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)
Friday, September 30, 2005
Remember This?

Thursday, September 29, 2005
Rock Star Stories

Producer Judd Apatow, guesting this week at Slate:

Then they said we could stay and watch them rehearse. Next thing we know, the Stones are performing, and we are getting a private concert. Between songs Mick Jagger would walk over to us to see how we were doing. "Can I get you anything? A glass of water?" he said, not jesting. It was amazing.

On the walls, they had a list of every song they had ever recorded, and between songs they would refer to it and pick one to try out. Then they would play a CD of the song to remind themselves of how it went. They sounded amazing because they were not trying to look good or be visual. They focused only on the music. I know this sounds hard to believe, but the song that kicked the most ass was "Undercover of the Night."
Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber:

My brother was traveling through Toronto airport last week, and was running a little late. But he was also hungry, so he stopped to get a sandwich. The guy in front of him in the queue took a very long time to order. He began counting out his change very slowly. He asked things like “Is this a quarter?” My brother, increasingly impatient and not in a charitable mood, thought maybe it’s the guy’s first time in Canada, or maybe he’s just an idiot. The guy had an odd bag at his feet that was a mixture of leather panels and silver-lined parachute material. He wore an Irish flat-peaked farmer’s cap of the sort which, when seen on someone under the age of sixty, is guaranteed to annoy Irish people everywhere. These facts lent support to the second theory. Finally, the guy finished counting out his money, slowly gathered his food and his silly bag and turned around to leave.

It was Michael Stipe. My brother said hello. Stipe said hello. Off he went. My brother said the only other thing that it occurred to him to say at the time was “Hey, how’s Thom Yorke? When’s the next Radiohead album coming out?” But he felt this might not have been an appropriate question.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
DeLay and "Jim Ellis"

Kevin Drum kindly excerpts this on the DeLay indictment:
DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.'s not an uncommon name, but it's also Jeb Bush's middle name -- as I love to point out, "Jeb" is really John Ellis Bush -- and the middle name of Jeb's son, and the last name of John Ellis, the Bush cousin who sort-of called Florida for Bush on Election Night 2000 while working for fairandbalanced Fox News. So is this Jim Ellis by any chance a Bush cousin? I find no obvious sources saying that he is, and you'd think someone would mention it if so, but you want to be sure about this kind of thing.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Don Adams

Don Adams died yesterday. You'll be seeing him during the "people who died since our last ceremony" part of next year's Emmies. Had he died a little more than a week earlier, he would have made this year's show.

Missed it by that much.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
De-Union, or: As you Goddam Well Know, Bob

Last week, writing after the first episode of Reunion, I predicted:
Expect narrative devices a small step up from "Well, here it is, 1987 at last!"
Actual dialogue:
" case you haven't noticed, it is 1987, and we are in in New York City"
Which, combined with an even higher cheese factor, removes this show from my list.
Friday, September 23, 2005
More Shows I Watched

But first, an ad for a show I didn't watch:

"Hey...ghooostie....check these out....what do you mean, you can't hear me?" (The Ghost Whisperer sounds like a joke title that escaped from a writers' room, doesn't it?)

Invasion: Here's one way I decide if someone knows the kinds of things about TV that I know about TV: do they know that Shaun Cassidy, known 30 years ago as David Cassidy's also-singing half-brother, is a reliable producer of oddball, cult-y TV? His credits include "American Gothic", "Cover Me", "Roar", "The Agency", and "Cold Case", which is so mainstream that I didn't even realize it was one of his. (So even I don't fully know the kind of things I know.) Anyway, this one is his too, which is part of why I figured it should be the one of the three hour-long mysterious-sci-fi shows about aliens or something like them, one on each network, that I'd check out. Also, as mentioned in a previous item, it has the creepy blond lady, who I have since looked up and turns out to have been in later seasons of Earth: Final Conflict.

So I'm disappointed to disappointment. It would have been better if I could have heard any of the dialogue; the first half mostly takes place in a hurricane, and the audio was screwed up and echo-y in the second half -- I presume that was a local issue. Anyway, hurricane, flashing lights, people acting like they're posessed, and a big feeling of deja vu. It might get better, but I'm not filled with patience about it, so they better get cracking.

