The blog incarnation of the Desperado mailing list, the voice of the apocryphalypse since 1978.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Unseemly glee over dubious outing 

Another hypocrite bites the dust. Fine. No doubt Ed Schrock is a jerk and a plague. I hope they elect the Democrat. But isn't it unseemly for a gay web log to publish tape-recorded private conversations from a gay hotline to drive a Congressman out of a campaign and out of office?

So he voted for that silly law and supports that ridiculous and unpassable Constitutional amendment? Are Republicans who like to talk dirty on the phone fair game for wiretapping and blackmail? Everybody's being coy now. The tapes that once were posted were taken down as soon as the Congressman went off to a lifetime of disgrace with his ravaged family. Meanwhile, the so-called blogosphere is filled with soaring self-importance salted with simpering snickering.

Is it a crime to be gay? Is he gay or does he just like to talk the talk without walking the walk? Is he really 6 feet 4 and buff? I'd rather he had his privacy and continued on in his hypocritical ways and faced attacks on his putrid public opinions, rather than see him feloniously assaulted for his gamy private ways. There are worse crimes than hypocrisy.

No links 'cause I don't want 'em in my web log, but Google will take you to more than you want to see about this.

posted by Tom  # 8/31/2004 04:44:00 PM

Lessons from literature, history 

I've just finished Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg, an epic sci-fi fantasy about a young man who must regain his rightful place as Coronal, that is to say, king, of Majipoor, after having been evilly supplanted by the King of Dreams. Tons of fun, not much like other such books, better dragons, lots of juggling, and full of telling imagined detail. Valentine grows weary and doubtful, and his mother, the Lady of the Isle of Dreams, has to buck him up:
In a tone more gentle than the one she had been using, the Lady said, "The Barjazid does not yet rule as an absolute tyrant, for that might turn the people against him, and he is still insecure in his power -- while you live. But he rules for himself and his family, not for Majipoor. He lacks a sense of right, and does only what seems useful and expedient. As his confidence grows, so too will his crimes, until Majipoor groans under the whip of a monster."
The book was written in 1979.

And, for our historical parallel of the day, a link to Squeaks from the Squirrel Cage, wherein our author simply quotes at length from Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower to draw striking observations of the French treason scandal of 1894:
SO STARTLING are the parallels between France's Dreyfus Affair and the Battle of Iraq that has raged of late on our own shores that it continually amazes me that no one has yet drawn this comparison. Surely something along these lines should have appeared by now in the pages of the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, Commentary, or some other such journal with a political-literary-historical bent, but if so, no one has called it to my attention.
And so on for much more, link from J. Bradford DeLong.

posted by Tom  # 8/31/2004 03:54:00 PM

Monday, August 30, 2004

Orbison not horrid 

Back in the day, he always seemed a little overblown to me, but I was in the supermarket yesterday and they were playing the usual music -- I believe the technical term is horrid 80s caterwauling -- when suddenly on came something by Roy Orbison from the Travelling Wilburies and I was at peace.

posted by Tom  # 8/30/2004 02:17:00 PM

Doonesbury and Wizard of Id Lose a Voice 

Enzo G. Baldoni, Italian translator of Doonesbury and the Wizard of Id, working in Iraq as a free-lance journalist and Red-Cross volunteer was killed by kidnappers. Here is the whole sad and sorry story.

He had a weblog, called Bloghdad, now apparently frozen in amber. He was a handsome and happy looking man on 26 August 2004. He seems to have called himself Zonker.

Now he's dead on a tape AlJazeera has elected not to show, not because it is "too terrible to show", but rather because it would be "terrible to show it".

Above his weblog is posted the bolded part of this quotation from Grahame Greene's The Quiet American
“I’m not involved. Not involved," I repeated. It had been an article of my creed. The human condition being what it was, let them fight, let them love, let them murder, I would not be involved. My fellow journalists called themselves correspondents; I preferred the title of reporter. I wrote what I saw. I took no action — even an opinion is a kind of action.

The Wizard of Id and Doonesbury. In Italian. In the hands of a new guy now. Links via Number Two Son.

posted by Tom  # 8/30/2004 01:42:00 AM

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Reich the vote: Any body but Bush's  

Futile protest? Nah! Last two paragraphs:

Today, with stupidity, evil, and death staring at us from the apish visage of George W. Bush, we must heed Wilhelm Reich’s teachings, and rediscover the freedom to be found in the proper use of the Orgone – Life Energy of the Cosmos. Orgastic potency can release us from the bondage of idiocy. If enough of us come together, as Patti Smith sings: “We can wrestle the earth from fools!” People have the Power.

On Thursday, September 2nd, for several hours prior to and during George Bush’s re-nomination ceremony, the Brooklyn Orgastic Politics Collective (BOP-C) will be conducting Orgone operations with several of our Cloudbusters, attempting to suck the fascism from the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden. From an undisclosed location on the Brooklyn waterfront, we will be redirecting the flow of Life Energy above the deadly concentrations of hatred and greed accumulating in midtown Manhattan. If indeed our theories prove correct, it may be possible to reduce the entire convention floor to a quivering Saturnalia. The moans of Love shall ring out across the Land!

posted by Tom  # 8/29/2004 02:44:00 PM

Recursion or garbage collection? 

Someone asked the name of the speech pattern that substitutes W's for R's. I idly typed a query into Google:
lisp r w

The joke's on me, ha-ha.

