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Sadly, There Were No Hits For High Heels And Makeup

Posted by Becks
on 07.21.07

This would be a great dating site for Ogged if only there were more members.


 

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Chamber of Secrets

Posted by Becks
on 07.20.07

Please confine any talk about the plot of Harry Potter Book Seven to this thread.


 

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Why I Like Harry Potter

Posted by Ogged
on 07.20.07

Magic is fun. From Harry's first accidental spells all the way through book six, the fact that these characters can do magic is exciting and often funny. The key to this is that even the characters seem like they can't believe all the cool things they can do. And we're right there with them, with each new book introducing new spells, tools, or toys. And there are really a lot of spells, tools and toys. From the Pensieve, to the Mirror of Erised, to all the dueling curses, to Fred and George's novelties, there must literally be over a hundred things that make you think, "Heh, that's pretty cool."

Dumbledore. Pure wish-fulfillment, but it's a big wish and well-fulfilled. An endlessly good-humored, incredibly powerful, and lovably eccentric mentor/protector/father-figure. Truly a lovable character, in fact, probably the emotional center of the books. Unfortunately, none of Dumbledore's wonderfulness comes through in the movies; you have to read the books.

Relationships. Love is obviously central to Harry's survival and accounts for a lot of the warmth in the books. Loyalty is maybe even more interesting, and Rowling does a great job of with showing the power of enduring loyalty, the burdens of loyalty, and, what's perhaps most fun to read, how little by little the absolute loyalty between Ron, Hermione, and Harry comes to be. Is there any doubt, by the end of book six, that any of those three would die for the others? And that you couldn't say that with certainty after the earlier books? But even more generally, Rowling does a genuinely fantastic job of making relationships between people real. Harry's relationship with Snape isn't just about what happens when he and Snape are together, but all the ways in which each one's behavior is affected by what he thinks of and wants from the other. There are realistic emotions and motivations on both sides, and we can feel and anticipate what, for example, Snape will think when Harry does something. And there are a dozen of these well-drawn relationships throughout the books, and not just between living people (Dumbledore/Snape, Dumbledore/Harry, Harry/Voldemort, Hermione/Ron) but between people living and dead (Harry/Salazar Slytherin, Harry/his parents, Neville/his parents). These are the heart of the books, and account for almost all the drama.

Snape. As lots of people have noted, Snape is the most complex character in the books. Genuinely nasty, opaque, but also insightful and, maybe, ultimately good. And it's great to have a character who interprets all the hero's actions through a prism of suspicion, and, as we find out, not always without cause. You want to hate Snape, but even more than that, you want to understand where he's coming from, and that's compelling.

Magical Talent. What is it? Clearly, much of it depends on knowledge. But Harry isn't able to duel with Voldemort because he knows a lot, but because he has...something. It's not clear whether that something is will, or faith, or courage, or what. And the mystery of that something: what is it that makes someone special or able to do great things? not only keeps Harry compelling, but makes us wonder, to great dramatic effect, who else will be able to summon it when necessary.

Work/Payoff Ratio, and Wit. These books fly by, and they're a lot of fun, because Rowling has a sense of humor, and for the most part keeps things light. So you get all of the above, but without ponderousness, and not in a way that overwhelms the simply joy of following a good vs. evil plot. That's good reading.


 

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Free music

Posted by Ben
on 07.20.07

And it's legit, too!


 

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More Harry Potter Curmudgeonliness

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.20.07

Megan McArdle, in the Guardian, does a nice job of describing what I don't like about the Harry Potter books. They're fantasy novels, which means they're world-building -- a big chunk of the fun is looking at the world where that sort of magic could happen. Now, of course, you can't describe a whole world in a novel, or even in seven novels, so the good ones have a lot of convincing, consistent detail about the stuff you can see, and distract your attention from the great gaps in the parts of the world that aren't important to the plot. But they leave you with the feeling that there's a whole, consistent, world out there. While it wouldn't occur to me to call it a failure in economics rather than in consistency generally, McArdle describes precisely what I find lacking in HP:

