Monday, October 31, 2005

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Get your haiku fix here
The VA Vegan can salve your once-a-day haiku needs and for more epic fare, I suggest the haiku stylings of EMichael (scroll down for today's Bush/Alito-related haiku.)

Melissa Ferrick
I caught Melissa Ferrick's show at the Mercy Lounge last Thursday. A singer-songwriter with intense vocals and aggressive guitar licks. It was quite a good show. If you have a chance to hear her or pick up a CD (which isn't quite as good as live), you should do it.

Also, while I'm on the subject of this concert, I must say that generally I consider lesbians to be an advanced people (also we have at least one thing in common). I have good friends that are lesbians. Hell, I've even dated a lesbian or 2, which actually isn't as much fun as it sounds. But, as excessively smart folks, I was hopeful going in that the bar/venue wouldn't be too smoky (Ferrick is a lesbian with a strong following in that community. Alas, I'm sorry to report that, smart as they are, lesbians smoke at least as much as everyone else.

More tantalizing facts and insight from Article 19. You can't get that kind of reporting just anywhere.

The Maturation Myth
Vanity Fair interviewed Woody Allen
Allen, who will be 70 on Dec. 1, says age hasn't brought wisdom.

"I've gained no wisdom, no insight, no mellowing. I would make all the same mistakes again, today," he tells the magazine.
His new film "Match Point" opens in December.

Art Therapy
At New York City's Museum of Modern Art, Alzheimer's patients are taken on tours during off hours in an attempt to activate important parts of their brain:
Art therapy, both appreciating art and making it, has been used for decades as a nonmedical way to help a wide variety of people - abused children, prisoners and cancer and Alzheimer's patients. But much of this work has taken place in nursing homes and hospitals. Now museums like the Modern and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, are trying to bring it into their galleries, using their collections as powerful ways to engage minds damaged by dementia.

It seems to be working, though no one knows exactly how. While extensive research has been conducted on the effects of music and performing arts on brain function - the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in the Bronx has been studying the phenomenon for a decade now - there has been comparatively little work done in the visual arts. . .. .

"Certainly it's not just a visual experience - it's an emotional one," said Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and writer. "In an informal way I have often seen quite demented patients recognize and respond vividly to paintings and delight in painting at a time when they are scarcely responsive to words and disoriented and out of it. I think that recognition of visual art can be very deep."
M. Night Shyamalan is bitching about the idea of simultaneous theater/DVD releases. I have to admit, I don't see the big deal. Theater-going is not going to disappear so long as there are people looking for reasons to get out of the house. But even if it diminishes I don't see that as such a loss. DVD sales will just increase. Still, the director of one great film (Sixth Sense), 2 pretty darn good ones (Unbreakable and Signs) and one pretty silly one (The Village), is surprisingly philosophical about it:
Story is king. Storytelling is an ancient art form that has always been told to a group, and the reason is that we need to see the story through each others' point of view, like sitting next to someone whose sense of humor is different than yours. That's the way we grow. We can't disregard the effect we have on each other when we see a movie. I make them for a room full of 500 strangers, not a singular individual who only has a life experience like mine. That would be asinine.
I've definitely had experiences where a crowd of strangers affected my film-watching in an interesting way. But usually that's not the case. It's not like we go out for after-movie conversation with the people from our row that we don't know. There are definitely down-sides to watching a film on TV at home--fewer than there used to be. But I'm not sure they have much to do with a sense of community. What do you think?

Weekend Box Office

1. Saw II
2. The Legend of Zorro
3. Prime
4. Dreamer (not getting it done at the BO. Maybe that little girl is finally overexposed. I know I'm sick of seeing her everywhere.)
5. Wallace and Gromit

Article 19 Film Recommendation
I had seen the Bridget Fonda version several years ago and didn't mind it, but I finally sat down in front of the original Le Femme Nikita. I was blown away - an amazing experience. Chilling, touching, raw, intense. That woman is amazing. I can't say I was completely satisfied with the ending, but highly recommended.

Whatever happened to Bridget Fonda anyway? Is she still in movies?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

From Friday's press conference, which you should read if you didn't hear.

At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true.

It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly.

Now, as I said before, this grand jury investigation has been conducted in secret. I believe it should have been conducted in secret, not only because it's required by those rules, but because the rules are wise. Those rules protect all of us.

We are now going from a grand jury investigation to an indictment, a public charge and a public trial. The rules will be different.

But I think what we see here today, when a vice president's chief of staff is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, it does show the world that this is a country that takes its law seriously; that all citizens are bound by the law.

But what we need to also show the world is that we can also apply the same safeguards to all our citizens, including high officials. Much as they must be bound by the law, they must follow the same rules.

So I ask everyone involved in this process, anyone who participates in this trial, anyone who covers this trial, anyone sitting home watching these proceedings to follow this process with an American appreciation for our values and our dignity.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Merry Fitzmas
I'm late to this, of course--school duty calls. But here's the story. Libby is gone, Rove slipped through.

If you're into this sort of thing, you can read the indictment here.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My speculation
Clearly there's no press conference today as some supposedly super source claimed. So, maybe Fitzgerald had that rumor leaked to eager Democrats on purpose, to try and squeeze the targets to plead or flip? Just a thought.
Oh well
Harriett Miers nomination was fun while it lasted. Now we get to find out whether or not Bush is angry at the religious right, who have now successfully scolded him, and will rebel against them (haha), or will crawl back sheepishly into their arms by nominating some crazy person. Assuming it's the latter, and I do assume so, all our hopes are with Arlen Specter, not an especially good feeling.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What's wrong with people?
That plan to democratize and liberate the Middle East seems to be working great.
Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told a group of students at an anti-Israel event on Wednesday that Israel "must be wiped off the map" and that attacks by Palestinians would destroy it, the ISNA news agency reported.

