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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
COMMENTS. Having installed the new Blogger commenting system, I'm going to leave the Enetation comments up for a transition period. I realize this is a tad confusing, but I'll eventually make the Enetation comments go away. Meanwhile, I'd prefer if you'd begin using the new Blogger commenting option. Thanks.
The RSS feed here should now actually work, I hope. I've also added this Feedburner feed; comments and, er, feedback, requested.
CIRCULAR META-BLOGGING. Popdex says here that I said "WHOA" um, interestingly, at 3:20 a.m. tomorrow. Groovy. I'm going to have to stay up for that. I just hope I don't kill the grandfather I never met.
Beyond that, thanks for the laughs, and the hits. Really. Dozens of them. Based upon what I said tomorrow.
It's just so skiffy.
Oh, my, what happens to us all if I don't post that remark?
NO JEWS HERE. Matthew Yglesisas right notes what Dan Drezner also does. As Matt does:
Hollywood in general is very skittish about dealing with the Jewishness of Jewish characters, although (or perhaps in some sense because) because Jews are so highly represented in LA-NYC media circles. The general feeling is that this stuff won't play in Peoria.
United States House of Representatives, 1953-1959
Senator, West Virginia State Senate, 1951-1953
Member, West Virginia House of Delegates, 1947-1951.
So far as I recall, President Truman left office in January, 1953, and was never in the West Virginia House or Senate, being from Missouri. I don't recall that either served in the same unit together in the military. Byrd was a civilian welder during WWII.
I'm unclear how they "served together."
Disconnected note: wow, Lieberman is excortiating Rumsfeld. Not that that will make any of those who think he's a crazy rightist, or something, change their minds about him. But he's scolding Rumsfeld far harder than Ted Kennedy or any other Senator so far. Citing the Declaration of Independence is breathtaking.
Citing the Geneva Conventions, and Reg 190-8, is just a dollop of followup. "If not, why not?"
Rumsfeld's declaration that all combatants captured in Iraq are considered subject to POW status under the Geneva Conventions is very welcome.
MCCAIN CUT TO THE HEART. Slight paraphrase: Secretary Rumsfeld, you can answer. What agencies or private contractors had authority over interrogations? Who gave the instructions? Who was in charge? What was the chain of command? Who had authority over the guards? Mr. Secretary, you can't answer these questions? I think these are fundamental questions. It's a very simple, straightforward question.
Some say one person can't make a difference. I have to wonder how different the world might be if George Bush hadn't authorized the slandering of John McCain in the South Carolina with phone calls saying that McCain had a black child, had mental problems as a result of his captivity by the North Vietnamese, was unstable, and so on.
STILL OTAKU ABOUT KWAII. Our crack editorial staff has written about the Japanese obsession with kwaii (cute) before. Here we find another, interesting, look.
This is the Japan of Hello Kitty and Pokemon, karaoke bars and automated snack dispensers.
Such rapid historical change is fertile soil for fashion, particularly in Japan, where conformity seems to be a social imperative. Fashions seem to come and go faster there, mutating into ever more astonishing forms, assisted by accelerating technological innovation and eager consumers hooked on novelty.
'Cute' is a curious and very contemporary aesthetic, a style, a taste, an affectation: it denotes anything small, vulnerable and childlike that induces a feeling of pitiful love. Hello Kitty is cute (or kawaii); so is Astro Boy (a robot with a quiff and a heart of gold), Blythe (a bug-eyed doll with well-coiffed hair and a miniature body), Miffy (a blank-faced rabbit), and the host of cartoon characters with wide-eyed, open faces, chubby bodies and stumps for limbs which grace a vast range of products in Japan, from stationery and soft furnishings to condoms and laptops. There are cute ways of dressing, too, especially for girls and young women: shoes with buckles, crinolined mini-skirts, mittens, toys worn as accessories, and the ubiquitous socks, some ankle-length, others longer and worn as if in the process of falling down, an effect achieved with special sock-glue. There are cute expressions, cute gestures and cute ways of standing, with toes turned in. This is a cult of young women - and, increasingly, young men - who want to look like children, and there is a vast market in place to cater for them.
For the last ten years, Shoichi Aoki has been photographing the street fashions of the suburbs of Tokyo, and publishing these images in the magazine he founded for the purpose, called Fruits, the highlights from which have lately been gathered together. Most of the pictures were taken in a single suburb, Harajuku, whose pedestrianised precinct provides the stage every Sunday for a multitude of teen styles, many of them cute, all of them playing with sartorial and cultural codes, and producing spectacular hybrids: tartan samurai, geisha Holly Hobbie, techno Yeti and - my favourite - 'Elegant Gothic Lolita'. This is dressing as sampling, and the range of references is pop-encyclopedic: Shirley Temple, cowboy, Star Wars, manga, the Sex Pistols. No more arresting image of postmodern style could be found - all of it filtered through film, comics, pop music and TV. And everywhere, there is cute: the pigeon-toed stance, the innocent stare, the face made up, doll-like, with reddened cheeks and hair in ringlets or bunches, toys dangling from bags, necks or hands. Some wear clothes they claim to have worn as infants; others sport garments so vast that their bodies look tiny and helpless.
It is characteristic of subcultural style that it should resist the interpretations of outsiders. The signs emblazoned across the bodies of these Japanese teenagers speak in code to those who inhabit the same world of meaning; that, in one sense, is the point. But more than this, the broader 'meaning' of style is not something that can be read off its surface. If cute means anything, it isn't going to be what it seems to mean. It isn't, for example, necessarily juvenile to dress like a child. Nor does dressing up at the weekend necessarily betray a desire to be 'someone else'. Most important, the deliberate dumbness of many of the youngsters in Fruits doesn't necessarily mean they have nothing to say, or that they are saying nothing by acting dumb.
From my own views from the interior of a few subcultures, having watched many outsiders try to make sense of them, and go desperately, terribly, astray, I'd say this is exactly right.
On the contrary, according to Kinsella, cute style betrays a lack of confidence in the very notion of the individual, and cannot muster the energy and optimism necessary for rebellion. It is a soft revolt. It seems that becoming an adult is not an attractive option to these burikko ('fake children') when it is associated with the responsibilities and obligations of work and family. This is a generation of 'freeters' (the word comes from 'free arbeiter') who have rejected the stringent work patterns of their parents, even when they are available, as they often are not in the current economic climate. Acting and dressing like children represents their refusal of the adult world: as Kinsella writes, cute style 'idolises the pre-social'. Cute is a kind of rebellion, then, but its retreat to the imagery of childhood indicates that there is no alternative to the adult world except a deliberate regression to this one remaining realm of freedom. Seen in this way, cute style is bleak: it allows no looking forward to a future, either for individuals or for society. In this sense it is far darker than punk, which had an energy and rage that promised action, if not social change. Cute disguises its pessimism and political inertia as winsomeness.
Maybe. I really wouldn't know.
What Aoki has documented is a sort of performance art, a use of style which can, at its most interesting, represent cultural contradictions and historical dead-ends. Recycled punk imagery in cute form gives new meaning to the Sex Pistols' slogan, 'No Future'; 'Wa-mono' styles mix traditional costume, such as the kimono, with Western motifs in ways that speak eloquently about Japan's accelerated modernisation and its ambiguous relationship with Europe and America. In the so-called 'decora' style, a plethora of jangling tiny toys and pieces of cheap plastic jewellery are hung about the body so as to create a kind of music when the wearer moves. These teenagers have grown up amid a cacophony of cultural signs and information; there is art in the way that some of them have transformed this cacophony into often bizarre combinations of sartorial signs.
