Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reality Shows I Haven't Seen 

I have to confess to not having seen this recent batch of reality shows myself. Of course, that won't stop me from mocking and commenting on their agenda-driven silliness anyway.

First, Debbie Schlussel reports on her experience with a "reality" show about a regular guy who lives with a Muslim family in order that he (and we) should learn what a great and non-threatening religion Islam is, and what a bunch of bigoted Islamophobes we all are:

Last year, I received a request to appear in Spurlock's new reality show, "30 Days." The six-episode series began Wednesday Night. The episode for which I was being recruited, "Inside an American Muslim Family," airs next Wednesday. It features Spurlock's childhood friend from West Virginia, David Stacy, spending thirty days "living as a Muslim" in the Detroit area.

While he is often referred to as a "journalist," and Spurlock touts "30 Days" as a "documentary," the outcome of the show was already decided before production began.

A show summary sent to me before taping began said, "This process aims to deconstruct common misconceptions and stereotypes . . . . [O]ur character will learn firsthand about Islam and the daily issues that . . . Muslims in America face today. The viewers will witness our character emerge from the immersion situation with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Muslim-American experience. . . . The potential is great for this program to enlighten a national television audience about the Muslim American experience and increase their compassion, understanding and support."

I asked the show's executive producers--all of whom worked for Michael Moore--how this could be a documentary when they'd already decided the outcome. Wasn't it possible, I asked, that the subject of the program, Stacy, would come out seeing that there isn't Islamophobia to the extent that the Muslim community claims? Might Stacy see that there is disturbingly strong support in the Detroit area Islamic community for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah--a fact regularly documented in the normally pliant Detroit media?

No, producers told me. "Morgan wants the show to demonstrate to America that we are Islamophobic and that 9/11's biggest victims are Muslims." With this in mind, I agreed to be filmed only with final approval of my appearance, which I never gave.
Then Salon alerted me to another upcoming show:

...PBS offers...: "Point of View: The Education of Shelby Knox," about a Christian teen who becomes an outspoken sex ed advocate...
You might tell me that the descriptions and links I present are misleading, and if I'd actually watched these shows, I would be weeping great big beautific tears of agreement. I can only hope you're right. But I can't help noticing the obvious commonality in what is presented.

Or, to put it another way, it's hard not to wonder about the shows we aren't seeing:

Terrorist goes to Temple: We paroled a Guantanamo prisoner for an uplifting and spiritual 30 day experience living with a Reform Jewish family in Encino California. Share the tears as the militant Islamist attends Synagogue for the very first time and learns the words to Kumbaya, as well as how to love the Other.

Survivor, Saudi Arabia: We dropped off 6 ardent feminists in the middle of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, with nothing but their swimsuits, a pack of matches, and a batch of pro-choice pamphlets. Watch the hijinx as they try to rent a car, and shop for food unescorted. We'll follow along as they discover deeper feminist truths, and cheer their spiritual growth as they happily adopt the hijab and burqa of their Muslim sisters.

Amazing Disgrace: Watch as Team Durbin competes with Team Amnesty, circling the globe in a quest to see who can expose the greatest global human rights abuses. You'll see the Auschwitz of fast food, a McDonalds in Alabama that skimps by 10% on the Super-size french fry portions. You'll be outraged by the Ghengis Khan of 3rd grade teachers, a callous woman who destroys sensitive young self-esteems by handing out grades lower than B. And don't miss the dramatic final episode when the teams enter North Korea to investigate a family that forces a puppy to sleep outside at night. Sadly, the season was dramatically cut short, the final 2 episodes unexpectedly cancelled as producers were unable to recover the teams from the warm North Korean hospitality to which they are still being treated.

They sound like sure-fire ratings winners to me. I wonder when they hit the air?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Jewish Head Croppers? 

The Jerusalem Post has been running ads from Jewish dating sites for quite awhile. Maybe I just haven't been paying careful enough attention, but I was a little surprised when today's JDate banner was the first I can remember with a picture that didn't crop, chop or otherwise obscure the top of the man's head. I wonder why JDate suddenly decided to break the long-standing policy of kippah-ambiguity?

Truth be told, they didn't just break the bare-head barrier. They also shattered the bare female shoulder and chest-to-breast taboos as well. What's the world coming to?

Typical "Head Choppers"




Risque Ad


Here are Canadian Singles and New York Singles sites in case you want a baseline.

Still, given the choice, I'll take this Jewish form of head cropping over the "militant Islamist" form any day.

[edit: changed the title]

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Real Thing? 

An Islamic Jihad militant brandishes a hand grenade during a rally in the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip. Jihad and the other main Palestinian militant factions began observing a de facto truce at the beginning of the year but Jihad's commitment has been called into doubt after being involved in at least two deadly attacks in recent days.(AFP/Mohammed Abed)

I wanted to try my hand at some alternate captions for the picture. Remember, if you want the real thing when it comes to funny, try Caption This.

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De Niro's Maid 

Very strange story recently of crime amongst the stars:

An alleged housekeeper from hell is behind bars today, charged with pocketing $95,000 diamond earrings belonging to Robert De Niro's wife - and cleaning out the homes of other rich and famous New Yorkers.


Prosecutor Anne Schwartz said Turyk-Wawrynowicz threatened to accuse one victim's husband of sexual harassment if the thefts were reported to cops.


Cops began investigating the housekeeper on June 3 only after Hightower told police her earrings had vanished from the sprawling Central Park West home she shares with De Niro.
Wow, what a story. So the maid is stealing from all these celebs, and she manages to cow them all into silence except De Niro's wife. I can picture it, the maid threatens her and she shoots back, "Are you talkin' to me?" Yeah, that sounds about right for De Niro's wife. It's a good thing she showed some backbone or this maid's crime spree could have lingered on longer than Michael Moore at a dessert bar.

I'm just puzzled about the reactions of some of the others to the threats of harrassment charges against their famous, wealthy spouses. I'm amazed there wasn't at least one schemer among them able to think it through from a position of complete self-interest. You know: "Why, what a grand idea, Ms. Maid. In fact, it's such a great idea, I think I might even perjure myself on your behalf! After all, once you point that finger at my husband, he gets a boatload of bad pub and a divorce, while I get rid of the pre-nup and end up with everything. What's not to like?"

Hmmm. So why didn't that happen? Why wasn't there at least one greedy, unhappy spouse in the lot? Kind of hard to believe.

