May 16, 2009

Wait until the sun shines through.

A drive in southern Ohio.


... phlops.

"God watch over our troops."


Backroads mural. Southern Ohio.



We're here at the laundromat...


There's an old Reader's Digest large-print edition.


"Now, I can enjoy my bath again safely."

See that unicorn on the table? I got hit by it later. Accidentally. Don't think the unicorn-loving girl became enraged at me. Just a little careless unicorn-flinging at the laundromat. [ADDED: Vicious. You hit me with a unicorn.]

Jane Russell needs telescopic glasses:


I wonder how the world sees us.



Aw, this is so damned sweet!


Cat and parrot

(Via Metafilter.)

Dell... for us ladies.

When guy companies try to reach out to us... so awkward.

An image from a sad, dystopian film?

No. It's a real theme park. A sex theme park. In China.
"We are building the park for the good of the public. I have found that the majority of people support my idea, but I have to pay attention and not make the park look vulgar and nasty."

..."These things are too exposed. I will feel uncomfortable looking at them when other people are around."

... "These vulgar sex installations will only make people sick."
Helping the people "care more about female orgasm." Good luck!

"If people can't think clearly about anything that has become part of their identity..."

"... then all other things being equal, the best plan is to let as few things into your identity as possible."

(Via Jac.)

Mega Man is losing to a European robot in the fight for recognition in the Robot Hall of Fame.

It's close. And maybe Mega Man deserves to lose to Maillardet's Automaton:

Did you know there was a Robot Hall of Fame?

Obama is like Bush — with purported process appurtenances.

Yesterday, we were talking about the way Obama was keeping Bush's military commissions and lamely trying to make it look different by purporting to add more process. I gave the post my "Obama is like Bush" tag, and I had to laugh when John (my son) commented:
You should have a tag: "Obama is like Bush but with more procedural protections."
Today, the WSJ is laughing at the lameness of the new protections:
Part of the tribunal face-lift is that "the accused will have greater latitude in selecting their counsel." Say what? Enemy combatants already have better access to attorneys -- white shoe and pro bono, no less -- than nearly every criminal defendant in America. Perhaps this means Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 90 Yemenis and the rest will now be able to choose lawyers from both Shearman & Sterling and Covington & Burling, instead of one or the other.

Another red herring is supposedly tightening the admissibility of hearsay evidence. Tribunal judges already have discretion to limit such evidence, and the current rules are nearly indistinguishable from those of the International Criminal Court. The sensible exceptions involve evidence obtained under combat conditions or from foreign intelligence services, which are left untouched by Mr. Obama's nips and tucks.

In any event, Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that the civilian courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favored by Dick Cheney -- and which, contrary to the narrative that Democrats promulgated for years, will be the fairest and most open war-crimes trials in U.S. history.
I'm laughing at Obama, but I'm also thanking him for doing the right thing and reasonably tolerant of the way he's tried to save face by pretending he's not doing exactly the same thing Bush did.

Let me quote another commenter on yesterday's post. D-Day said:

I was convinced that you were wholly deluded when you decided that Obama was going to be more of a pragmatist than most people (especially his own backers) expected. I very grudgingly concede that you may have been somewhat right. I underestimated his willingness to lie.
(Background: Here's my 11/8/08 post "How McCain lost me.")

Connecting Carrie Prejean, Elizabeth Edwards, and Wanda Sykes — 3 women of the moment.

It's the essayist's challenge. Can Robin Givhan meet it? The common theme she detects is: appearance and expression inconsistent with our stereotype.
Prejean took a conservative stance. And in the cultural field guide, she is not what a conservative woman who puts her Christianity out there for public consumption is supposed to look like.

She was not buttoned up. She did not look like an escapee from "Jesus Camp." Prejean looked like someone who enjoys a good cosmo.

Prejean's words landed like a sucker punch on many who thought they knew what the opponents of same-sex marriage look like.
She was gorgeous and conservative. What a shock!
[Elizabeth Edwards] has been subject to an inordinate amount of tsk-tsking for failing to articulate the perfunctory speech about the baby's innocence and how everyone needs to do what's in the child's best interest...

[T]his woman with the soft Southern accent and the maternal air has essentially said that the baby is not her concern. That is not the expected response from a woman whose figure is devoid of sharp lines and who always seems to be dressed for a parent-teacher conference.
Ha ha. EE is fat. Make no mistake: Givhan called her fat. "Figure devoid of sharp lines" — tee hee — use that on your female enemies. Anyway... so... get it? Pudgy, unglammed women who dare not to be squishy inside — shocking!

But how was Wanda Sykes out of character? Here's where the essayist's challenge kicks into advanced mode:
Sykes, a petite black woman with a sassy mouth, had gotten pointed, political and a tad bit angry. It was as if everyone expected her to leave her opinions with the Secret Service and just dish out jovial, but mush-mouthed, commentary about being beleaguered and put-upon.

Sykes is known for her sharp tongue. She's more Bill Maher than Bill Cosby. But there's an assumption that white male comics will speak their mind and risk being offensive to get the laugh. (When Stephen Colbert performed two years ago, the press knew he'd offend some in the audience, they just didn't realize it would be them.) If Maher had made the same comments, the audience probably would have been thankful that he didn't say anything really appalling. With Sykes, it was more like: Shame on her.
Eh. I'm not seeing how Sykes deviated from what we'd expect from her. Givhan merely observes that she didn't modify herself for the White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

The essayist's task is not achieved. The parallelism is missing. The Sykes story is not about appearance and unexpected expression. Sykes was exactly Sykes, and she didn't rein it in.

May 15, 2009

At the Meadow Café...


... it's quiet. Too quiet.


Yes, fun is what I see when I look at your face.

(Via RWN.)

"I don't think the Speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters."

