September 30, 2006

A Large-ish Game

Dr. X posts this from the Mean Regression Archives at Stanford (0-5) University:

"We live in an age of hype, a time when even the lamest matchups are depicted as grudge matches or showdowns. Dom Capers faces off against his old wretched team with his new wretched team - and this time it's personal. Yeah, right.

"It's early in the season, but early in the season you can still have big games. Games that define character. Games that send a message. Games that tell the NFL you're the team to beat, and you'll put the hurt on anyone, anywhere. Games that earn respect.

"Tomorrow night, at 5:15 PST, the Seattle Seahawks will have a chance to play such a game. On the road. At Soldier Field. Against the NFC's best defense, a group that has yet to give up a TD pass this season. Against a quarterback who was just named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Month. In front of a jeering crowd of yahoos who couldn't tell the difference between a tall nonfat cappuccino and a vente half-caf caramel macchiato.

"Seriously. This is a major test. If they go in there and fold up, like they probably will, it's back to the bad old days, and the Seahawks will be walking the path of other Super Bowl losers who took the Express right back to mediocrity.

"But if they can go in there and smack the Bears down a little, get after them from the first snap and put their stamp on the game early - get a lead and make Chicago play catch-up - then finally, finally, they'll start to get some of the respect they have so long been denied.

"Gentlemen (and Lady), this is a big game. It'll make the Thrilla in Manila look like Magilla Gorilla. It'll make El Alamein look like Priscilla Queen of the Desert! It'll make Scarface look like Ultimate Makeover, all right?! IT'S GOING TO BE A BIG GAME!!!"

A Couple of Pirates Attack, and a Fear-Whipped Rome Surrendered Her Freedoms

News to no one here, the parallels between America and the Roman Empire are invariably chilling. The history we usually read is the long, great coming apart of a great society, one that had enshrined the rule of law, whose technological sophisication was very comparable to the nineteenth century and had an important though hardly universal form of representative government.

That had taken half a millenium to build. The structures of Roman freedom died much faster than the empire itself.

NYT's most read:

Pompey eventually received almost the entire contents of the Roman Treasury — 144 million sesterces — to pay for his “war on terror,” which included building a fleet of 500 ships and raising an army of 120,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. Such an accumulation of power was unprecedented, and there was literally a riot in the Senate when the bill was debated.

Nevertheless, at a tumultuous mass meeting in the center of Rome, Pompey’s opponents were cowed into submission, the Lex Gabinia passed (illegally), and he was given his power. In the end, once he put to sea, it took less than three months to sweep the pirates from the entire Mediterranean. Even allowing for Pompey’s genius as a military strategist, the suspicion arises that if the pirates could be defeated so swiftly, they could hardly have been such a grievous threat in the first place.

But it was too late to raise such questions. By the oldest trick in the political book — the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting voice could be dismissed as “soft” or even “traitorous” — powers had been ceded by the people that would never be returned. Pompey stayed in the Middle East for six years, establishing puppet regimes throughout the region, and turning himself into the richest man in the empire.

We face these choices now. The savior of the world a few decades ago, we are become invaders. We are enshrining a de facto aristrocracy. We rape our own culture of meaning. We surrender ancient freedoms, and in doing so, spit on the dreams of liberty of all the world.

It sticks in my throat. It tastes of shame.

September 29, 2006

King John of England Weighs In

From the Magna Carta:

(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(63) IT IS ACCORDINGLY OUR WISH AND COMMAND that the English Church shall be free, and that men in our kingdom shall have and keep all these liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably in their fulness and entirety for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all things and all places for ever.

By the way, some recent takes on Robin of Loxbury.

It is worth noting that it was John's very awfulness - and weakness - that built a newer, and eventually freer future.

Congressman Foley - And Then The GOP Took a Direct Hit from the Portable Schaudenfreudenator

Rep. Mark Foley (R), is a dirty, dirty old man: the Republican congressman was forced to resign over emails to a trove of underage male pages.

ABC News reported Friday that Foley also engaged in a series of sexually explicit instant messages with current and former teenage male pages. In one message, ABC said, Foley wrote to one page: "Do I make you a little horny?"

Foley, as chairman of the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, had introduced legislation in July to protect children from exploitation by adults over the Internet.

"he's such a nice guy," Foley wrote about the other boy. "acts much older than his age...and hes in really great shape...i am just finished riding my bike on a 25 mile journey now heading to the gym...whats school like for you this year?"

And here, Isengard.Gov is proud to present the inaugural three Mark Foley scandal jokes.

1. Congressman Mark Foley had to resign from the House today for sending inappropriate emails to his underage male interns. Suspicions were aroused when the emails listed the website for the Florida Republican Party as

2. What do you call a Republican Congressman with underage male interns?

"Troop Leader."

3. Mark Foley had actually sponsored a bill to stop adults stalking teenagers over the internet. Interesting side-note: it was titled "The Keep Mark Foley off the Internet Act."

How About a Constitutional Amendment Against Freedom Burning?

From the NYT editorial, a far too mild summary of Congress's transfer of proto-dictatorial powers to George W. Bush:

Enemy Combatants:
A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

The Congressmen and women who supported this measure have betrayed democracy. They endanger our troops, and destroy American rights dating before the Revolution, even to the Magna Carta, with this fascistic poison. They have delivered one-man life and death power into the hands of the worst, most corrupt and incompetent president in American history. That constitutional amendment to prohibit the destruction of freedom would otherwise be known as The Constitution of the United States of America.

There is no center anymore. There are Americans, and there are Bushists. God help the former, and goddamn the others.

It's Bush OR America. Your choice.

For the moment.

September 28, 2006

Are Aches Progress?

Dr. X posts this from Soane's Museum in London:

"Dang, Wikipedia has everything. Here is their brief article on Hogarth's A Rake's Progress, along with the plates. Note the details

"The Guardian explains why Hogarth still deserves your attention."

The Democratic Conundrum

Dr. X post this from Radmod HQ:

"Two quotes come to mind - I hold them in view simultaneously, but cannot decide which is greater.

" 'I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it, than for what I don’t want and get it.' - Eugene Debs

" 'Whenever I hear a campaign talk about a need to energize the base, that's a campaign that's going down the toilet. It's a pretty good indication that they're not eating up any territory, they can't get anybody in the center to support them, they're getting shelled back into their own bunker.' - James Carville

"Mr. Clinton said on the Daily Show the other day that the one thing about the GOP is they know how to win elections. What, exactly, is to be done about that...?

"Clinton's appearance also brought to mind a sincere feeling of nostalgia - for a time when I was proud of my country."

Attention Dr. X

Telegraph | News | Actors play happy families to sell homes

September 26, 2006

The Classics Explicated


September 25, 2006

Vengence is Mine, Sayeth the Seahawks

Guess the State

Dr X. posts this from the Britney Spears statuary facility at Vassar:

"Art teacher fired because student saw a nude sculpture.

"Make up your own punchline:

"I'm tellin' you, that Dallas place is worse than Babylon!
"When all the sane people leave Texas the only Texans will be insane.
"But this is the definite reaction."

The Master at Work

Dr. X posts this from 1060 West Addison:

"Of the Fark/Somethingawful Photoshoppers, I regard the work of Dr. Rosenrosen (a man the First Sea Lord will surely approve of) and Abe Vigoda's Ghost to be superior. Abe Vigoda's Ghost understands that one can sometimes be too subtle, and that this is to be avoided, as shown in his submission for today's "baseball park promotions that, in hindsight, were not such great ideas after all" contest, here.

Time Smoking a Picture

William Hogarth - I had forgotten his existence, what little I knew in the first place. Mid-18th century English painting was not my priority, unless it involved ships.

Of course.

I'm not sure this is Rake's Progress, below, properly, but it is Hogarth on time and painting.

Analysis of Beauty, right, is a rather witty and yet serious drawing.

Dr. X will recall my distaste for the dominant aristocratic drawing room paintings of the mid 18th century - bleah. There were astounding exceptions, particularly at the full flowering of the Enlightenment, (here, Joseph Wright of Derby).

The edgy culture energy of the time was certainly among
pampleteers and printers, cartoonists and rabble rousers, people who stood up to Gainsborough and Edmund Burke, saying: Stuff this is yer great hairy arse, ye powdered poppinjay tool!

But perhaps I wrong Gainsborough: here is a study of tired cats:

An Airline to Avoid

Dr. X posts this from Earth-Kissing Zone at Manchester Airport:

"Long ago a friend in the industry told me that British Airways had a special term for passengers. They called them 'screaming cargo'.

"From this episode it's not hard to understand why."

September 24, 2006

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I break your concentration?"

In an all-to-expected example of New York Giants cocksuckery, Peter King wrote of this weekend's Giants-Seahawks game: "Road sweet road. Nothing bothers Eli Manning, not even the loudest stadium in sports."

Well, at the end of the 1st quarter, Manning is 2 of 7 for -1 yards and 2 interceptions in a 21-0 pasting. Put that in your crack-pipe and smoke it, King!