I haven't come up with the name yet, but in the meantime, here are two more stories, both from the Warner Brothers.

In the Bugs Bunny/Superman crossover comic, Superman is being personated by Elmer Fudd. Bugs comes up behind him and puts his hands over his eyes:
"Guess who?

"Wois Wane? Wana Wang? Wex Wuthor?"

In a cartoon, which one I no longer remember, Tweety Bird elects to sing the 20s classic about a Hawaiian heartbreaker, "Hula Lou":
Dey caw huh Huwa Wou
De kind of galw who never would be twue
I'd saiw acwoss the bonny bwue to woo
Duh wady known as Huwa Woo

posted by Tom  # 8/29/2004 01:00:00 PM

Outsourcing? Consider the source 

I have a hard time believing that significant software can be successfully outsourced. I was a documentation handmaiden to some pretty high-grade software, two operating systems, a generic text markup processor, and a high end configuration-management system.

Most of it couldn't make the trip from one office to the next without explanations, if not apologies and excuses. I overstate. We got our releases out, but there is no way that obedient minions in Myanmar could have coded a line of it.

Here is how it goes. Every one of my software projects had one person who had it all in their heads, two or three others who had parts of it in their heads, and a bunch of devos, docos, and quackos willing to work like crazy to get it all done. That is the real process.

Everything depended on the understanding and commitment of the development team. Everybody else was in a meeting. The foreman-level managers were in a passive position, alternately chasing and defending their people, while the site managers contributed by frantically tossing functionality off the back of the sled to wolves from headquarters so that schedules could be met.

The further down the food chain, the more dire the personal consequences. The life of the quacko (that's quality assurance, you know) was truly horrendous, as they were despised as being un-engineers whose only function was to cause delay. The source of the delay was their insistence that software be installable and runnable, and do, approximately, what it was supposed to do, particularly if it did it last release.

If you write the specification after finishing the coding, that may satisfy whatever "process" is "in place" but it won't do a thing for the folks in Myanmar. If it looks good on a whiteboard, but can't actually be installed except by some expensive contractor from out of town, it won't do a thing for the folks in Myanmar. If you have to throw Perl incantations at the code every time you want it to behave, it won't do a thing for the folks in Myanmar. A great demo whipped up by someone from marketing doesn't do anything for the folks in Myanmar.

I could go on, but the point is that the development process for serious software was a mess in 1978 when I started, in 1988 when I inexplicably ended up as a development manager, and in 1998 when my company got bought so many times they finally had to get rid of me to solve all their problems. I'm guessing that it is still the same way today. Thank goodness I'm not in it any more. And thank goodness I'm not in Myanmar.

posted by Tom  # 8/29/2004 11:44:00 AM

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Marketplace of ideas or Walmart of cheap crap? 

From Reason magazine again:

Political Veterans for Censorship
Bush and Kerry try to silence their critics
Jacob Sullum

Observers dismayed by the bitter partisanship of this presidential campaign should be happy now that George W. Bush and John Kerry finally agree on something: It turns out they both believe in using the government to silence their critics.

The rest is here.

As it turns out, the piece is harder on Bush than it is on Kerry, but the idea that political discourse is somehow tainted if people other than the two official parties are allowed to get their ideas out there (deceptively labelled "campaign reform") seems pretty much engrained in the modern political consciousness.

Me? I'm stuck back here in the Bill of Rights with only a few weirdos from Reason for company.

posted by Tom  # 8/28/2004 08:08:00 PM

Friday, August 27, 2004

Eric Clapton isn't God, but Tom Dowd may be 

A new documentary, Tom Dowd and the Language of Music about the extraordinary Atlantic recording engineer, is coming soon and you really ought to go find it. He's on half your favorite records, but he doesn't play a note.

There's a preview here.

I saw it earlier on the Independent Film Channel. Tom Dowd is a great man and this is a great documentary. The scene with him sliding the slides as he recreates "Layla" is a complete lesson in what a recording engineer does and why it is an art, requiring both technical skill and love.

posted by Tom  # 8/27/2004 08:19:00 PM

Devil's Book of Quotations: Longwinded edition 

All these quotes seem to go on and on, and some are from or about people you have never heard of and never will again hear of.

I am neither stupid nor scared, and my sense of my own importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my sense of my own importance to myself is tremendous. I am all I have, to work with, to play with, to suffer and to enjoy. It is not the eyes of others that I am wary of, but my own. I do not intend to let myself down more than I can possibly help, and I find that the fewer illusions that I have about me or the world around me, the better company I am for myself. -- Noel Coward, Present Indicative

An Allen Ginsberg reading in London: "Can we have some real poetry now, sir?" shouted an officer-class voice, and the incongruous "sir" revealed an abyss of incomprehension. Ginsberg -- whatever one thinks of his work -- is not a man whom one addresses as "sir". -- Edward Lucie- Smith in Encounter

Capital punishment
The bystander asked the guard who adjusted the rope, "Did you not feel for the poor man as you put the rope around his neck?" The Vigilanter, whose friend had been slaughtered by the road agents, regarded his interrogator with a sullen look, and answered, "Yes, I felt for his left ear." -- Thomas J. Dimsdale, The Vigilantes of Montana

Only three people have ever understood the Schleswig-Holstein question: The Prince Consort, who is dead; a German professor, who has gone mad; and myself -- and I have completely forgotten about it. -- Lord Palmerston