"I think this is the most despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort I've seen in my lifetime... She is a trivial politician, viciously using partisanship for the narrowest of purposes, and she dishonors the Congress by her behavior."

Newt Gingrich on Nancy Pelosi. (Audio at the link.)

UPDATE: CIA Director Leon Panetta attacks Pelosi:
There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the C.I.A. was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

My advice—indeed, my direction—to you is straightforward: ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission. We have too much work to do to be distracted from our job of protecting this country.

We are an agency of high integrity, professionalism, and dedication. Our task is to tell it like it is—even if that’s not what people always want to hear. Keep it up. Our national security depends on it.

A beautiful, emotional anti-gun ad.

(Via Bloggingheads.)

Sotomayor's opinions.

Lots of detail, for a change. From SCOTUSblog.

Campaigning, Obama said Bush's military commissions were "an enormous failure" and promised to "reject the Military Commissions Act."

But — I've said it before, and I'll be saying it many more times — Obama is like Bush. He's keeping the commissions. Oh, yes, he's making a show of tossing in a little more process.... Must make it seem that he's not exactly like Bush...
The new system would limit the use of hearsay, ban evidence gained from cruel treatment, give defendants more latitude to pick their own lawyers and provide more protection if they do not testify....

Even with the additional rights Mr. Obama is proposing, defendants would still not enjoy the same protections as in civilian courts. Hearsay, for example, is generally not allowed in American courts. In Mr. Bush’s military commission system, it was allowed unless the defendant could prove it was unreliable. Mr. Obama’s plan would shift the burden, allowing its use only if the prosecution can prove its reliability.
Hearsay can be used if it's reliable, but of course, you see the difference.

"The Daily Show" discovers that Obama is like Bush.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
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"We bad moms are happy to confess our sins because we're confident..."

"... that those who come closest, and with the most sanctimony, to emulating the self-effacing, self-sacrificing, soft-spoken, cheerful, infinitely patient Good Mother are the real Bad Mothers..."

Suddenly, more Americans are pro-life than are pro-choice.

Look at the flip from '08 to '09. The shift took place within the GOP, it's important to see. Democrats did not change. But why did the change take place? The big difference between '08 and '09 is that Obama took over the presidency:
With the first pro-choice president in eight years already making changes to the nation's policies on funding abortion overseas, expressing his support for the Freedom of Choice Act, and moving toward rescinding federal job protections for medical workers who refuse to participate in abortion procedures, Americans -- and, in particular, Republicans -- seem to be taking a step back from the pro-choice position. However, the retreat is evident among political moderates as well as conservatives.

It is possible that, through his abortion policies, Obama has pushed the public's understanding of what it means to be "pro-choice" slightly to the left, politically. While Democrats may support that, as they generally support everything Obama is doing as president, it may be driving others in the opposite direction.

May 14, 2009

"If I get a fortune cookie in a Chinese restaurant, I mean, of course, even I have a tendency... I mean, of course, I would hardly throw it out!"

"I mean, I read it, I read it, and I just instinctively sort of, you know, if it says something like: 'Conversation with a dark-haired man will be very important for you,' well, I just instinctively think, you know, who do I know who has dark hair? Did we have a conversation? What did we talk about? In other words there's something in me that makes me read it, and I instinctively interpret it as if it were an omen of the future, but in my conscious opinion, which is so fundamental to my whole view of life, I mean, I would just have to change totally to not have this opinion, in my conscious opinion, this is simply something that was written in the cookie factory, several years ago, and in no way it refers to me! I mean, you know, the fact that I got--I mean, the man who wrote it did not know anything about me, I mean, he could not have known anything about me! There's no way that this cookie could actually have to do with me! And the fact that I've gotten it is just basically a joke! And I mean, if I were to go on a trip, on an airplane, and I got a fortune cookie that said 'Don't go,' I mean, of course, I admit I might feel a bit nervous for about one second, but in fact I would go, because, I mean, that trip is gonna be successful or unsuccessful based on the state of the airplane and the state of the pilot, and the cookie is in no position to know about that."

That fortune cookie passage I was talking about... after we got the fortune cookies that didn't seem to understand us very well.

ADDED: Cookie #1 told me to look for people who generate light and not heat. Cookie #2 told Meade not to ask anyone to do for him anything that he wouldn't do for himself.

"Tia Carmen is ever haunted by the grim specter of death, and her single slice of birthday pie cannot make her forget the creeping dread."

These comics are making me very uncomfortable.

"My name is Julia Dales and I want to win the Beatbox Battle wild card."

Via Metafilter.

"The farewells depicting David Souter don’t do him justice."

That's the teaser on the front page of the NYT website, and I really thought I was clicking over to an article about the mark Justice Souter has made on legal doctrine — some specifics about the cases and the modes and methodologies of constitutional intepretation. But no, it was only about how the man loves to hike in New Hampshire. And then there was the gratuitous swipe at Rush Limbaugh:
“David Souter’s a girl,” said Rush Limbaugh in 2006. “Everyone knows that. What’s the big deal? I’m talking about attitudinally here, folks.”

O.K., a show of hands: Who’s the bigger man: the prescription-drug abuser with the cigar stuffed in his mouth, or the buff older gentleman puffing his way up one of the more strenuous climbs in New England?
(Did Rush really say that? Yeah.)

"Preservationists say the building... is a classic example of Brutalist architecture that should be maintained for future generations."

It's the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, in Washington, D.C., a couple blocks from the White House.

(Photo by kimberlyfaye.)

Should we preserve historically significant ugliness? Because we need negative examples, to know what to avoid? For contrast? Because history matters? Even the 1970s?

