Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Still More Katrina Blogging

Here's a blog by a mom from Slidell, LA who (with her hubby, kids, and dogs) made it up to Tennessee to stay with her sister. Excerpt:

That's our minivan in the driveway being loaded a few items. It still has the car-top carrier on it that I used for the camping trip. We threw a few of our things up there as well, but we didn't have much.

Car Inventory:

1 bag for each person with enough clothing for a week
2 coolers full of food from the fridge, drinks for the road, water, and a few frozen items
1 box photo albums
3 pillows
1 large dog crate
1 small dog kennel
1 box of dry goods (peanut butter, bread, cereal, pretzels)
1 bag of important papers and files
2 dogs
3 kids

Hubby drove his car, and I drove the van.

A few thoughts on the situation in the Gulf states:

  • I hope economists, sociologists, and historians are keeping copious notes on all this; The sudden removal of an entire major American city from the economy and the introduction of hundreds of thousands of newly homeless and jobless people into new areas will have God-knows-what effects on the rest of the country.
  • Slate explains the Sea Level concept.
  • National Geographic and Popular Mechanics have both run articles in the past few years about this very scenario. IF YOU DO NOTHING ELSE TODAY, READ THESE TWO ARTICLES! NG excerpt from 2004:

Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste. Thousands more who survived the flood later perished from dehydration and disease as they waited to be rescued. It took two months to pump the city dry, and by then the Big Easy was buried under a blanket of putrid sediment, a million people were homeless, and 50,000 were dead. It was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States.

When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

  • If you're a woman, then you don't sweat; You perspire. If you're white, then you don't loot; You salvage.
  • On 9/11, the New York Police and Fire Departments were devastated. But the survivors knew they'd still have a) jobs to return to, and b) a city to serve and protect. Will New Orleans Police and Fire personnel have the same assurances?
  • For every worst-case scenario that pans out, I bet there are thousands that are sheer malarkey. The trick is to separate them. Just because this far-fetched possibility actually happened, that doesn't mean that the next one will.
  • Keep a skeptical view of charities with catchy names that pop up out of nowhere. Refer to the American Institute of Philanthropy for documentation of the legitimacy/efficiency of charitable organizations.
  • On a related note, keep an eye out for hoaxers and scammers. Some will be looking for a way to make a quick buck, some will be looking for attention by means of sad stories about "dead" relatives who are safe and dry in Omaha (if they even exist in the first place). For example, those reports of Dan Kennings floating out to sea just after he used his last ounce of strength to swim his little girl Kodee to a rooftop might not be 100% accurate.
  • Southern hospitality aside, there will be thousands and thousands of displaced persons in all the neighboring states (and beyond) for an indefinite amount of time to come. They are planning on moving the refugees from the Superdome over to Houston's Astrodome. (Although according to that Chronicle story, New Orleans evacuees who did not go to the Astrodome first are not welcome there!) How long will they stay? For the first while, everyone in Texas will make a big deal out of welcoming them, but how long before tensions rise and the locals start murmuring about Louisiana immigrants they same way some do about Mexican immigrants? Same goes for any other community that suddenly finds itself with a large influx of "outsiders."
  • Kaye's Hurricane Katrina Blog is now up to #5679 (Flappy Bird) on TTLB, as of 11:20 PM, 8/31/05. Still no links graph.
  • Cindy Sheehan certainly had the media spotlight yanked from it's focus on her quite suddenly.
  • I'd like to see stats on how this site and this site have had their hits spike in the past few days.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Another Katrina Blog

Here is Kaye Trammell's Hurricane Katrina Blog, mentioned in this AFP article on hurricane blogging. Kaye is currently (8:40 PM, 8/30/05) at #7527 (Slithering Reptile) on TTLB. (Again, as with Steven Vincent, I'm not trying to be macabre or disrespectful, but it might be instructive to see how the blogosphere reacts to her site linkwise. Since Prof. Trammell teaches mass communications, I hope she agrees that this is worthy of observation) Her links graph from her TTLB page did not show for me or I would have posted a screenshot of it.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Louisiana Bloggers, H.H. Holmes Doc, Clothes Make the Man

Here are a bunch of blogs from Lousiana. Also, the NOLA blogger. Keep in mind, some may not have charged up the battery packs for their laptops and might not be near a Wi-Fi hotspot.

In other news, here's a cool documentary I watched yesterday about H.H. Holmes, the villainous serial killer of The Devil in the White City.

Fashion facism advice from Ann Althouse. Retort by the newly blogrolled Wordhoard. Wilson Quarterly on appearance (via Tinkerty Tonk) here. (PS - I could have sworn I commented on this at TT.) My rationale for my normal attire is as follows: About three or four times a month I dress up nice (khakis, loafers, dress shirt, tie) when customers or vendors come to visit our company for meetings. These meetings will take from 30 minutes to two or three hours. After the meetings conclude, I return to my normal duties. But, I can't concentrate as well. I keep thinking "When can I go home and take off these stupid clothes?" However, for non-meetings days when I dress normally (T-shirt, shorts, tennis shoes, usually not spilled on) I start thinking about what I want to accomplish that day as soon as I get in the car, and jump into productivity as soon as I get to work. And I enjoy it so much (I have a cool job) that most of the time I hang around a couple extra hours to get more work finished. So, if I were to just dress nicely all the time, it's like I'd be cheating my employer. And if I feel like being metrosexual, I'll just listen to my Duran Duran tribute album.

New Orleans: Low & Lying

Sometimes people tell me I over-hyphenate. Maybe. However...

