Nov 30, 2005

Alumni magazines

Alumni magazines certainly do have a skewed viewpoint. The Ivies probably especially. I remember one time flipping through a copy of my father's Columbia Magazine. The back of the book had little news snippets, one of which was a reprint of some remarks by Vaclav Havel. Next to his name was an asterisk with an accompanying asterisk at the bottom of the page that informed the reader that Havel received an honorary degree from Columbia in 1990--just in case you wondered why the remarks of a worthless slob like Vaclav Havel were worth reprinting.

My movie genre

The Movie Of Your Life Is An Indie Flick

You do things your own way - and it's made for colorful times.
Your life hasn't turned out how anyone expected, thank goodness!

Your best movie matches: Clerks, Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite

Via Sluggo.

But prozac is much more convenient

Swimming with dolphins helps alleviate depression.
The researchers say dolphins' aesthetic value, and the emotions raised by the interaction may have healing properties. Some have speculated that the ultrasound emitted by dolphins as part of their echolocation system may have a beneficial effect.

Breast not best for her

Trish Durkin thinks she'll opt for the bottle, not the breast, when her child is born. Brave words when you consider the current trend of breast-feeding totalitarianism.

The illusion of progress

My 93-year-old grandfather is bowlegged, having suffered rickets as a child. My great grandmother on my father's side outlived all her children. My aunt remembers hearing my father crying from hunger as a baby born in the 1930s, and my father recalls living in a coldwater flat; both were the result of the depression coupled with my inability of my grandmother--a single mother who worked as a proofreader--to join the union.

By almost any measure, the lives of those of us living in the United States have improved dramatically since 1900. In the 20th Century, we discovered penicillin, eradicated smallpox and developed an effective polio vaccine; yet an estimated 212 million were murdered by their own governments.

In the 21st Century, our quality of life is even better. Gene therapy and nanotechnology hold the promise of eliminating even more diseases, perhaps even reversing aging. Yet men are still killing each other in Darfur; North Korea is one giant concentration camp and radical Islamists would like to bomb us back to the 7th Century.

Call it original sin. Call it evil. Or call it human nature. But the fact remains: No matter how much progress we make materially, there's always someone waiting in the wings to take it away from us.

A pretty dim view? Perhaps. Better to be pessimistic than to hew to the beliefs of the peace activists now being held hostage in Iraq. Peace on earth doesn't come through wishful thinking. Besides you have a better chance of solving a problem if you look at the situation realistically.

Until the next man on horseback comes riding into town.

70 percent good, minus 77 million dead

R.J. Rummel, author of China's Bloody Century has changed his mind on the number of dead that can be attributed to Mao thanks to two books: Wild Swans: Two Daughters of China by Jung Chang, and Mao: the Unknown Story by Jung Chang and her husband, Jon Halliday.

Rummel is now convinced that the famine of 1958-1961 was intentional, just like Stalin's little agricultural experiment in the Ukraine.

This makes Mao the grand prize winner in the 20th Century mass murderer sweepstakes, with 77 million murders to his credit. Stalin is number two and Hitler, the piker, comes in at number three with over 20 million dead.

Correcting the historical record is all well and good, says Richard TPD.
And still, Mao's creepy portrait looms over us at Tiananmen Square, and his statues adorn every university campus. What an eerie anomaly. But let's not forget, he was 70 percent good.

Didn't implants reverse that trend? As it were

John Derbyshire has no interest in seeing Jennifer Aniston's boobs.
Did I buy, or browse, a copy of the November 17 GQ, in order to get a look at Jennifer Aniston's bristols?** No, I didn't. While I have no doubt that Ms. Aniston is a paragon of charm, wit, and intelligence, she is also 36 years old. Even with the strenuous body-hardening exercise routines now compulsory for movie stars, at age 36 the forces of nature have won out over the view-worthiness of the unsupported female bust.

It is, in fact, a sad truth about human life that beyond our salad days, very few of us are interesting to look at in the buff. Added to that sadness is the very unfair truth that a woman's salad days are shorter than a man's — really, in this precise context, only from about 15 to 20. The Nautilus and the treadmill can add a half decade or so, but by 36 the bloom is definitely off the rose. Very few of us, however, can face up to this fact honestly, and I am sure this diary item will generate more angry e-mails of protest than everything else I have written this month.

** Bristols. Cockney rhyming slang. There is a well-known soccer team in England named Bristol City.
Fifteen to twenty? I suppose the rest of us--especially those of us still single--should just kill ourselves now.

Nov 29, 2005


Ethnic insensitivity? Memoirs of a Geisha doesn't go over big in Asia.

Barbie: Virginia/Maryland/DC edition.

Fruit machine: Gaydar, Canadian-style.

Voting chic: Accessories are everything.

Is it wrong ... to execute Australians?

Dress like Saddam

Auction site selling off Saddam's uniform. Bids start at $5,000. Just in time for Christmas.

Take a nap

How to stop the violence in rap music.
What's Ice T doing up til six in the morning anyway? It's not a mystery why he ends up "beating [a] bitch down in the goddamn street" simply because "the ho continued to speak." Whoa buddy! Maybe after your 4 a.m. visit to the Palladium you should've boosted those serotonin levels with a refreshing cat nap.
More on the virtues of napping here.

Bravo! Joe Lieberman

When Joe Lieberman kissed up to Louis Farrakhan for the 2000 Presidential Campaign, I basically wrote him off; but this op/ed piece may lead me to reconsider. (Not that Lieberman was losing any sleep over my exiling him to my personal Siberia>)
I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.


Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.

A question of priorities

Sure there are human rights abuses in North Korea, but can't you see I'm busy? A hearing on sexual slavery and widespread starvation in North Korea gets ignored while the press gorges itself on the Scooter Libby indictment and other assorted scandals.
In exasperation, Suzanne Scholte, of the Defense Forum Foundation and North Korea Freedom Coalition, remarked the media were "more interested in bringing down George Bush than Kim Jong-il."
Via Wilson.

Abalone-flavoured macadamia nuts

Spirit Fingers looks at Christmas gifts.
When buying gifts for others, I always try to go for something that is brightly coloured, mildly useful and belies its inexpensiveness.

This strikes me as a pretty good rule of thumb. The problem with the holiday season is the pressure to buy gifts for people you don't give a rat's ass about, but are expected to give to. That sounds harsh, but you know what I mean.

Take your co-workers. Sometimes there will be an officially sanctioned grab bag, which is fine, but it takes a lot of work to buy a generic gift for $10 that will be suitable for everyone. Then there's the secret Santa notion. Inevitably, I'll draw Ernie in accounting or some such person who I've barely glanced at in the hall, let alone had a conversation with. Again, what do you buy for a guy you barely know? If you only have a couple of co-workers, you've got to buy both of them a gift.

Then there are your kid's teachers, the neighbor who took in your mail while you were away, etc., etc. When My son was in grade school I went on a yearly cookie-baking binge and would duly deliver said treats to the school, neighbors, etc. Then one of my neighbors went in the hospital for a quadruple bypass. It seemed kind of like murder to give him a box full of saturated fat and sugar. I believe I gave him a box of oranges.

Being on the recipient end of those gifts is equally problematic. First there's the giver who bought you a gift and you didn't buy her one, causing panic to ensue. Then there are the terrible gifts: Gag gifts, candles scented with what smells like cat piss, statuettes of Santa in which his belly is a candy dish.

What's the worst gift you've ever gotten? And how do you handle your gift-giving obligations?