Everybody Hates Chris: Like My Name is Earl, I didn't like this as much as I had hoped from its advance buzz. It also pushed one of my annoyance buttons (so many, so many), which is the number of amusing childhood memoirs on TV that feature bullying. If you were creating a show about adults, and a major part of it was about going to work and trying to avoid the thug co-worker who would routinely steal your money and sometimes beat you up, I don't think that show would be a comedy. ("What about the janitor on Scrubs?" you ask. Well, shut up, is all. Also, his behaviour doesn't rise to the level of criminality, to my quick recollection.) I guess my objection is not so much to the comedic treatment as to the general shrugging acceptance of bullying that it indicates. (You know the right wing is against anti-bullying programs in schools, right? Because it stops people from beating up homos, or makes you a homo, or something.)

Oh, and stay away from Love, Inc., which is after Everybody Hates Chris, which is the only reason I tripped over it. I don't know who could save this show but it's not Busy Phillips, who turned in a great performance on Freaks And Geeks (my God, is everyone from that show on a new show this fall?) but is not a comedic lead.
Flightplan: Carnac Speaks

I don't intend to see the new Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan, but having read two reviews, I have a good guess as to where that little girl is, which I will present in a comment to this posting, as courtesy to the readership, which is of course largely imaginary, randomly linked from other blogs, or named Jesse.

PS: When did "flightplan" become one word?

UPDATE: Comment now has been updated with actual spoiler information, so watch out if you care.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
Emmy Relic

Scan of the card that the Emmy presenter read:

The Power of Distributed Ignorance, or: How the Pros Do It

Kevin Drum, Tuesday:
Mickey Kaus thinks that Bruce Reed and I are wrong for criticizing George Bush's post-Katrina suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, a Hoover-era law that compels the government to pay "prevailing wages" for construction work. Is Mickey right? I'll be honest about this: the first time I had ever heard of the Davis-Bacon Act was on September 9, when I wrote the post in question.
Matt Yglesias, also Tuesday:
I'm probably not the best person to rebut Mickey Kaus' attacks on the Davis-Bacon Act since I don't really know anything about it, but even accepting his characterization of the issue for the sake of argument I don't buy it.
Guys...please, don't ruin the illusion. If you've developed the ability to pontificate on stuff you know nothing about, don't draw attention to it! I mean, was Kaus an expert on Davis-Bacon when he started? I bet not, but did he apologize before posting? Hell no! And what is it about this one topic that's forcing all this honesty out of you guys? Is it that "Davis-Bacon" sounds so incredibly dry that you figure you really ought to up on it to be a proper policy wonk?

UPDATE: Center-Left Punditry Held Hostage, Day 2: Now the two of them are acting like they've hit the long division part of the 4th-grade arithmetic test.

Dave Meyer's done what I didn't dare and actually looked into the details of what Davis-Bacon does...
The Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" debate continues! You're excited, aren't you?
(In an attempt to go double-meta, I've barely read any of these pieces beyond their demotivational openings, nor whatever Kaus had to say.)
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
More TV Shows I've Checked Out

The War At Home: As far as I can tell, Michael Rappaport is a well-respected actor whose speciality is playing guys who seem sort of aggrieved but are, quite obviously to me at least, complete dicks. But at least he's got the redeeming qualities of racism, sexism and homophobia. If that's the sort of thing you like... I couldn't finish the half-hour.

Reunion: This could turn into a guilty pleasure; a murder is committed in the present day among a group of six lifelong friends, and each episode is a flashback to a year from 1986 to the present (in order, thank God!). Expect narrative devices a small step up from "Well, here it is, 1987 at last!" For no good reason, we won't even find out which of the six got whacked until episode 5, presumably because we'll be interrogating one survivor each of the first weeks. (Obvious choice to die: gee, could it be the spoiled rich kid asshole who's ruining everybody's life?)

Out Of Practice: Oy. Paula Marshall's buried in this mess somewhere, remembering Cupid and thinking "Jeremy Piven was just nominated for an Emmy for 'Entourage' [lost, though!], and here I am." Also reminds me that other people like Stockard Channing way more than I do, and that Henry Winkler's latter-day shlub roles aren't doing him any favors.

Kitchen Confidential: Good enough, for no obvious reason. Features one actor from Buffy (Nicholas Brendon) and one from Freaks And Geeks (John Francis Daly). Like half of America, I thought this was going to be a reality show.

How I Met Your Mother: Also features one from Buffy (Alyson Hannigan) and one from Freaks and Geeks (Jason Seigel). Also on Monday at 8:30 ET. The pilot kept me giggling until the memorable end. This may be the best pilot I've seen in a while, but I'm not sure how it will play out as a series. But as a reward for its one good thing, I'll be back to find out. Continuing with the theme of mind-reading the actors: Neil Patrick Harris is thinking "Damn, they cancelled NYPD Blue? I was so sure I was the next former child star to shock America with his rugged manliness."

