Strange Brouhaha

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It takes all kinds

You just knew there had to be somebody who doesn't think that it's great that Warren Buffett is giving the bulk of his foundation to the Gates Foundation so that it can be used to make the world a better place for people who desperately need it. In plain English, Tony Perkins is a small-minded asshole.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Let me get this straight

The government was able to bury yet another domestic spying scandal--this one about the government prying into bank accounts on its own say-so--by arresting a bunch of guys who were "worse than Al-Qaeda" and splashing it all over the front pages. This happened, by the way, three months after the investigation of that group concluded. I think they probably needed to be March.

There's a war going on that the Little Emperor's lackeys sat in front of the world and LIED about. They used intelligence that analysts were screaming was faulty, but the Little Emperor needed to prove that he had more sack than his old man. Our soldiers are being killed for pop psychology and bullshit.

There's so much going on in this country that I can't even list it all, and what is Congress wasting its time on? Amending the Constitution to prevent burning the flag.

Is there NOTHING more important?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Steve, Don't Eat It!

If you have a weak stomach or are at all sensitive to really disgusting things, you probably don't want to read The Sneeze's Steve, Don't Eat It! There's only one instance of Steve eating something not actually meant for human consumption. The rest of it is...well, I was okay until he got to the huitlacoche. Then I started getting queasy.

Steve is funny, though, so I was compelled to keep reading.

Teen Buzz: It's Real

Have you heard about this new cell-phone ringtone that only teenagers can hear? It's called Teen Buzz and it sits right at the upper end of the human ear's range, around 18 to 20kHz. Kids can hear it, grownups can't.

"Can't be real," I thought when I first heard about it.

Today, I decided that I would play it on my computer. There's a link to it in the story above. I loaded it up and played it. Nothing. Turned the volume up on the player. Nothing. Turned the volume up on my computer. Nothing. I totally didn't hear it.

There is a seven-year-old living in my house, however, who complained vociferously about the loud noise. It really bothered her. So based on a sample size of one, it really works.

Head over to that NPR site and listen for yourself.

Friday, June 23, 2006

What about all the times this doesn't happen?

Let's say you work in a job where you have access to data about your customers: their names, their home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and all the transactions they've ever had with your business. The police come to you and say, "Hey, we're looking for a guy who did something bad. He was carrying an item from your business. We need to see the records on anyone who purchased that item."

Most people would just say, "Okay," because we've been conditioned by years of watching police shows on TV: say "No" and you get strongarmed and threatened. By the good guys, no less. And the thing is, those same police shows--if you pay attention--tell us time and again what happens when the police do that: information obtained like that gets tossed because it wasn't obtained correctly. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong; all I know about criminal law is what they tell me on Law and Order. Curse you, Dick Wolf!)

So, in our hypothetical situation, you should actually say "No. Those are private records. You'll need to get a subpoena." If you do that, you're doing your job correctly and are actually helping make an airtight case against the suspect, right?

Apparently not if you're a library director in New Jersey, as seen on Slashdot this morning. No, if you're Michelle Reutty, you're going to be disciplined by your library board for protecting your patrons. You're going to be vilified by your mayor.

That leads me to the question posed by the title of this post: what about all the times this doesn't happen? How often are "requests" complied with? It's kind of scary, especially since USAPATRIOT actually prevents libraries from telling when the Feds search their records. I'm all for catching criminals, but procedure is procedure. The police and the mayor and the library board should be grateful to Michelle Reutty, and all librarians should be encouraged to follow her example.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What, Quakers getting uppity again?

Okay, so I'm a cynic. When I saw the CNN headline FBI raids targets in domestic terrorism probe, my first thought was that, given COINTELPRO and given more recent evidence that Quakers and anti-war protesters are what the Feds think of as "domestic terrorists," I just kind of rolled my eyes. I'm sure (or at least, I sure hope) that this is more serious than that, but it's distrust like this that the Little Emperor engenders.

The Pivot questionnaire

Because I can't come up with anything more interesting than this, I've decided to post my answers to the Pivot questionnaire that James Lipton uses on Inside the Actor's Studio. I think it's a trick that the desperate use in situations like this. Well...I'm desperate.

Also, the drive home made me think of it. Sir F. Crisp and I have seen a girl in a sandwich board standing outside the Boston Market every day this week; she's advertising some chicken special. I was thinking that that would be my answer for the "what profession would you not like to attempt" question.

Here goes...

  • What is your favorite word? As I've probably remarked before, the hands-down answer is defenestration. It's so cool that there's a word for that.