Quarterbackasaurus Rex

Dr. X posts this from the Mean Regression Archives at Stanford (0-4) University:

"Rex Grossman played his worst game of the year today, passing for 278 yards with one TD, but with two interceptions, for an IAYPA of 4.3. This is below last year's average QB IAYPA of 5.4, but well above Kyle Orton's league-worst 3.3.

"I had not fully understood, until I surfed the Internets, the legend that is Kyle Orton. You may be familiar with the NFL's Take a Player to School Program. Well, according to this enjoyable Internet hoax, some young folks thought it would be nice if Kyle Orton came to their school and helped them 'drink a ton of beer and get completely obliterated...'

"Anyway, this will probably be the only hall of fame he will ever see. Youth of America - take note. Where is Hogarth when you need him (FSL, please post your favorite episode of The Rake's Progress)?"

September 23, 2006

America's Spy Agencies Come Around to My Barista's 2003 Analysis of the War

NYT: Hmm, says a consensus report of America's spy agencies, the Iraq war made terrorism worse.

Coulda just asked 'Angie' for that analysis a couple years back, along with that wicked Americano she used to make. But that place went bistro.

Political fallout? Possibly: the weeks of relentless GOP scaring of America might prove brittle. We'll need to know more.

But He Was Great in Conan

Dr. X posts this from the Orange County Hospital for the Poor:

"Governator vetoes universal healthcare. Sorry kids, it's best for everyone if the free market decides who gets antibiotics."

The Salty Salty Cold Salty Sea

Aye, lsea-lads and sea-lassies, gather ye 'round.

I spied in the Anchorage Daily News a reference to the story of the S.S. Baychimo, the "Phantom of the Arctic.

Them sciencey coves be trying to find her again. And here be parts of the tale, on an extremely salty Scots sea site.

....she became imprisoned in the pack ice near Seahorse Reef in Alaska. Finlay and his shipmates spent much of their time on the icefield, searching for driftwood ’to save the Baychimo’s coal for when they got moving again, and transporting fresh water from an inland lake.

They also built an igloo-style hut, banked up with snow, and one day emerged from it to find the Baychimo had disappeared! [**] She had been lifted by the pack ice, which had moved, and taken her towards the North Pole on an Arctic sea where the icebergs reached a height of 70 feet. It took three days and nights for Finlay and a young trapper who had been a passenger on the Baychimo to travel over the ice for 22 miles in a blinding blizzard and get help at an Eskimo village, but fortunately everyone lived to tell the astounding tale.

And what of the Baychimo? She was sighted many times from 1932 until 1969 roaming over 100 square miles of Arctic seas, and became known to the Eskimos as the ....“the phantom of the Arctic”.

Here be the news-type story.

After 1939 the Baychimo was seen scores of times, mostly by Eskimos but occasionally by explorers, traders and pilots. Each time she eluded whatever pursuit was possible, and over the intervening years she has sailed on crewless and alone.

In March 1962 a small party of Eskimos discovered the ship again while fishing from their kayaks. This time she was floating serenely in the Beaufort Sea near a desolate strip of coastline. Once again there was no means of capturing her, so they left the desolate, rusting, but still uncrushed hulk to drift away into the unknown once more. The last recorded sighting, again by Eskimos, was in 1969-thirty-eight years after she was abandoned. But this time she was once more fast in the pack-ice of the Beaufort Sea between Icy Cape and Point Barrow.

From the same Scots site, this salty anecdote steeped in salt water, and barreled in brine, and then dipped in crunchy salt:

“I sailed on her during the 1930s and saw the cook treating meat which had gone off with permanganate of potash to make it edible,” he told me. “And when that was finished we got the Board of Trade whack (ration) called salt horse which had to be boiled for four to five hours. That and cracker hash made with maggoty biscuits. We got two ounces of tea each per week, a tin of condensed milk had to last three weeks, and half a Archie Murchie and Jim McGregor looking ships. at the original map of Ardrossan Harbour. Ardrossan was a verv important sea pound of sugar a week. But the Board of Trade regulations also ensured that we got an issue of lime juice to protect us from scurvy. We also had to provide our own bedding, including the chaff mattresses known as ‘donkeys’ breakfasts’.”

Another shipping line, which had better remain nameless, had very religious owners who gave to charity but were exceedingly mean to their seamen, and of this line it is said that you got a sausage and a tract for breakfast!

Yet despite the harsh conditions, there was never any shortage of pierhead jumps! These were men who loitered on the piers in the hope that a ship would be short of a crew member at sailing time – for pierhead jumps took place in both directions!

“I told you not to trust that pierhead jump! When he was washed overboard he took that new bucket with him,” it was once said of an unknown hapless amateur deck hand. Aye! Be no pier jumping whack, hearties!

September 22, 2006

Nosh With Shakespeare

For all those who find Salted Eagle to be an insufficiently whimsical dish, here is a collection of renaissance recipes:


Very Necessary for
all such as delight

Here, for example, say you are desirous of Lark stew:

For to stue Larkes.

First take them and drawe them cleane, and cut off their feete, and then take a good deale of wine in a platter, and take a good deale of marow, and put it in the Wine and set them on a Chafing dish, and let them stew there a good while, then take a quantitie of smal Raisins, and wash them clean and put them into the broth, and take a little sugar, and Sinamon, and a few crums of manchet bread, and put them into the Larkes, and let them stue altogither, than take and cut half a dosen Tostes, and lay them in a Platter, then put them in a dish with broth, and serve them out.

September 21, 2006

The Bush Administration's Teapot Dome?

I though we were missing something: an old fashioned oil scandal in D.C.

Four independent government auditors rebel against the Interior Department (NYT) over a series of give-away oil and gas leases on federal lands:

The new accusations surfaced just one week after the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl E. Devaney, told a House subcommittee that “short of crime, anything goes” at the top levels of the Interior Department.

In two of the lawsuits, two senior auditors with the Minerals Management Service in Oklahoma City said they were ordered to drop their claim that Shell Oil had fraudulently shortchanged taxpayers out of $18 million.

A third auditor, also in Oklahoma City, charged that senior officials in Denver ordered him to drop his demand that two dozen companies pay $1 million in back interest.

And in a suit that was filed in 2004, Mr. Maxwell charged that senior officials in Washington ordered him not to press claims that the Kerr-McGee Corporation had cheated the government out of $12 million in royalties.

Where's the mandated federal cut, they ask? Never mind that, say superiors, how about those Cowboys?

Here's the wikipedia review of the Teapot dome scandal, for those of us who would prefer Warren Harding to Gruesome Boob. The essence was: endemic corruption by presidential appointees.

The question is: was there personal corruption involved; did political appointees at Interior get rich? The personalization of horrible conduct is necessary for most scandals - sadly, mere evil policy that screws over millions of people rarely is.

September 20, 2006

Border Radio

Dr. X posts this from the Grave Shift:

"As Asterix held off the Roman Empire in a tiny pocket of Gaul, there is a kind of border radio along the Pacific coast. You can hear it on KPIG between the wealthy enclaves of Santa Barbara and Monterey, and now up in SF, too. On the Peninsula, above the endless sea of manicured trees, suburban split-levels and satellite dishes, KFJC fights the good fight from the campus of Foothill College. They are broadcasting from the physical edge of the suburbs, into a bourgeois heartland, and they take it seriously. And you can listen anywhere you have the Internet.

"Tune in, turn on...whether you drop out is up to you."

Hurricane Hugo

Hugo Chavez's CITGO gives free heating oil TO ALASKA, particularly for native villages where heating oil can run to $7/gallon. Also, he called Bush the devil, which of course is not true, because among other things, Bush does not have three heads, does not wear capes, and does not shoot his lawyer in the face.

Chavez's motives aside, this is a huge and richly-deserved embarassment to the Alaska State Government.

Senate in Striking Distance

Rasmussen Reports: Senate is in full toss-up mode. This is notable because Rasmussen consistently reports between 3 and 7 percent more support for Bush than almost any other independent poll (not ideology so much as question design). Also, Bush's bump from last week's 9/11 speech, noted in several other polls, quickly evaporated. (Rasmussen is particularly valuable for it's daily polling - trends are easy to watch.)

The battle for control of the U.S. Senate is getting closer—much closer. Little more than a week ago, our Balance of Power summary showed the Republicans leading 50-45 with five states in the Toss-Up category. Today, Rasmussen Reports is changing three races from “Toss-Up” to “Leans Democrat.” As a result, Rasmussen Reports now rates 49 seats as Republican or Leans Republican while 48 seats are rated as Democrat or Leans Democrat (see State-by-State Summary). There are now just three states in the Toss-Up category--Tennessee, New Jersey, and Missouri.

Today’s changes all involve Republican incumbents who have been struggling all year. In Montana, Senator Conrad Burns (R) has fallen behind Jon Tester (D). Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee (R) survived his primary but starts the General Election as a decided underdog. Sherrod Brown (D) is enjoying a growing lead over Ohio Senator Mike DeWine (R).

