Friday, August 29, 2003

The Gods have smiled

The months of sending my resume to various recycling bins around the city have finally paid off. As have the countless dignity-squelching interviews in scratchy pantyhose. Today I was offered a fucking wonderful new job that puts me right on the career path I was working towards. (And which may involve travel to Georgia or the Ukraine!)

Feeling good. Feeling good.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

[UPDATE! Comments are back! As is the pressure to write something worth commenting about. Damn.]

I do not know where my comments have gone, and I do not know how to retrieve them from the void. I looked at my template and it seems to my uneducated eye that the code spontaneously changed. I tried to change it back, to no avail. This is not a terribly high priority in my life, so you'll have to keep your thoughts to yourselves. Who asked you, anyway?

[if you know how I can get them back, though, feel free to offer advice. I'm too lazy to investigate the problem myself, but not above giving a crack at random suggestions. I have managed to add my e-mail address to the column at left.]
Metrobus, 8:30 am

Tourist to Busdriver: I need to get off at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center. You go by there, right?
Silver-haired Lady to Tourist: [quite loudly] What? They named that after Reagan? He's not even dead yet! Soon they'll be naming things after Bush, an even bigger idiot!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Dear Beer,

You and I have had a long, wonderful relationship on the river. Whether it was the Guadalupe or the Comal, you carried me through the slow times, and you carried me through the slightly bumpy times. You never abandoned me, and I never took you for granted. One time, after a particularly choppy patch, I thought I lost you. Your cooler tipped and you scattered through the murky water like dandelion petals dancing in a breeze. But beer, I recovered you. And we continued on together. On down the river. Like we always did. And I thought we always would.

But Beer, things are changing in this world. Sometimes it seems like things are moving so fast, I can't hold on to them. I've left the murky waters of the Comal and the Guadalupe, for the lustrous currents of the Shenandoah. Oh, beer, you should see her bends and dips! You would love her lush, graceful hills sloping to the bank! But you never shall. For the Shenandoah does not want you on her waters. She does not know you as I know you, and her waters are stronger, and less predictable than the sluggish nudges of those rivers back home. She has no mercy on drunkards, you see, and no Lone Star, nor Natty Light, nor Miller High Life shall course through the veins of those that would course through hers.

I must choose between the river and you, oh beer, and the pull is so strong to you both! Sometimes I think the rubbery hug of the tube would only send my thoughts wandering to you. Other times, I think the rush of the current over me might likewise wash away my memory of you. What do I do? How can I go on? Must I choose?

Love, always,

Friday, August 22, 2003

Shameless nauseating bragging. Can't help it.

It looks like DC's favorite [or at least my favorite] Texpatriate The Grammar Police has earned his moniker. He took an editing test today for a job and scored the first-ever perfect score that this company has ever had. And this company is in the business of hiring editors and copywriters. (He also did it in the fastest time they've had.) All this has earned him the title of Senior Editor, so send along your congrats and don't make fun of the spelling mistakes on his blog.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Via The Poorman, I see that there is now a Gender Genie which takes a sample of your writing and decides if you are a male or a female, based on some algorithm that some scientist somewhere came up with.

I ran some compadres through and came up with the following results:

SueAndNotU: Female
GrammarPolice: Male
Mr. Wright: Male
Athena: Female
Christopher Hitchens: Male (I thought surely the British thing would throw it off...)
Little Sister Lauren: Female

Unlike the experience of the Poorman (perhaps his friends are more gender confused?), this little gizmo was pretty accurate. In fact the only two I tried that it failed were:

Gen. Wesley Clark: female [Aargh! Well, it was a sample of his speaking, not his writing? Wait 'til Fox News gets a hold of this one...]

and for those of you in the know:
Adam D.:female. least surprising result of all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I nearly forgot to report my long-overdue first Washington DC celebrity sighting! (I don't hang out near the corridors of power, you see, so it's been a long time coming. I'm more in the vicinity of the long line for the porta-potties of power.) Regardless, on our way to a gallery exhibit Saturday morning, Kriston and I crossed paths with a coffee-drinking, sneaker-wearing George Stephanopolous. I actually only saw his back because he had already passed by when Kriston pointed him out. This leads me to believe that I may have in fact passed many a minor celebrity in the past 10 months, but have been too busy scanning the streets for charming sidewalk cafes to have noticed.

So my celebrity-on-the-street grand total for the past year is 2, if you include my NYC Ron Jeremy sighting, and I definitely think you must.
It keeps getting better

Joe Scarborough on Fox News tried his best, but he couldn't beat the General. In fact, he more or less had his ass handed to him.

Scarborough thought he had General Clark trapped. "You think the Iraq war was elective and that there wasn't imminent threat?" he asks. General Clark agrees. In order to have a preemptive war, the General continues, you must have a significant, imminent threat, and you must have no alternative outside of force. Scarborough moves in for the kill:

SCARBOROUGH: But, General, under that test, we would have never gone into Kosovo, would we?
CLARK: We would have. In fact, we did everything we could to avoid having to use force in Kosovo.
SCARBOROUGH: But there was an imminent - was there.
CLARK: We had to only, under the imminent threat.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on, General. Was.
CLARK: No, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: ...there an imminent threat in Kosovo?