  • What is your least favorite word? I assume here that it has to be a word that you'd hear in everyday conversation, and that "word" doesn't mean "phrase". Given that, I'd have to say that my least favorite word is one that I overuse: really.

  • What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Gravitas. For example, I'm a sucker for the cliched "slow-mo backlit walk" that they use in action movies when the heroes are striding towards the final battle.

  • What turns you off? "Transgression" for its own sake, just to say "Ooh, look, we're so naughty!" Transgression with a point is good; someone saying "dildo" just to get a reaction is lame.

  • What is your favorite curse word? Gotta go with the twelve-letter classic: motherfucker.

  • What sound or noise do you love? The THX sound. Seriously. Especially when the bass kicks in.

  • What sound or noise do you hate? The sound of a Viva paper towel being dragged across ice. Try it sometime.

  • What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? It's tought to pick just one. If I was younger, chef or baker. If I was a better "people person," priest. If I was more patient, English teacher. If I was more talented, musician or fashion designer.

  • What profession would you not like to do? Despite the fact that being that girl outside the Boston Market would suck, I would much rather do that than anything that Mike Rowe does on the show "Dirty Jobs". Sewage treatment plant worker springs immediately to mind.

  • If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?"Hey, glad you're here. You did okay back there. Not the best, but not the worst. And I've got good news: Rick Berman didn't make the cut, so we've got decent Star Trek."

That's it. What's yours?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


In the name of avoiding three (at least; it's probably more like five) different projects that I need to get done, I went driving around for an hour or so. I really just sort of meandered, taking turns at whim. I ended up driving through quite a few different neighborhoods.

One thing I noticed was a preponderance of chain stores. This isn't a particularly new observation, of course; chains and franchises have been part of the suburban landscape for decades now, part of the increasing homogenization of not only the nation, but the world. Everywhere I went, there were Subways and Starbucks and McDonald's and Wendy's. Staples and Home Depots and Best Buys. Even places that weren't franchises had a depressingly generic look.

In the older neighborhoods closer to downtown Madison, there aren't quite as many chains. They're still there, yes, but mixed in with the chains are small, local shops. One store that particularly fascinated me was a tiny little florist's shop, tucked away in what my memory says was a combination house/storefront. I don't remember the name, or even where it was, but it was so tiny that I wondered how the owner stayed in business. A shop that size has to be a labor of love, don't you think?

It's a familiar pattern, as I said. Spiraling outward again from downtown, the number of chains increased once more: Subway again, McDonald's again, Taco John. Another Staples. I don't really have a pithy observation, other than...well, there it is.

As I was driving on the highway towards home, a police car about fifty yards in front of me suddenly slowed down and turned on its flashers. Naturally, everyone else slowed down, too. (I would say that they slowed down in case the police car was going to take off with its sirens blazing, but this is Madison. It's rare to see people stop for emergency vehicles.) As I drove past the police car, which was now crawling along with its lights flashing, I could see in the headlights a mother duck and her ducklings, waddling serenely along the roadside against the flow of traffic.

I guess it was a reminder, in a way, that small kindnesses can make a big difference.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Apparently, the eight people and/or organizations who hold fishing permits for the Northwest Hawaiian Islands are cheesed off that they'll no longer be able to fish now that L'Etat has declared the islands a national monument. The headline claims that The Decider has stirred up "controversy," but...the article itself doesn't really mention anything controversial. All it says is that the lobbyist claims that there's not a problem, and one fisherman or fisherperson or whatever claims that their activities don't hurt anything.

The use of the word "controversy" implies a little more activity than that, I think. Anyway, cry me a river. I mean, it's too bad that they're not going to be able to continue earning a living the way they're used to doing it, but wouldn't you think that five years is enough time to be able to find a new fishing spot?

And by the way, for a really great book about NWHI and the wildlife there, check out Middleton and Littschwanger's Archipelago. The photos are absolutely gorgeous.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Paranoia calling

Slashdot linked to a Yahoo! News article about police surveillance drones in LA. I'm sure it's a great tool. From the article: "'This technology could be used to find missing children, search for lost hikers, or survey a fire zone,' said Commander Sid Heal, head of the Technology Exploration Project of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department."

Yeah, "could be". I'm a cynic. How long before it's being used day-to-day to keep tabs on ordinary citizens? I'm soooo sure that that concern is "unwarranted".

