Tsunami: Two Items

Clearly, there is a horrific toll from these tsunamis - it's certain that there will end up being well over 100,000 people killed by these events and their aftermath. And I have to admit I've found it difficult to look away, as the death toll has risen and even more disturbing images emerge.

But I can't take off my analytical lens, either - whatever that may be - and as such, there are two items today that caught my eye more than others. The first is that, apparently, animals weren't killed by the tsunamis:
Wildlife officials in Sri Lanka expressed surprise Wednesday that they found no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the tsunamis - indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground.

An Associated Press photographer who flew over Sri Lanka's Yala National Park in an air force helicopter saw abundant wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, deer, and not a single animal corpse.

Floodwaters from Sunday's tsunami swept into the park, uprooting trees and toppling cars onto their roofs - one red car even ended up on top of a huge tree - but the animals apparently were not harmed and may have sought out high ground, said Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, whose Jetwing Eco Holidays ran a hotel in the park.

This doesn't really surprise me, but it is pretty fascinating, and definitely not something I'd thought about. This doesn't surprise me, because of course animals knew it was coming - these sorts of things happen pretty often, in the life of a species (i.e., millions of years), and so you learn when they're coming. It becomes engrained in the collective memory/intuition/knowledge of a species. We're animals, too, and I think that the not knowing of these sorts of things is one of the prices of civilization and modernity. Most people ran when the waves reached shore - but a lot of people came back after the initial tide, and were swallowed up by aftershocks and subsequent waves. That's awful, but you can't chalk it up simply to people being stupid - it's just a fact that most people are so isolated from the natural world that they really don't know what's going on.

The second thing that I noticed was George W. Bush's reaction to the tsunamis: he was a prick. This was really an opportunity for him to do well, easily, and he -
-responded indignantly to wealthy nations' being termed "stingy" by a UN official, calling the official "misguided and ill-informed" and going on to cite the United States' $2 billion in foreign food aid in 2004. Seriously, what a jerk - the United States at first ponies up $15 million for emergency aid (that's $10 million less than Alex Rodriguez' annual salary - he plays baseball. 100,000 people are dead), then raises it to $35 million.
-uses the opportunity to attack Bill Clinton. In the WaPo, via Josh Marshall:

Earlier yesterday, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said the president was confident he could monitor events effectively without returning to Washington or making public statements in Crawford, where he spent part of the day clearing brush and bicycling. Explaining the about-face, a White House official said: "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.' " Many Bush aides believe Clinton was too quick to head for the cameras to hold forth on tragedies with his trademark empathy. "Actions speak louder than words," a top Bush aide said, describing the president's view of his appropriate role.
These guys are just...so unbelievable. There's an opportunity to actually be human, and they first do nothing (Bush basically needed to be dragged to the podium for a statement today - he had said nothing until the time), and then approach it the only way they seem to be able to do anything: destroy the opposition. The opposition in this case being anyone who, I dunno, doesn't use this as an opportunity to point out how, in the light of tsunamis, we really need private accounts for Social Security.

I really can't express how disgusted I am right now - there's a gut-wrenching, act-of-God, awful tragedy that's happened and is still happening, and these motherfuckers just can't help but keep being motherfuckers.


Signs of a Global Community, Part MCXIV

Doing research for work just now, I went to the website for TV Azteca, one of Mexico's leading stations. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect - and then, in the lower right-hand corner, is an item, below a come-hither picture of a vaguely-familiar celebrity (it could've been someone else, but wasn't): Hilary o Lindsay ¿A quién prefieres?
This might be the end of the American century, power-wise - but we're still the kings of disposable celebrity trash-culture, baby!


Wonkfest in Progress - Proceed with Caution

In an excellent new article updating their hypothesis from "The Emerging Democratic Majority" in light of the 2004 elections [ed. note - I don't think they go far enough; I think that continued GOP rule could undermine their thesis by destroying the United States' professional class, but more on that some other time], John Judis and Ruy Teixeira have a particularly revealing passage:
Kerry’s failure as a candidate was evident to us in two visits we made to Martinsburg, a small, blue-collar town in West Virginia. We first visited Martinsburg in July, before the Democratic and Republican conventions. At that time, knocking on doors in a working-class neighborhood, we discovered considerable dissatisfaction with Bush over the war in Iraq and the economy. Few people knew Kerry, but they said they were considering voting for him. Visiting Martinsburg two days before the election, we discovered that most of these voters had decided to support Bush. They often mentioned gay marriage and “family values” -- the area is dotted with churches -- and feeling “safer” under Bush. They also thought Kerry was too “liberal,” a comment about his “values” rather than his program.

