Friday, December 31, 2004

Run-off Voting Thread
Those bulky Apple/Microsoft pictures pushed down my post about Instant Runoff Voting. So, consider this a bumpup. And Wyatt, in the comments, points to this Mother Jones article about IRV.

Question 1: Is this a good idea?
Question 2: Who would be against this?
Question 3: Assuming the answers are Yes and Nobody, can this happen across the country anytime soon? Are we so against change here that we can't even take on ideas that are both good and popular?

Oh yeah, Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bryan Berg. Guinness World Record Holder.
The answer to your question about his structures is here. Via BoingBoing.
Apple vs. Microsoft
The front pages of their respective websites this afternoon:

Instant Run-off Voting
I love this idea, and didn't know they are already doing it in San Francisco. Jesse Jackson, Jr. writes in the Boston Globe, via truthout:
With IRV, voters simply rank the candidates in order of preference. If one candidate receives an outright majority of first choice votes, that candidate wins. If there is no majority winner, the rankings are used to conduct a series of instant runoffs until one candidate obtains that majority. In each runoff, the candidate with the lowest vote count is eliminated. If the eliminated candidate is your first choice, your vote is then allocated to your next choice. Voters mark only one ballot, and the final result is a winner supported by a majority of voters.

Our current winner-take-all voting system influences voters to cast their ballots in fear of the candidate they dislike, fostering vitriol from the stump and campaign tactics aimed at personalities not public policy. In contrast, IRV encourages candidates to seek top-choice votes from their supporters and still appeal to their opponents' supporters for second- and third-choice votes. In San Francisco, board of supervisor candidates determined that receiving a majority on the first ballot was unlikely - one district had 22 candidates - so they began to build coalitions with other candidates in an effort to become at least a voter's second choice. This led to substantive discussions of the issues, a feature missing from many campaigns.
I never thought of the benefit to the campaign process, encouraging candidates to be seen together and discuss their similarities. It seems to me this could forge an instant alliance between Democrats and Greens, or Nader, and wipe away the animosity there with one motion. On the negative, this plan adds one more ballot casting, and counting, process to an already troubled system. But, particularly in local races, instant run-offs would save money, encourage more people to run for office, and the first ballot would give us a more accurate picture of the mood of the electorate without the headaches of a parliamentary system.

I am assuming that a state could decide to do this for Presidential elections, that it need not take place on a national level, since states determine how electoral votes are allotted. But I could be wrong.

Would it complicate the voting process that much? Without the threat of wasting a vote, I would not have minded putting Nader first on my ballot, in 2000, and wouldn't have had reason to hate him so much in 2004 that I may have done it again. Who would be against this and why?
Ride-pimping gone awry
Video screens in cars are not new. In the front seat? Probably not a good idea, maybe illegal in some states. But, in the steering wheel? Hrmm. Wait, isn't there something in there already these days? What is that pesky thing....
"It's not only a bad idea to disable the air bag, it's against the law. Air bags are there for a purpose, to protect you. If you have a DVD player there instead of an air bag, it's not going to protect you in a crash."
So, why not put a projection system into that useless mirror hanging from the middle of the car ceiling? Why is that thing there anyway?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Tsunami Relief Links
In the comments, Deb said she had trouble getting through to the Red Cross Donation site, perhaps a good sign of the number of donations. If you are looking to help, the New York Times published a lengthy list of organizations, with links, accepting donations for relief here. Kos has a shorter list of major organizations (including the IRC) here.
More on the troubles of returning troops, PLUS a legislative idea that needs your help
Via Alternet, John Tarleton of the Indypendent tells the story of Herold Noel:
While Noel was trapped in a war zone, the army mistakenly listed him as AWOL and cut off his pay, causing him to lose his home in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Upon returning, he moved into a trailer off-base with his wife, Tamara, and their three young children. When their car died and he was no longer able to get to work, they decided to move back to New York.
Noel still struggles with his rage, but now he disappears when he feels like he is going to explode. "I don't know where he goes," Tamara says. "He tells me sometimes he has to get away from it all." "I have an anger problem. I still got that war mentality," Noel says. "You got that anger in you being around all that death. I still have nightmares. I'm still paranoid sometimes to walk the street, thinking something is going to happen... It's hard to be in a working situation. You're always on your guard."

While Herold sleeps outside and crisscrosses the city looking for assistance, Tamara is temping as a clerk at a hospital and staying at her sister's home with the kids. Both Tamara and Herold are uncertain of what to do next or even if their marriage will survive. Both refuse to have their children stay in the city's squalid shelter system. "We're willing to work," Tamara says. "We just need something temporary so we can get on our feet."
So, the idea is this: Democrats should offer a constitutional amendment guaranteeing certain rights to veterans of combat. Republicans do this to us all the time. We will call it the "Support our Troops" amendment and dare any Republican to vote against it. The question is, what rights can we include? Health care? Housing? There's a good idea in there somewhere, politicaly and substantively. How would it work? Ideas?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

56,000+ dead
What more can be's almost 20 times the deaths of September 11, 2001. For thorough information, background, and updates, there is no better site than the entry at the Wikipedia. And if you are unfamiliar with that online encyclopedia, this is a good introduction.