Time to put on the tinfoil hat.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Today's Haiku

Michelle Wie can't putt.
George Bush is very stupid.
I want to eat pie.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tony Awards (Go Away, Cyndi Lauper)

I am watching the Tony Awards tonight, as I (try to) do every year. At this very moment, the horrendously untalented Cyndi Lauper (lack of talent exaggerated, but only a little, for hyperbole's sake) is attempting to sing with Alan Cumming in a performance from "The Threepenny Opera". (It is obvious, at least to me, that they really wanted Bernadette Peters but couldn't get her, because Lauper was made up to look like her.) Cyndi Lauper has an unbelievably weak, completely unsupported singing voice. I am bothered, but fortunately not enough to stop watching the Tony Awards forever.

Don't laugh. Cyndi Lauper is the reason I stopped watching the American Music Awards. (Okay, laugh, but it's true.)

(By the way, did I use enough parentheses?)

So far, "Jersey Boys" had the best performance, which is kind of sad because it wasn't an original song--but the performance was great.

Best line: Christine Ebersole, to Rod from "Avenue Q", "A Republican puppet. Sounds familiar." Got a big pop from the audience.

Biggest WTF: The "special performance" from "Phantom" in honor of Hal Prince's Lifetime Achievement Tony was about fifteen seconds long.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The REAL target

While I'm glad we got the "godfather of sectarian killing and terror in Iraq," I think it's time that we impeach the father of sectarian killing and terror in Iraq.

The real "conservative" rock song

Duh--it's One In A Million by Guns n' Roses. Especially the "immigrants and faggots" part, which perfectly expresses the George W. Bush mindset. I'm surprised I didn't think of it before.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Short stack

  • I get to do The Blitz again. I encourage people who live in Madison to come to either one of the shows; there's potential for some really good theater in the Blitz. I just hope that I can write something halfway decent this year.

  • I want to be able to give props to my sort-of-homie, Michelle Wie, but I can't do that until she manages to learn how to putt. Happy Gilmore notwithstanding, you can have all the distance and power in the world, but you still need to get the ball into the hole. It's a lesson that Tiger Woods had to learn, if I remember correctly, back when he was the overhyped phenom. Michelle's poor, deluded father needs to realize that she won't "prove that she can play with men" until she starts making some damn putts.

  • Cool video: takeoffs and landings at the Princess Juliana airport in St. Maartens. The airport is right across the street from this little strip of beach, and planes a just a few dozen feet off the ground. It's a great planespotting place, from what I hear.

  • How does Fox "News" get away with begging white people to make more babies to defend against Those People? It almost makes me want to have about three more kids just to tell John Gibson that he can go fuck himself.

  • Speaking of Fox "News", I saw a tag on there that said "Awaiting Bush Speech on Gay Marriage" or something like that. As I told my friend Sir F. Crisp, unless The Decider is going get up there and say, "You know what? I'm an asshole, and anybody who wants to waste this nation's time on this bullshit is an asshole too. We have more important things to take care of, so you jackasses quit fucking around and solve some actual problems," I'm not really awaiting anything he has to say.

  • Has there ever been a stupider President?

Monday, June 05, 2006

A tale of two sandwiches

For something that's so simple ("Two pieces of bread with stuff in the middle," as I think Alton Brown once said), making a great sandwich is surprisingly difficult. Oh, it's easy to make an adequate sandwich, but "great" is another thing entirely.

A great sandwich is all about balance. Everything has to be exactly right: the ratio of bread to filling, the relationsip between the texture of the bread and the texture of the filling, even the way the flavor of the bread mixes with the flavor of the filling. If one of those things isn't right, you've left any hope of greatness behind. It's a strange thing; your individual ingredients can be great, but put them together and it's just a mess.

I had a flawed masterpiece this weekend, the chicken salad sandwich at Hubbard Ave Diner in Middleton, just down the road from my house. It put me in mind of the best chicken salad sandwich ever, from the late Urban Market, and made me miss it even more.

There is a sandwich-making axiom: soft fillings, soft bread. Tuna, chicken salad, even peanut butter and jelly, shouldn't go on a hard roll. The filling just spills out the sides of the bread, all over your hands. I don't even like to make those kinds of sandwiches on soft bread with a hard crust (the way Atlanta Bread Company does it). Urban Market had a nice, soft wheat bread that was perfect for their chicken salad. Hubbard Ave had a great-tasting bread, but they toasted it. In itself, that's not a problem.

The problem comes with the reason they toast the bread: they put a HUGE amount of chicken salad on the sandwich, and toasting the bread makes it firm enough to absorb some of the liquid of the salad and still hold together. The chicken salad itself was excellent--grapes, walnuts, chicken and mayo, with pepper and something else that I couldn't quite taste. But there was just too much of it. (Urban Market, of course, had a perfect balance between filling and bread. That lady was a genius.)

This was by all means a good sandwich. I'd eat it again. It was restrained from greatness, though, by the tendency that restaurants have to overdo everything. They need to take some lessons on "less is more".

