Friday, September 30, 2005

I love my city

The front page of today's LA Times:

If you've gotta have a birth defect...

I think I'm with this kid--twelve fingers might not be so bad. Frankly anything that could help me type faster at this point would be welcome.


Bill Bennett Wednesday on Morning in America:
But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.
You know, my first reaction is just "wow." And I was going to leave it simply at that. But then I thought, in fairness to Bennett, I should explain that he claims he was merely giving an example of a bad argument for abortion and being quoted out of context, as I have above, makes it seem as though he supports such a "morally reprehensible" idea.

And so, in the interests of balanced reporting, I'd like to just make it clear that Bill Bennett is not a racist. From his own lips on yesterday's Hannity and Colmes:
I'll not take instruction from Teddy Kennedy. A young woman likely drowned because of his negligence. I'll take no moral instruction with him. That's much worse than legal gambling what Teddy Kennedy did....

When I was drug czar, you bet, we were working on the issue of black crime, Alan and Sean, because there was a lot of crime in the black community.... We got the bad guys. And drug use went down. And we raised the price and lowered the purity of cocaine.... [W]hen we went into the inner city black community, the people said to me, Mr. Czar, or Czar, or Mr. Bennett, you get those people off the street and protect us. And we did our best to do it.

. . .

my wife's program, best friends, has kept more young women from having abortions...than the entire black caucus. She has done more for inner city black girls than the entire black caucus. So I will not bow my head to any of these people. I will not give up the ground of compassion and sympathy.

. . .

All day I've been reading reports and statements by people about me, Sean, and it's interesting, some use the whole quote and are fair, some don't. And that tells you something. But the problem, I think, on the liberal side, the democratic side is they attitudinize
Far be it for me to attitudinize, Bill. For a minute there I thought you might be racist but that was before I read that your wife has done more for urban black girls than the whole black caucus. I stand corrected.

(Our younger readers may not recognize Bennett as Reagan's Ed Secretary and Bush Sr.'s Director of Drug Control Policy--aka Drug Czar.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

A new friend

So I had a new commenter opine about my tone below, and so I took a look at his page (which has an ad from Fox News Gear btw), and what do I see, but this. Gosh that sort of thing so totally makes my day. I can't tell you.

Still burning

The view from my balcony

More roosting chickens

It seems like harvest time for the crop of greed and barbarism the Repubs have been sowing. Frist, DeLay, the fabulous showing the administration gave during Katrina and now today's ruling that more Abu Ghraib photos and videos must be released (link via AMERICAblog):
[R]eporter Seymour Hersh, who helped uncover the scandal, said in a speech before an ACLU convention: "Some of the worse that happened that you don't know about, ok? Videos, there are women there. Some of you may have read they were passing letters, communications out to their men.... The women were passing messages saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened.'

"Basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys/children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. The worst about all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror it's going to come out."
They ought to be in terror. Do I dare to hope that this repulsive administration is finally being brought down and that my country will finally wake up to the atrocities being conducted in the name of liberty?

Front seats to the apocalypse

From Mark (one of our New Zealand correspondents) come pics of the fire from the roof of the Woodland Hills Marriott.

So cute it makes my teeth hurt

We're having a sort of Tale of Two Cities image day here at NMTE. Pictures from the fires to follow, but in the meantime, here are Tom and his grandkids, who are so cute it's almost painful ("it was the most adorable of times; it was the most apocalyptic of times..."). He bought them those unicorn outfits that slip over their shoulders as if they needed any help looking ungodly sweet.

Does this family look Irish or what??

Who to thank

So we have a new Supreme Court Justice. I for one, plan to write Boxer and Feinstein to thank them for volleying their dissent into the abyss. Here's the vote and the 22 nays:
Akaka (D-HI)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Boxer (D-CA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)

Okay, maybe I was wrong

Maybe there aren't militarized dolphins roaming the high seas. That's what I get for trusting the Observer.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tis the season

Fire season, that is.

The view from my office window today:

The view from the parking lot at work:


My hat is off to Shakespeare's Sister for what I'm calling the post of the month.

And congrats to Sis for being (according to PubSub) one of "the most consistently influential sites that publish feeds." (Maybe you should buy that lottery ticket, huh?)

