Sunday, September 30, 2007

Birthday Blog

Birthday Blog
Well, another damn birthday is sneaking up on me. And there is so much to celebrate, isn’t there? I still have my knees, and most of my teeth, and THE WAR on PBS has a few more nights to go. The War in Iraq, unfortunately, has miles to go before it sleeps.

That Darn Iranian
Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, gave a ten minute introduction lambasting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before he’s even said anything. Among other things, he said, “Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.” He also threw in: “You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.”

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Bollinger praised himself and Columbia for showing they believed in freedom of speech by inviting the Iranian president, then continued his attack. He said it was ‘well documented’ that Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism, accused Iran of fighting a proxy war against the United States in Iraq and questioned why Iran has refused ‘to adhere to the international standards’ of disclosure for its nuclear program. ‘I doubt,’ Mr. Bollinger concluded, ‘that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions.’”

When it came Ahmadinejad’s turn to speak, he said, “In Iran, tradition requires when you invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students enough to allow them to make their own judgment, and don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given to come in with a series of complaints to provide vaccination to the students and faculty.”

Later, the event’s moderator, Dean John H. Coatsworth, asked him, “Do you or your government seek the destruction of the state of Israel?”

Ahmadinajad responded, “We love all people. We are friends of the Jews. There are many Jews living peacefully in Iran.”

Mr. Coatsworth didn’t let it go: “I think you can answer that question with a simple yes or no.”

New York Times: “Mr. Ahmadinejad was having none of it. ‘You ask the question and then you want the answer the way you want to hear it,’ he shot back. “

That’s about right. Not to hold the golf bag for the dude or anything, but where is it written that just because somebody asks a question, you have to answer it? Don’t answer that.

Moneypenny RIP
Lois Maxwell has died. She was 80. I had such a crush on her!

And don’t go near the water…
AP: “A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.”

Germany plagued by runaway rogue kangaroos?
Reuters: “Police in southern Germany said they had found ‘Skippi’ -- a kangaroo that had been reported missing from a petting zoo in Bad Wurzach. The 'roo had been hit by a car near Krumbach and killed…. But Skippi's owner insisted it couldn't have been Skippi, and refused to come to identify the body. … Several days later the owner was proved right: a very-much-alive Skippi was captured near Ravensburg and returned to the zoo.“

Betray us.
Conservatives were upset that made a stupid pun on General Petraeus’ name as “Betray us.” Don’t they have anything important to rail against? Just asking.

My favorite moment in the Petraeus/Crocker hearings was when Senator McCain asked Ryan Crocker about his confidence in the Iraqu government; Crocker responded: "My level of confidence is under control."

And that’s a good thing. We can’t have confidence levels running around loose, like German kangaroos.

Story of the month.
“A would-be shoplifter squirted her breast milk at a store detective when he tried to stop her stealing goods.
The woman exposed her breasts and fired away after being confronted at a Co-op store. The attack in Leicester is thought to be the latest in a trend in which thieves try to get their DNA on security officers so they can accuse them of sexual attacks if caught. Graham Collins, of security company Citywatch, said: ‘It started off with people picking their noses until they bleed and then accusing staff of assault.’”

Is this just a problem in Leicester, or do we have leaky thieves over here as well? Are they part of the growing kangaroo smuggling ring?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dada Blogblog

Home Grown Dada
So the Wee Bride and I came back from Wisconsin with some horrible (by that I mean irritating) virus. The inability to concentrate, coupled with pulsating sinus headaches, and rather moist coughs left us pretty much watching bad teevee on the couch, dozing, and reading Christian romance novels (her, by Grace Livingston Hill) or re-reading Nero Wolfe (me, by Rex Stout).

It was in this mode that a commercial appeared, for some upcoming doctor show or other, in which (near as I could tell in my diminished state of apprehension) physicians were having sex with each other in the Caribbean. How this is a basis for a series I don’t know. But the Wee Bride bestirred herself from her doze long enough to mutter “Dr. Hoo Ha’s Ding Dong.”

