Friday, October 31, 2003

I can't believe I'm actually commenting on Kobe Fucking Bryant, but this is too infuriating to ignore.

The identity of Kobe's accuser isn't the best-kept secret in the world, especially if you were on the internet a month or two ago. And there is certainly a legitimate argument to be had about the convention of anonymity for alleged rape victims. [ie, does it perpetuate the culture of victimization of women, is it quite fair to the accused, etc.] But what the Globe did is beneath contempt, even for disgraceful tabloid publications.

The Globe published a high school prom photo of the alleged victim, in which she lifts her skirt to reveal a garter belt on her thigh. Beneath the photo, the headlines blare "Kobe's Accuser: Did She Really Say No?" (go to if you want to see the picture. They had the decency, at least, to blur our her face and her name. for what it's worth.)

I think we can all read between the revolting lines, right? "Kobe's Accuser: look at what a skank she is! You know she wanted it bad." I heard rumors a while back that the girls' sexual history is to be admitted at trial, and suggestions that she might have had sex with another man on the same evening that the attack allegedly took place.

Don't we all know by now that none of that matters in the slightest? Who cares if she slept with five men that night? Ten? What does this thought process imply, if not that chaste girls can be raped, and sexually active or even promiscuous girls can not be raped.

Headlines like this may sell magazines, but they promote and perpetuate the dangerous and devastating misperceptions that surround sexual assault and taint the victims. One of the regularly cited reasons for maintaining the anonymity of accusers is that public recognition and the attendant stigmas of rape might discourage the victim from coming forward. People have argued that such stigmas are largely gone, that we are more enlightened, and the victim should have no shame in publicly naming her attacker.

Unless, thanks to the Globe, she wants to be outed and a called a slut in every supermarket in the country.

Congrats to sexually deviant celebrities everwhere, I can promise you that the ladies will think twice about bringing any charges now.
You broke my heart, Fredo. You broke my heart.

Wow. Check out this letter from Atlanta Attorney David Worley to Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who recently endorsed GWB for the 2004 elections. It's elegant and devastating, and the sense of personal betrayal is fierce.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

At least our politicians only commit character assassination...

All's well on Capitol Hill, but things aren't looking so rosy for politicians in Georgia. (The country)
With parliamentary elections slated for this Sunday, election officials are struggling with a host of bureaucratic problems, and candidates are facing the odd assassination attempt.

Yesterday, the leader of the opposition "National Movement" bloc was threatened when seven armed men in a vehicle attempt to break into the middle of a rally and gun him down. His bodyguards stopped them. The attackers escaped due to the late arrival of police.

Yesterday, another parliamentary candidate went missing, and kidnapping was feared. He turned up this morning with serious injuries, explaining that he had been accosted, beaten up, and thrown into the river.

One other opposition candidate took two bullets, but was protected by his armored vest. Yes, his armored vest. Later, his car exploded.

Ah, the sweet sounds of democracy in action.
My friends are e-mailing me from the lock-down inside the House buildings where an armed man and woman ran past security. Just another day at the office for those poor Capitol Hill staffers. I think they ought to be receiving danger pay, what with anthrax and gunmen and what-not.

Plastic gun, halloween gag, stupid, stupid people. Never mind Hill staffers. No danger pay for YOU! is sponsoring a contest for all you budding activists and film mavens. They are asking entrants to submit a 30-second anti-Bush ad to be judged by Michael Moore, Donna Brazile, Jack Black, Janeane Garofalo, and Gus Van Sant. The winning ad will be broadcast on television during the week of the 2004 State of the Union address.

Sounds pretty cool to me, but I personally don't have the discipline to craft my sneering disgust into catchy soundbites. Maybe one of you creative kids can do better...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Have you noticed?

For somebody who pumped out a column nearly every other day in the build-up to the glorious war in Iraq, Christopher Hitchens sure has been kinda quiet lately. I mean, there were a couple hiccups from him when Ma Theresa and Edward Said kicked the bucket, but the man with an opinion for every occassion has not had a lot to say on recent developments in certain troubled Persian Gulf states.

