Friday, April 29, 2005

Nigel, Wet Bed Buddy

For Dog Blog Friday: Happiness is a wet puppy, on vacation, in a room with a view, preferrably with a fireplace.

Adding Insult to Jaret's Injury

Truly an insider baseball joke:

No matter how well the Yankees' rookie pitches tomorrow, two Wangs won't make a Wright.

Congress Says, "Medical Bankruptcy? Bad. Moral Bankruptcy? Sign us up."

And in our continuing effort to make the Democratic Party safe for Democrats again, there's this story over at Daily Kos, showing that Nancy Pelosi has some gumption and that a few too many so-called centrists really are Republicans, for they've got that petulant, "we're put upon" whining down pat. It was the right thing to do, voting for the Bankruptcy Bill? No, it was the Right Thing to do.

As was pointed out over at Talking Points Memo:

The research has been overwhelming. About 90% of those who file for bankruptcy do so after a job loss, a serious medical problem or a family break up.


Part of the reason the fight against this bill has been an uphill battle is the widespread but false presumption that Americans go bankrupt because they purchase bigger televisions, bigger cars and bigger homes. Even though that assertion bears no relationship to the empirical evidence, the bill’s proponents asserted it as if it were unquestioned truth.


Whether you identify as a progressive, a moderate or a (compassionate?) conservative, it’s important to get the facts right. The fact is that for every hypothetical spendthrift or abuser the new law reigns in, it will adversely impact scores of real, hard-working, middle class folks who are down on their luck and desperate to get on with their lives.

Thanks to all those Dems who helped screw the middle class one more time. Here's hoping the campaign donations you get from MBNA make up for the votes you lose when people realize you did them in (again).

IMDB Babble On

Time for a mad dash through the IMDB news of the day, as INOTBB makes like a bull after red-dressed celebrities trapped in the streets of Pamplona.

Cruise and Holmes Show Off Love in Public
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have shown off their new romance, appearing hand-in-hand on the streets of Rome, Italy.

It must be spring in the air, as surprising new couples everywhere admit to their undying love by holding hands in public. Cruise, commenting on the 16 year age difference between the two, which means Holmes was in kindergarten when he famously air-guitared in his tighty-whities, claimed, "As long as she kisses me with her eyes wide shut it's not really that risky a business. An endless love isn't mission impossible when you make all the right moves. When she gets a few cocktails in me she learns my top gun can still be pretty firm. Even from a vanilla sky some rain can fall, man." Luckily he was dragged away without further collateral damage.

Cruz Regrets Getting Too Close to Salma
Penelope Cruz regrets grabbing pal Salam Hayek's backside during a recent photo shoot, because it sparked stories the friends were actually lesbians. The Spanish star insists she was sick with the flu and a little delirious when she let her hand linger on Hayek's butt at a press conference for their new film Bandidas. She says, "I grabbed Salma's a** just to keep things moving, because everyone was a little slow. And, of course, the energy changed when I did that. There are magazine covers in Mexico describing us as these lesbians because of that. A lot of people were saying we were lovers."

Silly Penelope, you have to hold hands to be lovers. Grabbing each others' butts makes you baseball players. And you have to be delirious to put your hand on Salma Hayek's butt? Not to mention I've never suffered from the classic flu symptom "must fondle some ass." This story does mean, of course, that in a few years Katie Holmes will be gluteus maximus groping one of her female co-stars.

Fawcett Begs Smith To Love Her Again

Here's hoping they'll be holding hands in no time. After all, grabbing any other parts of their bodies might lead to plastic surgery failure.

Richards Sells Up
Former James Bond babe Denise Richards has put the home she shared with estranged husband Charlie Sheen on the market in a bid to move on with her life as she prepares for a divorce battle from the actor. Pregnant Richards has been living in the Encino, California home with her daughter Sam and her mother since filing for divorce from Sheen last month, according to US news show Extra. The home has a bad history of celebrity break-ups - Richards and Sheen bought the house from Kirstie Alley following the break-up of her marriage to Parker Stevenson.

There's no truth to the rumors that Alley ate the '70s Hardy Boy heart-throb; Stevenson just hasn't been very lucky in his career lately, that's why he hasn't been seen.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

You're Getting Warmer...

I guess NASA doesn't want to get funded anymore, given this report out today:

Climate scientists armed with new data from deep in the ocean and far into space have found that Earth is absorbing much more heat than it is giving off, a conclusion they say validates projections of global warming.

Lead scientist James Hansen, a prominent NASA climatologist, described the findings on the planet's out-of-balance energy exchange as a "smoking gun" that should dispel doubts about forecasts of climate change.

Or, since the White House has suggested that old PX and Army bases should be turned into oil refineries, there could soon be some coastal Florida land on that list, too. Unless NASA has a way to suggest that Space Shuttle missions can become part of a faith-based initiative and get astronauts to see God. And I don't mean that in the Columbia and Challenger "see God" way.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

It's Pop to Be Good

AKA, Blame It on Bérubé. Last Friday Michael Bérubé, blogger/professor/father/hockey player extraordinaire (just read his site and he'll tell you all that) set off a chain o' comments a humble internets home like INOTBB could only dream of--almost 200 responses to what is the perfect pop song. He picked a very fine candidate, Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind," but given I figure my taste is tastier than most, I had to chime in (not until comment 134, which sort of proves I do some other things besides blog and read blogs).

And then I had to make a tape. I've defended my tape-making troglodytism elsewhere, so for now I'll just discuss making the mix and let the technology hiss for itself. This was hard. First, my turntable is on the fritz (it's a Bang & Olafusen, therefore breaks down in German), so using any of my vinyl was out. Second, there are just too many perfect pop songs out there, even if many of them are pop denuded of their "ular." Still, not having the weight of public opinion behind me never stopped me from making a stand; after all, I vote Democrat. Third, once I start making a tape, there's the whole segue issue (hmm, how hard is it to have two consecutive words that end in "ue" in a sentence that makes sense and doesn't refer to Blues Clues?), and therefore the flow of things helped me make some of my choices (which is one way to say all apologies to the half dozen Fountains of Wayne songs that might have been in "Denise"'s shoes).

