Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tasing Does Not Make You A Better Person

Since it's caught ColumbusGuy's attention, I thought I'd actually comment on Andrew Meyer:

Meyer's the "Don’t tase me, bro’" dude, and he's given an interview to the mainstream press. He complains about today's tabloid journalism and I have to admit, that they'd be so respectful of this fool to let him rave without challenge, suggests they do have problems.

He explains just what he wanted to ask Senator Kerry:

1) Why did Kerry concede the election when he'd clearly won?

2) Why hasn't Congress impeached Bush for illegally going to war?

3) Does the fact that both Kerry and Bush were (allegedly) in Skull and Bones at Yale have anything to do with Kerry's inaction regarding questions #1 and #2.

In other words, Meyer has nothing to add to the public debate. But even crackpots can ask questions at forums. The trouble is, he started ranting and speechifying, and wouldn't shut up--anyone would have been led away for acting like that. Would others have been tased? I don't know what the standard is for that, but I do know if you keep shouting while resisting arrest, you can't expect to be treated too well.

Meyer continues in his unchecked arrogance:
Politicians are not used to being asked the hard questions. I think free speech has been willfully discarded to an extent by American journalists. They have stopped asking questions that matter. Maybe their refusal to be vocal is what makes my outburst look so surprising in contrast.
So it's us who have a lesson to learn, not him.

Meyer believes "this whole experience has been an opportunity for me to learn and become a better, more complete person." Replace "person" with "jerk" and he might have something.

But I bet he was nervous about doing it

"‘Don’t Tase me, bro’ student breaks silence"

Heroic Violence

Lots of ugly violence on the latest Heroes. Two of the regulars committed murder. They didn't just kill--that happens all the time--but actually murdered, i.e., intentionally took the life of others who weren't directly threatening then. Two others played some nasty tricks as well.

I don't necessarily oppose this, though a show like Heroes, which has a comic book style, has to watch to make sure the characters remain sympathetic.

PS Here's what they're saying about the show in Entertainment Weekly:
The roller-coaster pacing has grown sluggish, the crazy-cool cliffhangers have gone MIA, and wimpy rookies like Wonderless Twins Maya and Alejandro have stolen away too much screen time. Plus the amnesia for Peter: so cliché. And Matt and Suresh as My Two Dads: seriously? Worst of all, stranding Hiro in a truly unconvincing evocation of feudal Japan has been disastrous.
Can't say I entirely disagree. I still think the pacing and cliffhangers are okay, and something had to be done about Peter to weaken him (same for Sylar), but the rest are points I've made in the past, especially about Hiro.

I'll Vouch For Her

Megan McArdle has been discussing school vouchers lately, and it sure has garnered lots of comments.

It's amazing how strong the opposition to school vouchers is. Few issues have such a large vehemence to argument ratio. I've been having nice lunches with people only to see them go nuts when the issue comes up. Better to talk about religion (though faith in public education can seem similar).

Robert Goulet

Robert Goulet just died.

He rose to fame as Lancelot in the Broadway musical Camelot, introducing the hit "If Ever I Would Leave You." I'd say he was seen more as a handsome guy with a great voice than an actor, and his career was mostly based on his pipes. (He's also the punchline to a famous joke which I will leave it to Columbus Guy to relate.)

Still, he seemed to have had a good sense of humor, and in later years was more likely to show up on a sitcom playing himself, or a parody of himself, than a character. (Will Ferrell also did a parody, and I'm guessing the real thing enjoyed it.) He was also used as offbeat casting in movies such as Beetle Juice, Scrooged and The Naked Gun.

My favorite appearance by Goulet--essentially playing himself--is in Atlantic City (1980). (This is from memory, so excuse me if I don't get it exactly right.) Susan Sarandon visits the hospital after finding out her ex-husband was killed. Sarandon is talking to some officials about what to do with the body and the camera pans left with her as she walks away, not sure what to do. We see Goulet and some showgirls in the background opening up a new wing--the city has just allowed gambling and this is a sign of its growth. The camera now focuses on Goulet as he sings a song and walks to the left, where he goes up to a phone booth and starts singing to Sarandon, who's on the phone and in no mood for the celebrity interruption.

He was perfect for the small role, since he represented the sort of Vegas-y entertainer you'd get for such an event. In fact, he later appeared in a memorable episode of The Simpsons, where he opened Bart's treehouse casino.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Those Who Forget The Past

I recently watched Independence Day. It wasn't quite as bad as I remembered. It got me thinking.

It was the biggest hit of the year, and director Roland Emmerich could pretty much do whatever he wanted. Two years later, he comes out with a remake about a classic giant monster, Godzilla, and it's a big disappointment. Bad career move.

Several years later, Peter Jackson directs The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, each film a gigantic hit. He can pretty much do whatever he wants. Two years later, he comes out with a remake about a classic giant monster, King Kong, and it's a big disappointment. Bad career move.

To any Hollywood blockbuster directors reading this, consider it a word to the wise.

More Movie Trends

A classic storytelling trick is beginning the tale in medias res--starting at some crucial point and then going back and explaining how you got there. You don't see it that often in films because they're probably scared of confusing the viewer.

Yet I seem to be seeing it more and more. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but at least three films I've seen this month start this way--King Of California, Michael Clayton and Weirdsville. (Into The Wild sort of did it, except it kept cutting back and forth.)

It works in that you get the audience intrigued right off the bat. The danger is when you go back, you can lose them, plus they might get impatient while they wait for the action to return to the "present." If you do it well, they forget about the structure and are pleasantly surprised when you return to the beginning.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Guitar players get all the chicks

The only surprises about this list are that Clinton isn't on it, and Becker is.

What, no Posner?

(Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, 1,000 H'mong were asked their opinion . . .)

Biggest Jerk of The Day Contest

First things first: congratulations, NE'Guy, on your team winning the most boring World Series I've ever seen. I fell asleep in the middle of two out of four games, and it would have been three out of four if my friend Rondal hadn't baked me cookies (in a very masculine, heterosexual way).

Now, for our contestants:

In this corner, Alex Rodriguez, who opted out of his contract:

-by text message
-through his agent
-without returning multiple phone calls from Yankee owners, let alone accepting their offer to sit down and talk in person
-during the World Series
-more specifically, during a World Series game that he also declined to attend to accept his Hank Aaron award -- from Hank Aaron -- due to "family commitments."

You, sir, are a classless jerk, and I pray to all the gods in whom I don't believe (and who, in turn, clearly didn't believe in the Rockies' destiny neither) that you win the MVP playing for the third-place Giants every remaining year of your career.

In this corner, Hank Steinbrenner, who responded by saying:

- "If you don’t understand the magnitude of being a Yankee and understand what that means, and being the highest-paid player in baseball, I think it’s pretty obvious.”
- “If we’re going to make you rich and we’re going to give you the privilege of being a Yankee, you’ve got to show us you want to be here.”
- and, finally, “Does he want to go into the Hall of Fame as a Yankee,” Steinbrenner said, “or a Toledo Mud Hen?”

You, sir, are a classless jerk, and I will save those quotes for the next time a Yankee fan tries to explain that everyone else in baseball dislikes them because of their success. No, we dislike you because of your overwhelming arrogance, as perfectly exemplified here.

But of course, neither is the worst person in the world.

To Bee Or Not To Bee

Last night 60 Minutes had a report on Colony Collapse Disorder. Right after, Nature had an episode entitled "Silence Of The Bees" about the same thing.

Coincidence? I think not.

Natural Causes

I saw George Carlin on TV saying the people in the California fires deserve to lose their homes for overbuilding, and they should learn to live in balance with nature, like the Hopi Indians did.

Carlin's a great comedian, but I think he was trying to be serious here. Alas, he gets it completely backwards. We live in better balance with nature now than at any other time in history. For most of the past, nature kicked our ass. Now it's closer to a draw.

In the old days people were far more likely to perish through starvation, pestilence or natural disaster. I have no wish to follow Carlin back to that abusive relationship.

Soul Brother

In an overheated column on what it means to be a conservative, Pat Buchanan says accepting Rudy Giuliani means the Right is selling its soul in exchange for power.

Buchanan, who has been fighting against the Republican party for quite a while now, may fancy himself a conservative, but, unlike Ronald Reagan, he apparently doesn't believe in that big a tent. Pat, who opposes free trade and has views on foreign affairs at odds with the majority of conservatives, better watch out or he might find himself on the wrong side of the flap. (In fact, it's rather arrogant he thinks he can judge who gets the conservative mantle).

