Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Now that's dedication
If there's an award, give it to Natalie Solent. You'll see why when you get there.

Monday, April 29, 2002

The right reasons
Ok, I can't overlook Matt Welch any longer, and I'm sorry it took this long to put him on my link list.

[Ann Louise] Bardach bemoaned that kids nowadays get into journalism for the wrong reasons (money and fame, dontcha know), unlike her generation, which wanted �to change the world.�

Ms Bardach, your readers would rather you just told us what's going on. We'll decide what needs changing. Thanks.

During the Q&A period, some young would-be reporter asked the panelists for advice. Bardach suggested serving internships, because �journalists always need interns.�

I could use a few myself. Serve me, and one day all this may be yours.

She suggested the panel discuss the pressing problem of �hating the home-town newspaper.� She hoped they would find strategies �how to work against that.�

I suppose improving the content is out of the question. No wonder newspaper readership is down. I have high hopes for the next great L.A. paper, Mr Welch.
Who is Steve Ditko?
Well, since he's credited as the co-creator of Spider-Man in the upcoming movie (perhaps you've heard of it), a number of reporters have been asking that question. They're discovering what comic book fans already know: Ditko doesn't talk. To anybody. But what little is known about him has been assembled in one place for general audiences by the LA Times.

You won't find an overview of his work there: Try here. (It's an ugly page -- sorry -- but it's crammed full of images and information.) Ditko's principles and personal tastes have made him paradoxically influential and obscure. His biggest hit was Spider-Man, and only he knows why he left the title in 1966, never to return. Stan Lee was probably the only scripter who could have brought Ditko into the mainstream, however briefly.

But boy, those first four years...

LATER: In the New York Times (link requires free registration), Stan Lee speculates on the reasons for Spider-Man's popularity. Mark Evanier warns you not to believe the story about Amazing Fantasy having already been cancelled when Spider-Man appeared in #15; I'll express skepticism when Lee claims ""Spider-Man" was the first comic book to make extensive use of "thought balloons"".

I should also tell you, I who have no financial interest in it, that you can own all of Ditko's Spider-Man stories for about $30 if you buy The Essential Spider-Man volumes one and two.
What is a memorial for?
From the Spring 2002 City Journal:

Whatever monument we finally choose, it should rise in a square amid a rebuilt center of business, not in the midst of a 16-acre necropolis. Even though emotions are raw, we have to keep in mind that we are building for the ages. Fifty years from now, the best memorial to those who died in the attack will be that their monument adorns what is still the world trade center.

I'm sold. This is it.

(The essay is also available at WSJ Opinion Journal, but City Journal has a better image of the design. See also the full redevelopment plan for the WTC site from the Autumn 2001 issue.)

Just another talk show
Whenever I catch myself thinking that it must be Significant, or at least Dignified, for someone to testify before a Congressional committee, I think of this. And now, I hope, you will too.

LATER: Please note that Lamond is covering the microphone in front of the puppet's mouth.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

The new phone book's here! I'm somebody now!
Well, not quite. But I do welcome all of you who came here via a permanent (if cryptic) link from InstaPundit. It says something about the traffic flow that I can pinpoint to within fifteen minutes or so the time he must have added the link. And yes, that nighttime map of the world is one breathtaking graphic. It's been my wallpaper for several weeks, ever since President Bush made that speech at the end of the South Korean rail line, at the DMZ.

Thanks, Dr Reynolds.
How to attract attention without really trying
Or, Caught in the act of throwing your life away.

Public tryst as tot wanders lands mom, partner in jail
Burlington police were dispatched about 9 a.m. to North Main Street - not far from the police station - after a caller reported two people were naked in a car.
Police arrived to find a couple in the front seat of a 1989 Chrysler LeBaron - and also discovered an 18-month-old boy wandering in an alley nearby. The boy was the woman's child, authorities said.

Oh, it gets better. She's eighteen. He's wanted for failure to appear at a drunk driving hearing. They were parked across the street from the courthouse.

LATER: The child is with the grandparents. Is it heartless of me to observe that, having failed to instill any common sense in the second generation, they now get a shot at the third?
Paradise is for adults only
There, see what you can do when you try?

Gaza Police Say They Intercepted 20 Boy Attackers
GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian security forces in the Gaza Strip have intercepted around 20 youngsters planning assaults on Israeli settlements since the deaths of three boy suicide attackers Tuesday, a senior official said Friday.
Amin al-Hindi, chief of Palestinian General Intelligence, said his men were on high alert to stop copycat attackers who he said were bent on avenging Israel's military action in the West Bank.

But not the adults, right?

I have visions of cardboard cutouts of a grinning Arafat, with his hand held up at 4' 6", labeled 'Terrorists must be at least this tall.'

(See also USS Clueless.)
"I'll take the Effing Obvious for $100, Alex" Headline of the Week

Anti-Semitism Is Deepening Among Muslims
The use of Nazi imagery, the newspaper caricatures of Jews with fangs and exaggerated hook noses, even the Arab textbooks with their descriptions of Jews as evil world conspirators -- all of that, Arab leaders often insist, reflect a dislike for Israelis and Zionism but not for Jews and Judaism.
Yet in many Muslim countries the hatred of Jews as Jews, and not only as citizens of Israel, has been nurtured through popular culture for generations.

Well, it's in the Newspaper of Record, it must be true. (Link requires free registration.) (See also Letter from Gotham and Cut on the Bias.)

Does that mean hatred of Israelis is OK, as long as it isn't hatred of Jews generally?

Saturday, April 27, 2002

Raising the bar
(Or, stuff to read when you're not reading me.)

"When is being told you've got five years to live good news?" Myria at It Can't Rain All The Time... has the answer. It's not pretty; the truth sometimes isn't. It's also not short, but it's worth the time. It is, I think, ultimately hopeful, and we all need that.

Is the death penalty about to be declared unconstitutional? Melissa K Fox of Non Sequitur File doesn't offer a prediction, but defines the question.

The Rabid Librarian knows what your dog and cat are really thinking.
Who owns a movie?
If you ask the studio that made it, they'll say they own it. When you buy a video, you're not buying the movie, you're buying limited individual viewing rights to the movie. Right? That's what the FBI warning says.

And I remember the story of the movie theater manager who was so offended by parts of "The Center of the World" that he removed them from the print. As I recall, the Hollywood position is that the theaters do not own the movies, they only rent exhibition rights -- and if they aren't showing the film as shipped from the distributor, they are in violation of their contract. They are not showing the film they're advertising.

Okay. I think I follow this so far.

Then what about Cleanflicks? It's a movie-rental franchise that specializes in family-friendly movies. And if they aren't already, they make 'em so. Yes, they do. They edit the movies they rent, in effect producing a television version.

I don't buy Cleanflicks' spokesman's reasoning that "I own the movie, I can do what I want to it." If the MPAA worked like the RIAA, they'd shut these people down. But the studios have chosen not to challenge this: In fact, the article reports, New Line has released "family-friendly" edits of four films (including "The Mask") for this market.

I'm OK with it if the studios are, I think. As long as there is full disclosure that these versions of the films are edited. And by whom. And why.

Perhaps it is not in their best interests to challenge it: The fact that this can even be done, and leave an understandable story, could indicate just how gratuitous some "adult content" really is. (Check out Cleanflicks' blacklist of films they won't edit. It's rather short.) And although Cleanflicks deals exclusively in VHS tapes, there's no reason a DVD couldn't contain instructions to play a "family-friendly" edit on a player with parental controls turned on. Many filmmakers already produce alternate edits of some scenes in anticipation of the inevitable "broadcast television version": This really isn't that big a leap.

But this scares me:

"I've tried to rent videos and speed past the nudity and violence, but, doggone it, you already saw it and it already affected you," says Mr. Miller. "It's not just an innocent video, it's affecting the way you're going to behave. I'm thrilled that someone is making a monumental step in the right direction."