At this point, you expect Joe Blow Candidate to hash about humanitarian responses, or U.N. obligations, or something equally squirmy. But General Clark is on firm ground here, and he knows it. Let 'er rip, General:
CLARK: There was an imminent threat of regional destabilization caused by a fourth round of ethnic cleansing. And the Clinton administration chose not to go to war. It chose to solve a problem using diplomacy. It was only when the diplomacy utterly failed that it went to force, and then it used the minimum degree of force.

So I think Kosovo is an excellent example of what can be done. Today, Slobodan Milosevic is in The Hague. There are no American troops on the ground in Serbia. As far as I know, only one American soldier has died, a soldier who ran over a mine in Kosovo from that occupation. And it hasn’t cost tens of billions of dollars. Instead, it’s helped the Yugoslavs themselves develop democracy at home.

Even Scarborough had to confess, "Now, I’ll tell you what, the Democrats could use somebody like Wesley Clark on their ticket."

I've pledged my donation to the Clark campaign (they're only taking pledges until he announces, no cash). Have you?


I am sneaking away from my now massive and inestimable responsibilities to bring you the following information (and assure you that I am not dead):

--I fully endorse the introduction of "Extra Strong Coffee" to the break room. It looks like fucking tar. Tally-ho!
--Welcome to D.C., Lauren. One million heart-felt thanks for the gift of Kerbey Queso which I am desperately trying to ration out, but which is also quite rapidly disappearing. You and your friends should come to the Carlsonics show Friday night at the Black Cat to see some local talent. I'll DRIVE!
--Kriston won't tell you this, but he's charmed the socks off his interviewer and has an editing test soon. Is DC ready for the Grammar Police?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

For some reason, my employers seem to believe that it is time I produce some work and to that end, have given me things to do. Hopefully they will come to their senses soon and leave me alone to resume my blogging. Until that time, the posting may be a little light. I'm a workplace-only blogger, as I have important things to do when I'm at home.
Metropolitan Police Station, Second District Station, 10pm

Me: Police stations make me nervous.
K: There's nothing to be nervous about. Look! I'm not even drunk!
Me: They just make me feel guilty here.
[I request a temporary parking permit from the officer at the front desk]
Officer: Tag number?
K: XXX-F as in Frank. K as in...uh...kinetic. V as in...velocity.
Me: [looking alarmed. Kinetic?? Velocity? We've blown our cover! He'll think we're elitist snobs and throw us in the slammer!]
Officer: [Peers at us from underneath one skeptical eyebrow. Suspicious. Then an idea dawns on him and his face relaxes] Velocity, huh? You play video games, right?
Me: Phew!

Monday, August 18, 2003

Tips for Interviewing in a Recession

Having traipsed hither and yon through the streets of our capital city, peddling my meager wares and my commitment to excellence, I've earned my stripes in the job-hunting world. Having suffered various failures and toasted rarer successes, I would like to give all of you job-seekers the interviewing tips that nobody gave me. Oh sure, they've told you to be confident, to give concrete examples of your achievements, to wear sexy lingerie so that you will feel confident and more concretely aware of your achievements. Much of this advice is furthermore geared toward a booming tech market. "Don't leave the interview without asking the interviewer if he/she is ready to offer you the position!" admonishes one source. Don't think so, kiddo. Interviewing in today's economy is not for the weak-hearted. You must have an iron determination. You must have abandoned principles. You must try not to be drunk.
Here are my Tips for Interviewing in a Recession

1) Do not wear sexy lingerie
You will not feel more confident. You will feel more uncomfortably aware of your ass. This is not the way to focus on your concrete achievements. I believe this technique was brought to you by the makers of Secretary. (A fine film, but not an appropriate career guide for young girls pursuing their options off Capitol Hill.)

2) Sing.
You're walking to the interview, and your nerves are starting to get the better of you. You're hashing through all your canned-response answers in your head. You're threatening yourself with deprivation and lashings if you forget to mention how well you work without supervision. Relax. Sing a song to yourself while you walk. You'll feel like you're in a movie with a personalized soundtrack, and this will give you pizzaz and will calm you. A few words of warning, though. My walking-to-interview song used to be "Confidence" from the Sound of Music. It worked for Julie Andrews, right? "I have confidence, and confidence alone! Besides which, you see, I have confidence in me!" A winner, right? You'll feel like a million bucks? No, you'll feel like a nun who's about to be strapped with 7 singing Austrian ankle-biters, so that one was a dud. Also, don't sing The Smiths. "I was looking for a job and then I found a job. And heaven knows I'm miserable now." If you sing The Smiths, you might skip the interview altogether, and take Morrisey's advise and you'll "go home, and you'll cry and you'll want to die." I recommend straight-up rock. I had that McLusky song in my head a few days ago and used that while strutting down K St. I felt like a rock star. And if they don't want to hire a rock star like me, then fuck 'em.

3) During the interview, try to avoid cussing, swearing, or sexual advances.
That advice comes courtesy of a fellow job-seeker, who has since landed a fine post and is convinced that the above issues were what held him up for the first couple weeks.

4) Do not make fun of the current presidential administration when the organization is chock-full of former Reagan-appointees.
Talking about politics in a supposedly non-partisan environment is a crap-shoot anyway, but try to know the general political environment of the company you are interviewing with if you insist on saying things like "Bush is a punk-ass chump."

