Brooklyn takes it

New Jersey Nets possibly coming to Brooklyn - yes, this is a week-old story, but the debate around it is really just starting. The proposed stadium would be on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Aves., about 10 blocks from where I live. Where the stadium itself would sit there are currently only unused railroad tracks, which do give the whole area a run-down feeling that's not in line with the current revitalization of Brooklyn. On the other hand, tied in with the plan is the building of a new shopping, housing and office complex around the stadium that would force a few hundred people to be evicted and their properties condemned. Why the two are bundled together, I don't know. Probably the surrounding complex is where developer Bruce Ratner expects to reap most of the profits. Gothamist has some good links, plus a nice photo of fellow O.G.'s Bloomberg and Jay-Z plugging the "Brooklyn Nets".

From the NY1 story: "The Nets were founded in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans of the now-defunct American Basketball Association. They changed their name to the New York Nets when they moved to Long Island in 1968, then become the New Jersey Nets when they moved back to New Jersey to join the NBA in 1976." "Nets" is kind of dopey. I say if the move goes down (though there's many a doubt that it will), they revert back to the original name and call the team the "Brooklyn Americans" - that's a good, strong name by any standard, and quite fitting in light of our current patriotic mood.

50/50 party

Just got an Evite from someone I sort of know to a pretty neat-sounding singles event - a "50/50" party:

EVERYONE MUST BRING A MEMBER OF THE OPPOSITE SEX THAT YOU ARE NOT ROMANTICALLY INTERESTED IN (could be an ex or a platonic friend -- couples, you can come together as long as you have another girl and guy in tow!!) TO ENSURE A 50/50 GIRL/GUY RATIO.

If you want to bring other friends, that's great ... but each of them must bring someone of the opposite sex.


There is a $10 cover at the door. Over 80% of all proceeds will benefit The Nan A. Lightstone Foundation, a non-profit organization raising funds to support infectious disease research.

It's on Saturday, Feb. 7 at Club Onyx.

Okay, yes, I'm advertising a singles event. With a sort-of-cutesy theme to boot. Yes, it's considered uncouth to go to a singles event. In my defense, I don't know if I'm going but if I do it'll only be because I tend to go to stuff that people invite me to. But as themes go this seems like a pretty good one. People get scared away when they know there's going to be a gender imbalance. I know New York has more single females so often it's tilted toward the women, but walk into any divey bar or some midtown after-work place and it's men as far as the eye can see. Anyway, if you live in New York and you'd like to go to this thing but need a 2nd let me know, especially if you're female; I know some guys that might potentially be interested in going. Actually in either case, I could probably help you out. The Evite says to feel free to forward the information along, so I figured I'd help spread the word. From the responses on the page it looks like the place will be packed.

There it is, my good deed for the day.


Could be!
Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock,
Open the latch!
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It'll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight...

"Something's Coming", West Side Story (lyrics Stephen Sondheim)

The reason the song works so well is because of the raised 4ths on the beginning of each measure, which give the whole song a jolt of energy. Bernstein used the same trick in "Maria". These days the technique is mostly used in film scores.

It does feel like something's coming. I don't know what, though.

Democratic triple-play

Mickey Kaus thinks that Dean supporters should campaign for Edwards so that Kerry will win:

If Kerry loses South Carolina, that slows his momentum a bit. But if Kerry wins South Carolina, Edwards' candidacy is dead dead dead, effectively leavng the two-man race Dean desperately needs. It would be such a strategic boost for Dean that I think he should immediatly dispatch hundreds of his orange-hatted just-tell-me-what-to-do volunteers down South to work for ... Edwards! If they do for him what they did for Dean in Iowa (i.e. alienate voters) Kerry will sweep to victory.

Er, I suppose. This has to be the ultimate horse-race post.

Okay, back to not caring about the election.

Next stop, Tanzania

British historian Paul Johnson, writing in Forbes, restates a refrain that deserves to be heard again: UN Get Out of New York! He minces no words about the present UN's pathetic present state, its total betrayal of the values it was originally founded on. The article requires registration to read, so I'll quote extensively:

What's to be done about that nest of corruption, double standards and staggering incompetence? No point in rehashing the UN's unrelieved record of failure, which in Africa alone has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. I am not suggesting, at this stage, that the U.S. should leave the organization (or disorganization), although that may well happen in time.

What I do suggest is that the U.S. should give the UN notice to quit. When America was the leader of a successful wartime coalition--and the world wished it to continue in that role--it made excellent sense to place UN headquarters in New York. But those days have long passed. America has accepted its world-policeman destiny, and the UN is merely a minor obstacle to the successful performance of that task. The place has become a mere theater of empty rhetoric and shameless deals supporting a growing tide of anti-Semitism and racism and--let us not be mealymouthed--state crime. It is a place where near-bankrupt dictatorships can sell their votes to the highest bidder.


As the UN is now constituted, a far better location for it would be in a city near the gravitational center of the Afro-Eurasian landmass. There it would be close to the realities of the problems it ought to be tackling--poverty; bad, cruel and corrupt governments; international lawlessness; civil wars. The place I'd suggest is Dar es Salaam (though I can think of a half-dozen other equally suitable venues).