This sounds like a guy who shouldn't be allowed out of the house.

LATER: Heh. Boing Boing calls their take on this "What Would Jesus Rent?" and provides a link to the Nando Times rather than the original source in the Christian Science Monitor. Since they may know something about link expiration at the CSM that I don't know, now you have both.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Hey, not my job, man
At first glance, I thought this might be another case of a journalist allowing a horrible thing to happen in order to maintain journalistic objectivity, in order not to "become the story".


[Deseret News reporter Jerry] Spangler wrote a story critical of his newspaper and its building managers after diesel fumes circulated throughout the nine-story tower's ventilation system. The spill was caused by a supplier who mistakenly pumped 400 gallons of diesel fuel into a tank that already was full. The delivery was meant for a building next door.

Spangler interviewed a state environmental quality official, who told Spangler to report the spill by calling 911. Spangler said he told his supervisors of the spill, wrote his story and went home.

Let me repeat this. Spangler, having been told specifically to call 911 and report the spill, instead turned in a story critical of building management and went home.

As it turned out, nobody called 911. Not Spangler, not his boss, not the diesel supplier, not even the state official who told Spangler to do it. This doesn't reflect well on anybody. Spangler's the only one being charged, though. I mean, by his own admission, he knew first. He had the scoop.
Is that what the Saudis are feeling, that they are taking out advertisements on radio stations telling us what peaceful people they are?

Saith James Lileks:

In the Galileo this morning I heard a commercial urging an end to strife in the Mideast. Uplifting music, deep-voiced announcer. Text: We only want peace, and we have a plan. Tagline: Saudi Arabia. Partners in Peace. I said a word I should not say with Gnat in the back seat.
If the House of Sod is taking ads in Midwestern talk radio stations they know they're in trouble.

Why, no, it's not just Midwestern talk radio stations. We're getting it here in Atlanta, too. The host on whose show they aired reported that the first-generation spot drew such critical comment from listeners that the advertising agency (not the station) pulled it for a rewrite. I'm not sure how much credibility to put in that, though, since he also said the new spot would include two voices, male and female, but the spot I heard today had only a male voice. (I think it was probably the same one Lileks heard.)

It's OK with me. They don't understand (or, perhaps, care about) the "American street": The spots make that clear. Go right ahead, Your Highness. Dig that hole as deep as you like.

LATER: Here's the story in the AJC. Link will probably last a week from publication. Thanks, Little Green Footballs.

LATER YET: But cable networks are passing on the TV spots.
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: The Good. Read a good book lately? Recommend a recent read - as well as your favorite book of all time.... Gad. I'm only in the middle of four different books right now (Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Return of the Mucker", Steve Allen's "Meeting of Minds", P J O'Rourke's "Give War a Chance", and Carl Sagan's "The Demon-Haunted World"), not counting the bedtime stories I'm reading to my kids ("Pioneer Germ Fighters" for the ten-year-old, "The Dry Divide" by Ralph Moody for the fourteen-year-old) and web-type references ("Cascading Style Sheets for Dummies", shut up Andrea*). I never used to do that. I used to refuse to open a second book until I'd finished the first. Perhaps I'm getting scatterbrained as I get older. I hear people do that sometimes.

...What was the question?

Oh, yeah, the book to have when you're only having one: "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A Heinlein.

Twosome: The Bad. Was it so bad that you couldn't watch anymore? Tell us about a bad movie - did you leave or suffer through it? (Videos can count, too) I've never walked out on a movie. Call me an optimist. I always hope it'll get better. I was sorely tempted to walk out of Opie's "Grinch", but I had kids with me. (Just because a thing can be done doesn't mean it should be done. Am I the only person who thinks a "key party" reference is out of place in a Dr Seuss story?) I didn't walk out of "Dumb and Dumber" either, though if any movie is well-named, it's that one. I almost asked for my money back (which is really absurd considering it was a free pass "promotional" screening).

Threesome: And The Ugly. And then things turned ugly.... Oh, have a day (or date) seem to go so horribly wrong it can only be described as "ugly"? Tell us all about it... Well, there was the time we went out to a 7:30 movie, got lost, and got to the theater in time for the 9:30 show. (That was the Gil Gerard "Buck Rogers" feature, and that dates us, doesn't it?) Or there was the time we went out to a movie and the wheel of the car fell off. We had the tow truck take us to a repair shop near the theater, walked to the movie, and arranged to have a friend drive us home. (That was the first run of Disney's "The Fox and the Hound", which wasn't worth the trip.) And there was the time when, right after I dropped my daughter off at school, the wheel of the car fell off. (Different car, years later.) Leaving me sitting in the rain with a broken car. On my birthday.

Actually, I suppose those are merely annoyances, and don't really approach true ugliness.

The Friday Five:
1. What are your hobbies? Sleeping. Sleeping is good. Computers, obviously. Reading (see above). Radio theater.

2. Do you collect anything? If so, what? I collect anything. I'll buy little doodads and whatnots for no reason other than they amuse me. I couldn't say what it's a collection of. Although I do have a few thousand comic books in the attic. Why, just the other day I bought a tin box in the shape of an old Coca-Cola vending machine. (The kind where you can see the bottles through the door. Yes, kiddies, before cans, they used to sell cola in bottles.) And a Gyro Wheel, which is... Well, I'm not sure I can describe it. Take a look. I used to have one when I was little, and I just discovered that they still make them.

Why, behind me on the bookshelf right now sits a 10" Kermit, a kids' meal Princess Amidala, a Bullwinkle beanie, and a 4" Iron Giant (which I guess would make him an Iron Midget). There's also Esmeralda (from Disney's "Hunchback"), Megara (from Disney's "Hercules"), Mulan (from Disney's ...well, you know), and a Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl candy dispenser. And Princess Fiona (who probably beats the crap out of all of them when I'm gone, since she's twice the scale of the rest of 'em). And an assortment of cows, of course.

3. Is there a hobby you're interested in, but just don't have the time/money to do? Music. I'd like to have more time to play piano. (Pause while everybody who knows me asks, "You play piano?")

4. Have you ever turned a hobby into a moneymaking opportunity? Successfully? No. But we're trying: See radio theater, above.

5. Besides web-related stuff (burbs, rings, etc.), what clubs do you belong to? Myriad, an APA (amateur press alliance). ARTC (see radio theater above). That's about it. Used to be real big into the Society for Creative Anachronism.

* After all, I just found a real use for it: To make the darned <blockquote> command do what I expect it to.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Say it ain't so
Take a couple of days off and you miss things, like Media Minded announcing his retirement from blogging. I'll miss you, MM, and I selfishly hope you'll change your mind.
Unmistakable intent
From the New York Times, and almost every other news organization in the world, it seems, comes this quote from an unnamed source in the Saudi delegation on its way to Crawford TX to visit President Bush:

"It is a mistake to think that our people will not do what is necessary to survive," the person close to the crown prince said, "and if that means we move to the right of bin Laden, so be it; to the left of Qaddafi, so be it; or fly to Baghdad and embrace Saddam like a brother, so be it. It's damned lonely in our part of the world, and we can no longer defend our relationship [with America] to our people."

Yeah, that's pretty much what we thought. Maybe the next Arabian government will be more flexible. We'll give them your regards.

(I could continue, but as in so many things, the Captain got there first. Steven thinks that by "our people", the spokesman means "the House of Saud", not... well, I almost said "the average citizen", but Saudi Arabia does not have citizens. It has subjects.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Revisiting the Melting Pot
(This is a continuation of an earlier comment, "A pot where nothing melts", wherein I pull the comment threads back onto the main page and comment further. As a refresher, it was sparked by the deaf lesbian couple who had deaf children by choice.)

Oreta: First, although I realize this is not your main point, sometime around the time I was in college, the idea of the "melting pot" was being replaced by the idea of American society as a tossed salad. Lots of different ingredients, brought together and made into one dish by a dressing, ie American society.

