Thursday, June 30, 2005


There's that old joke about what a PhD student does to procrastinate writing the dreaded thesis: When in doubt, read another book. Out here on the internets it's even easier to do little, for all you have to do is follow another link. And to help you link more right from INOTBB, I've added three new links for your viewing pleasure. Today's Front Pages from the Newseum (which sounds a bit too close to nausea to me, but what do I know) let's you see not just the headlines but the actual front pages from papers down your block and around the world. Very cool just as web design, let alone as a research tool and very helpful time waster. Then there's two blogs I've been reading by following through others' links, so I thought I'd cut out the middle blog and stand up proud and offer my allegiance to Firedoglake and RubberNun (although that animated gif is a bit too creepy for this boy who survived Catholic school).

Lotta Nothing between Them Ears

Originally uploaded by Yatchisin.
At a convention of team mascots, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice offers encouragement to others in her field, insisting, "You can rise to the level of your incompetence."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Your Sacrifice Is Worth Anything to Me

How can a speech that major papers agree "offered no new strategies" (both the New York Times and The Washington Post) be so rich in ridiculousness that it is every blogger's obligation to take a whack at it with the mighty truth stick that can bust open Bush's B.S. piñata?

Here are a few quick observations. First, you almost have to marvel at Bush's blind arrogance. Repeatedly he stressed, "There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home." That Bush never seems to realize we aren't playing war on some neutral site or moving pieces on a Risk gameboard is completely disgusting. Did anyone bother to ask the Iraqis how happy they are that we chose their country as the place to have our fight with terrorism? Of course, we don't really even know how many Iraqis have died since March of 2003, so maybe it's all ok.

Second, if the best Bush can do is suggest the world is with us in a sentence like this one--"Whatever our differences in the past, the world understands that success in Iraq is critical to the security of our nations"--the U.S. is in a sorry state. After all, such a sentence could be rephrased, "Even though everyone told me not to careen on my motorcycle helmet-less at 100 mph on the icy road, they still were willing to visit me in the hospital."

Third, will he ever stop giving his speeches in front of the folks who already agree with him? Sure it makes a better photo-op, and in this case even insulates him, for if you do question him he can suggest you question all the good men and women of Fort Bragg, but still. Either he has no sense of what it takes to make and win an argument or he simply doesn't give a Halliburton what anyone who doesn't see the world his way thinks.

I'm not sure which is worse. Oh, sure I do--you can at least feel sorry for the stupid.

Shop Till U.S. Drops

You can kill 3,000 of us. You can destroy a city's landmarks. You can give Bush & Co. an excuse to start a war they wanted to start anyway and thereby kill 1,700 more Americans and thousands of shocked and awed Iraqis.

But you can't stop us from shopping.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, with a surprising amount of candor (must be that liberal media showing):

Let's go shopping at Ground Zero.

While all eyes will be focused on the new design for the Freedom Tower, expected to be unveiled Wednesday, World Trade Center planners are looking beyond that troubled building and are laying plans for what they consider a key part of the site -- a big shopping complex.


Behind closed doors, the site's power brokers have actively pursued plans to transform Ground Zero into Destination No. 1 for shoppers.


Callison Architecture, a Seattle firm known for ambitious urban retail projects has created several options for squeezing 600,000 square feet of retail space throughout the site, mostly on underground concourses, train-station mezzanines, and in the base of the planned office buildings and hotel. Most of the shopping would be situated on the east side of the 16-acre site, across Greenwich Street from the footprints of the old towers, where the memorial and Freedom Tower will be.


Then there are the sightseers. The Lower Manhattan Development Corp., a city-state agency guiding the rebuilding, estimates that five million visitors a year will stream to the World Trade Center memorial. Brookfield Properties Corp. is considering tapping into the retail demand by reconfiguring space in the World Financial Center, across the street from Ground Zero.

After all, if we buy something from this site of incomprehensible suffering and pain, we can thereby own it, and leave it in our closet and forget it and move on to some new television show. Plus, I can't wait for the tasteful sales on September 11 every year--our prices are falling like you wouldn't believe! It's our famous blow-out sale! Buy one, and the second's price collapses!

For there's nothing more American than a bumpersticker that reads "You Can't Get My Credit Card Till You Pry It from My Cold Dead Fingers." And that Freedom Tower will stand proud and tall as a symbol of our freedom of choice, between Banana Republic and J Crew.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Short Entry for a Long Weekend

I'm still recovering from one of those weekends that felt like an inning with three sacrifice flies, as Amy and I took Friday off to visit her parents down Escondido way. If we had brough a camera, this visit would have led to many more opportunites for greyhounds hunt rat terrier photos, but all those playful attacks went undocumented.

Since I'm officially in recovery mode (heck, I called it that, so I must be), I can go to bullet points, collect my check and revel in the stylistic glory known only by giants of journalism like Larry King:

  • Baseball Prospectus threw one of its famed pizza feeds at Petco on Friday night. What didn't make sense is there was no pizza--this is an organization famous for being precise and exacting, so come up with new names, guys.
  • Got to shake hands with Sandy Alderson, who was the executive vice president for MLB from 1998 until recently, and the leader of the A's before that, and now CEO of the Padres. He's a big deal as he plays--and wins--fantasy baseball without the fantasy part.
  • Got to listen to Padres GM Kevin Towers be very upfront about the strengths and weaknesses of his club. Now, I'd hate it if my boss got in a room of 50 strangers and told them all my faults--it's true, just like thirdbaseman Sean Burroughs I have trouble getting my hips into my swing, so I rarely generate enough power when typing--but it was fun to hear the inside scoop.
  • Third, got to prove to Amy I'm really not such a baseball geek after all. Guys (of course) doing the Q part of the Q&A were able to grill Towers on which draft picks he took and why, and Amy knows I can barely name who the Mets drafted. This will buy me much credit the next time I blabber on to her about how and why David Wright is such a special 22-year-old.
  • Xavier Nady needs me in the crowd--I've seen 2 Padres games this year and in those games he's gone 6 for 9 with 2 homers, 2 triples, 4 runs scored and 6 rbis. I'm available to root for a price. And we've decided his official nickname needs to be Xavier "Ahoy!" Nady. (you might have to say it aloud, with your best swashbuckling accent)
  • Pizza Port in Solana Beach is a must-visit for anyone seriously interested in beer. They had not one but two double IPAs on tap this weekend, both hoppily delicious.