Wait, now I get it. These people have probably helped their spouses read through just about every lousy script the Marvelous Movie Machine has squeezed out in the last few decades. Stuff every bit as bad as this, maybe even worse. They must have considered the possibility, if they were really that greedy and conniving, that it might just be a setup. Yeah, it wouldn't be hard to imagine a suspicious husband setting his wife up to see if she'd take the bait, laying out a little insurance policy for himself in case one of his sordid affairs is discovered and he needs to give his divorce lawyer something to fight back with. So simple: hire a "maid" to "steal stuff" and then make threats, and see if your future Divorce Game opponent manages to incriminate herself. I bet the maid was wired the whole time, in case the divorce got really ugly and dramatic evidence was needed.

No. No. That can't be it, the maid would never go for it. Why would she risk jail, just to help an actor set his wife up like that? Why? ... Unless... unless the maid was the one sleeping with the movie stars, and feathering her nest a little on the side. Yeah, of course! It's so obvious. I've seen lots of movies where the rich husband sleeps with the maid and thinks he can get away with it. Hollywood hubris, it just reeks of it. Thank God I'm not a part of all that.

Anyway this is great stuff, let's run with it...I think I see Nicole Kidman as the maid...any chance we could convince Jim Carrey to play De Niro?

(hat tip: salon.com)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Oprah, you can't be serious 

Wow, I can't wait to see if Oprah really thinks this is the way to play her cards. Let me back up for a second, in case you don't read the same bottom-feeding gossip rags that I do, like CNN:

Luxury store Hermes on Wednesday apologized to Oprah Winfrey for turning her away last week, saying that its Paris store was closed to set up for a public relations event when the talk show host stopped by.


The store said the incident occurred on June 14 around 6:45 p.m., about 15 minutes after the store closed. It said Winfrey and her team arrived at a time when "a private PR event was being set up inside."
Shocking, simply shocking, that the store treated Oprah, and indeed her entire 'team', so rudely, failing to open their doors for her entourage's entrance. Did they not hear the trumpets heralding her arrival? Honestly, I hate the French sometimes. So anti-American.

But wait, what's this? Oprah doesn't feel this is simply a case of rude Frenchman thumbing their noses at a boorish Yankee?

Harpo Productions spokeswoman Michelle McIntyre said Winfrey "will discuss her 'crash moment' when her show returns from hiatus in September."

"Crash" is a film dealing with race relations. The phrase "crash moment" refers to situations where a party feels discriminated against on the basis of skin color.


The New York Post, in its Monday Page Six gossip column, reported she was turned away because the store had been "having a problem with North Africans lately."
But apparently, the store disagrees with the star's account:

The [Hermes] spokeswoman said Winfrey came to the store 15 minutes after closing and a security guard informed her the store was closed and gave her a card, telling her she could come back the next day.

Surveillance videotape of the encounter supports the store's account, according to the spokeswoman.
So let's get this straight.

Oprah shows up 15 minutes after one of France's finest foppery facilities has locked its gold-encrusted doors. She has the perfectly reasonable expectation that the boutique should open anyway to someone of her stature, but is instead turned away. She complains, Hermes apologizes. Yet she nevertheless plans to make this a big discrimination issue on her show.

Has she lost her mind?

Look, there are clearly two audiences to this story. To the first audience, this is all playing out perfectly. Upscale, jet-setting celebs and the merchants who cater to them, faun over them, and spit shine their Gucci shoes without a rag -- to these people, it is perfectly reasonable that Oprah should pout at not having had the red carpet retroactively rolled out for her retinue. And the Hermes apology makes perfect sense too, in an obnoxiously obsequious sort of way: they have a a very valuable and very spoiled customer base to protect and pander to. I'm sure Oprah's decision will barely make a ripple in this small but exclusive pond.

But it appears Oprah has swallowed enough of her own celebrity Kool-aid that she now mistakes this warped world-view for the real world. She plans to stand before millions of her "ordinary" fans, her real audience, and announce how she was persecuted by being denied the opportunity to pay $6500 for a Parisien purse a mere 15 minutes after the riff-raff had been dismissed from her store of choice. And I'm sure the racial edge she apparently plans to add to the charges will go over well with her many minority viewers who have also been denied the basic human right of after-hours shopping sprees.

Obviously, I'm not denying there is racism in the world, even in France of all places. Nor do I deny Oprah the right to complain about whatever the heck she wants to. I'm just throwing out my guess that somewhere in one of the world's media capitals, a desperate PR executive right now has the Big O's cell on speed dial and auto-redial, frantic to talk her down from this ledge she's crawled out on. She might want to consider solidifying her base, the viewers who watch her show and buy the products she recommends, before catering to the wealthy French shopping demographic.

But even if Oprah has truly lost her marbles, the advertising and marketing executives need not worry, help is on the way. Martha's finally been paroled and should be out of her ankle bracelet soon.
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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Screw the Lightbulb 

Confident that no dead horse can ever be sufficiently beaten, I hereby submit my top ten new lightbulb jokes.

Q: How many Hollywood movie stars does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Two, but they have to be very small.

Q: How many observant Jews does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Two, but the woman has to go to the mikve first.

Q: How many Saudis does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: None. The Committee for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue would never permit such screwing!

Q: How many insurgents does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Three and a half. One for the lightbulb. One to chain the first to the lightbulb so he doesn't run from his duty. The third stands by with a cell phone, in case the lightbulb holder chickens out. Plus an AP photographer.

Q: How many Bush administration members does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. Cheney, Rove and the religious right never said anything about any lightbulbs.

Q: How many Al Queda leaders does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: None. The cave needs no infidel lightbulbs. A torch is fine.

Q: How many Palestinian leaders does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Two. One to hold the bulb with an exasperated look, while the other complains to the media that intransigent Israel is not meeting its roadmap obligation to screw the lightbulb in for them.

Q: How many IDF soldiers will it take to screw in a light bulb this summer?
A: Thousands. One to screw in the bulb, the rest to clear all the burning tires.

Q: How many members of Michael Jackson's entourage does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Only one, really. The youngest helps Michael while the rest stand watch outside.

Q: How many (pick one: lawyers, tax collectors, insurance adjustors, ...) does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: None. They don't screw lightbulbs.

Settler, settler, settler... 

Caption from a Reuters photo at Yahoo of a bearded, kippah-clad man helping move a wounded Israeli terror victim from an ambulance:

An Israeli settler moves a wounded settler out from the ambulance to Enkarem hospital in Jerusalem June 24, 2005. Palestinian gunmen killed a Jewish settler on Friday in a West Bank drive-by shooting, Israel's ambulance service said, in the latest blow to a fragile Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire. Two other settlers, including a teenager, were wounded in the attack on a hitchhiking post near the city of Hebron, the Israeli army said. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen
If you are a regular blog reader, an lgf-regular, you can probably sniff a "biased-media" rant a mile away. I try to ration how often I indulge my unfair-media-whine instinct, especially since this ground is already well-covered by others. But when a teapot boils, it's got to whistle. So bear with me please.

