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February 28, 2004

La La La La Lola

For the last few days, Sky One has been running teasers for a show in which six hottie guys compete for the affections of Miriam. It's your typical Temptation Island/Joe Millionaire reality show with clips of Miriam and the guys in the hot tub, Miriam and the gents at dinner, blah blah blah. Whatever. The twist? Miriam is hot, but she's also a pre-op transexual.

"While viewers would know from the start that Miriam is a male-to-female transsexual, the contestants - who include a Royal Marine commando, a ski instructor and an ex-lifeguard - only discover the truth when Miriam picks the winner and then lifts up "her" skirt.

One contestant was so furious he is said to have punched the show's producer when he found out."

The guys filed a lawsuit , claiminig they were "tricked." The suit has been settled and it looks like the show will air as planned.

I'm not sure that the lawsuit restores any dignity to the "humiliated" guys. It's okay to broadcast them swooning over our heroine, as long as they get paid enough. There's a joke to which the punchline goes: "I know what you are, now we're just negotiating the price."

In spite of all the trashiness, there could be some interesting dialog as a result of the show. Possible questions to be asked in the living rooms within broadcast range of Sky One include:

Transexuals: who are they and what has to happen to get them to where they want to be?
What's the deal with Miriam anyway?
Could they really have had NO idea? I mean NONE?
There's ALWAYS a twist. Who signs up for a reality TV dating show and expects to keep their dignity intact?
Would the guys have been equally hacked off if the show was filmed post-op?
Are homosexuals now so mainstream to have lost their shock value?

And so on.

Oddly enough, an the same day I first saw the teaser for "There's Something About Miriam" this story aired about a tranny golfer who's playing in the Australian Women's Open.

Transexuals. They're here. They're- um - near? Dear? Get used to them.

February 27, 2004

The hot new spot to get married in

Is apparently New Paltz, NY, where the 26 year old mayor is now performing marriages for same-sex couples. Maybe we should start a pool on which city will come next.

More on Pabst

A couple of remarks on Pabst... one professional, the other personal.

First, you should read Rob Walker's original version of his big NYT Mag piece on Pabst and "the marketing of no marketing." Basically, Pabst has worked very hard to grow its sales without doing anything so overt as to gross out the urban hipsters who have been so critical to their new success. Savvy marketers have come to understand the dynamics of audiences like these only recently, thanks to The Tipping Point, the rise of coolhunting, and the prevalence of guerilla marketing. (With the exception of the geekier enterprise stuff I do for a certain software client, this is pretty much the kind of thing I get paid to think about.) My company has done a tiny bit for Pabst along the way, but clearly if we were working for them now you would not be pondering the backlash. (Ahem.)

The other story is funnier, and of about the vintage as the great old ads Gary linked to. My mom's side of the family was for decades entirely teetotaling--nary a drink for anyone, and very holy about the whole thing.

My mom might have been three or four, and was at dinner with my grandparents and some family friends. It was a big night out at the nicest restaurant in their small town in southern Oklahoma and she was dressed up like a proper little lady. The waitress waited until last to ask her what she would like to drink: "What'll you have little lady?"

"I'll have a Pabst Blue Ribbon, please!" said said, smiling, a perfect parrot of the TV slogan.

My grandparents tried to be mortified, but everyone just ended up cracking up. Behold the power of advertising.

She is teased about this to this day--which is funny, because though The Judy is emphatically no longer a teetotaler, she cannot stand beer.

So when people talk about Pabst being old-school, that's what always comes to my mind.

February 26, 2004

See the Creamy Head

I found these two commercials (in a single streaming clip) for Pabst Blue Ribbon while I was doing research for a comment on one of Jay's posts. They're funny!

Something about the first, with its three-qualification test seemed familiar, and I wonder if I saw some version of that ad campaign while I was still young and impressionable (instead of old and impressionable). I hope I remember to order a PBR from Kim the next time.

The second ad is wonderful. The protagonist is an urbane suburbanite, and in his soliloquy he tells us he hasn't "always been a Blue-Ribbon drinker", and he doesn't quite remember when he started—a memory lost in the squalid, pre-Enlightenment past, no doubt. Definition through consumption! And I can apparently catch up even if I haven't yet gotten it together. Get me a case!

It seems like I've had more than one conversation lately that reveals a backlash against PBR's recent rise in popularity. I guess too many people are drinking it for the wrong reasons—that is, stylish anti-stylishness. Perhaps like subsidized housing, one should only be allowed to purchase PBR if one's income is below a certain threshhold. (One legitimate reason to drink it regardless of income: your only other choice is Rainier.)

Beware baskets bearing delicious muffins

When I read this story, I can't help but imagine Martha laboring into the night over a lovely basket of lemon-poppyseed muffins with a light dusting of strichnine--perfect for all those pre-jail revenge occasions. It's a good thing!

February 25, 2004

With Intent to Preach

In a time of faith based initiatives and encroaching theocracy, it's refreshing to see this ruling that reminds us about the separation of church and state. This NYT editorial sums it all up rather nicely, but isn't there a loophole in this ruling you can drive a popemobile through? If it's all about intent, couldn't theology students become the newest edition to the "don't ask don't tell" crowd? The student denied funding was a "major in business administration and pastoral ministries" - what if he'd just declined to state the "pastoral ministries" part? And is the choice of theology as a major always an indicator of aims towards the ministry? Or couldn't a student with an interest in history of religion choose an academic theology course of study?

Andrew Sullivan: frustrating, brilliant

So he can be such a silly conservative twat at times, but I can't help loving Andrew Sullivan. Especially with tears in my eyes after having read this article from Time. He're the best bit:

When people talk about "gay marriage," they miss the point. This isn't about gay marriage. It's about marriage. It's about family. It's about love. It isn't about religion. It's about civil marriage licenses - available to atheists as well as believers. These family values are not options for a happy and stable life. They are necessities. Putting gay relationships in some other category - civil unions, domestic partnerships, civl partnerships, whatever - may alleviate real human needs, but, by their very euphemism, by their very separateness, they actually build a wall between gay people and their own families. They put back the barrier many of us have spent a lifetime trying to erase.

picture>1000 words

Again, elevating great wit from the comments. Thanks David--and thanks Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

image_483674.gif

My sense of humor

...on the marriage issue has been successfully relocated, thanks to this link from Gary, which I'm elevating from his comment:Attack of the Agenda! Thanks Gary, I really needed that.

All of your comments were excellent. I'll admit that NPR surprised me this morning with measured comments even from the likes of Frist and DeLay--who actually wants to delay a vote on the matter. Will wonders never cease!

So yes, Pam, I'll wait to pack. Just knowing that other people are up in arms on our behalf is incredible reassuring. Just promise to return my call when I invite you to man the barricades!

The Passion of The Christ

So I can't decide if I will go see it or not. If I do, I'll be buying a ticket to something else (anything else) and slipping into the cathedral to Mel Gibson's ego at the last second.

The NYT's A.O. Scott gives me pause:

"The Passion of the Christ" is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it. Mr. Gibson has constructed an unnerving and painful spectacle that is also, in the end, a depressing one. It is disheartening to see a film made with evident and abundant religious conviction that is at the same time so utterly lacking in grace.

The sublime David Edelstein's review in Slate, which is even more negative, ends with a critical question:

What does this protracted exercise in sadomasochism have to do with Christian faith? I'm asking; I don't know. Gibson's revenge movies end with payback--or, in Braveheart, the promise of payback to come. When Jesus is resurrected, his expression is hard, and, as he moves toward the entrance to his tomb, the camera lingers on a round hole in his hand that goes all the way through. Gibson's Jesus reminded me of the Terminator--he could be the Christianator--heading out into the world to spread the bloody news. Next stop: the Crusades.

