Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kos Files

Remember Markos Moulitsas, the future of the Democratic party? Here he is today:
When we had the troops to fight the war, they could claim, like Andrew Sullivan did, that the troops were our servants and had to heed their orders. But we're running out of soldiers to death, injuries, AWOLs, and horrific recruitment. Now is the time for these War Cheerleaders, these Chickenhawks, to show their mettle. Now is the chance for them to stand for something bigger than themselves and their video game fantasies. Now is the time for them to be real men. Real Americans.

Gutless bitches is right. They deserve nothing but contempt.

Keep this in mind the next time a Democratic politician stoops to pay Kos homage.

Our Great Malini

Last Saturday night I sat in the second row, center, at the Studio Theatre in Washington to see with my own eyes "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants." The award-winning show, which was supposed to end its run two weeks ago, was extended an extra week due to popular demand. Indeed, at the 7:30 performance, there wasn't an empty seat in the house. In addition, the theatre was a small one, so that my wife and I were at times only about six feet away from the man himself. The set design was truly fitting--what resembled a small study with old wooden bookshelves, even older-looking books, and strange bits of memorabilia (such as a white deer's head, propped atop a barrel, with a playing card stuck between its antlers). As for Ricky Jay himself, he is quite a presence, looming, large, and wrinkled--but exuding warmth. He wore a suit jacket with sleeves rolled up, so as to show he is no amateur when it comes to sleight of hand. As for the tricks, a few highlights:

With two volunteers from the audience, Jay played several hands of blackjack and poker, explaining the aim of a con as not just beating a player but rather barely beating him. When others showed a 16 or 17, Jay would turn his cards over, revealing a 17 or 18. He easily dealt himself four aces and later, a royal flush. He also demonstrated dealing from the bottom of the deck and, most improbably, from the middle.

Jay starts the show by going up to audience members, asking them to pick a card, stick it back, and in various ways and flourishes, singles the card out. The point of this exercise, I think, was not so much to show he can easily find it, but rather in his technique, such as pushing the card or shooting it out, as if on its own.

Jay was able to find a woman's card, which she signatured, in an unopen deck. (I know it wasn't really in there but even staring at his hands, I could not figure out at what point he slipped it in.)

Ricky Jay is also an able card thrower. First, as far as the end of the theatre, then as a boomerang, catching it. He then throws the card into the air, and as it comes back to him, he slices it in two with a pair of scissors. Lastly he hurls the cards at ... fruit! Namely, he hits a watermelon, getting a card to stick to its hard shell.

One of the things that makes this show great is Jay's storytelling, whether it be about the Great Malini or the history of three-card monte (of which, even after marking a card so you know what it is, he turns it over and it is an entirely different suit). He is also at times self-deprecating. (There are even a few shades of the comic-book guy from the Simpsons.) When explaining how the Great Malini once made his wife appear from under a cup, he adds, "As hard as I've tried, I cannot even manage to get married."

Ricky Jay is the heir to the Great Malini, a true historian of all things conjurable. I hope he has enough true followers, because one day an apprentice will have to fill his shoes. And I hope to God it isn't David Blaine.

Pardon the Interruption

Lots of sports talk for Tuesday:

(1) Larry Brown: For the second time in three years, Larry Brown has been in contract talks with another team while he is supposed to be leading his current team through the playoffs. The national sports press sounds slightly outraged this morning at Brown's duplicity, which is fitting, although I wonder where the outrage was when Brown was selling the Sixers down the river by throwing in the towel during their playoff series against Detroit--while he was almost certainly in talks with Detroit to become their next coach.

You may think of Larry Brown as a Hall of Fame coach, but I'll always think of him as one of only two basketball coaches bad enough to lose the gold medal at the Olympics--and the first to lose with pro players. (I don't count the stolen game against the Soviets in 1972 as a loss.) Brown is a genius, but he's the type of guy who is ostentatiously classy--but only when it doesn't cost him anything. And when bad times come, he's the first out the door.

(2) Johns Hopkins: The Blue Jays won the NCAA lacrosse title yesterday for the first time in a generation. Too bad. Hopefully bad luck will return to Homewood next year. Don't feel sorry for them--believe me, they deserve it.

(3) Danica Patrick: I know nothing about racing, but the attention lavished on her sticks in my craw a little since she didn't win the Indy 500. The guy who did win--Dan Wheldon--looks to be on a pretty impressive hot streak. He's the overall series points leader and Sunday's win was his fourth victory in five races. Yet Wheldon is nearly anonymous to the casual observer and Patrick is omnipresent. That hardly seems just.

Let Patrick win something, and then we can all celebrate her. The rest of Danicamania has the distinct odor of Kournikova-ism. People who value sports should want to avoid that at all costs.

(4) French Open: Lindsay Davenport is the opposite of Danica Patrick. Nobody fawned over her when she was a young teen coming up on the tour. Nobody cared when she got her game and her body into shape and started winning Grand Slams. Nobody even really cares now that she's making another run deep into the French Open. All Davenport does is win and embody everything that's great about tennis. Why can't ESPN do big, gushing profiles on her? She deserves them.

Then there's the big question presented by this year's open: How good is Roger Federer? He's only 23 and he's already won four of the majors. He looks like a dominant champion.

But in tennis champs come in two varieties. There are the unstoppable juggernauts who take over the game for years at a time (Sampras, Lendel, Borg) and then there are the transition players, who take over the game for a couple years and then fade away (Hewitt, Wilander). Which is Federer?

Friday, May 27, 2005

Good Question

Orson Scott Card asks:
I mean, what kind of idiot breaks a hole in the hull of his boat during a storm, just because he doesn't like the guy at the tiller and thinks the storm could have been avoided?
You're welcome Andrew!

Lacrosse on ESPN.com

Perhaps for the first time ever, lacrosse is the main story on ESPN.com. Of course that's only because the piece is a profile of gay Dartmouth goalie Andrew Goldstein, and it leads a package about gay athletes, but hey, whatever.

The striking thing is this mind-blowing hightlight of Goldstein stopping a shot against Syracuse and then blitzing 80 yards downfield and scoring on the Orange. In terms of pure foot-speed, it's a pretty astonishing move by Goldstein.

The Point Is Probably Moot

BREAKING NEWS out of New Jersey: Due to an illness, Rick Springfield will not be performing this Saturday at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. The already sold-out show has been rescheduled for October 1, leaving many fans with open plans for tomorrow night. (But maybe Night Ranger will be performing next door at Harrah's?)

Not to bust on Rick Springfield, a talented actor and musician, whose classic "Jessie's Girl" I have on my iPod, but what else would you want him to play at a concert?

The ACLU Cashes In

Galley Friend and intellectual powerhouse Chris Levenick has a great story in the Wall Street Journal this morning about a church-state controversy brewing in the California desert:
In 1934, a gritty prospector named J. Riley Bembry gathered a couple of his fellow World War I veterans at Sunrise Rock. Together they erected the cross, in honor of their fallen comrades. The memorial has been privately maintained ever since, with small groups still occasionally meeting to remember the nation's veterans.

A wrinkle developed in 1994, when the federal government declared the surrounding area a national preserve. With the cross now located on newly public land, the memorial soon caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. Working with Frank Buono, a retired park ranger turned professional activist, the ACLU demanded that the National Park Service tear down the cross.

Mr. Buono insists that his seeing the monument ("two to four times a year") violates his civil rights. A federal district court found in his favor, and the decision was subsequently upheld by the Ninth Circuit. Last-ditch attempts to deed Sunrise Rock over to the local Veterans of Foreign Wars were struck down in April. Defenders of the memorial hope to appeal, but their options are narrowing.

But that's not even the real story. As Levenick details, the ACLU has turned a tidy profit on the case, since "the taxpayer once again ended up paying the ACLU for pressing a highly controversial church-state lawsuit."

Great reporting on a fantastic story.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Two Questions

(1) Is there a movie you want to see this summer more than Layer Cake?

(2) Is there anyone with a better voice than Michael Gambon? My God, just listen to those pipes.


From the Miami Herald:
According to a Coral Gables police report, Collazo dropped his pants, took out his penis and accused his players of not having the testicular fortitude it takes to play baseball after a loss to Florida Christian on April 7.

