June 01, 2006

No Laughing Matter


There was a time when the face of George W Bush could make me laugh. That time has passed. Fighting back tears of rage is likely to be my current response. But perhaps you still have your sense of humor. This will take you to the Bush/chimpanzee compare-and-contrast page. The photo to the left is the only one that doesn't have a match, because "I can't find a chimp making a face as dumb as this is."

March 19, 2006

Loose Link

My correspondent, Empress in Pittsburgh, sent me a link that has been keeping my cheeks wet (I cry when I'm amused). "Microsoft designs the iPod package."  Does anybody know where the music came from? It's so - catchy-Khatchaturian! And I know I've heard it before. 

February 22, 2006

Loose Link

It's true: I never run Loose Links anymore. I hardly ever find candidates! But here's a treat for all you Dubyers. He is such a jerk! He always was a jerk, and it was always obvious that he was a jerk. How'd he get through? (Sadly, I'm not really asking.)


July 30, 2005

Loose Links

¶ Is nostalgia bad for your brain?

¶ There's a shoelace site.

¶ The iPod flea.

¶ The Faux Faulkner Prize.

July 23, 2005

Loose Links

The Poorman soups up the Bayeux Tapestry for Our Times.

¶ Shakespeare ancient and modern: an excerpt from Troilus and Cressida given twice, once with modern English pronunciation and once in a conjectural reconstruction of English as it was spoken in Shakespeare's day. I'm not persuaded; the old is as easily understood as the new. But it does sound gamy and streetwise. (Thanks, Édouard.)

Watch that tip! Someone has launched an audacious, possibly actionable site for the exposure of lousy tippers. It may not still be up when you read this.

Outsource your job! Have techies in Bangalore do your job at a fraction of your price, and spend minutes a day supervising them! Now, that's knowledge! Why is this article appearing in The Times of India?

Metro logos from around the world.

¶ Most blog readers don't know the word "blog."

July 16, 2005

Loose Links

¶ Whether or not it is general for Young Republicans to prefer to support the war effort on the home front, Operation Yellow Elephant, a new collaborative blog dedicated to exploring this issue, recently penetrated a Young Republicans convention, and captured this amusing snatch of cognitive dissonance.

¶ We all like to get wet in the summer, but it's not always easy to get to the beach. And besides, at the beach you have to play nice. A water-gun assassination tournament - now might be the ticket.

¶ And, finally, Forty Things That Happen Only In the Movies

July 09, 2005

Loose Links

¶ The Blogosphere is abuzz with pages devoted to the new date of infamy: 7/7. The most interesting may turn out to be the Wikipedia entry that is already under construction. I wonder if Tony Blair will garner the same warm feelings that were directed at our fearless leader almost four years ago.

¶ Although I didn't think that Jane Mayer's New Yorker piece about torture at Gitmo needed flogging by me, Amy, at The Biscuit Report - whose site is indeed named in reference to the Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, or BSCTs - has linked to to a Q&A at the magazine's Web site in which Ms Mayer speaks somewhat more frankly to Amy Davidson. (Thanks, Amy)

¶ To cheer yourself up, visit La coquette. It's author has put anonymity behind her, and even provided a charming portrait photograph.

¶ Department of Don't Know Whether To Laugh Or To Cry: Ian Frazier rips the Democratic Party, in The New Yorker.

¶ And, finally, could Jeff Bezos be the new John Wanamaker? Would customer service explain why he's still there?

July 02, 2005


Mindful that not everybody in the world is celebrating the anniversary of American Independence this weekend, I persevere, with two links of particular interest to Blogosphereans.

¶ The short and stormy life of Suck, a rogue Web site set up at Wired Magazine in 1995 by engineers who were sure that the suits didn't understand how to exploit the Web at all. I remember reading about the site at the time, but the name was off-putting (genug schon) and I was not looking for ways to spend more time at the computer. Ha. So I never even tried to figure out how to access it. But Matt Sharkey's detailed account of developments and personalities, "The Big Fish," is well worth the (long) read. Ten years ago, in WWW history, takes in everything but the big bang.

¶ Want compensation for the things that you shill from your blog? Tickets, goodies, just plain cash? But you don't want the clutter of ads? Well, invisible advertising can be arranged, right in your entries! An icky business.

I daresay it's healthy to suspect everyone of doing this. I don't do it. I've never been asked to do it, and I won't do it when and if I am. I haven't even hooked up with Amazon's associate program, even though I often link straight to their sales pages. I'm fully devoted to visitor support. Not that that has yielded anything, either.

June 29, 2005

Vlad the Impaler/Oh, I Get It: Marquise-cut stones look just like footballs.

¶ Here's a link that simply won't hold until the weekend (you've noticed my new rubric?): Max forwarded this news item showing Vladimir Putin getting away with something that might well lead to murder where he comes from; a bit of Googling brought forth an image of the ghastly loot. Max writes, "Occasionally you'll see articles in the Globe about the thuggish hypertrophied Partriots players flashing [rings such as this] around town."

¶ And while I'm linking and you're laughing, Joe Jervis has just promulgated a Decalogue for the Blogosphere. Go thou and do likewise. (I think that the preceding paragraph violates Rule No. 2.)

June 25, 2005

Loose Links

¶ It has been a long week, and  I've but one link to pass on to you. Toxic Studios is a Norwegian digital animation outfit that Andy Towle at Towleroad discovered, in connection with June Pride events. You must by all means watch the Oslo Europride promo, entitled "A Sad Story" (it's anything but), but don't miss Toxic's video resume. Click the "Showreel" tab on the page d'acc and sit back. What you'll see has the air of a commercial made five years from now. The only mistake that these gifted designers have made is in choosing their moniker; there is nothing toxic about Toxic.

June 18, 2005

Loose Links

¶ Patricia Storms has done it again: be the first on your block to read her new strip, The Guttenberg Code. Chuckles galore! Patricia writes that she was inspired to write the strip by a publishing lament by author M J Rose, a name new to me.

¶ Have you discovered Sublethal? Ronnie Cordova is a published writer who produces malignant but elegant esquisses on his blog. The published pieces, linked from the sidebar, tend to be funnier, but who wants funnier? Tinctured in psychopathy, the posts do not invite comment.

¶ What will Maria do? Porn-star Mary Carey, "fully-converted" Republican, is thinking of running for Lieutenant Governor in Californ-eye-o. She was a featured guest at a Republican fundraiser that raised $23 million. Be sure to listen to Ms Carey's report of how much fun the party was.

June 17, 2005

What kind of car do you drive if your given names are "Cornelius Crane"?

From the obituary of eminent book editor Edward Tinsley Chase, dead at 86,

Mr. Chase is survived by his wife of 56 years, Ethelyn Atha Chase, a past chairwoman of the Academy of American Poets; two sons, Edward Thornton Chase of Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Cornelius Crane Chase of Bedford, N.Y., the comic actor known as Chevy Chase; two daughters, Prof. Cynthia Chase-Culler of Ithaca, N.Y., and Daphne C. Rowe of Bryn Mawr, Pa.; and nine grandchildren.

June 15, 2005

Do not read this during takeoff, landing, or in between

Yesterday's most shocking story was the news of two young commercial airline pilots who, ferrying an empty plane between depots, decided to "see what it could do." They ran the jet up to 41,000 feet - and the engines died. The pilots, aged 31 and 23, tried to glide to a landing but failed. They were killed in the crash; fortunately, no one else was.

Anyone who says "cool" has to go back to extended homeroom.

June 11, 2005

Fast Film

¶ Sometime this weekend, find fifteen minutes and a mug of good coffee, and, as quietly as possible, tune into Fast Film, an incredible production that Jason Kottke pointed to a few days ago. Open up your viewer as much as you can and pay attention. Consider watching it twice; it's fairly difficult to follow the first time through.

Virgil Wildrich has taken frames from some three hundred American movies, many of them instantly recognizable, and cut, pasted, and folded them in perfectly spellbinding ways. There is some terrific sly humor, but the feel of Fast Film is dark, with more than a touch of Eraserhead (although none of that classic's glacial pacing - quite the reverse). Hollywood clichés are simultaneously paraded and mocked, and unearthing the significance of many of the movie's collaged scenes will doubtless drive a doctoral thesis or two some day.

Fast Film is more than your ordinary fun Internet video. It's a loving work of art. So: no multitasking while you watch it.

Note: although there are no even remotely indecent scenes, children will probably find Fast Film upsetting.

¶ As you know, Tom Cruise is a man of faith. He believes in - vitamins. Bachem Macuno, the creator of a brand-new blog, serves up a parody interview with the actor, who is made to say

What about vitamin F? Vitamin G? We’ve got the whole rest of the alphabet of undiscovered vitamins that nobody is pursuing. It’s so obvious, it boggles the mind.

Many chuckles.

Note: Bachem Macuno's site is a little off-color. 

June 04, 2005


The Poorman rakes up the follies of The National Review. Andrew isn't the nicest guy in the world, but that's just as well, for he's a born satirist. Ideology is always laughable, but satire's magnifications (in the guise of distortions and exaggerations) are always handy, because they show why ideology is laughable.

¶ Here's a page by P D James on murder by secret poison - a necessarily lost art. What is Baroness James's secret? She writes so knowledgeably about murder and yet is so pitiless about murderers. That is, she seems to know all about murder's motivations, but remains a pillar of rectitude. Perhaps there's a fold of repression that keeps the spring in her writing set to just the right tension.

¶ Be the first on your block... to exploit a novel use of GPS. My, but isn't it curious that men's briefs and boxers are not on offer?

¶ According to Ms NOLA, The Washingtonienne is not a good book, and she hasn't seen it in any of the stores. (One of the things that she brings to her new job is an alertness about book placement.) This excerpt may suggest why. (kottke. org)

¶ My daughter Ms G just got back from Houston, where in between family visits she saw the new (or recent) light rail trains. She had been following them for a while on the Internet, ever since encountering a write-up of the problems that Houston's METRO is having fending off automobile attacks. Are Houston's drivers really that bad? Or are they waging guerilla war on behalf of John Gaver, who upon his subtly subtitled "Keep Right" Web page blames the trains.

May 28, 2005

Loose Links

Tom Tomorrow knows how to use silence to devastating comic effect.

¶ Spice up your holiday weekend with the Crazy Green Frog. This fragment of an episode becomes more hypnotic if you return to it every fifteen minutes or so. Perhaps you'll figure it out.

¶ Beans on toast for breakfast? I like to be smart, but if that's the ideal way to start my brain's day, I'm in trouble. (

Paris Inconnu. Semi-secrets are always fun, and Paris is always irresistible. Look for the lite version of Benjamin's Arcades Project. (L'homme qui marche)

¶ You call this progress? Bicyclist beats driver and straphanger in race from Junior's to Columbus Circle. (Gothamist)

May 13, 2005

Weekend Special


¶ Last week, Jason Kottke reported that a bottle of maple syrup had tipped off its shelf in the refrigerator and broken on the floor. Yeesh, what a mess. But it was all for the betterment of mankind. Mr Kottke received a bouquet of Heloise-like tips from friends - well, some (the liquid nitrogen) not so Heloise. (By the way, Heloise is still going strong, at least as a brand.) And being the nice man that he is, the domestically-challenged computer whiz has shared them all with us: How to Clean Up Maple Syrup.

¶ Here's something else that I stole from What goes around comes around, and sometimes revenge is so sweet that a spoon stands up in it. Testicular Karma.

For a fine photoblog of New York (mostly) that grows by one shot every day (more or less; I haven't tested this), visit Joe's NYC. Not surprisingly, I discovered it at L'homme qui marche.

¶ Finally, for those of you in search of the answer to everything in the way of human difficulties, help is at hand, if you can hold a few books. Perhaps you've already heard of Alpha Theory.

Bon weekend à toutes et à tous!

¶ Update: horses gallop free in Manhattan! Read all about it!