Yet in the Potter books, the costs and limits are too often arbitrary. A patronus charm, for example, is awfully difficult - until Rowling wants a stirring scene in which Harry pulls together an intrepid band of students to Fight the Power, whereupon it becomes simple enough to be taught by an inexperienced fifteen year old. Rowling can only do this because it's thoroughly unclear how magic power is acquired. It seems hard to credit academic labour, when spells are one or two words; and anyway, if that were the determinant, Hermione Granger would be a better wizard than Harry. But if it's something akin to athletic skill, why is it taught at rows of desks? And why aren't students worn out after practicing spells?
The low opportunity cost attached to magic spills over into the thoroughly unbelievable wizard economy. Why are the Weasleys poor? Why would any wizard be? Anything they need, except scarce magical objects, can be obtained by ordering a house elf to do it, or casting a spell, or, in a pinch, making objects like dinner, or a house, assemble themselves. Yet the Weasleys are poor not just by wizard standards, but by ours: they lack things like new clothes and textbooks that should be easily obtainable with a few magic words. Why?
The answer, as with so much of JK Rowling's work, seems to be "she didn't think it through". The details are the great charm of Rowling's books, and the reason that I have pre-ordered my copy of the seventh novel: the owl grams, the talking portraits, the Weasley twins' magic tricks. But she seems to pay no attention at all to the big picture, so all the details clash madly with each other. It's the same reason she writes herself into plot holes that have to be resolved by making characters behave in inexplicable ways.
This matters. If the cost of magic isn't well defined, how do we know what resources, other than plucky determination, Harry needs to defeat Voldemort? We certainly can't rely on his mental acumen; he's spent the last two books acting like a brain-damaged refugee from The Dirty Dozen.

 

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Spoilers

Posted by Becks
on 07.20.07

We're going to ask that you confine discussion of Harry Potter to certain threads** -- what one person might consider fair game might be seen as a spoiler by someone else and I don't want to have to hunt you down and cut you. Which I will. But that leads to the question: why are some people so intent on spoiling this? What's the motivation? From The Daily Show:

Jon Stewart: Why do people do that?...What is it in the human psyche that just wants to ruin it for everybody?...It seems like mean-spirited dickery, quite frankly.
John Oliver: No, not necessarily, Jon. These tattletales could be devising some kind of car that runs on the tears of children.

(** There will also be a discussion of the new Harry Potter book on KidLit moderated by Snarkout and Frowner)


 

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State Secrets

Posted by Ogged
on 07.20.07

Before the moment passes and the insanity recedes from view, let's just note that a mailman accidentally delivered a couple of Harry Potter books early and was so worried about losing his job that he went back and asked the kids to return them.


 

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The Memories

Posted by Ogged
on 07.20.07

But for the fact that Esther Williams (long may she prosper) is still alive, seventy-something guy at the pool came up with the best euphemism for the death of a swimmer: "maybe he found Esther Williams." Then he got a faraway look in his goggles and rhapsodized about how good she looked. "You're talking about a long time ago, seventy-something guy. The forties?" "The fifties. Well, the forties, too."


 

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"They Have Made Their Decision, Now Let Them Enforce It."

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.20.07

Every time I think I can't be astonished by their gall anymore, the Administration ratchets it up a notch.

The White House is now taking the position that the Justice Department cannot bring contempt charges in relation to a matter where the White House has made a claim of executive privilege. This is insane -- it's a claim that there's an area where the President's legal positions are unreviewable by any authority at all, and that the President gets to define that area as broadly as he wishes. If they make this stick, the courts and Congress can come to whatever conclusions they like about whether the President's assertion that certain documents or testimony are covered by executive privilege, but there's no action they can take to enforce those conclusions, because the Justice Department does the enforcing, and it obeys the President. Checks and balances are apparently for the little people.

This is Andy Jackson defying the Supreme Court to take the Cherokees' land all over again. It's absolute lawlessness. (Via TPM.)


 

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Me 'n Otto gotta get blotto in the grotto, pronto.

Posted by Apostropher
on 07.19.07

Everybody enjoys playing the "what would I do if I was absolutely filthy rich" game. Right? We've all thought about it. But how many of you unimaginative souls came up with, "I'm going to build a 30-million-dollar underground sex grotto!"

Henry T Nicholas III was, for a brief period, one of the richest men in America. A patron of the Orange County arts scene, he had a trophy wife and enjoyed playing Rod Stewart numbers at full volume from the steps of his mansion. The 6ft 6ins engineer founded the company Broadcom in 1991, making the innards of cable TV boxes at his Redondo Beach apartment. When it floated in the go-go years of the internet boom, his shares went up in value 40 times and he soon acquired the trappings of the super rich: private jets, a Lamborghini and a mansion in Laguna Hills with its own equestrian estate and, court documents claim, his personal brothel, hidden in an underground grotto.

The grotto was reached by hidden doors with secret levers, leading to tunnels and a 2,000sq-ft underground sports bar called "Nick's Café". According to claims in court papers, this was a "secret and convenient lair", to cater for "Mr Nicholas's manic obsession with prostitutes" and his "addiction to cocaine and ecstasy". He used his private jet to pick up prostitutes as far away as New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles "and bring them back to the Pond for his rock star friends", according to documents filed with Orange County Superior Court. "He provided his guests with transportation and cocaine, ecstasy, methamphetamines, marijuana, mushrooms, and nitrous oxide [laughing gas]".