''He then,'' according to a Coral Gables police report, ``pointed to his penis, testicles and asked the team if they had a set of these or were they equipped with a vagina.''

Collazo, who led Gulliver to the Class 3A state championship last season, did not comment on the allegations.

Kos: Voice of a New Generation

Markos Moulitsas--political strategist, liberal guru, and blog impressario--now gets behind a plan for Democrats and abortion: Democratic politicians should simply say that they're pro-life. Because that then neutralizes the issue. What a genius!

Peter Beinart has a lot of work to do.
Also in the George Gurley New York Observer column on Bob Saget was a choice quote from his colleague Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame). Talking about his upcoming documentary The Aristocrats, which features about one hundred comedians in the raw, Jillette says:

This movie is a pure dream of Thomas Jefferson, in that it's a hundred people saying anything that pops into their head, with no fear whatsoever. You know a lot of the Hollywood people--and this pissed me off so much--would say, "Oh, your movie's fine in the blue states, but what about in the red states, where you get to the stupid people?" And I would say, "Oh, by 'stupid people' you mean people who can program a machine, fix cars and perform surgeries? As opposed to we who are in Hollywood, who can't do f--king anything?"

The Real Bob Saget

I used to think there was no worse comic hack than Bob Saget--everything from his "star turn" on Full House to his atrocious hosting of America's Funniest Home Videos. His material was just awful.

But it turns out it was just a job and the real Bob Saget likes to work blue. In a fascinating New York Observer column by George Gurley, we learn that Saget was notoriously dirty in college and that what his fellow comedians found amusing was his going clean for television. (Unfortunately the article from May 9 is only available in the archives for a fee.) But reading a hard copy of it, I found it simply compelling. Saget apparently goes blue in an upcoming documentary directed by Penn Jillette called The Aristocrats--what Geoffrey Gilmore describes as "one of the most shocking and, perhaps for some, offensive films you will ever see." The former dad of the Olsen twins tells a joke, repeated in the May 9 Observer that is so shocking (coming from Saget) that I won't even reprint it here.

But who knew Bob Saget is our generation's own Buddy Hackett?

How Mean Is John Bolton?

So mean that he makes grown senators cry! The Radioblogger has an unbelievable mp3 of Sen. George Voinovich on the floor of the Senate speaking out against Bolton--and he's so moved that he gets all choked up!

Bonus points: Voinovich tells us that "I came back here and ran for a second term because I'm worried about my kids and my grandchildren. [whimpering sound]"

Yes, it's true: The reason to oppose Bolton is for the children!

You know, I hear they're the future of this great country of ours.

In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, John Podhoretz recounts this excellent story:
In 1995, George Voinovich, when he was governor of Ohio, he was at the Cleveland airport. The President of the United States was in Cleveland, so there was a no-fly zone declared for the airport. And he insisted that his pilot take off, his personal pilot take off, despite the fact that there was a no-fly zone declared. And he got on the phone with the air traffic controller and said, what are you going to do? Shoot me down? . . .

As a result of that, in 1995, the Federal Aviation Administration fined George Voinovich $20,000 dollars for interfering with the good agency and, you know, the good order of the American aviation system. And for that man to claim that any other human being does not have the temperament to serve in a senior job, when he behaved that way...


My beloved Philadelphia Inquirer has recently launched a very excellent blog with the witty name, Blinq.

Blinq is run by Daniel Rubin, a reporter at the Inquirer and so far, it's a great read, particularly for anyone with Philly ties.

My only complaint is that in his blogroll Rubin links to Gawker, the NYC gossip blog. Now that's just an insult. The City of Brotherly Love don't need no stinkin' New Yawk gossip. We don't idolize the glitterati; we throw batteries at them.

A Conservative Call for Gays (and Women) in the Military

What are the odds Andrew Sullivan will suddenly discover what a smart, intellectually-honest thinker Max Boot is this week?

Seriously. 5-2? 13-5? Let's get the vigorish going . . .

Update, 1:45 p.m.: An anonymous emailer points out that at 11:09 this morning, Sullivan pointed to Boot's "smart comments." Talk about a sure thing.

Affordable Family Formation

Mickey Kaus points us to Steve Sailer's very interesting post on the key to Republican electoral success: "Affordable Family Formation."

Sailer notes four categories making up this idea:

* "The Dirt Gap"--land supply around cities which drives the cost of housing.

* "The Mortgage Gap"--"Bush carred the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the 9 states with the most expensive."

* "The Marriage Gap"--"Bush carried the top 25 states ranked on 'years married'."

* "The Baby Gap"--"Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in white total fertility . . . while Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16."

None of these "gaps" is new, but Sailer's the first person I've seen to combine them into a unified field theory of financial family incentives. Thought provoking stuff.

American Idol

I'm not much of a culture snob, but I just don't get American Idol. I'd never seen the show before this season, when I tuned in for about 15 minutes during one episode. It didn't do much for me.

But millions of Americans can't be wrong, so in honor of last night's Idol finale, here's a link to Matt Labash's brilliant piece, False Idols, from a couple years back:
THERE WAS A TIME, not long ago, when primetime television was populated by famous people. Someone appearing on TV meant that they'd likely worked their way up through the ranks: doing school plays, regional theater, and embarrassing commercials, until finally, they honed their skills, perfected their craft, and slept with the lecherous casting director who'd cause them to become obscenely wealthy and loved by millions.

These days, however, television isn't so much about being famous, as it is about auditioning to become famous. With televised tryouts being the entire point of such shows, aspirants of fame, even in failure, still become quasi-famous by default. There are nights when one can tune into network programming and see nothing but wall-to-wall talent shows. In just the past season, there's been the Debbie Allen-hosted "Fame," a creaky brand extension of the early '80s incarnation in which Cocoa, Bruno, and the rest of the leg-warmer wearing cast would break into song at the slightest provocation. Then there is "American Juniors," in which the cloying, over-rouged Jon Benets of today strive to become the cloying, overexposed Celine Dions of tomorrow.

But with a glut of such shows evidenced by the likes of "30 Seconds to Fame"--in which a contestant has all of a half-minute to say, turn his nostrils inside-out to the delight of an ADD-afflicted crowd--it is time to get back to First Principles--to the show that spurred it all--"American Idol." . . .

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

No offense, but I've never gotten the Neal Pollack thing. Today I understand a little. In a piece for Slate about the Phoenix Suns he writes:
The coach, Mike D'Antoni, doesn't get out-cooled by his team. Though American by birth, he's arguably the greatest player in the history of Italian basketball. He's married to a model and hangs out with the Benetton and Versace families. TNT recently showed vintage footage of a shirtless D'Antoni, wearing the same crisp 'stache he still has today, holding aloft a trophy while a crowd of Italian revelers dumped champagne on his head. The Italians call him Arsenio Lupin, after a movie about a cat burglar. That's not a reference that means anything to me. I call him Coach Pornstache.

That's alright.

Dean Barnett: Man on Fire

Dean Barnett has a piece at NRO on stem-cell rhetoric and the great news that he now has a part-time job doing book reviews for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a paper near and dear to my heart.

This is a great match and it couldn't happen to a better guy.

The Filibuster Deal for Dummies

The Spoons Experience has a great little riff:
A burglar breaks into your house and steals $500.

Outraged, you declare, "I am going to put new locks on the doors, install an alarm, and sue that burglar to get my money back!"

The burglar, who happens to be your next door neighbor, asks, "Don't you think that's a little extreme?"

You hesitate, "Well... uh... I don't know...."

The burglar proposes: "How about this? I'll give you back $300. You promise not to change the locks or install an alarm, and don't go to the cops with this. In return, I promise that I won't break into your house and steal from you anymore unless I really, really need the money."

A Happy Ending

As a rule, I'm against personal blog disclosures, but this entry at Captain's Quarters is so touching that I have to make an exception. If you want to start your day off with a smile, go read it.