I first met Saad some time in the 1960s, when I was five or six years old. I clearly remember him visiting our house in Brooklyn as early as 1971, and then more clearly still at Lethem family reunions held at various sites in Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri on through the 1970s
My mother was New York Jewish, and, behind that, a mix of High-German-assimilated and Polish-Russian shtetl; my father was Midwestern-Protestant-nothing, with distant Scots-English roots, and by the 1970s had become a practising Quaker, partly in protest against the Vietnam War. The real religion in our house, though, was a combination of art and protest and utopian internationalist sentiment.
Also, I grew up in a Brooklyn neighbourhood with more brown faces than white. So it was thrilling and consoling - not only righteous but intuitively right - that splashing around alongside us paler kids in the motel pool in Maryville, Missouri, during those 1970s family reunions, were my dark Egyptian cousins, Randa and Amir. And, by the poolside, arguing politics with my World War Two veteran uncles, and with my outspoken radical Jewish mother, was their growly, bearded, imperious and quite lovable father, Saad. In fact, though we might by some current standards seem conceptually 'opposed', we half-Jewish and half-Egyptian cousins were more like each other than we were like the many dozens of pure Midwestern cousins surrounding us. We'd brought a new flavour to the Lethem family, a scent of the wider world, of cosmopolitan cities and oceans, to a landlocked tribe. Though in New York City I made a very unconvincing Jew to other Jews - unobservant, un-Bar Mitzvah'd, attending Quaker Sunday school - in Kansas I was hot currency. One of my cousins once walked me down a suburban street in Overland Park, Kansas in order to show me off, though that was a mission of mercy: there was an adopted Jewish kid on the street, shy and ashamed at being the only Jew anyone in the neighbourhood knew. He was perhaps seven or eight years old. I was proof that a kid like him could turn into a normal teenager: see, Jews are okay! Even Chris Lethem's got one in his family!
I felt I was a token of a world improved by mongrelisation. I was by that time enamoured of Arthur C. Clarke, whose Stapledonian socialism thrummed just under the surface of his glossy futures. 'We must not export our borders into space,' he said. Those visions seemed to me then an obvious extension of my parents' hippy values. I remember once disconcerting my father by explaining, with the patronising certainty of an adolescent lecturing an adult, that the chimera of nationalism would dissolve into a single planetary government within my lifetime, if not his. We were all going to intermarry and brownify and hold hands and honour our essential human cousinhood - weren't we?
Well, 2001 wasn't Clarke's year. I remember sitting with Saad 15 years earlier, watching the 1976 Olympics on a Missouri motel-room television. If at that time he had any inkling that the Islamist Right, soon to slaughter Sadat, or the Reagan Right, soon to slaughter FDR's and my parents' hopes for American society, were together going to keep the Fluttering Ducks among us in abeyance for another millennium or so, he didn't say anything to damage my own hopefulness. Certainly, his outlook must have been more realistic than mine, or even my parents'. Still, it's unlikely he could have imagined the degree of slippage in his own culture - the extent to which the educated urban middle classes to which he and his students belong would be squeezed on either side by Islamic activism and what he has called the 'Oriental despotism' of the 'pharaonic' Mubarak regime.
I just happened to stumble onto this while surfing the LRB's archive. Who knew?
The CIA is seeking to determine whether its operatives had a role in the imprisonment of so-called ghost detainees, Iraqi prisoners who were held without names, charges or other documentation at U.S.-run detention facilities across their homeland, intelligence officials said Tuesday.
A little-noticed portion of the military's classified report on the abuse of prisoners in Iraq says that a number of jails operated by the 800th Military Police Brigade "routinely held" such prisoners "without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention."
In one case, the report says, U.S. military police at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad shifted six to eight undocumented prisoners "around within the facility to hide them" from a visiting delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine and in violation of international law," the report adds.
Patrick Lang, former head of Middle East intelligence for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, said the "other government agency" mentioned in the report is almost certainly the CIA. Lang said he had never heard of "ghost detainees" or of a military prison accepting detainees from the CIA with little or no explanation of who they were or why they had been detained.
"You have no idea the provenance of these people," Lang said. "They could be picked up for any reason and you have no way of knowing, no control. That's just nuts to do something like that."
The CIA has an estimated 500 operatives, paramilitary officers and other staffers in Iraq, making it the largest station in the agency's history, intelligence officials say.
IT'S THAT TIME OF THE DECADE. Bob Silverberg is retiring again. Sort of.
Part of that evolution has included some "retirements" from writing science fiction. Although he stopped writing sf in the late '50s and then again in the mid-'70s, Silverberg continued to earn his living writing non-fiction.
"The various retirements I've gone through are a reflection of my ongoing war with science fiction," says Silverberg. "I think science fiction is a very important kind of fiction. It's also a branch of popular entertainment. I've struggled back and forth between my desire to make science fiction into a visionary literature of great emotional and literary intensity, and the publisher's desire to make a lot of money. Every decade or so I've walked out in anger saying I can't cope with this dichotomy anymore."
It's a war that Silverberg finally won by refusing to fight. "I'm just removing myself from that whole commercial battlefield," he says. "I've moved toward relatively small publishing houses. And I'll write what I please ... without commercial prodding."
In the meantime, Silverberg plans a hiatus to allow his creative well to refill. In fact, "with the grand master award as a kind of consummation of everything I've been working toward all my life," Silverberg will be doing some traveling, reading and a bit of ruminating about what direction to take next.
"I may never write anything again," he said. Then, after a few moments of thought, the man whose prolificacy felled entire forests added, "but I doubt that very much!"
I actually think that we've gone soft on punishment in this country. We have cable TV for people doing life terms. Now they get flat screens in certain prisons, did you see this? They're getting plasmas, in prison, yeah, on good behavior. Well, there are some people who haven't committed crimes who are having to go without food because of gasoline prices. And lifers with good behavior are getting flat screen plasmas to watch television on. I think because of the wringing of hands of the left, we have gone soft on true punishment for people who have committed real crimes in this country. And so we are in a war! We are in a war! And people are reacting as though this is happening on the streets of America. Now we've got people who don't have the slightest clue about fact one who are assuming, "oh, yeah, it's systemic, it's happening in Afghanistan, and it's happening over there because this happens in America when the cops arrest people." I, frankly, don't know what to do with this. You gotta take this, I mean if this guy thinks it there's got to be more than him that think it.
I'm going to put this in perspective again. Somebody called here earlier today and said, you know, if I were a prisoner of war and that's all that happened to me, I would be thankful. Look at what happened to McCain. Look at what happened to some of these POWs in Vietnam. Remember the Hanoi Hilton? Now, I know that's the bad guys. But this is war. To think that this has never happened before, to think that these kinds of acts have not taken place and that this represents a decline in the civility. Frankly folks, I'm getting a little -- and I have been for a while -- frustrated and almost fed up with the notion that I've got to treat enemies, enemy combatants, criminals gently and nicely so that we don't descend to their level. Somehow we've managed to distance ourselves from the concept of punishment. Now, we're at war and we're trying to get information out of these people, and they weren't being forthcoming and so the order went down to do whatever it took to get some information out of them, and these jail guards are over there saying, "We don't even know what the Geneva Convention rules were."
But I don't think that it is, and I think everybody is overreacting. And this willingness and this eagerness to pile on and dump on the U.S. military and say, "Oh, yeah, this is systemic, and this happens in Afghanistan." It's not just callers that are doing it, you've got guys in the Senate, we have senators standing up today, "This is systemic. This has been going on and we need to the get to the bottom of this." So we're at war, we're trying to protect ourselves, and it's another damned investigation of the good guys! We are investigating ourselves to the point of paralysis. We're going to end up with people afraid to pull the trigger! We're going to end up with people afraid to stop a hijacking for fear that we're going to get in trouble for the way we did it when the plane lands. And it's getting out of hand here.