Fourth, it's hard to stay in the parameters established by Bérubé's rules: "The surface of the perfect pop song is clear and untroubled; and below the surface . . . there is no below the surface. See 'no emotional depths,' above." That ruled out all sorts of pop with perhaps too much edge to scare off the sweet young things, from Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" to Superchunk's "Slack Motherfucker," from anything sung by the pre-disco Mick Jagger (his menace and swagger makes his pop too priapic) to anything featuring Robert Quine's guitar (emotion+angles+adventure+
Ayler=too much attention called to the virtuoso solos).

So, without further ado...

side one
Nick Lowe, "So It Goes"
Replacements, "Can't Hardly Wait"
Syd Straw, "Toughest Girl in the World"
Pooh Sticks, "Young People"
Pixies, "Dig for Fire"
That Dog, "Minneapolis"
Fountains of Wayne, "Denise"
Built to Spill, "Big Dipper"
They Might Be Giants, "Birdhouse in Your Soul"
The Clash, "Train in Vain"
Lucinda Williams, "Passionate Kisses"
Amy Rigby, "All I Want"
Elvis Costello, "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes"

side two
Marshall Crenshaw, "I'll Do Anything"
Flamin' Groovies, "Shake Some Action"
Tommy Keene, "Places That Are Gone"
Dramarama, "Work for Food"
Yo La Tengo, "Tom Courtenay"
Buzzcocks, "Ever Fallen in Love?"
Ryan Adams, "Nuclear"
Old 97's "Rollerskate Skinny"
XTC, "Mayor of Simpleton"
Magnetic Fields, "100,000 Fireflies"
Big Star, "September Gurls"
Ben Vaughn, "Shingaling with Me"
Matthew Sweet, "We're the Same"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Couldn’t Live Like That, No Siree!

Netscape is reporting that (slogan: "for those who can't locate America the first time") has released its list of the Top 100 Places to Live. These exercises always strike me as funny living in Santa Barbara, but heck, I'll play along, and a criterion like "affordable housing" certainly keeps many away from what we call America's Riviera without any irony. (Oh, I also lived in Happy Valley in Pennsylvania for six years, and that felt plenty ironic, to me at least, even the year in Fisherman's Paradise, but at least I never lived in Blue Ball, which is where you end up if you don't make it all the way to Intercourse when you drive all night.)

Be sure to check out the list, and then come back so I can make fun of it. I'll wait.

OK, so many of these town you can understand. Port St. Lucie, Florida has the Mets single A team, so you can see Mets prospects when they're young and bad and have a leg up on the rest of the sports world. Carlsbad, New Mexico has a cavern with a section still called Devil's Den (don't worry, the Christians will fix that) and one of the cultural highlights is an evening bat flight. That seems like a thrill that must be up there with Temecula, CA's flight of the glassy wing sharpshooter (aka, we had a wine industry, once, but nobody liked the wine anyway; come, visit--we still have air conditioning).

Kingman, Arizona, they've got the last stop that side of the Big Dessert (we've got water--drink up), the bones of Route 66 (bogus nostalgia is us), and more Denny's and Motel 6's per capita than anywhere in the U.S. Manhattan, Kansas is named after a damn fine cocktail, has a cutesy nickname (no, not "Where the Red Wine Is Chilled" but "The Little Apple") , and you don't have to worry about evolving. Celebration, Florida is for people who want to be Animatronic.

And you know that Vegas made the list solely for the criterion "activities, such as museums, theaters and sports" because they've also got the world's biggest rhinestone, the world's only outdoor PG-13 pirate porn, not just strip bars but a whole area called The Strip, Siegfried & Roy, cute white tigers, and more all-you-can-eat buffets than anywhere in the world. Cause that's America.

How Will the Rigas Survive?

OK, I hate those blog entries when the blogger merely quotes another story like Pierre Menard writing Don Quixote*, but what can I say about this one but we live in very, very wrong times (story from IMDB):

The Rigas family, which founded and operated Adelphia Communications, will forfeit $1.5 billion in assets, representing 95 percent of their total wealth (they would still be left with about $79 million, according to the New York Times), to settle government claims that they bilked shareholders, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday.

*I do get bonus points for working in Borges, no?

If Only I Were Joking

So Harry Reid walks out of a bar and into a dark alley. A vaguely Fristian long-headed goon comes up to him and snorts, "Give me all your money."

Reid pauses for just a second. "Well, you can have my money, and my credit cards, and even my IDs--I don't really know what my identity is, anyway. Just let me keep my wallet."

In a second all he owns is gone, except his wallet, which isn't even real leather. Reid smiles, thinking, "I am a brilliant compromiser, I am."

Monday, April 25, 2005

Biden His Time

Here's Joe Biden (Democrat, the state of DuPont) on ABC's This Week, "I think we should compromise and say to them that we're willing to — of the seven judges — we'll let a number of them go through, the two most extreme not go through and put off this vote" to end the filibuster.

Dear Senator "I'm as Steadfast as My State Is Big":
I did a Google search (which means I can do research for Time cover stories, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of stinking fish), but the best I could come up with to help you and the Democratic Party is this.

Please keep up the brilliant work stopping the most extreme 28% of things Bush & Co. try to do.

A Ball with Twine

It was 52 years ago today that Dr. James D. Watson and Dr. Francis H.C. Crick suggested the double helix structure of DNA. It's a funny story, since Crick originally hoped to propose a double Felix structure, finding that was neater. Watson called him a pain in the neck and insisted on something scientifically verifiable, except, of course, to anyone religious or a Bush. When the two received a Nobel Prize for their discoveries, Crick insisted he would have prefered an Oscar.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Say Hello, Say Goodbye

I really really have tried to do my tail-wagging part for Dog Blog Friday, but Hello, well, I'm not a super computer savvy person, but I think the official technical word is "sucks."

