March 31, 2002

From The New York Observer: Honoring a Picket Line At the Jewish Museum by Ron Rosenbaum, about the author's experience with the much-maligned Mirroring Evil exhibit at New York's Jewish Museum, as well as some interesting observations about the duty of art in the face of evil.
Federal Investigators, Meanwhile, Accused of Enjoying Work a Little Too Much
Washington, D.C. ( — In a troubling sign that investigators may be getting bored with their success smuggling guns and knives onto airplanes, the U.S. Department of Transportation today disclosed that its agents have recently cleared airport security checkpoints with an M1 tank, a beluga whale, and a fully active South American volcano.

An undercover DOT investigator attempts to sneak a beluga whale past security at Kennedy Airport. DOT investigators also boasted that they have repeatedly slipped past screeners with a six-burner Viking stove, the Field Museum of Natural History, and actor Sidney Poitier, whom they had gagged and, for some reason, painted bright blue.

Not much posting over this past weekend due some freelance work and my much-anticipated fantasy baseball draft. Due to some computer difficulties the damn thing took longer than the Oscars and was just about as successful for me. I won't bore everybody with the details (I'll post my team as a comment if anybody cares), but I essentially mistimed every player I really wanted. Ah well, it's gonna be a long season.

March 28, 2002

The Myth of "The Myth of Racial Profiling" or Counting the Skins on the New Jersey Turnpike.

While Heather Mac Donald might claim that a recent study of Turnpike speeders proves her case, a closer look at the study still leaves the same questions.

Heather Mac Donald is very, very happy. In her Spring 2001 City Journal article, The Myth of Racial Profiling, Mac Donald put forth the proposition that there was no such thing as “racial profiling” per se, since the key issue wasn’t the arrests/stops of any particular racial group in relation to their presence in society, but whether they accurately reflected their criminal presence. With the recent release of a study regarding New Jersey Turnpike drivers Mac Donald seemingly has her smoking gun, and in her latest piece on the subject she couldn't be more thrilled.
The anti–racial profiling juggernaut has finally met its nemesis: the truth. According to a new study, black drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike are twice as likely to speed as white drivers, and are even more dominant among drivers breaking 90 miles per hour. This finding demolishes the myth of racial profiling. Precisely for that reason, the Bush Justice Department tried to bury the report so the profiling juggernaut could continue its destructive campaign against law enforcement. […] The new turnpike study, commissioned by the New Jersey attorney general, solves one of the most vexing problems in racial profiling analysis: establishing a violator benchmark.
Most of the news reports I've read cautiously agree with the idea that the question of the "violator benchmark" has been solved, though usually with a comment that the Department of Justice’s has questioned the report's accuracy. Later in her piece Mac Donald makes light of the DoJ attempts and its methodology concerns (namely, unreliable driver identifications), and since I can’t confirm nor deny those claims I’m going to go along with Mac Donald and stick with the information as it was presented. As I read it, the report is less of a slam dunk than Mac Donald wants us to believe.

Update: My original information below regarding the speed-limit dividing point on the Turnpike appears to be outdated/incorrect, with it being several exits north from where I originally had it. At the moment I'm not sure how much of my original post this may change. Perhaps you should just ignore the whole damn thing for now.

The first important thing to realize is that, for all practical purposes, there are essentially two New Jersey Turnpikes, north and south, divided by Exit 8. When you think of the Turnpike you probably think of the northern section: traffic, oil refineries, awful smells, the opening of The Sopranos. The southern section is a fairly open, more rural road with a 65-mph speed limit as opposed to the north’s 55. The study defined speeding as driving 15 MPH over the limit (which also seems to be the police officers’ definition), and while I agree with Mickey Kaus’ assertions (scroll down to his March 27 Hit Parade) that “everybody speeds on the Turnpike (or else you get a large truck up your ass),” I have to say that in my experience drivers going more than 80 are pretty rare, a feeling borne out by the report. Only 1.7% of drivers in the 65-mph zone were classified as speeding, a small sample, especially considering the study's brief 48-hour length.

A number of the articles I've seen state that black drivers are twice as likely to speed as white drivers, but what is not specified in many of these articles is that this difference is only in the 65-mph areas, while black/white speeding rates in the 55-MPH zone are practically equal. This Newark Star-Ledger article is a notable exception.
In the 55-mph zone, there were virtually no differences between black and white drivers, but at the southern end of the Turnpike, where the speed limit is 65 mph, black drivers were more likely to be found speeding, the report said.

The report said at the extreme high ends of the speed distribution, black drivers are overrepresented in the 65-mph zone. However, while about 13 percent of the drivers in the 55-mph zone were classified as speeding, only 1.7 percent of the vehicles in the 65-mph zone were speeding. Because of the low number, the report says, it does not take much for sharp differences to emerge in the 65-mph zone.
Now, my own experience has been almost exclusively in the northern New Brunswick to Hoboken/Holland Tunnel stretch, and from what I’ve seen an extremely disproportionate number of black motorists get pulled over in this section. My friend Keith and I used to travel on the Turnpike frequently, and this was so noticeable that it actually became a joke between us, to the point where when we would see a car pulled over up ahead we look at each other as if to say “Gee, I wonder what color that driver is.” About three-quarters of the time it did turn out to be a black driver. Though I have seen comments to the effect that profiling complaints are more common in the 65-mph zone, my own "casual empiricism" indicates that there must be a high incidence of suspected profiling in the 55-mph zone as well, an area for which this study reports no speeding differences between the black and white drivers.

While I'm not completely dismissing the report, it seems pretty far from the be-all and end-all that Mac Donald makes it out to be. Even if there are real differences in driving habits at higher speeds (again, not a certainty given the sample size), it doesn't explain what I've witnessed many times in the areas where there are supposedly no differences. I would have liked to have seen some concrete evidence regarding the profiling issue, but despite all the hype this study does not appear to be it.

Update: I imagine that many of you have already seen it, but James Taranto at OpinionJournal's Best of the Web Today also took issue with Mac Donald's sweeping claims.
I just got back from an enjoyable family Seder in Queens to find out some depressing news: Billy Wilder: the greatest director in movie history died last night. I suppose some could argue the point, but when a man directs the greatest comedy of all time and one of the ten greatest dramas, it seems pretty clear in my book.

March 27, 2002

Are you a Bliss Ninny, L'Enfant Provocateur, or a Profundus Maximus? Via my good friend Mike Whybark (Hey, have I mentioned that he has a brand-new, damn-good blog, his own fine self?), the almost frighteningly comprehensive Flame Warriors site, featuring over 80 varities of soldiers from the never-ending flame wars. See how many profiles you can read before you're forced to log off from the shame of self-recognition.
I finally got around to seeing A Beautiful Mind tonight, and I take back whatever I may have said about it during my OscarLog. It's a terrific movie, if a bit anti-climactic, during the last half-hour and definitely deserved the Best Picture award. Russell Crowe was amazing, Jennifer Connelly did a fine job, and Ed Harris did that great Ed Harris thing he does so well. On Sunday I wrote that I couldn't imagine that Ron Howard did a better job than Peter Jackson, and it appears that I was probably wrong. I know I'm probably the last guy in America to see the film, but I still highly recommend it.

Speaking of Harris, possibly my favorite actor, he's definitely now a strong candidate for "Best actor without an Academy Award," though Rachel has issues with his lack of range. Of course, I say who needs range when you were John Freaking Glenn and Jackson Pollock! (And if anybody posts a Milk Money crack I swear I'll delete it!)

Update: Via the always interesting Arts & Letters Daily, a link to Simon Singh's New Statesman article about what they mostly left out of the movie: the influence and importance of John Nash's equilibrium and game theory.

March 26, 2002

Also from, a new (at least to me) political term: slacktivism:
E-petitions are the latest manifestation of slacktivism, the search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society's rescue without having had to actually gets one's hands dirty or open one's wallet. It's slacktivism that prompts us to forward appeals for business cards on behalf of a dying child intent upon having his name recorded in the Guinness World Book of Records or exhortations to others to continue circulating a particular e-mail because some big company has supposedly promised that every forward will generate monies for the care of a particular dying child. Likewise, it's slacktivism that prompts us to want a join a boycott of designated gas companies or eschew buying gasoline on a particular day rather than reduce our personal consumption of fossil fuels by driving less and taking the bus more often. Slacktivism comes in many forms...but its key defining characteristic is its central theme of doing good with little or no effort on the part of person inspired to participate in the forwarding, exhorting, collecting, or e-signing.
It's a great piece, go read it. takes down Michael Moore.
Claim: Two days after September 11 -- while all other planes were grounded -- a secret flight arranged by George W. Bush flew Osama bin Laden's relatives out of the USA.

