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Paying Attention to the Syntax of Things

Posted by Ogged
on 03.26.05

I've been thinking, for no good reason, about blog mottos, or taglines (or whatever they're properly called). We don't have one, but Unf originally suggested "Often in Error, Never in Doubt." That's why he's not allowed to post here.

But there are some good ones about. Girl27 used to have the mysteriously affecting, "Keep your shirt jersey on, love." I'm a fan of Jack Balkin's "Balkinization an unanticipated consequence of Jack M. Balkin." Eve Tushnet goes for the pithy and descriptive "Conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood." My current favorite is Snark Attack's "Because this ass isn't going to kiss itself, honey." I like the feeling of being addressed so directly.


 

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Magic

Posted by Ogged
on 03.25.05

It's always a good bet that if I hear about something for the first time from the New York Times, the cool kids have known about it for months. So whaddy'all know about Derren Brown?

DERREN BROWN, it seems, can read the minds of pedestrians. He can beat half a dozen world-class chess players in simultaneous games, determine how many fingers people are holding up behind their backs and talk a London cabdriver out of being able to find the London Eye, the huge Ferris wheel that looms over the Thames.

...

Like most illusionists, he executes feats that seem impossible, even supernatural. But he admits to possessing no magical powers. He is not psychic. He cannot read your thoughts by staring into your eyes. Everything he does, he says, can be logically parsed.

...

In one episode, Mr. Brown determines which of a number of used-car salesmen are lying about their pasts. In another, an undertaker hands him a stack of photographs of people, some dead, some living, and Mr. Brown successfully separates them into "deceased" and "live" piles. In another he gives three men the task of moving a complicated set of random pieces of furniture from one room to another, having predicted exactly where the volunteers will place the pieces.

I love stuff like that. His show is Trick of the Mind and plays in Britain, apparently. I'm downloading a bunch of episodes right now (go internets), but at the rate it's downloading, I'll have the file about the time I have kids. Maybe Peter Snees, the commenter who claims to be a Yank but calls balls "bullocks" and corrects people's Gaelic, can tell us something about the clever Mr. Brown.

UPDATE: Download complete, three episodes watched. Very cool stuff. So far, the most impressive thing I've seen is Brown apparently hypnotizing someone in just a few moments to make the poor guy think that Brown was invisible. Scared the crap out of the guy when Brown started moving stuff around. Playing nine ranked chess players and guessing beforehand how many pieces would be left on each board was also damn cool.


 

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Depression: More Depressing Than You Think

Posted by Alameida
on 03.25.05

I read a piece of particularly egregious bullshit in the Washington Post today, in a book review by Carolyn See of A.L. Kennedy's Paradise. (I haven't read the book itself. Actually, I stopped reading the review because it pissed me off so bad).

After a life spent hanging around depressives, and having struggled with depression myself, I can say with perfect certainty [! --ed] that depressives believe they're right about the world. They think that optimists are half-wits who don't even begin to live their lives to the fullest, that no news may be good news but that good news is never anything more than cheesy propaganda. The world is garbage, the depressive believes, and holds to that position with a jealous, zealous fury. Jealous, because those half-wits, well-dressed and contented, making their way to church on a Sunday, then walking home through pleasant parks to a well-deserved, well-balanced meal, must be morons, they must, they must! (What if happiness really is possible in this world? That would be intolerable.) Zealots, for the same reason. The case that the world is garbage must be proved again and again with Paulian tenacity. Because there is just enough kindness and mariachi music and office romance around to suggest that life, in fact, might be enormous fun -- a possibility that causes depressives to gnaw at their wrists in futile rage. Theirs, and only theirs, is the authentic life. It must be. It has to be.

Jesus Fucking Christ. The problem with being depressed is not that everything in the world sucks. The problem is that the world is beautiful, and there are tender buds on the trees, and little Mexican girls in white rayon dresses and lace socks going to church, and the sky 15 minutes after sunset is a painful, glorious blue, and people love you, but still--still--! You can't think of anything but killing yourself, a thousand times a day, every minute. You're walking over a little footbridge, and you look down at the sparkling water: would it be deep enough to drown yourself? Only a few inches, but what if you really exercised your will? Or maybe you hit your head on a rock first?

