Friday, February 29, 2008

Imagine doesn't even make the top 10

Wherein someone else can play with this

[[[[3/1 update: new material at the bottom]]]]]

Elsewhere, in a long and boring thread, I found a spark of interest when
XWL said... Also, can't we all agree that "Imagine" is the single most insipid, treacly, and perfectly awful song ever written?

No. Number one is "We Are the World." It isn't even close.

#2 = "Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got Love in My Tummy"
#3 = "Say Say Say"
#4 = "Ebony and Ivory"
#5 = "The Girl is Mine"
#6 = "Say You, Say Me"
#7 = "Having My Baby"
#8 = "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"
#9 = "Achy Breaky Heart"
#10 = "Stairway to Heaven"
Imagine doesn't even crack the top ten. Later, I added "You Light Up My Life" as # 11. I had intentions of doing more with this, but that urge has passed. Consider this an open source list of treacly and awful offered up for anyone to play with.

I'd also like to point out two of my favorite uses of "Imagine."

1. Mr. Carlson using it to expose hypocrisy of Rev. Bob Halyers. Couldn't find a clip, but Something Old, Nothing New has a rundown:
To actually counter the Religious Right, you've got to provide some sort of reason why the Religious Right is, well, wrong.

The only show in the early '80s that dealt with the issue in this way was WKRP In Cincinnati, which had been on Falwell's list, probably the presence of then-sex-symbol Loni Anderson. The creator of WKRP, Hugh Wilson, co-wrote an episode called "Clean Up Radio Everywhere," the third-season finale, which featured Falwell-lookalike Richard Paul as a preacher, Dr. Bob Halyers, leading an organization called CURB: Clean Up Radio Everywhere. When WKRP refuses to let CURB dictate its playlist, Halyers organizes a boycott, causing WKRP to lose most of its regular advertisers.

What makes the episode work is that it's actually balanced -- not in the sense of being neutral or having no point of view, but in the sense of taking other points of view seriously. Halyers is not a bad guy; he's far more likable than Jerry Falwell (not hard, of course). Moreover, the episode is told from the point of view of station manager Mr. Carlson (the late, great Gordon Jump), a conservative, religious man who doesn't like songs with dirty words or sexual content any more than Halyers does.

When Carlson later confronts Halyers, the preacher makes a serious and very plausible argument about why CURB's mission is acceptable: he's representing a group of concerned citizens who are exercising their right to express their opinions about the contents of the public airwaves; why should one man (a station manager, a program director) be invulnerable to the complaints of a segment of the public? Then, in the most famous part of this scene, Carlson shows the lyrics of John Lennon's "Imagine" to Halyers, who pronounces them blasphemous ("Imagine there's no heaven"). Everyone who's seen this episode remembers that part, but not a lot of people seem to remember that that's not the point of the scene. This is the climax of the scene:

Mr Carlson: On the list or not?
Dr Bob: I have no choice but to say on.
Mr Carlson: That decision was made by one man.

What gives Halyers' game away is not that he doesn't like the lyrics to "Imagine," but that he alone is making the decisions about what goes on the list; instead of helping a group of people express their opinions, as he claims he's doing, he's actually using the grassroots argument as an excuse for enforcing his own personal opinions, and passing them off as the opinions of his flock. In other words, the episode actually leaves open the possibility that it would be OK to have a genuine protest by a segment of the public against something that offends them; what it condemns, and what such "protests" usually turn out to be, is one person's attempt to gain an dangerous amount of power (over the people he claims to speak for and the people he speaks against).

2. Jordis Unga from Rockstar: INXS adds new life to a song I was tired of hearing.

Received an email about an Imagine commentary I wasn't aware of. Turns out William F. Buckley was not a fan of the song. Read the whole thing here:
Well, we certainly want to imagine a world in which everyone lives in peace, but, you see, that is only possible in a world in which people are willing to die for causes.

There'd have been peace for heaven knows (assuming heaven existed) how long in the South, except that men were willing to die to free the slaves, and Hitler would have died maybe about the time John Lennon did, at Berchtesgaden, at age 91, happy in a Jewless Europe.

There have got to be reasons that even affected John Lennon to prefer one country over against another. I happen to know this to be the case, since a long time ago he asked me to help him get papers permitting him to live in the United States.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Looking for my constant

Wherein more mindless Lost speculation

This week's Lost theory: I'm still working on it.

...Until then, here's a letter from Richard P Feynman to David Paterson, February 11, 1976:
Dear David:

I was glad to hear from you. I looked at your enclosure "Traveling in Time," but didn't read beyond the second sentence because I, also, believe that time travel cannot be done, and I thought my colleagues agreed with me. The science fiction writers who have interpreted my view of the positron as an electron going backward in time have not realized that that theory is completely consistent with causality principles, and in no way implies that we can travel backward in time.

Richard P. Feynman

Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From The Beaten Track: The Letters Of Richard P. Feynman

Julian Jaynes, from The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind:
...But, actually, you could, as you remain where you are, just as well locate your consciousness around the corner in the next oom against the wall near the floor, and do your thinking there as well as in your head. Not really just as well. For there are very good reasons why it is better to imagine your mind-space inside of you, reasons to do with volition and internal sensations, with the relationship of your body and your 'I' which will become apparent as we go on.

...Let me summarize as a way of 'seeing' where we are and the direction in which our discussion is going. We have said that consciousness is an operation rather than a thing, a repository, or a function. It operates by way of analogy, by way of constructing an analog space with an analog 'I' that can observe that space, and move metaphorically in it. It operates on any reactivity, excerpts relevant aspects, narratizes and conciliates them together in a metaphorical space where such meanings can be manipulated like things in space. Conscious mind is a spatial analog of the world and mental acts are analogs of bodily acts. Consciousness operates only on objectively observable things. Or, to say it another way with echoes of John Locke, there is nothing in consciousness that is not an analog of something that was in behavior first.

Looking for a couple of time travel stories I remember from Omni magazine, I found Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, by Paul J. Nahin:
It is a strict interpretation of Hume that Sorensen adopts in claiming that a time traveler would have no success (among rational persons, anyway) with tall tales of "different places." As Sorensen explains, "Clearly the time traveler cannot persuade a reasonable person by baldly asserting 'I am a time traveler.' The improbability of his claim places a heavy burden of proof on him. But perhaps he could shoulder the burden by means of artifacts, predictions, and demonstrations." Sorensen dismisses all of these possibilities, however, by reminding us of the slightly sleazy history of parapsychology and ESP. which run counter to known scientific laws, but which have still duped "many a respected scientist." Any artifact, prediction, or demonstration of time travel, argues Sorensen, is more likely to be the result of deception and fraud than of actual time travel.

Mr. Nahin mentions one of the stories I was looking for:
In my own 1979 story "Newton's Gift" it is the visit of a time traveler from the future that causes Newton's descent from first-rate physics to third-rate theology, a tragic misapplication of talent about which the time traveler knew but did not know the cause.

I'm also looking for Rent Control by Walter Tevis. In this story a couple finds that time stands still for them when they're in bed together. They get carried away with the concept and die.

One I can't locate a title or author for concerns a student watching a time capsule before it is buried the next day. A stranger approaches with a proposition to place a note inside to test the existence of time travelers. His theory is that if there were time travelers and they some how got stuck in the past, the best to get a message to the future would be to place it in the time capsule. It's possible I have all three of these stories in a couple of old Omni magazine collections. Being as how they're in the infamous boxes in the basement, there is no guarantee they'll be soon located. Just searched the local library system for the Nahin book and all they have is Duelling idiots and other probability puzzlers.

Behind the scenes at wikipedia

Wherein reads like death by a bajillion pin pricks

Noticed I've gotten a few visitors from a wikipedia admin board. Took me awhile to figure out why -- some person by the handle of WebHamster had linked to this of mine.

Fascinating reading and ties in with a few recent posts at Done With Mirrors. particularly General Statement and Time of disturbance. I get the sense that most of my regular reader(s) end up over there, for the other 1.5 of you, check him out. Always interesting and thought-provoking.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"What am I going to do, write a book about a guy missing a turn?"

Wherein choose your words, paint the picture you want to paint

The Exxon Valdez is before the Supreme Court today, over an argument concerning punitive damages. Nina Totenberg, on NPR, reported that
"[Hazelwood] abandoned the bridge during the treacherous crossing" and added a few old sound clips from Exxon executives admitting that, yes, Hazelwood was drunk at the time. Sounded like Totenberg was arguing the case against Exxon instead of reporting the facts. At least as I recall the facts. On the case itself, I have no opinion at this time. For Captain Hazelwood, I have a little more information.

