Friday, December 31, 2004

Oh how the mighty have fallen

Martha Stewart's inmate team lost a decorating contest in prison. Really.

If you're feeling a little too chipper

Check out Media Matters end of the year awards.

Bill O'Reilly wins the misinformer of the year award for gems such as, "We [the United States] have a trade deficit with everybody, because everybody wants our stuff, and we're not wild about snails."

O'Reilly is also included in the top ten most outrageous statements of 2004, which I include here in its entirety just because misery loves company:

    • Rush Limbaugh on the Abu Ghraib photos: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"

    • Ann Coulter: "[Senator John] Kerry will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."

    • Tony Blankley called philanthropist George Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."

    • Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. ...
      [T]hink only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son."

    • Oliver North: "Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry is the next president of the United States."

    • Pat Robertson on gays and lesbians: "[S]elf-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America."

    • Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism."

    • Bill O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."

    • Bill Cunningham (Clear Channel radio host who appeared as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show): The election is over because "Elizabeth Edwards has now sung."

    • Jerry Falwell: "And we're going to invite PETA [to "wild game night"] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."

What ever happened to Fay Wray...

What do Alistair Cooke, Russ Meyer, and Henri Cartier-Bresson have in common? That's right, they all died in 2004. BBC has the time-waits-for-no-man round up for the year.

New Year's cat blogging

My big boy getting a drink of water. See how disgruntled he looks because cat mom was away for a week. He is a curmudgeon by nature.

Happy new year to all

It is a bit dreary here in LA where the rain is expected to continue all weekend. Bummer for those rich folks in Malibu. Say what you like about the valley, but at least we don't have to worry about our houses sliding down mountains when it rains.

I am still nursing a cold and have big plans to spend new years blogging, watching DVDs, doing laundry, and blowing my nose. Happily, I no longer drink so I don't feel like I'm missing much except the opportunity to play frogger while sharing the road with excessively drunk people.

I actually appreciate New Years as a concept despite it being a sort of non-event for those of us who are clean. I always make a couple of resolutions and I like the idea of reflecting and assessing what I can commit to in the coming year. It's sort of like Yom Kippur without the abasement. This year I did pretty well on the resolutions. The big one for so many years running has been to finish my PhD and now it's actually done, which feels miraculous on the order of seas parting and food falling from the sky. My other resolution, to stay in better touch with my loved ones who are far away, I have had limited success with. Not so much so that it won't be a resolution again this year. I find I need to resolve something like five years in a row in order to actually do something pretty well. Sigh.

So Nic the cat and I are in for the day/night. For his part, it seems he has resolved to take more naps, a commitment he is hard at work on right now. I hope all y'all have a safe and happy evening.

Un-fucking real

So I just went online to get the story on the resignation of all 700 employees of the Iraqi electoral commission, and I came across this:
The radical Ansar al-Sunnah Army and two other insurgent groups issued a statement Thursday warning that democracy was un-Islamic. Democracy could lead to passing un-Islamic laws, such as permitting homosexual marriage, if the majority or people agreed to it, the statement said.
Really, I am speechless. Here we are in the middle of a hideous war, and we find common ground between the Bush league and the terrorists. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The war tour of DC

Not really, but sort of.

I don't know why my recent trips to DC seem to be World War II focused, but they do. I finally saw the World War II memorial on the mall. I am here to tell you it is every bit as horrible as you may have heard. Not only is it monstrous in scale, but it looks more than a little like it was designed by Albert Speer. Truly you have to physically restrain the urge to goosestep when you get near the thing. I mean, didn't we win that war? Anyway, here are some photos, but they really don't do it justice. (As an aside, I didn't realize that one of the two companies contracted to build der monument is owned by a German company that used slave labor during the war.)

The view from the Washington Monument

Some of the 56 pillars

The pillars at night

Then on my last day in DC, we went to the new Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. It's designed like a huge airplane hanger (I'm not sure if it was one at one time or whether it was just built to look like one.) Among the highlights is the quarantine station they used to put the astronauts after the first moon landing to get rid of the "moon germs." The station was made by airstream, which really cracked me up. They also had the requisite display of astronaut food (including tubes of borscht) and a shelf of "waste removal" methods. Myself, I have always wondered. I was happy to have my curiosity gratified. It seems there is the bag method and the "we don't call them depends" method. Good to know.

The Enola Gay is at the museum as well. I had seen the fuselage when it was on display downtown after the big interpretation controversy. The signage is now as matter of fact as it can be, the emphasis being on the plane rather than the bomb.

After wandering around the museum, we went to the IMAX to see Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag which is to the Air Force what The Italian Job was to the Mini Cooper. I'm admittedly a sucker for IMAX, but even so, I was ready to enlist after the movie. It was a full 500 person theater. With several shows a day, I figure all they need to do is move a recruitment table outside the door. Between that and the forthcoming Harrison Ford movie, we'll have plenty of new troops/cannon fodder.

Susan Sontag

While I know the tsunami has, justifiably overwhelmed all other news right now, I do want to acknowledge the death of Susan Sontag, and more importantly, her life.

Sontag was one of those rare creatures, a public intellectual, who was as smart as anyone on the planet but consistently engaged with the lived experiences of people in the world. She gained a lot of recognition in recent years from her criticism of the Bush administration, and the war against Iraq. The short piece below, which was published in the New Yorker immediately following September 11, 2001 earned her numerous death threats:
The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.

Our leaders are bent on convincing us that everything is O.K. America is not afraid. Our spirit is unbroken, although this was a day that will live in infamy and America is now at war. But everything is not O.K. And this was not Pearl Harbor. We have a robotic President who assures us that America still stands tall. A wide spectrum of public figures, in and out of office, who are strongly opposed to the policies being pursued abroad by this Administration apparently feel free to say nothing more than that they stand united behind President Bush. A lot of thinking needs to be done, and perhaps is being done in Washington and elsewhere, about the ineptitude of American intelligence and counter-intelligence, about options available to American foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, and about what constitutes a smart program of military defense. But the public is not being asked to bear much of the burden of reality. The unanimously applauded, self-congratulatory bromides of a Soviet Party Congress seemed contemptible. The unanimity of the sanctimonious, reality-concealing rhetoric spouted by American officials and media commentators in recent days seems, well, unworthy of a mature democracy.

Those in public office have let us know that they consider their task to be a manipulative one: confidence-building and grief management. Politics, the politics of a democracy—which entails disagreement, which promotes candor—has been replaced by psychotherapy. Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. "Our country is strong," we are told again and again. I for one don't find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that's not all America has to be.

A bit about the journey

Well, I am back in LA safe and sound. I seem to have picked up a nasty head cold at some point during yesterday's travel marathon. As the day wore on and more and more flights were cancelled and delayed, the airline folks became progressively more surly. When at long last my flight out of Las Vegas was boarding, they seemed to want to pick a fight, honestly. First they told us we would have to check most of our carry-ons then they yelled at us when we did not intuit the boarding instructions and then they bellowed out that there would be no beverage service "because we just can't wait any longer!" That was the point when I told the woman as long as we weren't going to be flogged or in some other way physically abused, we were happy to finally board any flight. A comment which got me pulled out of line and ID-ed. Sigh. Usually I try to maintain civility at all costs, but when you've waited seven hours to get on a plane and then they have a recorded message playing over and over that says "Please help us depart on time by quickly taking your seats and storing your carry-on luggage," it's enough to push a person over the edge.

I will not recite the whole litany of difficult circumstances except to say two more things: 1. It took my 18 1/2 hours to get from door to door in my trip (DC to LA), and 2. When I had to pick through the heaps of luggage piled willy-nilly all over the floor to find my bag and then got to the curb in time to see the tail lights of my bus pulling away, I very nearly wept at LAX. In a word, it was gruelling. But in the main, the travelers I ran into were far less nasty than usual. I think the tsunami put things into perspective for a lot of us and most people were just happy to have a home to strive to get to.

I am very, very happy to be back and Nic the cat is very happy to have me here as well. So I should be at work today, but instead I am home nursing my cold getting ready for my big outing to buy juice, coffee, laundry detergent, and vicks vaporub.

