February 28, 2002

It's too late to relocate the NYC BloggerBash festivities, but the next group to plan a Blog gathering should definitely consider holding it in an Olive Garden.
NYC BloggerBash Reminder:

Friday, March 1, 6 p.m.
Mary Ann's on West Broadway between Chambers and Reade.
Take the 1 or 2 train to the Chambers stop.

Drinks at Mary Ann's will be followed by dinner at a to-be-determined location.

Who is Stephanie Dupont?

While the entire blogging world, myself included, has been smitten by Stephanie Dupont, who has taken over AintNoBadDude for Brian Linse during the latter’s European vacation, the time has come to ask some questions about this Blogspot ingenue. Stephanie Dupont agrees with me "that we ought to find out who Shakespeare really was," but right now I am actually more interested in determining who Stephanie Dupont really is.

This afternoon I set out to solve the riddle, though so far I have only succeeded in uncovering more questions. My initial Googling uncovered a wide array of Stephanie Duponts, but the SD that kept appearing wasn’t any actress or administrative assistant, but rather…a fictional character. A recurring fictional character at that, from the novels of Brian Linse’s "friend" Kinky Friedman. As I continued the search I found that the KF Stephanie was described as a "reluctant muse" and "delightfully delicious," both certainly descriptions that could apply to the BL Stephanie. And a simple search for the work "kinky" on the ANBD page uncovers three matches: two in the Dupont writings and one in a link to Mr. Friedman himself.

So what is the truth? Is there, as Mr. Linse has indicated, a third party posting under the Stephanie pseudonym? If so, why has this person chosen a name that has such meaning to Mr. Linse himself? Is Mr. Linse using Blogger Pro to post these Dupont pieces with US-friendly times? Is perhaps Mr. Friedman himself the Edward de Vere here? Something is certainly rotten, or at least Kinky, in the state of BadDude.

You know what I love? When I get spam with subject lines like "Re: Great Immediate Investment Opportunity," like I'm supposed to think, "Hmmm...I don't remember writing an e-mail with the subject line `Great Immediate Investment Opportunity,' but I obviously must have, since here's the response to it!"
Guard Pleads Guilty in Radio Debacle. Strange update to the "Egyptian Radio" story that was covered with great interest both here at The Donk and over at Unqualified Offerings. As you may remember, Egyptian student Abdallah Higazy was staying at the Millenium Hotel, which overlooked the Trade Center, at the time of the attacks. During a subsequent search of the hotel, security guard Ronald Ferry claimed to have discovered an aviation transceiver, along with a Koran and a gold medallion, in Higazy’s locked hotel safe. Weeks of intense interrogation followed, towards the end of which Higazy reportedly admitted that the transceiver was his (offering scant evidence to those who suggest torture as an interrogation tactic during extreme situations).

At around this time a different hotel guest, a pilot, began asking when he could get his transceiver back. When the FBI went back to Ferry his story shifted from finding the transceiver in a locked hotel safe to somewhere in Higazy’s room. Further questioning elicited shifting stories, and Higazy was soon released.

Yesterday, Ferry pled guilty to lying to the FBI about the evidence, but still insists that he found the radio in Higazy’s room, just not where he originally said it was. Ferry’s lawyer said yesterday that Ferry was simply trying to help the FBI build a case against Higazy. If what we know about the story is true, and I certainly can’t say it is, we still don’t know how the radio ended up in Higazy’s room, or even if it was ever there at all. Ferry may have fabricated the entire story and just admitted to a lesser lie, or a different party may have planted the radio in Higazy’s room after which Ferry helped the lie along. I still don’t expect to ever really find out what happened here.

February 27, 2002

Teen Drinking Report Flawed by Miguel Llanos, MSNBC

Authors admit key figure was way off, but insist adding other factors and making stuff up would lead to same conclusion.

Feb. 27 — The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has acknowledged that its alarming claim — that youths ages 12 to 20 consume 25 percent of all alcohol in the United States — was based on a flawed analysis, but said the statistical discrepancy was due to underreporting by the teens being surveyed and a surprisingly high number of "complete losers and dorks" in the sample. The alcohol industry first challenged the claim, and the federal agency whose survey was used for the think tank’s report studied the data at MSNBC.com’s request and agreed the consumption figure was actually 11.4 percent.

Center President Joseph Califano Jr., a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, defended his group’s decision not to make the adjustment. "If the kid’s parents are in the living room and you are in the kitchen, the odds of getting a really solid answer are slim. So there’s a tremendous underestimate in reporting," Califano said. "Plus, some of the kids out there are unbelievable geeks. There was this one 17-year-old who told us that he never drank `because it was illegal.’ Well, I nearly lost it right there. Let me just say that within two hours this dorkus malorkus had both a fake ID and a six-pack of Piel’s, so I figured that had to add two or three percent to the consumption figure right there."
Okay, I made a bunch of that stuff up (I included a link to the real story, should you care), but that puts me about even with the NCASA as I figure. Is there anybody out there who doubts that this group knew exactly what they were doing, and issued the report with the inflated statistics knowing full well that it would guarantee heavy first-day news coverage, while the inevitable rebuttals and actual numbers would receive a fraction of the attention?

Fired. All of them. Right now.
Report: Secret Service security plan left in souvenir store.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Secret Service agents shopping for Olympics souvenirs lost a document detailing security plans for Vice President Dick Cheney's appearance at the closing ceremony, according to The Salt Lake City Tribune. [...]

When [souvenir shop owner] Greenhalgh called to report the mistake, a Secret Service representative promised that an agent would pick up the log, the Tribune reported. After 45 minutes, no one had arrived, so he offered to take it to the agency's downtown office. In exchange, Greenhalgh requested an autographed picture of Cheney, but was rebuffed and then decided to contact the newspaper, the Tribune said.
I'd say it's unbelievable, but unfortunately that's hardly true.
James Lileks to Simpsons producers: Please stop. (Yes, I know that James posted an excellent screed today, but I figure everybody will be linking to that, so I wanted to focus on his lear-ned [Homer: It's pronounced 'learned'. Pepe: I love you Papa Homer. Homer: I love you too Pepsi.] takedown of the current Simpsons season.

Oh, I can't resist. Here's a brief excerpt from today's Screed about Matthew Engel's simplistic "I understand the heartland of America because I once ate at an Olive Garden" Guardian piece:
Europeans are inclined to think that the Americans, having been late for the last two world wars, are determined to be early for the next one.