Personally, I fear the UN is a lost cause, incorrigibly frivolous and corrupt and beyond reform. But such a move might conceivably give the UN the fundamental jolt it needs.

Johnson offers a creative approach to the problem. Relocating the UN from the United States would be a nice halfway solution, the ultimate goal being to leave the UN altogether (effectively ending it, for both political and financial reasons). I'd love to see the UN removed from my home city, though realistically that's not going to happen for, I don't know, the next 20 years at least (I'd say more; short of declaring war on the U.S., there doesn't seem to be anything the UN can do that will convince most Americans they're not a "neutral" force for good). Johnson suggests installing a new NATO headquarters in place of the UN building; I think replacing the whole area with more of the business and residential units that already surround it in the east 40's would be a perfectly adequate solution: a nice extension to midtown and a hearty "screw you" to the irrelevant, ineffectual foreign diplomatic community.

On the other hand they are looking for a spot for a new football stadium... now that would be poetically appropriate.

Via Little Green Footballs.


I joined the Park Slope Food Coop

The Food Coop (pronounced co-op) is probably the best-known business establishment in Park Slope. It's a supermarket that's member-owned and maintained, and stocks mostly organic produce and otherwise "earth-friendly" products. The big appeal is that the prices are cheap, with something like just a 20% markup over wholesale prices (usually it's around 100%). To enable these low prices, they make you pay a small joining fee, and you have to work there a few hours every month, and you have to deal with a really long line at the checkout at popular times (like most of the weekend). There around 10,000 members, and it's growing. It's actually a bit of a cult.

On Sunday I finally went to one of their "orientation meetings" with my roommate, who convinced me to go. You need to attend a meeting to become a member; I figured I'd get a better feel for what it was really like, then maybe join up at a later date, if for whatever reason I changed my mind about it. I can see the appeal of organic foods, I mean I like having apples that aren't unnaturally shiny. And I certainly eat a lot of meat substitutes. But I loathe the whole self-congratulatory culture that's grown around organic/macrobiotic/whatever else foods. There's a great mini-market a few blocks from where I live, called "Natural Land", that sells most of the same merchandise, but without all the self-righteous crap about alternatives to capitalism and saving the Earth.

We crowded into a room for the talk; there were already about 100 people sitting there when I showed up. The 50-ish woman talked about living in the 60's, how everyone was exploring alternative lifestyles. She said that organic farming started when hippies were "going back to the land" in the 60's (actually, organic farming started in the 20's). She talked about how a cooperative represented "an alternative to the market-based food economy" (basically a direct quote). I had wanted to dislike the whole enterprise from the beginning, and she was giving me ample reason to do that. She went into the mechanics of membership. Right at the end, though, she said something on the order of, "it's not all drab and humorless, we have members with a lot of different ideologies, and there's in fact a pretty good dating scene." Ah, damn, that changes everything.

We all went downstairs for the supermarket tour. The goods seemed like what you'd find at any natural foods store. I wasn't really focused on the shelves, though, because there were more attractive women there wandering the aisles than I've seen in Park Slope at any one time. Shit shit shit. Then, while we were walking around, I ran into a girl I had dated (I already knew she was a member, because she liked to talk about it). Later, a girl in our orientation group, who my roommate had actually met previously, invited both of us to a party she was planning at her place. A final unexpected broadside.

So I joined (as did my roommate). I went home, demeaning newly-assigned hippie mesh bag in hand.

My first fun query

The search engine queries have started coming in at full tilt... this one was interesting:
"howard dean" sxe

I doubt this site provided any enlightenment for this person. Most likely they were looking for some overlap between support for straightedge culture and for the "rebellious" candidacy of Dr. Dean.

Anyway it reminded me of this truly fun site: GOPunk.com. Youthful rebellion does span the ideological spectrum!

I get letters

Funny links people have sent me recently:

I have black Friendsters

Don't be a depressed ovoid

Hey Ya feat. Saddam Hussein

Couldn't think of another place to put these.


The beast is subdued

Mark Steyn thinks Howard Dean has hit reverse gear and turned into Perry Como:

Instead of impassioned pleas about taking back the country so everyone has the right to live the American Scream, er, Dream, he talked in a voice so evenly modulated that Diane Sawyer kept dropping in tape of the Howlin' Howard roar every five minutes like Baron von Frankenstein frantically clamping the electrodes to the monster and getting no response. Sitting next to the Vermonster, for the first time ever on TV, was his wife, Dr. Judith Steinberg. After being absent for months, all of a sudden she can't leave his side, just in case his medication wears off.

Well, it looks like the meds are wearing off fast. You can't keep an angry man down!

"You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone," said the former Vermont governor, an unflinching critic of the war against Iraq. "But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."

Evidently the removal of wood chippers as an instrument of justice wasn't enough of a living-standard increase for Dr. Dean. Though perhaps Steyn was on to something. Here he is later on at the same rally, which by the way was attended by his wife:

"Now I would never defend Saddam Hussein... He's a horrible person. I'm delighted he's gone."