More on the trip itself to follow...

Monday, December 27, 2004

How soon they forget

Greetings from the nation's capital. I am still in DC and poaching a moment on sis' computer to say hello to all. Let me just say that winter is so very over-rated. I cannot believe I lived in Wisconsin for eleven years without perishing like an Eskimo baby left on the ice. It is cold as f*** in DC and I'm seriously wondering why I, who live in the land of endless summer, am the one traveling for the holiday. Dumb. Next year, I plan to invite everyone else out to pile like kittens on my couch and instead of flying on Christmas eve I will spend the day selling overpriced coffee and aspirin to the eight thousand people lined up waiting to get through security at LAX.

Which is to say, LAX was indeed a nightmare. A total Ellis Island experience with the security line at terminal one stretching down the escalators through the snaky rope line, out the door, the entire length of the terminal, across the sidewalk and a third of the way down terminal two. You know it's bad when the news vans are there filming the line.

It was worth it though. I've not only spent a lot of time with my sibs, I got to hook up with an old family friend here from France and meet her adorable three-year-old who is like a parody of a French wee child. She doesn't quite grasp the monolingual phenomenon and so spoke slowly and carefully in French to us, regaling us with tales of dogs run over by cars and other fatalities. I tried to explain to her that Americans told stories about dogs going to heaven, but we had a linguistic barrier to be sure.

No news blogging until my return Wednesday; though Andrea in her abject refusal to become co-blogger continues to send me interesting tidbits. For now, just one quick link: I love this a lot.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Step away from the machine

So tomorrow morning I head off for the LAX oh-so-fun holiday extravaganza. Heading back east to see my sibs, eat lots of food, open presents (I may be Jewish, but I never turn down an occasion for gifts), and be "the cool aunt." I will be gone until the 29th--off the grid. No blogging unless I can steal time from my brother-in-law's system.

Which is to say I hope everyone has a great weekend. I will be freezing my ass off no doubt, as a few years in LA is enough time to completely unfit a person for normal weather patterns. See y'all mid-week.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Maybe we won't need a draft after all

Via Simply Appalling comes the news that:
Harrison Ford is to star in what will be Hollywood's first feature about the current Iraq war.

Producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher have bought the option for No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah, a non-fiction written by Slate reporter Bing West.
As S.A. notes "you may take it as a given that this will not be the title of the movie"

Too bad she didn't come as a burning cross

Jacqueline Duty was turned away from her high school prom because of her fashion faux pas of a dress. I was relieved to read that she designed it herself (over the course of four years!). Perhaps needless to say, Duty is now suing because her First Amendment rights were violated:
"We've all worn Confederate flags to school before," she told the paper.

Her lawyer said Duty lost many scholarships because she was portrayed as a racist after the incident.
Yep, she's suing for defamation as well.

I say, let's run her up the flag pole and see who salutes.

Don't know how I missed this one

Appropriately titled "Whatever It Takes", the new BC04 ad uses Bush's convention acceptance speech, stirring music, and images of dedicated troops and families in the heartland. Via ZoneZero

And here I thought we were only at the point of cloning cats.

Gimme some truth

Geov Parrish at Working for Change has a good end of the year round up of the most overhyped and underreported stories in 2004 featuring items like
Ronald Reagan's Death. Forget Iran-Contra, illegal wars, administration corruption, AIDS, and the Me Decade. Just remember that he was a really nice guy. Oh, and he single-handedly ended Communism. But wait -- Communism can't have ended, because this is exactly how such regimes rewrite history. All hail the Great Fallen Helmsman Comrade Leader Ronnie.

Foreign Terrorists. Because of constant repetition and misuse, this term is utterly devoid of meaning. Many Americans, however, now think that any foreigner is a terrorist. Mission accomplished.

Anything the White House Says About Iraq It's time to stop treating these ridiculously optimistic, obtuse pronouncements as credible. "Freedom is on the march"?? Please.
See post below for the news in a nutshell.

If that's not enough to depress you, Parrish's readers have contributed their own additions to the list.

Extra points to anyone who knows this post's title source. I'll give you a hint: the band also had a song called "Promises, promises" about not selling out. I love irony; don't you?


As I was reading last week's Salon article about how Bill O'Reilly is saving Christmas, it occurred to me that the X-Files really captures the shift in zeitgeist in America. The article features zingy one-liners that threaten to make coffee go up your nose like, "O'Reilly has insisted he's a friend to Jews." And I thought about how when the X-Files was first on TV their tag line was "The truth is out there." Then after a few seasons(?) it changed to "Trust no one."

If America were a TV show instead of a country that would pretty much sum it up.

All I want

for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Big fat yuck

I didn't realize Lynne Cheney has a PhD in lit from the U of Wisconsin.

I feel so...tainted.

Fifty million dollars

That's how much money they hope to raise for W's "fuck anyone who cares about anything important" party January 20th. Because when this country is in the red, we mean it in every sense. The Capital Eye has information about the big spenders. But do they get to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom; that's what I want to know.

The theme for this inaugural you ask? "Celebrating Freedom, Honoring Service." The three candle light dinners, nine inaugural balls, big ass parade, and other fun stuff are all bracketed by a Military Gala on Tuesday, January 18th and a National Prayer Service on Friday, January 21st. I like that they're having a special "Commander-in-Chief Ball" for military folks just back from or soon to go to Iraq and Afghanistan. Why is everyone so hard on this administration anyway? Sure they don't have enough armored vehicles, but they are having a free dance for the soldiers. That's nice isn't it?

Maybe this year we will get an inaugural address as inspiring as that of 2000:
Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need are not strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities. And all of us are diminished when any are hopeless.

Government has great responsibilities for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government. [Read: "I don't know what the fuck to do about this stuff. Why don't you guys do something about it."]

. . .

Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do.

And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.
Because after all, it's so much harder to smite someone from the other side of the street.

And this:
I will live and lead by these principles: to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well.

In all these ways, I will bring the values of our history to the care of our times.
I guess he's talking about the rapacious and genocidal values of our history not the liberty and justice ones, huh?

And in his spare time...

A renaissance man of the revolution, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, leader of the Zapatistas, former philosophy professor, is co-authoring a serial detective novel with Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Mexico's most popular crime writer. The two men alternate chapters which are being published in La Jornada. The Guardian gives a brief synopsis (via Metafilter). The novel begins with two detectives (one apparently dead) who will meet in Chapter Nine:
Taibo says he has no idea where the story will go from there but, for the moment, he is more concerned about what to do with a gay Filipino with a Basque surname who worked in a Barcelona garage. Marcos introduced him in chapter three, playing football in Zapatista territory.
And I'm thinking to myself: if Marcos can find time to write a novel while leading an insurgent movement. . . my excuse is what exactly?

It's not that cell phones are bad for you...

...they just damage your DNA. But not to worry--while a British commissioned study shows that the radiation from mobiles can damage DNA to an irreparable degree, and the next generation of cells is also affected, and mutated cells can cause cancer, there's no reason to assume a health risk. (Though "children should only use mobile phones in emergencies.") Gives whole new meaning to the term "cell phone."

Darwin meets Corleone

Because it's healthy to post a critique of Wal-Mart at least every six months or so. . .

Via Simply Appalling comes this Fast Company article, "The Wal-Mart You Don't Know" that describes Wal-Mart's pressure on its suppliers. Levi-Strauss is a good case in point:
Getting ready for Wal-Mart has been like putting Levi on the Atkins diet. It has helped everything--customer focus, inventory management, speed to market. It has even helped other retailers that buy Levis, because Wal-Mart has forced the company to replenish stores within two days instead of Levi's previous five-day cycle.

And so, Wal-Mart might rescue Levi Strauss. Except for one thing.

Levi didn't actually have any clothes it could sell at Wal-Mart. Everything was too expensive. It had to develop a fresh line for mass retailers: the Levi Strauss Signature brand, featuring Levi Strauss's name on the back of the jeans.
Since signing on with Wal-Mart, Levi Strauss announced the closing of its last two American plants and the layoff of 2500 workers.