Here's hoping their help desk let's me know what's up by next Friday.

One Strike and You're In

A bit of good news from my union, UPTE, about the strike I supported last week....

After a marathon bargaining session beginning the Monday morning after last Thursday's one-day strike, the AFSCME service workers have tentatively agreed to a contract that provides raises that address the poverty wages of UC's service workers. Here are some highlights of the new three-year contract that locks in raises provided by the state, and includes an additional 3%-4% in raises over the length of the contract:
  • Across the board increases of 3%, 3% and 4% subject to UC's state budget allocations for each year
  • All service workers will make at least a $9 per hour wage
  • Additional market equity adjustments of 1% in 10/2006 and 0.5% in 10/2007
  • Increases in shift differential for evening and night work of 35 cents per hour
  • Improved opportunities for promotion and layoff protection
  • Eliminating attendance policy that punishes employees for using sick leave
  • Free meal per shift for all food service workers
The participation of UPTE members in the strike along with members of CUE, UAW, AFT and CNA, made all the difference in demonstrating to UC that they needed to settle with AFSCME to achieve some labor peace. The contract for nurses (represented by CNA) expires on April 30. They have already hit difficult bargaining, with UC proposing wage concessions. UPTE and CUE (representing clericals) are also working without contracts and preparing for strikes. With support from other UC unions, we can also reach contract settlements soon.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Failed Safe

To celebrate the 19th anniversary of one of the greatest moments in television news history, CNN will open Geraldo Rivera's long-closed head to see what is inside this evening.

It's got to be as good as Al Capone's vault, no?

Without Breaking a Sweat

anniversary of Rosie Ruiz's Boston Marathon "win."

(You'd think after such a long entry I'd be tired, but I feel great!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Sickness or Satire--You Decide?

Amy ships this worried email this morning: "This is why you don’t click on the next blog button… you find THIS Conservatives for American Values. Grrrrr!"

But I'm assuming it has to be a joke, mostly because if it's not, things are too scary for me to consider.

The clues?

The photos look like they're characters from bad computer games.

Even the biggest loser of a conservative wouldn't write, "I've been described as a prophet" unless he meant profit. (Don't go telling him about no "homophones," either, because they clearly have no truck for any "homo-" anything. Even homo sapien hints at Darwin, or even worse, Pete Shelley.)

I have to admire the craft it takes to write this doozy sentence: "As for Benedict XVI's stance on homosexuality, I applaud it with both hands." No sound of one hand clapping for these upstanding men.

They don't know the difference between "then" and "than" or between "women" and "woman," but that last slip might tell us more about their social lives than about their abilities with grammar.

As for "dutifly," well that's just like "Spanish fly," which no doubt works for these two.

And the there's these tell-tale parody lines: "...they must also legislate laws to protect those who react violently to these new gay laws. We really can't blame these people for lashing out, they were simply born violent, it's who they are." No real conservative would ask for more laws--after all, people should fight for themselves or end up weak and dependent on a large central government that shouldn't exist in the first place.


And so the Catholic Church had its one flickering moment to head in a different direction away from its Pleistocene Age, but instead acted like some saber-tooth tiger 25,000 years ago (ok, I know that's longer than the Biblical Earth existed, but humor me and, oh, the couple million actual scientists for a minute). The Church sniffed the air, lowered its cumbersome head, and thought, "Tar pits can't hold me."

The nifty part is that the new Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzkywatzky of Germany, has already performed a miracle at Morgan's Creek, so his sainthood is assured. After all, he was just taking orders as a Nazi Youth.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A Letter to the Editor

I just shipped this off to the old Santa Barbara News-Suppressed. If they don't run it, at least it will get some air-time here:

The Republicans in the Senate are considering whether to change long-time Senate rules and eliminate the filibuster as a tool for the minority party, which is still representative of 48% of the country, to have some say in the way our country is headed. This so-called “nuclear option” will lead to a political nuclear winter – if D.C. seems like the land of partisanship now, nothing will be accomplished after this power-grabbing move by the party that already holds the Senate, House and White House. It’s striking that the idea is so clearly wrongheaded that even some Republicans, led by Sen. John McCain, don’t think it’s the correct thing to do.

What’s worse is that Majority Senate Leader Bill Frist, a possible 2008 presidential candidate, wants to change these rules because he thinks the Democrats have held up too many of President Bush’s judicial appointments. Democrats have only blocked 10 out of 200 Bush nominees. On the other hand, during President Clinton’s time in office, the Republican Senate blocked 64 of his nominees.

And what of these ten blocked jurists? They are some of the most out-of-the-mainstream judges in America, people who have argued against abortion even in the case of rape, who have ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act did not apply to States, who have fought against the Voting Rights Act, which protects the right to vote for African-Americans, who have defended big oil companies sued for pollution, and who have argued that in marriage a woman should “place herself under the authority of the man.”

Call our two Democratic senators today and tell them you stand with them in stopping this severe shift to the right:

Senator Feinstein: 202-224-3841
Senator Boxer: 202-224-3553

Someone's Looking at You (Woa-oh, Uh-oh)

So I went in for a colonoscopy the other day but my doctor said I didn't have to bother since they got the pics they needed from a video camera at the stoplight down the street.

Seriously, this weekend the AP ran this oh-so-matter-of-fact and balanced story "Surveillance Cameras Reduce Private Space," in which we learn that anything we give up in privacy is made up for in security. Not surprisingly one of the strongest defenses of surveillances cameras comes from the right (after all, it is conservatives who want to keep government out of our lives, unless we're pregnant, dying, poor or otherwise not a task force run by Dick Cheney):

Paul Rosenzweig, senior legal research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said today's world demands that people be more open to the use of cameras.

"You can't sweep back the tide of technological development and you can't blink your eyes to necessity," he said. "We are in a changed circumstance today. For us, September 11 brings it home."

