Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Saturday, July 31, 2004
Gillette, Again, If Anyone Cares

OK, here's the guaranteed facts on the Mach3 business: The Gillette company gave Mach3 razors the the DNC, for them to put in the goodie bags given to delegates and members of the press. These bags were delivered to the hotels where the recipients were staying. In at least one case, this turned out to be trouble because the bags were delivered en masse, by the hundreds, to one network staffer who then wanted to give them to the members of his staff. Since that staff was staying at widely dispersed hotels, the logical thing was to bring them to the Fleet and distribute them there, at which point it turned out that the razors weren't getting through security. Sounds like, as they say, a systems failure; Gillette couldn't know what was going to happen to the goodie bags, the DNC probably didn't realize where the bags would have to be distributed, and the network staffer in this story may not have even have checked the contents of the bags before trying to bring them in -- and more than one outlet ran into this problem. If any individuals had trouble, it was from bringing their own goodie bag into the Fleet. Note that blogger Jessamyn has a picture of the contents of the bag.

Thursday, July 29, 2004
Gillette Denies Razor Story

Since I referred to it: Gillette is denying one version, at least, of the razor story I had here: once Amy Sullivan had it at Political Animal, it got some legs. (But according to PR Week, Gillette is contacting people who linked to Sullivan's posting; I guess they missed my link from (the comments of) her posting. (No, I'm not linking from here to my link from her story to my story; there are limits, by God.)

Nevertheless, some version of this story is true, because one of my informants complained that he has 75 razors in his hotel room, because "that's all [he] could carry". I'll investigate.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004
The View From the Cutting Room Floor Dave appearance for me.  Yesterday was recovery day; tonight I plan to go back for the John Edwards show.  Also, I've studied the manual for my digital camera in more detail, which will benefit everyone.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Yes, I was this close, if you ignore the fact of the digital zoom. Shut up. Posted by Hello

You're sure this isn't a joke? Springer's really running for Senate? Ooooookay... Posted by Hello UPDATE: Well, I thought he was running.

After-the-fact DNC Blogging, Monday 7/26, Part 3:  In Which I Am Still Really Close to Very Famous People
Now, the junior Senator from the Great State of New York.  (Or, as was said on Election Night 2000:  Poor Chuck Schumer, the new junior Senator from New York.)  Hillary is a better speaker than I had thought, although she's only here to introduce Da Man, which she carries off with style.  Bill appears a few seconds before you're ready, because she skips a big windup of "here-he-is-the-forty-second-President-of-the-United-States-Bill-Clinton", and he just wanders out while she's still saying the last few words, and the sound system slams into his song, his "Thanks for the Memories":  "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow!" and damn, he is the first rock star President, and he looks great, and it seems impossible to believe that there was ever an instant in 1992 when it wasn't obvious that George H.W. Bush was dead meat.

And he gives the speech, and I'm following from the prompter again, and I realize he's not following.  He's riffing, adding, rewriting. One example:  the prompter has
Democrats and Republicans have very different and honestly held ideas about what choices we should make.
which Clinton changes to
Democrats and Republicans have very different and deeply felt ideas about what choices we should make.
Later, I realize that he had a paper copy in front of him as well, so he may have rewritten it before he spoke but after the speech went into the prompter; but Clinton's independence from the prompter is legendary anyway, so I'm going to insist on believing what I like.

Other than that -- you've probably already seen the speech, so you don't need me to tell you.

And then he's done, and here's Patti LaBelle, and my back is killing me, so I'm done.  A couple of pics to follow.

Atrios is out?
Holy crap!