He was speaking to about 4,000 students at a program called "The World Without Zionism," in preparation for an annual anti-Israel demonstration held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.
Adjourned [UPDATED]
The grand jury has adjourned after meeting for 3 hours. No word on what they did or didn't do. If the previous rumors about a filing today and an announcement tomorrow do not pan out, then there's no reason to think these sources are as good as we've hoped and no reason to think anyone has the slightest clue what's happened or is going to happen. But, assuming that info was good, Raw Story's offering today makes plenty of sense as to what we may expect:
Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to indict Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers close to the investigation tell RAW STORY.

Fitzgerald has also asked the jury to indict Libby on a second charge: knowingly outing a covert operative, the lawyers said. They said the prosecutor believes that Libby violated a 1982 law that made it illegal to unmask an undercover CIA agent.
That report also says that indictment of 2 additional figures not in the White House is being sought as well, and that Karl Rove has turned down an offer to plead guilty on perjury to avoid facing charges of obstruction. I guess we'll see.

[UPDATE 2:20 central--Richard Sale reports that yesterday's rumors are still operative. Indictments today; press conference tomorrow.]
While we're waiting
Here's some context. From Gary Hart (via AmericaBlog)
The federal statute making it a criminal penalty to knowingly divulge the identity of anyone working undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency was not enacted in a vacuum. In the early 1970s, in part as a result of the radicalization of individuals and groups over the Vietnam War, a former CIA employee named Philip Agee wrote a book revealing the identities of several dozen CIA employees, many under deep cover and some including agency station chiefs in foreign capitals....

Richard Welch, a brilliant Harvard-educated classicist, had been stationed in Greece as CIA station chief only a few months before he was murdered, by a radical Greek terrorist organization called the 17th of November, in the doorway of his house in Athens on Dec. 23, 1975. Had Agee not divulged his name, there is every reason to believe that Welch would be alive today after decades of loyal service to his country....
And investigating serious crimes like that one will lose all hope of effectiveness if we ever decide to take lightly the crime of perjury or obstruction of justice in their pursuit. That Republicans are now attempting to deflect with the excuse that those are secondary/unimportant crimes places in jeopardy all future criminal investigations of such magnitude.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Happy Fitzmas Tomorrow?
Steve Clemons says he has a source:
1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.
2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.

3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.

4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.
My official prediction is that Libby and maybe two other poeple we don't care much about will be indicted. I'm trying to keep the expectations low. Rove's name coming up would make it a very merry Fitzmas, and anyone else's, ahem, higher up, should really usher in 12 days of celebration. They're all lying sons-of-bitches who have taken our country to the toilet. They deserve whatever's coming to them. I'm not going to lose any sleep about celebrating their comeuppance.
New numbers on Iraq
53% now think that going into Iraq was the wrong thing to do, over half for the first time. Less than 25% now believe Iraq policies will be successful. And, the 2000th US soldier has died in this wrong-headed, dishonest misuse of the military.

How could we have let this happen?
Who's the biggest fan of the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation?
Bill Frist. Luckily for him, the national scandal buzz can only handle one at a time. If a politician "implodes" and nobody's around to notice, can he still be elected President?

Monday, October 24, 2005

What have you been listening to, watching, reading?

Super Creepy--Be on the Lookout
Just so you know, if your young kids show up with a CD of the newest wholesome-looking little girl group, 2 cute blond 13-year-old twins named Lamb and Lynx Gaede, you might need to have that we're-not-white-supremacists talk with them earlier than you expected. It's not just bad-music fun. It's recruitment.
Songs like "Sacrifice" — a tribute to Nazi Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy Fuhrer — clearly show the effect of the girls' upbringing. The lyrics praise Hess as a "man of peace who wouldn't give up."
So, what's creepier, the fact that they call themselves "Prussian Blue"? Or the smiley Hitler face t-shirts they wear in promo pictures?

Seriously though, is today some kind of autumn version of April Fool's Day I don't know about? This can't be for true.

Top 100 Films, Again
Another useless best-ever list, but it's interesting. Total Film magazine "surveyed UK film experts" to compile the rankings for their next issue. Here's the top ten:
10. His Girl Friday
9. The Lord Of The Rings
8. The Empire Strikes Back
7. Tokyo Story
6. Citizen Kane
5. The Godfather Part II
4. Fight Club
3. Jaws
2. Vertigo
1. GoodFellas

I've got no beef with Goodfellas being #1. It's a great movie. And I liked Fight Club alot, but not sure about #4 of all time....

We're old!
This December 3, The Beatles' Rubber Soul will be 40 years old. That means that today we're farther away from events in 1984 than 1984 was from Rubber Soul. This Tuesday an inevitable tribute album is released. It may be a decent listen, I don't know. But I'm already pissed at one of the contributors, Rhett Miller:
Miller, for instance, didn't do much to alter "Girl," though he was sure to monitor his breathing.

"I got to correct what I saw as one of the only flaws on the record," he says. "After John sings 'girrrrrl,' there's this sharp intake of breath and it sounds like he's taking a bong hit. That's always bothered me, having to hear his respiratory. So I didn't do that."
A flaw??? Are you kidding me, dude?? Sure, don't do the breathy part, but only because you're not worthy....when he said it that way, they should have kicked him right out of the project.

a flaw...please. that's one of the most beautiful parts of the album.

Other contributors include Ben Harper, Sufjan Stevens, Dar Williams, Low, Ted Leo, Ben Kweller, The Donnas, Cowboy Junkies, Fiery Furnaces, Mindy Smith.

