Friday, July 29, 2005

The above lyrics for "All You Need Is Love" were in the process of being sold off by music auctioneer Cooper Owen in London last night (no word yet on the final bidder). The Washington Post quotes that company's director, Ted Owen, who calls it "the Holy Grail of Beatles lyrics. It's probably one of the few remaining Beatles lyrics in private collectors' hands and one of the most important musical manuscripts in existence. It was the anthem of the peace movement ... the anthem of 1967."

Hey man, is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up, dude!

And just like Freedom Rock, the lyrics for peace, love, and happiness do cost money. And not $19.95 plus shipping and handling, either. To be specific, the lyrics are estimated to be worth between $870,000 and $1 million.

Ironic, isn't it?

And yet the part that bothers me is not so much the value (or overvalue), but rather Owen's statement that it is "the Holy Grail of Beatles lyrics." Personally, I'd rank them below the lyrics for "Eleanor Rigby" and "Things We Said Today" at the very least.

Besides that, there were much more interesting objects at auction last night. If I were a rich man (and kept my money in a big brown bag inside a zoo), I'd have spent it all on the Vox Continental organ Lennon played at Shea Stadium. (And if it actually works, I'd call over Billy Preston for a jam session, assuming Billy is still alive.)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Consider the following a public service announcement:

When I recently saw one of my colleagues limping around, I just assumed he had sprained an ankle. He wishes. In fact, he is recovering from a spider bite. The other night, he saw what he thought was just one of those house spiders, the kind you inevitably get during the summer months. (This reminds me of my mother's catchphrase: Well, it's the summer, which went for anything: "Mom, wasps flew into the house!" Well, it's the summer. "There's a snake in the pool!" Well, it's the summer. "Street gangs are wilding through Central Park!" Well, it's the summer.)

Oh, right, back to the spider. My colleague thought nothing of it as it quickly crawled away. The next morning he awoke to find an abrasion on his leg. Over time it worsened until there appeared a giant red swelling with a black center. Eventually he goes to the hospital and learns he was bitten by a poisonous (though usually nonlethal) spider known as a brown recluse. These guys can be nasty. According to the website eMedicine, bites from a brown recluse "can cause significant cutaneous injury with tissue loss and necrosis. Less frequently, more severe reactions develop, including systemic hemolysis, coagulopathy, renal failure, and, rarely, death." If you're like me, you pretty much stopped reading after the word necrosis.

"Females lay eggs in flattened egg sacs that are frequently attached to the underside of objects," reports "Up to 40 spiderlings may hatch from a single egg sac. A single female may produce up to five egg sacs in a summer." I mention this because my coworker has yet to find the spider, which prefers dark places. A female brown recluse can live up to four years.

As my mother would say...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sideways in Virginia

Last weekend I toured Virginia's fast-growing wine country (along with the Mrs. and another couple). And while it is no Napa, the trip was well worth it and comes highly recommended for those readers in the Washington area. Rustic Middleburg, where we stayed, is only an hour or so from the city and a world away with its verdant hills and valleys. We made four stops, each with its distinct flavor:

1. Naked Mountain, deep in the Blue Ridge, provided some of the best views and the most casual atmosphere. We simply walked up to the counter and the bottles were laid out before us. The riesling was exceptionally crisp, though they are better known for their buttery chardonnays. (Some are aged in oak, others in steel.) Best of all, there is no tasting fee.

2. They say CHRYSalis, I say ChrySALis, either way, this winery was the most elaborate, a genuine dog-and-pony show complete with headset-equipped coordinators who told us where to go and how much for the tasting. ($10 gets you the entire estate and vintage wine collection to sample, totalling 13 different types.) I recommend the Albariño, a Spanish white varietal, as well as Sarah's Patio Red, served chilled and slightly spritzed--an excellent wine to drink when the heat index is 110. Bonus: You get to keep the glasses.

3. Amid the Hunt Country you will fine a mom-and-pop winery called Swedenburg. Juanita and Wayne Swedenburg must be in their 70s but their efforts to bring their wines to all Americans are relentless. In fact, Juanita actually took her case right up to the Supreme Court and won. Sort of. There are still myriad arcane rules dating from Prohibition that make interstate wine-selling difficult, but with Juanita's crusade, some of those barriers have been removed. A good thing, for no one should be kept from their Pinot Noir, a not-too-complex Burgundy with a spicy aroma.

4. Piedmont Vineyards is one of the more popular wineries in the state and touts an impressive selection, including dessert and peach wines. For the last seven years, Piedmont has been ruled by a middle-aged German couple from Munich. The Herr is no-nonsense and very serious. The Frau is slender and elegant, the type that wears a body suit with nothing underneath. Not that I noticed. They don't actually have much in the way of rieslings though the Herr recommends the Lake Champlain region of Upstate New York. They've also heard the Swedenburgs are weak in their old age and may be ripe for an annexation. (I'm kidding!)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Shear Anxiety

I always looked forward to seeing him. He was the best at what he did. And one day, he just left. I had no idea where he disappeared to or who got to have him. The very thought made me jealous. I then started seeing another guy. He is also good at what he does. But somehow it just wasn't the same.

Barbers are funny that way. (And yes, you can all breathe a sigh of relief.) You develop a relationship with him and if you leave him, things can become quite awkward. You try avoiding that person if you see him on the street. But in this last case, I was the one left sitting in the barber's chair: Mike left last November to help his friend, an old neighborhood cutter named Mr. Duvall--a man who could have served as the inspiration for Cedric the Entertainer in Barbershop. Nevertheless, Mike has returned to my current cuttery. I saw him this morning while my new barber was trimming away. It was all very cordial but Mike knew what he had done and how he had lost me. I am also certain my new barber could tell I thought about switching. But, as we all know, it is almost impossible to make "the switch," even with barbers.

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Happy Birthday to Rolling Stones lead singer Mick Jagger, who turns 62 today. And speaking of the Stones, there's been some talk for the last few days of a song in their upcoming album A Bigger Bang entitled "Neo-Con." As you might guess, it is supposedly a screed against the Bush administration's foolish attempts to spread democracy and about the havoc it has wreaked in places like Iraq. It may end up on the cutting room floor, as happens quite often. But if it remains, well, so be it. Conservatives (South Park types and neocons both) have always had to reconcile the good with the bad--appreciating the acting of Sean Penn and Tim Robbins while trying not to dwell on how much they would hate you if they met you. Or getting past the message in order to appreciate the song (like U2's "Bullet the Blue Sky"). None of this is new. What would be remarkable is if the new Stones album was actually any good. With 16 tracks, it will be the band's longest album since Exile on Main Street. (Personally, I prefer the 1970s Stones and haven't liked anything after Tattoo You.)
A friend of mine used to think I was crazy for saying Christopher Walken was my favorite actor. But with Stephen Hunter's recent homage to him in last weekend's Washington Post, I'm feeling vindicated.

As Hunter relates, "For the past 20 years, Walken has specialized in big roles in small films or small roles in big ones." The question is, has Walken ever disappointed? Sure, some of his movies might have (think Communion), but his performances have largely been superior. My favorite Walken role might still be as Max Zorin in A View to a Kill, though his recent fatherly portrayals in Blast From the Past and Catch Me If You Can are close runner-ups. (And let's not forget his classic "Contintental" lecher on SNL.)

Perhaps we all have our favorite Walken roles. Either way, Hunter's tribute is long overdue.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Letter from Londonistan

If you only read one piece this weekend, it should be Irwin M. Stelzer's brilliant and depressing analysis of what's going on in London.

15 Levels of Funny

"The one mildly interesting thing is that a questioner in the audience would know who Wonkette is but not me or Michelle Malkin."

On Minorities

This Telegraph story says that:
The vast majority of British Muslims condemn the London bombings but a substantial minority are clearly alienated from modern British society and some are prepared to justify terrorist acts.

The Telegraph then reports the results of a survey of London's Muslim community and finds that 6 percent "insist that the bombings were . . . fully justified" while 24 percent "have some sympathy with the feelings and motives" of the bombers.