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy

Good news at last.

I was so cheered today to hear that DeLay was indicted. Between Brown's finger pointing yesterday and DeLay's insistence that he's innocent, the Repubs, to my ears, just sound more and more pathetic. In fact, reading DeLay's apologist spokesman's quote, "This indictment is nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat," reminded me of nothing so much as Marion Barry's cry upon arrest: "The bitch set me up!"

At the time, I was living in DC and "The bitch set me up" tee-shirts were the tourist item of the season. I'm thinking we ought to resurrect them. Maybe a little cartoon elephant with a "the bitch set me up" talk bubble over top. Stupid fucking criminals.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Plus ça change

So Sunday night I went to the Hollywood Bowl for the first time to see Dead Can Dance. It was an amazing performance, one of those concerts where you literally feel transported. I wouldn't have been surprised to leave the bowl and encounter Stonehenge right outside (instead of traffic).

And here's one thing about being 40, when you're cool, you're really so much cooler than, say, a 25-year-old. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is. Because when you're 40, you've got a track record of coolness. I first saw Dead Can Dance 15 years ago at Georgetown University's Gaston Hall (capacity 750). I'm just sayin'... Don't get me wrong; I'm glad when a band I like becomes popular. I do not think artists have to languish in obscurity to be authentic in some way. But I'm also glad I got to see them in a more close up and personal sort of way. And Gaston Hall is the perfect setting for a goth concert, given the stained glass and all that.

I was pretty much the only woman there who didn't look like she was part of Morticia Addams' wedding party.

So it was a strange sort of thing to be 15 years and 3000 miles from there seeing the same band. Talk about worlds apart.

Continuing in the "the more things change" theme, Nouvelle Vague opened for DCD. Let me take this moment to give my unequivocal hearty endorsement. If you haven't heard them, click the link above and give a listen. Nouvelle Vague means "new wave" in French and "bossanova" in Brazilian. And so the band takes punk and new wave classics and performs them in a bossanova style. Sublime really. How can you not love a band that rocks out on a kazoo solo during a cover of "Human Fly" at the Hollywood Bowl, I ask you?

Final observation: During the "please give an encore" applause at the end (they gave two), all of these folks held up their illuminated cell phones, lighter-style. Please tell me this is just an LA thing. People don't do this in other places, do they?

David Foster Wallace for AP

Apparently 36 "militarized dolphins" (as Becky calls them) have gone missing following Katrina:
Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

"My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire," he said. "The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?"
Frankly, I can't think of a story that better epitomizes the incompetence and perversity of this administration. Let's arm Flipper with poisonous dart guns and then fail to rescue him during a hurricane so that what was previously a sweet animal, loved by almost everyone can be transformed into a potentially life threatening out of control menace. What a great idea.

After School Snack calls it Hitchhikers' Guide meets Austin Powers, but I'm really thinking Don Delillo meets Tom Clancy. Two great novelists together at last.


We interrupt today's program of depressing news to bring you Cows with Guns.

Unhappy juxtaposition

These headlines from Yahoo!News' politics section:

Senators Cast an Eye Toward Next Nominee

The Senate on Tuesday concentrated on who will be President Bush's next pick for the Supreme Court, signifying just how much of a lock chief justice nominee John Roberts has on the job.
Supreme Court May Hear Abortion Case

The Bush administration is asking the Supreme Court to reinstate a national ban on a type of late-term abortion, a case that could thrust the president's first court picks into an early tie-breaking role on a divisive and emotional issue.
I know this isn't a shocker or anything. I just find it depressing that's all. So many people wandering around who are pro-war and anti-abortion. And they vote.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fox nominated for hen house post

In his latest "like a parody only not funny" nomination, Bush has fingered Edwin Foulke for OSHA's Assistant Secretary of Labor. Foulke is a partner in Jackson Lewis, a major union busting law firm. But fear not, his practice area isn't union busting; it's workplace safety compliance:
When a business is subjected to an OSHA inspection, Jackson Lewis provides the necessary representation to ensure the rights of the client are fully protected. In cases where an employer is subject to criminal or civil legal action based on alleged violations, we provide the expertise to defend the allegations.