Let's start with the more evenhanded Associated Press description:
The 987-foot tanker, commanded by its captain, Joseph Hazelwood, missed a turn and ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, causing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Missed a turn, that's it? Why no scary words like "abandoned" and "treacherous"? Oh yeah, just in case anyone has forgotten -- like Nina Totenberg -- Captain Joseph Hazelwood was acquitted of most of the charges. NY Times, March 28, 1990:
Capt. Joseph J. Hazelwood's acquittal on the most serious charges against him complicates the question of legal responsibility for the Exxon Valdez oil spill and how the Exxon Corporation will fare in pending civil litigation, lawyers in the cases say.

Captain Hazelwood, skipper of the Exxon Valdez when she struck a reef and spilled 10.8 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound a year ago last Saturday, was found guilty on Thursday of negligently discharging oil, a misdemeanor. He was acquitted on the more serious charges of criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and operating a water craft under the influence of alcohol.

At a news conference the morning after the verdict, Adm. Paul A. Yost Jr., the Coast Guard Commandant, attributed the spill to human error. ''It happened because a fully qualified third mate ran the tanker aground,'' he said. Captain Hazelwood was in his cabin when the ship grounded.

The captain's lawyers, among others, have accused the Coast Guard of failing to keep a closer watch on the tanker.

Mr. Baily, the Attorney General, said the state pressed charges against Captain Hazelwood because he was ''the peak of responsibility,'' although Exxon shared that status. ''There have been 8,000 captains before him'' who successfully traversed Prince William Sound, Mr. Baily said. ''He couldn't do it.''

But the jury declined to affix total responsibility on Captain Hazelwood. ''It was a combination of events'' that caused the spill, said one juror. ''No one person was solely the cause.''

It's true that in 1994, another jury wasn't so generous (NY Times). Though if I'm reading this correctly, it was a civil suit, not a criminal trial:
In a verdict that could have striking economic implications for the world's largest oil company, a Federal jury said today that the Exxon Corporation was reckless when it permitted a captain with a history of alcohol abuse to command a supertanker.

The jury also determined that the captain, Joseph J. Hazelwood, was himself negligent and reckless when he drank heavily on the afternoon before the Exxon Valdez strayed off course in the dangerous waters of Alaska's Prince William Sound and ran aground on March 24, 1989, causing North America's worst oil tanker spill.

The same article also mentions:
In 1991, the Coast Guard also acquitted Mr. Hazelwood of charges that he was impaired while commanding the Exxon Valdez. The Coast Guard, though, suspended Mr. Hazelwood's license for nine months for leaving the tanker's bridge at a critical moment. Mr. Hazelwood's license has since been reinstated, and, according to his testimony here, he is a paid employee of the New York office of one of his lawyers, Michael Chalos. Exxon is paying Mr. Hazelwood's legal fees.

Let's review,
  1. A civil jury finds him negligent, but doesn't say he was drunk at the time of the accident.
  2. In the first criminal trial, he is acquitted by an Alaskan jury.
  3. The Coast Guard also acquits him, though he is suspended for "leaving" the bridge.

Leaving does not sound like abandoned. Does it, Nina? Nina? Crap, my direct line to Nina Totenberg and NPR seems to be down. I look forward to her response later in the day.

I've mentioned this before, that one of my favorite magazine articles was about Joseph Hazelwood. In the October 1997 issue of Outside magazine, Daniel Coyle wrote The Captain Went Down with the Ship. For my money, Coyle is a much better reporter than Totenberg. She usually does a decent job of explaining both sides of a Supreme Court case, which doesn't require her to do much more than translate into nonlegalize. She's not exactly a paragon of original reporting.

Coyle, with Hazelwood, and the oh so scary, treacherous, crossing:
We're in the Seamen's Church Institute, a tidy brick building in lower Manhattan that serves as a training center for merchant mariners. We've come here at my request from the midtown law office where Hazelwood works to take a spin in the bridge simulator. This full-scale, state-of-the-art device has been set up to replicate the conditions at midnight, March 23, 1989, a few moments before the Exxon Valdez bellied-up on Bligh Reef in Alaska's Prince William Sound and began disgorging 11 million gallons of crude oil, obliterating life on 1,244 miles of coastline, and forever altering the way in which we view the vulnerability of our wild places. Instantly overlaid by myth, the spill has become crystallized in the public imagination as the archetypal catastrophe, Captain Joseph Jeffrey Hazelwood its archetypal cause.

The captain is nothing if not punctual, so we arrived at five o'clock, exactly on schedule, and waited a few minutes while the simulator's operator booted up its Valdez program. Hazelwood was eager to get started: In order to catch his 6:24 train home to Huntington, Long Island, he calculated that he must depart here at 5:45, no later. Now, as our facsimile tanker approaches the facsimile reef, he steps comfortably around the bridge, eyeing the engine-order telegraph, tweaking the radar, confidently adjusting the dials and knobs. Satisfied, he steps back and checks his watch: 5:35.

Beyond the frames of five bridge windows, the mountains of Prince William Sound part to reveal a passage ten miles wide. Ahead, the monolithic main deck of the supertanker recedes toward the horizon. Winds are calm, skies dark, visibility eight miles. We've left the shipping lanes, just as the Exxon Valdez departed them in order to avoid ice. Off the starboard bow, a tiny red light pulses once every four seconds; Bligh Reef buoy. Radar shows that we're passing Busby Island, the spot where the tanker was to have begun its starboard turn back into the shipping lanes. An SCI captain named James Fitzpatrick, who has been informed of Hazelwood's time restriction, mans the helm.

"The moment of truth," Hazelwood says flatly. "Give me right 20."

"Right two-zero, Cap," says Fitzpatrick.

The ship begins to swing. Hazelwood does not look to the radar screen for proof; he waits to see it, as he later says, "to feel the turn." The red buoy light begins to slide across the windows, imperceptibly at first, then with silken rapidity. After two minutes, during which time we've advanced a bare seven-tenths of a mile, our 1,000-foot, 250,000-ton virtual supertanker -- weighing 40,000 tons more than the Exxon Valdez -- has turned on a dime. The buoy bobs innocuously off our port side. We've missed Bligh Reef by more than two miles.

Eyes on the horizon, Hazelwood speaks. "That's all you'd have to do. That's all anybody would have had to do."

And finally, some good advice from Hazelwood. Some advice I'm thinking a certain baseball pitcher might be wishing he'd taken heed of.
On our final visit, he will tell me, "If there's one thing I've learned from this experience, it would be this: If you're ever in any kind of a touchy situation, do not say a word to anyone. Words can only hurt you."

The moment the Exxon Valdez touched Bligh Reef, Hazelwood's silence began. He gave no statements, permitted few interviews, declined to testify at the National Transportation Safety Board hearings and his 1990 criminal trial. "Hermetically sealed" was the term his lawyers used, and their obedient client disappeared onto the front page. His silence rescued Exxon, which needed a bogeyman; the press, which needed a reason; and the public, which needed a way to think about the unthinkable. He became a two-dimensional figure in a Puritan allegory, proof of the American theorem that history is character writ large. He evolved into a type, a handy referent for the loose cannon, the dangerous idiot. (Letterman's Top Ten Joe Hazelwood Excuse: "I was just trying to scrape some ice off the reef for my margarita.") The artistic pinnacle of the Hazelwood oeuvre was his nonspeaking role as divine idol of the Smokers, the scraggly, jet-skiing globe-wreckers of Kevin Costner's soggy 1995 future-pic Waterworld. "Be patient, Saint Joe, we're close," Dennis Hopper whispers reverentially to a gilt-framed portrait of the resolute-looking captain. "After centuries of shame, we're almost there."

The few times that Hazelwood was quoted in the aftermath of the spill, he said nothing to vindicate himself or show remorse. When the judge in his criminal trial asked for an apology, Hazelwood declined. When Connie Chung asked if he could declare his innocence before a national television audience, he said he could say nothing either way about the case. He displayed a clinical detachment from what everybody else was fiercely concerned with: the otters, the salmon, the ecosystem of Prince William Sound, the spill's larger role as harkening call, along with the widening ozone hole and the disappearing rainforests, to the environmental movement's early-decade shift to center stage in the American consciousness.

Hazelwood seemed oblivious to the fact that his silence forever condemned him in the minds of many, oblivious to the proven truth of the political maxim that it's not the accusation, it's how you handle the accusation that matters. Among friends and acquaintances, the silence engendered much speculation. Was it guilt? Pride? Shame? Denial? Was he protecting someone? But to hear Hazelwood tell it, the matter is simpler: There's nothing to say.