After-the-fact DNC Blogging, Monday 7/26, Part 2:  In which I Get Amazingly Close to Good Stuff, and Learn What the Lighters Are For
Finally, we find "that room we were supposed to get to", which is close to the convention floor.  This is my cue to try to delete those pictures in my digital camera that didn't come out, in an attempt to save space in the camera.  The result of this operation is that I delete all pictures from the camera.  Since my real job is "Computer Programmer at a Company That Makes Image Processing Chips for Digital Cameras, But Not This Particular Camera", I feel like the world's biggest moron.
And now it's off to the floor, with perfect timing:  as we enter, Ladies and Gentlemen, Al Gore!  Who's great in the way that a politician can be when he's not running for anything.  Without exactly claiming the election was stolen, he jokes that "America’s a land of opportunity, where every little boy and girl has a chance to grow up and win the popular vote"; and says "let’s make sure that this time every vote is counted. Let’s make sure that the Supreme Court does not pick the next president, and that this president is not the one who picks the next Supreme Court."
Back to "that room" for a rest; then back out to the floor.  This time, I go, go, go, up an aisle until I can't get any further.  I find that I'm at the front of the Ohio delegation, and about as far front as it gets; later on, Dennis Kucinich will take his seat two chairs away from where I'm standing and blocking somebody's view (sorry, People of Ohio), and Senate candidate Jerry Springer wanders in and out as well.  In front of me are the sign-language interpreters, who, from the point of view of this hearing writer, have their breakout performance while signing along to a recording of  "Johnny B. Goode" when it's played during the break between some speaker and some other speaker.   Also close enough to touch: George Stephanopoulos, who is not surprisingly short but only because he's specifically known to be short...oh, all right, I was momentarily surprised.  He spends many, many minutes complaining to his unseen controllers that his headset isn't working.
Next up:  Jimmy Carter, the man for whom I cast my first Presidential vote.  He's a little weak of voice, but still I love 'im.  At this point I realize that I can see the teleprompter from where I'm standing, too, and I start following from that.  It's like closed captioning with cause and effect reversed.
More non-headliner time...sorry, all you fine elected officials, but I forget.  Around this time the DNC starts passing out tiny lighters; you squeeze them and they emit a pinpoint of light.  I don't know yet what this is for.
10PM: All networks are now with us.  Remarks by a woman -- a Muslim woman -- who lost family on 9/11.  Well, that's a little overly-clever a choice, I think.  She finishes; a young violinist appears, whose name (given later) I don't recall, but he's very Jewish.  And this Jewish violinist, in memory of the deaths of this Muslim woman's family and all the others, plays...Amazing Grace.
I roll my eyes.
The lights are low.
I realize that the room is full of the pinpricks of light from the squeezable lighters.  They're like candles.
I find my lighter, hold it high, and squeeze it.

After-the-fact DNC Blogging, Monday 7/26, Part 1:  In which I Accidentally Possibly End Up on Letterman
Arrived at around 6:30, do the now-familiar security tango.  Up one escalator, and I have that sensation that you get at an event such as this, where you look at someone, idly think that that sort of looks like...and then you realize, you know, this is the DNC, it probably this case, the Daily Show's Samantha Bee, sitting on the floor against the wall, looking adorable.  So I go over, and narrowly avoid being that Chris Farley character (God!  Stupid!  I'm so stupid!) :

Don:  Excuse me, are you Samantha Bee?
SB: Yes.
Don:  Oh, I like you.  You're very good.  ...bye.
(Don starts to move off, on the theory that she's busy.)
SB: (inaudible)
Don: Sorry?
SB: I was going to shake your hand (her hand is indeed out)
Don: Oh!  Sorry! (Shakes hand).
SB: Rob's over there, too (points at Rob Corddry, with 2 other people, his bald head with its back to me).
Don: So he is.  (And here I veer way too close to the edge) He's very shiny.  Uh, well, take care now.

This brief interaction causes me to lose my traveling companion, and we spend 20 minutes trying to find each other using the overloaded/intermittent cell phone network. 

Following this, we spend what seems like an hour finding "that room we were supposed to get to", which we believe is up with the anchor booths. This turns out to be wrong, but it's a good mistake, because we wander the circumference of the Fleet a couple of times on a couple of levels, passing various Famous Media People (some of whom are surprisingly short, even accounting for the common fact that famous people are often surprisingly short), and eventually there a big crush up ahead and it's coming towards us. 