Hell on a sheet of paper

Yad Vashem publishes journal entries written by Avraham Cytryn, a teenager who lived in the Lodz ghetto and perished at Auschwitz.
"When I lived in the hell of the ghetto and saw the flowing blood of my innocent brethren," runs one entry, "I decided to put my testimony in writing. I would have liked to extricate the soul of the accursed ghetto from the frozen jaws of imprisonment, and to reconstruct the cruel existence of the inhabitants of Litzmannstadt who were enslaved, dispossessed, and exposed to daily dangers and the shock of helplessness. I would have liked the blood to flow over the page, so that the memory of those merciless years would be passed down to the coming generations."

Bloggers save suicidal soldiers' lives

Story here, via Israellycool.

Perfect together: David Duke and the Syrians

KKK-er got warm welcome in Damascus last week.
The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badr Eddin-Hassoun, is reported to have issued the statement: "Thank you, Dr. Duke, for your courage in bringing us this message of peace and of friendship." The Grand Mufti added that the U.S. campaign in Iraq is "as Dr. Duke has shown, a war for Israel."

Nidal Kabalan, who heads the Syrian government TV station, was quoted as saying: "David Duke's message here makes all Americans wherever they are sleep safer and easier. His exemplary courage in speaking out against Zionism has done more for the American image in the Arab world than any other American I can name . . . If American foreign policy wasn't run by Israeli partisans, they would appoint him as America's ambassador at large to heal the anti-American sentiment growing around the world."

UPDATE: Nouri bin Ziri:
What a new low for the Ba`th! So it's come to this...enlisting the lowest creed of Westerners to try to make the "anti-imperialist" and "anti-Zionist" campaign look good.

Ephron on Woodward

Interesting footnote to the neverending story, if you like that sort of thing.

CS Lewis opposed Narnia films

He particularly disliked the idea of a live-action movie.
In the letter, dated December 18 1959, Lewis made clear he approved of the radio version of the book produced by Lance Sieveking, a pioneering BBC radio and television producer. But in letters written shortly before the death of his wife, Joy, Lewis also said he was "absolutely opposed - adamant isn't in it! - to a TV version" of any of the books. "Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare. At least, with photography," he wrote.

A cartoon version would be "another matter", he said. But Lewis, who died in 1963, added: "If only Disney did not combine so much vulgarity with his genius." In conclusion, he said that "a human, pantomime Aslan would to me be blasphemy".


Lost world: Scenes from Jewish life in Hungary, 1933.

Singin' in the rain: Gene Kelly pops and locks, via essays & effluvia.

Chrismukkah: Merry Mazel Tov.

Berkeley Public Library: A Malkin-free zone.

Where is it? Map test, via SondraK.

Nov 28, 2005

Major blog initiative launched

Flannels Media. It's gonna change the world of blogging. Really.

The nightmare before Xmas

This seizure-inducing Christmas light show, via the English Guy, reminds me that my parents just moved across the street from a house whose owner will doubtless consider it his duty to light up the night for Christmas. For Halloween all his trees and bushes were covered in orange lights. I believe there was a lawn ornament, too, but I can't recall what it was; possibly because I'm still recovering from the two-storey-high inflatable turkey that adorned his front yard for Thanksgiving. I expect he was outside the first thing Friday morning with strings of Christmas cheer to festoon around the premises.

Here's a slideshow of the 700 block on 34th Street in Baltimore, where every year, every house gets decorated.

Robbo the Llama Butcher takes a rather dim view of all that illumination in his post "Rigidly Hidebound Llama Christmas Decorating Tips."
Exterior lights - bad. Yard ornaments of any kind, including the eight foot tall illuminated blow-up Snoopy on display three doors up from us - worse. Nativities, sleighs and/or reindeer either on the grass or the roof - wrong, wrong wrong. And if you try to simulate snowfall in any way, shape or form, don't ever come back to this blog again.

In short, all that Griswold Family Christmas stuff is right out. I read about those neighborhoods that pride themselves on their yearly displays and recoil. I read about people who actually drive around to look at such neighborhoods with horror, meanwhile fumbling around for my branding irons so I can stamp a large letter "L" on their foreheads.

So I guess biology really is destiny

That seems to be James Pinkerton's point in this article about Maureen Dowd and Hugh Hefner.
the Playboy Mogul publicly exults in his singleness, bragging about all his many conquests, even as he nears 80 -- while for her part, Dowd publicly laments her aloneness. OK, but that's changeable, one might say. Hefner is almost dead, while there's plenty of time for Dowd to get married.

But the second difference between Hugh and Maureen can't be changed. And that is this: Hefner, by his two ex-wives, has four children -- two of them he fathered when he was in his 60s -- while Dowd, who will turn 54 in January, has none. She can get married, she can even adopt -- but absent some miraculous medicine, she can't have children of her own.

Thus we come to the fundamental asymmetry of the sexes: Thanks in no small part to Hefner's philosophizing, men can fool around and then have kids pretty much whenever they want -- as such late-December fathers as Norman Lear and the late Tony Randall have demonstrated.

And yet while men changed the laws, and the customs, to suit their specific needs such as virility enhancement, women have made no similarly powerful change in areas that affect them specifically, such as fertility enhancement. That is, if women had gotten together and decided that it was as important to extend the age of female fertility as it was for men to have access to Viagra, one can only assume that medical science would have made that change -- science is like that. But women, who outnumber men, both in terms of population and at the ballot box, never organized themselves to demand such a fertility breakthrough. Yes, such a breakthrough is coming, but only slowly. It will get here long after Hefner, Lear, Randall & Co. have enjoyed a wide choice of erectile dysfunction pills.

This was no accident. A half century ago, Hefner created the world he would want to live in. So after he created his system, the rest of us, including Maureen Dowd, have been living in it. And in that system, Hefnerians can have their cake and eat it, too. They can play in the "bakery," for practically as long as they want, and still take home some permanent goodies, if they wish to. Women such as Maureen Dowd -- or, from a much different perspective, Linda Hirshman -- can rail against this system, but they do seem to be trapped within it.

Surely there's a middle ground?

Next stop pond scum

I've devolved. I went to bed a large mammal and woke up as a rat. I guess it has something to do with this, which has something to do with this. I don't participate in the open trackback thing too often. Mostly cuz I'm too lazy/disorganized to do it. When I do participate, I'm more often interested in getting eyeballs to the blog rather than in collecting links. (Oh, and where is everyone? Starting about a week ago, I began hemorrhaging readers.) Still, I enjoyed being a mammal. Besides, I hate rodents. Nasty little creatures--and that includes squirrels and rabbits.

A is for apple ...

Kitty is holding a contest. I must disqualify myself because the only C-word I can think of is the obvious one and entrants are advised to keep it clean.

Blogger for nobel peace prize

Echoing an idea we had last week, Patterico has called for a social science, history, philosophy, law, and theology professor, judge, or legislator to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.
I’m not asking because I think I somehow deserve it. I just want to mock the idea that being nominated is some great distinction. For example, I keep reading that murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams was nominated for one, as if this is somehow relevant to whether he should be executed.

It’s not — because anyone can be nominated.


Not to mention that murderer Yasser Arafat actually won one.

Nothing would demonstrate how utterly meaningless such a nomination truly is like nominating someone completely undeserving of it — like me.

Here's a searchable database of nominees from 1901-1951. Note that Chamberlain and Hitler were nominated in 1939.

The Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Girl Contest

Chinese American Idol.
By the time it ended in August, more than 400 million viewers had tuned in, making it one of the most-watched shows in China's television history and creating another blockbuster hit for a group of daring television producers here at Hunan TV in south central Hunan Province.

No one really knows why a search for a new female pop star gripped much of the nation. But analysts here say that in addition to capturing the pulse of the nation's increasingly trendy youth, the producers allowed people to do something quite remarkable in China: cast their own vote, albeit for a pop idol.

Fireside chats for Bush

MR. RUSSERT: Should the president go before the American people with a map of Iraq and say, "Let me explain to you what is going on in the war. This area's secure. This area is difficult. This area we had captured but now the terrorists have gotten it back"? Take people through it in a very honest, straightforward way, a status report, an update.