No contradiction there. Are pills being administered on the campaign trail? We report, you decide! In other campaign wife-related news, Joe Lieberman, whose outlook is slightly improving, makes a joke about Wesley Clark while introducing his wife:

"One of the other candidates has Madonna," Lieberman said, referring to Clark's endorsement from the pop star. "I have Hadassah."

In all seriousness, I like Lieberman, he's intelligent and principled, and by far my favorite of the Democratic candidates. If he stopped constantly reminding people he's a Jew he might be doing better.


First to fight for right and freedom

A good friend of mine is joining the Marines; on Friday night I went to a going-away party for him, along with a group of other people, most of whom I didn't know. We were fellow programmers at one of my old jobs and we've kept in touch ever since. We stopped a few bars in Washington Heights, drank a lot and shared reminiscences. Some of us made fun of him by pretending to think he was going into the Army or Navy instead. No easier way to get a Marine guy mad than to call him a "sailor". His girlfriend was there, she seemed in good spirits for the most part though she's clearly upset that he's leaving.

Tomorrow he ships out for boot camp in South Carolina (he's already been doing training for a while with an incoming class). After three months he'll emerge a Private First Class of the U.S. Marine Corps. Within a year, if all goes according to plan, he'll be in Iraq, defending free Iraq against terrorist and Ba'athist scum and helping to establish what some people still consider unthinkable: Arab democracy.

I'm of course not happy that he won't be around, for at least the next few years, but at the same time I'm quite proud of him for the path he's taking.

Godspeed and good luck.

Make it easy with product placement

The latest tussle involving leftist celebrities and right-wing commentators revolves around a MoveOn.org ceremony and some unfortunate Hitler comparisons. Also a potential Matt Drudge/Eminem similarity. Anyway, reading about it led me to Margaret Cho's blog. The writing itself isn't worth paying attention to, it's just some poorly-thought-out political commentary that's high in obscenities and fake hip-hop slang, low in everything else. It's strange because her stand-up act actually is pretty funny. The interesting part, though, is the little animated image at the top showing all the magazine covers she's been on. It's quite a parade: Bust, Giant Robot, Ms., Curve... then it struck me: Margaret Cho has become the Angry Celebrity of choice for four demographic groups! Women, gays, Asians, and fat people, all going to her for outraged, in-your-face commentary. This surely must be some kind of record.


I like flying, flying kites.
Flying kites, flying kites.
Kites are fun!
Kites are fun!
Kites are fun!

See my kite it’s fun,
See my kite, it’s green and white
Laughing in its distant flight
All that’s between us is a little yellow string,
But we like each other more than anything
And we run along together through the field behind my house
And the little drops of rain caress her face and wash my blouse
And we’d like to be a zillion miles away from everyone
‘Cause Mom and Dad and Uncle Bill don’t realize
Kites are fun!
Kites are fun!
Kites are fun!

The Free Design, "Kites Are Fun"

Chris Dedrick on this song: "I was thinking about a girl whose initials were K.A.F., and out of the initials popped Kites Are Fun".

I'm not against cold NYC winters but right now I miss the summer.


The law of unintended consequences

Two interesting posts recently relating to the law of unintended consequences: Tyler Cowen at Volokh Conspiracy makes the fairly obvious point that buying people out of slavery, as noble as it may make the person or organization feel, probably increases slavery overall; for every slave whose freedom is bought, the slaveholder's profit allows them to enslave another person with most likely money to spare. The catalyst for the discussion is New York Times editorialist Nicholas Kristof's recent column describing his buying freedom for two Cambodian sex slaves.

Brian Micklethwait at Samizdata posits that foreign aid to North Korea is helping to bring down the North Korean government through a double-application of the law: well-meaning foreigners send money to North Korea, not realizing the money will all be funnelled to the regime and the army and won't reach the starving citizenry; the North Korean government profits from the transaction in the short term but becomes dependent on the aid for survival; when the aid stops coming (as has been happening now), the regime becomes impotent and (ideally) crumbles. As the author somewhat harshly puts it, "when it comes to toppling a vile regime, idiots trying to help can be just as effective as competent people trying to topple."

Whether it's a positive or negative force, the moral of the law of unintended consequences is always: be careful that you don't end up underwriting the very thing you're trying to eliminate.


Occupied with what other persons are occupied with

I didn't mean for my Amherst-related post to turn into some sort of political debate, it was just meant as a quirky little story about my crazy hometown. I'm a committed Brooklynite now but Amherst was a nice town to grow up in, and the liberal college-town aspect never really affected life for me there all that much; it was pretty much a normal community except that some of my friends' parents got married in a field.

Two nights ago I ran into twin brothers from the class below me in high school, they now live together not far from where I am in Park Slope. We were all at the same bar trivia night; their team won and in fact helped end a bit of a winning streak on my part (though that night we were flubbing everything and probably ended up something like fifth). They seemed to be enjoying life here, it was neat to see them. There are now four people from my high school that I know of in just a ten-block radius around me, and who knows how many more in Brooklyn. Probably many more.

