Cut and paste

No opinions, just one train of thought. Start with this post from The Decembrist, How Social Security Phase-Out Makes Republicans:

"The positive theory that [private] accounts will make people excited, entrepreneurial, wealth-accumulating owners, and thus Republicans, expresses one idea about human nature. The negative, anti-government theory embodies another: that people, unless desperate, will not rise up to demand what they don't have and have never known. Here it's useful to remember that Karl Rove's historical parallel is the 36 years of Republican dominance from the McKinley election in 1996 to Hoover's defeat. That was a brutal period in American economic life. Government offered nothing in the way of benefits for workers, minimal widows' pensions, no aid for children, monetary policies that were cruel to farmers and regulatory laissez-faire that was cruel to workers. And yet, year in and year out, people took it, without question. It was the natural order of things."

And one of his commenters says:

If you see society as essentially Darwinian, how do you improve the quality of a species? By making it stronger, of course, through trial and difficulty. I think this lies behind the whole 'dependency' malarkey - they see the 'coddling' of individuals by the State as emasculating. Strauss (and others) railed about the weakness and lack of backbone of modern democratic man, as did Nietszche (Herd Men, anyone?).

"Hobbesian" may be the word he wants, since I don't think of Darwin and the Republican party together, but you see the point. And that reminded me of this old post from John Holbo, on David Frum's Dead Right:

It turns out economic inefficiency isn’t what ‘offends’ conservatives after all, at least not Frum.

“The great, overwhelming fact of a capitalist economy is risk. Everyone is at constant risk of the loss of his job, or of the destruction of his business by a competitor, or of the crash of his investment portfolio. Risk makes people circumspect. It disciplines them and teaches them self-control. Without a safety net, people won’t try to vault across the big top. Social security, student loans, and other government programs make it far less catastrophic than it used to be for middle-class people to dissolve their families. Without welfare and food stamps, poor people would cling harder to working-class respectability than they do not.”

The thing that makes capitalism good, apparently, is not that it generates wealth more efficiently than other known economic engines. No, the thing that makes capitalism good is that, by forcing people to live precarious lives, it causes them to live in fear of losing everything and therefore to adopt – as fearful people will – a cowed and subservient posture: in a word, they behave ‘conservatively’. Of course, crouching to protect themselves and their loved ones from the eternal lash of risk precisely won’t preserve these workers from risk. But the point isn’t to induce a society-wide conformist crouch by way of making the workers safe and happy. The point is to induce a society-wide conformist crouch. Period. A solid foundaton is hereby laid for a desirable social order.

(Emphasis added.) There's something about this that feels right to me -- something that jibes with my childhood experience of religion; that it wasn't there to make us happy, but to keep us from going to hell. (In fairness as I became older my teachers and parents made clear that they held a broader and more cheerful faith.)

Our only hope is order. Or those wolves from the campaign commerical will get us.

Schwarzenegger Bullshit Watch (12)

Via Kevin Drum:

"The LA Times is just full of interesting tidbits today. Apparently the administration has launched another phony news video:

The tape looks like a news report and is narrated by a former television reporter....But unlike an actual news report, it does not provide views critical of the proposed changes. Democrats have denounced it as propaganda. Snippets aired on as many as 18 stations earlier this month, the administration said.

....The video shows construction workers, waitresses, nurses, farmworkers and a forklift operator at their jobs, and includes interviews with a farmer and a restaurant manager. The narrator says the proposal would permit workers to 'eat when they are hungry, and not when the government tells them.'

Oh wait. I didn't mention which administration did this, did I? This phony news video turns out to be a California-only folly from the administration of Governor Arnold. I guess he figures he knows a good thing when he sees it."


Canadian World Domination!

I got this off a commenter at Fafblog. The plans are there in plain sight. Like the PNAC.

Cigars: yes, this again

Via The Washington Monthly, an interview with a Southern political consultant named Mudcat Saunders:

SouthNow: What’s your strategy for Southern progress?
Mudcat: We need to quit all this tap dancin’ around the truth....We need to stop tap dancin’ around the issues of guns, gays and God....We’ve lost the white male. We need to get ‘em back. We need to get through the cultural wall. It’s a wall of straw. Inside every rural Republican is a Democrat trying to get out.

