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What would Ben do?

Posted by Ben
on 06.02.07

JAC is right to wonder. Fortunately, now you can find out, at least until I stop updating things, which is sure to happen somewhat soon.


 

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Smarter Than They Look

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.07

The BBC is releasing part of their Earth series in theaters.

Earth, the cinematic spin-off of the award-winning BBC television series Planet Earth, stars three families of polar bears, elephants and whales. The 90-minute film shows the extraordinary bond between mothers and their newborn as they live in diverse environments

It opens in October. Cool!


 

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You Don't Want To Go To HELL Do You?

Posted by Ogged
on 06.02.07

I'm sure you remember Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains. I knew that he'd turned to Jesus, and I wouldn't have thought that I'd have any interest in seeing him proselytize among gang members in Santa Monica, but this video is strangely compelling.


 

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Steve Gilliard Is Dead

Posted by LizardBreath
on 06.02.07

I'm so sorry. I didn't know him personally at all -- came close to meeting him at a barbecue once, but didn't manage to interrupt his conversation to tell him how much I appreciated his blog. I wish I had.


 

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Knocked Up

Posted by Ogged
on 06.01.07

Worth seeing; some very funny moments. Any movie that makes fun of Stephen Hawking is ok by me. But not nearly as funny as 40 Year-Old Virgin and basically undecided about how serious to be.


 

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Bay Area Meetup, Dammit: July 7

Posted by Ogged
on 06.01.07

That seems to be the date that works for the most people, so July 7 it is. As for the location, you can take Magpie's suggestion as a starting point.


 

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Pretty

Posted by Ogged
on 06.01.07

Boy, does this BBC series on planet earth look fantastic. You can watch a long, gorgeous trailer at the link. I think I'd feel a little guilty watching it on my non-HD television. Didn't movie theaters used to run serial dramas? Something like this series or even like The Wire would be a lot of fun to go see each week in a theater.

via mr


 

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Heterodox Orthodoxy: Economic Beach Reading Edition

Posted by LizardBreath
on 06.01.07

For more behind-the-curve Econ blogging, I just read Tom Slee's (blog here) No One Makes You Shop At Wal-Mart. I picked it up after reading Alex Tabarrok's review, on the basis that a book challenging the supremacy of unfettered markets for all policy purposes that Tabarrok nonetheless liked had to have something going for it; Henry Farrell also reviewed it approvingly at Crooked Timber.

It's a short book, that uses very basic, simple game theoretical, Econ 101 examples to support an argument that there are perfectly ordinary situations where a rational utility maximizer making unfettered individual choices is going to arrive at a strongly undesired outcome. Under those circumstances, the only way to get to the outcome that the rational utility maximizer prefers is to take some form of collective action, regulating or otherwise restricting the free choices of the actors.

One of the simplest and clearest examples in the book is a multi-player version of the Prisoners' Dilemma, constructed as a story about littering in Chapter 3: Jill walks across a park to work every morning with a cup of coffee. She enjoys the nice clean park a great deal, but doesn't like walking out of her way to throw her cup away. If we give numerical values to her preferences, she gets 60 points worth of utility from walking through the park when it's clean, losing 1 point for every piece of litter therein, and loses 5 points of utility from walking to a trash can rather than tossing her cup on the ground. If she's the only person crossing the park each morning, her rational utility-maximizing decision is to toss her cup on the ground -- she gets 60 units of utility from the park, minus 1 for her coffee cup on the ground, for a total of 59 units. Her other option, throwing the cup in the trash, would bring her a total of only 55 units of utility. A rational utility maximizer will always throw the cup on the ground. But if fifty rational utility maximizers cross the park every day, suddenly there are 50 cups on the ground, and everyone is getting only 10 units of utility by crossing the park -- they can't rationally maximize their utilities by individually deciding to throw their cups away, because regardless of how many other cups are on the ground, walking to the trash can will never be preferable to adding one more cup to the mess. The rational utility maximizers end up getting 10 units of utility out of crossing the park, rather than the 55 units each would get if they all threw their cups away. Jill, and the other forty-nine members of homo economicus who share her morning commute, can have the clean park they enjoy, but to get there they have to abandon their individually utility maximizing choices and act collectively to make littering a less attractive choice than using the trash can, by formal or informal regulation or social pressure increasing the cost of littering until it is greater than that of not littering. (This example, in less numerical form, is familiar as the Tragedy of the Commons, which for some reason is rarely used in advocating the sort of regulation that historically made it possible for commons to function.)