We have extensive agency experience at the national and regional levels to enter into settlement negotiations, and the expertise to contest citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, all state safety and health commissions, and in federal and state court review proceedings.
You can't make this shit up really. The guy Bush is nominating for an OSHA spot has dedicated his career to battling OSHA. I can only shake my head and sigh. Molly Ivins has more on Bush's "petulant pique appointments" and Confined Space, a fine blog on labor issues, has more on Foulke himself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sharon Olds

I've never been a big fan of Sharon Olds--in fact, she really gets under my skin--but her letter to Laura Bush turning down an invitation to the National Book Festival is quite eloquent.
I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. . . . I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.
The Nation has it online.

Get your war on

New strips about Katrina.

Is everybody happy?

Never mind the fact that our government's delayed response to Katrina resulted in carnage and destruction, never mind the fact that poverty is increasing (though more on this soon), never mind Roberts, I am here to bring you the really important news.

To wit: Viennese art group Gelatin has installed a gargantuan stuffed pink rabbit on a mountain in Italy. From the press release:
The toilet-paper-pink creature lies on its back: a rabbit-mountain like Gulliver in Lilliput. Happy you feel as you climb up along its ears, almost falling into its cavernous mouth, to the belly-summit and look out over the pink woolen landscape of the rabbit's body, a country dropped from the sky; ears and limbs sneaking into the distance; from its side flowing heart, liver and intestines.

Happily in love you step down the decaying corpse, through the wound, now small like a maggot, over woolen kidney and bowel.

Happy you leave like the larva that gets its wings from an innocent carcass at the roadside.

Such is the happiness which made this rabbit.

Random observations

I was searching the web just now for the origins of the expression "like a bad penny--it keeps turning up" and I ran across a page titled American Cultural Knowledge for Confused New Zealanders. Most of the page consists of American phrases and their NZ equivalents and vice-versa, but I loved the opening collection of observations so much that I am reproducing it all here:

Twinkies Are cylindrical sponge cakes filled with an extremely sugary white paste (I hesitate to use the word cream or even creme to describe the substance, but, be warned, it's usually what's in things described as "creme filled" in the US). Popular belief is that they have a shelf life of around 40 years. In fact, it's about a week, but I don't have the reference, and anyway, noone will believe you.

In American gay slang, a "twinkie" or a "twink" is a term used to describe a deliberately empty headed and usually white young gay man who is obsessed with appearance, fashion, and other things that the users of the term would probably be obsessed with too, if they had the physical attributes which support such interests.

Pop tarts These are flat pastry pockets filled with a substance like jam but with more sugar and less flavour. For good measure, they are coated with extremely sweet icing. Sounds reasonable enough so far, doesn't it but ... get this... they are actually designed to be heated in a toaster and eaten for breakfast. I sent some of these to my sister in NZ. She wrote back saying "these explain a lot about Americans". And so they do.

Fruit Roll up A fruit roll up is coagulated sugary fruit pulp on a wax-paper backing, rolled up. I would like to point out that even though I am an native of this country, I am not responsible. (Though I will admit to a slight guilty enjoyment of them)

Graham crackers are digestive biscuits.

Chemists aren't called chemists. They are called drugstores. This is, no doubt, because they sell cigarettes. Have they no shame?

The term "Doofus" is pejorative, meaning, approximately, "idiot". It is in the register used by impolite children. (this is to explain some useage on S.C.NZ). The adjective is "doofy" e.g. "My friend is a doofus. He wears a doofy tie." (thanks to pelms@canterbury).

The term "Cooties" refers to an unspecified disease, somewhat like "the dreaded lurgy" in NZ English. Its most common usage however, is to denote the "boy germs" or "girl germs" that children expect to get off each other. Given the countervailing trend on US sitcoms, to insist on an active (sexual) interest in children of the other sex from children as young as 7 or 8, belief in cooties could do with some encouragement.

Turkey Butterball is a large manufacturer of poultry. Their toll free number is 1-800-323-4848. They will tell you that you should get a pound to a pound and half or turkey per person.

Attitude, when used as a noun describing a quality possesed or projected by someone, means something akin to "arrogance". Examples "He's got attitude". "He was throwing attitude". Being described as having attitude is not a compliment.
Mr. Bubble is a brand of bubble bath.