¶ George has a blog. You can still become one of the first hundred visitors.

May 06, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

Friday at last; attentive readers will know why my being glad has nothing to do with ending the week.

¶ Don't miss Joe.My.God, where Joe Jervis is telling yet another riveting story. Climax today! All I can say is that North Carolina, Joe's home state, seems to produce a lot of good storytellers, and that one of its sons should wind up nestled in New York's beau monde gai is simply great for all of us. The link will take you to the first installment of "Chances."

¶  The other day, I did a bit of De fil en aiguille. The phrase means passing gently from one thing to another, as a threaded needle might stitch by stitch go almost anywhere. It does a far better job than "surfing" does of describing the experience of trying out the links on a newly-discovered Web log. (Even if it didn't, I'm tired of insidious sports metaphors, and feel a purge coming on.) My wandering, in any case, began at Metamorphosism, which I'd rather neglected lately, and then followed an entry link to Sublethal, which I'd never been to before. Sublethal seems on first glance to be a sequence of highly-wrought prose poems, and it reminds me of writing that I attempted, without Sublethal's success, in my last year of college. But it was the blog roster that held me rapt for about an hour. Not a single site was disappointing, and one, Outer Life, caught me the way Tomness did almost two months ago. Here was a voice that I wanted to hear more of. Note: don't be deceived by "My Photo."

¶ This morning's email brought an item from my sister that had been around so much that its links were all broken. Is there a term for a jokey link that's forwarded and forwarded and forwarded until you have to open fifteen windows to see what it is? (I would write to Carol a lot more often if she would stop sending me these things.) And then, in this case, not to see anything? Happily, there was a bit of text, and using that, I found what she was talking about: the Lego Church. Unfortunately, I am no longer capable of looking at vast, glassy churches, even in miniature, without feeling queasy, and when I look at the photos of this model evangelical cathedral (so to speak; no bishop involved), I see the daydreams of Albert Speer.

May 02, 2005

Everybody Up For Volleyball!

¶ Religion in New Jersey: Rev. Mark Giordani blesses the motorcycles (including his own Harley) after Mass; A megachurch in Montclair that seeks a move to an office campus 21 miles away runs into local opposition grounded partly in traffic concerns and partly in racism.

Glitch or Dress-Rehearsal? The yuan, China's currency, floated for twenty minutes on Friday, 29 April. Also, if you can get your hands on it, The Economist's leader this week is about oil, and the importance to turning to alternative sources of energy right now. Interestingly, the piece sees bad times ahead for everybody in the energy game: not just consumers, but producers and refiners as well.

¶ The vintage ads, mostly from the Fifties, collected at Ephemera Now, reflect a society that was at the same time less sophisticated and more artificial than our own. It was forthright, and even somewhat ingenuous, about expressing its desires, but these desires were not quite genuine. They were confounded by the longing for an innocence that would guarantee conformity. "If I did not know what I know," you can almost overhear the bygone magazine readers whispering to themselves, "I would be just like everybody else, and that would be great." There seems also to be the notion that innocence breeds success. To look at these drawings is to begin to understand why the Fifties spawned so many remarkable zombie films. 

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April 29, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

Kathleen is on her way to North Carolina this morning, to spend the weekend were her parents in Durham. Late last night, she conceived the idea of making turquoise-and-gold bead necklace for her mother, with, as its centerpiece, a drop of Venetian glass containing a bit of gold foil. Kathleen has gotten to be proficient at this art, which is more about hunting down the beads than stringing them, in the end. While she hummed along, I crawled into bed with the last pages of Saturday, Ian McEwan's new book. More a magnificent verbal sculpture, a David for our times, than a novel. Because I have never closed one of Mr McEwan's books without being blown away, I can't help wondering how Saturday will hold up among the others. Reviewers have been calling it a "response to 9/11," but that's awfully reductive. While I'm thinking of better things to say about Saturday, however, I find that I'm incapable of writing about anything else. So I shall have to fall back upon a

History of Post-It Notes, from The Rake, a Twin Cities publication. Greg Beato's account of 3M engineer Art Fry's persistence about putting a failed adhesive to practical use makes for irresistible reading. It is also a story about healthy corporate inertia, which puts up a resistance that forces inventors to improve everything about their work, from the thing itself to the marketing campaign. And it is a story about consumers that will remind you of the ten people you know (at least) who used to say, until they got one, "What would I ever do with a computer?"

Calling Harvard, Yale & Princeton for Class of 2024 Early Decision. You kind of want to meet a three year-old who can get himself, on a Queens bus, to the movies, to see Robot, don't you? I can only hope that Clarence Ricky Davis will have his own Web log by the end of the year.

¶ What a dummy I am! I didn't know that the CSX Corporation (formerly the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad) owns the High Line - not the City. Why hasn't the city condemned the property and taken possession? My feeling about private property of any kind: use it or lose it (and selling is a kind of losing). While I like the idea of a promenade along the elevated roadway, I think that there ought to be more than just shrubs and bike lanes. How about a surrealist street fair? Where nothing is for sale (and the "vendors" are subsidized by admission fees). Or perhaps a marché aux puces for individuals trying to empty their storage units. (That would be me.)

April 27, 2005

Loose Links (!)

And you thought I wasn't doing these any more. Nonsense! I was just in for a rethink. Whether Loose Links ever returns as a daily feature is uncertain, perhaps even unlikely. However! Thanks again to Max for inserting a small hatpin in the appropriate spot.

¶ In other words for sending me a link to what may be the world's first bilingual Flash curriculum vitae. Set to "Turkey in the Straw," Alexandre Gueniot's animated resume appears to have landed him a job at Microsoft. By all means, select the CV en français, even if your French is rusty to nonexistent. It's just funnier.

And to go with that, here's something that's been lying  around for a while (as it were): Orgasmic Simulation.

April 02, 2005

Drop Everything

¶ Message to the New York Times Book Review: hire Patricia Storms to pick up where Mark Alan Stamaty left off. ("Dude, you're touching me.") The rest of youse can get your yoickilators revved up for the weekend.

¶ When you're through laughing at the above, wade through this magnificently pointed sign-of-the-times piece by Joe Jervis. 

March 22, 2005

Pfizer Joke

Something funny in the mail. (Thanks, Arlene)

Pfizer Corp. is making an announcement today that Viagra will soon be available in liquid form and will be marketed by Pepsi Cola as a power beverage suitable for use as a mixer. Pepsi's proposed ad campaign claims it will now be possible for a man to literally pour himself a stiff one.

Obviously we can no longer call this a soft drink. This additive gives new meaning to the names of cocktails, highballs and just a good old fashioned stiff drink. Pepsi will market the new concoction by the name of Mount & Do.

The long term implications of drugs and medical procedures must be fully considered: Over the past few years, more money has been spent on breast implants and Viagra than was spent on Alzheimer's research. It is believed that by the year 2030, there will be a large number of people wandering around with huge breasts and erections who can't remember what to do with them.

America the Beautiful.

March 18, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ The greatest American diplomat of the Twentieth Century (or perhaps since Benjamin Franklin), George F. Kennan died last night in Princeton, aged 101. Kennan devised a strategy of "containment" for dealing with Soviet Communism, but his recommendations were often misunderstood or twisted to suit the goals of powerful leaders. I thought that I had mentioned his 1993 book, Around the Cragged Hill, at some point on Portico, but it seems that I haven't. An unblinking elitist, Kennan writes of "persons of high distinction" with an assurance that will strike many of today's cynics as hopelessly quaint.

¶ At Open Democracy, Robin Wilson reports, not too optimistically, one hopes, that the McCartney sisters, bereft of their IRA-slain brother Robert, have launched a campaign to expose the IRA and Sinn Féin as Leninist, anti-democratic organizations that will not do the Catholic cause any good. The White House has taken note; Gerry Adams was frozen out of the traditional St Patrick's Day gathering there.

¶ If, like me, you wonder what baseball players testifying before Congress about steroid use are doing on the front page of the Times, or anywhere outside the Sports section, you'll probably agree with Blondesense.

March 16, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)

¶ Reading Zoe in Brussels this morning, I learned that the site had won a Bloggie. I had decided not to vote this year, because I'm still a little new at this, and I haven't had time to read all the contestants, or even the ones that I would understand. But I ran through the awards, and pretty soon as I was staring at Michael Chu's site, Cooking for Engineers. Mr Chu has designed an incredibly interesting graphic for recipes, and he writes knowledgeably about equipment. I wonder what my culinary life would have been like if there had been blogs. Congratulations to Mr Chu!

¶ Thomas Meglioranza is the baritone who sang the part of Jesus so beautifully at the New York Collegium's presentation of Bach's St Matthew Passion a week ago last Friday. He came across my entry about the performance, thanked me, and left a calling card. That happened yesterday. I visited his personal site, Tomness (he's got a professional one, too), and read the entire Web log, which he started last summer. He writes brilliantly about the singing life, or at least about those aspects of the singing life than anybody who loves music will find interesting, such as: how do you carry yourself at a performance of Messiah where, as a baritone, you go for an hour, plus intermission, without singing. At one point (at Marlboro), he gets to hear what Mitsuko Uchida thinks of his approach to Schubert's Winterreise.

I also continued my work on Winterreise, which culminated in a dining hall performance of the first 12 songs. The day before our performance, Mitsuko Uchida came to listen. I had sung these songs, and lots of other Schubert, for several people at Marlboro, including Ken Noda, Ernst Haefliger, Irena Spiegelmann (the German diction coach at the Met), and had been getting some extremely positive feedback. It was therefore both...

You'll have to click here to read more. 

March 15, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

¶ Princeton has put up a video interview with Harry Frankfurt, author of On Bullshit, and you can watch it in snippets or all at once. Most interestingly, perhaps, Prof Frankfurt does not have a clear idea of what should be done about it: it's possible that torosplat serves a purpose. I quite agree that it shouldn't be punished, but as to do what-to-do? Recognize it. (Thanks to Majikthise.) The professor also points out that, given the widespread expectations that the citizens of a democracy will have an opinion about everything, reliance upon the subject of his study is inevitable.

¶ Shelley Powers at Burningbird has a field day with gender differences regarding hyperlinks. All I can say is "Phew!"

Mags shook her head. “No, this attitude isn’t universal among men. There are many guys who see a link as nothing more than a way of inviting a conversation or passing along useful information. They link without regard to the consequences, and the most they hope for is that it might spark an interesting discussion.”

She stopped wiping the counter and leaned closer to me, lowering her voice. “The power-link guys have a word for men who link just to link,” she whispered. “They call them linkless.”

At that point, a couple of people entered the bar and Mags hurried off to do her job, leaving me to think on our extraordinary conversation. The more I thought on Mags words, though, the more I could see the truth in them. Much that has confused me about this environment is explained if one considers for a moment that some men think of links as some form of virtual penis.

The (imaginary) conversation with Lawrence Summers is sweet fun.

¶ Today's Nobel Prize for Hasslehandling goes to Andrew Kirk, bless him.

"I've come to realize that I'm almost addicted to the sick little pleasure I get from lashing out at these things," said Mr. Kirk, 24, a freelance writer from Brooklyn who collects and returns magazine inserts.

What a great idea! Instead of cursing those annoying little reply cards that tumble out of magazines and require endless bending-over, start combing your periodicals for them as they come in. When you've got a stack, just drop it in the mailbox. Don't bother filling out the cards; the recipient will have to pay for blank cards as well as for written ones. Send a message! Congratulations to Times reporter Ian Urbina for uncovering such healthy passive aggression.

¶ And I thought I'd seen everything. This aerial shot of the city really took my breath away. Hats off to Jesse Chan-Norris!

March 14, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)

¶ Have you met the best of the right-wing pundits, R. Robot? Mr/s Robot is a "rhetoric simulator" that has been fed Newt Gingrich's style manual for praising coreligionists while demonizing liberals. The perfect send-up of insulting conservative twaddle, it demonstrates the level of critical thinking that you will find at such sites as Powerline. In other words, Mr/s Robot doesn't think very clearly but s/he's burning with passion for sure.