5) Google your interviewer
If you get the name of the person/people you will be meeting with, by all means, stalk them. Find out if they have any special interests that might show up on the internet, and then co-op those interests to your advantage. Do they run the marathon? Slip in a reference to your split times. Are they the ringleader of an underground S&M site? Wear leather to the interview. Every little bit helps, but beware keeping up the artifice if you are hired. I hear those early-morning races are brutal.

6) Celebrate everything
Did your interview go well? Don't wait until they give you a job offer! Happy Hour! Did somebody call to schedule an interview? Round up the posse, it's Happy Hour! Did somebody e-mail you to confirm receipt of your resume? It's mojito time! In these uncertain economic times, you have to take what victories you can find. Postponing celebrations until you actually receive a job offer probably means you just won't be drinking. And that is the one thing you will need most of all to survive this process. Bottoms up!

Vox Populi

Have I mentioned that Wes Clark gets it? As if my vote weren't already signed, sealed, and delivered, Clark nails it with a one-two punch last night on Wolf Blitzer. In a few short sentences, he takes down my two biggest political nemeses:

1) Tom Delay
2) Washington-Insider Hair

Delay on Clark:
Frankly, what irritates me the most are these blow-dried Napoleons that come on television and, in some cases, have their own agendas. General Clark is one of them that is running for president, yet he's paid to be an expert on your network. And he's questioning the plan and raising doubts as he becomes this expert.

Clark on Delay:
Well, first of all, I'd be happy to compare my hair with Tom DeLay's. We'll see who's got the blow-dried hair.

It had to be said. Bush has good hair, okay, fine. But anybody who has read this blog has heard me harp on the Washington Bouffant. [see: John Kerry, et al.] Tom Delay sports a minor variation on that look that could probably be called the Exterminator Helmet. Regardless, let's just say that he does not want to start the hair competition with Wesley Dreamboat Clark. Who continues as follows:

But beyond that, Wolf, he's got it exactly backward. It's upside down. I am saying what I believe. And I'm being drawn into the political process because of what I believe and what I've said about it.

So it's precisely the opposite of a man like Tom DeLay, who is only motivated by politics and says whatever he needs to say to get the political purpose. And so, you know, it couldn't be more diametrically opposed, and I couldn't be more opposed than I am to Tom DeLay.

You know, Wolf, when our airmen were flying over Kosovo, Tom DeLay led the House Republicans to vote not to support their activities, when American troops were in combat. To me, that's a real indicator of a man who is motivated not by patriotism or support for the troops, but for partisan political purposes.

The only thing left to say was said by The Poorman:
Good for him. I'd have preferred a nice, direct "Tom DeLay? Yo, fuck Tom Delay," but I think Clark does get his point across reasonably well here. Tom DeLay sucks. Tom DeLay rose through the ranks to become Supreme Allied Commander of Slick, Oily Douchebags. It's nice to know that when Clark says he's got friends on both sides of the aisle, he doesn't include rat bastards like fucking Tom DeLay.

Friday, August 15, 2003


My goal now is to post a lot of empty entries so you

Thursday, August 14, 2003


This ought to ruin your appetite. Here's a still from a movie I will absolutely not go see, and not just because I was already exposed to enough passion plays on family vacations in the Ozark mountains. [Hint: Don't let all the gook fool you. It's not the long-anticipated Cremaster 6]
Horrible news!

The execrable honorable Admiral John Poindexter has resigned from his post at DARPA, and we can only fear, is abandoning for good his long career of public service. His parting words include the following:
‘‘I regret that we have not been able to ... reassure the public that we do not intend to spy on them," the retired admiral said in a letter dated Tuesday. ‘‘I think I have done all that I can do under the circumstances."

It must be frustrating to be the guiding light behind the Total Information Awareness Act. Where, oh where, could we Americans possibly have gotten the idea that our government--our own government for crying out loud!--would ever spy on us?

Could it be because the database that wold be compiled under the auspices of Total Information Awareness would grant law enforcement officials unlimited access to credit card records, banking transactions, e-mail correspondence, phone records, prescriptions filled at drugstores, and books checked out from libraries without the necessity of a search warrant or any other legal authorization?

Did we mention there are terrorists about? And Americans are whining about library books?

I mean, you heard the man. He's tried! Lord knows, he's tried. He's done everything he can do. And hey, if doing everything you can do gets you convited on five felony counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents and obstructing congressional inquiries1, then that's the kind of sacrifice the Admiral is willing to make! And anyway, he was cleared of those charges, remember? For a really really good reason.

So why this unbridled paranoia? I guess we'll have to chalk up to some wild liberal conspiracy theorists and their brainwashing bile, as usual. People don't want to recognize that the government is on our side, and knows what is best. They even came up with this comforting logo, which represents how the terryifying tireless eye of government will not rest until all the terrorists are caught, and it's not even a little creepy!