I surmised that that was the name of this series in her half-awake dream world. Since (as we all know) the Wee Bride’s dreams have at least an implicit effect on the world we live in, I would recommend watching for DR. HOO HA’S DING DONG this fall, Sundays at ten on ABC.

Dada on the Road
Just returned from Visalia, where Philosophy Talk (10 a.m. Tuesdays on KALW 91.7 FM, and found streaming at was taped live at the College of the Sequoias - topic, immigration. The taping went very well, and the final result can be heard on the air the week of November 11. I appeared (as Ian Shoales) with a brief piece about sovereignty and immigration. I was pretty tickled with it. I managed to go from the Peace of Westphalia (1648) to now in about two minutes. Thank you, Wikipedia! (I don't want to hear anything bad about Wikipedia, okay?)

Afterwards, we assembled at a local pub for drinks and food. At one point I stepped outside for a smoke (yes, I smoke; shut up). A group of young people walked by on the sidewalk. One of them said to me, pointing to the curb, “That’s a storm drain,” in a slightly disapproving manner.

Feeling feisty, I replied, “Do you think I’m going to blow it up?”

The speaker, who had already passed me by, turned and dashed to the curb. Pointing to a curbstone, he said (approximately), “Zho zho zho!” Then he dashed back to join his friends.

Well, I was flummoxed. I looked to where he had pointed. There was no drain. Just a plain old curb.

Zho zho zho? What was that all about? Suggestions welcome.

Sign Seen on Freeway
“Drive time is Pie Time.”

Headline in Visalia Paper
Drug Cops Find Kids in Vile Home

Why They Hate Us….
From an email, from Tango, some online magazine or other:
“Autumn’s nearly here, and pumpkins aren’t the only crop ripe for the pickin’—there’s a bounty of cute, single men in New York City who are ready for the harvest, too. Where can you find them? At Tango’s first-ever Man Harvest. This year’s full harvest moon (and man-fest) will occur on Wednesday, September 26th—an auspicious day to mingle and perhaps meet your match. According to Chinese legend, on this day the Man in the Moon was spotted at an inn, carrying a writing tablet. When questioned, he said he was recording the names of all the couples who were fated to marry and live happily ever after! Secure your spot now, and be sure to invite your single girlfriends, too. But there’s a twist: Each of us attending Man Harvest must have at least one ripe male specimen in tow—that is, a cute, straight, very eligible guy she wants to offer up to womankind. One is required, more are encouraged. And remember, on a harvest moon, you reap what you sow!”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but when you harvest something, don’t you eat it?

Back to Immigration…
Visalia is a rather conservative joint. (Hugh Hewitt posters were everywhere downtown, advertising his presence at some coming up right-to-life rally in Tulare County.) That being said, Visalia and environs are also teeming with “illegal immigrants,” or (as we used to call them) “migrant farm workers.” The new crackdown on “illegals” has caused much anxiety and fear among their number. How low-paid cotton pickers came to be criminals all of a sudden is a puzzlement to me.

But Ann Coulter, as always, is available to shed some light on the subject. I happened to pick up a copy of THE VALLEY CONSERVATIVE (it’s free!), which is a compendium of columns by folks like Ollie North (who many people think of as a hero, for some reason, instead of an ideology-driven idiot whose shenanigans could have brought down the Reagan presidency), and Michelle Malkin, and William F. Buckley (he seems awfully sane these days, doesn’t he?), and Ann Coulter.

One of her columns therein was titled, 1 DOWN, 11,999,999 TO GO. Her take on illegal immigrants seemed to be that they should be deported because they’re psychotic. She had a list of five illegal immigrants who had been charged or found guilty of sex crimes, hit-and-run, and assault….

She wrote, “For simplicity, I have limited my enumeration of illegal aliens I would like deported to those who were charged or convicted of heinous crimes last week. For illegal aliens charged with child molestation, I had to limit it to two days last week.”