Mon Aug 29, 4:28 AM ET
NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - With their possessions wrapped in plastic trash bags or hastily packed in cars, citizens in this low lying Louisiana city were scooping up their children and pets and heading for shelter as powerful Hurricane Katrina threatened deadly floods.

I know the Big Easy has a reputation for producing shady characters, but come on, Agence French Presse -- can't you avoid hurling invective until they're done with their hurricane?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Word Verification, Welcome New Blogrollees, Blogging Good for You

Speaking of word verification, after a recent batch of comment spam I have taken advantage of Blogger's word verification option for comments. From now on, if you want to leave a comment, it will ask you to type in confirmation of a slightly distorted set of letters as proof of your status as a human being.

Today is multisyllabic-noun-modified-by-multisyllabic-adjectivized-noun day here at NOTM, so please welcome to the blogroll Foxy Librarian, Suburban Guerilla, and Alabama's own Unlocked Wordhoard (thanks for the link). Susie at SG has a good post (i.e. one that provides self-justification) on why blogging is good for you. Original source here. Excerpt:

Blogs promote analogical thinking. Recent international surveys have shown that students in the United States have fallen far behind most of their first world peers in problem solving and critical thinking. This fall has coincided with a shameful decline in school-based instruction in critical analysis, rhetoric, and persuasive writing. However because professionals like attorneys, philosophers, and academicians run many excellent blogs, we all can benefit from their intellectual rigor, and their use of analogical thinking when communicating to the common world of the blogosphere. Back-and-forth blog-based exchanges between experts also provide a unique opportunity for young thinkers to witness and evaluate arguments from analogy on an ongoing basis, and to develop their own abilities to think analogically.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Third in an Occasional Series

Cleaning through the favorites list further, I find:

October 2003 Joseph Epstein interview. Buckley on Epstein here.

The National Senior Spelling Bee.

The great Joe Bob Briggs, author of Profoundly Disturbing : The Shocking Movies that Changed History.

A great article on continuity within elaborate fictional universes. Excerpt:

If Scotty witnesses Captain Kirk’s death at the beginning of Star Trek VII, it is extremely troubling to some of us—those who care, those who have intellectual integrity and the discipline of logic!—if Scotty is awakened from suspended animation approximately seventy years later in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and asks whether Captain Kirk is still alive. Scotty should know that Kirk isn’t! Something is wrong! It doesn’t add up—yet it must! It must!

John Batelle, who is working on a book about Google, has a blog about search engines.

Betsy is a conservative history teacher from North Carolina.

Medley is not a conservative history teacher from North Carolina.

Everything you'd ever want to know about How and Why Wonder Books. (Note: I had a ton of these! I think my mom has them in a box somewhere.)

And LBNL, the misspelled-but-so-what Akkam's Razor.

F for Fake, P for Punk'd, E for Esquivalience

If you like everything cut and dried, skip this post.
The other day I watched the (until recently hard-to-come-by) Orson Welles film F for Fake, which was one of his last. Mr. Welles, IMHO, was among the greatest artists of the 20th Century. His range of interests and talents (movies were only one part) and his ability to put on a show impress me to no end; thus my small tribute to him with the name of my blog.

A number of things I have read about Fake refer to it as a film "essay" or "meditation." It is certainly not linear, and it might take a few viewings to catch everything. It's both a documentary and not.

To summarize: Welles, who spent much of his later life in Europe, wanted to do a fairly standard film on a guy named Elmyr de Hory, who was known in the 60s-70s Euro-jet set as the guy who could whip up a "lost masterpiece" before lunch. He was a supremely skilled (con)artist who created an untold number of forgeries, and enjoyed the good life on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza. (There is a more linear telling of his story in another documentary, "Masterpiece or Forgery?." I saw this a few years ago but now I want to see it again.) (Update: 12:24 PM 8/28/05: I got "Masterpiece or Forgery?" out of the library yesterday, and I now realize that it is the exact same documentary as is on disc two of the Criterion Collection "F for Fake" DVD with the title "Almost True: The Noble Art of Forgery." End of update.) Among the interviewees was a semi-successful author who was writing a biography of Elmyr named Clifford Irving. In the midst of the project, it came to light that another project of Irving's -- the memoirs of Howard Hughes -- was totally faked. And furthermore, this fakery was connected to the so-called lost will of Howard Hughes, also faked. Welles wraps up with a little-known story about Picasso, related to the rest of what was shown, that puts the cherry on the sundae.

Of course Welles describes these complicated connections (and more -- including his own personal acquaintance with Hughes, the possibility that C.F. Kane might have been based on Hughes rather than William Randolph Hearst, Welles's fakery with the 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast, etc.) in a manner that suggested he enjoyed forcing the interested to pay attention if they wanted to keep up with him. The inattentive don't deserve the payoffs offered. Lots of philosophy here. Welles asks why the art forgeries are such a problem, and why the originals are important in the first place. The originals, he points out, have value based on how the experts appraise them. But Elmyr would create stuff that could totally bamboozle an experienced art expert, and then groupthink would set in to give the forgery a round of applause from the art appraisal community. So, Welles asks, who really is the expert? And who is the fake?

Flash forward to 2005. On the front page of yesterday's Chicago Tribune, above the fold, readers were greeted with a picture of an all-American looking father and his young daughter. Kind of. And, the following text:

Did Sgt. Dan Kennings die in Iraq? Not really.
Did Sgt. Dan Kennings even exist? Well, no.
So who was that little girl writing the letters?

(Not) Sgt. (not) Dan Kennings with his (not) daughter (not) Kodee. Note the conveniently obscured license plate.

