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No. No. No.

Posted by Alameida
on 02.19.05

My dear, dear Fontana Labs. No. I know Brad DeLong would like us to think otherwise, and I am willing to believe that in real life Larry Summers is very nice to children and small dogs, and has a rare talent for ikebana, but the things that he said in that talk lead to the ineluctable conclusion that he is a jerk.

He is not particularly cautious about his proferred conclusions, ostensible hedging notwithstanding. No one says, "my sense is that [this is] the unfortunate truth" when he is not pretty certain he is right. Also, he is not a stoned undergrauduate who's just "throwing some ideas out there." He's the president of Harvard delivering a speech which he wrote in advance.

The crux of the biscuit is this. No one can read Summers' speech without coming away with the clear sense that he is rather deeply committed to the following claim: in a world of perfect equality of opportunity, in a university administered by men and women of the greatest goodwill, and (this is important) in a world in which some solution, gender-neutral in effect, has been found to the current culture of 80-hour weeks, etc., male research scientists and mathematicians would still greatly outnumber female ones. And since there isn't any evidence to support this claim I conclude he is a sexist prick. I'm sorry, but there it is.

Well, OK, there is one piece of evidence: some back-of-the-envelope calculations he did on the basis of the top 5% of 12th graders in math and science, in the USA. From this he derives the, admittedly sketchy, figure of a male female ratio at the very highest levels of achievement of 5:1. Can I just laugh here for a minute? Can I point out that in Iceland girls outperform boys on these tests? Can I make the wild, crazy claim that by 12th grade, American boys and girls just might have been exposed to some slight degree of socialization, and that taking these results as if they emanated from the Platonic forms of male and female achievement is just unbelievable, rank idiocy? Finally, can I point out that I am very sure he could run the same numbers with white vs. black achievements in science and math among U.S. 12th-graders and come to the conclusion that, absent other factors, whites should outnumber blacks at the highest levels by 10:1? And that he is very, very unlikely to do so?

Further, since believing this would (rather conveniently) excuse Summers from any blame which might otherwise attach to presiding over a decline in the number of tenured women in the sciences, it is hard not to catch a whiff of self-interest here.

Can we all just agree that there is a world of difference between proposing some serious research into the possibility of greater variation in mathematical ability among men and just flatly stating that such differences both a) exist and b) are sufficiently powerful in effect that they have a greater impact than sexism in determining who ends up a mathematician or research scientist? I do not think there is a pressing need for a Poor Man's Stephen Pinker. We will get along just fine with Pinker himself.

Now, as to why the tone of the speech makes for uncharitable interpreters. BitchPhD may be playing dirty pool with the "Negroes" thing, but seriously, starting with the whole "black people are so good at basketball" schitck does not incline me to take you seriously as an unbiased investigator into the truth. (I am marginally more welcoming to those East African runners; less welcoming to the notion that black people are "musical".) But FL, you cite it as evidence in Summers' favor that his three examples are all plausibly 100% socially determined. It sems rather to count very much against him. Why, having offered up three cases of underrepresentation which can easily be entirely explained in historical or sociological terms, does he turn around and say that he believes genetic variation is a more salient feature than various forms of discrimination and subtle bias in the case of of women in the sciences? Only because he is quite thoroughly convinced that this is so.

Similarly, the "mommy truck" anecdote is just total BS. For this tale to have any traction, it requires a premise: that his daughters are being raised in an environment free from sexism. Nonetheless, even in this rarefied atmosphere of equality which pervades the Summers home, they are just the most nurturing little future mommies EVAR. Wow, I'm convinced!

To give Summers a little credit, as per Brad DeLong's plea, he does recognize that the demands of a sucessful career in math or science are gruelling ones which, taken together with a society which places the burden of choice between family/work almost exclusively on women, lead to fewer women scientists and mathematicians. This is true. Summers is not necessarily endorsing this. What he says is logically consistent with a desire to reform the current system in such a way as to make it more friendly to women and men who want lives outside of work. But, given that he shot his credibility completely with the genetic variation claim (i.e., ranking it above socialization and bias in search/hiring, on the basis of, um, nothing) I am not inclined to be charitable. On an uncharitable reading, what he says slides very close to this: "women are less likely to choose this type of high-powered job because they lack the committment to work that is required, because they're always thinking about their children." This is how he puts it briefly, after all: "...who wants to do high-powered intense work?" (emphasis mine). If that's what he thinks, then there's really not much to be done about it, given that the president of Harvard is not plausibly in much of a position to change the amount of time women spend thinking about children, and poof! his job is a lot easier. It's not a matter of saying, as DeLong would have it, "I recognize that the problems are deep ones which won't be solved merely by the creation of a few more committees; thus we must work towards more thoroughgoing changes." Rather, it's this: "I recognize that the problems are deep ones which won't be solved merely by the creation of a few more committees, so let's disband all these bullshit committes and call it a day; we might as well work on changing the color of the sky because we don't like it."