In January 2003, Mr Nicholas quit Broadcom, saying he intended to spend more time with his children and tend to his marriage. Among the many legal troubles he now faces is a divorce battle with his wife Stacey, with whom he controls $1.1bn in Broadcom shares.

Come on. Admit it. At least one of you had thought about an underground sex grotto too.


 

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Gil Thorp mania!

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.19.07

Comics Curmudgeon posts this great photo recreating the infamous Kaz punch in same-sex-o-vision. Note how only photoshop can make the arm angles come out right, and contemplate how much better "Gil Thorp" would be if everyone in it were gay.


 

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Global thermonuclear war

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.19.07

To make up for my humiliating error I post this news of a solution for checkers. Moment of pathos:

The earlier incarnation of [checkers-playing computer program] Chinook, relying on artificial intelligence techniques and the combined computing power of many computers, competed in the 1990 United States championship and placed second behind Marion Tinsley, the world champion who had won every tournament he had played in since 1950.
That achievement should have earned Chinook the right to challenge Dr. Tinsley, a professor of mathematics at Florida State University, for the world championship, but the American Checkers Federation and the English Draughts Association refused to sanction the match. After much wrangling in the checkers world, Dr. Tinsley and Chinook battled for the Man-Machine checkers title in 1992.
Dr. Tinsley won, 4 to 2 with 33 draws. Chinook's two wins were only the sixth and seventh losses for Dr. Tinsley since 1950. In a rematch two years later, Dr. Tinsley withdrew after six draws, citing health reasons. Cancer was diagnosed, and Dr. Tinsley died seven months later.

 

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Meetup video

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.19.07

Film from the recent Unfogged UK meetup. NSFW. Via Sullivan.


 

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Confused? You Won't Be

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.19.07

After this post from Spackerman explaining what happened with that filibuster-but-not-really thing on Tuesday night.

A still unanswered question I've got is why Reid won't force the Republicans to actually filibuster if they want to block a vote on withdrawal from Iraq. It seems like a natural tactic. But I'm puzzled enough by Senate procedure not to be absolutely certain it would help.


 

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Swimming Fashion

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.07

What's the swimmers' opinion on wearing a rashguard for lap swimming? I've never been sunburned in my life, but some caution seems prudent (and I'm not going to take ten minutes to slather sunscreen all over myself). Will it screw up my stroke? Make people laugh (there are a couple of other guys who sometimes swim at the pool who wear them, so that's not much of a risk)? If they're ok, any recommendations?

Also, in my inexorable march toward becoming a "speedo" wearer, I'm considering trading my jammers for a square leg. Further thoughts?


 

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Do Paid Vacations Exist?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.19.07

Yglesias has a post saying (roughly) that you can't increase people's compensation by mandating paid vacation:

In particular, in my view a lot of people are being misled by the concept of a "paid vacation." A paid vacation is a kind of accounting fiction -- you continue to draw a paycheck (and health care benefits, etc.) even while you're on vacation. But nobody's going to pay you to go on vacation. You're paid for the work that you actually do. The money you get on your vacation days is part of your payment for the work you do on the other days. Over the long run, if the government mandates a certain number of paid vacation days, then positions that currently offer fewer vacation days then that will become less lucrative.

I think he's wrong. (Or, rather, he could be right about any particular case, but the argument he's making doesn't necessarily work.) There are a couple of problems with it. First, it assumes that the value of an employee to an employer is a simple multiple of the number of days they work; while that is clearly true for, say, a security guard or a factory worker, it gets much less obviously true for office workers, or anyone doing mental stuff. There's nothing at all implausible about the possibility that one office worker could turn out as much work in 50 weeks as a fellow worker turns out in 52 in at least some cases, particularly if being better rested and more satisfied makes you more productive. (Even assuming work done is a simple function of time on the job, someone who works an 8:20 hour day for 50 weeks puts in as much time as someone who works an 8:00 day for 52.) So, under at least some circumstances, the loss of value to the employer from a week of vacation is going to be significantly less than you'd expect from a simple calculation of (Annual salary)/(Number of Weeks Actually Worked) = Value of a week worked, or cost to the employer of a week of paid vacation.

