Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Just FYI

From Jonah Goldberg:
One of the interesting developments of appearing in the LA Times regularly is that I've activated a whole new constituency of people who don't like me. For example, I don't really know who Marc Cooper is. But a couple readers say he's normally a fairly open-minded liberal. Maybe. But not judging from this typical lefty yelling. Apparently Cooper thinks it's self-evident that I'm illiterate and historically ignorant -- and that I'm a "shout show clown."

Since Cooper's snideness is representative of a vast amount of blowback in recent weeks, let me just respond in brief. A) I haven't been on a "shout show" in years and I turn them down all the time. B) Illiterate? Try harder. C) Perhaps Cooper could try to explain why my argument was "ahistorical drivel"? Is he saying that the views of three of the 20th century's most esteemed liberal historians amounts to nothing? Does he believe it is so self-evident that I'm wrong it doesn't merit a thoughtful rebuttal? Was FDR completely honest in the run-up to World War II? About Lend-lease? Are his dittoing readers content with such substance free high-chair pounding?

I'm not exactly in a great position to throw stones about name-calling, but I do it less than I used to and I always try to do it in the context of an argument. Cooper should give that a try.

Posted at 10:13 AM

The Long, Strange Journey of David Brooks

David Brooks sure has changed a lot since he went to the New York Times. He's gone big-time and now. Instead of playing pick-up basketball with other journalists, he's hanging with 50 Cent.

Bobos in Bling?

John Paul the Great?

Amy Welborn has the word on his fast track to beatification.

Arab Media Bias

Wouldn't that be funny? Imagine a Chris Buckley book, maybe a sequel to Florence of Arabia, where the protagonist is trying to apply Western media standards to the Arab media. This clip of Al Jazeera staff members chanting "Down with fascist America, and with the terrorist administration!" would make a whole chapter by itself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wrestling R.I.P.s

This page of wrestling obituaries is disturbing. Look on the far right for the ages and causes of death.

Law? The Four Horsemen Are the Law!

Or, apparently not. The Nature Boy Ric Flair has been arrested. No word as to whether or not The Enforcer, Arn Anderson, was with him at the stationhouse.

Another Blow

. . . to the argument that "they only hate us because we're [in Iraq; support Israel; etc.]" comes in this story about peace activists who've been taken hostage by Islamists in Iraq:
The aid group Christian Peacemaker Teams has confirmed that four of its members were taken hostage Saturday.

German TV broadcast photos Tuesday showing a blindfolded German woman being led away by armed captors in Iraq. Six Iranian pilgrims, meanwhile, were abducted by gunmen north of Baghdad.

The pictures of Susanne Osthoff were taken from a video in which her captors demanded that Germany stop any dealings with Iraq's government, according to Germany's ARD television. Germany has ruled out sending troops to Iraq and opposed the U.S.-led war.

Abortionist Hagiography

Amy Welborn has the loving LA Times profile of Dr. William F. Harrison. At 2,100 words, it's a pretty fair-sized devotion for a newspaper. It is, I'm afraid, more horrifying than you could even imagine:
Now 70, Harrison estimates he's terminated at least 20,000 pregnancies. . . .

Harrison warns every patient he sees that abortion may be illegal one day. He wants to stir them to activism, but most women respond mildly.

"I can't imagine the country coming to that," says Kim, 35, in for her second abortion in two years. . . .

He calls himself an "abortionist" and says, "I am destroying life."

But he also feels he's giving life: He calls his patients "born again."

"When you end what the woman considers a disastrous pregnancy, she has literally been given her life back," he says. . . .

His Fayetteville Women's Clinic occupies a once-elegant home dating to the 1940s; the first-floor surgery looks like it was a parlor. Thick blue curtains block the windows and paintings of butterflies and flowers hang on the walls. The radio is tuned to an easy-listening station.

An 18-year-old with braces on her teeth is on the operating table, her head on a plaid pillow, her feet up in stirrups, her arms strapped down at her sides. A pink blanket is draped over her stomach. She's 13 weeks pregnant, at the very end of the first trimester. She hasn't told her parents.

A nurse has already given her a local anesthetic, Valium and a drug to dilate her cervix; Harrison prepares to inject Versed, a sedative, in her intravenous line. The drug will wipe out her memory of everything that happens during the 20 minutes she's in the operating room. It's so effective that patients who return for a follow-up exam often don't recognize Harrison.

The doctor is wearing a black turtleneck, brown slacks and tennis shoes. He snaps his gum as he checks the monitors displaying the patient's pulse rate and oxygen count.

"This is not going to be nearly as hard as you anticipate," he tells her.

She smiles wanly. Keeping up a constant patter — he asks about her brothers, her future birth control plans, whether she's good at tongue twisters — Harrison pulls on sterile gloves.

"How're you doing up there?" he asks.

"Doing OK."

"Good girl."

Harrison glances at an ultrasound screen frozen with an image of the fetus taken moments before. Against the fuzzy black-and-white screen, he sees the curve of a head, the bend of an elbow, the ball of a fist.

"You may feel some cramping while we suction everything out," Harrison tells the patient. . . .

When he's done, Harrison performs another ultrasound. The screen this time is blank but for the contours of the uterus. "We've gotten everything out of there," he says. . . .

For the few women who arrive ambivalent or beset by guilt, Harrison's nurse has posted statistics on the exam-room mirror: One out of every four pregnant women in the U.S. chooses abortion. A third of all women in this country will have at least one abortion by the time they're 45.

"You think there's room in hell for all those women?" the nurse will ask. . . .

Amanda, a 20-year-old administrative assistant, says it's not the obstacles that surprise her — it's how normal and unashamed she feels as she prepares to end her first pregnancy.

"It's an everyday occurrence," she says as she waits for her 2:30 p.m. abortion. "It's not like this is a rare thing."

Amanda hasn't told her ex-boyfriend that she's 15 weeks pregnant with his child. She hasn't told her parents, either, though she lives with them.

"I figured it was my responsibility," she says.

She regrets having to pay $750 for the abortion, but Amanda says she does not doubt her decision. "It's not like it's illegal. It's not like I'm doing anything wrong," she says. . . .

His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23, says it never occurred to her to use birth control, though she has been sexually active for six years. When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. "I don't think my dress would have fit with a baby in there," she says. . . .

The last patient of the day, a 32-year-old college student named Stephanie, has had four abortions in the last 12 years. She keeps forgetting to take her birth control pills. Abortion "is a bummer," she says, "but no big stress."

Harrison does not get frustrated with such patients.

He has learned to focus on the facts he considers most important: This woman does not want to be pregnant. He can give her back control of her life and keep a child from coming into the world unwanted. He believes in this so strongly, he waives his fees for women who can't come up with the money.

The Moral Fatuousness of Sir Paul McCartney

The Cake Editrix has the goods on McCartney's ludicrous refusal to perform in China because of . . . wait for it . . . their cruelty to animals in the fur trade! Here's Kathy:
While I don't necessarily think it's a good thing to be cruel to animals, where, precisely, was Sir Paul's outrage when Mao was having his little tete-a-tete out in the countryside, you know, that little event that's more commonly known as The Cultural Revolution? Yeah, I know, he was probably stoned like everyone else was. It was the sixties, after all. But still, The Beatles wielded some power back then.

But, seriously though, is he worried about the high rates of female infanticide in rural China? You know, little baby girls being killed right after birth, their tiny bodies dumped in shallow graves because boys are more highly valued? Is he worried about political dissidents who are forced into slave labor? What about the workers who are poorly paid to sew together those cat and dog pelts into coats and the like? Where's his outrage on their behalf?

And you thought Lennon was a dope.

The Last Word on T.O.

While we wait for the inevitable calls for the sacking of Donovan McNabb and / or Andy Reid, Geoffrey Norman has this excellent piece on what T.O. means for America's unions. It's very fun.

But before we throw Owens into the dustbin of Philadelphia history with other jerkoff athletes who crippled their teams (Matt Geiger, I'm looking at you), I have one final question: Instead of suspending Owens and then deactivating him and then, next season, potentially having to face him on the other side of the field, wouldn't it have made more sense for the Eagles to have kept him on active duty and simply sent him across the middle on every play in the November 6 game against the Redskins? And McNabb, in a show of sportsmanship, could have thrown the ball his way on every down. And you know, what with that sports hernia, a lot of McNabb's passes were bound to be high. Maybe the problem would have taken care of itself.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Best Evs

I don't like to give out too many private details on this blog--I don't think I've ever mentioned, for example, the name of my dog. Or told you how old my son is. The reason isn't because I'm trying to preserve the mystery--it's because you don't care. And if you do care, you shouldn't.

But in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to share something personal: I have come to believe that Brendon Donnelly is the second coming of P.J. O'Rourke, Conan O'Brian, and Owen Wilson, all rolled into one. And I love him.

Don't believe me? Check:
RnB superstar Usher is said to be so smitten with Rachel McAdams after seeing her in the Notebook, he is saying he would love to work with her, and even has a project in mind.

"She has such great energy on camera, it's ridiculous - it just pops off the screen. I'd love to do a period piece with her."