The reader may as well be warned (though he may have discovered it himself) that I do not share the fashionable prejudices fostered by the PMLA and not a few university presses. They remain convenient receptacles for supplementary information, and give the author, moreover, an opportunity to share with his readers some of the good things of life considered out of bounds by the rigorists. Needless to say, footnotes belong at the foot of a page, where those of us whose optics are unable to penetrate or look around the edges of intervening pages can take it in at a glance. -- Eric Jacobsen, a footnote (at the bottom of a page) in Translation a Traditional Craft

A News-monger is a Retailer of Rumour, that takes up upon Trust, and sells as cheap as he buys. He deals in a perishable Commodity, that will not keep: for if it be not fresh it lies upon his Hands, and will yield nothing. True or false is all one to him; for Novelty being the Grace of bothe, a Truth grows stale as soon as a Lye. -- Samuel Butler (17th c.), Characters

Of Mahmud II, Ottoman Sultan: In scanning over the riches of civilization, spread out before him for acceptance, he contemptuously rejects those calculated to benefit his people, and chooses the modern scientific governing machine, result of ages of experiments, with its patent screws for extracting blood and treasure, conscription and taxation. -- Adolphus Slade, Royal Navy, Record of Travels in Turkey and Greece (1831)

The danger in Hollywood is to think this is the world. To me, there's safety in thinking Hollywood is just one of many different places. I used to have a friend who edited The Dry Cleaner's Monthly, and it's the same thing in the dry cleaner's world. In that world there are leaders, too -- dry cleaners whose names are magic, up-and-coming young dry cleaners. There are many worlds. -- Mike Nichols

Although he performed his task as leader of the Party and the people with consummate skill and enjoyed the unreserved support of the entire Soviet people, Stalin never allowed his work to be marred by the slightest hint of vanity, conceit, or self-adulation. -- Joseph Stalin, added in his own hand to the proofs of The Short Biography of Stalin, story told by Nikita Khrushchev in his 1956 speech, "The Crimes of Stalin", presented to the 20th Party Congress

posted by Tom  # 8/27/2004 07:13:00 PM

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Is "Patriot" an acroym for "people about to riot"? 

The redoubtable Keith "Tasty Bits" Dawson supplements the recent item on the Fourth Amendment bag:
Oh, and be sure to order the Bill of Rights on the pocket-sized
metal card designed to set off metal detectors. "Oh that? That's
my Bill of Rights. Here, take it!" The Fourth Amendment is high-
lighted in red. Four bucks.

Available at SecurityEdition.com.

posted by Tom  # 8/25/2004 12:38:00 PM

Takes one to know one, Michelle 

David Niewert who writes the Orcinus blog (much worthier and wordier than this one) reveals that Michelle Malkin, who is promoting concentration camps for Arabs on the grounds that they, like the Japanese in World War 2, have divided loyalties, herself holds dual citizenship in the United States (born here) and the Philippines (born of Philippine parents). Japanese dual citizenship was the keystone of her book, In Defense of Internment.

Niewert has been hacking away at Malkin's thesis for some weeks. He has joined with many distinguished bloggers in turning her to mincemeat. I recommend a visit to his blog and some link-following from there for a distinguished demonstration of intellectual howitzers taking on a mosquito.

In one of her many responses, Malkin referred to Niewert as a "lesser detractor" whose posts have been "mostly uninformed and irrelevant noise". Being called "mostly uninformed ... irrelevant noise" by Michelle Malkin is kind of like being called "an excellent modern painter" by Picasso.

Bonus PS
- One of Niewert's commenters added the following quotation from Rush Limbaugh: “When someone tells you that you’re just an unreflective ditto-head and Limbaugh tells you what to think, here’s what you tell them . . .”

posted by Tom  # 8/25/2004 12:12:00 PM

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Unreasonable freedom in the bag 

Inspired by the curious notion of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority that searching the bags of subway travellers was a worthwhile, or even possible, means of fighting the global war on terror, a couple of entrepreneurs have cranked up a business at www.handsoffmybag.com selling haversacks (that's a knapsack with one strap, for those of you who've never picked havers, oats, that is) with the full text of the Fourth Amendment handsomely silkscreened on the side.

This constant talk of the Bill of Rights is beginning to get on the nerves of the global war on terror, so maybe this will help. Or not.

The Fourth Amendment, for those too lazy to mouse it, is the one about "unreasonable searches and seizures".

posted by Tom  # 8/24/2004 12:17:00 PM

Long ago in a country far away 

Frequent referrer pseudopodium.org has a discussion going about radical science fiction. The site's recondite didacticians have obtained and published an essay from 1949 by world mathematician and scientifictionist Chandler Davis arguing that all-white science fiction wasn't going to wash, which, among other things, amusingly displayed the pre-Scientology, even pre-Dianetics L. Ron Hubbard as a bad example. Davis and Phillip Klass, who wrote as William Tenn were leading radical writers.

The front page grab quote from Davis is quite a grabber indeed:
Phil Klass was once talking to somebody about the Civil Rights Movement in the Sixties, and he said, "When I was a Freedom Rider in the early Fifties -- " And they said, "You mean Sixties," and he said "Fifties." The Negro Congress had demonstrations, and everyone got the shit beaten out of them -- I don't know if Phil ever got the shit beaten out of him -- but they started ten years before the famous ones started, and some people were present at both.

My sister had exactly the same conversation in a class she was taking as an older graduate student at the University of California in Berkeley. She said, "When I was arrested in a demonstration against discrimination in hiring in 1949 -- " They said, "You mean 1969"; she said, "I mean 1949."