Happy Birthday David! And Ed, congratulations for helping turn out such a good guy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

When Good Chimps Go Bad

They're cute, they're lovable, they're adorable. But as this horrific story by Amy Argetsinger in the Washington Post reveals, chimpanzees can also be vicious. The story doesn't end well. In fact, how about I cut to the chase? An excerpt from the article on what a teenage chimp ultimately did to poor St. James Davis, who remains in critical condition:

The 62-year-old man was conscious but near death. He had lost his nose, an eye, most of his fingers, both testicles and much of the flesh from his buttocks and face and left foot, but the chimp was not done with him yet.

Think about that the next time you're at the zoo.
The Fark headline for this story:
NC pastor defends sign at church that reads: "The Koran Needs to be Flushed." Muslims in an uproar -- some even delay scheduled beheadings to voice complaints

NARAL on The Deal

Confirm Them notes that NARAL likes the deal and is already establishing what counts as "extraordinary circumstances." Sayeth Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL:
[we are] heartened that the crisis has been averted and the right to filibuster preserved for upcoming Supreme Court nominations. We are confident that a Supreme Court nominee who won’t even state a position on Roe v. Wade is the kind of "extraordinary circumstance" this deal envisions.

Well, there we are. If Democratic senators agree with Keenan then we have an answer to whether this was a deal or a capitulation on the part of Senate Republicans.
Headline of the Day: Two hurt in mock light sabre duel.

News Flash: The Jedi Are Evil!

The movement to embrace the Empire continues. Galley Friend B.W. sends along a link to this Orson Scott Card piece:
When the evil Palpatine says, “Good is a point of view--the Sith and the Jedi are almost the same,” we can dismiss this moral relativism as part of the deception of the dark side.

But in a pivotal scene, Obi-Wan says what amounts to the same thing: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

Isn’t that odd? The only thing both sides agree on is that people who believe in absolute good and evil are bad!

I suspect that Lucas realized, after writing "Good is a point of view," that all his friends actually believed that. So he had to make it clear that moral relativism was the right way after all—so he had Obi-Wan say that absolutism was a Sith thing, even though in the actual story, the best of the Jedis show an unbending commitment to absolute Good.

It’s a terrible thing, I suppose, for a writer to invent a religion and then discover that he and all his friends are on the wrong side of it.

Card continues:
The Jedi may claim to be in favor of democracy, but in fact they function as a ruling elite, making their decisions among themselves. They occasionally submit to the authority of the legislature, and they seem to respect the rule of law, though whose law it’s hard to say. By and large, however, they decide among themselves what they’re going to do and when it’s OK to break the law and defy the civilian authority.

They are, in fact, utterly anti-democratic, like a militia that owes nothing to civilian authority.

Pushing the Envelope

What sort of demented minds are at work in the marketing department at drug giant Novartis? First they came up with Digger, the Dermatophyte, who is responsible for toe nail fungus. Television viewers, however, were given the extra-special treat of watching Digger lift up a yellow toe nail and jump in to wreak all sorts of havoc. And only Lamisil can stop it. Thanks for letting us know while we eat our dinner.

But now the folks at Novartis may have topped themselves in a new ad for, ready or not, Chronic Constipation. The ad asks, "Have you been suffering from constipation lasting over 6 months with no known cause?" (If you haven't gone in six months, I would see a doctor. Immediately.)

The only solution, it turns out, is Zelnorm. For those who have this problem, I am thrilled that help is on the way. But the ad itself features people's bloated abdomens, with words printed on them such as "I want help" and "constipation, bloating, straining." Those are the "before" abs. The "after" abs feature more reassuring inscriptions such as "I'm feeling better." Congratulations, Novartis. This has got to be your crowning achievement.

NYTimes does baseball

The kind of sentence you would only see in the furnishings-obsessed paper of record: "Much can be learned about a manager through his sense of interior design." The occasion? A visit with Willie Randolph, the Mets' new manager who's off to a good start in this, his first year.

More on Japenese Blow-Up Dolls

Galley friend AG sends along the following link for yellow-fever sufferers with sleep disrders.
Those of you following the latest "it" couple--meaning Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise--will not want to miss tonight's Very Special Episode of Access Hollywood, in which Billy Bush gets personal with the star of War of the Worlds. Excerpts of the one-on-one were aired this morning on NBC's Today show and, I must say, I am really quite convinced that Cruise is, um, smitten. Here are just a few choice quotes:

Cruise: I gotta tell you something. I'm not going to hide it. I can't contain it.... I'm not going to pretend it.

And if that weren't convincing enough, how about this:

Cruise: I've seen Dawson Creek.

And I've seen Schindler List and St. Elmo Fire.

Monday, May 23, 2005

"Extraordinary Circumstances"?

Without having seen the exact terms of the filibuster deal, the "extraordinary circumstances" clause sounds an awful lot like the "health of the mother" exception liberals always wanted to insert into into the partial-birth abortion ban.

The question is: In practice, will "extraordinary circumstances" for judicial nominees become what "depression" was for the "health" of mothers wanting late-term abortions?

Update, 5/24/05, 10:15 a.m.: Beldar goes much further calling the Republicans responsible for the compromise "seven gutless suckers."

Beginning of the End

Yesterday's North Rhine/Westphalia elections may have spelled doom for German chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his Red/Green governing coalition. Not only did Schröder's Social Democrats lose a state election after having ruled there for 39 years, but the defeat also marks the last Red/Green stronghold in the country. In other words, how can Schröder run things in Berlin when not one German state is run by his coalition? The problem is glaring enough that the chancellor announced that national elections will now take place this fall and not next year. The indispensable Davids Medienkritik quotes Schröder as saying: "With the bitter election result for my party in North-Rhine/Westphalia, the foundation for the continuation of our work has been brought into question."

So is the country ready for its first woman chancellor?

Where's Terry Moran

Drudge is reporting:
Afghan President Rips NEWSWEEK Gossip: PRESIDENT KARZAI: Of course, we are as Muslims very much unhappy with Newsweek bringing a matter so serious in the gossip column. It's really something that one shouldn't do, that responsible journalism shouldn't do at all. But Newsweek story is not America's story. That's what -- that's what we understand in Afghanistan...

Calling Terry Moran! If it's bad to have Scott McClellan questioning Newsweek's journalistic practices, how awful must if be to have an actual head of state doing so?

Terry Moran must speak out! Karzai shouldn't be "instructing the media how to go about its business."

Terry Moran--Journalism needs you!

More NBA Notes

Michael Wilbon observes:
This is where the Spurs really remind me of the Patriots. They'll exploit whatever matchups necessary to win. When the Patriots need to smother Peyton Manning, they do. When they need to score 35, they do. These Spurs can beat you, 81-75, as may be necessary in the NBA Finals against Detroit, or 121-114, which is necessary against the Suns.

Like many others, I'm generally down on the poor quality of play in the NBA, but the four teams left in the playoffs (San Antonio, Phoenix, Detriot, and Miami) are big exceptions to that rule. This is the first time in a long while that each of the NBA's final four would be a legitimate and deserving champion.

The First Sith Conspiracy Theories!

The Law Jedi, who would give me a run for my money in the Uber-Geek Edition of Trivial Pursuit (combine the cards from the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings editions), has up the first Sith conspiracy theories I've seen, explaining the construction of the Death Star:
In the novels, all Lucas-approved, the Empire has an undiscovered outpost near Kessel . . . which is located in a gap between a series of black holes in the region called "the Maw". . . . The Maw installation contains a fleet of Star Destroyers and at least one Death Star skeleton ready to be built, years after Episode VI. Perhaps there was simultaneous work going on for both Death Star units of Episode IV and VI, as we know that the structure of Death Star II is significantly larger that Death Star I. The skeleton may have been just dragged out for construction at Endor. The Emperor probably moved it there (rather than being in the relative safety of the Maw) so that the Rebels would find it an attractive target and thereby lure their fleet into a trap.

The Law Jedi also takes on Leia's "memories" of her mother:
Padme's funeral was of the open casket variety. Also, she still appeared pregnant, which is an obvious ruse for the benefit of Vader and the Emperor and the protection of Luke & Leia. But if that was faked, is it possible that Padme didn't die at all, but rather went to Alderaan to care for Leia, and then later dying from the broken heart which seems to be the case in Sith? She possibly would have avoided Tattooine for fear of being seen and/or the memories of Anakin's start towards the dark side after the death of Shmi Skywalker.