More generally, the question of whether 'compensation' can be increased by mandating paid vacation depends on whether leisure time is worth, in terms of utility, the same amount to the employee as it costs the employer. If workers, on average, think that two weeks of leisure increases their utility by more than employers think it costs them, but transaction costs (cultural factors, whatever) keep them from bargaining for that outcome, then mandating that a part of every worker's compensation consist of paid vacation is going to make everyone better off -- it will literally increase compensation to workers in terms of utility, without injuring employers. A libertarian would probably think it was patronizing to believe that workers and employers are systematically arriving at deals other than the ones that would make them both happiest, but I'm not a libertarian, and in this case I think it's fairly likely that mandating paid vacation would make people better off.

Yglesias is perfectly right that paid vacation is just another form of compensation, and that employers will adjust the total compensation of what they pay their employees to about the same value, regardless of any laws mandating what form that compensation takes. But the fact that the employer considers two compensation packages to have the same value doesn't mean the employee does, and a mandate that compensation be delivered in a form that's of equivalent value to the employer, but higher value to the employee makes everyone better off. This isn't a proof that mandated paid vacation will make everyone better off, but whether it does or not is an empirical question, not an obvious fallacy.


 

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Only The Locals Can Play

Posted by Ogged
on 07.19.07

Way to ruin it for everyone, old guy.

Topless women on parade? That was fine. Teenagers loitering in the buff, in a downtown parking lot? No problem. Naked sunbathers at swimming holes? It was just au naturel.

But a senior citizen in his birthday suit, walking through the center of town on a Friday night, wearing only a fanny pack? That's where Brattleboro draws a fig leaf.
After years of allowing public nudity, the town famous for its strip-and-let-strip attitude is considering banning it in parts of town, saying naked notoriety has begun drawing people here and is offending locals.

That sounds ageist, but it seems like it was more pervist.

On July 6, a 68-year-old man showed up naked downtown, walking the streets during Gallery Walk, a monthly social event in which people roam downtown, stopping in art galleries and shops. Gallery owner Suzanne Corsano was locking up for the night when she encountered him on a sidewalk.

"Naked people don't impress me," said Corsano, 60. "But to be walking down the street like that. I just looked straight at him, and he looked down. He was trying to get me to look down there, but I wouldn't."
The man told residents he was from Arizona and had decided to vacation in Brattleboro after reading about its public nudity freedom on the Internet.

 

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Y'all are the cover, Ogged is the book.

Posted by Apostropher
on 07.19.07

Megan examines whether you can judge a blogger by that's blogger's commenters.

Unfogged, you look exactly like Ogged. Focus on cleverness above all else, occasional serious and sweet flashes, more often funny snark, and a need to keep talking rather than do anything.

Hey, I resemble that remark.


 

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Well, That Was Surprising.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.18.07

Big explosion near my office. Only three people injured, but it was loud enough up where I was that my whole floor considered it the better part of valor to walk down the couple dozen flights of stairs and go home.


 

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House Style

Posted by Ogged
on 07.18.07

Italicize the portion of the comment to which you're responding:

I hate people, but especially men.

Me too!

Blockquote things pulled from external sources:

You should hate people, but especially men.

I agree!

When you use only a number to refer to the comment to which you're responding, many people won't scroll up, and your comment won't make sense, so it'll be skipped, like so much dreck. Don't be a dreck, italicize.


 

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Speaking of Coetzee

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.18.07

I had the following conversation with an undergraduate recently:

"How was coffee with [your favorite professor, sort-of mentor, and much older guy]?"
"It was great, until he tried to kiss me."

Ick. She had a form of revenge by calling him "sir," at least.


 

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Public Declaration Of Suckitude

Posted by Becks
on 07.18.07

I knew flying was bad for the environment and emitted a lot of greenhouse gases but didn't quite know the magnitude of it until now. My city-dwelling, no-car-owning self is actually damaging the environment far more with my jetsetting ways than a fleet of SUV owners.

So, what to do? I'm not going to start taking the train. That, I know. I could buy offsets, I suppose, but, well, I'm cheap and my guilt only goes so far. (I do donate to charities but buying carbon offsets just doesn't give me that same warm, fuzzy feeling that I get from giving my money to America's Second Harvest or Doctors Without Borders.) I guess I'll just continue justifying this with my usual "the plane would be flying with or without me" and hope nobody gets all in my face about Econ 101.