I'll ask another tough one: Shouldn't a devout Christian thank the Jews for bringing about a horrible event that was entirely necessary to the completion of prophecy, the miracle of resurrection, and the intercession? After the Diaspora, centuries of persecution by Christians, and the Vatican-complicit Holocaust, can't we say, "Wow, we're sorry for all the trouble it caused you but somebody had to do it"? Apparently not, as Mel shows blood-thirsty Jews hissing for crucifixion through rotten teeth.

I cannot say it in any other way: It is hard to be, in the grey spring of 2004, a thinking, caring Christian--let alone a gay one. It is hard to look my Jewish friends in the eye these days (or my Muslim ones, or my atheistic ones). A movie this bloody and hateful resembles a Santeria ritual more than it represents the faith I hold.

If there is anything positive to come from a film that lingers on the most imflammatory and politicized (as in, polticized-when-written, by writers locked in a messy market-share battle against a much better-established multinational organization) and passages of the Gospels, it may be this. The film captures perfectly the dominant strain in current American Christianity. Paranoid, beset by a thousand enemies, triumphally convinced not just of its goodness but of its good-versus-evil-ness. In other words, a Christianity that has for decades been steadily distilling itself down from the worst dregs the religion ever had to offer--bitter as the cup Christ asked be taken from him, but devoid of the promise of grace and forgiveness the crucifixion really stands for. The Christianity that this movie both reflects and panders to is not real Christianity at all. To follow Edelstein's phrase, it is "Christianatorism," a perversion whose slogal should be "Jesus is coming back--and he's pissed." Bravo, Mel Gibson, for serving up the false prophet in such great Hollywood fashion.

Mix in a little crass commercialism, a little transparent demogogery, and it's a spectacle as disgusting as the moneychangers in the Temple. (No, really... follow the link.)

I suppose I should see the movie before damning it, but even the clips turned my stomach. I've used the phrase "theological porn" here before, but nowhere does it seem more apt. In every quivering mortification of the flesh, in every ecstatic moan, in every glistening drop sacred bodily fluid, in every voyeuristic insistence that the faithful wash themselves in the hot, sticky blood of the Lord--the film's incandescent realism leads its lambs not only to slaughter but also to an orgasm of spritual violence. In that empty moment after, there is no embrace or consolation--only incitement to the spirit of vengenace that, in the slander the film seems designed to deliver, Mel wants to pin on the Jews some two millennia later.

February 24, 2004

Two Possible Reasons To Be Glad Nader's On the Scene Again

I kinda wanted to vote for Nader in 2000, but did not, and I certainly won't do it this time. However, there are two ways that his campaign—if he can keep enough news coverage on what he's saying—might be good for those voting to the left.

  1. Draws out more daring stands from candidates. Like Dean, who seemed to transform the other contenders, Nader might have a similar effect. I think it was someone on Kerry's campaign who said they want to appeal to those who would vote or voted for Nader.

  2. Makes the Democratic nominee sound more mainstream. By sounding far-out, Ralph makes the Democratic nominee sound less revolutionary by comparison. Maybe a voter wasn't sure about the Democrat, but now, he sounds so normal! Or maybe the voter likes some of what Nader is saying and votes for the less frightening alternative.

On the other hand, it could all end in tears, and I'll need to open my chain of weight training salons in Canada and Europe ASAP. (Note to Ralph: Please be sure to drop out before the end and deflect any alleged votes apparently headed your way to the Democratic contender.)

The Inevitable

Bush Urges Congress to Begin Process to Amend Constitution

This was inevitable because it had become clear to the Bush/Cheney/Rove junta that evangelical Christians would remove their active support of Bush's reelection efforts if he didn't come out strongly for an amendment. The realpolitik of it all doesn't soften the blow, though, and the President's hypocrisy only adds insult to the injury. To wit:

"America's a free society which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens," Mr. Bush said. "This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person and protect the institution of marriage.

"There is no contradiction between these responsibilities."

Perhaps tacitly acknowledging the emotion that has accompanied the debate over gay marriage, Mr. Bush closed by saying: "We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency."

So, I'm free to want whatever freedoms I want, as long as they aren't important ones. The concrete, daily, and implacable denial of basic rights to property and association that we seek is nothing when weighed against some entirely theoretical harm to the institution of marriage. And we are told there is no contradiction there.

In his sop to tolerance, he is subtly asking that the bigots that clearly call the shots with his administration to keep their hate on a low simmer, so as not to appear unseemly. Fat chance of that--their zeal as they fight to make us second-class citizens once and for all will be bright and withering.

One might hope that Americans would see them for what they are and stop this, but in doing so one would be naive. I fully expect the amendment to pass the Congress rapidly--given the overwhelming approval of the Defense of Marriage Act at the Federal level and the similar laws in 38 states, the math looks pretty clear. We could see the first states ratify the Amendment before our wedding in May. The sooner this happens, the more Bush can use it against the eventual Democratic nominee--who (let's not kid ourselves) will not attempt to sail to victory on the warm breeze of respect for gays and lesbians. No, we'll be asked to dutifully pull the lever for a candidate forced to kowtow to the religious right just as surely as Bush has.

So along with wedding plans and honeymoon plans and the hum of a shared daily life, David and I have had to think about what we will do if this happens. I am adamant--I will not stay in this country if the amendment is ratified. Thanks to David's Australian citizenship and "indefinite leave to remain" in the UK, we have options. Canada will take us--and even my mother admits that Vancouver looks like a good option by the dimming light of American freedom.

While I don't relish the prospect of selling our home, leaving family and friends behind, and beginning a career over elsewhere, I would rather do that than stay here and wonder what's next. I distrust my country too much at this point to dismiss the example of German Jews in 1935 and 1938... many bright and successful people were convinced that nothing would even happen to them, that things would not get worse, that Hitler and his followers were only using rhetoric as a means and not an end. When one understands that the Bush administration is deeply influenced by groups bent on establishing Christian theocracy in the US, who have advocated stoning homosexuals to death in the public square, what once seemed like paranoia can begin to feel like prescience.

When coupled with the coming economic calamity that Bush's policies portend, the outlook seems very dark indeed. If there is a crash, what better target for outrage than an upper-middle-class gay couple? One of us is even a foreigner! Things could get much, much worse. And I won't be the last rat off a sinking ship, thank you very much.

This amendment is, however saddening, only a symptom of the larger and much more tragic erosion of freedom and personal rights since WWII--something that should concern every American, straight or gay. The Cold War national security state, the war on drugs, and now the permanent crisis of the war on terror look a lot like the widening gyre. Perhaps the falcon cannot hear the falconer, but I can. The voice of reason is calling, but who among our leaders will answer?

February 23, 2004

One of those you have to see for yourself

Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership

I could spend hours on this site having my mind completely, totally boggled.

If *only* I had known

I could have asked for one of these for Valentine's Day. Next year, Little Smith, OK?

Where are the gropes of yesteryear?

I was skeptical when I heard the CNN blip about Naomi Wolf's article about being "sexually encroached upon" by Harold Bloom almost 20 years ago. Not that I doubted such a thing out of Bloom, whom I have long regarded as something of a cretin when it came to his treatment of women; rather, I doubted Wolf's motivation for coming forward.

Wolf is now more or less a professional pundit, rightly or wrongly associated with her fateful (she swears misconstrued) advice that Al Gore act the "alpha male" part in the 2000 elections. And let's face it--The Beauty Myth will always be the ugly stepsister of Backlash.