Yep, cause if we only had video cameras shooting footage of the 19 hijackers on 9/11, none of that tragedy would have happened.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My Money Was on Horshack

It's sad to say, but the first member of the Welcome Back Kotter cast has died. Debralee Scott, forever known as Rosalie "Hotsy" Totsy for only appearing in five episodes but forever searing herself into the brains of impressionable male teens of the hard-up 1970s, has passed on at the age of 52.

But Wait, There's Less

Why DVD box sets should generally be thrown into the volcano--they always pull something like this, calling the set "The Errol Flynn Signature Collection" but then not including The Adventures of Robin Hood. Might as well make a "Robert DeNiro Signature Collection" without Taxi Driver. A "Flaubert Signature Collection" without Madame Bovary. A "George W. Bush Signature Collection" without lies. A "Blog Signature Collection" without insult. A "Juan Gonzalez Signature Collection" without injury. A "Ridiculous Phrases about Fish Collection" without a bicycle. A "Timber Collection" without shivers. I think you get my drift without a snow job....

Friday, April 15, 2005

Fondle Your Mouse Blogger, You Analogize Like a Peasant

Lines from a full CD review I never will write:

Then it hit me that The Decemberists are like Belle and Sebastian, folky, sing-songy collectives with a fondness for narrative who hanker after the '60s. Of course The Decemberists hanker after the 1860s....

All We Are Saying Is Give Feces A Chance

I really couldn't pass up this one, for it's just the sort of crappy humor I'm known for, unfortunately. And it makes some scents, uh, sense.

There's a rumor from Stockholm that Mookie and Nigel are in the running for a Nobel Poop Prize, too.

Posted by Hello

Once More Onto the Beach

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie and Nigel experiment with a Lab. Posted by Hello

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Ode to the Ides of April

If you're happy and you know it pay your taxes (clap clap).

Well, I guess that ruined the mood. Does it help to know it's the 267th anniversary of the invention of the bottle opener? You do know that so many men in the early 1700s had wooden dentures from removing bottle caps with their teeth. It was rumored that Samuel Adams could pop a whole six pack open in one mouthful, which is why he's a brewer AND a patriot.

It's also the 30 anniversary of the San Diego Chicken, who I guess is now officially the Petco Chicken. His wife says, yes, indeed, he tastes like chicken. (Oops, did I forget to tell you to put the kids to bed before this post?)

And early in the morning of April 15, 1912, the Titanic sank. Imagine how this fact meant something much more interesting and much less grandiosely melodramatic before James Cameron and Leo got involved. A night to remember, a movie to forget (don't get me started on how it swept the Oscars in a year with a film as sublime as The Sweet Hereafter).

But, before Kate Winslett posing nude for DiCaprio was even a glimmer in my eye (I didn't say everything about the film was terrible), I used to commemorate Titanic night with a little ritual. At 11:40 pm, when the ship had its unfortunate meeting with the iceberg, I would begin to drink. I would proceed to take on liquid faster than I thought I could, always considering myself "unsinkable." And then at 2:20 am or so, I would go under. Perhaps the band was playing.

So, in honor of so much history (and I've even ignored the 50th anniversary of Ray Kroc's first McDonald's, which looked really silly with a sign that said "0 served"), let's make like Ben Guggenheim reappearing topside in his evening clothes to go down like a gentleman...oh, to prove I'm gentleman, I'll even let you finish that joke yourselves.

UC, You Suck

So I'm not at work today, because I'm no scab. Instead, I'm respecting the picket line for AFSCME, the union that represents custodians, food service workers and other lower-paid employees at the campuses of the University of California. About 7,300 service workers, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, are employed at UC's nine campuses and five medical centers.

The two sides have been bargaining for 10 months for a new contract in which wages and working conditions are the chief issues.

This is par for the course for UC and its unions. I was part of the statewide UC-AFT negotiating team when I was a lecturer, and if you want to see creepy cold and uncaring people, sit across the bargaining table from a host of labor relations folks from all the UC campuses and the UC Office of the President. Nothing like people who clearly have complete disdain for what you do establishing the rules of your employment.

The UC unwritten motto is simple--you workers are all replaceable. (Damn that tenure that means profs can't get the boot, too, but most of them are so happy with their own job safety that they do nothing for the 85% of the rest of the UC's employees who don't have it so good. And to think people like David Horowitz believe the professoriate is so liberal....)

The best part is that the UC's mouthpieces spout such obvious bullshit. Here is a passage from a San Francisco Chornicle article:

The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with state regulators, asking that UC give workers information it is seeking and says negotiations have stalled on more than 30 issues.

The university spokesman, Noel Van Nyhuis, said the union has no basis on which to support a charge of bad-faith bargaining. "The fact is we have been bargaining for months and have willingly gone to the bargaining table,'' he said. "We supported going to the mediator to bring both sides to an agreement and participated very willingly to try to facilitate an agreement.

"Obviously, with the state budget cut, we have not been able to offer systemwide raises," he said. "Many of our staff and faculty have fallen behind market in terms of salary.''

Let's take Noel "Christmas Ain't Coming for You Workers" Van Nyhuis's claims one by one...

we have been bargaining for months
The UC always bargains for months. Why? They come to the table without counter-proposals. They refuse to meet on weekends, so the members of the bargaining team have to take up work time to meet. They don't make it easy to schedule meetings. And often the people doing the negotiating don't even have the authority to make deals--they can only sound things out and run back to their superiors.

have willingly gone to the bargaining table
So nice of the UC to comply with the law.