The meaning of conservative and liberal has changed regularly through the years--even the core values aren't that easy to define. If Rudy can't be considered part of the Right, even as he moves to the center on some social issues, then I'd have to say that today's conservatism is so brittle perhaps it deserves to break.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Nerd Joke

I made a good nerd joke the other day, but no one was around to hear it. (A nerd joke is something that only a small group of nerds might find funny, but no one else will get, and when explained to them, will still not find funny). So I'll just repeat it here.

I was watching a show about how they make sherbet. (Already sort of nerdy). They noted after the stuff was packaged, it was stored in -40 degree freezers to harden it.

Me (in a knowing, sarcastic manner): "Is that Celsius or Fahrenheit?" (Little snicker.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Little Brown Jug

With their come-from-behind victory over Illinois last week, the Wolverines are over the hump. It now seems quite possible (if not yet likely) that an unbeaten Michigan (in Big Ten play) will face an unbeaten OSU. That'd be quite a game.

But now is no time to look that far ahead, there are still some tough games on the schedule.

Except today's against the hapless Gophers. Okay, this season, we take nothing for granted, but I just can't see us losing to Minnesota.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lost News

After a drought, an item about Lost. Not much, but you take what you can get till February.

Daniel Dae Kim just got arrested on a DUI charge. Sooner or later this will happen to every cast member.

Just in time

"Report: Primates in Danger of Extinction"

and

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

Doubtless the top scientists at Berkeley are rushing to establish that the former will be Democrats and the latter Republicans.

Buffoon

People throw around the word "shameless" a lot, but I think we have a good example in our Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.

He's all over the national news being asked about the fires, and whenever he can, he puts down the war in Iraq. First, as Lt. Gov., it's none of his business, second, his claims to its (once-removed) relevancy are a bad joke, and third, almost every statement he makes about the situation is wrong. Plus it's all pretty cold since it detracts from the actual issue he's supposed to be dealing with and can supposedly do something about.

But that doesn't stop him from acting like an ass. I have to wonder if this can honestly play with the public, no matter how confused or angry they are.

He also said President Bush coming to California was a political move, and not helpful, though, through gritted teeth, he promised California would be "polite." Okay, so I assume he felt Bush shouldn't go to New Orleans after Katrina, either.

(After all this, he's still not as shameless as Lt. Gov. Mike Curb signing executive orders when Jerry Brown was out of town.)

Epic Fox

I finally got around to seeing all four hours of Cleopatra (1963). The famously troubled production was the costliest ever, almost bankrupting 20th Century Fox. It actually grossed a decent amount but simply had no chance of showing a profit.

Seen today, it's the last gasp of those 50s historical epics that were Hollywood's response to television. This is one of my least favorite genres, and though Cleopatra is too long (the original cut was actually six hours) and disjointed--the first half is all about Caesar, the second, Antony--it's not as bad as I feared. The first two hours even manage to be pretty decent.

I don't think, however, that Elizabeth Taylor is up to the role. You have to be fiercely fascinating to hold the screen that long, and Taylor, or perhaps the part, just isn't enough. On the other hand, I was impressed that, while there was some artistic license taken, for the most part the film (as far as I could tell) was fairly accurate, historically.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My word, that is frightening

Must . . . control . . .gag . . . reflex . . .
Who-boy. Anyone who's been on TV or seen a serious photoshoot knows how false this is. Wouldn't any sane person have too much pride and sense to allow themselves to be shot this way? Who do they think they are? Chuck Hagel?

What, no Becker-Posner?

His Virtualness turns us on to the 100 most informative blogs.

What, no Pajama Guy?

How the world works, parts 1 and 2

Part 1:

"[After taking statistics,] My predictions became more elegant, but not more accurate. "

Part 2:

"What I learned has come in handy at times in litigation, though."

Accuracy, schmacuracy. If it doesn't fit, you must acquit.

Cage Match

After recently watching The Weather Man, Lord Of War and Adaptation, I think I know how Nicolas Cage picks his scripts. They all have narration. He likes to talk directly to us.

Unrelated advice: Now that Alfie and Sleuth have flopped, Jude Law should stop doing old Michael Caine roles.

Chasing Viewers Away

Some creative people get so successful they start showing contempt for the people who made them rich.

I can't say I 'm impressed by David Chase's comments about Sopranos' viewers. Maybe he was just in a bad mood.

He seems to be unhappy that fans actually cared about his finale. "There WAS a war going on that week, and attempted terror attacks in London, but these people were talking about onion rings." Sorry, Dave. Why don't we just ignore your next project and read the news instead?

As for Tony Soprano himself, "The pathetic thing--to me--was how much they wanted HIS blood, after cheering him on for eight years." So you know both that fans approved of everything he did, and then wanted this fictional character dead. How faithless of them.

Chase wants to make it clear he wasn't yanking anyone's chain. "Why would we want to do that? Why would we entertain people for eight years only to give them the finger?" Gee, his fans are so stupid they can't even see how great he's been to them.

Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

Speaking of political satire, I can't recall the last time I saw something this good from the right. To be fair, it's also the first time I've found Dowd's column funny in about two years.

And A Chicken In Every Pot?

Rudy Giuliani makes me more than a little nervous. He tends to talk in absolutes, presumably with the intention of making those with more nuanced positions look like wafflers and half-measurers. The value of such absolutism is that reality doesn't usually intrude until it's too late to go back. (Godwin Alert! -- step away from the keyboard!)

But how about a litmus test? Candidate Giuliani, you go ahead and create a "tamper-proof" ID that costs less than $1k/copy, and promise to drop out of the race and provide a $500,000 prize for the first person to create a workable fake that is reproducible for under $5k/copy. Smart money says I wouldn't have to hear more foolishness about being an American League fan for very long.

This actually raises a broader point for me. I always have a strong sense of cognitive dissonance when I hear law-n-order types like Giuliani praising the power of the free market and the finanically interested individual to create novel solutions that are better than government regulation. Do they just forget that the same principle must apply to Mexican immigrants (and drug traffickers)?

Ask A Smart Question

After yesterday's post about Pygmalion, a reader asked if I prefer it to My Fair Lady. I guess I do.

Shaw, of course, hated musicalizations of his work and forbade them while he was alive. He said his words were music enough.

Pygmalion, his first real "West End" hit, was more a crowd-pleaser than most of his material, and so a natural for adaptation after Shaw kicked off. Even then a lot of professionals thought it couldn't be done until Lerner and Loewe figured out how: stick to Shaw as closely as possible, but not just the original play--use the film, which Shaw had a hand in and which which added some of the most famous scenes, such as the embassy ball and the elocution lessons, not to mention the suggestion of romance at the end.

My Fair Lady is unusual for a musical in that it's built so strongly on its book. While I like (but don't love) the songs, I don't consider them improvements over the original dialogue. (There was a musical, Baker Street, based on the Sherlock Holmes stories. Think about this. Does Holmes really need all those people dancing on the streets around him? That's sort of how I feel about Pygmalion.)

Not that Pygmalion doesn't have flaws. It's in five acts and almost all the best stuff is over after Act Three. But when it's working, Shaw was right, it doesn't need music.

And I'll certainly take the 1938 Leslie Howard Pygmalion over the vastly overrated, overlong 1964 Rex Harrison My Fair Lady.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Go Bucks!

"Protesters want guns on campus"

Rittle croser; rittle croser

"Hans Blix questions U.S. fears over Iran"

Huckawhat?

When I skimmed the Republican debate transcript, I remember seeing the part where Mike Huckabee claimed most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were "clergymen."

Conservatives love to tell tales about who the signers were, but this one was so silly it didn't even seem worth investigating. Nevertheless, I'm glad someone fact-checked it.

I now await Huckabee explaining how he uses clergyman to mean anyone who's ever seen a church.

World Series Perdition

It should be clear to any one who has read my predictions that they are aspirational rather than rational- i.e. who I hope wins.

That being said, I was fairly accurate in the second round- So I will stick with my prediction of Sox over Rox on Fox in Six.

(Actually, I think it will go 7 games but I had the thing with the x's going)

It's not a gaffe, it's a strategy

Disgusting. Here I thought McCain at least was strong on national defense, but now he comes right out and says he has no interest whatever in shooting Obama. Osama. Whatever.

Homeless Alarm

There's a fight in LA over what homeless people can do and where they can do it. The plan now seems to be to allow them to sleep on the streets from 9 pm to 6 am.

Can we really expect people to wake up at 6, or be arrested? Either they should be allowed to do it all the time, or never.

Offense And Defense

Heroes is about a bunch--a whole big bunch--of characters with special powers, but the extent of their powers isn't always clear.

Just last week, we learned Claire, the cheerleader, who quickly heals and even regenerates bone and tissue, can feel pain just like anyone else. Okay. In the past, she's jumped to the ground quite a few times from heights of about fifty feet, driven a car into a wall and, just last week, snipped off her little toe. And she did it all intentionally. (She's also very accident-prone, but that's another issue.) Since we discovered she can feel pain, I must say I'm shocked. She's a lot braver than I thought. (Or being a teenage girl, maybe she's into cutting.)