It's much closer to my point than evolutionary adaptation, which can have had no effect on human social structure, which is what I thought I was talking about.

By the tossed salad analogy, Deaf culture would be celery escaping from the bowl to go live on the bread plate, but taking some dressing with it. (I don't think that metaphor holds up.)

Oreta: Second, the main point of this deaf couple's thinking on the issue of their child is, to me, not so much the issue of special cultures as the issue of parenting.

One of the most important lessons a parent can teach a child is that there exists a world out there that you do not control, but which you must tolerate and with which you must learn to interact. Teaching a child about his cultural heritage is fine. Incapacitating him such that he is limited to it is not.

Ulrika: What constitutes a defect is not an objective fact.

I'll phone these parents and ask them what they think about that. Oh, wait, I can't. I'm differently abled: My tools exclude them. One of us must be defective relative to the other. There are 999 of me for every one of her. Do the math.

Ulrika: For example, here, the sickle cell trait is only a risk.

Only one who will not concede that there is such a thing as a "defect" would say such a thing. Sickle cell surely is a defect, varying only in the degree to which one's available medical services can respond to it.

Ulrika: What I do find blameworthy is [Oreta's] horrible, vindictive attitude toward the two women in question. Wishing a child to hate his parents just so you can be avenged on them for beliefs you don't approve of is a species of awfulness I find hard to get my mind around.

Unworthy insult removed. Apologies to Ulrika.

You've mischaracterized Oreta's statement. She is assuming that the child will occasionally be exposed to people other than, and unlike, his parents. Unless they lock the child in the closet and feed him through a hole in the wall -- or live their entire lives in their Deaf ghetto, associating only with like-minded unhearing people -- this is inevitable. He will then discover that his parents have deliberately chosen to condemn him to life in a minority of significantly less than one tenth of a percent of the population. Oreta feels that these parents are misguided (that's probably the most charitable synonym I can choose) and have not acted in his best interests -- and unless they brainwash him pretty thoroughly, he is bound to discover this for himself sooner or later. She finds it difficult to believe that he will love them the more for it. So do I.

In short, she is assuming that the child will eventually outgrow his parents -- as most do.

These parents do not trust their child to continue to love them enough to "listen" to them if he can hear. I fail to see the moral difference between maximizing the chances of having a child born deaf and popping his eardrums at birth to make sure.

Ulrika: As for whether deafness is a defect, as I said, at length, there is no objective fact of the matter.

Yes, and as I implied, that statement was good for a laugh.

Ulrika: Deaf people have different adaptations for coping with dangerous environments than the hearing, and I'm not convinced that they are less effective. Quite the opposite.

"Quite the opposite"? So you are convinced that deaf people are better equipped to cope with dangerous environments? (You said it: The opposite of less effective is more effective, is it not?)

While you're busy driving Jerry up the wall by (sometimes) drawing distinctions between physical and mental adaptations, I'll suggest that "adaptations", in this context, might be a misleading word for the compensatory habits that many deaf people acquire. At the very least, we're introducing yet a third variety, behavioral adaptations. For simplicity's sake I'll stick with "habits". But then you know how backward we Southerners are. Perhaps you should use shorter words.

Ulrika: I understand feeling hurt and offended that there are deaf people who want nothing to do with me, but I think it's important to try to separate that sense of hurt from the argument before it colors your thinking with a tone of self-righteous outrage. I recognize that that is a difficult thing to do.

Do you actually know people who would interpret this as genuine concern for their welfare, rather than condescending?

My argument has nothing to do with me personally. Obviously I haven't expressed it clearly enough. I'll try again: If enough components of the Melting Pot decide they're not going to melt, it weakens the stew. America is strong because we are a nation of varied individuals working together for common defense and general welfare. The continuing fragmentation of American society is a far greater danger to the nation's continued existence than anything out of the Middle East.

There's a reason America is the sole remaining superpower, and Europe, well, isn't. If we become a collection of minorities who don't deal with each other, well, take a look at Afghanistan. That's where that road leads. Those segments of American society that have embraced separatism are able to do so and survive only because they are minorities, small percentages of the whole. They are deriving benefits from the whole while returning little or no value to it. Western civilization is big enough to absorb the losses, so far, but it's not a trend I'd care to encourage.

Ulrika: I think you are denying even the possibility that a parallel case holds for these women, i.e. that since they are congenitally deaf themselves, they know their child would suffer no ill effects from it.

Yep. I sure am. Are you seriously comparing circumcision to deafness?

As adult citizens, they do have the right to choose not to be cured should such be possible. And I will sadly concede that they have the legal right to impose this choice on their son. But morally, it gives me the creeps, and I have a right to say so.

Ulrika: The problem with teleological arguments about whether deafness (or the absence or presence of any other natural feature or process) is a defect is that they assume that the aural mechanism (or whatever) has a purpose, and if it does not fulfill that purpose, then it is broken or defective. This is an essentially normative claim. It assumes that there is a norm, a right way to be, and that variance from the norm constitutes error. This is fine as long as everyone initially agrees to assume that there is a Creator that has assigned a purpose to naturally occurring mechanisms, but absent that assumption it turns out to be impossible to get a good argument about "purpose" off the ground. You can't have a norm without someone to set it.

BZZZT You can easily have a norm without a Creator. That's what statistics are for. I realize your subtext throughout is to prove to Oreta that her religious beliefs are inherently evil and intolerant, but I think you've gone off the rails here.

Ulrika: My point about bats was raised to try to get you to engage in an empathy exercise. It appears to me that some deaf people stand in the same relationship to you or me that we stand in to bats. That is, they know that we have this sensory faculty that they have never experienced and cannot even imagine, but they do not feel less whole or able because they lack it. They do not miss it. They do not feel deprived. That is certainly how I feel about echolocation. And I would not feel that there was anything wrong with bringing up children who were also not able to echolocate, even if I could choose to have such children. i would almost certainly never choose to have children who could, unless there seems some very compelling need to do so, because it would leave me having to bridge a vast, yawning, largely unnavigable gap of experience between my child and me.

All parents encounter this "experience gap" sooner or later. Most face it the day their child asks for help with homework that they are unable to give, if not before. I have encountered a series of teachers, tutors, counselors, therapists, and psychologists in the course of raising my kids, and the parade is not over yet. But I never once considered intentionally crippling my kids in such a way that they will never encounter a question I can't answer. That, from my perspective, is what these parents have done to their children.

I exercised my empathy when I adapted H G Wells' "The Country of the Blind" for audio. If you're unfamiliar with the story, a lost mountaineer in South America stumbles into an isolated valley populated entirely by blind people (the exact mechanism of this is scientifically unlikely, and not relevant here). They live in an environment that does not threaten them, in which food is plentiful, so they have learned to function and govern themselves without sight. The mountaineer blithely assumes he will be a powerful man in this culture, thanks to his "fifth sense" -- but finds himself unable to convince the people of the valley that he is anything but a clumsy madman, speaking of absurd things that cannot be true, like "sky" and "clouds" and a world outside the valley. Of course, he is right, but he cannot prove it to them by any means they can accept.

I concede that these parents and their children will live happy and protected lives within the confines of the Deaf culture of the college. They will not successfully interact with the hearing world unless they understand it correctly, and the parents have made this more difficult than it needed to be for their children. But so long as they stay in their valley, which they appear to intend to do, they needn't worry about it.

I am tempted to attempt to itemize the various ways in which this Deaf community is subsidized by the larger hearing community, but I'm not motivated. This discussion stopped being fun several paragraphs ago.

Ulrika: Innuit have lived in the arctic regions for thousands of years, and borne children who bore children who bore children, so claiming they are poorly adapted to live there is arrant nonsense on the face of it.