Monday, December 27, 2004


It's time for the best of the year! What are your faves from 2004? Movies, Music, TV, Books, Concerts? If you're like me, you haven't seen/heard enough to muster up top ten lists, but how about just personal best media experiences?

Fahrenheit for Oscar? reports that Michael Moore's film is picking up steam as a potential best picture nominee after all, for one of the 2 remaining spots once the 3 sure things are announced (Sideways, The Aviator, Million-Dollar Baby). It makes sense to me that there are enough liberals in Hollywood that would want to try and raise the legitimacy profile of Moore by giving it that honor. Perhaps it would be more likely to lower the profile of the Academy instead, but I would still like to see it happen, even if I end up liking all of the other considered films better.

True Films
Kevin Kelly is compiling an annotated/reviewed list of non-fiction films, with amazon and netflix links. The organization is crappy--it's a scroll festival. But, I learned about a few interesting documentaries I had never heard of, before I got tired of wading through the long, long list. Who is Kevin Kelly? He wrote Out of Control, the book all the cast members of The Matrix were required to read before they were allowed to open the script.
--7:30 pm

Segregation in filmmaking--then and now
An article in today's Washington Post tells of an archive of newly found black cinema--films shown in segregated theaters that were written, directed and acted by black talent. "They really are a rare glimpse of black life [from the 1930s to the 1950s] devoid of Hollywood stereotypes."

But, what to make of the segregation of films now? Shopping in the local MediaPlay, I noticed an entire section of DVDs, alongside "comedy" "action" and "drama" called "black cinema." Stacked there were films not of a bygone era but recent releases, films of Spike Lee, and others featuring primarily black casts. Is the only thing that has changed in terms of filmmaking is that now Hollywood produces "both kinds"? Films for white and for black audiences? Are Denzel Washington and, maybe, Halle Berry, the only links between two otherwise segregated worlds? I am all for celebrating cultural identity and integrity. But, I would like to see all comedies, including "Barbershop," and "House Party 2" sold under the "comedy" header. The website does not seem to have the same categories. Do they only do this in MediaPlay stores in the South? I'm afraid to know.
--4:00 pm

Article 19 Film Review: Spanglish
************* (13 out of 19)
The first half hour had me worried. By the end, I liked it. But now I can't muster up any decent reasons why. I always tell my students that one great moment can make a song great. Every phrase need not pack a wallop. In fact you hardly have time in 3 minutes. This film worked like that - a few very nice, poignant moments that made you think it was on to something. But scattered over 2 hours (or more...), I'm not sure if it was enough. But at least 2 of the 13 stars belong to Tea Leoni all by herself, for playing such a thoroughly annoying, nightmarish person. Cloris Leachman was used kind of cartoonishly, sadly, until the end.
--12:05 am

Sunday, December 26, 2004

25 years to go?
Eventually, Earth is going to be hit with a substantial asteroid. It has happened before (ask the people of Manson, Iowa), and it will happen again. Now according to scientists, one determined rock has announced its intention with an "unprecedented" level of likelihood.

Rating a first-ever 4 on the Torino scale of 1 to 10, "2004 MN4" is said to be a 60-1 favorite to ruin someone's year in 2029. That's slightly less than a 2% chance. My question is more about the math of it. What kind of 1-to-10 scale rates the 2% longshot at 4?

Luckily, this rock is about 100 times smaller than the Manson rock that killed every thing in the region. Meanwhile, there are other natural disasters to fret over while we wait it out. So far, nearly 4 times nearly 5 times nearly 8 times as many people that died in the World Trade Towers bombing have lost their lives as a result of the biggest earthquake in 40 years. Sri Lanks has been ravaged, the island of Sumatra has been dislodged by 100 feet, and oh yeah the Earth's rotation was "disturbed."