Damned witty, Wilde. Damned witty! Deuce it all! Look: we were “late” for the last world wars like a policeman is usually late for a murder. One could easily say that Europeans are determined to be late for the next world war because they’re still feeling guilty about the last time some nutcases wanted to slaughter all the Jews. Except, of course, they’re not guilty at all. That was all Hitler’s fault. He had that big shiny hypnotism coin from the novelty catalog, and everyone just fell in his power.
Go read it, right now.
Warning: extremely disturbing photos, not for the weak of heart or spirit. (via my brother David)

February 26, 2002

In honor of Rutgers graduate Joyce Kilmer, and in response to Justin Slotman’s desperate plea for the Nets to be added to the NBA’s national TV schedule, I present the following:

I think that I shall never see
New Jersey Nets on NBC.

A team that may lack household names
But leads the East by near six games.

A team that surely should be seen;
They’re 38 and 17.

A team with power, style, and class
That can kick the Wizards’ sorry ass.

Upon whose shoulders bear the weight
Of hopes throughout the Garden State.

Poems are made by fools like me
Who can’t watch Nets on TNT.
Thank you.

New York City Bloggerbash this Friday night at 6 p.m.
A real pissant, very rarely stable. Everybody seems to be taking SelectSmart Philosophy Quiz which asks a series of morals and ethics questions and uses the responses to find the philosopher to whom there is the closest correlation. For those of a philosophical bent, my results are posted below for your perusal.
  1. Kant (100%)
  2. Mill (97%)
  3. Bentham (87%)
  4. Epicureans (80%)
  5. Rand (79%)
  6. Prescriptivism (74%)
  7. Cynics (72%)
  8. Sartre (69%)
  9. Hobbes (68%)
  10. Nietzsche (68%)
  11. Stoics (66%)
  12. Noddings (65%)
  13. Spinoza (61%)
  14. Aristotle (58%)
  15. Hume (58%)
  16. Aquinas (44%)
  17. Augustine (39%)
  18. Plato (36%)
  19. Ockham (34%)

While Brian Linse of Ain’t No Bad Dude hangs out in London with the Samizdata folks, presumably roaming the streets like some modern-day Clockwork Orange Droogs, he hasn’t let his site lay fallow, like so many of us lesser bloggers would. Instead he’s given the keys to newcomer Stephanie Dupont, and while she’s still getting the hang of the whole blogging thing, I can safely say she’s doing a bang-up job.
So, as I understand it, I'm supposed to find time to read a whole bunch of other people's off the wall opinons and then write about how I agree or disagree with them and do the thingie so people who don't know what I'm talking about can click on it to see what I'm talking about. IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE!! and I'm sorry I'm yelling, but if I was to say I agreed with something Natalie Solent said, for instance, would other people write about how Stephanie agreed with Natalie but they disagreed and put things in so you could click on both of us? What does the next person do? Agree with the disagreement on the agreement? Is this some kind of internet click letter?
Stephanie offers the fresh perspective that blogging so sorely needs these days. In fact, I can safely say that this is the best corporate expansion since a man even more famous and powerful than Brian hired an associate a few years back. Brian, feel free to extend that stay!
In honor of the greatest supporting character in film history, Sneaking Suspicions introduces "The Claude Ratings" for cluelessness, irony, and banality in journalism.

February 25, 2002

Please read this post from Grasshoppa Geoff.
Tonight begins Purim, the Festival of Lots, the most joyous holiday of the Jewish year. However, for my girlfriend and her family, it will always be a time of sad rememberence. On Purim, in 1993, my girlfriend's brother, Jason (known by his Hebrew name, Yehoshua, in Israel), who was two days shy of finishing his enlistment in the IDF, was hitchhiking from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv when he was kidnapped and then murdered by 3 Palestinians dressed up as religious Jews.

Happy Purim, everybody! (link via USAJewish)
Shakespeare and the Snobs. Reader Capt J.M. Heinrichs weighs in with his views on the continuing Shakespeare authorship discussion, focussing on the Stratford gentleman’s formal education, or lack thereof.
  • Will Shakespeare was not educated. Granted his origins in life probably precluded him from an Oxbridge education, but what is the evidence that he was illiterate for the time? Where might he have acquired literacy? Was our definition of literacy necessary for him to write his plays? Was knowledge of the classics unavailable to the "uneducated"?
  • Why is lack of verifiable (in 2002 terms) educational status a requirement for Shakespeare's opus? There are a large number of literate, educated persons in today's world who cannot approach Will's genius, even in their dreams. Pick one.
  • A blinding flash of inspiration, followed by diligent digging for proofs of that flash is less convincing than an inspirational flash which pulls together the previously collected data.
This seems to be the main impression that a lot of people have about the authorship debate, that it’s mostly a question of academic snobs refusing to accept that a man without a formalized, establishment-accepted education could possibly have created such a remarkable body of work. It is true that the alternative author is invariably a man (or men) of proper, noble lineage and upbringing, as though the position of history’s greatest writer was one that could only be applied to by men with the right job requirements. Gail Kern Paster summarized the perceived snobbish origin of the anti-Stratfordians in her essay Harper’s fascinating, highly recommended roundtable in its April 1999 issue.
For much worse than professional disclaimers of interest in Shakespeare's life is the ugly social denial at the heart of the Oxfordian pursuit. To deny the life of William Shakespeare its central accomplishment […] requires not only a massive conspiracy on the part of a generation of Elizabethan theater professionals, courtiers, and kings but a ferociously snobbish and ultimately anachronistic celebration of birthright privilege. It is almost always the case that proposed authors of the plays are scions of famous families, aristocrats. The anti-Stratfordian position is a summary judgment about the curse of provincial origins and barbarian rusticity, one that radically underestimates the classical rigors of Tudor public education and overestimates the scope of aristocratic learning. It is pernicious doctrine.
There is much to be said for this backlash against perceived class prejudice, but the centuries of doubt are built upon much more than an underestimation of the public school system. As I wrote to Capt. Heinrichs, the education issue isn’t simply a matter of nitpicking the one weak link in an otherwise airtight case, but rather yet another brick in the wall separating the gentleman from Stratford from the works of Shakespeare (and how’s that for some fine metaphor-mixing). As you can probably tell, this is a subject that I am probably care too much about, especially considering that it ultimately doesn’t matter one whit.
Matthew Sheren at The Sardonic Subversive has penned a lovely paean to our home, the Garden State: O New Jersey. Matthew's part Canadian and part Jerseyite — truly the best of all possible worlds!