Saunders, who has worked on the campaigns of Mark Warner, John Edwards, and Bob Graham, thinks that if Democrats ease up on the culture stuff they can win in the South: 'We''ve got an affection for big guns and fast cars. It's a macho thing. I've not seen any attempt by the Democrats to get into that culture.'

I'm not actually sure I agree with this. The problem is that while there are areas where Democrats can compromise on cultural issues without betraying their souls, there are others, like abortion and gay rights, where they really can't. So the question is whether ditching the gun crusade and toughening up on national security is -- by itself -- sufficient to win back enough Southern votes to make a difference. I'm not quite convinced of that.

Note that Kevin responds to a different issue than the one Mudcat raised. Mudcat is saying that Democratic candidates can't hang with Southern-style culture. Kevin answers, If so, we need to change our policy.

Maybe so; but Mudcat's problem is a different one. It's not that Democratic policies are wimpy but that Democrats themselves seem like wimps.

This is where I think cigars will help. Democratic candidates need to offend the schoolmarms in some way if they want to reach the anti-schoolmarm vote. Additionally, smoke-filled rooms are part of our political heritage, when our people were down with the streets.

Or, to put it briefly -- More Rat Pack, less Gun Control PAC.


Our lovely ungodly republic

This article was enjoyable (via AL Daily). A money quote:

" In 1797 our government concluded a 'Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, or Barbary,' now known simply as the Treaty of Tripoli. Article 11 of the treaty contains these words:

As the Government of the United States...is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion--as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen--and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

This document was endorsed by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and President John Adams. It was then sent to the Senate for ratification; the vote was unanimous."

Emphasis added for emphasis.

Korean MLB cartoons

This is the link I wanted. Awesome in spite of/because they're incomprehensible.

Link originally via Batgirl, then, post-eaten-post, 6-4-2.


The last war

Yglesias, il miglior fabbro writes:

"During the 2004 campaign, liberals of various stripes spent a lot of time patting ourselves on the back for avoiding the usual intra-liberal sniping, but in retrospect that looks pretty counterproductive to me. If Michael Moore and Dennis Kucinich had occasionally taken the time to note that while John Kerry was preferable to the incumbent, he and his advisers were still objectionably hawkish, that probably would have done a lot of good. "

I don't believe this is true,really, but even if it is Mr. Y. is forgetting about the campaign before that, when Michael Moore was very busy engaging in intra-liberal sniping and 3 percent of the liberals voted for Nader, thereby screwing everything up. My memory is fading, but I seem to recall that is was a priority last year to avoid that outcome. You can't have Michael Moore outside the tent pissing in and inside the tent pissing out at the same time; myself, I prefer avoiding the already-demonstrated danger to the merely-theoretical danger.


I always liked business columnists. Their audience is less susceptible to bullshit than the rest of us who read the A section. (Not that I read the A section, god knows. Sports first. Then straight to Funky Winkerbean.) But when I lived in New York I always liked Robert Reno in Newsday. And I'm starting to like this dude Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times. Today he talks about Deep Throat :

"The publicity pitch for 'Inside Deep Throat,' a new documentary about the movie, made a pair of remarkable claims: that it is the most profitable picture ever made, and that it has grossed $600 million.

The information came from the distributor of 'Inside,' General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, certainly an upstanding company. After a moment's contemplation, though, I knew what to think of these claims: Baloney.

Leaving aside that 'Deep Throat' was financed by mobsters and that therefore any figures are suspect, logic and arithmetic alone are enough to tell you that its box-office gross could not remotely have approached $600 million.

The average U.S. ticket price in 1972, according to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, was $2.05. By 1980, when the 'Deep Throat' phenomenon was way played out, the average was still only $2.69.

For the movie to have made $600 million at the box office, in other words, it would have had to sell tickets to enough customers to populate the entire United States one and a half times over...

It should surprise no connoisseur of journalistic indolence to know that the press has accepted the $600-million figure as gospel for years. My newspaper database turned up no fewer than 200 references dating back to 1980. The majority have appeared in recent months, thanks to Universal's publicity machine.