Yeah baby!

The Last Word on Schiavo

The best thing I read this weekend was Joan Didion's long, serious essay on Theresa Schiavo in the New York Review of Books.

Didion takes a pretty even-handed approach to the story and as a result emerges at the only position possible for people of good will: Something terrible and unjust happened in Florida. Didion doesn't come all the way out of the closet, but her allusions make it very clear where her sympathies lie.

Old Triumph

Thoughtful reader K.R. sends in this link to the old video of Triumph working the line of people waiting to get into the first showing of The Phantom Menace. An oldie, but a goodie.

Highlight: "How do you explain this to your imaginary girlfriend?"

Blogger Vanity

The latest attempt to pile on the Huffington Post comes from Aaron’s cc:, who complains that Huffington's blogroll has some bad links, which "may offend some of the better-known members of the Blogosphere."

Sweet mercy! We don't want to offend some of the better-known members of the Blogosphere by getting their links wrong!

And these people complain about the vanity of the "MSM"?

Anti-Jersey Bias at the Times

Mickey Kaus links to this very funny New York Times correction:
An article on May 6 described a demonstration at Princeton University against the proposal by Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader and a Princeton graduate and board member, to bar filibusters on judicial nominees. The writer, a freelance contributor who is a Princeton student, did not disclose to The Times that before she was assigned the article, she had participated in the demonstration.

Forget questions of political bias, what I want to know is: Why is the New York Times assigning stories to college students? I'm on record as believing that the Times is the greatest thing since sliced bread--surely they can afford to use professional reporters to cover stories in central New Jersey. Aren't stringers supposed to be for remote, unreachable locales? Or maybe for Manhattanites Central Jersey is a remote, unreachable locale?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Miller Time (Now with Stockton & Malone Bashing)

Galley Friend (and occasional basketball teammate) N.T. writes in:
I know that all three of you all follow the NBA . And so, while it pains me as a lifelong Knicks fan to ask, don't you think Reggie Miller deserves a little blog love for all that he accomplished in his now-complete career?

Good point. There are a number of things about Reggie Miller that deserve remarking.

(1) He was certainly the best clutch shooter in the modern game (post-1980) not named Bird or Jordan.

(2) He will probably be the last great player to spend an 18-year career with the same team.

(3) He is the only great player of recent vintage who has been able to stay with the same team and completely (and successfully) remake his role, going from star to supporting castmember. This speaks not only to his talent and determination, but to his very fine character.

(4) He is one of a handful of great players to retire from the game without a ring. I would argue that of the modern players, he is the second or third best (after Barkley and Ewing) to be denied the ultimate victory.

(5) How good was Reggie? I would pose this question to N.T. and other readers: If you were assembling a team to play one game, upon which your life depended, who would your starting five be?

I would argue for Isaiah Thomas, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Bill Russell. But if Jordan was unavailable to suit up, I might put Reggie at the two-guard. And no matter what, he'd probably be my sixth man.

(Those of you taking Joe Dumars aren't wrong.)

(6) It wouldn't surprise me at all if Reggie became a very successful NBA coach. He has all of the tools and temperament and leadership skills, too.

Farewell, Reggie. Thanks for playing the game the right way.

Update, 5/22/05, 11:34 a.m.: Many commenters and emailers are extolling the virtues of John Stockton and Karl Malone. I simply can't let this slide.

Stockton and Malone are the most over-rated players of my day. Stockton himself was a very good point guard. Nothing more. If you were picking an All-World team he wouldn’t even get on the bench. At no point in his career was he ever the best (or second- or third-best) player at his position. And let’s not forget that he was one of the dirtiest players you’ll ever see. If you ever watch an old game, pay close attention to Stockton on the defensive end of the court. He holds, pulls, hooks, and pushes constantly. He was almost never without a hand full of jersey. Yet he got away with it because he was short, white guy with a baby face. Don’t be fooled by his Gonzaga creds: John Stockton made Danny Ainge look like the picture of sportsmanship.

And what can you say about Karl Malone? He put up a lot of points because he was the only scoring option for his franchise for almost two decades. He was terrible in the clutch and couldn’t even win a championship when he sold his soul to the Lakers. I know that I wouldn’t even want him sitting on the bench in a game for which my life was on the line. If you’re interested in go-nowhere forwards who put up gaudy numbers, you’d be better off with Dominique Wilkins.

Here’s everything you need to know about Karl Malone: In December 2000, on the night he passed Wilt Chamberlain and became the NBA’s second all-time leading scorer, the team stopped the game in the second quarter to throw a miniature celebration in his honor. With under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter, with the Jazz blowing out the visiting Toronto Raptors, Malone was ejected for berating an official over an (obviously correct) call.

Pure class.

Seductive, the Dark Side Is

David Adesnik continues his slide to the Dark Side. By the time Sith hits DVD, he'll be pulling for the Empire full-out.

Come, join me David . . .

Breakfast With Bush

Speaking of the president, I just saw him this morning at the Second Annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton. It was a record turnout for what hopes to be an annual tradition and equal the other longer-standing prayer breakfast. Bush was very well-received by the 1,600 guests, who gave him an extended standing ovation. ("Thanks for the warm reception," quipped W., "especially for a Methodist.") The president spoke of Catholic American contributions to society and the importance of the "culture of life," which brought even more applause from the audience.

This year's formal presentation was given by Sister Margaret Mary of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a fine group that cares for the elderly.

As for the breakfast itself, which Bush and Cardinal McCarrick didn't stick around for, it consisted of scrambled eggs, sliced red bliss potatoes, and pancakes with maple syrup already on them. There might have been some disappointment concerning the lack of breakfast meats, but the pancakes did just fine. (Yet again, the question is posed: Do pancakes replace potatoes on a breakfast platter or a meat? I argue that, as a starch, pancakes ought to be served in lieu of meat.)

(A single ticket to the breakfast normally costs $50 but I was lucky to get invited thanks to the kindness of Galley friends Alexandra Preate and Michael Tew of Political Capital, LLC.)

George W. Bush: Civ Addict

Thanks to Galley friend Clif for passing along this truly outstanding link to a Civilization addiction support group. You won't believe who else finds himself addicted.

(This brilliant send-up, done by the folks at Firaxis, comes on the heels of E3 and the release of Civ IV.)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Last Star Wars

My review of Revenge of the Sith and roundup of the prequels is up now.

A Flawed Despot is Better than a Smug Jedi

Not content with having mere dozens of people knowing the embarrassing level of my geekness, I have a commentary on NPR defending the Sith, Palpatine, and the Empire.

Just so you know, when I get home tonight I'm going to take my Star Wars and Lord of the Rings editions of Trivial Pursuit and mix all the cards up to make one Omnibus Giant Nerd Edition. Then I'll play. All by myself.

Let's see Greg Gutfeld top that.

In the Name of Love

I guess you can call this a rebuttal of sorts. With regard to my colleague's recent posting of Lisa de Moraes's column, I am slightly offended by its tone. Sure de Moraes has some hilarious quips about the death of 60 Minutes II, but her condescending over the accomplished thespian Jennifer Love Hewitt is uncalled for. Has de Moraes not seen Can't Hardly Wait, or Love's critical turn in I Know What You Did Last Summer? And while I am at it, where is the Emmy she so rightly deserved for her stunning portrayal of Audrey Hepburn? I always knew Love had mounds of talent ever since I first laid eyes on the budding star in the uproarious comedy House Arrest. She was an indispensable element on Party of Five--note how the show was cancelled only after she left. And do I need to remind critics that Love is also a terrific singer whose song "Bare Naked" deserved a Grammy? This new show on CBS can only increase our appreciation of ghostbusting. Columnists like de Moraes need to do a better job keeping readers abreast of this fine actress's career. Either on film, in music, or on the boob tube. (I know what you're thinking. I've milked this for what it's worth.)

Denton Redux

As I said yesterday, it's becoming fashionable to hate on Nick Denton.

Could Denton be the new Kurt Andersen?