Status: False.

Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2002] BIN LADEN FAMILY ALLOWED TO FLY DURING GROUND STOPPAGE? Michael Moore was on the Daily Show on Comedy Central and alleged that when all the nation's planes were grounded for 3 days after 9/11, the Bush Administration gave permission for a private Saudi jet to visit 5 cities to pick up around 20 members of the bin Laden family, over the objections of the FBI.

Origins: This just goes to show what a little bit of fact flipped onto its side and then spewed by a public figure can do. Yes, a couple of flights arranged by the Saudi government did collect a number of Osama bin Laden's America-based relatives and whisk them to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but this didn't take place during the FAA-imposed ban on air travel in the US. The two flights in question took wing on September 18 and 19, days after the ban on air travel was lifted.
It's a bit more...personal than most Snopes debunkings; I suppose Moore just brings that out in people.

March 25, 2002

A warehouse fire has halted Holland Tunnel traffic into New York City for five days, and the situation is growing worse as the fire has spread to a neighboring building. While this probably doesn't affect your life (hell, I live about two minutes away from the Tunnel and it hasn't affected mine), I did want to point out this wonderful paragraph in Jennifer Morrill's Jersey Journal story about the fire:
"All the bad things happen in Jersey City," Deputy Fire Director Jose Cruz said as 30-foot flames shot up from Mecca & Sons Trucking Co.
I've waited my whole life to write a sentence like that.
Humor Bombs, Ego Bombs, Money Bombs and Justice Bombs. John Hiler writes about the rapidly growing practice of Google Bombing today in Slate.
Better thank that lawyer twice: Halle Berry's acceptance speech:
"Oh my God. I'm sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women that stand beside me - Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett and it's for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened. Thank you. I'm so honoured. I am so honoured and thank the academy for choosing me to be the vessel from which this blessing might flow. Thank you. I want to thank my manager, Vincent Cirrincione. He's been with me for 12 long years and you've fought every fought [sic] and you've loved me when I've been up. But more importantly you've loved me when I've been down. You have been a manager, a friend and the only father I've ever known and I love you very much. I want to thank my Mom who's given me the strength to fight every single day to be who I want to be and given me the courage to dream that this dream might be happening and possible for me. I love you Mom so much. Thank you my husband who is just the joy of my life. And India - thank you for giving me peace because only with the peace that you've brought me have I been allowed to go to places that I never even knew I can go. Thank you, I love you and India all my heart. I want to thank Lion's Gate. Thank you. Mike Pasternak, Tom Ortenberg for making sure everybody knew about this little tiny movie. Thank you for believing in me. Our director Marc Forster - you're a genius - you're a genius. This movie-making experience was magical for me because of you. You believed in me, you trusted me and you gently guided me to very scary places. Thank you. I want to thank Yvonna Chubick. I could have never figured out who the heck this lady was without you. I love you. Thank you. I want to thank Lee Daniels, our producer. Thank you for giving me this chance - for believing that I could do it and now tonight I have this. Thank you. I want to thank my agents CAA, Josh Lieberman especially. I have to thank my agents, Kevin Huvane - thank you, thank you for never kicking me out and sending me somewhere else - thank you. I - who else - I have so many people that I know I need to thank um... my lawyers Neil Meyer. Thank you - OK wait a minute - I gotta take this - 74 years here - OK I've gotta take this time. I gotta thank my lawyer Neil Myer for making this deal - Doug Stone. I need to thank, lastly but not leastly [sic] I have to thank Spike Lee for putting me in my very first film and believing in me. Oprah Winfrey for being the best role model any girl can have. Jo Silver - thank you and thank you to Warren Beatty. Thank you so much for being my mentors and believing in me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Interject various screams and gasps throughout. And to paraphrase Robin Quivers: congratulations to Halle Berry, but I'm pretty sure that Angela Bassett still wants her very own Oscar.

My good friend Mike Whybark, the noted raconteur and opera composer, has his blog fully up and running, and I am proud to say he cited me as an influence. This is excellent news for the blogging world, and is going to be worth keeping an eye out for. He's already posted some very cool stuff.

March 24, 2002

Yep, A Beautiful Mind. An expected end to an unexciting evening. A decent show, I suppose. Like every other Oscar show it could have been cut by about an hour, but there's no point complaining about it.

You know, when Tom Hanks came out and asked what movies meant to us, it reminded me that that was supposed to be the evening's theme. Frankly, I had forgotten completely about it, but after tonight I would have to say that movies are about feeling really good about myself, for hours at a time. They're about congratualting myself and having others congratulate me, with compliments written by teams of writers. Movies are about warm fuzzies, and montages, plenty of montages.

I think I need to go to sleep now.
Whew. They gave it to Denzel Washington, probably the best actor out there who had never won the Best Actor Oscar, him or Ed Harris. Kind of ironic that after some criticism about his string of "holy" roles, seen by some as Oscar bait, that he would finally win for a role that went against type. Of course, this ensures that the story of the evening will be its "History-Making" Actor/Actress awards.

Best Director: Oh no, now I have to look at Ron Howard's giant melon head. I haven't seen A Beautiful Mind yet, but I can't imagine that Howard's directing job was better than Peter Jackson's. Oh well, I suppose this means that ABM will win Best Picture, which they need to present right now, before I pass out.
If Sean Penn wins I will not only never watch another Oscar telecast, but may, in fact, never see another movie again.
Wow. Nobody has ever been as happy as Halle Berry is right now, and good for her. It's just a damn shame that the award will inevitably be somewhat tied up with the question of how much of the win was race-related. The positive thing is that the next few African-American actresses nominated will have to deal with the issue far less. As for Berry, she won the award, looks amazing, and is obviously the breakout star of the night.
You'll have to excuse me for a few minutes. Barbra Streisand is on TV talking about Robert Redford, and I need to call my parents to make sure that my mom hasn't passed out from the sheer excitement of it all. As for me, I need to poke a whole in a piece of cardboard so I don't have to look directly at her.

John Cole over at Balloon Juice adds the following comments to my little running commentary: "I might add to his remarks that Halle Berry and Helen Hunt made me sweat." I wholeheartedly concur with the Berry opinion, but have to admit that my little thing for Helen Hunt has kind of run its course. As long as the horrible Streisand is on my television, driving me from the room, I guess I can say that I was a bit disappointed by the lovely Jennifer Connelly and Cameron Diaz, not to mention Jennifer Lopez. Other than the aforementioned Halle, and perhaps Reese Witherspoon and Sharon Stone, I haven't been too knocked out by anybody tonight.

Goddammit, I'm sounding like Joan Freaking Rivers.
Hmm...I just missed a huge swatch of the show, including the Sidney Poitier honorary award and the musical stuff. Rachel informs me that Randy Newman had been nominated 14 times before winning this year for his Monster's Inc. song. That's all very exciting and all, but dear Lord, what the hell is Gwyneth Paltrow wearing?! Yipes! It looks like one of those county fair t-shirts with a bikini-clad torso printed on it, except that instead of a hot babe it's a saggy, old dame. Very odd.

Some very boring choices in the screenplay categories, as I was hoping that Memento or The Royal Tenenbaums might win. I suppose if the overpraised Gosford Park has to win anything, though, it might as well be the Original Screenplay one. Very cool to hear Daniel Clowes' name announced on the Oscars; maybe in a few years I'll get to hear Peter Bagge's.

As for the tribute portion of the evening, don't they normally close with the biggest star who passed away during the past year, rather than lead with him as they did with Jack Lemmon this year. I can't remember.
I've just been informed by Rachel that the Cirque du Soleil actually originated in Montreal. I guess I take back whatever I said back there.
Oscar fatigue definitely settling in now...blah, blah, blah...Shrek for Animated Film...blah, blah, blah....sound awards...finally, another big award: Supporting Actor...Jim Broadbent in a film I should probably see at some point. Rachel was shocked. Good for him; he was great in Topsy Turvy, I film I greatly enjoyed. I'm going to watch Home Movies for a bit.

Oh God, it really is Cirque du Soleil! Let me repeat my advice to France: more brave, strong documentary filmmakers; fewer strangely dressed folk swinging around on ropes. This is gold I'm giving you here.
Okay, either they're really frontloading the montages or there's going to be way, way too many of them.

After watching 9/11 and listening to Murder on a Sunday Morning's Denis Ponchet and Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, my suggestion to the French government would be to ensure that Americans see more interviews with their documentary filmmakers, as they seem to be terrific, admirable guys.