Nerd Beauty
Math as art

Weekend Box Office
1. Doom (seriously?)
2. Dreamer
3. Wallace and Gromit
4. The Fog
5. North Country

Anne Rice
Who knows, it may be great, but this strikes me as a little weird
In two weeks, Anne Rice, the chronicler of vampires, witches and—under the pseudonym A. N. Roquelaure—of soft-core S&M encounters, will publish "Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt," a novel about the 7-year-old Jesus, narrated by Christ himself. "I promised," she says, "that from now on I would write only for the Lord." It's the most startling public turnaround since Bob Dylan's "Slow Train Coming" announced that he'd been born again.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

10,000-year clock
The November Discover Magazine carries an article about a super-clock being designed to remain accurate for 10,000 years (and if it doesn't make it the whole way, one of those engineers should get canned!). So I'm reading along, because I can't resist stories like that, and I get to this:
Everything about this clock is deeply unusual. For example, while nearly every mechanical clock made in the last millennium consists of a series of propelled gears, this one uses a stack of mechanical binary computers capable of singling out one moment in 3.65 million days. Like other clocks, this one can track seconds, hours, days, and years. Unlike any other clock, this one is being constructed to keep track of leap centuries, the orbits of the six innermost planets in our solar system, even the ultraslow wobbles of Earth's axis.
And I'm screaming the question that no doubt you are also: What the *?!% is a "leap century"?! I guess I should remember, since we just lived through one a few years back:
Because the old Julian calendar was 3/4 of a day too long per century, the new Gregorian calendar skipped the leap year in three out of four century years and created what could be called "leap centuries." By the new calendar, 1600 was a leap year, but 1700, 1800, and 1900 were not. [ed.: so, 2000 was a leap year also...and I didn't even know century years usually were not...too bad we couldn't skip the Presidential election.]....In the Julian calendar there was a leap year every four years and thus a year was 365.25 days long. But we use the Gregorian calendar which drops a leap year every 100 years ( — .01) and adds it back in every 400 years ( + .0025). Years now average to 365.2425 days.
And the Wikipedia entry on this topic offers other "long-term" calendar considerations.
The accumulated difference between the Gregorian calendar and the vernal equinoctial year amounts to 1 day in about 8,000 years. This suggests that the calendar needs to be improved by another refinement to the leap year rule: perhaps by avoiding leap years in years divisible by 8,000.

However, there is little point in planning a calendar so far ahead because over a timescale of tens of thousands of years the number of days in a year will change for a number of reasons, most notably:

1. Precession of the equinoxes moves the position of the vernal equinox with respect to perihelion and so changes the length of the vernal equinoctial year.
2. Tidal acceleration from the sun and moon slows the revolution of the earth, making the day longer.

In particular, the second component of change depends on such things as post-glacial rebound and sea level rise due to climate change. We can't predict these changes accurately enough to be able to make a calendar that will be accurate to a day in tens of thousands of years.
So, Bush is not only screwing up the environment with refusal to address climate change problems, he's messing up our clocks...the next time you're late to something, think about blaming W.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Facing Your Accuser
Some DUI arrestees in Florida are demanding to confront their accuser. Problem is, the accuser is a machine whose inner workings are a proprietary secret.
The prosecutors say that the software is a trade secret belonging to the company that sells the breathalyzer. It's a fascinating problem: what's more important, the trade secrets of a vendor or the constitutional right to due process, which surely includes the right to examine a machine used to determine one's guilt? Does selling breathalyzer software for use in evidence in a court of law mean that you waive your right to keep the software's workings a secret?
Hopefully this will work and we can use that to open up the software of vote-counting machines, which have a similar problem.
Bush vs. Congress
A new front in the war between the Republican congress and the Republican White House has opened up, says Josh at TPM.
Rep. George Miller (D-CA) seems to have found a way to force a floor vote in the House of Representatives on whether or not to overturn the President Bush's Gulf Coast Wage Cut.
He indicates there is enough support for the bill to indeed overturn Bush. I keep hearing pipedreams about how this Miers fiasco is going to drive a real and lasting wedge between Bush and congressional Republicans, but I haven't really been buying it. Could it be true? Then again, it could just be that with the House leader Delay and the Senate leader Frist just doing what they can to stay out of the pokey, maybe there's not enough energy left to keep the GOP in line?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Who's Undefeated? [Update: 6-0!]
The Nashville Predators, that's who. Looking pretty good in doing it, too. Going for 6-0 tonight, against the Blues. It's too early to be crowning the best teams in the NHL this year, but the Preds have everyone back from the last season, plus added an all-star. And the new rules are fitting their skating game nicely. They lead the league in fewest penatly minutes. Sorry to hear there are still plenty of seats available, but we're just not a weeknight hockey town. Wonder how many in a row they'd have to win to change that.

[Update: jinx. Preds win again. Love the shootout. Stevie T this means you must call me in the middle of all future home games. Sorry to make you put off your work, but it must be good luck for the team--Mambo!]
At 6.25/hr., the minimum wage would offer $13,000 a year, before taxes, to a person that worked 40 hours per week, 52 weeks/year. Republicans think that's too much.
Senate proposals to raise the minimum wage were rejected yesterday, making it unlikely that the lowest allowable wage, $5.15 an hour since 1997, will rise in the foreseeable future.

A labor-backed measure by Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, would have raised the minimum to $6.25 over an 18-month period. A Republican counterproposal would have combined the same $1.10 increase with various breaks and exemptions for small businesses.

The Kennedy amendment to a spending bill went down 51 to 47.
The next time you are suspecting, or hearing, that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, know that no Senate Democrat voted against the minimum wage increase. Almost every Republican voted against. Democrats were joined in support by Specter, Santorum, Dewine and Chafee, the last 3 of whom face tough re-election campaigns next year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Question for the lawyers in the room
What did the president tell Patrick Fitzgerald? As a number of lawyers and former prosecutors have informed me this morning, not being under oath does not get President Bush out of legal jeopardy if he didn't tell the truth.
Why not? I thought the oath was the thing. No, really.
Defining the Opposition
While we're all in a mode of waiting (for Miers, Wilma, and Patrick to play out), it gives me the chance to go back to something I've been thinking about for a while. A recent post at Washington Monthly brings this problem to light in terms that are helpful. Democrats/liberals/progressives are feeling pretty good right now in the sense that not only is Bush on the ropes, politically, but so are Delay, Cheney, Rove, and Frist. But it only matters, and we can only help put the country in a position to recover from this band of hoodlums, if the public can be convinced to translate unhappiness with specific Republicans into votes for Democrats.