We supported going to the mediator
When the UC finally caved in to agreeing to have unions on its campuses in the first place, it managed to lobby Sacramento so well that much of the law concerning UC unions is stacked heavily in its favor. One huge part of that is the way the bargaining process is set up. While there is a mediation step, the UC can refuse to comply by the mediator's findings. It's pretty much toothless, as we'll see in a minute when we look at what happened with CUE, the union of clericals.

participated very willingly to try to facilitate an agreement
Oy. The UC gets kicked dragging and screaming into everything slightly good that it does. Last year it offered all non-represented, that is non-troublesome, non-union workers, 2 extra floating holidays (mostly as a way to save money by closing more of the school down between Christmas and New Year's--the UC never does anything out of the goodness of its heart, because for that you need a heart). It refused to give the 2 days to any union members. After a huge protest and letter and e-mail writing campaign, the UC was finally shamed into giving even union members the 2 days. Now, in its labor relations blitz to managers, the UC trumpets providing those 2 days as one of the signs about how much it tries to be nice to its unionized employees.

with the state budget cut, we have not been able to offer systemwide raises
In August 2004, the State of California established a fact-finding panel to recommend a settlement of the current impasse between the University of California and the union representing UC clericals, the Coalition of University Employees (CUE). Part of that report asserts: "UC clerical wages are 1/3 funded by the State, and that funding source has not come up for several years. However, clerical wages are 2/3 funded by many other revenues sources that have been skyrocketing (including medical center revenues, which fund the wages of approximately 4000 clericals). Yet UC refuses to look at all of its available resources in determining a fair wage offer instead taking advantage of the State's fiscal crisis by using frozen State funding as an excuse to offer no wage increases. "

Meanwhile, the UC does have plenty of money when it wants to act like a corporation and reward its executives. The San Francisco Chronicle reports: "The University of California gave nearly $2.4 million in bonuses to 65 top executives at its five teaching hospitals in 2004, with 11 administrators receiving more than $50,000 each. The bonuses averaged $36,000 and reached as high as $82,000, according to a report to the UC Board of Regents that was made public Wednesday by an employee union."

So, get out there, if you're in California, and support AFSCME!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Let's Do Lunch

Once I was just a humble young man with a dream. I like to eat. I like to write. I wanted to put the two together in a Reese's Peanut Buttercup of a vocation.

And lo and behold a local website made the call for a new lunch reviewer, and I applied. One of a chosen twelve, I was, entering a season longer than the NBA's, and just as meaningless it seems when play-off time comes around. For now, after six reviews and four-and-a-half months of playing the game, I am eliminated. If I am the Last Critic Eating it's only because I am choking upon my own words.

Thanks to all of you who voted for me, I owe you much more than too-clever-by-half mixed allusions to Salinger and Nabokov in one sentence.

For those of you who didn't vote for me, well, we all know how voting works in this country. Might as well just start calling it dumb-ocracy, so as not to confuse how we do things with a meritocracy.

There's just not enough said about the pleasures of bitterness. So much of wit is the needling of another, and I have to admit I like the fine-tuned put-down. It's not just the easy way to self-elevation, but it's something more elemental, a release of the even greater evils we all hold but most of us barely let bubble to the surface. There's a Luis Bunuel line about "isn't it amazing how we can behave at the table when we all hold the story of Oedipus in our heads," and that means something from a guy who made a film that seemed so shocking it was banned for decades.

At least there's Hazlitt, sounding ultra-modern in 1826, ending his essay "On the Pleasure of Hating" with these lines:

What chance is there of the success of real passion? What certainty of its continuance? Seeing all this as I do, and unravelling the web of human life into its various threads of meanness, spite, cowardice, want of feeling, and want of understanding, of indifference towards others and ignorance of ourselves--seeing custom prevail over all excellence, itself giving way to infamy--mistaken as I have been in my public and private hopes, calculating others from myself, and calculating wrong; always disappointed where I most place reliance; the dupe of friendship, and the fool of love; have I not reason to hate and to despise myself? Indeed I do; and chiefly for not having hated and despised the world enough.

Or I just might be a bad loser.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

JP More Gone?

A UPI report makes the following claims about the second most famous death of the past month (in Terry we Trust):

The Vatican has compiled a list of reported miracles that occurred during the lifetime of the late Pope John Paul II, The Telegraph reported Monday.


The reports appear timed to expedite the beatification of the late pontiff. However, rules for consideration of sainthood specify miracles must occur after the nominee's death. Also, five years must pass after a candidate's death before beatification will be considered, but John Paul waived that stipulation for Mother Teresa.

Unfortunately this report was quickly followed by this stinging claim, "Pope bets on the endings of his own masses. It seems in the last years of his life, Pope John Paul II frequently placed bets with bookie 'Vatican Vic' Del Religioso about whether he could stay awake until the end of masses that he himself officiated. To make matters worse, several Vatican altar boys (none of whom have spent time at Neverland Ranch, at least), insist they saw JP II take swigs from the wine before mass in an effort to intoxicate himself."

Peter Rosso, lawayer for the Pope, said his client had no comment.

Wage, Wage Against the Dying of the Light

Barbara Ehrenreich spoke at UCSB last night, spinning a variation on her terrific book Nickel and Dimed--On (Not) Getting By in America. If you haven't read it, you should, as it makes it clear just how difficult, in every way, it is to survive as the working poor in this country that castigates its poor as lazy. Ehrenreich tried to make it as a waitress, hotel maid, maid for a cleaning service, nursing home care worker and Wal-Mart associate (fancy job title at rock bottom prices!), and found it was exhausting, challenging, impossible.

One of the most shocking moments, however, came in the Q&A when just-termed-out California Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, who is actually one of the good ones, asked the following: "In my last term I co-sponsored a bill to raise the minimum wage in California, and it was vetoed by the governor as anti-business and would lead to jobs leaving the state. How would you answer such arguments?"

You mean, the Dems put up legislation and don't know how to argue for it? Not one person in the Democratic caucus could think this one through? Ehrenreich wisely pointed out the great majority of minimum wage jobs can't be outsourced--the reason there's always a line at the In-n-Out drive thru is your burger gets made right there, and isn't shipped from Maylasia. It's even better in a state like California where tourism is a huge part of the economy, for that poor soul inside the Mickey Mouse costume who probably doesn't think of his or her job as the Happiest Place on Earth nonetheless has to be in Anaheim to do it.