Okay, every time they show Glenn Close and Donald Sutherland behind that desk with the racks of Oscars behind them I keep wondering if they're running the backstage coat/award-check booth.
There should really be some kind of law that Ben Stiller be given at least five minutes of film time during every award show. The Grammys, Tonys, Lifetime Network, everything. Always great. Unfortunately, the Moulin Rouge win triggered something in my head and made me rush to my computer to make sure that Lady Marmalade wasn't nominated and that Christina Aguilera et al wouldn't be packed into those damn whore outfits again in front of an even bigger audience. Whew.

I had to rush back to the TV, though, when I heard Wood Allen being announced. Woody Allen! It was like Yogi Berra finally forgiving Steinbrenner and returning to Yankee Stadium after years away. Woody regaled the crowd with a near-copy of his classic Moose Bit, or maybe the Vodka Ad bit. Anyway, it was pretty damn funny (you should really buy his Standup Comic 1964-1968, one of the funniest albums ever), and then they showed the same New York film montage I've seen about 10,000 times before.

And then they gave Lord of the Rings another well-deserved technical award. Hmm...everything seems to be going well so far.
Boy, that sure was uncomfortable. Odds that Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe are right now screaming at each other backstage: 5/2.
And we're off... Jennifer Connelly! Yes! Have I mentioned I've loved Miss Connelly since Once Upon a Time in America almost 20 years ago? And have continued that love even through films like Career Opportunities? Sigh.

Notes so far: Boy, that sure was a deep, soul-searching reflection by Tom Cruise regarding whether films are relevant in the post-9/11 days: "Um...yes! Now bring on the coke and the whores!" The Whoopi opening was decnt and short, though between her outfit and the Cruise opening I couldn't help wonder if the producer has some deep desire to torture Nicole Kidman. Oh, and the Glenn Close / Donald Sutherland backstage thing seems like an awful idea, especially if they're going to assault the winners with weird Cirque Du Soleil performers. Wait, some suit's on the TV: Back to the show!
I hope that E! remembers to begin defrosting Joan Rivers at least six hours before Oscar time, or else there could be some trouble.

March 22, 2002

Swingin' on the flippity-flop with lamestains. I've been seeing a lot of press and posts regarding the supposed addition of 9/11-related terminology to teen slang, and while it may be true that kids (jeez, listen to me now: kids) are calling their messy rooms "Ground Zero" or mean teachers "terrorists," it all reminds me a little too much of the "Lexicon of Grunge" hoax back in 1992.

Back during the salad days of grunge, reporters from across the country were trekking to Seattle looking for tidbits about this hot new scene. When the New York Times printed their story, it included a sidebar featuring grunge slang terms "coming soon to a high school or mall near you." The list included terms like "harshrealm" for bummer, "tom-tom club" for uncool outsiders, and "wack slacks" for old ripped jeans. The terms were provided by a record company worker named Megan Jasper, who apparently made up a list of terms on the spot, which the reporter wrote down and printed them verbatim, Roland Burton Hedley-style. Much hilarity ensued.

I guess I'm just saying that I'm going to wait until I actually overhear these terms being used in a mall or subway car before I spend a lot of time worrying about what it all means.
Susanna Cornett has a new, excellent blog called Cut on the Bias, devoted to "keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life." She posts like a demon, writes interesting, detailed posts, and works in my home, Jersey City. Go check her out.
If it was a fight, they would have called it. As I predicted just a few hours ago, the Nets thoroughly dismantled the seemingly disinterested Milwaukee Bucks 108-84 at the Brendan Byr— oops, I mean the Continental Arena. The only real action took place in the middle of the game, when the Nets went on an unbelievable run, hitting practically every shot they took and making the Bucks like the last guys chosen at the playground. From the midway point of the second quarter until the end of the third, the Nets outscored the Bucks 61-24, followed by 12 minutes of CBA action.

I attended the game with Justin of Blogistan, who is far more of a basketball fan and far less of a baseball fan than me. He seemed to enjoy the blowout somewhat less than I did, but the fact that he had to travel something like an hour-and-a-half more than I did to attend the game might have had something to do with it (perhaps the Nets will play the Sixers in the first round of the playoffs, and I can return the favor by heading south to Philly for the game). The evening's talk was about my strange job, BloggerBashes and favorite sites, cool cities, but kept coming back to sports, sports, and sports: three of my favorite subjects. A fine evening, to be sure.
Sorry for the lack of real posting lately. I've been too busy at work to write, and my life has been one big social whirlwind lately. In fact, after I finish this pathetic little apology, I'll be heading west to the Meadowlands to see my New Jersey Nets thrash the Bucks. Whoo!

March 21, 2002

My beloved sweetie Rachel is back from Pittsburgh, which is quite the good news. Yay.
Hmmm...nobody seems to have entered the special and free New Jersey Nets Sweepstakes I announced in the below "Can't Sleep" post. Frankly, this seems like a huge, huge error. But that's just my opinion.
Fantasy League Openings. In case anybody's interested, we have one or two openings in our CBS Sportsline league. It's AL-only, head-to-head scoring (scroll down to Weekly Head-to-Head Scoring Systems), and there's a nominal league fee. It's a very fun and competitve league. Contact me for more details.
I can't sleep, and why? Because "I'm From New Jersey," Red Mascara's wanna-be official state song, keeps running through my head, in each of its dozens of permutations. Damn you, catchy anthem, damn you to hell!
I'm From New Jersey,Written & Music by Red Mascara

I know of a state that's a perfect playland with white sandy beaches by the sea;
With fun-filled mountains, lakes and parks, and folks with hospitality;
With historic towns where battles were fought, and presidents have made their home;
It's called New Jersey, and I toast and tout it wherever I may roam. 'Cause . . .

First Chorus
I'M FROM NEW JERSEY and I'm proud about it, I love the Garden State.
I'M FROM NEW JERSEY and I want to shout it, I think it's simply great.
All of the other states throughout the nation may mean a lot to some;
But I wouldn't want another, Jersey is like no other, I'm glad that's where I'm from.

Second Chorus
If you want glamour, try Atlantic City or Wildwood by the sea;
Then there is Trenton, Princeton, and Fort Monmouth, they all made history.
Each little town has got that certain something, from High Point to Cape May;
And some place like Mantoloking, Phillipsburg, or Hoboken will steal your heart away.
Damn right, Red! Speaking of New Jersey, Justin Slotman of The Insolvent Republic of Blogistan and I will be having a mini-BloggerBash this Friday at the sure-to-be-exciting Nets-Bucks matchup at the Meadowlands. In honor of this momentus occasion, I am offering a Jersey-related prize with a value of at least $10 American dollars to whoever comes closest to guessing the number of points the Nets will score Friday. The tiebreaker will be whoever comes closest to guessing the number of point Jason Kidd will score. To enter, post both guesses in the comments box below; the winner will be notified on Saturday. Go Nets!

March 19, 2002

Bernard Goldberg, author of Bias, pulls no punches in this week's New York Press:
Celia Farber: Don Imus attacked you as well?

Bernard Goldberg: Oh yeah. I’ve done 400 radio programs and he was by far the worst. By far. And yet he told me on the air that he agrees with my premise.

CF: Why the animosity then?

BG: Because he’s friends with Dan Rather and he’s friends with Bob Schiefer and he has these other people on. You see, Don Imus is really the anti-Imus. Don Imus presents himself as the tough guy who takes no prisoners. But he’s a pansy. He’s a semi-senile pansy. And what I mean by pansy is…because he’s got these friends who come on, almost every one of them who kisses ass shamelessly on the air, he’s going to take off after me to show them what a good guy he is.

CF: What was your gut reaction to the Koppel-Letterman shakeup?

BG: Do you have the Barbara Walters quote? She said that journalists deserve more respect. Is that something like what she said?

CF: Yeah.

BG: She ought to think about that the next time she decides to interview Anne Heche and ask her whether she’s crazy, and about her sex life with Ellen DeGeneres. Part of the reason journalists don’t have respect is because of what Barbara Walters does for a living.

A small good thing. I know that after everything that's happened this will seem kind of silly, but for me and many like me who rarely went below Canal Street, the Twin Towers' main function was as a kind of compass point, a way of instantly orienting yourself upon leaving subway tunnels and the like. They were usually the first thing I looked for at these times, and there have been quite a few times over the past six months when I've ended up heading the wrong way, largely because I no longer have the Towers to guide me.