But, alas, Asian deaths do not rate much on a more important scale here than either Torino or Richter: the Nielsens. A quick check of the 24-hour news channels (the ones built on the exploitation of tragedy), show a rerun of Dr. Phil on Meet the Press, a story about a dead football player, and Tyson Foods will be putting chaplains in their factories to make the workplace more faith-friendly. Nice job, fellas. I suppose the whole of Asia would have to fall into the ocean to get round-the-clock coverage on CNN for a day.
Exit polls, again
Yuschenko has Kerry-sized exit poll leads in the Ukranian re-vote. We will see how the results relate soon.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays
Sorry, not much posting yesterday, today, or tomorrow. But if you are looking for some thoughtful statement on Christmas, don't look at me. Look at James Carroll (Boston Globe), who wrote "The Politics of the Christmas Story."
In modern times, religion and politics began to be understood as occupying separate spheres, and the nativity story became spiritualized and sentimentalized, losing its political edge altogether. "Peace" replaced resistance as the main motif. The baby Jesus was universalized, removed from his decidedly Jewish context, and the narrative's explicit critiques of imperial dominance and of wealth were blunted.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock
Link. What is the rule of fives?
I want a cut!
My brother and I definitely thought of this first--years ago....and oh they laughed at us then. Someone confirm! This was our idea! You were there--you know it's true!
The real winter holiday
In the comments, Lewberry reminds me of tomorrow's start to festivus. When the clock strikes midnight, let the grievances be aired.
Holiday Reading: Results don't matter, it's all about the heart
If you can take it, try Bush's year-end press conference from Monday. The short version: I will tell you details of my plans that will be politically popular; Asking about the other details would be detrimental to the legislative process. Why do you in the press not understand that? Plus it's wrong to criticize the performance of leaders I have decided have good hearts, all evidence to the contrary (which I will not acknowledge), like Rumsfeld, Putin, and Musharraf. And, oh yeah, our vetting process for the most important jobs in the world is outstanding and also one really big secret we'll never talk about. It has a good heart, our vetting process, so it doesn't matter what kind of crap comes out of it, same as Rumsfeld.
I try to believe that the percentage of religious folks across the country who are actually apocalyptic nutjobs is really quite small. It sure doesn't seem like it when some of them get new ideas. Try following this story, a triangle that connects the Bushes, Rev. Moon, and a group insisting that the cross is a sign of the devil, not of God. Via Atrios.
Mostly African-American, pastors who joined in 2003's ACLC-sponsored "Tear Down The Cross" won gold watches from the wealthy group, which unabashedly claims in its publications to have stripped churches of over a hundred crosses over the Easter holiday alone. This, movement leaders said, cleared the way for a new age and second messiah.
I don't believe, by-and-large, that conservative evangelicals are especially irrational people. So, what are they thinking? Is this just cultural myopia gone severe? Thinking that the fate of the world rests in their decisions to place or not place a cross in the church? How does that kind of vision achieve that kind of influence? How can we reasonably say this is madness, without being labeled as anti-religious by a group so paranoid they think that Christmas is under siege just because some businesses and people try to use the more inclusive "happy holidays" greeting, just in case there are people (like, oh I dunno, JEWS!) that are celebrating, but not Christmas?

I'm sorry to have to say it this way, but it is the truth: There are people who spend too much time reading the Bible, too much time at church, and too much of the rest of their time with people who spend too much time at church or reading the Bible. There are other places, other people, and other books. You put that harness on people who, of necessity, spend every other minute with the same 1-5 people (spouse + kids), and you get a recipe for some very bizarre ideas should any of them take themselves too seriously, or, God-forbid, take everything literally. There I said it. I'll admit that I spend too much time online and watching C-Span, if they'll admit that.

We get it in academia too: people who devote their lives to, say, tempo relationships in Bach Oratorios, or dissecting every nuance of performance interpretation in Mozart's Vienna Operas. They don't want to hear about anything else, ever in their life. They don't want to think about anything else. They look down on every peon who doesn't understand the beauty they see. The difference is, there's usually no formula for the end of the world in there, and anyway, world leaders don't praise them, or seek their audience. Bullies ridicule the academic myopics properly: they call them nerds and shame their children. Maybe it's time somebody does the same to the religious fanatics.

Monday, December 20, 2004


The World of Borges Made Real?
Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading (nope, I haven't read it, but it's on my shelf), wrote an essay in yesterday's NYT discussing Google's plan to scan millions of books from the public domain into their system and make them searchable. Manguel associates this move with the quixotic fixation of Western culture on the possibility of attaining a present, true, complete, total knowledge, the kind Borges wrote about in "The Library of Babel." I hadn't read that story since college until I read this piece and picked it back up this morning. Like all of the stories of his that I have read, it is a beautiful puzzle:
...the Library is total and its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols (a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite): in other words, all that is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels' autobiographies, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Balisades, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books. When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all boks, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness.
I the protestations of Google's critics are off the mark here. But so are many of its apologists. This move may make scholarship easier and more efficient, but I doubt it can make good scholarship any more likely. Buy selected Borges stories (no kickbacks here...) here.

Top 10 Films of the Year
According to Roger Ebert. Million Dollar Baby, Kill Bill, Volume 2, and Vera Drake are the top 3. I missed Spiderman 2, but does it really deserve to be #4?

Top 50 Records of the Year
According to Rolling Stone. I'm skeptical of any such list that includes Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, and Elton John. But I will admit I haven't heard those masterpieces, so I could be the one missing out. Glad to see Elliott Smith, Prince and Wilco on the list.

Conservatism in Desperate Housewives
The Nation's Richard Goldstein thinks that the theme of irony over the simultaneous Bush electoral dominance, with the Nielson dominance of Desperate Housewives, is just hype. The show, he says, is pure red-state, against all prevailing opinion.