Pulling My Leg, or Something

From today's Santa Barbara News-Press:

Third baseman Dallas McPherson sat out Sunday and likely will miss at least today's game, too, after suffering a strained left groin running out a groundball in the sixth inning Saturday night.

"It definitely shouldn't be stiffening up on me there," he said.

There is no report as to what a surely saddened Mrs. McPherson said.

Sometimes blogging is like t-ball, but how can you say no to a set up like that one? Plenty more to come, I hope...and so do the McPhersons. Ba-dum-bum.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for My Close-Up

Nigel Boulevard
Originally uploaded by Yatchisin.
For Dog Blog Friday: Nigel lets us know his choice for the AFI 100 Favorite Film Quotes. Here's hoping no one is narrating the photo face down in the swimming pool. Not that we have a swimming pool.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Camp Swampy

Reuters reports that during a contentious Senate Armed Services Committee meeting, Senator Ted Kennedy and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had a bit of a war of the words:

"This war has been consistently and grossly mismanaged," Sen. Edward Kennedy told Rumsfeld. "And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire."

"Our troops are dying. And there really is no end in sight. And the American people, I believe, deserve leadership worthy of the sacrifices that our fighting forces have made, and they deserve the real facts. And I regret to say that I don't believe that you have provided either," Kennedy added.

"Well, that is quite a statement," Rumsfeld, flanked by top U.S. commanders, responded. "First let me say that there isn't a person at this table who agrees with you that we're in a quagmire and that there's no end in sight."

Rumsfeld went on to say, "Iraq is not a quagmire. It might be a nasty can of worms, a particularly difficult situation, a dastardly dog's breakfast, a nearly classical Gordian knot, a hard nut to crack, a splitting headache, a buzzing hornet's nest, the world's largest vat of hot water, Pandora's box with its lid ripped wide, a sticky predicament, a snarky snafu, a venomous snake pit...but it's not NOT a quagmire."

After a bit of a pause he continued, "And, Senator, can't you please compare me to Hitler so anything I do can be obscured by your need to apologize?"

Of This I Am Shore

Over at MSN Encarta - This Day in History we have this entry:

1917: After Boston pitcher Babe Ruth is ejected for arguing the base on balls given to the game's first batter, reliever Ernie Shore retires 27 straight men and is credited with a perfect game. Learn more about Babe Ruth.

Now is that fair? It was Ernie who rode his pefect game a-Shore. But it's the celeb we get to hear more about.

Then again, we are experiencing media thinking difficulty. More Downing Street Memos--no big deal. Michael Jackson, and even the jury at his trial--now that's news. If only we could dress up President Bush as a teenage girl and ship him to Aruba....

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Smokin' Durbin Poison

So I was going to say, isn't there some way we can dig up a quote that has John Bolton comparing the UN to Nazi Germany and thereby be done with him?

But then I realized:
1) Republicans can make as many ridiculous Nazi analogies as they like, even when they don't even parse as to which side has the power (see Rick Santorum comparing the Dems to Hitler for wanting to keep the filibuster);
2) The rightwingers and their bobo-headed bloggers probably do think the UN is Nazi-esque.

It's so hard to win when:
1) You actually try to play fairly and squarely;
2) You have a moral sense.

Cabbage Pitch Doll

There's something charming about this story concerning ways to keep a cooler head while playing baseball in Korea, although I'm not quite sure why the league feels a need to clamp down on the guy--are they afraid he'll throw a kimchee pitch, sure to have a bit of late gas on it when it breaks?

It's also too bad that Phillies prospect Cole Hammels wasn't involved, for the headline could then read: "League Slays Cole's Slaw."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Winning the War One Bite at a Time

How can Saddam Hussein be a homicidal tyrant? He likes Doritos, at least according to the latest from GQ as reported everywhere today.

But that got me thinking, and so you know there's trouble ahead. Perhaps the way to pay for the war (which is up already over $175 billion) is to get corporate sponsors. Some are naturals--Hummer, Armor-All--but why not "this captured tyrant is sponsored by Doritos, bet you he can't gas just one!" Not to mention the more we associate snack food with the war, the more, uh, palatable it might become to the American public. Just imagine Little Debby TeamMate Cookies with the plucky Debster in fatigues and her teammates palsing around one of their rifles. Now that's American, paid for, and delicious.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Ready to Bloviate in 2008

Let the circus begin! Fresh from preparing for battle by devouring one of his own, Joe Biden is biding his time no more: "US Senator Joseph Biden became the first Democrat to openly acknowledge plans to run for the White House in 2008, telling CBS television that he will pursue his party's presidential nomination." Evidently the credit card companies based in the state Biden represents didn't quite get everything they wanted in the Bankruptcy Bill, so need a full-time watchdog for their interests in the White House. Penniless widows, the railroad tracks await!

Perhaps we should have a poll--hereby named the "Bob Graham Presidential Hopeful for A Day Contest"--for who will be the lamest Dem candidate to throw a hat in the ring. And a note to any contenders--don't make it a beret, you know how much the Right makes fun of the French.

My money is on Tom Vilsack, who puts the white in whitbread.

Although maybe Zell Miller will run, and instead of debates, we can have duels leading up to the primaries. Think of the TV ratings that reality show could get. But considering Zell made it seem like just holding a 2004 election was questionable patriotism, if he got nominated, he would proably just defer to whatever whacko the Republicans run.

And no voting for Lieberman, as I'm not sure we can call him a Democrat.