A very useful thing about this sort of example (and various examples at this level of abstraction are pretty much the whole book --we're not talking about real world data analysis here) is as a rebuttal of a moral argument that gets made for unfettered markets. The libertarian moral argument against regulation of markets is roughly as follows (and I'm unsympathetic to it, so I'm probably not stating it as convincingly as possible): "Who are you, proposer of regulation, to say that you know better what people want than their own revealed preferences do? People are rational, and only some kind of controlling intellectual snob would think that they could make better choices for people than they can make individually for themselves -- back off and leave people alone to make their own decisions, they aren't stupid and they'll do a better job than you will." An answer to that is that Jill isn't stupid, or irrational -- the individual decisions that leave her walking unhappily through a littered park are her best rational decisions in the absence of regulation. Her best possible outcome, where she and everyone else throw their trash in the trash cans, is only available through regulation or other less formal collective action; the reason she can't get to that outcome through making rational individual choices isn't that she's not smart or rational enough to make the decisions that best serve her indivdual interests, it's that the decisions that really do intelligently and rationally best serve her indivdual interests lead to an outcome she doesn't like. Proposing regulation isn't calling her stupid, it's recognizing that the structure of the situation is such that rational, intelligent, individual free choices won't make the choosers happy.

So, an entirely economically orthodox book, using some very simple game theory tools, which comes up with some nicely clear and compelling arguments on where some simplistic market-supremacist arguments go astray. It's interesting that the author isn't an academic economist -- one wonders if the social pressures we've been talking about within the discipline have something to do with that.


 

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Q

Posted by Ogged
on 06.01.07

Via MR, a simple test.

Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.

Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as "self-monitoring". High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.
High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the "same person" in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.

Makes a lot of intuitive sense, anyway. I'm definitely a "high self-monitor," but I don't really have much occasion to lie. Maybe those of you who are dating can fill us in.


 

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Unfogged Imitates the NYT

Posted by Becks
on 06.01.07

I considered linking to the NYT article about restaurant kids menus the other day but decided not to, figuring we'd probably already covered it in our previous food discussions. But then y'all went and started talking about pretty much the same topic over here so I might as well give it a thread.

Next time I'll remember my audience.


 

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Oversight

Posted by Alameida
on 06.01.07

Can it really be the case that no one has posted at Unfogged about this Obama pick-up basketball article? He throws elbows!!!--"'he knew how to get in the mix when he needed to,' Mr. Giannoulias said." He learns how to be black!!!--"Craig Robinson, Mr. Obama's brother-in-law, said: 'He didn't know who he was until he found basketball. It was the first time he really met black people.'"


 

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An Unequal Institution

Posted by Becks
on 06.01.07

Interesting article in The Economist on the consequences of the diverging divorce rates for upper and lower income Americans.

There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.
At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.
Does this matter? Kay Hymowitz of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think-tank, says it does. In her book "Marriage and Caste in America", she argues that the "marriage gap" is the chief source of the country's notorious and widening inequality. ...America, argues Ms Hymowitz, is turning into "a nation of separate and unequal families".

Besides finding the topic interesting, I couldn't help but think as I was reading it how much better the article was than one on a similar topic would have been in the NYT. The Economist seemed to go out of its way to try not to conflate correlation with causation and to point out the variables that had been controlled in various studies. Not perfect but much better than the sweeping, unsupported generalizations you see more and more these days even in the Washington Post or the Times.


 

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So Quotidian, Yeah!

Posted by Ogged
on 06.01.07

Sometimes I think the blog needs a new crush-object, but with these pictures of her taking out the trash, the position might be Jessica Biel's in perpetuity. You know you want those slippers, people.


 

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I know whyat the Chicagoans should do

Posted by Ben
on 05.31.07

They should go to the Empty Bottle this Saturday to witness Golosa's performance.


 

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LeBron

Posted by Ogged
on 05.31.07

That was pretty impressive.


 

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apostropher v2.2

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.31.07

I can has baby?


 

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Attraction

Posted by Ogged
on 05.31.07

The Lifeguard was at the pool today, and she waved a friendly wave from across the pool. Clearly a she-devil, but that's not what I'm on about at the moment. I was struck by how little I, you know, wanted her. She's cute enough and nice enough, but I was clearly suckered by you damn Americanos and this "ask her out, it'll be fun" business. Time to ratchet those standards back up; it's not as if the outcome is any different, and at least I'll have my pride. Anyway, for some reason, I got to thinking about one or two sentence ways to attract like-minded people. I have these so far.