As you can probably tell from the highlighted words settler and gunmen in the Reuters text I've quoted, I'm sick of a certain ubiquitous sleight-of-hand game the media plays with us. They insist on calling people who shoot at Israeli civilians for political reasons anything but what they are: terrorists. And I say that as one who wouldn't call the same people terrorists if they shot at soldiers. I don't want them shooting at my soldiers, but that's not terror. This is. Nevertheless, Reuters, and almost every other media outlet farther left than Fox News, insists on calling them gunmen. Or activists. Or insurgents. Freedom fighters. Etc. When pressed, they invariably find journalistic principles that require them to misrepresent the obvious: "Terror is a pejorative, emotionally-laden term", or "Terrorist is a 'judgemental' term and we don't judge the conflict, just report it."

Yeah, whatever. So they call the terrorist shooters here gunmen. A triumph of journalistic integrity, objectivity, and myopia.

In the meantime, let's see the rest of this non-judgemental, non-pejorative journalistic truth-in-labelling at work. What would be the word most likely to paint an Israeli in a bad light, at least from a mainstream journalist's point-of-view? Why, settler, of course. Forget for the moment that there is nothing wrong with the word settler. But through years and years of repetition, always in some gun-toting, kick-the-arabs-out, militant religious context, the media (including Israel's own left) has managed to twist the term settler into a four letter word. The settler label comes in handy when reporters want to avoid the anti-semitic overtones of painting "the Jews" in a bad light, and worry that calling us Zionists sounds too obviously like Arab propaganda. Of course the term Israeli could be used, but that risks implying support for Israel's legitimacy, and they don't want to prejudge the conflict. So settler it is: mean, nasty settlers.

Reuters here manages to slip the word in four times within three sentences, perhaps not an all-time record, but certainly an achievement worthy of attention. It does so in reference to five separate Israelis. This superhuman sense of objectivity we hear so much about couldn't have found a single other term for any of the five Israelis? Not, perhaps, simply Israeli? That is what these people are, after all.

Or, if gunman is the prefered alternative to terrorist, the targeted Israelis could easily have been called "Israeli gunshot victims" if not "victims of terror."

Another possible journalistic excuse they might try here is that they can't know for a fact what the motives of the shooters were until they can find them and question them, preferably with two anonymous sources to back them up. Heck, it could have just been some vacationing gang-bangers from Los Angeles out having a good time. Who knows until the reporters can do the full research?

But in that case, I hope the reporter actually researched each of the Israelis' listed places of residence. Not everyone found in Gaza or the West Bank has settled there. Reporters would be just one example, but there are many many more. I'll give the benefit of the doubt and assume, perhaps naively, that the reporter doesn't confidently apply this term to every Israeli he finds, backed by a belief that all of Israel should really be labeled Palestine. The two more likely guesses are either: a) continual and habitual shoddy journalism that by mere chance and coincidence just so happens to subjectively slander Israelis while 'objectively' sugar-coating terrorism against them at every opportunity, or b) the obvious.

Ok, that's it. I've got to run out and see if I can find a pharmacy that will sell me some blood pressure medicine without a prescription, before I really blow.
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Friday, June 24, 2005

Basketball Crazy 

You can call me crazy if you want.

I dragged myself out of bed at 4am this morning, despite being so exhausted I could only keep one eyelid open at a time. If that was all we were talking about, I'd agree, it's crazy. But I had a good reason: here in Israel, 4am was the starting time for the basketball game I wanted to watch, so that's not crazy. Especially since it was the 7th game of the NBA Finals, the pinnacle of hoops hype. All the more so, it made perfect sense because my friend was ringing my phone using his cell as he stood at my front door, patiently waiting for me to come down and let him in.

So you could call me crazy, but I would still disagree. That's not crazy, except for one little thing: the Lakers weren't even playing. Without the Lakers, I'm hard-pressed to explain my sitting in the dark, watching two teams I despise vie for the honor of being NBA Champs. Maybe I am just a little crazy.

Where was the excitement, the soap opera, the drama that is Lakers Championship Basketball? Has it really come to this? Will I spend the next few years watching the San Antonio Drones establish the world's most boring dynasty while I mark off squares on my calendar, waiting for Draft Day? I hope not.

But for now, my Lakers have no answer for the Duncan-Droid, whose theme song during his slow-mo highlight replays is the Rocky III soundtrack song "Visual Input Device of the Tiger".

The only thing this game had going for a Laker fan was Robert Horry, and his (successful) quest for a 6th championship ring. Otherwise, it was pretty tough to find a viewing angle. It was hard to decide whether I wanted to see the Pistons win, thus giving them back-to-back championships and a chance at stepping up to the level of the Bulls and Lakers recent championship runs, or the Spurs, thus giving them three championships in seven years, with the potential for even more in the future.

Frankly, I wanted them both to lose, but since that isn't possible, I've decided to take the high road:

Congratulations Spurs

The part of the game I found most interesting was after it was over.

David Stern stepped up to the microphone to present the trophies and the San Antonio crowd booed the ever-popular commissioner. Then rather than simply laud the new champions, he chose to use the Spurs' internationally flavored roster as a nutty sequitor to the promotion of his pet project: his vision of the NBA as an international game. But as he was extolling the game's international future, the camera caught Manu Ginobilli, the Spurs' popular Argentinian import, ruefully shaking his head. I assume he, like me, is a Stern skeptic.

David Stern can talk all he wants about trying to popularize the game internationally. All I know is that last year, here in Israel we had an NBA package of one live game each day for a few bucks a month. This year we had nothing as the Commissioner priced the package out of the reach of Israeli cable company budgets. Apparently Commissioner Stern feels that we, the international audience he craves, will be more likely to fall in love with his product if we can't actually watch it. And if Spurs vs. Pistons is the best he can do, he might be right.

So I'll close with a double wish: that the Lakers soon regain their rightful and entertaining position atop the NBA, and that David Stern gives us internationals our NBA cable channel back again so we can get up at 4 in the morning more often. Crazy, I know.
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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Swimmer's Reward 

They say no stupid deed goes unrewarded, or something like that. I expect they probably tax the reward too.

My kids were overjoyed to hear that I was going to accompany them to the swimming pool. Ordinarily, I adhere to a strict "Dads Stay Dry" policy, one I've followed since even my pre-Dad days. But the kids have been begging me for the longest time to join them in the water. So finally, this time I agreed to take the plunge, thus earning myself yet another Stupid Deed Reward, by granting my kids their long-running paternal fish wish.

Now technically, the way I swim, I could probably have gotten away with this bad decision. That is, I could have stuck to my usual dog paddle, keeping my head -- and most importantly, my ears -- firmly above sea level at all times. But you know how it goes: first the kids want to go under water, and then they want you to go under too and watch them, and, well, what's a Dad to do?