Friday, June 17, 2005

A-Tingling with Cleanliness

As part of INOTBB's ongoing service to prove the Lord is omnipresent, at least when it comes to potato chips, toast, bricks, and most of all, E-Bay, we have this new report of a holy sighting:

Plaster Water Stain - Son of God

I got out of the shower today and yelled, "Jesus Christ!" and my girlfriend asked me, "Oh my God what is it?" I pointed and responded, "No - Jesus Christ!"

Attached are actual photos of what I was pointing at. (sorry, Mom - I ended a sentence with a preposition, I know.)

No, these photos are not doctored.
No, these photos are not staged.

'Cause if the photos were staged, we'd have to get Jesus or a Jesus-impersonator to hide in the plaster in a bathroom wall.

And to think I've thought so highly of Jesus, but all he really wants to do is get some quick peeks of people in the shower.

Fe, Fi, Foetry

The Los Angeles Times runs an interesting article about the contentious website Foetry, which, as the Times explains:

...purports to expose the corrupt world of poetry contests.

The number of annual contests in the United States has ballooned from five in 1980 to more than 100 today. Most charge "reading fees" of $20 to $30 an entry, with some contests drawing thousands of applicants.

In today's literary climate, winning a major contest is one of the only sure tickets to continuing life as a poet. Winners get book deals and professorships; losers look for another line of work.
In this world, Cordle says, judges — often "celebrity poets" who teach at prestigious schools — routinely award prizes to their students, friends and lovers. It is in his view a world of cozy cronyism that few outsiders know or care about, although poets have been whispering about it for decades.

The victims are the thousands of mostly young poets who pay to get a fair reading, and who are essentially "defrauded," Cordle says.

As a recovering poet myself, I want to assume he's right, since the idea that the fix is in is obviously preferable to thinking I wasn't a very good poet. But I did finally dump the reams of rejection letters I had collected over the years, or maybe they are getting eaten by the rats in our garage, which might be a good fate for them.

Then the story, however, gets to this:

Perhaps most damaged by those disclosures was Jorie Graham, who some say comes closest to being the superstar of American poetry.

At 54, Graham has accomplished what critic David Orr calls the trifecta of American verse: She won a major prize, a Pulitzer in 1996 for her book "The Dream of the Unified Field"; secured a faculty position at the Iowa Writers' Workshop; and was appointed to a distinguished chair at the most hallowed of Ivies, Harvard.

Last year, Foetry revealed the following:

In January 1999, with Graham as the judge for the Georgia contest, a manuscript by poet Peter Sacks was chosen for the prize. Sacks is Graham's colleague at Harvard, not to mention her husband.

Graham points out she didn't arrive at Harvard and marry Sacks until 2000, but she does not deny they knew each other at the time of the contest. In fact, Graham felt awkward enough about it to ask the series editor, Bin Ramke, to make the call. Ramke chose Sacks, and Graham concurred.

Foetry contends that Graham, as a judge at Georgia and other contests, has awarded prizes to five former students from the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

OK, so I do suck--Jorie was my teacher at Iowa, too, way back when we still chiselled our poems into stones as computers barely existed (poems on a mainframe is just too impersonal). Or Foetry has it all wrong.

But mostly it's a good thing for everyone I don't write poems anymore.

The Paws that Refreshes

paws mookie
Originally uploaded by Yatchisin.
For Dog Blog Friday: True, the paws don't refresh the wood floor.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Blogfast of Champions

Today is/was the birthday of George Cormack, the inventor of the Wheatie. (Can you have a singular cereal flake? I mean, I know they are individuals and would never mean to suggest they're some mindless monoculture, but what would be the purpose of just one be?) It turns out that the history of the Wheatie is really an enthralling story, especially if you keep a flake in each eye to prevent your lids from slamming shut in boredom:

Like many great inventions, Wheaties was discovered by accident. [ed. note: Just one of the many ways Wheaties is a great invention.] In 1921, a health clinician in Minneapolis was mixing a batch of bran gruel for his patients when he spilled some of the mix on a hot stove. [ed. note: Yum, bran gruel. Lucky patients. This clinician is currently working at Guatanamo.] The gruel crackled and sizzled into a crisp flake. Tasting the very first Wheaties prototype, he decided this delicious accident had promise. [ed. note: And that he really needed to clean the stove.] He took the crisped gruel to the people at the Washburn Crosby Company. [ed. note: He very carefully made sure the secret formula did not fall into the evil hands of Mr. Slugworth.]

The head miller, George Cormack, [ed. note: Happy Birthday, Cormack, well, if you were alive, and I think Bill Frist has diagnosed you as such.] took on the task of trying to strengthen the flakes to keep them from turning to dust inside a cereal box. [ed. note: Sadly he could not feed the flakes Wheaties for strength as he had not perfected them yet, and cereal cannibalism is against the law in 40 states anyway.] Cormack tested 36 varieties of wheat before he developed the perfect flake. [ed note: Insert your own perfect flake joke here.] A company wide contest was held to name the new cereal. [ed. note: Oh, to work for such a thrilling company!] The winner was Jane Bausman, the wife of the export manager. [ed. note: Which begs the question, if they exported the manager, who's in charge of things?] Wheaties was chosen over numerous other entries, including Nutties and Gold Medal Wheat Flakes. [ed. note: Heh, heh, he said Nutties.]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Wage

Sometimes it's best just to point and nod. This handy crib-sheet from Campus Progress will help make you the winner in any debate defending the need for a living wage.

Not Feeeling Will

From the "If You Don't Get It, I'll Have to Explain It to You, Although It Might Just Be Easier to Pummel You with a Blunt Object" Department:

George Will wrote the following in his latest column defending President Bush's SEC nominee Chris Cox:

A Times columnist disapprovingly said Cox "is a big-business advocate.'' Leaving aside the vacuity of such labels -- what might it mean to be an "advocate" against "big business" and its big numbers of employees....