But the church won in the end:
"Historic preservation was never meant to be more important than the very people or purposes that buildings were meant to serve... This 1970s Brutalist-designed building ... would have bankrupted this congregation and forced it out of downtown where it had been for 100 years. That makes no sense."
Sense! Should we make sense? How much more of history, art, and architecture would be lost to us now if we'd been making sense all these millennia?

Are you more convinced by the "make sense" argument — this place is bankrupting them — or by the passionate desire to demolish what is indisputably ugly?

Do you not worry that perhaps it is not ugly, not permanently ugly, and you are blinded by the aesthetics of our time? I remember, after graduating from art school in 1973, feeling quite sure the ornamentation on buildings like this was a hideous mistake and our cities needed to be stripped clean of it. Thank God I was powerless.

"Do you think about pay like a man... or a woman?"

Take the quiz. Read the article.
Partly women fear being too aggressive and feisty - which can be viewed as negative in the workplace - but I think it's more complex. It is part of our conditioning that men equate money with status and power but women see job satisfaction as more of an issue.

Women are more likely than men to think, well, I'm good at my job, so I will be noticed and promoted, and I will eventually get a pay rise. Men, on the other hand, will go to their line manager and say they deserve a pay rise... now.

ADDED: Suddenly, I realize I need to just say to you: I think that you should value this blog and show your appreciation in dollars. There is a PayPal button in the sidebar to use whenever you want, and here it is, to be forthright and clear in a manly way:

If you read every day, I recommend $20 a year. $5 or $10 would also be good. Or just toss in $1 whenever a post makes you feel you've really gotten something worthwhile.

2 coyotes in my (Ohio) front yard.

Gnawing on a groundhog.

IN THE COMMENTS: Fred4Pres said:
I had just had a quarrel with my girlfriend and I was driving her home late one night. As we rounded the bend to her parents home we saw a dead possum in the road and its mate standing over it.

She started crying and said "Look how sad he is that his mate died."

At that momemt, the possum ripped a chunk of meat from the dead possum, tilted its head back like a crocodile and wolfed down the chunk.

I replied, "Yeah, he seems really torn up about it."

We broke up the next day.

"The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang."

"Reaching from the grave, Zhao pillories a conservative wing of the [Chinese Communist Party] for missteps that led to the bloody crackdown, which began after dark on June 3, 1989 and left hundreds dead. Few in China's leadership at the time escape Zhao's criticism. He castigates Deng Xiaoping, the man credited with opening China to the West and launching its economic reforms; Li Peng, the dour premier at the time of the Tiananmen tragedy; Deng Liqun, a hardline party theoretician; Li Xiannian, a former vice president; and even Hu Yaobang, Zhao's longtime ally, whose death on April 15, 1989 touched off the student-led protests."

"My grandfather, as usual, opened the paper, The Times, and in it he read that a new planet had been discovered."

"He wondered what it should be called. We all wondered... And then I said, 'Why not call it Pluto?' And the whole thing stemmed from that."

Venetia Phair was 11 then. Dead, now, at 90.

"With its outsize bulbous breasts and hugely exaggerated genitalia..."

... and incredibly tiny head (or is it a loop so the headless figure can be worn as a pendant?):

It's the oldest depiction of the human figure — at least 35,000 years old.

"This country has already alienated allies and seen its moral standing crumble."

"Now, as we try to get to the bottom of what happened during those years, we have to acknowledge that doing so might put us in further danger."

The LA Times thinks we need to see more of those graphic photos.

May 13, 2009

Gah! I'm reduced to "watching" "American Idol" results on Twitter.



Spoil away in the comments.

So annoying! (No TV.)

Come take a ride on the sexy train.

(A British ad, via AdFreak.)

AND: Click that AdFreak link and scroll for the man version of the ad.

"Who would want to feed a baby a 'formula'?"

(a+b)2 = a2 + 2ab + b2. Here. Suck on that.

Americans don't give a damn whether the next Supreme Court appointment goes to a woman/black/Hispanic.

A Gallup poll.

ADDED: Rick Hansen predicts that Obama will pick 7th Circuit judge Diane Wood. Read his 5-point analysis at the link. Read the whole thing, but here's #5:
The president is likely to resist the temptation to go bold. Going bold is choosing someone like Pam Karlan, who is brilliant and outspoken. Pam hasn't trimmed her sails in what she's said, and there would be plenty of those YouTube moments to be dissected by 24-hour cable news and a Senate Judiciary minority led by Senator Sessions. As with Sotomayor, Karlan likely could be confirmed to the Court with a big push by the President. This would be the nomination progressives would love. But my thinking is the president wants to preserve some of his capital for everything else, and with Wood he gets an excellent choice at very little cost.
Hansen links to this YouTube clip of Karlan, which I think deserves any effort it might take to vigorously defend:

The Republican National Committee wants to rebrand the Democrats the "Democrat Socialist Party."

Politico reports.

Chairman Michael Steele has said that this "will accomplish little than to give the media and our opponents the opportunity to mischaracterize Republicans," but the answer to that is — per Politico — "Who cares?"

"Could Hillary Clinton have grabbed Edwards' loyalists and won early, stage-setting contests in Iowa..."

"... where Barack Obama emerged as a contender with a stunning win, or later, in the South Carolina primary?"

Mothers pick up a chemical signal from their best offspring and give them more, at the expense of hungrier siblings.

Shocking parental favoritism... from earwigs.

"Either Etan was taken by a stranger and killed..."

"... or he was taken by a very sad woman desperate for a child of her own, and we hoped that such a woman would at least take care of him and keep him safe."

Obama opposes the release of more Abu Ghraib photo.

CNN reports:
"Last week, the president met with his legal team and told them that he did not feel comfortable with the release of the [Defense Department] photos because he believes their release would endanger our troops, and because he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court," [an Administration] official said....