SEN. WARNER: Tim, I'm old enough. I served in the last year of World War II in the Navy. Franklin D. Roosevelt did just exactly that. In his fireside talks, he talked with the people, he did just that. I think it would be to Bush's advantage. It would bring him closer to the people, dispel some of this concern that understandably our people have about the loss of life and limb, the enormous cost of this war to the American public, and we've got to stay firm for the next six months. It is a critical period, as Joe and I agree, in this Iraqi situation to restore full sovereignty in that country and that enables them to have their own armed forces to maintain their sovereignty.

~ Meet the Press

I've thought for a long time that the President hasn't done enough to promote the war, but my first thought on hearing Russert's proposal was: Isn't this what the press is supposed to be doing?

Since the US took control of Iraq, one of the best things I've seen on the ongoing battle against the insurgency was this flash presentation on operations in Anbar and Ninawa in August and September.* I'd be hard-pressed to point to an MSM story that outlines any battle with the clarity this does. The same goes for covering the bigger picture. Glancing at the headlines, one doesn't get the sense of where the war is going. There's no overarching narrative--unless of course it's the narrative that the war is going badly. But even that story is told piecemeal.

Instead the MSM relies on car-bomb-of-the-day reporting, the "if it bleeds, it leads" strategy. To continue with journalistic cliches, this strikes me as a dog-bites-man kind of story: After all, one expects a certain amount of bleeding in a war zone. Certainly the car bombs are part of the story, but they're not the whole story. One gets the sense, reading this coverage, that coalition forces are just sort of milling around waiting for the next IED to take them out.

It wasn't always this way. An online collection of UK newspapers during World War II details some of the articles that ran during that time period:
  • Hundreds of thousands of photographs and maps - making the war more intelligible and reducing it to a human scale. There were even diagrams illustrating the impregnability of the Maginot Line.
  • Detailed accounts of the latest developments whether on the home front or the battlefield. Germany's territorial ambitions in Poland and the Balkans are analysed, as are Japanese incursions in China.
  • Insightful articles by leading writers and politicians, such as Leon Trotsky asserting that "Stalin is afraid of Hitler" (writing in The Daily Express) and David Walker's first hand reports for The Daily Mirror from across Europe right up to the outbreak of war.

  • Newspaper coverage was bolstered by newsreels, which were shown weekly to around 80 million people per week, and radio, which broadcast the Fireside Chats of FDR. Roosevelt did, indeed, refer to maps on occasion. At the same time, there was an expectation that the people were following the war on the news and that there were details about the overall stategy that could not be reported on.

    I wish Bush would begin giving his own version of the Fireside Chats. His pushback against Democratic naysayers on the war is already having a positive impact; updating the public on the progress of the war would surely have a positive result. Too bad the media isn't living up to their end of the bargain.

    * Bill Roggio continues to cover the war at ThreatsWatch.

    Saddam on trial

    In a repeat of his last court appearance, Saddam made "a series of outbursts." Saddam is being tried for killing 148 residents of the town of Dujail in 1982. It is the first of many charges.

    RINO sightings

    The NSFW edition is hosted by Don Surber.

    Nov 26, 2005


    Mode Historique: Historical clothing--the blog.

    XXX: Stone porn.

    Philip Glass: A guide for listeners.

    Keep your pants on: The office party and the copy machine.

    Up in smoke: Safety test.

    You can't possibly censor everything

    Which is good news for the growing Chinese blogosphere.

    Have you ever?

    New meme: Have you ever ...

    Smoked a cigarette or tried it: Yes.

    Crashed a friend's car: Yes. In college. Remarkably, we remained friends. Her parents weren't pleased with me, though.

    Stolen a car: No.

    Been dumped: Yes. Actually, I was once dumped by email, perhaps the lowest form of dumping.

    Shoplifted: Yes, a Chunky bar when I was six. But I paid for my sins: Raisins and chocolate are terrible together.

    Been fired/laid off: Oh, yes. More than once.

    Been in a fist fight: No.

    Snuck out of your parent's house: Yes.

    Been arrested: No

    Gone on a blind date: Yes (shudder), more than once.

    Lied to a friend: I can't recall, but I wouldn't be surprised.

    Skipped school: Absolutely.

    Seen someone die: No.

    Been to Canada: Yes.

    Been to Mexico: No.

    Eaten Sushi: Yummy! Yes.

    Met someone in person from the internet: You betcha!

    Taken pain-killers: Uh huh.

    Had a tea party: Well, an imaginary tea party.

    Cheated while playing a game: If I have, it was when I was little.

    Fallen asleep at work: Yesterday, in fact. It wasn't a head falling on the desk, drooling and snoring kind of sleep. You know that expression about your eyes glazing over? That's exactly what happened. I was staring at the computer screen when my eyes glazed over and just closed.

    Used a fake ID: I don't think so. I just went to places that weren't too picky about asking for such stuff.

    Felt an earthquake: No.

    Touched a snake: Yes.

    Been robbed: My purse was snatched and my house was broken into.

    Petted a reindeer/goat: I've been to my share of petting zoos so I assume I stroked at least one of those creatures.

    Won a contest: Never.

    Been suspended from school: No.

    Been in a car accident: Yes, see above.

    Had braces: No.

    Eaten a whole pint of ice cream in one night: Unfortunately, yes.

    Witnessed a crime: Well, there was the purse snatching.

    Swam in the ocean: Yes: Atlantic, Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

    Sung karaoke: Not willingly. But I've been dragged more than a few times to karaoke bars.

    Paid for a meal with only coins: Probably. I've certainly paid for things in coins before.

    Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose: Of course.

    Been kissed under mistletoe: No.

    Crashed a party: Not professionally.

    Worn pearls: Of course.

    Jumped off a bridge: No.

    Ate dog/cat food: No.

    Kissed a mirror: No.

    Glued your hand to something: No. Confession: I'm scared of crazy glue.

    Done a one-handed cartwheel: No.

    Talked on the phone for more than 6 hours: Yes. I attended high school, after all.

    Didn't take a shower for a week: Definitely not.

    Pick and ate an apple right off the tree: Yes.

    Been told by a complete stranger that you're hot: Is there a woman alive who hasn't?

    How about you? Have you ever ...

    Via Chai-rista.

    Nov 25, 2005

    I went with the dwarf

    Little Green Footballs wins the coveted "Best Blog Post Ever" for this. Congratulations.

    Farewell my concubine

    China is experiencing a mistress boom.
    China's economic boom has led to a revival of the 2-millennium-old tradition of "golden canaries," so called because, like the showcase birds, mistresses here are often pampered, housed in love nests and taken out at the pleasure of their "masters."

    Concubines were status symbols in imperial China. After the Communists took power, they sought to root out such bourgeois evils, even as Chairman Mao Tse-tung reportedly kept a harem of peasant women into his old age.

    Now, mistresses have become a must-have for party officials, bureaucrats and businessmen.

    Oops! Richardson wasn't a baseball draft pick

    New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson backtracked on a story he's been telling for 40 years after a state newspaper uncovered the truth. Richardson, a pitcher in college, had claimed that he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics.
    Informed by the newspaper of its findings, the governor acknowledged the error in a story in Thursday's editions.

    "After being notified of the situation and after researching the matter ... I came to the conclusion that I was not drafted by the A's," he said.
    Does one forget being drafted by a major league baseball team?