Not a single story attributes the figure to an authoritative source. Indeed, it's always accompanied by weasel words such as 'by some accounts,' 'reportedly,' 'said to be,' etc.

....I'm reluctant to criticize NBC Universal for inflating the film's box-office take in its publicity materials. Exaggeration is a natural instinct of movie studios; you can't blame them for doing it any more than you can blame a dog for drinking out of the toilet.

But what about the press?

Have our reporters, editors and critics become so mathematically ignorant that a patently inflated figure like this no longer leaps out and demands authentication? Or have they become so accustomed to hearing the unvarnished truth from Hollywood flacks that they no longer bother to vet what they're told before shoveling it into print?"

I emphasized the question to make it extra rhetorical. Our 30-year campaign of maleducation continues to bear fruit!

Busted cherry

My first experience with Blogger eating a couple of posts. Will try to get them back a little later.

Schwarzenegger bullshit watch (11)

It's been too long! From George Skelton's LA Times column :

"Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill is so objective, nonpartisan and esteemed she's known as 'the budget nun.' On Tuesday, she took a swipe at Schwarzenegger's proposed budget-control 'reform.' Under it, if there was a budget hole that the Legislature couldn't fix, spending automatically would be cut across the board.

Hill wrote: 'The governor [says] the main purpose of the reforms is to deal with 'autopilot spending' and instill discipline in future budgets. [But his] specific proposals work in exactly the opposite direction... They would put more spending on autopilot and make it more difficult to balance future budgets in a rational way.'"

In fairness (why am I trying for fairness?) -- not all of this is Governor Bullshit's fault. The bigger problem is that direct democracy -- the intiative -- is bringing about the exact problems the Tories warned us democracy would bring about 200 years ago. But Gov. B. isn't helping.

I was going to bullshit-watch about Schwarzenegger, a former steroid-using bodybuilder, sponsoring a steroid-laden bodybuilding competition while officially opposing steroid use. But the idea of an authority figure telling people not to do something he himself did is a tactic that, as a parent, I would like to reserve for possible use.

A: Rick Dempsey

Q: Who Was Your Favorite Baseball Player When You Where Growing Up?


Good news for once!

Sri Lanka Tsunami Suffering May Inspire Sting Song:

"Pop icon Sting has been deeply moved by the suffering of Sri Lankan children who lost parents to Asia's tsunami and may pen a song about the island's worst natural disaster, his wife said Wednesday."

At least something adult-oriented rock came out of this tragedy. Additional snark is left to the reader.


Watergate 2005

I'm dreary about linking to Richard Reeves, I know, but I never see anyone else doing it and I agree with him so often:

"The American press is barely being protected by its own owners, many of them entertainment corporations prone to erase any facts inconvenient to those who write tax laws and approve mergers and acquisitions. The straight American press, and most of it is, is being nibbled to death by a Greek chorus of know-nothing mouthpieces mocking anyone brazen enough to question the orthodoxy of the day or the cut of the emperor's wardrobe.

Imagine Watergate 2005, with Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly preaching their sermons on the patriotism of a 29-year-old reporter who was close to being fired for forgetting where he abandoned rental cars (private property) and whose parents were both communists -- that would be Carl Bernstein. Disney and Viacom and Fox have their virtues, I'm sure, but they are no Graham and Bradlee. Graham bet the company on journalism. I think she would be laughed off the business pages today -- and, in fact, over a lifetime she did decide to (or have to) plead for Wall Street's forgiveness for her own brave brand of Americanism.

Now the laughers are in charge. In the last year, the White House has explicitly stated that it believes it has no obligation to deal with the press as anything but another special interest. In the past week, federal judges have ruled that Time magazine and New York Times reporters should go to jail for what they know, even if it was never published. Another federal court ruled that the governor of Maryland has the right to order state employees never to answer questions posed by The Baltimore Sun.

So it goes in the land of the free."

As noted, I agree, but implicit in his argument is that Nixon's fall was a good thing that ought to have happened, an assumption I imagine most modern Republicans would disagree with vehemently, what with Woodward and Bernstein guilty of the far greater crime of being from the Washington Post.