"What am I going to do, write a book about a guy missing a turn?" His eyebrows arch cartoonily. "Books have a hero. I'm just a regular guy caught in a situation. There's a perception out there, and all the spin doctors in the world can't fix that perception. I'm not a bubbly person. I don't have an inner child I'm beating up. Go on Oprah? I just don't have it in me. The people who know me know what I'm about."

Occasionally, however, the shell of equanimity shows a few cracks. Though our time together has its agreed-upon boundaries (no questions about his actions leading up to the spill, no interviews with his wife or college-age daughter, no visits to his home), Hazelwood shows an increasing willingness to broach the accident and his feelings toward it. At those moments, which usually take place during his 20-minute walk from Penn Station to the office, his voice takes on the nasal, syncopated patois of middle-class Long Island. An unabashed bibliophile (another shipboard habit), he tosses off quotes from Oscar Wilde, Albert Einstein, Stonewall Jackson, Beryl Markham, and does a passable Bill Murray impression. The rhythm of the walk takes over, he's carried along in the hot swell of humanity, and for once his words flow unencumbered.

"You know, this thing happened the same spring as Tiananmen Square," he says, stopping to carefully stub out a cigarette. "That was big news for a day -- then it was back to our regularly scheduled slamming of Captain Hazelwood. A year later you got Saddam dumping 40 million barrels of oil -- 150 times what was spilled in Prince William Sound -- and he's setting the country on fire, and the guy's still getting better press than me?" On his fingers, he ticks off other accidents and tragedies that received less attention, including many larger oil spills that were virtually ignored by the press. "The way the media handles disasters is out of proportion. Like a friend of mine said after TWA Flight 800 went down: 'Good thing there weren't any fucking otters on board.'"

Then we're outside his building, in the shadow of its steel and smoked glass. "I've learned to keep my emotions out of it," he says, regaining his equilibrium. "This is a business, and emotions cloud your judgment. This is a technical problem, basically, and it's got to be dealt with in a technical way. Besides, it's like Eddie Murphy said in Trading Places: 'I'm a Karate Man ù I bleed on the inside.'" He opens the door and smiles his good-guy smile, and it is utterly unconvincing.

What can I say, I like the guy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stupid headline

Wherein they must be serious if they vowed it and didn't just promise

Georgia Couple Vows to Enjoy $275M Prize

Two jokes

Wherein I'm also a big fan of the interrupting cow knock knock joke

Narrated by Lewis Black, the History Channel is showing The History of the Joke. There's very little history involved as it's mainly comedians telling bad jokes. I can't really recommend spending two hours of your life watching it. Instead, I will share my favorite two jokes from the show -- both of which were in the first ten minutes.

  1. Why was Helen Keller a bad driver? Because she was a woman.
  2. Why do women wear makeup and perfume? Because they're ugly and smell bad.

Snatch the pebble from my hand

Wherein it would've been much easier if Grasshopper had kicked the blind man in the shin and elbowed him in the face; then he could've just picked the pebble off the ground. Something to keep in mind if you ever enroll in kickass monk school

Interesting question 7 for last week. Though upon further review, based upon the wording -- Who comes last in this sequence? Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Tatum O'Neal, Valerie Perrine, Carol Kane, Mariel Hemingway, Cathy Moriarty, ______. -- the correct answer is obviously Cathy Moriarty. She's the last in the sequence and Cate Blanchett would be next.

1. Smokey Robinson
2. Sunshine State. Hmmm. Does Queensland have a bike week like South Dakota and Florida? If so, I'm not sure what the shared nickname would be -- the show us your tits state?. I think I'll stick with Sunshine.
3. picking of the nose
4. Someone on a reality show. I don't think there's a nonreality show that I'd classify as a megahit; obviously the stormin' Mormon has his own way of defining things.
5. DK
6. Gone With the Wind
7. George Wallace, the segregationist governor? Or George Wallace the comedian? Because I don't know how he expects anyone to answer the question with this level of imprecision. I originally wrote standup comedian, but that's redundant. Not like there's a market for standup dramatists.

No questions of my own this week, so try your luck with the trivia at builtonadare.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday Ballet: En Pointe

Wherein it's hard to tell watching them onstage, but if you ever meet ballerinas up close pay attention to just how muscular the legs, especially the calves, are. There's some freakish strength and power there

Pointe shoes are elongated ballet shoes encasing a solid box (shoe anatomy). Even with a platform, it requires much strength and balance. Training usually begins no earlier than 9 or 10 years of age, and after 3-4 years of classical training. Advanced technique, physical development, and ability to support their own weight are all considered before a dancer is allowed to begin en pointe work. Even then, work in pointe shoes starts out at no more than about 10 minutes a class. I made mention of muscular ballet legs, but I should also mention that dancers tend to have some ugly feet and toes from all the abuse.

Because of the point shoe construction, they have a relatively short life span and dancers will rehearse with a large bag of shoes. The idea is to break in and find the sweet spot in one pair just in time for the performance. After that, the shoe is done. The Child (age 6) attends classes at a school with a professional company and we're told that the company members will go through upwards of 60 shoes a season at a cost of around $100 a pair. Yeah, obviously we need to start saving now.

If you're interested in ballet techniques, a good place to look is Suki Schorer on Balanchine Technique. Ms. Schorer, spent almost a quarter century dancing with George Balanchine and teaching at the School of American Ballet. Her book is essentially an encyclopedia of the Balanchine method, along with little biographical details. Some of which are interesting, others are just odd:
When I joined the faculty of SAB, Madame Danilova and I got to know each other as colleagues and in the teachers' dressing room. This was a ballerina to the nth degree. She arrived for work every day impeccably dressed down to her underwear, the most beautiful I have ever seen.

Okay...thanks for sharing. Back to the pointe shoes, it's less gossipy:
Balanchine was very much aware of the expense to the company caused by the need for so many pairs of pointe shoes. He therefore did not object to our wearing old shoes for class, as long as they were not so old that they failed to give us the support we needed to dance full-out on pointe. Also, for me and for some of the other women, it was easier to start class in softer shoes. We had better articulation of the foot and pointed our toes more easily, so we wore older but serviceable pointe shoes for the barre exercises. Then as the center work began, we changed into newer, slightly harder shoes.

Once a dancer has become accustomed to working in pointe shoes, it is hard to go back to ballet slippers. Soft slippers give much less support, and, although in jumps you have to point your feet extra hard against the end of the pointe show in order to bend the shank and box, the shoe actually helps the dancer when landing: The box provides resistance, which helps control the foot as it makes contact with the floor. Because it is soft, the slipper offers no such resistance, which makes it ore likely that the dacner will land on the ball of the foot and go immediately onto her whole foot, rather than landing on the tips of the toes and easing down through the toe joints and then through the rest of the foot.

...When the dancer is standing on pointe, most of her weight should be borne by the big toe and the toe next to it. The toes are usually not straight to the floor, which would place the dancer on the tips of her toes. Instead, they are slightly bent under. This is achieved by placing the weight above the top of the supporting foot and by stretching the top of the foot. The dancer does not intentionally bend the toes; rather, the placement of her weight and the flexibility of her instep determine their shape and position in the shoe. The dancer pulls up off her feet and out of her shoes; she does not relax and sit into them.

Suki teaching a pointe class

From Physics of Toe Shoes
What stabilizes a dancer en pointe is the upward tension in the achilles tendon as the toe pushes down into the floor. The achilles tendon must withstand a tension force two to three times a person's body weight! The achilles tendon is vital to a dancer, and if it tears it can mean the end of a dancer's career.


How is it possible for a dancer to balance her entire body weight on one square inch (the approximate are of the pointe of a toe shoe)?! The key is that her center of gravity, that is the location where the mass of her body is concentrated, must be exactly in line with the area of support, that is the pointe of the shoe.

The state of static balance, that is balance without moving, can only be achieved when the sum of the forces on the body is zero. When a dancer is en pointe and is not holding onto anything, the only forces acting on her are the downward force of gravity, and the equal and opposite upward force of the floor that balances it. When a dancer relevees, she will be balanced if she relevees straight up, exerting zero horizontal force. However, she will be unblanced if she is slightly tipped one way or the other and exerts a horizontal force as she relevees, and she may topple. In order to relevee straight up a dancer must have enough strength in her legs, feet, and ankles, and she must maintain good form by not sitting in her hip or arching her back.