So Wal-Mart seemingly helps "everything" except product quality and worker satisfaction. But other than that, it's great. Who needs nice things and good jobs when you can buy pickles at $3 a gallon?

The article describes Wal-Mart's Godfather-esque approach to stocking its shelves. ("Someday, I may ask a favor of you...") As the largest company in the world (over $244.5 billion in sales last year, more than Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Safeway, and Kroger put together), Wal-Mart can pretty much call the shots, which are, in fact, heard round the world:
For many suppliers, though, the only thing worse than doing business with Wal-Mart may be not doing business with Wal-Mart. Last year, 7.5 cents of every dollar spent in any store in the United States (other than auto-parts stores) went to the retailer. . . .

Many companies and their executives frankly admit that supplying Wal-Mart is like getting into the company version of basic training with an implacable Army drill sergeant. The process may be unpleasant. But there can be some positive results.

"Everyone from the forklift driver on up to me, the CEO, knew we had to deliver [to Wal-Mart] on time. Not 10 minutes late. And not 45 minutes early, either," says Robin Prever, who was CEO of Saratoga Beverage Group from 1992 to 2000, and made private-label water sold at Wal-Mart. "The message came through clearly: You have this 30-second delivery window. Either you're there, or you're out. With a customer like that, it changes your organization. For the better. It wakes everybody up. And all our customers benefited. We changed our whole approach to doing business."

But you won't hear evenhanded stories like that from Wal-Mart, or from its current suppliers. Despite being a publicly traded company, Wal-Mart is intensely private. It declined to talk in detail about its relationships with its suppliers for this story. More strikingly, dozens of companies contacted declined to talk about even the basics of their business with Wal-Mart.

Here, for example, is an executive at Dial: "We are one of Wal-Mart's biggest suppliers, and they are our biggest customer by far. We have a great relationship. That's all I can say. Are we done now?" Goaded a bit, the executive responds with an almost hysterical edge: "Are you meshuga? Why in the world would we talk about Wal-Mart? Ask me about anything else, we'll talk. But not Wal-Mart."

No one wants to end up in what is known among Wal-Mart vendors as the "penalty box"--punished, or even excluded from the store shelves, for saying something that makes Wal-Mart unhappy. (The penalty box is normally reserved for vendors who don't meet performance benchmarks, not for those who talk to the press.)

"You won't hear anything negative from most people," says Paul Kelly, founder of Silvermine Consulting Group, a company that helps businesses work more effectively with retailers. "It would be committing suicide. If Wal-Mart takes something the wrong way, it's like Saddam Hussein. You just don't want to piss them off."
Why is that the further we get into the "information age," the less information there seems to be?

In sum, to state the obvious, Wal-Mart is really evil and you shouldn't shop there. Don't do it.

P.S. Go read Yelladog for more on retail choice, freedom, and the problems with Capitalism.


So Andrea went back home to ABQ. Sniff sniff. I am going to work now. I'm sure I won't be nearly as prolific or funny with her gone. I do think I may have strong-armed her into joining ranks though and becoming my coblogger, so we'll see...

The best and worst of dandy culture

Via Eponymous,

Which literature classic are you?

I am embarrassed to say I am Name of the Rose.
The name of the rose
Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose. You are a
mystery novel dealing with theology, especially
with catholic vs liberal issues. You search
wisdom and knowledge endlessly, feeling that
learning is essential in life.

Regardless, the quiz features questions such as: "What is unique and special about you?" with options like
Time plays no importance to me; in fact, it might not even exist.
My bohemian decadence and romantic aesthetics.
I deal mostly with death, and am shameless and inconventional [sic] with my way of expressing myself.
I can show you the best and worst of dandy culture.
I am capable of wonderful intellectual conversations on moral issues (and also the uselessness thereof).

Pretty funny.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Colonics and aromatherapy

We treat our rats differently here in LA than they do in New York. Perhaps PETA has been too successful.

Headline of the day

We're into health news today.

John Cleese reporting...

So I have complained a lot that the headlines lately make it difficult to tell the difference between The Onion and the WaPo, but now I must say it appears that Monty Python has taken over reporting.

Thanks to Jo Miller for pointing out this gem:
While a slight majority [of Americans polled] believes the invasion of Iraq war contributed to the long-term security of the United States, 70 percent of Americans think these gains have come at an "unacceptable" cost in military casualties.

Nevertheless, the public is still sending conflicting signals.

. . .

58% believe Iraq is not ready for elections. Even so, 60% want those elections to go forward as scheduled. But 54% do not expect honest results.
If this were a GRE logic question I never would have made it to graduate school.

Suddenly the Brazilian wax makes more sense

Let me begin by saying I know plenty of women who swear by the Brazilian wax, a practice whereby anything resembling a hair is ripped from your nether region using hot wax so that you emerge hairless as a grape.

Myself, I find it barbaric and, well, to put it politely, Lolita-ish.

Yesterday's article about the Brazilian penal code shed some light on the culture that spawned the aesthetic:

Legislation working its way through the Brazilian Congress aims to remove references to "honest women" from this country's penal code. . . .

At issue is the provision of the code that deals with sexual assault. Written more than half a century ago, the passage mandates punishment for anyone who coerces an "honest woman" into having sex, a label that meant an unmarried virgin or another man's wife.

The implication, however, was that only those women deserved protection, whereas the others deserved what they got. Judges ruled accordingly, dismissing the complaints of "unchaste" women -- those who dared have sex outside marriage -- and exonerating their attackers. The men, the thinking went, must have been provoked or somehow ensnared by the brazen women.
The article goes on to explain that while the law may change soon (please), it will take longer for attitudes to follow suit:

Changing attitudes, however, is likely to be a longer process. Machismo and discrimination against women remain ingrained in much of Brazilian life, as a recent survey in Rio by the nonprofit Promundo Institute shows.

The study found that a large number of the men polled believed it acceptable to beat their wives or companions if domestic chores were not properly performed. About half the men reported having on occasion exercised some form of coercion -- physical, psychological or sexual -- against their partners.
This blogger is taking a moment of gratitude that she does not live in Brazil.

New age nose candy now nostrum

Make fun of us in LA if you want, but our new age hoodoo seems to be the hope for the future.

In good company

Let's place George W's latest distinction in context why don't we:

Man of the Year: 2004: W

Man of the Year 1980: Khomeini

Man of the Year 1940: Stalin

Man of the Year 1939: Hitler

Monday, December 20, 2004

But where do smart gamblers go?

When buying lottery tickets isn't a dumb enough way to give away your money

Shoot each other for free

In something eerily akin to the studio system of backlot filming, the army has developed "Urban Terrain Modules" and "Outdoor Terrain Modules" where soldiers cruise around in GPS helmets shooting virtual middle easterners and some command position person controls the temperature, sunlight, etc. It's a kind of video game training center, a MMORPG, if you will:
We've had a lot of soldiers coming back from Iraq who say it's too real. The only thing we don't have is the smell," says Bleau, a civilian government subcontractor whose company manages the computer systems. "We're working on that."

. . .

In the past, the Army has used computer games for recruiting, too. The taxpayer-funded first-person shooter "America's Army," for example, teaches Army dogma while offering online battle modes where groups of gamers can shoot each other for free.
And yes, Eponymous, you're right. I find this absolutely no less offensive and creepy than the "let's pretend we're assassinating Kennedy" game.

What it means to work in a "sweat shop" in Chatsworth

Andrea and I are posting this ad in the hopes that someone can explain it to us.

Here is the text in the upper-right-hand corner:
Italian and French Canadian, Sophie is currently a student in Montreal. She met an American Apparel employee on the street there, and was photographed the following evening.
Then the photo. [Note the be-socked foot under Sophie's]

Here is the text in the lower-right-hand corner:
American Apparel is 3,200 people earning a fair wage.

Designers, marketers, engineers, knitters, sewers, and administrators all working together out of a vertically integrated factory in downtown Los Angeles.

