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Fortuny: the interview

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 09.23.06

Via LGM: Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey has returned from Bali to eat pho with RFJason and Jameth. (She also claims to be "eight pounds overweight," which suggests something much more terrifying than a small weight gain.) From what I can make myself watch, the only revelation is that these people are boring.

I'm a little disappointed to hear that there's been no civil suit, just because it would be fun to see how it played out both legally and personally.


 

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Musical Comity

Posted by Alameida
on 09.23.06

You know, I've decided ogged Labs was right about "Sexyback." It's been growing on me. In other music-related news, I got a new iPod (like so) which is lickably cute. 30 gigs, so there are 6964 songs on it at the moment. The thing is, its "you like music which has been previously played" heuristic is turned up way, way too high. Having heard 70 or so songs on shuffle, 3 have been by the Clash, 3 by Beck, 2 by Charles Wright. This is all well and good, but 2 have been off of a terrible 70s radio hits compilation. I mean, it's funny if "Wildfire" starts playing, but the iPod shouldn't be confusing itself that now I want to hear "Afternoon Delight" anytime soon. Can I tweak this somehow? Rating songs is not a realistic option, obviously. I can create massive playlists fairly quickly, I guess. Relatedly, how do you guys break down on the shuffle/playlist thing? I use shuffle most all the time, unless I want to hear some particular thing, though I also make lots of playlists. I often give away mix CD's to people. I remember Kevin Drum asked this one time, but since like all sensible people I never, ever read his comments, I have no idea what anyone said. Also, under what conditions would it be acceptable to torture John McCain by making him listen to "Afternoon Delight" 1,000 times?


 

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He's No Friedbert Pfluger

Posted by Ogged
on 09.22.06

From the department of fantastic out of context phrases.

he borrowed someone else's wife for the evening, to avoid creating a stir.

But even in context...honestly.


 

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Radley Balko For Emperor

Posted by Ogged
on 09.22.06

Now that's blogging. Hats off.


 

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GFE

Posted by Ogged
on 09.22.06

I guess I've been walking around in a state of innocence, because I've never really considered the phenomenon of escorts (NSFW). You make a phone call and a little while later, some hottie will come over and sex you up. [Jokes about delivery, take out, and Chinese predacted.] They do sex you up, right? Is it really that easy? I'm getting that vertiginous "I could just step off this cliff" feeling in my loins.

That my curiosity is purely academic goes without saying.

Love those knee-highs.

No, not really.


 

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John McCain Is Planning To Grow A Beard (At Least, He Should Be Ashamed To Face Himself In The Mirror)

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.22.06

The compromise language on the detainee treatment bill is out, and it's disgusting. Marty Lederman at Balkanization has the language and some analysis. First, it rewrites Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions: only 'grave breaches' of Common Article 3 are criminal. 'Grave breaches' are narrowly defined in a way that excludes all the fun interrogation methods we've been using, and nothing's a 'grave breach' unless you intentionally meant it to be. That Iraqi general we killed a couple of years ago by rolling him up in a sleeping bag and sitting on him? Who could have guessed he wouldn't be able to breathe -- little kids do that sort of thing at slumber parties. Not a problem at all.

Further, the bill as a whole still strips detainees of any right to habeas corpus, and this section particularly states that the courts may not consider even the pitifully limited version of the Article 3 in any suit brought by a detainee. If a group of detainees somehow managed to be heard in a court with a claim of the form "We are being interrogated in ways that are criminal even under this law's version of Article 3. Please order them to stop," no court would be allowed to hear that claim.

The stripping of habeas jurisdiction, though, is the worst thing. People talk about habeas as if it were some legal nicety that we can't be expected to extend to terrorists. It's not -- it's the most fundamental right a prisoner can have. While it was law before that time, it was written down at Runnymede 800 years ago: "“...no free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed except by the lawful judgment of their peers or by the law of the land." All habeas is, at its root, is the right of any prisoner to have a court determine whether his imprisonment is lawful, and a prisoner without that right has no rights of any kind. It doesn't matter what other rights you say he has, if he hasn't got the right to appeal to a cout for a remedy when they are violated. Without habeas, we can hold people, innocent or guilty, forever, and no legal power can demand their release.