So yes, it is technically true that the "vast majority" of Muslims in London--and no doubt elsewhere--are four-square against terrorism, but isn't this sizable minority a problem? And hasn't it been from the very beginning?

Imagine, for a second, that in the days following the Oklahoma City bombing a poll found that 24 percent of Republicans (or Democrats or Unitarians or any other American group, for that matter) "had some sympathy for Timothy McVeigh's feelings and motives." Do you think that you'd be hearing much talk about how the vast majority of that group oppsed the attack? I think not.

This is simply one more example of the West's infantilization of Islam and our eagerness to absolve them from responsibility. It began years ago with discussions of the "Arab street," it manifested itself more fully after September 11, and it continues today.

Friday, July 22, 2005

John Roberts: Conservative intellectual or Washington climber?
Beldar beats up on Dahlia Lithwick, apparently because he doesn't understand the organizaing principle of Slate: Counterintuition über alles!

Celebrity Psychos

Don't be fooled by the wonderful cover art for this week's New York Magazine--Vanessa Gigoriadis's story, "Celebrity and Its Discontents," is a dud. (As most New York pieces are.)

But it does have one passage of reporting in it so good that it nearly redeems the entire piece:
So who would want to be a star under these conditions? Listen to a star in the making: Ariel Gade, 8, at the premiere of mainstream horror flick Dark Water, when asked if she likes fame. “I love it,” she says, her voice quavering with excitement. “I’m just having such a good time tonight!” Does she want to be famous? “I’d like to be a director. I think directors are the coolest people around.” When I ask her if things were still the same with her friends, first she says yes, but then reconsiders: “Well,” she says, scrunching up her exquisite face, “actually, I’m home-schooled, so I don’t have any friends. But I do have cousins.” She starts to walk away but stops short. “Oh, and by the way, this is a Bill Blass design,” she says, holding out her pink tulle dress. “Bill Blass brought it over a few days ago, I don’t remember exactly when. Bill Blass gave it to me as a little gift.” (Which would have been nice, except Bill Blass is dead.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Tats and Nats

Although I was joking when I mentioned Deutsche Bank's anschluss of the Washington Nationals, it seems at least one Nats fan is getting into the spirit of things: At last night's sweltering game against the Colorado Rockies, some four seats down from me sat an older fellow, a white male probably in his 60s, overweight, and wearing knee supports. As I scooted past him to get to the aisle, I noticed a small tattoo on his lower leg. It was greenish blue in color, no thicker than a Sharpie. But there was no mistaking what it was: a swastika. "That's a prison tat," said one of my colleagues.

I guess everyone has their favorite team, even a member of the Aryan Brotherhood. But I also couldn't help hoping he and his buddy would get lost somewhere in Northeast Washington after the game.

More Shark

Since we don't know anything solid about the London bombings yet, here are many more pictures of that 1,100 lb. shark. Has to be seen to be believed. More pics after the link.
Just in case this is another terror attack in London, let's have one last laugh (from Brendon Donnelly, natch):

"At some point, sex with Angelina Jolie--I don't care what she'll let you do to her--just becomes more trouble than it's worth."
We're gonna need a bigger boat.

Live, from the Pullout

Meryl Yourish has a series of posts with reports from a protestor at the Israeli pullout: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Ana Marie Cox on the Big Screen?

Craig Henry spots what must have been Wonkette's film debut.

You know the routine. She was young, she needed the money; she didn't read the release form; she was just acting on the side to put herself through law school . . .

We kid because we love!

Why Democrats Are in Trouble

When Shaq engages in Godfather talk, it's cool. When Democratic activists do it, it's sad.

Over at Daily Kos there's all sorts of posing going on (and on) about what kind of tough guys they'd like to be. Here's Billmon on who the Democrats should emulate:
The Dems don't want to be like Fredo -- weak, insecure and eager to earn the good will of people who are inevitably going to be enemies of "the family." (That's where too many of them are at now.)

They shouldn't be like Sonny -- impulsive, emotional and a few quarts short of a full crankcase. Shrub is like that and it's usually what gets him into trouble. ("Bring 'em on!")

The Dems need to try to be more like Michael -- cool, analytical and totally pragmatic. "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."

Sometimes that means ordering a hit, sometimes it means biding your time. Sometimes it means striking with everything you've got [...]

Sometimes it means offering to talk peace, while secretly preparing to wack the guy. Sometimes it means just plain talking peace.

But it has nothing to do with fairness or open-mindedness or listening to opposing points of view. It has to do with what's best for the "family" -- which in this case we can define broadly as those groups and constituencies in American society who oppose the GOP machine and want to see it destroyed (or at least kicked out of power.)

Get it? "Shrub"? Ha! Markos Moulitsas--the godfather of the lefty blogs--seconds that emotion, saying:
Exactly. It's being smart about it, coldy calculating. It's not about giving anyone a free pass, but laying the foundation for what might come forth. . . .

So we demand a full airing of [Roberts's] views and prepare for what might emerge. If we don't like what we see, then whack. We let loose the artillery. There's a time and place for everything.

They're so butch!

Moulitsas and Billmon want to see "the family" succeed--and bully for them. The problem is, they define "the family" as the people wanting to destroy the Republican party. Not exactly a formula for electoral--or even intellectual--success.

It may sound a little naive, but political movements are supposed to believe that they are working for the broad benefit of all Americans. This segment of the Democratic party self-professedly does not. How many elections do they have to lose before the responsible center of the Democratic party (which makes up the vast majority of the caucus, by the way; just ask Howard Dean) decides to throw these people overboard?

People who dance around in front of the mirror preening about how very, very bad they are shouldn't be part of any serious political movement.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Gay Rights in the Middle East

Andrew Sullivan has a sickening, heart-rending post about the execution of two gay youths in Iran. It brings home the importance not just of the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism but--I know, we're not supposed to say this out loud--the culture war with Islam as practiced in the Middle East.

This is a daunting project and many people, understandably, are simply unwilling to confront it. But this isn't a fight between Middle Eastern Islam and America or Democracy or even Liberalism. It's a fight between Middle Eastern Islam and modernity. A culture which is compatible with the modern world is simply incapable of this barbarism. And remember, this isn't an isolated example.

What worries me most about America's democratization project in the Middle East isn't the pictures of Nick Berg having his head sawed off. That is, in its own misguided way, part of war, with people who style themselves as soldiers acting the part of butchers. It is barbaric, but you can, after much struggle, dimly comprehend it.

No, what worries me are the pictures of Iraqis the charred bodies of American contractors. The pictures of Palestinians joyously waving their hands, stained purple with the blood of Jews, out the windows in Ramallah to a cheering throng below. This picture of two kids who barely look old enough to drive being trussed up on the gallows because they're gay. There is no comprehension available here. The people in these pictures are not grimly carrying out politics by other means. They are rhapsodic about death.

You can stop an insurgency. You can kill and capture terrorists. It is not clear to me how you instigate a reformation in a major sect of a religion which breeds this sort of hatred and bloodlust.

Go Figure

The New York Times should get some sort of award for this inscrutable story about Larry Brown leaving the Pistons. Try to untangle this sentence:
The sides tried to work out their differences before the Pistons determined they were irreconcilable, a conclusion apparently made easier by Brown's recent public attempts to cling to a job he had sought to leave during the season.


Update, 11:00 a.m.: The Times's pathetic coverage of sports is on even greater display when it comes to boxing. Brian Moore takes apart this credulous story about boxing promoters turning to hip-hop to revive the sport. It's almost like the Times sports editors don't care unless the story is about Augusta National or the WNBA.

Code Words

The Washington Post's editorial on Roberts doesn't concede much, except that the judge is "a man of substance and seriousness." That's in the first sentence. When the compliment is up top, you always know there's a "but" coming down the way.

The Post for some reason believes that the Roberts nomination will not "proceed without controversy." And--here's the best bit of code:
His confirmation hearings offer the Senate the opportunity to probe whether his evident reticence and caution would translate into a restrained jurisprudence that respects the stability of precedent.