Now, in this week's episode, we learned a bit about Niki, who has a split personality (not her special power) and super-strength. She returned to The Company so they could help her--with her mental problem or super-power it's not clear. Anyway, she's starts running amok and Mohinder, who just happens to have a taser, takes her down.

I wouldn't have expected that. I'm not saying she could take any punishment, but you'd expect someone with super-strength to be a little less vulnerable than the average person. Imagine if Superman had a glass jaw? You'd just have to get in close enough to take him out.

This makes her considerably less valuable in a fight. I wonder if, up until this episode, show-runner Tim Kring had figured out this weakness.

Fair Play

I've often criticized The New Yorker's theatre critics, so it's only fair to note that Hilton Als' review of Pygmalion starts with a succinct, intelligent discussion of Shaw and women.

Meanwhile, this is from Ben Brantley's pan in The New York Times:

[...] the stiffness of this production shines a glaring light on the weaknesses of "Pygmalion,” on its repetitiveness and didacticism. It had me thinking heretically (admittedly not for the first time) that “My Fair Lady,” which used song to amplify and investigate the relationship between Henry and Eliza, is an improvement on the original.
Heretical indeed. Everyone says they like My Fair Lady better. But, better or not, it strikes me that these so-called amplifications and investigations Brantley refers in the musical are, in fact, the repetitive and didactic parts. Instead of quickly dealing with a point, we get, over and over, a character stopping the action dead to sing about her hopes or feelings.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Photo Op

I feel bad about the fires in Maibu, but it does make for lovely sunsets. (Now is when I'm supposed to put up a photo I took but I'm having trouble with my camera so you'll have to imagine it.)

Republican Plank

I recently heard one of those right-wing radio guys claiming conservatives argue on a much higher level than liberals, who resort to name-calling.

He asked rhetorically if it's conceivable a conservative would write a book with a title as nasty as Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot. (Actually, the intentionally over-the-top title strikes me as more funny than nasty.)

Rhetorical or not, let me ask him back if it's that hard to find equally harsh titles from conservatives?

Deep Thoughts

I just read David Lynch's Catching The Big Fish. It's full of short chapters and can be finished in one sitting. It's half about filmmaking, half about meditation.

Lynch started in painting and has always approached film as a painter. He gets a feeling for a color, a look, a sound, and keeps adding to the canvas until the movie is done. While I wouldn't recommend this for most writers or directors, it seems to work for him.

I liked the book for its directness and simplicity--sort of the opposite of his films.

Monday, October 22, 2007

That's Debatable

The big soundbite from the recent Republican debate was John McCain talking about how he couldn't attend Woodstock since he "was tied up at the time."

It's obviously an effective line, based on the applause, but within the context of the debate, it's not that impressive. (In general, I'm not impressed with big moments in debates--they rarely tell us anything about how the candidate will serve.)

If you look at the transcript, you'll see McCain was responding to a question about pulling troops out of Iraq. Instead of simply answering the question, he wrenches it into another subject just so he can use this canned line. He couldn't even wait for a question about fiscal responsibility, which surely would have come up.

Princeton Law Schools

Using somewhat different standards from other rankings, The Princeton Review names the Top 50 Law Schools. The top two? Chicago and Michigan.

Well what do you know? These just happen to be the two institutions I attended. Same for (sorry for outing you) ColumbusGuy.

Recency bias, serendipity or conspiracy? You decide.

No sooner does LAGuy, in conjunction with moi, uncover the seemingly innocent minderbender in his entry on the no-bias-here-Cass Sunstein, than who should pop up in Kausfiles?

Yes! Minderbender!

You don't know who you're dealing with here. Do you understand? DO YOU?

Awards Season Has Just Started

Over at the Chicago Law School blog, Cass Sunstein announces today's LA Times will have his awards for Supreme Court Justices. Definitely worth checking out.

Here's how he puts it (heavily edited, though I won't tell you how since you can read the original so easily):
Who are the activists on the Supreme Court? Which justices show the most partisan voting patterns? Thomas Miles and I have compiled and analyzed a large number of the justices' votes, and we now have some answers. A small preview: One member of the current Court has the honor of finishing second for both Judicial Neutrality and Judicial Restraint: Justice David Souter.
Update: The awards are presented in this article.

They're Here

Bill Maher's show was recently disrupted by 9/11 Truthers. He had them tossed out. They've responded in a video, of course.

I'm still shocked that millions buy into 9/11 conspiracies, but until yesterday I'd never actually seen a Truther up close.

I was in Trader Joe's, a place where you expect to find relatively rational Barack Obama supporters, and what do I hear but one women talking to her friends about Rosie O'Donnell and Charlie Sheen.

I should have kept moving, but I thought a second and figured what these two have in common is a belief that buildings on fire that have been hit by jets won't collapse. So I eavesdropped.

The lady had a touching story about how she wasn't originally a believer, but she did believe in following the facts no matter where they took her. And, after looking into things, and even talking to some fireman, she's concluded that there are so many fishy things that happened on 9/11 that there must be something to the suspicions of the conspiracists. Mind you, she's open-minded, but all she cares about is the truth.

So let me report that these people look just like you and me. They could even be living next door. Watch the skies.

Drug-Addled Rockers Relive Glory Days

CNN's Situation Room had David Crosby and Graham Nash on to talk (certainly not debate) politics. The dialogue is too predictable to reprint here (you know, they called Bush every name in the book because he scares people out of criticizing him) but one moment intrigued me.

It was when Crosby, who seems to be claiming we're the ones doing most of the killing in Iraq, and we do it for no particular reason except they're different from us, notes that people are making billions off the war. Well, David, it's like this--there's business being done there and most companies don't do things for free.

This might seem odd to you and Graham, but believe it or not, the millions you've made came from selling your music rather than giving it away. In fact, if I recall correctly, you both made a bunch of money off four dead kids in Ohio.

(PS The title of this post is obviously not saying they're on drugs, and I'm sorry if I implied they had that excuse.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A New Hope

"All our hopes are resting on that boy."

"No. There is another."

Scary

Things were a bit shaky at first, and it wasn't until the end that Michigan put it away against Illinois, 27-17. There's no question the Illini made some huge mistakes, but so did we. Overall, considering who was missing, not a bad victory for the Wolverines.

Minnesota next week should be a lot easier, but then the real grind starts.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"Likely" referring?

"Not everyone likes her work, Rowling said, likely referring to Christian groups that have alleged the books promote witchcraft. Her news about Dumbledore, she said, will give them one more reason."

I guess it's time to break down and buy the current version of the AP Stylebook. I wonder if they intended that this story "likely" related to this other piece of AP work. (It's okay; "cheap shot" is an entry.)

I said "dwarf," you idiot

"Police: Pantless Man Claims Leprechaun Opened Door"

That'll fix those pesky kids!

Sure, that's what we need, "a national strategy." And here we are, caught with our pants down, the deadline passed. Just like national health care; things are just too gol-durned fragmented. If we only had a plan [man of action pounds fist on table].

Didn't Posner already address this stuff? Didn't LAGuy?

Intolerable. We won't tolerate it.

Forgot that pre-flight checklist, I guess. Reminds me of why I don't get a concealed carry permit.

In any case, we would never tolerate such stuff here at Pajama Guy.

That's The Way To Do It

The last few Wolverine games have started at noon, EST. That means they start at 9 a.m. on west, which is an uncivilized time to watch football.

Today's game starts at 8 pm EST, or 5 out here. Now you're talking. Every game should be like this.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago the stock market dropped 508 points, which then represented over 20% of the Dow Jones Industrials' value.

I remember that day well. I was in downtown Chicago, going out to lunch, when I saw people gathered around a window where the Dow numbers were updated regularly. I didn't think it meant anything, but I noticed on the way back the crowd was still there.

I went up to the window and saw the numbers. I didn't know what to make of it, but I heard plenty of people talk about a new Depression. Of course, it turned out to be a hiccup, and by the end of the year the numbers were back to normal. It taught me a lesson to (at least try to) take the long view when it comes to the economy.

Cops Make Cash Disappear

The FBI raided David Copperfield's Las Vegas warehouse in an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct.

They took a hard drive and a digital camera. That I get. But they also took $2 million in cash kept in a safe. Exactly why did they seize it? Did they just think what the heck, let's see if he can get it back? I don't understand how it relates to a sex crime (unless Copperfield gets paid for such personal appearances).

That much cash might seem suspicious to some, but this is a guy who makes many millions--if he wants to have some in a safe just in case, that's his business.