Look, I feel as though I could ask a lot of people here for a favor, if I needed one for some reason. Not a big favor -- just five minutes on the phone. Go pick up the phone and tell your Senator that the McCain compromise language on the detainee bill is unacceptable, and must be filibustered, please?

(Link via Gary)


 

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Blogginess

Posted by Ogged
on 09.21.06

Open University has turned out to be a pretty damn good blog, no?

And on a different topic, one of the minor themes in The Wire so far is how much mayoral candidate Carcetti hates making calls to ask for money. A few years ago, mainly by accident, I was standing outside a room where a senator or governor (I honestly don't remember who it was, such was my insider status) was going down his list, making calls to ask for donations. I was embarrassed for him. A more demeaning task it's hard to imagine, and it's no wonder we get such crapola for candidates when that's such a big part of the job.

(This sophisticated analysis of America's political system brought to you by my late night thoughts.)


 

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Can't We Make This Stop?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.21.06

There's a whole bunch of stuff I've been reading suggesting that the Administration is right now in the process of setting up an attack on Iran. Either we've got Special Forces already in the country, or maybe we're deploying the Navy to Iran, or possibly (probably not, but you never know) we're just going to nuke them.

And I'm thinking, what always seems to happen these days (that is, both Gulf Wars) is that all of a sudden we've done something irrevocable, like moving troops into position, and then Congress gets to decide whether it's going to approve, or whether it will do the politically impossible by withdrawing from an expensively aggressive position the Administration has put us in. And here we are heading for the same routine all over again.

I know we don't have the votes to pass it, but couldn't the Democrats in Congress at least introduce a resolution stating that Congress does not approve of any military action against Iran unless and until the Administration clears it through Congress first? Iran isn't a goddamn emergency. They aren't attacking us. We have time to decide if we want to attack them (hint: no). There is no reason for the Administration to have the power to act unilaterally here, and we know they're going to -- I just want Congress to at least make an attempt to take their Constitutional powers back.


 

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There Is Only One Meaning

Posted by Ogged
on 09.21.06

Yglesias gets the Instapundit "What do you mean, 'not totally serious'?" treatment.

Too bad fucking Katrina took all the fun out of this one.

Damn: Insty says he was just joking. His readers on the other hand...


 

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Partisans, The Lot Of Us

Posted by Ogged
on 09.21.06

If you like a veneer of rationality with your fall of the republic, the bit Ezra quotes here is probably as good as you're going to get. Short version: just after the 2000 election, Republican pollsters discovered that swing voters and independents are a much smaller portion of the electorate than previously believed, so Rove et al abandoned the "uniter" strategy, and pursued polarization.

And the first paragraph of the TNR story Ezra links to has stuff I didn't know about Karl Rove.


 

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What's The Difference Between A Progressive And A Liberal?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.21.06

This is a serious question -- I've run into it a couple of times lately, and it's hit me that while I know there is a difference that's important to a lot of people, I'm not clear on precisely what it is. To lay out my own somewhat confused thinking on the subject:

  • I think of myself as a liberal. I have left-wing (by American standards) views not incorporating a desire for violent overthrow of the government, and I'd be happy to move our society to look (oversymplifying wildly here) a lot like Sweden.
  • There are people who call themselves liberals who I disagree with, most often because they have views that seem to me to be further right than mine. Sometimes I think that they share my values (a society that assures true equality of opportunity for all, regardless of wealth or demographics, and great respect for the liberty of the individual) and are mistaken about how to get there, and I think they're liberals who are mistaken about some policy judgments. Sometimes I think they don't share my values, and then I think they're misdescribing themselves when they call themselves liberals.
  • People I know who call themselves progressives, I generally agree with about most stuff -- my odds of agreeing with a self-described progressive on policy issues are as good or better than those of agreeing with a liberal. I don't think of myself as a progressive because (1) I don't feel entitled. Progressives tend to be more politically engaged and active than I am -- I don't do jack, mostly, but vote, donate to candidates, and talk to people. (2) Progressives seem to be more despairing than I think is productive about the possibility of achieving change through the normal process of electoral politics. I'd be more desparing if I had any better ideas, but I don't. So I want to disassociate myself from that sort of despair.
  • When I disagree with a 'liberal' about stuff, it's generally because I think they're too conservative. When I disagree with a 'progressive' about stuff (which happens less often), it's because I think they've gotten silly and out of touch with reality (not to haul Ward Churchill out again, but that sort of thing.).

