May 31, 2010

May 30, 2010

Man Bites Dog, Treasury Secretary Makes Sense

Must be the Final Days.  Lawrence Summers on Monday:

Yet as we look out beyond the next decade, deeper structural issues in our economy will play a larger and larger role in our nation’s fiscal challenges.  These challenges are profound and entrenched because they reflect structural changes that have taken place over the last several decades.
We as a country, Democrats and Republicans, have chosen to make a commitment to the elderly and to health care. 
These commitments reflect our values as a society.  We believe the elderly must be kept from living in poverty, as so many did before the enactment of Social Security.  And we believe that illness and suffering should be minimized.  These are commitments that found expression even before President Obama’s health care reform program.
They are the right values, and we have accepted that they have costs. 
The costs of these commitments are growing more rapidly than the rest of the economy, not because government is doing more but simply because of changing demographics and rising health care costs.
Consider the following: The share of health care in our GDP is now rising by about half of one percentage point per year.  Since the federal government pays for about 40 percent of health care costs, it follows that the federal government’s spending on health care is rising by about two-tenths of a percentage point per year, or by about one percentage point every five years.
In other words, if there are no policy changes and we simply maintain the programs that we have, the federal share of GDP spent on health care rises by one percentage point every five years.
What appears to be an increase in spending as a share of the economy does not reflect government bloat or inefficiency.  It simply reflects changing demographics and, on current policies, an increase in the cost of health care throughout the economy.


Standing in my umptee-dozenth airline line this week (got in trouble because I'm Premier, but I was in the Premier Elite line - sorry!).  Then this song started running through my head. This fellow's done a very nice job with the video:

May 28, 2010

Who Are These People?

In view of my complete lack of interest in seeing Sex and the City 2, will my spouse see fit to increase my dressing allowance? Probably only if I can look this stunning.

Zac Posen blouse: $790. Zac Posen skirt: $10,000. JAdore Dior shirt: $200. Pamel Love for Zac Posen belt: $5,000. Manolo Blahnik buckle sandal: $1,059. Chanel sunglasses: $510. Total: $17,559.

Suggest Customer Service Letter

Suggested Form Letter:

"Dear Sir or Madam,

I have been a longtime customer with a vast trust fund, truly reckless spending habits, and many hundreds of similar friends with retail OCD.


Needless to say, although I am presently engaged in saying it, I am outraged. My outrage is like a distant quasar, the most luminous object in the Universe, consuming and ejecting 1000 solar masses of energy every year. And my law firm, which I maintain for recreational purposes, has nothing to do this summer- they're hanging around the whiskey bar right now looking bored.

What would you do in my position? If I treated my customers this way in Russia in 1647, I would have been shot by Cossacks.

But I am not unreasonable. If my anger is a radiating quasar, my gratitude is an ever-expanding retail universe of profligacy. I need not press upon you the value of a customer who mails you a letter such as this, written on Egyptian linen paper in ruby-paste ink, delivered in a train of three Bugatti Verons by my retinue of armed supermodels with father issues.


&C &C

May 27, 2010

Top Kill

They are trying today, injecting heavy drilling muds - mineral compounds and clay - to stuff the genie of crude back into the bottle. Let us hope it works. There are men and women working at the limits of their capacity to understand how to stop the Gulf Spill, and I wish them, without irony, godspeed.

What we are watching will destroy beaches, marshlands, species, local ecologies, local economies - the ordinary life of the earth there will die for a long time. How big this will be is uncertain. There is next to nothing we can do can stop that now - save a few beaches, watch an illustration of dying ecosystem on video.

Yet the Santa Barbara spill of 1969 - a much smaller spill- sparked the beginning of the modern environmental movement, one the late Gov. Walter Hickel, then Secretary of the Interior for Nixon, quickly recognized and encouraged: it lead to the EPA, even Earth Day.

As crude hits the Gulf, we face the unendurable condition of helplessness. We will now watch once-avoidable destruction. Our technological might and national will becomes a mere whisper into the sea.

If this spill slaps our faces, and reminds us that without a healthy earth, we are like a sick body; if it reminds us that we have no right to eradicate the creatures and plants of the earth from existence; if it turns our horror at the unfolding of past indifference toward life itself into hard minded environmental policies and action, from energy to land use to international peace, we have an opportunity to take this disaster and with it buy back our future. There is a chance here: to turn our minds fully to the health of the earth, to know the costs of cheap oil, to resolve that before our generation passes, we will not leave this earth in a condition of sickness and dying.

May 26, 2010

They'll all be sorry someday

The Onion: 

Entire Facebook Staff Laughs As Man Tightens Privacy Settings (link)

May 25, 2010

Great Moments in Journalism #2

Joe McGinnis decides to cover the Sarah Palin moving in next door.  I only wish Hunter S. Thompson could have been here to do it - I'd pay real money for that book.

May 24, 2010

What's Awesome Now

Our seven year-old guest blogger says...this:

Great Moments in Journalism

Actual first sentence:  "The Brevard County doctor who was arrested for groping a woman while dressed as Captain America with a burrito in his pants will not go to jail."

Fark thread ensues, entertainingly, here.

What would Jesus eat?