One of the most beautiful moves in ballet is the pirouette, a turn on one foot often with multiple rotations. The Law of Rotational Inertia, a variation of Newton's First Law, states that an object that is not rotating will not begin rotating, and an object that is rotating will not stop rotating unless acted upon by an external force. Rotational inertia depends on the distribution of the mass of the object relative to the axis of rotation. The greater the distance between the bulk of the mass of an object and the axis of rotation, the more rotational inertia it has. This explains why when a dancer pulls in her arms while she is spinning she has less rotational inertia, and therefore spins faster and for longer. This also explains why the rate of turn of a pirouette in the retire position (the most common position for a pirouette with the gesture leg bent so that the toe is placed at the inside of the knee of the supporting leg) is more than double the rate turn of an arabesque turn (when the gesture leg is extended out behind the dancer).

Katherine Healy dancing the Black Swan

This has nothing to do with pointe, I just don't see having any other place to use this. Though this song might need to be added to "hip hop songs white people love."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I'd kinda like to be the President / so I can show you how your money's spent

Wherein White people are people too

Just when I start think to think the internets are all used up and there's nothing new, I come across one of the more informative and helpful sites I've ever seen: Stuff White People Like. I didn't know half this. This will come in handy when I need to buy Christmas gifts.

#48 Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops
White people need organic food to survive, and where they purchase this food is as important as what they purchase. In modern white person culture, Whole Foods has replaces churches and cathedrals as the most important and relevant buildings in the community.

#42 Sushi
Regardless if you are vegetarian, vegan, or just guilty about eating meat, all white people love Sushi. To them, it’s everything they want: foreign culture, expensive, healthy, and hated by the ‘uneducated.’

But there are different levels of white person Sushi love. At the bottom are the spicy tuna/california roll eaters. These are the people who get their fix at places named “Rock And Roll!” “Magic Sushi Company,” or Trader Joes-type supermarkets. Often times, this sushi isn’t the most authentic, but white people can’t get enough!

Guest Column - Top Ten Hip Hop Songs White People Love
I was preparing to write a post about how white people love “old school” hip hop, and take it very seriously. Or perhaps how they love “conscious” hip hop that so vitally addresses the problems of a community that they don’t belong to. Remember, they aren’t dancing or jogging to this music for fun - it’s for a social cause....

9. Digital Underground - The Humpty Dance

Humpty Hump was rap music’s greatest alter ego and actually a good MC but all White People know (and love) him for is “I like my oatmeal lumpy,” and “Burger King bathroom.”

F*cking White People.
8. Biz Markie - Just A Friend

Oh my god do White People love this song. Particularly frat boys. Why? I don’t know.

Unlike most of his peers on this list, the Biz is a guy long deep in the hip hop scene with lots of cred, yet to White People he’ll only ever be that fat funny-looking black guy with the wig who sings bad.
7. Young MC - Bust A Move

I believe there is a law that requires this song be played at every Rock n’ Bowl.

Like that the police shut down the bowling alley if it doesn’t comply.

>>peeve farm

Friday, February 22, 2008

"We're looking for someone to remind us that we're here for more important reasons"

Wherein another round of pointless Lost speculations

This week's theory: Lost is M. Night Shyamalan's The Village.

Eight survived the crash, six were rescued, two died before rescue. But where -- swimming to the island or on the island? Because of all the graves on the beach I'm thinking there won't be a rescue on the island. I'm also beginning to think that the freighter isn't the 'rescue.' I'm starting to lean towards the view that we're still a long way off from seeing how the 6 are rescued. And thinking back over the flash-forward clips of the Oceanic 6, I don't think they've shown the island.

My new speculation -- after a number of events involving people on the island and people on the freighter and misplaced group of Others still on the island and two or three other groups of people still waiting to be introduced, Ben's group -- at that point including most of the Losties, including Dr. Angst -- gains some sort of victory. As a reward, or as a means of covering up what happened or for protecting the island, the Oceanic 6 will probably be set adrift on a makeshift raft in the shipping lanes. But unlike Tom Hanks in Castaway, no one will be able to find the island.

Let's review a conversation from last season. From The Brig:
RICHARD: It's beautiful isn't it. No matter how much time you spend on the Island you just never get tired of this view. We haven't been formally introduced, I'm Richard.

[They shake hands]

RICHARD: You mind if I, join you here.

LOCKE: Nah sure.

RICHARD: He wanted to embarrass you.

LOCKE: I'm sorry?

RICHARD: Ben knew you weren't gonna kill your own father. He put you in front of everyone in our camp just so they could all watch ya fail.


RICHARD: Cause when word got back here that there was a man with a broken spine on the plane who could suddenly walk again, well, people here began to get very excited because that, that could only happen to someone who was extremely special. But Ben doesn't want anyone to think you're special, John.

LOCKE: And why are you telling me this?

RICHARD: Ben has been wasting our time with novelties like fertility problems. We're looking for someone to remind us that we're here for more important reasons.

LOCKE: What do you want from me?

RICHARD: I want for you to find your purpose. And to do that, your father has to go, John. And since you're not gonna do it, I'm gonna suggest someone else.

[He hands Locke a red folder. Locke looks at it briefly as Richard walks away]

Let's get back to the ageless Richard and the "important reasons." Even though the Others slaughtered what looked like harmless Dharma researchers, we're supposed to eventually find sympathy with the Others -- if we want to believe that future Sayid has a legitimate reason to work with Ben.

Looking back at last season's One of Us, Richard was off island when Oceanic 815 crashed.
BEN: A plane fell out of the sky, Mikhail. Of course we saw it. What do you have so far?

[A monitor shows news reports of planes]

MIKHAIL: Oceanic Flight 815. Left Sydney Australia headed for Los Angeles, 324 people onboard including the flight crew.

BEN: I want detailed files on every single passenger.

MIKHAIL: Already working on it.

BEN: Can we uplink to Richard in Acadia Park please.

The Brig episode is when the Others leave their homes:
BEN: I'm afraid we don't have time to deal with that right now, John. We're leaving first thing in the morning, all of us.

LOCKE: Where are you going?

BEN: We're going to a new place. Well an old place, actually. Would you like to come with us?

Is the old place just this?
The Others have built tents in a valley field. Locke helps someone make their tent, noticing that some of the people keep looking at him]

LOCKE: There. That ought to do it.

CINDY: Thanks. That would have taken me hours to do myself.

LOCKE: Glad I could help.

[Cindy notices Locke looking at more people staring]

CINDY: Don't mind them. They're all just excited you're here.

LOCKE: Excited?

CINDY: We've been waiting for you.

No, just a temporary camp,
[Yesterday. Locke wakes to see the Others packing up and heading out. Locke goes over to Ben]

LOCKE: Ben. What's going on?

BEN: We're moving.

LOCKE: Moving, where are we going?

BEN: We are not going anywhere, John. You are going to stay behind. You both are going to stay behind.

A couple of tidbits from The Man Behind the Curtain:
Ben sits in class while a teacher discusses volcanoes. Her shirt reveals her name to be “Olivia”]

OLIVIA: So once water is added to the bicarbonate, we will get our very own volcanic reaction.

[Annie raises her hand]


ANNIE: Is that what happened to the volcano on this Island?

OLIVIA: Exactly Annie, but that was a long time ago. OK, lets get ourselves an eruption.

Perhaps when the show ends the volcano erupts and the islands sinks, never to be seen again. Back when Ben is a kid on the island, Dharma has some conflicts,
ANNIE: Don't worry it's just the Hostiles. We'll be OK.

[The DHARMA staff shout and a loud explosion can be heard]

[At night, Horace talks with Roger in his house at the Barracks. Ben listens from the next room]

HORACE: Hey man I heard you ran into a little trouble.

ROGER: We're driving back from the Flame and we hear this huge explosion. Next thing I know, there's a siren wailing, and we're driving to the middle of a shoot-out.

HORACE: Look we're having some skirmishes with the natives.

ROGER: What do you mean, natives?

HORACE: Well, we're not exactly sure who they are.

Is this Richard's group? He seemed just fine waiting for Ben to grow up. And will we ever find out what happened to Annie?
[Ben sits on the swings at the Barracks with Annie. He unwraps a present to find two carved wooden dolls, one boy and one girl]

ANNIE: It's us. That's you and that's me. Now we never have to be away from each other. Happy birthday, Ben.

BEN: Thanks.

ANNIE: You're welcome.

We'll see the dolls one more time, right before Ben kills his father.