To sum up, when I meet either a liberal or a progressive, I have a strong sense that I'm going to share their values. In the case of the liberal, I am likely to want to exhort them to have the courage of their convictions, and accept that that's going to mean some very, very social democratic policies. In the case of the progressive, I am going to be ashamed of myself for not being as politically active as I could be, and I may want to exhort them to devote their efforts toward taking over the Democratic Party rather than something that might be ideologically purer but less effective. But I think they're both mostly going to agree with me about most things, and therefore mostly with each other.

I get the sense from the conversations I've had about this lately that lots of people think of 'progressives' and 'liberals' as much more strongly opposed to each other, and I'm not sure how that works -- whether they're thinking of 'liberals' as the kind of person I think of as not really a liberal because they don't share my redistributive and civil-liberties-valuing values, and so think someone like me is on the side of the 'progressives' against the 'liberals' or what. Can anyone walk me through what they see as the difference?


 

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I Have Watched Three Minutes of Troy

Posted by Ogged
on 09.21.06

1. This movie sucks.

2. Eric Bana is funny looking, but I can't quite put my finger on how. Does the bottom of his face end too abruptly?

3. I like Brad Pitt. Why do I like Brad Pitt? (Unrelated: dude looks pretty damn youthful for 43.)


 

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He Really Is Honest: He Makes Himself Look Like An Idiot

Posted by Ogged
on 09.20.06

I should probably gesture at some kind of argument here, but really, if you write a piece defending yourself and by the end the reader is left thinking, "God, what a wanker," then you're a wanker.


 

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Cuckoo!

Posted by Ben
on 09.20.06

This is not a link-blog, or a metafilter-purloining blog—this is a blog about cocks—but this is simply too awesome to be passed up; plus, it has ogged's favorite, Clarence Ashley, singing "The Cuckoo", in what looks to be at least his seventieth year, and someone who isn't blind singing "John the Revelator". More links in the comments, too.


 

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Santa Claus Is Dead

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.20.06

Or at least he and the elves are all treading water -- there's open water from Norway to the North Pole. This, to me, seems like a worry, but what do I know?


 

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There can never be too many football posts.

Posted by Apostropher
on 09.19.06

People started opining that NFL stood for the No Fun League when they began outlawing end zone celebrations. Once again, league management is hard at work cementing their killjoy reputation. The league is running a Take a Player to School Day contest, aimed at grade schoolers. Here's one rejection letter.

Dear Mr. X,

Thank you for your interest and participation in the NFL's "Take a player to School" sweepstakes. We regret to inform you that you and your request have been deemed ineligible. The contest is reserved for children 6-13 who have an interest in bringing their favorite NFL player to their school. Your request to have Kyle Orton of the Chicago Bears come to the University of Illinois to, in your words: "Drink a ton of beer and get completely obliterated" has been denied. Due to the nature of your request we have ruled that you are older than the stated age limit and that your specific request is against all the moral values for which the NFL stands. Thank you for your interest and we hope you continue to support the NFL and your community.

Sincerely,
NFL Properties LLC and Marden-Kane Inc.

C'mon. That would have totally rocked. Luckily, Orton will probably make the trip on his own anyhow.

Update: The Deadspin post now has an update stating that the letter isn't real, which is a crying shame.


 

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The Alphabetical Pirate

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.19.06

In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, a proposal for a children's alphabet book couched entirely in piratical answers to simple questions. Clearly, pirates communicate primarily through use of the letter "Arrr", but the rest of the alphabet can be elicited through appropriate questioning, as in the following (you'll have to supply the watercolor illustrations from your imagination):

"Golly, Captain, how'd you get that big red swelling on the side of your face?"

"Beeee."

"Captain, is your plundering carried out mostly in a lake, or in some other body of water?"

"Ceeee."

"That sure was a lot of rum we drank last night. Captain, why are you holding your head like that?"

"Ache."

"Captain, the ship seems to be sitting lower in the water. And all the rats are leaving. Why is that?"

" 'Ell!"

"Captain, why did you just duck behind the mast for a moment?"