So I heard their pleas, dove under the water, resurfaced, and heard nothing more. But not because their pleas had stopped. I just couldn't hear.

I tilted my head left, tilted it right, and gave it a series of well placed whacks, all of which failed to dislodge the water that had gotten into my inner ears and set up shop cancelling all incoming noise.

But Dads are flexible, and hearing each and every exact word out of my kids' mouths isn't strictly necessary, since I can usually get the idea just by watching their eyebrows move. So I left the water where it was and continued swimming, basking in my children's appreciation of my committment to their happiness.

Time came to go home and I still could not hear, but it was ok; I figured my ears would drain out eventually on their own. In the meantime, I let Sharon referee all the arguments, since I couldn't really hear them. Poor me.

Once home, as the hours passed, my hearing didn't recover, and my ear started to ache. You can only ignore that for so long, as the pain grows more intense, before taking action. I finally drove myself over to the Beit Shemesh "emergency room", Terem, to have them examine my Swimmer's Reward and prescribe a course of anti-biotic eardrops to save what was left of my hearing. I also imagined they'd want the name of the pool I'd swum in so they could shut it down and give a hazmat time a chance to destroy the teeming bacteria before letting anyone else back in.

Long story marginally less long: they didn't need to call out the hazmat team, and I hadn't contracted a dangerous ear infection. It was much simpler, and a bit more embarrassing than anything so dramatic. But at least I had an English-speaking nurse so I didn't suffer the further indignity of having to pantomime my way, charades style, around the fact that I didn't know the Hebrew word for ear wax.

It is nice to hear again though.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Where are the Hawaiian Suicide Bombers? 

Hat Tip to Gates of Vienna for finding an interesting new World History Blog and its recent post about Hawaiian Independence:

Hawaiian citizens voted to join the USA as a state. And the United Nations recognized the vote! The vote was overwhelming as it was 8-1 in favor of statehood.

You might think a referee is wrong in a football game, but despite a bad call, the results of the game are still upheld later. This is the case of Hawaii and the UN. Maybe it was the wrong decision (and the size of the Hawaiian vote indicates it was not), but the results are still binding.
Were it only so easy. There seems to be a non-negligible body of world opinion that believes what the U.N. giveth, the U.N. may taketh away. As long as you can get enough non-aligned nations aligned, almost anything is possible in the U.N.'s forums.

All the rest of the stuff that comes from these Hawaiian Independence sites is based on the flawed logic that Hawaii is currently undergoing occupation by the USA and that the Kingdom of Hawaii still legally exists! This logic then leads these sites to argue that Hawaii should be allowed to secede from the USA (or in their words restored) without a vote of the people of Hawaii.
So it might take a few bombings and beheadings before they get their point across. But that's ok, since all acts of resistance are legitimate in the fight against alleged occupation.

Further, any one without the correct DNA (the majority of Hawaiians!) would be denied a vote as only Hawaiians with ancestors who were citizens under the Hawaiian Kingdom would be allowed to vote in the new government. That is a cause that is assured to go nowhere. Can you really see world opinion swinging in favor of the disenfranchisement of the majority of Hawaiian citizens?
Actually, sitting here in Israel, yeah, I can see it. All it takes is some French leadership and a few meetings of the U.N. It wouldn't be hard to clear the islands of these occupying interlopers and send them all back to their colonialist lands.

If Hawaii is not American and there was any legal case internationally to be made of this, don't you think the UN, the World Court, and the international media would be all over this? The deafening silence you hear tells you exactly what the world community believes about Hawaii and the USA.
I can see why one might hope to interpret the silence that way. Or it could just be that these institutions and their supporters are too busy establishing the needed precedents elsewhere. Once they've proven they can de-zionize Zion, then we'll see what they can do with the rest of the world.

While in Israel, Shimon Peres still dreams of turning refugee camps on disputed Gazan lands into Club Meds, elsewhere lives the dream of turning Hawaiian Club Meds into refugee camps.

Here ends my proof that any topic, in the hands of a properly trained blogger, can be shown to really be about Israel. Aloha!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tagged By My First Meme 

It was bound to happen eventually. You can run but you can't hide. A meme, the Book Meme, has found me, thanks to Flown to the Roll.

So lets give it a try, it probably won't hurt too much.

Total number of books owned, ever: I'll put aside for the moment the fact that you can never truly own a book, only give it a good home for awhile. My book hosting count is probably somewhere on the order of one to two thousand. It would be higher except I've spent the better part of the last decade living in a country where the vast majority of available books are in a language I can barely use to order a cab, let alone read a book. I eagerly await the coming age of JITP (Just In Time Publishing), when anyone can walk into a shop anywhere in the world and have their own copy of any book printed and bound to order, on the spot. I'm a dreamer.

Last book I bought: It's hard to remember which one was on the bottom of the pile I dumped on the cashier's counter, and thus the Official Last One. It was probably Harry Potter V, since it's so heavy. Or it could also have been one of the volumes in the "Captain Underpants" series -- I could easily imagine that being on the bottom of the pile. But if not one of those two, then it was probably one of my wife's "three generations of women struggling to understand their most painful memories, swept up against a backdrop of war and turmoil, and the men who loved them" novels.

Last book I read: The last book I actually finished would be Yertle the Turtle, a true classic in the fields of political theory and vertical structural engineering. It's been a long time since I actually finished a book from my own reading list though. This is because I don't read nearly as much as I'd like (work, kids, blogging, blog reading) and because I am presently buried 400 pages and 5 months deep into the second volume of Neil Stephenson's Baroque Cycle -- I manage only about 2 or 3 pages a day at certain, shall we say, propitious moments. Oh well, I figure 6 more months and I'll finish it.

Five books that mean a lot to me:

Snowcrash by Neil Stephenson: An amazing ability to convey serious ideas with writing that is nonetheless totally hilarious. Also was my gateway to the rest of his work, which is all exceptional, especially Diamond Age.

Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl: Taught me that even when we can't control our fate, we can control our reaction to it.

C++ FAQs: What can I say? I'm a geek. But this book made me a better, more highly-paid geek.

Sunset Stir-Fry Cookbook: Source of my Sweet-and-Sour Chicken recipe. Life changing.

"The What to Expect" Series -- When You're Expecting, The First Year, The Toddler Years: I basically lived these books for years. Of course, things didn't really go the way they said it would. For instance, no matter how much they tell women to focus on breathing and deep meditation while in labor, let me tell you the truth -- it still hurts!

You're It!

Ok, here comes the viral part. We'll give the Big Blogger Wheel of Fate five random spins and pick the next victims...

You can all thank me later.