Finally, let's consider two possible worlds, A and B. In world A, greater genetic variation in mathematical ability among men means that at the very highest levels of achievement, all other things being equal, men will outnumber women. In world B, this is not the case; if all other things truly are equal, men and women will achieve parity. Let's further stipulate that both worlds have suffered from crippling sexism for thousands of years, that women were only allowed to be voting citizens of democratic countries within recent memory, and that in the world as a whole, women are often regarded as chattel, and remain illiterate out of all proportion to their male counterparts. Finally, let's stipulate that in developed counties, these barriers are being progressively eliminated.

When we compare the ratio of men to women achieving at the highest level in world A to world B, we might plausibly see more or less the same picture, until we reach a point--let's call it time t, for a laugh--at which all barriers of sexism and bias have fallen and the sole mechanism at work is genetic variability. (Let's imagine that we hold the "who wants a high-powered job" variable steady).

Now, I am open to the suggestion that we may, in fact, live in world A. But anyone who thinks that the present is time t is pretty obviously a sexist prick.


 

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Interviews?

Posted by Ogged
on 02.19.05

The New York Times finally gets around to writing about podcasting, and maybe I'm being uncharitable, but it would have been nice if they'd bothered to tell us what podcasting is. The author assumes that podcasting is the same as putting self-produced audio on the web, but the true geek-person definition requires that the audio be availabe in an RSS feed, which listeners can subscribe to. The idea is that programs you subcribe to are automatically downloaded and synchronized with your mp3 player. It's not the same as saying "Click here to download my latest mp3." But forget that, I don't really care.

I do care about self-produced audio though, because there are some things that are much more helpfully done in audio. For a few weeks, I've been kicking around the idea of doing interviews and posting mp3s here. There's tons of stuff to read about Social Security, but wouldn't it be cool to have someone interview Brad DeLong and have him lay it out in a give-and-take? And I suspect that it's possible to get politicians who want to reach out to the "netroots" to participate, which would offer a chance to ask decent questions, which could be solicited in advance from the people of blogdom.

Whaddya think? Would you ever download and listen to an interview conducted by a blogger?

Or, how about Labs and the Apostropher reading cock jokes for half an hour?


 

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Life On Mars

Posted by Ogged
on 02.19.05

I'd resolved not to post about Instapundit, but now that we're wishing his wife well, maybe you'll indulge me in one for old time's sake.

Glenn sure seems to have become a partisan hack, but this post makes me think he's just settled into a hackish blogging formula. Here's the whole thing.

LIFE ON MARS: Phil Bowermaster wonders why this story isn't getting more attention:

A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting here Sunday that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water. . . .

What Stoker and Lemke have found, according to several attendees of the private meeting, is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth.

If it's not green-skinned alien babes -- preferably with White House press passes -- the Big Media folks probably don't care much. Still, as Phil observes: "If, like me, you suspect that there is probably life elsewhere in the universe, what does it say about how abundant life may be if we just happen to find some on, oh, you know...the next planet over? "
On the other hand, as this report from Jules Crittenden notes (and as Phil suggests, too) it's partly a case of caution lest the story not pan out.

See? Just like his partisan hack posts: Quote someone wondering why something we've all heard about hasn't gotten more attention, add an ill-considered snarky comment, then take it all back (sorta kinda) with an addendum.

It's hard to post as much as Glenn does, and I don't mean this as an excuse, or even a full explanation, but maybe it's not so surprising that he writes such maddening posts: he really hasn't thought about them much.


 

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Can The Ape Talk, Or Not?

Posted by Ogged
on 02.19.05

I'm sure Santorum saw this coming.

Two former employees of the Gorilla Foundation, home to Koko the "talking" ape, have filed a lawsuit contending that they were ordered to bond with the 33-year-old female simian by displaying their breasts.
Nancy Alperin and Kendra Keller, both of San Francisco, are taking on the Woodside nonprofit and its president, Francine "Penny" Patterson.

Emphasis mine.

Patterson said, 'Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples. I will turn my back so Kendra can show you her nipples.' "

I'm totally going to start using this line at work. "Why doesn't Word remember your style settings? Probably because it hasn't seen nipples in ages. Go ahead...."


 

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Tapes

Posted by Ogged
on 02.19.05

In some senses, politically, George Bush the man doesn't matter anymore. Or, I don't have any interest in thinking about him. Nevertheless, one of his friends taped their conversations over a period of years, and here's a summary.

Oh, and yeah, of course this is a betrayal of friendship by Wead.


 

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Porn Spam

Posted by Ogged
on 02.18.05

Aw, for the love of Pete. I just got an email from someone at work letting me know that she's received "obscene emails" and, what's more, she threw in the words "hostile work environment." Not good.

She's not complaining personally, she says, but someone else might sue. My personal (silent) reaction was, "Are you friggin' kidding me?" But she's right.

Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA, who writes about workplace harassment law, says the e-mail's origin doesn't matter.
"Just as an employer has a duty to protect from patrons and other people--like the (delivery) guy who fondles a secretary--there's a good theory saying a company has a duty to filter (offensive e-mail) even if the employees are being harassed entirely from far outside the company walls," Volokh said. "If the employer is reasonably capable of filtering the material, and if it doesn't do that, it would be held liable."