I'm not positive Usher has really thought this all the way through. A period piece about an interracial couple might not end the way he's hoping. For him. Unless he means a future period, where the world has healed its racial divide and theres one global government and we all wear jumpsuits and none of the doors have hinges.

Will someone just pick up one of his spec scripts already? This guy is the biggest talent on the Internet.

Neocons in London

Sometimes neocon is used simply to mean hawk, and so here the category includes many political shades, as various British people found a Scoop Jackson society. Of course, the tone is cheerful. I could use some of that. Times
So when was the last time the Washington Redskins finished the season at or above .500? Funny you should ask. As Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell points out, that would happen to be under Marty Schottenheimer:

He took a team that started 0-5--losing those games by 112 points--and, with Tony Banks as his quarterback, finished 8-3 to reach .500.

But finishing 8-8 was not good enough for Skins owner Dan Snyder, who sent Schottenheimer packing in 2001. Just yesterday, Schottenheimer's Chargers beat the Skins at Fedex Field, 23-17 in OT.

The week before, Norv Turner and his Oakland Raiders also beat Washington, 16-13, at Fedex. The last time the Redskins made it to the playoffs? Under Norv Turner.

So how about an exhibition game against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks?

Populist Conservative Usage

Geoffrey Nunberg, the Stanford linguist, notes a deviation from generally agreed usage in some conservatives' use of the word "elite" to refer to an individual. I do think there may be a bit of pandering to illiterates in some of his examples, or at least a deliberately lowbrow strategy at work, perhaps not unlike the one that had George Bush Senior call the dictator of Iraq "Sadim."

Dem Elites Tink Dey Know Evrythin.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Washington Post's Metro section reports on a bizarre incident that occurred around the corner from our offices yesterday at lunchtime. A man double parks his gray Jeep Cherokee in front of an office building on 15th and K Street and runs inside. He's completely naked. Writes Post staffer Petula Dvorak, "The man told Crouch [a lobby security guard] that he was 'handicapped,' asked him for 50 cents to make a phone call and then spoke incoherently, mumbling something about his father..."

He then jumps onto an elevator, eventually emerging on the eighth floor. A few moments later a fire alarm goes off, people are descending the stairwells, and he's bumping into them, saying "Excuse me." He enters an office and shatters a window using a chair. He then leaps to his death.

No notes (he was, after all, naked). No standoff snarling traffic. In a building where I used to work ten years ago. Two days before Thanksgiving.

Naturally, as Dvorak reports, DC parking police ticketed his car.

The Journal on Xbox

Yesterday we had a textbook example of how not to cover the videogame industry. Today the Wall Street Journal gives us a perfect blueprint for a very smart, very informative videogame piece. The reporters, Walter Mossberg and Katherine Boehret, are to be congratulated.

In addition to playing the story straight, Mossberg and Boehret give readers a wealth of information, some of which may even be news to those who have followed the Xbox 360 a bit closely. For instance, did you know that:

* The $400 Xbox will play old Xbox titles, but the $300 core system will not?

* That the power adapter for the Xbox 360 is enormous?

* That the wireless internet adapter for the Xbox costs $100?

* That the Xbox Live Silver package which the $400 system comes with does NOT allow online gameplay? (For that, you need the Gold package.)

It's a great piece.

Koppel Says Good Night

Did you ever think a TV Head would be capable of a moment of graciousness and genuine humility on this scale? Here's Ted Koppel signing off last night on his final Nightline broadcast:
There's this quiz I give to some of our young interns when they first arrive at Nightline. I didn't do it with this last batch. It's a little too close to home. "How many of you," I'll ask, "Can tell me anything about Eric Severeid?" Blank stares. "How about Howard K. Smith or Frank Reynolds?" Not a twitch of recognition.

Chet Huntley, Jack Chancellor? Still nothing. David Brinkley sometimes causes a hand or two to be raised; and Walter Cronkite may be glad to learn that a lot of young people still have a vague recollection that he once worked in television news.

What none of these young men and women in their late teens and early twenties appreciates, until I point it out to them, is that they have just heard the names of seven anchormen or commentators who were once so famous that everybody in the country knew their names. Everybody.

Trust me. The transition from one anchor to another is not that big a deal.

Cronkite begat Rather, Chancellor begat Brokaw, Reynolds begat Jennings; and each of them did a pretty fair job in his own right.

You've always been very nice to me. Give this new Nightline anchor team a fair break. If you don't, I promise you the network will just put another comedy show in this time slot. Then you'll be sorry.

That's our report for tonight...I'm Ted Koppel in Washington...

For all of us here at ABC News... Good night.

Pure class. Good for him.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Xbox Launch Day

I have yet to read anything that makes me want to run out and buy an Xbox 360 this afternoon--not that I could get my hands on one if I tried--but these two Washington Post stories make me wish that newspaper reporters could do a more respectable job of covering the video game industry.

In the first piece, in the Post's Business section, the reporters write a ludicrous appraisal of the Xbox 360's prospects as a multi-media hub. No doubt some people will use the new gaming system as a media extender, but surely the vast, vast majority of buyers will use the Xbox . . . to play games.

In fact, the Post reporters admit as much in their story's sixth graph:
Microsoft's vision has skeptics. Paul Saffo, director of Institute for the Future, a Silicon Valley think tank, said the Xbox 360's non-gaming features "make nice ad copy" but doubts that owners will use all the extras. It remains, he said, a video game machine.

No doubt that Saffo is right. Here's what bothers me: Do the editors at the Post feel as though they need to puff the Xbox up into something it isn't to justify the D-1 story? They shouldn't. Gaming is a big enough business that the story of the new Xbox launch should be newsworthy in its right, without the need to buy into futurist fantasies.

The other story, on the front page of the Style section is even more breathless. It's a profile of the Xbox "box" designer, Jonathan Hayes. And it begins with this off-the-shelf hyperbole:
There's something a little off here: The designer of the Microsoft Xbox 360 -- the video-game console landing in a place of honor right next to the television in millions of living rooms starting today -- doesn't play video games.

Except that Microsoft's goal is to sell only 3 million units in the next 90 days. The Xbox 360 isn't going into "millions" of homes today. Or tomorrow. Or over the weekend.

Which leads us to the third bit of puffery in the Post: In the Business section story we have a passage included which is meant to push readers over to the Hayes profile in the Style section. Here's the line:
To keep the device from being banished to the basement or the kids' room, Allard's team has spent almost as much time worrying over the appearance of the new Xbox as about the technology inside the console.

I don't mean to be nit-picky--none of this is important in the grand scheme of things--but this just can't be true. Do you think Microsoft spent "almost as much time" worrying about the cosmetics of their system as they did the technology inside? Really? If they did, it means that Sony has already won the console war and Bill Gates should have everyone on Team Xbox garroted in their sleep.


Dean Barnett has an excellent post on the existential problem of the ADL in general and the bizarre rantings of Rabbi Eric Yoffie in particular:
Last Friday, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, gave a speech in which, according to the Associated press, he “blasted” the religious right and among other acts of verbal idiocy accused “conservative religious activists of promoting “anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.” . . .

As Yoffie doubtlessly knows, Hitler’s “anti-gay policies” were rather well fleshed out and went well beyond distaste, intolerance and offensive rhetoric. Hitler’s anti-gay policies included the extermination of homosexuals. Linking the religious right with such a thing is outrageous, slanderous and, need I add, disgustingly provocative.

And yet there’s another dimension to Rabbi Yoffie’s obtuseness that bears mention. There happens to be a rather sizable group of people out in the world that really does have views of gays that are “akin to Adolf Hitler’s.” Hint: They were throwing homosexuals off of rooftops before America, led by a president who is the darling of Yoffie’s detested “religious right” liberated Afghanistan . . .

News Flash: OSM Is No More

OSM--the blogging media company that's going to change the face of journalism as we know it--is changing its name (again). They're going back to calling themselves Pajamas Media.

The revolution will now continue.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Nothing's Gonna Stop Him Now

Try explaining your way out of this one (from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader):

A Sioux Falls man is charged with indecent exposure after being found partially unclothed and lying on the floor with a female mannequin in the Washington Pavilion.

Michael James Plentyhorse, 18, 708 N. Dakota Ave., was discovered by a Pavilion security officer at 4:35 p.m. Monday in the Washington High School Alumni Room, police said.

The guard observed Plentyhorse with his pants and underclothing down and lying next to the half-naked female mannequin, a police report states.

“There was inappropriate activity between him and the mannequin. That’s the only way I know how to put it,” Sioux Falls police officer Loren McManus said.

They Wuz Robbed

I don't normally watch college football and, aside from having a deep personal affection for Joe Paterno, I have no rooting interests whatsoever in the college game. But I did catch the final seconds of the Texas Tech / Oklahoma game, and I've never seen a bigger screw-job in sports.

Down by 4 with under a minute remaining, Texas Tech was driving. They had a 4th and 3 on the Oklahoma 26 and threw a pass that was clearly short--maybe by two feet--of the first down marker. Game over. Even the announcers were wrapping up the broadcast.

But the officials spot the ball over the line--first down!

With 1st and goal on the Oklahoma 5, Tech throws a slant into the right side of the endzone. The receiver bobbles the ball on the sideline and then, while running out of bounds, looses the ball completely. The refs jump to signal a touchdown. It's a ludicrous call and is quickly overturned.