My Name Is Earl: Not nearly as good as its pre-air rep, and the narrative device seems lifted from Arrested Development. But man, Jamie Pressley is one hot trashy babe.

Bones: Wanted to like it, and sort of did, but not enough. Stars a former Buffy cast member (David Boreanaz) but mysteriously is not on at 8:30 Monday night. Also some tiny brunette girl to balance him out. Well, strictly speaking she's probably more the lead than he is. Since "Bones" is supposedly her nickname.

Huh. For a guy who keeps saying he's trying to cut back on the TV shows, that's a lot of checking out. And it's only Tuesday of the first offical week of the season. Tomorrow, Whichever Sci-Fi Invasion show is the One with the Blond Lady Who Smiles a Really Creepy Innocent Smile and Her Daughter Says "Mommy, You Smell Different". Only on ABC! I'm pretty sure.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Terrorists
A suspected terrorist accused of conspiring to assassinate President Bush said he proposed the plot but it wasn't pursued, and he was frustrated that other members of his al-Qaida cell lacked initiative, according to prosecutors.
In an initial interrogation by Saudi authorities, Abu Ali said that after a May 2003 al-Qaida attack in Riyadh he organized the cell into a more structured daily regimen at the safe house "because, as I said to the guys, we were wasting our time sleeping and engaging in idle chit chat." The attack killed 39 people, including nine Americans.
OK, that last sentence is less funny.

I took a look at "Twins", the new WB sitcom with Sara Gilbert and former soap actress Molly Stanton as the fraternal twins in question. (Gilbert, by the way, has only an Emmy nomination for her role as Darlene Conner; loser!) The show's nothing to bother with, even though Stanton, who plays the hot one to Gilbert's smart one (yes, it's like that) is indeed purty. Also, often wears nothing but underwear; since the sisters run an underwear company, this works out well for everyone. The point of this posting, though, is to alert the world that Molly Stanton's credits on "Passions" include not just soapily-named Charity Standish, but Zombie Charity and Evil Charity. Normally you'd classify zombies as evil, but perhaps Zombie Charity was one of the more benign walking dead.

Nerd-Celebrity Gossip-Like Fact Of Which I Was Previously Unaware

Richard "Selfish Gene" Dawkins is married to Lalla Ward, known to Doctor Who fans as "Romana #2"; they were introduced by mutual friend Douglas Adams.

(Not to imply that "Selfish Gene" is Richard Dawkins' nickname. That's probably a really old joke.)

Subsidiary fun facts from following Wikipedia links: Lalla Ward is, strictly speaking, the Honourable Sarah Ward, and has recorded audio books including Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct.

Monday, September 19, 2005
An Interesting Idea

At this thread at Political Animal on aspects of our Presidential primary system, commenter C ( Oh, I think not) has an interesting suggestion:

Maybe you could have a system where the states most narrowly lost in the last election went first in the primaries? Ohio, then Iowa? New Mexico?

I don't know if it's a good idea, but as a proposed modification in the interest of balancing a game, it's got some pizzazz. On the other hand, if the goal of a party is to win a close state, does finding someone who can win any particular primary -- supposedly dominated by voters more liberal/conservative (as appropriate) than the general electorate -- help at all?

What Did Your Sister Do Today?

Mine won an Emmy:


* NBC News Special
The Death and Funeral of Ronald Wilson Reagan NBC

Executive Producer
Mark Lukasiewicz

Senior Broadcast Producer
Philip Alongi

Senior Producers
Bob Epstein ; Cliff Kappler ; Margaret Lehrman ; Beth O'Connell

Joe Alicastro ; Tony Capra ; Martha Caskey ; Brian Cavanagh ; Lauren Fairbanks
Betsy Fischer ; Roxanne Garcia ; Les Kretman ; Marian Porges ; Meaghan Rady ; Joel Seidman

Tom Brokaw

David Gregory ; Andrea Mitchell ; Chip Reid

Washington Bureau Chief
Tim Russert
(The link is to the nominations; if there's linkable proof of the win it will appear shortly, along with dazzling photos of winner with "statuette", if they call it that.)
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Got Scrap? (or Cement for Pakistan?)