The ACLU said the Pentagon had agreed to release a "substantial" number of photographs by May 28. Officials at the Pentagon have said the photographs are from more than 60 criminal investigations between 2001 and 2006 and show military personnel allegedly abusing detainees....

"We know that many terrorists captured in Iraq have told American interrogators that one of the reasons they decided to join the violent jihadist war against America was what they saw on Al-Qaeda videos of abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib," [Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, and Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, wrote in a March 7th letter to the President.] ""Releasing these old photographs of detainee treatment now will provide new fodder to Al-Qaeda's propaganda and recruitment operations, undercut the progress you have made in our international relations, and endanger America's military and diplomatic personnel throughout the world."

Andrew McCarthy, writing on the Web site of the National Review, issued a harsh warning Tuesday: "American soldiers, American civilians, and other innocent people are going to die because Pres. Barack Obama wants to release photographs of prisoner abuse."
Barack Obama, the pragmatic moderate. I approve.

"Literary puke Christopher Hitchens leveled a vile, hateful attack against [Wanda] Sykes that wasn't meant to be a joke."

Politics Daily's Tommy Christopher wails. It's is the first I'm seeing of this. Apparently, Hitchens said: "The president should be squirming in his seat. Not smiling. The black dyke got it wrong. No one told her the rules." Tommy chides:
I haven't heard "boo" out of the right denouncing Hitchens for this, yet they want to portray their poobah, Rush Limbaugh, who imagines that people expect him to receive anal sex from the President just because he's black, as the poor widdle victim here.
Uh... boo.

IN THE COMMENTS: I say the joke was funny and the President wasn't laughing at it. I get some pushback.

"Hey, you should be my wife, he said."

Young hobos, today:
Adam Kuntz and Ashley Hughes... had been riding [the rails] together for eight months. He was 22, tall and rangy, with a goatee, wild black hair and a disarming smile. She was 18, with blue eyes and dishwater-blond hair. Crudely inked across her fingers was the word "sourpuss," advertising the side she liked to show people: the rebel and sometime dope fiend who bristled with free-floating anger.

But he saw another side of her too: the frightened runaway who, like him, found a tramp's dangerous, hand-to-mouth life less terrifying than the adult world.

They were curving through the Tehachapi Pass, seriously drunk, when a feeling overcame him. The words were unplanned, like everything else in their life.

Hey, you should be my wife, he said.

OK, she replied.
Much more at the link.

"If you don't want my peaches, honey, please don't shake my tree."

Early peaches, this morning:

Early Peaches

Peaches on a peach tree naturally makes me think of song lyrics, and I found this on Wikipedia:
The ‘peaches’ verse ["If you don't like my peaches/Don't you shake my tree/'n Get out of my orchard/Let my peaches be," in "Sitting on Top of the World"] has a long history in popular music. It appears as the chorus of an unpublished song composed by Irving Berlin in May 1914: “If you don't want my peaches / You'd better stop shaking my tree.” The song "Mamma's Got the Blues", written by Clarence Williams and S. Martin and recorded by Bessie Smith in 1923, has the line: "If you don't like my peaches then let my orchard be". In her version of "St. Louis Blues", Ella Fitzgerald sang, "If you don't like my peaches, why do you shake my tree? / Stay out of my orchard, and let my peach tree be". In 1929 Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded “Peach Orchard Mama” ("... you swore nobody’d pick your fruit but me / I found three kid men shaking down your peaches free"). In later years lines using similar imagery were used in “Matchbox” by Carl Perkins and “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band. Ahmet Ertegun was able to convince Miller to pay him US$50,000, claiming authorship of the line in his song "Lovey Dovey". This verse and its ubiquitous usage is an example of the tradition of ‘floating lyrics’ (also called 'maverick stanzas') in folk-music tradition.
In "The Joker," it's "You're the cutest thing that I ever did see/I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree." Video.

"Matchbox" is the most familiar one to me, and it's the version I've put in the post title: "If you don't want my peaches, honey, please don't shake my tree." (Here's Carl Perkins, performing the song I learned from The Beatles.) Though the history of the "floating lyric" suggests the opposite, Carl is talking about the masculine anatomy.

Screams I missed.

I couldn't watch "American Idol" last night, so I'm reading recaps and checking YouTube for video. Here's an excerpt from Throwing Things:
Kris -- "Heartless"

Finally! Solo acoustic Kris Allen! FINALLY!! Loved it, especially after relistening to the original. A ballsy choice. But for the weird Hickesque fan support for Gokey, I'd say that Kris is a lock. But of course Gokey is Gokey, so who knows. -- Kim

My wife disagrees, but I thought it was brilliant. If the goal is the find The Next Pop Superstar, that's a Next Pop Superstar. Sincere, well-sold, ballsy and completely unexpected from the Bible Belt. Not a "singer's song," but a great performance -- it takes real musical smarts and confidence to take a autotuned rap song and make that out of it. Put him in the finals. -- Adam
You can watch that, badly recorded, here. [ADDED: I've removed that link. Go here — to the official site — to watch that performance. You can find the other performances from last night at that link.]
The Lambert -- "Cryin'"

"Dear Danny, Get out your notepad. This is how you fucking sing Aerosmith. Love, Adam." Seriously, to take an artist that your principal competition botched, and do it yourself the next week? We've never seen anyone do something so in-your-face before on the show, and needless to say it kicked ass. Text VOTE to 5703, people. Over and over again. -- Adam

Seriously. THAT'S how you scream your ass off on the Idol stage... Have we ever heard Simon say "don't fuck this voting thing up, people" so clearly before? And once again, Adam is nothing but gracious on stage, this time praising Kris and Danny. Sure, he can afford to be gracious, but he never fails to thank someone. Adam Lambert is a class act. Stop reading and start voting. -- Kim
Watch that here.