I'm sure he's just finalizing a lengthy novel on how it's all just going so swimmingly.

(By the way, this is not morally twisted glee at the troubles in Iraq. It's mostly a groundless hope that the Hitch might be hatching something relevant to say.)

Monday, October 27, 2003

Saturday afternoon, over a beer

ME: So my hairdresser was saying that he can't stand modern art that seems like it's all shock value. He said he hates that one artist that smeared feces all over the virgin mary. The Shit Mary, or whatever it's called. I couldn't remember why you thought it was good, so I had no response.

K: Oh I don't think Shit Mary is any good. It's poorly executed.

ME: Really? I thought you liked that one.

K: No, no. That was Piss Christ.

ME: Oh. Yeah.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Martin Amis will be in D.C. for a reading and book signing on Nov. 7! Wonder if the Hitch will show up to hear his buddy read? For you Austinites, he'll be at Barnes and Noble on the 14th. I don't think you'll have much chance of a Hitch-sighting there, but maybe Leslie will drop in.
My organization recently conducted a nation-wide public opinion survey in Ukraine. One of the questions asked respondents to indicate what characteristics make a country a democracy. Surveys for the past decade in former Soviet countries have shown that people have very different ideas as to what a democracy is, and those perceptions can be telling.

The top responses in Ukraine were:
1. Human Rights
2. "Everyone has work"
3. "Retirees are looked after by the state"
4. "No official corruption"

Concepts such as freedom of speech, press, and religion, as well as the right to vote rated much lower. Now this is mostly just indicative of the fact that dire economic worries mostly drive opinion in Ukraine. ("everyone has work"?? State looks after seniors"?? Why, those sound like some dirty commie ideas to me!)

What was interesting to me was how poorly the beacon of democracy itself stands up to these (admittedly incorrect) ideas about democracy. Between Ashcroft and Rumsfeld's detainees, the worst unemployment since Hoover, compassionate conservatism that leaves seniors stranded, and the various leaks and lies and Halliburton hand-outs, I wonder what Ukrainians think of American democracy?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

D.C. writer Clay Risen sums up what's seemed weird about D.C. to me since I first stepped off the boat.
Here's the teaser:
Urban character is easy – Chicago has architecture, New York has culture, Los Angeles has a six-hour flight to New York – but what about cities with zero personality? Let’s say, Washington?

I've written before about the oddity of living in a city with no palpable sense of home-grown culture. Risen captures some of the other peculiarites of the city, including: ID Chic ("Washington is probably the only place outside of a corporate-suburbs Appleby’s where office IDs aren’t just acceptable, but chic. ...Here, pickup lines like, ‘dump the assistant to the deputy undersecretary and get with the assistant deputy undersecretary,’ actually work."), Interns ("Virtually everyone in the city started as an intern, but it doesn’t stop people from wanting to kill them. Or sleep with them."), and one I hadn't heard of, "Slug Lines" (‘Slugs’ are commuters who, unwilling to drive or take the train, essentially hitch-hike their way into the District; single drivers pick them up in order to take advantage of the HOV lanes.)

DC has grown on me exponentially over the last year, and the gorgeous autumns don't hurt, but all this talk I've heard about how "people come to DC and never leave" is just crap. They aren't staying because of the subtle charms of Beltway traffic, people! They stay because they work for the Federal Government or some parasite thereof.

2003 marks the 70th anniversary of Stalin's man-made famine in Ukraine. In order to force the collectivization of Ukraine's rural lands, Stalin enforced the seizure of millions of tons of grain and blocked any importation of food to the region. Millions upon millions died between 1932-1933. The Soviet Union was able to keep the atrocity under wraps, and in fact continued officially denying the full extent of the famine until the dissolution of the USSR.

During the famine, Walter Duranty was the NYTimes correspondent in the USSR, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for his coverage of the region. Subsequently, it became clear that Duranty was a shameless apologist for Stalin, and gruesomely, had covered up his knowledge of the famine. In September 1933, Duranty "privately informed the British government that as many as 10 million people had died as a result of famine conditions during the past year." In public, however, he simply continued producing bland articles that mouthed the Soviet party line.