Most of these voters were registered Democrats who had voted for Clinton in ’92 and ’96. And many of them told us, and Democratic canvassers, that they would have voted for Clinton this time, too. Typically, one voter, who faulted Kerry for being “too liberal” on “family values,” said Clinton had been “dishonest,” but that he was “an excellent president.” When these voters talked about the economy, they were clearly closer to the Democrats than Republicans, but they expressed confusion at what Kerry wanted to do. One older voter said, “Of all the countries today, we are the only one that doesn’t have any sort of health-care plan.” That sounded like a line from a Democratic ad, but the voter added that he couldn’t figure out how Kerry’s health plan worked. [emphasis mine]

Oh, jeez..."sounded like a line from a Democratic ad"? That was Howard Dean's stump speech, and the guy remembered it, and it mattered to him, and he voted for Bush!"Electability" my foot.

Teixeira always puzzled me with his enthusiasm for Wesley Clark, and this analysis is just baffling in its non-mention of Dean - not just here, when it would be totally obvious, but anywhere in the article. MoveOn is discussed at length, but not the first candidate to successfully harness the Internet. Weird.

Worth a read, though, as there's a lot of stuff to think about in there.

Just Because it's a Natural Disaster...

...doesn't mean the AP can't write stupid headlines. Actual headline for an article about the quake: "Quake Sparked by Slipping Geologic Plates."
Really? An earthquake - caused by slipping geologic plates? Fasicinating, AP, and very informative (though the article itself is not bad - a better one, though, is the always-excellent Joel Achenbach's article in the WaPo).
Seriously, though, this is just silliness - phrasing the headline in typical "breaking-news" fashion, as if they just found out that this earthquake, of all earthquakes, was caused by slipping geologic plates.


Shit goes Bad

In case you haven't heard: huge (8.9) earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Go here to find out more, as CNN is more concerned with holiday shopping numbers.


All Class

King Kaufman re-confirms part of why he's the best sportswriter around:
I'd like to wish readers a happy and safe holiday season and thank you all for reading and for writing. Thanks for slapping my back when you think I've got it right and getting in my face when you think I've got it wrong. Thanks for catching every stray comma and clumsy misstatement within seconds of them hitting the Net. You're the best editors in town.

Every writer should have a readership as loyal, enthusiastic, smart and tough as you all. See you next year.

This is almost too excellent for words, both for him and for his readers. There are plenty of talented writers out there - it's when a writer gets a readership that they can talk to that things get interesting.



Just stumbled on the comix sites of two former Oberlin Review comic artists, Josh Shalek and Alec Longstreth. Both have always been good, and look like they're continuing to improve as comic-ers - Josh's site has daily updated strips of his stuff that's published in the Colorado Daily, and Alec has several comix he's put together for sale. Check them out - indy comix you know!



King Kaufman has the only sports year-end roundup you need to read, here.

JKD is "