1That phrase completely plagiarized from an old Post column. Just didn't want to blow my flow, you know?
Continuing today's theme of scarcely contained anger, I bring you this from the Onion:
Republicans Introduce Economic Equality Bill For Fun Of Shooting It Down
WASHINGTON, DC—Republicans in the House of Representatives proposed H.R. 2093: the Economic Equality Initiative, with the express purpose of shooting it down "just for kicks" Tuesday. "H.R. 2093 will level the economic playing field, spreading the wealth among the rich and poor," said Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), visibly fighting back snickers. "We must pass this bill to stop the fat cats from getting fatter while the average Joe struggles to make ends meet. Also, I'm the Queen of Bavaria." Following 10 minutes of uproarious laughter, the congressmen stepped out of the chamber to smoke cigars lit with a bill that would allocate $115 million to clean up hazardous waste sites.
"Hey! I just gave a huge wad of cash to the wealthy! What more do you people want from me?"

In the Post today:
"President Bush said today that he has no plans for new measures to stimulate the economy and that he has faith his tax cuts will fuel job growth over the next year."

Thanks a fuckin' lot.


[one of the few reassuring things I've heard in a while was Paul Begala on Crossfire assuring us: "Don't worry, you millions of job-seekers out there. You'll get your job back when President Bush loses his."]

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Kerry's Big Philadelphia Cheese(mis)steak

Take note, all you budding campaign advisors. When campaigning on the road, do not allow your candidate to offend the locals with his sissy yankee ways. Kerry tried to lose his Massachusetts-liberal upper-class ivy-covered reputation by swaggering into the legendary Pat's Steaks in Philly for a cheesesteak. But then, oh then. He ordered his cheesesteak with swiss cheese.
"It will doom his candidacy in Philadelphia," predicted Craig LaBan, food critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Philly cheesesteaks come with Cheez Whiz, or occasionally American or provolone. But Swiss cheese? "In Philadelphia, that's an alternative lifestyle," LaBan explained.

And don't even mention Kerry's dainty bites. "Obviously, Kerry's a high-class candidate, and he misread the etiquette," LaBan said. "Throwing fistfuls of steak into the gaping maw, fingers dripping -- that's the proper way."

But this particular encounter ended without turning ugly, thanks largely to the gracious mercy of the owner, and his obvious familiarity with presidential candidates:
The owner of Pat's Steaks, Frank Olivieri, was forgiving, though he points out that Bill Clinton and Al Gore knew to ask for Whiz. "It happens," he said. "I swayed him to the Cheez Whiz. If you're eating in Philadelphia, you eat what I serve you."

(Link via Pokitical Aims. And while you're over there, read Amy Sullivan's blistering response to Rich Lowry's Washington Post op-ed in which he whines about Liberals failing to buy into Bush's "compassionate conservativism." It's brutal and it's gooooooood.)
I can't resist. A brilliant and insightful exploration into why we hate Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez and want them to end their days in misery. In the Post, no less. You really should just read the whole thing, but since you won't, I shall excerpt. Liberally. And wantonly.
For many of us, the current difficulties of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, also known as Bennifer, or Ben-Lo, or Jennufleck, are a source of cruel amusement. It's a fabulous double helping of schadenfreude.

This raises a philosophical question: Is our little thrill at the misfortune of these people a reflection of our larger, bloodsucking, pathetic love-hate relationship with celebrities, or do we have some objection to this specific coupling? This time, is it personal?

First, we must note that although the Lopez-Affleck union seems to be firmly in the category of "pre-failed" and the Vegas over-under on its duration is measured in days, it is possible that this is a momentary hiccup in their relationship, that the wedding (date not publicly announced) will go off as planned and that they'll settle down to a long, happy, fecund and faithful partnership that years from now will be seen as a model of how two people can reconcile superstardom and domestic bliss. We live in an age of infinite possibilities (i.e., "Governor Schwarzenegger").
Affleck himself downplayed the strip club incident in his jovial appearance Monday night on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." The events of that night, he said, "would have been, like, a brunch for Colin Farrell," referring to one of his fellow celebrity night crawlers.

"By the time the tabloids get ahold of it, I'm, like, in a three-way with Michael Jackson and Elvis and the Wolfman, you know?" he continued, revealing perhaps a shortcoming in his counting skills. "But it was relatively tame, as those things are."
Though fascinated by the rich and famous, we also resent their tendency to engage, at the drop of a hat, in wild, romping, bouncing-off-the-walls sex. We resent their threesomes. We are astonished by their fivesomes. We think their sevensomes are completely beyond the pale. We are all too aware that they have a tremendous amount of sex in Jacuzzis, sometimes right there in the Jacuzzi store showroom. Sex on sailboats, sex on mountaintops, sex in vintage automobiles in the cargo hold of sinking ocean liners -- they're unstoppable. Why can't they be like ordinary Americans and slowly turn into inert blobs of undifferentiated protoplasm so devoid of erotic allure that gender can only be determined with a chromosome test?
Still, our one consolation is the inevitability of their emotional misery. They will never know the pleasure of a steady, dependable, insipid, unremarkable private life. We think of Elizabeth Taylor: Blessed with beauty, talent, wealth and fame, but forced to divorce on roughly a monthly basis. She sometimes divorced the same person more than once. Also, she gained weight, but that's a whole different nightmare.
Some people may feel guilty about the secret pleasure they feel when they hear that celebrities are in pain. But perhaps the proper emotion is pride -- that is, you should feel good about feeling good that a famous person feels bad. Because in feeling good about feeling good about the suffering of overrated demigods, you strike an emotional blow on behalf of the millions and millions of invisible people whom celebrities fly over on their way to the Coast.

And this is why you read tabloids. For America.

I think that this is a fantastic idea.