RUSH: Okay, what now, what am I missing? Rape, murder, and pillage? We've done that? Where did we do that? I haven't seen that. Tell me, what am I missing? All I've seen is, you know, the Britney Spears, Madonna torture photos. All I've seen is the woman with the cigarette out of her mouth, you know, pretending to aim a gun at some guy who's nude, and laughing; and I've seen, you know, the pyramid of the nude guys with hoods on like Robert Byrd birthday party. What is this rape and pillage and murder stuff now?
We're going to end up tying everybody's hands to the point that the prisoners are going to have servants and the servants are going to be the interrogators and the jail guards.
CALLER: Well, you know --
RUSH: We're going to videotape, we're going to bring three meals a day, we're going to be wearing tuxedos, "Can we get you any more lamb? Would you like mint jelly with that?" It's going to get ridiculous here.
It was like a college fraternity prank that stack up naked men --
RUSH: Exactly. Exactly my point! This is no different than what happens at the skull and bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off? These people are the enemy. Our people are being fired at, shot at, these are young people that have volunteered to go over there and they're having bullets fired in their way, bombs and mortar fire aimed at 'em by the people that they are guarding and charged to get information from. Everybody has a breaking point. Now, I'm not suggesting that it's common, normal in disciplined military structures for people to lose control. I'm suggesting that it might be understandable.
Of course, Rush also stands four-square behind harsh prison terms for drug offenders, as well as for forgiving "fraternity pranks." No wonder the Vice-President of the United States grants him interviews and his endorsement.
With all those bullets, bombs, and mortar fire whizzing around the inside of the prison, it's no wonder that these brave boys and girls resorted to the tried and true defense of piling bodies up in a pyramid; it's fortunate they had the training to fall back on the classic defense tactic of forcing one of your human shields to masturbate into the mouth of another. That works almost all of the time, even better than kevlar.
I'm sure Rush will be equally understanding of his guards when he's locked up for felony hypocrisy. Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5. (Spark to look for this ignited at the fine, ecumenical, judicious, Obsidian Wings blog.)
THOSE DAMN ZIONISTS. More on their insidious activities in Saudi Arabia:
Saudi authorities said Tuesday that a man linked to a Saudi opposition group in London was responsible for the weekend terrorist attack that killed six people, including an American whose body was dragged through the streets of Yanbu, and set off an exodus of frightened foreign workers.
Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal further accused the dissident group, the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, of being financed by Israeli interests, a charge denied by the group's leader.
Saudi officials identified the ringleader of the Yanbu attack as Mustafa Abdulqader Abed al-Ansari, a Saudi from Medina who had been on the kingdom's most-wanted list for some time. He had most recently lived in Yemen, they said.
Aided by a brother and two nephews, Mr. al-Ansari used an employee identification card to enter a guarded industrial complex here early Saturday, officials said. The men shot their way into the offices of the ABB Lummus company, killing five Western contractors, then tied the body of one of their victims to the back of a truck and continued their shooting rampage in the streets. Two Americans, two Britons, an Australian and a Saudi police officer were killed. The four gunmen, including Mr. al-Ansari, died in a gun battle with security forces.
While some Saudi officials have blamed Al Qaeda for recent deadly attacks in the kingdom, the country's de facto leader, Crown Prince Abdullah, said "Zionists" were manipulating some of the terrorists. After the Yanbu killings, the official Saudi Press Agency also reported that the government believed "an external force stands behind this deviated group and supports it with money and weapons."
Prince Saud endorsed that view in a news conference on Tuesday in Jidda, saying, "We all know the Zionists have tried to harm our image, our culture and our standing in the international arena." Referring to Mr. Faqih's group and other opposition forces outside the country, he added, "It is a well-known fact that they have links and relations and get funds from Zionist parties."
He gave no evidence to back up his claim, and Mr. Faqih said the accusation was ridiculous.
“Our country is targeted,” the story quotes Abdullah as saying. “You know who is behind all of this. It is Zionism. This is clear now.”
The Saudi ruler went on to say that the real perpetrators “have tricked some of our sons and they deceived them.” The Saudi militants who committed the attacks on the oil workers had been “misguided by foreigners … They allied themselves with Satan and the followers of Satan and the followers of colonialism.”
Difficult as it may be to believe, people here say, life in the poorest nation in the hemisphere has gotten worse in the past two months.
Mounds of garbage choke the streets. Electricity in the capital has been scarce for weeks. The police force has fallen deeper into disarray, and crime has spiked, including a rash of kidnappings aimed at wealthy businesspeople. The price of rice, the Haitian staple, has doubled in some parts of the country.
Officials here say they desperately need money. The United Nations issued an emergency appeal in March for $35 million but has collected just $9 million.
The finance minister, Henri Bazin, said he discovered when he took the job last month that the government had less than one month of foreign reserves in the bank and that a $100 million deficit loomed.
"We are faced with an impossible situation," Mr. Bazin said in an interview at his office near the National Palace. "We need $100 million immediately, absolutely right away, to do the bare minimum of what the government should be doing. But we don't know where that money will come from."
The national police force was decimated by last month's armed rebellion; rebels set fire to police stations, killed as many as several dozen officers, and looted their cars and equipment. "Our biggest problem right now is security," said Police Chief Léon Charles said in an interview. "But we have no resources."
Of a 6,000-member force, as few as half its officers can be counted on to show up, police officials said. A recent recruiting drive brought thousands of candidates, who rioted as they waited to fill out applications; a student was killed in the stampede.
SILLY PREDICTIONS are what any political predictions made in May are, but it's interesting to see Fred Barnes saying here that the Democrats have a pretty good shot at winning back the Senate -- and you know that unlike a lot of political commentary, that's not wishful thinking -- and over here we read of the possibility of a Kerry landslide (although that probably is wishful thinking).
"I'm in the subway!" I typed to everyone I could think of, knowing that my underground e-mail messages would be automatically propelled through the ether as soon as I emerged. At least a few people responded with the appropriate blend of jealous admiration.
It was in the subway, too, that I first began to notice the competition. As soon became apparent, a hallmark of the wireless mentality is a compulsion to respond to any device's display by flashing your own. As soon as I pulled out my Treo on the subway, it suddenly seemed as if the entire car had been waiting until just that moment to check electronic calendars, play their Game Boys or, in some cases I found hard to believe, make cellphone calls.
We eyed each other with the barest hint of camaraderie, and a healthy dose of rivalry. But we all knew there was a pecking order, and I was serene in the knowledge that I was at the top.
Until I saw the new Blackberry 7700 hand-held, which unsettled me slightly. It has a phone, it has Internet access and it has bigger keys on its lettered keyboard than the Treo's. The keyboard was my major gripe with the Treo. No question that it is better than the tiresome process of SMS messaging on a normal phone (press the "2" key once for "A," twice for "B" and three times for "C"). But the Treo buttons are too little, and too hard to press.
More fun was the Web feature, which I used to visit MapQuest at a crucial moment in my apartment search, as I was trying to find my way by car from Washington Heights to Prospect Heights (I was not driving). Then I switched to phone mode to let a friend know where we were headed. Later, I snapped a picture of an overpriced apartment with the Treo's digital camera, after which I headed to the gym, where I listened to the audio book version of "Pompeii: A Novel" that I had downloaded to the Treo.
And I had not even advanced to the Treo trick level of a master like Jenny, who uses it to run real-time Google searches on people she meets in bars, or the people who use the device to record video.
Of course, it also cost her $800, plus shipping, plus the service contract you're locked into for a year.