Via ABJ, a wonderful site, Googlism. I'd say it gets me pretty right:
jkd is the martial art created by bruce lee
jkd is based on three main principles
jkd is a relatively new form of self defense developed by bob chapman and greg richter
jkd is to end the fight as soon as possible with efficient effective techniques
jkd is your answer
jkd is truly about
jkd is unbound; jkd is freedom
jkd is the martial art founded by bruce lee
jkd is supposed to be
jkd is a martial art which liberates us from the classical bondage
jkd is an iceberg
jkd is the only non classical gung fu system in existence today
jkd is difficult for many to grasp if it is taught in a manner shrouded in mystery
jkd is self discovery
jkd is what we call jun fan boxing
jkd is wing chun gung fu
jkd is not an organization or an institution to which one can belong
jkd is nameless
jkd is or should be
jkd is technically not a martial art
jkd is cross training to defend oneself against skilled opponents
jkd is separate from the others because the training is primarily based on empty hand self
jkd is the most complete fighting system
jkd is a well
jkd is a leading full service new media uk agency providing communications technology solutions
jkd is referred to as "concepts"
jkd is that fighters prepare to battle opponents trained in absolutely any martial arts system; therefore
jkd is an award winning uk
jkd is primarily a stand up art
jkd is about "best options" in worst case scenarios
jkd is a direct intuition of this unity
jkd is a method that bruce taught to all of his students including dan
jkd is much more efficient in this situation
jkd is a collection of many martial arts and has been added to and ruined
jkd is not confined by any kind of martial arts
jkd is not like other martial arts
jkd is superior to another
jkd is not simply a matter of joining this organization or that one
jkd is a hybrid art neither asian or western
jkd is by far the best concept of fighting ive trained in view only responses to this comment
jkd is to be able to be proficient in all ranges
jkd is short for jeet kune do
jkd is a non
jkd is 1964
jkd is paul vunak teaches jkd to navy seals as a part of their hand
jkd is supposed to be about
jkd is continually evolving and adapting
jkd is correct
jkd is all about
jkd is"
jkd is used as a mirror for self
jkd is like putting together a large puzzle
jkd is not a sport
jkd is outside of all particular structures and distinct styles
jkd is taught to the elite us navy seals
jkd is to free oneself from the ego
jkd is
jkd is an interpretative art
jkd is one of the only successful formula's in the ring besides bjj
jkd is the science of streetfighting and teaches the student to develop the necessary attributes required to survive a violent encounter
jkd is an art for all ages and all people because the student is urged to adopt the training methods that will help them improve
jkd is that the student learns to understand and respect other cultures
jkd is like dna
jkd is highly regarded as one of the most effective modern self defense concepts
jkd is not to master certain techniques
jkd is a process not a product
jkd is like kickboxing in some ways and yet much more
jkd is an art for all ages and all people because the student is urged to adopt the training methods that will help them
jkd is your own personal expression of the martial arts
jkd is about being a functional fighter in all the ranges
jkd is headed by sifu/ guro christopher clarke
jkd is a good martial art and has some science but is seriously lacking when it comes to total fighting and consistent principles which work regardless of the
jkd is not about the product
jkd is french fencing
jkd is direct coupled and designed for material handling from 1
jkd is based on that theory; that's old news that has been around for many



I spent much of this afternoon and evening looking for a product that, apparently, does not exist. This has happened before. This time, it's a vinyl roll-up Scrabble board - I swear I've in fact used one of these, but that seems very unlikely - they were never commercially produced, and near as I can tell, there was ONE guy who custom-made them - and his website no longer works (my guess is that Hasbro shut his ass down). So, if any of y'all could help and actually find me one of these shits, I would love you forever; as is, I'm perilously close to getting the travel folio Scrabble (though my made-up roll-up vinyl board would be much better).


In the interests of providing content, and of hopping on the bandwagon of the rest of the blogosphere (not to mention pretty much every form of media, everywhere), this will be the week of Top 5s at Mingle Until Departure.

Today, the most cliched of all Top 5s - top 5 records of 2004.

5) Cake, Pressure Chief

Cake continues to frustrate the fuck out of me by -

-only making albums every 3-4 years
-making albums that are 10 songs and 35 minutes long, and
-never coming to D.C.

These are frustrating things because they all mean I don't get nearly as much Cake as I'd like.

4) U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

I know - a shock that this makes it onto the list, but it really is an amazing effort. It's an album in the style of All That You Can't Leave Behind, in that it's a series of excellent, excellent (some absolutely transcendent) songs of a common sound and theme - as opposed to the sometimes more mood-piece oriented albums of earlier in their career (though Pop also qualifies on these lines).

I'm not making a positive or negative judgement on that - it just is. And no, I'm not going to rank this album in the context of others. I will say that "City of Blinding Lights" is already in my Top 10 U2 Songs, which is saying something.

3) Drive-By Truckers, The Dirty South

The only bad thing about this album is that it is so good that it will inevitably result in more idiots liking DBT, like the fucking drunk-ass underage fratboys (who played it real, real dumb when caught drinking) who were standing next to me at the show they played back in September.

That's about it, in terms of badness. Having listened to the album in the multiple, multiple dozens of times range, I can say that there's only one song on the whole thing that even thinks about getting a little worn - and that's only if it's the third time you've listened to the album that day.

It's a much darker album, top to bottom, than Decoration Day - which is saying something, as Decoration Day wasn't exactly puppies and happiness (incest and murder, yes). But it's a powerful album, and rocks hard, hard, hard.