And now, because she's brought it up, we can't ignore it, or wait for someone to complain. Off I go, making a reasonable good-faith effort to block incoming nudie pictures...


 

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Okonomiyaki

Posted by Bob
on 02.18.05

The Philadelphia Weekly's Lauren McCutcheon on the okonomiyaki at Maido!, a charming Japanese market -- with lunch counter -- in suburban Philly:

Okonomiyaki is it. The menu describes the specialty as a pizza and pancake. I say it's a simultaneously fluffy and dense patty that makes maki look like sissy fare. Yam, egg and flour go into the batter, transforming it from crepe to belly-buster. Cabbage, scallions, beets and pickled ginger are also in the mix, along with tiny shrimp, shredded pork or mozzarella. It's the anti-pancake.

To be fair, this isn't the first publication to detail Maido!'s massive flapjack. I'm not the first to explain how wooden spatulas fluff and flip it, how it eventually receives a generous squeeze of tangy brown vegetable sauce and [squeeze-bottle mayonaise-analogue] Kewpie, applied in a crosshatch zigzag. Then it gets a finishing-touch sprinkling of silvery bonito fish flakes, added just before the flapjack hits the Chinette.

But one detail of the mega-patty is always overlooked. Those filmy fish bits touch down, stick to the top of the patty and--here it is--wave back and forth, like amber waves of grain or underwater plant life.

There the flakes stay--and sway--until the eater has managed to dissect the dish with chopsticks (a lengthy task for the chopstick-challenged). The heat from inside the okonomiyaki compels the flakes to move, as if they were alive--or at least battery-powered.

This is the coolest culinary trick in recent memory. And Maido! is the only spot on the East Coast that's doing it.

That last bit, of course, isn't true. New York has plenty of okonomiyaki joints, and I'm sure some of them do the bonito thing. Also, she's wrong that it's heat that "compels" the bonito flakes to move. It's rising air that does that. But Maido!'s okonomiyaki are (is?) really good.


 

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Our thoughts and best wishes are with the Reynolds family

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.18.05

Glenn Reynolds' wife is in the hospital dealing with some rhythm issues. Cardiology reaches across the partisan divide, as we at Unfogged know too well, and I certainly hope that all is going well for the 'Insta-Wife.'


 

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You've got mail (and it's not from Blondie)

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.18.05

If the rapture happened, there'd be no believers left to explain the rapture, because they'd all be in heaven with the pretty angels. So the people left behind wouldn't have any way of knowing about the Good News...unless, of course, they got an email:

After the rapture, there will be a lot of speculation as to why millions of people have

just disappeared. Unfortunately, after the rapture, only non believers will be left to come up with answers. You probably have family and friends that you have witnessed to and they just won't listen. After the rapture they probably will, but who will tell them?

We have written a computer program to do just that. It will send an Electronic Message (e-mail) to whomever you want after the rapture has taken place, and you and I have been taken to heaven.

Nonbelievers without email accounts are, apparently, SOL. And those of us with extensive investments with Nigerian business partners might be forgiven for regarding this note with some suspicion:

This may come as a shock to you, but the one who sent you this has been taken

up to heaven.


 

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Art Bunnies

Posted by Ogged
on 02.18.05

I don't think I'd hang one on my wall, but I wouldn't think less of you if you did.

Ok, maybe this one I'd put on my wall.

via girl27


 

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But what does Cornel West think?

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.18.05

Larry Summers has released a transcript of his remarks on women in the sciences, and the controversy isn't going away.

Summers: Bitches ain't shit but hoes and tricks

Lick on deez nutz and suck the dick

Get's the fuck out after you're done

And I hops in my ride to make a quick run.

Well, I can see why people are upset. Helpfully, Cornel West offers his views on Brother Larry, surely winning a special award in the Glenn Reynolds more-in-sadness-than-anger faux-mournful sweepstakes:

"I've been praying for the brother, hoping he would change," Dr. West said in an interview. "It's clear he hasn't changed. I feel bad for Harvard as an institution and as a great tradition. It was good to see the faculty wake up. The chickens have come home to roost."

It's a dirty game, but it's the only one the Man left us to play, and that's the stone cold truth.


 

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Because They Can

Posted by Ogged
on 02.17.05

2400 homes later, am I supposed to be grateful for the official "Water is Wet" inquiry?

Israel's defense minister ordered a halt Thursday to the controversial policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian suicide bombers and gunmen after an internal army review concluded it has not deterred attackers but has inflamed hatred.

I'll just borrow a line from my mom, from when she gets fed up with what governments do to people, in the Middle-East and elsewhere: "Why do they play with people's lives?" It's a damn good question.


 

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Searching

Posted by Ogged
on 02.17.05

A couple of things on this Google Cheat Sheet were new to me, and might be to you too.


 

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Lynne Stewart

Posted by Ogged
on 02.17.05

Maybe I missed it, but I'm still waiting for the good lefties who are so outraged that Howard Dean and Barbara Boxer have been lumped in with Lynne Stewart to note that the prosecution of Lynne Stewart itself is far more disturbing than stupid Republican rhetoric. The end of attorney-client privilege (like torture, and the suspension of habeus corpus) isn't some potential fever-brained threat; it's the policy of the U.S. right now. Andrew Napolitano, former judge and current Fox News commentator (for crying out loud), sums it up.