Well, I went into the city tonight, and when I walked out of the PATH station I set off in the right direction, using the "Tribute in Light" Memorial to guide me. It was a reflex reaction, and it took me a few moments to realize what had happened.

March 18, 2002

Courtesy of Charles at Off the Kuff: a link to the most frightening website I have ever seen! [Note: by clicking on the preceding link you hereby absolve The Illuminated Donkey and its parent company, Happy Boy Publishing, of any and all mental damages you may incur.]

Update from bamboozled reader Mary Lacroix:errr ... Ken, did you know that this site sneakily downloads and installs that abomination known as Comet Cursor? (Well, it does if you have left IE or a similar browser's settings at default: I just set mine to prompt me before downloading *any* active X control, even if it's signed). It's not a virus, it's not spyware, but it is a program I never wanted installed. Guess I just got a lesson in checking my browser settings. Those of you with Windows machines may want to go to Add/Remove Programs to dump the little bastard.
Wow, not only did I get people to go to a horrible Carrot Top tribute page, I got them to visit a horrible Carrot Top tribute page with nefarious downloads! I am bad. My apologies.
Can it be that it was all so simple then? Via Metafilter: Business 2.0 Magazine's "Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History." I lived in Seattle from 1996-2000, so I had a front-row (well, of the mezzanine) seat for a lot of the craziness, which this list sums up quite nicely.

Though I worked for a software company for three years without coming within sniffing distance of a big score, my company did share an office with an online ad firm (which went public, big, on one of the more depressing days of my life) and was on the periphery of a drawn-out deal of a division to a different online ad firm. Of course, as you may have guessed, both firms' stock prices have collapsed, leaving the majority of participants with little more than their dreams. Ah, the memories.

March 17, 2002

While I was disappointed to have to miss the Mid-Atlantic Blogfest due to personal obligations, I was doubly disappointed after reading Jim Henley's just-like-being-there recap and finding out that the debauchery finished up in, of all places, The Tastee Diner in Silver Springs. I've been to the Tastee Diner in Laurel, and would have loved another opportunity to order a heaping bowl of grits and sample the Tastee's classic Mid-Atlantic hospitality. Granted, it's no Blue Benn DIner, but I would have loved to have gone. Anyway, it sounds like a fine time was had by all, with fortunately far fewer bloody shovel fights than at the NYC BloggerBash.

Help run The Illuminated Donkeys! The fantasy baseball team, that is. There seems to be quite a few baseball fans who stop by The Donk now and again (and for the rest of you, I'll try not to bore you too much), so I'll periodically be asking roster/trade questions about my team (whose name predates the blog by several years). I guess it's just the Bill Veeck in me coming through.

I'm in a continuing AL-only, head-to-head league with 12 owners. We're allowed to keep four players from last season for our 2002 lineup (I would like more, but them's the breaks). Below is a list of promising candidates from my 2001 team. Please let me know which four you would keep. (For your reference, the head-to-head scoring system takes most stats into account, and does not overvalue steals like in roto).
  • Mike Cameron
  • Johnny Damon
  • Ray Durham
  • Paul Konerko
  • Eric Milton
  • Mike Mussina
  • Kaz Sasaki
  • Frank Thomas
Please post your suggestions in this post's comments board. After missing the playoffs last year (damn you, Tim Salmon!) I need all the help I can get.

Ken Layne is now the biggest Ken in the world, at least according to Google. I, of course, checked to see where I ranked, but stopped somewhere after #100. I wasn't too surprised, considering that I don't even rank as the most notable Ken Goldstein in the Googlesphere. a real-world ranking, who would be the most-notable Ken. Ken Griffey Jr., probably. Ken Howard? Kenneth Lay? Ken Kesey? Ken Burns? For a fairly common name, there is certainly a dearth of A-List Kens.

March 16, 2002

Saw Sweet Smell of Success on Broadway last night, and I'm afraid I pretty much have to concur with the generally negative reviews. It's one of my favorite movies, an incredibly funny, dark and cynical look at a press agent and his toadie that I correctly imagined would be difficult to bring to the stage. The lead performances were decent but nothing special, the supporting cast was pretty average, and the songs were forgettable. It's a story with a huge amount of attitude and crackle, but unfortunately, last night's biggest moment of danger and excitement was when a cop came in to drag out some drunk before the opening curtain. The egg creams Rachel and I had afterwards at the Howard Johnson's were mighty tasty, though.

March 15, 2002

To: Lee Salem: Editorial Director, Universal Press Syndicate
From: Ted Rall
Date: March 15, 2002
Subject: Upcoming Strip Topics

Lee, as you requested, here are some rough outlines of my next few strips. I imagine you want these in order to get some advance buzz going, continuing the great run we've had recently.

As you know, I am shocked and disgusted to see that there have been groups who have received more sympathy and respect over the past six months from the brain-dead American public than the one group of people that truly deserves it: cartoonist/journalists. Now that I have successfully taken down the fat-cat firemen and the so-called "terror widows," I'm ready to continue knocking down these easy September 11 targets.
1) Orphans: I was watching the CBS 9/11 special looking for material when I saw that yet another scholarship fund has been set up for those who lost parents in the attack. Hell, my daddy left me — twice! — and nobody set up any kind of scholarship fund for me! These kids only had to deal with their parents leaving them once and they're set for life! I'm thinking of something similar to the firemen strip, maybe Little Lord Fauntleroy types playing their new XBoxes and trying to remember their parents' names.

2) Dogs: Yeah, they're cute and all, but I'm sick of seeing ads and magazine sections honoring the search-and-rescue dogs, not to mention calls for donations to "help" pets left homeless. Is there any accountability for this? I bet they're just wandering around the streets handing big bags of cash to any dog who looks sad! This strip might be delayed as I'm having difficulty learning how to draw dogs.

3) The Dead Yeah, they died horrible deaths, but isn't enough enough already? I mean, can't we just let it go? I'm still working on the concept here, but I'm thinking of some sort of VIP area of heaven, with the dead people of color getting them drinks.
Well, these are just a few of the ideas of been working on, so let me know what you think, especially if you think I'm being too easy on these folks. With your help we can finally take these bastards down for good!


March 14, 2002

B.B. (Before Blogs) One oft-heard complaint about bloggers in the post-9/11 growth period is the lack of any sense of history, the belief that the world began they day they first found Instapundit, Kausfiles or Andrew Sullivan, and only really became mature the day they signed up for Blogspot. I’m as guilty of it as anybody, having been made aware recently that several styles and formats I thought were unique to the current spate, such as the practice of breaking down an article into bite-size chunks in order to destroy it, in fact have a long and successful history on Usenet and beyond. This complaint, of course, isn’t unique to blogs, as anybody who has ever been a part of something that suddenly boomed can attest to.

In my case, one of the steps that led me to blogging wasn’t Usenet, message boards or anything else online, but rather zines, a precursor that I have yet to see anybody discuss. During its height (which, much like most people’s view of music, I consider to have taken place during my 18-25 years), the appeal of the self-published magazine was extremely similar to today’s blogs: the sheer joy in being able to make yourself and your opinions heard without the obstacles of editors or corporate media. Angry that a band, TV show or political issue wasn’t getting the attention it deserves? Just grab a typewriter or computer and find an unguarded copy machine and the situation is rectified.

In the case of my group of friends, we simply wanted to put out our own humor zine. There was, and still is, a dearth of quality humor magazines, and we wanted to rectify that fact. We all loved writing, considered ourselves pretty darn funny, and thought we could create the zine that we all wanted to read.

Unfortunately, despite our lofty plans and the decent quality of the zines, we only put out two issues. The writing, as predicted, was a lot of fun and went well, but the sheer effort and time involved in the layout, printing and distribution phases drained us a bit. I remember when the first issue finally arrived from the printer we had spent so much time on each page and article that nothing seemed funny anymore, and my first feeling was that we had done nothing but waste an enormous amount of time and a somewhat less enormous amount of money. To put it in perspective, using the time frame we were dealing with back then, the first Donk posts I wrote back in October would just now be reaching people, one reason why the idea of a "news zine" was somewhat unimaginable back then.

[On at least one level there was a similarity between our zine experience and some later online ventures: payment structure. There were two issues of our zine. We had the first issue professionally printed, at great cost and hassle, and set a $2 price. When this turned out to be a failure on pretty much all levels, not to mention the fact that it put us in the uncomfortable position of charging our friends and family, we ended up running off copies of the second issue at work then handing them out for free. We never got to the point of pretending that we could charge for advertising.]