The facts are still coming in, but I'd like to know specifically why they took it.

Half A Century Of No Compromise

Good piece by Brian Doherty on Ayn Rand for the 50th anniversy of Atlas Shrugged.

The best line goes to Rand on Goldwater: "If he advocates the right political principles for the wrong metaphysical reasons, the contradiction is his problem, not ours."

I'll Take It If He Doesn't Want It

"[Joe] Torre walked away Thursday, turning down a $5 million, one-year contract."

Thanks For The Warning

I've seen two trailers for Robert Redford's Lions For Lambs, and all they contained were conventional (and conventionally bad) arguments against the War On Terror. Perhaps the film will be better. Perhaps the lines in the trailer are followed in the film by "That was a stupid thing to say" "Yeah, you're right, I apologize," but I doubt it.

Good movies know no politics, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the numerous anti-Iraq films coming out are okay, but if the Lions trailer represents the best the movie has to offer, I have better ways to spend my money than on a one-sided lecture.

Open Door Policy

I recently watched Elvis Meets Nixon, a 1997 TV movie. It's about their meeting, but also the events leading up to it. It's not a documentary, but a fanciful re-creation.

No one would call it a classic, but it's a lot better than it needs to be. Allan Arkush directed. He's a producer on Heroes, but is best known to me for helming Rock 'n' Roll High School.

What I found most fascinating is how they captured what it's like to be a celebrity, perhaps the biggest in the world. Elvis at that time had a shaky grasp on reality, but how can you blame him? His name, and face, opened doors.

In the movie, no matter where he goes, people are thrilled to see him, and want to do things for him. You might question the accuracy of this portrayal, thinking it's exaggeration for comic effect, except you know this guy actually drove up to the White House, delivered a hand-written letter, and got in to see the President. After that, how can you exaggerate?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Anomaly?

So I'm no. 1,150,740 to use the quiz that so impressed LAGuy.

Turns out my guy is Tom Tancredo, at a match of 85.71 percent.

But I said I'd vote for Fred Thompson. My Fred match? 85.71 percent.

(Of course, I'm a match for Mitt, too, at 40 percent. The quiz said 80.00 percent, but obviously Mitt believes only half of what he says.)

QueensGuy adds: I'm mildly embarrassed to say that it turns out my guy is Mike Freakin' Gravel, at 90.91% Man, I don't even agree with myself from day to day at that high a rate.

And the other half?

"Poll: Half of New Jerseyans want out"

The probably think it stinks.

He Was Literally Insane

On the radio today, referring to the Jena 6, I heard some guy say "No noose is good noose" and then immedately after "no pun intended."

Pardon me? How can you possibly say this without intending a pun?

(Whenever anyone says "no pun intended" I always reply with the Bill Maher line "no pun taken.")

Let's Get To The Bottom Of This

Really cool poll here. You take it to find out which presidential candidate you're most in line with. There are obvious problems, of course:

1) Many of the issues they ask about don't fit a simple yes or no. For instance, "Patriot Act"--you may want it changed, but not overturned. "Iran Military Action"--there's the option then there's taking action, and it all depends on what Iran is doing anyway. "Citizen Path For illegals"--what path? Right away, or go to the back of the line?

2) They ask how important each issue is, high, medium or low, but the truth is, for a lot of people, there are just a few issues that truly destermine how they vote.

3) It's possible the pollsters haven't got the candidates positions (which are ever-changing and can even occasionally be nuanced) down right.

4) This sort of thing certainly can't measure how successful the candidates will be at getting the programs passed.

5) The sampling isn't random so the overall results can't tell you too much.

Still, I think in general this poll gives you interesting and even useful information.

So forget the hype, forget the names, forget the media, let's just break it down to what you want and what they claim.

I only wish someone would do a scientific poll to see what the results would be.

That's My Boy

Both Congress and the President are subject to the Fourth Amendment, but in the battle over how the government may seek information these days, it's not really about constitutional law. Rather, it's about who has the power. (Everyone agrees the government has it--that's not at issue.)

That's why I found the Senate's questioning of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey so amusing. Over and over again, they tried to sound as if they were asking about principle, when, over and over, the question turned out to be about whether he'd promise to swear he'll serve Congress before he serves the White House.

Arlen Specter wanted to know if he'd promise to resign if President Bush didn't listen to his advice. Is that necessarily a good thing? (It might be interesting if other officials promised to act this way. Let's say I'm a Senator who believes in the First Amendment. Should I have resigned when McCain-Feingold passed? Feingold, by the way, asked Mukasey some of the most pointed questions about how important it is to protect our rights.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just parking, officer

Got nothing to say about this, except it's darned good and I didn't want to lose track of it.

Bad news

Economic downturn in Iraq.

Where's John Carradine to say, "I guess business is not so steady."

Juggling

Heroes introduced yet another "hero" last Monday. This time it's a young woman who works at a burger joint and can perform any skill she sees on TV. As noted last week, most of the new heroes are just repeating powers of the originals. This latest character is pretty reminiscent of first season's Charlie Andrews, who worked in a diner and could remember perfectly anything she saw.

There are also a huge number of plots going on at once. This is part of the appeal of the show, since it allows for a lot of action, but it also means they can't get all the characters in each episode. Last Monday's show had nothing about Peter, Hiro or Niki, while the new characters had plenty of screen time.

Long Time Gone

I was recently reading a book by Sheldon Cheney on the history of the theatre first published in 1929. It's always interesting to read old books to understand how people had different assumptions. Statements that went unchallenged, even unnoticed, stand out today.

The whole introduction to Greek Tragedy reads that way. Even the title, "Tragedy: The Noble Greeks," is almost unimaginable today. Here are a few lines: "No other state has ever reached the standard set by the Hellenes in those accomplishments esteemed by men to be most high, most desirable, most beautiful." "There is world recognition that for a considerable period the people of Hellas solved better than any other the problem how to live their lives reasonably and finely." "In this present period of reevaluation, at the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century, when sophisticated commentators are taking cynical delight in demolishing old human and racial idols, pointing out the flaws in everything that mankind has esteemed, there is little attempt to pull down Greece." "There is, indeed, no other development in human life to match this one."

I was going to comment on these superlatives--the mindset that made them possible, the mindset today that doesn't--but looking at them, I think I'll just let them speak for themselves.

PS Here's something going in the opposite direction that I'll let speak for itself. I saw this in the IMDb comment section for Across The Universe: "The Beatles' music had a huge effect on me; from the fateful day that my friend accidentally copied the first three tracks of "Revolver" onto my computer, a love affair was born."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

185 to 1

Apparently we're the only nation in the world that issues life-without-parole sentences to 13- and 14-year olds. I'm not necessarily concerned about that lone-wolf status in and of itself -- as the article mentions, our legal system is different than others around the world in many ways. As with a certain group of child molesters, I'm certain there are some young teenage murderers who are utterly beyond hope of rehabilitation, given our current tools and understanding. But I've got a real Eighth Amendment problem with the 19 kids (26% of 73 convicts) who are currently serving life-without-parole for felony murder first offenses, based on mandatory adult sentencing laws. That said, the US Supreme Court should be able to address this as a US Constitutional issue without reference to international law, I would hope.

My man

My man Rush had an unfortunate tear today, funny and ironic. He asserted, quite clearly, that it was routine for presidents to take office and fire every existing us attorney. Every president (essentially) did it except Bush; even Bill Clinton did it.

From there, the logic went, Hillary would come to office and do what? Fire all the US attorneys.

ANd then-Rush concluded-we'd have her! Republicans in Congress could say, "oh, no, no, no, *you* tried to criminalize that when Bush fired only eight of them."

And then, I don't know. I guess American voters would swoon en masse and regret their error, the way Ralphie's parents did when he grew up blind.

There are so many things wrong with the logic it's hard to know where to start; minority Republicans aren't going to do much; spineless, the Republicans aren't going to do much; unsupported by the NYTimes and its diminishing but still broadcasting followers, Republicans aren't going to do much.

But what's really troubling is that, what Bush didn't isn't criminal and shouldn't be cast as such, even for super really good we'll show you revenge (particularly for wishful thinking srgwsyr).

More, it isn't true that presidents fire US attorneys en masse. Rush had it precisely backwards. The *only* president to do so was Bill, and there's a fair chance he did it precisely for banana Republic reasons, to interfere with the legal process to cover his own ass.

Of course Hillary will do the same, but she won't be carrying out grand American traditions when she does. I'm confident that when she does, Rush will be droning for hours about how she's only the second man in the Oval Office to do so.

David Currie

University of Chicago law professor David Currie just died. He taught me about Constitutional law. I still remember how much time we spent on pre-Justice Marshall cases. I didn't even know there was a Supreme Court before Marshall.