The Stewart conviction is a travesty. She faces up to 30 years in prison for speaking gibberish to her client and the truth to the press. It is devastating for lawyers and for any American who may ever need a lawyer. Shouldn't the Justice Department be defending our constitutional freedoms rather than assaulting them?

Seriously, read the whole thing.

Ok: That sounds more snarky toward lefties than I intended. And PZ Myers is dead right about this:

These people aren't just clowns saying stupid things that we should laugh off, they are fascists-in-the-making laying the groundwork for not just marginalizing those they disagree with, but treating them as criminals.

But what I mean is: it's happening!

More: Max Sawicky did comment on this, and so did other folks that he links to. Good. Thanks to Tom in comments for the link.

AND: Definitely read Venkat's post about the errors in the NY Times piece.


 

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Whence Teh Funny?

Posted by Alameida
on 02.17.05

This is a funny list of funny blog conventions. (via BitchPhD)


 

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Libertarian Tragicomedy

Posted by Alameida
on 02.17.05

So, this guy decided to juice up his hits by pretending to be a moderately hot libertarian chick blogger. Naturally enough, he borrowed a photo from a Russian mail-order bride site. How long before a fellow libertarian perusing a Russian mail-order bride site sees the photo and unmasks him? Try two months. And what has he learned?

Whenever I see an attractive woman with a successful career, I'll remember the experience of this blog and assume that she didn't really get there on merit, just her looks.

Speaking as a real, live attractive woman, let me just say this guarantees he will continue to have the same level of sucess with women as he has in the past. And whenever I meet an unemployed libertarian in his 30's who still lives with his parents, I'll assume he's an asshole! Kudos!


 

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What a jerk

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.16.05

I stupidly followed Kevin Drum's link to The Corner, where the gang's all a-chuckle at the commissioning of the USS Jimmy Carter, a sub named for a man who actually served on a submarine. There, I run into this side-splitting hilarity:

USS JIMMAH [Jonah Goldberg]
My buddy Scott asks:
"Will the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter be hammered together by weekend volunteers?"

You know what's comedic gold? Making fun of poor people getting their own homes.


 

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Close Enough

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.05

After I went to see my friend's play a few months ago, I let someone from the theater talk me into buying a season package to see three other plays. Gets me out of the house, etc. I have a ticket for a show tonight, and figured I ought to check what it is I'm going to see. Sounds mildly interesting, but then, at the end they say (not in quite these words) Live Nude Titties!

Excellent. Not only have I never been to a gay bar, I've never been to a strip club either. This is probably the closest I'll ever get. And lord knows it's been a while since I've seen Live Nude Titties! I promise not to turn to the person sitting next to me and say "Woohoo! There they are!"

(If this turns out to be some avant-garde crap with Live Nude Cocks! I'm going to be really upset.)

UPDATE: God damn it. Cock. Followed, luckily, for all involved, by titties. Actually, she and he were both in the altogether for a few minutes. The audience was snickering while the guy was standing there, then dead silence when the woman dropped her robe.

And, as of this writing, looking at the 21 comments, I have to say: best thread ever. Major props to W-lfs-n's versification, and Fontana finding us a new home.

Nutsack.


 

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Class

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.05

There's a long, insightful, and very entertaining article in the NYT Magazine this week about matchmakers. There's too much to even give a good sense of the thing, but I'll get the ball rolling with a couple of things that caught my attention.

First, one matchmaker insists that her matches go on at least two dates, which takes a lot of the pressure off the first date. Seems smart to me.

And this, uh, resonated.

I believed that I would spend my life with my ex-fiance. But we didn't marry, and although that is poignant and complicated, my ex-fiance and I still value our engagement because it was a beautiful thing at the time, and now we are friends.
This, at any rate, is the way I understand my life. But this is not the way [matchmaker] Samantha understands life, and in part, you are hiring her for her understanding -- for suspending your own worldview and adopting hers. And in her view, a broken engagement is like skidding off the road when you were en route to the only place that matters: marriage. I can see from her face (and the horror with which she asks, How close was it to the wedding?) that for her the idea of valuing a trip that ended before the altar is as bizarre as sentimentalizing a bloody car wreck.

Good stuff.


 

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Pajamahideen

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.05

Had you heard the word "pajamahideen" in reference to right-wing blogger triumphalists? I love it.

(The term traces back to this.)


 

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Ringer

Posted by Bob
on 02.16.05

Creepy twin male gynecologists who impersonate each other while sexualizing -- and possibly assaulting -- their patients, but for real.


 

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Reporting

Posted by Ogged
on 02.16.05

I've mentioned before that reporters should just write about what they think is going on, and leave it to us to figure out who's trustworthy. I'm happy to see, via yglesias, Newsweek's Rod Nordland doing just that, this time in an online chat.