The crush turns out to be Michael Moore, and he's pretending to ignore someone for comic effect:  that is, he keeps walking past someone who's yelling "Michael!  Michael!", and then the camera lights turn off and Moore says "Was that OK?"  The crush wobbles and reforms; I realize that the guy with the mike is Biff Henderson of Late Night With David Letterman.   As I stand and watch, Henderson's producer moves Biff and Moore, and the camera, into position, a few steps at a time, slowly (it seems to me) rotating about my position, until they come to a position that the producer likes.  I'm looking at the back of Biff and Moore.  Straight beyond them, pointed at the two men, is the camera.  Moore is, you may have noted, on the large side, but Biff Henderson is not, and I can see the camera lens, and therefore...well, fuck, I say to myself, I'm not moving.

It takes them longer than you'd expect to do this Q&A:

Biff: Which do you think the President is more likely to have seen, Fahrenheit 911 or Spider-Man 2?
Moore: Oh, Spider-Man 2, for sure.

This all happens at about 7 PM: LNWDL has already taped for today, so it wouldn't be on until tomorrow.  TiVo, don't fail me now!

Sunday, July 25, 2004

The Florida delegation's floor area, including their electronic touchscreen voting device! Or something like that. Posted by Hello
Slight Media Gossip, Sunday 7/25
Went to the Fleet again today; full security is in place, and I was "wanded" about half a dozen times between entering and exiting at various checkpoints.  My traveling companion got her bag searched for several minutes, while agents tried to find the piece of metal shaped like a blade that showed up on the airport-style bag-x-ray-er.  Nothing found, we went about our business.
Which leads one to wonder why the DNC's gift basket for media members included a Mach3 razor which can't get through the security screening.  Oops.
In other news, the saga of the Al-Jazeera booth continues: their skybox sign is gone, as reported by the
Boston Herald, although my insider's version has it that the sign "mysteriously got lost" by the DNC and that ABC, AJ's sponsor, is "demanding an investigation", with everyone understanding nevertheless that it ain't coming back.

Thursday, July 22, 2004
More on Al-Jazeera at the DNC
Someone's finally noticed Al-Jazeera's box at the convention:
The network has a Washington bureau, and reporters have White House access and cover Congress. Al-Jazeera, which will be affiliated with ABC during the DNC, has 16 staffers covering the convention who will work out of a FleetCenter skybox alongside ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox.

The 24-hour news channel covered the 2000 conventions from the streets with a staff of three, Thomas said. The network also will have a box at the Republican National Convention at New York's Madison Square Garden next month.
Looks like ABC will take the hit, not the DNC, especially given that the RNC will also have AJ in the box.  All's well.

Driving That Train
Reuters has this story online:
AT&T Retreats from Residential Market
which I mention only to point out that some Grateful Dead fan at Reuters has inserted the subhead:
which has little to do with the telephone industry, but a lot to do with Casey Jones.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Steve at No More Mr. Nice Blog tells us
The Republicans have lost Ron Reagan the younger and, in case you weren't sure, they've lost his sister Patti, too:

President Bush ... says that he loves this country and, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I assume he does love his conceptualized idea of America. But I don’t think he loves us -- the people who make up this land....   
Steve continues:
And I can't help thinking that Nancy, even though she almost certainly won't say anything disloyal to the GOP, really might vote for Kerry, just because of stem cells.
OK, it's one thing for Bush to lose the Reagan Democrats; but to lose the Reagans? (I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said "To lose one Reagan may be regarded as a lose both seems like carelessness." I may have him confused with Shaw on this, though.)
Not Helpful

Instapundit approvingly quotes a reader letter:
Democrats are "questioning the timing of the report" of the Berger investigation. But no matter when the story broke, Republicans would be accused of exploiting it to distract public attention from something -- Bush's National Guard service, the Democratic primaries, Abu Ghraib, continuing unrest in Iraq, the 9/11 commission, whatever might sit atop the anti-Bush hit parade that week.
The Democratic primaries aside, that's the most amazing pro-Bush argument I've seen in a while: Everything sucks!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Thirty-Five Years Ago Today: July 20, 1969

...Marilu Henner loses her virginity.

Why, what were you thinking of?
Pants, Pockets, Whatever
Like I guessed below
Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed the handwritten notes by placing them in his jacket and pants, and also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio.

One Berger associate said Berger acknowledges placing his handwritten notes into his pants pockets, and perhaps into his jacket as well.

Note: the "yesterday" link actually points to an updated version of the original version, but "in his pants" was in the original as well.