I wonder about which precedents the Post is concerned? I mean, do you have any idea, any clue?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

That Was Fast!

Let the record show that at 11:58 p.m. I clicked over to Kausfiles and found this ad already running. It's NARAL, helping you stop "right-wing judicial activist" John Roberts from rushing into your doctor's office with his Mighty Gavel of Truth!

After all, "We must not allow someone who’s spent his career advocating ending the right to choose to be appointed to the most important court in our country." Right?

Well, we had very nearly three hours of dignification. That's not nothing.

Dignification in the Senate

I don't know much of the legal fine tuning about John Roberts. He seems on first blush to be a smart, very impressive fellow. People who do know about this sort of thing, such as Confirm Them, believe that he will confirmed easily by the Senate. I'm not so sure about that.

If, as smart people are saying, Roberts is a Rehnquist and not a Scalia, that puts a lot of pressure on moderate Dems who might want to pass Roberts, but who will be feeling the full weight of liberal interest groups on them. Certainly, the stance of Senators Leahy and Schumer tonight did not seem particularly warm to Roberts.

The Daily Kos, for instance, says about Roberts:
Roberts has been floated as a nominee who could win widespread support in the Senate. Not so likely. He hasn't been on the bench long enough for his judicial opinions to provide much ammunition for liberal opposition groups. But his record as a lawyer for the Reagan and first Bush administrations and in private practice is down-the-line conservative on key contested fronts, including abortion, separation of church and state, and environmental protection.

As noted on Many who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel's office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. "He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.

And then there's the bitterness that comes with misdirection. For much of today Democrats and liberals thought they were getting Edith Clement; this evening they got Roberts. I suspect that for them the feeling is slightly reminiscent of Election Day when, for several hours they thought matters were going to turn out to their liking, only to have to adapt to a new reality.

At the end of the day, I expect Roberts will be confirmed, but I'll be surprised if Democrats aren't pushed into fighting him.

Breaking the Axis

I don't speak French but I've been told that the CDU's foreign policy spokesman Friedbert Pflüger has written an op-ed in Le Figaro that, for our Francophone readers, is worth checking out. In particular is Pflüger's hope that, if Angela Merkel succeeds incumbent chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the new administration will break the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis and revitalize the transatlantic partnership and NATO. We can only hope.

(The paraphrase comes from Christian Schmidt, the CDU/CSU spokesperson and featured guest at a conference this afternoon sponsored by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Hudson Institute.)

Calling David Brooks!

Very good, very interesting Slate piece about the self-storage industry. Here's a business without pretensions:
The first self-storage facilities originated in Texas in the late 1960s. As one industry participant put it, "They just decided to build a bunch of garages in one day. They were able to rent them out. They built more. They rented them. Someone else caught on and did the same."
But there are all sorts of sociological waypoints going on here. I could do with a whole book about it by Brooks. Or failing that, a book by the piece's author, Tom Vanderbilt.

A Nation of Wimps

Galley Brother B.J. sends along a link to this Onionish story about 21st century playgrounds:
Andrea Levin is grateful that Broward County schools care about her daughter's safety. But this year when they posted a sign that demanded "no running" on the playground, it seemed like overkill. . . .

Broward's "Rules of the Playground" signs, bought from an equipment catalogue and displayed at all 137 elementary schools in the district, are just one of several steps taken to cut down on injuries and the lawsuits they inspire.

"It's too tight around the equipment to be running," said Safety Director Jerry Graziose, the Broward County official who ordered the signs. "Our job was to try to control it."

How about swings or those hand-pulled merry-go-rounds?

"Nope. They've got moving parts. Moving parts on equipment is the number one cause of injury on the playgrounds."


"Nope. That's moving too."


"Well, I have to be careful about animals" turning them into litter boxes.

Cement crawl tubes?

"Vagrants. The longer they are, the higher possibility that a vagrant could stay in them. We have shorter ones now that are made out of plastic or fiberglass."

Broward playgrounds aren't the only ones to avoid equipment that most adults remember. Swings, merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters and other old standards are vanishing from schools and parks around the country, according to the National Program for Playground Safety. . . .

In their place, a lot of playgrounds now are inhabited with clusters of bright, multi-use contraptions with names like "Ed Center" and "Platform Climber Composite Structure." They're lower to the ground than their predecessors, coated with plastic and engineered for safety.

"We could do a lot more if we didn't have to watch our back every single second," said Graziose, who has led a playground safety committee for 17 years. "We sometimes get a letter from the attorney before we even get an accident report from the school."

Go back to Russia!

On Krista Allen

Galley Friend B.W. in response to this item on "actress" and Clooney girlfriend Krista Allen:
I was particularly entertained by the mis-identification of Krista Allen as a porn star. She didn't do Emmanuelle movies, per se, she did Emmanuelle in Space. Which is to Emmanuelle as, oh, I dunno, Ocean's Eleven is to Rififi. Or something.

Yeah, baby!

Headline of the Year notes that Jude Law's nanny-lover has inspired the Fleet Street Headline of the Year:

Rock Lobsters

Ever since I saw Carousel, I've always wanted to go to a clambake. I finally went to one last weekend and June was busting out all over! Did you say you went to see Carousel? The point being, it was high living. Except for the fact that it wasn't technically a clambake, but rather, a lobster bake. Even better but demanding more strategy. Namely, I saved it for last, starting with the corn on the cob, then the potato salad, then a couple of steamers, and then the lobster claws followed, at long last, by the robust tail, dipped generously in drawn butter. I didn't even need a bib. (I just wore won to fit in.)

The setting was along the banks of the Connecticut River and the occasion was my friends Lyn and Ted's wedding, she being a doctoral candidate in sociology and he the cofounder of Human Head Studios, maker of Rune and, later this year, Prey. The Essex Corinthian Jazz band (average age: 75) banged out dixie tunes for the guests while the happy couple took in a boat ride--the bride actually drove the boat. "This could have taken place a hundred years ago," marveled one person. "Yes," I agreed, "except they'd all be wondering who invited the Asian guy."

Nevertheless, congratulations to both and many years of happiness.

(Ted, just mail me the game when it comes out.)

Kaus-Sullivan: The Final Countdown

If you, like every other sensible person, care more about the Kaus-Sullivan fight than you do about the Plame-Novak-Rove-Miller-Cooper-Blah-Blah, then don't miss the coda to this post from Kaus:
[It's too late for soft soap with Sullivan now--ed. But I can rip him off, no?] .

The Liberal Fight Against--Souter!

David Skinner has a super-duper excellent piece on David Souter's nomination fight in 1990. You should read it right away. And you should subscribe to The Weekly Standard (not that this site is affiliated with it in any way).

But since Skinner's piece is available only to Standard subscribers, here's the general gist:

When President Bush nominated David Souter in 1990, the liberal establishment went to battle stations. Key quotes:
"Almost Neanderthal" is how Molly Yard, then-president of the National Organization for Women, described Souter, whose "constitutional views are based on the 'original intent' of the Framers 200 years ago, when blacks were slaves and women were property of their husbands." . . .

"David Souter would be the fifth vote" for outlawing abortion, said Eleanor Smeal of the Fund for the Feminist Majority. "We find him a devastating threat." . . .

"What record Souter has compiled on constitutional questions is both sparse and disturbing," said Arthur Kropp, then-president of People for the American Way, whose current president Ralph Neas, then of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, questioned Souter's "commitment to constitutional guarantees of individual rights and liberties. . . . " The NAACP was "troubled" . . .

Souter, or course, has proved to be a reliably liberal voice on the Court. Skinner's point is that when the president announces his nominee this week and the left begins its doomsaying, you might want to take it with a grain of salt.

Favor to Ask

Galley Friend P.B. informs me that someone named Mancow (sp?) has just revealed the big spoiler from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I don't make requests often, but for selfish reasons I ask that no one discuss Harry Potter spoilers on the blog for another week or two.