The story, which will likely unfold further (here's today's follow-up), is about the staff of the Southern Illinois University student paper, the Daily Egyptian, getting punk'd by one or more SIU students into believing (over the course of years) that a cute little girl named Kodee Kennings was writing letters about how she missed her daddy who was serving in Iraq. Ostensibly, he was all she had left, and when he was "killed," she was left an orphan. The hoax even extended so far as to have the students and others meet "Kodee" and "Dan" in real life. The hoaxer(s) convinced people whom they knew who fit the roles that they were putting together a documentary on a real-life soldier in Iraq, and they needed people to act in re-creations (with hidden cameras!). Excerpts:

In southern Illinois, the tale began in 2003, when student reporter Michael Brenner said he was handed a letter from a little girl saying she saw an anti-war protest on the Southern Illinois University campus and that it bothered her because her dad was a soldier. Brenner e-mailed the little girl and, as he learned more about her situation, decided to tell her story.The story appeared in the Daily Egyptian on May 6, 2003, detailing an 8-year-old's struggles saying goodbye to her father, who was shipping off to Iraq with the 101st Airborne. According to the story, Kodee had lost her mother years earlier, so Kennings was her only blood relative."I don't have a mom," Kodee was quoted saying in the newspaper story. "If he died, I don't have anywhere to go."

On Saturday morning, cars began pulling into the gravel parking lot of a one-story American Legion hall in Orient, Ill., about 30 miles northeast of Carbondale, for a memorial service. Hastings and Kodee got out of a red Pontiac Grand Am, the little girl wearing an Army uniform shirt that hung down to her knees.People inside the memorial service said both Hastings and Kodee were in tears. A video showed Kennings in his fatigues speaking with a group of children at a church, and there was a scrapbook filled with pictures of Kennings straddling a tank cannon or huddling with other soldiers.Tribune reporters continued asking questions, and some students and a faculty member were growing increasingly hostile because of suggestions that Kennings did not exist.

Reynolds acknowledged the little girl is the daughter of friends and said she persuaded the parents to let her bring the child to Carbondale regularly by saying she was filming a documentary about a soldier killed in Iraq."We told her it was for a movie," Reynolds said.

On Thursday, 10-year-old Caitlin Hadley sat between her parents on a couch in her mom's office, retelling the two-year odyssey that began with her belief that she was going to be the star of a documentary film about a little girl named Kodee."It was sort of weird, but I had a lot of fun," Caitie said.Her father, Richard Hadley, is a pastor at a Nazarene church in Montpelier, Ind., and her mother works for the church's regional office. Both said they felt they'd been scammed by Reynolds."I just realized that I didn't know this girl," Tawnya Hadley said. "In the profession that my husband is in, we move and meet new people all the time. What if she'd never brought Caitie back? We feel like we're idiots."

Observations? When the emotions are engaged without the balance of skepticism, things like this flourish. Some people go shopping for sad (or happy, or inspiring, or whatever) things to believe.

I'd like to see what Welles would have done with this incident. How would he have incorporated his philosophical inquiry about fakery, illusion, deception, reality, etc. into the larger question of the war? Welles was mostly apolitical, but a Wellesian examination of the Kennings fakery would almost certainly have led to questions about the original arguments made in favor of the war, Saddam's use of doubles, the questionable motives of Dr. Chalabi, G.W.'s Sixteen Words, the Pentagon's and the media's enhancements of Jessica Lynch's capture and rescue, Colin Powell's tribute to Adlai Stevenson at the U.N., and the overall Madison Avenue mentality associated with the lead-up to military action. Not to say that all these things were deliberately lied about or that they are all true, just that they all have at least some aspects of truth and falsehood to them.

Update, 7:32 PM, 8/27/05: It's pretty apparent that (unless new information emerges) the young journalists and others at SIU were not engaged in esquivalience -- that is, the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities. But wait - did I just engage in a piece of fakery myself? Similar to when Welles asked what art was, and wanted to know why the experts weren't fakers and the forger wasn't the expert, am I helping perpetuate another hoax by discussing the esquivalience or lack of esquivalience of the SIU journalism students? Now the guy in the picture either was or was not in Iraq and the little girl either was or was not his daughter (and "was not" is the answer to both). However, (if we agree that language is constantly evolving), now that I have made the suggestion that the SIU newspaper staff is largely esquivalience-free, have I helped make "esquivalience" slightly more legitimate (especially if others do likewise) in the same way that some of Elmyr's fakes are now valued as art? Last thing: If you are screwing around reading this at work when you should be doing something else, you are being e-squivalient.


Friday, August 26, 2005

Amphibian... or Am-I-phibian?

Crawly Amphibian. Sweet! Although, I'm not sure how well the TTLB ecosystem has been working lately. There have been assorted rumblings... for instance, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Strung-Out Superheroes; Hagel in 2008.

Excellent point made here about Captain America encouraging kids to stay away from drugs. Long story short, Captain America was a skinny little bitch until he got shot up with all these steroids that turned him into a tough guy. Had he not taken the drugs, he'd be a forgotten loser. Having taken the drugs, he is practically immortal. Great anti-drug message. (Where does Easy Rider fit in to this?) DC-wise, Hourman and Elongated Man got where they are by ingesting stuff that the late Hunter Thompson would likely have declined.