Ed Driscoll agrees with John Podhoretz about Revenge of the Sith. I saw the movie last night and will have some thoughts later. If you care.

Lisa de Moraes on J-Love

It doesn't get any better than this:
Replacing "Joan" on Fridays at 8 is "Ghost Whisperer," in which Hewitt plays a woman who can talk to dead people and help them find peace or something like that. One reporter asked Moonves why he thought a show about a 25-year-old who talks to dead people would skew younger than a show about a teenager who talks to God. Moonves responded that dead people skew younger than God. Made sense.

Anyone Remember Juanita Broaddrick?

The Law Jedi recalls that while Terry Moran is saying that the Bush White House shouldn't criticize Newsweek in public, it was perfectly okay for Clinton White House to personally call the networks and threaten them not to run the Juanita Broaddrick story?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Insert Joke Here

What is happening in the world when Andrew Sullivan paraphrases Queen Amidala without any apparent irony?

Continuing his Abu Ghraib outrage/Newsweek apologetics, Sullivan concludes, "This is how liberty dies--with scattered, knee-jerk applause."

In the new Star Wars movie, of course, Amidala (played by Natalie Portman) notes bitterly, "This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause."

When you reach to George Lucas-written dialogue to make a sweeping rhetorical point about the real world . . .

The Final Darth Side?

If this is goodbye, it's been a great ride.

Giving the FInger

Power Line has been all over the remarks by Indra Nooyi, president and CFO of PepsiCo, at the Columbia Business School graduation.

Nooyi likened the globe to the human hand with Asia as the thumb, Africa as the pinky finger, etc. The United States was represented by the middle finger. Sayeth Nooyi:
However, if used inappropriately--just like the U.S. itself--the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I’m talking about. In fact, I suspect you’re hoping that I’ll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I’m not looking for volunteers to model.

Discretion being the better part of valor ... I think I’ll pass.

What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. – the long middle finger – must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand ... not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. – the middle finger – sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.

Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand – giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers – but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.

Makes me proud to be a Coke drinker.

The Empire, Ascendant

David Adesnik now joins the chorus of those who are beginning to realize that the Galactic Empire may just be the force for good in Star Wars.

When I first wrote The Case for the Empire three years ago, even I never imagined that George Lucas would manage to turn popular opinion so thoroughly against his heroes. But as they say, he who lives by the Jar-Jar, dies by the Jar-Jar.

My prediction: By the time the HD DVD versions of the movies are released, championing the Empire will be a respected vein of thought.

Steyn on Kingdom of Heaven

Mark Steyn reviews the movie I missed while sick:
Let’s say you were setting out to make a parody of contemporary Hollywood’s inability to make a film on any historical subject except through the prism of its own droning self-congratulatory predictable pieties, and let’s say you’d picked as the topic for this parody the Crusades — you remember, long wars back in the day, Muslims vs Christians. What would this parody look like?

Well, for a start, this Crusade wouldn’t be between Muslims and Christians, it would be between the ‘fanatics on both sides’ and enlightened progressive types who just want to live together celebrating their multicultural diversity. When I say ‘fanatics on both sides’, whoa, don’t worry: showing the fanatics on the Muslim side might be injurious to one’s long-term health and there’s no Oscar for Best Fatwa. So in practice we’d focus on the fanatics on the Christian side — rich white racists, sort of like early Bush voters — and the hero opposing them would be a maverick Crusader, a brave secular progressive with the cojones to stand up to them.

Off the Hook

Tucker Carlson has an entirely charming piece on Little St. Simons--complete with pictures of his kids, who are the most charming, adorable, and polite children you'll ever meet:
I never feel bad about not catching fish, since catching them isn't really the point. The point of fishing is anticipation, the thrill of what could happen. And since the fish you catch can never equal the fish you're about to catch, striking out may even be preferable. In fishing, failure prevents you from being disappointed. That's what I told my son, anyway. I'm not sure he cared.

There is no one in television--and few people in print--who write half so well.

Civilization IV

The other big news at E3 was the debut of Civilization IV. This will certainly make Vic happy.

The Good News: Amazing graphics (go check out the screen shots) and a simplified interface that lets you do everything from the main map.

Also, from Firaxis;s Barry Caudill: "The first Civilization to discover a technology attached to the founding of a religion will establish a holy city for that religion and it will begin to spread, although slowly. To speed up the process, you can create missionaries and send them out to try to convert other cities."

And instead of Great Leaders, there are Great Prophets, Artists, and Scientists.

The Bad News: No Armies! No set governments!
Poor Joschka Fischer. Ever since the German foreign minister regained his hefty weight--and then some--his rivals have not been able to resist cracking jokes on a par with "Reggie" from The Nutty Professor. For example, they say there's a sequel to Fischer's diet book, The Long Run Towards Myself. The new one is called The Long Run Towards Myself ... and Back. Speaking to a member of the Bundestag this morning, I asked this person about Fischer and the problem of obesity. "He doesn't have an obesity problem," said the man. "He has a fatness problem."

Not that it is all one-sided. Some critics of the CDU's presumed nominee for chancellor, Angela Merkel, refer to her in the masculine, as in Der Merkel. Nice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Richard Harrington pans the new Sinatra "pathography" in this week's Washington Post Book World. Sinatra: The Life by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan served as fodder for a recent posting about the claim that the singer was once a mob courier. This latest book, according to Harrington, is "certainly thorough" and "a massive undertaking...." But it is also "unembarrassed about retelling scabrous stories, followed by such disclaimers as 'while these stories are hearsay' or 'none of the rumors were supported by facts.'"

Geek Alert

If you care, the PlayStation 3 is now official. There's even an early look at the head-to-head matchup with Xbox 360.

Pile on the Dentons

Uncle Grambo delivers a link that really is piping hot: A Radar bitch-slap at Nick Denton and his wee assemblage.

If you care about this sort of thing, read immediately. Radar is going to make it socially acceptable for people other than Jack Shafer to say be mean to Denton properties.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Nobody Beats The Whiz

Galley friend B.F. passes on this unbelievable story from ESPN.com about an incident that recently took place at the Twin Cities airport involving Vikings star Onterrio Smith. As it turns out, Smith was found carrying "several vials of dried urine and a device called 'The Original Whizzinator,' which includes a fake penis, bladder and athletic supporter."

Police originally stopped the running back because they mistook the urine powder for cocaine. (I really don't want to know how they figured out it wasn't.)

Violence Never Solved Anything!

Buried in this story about the Under-12 ban on Dr. Who in Britain is this nugget:
The BBFC said 2004 movie Spider-Man 2 was similarly issued with a 12 certificate, rather than the less restrictive PG rating.

"It received a 12 because of its scenes of urban violence and the fact that role model Spider-Man used violence as a way of dealing with his problems."

If only Spidey had tried dialoguing with Dr. Octopus. Or had sought a U.N. resolution.

P.S.: The new Dr. Who is pretty good, actually, even if it does lack Jelly Babies.

eComerce Genius Alert

It isn't every day that someone decides to reinvent the wheel, but that's what the New York Times is doing now.

In September, the Times will begin offering "TimesSelect" (note to professional namers: that "sS" is awkward and off-putting), which will be a $49.95 subscription in order to get access to Times opinion pieces. How is this reinventing the wheel?

There's only one major print entity making real money on the web: The Wall Street Journal. The Journal has done this by keeping an absolute zone of protection around its news product: If you want to read the news from the Journal online, you have to pay, and pay dearly (($79 a year). But the Journal long ago decided to give away it's opinion pieces for free. To this end it created OpinionJournal.com.

So the folks at the New York Times Company have surveyed the marketplace, seen everyone else lose their shirts, locked onto the one winner and said to themselves, Hey, let's just use the formula the Journal uses--only backwards! We'll give all the news away, but charge them for the op-eds!

Maybe this will work out for the Times--I hope it does. But I have to wonder why they think they've outsmarted the only winner in the marketplace. TimesSelect has "bust" written all over it.