I also wonder why Dems just can't take the high ground. Say to Arnold, "People cannot survive on the current minimum wage. An employee working full-time at the current minimum wage of $6.75 per hour would receive only $14,040 per year, from which social security and other taxes would be deducted. This is below the federal poverty level for a family of three and not nearly enough to lift them out of poverty. Not to mention a minimum wage earner would need 3.7 years of wages to buy just one Hummer. Are you saying minimum wage workers should live below the poverty level, monster SUV-less?"

Then today the Los Angeles Times tells us the chilling bad economic news that "for the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut." The story doesn't mention that the last time this happened, the president's name happened to be Bush, just like this time, but we'll (try to) ignore that.

"This is the first time that salaries have increased more slowly than prices since the 1990-91 recession. Though salary growth has been relatively sluggish since the 2001 downturn, inflation also had stayed relatively subdued until last year, when the consumer price index rose 2.7%. But wages rose only 2.5%.

"The effective 0.2-percentage-point erosion in workers' living standards occurred while the economy expanded at a healthy 4%, better than the 3% historical average."

There is excellent news for the economy, though!

"Meanwhile, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay increases down."

So it is good we're all poor. We ARE all poor, no?

So thank you Arnold and everyone else who fights against raising the minimum wage. We clearly don't understand economics enough to see how the majority of us barely getting by keeps the world running. And if we had more money we'd just waste it on something like a Hummer, anyway.

If the Bugman Went Bolton

Tom DeLay today stated, "There's not a bureaucracy in the world that can't be made leaner and more efficient," and during a speech on the House floor claimed that if 202 or 3 of the 435-member House were eliminated, "it wouldn't make a bit of difference."

Monday, April 11, 2005

This Game, and then the Fireworks

It was a lovely, long weekend down in San Diego visiting the in-laws (who are so terrific I might have married Amy just to be their son-in-law). A couple of highlights and one enduring confusion with the "culture" I live in:

  • If you're looking for good food in the Gaslamp/near Petco, do try Chive Restaurant. Don't let its billing of "cuisine moderne" scare you off. It does re-invent well; take the calamari as an example, fried, sure, but mixed in with a zingy peanut sauce, crisp cole slaw and mango for that fruit/pepper pot twist. And it just nails the right notes with a martini with house-stuffed olives with gorgonzola and with a beef tenderloin that the kitchen loves tender, indeed. Even "kinda" rice pudding is brilliant--a layer of rice pudding, not too mushy, with some white chocolate and then creme brulee over the top, providing all the cream and crunch such a dish needs.

  • Got to see my first game of the season, Pirates v. Padres. Not caring too much about either team I was able to just enjoy the game for game's sake, and root root root for the home team. Oliver Perez can throw, but on that night he couldn't pitch--over-relied on his fastball early, then couldn't hit spots when he needed to. At least he made the Padres feel better about trading him.

  • Xavier Nady almost hit for the cycle with one of the weirder triples you might see, as the player who scored on it almost got thrown out at home while Nady eased into third. Plus, baseball needs more names like Xavier Nady.

  • Petco is a good "new-old" ballpark, but it still isn't whatever they want to call the park in San Francisco. Dowtown SD isn't SF Bay. The Western Metal Supply Building is really the only cool touch. Still, great sightlines from the Toyota Terrace seats (they better be for $55 per--thanks, Larry!).

  • After the game the Padres offered a quick but scintillating fireworks show (even if I can't watch and listen to one without thinking "shock and awe" and grow a bit depressed). During it they featured a medley of city and downtown songs, and while Lovin' Spoonful and Petula Clark are just fine, they also had to drag in Billy Joel's "Uptown Girl" (perhaps why Christie Brinkley left him? "you wrote this lame ass song for me--I'm out here, Joel") and, of course, "We Built this City," with that synth riff that more or less is everything bad about the 1980s. The good news? It's really hard to hear even blasted music over lots of exploding gunpowder.

Armed and Dangerous?

Tommy John surgery-- ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, or when a tendon is removed from a patient's wrist or hamstring and grafted into the elbow--has to keep company with a new, sort of similar if quite, quite different procedure. Call it Sergei Peter surgery.

The UK paper The Telegraph reports: "A Russian man born with genitals so small that he was unable to have sex has been given the chance to lead a normal love life after a new penis was 'grown' on his arm during pioneering surgery."

It seems the patient Sergei, who suffered, and I mean suffered, with what is actually scientifically known as a "micro-penis" (who knew science was so cruel?), opted for the experimental surgery, even knowing that he would be teased in his small Siberian village with taunts of "Hey, Sergei, is that a cigarette pack rolled into your t-shirt sleeve, or are you just happy to have a penis on your arm?"

One can only assume that the designer at the Telegraph's website knew full well what he or she was doing creating a graphic with the caption "Click to enlarge."

Here's hoping the surgeon who created this procedure doesn't get a swollen head about it.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Handful of Gimme (And a Mouth Fulla Much Obliged)

"It was a perfect day for Humbert Humbert wish."

You get this and many more choice lines in my latest installment of "As the Stomach Turns" over at the Last Critic Standing contest at So what I need for you to do is go there right now and vote for me, so I will make it to the final two and eventually win the damn thing, a contest that began somewhere back during the Eisenhower administration.


Bonus points for those who can: 1) spot the Wallace Stevens allusion in the review, and 2) know what band recorded the song from which this entry steals its name.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Well, He Told Us To Buy a California King

A bit early for Dog Blog Friday: It's not quite clear if Nigel is totally comfortable here. Posted by Hello

Bush Tries to Save Bonds, Not Treasury Bonds

Continuing his string of controversial appointments, President Bush today named Jim Caviezel as the new James Bond. "Jesus, he has the perfect passion for the role, and can do sequels as he's risen from the dead," Bush said. The White House also announced that Barbara and Jenna Bush will also appear as Bond Girls, now that Jenna has experience on film. Tentative title for the film is Hexadecapussy.