I'm keeping an eye on Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel for the Oval Office in '08. (And not just because he criticized the Bush Administration's handling of Iraq the other day.) I voted for Richard Lugar back in '96, the guy who kept going on about how we might have to worry about terrorists attacking the country someday and who never got above single digits (low single digits) in the state caucuses and primaries. Lugar is (finally) the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I get the impression he is kind of a mentor to Hagel, who is second-ranking Republican on that committee. While looking for Web comments on the possibility of a Hagel run, I found a list of links about potential 2008 presidential candidates and a blog about the 2008 race.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Second in an Occasional Series

First of all, thanks to Amba for her kind words.

More bookmark cleaning:

If you don't look at anything else from this post, make sure to examine The Picture of Everything by Howard Hallis.

Have you ever wanted to draw like M.C. Escher? (Or at least tessellate like him?)

Muppet Central has a bunch of cool stuff. So does The Kermitage.

I have always loved crime and mystery novels. Here's A Guide to Classic Mystery and Detection.

Here's an interesting article I found a few years ago when I was trying to explain to a couple of friends of mine that ritual abuse of children by Satan worshippers is not exactly as widespread a phenomenon as they were concerned it might be.

Here's a 2004 article from the Telegraph on the origins of certain words and phrases. Excerpt:

Something that is the "bee's knees" is stylish and the height of excellence. It is sometimes explained as being from an Italian-American way of saying "business". I've also heard it argued that it is properly "Bs and Es", an abbreviation for "be-alls and end-alls". Both are wrong. "Bee's knees" is actually one of a set of nonsense catchphrases from 1920s America, the period of the flappers. You might at that time have heard such curious concoctions as "cat's miaow", "elephant's adenoids", "tiger's spots", "bullfrog's beard", "elephant's instep", "caterpillar's kimono", "turtle's neck", "duck's quack", "gnat's elbows", "monkey's eyebrows", "oyster's earrings", "snake's hips", "kipper's knickers", "elephant's manicure", "clam's garter", "eel's ankle", "leopard's stripes", "tadpole's teddies", "sardine's whiskers", "pig's wings", "bullfrog's beard", "canary's tusks", "cuckoo's chin" and "butterfly's book".

Lots of essays on politics and philosophy. The heading says "conservative" but, for my leftish friends, please don't let that dissuade you. Tocqueville, Mill, Burke, Hazlitt, Emerson, et al. rather than Coulter, Hannity, O'Reilly, et al.

PC World Magazine's 50 tips to kill the clutter on your puter.

You'll either think this is funny or you won't. If the phrase "Han shot first" means anything to you, you'll be more likely to be amused.

And last but not least, Guess the Dictator and/or Sitcom Character. I was only able to stump it with Byelorussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

The First in an Occasional Series

Believe it or not, lately I've been trying get stuff in general cleaned up and organized. For instance, last weekend I got the book room in good enough shape that there is a clearly defined walking path. And right this minute my bedroom floor is totally cleared. Except for one stack of magazines. And one stack of newspapers. Both are four feet high. But, whatever.

I'm going to try to spend a few minutes each day clearing out my favorites/bookmarks for dead links or links that I don't really need anymore -- There's probably 250 sitting there not in folders. And put them where? Labeled folders? My recycle bin? Eventually, but first, let me share the creme de la recyclables here. Think of it as cyberdumpster diving without getting your hands dirty.

For you starving freelance writers out there, if you want to starve some more, Inkwell Editorial has a blog about freelancing. Also, if you know anything about any of the topics on this list you might want to fill out the application to be an About dot com guide. If you don't want to starve, I guess it's time to get an actual job.

If you're interested in a (possibly incomplete/possibly out-of-date) look at state educational standards, look no further.

Here's a M*A*S*H tribute page.

Here's the Bad Cinema Diary. "A movie guide for those who believe lower budgets mean better films ."

A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names. I'll have to throw some these into future posts to make myself highbrow.

Adventure Comics Cover Gallery 1951-1969.

Here's a neat little site about one of the coolest jazz photographs ever taken. The story behind this photograph is told in the documentary A Great Day in Harlem.

The Lambiek Comiclopedia, with 7,000 entries on comic artists.

The now-in-limbo World Quiz League.

I guess this took more than a few minutes (stupid dial-up) but it was kind of fun to go back and look at stuff I hadn't read in a while. More bookmark straightening later this week.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

I Have Always Wanted...

I am currently #14445 on TTLB (exact ranking fluctuates, of course). Some of my more interesting new neighbors include The Mooted Point at #14433; The U of C's Nobody Sasses a Girl in Glasses at #14463 (Tell Martha Nussbaum I said hi); The Idea Man (Men?) at #14473; 40 Hours of Television at #14475. Neighbors, nice to make your e-quaintance. Everybody else, stop on over and check them out.

Kung Fu, Puzzle Cheating, Alan Lomax, Stetson Kennedy, The Freakos, Fritz Lang

First of all, if you haven't seen Kung Fu Hustle yet, go out and rent a copy right away. It's fantastic! If you're a Coen Brothers fan, you'll love it. Lots of Chuck Jonesish images. It's different from most movies you've seen, and whenever something is different, it gets an extra ten points from me, even if it's not that good. But KFH is different and good. I'm looking forward to watching the extras and commentary later today.

Here's Kevin Choset, Volokh's Puzzleblogger, with views on what constitutes cheating in crossword, trivia, and other puzzles. I am largely but not entirely in agreement with him. Even though I do it occasionally, I am reluctant to invite the comments of those with whom I happen to be sitting while doing crosswords (usually my lunchmates at work), but like him, I would never dream of Googling for anything. BTW, you've probably heard Carl Orff's work, even if you didn't realize it. They play it in a lot of movies right when the maniacal bad guy has unveiled his unstoppable plan for world domination.