Monday, July 19, 2004
Berger, Dammit
Everyone will have seen this by now:
Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed handwritten notes he had taken from classified anti-terror documents he reviewed at the National Archives by sticking them in his jacket and pants.
In order:
-- Fuck.
-- Is it possible that "sticking them in his ... pants" refers to what others might call "pockets"?  You can imagine someone putting stuff in their pockets without intent to deceive; not so for putting papers down your own pants, which is what this phrase conjures up.
-- And this, for those who were discussing it the other day, is why it wouldn't be good idea for Kerry to name a shadow cabinet, since Berger is just the sort of person who might have been in one.  (There's already plenty being made of the fact that Berger has been advising Kerry, to what extent I don't know.)
Update:  Nice timing of the leak, though.

Sunday, July 18, 2004
Seekret Visit to the Fleet CenterGuess Who's Coming to Boston?
Through my Extensive Media Connections, I was able to see the DNC space today while it's still under construction.  No cameras were allowed in or this would be a more interesting, and more visual, posting.  Not too surprisingly there's a floor and some seats, and a podium.
The networks are in the process of building their skybox signs; generally each one takes one of those corporate booths you see in places like the Fleet, and puts its logo where it normally says "Some Local Business" or "Some National Advertiser"; the coverage is then anchored out of those boxes, often complemented by a stand-up location on the convention floor for ease  in grabbing whoever you want to put on the air, and for a greater feeling of immediacy.
And, to my surprise, in addition to the expected American networks, there's (so far) one more non-American news outlet with its own box, and its own logo prominently displayed.  And that network is Al-Jazeera.
I don't know if they'll also have a prominently displayed box at the Republican convention next month, but I question the political wisdom of the DNC in giving them such a visible presence (as opposed to credentialing them, which is completely appropriate).  You can imagine the hay that the RNC oppo team could make out of such a display of "anti-American, Arab-coddling" yadda yadda yadda.
But, ya know, I don't work for the DNC, so maybe they know what they're doing.
Starting next weekend there may be DNC-related photo blogging, if I can do without embarassing my Extensive Media Connections.

Saturday, July 17, 2004
Up and Atom
I finally noticed that the nice people at Blogger have added Atom syndication; those of you with news aggregators can add me with the sidebar link ATOM SYNDICATION FEED.

Start the Countdown: Meme Watch

At 4:36 PM Eastern, AP moved a story with this headline:
Libya threatens to sue U.S. secretary of state for calling it 'non-democratic'
Let's see how long it takes for someone to turn this into a "trial lawyers love terrorists" joke. (Which will be especially funny since trial lawyers were presumably involved in that suit against Libya for sponsoring terrorism.)
Anti-Consumerist Film Festival

Now Playing at the Studio Cinema, Belmont MA:

The Stepford Wives (7:00)
Super-Size Me (8:45)
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Edwards bounce

Today's count at

Kerry 322 Bush 205
Tuesday, July 13, 2004
I am Firm, You are Obstinate, He is a Pig-Headed Fool

Yes, the current election-suspension controversy leads us, once again, into the morass of "Who does Al Qaeda favor in the US election, and what could we deduce about that from a terrorist attack?" For instance, see Kash at The Angry Bear:
Item #1: This past week the Bush administration warned that Al Qaeda is seeking to “disrupt the democratic process” by launching terrorist attacks in the US during the period leading up to the November election.

Item #2: Nearly everyone (at least nearly all of those whose opinions I've heard) thinks that a terrorist attack in the US is likely to have the effect of causing people to rally around the President, boosting his popularity, at least temporarily. In the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, it seems likely that people will prefer stability to a change in leadership.

Item #3: Al Qaeda probably knows about item #2.

Now apply some logic. Items #2 and #3 imply that Al Qaeda would only attack the US if they want Bush to remain president. Furthermore, item #1 implies two things. First, if it is true Al Qaeda wants to attack the US before the election, then this is our first evidence that Al Qaeda does indeed want Bush to win the election. Second, item #1 tells us that the Bush administration knows this.