This despite the fact that Nixon started the EPA and consorted with Communists like Mao and Brezhnev; he was just hated so by the liberals that the right wing counts him as one of their own. Clinton reaps a similar benefit on the opposite side, of course; but I think the effect is less.

8 possible nicknames for Joe Lieberman

Based on this.

"Surrenderin' Joe" Lieberman
Joe "Kneepads" Lieberman
Joe "Tighty-righty" Lieberman
"Say Uncle Joe" Lieberman
Joe Lieberman, "The Connecticut Capitulator"
Joe Lieberman (B/D, Connecticut)
Joe "Spongewall" Lieberman
"Neville" Lieberman

Baby, you're the greatest! or, Tragedy Plus Lunch

Me: Wow, Hunter S. Thompson shot himself.
Mrs. Delicious (without looking up from paper): Probably because of John Raitt.


Strindberg and Helium

I found this at BoingBoing, and everyone already reads BoingBoing so it's pointless of me to link to it, but it's just so desperately important that you enjoy these cartoons about gloomy Strindberg and his happy balloon sidekick.

Most things I love I don't wish I'd written, for whatever reason. I wish I'd written these.

Evidence that Red Sox fandom, already borderline annoying, is getting out of hand

Via Peter King, this quote from Johnny Damon:

'It's incredible. Even being mentioned in the same sentence as Jesus or God ... I mean, those guys are awesome. I'm just a knucklehead.'"

And, you know, the thing that was awesome about Jesus was that he had the heart of a true competitor. I know, because I saw it in a stained glass window.


Dig it

"The Crackers". Via Boing Boing, of course.

Puck contrarian

Since I'm enjoyably in a hockey rut...

1. The sportswriters may bluster but I, for one, intend to come flocking back when the NHL starts up again. Why wouldn't I? They're one of my preferred entertainment consumables. What "faith" have they broken with me? I just don't understand the moral tone (as I so often don't). I'm a user, myself, but the people who say things like "regaining trust" apparently did love the NHL enough to marry it.

2. I am in an entertainment union myself, and our big demand last year was to increase our share of DVD revenue. The studios basically said, "Go ahead and strike," and we caved. (As did the directors.) I think it was the right move, but I have a sneaking admiration for the near-suicidal lengths the NHLPA was willing to go to defend its own line in the sand. Their union was willing to pay a price our union couldn't, so I have to hand it to them even as I note that both of us wound up in the same place.

In praise of the master shot

Today's Hockey Rodent (no permalink) talks about how hockey is, generally, best covered in the wide shot:

The line of Petr Nedved centering Jan Hlavac and Radek Dvorak scored at moments which were very easy to predict and it wasn't because they scored more than ninety times that season.

It was because they scored their goals almost universally by motion - dizzying the opposition to the point that one of them would find himself totally free to receive a pass and whip it home.

My belabored point here is that the appreciation for that kind of play requires a wide angle perspective of the attacking zone.

Heck, appreciation for any odd-man rush demands a lofty perspective.

I post this not only because I agree with the Rodent, which I do, but also because in comedy I also love the wide, or master, shot. Not to be dogmatic about it -- you need closeups in comedy more than in hockey -- but great comic actors are often reactors and I like to see the whole situation.

Considering it some more, I realize I'm thinking more about scenes with two people. The really big master with a lot of people in a room can get diffuse, but this generally isn't the case in a two-shot. And while, in an emotional scene, you get a lot of information from that tight close-up, you're usually not going for the same effect in comedy.

I guess all I'm complaining about is that thing you see, mostly in movies, where it's single/single/single/single. Even in dramatic scenes you start to lose the effect the two characters are having on each other.

And yes, I am aware that this rule of thumb can be broken by a fine director, which I could never be. It's just a prejudice, that's all. Let's just agree that crazy camera angles haven't saved hockey and leave it at that.


BluesChopper 4

Awhile back, when it was raining, I made a reference to BluesChopper 4. Maybe it's time to check in with them again:

There's trouble on the 118
Overturned vehicle in the right hand lane
Said there's trouble on the 118
Overturned panel truck in the right hand lane
CHP is on the scene
But you should use surface streets just the same.