2) Steve Earle, The Revolution Starts...Now

One of the best political albums, ever. Every song a gem, and it's over way too soon; "Home to Houston," "Rich Man's War," and "The Gringo's Tale" are among the best pop songs about war ever written.

I can't really say enough about this album - just, buy it.

1) Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

A lot of my favorite bands came out with new albums this year - many of them very good. Nothing touches this album. I dunno who slipped the happy pills in Isaac Brock's Maypo, but whoever that is, I owe them a debt of gratitude.

It helps any album to have the year's absolutely best song on it ("Float On"), but the remarkable thing about Good News... is that "Float On" becomes the centrepiece not of the whole album but merely a peak of joyousness in a three-song suite. The whole effort is like that - it is all going in the same direction, but takes sideroads and meanderings to get there, several-song suites and changes in approach while staying within the tone of the album.

This album manages to maintain the basic Modest Mouse-ness of previous efforts, without quite so much screaming; the whole effort is a realization that, as was said of a previous Eels album, "Hope, at least, is not an impossibility."



Oh, YES!

Etymology and ESPN

Okay, so I was thinkin' - why is Chris Berman called "Boomer"? Because of his voice, right? Big voice, "Boomer," makes sense, right? Well what if that wasn't the reason - what if it was something a lot funnier - say, something, um, sexual? 'Cause that would be funny. But we don't really know.

Still, something to think about - think about how people you know get their nicknames, then think about public figures with nicknames - most likely, it was something they did when they were drunk.

Also, there was just this great commercial for CNN - a guy is talking on the phone, and Anderson Cooper is sitting in his office telling him the news, while he carries on this conversation with his wife/girlfriend/whatever. Anderson keeps getting up to leave, the guy keeps pantomiming for him to stay. He signs off by saying "I love you," and Anderson gets up to leave - the guy says, "Come back, Anderson - I wasn't saying 'I love you' to you". This commercial gets funnier the more you know about Anderson Cooper.


While we dither about on the American left talking about how to say the things we really want to say in order that we most effectively trick people into voting for us, over there in Britain there's an actual good example of what "framing" is all about. From the House of Lords, no less (current occupants of the Senate are making that much-mocked institution look...hmmm, no so bad?). These are one Lord Hoffman's remarks (via William Gibson's blog) on the defeat of a measure in Britain which would have given the guvmint the right to indefinitely detain terror suspects without evidence (sound familiar?):
This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community….

Such a power in any form is not compatible with our constitution. The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.

Yeah, I can think of exactly one person in this country who could formulate - much less get away with - saying something even approaching this (see Byrd, Robert).


Boswell Loses It

Just, WOW:
"In the coming days, Washington and its infuriating, disingenuous D.C. Council must make a simple, straightforward decision. Do they want to accept the deal for a new stadium that was struck between the sport and Mayor Anthony A. Williams? Or don't they?

That's it. Yes. Or no.

Either answer is acceptable. City councils decide such things. It's their job.

What is utterly and absolutely not acceptable is the current behavior of Council Chairman Linda Cropp and nine of her colleagues who want to bait-and-switch baseball into a radically altered deal than the one which Williams negotiated exhaustively -- as his city's official representative -- over a two-year period. "

AYFKM? Setting up a choice as a valid one...and then condemning one of the choices as unacceptable. "It's their job...to vote for a publicly-funded stadium." Boz...
"When you make a deal with baseball, they honor it. If you break a deal with them, you're out. Which is as it should be. But then baseball is big league, unlike the D.C. Council, which is bush league and just damaged the city's reputation coast-to-coast."
Whoa, WHOA! Do you even read your own fucking columns? I seem to remember some pretty premium-blend rants against the disingenuousness of the owners in, well, every labour negotiation ever.

Also - "damaged the city's reputation coast-to-coast"? Boz, I don't think you're quite familiar with just how little regard D.C. and pretty much every one of its institutions is held already.
"What if Selig had changed his demands at least a half-dozen times, always upping the ante and using brinksmanship to get his way?