The Four-Day War

Tom Joscelyn has an outstanding piece on what happened in the immediate aftermath of Operation Desert Fox in 1998. You'll recall that President Clinton was forced into conducting air strikes against Saddam Hussein. Following the four days of attacks, Saddam sought out the help of Osama bin Laden. Joscelyn assembles a mass of reportage on the subject from 1998 and 1999.

It's easy to forget that before George W. Bush invaded Iraq, it was a common assumption that Saddam and bin Laden were linked quite closely. Whenever someone tells you that there is no connection between these two, remember: Actionable intelligence is in the eye of the beholder.
Michael Crowley is fishing for a lawsuit:
Our summer of Tom Cruise's madness and Katie Holmes' creepy path toward zombie bridedom has been a useful reminder of how truly strange Scientology is. By now those interested in the Cruise-Holmes saga may be passingly familiar with the church's creation myth, in which an evil, intergalactic warlord named Xenu kidnaps billions of alien life forms, chains them near Earth's volcanoes, and blows them up with nuclear weapons. Strange as Scientology's pseudo-theology may be, though, it's not as entertaining as the life story of the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. . . .

Monday, July 18, 2005

The DiCaprio Syndrome

Reihan and John Podhoretz have now discovered Rachel McAdams, who is becoming a breakout star.

Some of us were blown away by McAdams' work in Mean Girls and believed at the time that it was her performance, not Lindsay Lohan's, which made the movie work so well.

But here's the real question: In ten years will we look back on Mean Girls and laugh about how strange it must have been on set to have Kirk Cameron as the star making Leo DiCaprio carry around his bags?

Bonus: The most recent--and satisfying--actress to be aflicted with the DiCaprio Syndrome is Jennifer Love Hewitt, who was quite the queen bee herself when she got her very own TV show, Time of Your Life. I wonder if she let her lowly co-star--Jennifer Garner--get her sloppy seconds from the snack cart.

This sort of fall from fame could happen to better people than LiLo.

Don't Call Him Callow

Reihan has a very interesting post on the question of falling birthrates and quality vs. quantity of children in societies. His interlocutor asks him:
I don't think I've ever seen you give any explicit arguments as to why birthrates are the end-all-be-all of cultural supremacy.

Why can't lower birthrates be balanced out by citizens who are longer-lived, richer, and more productive? Isn't it the case that one hundred thousand American kids who go on to have successful careers in science, business, the arts, etc., are worth more to a culture than a million ill-educated, ill-nourished, pissed-off would-be suicide bombers?

Reihan responds in full Brooksian splendor:
Why not sacrifice quantity for quality? Consider rapid economic development in Korea and China and elsewhere. Economic takeoff was preceded by steep declines in birthrates. And as industrial economies supplanted economies that centered on home production, childen became less of an economic asset and more of an economic burden. . . . That the birthrate has declined pretty consistently from the 1820s to the present in North America - leaving aside a few cultural blips, and even the Baby Boom can be largely attributed to the increased propensity of Roman Catholic families to rear four or more children - is thus not surprising in the least.

So what gives? Why do I think that this is a bad thing? . . .

Look at it this way - what are the qualities one needs to raise young children? Tolerance, kindness, forebearance - patience is one way of putting it. Having a decent regard for others is another. . . .

When I think about all of the things I consider most coarsening and tragic about contemporary life, I think they can be traced to this basic failure of empathy. I extend this to our indifference to extreme deprivation in the most benighted corners of the globe, and also to the breakdown of civility in neighborhoods, not to mention the dissolution of families.

Very sincerely, I don't think of myself as a particularly patient or thoughtful person. Consumption is the organizing principle of my life, or at least it's a close second to friendship and learning cool stuff (tied). . . . I figure there's probably a better way to live, not for me necessarily (and not for you necessarily) but for a community or a culture. . . .

I detect sadness - and I mean the deep sadness of very successful, very sharp, appealing middle-class North Americans in their mid-twenties, possibly the most privileged creatures to ever walk the earth in large numbers - it's about drift, basic mistrust, loneliness.

There's more to Reihan's response, which is deals with the X's and O's of why population growth is necessary, but this wonderful little bit of humanism ought to be appreciated on its own.

I Don't Like You In That Way

Have you noticed that The Superficial has been dating Fez recently? Me too.

The reason may be that Brendon Donnelly, formerly of The Superficial, has hung up his own shingle and is now blogging away at the terribly-named

However, you'll forgive the bad name because Brendon's got all the old mojo going. Don't believe me? Try this on for size:
Even before the accident I was thinking about getting out of modeling, and stuff like this is the reason why. So much tawdry rumor and innuendo. My decision was made for me after the oil spill, and I knew I wanted to devote my life to helping the sea turtles. Big Oil will try to tell you that oil helps the turtles' viscosity and makes them even better swimmers, and that may be true, I don't really know, I just know I love helping these beautiful creatures. Some of the other models say that the turtles and the retarded kids I teach to surf are lucky to have me. But you know who the lucky one is? It's me. It's me.

You followed the link, right? Get it? "For size." Really, this stuff just writes itself.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Liveblogging Harry Potter

There's a whole list of things I've sworn would never take place on this blog--no tip jar, no "indeed," no rambling posts about my wife/boyfriend/pet parakeet, no "hat tip," no "MSM," no "blogiversaries," and, most definitely no liveblogging.

But I kind of can't resist. I've been at the Potomac Yard Barnes & Noble since 8:00 p.m., working, editing, and watching kids, parents, and other twentysomething nerds hanging out in anticipation of the new Harry Potter book. There's a trivia contest, a make-your-own-wand station, balloons, and good cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. My wife's sitting across from me reading Agatha Christie with her adorable Harry Potter glasses on and there's even a girl behind the Starbucks counter wearing a beautifully knitted wool scarf done up in the Gryffindor colors. Really, I don't see how life gets better.

Well, that wasn't so bad. My first liveblogging. I thought I'd feel dirty, but I don't feel dirty at all.

And you, what are you snickering at? Sure, I'm the dork at the Harry Potter party, but you're spending your Friday night reading the third-dumbest blog in Washington, so really, which one of us is sadder?

Update, 11:27 p.m.: All cynicism aside, the single most moving thing about the Harry Potter parties are the many, many families with hearing-impaired children milling around the store, signing to each other. I imagine that if you're a deaf kid you miss out on a lot of the silly pop culture moments, like movies and TV shows. To have a book which is an event like this is something hearing-impaired children can totally and completely own. It's a really wonderful thing to see.

A Plague of Yodas

After reading that John Hinderaker and Hugh Hewitt are both Yoda, I took the geek personality test.

The answer, on the off chance you're curious, is Elrond. I know, I was shocked, too.

I mean, Elrond is a nominal good guy. What's up with that? I kind of expected Grand Moff Tarkin or the Mouth of Sauron or Deslock.

Or even Severus Snape. Clearly, this test is bogus.

The Electoral-Based Community

Dearn Barnett has one of the most persuasive pieces I've read (or edited!) on the question of whether or not the rise of the liberal blogs is good for Democrats.
Diana West has a very good op-ed in the Washington Times today. She confronts head-on what even the hawkish leaders in the war on terrorism are afraid of: The "Religion of Peace" problem. In the war on terror is the root cause a tiny, tiny sect or a brand of religion which has yet to undergo a reformation and is in many ways incompatible with modernity?

Most people dare not even raise this question. West does.

Marvel vs. DC

Warning: Today will be an extra-geeky day on the blog. This news item reports that Marvel and DC are creating multiplayer RPGs for the next-gen Xbox and Playstation consoles, respectively.
I'm jus waiting for the hate mail.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Don't lie. You want one, too.
I've never bought the argument fighting terrorists creates terrorists, or that somehow the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq helped turn Muslims around the world against the United States. After all, if you look at the reactions in many Muslim countries following September 11, it doesn't look like they needed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to help them hate America.

But a lot of other people have been concerned about this question. So what to make of this Pew survey, which suggests that support for bin Laden and suicide bombing in general is falling in some Muslim countries?