This spam seemed pretty urgent, so I thought I'd post it in case anyone else can help the poor guy:

Dear Sir,
We have a confirmed ORDER for HMS-1 scrap. We need around 100,000 Metric Tons of HMS-1 but First shipment would be for atleast 30,000 to 60,000 M.Tons of HMS-1 Scrap for shipment from anywhere in the world and on urgent basis. You may offer on FOB Basis also. Payment will be made by non-transferable CILC. If you can offer us better price, we can immediately enter into some deal for HMS-1 Scrap. Also separately offer used railes on the basis of FOB or C&F Indian Seaport. Please send us photographs of HMS-1, as soon as possible with reasonable price. Shipment acceptable from anywhere. Please treat this matter as most most urgent.
With sincere regards.
Tel : 92-391-21333 33 (Direct Land Line)
Cell : 92-300-8255746
Email :

Saturday, September 10, 2005
Compare and Contrast

The Woodland Hills Baptist Church, Tyler, TX, about 430 miles from NOLA:

Pastor Bennett says the sign, is a sign of the times. "The purpose of the sign is to wake American up to the fact that America is going away from God. New York City's 9/11 was a call of judgment and New Orlean's horrible incident was judgment on a wicked city."

Pastor Bennett was quick to point out that the church has helped evacuees by donating clothing, food and lodging, but their good will seems to be overshadowed by the sign.

The Simpsons, Season 8, Episode 8, "Hurricane Neddy", following a hurricane in Springfield:

Ned: But Reverend, I need to know, is God punishing me?
Lovejoy: Shooh, short answer: "Yes" with an "If," long answer: "No" -- with a "But." Uh, if you need additional solace, by the way, I've got a copy of something or other by Art Linkletter in my office.
Ultimate source of church sign and story:
KTLV, via-via. Ultimate source of Simpsons still: you can't prove a thing. (Quote from The Simpsons Archive.)

Friday, September 09, 2005
Michael "Gareth" Brown

Time, via Dave Pell's Davenetics:
Before joining FEMA, his only previous stint in emergency management, according to his bio posted on FEMA's website, was "serving as an assistant city manager with emergency services oversight." The White House press release from 2001 stated that Brown worked for the city of Edmond, Okla., from 1975 to 1978 "overseeing the emergency services division." In fact, according to Claudia Deakins, head of public relations for the city of Edmond, Brown was an "assistant to the city manager" from 1977 to 1980, not a manager himself, and had no authority over other employees. "The assistant is more like an intern," she told TIME. "Department heads did not report to him.
From a piece on BBC America's website about "The Office":
The sallow, skeletal young Gareth Keenan (Mackenzie Crook) is a former member of the Territorial Army (similar to the Army Reserves), and is as humorless as he is dedicated to his low-level position as Team Leader. One of the show’s best running-jokes sees Gareth continually refer to himself as "Assistant Regional Manager" only to be corrected by David Brent, "Assistant TO the Regional Manager."
(That's MacKenzie Crook as Gareth, up on top.)
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Today's Attitude Check

From the Boston Globe's "breaking news" box:
EVACUEES UPDATE: A plane with more than 100 evacuees from hurricane-ravaged New Orleans has arrived at Otis Air Force base on Cape Cod. Globe reporter Michael Paulson reports from the scene that state officials are concerned that a small number of the evacuees may be armed and will check for weapons before they are allowed to disembark. The evacuees will be greeted by a group of state officials, the Red Cross, and a Baptist minister whom the governor appointed to represent their interests. --Developing

These must be the only people in the past four years who have gotten on any plane without being screened, then.

UPDATE: The WSJ had something two days ago that seems relevant:
Because of worries that terrorists could take advantage of such chaos, FEMA now must abide by post-9/11 security procedures, such as putting air marshals on flights. That meant stranded residents couldn't be evacuated from the New Orleans airport until FEMA had rounded up dozens of Transportation Security Administration screeners and more than 50 federal air marshals. Inadequate power prevented officials from firing up X-ray machines and metal detectors until the government decided evacuees could be searched manually.
I guess the manual search was eventually deemed to be substandard, then.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Stale but relevant

I hate finding stuff in online discussions when it's too far after the fact to answer it, but fortunately I have this outlet. Remember all that "white people find, black people loot" stuff from -- can it really be a whole week ago? how time flies -- which has already been not so much satirized as summarized by The Onion:
White Foragers Report Threat Of Black Looters