But Wolf's article Sex and Silence at Yale in New York Magazine is actually quite good. Bloom didn't harrass her, exactly, but he did use his position to try to get laid--at a moment in Wolf's life as a student and a burgeoning writer when she needed mentorship, she got instead a clammy pass from a Big Lech on Campus. The man who was supposedly guiding her in independent study, and had agreed to write critical letters of recommendation, leered across a table at her over her unread manuscript, and delivered one of the creepiest come-on lines in the history of campus sleaze: "You have the aura of election upon you.” Ewww! Election, erection, hand on her thigh-- she responded (as I would have!) by puking in a nearby sink.

Not shockingly, her academic life suffered drastically. She had no idea what to expect as far as a grade for the independent study, and worry over the whole situation hurt her senior-year grades across the board. I find her description of the effect this had on her fairly reasonable--and her portrayal of Yale's institutional wishy-washiness rings solidly true. Worse still, she catalogs a list of Yale's horrible responses to harrassment and outright rape that makes me never want to give my alma mater a dime.

I quote below the ending of the piece, which is a terrifically reasonable and actionable suggestion for getting us past the "sexual harrassment" impasse to something that will do less to punish individuals (and criminalize sex, dating, and flirtation) and more to ensure that institutions are transparent and accountable so that when something does happen, it gets dealt with in a manner that treats both accuser and accused fairly.

Is Harold Bloom a bad man? No. Harold Bloom’s demons are no more demonic than those of any other complex human being’s. Does this complex, brilliant man’s one bad choice make him a monster? No, of course not; nor does this one experience make me a “victim.” But the current discourse of accused and accuser, aggressor and victim is more damaging than constructive.

Here is a more helpful reading: This man did something, at least once, that was self-centered and harmful. But his harmful impulse would not have entered his or my real life—then or now—if Yale made the consequences of such behavior both clear and real.

All the women who have come forward want only to fix what is broken. Critics of sexual-harassment standards argue that you can’t legislate passions; true enough. But you can legislate what to do about people who act on them improperly. Powerful men and woman who belittle and humiliate their subordinates manage not to belittle or humiliate their supervisors. Neither men nor women tend to harass upward in a hierarchy.

There is something terribly wrong with the way the current sexual-harassment discussion is framed. Since damages for sexual misconduct are decided under tort law—tort means harm or wrong—those bringing complaints have had to prove that they have been harmed emotionally. Their lawyers must bring out any distress they may have suffered, such as nightmares, sexual dysfunction, trauma, and so on. Thus, it is the woman and her “frailties” under scrutiny, instead of the institution and its frailties. This victim construct in the law is one reason that women are often reluctant to go public.

But sexual encroachment in an educational context or a workplace is, most seriously, a corruption of meritocracy; it is in this sense parallel to bribery. I was not traumatized personally, but my educational experience was corrupted. If we rephrase sexual transgression in school and work as a civil-rights and civil-society issue, everything becomes less emotional, less personal. If we see this as a systemic-corruption issue, then when people bring allegations, the focus will be on whether the institution has been damaged in its larger mission. The Catholic Church is a good example: The public understood that church leaders’ maintaining silence about systemic sexual transgressions corrupted the mission of an organization that had a great responsibility to society as a whole. Even the military is starting to understand that systemic sexual harassment of cadets corrupts its social mission.

If we change the framework to this kind of transparency and accountability question, then instead of asking, “What were you wearing?” or “Why disrupt this man’s life?” we would ask: “What are we—together—going to do about it?”

The saddest part? If a Yale undergraduate came to me today with a bad secret to tell, I still could not urge her to speak up confidently to those tasked with educating, supporting, and mentoring her. I would not direct her to her faculty adviser, the grievance committee, or her dean. Wishing that Bart Giamatti’s beautiful welcoming speech to my class about Yale’s meritocracy were really true, I would, with a heavy heart, advise that young woman, for her own protection, to get a good lawyer.

All You Ever Needed to Know About Global Economics Can Be Learned On A 10-Hour Flight

Funny story from the UK Telegraph of case of mistaken identity backed up by some serious chutzpah. Oxford engineering student Matthew Richardson is invited to China to give a series of lectures on global economics. (The Chinese were actually looking for an NYU professor of the same name.) Undaunted by his total lack of knowledge on the topic, he brushes up on a student textbook during the flight to China and bluffs his way through.

I wonder if the rights have already been sold.

February 20, 2004

Pete "Sweet"? So says The Stranger

Right here, about halfway down. And we agree!

That's right, Ballard's Favorite Jew is now Croc-a-licious. We'll be seeing him for the British Sea Power show next week.

Congrats Pete!

DearMary.com

We're pretty sure there is a gay gene, but I think we now have proof there is an "undisclosed location" gene. Dick Cheney's out lesbian daughter Mary is MIA in the gay-marriage debate despite two very salient facts:
1) She has lived with her female partner for years and wears a gold wedding band on her left hand, and
2) She is chairing her father's reelection bid and getting paid $100K a year to do it.

In my book, this makes her a public figure and a worthy target for some shrewd political activism. The same gay-rights operatives who successfully rousted Dr. Laura from her TV talk show perch are out to find Mary and take her to task for this apparent schizophrenia. Their site, DearMary.com, offers folks a chance to send Mary a postcard asking for an explanation.

Cheney has famously reversed himself of the issue, selling out his own daughter--but given her sell-out status, I suppose we shouldn't be too hard on him. (Hell, he used to think Saddam was a good ally.) In the 2000 campaign, he said the issue should be left to the states, but now he faithfully sings from W's hymnal--meaning, I'm sure, that he is "troubled" by the gay couples receiving official recognition in SF and Massachusetts.

On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't be too hard on poor Mary--it's bad enough growing up a gay Repub, but she has the added burden of looking just like her father. Oh, and just to revisit the "gay gene" intro, I find it really interesting to look back on her mom Lynne Cheney's secret early writings. Perhaps the fruit has not fallen too far from the tree.

February 19, 2004

Bush's Broken Ruby Slippers

I don't know what distresses me more about this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists: that the Bush administration is ignoring, bending, or outright refuting scientific fact to meet their political whims, or that the Administration can dismiss the legitimate concerns of 60 prominent scientists (including 20 Nobel laureates) with claims of "bias" or "political motivation". Frankly, if you can't trust the opinions of leading-light scientists on the issue of science, then who can you trust?

But this issue is illustrative of a wider problem with the Bush administration I find even more troubling (to use a word Bush himself is rather fond of lately): Bush's penchant for wish-politics. Like no President before him, Bush really, truly, seems to believe that he can make something true simply by wishing for it. Facts, political realities, practicalities, the will of the people be damned: it simply shall be. In fact, Bush appears to go out of his way to actively avoid any facts that might conflict with his will: he famously does not read newspapers, and his ignorance of scientific advisors in decisionmaking is symptomatic of this, too.

Bush wished that there should be a war in Iraq. He dearly wished that weapons of mass destruction would be the justification of that war, and no amount of evidence to the contrary from the weapons inspectorate, nor opposition from the UN or allies would convince him otherwise.

Bush wished that tax cuts would lead to job growth. With each tax cut, jobs were lost, in their millions, rather than gained as wished-for. Bush appears truly oblivious to this fact.

Bush wished that 2.6 million new jobs would magically appear this year, and the White House Council of Economic Advisers was apparently happy to publish this wish, in the face of doubt from every economist alive. Even Bush won't repeat his wish now, but he won't deny its self-willed truth, either.

Bush wished that Iraq would be a democracy by the end of June. The fact that the UN insists it's simply not possible, not only politically but practically has no bearing on this: it will happen, according to Bush.

I have this image of Bush when he's alone in the White House. He's wearing his ruby slippers. His eyes are closed, and as he taps the heels together he softly chants: "There's no such thing as truth. There's no such thing as truth. There's no such thing as truth."

I'm afraid there is, George.