Then, with 3 seconds remaining, Tech hands the ball off to their running back, who is tackled short of the goal line. The officials can't call a touchdown fast enough. What a homejob.

I'm surprised not to see much talk about it this morning. Did anyone else notice this travesty?

War by Metaphor

He meant it only in the metaphoric sense. Thus said a New Jersey college professor after getting in trouble for saying, “real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors and fight for just causes and for people’s needs.” This John Daly, an adjunct English intructor at Warren County Community College, wrote in an email to a student who was organing a campus lecture by a returning Iraq veteran. Daly did not stop there. “I will continue to expose your right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like yours won’t dare show their face on a college campus,” he wrote to the lecture's organizer, Rebecca Beach, a freshman. Welcome to college, Missy.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Support the Troops!

Stars & Stripes carries a typical military SNAFU story: The Armed Forces Network recently broadcast the John Travolta / Hugh Jackman disaster Swordfish, notable only for the very topless Halle Berry.

But when soldiers tuned in--the same men and women fighting to protect Ms. Berry's right to express her artistic voice by showing her cans--they found a clothed Halle Berry. It seems that the AFN gets a sanitized, near airline-quality version of movies. This is an outrage!

As Petter Officer 2nd Class Rob Morrison told Stars & Stripes, “We’re all adults here. Why should we be so sheltered overseas when people are paying for this cable service? We’re all adult enough to be fighting for our country. If I want to see a little [nudity] I think I’m entitled.”

Another fantastic nugget from the story:
Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Holliday had the chance to catch “Showgirls” on AFN one night.

“It was pretty funny,” Holliday said. “By the time all of the nudity and swearing was cut out, there wasn’t much left to the movie. I thought ‘Why did AFN bother showing it?’ It wasn’t because of the plot.”

Friday, November 18, 2005

Professor Doubtfire?

I've often asked myself, Wouldn't it be easier if the University of Minnesota published a guide to women faculty members so that I wouldn't have to spend hours sifting through directories in search of scholarly female opinion?

As luck would have it, I received in the mail today just that from the U of M's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, a "Women, Law, and Public Policy Faculty and Staff Directory." As their cover letter explains, "We know how frustrating it can be to find us at times, as we are dispersed throughout the University.... After years of steady, incremental progress, recent studies show that women's voices in the media have become even more scarce in the last two years."

Now there's no denying these women are experts in their field. But there's one woman whose voice I'd be particularly interested in hearing. She can be found on page 12 of the directory. She goes by the name of Jeffrey L. Edleson, Professor of Social Work. It is unfortunate Ms. Edleson has a slight facial hair problem, as seen in her photo. But I give her much credit for not succumbing to social pressures and waxing it off. Good for her!

Insight Magazine

Insight Magazine, which has launched a thousand careers, has just relaunched. The new version looks pretty great.
Wednesday's Onion is a classic. The paper reports on a "new" reality show on Animal Planet called The Zoo, "in which members of a diverse, all-animal cast square off in a single 3,200-square-foot home in the San Fernando Valley."

Reports the show's creator: "We see an immediate alliance develop between the lowland gorilla and the bison, who work together to smash a hole through a wall."

Also: "Animal Planet sources say the house, which is equipped with the latest in modern convenience, including a hot tub, a flat-screen TV, and a pool table, quickly fills with feces during the premiere episode."

If only...

Jesse Jackson on T.O.

Vic has crafted the funniest parody ever. For reals.

If you don't follow this link, you'll regret it for the rest of your life.


Ann Althouse has a rundown of the launch of the Company Formerly Known as Pajamas Media. I for one welcome our new blogging overlords.

Bonus: Will OSM have to come up with their own "WWE"?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Keep Matus Away from Sharp Objects

Technology continues its enslavement of mankind with this evil device, the Capton Wireless Liquor Monitoring System:
Capton’s Beverage Tracker system is an innovative liquor monitoring system that helps bar owners increase their liquor profits by providing real-time wireless liquor consumption data to help prevent against shrinkage. Our system help you identify over-pours and drink giveaways. Think of it as an electronic journal of everything that happens within your bar operations. Remember, you can’t manage what you can’t measure!

Read: No more heavy-pouring bartenders or rounds on the house. Just one more example of how the internet is ruining the world.

The New iTunes?

If iTunes really does change pricing models it will be a big deal, with all sorts of unintended consequences, no?

Indiana Jones and the Missing Pentagon Papers

Rick Moran has an excellent post connecting the dots with Steve Hayes and Bill Tierney:
Apparently, despite these documents political importance to the Administration’s efforts to justify the Iraqi liberation in the eyes of the world and American citizens, a pitifully small number of analysts have been assigned to wade through this mish mash of documentation in order to obtain whatever nuggets of useful information that can be gleaned from their contents.

What’s even worse is that the intelligence agencies in charge of this effort have a vested interest in seeing that no information comes to light that contradicts their conclusion that Iraq destroyed its WMD program following the first Gulf War.

Let me go, Bull...

Last week I attended my brother-in-law's induction ceremony into the Arlington County Fire Department, an event that reminded me of that other world--you know, the one where people have real jobs. One of the recruits, in fact, is an ex-Marine who did two stints in Iraq, both, I believe, in Falluja. I think he's 24. This week, on the other hand, I caught two grammatical errors in a book review. The results could have spelled disaster!

Arlington's 62nd recruit class went through physical hell in order to graduate. One of their instructors, who brought to mind Lou Gossett Jr. (in An Officer and a Gentlemen, not Jaws 3-D), annually participates in the firefighter olympics. We're talking races up 20-plus flights of stairs and 300 push-ups for each recruit every day, sometimes while wearing an oxygen tank.

I was shocked to learn, however, that being a firefighter can involve considerable dead time. There's a lot of studying. And cleaning. And paperwork. In other words, nothing at all like Backdraft. (Ladder 49 is apparently more accurate though Backdraft remains the fave among firefighters--after all, who hasn't fantasized about a final showdown involving fireaxes inside a burning warehouse?)

Congratulations, Bill.

First Things First

The philosopher David Cassidy once said, "Self-pity is so unattractive." Even more unattractive than self-pity is self-promotion. Still, I hope you'll forgive me linking to a piece I've written in the new First Things, "God on the Internet." I don't normally do this sort of thing, but I'm particularly excited to appear in the pages of one of my favorite magazines.

Differing Evidentiary Standards

Joel Engel, one of the most elegant writers working today, has an excellent piece about Democrats, 9/11, and Iraq.

Engel recalls the Democratic hysteria--the questioning of "What Bush knew and when he knew it" about 9/11--all of which was based on a single Presidential Daily Briefing from August 6, 2001. Engel then turns to Iraq:
Now comes early 2003. Saddam Hussein has failed to comply with his 17th United Nations resolution by, as even Hans Blix agreed, not providing a complete and detailed list of all WMD and ballistic missile capabilities (remember: it was up to him to come clean, not up to us to seek and find the weapons). The resolution (1441) has threatened "serious consequences" for failure to comply, but the French and Russians, their Security Council palms greased by oil-for-food bribes, are whispering in Saddam's ear that they won't go along with any military action and that, in fact, there's a good chance they can get the 12-year-old sanctions against him lifted. Indeed, this reflects a growing consensus of world opinion.

Back in Washington, the president and Congress have access to bales full of intelligence from around the world stating that Hussein has an active WMD program, including biological, chemical, and probably nuclear capabilities. Even the Egyptians are warning the president that Iraq is well-armed and dangerous. The Senate, having viewed that intelligence and consulted with international leaders, is on the record, both verbally and with a vote, as supporting the notion that Saddam Hussein needs to go before he attacks America. . . .

Think about this from the president's point of view: Much of the country is calling for your head regarding your alleged failure to prevent 9/11 when no firm intelligence predicted such a thing. Do you really have any choice but to act on the overwhelming amount of clear evidence that says bad things are happening beneath hidden bunkers in Iraq? No. You have no other way out than to fight preemptively. If you don't, well, heaven forbid another attack is made on American soil--with grotesque weapons that came out of Iraq after sanctions were lifted and Saddam's WMD program was reconstituted (as the Duelfur Report later extrapolated).

I'm only summarizing, as with everything Engel writes, this deserves to be read in full.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Xbox 360: A Dog?

The early word is underwhleming. IGN gives the launch games good, but not glowing reviews. The exception being the review of Call of Duty 2. But here's the damning quote, which doesn't bode well for the new Xbox:
While many early Xbox 360 games are simple high-resolution versions of their current gen brethren . . .

Yikes. And that's from a positive review. Check out the lede on this less positive review of NBA 2K6:
If there is something we've learned from this batch of launch titles for the Xbox 360, it's that we want more from our next-generation console. A lot more. As IGN is in the process of finishing reviews for each of the launch titles, it's great to see when a developer goes all out to utilize the power of the 360, like we are seeing with Sega's Condemned: Criminal Origins. On the flip side, it's frustrating when a developer like EA actually removes key features from its games, like several golfers and courses for Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 and the franchise mode from NBA Live 06. The next generation is now, people. We should be adding features, not removing them.