Hopatcong, NJ: Do you, Masland and Dickey mean "F---ing Murderers" when you say "insurgents" and "fighters" in your STUPIDITY? I've grown sick and tired of you "politically incorrect" reporters. Why don't you have the gumption to call a spade a spade?
Rod Nordland: OK, you're an idiot. How's that?

Really, there's a lot of more serious stuff too. Condensed version here.


 

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Like Crooked Timber, only Still

Posted by Bob
on 02.16.05

I came across Crooked Still's debut CD while I was browsing around CD Baby. It's great! They're a sort of updated bluegrass group out of Boston, with banjo, cello, and bass. The singer's voice has a lot of Gillian Welch's soulful thoughtfulness, but it's brighter. (They do an uptempo cover of GW's "Orphan Girl," and it's thrilling.) The banjoing is complex and clean, and the cello works out to be like a mellower, wider-ranging fiddle. I never know how to judge the bass, but it seems to hold its own.


 

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SUUs

Posted by Bob
on 02.16.05

People who disapprove of SUVs should consider disapproving also of oversized umbrellas. SUUs. Please, we all have to share the same sidewalks!

And while I'm still experiencing my residual annoyance from the last rainstorm, let me trot out an unoriginal observation: SUV drivers are much likelier than regular-car drivers are to splash pedestrians by driving fast through large puddles. Malice or obliviousness, I don't care. I get just as soaked, and anyway part of the appeal of those behemoths in the first place is getting to be a little oblivious to what's going on outside.


 

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Smells Like Courtesy

Posted by Alameida
on 02.16.05

I freaked "Husband X" out pretty bad when I confided in him that I was planning to steal a "Singha the Courtesy Lion" poster from the MRT. Maybe they would just send me one if I asked real nice?


 

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More True Tales of The Old South

Posted by Alameida
on 02.16.05

You know, that last story I told you was stone cold depressing. I'm going to relate a, well, an only marginally less depressing story, but one that's a lot funnier. (This just reminds me of how in a high school writing class I was accused of pushing the Southern Gothic thing a little too hard, and I was like, "I toned it down!")

My step-mother used to drink. I think the most wasted day I have ever spent was not some day when I woke up in NYC at 5 pm, but a seemingly innocent day in South Carolina and Georgia with my step-mom. We got up around 6, fed the horse, smoked a joint, and drove to the store to get a six-pack of tall boys. I had to go pick up my last check from this shitty waitressing job in Savannah, and after that we drove to her mom and step-dad's trailer in Statesboro, and got high in the truck again.

Her step-dad Lonnie was dying of cancer then, was "all eat up with the cancer", as they say. That meant that if you grubbed around in the shag carpet near his Lay-Z-Boy you would come up with any number of 50mg Demerol that had just fallen down there and no one had ever bothered to retrieve them. So I remember sitting in the trailer bathroom with my head resting on the cool glass, looking at that big stack of National Enquirers and the doily-festooned tissue box, and thinking, "holy shit. It's not even noon yet."

This isn't the point of the story, though. I wasn't actually there that time Lonnie asked my step-mom to help put flea spray on their cat "Lucky." If I had been, maybe I'd have been the one to notice it was a spray bottle of "Easy-Off" oven cleaner, and saved everybody a lot of trouble, but to be honest, I probably wouldn't have.

Strangely enough, he lived, all burnt up with lye, and all his hair fallen out. He hid under the trailer for a good long while, and only came out to be fed. Finally, bald, scarred, pink and fuzzy, he took to hiding behind the TV set, crooning to himself strangely during "The Price Is Right." They changed his name to "Skeeter", because "Lucky just didn't seem to suit him no more."


 

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Mmmm, Tastes Like Antibodies

Posted by Alameida
on 02.15.05

So scientists have developed a potato genetically engineered to produce a Hepatitis B vaccine. That's pretty cool, and I hope they immunize lots of people this way, as it seems 1,000,000 people die of HPB each year. But doesn't it seem to call up the future dystopian situation where there's nothing to eat but MutAIDS zucchini in some famine-stricken country? Maybe I'm just letting the killer robots go to my head.

Update: HPB. If HPV were fatal everyone would already be dead.


 

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Old Buddy Indeed

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.05

Did I miss some rather big piece of news?

[Candidate for Iraqi Prime Minister] Mr. Jaafari appeared to run into opposition from a number of other Shiite leaders in the alliance, especially Ahmed Chalabi, the exile leader, who is also a candidate for the top job.
According to several Iraqis, Mr. Chalabi intends to insist that the question of Mr. Jaafari's nomination be put to a vote of the 140 alliance members who won seats in the national assembly. Ali Faisal, a senior Shiite leader, said Mr. Chalabi believes he has the backing of a large number of them, and possibly a majority.

Since when is Chalabi back in the running to become leader of Iraq?


 

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'The party of...'