Every so often, interest groups call for Pulitzer to renounce the 1932 prize conferred upon Duranty due to his gross negligence and criminal disdain for journalistic ethics. With the 70th anniversary upon us, those voices are speaking up again.

NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. said that he would respect the Pultizer Board's decision if they revoked the reward, but then he "asked the board to consider two things:"
First, he wrote, such an action might evoke the "Stalinist practice to airbrush purged figures out of official records and histories." He also wrote of his fear that "the board would be setting a precedent for revisiting its judgments over many decades."

In an interview last night, Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said he concurred with Mr. Sulzberger.

"It's absolutely true that the work Duranty did, at least as much of it as I've read, was credulous, uncritical parroting of propaganda," said Mr. Keller, who covered the Soviet Union for The Times from 1986 to 1991.

And yet, Mr. Keller added, "As someone who spent time in the Soviet Union while it still existed, the notion of airbrushing history kind of gives me the creeps."

Now this is silly at best, and grossly inappropriate at worst. Soviet "airbrushing" of history was based entirely on fabricated lies trumpeted as truth, and depending on what was being "airbrushed," often followed on the heels of executions and deportations. Generals who fell out of favor were convicted on convenient charges and their deeds disappeared from history books. Stalin's top advisors were literally airbrushed out of photos after they too were sent to Gulags or executed. Everyone knows the tale of the census-takers at the height of Stalin's Great Terror. When they showed up unable to account for a few million souls that were around during the last census, Stalin had them killed. The next census-takers somehow managed to find those few million.

My point is: that is how the Soviet Union altered history, facts, and reality. That is air-brushing history. Making adjustments based on subsequently discovered facts is called responsibility. The Pulitzer people and the NYT have a responsibility to their own integrity, and they should revoke the prize. Duranty does not directly have blood on his hands, but he has the stench, and he should no longer be celebrated.

Kriston in comments made me remember that I ended this post one paragraph too early. The other reason I brought up the way the Soviets change history is to point out that if Pulitzer re-visits the award, they would simply be amending history. Duranty's name would not disappear from Pulitzer records, his articles would not be whisked from the NYT archives as though never there. Kriston recommends a big asterisk by the award, noting the mistake. I suppose that would be okay. I would prefer his name to appear, maybe with a strike-through, and a notation that he was awarded the Pulitzer in '32, and the award was revoked in '03. Regardless, Duranty would in no way be "purged" from official records as Sulzberger suggests, anymore than Bret Hull was purged from the records of the Stanley Cup annals when he got that skate-in-the-crease footnote. It's a gross exaggeration, and one not worthy of the Times.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

check mate

I've read Nabokov's "The Defense," I've seen "Searching for Bobby Fischer," I've read some great articles about that nutcase, I followed the Kasparov/Deep Blue match with interest, and even had a passing acquaintance with some members of the R.L. Turner High School state championship chess team. None of this has ever made me want to learn how to play chess. Oh, I learned the basic moves back in high school during the many long nights at Grinders Coffeehouse. But I never had the patience to examine the board, think through strategy, or do much else other than blindly flick a horsey across the board and yawn until somebody knocked my king over. I always felt that to play chess, you have to really study the game and devote yourself to its intricacies. Frankly, I didn't feel like bothering.

So you can see why I didn't expect Foreign Affairs magazine to drag me into my first chess game since '95.

I was on the bus, rattling home from work, reading about the diplomatic back-and-forth that lead up to the Iraq war and the UN Security Council's failure to pass a second resolution on Iraq. It suddenly struck me that I had never developed any thought processes attuned to strategy, manipulation, anticipating the moves of opponents and allies. Hell, I would never even play Risk because it stressed me out too much. Whenever I played "Civilization" or some such game on the computer, I just sent diplomats everywhere so that I wouldn't have to negotiate war and peace. (my diplomats were regularly beheaded. I then spent all my money on libraries and lo and behold, my nation had the Bomb while my foe [Ireland] was still in the middle ages.)