Four other seats are now ranked as “Leans Democrat”—Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Maryland, and Michigan.

Virginia is the only state rated as “Leans Republican.”

Related news: no blue-on-blue political violence in Washington State: in spite of her awkward war vote, Cantwell got a full third more votes than McGavick - around Bellevue, Reichart the Republican has a full-on race; his fundraiser with Turd Blossom last week may have helped persuade most - by a percent or two - Eastsiders to pick up a Democratic ballot.

Noted: this was the first run of the party-restricted ballots in Washington State.

I was against restricted primaries in college, I'm against them now. There is still too much machine influence, and this has produced a string of tepid, disconnected insiders.

The public feels cheated, and rightly so. It is a significant erosion of democracy, distancing the people from their government even further.

Elfriede, The Last San Francisco Nazi?

SAN FRANCISCO -- An 83-year-old woman who admitted she had served as a guard at a concentration camp during World War II was deported to Germany, federal officials said Tuesday.

Prosecutors would not say how they learned about Elfriede Rinkel, but a department spokeswoman said investigators routinely compare guard rosters and other Nazi documents to U.S. immigration records....

Nine years later, the brother and sister-in-law sponsored Rinkel to come to the Bay Area where she met her husband, Fred Rinkel, at a German-American friendship club, according to the couple.

September 19, 2006

Not the Real Thing

Dr. X posts this from the San Jose State Department of Pharmacological Simulation:

"When I think of hard-hitting journalism, I think of Defamer. And they are all over the most important story of the week."

If You're Reading This You May Be Under Arrest

Dr. X posts this from the You-Have-Nothing-to-Fear Wing of the Stateville Political Re-Education Facility:

"AG wants all Net surfing records preserved so he can, um, fight child porn. You're not in favor of child porn are you? Great, thought not. Sign here. And here. And here, and here. And here. And here. And here. And here, and here, and here. Annnnnd here. And here..."

Olbermann, Voltaire, and Thinking

The First Sea Lord was right to point us to KO's latest editorial, he just muffed the signal flag. The eight-and-a-half minute video is here. (Our FSL is both a sailor and an ink-maid.)

An excerpt:

"Between your confidence in your infallibility, sir, and your demonizing of dissent, and now these rages better suited to a thwarted three-year old, you have left the unnerving sense of a White House coming unglued - a chilling suspicion that perhaps we have not seen the peak of the anger; that we can no longer forecast what next will be said to, or about, anyone who disagrees. Or what will next be done to them."

A fine metaphor:

"In four simple words last Friday, the President brought into sharp focus what has been only vaguely clear these past five-and-a-half years - the way the terrain at night is perceptible only during an angry flash of lightning, and then, a second later, all again is dark...That flash of lightning freezes at the distant horizon, and we can just make out a world in which authority can actually suggest it has become unacceptable to think. Thus the lightning flash reveals not merely a President we have already seen, the one who believes he has a monopoly on current truth. It now shows us a President who has decided that of all our commanders-in-chief, ever, he alone has had the knowledge necessary to alter and re-shape our inalienable rights."

And a nice finish:

"Think for yourselves," [Voltaire]wrote, "and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too."

Apologize, sir, for even hinting at an America where a few have that privilege to think and the rest of us get yelled at by the President."

Rocking steady, indeed.

Pirate Insults For the Office (In Quantity)

Some office related piratical commentary for your celebration of Talk Like a Pirate Day!

1. (On a middle-Manager's error
) Curse Ye and Be Damned for a wanton Bilge Pigeon, Ye Flaccid Sea-Vegetable!

2. (On receiving an unwelcome Fax) God's Blood and Satan's Breeks! Return the Signal: "To Neptune's small clothes with Accounts Payable!"

3. (On ending a working partner) Here's A Marlin-Spike in yer eye, ye barnacle'd pustule on a mermaid whore's Arse!

4. (On dismissing an unwanted visitor) Down the mizzen and off me' Barky, ye pickle-tongued, Gristle-Brained Slop-Tub, afore I sew yer ears back with your own ligaments!

5. (On responding to an unwelcome question in a depostion) What a thrice-broke barrel of a Tory herring's guts! Stow that codswallop in the 'tween decks, you burgoo-swillin' puffed-shirt Poppinjay!

6. (On gently correcting an error) Belay! Belay! You've foul'd yer anchor like a Portsmouth trollop on an Admiral's silver button, ye cotton-gilled biscuit-brain!

7. (On catching a serious spelling error) Ye calls yerself fair a-writin, then, Marmot? I seed more lit'rate Coves scratch stanchions and Mew for cream! But naught a fine gentl'man's teachin' with a belayin' pin won't cure.

8. (On being forced to forward a superfluous report.) By Beelzebubs' Sea Boots! Tide's ebbin' and wind's fair for the Spanish Main, and yer pin-eye's keen is for sribbles n' flibbly's n' writins' on a stretched sheep's arse? Damn ye for a gentleman's garters! Are ye a sailor, man, or an ink-maid?

9. (When required to give a below-par performance review.) Crackin' on like smoke and oakum would be all belles, rum, and whistles, ye sponge-brain'd wood whelk, but yer rowin' one-oared in a whirlpool, and screechin' "Whale Ho!" at the same sea-duck every whirlyround! I wouldn't rate ye Able if we raised half the crew on chimp patrol in Tartuga! Trim yer sails smartly and wait for the top of the roll, or it's scrub the heads 3 watches around the Horn for ye!

10. (When insisting that a deadline be met.) Damn yer eyes and Cross yer balls, ye three-toed, sloe-eyed, Mary's-a-bed sea-sloth! Awake and look sharp, Waister, or there's lubber-marrow on the menu at three bells!

Please direct further requests for piratical commentary in the comments section: what pirate office solutions can we provide?

September 18, 2006

Concerning A Frozen Patty Recall

Concerns over possible bacteria contamination have prompted a company to recall 900,000 pounds of frozen ground beef patties and related prepared food products, authorities announced. The food was sold under the brand names Panders Bun Buster, Panders Beef Patties, America's Best Pride Beef Patties, Panders BBQ Super Master Beef Patties, Val-U-Spy Beef Patties, Panders Homestyle Cubed Beef Patties and Panders Patty Mix. Included in the recall, according HEB, are five-pound boxes with production codes 05052, 05053, 05055 and 05069. E. coli is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, scrapies, and sudden priapism.

Timmy the orphan from Walton, MI ate a single Val-U-Spy Beef Patty, lot 05060. He died horribly. FDA spokesman Michael Lawton demanded better quality control in frozen beef patty and frozen cubed beef patty products, then broke down, his face in his hands, sobbing.

Also involved in the frozen beef patty recall were Mister Save U More Chicken Substitute Beef Patties, Gimly's Lime and Lemon Jello Snacks, Brown's Mello-Creme Vanilla Snacks, Dorn's Best Mayonaisse Puffs, Snacky Mac Snack's Popcorn Tumblers, Rolly Polly's X-Treme Tiny Burgers for Tots, Jack's Angry Toast and Angry Toast Filling, Bernie's Beef N' Nut Spread (Lots 242 and 247) Hopper's Best Kosher Sweet-Pickled Souse Face, Gibson's Cabbage-in-a-Bag, Conrad Family Brand White Dura-Tube Socks (6 and 10-pak), and all production models of the 2003 Ford Focus.

Representatives of HEB grocery stores said the chain will give consumers a full refund for patties produced by the Panders Company, and will provide for professional mourners where appropriate. Store officials have removed the food from the shelves, according to a spokeswoman. There have not been any reports of hunger linked to the consumption of the meat.

Keith Olbermann Rocks Steady

Olbermann takes on Bush's inference about unacceptable thinking.

The Painting of the Letter: Cossacks Laughing At The Man

I was reading about this painting a few months ago, done by the Russian Repin over ten years ending about 1891; it was done in an era of popular Russian nostaglia for the mythology of the Cossacks, here writing a letter of insults in reply to a Sultan who insisted on Surrender. The article made some interesting cultural points.

First, it is one of the few major paintings in history to represent a lot of men laughing loud, not slyly smirking. The red faced fellow to the right of the scribe is actually laughing so hard tears are streaming across his face.

Repin was obsessed with nostaglia for the period. There is a political and social subtext for this nostaglia; this late stage of Czarist Russia had rapidly built the machinery of a police state, and had a profoundly horrible bureaucracy. The Cossacks are the subject of the Gogol novel Taras Bulba.

Tsar Alexander himself bought this painting.

The Cossacks had no aristocracy, or organized leadership exactly. When they became a threat to the state, they were crushed and absorbed. Their history is hardly a model for anarcho-socialism, but, like Pirates, their mythology functions as a nostalgia for lost freedom - they mistrusted reading, for example, regarding it as an unmanly language of accountants and bureaucrats, and usually found somebody to enslave to write their letters for them.