    Bob Mackie's legacy


    Christie's auctioned off some Bob Mackie creations this week. The "Wizard of Glitter" gave us Cher at the 1986 Oscar ceremony and Carol Burnett wearing a curtain rod.
    His creations enhanced their stage magic and transformed them into pop-culture fantasies. Before Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana dressed Madonna in cone bras and corsets, Mackie was dressing Judy Garland and Diana Ross. Mackie's garments, which are just as prodigiously ornamented in the back as they are in the front, speak of old Hollywood. They create an aloof distance between the performer and the fan. They emphasize star status. Even the pieces that were never meant for the stage have a Las Vegas glitz to them that suggests that a celebrity, in Mackie's estimation, should never be caught by photographers in something as banal as Seven jeans or a Juicy Couture sweat suit.

    When torture is permitted

    Charles Krauthammer discusses when and how torture should be used and makes the case against "the moral absolutism" of the McCain Amendment. A must read.

    Holiday shopping made easier

    Google tool maps out shopping trips.
    The feature, unveiled Tuesday at Google's Froogle shopping site, pinpoints merchants selling a specific item within a designated ZIP code. Besides displaying a map showing all the local stores carrying the merchandise, Froogle also lists price differences.

    Very cool.

    Nov 24, 2005

    I love you guys

    Come Thanksgiving, one's thoughts turn to gratitude. And this year I have another reason to be thankful: Readers. So thank you all for stopping by, for leaving comments and for coming back. And have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.

    Nov 23, 2005


    ¿Que? Demi Moore.

    15-inch waist: Corset devotee, via Lynn S.

    Mini Mimis: Mariah Carey dolls.

    Killer Potty Complex: Parenting is hard.

    Thank you: Blogger Thanksgiving celebration.

    Random Thanksgiving links

    The Green Bean Casserole turns 50.

    Timetable for Thanksgiving Dinner.

    Party like it's 1620: "Authentic" Thanksgiving recipes.

    Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving.

    From "Why Israel needs a Thanksgiving:"
    The genius of Thanksgiving is that it bases patriotism on gratitude. Other national holidays around the world are grandiose, flag-waving affairs intended to glorify the country and inspire loyalty in the citizenry. These holidays feature public even ts, military parades and fireworks displays.

    Thanksgiving is a far simpler affair; it is always celebrated at home. It is about gratitude for a home, a happy family, a harvest and, at the same time, gratitude for a safe country.

    This minimalist approa ch to patriotism resonates with everyone because countries don't have to be great to be appreciated; they just have to be a place we can call home.


    Just 150 years ago the probability of a State of Israel emerging was less than a Martian invasion. Had our ghe tto-dwelling ancestors been able to see movies of contemporary Israel, they would have assumed the Messiah had arrived. An Israeli Thanksgiving would allow the sense of wonder previous generations had about the Jewish state to be reclaimed.

    Texting for dollars

    Seventeen-year-old girl wins $5,000, but doesn't get the Guinness World Record, for texting this message:
    "The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human."

    Troy Field texted the message in 2 minutes and 23 seconds, with no errors in spelling or punctuation. The world record is 43.24 seconds.

    This is why God gave us opposable thumbs.

    Torture revisited

    Jeff Goldstein gets to the heart of the matter on the subject of torture:
    [M]y argument with regard to coercive interrogation is that we should not take anything off the table, if only so that our enemies can’t get comfortable knowing that there is a limit to what we are prepared to do to protect our country and its citizens.

    Goldstein brings up two interesting points. One is was Stephen Green calls "defining torture down."
    Even now, we hear that “humiliation” is torture—or at the very least, “mistreatment.” Is wrapping an Israeli flag around an Islamist “torture”? Why or why not?

    The point of all this being, that until we can more clearly define “suffering” or “anguish”—or distinguish between “suffering” and “discomfort”—we are forced to take positions that we might not otherwise take.

    The Abu Ghraib incidents and the bogus Koran toilet flushing story, illustrate this point nicely. Is taking humiliating photos of prisoners torture? Is disrespecting the Koran a form of prisoner abuse?
    Second, if we state unequivocally and openly that we will not torture, we are already giving our enemies too much information. Here he quotes Thomas Sowell:
    Even in less extreme circumstances, and even if we don’t intend to torture the captured terrorist, does that mean that we need to reduce our leverage by informing all terrorists around the world in advance that they can stonewall indefinitely when captured, without fear of that fate?

    The McCain Amendment would limit interrogation techniques to those described in the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. I don't know about you, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of giving terrorists a blueprint as to what they can expect should they be captured.

    As I pointed out earlier, deliberately inflicting physical pain may not always produce reliable results. But broadcasting our interrogation techniques will eliminate one of the most effective tools of the interrogator: Fear of the unknown.

    Nov 22, 2005

    Talk among yourselves

    Blogging will be suspended while I take my nephew, the 4-year-old train geek, here. Play a history game if you're bored.

    UPDATE: Oops! Link wrong. I went here--not nearly as glamorous as Montreal. but my nephew liked it.

    Angry Ethiopians dog Jimmy Carter's book tour

    They're angry at his role in the Ethiopian elections earlier this year. Couldn't happen to a nicer fellow. Or a more deserving one.
    Despite rumors of flawed voting practices at numerous polling stations, the Carter Institute gave a glowing review to the historic elections.
    EU observers, however, found that the election was rigged and faulted Carter for giving his "premature blessing" to the enterprise.

    Via Instapundit.

    The culture of kvetching

    Carlin Romano reviews Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods by Michael Wex.
    Wex's overarching frame is that "the Bible and the Talmud are to Yiddish what plantations are to the blues." Eschewing century-by-century plodding, he zooms in on the logic of Yiddish, centering on its perfection as a tool of kvetching, or complaint. A typical Wex riff: "If the Stones's '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' had been written in Yiddish, it would have been called '(I Love to Keep Telling You That I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Because Telling You That I'm Not Satisfied Is All That Can Satisfy Me).'"

    Consider it parenthetical wit.

    "Like so much of Jewish culture," Wex argues, droll and probing at the same time, "kvetching has its roots in the Bible, which devotes a great deal of time to the nonstop grumbling of the Israelites, who find fault with everything under the sun." If Yiddish is, in Wex's phrase, "the national language of nowhere," one explanation is that "Judaism is defined by exile, and exile without complaint is tourism, not deportation." The will to kvetch similarly derives from the peculiar Jewish obligation to perform the 613 mitzvahs, or commandments, which Wex breaks down into 248 "thou shalts" and 365 "thou shalt nots."

    It's the latter that truly annoy the so-called chosen people. "The Jews," Wex quips, "have been chosen not to: not to have that BLT; not to sit on Santa's knee; not to catch the Saturday matinee or blend in with the people around them."

    Muslim women achieve equality

    As jihadists:
    While no female Muslims here in the U.S. have blown up passenger jets as they have in Russia, or strapped on belts packed with TNT and ball bearings to blow up American hotels, as an older Iraqi woman has confessed to doing in Jordan, law enforcement has uncovered a disturbing number of cases in which they have helped Muslim men with terrorist plots or have planned to attack fellow Americans themselves.

    Who asked 'em?

    Baltimore City Council calls for Iraq pullout.
    [C]ouncil members have been derided in the past for dabbling in issues over which they have no influence. They have previously passed resolutions demanding the right of self-determination for the Lithuanian people, condemning slavery in Mauritania, criticizing the repression of the Ahmadiyya religious movement by the Pakistani government, and calling for the end of violence in Northern Ireland and apartheid in South Africa.

    Before last night's meeting, which was marked by a somber, serious tone, council members did little to deflect derision from critics by engaging in an often glib luncheon debate about their action.

    At one point during the council's lunch yesterday, members debated the word immediate, as if the resolution would force the U.S. military into a dilemma of having to leave Iraq right away.

    Spector said her support could depend on the word immediate. The resolution's co-sponsor, Mary Pat Clarke, said she knows a withdrawal would "take a while," but that "it must begin."
    Don't you just love it when cities have their own foreign policy?

    Nov 21, 2005

    I'm elvish


    To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
    brought to you by Quizilla
    Via Marc.