If this is true, I suspect it's due less to the bombings in London than to stories like this one, which show that bin Ladenism perhaps cares not so much about Muslims who like to vote.

Virtual Sorting Hat

If you click here you can be sorted into one of the Hogwarts houses.

a Slytherin!

Like that surprises anyone. More HP thoughts tomorrow.

Pet Sematary

Fairfax County, Virginia, authorities entered a second home owned by "Cat" woman Ruth Knueven, and discovered 134 additional dead cats. That has to be some sort of a record.

According to Washington Post staff writer Leef Smith, "Knueven said that she had been 'overwhelmed' by the cats in her two-story, cream-brick colonial in Mount Vernon. They had taken over the garage. They were embedded in the chimney and family room furniture, multiplying until the downstairs was infested.... Knueven said her involvement with stray cats began slowly as she plucked litters of kittens from the street. Many of them had been killed, she said, explaining that she put their bodies into plastic containers in her garage. She said she meant to dispose of them but never got around to it."

But never got around to it. Ah yes, that age-old excuse. How many of us have forgotten to throw out leftovers or overripe fruit? Can't you see yourself thinking: That reminds me, I have to throw out that dead cat stuffed inside the seat cushion. Let me just finish this episode of "Charles in Charge."
It now appears likely that Deutsche Bank will cofinance the Washington Nationals' new stadium to the tune of $246 million.

The new name of the stadium will be Deutsche Bank Park ... und Reichpalast.

Pass the Courvoisier

First there were the wine tastings. Then the Scotch tastings. And now, cognac--specifically Courvoisier. Formerly the drink of emperors and kings, it is now the drink of choice for P. Diddy and Busta Rhymes. And also of certain Galley Slaves, particularly when it's free, as it was last night at the Courvoisier tasting at trendy Indebleu restaurant in downtown D.C. (The place is a fusion of Indian and, um, bleu?) But there was no confusion over the drinks, poured into four glasses denoting the four marks: VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), Napoleon, and XO Imperial. Our guide was the glamorous Nina Shay, officially called an "ambassodrice" for Courvoisier. (Not that there is an embassy of Courvoisier, or a Republic of Courvoisier for that matter.) Contrary to my hero A.J. Liebling, I found these cognacs to be better than Calvados, his drink of choice. The VSOP was especially refined, with a smooth finish.

Interestingly, some of the tasters preferred the VSOP over the pricier varieties of Napoleon and XO. "They're too complex!" said Galley friend M.C., at first a skeptic who, when asked if he could smell the vanilla, chocolate, citrus, and cigar aromas from his glass, replied, "I know what I smell--bullshit!" But he eventually came around and was even named an honorary ambassadrice by some of the ladies at our table. Another issue concerned the new tagline for Courvoisier, which is "Earn It." M.C. thought a more preferable slogan would be "Sniff It."

There was no argument, however, over our final tasting of the limited edition L'Esprit de Courvoisier, which contained blends ranging from 70 and 200 years in age. "When this is gone, it's gone," said Nina Shay. And so we savored our few precious ounces, knowing that unless we're sharing bottle service with P. Diddy at Ghost Bar, this will be the last time we ever have anything like it. Each bottle runs about $5,000.

Hugh Hewitt, The Dark Prince of Mean

You'll have to take my word for it that Hugh Hewitt is just about the nicest guy in politics. How nice is he? Fred Barnes nice. For serious.

That's why this interview Hugh conducted with Dayn Perry is so particularly striking. Perry is a super-duper lefty who writes a column for (But wait, Rupert Murdoch is an evil neocon super-duper gen--no, don't bother trying to get your head around it. If people from MoveOn were to confront Dayn Perry, their heads might explode.) Anyway, Perry wrote a column in which he said, "I'm on record as saying this: If you've been injured or killed by a bull at Pamplona, then I think it's funny. Now if only Mark Steyn would go and get himself killed."

Not very nice, is it. Compounding his mistake, Perry then agreed to go on Hugh's show where Hugh--who's normally so nice he makes Larry King look like Lucius Malfoy--just destroyed him. And by the way, good for Hugh. It's a sign of good character that what gets Hugh riled up is a low-blow attack on a friend.

Those with weak stomach's should not follow the link. Those who get an evil thrill out of this sort of thing:
Hewitt: All right. Dayn Perry gets credit for coming here and getting his head beat in. But that's okay. It's sort of like...Dayn, I feel like Bob Wickham throwing little league right now. I really do, but I keep it up, because it's fun. Bob Wickham must like to strike out ten year olds, too.

Should definitely read the entire transcript.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

W. Pauline Nicholson, RIP

Sad, sad news. W. Pauline Nicholson--Elvis's cook--has passed on.

The gentle soul who made the King's meatloaf, banana pudding, and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, Nicholson was part of a different time, when people of Elvis's stature didn't fuss over macrobiotic diets.

May she rest in peace.

Galley Slaves: Oliver Stone's 9/11 (cont. again)

Continuing with idea of Oliver Stone directing the first 9/11 movie, a Galley Friend and hot-shot Hollywood writer emails in with this analysis:
On one hand, Stone's not likely to go quietly if he's yanked off (and by the way, as Roger Simon points out, there has indeed been a huge "off with their heads and out of our country" sentiment in GB), which Brad Grey knows could taint the film. On the other hand, Grey clearly doesn't want to misstep right out of the box. On the third hand, it seems so astonishingly tone deaf for Grey to give Stone the film in the first place, given what the red-state reaction is likely to be with Stone at the helm. Predicting what anyone is going to do here is like Johnny Apple telling us that Afghanistan has become a quagmire 48 hours after the Marines landed. In other words, I don't have any idea.

Yet I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we start to hear something about "creative differences" and all that, with Paramount saying that it wanted to go in another direction, thus freeing Stone to do "a pet project that he feels more passionately about," one that they've wanted him to do for a long time--that is, a bribe. I also can't figure out why, if they've got $60 mill to spend on a 9-11 film, that it even GOT TO Stone. That, I think, says more about Hollywood sensibilities than anything else. No other A-list director wanted this? Weird. The only thing I can surmise is that no one wanted to be on record as somehow justifying the war, so to them, Stone's directing is Nixon going to China. They knew they could count on him to bring in the film without it looking the SANDS OF IWO JIMA.

Not that the brain trust at Paramount is asking for my advice, but if I wanted to put an off-beat director on the job after Stone leaves the project, and I didn't want it to look like I was simply giving in to McCarthyite pressure, I'd see if David Lynch would be interested.

As David Skinner recently observed, Lynch doesn't just have depths as a director, he has crystal-clear depths. His talents lend themselves very well to the straight-forward, touching story that Paramount wants to tell. And he's unconventional enough that it won't look like the studio was simply selling out to popular demand. No one in the arts community could pick a fight with the decision to hire Lynch.

P.S.: Lest you think I'm an anti-Stone partisan, I would argue that while his work is uneven, Any Given Sunday is the best sports movie ever made.

How's them for fightin' words?

The Walk To Cure Diabetes

Time for you to do a good deed. The Cake Editrix is raising money for a Diabetes Walk to help benefit, in part, her very adorable nephew James.

Go read her touching post on the subject and, if you can, help out.

Oliver Stone's 9/11 (cont.)

Following up on last night's call for an over-under on how long Oliver Stone gets to stay at the helm of Paramount's 9/11 project is this morning's piece on Stone in the LA Times. Key graph:
The director himself thinks that a film about 9/11 should have "been done right away. I don't think you should run from things. You should confront them. It's better for the country. Look at the English [reaction to the recent London subway bombings]. They took it and absorbed it and continued on. They didn't run around and call for huge pieces of legislation costing billions of dollars to defend our homeland and create a huge war in a foreign country."

So Stone apparently believes that terrorist attacks should be "absorbed," but not preempted, or defended against. Let's move that over-under line up a few days.

America's Best Town (cont.)

If you thought I was simply being excitable the other day when I raged against the incompetance of the Money magazine editors who picked my home town, Moorestown, NJ, as America's best town, I now have further proof that these hacks have absolutely no idea what they're talking about.