Read on for examples from the full UCS report of the head-in-the-sand mentality of the Bush administration with regard to politically unpalatable scientific fact:

  • A USDA research biologist discovered frightening evidence of airborne antibiotic-resistant bacteria being produced by pig farms and found in the local environment in Iowa and Missouri, but was barred by superiors from publishing or presenting the research at scientific conferences: "politically sensitive and controversial issues require discretion".
  • A report on the effects of airborne mercury (a dangerous pollutant produced by coal-fired power plants) was suppressed by the White House until it was leaked to the press by a frustrated EPA official. The report included findings in direct contradiction of the administration's stated policy of reducing regulation of power plants.
  • The White House insisted on modifying an EPA report into the human effect on climate change, forcing the authors to imply "uncertainty when there is essentially none". This led to the entire section on climate change being dropped from the public report, despite that topic being discussed in the report in each of the preceding five years.
  • An EPA report evaluating the potential consequences of a Senate proposal to strengthen the Clean Air act (regulations initiated by the first Bush administration) was similarly suppressed until leaked. A White House official was heard to say of the report, "How can we justify Clear Skies [Bush II's environment act] if this gets out?"
  • Information about the benefits of sex education (other than exclusively abstinence-based programs, which are known to be ineffective) and the benefits of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS was directed to be removed from the CDC website by administration officials. On the other hand, a stated link between breast cancer and abortion (disproven by scientific studies) was included.
  • The Bush administration created a five-person “review team” made up of predominantly nonscientists who proceeded to overrule a $12 million science-based plan for managing old-growth forest habitat and reducing the risk of fire. Contrary to Forest Service claims that their recommendations are based on “new information and findings,” the proposed revisions lack any scientific basis.

This systematic pattern of suppression and distortion of scientific findings by high-ranking Bush administration political appointees is truly frightening. As the report states, these actions have direct consequences for human health, public safety, and community well-being. But apparently, short-term benefit for special interests, and appeasing the Religious Right and other supporters, is more important than the well-being of the rest of us.

For the record, not something we Quake players do

So I've heard plenty of gay rugby jokes over the past few years, including every possible dirty pun involving the word "scrum." But this story (copied below) from Australia goes, quite simply, a knuckle too far.

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2004

The most vile act ever!
Sportal

Controversial Wests Tigers winger John Hopoate has been suspended for
12 weeks after being found guilty by the NRL Judiciary of poking his
fingers up the anuses of three North Queensland players.

Accused of one of the most bizarre charges in the history of rugby
league, or sport in general for that matter of fact, Hopoate was
officially found guilty of 'unsportsmanlike interference'.

On the evidence of video footage and the damning testimony from the
three Cowboys players, Hopoate was always likely to be found guilty.
The length of his sentence seen as the only contentious matter.

In the end the NRL Judiciary had little trouble differentiating
between a "wedgie", a "finger up the arse" and the area between
the "arse and the nuts" before finding Hopoate guilty.

NRL judiciary commissioner Jim Hall described Hopoate's case as the
worst he had experienced in his 45-year involvement in rugby league.

"I've never come across a more disgusting allegation than I've had to
deal with now," he said.

Hopoate, 27, was found guilty on three separate counts of
deliberately sticking his fingers up the anuses of Peter Jones, Paul
Bowman and Glenn Morrison in Saturday night's match at Dairy Farmers
Stadium.

Hopoate, a former Australian Test winger, insisted he was merely
trying to give Jones and Morrison a wedgie in order to perform a
quick play-the-ball and that he did not stick his finger up Bowman's
anus.

Asked by his consel Bernie Gross QC where he was directing his finger
at Bowman, the Cowboys captain, Hopoate replied: "Between his arse
and his nuts".

Hopoate maintained he did nothing wrong in administering the wedgies
and went on to say: "I'm a great believer in what happens on the
field should stay there."

Asked to describe what a wedgie felt like, the Tigers winger
replied: "You get a burning sensation. Your undies are getting reefed
up your arse."

Hopoate's defence counsel contended to Jones that his client had
merely administered a "wedgie" on the Cowboy in the seventh minute of
the match.

"It wasn't a wedgie. That's when your pants are pulled up your arse.
I think I know the difference between a wedgie and someone sticking
their finger up my bum," said Jones, admitting that while both acts
caused discomfort, they caused different sensations and he could
differentiate between the two.

Jones claimed he hadn't provoked Hopoate and that afterwards he
immediately expressed his "disgust" and gave the Tongan international
a push.

Bowman said after tackling Hopoate in the 17th minute, he stood over
the winger and "that's when I felt fingers outside my shorts pushing
up my arse".

"There was pressure there. I know he wasn't doing it accidentally. He
was definitely pushing.

"I was disgusted. I couldn't believe it. I know it's a tough game,
but there's no room for that."

Gross argued that Bowman had been excessive in trying to slow Hopoate
from playing the ball by grabbing the North Queensland captain's leg.

But Bowman maintained that "if he (Hopoate) was a man, he wouldn't do
that".

When pressed by Gross, Bowman became angry and asked the QC: "If I
held your leg, would that give you the right to put your finger up my
arse?"

Morrison testified he was caused pain by Hopoate's action.

"Hopoate was trying to pick my arse. It's not a thing that I wanted
to happen and it's not a pleasant thing," Morrison said.

Tigers coach Terry Lamb, who has played 349 first grade games, said
it was resonably common to be touched in the region of the testicles.

In directing the panel before making a verdict, NRL judiciary
chairman Greg Woods told the former players not be swayed by
their "feeling of revulsion or distaste".

Gross pre-empted a guilty verdict would cause Hopoate "disgrace and
embarrassment".

After the hearing, Wests Tigers chairman John Chalk said the club
would appeal against the ruling.

The hearing also made headlines in London.

Under the headline "The sickest thing in sport? RL star is accused of
going up and under with fingers", tabloid newspaper The Mirror
compared the allegations against the rugby league player with boxer
Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield's ear.

"There was Vinnie Jones's infamous grab at Paul Gascoigne. Mike Tyson
got in on the act by biting a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear.
But sport can rarely have had such a bizarre charge as that levelled
at rugby league hard man John Hopoate," the paper said.

"The Wests Tigers star has been cited for "conduct unbecoming" after
allegedly persistently sticking his fingers up opponents' backsides
while making tackles."

Liberal broadsheet The Guardian also reported the claims.

February 18, 2004

Trav's new blog

My friend Travers is now one of us, a bona fide blogger... witness Tech Soma, which Trav promises will be his "online file for news, opinion, and wise-ass comments on technology, politics, and their intersection." Let the TrackBacks begin, and Trav...

Doesn't it feel better now that you have submitted? I know you resisted at first... you said you didn't want your own blog. But now that you've given over your brain to the Net, isn't life simpler? Of course it is. Welcome to the blogsphere.

Shocking snowmobile stand

NYT readers will recognize Nick Kristof as one of the most vigorously anti-Bush columnist on the Op-Ed page. So imagine my surprise to read that he agrees with the administration on snowmobile access to Yellowstone.

He makes a persuasive case that new four-stroke snowmobiles are much less polluting--and less noisy--than older models. But his main point is that the park is almost inaccessible during the winter unless you're one of those "snow camping" weirdos who like to snowshoe for 20 miles before lying down in fluffy, flaky beds (as Paulette, Julie, and I are most definitely not).

The lynchpin of his argument is that environmentalism in the U.S. is best served by getting more people out into nature, to see what is at stake if the Administration is able to gut more important environmental regs. It makes good sense to me--and actually makes me want to go see Yellowstone in all its winter glory.