    Literary suckage: White Oleander.

    Looney Toons smackdown: Elmer Fudd v. Ranger Smith.

    Paper airplanes: Flash game.

    Chimp Fest: Submit your favorite presidential slurs.

    Too sexy for her shirt: Video, via TAN.

    What he said

    Norm Geras:
    Whatever anyone in the anti-war camp may like to tell herself or himself about the reasons why this war was fought - whether their story is about WMD, oil, or whatever - one of the things it was fought for, from the very beginning, was regime change. In view of its difficulties and its dangers, that is not the sort of enterprise that a responsible political leader, or a civlized democratic government, can embark on as if it were a weekend outing, saying 'Oops, sorry - let's go home' when things go wrong. The US and its allies have a responsibility, in view of what they've begun, to stay and fight until the forces now opposing self-determination and democracy for the Iraqi people have been defeated or are victorious.

    Most inspirational films

    What's the most inspirational film of the century? The American Film Institute has come up with a list of 300 nominees, which will be winnowed down to 100 in time for a June 2006 special AFI's 100 Years . . . 100 Cheers: America's Most Inspiring Movies.

    Reading the list of nominees makes me think I don't care for inspirational films. Lots of hokem here. I would also question the "inspirational" aspect of some of the movies: An Affair to Remember? Ferris Bueller's Day Off? And some of the movies on the list are just plain lousy. That said, here are my selections:

    The African Queen
    Birdman of Alcatrez
    Gunga Din
    The Great Escape
    High Noon
    Lord of the Rings
    A Man for All Seasons
    The Miracle Worker
    Mrs. Miniver
    An Officer and a Gentleman
    Schindler's List
    Sullivan's Travels
    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Via John Hawkins.

    Looking for a few good men?

    Try Gulfport, Mississippi.
    Fourteen daily flights land at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, nearly always full. As passengers debark, men outnumber women by at least three to one, and the logos on their shirts tell why they are here: Salvation Army relief; Local 1137 of an electrical workers union; Southern Baptist Disaster Relief; a mobile-home transport company.


    Chance Wicker, 22, in Gulfport to help rebuild the railroad between here and New Orleans, agrees, sadly, that numbers favor the women. After 12 or 14 days on the road, he says, in line to get into Michael's Nightclub, all women look good, even long before closing time.

    Scott Counts, a 45-year-old roofer who came to the Gulf Coast six weeks ago from Florida, says the competition is too much for him.

    "It seems like a lot of the chicks are covered," he says. "I'm not the kind of guy who will stand in line with 10 other guys to talk to a woman. You've got a million guys coming here."

    The zen of ironing

    So last week, I bought the first iron I've owned since I moved to Maryland almost three years ago. For three years, I was lugging all my need-to-be-ironed clothes to the dry cleaner. Then the dry cleaner and I had a falling out over a skirt that was embellished with sequins and little mirrors, which she refused to clean. So I bought an iron.

    And so the descent into madness began. It wasn't enough to clean and iron the blouses that have been sitting lo these many months in the dry-cleaning pile. No. I had to buy lavender-scented linen water and iron all the sheets and pillowcases. Once the blouses and sheets were ironed, the closets had to be reorganized. Next thing I knew, I was leaving the house at 7 am on Sunday to rent a carpet cleaner.

    It was like I'd been channeling How to Run Your Home Without Help, a 1949 housekeeping manual that's been reissued in the UK. My favorite part is Beauty While You Work:
    Hands: When you have had your hands in water, wash them carefully with soap and then rinse under the cold tap. Then dry, taking care to push back the cuticles as you do so. Keep a bottle of hand lotion in the kitchen. Rub a thin coating of Vaseline over your hands if you’re going to plunge them into very hot water. It is protective. Rubber gloves are useful, too.

    Hair gets pretty grubby unless it is always wrapped up. Use a scarf, cap or a clean duster pinned like a nurse’s square over head and hair when doing the rooms. Then with a shampoo every ten days or so, all will be well.

    Skin: It’s a good idea to give your face a treatment on wash-day. Cleanse your skin before you begin, then apply nourishing cream. The steam will soften it so that it is absorbed by the pores. When you’ve finished, take off the surplus cream with cotton wool and finish with cleansing milk or a mild astringent before making up.

    Figure: Some women will always let themselves go, just as others will take thought about posture, but on the whole, housework is far better for one than a sitting-down job. There’s less chance of the spreading round the middle that dogs those who do clerical work.

    The taken-out-of-context dodge

    The latest to use the dodge is one John Daly, an adjunct instructor at a community college, who responded to an email about a talk on the Iraq war by attacking the student who organized the event.
    [H]e said that he would ask students to boycott the lecture, and that “real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people’s needs.”

    Daly also criticized Beach’s leadership of a campus chapter of Young America’s Foundation, saying: “I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like yours won’t dare show their face on a college campus.”
    Daly, now faced with losing his job, is furiously backpedaling.
    Daly said he stood by the e-mail message, but that it was being taken out of context. He said that the comment about soldiers turning their guns on their superiors was meant “in the most metaphoric sense.” Also, he said that because Beach was never one of his students and had sent the e-mail message from her personal e-mail account, he thought she was a Young America’s Foundation organizer, and replied with that in mind. Daly said that if he had known he was writing to a freshman, he would not have changed the political ideas of his note, but would have used a different tone.

    Ahh! Metaphorically shooting officers is OK.

    Occasionally, someone's remarks are taken out of context, whether by design or accidentally, and the speaker's words are twisted so as to convey the polar opposite of what he meant. More often, though, the out-of-context dodge is used when a speaker lets slip a remark that would be unacceptable no matter the context.

    That's how Jesse Jackson tried to explain away his "Hymietown" remark. George Galloway claimed his fawning tributes to Saddam were taken out of context. Trent Lott likewise used the out-of-context denfense to explain away his nostalgic yearning for a Strom Thurmand presidency.

    I'd say Daly's remarks belong in that class. He should have just said he misspoke.

    Likud no longer

    Ariel Sharon's new National Responsibility Party has had its first meeting; and Likud party members have declared Sharon persona non grata as Israel gears up for elections in March.

    Sharon, who has already signed up 11 former Likud members to the new party, vows to follow the road map peace plan. More here and here.

    Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

    Fred Barnes on how Iraq could be another Vietnam--if we decide to abandon the Iraqis like we did the Vietnamese.
    MANY HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW THE United States lost in Vietnam, but not former Defense Secretary Melvin Laird. When the last American military unit was withdrawn in 1973, the Viet Cong had been defeated and the North Vietnamese army checkmated. For the next two years, "South Vietnam held its own courageously and respectably against a better-bankrolled enemy," Laird writes in the current Foreign Affairs. "Given enough outside resources, South Vietnam was capable of defending itself." Instead, "we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory [in 1975] when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own. . . . Without U.S. funding, South Vietnam was quickly overrun." It was a stunning and unnecessary defeat for America and for a free Vietnam. And the lesson is clear: A war can be won on the ground overseas and lost in Washington.
    We're not there yet, but, as Barnes points out, we're on the cusp. US Rep. John Murtha's call for a pullout and the GOP Senate's call for a 2006 phased pullout could signal a change in direction.
    [A]t a minimum, they suggest that troop removal has superseded victory as the primary American concern. The current shift in attitude is reminiscent of the one that followed the Tet Offensive in 1968, which consisted of Democratic defections, Republican anxiety, and a general loss of confidence in America's ability to prevail in Vietnam. And we know where all that led: directly to the 1975 collapse.

    RINO sightings

    Are up at Searchlight Crusade. The entries cover a wide range of topics from Bigfoot to World War II flying aces.