You walk along the street, looking at the blooming rhododendron; its attenuated perfume unfolding on the air: what if you suddenly threw yourself under that bus? You can hear it rumbling up the street just behind you, there's still time!

You sit in your apartment, morosely drinking a 40-ounce of St. Ides as the day ebbs, and your gaze is drawn upward to the corners of the room, where a nameless horror lurks, and all the shining world is paper to be torn through by a demon, and all the flesh under your skin is turned to dry gravel, and when you move you arm to raise the bottle the gravel inside you grinds sickeningly over itself.

All I have to say is, when Carolyn See struggled with depression, she totally won. God, STFU.


 

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Next Year The Nose Job

Posted by Ogged
on 03.24.05

Tomorrow, bright and early, I finally get my remaining wisdom teeth yanked. I'll either do more or less blogging this weekend as a result.

UPDATE: Well, easy again. Of course, my mouth could still blow up, but, like last time, it seems to have gone without a hitch. Everyone should get their teeth pulled!


 

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I See A Theme Park

Posted by Ogged
on 03.24.05

Do it! Extract the DNA! Make them!

A 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil dug out of a hunk of sandstone has yielded soft tissue, including blood vessels and perhaps even whole cells, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday.

...

Of course, the big question is whether it will be possible to see dinosaur DNA. "We don't know yet. We are doing a lot in the lab now that looks promising," Schweitzer said.

I'll be first in line.


 

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Dumb Questions With No Answers, With Apologies to the Poor Man

Posted by Ogged
on 03.24.05

Overheard next door: a loud white woman who can't say her "R's" asking her demure Chinese co-worker how to say "on the down low" in Chinese.


 

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Eclipsed?

Posted by Ogged
on 03.24.05

It's a well-known fact that we at Unfogged are big fans of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart. The apostropher, however, has found a Norwegian band whose cover of the song is unmatched; even, perhaps, by the original.


 

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Blues Again

Posted by Ogged
on 03.23.05

Did Margaret Thatcher really say that anyone over 30 who rides the bus is a failure? Apparently. That's awesome. Because it's outrageous, but, admit it, kinda funny. Our politicians don't do outrageous so well. When they reach for outrageous, they pick up flourescent lights and shove them up people's asses. Not nearly as funny.

All by way of saying, this column by my wife-to-be Lucy Mangan (where I saw the Thatcher quote) is funny. But Lucy's on crack (which is ok, Lucy!) if she really thinks getting more people to use public transportation will lead to greater social comity. You know the lines from Dylan?

An' now people just get uglier

An' I have no sense of time.

That's about public transportation.


 

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A Joy To Have In Class

Posted by Ogged
on 03.23.05

The thread just below has reminded me of those great moments from high school. The archetypical conversation between young-ogged and olderperson took place between me and my basketball coach.

Coach: Ogged, I'm sick of you talking back to me.

Ogged: I'm not talking back to you.

Coach: That's what I mean!

But, by a mile, the high point of my high school career came in the murderously boring math class of let's-call-him-Mr. Jones.

[Ogged walks in late]

Mr. Jones: Late again, Ogged. What's her name?

Ogged: Mrs. Jones.

We were all so shocked that it had come out of my mouth that I didn't even get in trouble.


 

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The Royal Navy

Posted by Ogged
on 03.23.05

Ok, the last paragraph is funny.


 

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My Shame

Posted by Ogged
on 03.23.05
Around here, we talk about blog crushes, and regular crushes, lesbian crushes and man crushes and embarrassing celebrity crushes, but I don't think we've covered the rare and diabolical crush-on-someone-you-can't-stand. That's the kind of crush I have on Ashley Judd. I've had it for years. I can't get rid of it. Is anyone more pleased with herself than Ashley Judd? The answer is no. I've read some interviews with her and my reaction is always, "Oh my god." Don't know what I mean? Lucky for you, someone decided to let her write a guest column about March Madness and her beloved Kentucky Wildcats. So help me god, the entire column is about her scheduling conflict. That's not quite right: it's about how she has a scheduling conflict because her life is so wonderful and interesting. I dare you, not just to read it, because anyone can do that, but to believe what you're reading. You'll think, "No one could be this oblivious to how self-satisfied she sounds." You'll think, "This is just a cruel and not particularly funny parody." But I want her. I totally want her. She's so hot. Really, that's the level of sophistication of my desire. She's hot, I want her. I'm usually so good; I'm all about personality and character, looks are gravy, etc. But something about her makes this other than your typical appreciation of a beautiful woman of questionable character. It's not a Naomi Campbell kind of thing. Maybe it's that damn arch in her eyebrows, I don't know, but something creeps into my head and makes me think, "Well, maybe she is god's gift." Damn. It's horrible.