I remember having a nice discussion with him about positive Constitutional rights--we disagreed on some points, and even though I was just a student and he'd published on the issue, he still listened and didn't dismiss me out of hand.

He was known for wearing hats. One day, all the students in class wore various odd hats in tribute. For all I know this was done every year, but he seemed suitably surprised.

Help! I'm Stuck In A Fortune Cookie Factory!

Here's what I found in my last two fortune cookies: "Listen attentively. You will come out ahead." and "Use your charm and personality to obtain your wishes."

I'm sorry, these are not fortunes, they're advice.

George Michael Would Be Proud

According to the man himself, Barack Obama's policies are strongly influenced by his religious faith. What sort of faith? As Obama puts it:

Not a blind faith, not a faith of mere words, not a faith that ignores science, but an active searching faith. It's a faith that does not look at the hardship and pain and suffering in the world and use it all as an excuse for inaction or cynicism, but one that accepts the fact that although we are not going to solve every problem here on earth, we can make a difference.
I'd just as soon keep faith out of politics, and I know plenty of people who agree with me, based on what they've said about Bush, so I certainly hope they'll be speaking out against Obama soon.

He also had a proposal for a special tax to cover war spending. Well, we're spending less on the military than usual for most of the past 60 years, so I don't think we need a special tax for that, but I like the idea--any new program should have a special, separate tax so we'll know what we're paying for.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The defense he could have offered

One of the Guys professes not to know why Craig wants to withdraw his guilty plea. Obviously, it's that there is a defense he could have offered:

"Craig . . . was one of two Senate liaisons for Romney"

That's all it was; he just got mixed up about the location for the liais.

Not Appealing

So Larry Craig is appealing the court's refusal to let him withdraw his guilty plea. At this point, he's already been punished for his crime, and everyone in the world believes he's guilty anyway (which apparently ends his political career), so I'm not sure why he cares any more.

Include Me Out

Fom Pajamas Media (never forget, we came first:) As Louis B. Mayer once said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.

Could there be a more obvious Goldwynism?

Chronic Ill

Showtime just took out a full-page ad in the LA Times promoting its original shows, Dexter, Brotherhood, Weeds and Californiciation (do they have a rule all titles must only be one word?). They quoted three reviews for each show--New York Post, Entertainment Weekly, whatever they could round up.

So it's odd that each show had a five-star review from the San Francisco Chronicle. Do the same folks who own Showtime own the Chronicle?

Selective Memory

Just by chance (honest) I ran across this paragraph I wrote about Lost almost two years ago (spoilers coming up if you don't follow the show at all):
The real question is when, if ever, will they kill the truly popular ones? [....] I'm figuring Jack, Kate, Locke and Sawyer can safely buy homes in Hawaii. Hurley and Sayid aren't that far behind. The others, even the relative "names" who play Michael and Charlie, should maybe still be renting.
I pretty much called it. The two major original leads they've taken out of the game since were Michael and Charlie.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

If I only had a brain

"Edwards Questions Clinton's Sincerity"

Next up, the honesty of Iranian denials of warlike nuclear ambitions, and the efficacy of the United Nations.

Homecoming

Michigan finally came to play. They easily defeated Purdue at home, 48-21 (and it wasn't even as close as the score indicated). Hard to believe they won't have a winning season, when it seemed like they'd have trouble winning more than a handful a month ago.

With the exception of what should be an easy Little Brown Jug game at home, the next four matches are away against decent teams really gunning for them. After that, Ohio State at home. A month ago, I'd have been happy if they could win half of their last six. Now I have hopes they can face OSU undefeated in the Big Ten.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

There's glory for you

Here's the cold, grey hand of the soldier's corpse, marking the high water line of individualism:

While intellectual opinions have stood rather still, the general population has moved their thinking against government solutions and toward solutions that use markets and other private transactions and relations.

Unless, most improbably, Fred bails us out, it's all downhill from here. God, I feel like Whittaker Chambers.

Now It Starts

The real season starts with the Purdue game today. Every team is scrambling to be the second-best in the Big Ten right now, and Michigan has a lot to prove. The rest of the season is a minefield and if the Wolverines can get to the OSU game without blowing up, that'll be quite impressive.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Only from Pajama Guy

Uh, huh, uh, huh, you can't get this just anywhere:

Researcher: Humans will wed robots

and

[Charlie Sheen] once proudly owned a $6,000 full-sized, anatomically-correct cheerleader doll.

Best line: "Charlie Sheen's doll reportedly bore a striking resemblance to his ex-wife, Denise Richards." Heck, he probably thought it was the doll divorcing him. And maybe it was!

You Get What You Pay For

Some fans are unhappy with the quality of Radiohead's latest, an album they've allowed people to download for free. Why don't they ask for their money back?

From LAGuy's Lips To Stockholm's Ears

LA Guy recently expressed his dissatisfaction with the Nobel Prize in Literature, with an aside about the merits of the Nobel Peace Prize. Methinks this year's recipient of the Peace Prize won't bring him back to the fold.

LAGuy adds: It's absurd, of course, but it's hard to care. At this point, anything that discredits them is a good thing.

My first reaction, oddly enough, was I should update the George Bernard Shaw entry at Wikipedia, since it claims he's the only one to win an Oscar and a Nobel Prize. I went there and found out someone had beaten me to it.

Some are saying this adds momentum to the draft Gore movement. I'm not getting the connection. Have they given Norwegians the vote?

Just listen for the sound of smug self-satisfaction

Seems to me these folks are trying to make their problem my problem. And isn't this just an extension of an existing problem the blind must have with bicyclists? How about instead of making me play the Mister Softee theme wherever I go in my motorized egg, blind pedestrians have to wear (or make their service animals wear?) big flashing signs that say "Watch Out: I'm Blind And I Can't Hear Your Hybrid!"

Or, to be a bit less snarky, how about just starting off with an education campaign? You could include something in the owner's manuals of hybrids about watching out for folks with service animals who can't hear your car. I'm a motorcyclist, and as with all riders, have been variously threatened by cars that simply did not see me because they weren't looking for a motorcycle. One solution which I believe has done some good in that context is an education campaign with bumper stickers that say, essentially, "Watch For Motorcyclists" just to increase awareness.

But just for fun, I'd love to hear suggestions in the comments about what the appropriate theme music should be for one's too-quiet Prius. I'll start with what I'd use: The Imperial March that they'd always play for Darth Vader. But only if the car was black.

Cutting edge

So Mickey Kaus is pumping on the Edwards-got-a-gal thing. Sounds like a job for MoveOn.org, but in Edwards' case he's still in the "Look at me, Look at me, for the love of Christ look at me" stage.

She's supposedly a video producer, although apparently he didn't get any videos, er, hasn't published any videos out of it.

Whatever. The thing that interests me most is that her Web site is strait out of 1994.

House Call

House has hit the ground running this season, breaking the formula. (He's got a bunch of candidates running to replace his old team.) But he said something interesting last episode--that he doesn't have to go to Detroit to know it smells.

First, unless he's speaking metaphorically, Detroit doesn't smell. In fact, with people and businesses leaving en masse, it's returning to a state of nature. (New Jersey, on the other hand, does smell.)

Second, we know that Greg House attended the University of Michigan. It makes me wonder if he ever went to Detroit to find out if it smells or not. It's possible to live in Ann Arbor and not see Detroit, but was he really that close and never took a road trip? Not even to Windsor?

Newsflash: Believers Believe Their Beliefs

Some are trying to make hay over Ann Coulter's statements on The Big Idea. She thinks things would be better if everyone were Christian and feels Jews "perfect" themselves when they convert.

As anyone who reads Pajama Guy knows, I'm no fan of Coulter, but I don't find these statements particularly controversial. If you believe in your religion, and think it's the best or perhaps only correct one, why shouldn't you want everyone to join in? Diversity is no boon when others are in error.

If you've got a problem with Coulter, who seems to me to be stating merely what religious people are supposed to believe, then your real problem is more likely with religion.

YAF Gaffe

The George Washington University chapter of the conservative group, Young American's Foundation, was all set to take part in "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week" when suddenly some nasty posters appeared on campus.

The posters stated "Hate Muslims? So Do We!!” and got worse from there. Any reasonable person could see they were parodies meant to attack the YAF and "I-F A Week," but that didn't stop the GWU administration from demanding an apology from the YAF. As they put it, “There is no place for expressions of hatred on our campus. We do not condone, and we will not tolerate the dissemination of fliers or other documents that vilify any religious, ethnic or racial group.” They even sent emails to some of the conservatives students asking them to disavow any future hate speech.