Monday, June 20, 2005

In Awe of True Marketing Genius 

Imagine you work in marketing, and a client comes to you asking for help selling a chemical concoction that tastes surpisingly similar to what used to be called Maple Syrup. For most of us, this would be a tough sell. Perusing the ingredients would yield only a list of substances no one but a Latin instructor or a pharmacist could pronounce. Not only is its flavor faked, it's probably even artificially sticky.

But the True Marketing Genius digs deeper. The True Marketing Genius interviews the client to learn more, confident there is a proper placement for every product. After a few hours of persistent questioning, it might eventually emerge that the company's delivery trucks pass within a few hundred yards of a stand of maple trees as they roll out of the facility where this liquid is manufactured.

Oh! To experience that exquisite flipping of the internal switches! To bask in the glorious radiance as the bulbs blaze over the True Marketing Genius's head. Suddenly, the fog lifts, and a new campaign is born, one certain to have consumers begging for the privelege of shelling out their hard-earned cash for a plastic bottle of artificially sweet, runny brown broth.



Two Percent Real Maple! Why, with that much maple goodness, and my pollen allergies, I'm afraid I might sneeze myself to death, but what a way to go. Those delivery trucks, and their load of high fructose corn syrup, must really pick up a serious whiff as they roar past the Maple trees.

Of course this stuff is probably three percent truck exhaust, but nobody wants "3% Real Truck Exhaust Syrup". No, this is perfect, True Marketing Genius.

How did I discover this jewel in advertising's crown, you ask? Well, truth be told, I found it in our pantry. Believe it or not, I prefer totally artificial syrup to that "All Natural Vermont Goodness" crap my wife likes.

But I bought this one anyway.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Peres and Palestinian Pistols: Practice Makes Perfect 

At first I thought I'd surfed my way deep into some old Haaretz archive. The headline said, "Peres: Israel should give PA weapons to restore order." But it turns out, this is a current story:

Israel should transfer to the Palestinian Authority lights arms as part of a series of goodwill gestures Prime Minster Ariel Sharon intends to present PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in their meeting next week, Vice Premier Shimon Peres told Israel Radio on Friday.
You know, I've got a parent-teacher conference tonight, and I'd really like to build some goodwill with my daughter's teacher. I'm really tempted to bring along an AK47 and a year's supply of ammunition to help build up the trust between us. Maybe I should buy two AKs and keep the second one for the next time I have an appointment with a new doctor, as a sort of "getting-to-know-you" offering.

Seriously, that's crazy! We wouldn't hand weapons to a teacher, or a doctor, despite the fact that we already trust them with our children or even our very lives. But now an enemy, who has been killing our people for years, wants to meet with us. So to this person we'll hand over loaded weapons (and maps to the "shooting range," as it turns out, if you scroll to the bottom of the linked Haaretz article).

Seems kind of counter-intuitive to me, but then again, I'm not a political and diplomatic genius on a par with Shimon Peres, so if he thinks it's a good idea, it must at least be worth trying once, just to see if it works.

The Palestinians "are apparently facing many problems," Peres said. "The light arms are really needed in order to place law and order and to fight Hamas."
The Palestinians are indeed having some problems, Hamas not the least among them, but to say they are "facing" these problems is laughable. Abbas (and every other Palestinian leader who can reach a Reuters microphone) has already announced in the loudest possible Arabic that there is absolutely zero possibility of confronting Hamas or disarming them. They might have said something different in English of course, but it's not worthwhile to pay too close attention to . Better to listen to people who understand Arabic instead, like Michael Widlanski for instance.

Continuing listening to Shimon Peres:

The Vice Premier did not agree that the PA's weapons, which in the past were used against Israeli targets, threat (sic) Israel in a substantial way.
Wait a minute, you mean they were given weapons before, and used them against Israelis? I'm shocked. Speechless. I think even David Bowie would say that giving them more weapons now, to "face" their Hamas problem, is like putting out fire with gasoline. Good thing the threat is not substantial, like, say, a four-year intifada that kills Israelis and disrupts normal life and economic activities like tourism and nightlife. Nothing like that.

"Light arms do not pose a threat to Israel. The threat on Israel comes on the one hand from a war with tanks and airplanes and on the other hand from terrorists," Peres went on saying.

"It is not the guns that threaten us, but the suicide bombers," he said.
At least that explains why he isn't offering them confidence-building Semtex as well.
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Saturday, June 18, 2005

MSM's Top 10 Blogging Pointers 

Before you acquire the nasty little habit of reading these new-fangled blog-thingies, or even, God-forbid, writing one of your own, please first consider these helpful pointers, courtesy of MSM (Miserably Sourced Media):

  1. Blogging can easily get you fired from your job.
  2. Blogging can get you thrown in jail if you live in a totalitarian state (like America). We can't give you any examples of American bloggers this has happened to, but that's just because the Fascists probably squirreled them away, deep in a Gitmo sub-sub-basement.
  3. Bloggers do not uphold journalistic standards, like having two sources for every report. We know because we checked with two bloggers, who prefer to remain anonymous, and they didn't deny it.
  4. Bloggers are a big snarling mob whose only aspiration is to destroy the finest, most elevated dreams of their more responsible peers (us) -- noble goals like getting John Kerry elected, or ending the Nazi practices of our thuggish military establishment.
  5. Blogging is not as widespread and popular as you have been led to believe. As far as we can tell, the output of the entire U.S. blogosphere emanates from only 10 to 12 highly caffeinated bloggers, gifted typists all, working out of a government safe house with exceptional bandwidth somewhere deep in the Red States.
  6. Bloggers constantly criticise Responsible Media, spewing their trivial litany of complaints with a freedom that cannot be allowed to continue; it threatens the Free Speech Rights of the real journalists who have to put up with that constant carping.
  7. The more time you spend on these blogs, the less likely it is you will be able to imbibe every last word of the New York Times as the gospel it is. Please spend your time wisely, because our group brain is counting on your cooperation.
  8. If you must read blogs, please first repeat this helpful mantra at least a dozen times before each blog visit, so its advice can insulate you from all the blog-bilge: "Bush lied, insurgents died. Soldiers desecrated, Christianity is antiquated. Abortion's a right, Bush isn't bright. We know we know better, why's America redder?"
  9. Please turn to the back page of the classified section for our weekly roundup of "What's Goin' on in that Darned Blogosphere" so you don't have to bother wading into the swamp yourself. Let us wear the hip-boots for you.
  10. Don't forget to check out our new blog, starting next month, at msm.blogspoof.com. Remember, it's free to premium subscribers.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Ten things you should know about cats 

My list of...