Thirty-five non-franchised stores worldwide with more on the way. Forty thousand wholesale clients, part of the family. One million garments served up each week.

Taking on the system.
One T-shirt at a time.

Capitalism. Working.

Why the British cannot be trusted with food

After shucking out $52,000 for a 850g white truffle, the London restaurant purchaser has let it rot to inedibility in a safe. The Italians are bereft. The truffle has been repatriated, and the Florentines, who do know how to respect food are planning a burial at tree. That is, after the reading of a requiem poem, the fungus will be laid to rest at a Medici castle under a tree planted by Amerigo Vespucci.

Readers are encouraged to submit requiem poem candidates. We're thinking something that begins "Four spore and seven years ago" or perhaps "Oh truffle, my truffle..."

Soviet government officials have released a statement clarifying that any resemblance between Yurschenko and the truffle are purely coincidental.

The latest exhibit in the "why I love LA" case

What we didn't do last night because we couldn't find anyone willing to be a participant rather than just a voyeur.

21 gun salutes and Scooby Doo

Perhaps the line of the day in the cornucopia that was Sunday's LA Times is this: "You dressed for Toys for Tots or a funeral?"

In one of the eight million ways the war has affected the world beyond the immediately obvious, the Toys for Tots program is hard pressed to distribute donations to poor children. Normally, Marine Reservists run 179 of the programs, but they, of course, are currently off getting killed. The LA Times (registration required) has the story:

Amid the public's clamor for holiday help, Coates and the remaining Marines also have had to wrestle with the grim realities of war.

In October, the battalion had its first casualty. In November, six were killed in one week. Another died on Thanksgiving Day. Two more were killed last week. The funerals are tentatively set for this week, a day or two before Christmas Eve.

As Coates walked through the center's gymnasium, winding his way through towers of toys nearly 10 feet tall, he greeted two Marines.

They were wearing formal dress uniforms. "You dressed for Toys for Tots or a funeral?" Coates asked.

One Marine showed Coates a tightly folded American flag and replied, "Funeral."

The pair left and changed into their fatigues. Within a few minutes, they returned to the gymnasium and started packing Scooby Doo blankets and hula hoops into boxes.
Andrea has decided we need a new word to describe people who think this war is a good idea. She suggests "wartarded," as in "You can't listen to a word he says about the Middle East; he's wartarded."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Where I've been

Brief life update: The workgroup is gone. Andrea has come. And we are shopping like maniacs. I continue to bend the laws of time and space in my maximum efficiency mode, but sadly, that leaves less time for blogging than in weeks past. Things promise to be hectic until the end of the month.

But here's something I've been thinking about. You know that book, The Giving Tree? What's up with that book? I got it when I was a kid, and I loved it. But now I really wonder. I mean, here's this tree and he loves this boy, and the boy pillages the tree repeatedly, taking pretty much everything the tree has: fruit, leaves, branches. The boy carves his initials in the tree and plunders his friend until all that is left is a fucking stump, upon which he places his greedy ass. What is the message here? (Andrea interjects: It's a love story.)

In the course of my online shopping this season, I came across The Giving Tree as a recommended book. No fucking way, I say. I wonder about the connection between reading The Giving Tree at too impressionable an age and my relationship choices.

Andrea suspects George W also read The Giving Tree when he was young, but he identified with the boy, not the tree. Thus our foreign policy. Maybe NATO really needs Alanon. (Unanon?)

Spirits of the season

Looks like Santa's been a bit naughty I'm thinking.

This and so many other gems at the Scared of Santa photo gallery.
Thanks to Yelladog for the find.

Ever wonder

what you would look like on a milk carton? Andrea sent me this one, and I was unconvinced at first, but it is a lot of fun--sort of the adult version of those "Hairy Harry" toys with the metal filings when you were a kid. I like the gallery a lot as well. Osama is my favorite.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Lego for the alienated worker

I really like these a lot. (What's more, I usually hate splash page introductions on websites--I am queen of the "skip intro" button--but this one I like.)

Build an empire, one cube at a time

Pots and kettles

Tonight's picture display comes courtesy of Andrea who has been sending me stuff while I am locked in a room all day with my workgroup.

I don't know if you all have been following this, but Cuba and the US are locked in a signifier war.

This is the Christmas light display at the US Mission in Havana that features the number 75 in reference to the 75 dissidents jailed last April in Cuba (14 of them have been let go, but the US says it wants to "highlight Cuba's human rights record")

The display at night

And so Cuba erected this sign, highlighting the US's human rights record, across the street

You can read about it here

Electoral outhouse

Got this via email from Susan today.

13 tons

Oh right...that's what we're fighting for.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Dora, Pooh, and Nemo play with chainsaws

This gem comes courtesy of ResourceShelf (Gary Price is one of my personal heroes--when I used to work here he and Tara Calishain were like mentors, unbeknownst to them I am sure).

Of the 22 toys the Sight and Hearing Association tested this holiday season, 5 were louder than a chainsaw. (As an aside, I will say that anyone who purchases a toy called the "Light & Sound Weed Trimmer" for their child deserves what they get at 100 decibels.)

The article goes on to explain how much exposure to such a noise can lead to hearing loss. Myself, I don't really need to know. "Louder than a chainsaw" is a sufficient descriptor. The prospect of long term hearing loss is less daunting than the more immediate possibility of me seizing the toy and performing some sort of jailable offense with the it and perhaps the child as well.

Knowledge is power

According to Secrecy News:
The Central Intelligence Agency has been unilaterally removing records from public collections in the National Archives, according to the minutes of a September 2004 meeting of the State Department Historical Advisory Committee that were approved for release this week.

. . .

"CIA reviewers... claimed the right to remove documents from the open files that, in their view, had never been 'properly declassified.'"
The advisory committee minutes are here.

And so progresses the inexorable tide of criminal behavior that is washing away our rights. Does it seem to anyone else like someone has turned up the temperature under the pot of water where we citizen frogs are boiling to death? I can't remember a time this bad.

No room for one more dog on the cabinet

This year's Christmas video offering from the White House (a shmaltzy tradition if ever there was one) really defies description. Among other highlights: W explaining to Barney (the dog) why he didn't get a cabinet post; Karl Rove suggesting to Barney that he look in Ohio for Mrs. Beasley (the new puppy) because the team made so many stops there; Rove removing the blue Christmas ornaments from the tree and replacing them with red ones; and Gonzales consoling Barney that being overlooked for the cabinet was nothing personal: "You're not a lawyer Barney; you're a dog."

I really wish I was making this up. You can access the video from Barney's Home Page under Barney's films or you can find it at CoolGov. You have to go right now and watch this. It really is not to be missed. The combination of chutzpah, criminality, and insipidness is breath-taking.

No, I have not dropped off the face of the earth

My official job title is "project coordinator," and what that means often is that I act as a liaison between our board (we are a nonprofit), our staff, and volunteers who work on workgroups. My current project has a fairly rigorous meeting schedule and today was the first day of a three-day workgroup meeting. In brief, that means, I spend all day in a room with an international group of folks making decisions and talking about important stuff (important in our world). Sooo.... I have emerged from the conference room and am at this moment acting as emotional (telephone) triage for a couple of friends. More soon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Is there anyone in this government who isn't a criminal?

It's coming to light that the head of NIH's AIDS division, Dr. Edmund Tramont, falsified a report about experimental drug testing in Uganda:

Dr. Betsy Smith's report, finished in January 2003, said the Uganda trial suffered from "incomplete or inadequate safety reporting" and records on patients were "of poor quality and below expected standards of clinical research."

. . .

Behind the scenes, Tramont asked to see Smith's report before it was submitted to medical authorities, including the Food and Drug Administration "I need to see the primary data--too much riding on this report," Tramont wrote Jan. 23, 2003.

A few weeks later, the safety report was published and sent to FDA without Smith's concerns and with a new conclusion.

The study "has demonstrated the safety of single dose nevirapine for the prevention of maternal to child transmission," Tramont's version concluded. "Although discrepancies were found in the database and some unreported AEs (adverse reactions) were discovered ... these were not clinically important in determining the safety profile."
That's one extract from an article filled with such passages.