More pictures, starting here

We're too logocentric here at nonfamous, and that's really my fault. So let's start with this nice (and reassuring, in these dangerous times) photo, courtesy of Seattle Times photog Tom Reese. seabow.jpg

Let's continue to post pictures (all work-safe, please)... I might ask David (or Paulette, who specializes at making technology easy to follow!) to post instructions as to how to do this. I would do it, but I bollixed up the process a couple of times before getting it right!

February 17, 2004

"My Hero, Janet Jackson"

How about "Frank Rich, My Hero" as a better title for this amazing article in the Sunday NYT (full text copied below).

"You can argue," and Rich does forcefully, "that Ms. Jackson is the only honest figure in this Super Bowl of hypocrisy. She was out to accomplish a naked agenda — the resuscitation of her fading career on the eve of her new album's release — and so she did. She's not faking much remorse, either."

America has long been the land of hypocrisy, especially when sex is involved. But in the W Era, things have gotten even worse. It is refreshing to read the quote of a CBS Sports producer, commenting on the introduction of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleasers back at Super Bowl X, describe the spectacle with an honesty few could muster today, "The audience deserves a little sex with its violence."

Rich is always bitchy and usually brilliant. To wit:

There are plenty of Americans to laugh at, starting with the public itself. If we are to believe the general outcry, the nation's families were utterly blindsided by the Janet-Justin pas de deux while watching an entertainment akin to "Little Women." As Laura Bush put it, "Parents wouldn't know to turn their television off before that happened." They wouldn't? In the two-plus hours "before that happened," parents saw not only the commercials featuring a crotch-biting dog, a flatulent horse and a potty-mouthed child but also the number in which the crotch-grabbing Nelly successfully commanded a gaggle of cheerleaders to rip off their skirts. What signal were these poor, helpless adults waiting for before pulling their children away from the set? Apparently nothing short of a simulated rape would do.

So as I read the public sentiment, this is what America is saying: Bring on the violence, all the carnage from Iraq we can stand (and then some), bring on rah-rah American militarism 24-7 from the cable news jingoes who fail to parse the latest lies from the White House--but God protect us when America sees a few milliseconds of titty.

I mean really, isn't a little bit of boob a healthy, red-blooded counterbalance to the marriage-destroying spectacle of gay weddings, the orientation-endangering prancing of "Queer Eye"? The old saw is "No sex please, we're British" but clearly they have gotten over their hangups (or perhaps exported them to the colonies). How about "no honesty, we're Yanks," or "no sense of proportion, we're Americans."

Anyway, enough with my rant... on to Rich's far more eloquent take on L'Affaire Boobie.

February 15, 2004
FRANK RICH
My Hero, Janet Jackson

t may be a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it. Two weeks after the bustier bust, almost no one has come to the defense of Janet Jackson. I do so with a full heart. By baring a single breast in a slam-dunk publicity stunt of two seconds' duration, this singer also exposed just how many boobs we have in this country. We owe her thanks for a genuine public service.

You can argue that Ms. Jackson is the only honest figure in this Super Bowl of hypocrisy. She was out to accomplish a naked agenda — the resuscitation of her fading career on the eve of her new album's release — and so she did. She's not faking much remorse, either. Last Sunday she refused to appear on the Grammys rather than accede to CBS's demand that she perform a disingenuous, misty-eyed ritual "apology" to the nation for her crime of a week earlier. By contrast, Justin Timberlake, the wimp who gave the English language the lasting gift of "wardrobe malfunction," did as he was told, a would-be pop rebel in a jacket and a tie, looking like a schoolboy reporting to the principal's office. Ms. Jackson, one suspects, is laughing all the way to the bank.

There are plenty of Americans to laugh at, starting with the public itself. If we are to believe the general outcry, the nation's families were utterly blindsided by the Janet-Justin pas de deux while watching an entertainment akin to "Little Women." As Laura Bush put it, "Parents wouldn't know to turn their television off before that happened." They wouldn't? In the two-plus hours "before that happened," parents saw not only the commercials featuring a crotch-biting dog, a flatulent horse and a potty-mouthed child but also the number in which the crotch-grabbing Nelly successfully commanded a gaggle of cheerleaders to rip off their skirts. What signal were these poor, helpless adults waiting for before pulling their children away from the set? Apparently nothing short of a simulated rape would do.

Once the deed was done, the audience couldn't stop watching it. TV viewers with TiVo set an instant-replay record as they slowed down the offending imagery with a clinical alacrity heretofore reserved for the Zapruder film. Lycos, the Internet search engine, reported that the number of searches for Janet Jackson tied the record set by 9/11-related searches on and just after 9/11.

"That a single breast received as much attention as the first attack on United States soil in 60 years is beyond belief," wrote Aaron Schatz, the columnist on the Lycos Top 50 site. (Though not, perhaps, to the fundamentalist zealots who attacked us.)

For those who still couldn't get enough, the cable news channels giddily played the video over and over to remind us of just how deplorable it was. Even though by this point the networks were blurring the breast with electronic pasties, there was still an erotic kick to be milked: the act of a man tearing off a woman's clothes was as thrilling to the audience as whatever flesh was revealed therein, perhaps more so. But to say that aloud is to travel down a road that our moral watchdogs do not want to take. It's the unwritten rule of our culture that the public is always right. The "folks," as Bill O'Reilly is fond of condescending to them, are always the innocent victims of the big, bad cultural villains. They're never complicit in the crime. The idea that the folks might have the free will to tune out tasteless TV programming or do without TV altogether — or that they might eat up the sleaze, with or without young 'uns in the room — is almost never stated on television, for obvious reasons of fiscal self-interest. You don't insult your customers.

Since the public is blameless for its role in creating a market for displays like the Super Bowl's, who should be the scapegoat instead? If you peruse Mr. O'Reilly's admonitions in his first three programs dealing with the topic, or the tirades of The Wall Street Journal editorial page and right-wing direct-mail mills like the Parents Television Council and Concerned Women for America, you'll find a revealing pattern: MTV, CBS and their parent corporation, Viacom, are the exclusive targets of the invective. The National Football League is barely mentioned, if at all. To blame the country's highest-rated sports operation, after all, might risk insulting the football-watching folks to whom these moral watchdogs pander for fun and profit.

But the N.F.L. is in the sex business as assiduously as CBS and MTV, and for the same reason: it wants those prurient eyeballs. It's now been more than a quarter-century since Super Bowl X, when the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders first caught the attention of the nation. "The audience deserves a little sex with its violence," Chuck Milton, a CBS sports producer, said back then.

The N.F.L. has since worked tirelessly to fill that need. This year was not the first MTV halftime show that the league has ordered to try to expand its aging audience beyond the Levitra demographic. The first such collaboration, Super Bowl XXXV three years ago, featured Britney Spears all but falling out of a halter top and numbers in which both Mr. Timberlake (then appearing with 'NSync) and Nelly grabbed their crotches. There was, to my eye, twice as much crotch-grabbing then as there was this year, but that show generated no outrage whatsoever.

It did, however, attract two million more viewers than the game itself. The N.F.L. wanted more of the same for 2004, which is why the league's commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, released a statement saying, "We're pleased to work again with MTV" when announcing the encore. Or pleased up to a point. When MTV proposed that part of the show be devoted to a performance of the song "An American Prayer" by Bono to increase awareness of the horrific AIDS epidemic in Africa, the N.F.L. said no — even though Bono had done the league the favor of giving the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show a dignified musical tribute to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

The mention of a sexually transmitted disease might dampen the libido of the salacious MTV show that the N.F.L. wanted this year and wanted so badly that the league remained silent even when MTV's pregame publicity promised that the performance would contain "some shocking moments." As one participant in the production told me, the N.F.L. saw "every camera angle" at the show's rehearsals and thus was no less aware of its general tone than CBS and MTV were. You don't hire Ms. Jackson, who's been steadily exposing more of her breasts for over a decade on magazine covers, to sing "Rock Your Body" if you have a G-rated game plan. Nonetheless, Joe Browne, the league's flak, pleaded total innocence after the event, releasing a hilarious statement that the N.F.L., like the public, was the unwitting victim of a show that it had both commissioned and helped supervise: "We applaud the F.C.C.'s investigation into the MTV-produced halftime. We and our fans were embarrassed by the entire show."