What if Selig had canceled votes within baseball ownership or delayed approvals to try to muscle Washington into concessions? And what if, most outrageously, he had signed off on the deal in private, then reneged?"
Yeah, that sounds pretty much exactly like a typical negotiation with the players' union.
"The Council claims to be fighting for the poor of the District when it is far more likely that it is in the process of killing a development deal, with baseball as its centerpiece, that would bring significant benefits, not costs, to those very constituents."
This, after a column a couple of weeks ago which said in very qualified terms that the POTENTIAL but not certain development benefits were good enough to "take a chance" on baseball:
"Does Washington want to take the risk of building a ballpark that will cost $530 million to $600 million, and may have overruns beyond that, just so it can bring major league baseball back to the nation's capital after 33 years?

These are serious questions without easy answers but with powerful long-term implications for the city. Washington has a once-in-a-lifetime chance. But it is not an opportunity that should be grabbed at any cost."

Hmmm..."...not an opportunity that should be grabbed at any cost." Much less certain this one month ago, eh? A little more:
"For the last 12 years, ever since Camden Yards was opened in Baltimore, expensive ballparks have been built all over America. The evidence is in. No matter how well you plan, no matter how good your civic intentions, it's risky business."
"Risky business" sounds a lot less certain than "...significant benefits, not costs...", doesn't it?
"Cropp and others on the council, like Adrian Fenty and David Catania, realize [there will be no real raising of public money for the stadium]. They just don't want the public to figure it out. They prefer to round up cheap votes for themselves by bashing baseball rather than bringing a team back to Washington, bringing urban development to a blighted area and adding millions of dollars to the city's tax base."
Oh, Tom, now you're just LYING. Fenty has always been against the stadium being publicly funded. And "cheap votes"? Boy, you really don't seem to pay much attention to D.C. politics. Jeez, losing respect by the graf...
"The Council should be reminded that baseball doesn't care how Washington funds its stadium."
Um, yes, they DO, actually. There would never have been a deal - ever - if the stadium wasn't publicly-funded, because the greedy-ass owners don't want to set a precedent of teams actually paying for their own stadiums - the free-house-for-a-billionaire paradigm is nice work, if
you can get it.

This is really just an amazing piece of hackery, Boswell totally abandoning his principles and previous view of the owners in the pursuit of, well, a team that he can get to on the Metro.

For shame, Tom, for shame.

Wilbon, on the other hand, gets it just about right:
"It's a great idea that private money finance at least 50 percent of the cost of a new riverfront baseball stadium. It's a smart idea to protect the District from millions of dollars in penalties resulting from some phony stadium construction deadline that is unlikely to be met. It's common sense and good business to challenge a bunch of fat-cat Major League Baseball owners on every clause and every dollar asked for when spending $500 million or more on anything non-essential that includes a playpen for multi-millionaires.

But the time to do that was before agreeing to a deal. The time to say no was before, not after. The time for Linda Cropp to ask for amendments and show the city how tough (not to mention ambitious) she is was before Mayor Anthony A. Williams and other city officials agreed to do it baseball's way. If you're that tough, that smart and so creative as to come up with these measures now, why wasn't that done two months ago? Why not 10 months ago?"

Indeed. He focuses - rightly so - on Cropp and Williams the entire column, including a really good description of Williams:

"While Williams clearly wants this stadium and the urban renewal that would flow from it to be a huge part of his legacy as mayor, he's not a win-at-any-cost, backroom-dealing, vote-swapping cat. Maybe that's what's needed in this case, somebody who is willing to put blood on the floor to get a deal, and Williams doesn't strike me as that vicious. I like and respect the mayor and his conciliatory, consensus-building demeanor. But maybe he doesn't have the stomach for this kind of fight."

Yup. Yup, yup, yup. Now, I don't like Williams, but Wilbon gets him pretty much right there. Read both columns, but listen to what Wilbon says - he's pretty much on target, and his indictment of Cropp is well-warranted - why is it that she waited so long? Hasn't she been paying attention to the last 30 years of baseball really, really, really not wanting to put a team here? Just asking.