The actual students who put up the posters were discovered. These seven noted the poster was a satire not meant to offend Muslims. Now the YAF chapter has put out a letter demanding the administration condemn these students and demand they apologize. There's some logic here--if YAF was supposed to apologize, shouldn't the real people behind the posters do it?

But the YAF is wrong. The original posters are insulting, true (though not to Muslims, but to the YAF), but students should be allowed to insult each others.

The administration is hypocritical, perhaps, but that's no reason to demand they do the wrong thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Waning Roth

Philip Roth loses again. The Nobel goes to....Doris Lessing?

I like what crotchety critic Harold Bloom has to say: "pure political correctness....I find her work for the past 15 years quite unreadable ... fourth-rate science fiction."

The Literature Prize is becoming as big a joke as the Peace Prize.

You shure got a purdy sound

Ooh, "informational cascade," gotta love that one. Way to go QueensGuy.

Reminds me of my favorite Car Talk joke (have I blogged this one?): Do two people who don't know what they're talking about know more or less than one person who doesn't know what he's talking about?

(Of course the lawyers in the crowd all answer, "Probably.")

..wrapped in a riddle...

In the annoying little "Today" screen that pops up on my msn email account, there was a "guess what enigmatic rock star turned 45 today"

The answer, enigmatically, was Axl Rose

Can they do that?

Doubtless this will come from "McCain-Feingold II: Opening soon at a theatre or courtroom--but we repeat ourselves!--near you!"

A judge on Wednesday ruled that Al Gore's award winning climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" should only be shown in schools with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination.

More Mice In The Maze

I'm all for looking into what causes illness, but when I heard about the recent research that links stress with heart attacks...well, I thought that had pretty much been established to everyone's satisfaction a long time ago.

AF, AG And AR

Andrew Ferguson reviews Alan Greenspan's latest in The Weekly Standard. Early on, Greenspan the Ayn Rand acolyte comes up, and Ferguson has this to say:

[Rand's] creepy philosophy of Objectivism, placing the self at the center of the moral universe, was being enthusiastically embraced, as it still is, by tens of thousands of pimply teenage boys in the dreamy moments between fits of social insecurity and furious bouts of masturbation.
I'm no fan of Rand, but this is ugly and stupid. He's essentially saying "how dare these people read a book I don't like and feel good about themselves--they're nothing, unlike me, and in a properly run society they'll meekly accept they're nothing." Talk about creepy.

PS Greenspan was on Letterman earlier this week. It was great to see someone sit down and calmly explain what free markets really mean. That should be on television every day.

Battle Of Wills

Garry Wills has a new book out on the history of Christianity in America. Conservatives often exaggerate the religiosity of the Founders, and I would guess Wills will help put the issue in perspective. I'm not sure if he'll be as good on current events, since, like so many others, he exaggerates the flaws of the Bush administration.

This is from the LA Times review:
"The right wing in American likes to think that the United States government was, at its inception, highly religious, specifically highly Christian, and -- and more to the point -- highly biblical." This was not true of that or any later government -- until 2000.
Huh? No matter how I interpret this, this is so off I have trouble believing it's what Wills claims. From any angle, 2000 was not some weird cut-off point in American history when it comes to religion in politics.

This comes a little later:
"[...] is abortion murder? Most people think not," Wills writes. [....] He points out that Catholic opposition to abortion is a recent development."Abortion is not treated in the Ten Commandments -- or anywhere in Jewish Scripture. It is not treated in the Sermon on the Mount -- or anywhere in the New Testament. It is not treated in the early creeds. It is not treated in the early ecumenical councils."[....] "Much of the debate over abortion is based on a misconception, that this is a religious issue, that the pro-life advocates are acting out of religious conviction. It is not a theological matter at all. There is no theological basis for either defending or condemning abortion. Even the popes have said that it is a matter of natural law, to be decided by natural reason. Well the pope is not the arbiter of natural law. Natural reason is."
I'm afraid this doesn't seem like much of an argument. Let's say we agree with his view of history, as well as his belief on history's importance. Well, it's my understanding that today's Catholic Church, whether you agree with it or not, takes a very clear, unequivocal and official stance on abortion, so I'm confused as to how he can avoid calling this a religious issue.

So were they partly white?

I doubt many PJGuy readers expect me to be the avatar of political correctness, but I find this line to be odd, in an AP story about the school shooting yesterday in Cleveland:

"The school has about 240 mainly black students with a small number of white and Hispanic students."

Yeah, I know, fish in a barrel; God knows I've written enough stupid things myself (the ones I'm paid for, that is). But still, it is our business.

ANd then there's this, which belongs in an article about No Child Left Behind (I say we impeach Bush for that name alone):

"The school, opened five years ago, ranks in the middle of the state's ratings for student performance. Its graduation rate is 94 percent, well above the district's rate of 55 percent."

Unless there's an Ohio standardized test for marksmanship, I'm not sure I quite get the relevance.

Final note: a pro-gun group sent an email around noting that unarmed students are at risk. Yeah, they probably are, but that sort of email isn't any better than what the press and the anti-gunners would normally be expected to do in beating the anti-gun drum.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tortured Logic

I know we've discussed this issue in a recent post, but I just want to note something about tough interrogation techniques. It seems to me the argument that they don't work won't do. It may be correct, but it's not so easy to avoid a deeper discussion of the issue--saying it doesn't work is a way of not taking a stand.

You've got people like George Tenet and others who claim directly that "enhanced interrogation" has gotten good information and saved lives, and that nothing else works. Now maybe he's mistaken, maybe he's even lying, but it's just too simple to claim such interrogation can't work and that's that.

You have to at least acknowledge there's a debate to be had. You've also got to bite the bullet and assume, arguendo, that it does work, and then ask do you do it, and if you do, what is allowed.

Still No Bull

I wrote this about Philip Roth and the Nobel Prize back in the early days of the blog, and it still applies. Heck, he's written and said plenty of nasty things about America since--shouldn't that count for something?

Fancy Shmancy

I just bought a new watch at my local drug store. Didn't cost much. My old one, which had worked just fine for over five years, was also cheap. I wear a watch so I know what time it is. I'm not sure if I get why some people pay thousands for a watch. Pens, too. I use them to write.

(Note: As I was writing this post about how cheap I am, I got a call hitting me up for money. Just a notice to all you charities who have me on your list--I don't write checks to people who annoy me by calling me on the phone.)

It's Just 730 Days, What's The Big Deal?

Pundit and professor Larry Sabato has a bunch (23 is a bunch, isn't it?) of ideas for improving our Constitution. He just wrote a book about it. One of them is a return to slavery:
The benefits of living in a great democracy are not a God-given right. In exchange for the privileges of American citizenship, every individual owes a debt of public service to his fellow citizens. The Constitution should mandate that all able bodied Americans devote two years of their lives to serving their nation.
Why this lousy idea, that costs a lot and makes life worse, is so popular among the chattering classes I don't know. Some have suggested a resentment of the young, or the rich, but it seems to me more a mindless pseudo-egalitarianism where some can pretend we're all in this together while they sit atop society ordering everyone around.

What would these volunteers be doing as we march them with guns at their heads to their temporary positions? As Sabato explains, "The civilian, military, and nonprofit options would have to accommodate the varied talents of the population, as well as our diverse dictates of conscience." Gee, that's what I thought freedom did.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Matt On McCain

Here's a book worth checking out--McCain: The Myth Of A Maverick by my good friend Matt Welch.

If you can fake that, you've got it made

"Authenticity is going to be a very important principle in this campaign."

I think "tactic" is a better word than "principle," but there you go.

One Down, A Whole Bunch To Go

Least season's Heroes finale threatened to kill a whole bunch of regulars, but then they all survived. So I was pleased, in last night's episode, that they finally killed off one of them--D. L. Hawkins. True, he was one of the least popular, but it's about time. They could use more pruning.

I enjoy the show because it doesn't stint on the action. With so many storylines, they can only give any character a few scenes per episode, so they make sure each scene moves the story forward.

But they're only in their second season and they already seem at risk of repeating themselves. Two new characters have powers we saw last season--one can fly, the other can heal wounds. (Speaking of which, we found out last night Claire can feel pain--to which I can only say after all she's been though, often voluntarily--ouch!)

Worse, they brought back last year's main villain, Sylar (too popular to kill) and apparently all he wants to do is acquire everyone else's power. Well gee, he did that last year. (Admittedly, it looks like he'll be forced into a different direction this time.)

Speaking of Sylar, as predicted, if Peter or Sylar survived, their powers would have to be compromised because they can do too much. I would have preferred just killing them off, but they were too popular for that to happen. I'd guess the producers were originally going to kill Sylar but he became too big to do that.