Here Will pulls that old rightwing sleight of hand, asserting what's good for big business is good for the country, and that's so obvious you'd be an idiot to doubt me. But tell that to 25,000 GM workers who will soon no longer be big business employees all for the good of big business. Tell that to all the workers who still are lucky enough to have their jobs but also know that in 2003 the CEO Pay/Worker Pay ratio reached 301-to-1 and the average worker takes home $517 a week, while the average CEO has to manage to get by on a mere $155,769 a week.

Of course Will has to fight those Commie Pinko Liberals in government like the one who had the audacity to make these claims, according to the Christian Science Monitor:

He agreed that over the past two quarters hourly wages have shown few signs of accelerating. Overall employee compensation has gone up - but mostly due to a surge in bonuses and stock-option exercises.

[He] than added that the 80 percent of the workforce represented by nonsupervisory workers has recently seen little, if any, income growth at all. The top 20 percent of supervisory, salaried, and other workers has.

The result of this, [he] said, is that the US now has a significant divergence in the fortunes of different groups in its labor market. "As I've often said, this is not the type of thing which a democratic society - a capitalist democratic society - can really accept without addressing."

The speaker in this passage? The notorious Marx-spouting, brie-loving, Volvo-driving, NPR-listening, married-to-a-liberal-media member Alan Greenspan.

The good news is that when it comes to vacuity, Will truly knows of what he speaks.

This Is What Democracy Looks Like?

Here's an idea: Now that Janice Rogers Brown has been confirmed to the DC Court of Appeals, maybe we should just put that court in charge of Iraq. Brown would surely be at home there, given she, according to, "has likened minimum wage and national labor relations laws to a 'socialist revolution.'"

For we are certainly bringing a Janice Rogers Brown-style democracy to the Middle East. Check out this sobering story on Morning Edition that asserts: "More than half a million Iraqis have fled to neighboring Syria to escape the war-related violence in Iraq. Neither Syria's government nor the United Nations consider them to be refugees. And the Damascus government has begun ordering some of the Iraqis to leave."

That NPR segment is full of heart-warming stories about the goodness and light the U.S. invasion of Iraq has helped create. Brothels in Damascus "staffed" with 14-year-old Iraqi prostitutes. Teenagers working 12 hour days 7 days a week to make $60 a month--to support their families, as adults can't get jobs in a country that doesn't want them and has a 20% unemployment rate already.

I'm sure every one of those 500,000 Iraqis in exile thank the U.S. and President Bush every night. The world is a much safer, better place.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Action Jacksons

The whole world, or at the least SoCal, which thinks it's the whole world, rejoices, as Jackson will coach the Lakers next season. Jackson has promised he will not let Kobe sleep in his bed; for his part, Kobe Bryant has promised not to sleep in any beds in Colorado, even when his team plays the Nuggets. Jackson is also busy in the studio working on his next hit single "Billie Jeanie Buss."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dinner Happens

Downtown LA is where pedestrians go to ride cars and on an early Sunday evening the lack of nearly any movement, even autos, gives the closed skyscrapers a post-neutron bomb feel, especially with the June gloom hazing out the sun as if it was hidden behind the world's largest theater scrim. This setting, with the fiercely bright yet diffused light, makes Café Pinot even more of an oddity of an urban space, one of those indoor-outdoor buildings that SoCal has down, plonked alongside the Los Angeles Public Library, itself a weird mix of Byzantine, Spanish and Egyptian styles, for, after all, the ultimate LA style is stolen-hyped-sold. Still, Café Pinot, even on its surprising grand scale (the interior's ceiling space must be 20 feet high) is welcoming, hushed, perhaps just a bit pleased with itself. But it's willing to share that pleasure with you, and it seems all sorts, from famished from shopping mother-daughter teams to tattooed dating hipsters, look good on those green-striped banquettes.

Our server, this evening, has to hope he's not one of LA's infamous actors-in-waiting, for voice projection isn't his strength. Indeed, even his phrasings and intonations seem oddly off, as if he's reading lines for the starring role in that Cripsin Glover biopic: "Let me tell you...about tonight's...specials...." He does deftly handle the wine we've brought, as the place kindly has no corkage fee, and throughout the meal we can never get close to dry glass bottom before he pours again. The free corkage is one of the things that most has attracted me to the place, for I: 1) have too much wine in the house; 2) like my wines, 3) hate the mark-up at most restaurants, since knowing wine makes you know prices and know exactly how much you're getting ripped off. But Café Pinot makes no fuss about the free corkage, just does it, and that ease leaves me with little to whine about. What's more, their wine list isn't on their website, so there was no way to check if what I was bringing (all the way from Santa Barbara) was something they had, a no-no, I know. Of all things, the wine was on the list, but at least I had a 2001 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir, and not the 2002 they had. What's more, theirs cost $120 (thanks, Wine Spectator, for giving such a good rating to a hard-to-find wine and driving the price up). It sure felt good to be ahead $120 before even ordering dinner.

My guess is the chef took a writing course with me back in the day (you might remember me with my slate out in the fields like on Little House on the Prairie), for he/she seemed to know the old saw: the points of emphasis are the beginning and ending, and if you want to hide something, put it in the middle. Our first courses did the taste bud wake up trick just fine, my peeky toe crab cake almost all deliciously crab, crisp-fried golden so the outer crunch gave the soft meat some texture punch. Amy's deconstructed Caesar salad came as a Jenga style stack of fresh Romaine drizzled with a tangy dressing redolent of garlic and anchovy and other reasons to live. A two inch toasted bread slice was big enough to make crouton finger food.

The main courses were main mostly because that's the spot of the meal they occupied. Amy's roasted halibut had just edged past its proper roast, and if it were a middle-aged man it might be suffering its first pangs for a sports car to make up for what was just its fine firmest flesh. (Fish cooking is a split second thing, if you ask me.) Its accompaniment proved vegetables could be more than sides--roasted potatoes, carrots and best of all morels all offered their finessed flavors of earth. But we both must ask: O restaurant the beautiful, why must your dishes come flecked with foam? The sauce for the dish, hinting at butter and citrus, but frothed as is the fashion, merely then seemed mostly like air. The things chefs must do to be au courant and prove they've heard of El Bulli.