UPDATE: King Kaufman, with the benefit of outside perspective and his razor-sharp analysis, REALLY hits the nail on the head with regard to the whole situation:
"Last month Washington voters booted out three councilmembers who were in favor of a taxpayer-financed stadium deal and voted in three candidates who opposed it, including former Mayor Marion Barry. As usual the people, who have to actually pay the freight on ballpark boondoggles, were squarely against the deal struck by the politicians, who get credit for securing the sparkling new toys and are long gone by the time the bills come due."
He also makes a point that I haven't heard yet, but that I think isn't quite on target:
[Major League Baseball spokesman Bob] DuPuy wasn't just cutting off his nose to spite his face when he suspended promotional operations for the Nationals, who had already sold a reported 18,000 season tickets and $100,000 worth of merchandise in just a few weeks. DuPuy said refunds would be offered to ticket-buyers. If a sweetheart deal can't be reached elsewhere, it would make the contraction argument a lot stronger to have the Nationals spend the next two years playing at RFK in front of Montreal-esque crowds in the mid-four figures.

IF there is a team here, they will have very good attendence. Period. Wilbon makes a similar point in his article. The, Kaufman hits on what is becoming a more-likely - and, I would add, not-entirely-undesirable - solution:

But we can't forget about contraction. Weirdly under-discussed when the last collective bargaining agreement was reached in 2002 was the fact that the players union gave up the right to contest if baseball decided to eliminate two teams in 2006.

In the long run, the 29 owners would probably make more money from contraction than they would from selling the Where Nextpos. The other contracted owner could cash out on what would likely be friendly teams. The remaining 28 would save money on revenue sharing to those two weak teams, and would divide those teams' share of revenues from broadcast contracts, merchandising, etc.


If I thought Major League Baseball were capable of devilishly brilliant strategic moves, I'd suspect that the late monkey wrench thrown into the D.C. deal had been devised by Selig and company. Instead I think it's going to work out for them one way or another as a sort of happy accident."

As long as the other team that's contracted is the Devil Rays, I am totally fine with this. They are a real embarrassment - and the Expos, though a once-proud franchise, are the same these days.


Tony Williams is a Crybaby

Quoth Tony (via ESPN):

WASHINGTON -- The deal to bring Major League Baseball back to Washington, D.C, was described by Mayor Anthony Williams as close to dead on Wednesday after the City Council changed the plan to require private financing.

"I believe the deal is broken. The dream is now close to dying," he said. "We're in great jeopardy here, and I think I'm being optimistic."

Shut yer pie hole, Tony. Quit crying and - if you really believe that baseball is good for D.C. - do something about it. Or not - in the words of someone I know in D.C. politics, "the mayor couldn't sell a bottle of whiskey to an alcoholic."

A previous WaPo story on the whole baseball affair, a few weeks back, said:

"At his press conference, the mayor said he is upset because it appears that the city does not want to honor the commitment he made to Major League Baseball."
Really, this guy is just pathetic - the mayor of self-pity. So long as milquetoast incompetents like him are running the scene, D.C. will never get taken seriously in its bid for Congressional representation (and this is said by someone who is entirely in support of full representation).

Then again, as long as the GOP is in power, residents of the District of Columbia have a lot bigger things to be worried about than having a voice in Congress.

Next Up

Sorry to go back into political nerd world, but this just came to me: next up after they end Social Security (or at least attempt to - that is what they're doing, make no mistake), the GOP is going to go after labor unions. Now, they've been going after labor unions for a while, but this next phase will be different. How?

They are going to challenge the ability of labor unions to even exist.

The way this will happen will be as follows: for the next several years, the economy is going to continue to sputter along (there's a growing chance that everything will just go to shit - this might help this particular effort, but it also would introduce certain elements of uncertainty that I can't quite account for yet), and there will be growing dissatisfaction with the economic situation. Then, sometime in 2005 or 2006 (maybe '06, after the midterms), the GOP will come up with the solution, the thing that is holding the economy back - unions.

Of course, this is ludicrous, as nearly all high-wage industries with heavy union saturation have been more or less eviscerated in this country (e.g., steel, heavy manufacturing). The remaining sectors of the workforce that are largely or partially unionized - teachers and other public-sector workers, hotel, hospital and service workers - are, for the most part, still underpaid relative to their value to society and/or their industry.

Breaking the back of America's remaining unions would do nothing but increase the debt level of middle class families who are already having trouble making it.

But no matter! The presence of unions - any unions, anywhere, in this country - keeps business from squeezing every last cent of short-term profit from the balance sheets (long-term, unions are essential for an advanced capitalist economy), which as far as the Bush administration is concerned is pretty much pure evil.

I didn't develop this idea quite as much as I could, but I think you get the point.