They were, after all, Cossacks.

Almost Like Tourette's

Dr. X posts this from Katia's:

"Don't you just hate it when you're in a business meeting, wearing your pinstripe suit and power tie, and walking your colleagues through a binder of nicely-colored Powerpoint slides, and you suddenly, for no reason, shout 'Stalingrad!!!' at the top of your lungs?

"It can negatively impact the revenue opportunity.

"I think I pulled it out at the end, but it was a close-run thing."

Might I suggest the Pope use this speech during his visit to Turkey?

The wonderful "Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of Turkey":

Thou Turkish Devil!

Brother and companion to the accursed Devil, and Secretary to Lucifer himself, Greetings!

What the hell kind of noble knight art thou? Satan voids and thy army devours. Never wilt thou be fit to have the sons of Christ under thee. Thy army we fear not, and by land and by sea in our chaikas we will do battle against thee.

Thou scullion of Babylon, thou beer-brewer of Jerusalem, thou goat-thief of Alexandria, thou swineherd of Egypt (both the Greater and the Lesser), thou Armenian pig and Tartar goat. Thou hangman of Kamyanets, thou evildoer of Podolia, thou great silly oaf of all the world and of the netherworld and, before our God, a blockhead, a swine's snout, a mare's ass, and clown of Hades. May the devil take thee!

That is what the Cossacks have to say to thee, thou basest born of runts! Unfit art thou to lord it over true Christians!

The date we know not, for no calendar have we got. The moon [month]is in the sky, the year is in a book, and the day is the same with us here as with thou over there—and thou canst kiss us thou knowest where!

Koshovyi Otaman Ivan Sirko
and all the Zaparozhian Cossack Brotherhood

September 17, 2006


Dr. X again posts this from the Mean Regression Archives at Stanford (0-3) University:

"My life really hasn't been the same since the wildly enthusiastic response to my interception-adjusted yards-per-attempt metric. People talk about it on the Internets, and someone (not me) created this amusing graphic. It is gratifying to have made this small contributoin to western civilization. It so original that I am absolutely certain no other person could ever have thought of it.

"For many years I have ruminated on developing a similar metric for running backs. In some ways this should be easier. IAYPA can never evaluate a quarterback in isolation - quarterbacks rely on the line, the receivers, and the quality of the overall offensive scheme. So Montana and Young, throwing to Rice and playing in the West Coast Offense, get better scores than they might have had throwing to, say, Harold Carmichael and playing for Chuck Knox.

"A metric for running backs is purer - they rely almost exclusively on the line and their instincts. Sure, the coach 'diagrams' a 'play' for them, but if they call a trap play and there's a 350-lb defensive lineman standing where the hole is supposed to be... The running back is the only offensive player who has to improvise on virtually every play.

"But the technical challenges to developing such a metric are significant. Key issues include:
  • Fumbles happen less often than interceptions (two or three times a season per RB, on average). This means that a given back's fumbles are less costly to the team than the QB's interceptions. We should also be careful about inferences from such tiny sample sizes. We should, but I don't plan to.
  • Should we penalize the back for fumbles or fumbles lost? The back's agent would probably say the latter, since the number is smaller. But the metric I propose, Fumble-Adjusted Yards-per-Carry, penalizes fumbles rather than fumbles lost. My reasoning is that the recovery of a fumble has more to do with luck and team skill than anything about the running back. The central issue is that the ball is on the ground. So, we penalize the act of fumbling, not the eventual outcome.
  • The size of the penalty needs to be adjusted, however. In IAYPA we penalize the QB 50 yards because an interception is, by definition, a loss of possession. The negative impact has a 100% chance of occurring. Fumblesby contrast, may or may not be lost. Last year about 1/2 of all fumbles turned into changes of possession. So, we incorporate a 50% probability of losing the fumble into our penalty. This cuts the penalty in half - from 50 to 25 yards.
"So, who was the greatest running back last year? Sean Alexander, of course. But he was not the FAYDPC champion. That was arch-enemy Tiki Barber, who ran for 1,860 yards and fumbled once for a FAYDPC of 5.1. Warrick Dunn (5.0), Tatum Bell (4.9), and Larry Johnson (4.7) also stand between Alexander (five fumbles) and the summit.

"But, really, this metric doesn't change much. The chart of backs with high yards-per-carry is about the same if you adjust for fumbles or if you don't.

"With one exception. A very important exception, as it turns out. The 2005 NFL leader in Yards-per-Carry was Michael Vick. But, after applying a penalty for his five fumbles in 102 attempts (Alexander had five fumbles in 370 attempts), Vick's ypc goes from 5.9 to a FAYDPC of 4.6 (NFL average=4.0), a huge tumble.

"I think this is a potentially important variable in our assessment of Vick - an assessment that has problematic for football analysts everywhere. We know he's not a good passer (below-average IAYPA of 4.7 last year). Now we know he's not a great runner either.

"Vick's team, the Atlanta Falcons, led the league in rushing in both 2004 and 2005. But they had never posted consecutive winning seasons before he arrived, and after an 8-8 record last year, they still haven't. It is too early to draw the curtain on this unique and masterful practitioner of the football arts. But these findings, along with the impact of age and accumulated injuries on his speed, suggest to me that we have already passed the peak.

"I hope I'm wrong about that - he is fun to watch."

Mack Strong, Our Flying Fullback

Reports are that on the Seattle sidelines, there was a "mass imitation" doing the Red Foxx fake heart attack .

Ursus Rex

Dr X. posts this from the Mean Regression Archives at Stanford (0-3) University:

"I don't wish to alarm you, but a Mr. Rex Grossman has probably played the best two consecutive games by a Bear quarterback since the Halas era. 551 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT, IAYPA of 9.5.

"That is outrageous performance, and it won't last. Last year's regular-season IAYPA champion, Roethlisberger, had a 7.5 for the season. Rex can't, and won't keep it up.

"But let's keep an eye on this fellow. He is 26 now - an age when many athletes take a major step forward. Some can sustain it after that, some can't.

"What's sunk him in the past have been the INTs. In his Bears career prior to this year he threw for 1,303 yard, but with six interceptions, giving him a very ordinary 5.1 IAYPA. But hey, the NFL average last year was 5.4, and the Bears' other quarterbacks have been far, far worse (Kyle Orton was last in the league last year, with an IAYPA of 3.3).

"So if Grossman's average this year, he's better than what they had. And so far he's way above average."

Har De Har Har

A fair bit on satire from Wyatt Mason of Harper's, here in the NYT.

The ancient Romans provide the beginnings of an answer, in large measure because that’s where satire has its beginnings. Just as Americans like to claim jazz as “our art form,” the Romans claimed satire as theirs. Gaius Lucilius (second century B.C.) was the first satirist, a writer vocal about the negative virtues of his fellow citizens — mostly the tendency to imitate their Greek neighbors in everything. As boastful as a modern-day rapper, Lucilius pointed to himself as the original Roman — not some Helleno-wannabe — as much because of what he lampooned (things Greek) as the fact that he lampooned at all. I am Roman, his writings say, hear me mock. And indeed, it was how such criticism was delivered that made satire different — and differently effective — from, say, a sermon. “A cultivated wit,” wrote Horace, a later Roman satirist, “one that badgers less, can persuade all the more. Artful ridicule can address contentious issues more competently and vigorously than can severity alone.” Sounding like the always-fulminating Lewis Black of “The Daily Show,” Rome’s Juvenal tells us: “It is harder not to write satire. For who could endure this monstrous city, however callous at heart, and swallow his wrath?. . .Today, every vice has reached its ruinous zenith. So, satirist, hoist your sails.” The idiot wind, blowing every time Rome’s hypocrites moved their mouths, drove her satirists, in their artful way, to bluster back, setting a course pursued by writers living in turbulent eras ever since.
The article misses the turn of satire from an affliction of the comfortable, and a powerful, artful expression of a culture's freedom into the transmission of politically neuter, all-encompassing cynicism, which regards all cultural expression as interchangably meaningless, and absolves the sharer of laughter from the necessity of action. (The CEO of Bullshit Rupert Murdoch loves the Simpsons, for example, even though we, and it's creators, might take it as a constant attack on the absurd structures of authority.) But Mason does peg satire as taking on a particularly critical function in today's political climate; our own stabs at it, not to mention our frequent citations here, suggests we demand important something from it. But is it a salve, or a soporific?

I heard this expressed recently as a speculative socio-biology idea that humans grew laughter in order to tolerate hierarchy. I've also heard that laughter evolved as a way to check the over-accumulation of authority by individuals in a group.

Which is it, Bitch?

A Major Event

Dr X. posts this from Baguio City, Phillipines:

"You know, the Soviets well understood that chess is to politics as baseball is to sex. But still, there is news in the chess world. We will, for the first time in over a decade, have a match for the championship.