A coalition of 9/11 organizations that represent victim's families, etc., are pushing for 9/11 to be designated as a national day of service.
"Americans want to pay special tribute on that day, and we cannot think of a better expression than to rekindle and sustain the spirit of generosity, humanity and concern that turned strangers into neighbors and unified our entire nation," said David Paine, president of the coalition, called One Day's Pay.

These groups don't want Sept. 11 to just be another day to go to the beach or have a barbecue. The idea is still a bit un-formed, but you can imagine that hundreds of local volunteer organizations would offer large-scale opportunities for that day. Clean-up efforts, bake-offs, soup kitchens, clothes donations, whatever. As much as I like extra days at the beach, I think I'm not alone in wishing for a more poignant tribute to a wound that is still so raw. And if we can actually continue to help people and improve lives in the process--you know, make it an active and productive day of remembrance, then all the better.

Of course it would be voluntary, you can still have your day at the beach. But us do-gooders could look down our noses at you as we canvassed on medians. Just toss me an ear of corn on your way out.
This Washington Post editorial on the Franken/Fox silliness includes the following dead-on characterization:

Mr. Franken and Mr. O'Reilly have had one or two public set-tos already, and Fox's complaint sounds like a collection of things Mr. O'Reilly wishes he'd remembered to say at their last encounter. It calls Mr. Franken "deranged," a "parasite," "sophomoric" and lacking "any serious depth or insight."

No kidding. It also sounds like Fox could use a serious dose of "Know Thyeslf" therapy.
Good editorial today in the Washington Post on Vladimir Putin's sudden crackdown on corrupt oligarchs. It's been a shrewd strategy of his for a while--what, are you gonna get mad that the president is finally cracking down on the epidemic corruption of business barons?--but it's an embarassingly transparent one.

You don't have to be an expert on Russian politics to know that among the oligarchy, corruption is absolutely the norm and the great wealth and power they enjoy came from illegal insider moves during the massive privatization post-1991. It would be pointless to bring these robber barons to justice, because it would effectively wipe out the private sector. It's that big.

But as this editorial notes, Putin struck a sort of tacit deal with the oligarchs upon attaining office: keep your nose clean, stay out of politics, and I won't bother with looking into how you got your holdings. Since then, there have been 3 major busts: Vladimir Gusinsky (owner of NTV, a media empire critical of the Kremlin), Boris Berezovsky (another media baron who was guess what? critical of the Kremlin), and now Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the westernizing Yukos oil baron who was (believe it or not!) financing opposition parties.

I was in Moscow when Gusinsky went down, and I remember asking a young guy in the bar what he thought about it. He was far less suspicious than we Americans, claiming that Gusinsky was a criminal and it's good that Putin is finally cleaning up shop. "Yes," I protested, "but they're all criminals. Don't you think it's funny that he's picking on the guys who don't like him?" He shrugged it off, unconcerned.

This crackdown on competing power interests is only one in a long string of troubling indicators for Putin's domestic policy. Though one ought not be surprised that the former KGB darling turn out to be less than Thomas Jefferson, it's still disturbing. This pressure may have a lot to do with the fact that Putin faces re-election soon and would rather not be bothered with an organized opposition. After he wins his next term, let's hope he can turn his attention to some real reforms at home. Breath is not being held.
Maureen Dowd on why politicians make boring bloggers.
[Hint: it's for the same reason they make boring conversationalists.]
What the hell is my problem?

My boss keeps trying to give me a raise and I keep telling him not to bother. Maybe blogger guilt is setting in?
Broken News?

About an hour ago, I was walking to work past the FBI building and noticed the NBC news team set up. They were practicing the shot with the cameras and the lighting, and I overheard the news correspondent say " what may be their biggest catch yet..." and then some tech guy correct him "no, we don't know that, can't say that." Ooh! I thought. Something has happened! We caught some high-up al-Qaeda operative! Or Saddam's second cousin's half-brother's lover who was also, coincidently, a reprehensible sadist! So I scurry into work and check the news pages. Nada. Not even on CNN where they tend to over-hype every breaking news story. What was going on out there? Are they just practicing on the off-chance that news happens? Or do they know something we don't know? NBC? You're suspect.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Britney Spears, Aerosmith, and the NFL on the National Mall. Finally something's happening in this backwater burg!

And that's not all! The Dept. of Defense is shipping in 25,000 genu-wine troops to watch the event! [so who's gonna be looking after Iraq?]
I finally took the plunge last week and got my D.C. driver's license. After waiting through some of the most criminally slow lines this side of Tblisi, I fluffed my hair, said "cheese," and then had two startling realizations. 1) In D.C. (and apparently in other states that are not Texas), they will give you the hard copy of your license right there. No holding on to that stupid temporary thing while waiting for your wretched photo to show up in your mailbox. They just hand it to you within 5 minutes. Quel Progress! as Holly Golightly would say.