 

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Still Not Reading

Posted by Ogged
on 07.18.07

One problem I have with the exhortation to read better books is that I'm not sure I'm getting all that much more out of them. Granted, it's more pleasing to read something that's sophisticated and well-written, but simple pleasure can't be behind book evangelism, since people who don't read and only watch action movies seem plenty pleasured (it's a sad, fallen, decadent pleasure, of course, but let's leave that part of the argument alone). So there's an implicit claim that the better stuff will teach you something, or broaden your mind, or make you a better person, somehow. But that somehow seems to involve a hell of a lot more than just "reading." In my post on Coetzee's Disgrace, I wrote,

That Coetzee manages a profound and true look at the relationships between parents and children, and teachers and students, and men and women, and people and animals, and the poor and the middle class, and blacks and whites, and people and the land, and people and aging, and literature and life--all in about 200 pages, in beautiful sentences, is...awesome.

Sure, it's awesome, but I didn't do anything like properly meditate on any of those themes, either while I was reading or after. Getting something "out" of a book is itself a skill, related to, but separate from, reading. Most of us do it through discussions with other readers, some people have both the training and discipline to do it on their own, but in each case, it's another step that needs to be taken.

I'm not against that, obviously--I spent part of my life doing it, after all--but it's worth keeping in mind that the exaltation of "literature" really demands more than just reading this instead of that and no one is going to read the more difficult book if he doesn't have the skills or the opportunity to realize some greater benefit from it. And when you discuss this, keep in mind that a lot of us--academics, former academics, partners of academics, academics in denial, etc.--are atypical in having the training and community for serious reading.


 

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Zizka

Posted by Ogged
on 07.18.07

You can now buy our own John Emerson's work--selected essays or poems--in book form.

If you're going to buy, don't put it off. He's old, you know.


 

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Yes, What Do You Do With That?

Posted by Becks
on 07.18.07

Regarding the statistic that 41% of Americans think that Saddam Hussein's regime was directly involved with 9/11, Get Your War On asks a question:

[M]ore people think Saddam caused 9/11 than approve of Bush's job performance. I mean, what the heck do you do with a factoid like that?

 

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I Don't Read

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.07

Yglesias is basically right about this bitchy whine about the fact that people are reading Potter and nothing else. But I wanted to take a minute on this claim that people "don't read." Lots of people read all the time; they read blogs, they read email, they read text messages, they read in chat rooms, etc. In a lot of ways, text--or doing things with the written word--seems more important now than it was ten or twenty years ago. So the complaint is really that people aren't reading the right things, which just seems like license for someone to complain that his taste isn't universally shared. More charitably, the complaint might be that people aren't learning or thinking about certain important things, but if that's it, I wish folks would spell it out, so we could have a real discussion.


 

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They Were Mostly Of Dolphins

Posted by Becks
on 07.17.07

Another Vegas story! I almost forgot this one. My last night there, I went to see O, the Cirque du Soleil show. While I was waiting for the show to start, I eavesdropped on a conversation. There were two groups of women behind me, both I'd say in their mid-to-late 60s to early 70s. They didn't appear to know each other but struck up a conversation and started asking each other about their families and what they'd done in Vegas. It was eventually revealed that all of them had been widowed within the last year or so and both groups were on "girls weekends".

I fell a little in love with one of the women - her husband had died the previous year, soon after her 70th birthday. As a way of coping with her husband's death, she decided to buy herself a Harley and travel the country. Right after the funeral, she went out and got her first ever tattoo, in memory of him. She bought herself a Glock and took up target shooting and discovered that she really liked tattoos, getting 20 more, including full leg sleeves over the last year. That woman gave the best "shit happens, but you've got to get on with your life" speech I've ever heard. And, when the show was over, she offered to take any of the women she'd just met out for their first tattoo if they were up for it.


 

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To What End?

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.07

The last Harry Potter book, officially being released this Saturday, has been leaked in its entirety to bittorrent. The how is pretty funny.

Someone with access to the American edition of the book has taken a photograph of every one of the pages and upped them to bit torrent. Publishers may well be quaking in their boots, but in some places the quality is barely readable. On many pages the pirateer's hands are in the pictures with other pages needing a bit of Photoshopping just to make out the words.

I have no idea why someone would do that, nor why someone would try to read an 800 page book that way.

There's a link to some (supposedly reliable) spoilers in the linked article, but god help you if you mention any of them here.


 

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Maybe!

Posted by Ogged
on 07.17.07

The San Francisco Chronicle now has comments on all its news stories, which I'll be sure to note at every Thanksgiving. After a story about a big prostitution bust, which prominently notes that underage prostitution is a problem in the area, a reader offer this analysis.

Wonder about the underlying reasons for the younger girls and more violent pimps? Read this:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article2060810.ece. As the pharm industry pushes Viagra as a recreational drug, the men become more obsessed, both young and old, and are driven by their violent libidos, many times to prostitutes. Want to solve the problem? Get rid of Viagra. Maybe it'll not only stop street prostitution but also rape and wars.