"Not a great match, but a good one. Topalov, in particular, should be a household name. He is rated #1 in the world and has been good for a long time (here is an ass-whipping he gave Kasparov when he was just 18). Kramnik (#4) is strong too, but is probably not as good as Topalov and is recovering from serious illness (here is his calling card to Kasparov). I doubt if he can win, though, Topalov is just too strong...but that's why they play the games.

"But before we can call the winner of this the champion, there is one other little matter to attend to. The best player now may be Anand (#2), who is older than these players and probably would be champion now if the apparatus hadn't collapsed when Kasparov retired. He schooled Topalov from the black side of a Ruy in May, which is about the same as beating the Steelers in Pittsburg.

"Perhaps the whole concept of a champion in individual sports is a flawed one. The concept has been essentially abandoned in boxing, tennis never had it. But it is nice to see the possibility of a real chess champion again, determined by a fair match. Perhaps, finally, the Soviet era is over."

September 16, 2006

Another Interesting Military Item

Dr. X posts this from somewhere in the Delta:

"I don't know why, but just the other day I started thinking about the Tet Offensive. How an insurgent force characterized as crippled and in decline rose up and delivered a shocking attack against a powerful occupying Army. How it was a military disaster for the attackers, but a political victory, right in front of a major election. How it annihilated local insurgent elites and allowed outsiders to step in and take their place.

"Yup, it sure is an interesting, totally academic thought."

I Had Literally No Idea

Dr X. posts this from the Madison Museum of Bathroom Tissue:

"A rare sighting nowadays - a funny one from The Onion."

What Was New is Now Old, But Still Funny

Dr X. posts this from the Laff Shack out by the airport:

"Norm MacDonald was funny from the start, and funny the first time I saw him on TV. He was funny on Saturday Night Live, and funny when he came back. He's funny in basically any situation where there is no plot and no one else has any creative control.

"He resurfaces now, on The Daily Show. He's still funny...and right about the Crocodile Hunter."

Seize Diebold Software and Assets

The Diebold voting machine problems are too serious to allow elections without immediate, independent review. The software needs to be seized, inspected and tested.

A video of Princeton researcher Felten hijacking the Diebold system is here.

This might be done with civil or criminal lawsuits instituted by state attorneys general against Diebold: reveal everything regarding these machines or face seizure of assets.

Unlikely to happen on the federal level, states may be able to take legal action individually. Democracy is at stake.

Opposing Torture Weakens America?

The warning light went on again.

I will forgo the long, obscenity laced tirade against the Gruesome Boob, and let you fill it in in your own imagination.

How Not to Retreat

(click image for detail. This of course is the Minard graphic, popularized by Mister Visual, Edward Tufte. )

How not to retreat, by Napoleon.

I want to stress that I bring this up for no particular reason.

September 15, 2006

March Up Country

Dr. X posts this from Korsun (the website is from Kiddofspeed, the woman who did the virtual tour of Chernobyl):

"There have been very few instances in military history where a force was cut off far from its base of support and yet managed to fight its way to safety. Usually fatigue, lack of supplies, and broken morale mean the end comes quickly. But when the obstacles are overcome and the force (or even a part of it) manages to escape, it becomes the stuff of legend.

"The great American example is the retreat of the U.S. Marines from Chosin Reservoir, knocking out seven Chinese divisions along the way. It is a legend that will not die. In fact, as Bruce McCall might point out, you couldn't kill it with a stick.

"Some of the largest and most incredible examples were during the German retreat on the Eastern Front in World War II, including the near-miraculous escape of the 200,000-man First Panzer Army from the Kamenets-Podolsky Pocket in 1944, and the escape of 25,000 troops in the desperate Battle of Halbe in front of Berlin in 1945.

"Mao's Long March is another example, in which an Army managed to break out, maintain coherence, and travel several thousand miles without utterly dissolving.

"But I did not know until tonight about the first one (at least the first one in the written record). In 401 B.C., a force of 10,000 Greek mercenaries found themselves stranded 1,000 miles from home after the Battle of Cunaxa. Fortunately for them, Socrates's incredibly long-winded student Xenophon was on hand to help lead their fighting retreat, get them to the boats in Trapezus, and write his account of it - March Up Country.

"He writes: 'Separated from Hellas by more than a thousand miles, they had not even a guide to point the way. Impassable rivers lay athwart their homeward route, and hemmed them in. Betrayed even by the Asiatics, at whose side they had marched with Cyrus to the attack, they were left in isolation. Without a single mounted trooper to aid them in pursuit: was it not perfectly plain that if they won a battle, their enemies would escape to a man, but if they were beaten themselves, not one soul of them would survive?'

"Oh, by the way, The Warriors (Director's cut) is out on DVD. Your can read Allen Barra's meditation on it here.

"Tony Scott's re-make has slipped to 2008."

One of Those Sitemeter Captures that Gives One Pause

Who is reading Isengard.Gov?!

Of course, they were looking for a picture of Isengard. ? (United States Government)
IP Address 149.101.1.# (US Dept of Justice)
ISP US Dept of Justice
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Country : United States (Facts)
State : Maryland
City : Potomac
Lat/Long : 39.023, -77.1993 (Map)
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Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 4.0; T312461; DI60SP1001)
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Time of Visit Sep 15 2006 7:36:47 am
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Visit Number 527

"Have you no sense of decency, Sir?"

"The banality of evil" is a phrase we should consider adding to the Standard Paragraph.

Bush argues terrorism case

September 14, 2006

Slim Down With Fear

BBC's Look Around You, introducing us to the wonder of the technological future we will enjoy by the year 2000, tells us of a new, radical slimming plan:

This is slimmer of the year Andy Gough. He lost 52st in just six weeks using the Slimby diet.

"We must warn you, This picture is extremely disturbing."
The Slimby slimming method involves drinking a glass of powdered milkshake every mealtime and looking at the special Slimby picture, designed to shock the body into losing weight.

Slimby Slimming Picture

The Slimby Slimming Picture is a unique slimming accessory designed for use with Slimby Shake. For your convenience we are offering an electronic replica of the image, accessible below.



  1. The Slimby Slimming Picture is not suitable for minors.
  2. The Slimby Slimming Picture is not a toy.
  3. Do not view the Slimby Slimming Picture if you are pregnant.
  4. Never show the Slimby Slimming Picture to a dog.
  5. Do not view the Slimby Slimming Picture if you are already on a slimming diet.
  6. Do not exceed more than 4 viewings in 24 hours.
  7. Do not view the Slimby Slimming Picture if you or anyone in your family has a history of mental health problems.
  8. Do not attempt to view the Slimby Slimming Picture whilst driving, operating heavy machinery or balancing on an uneven surface.

I have read the guidelines and accept that neither the BBC or SlimbyTM can be held responsible for any short or long term damage incurred by viewing the Slimby Slimming Picture.


September 13, 2006

All hail Eris! All hail Discordia!!

Scientists finally get around to naming UB313
(the dwarf planet formerly know as Xena, not the ska band)

For those who don't know, The most famous tale of the goddess Eris recounts her initiating the Trojan War:

The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite were at a party. She tossed into the party the Apple of Discord, a golden apple inscribed Kallisti – "To the Prettiest One" – provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient, then the mortals got dragged in and the next thing you know the Trojan war is in full swing.

Very apropos name for a planet whose discovery triggered the whole "What is a planet, anyway?" debate.

Well, I may be mad at the International Astronomical Union for defrocking Pluto, but at least they still know how to name a planet.

Sorry, "Dwarf planet."


Aristophanes's estate sues for residuals

The women of Pereira are trying this time-honored solution to gang violence.

Perhaps it was their own idea: as of this writing, searching Google News for "Lysistrata columbia" produces only two hits.

September 12, 2006

I Can Remain Silent No Longer

Dr X. posts this from Applebee's:

"I have been silent. I have kept my counsel. I have told myself never to get mixed up in politics again. But this is outrageous.

"Five full years into a Republican administration, and foreigners are trying to make tipping mandatory. I'm telling you, I have enough to worry about pronging my simmered artichoke in lemon sauce without having some oddly-named mini-martinet shaking me down for a 'service fee.' I don't know where you're from, Mister Ulutas, but I haven't paid a 'service fee' since I bribed my ass out of Kinshasa airport, and I don't propose to start now! You take your 'mandatory service fee' back to Forcedgratuitistan or wherever the hell you're from, and leave us Americans to enjoy the ambiance of an incompetent, cynical and corrupt national government that, while an international laughingstock, does not force us to pay money to poor people who bring us food.

"Thank you."

Olbermann is God

YouTube - Keith Olbermann on Bush and 9/11

Salt in a Wound

My old friend Mike MacGrath puts up resolved, figurative sculptures, made of salt, in Pioneer Square as a 9/11 commemoration. True sculptures (no punk-ass mould-slavery here), they will be outside, falling apart, in the rain for the next few months. Here, King 5 news proves once again that TV news is perhaps never the forum for art stories - nonetheless...