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Yes, and that's why they're making sure there is one now

"I might not be here," says the black man in an interracial relationship, "if there had been a popular vote about my rights."

Yep--exactly right. "Miscegenation," as it is so quaintly called, used to be illegal. Reports Mel Hoover, "My wife and I would hear the same arguments about interracial marriage that we're hearing now about same sex marriage." Then, in a fit of profound naivete, Hoover declares, "But [when interracial marriage was legalized], the nation didn't collapse. Religion didn't collapse. Marriage didn't collapse."

Ah, but if you are a racist, yes it did. The fact of a black man's ability to legally marry a white woman (because that's really what gets people) *is* the collapse, if you are a racist.

Now, those rockin' (free reg required) conservatives were asleep at the switch on the miscegenation thing. But they Won't Get Fooled Again. Precisely because of what Mel Hoover says--that miscegenation might well have been enshrined in the Constitution if given a chance--the people who would lay claim to the cultural fruits of all they despise are going to make good and goddamn sure that the human rights of any American who chooses to partner with someone of the same sex *are* put to a popular vote.

Great way to distract from certain issues in the Middle East, too, and the New Cold War being started by Dick Cheney.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Decider can feel free to decide to shut up

Here's The Decider urging calm as he pushes for the Constitution to be used to (further) marginalize millions of Americans: "As this debate goes forward, we must remember that every American deserves to be treated with tolerance, respect and dignity. All of us have a duty to conduct this discussion with civility and decency toward one another, and all people deserve to have their voices heard." Apparently, the phrase "every American" should not be construed to actually mean every American.

There you go again

While it's interesting to note that he includes whiny pseudo-intellectual self-justification this time around, it's otherwise merely annoying that the same idiot who made the list of fifty conservative rock songs has seen fit to do it again. There are a lot more howlers on there this time around.

Like "Little Red Corvette".


Friday, June 02, 2006

Quick "what the hell is wrong with this country" notes

  • The chairman of an RFID manufacturing company has a plan to implant chips into immigrants. Unsurprisingly, he promoted this on Fox "News". Why not just make immigrants wear colored patches on their clothes to identify them as immigrants? Perhaps there could also be living quarters built especially for immigrants, possibly concentrating them into specific locations. Camps, maybe. It's a much more final solution.

  • With everything else going on, who gives a good goddamn about the lesbian Batwoman? Batwoman was dull and uninteresting back in the day when she was straight. I'm sure she'll be dull and uninteresting as a lesbian, unless maybe they get Chuck Dixon to write it.

  • Here, the headline is enough: Couple ordered hit on grandkids. Their own grandkids.

  • MSNBC has posted the transcript for last night's Countdown. You should look at it for the part I mentioned yesterday, where Olbermann kicks Bill O'Reilly's ass. It's about 3/5 of the way down.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Keith Olbermann rules

If you were not watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann just now, you missed him kicking Bill O'Reilly's ass. I wish I meant that literally, but he had a great piece about O'Reilly's utter ignorance.

In 2005, O'Reilly was trying to justify Abu Ghraib by invoking the massacre of SS troops by U.S. soldiers at Malmedy in World War II. He did it again last night or the night before, justifying what happened at Haditha. The problem, of course, is that because he's an idiot, O'Reilly got the details just a little bit wrong. Specifically, it was the SS doing the shooting and the American soldiers doing the dying.

Olbermann gave an utterly disdainful summary of the events and then revealed that (surprise!) Fox "News" is editing the transcripts of the shows to try and make O'Reilly not look like an idiot. Fortunately, you can find real transcripts all over the Internet. (Here's a website with video and a transcript.)

What really scares me about this is that there are people out there who actually think Bill O'Reilly is smart and principled and assorted other things that he's not, and there are people out there who take what he says as gospel. Malmedy is not exactly general knowledge, and so there are now a lot of people out there who are going to take this and say "We have every right! It was done to us in WWII!"

Translating Bush-speak

Here's Bush on Haditha: "I am troubled by the initial news stories," Mr. Bush said. "I'm mindful that there's a thorough investigation going on. If in fact, laws were broken, there will be punishment."

Translation: "I am troubled by the initial news stories" doesn't mean what you think it means, unless you think it means "I am troubled that the liberal media is reporting this story," in which case you would be right. "I'm mindful that there's a thorough investigation going on" translates as "We are now going to hide behind the 'we won't comment on an ongoing investigation' lie that we use whenever it's convenient." As for the last is it possible that laws were not broken? Oh, wait: the President, like Judge Dredd, IS the law.