Full of Snark, Ready to Unload

Okay, so craigslist can be really great. And different cities have different characters, which is great. But it can also be just gloriously, gloriously inane; just monumentally, you-get-an-award, stupid. Though stupid isn't quite the word...well, you'll see. Without further ado, here's,

"Have a funny story from the grocery store?"

Recently it occurred to me that if there's one thing most folks have in common, it's that they have to go to the grocery store...
Pretty auspicious start here - really demonstrating a powerful insight into the human experience. This occurred recently - the epiphany that people eat?

...and USUALLY at some point or another, something funny/crazy/embarassing has happened at some point in your "grocery store career".
Ah yes, the wonderful literary tactic of "not having any real precision over language and so just writing whatever/you want/with slashes/to convey/everything/and yet/nothing." Coupled with the ol' "extraneous use of quotation marks," this makes for a pretty high cringe-factor in the first sentence/run-on series of jumbled thoughts.

Thus I'm looking to put together a book of "Tales From the Grocery Store". All I can offer as of now is the possibility of having something you've experienced/written being in a book for all to see.
Translation: I am an opportunist, but a lazy and unclever one. More intelligent literary scammers might blather on about "partnerships" or how they're "accepting submissions," making the opportunity sound coveted for some made-up literary merit they're trying to confer to the project. Our Dear Writer here, however, doesn't even go that far - you get the privilege of (presumably) making this person rich, and gosh won't it be real neat to be in a book?!?! Sadly (for DearWriter at least), the publishing industry is not nearly so opaque as, presumably, craigslist readers are (a poor supposition to begin with), and Dear Writer, in the improbable event of actually following through this project to completion (or, indeed, initiation), will get fleeced for their....hmmm, not hard work, ah yes, "lazy scamming."

So please send me any "Tales From the Grcery Store" that you think I as well as others would enjoy.

As an example, here's one of mine...

“One evening a couple years ago in Falls Church, VA, I found myself at a grocery store carrying around a gallon of milk. I had hit that point where I was already carrying too much but I refused to cave in and go pick up a basket. So, rather than set it down on the floor and risk dropping other items, I elected to set it down on one of the eye level shelves as I searched for some salad dressing. Evidently I didn't set it down correctly, because it fell to the floor and splattered everywhere. When I looked around to see if anyone saw, only one person did. It was Popeye Jones the former Washington Wizard. He gave me the nod of approval, so I causally walked away, picked up a new gallon of milk, and quickly left the scene. I did give a chuckle and a wink to Mr. Jones as I heard "Clean-up on Aisle 4" over the intercom as I strolled on out of the store.”
Not, in and of itself, an unintersting incident - combining admission of one's own foibles, random and unexpected glimpses of celebrity and also of the humanity of said celebrity, as well as the basic criminality in us all - however, it is so pitifully (as in the original meaning of the word - inducing pity) rendered as to make one want to e-mail this poor sap and plead with them not to waste theirs or anyone else's time on this certainly doomed endeavor.

Now, I've got some pretty interesting stories from my own "grocery store career", and those of others - though given that example, I doubt Dear Writer would "enjoy" them. Be horrified, yes; enjoy, probably not.

The thing that galls me most about this post is the pitiful (as I said before - original meaning) grasping for whatever it is that the poster thinks being an Author is. Does she (this is a woman - I'm not being sexist here, but the signifiers are all over) think that Authors actually make a lot of money? Are famous? What does fame connote for her, in that case? More money? Attention? Does being an Author mean that you're smart?

What's going on here is an almost perfect manifestation of the psychosis induced by contemporary American culture and society. A post on a cool virtual community phenomenon - craigslist - confers the poster coolness. A post about a book confers the poster intellectual credibility, and an understanding that they will soon Make it Big with this great idea. A mention in the post of a human intimacy with a celebrity - a celebrity whom, from what I can tell, is out of the league - confers the imprimatur of celebrity on the poster.

All in all, it amounts to an awful, anguished, lonely cry of "Pay attention to me! I matter!"; which is both true and not true. It's not true in that, in the ways that this poster is currently thinking - money, fame, coolness, genius - this poster will not matter to American society or culture (which are, of course, vapid beyond belief, have the attention spans of fruit flies and do nothing but obstruct humans in a search for greater meaning). But in the larger sense, this person does matter, can matter, as much and as dearly as anyone else.