It's well worth your click to check it out.

posted by Tom  # 8/24/2004 11:31:00 AM

Monday, August 23, 2004

Too long on the internet 

When I saw the subject line
The World's Most Beautiful Mums at a Special Price
I am sorry to say that it did not even occur to me that the mail was about chrysanthemums.

posted by Tom  # 8/23/2004 11:41:00 PM

Poison gas, germs, and good old atomic bombs, pick one 

Perhaps you haven't heard this but of the three kinds of weapons of mass destruction -- poison, germs, and nuclear -- the first two just aren't worth a damn for killing lots and lots of people.

The idea that poison gas and germ warfare are distinctly lacking in murderous effect is pretty widely known, but only in narrow circles that have actually bothered to look into it, which excludes journalists, politicians, and voters.

Here, neatly packaged for quick and easy consumption, is link to an article from Spiked that starts like this:

Weapons of Minimum Destruction
by Brendan O'Neill

'Believe it or not, what we refer to as "weapons of mass destruction" are actually not very destructive.'

David C Rapoport, professor of political science at University of California, Los Angeles and editor of the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence, has examined what he calls 'easily available evidence' relating to the historic use of chemical and biological weapons.

He found something surprising - such weapons do not cause mass destruction. Indeed, whether used by states, terror groups or dispersed in industrial accidents, they tend to be far less destructive than conventional weapons. 'If we stopped speculating about things that might happen in the future and looked instead at what has happened in the past, we'd see that our fears about WMD are misplaced', he says.

posted by Tom  # 8/23/2004 09:36:00 PM

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Kennedy goes Kumata  

Somewhere out there on the cyberhyperblogosphere superhighway there is an entire coterie of idiots merrily agreeing with one another that, of course, Ted Kennedy should be kept off airplanes as a potential terrorist. And, possibly somewhat to the east, is another crowd cheerfully praising the clever wit that gave a terrorist "an alias similar to Kennedy's name".

Lots of these terrorist detection systems currently deployed for our protection depend on the creaky old Soundex invented by the US Census in 1914 so they could figure out that Smith probably sounded something like Smythe.

It's a pretty simple method, and foolproof if you accept that Kennedy and Kumata also sound the same. The principle is that C G J K Q S X and Z all sound identical, M sounds like N, B F P and V are identical, and and T can be substituted at will for D. And the ends of names, vowels, double letters, H W and Y, frippery like that? Toss 'em. I think this is called lossy compression.

I'm no expert on this (or lots of other complicated and dumb things), but it looks to me like terrorists with the Soundexalike names of Augaqueer (Ashcroft), Comorant (Cheyney), Rantoul (Rumsfeld) and Boob (Bush) could bring administration travel to a halt.

posted by Tom  # 8/22/2004 05:33:00 PM

Friday, August 20, 2004

Smartest man in the entire universe, that Karl Rove 

First, you cook up a campaign that slimes your opponent, who volunteered for the service, volunteered for Viet Nam, signed up twice, and volunteered for the most dangerous duty in the Navy, receiving four medals. And, it's a triple-pronged attack, because it also slimes every person who ever got a military medal, and accuses the entire US Navy of 30 years of ongoing corruption. And all the while, your man was stoned out of his gourd in some state that was apparently neither Alabama or Texas, after having deserted from his cushy stateside National Guard duty.

Yeah, that ought to work just fine. After all, it only has to hold for a little over two more months.

PS – There's a fine bunch of links on this at Discourse.net under the title Let's sink the Swift Boat Smear for Good, Shall We?.

posted by Tom  # 8/20/2004 11:42:00 AM

They look so cute and proud and . . . 

A couple of years ago while being treated for a rotator cuff injury, I asked the physical therapist which sport did the most harm to athletes. I was expecting football, of course. Her unhesitating reply?
"22-year-old girls who have done gymnastics have the bodies of 60-year-old women. All their connective tissue is stretched and damaged. They never recover from it."

posted by Tom  # 8/20/2004 11:28:00 AM

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Two weeks ago, no retraction from GOP slimer yet 

Let's start with the Democratic denunciation and work our way down to the GOP slime:
Washington, D.C. - In response to the outrageously unfounded attack made today on CNN's Crossfire, by Republican consultant, and Bush advisor Ed Rogers, Democratic National Committee Communications Director Jano Cabrera issued this response:

"It is offensive to Democrats, Republicans, and Independents for anyone to suggest that Democrats would hope for a terrorist attack. Fighting the war on terror is not a partisan issue. Keeping America safe is not a partisan issue. We may disagree on the priorities and how best to secure the homeland, but no spokesperson or political operative, Republican or Democrat, should ever frame a possible terrorist attack in simply political terms.

"It is unfortunate that Ed Rogers, an advisor to George W. Bush, did just that on television this afternoon. The President should repudiate his remarks and the nature of this attack immediately."

Statement by Ed Rogers:
"The Kerry people are hoping for a terror attack with no warning so they can say I told you so." [CNN, 8/4/04]

This text is a Democratic press release. Every time I think I can get away from politics for a bit, along comes another outrage. This was two weeks ago, but I didn't see it until today (link via bravo mio JO).

posted by Tom  # 8/19/2004 03:45:00 PM

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I can't wait to be making fun of Kerry, I'm getting sick of making fun of Bush 

I thought I was kidding when I wrote:
Citing fears that terrorists could sneak up on us through the woods, the Bush administration today announced plans to chop down all national forests immediately. "This will not cost the taxpayers anything," a spokesman announced. "The timber companies will be doing it as a public service."