¶ At this morning, I discovered a site, Long Tail, that is hosted by the editor of Wired, Chris Anderson. The title refers to the extended, flattening end of the Pareto Curve, which shows, among other things, that in any scale-free network (eg the Web) there will be only a handful of very busy nodes (eg Web sites) and a galaxy of quiet ones (eg the Web log that you are currently visiting). I believe that Mr Anderson is on to something that I've been expecting, in my intuitive, uninstructed way since I started playing with my new Peanut in 1985. The spread of computational power is slowly undermining mass marketing, which attends to the eighty percent of stuff that nearly everybody wants or needs while ignoring the fragmented remainder. This remainder constitutes the long tail, and the Web has made it possible (for the first time in history) for the twenty percent of stuff that almost everybody does not want or need to find the handful of people who do. The everyday word for this is "niche marketing," but the term is fundamentally stupid, relying as it does on an architectural term that suggests nothing about networks. Naturally, this reshaping of markets starts at the top, among relatively affluent and educated computer users. But it will spread throughout civilization wherever electricity is available.

March 13, 2005

Sunday Links


"The Drugs I Need" is the latest from Consumers Union, which has launched a campaign to require drug companies to release all of their research about the pills that they peddle. And you thought that Consumers Union was the center of the Humorless Galaxy! Pay attention to the disclaimer announcement at the end: "If you experience psychotic episodes, you're crazy." And I wondered how JibJab was going to make a living! Speaking of JibJab, my "Second Term" poster just came back from the framer. I'm going to hang it in my bathroom.

¶ Ms Nola writes, "when are you going to write about rufus and kelly?" Kelly is of course Kelly Clarkson, the American Idol winner, who has a song that's all over the Web. That is, people are talking about it everywhere. After a while, I wanted to hear it. I asked Ms Nola if she knew a handy way of downloading it, but I still feel a certain resistance to downloading from iTunes; there's something about the whole Napster/iPod universe seems off to me. Faute de mieux, Ms Nola offered to run across the street to Circuit City to buy the album. Now that I've heard the song, I feel the same way that Jason Kottke did at first. I think that I may leave it there. ""Since U Been Gone" reminds me powerfully of the much better Cars song, "Since You're Gone," and not just because of the title; it also reminds me of the creepy music playing in the background when the creepy serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs tries out his latest couture. Two days later, I can't remember a thing about the song other than what I've just written.

As for Rufus Wainwright, I'm still adjusting. To show you how clueless I am, I had to wait for Ms Nola to point out that the second disc in Want Two is a DVD of Mr Wainwright in concert at the Fillmore, not a CD. It will be some time before I can discuss my overwhelmation by the concert's opening number, "Absence," the fourth (usually) of Berlioz's Nuits d'été. Until countertenor David Daniels's recent recording, the song was almost always sung by a woman, and even Mr Daniels sings it in the contralto range. Rufus Wainwright, whom I'm inclined to regard as a baritone with high notes, belts it out as if it were one of his own songs. There is not a trace of "classical music" or "crossover" in sight. The song was evidently written for him. So, as I say, I'm still adjusting, waiting to get beyond the "prodigious talent!" phase of my critical response. Here's an interview with Tim Adams from The Observer.

La Coquette is on a roll. Not only is she getting good seats on Parisian runways, but she's contributing to Parisist, the unfortunately-named latest colt in the Gothamist stable. (I wrote to her to complain; it ought to be called Panamiste - "Paname" is the almost exact counterpart of "Gotham," and "Parisist" sounds like a disease.) As my own contribution to the fashion blitz, I propose's portfolio of Anna Piaggi snaps. I can't remember when Ms Piaggi, editor of Vogue Italiana, first leaped off the pages of the Times and lodged herself permanently in my brain, but for my money this jolie laide is the most fashionable person on the planet. Stop that giggling!

March 12, 2005

Weekend Links

As Kathleen is spending the day with her partners in "retreat," there was no time for a big breakfast, so I slept in. It was gloriously cozy, and I ought to have stayed in bed. Because when I got up and read the Times, my spirits hit an iceberg. Ordinarily I'm dismayed by the current regime, but distanced enough to hope that my countrymen will know whom to thank when it comes time to swallow their medicine, but occasionally I wonder if any conceivable medicine will cure what seems to me to be an approaching catastrophe (cherchez les dollars?), and then I get really upset. On top of that, it's very boring to sound like Chicken Little. Is the answer to avoid the Times?

¶ The deaths of Atlanta judge Rowland Barnes and several others is not a story about gun control, although I have heard of judges who have ordered their deputies to refrain from bearing firearms in court, precisely to avoid what happened on Friday. It is a story about human depravity, and as such not, perhaps, to be commented on very extensively, much as one might mourn a good jurist. But if race turns out not to have anything to do with this story - in the form of inferior everything for most blacks - I'll be surprised.

¶ Not wishing to sound like Chicken Little, I'll say nothing about this latest in a series of alarming editorials that, in my view, understate the problem. Oops, I almost goofed there.

¶ A story from Thursday's Times has been bothering me, and the falling-dollar editorial underscored it, for the biggest irony going these days is that America is responding to an era of untrammeled globalization with official isolationism. Adam Liptak reported that the United States has withdrawn from the protocol that would permit the International Court of Justice at The Hague to hear the claims of fifty-one Mexican nationals who claim that they were tried in American courts without the right to consult a Mexican consul. The Bush Administration has ordered local prosecutors to review and reconsider these claims in light of international law; the point of our withdrawal from the protocol is that we're going to do the policing and not let a foreign tribunal interfere. It has been pointed out that only thirty percent of signatories to the consular convention subscribe to the protocol, and that the United States is now with the majority. So much for our fine, shining example to the world.

¶ Peter C Whybrow has diagnosed the American public as emerging from a manic streak. As anybody ought to know, manic binges are usually followed not by periods of healthy good sense but by deep depressions, and it is really to stave off the inevitable that bipolar people push their mania further and further into unsustainability. There is also a nasty note to manic exuberance that, once you have heard it, makes it very easy to distinguish enthusiasm from something darker. And I realize that I have been hearing that nasty note for years now. Not from anyone to whom I’m close, but in interviews with ordinary people and with the tempo of the popular culture itself. There is also a mania in blogging, as I’ve discovered. Dr Whybrow claims that Americans are beset by a mania for the acquisition of goods and status that are supposed to take the place of personal relationships, so insofar as I’m really trying to connect with other people on my four sites, I don’t think that my efforts are a substitute for something else. But I’d be lying if I denied that I want to be more widely read and recognized than I am, and the suddenness of my ambition has almost unbalanced me.

Writing about American Mania in today's Times, Irene Lacher notes that the book has been criticized for failing to offer "solutions." Dr Whybrow quite rightly respond that the "solution" is for everyone do to what he or she can do to check the mania. Since this mania is caused not by malfunctioning neurotransmitters but by a toxic popular culture, one good idea might be to - yep - turn off the TV.

Continue reading "Weekend Links" »

March 11, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ Getting to yesterday's Times a day late, I discover two new blogs in the Arts section. Two celebrity blogs. These aren't hoaxes, like Bill Clinton's Diary or the fake Nick Nolte site that was pulled down by the actor's attorneys shortly after it was reported by And not only are these blogs what they say they are, but they accept comments, too.

formerlyROSIE is Rosie O'Donnell's Web log. It is written in free verse. It is also quirkily candid.

then p town
6 months after tv
saw a painting at a tiny gallery
that moved me
i never bought a piece of art b4
the guy in the place said it was 6000 dollars
and even though i am rich
it seemed insane

The last two lines won me over. But reading a few entries at one go wasn't a good idea, because of the distorting sheen of celebritude. Ms O'Donnell is a very well-known woman, and she can have few truly spontaneous encounters; they're spontaneous for her, perhaps, but her interlocutors, as Henry James would have put it, are all at least slightly dazzled.

Even though I can't remember seeing Ms O'Donnell in anything but Another Stakeout (1993), her personal and professional lives were much in the news. Until today, however, I had never heard of Wil Wheaton, whose blog, WIL WHEATON dot NET, has apparently been going on for years, although I can't find the archives and have to take John Schwartz's word for it. Mr Wheaton is an actor, formerly a former child actor who spent his teens on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Guess who never saw that. Mr Wheaton appears to be a genial man with an interesting path, and he is perhaps as well-known now as a blogger as he is as an actor.

¶ Patricia Storms discovers that hers is not the only BookLust in town. It is my understanding that, while what you write has copyright protection, the label that you slap on it when you're done does not. And a good thing, too, or there could only be one of The Four Seasons. The only way to lock up a title is to register it as a trademark, a process that, unlike automatic copyright, is anything but convenient. I recently saved myself some trouble in this department with a spot of prudent Googling.

March 10, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)

Two links today. No fair opening the second before the first. 

¶ Having said everything that there is to say about links and permalinks, I have addressed the topics of Web log comments and HTML tags for commenters at Miss Gostrey's Guide. You may read the latter entry if you think it might prove useful, but you really must read the former. So off you go, right this minute. If you want to mix it up, post your thank-yous to me on or Towleroad. Be transgressive if you must! But comment!

¶ Today's second link is great fun, and once again I have Patricia Storms to thank for it. Drawn is a linkblog to interesting graphic sites, and, frankly, I could hardly get past the second entry's link to "Nosepilot." This is a must-see, but I will let Drawn take you there. 

March 09, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)

¶ In case you were thinking that recent bleating about democracy's progress in the Middle East was bankable, réveillez-vous. Lebanon, like Iraq, is a confection, a state carved out its neighbor, Syria, after World War I. It is famous for its cedars and for its civil wars.

¶ In case you're blasé about international affairs (news you can't "use"), cheer yourself up with the true-life story behind Million Dollar Baby.

"That guy in the movie played by Clint Eastwood took the easy way out by killing her rather than having to deal with what her life would have been like,"

says the original boxer's sister.


¶ Why is this guy shouting? He wants tort reform! Doesn't everyone? Consult the ad, paid for by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, to see how your state ranks for "lawsuit abuse." Why, what d'you know: Delaware tops the list. Delaware, home state of most American corporations, notoriously friendly to executives and boards, notoriously hostile to shareholders and stakeholders. Unquestionably the best. Interesting name for a lobbying group, "Chamber Institute," but perhaps not ideal: chamber groups don't have percussion. Oh, I get it: "as in Chamber of Commerce." Wonder why they didn't use that. Enough with the sarcasm. This ad is offensive.

March 08, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

¶ The Giuliana Sgrena incident, in which the abducted-and-released Italian journalist was wounded, and her companion killed, when her car, en route to the Baghdad airport, approached a checkpoint at a speed that soldiers judged dangerous to themselves, has sent a tremor through my delicately-balanced equanimity. [Rant deleted.] The Times has a prudent editorial that focuses on the laxness in current rules of engagement to which so many innocent deaths have been attributed. Whether the incident vindicates Eason Jordan, the CNN executive whose remarks on the subject of soldiers "targeting" journalists - during an off-the-record session at Davos of which, yes, there is no official record, so that Mr Jordan cannot counter the blogger whose posting stirred up a fracas on the right - led to his ouster, it is difficult to say. Or, rather, it's easy to say, very easy, and bloggers on both sides of the aisle are saying one thing or the other. The fact that Ms Sgrena is a reporter for Il Manifesto, a newspaper of Communist orientation, certainly clouds the issue, although of course it shouldn't. Like the Times editors, I don't hold the soldiers reponsible; they're working under impossible conditions. I blame the Pooh-Bahs in Washington who created those conditions, whether actively or by reckless disregard.