The Philadelphia NBC station reports that Money magazine's 28th best town in America--Wexford, PA--doesn't exist.

Wexford, you see, is a postal designation, not a town. It has no mayor. No borders. No main street. The USPS simply uses "Wexford" has shorthand for an area comprising parts of four other towns.

Really, shouldn't someone at Money lose their job over this?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oliver Stone's 9/11

Mickey Kaus is riding the story of Paramount tapping Oliver Stone to direct the first 9/11 movie. He has the goods, including Stone referring to the terrorist attacks as a "revolt."

Anyone want to set the over-under for when Paramount dumps Stone, appoints a bland director like Chris Columbus, and then quietly disappears the project into turnaround?

I'll start the bidding at 4 weeks.

Lil' Penny, RIP

Galley Friend B.W. sends along this sad report on the death of Lil'Penny:
St. Louis, MO – Li'l Penny Hardaway, who rose to fame in the early 1990’s as the diminutive television alter ego of then-Orlando Magic star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, was found dead Tuesday in the decrepit bathroom of a notorious East St. Louis crack house.

In my younger days, I used to tell people, "You can't guard me. The Secret Service couldn't guard me." Lil' Penny was an inspiration to us all.

Cats. Now and Forever.

Here's a real hair-raising story from today's Washington Post: Over the weekend, police and animal control officials entered the home of Ruth Knueven in Mount Vernon, Virginia, where they literally stumbled upon 273 cats--86 of them dead. Authorities responded after receiving neighborhood complaints of a foul odor emanating from the Knueven house. As of yesterday, writes Post staff writer Leef Smith, "Cats were still being plucked from the house ... extracted from the walls and from deep within the brick chimney." Needless to say, the house, described as "overflowing with feline feces and urine," has since been condemned. But the real shocker is this: Knueven doesn't live alone. In fact, the 82-year-old is married and has a daughter, all of whom reside there.

I am sure this all started as a selfless act of taking in a stray. (Even my sister and her husband took in a feral kitten that has practically become the subject of every single conversation I have with them. It usually starts with, "You'll never guess what Dusty did today!") In any event, even if the Knuevens meant well, their domicile is simply not equipped to handle such numbers. Besides that, where does the family eat and sleep? Sadly the cats are now destined for destruction.

I know what you're thinking. Thank God we made it through this item without the usual eye-rolling puns. But suddenly I am feeling possessed by the spirit of Gene Shalit, who is now in command of my keyboard:

What a cat-astrophe! What a purr-dicament! Talk about cats on a hot tin roof! Get MEOWt of here!

Gene could've said more, but he wasn't feline like it. (His spirit is now commanding me to get lunch.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Kaus-Sullivan: No Mas

Really, there are lines that even I won't cross. Here's Mickey Kaus with what is the end of his friendship with Andrew Sullivan:
Sullivan: HIV Made Me More Modest! Oh, wait. Sorry. What he actually wrote was:

HIV transformed my life, made me a better and braver writer ....

That's one big Rubicon. Something must have transpired between them in private, no?

TV's Bloopers and Other Atrocities

My colleague David Skinner must really hate me, for he just left in my office an unopened copy of America's Funniest Home Videos: Volume 1 with Tom Bergeron. This prized package includes 12 episodes on 3 DVDs, plus the bonus disc with the anniversary 300th episode (parts 1 and 2!) and, best of all: "A Thousand Guaranteed Laughs!"

A thousand, really? The liner notes describe America's Funniest Home Videos (or AFHV) as "an American institution.... From practical jokes to home improvement plans gone awry, from animal mishaps to just flat out strange behavior..." Enough already. Things went downhill ever since the first few seasons of TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon. Remember the "practical joke" played on Shirley Jones involving a talking parrot that was really a robot? Or the melting ice-sculpture of Jerry Lewis? Or the knock-off show Bloopers, Bleeps, and Blunders hosted by Steve Lawrence and Don Rickles? And why did I waste so many precious hours of my youth watching this instead of reading porn?

This latest DVD should come with a warning: That watching these shows will numb the brain, that whether it be Tom Bergeron or Bob Saget, root canal is still preferable. These tapes should be sent to Guantanamo. Interrogators can then pose the ultimate question to a terrorist:

Either tell us who is in your network or one more episode of "CAT FALLS OFF TV!!!"

Moorestown, Triumphant?

I've always been skeptical of the glossy magazine tendency to rank things. Atlanta's Top Doctors! Missouri's Best High Schools! New England's #1 Chowder!

These rankings must be a crock, right? I mean, how could some dopey editor actually survey all the doctors in the Atlanta metro area? Or, for that matter, all the chowder in New England? These exercises must be bogus, right? I've suspected as much, but now I have proof.

Money magazine has just ranked America's "Best Places to Live" for 2005. Yup, these geniuses have performed the Herculean task of surveying every town, from sea to shining sea, compiling a careful set of metrics, and ranking the towns accordingly. I'm sure the editors at Money are all very nice people, but they're also frauds. Gigantic, stinking hacks. How do I know this? Because I grew up America's #1 Town (for 2005)--sunny, beautiful Moorestown, New Jersey.

Mind you, there's nothing wrong with Moorestown. It's a perfectly pleasant little berg. It has a nice main street, reasonably good public schools, and an unbelievably kick-ass program of girls sports. (During my time at Moorestown High, the girls' soccer, field hockey, tennis, and lacrosse teams all won multiple state championships. Those programs are all still dominant today, as is the girls cross-country program, which has also added a couple won state championships. If you want your daughter to get an athletic scholarship to college, Moorestown might well be your #1 town.)

But Moorestown's best days are behind it. In the last 15 years the township has been plagued by sprawl as the town council granted virtually unlimited rights to the Toll Brothers to develop every last inch of land. Moorestown used to be stately houses, well-planned subdivisions, and acres of peach orchards. Today you're hard-pressed to find a single tree where the farmland used to be. McMansions huddle next to each other on itsy-bitsy parcels of land. The quaint demeanor the Money editors admire is now indistinguishable from nearby Marlton or Medford.

The town's infrastructure is set to buckle under the population boom--there simply aren't enough roads to get new residents quickly from their homes to Route 38 and I-295--which most of them will take to their jobs. The school system, once one of the best in New Jersey, has been passing a series of ill-advised bond measures to fill in the gaps as the school-age population has just about doubled in less than a decade. The system's shortcomings have been papered over so far, but only just, and the biggest glut of kids is on the horizon. Yet the town still has no long-term plan. Anyone who spent even 36 hours in Moorestown researching the community would uncover this problems easily.

(And what type of people are living in these McMansions and sending their kids to the schools? Remember Blair Hornstine, the girl who, at the urging of her father, sued her school to be valedictorian? That was Moorestown.)

Moorestown, in other words, has, for years now, been passing the buck through bad management. It has a nest of problems all beginning to manifest themselves. Did I love growing up there? You betcha. Is it still a great place to raise kids? Sure. But is it the "#1 Town in America"? Absolutely not. It isn't even the #1 town in South Jersey. (That would be Haddonfield.)

The goal of this, mind you, isn't to knock Moorestown, for which I have a great deal of affection. The point is that the people at Money don't have any idea what our country's "best town" is. And by pretending that they do somehow "know" this great unknowable cardinality, the editors and their sham rankings only reinforce to the world how arrogant and idiotic and intellectually bankrupt most journalists are.

Like we needed the help.

We Had It Coming

There have been a good number of reporting pieces and op-eds published lately (such as in this week's Weekly Standard) about the London bombings and their aftermath. Unfortunately, Candida Crewe's column in the Washington Post is not one of them. The author expresses no surprise that the attacks occurred: "I mean, why should our country, with Blair so much in Bush's pocket, and so much a part of the Iraq fray, have continued to get off scot-free?" Crewe panics when she thinks her au pair might have been on that double-decker bus. Thankfully she wasn't and Crewe considers her experience "piffling." But she goes on to say that "I suspect that Blair's co-dependent love affair with George Bush and our repellent involvement in Iraq is largely responsible for today's 'inevitable.'" Repellent indeed.