There is a wonderful story and animated film, "The Man who Planted Trees," by Jean Giono, about a man who, well, plants trees. That's it - for his entire life, he plants trees in Provence, every day, dawn 'til dusk. The closing lines:
When I consider that a single man, relying only on his own simple physical and moral resources, was able to transform a desert into this land of Canaan, I am convinced that despite everything, the human condition is truly admirable. But when I take into account the constancy, the greatness of soul, and the selfless dedication that was needed to bring about this transformation, I am filled with an immense respect for this old, uncultured peasant who knew how to bring about a work worthy of God.
Look - people matter. Just because you don't have your name in 72 pt. sans serif font don't mean there isn't a reason for living. Okay? Good.

this is in or around Anywhere
it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests


I've always wondered - is this number an auto-generated unique ID tag for this post, or what?

Really Great

Really weird, but really great:

Animation was the format of choice for children's television in the 1960s, a decade in which children's programming became almost entirely animated. Growing up in that period, I tended to take for granted the distortions and strange bodies of these entities.

I decided to take a select few of these popular characters and render their skeletal systems as I imagine they might resemble if one truly had eye sockets half the size of its head, or fingerless-hands, or feet comprising 60% of its body mass.

My personal favorite is the Schmoo, where he includes vestigial arms not visible in the outward appearance of the Schmoo - because, presumably, Schmoos had to have evolved from something, and that something probably had arms (or legs, or something).


I am a huge nerd, so I don't even know why I bother writing this, but - why don't other newspapers bother having science coverage that even approaches the level of inquisitiveness, informativeness and entertainment of the NYT's? Huh? See -

When commercial beer making started in the 19th century in Europe, brewmasters came across a problem similar to those experienced by the Andean brewers, that the beer spoiled easily. Yet there were places that were exceptions. Burton-on-Trent in England was one, a small town that had more than 30 breweries, producing a style of beer called pale ale or English bitter.

"Let's not forget at this time beer was not pasteurized," Dr. Maltman said. "Burton beer, somehow, did travel well. The supposition was that it was the water, but it was some decades before it was demonstrated what was going on."

Burton-on-Trent sits on sandstone rich in minerals like gypsum from water that had percolated through the rocks long ago. The waters had a pH of 5 to 5.5, ideal for extracting sugars from malted barley steeped in warm water, an important step known as mashing.

"This is why the Burton waters were so good for brewing," Dr. Maltman said. "It turned out they had a very high mineral content, but just in the right balance to get the right acidity for good leeching, good mashing. The balance of fermentable sugars has everything to do with the flavors and the kind of beer that results. The mashing stage is crucial."

The water was also rich in sulfates, which acted as a preservative, allowing the beer to be shipped to distant locations, even India - the Burton beers were called India pale ales, or I.P.A. for short. "The I.P.A. style came about because of the geology on which Burton was sited," Dr. Maltman said.

Today, any brewer anywhere can produce India pale ales by adding minerals to - or "burtonizing" - the water to match what burbles in Burton-on-Trent naturally.

This is freakin' awesome! Way to go, journalism! I'm really not kidding - this actually taught me things I didn't know - and about beer!


I am sick, but was more sick yesterday, specifically yesterday afternoon and evening. I can feel I am getting better; the heat in my body is directed, my body is becoming a righteous machine for the destruction of disease.


Oh, Good...

Hank Steuver, one of the better reasons to hang onto a WaPo subscription:
That's when Soft Surroundings arrives in the thick of the pre-holiday bulk mail. It's a catalogue targeted to millions of working women, 37 percent of whom, we are helpfully told in a press release, usually shed their "daytime clothes" within five minutes of getting home each night.

Here you have the goods for an ever-widening, mainstream cuddle fetish. If there were such a thing as chaste, favorite-pillow porn, the Soft Surroundings catalogue would be seized by postal inspectors. It's got pages and pages of women in $119 pajamas. It sells "embroidered softie" sherpa shirts. The "snuggalicious robe" and the "essential napping blanket." And chinoise kimonos, "Turkish tuxedos" (a robe with robe pants!), angora socks. Chenille, velour, silk: You are there, in a gentle puff of talc.

The man is onto something. There IS a market for favorite-pillow porn, just a little more mainstream than Plushies. No, I will not link to a Plushies site, you sicko.

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