I am mortified, horrified, and, I guess, in some strange way, gratified, to find, via the oaken-hearted JO that I wasn't kidding at all, viz this article from Grist Magazine (Motto: "Gloom and doom with a sense of humor"):

Polluting the Village to Save It

Bush administration cites "national security" as reason to skirt enviro rules

by Amanda Griscom

12 Aug 2004

The Bush administration has proposed yet another list of environmental sacrifices that it believes America should make for the War on Terror.

Last year, President Bush pushed through legislation that exempts military training bases from cornerstone environmental protections mandated by the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, in the name of "military readiness." Despite howls of protest from the environmental community and government officials alike -- the unprecedented, sweeping wartime request was unaccompanied by any evidence that America's military strength is at odds with environmental protection -- the Department of Defense insisted on the rollbacks and got much of what it asked for.

Now the Bush administration may be weeks from implementing more environmental exemptions for the sake of "national security," which critics find equally preposterous. The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a directive that would enable a raft of agencies under its domain -- including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Coast Guard, Border Patrol, and more than a dozen others -- to eschew environmental reviews and assessments of their operations, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, if agency officials feel such reviews are impinging on their efficacy. The directive, which does not require congressional approval, would also allow the agencies to conceal information they consider sensitive from a national-security standpoint.

posted by Tom  # 8/17/2004 09:59:00 PM

More Science High School More Science Fair 

Spinning solder in outer space

WWV Pop Radio Time!

"Holy Mudhead, Mackerel! More Science High, it's, it's disappeared!"

Top two from some unusually muted postal list, the third from Google.

posted by Tom  # 8/17/2004 09:38:00 PM

I may be plagiarizing myself. If so, here it is again 

I'm not much of a one for nouns of association. "Schools of fish", sure, and "pods of whales", "herds of buffalo", "fanfare of strumpets", for fun, but "parliament of owls" and "murder of crows" are just word games, not living language.

Nonetheless, when walking the dogs this morning, up from a patch of goldenrod flew some sixty goldfinches. A "rush of goldfinches", I thought.

posted by Tom  # 8/17/2004 01:44:00 PM

Monday, August 16, 2004

Big butter and egg woman 

The zenith-dwelling JO says, "This is where the magic happens."

We all eat better thanks to her. I don't even have to give the name, and wouldn't have had to any time in the past forty years.

posted by Tom  # 8/16/2004 12:29:00 AM

Old sports desk axiom: The only thing more boring than track is field 

I had a flicker of hope after the September 11 attacks -- the only flicker of hope I had that month -- that the Olympics would disappear as a result. The suffocating nationalism of medal-mongering would surely not be bearable. No such luck.

Nonetheless, this year, as last year and next year (and all the preceding and forthcoming years of my life), I won't be following archery, hurdles, gymnastics, (not artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, nor trampoline gymnastics), nor synchronization (in either swimming or diving), unsynchronized diving (platform or springboard, men or women), fencing, table tennis (Ping Pong! Ping Pong! Ping Pong! Take that!), women's heptaphalon, walking (I'll be out with my dogs when it's on.), beach volleyball (girls in bikinis, apparently, but they're on TV all the time, unlike synchronized whatever), mountain bike cross-country, water polo (Did you see that? No, actually, it was under water.). Basketball, baseball, hockey, and boxing are played better elsewhere. Opening and closing ceremonies? Leni Riefenstieffel (if that's her name) did not die in vain (if she's dead), but I'm giving the torches and banners a miss.

People who follow these sports don't need the Olympics to follow them, and people who don't follow them are watching by the millions for reasons that are apparently related to how well the atheletes love their parents (up close and personal junk) and what country can place some kind of legitimate claim on their citizenship (see the Greek(-American) baseball team) or how well they're tarted up on TV.

The last time I watched the Olympics, there was a small coterie of atheletes from war-torn semi-countries who ended up competing under the Olympic flag. Maybe I'd watch the games if they all competed under that flag, but you'd still have all those armband clipboard stopwatch artists from the world wide water polo consortium fouling the water.

"But I like the stories of the athletes!" There's a newspaper columnist out west who writes three times a week about somebody picked literally at random from the phone book. Guess what. Everybody has a story.

"But they're the best!" The best at something no one in the world cares about three years out of four.

"America is parochial! The rest of the world (so sophisticated they are) loves this stuff." Fine.

"What a crank you are!" Actually, I think the technical term is spoilsport.

posted by Tom  # 8/16/2004 12:26:00 AM

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Kerry: "It says that?" Barlow:"You voted for it!" 

Reason magazine
, which attempts to make libertarianism seem reasonable, has posted an interview with John Perry Barlow, rancher, Deadhead, the "Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace".

It isn't all that long, but here's an excerpt, revealing, if you in your optimistic heart had not figured it out, that John Kerry is a politician first. That said, Barlow thinks he's one to get behind.

Perry has just told the interviewer that he was caught boarding a plane with three joints worth of pot, leading to tizzies of homeland security.

Reason: Would this situation be any different if John Kerry were president?

Barlow: It would certainly be better. I don’t think anyone is as good as he ought to be.