Quizzo at Patio Lounge - I've become somewhat of a regular
Nell Bryden - she was in my class

Quick hits

UPDATE: the parrot story is probably false. This is an ex-parrot story. (via Best of the Web)


We're the ones in tomorrow's papers

O'Reilly just had a segment on my high school, Amherst Regional High School, which is planning to put on a production of the Vagina Monologues. If this goes through, ARHS would be the first high school in the country to perform it. This is the first I've heard about it; it looks like the story's been around for at least two weeks. Here's a commentary I found on it (I would have preferred something more unbiased, but I couldn't find anything else online). As the opinion piece points out, four years ago the high school cancelled a production of West Side Story because of complaints that the show was racist against Hispanics. It also quotes Larry Kelley, karate school owner and the town's outspoken conservative. He says that the production "allows young teenagers... to revel in sexually-explicit material."

I don't know who at the high school is behind this, though I have my guesses. O'Reilly only had on the president of the Amherst Select Board, whom I've never heard of.

This actually isn't the first time (or the second) that my high school has been in the national spotlight for political correctness taken to the nth degree; most famously, in 1990 the then-principal, the late Ilene Levitt, instituted a first-of-its-kind sexual harrassment policy that banned "leering", among other things; it got picked up in a lot of national media just as the whole political correctness phenomenon was gaining prominence. Amherst is a liberal town, and the administrators, teachers and (to a lesser extent) the students reflect that perspective.

For the record I do find it... distasteful that a high school would put on a production of this play, regardless of the context (let me add that I haven't seen the play, though I have read some about it). For my alma mater, though, it's really just par for the course.

UPDATE: Fellow Amherst native Noah has his own florid take on the story. I don't know, I think he disagrees with me, it's not clear.

Europe's brain drain
Instapundit links to a Time magazine article on Europe's vanishing scientists:
Three years ago, E.U. leaders vowed to make the union "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" by 2010. But one of the most worrying signs of their failure is the continued drain of Europe's best and brightest scientific brains, who finish their degrees and pursue careers in the U.S. Some 400,000 European science and technology graduates now live in the U.S. and thousands more leave each year. A survey released in November by the European Commission found that only 13% of European science professionals working abroad currently intend to return home.

The scientists interviewed don't hold back about the regulatory problems they've encountered:

"Europe is a mess," thunders Christopher Evans, a biotechnology professor at four British universities and chairman of the venture-capital firm Merlin Biosciences, "a haze of overregulated and overcomplicated bureaucracies smothering the rare flames of true entrepreneurial brilliance."

...complaints like those of Claude Allegre, the former French Education Minister who heads the Paris VII geochemical lab, are all too common. He decries France's anachronistic "Soviet" system, in which control is centralized and researchers must run a bureaucratic obstacle course, whether to buy expensive equipment or order basic office supplies. "I'm planning on moving to the U.S. indefinitely because I want to continue my research," says Allegre. "I can't do so in the current conditions."

Gerhard Schroeder is quoted; so, does he view the current situation as a wake-up call to overhaul Germany's statist economy? Alas, no:

As German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder noted last week when he presented his government's priorities for 2004, "Only if we manage to keep our innovation at the top will we be able to reach a level of prosperity that will allow us to keep our welfare system in today's changing conditions."

It's all about the welfare. By "changing conditions" Schroeder might be referring to the fact that Germany's population is dying out:

The European Commission has released the latest press release on demographic developments in the European Union during 2003. This shows that the long-awaited time when deaths outweigh births and immigration maintains the population of the European Union is beginning to arrive.
Germany, Italy and Greece would all have faced population declines without immigration. More countries will join this select group in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

The law of unintended consequences strikes again: trying to rein in innovation leads to a loss of innvation, subsidizing old age and taxing youth leads to a glut of the former, a shortage of the latter.


I come in third

The big news is that Gephardt is planning to drop out of the race, after getting beaten in Iowa by Kerry and Edwards, of all people, along with Howard Dean. In early October, Kashei, on her blog, ran a contest to determine the second Democrat to drop out (after Bob Graham). On Oct. 14, I guessed Gephardt; the correct answer was of course Carol Moseley-Braun. The co-winners were Kashei herself and another girl. I was the only to guess Gephardt; most guessed Kucinich. That means I came in third! Here's what I wrote at the time:

The joke candidates could all be in the race for a while, since they're not losing anything by staying in...[some extraneous stuff] Once Gephardt gets trounced by Kerry-Dean in Iowa, which should have been his natural base of support, he'll pretty much be forced to quit.

"Kerry-Dean" was actually a typo; I later corrected it to "Clark-Dean" (although I shouldn't have). At that point Dean was the clear frontrunner, and Clark, who had just declared, seemed to be in second place and the go-to guy for the anti-Dean vote (I don't think he had decided yet not to run in Iowa). So I was totally off base about who would win the state. Although I was correct in thinking that Gephardt had the most to lose from the Iowa caucus.