The Cherry Hill Race Track

This brilliant Philadelphia Inquirer piece will be of interest to anyone who (a) remembers the Garden State Race Track (home of a certain Galley Slave high school prom) fondly; (b) is interested in real estate scams; or (c) anyone who likes to see the rich get their come-uppence:
Just 20 years after it rose phoenixlike from the ashes of a devastating fire, the glitzy Cherry Hill racetrack is gone. The ambitious entrepreneur who spent $170 million to rebuild it now spends his days eating canned tuna and microwaved oatmeal in a New Jersey federal prison. . . .

Only in Jersey.

German Spam

Since last Friday, our gMail account has been getting bombarded with German--and only German--spam. Any idea what that's all about?

Star Wars: "Break me a fucking give."

John Podhoretz is bucking the critical trend--he hates Revenge of the Sith and puts it on his short list for "Worst Script Ever Written."

(John's review, by the way, is pretty great: "You should never have come to Naboo, Dooku!")

Here's what worries me, though: John loved Phantom Menace. At the time, he called it "a very good movie, lovely to look at, with an interesting and complicated story line."

If that's his baseline, how bad is Sith? I'll let you know on Wednesday.

Update, 12:20 p.m.: Anthony Lane weighs in:
What can you say about a civilization where people zip from one solar system to the next as if they were changing their socks but where a woman fails to register for an ultrasound, and thus to realize that she is carrying twins until she is about to give birth? Mind you, how Padmé got pregnant is anybody’s guess, although I’m prepared to wager that it involved Anakin nipping into a broom closet with a warm glass jar and a copy of Ewok Babes. . . .

The young Obi-Wan Kenobi is not, I hasten to add, the most nauseating figure onscreen; nor is R2-D2 or even C-3PO . . .

No, the one who gets me is Yoda. May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? . . . At one point in the new film, he assumes the role of cosmic shrink—squatting opposite Anakin in a noirish room, where the light bleeds sideways through slatted blinds. Anakin keeps having problems with his dark side, in the way that you or I might suffer from tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,” he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time. If you ever got laid (admittedly a long shot, unless we can dig you up some undiscerning alien hottie with a name like Jar Jar Gabor), and spawned a brood of Yodettes, are you saying that you’d leave them behind at the first sniff of danger? Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.

Yeah baby!

Everybody Loves Who?

Lots of hoopla surrounding the finale of Everybody Loves Raymond this week. I don't really understand it, myself. Don't get me wrong, it's a well-made, funny show. But name a TV series that's been as highly-rated and long-running as Raymond that's left a smaller cultural footprint?

You could make an argument that Raymond is one of the five or ten most successful TV shows of the last decade, yet it leaves behind nothing. There are no cultural artifacts left over from its run. It hasn’t launched anyone new into zeitgeist. And it hasn’t changed the TV industry or the sitcom in even a small way.

Can any of you point to shows with as much success as Raymond, but less influence?

Update, 11:15 a.m.: Galley Friend J.E. writes in:
Frasier. Dallas. And others. The influence of a show like Raymond should be measured by how it "inspired" other series. Raymond rewrote the utterly dysfunctional family (Married With Children) into something that looks and feels fresh and true. It wasn't mean spirited, the way family comedies had been for at least ten years. Now there's a bunch of shows (like King of Queens) that don't paint all families as pathological. That's a lot of influence.

I would say that Frasier was nowhere near Raymond in terms of commercial success--Raymond has been a top 10 show for almost seven years and an anchor for CBS, while Frasier was a critical darling that NBC had to shift around in the schedule to protect. And I would suggest that Dallas practically invented the modern cliff-hanger: "Who Shot J.R.?" captivated the entire nation like nothing else in pop culture and the reveal was, at the time, the highest-rated series episode in TV history.

But J.E.'s larger point, that Raymond has made it safe for television to love the functional family again, seems pretty spot-on, and is a very big deal indeed. Could this be Raymond's hidden legacy?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Separated at Birth?

I like Rita Cosby, she's seems like a nice lady. But she reminds me a little too much of Victoria Jackson.

Nerds of Doom

Click here for the biggest geekout ever.

But to be honest, I'd take the Dark Side PC over a stupid U-2 iPod anyday. I mean, dude, it's got the Deathstar. On your freakin' computer!

More Darth

Lord Vader makes you go the long way around the barn for the punchline today, but it's so good it's worth the trip.

Query Letters I Love

Another blog that's new to me: Query Letters I Love. It's filled with Hollywood script pitches. Sample:
"Animals have been hunted and killed for thousands of years. They were part of God's food chain and kept everyone alive. For the last 100 years, furs have become charmingly fashionable and now, animals are skinned for just their furs. Their bloody remains, their bodies, left to rot. Now it's their turn, to repay mankind... .....and they're pissed!!
Number of Pages 191

Go, read, enjoy.

Going Upstate

Galley Friend T.J. points us to an interesting site, Upstateblog.net. It's a blog about economics and policy in upstate New York and it's run by Matthew Maguire and the Public Policy Institute of New York State. Interesting, smart stuff, particularly if you live in the area.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Because beating on Richard Cohen is too easy

If only someone like the cranky economist would explain why I am supposed to be troubled—as per Bob Herbert’s instructions—by small downward ticks in unemployment figures for age groups who are either required by law to be in school full time or just likely to be in school full time.

Also: Herbert ends his cold-water column on the latest jobs report, which showed unexpected growth in several areas, with an amazingly stupid Louis Brandeis quote, an especially valuable fatuity for its perfectly distillation of the left’s obsession with wealth. Said Brandeis: "We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can’t have both."

As if the purpose of democracy were to equally distribute wealth! As if equality weren’t in fact the enemy of all wealth! You want material equality? It’s available and it’s called universal poverty.

As if the equal distribution of wealth makes people more rather than less free, and political systems more rather less democratic. As if! As if! A hundred as if’s! It’s quite rare to read something so grand-sounding and completely reprehensible. Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, with North Korea still a going concern, and Castro alive, how can an intelligent person say such things?

The Dennis Miller Show, RIP

Mickey Kaus is kind to The Dennis Miller Show in its passing. (Unlike Evan Smith, who's obviously just a jerk.)

As a rule, I don't like going on political TV shows, but The Dennis Miller Show was the big exception.

The show was always populated with a stream of interesting people. During my appearances on the show other guests included Martin Landau, Stan Lee, and Ray Bradbury--you don't meet people like that on The O'Reilly Factor. And the production staff was full of the type of people you and I would want to be friends with, as opposed to the carnivorous stick-insect producers booking the "serious" political shows. (Note to all TV people: You should scoop Miller's staff up ASAP. They're the best.)

And then there's Dennis. He was a gracious and funny host and, unlike most heads, he actually knows things. A good guy and a great interviewer.

So tonight we raise our glasses to The Dennis Miller Show. May everyone involved in that wonderful project go on to better things.

P.S.: If I was an MSNBC executive, I would reconstitute The Dennis Miller Show and run it in the 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. slot giving you a prime time lineup of Hardball, Tucker Carlson's new show, and Miller. That's a great slate of programming.
Do not miss Darth Vader's account of the Ewok cook-out. Oh, to have been on Endor that merry night.
The Onion makes a funny:
AMSTERDAM—American students traveling abroad confirm the findings of a study indicating that Washington's unilateral approach to foreign policy has seriously undermined Americans' chances of getting laid.

"I've been in Amsterdam for two months and have yet to begin a conversation with a cute girl that hasn't ended in a lecture about how big, evil America is taking everyone's oil," said college sophomore Brad Higgs, a participant in Johns Hopkins University's study-abroad program. "I offer to buy them a drink, and they tell me I shouldn't just stand by and watch Bush destroy the world. Look, if I had that type of pull with the president, I obviously wouldn't be out trolling for anonymous Dutch pussy."

The report, released Monday by the Center For U.S.-International Casual Relations, was based on interviews with approximately 1,400 American students returning from abroad. According to study director Gilbert Hapbrook, sexual contact between American students and foreigners has declined steadily since January 2001.

"Unpopular military actions and dismissal of international organizations have galvanized world hostility toward the U.S.," Hapbrook said. "Instead of being inundated with questions about Hollywood and requests to help hot young foreigners practice their English, Americans are being openly scorned in European pubs and cafes. Data taken from a poll of students in December 2004 showed that only a dismal 11 percent had achieved sexual congress with a non-American."