 

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A psychological mystery

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 03.22.05

Why do I bother getting angry?

Peggy Noonan's column has too many flaws to document, but it's worth a look if you want to punish yourself. In particular, she either doesn't understand or deliberately misrepresents the distinctions between brain death, PVS, and coma. This is a woman who gets paid for her work, remember.

Ok, fine. One cheap shot, then I flee:

But in the end, it comes down to this: Why kill her? What is gained? What is good about it? Ronald Reagan used to say, in the early days of the abortion debate, when people would argue that the fetus may not really be a person, he'd say, "Well, if you come across a paper bag in the gutter and it seems something's in it and you don't know if it's alive, you don't kick it, do you?" No, you don't.

What's good about it? Is it that Peggy Noonan simply cannot comprehend preferring death over biological life on a feeding tube? Or that she can't even comprehend that it's sometimes a good thing for people to get what they want even if we don't agree with their wants, even if we're right to disagree?

A diagnosis of my condition would be greatly appreciated.


 

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Break It Down

Posted by Unf
on 03.22.05

A really cool site of time lapse photography, set to music, of the Chicago Sun-Times building being torn down. It will be replaced with something with a "Trump" label on it. Such is progress.

Via the error-prone, but estimable, DJW.


 

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Equity

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.05

Everyone's linking approvingly to this (yes, very good) Katha Pollitt post, so somebody has to step up and remind people that women's basketball is still an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.

My half-serious point is merely to register that lately we've all been talking about the death of punditry and now we're clamoring for more female pundits. But sure, it'll be a good thing, and Pollitt's right: there are plenty of good ones available. Dahlia Lithwick for President, even.


 

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Say Anything

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.05

Crikey. The more I hear about this case, the less I want to know. Did you know [nevermind. Rest of post deleted. Lindsay said this and more. Sorry.]


 

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Incentives Matter

Posted by Unf
on 03.22.05

I was at lunch today learning about some recent tax legislation. Among many interesting tidbits, I learned the following. Congress recently passed some new provisions that reduce the tax rate applicable to income generated from, to paint with a broad brush, making stuff in the U.S. This stuff includes motion pictures produced by a U.S. taxpayer in the U.S.

EXCEPT, that the reduced rate does not apply when the film contains "actually sexually explicit conduct." No doubt capital is fleeing the porn industry even as I write this.


 

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The End Game

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.05

I keep hearing people wonder what the Republicans are up to with the Schiavo case, given that what they're doing is unpopular with people regardless of political affiliation. The answer, I think, is this.

U.S. District Court Judge James Whittemore has defied Congress by not staying Terri Schiavo's starvation execution for the time it takes him to hold a full hearing on her case, a leading Republican senator said Tuesday.
"You have judicial tyranny here," Santorum told WABC Radio in New York. "Congress passed a law that said that you had to look at this case. He simply thumbed his nose at Congress."
"What the statute that [Whittemore] was dealing with said was that he shall hold a trial de novo," the Pennsylvania Republican explained. "That means he has to hold a new trial. That's what the statute said."
"What he's saying is, 'I don't have to hold a new trial because I've already determined that her rights have been protected,'" Santorum said.
"That's nice for him to say that But that's not what Congress told him to do," he added. "Judges should obey the law. And this judge - in my mind - simply ignored the law."

Fighting "activist judges" works for the Republicans because it's easy to frame the fight against the judiciary as another front in the battle against "elites." It's not unlikely that Republicans knew that what they were about to do would seem unpopular, but counted on the courts following the law, which would in turn allow the Republicans to reframe the dispute as one between themselves and the courts, rather than against the husband.