Thankfully, NBA 2K6 didn't remove any of the features that made it a well-rounded and deep basketball title on current-gen consoles. Speaking of well rounded, NBA 2K6 reminds me of Tim Duncan. Like the Big Fundamental, 2K6 is not flashy and you are rarely going to jump out of your seat in sheer excitement when you play. But, like Duncan, 2K6 is a big name in the business, has earned tremendous respect from intelligent basketball fans, and it does just about everything well. However, the only real changes from 2K6 on the PS2 and Xbox to the Xbox 360 seem to be updated rosters and improved player models.

That's not supposed to be what you hear about a "next generation" system, yet it's the same impression I got after monkeying around with the machine for 10 minutes.

Remember what a jump the first Dreamcast, PS2, and Xbox represented? Remember what a huge leap forward the first Playstation was? The slope of the tech curve is flattening out.

The Return of Wellington

From time to time I like keep track of what I call an "Endangered Foods List," involving dishes once popular some years ago now nearly forgotten, rare, or even extinct. Anthony Bourdain makes mention of such fare in Kitchen Confidential, referring to recipes he learned from his days in the CIA, ca. 1975: "We're talking two years of cauliflower in Mornay sauce, saddle of veal Orloff, lobster thermidor, institutional favorites like chicken Hawaiian, grilled ham steak with pineapple ring and old-style lumbering classics like beef Wellington."

You'll be hard-pressed to find many of these dishes in big-city, trendy restaurants. But the other night, at a dinner at the German ambassador's residence honoring a visiting dignitary, I was surprised to find "Beef Filet Wellington with mixed Baby Greens On 'Dornfelder Essence'" on the menu. Nevermind the vegetables and the "essence," I pointed out to my table guests from Stuttgart, the real excitement was the Beef Wellington, what Epicurious describes as "the entertaining extravaganza of the 1960s."

Contrary to Bourdain's pejorative, Monday night's Wellington was far from lumbering. The pastry shell was flaky and delicately toasted. Just inside its ring was a layer of finely chopped mushrooms. The filet itself was tender with a dark pink center.


But kudos to residence chef Benoit Teisseire (a Frenchman, though married to a German) who mastered this feat for more than one hundred guests. Teisseire gets bonus props for helping save a classic from going the way of the dodo.

Now if someone can help me find a good chicken a la king...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Brokeback Bombast

Is Andrew Sullivan now contributing his astute pop-culture acumen to the Hollywood Reporter? No, but this silly, fawning HR story on Brokeback Mountain reads as though it could have spurted out of Sullivan:
There's never been a homosexual cowboy movie, and while the indies have been supplying gay romances to the art house circuit for years, and gay series like "Queer as Folk" and "Will & Grace" have been pulling big numbers on TV, there hasn't been a mainstream gay love story since 1982's "Making Love," which bombed and was blamed by many for damaging Harry Hamlin's career. "It's the one last frontier," says Lee.

Let's leave aside subjective questions about "frontiers" for a moment and concern ourselves with the falsifiable portion of the above: Have Queer as Folk and Will & Grace really been "pulling big numbers" on TV?

Not quite.

Will & Grace was a medium-sized success for NBC on Monday nights beginning in 1998, but it never became a break-away hit--even when the network moved it to the coveted Thursday night Must-See lineup. Its Nielsen numbers, never very good, have been in steep decline for a couple years now. At its height, Will & Grace never garnered more than about 14 million viewers, and on average has been closer to 7 or 8 million.

And Queer as Folk? Are you kidding? Airing on the pay-cable net Showtime, Queer as Folk could never come close to even Will & Grace's modest numbers--because Showtime only has 13 million subscribers, total. So QaF's relatively "huge" numbers--it debuted with nearly 4 million viewers--have to be taken in context. They may be nice for Showtime, but on a broadcast network, 4 million people gets a show canceled.

What we have here is another case of people desperately trying to make Brokeback Mountain part of a Big Cultural Trend.

Bonus: I haven't seen the movie yet. Maybe it's great; maybe it's a dog. I hope it's great.

But what do you think the chances are that Brokeback Mountain is the best-reviewed movie of the year, no matter what? If it stinks, would anyone dare say so? And do you maybe get the sense that perhaps many members of the entertainment press doesn't even need to see Brokeback Mountain to figure out what they think?
Congratulations to Sayako and Yoshiki Kuroda of Tokyo, Japan, who were married in a quiet ceremony earlier today. Formerly Princess Nori, Sayako was required under Imperial House Law to renounce her title and leave the imperial family (and palace) for wedding a commoner.

Supposedly, Sayako can walk away with $3 million. Or, if she is crazy enough, spend $30 million in 30 days without owning anything new and win $300 million!

Amy? Yeah . . . I'm going to need to you go ahead and come in on Saturday. . . m'okay?

Amy Welborn has an excellent, TPS-ish post on morale:
"Morale" is a symptom, and those who are keen on raising our morale are usually uninterested in letting go of power in order to actually solve the problems. They don't want things to change. They want us to pretend that we are happy with the way they're operating.

You know, it's like being a teacher in a highly dysfunctional school in which someone decides that the way to fix teacher morale is to put a Coke machine in the lounge . . .

The End or, The Inches We Need Are Everywhere Around Us

So how bad is it? Bad. Very Bad.

The Eagles lost again last night, giving them a 4-5 record and effectively ending their season. There is virtually no hope of the playoffs now. McNabb is banged up again. The team's weaknesses are obvious to everyone and easily exploited. Worse: They no longer have a championship swagger, the confidence that winning teams use to get the close ones.

How bad is it? The Eagles aren't just 4-5, they're 0-3 in their division. Before this season the Eagles were 22-4 in the NFC East over the last four years. Read that again 22-4. Those days are long gone. It isn't clear that the Eagles will finish this season with even one victory in their division.

And don't go buying the argument that this is just parity with the rest of the NFC East catching up. Yes, the Redskins, Giants, and Cowboys are each slightly improved, but none of them is as good as their records suggest and I'll be very surprised if any of them is good enough to win even a single playoff game. It's a mediocre division and the Eagles are locked, gimp-style, in a box in the basement.

How bad is it? Over the last few years Philadelphia was Cover City. Before this season, over the last four years the Eagles were an amazing 44-29 against the point spread--that's money in the bank. This year they're 2-7.

Mind you, the point spread isn't just about betting. It's a measure of a team's dx/dt, their slope: The spread is a good indication of whether a team is under or over-achieving. Forget their absolute record: The Eagles used to be an over-achieving team; now they're not.

How bad is it? McNabb should go in for surgery--now. There's no sense in keeping him on the field for meaningless games and risking more serious injury. Westbrook should be kept to a minimum of carries and the coaching staff should find out if Lamar Gordon is good enough to get 15-20 carries a game.

It's bad in Philadelphia right now. But we won't know how bad until next season. We know that Andy Reid can manage a reclaimation project; we know that he can manage a winner. Now we have to wait and see if he can manage a rebuilding year.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Turbo Sexophonic Delight

Galley Friend B.W. sends this link to one of the all-time greatest interviews ever: Darryl Dawkins. Samples:
Q: You've claimed to come from Planet Lovetron but actually grew up in Orlando. When did you realize the discrepancy?

A: I realized the discrepancy when I was about 18 years old. When I figured out I had more funk than most people from Orlando. I had too much funk to be tied down to one hometown so I went off to Lovetron. . . .

Q: You named your dunks: Your Mama, In Your Face Disgrace, Cover Yo Damn Head, Earthquake Breaker, Left-Handed Spine Chiller Supreme and more. How did you come up with this name: Turbo Sexophonic Delight?

A: It was just a swivel of the hips. You had to swivel the hips so fast that you coulda kicked in the turbo on a new car. And for the sexophonic part, you had to do a little hump -- a little boogie while you're going in there. You know, seeing Parliament without their funk is like seeing Darryl Dawkins without his dunk. I had to have it, man.

Brendon Donnelly, AWOL

In anticipation of the trash-talking I've got coming my way from Cowboy Superfan Jenny, I decided to go looking for her former partner, my Blog Crush Brendon Donnelly. I couldn't find him, but I did find a link to his old, old, old site, which had this very excellent list of the top 10 movie trailers of all time. Best line:
#7 Heat--Would probably be higher if not for the fawning voice over, some guy talkin about Pacino and De Niro like they’re gonna shield him from the rapture. Not that they aren’t brilliant here, they are. And god almighty is this thing beautiful. Film can be art, this proves it. Michael Mann could be Terrence Malick if he were boring and in love with exposition. He even kept the cast out of make-up to keep the look real. Great score by Moby and a glimpse of the best gun fight ever put on film.

That's right. I do what I do best. I take scores.

(Note: The trailer list is safe for work, but the site's main page probably isn't. You remember how Brendon was about his girlfriend, M.M.)

If anyone knows Donnelly's whereabouts, I'd like to hear about it.

A Crummy Idea

Most of the time I can tolerate the use of artists' songs on television commercials. (They gotta make a living somehow.) And sometimes I recognize the melody only from the promo and not from the original: My wife recently pointed out to me the line "Cheese, glorious cheese," is actually "Food, glorious food" from Oliver! In turn I've pointed out to her the drums and guitar riffs used by Cadillac come from Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll."