What about Danny Gokey? Here he is doing "You Are So Beautiful." I hope Kris makes it to the finale, along with my favorite, Adam, but Danny's from Wisconsin, so it's all good.

And all bad, of course.

"Elvis the ecstatic/ Elvis the plastic/ Elvis the elastic with a spastic dance that could explain the energy of America.”

Bono's poem about Elvis, aired on British radio:
A warning about the poem’s language preceded the airing, as a series of offensive words including “nigger” and “spastic” were employed.
Here in America — where we have Elvis energy, apparently — those 2 words are on completely different levels of offensiveness, but I guess that's the way they talk in Britain, where, presumably, "spastic" is not a word to be used casually.


Bonus: "Saturday Night Live" transcript. ("Oh no, its Chaz 'The Spaz' Knerlman!... Why don't you shut up, Spazalopolis!")

Ah, now it's coming back to me. Remember back in 2006, when Tiger Woods got into trouble for casually saying "spaz" in Britain? Language Log had a great post titled "A Brief History of Spaz":
[T]he clumsy or inept meaning of spaz remained mostly on the playground until the late 1970s, when it began seeping into American popular culture. In 1978, Saturday Night Live started running occasional sketches starring "The Nerds," with Bill Murray as Todd DiLamuca and Gilda Radner as Lisa Loopner. On two shows that year (Apr. 22 and Nov. 4), host Steve Martin joined in, playing the character Charles Knerlman, or "Chaz the Spaz" as he was known to Todd and Lisa.... A year after the SNL sketches in 1979, Bill Murray starred in the summer-camp comedy Meatballs, which featured a stereotypically nerdy character played by Jack Blum called "Spaz."

For someone like Tiger Woods who came of age in the '80s (and who, incidentally, is on record as saying that another Bill Murray movie, Caddyshack, is his all-time favorite), the American usage of spaz had long lost any resonance it might have had with the epithet spastic. This is not the case in Great Britain, however, where both spastic and spaz evidently remain in active usage as derogatory terms for people with cerebral palsy or other disabilities affecting motor coordination. A BBC survey ranked spastic as the second-most offensive term for disabled people, just below retard....


Don't you love the energy of America?

"This is how we know he is not a a New Yorker or a Jew."

David Brooks said that about Senator Jeff Sessions, "who puts on a plain old boy front but is deep down extremely sophisticated and intelligent." (Sessions is important because he's now the ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and there are hearings on a new Supreme Court nominee coming up.)

So what is Brooks saying about New Yorkers and Jews?
In the long history of my people, there has never been one who was willing to appear less smart than he or she really is. We tend to go the other way.
(Why "tend to" if there has "never been one"?) That's some serious stereotyping, but presumably Brooks thinks it's perfectly fine, because he's got "my people" immunity.

ADDED: The double "a" — "a a New Yorker" — is in the original NYT text.

AND: Hey, Brooks, did you know The 3 Stooges were Jewish?

May 12, 2009

At the Sleeping Dog Café...


... don't let sleeping dogs lie. Stir things up! Make trouble. Be wild and outrageous.

"A simple example would be the number 37, which is lumpy like oatmeal, and 111, which is similarly lumpy..."

"... but also round like the number three (being 37 × 3). Where you might see an endless string of random digits when looking at the decimals of pi, my mind is able to 'chunk' groups of these numbers spontaneously into meaningful visual images that constitute their own hierarchy of associations."

Lessons in how to think from an autistic savant. Maybe you find them useful. Maybe you don't.

Bob Dylan, unrecognized, took an ordinary tourist tour of John Lennon's childhood home.

"He could have booked a private tour but he was happy to go on the bus with everyone else."

IN THE COMMENTS: There's some talk about running into celebrities and Palladian says:
I once ran into Woody Allen. Literally. He was coming out the in door at Lincoln Center and I smacked right into him. He was wearing Woody Allen clothes, his trademark glasses and a fishing hat. I didn't knock him over or anything but he was obviously shaken up. The funny thing was, I automatically, instinctively reacted to him in a Woody Allen way. I started mumbling and saying "My God! I'm... I'm sorry, I'm really... My G-god, are you alright? Wow, I'm... shocked... shocked? I'm... surprised. I-I- are you ok? I mean, can I... can you... are you alright? Geez!" He mumbled right back in a Woody Allen way as he composed himself and then he took off into the plaza. It was really, really surreal because for a brief few moments I was basically in a scene from a Woody Allen movie.
Then this Trooper York comment slips in next:
I do think it is a shame and a crime that he has not yet been elected to the Overrated Hall of Fame.

Well maybe the veterans committee will correct that injustice.
He adds:
Oh and that goes for the Woodsman too.
And Palladian's all:
It's the Academy of the Overrated, along with such notables as... Gustav Mahler and Carl Jung and Isaac Dinesen... and Van Gock.
With video:

Are the police free to attach a GPS device to your car to monitor your whereabouts? — Part 2.

(Part 1 is here: a Wisconsin court says yes.)

The New York Court of Appeals — the highest court in New York state — says no.

The case is People v. Weaver (PDF), released today:
GPS is not a mere enhancement of human sensory capacity, it facilitates a new technological perception of the world in which the situation of any object may be followed and exhaustively recorded over, in most cases, a practically unlimited period. The potential for a similar capture of information or "seeing" by law enforcement would require, at a minimum, millions of additional police officers and cameras on every street lamp....