In the longer term, the effort to undermine the judiciary is of a piece with the effort to undermine traditional sources of news. The goal is a political field cleared of any facts that might offer resistance to the claims of the party in power. People are unwilling to believe that there are no facts, but the trivially true claim that all facts are subject to bias in interpretation can be exaggerated to achieve the same effect.


 

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Crochet, You Might Learn Something

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.05

Hyperbolic geometry with lots of pretty pictures. More wonders of the internet.


 

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Straight Yet?

Posted by Ogged
on 03.22.05

Crooked Timber is back up at last.


 

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Telling It Straight

Posted by Ogged
on 03.21.05

There is still some part of the Catholic Church that credits its tradition of serious, knowledgeable, and principled consideration of ethical questions. This interview with Jesuit bioethicist John Paris is a good example.


 

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Ruby

Posted by Ogged
on 03.21.05

PZ Myers is a biologist, through and through. Terrific post.

via ezra


 

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Mr. Manners

Posted by Unf
on 03.21.05

You are walking down the hall when you meet a colleague. As it happens, you are both walking to the restroom. You chat about various things as you walk. You both enter the bathroom and step up to the urinals, where a third person is in mid-stream, as it were.

Are you obligated to end your conversation when you both step up to the plate? To me, it seems rude not to.


 

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Publicity

Posted by Ogged
on 03.21.05

Salon recently did a pretty good story on celebrity blogs. But somehow they forgot one of the more normal and readable ones. RuPaul's.

By the way, if you want to be a drag queen, it's all about the cheekbones.


 

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Technique

Posted by Ogged
on 03.21.05

Sorry, sluggish today, and not a thought in my head. Let me recommend Sherry's excellent series of posts on how to throw a party. Especially to all the dweeby boys who read this site. "But wait, Ogged! I make a wicked spinach dip!" Sherry:

First of all, forget the food and the decorations. If you're thinking about food and decorations, I can't help you.

Damn right. First of three, second, third. Go, learn, and invite me over, so I can drink your beer and critique you.


 

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His Cold Sweat

Posted by Ogged
on 03.21.05

Via the apostropher, Tom Waits' favorite 20 albums. An interesting list, and Waits is a bit nuts, so he's fun to read.


 

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In Which I Agree With Some Crazy People

Posted by Alameida
on 03.20.05

It's obvious that the crass political opportunism surrounding the Schiavo case is awful. But as to the merits of killing her, I have to say I don't think it seems like a good idea. The only artifical life-support she's on now is food. That really isn't what we think of when we say, "I wouldn't want to be kept alive by machines"; we're thinking ventilated and catheterized, oxygen tubes running every which way.

Now, to the extent that her current "life" is a bad thing, it's bad from the point of view of her past self, who plausibly would regard it as pointless and undignified. But to the extent that she has no consciousness now, she is not suffering. And it's clear that her continued shadow life brings her family happiness. They want to be with her. Her physical presence means a lot to them. Given that she is not currently suffering, and there is a difference of opinion about whether she should live or die, why not err on the side of life?

We imagine her situation would be a nightmare to experience only when we imagine some dim consciousness trapped in a palsied body, faintly aware of its surroundings, confused and miserable. But if such a thing were true about her (and we know it is not), then surely it would be cruel to starve her to death? If she dimly knew there were people around her, denying her food and water?

It's also clear that a massive trust fund dedicated solely to her care could be raised by evangelical Christians in no time flat, so there's no point in worrying about the cost (I understand that people have already offered Mr. Schiavo himself millions of dollars to give custody to his parents in law). Should such a fund be raised to keep terminally ill infants alive if their parents want it? Sure, and I bet a lot of Christians would be happy to contribute. Public opinion is being led by calculating bastards, but that doesn't mean many people don't genuinely feel strongly about this issue.

Finally, if we're going to kill someone, let's do it right. Dying of inanition can be a painless thing; my grandmother effectively starved herself to death at the end of her life in a passive suicide bid, and she didn't seem to suffer. On the other hand, I was doping her to the gills with liquid morphine all the time, a courtesy we whould also extend to Schaivo, along with a hefty dose of potassium chloride. When "withdrawal of care" is just a euphemism for "slowly kill someone by denying them food and water", then it's bullshit. If the courts have decided her husband has the power to kill her, he ought to be able to do just that; no weaseling around.


 

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