But there is a limit. A few years ago David Segal of the Washington Post lamented the use of the Turtles' "Happy Together" in an Applebee's commercial: "Imagine steak and shrimp, or shrimp and steak / Imagine both of these, on just one plate."

Over the weekend this might have been topped. The ad was for the new cheese crumbles by Kraft. The song: 1991's "Unbelievable" by EMF (which stood for what again?)

But instead of "unbelievable," the Kraft voice sings, "They're crumbelievable!" (Other lyrics run something like, "The thing. You crave. The big cheese taste will blow you away...")

Latino Heat R.I.P.

Eddie Guerrero is dead at the age of 38. Very sad.

Mohammed al-Horton?

It turns out that one of the bombers in last week's attack in Jordan was a former terrorist detainee. Here's the story on Sfah Mohammed Ali:
"He was detained locally at the division detention facility" but was released two weeks later because there was no "compelling evidence to continue to hold him" as a "threat to the security of Iraq," the military said.

Hmmm. Maybe requiring our military to meet the full burden of U.S. law when it comes to detaining terrorists isn't the best idea.

Sfah Mohammed Ali may be the terrorist Willie Horton, but it's not like this is the first time this has happened. From the October 22, 2004 Washington Post:
At least 10 detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay prison after U.S. officials concluded they posed little threat have been recaptured or killed fighting U.S. or coalition forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon officials.

One of the repatriated prisoners is still at large after taking leadership of a militant faction in Pakistan and aligning himself with al Qaeda, Pakistani officials said. In telephone calls to Pakistani reporters, he has bragged that he tricked his U.S. interrogators into believing he was someone else.

Another returned captive is an Afghan teenager who had spent two years at a special compound for young detainees at the military prison in Cuba, where he learned English, played sports and watched videos, informed sources said. U.S. officials believed they had persuaded him to abandon his life with the Taliban, but recently the young man, now 18, was recaptured with other Taliban fighters near Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to the sources, who asked for anonymity because they were discussing sensitive military information.

Shouldn't something be done about this?

The Coming War Over Narnia

Amy Welborn has a good post about the media attacks on C.S. Lewis that are now underway in advance of the Narnia movies. If the The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is a hit, I suspect the attacks will increase. But already, they're bizarre. Welborn points out this strange Times piece on Lewis, which claims:
Lewis was an old-fashioned Christian, and those who consider the church to be too interested in modernising see him as a hero of religious orthodoxy and conservative values. This would be harmless except for the fact that they have managed to morph the real Jack Lewis into “St Jack of Oxford”, a version of himself he would have had trouble recognising. The puritans of America (a breed Lewis always loathed) have even tried to eradicate all references to alcohol and tobacco in his writing.

Lewis loved a drink, he loved to smoke and he continued to enjoy his cigarettes when his doctors told him that they would hasten his death. For more than 40 years he smoked 60 a day between pipes. He actively disliked non-smokers and merrily mocked teetotallers.

And then there was sex. As a youth Lewis revelled in vivid and cruel fantasies. He also loved bawdy songs and ancient poetry bordering on the pornographic. As an adult he had sex with at least one woman. Nonetheless, the evangelists who collect his furniture and place it in glass cases — and the Lewis societies that work hard to project a fabricated image of the writer in England and elsewhere — have tried to remould him as a “perpetual virgin”. They believe that he died without ever having engaged in sexual intercourse and that therefore his late marriage to Joy Gresham was never consummated.

I'm not fully versed in the Christian culture, but I've never heard anyone claim Lewis as a proud prude.

Lord of the Idiots, or Tonight, Tonight

A freebie for anyone wanting to point out how stupid this blog is. From the April 13, 2005 edition:
I'm Just Saying . . .
That it's pretty obvious to me that the Eagles are going to go 16-0 this season. Go ahead, look at the schedule and tell me where you see a loss.
posted by Jonathan V. Last

At Galley Slaves, we do your opposition research for you!

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Hugh Hewitt has a quick post about Mary Mapes's appearance on Howard Kurtz's show. Hewitt writes:
Howard Kurtz also said he still isn't taking a position on whether "these documents are real or fake." That's extraordinary.

I didn't see the exchange, but if Kurtz really is insisting that he's agnostic then that truly is extraordinary--because Kurtz and his Post colleague Michael Dobbs wrote one of the most damning pieces ever written about the documents. Go back and read that September 14, 2004 piece and you'll see that Kurtz and Dobbs:

* Demolished the Bill Glennon testimony CBS had trotted out a few hours prior.

* Brought the definitive testimony of Joseph Newcomer to public record.

* Published the results of the Post's independent analysis of the documents, which found "dozens of inconsistencies [in the memos], ranging from conflicting military terminology to different word-processing techniques."

If Kurtz truly believes that there's a chance the CBS memos were legit, then this September 14 piece is at least very misleading and perhaps even irresponsible.

P.S. Why would this piece be misleading or irresponsible, you might ask? Kurtz and Dobbs didn’t venture their own opinions in it, right? True. But the piece is a massive marshalling of evidence, the vast preponderance of which makes the case--scientifically and persuasively--that the memos were fakes. If Kurtz thought there was another valid alternative view, he and Dobbs sure didn't give it much air. Although, I suppose that if there's a chance the memos are authentic, then it's possible the Kurtz / Dobbs piece was just a massive exercise in conservative media bias.)

P.P.S. None of this is meant to bash Kurtz, who did great reporting on the CBS story. The point is to further emphasize the harmful aftereffects of the Thornburgh-Boccardi report. By flinching on the critical question of whether or not the memos were fakes, the report set up a line of defense for Mapes, Rather, and the rest of the left. By giving these partisans a position from which to hold out, unbiased reporters such as Kurtz, now face immense pressure to take the middle-ground position of agnosticism on the truth of the memos. Thornburgh and Boccardi didn’t just corrupt themselves--their ridiculous retreat into semantics put good guys (like Kurtz) into a difficult position, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Husband and Wife Martyrs?

I'm confused--what does this mean for the 72 virgins? Do they each get them? Do they split them? If so, are half of them boy-toy virgins, for the wife's enjoyment?

Or do you not get virgins if you're married? Or, maybe, you get virgins if you're married, but your wife does not become a glorious martyr?

Or perhaps, the husband gets the 72 virgins and the wife--even if she is a glorious martyr--gets bupkis?

God be praised, these are hard questions.

What Liberal Media Bias?

Ed Morrissey, who's both a gentleman and a scholar, has a distressing, unsurprising post on why the French media has intentionally under-covered the country's rioting Youths. Morrissey quotes this Guardian interview:
Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service LCI, said the prominence given to the rioters on international news networks had been "excessive" and could even be fanning the flames of the violence.

Mr Dassier said his own channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, recently decided not to show footage of burning cars.

"Politics in France is heading to the right and I don't want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television," Mr Dassier told an audience of broadcasters at the News Xchange conference in Amsterdam today.

But of course. If only Mary Mapes would be so honest.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Scientists have discovered a 135 million-year-old skull belonging to a prehistoric ancestor of the crocodile off the coast of Argentina. According to National Geographic's Stefan Lovgren, "It had a head like a carnivorous dinosaur and a tail like a fish. With its massive jaws and serrated teeth, it preyed on other marine reptiles.... While other marine crocs fed on small fish, Dakosaurus hunted for marine reptiles and other large sea creatures, using its jagged teeth to bite and cut its prey."

The Dakosaurus was threatened by only two other species, the Stevenius Irwiniensis and the much older Paulus Hoganus.

(Illustration by DAMNFX/National Geographic 2005)

Anthony Lane, Superstar

If you want to wash the bad taste of David Denby out of your mouth, go read Anthony Lane's typically brilliant review of Keira Knightley's Pride and Prejudice:
What has happened is perfectly clear: Jane Austen has been Brontëfied. In the book, Lady Catherine appears in daylight, “too early in the morning for visitors.” The film has rightly kept the hint of social insolence but switched the hour, so that the dramatic may be shaded and inked into melodrama. The question is not whether the director was justified in that transmutation but whether he had the choice; whether any of us, as moviemakers, viewers, or readers, retain the ability--not so much the scholarly equipment as the imaginative clairvoyance--to see Austen clearly. Maybe we are doomed to view her through the smoked glass of the intervening centuries, during which the spirit of romance, and the role of the body within it, have evolved out of all recognition. Why, when Lizzie accompanies her aunt and uncle to the Peak District of England, should the film take care to set her silent upon a peak, her dress and tresses stirring in the wind, if not to drop the clanging hint that Mr. Darcy is less an icy gentleman of means than a britches-busting Heathcliff in the making?