¶ I can't ordinarily bring myself to visit Powerline, the Radiculan Web log that pounds its chest like King Kong when it isn't eating liberals for breakfast, but I had to make an exception today, after I heard about a "victory party" in Minneapolis that several of the Powerline collaborators will address. What are they celebrating? Having brought Dan Rather down. Here are the details, for any of you living in the environs of the Twin Cities. (How long will it take for some kind soul to clue Hindrocket in on certain implications of his nom de plume?)

¶ The current issue of The Atlantic arrived yesterday, and I haven't had time to read the cover story by David Foster Wallace on "Talk Radio," but I've glanced at it, and how the story has been printed may well upstage anything that Mr Wallace has to say. Subscribers can download a PDF file that reproduces the story's look in print, but the snippet of the story that's available to everyone short-circuits the magazine's cleverness by utilizing real hyperlinks instead of the printed simulations, which are really nothing more than colorfully reformatted footnotes. Mr Wallace has always been fond of footnotes! See if:book for interesting comment.

March 07, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)

¶ Where is Joseph Mitchell, now that we need to to know more about Jerry the Light Man, one of New York's "Eccentric? Moi?" characters? Gothamist does a yeoman job, but to think what Mitchell would have made of this is to shed a tear over the ephemerality of mortal fun.

Roboto Supremo. In the old days, Susan Sontag told us, disaster films massaged our dread of nuclear holocaust. Now, it seems, they can just as well be put to work to ventilate the Fear of Commitment. Vincent Varnado shows how a great script can save so-so visuals.

¶ But you don't like science fiction. You like reality! You want to see the new show about Breeding Republicans: Hannidate.

March 04, 2005

Subcontinental (Loose Links, Friday)


Every once in a while, you have to dream up a Google search and see where it takes you. There's nothing, for the moment, that you need to find out; or perhaps you might say that you need to find something that you didn't know about. My cerebral randomizer came up with "Indian blogs."

¶ I started with Bombay blogs, which didn't yield much of anything, at least not on the first screen. Through a link at the bottom, though, I came across this interesting, literate posting about 'Peters' - Indians who are a bit more anglicized than the people they hang out with. It's apparently Madras slang. (There is also a very pungent remark toward the end of the post about being reminded of The Pianist.) The blogs on the HT Sulekha site seem to lack some basic navigational tools, and comments are posted like entries, in descending order. Only members can comment.

Dehli turned out to be a more profitable destination. (Perhaps I ought to have Googled Mumbai.) In no time at all, I was reading the reflections of a young accountant keeping a journal of her reactions to men and to movies, in a style somewhat more carefully literate than is common in such productions here, but studded throughout - duh - with Hindi. That's what I take it to be, anyway. The result is spicy - as to style, not content. Life, as it goes... has a modest but intriguing blog roster, too, and soon I came across Confusing Musings, where the references, not the grammar, reminded me even more forcefully that these blogs are written in a second language.

¶ I don't really know where Simla took me geographically, but it did introduce a serious current-affairs site, As this excerpt shows, critical thinking works just as well in India as it does here.

A lot of discussions and debates can occur about whether the tsunami toll in India could have been minimized - but there is one fact that is staring the government in its face - two hours elapsed between the Indonesian quake and the tsunamis that hit southern India, when no action was taken by the Indian Government.

What if it were a nuclear strike ? If the Indian government cannot adequately detect major geological events and safeguard our population with a two hour warning window, what chance do we have of preventing unnecessary casualties if the window is even lesser?

¶ And presently I was back home. Varnam, a site about Indian history, is run by an insourced software engineer currently living in California. That's where I got the link to the photograph of Alampur Temple, above.

March 03, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)

¶ From our Department of Yikes & Dismay comes a report by Majikthise cataloguing the extravagant lies about the Terri Schiavone case that are flourishing on right-wing blogs. This is a must-read exposé of pernicious nonsense, all of it prompted by vindictive in-laws. I hope that Lindsay Beyerstein follows up on the attacks that will no doubt be mounted against her investigation.

¶ As I become more convinced every day that faith and religion are two different things, and that the doctrines of liberal tolerance that are built into all Western democracies protect one (faith) and not the other, I find myself growing impatient with youngsters whom I suspect of exploiting religious practices to mix it up at school. That puts me especially out of sympathy with young women who insist on wearing veils and gowns that their religions, they claim, require. Does this make me a bigot? Yes, certainly, under certain kinds of scrutiny. I was in any case, somewhat discouraged by a story in today's Times about a judgment of the British Court of Appeal in favor of eccentricity. Let's hope that the local authorities consider a suitable compromise, requiring the student to wear a uniform modified to accommodate her modesty. Religion has no place in public life, and that includes public schools.

¶ Don't get your hopes up, but the political climate in Sugar Land, Texas, may be shifting.

¶ Pop Quiz

Continue reading "Loose Links (Thursday)" »

March 02, 2005

Late Afternoon Self-Promotion (Go Coquette!, though)

¶ Phew! Or rather, as my friend June Siegel says, "Writing begets writing." Item: I've just written two comments on Book Second, Chapter 1 that, together, rival the original in length. (How I flatter myself - it only took a little over two hours, and I do exaggerate, although it may not seem so to casual visitors; the link will take you to the first of all four comments, posted by JKM.) And that's only one of the day's productions. I also kicked off my third (and final) blog, which is designed for newcomers to the Blogosphere, such as, for example, my uncle, who asked me what the difference between a  blog and a Web site was. I've written about this before, but now there's an actual site to which such queries can be referred. I hope to move beyond fundamental soon, to address the issue of why you ought to comment more often! I had the greatest name for the site: BaedekerBlog: The Blogosphere on No Sweat a Day. But what d'you know, the venerable publisher of travel guides is still a thriving concern. At least I checked, but I really should have checked before configuring the site; I very nearly rendered this site inaccessible. In any case, send your analphabète friends and relations to Miss Gostrey's Guide: to Web Logs and Such.

La Coquette is having a high old time reporting on the fashion shows in Paris; she's vastly more entertaining than anything you'll see in the press.

¶ All haters and despisers of puns must rush to Zoe in Brussels for a thorough drubbing.

New Housing (Loose Links)


¶ Among the many things that the prof and I talked about during yesterday's lesson was the folly of housing poor people in high-rise apartments. Apartment towers require a degree of social responsibility that many poor people quite understandably lack. Common areas must be treated with respect, with elevators and corridors in particular kept in working order. The indistinct sense of property that a person without property is likely to have means that many residents are going to treat whole buildings as their own, or at least no more not their own than the flats that have been allocated to them. Bad architecture ends up reinforcing the very characteristics that conservatives deplore - but then conservatives believe that bad architecture doesn't hurt people, only people hurt people. Anyway, I thought I'd do a little Googling about the alternatives. Not that anybody's building towers any more. The first thing that I came across responded perfectly to my query. Here's the excerpt from the University of Chicago Press's catalogue:

Architecture for the Poor describes Hassan Fathy's plan for building the village of New Gourna, near Luxor, Egypt, without the use of more modern and expensive materials such as steel and concrete. Using mud bricks, the native technique that Fathy learned in Nubia, and such traditional Egyptian architectural designs as enclosed courtyards and vaulted roofing, Fathy worked with the villagers to tailor his designs to their needs. He taught them how to work with the bricks, supervised the erection of the buildings, and encouraged the revival of such ancient crafts as claustra (lattice designs in the mudwork) to adorn the buildings.

Here are some housing projects proposed for the mentally ill in the Seattle area.


That's much nicer. In Scotland, architect John Gilbert has developed sustainable housing for "deprived areas": it will be interesting to see if this turns out to be overambitious. Finally, be sure to look at these photographs of the Charlotte Street area in the Bronx. The earliest homes were simply suburban; the newer projects are more appropriate to urban density.

What can you do? This is what I asked Barbara Ehrenreich after she spoke about the problem in 2003, and her answer was to make a contribution (at a minimum) to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. So I did, and you can, too.

¶ For another kind of misery-at-a-distance, have a chuckle at Strindberg and Helium. M le Neveu could have done the voice work; his imitation of utter despondency is just as funny. There's nothing quite like faux wallowing for silliness. (Thanks to Majikthise.)

March 01, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

¶ Sometimes the Times shows the most amazing signs of life. Life, that is, after or apart from Bill Keller. As in this account of the late (or not so late) blizzard by Alan Feuer

According to Steve Fybish, an amateur weather historian with a habit of calling reporters on deadline with interesting weather facts, this winter is the first since the late 19th century that has produced three snowstorms of five inches or more within a nine-day period.

From Feb. 20 to 21, he said, five inches of snow fell; from Feb. 24 to 25, six inches fell. Mr. Fybish said he was hoping that at least five inches would fall this time.

"To get three in this period is, I think, unprecedented," he said. "That's kind of fun."

We are hanging up on you now, Mr Fybish, but please don't take it personally, because we're on deadline.

La petite anglaise reports on an underwear campaign in Paris. It's very sexy stuff for very sexy guys, and you can follow the link to the designer's site from Lpa. I've had enough underwear-in-public, on both sexes, thank you very much, and I would like it to stop now. I would like to choose the moments for relishing images of desire, or for satisfying my curiosity about current trends in underwear advertising, myself. At my pleasure and convenience, nobody else's. The Hom campaign that Lpa talks about is garishly para-pornographic: the highly sculpted, ultra buff men look much naughtier in their skin-tight, peek-a-boo shorts than they would "in the nude," and that is the point of the photographs. Well and good. The point of pasting the photographs onto public billboards is something quite different. It's to shout that some people are so gorgeous that the line between public and private melts in the glare of their fabulousness. And that's what has gotten tedious. No mortal is that fabulous.


¶ More merchandise from CaféPress:

I've been thinking a lot about the Gannon Affair since yesterday, when I agreed with Bob Somerby that the mainstream media coverage has not been derelict. Does this mean that I don't think the story is significant? No. Aside from its hoot value, of which any reader of these pages will have seen me to be an eager appreciator, it adds another brick to the wall of Bush Administration incompetence. But there are so many other bricks! And what's really derelict about mainstream media is the habit of respectfully deferring to the Administration's radical restructuring of everything that it doesn't simply wreck.

February 28, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)

¶ Let's have more thinking and less shouting. Writing in today's Times, Adam Cohen cautions bloggers against demanding the head of Lawrence Summers, Harvard's recklessly maladroit president. Yes, we can call him names, but we should resist the temptation to storm the university gates in a torch-bearing mob. Two can play at that game, and when they do, life gets ugly. I'm thinking of the rivalry between the Greens and the Blues in old Constantinople that, in 532, boiled over in the murderous Nika riots. (Gibbon's account is, predictably, dramatic in a long-winded way; scroll here to Chapter XL if you've not got the classic handy.) The collapse of our body politic into mortally aggrieved factions is only encouraged by shrill imperatives.

¶ Bob Somerby is right, too, to protest that the mainstream media have not been derelict in ignoring the Jeff Gannon story. It is extremely trivial. There is, perhaps, reason to inquire into the admittance of an edgy, ex-military hustler into the White House briefing room, but to call this a security risk is nonsense. As the Daily Howler says, Mr Guckert was not the only lightweight in the room. Bloggers who expect this affair to dent the Bush Administration are hyperventilating. This is not to suggest that we give all concerned a pass. But the matter is not really news, and there are no grounds for demanding action. Really. Aside, that is, from the action of talking calmly and deliberatively about the culture that has enabled such monstrosity. And, by the way, such a fascination with the trivial.

¶ A good place to begin would be with a viewing of Mr & Mrs Bridge. (Shamless, I know.)

February 25, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ Must we allow religious hate speech for the greater good of "free speech"? At Open Democracy, Shakira Hussein, a self-declared mongrel, rebuts her literary hero, Salman Rushdie, on this tricky question - which she, however, contrives to present with stunning clarity. She writes about Australian legislation that has been tested in court, and that in my view falls safely under the proscription of false alarms. One might even argue that shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre is not speech in the first place. But be sure to read Ms Hussein, even if you can't get to her until the weekend.