So my guess came in third, and my explanation was about halfway accurate. Well, there's a reason why Kashei is looking to go into political campaign management, and my last serious foray into politics was serving on Mike Dukakis' team in the Crocker Farm Elementary School mock election (I'll have you know I helped guide him to a crushing victory).


Possible change of theoretical plans

My roommate and I met up yesterday with a guy we knew from college, Sasha (he has a journal here; though it's mostly him and his Russian friends talking in Russian to each other). He just got back from a backpacking trip to India, Nepal and some other South Asian countries, and he said it was an amazing experience; that's what I've heard from other people too. His advice was that you can't really experience India in anything less than a month. I was thinking South America would be my next world travel trip, but maybe it'll be India or Southeast Asia instead.

Might have to be out of a job first, alas.

What about the chiiiildren

I wasn't going to write about MoveOn.org's ad contest winner, which shows kids working at manufacturing jobs, with the line at the end reading, "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?". It's going to be aired in some kind of media blitz, although not the Superbowl as originally planned because as I understand CBS has already nixed that idea. The reason I wasn't going to write it was because I'm frankly already bored with Election '04, and the primaries haven't even started yet. Bush is headed in my opinion for a Reagan- and Nixon-style landslide, and everything the Democrats do to attack him personally (which seems to be their one tactic) only makes this outcome more inevitable. If Dean or Clark win the nomination, I'll probably pick up interest again, but only of the passing-by-a-car-crash variety. This ad will accomplish nothing.

If you do want to see a direct commentary, Jane Galt had a lengthy post about the ad here, where she basically argued that it couldn't be taken seriously because none of the Democrats' economic policies would curb the deficit either.

Anyway, I won't argue against the message of the ad because it makes a valid accusation against President Bush - his combination of tax cuts and spending increases is indeed leading to an increased deficit, and that's not a positive development.

But since the ad draws its power from showing that kids will be hurt, the tagline of the ad could equally well have been, "guess who's going to pay for your social security benefits?" The "pyramid scheme" nature of social security is well known; here's an economist at the Ayn Rand Institute:

In 1935 life expectancy in the United States was only 61 years. Today it's 76 years, so the average period of retirement is 11 years. In 1950 there were 16 workers for each retiree. Today there are only three. By 2025 there'll be only two and by 2050 only one.

If current benefit levels are to be maintained in the future, the payroll tax must continue rising - to 20 percent by 2025, when there'll be just two workers for every retiree, and to 40 percent by 2050, when there'll be just one.

In addition to taking more and more, Social Security returns less and less. Today's typical retiree receives a rate of return well under 5 percent, and it will get worse. In contrast, since 1935, stocks in the United States have returned 10.2 percent a year. Bonds have returned nearly 6 percent.

It seems unlikely that in 50 or 60 years, when these kids start retiring, the social security system that they'd been paying into will still exist, and not because the "evil Republicans" are trying to destroy it (how I wish that were true) but because it will be unsustainable. Actually I strongly doubt that I'll be receiving any social security benefits either when (Lord willing) I reach retirement age 40 years from now, despite the money I'm regularly putting into the system now. If the Democrats behind this ad, and the many who are praising it, were serious about protecting children from economic debt, they would be willing to let social security die a natural death, instead of fighting hard to prop it up.


To transmit, what I want

Have to start getting ready for our gig tonight. I'm excited about the show, except that (a) it's freezing outside, and (b) my tuner pedal has started displaying a number instead of a letter when I play a note. I don't know why it does this, I must have pressed the buttons in some bad combination. There's no valid musical reason why it should do this.

I'm also looking forward to seeing the other bands. If "modern progressive rock" means math rock and the like, it should be very interesting. Of course, it could mean Radiohead-type rock. That's not bad either.


sXe at the turn of the century

Straightedge (usually spelled sXe, I believe) is one of those things I should know a lot about, but actually know very little about, like computer hardware. It's a branch of hardcore music that embraces strict veganism (as well as being drug- and alcohol-free - actually, I think it's even more extreme than that would suggest), so, being a vegetarian and a fan of some hardcore music (like Drive Like Jehu), you'd think I'd at least know of some band names, be able to hum a tune, something, but no such luck. Perhaps someday I'll look into it.

According to VegBlog, "straight-edge" as a term for strict vegetarian living actually dates back to at least the early 1900's. There was at one time a "Straight Edge Kitchen" on 7th Ave. and 11th St. in Manhattan that catered to this young, rebellious crowd. Neat.

As I recall, the word "punk" dates back to Old English. Shakespeare used it, although I think the story that he invented it is a myth.

Another suicide bomber strikes in Israel. The Palestinian Authority is pleased. Meanwhile, a commenter on Tim Blair's site sums up the issue nicely:

As Golda Meir said: When the Arabs love their children more then they hate jewish children there will be peace.

This bitch murdered 3 jews and left her two children motherless.