The whole of a person's progress through the world, into both public and private spatial spheres, can be charted and recorded over lengthy periods possibly limited only by the need to change the transmitting unit's batteries. Disclosed in the data retrieved from the transmitting unit, nearly instantaneously with the press of a button on the highly portable receiving unit, will be trips the indisputably private nature of which takes little imagination to conjure: trips to the psychiatrist, the plastic surgeon, the abortion clinic, the AIDS treatment center, the strip club, the criminal defense attorney, the by-the-hour motel, the union meeting, the mosque, synagogue or church, the gay bar and on and on. What the technology yields and records with breathtaking quality and quantity, is a highly detailed profile, not simply of where we go, but by easy inference, of our associations -- political, religious, amicable and amorous, to name only a few -- and of the pattern of our professional and avocational pursuits.
The court bases its decision solely on the New York constitution, so there can be no recourse to the U.S. Supreme Court. This is the law in New York: "in the absence of exigent circumstances, the installation and use of a GPS device to monitor an individual's whereabouts requires a warrant supported by probable cause."


"As the Ghost of a Gentleman, dead these 260 years and more, I should be happy to welcome Mrs. Bono to the Astral Plane..."

"... upon her Departure from her Earthly Frame, which she seems greatly intent upon preserving from Decay."

Sir Archy, our ghostly commenter from the 18th century, made an appearance here in the early hours of the morning — in the Cher post.

"American Idol." The Final 3 is tonight. The finale, next week. And here I am in Ohio with no TV.

Gah! I've watched the whole season! Now what? Read Television Without Pity recaps?

"You could get away with this look on your wedding day if..."

"... your wife was some ska-loving, roller-derby, etsy shopgirl who would think it was charming and 'totally us.'"

Oh, but we can see from the picture that she's not, and we don't think this thing can last.

Desperate hope: Maybe that's not the groom...

Writer's block?

Reader's block!
Sure, you may be able to read a paragraph or two, or maybe even a page, but you don't retain anything of what you just read or have the attention span and/or will to go on. This is common for those who have ADD, are in possession of garbage literature, or are just so exhausted from having to read so many books during school/college that reading anything else, even for pleasure, has become impossible. To those who love to read, this is worse than heart disease and cancer combined.

The cure for reader's block? Just read blogs, and you won't notice.

"We’re going to sabotage the campaign, we’re going to blow it up."

"[S]everal members of Edwards’ presidential campaign staff believed early on that Edwards was having an affair and decided to wreck his campaign if it looked like he was going to win the nomination."

Politico reports, noting that it was outrageous for these staffers to cling to their jobs if this was their attitude.

The 4/27 Truther movement marches on.

Consider the foliage.

"And then came the financial crash last September and the ensuing depression."

"These unanticipated and shocking events have exposed significant analytical weaknesses in core beliefs of conservative economists concerning the business cycle and the macroeconomy generally. Friedmanite monetarism and the efficient-market theory of finance have taken some sharp hits, and there is renewed respect for the macroeconomic thought of John Maynard Kenyes, a conservatives' bête noire."

Richard Posner on the dismal state of the conservative movement.

"No one wakes up in the morning and asks: What's the latest finely tuned observation?"

I observed. And he said: "Well, I do, so I write it to find out."

Tax soda to pay for health care?

But only sugared soda, not diet soda?

Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says:
"Soda is clearly one of the most harmful products in the food supply, and it's something government should discourage the consumption of."
It's just sugar. Lots of things are full of sugar. Why single out the watery versions of sugar? And why be so sure that diet soda is not worse? Quite aside from the strange chemicals, diet soda seems to free many people to pig out on other fattening foods. Our terrible obesity problem correlates with the consumption of diet soda, not sugar.

In any case, what is the point, to raise money or to change what we consume? These are opposite goals.

But maybe I should be all for this devious scheme. I rarely drink soda, diet or sugared. And tax some other things I don't use, why don't you?

May 11, 2009

Who was on Air Force 1?

Digital magnification looks into the windows.

Mystery image.


What is it?

ANSWER: Palladian got it right off. It's an extreme closeup from the photograph in the Main Street Café post. Here's a medium closeup that shows the whole distorted image in the coffee pot:


"Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that."

Bob Dylan explained "Blowin' in the Wind" back in 1962:
There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind — and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some… But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know… and then it flies away I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many... You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.
I read this today, as American Songwriter reaches #1 on its list of greatest Bob Dylan songs.

"If I could turn back time."

"If I could find a way."

At the Main Street Café....


... you can distort the truth all afternoon.

"Every woman is a feminist in her own right."

"Whether you're anti-porn or pro-porn or somewhere in between, feminism has become such a generalized, watered-down viewpoint. Someone can say, 'I'm a feminist because I believe in sexually empowering women.' That's my view on feminism. Someone else's opinion might be, 'Having sex is just wrong no matter what.' And both sides might call themselves feminists."

A porn star said that.

"We shall abolish the orgasm. Our neurologists are at work upon it now."

"There will be no loyalty, except loyalty towards the Party. There will be no love, except the love of Big Brother. There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy. There will be no art, no literature, no science. When we are omnipotent there will be no need of science. There will be no distinction between beauty and ugliness. There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

#2 on the list of most depressing quotes from George Orwell's "1984."

Linked in the comments to this Metafilter post on an article titled "The masterpiece that killed George Orwell."

"Brian Lamb saying 'misogynist neck-beard'"...

= "nerd Christmas" at Wonkette.

"I like elephants. I like how they swing through trees."

I love this kids' song, by Eric Herman, where the father keeps getting the facts wrong, prompting the child to say the right answer.

Do you have something like this with your kids, a structure for a song or a story that moves the child to speak at intervals and to feel — along with the entertainment — a sense of participation and accomplishment?

When my son John was quite young, I had an ongoing bedtime story that I called "A Boy Named John." I'd start with really nothing at all and get as quickly as I could to the question: And what do you think happened next? Whatever answer he gave, I'd express amazement that he got it right and go with a few details and stop again with the question. His answer would always be right, and the collaborative story could go on forever.