Every time I see new Bush approval numbers I get a jolt of glee, but it's immediately blunted by the reality that the President couldn't run again if he wanted to. Running against the President won't be easy so long as Republicans aren't running with him, and they won't be. They'll be running on what's gotten them in the majority, their perverted sense of "conservatism." As most everyone acknowledges, Bush is hardly a conservative in any sense. So what are Democrats to do? Don't worry, I'm not about to whine that Democrats need a positive message. Please. What we need is decidedly, undeniably negative. But we can't just point out the inadequacies of a few. The real trouble is a right-wing ideology that continues to coast unquestioned. Kevin Drum quotes Paul Waldman saying it this way:
Liberals may write best-selling books about why George W. Bush is a terrible president, but conservatives write best-selling books about why liberalism is a pox on our nation (talk radio hate-monger Michael Savage, for instance, titled his latest book Liberalism Is a Mental Disorder).

Indeed, large portions of the conservative movement can be understood as an effort to crush liberalism in all its manifestations. Conservatives understand that their main enemy is not a law, government program, or social condition they don't like. Their main enemy is a competing ideology, and that is what they spend their time fighting.

In contrast, liberals spend very little time talking about conservatism. They talk about their opposition to President Bush or the policies proposed by the Republican Congress, but they don't offer a critique of conservatism itself. When was the last time you saw a book-length polemic against conservatism?
Essentially, I agree, although I seem to remember Republicans writing alot of books about a certain particular President during the 90s, but one could easily argue that strategy was a political failure that backfired--President Clinton left office with high approval ratings. But Waldman is right in the sense that Republicans have successfully demonized and ridiculed liberalism to the point that their job on the campaign trail is simpler. If you can stomach it, spend a half hour listening to Rush or watching Bill O'Lielly. They do like to ridicule particular hated Democrats, but spend equal time calling into question liberalism generally. In fact, that is the primary characteristic used to abuse those Democrats: that they are in fact liberal.

We on the other hand use the logical, civil tactic of questioning particular acts of incompetence or cruelty. And there's plenty of that to earn our contemptful gaze. This might win us a few elections from time to time, but no real trending shift in public opinion will occur until conservatism has received a constant barrage of questioning, insults and ridicule as a governing philosophy.

Can this be done? Or is the die cast? Are we stuck hoping to pile up small victories and stay in office with sheer competence and efficiency?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nevermind, for now
We can all ratchet down that White House indictment fervor.
The prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, is not expected to take any action in the case this week, government officials said.
I suppose it could be a fake, but not sure what good that would do.
Tennessee: Bush job approval numbers
Link, via Kos
Approve: 40%
Disapprove: 57%

The gap was only 5% last month in SUSA's state-by-state polling. Check your state here. Unless you live in Utah, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alaska, Wyoming or Idaho, Bush's approval numbers in your state are below 50. That list was 10 states long a month ago.
Indictment Watch
Jeralyn at TalkLeft says that all the factors that bear on criminal targets usually succeed in convincing them to turn against higher-ups, and that goes also for those involved in the CIA leak case that is due to produce either indictments or a huge disappointment sometime this week. Mandatory sentencing guidelines leave them little hope for leniency in punishment; the expense coming their way if indicted is huge and being low profile (as opposed to Karl Rove or Tom Delay) offers them little chance of garnering financial support from the public; and then there's the little issue of family values:
This is the week that all of the subjects facing Indictment will be faced with their "come to Jesus" moment. Spouses will be telling them to cut their losses and think of the family. They will be forced to juxtapose their loyalty to the Administration with their loyalty to their families and their interest in self-preservation.

My experience tells me that only those who truly believe they are innocent -- and those whom Fitzgerald advises are looking at felonies and jail time even with a deal -- will hold out.
So, the Raw Story may be on to something in identifying Cheney aide John Hannah as cooperating with the Fitzgerald investigation. Either way, it's probably too much to hope that this will land on the VP. But that hasn't stopped rumors from making US News and World Report. Still, at this point, that's not so much exciting as just kinda funny.
Miers confuses Specter?
I don't take this as a good sign for the nominee. After a meeting with Senator Specter, he emerged to say she believed in the right of privacy and affirmed the correctness of the Griswold case. After word got out, and she had time to be re-programmed by White House officials, she called the chairman back to say he had misunderstood her on both counts.
Specter's carefully worded statement did not withdraw his comments about Miers discussing Griswold with him, nor did it offer a correction. However, the statement said the chairman accepted Miers contention "that he misunderstood what she said."
What, were they speaking in pig latin? Did she think maybe she could tell him what he wants to hear and he would keep it to himself? I can't imagine how such a misunderstanding could occur. Senator Specter's a pretty smart guy, probably had his questions evaded more than most---he knows what it looks like when someone's trying not to take a position. So, I have to ask, can her opinion be molded so readily? It could make the hearings genuinely interesting. The first Senator to ask a question differently than those that prepared her wins! The White House won't be able to step in and save her once she's in front of the committee and her answers are public for all to hear.

But how scary is it that they are going so far out of their way to remove themselves from Griswold? Even Roberts didn't go that far.

Monday, October 17, 2005

What have you been listening to, watching and reading?