NEW ORLEANS — —Throughout the Gulf Coast, Caucasian suburbanites attempting to gather food and drink in the shattered wreckage of shopping districts have reported seeing African-­Americans "looting snacks and beer from damaged businesses." "I was in the abandoned Wal-Mart gathering an air mattress so I could float out the potato chips, beef jerky, and Budweiser I'd managed to find," said white survivor Lars Wrightson, who had carefully selected foodstuffs whose salt and alcohol content provide protection against contamination. "Then I look up, and I see a whole family of [African-Americans] going straight for the booze. Hell, you could see they had already looted a fortune in diapers." Radio stations still in operation are advising store owners and white people in the affected areas to locate firearms in sporting-goods stores in order to protect themselves against marauding blacks looting gun shops.
So, here's a non-ironic instance found in the wild, from a September 2 friend-of-a-friend (the guy actually used that phrase) posting on (bolding mine, some misspellings fixed, some leading context included for fairness):
We [the writer is an MD] have commandeered the world famous French Quarter Bar to turn into an makeshift clinic. There is a team of about 7 doctors and PA and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

Our biggest adventure today was
raiding the Walgreens on Canal under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them. All under police escort. The looters had to be held back at gun point. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro I hope to be fine.
We went in with guns -- "under police escort", which means nothing since the police don't own Walgreens -- and took all the drugs. But thank God the looters were held back!

UPDATE: Completely appropriately, this self-described "friend of a friend" story can be found at

Saturday, September 03, 2005
September 24th Rally

After this past week: consider that there's already a huge anti-war rally scheduled for Saturday September 24. Assuming it's not flat-out cancelled, I'd say it has a good chance of turning into the biggest, angriest anti-government demonstration since the 1960s, if not since the Depression, followed possibly by shooting from whatever forces are supposed to be keeping order.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Why They Hate Us, Part 137: The French

Mark Kleiman sez:
James Lileks has a nice little slam at -- you guessed it -- France, for failing to offer to help the victims of Katrina. That's right: first Lileks and his buddies make every effort they can to wreck the French economy because Chirac wouldn't back Bush over Iraq, and then they complain that France isn't pitching in to help out in our hour of need. Now that's real chutzpah.
Well, it's not Lileks, but for a reasonable interpretation of "his pals", may I remind us all of various NRO-ers' scorn for the tens of thousands dead in the European heat wave of 2002 -- 15,000 in France?

Denis Boyles:
Dead and dying: In Liberation, yet another story on the devastating heat wave. According to the health ministry, the number of dead is now hovering at 15,000. Meanwhile, in Le Monde, an editorial calling for acceptance of euthanasia. Maybe if the editorialists at Le Monde hadn't taken the month of August off to go on holiday with all those French doctors, they would have been on time with this one. As it is, too late!
Victor Davis Hanson:
So even our dealings with a more sophisticated Europe are not exempt from such awakened reptilian instincts. Revelations of recent German and French arms sales, French unilateral intervention in the Ivory Coast, the thousands who perished in the August heat wave in Paris, the spooky election-rhetoric in Germany, the holocaust in the Balkans, the oil deals with Saddam Hussein, the wave of anti-Semitism across Europe, or the callous policy toward Israel — all manifestly reveal Old Europe to be hardly a moral place, but in fact one that narrowly protects its own interests, falls back on bias and hate, and indulges in petty nationalism.
Hanson again:
When you look at Iranian fascists being wined and dined in Paris, count up all the corpses from the August heat wave, and contemplate the explosive issue of school scarves, France, not the United States, is the real sick puppy.
Ooh! Luskin! And it's a fresh one -- just one month old:
Oh, and about that "excellent health care." I seem to remember something from about two years ago, when about 15,000 elderly people in France died in a heat wave. That's more than five times as many as were killed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. And why did it happen? In part, because most French households are too poor to afford air conditioners. But more importantly, those people died because so many doctors were on vacation.
(To be fair, that was also Chirac's excuse.)

Finally -- too good to be true!
From a Corner reader, quoting a French friend:
"We were above all revolted that these elderly people, who as you said survived many horrors, passed because of lack of air-conditioning during the "sacred" French holiday time. Our dear president was having his in Canada - didn't bother to return. This country is run for many years now by stinking corrupt ambitious unscrupulous and moneythirsty politicians. I do not have the slightest respect for these people."
Chutzpah, indeed.

By the way, did you know that there was serious flooding in Europe this past week? I sure didn't, but the latest report I find from CNN gives the death toll as over 50, with widespread property damage. No comparison, but plenty ironic. I wonder if we sent them anything.

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