Let me repeat that. These three items taken together mean that the Bush administration knows that Al Qaeda would rather have them in office than a Kerry administration. Think very carefully about what this means before you go about your business.
Well, much as I'd like to believe it's a simple problem (and in addition that the answer is "AQ has gotten bored and gone home"), I don't buy it. In particular, I'm not convinced of #3. There are 2 kinds of people who agree with #2. One kind is the kind that has observed human history and is aware of the rally-round-the-flag, circle-the-wagons effect that things like attacks from outside can cause in a country. For an example: Churchill told the world that "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills..." And they would have; but then again, the Germans fought the Allies every inch from Normandy back to Berlin, too.

See also Jim Henley's point that in the sloppy Red State/Blue State cultural division, the world is filled with Red States; they just happen to be populated by non-Americans. They all fly their flags, sing their patriotic songs, and swear they'd rather fight than switch. (It's buried in the middle of this very long posting.)

The other kind believes that this is true, but only of their own side. It's like the observation attributed to Bertrand Russell, and which I used as the title of this post, only in this case it's

We are resolute in the face of adversity
They will fold under pressure

I think that the group of people who believe this includes the kind of people who become terrorists. They believe that their own will, and their devotion to their cause, will make their cause invincible, but that their enemy has no such steadfastness. In short, they're too in love with their own violence to consider the actual likely effect of an attack on their enemy's morale, and so they're not sophisticated enough to get Kash's point #2.

God Shed His Grace On Thee

And speaking of Language Log, here's an interesting observation, from Geoffrey K. Pullum, on Ray Charles' famous version of America the Beautiful: the text, as written, is in the subjunctive, like a prayer:

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea! in, May God shed his grace on thee. Charles has recast it as a past-tense statement:

America! America!
God done shed His grace on thee,
And crowned thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Pullum figures this is likely to be misreading of the original on the part of Charles, rather than a clever re-imagining of the text. But you know, it's optimism that's the most important thing, we're told, and what could be a more optimistic take than this?

(The discussion is extended here...and extended is the word.)

More on Tongues

Coincidentally, just after the previous posting, I came across this at Language Log -- a reference to the James Fallows article in the non-online-Atlantic:
Recently I saw an amazing piece of political video. It was ten-year-old footage of George W. Bush, and it changed my mind about an important aspect of the upcoming campaign. [...] was the hour in which Bush faced Ann Richards [in the debate during the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election] that I had to watch several times. The Bush on this tape was almost unrecognizable--and not just because he looked different from the figure we are accustomed to in the WHite House. He was younger, thinner, with much darker hair and a more eager yet less swaggering carriage than he has now. But the real difference was the way he sounded.

This Bush was eloquent. He spoke quickly and easily. He rattled off complicated sentences and brought them to the right grammatical conclusions. He mishandled a word or two ..., but fewer than most people would in an hour's debate. More striking, he did not pause before forcing out big words, as he so often does now, or invent mangled new ones. "To lay our my juvenile-justice plan in a minute and a half is a hard task, but I will try to do so," he said fluidly and with a smile midway through the debate, before beginning to list his principles. [...]

Obviously Bush doesn't sound this way as President, and there is no one conclusive explanation for the change. I have read and listened to speculations that there must be some organic basis for the President's peculiar mode of speech--a learning disability, a reading problem, dyslexia or some other disorder that makes him so uncomfortable when speaking off the cuff. The main problem with these theories is that through his forties Bush was perfectly articulate. [Linguist] George Lakoff tried to convince me that the change was intentional. As a way of showing deep-down NASCAR-type manliness, according to Lakoff, Bush has deliberately made himself sound as clipped and tough as John Wayne. ...

I say: Maybe. Clearly Bush has been content to let his opponents, including the press, think him a numbskull. ... But to me the more plausible overall explanation is the sheer change in scale from being governor of Texas to being President of the United States.
So Lakoff more or less agrees with the "big phony" argument, and Fallows is not so sure. Guess I'll have to go buy the Atlantic and get more detail.


There are a number of theories around about the origin of Bush's halting, labored speech pattern; suggestions have included genetics, neurological dysfunction, years of alcoholism, continuing alcoholism (my personal greatest hope for Josh Marshall's shuffling of the tectonic plates, by the way) and an attempt to control a stuttering problem (I can't remember where I read that last one, but it was from a former stutterer who claimed to recognize the tactic).