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.15.05

This is more the birthday boy's territory, but this Jack O'Toole post brought to mind the ambiguity of the phrase "the party of x" (sorry, no Quine corners...). According to the NY Post, the head of the NY GOP says that the Democrats are the party of terror. Headline: "State GOP Big: Dems Party of Terror. Story excerpts:

State GOP Chairman Steven Minarik, commenting on the selection of Howard Dean as the national Democratic leader, called Democrats the party of Lynne Stewart, who was convicted last week for aiding convicted terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.
"The Democrats simply have refused to learn the lessons of the past two election cycles, and now they can be accurately called the party of Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart, and Howard Dean," Minarik said.
"Howard Dean is the personification of today's national Democratic Party elite, radical, out-of-control and, sadly, out of touch with ordinary Americans."

Surely the Democrats are the party of Boxer and Dean, in the trivial sense that they belong to that party. I don't know Lynne Stewart's party affiliation offhand. But clearly the phrase isn't being used in this way-- it's meant, presumably, to say that the paradigmatic Democrats are Boxer, Dean, and Stewart. And this isn't at all clear in two of those three cases. I'll be surprised if the following things don't happen: (1) there's some kind of backing away from the claim, and (2) that involves a variation of the 'technically true' response that elides the distinction between the two uses of the 'party of' locution.


 

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Huzzah!

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.05

Happy birthday to Matt Weiner!


 

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Appearing for one night only...

Posted by Unf
on 02.15.05

If Bob is going to get into the action I guess I have no excuse. Plus, I think I'm just about to hit another two week deadline...

A hearty welcome to Alameida. I'm a little disappointed we won't be able to walk around the blog without pants on anymore, but such is progress.

As soon as I drive past another ethically problematic billboard, I'll have something more to say.

UPDATE: And for all of you who mock me for not posting, my response has been posted at unf.com.


 

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Guess I'm Not Gay After All

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.05

This JeffJames business has me off on a tangent. Generalizing and speculating here, but among straight guys, the biceps and pecs are the "show muscles." Big biceps and big pecs equal big strong straight dude. But that doesn't seem to be the case with gay guys. It seems much more about the abs. Well-defined, rippling abs equal hot gay stud. Why the difference? My own guess: gay porn shows cocks, which require showing some midsection, which means midsections have to look good. But that's just a guess.


 

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Don

Posted by Ogged
on 02.15.05

Not easy to follow Alameida's latest post. But this'll do, I think.

via wolcott


 

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Never Trust Anyone Named Edmund

Posted by Alameida
on 02.15.05

Well, now that the shackles of onymous blogging have been cast off, I can tell you all about my step-dad Edmund. Just at the start of my blogging career I found out that he reads my blog from the state home for the disabled where he lives in rural S.C., which freaks the shit out of me. I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

The first time I ever saw my (then future) step-dad, he was passed out on the floor of my living room, and a dog was licking his face. The only thing he did during that time to particularly distinguish himself was get into a knife fight with my dad. But that could happen to anyone. After my parents split up, my mom started seeing Edmund, and for a while I thought he was pretty cool. He had a juvenile sense of humour and a talent for roughhousing.

After that, things went south. All the shitty things you can imagine step-fathers doing, he did those things (yeah, even that), plus a number of inventive things that might not occur to you. When my brother was 11 he stole some deadly poisons from his school science lab with the intention of killing Edmund. My brother and I also discussed the possibility of shooting him and claiming it was an accident. I went a good ways down the path of planting cocaine in his car, and then calling the cops. I'd like to say we repented of all thse actions for ethical reasons, but the truth is, we were scared he wouldn't die.

I remember when he got arrested for assault when I was in college. He got out of his car during a traffic altercation and bashed the roof of the other guy's car in with a cinder block. I was just praying with all my heart he would be in the county pen eating cold grits on Christmas morning, but I guess the guy didn't want to press charges.

My brother and I used to fantasize about how one day Edmund would be all old and crippled, and we would check him out of the home, and take him to the county fair, and put him on that fucking twirling thing he made us go on when we pleaded not to, and leave him there for the rest of the day, puking his guts out.

Now I know I wouldn't really do something like that, though. He had a stroke some years back from the drinking, and the right side of his body was paralysed. Then he came up to DC to pick some things up, and made such a total ass of himself that sister X, his real daughter, thought "I hope he gets in a wreck." I think you know the rest of this story: drunk driving, totaled the car, hurt some other people, and crushed the left side of his body, paralyzing it.

He didn't even have to wait till his next life for the karmic payback, it seems. Now he's been living in some state home that smells like piss, though he recently convinced his social worker to let him get an apartment. He can walk out to buy beer now, but he's not really capable of living alone. He has the mental age of a 12-year-old. Apparently, or allegedly, maybe, he can't remember any of the shitty things he ever did, and plaintively wonders why no one loves him anymore. I guess all the anger burnt up, and I do feel a bit sorry for him now. Not sorry enough to call him on the phone though. That was one of his favorite catch phrases: "not sorry enough." The moral of the story is, don't be a complete fucking bastard.


 

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That's The Way You Need It

Posted by Alameida
on 02.14.05

Steve Perry fan-fiction, people. You only wish I were kidding.


 

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Eatstrong

Posted by Bob
on 02.14.05

I don't know how many of you follow the career of Sonya Thomas as closely as I do, but take my word: she should be almost as revered as Lance Armstrong. Just in the last month she tucked two more world championships under her tiny belt: the 9-pound Barrick Burger (48 min), and the Golden Palace Grilled Cheese Contest (25 in 10 min).