From Adam Gopnick's exceedingly well-written "What Did Jesus Do?" in The New Yorker:
This social radicalism still shines through—not a programmatic radicalism of national revolution but one of Kerouac-like satori-seeking-on-the-road. And the social radicalism is highly social. The sharpest opposition in the Gospels, the scholar and former priest John Dominic Crossan points out in his illuminating books—“The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant” is the best known—is between John the Faster and Jesus the Feaster. Jesus eats and drinks with whores and highwaymen, turns water into wine, and, finally, in one way or another, establishes a mystical union at a feast through its humble instruments of bread and wine. 

The table is his altar in every sense. Crossan, the co-founder of the Jesus Seminar, makes a persuasive case that Jesus’ fressing was perhaps the most radical element in his life—that his table manners pointed the way to his heavenly morals. Crossan sees Jesus living within a Mediterranean Jewish peasant culture, a culture of clan and cohort, in which who eats with whom defines who stands where and why. So the way Jesus repeatedly violates the rules on eating, on “commensality,” would have shocked his contemporaries. He dines with people of a different social rank, which would have shocked most Romans, and with people of different tribal allegiance, which would have shocked most Jews. The most forceful of his sayings, still shocking to any pious Jew or Muslim, is “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean.”

SCTV_Farm Film Report with Neil Sedaka

May 21, 2010

We're doomed

Peter King:  "I don't love the division, so it's logical to give Turnaround Team of the Year to Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. "I know one thing we will do,'' he said to me a month ago. "We will increase competition at every position on the roster.'' Charlie Whitehurst, Leon Washington, LenDale White (laugh if you must, but he'll be a factor because Carroll will know how to press his buttons) and a slew of other role players will see to that. I say Matt Hasselbeck has one more sound year in him, and he'll have weapons enough to edge the 49ers and Cards for the division."

Congress finally makes a good decision

Resolution to honor Kelly Slater passes.

May 20, 2010

Oh that explains it

The Muslim stripper chick is actually a spy for Hezbollah.  Mission...unclear.  Looks like much more research will be required...

UPDATE:  And we will need an explanation for this...

May 19, 2010

Who needs science when you have concierge service?

Gizmodo tests the limits of Visa's new service.

Guess the kids will have to go to middle school in Singapore

GOP:  science is too expensive, supports ignorance instead.

Well, Texas is on board, anyway.

The Republican Party: because stupid works for us.

May 18, 2010

Where's that 'Eisengeiste Approves' logo?

A pole-dancing Moslem beauty queen?  Who could possibly have a problem with that

May 16, 2010

My New World View

Dr. X posts this from his lawn, which he wants you to get off of:

Other listenable versions (Kinks, Conan O'Brien, and numerous others omitted):

And, from the Mysterious East:

Detail on that funky groove.

A Gush of Optimism

In 2005, I had enough of an instinct that Katrina was going to be huge, deadly disaster that I wrote a post here a couple of days before outlining my sense that the administration was behaving far too lazily, that real damage was going to hit a hugely populated area, and that the Armed Forces should be mobilized, because it might require martial law.  I deleted it, thinking it was too much guesswork, too easy to underestimate even the Bush Administration.

I bring that up only to introduce that instinct is telling me that the Gulf Oil Spill, now spewing out an Exxon Valdez every five days, is going to bury the Gulf - if not kill it forever. This is going to be a environmental disaster incomparable in recent U.S. history. It will unfold slowly, but in comprehensible time, and get uglier, and uglier, and uglier.

The Gulf is already a fragile and heavily damaged ecosystem, unlike the one pristine Sound - I'm no expert and I don't propose to understand some sort of secret magical facts. But  there is a value to instinct: synthesis of disparate facts, likelihoods, and more nebulous but powerful social and political realities.

This spill is likely to be at least ten times the scale of the Exxon Valdez by volume. It's going to hit an area with 1000 times the population of Prince William Sound. Fishring, tourism, life-ways may die for a generation. It will roll on for many years.  The stench will hit millions of noses; the pleasure of the sea, bathing, wildlife, sightseeing, will turn to tar balls.  Legal realities will have oil companies lying publicly, repeatedly and nakedly.  Economic stress and cognitive dissonance among oil workers and outside friends and family will cause substantial personal conflict.  It's going to a Disneyland of misery.

In this, I find a dark optimism. The Gulf of Mexico, at least on a long time scale, will recover in some measure.  But a much smaller disaster like this, on the American mainland shore, help spark the modern environmental movement, changing the minds of people like the late Nixon Interior Secretary Walter Hickel. It lead to the EPA in the first place, to the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water act, etc, and largely under Republican administrations.

You can state scientific realities like the likelihood of the loss of half of all earth species in the next century, but it doesn't resonate in information-soaked lives. A soaking in real oil, however, becomes a horrible, emotionally scarring clarity that drier biological and climate facts cannot be. We can perceive it in real time, in ways that allow us to attach emotional importance to it, in socially powerful ways that can actually change economic behavior.

I am making a horrible calculation (one that reminds a little of buying some world justice by bombing German civilians in the War.) The social impact of this, if it unfolds like I feel it might, can be massive. We may lose the gulf of Mexico, and yet finally gain the cultural and political will to truly conserve our planet.

Firing Up the Base

  • You know what's wrong with the Supreme Court?  The Jews.
  • You know what's wrong with the Red States?  The Blacks.
Who is paying these people?