I had John Dory, because I like to be introduced to my fish by name. Seriously, it had a lilting pan sear to give it a hint of caramelization, and its mild sweet flesh played match the tastes with the salt sting of the Serrano ham slice above and the avocado smear flecked with pimenton below, something not really guacamole, if for no other reason than there wasn’t enough of it (guac needs mo to be as fulfilling as it must be). Still, these numbers never quite added up to the combo click that would open the safe into the world of ultimate food treasure. The same can’t be said for the seppe on the side, the tenderest of calamari cousins, that did match terrifically with the Marcona almonds atop. Overall the plate had its moments, but it often felt like five major ingredients in search of an author.

For dessert we shared a crème brulee, because we were getting full, don’t like to be too much pigs, figured something very straightforwardly café-esque had to be a good call, and have often wished we could kiss the first chef who figured the dish out. This was a classic version, with the thin hard sugar to skate on and a still chilled, vanilla-bean enriched custard well worth making a last stand over. And someone had the vision to get lots of almonds and just the right spritz of Chinese five-spice into the accompanying biscotti.

To top it off, we got a 10% discount as Center Theater Group/Mark Taper Forum subscribers, so our bill, with no bar charge and that discount, but with tax and tip, came to a mere $110. Not too bad for some elegance, food that was almost always as good as we wanted it to be, and a timely, pleasant waiter, even if his…speech timing was…often off.

The Neverland Ranch Child "Care" Service Now Open For Business

Over night guests welcome--there's plenty of Jesus juice to go around!

The Stuff of Which Wars Are Happened

If you think that trying to write a play about the run up to the Iraq war, lacing it with real mal mots from Cheney, Rummy, Wolfie and others while imagining the conflicts behind closed doors sounds like a hare-brained idea, you’d be right. Well, it’s a Hare-brained idea, as David Hare, the esteemed English playwright/filmmaker (and I hope I’m not the only person who also was greatly moved by his movie Wetherby with Vanessa Redgrave back in 1985) has done just that and pulled it off, at least in the production of Stuff Happens currently running at the Mark Taper in LA.

Hare manages to do what artists do—imagine—and given that overused verb has so much to do with empathy and understanding, he of course humanizes all the characters it would be so easy to demonize (except maybe Dick Cheney, who seems just the coiled ball of “America, love it or leave it” spite at least I want to assume he is). Even W., as played slyly and coldly by Keith Carradine—it’s a wicked performance as it gives us Bush devoid of any of the frat boy chumminess he likes to exude, and therefore makes he seem almost cunning at times in his silences—has his merits, if nothing else the sense of survival that the play’s Tony Blair is furious at Saddam for lacking. The play in particular makes Colin Powell a tragic figure, the only one seemingly hoping to stop the war, and the last “insider” to be told Bush’s already-decided decision. While I’m not sure I buy this reading of the real Powell, it makes for crackling good drama as he tries to play both ends, getting the White House to slow down while still trying to get the UN to do the US’s bidding.

I didn’t mean for this to be a full-out review, but if you want to see how theater can be relevant, how three years can get compressed into three hours that move faster than you can imagine (sort of like the three years), check out Stuff Happens.

But I do have one major issue with Mr. Hare. One way he opens the play up to voices beyond the official characters in the 40 person cast is to allow several speeches of direct address: the first is a person who dismisses the very concept of the play itself, admonishing (here I paraphrase), Why still examine what happened in the run up to the war? Isn’t it better that a tyrant is out of power? How selfish of the West to think democracy can’t be brought to Arabs…. The last of these voices, however, is an Iraqi exile who has fought against Saddam from overseas, but now that the tyrant is deposed this man isn’t sure his country is better off. He finds Rumsfeld’s stuff happens quote to be horribly racist and laments how no one counts the innocent Iraqi dead. But he goes further, in one of those theater moments in which a character speaks of his plight yet is meant to illuminate everyone’s: He says that his countrymen were to blame for Saddam, for when everyone fails to take his or her share of power, often the wrong person does. Calling for greater public political engagement: “If you don’t do it yourself, this is what you get.”

The Mark Taper nearly hummed at the line, the recognition that America chose Bush, England chose Blair, just as Iraq allowed for the vacuum in which Hussein grabbed hold. But just as quickly a woman behind me said, “I didn’t vote for him.”

Just as Hare his point, all of us who have fought against Bush in two elections also have a point, but a point isn’t power. Millions marched worldwide in February 2003 and all they had was their numbers and their hope. Even saying, “I was one who tried” is nothing more than praying there’s something to pray to, that something can give forgiveness.

Friday, June 10, 2005

A Chip Off the Old God?

I always would have assumed the Big J.C. was more of a Dead Sea salt and vinegar kind of guy, but the latest news from the St. Petersburg Times proves me wrong:

Rosalie and Jerry Lawson have an eye for collectibles. Their home in Shore Acres is filled with family heirlooms, holiday displays, Gone with the Wind memorabilia, reproductions of Chrysler's PT Cruiser.

They're no strangers to religious iconography. The couple are active Episcopalians - Jerry Lawson's father, the Very Rev. LeRoy Lawson, was the first dean of St. Peter's Cathedral.

One Valentine's Day, her brother found a heart-shaped potato chip, but no one in the family had ever seen what emerged from a bag of Lay's sour cream and onion potato chips a couple of weeks ago: an oval measuring roughly 1-1/2 inches in diameter, in which Rosalie Lawson saw the image of Jesus Christ.

Slogan: "The Holy Trinity Chip - Bet You Can't Eat Just One!"

Perhaps this chip explains the distance the apostles try to give Him in the depictions of The Last Supper--Christ might be the messiah, but oh, that onion breath! Of course I'm assuming He would only choose to appear on a chip He would prefer to eat, which could be erroneous thinking on my part, having never been the son of God, let alone immortalized on snack food.