YIKES. I'd just like to note that I grew up a few blocks from here, where one doesn't expect something out of the Vietnam war, or Somalia. (Specifically, at 1047 East 10th St., between Avenue J and K, a short walk from Cortelyou, which is the equivalent of Avenue C.) (Born and lived in Flatbush until moving there at 3, thank you for asking.)
A television news helicopter covering a triple shooting in Brooklyn spun out of control and crashed onto the roof of a Flatbush apartment building last night, snapping in two but sparing the three people on board any serious injuries.
The WNBC-TV helicopter, Chopper 4, hit the roof of a four-story brick apartment building at 2502 Cortelyou Road about 6:30 p.m., and then plunged onto the roof of a two-story building, the authorities said.
The helicopter landed in two pieces on the roof of the smaller building, 2514 Cortelyou Road near East 25th Street.
"I cannot believe that three people walked away from that," a neighbor, Dwayne Simpkins, said.
Mr. Simpkins said he saw it fall while he sat on his porch. As it got closer, the helicopter began spinning in very tight circles.
"It hit the side of the roof, and flew apart," he said. "It just exploded. Pieces were flying everywhere. Things were flying into the street. Hot pieces of the building were sitting in the street."
In bare feet, Mr. Simpkins ran over to the building. One of the people in the helicopter, a man in a red shirt, was standing on the roof, yelling to people below to stay away.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator said the helicopter, which was holding 80 gallons of fuel, would be lifted off the roof this morning with a crane.
"It was coming down from the front," said Volda Benjamin, who saw the crash while walking home. "It made a bucking noise like it was trying to keep up."
When she got home, rescue workers "told me to evacuate the house in case there was an explosion."
A resident of 2514 Cortelyou Road, Joyce Johnson, was in her apartment when the helicopter hit. Its approach, she said, sounded like a truck passing with a shrill whistling sound. She felt the building tremble and saw debris dropping from the roof.
"This is going to give me nightmares," she said. Her first thought was, "It's Judgment Day."
The shooting that the helicopter was assigned to cover involved three people, though none of the injuries were life-threatening. Two men were shot. A third was then shot by police officers, law enforcement officials said. None of the officers were hurt.
It was not immediately clear whether the helicopter had malfunctioned or what caused the crash. A spokeswoman for WNBC-TV, Anna Carbonell, could not say what went wrong. The station, she said, lost contact with the helicopter at 6:21 p.m..
"Within seconds, we learned the chopper had gone down and landed on a rooftop," Ms. Carbonell said.
Things you don't expect in your neighborhood.
Read The Rest Scale: 2.5 out of 5 as interested in more drama.
"Moran?" one middle-aged woman in an orange blouse and tinted eyeglasses spoke up in disgust, loud enough to be heard across the red-brick pavement: "He's an anti-Semite."
"I'm not . . . ," Moran protested to her back as she sped by.
"She was the only one this morning," he told companions.
Five weeks from Tuesday, Moran will face the first, intraparty challenge of his career, in Alexandria lawyer Andrew M. Rosenberg. The June 8 Democratic primary is tantamount to election in Virginia's liberal 8th District, which spans Alexandria and Arlington County and includes a Fairfax County spur to Reston.
A March poll for Rosenberg's campaign found that only 11 percent of likely Democratic voters recognized Rosenberg's name. But only 45 percent would reelect Moran, a sign of trouble for a longtime incumbent. In the poll, 45 percent had a favorable view of Moran's job performance, while 41 percent rated it unfavorably.
Rosenberg, 36, has canvassed 17,000 homes since July as a fresh-faced outsider who shares Moran's views on many issues. Last week, he won the endorsement of Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal advocacy group.
A former Senate aide and lobbyist for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and drug companies, Rosenberg seems to fit the demographics of Washington's white-collar inner suburbs -- not unlike Moran at a similar age. But Rosenberg says the main issue in the race is Moran's judgment, in both his personal and professional life, demonstrated over 20 years.
"I'm running to offer voters the choice of someone who votes the right way and also demonstrates sound judgment," Rosenberg said. "They want to be represented by somebody they respect . . . who works hard, who stands up for the right thing and casts the right vote but who also earns the respect of his colleagues."
Moran remains both contrite and defiant regarding his troubles: "If I'm defeated, I would rather be defeated for having said something that people don't like that was true, than be defeated because I chose not to be involved and was shamed into silence on this issue."
"This issue," which Moran seems not to tire of raising, stems from his quoted remark at an antiwar forum at the outset of the Iraq war in March 2003 that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this."
Amid the ensuing national embarrassment and rebukes from Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Moran apologized for suggesting that Jewish leaders could have forestalled the fighting. He resigned a House Democratic leadership post and said he was insensitive for singling out Jewish leaders instead of American religious leaders at large, which he said is what he meant.
Six Jewish Democrats in the House vowed not to support Moran's reelection, and a rebellion developed at home.
Over the years, financial, ethical and personal problems as well as physical confrontations have become Moran's hallmark as much as his political resilience. In 1984, Moran resigned as vice mayor of Alexandria after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charge related to a city garage project. He was later elected mayor, and the verdict was set aside.
In 1995, Moran shoved Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) during an argument and later apologized. In 1999, Moran's wife filed for divorce after an early morning argument, to which police were called. In 2000, Moran grabbed an 8-year-old boy, saying the child had a gun and had demanded his car keys. A magistrate closed a complaint from the boy and his parents, taking no action.
In office, Moran has been on the defensive for accepting, among other things, an unsecured $25,000 loan from a drug company lobbyist whose bill he supported and a $447,000 debt consolidation mortgage package he received from a credit card giant whose legislation he carried.
Who wouldn't want to vote for him? Other than out of party loyalty?
(Since my quotes don't make it explicit, I'll make clear that Jim Moran is a Democratic House Representative from Virginia.) Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5.
The word "fundagelism" has never appeared in the columns of this newspaper. The term is, however, current in the blogosphere - that cyberforum which nowadays carries the most interestingly paranoid political debate. "Fundagelism" is not a word that trips easily off the tongue. It's a crunching together of the even more mouth-boggling compound "fundamentalist evangelism".
Meanwhile, Google says this:
Results 1 - 7 of about 26 English pages for fundagelism
Paging Jayson Blair. John Sutherland is an example of why it's called the Grauniad, and he should be fired tomorrow.
MAN OF ATTACK. In which we are mentioned in The New Yorker by Christopher Buckley:
Shortly after three o’clock in the afternoon on March 17, 2003, Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, presented his D.C. driver’s license to a Secret Service guard at the northwest gate of the White House. Woodward was well known to the guards, having visited 2,372 times in the previous two years to research his best-selling books.
The officer in the booth grinned and waved Woodward through without looking at his I.D. Like everyone else in Washington, he wanted to come off well in Woodward’s new book. “Mr. Woodward!” he said as Woodward passed through, his tape recorder setting off the metal detector. “Have you lost weight? Been working out? You look fabulous!”
“Why, go right in, Mr. Woodward,” the President’s secretary said cheerily, also wanting to be portrayed in a flattering light. Knowing of his visit, she had had her hair done that morning. She noted to herself that the President had now spent more time with Woodward than he had with all the members of his Cabinet combined. She was particularly impressed by this fact because she was so familiar with her boss’s distaste for what he called “those élite media A-holes.”
Although Woodward had been in the Oval Office almost three thousand times since the President took office, he always felt a tingling sensation in his amygdala, the almond-shaped mass of gray matter in each hemisphere of the brain which governs feelings of aggression. Thirty years earlier, he had caused a previous occupant of “the Oval” to evacuate it almost overnight and move to California, where he got a clot in his leg and nearly died. Woodward did not blame himself for the clot.