Weekend Box office
1. Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events
2. Ocean's Twelve
3. Spanglish
4. Polar Express
5. Blade: Trinity

Sunday, December 19, 2004

What about the gun?
Johnnie Carl killed himself Friday. He was the music director for Rev. Robert Schuller's Crystal Palace Ministries, the televised "Hour of Power," one of those huge 10,000+ member mega-church estates. He also conducted/arranged some for John Tesh, Lee Greenwood and Celine Dion. Yes that would drive me into a deep depression as well, but apparently he was already there.

My question is: what is a man with a history of bipolar disorder and depression--a 30-year battle--doing with a gun? And why did friends/family let him have one? I've read 3 or 4 stories about this, and everyone seems to take as normal the part where he retreats to his church office and pulls out his pistol. I suppose it could have been a secret. But I doubt it.

People: Stay on your medication, and away from firearms. Seriously.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Homeless money
The local op-ed referenced below (read it!)was printed on the same day that our own Mayor Purcell got front-page coverage for issuing his 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness. The headline looks great, in big big words, and if you didn't know better, you'd think the Mayor woke up and decided to tackle homelessness as a primary goal.

I'm glad for him to get the coverage, and hope he's successful, but the truth is we are one of the last cities to develop such a 10-year-plan. Why is that such a common thing now? Because the Bush Administration is tying federal money to having such a long-term blueprint in place. I'm not saying that's a bad thing; I don't know. Only that the motivation here for such a grand announcement is less about concern for the homeless than it is about fear of letting all that money go to waste.

If you don't live in Nashville, your city may have a 10-year plan too. If so, it will be full of responsibility phrases team Bush loves, like "Only services proven effective will be funded." So that's the bad news; just like schools. If we have further increase in homelessness, or it stays the same, we get less money (for failing), not more.

Is this just Phase One, like the Leave No Child Behind fiasco, of a conservative plan to cut government out of the services business all together by "proving" they do a poor job? We'll know when we see Phase Two: Bush touting the great work on the homeless problem by private, and faith-based, programs.
Kudos to one of our own!
The Nashville Eye (a citizen op-ed that runs in The Tennessean) today is a reaction to the outrageous problem of Iraq War veterans already appearing among the homeless. It was written by someone you will likely recognize!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Media Matters v. O'Lielly
I am still uneasy about David Brock. But you have to love this letter (via Atrios) he sent to Bill O'Reilly. I think I would even watch The Factor the night he has Brock on, if he does.
Choosing Sides
Yesterday, Talkleft pointed to a story about a Louisiana God Squad trying to re-inject "Christmas" into the holidays.

Step One: Identify yourself as a Christian by purchasing one of their "We believe in God. Merry Christmas." yard signs. Step Two: Get "Merry Christmas" put back onto the government building that now only says the hateful "season's greetings." Step Three: Boycott all local businesses who do not put "Merry Christmas" signs on their stores and in ads.

Of course this is silly. For one thing, back in the day when Merry Christmas was all we said (and that was because we preferred to believe that Jews, Muslims, and atheists didn't exist.) it was no more of a religious time. So, what, we just want to get back to commercializing only our winter holiday? No corporate watering down of your religion! It's all ours!

But the bigger annoyance to me is the growing separation along political lines. Boycotting this and that. I do it too, of course. I get emails almost every day telling me which advertisers support the local hate-radio stations, and which gave the most money to Bush and other Republicans. And don't get me wrong, it works on me. And on the other side it does as well apparently. They won't go to our shops, listen to our music, see our films; we won't go attend to theirs.

Why don't we cut to the chase and just start requiring red and blue arm bands on everyone, so we'll know where to shop, who to talk to, and who to yell at? I already am a nicer driver to Kerry-stickered cars than I am to W-stickered ones. This kind of thing is only going to get worse, right?

By the way, is it legal for businesses to discriminate based on political beliefs? Can you open a blatantly Republicans-not-welcome establishment? I'm afraid I would go there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

New Bushism...
Reminding me that there are worse things than the last hectic day of grading final exams and projects. The President addresses the expanding trade deficit at his summit today:
There's a trade deficit. That's easy to resolve: People can buy more United States products if they're worried about the trade deficit.
Madre de Dios.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ohio/Florida voting problems laid out
In the Washington Post. It's not pretty:
"We'd never tolerate this level of errors with an ATM. The problem is that we continue to do democracy on the cheap."
Maybe not proof of fraud, but proof that the election would have been a heck of a lot closer in both states if all the votes had been cast/counted correctly, and if everyone who went to vote properly had been able to do so.
Online Chat about the Solomon Amendment Decision
With BC Law professor Kent Greenfield, from December 12. This regards the recent victory by a coalition of law schools in a suit against the Department of Defense.
Pedro's Gone to New York
To the Mets at least, not the Yankees. Hopefully this won't end up being a Clemens-sized mistake, but at least he won't be beating up on the Sox in their own league. I think this is probably a net win for Boston in the long run. But it might stink for a year or 2. The question is, in 3 years, will they have a championship-calibur team anymore? Derek Lowe is the one that worries me. If he goes to a rival he could be a pain for a long time. Meanwhile, Boston columnist Dan Shaughnessy has some related breaking news, and a shocker: some players make their decisions based on money.
I know this story is a bit old, but here's a rundown of latest developments, all leading to one important question: what kind of background checks do they do over there?