"Peee."

"Captain, what do you call that braid the sailor over there has his hair in?"

"Queue."

"Captain? Oh, go on. You know you want to."

"Arrrrrrrrrr."

"Captain, do you enjoy pillaging?"

" 'Ess."

"Captain, who was that woman I saw you with last night, your wife?"

"Ex."

(Hat tip to my father, who's been spinning this one out for years now. Further letters are left as an exercise for the reader.)


 

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Pull The Other One -- It's Got Bells On.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.19.06

So there's a new book out on The Female Brain, by Dr. Louann Brizendine, describing all the ways in which science has proven that differences in the way men and women behave can be traced to innate physical differences in their brain structures. You may be as skeptical as you like about this stuff, but you can't stick your head in the sand and deny what SCIENCE! (as in, 'She blinded me with') has proven.

Alas, the esteemed Mark Liberman of Language Log has paid a fair amount of attention to the scientific underpinnings of Brizendine's book, and they are, not surprisingly, not particularly steady.

For some examples: Brizendine claims that if boys appear less attentive than girls, it's because their hearing is less sensitive. The research shows that yes, girls on average have slightly more sensitive hearing -- taking a randomly selected girl and boy, about 60% of the time the girl's hearing will be more sensitive. The difference in hearing sensitivity between the average girl and boy is around 1 db -- a barely detectable difference. No one has ever demonstrated behavioral effects from hearing sensitivity differences of this magnitude.

Brezendine makes claims, and sources them to research that simply doesn't support them. She states:

Studies indicate that girls are motivated -- on a molecular and a neurological level -- to ease and even prevent social conflict. Maintaining the relationship at all costs is the female brain's goal. This may be especially true in the teenage female brain.

She supports that claim with a footnote to nine articles. Not one of those articles is concerned with human gender differences in easing and preventing social conflict. One study is of mice, two are of rats, one of rhesus monkeys. Of the remaining five studies on humans, three don't break data down by sex. Of the two that are left, neither is concerned with social conflict avoidance.

Brezendine claims that:

Until eight weeks old, every fetal brain looks female -- female is nature's default gender setting. If you were to watch a female and a male brain developing via time-lapse photography, you would see their circuit diagrams being laid down according to the blueprint drafted by both genes and sex hormones. A huge testosterone surge beginning in the eighth week will turn this unisex brain male by killing off some cells in the communication centers and growing more cells in the sex and aggression centers. If the testosterone surge doesn't happen, the female brain continues to grow unperturbed. The fetal girl's brain cells sprout more connections in the communications centers and areas that process emotion.

She sources that to four papers on sex-linked differences in brain stucture. None of those articles speak to hormonal influences on the 'circuit diagrams' being laid down in human embryos -- it's not something people know how to study yet. All the specifics in the quoted paragraph are invented by the author.

I've reached a point with pop-science accounts of how women differ from men, where I firmly assume that any claim that science has shown a physical cause for behavioral differences between the sexes is bullshit. It's not an irrebuttable presumption -- if someone I thought of as credible for other reasons told me that research had demonstrated something of the sort, I'd check it out. After all, such a thing could be true. But every time I've ever seen a claim like that traced back to the underlying research, it's been absolute nonsense. For anyone out there who's thinking "Come on, there's some legit science that establishes a physical cause for behavior differences between the sexes," I'd like to ask you to find whatever you think you're relying on, and see if it says what you think it does when you take it back to the original research, rather than reading a pop summary. I'm betting you're not going to come up with anything.

(I'm assuming this post was redundant because you all read Language Log regularly. If you don't, why not?)


 

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Mirror, mirror, on the wall.

Posted by Apostropher
on 09.19.06

I don't think Lance Mannion is saying anything that didn't get said somewhere, by someone, in the Althouse marathon thread the other day, but he says it so very, very well.


 

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Holy Crap

Posted by Ogged
on 09.18.06

One of my friends just won a MacArthur prize.

So what's the word for feeling deliriously happy and proud, and like an utter failure?


 

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Allah, Akbar, Anyone!

Posted by Ogged
on 09.18.06

It turns out that speed dating for American Muslims is a lot like regular speed dating. Except they all bring their mothers.

