until preggers Sharon comes back, she's right.

Let's see. They had the obligatory extra-cast-member death. (The guy with the slicked-back hair. In Star Trek he'd wear red....) They went through a whole space battle without a single cut to a cockpit, explosion, scream--I guess their pilots are getting better. I'm enjoying the breakdown of team order on....whatever planet they're on, with Crashdown being clearly overwhelmed and at the same time not enjoying The Chief knowing a lot more about what to do than he does. The undercast continues to be great: Calley, Gaeta, Dee; Billy hanging around the President's cell was a nice touch. That medic whose name escapes me. I do hope they don't turn Gaeta Cylon--you can't recycle a subplot that quickly, methinks.

So it was a Tigh-tinged subplotarama but it clearly wasn't a letdown, which is what I was worried about. And I was amused by the sudden reappearance of the bridge officer from the miniseries. I guess he was in the bathroom all first season.
GASP! PAGS JUMPS THE SHARK: I wish it wasn't so, but Wil Wilkinson makes a convincing case that everyone's favorite public intellectual has lapsed into "old-cooterism". Apparently she forgot that the Internet changed everything, as far as subverting all the old information channels. Odd for someone who got famous, or more famous, writing Salon columns.

Friday, July 15, 2005

MONGOLIAN WRESTLING: Check out Blockhead Dan's threadumentary on the DVDVR message board.
THE SCANDAL THAT KEEPS ON GIVING: Steve Clemons linking to Justin Raimondo. I do declare, Plame/Rove has something for everybody. It's the Summer Olympics of scandals.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME: Mac Thomason has this great online contest going in which 64 ESPN anchors/personalities are pitted against each other in an NCAA bracket-like tourament. Winners advance by being more loathsome than the person they're matched up against; for example, Stu Scott is a 1 seed, Scott Van Pelt is a 16 seed, and Stu is massacring Scott right now. Anyway, check it out and go vote.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

MY OWN PRIVATE MORGAN SPURLOCK: Yes, I am in possession of a sheet of Arby's coupons that expire at the end of the month--why do you ask? I don't think I'll suffer quite like Spurlock did, McDonald's being America's nastiest fast food franchise and all. Nor will I receive any notoriety, as no one is throwing bricks through the windows of the Paris Arby's. ("Know what they call curly fries in France? Les fries de curles.") But I will eat cheap for the rest of the month.

And that, oh Internet, is the first point I've had to make in weeks.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

NO TIME TO BLOG: But this dialogue between bitch phd and John Emerson in the aftermath of the whole "Kos hates women" and "NARAL sells out to Chafee" things is a good read.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A SAD ADMISSION FOR A FRIDAY AFTERNOON: I really like the wings at Applebee's, America's favorite fake-folksy chain restaurant. I'm so sorry for not caring about wings enough to know any better.

There. That feels better.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

POST? SURE--LET ME JUST STAY AWAKE HERE FOR A MINUTE: My next two and a half weeks involve Calculus III from elevenish to twoish, then work, then Computer Science 101 from 6 to 9:30 (no "sixish" because the guy seems intent on using every available millisecond of classtime.) So maybe I'll sneak in a few posts in here or there. Sure.

Friday, May 27, 2005

MORE SNOWFLAKES: Pandagon Jesse's been "poking around":

The Houston Chronicle has a more recent story on the matter, and it's a doozy.

The couple was matched with and adopted 10 unused embryos from a family in Michigan. Three survived the thawing process (the survival rate is about 50 percent), and were implanted in Tracy's womb. One took hold. The whole process cost them about $7,500.

Hold on...this is what they said earlier:

Embryos are "human beings from conception," Houston native Tracy Jones, 32, said Tuesday. She proudly showed the first picture of her child — when he was just a mass of cells.

The Joneses were among more than a dozen families who traveled to Washington this week, with the children they bore from unused embryos they "adopted" from other families, to protest a House bill that would expand the use of embryonic stem cells in medical research.

They adopted ten children and killed nine of them? This is the new face of adoption - near-genocidal disregard for your $750 globsicles?

I think they just think all the blastocysts deserve up-or-down votes. ZING~!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

NOW I AM IN FAVOR OF STEM CELLS: All cute and pluripotent as they are. But I find the existence of an embryo adoption agency to be really interesting. The children the President used in his photo op today (to grandstand against the House's pro-stem cell bill) were the results of this agency's efforts. What they do is collect embryos leftover from IVF treatments and make them available for implantation in willing parents. There's something quite science fictiony about it.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

IN A MOVIE MOOD: Rewatching Empire and New Hope last night (on widescreen Han-shot-first laserdisc format) and googling for reviews I came across Alex Jackson's I Viddied It On The Screen, his collection of on-line reviews. Which are readable, informed, and kind of Kaelesque, who I think is one of his influences--he references her quite a bit. I thought the title was a Kael reference too but he says it's a movie reference in the FAQ. Anyway--I've been killing hours over there today. Really good, distinct reviews where the author isn't afraid to interject himself into his writing (which is, again, very Kael).