Remember, the official story was that Kerik couldn't be head of homeland security because it turns out he's color blind. No, no just kidding. The reason they gave is the didn't-pay-taxes-on-the-illegal-immigrant-nanny excuse. A classic.

Here are a few things that probably come closer to hitting the mark, and oh yeah, nobody can confirm that he ever even had a nanny (don't they even vet the false excuses?). What he did have:

--A secret wife. Which he may have been married to while he was already married.

--A secret apartment in the city for his mistresses, including publisher Judith Regan (who once upon a time had some not-so-kind things to say about Monica and Bill)

--A secret benefactor (maybe to pay for the love shack?) who was caught in a mob-run stock swindle scheme.
Kentucky Craziness
Republicans ran a state senate candidate that didn't meet the constitutional requirements. A court ordered her votes not be counted and declared the Democrat the winner. But Republicans in the Senate are poised to seat her anyway. Why? Because they're in the majority of course, and can do whatever they like. More at Democracy for America.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What have you seen, read, heard over the last week?

The New Cynicism? Are they nuts?
NYT article today starts this way:
Whatever happened to tidings of comfort and joy?

Once upon a time, Christmas movies were defined by the heartwarming journey of James Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life." Lately things have become a lot more ill-tempered.
It goes on to lament the passing of old-fashioned Christmas-loving movies in favor of those that "make fun of the holidays."

But it was the 1990 blockbuster "Home Alone," with Macaulay Culkin spending his Christmas confounding a couple of thieves, that really set off the trend. Since then, Hollywood has created its own subgenre of Christmas comedy, including "The Santa Clause" in 1994 and its 2002 sequel; "Jingle All the Way" in 1996; and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in 2000.
I'm sorry. Home Alone set the standard and broke new ground in cinematic cynicism? Have they ever heard of "Bah Humbug"? That translates into something pretty darn Christmas-hating doesn't it? And don't they know that whole Grinch thing didn't really come about in 2000? (psst,'s an old beloved Christmas classic, not some new-fangled sign of the apocalypse). Even if it were new, here's a memo: family dysfunction is funny. Oh so funny. Especially if it ends with a positive message about togetherness and overcoming our differences in the spirit of the holidays.

Besides, what kind of movie is just about how much everyone loves Christmas and how great it is? Aren't holiday films always about people that don't care or don't believe, who become convinced (or else humorously beaten up) by the end? Is there any other kind of Christmas movie? There have been alot of bad Christmas movies; I'll give her that. But not bad because of the cynicism. What is she talking about? Am I missing it?

Not that I've read any of these
NYT Best books of 2004:
--The Master
--The Plot against America
--War Trash
--Alexander Hamilton
--Chronicles: Volume One
--Washington's Crossing
--Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare

Free Speech in Wartime
Not sure this is holiday reading materials, but Professor Lessig is advertising this new book by his dean. It does look interesting. Meanwhile, his own great book made the Business Week top 10 of 2004. I never thought I'd have read a book that topped a business mag list.

David Byrne is keeping a tour journal
It's an interesting read:
Scroll down to read his thoughts on BzzAgents. He read the same NYTimes Magazine article we did.

NY Film Critics Online
Sideways. Kaufmann wins best screenplay. Fahrenheit 9/11 ties for best documentary.

NY Film Critics Online are not to be confused with the more austere NY Film Critics, who also picked Sideways, and named Fahrenheit best non-fiction film.

LA Film Critics Weigh In
"Sideways" is the big winner. Eternal Sunshine gets runner-up for best screenplay...
Has anyone seen Sideways yet? What's the verdict? After grades are in this week, it's on my list of things to do.

Golden Globe Nominations Out
Best Picture, Drama--"The Aviator," "Closer," "Finding Neverland," "Hotel Rwanda," "Kinsey," "Million Dollar Baby."
Best Picture, Musical/Comedy--"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "The Incredibles," "Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera," "Ray," "Sideways."

No secret where my hopes are, though Eternal Sunshine is hardly a comedy (do they only have to have some funny lines/scenes to be comedies?). If it is, then surely Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is. I suppose they are only trying to find ways to recognize all the best films/performances regardless. Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey both were nominated in acting categories, and Charlie Kaufmann the no-brainer for original screenplay. Entire list is here. Apparently all desperate housewives are worthy of praise.