The hint becomes a yodel toward the end, as Matthew Macfadyen strides grimly through a wet meadow, at some ungodly hour, with Keira Knightley squarely in his sights. He has donned a long coat, which sways fetchingly in the mist; obviously it was copied from a Human League video of the nineteen-eighties, but I’m damned if I can remember which one. For her part, Knightley has been crisp and quick throughout--more girl than woman than seems fit, perhaps, and a boyish girl to boot, but ready and able to hold her own in any rally of wits. Now, like the queen in “Aliens,” she extends her famous underbite and gets down to business. Widening her eyes to maximum chocolaty hue, she stares into his, which are of that sea-cold, grayish blue favored by Gestapo officers in war movies. Hero and heroine bare their feelings to each other; every misunderstanding dissolves in the dawn. In a last, despairing gesture to Georgian England, they do not kiss. Oddly, however, they do rub noses, like well-bred Eskimos, while the rising sun gleams between the tips. Elsewhere in the meadow, the world’s leading Richard Clayderman impersonator is pounding away at the keys. All in all, a heavenly moment, and only hard-asses like Lady Catherine and me will fail to be affected. Any resemblance to scenes and characters created by Miss Austen is, of course, entirely coincidental.

15 Minutes of Fame

I supposed some of you are wondering why I haven't taken potshots at poor Mr. Bob Dougherty, the man who spent 15 minutes glued to a Home Depot toilet seat in Louisville, Colorado, a victim of an apparent practical joke. But Dougherty is already the butt of enough jokes. His dignity has been flushed down the...

In any event, the story has taken an interesting turn: Dougherty's been accused of having gotten stuck in another toilet in his hometown of Nederland, Colo. Is this some of sort of scam he's trying to pull? After all, Dougherty is currently suing Home Depot for $3 million in damages for pain, humiliation, etc. (He recently took a lie detector test to prove he'd never been stuck before and passed it.)

So what happened? Someone lined the toilet seat with a substance like Krazy Glue. Dougherty sits on it, gets stuck, and asks for help. An ambulance arrives, the seat is unscrewed, and Dougherty is taken out in full public view--his rear still attached to the seat. He also says he passed out from the pain.

Here's yet another reason to line your seat.


In case you bailed out of the O'Reilly-Mapes joust early, you may have missed this:
MAPES: Bill, in all kinds of journalistic issues in the past, reporters have gone with things they believed but they could not prove with DNA testing. They have done that. I mean...

O'REILLY: DNA testing?

MAPES: Well, that's what the equivalent, the ink testing or something like that, which really would prove that the documents had been typed in 1972 or whatever. But by your standard, that wouldn't have been enough either.

O'REILLY: Listen, I've been doing investigative reporting for almost 30 years. I've never lost a lawsuit. But I've never put anything on the air I couldn't prove.

There's an entire Chris Buckley novel in that exchange.

15 yards for giving her the business under the pile

Emily Will (remember her?) clocks Mary Mapes. As the kids say, upside the head.

Playstation 3 vs. Xbox 360

We've had some debate on the topic of next-generation gaming consoles at the office and so far, we've been unable to reach a consensus on which is the way to go, Xbox 360 or PS3. I tinkered around with the new Xbox at a Best Buy the other night and while it's quite impressive, it does seem to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. I does not look like leapfrog technology, the way that the PS2 was to the original Playstation.

All of that said, the Xbox 360 is very cool. But will it be able to withstand the predatory juggernaut of Sony? I have long suspected that the PS3 won't hit stores in America until Christmas 2006--they've used these promise-and-delay tactics before to try to keep consumers from buying a superior rival system that beat them to market. But even with a one-year lag, Sony's installed base is so much bigger than Microsoft's that I had a hard time envisioning them losing this generation of the console war. Until now.

This story on Sony's application for U.S. Patent #6,816,972 looks like corporate suicide. Sony has gone and patented technology which would:
verify that when software was inserted into a "machine" (read: console), it was registered to that machine. If it couldn't, the technology would prompt the machine to shut down, preventing the software from being accessed.

Such measures would be fine and dandy, were they targeted at pirated software. But the patented tech--which bears the name of Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi--is specifically designed to prevent used software from being sold. "Since only titles for which legitimate software has actually been purchased and which have been initially registered in the machine table can be used, resale (so-called used software purchase) after purchase by an end-user becomes practically impossible," it reads. Such measures would also prevent lent or rented software from being played.

In other words, if Sony puts this technology into action, you could no longer play borrowed, used, or rented games on your Playstation.

When asked if they intended to use this technology, a Sony spokesperson would say only that, "We have made no official statement regarding coding for PS3 games." Not much of a denial.

And, as Sony's DRM rootkit fiasco has shown, they're not, as a company, opposed to being User Hostile.

Advantage: Xbox.

Who would have guessed that in a corporate battle, Microsoft would be the morally superior, consumer-friendly party?
Two great pieces up today. The first is Skinner's charming review of the new Fiona Apple disc. A very finely-written essay.

The second is Sonny Bunch's excellent assessment of how ESPN is ruining America's sports columnists. Great stuff.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Mike Kinsley: He's Still Got It

Kinsley is back at Slate and still using the same too-clever-by-half logic on which his career was built. Here he is telling us that Judge Aliton is "too conservative":
The Republican counterargument will be fourfold: A) He is not very conservative; B) no one knows how conservative he is, and no one is going to find out, because discussing his views in any detail would involve "prejudging" future issues before the court; C) it doesn't matter whether he is conservative—even raising the question "politicizes" what ought to be a nonpartisan search for judicial excellence; and D) sure he's conservative. Very conservative. Who won the election?

Actually D), the most valid argument, is one you will never hear, although the Harriet Miers detour showed what happens if Republican activists suspect that a nominee really might not be onboard the ideological train.

The other Republican arguments are laughable. Of course Alito is very conservative. That's why he got nominated.

Get it? Kinsley says that Harriet Miers got thrown overboard because she wasn't conservative enough. He then says that you know Sam Aliton is "very conservative" by the simple fact that he was nominated. But wait, Miers wasn't conservative, and she got nominated.

So was Miers a conservative who was rejected for reasons other than ideology? Or does the act of nomination not, in itself, signify deep conservatism in the nominee? Kinsley, of course, wants it both ways.

(I know the Miers fight was three whole weeks ago, but it's worth recalling that her rejection was about competence, not ideology.)

Universe, You've Done It Again

Despairing Eagles fans, it could be worse. The Jets just signed a free-agent rookie tight end who hasn't played organized football since 8th grade.

Our Little Frankenstein

I like to think of Mark Steyn as the love child of George Will and Matt Labash. His latest is a keeper:
My colleague Rod Liddle writes elsewhere in these pages about the media’s strange reluctance to use the M-word vis-à-vis the rioting ‘youths’. I’m sure he’s received, as I have, plenty of emails arguing that there’s no Islamist component, they’re not the madrasa crowd, they may be Muslim but they’re secular and Westernised and into drugs. It’s the lack of jobs; these riots derive from conditions peculiar to France, etc. As one correspondent wrote, ‘You right-wing shit-for-brains think everything’s about jihad.’

Well, it’s true there are Muslims and there are Muslims: some blow up Tube trains and some rampage through French streets and some claim Mossad’s put something in the chewing gum to make Arab men susceptible to the seduction techniques of Jewesses. Some kill Dutch film-makers and some complain about Piglet coffee mugs on co-workers’ desks, and millions of Muslims don’t do any of the above but apparently don’t feel strongly enough about them to say a word in protest. And it’s also true that it’s better to have your Peugeot torched than to be blown apart on the Piccadilly Line. But what all these techniques — and those of lobby groups who offer themselves as interlocutors between bewildered European elites and ‘moderate’ Muslims — have in common is that they advance the Islamification of Europe. . . .

Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005. It is not necessary, incidentally, for Islam to become a statistical majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the 8th century, the ‘Islamic world’ stretched from Spain to India, yet its population was only minority Muslim. Nonetheless, by 2010, more elderly white Catholic ethnic frogs will have croaked and more fit healthy Muslim youths will be hitting the streets. One day they’ll even be on the beach at St Trop, and if you and your infidel whore happen to be lying there wearing nothing but two coats of Ambre Solaire when they show up, you better hope that the BBC and CNN are right about there being no religio-ethno-cultural component to their ‘grievances’.
Does Ms. Alba really wish she had the role of Padmé in Star Wars?

If anything, it's Natalie Portman who is probably envious. While poor Ms. Portman is out performing for the groundlings in Shakespeare in the Park, Jessica is achieving complete bronzification on the set of an aquatic thriller. And when Ms. Alba won the role of Nancy Callahan ("She grew up. She filled out.") in Sin City, Natalie was no doubt seething and wishing it was she.

Do you think Portman actually wanted to do Chekhov's The Seagull? No, of course not. It was when she lost out to Alba for the role of Honey.

Sometimes, life just isn't fair.

Say Goodbye to These!

The Cake Editrix sends us to the Llama Butchers, who have this picture of what the network news looks like in France.

We get Brit Hume, they get her. Despite everything, God bless the French.

Bonus: Is she Elizabeth Rohm's hotter, more talented sister?

Update: Galley Friend L.B. sends along this amazing footage of Melissa Theuriau, the French Edward R. Murrow. (And this link to her Best Of and this link to her homepage.) Two observations:

(1) I could watch her insult America for hours on end.

(2) If, 50 years from now, someone makes a movie about Theuriau's career and calls it Good Night, and Good Luck, it will have a very, very different connotation.