That investigation, piggybacked by last week's Congressional hearings, is an election-year stunt as full of hot air as the Bud Light horse flatulence ad. "Like millions of Americans, my family and I gathered around the television for a celebration," declared Michael Powell, the F.C.C. chairman, upon announcing that the entire halftime would be examined. A celebration of what, exactly? Didn't Mr. Powell, the nation's chief television regulator, watch the previous MTV halftime show?

He promises to conduct the investigation himself — a meaningless gesture, though it may gain him an audience and perhaps a photo op with Ms. Jackson. Mr. Powell's real agenda here is to conduct a show trial that might counter his well-earned reputation as a wholly owned subsidiary of our media giants. Viacom has been a particularly happy beneficiary of the deregulatory push of his reign, buying up every slice of the media pie that's not nailed down. Should CBS be found guilty of "indecency" by the feds, the total penalty would amount to some $5 million, roughly the price of two 30-second Super Bowl commercials. Congress's new push to increase those fines tenfold is just as laughable. Viacom took in $26.6 billion last year.

Not for nothing did the company's stock actually go up the day after the Super Bowl. The halftime show was great merchandising for both MTV and CBS, the go-to network for "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show." Not to be left without a piece of the action, even NBC got into the act. Citing the Jackson flap, it decreed that two split-second shots of an 80-year-old woman's breast in an emergency room sequence in "E.R." be excised. But the "E.R." star Noah Wyle then went on NBC's "Today" show the morning of the broadcast to joke about the decision, and the network-owned NBC affiliate in New York used the banned breast as a promo for its post-"E.R." news broadcast: "What you won't see on tonight's episode of `E.R.' — at 11!" Thus did NBC successfully transform its decision not to bare geriatric flesh into a sexual tease to hype ratings. This is true marketing genius, American-style.

What's next? Some are predicting that all the tape delays being injected into TV events to pre-empt future wardrobe malfunctions will be the death of spontaneous, live TV. But the moment an awards show takes a ratings hit, this new electronic prophylactic will be quietly abandoned by the networks even faster than the N.F.L.'s vague threat not to collaborate with MTV next year.

Ms. Jackson, the biggest winner in this whole escapade, is already back on the air. Her official rehabilitation began right after the Super Bowl, when BET started broadcasting a 10-part series of "special Black History Month" spots in which she profiles historical luminaries like Harriet Tubman, Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier.

"Her tone is serious and focused, with the air and diction of a seasoned lecturer," says the network's news release, which also notes that "the spots feature Ms. Jackson clad in classic black." Wasn't her Super Bowl dominatrix costume classic black as well? Well, never underestimate the power of synergy. BET is another wholly owned subsidiary of Viacom.

February 16, 2004

Reality TV: Survive This!

The Austrian reality show Family Swap takes the concept of the British hit Wife Swap further by mixing people with different backgrounds.”

Salman's 35-year-old girlfriend, Melike Sanalmis, endured even worse abuse while living with a racist Viennese family. She calmly tried to reason with her hosts to make them question their prejudices.

As a “hidden minority” – meaning you don’t spot right away that I’m not your standard issue WASC (White Austrian Socialist-ish Catholic) – I am unfortunately privy to the run of the mill ignorance based racism that Austrians are so often accused of. My personal experience (disclaimer: vanity link) with this ugly animal is blissfully limited. Still, if only this had hit the papers sooner! I would have done more than tune in - I would have applied to participate!

February 13, 2004

As if we didn't already have enough time wasters

In this game, you get a series of still photos from movies with the people erased--their clothing and jewelry intact, but no faces or bodies to be seen--and you have to guess the movie. More addictive than I needed on such a busy Friday.

Doctors in Love and sleep-deprived

Slate's diary this week is A weeklong journal of two medical interns. By Ingrid Katz and Alexi Wright. The are the cutest lesbian medical intern couple ever! I'm always fascinated by what aspiring doctors put themselves through, and the added drama of trying to sustain a relationship through it makes for fascinating reading.

February 12, 2004

Speaking of the impending apocalypse

California and New York, the only two states in the country that produce foie gras in quantity are both considering legislation that would ban production of that succulent treat because of the misery it visits upon those poor ducks and geese. Yeah, I know. Birds are cute. But, uhm, foie gras is not something I want to add to the list of things, along with real camembert and other unpasteurized cheese) I can no longer eat as an American (at least until I get my passport renewed).

Sigh. The way things are going, with large ConAgra-like companies and crapass chains like WalMart taking over so much of the retail food distribution in this country, I'm beginning to worry that, politics aside, I may have to move to another country just to get a decent meal before too long.

howwasshe.com

I've listed this under the "aviso" column becasue How Was She is clearly another sign of the end of the world. Right up there with Movieoke.

Nonfamous reality

Interestingly enough, the Porter-Smith wedding may become part of a Canadian documentary on gay marriage. Academy Award-nominated Paperny Films has contacted us about filming our wedding for an upcoming documentary, and we've said yes.

The producers seem great, and as a bonus we'll get a professional video production of our wedding. Paperny's proposal for six one-hour episodes is up for final approval with Canada's Global network in March; if approved, filming would continue through fall 2004, with a projected air date of fall 2005. They are also talking to Showtime, which has aired some of their other work. Though there will be no nudity in this production, they do want to talk to our families about raising--and now marrying off--gay sons. That is sure to be revealing.

While the prospect of being famous in Canada fits with the name of this blog, if Showtime picks it up would we still be nonfamous? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In the mean time, we'll just have to think about the drama that will ensue if the first meeting of Meg and Judy is filmed by a TV crew. The only question is, who is more ready for her closeup?! "Ring me, Judy, we don't want to clash!"

February 10, 2004

Urban renewal via photoshop

Here's an easy way to make your city more appealing to a SuperBowl host city selection committee without all that expensive rebuilding and stuff: just use PhotoShop. You can see a comparison of the real Detroit downtown and the photoshopped version here.

Critical Swavastika Update

This morning, my Windows machines are prompting me to download a "critical" update. The details read: "This item updates the Bookshelf Symbol 7 font included in some Microsoft products. The Font has been found to contain unacceptable symbols. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer."

Of course, I unchecked this item (1 of 3) so that nothing would change until I discovered the "unacceptable" character(s). First, I was suprised to find a font named "Bookshelf Symbol 7"; next, I was surprised to find a swastika in it. I'm surprised that made it through the first go round of whatever figurative and real eyes and hands worked on the product.

I have a vague recollection that this symbol was considered benign or positive prior to Hitler's appropriation of it—and he actually used a swavastika or sauvastika. I don't think I can add anything new to discussions about what to do with regard to these symbols, and apparently, discussion of this problem in Bookshelf Symbol 7 started over on Typographica back in December.

February 05, 2004

The Dog Days of Winter

The village of Krungl, where I park the car to head out on the ski trails, has been transformed over the last two days in to Dogtown Central as the teams arrive for the “Winter Stakeout” – a three day weekend of terrible music, excellent beer, smoke filled tents, sausage off the grill, and, most importantly, dogsled races.


The dogs, according to the guy that runs the Linz team, are a bit less than thrilled about this, not because they don’t like to race or because they don’t like a good festival, but because it’s unseasonably warm. Yesterday it was up in the high 50s, though on the snow, it felt much warmer, and I was not dressed in the thick furry pelt favored by the sled dogs.