They are poorly adapted, physically. However, the human brain is such a useful adaptation that it allows its user to overcome the limitations of his body even in the most forbidding of environments. You and Jerry agree on this, but are arguing over terminology. But I realize that torqueing Jerry is a pleasant diversion for you.

But this has nothing to do with anything I was talking about.

Monday, April 22, 2002

So where's all the gasoline coming from?
I mean, they told us back in 1970 that we were less than ten years from exhausting the world's petroleum reserves, so we must have run out some time ago. And did global warming overcome the new ice age? I must have slept through it.

Ron sent me this:

A selection of quotes from the first Earth Day, 1970, to celebrate the farsightedness, clear vision, and predictive ability of environmentalists then -- and today.

"It is already too late to avoid mass starvation."
Dennis Hayes, chief organizer--Earth Day 1

"[A]t least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years."
Paul Ehrlich

"By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine."
Prof. Peter Gunter, North Texas State University

"In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution... by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half..."
`Life' Magazine, January 1970

"[A]ir pollution... is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone."
Paul Ehrlich

"By the year 2000... there won't be any more crude oil."
Ecologist Kenneth Watt

"[I]n 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct."
Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary, Smithsonian Institute

"The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years... the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age."
Kenneth Watt

"In the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash program embarked upon now."
Paul Ehrlich, "The Population Bomb" (1968)

Happy Urf Day.

Further reading: All the Trouble in the World, by P J O'Rourke.

LATER: You mean, all this time that the President and Congress have been 'rasslin about ANWR, they could'a been drilling on the other side of the North Slope without Congressional approval?

Cool. Interesting timing, too, letting this cat out of the bag on Urf Day Weekend.
I'd lke to thank all the little people...
I'm one of the two winning entries (great minds think alike: Tanya of Redsugar Muse submitted the same basic idea) in this past week's Weekly Caption Contest over at Ipse Dixit. (This award is for all the other necks of color (red, I say, red, that is) who now have a chance because this door has been opened...)
I'm back
Sorry for the drought. I took a weekend off (my work schedule requires me to take three vacation days to do that), and spent it without Internet access. Having seen my page visits plummet over the last three days, I can only assume that either (1) you gave up on me or (2) most of you were there in the north Georgia mountains with me. Since I know who many of my hits are, I'm thinking (2).

Friday, April 19, 2002

These are the Crazy Years
Only in America in 2002 would I be presented with the bizarre spectacle of Greta van Susteren (live in New York) chatting with Geraldo Rivera (live via satellite from effing Beirut!) about Robert Blake (being arrested for murder in Los Angeles -- live on television).

Check, please?
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: The Sun. Blow some sunshine my way, and tell me what makes you feel joyful. Same answer as #1 last week: My family. I never get tired of my children's company.

Twosome: The Moon. By the light of the silvery moon....tell me about your most romantic evening. I'm far too old to have any clear memories of such things.

Threesome: And The Stars. What's your sign, baby? And do you believe in that sort of thing, anyway? Libra. And I don't.

The Friday Five:
1. What's your favorite TV show and why? I assume you mean currently on. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Darned well written: Packed with jokes you don't have to get to enjoy the show, but that elevate the story to another level if you do.

2. Who is your favorite television star? Alyson Hannigan. (I'm always surprised to discover some people think the show is about the blonde.)

3. What was your favorite TV show as a child? Star Trek. The one they now call "classic". Although I was also a big fan of "Man from U.N.C.L.E." and "Wild Wild West".

4. What show do you think should have been cancelled by now? Jerry Springer.

5. What new show do you hope escapes the axe this season? Kill 'em all.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

"How much abuse are we expected to take?"
I never expected anyone to defend that photo of the Palestinian dad in Berlin, with his daughter sitting on his shoulder wrapped in mock explosives. Apparently this goes over pretty well in some quarters.

I'm no expert, but I do know something of the history of the Middle East. I agree that Britain should have known that carving off a piece of the Arab world and giving it to Jews wouldn't go over well. I've always said so.

On the other hand, are you familiar with Haj Amin al Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Yasser Arafat's uncle? Would you like to see a picture of the Grand Mufti's meeting with Adolf Hitler? (Oops, that website was written by a Jew, you probably wouldn't want to go there.) The Arab world chose the wrong side in World War II. (Perhaps they thought Hitler had the right idea.) When you win a war, you get to divide the spoils thereof: When you lose one, you become the spoils. That, to oversimplify WWII a bit, is why Israel exists today.

Israel has a lot to answer for. I've said so before. The Israel-Palestine conflict is, militarily, one-sided. I've said that too. The Palestinians have displayed a consistency of resolve and purpose that would be admirable if it weren't devoted to the utter destruction of Jews and the Jewish state. Certainly it could be argued that it is in Israel's interest to eradicate the Palestinians and start over. If the Israelis had actually committed themselves to this goal, there would not now be any Palestinians left alive. The rest of the Arab world would hate them, but then, they already do.

Why do you suppose they haven't done it yet?

President Bush has said several times, repeated by the Secretary of State and other "high-ranking officials", that Israel has no better friend than the United States.

I haven't noticed any of Palestine's nominal allies offering to provide a "homeland-in-exile" for their Palestinian brothers. They're content to send bombs (nothing that can be easily traced, of course) and let 'em kill themselves. To a detached observer, it appears that Palestine's Arab allies hate it almost as much as they hate Israel.

Who's your friend?

I suggest that Palestine, likewise, has no better friend than the United States. And unless Palestine would care to forego the millions of dollars in aid the United States is still sending, it would be nice to hear someone say so.
Is this propaganda?
The European press doesn't seem to have much good to say about Ariel Sharon. But this, from the UK Telegraph, gives me pause:

EARLY on Friday morning, Colin Powell sat down to breakfast with Ariel Sharon in the cavernous reception room at the Israeli prime minister's Jerusalem residence.
As they surveyed the spread of freshly baked bread, olives, salad, fruit and sardines - Sharon's favourite - the two former military men chatted.
Then out of the blue, as Mr Powell tucked in, Mr Sharon handed him a collection of gruesome photographs showing mangled Israeli victims of recent suicide bomb attacks, as always blamed squarely on the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
"The Secretary of State could not finish his breakfast," said one Israeli official, with a hint of satisfaction.

Let me get this straight. The head of state of Israel, perhaps feeling insecure with American resolve, contrived to present the Secretary of State with a collection of grisly photographs just as he was sitting down to eat. Sharon is here portrayed as a feudal lord equally comfortable with a lavish breakfast "spread" (in his "cavernous reception room", no less) as with bloody heads on a pike.

I wonder why the Telegraph was the only source to describe this meeting in such terms.

And people (mostly in the media) wonder why nobody believes the media are unbiased anymore.

(By which I mean that either this account is wrong, or everybody else has missed the Story of the Year. I'm prepared to believe either alternative, at the moment.)

Monday, April 15, 2002

This may be the single most damaging piece of pro-Palestinian propaganda ever.

Give me some time to recover and I may -- may -- have something intelligent to say about it.

LATER: ...Nope, sorry. My only reaction remains "There can be no peace with these people. Nuke them now." I realize that this is both (a) not an intelligent thing to say and (b) not an option. But if this photo accurately represents the resolve of the Palestinian people, then there is truly nothing left to say.
Follow the money
Instapundit pointed at Bob Ballard, who found the page I'd been looking for: OpenSecrets.org's list of individuals who have contributed to Cynthia McKinney. Scan the list and see if anything jumps out at you.

LATER: This just keeps getting better and better.

Those of you sentenced to live in Congresswoman McKinney's district (mostly in south DeKalb County), please be aware that you do have a choice. I know nothing about her opponent, but you owe it to yourself to check her out: Denise Majette. (Thanks for the good word, Photodude.)