 

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DRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiIINK WIIIINE

Posted by Ben
on 07.16.07

I don't know why people rag on Robbie Basho's singing; I find it endearingly loopy, as on, for instance, the song "Wine Song (Sweet Wine of Love)" (I won't deny that the lyrics are a little dire) from Venus in Cancer (dig that cover image), but, notably, not from tomorrow's radio show (same bat-time/place as last week, kids, which is to say, 12-2 pm PST, 90.1 fm & online), which will feature Mr Basho strictly in his guitar-playing capacity. Other notable guitarists to include: David Daniell and Rod Poole. There will also be a cover of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", a track by David Bowie (don't worry, it'll be one of the inscrutable ones), some typically woozy Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, and a Nancarrow player piano study. And some rembetika. I went to Greece once, you know.

So listen! (No, really, do—else I will be sad :(.)


 

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Retirement Planning With Mom

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.07

Tonight my mom was encouraging me to buy a lottery ticket on the chance that I'll win and she can retire and travel. I sympathized for a bit, but noted that given how much she complains whenever she travels, perhaps she likes the idea more than the fact.

--You think I complain?!
--[Laughter] You're too hot, you're too cold, you're hungry, you didn't sleep well.
--It was hot when we went to Iran! Wasn't it hot? Wasn't everyone hot? Especially in the chador in the summer! And wasn't it cold at your cousin's house in the Netherlands? They never turned on the heat! I get cold just thinking about it.
--[Laughter]
--You think I'm a complainer??
--[Much laughter] Aren't you?
--No!
--[Laughter]
--[Time passes]
--Can't I travel and complain?
--[Dying of laughter]
--You think complainers can't travel? Of all the people who travel, you think none of them complain?
--Some do, some don't.
--So I'll be one of the ones who complains! What's so funny? Tell me!


 

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I hardly know her

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.16.07

I think Kevin Drum is right about calling attention to the do-nothing filibuster-happy Republican caucus in the Senate. I also think that it would be great if Republicans were forced to actually filibuster the old-fashioned way on some of these big votes. So I was excited to hear about Senator Reid's plan to force the Republicans to take the hard road. After this I'm a bit confused, but I think what's going to happen is that Reid will bring the motion to the floor, the Republicans will announce the intention to filibuster, and Reid will then invoke the Rule 22 thing about 30 straight hours instead of moving immediately to a cloture vote and then dropping the motion when it fails. (Is the alternative that the filibuster might extend over several days of Senate business with nights off when the Senate isn't in session?)

Anyway, here's a picture of Searchlight as a shout-out to Harry Reid.
searchlight2.jpg

I'm pumped up about the filibuster rules. Please kill me.


 

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I Did Not Know That.

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.16.07

I had the unformed impression that John Edwards was unusually wealthy for a presidential candidate. Apparently not this year he isn't: Giuliani and Romney are both richer, and Romney is four times as rich. Funny how that never comes up as a problem for either of them.


 

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On The Other Hand, Clams Are Nice

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.16.07

This probably doesn' t count as good environmental news in any globally interesting sense, but when I was a teenager, my parents had a summer house near the Peconic Bay beach on the North Fork of Long Island. I swam, and sailed, and had a great time, but the water was always an unpleasantly murky brown. Now, for some reason, it's cleared up and is absolutely transparent, and the clam population has skyrocketed -- Mom has invested in a clam rake, and is getting a large portion of her summer's protein intake from shellfish that she has personally hunted down and killed. Satisfying, both in that the population has increased enough that they're there for the taking, and in that clams are just yummy, and thrifty.

On a similar note, the farmer's market in my neighborhood sells clams on Saturday. There's nothing like a big pot of softshell clams, with melted butter and cups of the broth. Clam broth is wonderful -- like a pure essence of what makes clam chowder good. Mmm. Clams.


 

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No Nipples = Class

Posted by Becks
on 07.16.07

This dude (the owner of the Hawaiian Tropic restaurant in Times Square) has to be my favorite feminist since Threesome Guy.