Friday, May 20, 2005

SO: I expect we'll be served a big heaping cup of outrage about the Saddam underwear pictures appearing in the Murdoch papers, right? Absolutely. Any second now.

Yep. Outrage coming. I'll just stand over here and wait for it, then. For the big pile of outrage that's coming.

Mm-hm. Outrage.

No ultrasounds in the galaxy far, far away, I see.

Jedi sure do combust fast, when they're not being easily disposed of by clones who can be turned against them by the push of a button.

A clone named Commander Cody. Thank you, George.

It was nice to see Uncle Owen gazing into the Tatooine sunset. Perhaps he will inspire Luke's need to escape his surroundings in some small way.

Jar Jar: no dialogue whatsoever. Thank you, George.

Jimmy Smits will never die on camera unless Lucas revisits A New Hope again. Unfortunate, that.

Padme and Anakin have the most excruciating on-camera relationship in filmic history.

It was nice to see George give the Star Trek II reference with the full-on Darth Shatner when Vader learns of Padme's death. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAN!

There was a lot of endearing goofiness that is one of the things I've always associated with Star Wars (unlike the crap goofiness that was everywhere in Phantom Menace.) Like when Bruce Spence was whispering to Obi-Wan all of the sudden: "Oh hey, Master Jedi. Nice to see you. Sure you can borrow it. Psssst! Droid overlord! Up there. UP THERE." Or the weird sudden closeups of characters who get one line of dialogue (like in that Monty Python joke: "But it's my only line.....") So I'm seeing where the it-felt-like-Star-Wars thing is coming from.

The Trade Federation aliens lost their Asian accents all of the sudden. They were still awful.

We didn't need to see Chewbacca.

McGregor and McDiarmid were great, especially McDiarmid in full Wicked Witch of the West mode.

It was nice to see the New Hope rebel starship interiors. Comforting, in fact. Also comforting: James Earl Jones.

Was Boba Fett in this? I had heard that he was but I didn't notice him.

It was good. I was entertained.
BRIDE OF CHET: This whole Chet discussion has been fascinating. I am wondering, though, is there a single type of woman who marries a Chet, and maintains the Chet numbers across human populations? The basic Chet qualities, as explained by ObWi von, are:

1. Smart and personable, with the ability to be an asshole to the right people at the right time.
2. Uncurious in an intellectual sense. (My distillation of von's point 2, which might not be exactly what he meant.)
3. Hard-working.
4. Risk-taking.

The female Chet--let's call her "Muffy"--would probably at least have to have characteristic 2, so she'd be compatible with Chet and not keep him up all night with dreary dull conversations. They probably have 1 in common too. 3 or 4--I dunno. I figured I'd more throw it out there.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

THE STAR WARS EPISODE III CRITICAL CONSENSUS: Reading the tomatometer it seems like Episode III is about as good as Jedi, which means it's pretty good. I'm getting a lot of the "Hey--this feels like a Star Wars movie" vibe from the reviews.

UPDATE: This Star-Ledger review makes the point that the turn of Darth Vader could've been done in one movie, and I agree. Just cut out the drek from I and the endless debate from II and you'd be left with the Darth Maul fight, the pod race, and....I can't remember the set pieces from II. There was Ani hacking sand people to death (".....the WOMEN....and the CHILDREN.....") and Obi-Wan fighting Boba Fett Sr. on the neato aqua-planet of the cloners. The rest was filler--and Lucas really should've picked up the Padme/Anakin relationship in mid-romance, since the most cringe-inducing scenes in I and II were from their meeting ("Are you an angel?") and their early "dating," for lack of a better word. Apparently their relationship is still bringing the cringe in III, but there's less of it.

Maybe that "Phantom Edit" guy can put it all together. The Ledger review also says this:

"Sith" is the longest "Star Wars" episode, its running time augmented with subplots involving younger versions of well-known characters like Chewbacca and Boba Fett. These cameos are of little use beyond nostalgia and demonstrate how the filmmaker's reverence for his own creations has clouded his judgment as a storyteller.