Or perhaps Lays, a subsdiary of PepsiCo, is merely going for all the heavy hitters to endorse its products, both the Lord and Arnold Schwarzenegger. You did hear about this wonderful item from the world of political payback:

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called on Schwarzenegger to return the quarter-million dollars he received from companies featured in the ad, and for the corporations to pay the market value of the advertising to the state because it is improper for the governor to use public office to sell corporate products.

The TV ad, released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for one-third of the ad.

Donors connected to Pepsi Co. and Arrowhead Water's parent company, Nestle, gave the governor a total of $279,800 in campaign contributions. Also recognizable on-screen are Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos and a SoBe Beverage, all brands owned by Pepsi.

Of course, Arnold perhaps is just being kind and with a casual "let them eat chips!" pointing out the only foods that public workers will be able to afford in Caleefornyah once he's done demonizing unions (who are special interests) so he can defend his rich friends (who have the same interests as Arnold, and therefore are just normal folk).

In the meantime, snacking might be a holy moment. Remember He is everwhere, perhaps in your lunch box, or at your tailgate, or heading to your pooch's mouth as a reward for at last learning that trick.

Vicious, You're Smaller than a Flower

tiny nigelina
Originally uploaded by Yatchisin.
For Dog Blog Friday: And another one from the vaults, back in the days before Nigel did The Cream and The Clear and got so big.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Say You Wouldn't Think About It

Yahoo News reports on some recent scientific findings:

"We show that inferences of competence, based solely on the facial appearance of political candidates, and with no prior knowledge about the person, predict the outcomes of elections for the US Congress," said Alexander Todorov of Princeton University, the study leader, in Science magazine.


"The findings suggest that rapid, unreflective trait inferences can contribute to voting choices, which are widely assumed to be based primarily on rational and deliberative considerations," said Todorov.

"Our findings have challenging implications for the rationality of voting preferences, adding to other findings that consequential decision can be more 'shallow' than we would like to believe," he added.

The subtitle of the study--Americans Aren't Dumb, They Just Vote that Way.

Todorov and his team of scientists are next going to examine these questions:

1) Why do people say, "He's a liar, but he's a steadfast liar so I trust him"?
2) Given the right ballot, how many Jews will vote for Buchanan?
3) How long can one blog keep up a Viagra joke?

Let There Be Blight, You See

Today is the 237 anniversary of the first meeting of the University of California Board of Regents. At that meeting in 1868 freed slave and Board Member Coward Donnerly insisted that "the pains of the Civil War are long over" and declared racism was dead, urging all people of color to stop blaming the system.

Another board member denounced the UC's stewardship of the Los Alamos lab. Stunned fellow board members, completely confused since the atom would not be split for another eight decades--not to mention New Mexico wouldn't be a state until 1912--beat the crap out of him anyway, figuring a precedent had to be set.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

More Scary than the Chainsaw Dude

more scary than chainsaw dude
Originally uploaded by Yatchisin.
Here he is, your 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee!

Slogan: This year we scare you right up front.

(Thanks to Steve for finding the photo.)

Tuned V. 1. No. 5: "Freeze the Saints," Stephen Malkmus

found on Stephen Malkmus’s Face the Truth (2005)

Tuned In:
The latest song stuck in my head opens as if it’s the theme song from Family or some other surprisingly angsty 1970s television fare (c’mon, you, too, had a Kristy McNichol thing if you were in high school the same era as me, admit it), all tinkly, sweet-scaled piano and a mild-mannered vocal from our hero, the known to be sarcastic Stephen Malkmus, who seems to mean it without any meanness here – he’s really singing, for chrissakes, which is more care then you’ve come to expect from him. Sure, the lyrics seem a bit all over the place, with the pleasantly empathetic “Well you are, yes you are so much like me” getting tinged with a bit of threat from its lead in “if you need the pain,” but the young man just sounds so nice. It’s totally one of those songs that turns you into an old person listening to the kids’ music, except this kid – who isn’t a kid anymore since he’s three CDs into a sadly slight solo career after leading the band of the ’90s Pavement - is sucking up and playing tunes even you, in your older, stuffier way, might like, but you do like it despite its obvious ingratiation (airy chick background vocals!), you sort of have to when he just drags out words like “mountains” to have enough syllables to fill out the melody like he cares about the contract a song bargains with its listener.

Then what else does he do but go into a guitar solo that just fiddles with the melody line he’s been singing, like a kid pushing the broccoli he’s not sure he wants to eat around his plate, knowing choking it down hinges on his chance for dessert, but also getting intrigued by how each slight broccoli shift spreads the no-doubt-made-from-Velveeta cheese sauce into curvy blurs and then his mom takes the plate away before he can get into any real trouble, that is the solo ends right when it might get interesting. Still, almost misbehaving leads our little Stephen into temptation, for the first lines out of the solo (this song is so simple it doesn’t even bother with a bridge) turn him potty mouth, since there’s no dessert for him anyway: “You said ‘done is good,’ but done well is so much fucking better.” You know how it is when not taking liberties makes you feel you can take some, for your parents, or the songwriting rules according to Porter, or the world, owes you something. As if a song to sing isn’t good enough for you.

Tuned Out:
It never is, though, is it. I’ve left out the refrain of the song, variations on “help me languish here,” which makes the sweetness particularly creepy, as if a melody is musical Xanax masking the reasons we need to freeze the saints in the first place (or is this merely an inverted anti-Eagles world where heaven freezes over?). Damn me for liking this song, for thinking Stephen Malkmus is my friend.