¶ "Jeff Gannon has a blog." Okay, there's his picture, and there's his name - or rather it's not his name - and there are some entries. But I will not go further than the assertion that there exists a Web log that purports to be authored by James Guckert's alter ego. Since Mr Whoever has been "advised" not to discuss his other professional activities, the site is anything but interesting; it seems to be a matter of links to articles that support - well, no, they don't support Our Hero so much as demonize his "liberal attackers."

¶ Visit The Apostropher for an elegant deconstruction of Wingnut jungle drumbeats.

¶ Now the truth can be told: Art Linkletter bored Richard Nixon stiff.

February 24, 2005

Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! (Loose Links)

¶ What do you know: hardly have the electrons dried on my carbonara piece than Jason Kottke posts a link to Bacontarian, a collaborative Web log devoted to smoked pork. It's a brand-new site, and who knows where it will go, but follow it I must. And the links! Here's one that I won't even identify - be careful if you're at work, Oh, what the hell. I told them my zip code to see what would happen, and I got the following message:

Your zip code 10028 is covered by our New York office.

Due to overwhelming demand, there are currently no BaconWhores appointments available in the next two weeks. Check back soon for updated availability!

Right. Somebody sure had nothing to do one weekend. Soon I was at IHeartBacon, a serious cooking site from Seattle, which took me to Rate the Bacon, which is simply odd. Don't forget the Bacon of the Month Club! I'm afraid that I'm not ready for its level of commitment. When I order bacon my mail, I go to Nueske's. Nueske's bacon is smoked in applewood, and it is quite unlike anything that you'll find at the supermarket. But it is also unlike those nitrate-free bacons, which always taste like smoked salmon. I love smoked salmon, but not when I'm in the mood for bacon.

¶ Sometimes I wonder if I invented the peanut butter and bacon sandwich. Nobody ever seems to have heard of it, and, what's more, people tend to gag when I mention it. But if there were ever two foods more made for each other, that was in another world. This is a very high sodium treat, though, so I've been avoiding it. My mother made them for us when I was little - I think. Maybe my father liked them. I really don't remember. But they're delicious, and I don't really have to tell you that they're made of two slices of white toast, three slices of crisp bacon, and a spread of peanut butter. Note: take small bites and prepare to chew. Recommended for insomniacs. By the way, there are some kinky varieties out there. Mozzarella? Celery?

¶ Why "Canadian bacon"? Canadian bacon is smoked loin, not belly. That's why it's so lean, and impossible to fry without a little butter. There is no lard to render. But of course it's just right for Eggs Benedict, where true bacon would be much too salty and ham - well, hammy.

Dietz & Watson explains the world of cured meats and sausage, or at least that part of the world in which it traffics. 

February 23, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)

¶ The big news is that Jason Kottke has quit his day job to run full time; to support himself, he is soliciting ‘micropatronage.’ Mr Kottke, a physics major from Coe ('95), has been publishing online for ten years, and for seven at his current site. (Ten years ago, I wasn’t even doing much email; it wouldn’t be until the summer of ’96 that I'd join a listserv and began spending a portion of each day on line.) I don’t know where full-time blogging will take him, but I became a supporter immediately – see the little button at the lower left. To give you an idea of how clever Mr Kottke is, let me tell you that his roster of micropatrons is randomly regenerated each time the page is reloaded, so that where you appear on the list means nothing; you can't boast to your friends that you were among the first ten contributors and expect the list to back you up.

I dream of supporting my sites with contributions - "patronage" and "subscriptions" are closer to what I'm looking for than "donations" - far smaller than the ones that Mr Kottke is soliciting (he suggests $30, or $2.50 per month; I make one-time donations to sites that I like at least once a month, $10 usually, and I have never received a dime from anybody), but for that to work I’ll have to have lots more readers. While I’m gathering them, it’s oddly comforting to know that it has taken ten years for to attract its huge following, especially given that most of its readership was pre-sold (prepared, that is, to look to new technology for information about new technology). I’m at the other end of the spectrum; very few of the readers I'm writing for even think of finding satisfaction on the Web. I have to hope that that will change, and in fact I have to believe that I will be instrumental in bringing the change about. So the big news about Jason Kottke is also big news, if only in my apartment, about me.

¶ The good news is that Édouard has revived Sale Bête. He wasn't gone for very long - not quite two weeks - but his absence left a real hole. He was coy about retiring, and equally coy about returning; he launched his re-entry in parenthesis, even:

(Désolé, c’est plus fort que moi. En plus, j’suis en vacances pour quelques jours — donc, j’ai du temps à perdre.)

But his readers posted enough comments, first of sorrow and desolation, then of delight and gratitude, to make his importance crystal clear. I remember that someone asked, in a comment on De Bric et de Blog, if Édouard could really be permitted just to "dump us." I'm sure that Édouard never thought that he was courting celebrity resentment.

¶ An example of something that should be done more often: Jesurgislac, a writer who posts frequent comments on Obsidian Wings, did what ObWi member Sebastian Holsclaw's asked her to do. Jesurgislac had contributed several comments to a very long thread about whether Eason Jordan's remarks about GIs targeting journalists had any factual support. Mr Holsclaw asked her to organize them into a coherent post on her own site, and this she has done. There are jewels in many comment threads, and they should be sifted when the dust settles. Next time, Jesurgislac, don't wait to be asked.

February 22, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

¶ What did the Roman Forum look like in its heyday? Have a look at Robert Garbisch's model.

¶ Oh, that wide and wonderful Web! Just be sure that I got the quote from The Philadelphia Story right (without watching the movie again; see preceding post), I Googled it and stumbled on a great collection of quotes from the movies, on Filmsite.

Chas and Cam face White House ban? Can this be serious? That one should even have to ask...

February 18, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ Is Fafblog (no relation to the "Aloha" postcard) the sharpest and funniest critic going? The site is almost always funny, but it not infrequently satirizes its target so perfectly that there's no air left for laughter. This one, on treason, is exalted:

Treason isn't just providin aid an comfort to the enemy. It's providin not-aid an discomfort to America. Treason is hurting America's feelings.

That cornball hillbilly accent, by the way, is just about impossible to imitate. Its pervasiveness makes the few "lapses" into quite correct English funny in themselves. Note that, although Fafblog dabbles in surrealism, it does not exaggerate.


¶ Don't miss the "Worst Wedding " thread at Obsidian Wings. You may have to decide which story to tell! I told the shortest.

¶ Chad Everett's plugin, MT-Moderate, seems to be working nicely. It holds up posts to older comments for moderation, or approval. That makes spam much easier to get rid of, and visitors never see it - not that they would anyway. But I have to tweak the settings for "older," if I can, because over on Good For You, where we're reading The Ambassadors, posts go up the moment anyone comments on the previous chapter, which means that readers are still commenting a week later.

February 17, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)

La Petite Anglaise has discovered the reason why it is so hard for Anglophones to learn the genders of French words (or, by extension, Italian words, Spanish words, and so on). Her little girl is learning two languages simultaneously, and PA grasped that, to the child, the French for "mouth" is labouche.

¶ In case you're toying with the idea of reading the Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, perhaps you'd better know something about the author, Thomas E. Woods, first. Max Boot, of the Weekly Standard, checked out Mr Woods on the Internet, and discovered, among other things, that he is

a founding member of the League of the South. According to its website, the League "advocates the secession and subsequent independence of the Southern States from this forced union and the formation of a Southern republic." As an interim step before this glorious goal is achieved, the League urges its members to "fly Confederate flags at your residence or business every day" and to "become as self-sufficient as possible"--"if possible, raise chickens and keep a cow to provide eggs and dairy products for your family and friends." The League also counsels "white Southerners" that they should not "give control over their civilization and its institutions to another race, whether it be native blacks or Hispanic immigrants."

That the Politically Incorrect Guide has appeared on the New York Times's best-seller list is more upsetting than anything in the Gannon/Guckert bag of tricks.

¶ Better get two: A French site reports on a new development: customizable keyboards. You program the keys according to your needs. Now, this would make typing my Turkish vocabulary lists a lot easier! But just imagine the catastrophe of becoming dependent on your very own idiosyncratic keyboard, which in the wonderful future you would carry around in your backpack so as to be able to work on any machine, and then dropping it onto the subway tracks.

¶ Memo to Rob Press:


No half measures. Next time you're in Incan-God mode, wear the robes, too. Is that a big soda in your hand, or a beaker of blood from ritual slaughter? Finding someone who knows how to keep fingers away from the lens would be good, too. In any case, welcome home

February 16, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)

Don't mind me if I take the day off. Lunch in Turtle Bay and dinner in St Mark's Place will leave me little time for reading and writing. But you'll find plenty to read on Her Majesty's official site, which has been going for some time and which always strikes me as hitting exactly the right note for the presentation of heredity monarchy online. If you haven't got any time for introductions, you can go straight to Ich Dien (not its real name) for snaps of Charles and Camilla. For a very, very irreverent take on the consequences of normalizing the world's most famous protracted love affair, see Scaryduck. Finally, read about a home-grown aristocrat, Lord Dumpling, at Towleroad.

February 15, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

¶ A link from took me to Improv Everywhere, a site that documents the antics of a troupe of folks who are too young to remember the halcyon days of Allen Funt. Jason Kottke was intrigued by a stunt performed last month, when a clutch of improvisors took off their pants in the subway and worked on their deadpan, but what got me howling with laughter was Celebrity Trash. (Come on, riding crowded subway cars in parkas and boxers? Ew.) The bit about Sarah Jessica Parker's doorknob shows how personally expensive some kinds of celebrity can be - but the doorknob was cheap.

¶ The Poor Man is on a roll: two hilarious posts in a row, one on the "miracle" of Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert, the other on pundits in crossfire. Perhaps you have seen Mr Guckert's pornographic autoportraits, perhaps not. (Here's a link to Americablog's home page, but not to the exposé, which you can find there if you look). If you have, then perhaps you've also been reminded of Christine Lavin's song about how everybody was once somebody's little baby. Without feeling sorry for Mr Guckert, I felt very sad on his account yesterday. The evidence suggests that he is not really bright enough to have seen this tornado coming. (By the way, I'm hoping that someone will eventually explain the Valerie Plame connection. Everybody refers to it, but I guess I missed class the day it was revealed.

¶ The other day, something a bit out of the ordinary happened. I received a courriel from Alessandro Barbero, the author of Charlemagne: Father of a Continent (2000; California, 2004). He had come across my page fortuitously, and it was very nice of him to let me know that he'd seen it. He proposed a clarification, to which I agreed in my reply. With the Professor's permission, I've appended the exchange to the bottom of my page. The book's title is the link.

February 14, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)

¶ Can it be true? Even Teflon doesn't last forever?

¶ Thanks, Patricia (at Booklust) for the link to Gizoogle, a gangsta parody of Google that translates the returned snippets of text and throws in a few gratuitous expletives. Results for "Mozart" are quite amusing. Check it out fast, because Google can't be best pleased.

¶ Have a look at the the official Christo site for The Gates. According to this, the installation's color is an interesting burnt orange. Sadly, the reality is not. Reading ecstatic critical responses to this project (Michael Kimmelman: "pure joy.") is rapidly draining my patience with populism. See below.

¶ Fascist alert: the House allows Homeland Security to ignore the law on its own initiative. Sorry, folks, but this is how it starts. The emergency here isn't terrorism, but our response to it. In a similar vein, check out a "Men's Night Out" in Kentucky (I believe), where religion and recruiting made one Republican squirm. My guess is that this sort of thing has been going on for ages, and we're only finding out about it now because of digital cameras. (The page is a bit noisy, but at least click through the pictures. Thanks, Biscuit.)

¶ Let's face it: I disapprove of public piety.

February 11, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ What's wrong with television? Let's hear what other people have to say. Googling the phrase "what's wrong with television" brought up a few interesting links; here are four from the first ten. In History Today (but in an issue from 2002), Tom Stearn analyses what's wrong with history programs. He seems to think that producers could do better, but his arguments suggest otherwise.