"I'm such a feminist. I love women and believe in them...We have a section that says 'simply grilled,' because women don't like to eat sauces the way men do," he said. "They're watching their weight more often." He pointed at the menu. "Also, see, it says 'sharing encouraged,' no extra charge. Well, women have smaller stomachs. And maybe two young single girls have a smaller pocketbook, and the idea of encouraging two girls to come in--nobody's going to put a spotlight on you, make you feel uncomfortable because you're sharing a dish, or that you want something just simply grilled....Women like sexy. Talk about empowerment and feminism! "

[via Gawker]


 

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This is not a well-drawn comic

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.16.07

Today's Gil Thorp is a masterwork of cartooning. Three points for three panels: (a) is there any non-drunken lout?* (b) Kaz's punch looks anatomically impossible to me-- shouldn't his fist be coming out the back of that lout's skull? (c) who was the arm model for this shot? Ogged? The hair is only the third worst feature of this panel, the first two being (i) the size of the arms and (ii) the way Kaz is holding his hands up to his face with his forearms horizontal, as though he's foregoing the expected fist-in-palm gesture for the weirder kung-fu movie bow-to-sensei manuever.

*I know, the document formatting system. Don't be lame.


 

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Yet Another Bay Area Meetup

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.07

Heebie-Geebie is in town this Sunday, the 22nd. Plan away.


 

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When Do We Start Acting As If This Were An Emergency?

Posted by LizardBreath
on 07.16.07

Eric Rauchway blogging at Altercation asks "Is this a constitutional crisis yet?"

I've been off the political blogging (oh, there's been some, but my heart's not in it) for a few months, because I no longer understand what kind of story has to break to make anything change. I suppose the answer there is "Change? Who expects change?" Eh. This is probably a good thread in which to discuss political despair, and fun things to do with it on a weekday evening.


 

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Boston Meetup Thread

Posted by Becks
on 07.16.07

Plan away!


 

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Try Not To Dance

Posted by Ogged
on 07.16.07

If there's one thing I know in my bones, it's fun, and I thought it would be fun to dig up videos of philosophers on YouTube. First up is Bertrand Russell, aged 137, holding forth on "clear thinking." Next is Derrida, and you should skip ahead to 5:05 into the clip, so you can see the look on his face when he's asked if Seinfeld has anything to do with deconstruction.


 

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Hypochondria Porn

Posted by Becks
on 07.15.07

WebMD's symptom checker: hours of entertainment.


 

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Physiognomy Phriday

Posted by Ben
on 07.15.07

Perhaps what I am about to say is all common knowledge; perhaps the about-to-be-named actress has even received roles fitting the about-to-be-given description (I wouldn't know, since until tonight (until tonight, you wonder; what happened tonight, you query yourself pensively—have patience is my only advice) I had only ever seen Estonian or Sami movies, subtitled in either Urdu or Manx; I have no television; and I eschew the popular, and even the unpopular, press); nevertheless, it only occurred to me tonight (yes, now you're about to find out what happened tonight), or perhaps late in the afternoon—at any rate, sometime after 6 pm today, but before roughly 7:45 (you perhaps nod in agreement; the lateness of the sunset in the summer makes talk of "afternoon" and "tonight" somewhat hazy, but really, he could have just said "this evening"), while watching this extremely melodramatic proto-noir that: made a surprisingly effective use of an in medias res beginning; used some nifty camera tricks and a swell flash of color in the otherwise black and white movie; featured characters attending a talkie, and had a lengthy scene in the theater while the talkie played, even though the movie itself is silent; starred, and this is the relevant part, as the female lead someone who looked, well, the way female leads tended to look in the 20s, I suppose, or at any rate the way "we" (uh huh) tend to think of 20sish movie stars, with the chins and cheekbones and lips and whatnot (the haircut, of course, but haircuts are more portable than chins, generally), and who moreover, though not, alas, more to the point, spent much of the movie wearing a very nice pair of pearl earrings; and it was in contemplating this person's visage, which the plentiful closeups in the movie gave me ample opportunity to do—and this whole realization is no doubt aided by the fact that the about-to-be-named actress was in Paris je t'aime, which, of course, I have not seen, but of whose existence I have been forced to become aware as a result of living in a world with (talkative) others (SIGH)—that I realized that (at last, you (perhaps) think, he's come to the bloody point) Maggie Gyllenhaal has sort of a 20s/flappery kind of face, and if she chose to illustrate this by, you know, dressing the part, I, at least, would not complain; if she were additionally to accompany bands such as this, about whom I just learned because I saw their entirely seductive name listed on Amnesia's calendar, or this, with whom I am long familiar, since one of its members is drezdn of MeFi, that would, I suppose, be even better, even though it would be marrying two not really compatible species of anachronism (but then, let's leap to my defense, and point out that it's the privilege of the armchair anachronist to mistify, romanticize, and in a word, deceive himself about the past), something that, arguably, those bands already do anyway, especially the Two Man Gentlemen Band, whose lessons in etiquette (the linked is the fifth in a series) resemble nothing so much as a website I can't find anymore, but which I believe was linked on MeFi, and which consisted of some self-styled dandy's (the problem actually lies herein: I can't recall if he styled himself a "dandy" or merely something with significant overlap—macaroni perhaps—who knows—I suspect that, could I but remember that crucial bit of information, I could recover the link, and, following the link, the page itself—such is my oblivisciousness (the "sc" infix indicates that it is inchoative, meaning that I am coming into oblivion), though, that success is likely going to elude me FOREVER) advice on how to behave with proper, that is, properly dandyish, style; not, in other words, what one would expect from a banjo and bass duo outfitted with, of all things, kazoos.