Sunday, April 14, 2002

You've probably seen pop-up ads for the X10 wireless camera. Apparently the company wishes us to think that if we mount these cameras in our home, women will appear in front of them. And, in a sense, that's true, since the manufacturer admits they are mostly used to monitor the baby's crib -- or the baby's nanny.

That's the least surprising revelation in this NY Times story (via Yahoo news).

Let's try a little logic here. (A) Wireless cameras that encode their transmissions cost $350 or more. (B) X10 cameras cost $80. Therefore...

Therefore, you've been broadcasting.

Yikes! What have we been doing in front of that camera?

Wanna know something even scarier? This kind of eavesdropping is legal. Yeah, I know, wiretapping isn't. But wiretapping is, well, wired. If you're going to broadcast a clear (that is, unscrambled) video or audio signal, someone else can legally receive it.

Legislators are beginning to realize that this same danger exists with cordless phones, but so far cordless video remains unregulated.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

It's about time
I know there are plenty more ardent Hayao Miyazaki fans than myself, but I also know what they are thinking.

Miyazaki, a writer-director-animator, is one of the most famous filmmakers in Japan. His Mononoke Hime (in English, "Princess Mononoke") was the highest-grossing picture ever in that country, until the record was overtaken by "Titanic". He has retaken the Japanese record with his newest release, Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (in English, "Spirited Away"). Yet for years the only (legal) American release of his films was "My Neighbor Totoro."

Fans had mixed emotions when English-language distribution rights to nine of Miyazaki's films were obtained by the Disney organization. On the one hand, at least these masterpieces (and they are that) would be widely available. On the other hand, no true anime fan really trusts anyone other than himself to get the translations right. In particular, they assumed Disney would dumb-down the story and dialog as much as possible to appeal to the "Little Mermaid" crowd. (Miyazaki's films, while animated, are intended for an adult audience.)

Instead, we encountered a third, unexpected possibility: Disney just sat on most of the catalog.

Eventually they released "Kiki's Delivery Service", a charming film about an adolescent witch finding her way in the world. Video sales were rewarding. "Princess Mononoke" achieved an American theatrical release through Disney subsidiary Miramax. It spent some weeks at "art houses" and secondary screens, returning respectable but not spectacular grosses. (Miyazaki insisted that Disney not publicize the films as Disney films, and although this has probably hurt sales, Disney has not done so.)

Purists argue that Disney's translations didn't capture all of the nuances of the original voice work. I can't argue the point, since I don't understand Japanese. It seems to me that these films work pretty darned well in English.

Finally, Disney has announced another release: The English-dubbed "Spirited Away", still in first-run release in Japan, will see American theatrical release sometime this fall.

More, the article promises that "Disney also is preparing several of the director's other titles for release on video and DVD later this year." The press release doesn't speculate on which ones, but it's known that a Disney English dub exists for "Castle in the Sky".

Ok, it's out of my system now.

LATER: I forgot to point you at Nausicaa.net, which compliles information about Miyazaki releases. (It's not the official Studio Ghibli website, but it is in English.)

STILL LATER: Having nothing to do with Miyazaki, another producer has optioned Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars. If Hollywood can create hobbits, can tharks be far behind?

And can I hang around while you audition actresses for Dejah Thoris?

Friday, April 12, 2002

What's wrong with local TV news?
Well, how long do you have? I could fill this page with what I think is wrong. Fortunately, Andrew Fisher has already figured it out.

Fisher is the president of Cox Television, a company we know pretty well here in Atlanta. (The most-watched station in town, WSB-TV 2, is a Cox station. And Cox Radio owns WSB-AM (#1 according to Arbitron) and WSB-FM, as well as outright ownership or programming control of sister stations WFOX, WJZF, WCNN, 95.5 The Beat, Kiss 104.4... And Cox Newspapers owns our only daily newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Yeah, we know Cox here.)

Anyway, surely Mr Fisher would know. So imagine my surprise to learn that the problem with TV news is... newspapers:

To much applause from a large, sympathetic audience, Fisher blamed "a combination of navel gazing and newspaper reporters who secretly wish they were working in television" for the presumption that local TV news isn't what it used to be.

Fred Young, senior vice president for news at Hearst-Argyle Television (a cousin of the Hearst-owned Seattle P-I), picked up Fisher's dagger and gave it a sharp twist.

"We need to quit being paranoid about the critics and what they write about us," Young declared. "With all due respect, many of these are the same people who waste columns day after day on whether Barbara and Diane get along, on whether Tom is coming home from vacation and on whatshername's facelift."

But, but local TV news wastes valuable broadcast time on all those same things, Mr Young. So by your own logic I should ignore you, too?
"Warner says Constitution can be a luxury"
Holy cow.

When national security is threatened, there are times when the United States cannot afford the luxury of adhering to the Constitution, said Florida Solicitor General Tom Warner Thursday afternoon.

Then what exactly are you defending, Mr Warner?
How embarrassing
We're not all like this, honest.

Representative Cynthia McKinney (EXTREME D, Ga) is calling for an investigation to determine whether President Bush knew, in advance of September 11, that an attack was imminent. "Democrat Implies Sept. 11 Administration Plot," says the WaPo headline.

(Have mercy. Just look the other way. She has a history of doing things like this.)

Aha. The light bulb just came on. The Democrats have been frantically searching for an issue on which they can run in November. The President has been calmly taking issues away from them (some might say "caving in") left and right (so to speak). What's left?

The War. They're going to run against The War. This should be entertaining.

LATER: Apparently both of our Senators (Zell Miller and Max Cleland, both also Democrats) also think McKinney crossed a line.

Thursday, April 11, 2002

A pot where nothing melts
Lovely Lady Liberty
With her book of recipes
And the finest one she's got
Is the great American melting pot.

The words were sung in 1974, for Schoolhouse Rock, a fondly-remembered series of clever short animated "lessons" interspersed among ABC's Saturday morning cartoons.

Sometime since, and I haven't isolated exactly when, the very idea of a melting pot went out of style. The third century of the American experiment began with a very different set of huddled masses yearning to breathe free without losing any sense of their own cultural identity. The price of success, they felt, was heritage, and it was a price they didn't feel they should have to pay.

The melting pot faded from the lexicon of social studies, to be replaced by multiculturalism. To be sure, America has always been multicultural, and we have always had hyphenated-Americans -- many of whom were not well treated. Some of them, individually, have found their pieces of the American dream. Others are still looking.

The nature of America has always been derived from its variegated heritage. We pick and choose the best of what our citizens bring us, and those differences give us an unexpected strength and a unique national character.

I am uneasy at the continuing trend towards social balkanization, because it leads to... well, to situations like this. Two lesbians in Washington DC wish to have children. Specifically, they wish to have deaf children, because they are deaf themselves.

Several months before [the boy's] birth, Sharon and Candy -- both stylish and independent women in their mid-thirties, both college graduates, both holders of graduate degrees from Gallaudet University [defined elsewhere in the article as "the world's only liberal arts university for the deaf"], both professionals in the mental health field -- sat in their kitchen trying to envision life if their son turned out not to be deaf. It was something they had a hard time getting their minds around.

That is to say, it's very much the kind of issue they had been trained to deal with and resolve -- from the other direction. God forbid these two should permit some busybody like, well, themselves (only with hearing, and *shudder* probably straight besides) to interfere with the raising of their children.

When they were looking for a donor to inseminate Sharon, one thing they knew was that they wanted a deaf donor. So they contacted a local sperm bank and asked whether the bank would provide one. The sperm bank said no; congenital deafness is precisely the sort of condition that, in the world of commercial reproductive technology, gets a would-be donor eliminated.

As my daughter would say, no duh.

So Sharon and Candy asked a deaf friend to be the donor, and he agreed.

Though they have gone to all this trouble, Candy and Sharon take issue with the suggestion that they are "trying" to have a deaf baby. To put it this way, they worry, implies that they will not love their son if he can hear. And, they insist, they will. As Sharon puts it: "A hearing baby would be a blessing. A deaf baby would be a special blessing."