The Lucille Ball show, and all other of her performances are held in high esteem (or at least remembered fondly). Mock them at your peril.

People from New York generally regard people from Los Angeles with distain, which is reciprocated.

You are supposed to hate the telephone company. This is for historical reasons which ceased to be as valid after the forced breakup of the Bell System Monopoly.

Ralston Purina makes dog food. (this is to explain a post on
Clearly there was some inspiration from a newsgroup I've never visited, nonetheless, what a funny and random collection. (This one goes out special for Janny and Lib.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Remind me not to marry a broker

Much as I hate to post one of Yahoo!news' most forwarded stories, I cannot resist this one:

Psychopaths could be best financial traders?

A team of U.S. scientists has found the emotionally impaired are more willing to gamble for high stakes and that people with brain damage may make good financial decisions, the Times newspaper reported Monday.

In a study of investors' behavior 41 people with normal IQs were asked to play a simple investment game. Fifteen of the group had suffered lesions on the areas of the brain that affect emotions.

The result was those with brain damage outperformed those without.

The scientists found emotions led some of the group to avoid risks even when the potential benefits far outweighed the losses, a phenomenon known as myopic loss aversion.

One of the researchers, Antione Bechara, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Iowa, said the best stock market investors might plausibly be called "functional psychopaths."
I'm thinking this also explains that old expression "lucky at cards, unlucky at love." I was just mulling that aphorism over the other day and thinking, "You know--I really should visit my Vegas friends and try my hand at the poker or blackjack tables. I believe there is money to be made." And then I started wondering about that expression and what it was really saying. But this article about traders brings it home to me. Normal people have "loss aversion," myopic or not. They never really cash in on the big jackpots for the same reason they run out of the burning building or determine not to become a lion tamer. People like me, on the other hand, view romance like this: wouldn't it be really cool if the whole building burned down and somehow I escaped unscathed?

In my defense, I look at it this way: success in love seems like such a longshot that it feels like winning Powerball. Once every blue moon I buy a ticket, but I never buy more than one because buying a ticket to begin with is such a ridiculous act of optimism that I always figure if it's my time, it's my time. There is no real way to make the odds anything other than astro-fucking-nomical so why try. This is the attitude with which I make my dating decisions as well. Okay, maybe he's a little unstable and has a history of this or that. But what the hey--if it's my time, it's my time.

I'm thinking I really should try my hand at investing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

You tell me

Does John Roberts look frighteningly like the Autopilot from Airplane or is it just me (and Becky).

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Not angry enough yet?

Check out Independent Media TV's 25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes about Hurricane Katrina. My personal favorite comes from Rick Santorum (who you just know I adore):
I mean, you have people who don't heed those warnings and then put people at risk as a result of not heeding those warnings. There may be a need to look at tougher penalties on those who decide to ride it out and understand that there are consequences to not leaving.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sept. 6, 2005

My head is exploding

Okay, so the abuse of language--the reduction of words to meaningless sounds--about which I complained below is splashed all over the front pages of newspapers around the country. Not critically, mind you--not with any sort of analysis--just parroted by something like half the news organs in the nation it seems from a cursory glance at Newseum's front pages site.

Remember that scene in Life of Brian?
Brian: "You don't need to follow me. You're all individuals."
Crowd, in unison: "Yes, we're all individuals!"
That's what I'm thinking here. Liberal media indeed. Moo.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's all about me

So I am finally shedding my signature dinosaur cell phone. The Kyocera Luddite. Tonight I bought a pda/phone. I'm very excited to join this century. It's charging right now or I would be calling everyone I know simply to celebrate the fact that I can get cell reception in my home at last (I also changed providers). Anyway, it will take me a few days to get it all loaded up and fully operational but it is already functioning as a stupendous piece of retail therapy. (Was I depressed yesterday? Gee, I don't remember...maybe.)

And while we're talking about me, here is the picture Chris shot of me at the end of the hell week that is working a convention (Hawaii TKO or something).

Not to be missed

Okay, I have been living in a cultural vacuum, I know, but I just found out Roman Polanski has a version of Oliver Twist coming out at the end of the month. I find this fucking hilarious.