February 24, 2002

An Illuminated Donkey Exclusive Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: Fourth in a Series! My younger sister Nancy is finishing up her work in Salt Lake City and has filed this, possibly last, report before heading off to the closing ceremonies (where she is at this moment watching Christina Aguilera prance around while wearing whore clothes). At this time on behalf of all of my readers I would like to thank Nancy for her detailed and incisive reporting from SLC, and hope that she will continue her work for The Donk in the future.
My work here is just about done and I'm ready to come home. I think when I get home I'm going to sleep for two days. I hung out at a club last night (apparently the hot spot) where some medal winners were: speedskater Casey FitzRandolph, snowboarder Danny Kass, the American dancing chick who didn't win anything and a bunch of lugers and biatheletes. It was fun. Sorry to say I didn't line up to buy anyone the hot team USA berets that were worn during the opening ceremonies. Personally I don't think anyone should wear berets, especially men. But I think they're available online if you really want one. In my last days here I may be bold and attempt skiing.
This has been An Illuminated Donkey Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: Fourth in a Series!

February 22, 2002

A Tragedy. Jayson Williams was one of my two or three favorite sports figures during his Nets days, a great rebounder and team player who was also highly intelligent and frequently hilarious. After the Derrick "Whoop-De-Damn-Do" Coleman era, it was great to have an All-Star quality Net who inspired strong feelings other than distaste. His rebounding total in the boxscore was usually the first stat I checked in the morning after Nets games.

It was a sad day when yet another serious injury forced Jayson to retire, though a remarkable amount of cash probably cushioned the blow for him somewhat. Following his playing days he stayed active in the Jersey area and in the media, operating a local pro lacrosse team, writing a pretty funny book (one that is being noticed now mainly for its skeet-shooting anecdotes), appearing regularly on the radio, and eventually landing an analyst job on NBC. He had long left behind his bad reputation from his early 76ers days and had emerged as basketball’s leading bon vivant, a Don Meredith or Joe Garagiola for the NBA.

Still, the local sports talk radio shows would occasionally have worrying stories about his involvement in a late night bar brawl or some situation at his mansion. Almost invariably the host would take his side, giving him the benefit of the doubt; to an almost unheard of extent he was loved by the local media, as he was a great guy who always gave great quote.

I imagine you know what happened next: though the details are sketchy, what is known is that 55-year-old limo driver Costas Christofi was shot and killed at Williams’ estate, and that published reports place the blame on Williams, supposedly showing off his shotgun when it accidentally fired. A terrible tragedy, but listening to the radio these past few days might make one wonder who the victim really was. As always, the local sports reporters have stood behind him, with the general comment being that they hope "he makes his way through this" and that it’s yet another dark day in a troubled life, as if Williams is somehow the innocent party in this, as if a truly innocent man isn’t dead for no reason. He was, and is, a good man, but no man is good enough to overlook every fault, especially something like this.

Adrian Wojnarowski of the Bergen Record has written a good piece about Williams’ life, troubles, and why he was loved by the media. "An Episode With No Happy Ending" perhaps veers a little too close to the attitude I criticize, but also offers an idea of where this attitude originated. It’s well worth reading.

Yet again continuing the Who Wrote Shakespeare thread, a new documentary, "Much Ado About Something," looks at the case for Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe has fallen far behind Edward de Vere in recent years in the Shakespeare Sweepstakes, but this documentary, currently playing in the New York area, should be worth checking out.
Anybody who takes the incredible freedom of the Internet for granted should read Ethan Gutmann's "Who Lost China's Internet?" in the Weekly Standard, which describes how U.S. tech companies have enabled China's government to exert the same control over the Internet as they do most other forms of media and communications.
All Chinese chat rooms or discussion groups have a "big mama," a supervisor for a team of censors who wipe out politically incorrect comments in real time. Yahoo! handles things differently. If in the midst of a discussion you type, "We should have nationwide multiparty elections in China!!" no one else will react to your comment. How could they? It appears on your screen, but only you and Yahoo!'s big mama actually see your thought crime. After intercepting it and preventing its transmission, Mother Yahoo! then solicitously generates a friendly e-mail suggesting that you cool your rhetoric--censorship, but with a New Age nod to self-esteem.

The former Yahoo! rep also admitted that the search phrase "Taiwan independence" on Chinese Yahoo! would yield no results, because Yahoo! has disabled searches for select keywords, such as "Falun Gong" and "China democracy." Search for VIP Reference, a major overseas Chinese dissident site, and you will get a single hit, a government site ripping it to shreds.

February 21, 2002

"Mayonnaise is going to be much more difficult than people think." Line from tonight's Glutton Bowl on FOX, which included fat bastards racing to eat hard-boiled eggs (a Goldstein competed in this one!), hot dogs, sticks of butter, and the deceptively difficult jars of mayo. Now this is a sport!
In one of its first acts since its takeover of airport passenger/baggage screening, the Transportation Security Administration has ordered airlines to close their "VIP lines," created by the airlines in the wake of September 11 to reduce screening time for their preferred (generally business travel) customers. And how would this make air travel even one smidgen safer? Well, according to the Reuters report (via Drudge), that’s not really the point:
WASHINGTON, Feb 20 (Reuters) — The U.S. government has told commercial airlines to close the VIP lines that allow their most valued customers, mainly business travelers, to avoid long waits for security checks at airports, officials said on Wednesday.

The elimination of the perk was ordered by the Transportation Security Administration, which took over airport passenger and baggage screening from the airlines at more than 420 airports this week.

Transportation officials said the decision to do away with VIP lines reflected a move to make the overhaul of airport security equitable since it is now a federal function.
I find this pretty disturbing. I’m not a first-class traveler nor is it likely that I’ll soon become one, but this is a situation where the scarred and struggling (admittedly, mostly due to their own actions) airline industry found that they were losing some of their most-valuable customers — the top-dollar paying business class — and made some concessions in order to regain that business. Now, for reasons seemingly having absolutely nothing to do with security, a government office has decided to force their sense of equality onto the airline industry.

Look, I understand how annoying it is to see some overpampered executive receive special privilege, but I realize that if somebody’s willing to spend an extra grand for a shorter screening line, bigger seat, and tastier meal it helps subsidize my rock-bottom fare. I’m not sure if the airlines release such specific information, but I’d surprised if the number of passengers on short-run flights like New York to DC or Boston has fallen by anything less than one-third, since it’s become easier and faster to simply drive the four hours rather than deal with the airports. As far as I can tell, the only result of the TSA action will be that now everybody will be equally miserable, paying higher fares, and no more safe than before.

Update: InstaPundit's take on the VIP line ban? It's a government conspiracy!
Sure, it's fun to abuse [Norman Mineta] over this. But the real point is that this decision is more evidence in support of the InstaPundit Airline Security Conspiracy Theory™: The reason Bush gave in on federalizing airport security was because he knew that the inevitably lazy, inefficient, and rude security screeners would become the face of the federal government to the chattering classes, undermining big-government sentiment more effectively than a brace of Cato Institutes.

Since the chattering classes are disproportionately frequent-flyer types, making the process less painful for them would undermine the plan.