This, I'm a bit worried about--it sounds like when Spock shows up in Next Generation episodes, or--shudder--Shatner meeting Picard. And I still think Lucas has no idea why Boba Fett was cool in the first place--why kill him goofy in Jedi, and then coat the prequels with the Fett genome unless you had no idea why the Fett underoos were so coveted?--but I'm just a fan with a blog.
CHEAPEST GAS IN MY AREA: $1.909 in Pennsauken, New Jersey. It's one of those indy stations where it takes them five minutes to run a credit card transaction, so I actually went to the Riggins that was 20 yards away where it was $1.919. So I paid a penny a gallon more for a smooth credit card transaction. There you are.

While Washington plunged into a procedural fight over a pair of judicial nominees, Stuart Butler, head of domestic policy at the conservative Heritage Foundation, and Isabel Sawhill, director of the left-leaning Brookings Institution's economic studies program, sat down with Comptroller General David M. Walker to bemoan what they jointly called the budget "nightmare."

There were no cameras, not a single microphone, and no evidence of a lawmaker or Bush administration official in the room -- just some hungry congressional staffers and boxes of sandwiches from Corner Bakery. But what the three spoke about will have greater consequences than the current fuss over filibusters and Tom DeLay's travel.

With startling unanimity, they agreed that without some combination of big tax increases and major cuts in Medicare, Social Security and most other spending, the country will fall victim to the huge debt and soaring interest rates that collapsed Argentina's economy and caused riots in its streets a few years ago.

"The only thing the United States is able to do a little after 2040 is pay interest on massive and growing federal debt," Walker said. "The model blows up in the mid-2040s. What does that mean? Argentina."

"All true," Sawhill, a budget official in the Clinton administration, concurred.

"To do nothing," Butler added, "would lead to deficits of the scale we've never seen in this country or any major in industrialized country. We've seen them in Argentina. That's a chilling thought, but it would mean that."


The unity of the bespectacled presenters was impressive -- and it made their conclusion all the more depressing. As Ron Haskins, a former Bush White House official and current Brookings scholar, said when introducing the thinkers: "If Heritage and Brookings agree on something, there must be something to it."

Yet that is not how leaders of either party talk. Former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill recounted how Vice President Cheney told him that "deficits don't matter." President Bush projects deficit reductions in the coming few years but ignores projections that show them exploding after that. And Democrats, fighting Bush's call for cutting Social Security benefits through indexing changes, are suggesting that only tinkering with the program is indicated.

The congressional staffers, accustomed to sitting on opposite sides of the room in such events, seemed flummoxed by yesterday's unusual session in the Rayburn House Office Building. One questioner suggested Republicans are to blame for multiple tax cuts; another implied the problem is a Democratic appetite for spending. The bipartisan panel would not be goaded. "I'm willing to talk about taxes if you're willing to talk about entitlements," Butler offered.

Not surprisingly, the Heritage and Brookings crowds don't agree on an exact solution to the budget problem, but they seem to accept that, as Sawhill put it, "you can't do it with either spending or taxes. Eventually, you're going to need a mix of the two." Butler wants taxes, now at 17 percent of GDP, not to exceed 20 percent. Sawhill prefers 24 or 25 percent.

But such haggling seems premature when both parties still deny the problem. "I don't think we're there yet," Walker said. "The American people have to understand where we are and where we're headed."

And where is that? "No republic in the history of the world lasted more than 300 years," Walker said. "Eventually, the crunch comes."

He wasn't talking about filibusters.

Via that Carpetbagger guy Kevin Drum is always linking to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

AND A NEWSWEEK ASIDE: The cover story to the dreaded riot-causing issue, Does the Future Belong to China?, by Fareed Zakaria, is worth a read.
2046: Neat IMDB thread about the performers apparently using different dialects within 2046, and Wong Kar-Wai letting them do it.
MISSING THE POINT, NEWSWEEK EDITION: Instapundit uses this paragraph (from Anne Applebaum):

It is also possible that Newsweek reporters relied too much on an uncertain source, or that the magazine confused the story with (confirmed) reports that prisoners themselves used Korans to block toilets as a form of protest.

To make this point:

I had missed those confirmed reports, but heads should roll at the Pentagon for this.

Not because it happened, but because we didn't make it a big story across the Arab media. That's unforgivable.

That paragraph's natural environment looks a little like this:

Now, it is possible that no interrogator at Guantanamo Bay ever flushed pages of the Koran down the toilet, as the now-retracted Newsweek story reported -- although several former Guantanamo detainees have alleged just that. It is also possible that Newsweek reporters relied too much on an uncertain source, or that the magazine confused the story with (confirmed) reports that prisoners themselves used Korans to block toilets as a form of protest.