Realization two came after they handed me my new license, and I sat down to compare it with my old one, checking for signs of maturity, wisdom, or fading freckles. So: 2) They took my TX driver's license! When I handed it to them as part of the documentation towards my new one, they simply didn't return it. I was warned that this might happen, but could scarcely believe such rumor-mongering. Someone just yanked my Texas card. Why don't they just extract my taste buds, replace them with spice-sensitive and margarita-oblivious versions, and cut off 5-inches from my height while they're at it? Mamma mia! I called my mother in distress and she comforted me by saying that when outsider move to Texas, they're welcome, but they're always outsiders. But when a Texan moves anywhere, they're always a Texan. I calmed down. After spending the first half of my life disdaining the Lone Star State, I now spend my time evangilizing the superior virtues of my home while secretly wondering if there was anything worthwhile outside Austin. It's rather confusing.
Now playing

"My love is better than your love, we take more drugs than a touring funk band, sing it!"

McLusky. Good rock.


Seriously, why is any Californian even considering voting for Arnold Schwarzenegger? Do we need the State of Minnesota to come out and do an intervention?
The eyes of Atrios are upon you

Poor Brendan Steinhauser. All he wanted to do was send the Daily Texan a right-wing diatribe against constitutional rights for Muslims and denigrate the thoughts of the bright and talented Ms. Laura Isensee in the process! He didn't count on being thrown into the lion's den by Atrios! Normally, I wouldn't wish a horde of Atrios commenters on my worst enemy, but after years of reading ignorant and ill-informed "Firing Line" letters in the Texan, I confess a guilty thrill of delight.

(If you really need me to defend why I believe his letter his simplistic and wrong-headed, I'll do it. I just figure it's self-evident, especially given the specific content of the PATRIOT act he so heartily endorses.)
How soon 'til Labor Day?

Tantalizing hints:
"In the strongest signal yet that retired US Army General Wesley K. Clark, the former NATO commander, is planning to join the Democratic presidential race, Clark told volunteers last week to step up their efforts and prepare for an announcement on Labor Day."
Filling the Void

I'm afraid I've been desperately short of thoughts and opinions lately, and this drought has continued into today. So instead of insightful spots on the grammar of Wesley Clark, I'm resorting to short factoids. Sigh.

Item! My roommates spotted Ari Fleischer on their flight from NYC to DC. Portions of his balding pate which so resembles Bert of Bert and Ernie may have been captured on video. This will make a charming conclusion to their Bermuda vacation footage. So my boyfriend has seen Gen. Clark in DC. My roomies have seen Ari Fleischer. My roommate thought he saw Marion Barry on the bus, but then he passed the guy and saw bits of trash in his hair. I'm not sure why this lead him to question his sighting. But I have yet to have a single, viable, celebrity sighting unless you count LBJ's illegitimate child.

Item! Justice was finally served on Capitol Hill when a certain staffer who was a "political hire" (that's what we call people with fake boobs who drink with the boss and wind up with a job) received the ax after 9 solid months of failing to work a complete week due to "sickness" or "headaches" or "needing more time to get ready" or "traffic." With so many friends unable to find jobs, I am gratified that someone taking their post so lightly finally got the boot. However, word has it that her feminine wiles (reminder: fake boobs and strategic placement in Cap. Hill bar) scored her a series of interviews with NRA lobbyists within hours. Said this staffer's former supervisor: "Let them have her if they want her. I can't think of a better group of guys to send her to."

Picks and Pans!
Pick: Raising Victor Vargas will be released on video on August 26. If you missed it in the theater, you absolutely have to rent it. It's scrumtrilescent.
Pan: My shitty oatmeal. It has spent the morning congealing into a menacing lump with flecks 'o cinnamon. Gag.

Friday, August 08, 2003

There's gossip around the blogosphere suggesting that Gen. Clark might make an announcement soon that he's running for pres, and it got me all a-twitter. Aside from his exemplary qualities that I've exhaustively listed in posts past, and aside from the fact that he's flat-out got the best chance to charm the socks off America and beat Bush, I would also like to point out that he appears to have completely, thoroughly, and oh jesus, refreshingly mastered the art of subject-verb agreement. Try to imagine with me, if you will, a day when we can listen to a man say:
"Are our families secure? Are our jobs secure? Are our retirements secure? Security is a lot more than being safe on the subway."

Rather than:
"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"

My office-mate has been having a crisis for 4.5 hours (and counting). I have no idea what is going on, but she has not been off the phone for more time than it takes to dial a phone number.
I don't know where this came from, or who wrote it, and I'm too lazy to look it up. But it's mildly funny, so read:

The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

The New York Times is read by people who think they run the country.

The Washington Post is read by people who think they should run the country.

USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand the Washington Post. They do, however, like their smog statistics shown in pie charts.

The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn't have to leave L.A. to do it.

The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and they did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country, and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country either, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are democrats.

The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

While I tend to be left of center on most political issues, when it comes to the smoking ban, I find myself with the strange bedfellows of small-government conservatives. I don't like the sweeping legislation of a smoke ban at the expense of more creative, less dramatic policies, and I generally don't think it's the government's job to look after my health (I am not a smoker, after all, so this is being done on my behalf). If the government is so concerned about the well-being of my lungs, I suggest the government buy me a membership to the Washington Sports Club. I might even go.