So there were so many illegal immigrant child molesters in one week that she didn't have room to name them all? Okay, whatever.

Then she made a complete left turn (without signalling), to say, “Liberals are losing the demographic war. Christians have lots of children…; liberals abort children and encourage the gay lifestyle…. They can’t keep up.”

I admit freely that following the Ann Coulter logic makes my head hurt (even without the Wisconsin virus!), but I THINK she’s saying that liberals are in favor of illegal immigration, because they can’t or won’t have children themselves, and illegal immigrants breed like rabbits, producing conflicted (i.e. child-molested) fodder that can be induced to vote for Democrats when they come of age.

I dunno. Ann Coulter is obviously a moron and insane. Therefore all women are insane morons. Does that follow? I await input. Zho zho zho.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

so many blogs so little time

Entertainment News
Washington Post reviewed SHOOT EM UP: "It's just gunfights strung together, without a whisper of coherence or meaning." And? So?

3:10 To Yuma
This was one of my favorite westerns when I was a kid. It sounds like the new one is pretty much the same, only not in black and white, and with an inflated budget. Still… it is a western.

I Got This Link from James Wolcott’s Blog
Apparently, this Jeffrey Wells has a weekly column somewhere. James Mangold is the director of 3:10 TO YUMA. This is from Wells’ e-mail to Mangold.

“Jim, I'm just gonna be upfront with you, pardner, and tell ya right straight I can't get on the 3:10 to Yuma train and ride shotgun this time. … I am on my knees, Mr. Mangold, saying thank you, thank you and thank you again for persuading Vinessa Shaw to do her first flat-out, boob-baring nude scene. I was in heaven as Crowe drew her on his notepad. Please tell me there's somebody on the Yuma team who can slip me some stills of the shooting that day... please. I'm serious. I know you think like I do in this respect, so please ... as one good hombre to another ... you don't have to be the guy who passes along the stills. Just tell the still photographer or the editor or whomever caught her as she posed. I'm not a sleazebag either -- I don't pass along stills to the Mr. Skin crowd or my friends. This would be just for my, myself & I. At the very least it would be great to grab some frame captures from the film itself. Or some unused footage of Shaw and Crowe doing whatever. Out-takes, perhaps…. Since I'm mixed on your film it would be best for you and yours if I waited to say anything until just before it opens. I don't want to hurt anyone or anything.”

In other words, if I read between the lines correctly, if Mr. Mangold sends him nude photographs of an actress, Mr. Wells might give the movie a good review.

For some reason, I’m reminded of Richard Boone’s line in HOMBRE (another Elmore Leonard story!): "Mister, you've got some mighty hard bark on you coming down here like this."

Entertainment News
Cate Blanchett plays young Bob Dylan in the new Todd Haynes movie, a Dylan biopic, I’M NOT THERE. And yes, if you watch the clip on YouTube, that is David Cross playing Allen Ginsberg. So: this is DON’T LOOK BACK, with re-enactors? Still… it is a western. Oh, the movie also features Heath Ledger and Richard Gere as Dylan. Oh, it’s that kind of movie.

iPhone Prices Drop
The first buyers out of the gate now feel betrayed, because they paid two hundred bucks more than what buyers are going to pay now. But isn’t the cachet of being the first person on the block to own one worth the extra price? It doesn’t matter to me, of course. I’ll wait until iPhones show up at Goodwill. Five bucks seems a reasonable price to me. You?

MORE Entertainment News!
Vanessa Hudgens, star of the Disney hit HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL, was revealed to be the subject of a nude photograph. It’s on the Internet! Her representative said, in a statement: "It is a personal matter and it is unfortunate that this has become public." Disney, apparently, has forgiven her.