Oh, and fuck the Diamondbacks.

May 14, 2010

Goodbye Frank Frazetta

His paintings drew me into worlds of adventure and debauchery; worlds that my parents never would have approved of. 8th-grade boyhood, dungeons and dragons and the $1.50 fantasy paperback will never be the same. There will never be a fantasy artist like him. Frank Frazetta dead at 82.

May 13, 2010

Go Ichiro

We've mentioned him in the past.  He's broken a 100 year-old record.  I think you have to put him in The Hall.

He plays the field, too:

Incomplete Cheap Novels Posted as Facebook Status Updates 2008-Present


drew his sword, the mad sculptor Cellini tossing a crucible of molten bronze - a warm dispute over Ciecherella Borgia, illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander.

cocked an eyebrow at the preening Archduke: "Your impudence, Sir, is just exceeded by your malodorousness!"

leapt up the barricades, flag aloft in the cannon smoke. "Liberty shall not die gasping for her life at our feet!  Today, we grant our lives for her salvation!"

waited as the massive Persian army lead by Xerxes the Great went by, and as the King passed, he deftly affixed a small piece of paper to his back which read, "Kick Me."

,angered, lifted the cement truck which trapped the box of frightened husky puppies, holding it in one hand. Was this destiny? Was he, in fact, CAPTAIN DESTINY?

leapt up the barricades, flag aloft in the cannon smoke. "Liberty shall not die gasping for her life at our feet!  Today, we grant our lives for her salvation!"

cocked an eyebrow at the preening Archduke: "Your impudence, Sir, is just exceeded by your malodorous!" Damn the consequences- winter is good for artillery.

faced the charging water buffalo, the deadly beast coming at him like a freight train.  Finally, a real test for his new telekinetic abilities.

spat at Soapy Sam- "You're a consarned, four-flushing claim-jumper, Sam! I'm a-gitting my double-ought, and for lunch you can 'spect a belly full of lead!"

fired the rockets, sending the X-1 shaking in the blue, the mach reading at .96, .97, .98, the gauge cracking, the shudder in his bones, only the stars beyond.

bethought himself the hardy Hygelac-thane of his boast at evening: up he bounded, grasped firm his foe Grendel, whose fingers cracked.

, holding the sceptre of the mighty Space League power, turned to his Electron Ship crew and gave the order: "Starship Commander, Stop the Flow of Time!"

brushed the ice from his beard, cresting the ridge. He and the Sherpas looked down the misty valley, somewhat amazed at Shangrila's lesser twin, Prettygoodgrila

wheeled the Maserati, engine screaming, tires smoking. Gunfire from the Mercedes went wild, exploding the chlorine factory. Now to Zurich, the "package" intact.

rode a Bactrian camel across the Arabian desert, past trades roads dispersing to Palmyra, Samarkland, and Shiraz, only to board ship and cross the Bab el Madeb.

raised his furrowed sword to the villainous Lascar Pirates who in desperate greed had boarded the treasure-laden dhow, smiting them each in terrible silence.

declined the Sultan's gift: Island of Al-Baka-Sar, 53 servants,  the great Sapphire of Sudan.  "A ham sandwich, freedom for lovely Ibtihaj of N'Djamen!" "Ham?"

leads the priest of each village up to the idol, and says he must sit there and judge the people, and if anything goes wrong he is to be shot.

,resplendent in the ancient vestment and orb, ordered the shaman to free the sacrifices and send to the scattered people the tribute of the outsiders.

stopped the piano, taunting Lady Astor: "I'd say one Yankee 'Charleston' is worth a half dozen dreary 'Pomp and Circumstances!' Oh, you kid! 23 Ski-DOO!!"

faced the growling maw of the enormous grizzly bear, armed only, ironically, with a stick of moose jerky.

eyed a galleon limping for port. "Send a runner, Aflonoso!  She's laden with spice; I claim her cargo as Marcovaldo's debt to me! That or his spleen!"

stared down the Cosmonaut: ""Demetri! Ox Tank B  is venting out to effin' Pluto! The ship is shorting out like a midget beauty pageant! NOT time for crapski!""

crested the ridge, unslinging the Winchester, peering across the valley to a Turkman fortress.  A bullet took his horse, the report echoing in lonely terror.

fought on with the scuba knife, the giant squid biting a small hole in the air hose just as he heard the Russian Sub Smolensk open her atomic torpedo doors.

would not let it stand unchallenged.  "Sartre, I reject your premise, as WELL as Malraux's. Also, I am compelled to inform you that I'm seeing Simone."

said "Bearers! You are dismissed! From here on is the land of the Foiokanatoo. Your very heads would prove but fine broth; yet I hold the Idol,and so press on!"

kept a foot on the plummeting Space Shuttle wheel and inserted a trach tube into Jones' neck, trusting his gum to hold the heat tile as fire licked the windows.

hacked away the vine. Behind, huge ruby eyes glowing, sat the stone face of their god, Tonaanatu, and his rival, Dr. DeChuse, impaled on granite teeth.

sent men up the foremast, spiraling madly in freezing spray. Creeping the icy spar, securing a stay, one fell. The Horn will not give herself without seduction.