Looking back, it’s clear that what stopped us wasn’t the writing, but rather the huge process of taking that writing and turning it into a format and medium that others could read. Obviously, there have been millions of sites created by people with the same desires that we had back then, but to me Blogspot is the next evolution of the zine ideal, of being able to write something and have it almost instantly available to everybody, with a minimum of hassle or technical skill. I'm curious to know if other bloggers share my zine background, and if they also see any connection.

Update: Gary Farber writes to inform me that he has discussed the zine/blog connection no less than a dozen times on Amygdala, including a link to this collection of zine history articles.
Here's an interesting fact that you may not have realized: today was the longest, dullest day in the history of mankind. Early reports have today's 8:30-5:00 time period lasting no fewer than 34.5 hours, breaking the previous record of 33.7 set sometime during my junior high school years.

During the day not a single interesting thing was heard, seen, or done, and it is believed that for a brief period all color was drained from the Earth, replaced by varying shades of gray. Also a first: at around 3:30, during a brief conversation about international shipping requirements and case quantities, time actually stopped and then went backwards, a process only halted when I started slapping myself in the face. I now need many, many drinks.

March 13, 2002

Speaking of baseball, Baseball Library is a terrific, engrossing site with a seemingly endless amount of information about the game. Within 30 seconds I found a biographic entry about one of my favorite players, Kent Tekulve, as well as finding out that the Yankees got destroyed by the Red Sox, 9-3, on the day I was born. Very, very cool.
2002 Baseball Milestone Watch: It's not like last year when I got to watch the amazing Rickey Henderson break the all-time walks and runs records while also sneaking in his 3000th hit, but there's a couple of big numbers on the horizon this season.

Barry Bonds needs a mere 33 home runs to become the fourth player to reach 600 (not to mention 16 stolen bases for 500 of those), while Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa need 40 and 50 respectively to reach 500 (Jose Canseco needs 38, but that's somewhat less likely).

Another 300K strikeout season from Randy Johnson will move into the #4 position on the all-time list, while the 283 K's and 20 wins Roger Clemens needs for 4000/300 will probably have to wait until next season.

From The New Criterion, "The Slyer Virus" by Mark Steyn.
The left were the first to draw the connection between the UN Conference and Ground Zero, even before the dust had settled. What happened, said various professional grievance-mongers, was a reaction to America’s decision to walk out in Durban. It then emerged that the nineteen wealthy Arabs, mostly Saudi, had been planning their attack for years, while living openly in the United States and other Western societies.

But, of course, in broader terms the left is correct: Durban leads inevitably to the rubble of lower Manhattan. If we are as ashamed as we insist we are—of ourselves, our culture and our history—then inevitably we will invite our own destruction. If Western civilization is really something to apologize for, then surely the sooner all our cities are flattened the better it will be for the world. In that sense, aside from anything else, September 11, 2001 was a call to moral seriousness. We know now what is at stake.

March 12, 2002

Via Jeff Jarvis, Six months after Sept. 11, hijackers' visa approval letters received.
MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Six months to the day after Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Immigration and Naturalization Service notified a Venice, Florida, flight school that the two men had been approved for student visas.
I need to go to sleep now, so I'm going to try and convince myself that this is all a giant hoax.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot to say that last night's premiere of The American Embassy was the most hideously awful and disgusting thing I've seen in years. My understanding is that most of the Ally McBassador in the West Wing of The City show was filmed prior to September 11, during those simpler times when, yes, embassies were bombed but usually in very far-away countries during non-sweeps periods. Anyway, rather than stop for a moment and think that, hey, maybe a light and frothy braindead romp in and around a foreign embassy might not play in these new times, they apparently simply decided to take the premiere as shot and thoughtlessly tack on a car-bombing that blows up half the embassy, killing guards and citizens, while our heroine serenely walks through the wreckage in a flashback to some stupid dream she had earlier in the show. And this horrendous, deadly bombing is meant to only serve as some sort of wallpaper or "defining moment" or something, to help her decide that "this is really where I want to be" or some crap like that. And yes, they showed this on the six-month remembrance of 9/11, with "In Memory Ofs" afterwards. Unbelievable.
Jersey City History Alert, featuring Swindlers and Bookies!
The "Five-Finger Discount Walking Tour," conceived and sponsored by the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy, in collaboration with the author, Helene Stapinski, will occur on Saturday, March 16th, 2002, at 1:00pm, in celebration of the March 12th release of the paperback edition. $5 suggested donation to the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy. Please e-mail to register and for meeting details.

A funny, tough-minded memoir, Five-Finger Discount was nominated as one of's "Best of 2001." With deadpan humor and obvious affection, Stapinski weaves the story of her unforgettable New Jersey family of swindlers, bookies, embezzlers, and mobster-wannabes with the checkered history of her hometown of Jersey City, a place now undergoing a remarkable renaissance.

The tour will feature Stapinski reading passages from the book and will include such Jersey City landmarks as City Hall, Journal Square, and the Loew's Jersey Theatre. At the end of the tour, participants are invited to have their book signed by the author, then join the JCLC for a drink at the Canton Tea Garden.
It doesn't specify, but I think the tour leaves from the Journal Square Loew's Theatre. Here's a link to an excerpt from Five-Finger Discount, which begins "The night my grandfather tried to kill us, I was five years old, the age I stopped believing in Santa Claus, started kindergarten, and made real rather than imaginary friends." How can you not read more after that?

Date & Time: Saturday, March 16, 2002, 1pm.
Meeting location: In front of statue at City Hall, 280 Grove Street (between Mercer and Montgomery).
Public transportation: City Hall is three blocks south of the Grove Street PATH station.
Price: $5 suggested donation to the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy.

Not to continue whining, but on top of the various other professional and personal difficulties that are smacking me around this week, I've developed some sort of eye problem (Scratch? Sty?), and my right eye is slowly and painfully swelling up. So as I sit here dog-tired and squinting through my left eye it hits me: great, I'm Matthew Broderick in Election.
Okay, things aren't going that well for me this week. In fact, things suck for me right now. But no matter what happens to me at least I have the comfort in knowing that I didn't do something incredibly stupid, like...I don't know...blowing $800,000 and perhaps any chance of future big-bucks baseball earnings by stealing my teammates' equipment and selling it for a couple grand. That would really be stupid.
On a lighter note (and my life can sure use a lighter note right about now), the remarkably talented and somewhat hirsute Mike Whybark has purchased the rights to the timeless and wonderful "Red-Eared Slider Turtle" saga, and has written the outline for a soon-to-be-blockbuster flash-based, online, multimedia opera, which I have added to the original story below. It makes me feel all...shiny.

March 11, 2002

Six months ago today, right about now. I had left my office head down, not a word to anybody, unable to listen to the dozen voices around me who knew just as little about what was happening as I did. My sister, girlfriend, and just about everybody I knew were up in midtown and accounted for, thank God, but a friend of mine worked in the Towers, and all communication to the area was down. I was getting calls and e-mails from a lot of friends asking questions I couldn’t answer.

I drove south down Route 1/9, pulled over on a bridge that offered a clear view of the city. I had always liked those moments on my commute heading north, seeing the beautiful skyline off in the distance like Oz, and now I could only stand a few seconds of watching the smoke rise before I needed to get back into my car and keep moving. I turned off the news and kept my eyes away from the rearview mirror, rolled down the windows in case the bridges I was driving exploded and my car plummeted into the water. It seemed like the normal thing to do at that moment, like turning on the headlights when it starts getting dark.

I made it home, turned on the computer and the news, tried to find out anything at all. Much time was spent trying to determine what building my friend worked in, on what floor, like some bizarre lottery. My friend turned out to be safe, as did everybody else I knew. Some were inconvenienced, shaken, disturbed, but everybody made it home. I found out days later that a close cousin of mine worked right in the plaza, in one of the buildings that collapsed, but he made it home as well.

Six months ago today tens of thousands of people got dressed and headed to their offices or boarded planes, without the slightest thought that these mundane sites would soon become the epicenters of unimaginable horror, destruction, and devastation. Many other people went into work that morning as well, and when the unimaginable happened these brave people rushed into those buildings, helping others to escape. All of us simply went to work on that deceptively normal Tuesday, and nothing other than luck separated those of us watching on the side of the road from those on the 90th floor of the Towers.

For months afterwards those were my thoughts when I headed into work, and I’m a bit ashamed to see how those thoughts have faded. Last week I was walking through midtown when I saw one of those cheap "Osama: Wanted Dead Or Alive" shirts for sale, and my first thought was that it seemed so outdated, like seeing Subway Series shirts on the discount rack, and my second thought was shame, a sense of betrayal. It seems too far away now, I feel too much unearned relief, too much false security. It feels too easy, too natural to put the blinders up and let the fog roll in. I need to fight that. I need to remember, not just today, but tomorrow and beyond.