Sure, Mineta's stupid -- stupid like a fox. Remember, you heard it here first.
Well, I feel much better now.
Due to the quality explosion in the blogging world, I've added ten more links to my "Islands of Quality" section at left, bringing it to an astounding yet still not big enough 30. Tell `em Large Marge sent ya!

February 20, 2002

How do I know I've spent too much time in front of a computer today? I was just looking for a pen and my first thought was to click Ctrl-F and type in "pen." Goodnight.
We have a winner! Josh Bittker over at SmarterPundit was the lucky 10,000th visitor to The Donk (well, lucky may not be the right word, as he checked in a few times until he reached the magic number, but you gotta admire his spunk), and will be receiving some fabulous prizes from the vaults. Checking my referral logs, I was worried for a few minutes that the lucky winner might have been somebody looking for "Speed Skating Porn" (which, according to Google, I am the 6th-best online source of), and then what the hell could I send that guy? But that turned out not to be the case, and now on towards 100,000!
Just as The Donk anxiously awaits the big rollover to 10,000 hits (and please don’t tell me that the stats counter doesn’t really measure hits or visitors or whatnot; it’s gonna be a big damn number with a mess of zeros and I’m pretty happy), the Libertarian Samizdata collective has cleared the six-figure plateau, and since there’s about ten of those Samizdata folks I figure it works out about the same. Anyway, they seem to have given their special round-number visitor some sort of prize, so I figured that I’d do the same.
The Illuminated Donkey’s Spectacular 10,000th Visitor Contest!
The Rules: Um…the 10,000th visitor gets some sort of prize. To claim the prize, the winner should send a screenshot showing the glorious 10,000 counter, or in lieu of that, a detailed description of the number 10,000.
Ah, 10,000 visitors…it seems like only yesterday that I was lucky to get two or three people a day to come and read my collection of recipes, stain-removal hints, and drunken rants about the Illuminati and the Trilateral Commission. These days, hardly an hour goes by when I don’t get a half-dozen hits, almost all of which are from misguided Googlers trying to download donkey-themed sex videos, but it’s still all very exciting. I thank you all.

Via InstaPundit comes word that the latest Harper’s Index uses the the much-discredited Marc Herold Afghan casualty figures, which comes as no surprise to this former subscriber.
As I’ve mentioned, I recently moved to the Little India section of Jersey City, a fine and interesting part of town. Now word comes via Suman Palit of the Kolkata Libertarian that rather than being some kind of trendsetter, I’m really just part of a a long tradition of Jewish/Indian alliances, a relationship that Palit feels will only grow more intertwined in the future.

Palit has delved deep into the subject of Jewish settlements in India and their significance towards a potentially strong India/Israel alliance (as Palit foresees it, potentially creating "two ends of the ‘Pincers of Democracy’ to counter the ‘Axis of Evil’." Palit’s latest installment in the "Israel over the Indian Ocean" is packed with links, information, graphs, and loads of interesting conjecture about a subject I previously knew little about. Well worth a look.

February 19, 2002

You can’t spell "obligation" without "blog." I certainly understand how important an InstaPundit link can be to an up-and-coming blogger (only by reading the comments on such anointed blogs, though I did come close once), but Andrew Dodge over at DodgeBlog sure seems a bit…focused on getting his InstaPundit link:
Still waiting for a heads-up from Instapundit. In blogging terms a mention on Instapundit is akin to being given a knighthood (Sir). It means you have arrived. Getting a perma-link on Glenn's site is the blog equivalent of getting seat in the House of Lords. Oh well, I shall continue to wait for the tap from Mr Reynolds. He does run a damn good site and one that should be on every bloggers daily list.

Ok, now I am bloody pissed off with Glenn at Instapundit. What the hell is his damn problem with giving people credit for sending him links to stuff? […] I am not the first to complain about this. Come on Glenn, what is your damn problem? Are you too good for the rest of us now? Get off your high horse and help the rest of out will you?

Glenn, I think as one of the leading lights of blogdom you need to try to make a better effort to credit fellow bloggers. It does not take that much time and saves a great deal of frustration for the rest of us. We could stop sending you things that might interest you or stop posting stuff on our sites. If this were to become the state of play it would be unfortunate for the whole blogging universe. If other bloggers, including major ones, can make the effort why can't you?
I imagine that Andrew has been mollified by his IP link today (though it was about this exchange, as opposed to his original Spectator cover mention), but frankly, after reading these posts, if I were Reynolds I’d lock up my pet bunnies and make sure I’m not about to become the Jerry Langford to Andrew’s Rupert Pupkin.

Andrew refers to an InstaPundit link as "akin to being given a knighthood," but in reality Glenn’s referral logs and e-mail inbox are the blogger’s equivalent of Schwab’s Drugstore on Sunset Boulevard, filled with hopefuls just waiting to be discovered. According to Reynolds he receives hundreds of e-mails daily, and a high percentage of those are probably from fellow bloggers sending links to some must-link-to piece, hoping that it will be introduced with "Ken Goldstein over at The Donk sent me this link on…" This isn’t something I’ll ever have to worry about, what with my single-digit weekly e-mail count, but the tone of the posts has made me feel a bit sorry for Reynolds having seemingly crossed the line from "Isn’t it great that he made it big and is helping out some folks from the old neighborhood," to "Hey, when is that stuck-up bastard gonna help me out?"
And we’re back! After a fine three-day weekend, much of which was spent enjoying Indian food and hanging with my honey, it’s time to resume work here at The Donk (and theoretically at my actual, paying job, but I’ll worry about that later). Let’s just look through the mail and see what we have….spam, spam, friend, spam, friend, spam, spam, and what’s this? Subject: ABABE, but it’s not porn spam. Rather, it’s my very own Nigerian Scam Letter! Whooo!


It is my pleasure to request your assistance on this business proposal which if pursued to its conclusion, will be of immense benefit to both of us. This request may seem strange but I will crave your indulgence and pray that you view it seriously. My name is COL. NURU ABEBE (RTD) of the Democratic Republic of Congo and one of the close aides to the former President of the Democratic Republic of Congo LAURENT KABILA of blessed memory, may his soul rest in peace.

Due to the military campaign of LAURENT KABILA to force out the rebels in my country, I was instructed by Late President Kabila to go abroad to purchase arms and ammunition worth of Twenty Five Million United States Dollars only (US$25,000,000.00) to fight the rebel group. But when President Kabila was killed in a bloody shootout by one of his aide a day before I was scheduled to travel out of Congo, I immediately decided to divert the fund into a private security company here in Congo for safe keeping… [Click here for another version of this letter.]
Now, normally I wouldn’t hesitate to get involved in a no-lose plan that manages to combine an overseas money-laundering scheme with an assassination in a violent, war-ravaged nation, but unfortunately all my available cash is tied up in various Costa Rican business opportunities.