But surely the larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed. For example:

· Dogs. Military interrogators deployed them specifically because they knew Muslims consider dogs unclean. In a memo signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in September 2003, and available online, the then-commander in Iraq actually approved using the technique to "exploit Arab fear of dogs."

· Nudity. We know (and the Muslim world knows) from the Abu Ghraib photographs that nudity has been used to humiliate Muslim men. More important, we know that nudity was also approved as an interrogation technique by Donald Rumsfeld himself. He signed off on a November 2002 policy memo, later revised but also available online, that specifically listed "removal of clothing" as a permissible, "category II" interrogation technique, along with "removal of facial hair," also a technique designed to offend Muslims who wear beards.

· Sexual harassment. The military's investigation of U.S. detention and interrogation practices, led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, stated that at Guantanamo there were "two female interrogators who, on their own initiative, touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees' religious beliefs." Although the report said both had been reprimanded, there is no doubt, again, that the tactic was designed for men whose religion prohibits them from having contact with women other than their wives.

· Fake menstrual blood. When former detainees began claiming that they had been smeared with menstrual blood intended to make them "unclean" and therefore unable to pray, their lawyers initially dismissed the story as implausible. But the story has been confirmed by Army Sgt. Erik Saar, a former Guantanamo translator, who told the Associated Press that in a forthcoming book he will describe a female interrogator who smeared a prisoner with red ink, claimed it was menstrual blood and left, saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

There is no question that these were tactics designed to offend, no question that they were put in place after 2001 and no question that many considered them justified. Since the Afghan invasion, public supporters of "exceptional" interrogation methods have argued that in the special, unusual case of the war on terrorism, we may have to suspend our fussy legality, ignore our high ideals and resort to some unpleasant tactics that our military had never used. Opponents of these methods, among them some of the military's own interrogation experts, have argued, on the contrary, that "special methods" are not only ineffective but counterproductive: They might actually inspire Muslim terrorists instead of helping to defeat them. They might also make it easier, say, for fanatics in Jalalabad to use two lines of a magazine article to incite riots.

Blaming the messenger, even for a bungled message, doesn't get the administration off the hook. Yes, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, people need to be very careful, not only about what they say but about what they do. And, yes, people whose military and diplomatic priorities include the defeat of Islamic fanaticism and the spread of democratic values in the Muslim world need to be very, very careful, not only about what they say but about what they do to the Muslims they hold in captivity.

You see the problem? The bits that I bolded? The way the Applebaum piece sort of destroys the blame-Newsweek argument? The way he wants heads to roll for not publicizing Guantanamo prisoners backing up toilets with their Korans, and not for continuing to treat prisoners in a fashion that undermines the United States' stated purpose in the Muslim world? It's like Insty's the Riddler and he wants to be caught.

RED IN VICTORY: So I'm listening to NPR talk about this story in Nature about how British researchers are floating a theory that wearing red gives athletes a slight but not insignificant advantage. They looked at combat sports in the Olympics--where the participants are assigned red or blue colors at random--and red-wearers won 55% of the time. So I was thinking, well, numbers aside, this is probably pretty silly, and then one of the British guys they were interviewing said this started as a water-cooler discussion, where it was noted that the long-term successful English football clubs Arsenal, Manchester United, and Liverpool all wore red. And then I was like, well, American sports teams don't really wear red, do they? I mean, there's the Red Sox, whose long-term futility is only exceeded by their fellow red-wearers, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Cincinnati Reds have had moderate success, but not dominant success. The Raleigh-Durham Skyhawks--the only World League of American Football team to never win a game, wore red. The only successful red-based American team I can think of is Indiana basketball. Oh--and, of course, the Red Wings, who were a dominant team (after decades of futility, I should mention) in a league that doesn't exist anymore. So there you go.

I'm guessing the red effect was some kind of statistical aberration--as whoever NPR brought in to provide the counterpoint suggested--and I would love to see who was wearing red or blue in each individual contest. One of the researchers is an evolutionary biologist, and he was trying to tie in redness as a sign of aggressiveness with redness having some kind of unconscious effect on those who wear it (or those who are confronted with red-wearers), but I'm thinking there isn't much there.

Even on the conservative, all-Republican bench that the State Supreme Court had become, Justice Owen occasionally stood out among her colleagues, sometimes in tandem with another justice, Nathan Hecht. In no situation was this more so than in cases involving the interpretation of a state law providing for a teenage girl to obtain an abortion without notifying her parents if she can show a court that she is mature enough to understand the consequences.

In one dissent, Justice Owen said the teenager in the case had not demonstrated that she knew that there were religious objections to abortion and that some women who underwent abortions had experienced severe remorse.