ANYWAY. I realized that learning how to play chess might help develop that part of my mind that was so woefully undernourished. And I had to do it fast, before my natural aversion to the game kicked in and any chance of learning was gone for another decade. So I called in my resident chess expert (Kriston) who was more than eager to comply, seeing as how he has been trying to get me to play chess for approximately 2.75 years. And to tell the truth, it wasn't nearly as horrible as I expected. I tried my damndest to piss him off, but he was impervious. I called them "horsies" and "castles" and regularly referred to "my guys" "eating" "your guys." I yelped when he put his hand on a particularly threatening piece, and I gloated when he showed me how to eat one of his guys. Halfway through the game he stopped telling me all my moves, and no amount of whining and stalling and begging and snivelling on my part [don't I sound FUN?] would bring aid. "Try to figure out what I want to do," he'd advise. "EAT MY KING!" I'd answer. In the end, he let me win, because he knows it was the only way I'd ever play again. Apparently, I should have taken his king about 25 moves before I did, but I am a slow learner.

I don't feel particularly strategic quite yet, and Risk is definitely not on the horizon, but I do have a new respect for Kriston's pain threshold.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone

I am so in love with All Girl Summer Fun Band. Yay!
Looks like I'm not the only one tired of day-old scandals.
What is wrong with that man?

Andrew Sullivan's Quote of the Day:
"You know, a lot of our guys in Iraq carry around pieces of the World Trade Center. The chattering classes are talking about the relationship between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. These guys are under no illusions. It's all part of the same war." - Richard Perle, in a worthwhile interview in the Jersualem Post.

Great, Andy. So for those of you keeping track, the two most recent bits of corroborating evidence we have verifying the link between 9/11 and Saddam are: U.S. troops carrying WTC pieces around [where did they get those?]; and U.S. troops forming the numbers 9/11 with their bodies. Don't know about you guys, but I'm sold!
An Open Letter to Media Outlets

Dear Newspapers, Radio, and Internet,

There are only so many hours in the day, you know, and I take my time seriously. I like to be an informed individual, but frankly, I'm sick of the crap. But I am nothing if not helpful, so here is a list of

Things I am Sick and Tired of Hearing About:

1. California

Okay, the recall election was amusing and useful in the re-emergence of Gary Coleman jokes. But it is OVER. None of us gave a crap about California before the recall, and none of us gives a crap about it now. It's called the L.A. Times, people, and it serves a purpose. Am I supposed to read a bunch of shit on California's fiscal crisis? Doesn't every state have a fiscal crisis? Isn't my life more or less an ongoing fiscal crisis? For the record: I no longer care what Arnold does or how he does it, unless it's something scandalous (raising taxes does not count).

2. The Draft Clark nerds

SHUT UP. Please, for the love of Christ, SHUT UP. I do not know why these 4 guys or whatever feel so personally slighted by not being picked up by a major presidential campaign just because they know HTML and decided to devote the entirety of several weeks of their sad little lives to a man they've never met, but they should have already known that all those Kobe Bryant fan pages never yielded so much as an autographed condom so they might as well shut up. And the amount of hubris it takes to believe that their exclusion from the campaign is the death knoll of Clark is astounding. There are people out there who make their presidential choices based on the candidate's beneficence to bloggers, but those people are the DraftClark people, so you see how it all ties itself up neatly. I care about a president who will get my friends jobs and craft a coherent foreign policy, I emphatically do not care about the Clark nerds. Fifteen minutes? Up.

3. Gregg Easterbrook

Who? What? Oh, I don't have time for it. So just shut up about him too.

4. The World Series

Is anybody watching this shit? If we ignore it, will it go away?

And just to be constructive, the more stories about suicidal freaks, the better.


Alright, already. I'm trying this HaloScan stuff, in a half-hearted attempt to convince you all that I care what you have to say about my non-existent posts. Heh.

It does seem, however, that all previous comments have disappeared, which probably hinders my effort to look like I care about the vox populi...
Ask not for whom the Hitch tolls...

Okay, let's take a look at the standings:
Edward Said, target of Hitchens diatribe, dead. Receives pleasant but uncompromising post-mortem from the Hitch.