, breaking through the fragrant undergrowth, faced yet another rabid tiger, this time with only the half a pencil left over from the last one.

screamed at the builders: "You destroy the work of an artist! My will IS this vision!" Murrendo, the cement guy, thought a new 7-11 store didn't really count.

held his finger on the pin on the grenade as Hemmingway ducked. "Silence. It is a patrol, nothing more. Let them pass- they shall have nothing to report."

,commanding the Barbarian hoardes,his armor clanking, marched up to Pious and John,and cut off Pious's head. As it rolled, he pointed to John: "Now, you Pope!"

yelled "Speed! The cliff is there- the glider needs 50!"But the tank driver bailed, ropes yet binding the plane. He sawed furiously, Doom introducing itself.

stood before the gathered physicists. ""It's too late and this asteroid is too heavy. We'll need super-astronauts and more A-bombs than bimbos at a car show. ""

put the siren on the '68 Fastback Mustang. He cursed- yet another gun-blazing high-speed hill chase in San Francisco, and he'd just fixed the shocks.

batted out the fire on his racing leathers, leaving the Buell's wreckage behind him. His  Ducati, afire but screaming smooth, was just 5 seconds from the line.

parried the Archduke's sword-thrust with a minor portrait by Van Eyck, oil on an oak board, smashing one aristocrat's face with another.

entered the missile code. "Dahling," said Elyssia, "how can I persuade you to not destroy Dr. Opterix?""Baby, next he'll be greeting jokers at Hell's Wal-Mart."

sharpened the perfectly-crafted black #6H Tombow pencil to a fine hard point. He had prepared. The rabid Tiger wasn't crashing through the jungle for tea.

approached the unexploded hydrogen bomb, and, examining it carefully,  dug out his Swiss Army Knife. Now, a dilemma: tweezers, awl, or corkscrew?

struck, the tiger enraged with the pencil wound, and distracted the rampaging Elephants by throwing the pile of used mufflers at them. He hated San Jose.

fended off the marauding android army with a simple screensaver.

struggled furiously with the canvas, hurling brushes, reworking endlessly, staring for hours as if to an undiscovered world. Wait a minute. I actually DO that.

, breaking through the fragrant undergrowth, faced yet another rabid tiger, this time with only the half a pencil left over from the last one.

exited his Seattle apartment only to surprise a marauding band of polar bears, who pounced immediately,only to be stunned by the deftly wielded Dell laptop.

fought to the rear of the rail car, grasping Toshi by the hand as she dangled high above the street. Godzilla, already dangerous, hated public transit.

took a breath. Negotiations like these exact a certain toll.  "Alright, Ghenghis, 2500 concubines and 500 ships. But the Zorastrians and the University remain."

whipped the Bugati Veyron past 200, 225, 240 mph. The black road stretched into a sword-edge, death waiting each side. This time, the Post Office would be open.

swam back, startled; the desperate Canadian diver had pulled a knife. 400 feet under the Arctic Ocean, the deadly International war for the North Pole began.

blasted the menacing radium-powered Bear-Bot with the Gamma-Disintegrator. Nothing happened, except that its fur fell off.

lowered a 2nd rope down K2 to the dangling, smoldering helicopter, yelling "Grab!" Line 1 broke as Selma Hayek seized the 2nd; the wreck tumbled ever down.

gripped the parachute cord, a record jump at the edge of outer space. But he was being followed. And the antennae on their heads said they weren't from Canada.

answered Rose: ""Good to be with you Charlie; that's why I've directed the Bollenbach Fund For Good to immediately send in armed parachute-deployed nurse teams.""

,speaking conversational whale, leaned over the boat's gunwhale and tried to talk the huge, suicidal Blue down, or rather, up and off the beach.

squinted against the furnace of the sun. The camel's rot tortured him. Across the running sand, blue shimmered: the coast and salvation, or delusion and death?

fought his way through the desperate crowd that clamored for the last train out of Paris.  Isla did not come. Sam urged him on.

urged the grey horse along the deadly pass through the Urals, saddlebags bursting with the hoarde of rubies, fatigued, one hand on the Navy Colt.

fired again. And again.  Four boxes of .300 ammo - useless on the great African beasts . He had counted on water buffalo. But not robot water buffalo.

nearly stalled the Sopwith Camel, engine spitting, snapping right with the turn, the Fokker shooting past: an old trick.  Only then did he see the red wings.

stamped the Viennese Embassy's floor as the imcomprable Countess Sophia wrapped her leg behind him, eye to eye. Screw the Waltz, Herr Pops, this is the Tango!

, completing the great Henge, had truly honored the gods. Now, it was time for the sacrifice. Purified, blessed, and unafraid, the hamster had been chosen.

reckoned the old varmint would hole up in Muddy Creek.  He saddled up with a bottle of rye. No sense shooting Jeb over the new school marm.

took a long drag on the pipe. "We watched from the gig, watching our ship drive herself into the rocks. Our hearts skip. Empty of crew, she cleared the Horn!"

walking his war steed over the final hill before the Levant, and espying the lay of it, immediately regretted joining the Crusades.