I'm adding the official Alan Lomax website to the blogroll. Alan Lomax, who died a few years ago, was one of the 20th Century's foremost musicologists. He carried on the work that his father started by travelling the world and recording (in the field - often literally) the folk music of Europe, the Middle East, the American South, Asia, the Caribbean, you name it. I'd love to read a well-researched, definitive biography of Lomax, but as far as I know none have ever been written on him.

Also, lending evidence to my belief that most interesting things are connected to each other somehow, there is a tribute to Lomax on the front page of that site written by Stetson Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy is the man described in Freakonomics who went undercover as a KKK recruit so as to get the secret passwords that were immediately incorporated into the Superman radio show. Too long to explain if you haven't read the book.

Also about Freakonomics, I am going to vote for it in the newly established Quill Awards. If they lose, Freakonomics, 2nd ed. can have a chapter explaining how Web-based voting awards like this are almost meaningless. (I assume everyone knows who Hank, the Angry Drunken Dwarf was?)

I'm adding the U.K.'s Spike Magazine to my links, too. Here's an article from them on the great German director Fritz Lang.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Everything Old Is New Again

The book of Ecclesiastes asserts that there is nothing new under the sun. This (actually, that whole ninth verse) is one of my two principles for interpreting history and current events. The other is John Ford's dictum from Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Keep those two ideas in mind and you'll soon have history by the tail.

The media and blogosphere perpetual-motion machine surrounding Cindy Sheehan (which, believe it or not, is less than two weeks old) reminded me of something I read about Harry Truman years ago, and tonight I finally found the reference for which I was looking. As I said the other day, I do not believe that the way to win an argument is to get the most sad people on your side. But, I thought the following was interesting.

In David McCullough's epic biography of Harry S Truman he tells the story of first daughter Margaret's critically panned opera debut, after which Mr. Truman wrote a strongly worded letter to music critic Paul Hume of the Washington Post.

This letter became public, and, given the fact that the Korean War was in full swing, certain citizens took the Commander-in-Chief to task. From pages 830-831 of Truman: (0-671-45654-7) (Caps on third quote intact from book; Bolding on Banning letter mine)

McCullough: "White House letters and telegrams ran nearly two to one against him and many, from mothers and fathers for whom the incident could only be seen in the context of the tragedy in Korea, voiced a deep-seated outrage that had to have touched Truman more than he ever let on."

Letter #1: In times such as the present when the entire country is under abnormal duress and strain, your undue "concern" over your daughter's musical career is completely ridiculous.

Letter #2: Why don't you apologize to Mr. Hume, and then persuade your daughter to give up singing and take up some kind of war work where the public will appreciate her efforts.


McCullough: "How many of these Truman actually saw is not known. But one letter from a Mr. and Mrs. William Banning of New Canaan, Connecticut, he both saw and held on to. It had been mailed with a Purple Heart enclosed."

Banning Letter:

Mr. Truman:

As you have been directly responsible for the loss of our son's life in Korea, you might just as well keep this emblem on display in your trophy room, as a memory of one of your historic deeds.

One major regret at this time is that your daughter was not there to receive the same treatment as our son received in Korea.

McCullough: "Truman put the letter in his desk drawer, keeping it at hand for several years."

Obviously the analogy is not perfect - we don't know if the younger Banning enlisted of his own will or was drafted; the elder Banning didn't camp out in Independence; G.W. didn't throw a public hissyfit over the Twins' Maxim cover appearance (as far as I know). But the principle is still the same. So, for those who want it to seem that Sheehan's reaction to her son's death is something new and unprecedented, it isn't.

Good Wired Article

Thanks to Geek Philosophy, here's a fantastic Wired article about how nobody guessed where the Internet would lead. Excerpt:

It's not hard to find smart people saying stupid things about the Internet on the morning of its birth. In late 1994, Time magazine explained why the Internet would never go mainstream: "It was not designed for doing commerce, and it does not gracefully accommodate new arrivals." Newsweek put the doubts more bluntly in a February 1995 headline: "THE INTERNET? BAH!" The article was written by astrophysicist and Net maven Cliff Stoll, who captured the prevailing skepticism of virtual communities and online shopping with one word: "baloney."

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Couple of Things

Perfectly Cromulent has a cool new word:

Blogmarch (blôg*märch)v blogmarched, blogmarching, blogmarches

1. the blog-specific act of collectively piling on an individual for actions that are contrary to the authors' political beliefs, especially to portray that person in a negative light while selectively avoiding any sacrifices/contributions they may already have made

Example: Boy, the chickenhawks sure are blogmarching Cindy Sheehan around a lot lately.

This mix of Mozart and Hip-Hop could be worth checking out. I like stuff like this. Kid Rock ought to have the lead in the remake of Amadeus.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

No Winners to This Contest

In responding to pro-Bush pundit Kate O'Beirne, Wonkette encapsulates my thoughts on what I hope is not the outcome of the Cindy Sheehan situation down in Crawford, TX. Bolding mine:

Over at The Corner, Kate O'Beirne finally suggests what we suppose is inevitable, that anti-war grieving mother Cindy Sheehan should be countered with pro-war grieving mothers: "Surely a fair number of such family members are in Texas? Let's hear from them. . ."

Is that what the debate has come to? Which side can corral the saddest crop of widows, parents, and orphans? Call it a harms race. Better: an ache-off. We hope the grimly absurd image of two competing camps of mourners illustrates why it is we've been somewhat reluctant to weigh in on Sheehan's cause: Grief can pull a person in any direction, and whatever "moral authority" it imbues, we can't claim that Sheehan has it and those mothers who still support the war don't. The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes, including re-election. Whatever arguments there are against the war in Iraq, let's not make "I have more despairing mothers on my side" one of them.