 

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Legal Constraints

Posted by Ogged
on 02.14.05

This surprised me, though it shouldn't have.

"You're going to get some very unusual requests: kissing, hugging, talking, medical procedures," Detective James Held of the Vice Division told his November class, adding that none of those requests was a crime. He offered an example: "What if someone comes up to you and says: 'Do you know what I want you to do? I want you to dress up like a girl and I want to go back to a hotel room, and I want you to paint my toenails. I'll pay you a thousand dollars for the hour.' "

...

Still, Detective Held clarified, that's not a crime. Prostitution is not like a game of horseshoes. Close isn't good enough. To determine whether a suspect's behavior is illegal, officers must consult a rigorous recipe. The first ingredient is a sexual act, whether promised or performed.

Of course. It's not doing something with "a prostitute" that's illegal, it's exchanging sex for money. And I guess we can thank god for small favors; in this case, New York's unimaginative definition of "sexual act." Let the toenail painting begin!


 

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In defense of the old school

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.14.05

I don't mean to be disagreeable, but this disgusts me: the elaborate and public marriage proposal.

Before she knew it, Mr. Prusky was on bended knee proffering a box and an interrogative. "I said yes, looked up and noticed there were about 500 people watching," Ms. Goldstein said.

My argument against takes the form of a dilemma: either the other person has already agreed, or not. If not, then the publicity makes for an awkward moment; it's hard to make very private decisions with people watching, and the person being asked has every right to say no in a dignified and private setting. (It really is an awful situation to put someone in. I know, you think she'll say yes, but-- I beseech you, sir! Think that you might be wrong!) If the would-be fiancee has consented prior to the Big Show, the whole thing is an elaborate sham, and I don't want it interrupting my dinner.

In general, I'm strongly opposed to turning public space into private emotional terrain[*], and this sort of thing is a limiting case of tacky.

* With the exception of cock jokes, of course.


 

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Vegemite Sandwich

Posted by Ogged
on 02.14.05

Eve Tushnet is as correct as can be, and it's time for us all to admit it.

Why is '80s music just better?
I mean, look: I could listen to Nirvana all day long. Their "Unplugged" album is fantastic. But that's not the point. The '90s top-40 is pathetic. There are brilliant bands (Huggy Bear, PJ Harvey, obviously my lady Cat Power) but there aren't one-hit wonders. And one-hit wonders (a.k.a., the zeitgeist) practically define '80s music. "Mexican Radio"; "Land Down Under"; "Safety Dance"; "Karma Chameleon" (on the CD player just now); "Sunglasses at Night." So stupid--yet so good! Why did it all go so right?

Her explanation is interesting too, and just seeing the song names makes me smile.

But: I don't think you can explain anything about 80's pop culture without mentioning cocaine, but I'll leave the details to those with more experience.


 

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North-bound train on a south-bound track

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.14.05

I would like it better if the Washington Post titled this article "We are all doomed." Apologies to Johnny Cash.


 

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Frankfurt

Posted by Ogged
on 02.14.05

Hooray! I've always been a big Harry Frankfurt fan, and this article in the Times today does him justice.

AND: Is Frankfurt's final question so interesting, or does he answer it himself?

"Why is lying regarded almost as a criminal act?" he asked, while bull[shit] "is sort of cuddly and warm? It's outside the realm of serious moral criticism. Why is that?"

In the essay, as quoted in the article, he writes,

What is [bull], after all? Mr. Frankfurt points out it is neither fish nor fowl. Those who produce it certainly aren't honest, but neither are they liars, given that the liar and the honest man are linked in their common, if not identical, regard for the truth.

"It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth," Mr. Frankfurt writes. "A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it."

The bull artist, on the other hand, cares nothing for truth or falsehood. The only thing that matters to him is "getting away with what he says," Mr. Frankfurt writes. An advertiser or a politician or talk show host given to [bull] "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it," he writes. "He pays no attention to it at all."

That seems to be the answer to the question. A lie is an attempt to reconfigure the world, but bullshit is a performance--less like a lie and more like theater.

Frankfurts concern is this:

And this makes [the bullshit artist], Mr. Frankfurt says, potentially more harmful than any liar, because any culture and he means this culture rife with [bull] is one in danger of rejecting "the possibility of knowing how things truly are." It follows that any form of political argument or intellectual analysis or commercial appeal is only as legitimate, and true, as it is persuasive. There is no other court of appeal.

We should be careful, because we all acutely feel that this diagnosis--truth reduced to persuasion--is correct, but I'm not sure I believe that the prevalence of bullshit is the cause. In fact, Frankfurt also sees the reason we're so tolerant of bullshit.

But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize [bull] and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry."

Because we feel like we have a firm grasp of the truth, we put up with bullshit. Frankfurt's claim seems to be that all that putting-up has a cost, and that the rules for bullshit inevitably become the rules for all discourse. I'm willing to listen to claims that that's happened. But it seems, at least in our political discourse, that the people out of power still have a firm grasp on truth, and those in power prefer "bullshit rules," but isn't that always the case?