However, Woodward had recently published a favorable book about Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan, a wretched country ruled by unambiguously odious bearded people who hated America even more than most foreigners do. As a result, Bush felt relaxed in Woodward’s presence. As was his custom, he had bestowed a nickname on him: Woodpecker.
Our importance, and recognition, grows every day.
Read The Rest depending upon whether you found this funny or tedious. Our editorial staff found the remainder hilarious, but what do we know?
ANGEL/BUFFY DOINGS. Interesting plot description, and set of characters, for Wednesday's Angel:
The Girl in Question
Concerned by a report that the Immortal is after Buffy, Angel and Spike head to Rome, where they discover what the Slayer has been up to---and with whom. Back in Los Angeles, Illyria confounds Wesley with her behavior when Fred's folks show up unexpectedly. Drusilla: Juliet Landau. Darla: Julie Benz. Andrew: Tom Lenk. Harmony: Mercedes McNab.
A shame I can barely make out the WB through the broadcast fuzz, but I'll eventually see it clearly.
Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro confirmed to fans on the movie Web site's official bulletin board that plans are in the works for a sequel and other projects based on the film. "Yes, we are talking about a second movie," del Toro wrote. "The [box-office] numbers make perfect sense, since we were a relatively 'inexpensive' movie at under $70 million, and we will make enough domestically."
ANTI-ISLAMIC BIAS. I'm inclined to be skeptical in regard to much about CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), and it doesn't seem as if the claims of incidents reported here have been verified, as opposed to simply reported. But these seem to be indisputable Bad Acts:
They included a cross-burning outside an Islamic school in College Park; the stabbing in Springfield of a woman wearing an Islamic head scarf; and the discovery by a Muslim employee in Reston of a note in his office reading "Tell the Mother [expletive] with the laundry on their head that today is laundry day."
For the third straight year, the tally included an incident of vandalism at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. On Nov. 11, anti-Islamic graffiti were found spray-painted on the center's 15-passenger van. Damage had been done to its buildings in 2002 and in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.
I'm also inclined to be pretty open-minded about claims of anti-Islamic bias in the past year, given how much we see exposed in the comments of so many blogs, particularly those with no policy about deleting that sort of hate and slander.
I wish more blogs would enforce such policies, or, at the very least, confront and admonish those commenters ASAP.
THE OED COMMENTS ON ITS QUEST FOR SCIENCE FICTION WORDS, as written by Jesse Sheidlower, who probably wouldn't remember me from my days on panix.chat.
Several years ago, the North American Editorial Unit began a test project that aimed to correct these problems by looking intensively at the vocabulary of a single subject: science fiction. Backed by a database that was constantly being updated, the project operated over the World Wide Web, delivering the latest status of our research to readers whenever they needed it. The result? Our coverage of science fiction vocabulary is vastly improved, with many terms traced back to extremely early print appearances, important entries brought to the attention of OED editors, and inaccurate definitions corrected.
Many science fiction terms, for example, are also terms in science — and in some cases their use in SF predates their use in scientific publications! Two examples are asteroid belt, which our project has brought back to 1931 in the pulp magazine Wonder Stories, and neutronium, dated to 1967 in the Second Edition of the OED, but dated to 1935 in OED3, with a further antedating of 1931 in the editorial pipeline.
The black sack the troops placed over his head was removed only briefly during the next nine days of interrogation, conducted by U.S. officials in civilian and military clothes, he said. He was forced to do knee bends until he collapsed, he recalled, and black marks still ring his wrists from the pinch of plastic handcuffs. Rest was made impossible by loudspeakers blaring, over and over, the Beastie Boys' rap anthem, "No Sleep Till Brooklyn."
The forced exercise was even harder for his 57-year-old father, a former army general who held a signed certificate from the U.S. occupation authority vouching for his "high level of cooperation and assistance" in the days after the war.
Now, yes, it's important to have perspective here. First, accounts are not gospel; one has to take them with salt. Second, yes, there's a need to question Iraqis and get militarily important information.
But it's also important to know what's going on.
Interviews with former Iraqi prisoners and human-rights advocates present a picture of the U.S. prison system here as a vast wartime effort to extract information from the enemy rather than to punish criminals. Former prisoners say lengthy interrogation sessions, employing sleep deprivation, severe isolation, fear, humiliation and physical duress, were regular features of their daily regimen and remain so for the estimated 2,500 to 7,000 people inside the jails.
U.S. officials have confirmed that two contractors with employees at Abu Ghraib are subjects of the investigation.
The second company is Titan Corp., based in San Diego, which employed translators at Abu Ghraib.
GITMO. The WashPo spent three months closely examining the Guantanamo Bay prison; this is the result.
Using news accounts and information from lawyers and Web sites, the newspaper also compiled the largest public list of detainee names, encompassing 370 out of the 745 or so men detained at the camp since January 2002.
WHEN MEDIA LANDSLIDES ATTACK, just give up and go with it.
Also, the TV Land cable network - owned not by NBC or its parent, General Electric, but by Viacom - will run an hourlong mock program during the "Friends" finale. During the faux show, sponsored by Hotels.com, six people seated in front of a TV set will periodically turn to the camera and say, "We're watching 'Friends' and so should you."
"I am totally sincere when I say we don't want people to miss the night the last 'Friends' is on," said Larry Jones, president for TV Land and a sibling Viacom network, Nick at Nite, in New York. "It's an opportunity to take advantage of something that's happening culturally and in television history." TV Land pulled a similar stunt during the "Seinfeld" finale on NBC in 1998, running on screen for an hour an image of the closed TV Land office doors.
Told the details of the TV Land tribute, Randy Falco, group president at the NBC Television Network division of NBC in New York, laughed heartily and said: "God bless 'em. We don't even own TV Land. It's a beautiful thing."
This fall, Champlain College in Vermont will launch an undergraduate degree program in electronic game design. The program, believed to be the first in the United States to focus exclusively on interactive game development, offers two different specializations: art and animation and game design, said Ann DeMarle, program director.
Art students will be trained in film and animation and will receive art instruction. DeMarle said game designers will study writing, plot development, psychology, characterization, and how to fully engage players so they stay involved. All students must fulfill liberal arts requirements such as English literature, history, and the social sciences. The college plans to offer a computer specialization within a year.
There are bunch of salary figures at the bottom of the article, and, unsurprisingly, they seem a tad inflated to me.
THAT USELESS ABSTRACT KNOWLEDGE. Hell, we don't need it, anyway.
The United States' share of its own industrial patents has fallen steadily over the decades and now stands at 52 percent.
A more concrete decline can be seen in published research. Physical Review, a series of top physics journals, recently tracked a reversal in which American papers, in two decades, fell from the most to a minority. Last year the total was just 29 percent, down from 61 percent in 1983.
China, said Martin Blume, the journals' editor, has surged ahead by submitting more than 1,000 papers a year. "Other scientific publishers are seeing the same kind of thing," he added.
Another downturn centers on the Nobel Prizes, an icon of scientific excellence. Traditionally, the United States, powered by heavy federal investments in basic research, the kind that pursues fundamental questions of nature, dominated the awards.
But the American share, after peaking from the 1960's through the 1990's, has fallen in the 2000's to about half, 51 percent.
During the cold war, the government pumped more than $1 trillion into research, with a wealth of benefits including lasers, longer life expectancies, men on the Moon and the prestige of many Nobel Prizes.
Today, federal research budgets are still at record highs; this year more than $126 billion has been allocated to research.
But the edifice is less formidable than it seems, in part because of the nation's costly and unique military role. This year, financing for military research hit $66 billion, higher in fixed dollars than in the cold war and far higher than in any other country.
For all the spending, the United States began to experience a number of scientific declines in the 1990's, boom years for the nation's overall economy.