Having said that, I have to also say that I find the assertions that Sheehan is a turncoat/flip-flopper/pawn of the left/hypocrite just because she had publicly said some polite things last year about the President to be quite hollow. It often takes people a while to process important changes in their lives and thoughts, and as far as I am concerned, doing so does not count as hypocrisy. Drudge and Malkin are among those who have been making a big to-do about an interview with her local paper that describes a meeting George Bush had with Gold Star families in June of 2004, three months after her son's death. Here is the original article from the Vacaville, CA newspaper that described last year's 10-minute meeting between the Sheehans (and others) and the President. Note Drudge's selective quoting.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Espresso Yourself

For those blogreaders who are also former occupants of/frequent visitors to this house, did you leave a Krups espresso maker in the cabinet under the counter to the left of the sink? If so, let me know.

If not, I have an espresso maker up for grabs.

More Items

New interview with the great Camille Paglia. I was introduced to Professor Paglia (as I was to a number of my favorite writers) by a string of her C-Span appearances. I read Vamps & Tramps about 10 years ago and have been a Pagliaphile ever since.

Also, an Asian Cinema fansite with reviews. I want to see Kung Fu Hustle this weekend.

Friday, August 12, 2005


MEMO TO BOOK PEOPLE: ISBNs have 10 digits! If an identifying number has anything other than 10 (or 13 - see below) digits, it is not an ISBN! It's an ISN'TBN!

All ISBNs have a prefix assigned (in the U.S., anyway) by Bowker, two to five digits worth of guts assigned by the publisher, and a check digit at the end, which is derived from the previous nine digits. In 2007, ISBNs will have 13 digits, and will be very similar to EANs. Many publishers have already started including the EAN 978-prefix, followed by the first nine digits of the ISBN, followed by the EAN check digit. (An EAN's check digit should be different than the same book's ISBN check digit, though there might or might not be instances where they are the same by coincidence. Anyone know any examples of this?)

Why the above exposition? Because all this has unfortunately slipped past the entertaining and erudite folks at Bookslut, who this month review a variety of glossy magazine covers, incorporating sub-headings such as:

August 2005
(“The Hot Issue”)
ISBN: 074851082331
So naturally I had to go back to where it all started. Cosmopolitan has supposedly changed since our first meetings in the mid-'80s, but not so much from what I can see. This cover features gorgeous, tiny, young, blonde Kate Hudson...

The content of the review aside, please let me emphasize that if an identifying number has 12 digits, then the number is not an ISBN or an EAN, but is almost certainly a Universal Product Code (UPC). None of these should be mixed up with the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).

Melissa Fischer, if you are reading this, I hope you don't take this as a personal affront, because I have read your other Bookslut articles and they're enjoyable. It's just that sometimes it's hard being a UPC person in an ISBN world. (ps - Are you sure you have the right Vanity Fair cover image?)


Michael Blowhard on DVD extras and commentaries:

I wonder if a new category of film is emerging: the film that isn't all that fabulous in its own right, but whose DVD package makes for a rewarding experience. So far, I've run across three examples.
While the idea of fighting the War on Terror is right and necessary, the name itself has been lacking from the get-go. It just doesn't quite fit and it's not quite enough. A few days ago, the Weekly Standard remarked on a Bush administration trial balloon, where several Defense Department suits renamed the conflict from the Global War on Terror (GWOT)--or The War Against Terror (TWAT) or what have you--to the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE). Ugh.
And last, but not least, NOTM Gizoogled.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Presidential Historians Hammer Unnamed African Countries. Blogosphere Reacts.

There is a new collaborative effort (we'll see how it evolves or devolves) to get 15 presidential historians to blog on current events. Of them, I've read stuff by Stanley Kutler (Nixon) and Alonzo Hamby (Truman). I've seen Allan Lichtman on C-Span quite a bit.

I'm in the midst of watching the Hammer House of Horror series of British TV shows (OK, programmes). They're awesome! Reflections upon completion.

How's your geography? Can you tell your Zambias from your Zimbabwes? If so, try the Sheppard Software Geography Games. They have vocabulary and trivia games too. I like these because you have to drag an outline of a given country to its proper palce on the map, with no lines and sometimes no names given.

Parts 4 & 5 of the State of the Blogosphere, August 2005. This shows all the posts so far on one page.

Update 11:00 AM, 8/13/05: This formerly untitled post is now an object lesson in the importance of proper punctuation.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Again, why didn't I think of this?

Speaking of Battlestar Galactica, there's this guy whose goal is to visit every Starbucks in the world. Not only that, but this other guy is making a movie about him. He's pretty well along; there are at least four in my area that I have visited in the last year for which I see he has documented his attendance. To better monitor his progress, you will find that I have added his blog to the blogroll.

This shot works on several levels. Too bad there's no direct Melville reference.

Also new to the blogroll are The Speculist and Shakespeare's Sister.

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of Technorati's/Dave Sefri's State of the Blogosphere, August 2005. Lots of neat-looking charts and graphs and stuff.

In the Realms of the Unreal, as I mentioned earlier, was a very interesting documentary. It was about a guy named Henry Darger, who lived from the 1890s through the early 1970s and worked for most of his life in a series of janitorial jobs in Chicago. He was sent to a home for troubled children when he was a kid, and may or may not have been crazy. He developed a variety of, shall we say, eccentricities, but nothing (as far as anyone can tell) involving anything malicious.