Mother Theresa, target of Hitchens diatribe, dead. Receives
less pleasant and slightly deranged post-mortem from the Hitch.

If I were Henry Kissinger, I'd watch my back. I'm just saying...

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Adding insult to injury?

On Steve Bartman, Cubs Fan, and marked man:

Bartman found a different sort of celebrity in Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush said that an offer of asylum might be a good idea, and an oceanfront retreat in Pompano Beach offered a free three-month stay should Bartman deem it necessary to get out of Chicago until passions die down.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The polls are closed in Baku

...and already reports are pouring in of widespread fraud, ballot-stuffing, voter intimidation, and violent outbreaks. But here at the Azerbaijan Embassy where I just observed the expat voting, democracy and transparency ruled the day. I hereby certify that, like, 50 votes or so are corruption-free.

For what it's worth.

Best Tragic Headline Pun of the Day Award

From the Chicago Tribune:

"The Mitt Hits the Fan"
Facing the crisis of an oversized, bloated, inefficient, grossly underpaid, irrelevent, cold-war oriented military that has effectively lost its last 3 wars, and hundreds of soldiers to suicide each year, what does Russia do? Slash the number of troops by half, as recommended by military experts, to create a small, professional, well-paid, effective military commensurate in size to modern threats? Bring the corrupt, top-heavy officer corps into line? Provide a modicum of education and health services to the desperately poor and illiterate soldiers that fill the military ranks?

Um, nyet.

Instead, Russia's Duma just approved a plan for compulsory military training for high school students, so that every graduate can disassemble and assemble a Kalashnikov in under a minute. This was a hallmark of Soviet-era training that has been unnaturally resurrected into the post-Cold War era.

Russia's inability to respond to the new contours of national security continue to amaze. In the wars ahead, as this editorial notes, a small professional army that isn't an utter ruin would serve Russia's security interests far better than a pack of "kalashnikov-toting teenagers." And yes, I do know how cool that sounds to you boys.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Matthew Yglesias has a post today where he mentions Harold Bloom (well, he says "Howard," but I know what he means) and notes that Dr. Bloom is the man "who gives great books a bad name."

I'm partway through Dr. Bloom's "The Western Canon," and I think I am starting to agree with Matt. A former English major, I've always felt secretly ashamed at my dearth of knowledge on the classics. I rarely read much of anything pre-WWI, with the exception of the Russians. I missed Dante, skipped Milton, gag at the idea of reading the Bible, tried the "Iliad" three times to no avail, and convinced myself that I can't do "Odyssey" before making it through "Iliad." Thank God I dig Shakespeare, else I'd probably lose any English major cred I might have had.

I ran across Dr. Bloom's book (A New York Times Notable!)--a book glorifying the central works of the Western Canon by an eminent literary scholar--and I was sure that this man's great enthusiasm for these more difficult texts would give me the motivation to finally tackle them. Like having a passionate professor that inspires you with his verve, I thought Dr. Bloom's book would spark my curiosity with fascinating insights and revealing contexts.

Instead, the only service this book has performed thus far is convincing me that Homer can't possibly be less interesting than Bloom. For a man who purports to love these works, he sure makes a snoozefest of them.

First, you have to wade through what is apparently the prime motivation of this book. Bloom is concerned that the great works are under attack by the "School of Resentment," as he calls it. These are the feminists, the multiculturalists, the Queer Studies academics. It comes off as paranoid ravings from an out-of-touch academic who doesn't seem aware that Shakespeare and Milton and all the rest of them are still being taught everywhere.

Once you learn to ignore those passages, you still have to contend with Bloom's language which is so packed with academic-ese it's almost incomprehensible. At one point, Bloom notes that he admires Milton's "agonistic triumphalism," and leaves it at that. As if that were a self-explanatory phrase. Bloom is talking with his fellow academics in this book, and not to us. He ought to be trying to win me over from the ranks of the "School of Resentment," but I see nothing yet to cause me to cross over to his camp.

When you pass the paranoia, and when you manage to decipher his intent through horrendously opaque prose, there are some remarkable insights. I learned something about Shakespeare's originality that will now always inform my readings of him. But I'm glancing with ever-growing wariness at the other Bloom title I purchased: "How to Read and Why."