John Moe v. Charlie Daniels

What John Moe has been listening to, "for the first time in 25 years," is Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." John has a few questions. 39 to be exact, published at McSweeney's. Here's #8:
8. If the Devil went down to Georgia 'cause he was looking for a soul to steal, why does he arrange what appears to be an honest competition?
Simpsons Did It
From BoingBoing, and in Media Monday's recognition of yesterday being Dictionary Day, a link to Wikipedia's list of words made up on The Simpsons, with their explanation. My current favorite:

Skittlebrau (or Skittlebräu) is a type of beverage that looks like beer with candy floating in it. It is implied that Homer imagined it by mixing Skittles and beer (brew in German is bräu) in "Bart Star". However, later episodes show Skittlebrau as an actual product being sold at the 33 cent store. Another episode shows Homer asking Apu for some at the Kwik-E-Mart, only for Apu to tell him that it does not exist. It is assumed the combination derives from the known phrase Life is not all beer and skittles from E. Cobham Brewer. In addition, it may be derived from a odd regional penchant in various enclaves around the USA (parts of the Midwest and South) for combining M&Ms or peanuts and cola.

This has been tried in the real world, here among other places.

This joke is reminscent of a previous gag on the Simpsons where Homer declares that he is a white male between 18-49 and "everyone listens to him," as he pops open a can of Nuts & Gum (Together at Last!).
Time's 100 Greatest Novels
ever since 1923...i can't claim to have read even most of them, but there are a few head-scratchers. [UPDATE: It's not a list of greatest novels ever, just greatest novels since "Time" began, if that distinction makes sense. They're so clever. I should have read a bit closer. At least the list itself is not so confusing now.]

Weekend Box Office
1. The Fog
2. Wallace and Gromit
3. Elizabethtown
4. Flight Plan
5. In Her Shoes

Darnitall, I've been looking forward to Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown ever since I heard about it. But I see it gets not-so-good composite score at Metacritics. So, now something else will have to happen to tip the scales in its favor and get me to buy a ticket. Too many other enticing things are out or coming here soon: Corpse Bride, History of Violence, Good Night and Good Luck, to name a few. Also sorry to see that Article 19 favorite Atom Egoyan apparently has a dud on his hands as well. Too bad. His trio of Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter and Felicia's Journey is one of the most shocking, riveting, upsetting, beautiful set of films I've seen from a single director.

BoingBoing links to a homemade version of the old mellotron (heard at the beginning of Strawberry Fields Forever, for example). This contraption, the melloman, instead of directly playing tape loops of flutes and strings, activates walkmen with the keyboard. A brilliant poor man's sampler. The mellotron is a fabulous and underused creation, although composer/producer Jon Brion sneaks it in film scores and the tracks of unsuspecting rock and rap artists from time to time.

The Melloman reminds me of the night many years ago that I planted a Beavis and Butthead talking device (push a button and hear one of their classic catch phrases) into a girlfriend's piano. It was a clandestine operation that left her middle c giggling with huh-huh-huh boy-laughter instead of striking its intended string. I loved playing Mozart's C Major Piano Sonata that way. But alas, some were not so amused. I believe that was the night that lost me my key privileges, and marked the beginning of the end of that doomed relationship. From the vantage point of today, definitely a fun time that was worth it.

Cat Power
Chan Marshall is playing at the Mercy Lounge tonight. I'm hoping to go. If you're a Nashvillian looking for some Monday night culture, maybe I'll see you there. A little-known claim to fame of mine is that in the Women in Music in America since 1900 encyclopedia, I wrote the entry for Barbra Streisand. I didn't do it for the money (zero); and not because of my amount of love for the music of Ms. Streisand (also, zero). I did it because it was part of a package deal that allowed me to also write the entry on women in indie rock. Ms. Marshall, aka Cat Power played a role in my version of events, but I've never seen her live.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wal-Mart Sucks
Your tax dollars at work, and your bill of rights in action. It's no wonder kids have little sense of the importance and scope of their freedom of speech, since they get squashed when they try to take the idea seriously.
"Halfway through my afternoon class, the assistant principal got me out of class and took me to the office conference room," she says. "Two men from the Secret Service were there. They asked me what I knew about the student. I told them he was a great kid, that he was in the homecoming court, and that he'd never been in any trouble."

Then they got down to his poster.

"They asked me, didn't I think that it was suspicious," she recalls. "I said no, it was a Bill of Rights project!"

At the end of the meeting, they told her the incident "would be interpreted by the U.S. attorney, who would decide whether the student could be indicted," she says.

The student was not indicted, and the Secret Service did not pursue the case further.

"I blame Wal-Mart more than anybody," she says. "I was really disgusted with them. But everyone was using poor judgment, from Wal-Mart up to the Secret Service."
Why blame WalMart? You have to read the story to find out. Via BoingBoing.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

39%, 28%, 2%
Those would be, the President's new-low approval ratings in the WSJ poll, the new-low percentage of Americans who think we're on the right track as a country, and--my favorite--the percentage of African-Americans who approve of the job the President is doing. That's right, 2%.

If I may impose a bit of Bill Bennett ethical logic...if we could just get rid of all the white people (or even just the white men), Republicans would never win.
Public Transport, anyone?
Here in Nashville, officials are reporting record traffic on Metro buses last month, a likely response to rising gas prices. Do you take public transportation regularly? If not, would you consider it, if gas prices continue the upward trend (or stay where they are)? Have you made a conscious decision to not travel somewhere for the purpose of saving gas costs?

In Pittsburgh, I rode the city bus to grad school all the time because it was so convenient to where I lived, and free to students. This year, my current school announced a similar relationship with Nashville's bus system to relieve parking congestion but alas I live too far away. I would only have 1 chance in the late afternoon to catch a bus that would bring me home. If they came around (much) more often I would definitely ride into town that way. Especially since I don't have a car, still, but that's another story.

It's one more reason to live in the city and not the sprawl. But, if you were in charge of the buses, wouldn't you take this time to greatly increase number of routes and advertising and get people accustomed to the idea of riding?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Read this Classy Obituary
In the Chicago Tribune (via BoingBoing), Theodore Roosevelt Heller's passing offers a chance to make the world a better place, in lieu of flowers.
Gore Update
Via Kos, it would seem Al Gore has heard the rumblings and pleadings from the Internets and has responded: No thanks.
Former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday he had no intention of ever running for president again, but he said the United States would be "a different country" if he had won the 2000 election, launching into a scathing attack of the Bush administration.