,deep in the Ecaudorian jungle, turned toward the bizzare sounds that followed his every step. So it was true- Giant Land Octopuses, each with 8 hand grenades.

gave the alien invaders another blast from the atomic flame thrower, but while wisps of white smoke rose from their uppermost attenae, it did nothing to dissuade them; quite the opposite. He watched in horror as they disrobed and began to sauna in the neutron rays!

clawed through the tangle of green thicket, hacking his way with the furrowed viking blade, the sap dripping down the mottled steel over the dried blood of Ingvar, tyrant of the Yrskillyrrl Fjord, who met Hel and her domain not 2 days march away. Loki howled with laughter.

The Emperor gazed lately on my life's work, the plunging oak submersible boat. His countenance betrayed only boredom. But now, as we pulled sealed oars, sliding unseen beneath the bridges of Paris, I would have my revenge, convincing as I had Josephine to abandon Napoleon and join me in the marvelous underwater device, seduced by the kingdom of Neptune in direct sight of her widening brown eyes.

I espied the desert sea, shimmering with the curved blades of marauding Berbers, mounted all on fine horses, resplendent in black against the sand. That the bellicose attention of this army was directed toward myself, secured as I was in the small, ancient hill fort, my wound bandaged in linen from the dead spice merchant, and counting the last of my Henry rifle cartridges, did not subtract from my estimation.

While the haggard, pleading look of the once-prosperous gentleman betokened no small measure of concern on my part, the small, intricate silver box was a saint's bargain at 3 shillings 6.  At the touch of coin, his visage changed, a wave of relief passing his jaundiced face, and he scurried away into the Vienna streets.  Opening the box, a curious gold skull set with a massive ruby gleamed, quite stealing my breath.

Outside our upturned lifeboat, it was blue silence cased in iciest crystal, broken but slightly by our oil lamp warmth under seal furs, one yellow dot in all Antarctica. Sleeping fitfully, again did I dream Gwendolyn, vivid as my own breath, and though in my bewitched mind t'was her perfect burgundy lips spoke the words, it was not she who woke me with a fresh despair: "That's it, Skipper, last of the penguin meat."

Hacking away the water vines, we burst upon the clearing whose light so entranced our party, and, indeed, the blazing sun after the dank green of the jungle blinded us. I took off my pith helmet and wiped my brow. Miss Wilson shaded her eyes with trim hands calloused from unaccustomed use of the machete. She shrieked. Astonishing! Here was Col. Bottomfeather, smoking a pipe. But only his head!

peered through the   moonlight into the  abandoned cabin, fingers clutching the .45 Navy Colt.   Inside: the  rusty wood stove, a wrecked kitchen, an old matress covered   in blood.  But he glimpsed- something. Gigantic, furry, impeccably  dressed  in  white gloves and diplomatic sash: Vampire Sasquatch!

"God's Blood! It IS Scott!" I yelled, poking the icy corpse with a stick brought for the purpose. "His expedition failed here!" Then a cry from Lt. McShock:  "Commander, the blizzard! We must leave now!" And tarry we could not - there was not another working petrol blimp for 12,000 miles.

loaded the huge pistol, staring at the rogue Soviet submarine skipper from his sailboat, rolling heavily alongside in the cutting wind.  "Nice boat there, Komandir," he said, "'you got your big ugly crew, your atomic torpedos. But here's a parachute flare aimed right between your eyes:  this Panda, Komrade, is leaving with me!"

finished the knot. 16 hot jungle hours built a flimsy vine bridge over the raging Mkbomno-(click!)-zizu creek 500 feet below, swollen with sulphuric acid from the volcano's runoff. Tendering a toe, he found the lines firm, glancing down to the slightly dissolving crocodiles distracted by Dr. vanHortz's body. Satisified, he waved his hand, luring the nervous pack elephants forward.

eyes narrowing, hidden by the Sacred Oak, nocked an arrow onto the Great Bow, aiming for the breastplate of the General Interferious, scouting like a fool alone on horseback. Suddenly, the beautiful Aethelgifu leapt from the tree onto the Roman's horse, unsheathing her ancient bronze blade and scoring the gurgling invader's throat! Good woman, that!

, in the shadow of the Urals, was stared at by the belligerent, encircling Cossacks, who spat and looked for weakness. But he put his hands on his hips and laughed. They tensed, hands to their swords, axes, and matchlocks.  He said, "Hrytsko, My good friend, I have brought you a City of Joy!," and pulled the cover from the ox-cart with flourish, revealing barrel after barrel of the Tsar's own vodka.

May 10, 2010

Must-Read on the Gulf Oil Spill

(Left, the ore carrier Dong Fang Ocean in December 2009; Formerly known as the Exxon Valdez, it's new name is rather Dickensian.)

A Mr. Wohlforth's must-read on oil spills. The truth is that we cannot effectively clean them. The moral effort is in protection and wise energy policy.

The extent of the failure became clear when I learned that cleanup workers were being sent out on boats so we could see them depart for work on the beaches, but then they never went anywhere. Without equipment or a plan, they drifted aimlessly in the harbor until they could be seen to return after a day’s work.

When reporters blew the cover on that ruse, the recovery crews began voyaging to oiled shores with rags. I spent a day with workers who sat on a beach rubbing pebbles one at a time. They made careful little piles of their cleaned rocks, perhaps so they would have some sense they were accomplishing something amid the 40 million liters of spilled crude that spread over more than 1,500 kilometers of shoreline.