Turning to the Sepulveda Pass
Same old story on the 405
The BluesChopper flew to the Sepulveda Pass
But it's the same old story on the 405
If you're trying to get home to see your baby
Stop-and-go traffic'll make you more dead than alive.

AutoZone Autocenters
Are the sponsors for BluesChopper 4
Go to AutoZone Autocenters
Cause they're the ones that sponsor BluesChopper 4
Cure those junky-car blues
This President's Day Weekend with accessories and more.


Game Off! NHL Cancels Remainder of Season

And I was enough of a whore, I was going to buy the Center Ice package if it came back.

I won't watch replacement players, though; I'm a union man myself. Also, the NHL is anti-skill enough as it is. Was.

For acerbic opinion on this subject, consult the Rodent.


Oh, and also

I can be thrown out of the Writers Guild if I rise completely to the defense of actors, but I take issue with Kevin Drum when he says:

"Here's my uninformed guess: actors are lazy. My evidence for this is the annual Academy Awards ceremony. Every year I watch slack jawed as the famous actors who have been chosen as presenters walk onto the stage, squint discernibly at the TelePrompter, and recite their five or six lines about as well as an average fourth grader. Are they really so lazy and arrogant that they can't be bothered to rehearse their lines for 20 minutes in order to produce a good reading?"

While I wouldn't entirely rule that out, my guess is that those actors are nervous. Some actors hate being on stage when they're not a character -- hate being on Letterman, etc. That's why they like acting! Others are very good at it (you don't see the former comedians screwing up their lines, for example), but not everyone, especially when there's a billion people watching and no one to protect them.

I don't much care about the Emmys either, but I think you see less of this lame fumfering; if so (and it's just a bullshit theory), it would be because TV stars, for all their wealth'n'fame, have essentially bourgeois responsiblities -- the same office, the same crew, year after year -- and so spend much less of their time in bubble wrap than their movie colleagues. Which is also why they're dying to be movie stars.

The politics of tinsel

There is some discussion about Hollywood and politics so I thought I would wade in.

Let me start by dividing the issue into two parts:

1. Why do liberal celebrites seem like douchebags? and
2. Why don't politicians hire Hollywood screenwriters for speeches?

Issue 1. is the one that obsesses me and I have no clear answer. But Hollywood liberalism frequently drives even me -- someone who thinks we need more socialism* around here -- crazy. But why? It isn't that we don't like celebrities talking about politics, or there would be no Rep. Tom Osborne. It isn't that they don't know what they're talking about; some are well-informed, though I'm not going to get specific, because I am not well-informed.

Today, though, turning it over when I was supposed to be working, it occurred to me that liberal actors get painted with the same brush that taints liberalism: their politics are no fun. Consider the topic sentence from the speech in The American President:

"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them."

This is not a politics of pleasure. This is not even a politics of glory, that in solving these serious problems we outstrip our forebears and provide a legacy to which our children -- nay, our children's children -- will feel inadequate. What it is is a politics of spinach. And many liberal celebrities seem to me to be very spinachy, even as we know that they themselves are in clover. Who wants to hear Leonardo DiCaprio telling you your car is evil?

Schwarzenegger and Reagan don't have this problem, because they were perfect conservative politicians -- rich guys who go around saying, "Not only are you great, but Ineed more money." Contrast this with the reet-reet-reet sound you heard from John Kerry's smile pulleys. Where have all the happy warriors gone?

As to 2. it seems to me like screenwriters would be more likely to write great last paragraphs of speeches than the speeches themselves. (Although Sorkin's speech, referred to above, seems, at best, to be a great ending to a Playhouse 90 than a great speech.) If we can solve the real mystery -- why politicians, who make speeches for a living, are so boring at it -- then we can see if David Milch wants to bring some of his Deadwood magic to Dianne Feinstein.

*Not Western Europe-levels of socialism, God knows, but I believe a little more money for cities and health care would make things more mellow all around.

Go read

Steve Clemons:

"George W. Bush has just asked Congress -- as of late last night -- for another $82 billion to fund our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If approved, our total direct spending on these wars -- according to the Congressional Research Service -- will be $275 billion. (If you count opportunity costs because of the dramatic damage to the mystique of American power -- the costs may be incalculable).