One of the new powers is this sister-brother team. Apparently, she kills people uncontrollably and he can bring them back to life. If this is what they do, it seems pretty pointless.

The most popular character has been Hiro, but now he's stuck in the past. He needs to come back to the present and get back in the game.

Holy recursive reflective nightmare, Batman!

I suppose it's in flux, but a Google search puts ColumbusGuy at no. 5. There's glory for you!

A meeting of left and right

Some time ago QG sent me (and other Turing friends) a proposal he titled, "A welfare program we can all agree on?" or some such, and of course it was some socialistic, communistic, bedwetting nonsense (it might have been for the children); that's not important right now.

What's important is that I think I've found his golden thingy, the thing that will finally allow him to say, "Can't we all just get along?" and have some takers.

For those of us on the right, we'll finally have to agree to give up the ghost, and put the government in charge of everything.

For those of you on the left, you'll have to agree to put these test subjects in charge of all government.

And if the research was done right, everyone will be better off.

Crazed leftists unexpectedly
warming to Hillary!(tm)

A "story" headlined "Many warming unexpectedly to Clinton" states,

For at least a decade, the inflexibility of voter attitudes toward Clinton had come to be treated as an immutable law of American politics. On the question of Hillary, strategists of both parties concluded, voters had become split into two camps, pro and con, with firmly defined opinions, leaving few undecided and those on all sides generally unsusceptible to persuasion.

Yet over the summer, some voters appear to have changed their minds about the senator.


Doubtless this is merely part of the puff piece campaign that will make its assertion true, but even so, I believe it. Everyone short of me--left of me?--will be cheering her on gladly, and I'm not so sure about me.

Here Here

Tracey Morgan recently said he hated how Jimmy Fallon used to crack up on Saturday Night Live.

I'm with Morgan. I don't find it the slightest bit charming when allegedly professional actors laugh and break character. That Fallon, after a while, seemed to be doing it intentionally, made it that much worse.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Saw a new (to me) bumper sticker the other day. It's the American flag and the words "These colors don't run...the world."

Whenever I see political bumper stickers festooned on someone's car, I always think of the line about how I don't even want to hear from you, what makes you think I want to hear from your car?

Meanwhile, I saw this outside my bank: "Please Ask Your Pet To Wait Outside Unless He Or She Is A Special Assistant/Guide Animal."

"He Or She"? Are we not allowed to call animals "it" any more? Seems to me they could have saved some paint.

And do you really have to ask? What if it says no?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pedophiles, Technology and the Constitution

Here's an interesting piece on how Interpol managed to un-photoshop images of a suspected child molester. As with having cracked Enigma in WWII, there's always a balance to be struck between keeping your knowledge of the enemy's secrets unknown to that enemy, and making use of the intelligence. Here, presumably they used every method they could to find the suspect without giving away their technological edge, but eventually had to place the welfare of the children he's continuing to harm ahead of the risk of alerting other criminals to their method.

The interesting constitutional issue is that from what I've read the man has committed most, if not all, of his abuses in Vietnam and Cambodia. So far as I know, traveling for the purpose of sexually abusing children abroad is the only U.S. federal crime that allows domestic prosecution for attempting to commit conduct that may or not be a crime where the act is committed and has no direct effects in the U.S. By contrast, I can't be arrested in the U.S. for traveling from JFK to AMS for purposes of smoking marijuana in Amsterdam.

"The War" vs "24"

In a comment responding to a recent post of mine regarding the definition of torture and current administration policy, someone asked me to "tell us, specifically, what's the worst thing you can do that's not torture?" Channeling the spirit of my mentor CG, I responded with something both glib and wholly accurate, which I've learned is his very effective way of saying Mu. Because I have not yet learned his ability to thereafter shut up, I'll give my further views on the topic.

I suppose my real answer is that I don't care precisely how nasty one can get before violating the law, because it wholly misses the point: i.e. that once you go down that road, you've already lost.

Here's a good summary from last year of the view of the accepted (by the left, anyway) wisdom that even "highly stressful" techniques that don't rise to the level of clear torture are occasionally useful for effective interrogation, but usually do more harm than good. More interestingly, a group of World War II US military interrogators has now taken the same position.

Against those questionable benefits of such techniques, you must weigh the unquestionable downsides, which I can't express any better than John McCain did. In other words, Jack Bauer wouldn't have made the cut at Fort Hunt, and shouldn't be our standard now.

Whaddya Call It?

Writing about Harold And Kumar Go To White Castle (see below) a thought struck me--they don't have White Castles overseas. Heck, they don't even have them out West (I don't know why not since they'd make a fortune).

When I first heard the title, I thought it was brilliant, though I didn't think the film lived up to it. Still, it doesn't travel. Europeans will think this is an adaptation of Kafka or something.

So I went to IMDb to check out the alternate titles.

The French title in Canada is Harold et Kumar chassent le burger. A bit generic, but it gets the point across.

The British title is actually better, since it implies all the drug humor: Harold & Kumar Get the Munchies.

It really can't be translated, since the best you could do is have them go after some local fast food, except then people would see the movie and be confused.

Casting A Wide Net

Typecasting is unfortunate when it let's you figure out the bad guy before the "surprise" reveal at the end. But there's another similar problem in casting that deals with prominence.

If a character seems important early on but you have no idea who the actor is, he's probably gonna die or go into a coma or disappear or whatever. Then there's the star, like Tom Hanks on Normandy Beach, who's simply not gonna die. (This made Pyscho's shower scene all the more shocking.)

Then there's casting reasonably prominent names in seemingly small parts--you know they'll have more to do. This isn't necessarily a big deal, except when it ruins surprises.

Last year on Heroes, we start with cast regular Mohinder Suresh's dad dead. We see his dad's picture on the back of a book, and it's Erick Avari, a fairly well known character actor. They didn't just take his photo for a book jacket, he will appear on the show. And he does (though in flashbacks).

This season on House, the Doc is trying to find three people to replace his old team of assistants. He begins with 40 candidates and starts firing them right and left. Last week, he fired Kal Penn of "Harold and Kumar" fame, so you knew, since Penn was the biggest name of the 40, that he'd be back. And sure enough, he made it, and will probably be in this week's episode. (Interestingly, they had John "Harold" Cho as a guest star in the first season--of course, that was shot before the movie came out.)

Lies

Here's a great case. The Washington state Supreme Court declared, 5-4, that a law banning candidates from lying was unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

I agree. The way it works, pretty much everything the other side says sounds like a lie. Enforcing the law would mean endless lawsuits over almost every utterance, getting in the way of robust debate, not to mention leading to very likely bad verdicts from partisan judges.

In a political race, who's lying should be determined by the court of public opinion.

Post "Post Season Predictions"

New England Guy's baseball predictions just went off the scroll, so, without comment, I'm reposting them here:

"Red Sox over Angels in 4- T.O.D. defeats what is one of many boring west coast expansion teams present this post season.

"Yankees over Indians in 5- Much as I hate them, they just won't die

"Cubs over D'backs in 3- No team from Arizona has any place in the post season

"Phillies over Padres [sic] in 3 - See above

"Red Sox over Yankees in 7 - Angst, angst, angst

"Cubs over Phillies in 7- Riots are possible.

"Red Sox over Cubs in 7-Pigs fly. Ratings Bonanza- Even if it finishes the other way, it will make both of the two most obnoxious fan bases in the free world become even more totally unbearable."

Sunday, October 07, 2007

"There's glory for you!"

I suppose it's in flux, but a google search puts QueensGuy at no. 5. Way to go, QG!

Mammon School of Math (or, "That's some insurance!")

So we received some junk mail offering to sell us some specialized life insurance, to pay our mortgage for us if it gets cloudy or something. Among the many benefits that we "may" receive, this one is my favorite:

"100 percent return of premiums if benefits unused during the term of policy."

All I can say is, that's some insurance.

On the other side of the ledger, I have a favorite brand of fiber pill, favorite because the pills are big and it's cheap. But the second best part is that it uses the side of the jar for a math lesson, showing the small pill competitor, at half a gram per pill, 100 pills per bottle, why, 50 grams!; the closest competitor, 1 gram per pill, 100 pills, 100 grams!; and the hometown favorite brand, 2 grams per pill, 90 pills, 180 grams (why not 100 pills, who knows).

Never mind that it's missing the price information; I consider them to be doing a true public service (beyond the less-than-obvious one of providing a product that works).

40,000!

We've just passed the 40,000 hits mark (since we started counting)! Okay, I have friends with blogs who get that many in a month, even a week, maybe a day. But hey, in our little corner of the blogosphere, it's not bad. 40,000 is a fair-sized small city's worth of hits.

Thanks to all of you who are reading this.