So right on so many levels

So, the 19th perfect game in major league history goes to the guy who was never a prospect, is so Stockton he has "209" tattooed on his chest, and can't break 90 with his fastball.  His mother passed away when he was a teenager, and he did it on Mother's Day.  His grandmother was there to see it and give him a hug.

27 up, 27 down.  Damn.  And thanks, Kevin.

May 09, 2010


In instances where we actually agree that something is good, perhaps we could award seal of approval. Notional example:

In this way we can become arbiters of taste for The Internet, and possibly the world.

For the ambitious and skillful, online seal-making tool here.

I did not know that

Quisling Clinic.

Culprit found

Eisengeiste Exclusive: An Interview with Isaac Hull

Thanks to the Eisengeiste space-time continuum adjuster, we have a few minutes with Isaac Hull.

Q:  Wonderful to have you here, Captain.
A:  It's good to be here - wherever 'here' is...

Q:  Now, this isn't well-known, but you actually almost grew up right on ship-board, didn't you?
A:  Yes, my father would take me on voyages when I was a very young boy. 

Q:  And you chose the seafaring life instead of college?
A:  After my father died - his time on that British prison hulk [the Jersey -ed.] had wrecked his health and he died young - my uncle took me in.  He intended for me to go to college, but when I was 14 I went to sea as cabin boy on a merchant ship, and from there I was set on my course.

Q:  You were in the U.S. Navy right from the start, weren't you?
A:  Yes, as a matter of fact, I was one of the original officers.  I saw a bit of action before the big war with the British, too.  I'll never forget that cutting-out expedition during the Quasi-War with France.

Q:  We don't know much about that conflict nowadays, but I gather it was important preparation for what was to come?
A:  Well, the Navy was really built-up from scratch, but our officers insisted on the highest standard in everything we did, especially gunnery, from the very start.  We knew sometimes we'd be outnumbered, fighting against the odds, so we wanted to pack a punch.  We did, too: we took 22 French warships during that time, against the loss of one of our own.  And we got that one back.

Q:  You were one of Preble's Boys, weren't you?
A:  Yes indeed, I served with him at Tripoli.

Q:  I've often wondered at your behavior after you captured Guerriere...  Here you are, you're facing the commander of a ship that has been harassing your countrymen, pressing Americans into service to fight against you...
A:  Actually, before the fight he had sent the impressed Americans below decks so they wouldn't be obliged to fight us.

Q:  Still, these people had captured and ruined the health of your father, harmed your friends and countrymen - and yet you refused the sword of Captain Dacres.
A:  Yes, and someone had taken his mother's Bible, and I ordered that returned to him.

Q:  Why would you treat an enemy like that?
A:  He wasn't my enemy - he had fought hard and surrendered his vessel.  But it wasn't just that.  We were free men - we didn't pull men off neutral ships and force them into service.  We believed you treat all prisoners - not just the officers - with respect.

Q:  You know Constitution is still afloat, she's berthed in Boston.
A:  Really?

Q:  Yes, the cannons are fired twice a day in memory of the deeds of her crew.
A:  Well, that's fine.

Q:  The neighbors complain about the noise.
A:  [laughing]  Well, that's ok, too.  It's a free country...isn't it, still?

May 08, 2010

"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine..."

"A friend of mine said he saw you kick a guy to death in Hong Kong..."

In which Dr. X catches up

Dr. X posts this from the parking lot at Dodger Stadium:

After my brief missive on the Whiny Song, I thought it might be worthwhile to investigate this Kris Allen a little further, as he struck me as a superior talent and capable of significant further artistic development.  Apparently, I need to get out more:

Here is his audition tape:

I really wish Orwell was still alive

From his 1946 essay James Burnham and the Managerial Revolution:

It will be seen that at each point Burnham is predicting a continuation of the thing that is happening. Now the tendency to do this is not simply a bad habit, like inaccuracy or exaggeration, which one can correct by taking thought. It is a major mental disease, and its roots lie partly in cowardice and partly in the worship of power, which is not fully separable from cowardice.
The immediate cause of the German defeat was the unheard-of folly of attacking the U.S.S.R. while Britain was still undefeated and America was manifestly getting ready to fight. Mistakes of this magnitude can only be made, or at any rate they are most likely to be made, in countries where public opinion has no power. So long as the common man can get a hearing, such elementary rules as not fighting all your enemies simultaneously are less likely to be violated.
I highly recommend reading (or re-reading) the whole thing.

Today's Urgent Headlines Today for May 8th, 2010

BP Spokesman Says Over 99 percent of the Gulf of Mexico is Still Seawater

Collapse of Newspaper Business Alarming Nations' Parakeets

Coughing Supreme Court Justice Upholds Lozenge v. New Hampshire

"Chickens Be Jackin' My Style," Complains Madeline Albright

Governor of Virgina Declares May "Wermacht History Month"

Rep. John Boehner Is Seen at American Enterprise Institute Function Wearing Discrete Glitter

View of Lithe, French-looking Blond Blocked by Display Case Full of Stainless Steel Latte Cups

Delays in Reading Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Reported

Adorable Kittens Do Not Know the Power of the Adorable Side

In TODAY'S URGENT SCIENCE: As Flooded Country Music Mecca Nashville Dries Out, Abandoned Musical Scales Shrink: "A" is now "A minor diminished 7th."