Crewe admits that "our 'stiff upper lip' is quivering a little. With full-blown anger as well as low-burn fear for the future." I think it's clear where she directs her "full-blown anger," and it's not at the Finsbury mosque.

Incidentally, the title of Crewe's memoir is Eating Myself, which I am fairly certain is banned in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The book, that is.

How to Tell You're Not from Jersey

Galley Friend B.W. emails this story:
My mother-in-law swung by and babynapped our son Billy this morning to take him to the park along with a friend of hers and the friend's grandkid. The little girl's name? Camden.

Is There a Cherry Anniversary?

Galley Mom AMJCL calls in with a report that today is the 40th Anniversary of the Slurpee. Excellent news for all.

The Slurpee is a favorite of my youth, and was nearly always consumed as post-tennis or basketball refreshment, along with a bag of Smartfood. Oh, the joys of a growing up in New Jersey idyll.

Of course, you don't care about that. But you may care that 7-11 is serving up free Slurpees all day in celebration. Go. Enjoy. And if you can, mix the Cherry and Coke flavors, and pour some for your homey.

Nobody Knows Anything?

Last Friday I was unkind to Marvel's theatrical version of Fantastic Four and I closed my review by predicting confidently that there was no hope of a sequel ever being made, as the movie would likely be a career-ender for director Tim Story.

As of this morning, Fantastic Four has grossed $56 million, exceeding Fox's wildest expectations and all but guaranteeing both a sequel and a never-ending stream of work for Mr. Story. Look who the genius is.

Still, I stand by my review--or at least the non-falsifiable parts of it. Fantastic Four is the worst-made movie I've seen in theaters in at least two years. The film promises nothing and delivers even less. That this dreck is able to open wide is immensely depressing.

Harmonic Convergence

Andrew Sullivan finishes his Karl Rove wrap-up with this pointer:
Kinsley differs from the NYT in an interesting piece of counter-intuitive reasoning here.

But of course!

Friday, July 08, 2005

It Takes Two

I'm just thinking out loud here, but it seems to me that the politics of having two Supreme Court vacancies almost necessitates that Bush nominate two very conservative judges. Why? Consider his three options:

(1) Nominate two moderates. Signs a death warrant for Republican senatorial candidates on 2006. No way.

(2) Nominate a moderate and a conservative. This virtually assures that the conservative nominee will be filibustered, no matter how qualified he or she is. Democrats can point to the squishy nominee they’re letting through and then solemnly intone that they aren’t obstructionists, it’s just that they can’t in good conscience vote for the Neanderthal/fascist the president has nominated for the other seat. It’s a win-win proposition for Democrats and a sure loser for Bush.

(3) Nominate two staunch conservatives. If Bush nominates two judges whose conservative views are almost indistinguishable, Democrats won’t be able to oppose one without opposing both. And if they’re opposing two of the president’s nominees, they’ll have an awfully hard time not looking like knee-jerk partisan obstructionists.

Even if the president wanted to nominate a moderate like Alberto Gonzales, having two vacancies makes it very difficult for him to do so. My guess is, having the second seat open turns the Court from being a sticky wicket into a huge winner for Republicans (provided Bush picks smart, clean people).


Is anti-Thetanism the last socially acceptable bigotry? There's no other explanation as to why the normally docile--nay, subservient--entertainment press has simply killed Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes for their upcoming sham marriage. They've let a thousand bigger contrivances slide, but they seem unwilling to let this go until one part of the happy couple says, "Xenu be damned, you're right: It was all a stunt!"

The latest broadside comes from W magazine, with a story so mean it could have appeared in Spy or the New York Observer. Read it in toto; it's hard to believe. So mean, in fact, that it even makes me a little uneasy.

Well, not really.
Props go out to the Old Man, George H.W. Bush, who, along with wife Barbara, was seen dining the other night at Morton's Steakhouse in downtown Washington. According to the Washington Post, about ten groups, consisting of children and adults, went up to get their picture with the former first couple, who happily obliged. But where credit is due is in what exactly the 81-year-old skydiver ate: oysters on the half shell, a Porterhouse steak, and chocolate cake. (No bottle of Ensure for this guy!)

Hollywood Classics Watch

David Ansen has an interesting piece in Newsweek asking if today's famous stars are making movies which will last. Ansen looks at the "batting averages" of today's leading men and ladies and stacks them up against the likes of Cary Grant. Pretty good stuff.

The only problem is that Ansen ignores Tom Hanks, who is about as close a thing as we have to a throw-back star, and who's batting average of wheat-to-chaff is probably the best of any working A-list actor.

(Also, God bless him, Ansen exposes Brad Pitt for the fraud that he is. His drawing power is about on par with Jessica Alba's, but yet everyone insists he's "Hollywood royalty." Why is that? Adam Sandler movies open twice as big as Pitt vehicles, but no one gives him the recognition he deserves.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

This is London

Just some of what I’m reading this afternoon. Andrew Sullivan is without equal today as one would expect. For pics, I’ve visited The Guardian. For angry liberal brits, I’ve visited
Life’s Rich Pageant and, shades of the Nick Hornby character in How to Be Good the Yorkshire Ranter. For a sip of Brit Stoicism, Tim Worstall might be your cup of tea.

First Person by Second Person

A new pet peeve of mine is the use of the phrase "first person" by editors looking for a new name for profiles and interviews. The Washington Post magazine has a "first person" feature, in which the first person, the subject of the article, does not actually write the piece. Yes, "first person" written by someone else. And now the phoney new lifestyle magazine Washington D.C. Style calls its short profile of 16-year-old soccer phenom Freddy Adu a "first person" piece, though it is written by one Robert Strauss. I would like to read a history of decorative type in which words and punctuation and intentional misspelling are used for the sake of their debatable visual appeal as opposed to their actual functions. One would think that professional writers and editors would be the last to go along with this patent insult to the very knowledge they've presumably spent years and years acquiring.

Why Bush Should Nominate Ponch

Republicans looking for political gains in the Hispanic vote with a Gonzalez nomination may want to consider an even more popular Hispanic who was also sworn to uphold the law. I'm talking about Erik Estrada, aka Officer Francis Llewellyn 'Ponch' Poncherello, . Thanks to the Volokh conspiracy for dragging out an important 2003 Washington Times story.

I'm with Erasmus, who has an excellent quote from the Last Lion.

Over at Daily Kos . . .

The lefty fringe behaves as expected. From the open thread on the London attacks:
I'm waiting for Bush's Iraq spin.

by AnthonySF on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 08:14:51 PDT

* * *

I'm waiting for Bush's Iran spin.

by doink on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 08:31:42 PDT

* * *

Bush said . . . For Americans to be on guard going to work this morning or something to that effect in the articles I am reading. You might know he would try to get Americans to be afraid. He invokes Fear instead of making us feel safer.

I am sure he figures this tragedy will scare Americas and help his support of War.

by wishingwell on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 08:46:47 PDT

* * *

I'm sure we wouldn't have been "on guard" had our blessed f'ing President not told us so. You know, I'm just a simpleton who can only do things my daddy tells me.

And it's not our job to be on guard, it's his, and he's been asleep at the wheel before. His job is to protect us, not scare the shit out of us further (terrorist attacks do that already).

Take your sunshine and stick it up your ass.

by iowasteele on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 09:07:19 PDT

* * *

oh, yes, lather up with fear

No need to actually guard the transit systems, ports, coastlines, nuclear plants.

Just froth at the mouth and pack up for Tehran!

The wilful and PATHOLOGICAL neglect/incompetence of this administration is stunning.

They demand our support because of the danger they aided and abetted.

Oh yeah, and you are far more likely to be killed in your SUV than to be killed by a terrorist.

by texan in exile on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 09:15:37 PDT

* * *

Is Tony Blair's Regime Over?

. . . Tony Blair put all of his anti-terrorist
"eggs" in George Walker Bush's scheme to keep terrorists occupied in Iraq, to supposedly help deflect terrorist attacks elsewhere.