Another idea occurred to me in reading Billmon's piece about the right's hijacking of the idea of class warfare:
Bush Sr.'s decision to transplant the clan to Texas may have come too late to remove the elitist taint from his own narrow shoulders, but the son - with a little coaching - definitely has been able to take on a lot more of the local coloration. Shrub's not nearly the phony his Dad was in '88, although his preppie roots occasionally show through from time to time.
This suggests that at least part of Bush's problem may just be faking his Texas accent. Supposedly there's film or video of him from around 1990, with a much less prominent accent. Which in turn suggests a campaign surrogate idea: start in on Bush being a phony Texan with a phony accent. It makes a semi-substantive point; it invites the listener to listen to his manner, rather than his words, which is probably a benefit; and if you can get Bush trying to monitor his every syllable, he might just lock up in a self-observing loop and be unable to speak.
The Chin Knows

What does it say when the day's best jab at the election-contingency-plan-postponement thing comes from Jay Leno?
"I love that the Department of Homeland Security always tells Americans if you don't fly commercial airlines, 'the terrorists have won.' If you don't hold the Super Bowl or the World Series, 'the terrorists have won.' If you don't get out to the mall and do your Christmas shopping, 'the terrorists have won.' Comes time for the election, 'Oh, let the terrorists have that one.'"

Saturday, July 10, 2004
Today's Electoral Map

In case anyone reading this doesn't already know about it, check out, with a map of projected state-by-state results and the ability to wander back in time over those polls. (Current totals, including states "barely" one way or the other: Kerry 291, Bush 247. The last time Kerry didn't have 270+ was July 1, when it was B264/K247 with one state a tossup. Which state? Why, Florida. And from June 26 through June 28, they had it as a dead even 269/269 tie.)
Friday, July 09, 2004
Unclear on the Concept

Just heard at the Intelligence Report press conference:
We should try, as much as possible, to avoid the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Kinda Dark in Here -- I'll Feel Better If I Whistle

Conventional left-blogistan wisdom is that today's terror..whatever-it-is, is brought on solely by the desire to take attention away from other things, such as the Edward nomination. Note archetypal example at Seeing the Forest -- he's by no means the only one, of course.
As I said before, in politics timing is everything!

Watching CNN, the news of this new "terror threat" followed a new Bush commercial, talking about the terror threat and Bush's magnificent God-like leadership, and INTERRUPTED a story about Edwards' work for injured victims before running for the Senate.

The Bush campaign strategy is becoming clearer and clearer. Ken Lay indicted just as Edwards is chosen. (Don't expect a conviction.) Expect big news during the Democratic convention. And, of course, in October watch your backs.
Well, I would never go so far as to claim that the terror warnings are not influenced by politics -- not with this bunch. But the claim that the warnings specifically come when Bush needs a bump doesn't persuade me, for two reasons.

First, you can say that it always comes when there's been bad news for Bush. But that's hard to falsify, because the last six months or so have been a constant stream of bad news for Bush, so there's not much in the way of points that could disconfirm your suspicion. (I haven't actually gone over day-by-day summaries, but between Iraq, the 9/11 comission, and the rapid nomination of non-extreme boring old JK, I think this is defensible.)

Second, the last time we went to actual Orange Alert was exactly 7 days after Saddam was captured. You'd think that if ever there was a time when they wouldn't need an artificial bump, that would be it.

One extra thought does occur to me: I bet that if there is politicization of all this, the Bushies really, really, don't want there to be attack at the actual Democratic convention; what, after all, would we conclude from an AQ attack on the Dems, especially if one doesn't come against the Repubs in NY? Might some conclude that AQ wants Bush to win? Oh my.