NYT: “IT’S payday for Janine Hawkins. Not in the real world, where she is a student at Nipissing University in Ontario, but in the online world of Second Life…. Ms. Hawkins, who in Second Life takes on the persona of Iris Ophelia, a beauty with flowing hair and flawless skin, keeps a list of things she wants to buy: the latest outfits from the virtual fashion mecca Last Call, a new hairstyle from a Japanese designer, slouchy boots. When she receives her monthly salary in Linden dollars, the currency of Second Life, she spends up to four hours shopping, clicking and buying. After a year and a half, she owns 31,540 items.”

What was it Karl Marx said about the fetishization of commodities? I don’t remember either. And I don't think he even DREAMED of virutal commodities.

NYT: “Across the country, shiny new history museums are pushing up like poppies on a battlefield, while the war horses struggle to scrape off their mold. Gone are shelves of crusty artifacts, yellowed text panels stuffed with dates and names and the ‘excitement’ of a stale soda cracker behind glass that some historical figure may have sampled. In their place are Hollywood-produced movies, evocative oral histories and special-effect extravaganzas so spectacular that visitors could be forgiven for thinking they had actually lived through that historical moment.”

There are so many creepy things about this paragraph, it’s hard to list them all. But I’ll give it a try.

Take the phrase, “shiny new history museums are pushing up like poppies on a battlefield,” please. This phrase is unfortunate in several ways. First of all, it’s inappropriately chirpy. Second, it doesn’t make any sense. Museums aren’t grown from seeds. Nor are poppies especially shiny. And what, exactly, is this battlefield?

Then there’s the rest of that sentence, “while the war horses struggle to scrape off their mold.” How do war horses scrape off mold? Since when does mold grow on war horses anyway? And what are war horses doing on a battlefield with shiny new history museum/poppies? If I were a war horse on a battlefield, if shiny new history museums starting pushing up, I’d gallop back to the stables, pronto.

Full disclosure, I LIKE musty museums with stuff under glass. I especially enjoy “yellowed text panels.” If there is a bit of mildew on the edges of the text panel, so much the better. And, anyway, what does this reporter have to replace the war horses with? “…Hollywood-produced movies, evocative oral histories and special-effect extravaganzas so spectacular that visitors could be forgiven for thinking they had actually lived through that historical moment.”

Again, this is awfully chirpy isn’t it? I mean, if you’re going to take amphetamines before going to a museum, I can see how looking at actual artifacts from the period might make you a little jumpy. But still, wouldn’t an amusement park be a little more suited for the aesthetic experience described here? Isn't the New York Times rewarding attention deficit disorder?

Speaking personally, I don’t know if I’d care for a “special-effect extravaganzas so spectacular that” I might be “forgiven” for mistaking the virtual experience for the historical. When I go to a museum to learn about a battle, I don’t want to be shot. Do you? Well then, you’re part of the problem.

One of the oddest things to me, as we wind down the bizarre spectacle that has been the Bush administration, is how the most significant protests against its policies have come not from liberals but from conservative ranks.

There was John Ashcroft, recovering from surgery, as Gonzales et al rushed to his side in the hospital to get him to sign off on some White House-sanctioned diminishing of liberty of another. I admit that I always viewed Ashcroft as a bit of a hidebound ideological fool, but his bestirring of himself to deny the White House whatever it was they were demanding, well – it kind of moved me. That John Ashcroft, of all people, has a line he will not cross (whatever that is), it gave me hope.

Jack Goldsmith’s new book is called THE TERROR PRESIDENCY. He was something or other in the Office of Legal Counsel, which was often asked to sign off on White House legal tactics, which tactics Goldsmith found increasingly more difficult to accept. He wound up rejecting several questionable findings (can’t tell you what they were – national security, you know), and then resigning to make sure that his findings were enforced. The logic here being that if his findings were overturned, in the wake of his resigning, it would look bad for the administration. He told the New York Times: “I’m not a civil libertarian, and what I did wasn’t driven by concerns about civil liberties per se. It was a disagreement about means, not ends, driven by a desire to make sure that the administration’s counterterrorism policies had a firm legal foundation.”