Hapbrook said the 2004 overseas-coitus figures show a slight recovery from the all-time low reached in November 2002, after the Afghanistan invasion and during escalating conflict with Iraq. But the figures are still well below those of 1999, when Bill Clinton was in office and a very healthy 67 percent of respondents scored abroad. . . .

University of Colorado junior Casey Knight recently arrived in Amsterdam after a month in Germany.

"I asked a group of German girls at some Eurotrash disco to dance and they started yelling at me," Knight said. "They said that by paying taxes to the American government, I am no better than a fascist. Well, they would know, I guess."

Good to know they can still hit it out of the park.

Judge in Schiavo Case Receives "Special Justice Award"

Judge George Greer--you'll remember him as the man courageous enough to deny Terri Schiavo Communion after sentancing her to be made dead--is getting finally getting his due: a "life-time achievement award" from the West Pasco Bar Association.

Well, I guess we should be glad it's not the American Bar Association.

The Best Little Dollhouse in Japan

Thanks (I think) to Galley friend B.W. who passes on this link to Japundit, who reports on a disturbing new development in the world of, ahem, dolls.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Yet another single-engine aircraft has entered the restricted airspace around the Capitol this afternoon--we assume unknowingly. So what gives? Faulty onboard electronics? A pilot misreading his maps? F-16 fighters had to fire flares to ward off the plane.

The Washington Post provides an excellent map of the National Capital Region Air Defense and the precautions the military takes in the event of a breach.

Hey, Jude

Galley Reader S.H. sends along this link to Al Jazeera's newest find: Jude Wanniski!

"The plan of the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration, who work closely with Sharon, instead, aim at changing the terms of the NPT when the countries that are party to the treaty will gather in New York City in May for the 1970 treaty's Seventh Review Conference. . . . The neo-cons, who essentially control Vice-President Dick Cheney and his office, have already made great strides in persuading the president that the NPT is outmoded and must be modernised."

Ricky Jay

How often does one buy tickets to see a magic show? More specifically, how often does one pay to see card tricks? Rarely, I am guessing. But for those of you in the Washington, DC, area, there is one show you will definitely not want to miss: The one, the only, Ricky Jay, card artist extraordinaire and sometime actor, will be performing at the Studio Theatre between now and May 22. Directed by David Mamet, the Obie Award-winning show is entitled appropriately enough, "Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants." (More information can be found on Ricky Jay's intriguing website.)

Get Your CulturePulp

The newest CulturePulp is up, and just in time for Revenge of the Sith.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Sinatra

Vic recently posted about Frank Sinatra, but this item from the London Times has him beat by a mile, if only because it quotes the old Ava Gardner line about Sinatra: "There’s only ten pounds of Frank, but there’s 110 pounds of cock."

Does the trial of Lynndie England offer fresh evidence against women in the military? Read the excellent New York Times article combing the court transcript for melodramatic storylines. Even more remarkable is the extent to which romantic and sexual entanglement seem to have played a major part in the overall permissiveness at Abu Ghraib.

Sith, Again

Another friend, Alexandra DuPont, has a double review of Star Wars and Serenity. She's always worth reading.

Amazingly she's even more bullish on Sith than Vic was, and that's saying something since Matus is awfully easy to please as a moviegoer.

Myself, I'm hoping that at the end of Sith, Chuck Lane emerges from an Imperial Shuttle and tells Palpatine that Anakin fabricated everything from the first two prequels.
Galley friend Christian Lowe breaks a major story in the Marine Corps Times about the Marines' recent recall of more than 5,000 vests. A number of these vests remain in the field and could possibly have failed performance tests, unable to stop 9mm bullets. Worth a read.

The Huffington Post

Welcome to The Huffington Post, the new blog/news portal run by my old friends Arianna Huffington and Andrew Breitbart.

Most of the attention this new project is going to receive will be focused on its monstrous blog, but in the long run, I suspect that the Huffington Post may come to be valued as much for its function as a news aggregator. Breitbart is a genius and the Huffington Post could well become the new Drudge Report.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Odds and Ends

Thanks to all the Galley readers for sharing their thoughts on a number of recent posts:

An anonymous reader rightly flags the awfully large sum of cash Frank Sinatra allegedly toted for the mob back in 1946. Galley friend C.L. has an unimpeachable source who says that the $3.5 million in fifties weighs about 154 pounds. That would be more than the boy singer from Hoboken could've even weighed. This isn't to say it couldn't have happened. He could have towed a steamer trunk or had someone help him. I would also add my voice dissenting to the one reader who called Mr. S the most overrated singer. Frank was larger than life. He created (or helped create) the concept album. He dated Ava Gardner! Angie Dickenson!

It also warms the heart to see so many readers express their expert opinions on fine Scotch and fine bourbon. Surveying those comments, it looks as if Talisker comes out ahead, but just barely. And shame on the drinker who compared Laphraoig to a Band-Aid! (All of this speaks volumes about the sophisticated tastes of Galley Slaves readers. I expect distillers to place ads on this site promptly.)

Finally, I forgot to mention a minor distraction from Episode III--that being a giant reptile commandeered by Obi-Wan Kenobi. It gallops about and makes a very loud squealing noise. It's reminded me of Jason and the Argonauts. (I prefer the soft murmers of a tauntaun anyday.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

Some Like the Mob-Type Refrain

Galley friend B.F. forwarded this link to the London Guardian concerning a claim made by comedian Jerry Lewis that Frank Sinatra once served as a courier for the mob. Does this surprise anyone? It certainly surprises--and slightly disappoints--me. I knew ol' Blue Eyes had ties to various mafia figures who helped him throughout his career, from getting out of contracts to landing the Oscar-winning role in From Here to Eternity. Frank also performed for the likes of Sam Giancana--and possibly served as a conduit between Sam's girl, Judith Campbell, and President Kennedy. But carrying money for the mob? That seems to be a little too close for comfort. Lewis apparently reveals his knowledge of the incident in an upcoming book, Sinatra: The Life, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan.

The Chairman of the Board supposedly toted some $3.5 million in $50 bills and was almost caught by New York customs officials. But with a crowd gathering around the singer, the officers let Sinatra go, just in time. This supposedly took place in 1946, when Sinatra was 30-years-old--before his ring-a-ding years. Had he been stopped, Lewis rightly predicts, "we would never have heard of him again."

In other words, Al Martino has been vindicated!
Thanks to the Galley reader who pointed out the typo regarding my high esteem for Episode IV and not Episode I. Meeza make a badda meestake!

With regard to tying up loose ends, we now know of the true significance of Senator Bail Organa (played by Jimmy Smits). He becomes the foster father to Padme's daughter. This is why, as I'm sure most of you wondered way back when, the Princess Leia action figure came in a box with the inscription: "Princess Leia Organa." I always wondered what was Organa.

So in other words you bought the Princess Leia action figure?

No, absolutely not. I have no idea how she came to be in my possession--not in the virginal white, I might add, but in the tan dress she wore in Cloud City.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

There Is Another...

I am here to tell you all that the rumor about possible nudity in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is wholly unfounded. You hadn't heard that rumor? Neither had I, but I had always held out a New Hope. In fact, the moment of conception seems to have taken place between episodes two and three. Padme breaks the good news to Anakin when he returns from having rescued Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of the droid leader Grievous...

Okay, I am already uncontrollably letting loose--that is, with the details of Episode III, which I have just seen this afternoon. In the interest of Star Wars fans, I am providing a few potential spoilers at the end of this item. So beware! But without spilling all the Bantha poodoo, I hereby give my abbreviated review:

Yes, Revenge of the Sith is by far the best of the first three--indeed, it might tie Return of the Jedi. That is to say, it is still well below the Empire Strikes Back and Episode IV. And yes, the film is very dark. Acting perfs are adequate across the board, although this prequel may have pushed Ian McDiarmid's thespian skills to the limit. Hayden Christensen is believable enough, though clearly outshined while in the presence of Ewan McGregor and the always tantalizing Natalie Portman. As anticipated, there is more than enough violence to share among the star systems. One scene in particular--even though it is merely suggested--makes obvious why the movie is rated PG-13. Also, the film does a pretty good job of tying up most loose ends, though there is one glaring inconsistency.