1. Let's not get carried away.

2. Evolution took my gills and all I got were these lousy thumbs.

3. Mickey Kaus: loathesome and amusing.

4. Kill whitey. Over beer and pretzels, after the game.

5. Tick-tock, bitch.

6. I make enough to pay someone to listen to you talk about your feelings.

7. I love Human Rights Watch, but I don't want to marry it.


 

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Heterodox Challenges to 'Econ 101'

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.31.07

I'm late posting on this, but there's an ongoing discussion of what we've talked about here as the Econ 101 problem: how come the policy arguments publicly made by economists, or by people claiming to be making economic arguments, lean so heavily toward an anti-regulatory/market-can-do-no-wrong position?

The discussion kicked off with an article in The Nation, Hip Heterodoxy, by Christopher Hayes, on the negative consequences suffered by economists who are perceived within the profession as deviating from the neoclassical consensus (which, as a non-economist, appears to be roughly equivalent to the claim that unregulated markets are always going to be the best policy solution; the consensus that underlies the right-wing 'Econ 101' arguments that get so irritating). It's worth reading, but somewhat frustrating for an outsider to the world of academic economics; the bottom line according to the article appears to be that while there's a fair amount of work questioning the neoclassical consensus that gets done in mainstream economics departments, being identified as the sort of person who focuses on heterodox economics is the kiss of death for being taken seriously by mainstream economists, either for an individual economist or a department. This fits with my sense of the situation, but without inside knowledge of academic economics, I really can't tell whether mainstream economists really do marginalize economists who do good solid work that challenges the neoclassical consensus, or whether the heterodox economists who feel excluded are misinterpreting the reasons for their lack of success.

TPM Cafe picked up the discussion, and got a bunch of economists to weigh in -- the individual posts are interesting, but the sum remains unsatisfying. If you want more solid answers on why and how the policy face of mainstream economics appears so uniformly right-wing to an outsider, I'm not seeing them here. But it's all still very worth reading.


 

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Irony Oh, Who Can Tell Anymore?

Posted by Ogged
on 05.31.07

I don't know why they've identified TB-Man, but they have, and it turns out he's...a personal injury lawyer (scroll down to Andrew). I note this not because PI attorneys are evil (I have a good-hearted and honest relative who is one), but because it'll be funny when 500 people sue him for putting them at risk.


 

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The Bests

Posted by Ogged
on 05.30.07

Did you gits know that male model, Lindsay Lohan boytoy and cocaine-fueled party fiend Calum Best is the late, great soccer star and party fiend George Best's kid?

Well, it doesn't matter, but you should probably watch this clip of Best highlights. Although I recognize that soccer is a blight upon the earth and a waste of human energy, the man was beautiful to watch.


 

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Pitchforks and Torches

Posted by Becks
on 05.30.07

My opinion: patient confidentiality should be suspended if you act like this big of an asshole:

A man who may have exposed passengers and crew members on two trans-Atlantic flights earlier this month to a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis knew he had the infection and had been advised by health officials not to travel overseas.
The man flew to Paris from his home in Atlanta on May 12 for his wedding and honeymoon even though health officials told him they "preferred" that he not get on the flight.
Days later, while he was in Italy, he was contacted by health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and told that he had a rare and potentially virulent form of the disease and should turn himself over to Italian health authorities.
Instead of doing that, he said in the interview, he took a flight to Canada to evade a no-fly list -- which he assumed only applied to flights bound for the United States -- and then drove into the United States and turned himself in to a TB isolation hospital in New York City. The director of the C.D.C., Julie Gerberding, said that the man, whose name has not been released, was not highly infectious but that there was a possibility he could expose others to the disease.
"The patient really was told that he shouldn't fly," she said in an interview televised on CNN today.
...
"I'm a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person," said the man, who declined to give his name. "This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I've cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary confinement in Italy thing."

 

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Life imitates Unfogged.

Posted by Apostropher
on 05.30.07

Jacksonville, Florida has a W-lfs-n High School (!). This being that time of the year, they just had a graduation ceremony that generated no small amount of controversy because the valedictorian decided to be a little bitch. You might notice that the caption on the accompanying video clip indicates that she apologized.