Mark Steyn reviews Lost in Translation, and achieves a poetry of his own:

They’re holed up in the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, which is like the Park Hyatt anywhere – it has a piano bar and a pool and its very anonymity strips the environment of romance: if you can find love in the Park Hyatt, it’s probably the real thing. This is a very different approach to Richard Curtis, whose middle-aged men and young totty require extremely heightened landscapes – bucolic vistas, mahogany paneling, snow-dappled Victorian mews, etc. In Miss Coppola’s film, the hotel’s lobbies and elevators look as bleary and jet-lagged as Bill Murray feels. Like many chain hotels in foreign capitals, it has a vaguely unreal quality, just the kind of place where a man who despises his reality might slip his moorings.

On a personal note, the first time I saw Lost in Translation I was strung out on Vicodin (I had just had my wisdom teeth removed), and I don't know if I've had a better time at the movies.

The latest from the land of Avril

Many of you may already know this, but Canada, our neighbor to the north, has actual politicians and political parties, much as a real country would. I was reminded of this fact again today, when I found out that they have a new Prime Minister, Paul Martin, actually for over a month now. There weren't elections held; he was appointed after Jean Chretien resigned. Seriously, was this covered anywhere? Because I missed it.

My brush with fame

Well, that was exciting. On my way through Grand Central Station this morning I passed, right in the terminal, a big crowd complete with cameramen, photographers, and people holding "Clark '04" signs. Right in the middle of the crowd, sure enough, was Mr. Four-Star himself, Wesley Clark, looking dapper and shaking hands. Not being from New Hampshire or Iowa, I've never actually seen a presidential candidate up close before (certainly not enough to become jaded and start using terms like the "nine dwarfs"). I asked one of his supporters, a very nice old woman, what Gen. Clark was doing here (he was in midtown for a fundraiser). She handed me a flyer and called him "our next president". "Keep your eye on this guy," she said. I'll see what I can do.


The lunatics are running the Salon

Salon's Joe Conason uncovers the sinister truths behind the new Mars initiative:

When President Bush inspires us onward and upward to Mars this week, his political calculations may be more earthly. Expanding space exploration is a wonderful aspiration for America and humanity -- and also quite promising for the Houston economy, the national aerospace industry, and one company in particular that has long pondered exploration of the red planet: Halliburton.

No rocket-fuel for oil! You have to watch an ad to see the rest of the article, which I did, out of curiosity; there's a link to a memorandum showing that NASA met with Halliburton and other oil companies to discuss drilling techniques. Clearly this consultation occurred to figure out how to drill through rock for scientific study, though, and not for oil exploration, because... actually, why don't you see if you can figure it out. I can think of two good answers.

(Via Best of the Web)

Security fence

Israel's in-process security fence is now making its way through East Jerusalem. I certainly sympathize with the Palestinians inconvenienced by this border (the ones who aren't terrorists themselves, that is) though they must realize that the three-year wave of terrorism that's been orchestrated by the Palestinian Authority has made the creation of some kind of barrier all but inevitable.

"This is the biggest Nakba (Catastrophe) of all Nakbas," Arafat told reporters, using a word which evokes the exodus of Palestinians who fled their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli at Israel's creation.

Actually, he's being modest. The greatest catastrophe that hit the Palestinians was the day Arafat and his PLO thugs took control over their fate. You can read about Arafat's bloody career here.

Handwriting @ Balanza Bar

My band Handwriting will be playing this Friday, Jan. 16, at 10:30 PM, at Balanza Bar at 426 Lorimer St. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Also playing will be Nova Clutch and Auto Drone; it's billed as "An Evening of Modern Progressive Rock".

Come for some good music or, if you don't know me, just to see what I look like.


Hayek said it first

The Boston Globe has an interesting article by Virginia Postrel on F. A. Hayek, the invisible hand's greatest proponent in the modern era, whose ideas are now experiencing a major renaissance: Friedrich the Great.

The piece also quotes Steven Pinker, whose lab I once worked at, though I never met him. Just thought I'd mention that.

Via Hit and Run.


Gym, you have mistreated me

Not cool: going to a location for your gym that's been advertised as having switched to a 24-hour schedule, showing up at around 11:30 PM, in below-freezing weather, and finding it locked and empty. Calling the next day and being told, "yeah, it's only 24 hours... over the weekdays. Yeah, the poster is wrong, sorry about that."

Why would you do this to me, New York Sports Club? I give you nothing but love, always take care of the equipment, and this is how I'm repaid. Part of a night ruined, and a (theoretical) 24-hour location taken away. Thanks a lot.

If it hadn't been for that incident, I'd be much more concerned than I am about the ad that's shown up for the new Showtime "L-Word" show, which reads in full: "Same Sex. Different City." I'd point out that a hyphen is required between the "same" and the "sex", because as it is the ad conveys the exact opposite message of what is intended. The gym incident, though, puts this one a distant second in the misleading poster category.

In other news, I realized while writing this that I have a strongman picture attached, and I discuss a lesbian-themed show, this has to be my gayest posting yet.