Eyes Up Here

Galley Brother B.J. sends this breaking news on Jessica Alba:
Jessica Alba fears she is being typecast, because she only gets offered role as whores and sexy maids.

The Sin City actress is grateful for the opportunities she has been given in Hollywood - but would kill for the parts offered to rival actress Natalie Portman.

She tells gossip site "The scripts I get are always for the whore, or the motorcycle chick in leather, or the horny maid. I get all those screenplays that start, 'Tawnya is in the shower. The water streams down her naked, perky breasts.' Somehow, I don't think this is happening to Natalie Portman."

Matus, take it away. . .

Marry Me!

Proving once again that development executives will fall for anything, AICN links to this Hollywood Reporter story informing us that Universal is going forward with the movie version of Malcolm Gladwell's non-narrative, non-fiction book, Blink. Stephen Gaghan is writing the script and directing with Leonardo DiCaprio set to star in the picture.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

And so it begins

John Feinstein's basketball column is back, meaning it's that time of year again when Galley Slaves readers, regardless of their politics, begin exchanging their more vicious barbs over who will make a run in March. No surprise, both ESPN and AP have Duke at the top of their preseason polls. Indeed, four of seven Blue Devils are seniors, including J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams. (Speaking of the latter, I wonder if cheerleaders do in fact say to him, "Do it to me Sheldon, you're an animal Sheldon, ride me big Shel-den"?)

Also highly touted are Texas, Villanova (this will change since Curtis Sumpter is injured), UConn, and Michigan State. Let's also not forget Syracuse, which still has Gerry McNamara (who must be close to 30 by now).

Not that any of this really matters. As Feinstein points out, "It is worth remembering that a year ago at this time no one dreamed Washington would be a No. 1 seed or that West Virginia would come within seconds of the Final Four. People thought Illinois had a nice team, but no one was predicting 37-2 and a trip to the championship game for the Illini. It was laughable to think that Bucknell would be the team that would end Kansas's season or that Vermont would send Syracuse packing on the same remarkable night."

Not to mention millions of brackets that were torn to pieces.

But this year will be different. I can feel it.

It's a Doberman, Let It Have Its Ears

Nan Aron seems pretty cavalier about what sounds an awful lot to me like animal neglect, if not cruelty:
Nan Aron lost the fish this summer.

Aron, the founder of the Alliance for Justice, one of the liberal armies in the war over the judiciary, has lived in her Woodley Park rowhouse for 30 years. There's a small brick pond in the front yard and, much to the delight of the neighborhood children, she filled it with fish over the summer, about 20 goldfish and koi. But summer was also the start of a season of high-stakes judicial battles.

While Aron and her allies were working long hours trying to defeat the confirmation of now Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., her fish disappeared.

"The problem was I was responsible for the fish," Aron says with a bit of self-deprecating humor. "My one responsibility at home was to feed the fish, talk to the fish and protect their safety, and I'd come home and start counting" and realize that there was trouble.

The casualties of war. But when you come from a family of social activists, you can look into an empty pond and find the positive.

"We'll start again next year and hopefully I'll be a little more attentive," Aron says.

Where's PETA when you need them?

Bonus: Alternate headline, "You're going to be covered in red paint. That'll distract the eye."

They've Got the Worst [bleep]ing Attorneys

The Angry Clam notes that amid the other election news last night was this tidbit: The city of San Francisco passed a ballot measure banning the sale of all guns in city limits.

Never mind that this runs contrary to state law and that the city lacks the authority to do so. As the Clam says,
Problem: they tried this in the 1980s, when Feinstein was mayor. It didn’t work then, because the California Court of Appeal ruled that state firearms regulations preempt such local regulations, and localities lack the power to ban guns. Likewise, when West Hollywood tried to ban “Saturday Night Specials,” a different district of the Court of Appeal rejected the law as preempted by state law.

I Hadn't Packed for That

Michael Brandon McClellan has more on the Somali pirates, including this great quote:
When asked if the pirate attack would prevent them from cruising in the future, one responded:

"We're English old boy. We don't get frightened by things like this."

Les Cousins Dangereux

Have you noticed these eerie parallels between the next-generation Xbox and the dearly departed Sega Dreamcast?

Unsettling, if you're planning on rushing out to buy Xbox 360. (Mind you, I own and adore a Dreamcast.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vinick for President!

In search of a ratings boost, NBC execs came up with the brilliant idea of having a live presidential debate on last Sunday's West Wing. Overall, the numbers were still weak: According to Lisa de Moraes, the show still finished third with 9.6 million viewers, behind ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (18 million) and CBS's Cold Case (16 million).

But it doesn't end there. Someone at Rockefeller Plaza thought it equally clever to conduct a Zogby poll, asking viewers who they thought performed better: Democratic congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits) or Republican senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda). Prior to the debate, Santos, the presumed successor to Jed Bartlet, led among younger audiences 54 percent to 37 percent. (And it is the younger audience those execs are desperately after.)

But the post-debate numbers show Senator Vinick now leading Santos among 18- to 29-year-olds by 56 percent to 42 percent. In other words, the age bracket NBC execs covet the most prefer the Republican who is supposed to ultimately lose. As de Moraes points out, Smits was even well-armed with such hard-hitting lines as:

What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican Party? I'll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation.... So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, "liberal," as if it's something dirty, something to be ashamed of, something to run away from, it won't work, senator, because I will pick it up, and I will wear that label as a badge of honor.

Somehow, audiences were not seduced by the sweeping rhetoric. Alda as Vinick, I am certain, was supposed to come off as old-fashioned, stodgy, out of touch--exactly the way a Republican should be. Instead Alda, the veteran actor that he is, actually appealed to viewers with his earnestness and folksy charm.

So what do the West Wing's writers and producers do now, knowing their target audience favors, good God, a Republican? Here are three options:

1. It turns out Vinick has some skeletons in his closet. He had an affair. With a male staffer. And, for good measure, he had a drinking and drug problem. How sweet the irony that his own conservative base would abandon him because of his loose morals!

2. Vinick is such a nice guy there's no possible way he could really be a Republican. Maybe he has a change of heart and decides to switch parties like the senator from Vermont. And he becomes Santos's veep. Everybody lives happily ever after.

3. Vinick is assassinated--by a far-right militiaman who used a gun that could have been banned under a Santos administration.

Oh, the possibilities.

The Heart of a Lion and the Hide . . . of an Oliphant

What to say about TO and the end of the Philadelphia Eagles?

Let's go to Galley Friend and Cowboy Superfan L.B.:
When the Eagles picked up TO, they knew they were making a huge roll of the dice. On one hand, they knew a big-play WR was probably the last element they needed in order to make it to the Super Bowl--and win. On the other hand, they knew (they *had* to know, didn't they?) that eventually the dude's enormous ego and attitude would require running him out of town. So the gamble was that the former would happen before the latter.

And actually, the gamble almost paid off--theycame up just 3 points short in the Super Bowl last year.

Now (to continue the gambling metaphor here), they've done the smart thing: cut your losses. This season's probably beyond repair, but at least they can move on. (Better to have done that during this past offseason--surely they could've found somebody dumb/desperate enough to take TO in a trade . . . but better late than never.)

I agree with L.B. except that I'd go further--the Eagles were right to keep TO around and not trade him, because the poor value they would have gotten (a future second round pick, at best) would not have compensated them for having TO playing against them.

So, the Eagles to a chance which almost paid off and have now moved on. Where are they going from here? Nowhere, obviously. I'll be very surprised if they sneak into the playoffs. (If I ran the team, I would have sent McNabb in for the surgery after week two; when you play hurt, you tend to get hurt.) But they have had three goals in the Owens endgame and are close to accomplishing them:

(1) Get TO off the team. They did that yesterday.

(2) Don't pay him. At most, the team will have to pay Owens for four more games this season. Owens will lose his appeal--the Eagles front office has been creating the paper-trail for this showdown since the beginning of the summer.

(3) Destroy TO's career so that no championship-contending team will want him and that even bottom-feeding teams won't give him more than a one-year contract. The last thing the Eagles want is for Owens to show up in a Redskins (or Ravens) uniform next season. The way things have played out, that's much more unlikely today than it would have been if the Eagles had cut Owens during training camp. Owens is more radioactive today than he was three months ago--and football people have seen that he isn't the same receiver he was last year.

(Don't be fooled by TO's gaudy numbers--the Eagles have thrown the ball almost 80% of the time this season and on pass playes that weren't screens, TO was the first, second, and third option. Under that scenario, the team's #1 receiver couldn't help but have monster stats. Still, the tape doesn't lie: Owens is slower than last year and his body is starting to break down. Wide receivers don't get better after 30.)

So the Eagles have made the best of a bad situation. The only two questions left are: (1) Were they right to make the gamble in the first place? And (2) Will they regroup next year, the way the Pats did after winning their first Brady Super Bowl and missing the playoffs the following season?

They Said He Was Some Kind of Scientist . . .

The new publicist for Tom Cruise, that is.


You know you want to read it: How the Death Star Works. Really, it's all about the Superlaser.

More: How the destruction of the second Death Star created a holocaust on the moon of Endor.

I Should Say So--Look at the Blouse!