And finally, the idea that the Bushies are hoping for an attack in October is silly, because they might die. Unless they do get the magic "time, place and manner" information, but I wouldn't bet on it, and I don't think they will either.
Thursday, July 08, 2004
No Funny Title for This

This was printed a couple of months ago, but I just saw it referred to on Romenesko:
This time last year I was plotting to kill a man. I was going to walk up to him, reintroduce myself and then blow his balls off. I was going to watch him writhe like a poisoned cockroach for a few seconds, then kick him onto his stomach and put three bullets in the back of his head. This time last year I had a gun, and a silencer, and a plan. I had staked out the man's tract home in Broomfield -- the gray, two-story one with the maroon trim and the American flag hanging above the doorstep. I had followed him to and from his job as an electrical engineer. I was confident I would get away with murder, because there was nothing in recent history to connect me to him. Homicide investigators look for motive, and mine was buried 25 years in the past.

The man I was going to kill was the one who raped me in 1978, when I was seven years old.
Long but worthwhile. Read it. And then his followup, here. According to the later piece, everyone in the world already knows about this, but I sure didn't. Maybe it comes from not reading Drudge regularly.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A friend who spent his childhood in Brazil recently emailed me with the subject

E o angulo reto que ferve a noventa graus

..which, he explains, is

the punchline of an old Brazilian joke about one of our allegedly dim-witted military dictator presidents. "My mistake, it's the right angle that boils at ninety degrees."

I decided I'd rather guess the joke than be told it. Certainly relevant: Brazil uses Celsius.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004
If You Can Read a Ballot, Thank a Teacher

As told by Atrios' guest-blogger Tena:
Kerry gets NEA endorsement

No surprise, here, really, since Bush is the most anti-education, anti-intellectual president ever. The NEA has 2.7 millions members, mostly teachers. It is mobilizing its forces for Kerry. This is good news, expected or not.
Allow me to add...also, no surprise, considering this political cartoon proudly displayed on the RNC website:

Monday, July 05, 2004
Spam spam spam spam

Its just that ive been calling him dad for the last hour and ive sort of got used to it. Mandy was very subdued when she came into the room. He whispered, do you really think hell forgive me? To go on with your story-what did you do after he got changed and youd had some breakfast? Concerto for flute and orchestra oh, mandy said.

Here's looking at you, George

All those reviews of Clinton's My Life that complain of how Clinton goes on and on about everything remind me of this exchange from The Maltese Falcon:
Gutman: You're a close-mouthed man.

Spade: No, I like to talk.

Gutman: Better and better. I distrust a close-mouthed man. He generally picks the wrong time to talk and says the wrong things. Talking's something you can't do judiciously unless you keep in practice. Now, sir, we'll talk if you like. I'll tell you right out - I'm a man who likes talking to a man who likes to talk.

Oscar Documentary Rules!

Sullywatch links to the Oscar rules for documentaries (rules in progress, so only a few categories are up), from which we learn that the Academy's definition is:
An eligible documentary film is defined as a theatrically released non-fiction motion picture dealing creatively with cultural, artistic, historical, social, scientific, economic or other subjects. It may be photographed in actual occurrence, or may employ partial re-enactment, stock footage, stills, animation, stop-motion or other techniques, as long as the emphasis is on fact and not on fiction.
None of the hyper-literal, re-enactment banning stuff that I expected to see. Hell, it doesn't even have to be true! That should shut up the anti-Moore activist I heard on NPR about a month ago, claiming that Bowling for Columbine was a sham because they put a dog in a hunting jacket or something. (Oh, all right.)

I also noticed this mystifying clause:
An Animated Documentary Short Subject may be submitted in either the Documentary Short Subject category or the Animated Short Film category, but not both.

Well, it turns out this form goes all the way back to the legendary Winsdor McKay, who did a short called The Sinking of the Lusitania in 1916. There's 11 more current ones here. The one with the childrens' interviews put in the mouth of birds brings to mind Nick Parks' Creature Comforts, which I guess must also qualify. Who knew?

And a Humorist who Cannot Tell a Joke

[Or, Make Like a Tree and Get Out of Here]

I really, really hope this is a misquote:
"I came in there and he had pictures on the wall of presidents," Welsch said. "I asked why he had those up. He said, 'Washington never told a lie, Johnson never told the truth and Nixon didn't know the difference.' I decided that would be the best foundation for the Liars' Hall of Fame."
For cryin' out loud, man: That joke goes like this, and note the parallelism:

Washington could not tell a lie;
Johnson could not tell the truth;
and Nixon could not tell the difference.