March 10, 2002

More dispatches from the roommate search. Under the subject of "What is wrong with these people?!" my girlfriend sends word of another desperately awful room for rent"

"This was in another posting by a 33 year old guy, who lives in a two-bedroom, but the 2nd bedroom is used as a computer/media room, so he is advertising a shared bedroom." (emphasis mine)
I'm a very optimistic person who likes to be around positive people,so intern I would want the same from a roommate, i'm also single so I would never rule out the possiability that there could be an attraction between the two of us,so if there was it would be welcomed. I like talkative women. Expecially cause i'm around the house alot but I wont hold it against you if your not a chatterbox, because neither am I. I also would like a roommate thats not just a body that pays rent in my home, but someone who I can hang out with from time to time as friends. Hmmmm almost sounds like i'm looking for a gf But whats most important is that you would treat me with the same amount of respect that you would want in return from me,And last but not least you most have a sense of humor otherwise I will summons the fleas of a 1000 camels to infest your private parts, lol don't worry i'm not into voodoo. The best way to contact me is here at
Hey ladies, don't all write at once!

March 09, 2002

An Ugly Start to Presidential Elections
“If we can’t vote, we are going into town Monday, and we don’t care whether the soldiers have guns or not,” said Zed Jokomo, 19. “We are already dead. We don’t have jobs. This is the only time we can effect change. We are not afraid to die.”

Two elections began today in Zimbabwe. In rural areas where support for President Robert Mugabe is strongest, the voting went quickly and efficiently. But in the cities, where challenger Morgan Tsvangirai commands a majority, there was gridlock. Government election officials had halved the number of polling places in areas that supported the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in watershed parliamentary elections two years ago. They added rural voting sites, leaving the total number the same — 4,500.

Wasted fifteen minutes of my life today on somebody who kept trying to explain his roulette system to me. He couldn't seem the simple concept that if the odds are about 5% against you for every bet on the table, there's no magic combination of bets that will suddenly turn you into a winner. Eventually I stopped trying and just started nodding.
Well, I'm trying the whole comments thing, even though I generally don't write about debate-inducing news items (see the turtle thing below, for example). Still, you never know.
Came across a little story about what might be the oldest red-eared slider turtle on record. The turtle was originally purchased in a drugstore forty years ago, and its longevity is the equivalent of me keeping one of the many goldfish I won at carnivals alive longer than a week.

Anyway, the part of the story that caught my attention was this:
"It's really incredible," said [Mike] Conley, who now lives in Dallas. "I tell people — when it comes up in the conversation — 'Remember those itty-bitty, quarter-size turtles you got at the drugstore? I still have mine.'
I love that "when it comes up" Conley threw in the middle of that quote. Do you maybe get the feeling that Conley is a guy who somehow makes the subject of drugstore turtles come up in conversations just a little more often than it normally would have?
Friend: Mike, can you pass the salt?
Mike Conley: [mumbling under breath] Turtles....
Friend: Um...what? Can you pass the salt, please?
Mike Conley: [mumbling a little louder] Turtles....
Friend: Turtles? What do you mean, tur—
Mike Conley: Hey! Did somebody say turtles! Did I ever tell you about this turtle my parents got me when I was a kid?!
UPDATE: The Red-Eared Slider Turtle: A Life

An Opera written by Mr. Mike Whybark

Act One.

The CHILD, playing in the sunny afternoon, sings an aria of innocence and love, yearning for life, and so forth, entitled " A Lizard in the Sun". The time frame, early 1970's, is set with pop culture references within the libretto. As he finishes, enter MOM and DAD, with a Mysterious Box.

MOM and DAD sing a duet in which themes from the CHILD's aria are echoed and inverted, with darkenings and intimations of the richer life experience that awaits, "We Love our Little Egg".

Then, as they finish, and as their song turns to themes of the meaning of love and the point of life, they turn, and portentously bestow the Mysterious Box on the CHILD, who rejoices and rushes to the arms of his loving parents as the curtain falls.

Act Two:

A few minutes later. We are within the Mysterious Box, which is darkened. A slow, stately theme introduces the scene. As the lights come up, MR. RED EARS bestirs his turtly self and sings a turgid, yet moving melody, entitled "Slow and Steady Wins the Race", which is a reflection upon the interconnectedness of life and his kinshp to the majestic Sea Turtles, who may live for hundreds upon hundreds of years in the open oceans. MR. RED EARS projects his aspirations for life and freedom onto these nearly immortal creatures much as the CHILD projects upon MOM and DAD. The theme of immorality, freedom, and the promise of life is foreshadowing, naturally.

As MR. RED EARS concludes his song, the lights come up on the right of the stage, where we can see that the CHILD is opening his Mysterious Box. Stagecraft allows us to recognize that the Mysterious Box contains MR. RED EARS.

MR. RED EARS and the CHILD then sing a duet of first encounters and of childlike exploration, "Box Turtle, Snapping Turtle, Mock Turtle"
in which each recognizes the child in the other and which concludes in a heartbreakingly hopeful finale emphasizing the bright promise of
childhood friendship.

A third song, a largely comic number entitled "Won't You Come Out of Your Shell Today", expostulates the deepening turtle-toddler bond and
relates the long history of the human-turtle relationship, of their long walk together from the caves of prehistory to the arc-lights of modernity. It concludes as MOM and DAD call the CHILD away for dinner, and MR. RED EARS ends the song again alone on stage, in a frisson of foreboding and loneliness, now aware of his hunger for love and need for companionship.

act three:

The CHILD enters and engages MR. RED EARS with a jolly tune that begins with echoes of the themes brightly voiced in "Shell", yet MR. RED EARS is sluggish, and evinces a growing suspicion of the CHILD's motives and expresses jealousy of the time the CHILD spends with MOM and DAD in a darker number titled "Shell Game". In hurt, confused, possibly falling prey to turtle tuberculosis, MR. RED EARS nips the CHILD who flees in confusion, pain, and worry. MR. RED EARS falls to the floor of his plastic aquarium in a faint beneath the plastic palm tree. as the music expresses fantastic romantic anguish.

The CHILD returns in the company of MOM and DAD who protectively prevent the CHILD from approaching the dying reptile, and sing a biting number in which they assign various parental failings upon the tragic shelled creature to the CHILD's increasing discomfort while at the same time professing deep care and compassion for the turtle. They recognize their helplessness and falsity and lie out right to the CHILD, in the end exiting stage right 'to fetch the veterinarian.'

The CHILD takes faltering steps toward the mortally-stricken pet, and the beast sings a heartrending farewell in which he hallucinates a return to the open ocean and a final joining with the Sea Turtles, dying, at last, in the arms of the sobbing CHILD. A silence permeates the stage and audience; The child then rises and swears eternal cynicism and enmity to life, God, and the future, expressing his shattering disillusionment and enunciating as his new religious and spiritual practice absolute nihilism unto the end of his days. The libretto here strips the mask and directly condemns the audience, in an apparent attempt to alienate the audience from the production.

In later productions, this closing number is frequently replaced with a song in which the Sea Turtles actually DO come and waft the body of
the dead MR RED EARS away in a cloud of beshelled puttis as the CHILD waves a teary-eyed, smiling farewell.


March 08, 2002

Comments? I've been thinking of putting one of them there comments options on my site, but haven't for fear that my posts would be met with a deafening silence. Does anybody out there think that comments would be a good idea, or would I just be leaving myself open to rejection? What about a Guide to Semiconductor Physics, would you be interested in that?
If I can make it there, I’ll get the hell out of here. Back when I used to park in Hoboken to take the PATH train into Manhattan I would often find myself traveling along the roads that border the Hudson, looking out over the river towards Manhattan, thinking of Frank Sinatra. As you might know, Frank was, and is, Hoboken’s favorite son, loved and worshipped there to this day, despite his almost pathological avoidance of his home town after he made it big. To call Hoboken’s love unrequited would be an understatement.

Heading up River Street away from the train station, you travel a stretch of parking lots and garages, construction sites, and trash-strewn empty lots until you reach Frank Sinatra Drive, a winding stretch of road with a clear, panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. It’s a gorgeous view across the Hudson, so close to New York you can almost reach out and grab it, but it must have seemed unimaginably wide to the young Sinatra, and once he was able to cross that river it’s not too surprising that he never wanted to look back. It’s a feeling of envy and longing familiar to many people who have lived on the west side of the Hudson.