I guess I don't totally understand why it's such a big deal. [...] I can't say I'm sorry for the message I shared. I'm sorry if people were offended, but I still believe what I said.

I believe I've seen this form of apology previously.
"Mom, Billy called me stupid!"
"Billy, tell your sister that you're sorry."
"Sis, I'm sorry you're stupid."


 

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That'll Leave A Mark

Posted by Ogged
on 05.30.07

I was surprised to read such a straightforward evisceration in the Times. You'd think this would be the beginning of the end for Lou Dobbs, but you'd probably be wrong.


 

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Get your analogy fix

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 05.30.07

If I were smarter and more serious I would be more like Hilzoy, whose post on torture makes sensible points that--oddly!-- need to be made. Plus some analogies!


 

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In Summary

Posted by Becks
on 05.30.07

August J. Pollak has the takeaway message from yesterday's court ruling:

[The] Roberts majority isn't just anti-abortion. It's anti-women. And the sooner liberals and progressives start telling moderate and even conservative women that even if they don't like abortion, these people also want your daughters to not get the same pay, not get the same education, not have the same chance to play sports or even try and have the same jobs, the better. Because even if a mother thinks abortion is wrong, I doubt there are many mothers who think a judge has the right the tell them their daughter isn't allowed to do something because she's a girl.

 

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Libertarian Health Care Blogging!

Posted by Becks
on 05.29.07

Alas, I'd thought that Jackie Parker Posey Paisley was blogging no more. But no! She's back! And crazy as ever! Wooooooo!

I don't understand why people expect their employers to buy them health insurance. They argue, "health care is a necessity of life" but so is food -- do you want your employers to go grocery shopping for you too? I also don't understand why people expect to be able to pay low insurance premiums and then use more health care than they paid for. Insurance is supposed to be for *unexpected* expenses -- if you have an expensive pre-existing medical condition (most of which are self-inflicted by poor diet, lack of exercise, drug use, or other unhealthy or dangerous behaviors) that's not an unexpected expense. And speaking of expected vs. unexpected expenses, I *really* don't understand why maternity coverage even exists much less is mandated! Having a baby is *not* an unexpected expense.

 

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"The Coastline: It's Where You Keep Your Stuff"

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.29.07

Matt Yglesias makes fun of a Corner post by Mike Novak in which Novak waxes poetic about how great global warming would be, returning Greenland to the glory days of Eric the Red when it really was green. Matt points out that there's no reason to think that global warming is likely to stop when Scandinavia becomes lush and verdant -- it might just keep going until Norway looks like Yemen.

Another point that gets missed by people who blithely talk about warmer weather worldwide as something that might be a benefit, and that has happened before, is that we now have an incredible capital investment in assets that are very difficult to move, like cities. Which tend to be located near water. If coastlines move, even in a fairly minor way, there's a whole lot of valuable stuff that's going to be either underwater or otherwise useless. While a world where the average temperature was, say, five degrees higher might be perfectly inhabitable, or even a rather nice place, changing from our current climate to that climate is likely to be excruciatingly economically painful.


 

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Yeah, I Didn't Want To Read It Either

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.29.07

Andrew Sullivan on historical precedents for our interrogation methods. I haven't got a thing to say about it, except that I'd really, really like us to stop.

Somehow, this cartoon about the problems with obeying Godwin's Law seems apropos.


 

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Intern, My Intern

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.07

Our office manager is out next week, so I was just asked whether I'd mind "supervising" the intern. Mwahahaha!



 

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Evidence

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.07

Evolution denial and cultural resentment in one neat package, from one of the directors of the world's first creationist museum.

When Mr Marsh was asked to explain the existence of fossilised remains of man's ancestors, he replied: "There are no such things.

"Humans are basically as you see them today. Those skeletons they've found, what's the word? They could have been deformed, diseased or something.
"I've seen people like that running round the streets of New York."

via the bandarlog


 

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Chicago Meetup

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.07

Here's your thread.



 

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I'm With Yglesias On This One

Posted by LizardBreath
on 05.29.07

Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias are disagreeing about whether improvements in public health are more easily purchased through direct provision of health care, or through less directed public health measures (improvements in air quality, policies intended to impact lifestyle changes, and so forth. Specifically, Klein's saying that there isn't a lot of low-hanging fruit in the public health area outside of health care provision -- improvements in air quality are hard to bring about with business on the other side, lifestyle changes are very hard to affect through policy, and so forth. Yglesias points out that there are easily identifiable policies out there that discourage car usage and increase walking and biking; while we usually think of them in terms of energy conservation/greenhouse gas reduction, they're also public health measures.