Mr. Gonzales, a Texas Supreme Court justice at the time, was in the majority and wrote that the position of the three dissenters was "an unconscionable act of judicial activism" because it would create obstacles to abortion that the Legislature did not enact.

Mr. Gonzales, in interviews with The New York Times, acknowledged that his words were directed at her dissent but said that he remained enthusiastic about her nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

But he has been repeatedly pressed by conservatives to declare that he did not mean her. Recently, he tried to distance himself from the remarks by telling a Senate committee that he was referring to himself, not the dissenters. His apparent explanation seemed to be that it would have been an act of judicial activism for him if he had done what Justice Owen and her two fellow dissenters had done.

Via TNR via Laura Rozen.


Remember micro-scandal over Washingtonienne, the Capitol Hill kiss-and-tell sex vendor whose copiously blogged exploits roiled the Beltway last summer? (No? Lucky you.) Well, now there's a little coda, and it's actually more interesting than the former senatorial assistant's inventories of receiving a toaster for anal sex or a pearl necklace for a pearl necklace.

Thank you, Julian Sanchez, for teaching us to laugh about small-time Washington sleaze. Again.

The story, anyway, is that somebody she had talked about is now suing her for emotional distress. She never made Playboy like we all thought she would, did she? There can't be a big payout there, except in vindictive capital (as the Reason commentators suggest.)
LEARN A NEW STEREOTYPE EVERY DAY: Asian people can't drive? That I can safely say I had never heard of. Thank you, Internets. I guess.

And I work in a big trauma center and it's not like we're bursting over with Asian MVAs. But I do live in South Jersey and most of the commentators on the Yglesias thread seem like they're from San Francisco, so there you are. And the accident accident Matt describes is more of the goofy confusing reverse with forward and winding p in a tree kind than the hitting the pole at 90 m.p.h. kind.

Monday, May 16, 2005

RISE OF THE SUPERVILLAINS: Here's a Charles Paul Freund post about the possibility the Saudis have rigged the entire kingdom to blow up if anybody tries to invade. Yes, it's completely ridiculous, but so are the Saudis, and I wouldn't put it past the nation responsible for 9/11. They've displayed plenty of aptitude for the bad kind of creative destruction before.

Two 9/11 references on one day. I must be returning to the warblogger womb.
SAY--: Isn't blaming Newsweek for deaths via riots in Afghanistan kind of like one of them thar blowback arguments, the kind one could easily dismiss when left-wing nutters argued that the United State was ultimately responsible for 9/11? Why, I believe it is. It's just as tenuous, at least, taking people's explanations for the horrible things they did at face value.

You should read Arthur Silber's analysis of this "scandal."

UPDATE: You should really read Layne-via-Welch's analyis of this "scandal" too. Part 212 of Why Instapundit Doesn't Link To Ken Layne Anymore.

UPDATE UPDATE: In case this isn't clear yet--you are completely frigging insane if you are blaming Newsweek for the deaths in Afghanistan or if you are suggesting Newsweek needs to be prosecuted in court in any way.

UPDATE THE THIRD: Kevin Drum: "As near as I can tell, the Pentagon has demonstrated more genuine outrage over this incident than they did over months and months of disclosures of similar (and worse) actions at Abu Ghraib. It's revolting."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

SALETAN GIVING ID A LITTLE TOO MUCH CREDIT: When I read Saletan saying this:

The new challenger, ID, differs fundamentally from fundamentalism. Like its creationist forebears, ID is theistic. But unlike them, it abandons Biblical literalism, embraces open-minded inquiry, and accepts falsification, not authority, as the ultimate test. These concessions, sincere or not, define a new species of creationism—Homo sapiens—that fatally undermines its ancestors. Creationists aren't threatening us. They're becoming us.

And I'm like, isn't the whole problem with ID is that it isn't falsifiable, makes no predictions, follows from no evidence, and so on? RPM at the evolgen blog noticed the same thing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

EEK: If Abu Ghraib wasn't disturbing enough, the back story makes it creepier. I wonder if this lends any credibility to the few-bad-apples hypothesis. Something along the lines of, "See how freaked out these people are? Of course they were going to start taking naked pictures of the prisoners!" But I'm thinking it's more likely that while the particular form Abu Ghraib took on was influenced by the Graner-England-Ambuhl triangle, torture-via-porno was a lame idea brought down from the higher levels of authority.
WOW: Peter Vecsey kills Dan le Batard deader than dead after Le Batard's whole "white people might like Nash over Shaq" thing. Via SLAM. I always read a little bitterness into Vecsey when he writes about fellow journalists with TV jobs (like Le Batard's frequent substitutions on PTI) while he hasn't been on TV since his TNT job a few years back. But he really makes Le Batard look like a cretin for kind of half-picking up the racism card.
OKAY--I KNOW LITTLE ABOUT ECONOMICS: But is there any concept of a corporation's lifespan? I 'm listening to NPR and they're talking about United Airlines and their bankruptcy and them trying to shift their pension plans to the government because the plans are these big dead weights that are preventing United from seeking investors. And I'm thinking, why don't they just let United die? Sell everything off, use that to fund the pensions, let somebody else step into or grow in the marketplace. I can't imagine what is gained by keeping it alive. I mean, I think I know the answer: it's too big to let it die. But that's not a good reason.