Let’s see, what else is going on? Here’s an overdue article: Vegas Finally Admits "Family Friendly" Focus Was Pretty Stupid.
[S]tarting in the early '90s, Las Vegas began to downplay its wilder side in an effort to broaden its appeal to mainstream America. Topless shows along the Strip disappeared, in favor of more wholesome offerings such as magic and circus shows. Eyeing the success of family-friendly Orlando, some casinos even built theme-park rides.

''We pretended to be a family destination,'' says Gamal Aziz, the president of MGM Grand, which opened an entire theme park next to its casino in 1993. ''The (core) gambling market had gotten to a point of stagnation, and it was just another way to expand.'' Alas, the family-friendly rhetoric ''really backfired,'' he says.

Sitting in his modest office, one level above the world's largest casino floor, Aziz explains that the town's die-hard gambling customers and other fun seekers who saw Las Vegas as a place to cut loose ''definitely did not want to compete with the strollers.'' Families, meanwhile, were lukewarm to the idea of visiting a town where a walk down the main boulevard means running a gauntlet of hawkers passing out brochures for hookers (despite the fact that prostitution is illegal).

So now, MGM, which closed its failing theme park last year, and its neighbors on the Strip are returning to what Curtis calls the ''tried and true'' formula: gambling, drinking and sex.
It seemed pretty obvious to me, back when Vegas started pretending to be the new Orlando, that this was a strategy that could only backfire, alienating both intended target audiences rather than creating a middle ground. At your true family tourist center like the Disney theme parks, the key is that the parents can generally tolerate most of the kid-oriented activities like the rides (or at least use the time to rest on a nearby bench), and the kids can generally tolerate, at least for a few minutes, most of the adult-oriented shows and events.

In Vegas, there simply is no room for compromise. I’ve gone to Vegas with non-gamblers, and a too-high percentage of my day was spent wondering when I could sneak off and play some cards. As a family vacation spot it’s pretty much a nightmare: everything’s incredibly spread out, children are simply not allowed in the adult "gambling, drinking, and sex" areas (and I believe one of the definitions of neglect is a parent who would leave a young child somewhere while they gambled and drank), there’s porn handouts everywhere, and the all-ages stuff is generally lame and only distracting for a few minutes. So it’s no surprise that the post-September-11 travel slump has led Vegas to refocus on their true target audience: besotted degenerates.

Oh, and apparently the Olympics are still going on. See this fine site for regular updates from an Olympics on-site worker, though I hope to hear from my sister again real soon.

February 16, 2002

This might be the most awkward headline I've ever seen: "Italy Minister Under Fire Over Open Fire Order"
My Neighborhood. Last night I finally got to show off my new home, when two friends came over for a tour and a walk over to India Square for a delicious dinner. I live about two blocks north of the heart of "Little India," and though I've never been a huge fan of Indian food, I am having a great time trying out all the different restaurants and exploring my and the surrounding neighborhoods. Today, walking up Newark Avenue and crossing JFK Blvd., I found myself in what turns out to be the fourth-largest Filipino community in the U.S., with at least one place that makes great Cuban sandwiches. I don't plan to bore you with a complete listing of all my meals, but I guess I'm just excited to finally be in a city again, after 18 months in the suburban wilderness.

February 15, 2002

Hmm...for somebody who claims not to care about the Olympics I sure seem to be writing a lot about them. Anyway, longtime Atlanta resident PhotoDude has posted some interesting observations on what hosting an Olympics actually means for a city, both financially and in the daily life of its residents.
This is not aboot diplomacy, this is aboot dignity!

Canadian officials ask panel to award second gold.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Canadian Olympic officials asked a court of arbitration late Thursday night to award a gold medal to the figure skating pair whose narrow loss to the Russians touched off one of the sport's most heated judging controversies.

(Okay, I don’t really care about the story, I just really wanted to use the headline.)

February 14, 2002

An Illuminated Donkey Exclusive Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: Third in a Series! Official Illuminated Donkey Correspondent and younger sister Nancy remains in Salt Lake City, where apart from her official production duties she has seen a speed skating medals ceremony as well as Macy Gray and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy concerts (where they were apparently handing out batches of free tickets before the show to fill the place). She also has this to say about the city:
the streets have been pretty packed with lots of hooligans. i think this town needs a little bit of corruption. the liquor laws are sooo lame. even though most places will "sponsor" you if you're from nbc, a lot of places add a cover charge and have doubled the price of beer. i think i need to visit the neighboring cities because slc ain't that cool. they do have a bunch of malls. the mountains are pretty on one side, but driving along the highway back to my hotel there are all kinds of factories and plants.

it's fun watching all the feeds from all the different event venues. then you get to catch all crashes and falls too.
This has been An Illuminated Donkey Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: Third in a Series!
Hey, Tom, you wanna head over to New Jersey to pick up some Snickers or Mars ba—AAAAHHHH!!!!

Gunman Says Sound of New Jersey Made Him Snap
GALVESTON, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas jury on Wednesday found Thomas Mitchell guilty of aggravated assault for shooting his girlfriend because he thought she was about to say the words "New Jersey."

His attorney unsuccessfully sought his exoneration on grounds that certain words set off an uncontrollable rage in Mitchell, who has a history of mental illness.

Words that triggered a bad reaction in Mitchell included "New Jersey," "Wisconsin," "Snickers" and "Mars," lawyer Maria Mercado told the court.

Throughout the three-day trial, Mitchell, 54, covered his ears when he thought the words were going to be spoken.

Witnesses used flashcards with the words written out instead of saying them in court.

"When he has one of these episodes, he isn't focused," lawyer Mercado said.

Prosecutors contended that Mitchell was troubled, but not crazy.

He was convicted for shooting girlfriend Barbara Jenkins three times on March 19, 1999, when he believed she was about to utter the phrase "New Jersey." She survived the attack, but died from unrelated causes just before the trial.

In a statement, Mitchell told police: "I had seen that word at my mom's house and then Barbara said what she said (and) I just snapped."

What is a sport? Justin over at Blogistan led me to SportsFilter, a MetaFilter for…well…sports. Like MetaFilter it’s a site to post articles and comments, and I’m hoping that the active membership skyrockets over the next six, pre-Opening Day, weeks.

It is, of course, Olympics Time, and I suppose because of that I’ve been seeing a lot more sports-related discussion and commentary around the blogosphere. "Sports-related" is probably the proper term for Olympics discussions, since they are almost invariably not about the competitions and events themselves, but rather about the myriad of tangential issues that surround a particular Olympics. There’s a ton of preliminary hype for a month or two, with discussions about the strange customs and practices of the locals (in this case, Mormons) and a heated argument or two about some specific controversy, such as which flag the U.S. team should carry. Anyway, the hype builds and builds until the point where you actually turn on the TV and say to yourself, "Oh yeah, speed skating. I don’t care even one little whit about speed skating." and go on with your life until something bizarre happens.