    Nov 19, 2005

    Let's play bureaucratchik

    [Following is the story I translated from Russian, edited by S.D. The author, Lea Ljubomirsky, just started her graduate school in Lisbon University, Portugal. I dedicate this Work to all librarians.]

    I applied for a card at the National Library.
    I felt like a character in a Teffi* story.

    A gloomy dame with the face of a mortally offended horse questioned me for half an hour: -why do I wish to insert myself in the library? -what do I expect to find there? - why am I so confident they have it?
    Afterwards she says:-Look here and don't blink; I'm going to take your picture for the library card.
    I look up - and barely dodge a computer camera that flies whizzing straight into my face. In a second the dame hands me my ID. On it I see a gigantic lemon-yellow nose drowning in purplish cheeks. Insignificant details like eyes, forehead and hair have flown to the background, and chin, ears and brows are not present.
    I say, -Pardon me, who's this?
    -It's you.
    I ask, -Are you sure it's not the previous applicant?
    The dame is insulted.
    -Of course it's you! Don't you see -it's your sweater.
    -True, the sweater is mine, but at this moment it's lying in the drawer at home, and I'm wearing a shirt and leather vest.
    -It's all the same. You just admitted it's your sweater.
    -OK. Fine. But what happened to my nose?
    -It's your nose, you should know better what happened to it.
    -I do know, I saw it five minutes ago in the hall mirror. It looked different!
    -Maybe it's not very photogenic.
    -OK. Fine. But then where are my ears? Where're my eyebrows? My chin? Where?
    -What do you need them for? -she asks - This is a library, not a photo gallery. We don't have any use here for chins and especially for eyebrows.

    At night I shoved the card at my beloved husband. At first, he was shaken. Reluctantly, he said: -You know, if not for your orange sweater, I would never have recognized you...

    * See about Nadezhda Teffi here.

    Nov 18, 2005

    When CliffsNotes prove too difficult

    Try the Complete Works of Shakespeare in txt, coming next year to students in the UK. Here's a couple examples:

    Five sisters wanting husbands. There are two new men in town - Bingley and Darcy. They are handsome and wealthy.




    Jane and Mr Rochester (eventually) fall for each other. But, on the day of wedding, it turns out that he already has a wife in the attic who is mad.




    More txting breakthroughs:

    Statues that will pee your text messages.
    While they are peeing, the two figures move realistically. An electric mechanism driven by a couple of microproccesors swivels the upper part of the body, while the penis goes up and down. The stream of water writes quotes from famous Prague residents.

    The toy:
    The Toy is a hi-tech vibrating bullet (read: vibrator). Connected to a mobile phone via Bluetooth, this toy will becomes "an intimate, silent connection" between two lovers, regardless of distance. I'm sure you get the point here.

    Related: The Commissar on the latest iPod accessory.


    Passwords: Staples joins forces with the Department of Homeland Security.

    Nursery rhymes: Lyrics and origins.

    Farming fat: For fuel.

    More effective than torture: Sensitivity training.

    "Quote ... Unquote:" Most frequently cited quotations, quote origins.

    The neverending story

    Patrick Fitzgerald will call a new grand jury in Plame-Gate. Meanwhile, the Plame-Wilsons are said to be looking for a new house in California.

    The reasoning behind Ahmadinejad's latest rhetoric

    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad call to “wipe Israel off the map” was part of a decade-long attack strategy that's been all too successful, says Avigdor Haselkorn.
    Iran is employing terror groups to achieve four aims: first, some terror organizations are in fact part and parcel of Iran’s own defense posture. For instance, by equipping it with thousands of long-range rockets, Iran transformed the Lebanese terrorist organization Hizballah into an organic arm of its strategic deterrent to dissuade an Israeli preemption of its evolving nuclear weapons program. Second, Tehran sponsored terror attacks on Israel are designed to divert it from going after Iran. In this way, Iran has been able to open a second front in its terror war. Third, through its proxies, Iran is at war with Israel without being directly involved, diminishing the likelihood of an Israeli response against Iran. Indeed, by opting to go after the perpetrators of terror rather than its sponsors, Israel has buttressed Iran’s rationale for its indirect strategy. Four, by constantly supporting Palestinian violence and undermining any efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, Iran not only assures its strategic goals are advanced, but also acts to weaken Israel should a conflict erupt.

    Nixon worried about Israeli nukes

    Recently released documents show that the Nixon administration feared that Israeli nuclear weapons would spark an arms race in the Middle East.
    Researcher William Burr said the memo on Israel's nuclear program sheds light on a little known area of US intelligence.

    "For a long time, the US kept secret its assessment of the status of the Israeli nuclear program," said Burr, senior analyst at the National Security Archives at George Washington University. The paper shows "Israel could develop nuclear weapons fairly quickly, something that isn't widely known."

    In the memo, Sisco urged Secretary of State William Rogers to try to curb Israel's ambitions before it was too late.

    "If this process continues, and it becomes generally assumed that Israel has the bomb, it will have far-reaching and even dangerous implications for the US," Sisko wrote.

    Among those dangers: "Israel's possession of nuclear weapons would do nothing to deter Arab guerrilla warfare or reduce Arab irrationality; on the contrary it would add a dangerous new element to Arab-Israeli hostility with added risk of confrontation between the US and USSR."

    More on the documents released on Wednesday here.

    Listen to this Vietnam Vet

    The sobriquet "decorated Vietnam veteran" has apparently been surgically attached by the media to Rep. John Murtha now that he's waved the white flag over the war in Iraq. Apparently, this gives Murtha a higher moral standing than the rest of his fellow congressman.

    But he's not the only Vietnam vet with an opinion. May I present John McCain.
    The Senate has responded to the millions who braved bombs and threats to vote, who put their faith and trust in America and their government, by suggesting that our No. 1 priority is to bring our people home.

    We have told insurgents that their violence does grind us down, that their horrific acts might be successful. But these are precisely the wrong messages. Our exit strategy in Iraq is not the withdrawal of our troops, it is victory.

    Americans may not have been of one mind when it came to the decision to topple Saddam Hussein. But, though some disagreed, I believe that nearly all now wish us to prevail.

    Because the stakes there are so high — higher even than those in Vietnam — our friends and our enemies need to hear one message: America is committed to success, and we will win this war.

    More: Chickenlittlehawk.

    The French party.

    Iraq Onanism.

    UPDATE: Murtha hasn't exactly been the pro-war-until-now guy that the media has been painting him as.

    Prejudiced against the newest Pride


    As far as the Darcy debates are concerned, I am firmly in the Colin Firth camp. I was already prejudiced against the current incarnation of Pride and Prejudice after seeing the trailer. Now that I know that they've screwed around with the ending to cater to US tastes, I'm pretty sure it'll be lousy.

    Gene therapy

    For your hair:
    "A curly follicle makes curly hair," said Bruno Bernard, head of hair biology at L'Oreal. "This is a breakthrough. For a very long time people did not understand how hair got curly."

    Although the team has yet to find a "master switch" that controls follicle shape, Mr Bernard said it was now possible to think about how to change hair shape by using hormones or drugs.

    "It is now possible to use biological methods to make curly hair straight and vice versa," he said.

    Via Michael K.

    Nov 17, 2005

    Iran supports Iraqi torturers

    The Badr Brigade is financed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to a report on an Arab-language website.
    Iran pays the Badr Brigade, recently renamed to Badr Organisation, a monthly salary of approximately three million dollars, the Jordanian website al-Malaf Net reported.

    Al-Malaf Net said Iran’s military as well as its notorious Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) were involved in illegal activities in Iraq through their regional proxy, the Badr Brigade.

    The report identified Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr militia and a member of Iraq’s parliament, as a key link between Tehran and Iraq’s Interior Ministry. It said that al-Ameri had a direct link to the IRGC’s elite Qods Force, which is tasked with exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution to Arab states. He is regularly received by Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, it added.