Reading the song is one thing, hearing Malkmus sing it another. He has a habit of slurring his words at times, especially when they can almost sound like other words (think of Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” when he repeats “career, career, career” at the end till it sounds like “Korea, Korea, Korea”). This is, of course, one of the great joys of music, the ways we can miss-hear it and make something new, from Lorrie Moore’s characters hearing the great Dylan line “the ants are my friends” to a person I used to know defanging Richard and Linda Thompson’s “Wall of Death” by singing the line, “Let me ride on the waterbed one more time.” In “Freeze the Saints” Malkmus rolls “help me languish here” over into “help me language here,” which means bunches if you want it to, especially recalling Malkmus once insisted he was cribbing lyrics from John Ashbery. Then again, it was the far more straightforward poet William Stafford who used to say, “Of course it rhymes, all words rhyme because they sound more like each other than they sound like silence,” which just means trying to nail the positive ID on the meaning you mean ain’t going to be easy when all the suspects look suspiciously the same. Or maybe Malkmus wants to start a new school of Languish Poets.

Listen to a sample 30 seconds of “Freeze the Saints.”

Gone Loco

It's good to know that our recent worries about how porous the U.S. border might be won't keep out your average psycho killer who idolizes Leatherface except doesn't have enough sense to wear a mask made of others skin and just looks loco on his own. After all, Despres only was "carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood." The customs officials probably thought, "Hey, making your own sword takes some good old American ingenuity, the total value of what he's bringing into the coutry is under $800, and what's best, no box cutters!"

Can you spot the problem with this quote from a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection? "Nobody asked us to detain him. Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up. . . . We are governed by laws and regulations, and he did not violate any regulations."

No, being bizarre won't get you locked up, just being vaguely Middle Eastern looking.

Alas, at least in our local paper Gregory Despres's frightening visage (warning, rhetoric level raised to orange alert!) was by far the second scariest face on the "Nation & World" section, for right up top we had to look at this!

Um, well, you can't look at this, which is supposed to be a link to a bug-eyed and freaky Bill Frist. The Santa Barbara News-Press ran the AP photo, but I can't find the image on the web anywhere. Even on the News-Press site the photo doesn't exist. Just the liberal media at work again.

Blind Item

From Rolling Stone, once maybe interested in the counter-culture (what a dated term that is) and music, but now just one more of the numerous outlets all too eager to keep us up on celebrity spawning:

Stevie Wonder has become a father for the seventh time. The music legend's spokesperson announced yesterday that Wonder's second wife, fashion designer Karen Millard Morris, gave birth to a boy, Mandla Kadjaly Carl Stevland Morris, on May 13th, Wonder's fifth-fifth birthday.

I guess the side effects for Viagra are real.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Need Something to Ease My Pain

Can't blog today...feel sick...trying to overcome agreeing with both Thomas AND Rehnquist on a Supreme Court decision. Siding with them and not even in the majority. Cruel, cruel world.

Monday, June 06, 2005

To the Victor Goes the Legal Challenge

The Republicans have to be furious again. Those judges just aren't activist enough! Reuters reports the good news:

A Washington state judge upheld on Monday Democrat Christine Gregoire's election as governor, tossing out a Republican challenge that claimed she won by the narrowest margin in state history because of improper ballot counting.

Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges said Republican Dino Rossi's supporters failed to show that Gregoire unfairly benefited from the counting of nearly 1,700 votes, including some from felons whose votes were not valid.

"The burden of proof is not met," said Bridges, who dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.

Speaking of dismissing things with prejudice, will we ever dismiss all the Republicans claims about how the Dems are obstructionist? Let's just run through some highlights of the recent ways the Republicans kept Democrats from doing their elected jobs:

1) The Gingrich who shut down the federal government.
2) The endless farce of the Clinton impeachment. (Bill lied about what bush he was schtupping, but Bush lies about every bill and we get schtupped.)
3) The sabotage of Paul Wellstone's plane. (ok ok, just checking to see if you're really reading)
4) The recall of Gray Davis a mere year after he convincingly won re-election, and the coronation of the Governator in the special recall election that made it easier for him to get in office.
5) These shenannigans in Washington at last put to rest (until Rossi appeals again, of course).

Even locally in Santa Barbara County they pulled the same recall trick on a county supervisor the rightwingers didn't like, and although they couldn't beat her then, it set the tone for some particularly pissy politics after that.

You do know that if somehow the Supreme Court ruled for Gore in 2000, that the Bush crew would have kept fighting. Never would Bush have uttered Gore's words in his televised concession: "Almost a century and a half ago, Senator Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency: 'Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism.' Well, in that same spirit, I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country."

Too bad we didn't get a split-screen of the look on Bush's face at that moment, as Rove sat next to him and most likely said, "George, we're going to make patriotism partisan."

Pope Goes the Weasel

In an effort to make his predecessor John Paul II--no raging liberal thinker himself--seem moderate, Pope "You Can't Make a" Benedict "If You Don't Break a Few Eggs" today first attacked gay marriage, claiming, according to the Canadian Press, that "matrimony was not just a 'casual sociological construction' that changed in certain times in history but rather an institution that had its roots 'in the most profound essence of the human being.'" So I guess that means all the marriage stuff through the centuries about dowries and fathers selling their daughters to the highest bidders/best son-in-laws really never happened. Or the Church believes that women as property is part of the most profound essence of the human being.

Then he hit close to my childless home--by our choice--with this preposterous statement before decrying abortion (no big surprise there), "From here it becomes all the more clear how contrary it is to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman, to systematically close their union to the gift of life." Because if the world needs anything, it's more people.

Benedict must heave a thankful hosanna heavenward to know that he has generations of previous papal bulls procreating just as he wanted.

Lohan: Not-So Fully Loaded

Tweeners are afraid of boobs, it seems, or perhaps "family audiences" have at last realized the danger of the mammary (they are connected to women, you know, and it's men who are important--that's why Laura Bush is trying to save them and why fetuses, aka possible boys, are more important than mothers). What else could this story mean, found today on IMDB, where you can keep abreast of the news:

Teen actress Lindsay Lohan's breasts have been digitally reduced for the forthcoming Disney film Herbie: Fully Loaded to avoid offending family audiences. Test screenings for the new movie, the fourth sequel to the 1968 film The Love Bug about a Volkswagen Beetle car with a mind of its own, indicated that some parents felt Lohan's character Maggie Peyton was too raunchy for a children's film. Disney technicians were forced to plough through numerous scenes - especially those showing the busty actress jumping up and down at a motor racing track, reducing her breasts by two cup sizes and raising revealing necklines on her T-shirts.