On Wednesday, only the early bird teams had arrived, staking out the best locations on the rapidly melting snow. While the dogs and their owners lolled about in the sun, a team of locals set up a green and white beer tent in front of the big farm that faces the meadows. I asked if it was okay to pet the dogs and take their pictures. The lead human told me about how they would love to go to Alaska to run there, but the travel is too hard on the dogs and they need so long to recover that it takes too much time. So they stay on this side of the Atlantic, traveling with their team through Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy…

By Thursday afternoon, the parking area was full of trailers. Harnessed dogs were staked out on every available dry surface. Things had started to get muddy and even though there we were outside in the open air, the air had started to acquire a certain doggy scent. There was a lot of conversation amongst the dogs; yowling, grumbling, moaning, and loud expressive yawning – not much barking though. It really does sound like they’re just lying around catching up, speaking dog to each other, occasionally alerting a human that a belly needs scratching or some ears need playing with.

For 10 euros, your kids could run a team of four around a prepared track of about one kilometer. We watched two enthusiastic ten year olds go for a spin. The team owner set them up, told them what to do, and off they went – for about 20 yards. The dogs stopped, milled around for a few minutes, the kids shouted at them, and then they seemed to reach an agreement, the dogs shooting off, pulling the sled behind them, the girls on the sled radiant with glee. In the background, the PA system broadcast a much too short loop of music featuring “Those Were the Days,” a German beer hall tune, and, heaven help us, “Who Let the Dogs Out.”

The dogs are incredible. They’re gorgeous, for starters, many of them have that characteristic one brown eye and one blue eye - and it's so striking. They’re very, very, clean, with coats that look like they were just washed, dried, and brushed. And they are unbelievably well behaved and nice. They don’t jump, they don’t bark, they don’t snap, they are unflustered by kids hovering around them in tight circles, they are really amazing. To top it off, they are very friendly. I don’t know enough about huskies to say if this is a temperamental disposition, but it certainly speaks highly of the owners.

We’re heading up to catch the races today. (Friday.) They run early, before it gets too hot, and because it’s a Friday, the crowds shouldn’t be too daunting. Maybe we’ll park the car up in the next village and ski in to avoid the hassle of getting in to town. At any rate, dog days are here. Woof. Mush!

Pictures from the races are here.

The boy next door in the hot seat

For a variety of reasons that are more varied than my long-standing morbid fascination with Martha Stewart, I've become a slave to the media coverage of her trial, and more specifically, to the role that her ex-stock broker's assistant, Doug Faneuil, is playing in this soap opera.

The part that has become so enthralling to me, though, is not at all what I would expect, but how the defense (expectedly) and the media are trying to paint a picture of Doug as an unreliable, lying, hate-filled, punk who's testimony can't be trusted. Not that I'm surprised at all considering the parties involved. However, what I do find interesting are the pieces of evidence for making these insinuations--factoids that when looked at together, point to someone I might know and like and want to include in my circle of friends.

1. Doug's dislike of Martha. Uhm, hello? I know for years I've been fascinated by my distaste for the queen of taste. I've kept in readily accessible memory every story of her bitchiness and cruelty--from the published gossip column tales of her poaching her daughter's fiance to stories told by my family members and friends unlucky enough to have lived in Westport and crossed paths with her wrath--and her weird rise to fame--the Polish girl from Nutley, NJ with the overly poofy wedding gown who comes home from her first book-signing tour to find her husband in bed with his secretary and then ousts him from the company he built--to the New York Times letters to the editor from grateful Westport residents bidding Martha not to let the door smack her on the ass when she moved to her New York loft.

So Doug sent emails to his friends describing Martha's unpleasantness, even before the current set of miseries. Per MSNBC today

“Martha yelled at me again today, but I snapped in her face, and she actually backed down! Baby put Ms. Martha in her place!!!”

Uhm. Wouldn't you? I mean really? I know I would have been blaring it from the rooftops if I'd had the chance to give Martha some whatfor after bitching me out. Can you blame the kid? And further, per WNBC

Bacanovic's lawyer, Richard Strassberg, went so far as to describe Faneuil as "fixated" by Martha Stewart, bragging to friends about even the most casual contact he had with her at Merrill Lynch.

Strassberg suggested Faneuil, hoping to impress Stewart, decided on his own to tip Stewart about the Waksal sales -- sales Faneuil knew about from calls earlier in the day.

"He did it because he was trying to be the big man," Strassberg said. "He did it out of inexperience, he did it out of foolishness. But he did it -- not Peter."

Here we have a serious jump in logic. Now, I know I'd be all "dude, I just talked to Martha again and you know what the bitch said" quite a bit in that situation, but trust me, impressing her would not be the foremost thing on my mind. Again, it's just that morbid fsacination thing. I've no doubt Doug did get a kick out of telling his friends about these moments. Young, cynical, New Yorkers who also find Martha both appalling and appealing, not unlike, say, a David Lynch movie. That don't mean he gonna stick his hand in the fire to make her happy.

2. Doug's drug problem. Which amounts to, apparently, having taken ecstasy a few tmes and smoking pot once in a while. Again, I have to point out the obvious--he's a young, hot, (and until this all broke) seriously upwardly mobile professional in New York. Oh my god, you mean he went clubbing? Oh my god, he took club drugs at times? Stop the presses! He's just like everyone else in his demographic!

3. The photo of Doug on the New York Post today. Which Dan Abrams of MSNBC seems to think makes him look bad, untrustworthy, and skanky. Now, granted, it was taken at a costume party last year (damn that kid, going to parties again) and the tattoo was fake (which is a shame, because, well, tattoos are cool), but my first thought was, ooh, la, la. I always thought he was cute, but now I'm really disappointed he's gay. Damn.


Given the way the media tries to breed mass distrust of anyone too intellectual, I'm surpised they haven't tried to use against him his degree from Vassar as a reason not to trust him. Maybe that's next.

Yeah, so basically, we've got a graduate from a top school, who has a good job, enjoys a night out on the town and have a little fun, dresses in character for Halloween parties, and finds the whole cult of Martha a source of entertainment. Yeah. I guess he doesn't sound like anyone I would want to know.

February 04, 2004

We laugh because we care

I thought I'd heard every tech support horror story, but this one, from today's Dilbert Newsletter (DNRC), is new to me and worth a chuckle:

A manager who received a new computer asked, "Don't these new computers come with CDROM drives?" I said yes. He insisted that his computer did not have a CDROM drive, but "There is a little drawer that opens at the BOTTOM of my computer, but it won't hold a CD." He had the computer upside down. I would have thought that the fact that everyone else got a "DELL" computer and his said "77ED" would have clued him in.

Surprise! You're a deadbeat dad.

A chilling account of how federal "deadbeat dad" laws are motivating the States to point the finger at innocent men, under the incentive of generating billions of dollars in revenue from the scheme.

Tony Pierce, a California man, was issued a summons claiming he was the father of an 8-year-old girl whose mother he'd never met. A long game of phone-tag with the county court failed to resolve the issue:

"I said, ‘What do I need to do? I’m not the father,’" he remembers. "And they were like, ‘OK, well this is what you do: You just call in every day, and then we’ll understand that you’re not it, because if you’re it, you’re not gonna call us every day.’"

What he didn't know was that a federally-mandated 30-day time bomb was ticking, and that if the issue wasn't resolved by then he'd de facto be the father by default. Not even a DNA test can fix this problem once it happens. And the State doesn't care, because they're now able to skim his child payments for their own coffers. From the article: In the words of former California legislator Rod Wright, "It ain’t your kid, you can prove it ain’t your kid, and they say, ‘So what?’"