IN THE COMMENTS: Henry Buck said:
I'm trying the opposite with my kids. I start a story, ask what happens next, then, whatever answer they give, I say: "What are you, an idiot? Geesh, you'll never amount to anything." Then I take the story on a different track. I'm hoping it will toughen them up for a bleak future.

"Maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker but he was so strung out on Oxycontin he missed his flight... I hope his kidneys fail."

That's the Wanda Sykes joke from the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. I'm sure Rush is chortling as he prepares his opening monologue for today's radio show, which will have more than the usual number of listeners. He'll be all why are they always talking about me? and loving it.

I'll update this post when the show starts.

UPDATE: Sorry, I had a computer problem at the beginning of the show. Later, he was talking about Dick Cheney and then Nancy Pelosi — on the torture topic. Did he start with Sykes? I'm guessing he didn't now.

"This is my first ever blog, so I forgive me if I make any 'blogosphere faux pas.'"

No no no, Donatella Versace. We will not forgive you. But we appreciate your humility as you enter our domain. So go ahead, tell us all about the White House Correspondents' Association dinner:
The evening started with drinks at Christopher Hitchens' house.
Just getting started!
Then onto the Newsweek pre-dinner cocktail...
How does one get onto a cocktail? I'm picturing that cartoon character from the Playboy Magazine jokes page...

... and then the actual dinner....

The dinner was a glamorous affair, as it was last year, but this time round there was a very different atmosphere, in ways that seemed to me to symbolize the huge changes that are taking place in this country as a result of the new administration.

The first thing that hit me was that nobody was using their BlackBerrys. This is a pet hate of mine, and last year lots of the guests were glued to their devices. While George Bush did a little comedy — conducting the orchestra and entertaining people with a speech — the audience was just not that attentive. Many people were talking away and those dreaded BlackBerrys were out in full force.

This year, the minute Barack Obama stood up to speak, there was silence....

There was a friendly atmosphere, it was cool, younger, relaxed and glamorous. Glamour was something that seemed to be completely lost before....

The key to this administration's appeal is, I think, that it's so energetic and positive, and (yes, one of my favourite words) glamorous!...
Glamour. Is it wrong to have glamorous leaders that glamorous people find glamorous?
It was a long night but the time flew — it went so go quickly. People genuinely had fun. I've been to so many of this kinds of events where you have people looking at their assistants as if to say, "Can I leave now?" There was none of that.
Hey, I want an assistant, an assistant that can read my eyes when they say "Can I leave now?"!
Everyone was having a good time, and I was amazed by how members of the Obama administration, high-powered people like the Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, and the Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, were just walking round the room in a really cool and relaxed way. Rahm was carrying his jacket slung over his shoulder. These people look like they know what they are doing.
And, yeah, what are they doing? But they look like they know what they are doing. Per Donatella. With their cool, relaxed walk around the room and their jacket slung over their shoulder. What a relief from Bush!

"When I write, I still am writing for Justice Souter."

Souter's clerks. That quote is from lawprof Heather Gerken.
Meir Feder, one of Souter's first clerks, is a partner in Jones Day's New York office. The Souter takeaway that Feder has internalized is "how hard he worked to get every case right." Feder added, "When he looked at a case, the prior law dictated the reasoning forward from the precedents, not backward from what he felt was the appropriate result."
Of course, that's what they all say, but it's important to believe that's what you're supposed to do and to keep trying.

May 10, 2009

Wanda Sykes at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.

Enjoy. Critique. Whatever.

"My washboard stomach that saved my life."

Okay, then. Situps for everybody. Or don't paraglide in freak gusts of wind that rip you across rocky outcroppings.

At the White Fence Café...


... you can range freely.

Are the police free to attach a GPS device to your car to monitor your whereabouts?

Without your knowledge and without a warrant? An appeals court in Madison, Wisconsin says yes.

The idea is that it's not a search or seizure, because it only lets the police see what they would see if they followed you around watching you. Yes, the car might go into a garage and out of public view, but someone standing outside would get the same information, that the car was in the garage until it emerged.

Mickey's questions for Elizabeth.


3 Beautiful Things.

RLC — my ex-husband — cribbed the idea 3 Beautiful Things from a blog called 3 Beautiful Things. So far he's got:
Research Headache, Cancelled Meeting, Double Saber

William Blake’s neighborhood, Texas radio, Indian blanket, spilled tea

Clumsy Billboard, Porkpie Hat, Heroic Twig
I wonder if the original 3 Beautiful Things is doing 3 (or 4) Beautiful Things as well as RLC. I've only glanced at 3 Beautiful Things, but I have to say I doubt it. If it is, though... astounding.

The Air Force 1 flight over NYC can't possibly have been made for the purpose of taking that photograph.

Perhaps others are already saying this, and I'm just pointing out the obvious. But here goes.

The official story is: Botched photo op, now fully compensated for by the resignation of Louis Caldera (the director of the White House Military Office):
Caldera submitted his resignation yesterday and to no surprise, it was promptly accepted. The White House wants the memory of this fiasco to fade — and fast....

The White House review of the incident shows that Caldera was informed of the mission but missed numerous chances to stop it from happening, failed to alert senior White House officials about it, nor did he even recognize that the public might have a reaction to seeing a jumbo jet tailed by military aircraft swooping down on the city.
But look at the picture. Why would people going to all this trouble and expense to get a photograph that looked so awful?

Thanks to my commenters on last night's post for forcing me to think about this. First was rhhardin said:
It's not easy to take pictures when you're steering a fighter with your knees.
Presumably, the picture was taken from the cockpit of one of the F16s that flew alongside Air Force 1. Here's what the cockpit looks like. There's no passenger seat. There's no room for a professional photographer. How does it make any sense to do a big photo shoot without a professional photographer?