This year the bizarre occurrence is definitely the major judging scandal in figure skating, which held my attention for the few minutes it took me to remember that I hadn’t seen the competition, and that a complete and catastrophic upheaval in the world of figure skating would have very little impact on my between-Olympics life. The combination of the scandal and the preponderence of judged and individually timed events has started an interesting discussion about the very nature of sports, or what a sport is.

David Janes presents his definition of a sport, along with his hierarchy of sport and sport-related activities:
  • It has a "natural" measurable scoring — i.e. someone goes the highest, goes the fastest, or finishes before others.
  • It requires skill.
  • One can be hurt in the normal course of the sport if that skill is not exercised properly.

The hierarchy of sport
  • Sports (hockey)
  • Athletic Competition (100m sprint)
  • Athletic Event (ice dancing)
  • Entertainment (WWF; The Lion King on ice; anything with Tanya Harding)
David does give credence to the simpler Balloon Juice definition: "A sport is an athletic event that requires you to play offense and defense. Anything else is an athletic event." This view is also held by the excellent King Kaufman over at Salon:
When it comes right down to it, I don't like sports where: A) One competitor or game or match looks strikingly similar to all the others; or B) there's nobody trying to stop you from doing what you're trying to do.

The Winter Olympics are filled with sports like that. All of the racing sports, the skiing and bobsled and speed skating and luge, are exercises in déjà vu. One guy flying down a mountain on skis looks pretty much like another guy flying down a mountain on skis, and doing it in one minute, 39.13 seconds looks a heck of a lot like doing it in one minute, 41.25 seconds, which is a range that on Monday encompassed 20 skiers.[…]

With the exception of hockey and, to a certain extent, curling, all of the sports in the Winter Olympics feature indirect competition. It's athlete vs. clock or athlete vs. competitor's score. The competitors take their turns, sequentially. They never face each other -- I mean literally, face each other, the way a hockey forward and defenseman do, or the way two boxers or wrestlers or even tennis players do.

That facing each other, that me trying to stop you and you trying to stop me, is what makes the great sports great.
The aforementioned Blogistan, in a discussion about figure skating, takes issue with the opinion that objectivity is the key to sports, offering a wide tent:
Figure skating — on the vast continuum of sports, with, say, pro wrestling on one end (an entirely fictional, and hence entirely subjective sport) and, say, billiards or bowling on the other end (sports with minimal or no human judgement as to what constitutes victory, and hence entirely objective sports) — lies on the subjective end, toward pro wrestling. The great American team sports would lie in the middle, with maybe the NFL right in the middle and the NBA and MLB heading towards subjectivity. Anyway, the subjectivity of figure skating is no reason to say it isn't a sport. It's just more subjective than most.
My position would be on the side of objectivity, with the understanding that there is no such thing as a purely objective competition (the closest would be the bowling example from above, or perhaps a non-judged, no-limit boxing match, but I’m sure if I looked I could find my share of subjective controversies there as well). I certainly understand the incredible dedication and athletic ability required in figure skating, but the further an event moves away from having a winner decided immediately, on the field of play, the further away from a compelling spectator sport it becomes for me.

For me, nearly all of the events in the Winter Olympics fall into one of two categories:It's all very difficult and requires a great deal of talent and skill, but I'm afraid it simply doesn't grab me on any level, leaving the semantic questions for others.
Gorgeous photograph of the world taken from the new space station.

February 13, 2002

Continuing the Shakespeare discussion from Monday, today I came across Michael Dobson's interesting book review "Folio Freaks: the Fetishisation of Shakespeare's First Folio" in the Guardian. Among the interesting tidbits is that there are many varieties of the First Folio, as the cash-strapped publishers made corrections continuously during the printing but didn't want to waste the error-filled pages, John Milton's first-published work was a sonnet featured in the Second Folio, and a copy of the First Folio owned by John Dryden's niece recently sold for over six million dollars.

Dobson's skepticism regarding the skyrocketing value of the First Folio (as he writes, it "has a use value, for most normal purposes, inferior to almost any other extant collected edition of Shakespeare" and if one wants "a readable text of Shakespeare, as full and accurate as all the early editions reasonably permit, you would be far better advised to invest in a paperback copy of the Oxford edition") shows that he never collected comic books or baseball cards; any collector knows that there is nothing more irresistible than a first appearance or rookie card, which the F1 essentially is.
My good friend Anthony Russo (who I hope will join me and my friend Patrick Murphy in the soon-to-be-formed Legion of Superheroes with Extremely Common Ethnic Names) has recently started his own blog, Russophilia!, which is worth a look. He's a fellow Jersey guy now hunkered down in the nether regions of Georgia, which frankly sounds like a fine sitcom idea. Until then, though, here's a little taste:
Being a network administrator is a great job, but doesn't do much for your fellow man. For instance, what would I do if I were in a restaurant and someone started choking? How could I use my technical skills to assist? How would this fit within the corporate context I'm so accustomed to? Hmmmm...

Sir, sir, are you alright?....you're choking? Wait, I can help, I'm a network administrator!

Let me through....thank you.

Sir, are you okay? Sir, have you opened a ticket with the Help Desk yet?...

Sir, I need you to stay conscious with me for a moment. HAVE...YOU...OPENED...A...TICKET...WITH...THE...HELP...DESK...YET?! I can't help you until you've opened a problem ticket. I'm a network administrator. I want to help you, but I need ticket number.

Sir? What? You did. Okay, great I can help you now.

What's the ticket number? No, sir, wait, stay alive. Stay with me. Just tell me the ticket number.

What? 4...5...3...2..0..9? Okay, great....

Wait, sir, that ticket's been closed. You opened that one awhile ago, and its closed now. Do you have the right num-

Ohmygoodness, I...I think he's dead.
That's Russophilia!, available now!

February 12, 2002

Balloon Juice, a fine blog I've been meaning to link to, today lists three recent "Being There" references: the latest Jonah Goldberg National Review column, an InstaPundit link to that column, and my description yesterday of a widely used Ken Lay AP photo. I mention it because this will certainly be the only time I'm included on a short list with Jonah Goldberg and Glenn Reynolds.

Not much time to post, as I've spent the entire day in Manhattan for the big American International Toy Fair, a huge event for my company. After working our meeting and display room I was able to spend a few hours walking around the Javits Center, where I was surpirsed by the relative lack of patriotic-themed toys in the works. I mean, there were a few, but I was expecting to see practically every other booth and toy festooned with Old Glory.