Top Ten reasons to teach your kids that cats are the by-product of failed experiments in the cross-breeding of rats and ferrets:

  1. Have you ever experienced the pleasure of a wet hair-ball squishing between your toes?
  2. Cats are hungry. Betcha can't feed just one.
  3. A litter box will invariably end up smellifying a room in which you used to enjoy spending quality time.
  4. The little varmints just won't leave you alone, even when you're trying to read, purring and rubbing their little heads against you, demanding you pet them. Worse, they won't let you stop!
  5. However many you end up feeding, those cats will attempt to bring their friends, who encamp around your house, yeowling enviously and fighting furiously over who is next in the adoption queue.
  6. Have you seen the price of feline antibiotics lately?
  7. Have you ever tried getting a stubborn cat to swallow those antibiotics?
  8. Stepping barefoot on bits of dry cat food and kitty litter hurts a lot more than you might expect.
  9. It's very hard to sleep when a cat, having decided it wants in at two in the morning, scales the side of your house and hangs by its claws from your 2nd floor bedroom window screen, yodeling and rattling the shutters.
  10. Cats pretty much invented Halitosis, or at least perfected it as an artform.

By the way, Sumi had her two kittens and they're up now and running all over the place outside. Ginger is also doing better and spends a lot of her time sleeping in my favorite chair. I guess I can find another place to sit.
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Credit to Reuters 

Palestinian kids and Israeli soldiers in a Reuters photo? It must be gratuitous brutality time. Well, actually, no it's not. I guess even Reuters gets tired of doom and gloom, all the time:

Israeli soldiers play soccer with Palestinian boys at the centre of West Bank city of Hebron June 16, 2005. The Palestinian militant group Hamas disclosed on Thursday that European Union diplomats had held talks with some of its members, an apparent shift in EU policy that drew sharp criticism from Israel. REUTERS/Nayef Hashlamoun

They don't say who won. Let's imagine it was a tie.
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Is the PNI a reliable sign of Palestinian moderation? 

I consider the question in order to properly respond to a comment on my previous post, in which I reacted to a Hizbullah leader's open call for the complete destruction of Israel. I had wondered if an Arab version of the "Not in Our Name" movement might rise in opposition to these sentiments, a sign that mainstream Arab opinion would not allow these dreams of Israel's annihilation to be presented as theirs. Or alternatively, is Palestinian mainstream opinion more or less comfortable with this, as inclined to destroy Israel as negotiate with it.

Andrew responded by holding up the Palestinian National Intitiative (PNI), led by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, as an example. He quoted Dr. Barghouti's stated organizational goal of non-violent resistance, and pointed me to the PNI web site for more information about this organization which garnered "the third largest share of electoral votes in the recent Council election".

I first want to thank Andrew for taking the time to respond, and appreciate his civil dialog with me.

Given his assumption that I was simply asking for an example of "an Arab group with a dissenting opinion", I can see why he chose the PNI as an example. I am certainly happy to hear of Palestinians recommending that resistance be non-violent. Of course in this case, the definition of "non-violent" is based on the first Intifada, which may not look so bad from our present, post-Intifada II point-of-view, but it is definitely not a pacifist's definition. The PNI is, nevertheless, a commendable improvement over other groups that publicly laud suicide bombers, so I salute Dr. Barghouti's courage for maintaining this position, especially given the pressure he undoubtedly faces for taking it.

At the same time, there are some problems in using this example to reassure an Israeli who has just been told he, his family, friends and fellow citizens are to be wiped away.

It would be more reassuring if the pledge of non-violence came from a group that had an iota of influence in Palestinian society. Pointing to a bronze medal finish in recent elections to prove a group's importance is at best ironic. A third place electoral finish by the American Green Party, or the Hemp party, or whatever, doesn't make it representative of mainstream American thought. I think the technical term would be "fringe". Dr. Barghouti failed to muster even 20% in presidential elections in which Hamas, the big winner in recent council elections, didn't even run. If the quoted recent Palestinian council elections made only one main point, it is that Hamas is by no means "fringe", while the PNI is. Hamas and Fatah combined to win 92.8% of the votes, leaving 7.2% to be split amongst all remaining parties. Hamas and Fatah won a combined 78 councils, the PNI won 2. In the first round of elections in December, it wasn't even third, Islamic Jihad was. One could say that 2 councils is better than 1, or 0, but it isn't the basis for arguing the PNI and its preference for non-violence is popular with Palestinian voters. I would love to see non-violence win elections and show Palestinians embracing moderation, but wishing doesn't make it so.

There is also the question of the extent to which the PNI unambiguously represents a clear counter-point to calls for Israel's destruction. A good litmus test is the ambiguity with which most Palestinian leaders call for an end to the occupation, leaving open the precise definition of what they mean by "occupation": territories disputed since 1967, or all of Israel. The word "occupation" is conveniently invoked to play into pre-existing sentiments of most 3rd party listeners, who assume that it of course refers to the aftermath of the Six Day War, but in other contexts, Palestinians speak freely of the entirety of Israel as occupied territory, as Arab land. How clearly does Dr. Barghouti reassure any Israelis (me for instance) that he wants to reverse only the outcome of the Arab defeat in 1967, and not the one in 1948? Looking in parts of the text Andrew linked to but didn't quote:

At a minimum, this would be within the 1967 frontiers - only 23 per cent of historic Palestine - and would have East Jerusalem as its capital.
Sounds reasonable doesn't it? It's supposed to; this is probably copied directly from the PA Negotiator's Style Guide. The only problem is that it contains a variant on the ubiquitous, ambiguating qualifier: "at a minimum". His reference to the "1967 frontiers" in fact isn't a moderate call for limiting Palestinian dreams, but a way of setting the absolute minimum, while leaving the maximum open to anything, presumably up to and including Israel's disappearance.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are presented simply as trying to arrive at a number between 0 and 100% to represent how much of the territory captured in 1967 is to go to the Palestinians. Reports from Camp David are that Israel has upped its offer to as high as somewhere in the 90s. To the best of my knowledge, the Palestinian counter offer, if there is one, still stands at "nothing less than 100%". The post-Oslo period of "negotiations" has been anything but. It is more a period of "Waiting for Israel to Capitulate". If the idea was to wait for Israel to surrender to Palestinian opening demands of 100% and then argue some more over how much extra bonus territory should be handed over, "at a minimum", we wouldn't use the word "negotiations", "surrender" would work better. And Dr. Barghouti's position does little to indicate he feels any differently about this than Arafat did. Granted, he prefers that the extra arm-twisting be limited to rocks and perhaps small sidearms rather than rockets and suicide bombs, but it isn't a position likely to lead his people to a peaceful settlement with Israel.