Friday, May 06, 2005


If you're a female, describing your night out at the strip club is just cute.

If you're a male, describing your night out at the strip club is unspeakably sleazy, makes you worthy of public condemnation, and--most tellingly--did not actually happen during the week of May 1st, 2005.

There you go. For what it's worth, there is a chance I could have found Laura's speech funny if it hadn't been so obviously scripted. Which may be why I can't enjoy any of the members of the Bush team.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

THE HEY?: How to disappear in America without a trace. Via Howling Curmudgeons. Well, you never know when it'll come in handy. Kind of a lot to print up and be on the lam with, though.
THE APPEAL OF RIGHTWING TALK RADIO: And Fox News, which has adopted that style--I've figured out the appeal, for me anyway. You know the current of the debate is permanently skewed in the direction of the hosts. You know the guests/people calling in are either selected for their ineffectiveness or are self-selecting not realizing their ineffectiveness. And yet sometimes the caller will manage to outargue the host, land unanswered questions, and otherwise get the final point in before they get cut off, despite having everything against them.

It's like verbal American Gladiators.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


"Help desk."

"Hi, I just have a question. Are we no longer allowed to have Firefox on our computers?"

"What's Firefox?"

"You know--it's Firefox. It's a browser."

"And when you try to download it, you get--" he repeated the error message.

"Yes. Can we only use Explorer now, or--"

"Well you can still use Google."

Pause. "Google is a webpage."

"Oh yeahhh...."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT CAN'T PRONOUNCE "NUCLEAR"?: Proof that the term "constitutional option" is of very recent vintage. And that the term "nuclear option" enjoyed bipartisan support for quite a while. These stupid word games annoy me more than they probably should.
ONE MORE BATTLE IN THE EVOLUTION WARS: This here Panda's Thumb thread, wherein a bunch of PT regulars take on somebody who isn't defending intelligent design, just the consitutionality of teaching it as science in schools, is very much worth going through. I can't believe I read the whole thing (except for the parts I blooped over.)

Friday, April 22, 2005

GOT A PH.D. IN HATING DUKE: Certainly the longest anti-Duke screed ever. Via the Frog.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

BOLTON STUFF: I love the Bolton situation--it's such great political theater, as epitomized by Sen. Voinovich's completely out-of-nowhere turn on Bolton. I also love this analysis of how Bolton and the social security and Delay debacles fit into what may be the final crash and burn of the White House:

A command-control system like the White House-led Republican congressional system can be absolutely formidable for a certain period of time. But when it breaks down, it breaks down completely. The collapse is sudden, and total. Signals get crossed, backs get stabbed, the suddenly leaderless pawns in the system start acting for themselves, with no system or structure to coordinate their individual impulses.

Is this happening? I don't know, but it's getting close. I thought I'd seen it before, but each time they've pulled it back together. This time, I think there's too much happening at once.

The irony of all this for conservatives is that if they actually read Hayek and got anything out of it other than "government sucks," they would know this. Hayek's libertarianism was very pragmatic. Centrally controlled systems are flawed above all because they have no mechanism to correct their own errors, unlike distributed, self-organized systems. The Democrats in the Clinton years always operated in chaos, no one followed the party line, and there was a cost to that, but in the chaos and improvisation they found ways to get out of the holes that they had dug for themselves. The Rove/DeLay/Frist system doesn't have any means for correcting its mistakes -- look at the blank, lost looks on the faces of Senators Lugar and Chafee yesterday when they just had no idea what to do with a nomination that had fallen apart and couldn't fulfill their promises.

The Republicans accomplished unimaginable feats through the centralization of power. Three tax cuts, a prescription drug plan that will make Americans hate government, an insane war. But if the goal was long-term power, it is a strategy they will come to regret, if not today, someday.

Via Obsidian hilzoy.
PARITY LEAGUE > 72-WIN JORDAN LEAGUE: I could also have written this as "FULLY COMPETITIVE NBA > SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT NBA," but feared some would not understand my meaning.