For instance, scientific papers by Americans peaked in 1992 and then fell roughly 10 percent, the National Science Foundation reports. Why? Many analysts point to rising foreign competition, as does the European Commission, which also monitors global science trends. In a study last year, the commission said Europe surpassed the United States in the mid-1990's as the world's largest producer of scientific literature.
On another front, the numbers of new doctorates in the sciences peaked in 1998 and then fell 5 percent the next year, a loss of more than 1,300 new scientists, according to the foundation.
In a report last month, the American Association for the Advancement of Science said the Bush administration, to live up to its pledge to halve the nation's budget deficit in the next five years, would cut research financing at 21 of 24 federal agencies — all those that do or finance science except those involved in space and national and domestic security.
Way to go, my country. To be sure, much, if not most, of this is a result of the tremendous growth in investment in research in other countries; that is only to be applauded. But lack of realization of the critical important of investment in basid -- not applied, basic -- research here is also woefully endemic.
Flashing, voyeurism, cottaging, grooming - they are just some of the sexual practices facing tightened laws coming into effect in England and Wales from this weekend.
In debating the new Sexual Offences Act politicians and civil servants wrestled with many tricky problems of the correct role of law in modern sexuality. Dogging, for instance, escaped an explicit ban. But necrophilia (sex with a corpse) has not, becoming an offence for the first time.
In the government's efforts to protect children from abuse, however, the law also forbids under-16s from engaging in any sexual activity - ranging from "touching" to full intercourse.
Sexual touching, the Act says, includes doing it "with any part of the body", "with anything else", and "through anything". Depending on one's definition, that could technically include snogging as well as the gamut of sexual activities that teenagers often get up to. The guidance notes from the government say it could include "where a person rubs up against someone's private parts through the person's clothes for sexual gratification".
The most unusual aspect of this new law, however, is that the authorities have no intention of enforcing it. Police officers will not be snooping through school children's curtains to see if they are getting up to no good rather than doing their homework.
The government has told the Crown Prosecution Service (which makes the decision as to whether cases presented to it by the police should go to court) that it should not normally prosecute the under-16s for having consensual sex, let alone for "sexual touching".
'It seems to say that sometimes the law means what it says and sometimes it doesn't'
Under the existing law, sex below the age of consent is illegal - but cases concerning children of similar ages only go to court in very unusual circumstances, such as where one of the participants has been exploited because of, for instance, learning difficulties. The new law does not seem to have clarified the position.
The Home Office says legalising consensual sexual activity between children "would damage a fundamental plank in our raft of child protection measures".
"We are not prepared to do this," says a spokesman. "We accept that genuinely mutually agreed, non-exploitative sexual activity between teenagers does take place and in many instances no harm comes from it.
"We are putting safeguards in place to ensure that these cases, which are not in the public interest, are not prosecuted - by amending guidance to the police and Crown Prosecution Service."
He added that young people under 16 would have the same rights to contraception and sexual health advice as at present.
But the move does not impress child rights campaigner Terri Dowty, of Action on Rights for Children. Laws should mean what they say, she says.
Police and prosecutors given advice on how to use new law
"It's astonishing that the government could consider legislation with the prior intent of issuing guidance to countermand it," she says. "I worry about the message it sends to young people - it seems to say that sometimes the law means what it says and sometimes it doesn't."
Professor Nicola Lacey of the London School of Economics is also unconvinced. "What the Home Office would say was that they wanted to use the criminal law for symbolic impact, to say that it's not a good thing for kids to be having sex.
"My counter-argument is that the criminal law is too dangerous a tool to be used for symbolic purposes.
"With this on the statute book, it will give police and prosecutors a lot of discretion. It could be used as a way of controlling kids who perhaps the police want to control for other reasons. Kids who perhaps are a nuisance or who belong to a group who attract the attention of the police in some way."
Terri Dowty also fears that private prosecutions could be brought by an aggrieved individual - perhaps an angry parent who didn't like their child's boyfriend or girlfriend.
Good to see that necrophilia is being cracked down upon, there being such a widespread outbreak of it these days. This whole approach makes plain the intent: have laws around not as a means of equal treatment and justice, but as a weapon of power to be used against those it is necessary to threaten, regardless of the actual circumstances.
An internal Army investigation has found a virtual collapse of the command structure in a prison outside Baghdad where American enlisted personnel are accused of committing acts of abuse and humiliation against Iraqi detainees.
A report on the investigation said midlevel military intelligence officers were allowed to skirt the normal chain of command to issue questionable orders to enlisted personnel from the reserve military police unit handling guard duty there.
The Army has already begun one investigation into the abuse allegations. Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, the incoming deputy commander of Army intelligence, is examining the interrogation practices of military intelligence officers at all American-run prisons in Iraq and not just the Abu Ghraib prison.
A second review was ordered Saturday by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, head of the Army Reserve, to assess the training of all reservists, especially military police and intelligence officers, the soldiers most likely to handle prisoners.
The report on General Taguba's investigation identified two military intelligence officers and two civilian contractors for the Army as key figures in the abuse cases at Abu Ghraib. In his internal report on his findings in the investigation, General Taguba said he suspected that the four were "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and strongly recommended disciplinary action."
The Taguba report states that "military intelligence interrogators and other U.S. Government Agency interrogators actively requested that M.P. guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses." It noted that one civilian interrogator, a contractor from a company called CACI International Inc., based in Arlington, Va., and attached to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, "clearly knew his instructions" to the military police equated to physical abuse.
The Taguba report's sharpest criticism was for officers in charge of the military police and military intelligence units in the prison.
"There is abundant evidence in the statements of numerous witnesses that soldiers throughout the 800th M.P. Brigade were not proficient" in basic skills needed to operate the prison, the report found.
A crucial problem, the report found, was the bad relationship between the commanders of the military police unit and the military intelligence officers. The report found that there "was clear friction and lack of effective communication" between Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the accused soldiers, and military intelligence officials operating in the prison.
The report said the "ambiguous command relationship" in the prison was made worse by orders that seemed to give military intelligence officials broad authority.
The orders from occupation commanders in Iraq effectively made a military intelligence officer, rather than a military police officer, responsible for the military police units, the report said. This arrangement was not supported by General Karpinski, the report added, and "is not doctrinally sound."
The report identifies Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th military intelligence brigade, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the former director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center and Liaison Officer to the 205th Military intelligence Brigade, Steven Stephanowicz, an Army contract employee from CACI, and John Israel, a contractor and civilian interpreter with CACI, as the people suspected of being "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."
The report concluded that Mr. Stephanowicz made a false statement to the investigation team regarding the "locations of his interrogations, the activities during his interrogations, and his knowledge of abuses." It recommended that he be dismissed.
Mr. Israel, the report found, "denied ever having seen interrogation processes in violation" of Army standards, "which is contrary to several witness statements." Colonel Pappas was recommended for a reprimand for, among other things, failing to supervise his soldiers properly, and failing to ensure that soldiers under his direct command knew, understood and followed the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war.
In addition, the report said, "there were also abuses committed by members of the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center."
The six unnamed supervisors will each receive a general-officer memorandum of reprimand, a document that can effectively end an officer's career by making future promotion impossible. A seventh supervisor will receive a letter of admonishment, a lesser form of penalty.
In Mr. Brock's new K Street offices on Friday morning, a team of nearly a half-dozen researchers, overseen by Katie Barge, who last worked for the opposition research arm of Senator John Edwards's presidential campaign, sat before a bank of computers and televisions in a room that was otherwise dark.
Some of the researchers wore headphones as they scanned episodes of cable news programs stored on digital recording devices, among them "Hannity & Colmes" on Fox News Channel, "Dennis Miller" on CNBC and "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC. Two researchers have been assigned to cover Mr. Limbaugh, whose program they will regularly transcribe.