I fear the answers will be "like me" and "in order to cow your intellectual inferiors into proper submission."
Taxicab Confessions

WARNING: This post contains explicit language that may be offensive to sensitive readers.

After growing up in the spacious landscape of suburbs and smaller cities, it's always instructive to witness the sociological armegeddon that happens when heaving masses of humanity are squashed together. In other words, New York City never fails to disappoint. One might hope that the great mixing of cultures and races has produced a brilliant example of a true international city--one in which people from all corners of the world can intermingle peaceably. Of course, anyone who has spent 5 minutes in Manhattan knows this isn't true. Everybody hates everybody, blackout goodwill be damned.

Saturday night:
Six of us are sardined in the cab at 1am, heading to the next bar. The cab driver reaches the end of a block, only to find that it has been barricaded by the bouncer of the bar on the corner. The bouncer is standing defiantly by the barricades, instructing the ever-growing mob of traffic to simply "back the fuck up." Our cab drive, a small man of some indeterminate Arab descent begins to rage. He wants me to go tell of the bouncer. I tell him to keep dreaming. We sit there in confusion for sometime, until a young man gets out of his car, grabs the barricades, and throws them to the side. Our cab driver, needing to release his pent-up rage, screeches through the newly opened gap, rolls down his windows, and calls to the bouncer:


We of course explode into laughter, which only encourages our driver to launch into a racist diatribe, half in English, half in something-or-other, but definitely containing the word "motherfucker" an awful lot. Finally he reaches a phrase we can understand:

This would throw any good liberal off-balance for a moment, but not our good friend Omar, who is never at a loss for words. Pausing in his hooting laughter, Omar says: "Abraham Lincoln, fool. Abraham Lincoln."

Friday, October 10, 2003

My weekend is better than your weekend

I'm off to NYC to go see Radiohead in Madison Square Garden. Ha.

I missed the debates last night, but I did finally see On the Waterfront, and surprise, surprise, it's incredible. I recently finished the recently deceased Elia Kazan's autobiography. At one point in the narration, Kazan refers to the group of actors he'd worked with on a certain movie as second-rate actors. Then he stops and notes that this is not meant to be an insult. He says he's known mostly third-raters. He's worked with a fair number of second-raters, he says, a handful of first-raters, and one genius. Brando. Kazan said he received a lot of praise, and an Oscar, for his direction in On the Waterfront. But you don't direct Brando, Kazan confesses, you just film him.

Knowing this would be another tough guy role, I was expecting Stanley Kowalski in flannel. But it's not that at all. There's no bluster and bravado to Terry Malone, though he's every bit as raw. Brando takes this washed-up prize-fighter-turned-longshoreman and plays him rough, sure, but with this touch of tenderness so light and so natural, it doesn't confuse the character by making him improbably sensitive. It looks like Brando was born in Terry Malone's skin. Lots of movies will tell you, ham-handedly, that their protaginist is special, that he has somehow transcended his pedestrian surroundings. Kazan and Brando are both too good for that, and they give their audience some credit. Terry Malone isn't any smarter than anyone else, he isn't terribly braver, he isn't really a man of principle surrounded by wolves. But when he gets to the famous "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender," you believe it and you already knew it because of something Brando drew out of Terry naturally--not because of some cleverly inserted scene that told you so.

It's refreshing to watch a film in which the director refrains from manipulating your emotions with treacly melodrama and passionate declarations of love that let you know with no doubt that somebody's about to get whacked, and you'll be expected to cry. When directors trust their actors (and have actors worthy of trust), you end up with something much more interesting and complex than the simplified saccharine we're used to--something resembling life a little more.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Leave it the NYT to totally ruin a good death-match rivalry by kinda sorta endorsing the Sox when they should be mocking Bostonians mercilessly. Don't get me wrong, I hope the Sox destroy the Yankees, but rivalries are no fun unless they're predicated on complete and unadulterated animosity on both sides. No quarter. Luckily, we have Gawker to intervene:

As a rule, I do not read the Op-Ed page of the Times. Consider today: "Ground Zero" financing (boring), White House labor legislation (care? could you?), Muslims in Europe (yawn), and, worst of all, an editorial on baseball.