I can forgive the transition from "could not" to "never", because I'm not sure of the origin of the singsongy voice in my head that's the child Washington, asked about the cherry tree: "I CANnot TELL a LIE." Maybe it's from a cartoon or something. Maybe everybody else's head doesn't have that.

But if you lose the verb "tell", you lose the switch into another sense of "tell" in "tell the difference". Rank incompetence, I say. And this is Roger Welsch, a professional humorist according to the story, who used to be on CBS's Sunday Morning. Like I say, I hope the AP writer blew it, not Welsch.
Sunday, July 04, 2004
Letter to the Stars, and it's not what you think it is

Here's an odd find: an Austrian school project with the English name "Letter to the Stars", in which high school students write letters to specific Austrian victims of the Holocaust, tie the letters to ballons and launch them into the sky — i.e. "to the stars", although the word "Himmel" means not only "sky", but "heaven", so enjoy the overtones. As my father and his immediate family fled Vienna in spring of 1939, unfortunately not before his uncle and grandparents were arrested, this is of particular interest to me. What's of particular particular interest is that one of the people chosen to receive a letter has the same first and last name as my father, which is extra creepy. Here's the letter to my father's namesake, slightly cleaned up from a Google translation:
When I read of your fate, I was deeply shaken. It must have been cruel and hard for you, when you were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Unfortunately it is to be regretted that your life ended here. In addition it must have been difficult for you as a [defense fighter?] and social-democratic local council to work as a physician in Spittal A D Drau since many patients refused to visit your practice and pay their debts. Despite many searches we unfortunately could not find your death date out!
This was written by 4 16-year-old girls; that's old enough to bring an appropriate moral imagination to the task, but as you can see, the letter is a summary of their research. Although what do I expect? "Sorry about that, and let me just check with Grandpa to see what he was up to back then?" (At this late date, even the grandparent of teenagers is probably young enough to be off the hook.)

But the whole thing is a well-intentioned idealistic effort, and has Elie Wiesel's name attached. Note the sequel/attached project, Part II, available on their page in English, in which students correspond with survivors both inside in outside Austria.

A Question about Marlon Brando, and a Followup if I May?

What's the last movie that Marlon Brando made in which he was not a joke or a caricature of the idea of Marlon Brando?

If the answer to the previous question is The Godfather, how much of that is because of what was going on the rest of the movie?

I admit that this probably reveals me as someone who knows nothing worth knowing about movies, acting, or movie acting. For someone who does, see here.

I will, however, make one point about The Godfather, which is that one aspect of its making is unimaginable today. Mario Puzo's novel was half Mob story and half downright smut, featuring, along the way, one memorably gynocological subplot -- and I don't mean "detailed pornography"; I mean that it featured a doctor whose job it is to tend to women's reproductive organs. The now-unimaginable thing is that someone looked at this book and decided that it could be a great film if you took the sex out.

Thursday, July 01, 2004
Next: The Shield Kids

This Saturday, July 3, is the industry-wide giveaway stunt Free Comic Book Day. Among the wares:
IDW Sampler
Including 24, CSI, The Shield, and 30 Days of Night
This all-ages appropriate sampler includes material from comics based on TV's number one drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and the critically acclaimed The Shield, as well as from IDW's break-out hit, 30 Days of Night. Plus: a special sneak peek, as IDW unveils the first pages to be seen from the upcoming comic based on 24, the winner of this year's Emmy for Best Drama. 24 launches in July, and you can get a free peek on Free Comic Book Day!
An all-ages version of The Shield? Oh, that's going to be trouble.

(Seen on the sidebar at TVBarn.)
Cheap Shot around the Corner

Jonathan Adler (who?):
Let me simply say that one need not view comics as a high-art form to find them enjoyable and worthwhile. One need not think Kurt Cobain rivals Ludwig von Beethoven to enjoy listening to Nirvana. By the same token, one need not mistake Steve Kirby for Renoir or Stan Lee for Shakespeare to appreciate and enjoy their creations.
"Steve Kirby"? Jack Kirby, and/or Steve Ditko. Jeez.

Powered by Blogger Weblog Commenting by
free website counter