This "at a minimum" question is critical, for it calls into question the starting point of accepting Israel's fundamental legitimacy. If Israel is legitimate, then it's position within 1967 borders should be unassailable and non-negotiable. The words should be "at a maximum". Maybe Andrew can point to a fourth or fifth place finisher who will without qualification or ambiguity make clear Israel's legitimacy by limiting his appetite to 100% "at a maximum", but I'm afraid I'm too depressed to look that hard.

I say all of this with a heavy heart, for despite all the violence, despite the suicide bombers still getting caught at checkpoints to this day, I still am ready to eventually negotiate a Palestinian state, but only when I can see a partner on the other side ready to govern that state as anything but an extra army in the war on Israel. Israel should not negotiate the terms of its suicide.

I know there are probably many individuals within Palestinian society who, in their hearts, are prepared to live in peace, their anger and feelings of mistreatment at the hands of Israelis not-withstanding. I pray for the day when they will be the ones winning elections, and standing to negotiate with Israel.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How they would end the occupation 

A "leading member of the militant Lebanese group Hizbullah" spoke with the Guardian to reassure everyone that Hizbullah only wants to end the occupation:

She said she could not see a time when Lebanon and Israel could coexist peacefully: 'Do you imagine one day the wolf and the sheep will live in peace? This is only in Walt Disney [films] maybe.'

Mrs Fakhry said her group believes in the destruction of Israel and expulsion of tens of thousands of Jews: 'This is a hope, a long-term strategy.

'Israelis don't have a right to stay in Palestine, the state of Israel is an illegal state.

'One day the Palestinians will destroy Israel and return to their land.'
I remember the recent "Not in Our Name" campaign in the runup to the Iraq war. I'd love to see something similar from Arabs who do not want this "leading member" speaking for them. Because otherwise, there is no eventuality here that leads to peace, only all out war, no matter what Israel does short of national suicide.

One other curiosity is the descrepancy in her arithmetic: she expects to expel "tens of thousands", yet Israel is populated with millions. One wonders, hmmmmm, what plans she and the other leading militants have for the other 6 or so million Jews.

(hat tip to Jack at Random Thoughts)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Nasrallah: 'Israel must cede more land' 


Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah says seven villages inside Israel belong to Lebanon; expert says rhetoric comes in framework of terror group's efforts to avoid disarmament.
Nasrallah's game is starting to get old, but that shouldn't stop him from playing it for a long, long time.

You see, Israel already fully withdrew from the Lebanese security zone, a move certified by its biggest fan: the U.N.

But that wasn't enough. Nasrallah wanted the Shebaa Farms (territory actually disputed with Syria, not Lebanon). He has launched attacks, and kidnapped soldiers, and allegedly built up an arsenal of rockets aimed at Israel. All to liberate these disputed farms.

But in the end, this hasn't been a big enough flame to fan. So now, he wants seven villages inside Israel. Of course he will lead weapon-laden parades through the hamlets of southern Lebanon. For there can be no disarming of Hizbullah while these seven villages rest with Israel. Hey, with Barak making his comeback, he may even get them, all seven.

But that won't be enough. Because Israel will still be holding an industrial park outside the seventh village, and Nasrallah will not disarm until every last piece of Lebanon is freed from Israel's seedy grip. He will uplink video of his various missiles and rockets,the cadres of suicide bombers and militia, all prepared to die attacking Israel, for the love of this Lebanese industrial park. And of course after a few year's whining and griping, I'm sure Israel will find a leader with the courage to withdraw from it.

But that won't be enough. For despite Israel's withdrawal from the industrial park as a whole, Nasrallah, his beard now starting to gray, will still insist on regaining a last abandoned and decaying warehouse on the outskirts of the industrial area. Anti-aircraft guns will fire, raining debris down on northern Israel. Unmanned drones will buzz over the border, searching out weakspots for Hizbullah infiltrators to terrorize in the struggle to liberate the warehouse. And after much internal strife within Israel over the painful concession, the warehouse will eventually be turned over.

But that won't be enough. For across the road from the warehouse sits a small park, where the workers used to relax during breaktime, so many years ago. Can Nasrallah leave this park, this Lebanese national heritage, under Israel's control? Can he expect to disarm, to give all his missiles back to his Syrian and Iranian puppet masters, even while Israelis arrogantly stroll under the shade of the park's few trees? Of course not. However many U.N. resolutions and negotiations it takes, Nasrallah will eventually get it.

But that won't be enough. For on the edge of that park sits a bench. On that bench is an ancient, moldy, half-eaten cheese sandwich that was left there by a security guard before the industrial park was abandoned. Nasrallah, now an arthritic, gray-haired old grouch, knows that Lebanon cannot truly regain its standing in the region until the remnants of this cheese sandwich are repatriated. He will howl, and he will seeth, demanding the Lebanese cheese sandwich's return.

But enough is enough, and Nasrallah will finally be told no. A line will finally be drawn at the cheese sandwich. And Nasrallah will finally face the test he dreads, for he is a man who desparately wants nothing more than to keep his rockets and the power and prestige they accrue for him. And he knows full well that to use them is to lose them.

Last Moments in the Life of a Canary 

When Howard Dean smiles, you can't help but wonder why.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean listens to Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack speak prior to giving the keynote address at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame dinner, Saturday, June 11, 2005, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Who knew Vilsack was such a great speaker?

In reality, it looks more like Dean's handlers were taking no chances of repeating recent embarrassments, and slipped some extra Zoloft into the Chairman's steak tartar.

Then again, maybe the picture's explanation is much simpler: "Hey Tom! Have I got spinach stuck between my teeth?"

Alas, if we could only read the great man's thoughts, what might we learn?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Happy Anniversary Sharon 


It's been a great 12 years, a marriage strong enough to stand where you never even thought it would go.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A story to make the cheesecake sweeter 

This is one of the nicest stories I've read in awhile, courtesy of Jewlicious. No Koran desecration, I promise.

If we're so bad, where is the urine bomb? 

A Palestinian militant from the military wing of Islamic Jihad movement holds a Koran as he marches during a protest in Jabally refugee camp north Gaza Strip June 10, 2005. Members from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement marched through the streets of Jabally after Palestinian accusations that guards had ripped pages of the Koran, while Israeli prison officials said preliminary checks found no evidence an Islamic holy book had been damaged. The allegations that guards tore pages of the Koran during a search earlier this week in Israel's Megiddo prison sparked fury among Palestinians. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
If Israel and the US truly hated the "Holy Book" as much as these guys pretend, they would know better than to ever set foot under open sky with a Koran unless it was in a plastic bag and vacuum sealed. After all, a urine bomb would be a pretty easy non-lethal technology for dispersing certain crowds. Yet somehow these guys know that the same people they accuse of trying to flush the Koran down the toilet won't be bringing the toilet to the Koran.

You and I both know that such a thing won't be used, and so do these guys, no matter what they scream whenever the cameras are turned on.