There's a distinction I don't get. They'll still love him if he can hear, but he'll be a "special" blessing if he cannot. I hope he reads this article.

"Mommy? Sis and I are the only children in the neighborhood who can't tell when the ice cream truck is coming. Why?"

Since the 1980s, many members of the deaf community have been galvanized by the idea that deafness is not a medical disability, but a cultural identity. ... Sharon and Candy share the fundamental view of this Deaf camp; they see deafness as an identity, not a medical affliction that needs to be fixed.

Oh, silly me. There's the answer to my snarky question. These deaf -- excuse me, Deaf -- kids are going to be raised in a Deaf community. Nobody will be able to hear the ice cream truck.

And because my wife and I wear glasses, we're going to have our daughter wear glasses that distort her vision so that she can see no better than we can. And I'm overweight, besides: Start eatin', girl, and don't stop if you can still see your feet.

I am not bothered by the desire, which technology is rapidly giving us the ability to enact, to produce the healthiest possible baby. I am not bothered by using that technology to produce a particular type of healthy baby.

But it is a perversion of medical science to set out deliberately to produce a deaf child.

I regret that the deaf feel separated from hearing society. I am delighted that they find a strength in community to replace that which a sometimes-insensitive hearing community unthinkingly denies them.

But deafness is not just another tile in the multicultural mosaic. It is an increasingly avoidable, often curable, almost always transcendable defect. We do no one any favors to pretend otherwise. Especially not Jehanne and Gauvin, children deaf by their mother's choice.
The personals

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome: Red. Color me passionate...what are you passionate about? My wife. My children. Let's face it, I'm not a fiercely passionate person about much else.

Twosome: White. Color me truthful...or is it little white lies? What's the last "little white lie" that's come from your mouth (or keyboard)? I spend most of my life trying to be noncommittal when forced into a position where I might need to tell a "little white lie", and you want me to fess up to it on the Web? (You'll notice I didn't deny I've ever told them: That would be one.)

Threesome: Blue. Color me with music...what one piece of music really speaks to you? One piece? Good gosh. Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite". Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". Nanci Griffith's "Love at the Five and Dime". Burt Bacharach's "April Fools" (the instrumental version, not the Dionne Warwick vocal). Rupert Holmes' "Town Square / The Old School". How can I choose between such radically different musical genres? One piece? ...Fine. One piece. "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday", by Paul Williams, sung by Gonzo in The Muppet Movie.

The Friday Five:
1. What is your favorite restaurant and why? Shells seafood restaurant in Clearwater, Florida. I love a good deviled crab, and most restaurants have given up on it. I don't think of myself as a picky eater, but most restaurants I visit I'm lucky to find one or two things on the menu I want. Everything's good at Shells. (There are Shells elsewhere, and they're nice too, but I really like the openness and decor at Clearwater.)

2. What fast food restaurant are you partial to? Boston Market. I'm also a sucker for a good chicken pot pie.

3. What are your standards and rules for tipping? I start at 20%, then revise it upwards or downwards as needed. Exception: If the restaurant "thoughtfully" precalculates the tip and adds it to the bill in advance, they will not get one penny more than that no matter how good the service was. (Does it show that I tend to travel with a group?)

4. Do you usually order an appetizer and/or dessert? Rarely. I find most restaurants' main dishes quite filling. I only order an appetizer when it's something I cannot resist (say, eggrolls) or I intend to eat light and order only that. I can't remember the last time I ordered dessert.

5. What do you usually order to drink at a restaurant? I am decaffeinated and nonalcoholic. This severely limits my options. Usually it's Sprite (I do live in Atlanta, after all). Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised and they'll have lemonade or 7up: Sometimes I end up with water. You'd be surprised how few waitpersons actually know whether they serve anything decaffeinated or not. This is a big strike against Pizza Hut, whose pizza I like, but the only decaf drink they seem to serve is Orange Slice.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Spring renovation
I told you I'd spring (ha ha) a new template on you.

If my site meter is to be believed, approximately 4% of you will not see it correctly, as you are using older browsers that do not support cascading style sheets (CSS). At my current traffic levels, that probably means two people who were Googling for "nude calendars" or "Ayat al-Akhras video" and didn't stick around when they saw I don't actually have either of those things. It should still be readable, though. And to the other 96% of you, I'll bet you didn't even notice.

While I was at it, I added a few links to the ever-growing list: CowBlog, Brushstroke.tv, Alice in TV Land, TV Tattle, and Manufacturing Dissent.

Monday, April 08, 2002

Under the knife
No, you do not need to surgically modify Koreans' tongues to enable them to properly pronounce their Ls and Rs. The "problem", if you want to call it that, is that the Korean language (like Japanese) draws no distinction between the two, so children growing up with these languages don't learn to hear the difference.

Americans of Korean descent who grow up speaking English seem to manage it OK. Doubtless many Korean adults have trouble with it; others find it learnable. And a lot of us dumb Americans have trouble with the complex tonalities of their language, too, for the same reason: We didn't grow up with a language in which it mattered.
I'm not needed there
Nor do I even feel a need to be helpful and tell you where the Warblogger Watch is (go see Reynolds or Jacobs, they're more generous than I). It's a Yahoo group, although (on a dare from the Professor) the anonymous 'watcher has begun his own blog as well. I popped in, looked around, and popped right back out again. I predict the anti-war group will soon be overwhelmed by bellicose warbloggers, out to see just how far the guy's chain can be yanked. Said Jacobs:

If criticizing U.S. policy is so dangerous, why is Michael Moore making millions of dollars, instead of munching granola bars in Gitmo? Why is Barbara Kingsolver walking free?

I think the point is wasted on him, but I enjoyed it.

I'll just make an observation, as the owner of several Yahoo groups myself: Ms Jacobs said that the moderator -- well, I'll call him the list manager, there's nothing moderate about him -- signed her up on his own initiative. (Apparently she's not the only one, although I suppose Drudge could have signed himself up.) On Yahoo's "Invite" form is a warning to "Use this feature responsibly." That means you shouldn't do it unless you're sure your target wants to be on your list -- Yahoo considers subscribing someone to a group without their permission to be abuse and responds accordingly.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

Somebody tell him to keep his hands off his template
I'm not going for the mutating-color template this time, but a very nice CSS-based template I found at BlogSkins. You can see a preview here. (BlogSpot's banner ad doesn't seem to like CSS, but it doesn't matter: That's just a temporary blog to show me what the page will look like.) The original was white with green and lavender boxes, but I decided to keep my current color scheme, mostly. When the ad isn't present, the pale yellow boxes to the left slightly overlap the darker title banner. Kinda cool.

Unless somebody says "God, no!", I expect to apply it to this page soon.

Advantages: The page should load faster. Disadvantages: I'll be forced to learn CSS.

LATER: You have to write extra code to allow what plain old HTML already does: Allow the person viewing the page to change the size of the text. I haven't found the advantage of this yet. (Unless the point is to prevent them from doing that and screwing up your layout.)
It's not AOL's fault!
A Philadelphia man -- a lawyer, of course -- is filing suit against AOL for defamation of character. Seems there's been a lot of spam originating from his daughter's account since last year, when AOL first threatened to suspend service over it. (!) When the lawyer complained to AOL, they replied (quite reasonably) that either someone had obtained his daughter's password, or her computer was infected with a virus.

He installed anti-virus software and scolded his daughter -- and let the matter drop. Apparently it never occurred to either of them to change the password.

A few weeks ago, daughter told dad that her friends had seen "terrible things" in her member profile. Dad took a look -- and wrote another sternly-worded letter to AOL. This March, AOL finally terminated the account. Now Dad is suing for slander and "identity theft".

It's not our fault. She was asleep when these messages were sent. It's AOL's responsibility not to let this happen!