It’s a strange relationship between New Jersey and New York City, with the latter exerting such a huge influence that it’s commonly known here as "The City," as in, "Do you want to go into The City tonight," like there could be only one worth mentioning. On the other hand, we’re generally considered daily invaders by New Yorkers, insulted by Mayor Bloomberg, charged exorbitant tolls, given condescending nicknames, and generally treated like unwanted guests at a party. Then the next day we hop back on the train and head right back in.

[I should note here, before I get an angry letter from Justin Slotman, that I’m relying on my own experience as a Central- and North-Jersey resident, as the southern part of the state is in the Philadelphia orbit and not subject to the same Manhattan pull. In fact, largely because of this two-pronged gravitational pull, New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in which to run for statewide office, as candidates must buy airtime in two of the country’s largest markets.]

When Jeff Jarvis pointed out several other Jersey bloggers (myself, Justin Slotman, Andrew Hofer) and suggested that it might be time to organize a Jersey Blogger Get-Together, my thought was that it had, in fact, already happened, and fittingly enough it took place in Manhattan. I lived in Seattle for four years with another Jersey native, and when we were asked where we were from we would instinctively reply, "New York," though when pressed for specific details about which part of New York we actually lived in we were forced to demure, "the…[volume drops here]…New Jersey part of New York." It wasn’t deception, really; we had naturally grown up thinking of Jersey as part of New York, an outer borough as it were.

Do I sound self-loathing here, an embarrassed bridge-and-tunneller hoping to someday pass? I hope not, since I have a sincere fondness for my state, and there are many, many things about it I greatly missed during my time away. But I can’t deny that one of the things I missed the most about New Jersey was New York.

March 07, 2002

I’m working on a piece about the complicated relationship between New Jersey and New York (here’s a quick teaser: Frank Sinatra is invoked!), but in the meantime I thought I’d post the strange little item that started me thinking about the subject.

My aforementioned sweetie Rachel is currently looking into renting a room or an apartment, and as part of that search is using the same online roommate service that helped me find my current, quite excellent, apartment. In the course of her search she found the following, which definitely has to rank up there on a list of most misleading, or inadvertently hilarious, or misguided apartment listings ever:
Residence Location: Manhattan, NY US
Region of city: Central
Cross streets: 4oth & 9th
Additional Info: This is West New York and in NJ after crossing the tunnel it is 20-25 mins to Manhattan and with buses from door step at all times. Awesome place with amazing view in minutes drive. Its a very clean, safe and within mins you can practically see the whole manhattan view with the river.
Now, for those of you who might be unfamiliar with the Manhattan layout, 40th Street and 9th Avenue is the location of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, meaning that this mope is trying to pass off the bus station you will need to use to get into the city as the apartment’s location (and trust me, you wouldn't want to live at 40th and 9th).

Not to mention the amazing Manhattan skyline views that you’ll need to drive someplace else to actually see. Hell, I’m currently overlooking the Pulaski Skyway and an endless expanse of refineries, but if I hop in my car and drive for a while my apartment will have amazing views, too! Sheesh. I haven’t even gotten to the fact that he’s “offering a living room which is bigger than the bedroom. It has a table in it. If you want to take the bedroom then we could talk about it (rent more).” Hmmm…sleeping under a table in the living room of an apartment that’s for all practical purposes both in Manhattan and has a great skyline view? Sign me up!
Wild Condo. My sweet girlfriend Rachel just called me from my apartment in Jersey City. Apparently, a hawk or other bird of prey has captured a pigeon, and is currently in the process of devouring it on my deck. The phrase "blood and feathers everywhere" was used. I present this crime report for those who might think that New Jersey is devoid of nature and wildlife.
Via…um…Ken Goldstein*, a link to a weird little Q from the U.S. Copyright Office’s FAQ. Scroll down to #58 for:
"How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?"

Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. Just send it to us with a form VA application and the $30 filing fee. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph.
Finally, some government information I can use!

* Yes, there’s at least one other Ken Goldstein on Blogspot, this one a writer who currently is the top-ranked Ken Goldstein on Google (though we both beat out the Ken Goldstein who was a top executive at Broderbund and Disney Online). This Ken Goldstein is pretty much my opposite in political and philosophical views, and I’m guessing we wouldn’t like each other very much, but who I check in on regularly to remind me just how vast and open the world of Ken Goldsteins is.

March 06, 2002

As Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe continues to use any means to maintain power, Damian Penny covers every shameful step, including the Commonwealth leaders' disgusting statement:
Commonwealth Ministerial Action group on the Harare Declaration (CMAC) concerning the current situation in Zimbabwe. They expressed their deep concern about incidents of violence and intimidation surrounding the election campaign, called on all parties to refrain from such violence and urged all concerned to work together to create an atmosphere in which there could be a free and fair election.(Emphasis added by Penny.)
Read here, here, and here for Penny's recent posts on the topic.
Fantasy Baseball. I'm looking for a good league for this season, preferably AL-only, head-to-head action. If anybody needs an owner, please contact me at the address at left. My team name will be "The Illuminated Donkeys," of course.

March 05, 2002

The Kyle Still Free Press takes issue with the Steven Den Beste "Multi-Level Marketing" essay that I used as an epigram to my Prufrock poem below. Kyle offers his Permalink Policy, and while I tend to side with Den Beste I did appreciate Kyle's "doing it for the love of blogging" attitude towards the subject.
Since I end up listening to him most mornings, I thought I'd add my two cents to the Howard Stern thread started by Jeff Jarvis and continued by Justin Slotman at Blogistan. Justin doesn't quite agree with Jarvis' "Howard Power!" attitutde, pointing out Stern's lack of Southern markets and difficulties with advertisers as evidence against the huge reach and influence Jarvis credits him with.

Slotman is a good ol' Jersey boy, like me, and I'm not sure if he's ever lived outside of its friendly confines. Having done so myself, however, I can vouch for the fact that even in markets where Stern's show isn't syndicated, it's fairly likely that there's some morning show ripping it off completely (my experience doesn't extend too far into the southern markets Justin mentions, so perhaps some reader can fill me in on this), to the point where several times in Seattle I was fooled for several minutes into thinking that a station had picked up Stern's show, when it was really just an amazing facsimile. My point is just that any discussion of Stern's popularity has to go bound his actual reach, and deal with the many clones and heavily influenced DJ's. What Stern surveys isn't limited to the markets that pay for him.

As for Justin's take on the reasons behind the popularity, namely that "the Stern phenomenon must be addressing something that's not being covered by mainstream pop culture -- probably a guy's perspective on sex free of caring what girls think about sex," I think he misses the mark here, underestimating the appeal. The sex stuff can be interesting for a little while, but the reason I find myself tuning in is twofold. First, the sheer honesty and openness of the show. This morning Stern went into details describing how hideous Don Imus was to him suring Stern's early days, and how that changed once Stern found his audience. It was a great listen, dealing with something that happens a hundred times everyday in entertainment, but normally swept under the rug for fear of offense or reprisals. The show has a raw honesty completely unheard of in any form of media, and it's incredibly refreshing. Second, the sense that at least for the hour morning commute, before spending another day doing other people's bidding, it's okay to not have to feel so bad and guilty about things, especially about instinctual emotions or reactions. It's a private thing, I think, at least for most people. You're in your car, alone, nobody to tsk-tsk you, so go ahead and laugh! It's all right!

Okay, the show's still largely made up of topless dancers and the retarded, but it's slightly more complicated than most people think.
At some point during this past weekend, as I basked in the glow of the two amazing Magnetic Fields concerts at Lincoln Center, I wondered out loud how life could possibly be any better.

Well, here's one way that life could have been better: like the exuberant Asparagirl I could have been at those same concerts but about 20 rows closer to the stage, and sitting next to Neil Freaking Gaiman! Yeah, that might have been better!
Blogger Wishlist. Well, since everybody else seems to be posting their list of folks they wish would get themselves one of these here blogs, I figured I'd do the same:

March 04, 2002

The Warblog of J. Alfred Prufrock

It occurred to me today that web logging is a form of multi-level marketing, for some people. The currency is hits, the organizational structure is linking. [...] The grand prize is to get "A-listers" to link to you; then you get a percentage of the huge traffic their sites get. To do this, you suck up. You create a permanent list of links to A-listers on your own page and hope they notice the refers — and by so doing you become part of their downline, increasing their power. They might reward you with a link in return, usually transient. — Den Beste
Let us blog then, you and me,
When the Blogspot is running fast and free
Like a comet shooting `cross the sky;
Let us blog, towards certain well-examined URL’s,
The banner ad unfurls,
The caustic digs at less-than-sharp writers,
Punches are thrown as by heavyweight fighters,
Links that lead to endless arguments
And caterwauling laments
But here we raise an overwhelming question…
How to appear in refer logs?
Let us link to A-list blogs.