There has been no word on whether the Disney technicians also had to reduce the horsepower of the perky Herbie's overhead dual cams which have been known to have a mind of their own.

Friday, June 03, 2005

One if By Land, Two if By Satire

Tom Burka at the top of his game, which is sort of like MJ on a 50 point night, or Welles directing Citizen Kane, or Triumph the Insult Comic Dog taking on Spin Alley after the debates, over at the essential Opinions You Should Have:

Paul Revere A Despicable Tattletale, Says GOP

Republicans today criticized Paul Revere for his famous ride, saying that he had violated professional colonial ethics by divulging military secrets in violation of his duty to his lord, the King of England.

"These were sensitive informations about military troop movements with which he had been entrusted," said G. Gordon Liddy, an expert on ethics in government and a professor at several unaccredited law schools.

Go read it all.

Republican Tells the Truth

Scared you, didn't I? But at least for this one quote from a recent Los Angeles Times article considering how lame duckesque President Bush might be, Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, nailed something, "You have a president who, unlike previous second-term presidents, ran on a very specific agenda different from what he had tried to do in his first term."

Indeed. In his first campaign, he said he was a "uniter and not a divider." He said the mission of the U.S. wasn't nation building.

Not to mention Bush probably didn't want to run on the "accomplishments" of his first term. I doubt saying, "Well, only 3,000 American citizens were killed on our on soil on my watch--at least no other Americans died since then. Uh, on our soil, I mean," or, "Bigger is better when it comes to economics--that's why I've ballooned the deficit!" would have won him a second term.

So instead he scared the crap out of folks with both orange alerts and pink alerts--beware the terorrists and the gays. Either could attack any true American family, even the Cheneys.

I know, Iknow, there's nothing really new in this post, move along. Nonetheless I still have to make one last comment that is also all-too-typical, but what the hey.... That LA Times article opens with an anecdote that's meant to show Bush's indefatigability: "When President Bush first latched onto mountain biking as his favored form of exercise, he plowed over rough terrain with a distinctive technique: Even when he pedaled uphill, he refused to shift to a lower gear."

That might mean he's tough, sure. But as a sometimes biker, what I would tend to call someone who doesn't shift going uphill is stupid.

The Apricute Tree

Originally uploaded by Yatchisin.
For Dog Blog Friday: Back in 2001, Mookie harasses puppy Nigel; Nigel chews on the apricot tree. Both Nigel and the tree are much bigger now; one is nuts, the other bears fruit.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Was It Mark Felt in the Parking Garage with the Deep Throat?

Now that one great mystery has been solved, as we have learned that it was Mark Felt who played "Deep Throat" (note that porn actors don't age well)(oh, that was Linda Lovelace--never mind), that still leaves one great unaswered question from 1973: why did anyone listen to Jim Stafford's "Spiders & Snakes"? (And guess what, a quick Google shows he has a theatre, yep an "re" theatre for that touch of class, named after him in Branson, which must be the Hellmouth, all apologies to Sunnydale.)

Actually, that's not THE great 1973 mystery, at least according to USA Today, which should know mysteries, as it likes to call itself a newspaper. It seems the real mystery is who was Carly Simon singing about in her hit "You're So Vain." (Which, of course, avoids the obvious question, if "you're so vain, you probably think this song is about you" is true, then the song is really about someone else not vain enough to think the song is about him, but then that person isn't so vain...we just got lost on a moebius strip, I think.)

What else would you expect for someone whose height of anticipation is waiting for the Heinz to drip?

I Will Make It Through the Entire Entry without Ragging on Spielberg

Encouraging news! The Brits are as aesthetically challenged and historically ignorant as Americans! Check out Empire Magazine's poll of the Top 40 Directors of All-Time. Yes, that's both Ridley and Tony Scott (I'm sure for helming Top Gun alone). Yes, that's Robert Zemeckis above Fritz Lang, not to mention Anthony Minghella, Ron Howard and Sam Raimi above both Chaplin and Bergman. I mean, I really like The Evil Dead, but let's have some perspective folks.

Noticeably missing in action, and this is just a quick list:
Preston Sturges
George Cukor
Jean-Luc Godard
Wenrer Herzog
Wim Wenders
Jean Renoir
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Luis Buñuel
Vincente Minnelli
Ernst Lubitsch
Buster Keaton
F.W. Murnau
Yasujiro Ozu
and either Nicholas or Satyajit Ray (not brothers)

Better Read than Red, or Whoever It Is We Most Don't Trust Now

"The library tells us that you took out this book on these dates, tell us about yourself, who are you and why were you reading this book...."

Welcome to the Patriot Act, where your reading list might get you a visit from the not-so-friendly local FBI agent. At least that's what could happen without a fight led by librarians (that really isn't such a funny image, is it?) .

To learn more, check out the NPR Morning Edition story "Washington Library Tested by Patriot Act."

The Bush Administration, taking apart the Bill of Rights one right at a time.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far from the Bush

Sure a dad wants the best for his kids, but George Herbert Walker Bush's comments on Larry King, Where Live Means No Follow-Ups were pretty ridiculous today. It seems 41 not only wants a 43 but also a 44, and is pushing Jeb to run for president. GHW said, in his lovable subject-less syntax the nation has come to miss, I'm sure, "This guy's smart, big and strong. Makes the decisions. And you know, not without controversy, but he's led that state."

So it seems choosing a president is sort of like choosing a quarterback--let's just go for the guy who's smart, big and strong and led state.

Or we can be sure the president/quarterback is a triple threat who can punt, pass and kick (not that kind of pass, Mr. Clinton), turn on the vibrating machine (not that kind of vibrating, either), and watch the world go crazy--that's geo-politics!
eXTReMe Tracker