"The security and integrity of a member's account is up to the member," he said. "If they see an e-mail that asks for their password and billing information, we tell them to never give that out."

Change the password, Dad.

Friday, April 05, 2002

Interactive TV
Emily Nussbaum covers participatory television in a story for Slate. Her use of the internet is exactly right, in that the article is peppered with links to other sites that illustrate her points. And, of course, every mention of a specific site is a link, as Tim Berners-Lee intended.

The series she has chosen to illustrate the close contact that viewers sometimes have with each other, and occasionally have with the creative team behind the series as well, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, of course, she has my attention.

I have no criticism to make of this article. It is thoughtful and well-researched, and Ms Nussbaum is funny and self-depreciating.

There's just one more nudge I might have suggested to make a good article into a definitive one, since we are descending into the depths of geekdom. No mention is made of the unprecedented availability of writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski to fans during the run of Babylon 5, most of which is chronicled at the newly-restored Lurker's Guide. That, I believe, was the first time a show's creator had extensive contact with the show's viewers while the show was in production. As the Web was not ubiquitous as it is now, the medium was the show's Usenet newsgroup.

But I guess Babylon 5 is ancient history now...
(The show premiered Feb 22, 1993, and its final first-run regular episode aired November 25, 1998.)
Nobel regrets
Members of the Nobel committee have expressed a desire to take back a 1994 decision, in which the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat. Fair enough, I'd say. About damn' time, I might add.

But wait. It's Peres' award they want to take back, not Arafat's. "One member said Mr Peres had not lived up to the ideals he expressed when he accepted the prize."

And Arafat has?

InstaPundit says, "Words fail me." I can hardly wait to see what the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web has to say: They haven't missed a chance to point out, as the Palestinian suicide bomber count rises, that Arafat (at whose command these bombers operate) is a recipient of the Peace Prize.

In light of what the European opinion-masters have had to say on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict thus far, though, it really shouldn't be much of a surprise. I don't wish to blame the good people of Europe for the lapses of their pundits, but the more I read the more convinced I am that the anti-Semitism that reached its peak with the Holocaust didn't just come out of nowhere, and it didn't vanish when WWII ended. They haven't (quite) said that they think Arafat has the right idea, but they haven't said he doesn't, either.

I see three possibilities: (1) Arafat is in complete control of the Palestinian infitada. (2) Arafat is not trying to control it, attempting to maintain "plausible deniability" of actions with which he is in accord but dare not say so (in English). (3) Arafat cannot control it. None of these positions are that of a worthy recipient of a Nobel prize.

Some months ago, President Bush said "Israel has no better friend than the United States." Obviously this is true. Such criticism as Israel gets in America (and there is a fair amount of it) is nothing compared to its reception in the halls of European government, or the pages of the European press.

And now this fresh insult from Norway.

Just last night, all over cable news (well, Fox anyway), American interviewers were trying to get Peres (Israeli Foreign Minister, then and now) to answer provocative questions: Peres, in every instance, gave the right, statesmanlike answer. (I am paraphrasing.) Is Arafat a terrorist? It is not for me to say. I would say he has not done everything he could do to achieve peace. Should they take back his Peace Prize? It was given for good reason at the time. Should you even attempt to negotiate with him? It is for the Palestinians to choose who they wish to lead them.

Not to go Reuteresque on you, but I'm beginning to think we are overusing the word "terrorist". I have a feeling that's why the President didn't use it yesterday, choosing instead to say "They are not martyrs. They are murderers."
Words mean things
In what way is DirecTV simplifying my programming options when they offer me Total Choice, Total Choice PLUS, and Total Choice PREMIER?

How can there possibly be such a thing as Total Choice PLUS? If it's Total, there's nothing more to add to it. And if Total Choice Premier is really totally, er, total, then plain old Total Choice isn't Total at all, is it?

I wish this were unique.

Oh, I know, I know. The reason the dish companies dazzle us with options is to obscure the fact that the one option we really, really want -- true a la carte choice, channel by channel -- they're not going to offer. I'd love to get a package of twenty to thirty channels that we'd actually watch, without having to take thirty to seventy more channels that, for our tastes, are just taking up space on the dial.

I mean, obviously the technology is there, they could do it (they can do pay-per-view, after all), they just won't. They make money selling us those unwanted channels, so that isn't going to change.
The personals

Tuesday Too:
1.) If you're not too paranoid go post your photo on Andy's Sunny Pose. You must be kidding. I'm wa-a-ay too old for this.

2.) What do you think about the relatively new phenomenon of student rioting after games? Inexcusable.

3.) Show me your googlewhack. If you don't know what one is go here. I never whack my google. And if I did, I wouldn't do it here.

Thursday Threesome:
Onesome. Love. Ever felt that "unconditional love"? Tell us about it.... Of course I have. I have children. I know how feeble that sounds if you don't, but the parents out there know what I mean, right?

Twosome. Labors. What was your first paying job (not counting baby-sitting)? Grocery bagger. Hated it.

Threesome. Lost. Have a knack for losing things? Is there something you lose "all the time"? I do have a knack for locking my keys in the car. Does that count? Typically I keep an extra copy of my car key in my wallet, just in case.

The Friday Five:
1. What are the first things that you do in the morning to start your day? Some days, I hurriedly drag my clothes on and shove the children out the door to school. They are generally capable of getting ready to go themselves, requiring only a loud enough parental voice to keep them moving until they are fully awake. (Because I work a late shift, I do not do this every day.) Check my e-mail; check blog comments. Take the leisurely bath I referred to last week.

2. What are the last things that you do at night before going to bed? Brew a gallon or two of iced tea for the next day. (We drink a lot of iced tea around here.) If needed, toss three cups of flour etc. into the bread machine and turn it on. (Home-baked bread is better than anything you can buy in the stores. Bread machines make that possible again.) Read an actual dead-tree-style book until sleepy. (Just finished Coloring the News.) I try not to check the e-mail at night, because I will stay up too late reading blogs.

3. What daily routine have you recently added to your day? Hmmm... Can't think of anything.

4. What routine do you wish you get rid of? Driving to work. It's about an hour each way.

5. What's the one thing that makes you feel like something is missing if you don't do it some point within your day? I could give several answers to this, but they all boil down to "see my wife and kids". My work schedule being what it is, I often don't see them at all during my Thursday-Monday work week: Only on Tuesdays and Wednesdays do I get to catch up with them, a little.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Nothing is Real
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned an article in the Wall Street Journal (link requires paid registration) about voice-tracking, a new technology being used by radio stations to allow a single DJ to host shows on several stations at once.

Now you can see a similar story for free, thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Chances are this link will only be good through Wednesday 4-10: The AJC doesn't keep its archives freely available.) (Or you could try this.)

Clear Channel Communications, which owns numerous stations here, is the biggest offender, but far from the only one. Of the thirteen FM music stations the AJC checked, only three had live DJs all the time. Some had relatively small percentages of voice-tracked programming, something many stations do overnights or on weekends. (But then, nobody is pretending that Casey Kasem is live and local.) And then there's The Max 105.5 (not coincidentally, a Clear Channel station), which has exactly one live/local DJ. Fox 97.1 (a Cox Communications station) is darned close to all-"Randy & Spiff" all the time.

Is there a shortage of people who can do this kind of work? Between voice-tracked music shows and syndicated talk-radio hosts, one gets the idea that the average city only has one person who knows how to do radio.

Doesn't that make it much harder to get into the business, if there are so few local positions open? Where will the next generation of DJs come from?

If you don't think listeners will care, why not tell them the show isn't live?

It matters to me. If I'm going to invest my time in listening to the radio, the station can by gum hire a human being to speak to me live.
Is this CD enhanced or protected?
Sony has just released the new Celine Dion CD. It features copy protection technology.

What does that mean? Well, not only will it not play in your computer's CD drive, but it'll probably crash the PC as well. Good luck getting the CD out.