It was combined with a performance dance at the site - dancers in white and torn linen (why do ghosts always wear linen?) moving extremely slowly, wracked with pain, around the three figurative pieces, spilling bags of salt. That sort of thing is always in the execution, and there was every pitfall for maudlin or ideological pitfalls - here, utterly unguarded, without irony, and completely committed, it was deeply affecting. A passerby near me stopped, but had to leave, because she was embarassed about crying. I was struck by how their movements were exactly reminiscent of early 19th century paintings - dramatic, poised, moral, which fit the sculpture well. Usually, this sort of thing is a bit of a disaster, a half-formed mishmash.

Stranger to watch was the public reaction: almost everyone stopped and looked carefully, no one daring to cross the salt circle around the sculptures, in dead silence, except for a few downtown bourgeoisies who disturbingly carried on a light lunch and cell phone chat without a glance at half-nude woman in convincing agony contorting not two feet away.

What the hell do you have to do some people, slap them with live otters?

September 11, 2006

Seahawks Receiving Corp Opens New Branch

Branch traded to Seahawks for draft pick - NFL - Yahoo! Sports

IMO, they gave up too much (a first round pick), but he's a player who'll have an immediate impact.

Mock Now, if You Love Your Freedom

Bill Maher makes a passionate appeal to renew a campaign of derision, satire and ridicule of the "Gruesome Boob" in the White House. Maher, it should be noted, originated this blog's favorite presidential moniker, "Drinky McDumbass.
Amid all the 9/11 anniversary talk about what will keep us safe, let me suggest that in a world turned hostile to America, the smartest message we can send to those beyond our shores is, “We’re not with stupid.” Therefore, I contend — with all seriousness — that ridiculing this president is now the most patriotic thing you can do.

No, it pains me to say these things, because I know deep down George Bush has something extra — a chromosome. Cruel? Perhaps, but it may just have saved lives. By doing the extra chromosome joke, I sent a message to a young Muslim man somewhere in the world who’s on a slow burn about this country, and perhaps got him to think, “Maybe the people of America aren’t so bad. Maybe it’s just the rodeo clown who leads them. Maybe the people ‘get it.’” We do, Achmed, we do!

So while honoring the anniversary of September 2001, we must also never forget September 2000. That’s the month when Gov. George W. Bush said, “I know that human beings and fish can coexist peacefully.” If you don’t believe me, you can look it up on both internets. The world changed on 9/11. He didn’t. That’s why we owe it to ourselves, and our children, to never stop pointing out that George W. Bush is a gruesome boob.

Bush similies, to wit:

a. Like the guy in front of you in line at McDonald's refusing to acknowledge that there is no "Whopper."

b. Two "AA"s short of a battery pack.

c. In my alternate universe, the unctuous Manager at Home Depot that you have to keep explaining your problem very clearly to.

Winners and Losers

Dr. X posts this from Peter King's old office, from behind the pizza boxes:

"Winners and losers are not two of a kind, not matter what Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds say.

"Opening week was, as King claims, full of surprises. But there were also many unsurprising events, especially with respect to quarterback performance.

"First, the non-surprises.

"1) Carson Palmer the preseason IAYPA leader (IAYPA of 10.7), had a solid, though not dominant opening game (YPA of 6.7, no INTS).
"2) Donovan McNabb was awesome in preasons (9.1) and very good on opening day (7.5).
"3) Kurt Warner topped off his nice preason (7.4) with a nice opening day performance (8.1).

"Now, the pleasant surprises. Two men, whose preason performances would have had you thinking they were bound for the bus station, turned in stellar performances on Sunday. Charlie Batch of the Steelers (3.2 preseason) nailed it Sunday, leading the league in QB rating and posting an IAYPA of 8.4. And Rex *ack* *ack* ack* sorry, Rex Grossman came out of the preseason cellar (4.1) to deliver 8.2 for the Bears on opening day.

"Maybe Grossman just needed some motivation. In preseason Brian Griese threw for 292 yeards with 4 TDs and no interceptions for an IAYPA of 10.4. Next stop: Oakland?

"And there were dark, dark moments Sunday. Two men who stood out last year - Drew Bledsoe and Jake Plummer - offered compelling evidence that they had been kidnapped and replaced with lookalike androids programmed to throw the ball to the other team. Both men had respectable preseasons (Drew 8.5, Jake 6.6), and both men delivered performances Sunday that would embarrass Kyle Orton (Drew 2.9, Jake -0.5). And both men have credible backups, standing quietly in the wings, daggers in hand (Romo 7.4 preseason, Cutler 8.2).

"You may remember last year that Kerry Collins played well early, and I speculated that some of his strong early IAYPA had something to do with Randy Moss. Well, wonder no more - now a Titan, Kerry threw two INTS and delivered a very mortal IAYPA of 3.4. I'm betting Aaron Brooks will look better now that he has Moss to throw to."

September 10, 2006

"Good Evening, Godless Sodomites"

Dr. X post this from his gut:

"My respect knows no bounds. Colbert and Stewart at the Emmies."

September 09, 2006

A Big Game

Dr X. posts this from the House of Pain:

"It would be all too easy to take Detroit lightly. A terrible team, managed by the same people who brought you the Ford Motor Company. Oughta be a walkover.

"That would be a huge mistake. This is the NFL. Every player on every team has earned his job against someone who was a big star in college. Go into a game with anything less than laser focus and the next thing you know you're explaining to reporters that the Detroit Lions have more talent than people say, and they did a great job against you, and yes, you were a little surprised they executed so well. Every single week a strong team walks off the field, heads hanging, beaten by the dog.

"And if they lose the first game, it could get worse. Then you've got Arizona, probably feeling pretty good after stomping the 49ers in their new stadium. Then the always-tough New York Football Giants (some say they were a better team than the Seahawks last year), then you travel to Chicago to try and get something going against the league's best defense.

"I'm not kidding - get too full of yourself in this league, and you can be 0-4 by Bye week.

"That's why this is a big game. They're all big games. Every game counts. Every win, every snap, every touch, every drive block, every loose ball - is for all the marbles. From the moment the kicker's foot hits the pigskin until the clock runs out with grown men diving over one other to get a hand on a Hail Mary all counts.

"So it's going to be a big game. How big? It's going to make Kill Bill look like The Big Chill, all right? It'll make Fists of Fury look like Footloose. It'll make Roadhouse look like Pee Wee's Playhouse!



On Thursday, I picked up my new 2006 Suzuki DL650 "V-Strom" from Suzuki of Oakland.

The DL650 target market is beginners looking for a fun, practical motorcycle. (I know this because this is what Maxim Online says the DL650 is, and they don't shrink from telling the truth according to what industry reps tell them). It has, intentionally or not, hit a couple of other market niches: the best-value "adventure touring" bike (a category dominated by European bikes costing well over twice the price), and a commuting/touring bike for old farts who've owned enough bikes to know what they really want is a light-weight bike that's comfortable and torquey (me, for example).

How It Compares

Claimed dry weight is 418 lbs. This is 55 lbs heavier than my old SV 650, but 40 lbs less than the 96 Honda VFR 750 (I used to own one and the Viceroy owns one now). From my bike history, it's closest to the Honda CBR600F2 (410). What's odd is that the DL650 appears much physically larger than those Hondas.

The motor is essentially the same as that in my 99 SV650, but tuned for more low and midrange power. Peak horsepower is 66 bhp, and peak torque is 44 ft-lbs at about 6,000 rpm. The "meat" of the power curve is between 4,000 and 8,000 rpm -- same peaks as the SV 650, you just get them earlier.

But the DL has something the SV didn't have: fuel injection. This is my first bike with FI, and I don't want to go back. Throttle response is unreal if you're used to carborated bikes, and there's no choke to futz with. (The carborators and choke basically killed my SV 650.) The long-travel suspension looks like the SV's on paper, but is much better, particularly on the crap that passes for pavement in San Francisco. I'd rate the suspension for city pavement well above every other bike I've owned except the KTM Duke (which had a competition-grade supermoto suspension, which is probably why it was stolen within two months of my buying it).

The combination of comfortable riding position plus torquey V twin reminds me of the Viceroy's old Honda Pacific Coast, but sits much higher, weighs 200 pounds less, has an extra 20 hp, better throttle, smoother engine, etc. (Okay, the PC had a lot better luggage.) Tooling around town on it makes me feel like I'm on patrol; perched high, comfortable, easily observing everything around me, effortlessly maneuvering between and around cars.

My mechanic, Joe, summed it up when I told him I was going to buy a DL650: "That's just a really nice bike."

Rebar For Tootsie Rolls: Kill Three, And It's One, Two, Four

A pissy grey mist greyed up San Francisco like a congregation of Lutheran actuarial table editors, and I chewed through my sure-fire investment plan: get extremely charming in the vicinity of drunk rich girls with daddy problems, a plan that would have to percolate while I munched on a stale donut drowned in coffee from Owl's Pharmacy, the little blobs of wax from the paper cup floating like icebergs on a hot oil spill, and as I watched a black funeral-special street car pass by on Market Street, its sole passenger undisturbed for once while lying down on public transit, a clutch of the local street walkers tried to look sad by smoking less rapidly. I spit into the gutter, but with respect.