Then standing over the open grave lecturing Locke, is Ben being honest about "original inhabitants"?
BEN: This is where I came from, John. These are my people. The DHARMA Initiative. They came here seeking harmony, but they couldn't even coexist with the Island's original inhabitants. And when it became clear that one side had to go, one side had to be purged, I did what I had to do. I was one of the people that was smart enough to make sure that I didn't end up in that ditch, which makes me considerably smarter than you, John.

Ah, here it is, in Through The Looking Glass:
BEN: Not we, Richard, me. You're going to take everyone to the temple as planned.
And we get a head count on the Lostaways:
RICHARD: There's forty of them. And you're alone. They're gonna do whatever it takes to get off the Island. What do you think's gonna happen when you get there?

Checking our chess pieces:
  • Unknown number of Others waiting at the temple.
  • Approximately 40 passengers of Oceanic 815, split between Jack's party at the beach and Locke's not-so-much a party at the Others' village.
  • Rousseau
  • the Jacob thingy
  • Possibly Mikhail
  • Miles, Daniel, and Charlotte from the freighter.
  • unknown number of people on the freighter, including a spy for Ben
  • Frank, Sayid, Desmond, and dead Naomi have flown off the island and are now missing.
  • Walt -- apparition or real. So Michael might still be around.
  • We've had a transmission from Penny

In the future, Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid are four of the Oceanic 6. I'm guessing Aaron is not included in that number and everyone is pretending he's Kate's child. Currently unknown who the Oceanic 2 will be. My early money is on Charlie being one of them. Might as well pencil in Sun and Jin as who I think the last two survivors will be.

Will we ever find out what those more important reasons are? Do the writers even know what they are?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I suggest replacing the "y" with an "i" and adding a "k"; then dropping the "g" and changing the "o" to an "e"

Wherein peple and there speling

Got a google search for dolls house-henry gibson. Seeing as how Henry Gibson is a comedic actor -- you might remember him from Laugh-In or as the Illinois Nazi from Blues Brothers -- and Henrik Ibsen is the "father of modern drama," it isn't uncommon to confuse the two.

Would you like that answered alphabetically, chronologically, or in order of importance?

Wherein the title is a line from my favorite improv performance

Brian gets cranky about people using the phrase That's just wrong on SO many levels. And I agree the retort should be, "List some."

Normally this is the space where I'd use that as an intro to riff on a few pet phrases that, by definition, irk me, getting increasingly crankier and using increasingly more profanity until the gentle reader is concerned for my health and their ability to view the site in a work environment that, by definition, doesn't include a two drink minimum.

If I were really on a roll, I'd insert a Neal Stephenson quote. I think there's actually something useful in Cryptonomicon that would take a more, by definition, supportive stance on these sort of things.

But playing the chronically peeved while riding the high horse of uber-outrage as if I'm some kind of, by definition, cosmically doomed lovechild of Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks takes a fair amount of energy. And I'm tired. Maybe I should change the blog name to "Lollipop farting ponies" and see where that leads me.

Shoes, I still have to do the shoe survey.

Thirteen years? Really?

That's just wrong on SO many levels

Go here:
People insist that "X, by definition, is a Y!" on those occasions when they're trying to sneak in a connotation of Y that isn't directly in the definition, and X doesn't look all that much like other members of the Y cluster.

Over the last thirteen years I've been keeping track of how often this phrase is used correctly versus incorrectly - though not with literal statistics, I fear. But eyeballing suggests that using the phrase by definition, anywhere outside of math, is among the most alarming signals of flawed rgument I've ever found. It's right up there with "Hitler", "God", "absolutely certain" and "can't prove that".

I think I found the Feynman usage. Tried to leave that in a comment, but typepad crapped out on me. Also, the author is guilty of using two spaces after a period so any conclusions must, by definition, be ignored.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Wherein and based on the questions, I'm not particularly interested in the answers

For #7, I know Ellen Burstyn and Tatum O'Neal were both in movies later made into TV shows: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore and Paper Moon. Don't think that's all that unique.

I also don't think I've ever seen Paper Moon. However, watching a show the other day that included a short clip from Paper Moon added some depth to a joke in a different movie -- Better Off Dead.
  • Tatum O'Neal: "I want my two hundred dollars." youtube
  • newspaper kid: "I want my two dollars." youtube

Kinda like seeing Treasure of Sierra Madre after Blazing Saddles and realizing "Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!" was a reference joke. Of course there's a wiki page for stinking badges...but before you click that link, here's my trivia question for the week:

Name two movies in which Orlando Jones played a door to door salesman.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday Ballet: Baryshnikov in White Nights

Wherein weekly belly dancing videos may be found HERE

This is not a very good movie, yet it does have some wonderful dance pieces. This one is my favorite.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! My eyes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wherein parenting has its limits

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Wherein new music I heard earlier this week

Gotta get me some of this.

When I reach her five days before Christmas, however, she’s in a giddy mood. It is the day after the premiere of The Great Debaters in New York, and the overwhelming glow of walking the red carpet with Washington, Weinstein, Forest Whitaker and other big names associated with the film the previous evening is still fresh in Jones’ wound-up psyche. “I’ve been on the phone for the past few hours, people just been callin’ me left an’ right, congratulatin’ me about last night,” she exclaims, only expressing regret that her handful of lines and primary performance footage ended up on the editing room floor. “But it’s OK – we got seven songs on the soundtrack! When the DVD comes out, I’ll make sure I get that so people can see the director’s cut.”

She might want to make sure Lou Reed gets a copy also. Jones toured Australia, Europe and the US as part of Reed’s live production of his 1973 album Berlin, eventually becoming a highlight of the show once the notoriously standoffish Reed became aware of her reputation and started giving her the lead on the VU standard “Sweet Jane,” which Jones transformed into a Tina Turner-esque show-stopper. The first time she did it, she remembers, “the crowd screamed, Lou stood at the end of the stage, almost in tears, he was like, ‘She took me to the mountaintop!’ I came off the stage, and he gave me the biggest hug. And then we bonded. Until I had to turn him down for June and July three days before I was supposed to go on tour with him again, because I had to do The Great Debaters. Oooh, he hated me.” She’s only ran into Reed once since then, at a Doc Pomus tribute concert that both of them played in Prospect Park in July. “He was a little upset,” she says. “But he gave me a hug, after I came off the stage.”

100 Days, 100 Nights

New Lost theory

Wherein still under development...or underdeveloped...

Lost is They Live and Sayid is Roddy Piper. Quoting wiki:
The idea for They Live came from two sources: a short story called "Eight O'Clock in the Morning" by Ray Nelson, originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1960s, involving an alien invasion in the tradition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and a story called "Nada" from the Alien Encounters comic book.[1] John Carpenter describes Nelson's story as "a D.O.A. type of story, in which a man is put in a trance by a stage hypnotist. When he awakens, he realizes that the entire human race has been hypnotized, and that alien creatures are controlling humanity. He has only until eight o'clock in the morning to solve the problem."[1] Carpenter acquired the film rights to both the comic book and short story and wrote the screenplay using Nelson’s story as a basis for the film's structure.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"We also discussed whether Hillary should run for president"

Wherein interesting, possibly amusing

A little more from Vaclav Havel. Written May 12, 2005:
This morning at 8:30, I was at the Clinton', who live not far from us. Clinton looked very good after his operations. He was calm, not too overweight, had a smooth complexion, and he exuded an expansive equanimity. I've always somewhat envied that in him. We talked for about an hour about everything imaginable -- Russia, Ukraine, common experiences, his visits to Prague. We also discussed whether Hillary should run for president. He was in favor. Hillary once asked me if I thought she should run for the Senate and I said that she certainly should, and she won! When I see Hillary again, I'll remind her, as a joke, that it's worth listening to my advice and that I'm naturally in favor of her running for president. I was struck by one thing Clinton touched on, but which I had heard as well from other leading American Democrats, that while the Republicans can always position themselves as strong supporters of certain basic values, such as the family or the right to life, the Democrats are at a certain disadvantage: they refuse to make their lives simpler by holding to simple and traditional dogmas without qualification and without regard for the current state of the world, and for that very reason it can appear as if they are not defending clear values. I think that the Democratic Party has at its disposal a great fund of intellectual and political capital but that it's waiting for the right person to bring the two together and articulate a clear, comprehensible, yet modern hierarchy of values. Perhaps Hillary will be the one to do that, who knows? Naturally I have no great insight into the real background of politics here, but I must mention at least one impression. Everyone I've met so far seems outstanding for their competence, their matter-of-factness, and their generosity. In this regard Czech politics still has a long way to go and a lot to learn.