May 07, 2010

Get off my lawn

Jamie Moyer threw a shutout in the Major Leagues today.  He's 47.

Study: Robots can injure or KILL (if armed with knives)

The BBC reported today on the results of a German research study on the potential for harm to humans if exposed to stab-happy machines.

The results were shocking: people might be injured or killed.

They used a robot arm holding a variety of bladed tools programmed to strike test substances that mimic soft tissue.

In some cases, the researchers found, the robots managed to accidentally inflict wounds that would prove "lethal".

Just how did the robots manage to "accidentally inflict wounds?"

The robot arm was programmed to use the bladed tools to stab and cut a silicone lump, a leg from a dead pig and the arm of a human volunteer.

Are we to understand that the robots were programmed to accidentally stab things? I'm really having fun imagining recruiting the human volunteer: "Guten morgen! Vould you mind fery much to be accidentally stabbed by meinen roboter?"

I eagerly await the results of the robots-accidentally-shooting-people-with-guns study.

" If it's not one thing, or the other, it's a matter of degree." A Few Things I'm Pretty Sure Of By Now

1. Rocks are usually hard, whereas soft rock usually means bad music.
2. Amazing modern technology is great at solving some of the problems caused by amazing modern technology.
3. It's worth considering: the sounds of leaves falling.
4. Many things are both cute and dangerous: Bears. Baby Rhinoceroses. Germany.
5. Let no man may say: I didn't enjoy that nap.
6. Note carefully any argument whose real point is "this is a great thing for rich people," and ignore it.
7. Bullies are motivated by schadenfreude or cowardice. Aren't we all? Only quite a bit less.
8. Robots don't care, and even if we make them act like it, won't.
9. No point arguing about cupcakes.
10. I really like coffee. If there had never been any coffee, I wouldn't have missed it.
11. If it's not one thing, or the other, it's a matter of degree.
12. There aren't enough words for love in English.
13. Among the greatest pleasures: to create something where there was nothing, and to bring someone else's suffering to an end.
14. Those who deny things their moral value simply because of the pleasure they bring are my philosophical enemies.
15. Science is a very great good, but not when isolated from normative values.
16. I am alarmed by the rapid proliferation of apocalypse-enabling technologies, particularly the quiet ones, like the light-bulb and the internal-combustion engine.
17. Any economic system that can be destabilized by a typo needs reworking.
18. Does God exist? This interesting question is much less important than I thought it was.
19. It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive.
20. Be cautious of thinking only in aphorisms.

May 06, 2010

Less boring?

The original.

Obvious. Yet Necessary.

Every British Election, I think of this.

The classic British election coverage.

May 05, 2010

In which a dictator is made to swing

Dr. X posts this from Harvard Square on his Blackberry Storm, which just isn't good enough:

Kids today are whiners, and let me just say, they suck at it.

Now my generation, the tail-end Charlies of the Baby Boom, we came of age in the early 1980s in a world that magically combined ruthless and cynical attacks on government for humans, mysterious new epidemics, and the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation.  It made us tough.  We ate poison for breakfast and enjoyed ourselves during the daily beatings at the office.  New York was angry.  San Francisco was angry.  Some of the songs, like Holiday in Cambodia or Johnny's Gonna Die, were as tough as anything made before or after.

But it's not our toughness they will remember, nor our coldblooded cynicism...although that was also world-class, if I say so myself.

No.  The defining characteristic of my generation - the thing posterity will remember us for - was our whining.  We knew from whining.  We were astonishingly good at it.  No other group of young people in the history of civilization whined as loudly, proudly, and memorably as we did.

The pre-history of the Whiny Song may be dated to 10cc's magnificent excursion in melancholia, I'm Not in Love.  Although it was musically unoriginal, its vocal engaged in an emotional promiscuity that would have made Lord Byron blush.  It was a brilliant piece of marketing, too - soaking up adolescent self-pity, distilling it, and selling it back to the customer at a premium price - all the while being regarded as sophisticated and worldly in the bargain (the competition, after all, was Afternoon Delight).  Small wonder it spawned a host of semi-conscious imitators.

It is always somewhat arbitrary when defining a genre, but I say the Whiny Song was fully formed when Soft Cell layered 80s electronics over a similarly cynical and even-more-stylized vocal track and got an improbable hit, one that dwarfed the outstanding original in both popularity and musicological significance.

And then the floodgates opened.  Every narcissist with an orange shirt was hard at work trying to one-up the field with a new masterpiece of preening solipsism.  Whiny Songs were everywhere, and untrammeled self-pity experienced a bull market of majestic proportions:
No, we will not be discussing Natalie Merchant.  Sit down please.

As we trundled into the dark center of that cruel decade it became apparent that popular music was entering a death spiral.  The Whiny Song genre had crowded out everything else and begun devouring its own internal organs.  Despite being a stunning money spinner the Whiny Song is so limited in its range and intentions it could not help but be overwhelmed by other forces...although a genre could hope for a more glorious ending than to be succeeded by Poison.

But there was a final act, a denouement so extraordinary in its transcendent power that it simultaneously subverted, validated, and transcended the Whiny Song forever.  For one, brief, shining moment, the greatest song in the world was a Whiny Epic, a performance so whiny that the whininess echoes down through the ages and makes us whiny all over again.