I had a conversation with Kerry. It was pretty disheartening. I asked how he felt about civil liberties. He said, "I’m for ’em!" That’s great, but how do you feel about Section 215 of the Patriot Act? He said, "What’s that?" I said, it basically says any privately generated database is available for public scrutiny with an administrative subpoena. He says, "It says that?" I say, "You voted for it!"

He says, "Well, it was a long bill...." Then he went off on this riff about how we had to take some serious measures to stop this terrorist threat, etc. I said, "I fail to see how terrorists present anything like as big a threat to liberty in America as you guys do by passing this kind of legislation. The founding principles of this republic are not being defended where they need to be defended."

He seemed somewhat receptive, but he’s a very political guy. Even among his kind. I think he’s been in the U.S. Senate long enough to have his backbone dissolved. This was at a small dinner of mostly wealthy people giving him money. But I think Kerry will be somewhat better than Bush, if for no other reason than he is not on the same side in the culture war. Kerry’s a Deadhead. He inhaled. He said he didn’t like it that much, but he certainly is not out there ready to impose steeper mandatory sentences on possession of drugs.

Reason: But is he ready to eliminate the ones we have?

Barlow: I think so. He’s not about to discuss it publicly. Right now he’s trying to define himself as only slightly to the left of George Bush.

Kerry isn’t perfect, but the alternative is just completely....I hate to keep carping on this, but within the libertarian movement we’re gonna have to actually sit down and talk about where we stand on the two variants, because one of them is actually part of the problem at this point. I used to think of myself as both kinds of libertarian, but I have pretty well parted company with [D.C.-based leader of libertarian-leaning conservatives] Grover Norquist at this point. I don’t see anything particularly free about a plutocracy.

PS -- Reason also takes on the Drug Czar's advertisements for new and improved marijuana.

posted by Tom  # 8/15/2004 11:38:00 PM

Bruce and Clark are wimpy names, but fan-fic conquers all 

I always liked the teamup comic World's Finest back in the long long ago because of the vast disparity in powers between Superman, strange creature from another planet, and the Batman, strange mortal from our own planet.

In that lost time, before superheroes had emotions, Superman and Batman were teamed up for the simplest of reasons, they were the two most popular DC characters. But the teamup was always problematic. In fact, for the first decade of World's Finest (1941-1952), their cooperation was confined to the cover. Inside they had separate stories.

Then came the breakthrough of my young years, when the world's finest superheroes fought side by side, more or less. Sometimes, Batman was reduced to sitting on Superman's cape while the Man of Steel flew off to where some conveniently mismatched pair of villains could be confronted by each of them. By 1986, tension broke them apart again and their relationship, which, admittedly, I haven't followed closely since 1960 or so, continues to be prickly.

Which leads us to the greatest piece of fan-fic ever created, the trailer for the nonexistent World's Finest movie. Filmmaker Sandy Collora has simply sat down with $12,000 and some willing collaborators and created nothing less than a perfectly cast, perfectly scripted, perfectly filmed 210-second trailer for a movie that I, for one, would love to see more than the last two Batman and/or Superman movies.

Not only are the roles perfectly cast, but the emotional tone of the relationship between Supes and Bats is perfect as well, the superpowered country mouse and the streetwise, self-willed city mouse.

The trailer has almost no special effects. I can imagine an ensuing movie embodiment that had only a few special effects, the moviemaker calling upon his superpowers only when needed, and only to serve justice, that is to say, the plot.

Now, as for that eight-pager about a menage á trois with Wonder Woman . . .

Ed's note: Collora made news last year with a trailer for a nonexistent movie called Batman: Dead End. The only reason for watching it is to see how much he learned since last year. I didn't even finish watching it myself, having no interest in whether Batman could defeat an alt Creature from the Black Lagoon.

posted by Tom  # 8/15/2004 12:29:00 AM

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Boom in fear citing sighted 

Citing fears that terrorists could sneak up on us through the woods, the Bush administration today announced plans to chop down all national forests immediately. "This will not cost the taxpayers anything," a spokesman announced. "The timber companies will be doing it as a public service."


Citing fears that embittered small family farmers could become terrorists, the Bush administration today announced plans to turn all small farms over to major food and chemical combines. The administration also announced a lottery which will permit a small number of families to remain on their farms in exchange for appearing in Republican campaign commercials.


Citing fears that trained military personnel could turn terrorist, the Bush administration today announced that all current enlistments would be perpetual and that all new enlistements would be mandatory and perpetual.


Citing fears that confused thinking could lead to terrorist support, the Bush administration today announced that all persons identified as using their brains would be sequestered for their own safety and the safety of the country.


"While we must assume that such threats exist generally, we have no specific information now about any al-Qaida threats," said a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department who refused to give a name, citing fears that al-Qaida might force him to become a terrorist.

posted by Tom  # 8/12/2004 12:54:00 PM

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Eyewitness newsless 

I can't imagine that there was any advantage whatsoever, other than the usual reason for going to any gathering, making contacts for paying jobs, for any blogger's being at the convention. There was hardly any advantage for real reporters in being there, but if someone had gotten shot . . . Bloggers, on the other hand, annotate, consolidate, and pontificate. No need to be there at all.

Quoting myself on some mailing list.

posted by Tom  # 8/10/2004 01:02:00 PM

Horny Frenchman 

This time, the essence of comedy is that it is happening to you. You'll believe you speak French by the time this jump-suited musician completes his survey of the classics.

Link per Henry Clay (not the cigar).

posted by Tom  # 8/10/2004 01:01:00 AM

Monday, August 09, 2004

Down is up, black is white, Bush is president 

It's fairly entertaining in a morbid sort of way to watch the Bush campaign/administration spinning economic numbers.