The current status of the drug? Well, they are now advising it not be used when there is another alternative because apparently it "may cause long-term resistance to AIDS drugs in the hundreds of thousands of African patients who received it, foreclosing future treatment options."

What they don't mention in that article, but they do mention in this one is that nevirapine can cause lethal liver damage, which is apparently the way Joyce Ann Hafford died when she was taking the drugs in the US on an experimental basis. NIH tried to cover up her death as well, but AP gave Hafford's family internal NIH memos.

In the category of inscrutable choices: Yahoo! News has her story filed in the "Parenting/Kids" subsection of the Health news. Can I tell you how glad I am that I don't have children so that when I die because I am taking unsafe drugs that the government gave me and failed to warn me about and then they try to cover up that fact, Yahoo will at least file my story in the "Oddly Enough" category.

Tramont's response to her death? This email: "Ouch! Not much wwe (we) can do about dumd (dumb) docs." [I say again: you can't make this shit up.]

Am I too much of an alarmist to be thinking of this?

To offer a piece is heart for needy in this auction is

This man wants you to sponsor his daughter. Why? He explains:
I degrees once only the maintenance furnish can that am legally prescribed.

The nut/mother of my daughter is social welfare assistance empfaengerin and has still another son me as his father regards. I live at present with you in dwelling house in different dwellings, however my more patner has internal requirement-complains the manager gotten (gege'n you the straight proceeds).

All in all the nut/mother comes in such a way degrees over the month with the money which you from the office gets, however nothing more remains for children over and also weihnachts given for the children this year precipitates rather speerlich.

Therefore me this idea came, since I saw that to honouring sponsorships for animals am offered here and I imagine a sponsorship for I legend times my two children am more meaningful than for a dog.

Why I am glad I am not a nurse

Got the following emails forwarded to me today by a friend who used to be a nurse in a public hospital. They originate from her best friend who still is.

First, the email sent to said best friend:
I was asked this question by xxxx. I had to go there yesterday to see a patient and they tried to give the arm to me. This is a copy of what they wrote:

Who is responsible for picking up extremities? We call pathology to come pick up an arm from a patient that was hit by a train. They said they did not do that any more. I tried to send it to the morgue via escort but they said they did not take extremities to the morgue. The problem is this patient's arm was in the trauma center for 8 hours. I finally sent it to the morgue with a nurse and called security to open the morgue. Can either or both of you clarify the answer please? Thank you in
And the email she sent to her boss with the forward:
Dear Boss,
Somehow, I could NOT leave you out of this loop! I mean, with xxx always referring to me as "His Right Arm" and all...

Can you "lend a hand" with advice?

Your loving assistant---out on a limb!
PS I got this one HANDLED...just being extremely bad and sharing with you! The answer is (and DO correct me if I am wrong) DO whatever the OR does with amputated limbs. Probably pathology, but I'll find out. And then..if the patient was dead, wrap it up in the body bag with the rest of the package.
I assure you; I am not making this up.


This is my horoscope this week from Rob Brezsny:
LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Many spiritual teachers say you're most likely to succeed at meditation if you sit quietly in a sanctuary. They believe you need to retreat from the world in order to develop compassionate objectivity about life. The eighteenth-century Zen Buddhist teacher Hakuin Ekaku had a different view. "Meditation in the midst of activity is a billion times superior to meditation in stillness" was his motto. I agree with him. But one of the reasons it's superior is because it's so much harder. Have you ever tried to see God in your boss while he or she is yelling at you about some trivial mistake? Are you able to remain open- hearted to a loved one when he or she isn't being open-hearted to you? Believe it or not, Leo, you could go a long way towards mastering these skills in 2005. It'll be prime time to learn how to meditate in the midst of the daily chaos.
Other people have horoscopes that say things like "You too will banish a jinx that has burdened you for far too long," or "I think fate plans to blow your mind with sweet extravagance in 2005. Receiving a thousand doughnuts would be a metaphorical rehearsal." Me, I get to learn to meditate in the midst of daily chaos.

I want to change signs.

I don't know about you...

...but I feel like I can breathe easy again.

You can't win the war on terror with VD

I'm not really turning into a photo blogger. I have just been unbelievably busy these past few days, a phenomenon that doesn't look to let up until the end of the weekend (at which time Andrea will be here! we will alternate posting when it's not our turn at scrabble). I have performed something of a reverse Hanukkah miracle in which I have had to burn eight days worth of oil in one day.

In any case, there are some great images at Old American Century (thanks to Chris for the link).

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It's hard work

Today's gift item: the George W Bush Coloring Book from Garrett County Press.

Icky, icky, icky went the reader

Looking at another stupidly busy day at work, but this is too good to wait (Andrea is on the case, sending me these wonderful things when I am too buried to scout)...

Tom Wolfe's I am Charlotte Simmons has garnered the not-the-least-bit-coveted British prize for bad sex in fiction. CNN has the story:
"Slither slither slither slither went the tongue," one of his winning sentences begins.

"But the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns -- oh God, it was not just at the border where the flesh of the breast joins the pectoral sheath of the chest -- no, the hand was cupping her entire right -- Now!"

Judges described Wolfe's prose as "ghastly and boring." Wolfe has said in interviews he intended the book's sexual descriptions to be dry and clinical.
Let me just say this, if anyone described my love patch in Andre Brink fashion as "a large exotic mushroom in the fork of a tree," I'm quite sure I would never speak to them again.

How to turn the country into a police state: lesson #813

This from today's LA Times under the woefully inadequate headline "Supreme Court Makes It Tougher to Sue Police." Personally I might have titled it something like "Supreme Court Says It's Okay to Gun Down Citizens in the Street Like Dogs":
On Feb. 21, 1999, Officer Rochelle Brosseau of Puyallup, Wash., near Tacoma, went to a home to arrest Kenneth Haugen, who was accused of selling drugs and stealing tools from a co-worker. Haugen hopped into his Jeep and fumbled with the keys. Brosseau ordered him to stop, drew her gun and smashed a hole in a window.

When Haugen began to pull away, Brosseau shot him in the back. He sped from the driveway but pulled off the road after half a block and passed out. He sued the officer, alleging that the shooting was an "unreasonable seizure" in violation of the 4th Amendment.

The federal courts have been split over whether a jury should hear Haugen's lawsuit.

A federal judge in Washington dismissed his claim, but the 9th Circuit revived it two years ago in a 2-1 ruling and said a jury should decide whether the shooting was an unreasonable use of force.

Judge William A. Fletcher pointed out that Haugen did not have a gun and was not charged with a violent crime, and there was no evidence that his flight presented a threat to others. Judge Stephen Reinhardt joined him.

In dissent, Judge Ronald Gould said "the majority's sweeping position . . . promises an easy escape to any felon willing to threaten innocent lives by driving recklessly."

. . . lawyers for Brosseau appealed to the Supreme Court.

In an unsigned opinion Monday, the Supreme Court justices threw out Haugen's suit and said the officer deserved to be shielded, even if her actions may have been incorrect.

"Qualified immunity shields an officer from suit when she makes a decision that, even if constitutionally deficient, reasonably misapprehends the law governing the circumstances she confronted," the court wrote. Brosseau saw Haugen as "a disturbed felon, set on avoiding capture" who may have plowed his car into others in his path, the court said.

Only Justice John Paul Stevens dissented.
I'm calling this the euphemism of the day, "constitutionally deficient"; it sounds like something you need to take vitamins for.

Monday, December 13, 2004

One of the things I love the most about the Internet

Is it makes me feel so normal.

Warning: this last link totally not safe for work.

Tee shirt of the day

You can get them here

AFP or The Onion, you make the call

With its films and cartoons drawing strong followings abroad, Japan should promote its "Gross National Cool" as a tool of foreign policy, experts advised Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

But the country also needs to help young people to better understand their own language and culture so they can promote Japanese thinking abroad, the Japan Forum on International Relations said in a report.