Okay, okay, I know, I read Photodude, I know that silencing a Celine Dion CD can be seen as good citizenship. Just check every CD carefully before you buy. The last music store I visited bore a sign saying they would not accept a CD for return if the seal on the jewel case had been broken. What if you get a CD home that won't play, and the store won't take it back?

For myself, in such a situation, I break the CD in half, send half to the store, and half to the label. The cover letter would explain that "this is the final CD I'm buying from you".

But then, for myself, that doesn't mean much. I buy maybe four or five CDs in a year.

Hey, Sony? Remember DIVX? Some people never learn.
"A new phase in the legend"
Who does this remind you of?

Now more than ever in the entire lifetime of this most remarkable democratic experiment in the history of civilization have the instruments of our Constitution been more important to us.

Well, that sentence loses its way, I think. Perhaps he forgot and thought he'd started the sentence with "Never before...": I'm also not sure what's meant by "instruments of" the Constitution, a document that has provisions and sections, articles and amendments, but no "instruments". Obviously Constitutional thoughts do not come easily to the speaker.

But would you have guessed that it's Phil Donahue?

As you may have heard, MSNBC is continuing its remake from documentary programming to opinion programming, having lured Donahue out of retirement to host its prime-time flagship hour at 8pm, opposite Connie Chung and Bill O'Reilly. It seems obvious to me that, once this new schedule is in place, women will have a tough time deciding between Chung and Donahue, leaving the men all watching O'Reilly. But what do I know?

Taking advantage of the shuffle, MSNBC will also move Alan Keyes to 11pm, safely away from Greta van Susteren. Ashleigh Banfield takes his place at 10pm, a canny move given that Banfield is MSNBC's hottest new face these days and van Susteren is mopping the floor with Keyes. Chris Mathews will move to 9pm (and will no longer time-share with CNBC); Brian Williams will move to 7pm.

When it was mentioned that a 66-year-old host is an odd choice to target the 18-49 demographic, Donahue replied, "When you think Phil, you think hip-hop." When I think Phil, I think hip replacement.
"I've just been blogging." "Get any on you?"
Alex Beam of the Globe doesn't get it. Or doesn't want it, or something. But Norah Vincent of the Los Angeles Times does. Look for the blog wave (God, what a mental picture, like rivers of snot or phlegm falls) to continue flowing through dead-tree-type newspapers, since each market will want its own version of the essay.

Those bloggers who actually write professionally should consider leaping to the forefront and "breaking" this story in their markets. Eh, Mr Lileks?

LATER: Alice in TV-Land is frustrated at the frequent disparaging tone that many print columnists take when they "discover" blogs. "Good God, are newspapers that paranoid that bloggers will take over the world?"

Well, yes, they are that paranoid. But their negative attitudes towards bloggers (when they have them) are also attributable to Professional Writers' Ego, which tells them that if we were any good, we'd be getting paid for writing. Therefore, blogs suck. (And many of us do, so "proof" isn't difficult to find.)
Why blog II
Den Beste is having, well, not exactly growing pains: As he points out, he owns his server, so many of the traffic issues that occasionally take down other sites (like all of us at BlogSpot.com) don't affect him. Call it a blog's midlife crisis, I guess: His site has grown so popular that other blogs now ask to be linked from his, to share the attention his writing justly commands. And because he is a generous man, this issue causes him some conflict. You can't link to everybody.

It must be rather like being the fastest gun in the west, being called out on the street by countless wanna-be gunslingers.

For the record: I have not asked anyone to link back to my blog -- at least, I don't remember doing so. Nor do I ever intend to. I'm flattered that people do, of course, but I'm not in this to watch my page counter roll over. I'm pleased to observe many of the same people returning regularly (Hi, y'all!), which is reward enough.
And the tinfoil hat goes to...
Thierry Meyssan, author of 11 Septembre: L'effroyable imposture (commonly given English translation: The Frightening Fraud), which contends that the Pentagon was not, in fact, hit by a hijacked aircraft on September 11, and any reports you may have seen to the contrary are the result of an American conspiracy to conceal the operations of a truck-bomber -- and what his real target was.

I really want to believe this is someone's idea of an April Fool prank. But if Amazon.fr is to be believed, not only does the book exist, but it is the number 1 best seller for French Amazon, and among French brick-and-mortar bookstores as well. (There is utterly no mention of it, or its author, on the American site.)

Snopes.com documents Meyssan's claims, and refutes them effectively. I'm particularly puzzled, though, by "Where are the wings?" Snopes doesn't point it out, but it's my understanding that the wings contain the fuel tanks -- and aviation fuel, as we have all seen at length, burns real good.

Plus, there were witnesses.

File it with the books on crop circles and moon landing fakery. And remember how hard the French are falling for this, just in case we need to judge their credibility on other issues.

Assuming the book really exists.

LATER: It's worse. Damian Penny reports that the book has a lot to say about "the hidden agenda behind the war in Afghanistan and the secret aims of the "War on Terrorism"".
Why blog?
I've decided there really isn't any need for me to separate my comments into a "serious" blog and a "personal" blog. Each blog would just be updated half as often. So I've copied what little content I'd placed in the second blog into this one here. The other one will disappear soon, if it hasn't already.

Glenn Reynolds, Steven den Beste, and James Lileks are among the best there is at what they do. Their styles are disparate, as they should be, given their differing backgrounds, interests, and goals, but I admire them all. When I compare my own hunting and pecking to their mastery of the form, I feel... unfocused.

What I finally realized was that I was in danger of forgetting why I blog in the first place.

I write. It is not, and never has been, what I do for a living, but it's what I do. I've been writing for an APA (amateur press alliance) for over twenty years now, and in that time I've only missed one deadline. Much of what I put on this page finds it way into my APA pages as well: This is, in many ways, a "first draft" for that.

My goal is simply to present a point of view. It's what we all owe to the ongoing human conversation, in which we each perceive the world we share and describe it to each other -- hopefully to better understand it, each other, and ourselves.

If this page seems unfocused, it's because I am. It's by design, on purpose. I don't have the desire to impose sufficient dicipline on my writing (at least, not this writing) that the question "What is this blog about?" can have a simple answer, other than this: It's about me. It's about the world I see myself at the center of. Sometimes it'll be about the war. Other times it'll be about what's on television. I might mention the latest stupid politician quote (we never seem to run out of those). I might mention how much I enjoyed the "Amazing Spider-Man" Coming Home trade paperback.

Hope that's OK.

On rereading this post thus far it seems rather sophomoric, like college students at 3am discussing how they can know that those parts of the world they can't see are still there. Oh, well. Like Georgia weather, the atmosphere here is unstable: If you don't like it, wait five minutes.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

How to make a reputation
For weeks to come, possibly months (which is as far forward as I'm prepared to predict anything in the Wacky World of the Web), this Boston Globe article by Alex Beam will certainly be regarded as the landmark, the quintessential example of "real-world journalism takes note of weblog phenomenon and Doesn't Get It". Even Dvorak the Mighty has faded from memory, but the legend of Beam will live on.

Though, possibly, not as he had intended.

That said, better minds than mine have put him in his place. You'll find a comprehensive list at InstaPundit: Keep scrolling upwards from the linked entry, though. Just when you think it's all been said, there's more...

The article has numerous flaws, but I think the biggest "kick me" signs were painted by Beam himself, in the snide, condescending e-mails he wrote to a handful of the biggest-name bloggers offering them "a chance to reply" before he savaged them in print (as he clearly intended to do all along).

Monday, April 01, 2002

Selling out
Well, now that Glenn Reynolds, and about 200 of the biggest names in blogopolis, have been acquired by AOL Time Warner, that leaves me as one of the foremost independent blogs in the country.

At least, until Microsoft buys Pyra Labs and closes us all down. (Coming soon: All-new HotBlog!)