I'm just guessing, or extrapolating from personal experience in an anecdotal way, or something non-scientific like that, but most people seem to know without the aid of statistics if they don't have a job, have just gone bankrupt, or can't afford health insurance.

posted by Tom  # 8/09/2004 12:54:00 PM

Wouldnta couldnta shoundnta dada 

Multiple choice:

Aide (whispers): Mr. President, a second jet has crashed into the other tower at the World Trade Center.

A - President: "Children, I'm sorry, I have to leave. The President has some work to do. You children are so smart. Listen to your teacher and be good."

B - President nods pleasantly, sits and listens to My Pet Goat for seven minutes, puzzled, vague expressions crossing his face, until he gets to his assigned section of the story. Reads it. Leaves, shaking hands all around, posing for pictures.

Answer A -- John Kerry.

Answer B -- Condoleeza Rice on Meet the Press yesterday (emphasis added):
DR. RICE: My reaction is that anyone who thinks they would have known exactly what they would have done under those circumstances--I just can't imagine that you would say something like that. The president of the United States was confronted with one of the greatest tragedies that had befallen the United States in our 200-plus years of history. He decided on the spot that he was not going to alarm the third-graders. He was not going to alarm the American people. He was going to proceed in a calm way. That was the right thing to do. And anyone who has any doubt about that just needs to look at what he did in the hours subsequent to that: when he made a statement to the American people that still stands that evening as the core of how we think about fighting terrorism; when he went to ground zero on that Friday and talked to the relief workers and told them that everybody would hear America for what had happened to us; and when he has led since then a war on terrorism that has been effective, that is making America safer--not yet safe, but safer; when he has liberated two countries; and when we are on a course to finally deal with the threat of terrorism, which had been ignored for so long in the past. I really--I don't think that talking about that seven minutes, although the president handled that seven minutes correctly, in my view, has anything to do with how one would carry forward the war on terrorism.

posted by Tom  # 8/09/2004 11:34:00 AM

Sunday, August 08, 2004

You can look but you'd better not touch 

I updated a bit of folklore about poison ivy, so I thought I'd immortalize it here.
Leaves of three, let it be
Chance it's a trillium
One in a million

Of course, you shouldn't pick either one.

posted by Tom  # 8/08/2004 10:00:00 PM

Friday, August 06, 2004

Pinky the domestic shorthair is still available for adoption 

I suppose every blog and mailing list in the cyberverse has linked to the Pinky is the Pet of the Week video, but I expect they all had the same reaction I did, soberly recalling the axiom that the essence of humor is that it is happening to someone else.

posted by Tom  # 8/06/2004 09:04:00 PM

Flash - Ah - Savior of the Universe  

The deeply aplomb JO passes along a fascinating bit of baseball anthropology, ESPN's list of the at-bat songs of hundreds of major leaguers. There's lots of Ludacris and Usher and Metallica, but also some idiosyncratic stylin'.

Not only does Yankee ex-Red-Sock Tom Gordon get a novel named after him by Stephen King, he gets Queen to play his at-bat theme song.

Cubs Centerfielder Corey Patterson goes with John Fogerty's "Centerfield". A-Rod, it turns out, started the "Who let the dogs out?" back when he was in Seattle. Thank goodness Boston didn't get him.

The list gives tunes for the players, but also often the stories behind the choices and each club's policy or practice on tune selection. Nomar Garciaparra prefers crowd noise, both in Boston and Chicago. Many great, deeply trivial, stories here.

posted by Tom  # 8/06/2004 11:31:00 AM

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Solemn, righteous, a little bit boring, and well worth your reading time 

A left-wing article from a right-wing British magazine:
Mr Bush’s un-American activities
Jonathan Freedland says he still loves the Land of the Free even though he detests the present administration

Here's the last few paragraphs, but the whole thing is what you should be reading.

No matter which way you slice it, the current Republican world view is at odds with American tradition, Republican as much as Democratic. Americans are, despite popular myth, hardly a warlike people. One US researcher has established that the peace movement against the Vietnam war was only the fourth biggest such movement in the country’s history: they have constantly tried to avoid conflict. John Kerry struck a chord last week when he vowed to ‘bring back this nation’s time-honoured tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to’. Historically, the American giant has been slow (sometimes too slow) to stir. Bush’s doctrine of pre-emptive war marks a radical break from that habit, too.

Future generations will puzzle over an administration which tore up the rule-book, and not only in foreign policy. They will note the separation of Church and State, older than the Constitution, and wonder at a White House which made morning Bible study for staff ‘not quite uncompulsory’, in the words of former Bush speechwriter David Frum. They will marvel at an attorney-general who thinks nothing of interrupting a speech to burst into song, perhaps his own composition, a Christian soft-rock anthem called ‘Let the eagle soar’. The previous pattern was, to quote Kerry again, not to wear one’s faith on one’s sleeve. The Bushites broke that one long ago.

None of this strips me of my own faith in America. For I see the Bush era for what it is, an exception to the rule. And the exception is a reminder of what a very good rule that is. The sooner it is restored the better.

posted by Tom  # 8/05/2004 10:40:00 PM

I was walking behind this man when all of a sudden he turned around 

Better than an obituary, although it links to one, Reason magazine talks about the late great photographer,

How Henri Cartier-Bresson made both commerce and art from imagery

including many links to a Magnum site with nearly 600 Cartier-Bresson images.