The cruise ship pirate attack story keeps getting better and better: It turns out that Somalia has three "well-organized pirate groups" operating off its coast and that since March 15 there have been 25 pirate attacks in Somali waters.

More: The cruise ship employed a sonic weapon against the pirates.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Good Night, Good Luck, Have a Smoke

Just a few thoughts on Good Night, and Good Luck, which I had caught over the weekend thanks to tickets courtesy of David Cirilli of Ken Sunshine Consultants (other than the free tickets, I've received nothing for this blurb--not even a free bag of popcorn or Junior Mints. And those who prefer Raisinets to Goobers can go back to Russia!):

David Strathairn is a serious actor. My bet is he gets the Oscar nod. After a few scenes, you get the impression that Murrow's opinion of himself and his crusade for truth, justice, and the American Way is as high as Joe McCarthy's (or better yet, your modern-day network anchor). Still, Murrow's interview of Liberace, in which he asks the pianist if he'll ever settle down and get married is priceless. In addition, Strathairn deserves props for being a nonsmoker who, true to his character, smoked like a chimney for all 90 minutes. I don't think there was a single scene showing him without a cigarette.

Who is the real enemy in Good Night, and Good Luck? It's not McCarthy. Ultimately it is television and Bill Paley's vision for CBS versus that of Murrow and Fred Friendly's. (As CBS president, Paley sees a future not with Murrow's preachy talk show but, rather, with the more lucrative $64,000 Question.) It's obvious this movie is director George Clooney's Quiz Show moment.

Look carefully at the footage from the McCarthy hearings and you will see sitting there quietly a young Bobby Kennedy. Interestingly, he isn't quoted saying anything.

Performances across the board are stellar. But in particular is Ray Wise, a B-movie actor who I think deserves a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role of Don Hollenbeck. A war correspondence in North Africa during the war, Hollenbeck worked at CBS until his untimely death in 1954, an apparent suicide. Wise's Hollenbeck is sad and earnest. I asked a friend who actually knew him during his days at PM Magazine if Hollenbeck was really as sympathetic. My friend says he was indeed, "a very, very nice man."

At the very least, you'll leave Good Night, and Good Luck with a hankering for a smoke and a drink and maybe listen to some Cool Jazz. Not such a bad idea at the moment.

Ride 'Em, Cowboy

Today Andrew Sullivan commits what will certainly be the first of many fawning words about Brokeback Mountain. (Will it be this year's Team America!?!) The only problem is that Sullivan doesn't know much about the movie industry. In an effort to make Brokeback Mountain out to be more than it is, he gives us all sorts of hyperbole about how important this "fascinating cultural moment" is. He tells us:

But that two very hot Hollywood leading men would be prepared to take on these roles, that a director as accomplished as Ang Lee would direct the movie, and that a studio as mainstream as Universal would produce it strikes me as a significant development. A few years back, it would have been unthinkable for bankable, heterosexual stars like Ledger and Gyllenhaal to have embraced such a venture. But they are of the generation that is mercifully over the bigotries of old Hollywood. Think of the greatest actor of his generation, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Three of his most powerful, accomplished, career-making performances - in "Boogie Nights," "Flawless," and "Capote," - are of gay men, each very different, each very human, each poignantly and brilliantly brought to life. In his case, taking on homosexual roles has helped Hoffman reach the career heights he now commands. Ledger and Gyllenhal take this to a new level, because, unlike Hoffman, they are handsome beyond measure, and have played macho heterosexuals for years.

Let's start at the top and work our way down this mountain of blather:

(1) Yes, Jake Gyllenhaal is a hot property; has been for a couple years.

Heath Ledger, on the other hand, missed his shot at the big time in 2001 and has been on a downward career spiral ever since. Ledger was a Bright Young Thing in 1999 when he appeared in the very fine teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You; in 2000 he got second billing in Mel Gibson's Revolutionary War movie The Patriot, which underperformed. Still, Hollywood executives thought Ledger might become a bankable leading man, so they gave him starring roles in a summer action movie (A Knight's Tale) and a bit of Oscar bait (The Four Feathers); both flopped. Since then, Ledger has struggled to get leading-man work and has dipped into such fare as Ned Kelly, The Order, Lords of Dogtown, and The Brothers Grimm. For Ledger, Brokeback Mountain isn't a risk--it's a last, desperate grasp at the brass ring before he disappears into the abyss with Josh Hartnett and Wes Bentley. Remember them?

And what to say of Ang Lee? Lee directed one of my Top 40 movies, Sense and Sensibility. He then directed the cold and clinical Ice Storm. Both films had critical acclaim, but no serious commercial performance. Since then, he's directed two colossal flops: Ride with the Devil and The Hulk, both of which lost money and stunk. He isn't exactly riding a tidal wave of success into this project.

(2) Are Gyllenhaal and Ledger "bankable"? Is Sullivan kidding? Does he even know what the word means? Here's Ledger's résumé:

Release DateMovieTotal GrossOpening Weekend
6/3/05The Brothers Grimm $37,916,267$15,092,079
8/26/05Lords of Dogtown$11,008,432$5,623,373
3/26/04Ned Kelly$86,959$43,704
9/5/03The Order$7,660,806$4,438,899
9/20/02The Four Feathers$18,306,166 $6,857,879
12/26/01Monster's Ball$31,273,922$110,552
5/11/01A Knight's Tale$56,569,702$16,511,391
6/28/00The Patriot$113,330,342$22,413,710
3/31/9910 Things I Hate…$38,178,166$8,330,681

Despite having ridden shotgun with Gibson and Matt Damon--two actors who really are bankable--Ledger has never opened a movie with any real success. In fact, a studio executive might reach the opposite conclusion: that Ledger is box office poison. Look at those grosses for Ned Kelly, The Four Feathers, and Lords of Dogtown. These pictures should have gone direct-to-video.

And how about that Jake Gyllenhaal? Here's his track record:

Release DateMovieTotal GrossOpening Weekend
11/4/05Jarhead[still in release]$28,751,000
5/28/04The Day After Tomorrow$186,740,799$68,743,584
9/27/02Moonlight Mile$6,835,856$329,771
8/7/02The Good Girl$14,018,296$151,642
6/28/02Lovely and Amazing$4,222,923$91,910
10/26/01Donnie Darko$1,270,522$110,494
8/24/01Bubble Boy$5,007,898$2,038,349
2/19/99October Sky$32,547,800$5,905,250

Take out The Day After Tomorrow--which was a Roland Emmerich disaster extravaganza headlined by Dennis Quaid and starring everyone from Sela Ward to Ian Holm--and Gyllenhaal has never topped $35 million in total gross and never opened a picture above $6 million--$6 million! If you go by the numbers, and not what you read in Us Weekly, you see the portrait of an untested art-house darling, not a "bankable" leading man. You see, in fact, the type of career that was built for roles like "gay cowboy." Brokeback Mountain isn't a risk for Gyllenhaal, it's his wheelhouse. (Yes, Jarhead opened nicely this past weekend, but the executives at Universal didn't know that when they cast Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain many moons ago.)

(3) Was Philip Seymour Hoffman's career made by his "powerful, accomplished, career-making performances" in Boogie Nights, Flawless, and Capote? After all, he's been gay on-screen three times--that must make a trend!

Except that anyone who has followed Hoffman's career knows that to the extent any select performances "made" it, it was made by his work in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous, and--more than anything else--Love Liza. If anything, Flawless, Hoffman's turn as a drag queen opposite Robert De Niro, is regarded as one of his few missteps.

(Note also how Sullivan uses Capote as both cause and effect: Playing a gay man in Capote has somehow helped Hoffman reach the heights he now commands where he can get the lead in movies such as Capote.)

(4) Have Ledger and Gyllenhaal "played macho heterosexuals for years"? Hardly. Ledger has yet to play a character older than his early twenties and his career only stretches back to 1999. As for Gyllenhaal, this fall marked the first time he's appeared in a movie as a character older than high school age and if Sullivan were familiar with the Gyllenhaal oeuvre he would know that his prototypical character is that of the sensitive, thoughtful, semi-nerd.

If only Sullivan would leave the movie industry alone. He can probably keep his gig as the resident hep cat on The Chris Matthews Show without having to pretend to be a Hollywood trend spotter.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jon Stewart Is Hurting America

I wish he'd just stop.

But really, can't we all quit pretending he's still funny? He hasn't gotten an honest laugh since the mid-'90s. I'd rather watch Rip Taylor.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Of all the regions to undergo deer overpopulation, Washington, D.C., has got to be the unlikeliest. And yet, particularly because it's the rut, deer have been seen roaming throughout the city. Just yesterday, a young buck entered a shopping plaza in nearby Germantown, Maryland, smashing windows and causing havoc at the Giant supermarket. It was eventually put down.

Two nights ago I was driving down a sidestreet in Georgetown when suddenly a deer crossed my path some 20 feet ahead of me. It had somehow managed to cross Wisconsin Avenue near the Holiday Inn.

And last week one buck made his way deep into Georgetown and ended up inside a Diesel store and later Ralph Lauren, before getting tranquilized.

You may recall, a few years ago, some deer actually made their way onto the White House South Lawn.

These deer must really need to get laid.