"I have absolutely no plans and no expectations of ever being a candidate again," Gore told reporters after giving a speech at an economic forum in Sweden.
Still, of course, that's far from a promise not to run and he could easily have his "plans" and "expectations" change, but it kinda sounds like he means it.
Maybe only an outbreak of the bird flu could help Bush deflect from this possible knockout punch:
The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are working on stories that point to Vice President Dick Cheney as the target of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name.
And there's more...
Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy. . . . Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion.
Usually these big promises turn out to be I'm trying not to get hopeful. But, might there actually be a principled prosecutor who is finally willing to see abuses of power where our politics as usual used to be? And call the powerful on it? If Cheney is shown to have broken laws in this conspiracy, we may have the first VP resignation since Agnew, and if Fitzgerald can prove a wide-spread criminal Administration conspiracy to mislead the American people into war...well I can't even say it. (Darn I was trying not to get hopeful.)

Not bad news for a hump day.

[UPDATE: Kevin Drum rightly points out that the anticipated WSJ article today did not in fact contain a single reference to Cheney, negating, he says, the Huffington Post's hype. My wishful thinking would reply that the Huffington teaser only said they were "working on" such a story, not that it would be out today. They could indeed still be working on it. This grand jury is going to have legs until fitzgerald makes announcements one way or another.]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Gore-Obama in 2008?
I don't believe Gore could win, no matter his running mate, and I like him too much to hope he goes through that process again unsuccessfully. But it's fun to dream, and at least someone thinks he's well-positioned. It's all too un-sourced to take seriously, but if nobody else but Hillary makes a Democratic splash, Gore will at least get some pressure to jump in, and no matter who the nominee is, they will be pressured to select Obama as a running mate.
How do you solve a problem like Harriet? or.. Whom will Harriet love next?
I rarely have a problem knowing what to hope for. But do we want Miers defeated or not? Clearly she is ridiculously unqualified, but at least would seem a tad unpredictable and quite possibly not a repulsively right-wing justice. And isn't it at least in the realm of possible that her next love affair, after that for George W., may be for the keen intellect of Steven Breyer and not Antonin Scalia? That she may hope to win favor with the cool suave of David Souter and not Clarence Thomas? Don't we at least have a 40% chance or so that the impetuous, flitting heart of one Harriet Meiers may just wander upon one of our own? Do we really want W to have another chance at appeasing the rabid right-wing Christian base? Wouldn't the next nomination be a much more frighteningly known quantity? Especially now that conservatives have all called Bush a coward? And if Miers is confirmed, won't this huge Republican rift stay open and festering? And isn't that a glorious thing to watch?

Maybe, like Robert Scheer, I just have a hard time hoping on the same side as George Will, Trent Lott, and James Dobson. I know it's good political theater, but I have no idea what to hope for in the outcome.
Democrats in '06
I've been hoping that Democrats would unite around a coherent list of priorities for the '06 elections the way Republicans did with the Contract on America in '94 (whatever happened to term limits, by the way?). It looks like they will be rolling out an agenda before the end of the year.
Among the proposals are: "real security" for America through stronger investments in U.S. armed forces and benchmarks for determining when to bring troops home from Iraq; affordable health insurance for all Americans; energy independence in 10 years; an economic package that includes an increase in the minimum wage and budget restrictions to end deficit spending; and universal college education through scholarships and grants as well as funding for the No Child Left Behind act.

Democrats will also promise to return ethical standards to Washington through bipartisan ethics oversight and tighter lobbying restrictions, increase assistance to Katrina disaster victims through Medicaid and housing vouchers, save Social Security from privatization and tighten pension laws.
The key is, how specific can it be ("real security" sounds like the same lame crap we've been using), and how well will they stick to the script over the next 12 months. Disciplined is not exactly a word I'd use to describe Democratic campaign strategy in recent years.
Random Question
Curtain Side Air Bags. Do they help in an accident? Or just as likely to harm you further? Does anyone know anything?

Monday, October 10, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Scariest movie of all time?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre, according to a Total Film poll. The rest of the top 10:
2. Halloween
3. Suspiria
4. Dawn of the Dead
5. The Shining
6. Psycho
7. The Wicked Man
8. Rosemary's Baby
9. Don't Look Now
10. Cannibal Holocaust

I can definitely see The Shining and Rosemary's Baby on this list. Not sure about the others. I have to admit a few more recent films scared the crap out of me: The Sixth Sense and the Blair Witch Project, in both cases because I had no idea what I was getting in to when I went to the theater. What's the scariest movie you've seen?

Dazzling Hubris
The bad news is that Stephen Colbert is leaving the Daily Show. The good news is that he is starting his own show airing directly after. Howard Kurtz profiles "The Colbert Report in the Washington Post:
Colbert, 41, an old Second City improv player, describes his character this way: "A well-intentioned, poorly informed, high-status idiot" who "doesn't mean to be a jerk." . . . . With his promotion to anchor, Colbert says he will draw from the "dazzling hubris" of Bill O'Reilly, along with Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough, plus "the folksiness of Aaron Brown, the way he mulls the news and loves to chew the words. And the sexiness of Anderson Cooper. Certainly they sell him as attractive." Watching O'Reilly and company inundate viewers with opinions, he says, is like witnessing a spectacle "as natural as a gorilla beating his chest."

Everybody Hearts Everybody Hates Chris
Metacritics has added a Television section. Chris Rock's new show rates very high.

When is one thumb not enough?
Doug reports on a disturbing (to me) new trend in Roger Ebert-dom:
A thumb's down from Roeper doesn't mean you shouldn't see a movie--it just means you shouldn't see it at the theater. He'll give thumbs down to a movie he'd recommend you see on video in a couple of months. That "maybe" kind of answer doesn't work so well in the binary arena of thumbs up and thumbs down. How do I know which movies aren't worth my money under any circumstances whatsoever and which maybe aren't worth my $9.50 now but could be worth 3 bucks in a little while?
In my own way I have tried to address the problem, though half in jest, with the unwieldy 19-star system. But it really puts too much pressure on the rankings. After trying to decide if a film deserves 13 or 14 stars, there's something very appealing about the thumbs up-thumbs down method. or 4 stars at the most.