Ed's note: The headline is the caption from this picture, not linked in the article.

posted by Tom  # 8/05/2004 09:43:00 PM

Help, there's a dinger in my Hummer! 

Dummranger came across a pretty funny pseudo-blog about the pretty funny pseudo-vehicle.


Bush Administration to expand Hummer Tax Loophole

CRAWFORD, TX— President Bush announced today that he will be making sweeping additions to the so-called "Hummer Tax Loophole," enabling many purchasers of obsolete technologies such as butter churns and Betamax VCRs to claim substantial deductions on their tax returns. "One thing we know about technology, it's behind us," the President said. "Which is why our freedom depends on tax relief and democracy." Analysts are still trying to figure out what the hell he meant.

It's from the Sierra Club and more entertaining than moving into a tree.

posted by Tom  # 8/05/2004 08:58:00 PM

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Watch it, violators! 

Sign in a parking lot outside a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, Mass.
Violators will be towed perfunctorily.

posted by Tom  # 8/04/2004 01:59:00 PM

Sounds about right 

This morning's paper says Bush is "lying low".

posted by Tom  # 8/04/2004 11:30:00 AM

Monday, August 02, 2004

Bush is afraid of horses meme  

Karl Rove plans to run Bush from the Lazy W deep in the heart of Texas for the next few months. That'll work fine so long as Kerry doesn't show up on one of those Vietnamese rivers.

In the meantime, Will Ferrell has filmed a chicken-fried country commercial for the President. All he has to do is stand there and be resolute in the face of potential horse attack.

posted by Tom  # 8/02/2004 03:59:00 PM

Clickety clackety tickity tackity Tactile Pro  

I'm as happy as a writer with a new keyboard.

I've been a writer since kindergarten, but for most of my life I wasn't a typist. I got all the way through college and well into a career as a reporter and rewrite man using just the two fingers. I even operated a ASR33 teleype using two fingers when I was at the City News Bureau of Chicago.

I was only a fill-in. One of our teletypists had been a communications specialist in the USAF and he could read the holes on the tape, even when transformed into whistle tones. Another had worked for the railroad, sitting in a dark room typing the numbers from passing railroad cars from a TV set and man could he fly. He said it made no difference to him, triple murders or boxcars. (This was a long time ago, wasn't it, Papa?).

I finally got tired of moving my head to read copy and back to look at the keyboard and matriculated in typing at the YMCA College of Chicago, where I joined a bunch of cops and clerks. It was such a kick to be back in a classroom that I started fishing around and found a grant that would send me back to college for awhile. That led me from reporting to academic ghostwriting, which led me to Harvard, which led me to Digital, which is why I am here today. So, touch typing has been very good to me.

Two fingers or ten, I learned mostly on a good old office Royal just like this, which took a good deal of banging to move the type bars. Late in my typewriter career, I switched to the IBM Selectric, which gave me my first taste of neatly formatted pages, and which had a really nice keyboard action.

I left the typewriter behind at about this point and switched over to computer terminals. The VT52 also had a nice action, and a simulated clicker, which also gave it the best CTRL-G "bell" ever, a subtle little spurt of eight simulated keyclicks. The VT100 had a pretty nice keyboard, at least I don't remember being frustrated by it (and I loved the answerback feature which permitted us, in those insecure days, to put our password in it, to be typed with a simple CTRL-BREAK, a feature also accessible to anyone else on the same network).

Then came the PC darkness, mushy crummy keyboards, reminiscent of nothing so much as those slimy plastic keyboard overlays that DEC used to hand out, rendering the VT absolutely no fun to type on. When I worked for Symbolics, I had one of the greatest keyboards ever put on a desk, and at Apple, I had one almost as good, but then, back into the mush and muck (even on my Mac), where I remained until my birthday (this week, Leo, of course, can't you tell?), when the Little Woman, Mrs. Desperado, presented me with a Tactile Pro keyboard which is just about the cat's ass as far as contemporary keyboards go.

Their slogan is
"The best keyboard Apple ever made" rises again.

And I have to say that a keyboard with all mechanical switches and no electronic jiggery-pokery (Alps mechanical keyboard switches for the key geeks) is just about the best typing experience I've had since those Symbolics/Apple days. Such a noise it makes, clickety clackety tickity tackity bang bang bang clunk! Such a positive flow from fingertips to screen, and so fast. I've gone from 35 wpm to 45 wpm without even trying. In addition, it has volume control and mute buttons (and an eject button that only works on built-in drives as far as I can see) as well as tiny indications on each key of what it will type with the Option key depressed. The dread caps lock is the only key powered by mush rather than Alps, which makes it feel a little different and may make it less likely that you'll type it. Caps lock also has a light on it, so you can at least see when the damn thing is interfering.

It's a USB keyboard (two-port hub), so I assume it can also be used in the backslash world (and maybe even programmed with great difficulty to allow you to type Å and ® without excessive extra effort), but if you have a USB Mac and $80 it's a no-brainer (my specialty).


posted by Tom  # 8/02/2004 02:39:00 PM

What a coinkydink! 

The George W. Bush desertion story isn't going to go away.

A quotation from the above:

Federal law mandates that a Guard officer miss no more than 10 percent of training sessions. In 1972, Bush missed 42 percent.

That's the exact same percentage of time he spent on vacation in the first eight months of his presidency.

posted by Tom  # 8/02/2004 01:22:00 PM


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