. . .

"Japan has developed a full range of admired cultural resources, from the Japanese sense of beauty appreciated since the mid-19th century by foreigners such as Lafcadio Hearn and Bruno Taut to today's movies and anime," it said.

. . .

More recently, Japanese culture has won worldwide acclaim through manga cartoons, computer games and movies, with Hayao Miyazaki's "Spirited Away" last year winning the Academy Award for best animated feature.

Kind of reminds me of that other report: "How will we develop awareness of the U.S. "brand" in terms of its constituents and audience?"

Come to think of it, that could make a good blog tag line: Gross national cool...

It's a wonderful bunny-ish life

Can I just say I love Jennifer Shiman. I really do. Her bunnies just make me happy. Add to that the fact that It's a Wonderful Life is one of my very favorite movies in the universe (just what you would expect from a Jewish, agnostic, cynic, I'm sure), and you understand why I could not wait until I have a nostril above water at work to alert you of Angry Alien's latest reenactment. I do think my personal favorite remains The Shining, nonetheless.

In other news, I am crushed beneath a weighty deadline at work. Low posting day, for sure. Talk amongst yourselves. Everybody admit you really love It's a Wonderful Life as well.

On the fly

Once again, I am up to the gills in work. More posting later, but in the meantime, I'll just say I find this outrageous.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The things people care about

On a regular basis, I read the paper and think: "Wow, I am really out of step with the majority of people in the world." Today, the article that sparked that thought is this one: "McCain's Steroids Push Puts Him in '08 Mix." This is a guy who's been fighting for campaign finance reform, pursuing graft in military appropriations, and addressing climate change.

Are those vote-getters? Apparently not to the degree that pro sports players taking steroids is:
As the new chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, McCain will have hearings into allegations that a Washington consultant and lobbyist bilked tribes out of tens of millions of dollars while representing them on casino issues.

He will get involved in immigration reform, overhaul of the Social Security (news - web sites) system, campaign finance reform and global warming. And, then there's baseball and steroids, an issue guaranteed to bring him headlines.
All I can say is it's a good thing I never plan to run for president because I clearly have no inkling what most people care about.

Because I am a bitch with class...

I bought myself this tee shirt today.

Kim and I went to Bazaar Bizarre today at the Ukranian Culture Center, and it was just a cornucopia of great things. I cannot detail all of the wonderful things I bought lest any of the present recipients be reading this post. We managed to drop a chunk of change despite passing up many temptations. I did not, for example, buy a shrinky-dinks bracelet or a Edwardian corset (though I was assured the latter was "quite comfortable." Anyway, it was very fun and reminded me of why I love LA so much. This town's funk factor is a well kept secret.

Madame Tussaud's nativity scene

The cast? David Beckham and his wife Victoria (who Americans may better know as Posh Spice) as the proud parents; Hugh Grant, Samuel Jackson, and Graham Norton as shepherds; and singer Kylie Minogue flying overhead.

Need a close up of those wise men?

Yep, it's Tony Blair, George Bush and the Duke of Edinburgh. Um...yeah.

Frankly, I thought it was an Internet spoof until I read about it at the BBC.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The liberal repetition compulsion

Is it really possible that anyone who calls themselves a liberal is using the word "purge" in relation to the more progressive citizens who have aligned themselves with the Democrats of late? Is it possible that anyone who thinks of themselves as a Democrat is espousing the "get tough against communism" tactics of the ADA during the red scare?

I know I am more of a leftist than most people. I am, in fact, not a registered Democrat and I confess I voted for Nader in 2000. I think of elections in this way: Do I vote the way the world is or the way I want the world to be? In 2000 I chose the latter and Nader seemed to me to be the best alternative. I have since grown to despise him and I admit I was wrong; it was a dreadful mistake on my part to obscure the real differences between Gore and Bush because they are both in the back pocket of big business. During this past election, I threw my efforts behind Kerry and put aside my differences because I favor liberalism over totalitarianism and a fascist police state. While I don't feel well represented by the Democratic Party, I don't feel despised by them either...well I hope I don't...this is sort of the point.

Inspired by Peter Beinart's article in the New Republic, a host of blogs are calling for a "purge": excising Michael Moore, Moveon, and company from the Democratic rolls. Beinart argues that the Democrats must recreate themselves in the model of Americans for Democratic Action during the Truman era. Many have repudiated Beinart's call, but it shocks me that others are debating its merits or responding in a "yeah but" sort of fashion. I am not going to recapitulate the whole debate here. Many or most of you have probably been following it.

What I will say is democrats with a capital "D"--those of you who feel fully represented by the Democratic Party, who are more liberal than left--I am begging you not to go down this road. Please read some history about the red scare, the Truman Doctrine, and the ADA's role in redefining the Democratic Party. And I don't mean just liberal history; read some leftist history. The historical record makes it crystal clear that communist-hunting liberals, while not as vilified as McCarthy, hardly acted as a check on the grotesque treatment of leftist members of the government and Hollywood. Is this really where you want your party to go?

You don't have to like the progressive views. To be sure, we don't always like yours, but god help your party and the nation as a whole when you start talking about us as your enemies. Call me closed-minded, but the minute someone uses the word "purge" to describe a liberal course of action against a dissenter, I think we should just say "thanks for sharing" and move on. This is a classic case of social "repetition compulsion." Who will be the Ethel Rosenberg of this millennium?

My father was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He loved America very much, as do I, but he was a Jewish lawyer for the NLRB, and he would not roll over on his friends when brought before HUAC. My father cried when Nixon was elected; I was one of two kids at my elementary school who voted for McGovern in our mock elections. Seemingly, Nixon's obsessive pursuit of communists was not a factor for most people, or if it was, they applauded his role in bringing down Alger Hiss. Yet we all know the story of what came of Nixon don't we. One of the co-authors of All the Presidents' Men was the son of my father's best friend, Carl Bernstein. His dad, Al Bernstein, was also blacklisted. My dad and Al Bernstein, talented, principled attorneys, opened a laundromat together, having been effectively kneecapped in any legal career they might have had. By the time I can remember, my father was a real estate agent. And yet, he was never bitter about this country. He held onto the promise of America.

Many of us who grew up in families forever shaped by the savage persecution of the left, and frankly the Jews, during the McCarthy era, were weaned on the notion that we must always be vigilant to preserve the freedoms that are central to our national identity and the promise of our Constitution. At times we may align ourselves with more centrist liberals and at other times we may be more critical of them and feel it would too accomodationist to do so. But never in my life did I think that anyone who seriously considered themselves a Democrat would be calling for a return to the days gone by when the liberals turned on the left and ruined lives and executed an innocent woman. Shame on any liberal who speaks of "purges."

Let's be clear. This is not about whether or not I or any other potential purge candidates supported the war in Afghanistan or whether we are cognizant enough of the threat radical Islamic terrorists present to our country or even whether or not we politically benefit your party. This is about the role of hysteria in American politics, the sanctity of the rule of law, and the tolerance for dissent.

What a dark, dark time we are in.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Bat Mitzvah Barbie

Why we from the east coast have a hard time thinking of those in Tennessee as "real Jews."

This and so many wonderful-in-that-painful-way photos at Bar Mitzvah Disco. I would have to kill anyone who scanned in and uploaded pictures from my own. Thirteen was not my most suave year.

Gift item treasure trove

Oh my god I love this place. Perhaps my favorite item in the Teachers Source catalog is the adorable stuffed flesh eating bacteria microbe (don't you love the embroidered fork and knife arms).

But you can also find wooly mammoth hair encased in lucite, amber candy with cricket and larva inside,

and a bobblehead doll of James D. Watson, who was part of the team that discovered the structure of DNA.

Good for what ails you

Can I just say that The Clash and See's chocolates can sometimes be the best therapy possible.

315 billion miles

That's how much road SUVs burned up in this country in 2002. To put that into perspective for you, that's the equivalent of 650,000 round-trips to the moon.

The Census has a summary of the rise of the behemoth vehicle from 1997 to 2002: registrations increased 56% (there are 8.7 million more of them)--most notably in Tennessee, Georgia, and Indiana.