Weekend Box Office
1. Wallace and Gromit
2. Flightplan
3. In Her Shoes
4. Two for the Money
5. The Gospel

I haven't seen a movie in weeks - so no help here.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Alumnus Letter
Dear Dean Gwaltney and former Dean Simpler,

I read, with some concern, the recent Tennessean article explaining the likely split between Belmont University--my alma mater--and the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Of particular interest to me is not the plan to introduce non-Baptists into the Board of Trustees--that makes perfect, long-overdue sense--it is the description of a particular student's experience:
Ring said she was upset when, on the last day of a Bible class, the professor's teaching assistant talked about being a lesbian. Ring said that didn't "align" with her beliefs as a Baptist, and she thought the revelation was inappropriate and may have confused some students.
As Deans of the School of Religion, I'm sure you would want all former Belmont students to have had similar high-quality theological educations. Thus, I am registering my complaint that my own bible-related instruction at Belmont included no reference to lesbianism, or really any girl-on-girl topics, imagery or assignments.

I hope plans are in the works to offer continuing education in these areas to supplement this oversight. In the meantime, continue the good work.

Your friend,

Saturday, October 08, 2005

et tu, Bork?
From the takes-one-to-know-one file:
Robert Bork - whose nomination to the high court was rejected by the Senate in 1987 - called the choice of Miers "a disaster on every level."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Odds on Miers
At TPM, Josh asks if anyone is willing to put down odds on the Miers confirmation. is an online futures market (i.e. gambling outfit) that lets traders bid or ask a proposition at the odds of their choice. Currently, the going rate is about $7.30 to get you $10, or 1.37:1 Essentially that means they think she's got a 73% chance to be confirmed. Considering the noise many conservatives are still making, that seems awfully high, but that's the answer to Josh's question, anyway.
Down 0-2, but possible
Red Sox last stand at 3 this afternoon (central time). If you're at work, you should be able to follow along here. The last thing they need is a superstar hitter who's already making plans to pack up and move. But I guess that's just Manny being Manny. There's no reason why Boston shouldn't win today and tomorrow afternoon at home. Then, it's just a question of whether they can beat Contreras in a game 5. He made them look pretty worthless in game 1.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

NYT on Bush's "Major Speech" yesterday
Yesterday, the same day New Yorkers were warned there was a "specific threat" of a bombing on their subways, President Bush delivered what the White House promoted as a major address on terrorism. It seemed, on the surface, like a perfect topic for the moment. But his talk was not about the nation's current challenges. He delivered a reprise of his Sept. 11 rhetoric that suggested an avoidance of today's reality that seemed downright frightening.
The speech came one day after the White House threatened to veto a bill onto which the Senate added a ban on the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against prisoners of the American government. This president could not find the spine to veto a bloated transportation bill that included wildly wasteful projects like the now-famous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. What kind of priorities does that suggest? If we ever needed the president to demonstrate that he has a working understanding of exactly where he wants to take this country, we need it now.

The president's inability to grow beyond his big moment in 2001 is unnerving. But the fact that his handlers continue to encourage him to milk 9/11 is infuriating. For most of us, the memories are fresh and painful. We mourn the people who died on Sept. 11, as we mourn Daniel Pearl and other Americans, not to mention innocents from other countries, who were murdered by terrorists. The administration's penchant for using them as political cover is offensive. It threatens to turn our wounds, and our current fears, into cynical and desperate spin.
The text to Bush's speech, if you can stomach it, is here. I was disturbed to see Dick Gephardt in the front row applauding when I saw a replay on CSpan.
Do you approve of the job President Bush is doing?
According to the new CBS poll:
Yes 37%
No 58%

Iraq approval? 32%, terrorism? 46%
The Desperation of Karl Rove
Lawrence O'Donnell, who initially broke the Rove-was-Matt-Cooper's-source story, is predicting that "at least three high level Bush Administration personnel [will be]indicted and possibly one or more very high level unindicted co-conspirators." And he believes that Karl's return to the grand jury one more time is a bit of a panic:
What this means is Rove's lawyer, Bob Luskin, believes his client is defintely going to be indicted.

So, Luskin is sending Rove back into the grand jury to try to get around the prosecutor and sell his innocence directly to the grand jurors. Legal defense work doesn't get more desperate than this. The prosecutor is happy to let Rove go under oath again--without his lawyer in the room--and try to wiggle out of the case. The prosecutor has every right to expect that Rove's final under-oath grilling will either add a count or two to the indictment or force Rove to flip and testify against someone else.
Hmmm. Who could "someone else" be? And what would make an unindicted co-conspirator "very high level"? No sense in dreaming I suppose.
Bird Flu Week Awareness Products
Look, now there's an easy way to share your knowledge and concern about bird flu with that special someone: "Ask me about bird flu" boxer shorts.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Prayers of the Faithful
Dr. James Dobson is praying for political guidance on the Meiers nomination.
"If this is not the person you want on that Supreme Court, all you have to do is tell me so, and do it through any means you want to."
Can the rest of us pray for the means of delivery of that message? I have a few ideas.

Meanwhile, Jon at AmericaBLOG is praying for something else altogether.
My source tells me that the scuttlebutt around town is that the White House knows something bad is coming, in terms of Karl getting indicted, and they're already trying to distance him from the president.