    Why America is great

    The Punkin Chunkin.
    Every year since 1986, near Millsboro, the Punkin Chunkin has been held. Last week, 100 teams vied to see whose machine could toss an 8-10lb (3.6-4.6kg) pumpkin farthest. There were various categories: air cannons, trebuchets, pedal-powered doohickeys. No explosives are allowed—a galling rule to some contestants. But the biggest air cannons, with barrels up to 150 feet (46 metres) long, can shoot their fruit projectiles most of a mile, making each one what one spectator called “one heck of a peashooter”.

    Via Arts & Letters Daily.

    Very Grimm indeed

    Lincoln Allison reads the Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales and comes up with his own composite:
    A young man (ex-soldier, huntsman, or peasant chucked out of the family home because there is not enough to eat) is on the move and penetrates deep into the forest. There he meets a dwarf (or old crone or talking animal) who tells him of a cave where he will find a dragon (or large snake etc). Having killed this creature he must extract a ring from its stomach and take it to the city where it will establish his right to marry the local princess and, eventually, succeed as ruler. But when he does this the king (who doesn't think he's posh enough for his daughter) insists on him accomplishing a number of bizarre and pretty well impossible tasks including bringing back a donkey that poos gold bullion. He succeeds, but only with the aid of talking swans (or ravens, frogs, hares, etc) and possibly the devil's grandmother. On completion of the tasks the swans (or whatever) turn into the handsome princes of neighbouring states who had had a spell put on them. He is allowed to marry the princess and somebody who had been unfairly influencing the king against him is torn limb from limb. This can be the king's mother-in-law or wicked brother or a passing Jew, but whoever it is their painful demise causes great rejoicing throughout the land and a period of happiness ensues.
    I remember reading a non-watered down version of the Grimm's as a child. In the Cinderella story, the wicked stepsisters are persuaded by their wicked mom to force their feet into the glass slipper. Sister number one cuts off her big toe, crams her foot in the shoe and goes off with the prince (or maybe one of his minions) to live happily ever after. A raven follows them, spots the blood spurting out of the slipper and begins speaking in that way ravens are wont to do in fairytales, thus foiling the sister's plans. They return home, whereupon sister number two chops off her heel and crams her foot in the shoe. You know what happens after that.

    As I recall, this was one of the tamer tales in the tome. "It would take Thomas Bowdler to make [these tales] fit children's stories," says Allison.
    I think that even people who have never read a tale collected by the Brothers Grimm have received enough of them indirectly to know that they are "gruesome". But if you read them in succession it is not the gruesomeness, but the randomness which gets you down. Scheisse happens, Zauber happens, but not in any way you can control or treat rationally. Dead folk are sometimes brought back to life using herbs from distant mountains, but sometimes they aren't.

    He contrasts them unfavorably with the stories of Hans Christian Andersen, which he calls "meaningful modern fables" in contrast to the unrelenting scheisse in the Grimm's. Allison cites the Ugly Duckling, The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor's Clothes approvingly. But what about The Little Match Girl? In that story a poor, barefoot little girl freezes to death on a street corner while hallucinating about a Christmas feast. It has a happy ending, though. In death the little girl is reunited with her Grandmother, the only person who ever loved her.

    Then there's The Red Shoes. When our heroine finds that she cannot take the shoes off and that the shoes will not stop dancing, she persuades the local executioner to chop off her feet. He gives her some crutches and some little wooden feet and off she goes. Luckily she dies soon after.
    The organ sounded and the children in the choir sang, softly and beautifully. Clear sunlight streamed warm through the window, right down to the pew where Karen sat. She was so filled with the light of it, and with joy and with peace, that her heart broke. Her soul traveled along the shaft of sunlight to heaven, where no one questioned her about the red shoes.
    Uplifting, no?

    And parents today worry about violent cartoons. No wonder Kierkegaard was such a gloomy fellow; a steady diet of this stuff at bedtime will do that to you.

    The wit and wisdom of Osama bin Laden

    Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden was released today by the publisher Verso, which claims there's a need for a scholarly compendium of bin Laden, who's "one of the best prose writers in Arabic," according to Bruce Lawrence, an Islamic studies professor at Duke University who wrote the tome's introduction.

    Here's Osama's prescription for America:
    Alcohol and gambling would be barred and there would be an end to women's photos in newspapers or advertising.

    Any woman serving "passengers, visitors and strangers", presumably anyone from air stewardesses to waitresses, would also be out of a job.

    The West must "stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you" and has become the "worst civilisation witnessed in the history of mankind".

    But, hey, under his stewardship, the US would sign the Kyoto treaty. In every cloud ...

    Brit blogs

    The Guardian talks to a representative sampling that includes members of Samizdata, David T. of Harry's Place and Norm Geras.
    "The internet grew, as so many industries did, because of people's desire furtively to find pornography," [David T.] points out. "I sometimes think blogging is the political equivalent to that." He spends only a brief time writing his own blog entries, he says - but hours reading through readers' comments. "That sort of thing can ruin your marriage. You're never cured - you're only in remission. You're only ever a recovering blogger"

    What's a few million dead Russians?

    Protesters will meet outside the New York Times building tomorrow to demand that Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., surrender Walter Duranty's 1932 Pulitzer Prize. Duranty won the prize for articles about the Soviet Union, articles that covered up the forced collectivization of the Ukraine, which, historians estimate, killed between six and 10 million people.
    Clever in crafting words, a bon vivant, ever-engaging as a dinner companion, he was much in demand in certain circles. He satiated other needs as a novice necromancer, pervert and drunkard. His name was Walter Duranty, The New York Times's man in Moscow in the early 1930s. For supposedly objective reporting about conditions there, Duranty was distinguished with the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence. What he was really was Stalin's apologist, a libertine prepared to prostitute accuracy for access, ever-ready to write whatever was necessary to secure him in his various cravings.

    Much of this was known at the time, hence the deprecating references to him as "Walter Obscuranty." More tellingly, Malcolm Muggeridge, a contemporary, said that Duranty was "the greatest liar of any journalist I have ever met." Despite being one of the few eyewitnesses to the politically engineered Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine, Duranty nevertheless spun stories for The New York Times dismissing all accounts of that horror as nothing more than bunk or malicious anti-Soviet propaganda.

    He knew otherwise. On 26 September 1933, at the British Embassy in Moscow, Duranty privately confided to William Strang that as many as 10 million people had died directly or indirectly of famine conditions in the USSR during the past year. Meanwhile, publicly, Duranty orchestrated a vicious ostracizing of those journalists who risked much by reporting on the brutalities of forced collectivization and the ensuing demographic catastrophe, Muggeridge among them. Even as the fertile Ukraine, once the breadbasket of Europe, became a modern-day Golgotha, a place of skulls, Duranty plowed the truth under. Occasionally pressed on the human costs of the Soviet experiment he did, however, evolve a dismissive dodge, canting "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs." Not his eggs, of course.

    In November 2003, the Pulitzer Prize Board refused to revoke Duranty's prize, saying that the prize was given on the basis of 13 stories from 1931 and did not consider the author's body or work or his character.

    The Times was only too happy to accept the board's decision. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. had earlier stated that giving back the prize was tantamount to "airbrushing" history.

    More here and here.

    Nov 16, 2005


    Girdles: And the cinema.

    Hillary's biggest nightmare: Is Hollywood's biggest mess.

    Camel jockeys: Robots replace Sudanese slave boys.

    Republican-Lite: Democrats without the noise.

    Exercise or beer? You might as well enjoy yourself.

    To be or not to be

    Hamlet's monologue in Leetspeak:
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    Kids these days.

    Courtesy of Christina.