The war on terror being conducted by Tony Blair and George Walker Bush is an abject failure.

by wdrath on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 08:14:57 PDT

* * *

do you think

blair might use this event as a rallying point for the rest of his term? by all accounts this is horrible and reflects poorly on blair, but so did 9/11 for Bush, and we know how that turned out.

i know there was a lot of speculation he would step down next year or in 2007 and let Brown take over. But maybe he can spin this like Bush used/s 9/11, and stay around for as long he likes?

by bearever on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 08:24:59 PDT

* * *


I think all the people of the world are sophisticated to that kind of trickery now, having witnessed it in action in such spectacular fashion over here.

[long excerpt cut--JVL]

Our history informs our subconscious that shit could always be a great deal worse. I believe that's the fundamental difference between America and Britain. The British national psyche has a much longer history of experience and so we lack an overall willingness to follow behind one person who claims to know a path through the dark forest. We don't need that one person; we are all confident we can find our way out again, like we did last time.

We have been there, done that, know what I mean? Londoners and Brits in general are just not that impressed by things that go on these days. They're not as ready to do the sheeple thing.

This is why I, as a Brit, am imploring people to keep the spotlight on important stories here in America and not let London have all of everyone's attention. Please. :)

by Loquatrix on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 08:45:12 PDT

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Blair and Bush have made the U.K. and the U.S.

LESS safe.

When are we going to adopt this talking point?

What has Bush done to make us safer? Our entire military is in Iraq. If Bush chose to direct even a fraction of the billions that went into Iraq to our subways, ports, chemical plants, etc., we might be safer.

Don't let Bush exploit this - don't let him do this again. And if it happens in the U.S., will Democrats roll over again?

by diana04 on Thu Jul 7th, 2005 at 09:17:31 PDT

It goes on and on and on.

Thoughts on a Morning of Terror

We have a routine in my house most mornings. My wife takes the first shower, I stop in the study on my way to the kitchen to start breakfast. In the study I quickly check the headlines to make sure that the world is still standing before I start scrambling the egg whites. Most days everything's fine. Some days it's not.

A few initial thoughts:

* I would not want to be London's Mitt Romney--in charge of organizing their Olympics. One of the great advantages of having the Olympics in Salt Lake was that the city didn't have an enormous soft-target of a public transit system, like the Underground. Whoever has that job won't be getting much sleep tonight.

* We should all be proud of our president. In direct contrast to his reactions on September 11, 2001, he was clear-minded, strong, and very nearly eloquent this morning:
The contrast between what we've seen on the TV screens here, what's taken place in London and what's taking place here is incredibly vivid to me. On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill -- those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.

The war on terror goes on. I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room. Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them, we will bring them to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.

That's good, strong stuff.

* Anyone who buys the line that these attacks are in response to Britain's role in Iraq and Afghanistan should be ridden out of town on a rail. You know what terrorists do? They kill people. It's who they are. They don't need provocations and their "reasoning" is always post facto. The people of Bali weren't fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. There was no Iraq and Afghanistan on September 11 or at Khobar Towers.

There is no appeasing these people. If the Western allies pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, there would still be attacks for some other slight--maybe the affront of having troops in Saudi Arabia. If our Zionist infidel troops were pulled out of the Hijaz, there would still be attacks because there are Jews in the Holy Land. If the Jews were scrubbed out of the Holy Land, there would still be attacks because there are Gucci stores in Riyadh. It never ends. And so we should care not at all about why these monsters tell us they are making war against us.

What we should care about is making them dead, as quickly as possible. To their credit, George W. Bush and Tony Blair seem to understand this.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I had been meaning for some time to remark on the supposed resemblance between Iran's president elect Mahmoud Ahmadenejad and that of a young revolutionary during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. But don't they mean F. Murray Abraham?

Better Late Than Never?

Fox finally places a story in the entertainment press about The Inside--days after letting the show expire on the table.

Could this mean they're not entirely sure they want to pull the plug?

Dutch Treats

They say the best French fries can't be found in France, but rather in Belgium. I've never been to Belgium (except passing through on a train) but I can tell you the best fries I've ever had were from a snack stand in Rotterdam. I was visiting my sister's in-laws, who are Dutch, and live in the bucolic town of Papendrecht, southeast of Rotterdam. I sampled the local fare, including deep-fried croquettes stuffed with a sausage paste, Frikandel (deep-fried sausage), and Saucijzenbroodje (pastry stuffed with sausage and probably deep-fried). Yes, it was a real Saucij-fest. But what stood out clearly were the fries, or Patat, as they call it. They're medium-sized (larger than the ones at McDonald's), with a golden-crisp exterior and a white, tender interior, piping hot. Of course it came with mayonnaise--but in their defense, it was more like Miracle Whip. And yes, it was delicious.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

X-Men 3 and Hookers

Galley Brother B.J. sends along this link with news about X-Men 3. The news is--surprise!--not good:
Brett Ratner is spicing up the new X-Men 3 movie with the addition of his very own fantasy - a sex siren mutant who seduces her opponents rather than battles them. Ratner takes over from departing director Bryan Singer, who made the first two movies, and the Rush Hour film maker is determined to leave his mark on the comic book series. The new mutant has not yet been cast but unknowns Kate Nauta and Aya Sumika will reportedly audition. A source tells the mutant will be, "An unbelievably hot and sexy hooker. Her super power is that she secretes a pheromone that helps her to seduce men. She can seduce anyone." The source adds of the auditions, "They are open to all ethnicities who are in their early-to-mid 20s."

Even so, it will be hard for X3 to get under the bar which has been lowered by Fantastic Four, which may be the worst comic book movie ever. Makes Batman Forever look like Bridge on the River Kwai.
Congratulations to NASA for successfully colliding a space probe into the speeding comet Tempel 1. The comet quickly broke apart into two distinct pieces about the size of Texas. Scientists say one of the particles will hit northwestern Canada while the other will land in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in approximately three days.

More Advertising Excellence from VW

Singin' in the Rain and Gene Kelly receive a lovely tribute in this wonderful commercial for the new Golf GTI. John Pod on the Corner tipped me off to this. But credit goes to DDB of London and this guy who dances under the name Elsewhere.


"Your Terrorists are Our Heroes," say the Islamic Thinkers Society in Queens. See the fine NYObserver story on the case of Kristine Withers, the conservative lesbian after a little set-to with local Islamists.

Also from Queens. Yesterday, Hanna Rosin had a nice essay in the Washington Post about growing up in a poor immigrant family in Briarwood. She also had a teriffic piece in the New Yorker recently on Patrick Henry College in Virginia, which specializes in educating home-schoolers and sending them off to Washington D.C.

Tear Down This Monument

The city of Berlin has succeeded in dismantling the Checkpoint Charlie memorial, which included crosses honoring those East Germans who tried to escape and paid with their lives. A few of those persecuted by the GDR protested the destruction of the memorial but were forcibly removed. As always, Davids Medienkritik has much to say on this as well as photos of the travesty.

The Bad News

is that The Inside is on the way out.

The good news is that Tim Minear looks on the bright side:
When I spoke to one my cast members about this, he offered that I must "be crushed." I'm not. This is pretty much what I expected, which doesn't mean I didn't pour every bit of energy, time and care I had into 13 episodes for the last year. I never consider it a waste of time. Or a waste of, well, their money. DVDs have changed a lot. If I end up being some little Americanized BBC, churning out limited series for DVD, and the people who employ me want to keep handing over 20 or 30 million dollars for me to do that, then I'll be perfectly content. There's something nice about being able to go from a hard drinking space western to a hard drinking whimsical comedy to a hard drinking abyss peering noir.

Update, 4:11 p.m.: Erasmus puts it well: "Fox continues its self-designated rôle as the network most willing to put on interesting, unusual series and then yank them far too quickly."

The Brussels Journal

The Brussels Journal is a new, and incredibly useful, blog about Europe run by, among others, my friend Paul Belien. Must reading.