Oh, God, you've been so good to us lately. Please give us this one more.
I'm not sure I would take God's advice on Miers even if the Almighty had a preference. But if delivering Rove is part of the deal, count me in.
Miers v. O'Connor
Atrios posts some instructive quotes from 1981 stories on Reagan's nomination of Justice O'Connor. Things like this:
[D]eputy White House press secretary Larry Speakes said she had told the president "she is personally opposed to abortion and that it was especially abhorent to her. She also feels the subject of the regulation of abortion is a legitimate subject for the legislative area."
Isn't it nice to see how far we've come in out political discourse in the last 25 years? I'll be damned if we're not having the exact same conversation. It's looking like Trent Lott's having none of it.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Presidential Press Conference
Bush held a news conference today, mostly for damage control on the Miers nomination. Transcript is here. I saw part of it on CSpan in replay, and I can't help but notice that he seems positively uninspired to keep doing this job. I get the feeling that if he could quit right now without bringing historic shame to himself and his family, he'd do it. Since he can't, maybe that's why a little drinky-drink could be looking pretty good to him right about now.

As for Miers, there's no real reason to think she'll be anything less than frighteningly conservative, especially since she may have turned Republican in the middle of her life because of the allure of one Jesus Christ. For my money, those mid-life converts can be the scariest ones.

But the main connection with the Roberts pick and this one is they both are essentially executive branch moles. Even if Bush isn't packing the courts with social conservatives (and he may be), he is packing it with those trained to help the White House have its way. I suspect that plays a bigger part of both picks than any other concern. If she's confirmed, I'm not sure what it does to the judicial branch, but the executive will have gotten alot stronger.

But really, you know what issue seems to have captured our A.D.D. President's attention more than any other? Bird flu. For every other answer, he sounded and looked dazed and annoyed. But when it came to bird flu (and he did take the Barry book with him on his last vacation, which I take as a good sign that he may have genuine interest in not screwing up a freaking plague), he seemed to actually know something about what he was talking about. Although I suppose it may just have been the most recent answer he was briefed on just before walking out there. Either way, as a bird-flu-phobic, I can only hope that the recent disaster-response failure will convince someone to develop an actual thoughtful plan. And hopefully some frat brother of Bush's isn't in charge of that.

And don't forget, it is bird flu awareness week.
In Case You Missed It, Part 2
Rhyming Nipsey Russell died.

My concerned tribute below. Please add your own in the comments.

First Bob Denver;
Now Nipsey Russell in kind.
Can Charles Nelson Reilly
Be Far Behind?
In Case You Missed It
If you, like me, missed the initial fury over Big-Money Bill Bennett's remarks and are wondering what everyone's talking about, Media Matters has the transcript of his radio show. It's a much more spectacular offense than I could have guessed... First a caller suggested that if we made abortion illegal it would solve the social security problem, with more people to pay into the system. But Bennett responded that there are too many variables to "extrapolate" arguments like that, like the possibility that most of the increase in births would be folks who are born into shiftless and lazy families, and would not contribute as much to the revenue base. He went on to separate those things we can't extrapolate safely from those we can know:
BENNETT: I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. 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. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What have you been reading, listening to and watching?

A sequel, a second chance and a return
The Times recommends 3 new CDs that have my interest. At Doug's recommendation on this very blog, I bought and thoroughly enjoy, Franz Ferdinand's self-titeld debut. The sequel, "You Could Have it So Much Better" is high on my list of must-buys. And creeping up that ladder is the new release, finally, from Fiona Apple. I'm no big fan of her earlier material, but this new album has gotten so much attention, I'd like to hear both versions just to find out for myself. I am a Jon Brion fan (he helped keep the new Kanye West album bubbling with great unexpected sounds) and suspect I'll like his original, discarded production better than this new second chance offering. Last, and a complete surprise to me, Sinead O'Connor has released a new album of, well, Rastafarian music, creating I suppose the world's first Irish-reggae?
Improbably - especially because she announced her retirement from music two years ago - it's a great album. It is terse and elegant, with a minimal amount of horns and extraneous elements; Ms. O'Connor's undisguised Irish accent and obvious conviction make it an imposing act of pop interpretation.
August Wilson, RIP
from the NYT obit on the "Theater's Poet of Black America":
In his work, Mr. Wilson depicted the struggles of black Americans with uncommon lyrical richness, theatrical density and emotional heft, in plays that gave vivid voices to people on the frayed margins of life: cabdrivers and maids, garbagemen and side men and petty criminals. In bringing to the popular American stage the gritty specifics of the lives of his poor, trouble-plagued and sometimes powerfully embittered black characters, Mr. Wilson also described universal truths about the struggle for dignity, love, security and happiness in the face of often overwhelming obstacles.
You can't live in Pittsburgh for 3 years, like I did, without seeing, or at least knowing something about August Wilson's plays. Even though he hadn't lived there since the 1970s, most of his plays were set in the Hill District, where he was born and grew up. The Times piece goes on to describe Wilson's refusal to have his play "Fences" directed by a white person in the Hollywood version, after a studio had purchased the script. He believed no white person could be culturally qualified to treat it appropriately. With that restriction, the film remains unmade.

One reason for Media Monday is to have a respite from politics, since most of us here care about alot of other things, especially in the arts. But the news of the day seems especially big, so in case "what you have been watching" or "listening to" is the news this morning, you know that Bush nominated a devoted friend and White House cousel, Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. And if you're wondering what folks are saying in the first few hours, check out the American Constitution Society's blog--they're good people. They have posted quotes from a skeptical (mostly conservative) Instapundit, a piercing critique from the very conservative David Frum, and other reactions.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Don's not here, but I'm sure he's excited by this news. The season's over, and playoff berths are set. Boston split it's final series against the Yankees to battle them to a tie for the Eastern Division (although for various reasons, the Yanks go into the record books with the title). They'll face off against Chicago in the first game of the playoffs on Tuesday (and somebody on this blog has tickets).

And congrats to the Braves, too, who have their followers here. Sitting atop a weak National League division, they knew they were headed to the playoffs several days ago. And from here on in, it's only the playoffs that matter. The fact that the Braves ended their season with a record five games behind the Red Sox is completely irrelevant now.