The American population is slightly larger than 275 million people -- but the cost per person, in this country is about $1,000.00 a head for the Afghan and Iraqi Wars and Iraq Occupation. That's a lot of money -- particularly when roughly a third of the American population are not yet working or are retired. If we adjust out those at the young and old range, the burden of these wars on working age Americans is about $1,500.00 per person."

There's a good Slate article on this also.


Shouldn't us liberals (in coalition with we liberals), be against something as antimajoritarian as the filibuster? Wouldn't we have had health care and civil rights sooner in this country if it weren't for the filibuster? Wouldn't we like to have it gone if we ever take over the Senate 52-48?

Just asking. Maybe we could package f.b. reform as part of a Congressional procedure package that would also include an Iowa-style end to gerrymandering. (I guess this would take a Constitutional amendment, but that would both buy time in the short term and lead to a proper reform in the long term.)


All dialogue guaranteed overheard

It's hard to top this MaxSpeak Valentine post but I would like to post this dialogue from a couple of days ago.

Me: Do you want to do anything for Valentine's Day?
Mrs. Delicious: Oh, God, no. I always hated Valentine's Day.
Me: Baby, you're the greatest.

And she is.



Via 6-4-2.

It's not quite the shiznit, because iit gives you this link:

Perpetratin' Points Memo: By Joshua Micah Marshall: January 11, 2004 ...Archive | Main « previous | January 11, 2004 - January 17, 2004 | niznext » . Listen to how a motherfucker flow shit. . Relax, cus I'm bout to take my respect. Kevin ...

But then it's just regular Josh Marshall. A fun toy nevertheless.


Drinking note

So I added DrinkBoy to the blogroll even though he hasn't updated his site in a year. This is OK, even though I miss his essays, because it's cockail recipes, and most new cocktail recipes assume that 1) it is no thing to get your hands on a bottle of blue curacao; and 2) you have a tycoons-second-wife's-breasts-sized liquor cabinet that can easily hold a bottle of blue curacao. In fact, you can put it right next to the bottle of foul-tasting Pernod you bought during a since-regretted Provencal phase.

Anyway, I made a Manhattan according to his recipe and it was delicious. But here's the thing -- use rye whiskey. Bourbon is too sweet and fucks with the sweet vermouth. Rye is not sweet. Plus you're drinking rye! After a pop or five you can answer the phone, "Sweetheart, get me rewrite." Wait, Matt Drudge probably already does that.

Note: I guess you could use Canadian whisk(e)y but it's not as good, trust me.

Note 2: I was told that some years ago ArtForum decided that the King Cole bar at the St. Regis had the best Manhattans in Manhattan. They are pretty good. But, heeding Juan Cole, I don't know enough about the subject to judge.

NY Times Conspiracy Theory

So I'm painting my daughter's bedroom and my paint can is on a copy of the NY Times -- right on the front page (Arts) review of Danner's torture book. And I thought, I bet in the 70s the Times would have been on that story's ass. Not now. The Times is not a liberal paper -- look at its Op-Ed. Paul Krugman is not a liberal; he worked for Reagan, fer crissake.

And why is that? I have a theory. It's because the Times is trying to be, or maybe by its standards already is, a national paper. That is, one delivered to doorsteps in Birmingham, Alabama (suburban Birmingham is probably more like it) and Dallas, Texas and retirement communities in Arizona. Old-fashioned Upper West Side liberalism isn't going to fly off the shelves in those markets. They've got to put the hay down where the goats can get at it.

If I were a liberal sitting around with pots of money I'd do what Moon and Murdoch do and start a paper. It has more throwweight than a blog. A liberal tabloid, in fact, to give the left some needed red-meat practice. LA needs a tabloid. So does Washington...

Uni links

I don't read ESPN.com much anymore -- it's as cluttered with junk as a truck stop urinal -- but I do stop by to check on Uni Watch, since the minutae of uniforms is part of the fun of sports fandom. An excellent link I found through Uni Watch is The Helmet Project. Want to find out what helmet design Vanderbilt had in the 70s? Or the Houston Oilers? Here's the place. It's a fashionable, and macho, time suck.