A few years ago the organizers were forced to establish a limit of one parent per participant and bar them from the tables until the social hour because so many interfered. Parents are now corralled along one edge of the reception hall, where they alternate between craning their necks to see who their adult children are meeting or horse-trading bios, photographs and telephone numbers among themselves.

It makes some sense, since this is quite true:

“You are not marrying the guy only, but his whole family.”

And of course there are mothers being supportive, as only mothers can be.

“I’m her mother so of course I’m looking for her husband,” said Mrs. Abbas, ticking off the qualities she was looking for, including a good heart, handsome, as highly educated as her daughter and a good Muslim.

Did he have to be Egyptian?
“She’s desperate for anyone!” laughed Alia, a vivacious technology manager for a New York firm, noting that the “Made in Egypt” stipulation had long since been cast overboard.
“Her cousin who is younger has babies now!”

 

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Dance dance dance dance dance to the radio

Posted by Ben
on 09.18.06

Hey kids! What are y'all doing tomorrow, the 19th, from noon to 6pm, PST? If you said listening music on KZSU, then you have answered correctly. Quite possibly my only show until January! Featuring all sorts of people and groups encountered on my travels.


 

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Getting Your Priorities Straight

Posted by LizardBreath
on 09.18.06

Sometime over the summer an oddly deluded publicist sent me a copy of this book: The Trouble With Diversity; How We Learned To Love Identity And Ignore Inequality, by Walter Benn Michaels. While I'm somewhat bemused by the kind of mind that thinks sending review copies to pseudonymous lawyers who blog about cake is a useful way of garnering publicity for a new book -- were there no park benches on which copies could have been strewn to greater effect? -- I've been meaning to write something about it since.

The book is worth reading, albeit in large part terribly annoying and simply wrong;but its central point is solid. Michaels argues that present day liberals (who he refers to as the 'neo-liberal consensus'. Is 'neo-liberal' a term I haven't run across before, or has 'neo' just become a pejorative prefix in the political realm?) focus on issues of justice relating to identity, rather than inequality, and that conservatives are happy to let them do so. When you argue about diversity and respect for members of other groups, however the argument comes out, no one has to spend any money -- win or lose, the status quo is essentially maintained. Michaels describes liberals arguing about diversity as the human resources department for the power-structure: while they may end up having some influence on who the haves and have-nots are, they don't do anything to diminish the difference between the two.

Michaels does a nice job on 'classism' -- that we have reached a point where people seriously talk about the problems of economic inequality as if the central problem were that the rich don't respect the poor. This is nitwitted nonsense: the problem with being poor is that you don't have money to pay for things you need, or that you're afraid of being in that position. Whether bleu-cheese eaters despise you for liking Velveeta is the least of your worries. Further, conservatives have pulled a nice rhetorical move of explicitly identifying themselves with 'lowerclass' class markers, so that now they can argue with a straight face that a NASCAR fan making six figures is oppressed by urban elites as personified by a NYC schoolteacher making half that, because the schoolteacher has 'elite' tastes. In a system where identity has to be taken terribly seriously, there's not much the 'liberal elites' can do to respond to that claim of oppression, nonsensical as it is.

Also, he has the best and most convincing statement of the argument that 'race' is genuinely a meaningless term that I've ever seen. While the arguments are familiar ones -- what possible sense does the 'one-drop' rule make? How can you say that race can be understood in terms of culture if that culture isn't shared, as it isn't, by all members of the given race? -- he arrays them vividly and convincingly. If that's an argument that interests you, buy the book for that chapter.

On the other hand, I wanted to throw the book across the room a lot. First, it's kind of badly organized: it had the feeling of a bunch of essays that had been halfway edited into a continuous argument, and I think it would have been better off to have been either left more separate, or edited more smoothly. Second, it makes a very bad, and very familiar, argument that because one issue is more important than another, it's wrong to focus on the less important issue at all. I talk a lot about feminism. I am completely sympathetic to the notion that anything I or my acquaintances suffer from gender discrimination is entirely insignificant in relation to the inequalities between me as a privileged American professional and someone being murdered in Darfur, or someone in America stuck in a bad public school and unable to afford decent housing, let alone higher education. But in my experience, the same people you get complaining about sexism, or racism, or anti-Semitism, are the people who are also paying attention to the (in my opinion at least) more important issues of severe economic inequality. Telling them to shut up about the less important issues doesn't actually get you more attention for the more important issues. Third, following from the last point, Michaels really really doesn't like liberals. Now, I know we're all sellouts who aren't really fighting for what's important, but we're all you've got -- there are four, possibly six, sincere progressives in the US. I pretty much agree with Michaels about most of what he was saying and I still wanted to kick him in the shins, repeatedly, for the hostility coming toward my political cohort.