Museum of the Future
An audioanimatronic Ashcroft rises from his hospital bed to rebuke Gonzales et al in a stirring speech (voiced by Russell Crowe? I’m spitballing), redacted for public consumption. I love museums! I love history! Let’s have more of it. Preferably yellowed, musty, dusty, and mildewed. This new history just gives me a headache.

In More Other News…
President Bush hopes to make money on the lecture circuit when he leaves office. “Replenish the ol’ coffers” is how he put it to Robert Draper, in his new profile of the Bush Presidency.

There’s nothing wrong with this, of course. But, I must ask, is this what George Washington did?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Cheese Blog

On Wisconsin!
Just returned from Wisconsin, visiting the in-laws, and celebrating little niece Laurel’s first birthday. She is the first granddaughter on either side of the (alarming large) families, so there were many relatives at the gathering, both doting and non.

Got to spend half a day picking tomatoes, which was great. Got to eat a few along the way. Imagine: tomatoes that actually taste like something!

Came home with a chigger bite, several mosquito bites and a cold. The Wee Bride also had a cold (she transmitted it to me, I believe, the fiend), mosquito bites, and a yellow jacket sting.

All in all, a fine few days off!

Larry Craig
Being semi-out of the loop newswise, I missed the first flare of media hysteria over Larry Craig’s alleged indiscretion. I have since caught up on the pundits’ second thoughts, that perhaps Senator Craig’s peers were a bit over-eager in asking him to resign, and that perhaps there’s an element of homophobia in the coverage of him, as well. I dunno. Call me narrow-minded, but I don’t think elected officials should be trolling for sex in public rest rooms, or even making ambiguous gestures in public rest rooms. I want my elected officials to march into a public rest room with dignity, do his or her business, wash his or her hands, check hair briefly in the mirror, and leave. Anything less, or more, is grounds for impeachment.

Ann Coulter weighs in.
“If the charges against Craig are true -- and that is certainly in doubt -- he's a sinner (and barely that, according to The Idaho Statesman), but he is among the least hypocritical people in America.”

And who among us does not look to the Idaho Statesman for occasions of sin?

China denied that it was behind an attempted hack of the Pentagon’s computer network. So: that settles that!

Web news
AP: “The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic.”

Gladly we’ll pay for the fine services that the Internet provides!

New study reveals…
…that two year old humans have more sophisticated learning skills that apes. Thank you, science!

He was probably on the pot at the time.
A Northeastern University freshman leaned out his dorm window on Sunday and loudly announced to a dorm across the way that he and his roommate had pot for sale. Busted soon after? That’s right.

Feel the Thompson fever!
Fred Thompson announced his candidacy for President on the TONIGHT SHOW.

Story of the week
AP: “Wayne Watson loved microwave popcorn so much he would eat at least two bags each night, breathing in the steam from the just-opened package, until doctors told him it may have made him sick. Watson, whose case of ‘popcorn lung’ is the sole reported case of the disease in a non-factory worker, said he is convinced his heavy consumption of popcorn caused his health problems.”

Which is why I always eat my popcorn while wearing a gas mask.

Weekly World News. You shall be missed at the checkout line.

Bin Laden
Apparently, he is about to debut a brand new video as part of a commemoration of 9/11. Break out the popcorn. And the gas masks.

Why not Minot?
Last week an Air Force crew at Minot, North Dakota, mistakenly loaded six nuclear-armed cruise missiles beneath the wings of a B-52 bomber, which then flew to an air base in Louisiana.

Well, everybody makes mistakes. As it happens, I grew up not far from Minot, in a town called Williston. I had occasion to see an orthodontist in Minot at one point. As a kind of sugar to leaven that unpleasantness, my parents allowed me to appear on the Marshall Bill Show (you know, cartoons from 3 to 4 weekdays, hosted by the local weatherman, dressed like a cowboy). I won an ant farm, for reasons I no longer recall. The ant farm arrived at my home a few weeks later, but all the ants were dead.

All part of the wonder and glory that is Minot.