Producer Barbara Broccoli, who it is rumored Bush has a distaste for, was not shaken or stirred by this announcement.

Who's Left Teaching

Paul Krugman writes a "why are academics liberals?" column this week, and what he says makes plenty of sense: "Today's Republican Party -- increasingly dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research -- doesn't respect science, or scholarship in general. It shouldn't be surprising that scholars have returned the favor by losing respect for the Republican Party."

But I think he only gets it half right. There's also this--conservatives tend to be more interested in lots of money. Academia doesn't get you lots of money (generally speaking--sure some of the Nobel scientists and docs at med schools rake it in, but they're the minority), which is partially why there's tenure, so profs get in security what they lose in pure paycheck. (Oh, yeah, and then there's academic freedom, too.)

Those whose thinking moves leftward tend to want to give something back, and despite all their problems as institutions, at a university you still sometimes get to teach and help younger generations, and you might help create knowledge, too. Any conservative smart enough to earn that PhD often opts to go into business (or the business of government, where the revolving door of corporate offices and regulatory positions only makes you wealthier--do some research on a creepy place like Cargill if you don't believe me). Since the only evolution many on the right believe in is social Darwinism, which they interpret as survival of the selfish and which dovetails nicely with their bullshit Ayn Rand "philosophy" most grow out of after their frosh year in college (unless it provides convenient excuses for their comfort), the same folks who might be right-wing academics instead follow their hearts, which exist somewhere near their wallets. Whether they wear their wallets in coat pockets or pants pockets is up to how you want to anatomically see them. (And I know that makes them seem mostly like men, but most of the academics, at least tenure-track, are men, and the same is true for most big businessMEN, even if Lawrence Summers doesn't have a clue why.)

Just an over-generalized idea.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It Was the Steroids

Cal-ee-for-nyah is one strange place, sure. Let's look at politics according to our Governator....

Special Interests, According to Arnold Schwarzenegger
Health Care Workers for the Elderly Poor

Not Special Interests, According to Arnold Schwarzenegger
Business executives
Real estate developers
Insurance companies
Broadcom, an Orange County chip company
Fox subsidiary News America

Money-grubbing, Lying Idiot to George
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Those Who Repeat History Are Doomed to Be Bushes

The Los Angeles Times provides this story that they failed to headline "A Yucca, Yucca Burning Mountain":

The Department of Energy will not consider seeking a license for the proposed nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada until investigations into possible falsification of water-safety surveys are complete, officials said Tuesday.


Nevada Republican Congressman Jim Gibbons said that the "culture of management" of the Energy Department and the USGS was one that "has gone forward from Day One with the idea that you can pound a square peg in a round hole, at any cost."

"We're seeing that today," said Gibbons. "The e-mails that we have before us, gentlemen, are not isolated incidents, but show what I feel is pressure from above to get a product out."

The e-mails included such statements as "If they need more proof, I'll be happy to make up more stuff" and "In the end I keep track of two sets of files, the ones that will keep [quality assurance] happy and the ones that were actually used."


Nevada officials told the committee that the data from the reports were instrumental in the approval of legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in 2002, designating Yucca Mountain as the nation's sole site for nuclear waste.

Gee, where have we seen this pattern before? The scary part is, this time there are WMDs, or at least the materials to make them. Good thing no one could smuggle them into our country from Nevada.

...Ask How You Can Be Screwed by Your Country

From Business Week, which publishes daily on the web, but never mind, we read:

To dramatize Social Security's future solvency problem, the president peered into the four-drawer ivory cabinet inside the Bureau of Public Debt office here along the Ohio River. In the second drawer was a white three-ring binder filled with pieces of paper providing physical evidence of $1.7 trillion in treasury bonds that back Social Security benefits.

"Imagine," Bush said in a speech a short time later at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. "The retirement security for future generations is sitting in a filing cabinet."

Bush went on to say, "With my new 'there's nothing private about something personal' plan, the retirement security of future generations can sit in the circular file, heh heh, just ask my friends at Enron."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Yawn-y: King of the Pan Flute?

It's nice to find out, finally, that all those years I thought I was boring my students to death, I was really turning them on. Dutch academic Wolter Seuntjens has earned his PhD with the stunning thesis The Hidden Sexuality of the Human Yawn.

Seuntjens claims: "In discussing pharmacology I found a link between yawning and spontaneous orgasm in withdrawal from heroin addiction. Likewise, yawning and sexual response were associated as clinical side effects of several antidepressant drugs. In one publication an undeniable causal relation was reported: both spontaneous and intentional yawning provoked instantaneous ejaculation orgasm."

Which leads to that age-old question, "Are you bored, or are you just...ew, clean up near your pockets."

A Stinky Old Joke, I Know

I can't resist--this headline makes me say, "But I haven't even been in the ocean for years!"

Monday, April 04, 2005

Your 2005 Hanover Heir to the Throneberries!

At least for now. After all, there's still next Monday's free agent draft for the final 2 spots on all our league's rosters, and I've got a bonus spot, since I was a panicked moron, worried about the 90 second pick clock, and when I went looking for Chad Cordero, the high potential closer for the Montrawashington Exponationals, I just clicked on the first Cordero-Was I saw. Alas, that was Wil Cordero, who, in addition to needing another "L," isn't much of a ball player and is a wife beater, to boot (although I'm not sure that he kicked his wife).