Thoughts, comments? There's a lot there to work with:
  1. Bill Clinton's opinion of simple Republicans versus complicated Democrats.
  2. Havel's thought's on the "great fund of intellectual and political capital" the Democrats are sitting on.
  3. What is needed is that One Person who can make the complicated soothing and comfortable.

For the last point, isn't that always the challenge? That the messenger becomes the message? And for some, isn't that also the fear?

And is the Althouse post, Obama's message is just too depressing at all related to this? She writes:
I think Henninger means to say that people will eventually perceive left-wing ideology in the rhetoric and, since most of us are not lefties, we'll say we don't want what he's selling. But will we? Or do we buy the mood and the style and wait until after the election to object to the actual policies?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bobby was the drummer

Wherein he has nothing to say about Reagan, Johnson, Ford, or Eisenhower

Over here, while talking about a number of things, XWL quotes wikipedia about Sammy Davis, Jr.: "Although Davis had been a voting Democrat, he had felt a distinct lack of respect from the John F. Kennedy White House. He had been removed from the bill of the inaugural party hosted by Sinatra for the new President because of Davis's recent interracial marriage. Davis had married Swedish actress May Britt (pronounced "My Brit") on November 13, 1960."

Sammy Davis, Jr. died in 1990 and the autobiography Sammy: The Autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr. was published in 2000. From the comments at it's essentially a melding of his two previous autobiographies. Doesn't come highly recommended, but should be fine for my purpose. Since I don't own the book, I used's "Search Inside" feature for the following clips. Sounds like interesting reading and I'll keep an eye out for a copy.

The wedding is covered in Chapter 35 and it was Sammy's decision to postpone the wedding:
Fair or not, my wedding was giving the Nixon people the opportunity to ridicule Kennedy and hurt him at the polls. I could imagine the pressure Frank must be under: eighty guys telling him, "Don't be a fool. You've worked hard for Kennedy, now do you want to louse him up?" And it was understandable. If he stood up for me at a controversial interracial marriage only a few weeks before the election there would be votes he'd lose for Kennedy. And the innuendo and publicity so far was only a hint of what would happen after he appeared at the wedding and they had a piece of hard news to work with.

page 379, Sammy tells Frank:

I hesitated, but it was pointless. "Look, it's best that we postpone till after the election."

There was silence. Then: "You don't have to do that."

"I want to. All the talk..."

"Screw the talk."

"I know, but it's better this way."

When finally he spoke again, his voice was almost a whisper. "I'll be there whenever it is. You know that, don't you?"

"I know that, Frank."

"I'd never ask you to do a thing like this. Not your wedding. I'd never ask that."

"That's why it's up to me to be saying it."

page 388:
It was Evelyn Lincoln, JFK's personal secretary, whom I knew from the campaign. "Mr. Davis...Sammy...the President has asked me to tell you that he does not want you to be present at his inauguration. There is a situation into which he is being forced and to fight it would be counterproductive to the goals he's set."

page 389, Peter:
"Bobby argued for you, 'That's bullshit! The man campaigned.' But he was overruled. He got so angry he walked out of the rest of the discussion."

page 395, lunch at Ethel Kennedy's house:
"Sammy, that business about Jack's inauguration, I hope you know we had nothing to do with it. Bobby was outraged by what they did."

page 396, Bobby Kennedy:
When ever you plan to appear in public at anything controversial, anything to do with civil rights, be sure to call me a day or two in advance and at least I can have a couple of men there looking out for you."

page 400, Sammy Davis, Jr.:
Bobby was a humanist. He was not a do-gooder, but a good-doer, a knight of old in a button-down-collar shirt, a man who wanted to right wrong. I wanted Robert Kennedy as a senator making my country's laws, and then to run for President. Bobby had been the strength in the Kennedy family. John was always "raised eyebrows," thinking about the next advantageous move; the "piano player" who sat out front with the spotlight on him. The other cat who kept time was the drummer, who never got the spotlight, never took the solos, but kept time, he kept the beat going. Bobby was the drummer.

pages 455-456, Bob Brown is asking Sammy to be a member of the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity in the Nixon White House:
I was astounded. "Bob, I'm a Democrat. I'm strongly associated with the Kennedys, with Democratic goals."

"Understood, but don't close the door on Nixon. Use his power to accomplish the things you and I believe in. Accept the post on Ec-Op. Later, if you feel he should be reelected, then become a Democrat for Nixon. Or if you don't believe in him, then walk away. But won't it be better to judge him by your own experience firsthand. That's what I did and I say that he feels a commitment to causes you and I believe in. If I'm not right, then why has he got me there? The Nixon White House has more black people in high positions than any President has ever had, including JFK..."

I got Jesse Jackson on the phone and he said, "I'm not a Nixonite, but there's no question that's he's carrying on the civl rights programs, he's not scrapping them he could have." I spoke to others within the civil rights structure, leaders of the NAACP and the Urban League, and the consensus was positive. "If we could get you in there, to have the President's ear...we could get some things done."


While I was in town I called Ethel to say hello, to ask about the children. "Mrs. Kennedy isn't in at this moment, but if I can have your number she'll get back to you."

The days and evenings were filled with meetings. Only when I returned a few weeks later did I realize that I hadn't yet spoken to Ethel.

"One moment, please. Who may I say is calling?"

"Sammy Davis, Jr."

She was out. She would get back to me.

But she didn't. I tried once again. Blank wall. Silence.

Nor had Harry Belafonte returned my call as he always had. Nor Sidney Poitier. All of the liberal Democrats, people who had marched for what we all believed in -- when I went to work for Nixon they stopped talking to me. Nobody said, "Hey, give me a reason..."

During the next six months I was in Washington often. I always went to John's and Bobby's graves. But I didn't call Ethel again. It was an ache. I thought she was wrong, I thought Harry and Sidney were wrong. But I could get sick over it and weep for cherished relationships I'd lost, or I could do what I had to do and say "Fuck it," and kid myself that I meant it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Wherein if you visit Savannah and take one of the bus tours and visit the Bethesda Home For the Boys, the country's oldest orphanage, and the tour director, Vicky, tells you that Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's was an orphan and spent much of his childhood at the Bethesda Home For the Boys, the country's oldest orphanage, and you get home and look this up because you want to be accurate in your scrapbook you will be mildly disappointed in your otherwise pleasant tour director, Vicky, because while Dave Thomas was an orphan for all of six weeks after his birth, none of this time was spent in Bethesda Home For the Boys, the country's oldest orphanage, nor Savannah, nor Georgia, nor anywhere else in the Southeast

1. I bet the answer is in some dusty old book I've never read.
2. I only recognize Alamein from WWII, I'll go with Montgomery.
3. teeth
4. Dave Thomas, who later created Wendy's. The guy was a fast food genius.
5. Congo?
6. Appropriately? A movie about bees? Only thing I can think of is Van Morrison singing "Tupelo Honey."
7. I know 5 of the songs (don't recognize the ones by Wu-Tang, Blondie, or AC/DC) and because of "Mustang Sally I've always been able to remember the name of the first American female in space. But Sally Ride wasn't the first American woman astronaut. She was one of six women in her training class and Jerrie Cobb made it through the Mercury Astronaut Selection Tests in 1959. Seems like she'd be a perfect subject for a movie.

"You send yourself to hell, God does not send you there"

Wherein Stanford professor gets schooled something fierce

Tip o the day: don't argue theology with Stephen Colbert unless you know what you're talking about.

"Whoreshoe Tossing could be pretty awesome"

Wherein tossing shoes, not whores...though I might be interested in dwarf whore tossing

I agree!

The title comes from xwl in the Stick and ball comments. He also added:
It would be a mixed discipline event that would include tossing by hand for accuracy (say at a target shaped like a pimps head), as well as distance (measured in '75 Coupe De Ville lengths), and also by foot (the old, unhook the strap in back, then fling the clear plastic heeled monstrosity with just a swift leg kick).

There's even an obvious official drink and sponsor for the event.

List of events, first draft of some rules, and a sponsor. We're three-quarters of the way to getting this thing on ESPN8. I think where our big endorsement money will come from is the shoes. I have my idea of what would make a great whoreshoe for these events, what about you?

Leave a link to your favorite whoreshoe in the comments and I'll paste up some screenshots and create a shoe voting poll later this week.

**Vaclav Havel quotes and whore shoes -- where else you going for this level of entertainment?

Monday, February 11, 2008

"...people are beginning to feel ashamed that they voted for a certain party, or even that they belong to it"

Wherein I particularly like the line about "degenerate ghettos whose only purpose is to elevate their members into positions of power."