Not that there's anything wrong with kazoos.


 

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It would be inappropriate to joke about the second coming

Posted by Fontana Labs
on 07.15.07

My namesake and acting coach Rod Fontana has decided to become a priest:

SOME people have their midlife crisis in reverse, like Ronald Boyer, who for most of his professional life has been better known as a star of pornographic films, Rod Fontana.

After 30 years of sowing the wildest of oats, Mr. Boyer, 54, has searched his soul and chosen, to the surprise of family and colleagues, to seek a priesthood in the Episcopal Church.

Fascinating.


 

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Juris Prudence

Posted by Becks
on 07.15.07

You can do whatever it takes to get out of jury duty:

A Cape Cod man who claimed he was homophobic, racist and a habitual liar to avoid jury duty earned an angry rebuke from a judge on Monday, who referred the case to prosecutors for possible charges.
"In 32 years of service in courtrooms, as a prosecutor, as a defense attorney and now as a judge, I have quite frankly never confronted such a brazen situation of an individual attempting to avoid juror service," Barnstable Superior Court Judge Gary Nickerson told Daniel Ellis, according to a preliminary court transcript of the exchange.
...
On a questionnaire that all potential jurors fill out, Ellis wrote that he didn't like homosexuals and blacks. He then echoed those sentiments in an interview with Nickerson.
"You say on your form that you're not a fan of homosexuals," Nickerson said.
"That I'm a racist," Ellis interrupted.
"I'm frequently found to be a liar, too. I can't really help it," Ellis added.
"I'm sorry?" Nickerson said.
"I said I'm frequently found to be a liar," Ellis replied.
"So, are you lying to me now?" Nickerson asked.
"Well, I don't know. I might be," was the response.

Or you can try to make the most out of it:

Juror No. 6 and alternate juror No. 3 were making goo-goo eyes at each other on the first day of a Queens murder trial last year - and it didn't take long for their fellow jurors to play matchmaker.
"This one woman caught me in the ladies' room and said, 'I think you should date Jon,'" Traci Nagy said. "We ended up going out to lunch one long break and from there it just grew.
...
Nagy, 36, a market analyst, and Jonathan Cinkay, 33, a physical therapist, returned to court last week to pick up their marriage license.
Queens Supreme Court Justice Daniel Lewis, who presided over the murder trial, will marry Nagy and Cinkay next month.
...
The Forest Hills couple are planning their big day and will include a special note inside the wedding program: "A thank-you to the criminal justice system."

 

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Modern Love: Totally Normal, Not hateful At All Edition

Posted by Alameida
on 07.15.07

Well, it had to happen sometime. The couple portrayed in this Modern Love column sound perfectly normal, and they faced a difficult situation without anyone being assholes. Kudos.

Elsewhere in the Times, I was reading about new, allegedly "good for you" cocktails. Some of them could no doubt be tasty, although organic booze sounds like a fundamentally misguided concept. One of the bartenders admits as much:

Tushan Zaric, an owner and bartender at the downtown lounge Employees Only, said that in the last 18 months he has started hearing patrons diving into drinks like the Ginger Smash, with its fresh cranberries and muddled fresh ginger, saying, "That's so good for you."

"It's the alibi, 'I want to get high with no consequence,' " Mr. Zaric said, adding, "But we know, you have two or three of them, you're still going to have the hangover."

This brings up something people often talk about in AA, which is that normal drinkers really don't drink all that much, for the most part. (Obviously there are also people who are heavy drinkers but aren't alcoholics.) But really, do people go out for the evening and have just two cocktails? That sounds crazy to me. Do they get hangovers after drinking two cocktails, for real? And that just reminds me about the simple pleasures of not drinking, such as never having a hangover. Or, more to the point, not waking up every single morning with a deadly hangover, having blacked out the entire previous evening after 7pm. Being sober is the most awesome thing evar.

Along those lines, that's actually why I started posting on unfogged, because I was posting on my own blog while blacked out, and saying risky shit that was freaking Husband X out. I knew you guys would be a more appreciative audience for my drunken raillery Becks-style wit and wisdom.


 

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