I wonder if I should apply for a job? (ADDENDUM: Hmm, really.)
Read The Rest as interested. The site is off to a good start, with replies to Linda Chavez, Chris Wallce, Hannity & Colmes, and many others.
Seven American soldiers have received reprimands in connection with the investigation into abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison here, a senior American military official said today. It was the first disciplinary action taken against American personnel in connection with the widening prisoner-abuse scandal.
The seven soldiers punished in connection with the prison abuse scandal were senior noncommissioned officers or officers and were in supervisory positions, the senior American military official said. They are not accused of committing any abuse, he said.
"These are people who should have known but didn't," the official said. "They didn't know or actually participate." He added: "These people have the responsibility to set the standards for the organization."
Six of the soldiers received the most severe form of reprimand, and the seventh received a somewhat lighter class of reprimand, the official said. The reprimands were administrative in nature, rather than criminal, and the soldiers are permitted to enter an appeal process to contest the punishments.
Officials said on Sunday that the Army had opened two new investigations into reports of abuse. One is examining the interrogation practices of military intelligence officers at all American-run prisons in Iraq and not just the Abu Ghraib prison. A second review is assessing the training of all reservists, especially military police and intelligence officers, the soldiers most likely to handle prisoners.
Some military intelligence duties involving interrogations are also handled by members of federal agencies and by outside specialists under contract to the government, officials have said.
That next to last about the "reviews" is what's most important, so far. The last 'graph is an interestingly casual reference to the "civilians" involved.
WILSON AND NOVAK, not quite the same as Evans and Novak. The first chapter of Ambassador Wilson's book is here. A few excerpts:
Novak called the next morning, but I was out, and then so was he. We did not connect until the following day, July 10. He listened quietly as I repeated to him my friend's account of their conversation. I told him I couldn't imagine what had possessed him to blurt out to a complete stranger what he had thought he knew about my wife.
Novak apologized, and then asked if I would confirm what he had heard from a CIA source: that my wife worked at the Agency. I told him that I didn't answer questions about my wife. I told him that my story was not about my wife or even about me; it was about sixteen words in the State of the Union address.
I then read to him three sentences from a 1990 news story about the evacuation of Baghdad: "The chief American diplomat, Joe Wilson, shepherds his flock of some 800 known Americans like a village priest. At 4:30 Sunday morning, he was helping 55 wives and children of U.S. diplomats from Kuwait load themselves and their few remaining possessions on transport for the long haul on the desert to Jordan. He shows the stuff of heroism." The reporters who had written this, I pointed out, were Robert Novak and Rowland Evans. I suggested to Novak that he might want to check his files before writing about me. I also offered to send him all the articles I had written in the past year on policy toward Iraq so that he could educate himself on the positions I had taken. He would learn, if he took the time, that I was hardly antiwar, just anti-dumb war. Before I hung up, Novak apologized again for having spoken about Valerie to a complete stranger.
The next day Novak's column blowing Valerie Plame appeared.
While Novak has since downplayed the request of the CIA that he not publish her name, I wondered which part of 'NO' he didn't understand. Murray Waas, writing in the American Prospect, has a different take:
Two government officials have told the FBI that conservative columnist Robert Novak was asked specifically not to publish the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame in his now-famous July 14 newspaper column. The two officials told investigators they warned Novak that by naming Plame he might potentially jeopardize her ability to engage in covert work, stymie ongoing intelligence operations, and jeopardize sensitive overseas sources.
SPEAKING OF ATROCITIES, sometimes things are simply morally complex. Such as Dresden. I'd previously considered blogging other reviews of Frederick Taylor's DRESDEN: Tuesday, February 13, 1945, but also didn't want to sound as if I were minimizing or justifying a terrible thing. Still, it's an important addition to history.
What emerges is a picture markedly different from conventional accounts. To begin with, though a great many innocent civilians perished in the firestorm, the city itself had hardly been a model of innocence. Rather, it was a Nazified redoubt; the bulk of its citizens passionately supported Hitler's war of aggression. Those who did not actively persecute the small Jewish community within their midst quietly stood by while it was physically eliminated.
Nor did Dresden, as some have suggested, produce nothing more harmful than cuckoo clocks and marzipan. Taylor carefully debunks what he calls the ''pervasive postwar myth'' that the city contributed little to the war. Dresden, as one Nazi document quoted here boasted, was ''one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich,'' manufacturing a range of crucial goods from optical gun sights to munitions.
Dresden was also, it turns out, important strategically, and became more so as the war progressed. Of particular significance were the city's railyards, a crucial way station for the shipment of men and materiel to the east, as well as for thousands of ''passengers'' on ''special trains'' bound for Auschwitz. Every single day in October 1944, Taylor writes, a ''total of 28 military trains, altogether carrying almost 20,000 officers and men, were in transit through Dresden.'' Indeed, it was the frenetic pace of German military transport through the city, Taylor points out, that partly prompted the decision of the Allies to place Dresden in their sights.
Coming so late in the war, was the bombing of Dresden gratuitous? Only with hindsight. It now seems obvious that by mid-February 1945 German capitulation was just months away. Things looked very different at the time. The Dresden attack took place in the immediate aftermath of Hitler's shock offensive in the Ardennes -- the Battle of the Bulge -- that in a few short weeks took the lives of some 19,000 American soldiers. Allied planners also feared that in addition to the V-1 and V-2 rockets still raining down on England, Hitler might surprise them with even more powerful wonder-weapons.
But his close analysis of the death toll puts the total at between 25,000 and 40,000; fearsome numbers, to be sure, but far below the 100,000 commonly cited.
Just days before the raid, the minuscule remainder of Dresden's Jews -- spared by virtue of their marriages to ''Aryans'' -- received their final deportation notice. On Feb. 16, they were to be shipped to Auschwitz. Among those Jews saved by Allied firebombs was the diarist of wartime Germany, Victor Klemperer, who survived along with his manuscript.
One can only think of General Sherman's "war is hell." Lines must be drawn, but none of it is less than terrible.
Before the World Trade Center attack, Javaid Iqbal was a Pakistani immigrant proud to be known as "the cable guy" to customers on Long Island, where he had lived for a decade and married an American. Ehab Elmaghraby, an Egyptian, had a weekend flea market stand at Aqueduct Raceway and a restaurant near Times Square where friendly police officers would joke, "Where's my shish kebab?"
But within weeks of Sept. 11, 2001, both had been picked up by federal agents in an anti-terror sweep. For 23 hours a day, they were locked in solitary confinement in the harsh maximum-security unit of a federal detention center in Brooklyn - the one cited by the Justice Department's inspector general last year for widespread physical abuse of its detainees.
The lawsuit charges that the men were repeatedly slammed into walls and dragged across the floor while shackled and manacled, kicked and punched until they bled, cursed as "terrorists" and "Muslim bastards," and subjected to multiple unnecessary body-cavity searches, including one during which correction officers inserted a flashlight into Mr. Elmaghraby's rectum, making him bleed.
At that point, the papers charge, he was confined without blankets, mattress or toilet paper to a tiny cell kept lighted 24 hours a day, and was denied adequate medical care or communication with his public defender. He said his attempts to pray or sleep were disrupted by guards banging on his door.
"I was in life and I went to hell," Mr. Elmaghraby, 37, said in the interview. He spent almost a year in the special unit of the Metropolitan Detention Center, where the detention and treatment of hundreds of Muslim immigrants have since become the focus of concerns about the constitutionality of the Justice Department's counterterrorism offensive.