Reading from To the Castle and Back, by Vaclav Havel.
Q: "Are you still as suspicious as you once were of the role that political parties play in a democracy?

Vaclav Havel: I think more or less the same as I've always thought. It's just that over the years, and particularly during my presidency, I have refined and moderated my opinions a little. I think that political parties are an important instrument of democratic politics, but they are not its most highly evolved form, nor its ultimate meaning. They should provide a place where people can come together, refine their opinions, encounter the views of experts in public policy; where political personalities are formed and aspects of the political will are articulated. They should not, however, be more important than the key institutions of the state, like the government or parliament. They should not be superior to them but, rather, serve them. They should not be places where brotherhoods aimed at seizing power are born, quasi-legal metastructures of the state; instead, they should be the icing on the cake of a richly structured civil society, a place that draws nourishment from that society and gives it a political expression that can then be used in political competition. Only a living civil society can provide spirit to political parties as well, or rather can provide the roots from which they receive their vital nourishment. When civil society languishes, when the life of organizations and voluntary associations is curtailed, then sooner or later political parties will begin to languish as well, until ultimately, they become degenerate ghettos whose only purpose is to elevate their members into positions of power.

Parties must not be more important than the public interest. They must, on the contrary, serve it. Loyalty to the country, or to the civil service, or to the interests of society, or to one's personal conscience must always be more important than loyalty to the party, otherwise the parties will produce only nonentities who speak only their own antilanguage that people will ultimately find repugnant. Partyocracy -- that is, government by party secretariats and politburos -- has had a great tradition in this country since the nineteenth century, and unfortunately it threatens us today as well. After all, we are close to a situation now in which people are beginning to feel ashamed that they voted for a certain party, or even that they belong to it. This can only lead to the decline of democracy.

And by the way, notice that the more fanatical the party member, the more they suspect that I have nothing good to say about parties or that I don't want them around at all. At the same time, all I want is for parties to play the creative but modest role that they ought to play, within the bounds of parliamentary democracy. If they do, the public will not ridicule them but, on the countrary, respect them.

Ribbons and threads and glittery geegaws

Wherein that is if glittery geegaw isn't too redundant

Another tale from the Food Whore:
"Well I know everyone is willing to deal..."

"Well not everyone. I am willing to deal, so to speak, if you are not comfortable with the price given. We can make adjustments to the menu to meet your needs."

"But you want my business, right?"

"Well I want to work with anyone who wants to work with me. It is not always a right fit - this is a very personal thing. And if we don't mesh - we don't mesh. But the price is the price."

She looked at Her Mother, who tilted her head a little, and began writing again.

Arguing about trees falling in the forest:
A key idea of the heuristics and biases program is that mistakes are often more revealing of cognition than correct answers. Getting into a heated dispute about whether, if a tree falls in a deserted forest, it makes a sound, is traditionally considered a mistake.

So what kind of mind design corresponds to that error?

A lot of people have access to a lot of information about Sylvester the Cat:
Someone once told me that Sylvester the Cat is the biggest loser in the cartoon universe, and I couldn't really argue with him....So what are some Sylvester victories, however small and fleeting, that come to mind? And is there another cartoon character with a worse track record?

Quick quiz; my answers:
1. calorie
2. Hubris
3. just guessing, either Little Cuba or Little Havana
4. Haiti
5. Egyptians

Toobworld Roy Scheider:
When it comees to his TV characters, Scheider's work as Captain Nathan Bridger will probably have to be relegated to an alternate TV dimension. I never watched the full series, but during those few I did see, I kept thinking that it would never fly in the main Toobworld, that there were too many discrepancies in its depiction of the future that would need reconciling.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Bye Bye Life

Wherein Roy Scheider is dead

And a scene from "Sorcerer."

Maya Plisetskaya dances to Bolero

Wherein choreography by Maurice Bejart

Washington Post:
That Plisetskaya became one of the extraordinary artists of her generation is itself a miracle. She was born in 1925 into a Jewish family of artists and intellectuals and joined the Moscow Choreographic School at the age of 9. Her father, the manager of an Arctic coal mine, was arrested during the Great Terror launched by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and executed in 1937. Her mother was sent to a prison in Kazakhstan.

From her biography:
In America in 1959 I received $40 per performance. And on the days when I did not dance, nothing. Zero. The corps de ballet were given $5 a day. Per diem.

Financial arrangements with performers in the Soviet state were always deep, dark secrets....It was clearly hinted that the sums we earned went to the treasury for the urgent needs of the socialist state.

Later it came to light where the hard currency went. For instance, the son of Andrei Kirilenko...regularly went off on African safari....For the amusement of the scions of Party fat cats, performers were deprived of their hard-earned wages, while sables, ancient Scythian wares, and paintings were sold for next to nothing. They took away the winnings of athletes.

Fainting from hunger became a daily occurrence....When travel abroad became common, the members of the Bolshoi Ballet troupe began packing their bags with long-lasting food. Just in case.

Toward the end of a trip, when the Moscow supplies were used up, the dancers would switch to local fare. Cat and dog food were particularly popular. Cheap and vitamin-rich. You felt very strong after animal food.

Part 1

Part 2

If you prefer, Jeff Beck playing Bolero

Stick and Ball, Stick and Ball, Stick and Ball

Wherein should it be "Moron Mike Seate" or "More on Mike Seate?" It gets so confusing

Before you read what's below, you must read Only mildly sports related at Fire Joe Morgan.


Let's not get sidetracked with the unfairness of HB 137 and twisting around the Death Race 2000 like statistics of highway fatalities; let's get back to celebrating the prose stylings of Mike Seate. This is a guy who uses the term "stick-and-ball" frequently and is not ashamed to do so.

Someone who not only uses his mid-market newspaper column to support and defend his hobby, but has written numerous books about this hobby. In fact, for Choppers (Drive. Ride. Fly), one reader was so enthused as to write:
"Seate's writing is lackluster at its best and painfully awkward most of the time, reading like the first draft of a work being produced on contract and on deadline. In three of the early vignettes in the book we are informed that "Colorado's Arlin Fatland has what you might call a wicked sense of humor," and that "Pat Kennedy of Tombstone, Arizona, is what you might call seriously old school," and that "Nothing about Kodlin's motorcycles is what you might call tradition- al." These excerpts are what you might call bad writing; the type of tedious template prose so devoid of creativity and enthusiasm for the subject matter that any editor worth the name would kick it back in disgust and demand another go. That's assuming there was an editor involved at all, and judging from the wealth of typos and awkward usages found in this book, there's little reason to believe there was. A truly ironic typo comes early in the going when in Seate's acknowledgments he pens this gem: "to Almetta, for never letting us forget the value of the wirtten word." Yes, folks, it says "wirtten." How's that for value?"

Damn fine value I say. People, let's stay focused.

And it's not just Mike Seate pimping (am I still allowed to say that?) mechanized competition over, uh, sticks and balls, here's NASCAR guy Gregg Leary:
Racing IS an amazing sport. Most stick and ball sports like baseball, basketball and football only require ONE ball. Racing, in most cases, requires TWO. As the T-Shirt says…”Racing…No Strikes…All Balls.”

Stick and ball sports only have TWO teams on the field at one time. NASCAR has 43 TEAMS on the same field at the same time. That would be more than the whole LEAGUE in the NBA, NFL, or MLB on the field at once.

Every race is like an All Star Game. The top athletes in racing compete against each other at EVERY event…not just once a year like in the stick and ball All Star Games.

In racing every RACE counts. There are only 36 so each one matters. In Baseball there are 162 games and in the NBA 82…plus the playoffs…so losing a few is no big deal. In stick and ball sports there is ONE winner and ONE loser in every event. In racing there is ONE winner and 42 LOSERS each race.

How insecure do you have to be to promote your own sport by denigrating another? Answer -- very. Minimum of 8.5 on a 10 point scale. Not this is rare, most arguments do take the form of "A is better because B sucks."

Both Gregg and Mike refer to football as a "stick and ball" sport. Unless they're counting the yard markers as the sticks I'm kinda thinking their sports knowledge is not well-rounded. So for future reference, here's a list of sports that may properly (even though we'll still laugh in your face for using the term) be referred to as stick and ball or stick-and-ball -- I'm agnostic on the hyphenation (feel free to discuss that) -- because...wait for it... they include a stick and a ball.