Commenter cw sent me this link to a Grist article on really bike-friendly cities in Europe -- streets laid out with dedicated lanes physically separated from car traffic. I live eleven miles from work, and I'd commute on a bike if I didn't have to be afraid of cars. At a very easy pace, it'd take me the same hour my commute takes now by subway; a little faster and I'd actually be saving time. As things are now, there's no way to do it on a bike without dodging traffic, and I really don't want to acquire the skills necessary to do that competently, nor to accept the risks involved even for a skilled rider in NYC traffic. I couldn't tell you what the costs would be to set up this sort of dedicated bike traffic grid in NYC, or how they'd compare to other public health measures, but the benefits are clear.


 

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Number One Fan

Posted by Ogged
on 05.29.07

I'm not really interested in what anti-fat agitator MeMe Roth has to say about American Idol; AWB and Majikthise say plenty. I just want to note this transcendentally fucked up bit from MeMe's own website.

Q: Any special motivation?

MeMe Roth: I see staying fit as an obligation to my self and my family. Back in the 80s when I was Van Halen's "number one fan," I did get the chance to meet the band. Eddie Van Halen made me promise I'd never get fat. He said I looked like something out of Playboy. Talk about making a girl swoon... I kept my part of the bargain; maybe he'll come to the Wedding Gown Challenge?

Noted health nut Eddie Van Halen? I'm getting squicked just trying to imagine that scene, and it tells you pretty much all you need to know about MeMe Roth that she recounts it without any self-awareness of how gross it sounds.


 

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Modern Love: Clothes Make The Man Edition

Posted by Becks
on 05.28.07

Train wreck:

MY girlfriend had grown tired of seeing me in my habitual attire -- baggy khakis with fraying ends, threadbare sweaters I'd probably owned since college, an old tweed sports coat -- and resolved to expose me to the possibilities of style.
...
"We can do better," she said.
...
We visited a number of trendy downtown haunts that day, and in each we repeated the ritual of browsing among the racks and carrying armfuls of garments to the dressing room. The things she gathered were of the sort I never would have considered: body-fitting shirts, slick trousers with zippers serving no imaginable purpose running zigzaggy up the legs, $200 pairs of jeans, gauzy jackets that did not seem to offer much protection against the elements -- clothes that would purportedly transform me into someone more "now."
Huddling in the small well-lighted dressing room, we giggled and exchanged furtive kisses as I tried not to wonder what people outside might be thinking. Satisfied, she watched as I pulled on a skin-tight black T-shirt that accentuated my slight paunch. "It's called a 'motivational' shirt," she explained, running her slender fingers over my belly. "You'll do more situps."

 

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Singing

Posted by Ogged
on 05.28.07

One more Jackson Frank song. This one recorded in 1975.

Cryin' Like A Baby.


 

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Seventeen

Posted by Becks
on 05.28.07

Maybe Ogged just needs to set his sights a little younger. We were flipping through a Seventeen magazine here at the beach and found an article where they encourage their readers to look beyond the captain of the football team for awesome guys they might have overlooked, including...The Blogger:

You don't agree with all his posts, but they make you think about new issues -- and whether he's as cute as his pics!
Find him at: A friend of a friend's Top 8 Your first move: Bloggers love having an audience almost as much as they like a battle of wits, so stir up some controversy by telling him when you disagree with a post.
Hidden payoff: An outspoken guy can stir up passions you never knew what you had -- and help you figure out what you really stand for.

 

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Terrible

Posted by Ogged
on 05.28.07

They took away his family's farm and left him with nothing; nothing but bitter memories and DLC swag.


 

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Jackson Frank

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.07

I've often wondered why contemporary male folk singers think their very sensitive and emotive singing is pleasing. But maybe they're imitating Jackson Frank? I just heard of him today (shut up) and it's definitely folk music, but...can a voice be grounded in an otherworldly way?...wow.

Yellow Walls.

Frank had a rough life and wound up homeless and blind in one eye. He recorded a few songs a little while before he died, and although everything I've read says they're disappointing, I dunno, this one, for example, is totally ragged but totally beautiful.

(Tumble) In The Wind (Version 2).

(And if there's a different preferred way to embed audio in a post, let me know.)


 

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Profgrrrrl In Love

Posted by Ogged
on 05.27.07


 

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