Once you're marked as a deadbeat dad, in addition to the money garnished from your wages, there are other possible consequences: your credit rating may be trashed, you might not be able to renew a driver's license, and you may be denied a passport. (According to the article, an average of 60 American men discover this each day.) A name, race, vague location, and a broad age range provided by the mother is sufficient to launch a process to search for any man matching that description and tag him as the father.

Most laughable is the claim that the intent of the deadbeat dad laws "was to encourage more responsible sexual behavior by single women". Seems like in practice that what it really it means is that a single woman can screw around and then point the finger at any man -- with the complicity of the States -- to get the paternity money.

File that one under "unintended consequences".

May brides...and grooms

So the Massachusetts Supreme Court determined that same sex couples should have the same rights to join in matrimony that heterosexual couples enjoy. Not civil unions. Marriage. Anything else, they say, is relegating those unions to an unacceptable and unconstitutional second-class status. And according to the New York Times, by mid-May gay couples in the state should be able to get hitched, something we will no doubt be toasting emphatically at that time up in Vancouver. (And I have to admit to being especially delighted by the timing since Jay and David are, to my mind, an amazing example of why people should get married, gay or straight--how's that for some shameless sucking up?)

Per the court's ruling:

"That there may remain personal residual prejudice against same-sex couples is a proposition all too familiar to other disadvantaged groups," the Massachusetts court said. "That such prejudice exists is not a reason to insist on less than the constitution requires."

February 03, 2004

I Saw William Gibson Today

I saw William Gibson today. Here's a few quick comments as I remember them—that is, please don't hold him to my memory of his words.

In my picture, he looks the most normal that he looked the whole time. He's developing quite a hunchback and a turtle-ish profile.

He talked about how he's not really a technical guy, but he is evidently quite interested in the æsthetics of technical things. He said when he was younger that he built in his bedroom a very elaborate Doctor-Frankenstein-ish installation of laboratory glassware, and he did it just because it looked cool. He said he used to build stuff from Heathkit—and probably not correctly—because when it was done, it just looked so cool—particuarly when sitting next to the laboratory glassware.

He spoke quite a bit, and more than he led us to believe he would in the beginning. He said that he doesn't really do "talks"... unlike his friend Bruce Sterling, who doesn't really do dialog. He said in a few hours of hanging out with Bruce one-on-one, that Bruce will do a couple of talks with a little Q&A thrown on the end.

Of course, he was asked what he's working on now, and he said that he's been reading a lot of U.S. history, but he's not sure what will come of that. He said he'd been thinking a lot about how one might be elected for proclaiming oneself "conservative" and then go about enacting policies—perhaps quite radical policies—with the reassurance, "It's okay—I'm a conservative. We've always done it this way." While a constituency's ability to judge this is highly dependent on its knowledge of history.

He talked a little about writing. He said that of all his books, including Neuromancer, he got about three-quarters of the way done and proclaimed to his wife that the book was no good—perhaps even the worst ever written. He said he almost threw Neuromancer in the fire. He said he doesn't quite trust authors who are wholly confident and upbeat about books they've just written.

He talked about his writing coming from the unconscious in a painful process that cannot be called up on demand. He said he doesn't know how books will end, and this is why he doesn't like the way that stories are pitched to Hollywood, which won't pay for anything unless they know (and like) how it ends.

Meta-Analysis

In statistics and epidemiology, meta-analysis is the process of distilling several studies into one. For example, there may have been 50 different studies into the efficacy, of say, Viagra, and a meta-analysis study would look at all of them, and weigh them by various factors such as the number of patients in each study to conclude, overall, how good Viagra really is.

Seems there's a similar trend in journalism, but rather than combining the conclusions of several articles we just re-analyze the same article over and over again. Here's an article in The New Republic Online by Andrew Sullivan, where he discusses David Frum's discussion of Daniel Casse's analysis of George Bush's alleged conservatism. Just how many nested layers of analysis can we get? I guess I'm contributing to the problem by commenting on Sullivan's article myself.

It's turtles all the way down, sonny!

Feeling a bit calmer

What an interesting week it has been already--but strangely, I feel up to the challenge! I feel fitter, happier...

The week began a bit strangely, early Monday morning. I was happily chewing up my dog blanket in the middle of the night, meticulously (I wouldn't call it obsessively) removing all that horrible stuffing.

When Short Dad woke up to go to the bathroom (he can go whenever he wants, why can't I?), he saw the stuffing and turned on the light so he could throw it away. This woke up Tall Dad, who was not happy to be roused in this manner (or, really, in any manner). They started talking loud, which scared me, so I jumped up on the bed. Then Tall Dad yelled at me to get down. This scared me more, so through no fault of my own I had a bladder control incident. On their duvet. Then they really got mad. It was an ugly moment in the Portersmith family, I'll tell you that much.

Tall Dad didn't talk to me much that morning--you could tell he was pissed off (probably the appropriate response to, you know, being pissed on). I felt bad and worried all day, but tried to avoid eating my blanket any more.

But when Tall Dad got home, he was all smiles. He came and gave me a belly rub, and a little piece of cheese (yum). Something fell out of the cheese, which he then put in my mouth and made me swallow (yuck) but then I got more cheese (yum).

A few hours later, I decided to go see what he was up to downstairs (there was some banging, which would normally frighten me but instead was making me curious). He had made the downstairs bathroom change color--cool! So I just sat on the sofa. Then I got a bellyrub! Yay!

Short Dad came home, and we all hung out. Tall Dad made more noise in the bathroom, and cussed some, but I didn't get freaked out (too much). It's very strange. I don't know why I feel better--maybe I should pee on the bed more often? Nah, probably not. I wonder if it was the cheese. I like cheese!

You Already HAVE My Lunch Money

There’s a certain satisfaction in seeing nerd status elevated from wallflower to fashionista, but, as a genuine nerd, I take exception to the application of the term “nerdy” to "super sexy, super fun, super slutty" clothing. Anyone who’s attended a ‘They Might Be Giants” concert knows that nerd fashion is a more a byproduct of getting dressed than a focused effort to look good. Converse High Tops, the official shoe of nerds, and a Hawaiian shirt should just about cover the basics, though a preference for black is not out of the question. Anyone who’s walked the halls of our local software companies, nesting grounds for nerds of all kinds, knows that their sloppy comfort wasn’t purchased in the alt-fashion shops on Capitol Hill.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s room for nerds to be sexy. Remember Thora Birch in Ghost World? Yeah, she was hot, but her sexiness was totally compromised by an awkward quality that epitomizes nerdiness. Seymour, the record guy played by Steve Buscemi? Now that was a nerd. Thing is, the trip from nerd to sexy usually implies some sort of transformation. The sexy librarian is a prime archetype – sort of like Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman. Or, Lisabella in Last Tap Dance in Springfield – “she’s not plain, she’s BEAUTIFUL.” (Nerds love the Simpsons and quote it frequently.)

What these designers are pushing is not nerd chic – it’s art school style, no question. Contrived and wacky color combinations, post modern visual references to other sources, the apparent hand of the artist – and the manifestation of those things in the desire to create a visual sensation… those all the marks of art school style. Nerds live in their heads, not in their bodies, and fashion remains a mystery mostly unconsidered by nerds, except in the “Dude, she’s hot” style of deconstruction. And, unlike fashion designers, nerds read dictionaries before they start applying names to things. This fashion is anything BUT nerdy.

We nerds know you can push us down and steal our label if you really want to. Maybe we could set up your e-commerce server for free and then you’ll give us our name back. Maybe we do secretly wish we were cool and sexy like you. Then again, the co-opting of the nerd label makes us wonder if you don’t want to be like us. We probably only think that because we’re, well, nerds.