Anyway--the current NBA just set the all-time attendance mark. I believe this has something to do with the fact is more wide-open than it has been in years, both in terms of who can win it all and in the style of the games (the new rules opening things up.) As a Jordan hater, I am glad the league is putting more butts in the seats right now (by putting out a better product) than they were when they were relying on an enormous marketing campaign built around a single player.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

THANK YOU, CITY OF CAMDEN: For not taking the portable DVD player in the bag out of my car, when I had left the window open on this beautiful evening and parked one of your streets not located on school property (though very close.) Thank you for showing mercy.
24 TONIGHT: Remember in Warrior of The Lost World when at the very end Fred Williamson was revealed to have been in Donald Pleasence's pocket the whole time? And Crow T. Robot said, in his most sincere tone, "Boy, what a great plot twist"? His words echoed in my head when the lawyer from Not Amnesty International showed up, at 12:30 in the morning and twenty minutes after they captured their suspect, to tell them to stop holding him illegally. And only Jack could figure out that their suspect had no, in fact, called anybody on his way to CTU.

But--note that torture finally worked as Jack extracted the info from the terrorist-abettor via multiple finger fractures. This after he quit CTU because apparently its legal for a private citizen to torture somebody or somesuch. The lesson is torture only works when it is not administered by the United States government--which means extraordinary rendition works! Thank you, 24.

Friday, April 15, 2005

THE KENNEWICK CONTROVERSY: Just getting the word out. Strange group of people getting the word out too, actually, if you click on that link there. This is the thing that allows any human remains found by archeologists on Federal Land to be claimed by Native American tribes, even if the human remains belonged to people who got here before Native Americans. And since Native Americans tend to destroy their dead, this means the loss of irreplaceable representatives of early humankind.

It's not something a ton of people are going to get exorcised about, but it is a pretty blatant coopting of scientific research on strictly political grounds. And so I will get the word out.
I RESPECTFULLY DECLINE: To celebrate 50 years of McDonald's. Look--just because anti-globalization types have chosen McDonald's as their symbol of all that's unholy, it doesn't mean that we who are not anti-globalization types have to celebrate the walking bloated corpse of a company with awful food and milquetoastesque advertising. Hell--just cut them loose. Let them destroy each other. I'd rather see Taco Bells and Carl's Jr.'s opening up across the former Third World then the franchise producing America's shittiest fast food.
IF AN NBA FRANCHISE IMPLODES AND NO ONE HEARS IT--HAS IT MADE A SOUND?: When the Blazers were good you couldn't walk three steps without tripping over a "Rasheed Wallace--Threat or Menace?" bit of handwringing. Now that they stink, but are still sociopathic, nobody cares. Luckily the Sports Frog cares. Darius Miles left the court last night a couple times--once after they substituted Ha Seung Jin for him--and claimed afterward it was a bathroom break. I'm just amazed that Ha Seung Jin got into the game, putting up a Milicicesque 0 points in 4 minutes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

JOURNEY INTO LOATHESOMENESS ALMOST COMPLETE: President set to sign bankruptcy bill tomorrow. Look--if they were trying to make it harder for everybody to declare bankruptcy that would be one thing. But then you read things like this and yes it's a MoveOn.Org press release but still:

The legislation Congress will vote on is more than 500 pages long, all in highly technical language. But the Republican leadership and corporate lobbyists are in such a rush to push it through that the text is full of misspellings and repeated phrases. Representatives might not even be allowed to make amendments. But the overall thrust is pretty clear:

* Make families pay more to creditors, both in bankruptcy and after bankruptcy, so that instead of offering a clean start, a bankruptcy filing will leave families burdened by credit card debt, car loans, and continued payments to banks or to payday lenders.

* Make it more expensive to file for bankruptcy by driving up fees so that the people in the most trouble can't afford to file.

* Make it trickier to get through a bankruptcy so that more people will get pushed out of bankruptcy with no debt relief.

* Make it harder to repay debts by increasing the minimum payments in repayment plans.

* Preserve at all costs the millionaires' loopholes—special privileges that allow the super-rich to escape their debts by hiding their money in special exemptions and trusts.