And here was the Fairmont. I screwed up my dignity from zip to inscrutable and blazed my way in, staking out a stool between the stink of swank and the Pied Piper painting in the dark, woody barroom, where the coatrack, covered in minks, looked like a bigfoot with chicken legs. Soon enough, I was chatting up a steely Lana Turner-looker for a while before it got hard to see only one Turneresque tomato, thanks to enough quart-sized Mai-Tais to fill the whole toilet bowl I was planning to vomit in about two minutes- but hey, even two quasi-Lanas is never enough when your looking at a face so sweet you could mix it with butter and call it frosting and a bosom so patriotic she couldn't have seen her shoes if her legs weren't so long. Just the juice to forget Renata from the whole Errol Flynn hullabaloo- she'd hopped a steamer back to Brazil when her Aunt Juanita died and left her the more profitable half of a coat hanger factory.

The blond was blond as a Norwegian peroxide factory, and dangerous as that factory exploding, and if an entire baker's dozen of ex-girlfriends hadn't just organized through some sort of secret woman communications network into kind of ex-girlfriend trade union and mailed me a whole box of bits of things I'd left around, like keys, bullets, straight razors, empty bottles of Gin Boom's Even Rotter Rot-Gut, mismatched socks, an irritating sheaf of papers from their new attorney Bill Marginpale, a crushed pack of Lucky's, a receipt from Madame Very Happy's in the Tenderloin, my old .32, and a stick of ABC Beeman's gum from 1931, I might have tried to pretend to ignore her. But trying to ignore that lean, soft peppermint tab of all-girl saltwater taffy was like to trying to distract yourself from the noose you were about to stick your head in by trying to concentrate on the rotten cabbage people were throwing at you.

"Aethelgifu," she said. "You were going to ask my name. Aethelgifu De Havilaand." She held out her hand, her skin soft as a baby bunny in an angora hat full of whipped cream.

"Brain. Dr. Doctor Mack Brain. Private GumDoctorVestigatorShoe." I said. Sometimes that worked, when English was my first language, instead of Rum-anian.

"Hiya, Doc."

Her broomy eyelashes fluttered slowly, like a shop floor being swept by janitor still grumbling over his bad experience with General Sherman. The bartender came by, winking like a cheap lightbulb every 48 seconds to check on her and she indicated two more Mai Tais with a practiced wave of her fingers. The band in the Papagaya room played a slow one, South American, judging by the distant bongos and the plucky, mango-sweet melody that wafted through the grand hallway. I'm no music critic, except when Kate Smith tries the blues, but it was nice enough, an the swells in monkey suits and silk dresses danced like swans with trust funds, floating dreamily, like WWII was just local color.

Aethelgifu gazed at the dancers, her head high, her eyes half-closed, listening, maybe envying. She moved with distracted, deliberate grace, like a Ziegfeld dancer with an opium habit.

"I used to be a Ziegfeld dancer, but I had a bad opium habit, so I moved here. Fresh start, you know?" She said. "You believe in fresh starts, don't you, Doc?" Her hand grazed my arm. Those fingers were well-manicured, the little fingernails shining red like little fire engines, and one drove around in a little circle on my sleeve, looking for the exit to Treasure Island, where the fire was growing.

Aethelgifu looked away, more coy and desperate than a knocked-up debutante at the Association of Handsome Young Men of Inherited Wealth Convention, in just that way so she knew I’d be gazing across her neck at the shining cascades of platinum blond hair pouring down and over her bare shoulder and to even more interesting bits and byways on the Aethelgifu Highway. The metaphors in my mind mixed like a dacquri-mixing cement-truck.mixer. All of a sudden, it got real hard to thinky well.

She turned back to me, a proud, melancholy look in her saucery, intelligent dark eyes, the radiance of her face radiating like extra-radioactive radium. “Mack," she cooed, "I like your face, it’s a hard face, but kind, sad eyes, maybe like a rabid doberman puppy. The kind of face a girl whose had a bit of a rough go of it might trust in a pinch.” She leaned closer, her soft poofy parts unwrinkling my clothes. Her complex, compelling scent, a rare Chanel No. fxx(x,y)=∞, like buttered mints abandoned in a Mediterranean orange grove through which ran an playful otter in heat, wantonly wafted into my head without so much as a lease and a $14 deposit.

“I don’t know why Mack, but I trust ya. I’ve never met a man I trusted so quick like this. It’s something about the way you carry yourself, heavy with worry but always ready to push a girl out of the way of a cement truck that had it’s brake likes cut, a tough guy on the outside, and a cold streak that could freeze the airport, the kind of cool and strength that makes a girl feel safe, but inside, inside here, Mack, I can tell, you couldn’t hurt a ant, a least one that didn’t owe you money.”

Damn dames. No matter how many Squarehead skulls you play jacks with , no matter how many atomic robots you unman, no matter how many pimps you work over with a blackjack and a Al Jolson record for two-bit whiskey shots and nickles for tips for Crumples the bartender at the Rusty Hobnail, they still peg you for that soft little wet kitten nose of an organ back-alley docs like me call your ticker, and all your good sense goes out the window, so no matter how many times it's happened, when that silky little love muffin slips a sliver dagger right through it, you never see it coming. And that little kitten nose under my gaberdine suit was thumping now like the wall in an hourly Market Street hotel room, and though the shriveling, sober part of my brain announced that Aethelgifu De Havilaand instigates more disasters than secret European defense treaties in 1914, it was outvoted by the kitten in my heart, the drunk in my brain, the wolf in my pants, and then my liver uncharacteristically abstained and went and ordered another round for all of us, and I seem to recall nodding at every pretty little word the pefect red lips of Aethelgifu mouthed, like "spies" and "money," and "do" as in "him in." She was playing me for a sap and I was the maple tree, but on whose pancakes I was going was anyone's guess.


The upshot was that the next week I was in Sausalito at an all-night fondue, charades and money-laundering party. As the arrangement worked, my ex-girlfriend Jenny sent me an invitation. Normally, I'd think she was just showing off the all-steel and glass modern mansion, gleaming with windows above and below, left and right, around and through. It was like living in the ice man's storehouse. She's set up house with Pastely Marstonbury, her latest husband, the shipping magnate, who, no doubt due to his shrewd business acumen, was making a pile on nitrates in the middle of the World’s biggest war, and their suspiciously attractive live-in maid, another stunning blond, this one a sly little 500lb high explosive sex bomb, one Aethelgifu de Havilaand.

Pastley sat around counting huge stacks of cash from filling the world's appetite for explosive gases, and I had to ask myself why the U.S. Government wasn't kiting a check like usual.

"Sweet pile of cabbage, eh, Brain? Ever seen anything like it?" he said. He spoke like he was failing to swallow a digestive biscuit.

"Ever need a bookie, I can hook you up." I said. " I can get you a 1500 to one shot on whether a guy'd show a complete stranger a stack of clams like that."

Pastely had the build of a bowling ball and a personality to match: dense with hard resin and tough to stop with your face. I could never have guessed what Jenny saw in him except for the fact that he was behind a pile of hundred dollar bills so high I could barely see his hat. Dressed like a real society dame, with an expression that said "Help Me!", she looked better than a million bucks, which I could tell easily enough because it was sitting there right next to her, but a furrow creased her brow, she was trying to tell me something with her hands, flicking her eyes to her right, where a little red receipt book sat on a night stand.

Marstonbury even laughed like a bowling ball,"Hah....hooooooooo...HA!" "Naw, Brain, Jenny vouched. She said you was straight. That's good enough for me!" It was moments like this, looking right at a Spam-faced, beet-red, creamed-corn brained war-profiteer with all the charm of a pickled goiter, that got you thinking maybe Trotsky was on to something.

Aethelgifu walked in her maid outfit, her little, very little, form-fitting, tres French maid outfit, pretending she didn't recognize me, handing out little sausages in blankets and glasses of champagne. Pretty strange house-warming party, the four of us, Aethelgifu joining us after the fifth bottle of Moet, playing "Cash Charades," where you folded up the money to give origami clues. Pastely did his impressions by rolling up bills and sticking them up his nostrils and insisting he was a walrus at least six times. The total lack of charm never wore off. I feigned a sudden skin infection.

"Been fun, but Blorack's Disease, you know," I said, scratching my neck, "got to get back to the city for the anti, er - Blorak ointment."

Jenny called me a cab, and shot me a glance toward my pocket. Aethegifu shot me a glance toward the door. Pastely shot a glance toward Aethelgifu's cleavage, which glanced off and hit the ceiling before he fell off his chair plastered. Finally, dizzy with pricey booze and sheer cash fumes, I stumbled toward the door, scratching my arms, and grabbed the cab back to the ferry dock. It was growing light.