Wasted Time
I'm not saying I have a ready list of powerfully important, or at least interesting questions to ask Bob Dylan in an interview. But then I don't write for Rolling Stone. Shouldn't a professional be able to do better than this?

Weekend Box Office
1. Ocean's Twelve
2. Blade: Trinity
3. National Treasure
4. The Polar Express
5. Christmas with the Kranks

Has anyone seen any of the "Blade" movies? I assumed the first one was a flop--didn't hear much about it. So, I was surprised there was a sequel. And now I'm completely confused that there is a third. Is this a personal-mission effort for Wesley Snipes, the way the Matrix was for Keanu Reeves? Is there a cult following here I don't know about? I suppose if Daredevil can have a sequel then anything can.

The Pixies--New York Times reviews a recent show on their reunion tour. Seeing them live at the Ryman remains the music highlight of the year. And among other things, they were incredibly tight...almost none of the "raggedness" referred to here, although it's only barely lamented. They still play and sing with furious energy and pace. Beautiful, fun, complex, loud songs that will last.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Pentagon breaks the laws of Physics!
Well, whaddyaknow....
The Army moved Friday to boost production of armored Humvees for troops in Iraq by 100 a month, abandoning assertions that Pentagon officials could not procure them any faster.

Steps to increase production came two days after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told U.S. troops being sent to combat that assembly lines installing armor on the vehicles were already operating at maximum capacity.

Pentagon officials confirmed Friday that the Army had entered negotiations to secure more armored Humvees, but they did not explain why officials did not realize before Friday that production could be increased.

Meeting with troops in Kuwait on Wednesday, Rumsfeld was asked by a Tennessee National Guard member why troops were forced to rummage through scrap yards to find metal to protect their vehicles.

Rumsfeld told the soldier, Spc. Thomas Wilson, that “a matter of physics” prevented U.S. plants from stepping up production of armored Humvees.
For a crowd that could care less about running up national debt, they sure are a bunch of cheap bastards when it comes to caring for troops, in and out of battle.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Circle of Hell Test
Take the test to determine which circle of Dante's Hell you are facing. No, I'm not telling where I ended up.
More Rumsfeld Classics, "we don't need no stinkin' armor" edition
from last week: "if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can still be blown up. And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."--check out more at Rumsfeld says the darnedest things.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Happy Human Rights Day
December 10 marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its preamble reads, in part:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms....
Read the whole thing if you never have. If English is not your bag, read it in hundreds of other languages here. Article 19 is a favorite, but it's all good.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I was going to let the Rumsfeld Q/A with soldiers go from yesterday because I'm sure everyone already saw and/or read. But there's just too much buffoonery to pass up. The whole session is here. Favorite questions and answers include:
Q (from a soldier from Nashville!): Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We're digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that's already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they're not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I'm told that they are being - the Army is - I think it's something like 400 a month are being done. And it's essentially a matter of physics. It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.
Atrios has the answer refuting that wishful thinking here.
Q: Specialist Skarwin (Sp?) HHD 42nd Engineer Brigade. Mr. Secretary [Cheers] my question is with the current mission of the National Guard and Reserves being the same as our active duty counterparts, when are more of our benefits going to line up to the same as theirs, for example, retirement? [Cheers] [Applause]

SEC. RUMSFELD: [Laughter] I can't imagine anyone your age worrying about retirement. [Laughter] Good grief.
What kind of leader responds this way? Meanwhile Iraq veterans are already turning up in homeless shelters. (Update: Longer version of the story here.) Rumsfeld et al "didn't anticipate" the insurgent tactics that have left troops in unarmed vehicles needlessly, they "couldn't imagine" Bin Laden's World Trade Center bombing plan in time to stop it, and the wealthy SOBs "can't imagine" why troops, or anyone would worry about retirement. Maybe if the Pentagon displayed the kind of foresight for the troops' well-being that this reservist shows for herself, it might at least be worthy of respect for competence and care for the soldiers. Instead, military and civilian leadership have collaborated on a national embarrassment. And Rumsfeld the head embarrassment. What, exactly, do they plan for?
Great Balls of Fire
Perhaps streaking teams should become mandatory on college to help counteract the effects of excessive laptop use. With news like that, my heat-radiating-cup-protector patent will never get off the ground.
Maybe I went to the wrong college...
I give you the Hamilton College Varsity Streaking Team.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Conyers Hearing
It's hard to keep up, what with basketball players being charged, baseball players on steroids, and other very important news...