Given this curmudgeonly stance of mine, I am pleased down to my little republican toes to see that the "free market" approach to non-smoking appears to be working in DC. Several bars, hotel lounges, and blues clubs in DC and Northern VA have voluntarily banned smoking because that's what their customers wanted. If this trend continues, it may very well be that DC becomes a de facto non-smoking town. But it won't be because the government shot us all the middle finger, snatched the ciggies out of our mouths, and extinguished them on our faces. It will be because the bars responded to consumer demands, and the majority won out. The bars who have voluntarily gone non-smoking do not appear to be suffering monetarily as many in NYC are, which suggests a healthy demand for, well, healthy bar environments (as ridiculous as that seems). As it stands, it looks like there will be a lot of options in town for both the smoker and the non-smoker looking for a night of drinks or music, which is really the ideal situation.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Our bodies, our s-s-s-selves

Recent developments in Illinois suggest that the overreaching arm of the government is probably not tattooed. I had first-hand experience with Illinois squeamishness around body art, when I went to school in a town that would not allow tattoo parlors. (Or pool halls, or food establishments open 24 hours, or live music venues. Boy, was it a hoot...) I used to follow my friends into Chicago to watch them get their nose rings and what-not. But now things are looking tough all over, what with the new restrictions on tongue splitting.

Now, this is a despicable procedure. I have never seen anyone with their tongue split, but my boyfriend has and he has described it to me in such detail that I am content to remain ignorant. I have a bad history with reptilian alterations. Many years ago, I was in a Subway eating a Spicy Italian for lunch. There was a young man huddled in the corner, buried under nondescript coats despite the summer heat, head bowed so low over the table that I could only see the tangles of shock-black hair crawling out from underneath the baseball hat pulled over his eyes. He didn't have any food, he was staring at the blank table top. He appeared so menacing that I couldn't help staring at him. And then, slowly, he lifted his head and fixed his stare at me, and I saw that his eyes were not human. They were thin slits, like a cat, or a reptile, and they were staring at me without blinking.

I was terrified.

Very quickly afterwards (while I was running away from the Subway crying, no doubt!), I realized that he obviously must have been wearing some of those novelty contacts and probably got his kicks by being freaky in Subways and making young girls pee their pants. This is the type of person that gets their tongue split. If he had stared at me and opened his mouth to reveal a squirming forked tongue, I probably would have lapsed into a coma.

On the other hand, I'm older and wiser now. I don't think the government ought to be legislating against gross. I think that if you want to be able to juggle cocktail onions with your tongue, have at it. You want to freak out the bourgeoisie, and I'll happily oblige and be appropriately appalled or whatever. Just don't complain to me when you pass 30 and the Goth club kids don't hang around you any more and society just doesn't understand and ice cream tastes exactly the same as bratwurst because you massacred your taste buds and you can't find your other slit-eyed novelty contact. Because I don't think that's really creepy anymore, it's just melodramatic. Sublety, people! It's like my music theory professor once said after listening to Radiohead's Climbing up the Walls: "They are creepy in a way Marilyn Manson can't even begin to approach."

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

So Bill Maher now has a blog. Back in my sophomore year of college, I used to think Bill Maher was really funny. Then a year or two later I decided he was a total yawn. In recent weeks I've been coming back 'round again to thinking he's kinda funny. This same thing happened with Radiohead and meatloaf (the food, not the guy).

Anyway, here's Bill Maher being crochety and irritated and calling bullshit in a way that I can relate to, and not in a mean-spirited, scary Hitchens way:

You know what? Some things AREN’T about politics or race. Like hurricanes, which have been named after women since 1953 and also after men since feminists made a big fuss about that in 1979. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas is upset that this year’s crop of hurricane names include Larry, Wanda, and Juan but doesn’t include names such as Antwone, Keisha, or Jamal. It’s good to know that things are going so ship-shape in this country right now that a member of the United States House of Representatives has nothing better to do with their time than BITCH ABOUT WHY THE NAMES OF HURRICANES AREN’T MORE DIVERSE!

Well, unlike Bill, I do think this is a serious issue. Remeber how I recently mentioned I was looking for a name for my new car? We tossed about "The General," which I was definitely digging, but in honor of diversity, I think it's going to have to be Shaneequa. This is probably appropriate, as my car will most definitely have plenty of junk in the trunk.
Okay, I'm allowing a little exception to my Hitchens ban in honor of the fact that, on July 30, he managed a near-impossible feat. One seldom even attempted, much less accomplished. For a brief, fleeting, effervescent little moment of calm and peace in the cosmos, Christopher Hitchens got Ann Coulter to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Or at least reduced her to monosyllables for a few exchanges. It was Chris Matthews' Hardball on July 30, transcript here. It's a bit frustrating, because every time you think Hitchens is about to unleash on Coulter, Matthews rushes to change the subject, which is how this show works. Drive-by political punditry of sorts.

Anyway, they were discussing this 9/11 report, and how Bush is covering up information. Matthews' point was something like: why is he making this huge mistake of appearing to do cover-up for the Saudi royal family? America doesn't like that! Mistake! And Ann Coulter's (yawningly predictable) response was basically: "No mistake! George Bush! No mistake!" And thus:

MATTHEWS:Ann Coulter, just in political terms, why a cover-up? Why is the president of the United States going into the Rose Garden today and saying, “I’m not telling you what role the Saudis played in 9/11, if any?” Why does he want to be that guy, the cover-up man?

COULTER: Well, I don’t think any of us know. If we knew what was being redacted we wouldn’t be so worried about why it’s being redacted. We’d know what it says. And we don’t know what it says. [e-e-e-excellent point, Ann Coulter! Thank you for justifying your existence on the air!]