Heh (History Nerd Division)

MaxSpeak :

"In response, the Bush Administration has announced the addition of a South Sea Bubble Fund to its Social Security investment options."


Happy birthday, Miss Bishop

I am reminded that today is the birthday of my favorite poet, Elizabeth Bishop:

Each day with so much ceremony
begins, with birds, with bells,
with whistles from a factory;
such white-gold skies our eyes
first open on, such brilliant walls
that for a moment we wonder
"Where is the music coming from, the energy?
The day was meant for what ineffable creature
we must have missed?" Oh promptly he
appears and takes his earthly nature
   instantly, instantly falls
   victim of long intrigue,
   assuming memory and mortal
   mortal fatigue.

More slowly falling into sight
and showering into stippled faces,
darkening, condensing all his light;
in spite of all the dreaming
squandered upon him with that look,
suffers our uses and abuses,
sinks through the drift of bodies,
sinks through the drift of vlasses
to evening to the beggar in the park
who, weary, without lamp or book
   prepares stupendous studies:
   the fiery event
   of every day in endless
   endless assent.



Did I not publish this link about the Korean baseball cartoons? Blogger is telling me it's a draft only. What an omission!

(Via Batgirl.)

Welcome to the bullshit watch

Dr Marshall, blogging the LA Times, begins to catch on.


Seth Stevenson, in Slate:

"Cialis runs a spot backed by old-time pop hit 'Be My Baby.' And I have to say, erectile dysfunction and the Philadelphia sound go great together."

That's the Wall of Sound, son. Phil Spector. The Philadelphia sound is, like, the O'Jays, Harold Melvin, u.s.w., and can be associated with, among others, Thom Bell.

No wonder our children can't find Canada on a mpa.

After you click this link, the betting window is closed

Reminder: The Morning News First Annual Tournament of Books tips off today, sadly not on the blue field of Boise State. Karen Shepard at Philip Roth. Check local listings.

Schwarzenegger bullshit watch (10)

Guest watcher today is Dan Walters of the SacBee

Is it true redistricting reform, or is it just a GOP power grab? - sacbee.com:

Arnold Schwarzenegger says he wants to change how California draws legislative and congressional districts to 'make California elections democratic once again.'

'The current system is rigged to benefit the interests of those in office,' Schwarzenegger added, 'not the interests of those who put them there. And we must reform it.'

... If, however, his goal is moderate, bipartisan reform of a terribly flawed political system, he'll have to do better than the constitutional amendment introduced, apparently with his blessing, by Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

...The McCarthy measure (ACA3x) does provide for the selection of an independent panel of judges, as Schwarzenegger promised, but when it spells out the criteria under which the judges are to function, the measure moves away from the simple, even-handed standards used by the special masters in 1991 and attempts to affect outcomes - another potential gerrymander in the guise of reform.

The devil, as they say, is in the details - a passage that seeks 'a level of competitiveness that would result in a difference of no more than 7 percentage points between the number of voters in each district who are registered with the two largest political parties in the state.'

Huh? As the Supreme Court's action in 1991 indicated, drawing compact districts that fairly represent California's disparate communities naturally creates a high level of competitiveness. In fact, partisan control of the Assembly changed hands twice in the 1990s. But by making partisan competitiveness a goal unto itself and defining it as a seven-point differential, the McCarthy measure would appear to enhance prospects for Republicans to win legislative majorities.

Democrats are already attacking redistricting reform as a smoke screen for a Republican power grab. The McCarthy measure gives them ammunition."


Girls are funny

I started to comment on this post at Yglesias's about are-men-funnier-than-women, but it got so long I've turned it into a post.

First of all, obviously, one can come up with a long list of counterexamples of funny women. So it doesn't pay to generalize too drastically. Nevertheless there is a tendency.

My own suspicion is that men are more likely to be funny than women because humor is fairly useless, and historically men have always reserved useless activities, such as athletics or the worship of God, to themselves. However, the increased leisure in our society has allowed us to realize that women are also good at useless activities. So I believe that this tendency will become less pronounced over time.