¶ In an interview with his publisher, Jeffrey Sheuer, author of The Sound Bite Society, gives his answer to the question:

One really has to ask, "What's wrong with television and politics, or television and society," because they are totally intertwined. I'm not ferociously anti-television, but I do think it is generally bad for children and their viewing should be limited and closely monitored. But my specific prescriptions are more political. They include reversing Buckley Vs Valeo, the terrible Supreme Court decision in 1976 that equated campaign spending with freedom of speech; revoking the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which purported to be about increasing competition, but which in fact only accelerated the concentration of media ownership and further dampened competition; and an excellent idea of Lawrence Grossman and others, to replace public television as we know it with an information "freeway" on the superhighway. The bottom line is this: television is overwhelmingly commercialized, which limits its value and makes it a dangerous tool of political inequality instead of an arena of democratic conversation.

I couldn't agree more about overturning Buckley v. Valeo; it's the Dred Scott decision of our times.

¶ On a site called Deep DT's Pages, the question is the title. DT reasons that television needs to be more exciting than ordinary life, or people wouldn't watch it. "This need to be larger, more exciting than life and to constantly maintain peoples attention from minute to minute leads to the television that we know and hate - the fake, false nonsense that poisons our minds."

¶ On a page belonging to, "Smallville" cast member John Schneider seems to want to go back to "Father Knows Best."

Schneider observed that on television, parents are not given the respect they're due.  Instead they're usually depicted as "the dumb people in the house."  "If it weren't for the innate intelligence of their teenage son or daughter they would never be able to make it through the day."  It's this lack of respect for authority, and for the institution of parenthood, that Schneider thinks is most damaging.  "Far beyond the language or even visual content, this is really what's wrong with television."

That line of criticism is as old as television. Almost all of these positions would favor some kind of censorship (or self-censorship) if only "censorship" weren't a per se bad thing. This implies a belief in the possibility of good television that I don't share. Television can be entertaining, certainly, and it can certainly help pass the time. But it is inherently flawed, because we are not wired to cope with it, as I shall argue in a little while. (See the Against Television archives.

February 10, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)

¶ There's a must-read story in the curent New Yorker that is, happily, online. Nicholas Lemann talks to Bill Keller (of the Times) and other MSM heavyweights about bias attacks from left and right ("Fear and Favor"). There was one little bit that hit me with the force of revelation; let me see if I can communicate it. Ann Marie Lipinski, the Chicago Tribunes editor-in-chief, plays a piece of voice-mail from a reader who complains about a human-interest story. The story is about the plight of a woman who can't get health insurance because she suffers from depression. The reader complains, in effect, that the very printing of such stories suggests that health care is a right in the United States, and that this country is as "socialist" as Sweden. The story, I repeat, was not overtly political, but, to the reader, everything is political. Ms Lipinski is bemused:

“I get surprised,” Lipinski said. “Even something like this is seen through a political lens, rather than as, Here’s somebody with a different experience from me.”

Reading that, I saw at once that Ms Lipinski is indeed guilty of unconscious liberal bias. If she were truly objective, she would have omitted the "rather than as" part of her statement, and replaced it with a colon. Ms Lipinski finds it interesting to read stories about "somebody with a different experience from me." The complaining reader does not even want to know that such people exist.

¶ What Jason Kottke has to put up with! Last year, he was threatened with a lawsuit by the "Jeopardy" people. Now his reputation is being picked over at Wikipedia, where contributors are voting whether or not to continue the online encyclopedia's entry for him. As he ruefully remarks on, he'd just as soon they dropped him. I don't begin to understand the "environment," technical and otherwise, in which the vote is taking place (if it is "taking place"), but then I can't figure out how to install a plugin to moderate old-comment spam.

¶ Boo! nothing about the crash and burn, yesterday, of Jeff Gannon/Jim Guckert, in today's Times. Grey Lady's disdain for the blogo thingy?

¶ Finally! A description of what it is that gaffers and best boys do that you will never forget. Cinematographer-hopeful Ski Jagninski explains it all at Gothamist. (I can see why we don't hear much from Best Girls.)

What are the stupidest questions people come up and ask you while you're working?
Bar none: "Are you working on a film?" Gee, what gave it away, the big film lights in the middle of the street? My favorite query was from the homeless guy who wanted a job but was to lazy to walk 150 yards down the street to talk to the person who could actually give him one.

Excuse me, is this a line?

February 09, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)


¶ Shucks! Everybody wants to see the "Jeff Gannon" beefcake shot. You had to be there. Guess the World O'Crap report will have to do.

¶ In case you missed Max's comment to yesterday's Loose Links, here's something that will cut you down to size (just what you wanted, right?): The 34 Languages of McDonald's. As Max pointed out, there are several languages that use the Cyrillic alphabet. And there are also a few alphabets that perhaps you've never encountered. Not that there's any need to learn about any of these languages, because hasn't it been determined that we are never going to war with any of the people who speak them? Or did I make that up.

¶ Not Jib Jab, not quite as good as Jib Jab, and definitely missing Adrienne Spiridellis, the attached prospectus might nonetheless amuse you.

¶ And here's a link that I've been hoarding; Ms Nola found it. And speaking of Ms Nola, who has won the right to our advice by suggesting that this Web log has a geriatric readership, what counsel would you offer to a brilliant Bryn Mawr grad who deserves a job interview that doesn't end with her being told a) that she's overqualified or b) "we'll get back to you." (But not tired enough to give up.) Better yet, can we send you a resume? Ya de l'espoir, non?

February 08, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

¶ Whatever you do, don't click this link at the office without turning the audio way down. As Michael Manske at The Glory of Carniola writes, the clip is hypnotic. Amusing? How about endless, literally. This video accompaniment, made by Joel Veitch at, to a techno number by the Slovenian group Laibach, is set to loop, so don't wait for "Tanz mit Laibach" to come to an end.

¶ Also via the Music category at TGoC: David Byrne goes to the Metropolitan Opera, and writes about his impressions of Debussy's Pélléas et Mélisande in the sort-of blog that he runs. There are no comments, and no permalinks, so you'll have to scroll down to the entry for 30 January. It's worth it: an intensely musical man confronts intensely different music.

¶ As an aid to my slightly faulty balance (mostly the consequence of an inability to look round when I walk), I carry a very nice ebony walking stick, picked up over a year ago at a snazzy shop on the Boulevard St Germain in Paris. I am always slightly amazed that I'm allowed to carry this thing onto an airliner; I could easily put someone in the hospital with it. But wait - perhaps there's a technique to master!

¶ Pop Quiz

Continue reading "Loose Links (Tuesday)" »

February 07, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)

¶ Ellen and Jim Moody have (launched) a Web log - too. I all but got down on my knees late last year and begged Ellen to write a blog, but enough time has passed since her clearly-reasoned rejection of the idea to prevent me from taking any credit. I am sure that it was Jim, from whom it's nice to hear, who convinced her. I don't know what the new blog will do to listserv volume, but Ellen is or has been the doyenne (willingly or otherwise) of several reading lists. Now you can visit Ellen without riffling through your inbox. Bravo!

¶ Jason Kottke posted a link to the intriguing story of Esref Armagan, a Turkish man who paints realistic pictures even though he has apparently been completely blind since infancy. How can this be?

¶ Along the thread of my earlier posting on free speech, I must say that while I think that Princeton's Harry Frankfurt is on to something, I'd have come up with a better name for both the course and its subject matter.

¶ Adieu, Édouard. Mille remerciements de votre carnet génial et réconfortant. Sale Bête vient de cesser.

February 06, 2005

Sunday Special

Here are a few Ken Brown drawings that illuminate, but without explanation, the dustball corner of the male psyche.


In this 1984 postcard, our hero sprawls with his back to the great view. He has evidently been done in by too much serious reading about Wayne Newton, Velcro, and lentils. The headline to the right reads: "Scientists say Prez has mind of mollusk."

Continue reading "Sunday Special" »

February 05, 2005

Tune in Tomorrow: Expanded Super Bowl Coverage!

Tune in tomorrow for fantastic coverage of the Super Bowl on the DB! As expanded as you want it to be! Simply drop in to comment on the miserable time you're having, wherever you are, being forced to watch the game with friends and relatives! You may even complain about the game itself! I don't care what you say, really, as long as you drop in and vent. Why, you may even report that you're having a great time(!) watching the Patriots and the guys from Philadelphia, whatever their name is, if that's where they're from.

The only thing I know about football is fifty yards, and, oh, the players are much bigger than I am - which, at my size, you notice. Did I mention that I have two degrees from the University of Notre Dame, and that I still think that football is unwatchably witless?

February 04, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ Several hours were spent yesterday afternoon on an excursion through the Web logs of Edinburgh and Leith, or at least through the ones that Naked Blog lists on its Blogroster. I found one of these quite congenial. Richard Bloomfield is trying to decide what to give up for Lent. His friends have advised taking something up, i.e., walking to work (Richard has already gotten rid of his car - good show!). My expert on this subject (Kathleen) objects: walking to work is good for you, and not in any real way a sacrifice. And certainly no substitute for giving something up. Chocolate, perhaps? I also enjoyed glancing through The Leither, a collaborative blog. Although I've never been to Edinburgh, I madly want to go, and I was heartened to hear Kathleen say that there's an Intercontinental (the George) where we could stay on points. I like it that Edinburgh has remained clear and distinct enough to have a separate port city (Leith) at its feet.

¶ Who knew that Warren Buffett subscribes to John Rawls's theory of justice? This wasn't among the points made by Walter Kirn in his mordant Atlantic piece a few months ago.

¶ As the Times editorial puts it, the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General is "depressing." I really don't know how this man has survived scrutiny. At least the MSM are seem to be going after Jeff Gannon, the nitwit blogger who's got White House press credentials. (thanks to Fafblog). Edward, at Obsidian Wings, isn't altogether happy that Donald Rumsfeld might be arrested for war crimes, should he set foot in Germany, but I suspect that there's a lot more where that lawsuit comes from, and I'm at all not unhappy about it. American patriotism has been put under severe pressure by the Crawford Gang, and we're in sore need of a good lawman.  

February 03, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)

¶ The other day, my friend George asked me about the "paragraph marks" with which I bracket these loose links, and I explained to him that they are called "pilcrows." He thanked me for the information and returned the favor by informing me that the technical term for the "pound sign" (#) is "octothorp." Well, I had to look that one up, because the Latin "octo" and the English "thorp" - an archaic term meaning "hamlet" - looked like a fishy combination. Indeed, the word doesn't appear in my fat Random House Unabridged, and that's where research would have stopped in pre-Internet times. It turns out that George is quite right; the octothorp was invented by cartographers who used it to signify the eight fields surrounding a village. But you already knew this: Google returns over eight thousand links to sites on which the word appears.

¶ The happiest day of my adolescence was my first day at Blair Academy, in the fall of 1963. My parents had decided that we would all be happier if I was out of the house, and a precipitate rush to get me into a good school preoccupied the previous spring. I was certainly happier. My mother and I had tumbled into a not-so-cold war in which all it took was a look. She might have been afraid that I would murder her in her sleep. Boarding school certainly eased the valves on that pressure cooker!

So I read, this morning, with complete incredulity about parents who follow their children to boarding school, literally, buying homes near campus and crossing the country if necessary. There is something definitely ghoulish about the parents written up by Ralph Gardner Jr in today's Times ("Newly Desirable: Dormfront Property"). Separation from the parental bosom is surely the point of boarding school; it may be tough for some kids for a week or too, but it is amazingly effective preparation for college and real life. What is adolescence, anyway, if not the time for staking out your differences from your parents, gracelessly, exaggeratedly, even hurtfully? How lucky you would be to do the staking out where they can't see you! How vain these house-hopping parents must be, to believe that their children will expire without their proximity.