But on the Hill today, hearings were held to look into voting irregularities in Ohio. William Rivers Pitt of Truthout is blogging from the hearings. There is alot of information there, but it's fascinating. If this is being repeated on CSpan tonight, it is definitely worth the time to watch. Snippets:
Jackson is giving an impassioned call to arms. I will provide a transcript as soon at it becomes available. He is tossing barbs at Kerry for conceding too early, and reminding the Democrats en masse that they live and die by the minority vote, that it was minority voters who bore the brunt of the 2004 'irregularities,' and that something better be done.
Neas just blew the doors off. There were less voting machines in Cuyahoga County on election day than there were during the primary vote. Neas says Blackwell wins the Katherine Harris Award, and there should be prosecutions for the vote fraud.
Rev. Jackson: "We cannot vent and then have Congress not act. If these reports are not investigated, we have all wasted our time. This cannot simply be an academic venting session. Take this struggle to the streets and legitimize it there, as they did in Selma."
The background for the hearings can best be seen in this letter from Conyers to Ohio Secretary of State Blackwell. Democrats convened the hearings without support or attendance of any Republican members. The event should be getting loads of press, but of course it is not.
Howard Dean Today
He spoke today on the future of the Democratic Party:
I have seen all the doomsday predictions that the Democratic Party could shrink to become a regional Party. A Party of the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest.

We cannot be a Party that seeks the presidency by running an 18-state campaign. We cannot be a party that cedes a single state, a single District, a single precinct, nor should we cede a single voter.
There is a Party of fiscal responsibility... economic responsibility.... social responsibility... civic responsibility... personal responsibility... and moral responsibility.

It's the Democratic Party.

We need to be able to say strongly, firmly, and proudly what we believe.
Full transcript is here. If they don't make Governor Dean the head of the Party, it will be one of the biggest recent mistakes in a long line of mistakes. The nature of the opposition is clear: he represents change.
Strange Decisions
If you're going to make a movie about your old high school experience, why would you keep a few names the same without getting some permission? This especially becomes a problem when the fellas think of themselves as mature and respected, where you've portrayed them as "dazed and confused." I'm not sure what would have been lost by changing the names, and maybe Richard Linklater wouldn't be getting sued.

But it seems like quite a long time after the fact to be bringing it up, doesn't it? Still, it's a really funny movie.

Monday, December 06, 2004


I thought we were through with Motley Crue. But no. Stevie T, won't Lee Nixon be excited?

I've never understood the attraction to their music, but then when did I ever understand who tops the billboard charts and why? There is some loud music, some fast music, some raging, angry music that I really get into. But Motley Crue just sound like one big craptacular to me. The "news" was broken by none other than CNN, continuing to live down to my expectations. For an hour through Larry King they teased that a super-surprise reunion of a "major rock band" was going to be revealed, so I stupidly sat through a ridiculous interview with Brooke Shields just to get to it. Watching Larry interview Tommy Lee (introduced as a "rock star and best-selling author"(?)) right before he went on stage was one of the more surreal TV moments of the night. Lots to talk about. Both relatively new fathers. Sheesh.
--11:30 pm

Gift Ideas?
NPR ran a story on gift ideas from independent book sellers. Their list is here. What book would you recommend for a gift? My suggestion is Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, reviewed by Article 19 here. And no, I am not pushing it as a BzzAgent, though apparently they are everywhere...choosing commerce over friendships in my opinion. I may be wrong about that, but if you ever had a friend who sold Amway or some such thing, you know what I'm talking about.
--4:30 pm

Weekend Box go to the movies edition
1. National Treasure
2. Christmas with the Kranks
3. Polar Express
4. The Incredibles
5. SpongeBob
--2:30 pm

Back in town. Thanks for filling in, Deb. I know alot of media discussions were had over the weekend. And thanks Lewberry for the documentary recommendation, Cinemania--I'm going to check that one out. But I can't help but still making it media monday. Sorry. I'm a slave to alliteration.

I've hardly seen or heard a thing in a week. And what I did start reading on the plane was a really interesting book on "The Great Influenza" that swept the country (the disease did, not the book...) during WWI. But when you're on a plane with 100 strangers, headed to a tourist mecca that attracts people from all over the world, you don't really want to think about killer viruses that reach across the world and kill everyone in sight. So I put it down pretty quick, but will get back to it soon.

How about you? Did you catch any flicks over the weekend? Read any books? Watch any fascinating or infuriating TV? Hear any good or terrible music?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Planning Ahead
Tonight my reign as Miss Article19 comes to a close. As I must prepare to strip off my tiara, I leave you with something to think about: just as we learned "blog" has been dubbed the word of the year, everyone who is anyone will have their "_____ of the year" lists coming out later this month. Biography has their person of the year; VH1 Big in '04; Time's person of the year; best songs, worst movies, don't forget who died this year, etc.

Seems like Article 19 should have a list of it's top, best, worst, wildest, wackiest, or some other superlative of the year somethings. Suggestions?

Missed you, DB. Glad you're back.

Homebound Media Sunday

There’s probably a marketing term for media in it’s second iteration: movies when they come out on DVD or on PPV, books when they’re reprinted in paperback, etc. Whatever that word is, that’s where I am in the world of media awareness. Which is why I rarely can contribute anything to Media Monday (as opposed to my mind-boggling contributions the other six days of the week).