But... look! What an odd editorial on baseball! "With all due respect to our New York readership — Yankee fans among them," the Times says, they can't help but get all worked up over a Cubs/Red Sox World Series. Uh, excuse me?

I declare a post-season jihad against Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and his editorial staff. If I wanted to read the fucking Boston Globe, I'd move up there -- pausing only to purchase a Kia-full of LL Bean shirts and a lobotomy.

The toilet of the future is here!

Finally! I don't know why, but for some reason, I always seem to be on the cutting edge of toilet news. Back in high school, a Dallas coffee shop put in an electronic bidet, and I was there in a flash. The bidet actually became a draw for the little coffee shop, and people came from all around to clean their tooshes with their automated choice of warm or cold water, with a pleasing blast of warm, drying air afterwards.

To continue my trend, I'm going to have to make it down to DC's Huntington Metro station to try this modern marvel.
The Galaxy is not your county fair Jiffy John. The six-ton stainless steel box stands inside the fare gates and is available free to anyone who has paid a fare. It measures about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide and features a heated tile floor, a mirror, coat hooks, bright lighting and recordings of soft piano music.

At the touch of a button, the toilet seat comes out of a compartment built into the wall. Toilet paper is dispensed by the press of another button. After the toilet is used, it automatically flushes and the seat is washed in cleanser and returned to its hidden compartment.

The "sink" is built into the wall. When hands are placed under one sensor, a dollop of liquid soap is released. Under another, warm water sprays, and under a third sensor, hand dryers automatically turn on. After 30 flushes, the Galaxy locks itself and goes through a five-minute chemical rinse and dry cycle, like a dishwasher.

The article goes on to note the reaction of a couple "Texas tourists" who are actually the parents of my brother's highschool buddy. I assume, anyway. How many people from Texas are named Pevehouse? Mary Lou was decidedly unimpressed, but as a fan of high-tech heine hygiene, I think I'm going to have to give it a whirl.

They say an unexamined life is not worth living, but They are masochists. For example, I just examined a thought I had a second ago, and I'm not pleased with the results. The thought occurred as I was prying open the freezer in my office kitchen, and the thought was this:

"Shit! Somebody ate my Lean CuisineTM. Dammit! Maybe I should leave a note on my food!"

I am fairly certain that at some point in the recent past, I said to someone "If I ever become that person that gets mad because somebody ate their shitty Lean Cuisinetm, just kill me." Actually, it was probably more like, "If I ever become that person that eats Lean Cuisinetm, just kill me."

So in honor of the irreverent hellcat that I have asphyxiated in pantyhose and heels, I'm off to get Subway!*

UPDATE[*Granola bar. Have no cash. Irreverent hellcat to be revived with beer later. Possibly could not get more pathetic.]

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

An open letter to California, via Gawker:

Dear California,

I used to have this friend in high school. She wasn't a slut, exactly; she was just really needy. And whenever some hot new jock guy would breeze into town, she'd think, "Yes, he's the one! He'll fix everything that's wrong with me!" Then she'd throw herself at him in the most demeaning way possible.

That always worked out well for her. Jesus. What happened, California? Did your dad fuck you up that much?

I'm doing take-backs on taking back all those things that I said about you, California. You are a state of stupid self-hating fruitcakes. But we're still concerned. We'll build the political equivalent of a battered women's shelter for you when your hot and totally dysfunctional love affair with Arnold is over.

And now who's gonna help you out when Arnold's beating you senseless in the middle of the night? You think Nevada gives a shit? Christ. It's tough love time, Cali. Let's never speak again.

Your concerned -- and really embarrassed -- ex-friend,

New York State

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Here's David Remnick, with a pitch-perfect take on Putin during his recent visit to New York. Remnick has a novelist's eye for human mannerisms and his captivating book, Lenin's Tomb reads just like the following passage all the way through. Excerpt from the recent New Yorker:
Unlike his boogie-down-at-the-Kremlin predecessor, however, Putin did not immediately call for a vodka straight up. Putin is the anti-Yeltsin: cool, wary, abstemious. He seemed to regard this smallish dinner of mediacrats hosted by Tom Brokaw as a trying obligation.