I didn't see anything too thrilling at the show (all the biggest companies are locked away in private showrooms in the Toy Building), I'm afraid, but I can announce that American Greetings is bringing back Care Bears, some hideous looking things called Butt-Ugly Martians will be getting a major marketing push, there's gonna be a new batch of great Simpsons toys out there, and folks sure do love them mullets! Of course, nothing beats the sight of some overworked and overweight guy in his fifties involved in some serious high-tension negotiations over Clifford the Big Red Dog.

February 11, 2002

Olympics Flight Rules Lead to Arrest

Feb. 11, 2002  |  SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- An airline passenger who allegedly got up to go the bathroom less than 30 minutes before landing became the first person arrested under a new federal flight regulation adopted for the Olympics.

Richard Bizarro, 59, could get up to 20 years in prison on charges of interfering with a flight crew.

Bizarro was on a Delta flight from Los Angeles on Saturday when he allegedly left his seat 25 minutes before landing, despite two warnings from the captain to the 90 passengers to stay put as required under the 30-minute rule adopted for Salt Lake City by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Hmmm...you think Bizarro might not get put in jail if he explain that on his world
30-minute rule mean must only use bathroom within 30 minutes of landing? Bizarro am not sorry!
My girlfriend Rachel sent me an article from yesterday’s New York Times"A Historic Whodunit: If Shakespeare Didn't, Who Did?" by William Niederkorn — which offers an overview of the Shakespeare authorship debate, focussing on the Stratfordian vs. Oxfordian battle. Niederkorn gives a lot of ink and credence to the Oxfordian position that the true author was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as opposed to the classic Stratfordian position, namely that Shakespeare wrote the work of Shakespeare (and where’s the fun in that?). There’s a lot of good reading on all sides of the debate, even on the clearly wrong Stratford side.
He likes to watch. I can’t claim to know a great deal about the upper reaches of the corporate world, but I do know that you don’t get to be the Chairman and CEO of the #7 company on the Fortune 500 (or at least a company that cooked the books enough to make Fortune think it was #7) by being the sweet, innocent, my-wife-and-kids-love-me, Chauncey Gardener/Forrest Gump-looking guy in this AP photo I keep seeing everywhere.

February 09, 2002

Lots of good reading over at the Quatloos! Cyber-Museum of Scams & Traps. My friend Christine works for a university program, and receives several of the often-hilarious "Nigerian Scam Letters" (The Nigerian National Petroleum Company is desirous of oil exploration in other parts of the world, however, because of certain regulations of the Nigerian Government, it is unable to move these funds to another region. Etc.) a week.

February 08, 2002

As a copywriter, I take a special interest in stories involving typographical errors, knowing firsthand how a tiny slip can have large and lasting repercussions. This MSNBC error is one of the worst I've seen.
So, it’s agreed then: Harper’s: NO, The Atlantic: YES!

February 07, 2002

Via Happy Fun Pundit, a link to a Worker's World article claiming that "women bear the brunt of war," with the lead argument being that the death of so many men forces women to shoulder "increased economic burdens." Death vs. Increased Economic Burdens? Advantage: Men, of course!
It's about frigging time!
When it was revealed that The Red Cross was planning to spend some of the almost $850 million collected in its Liberty Disaster Relief Fund on preparations for future attacks, as opposed to giving it all to victims of September 11, it ignited a huge controversy that led to a Congressional hearing and the resignation of the charity’s president, and a pledge by the group to disperse the fund as the donors intended.

The end result of that pledge? An almost-desperate, door-to-door effort to find people who were inconvenienced financially in some way by the attack in order to write them a check.
[Harriet] Grimm learned she was entitled to a piece of [the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund]. "I didn’t lose my job, and I didn’t have a family member die," Grimm says. But the attacks did force her to pack up her family, leave their apartment and stay with relatives and friends uptown for 10 days. "It’s been a trauma," she says.

Grimm met with the Red Cross volunteers and brought a list of her property losses and expenses — acupuncture, psychological counseling, an incremental increase in day-care costs for her four-year-old — related to the attacks, totaling about $4,000. The Red Cross’s response? It wrote her a check for $6,500.
The article also quotes a Tribeca filmmaker who passes along the information that people are "struggling deeply" with the question of whether the income lost because of volunteering qualifies as a hardship that can be reimbursed by The Red Cross. This all strikes me as very wrong. I gave money to the fund, and though at the time it was certainly given to help the specific September 11 victims and relief efforts, I know I would much rather my money be given to somebody who was truly in need, for any reason, rather than some guy who may have missed a few days of work. I obviously can't blame The Red Cross, though, as they've been backed into a corner.

February 06, 2002

Iranian Feedback. While reading a few English-language Iranian news sites to get some local reaction to Bush’s "Axis of Evil" declaration (sample headlines: "President Bush appeases Zionists with anti-Iran rhetoric" and "Axis Of Evil Meaningless; Bush Policy Naive"), I came across this quite excellent feedback page for the TehranTimes.com site.
Thank you for visiting the TehranTimes Web Site.
[Users can check one or more of the following comments for submission.]
  • I find that your site is a useful source of information.
  • I like the design and organization of your site.
  • I think the archives part of the site is very useful.
  • I find that the search of the site is very helpful.
  • I'm sending you my comments in a separate e-mail message.
"Hey, boss, I just got the feedback comments, and what did I tell you? Our readers just love us! Except for a few dissidents, but fortunately we have their e-mail addresses."
An Illuminated Donkey Exclusive Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: Second in a Series! My younger sister Nancy remains in Salt Lake City, but has informed me that she might not have anything too fascinating to report until the games begin. She did give me a little insight regarding the hordes of crazed pin collectors roaming the streets, accosting innocents like Nancy and demanding to know if they want to trade. I've had some experience as a sports card and comic book collector, and am mailing her some mace for any such future occasions.

On a more interesting note, Justin Slotman over at Blogistan (dammit, Justin, stay away from my sister!) leads me to an Ananova report of thousands of empty motel rooms and unsold event tickets for the upcoming games, with the assumption being that people don’t feel like dealing with the security hassles and the freezing temperatures to watch some guys go sledding down a hill or whatever it is people do in the Winter Olympics.

The best part of the story is the ways in which some European delegations are getting around the extremely prohibitive Utah alcohol regulations (and after the recent spate of Euro-bashing in blogland, it’s great to be able to offer some praise for our friends across the Atlantic):
Strict drinking rules in Utah may also be contributing to the games' failure to be a sell-out. Residents of the state are overwhelmingly Mormon and drink an average of just eight pints of beer a year. Bars are banned from selling anything but watered-down beer which has a maximum of 3.2% alcohol, and drinkers wanting anything stronger have to join "private clubs" at a cost of five dollars (£3.50).