It’s not that I don’t want to be hip to the newest movies, books, etc. – I love to go to movies, just don’t have a movie partner or bunch as I’ve had in the past. The only movie I saw in a theater this year was “Farenheit 9/11”. Where music’s concerned, I like and listen to my own drummer, which means a group of artists that aren’t putting out new stuff really frequently. I love good books, but rarely want to pop for a hardcover unless it's a real keeper.

If there’s anyone out there in the un-hip media awareness category, feel free to share your un-hip media experience. It’s ok, I’m here for you, man.

My recent PPV or premium channel movie watching has included the following:
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" – truly excellent
"The Day After Tomorrow" – unless that’s really possible, doesn’t that hurt our credibility?
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" – does Chuck Barris have any credibility?
"The Alamo" – what a waste of a great cast – and there really wasn’t a basement
"Van Helsing" – pretty faces, ugly faces, computer special effects, yadda yadda yadda
"Pirates of the Caribbean" – OK, I’ve seen it 8 or 9 times – I've got a Johnny Depp thing.

Judge me if you will, but my #1 all-time best-loved musician is James Taylor. There, I said it. He has a new CD of Christmas songs out, being distributed through Hallmark stores, and it’s wonderful, the usual JT mix of bluesy and classic stylings on some holiday standards. (He was also on TV twice last Wednesday night, doing “Steamroller” with Joe Walsh on Eric Clapton’s guitar festival on PBS, and singing for the Bartletts on “West Wing.”)

The book I’ve spent most of my time with lately is “Managing Your Search Project”, a page-turner for job seekers. Having lost the will to read politics recently, I haven’t seen a lot on the bestseller list that has called out to me. Anyone?

Friday, December 03, 2004

A little more spilt milk
For our vote count obsessed readers,
Salon’s AP story on the Ohio vote count confirms bush’s margin over Kerry was smaller than expected but not enough to trigger a recount. Sigh. Maybe if Ohioans were out in the streets shouting “Yushchenko!” they’d find more Kerry votes.
How ‘bout that economy?
It’s a new month and the new labor stats are out
today: 112,000 new jobs in November, and not a one of them for me. Last week’s “Black Friday” retail sales figures were not so thrilling either, unless you’re an upscale retailer: Wal-Mart’s sales were off for the first big holiday shopping weekend. Because their slice of the pie is so much bigger than most of the upscale retailers combined, this is just one more weak middle- to lower-income consumer confidence indicator. I know I’ll be spending less this season on gifts . . . and electricity . . . and groceries.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

While the cat's away . . .
Be gentle with me, guys. You're witnessing my first guest-blogging experience, so I'm hoping you all will stick around this weekend and cheer me on, kay? And if you have any topics you'd like to see covered, email me:
Contact Lenses
Does anyone use disposable contact lenses? I use the old school soft but long-lasting kind. The good news is that I squeeze a ridiculously long life out of them, 4 years for my last pair ("Are they still round? What's holding them together?" My eye doctor asked today. Since he decided it was a victory for a rigorous daily care program, I didn't have the heart to tell him the secret is not to clean them too often or too vigorously). The bad news is that the way they let you know they're finished apparently is by scratching your cornea mercilessly, which I can tell you hurts like a mother--think blinking with sandpaper instead of eyelids.

Long story short (too late), he wanted to recommend 2-week disposable lenses, but we decided I get far more value out of the other kind, and anyway--I said--I'm skeptical of a product where the company tells you to throw them away every 2 weeks and buy a new pair. I mean, really, what a racket, right? But instead of teaming up with me against the big bad eye care companies, the Doc took me on and said that no they only recommend exactly what the FDA tells them they must, given the data of testing research. So it's all science and helpful governmental oversight, not corporate profit. That's when I realized he must get a cut.

But really, that's a load of crap right? Do you really get rid of them every 2 weeks? What happens if you wait for, I dunno, 3 months? I'm not saying it should be recommended for that long, but it makes sense that they would direct you to get rid of them as quickly as they can get away with convincing people to, doesn't it?

I mean of course they are cleaner and more perfect on the first day than they are on the 15th, which is better still than on the 30th. Duh. That's not the point.

On another note--article 19 news--I've asked Deb to guest-blog for me on Friday and over the weekend while I'm out of town. If I can figure out how to get her signed up correctly that should work. So make sure and come by over the next few days. And, Deb, don't be so much better than me that there's a revolt. See you all on Media Monday, next week.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Stuffing the ballot box for 2005
You may have seen this elsewhere, but "blog" has been named the word of the year by Merriam-Webster dictionary. What you may not know is how the award came about: it was simply the most searched word in their online dictionary for the first 11 months of the year. So, my question is, which word(s) would we like to see atop the list next year. If we all committed to searching for it several times a day, we just might have all the power. Hell, defenestration is number 10, so how many times would we really have to search to get a word to crack the list? More importantly, what word would we like to imprint on the 2005 yearbooks? Any ideas?