For the most part, Putin’s discipline held (he is, after all, a trained career officer of the K.G.B.), but there were times when he turned steely in a theatrical sort of way and, with his cold blue eyes and withering glance, looked rather like Frank Gorshin doing his Richard Widmark imitation. At one point, Putin leaned to his left and was greeted by the megawatt smile of Brokaw’s NBC colleague Katie Couric. She was wearing a black leather dress. Putin seemed to sense relief, charm, fun. He was wrong. “So why didn’t you come back from vacation when the sub was on the bottom of the sea?” Couric asked. Putin sighed darkly, took the slightest of sips from his wine glass, and allowed that, in the end, maybe he should have returned to Moscow sooner, if only for P.R. reasons.

this american life

There is a particularly painful irony when the woman whose cube abuts yours screeches endlessly into her telephone at evangelical volumes about how the lack of privacy in our office arrangement makes it hard to get any peace and quiet.

Why is fate so cruel as to give me a great hair day on a red-nose, stuffed-head, feverish-skin, puffy face, bloodshot eyes, walking crookedly day? It's not fair.

But enough of that. For anyone who didn't have fun on Halloween, you should have come with us. Not only was it a wickedly fun UT-alum reunion, it was a fascinating sociological experiment in DC pop culture knowledge. The evening had two stops: a costume party at a house on Capitol Hill, and a dance party at indie club Black Cat. My main squeeze and I went in our smashing White Stripes get-up. The house party had some good costumes: Charleton Heston packing heat, Fidel Castro trying to make out with our friend, a giant fortune cookie handing out demented fortunes. But you wouldn't believe how many people gave us blank stares when we explained that we were the White Stripes.
"What's that?"
Seriously, it's not like the White Stripes are so obscure. We weren't going as Godspeed You, Black Emperor! And you can't blame it on our costumes, because they simply hadn't ever heard of the White Stripes. Meg and Jack could have walked in and they would have said "What are you?" Seriously out of the loop, kids. Get a fucking radio.

Then we go on to the Black Cat, and it's a different story. We haven't taken ten steps out of the cab when we here "White Stripes! Awesome!" Everyone knew who we were, and we spent the evening collecting the accolades of our peers and keeping Kriston from falling on people. And, as we hoisted Kriston bodily into a cab to go home, a life-long dream of mine finally came true when a jeep spilling over with hot gay men leaned out to yell, "Meg White!! You go girl!" Sigh. The affirmation of gay men. Now I know what it feels like to be Madonna.

Monday, October 06, 2003

The game was in Atlanta, but the fans showed up in Chicago. Way to go Cubs:

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Quote of the Day

My friend and fellow UT alum, after I reminded him that the big OU game was next weekend:
Oh my god, I forgot…OU! Finally, our chance to prove that we are completely undeserving of a national title once again!

I remember the good old days where OU was so laughable, they only cheered for themselves half-heartedly in the pre-game build-up. Now everything's wrong. Why, I bet at the TX/OU party at the Across the Street Bar, OU fans are pouring pitchers of beer on Texas fans. I'm glad I'm not around to see these dark days.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The fall of communism over a decade ago heralded the beginning of the end for the culture of secrecy and deception practiced by secret services across Eastern Europe in Russia. In the former East Germany, Stasi files were cracked so average citizens could have a peek at their informers. An organization in Russia called "Pamyat" (Memory) labored to list and memorialize the million victims of the Gulag. The process of healing is a slow one, and even now, new disclosures are causing people to rethink both past and present. Even the shadowy corners of the KGB are no exception to the beaming light of truth, and today, we know more than ever about the operations and diabolical tactics of that fearsome organization. How did their operatives infiltrate our domestic institutions? How extensive were their domestic informant networks? How did they drink that much vodka and still manage to wake up the next morning, bright and sinister? Well, comrades, now we know. Behold, the 'KGB Pill' Promises to Cure Hangovers.