 

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K-Lo

Posted by Alameida
on 02.14.05

I know this is really petty and high school, but what else is pseudonymity for? Did you all know that Kathryn Jean Lopez was so heinous? I'd always pictured her as kinda cute, but dumb. Ugly but dumb? Damn, that's gotta hurt. On the plus side, she's got all kind of oppportunities to hook up with Jonah Goldberg. Oh. Nevermind.


 

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Howdy

Posted by Alameida
on 02.14.05

Thanks to all the Unfogged bloggers for bringing me on board. It's going to be a very special episode of Unfogged. You won't want to miss the compelling, real-life, ovarilicious drama. In re drama, I know you're all wondering what I could possibly have to blog about that's been repressed thus far.

Well, sure my in-laws know now that I've tripped on acid before...but do they know I helped run a meth lab for drug pin money at Columbia? No, and you're not going to tell them, either. We can all look back and laugh. My friend who was failing out of organic chemistry stole all the retorts and stuff from the org chem lab, and, as I'm sure you all know, the ingredients to make meth are readily available. Like, you can buy qwik start or whatever, that stuff you spray in the air filter of an ailing car to make it start up, at any auto-supply store. It's actually ether! Well, ether and dubious petroleum products, but we got rid of those, mostly. Our stuff was kitchen-clean! And those OTC nose inhaler things are chock full of benzedrine! Isn't this great; you guys are learning shit already.

Also, with the magic of bare pseudonymity I can blog about my family without embarassing them in front of my in-laws, or even themselves, cause they don't read this blog. Like, for example, Mia "Sister X" has so many boyfriends right now that my mom has started calling the latest one "Seven of Nine." But not to his face. Probably. This latest guy is neither in a punk rock band nor a reenactor, but instead is some kind of regular person. So, he's facing long odds, but sometimes the regular guys win out! Speaking of whom...

Now "Husband X", as he's known, won't have to break out in a cold sweat when he checks our blog and I've posted something tasteless and inflammatory his students might read. Let the bukkake-blogging begin!


 

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Traitors!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 02.13.05

This is hilarious: the American Traitors page. Oddly, I found it while searching for a picture of Maureen Dowd, available in the "print and radio traitors" section.


 

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Made in Heaven

Posted by Bob
on 02.13.05

From the NYT's corrections:

The Vows column in Sunday Styles last week, about the wedding of Yvette Beauchamp and Ric Feinberg, misstated their legal marriage date. In interviews before publication, Mr. Feinberg reported that the couple's legal ceremony took place on Jan. 22. After the column had appeared, The Times learned that the marriage license was signed on Dec. 31, a date Mr. Feinberg now acknowledges.

1. Clearly Atrios should get off the NYT's back for their supposedly fact-free reporting.

2. I wonder what sins Feinberg committed between Dec 31 and Jan 22.

3. Really, my point in posting this was to point you to this masterpiece of blog reportage. It's long but worth wading through to the end. It's a good example of a kind of serendipity that blogs seem well suited to -- the thing where someone's obsessed with something stupid, knows it's stupid, pursues it anyway, and digs up gems that are stupid but brilliant anyway.


 

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Random cocktail generator

Posted by Bob
on 02.13.05

A gift to Alameida.


 

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I'm a yuppie

Posted by Bob
on 02.13.05

Note to Ogged: please update my About page. The Vietnamese hoagies at my corner hoagerie now cost $2.75. It's a big deal, because getting two sandwiches now costs more than a fiver. And let me just say this: while I'm furious that I now must dig for quarters before I leave the house, I'm glad that the hoagerie is able to profit a bit on the flood of yuppies that my Unfogged About page seems to have directed its way.

Speaking of, it seems that I myself am a yuppie! I mean, clearly I'm not: I hate cars, I'm uninterested in getting an MBA, I lament gentrification, and I get my hair cut for $9 at the Vietnamese haircutter. (She barks at you to choose a hairstyle out of a 1980s-era photobook of hypercoiffed whiteguys, but she barely looks at what you've chosen. She proceeds to cut your hair however she sees fit. She accepts no guidance, because she doesn't really understand English. Later on, you go home and fix everything yourself, using a mirror and poultry shears.) But in my South Philly neighborhood, anyone who didn't grow up here, anyone who doesn't say "oo-AWN" for "on", anyone who's not a roofer or a cop is a yuppie. Me: I have a flat Midwestern accent, and I'm a college professor. And after I post this I'm going to bike to Whole Foods to buy organic milk that's been extracted from grass-fed cows. I'm a gentrifier, I drive up hoagie prices.

Remember the conversation in The Last Days of Disco, after Chris Eigeman, Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Mackenzie Astin, and the good-guy lawyer have been kicked out of the disco, ostensibly for being "yuppie scum"? They pretty much are yuppies to the core, but they all reject the label. Chris Eigeman points out that no one in the world accepts the label, and can there even exist a group whose putative members all repudiate it? Isn't it then not really a group and instead just something you call people?


 

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