And what, may I ask, is the point of paying boarding-school tuition if you're turning the attic into a rec room?

The couple are remodeling the modest 1,850-square foot two-family house they purchased by replacing the upstairs kitchen with a master bathroom and turning the attic, with its cathedral ceiling, into a "hangout" room for Alex and his friends.

Beg your pardon, but aren't "Alex and his friends" supposed to be away at school? Let go, folks.

¶ Also in the Times, "Sir Paul's Playbook," Tom Carvell's very funny satire of modern manners in broadcasting. Although the Beatles's songs are expletive-free, they conjure troubling scenarios that might keep them off today's airwaves. After all, if we can't let our kids go to boarding school by themselves, then we sure can't allow market forces to determine playlists!

February 02, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)

¶ The Dining In/Out section of today's Times features an amusing article by Julia Moskin about tell-all waiters who vent their outrage on the Web (I especially liked the photo of the cleaver-wielding chef, which reminded me of a favorite Monty Python routine). The article turns out to be better than any of the sites, because waitpersons, Thespian aspirations notwithstanding, do not seem to spend a lot of time polishing their writing. If restaurants were as poisonous as the atmosphere at these sites, even the laziest of us would cook for himself. Nevertheless, there is fun to be had here and there. At The Stained Apron, a bartender laces a lousy customer's frozen cocktail with - well, read it yourself. At Ontherail, the "five second rule" is invoked in a piece that reminds me (not that I needed it) why I would never want to work in a restaurant kitchen. And for contrasting but not contradictory assessments of restaurateur Steve Hanson, whose B. R. Guest outfit runs several popular Manhattan restaurants, compare The Wine Enthusiast and Shameless Restaurants. Bitterwaitress took forever to load, but I had no trouble checking out the goods at Cafépress.

¶ La Coquette reports on an afternoon spent resale shopping in the Seizième with a visiting fashion editor from Chicago. It is difficult not to hear Kate Hudson's voice reading the piece - probably because La Coquette herself writes, of the prospect of living in Paris, "I imagined how my life was going to be SO Kate Hudson in Le Divorce!" Then I got to thinking. Kate Hudson might make a great audiotape of La Coquette, but the actor is already a little to old to be playing twenty-four year-olds. And I reflected on the moment in life, which can happen anytime between the ages of fifteen and thirty, when one's feelings about being too young to be impersonated by a famous actor shift from impatience to relief.

February 01, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

Today's links come via Francophone sites.

¶ From Édouard at Sale Bête, I learned of an interesting new site, East Village Blog, that, like Sale Bête, is authored by an American - in this case, Doug H. of Bandarlog. Doug appears to be a good reporter who's very tired of what appears to him to be a liberal sclerosis at both the New York Times and Le Monde, where he worked for a spell. It is breathtaking to me to read such fluent writing in a foreign language; I can hardly post a comment without recourse to the dico.

¶ Édouard also had a link to a disturbing short film put out by the ACLU. Its simulation of a dystopian future in which it's impossible to order a pizza without paying surcharges because you're overweight has been rendered with a light but deadly touch. How will we maintain our privacy alongside the Internet? Anonymity is certainly not the answer. Nor is legislation likely to help out anytime soon, as Tom Zeller's story in today's Times shows. I suspect that privacy will continue to be what it has always been, a commodity that is paid for, but with this difference: direct payment.

¶ Finally, something funny that appeared over the weekend at De Bric et de Blog: Trying to plug in an appliance, Veuve Tarquine had a bit of excitement that sparked a very creative bit of blogging.

¶ Housekeeping Note: You may have noticed that to continue reading some of the longer posts on the Daily Blague, you must follow a link to Portico, my Web site. As the number of links to Portico increases, so does the extent of the reformatting. This morning, I've cut most of the post about Sunday's MET Orchestra concert (below) and pasted it where it will more or less permanently remain at Portico. In the process, I noted that, owing to recent CSS changes, my long page on Mozart's K. 563 had been rendered unreadable (white text on a white background), I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

January 31, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)


¶ Late night treat: These postcards are a lot of fun, and I'm trying not to, what is the phrase, b - my w -. The small print reads: (Mustard vest) Yesterday I SHOT my WIFE, both KIDS, my MOTHER-IN-LAW and the AVON LADY!! (Red Vest) TERRIFIC, Marvin. But didn't you know... Mother-in-law season doesn't open till NEXT MONTH?


¶ If 2004 was the Year of the Blog, then 2005 ought to be the Year of the Needles. Everybody's knitting! And not just sweaters, either. How about the nasty little creature to the right? How, for the matter of that, about a knitted radiator (yes, it works). How about guerilla knitting, even? Kathleen used to laugh about flight security restrictions that prohibit metal knitting needles from carry-on luggage, but I'm wondering if her plastic needles are any less harmful? A person could knit a noose!

¶ Readers of the Times's Styles Section yesterday will have seen the gorgeous green eyes of Leta Armstrong, daughter of the author of Dooce. That would be Heather, who proves that if you can write well, it really doesn't matter what you write about. But the comment by Molly Jong-Fast, daughter of Erica Jong, reminds us of another literary truth: autobiographical writers, like novelists and short-story writers, are professionally engaged in the violation of their loved-ones' privacy. When Leta begins to remember things, Ms Armstrong may want a few guidelines.

¶ Have a look at Jack Shafer's attempt, in Slate, to puncture the balloon of Web lob triumphalism. I must say that agree with the point of his argument: it is silly to predict the marvels of a new technology. Much wiser to let them unpack their little surprises slowly. It's much too early to talk sensibly about the future of blogging; nobody begins to know enough.

January 30, 2005

Sunday Special

All right, because a few of you asked. A souvenir from Iron Lady Days.


Continue reading "Sunday Special" »

January 29, 2005

Weekend Special

Ain't we got fun!


Lord a'mighty! Even when I stumbled, yesterday, upon my cache of postcards, so assiduously collected in the early Eighties, the bulb didn't light up right away. It took until now, an ordinarily lazy Saturday morning cranked by broken records in the visitors stats, to hatch the devious plan. CAUTION: the cards below the fold may be offensive. Indeed, they will certainly be offensive! What's the weekend for?

Continue reading "Weekend Special" »

Hey, Mr Managerguy!

Spanky and Our Gang meets Shallow Grave.


We just make Sylvespa more mature, so that Delroy can play him.

January 28, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

¶ Before anyone mortified me, I caught the mistake myself. It's true that I wrote most of my piece on The Line of Beauty late last night, illuminated, as it were, by dry martinis. But the novel's author (and very great writer), is Alan Hollinghurst, not Alan Hollingsworth. I can only be grateful that Googling would not have adverted him to my sottise.

¶ Thank you Gothamist: Lawrence Reuter, head of the MTA and a member of the Dubyan Persuasion as regards clear speech, has been declared, by our MSB (Main Stream Blog), a "chucklehead." Photo included.

¶ If it's out in the country, there must be a tailgater somewhere. Dick Cheney's idea of appropriate dress for a Holocaust Memorial at Auschwitz.

¶ Fafblog explains the Social Security "crisis" as only Fafblog can - but quite precisely for all the laughs. 


¶ With my own Fuji FinePix, I could take a better picture of this unprepossessing scene, but I copied this from A9's Yellow Pages. As everybody knows, Amazon equipped a fleet of trucks with high-tech equipment and sent it through the city in order to amass a comprehensive library of images like this one. (There's a video showing how it was done.) It's a good thing that they didn't work on cook's night out, and capture me in my shorts, weather nothwithstanding, scurrying across the street into Tokubei for a late dinner with Kathleen

¶ In light of all the Personal sites that I added to the Blog Roster here yesterday (scroll down on the white sidebar), we ought probably to give further exploration a rest, and get to know our new friends, but as it happens there is an even bigger awards package in the works, the Bloggies. These, I suppose, are the Oscars™ of the Blogosphere, with a real-world ceremony at Austin's South by Southwest Interactive Festival, on 14 March. The prizes, though modest, are real, too.

It says something about me - yes it does - that I am familiar with many more of the candidates for Fistful's Satin Pajama Awards than I am with those up for the Bloggies. There's Miss Fish, who I believe is a neighbor of sorts, up for the top prize; if you neglected to clip her confessional from the Times last November, you can read it now, although you'll have to pay for the pleasure. (The piece had Kathleen tutting like a jackhammer; what are these kids thinking?). Although there are moments of great good fun in This Fish Needs a Bicycle (one of the best titles in the 'Sphere), I can't really follow Ms Hunter's journal, because it gives me the creepy feeling that I'm violating my own daughter's privacy. As it is, I have to do some deep breathing each time I read a story like today's, about a mugged and murdered actress on the Lower East Side - and then remind myself that Megan lives in the East Village, which is "totally different." Parental thinking for you, right? Did Nicole duFresne live at the corner of Clinton and Rivington Streets? No. She didn't even live in Manhattan.

In any case, I kept link-clicking to a minimum yesterday as I scrolled through the unfamiliar names of potential Bloggies winners. One site that I did check out, however, is one that I think you'll find irresistible. Perhaps only New Yorkers find eavesdropping is irresistible, but I don't think so: Overheard in New York.

¶ Only Susan Sontag could have given us the sharp-eyed, pungent cultural analysis of old cover art that the collection at Bizarre Records seems to cry out for. Is this where we came from? Do try to find the album of treats for "bathroom baritones and bathing beauties" that was a handout from "your American Standard plumbing contractor." Oh, well, it's not the "art" so much, just the very idea. (Thanks, JR)

January 27, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)


¶ Today is Mozart's Birthday. He was born 249 years ago at Salzburg, a principality within the Holy Roman Empire. To celebrate, what you must do is to listen to the finale of Act I of Così fan tutte at least once. Listen as hard as you can to the orchestra, which acts as a chorus throughout this opera, usually mocking the four lovers' behavior. Listen also for dotted rhythms with a slight Spanish tinge: they're a source of the finale's hilarity. If you've got the libretto and know a little Italian, observe how very grand Lorenzo da Ponte's writing is, and how studded with snippets of chic Latin. Così ought to be the byword for operatic glamour and high good humor, but two centuries of analysis à la Ashcroft have stuck it with an NC-17 rating. This is perverse, because it is the definitive opera about adolescents in love.

¶ Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber tells a wonderful little joke about "self-esteem"; after you've had a chuckle, turn to the Los Angeles Times for a summing up of the self-esteem "movement" and the mounting criticism that debunks it. Finally, test your own self-esteem with a few basic puzzles: put the states where they belong, identify the states by their capitals, and connect the clues to the states. If you score below 90%, fold up your self-esteem and store it in the linen closet.

January 26, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday, with Subway Special)

Then what happened: Thanks to Harper's, I have found a delightful new Web log, Query Letters I Love, in which "Managerguy" of Hollywood publishes some of the wacky pitches that he receives. Is there something in the water in this country that makes civilians believe that they're "creative" enough to come up with viable movie properties, just like that? The tale told by many of these unintentionally funny paragraphs is there are a lot of would-be writers among the never-been readers.

Every now and then, a pungently autobiographical note is struck:

The Singing Law Student commits suicide in his home. He was rejected by the woman he loved, his psychiatrist, mistreated in the asylum. A parapsychologist moves into the home to encounter his spirit. Researching the link between manic depression and creativity, she brings a guitar with her for him to play.She encounters his spirit and he sings his songs to her which she records. She releases the songs and The Singing Law Student becomes famous. His psychiatrist, the woman who rejected him, and the doctors at the asylum commit suicide upon hearing his voice and his songs throughout society

Who would dream up a suicidal singing law student except a suicidal singing law student with revenge fantasies involving his therapist?

¶ Which looks better on my little pooch, the Svarovski crystal tiara or the pavé charm collar? I'm a big fan of leaving things to the imagination, but in this case I'd love a few pictures.