Over the course of about 50 or 60 years, Mr. Darger wrote thousands and thousands of pages and created hundreds and hundreds of elaborate works of art, all for an audience of one. Those of us in the blogosphere can relate. He wrote a memoir and kept a journal, but his Magnum Opus was a 15,000-page epic fantasy novel about a war between good and evil whose protagonists were seven young sisters who led a Christian army against a ruthless, butchering dictator. The accompanying art was as elaborate and bizarre as the text. The artwork included painting, tracings, magazine cut-outs, collages, and combinations of all those things and more. After Darger's death, his artsy landlords discovered all this stuff and have spent the rest of their lives cashing in on it. So, the moral of the story is you should let crazy people live with you because they might make you rich and famous.

I'm not sure where he got the sisters, the armies, or the habit of including himself and his childhood schoolmates as characters in the epic, but I am familiar with a certain part of his mindset. I have a bunch of stuff (books, comics, magazines, newspapers, notebooks, videotapes, albums, puzzles, photographs, doodads, file folders, maps, posters, etc.) all over the place. And, I like them all as they are. The main reason I bought the house I had been living in was so that I wouldn't have to move all that stuff out. Darger, Edward Gorey, and I have the potential to drive the FlyLady to the brink of insanity. Yeah, you heard me, FLyLady. We will prevail. We will.

I'd like to read up on the Darger phenomenon and then watch that film again in six months or so. I'm going to see if the library has this book by John M MacGregor. In the meantime, I tip my hat to Mr. Darger's sticktoitiveness. I wonder what he would have done with the Internet...

Now I also liked The Yes Men -- kind of. It was a documentary about these guys who stumbled into anti-globalization performance art and cyberprotest in which they masquerade as representatives of the World Trade Organization. A couple of things about this. First of all, as I have said before, I think globalization and free trade are by and large positive forces for all involved. And trust me, their fair-trade proselytizing did not make me a convert. Tom Friedman calls this whole movement "The Coalition to Keep Poor People Poor" and I agree with him.

But I like it when people keep the media on their toes, and a large part of the film is spent showing these guys do just that. However, the actual incidents (as opposed to the preparation and debriefing) are fewer and farther between than I surmised from reading the box cover, and their second-to-last achievement was flim-flamming a bunch of idealistic college kids who had not yet learned to think critically and skeptically. As I said the other day, I'm glad I watched it once (twice, counting the DVD commentary) but I don't know if I'd watch it again any time soon.

One of these days I will have to blog about this guy named Captain Janks, who is responsible for most of the (higher quality) phony phone calls to big media outlets, which are subsequently aired by Howard Stern. I will furthermore have to blog about my theories on how Mr. Stern demythologizes celebrities and celebrity culture in a parallel manner to that in which the great Brian Lamb demythologizes politicians and political culture.

Monday, August 08, 2005

People Spouting "Howdy, Neighbor"

Here's an article with a cool-sounding name: Protectionist Capitalists vs. Capitalist Communists. Throw in a Shaolin Temple and some flying guillotines and you've got the makings for some great chop-socky.

I've been poking around to visit some of my neighbors in the Flippery Fish section of the TTLB Ecosystem. A variety of schools of blogthought. (Get it?) I am currently #14807. IdeaSling is #14782. The Voice of Reason is #14762. Samantha Burns is #14855. Omid Memarian of Iranian Prospect is #14857. Stop on over and say hello.

Two movies I watched last week: The Yes Men (OK to to watch once; didn't think it was all that) and In the Realms of the Unreal about the life and work of Henry Darger (Begs to be watched again, this time after some preliminary research). More on those tomorrow (I promise). A day trip to Wisconsin Sunday and a late evening at work Monday conspired to keep me from 1-and-0izing my thoughts on those films. Also, I tried about 3 or 4 different video stores looking for Battlestar Galactica: Season One, with no luck so far.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Catching Up on Things

On this pleasant Saturday afternoon, with some fresh coffee and a fresh haircut, it's a perfect opportunity to catch up on some blogstuff.

Via A&LD, more on how the blogosphere fits into a larger historical context. Isn't it nice to feel legitimized?

The recently instalanched (Cap the "i" or not? -- I'm going with not) Sister Toldjah on the mainstream media dissing bloggers. In case you haven't noticed, I like to link to and read liberals, conservatives, greens, libertarians, uncategorizables, inconsistents, or whomever, as long as they hold my interest. That's why I like C-Span so much. (Okay, maybe I've never linked to a green, but I suppose in theory I would if the right one came along. "It's not easy reading greens...") Glancing through the Sister Toldjah pages, it looks like she gets a place on the NOTM blogroll; Actually, the cleverness of her name alone would earn her a spot.

I see that enough bloggers linked to murdered journalist Stephen Vincent's blog to push him from Marauding Marsupial to Large Mammal in TTLB. (That link may change category as the number of linkers grows or decreases.) I realize that this is somewhat macabre and I apologize to any readers whom this offends, but it is very interesting to me to see how many people visited his blog (the chart on the left) and linked to it (the chart on the right) when his murder was reported.

Visitors (L) and linkers (R) to the late Steven Vincent's In the Red Zone as of 5PM 8/6/05.
In lighter news, here is a Blowhard article on the Blaxploitation genre, a genre for which I have much fondness. One of my goals is to rewrite "Scream Blacula Scream" as a musical. The title piece will be lyrically based on "Food, Glorious Food." That's about as far as I've gotten. Note that Michael Conrad, the roll call sergeant from "Hill Street Blues" appears in this film.