Notice I didn't freeze Barry Bonds. This was very hard. He is the best player of the past 30 years. He will still hit, if and when he comes back. The steroids thing doesn't bug me much, as I'm sure he's far from the only one, and you don't get his batting eye from steroids, unless there's some kind of steroids-Lasiks we haven't heard about. But he seems so sad and beaten. And he's 40. And ball players aren't supposed to be almost as old as me (even if I throw a knuckleball, so am theoretically ageless). *

C: Brian Schneider
1B: Wil Cordero, Brad Wilkerson
2B: Mark Bellhorn, Michael Cuddyer
3B: Morgan Ensberg, David Wright
SS: B.J. Upton, Edgar Renteria
LF: Nick Swisher, Matt Holliday, Pat Burrell
CF: Jeremy Reed, Carlos Beltran
RF: Austin Kearns, Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera
SP: A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo, Jeremy Bonderman, Johan Santana, Matt Clement
MR: Danny Haren, Ryan Madson
CL: Eric Gagne, Shingo Takatsu

And then there's free agent drafts every Monday throughout the season, so who knows what surprise Dontrelle Willis (ah, my World Series victorious 2003!) the mid-season might bring.

*Julio Franco and his deal with the devil sold separately.

Which Came First, the Myth or the Mets?

One of the joys of being a Mets fan is auto-schadenfreude, as pretty much every time they will let you down. Of course, unless you're a Yankee fan, which is sort of like rooting for death (you just know you'll get beat eventually), almost every team knows it will lose. But while teams like the pre-2004 Bosox and current Cubs get to have curses, the Mets just get to be loveable losers--liking them is partially about relishing in what silly bad thing they might do next. It might be the confusion among Spanish-speaking and English-speaking fielders that led to collisions, errors and the terrific band name Yo La Tengo, it might be Dallas Green making men out of pitching prospect boys and destroying the arms (at least for any hope of the arms helping the Mets in their careers) of Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher, it might be Armando Benitez blowing Game 1 of the 2000 World Series and any chance the Mets had of beating the better Yanks that year (I mean, c'mon, we thought Timo Perez could be a hero back then).

So today I go home at lunch to see how the boys are (one of us checks in on them every lunch), and the Mets are on TV. And so I watch as I eat, and it's after Pedro has given up a first inning homer and has become Pedro circa 1999, striking out 12 guys in 4.1 innings. And Carlos Beltran is looking natty as a Met, too, smiling wide and hitting a homerun. It's so good to see brilliant players in the Mets unis. I even get the warm and tingly feeling from Jose Reyes again, thinking this is the year he finally achieves his promise, as he's clearly just a ballplayer (if one cursed with hamstrings that often leave him hamstrung).

Pedro leaves the game, the Mets go up 6-4, and he should win his first start as a Met.

Then the Mets become the Mets again, and two mighty swings by Adam Dunn (sure, he'll lead the majors in homers this year, sort of excuseable) and Joe Randa (not good enough for the KC Royals) mean the Mets blow it in the bottom of the ninth.

It hurts so good to have baseball back.

Black Smoke Over the White House

In Washington today President Bush nominated John Ashcroft to be the new pope, figuring if Paul Wolfowitz could head the World Bank and John Bolton be ambassador to the UN, why not.

And at Bob Jones University, the entire campus gets an unholy case of the giggles.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rail-Splitter Blues

Welcome to the brand-spanking-new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which got a big story on Morning Edition today and made me think NPR must be playing an April Fool's joke. Go check out that website, and then we'll discuss...

...Ok, we're back. For my money, never trust any museum put together by a company called Imagination Arts, although I guess we do have too many non-imaginative arts (that's what art critics are for). There's also something chilling about the headline "History in the Making," given as far as I know Lincoln's been dead eight score and ten years now, so his history seems pretty much made.

Unless, of course, he haunts his museum as a ghost, and luckily it turns out he does and he didn't decide to hang out in perpetuity at Ford's Theater or someplace he actually once visited when alive, which I thought, from all my viewing of haunted history programs on the History Channel, seemed an ironcald rule. The brilliant folks (some actually ex-Imagineers!) at the museum figured people love both The Hall of Presidents and The Haunted Mansion at Disney, so why not combine the two? That's infotainment!

Alas, the underlying theory here is what haunts me. We assume that if we don't gussy up history and learning, turn it into Nintendo, then no one will care. I don't necessarily mean to pick on this one museum (OK, I do), but it's certainly one of the most startingly clear cases that the assumption of our culture is we don't want to think. But, shiny bauble! Give me! Me like!

But our hankering after the surface is just the surface, too. Imagineers exist so we don't have to imagine--how handy that all the creative thinking has been done for us. It's all right there for us to see, so deeper senses, the ones requiring empathy and sympathy (no, not telepathy), atrophy. Our lack of ability to get inside things, to push words, whether spoken or written, from suggestion to sustenance, means we've coarsened our cultural products so even the coarsest of them, horror films, have descended from Val Lewton's creepy and insinuating 1940s films to the gross-out, how creatively can we kill somebody slasher flicks of today.

But there's more in the less we're expected to be able to dream up without it being visualized, auralized, Dolby-ized and Smell-a-Vision-ized for us. I think it makes us less human. We are on the verge of losing our ability to think our way beyond our own walls of self into others. Which is mighty convenient when we opt to kill many of them for their own good, or keep them poor even if they're children, or deny them the basic right of all lovers.

Give me a hodge-podge museum any day, like the jazz museum in the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans (check out that website, as it's as homespun as the non-virtual place). There you can see the first cornet Louis Armstrong learned to play when he was a resident of the Municipal Waif’s Home for Boys, 1913-14. No hologram picks it up. But your mind has to, taking it back in time when much of jazz Satchmo still had to think up, and this battered horn was the start. And then there's that genius in the Waif's Home, one more of the African-American poor who eked out lives in New Orleans much like they do today. It's just an object, but we can bring so much to it that it practically blows its own symphony.

Now that's something.

Pope on the Ropes

Why not NPR's Sylvia Poggioli for the next Pope? She's Italian, her voice is much more mellifluous than your typical Pope-wannabe (Pope-a-be?), Pope Poggioli just sounds cool, and naming a woman would help make the Roman Catholic Church seem progressive.

Oh, I see the problem.

Bird's Eye Flash-Frozen Greyhound

For Dog Blog Friday: It's not just Mookie, it's a self-portrait of me as shoe-tips and height. Posted by Hello
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