Peter V. Bella said:
It took this long? Guy should have been fired the next day.
Maybe it took so long because the story is more complicated.

JAL said:
Yeah. If they truly wanted to "update" the photos for PR purposes (??) why not do it *right*. Shooting out of a fighter plane window (while piloting said plane at only 1000' over a densely populated area) and including either a shadow or a portion of the fighter plane (lower right corner) in the picture is $328,000+ worth of amateur photography.

They didn't get our money's worth.

So - who all was IN the big plane?
Maybe the pilot took a photograph, but that can't have been the purpose of the flight. So JAL has the right question: Who was in Air Force 1?

Palladian said:
That's a poorly composed photograph. Positioning Liberty Island below the plane in that manner makes it look like the plane is a shitting bird and that the island is the pile of shit. Also the color is murky and excepting the Statue of Liberty, the scenery is a depressingly industrial swath of New Jersey. And the garbage barges or whatever they are in the harbor don't add any majesty to the photograph. The supergenius Obama kidz couldn't remove those with their mad Photoshop skillz? And what is the white streak in the upper right of the photograph, near the nose of the plane? It looks like reflection from shooting through a window.

This is what we got for $357,012? Classic.
That's a great description of what a crappy photograph it is, but instead of exclaiming over how stupid they were to take such a bad photograph, I think we need to advance to the assumption that the flight cannot have been for photography purposes.

rhhardin said:
In defense of the incompetents, they're not allowed to photoshop anything.
Some military rule?

Charles said:
rhhardin: That photo was photoshopped. It has the distinctive tags "JFIF", "Ducky", and "Adobe" in the header.

They apparently used Photoshop to remove the EXIF information from the file, lest we see that the photo was taken as a souvenir by the pilot with his $150 point-and-shoot.
I don't understand all that tech talk, but I think I want to say: Aha!

Yes, I know. I've moved into conspiracy theory territory. It's not my thing, normally. But this is just staring me in the face, and I feel required to say what I see. The pieces don't fit. I want to know more. The Caldera resignation does not turn the page. Who was in Air Force 1?

(By the way, what are the 9/11 Truthers doing with this story?)

ADDED: An emailer with some experience writes:
A few facts that may be useful:

(1) The F-16 family of aircraft does in fact have two seater trainer versions (however, I haven't a seen a photograph of the F-16s accompanying the 747 that has sufficient clarity to determine if either is a trainer version.

(2) No F-16 pilot can "steer with his knees" as the aircraft is controlled by a sidestick controller that operates via a fly-by-wire system.

(3) The F-16 can be flown on autopilot.

(4) Pilots of large, expensive to operate and maintain military aircraft gain necessary flying hours by piloting smaller, cheaper aircraft such as T-38 trainers.

(5) No military aircraft leaves the ground, anywhere, without those high up on the chain of command knowing about it and authorizing it. This would be so for Air Force One unless the Obama administration allows the aircraft to be treated like a privately owned light aircraft hangered in Uncle Fred's barn.

That being understood, here are reasons why the F-16 is a particularly awful photography platform:

(1) The cockpit in even the trainer version is very tight, with both pilots tightly strapped into seats that recline sharply to assist in dealing with high G forces. This makes manipulating cameras of sufficient quality (required for good photos) and size difficult at best.

(2) The canopy of the F-16 is essentially a one piece, continually curved plexiglas bubble, introducing distortion, light flares, and all manner of other problems into the photography equation. No competent photographer would try to shoot through this kind of medium under these conditions unless they had no choice.

(3) Fighter aircraft, at the low speeds apparent in this situation, are barely above stall speed and subject to significant buffeting. They are not stable photographic platforms. This is true of any light aircraft, particularly when compared with much larger aircraft.

(4) The released photograph is indeed poor in quality in every facet of photography, particularly when one considers framing, background and composition. It looks like the kind of thing a fighter jock might shoot, one handed, with a little digital camera that would fit in a flight suit pocket.

I'm surprised that no one had demanded a list of the crews of all involved aircraft, and the opportunity to interview them absent White House minders. It would also be interesting to learn who the official "photographer" for this mission was and to find out why they were apparently flying in a very poor platform and what kind of training they had (was this person actually a military photographer? Was there, in fact, a qualified photographer on hand?) and equipment they used. One suspects that the story of this mission would be quite different if we could speak with those involved.

AND: Here's what official Air Force photographs actually look like.

"Walnut holds off on stadium suit, for now."

Just a headline that amused me.

IN THE COMMENTS: Amba quotes "Hamlet":
"I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite stadium space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
Wow! Bizarre!

ADDED: Wait. Amba threw in the "stadium," so it's not quite so bizarre. Cool, still.

Alex Kozinski: ""Supreme court Justices are not bound by anything."

"You can never really tell how someone is going to be until they get into that position. There's a certain freedom that comes with being a Supreme Court justice that is like nothing else."

This is true. We are talking about highly ambitious individuals, who must win great favor if they are to make that last leap to the top of their profession. Who can know what they will do once they've snagged that spot? Their interests suddenly shift.



"I asked my love to take a walk just a little ways with me..."

"And as we walked along we'd talk of when would be our wedding day..."


We took a walk down into the river bottoms late last night...


... on the banks of the East Fork of the Little Miami River.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
What a wild walk that was. The murder, the music, the ecstasy.

And then the dog got skunked.

"Most of you covered me; all of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table."

At the White House Correspondents' Association dinner, Obama tells jokes. Obama's jokes — unlike Bush's — have semicolons in them. He's so smart!

The featured comedian was Wanda Sykes, who talked about the President's nipples:
"It's funny to me that [photographers] have never caught you smoking," Sykes told the president, "but they always catch you with your shirt off. I know you're into this transparency thing, but I don't need to see your nipples."