In the blogs the pundits squawk and squall
Bleating at Chomsky and Ted Rall

The lengthy posts that get typed into the Post & Publish,
The brilliant posts that disappear into the Post & Publish,
Poured my soul onto the whiteness of the page,
Refreshed again the page and saw it post
Made sure typos did not appear to mar its brilliance,
Returned to my Inbox, scanned the unread,
And seeing that there was no new reader mail,
Signed off from the server, and went to bed.

And indeed there will be hits
For the brilliant posts that dance on down the screen
Disappearing into the Post & Publish;
There will be hits, there will be hits
For the posts I write will certainly be seen;
There will be hits from Google and Lycos
Their searches for porn and Britney Spears
Mentioned in passing and then adios;
Hits for you and hits for me,
But the hits are but a hundred accidental,
Google matches just coincidental,
Before they find a site other than me.

In the blogs the pundits squawk and squall
Bleating at Chomsky and Ted Rall

No! I am not Prince Andrew, nor was meant to be;
Am an amusing read, one that will do
To find some nugget, start a thread or two.
Dash off an e-mail with studied nonchalance,
Deferential, hoping for acknowledgement:
"My thanks to Ken Goldstein, who sent this along…"
His trusted advisor, this blessed event;
And there, at last, it seems that I belong!
But no – there’s no response.

I must post…I must post…
I shall link to bloggers that get linked to most

Shall I write a scathing essay? Do I dare to make a stink?
I shall make my page quite shocking, with my fonts fluorescent pink.
I have seen the A-list linking, link to link.

I do not think that they will link to me.

I have seen them writing onward down the scroll
Thirty posts daily makes a breathless tale
Plus columns and interviews and e-mail,
I have waited for this moment in the sun
On web-sites read and stored in my cache
Then InstaPundit links me! And I crash.

Summit strikes Zimbabwe deal.

In Zimbabwe longtime President Robert Mugabe, facing possible removal from power by the Movement for Democratic Change opposition party led by Morgan Tsvangirai, has undertaken increasingly violent and repressive measures to stifle opposing viewpoints and outlaw any independent press. But there’s great news! Commonwealth leaders meeting in Australia have struck a deal, agreeing on a compromise to deal with the rapidly worsening situation. And that compromise is: forming a committee! To talk about the situation some more!
Under a deal reached at talks in Australia, the leaders agreed to set up a three-member committee to decide possible action, based on the findings of the group's election observers deployed in the country.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo BBC diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason says it was a painful compromise between countries like Britain and Australia, which had pushed for immediate suspension, and others like Tanzania and Namibia which opposed any discussion at all.
Despite daily reports chronicling Mugabe’s crushing of even the most basic tenets of democracy, the group has decided to postpone any decision on action until after the March 9-10 vote, guaranteeing that there will be almost no possibility of a fair election. (Recent incidents include the police breaking up a meeting between Tsvangirai and foreign envoys, the repeated detaining of Tsvangira, along with the arrest of dozens of other MDC party members, repeated physical attacks against opposition party members and at party gatherings, and a complete clampdown on independent media.

What options will the compromise committee be considering to deal with the situation? Well, first of all it’s almost not worth mentioning, since the committee makeup almost ensures that no action will be taken.
The three-member Commonwealth committee, or troika, is made up of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Analysts say President Robert Mugabe is likely to be pleased with the deal as Nigeria and South Africa have in the past opposed sanctions on Harare.
If they do break with tradition and decide to join the European Union in taking action, the options range from "collective disapproval" to a largely symbolic suspension from the Commonwealth, which I’m sure have Mugabe quaking. Especially the collective disapproval, complete with requisite clucking and tsk-tsking.

Last night I heard MDC spokeswoman Sekai Holland talk briefly about the situation. She sounded like somebody who knew she shouldn’t be shocked at yet another injustice, but couldn’t stop herself from becoming infuriated. It was an awful thing to hear.
Glenn Reynolds’ uncharacteristic and repeated belief that the Monica Lewinsky blog might be, in any way, actually related to Ms. Lewinsky has had an unexpected benefit here, as "Monica" has kindly linked to The Donk, offering a helpful illustration of her "stubborn" nature. I'm assuming that the connection is simply due to the donkey's nature, as we here at The Donk are extremely malleable, almost to the point of being spineless. Anyway, the Lewinsky blog seems to be becoming a repository for letters about and to Monica, kind of like a "Children's letters to Santa," but not really. (Yes, I know, there are other subjects in the world besides questions of authorship, but the collective that writes The Don— oops, I mean...I really like the subject.)
Gary Farber over at Amygdala spends more time than any reasonable human being should with the post-September 11 work of Guardian/Observer columnist Mary Riddell. He seems to have made it through relatively unscathed, and quite a bit peeved.

March 02, 2002

Via Blogistan, Britney Doesn’t Know Yoko by Roger Friedman
You could guess that a girl without much of a formal education is no rocket scientist. She's not going to know much about the history of civilization, world economics, or how to split an atom. What you might expect is that she'd know something in the category of pop music, enough to play Rock and Roll Jeopardy on VH-1.
Well, no, Roger. Whatever you may think of Britney, she works a grueling schedule, and has spent her formative years practicing and performing and working 18-hour days as opposed to sitting holed up in her room devouring back issues of Creem or Rolling Stone, listening to old records, and just plain wishing she could have seen the Ramones back at CBGB's. Had she done this, I'm sure she would do an excellent job on Rock and Roll Jeopardy, and would be well-qualified for the position of SIlly Rock Journalist, enabling her to scream stupid trivia questions at multi-millionaire 17-year-olds. I'm sure she's crushed that she missed out on this.
Check the left-hand column for a speciall NYC BloggerBash edition of the Islands of Quality; let me know if you were there and I left you out. I had an absolutely terrific time, though unfortunately I had to leave early to attend the amazing first night of the Magnetic Fields' "69 Love Songs" concert way uptown at Alice Tully Hall (I found my seat just as they were starting their first song). Here is a fine group photo of the evening's festivities; I'm the gentleman in the tan sweater at left pointing out Cousin It.

No time now to write too much about last night, as I'm on my way out the door to meet up for dinner and drinks before the second night of the concert. I'll try and decipher the notes on the beer-soaked bar napkin I found in my pocket after I woke up in the alley this morning. (Here's a hint for future BloggerBashes: never let Jay Zilber order a drink for you. Whooo!)
Click here for my TechCentralStation article on the future of bioengin...I mean my weekly Fox site blog...I mean my new National Review column....

All right, it's a link to an article I wrote for my college paper's 20th anniversary, which I posted to a blog I created. Fine. Be that way.

March 01, 2002

Well, it's time for me to hop on the train and head into Manhattan for NYC BloggerBash, followed by a Magnetic Fields concert. Details to follow, of course. It's a beautiful world.
It's not exactly Googlewhacking, but I'm happy to announce that The Donk is apparently the only Google search result for "2002 olympics opening and closing ceremonies ceremony and the illuminati." Why is no other site covering this important connection?! It's a conspiracy I tells ya!
Did you know that Ellis Island is officially part of New Jersey? More specifically, did you know that it's officially part of my new home, Jersey City? Al Rinn does, and he wants to do something about it.
SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR by Sally Deering, Jersey Journal staff writer

Every time Jersey City resident Al Rinn, 84, steps foot in Liberty State Park, he says he thinks of his mother, who left Genoa, Italy in the early 1900s and was processed through Ellis Island before settling with her family on Sullivan Street in New York. "She was a wonderful woman, intelligent and stout-hearted. She had a hard life," Rinn says of his mother, who after meeting Rinn's father moved to Jersey City and raised five children.

But Rinn's weekly trips to Liberty State Park are motivated by more than just thoughts of family: They are fueled by his passion to see the bridge that connects the park to Ellis Island open to pedestrians.
As a resident of Liberty Avenue in Jersey City (admittedly, nowhere near where the bridge would be) I think this would be pretty damn cool.
Re: "Stephanie Dupont" at AintNoBadDude.

You're all in on it, aren't you? Linse, Samizdata, Solent, Dodge...all of you.

Everybody except for me and my good friend Harvey.

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