¶The New York Times editorial is right to direct anger at the subway snafu away from the mayor and toward Governor Pataki, the smiley-faced clown behind most New York dysfunctions. A good governor would call for and effectuate an overhaul of the MTA's governance, with a view to making its management more directly accountable. I still demand the resignation of everybody, but I'll settle for seeing the end of MTA President Lawrence G. Reuter, whose mishandling of the publicity alone identifies him as an incapable civil servant. Sewell Chan and Andy Newman, Times reporters, let the man speak for himself, and he clucks.

Full functionality on both lines, including the ability to run trains in reverse, will still take three to five years to restore at a cost of $25 million to $60 million, Mr. Reuter said. He noted that repairs to the station at Bergen Street in Brooklyn, which was ravaged by a March 1999 fire, were not yet complete. But even when A and C service is revived, the restored signals will be only a refurbishment of the signaling system upon which the agency has relied since 1904. Upgrading and computerizing the entire signal system - as is already being done on one line - would cost billions, Mr. Reuter said.

How about full accountability? Explain, if you can, Mr Reuter, the huge restoration costs: $25 million dollars to repair a room full of switches? Explain why the repairs at the Bergen Street station have required more than five years to complete. Explain, in itemized detail, that idle bit of speculation of "billions." Trust us, we won't be bored.

The lack of a plan to modernize the subway's signal system is a plan to shut the system down.

¶ Wackosphere Update: This from an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal: the relay-switch fire was caused by liberal elites:

No one should expect even the C Train fiasco to cause New York to change; that won't happen until the local political class understands the problem that Messrs. MacMahon and Siegel describe. We do hope, however, that New York's woes will serve as a warning to other parts of the country in danger of succumbing to the same liberal political fate. Californians were descending into a similar mire a couple of years ago with a dysfunctional political class in Sacramento, but they were fortunate to have the initiative process that allowed them to elect an outsider like Arnold Schwarzenegger. New Yorkers are stuck waiting for the C Train.

As Thelma Ridder used to say, "Oh, brudda!" (Thanks, my dear.)

January 25, 2005

Loose Links (Tuesday)

Kathleen is spending her evenings this week "at the printer." What does this mean, you ask? Securities lawyers in the United States spend many crucial hours (often quite wee) supervising the printing of prospectuses and other documents required by law. And not only required by law, but required by law to be utterly accurate. But they do not, as a rule, go anywhere near actual printing presses. In the virtual tour that follows, you will see the pleasant Midtown offices of Capital Printing. That's where you'll find the lawyers. The presses are in New Jersey. Take the tour now.

Fistful of Euros is hosting a "Best European Blogs" competition - only, they're calling it the "Silk Pajama Awards." There are nearly twenty categories, and when you vote for the best in any one of them, the choices are replaced with colorful bar graphs showing the results so far (this also makes it impossible to vote again). I wonder if I have any business voting, for I'm not familiar with most of the candidates. But the rosters will introduce you to many interesting sites (and eat up hours of your afternoon). My favorite blog title: The Glory of Carniola.

Just for fun: Photoshopped images from the Mars mission. Edward, of Obsidian Wings, is right: the one with the camel is the best.

January 24, 2005

Loose Links (Monday)

Friends of Fafblog: Jesus' General, home of "Republican Jesus"; Tom Burka's Opinions You Should Have; and Arran's Alley, where HM the Queen is ready to take us errant Americans back. I ask myself, would Fafblog not be as funny if it got its look-and-feel act together? (The idea that it does have its look-and-feel act together exacerbates my eczema.)

Every once in a while, I have to visit the "Wonderful Woodies" page at Forgotten NY. I remember the rustic lamps that used to line the Bronx River Parkway (which I crossed every day when I was very little) with an unaccountable pang. They contributed to the illusion that the Parkway threaded through a wildnerness, or barely tamed landscape; in fact, of course, the verdure was not much deeper than a stage set. The ghastly cobras that replaced the Woodies are now on their way out, and it's not too much to hope that the Woodies will return in triumph.

In a comment yesterday, Max of The Biscuit Report alluded to a personal anecdote involving a successfully aborted mugging on Gellért Hill in Budapest. While we wait for Max to tell the whole story, here's the view from Gellért Hill.

January 21, 2005

Loose Links (Friday)

Here's hoping: a new Quinnipiac College poll shows that voting New Yorkers oppose the construction of Jets Stadium by a twenty-four percent margin (58/34). The stadium idea is idiotic in many ways, particularly as regards traffic, but what I find deeply stupid about it is the luring of thousands of people to the banks of the North River only to turn their backs on the view.

Meet Harry Hutton, author of Chase Me Ladies, I'm in the Cavalry. He is an Englishman who has taught his native language around the world. Any teacher who wishes he could say to parents, "Your child is an illiterate cabbage," has my vote.

When the Summers kerfuffle has died down, I hope that it will have been established that, while men and women are different in lots of little ways, their differences do not add up in a way that proclaims one gender's superiority to the other. Indeed, new findings at the University of California, Irvine suggest that men and women would be lost without each other. Analysis of differences in the distribution of grey and white matter in brain, according to the researchers,

may help to explain why men tend to excel in tasks requiring more local processing (like mathematics), while women tend to excel at integrating and assimilating information from distributed gray-matter regions in the brain, such as required for language facility. These two very different neurological pathways and activity centers, however, result in equivalent overall performance on broad measures of cognitive ability, such as those found on intelligence tests.

I doubt that Mr Summers is involved in meetings at Harvard this weekend to deliberate standards and practices for the Blogosphere, but I hope that the panelists can come up with something interesting even without him. Adopting codes of ethics would certainly be premature, but it's not to soon to begin outlining some basics. Jessica Mintz writes in today's Wall Street Journal:

Jay Rosen, the New York University Journalism Department chairman who will kick off the conference, says that as bloggers move away from opinion writing and become a what he calls "citizen-journalists," they will inevitably struggle with the same ethics questions that traditional media did. "The blogger system is necessarily evolving and changing and will go through crises and problems and periods of invention, because it's new," he says.

The dictates of capitalism will no doubt begin affecting which blogs survive and which don't, but not yet. "Right now the currency is readership and respect, not money," says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee who writes, a well-read blog. "I don't think you can start reading a blog and immediately know who to trust." That relationship is built over time. Mr. Reynolds says he wouldn't knowingly publish or link to something false -- but as one guy at a computer, there's only so much fact-checking he can do.

For my part, I expect that the laws of fads and fashion will affect the survival of blogs long before capitalism does. Setting up a blog is (or can be) simplicity itself, and it's always fun to play with a new toy, tinkering with its design, announcing plans, and so forth. The follow-through, however, is usually more or less tedious; let's face it: writing is work, and most people find it difficult to compose anything more objective than a vent. Everybody's blog roster lists a few sites to which recent contributions have been few or none. And the option of running a blog for free won't last indefinitely. I decline to attribute the inevitable change to "capitalism," however.

January 20, 2005

Loose Links (Thursday)


It took me about minus ten seconds to decide to buy the NeatReceipts scanner. (It was written up the Times' "Circuits" section this morning.) I've been downloading American Express transactions into Quicken in lieu of typing in all those little bits of paper, but the downloads are rarely properly categorized - key to good budget planning - and I have to go through the register by hand. Diner's Club doesn't even have a download service, at least one that I can find.

Don't miss Maureen Dowd today. She wonders if Condoleezza Rice may be proof that Lawrence Summers was right to disparage the mathematical abilities of women. To me, Ms Rice will always be proof that creativity is not necessarily a blessing when it comes to the naming of children. If you take the first "e" in the concoction with which her parents saddled her, and replace it with a "c," you get the musical marking con dolcezza, "with sweetness." Now, "Condolcezza," pronounced properly (as always in Italian, the "c" before an "e" thickens into "ch"), would have been a very snazzy name, and it would have proclaimed Ms Rice's family's love of music. It would also have been literate, which "Condoleezza," with it's doubled "z," simply isn't. (Indeed, the spelling is often unconsciously "corrected" by writers who omit a "z.") With this in mind, and because "Condi" never fails to remind me (perversely) of "Heinz Ketchup," I propose that those of us who don't know the lady start calling her "Dolci." After all, she has promised to give diplomacy a try. "The time for diplomacy is now"?

The Spiridellis Brothers are back: see "Second Term" at Jib Jab. These guys are getting to be an institu-shee-on.

Meanwhile, at home... I'm stuck with the refrigerator today; it's got to be cleared out and cleaned. Quite a while ago, I thought I'd just wait until we got back from Istanbul to tackle this job, so ain't I got fun. A day in the kitchen, though, is a day watching, or at least listening to, DVDs. "Do you mind if I look at your armpits?" This is one of countless zany lines from David O Russell's Flirting with Disaster (1996), a movie that repeatedly penetrates the bland American exterior to mine its extraordinary loopiness. Mel Coplin's search for his birth parents takes a first-rate ensemble cast into the heart of our national eccentricity: family life. This is the film that made me fall in love with Téa Leoni; I've never quite gotten used to her as a blonde.

January 19, 2005

Loose Links (Wednesday)


Kristin Scott Thomas has been made a chevalière of the Légion d'honneur. Hats off! I'm not counting, but she may have made more films in French than in (her native) English.

Leave it to Dartmouth to prepare an on-line manual for the repair of books - and call it "Simple". It is aimed at institutions, not home enthusiasts, but the material will be of interest to anybody who spends time with books (that would include readers), and the tools are undeniably neat.

JR at L'homme qui marche muses on the difference between temps de merde and temps de chiotte, and ponders the ancient riddle: why is it that newscasters around the world think that listeners give a damn about the Nikkei, the Japanese stock index? I used to wonder, too, but then one of our doormen turned out to be the only person we knew who caught Kathleen on her little financial television appearances last year. JR rightly observes that the weather in Paris, whether sunny or grey, is genuinely temperate. The weather in New York is temperate only on average.

Ah, youth. There's probably no way to say this without seeming to condescend, but Justin Hall's video clip of his "breakdown," apparently brought on by a failure to connect with people through the Internet, despite eleven years of publishing his diary, gives real backbone to the sentiment that Kathleen and I often express but don't really think about: nothing could get me to go back to being in my twenties. Ignorance is not bliss.

January 18, 2005

Loose Links


The site's name is spooky enough: Bleach Eating Freaks, "Where science meets surreal." The wheels-within-wheels logo is somewhat disturbing, too. But there is nothing weird about the site's "Office Bricolage" competition. It will take you straight back to the Siberian boredom of sixth grade, from which the manufacture of any of the featured assault weapons, all of them made from simple materials that are ready to hand in any office, would certainly have led straight to expulsion. If you have any little boys in the house, you may think that it would be cool to share these inventions with them. Resist the urge. They don't have your judgment. Really!

A dab of English wit: ak13, an "online magazine that publishes incisive reportage, commentary and satire from the hidden corners of contemporary culture" - yes, yes, of course, yes, what else would it be? - dreams up ten droll arguments in support of several improbable theses, such as loving George W. Bush. There's a bright side to everything in grey old England, it seems. Here's the menu.

Chiche... Wanna play a new card game? Hone your strategy? "Mack some ho's"? Pardon?

January 16, 2005

Loose Links

Manhattan Utilities: If you live on my island, print this and mail it to all your out-of-town friends, (or at any rate the ones who don't make business trips here) along with a gentle reminder that your dwelling has about a fifth the square footage of theirs - a tenth, if you throw in garages, basements and attics.

Andrew Lord PoorMan has discovered a news item from last month about laborabory-farmed steak (yum!), but his framing words are too good to miss, so this link will take you to Dreamland.

Ownership society: If you've got 'em, you could earn $250,000! Yet more proof that there are lots of empty driver's seats among America's fast-moving vehicles. (Some patience required; guaranteed valoir la peine.)

Boycott Waterstone's! It's always amusing when booksellers practice prior restraint upon their own employees. Perhaps theirs will be the go-to industry for cyborg deployment.