The ferry back to the city creaked and groaned, its ancient dough-pounder engine racing at 3 RPM through a flat Bay with an oil-clogged, bull-kelp choked mirror of the ship, skies dreary and feet weary in the 5AM gloom, foggier than a forced recital of the Federal Register with a hangover, the East Bay working stock gulping burned coffee from the commissary to get half awake for a full day of petty humiliation ahead. Then, the crack of a gunshot.


The sudden splash off the port side toward Angel Island washed away nothing but my last hopes of ever getting paid from Errol Flynn’s agent, a grateful movie pimp named Billy Mars, grateful because thanks to my detective work, an elaborate ruse involving an amateur production of Gold Diggers of 1933 to foil a clutch of L.A. Nazi sympathizers, and Renata’s quick if implausible disguise as a Western Union boy, Flynn was back filming battle flicks for the Allies, all sins forgotten, except of course the new statutory rape charge the San Francisco D.A. was all girly with excitement about.

I got outside to the rail, where I immediately recognized the body, bouyant as it was from his enormous, trademark yellow spotted ascot. Billy Mars was big in Hollywood, pal, but Billy Mars was shot, a floating, over-dressed corpse, his giant ego now just a deflating balloon in the collective memory of Tinsletown - that was reality, and he’d bit the foot-long chili dog of death while on his way to my office to drop off the check, as it turned out later. But the only future for that sea-soaked check would be three month’s office rent in a dingy Sutter street office for some lucky Dungeoness crab, were he so inclined to cash the it and enter the detective business and make it pay better than me, which he would because most sea-creatures don’t get their clients shot.

The ferry was still 20 minutes out, nearly drifting, her engine cut to about one turn every fortnight, just to hold position. There were four or five hundred people milling on the greasy decks, about half of them leaning over the rails on the weather side looking at Mars’ body bumping up against the gunwales while a third class boy with a big nose and acne to emphasize the fact tried to fish him out with a boat hook. I took a long swig of imported Mummanschnaaps, and tried to imagine Veronica Lake weaing a lake, and nothing else. As it put it back in my pocket, I noticed the sweet touch of money, and pulled out one of the bills from last night's bizzare party - Jenny left a lipstick kiss on it, and a scribble that said "Get this bill checked! - J." Counterfeit? I looked right into U.S. Grant's alcoholic face, just as ugly as it should be. It looked real enough. Didn't make sense anyway- why would a nitrate tycoon have millions in clown cash? One other thing: Marstonbury's red receipt book was in the pocket with it.

I approached the kid hooking Mars, dragging him out delicately by an Italian loafer. “I’m a detective, “ I declared, flashing my dick license for the first time today in an official context. I pointed to the body. “This is Mars. And the stiff owes me money.” I left the part about not working for the police out.

The 1st Mate walked up with false confidence, like you do when you’re almost in charge. He was young, short, balding, pale as bleached linen that just found out his life savings in pork bellies were selling short. Mars lay on the deck exactly like a drowned sleazebag Hollywood producer. “The Sea has claimed another good soul,” said the Mate sanctimoniously, his gold trimmed uniform two sizes too large.

“Not unless the Sea shot him during absolution.” I said, turning the body over to reveal the round, sticky gunshot wound in his gut..

I searched Mars' pockets for clues. A receipt for $42.50 from the Top of the Mark- sheesh, I knew a lot a guys that didn’t make that in a month. A check for $2300 from Soda Works Consolidated, LLC, for “consultation.” And, oh, a small brown leather note book, full of phone numbers with intials, and another set of symbols: squares, triangles, circles with dots, and hearts. Holy Beans. The actual Lana Turner's number was almost certainly in here. There: L.T. Cocomo 02020. Noted. I looked back at the 1st mate.

"Listen, Sea-Major, you’re going to have to get a complete passenger manifest before we dock. Radio the City Cops; we have to search everyone at the Pier. Someone on this leaky meat scow drilled your stiff here, and it wasn’t for oil.”

We chugged into the Ferry Terminal. I was feeling testy and judiciously emptied the magazine of my .45 in case the cops weren’t chummy. I felt a little sick, and vomited over the side. Unfortunately for the newspaper vendor below, we’d already arrived.

I made my way down to the search area. The line of hats on the dock shuffled as the police questioned everyone, all fairly routine, they took down the names, made sure no one had obvious blood stains or smoking revolvers, and sent them on their way. They took a few photos. I took a gander at the line, no luck, no clues. Just wave after wave of tired, donut-munching faces, about as interesting as a stack of 1923 laundry receipts. Nothing more here.


Back at the office. The sun was coming in the window directly into my head, and I adjusted the venetian blinds, which promptly fell off the brackets, my hands going right through as I tried to grab them and I struggled for three minutes to extract myself from the ensuing tangle of metal and string that eventually claimed one sleeve of my jacket, which tore off and left the hole in the armpit of my shirt exposed. SNAFU. I finally sat down, I leaned back, the chair squeaking, my torn sleeve and tangled ball of blinds lying on the floor, a few armpit hairs poking out of the hole in my shirt like curious marmots in spring.

I poured through Mars’ brown book and a few other papers, tracking down his latest movie projects for someone who might pay be to find out who perforated his candy-ass carcass. There was "Back to Attu," with Johnny Weistmueller as a heroic Aleut taking on Japanese minesweeper with torpedoes strapped on either side of his kayak, "Tahoe Landing" with John Garfield as a Brooklyn street tough with dreams of the first dockside dinner theater on Lake Powell, and "Bonnie Prince Charlie," starring Bela Lugosi as the young Scottish hero. It was a picture alright, a picture of Mars, the Hollywood golden boy, losing his grip. Something was distracting him.

Then, I got the mail.

I'd sent the $100 Jenny slipped me to the lab boys at Police Headquarters, with instructions to check it out and keep it for keeping the whole thing quiet. The report was on my desk. I opened it, pulled out the report of a photostat of a teletype from the Secret Service: funny money, and worse, the paper matched the government paper used in german currency. Squarehead dough. Kraut cabbage. Nazi moolah. Another German plot. Did Hitler really have nothing better to do than break my balls every three weeks?

One other request from the SF cops: go over the photos from the ferry. Here they were: face after face, mug after mug: Sausalito slackers, Marin bohemians, Larkspur la-di-dahs. But a lot more broken Californians, the hard years in their faces, all creeds, condemned to gratitude to the fat cats for $5 a week, a drying crust on a spent bowl of cream: hard lines, gaunt cheeks, sad, glazed, resigned eyes. The war brought work, but the Depression had carved the lines around those eyes. Here, San Francisco, in this Eden. If it wasn't for Roosevelt, these folks would be tearing people like Marstonbury a new cream hole. Nearly did anyway, a couple years back.

Focus: what was out of place? Something, someone. Here a view from an upper deck and a figure caught my eye, a squat, short man, from the back, with a European cut on a perfect, linen suit, the crescent side of his face just visible, with a huge cigar stuck in it. I knew the guy.

Kriestenheimer. That is, Max "Sparky" Kriestenheimer, the 5' 2" head of the Prussian Benevolent Society of San Francisco, and the General Secretary of the Luxemborgian Redecoration Society, confidente of the Viscount Phillerph Von Pforffer Van Der Pforffen the Fourth, suspected as the only actual Japanese spy on the West Coast and the only pro-fascist interwar Dusseldorf dadaist, strutting around without a care in the world, and there, there, I got out the magnifying glass: a little oil stain, and the wrong kind of bulge in the wrong pocket: a 9mm, and his right, respectively.

Kriestenheimer. I gulped the last of the Mummanschnapps. Half of Hollywood wanted Billy Mars dead, and he gets scratched by an itty-bitty two-timing art spy. If we could crack the Japanese codes, I'd bet the residuals on Gone with the Wind that somewhere there was telegram of appreciation to Tojo from David O. Selznick.

So Kriestenheimer was back. But why kill Mars?

I checked Marstonbury's little red receipt book that Jenny slipped into my pocket. Here was the mark for $3 million, about twice the stack I'd seen, with a note: SK/ U203. If I hadn't commandeered one myself six months before, I'd have missed the reference: a U-BOAT, U-203! As if war-profiteering wasn't enough, Marstonbury was on the take from the Nazis! But $3 million prop schlamoolias? What did the Krauts buy for that? Was Billy Mars somehow in the way? Was the Baking Soda company a German front too? Was Errol Flynn an alcholic?

I heard a click.

I looked up. The door was wide open, and the figure that was blocking my light was a welcome sight, a nimbus of blondness around her head, her body distinctly Aethelgifu-shaped, with an incomparable scent, like free pasteries in a Catholic girls reform school... in the South of France!

"Stand-up real slow, Mack, " she said, waving something shiny.

A wicked-looking Luger, aimed at my heart.

The Complete Rebar for Tootsie Rolls is at

Please do not attempt to be a hard-boiled detective at home without extensive professional training and supervision.