On a scale of 1-10, I give Episode III a 6.


From a design point of view, Lucas deserves much credit. We see the precursors to the AT-ST, the imperial shuttle, consular ships, X-wings, and TIE fighters. Some have the TIE cockpit glass while others have the X-wing fuselage but the TIE wings. (The fighters we see near the end of the movie already mimic the sound of the later TIE fighters.)

The first 25 minutes of the movie are pure action. But it is almost blinding, with all the laser fire coming from all directions. One early casualty: R4. May he rest in pieces.

The last 10 minutes are the most intriguing, as they bring us as close to the beginning of Episode IV as possible, including our meeting of Captain Antilles.

Chewbacca looks so much younger.

Remember when Luke asks Leia in Return of the Jedi if she remembers her mother? She says her mother was always sad and died when Leia was very young. (You have no idea just how young.) This is the major inconsistency I previously mentioned.

You cannot help but get the numerous antiwar messages being passed on to us from Padme. In one instance, she complains about the war being fought longer than necessary and how it is urgent we resort to diplomatic channels. When Palpatine declares an end to the Republic and the birth of a Galactic Empire and the Senate cheers him on, Padme says, "So this is how liberty dies. To thunderous applause."

The robots in the baby delivery room look like something out of The Jetsons. Not a single Ugnaught among them!

R2-D2 knows all. So why didn't he say anything in later episodes? Was he (yes, I assume the robot is male) keeping it his little secret? Because he could have saved us a whole lot of trouble later on. (R2 is also the designated comic relief of the movie.)

Grand Moff Tarkin (perhaps not yet that rank) makes a brief appearance.

Okay, that is all I have to say about this movie. Ever again. But at least I have closure. Apologies to those who might have stumbled upon some of the spoilers.

Off to See the Sith

Many Galley readers might be wondering Where in the World is Jonathan V. Last? The answer, unfortunately, is that he is under the weather--so much so he is unable to get to a computer and post his usual intelligent blog items (as opposed to one that links Scotch to the Partridge Family). We all hope he gets better soon.

Jonathan was supposed to attend a screening of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith this afternoon. But because he is ill (and generous, I might add), I am going in his stead. I admit I am but a mere Paduan compared with my colleague. Why, I don't even own a cape. Nevertheless I am looking forward to what is supposedly (and thankfully) the best of the first three episodes, chock full of violence. But I am also hoping to see a lot more Natalie Portman. (Who doesn't?)

I guess the question remains, in the interest of this blog, whether or not I should mention potential spoilers or any details of the film, for that matter. Or perhaps I ought to simply give it a rating from 1-10? (1 being the Phantom Menace and 10 being the Empire Strikes Back.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Me & Mayor McCrack

I didn't think I agreed on much with our former mayor and current Ward 8 councilman Marion Barry. But in today's Washington Post letters section, he just so happens to share my sentiments about Peter Angelos's continuing chokehold on the Washington Nationals. Specifically, Barry expresses surprise and disapproval over current Mayor Anthony Williams's endorsement of a plan to give Nats television broadcast rights to the Orioles.

In part, Barry writes:

The Nationals' broadcast rights were sold for $21 million a year, but the team could have gotten more. That kind of forced subsidy of the Orioles will hurt the new team.

Moreover, Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos intends to air only 79 Nationals games on broadcast TV this year, and 30 games next year, to a limited geographic audience. Yet Orioles games are on broadcast television in Washington.

It may be the only thing Barry has said that I wholeheartedly agreed with. That and "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."
Speaking of grousing, one Galley reader raises the good point about the ridiculous hubbub over a joke told by Laura Bush at the Correspondents Dinner. The joke involved the president at Crawford, mistakenly trying to milk a horse--a male horse no less. At dinner with Hollywood types and sloshed journalists in attendance, the line was a hit. But now it seems some conservatives (supposedly including William Bennett) have expressed their disapproval of the first lady's "blue" material.

Doesn't this just play up to the stereotype of the uptight conservative? There is, in fact, nothing new to this: Singer Kid Rock was slated to perform during inaugural festivities before nervous Republicans gave him the axe. Actor Dennis Hopper, a fan of the president, was also snubbed from an official gala event, and even expressed "deep regret" about getting disinvited. (Perhaps they thought he was going to bring a tank of nitrous oxide?)

The Easy Rider nevertheless told the Washington Post that "I would still like to express my support for President George Bush and our next four years."

C'mon Get Happy

Last night at Shelly's, a cigar bar in downtown DC, Galley friend Mike Woody and I stumbled upon a Scotch taste test, laid out in similar fashion to a Pepsi Challenge. The test was sponsored by the Famous Grouse, "Scotland's #1 Scotch." The other two unlabeled scotches were Dewar's and J&B. Our task was to simply rate them from top to bottom. "There is no wrong answer," the Grouse girl reassured us. Mr. Woody and I both agreed on a rating, which pitted the Famous Grouse in the middle of the pack (with J&B in first place and Dewar's last). Of course this was not a competition between the Laphraoig 14, a Macallan 20, and an Oban. But as far as blended Scotches go, the Famous Grouse did just fine.

Owned by Remy (which also owns Macallan), the Famous Grouse was much smoother and sweeter than its rivals--you could easily have more than your share before knowing what hit you. This did pose a few other concerns, as Mr. Woody noted: "Some people drink Scotch because they like a more aggressive old wood and charcoal flavor--that isn't what this is at all. The sweet taste is what draws you, but then why drink scotch?" Still, he admits, "it did taste pretty good." (The Famous Grouse does include single malts like Macallan and can run upwards of $40, depending on the age.)

In addition to a complimentary Famous Grouse drink, we also received free T-shirts with the Grouse prominently displayed on the back. This reminded us of the opening credits of the Partridge Family.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

King of Comedy

Much praise has been heaped upon First Lady Laura Bush for her stand-up routine at the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner last Saturday. And rightfully so--her constantly pleasant demeanor made her zingers especially effective. Quipped Mrs. Bush: "Here's our typical evening: 9:00, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep. And I'm watching Desperate Housewives with Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentlemen, I am a desperate housewife."

But props should still go out to Cedric the Entertainer, who no doubt had to follow a tough act. He appeared a bit nervous but still managed to get the laughs. One memorable joke involved Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

Cedric: There's two people, though. You know, the name is broken down. There's the Condi, who's--that's the person you see on television with the nice hair and very professional. Then there's the Leezza... She's the one with her hair wrapped up, on the phone with her girlfriend watching BET...

Cedric said what he wanted to know most from the president was not about taxes or foreign policy, but rather, why that woman from Georgia kidnapped herself. He was also respectful and called the president "cool" and that by meeting Cedric, it gave Bush "street credibility."

In all, a very funny--and fairly brief--performance, though quite mild for the man who starred in Barbershop. (Remember his line about giving a shave that would leave you "as smooth as Gary Coleman"?)

W is for what?

Six months since Bush won reelection, I've been, in my superior way, taking note of all the Kerry supporters who have failed to remove campaign stickers from their bumpers. What else can I do while stitting in traffic? And on the way to work this morning, I caught a "W is for Winner" postelection campaign bumper sticker.

It could have been a preelection campaign sticker, maybe. In any case, it gave me the he-bees almost as bad as those other stickers in which women announce how proud they are to reserve the unlimited rigfht to kill fetuses. Okay, it was not really as bad as those, but, still, I drove the rest of way over the Momeorial Bridge with a grimace on my face.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Slap on the Wrist

It turns out the defendants we recently convicted for unlawful entry (see "I was Martin Balsam" below) will not be spending a night or more in the slammer. The Washington Post reports that the guilty parties were ordered to pay $100 fines and $50 to a victims fund.

Frankly I expected the penalties to be a bit heavier. And considering the time and energy (not to mention taxpayers' dollars) put into this trial, it certainly feels a bit incongruous.

Also of interest are the ages of the defendants, ranging from 19 to 28 years of age, though the cofounder of the activist group is supposedly 20. I presume this is a typo since she struck me as closer to 40.