In television comedy the historical biases toward 1) men and 2) the room system combine to produce a generally frat-house-boy atmosphere in the production of content. (See the Friends lawsuit over at smokinggun.com.) Were the mode of production different -- and someday someone is going to have a Moneyball-type moment and realize the room is not inevitable -- I think conditions for women writers will improve.

That said, the hardest thing to cast is the funny female lead; but even then, a lot of that is because the network will always choose hotter/less funny over funnier/less hot. (They have this bias for the male lead, too, but much less so.) This is ridiculous, of course -- as a friend of mine says, I want to laugh when I watch comedy; if I want to see hot women, I can watch Cinemax. But the webs must have some piece of research that they feel proves it. Or the success of Friends, which I'm convinced has led a decade of development astray.

Anyway Yglesias also raises another point, over whether a sense of humor is as desirable in a person as everyone says it is, but I'm not used to writing this much and my fingers are tired. Years of the room have made me unable to write, only to pitch on something.

Kaus is right

He rips Bernard Weinraub. My favorite part:

"(Weinraub's real problem, of course, wasn't that he drove a two year old car. It's that he drove a Buick! Duh! No wonder he was embarrassed. It's a boring car. There are hundreds of two, ten and twenty year old vehicles Weinraub could have driven that cost the same or less than a two-year-old Buick and wouldn't have been embarrassing at all to a sane person. A Buick says 'I'm clueless and I need a truss.' It's a style and vitality question, not a money question--and it's revealing that Weinraub sees only the latter.)"

True. I drove a '92 Saturn for the longest time, and loved getting it at the valet, imagining myself scoring points in a Stephen Potter Gamesmanship-type sense -- the Wrong Car Gambit. This was probably not the case, but I was already a writer and therefore unrespected, so the important thing was not how they felt but how I felt.

The other problem is that Weinraub bent the knee to the movie business. As a television worker I harbor a grudge against the movie business, as they sit at the cool tables in Hollywood while we work our asses off (and, generally, make more money, although I don't know if it's true of executives); and, sometimes, make better product. Even with the debased state of TV comedy we are still doing better work than the movie people.

I myself have had more than one acquaintance go to the Golden Globes and then talk like a Photoplay subscriber over all the movie stars they saw there, to which I usually reply, my voice rising unpleasantly, "Big deal! You work with better actors every day!"

I would also add in passing that television, which is in everyone's house every day, is poorly covered and poorly understood when compared with the blanket coverage of movies. Escapist journalism has an excuse for this imbalance. The New York Times, not so much.


Regarding boos

Apparently there seems to be a mini-tempest over the boos during the SOTU yesterday. Not only do I support booing, I think there should be more of it. Anything to make it seem like something real is going on. The canned standing Os make it unwatchable.

For some reason I connect this with Alex Ross's posts on why a classical audience should applaud between movements. See here and here and here and here. Maybe it's just being in favor of more lifelike behavior -- or, as someone once told my wife, "I like a girl with spontenuity."


We Aren't The World

I have no bloggy "take" on this; it doesn't even seem hypocritical; but for some reason it strikes me as an amusing irony, or something:

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Geldof cast as 'Mr Bloody Africa': "Singer and campaigner Bob Geldof has dubbed himself 'Mr Bloody Africa' for his role as a reluctant spokesman on issues concerning the continent.

Visiting Africa 'bores me profoundly' but the media has confused the roles of politicians and celebrities, he said.

'Who's interested if the leader of Niger goes on Newsnight?' he told Radio Times magazine. 'It's 'get Geldof'. I'm 'Mr Bloody Africa'.'

Geldof will get a lifetime achievement honour at the Brit Awards next week.
...Of his work in Africa, he said: 'I'd dearly love not to have to go there the day after tomorrow.

'More often than not, it bores me profoundly - the pace of change is far too slow, and Africans excuse their own complicity in exactly the same way as our politicians. "


Burning baseball questions

I'm teasing, here, because I like Pinto's blog, and sabermetrics rekindled my interest in baseball, but I do like this question for discussion:

"UZR (and regular ZR) only counts ground balls for infielders, but I think PMR includes all BIP. Is it possible (and easy for you) to separate them out?"

The sad thing is I almost know what this means.