Hatred seemed to determine the rules on the unit in ways large and small, the men said. On cold days when it rained, Mr. Iqbal was left outside for hours without jacket or shoes. When he was returned to his cell drenched, officers turned on the air-conditioning, he said. At one point, the lawsuit said, Mr. Elmaghraby was mockingly displayed naked to a female staff member.
When the inspector general's investigators interviewed corrections officers, all but one or two denied that any detainees were abused. But according to a supplemental report issued in December, investigators later recovered videotapes that showed some of the same officers engaging in abuse.
Ms. Billingsley, the Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman, said it had taken no disciplinary action while it waited for a decision about prosecution to be made by the Department of Justice's civil rights division and the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "We were recently advised of the decision not to prosecute," she said.
ON its surface, ''The Jane Austen Book Club'' is a tidy number, a perfectly cut and polished little gem with just enough facets. But that's not the half of it. This exquisite novel is bigger and more ambitious than it appears. It's that rare book that reminds us what reading is all about.
In her portrait of a California reading group, Karen Joy Fowler turns a mirror on the gawking, voyeuristic presence that lurks in every story: the reader. What results is Fowler's shrewdest, funniest fiction yet, a novel about how we engage with a novel. You don't have to be a student of Jane Austen to enjoy it, either. At the end are plot synopses of all six Austen novels for the benefit of the forgetful, the uninitiated or the nostalgic.
Each of these members has ''a private Austen'' and sees the books through different eyes. Fowler is hilarious in revealing the proprietary attitudes some of them assume. Eyebrows are raised, for instance, when one character dares refer to the deity as Jane: ''That was more intimate, surely, than Miss Austen would wish. None of the rest of us called her Jane, even though we were older and had been reading her years longer.''
At first, the other women are stiff-necked about Grigg. Why did Jocelyn include him? He's not only a male and a newbie to Austen but he also has the bad taste to bring to the meetings an omnibus edition of the novels -- brand-new, no less, suggesting that ''Austen was merely a recent whim.'' As if that weren't enough, Grigg is (gasp!) a science fiction fan. (This is a sly joke, if a bit insidey, since Fowler is a science fiction writer herself. In addition to her novels, ''Sister Noon,'' ''The Sweetheart Season'' and the fantastical ''Sarah Canary,'' she has published two collections of stories, many of them combining science fiction, fantasy and satire.)
In fact, as Grigg reveals during a discussion of ''Northanger Abbey,'' he met Jocelyn at a science fiction convention the year before. ''I was at the Hound Roundup,'' the dog-loving Jocelyn quickly reassures the others. ''Same hotel.'' Fowler's flashback describing that weekend is one of the funniest diversions in the book. At one point, Jocelyn and a stranger fall into conversation at the hotel bar, not realizing they've just come from different seminars. He thinks she's a science fiction fan, she thinks he's a breeder of bassets, and they converse at cross-purposes in a scene worthy of Preston Sturges.
This is a surprising novel, and there isn't a boring line in it.
[...] Lovers of Austen will relish this book, but I envy any reader who comes to it unfamiliar with her. There's no better letter of introduction. The questions Fowler raises are endlessly fascinating. Is Austen all about love and courtship? Or money and class? Is she about second chances? Having it all or settling for less? And what of the characters who don't have happy endings? For that matter, what is a happy ending? ''What if you had a happy ending and didn't notice?'' Sylvia wonders.
Inevitably, reading groups will pounce on this novel. (There are even ''questions for discussion'' at the end, though some of them are more than a little tongue-in-cheek.) Talk about parallel universes -- just imagine a book club discussing a book about a book club discussing a book.
Generally speaking, a writer would kill to get a review like this; to top it off the Times give it a prominent spot with this link to audio of Fowler reading. I look forward to catching up to this novel sometime.
METHODICAL. This plays well into national stereotypes, doesn't it?
BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government's plans to levy fines on companies that fail to hire trainees will also be applied to legal German brothels, Der Spiegel news magazine reported Sunday.
Brothels failing to employ a certain number of apprentices will not be exempted from the financial penalties that Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government wants to introduce on all companies later this year, the magazine said.
The legislation drafted by the Social Democrats and their Greens coalition partners will fine companies that do not have one apprentice for every 15 workers.
Several members of the Greens party tried to allow an exemption for prostitutes but the Education Ministry responsible for the legislation blocked that, arguing it "would cause considerable difficulties," Der Spiegel said.
Not least being a steady supply of trained hookers, I suppose.
SHECKLEY OR DICK? I was trying to decide from which writer's work these came.
The orange construction cones and barrels that litter Nebraska's highways may be going high-tech.
A University of Nebraska professor has developed robotic cones and barrels that can move out of the way, or into place, from computer commands made miles away.
They can even be programmed to move on their own at any particular part of the day, said Shane Farritor, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Nebraska.
For example, if workers arrived at 6 a.m., the cones could move from the shoulder to block off the lane at that time, then return to the side of the highway at the end of the day.
The robots could come in handy following a slow-moving maintenance operation, like painting a stripe on a road or moving asphalt, where now the barrels have to be picked up and moved as the operation proceeds, Farritor said.
"That way you don't have to block off a 10-mile strip," he said.
But for them to be out of Phil Dick, or really, either author, they definitely need to be talking. Preferably in an irritating way. And paranoid.
NEXT, THE TEDDY-BEAR HOLOCAUST. It's hard to do good public relations for mass slaughter of fuzzy-wuzzy ultra-cute anthropomorphic little creatures everyone loves.
A koala population explosion on an Australian island has prompted calls for 20,000 of the furry, native marsupials to be shot to stop them destroying their island habitat and end a koala famine.
Some 30,000 koalas on Kangaroo Island, off the coast of the state of South Australia,re stripping the island of its native gum trees, destroying the ecosystem and causing a koala famine, say environmentalists and national parks officials.
Starve them, shoot them, neither way looks like Mr. Nice Guy.
I suspect no one will consider shipping them to Sudan to be eaten; no one makes the hard choices these days....
The story of the Likud disengagement referendum is that of the proverbial golem from Jewish tales, which attacks its own creator: for the first time in a long history of interaction, a genuine breach has developed between Ariel Sharon and the Jewish settlers in the territories.
I just wanted to quote that. But this worth mentioning as well:
This is a fracture that cannot be mended. The cursing and shoving of the PM's son, MK Omri Sharon, en route to the Likud voting station in Jerusalem pushed the prime minister to the brink. Whatever relations obtained between Sharon and Likud's right flank are no more.
A question following the results is how does Netanyahu come out of this? Stronger or weaker? Obviously he is stronger amongst the hard-right, though not at all as much as he would be if he hadn't granted lip-service support for the withdrawal.
Sharon aides on Sunday pointed accusing fingers at Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who refused to publicly help drum up support for Sharon's disengagement proposal. The prime minister's close associates accused Netanyahu of disloyalty, and Likud officials say the "cold war" between Sharon and Netanyahu has been reignited.
Quoting political sources, the Reuters news agency reported on Monday that Sharon was considering whether to fire Netanyahu after the defeat of his plan.
"One of the views is to fire Netanyahu. He [Sharon] is furious with Netanyahu, but he doesn't do things out of rage, and this might cause a rebellion in Likud," said one source. Others also said Sharon was mulling a reshuffle.
"I don't believe anything will happen, and everyone will keep their current jobs," said Uri Ginosar, a spokesman for Netanyahu, in response to the reports.
Netanyahu continues as the unspoken heir to the expansionist throne, but I don't think he's helped himself in the long run in Israel in general.
Meanwhile, the Jewish Leadership faction and Moshe Feiglin want to capture Likud away from Sharon.
Read The Rest Scale: 2 out of 5 for the first two, 3 out of 5 for the last.