For those attentive enough to hear, there were twin harbingers in the minor UK hits Mad World and Pale Shelter.  Anyone who heard these songs was on notice that a melancholic powerhouse lurked in the shadows.  It was as if Obi-Wan and Darth Vader paused during their battle, both sensing that a master of the gray side of the Force had entered the room.

Then, in the summer of 1985 it burst like a really overcast day onto the global charts, driving popular culture across the event horizon of plausibility and into the dense and vapid beige hole of cultural emotional futility.  It dwarfed all previous whining in its scope and ambition.  I refer of course to Everybody Wants to Rule the World.  In 1985 it sounded like this:

It defies reason.  The lyrics are nonsensical, the music overbearing, the vocals staggeringly self-important - and yet the damn thing works.  It went to #1 on the charts, and administrative assistants were humming it in their car, at lunch, and during their post-nooner hair-spray.

The clever folks at AV Club recently convinced Ted Leo and the Pharmacists to cover the song, and they do so very creditably, keeping faith with the original in both the arrangement and vocals (oh, and see if you can spot a subtle corporate influence here):

Other contemporary artists like Christian Burns and JamisonParker likewise stay close to the original, accepting the same risks as Tears for Fears.  But without the original performers' incredible personal audacity, they are unable to fully reap the rewards.  The song is harder than it looks.

It follows that perhaps a different approach would yield better results.  Ken Boothe does a sensitive and beautiful reggae version.  Kwamey & Frank Boissy get a nice groove going on it.  Guitarist Andy McKee demonstrates the beauty and power of the underlying musical structure, a finding elaborated upon by the Bad Plus Trio (surprising diatonic echoes of So What).

It seems clear that there is a good song here trying to get out.  One big hint:  maybe it would be better if it were less whiny.  Kris Allen, a gifted vocalist, finds a clever way in - he misdirects the audience then launches into a serious and determined performance that comes close to the heart of the song.  I only fault its brevity and the careless ending - Kris, if you're going to kill a man be sure to finish the job:

Allen and most other artists covering the song have trouble with the march-step rhythm of the song, so important to the fascistic subtext the pampered suburban supergroup intended to convey.

Can you dance with a dictator?  Soulive tries and succeeds to an extent, although I don't feel compelled to hear it again.  It is, after all, the same dilemma faced by any dissident - confront the beast openly and be destroyed, or try to subvert it without being noticed and so risk irrelevance?

Clare and the Reasons have a wonderful, original run at it:

But the performance I regard as definitive...I cannot believe I am writing this...  Here, Patti Smith steps up to the microphone and just sings the song, without affect or irony. Her performance brings together the jazz sensibility that seems to work best with the music and a fearless, graceful vocal performance.

Her only confrontation with the song's dictatorial tendencies is a seemingly determined effort to never come in on the right beat:

It caught something in the original, but Smith catches something richer and better.  Perhaps it's the muff at 0:48 that lets her cut loose a little, but she gets hold of it - it swings and breathes - and music once intended for adolescents becomes a legitimate anthem for grown-ups.  (As for that fascist beat, watch her at 2:54 and ask yourself if maybe she isn't putting you on a little.)

And it turns out that maybe my generation can do a little more than whine after all.

Conan's Internal Rage - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Conan's Internal Rage - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

May 04, 2010

I'm sorry, do any of these guys like women?


Relearning Lessons

Over ten million people live on the Gulf Coast - 1000 times more than witnessed the Exxon Valdez spill. This spill may become horrific. Real ecosystems collapsing in the full view of millions, on a time scale that requires no imagination, may, in the  agony of the earth, transform the national debate. It might change our priorities on not just drilling, but on how we have treated and will treat our earth. Below, a compelling commentary today in the LA Times.

May 03, 2010

Weinberg did it

Odd story

Here is a story I received from an older gentleman I recently interviewed. After relating several odd stories to me, he emailed this one to me, which I offer without comment (although one can easily gather the irrelevant facts by Googling):

Some†ime in the late 1950s, I accompanied Mike Harrington (then of the Catholic Worker, later author of The Other Amercia, and after death of Norman Thomas, head of the US Socialist Party) into his favorite Village bar (name I can't remember at the moment; it will come back, but it was Irish working-class part of the clock, bohemian & radical at other hours). as soon as we entered, someone came up to me demanding, "Did you kill Maxie Bodenheim?"or "Are you the guy that killed Maxie Bodenheim?" Next time I was in the same premises was at least two years later but that time, as soon as I entered, someone shouted. "THE GUY WHO KILLED MAXIE BODENHEIM IS BACK!"a chant of whicechoed around the room once or twice and then died,

For the record, I did NOT kill Maxwell Bodenheim, and a far as I know never knew or even met him. I can not remember having known who Bodenheim even WAS.

May 02, 2010

Eisengeiste weighs in on the seal of the great state of Virginia

We think it's fine, and we would venture to say that George Wahington, Robert E. Lee, and other leading Virginians felt the same way, or they'd have changed it.

Some think not.

Eisengeiste thinks, in this particular case, that the old ways are best.

Didn't we just do that?

May is Zombie Awareness Month.

If laughing at this is wrong, I don't want to be right

Houston Police beat up Chinese diplomat.