Fourth, and most importantly, Michael's conclusion is that we all need to stop worrying about identity issues and focusing on inequality because (1) identity issues aren't (comparatively) a real problem these days and (2) they're distracting us from inequality. That first point is, I think, just bullshit, and it's made in an intentionally offensive way -- there's a long section arguing that there's never been significant anti-Semitism in the US (Leo Frank wasn't lynched for being a Jew, but for being a capitalist) that had me wincing. I know it was intentionally jarring, but it was really unpleasant to read (Michaels is Jewish, and I found knowing that fact was necessary to not be upset by what sounded really similar to the kind of denials of anti-Semitism that come from actual anti-Semites). And he argues essentially the same thing, although less fervently, about anti-black racism -- that even though it was a problem in the past, it's not a significant problem now. The difference between people who made it out of New Orleans and those who didn't wasn't black/white, it was rich/poor. While this is not entirely false, it ignores, and I think harmfully so, the continuing effects of direct racism, and even more so it ignores the way structural racism is exploited to keep poor and middle class Americans from building up loyalties on a class, rather than a racial, basis. Michaels is, I think, right, that economic inequality is a fundamentally more important issue that respect for diversity and for differing identities, but I don't believe we can fix inequality without attention to the issues of identity he wants to gloss over.

With all that said, it was worth reading. I don't agree with lots of it, and I'm sincerely annoyed with Michaels in many regards, but it gave me a fair amount to think about and is particularly worth it for anyone whose leftism focuses on identity issues.

Update: Scott Eric Kaufman provided the following links in comments -- An interview with Michaels in the Chronicle, a post from The Huffington Post, and an article about his take on Survivor.



 

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In which I contribute to the blog

Posted by Tia
on 09.18.06

This is just a bizarre story.

In a nutshell: older, wealthier man marries younger woman. She'll later say he was abusive, he'll say it's all a fabrication. During the process of the divorce, he claims that through a 5,000 dollar investment, he's incurred a 2.5 million dollar liability, and all his money is poof, gone. The court says to give the money back because some of it may well belong to the soon-to-be-ex-missus, he says, I can't, it's not mine anymore, and then the court puts him in jail for contempt where he has stayed for the past 11 years.

I don't know from the law, and if I were a betting woman I'd say the guy at least intended funny business to hide his money, though whether or not he can get it back now I've no idea, but, lawyers in the audience, isn't this cruel and unusual punishment? You can keep someone in jail for 11 years for contempt of court? That seems like madness to me.


 

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And The Tree Was Happy--But Not Really

Posted by Alameida
on 09.18.06

Do you know why y'alls' weekend went better than mine? If you are Teh Hero, the answer is red wine and percoset, but I'm talking to the rest of you inveterate arguers-on-the-internet. It's because I saw a mime production of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. I went because a friend was doing something that was actually cool, but it was a package deal. One person (and honestly, he was pretty talented) did the mime, while another woman read the poem (and, again, I feel compelled to note she had a great voice), and punctuated things with a bongo drum and thumb piano (no excuses for that). Still when he was moping up the place as a limbless tree it was all I could do to keep from throwing a pen at his head. The whole time I was thinking, well, at least I can blog about this later. I abominate The Giving Tree. And what's up with it, anyway? Are we not supposed to notice that the boy is a fucking psychopath? There's a whole goddamn forest there, and he's got to get all Dahmer on his best friend? Is it a metaphor for the never-failing abundant love of God? A misogynistic take on matryred motherhood? Actually the rest of my weekend was fine, but I'm sick and grumpy and feel like complaining.


 

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Danger!

Posted by Ogged
on 09.17.06

This video of "extreme ironing" made me very happy.

The Extreme Ironing website.

I have a feeling the apostropher has already blogged this, but surely once was not enough.


 

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