Feynmania

I just listened to a radio version of Moving Bodies, a play about the life of Richard Feynman. It wasn't that good.

There have been two other dramatizations of Feynman that I'm aware of, Infinity starring Matthew Broderick and QED starring Alan Alda. Neither was well received.

The reason there's so much interest in Feynman is not that he's a great scientist (though he is), but that his book of anecdotes, which has very little to do with physics, is a bestseller. All the dramatizations are mostly retellings of the stories in this book and its sequel.

When I first read it, I thought it would make a great one-man stage show. The stories were already well-honed. With a little editing, and some narrative to tie it all together, it would make for a great night at the theatre. I still think that. Someone should try it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nothing More Than

Pretty bad Peggy Noonan thumbsucker, even by her standards:

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they'd agreed upon with staff. What's the phrase we use about education? Hit Search Function. Hit Open. Right-click. "Equity in education is essential, Tim . . ."

You [The correct pronoun is "I", Peggy] get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.

I get it--Obama's act is better than Bush's or Clinton's. And this will mean he has better programs because....?

Breather

I know we're not supposed to take any game for granted, but come on, EMU?! Appy State would kill EMU.

Friday, October 05, 2007

How Can They Tell?

Campbell Soup Company is voluntarily recalling a limited quantity of 18.8 ounce cans of "Campbell's Chunky" Baked Potato with Cheddar & Bacon Bits because they may contain pieces of hard plastic...

Could you name another?

A professor was on a local radio show the other day, blathering about collective rights. He was asked to name a second one, after the Second Amendment.

Are you ready? The right to trial by jury. You know, because, it takes a group to make a jury.

To be fair, I don't think he had thought about the question. He had only written a book on it. But thank God there are others with more sense.

I vote yes

This is actually a good idea. I wish them luck.

That my surprise PajamaGuy readers, since I tend to be non-Canadian when it comes to privacy issues, and of course this is a flip side of Newt's recent venture into lunacy when he joined with Hillary! to promote a government database to achieve the same purpose (and [ominous music] . . . something more!). Then there's the evil Bill Gates issue.

But there's the always practical argument (where's Posner?) that's it's going to happen anyway,and the other practical argument that it's sure as the dickens needed.

Why not let the market respond and do it? Maybe it'll turn out like the credit agencies; information as commodity.

There's some truer words

A Canadian comes to self-realization: "The truth behind our perception of ourselves as especially virtuous . . . may simply boil down to a national gift for moderation in expenditure and lifestyle."

There's some subtlety: "a national gift for moderation."

(WHaddya think, LAGuy? Glad you got out?)

Nobody's Perfect

Brigham's Ice Cream (never heard of it) is having a contest for the top movie one-liners of all time. I'm not sure how their picked the top ten list, but here it is:

Are you talkin' to ME? — Taxi Driver
Go ahead. Make my day. — Dirty Harry
Here's lookin' at you, kid. — Casablanca
I'll be back. — The Terminator
I'll have what she's having. — When Harry Met Sally
Life is like a box of chocolates... — Forrest Gump
May the force be with you. — Star Wars
You can't handle the truth! — A Few Good Men
You had me at hello. — Jerry McGuire (sic)
You're gonna need a bigger boat! — Jaws

Usually I complain about how these lists are too modern, and I think I will again--except for Casablanca (by the way, I can name a bunch of lines from that film that I prefer to "Here's looking at you, kid") they're all pretty much modern.

But instead of being too recent, they're too mid-range. Four of the ten are from the 70s. It was a great decade for film, but 40% is a bit much.

More Strategery

James Dobson of Focus On The Family is threatening to sit out the upcoming election (or find a third candidate) if the Republicans choose Rudy Giuliani.

I'm not sure if this is brinksmanship or foolishness, but it's an interesting strategy. One way of looking at it is Dobson's rejecting a candidate who will give him a lot of what he wants but he wants more, which will ultimately mean he'll get nothing.

Another way is he figures he's got to be strict, since it's the only way to get what he wants--he can't bluff or no one will take him seriously.

How should Republican strategists look at it? Well, they could say Rudy is out, but more likely it won't change anything. They'll figure most Dobson types will have to vote for him when push comes to shove (and they'll try to sweet-talk them along the way), and also perhaps Rudy will pick up enough votes in the middle to make up for it. In fact, it's even possible Rudy's failure to give in to the religious right (if you want to see it that way) can be played as a positive.

The tug of the base can't be ignored, but you also can't give them everything. This happens al the time in the two-party system, though most often with the Democrats in our lifetimes.

The only person I know who's enjoying this is Hillary Clinton.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

There's glory for you!

One of my favorite scenes from Through The Looking Glass is when Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the Department of Justice's rationale for allowing interrogation techniques that sure sound like torture, but in fact are not:

`When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'
`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master - - that's all.'


Indeed.

Starting to like the guy

Up to now, I've only been hoping to like Fred Thompson.

But here comes the NYTimes, in a clever little sneer of a story, saying Fred's a walking corpse.

May be. But I read it a bit differently: He thinks campaigning is bullshit. The good news is, that's the kind of guy we need. The bad news is, it makes me think of the last, and maybe only, genuine moment from George H.W. Bush, looking at his watch at the first of those ridiculous Oprah debates that have now become standard. (You know the one; it's when Mr. Ponytail said, "Think of us as your children . . ." and Bush, instead of saying, "If you were my child, I'd kill you, your mother, your grandparents, all my brothers and sisters and all your cousins and then myself to make sure it never happened again," actually mumbled an idiot non-answer to the question.

God, he deserved to lose. But look what it did to the country's politics.

And sex is overrated

"McCain Says Money Not All That Important"

Throw in California, you got yourself a deal

Secessionists meeting in Tennessee: In an unlikely marriage of desire to secede from the United States, two advocacy groups from opposite political traditions — New England and the South — are sitting down to talk.

M. LK

Reader Larry King, who commented on our Star Wars post below, notes (I've cut his paragraph breaks):

I'm guessing you know the song "Californication"? Whenever I hear the line "Space may be the final frontier, but it's made in a Hollywood basement" it makes me think a lot about science fiction and real space travel. Most folks think science fiction boosted the space program, and that is certainly true in many ways. On the other hand, the USSR had a lot less SF than us, and yet had a great space program. We gave up on the moon once it got boring. Was that science fiction's fault?The moon landing is too dim a memory in my mind, but I remember watching the Viking landings and being disappointed. Mars didn't look at all like Edgar Rice Burroughs had described it. Maybe the average American's image of "outer space" really is the product of a Hollywood basement.
The border between reality and fiction fascinates me. We have our own small world, and much of the rest of our imagination is filled out by fiction. Not just sf and fantasy, but stuff like, cop show giving us a (very false) idea of how cops work. (Some say CSI is hurting prosecutors since juries now expect great forensic evidence.)

Look at our knowledge of America's western frontier, which for most is based on the movie version, which has about as much connection with the real west as Latin has with Pig Latin. A few weeks ago I noted it's Talk Like A Pirate Day, but of course, we don't really know how they talked, we know how movie pirates talk.

The space program caught our attention when we were racing the Russians to the moon, but I guess after that it was bound to fall short if it had to compete against the images built up by science fiction.

Add It Up

Whenever I see number tossed around in an article, I often wonder what's the source. Can I trust them? Usually, there's nothing to be done, but sometimes you can see there's something wrong without even checking elsewhere.

For instance, a recent piece on S. E. Hinton in the LA Times. Like millions of other kids, I read The Outsiders (as well as That Was Then, This Is Now) growing up. It's practically a rite of passage.

Turns out it's 40th anniversay of The Outsiders, and the book is a perennial bestseller. As the article notes: "According to Viking, a division of Penguin Group USA, The Outsiders has sold more than 13 million copies and still sells more than 500,000 a year."

Okay, "more than 13 million." I presume this also means less than 14 million. And it "still" sells "more than" half a million a year. Well, how long has it been doing this, because at a consistent rate of half a million, it would have sold more 20 million so far. (The article suggests it took a little while for the book to take off, but even at 30 years it would have sold 15 million). Which suggests to me three possibilities.

1) It's possible the book was doing okay, selling, say, a quarter million a year and then for some reason a decade ago or so it picked up. This seems unlikely, however, since you'd think sales would have been hotter in the early days of success, and also around the 80s when the film version was released.

2) These numbers are just wrong, and either Viking, or the Times, made a mistake.

3) It was not originally published by Viking, and the company is referring only to its sales since it put out the book.

No matter what's true, we don't seem to be getting the whole story.

Then there's this: Early on, Hinton's age is stated as 59. Later, a New York Times review of The Outsiders from 1967 says the author is 17 years old. Add it up.

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