Stick & Ball Sports
  • Baseball
  • Softball
  • Pool and billiards, variations of
  • Cricket
  • Rugby. What the hell is Rugby doing there? I think this is where I meant to write lacrosse -- because I initially skipped it and had to add it in -- but I apparently hit myself on the head and typed rugby while in a stupor. I apologize. In a misguided effort to save face I almost changed it to Australian Rules Football since it has those refs in the chester the molester raincoats waving flags whenever some scores a goal. Did I mention the flags were on sticks? Because without the sticks they could just as well be waving a towel.
  • Field Hockey
  • Polo
  • Bandy
  • Broomball
  • Golf
  • Lacrosse
  • Tennis (Does badminton qualify? There is a ball at the end of the shuttlecock)
  • Ping pong (Or table tennis if you're holding a ball with a stick up your ass)
  • Racquetball
  • Squash
  • Quidditch

Friday, February 08, 2008

Seriously, Ghostbusters?

Wherein too much of this paranormal bullshit and I'm jumping off the Lost train

Plane crash with substituted bodies? I'll need to see if I still have a copy of the John Varley novel "Millennium" around somewhere. Here's part of the wiki description (there's also a bad movie starring Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd):
The time travelers can only take people will have no further effect on the timeline - those who have vanished without a trace, or died without being observed - otherwise they would be changing the past, which risks a temporal paradox and perhaps even a catastrophic breakdown of the fabric of time. Though they collect everyone they can, they exert a great deal of effort on those destined to die in various disasters such as sinking ships and crashing airplanes. As such incidents leave no survivors to report interference and change the timeline, they can freely remove the living but soon-to-die victims, and replace them with convincing corpses they have manufactured in the future.

Bullet points

I dropped the "Millenium" clue over in Alan Sepinwall's comments but no takers. You'd think that with all the speculation about time travel and possibly faked accident victims there'd be some interest in an actual science fiction story that's about time travel and faked accident victims. Guess it's just me.

For the last year or so I'd pretty much discounted every speculation I'd ever had about Lost -- I had some interesting ideas that were pretty much all wrong. But now I'm starting to see some traction in these old ideas. There's the rescue ship that isn't, for one. Even bigger, with the entire wreckage being found underwater, I'm back to my old speculation that there never was a crash, just that the "survivors" were made to believe there was one. I think this makes more sense than an alternate reality; but again, maybe that's just me. If I'm correct, there would have to be a third, as yet unknown group. The Others didn't know the Losties were coming and Dharma doesn't seem to quite know what's going on...and with Suzanne Pleshette dead there goes another theory.

Just for fun...

Revisiting some old Lost theories
From January, 2006:
fantasy projection #1: Stop the show at the end of season 3. Have them rescued. Happy endings all around, except for the handful killed off for dramatic purposes.

fantasy projection #2: Spring sweeps features the big battle. Last episode of season shows a rescue ship on the horizon. Next season the survivors realize they haven't been rescued, but picked up by a new version of the D.H.A.R.M.A. initiative. Lather, rinse, repeat. Basically turns into The Pretender - an interesting idea that loses our interest because it is unable to resolve anything.

fantasy projection #3: stuff happens, people die, season ends being rescued. Next season, everyone tries to reenter their old lives. But they're probably being observed and keep having weird flashbacks they don't understand. Rent Jacob's Ladder for plot points.

From May 2006:
The Others: At the start of season two I was convinced two groups of Others existed: one good, one bad. And the Losties would need to join forces with one to defeat the other. I've pretty much discounted this theory. Most likely just one group of DHARMA scientists.

I've mentioned this a few times, but I am becoming more and more attached to the idea that no plane crash occurred. We see it from the Losties perspective and they think they've crashed. The purpose is to study just a few of the passengers. Their circumstances were worked to get them on the plane; other passengers are coincidences.

... I'd like to see the Losties rescued in the season finale, but it turns out to be a DHARMA ship and they're still captives.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Kinda funny, kinda sad

Wherein I'm kinda curious if there's any legal requirement to hold a primary. Couldn't the board for a national party just pick a candidate and say "this is the guy running as our nominee. If you don't like, tough, Run as an independent." Also ignoring the fact this would probably splinter any party that tried it. And adding the caveat that I'm not arguing this as a preferred solution.

Photodude takes a look at the voter numbers from the Georgia primary. Interesting stuff, though I was more drawn to this paragraph:
Finally, we Americans are both terribly enthused about this election, and terribly stupid at times. In Florida, “Elections offices across the state are reporting hundreds of calls from voters wanting to know where they can vote today. The answer is that Florida already had its presidential primary — last week.” Meanwhile, in Virginia, “my local news station reports that a number of voters here in Virginia went to the polls today and irately got on the phone to someone to complain that their voting precinct was not yet open.” Virginia’s primary is next week.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ken Jennings spelled backwards is sgninnej nek

Wherein weird morning -- checking the log a ton of people are showing up here after searching for kd lang sad songs. What's up with that?

1. Pretty sure it's either Bjorn Borg or Martina Navrotilova. I'll go with the Swede.

2. Didn't recognize the poem, though I did see the movie. I enjoyed the poem and I'm not much of a poetry person. Perhaps I'll send Yeats an email and let him know.

3. Sesame. Just a couple weeks ago I made hummus for the first time. Incredibly easy and tasty. Next, I want to try it with roasted garlic and some primo finishing olive oil.

4. Shoot, I think it's one of the Republicans who was a physician. How about Huckabee?

5. Duh, Honda.

6. No clue.

7. What about shows or characters with states as part of their names? For shows, there's got to be more than Hawaii 5-0. For people, there's Hannah Montana and Johnny "Quarterback punk" Utah. Unless it's a topical question related to Super Tuesday primaries?

The super special soquoted bonus question. A version of this question was asked at Throwing Things, so you can check the answer there or look in these here comments on Thursday.

What unusual distinction is shared by the following people?

Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam
Liaquat Ali Khan, prime minister of Pakistan
John F. Kennedy, president of the United States
José Antonio Remón, president of Panama
Carlos Castillo Armas, president of Guatemala
Chung Hee Park, president of South Korea

Monday, February 04, 2008

Lesson 1: Small talk, the art of

Wherein I'm thinking about creating a seminar and taking my act on the road

Small talk is a conversational gambit practiced by insecure people afraid of silence. No problem, by following a few simple lessons you can avoid being pulled into this vortex of insecurity and maintain an impregnable zone of personal space.

Perhaps an experience of mine would make a good example. This is the type of occurrence that could happen walking down the hall with a coworker or with a complete stranger while waiting in line for coffee or movie tickets. First the small talk, then I'll break it down and explain all the options.
Other person: Did you watch the game last night?
Me: What game?
Other person: The Superbowl.
Me: No.

If I may compliment myself, not bad. I successfully avoided a protracted and meaningless conversation and expended all of three words. Using a few advanced techniques I could have made this even shorter, but that's another lesson. Let's isolate each line and discuss.

Did you watch the game yesterday?
Take particular note of this frequent tactic of the small talker. Assuming his interests are your interests, that his experiences are yours. He asks about "The Game" assuming there is no ambiguity about the question.

What game?
A number of options are available here and I chose the most risky. Asked a yes/no question I replied with my own open-ended question. This is the answer most likely to lead to a conversation. I escaped...this time. Other answers:
  • "Yes." (1) This, too, can lead to a conversation; but one built on confusion leading to anger. My inquisitor was speaking of the superbowl and I would have replied in the affirmative having watched Fulham & Aston Villa. What would have followed would have been a mess.
  • "Yes." (2) another option is to answer in the affirmative and just let the small talker talk. Since small talkers are more interested in listening to themselves than to anyone else, just let them go until you run out of time and leave them with a pleasantry.
  • "No." Short, to the point, and ends the encounter. Might seem a bit rude as it gives the small talker no further avenue. Said with a smile in a situation when you're not trapped with the person, this is effective.
  • "No, I was with my mother at the hospital. She's on her death bed." Best used on strangers, not coworkers. Tends to shut down the small talker and often has them apologizing for bothering you.

The Superbowl.
Luckily my open-ended query has stunned the small talker and kept him from his collection of cliched responses. The best he can do is a simple answer and we're still in binary mode. While risky, when properly unleashed, the open-ended question makes the small talker uneasy because you've demonstrated you won't conform to his expectations and any further contact will probably be needlessly complicated.

A no here comes as a relief to the small talker. With the expected exchange of banalities not forthcoming, it's the small talker who thinks he's escaped an annoying encounter. If stuck in line with this person, he'll suffer in silence rather than risk speaking to someone willing to change to a topic he knows nothing about.

In the end, the small talker is left confused and frustrated and the encounter is finished without delay. For the next lesson, we'll practice the "hmmm" and half-shrug.

Sample ballots

Wherein not being a member of any political party I have no use for these things