MATTHEWS: What are you, just in bed with the president on every issue? Wait a minute, Ann. Wait a minute, Ann. In order words, everything George Bush does is right, the way you look at it. Everything he does is right, prima facta? [I assume he's going for prima facie here, but give him a break. It's live and Chris Matthews talks very, very fast.]


MATTHEWS: He couldn’t make a mistake like making himself look like he’s covering up for the royal family in a way that might hurt America. He couldn’t possibly make a mistake, could he?

COULTER: No, he could make a mistake. But what else do we have to go on if the president is saying...

HITCHENS: Well, I’ll tell you what we have to go on. I’ll tell you what we have to go on. And by the way, I’m appalled to see what kind of model citizen you’d make in a banana republic, Ms. Coulter. I mean, you’re just saying in advance that your credulity with respect to the president is infinite.

COULTER: On whether or not he can reveal something. How else can we evaluate it if he won’t reveal it? We’re talking about something we don’t know what it says.

HITCHENS: Take a recent case. I’m presuming you agree with the president about the need to remove Saddam Hussein from office, and to purge Iraq of the Ba’ath Party.
The Saudis refused to let American forces use their soil, even the bases that the United States had built were forbidden for use by the Saudi oil government. Does this suggest to you that these are people that the president is entitled to cover up for?


HITCHENS: Isn’t it, in fact, the case that someone like Prince Bandar, for example, the Saudi ambassador in Washington, has had far too much power as a lobbyist for far too long? And the Saudis have been buying influence all over the...


and so on. I don't make it a habit to watch Ann Coulter as it's bad for my digestion, but I don't imagine many people call her a mindless party hack to her face and then make it out of the studio without a full set of Lee Press-On Nails skewering their genitals. Not her best performance. She was on much stronger ground earlier in the program when she was explaining that, as a lawyer, she sees nothing in the constitution allowing sodomy, and that the recent Supreme Court decision is thus a travesty. It is this kind of cogent analysis that makes me glad I got cable.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

School sux!

Not really. I just had to abandon Operation Suck-Up and transfer to Operation Don't Look Like a Chump.

[Digression: why do we have such lame names for US military operations? Infinite Justice. Onward Righteousness. Enduring Privilege. Etc. In Russia, a recent sting on police corruption was called "Operation Werewolves in Uniform." How expressive! How evocative! How close to a Warren Zevon song!]

The class is going to be great for me -- only 7 students and a professor barking in rapid-fire Russian for 3 hours. There are two returned Peace Corps volunteers and a journalist who worked in the Ukraine for a few years. They speak very well, but since none of them had formal training, they don't know any of the grammar or structure. I, on the other hand, know the grammar and speak (more or less) correctly, but don't have near the conversational range or comprehension abilities of these other kids. I'm also only 75% certain that I wrote down the correct homework assignment.

I had a strange dizzy feeling at the end of the class. My head kind of hurt. There was a dull sort of throbbing in between my ears. What on earth? Did I forget to eat? Am I dehydrated? It all felt sort of...familiar... Ah yes! I have felt this before! It's called thinking! How delightful!

Monday, August 04, 2003

Back to School

The sultry humid hell of summer lingers with us, and yet there is a touch of Autumn in the air. Whatever could it be? Why, it's the pitter-pattering footsteps of young scholars returning to the venerable halls of learning and knowledge. At the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

In short, it's my first day of school at the USDA
Graduate School.

You might ask, "Why does the USDA have a graduate school, and whatever are you interested in learning there?"

The answers are, respectively "I don't know." and "Russian."

For some reason, the USDA has a pretty extensive offering of courses, including language classes taught at various levels. My old Russian skills have gathered a bit of rust since the heady days of my youth, so I'm off to take an intermediate course that ought to bring back my old mad skillz.

My first postgraduate brush with academic nostalgia came when I sat for the Foreign Service Exam a while ago. Early on a Saturday morn, I sat with perfect posture in my assigned seat in my assigned row, exactly two perfectly sharpened pencils at my side, a nutritious lunch packed below my chair. As the proctor droned the instructions for the test, I felt the giddiness rising. I was getting to take a test. I was going to write an essay! I was very like Lisa Simpson in the "teachers' strike" episode. Remember how she shoved her papers at Marge, begging "Grade me! Evaluate meeee!!"

I am equally excited about this class, despite some obvious differences from my college experience. It won't last for an entire semester. It's only two nights a week. I probably won't sleep through them or skip them for reasons such as: inclement weather, nice weather, hungry, thirsty, lazy, overworked, overslept, didn't do the reading, did the reading and already got it, don't care, don't wanna, there's some funny people on the west mall, ooh look at the turtles.

No, I am the model student. I intend to kiss up furiously and make enemies of my jealous, conniving classmates. I'll do the optional homework. I'll stay after class to talk to the professor about--I dunno--irregular verbs. I'll organize an informal class gathering to meet for drinks and practice our Russian, to which nobody will come because they all resent me (see above).

I've already gone to the bookstore (not as fun when you have to buy your books), bought my texts, and gone over the first lesson. It's a fucking CAKEWALK, I'm going to OWN this school! Watch out Dean's List! Watch out mid-career, slower-mental-processes classmates! Watch out WORLD! I'm in Continuing Education! [cue fanfare]