    My vagina doesn't have that much to say

    It's a bit of a Johnny (Jeannie?) One Note. Interesting to me, of course. Still, you'd have to be a bit of a churl not to be cheered at the news that vaginas of color will now have their chance to make their voices heard.

    Moroccans protest terror attacks

    James J. Na:
    Same story as before. Kill Christians and Jews, sympathy for "freedom fighting" against Zionists and Crusaders. Kill one of their own, vile terrorism!

    MORE: "Jordanians Are Shocked -- Shocked! -- That a Wedding Would be Blown Up."

    Dispatches from the sex wars

    Girls who marry beneath them v. Girls who marry for money. Evolutionary psychologists suggest the latter behavior is a millenias-old strategy of selective breeding wherein women look to find good providers for themselves and their children. Maureen Dowd says it's the reason she can't find a good man. Apparently, option number one is out of the question.


    Nominations are now being accepted for the 2005 Weblog Awards. Why should Harold Pinter be the only one to get the glittering prizes? H/T Robert, who's been nominated for Best Culture/Gossip Blog.

    Why the McCain amendment is wrong

    This editorial pretty much sums up my feelings about the anti-torture McCain amendment.
    Sen. John McCain says that allowing torture would ruin our image. Is that worse than terrorists ruining our landscape? We want them to fear being tortured, not know they have the right to an attorney.


    We do question his attempt to pass legislation banning the torture of prisoners of war and detainees captured on foreign battlefields. It's not because we advocate torture, but because the benefits gained by telling the world we have a law that bans it are outweighed by terrorists' and enemies' knowing we have such a law.

    I don't advocate torture either. But I do object to opening up our interrogation techniques for the world to see. In Mark Bowden's October 2003 article for the Atlantic, "The Dark Art of Interrogation" (subscription req'd), he suggests that fear is the most effective interrogation technique.
    Fear works. It is more effective than any drug, tactic, or torture device. According to unnamed scientific studies cited by the Kubark Manual (it is frightening to think what these experiments might have been), most people cope with pain better than they think they will. As people become more familiar with pain, they become conditioned to it. Those who have suffered more physical pain than others from being beaten frequently as a child, for example, or suffering a painful illness may adapt to it and come to fear it less. So once interrogators resort to actual torture, they are apt to lose ground.

    "The threat of coercion usually weakens or destroys resistance more effectively than coercion itself," the manual says.
    The threat to inflict pain, for example, can trigger fears more damaging than the immediate sensation of pain ... Sustained long enough, a strong fear of anything vague or unknown induces regression, whereas the materialization of the fear, the infliction of some form of punishment, is likely to come as a relief. The subject finds that he can hold out, and his resistances are strengthened.

    That fear is bolstered by uncertainty, according to Michael Koubi, the former chief interrogator for Israel's General Security Services, whom Bowden interviews in the article.
    "People change when they get to prison," Koubi says. "They may be heroes outside, but inside they change. The conditions are different. People are afraid of the unknown. They are afraid of being tortured, of being held for a long time. Try to see what it is like to sit with a hood over your head for four hours, when you are hungry and tired and afraid, when you are isolated from everything and have no clue what is going on." When the captive believes that anything could happen--torture, execution, indefinite imprisonment, even the persecution of his loved ones--the interrogator can go to work.
    I have no objection to Congress and the President setting limits on what interrogators can do, though as Bowden points out even techniques such as sleep deprivation are forbidden under the Geneva convention. I do have a problem with broadcasting those limits to the greater world. And I don't believe we should unnecessarily tie the hands of interrogators: Too much is at stake.

    The latest must have accessory?

    Books, the weightier, the better.
    Toting around some impressively incomprehensible chunk of literature as an accessory has since gathered momentum in the fashion community, a milieu generally acknowledged to be populated by “magazine readers.” Top of the fashion pretend-to-reads is anything by Elfriede Jelinek. For those of you who are ungroovy enough to admit an unfamiliarity with her name, Frau Jelinek is that Austrian chick who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in literature for “her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clich├ęs and their subjugating power.” (How do you say “whatever!” auf Deutsch?)

    We live to serve

    Terry Caesar writes a paean to librarians.
    Bookish or no, librarians exist to serve. . . the community, the public, the world. (Pick one.) Damned if this isn’t pretty much what they try to do, in just about every library on every campus I’ve known.

    In this, they are at times shockingly in contrast to comparable figures situated either above or below them. Faculty labor under no comparable imperative to be helpful — to students, to visitors, to anybody; office doors can easily shut, or chairs swivel to a back wall. Staff often seem under some imperative to be unhelpful; the secretary at the dean’s office or the clerk at Human Services can send just about anybody away steaming with anger at having been treated rudely. One simply does not hear such stories about librarians. The contrasts are striking. Perhaps they are explained by the difference between a library and all other buildings. None focuses a campus like a library. No building is comparably open to all and none so wholly represents — no, literally possesses — the very rationale of the college or university itself.

    My first literary crush

    Slate asks various members of the chattering classes to name the most influential book they read in college.

    As far as my college career goes, I'd have to say Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist, which I read in a Modern English Lit class and which led to my choosing to write my thesis on Ulysses. Since then, though, my tastes have changed: I prefer 19th Century writers like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Dickens and Trollope and straight-forward narrative.

    What was your first literary crush? Bonus question: Is there a book you avoided in college that you later picked up and couldn't believe you'd avoided? For me it was The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, which I was supposed to read for a Modern Novel class, but somehow wriggled my way out of. For years it sat on my nightstand, then one day I picked it up and I didn't get out of bed until I finished it two days later.

    White House fisks the NY Times

    Brilliant takedown of this editorial. Just read it.

    I wish to God the President had gone on the offensive sooner--like when the Times first became obsessed with the 16 words, but better late than never. Let's just hope it's not too little, too late.

    Frivolous, yet deep

    You are Snoopy!

    Which Peanuts Character are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Via Samantha.

    Nov 15, 2005

    Iraq withdrawal plan blocked in Senate

    Watered down bill calls for "a period of transition to full Iraqi sovereignty in 2006." The measure also contains language that would prohibit cruel and unusual punishment of detainees.
    The Senate-approved Iraq policy proposal calls for _ but does not require _ the Bush administration to "explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq" and to provide reports on U.S. foreign policy and military operations in Iraq every three months until all U.S. combat brigades have been withdrawn.

    The proposal calls 2006 a transition year in which Iraqi forces take over security of their country from U.S. forces to a far greater extent so the Americans can begin returning home.

    Republicans largely adopted the Democratic proposal as their own, but they omitted one paragraph calling for the president to offer a plan for a phased withdrawal of the roughly 160,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq. The administration has refused to set a timetable for withdrawal, saying insurgents simply would wait to strike until after U.S. forces departed.

    The good news, however, is that this measure doesn't have to be passed by Congress.
    Also uncertain is whether there will even be a final defense bill that makes it to the president's desk, given that the bill is not a must-pass measure. It sets Pentagon policy and authorizes spending but doesn't actually provide the dollars.

    Should we credit Senate GOP leaders with savvy political skills here? They managed to nix the withdrawal and while at the same time making it seem to a confused public that they're "doing something" regarding the "unpopular" war.

    I would have preferred, however, that members of the President's party bolster his newly launched offensive against the lying liars and challenge Harry Reid et al on their memory of the facts.

    I suppose that's asking too much.

    Shopping tips

    If you wanna get your hands on Wal-Mart's $400 laptop, here are some tips for shopping on Black Friday, including this nugget:
    Have a plan B. Expect the free scanner to be sold out. They may have a rain-check policy (which will most likely never get filled, by the way) or they may have a substitute item. If they don’t, have something else in mind. Don’t place too much confidence on a crazy deal - there will be many other people who want the same thing, who got in line way before you did.

    In other words, your chance of getting that $400 laptop are slim to none. So stay home and sleep in.