--You realize it's all a big kick in your unwealthy pants. Even legendary Democratic Presidential ticket deadweight John Edwards is against it. And the President's going to sign it because he has no concept of anything outside his narrow interests. It's all depressing.
BACKED INTO A CORNER: If you wanted to beat up the GOP in terms of their own hypocrisy, this--from Jonathan Rauch--would be the article you'd have to worry about, and wonder, "Well--what can else can I say about this?" It is the summit of articles that attempt to trip Republicans with their own rhetoric.
FROM THE HALL OF UNEXPECTED OBITUARIES: Frum mourns Dworkin. Via alicublog via pandagon.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

THE MYSTERIANS ON DVD: I've always been intrigued by The Mysterians, a film I've never seen but was spoken of fondly in an old DVD Savant review. Apparently it got released on DVD fairly recently and the reviews on Amazon have a similiar quality to the DVD Savant's: slightly apologetic but sincerely appreciative, acknowledging that yes, this probably is a flawed film, but it has something to it, and if you were there at the time you know what we're talking about. And I was not there at the time but the reviews lead me to believe that if I had been there I would have liked it too. It's like I'm intercepting somebody else's nostalgia, and maybe--when I do watch it--I'll get more out of it knowing a lot of people really do cherish it, despite its faults.

Anyway--The Mysterians. It's an old Toho release involving flying saucers. Media Blasters has given it the loving full treatment, with new dubs, the full uncut version, Japanese commentary with English subtitles, and separate soundtrack tracks--so says DVD Savant. His summary analysis is:

In 1959, Daily Variety called The Mysterians "a red-blooded phantasmagoria" and that assessment still holds true. It's one of the first movies Savant saw as a kid filmgoer choosing his own fare, and nostalgia is a big factor in overlooking the film's flaws ("What flaws?"). Spread out across a big monitor, it's still a big, fun action circus of spaceships, death rays, explosions and wholesale destruction.

And that's the story of how The Mysterians ended up atop my Netlfix queue.
IT'S FUNNY: Half the time Dr. Baltar is like Stewie in Family Guy: saying stuff and nobody taking him seriously. In Stewie's case it's because he's a baby; in Baltar's case it's because he's a supergenius and is probably expected to be a little weird. But Stewie really is full of loathing for his family, and Baltar really is conspiring with the enemy. The parallels.....are striking.

Yes, I pass the night away with Galactica episodes in the background. I expect another few weeks of this before I get tired of them.
I CANNOT BEAR TO LINK--YET I CANNOT TURN AWAY: Tax days with Morrie. As penance I will never like to another Mitch Albom-related anything again.
REQUIEM FOR A BUGMAN: You would read Josh Marshall for that.

REQUIEM FOR A HUMAN SCUM: You would read Steve Clemons for that.

There you go. I mean--I am not a completely reflexive Republican hater, but it's fun to root against them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

BLACK BOLT VS. WHITE NOISE: Neilalien linked to this New York Review of Books essay by John Leonard, on Jonathan Lethem. Leonard seems to like Lethem but wished he'd put down the genre stuff at some point and reference Don Delillo sometimes. Interesting discussion ensued. Which led me to the From My Living Room To Yours blog, (as well as Radiaton Vibe,) which led me to the blog of Phoenix Suns benchwarmer Paul Shirley, who is an actual good blogger. Read it. Long, descriptive paragraphs, written in a distinctive voice. No archives though; D. Stern probably eats them, and rips them from the Google aether when he can, lest they cause embarassment.
ON THE WHOLE I'D RATHER GET SICK IN.....FRANCE: Matt Welch on the superiority of the French health care system. The comments are fun too.

It's a twofer, by the way: he also explains why Mitch Albom is insufferable.
YEAH YEAH YEAH--BUT IT'S GEORGE KARL: Memphis Bengal on The Frog points out the feel-good story that is the 2004-2005 Denver Nuggets. I'd feel a little better about them if not for their head coach, the man who brought us as a nation inglorious defeat in Indianapolis back in 2002. It's hard to get that excited about them knowing they're going to self-destruct at some point.

Luckily there are other feel-good stories this year--not that they won't end up losing in the playoffs, but at least I'm not completely sure that they will. Like the Bulls, which Bengal also points to. I would say the Celtics are, as the gamble to bring back Antoine Walker to counter Webber's arrival in Philadelphia has worked out so much better than they could have hoped. The freakin' Pacers--making a playoff run after the Palace brawl, overcoming the Pistons' rather crude attempt to get them to self-destruct. The Suns are a feel-good story, or as much a feel-good story as the team with the best record in the league can be. Plus the Wizards and the Sonics, though both appear to be going into the crapper lately. Of course, the Lakers missing the playoffs and Kobe's screwing of the Clippers completely blowing up in his face is the ultimate feel-good story.

I have not watched much NBA this year, I should admit, and so can appreciate these storylines only second-hand for the most part--my school/work schedule occupied enough of my time that I didn't bother with the League Pass this year. But the playoffs are going to be interesting, both because of the storylines and because it all seems relatively wide-open this year. There's no irresistible Laker-like force to root against.