Restaurants serve drink, but only to people buying food - and until last year, could not even put alcoholic drinks on the menu, meaning wine lists were banned. And people are not allowed to bring alcohol across Utah's state borders, as its sale is controlled and taxed at 78.1%. […]

To get around the restrictions, diplomats from Germany, Italy, Austria, Slovakia and Switzerland have set up temporary consulates which can sell alcohol tax-free.
Way to go, Europe! This has been An Illuminated Donkey (Not-So-Exclusive-As-It-Turns-Out) Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: Second in a Series!
Play Ball! Go Mariners! Ah, yes, spring is most definitely on its way. Pitchers and catchers report in about a week, Steven Den Beste spotted a college baseball game on a local cable channel, and WFAN Sports Radio callers have stopped bitching about the Jets and are starting to bitch about the Mets. Baseball’s my favorite sport, and I’m sure the same is true for a lot of bloggers out there. Heck, back in December Matt Welch even raised the idea of a spiritual connection between blogging and baseball guru Bill James.

Therefore, in the spirit of the season and competition, I am proposing the idea of an official Bloggers Baseball Fantasy League: 12 or so feisty know-it-alls battling it out for blogger bragging rights. I personally enjoy a nice AL-only head-to-head league, and I’ve had good experiences with CBS Sportsline’s leagues, but those are all details to be worked out later.

So if anybody out there’s interested in starting a BBFL, write to me at kengoldstein@hotmail.com, and we’ll get the ball rolling.

February 04, 2002

The Jersey Journal Survives!
After perusing the Independent UK site, including the latest, truly vile, Robert Fisk article ("Osama bin Laden has many great admirers in Karachi – indeed, he once spent half an hour telling me with pride of his support in the Pakistani city – and his word, however it was transmitted, would count if Daniel's kidnappers are people who believe in the Koran.") and the Independent Argument Forum (Sample topics: The greed of the American People; Turn your back on America; US is No 1 in Murder, Rape, Robbery), I have to admit that their current "Flights to America: Win tickets to New York for just £10 each" promotion scares the crap out of me.
I stopped reading the Indymedia sites a while ago but fortunately Damian Penny hasn’t, or else I would have missed out on their expert Super Bowl coverage. After quoting some accusations of an Amerikkkan-rigged game in favor of the Patriots, Damian singles out one post as the "big winner":

it's true, it's true
the super bowl ended prematurely.
with 7 seconds left to play in the game the New England patriots kicked a field goal.
the ball sailed through the uprights with 3 seconds to go, landing with maybe at least two seconds to go.
according to the rules the clock should then stop.
an ensuing kick-off with at least two seconds should have taken place but the clock continued to tick and time expired.
they showed the replay and it was the same times on the clocks.
Okay, it's hard to read and he then goes on to rant about the World Economic Forum, but the thing is this guy is absolutely right! There was clearly time remaining on the clock after the winning field goal, and I was deprived of one of my favorite things in all of sports: the desperation play. There’s almost nothing in sports I like better than the Hail Mary at the end of a football or basketball half or, in this case, the insane Cal-Stanford-style kickoff return after all hope is seemingly lost. Dammit, get the teams back down to New Orleans, there’s still plenty of time on the clock!

Ken Goldstein: the Reader Magazines Can’t Afford to Lose! Back in December I wrote a sort of farewell to Harper’s, bemoaning the fact that they are filling their pages with predictable screeds and running fewer interesting, unusual articles, specifically mentioning James McManus’ "Fortune’s Smile: Betting Big at the World Series of Poker" as an example of the type of article I missed. After I wrote that post I traded subscriptions with my friend Mike, with him getting my Harper’s and me getting his to The Atlantic. Recently, in what must have been seen by the magazine publishing community as a veiled threat, I mentioned that over the past few months I had let a number of my subscriptions lapse. So what happens today? My friend Christine sends me a link to an article from The Atlantic, "Tells: the Fine Art of Losing at Poker," by World Series of Poker competitor Andy Bellin. It’s refreshing to finally see a company with the business savvy to understand what they need to do to keep those Ken Goldstein checks pouring in!
An Illuminated Donkey Exclusive Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: First in a Series! As I’ve mentioned, my younger sister Nancy is in Salt Lake City, where she is currently training to do production work for NBC during the Olympics. As the official Illuminated Donkey media representative in Salt Lake City, Nancy will be offering her unique perspective from behind the scenes, giving my readers the dirt they can’t get anywhere else.

In her first dispatch, Nancy talks about the McDonald’s in the Main Media Center at Salt Palace. It turns out that while McDonald’s may have flown in a "World Champion Crew" of 400 to work the Olympics restaurants (including including Shabid Memood and Saqib Zahoor of Pakistan and Svetlana Ilyina of Russia), they didn’t bother to fly in any Chicken McNuggets or her "favorite little hamburger value meal." Worst of all, they only offer one size order of french fries — large at $1.75 — which annoys my rather small sister. If these are, in fact, the best employees McDonald’s has to offer, they should be able to handle a full menu, or even special Olympics-only items (perhaps some sort of Gold Medla Mac with five interlocking meat patties?), as opposed to this abbreviated selection. Nancy describes the makeshift McDonald’s as "bootleg," a rather harsh review coming from her.

This has been An Illuminated Donkey Exclusive Special Insider Dispatch from Salt Lake City©: First in a Series!

February 03, 2002

I'm posting from a mall cybercafe near St. Mark's Place in NYC, as I haven't set up my computer in my new Jersey City apartment yet. It's a beautiful thing to be able to walk from my apartment to a PATH train into New York City, and I'm feeling pretty darn good right now (of course, the fact that I didn't, like several people I know, take the Rams and the over also helps). Well, I'm off to find me a beer and a big damn telly-vision!

February 01, 2002

Why the Jersey Journal’s Hurting. An excerpt from a letter from music critic Jim DeRogatis (author of the excellent Let It Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs) about the decline of local, mid-sized newspapers and my new home city (from Jim Romanesko’s Media News).
The Journal's troubles stem from the fact that tens of thousands of new, younger residents [of Jersey City] — whatever language they speak — do not realize the importance of following the news in their own backyards. They read The New York Times or The Daily News, or they watch the New York television stations or Spanish broadcasts on WNJU, and they ignore events that happen on their own front stoops. This chronic disconnectedness from the immediate community is what's hurting the Journal, just as it's hurting countless other mid-sized papers across the country, to say nothing of the hundreds that have already folded. It is in fact the overwhelming problem in journalism today, where we have come to care more about the doings of Madonna and O.J. than the vital issues that affect our schools, our taxes, our everyday safety, and the quality of life on our streets. There is one more lesson for Generations X and Y to learn from The Jersey Journal, if it isn't already too late.

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