It's one of those days...

where the best way to stay off the ledge is to listen to the Pixies and to on a farting-herring-and-damaged-peni posting binge.

Yahoo is reporting that gay men are using Viagra recreationally, thus making them more vulnerable to stds: "Viagra's capacity to prolong sex leads to increased risk of abrasions and, therefore, greater risk of passing on sexually transmitted diseases." Um...ow.

Sorry folks. I know there's real news out there, but I up to my nostrils in work, and grateful I work in a two-story building with windows that don't open. Which is to say...maybe tomorrow I will feel like I can face dismemberment, torture, and wanton greed again, but for now, I'm sticking with the top ten stupid ways men injure their special purpose.

The virtues of the desktop

Suddenly all of those viagra emails are making more sense. A study published in this month's Reproduction Journal finds that using laptops may decrease male fertility. The issue here is, apparently, heat.

According to the New Scientist, Yefim Sheynkin's is the first study to address the impact of laptops on sperm count:
. . . the only previous scientific paper on the impact of warm laptops on male reproductive organs was a 2002 anecdotal report published in The Lancet (vol 360, p 1704) of a scientist who suffered burns to his penis and scrotum after using one.
On that note, let me say, I have been labeled a workaholic on more than one occasion, but I have never, and I mean never, seared my pudendum in the line of duty. (Etymological aside: Did you know that the origin of the word pudendum is the Latin pudenda membra , which means "parts to be ashamed of"?)

I know, first the farting herring post, now the boiling sperm an effort to stave off my thundering holiday-fascist state-mother's yarzheit depression I have descended to pretty juvenile amusement.

Thanks to Pinko Feminist Hellcat for the heads-up, as it were, on this one.

Weird science

I don't usually go for Beavis and Butthead-type humor, but National Geographic's Quirkiest News of 2004 got me with the number one story: Herring Break Wind to Communicate, Study Suggests:
The study's findings, now published online in the U.K. science journal Biology Letters, reveal that Atlantic and Pacific herring create high-frequency sounds by releasing air from their anuses.

"We know [herring] have excellent hearing but little about what they actually use it for," said research team leader Ben Wilson, a marine biologist at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, British Columbia, Canada. "It turns out that herring make unusual farting sounds at night."
I'm sorry, but that is just hilarious.

We have met the enemy...

Historians Against the War have put together a collection of articles about US use of torture. In addition to our recent disregard for human rights, the articles focus on Vietnam, Nicaragua, and US prisons. John Cox's article, "The Abu Ghraib Scandal and the U.S. Occupation of Iraq" contains a catalog of atrocities including:

The British Guardian newspaper reported , "an Iraqi woman in her 70s had been harnessed and ridden like a donkey at Abu Ghraib and another coalition detention center after being arrested last July."(6)

. . .

An Iraqi television reporter saw the children's wing of the prison when he was arrested and held for 74 days while making a documentary. The reporter, Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz, said that he saw "boys, under the age of puberty" being held. "There were certainly hundreds of children in this camp." He recalled the beating by Americans of a 12-year-old girl, and added that he "heard her cries and whimpering daily." This "caused other prisoners to cry as they listened to her." Al-Baz also mentioned the case of an "ill 15-year-old boy who was soaked repeatedly with hoses until he collapsed. Guards then brought in the child's father with a hood over his head. The boy collapsed again."(8)

. . .

An internal Army investigation released its findings on August 25, 2004, listing several additional examples of the torture and sexual abuse of women and children. The Army report, called the Fay Report . . . also described the use of "unmuzzled dogs in a sadistic game to frighten detained Iraqi teenagers to force the youths to urinate or defecate on themselves."(12)
"We must not worry about committing an offence against the rights of nations nor about violating the laws of humanity. Such feelings today are of secondary importance." Matthias Erzberger, German statesman, to the Minister of War, General von Falkenhayn, September 17, 1914

"My dream is that as the years go by and the world knows more and more of America, it ... will turn to America for those moral inspirations that lie at the basis of all freedom ... that America will come into the full light of the day when all shall know that she puts human rights above all other rights, and that her flag is the flag not only of America but of humanity." Woodrow Wilson, Address at Independence Hall (July 4, 1914)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Those French and their theories

I never realized that biologists have been in a quandary about why there are left-handed people. Apparently, because the left brain and right side of the body are usually dominant and because left-handers are usually smaller and not as heavy as their right-handed counterparts, there's no real reason for lefties to exist, in evolutionary logic.

Two French scientists are postulating that left-handers are still around because "the strategic advantage of being left-handed in a fight is very real, simply because most right-handed people have little experience of fighting left-handers, but not vice versa," The Economist reports.

"While there is no suggestion that left-handed people are more violent than the right-handed, it looks as though they are more successfully violent." Gee, and I always thought it was a sign of creativity

Work has been making me feel like this lately

This X-ray picture shows a 5-centimeter nail stuck in an unidentified South Korean patient's skull Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004. According to a Seoul hospital, doctors found the nail after the man came to the hospital, complaining about a severe headache. They speculate that the nail stuck in the Xrays of a South Korean man's skull taken when he came to a Seoul hospital complaining of a severe headache. Doctors estimated the nail had been in his skull four years.

Blue Christmas

In case you've not run across them elsewhere, here a couple of sites that help you shop blue:
Choose the Blue lets you search for a specific brand and Buy Blue has a good list of retailers and brands and their contributions. (Thanks to the several friends who sent me these.)

Isolated, fat, and on drugs

The Census Bureau today released the Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2004-2005. It's a statistic geek's paradise weighing in at 1000 pages, with 1,400 tables and charts. Some of the highlights they call out:
Drugs and drug sundries accounted for the highest proportion (35 percent) of the nearly $320 billion in U.S. merchant wholesale electronic commerce sales in 2002.

In 2002, 58 percent of persons age 18 and older were above a healthy weight, and 23 percent were considered to be obese.

The number of foreign travelers to the United States dropped from a high of 50.9 million in 2000 to 41.9 million in 2002. Travelers from the United States showed a similar trend: 60.9 million Americans traveled abroad in 2000 and 56.4 million in 2002.

Between 1998 and 2002, the number of higher education enrollments in foreign languages increased by 17 percent, from 1.2 million to 1.4 million. The largest percentage increases were in American Sign Language (from 11,400 to 60,800 students or 433 percent) and Arabic (from 5,500 to 10,600 students or 93 percent).
Well, we may be increasingly isolated, obese, and on drugs, but at least we're learning how to communicate.

And the stat that depresses me the most on a personal level:
In 2002, 39,955 doctoral degrees were conferred.
It just makes it hard to feel special, you know?

I'm just not seeing it

Media Matters yesterday posted right wing reactions to Harry Reid's comments about Clarence Thomas on Meet the Press. Apparently "embarrassment" and "opinions are poorly written" is secret Democrat racist code. What Reid said:
TIM RUSSERT (moderator): Could you support Antonin Scalia to be chief justice of the Supreme Court?

REID: If he can overcome the ethics problems that have arisen since he was selected as a justice of the Supreme Court. And those ethics problems -- you've talked about them; every people talk -- every reporter's talked about them in town -- where he took trips that were probably not in keeping with the code of judicial ethics. So we have to get over this. I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy. And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reason for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute. So --

RUSSERT: Why couldn't you accept Clarence Thomas?

REID: I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don't -- I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

What the wing nuts say:
Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post syndicated columnist and FOX News Channel contributor): "In the end, you've got to ask yourself, why [Justice Antonin] Scalia, good, Thomas, bad in the eyes of a man like Reid. I say it's the liberal plantation mentality, in which if you're a man on the right and white, it's OK. If you are the man on the right and you're African American, it's not." [FOX News, Special Report, 12/6/04].

Clifford May (National Review contributor and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies President): "Look, Justice Thomas is African American and he's conservative. Some people [like Reid] will never forgive that and think that's an open opportunity to insult him." [CNN, American Morning, 12/6/04].