After finishing MITJ the other day (enjoyable; comments still to come), I started in on a collection of William Safire columns titled No Uncertain Terms. It's nice because you can read a quick page or two when you have a couple of minutes without having the flow interrupted. I might start David Herbert Donald's biography of Lincoln and read the two concurrently (though I'll almost certainly finish Safire first.)

A couple of movies I watched this past week:

Gunner Palace. I recommend this very highly. It looks at day-to-day life from the perspective of U.S. enlisted men in Iraq. I like to think that this is the sort of documentary Ernie Pyle would have made had he been around today. My guess is that in years and decades to come, G.I. rap music, like that presented by some of the soldiers in Gunner Palace and the previously blogged-about 4th25, will become iconic of the Iraq War. There's something about "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Take the A-Train" that connects with WWII, and there is plenty of Woodstock-era (obviously heavy on protest) music heavily associated with Vietnam ("Fortunate Son," etc.). I wouldn't be surprised if the opening credits for a documentary or drama made in 2018 about the occupation of Baghdad features some of the (probably a capella) rapping of soldiers like these because I suspect they will come to evoke a set of memories and emotions associated with the U.S.-occupied Iraq of today.

I love the new Battlestar Galactica series. It's a couple of years old already, but sometimes it takes me a while to get to things. I watched the initial mini-series (and the extras and commentary) this week; I will go looking for the first season on DVD this evening. I like the post-9/11 feel of the whole thing; It's clearly there, but it doesn't hit you over the head. And, I like the fact that it payed homage to the original, but was not a carbon copy and was clearly able to stand alone.

Two movies that I think did that well (among the hundreds of remakes that did not) are the 1987 Dragnet remake (with Dan Aykroyd as Joe Friday's namesake and nephew) and the 2000 Shaft remake (with Sam Jackson as Shaft's namesake and nephew). Both built on the premise of their respective originals (including roles in Shaft for Richard Roundtree, Gordon Parks, and Isaac Hayes) and were really more sequels than they were remakes.

Back to Galactica, one thing stood out that I realize may be addressed in the next DVD set: There was no mention of or reference to (as far as I could discern) the short-lived follow-up series Galactica 1980 which ABC devised to keep the show going after a budget-driven hiatus. G1980 had the drifting survivors finally find late-20th Century Earth, and was thus able to save $$$ on a ton of futuristic special effects and sets. I'll assume that such homages might appear as I watch the rest of the series. I don't remember it being a particularly bad show, but some fans didn't care for it at all. Another Galactica 1980 link here and a timeline here.

Virginia Postrel says the new BG "may very well be the best show on TV and is certainly the most philosophical." JMPP invites readers to watch new episodes and chat about them as they watch.

One of the things I enjoy tremendously about the DVD revolution is that so many of the classic shows (and new shows, too) can be watched in their entirety (assuming PCism or other nonsense does not seep into current editing) on DVDs. During the 1990s I must have accumulated 50 VHS tapes with almost-complete runs of Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Monty Python, and others. I still have those for reference and nostalgia, but the DVD collections are far superior. Assuming nobody has messed around with surreptitiously cutting stuff out, that is. I've watched Oz, The 4400, 24, and plenty of others on DVD collections, and I still want to get to Alias, The Shield, Deadwood, and lots more in that same way. I have pretty much gotten to the point of reading reviews and postings and articles and stuff about cool new series, filing that info for six months or a year or whatever, and then plowing through a marathon weekend of (whichever) show after the DVD collection is released.

Comments on The Yes Men and Henry Darger a little bit later. I'm hungry and might have to make a quick trip to one of my favorite burger joints.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Blue and Improved

OK, I think I moved all my extras over into the new template. It's kind of fun learning about HTML; I wish I had done it years ago. Let me make sure my TTLB and Stat Counter work right, then I'm gonna post about a few more news items and some good movies I've watched recently.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

New Template coming

I think I'm going to get a new template; hopefully I will manage to move all my links and graphics and stuff over without difficulty.

More Bad News From Iraq

More sad news from Iraq: Fourteen U.S. Marines (mostly from a reserve unit in Ohio -- the same one that lost six other troops Monday) were killed near the Syrian border, and American journalist Steven Vincent was killed in the (ostensibly) British-controlled city of Basra. He probably was murdered by people associated with the Iraqi Police hit squad that he wrote about last Sunday in the NYT. Here is a link to Mr. Vincent's blog, In the Red Zone. I see that as of 9pm tonight he is a TTLB Marauding Marsupial; I wonder how many links his site will get this week. (Not intending to be trivial of course, but it might be instructive about how the blogosphere works.)

Regarding the Ohio Marines, I am somewhat reminded of the Normandy incident on the morning of D-Day where 19 troops from Belford, Virginia were killed at once.

Speaking of the Marines and Ohio, Iraq vet Paul Hackett lost the race to succeed Ohio congressman Rob Portman. One more already-anonymous GOP talking head will join the House, and her only claim to fame will probably be that she delayed Congress from having an Iraq vet as a member until January, 2007. I don't know if it will be Hackett or not, but my guess is that the November 06 elections will see at least one if not several Iraq vets elected to Congress, and I wouldn't be surprised if some share Mr. Hackett's opinion of the Commander-in-Chief.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Just a little bit to the right...

No, I'm not referring to Hilary's movement regarding Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; I'm messing around with the blog template to make it more better.

As Maddox says, there's a reason they don't print books on receipt paper. I saved the old template in case I screw something up.

Update 10:22 PM 8/1/05: I am dissatisfied with the fact that the parchment-looking stuff does not go all the way over to the side, and I can't figure out what will make it go. I'll mess around with it more tomorrow. Until then, sorry about the disruptive vertical line.