UN chief greets New Year with calls for attention to development. A little late on my part, though I hadn't been blogging yet at the time. Mr. Annan would like world leaders to focus more on world poverty and hunger, and "global development", instead of being "swept along by the tide of war and division" (I guess he's talking about the U.S.). The threat of terrorism gets a single aside. Actually I'm not sure what he means by "development", which he keeps referring to. If he means increased infrastructure and public works projects, there's little the U.S. can do in 3rd world countries while respecting the sovereignty of their governments. If he just means foreign aid, that's unclear too because Bush has already massively increased humanitarian aid.

In truth, the language of his appeal is fuzzy because the thinking behind it is fuzzy. Let's remove the word "development" from his statement and replace it with something more concrete, like, say, "the deposing of autocratic regimes", and see how much clearer it becomes:

"Yes, we have to fight terrorism. Yes, we must prevent the spread of deadly weapons," Annan declared. "But let's also say yes to the deposing of autocratic regimes. Let's bring hope into the lives of those who suffer. Without the deposing of autocratic regimes and hope, there will be no peace."

There, doesn't that make a lot more sense now?

Though the real issue is why Kofi Annan is issuing an appeal in the first place. As I understood it, the role of the U.N. is to provide a forum for international dialogue, arbitrating disputes, and otherwise reflecting the will of the "international community" (for what it's worth). When the Secretary-General utters his own pronouncements about the needs of the world, he's considerably overstepping his role.

Samantha Morton

Celebrity comments: a possibly recurring feature, or maybe not.

Samantha Morton looks like a beautiful gnome. Her face shouldn't work at all for a leading actress - the bulbous nose, the puffy cheeks - and yet strangely it does. Maybe it's because her face makes you want to cradle her, feed her something. Her role in Minority Report might have actually been the perfect part for her, because she's totally vulnerable, essentially recreating the birth process; at first looking like a fetus in her water tank wetsuit, then nearly bald and shivering after being removed. That's my theory. In any case, it's an extremely intriguing look.


Took the best words from your letter,
Tore them out, paste them together now
No one will ever forget her,
Everyone will always remember now
I don 't know why,
She don't know why

Found them together, sleep in their eyes
Tore up the letter, weaken the ties
I don't know why,
She don't know why

Thingy, "Letterbomb"


My strength is in administration

I caught most of "The Apprentice" last night while practicing guitar; it's the latest reality show bequeathed on us from above, this one featuring Donald Trump whittling down 16 young corporate types (mostly MBA's) to one person who will get to run one of Trump's companies for a year (I guess doing real estate).

It's a pretty good show. This was the first episode, and the corporates were split up into men vs. women to try to make as much money as possible selling lemonade on the streets of Manhattan. Evidently not one of these Type A personalities thought to make a reasonable-looking sign; instead they're all holding pitchers and trays, harassing passersby. The women destroyed the men; they picked a good location (midtown, I believe on 53rd and 8th) and they had no compunctions about whoring themselves out: hugs and kisses and sometimes phone numbers for all male customers, which gave them a nice steady flow of customers even at $5 per.

The show is evidently sponsored by the phrase "playing with the big boys now".

After a side trip to see Trump's vulgar multi-million-dollar apartment, it's time to get rid of one of the guys. Goodbye snippy-but-unfunny-comments-making guy.

Like all good reality shows, it makes you think you could do a better job than the people on the screen, whether or not that's actually true. I think I shall watch more of it, if I get the chance.


That's True

Seventies sci-fi really was all about hexagons. And a protagonist fighting against an inhumane and uncaring system. I don't know who would wear this shirt, though.

The Torch is Passed

We get together
Oh, we get together
But separate's always better
When there's feelings involved
If what they say is 'nothing is forever,'
Then what makes
Then what makes
Then what makes
Then what makes
Then what makes (What makes? What makes?)
Love the exception?
So why oh, why oh
Why oh, why oh, why oh
Are we so in denial
When we know we're not happy here?

On an unrelated note, this song also contains possibly the best single lyric of 2003, "lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor".


The Colonel and the Chancellor

Other than his "Old Europe/New Europe" comment, the statement that got Donald Rumsfeld the most disapproval from the diplomatic community was, "I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are the [countries] that I have indicated won't help in any respect." Thus lumping in two unfriendly countries with an ostensible ally.

Steven Den Beste points out the utter lack of vision in Rumsfeld's statement:

11 months later, Libya is being more cooperative and helpful than Germany.

Ahoy, matey

Pandavox favorite Dennis Kucinich forgot to check his pants:

(Courtesy of Tim Blair). He probably figured it wasn't that important to look presentable because it was just a radio debate. Although that didn't stop him from bringing a pie chart to the debate.

Of course, for unintentionally communicative photos, this one probably sets the standard:

Gift ideas to avoid

"Do I look like Betty Fucking Crocker? I didn’t think so."

Blog changes

I made the font size a lot smaller and added some more blog links.


A Quick Altercation

Is Eric Alterman the world's worst commentator? If today's posting is any indication, he is a pompous twit who makes confident declarations that are utterly unmoored from reality. Here's a sample:

Bush gave a soaring speech about the need for democracy across the Middle East recently. Has he done anything at all to promote it?