Armstrong Williams (author, syndicated TV and radio host, and syndicated columnist): "Did you hear those racist remarks from Senator Harry Reid about Justice Thomas? ... Harry Reid's the one -- he said Thomas was an embarrassment. He said he cannot write. That is racism. ... That is racism, only because of the hue of his skin. ... Read his [Reid's] words. He was a racist." [FOX News, Hannity & Colmes, 12/7/04].

Sean Hannity (FOX News co-host): "I'm just beginning to see a pattern here. I see a lot of the left attacking Condoleezza Rice. I see when -- when Justice Janice Brown, an African American woman, when the president wants to appoint her, Democrats oppose her. Democrats opposing Miguel Estrada. Democrats attacking Condi Rice, Democrats attacking Clarence Thomas. ... What I see is Democrats oppose African Americans that are conservative, but yet they claim to support minority rights. And what I'm saying here is, why, if you're for the advancement of minorities, why do you oppose every conservative African American or Hispanic American? Why is this pattern emerging?" [FOX News, Hannity & Colmes, 12/6/04]

Rush Limbaugh (syndicated radio host): [I]t's not a new page in the playbook but it's certainly not as old as the playbook itself. But it's been around awhile. That is conservative blacks are inept, à la Clarence Thomas. ... You notice how easy it is for these people to be critical of blacks. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 12/6/04]

James Taranto (Wall Street Journal editor): "It's a shame [Meet the Press moderator Tim] Russert didn't press Reid to name some Thomas opinions he considers to be poorly written. In the absence of such examples, one can't help but suspect that the new Senate Democratic leader is simply stereotyping Thomas as unintelligent because he is black." [ "Best of the Web Today" column, 12/6/04; also excerpted in columnist Greg Pierce's "Inside Politics" column for The Washington Times, 12/7/04]

So let me get this straight: they're against affirmative action in any material job-getting, school-enrollment sense, but they rigidly enforce a sort of linguistic affirmative action whereby to criticize a black person is a de facto racist action.

This is another one of those situations where I can't figure out if this is an attempt on the part of these wingers to cleverly manipulate Reid's remarks or whether they really believe their lines because they themselves are so racist that they hear things in a totally f-ed up way.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Redundancy is alive and living

The BBC is joining the "lean and mean" restructuring crowd, with more than 2,500 lay offs planned, increased outsourcing, and reduced in-house production. The strategic review just released includes moving 1,800 staff to Manchester and actively exploring "partnering, joint venturing or sale with the management teams of BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources, and with the market." Estimates put the financial impact of the new plan at "£320 million savings within three years, all of which will be redirected into programme making." Regardless, I'm not taking this as good news, myself. The Village Voice's Press Clips Extra has a bit more on the story including links to some of the background information.

Sinking ships raise tide

Patridiot Watch has a post on the restructuring at Colgate-Palmolive which will result in 8 factories closing in the short-term and 4,400 jobs being cut, and 2 dozen factories closing over the next four years. The New York Times has more details:
Although Colgate shut 24 of its 112 factories and eliminated more than 3,000 jobs when it went through a restructuring less than a decade ago, analysts said that many of its existing plants in the United States were old, unionized, and did not have the manufacturing- line efficiency of rivals.
That's one way to bust a union, I guess.

Top earners need not fear the axe: no senior management staff positions will be eliminated. It does seem like a pretty good life for senior staff, 800 of whom get allowances ranging from $2000 to $11,500 a year for things like opera tickets, yoga, and dog sitting. AP has that story including information on the company's top execs:
The company had $9.9 billion in sales last year and paid its top five executives $23.3 million in cash and stock, plus another $9.1 million in stock options. The company's highest paid executive, chairman and CEO Reuben Mark, made $10.4 million in salary, bonus and stock awards.

Market reaction to the restructuring announcement? Stocks rose.

Hannukah gift pick of the day

Nun, gimel, heh, shin boy-style panties:

and the back side view

You can get them at Jewcy, of course.


Must go to a meeting. Hannukah present ideas to follow. (And Jonathan, Caroline, and co. read your comments over on eponymous. Sorry for the "Jesi" remark below. Sometimes I can be insensitive too.

Chanukah in Wisconsin

Bill's comments below have brought back memories of my years in Wisconsin. After getting in a heated argument with my now ex-husband about the holidays (he insisted Christmas trees were a secular symbol), I decided I wanted to start lighting the Chanukah candles again. Despite the fact that I lived in Madison, which is a pretty liberal town, I had a heck of a time finding Chanukah candles. In DC, where I grew up, you can get them in most drug stores. In Madison, they are scarce. Finally, I went into a shop that just sold candles. I asked them if they sold Chanukah candles, and--success--the woman directed me to the back of the store. "How many do you need?" she asked. Sure enough, there was a bin of loose candles. "Um...don't they come in boxes?" I inquired. Yes, she said, they do, but the store figured they should unbox them in case someone only wanted a few candles. It was pretty funny. I had to explain the whole candle lighting thing to her--that anyone lighting Chanukah candles would, in fact, want exactly as many as are in those boxes. I believe she suspected I was perpetrating a hoax when I made her add 2 plus 3 plus 4....

Of course, this is the same state where I was asked innocently enough by my former mother-in-law: "Do Jews celebrate Easter?" And the place where I learned that "kyke" can be a verb, as in "he kyked hundreds of dollars by overcharging customers."

I'm so glad I live in LA now.

CDC warning: new std

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of sexually transmitted disease. This disease, Gonorrhea Lectum, is contracted through repeating dangerous and high-risk behaviors.

Many victims have contracted it after having been screwed for the past 4 years, and in spite of having taken measures to protect themselves from this especially virulent disease.

Cognitive sequellae of individuals infected with Gonorrhea Lectum include, but are not limited to:
Anti-social personality disorder traits;
delusions of grandeur with a distinct messianic flavor;
chronic mangling of the English language;
extreme cognitive dissonance;
inability to incorporate new information;
pronounced xenophobia;
inability to accept responsibility for actions;
exceptional cowardice masked by acts of misplaced bravado;
ignorance of geography and history;
tendencies toward creating evangelical theocracies;
and a strong propensity for categorical, all-or nothing behavior.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Everybody wants to be a martyr

So in my "thank god jury duty is over" post Monday I remarked that my fellow jurors were taking up Bill O'Reilly's complaint that Christmas is being "attacked." What I didn't know at the time is that O'Reilly's guest, Elizabeth MacDonald who is senior editor of Forbes magazine, imputes the rise in drinking and mood disorders to the removal of traditional Christmas ornaments from department stores: "And you have got to wonder why people become depressed alcoholics around the season, because the meaning is sucked out of it."

What are Bill and Liz so in a lather about? Federated Department Stores has requested that its employees use non-religious specific holiday greetings:
Phrases such as "season's greetings" and "happy holidays" embrace all of the various religious, secular and ethnic celebrations that take place in the November/December period. Because these expressions of good will are more reflective of the multi-cultural society in which we live today, they tend to be used more and more frequently across all segments of society.

Bill finds this outrageous and said on his December 1 show, "Even Jewish people like Christmas." Bill, please get a grip. Most people like getting presents. Dioramas featuring plastic baby Jesuses (Jesi?), angel ornaments, and pictures of wise men don't really resonate with us Jewish folk. Really. We just don't really do the Christ thing. And I can say that my years as a depressed alcoholic had nothing to do with the lack of religious ornament. If the season increased my depression, I'm sure it had much more to do with a Wordsworthian awareness that "getting and spending we lay waste our powers." (Even Christian people like Wordsworth, don't they?)

Don't get me wrong; there are a lot of great Christians out there. I find it somewhat fantastic that so many people quite literally believe tales about rising from the dead and whatnot, but heck, my people think some woman was turned into a pillar of salt and some man managed to build a boat big enough to haul two of every animal, so who am I to say. But to take up as a banner of victimization the fact that department stores are moving away from the de facto assumption that everyone is a Christian seems a bit overboard, wouldn't you say? I guess it's that martyr thing. We do have that in common, don't we?