I am having one of those "I love LA" weeks. Tomorrow I'm seeing Dead Man and Friday I'm going to Paul Weller. Am also vaguely contemplating weekend goodies like Exene's art show or the LA County Fair (I love county fairs--there's something extremely satisfying about eating food on a stick while watching missing chromosome people win large stuffed animals--maybe it's because I'm an Americanist, I dunno. And this year has the added draw of a KC and the Sunshine Band/Village People show). Realistically I will probably end up sluggishly doing not much this weekend given how running-on-empty I've been. But the choices--that's the point. I lived for 11 years in the upper midwest where I admit I went bowling, attended fish fries, and even went to a monster truck rally as part of the if-you-can't-beat-them strategy of surviving. I am so grateful to be back near an ocean again in a city that understands that Cows on the Concourse does not qualify as a cultural event worthy of an above-the-fold picture in the paper.

Who needs Derrida?

Our Commander in Chief was apparently handed a leadership script during today's news conference:
Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government.

To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility.
Here's my question: Just what the fuck does that mean? "I take responsibility?" Can someone translate that for me in terms of actual things that go on in the world? The more analytical side of me thinks of Derrida and his "language has lost its ability to mean" (or however that goes). I know I pick on Bush and his grotesque jingoism of hate (for example, from this same press conference, "the enemies of freedom remain brutal and determined"), but this is even more than that; this is not even language--it conveys no meaning whatsoever.



The less analytical side of me just wants to set myself on fire.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What it really means to be decadent

Here's a few right wing responses to Katrina:

Rep. Richard H. Baker, a 10-term Republican from Baton Rouge (according to WSJ):

We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did.
Tom DeLay to children living in the Astrodome (comparing their stay to being at camp):

Now, tell me the truth, boys, is this kind of fun?
Rush Limbaugh:
But if your city believes that it's entitled, if that's, if that's the worldview of the leaders of a community, then I don't care what their race is -- if their worldview is that this is a welfare state -- "the government needs to protect us. The government needs to feed us. The government needs to transport us. The government" -- well, guess what? The government needs to build the levees. The government needs to make sure the levees are -- the government. You're passing the buck all over the place and accepting all the money that the government's sending in to you, ah, and then something like this happens and then you start, you know, wringing your hands.

"Oh, look how poor the population --" Well, what do you expect when you have a welfare state mentality as your city government? I mean, I'm not even being critical. I'm just trying to point out something obvious here! That -- talking about this for 18 years, folks -- socialism versus capitalism; entrepreneurialism and self-reliance versus the entitlement mentality -- so much on display here. That's what nobody's got the guts to say.
Originally I had titled this post "Satirists out of work," but then Andrea reminded me of this Jacques Barzun quote:
When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label. A decadent culture offers opportunities chiefly to the satirist.
Let them eat jambalaya, I say.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Oh how the mighty have fallen

So I'm here in ABQ visiting my best and oldest friend, and what do I discover? A Rockin' Dopsie and the Zydeco Twisters CD in her collection. I'm really worried. (And I got her an Ipod for her birthday--I fear to think.)

Just say no

To p-meds that use these sorts of images in their advertisements. This from a Japanese ad for Serenace. There's plenty more where that came from at the Japanese Gallery of Psychiatric Art (link courtesy of Chris)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Back and leaving

So I got back from Honolulu yesterday morning and I'm leaving for Albuquerque tomorrow. I expect to blog more from NM than I did from HA since I'm there visiting Andrea rather than in a bootcamp-like work setting. Nick the cat is very, very pissed off. He was already in no mood but when the luggage got emptied into the washer and then repacked, well... If he had fingers I'm sure he'd be phoning animal rights groups.

Sunday I return to LA and I hope to remain grounded for at least a little while. We'll see.

Let them eat barbecue

Barbara Bush on American Public Media's "Marketplace" Monday:

Almost everyone I've talked to says we're going to move to Houston.

What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them.
It defies comment really.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Resort life

I've decided this place is like a giant veal fattening pen except they make the veal pay for their food.

As for myself, I do not feel I'm being softened up for the slaughter, though I have started mumbling to myself--what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Fifteen hour day today. Very tired now. My feet feel like two hamburger patties someone attached to the ends of my ankles. I brought four pairs of sensible shoes with me and everyone of them feels like a medieval torture device.

That said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with beginning the day staring at the Pacific and drinking Kona.