I don't know, ask the Iraqi council.

Ditto the Israeli hawks who insist it’s impossible to make peace with a non-democratic enemy.

Those hypocrites! They say they want Arab democracy, yet they've done nothing to promote it! What, were simple leaflets too expensive?

In the first place, the experience of Egypt obviously belies that claim.

Some peace. Egypt wants peace because they don't have nuclear weapons to use against Israel. And it's not for lack of trying.

In the second, the last thing in the world Israel needs is a democratic Middle East, where nations that now merely talk tough would have to act tough as well.

Ah, of course, Arab democracy is the last thing Israel needs. Which would mean it's currently in the best of all possible worlds, surrounded by a group of dictatorships that hate it with a vengeance. Time to celebrate! In Mr. Alterman's world, oppressive governments serve to rein in their populaces' mindless xenophobia, rather than fomenting and actively advancing it. If the last 100 years of history teach anything, it's that dictators of all stripes use nationalistic hatred to keep their populations in line. And that once a formerly bellicose country turns democratic, most of the hatred seems to just waft away.

This is truly asinine. The thing is, I don't know if anyone actually reads this man's columns. I may just be wasting my time here in the echo chamber, the equivalent of making fun of some letter to the editor of a local newspaper. Not that there isn't a certain amount of joy in that.

That's Arabic for "Happy New Year"


Okay, got it.

Everybody knows

At the Tea Lounge over the weekend they were playing a Nico song with the same melody as Belle and Sebastian's "If You're Feeling Sinister", the "he'll try in vain to take away the pain" part. A quick web search thankfully uncovers that this is her song "These Days"; thank you Music for Torching.

It sounds like a good album. Nico makes me think of girls who keep detailed scrapbooks with magazine clipplings, who spent a year abroad in Paris studying Art History or Literature, who rarely painted their toenails in college except at parties for the occasion, who name their pets after French movie stars of the 50's. The sensitive waifs. Nico lovers, I salute you.

UPDATE: Not that that's my type.

Comments have been added, courtesy of Enetation.

UPDATE: Not that I bothered to actually check it. Enetation wasn't working. Comments now courtesy of HaloScan. Thanks to Kashei for the spot-on advice.

Say hello on a day like today

I've received my first blogworld mentions, from Noah, Peter and Kashei. Thanks to all. I hope to justify your linking.

Helen Thomas is nuts

From her latest:

On Jan. 22, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ruffled diplomatic feathers when he referred to France and Germany as the "old Europe" and the former communist nations now in NATO as the "new Europe."

This is the same "old Europe" that stood by us in the Cold War and is now heading up security operations and civil enforcement operations in Afghanistan.

France left NATO in 1966. And Germany was somewhat of two minds at the time.


My Top Books of 2003
Top books I read over last year, anyway.... none of them actually came out in 2003.

For this year, there's this book and, after that, I don't know, maybe one of those "urban romance" novels everybody on the 2/3 train seems to read. Or not.


Places to avoid visiting: France.

(via Best of the Web)

Israeli on the move: Tchelet Semel, actress, Heeb Magazine cover model, and an Eve for our times. I have some problems with Heeb Magazine (not the name, but this magazine would be better off with a lot less of a political angle), but you can't knock the cover image. Anyway, Ms. Semel deserves a bright future in showbiz, and someone should have that cut looked into.

oops, she did it again

Actually, if you're interested in subscribing to the magazine, you can do so here. The current issue has an interesting chat with Perry Farrell and some music reviews from a Park Slope rabbi.


Really the only good thing about Friendster is finding that you're connected to random celebrities. So, some real, bona-fide, not fake celebrity Friendster profiles: Andrew Sullivan, Rich Girl Jaime Gleicher, Rufus Wainright, Douglas Faneuil of Martha Stewart fame, Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing. I'm somehow connected to all but Andrew Sullivan.

You can find a lot more in the comments section of this link.

Mostly via Gawker.

UPDATE: If you've come here looking for Douglas Faneuil's Friendster page (as many people seem to be), I just re-checked the links and it looks like he's removed himself from Friendster. Probably part of his attempt to keep a low profile. I can't say I blame him.

For New Year's Eve I went to a party in Park Slope; I brought whiskey for hot toddies (I'm getting over a cold, so one has to take care of oneself). Everybody likes hot toddies, though. On the way back, my female companion and I passed by Blah Blah Lounge, for what was their last night. How very sad, I used to go there a lot back when I lived a block away. I'll miss the ambience, I'll even miss the bartender, an aspiring actress who was kind of snooty to everyone in an endearing sort of way. Besides the excellent Barbes, it was the one really nice, laid-back bar in the North Slope; now all that's left in the 5th-to-15th streets section is Barbes and the generic bar-and-grills like Johnnie Mack's, which hold no interest for me. RIP Blah Blah Lounge aka BB Bar.

DrinkStreet - hot toddy recipe
Breakup Girl reviews Blah Blah Lounge

A new year, a blog for me.

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