The Laws of Cheesecake 

I know my posting recently seems lighter than a souffle made with egg white substitute and non-fat milk in place of the cream. But we're riding out one of those long weekends where Shabbat and then a holiday come in quick succession, like speedbumps in the calendar whose job is to keep time from passing too quickly.

Now that the Shabbat part has passed, I'm taking a moment's break before diving into preparation for the holiday of Shavuot that starts tonight. As I'm sure we all know, Shavuot is the holiday of the "Receiving of the Laws of Cheesecake", a seminal moment in Jewish history. We commemorate the moment when the world first learned:

In case you want a cheesecake recipe, here's the one I use. Enjoy:

German Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
From the Land O' Lakes Chocolate cookbook.
--- crust
chopped toasted slivered almonds1 cup
flaked coconut1 cup
sugar1/3 cup
melted butter1/3 cup
--- filling
sugar1/2 cup
cream cheese, softened16 oz
sweet cooking chocolate, melted4 oz
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium bowl, stir together all crust ingredients; preserve 1/3 cup for topping. Press remaining crust mixture on bottom and halfway up sides of 9-inch pie pan.
In large mixer bowl combine 1/2 cup sugar and cream cheese. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until light and fluffy (1 to 2 minutes). Add eggs; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). Add chocolate; continue beating, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes). Pour chocolate mixture into prepared pie crust.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until center is just set.
Cool; sprinkle with reserved 1/3 cup crust mixture.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Dean's spleen and what it means 

Sons of the Republic (among others) are keeping an eye on Bad Boy of the Beltway, Howard Dean, and his Amazing Death-Defying Mouth. What is interesting to me, as I read how the Democrats around him try to spin this, is that they aren't wriggling their way out of Dean's warm steaming pile, but instead are burrowing deeper into it.

They don't deny his words, or claim he was quoted incorrectly or out of context. In fact, as the Sons point out, Dean has defended his own comments. The Dems appear content to blame Fox News and the Retarded-Republican majority of Americans for making such a big deal about his outrageous comments.

In the wake of Amnesty International's similarly unretracted gulag comments, and now their calls for arresting key US government officials going all the way to the Top, I'm seeing a pattern here. It looks like a new school of media consultant has emerged that is finally willing to swallow the Kool-Aid. They've bought the idea that it is more profitable to spew mindless hatred and bask in the glow of your base's admiration and your opposition's loathing, rather than bother trying to unify a majority of Americans, most of whom have already twice voted for Bush anyway. That old-fashioned drek about "appealing to the majority" is only for bozos who care more about winning elections than keeping the committed donors in a froth.

This is not a new idea, but I've never seen it so mainstream so consistently in the US before. This has Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it.

How do you measure your blogging? 

I've been blogging for a few months, and I realize I haven't blogged enough about blogging, so I thought I'd start to remedy that a little.

As I've picked up a few of the tricks of the trade, one thing that has astounded me is the sheer quantity of measurements available to chart one's progress through the blogosphere:

While I'd like to say that the number of posts, especially the better ones, is my most important measure because I care only about my craft, I have to admit that my ego has grown somewhat attached to the "number of returning visitors per day" stat. To those of you who have come back, or plan to, my ego thanks you.

What's your measurement mascot, the stat you turn to first when you want a little boost?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Desecration's Inevitable Spread 

As the lesson is learned, and the pattern passed on, I wait for the inevitable:

Moderator:Welcome back to TrashTalk. In our next segment, we'll meet Yusuf Jihad, and his son Skippy, a kindergartener caught up in the middle of this whole "desecration of the Koran" business.

Yusuf:Hi. And that's the "Holy Koran", Bob

Moderator:Of course. We'll also have Albert Kaydah from the Arab-Islamic Rights League to help us put this latest incident into perspective. He'll show us how this fits in with the rash of recent abuse, from the initial reports in Gauntanamo and Israel, up to yesterday's nursing home travesties. Welcome Albert, can I call you Al?

Al:No, definitely not. Call me Albert.

Moderator:Finally, we'll have Millicent Mumford of the ACLU to offer a civil rights point-of-view on this whole thing.

Millicent:[smiles and nods]

Moderator:Skippy, tell me a little bit about what happened to your Koran comic book... I mean Holy Koran comic.

Skippy:Nothing. It wasn't me. I don't know how it got under the chair, I...

Yusuf:What my son means, is that he was in the hall, at school, you know, when two hall monitors, big guys, for no reason, ripped the comic book right out of Skippy's little hands, threw it to the floor and .. and stepped on it, ripping the corner of this page here [holds up the comic book]

Moderator:And that red circle on the cover, what is that?

Skippy:I love raspberry soda

Yusuf:You see, these infidels...


Yusuf:Yes, yes, these children, these hall monitors, scarcely children they are so big, they poured their raspberry soda all over this Holy Comic Book.

Moderator:Strange that it should make a circle like that

Skippy:Oh, it was in a Disney sippy cup, but the lid wasn't on tight and it just spilt a little bit, but I wiped it right up.

Yusuf:That's right. My son is such a good boy, cleaning up after these disgraceful monsters.

Moderator:Tell me a little about what happened when you confronted the boys who did it.

Yusuf:Well, they denied everything of course, what do you expect. It's so typical

Moderator:So you had to involve the school adminstration then, I take it. How did they react?

Yusuf:Please, we've all seen how people in authority handle these things, the generals, the administration. Deny, deny, deny. We didn't waste our time, knowing perfectly well what would happen.

Moderator:So how did you deal with it then?

Yusuf:We contacted Mr. Kaydah and called a press conference, of course. Only the power of the media can cut through the lies and subterfuge.

Moderator:[nods] On that note, this would be a good point to bring Al into the discussion. Al, why do you think this abuse of the Koran is suddenly so widespread, reaching even into kindergartens and nursing homes? What's going on?

Al:Well, I think you've really identified the problem, this horrible abuse of the Holy Book is just so widespread, a reflection of a culture of hatred of Islam, if you look at your -- I mean our -- leaders, the categorical branding of all Muslims as terrorists, the...

Moderator:Ok, ok, I hear you Al, but...but how do we put the genie back into the bottle? I mean, last year at this time, nobody'd ever heard of Koran abuse, and now its more widespread than Paris Hilton, how do we go back?

Al:Once again, you're made an excellent point, it is these so-called "Paris Hilton" videos, a decadent culture which can't handle the purity of Islam. I would suggest that if America were to absorb more Muslim values, if we were to encourage the Paris Hiltons to dress more modestly, especially in that scene in the hotel room. And of course, to adopt a more even-handed approach to the Middle East and Israeli intransigence, which causes so much of this baseless hatred.

Moderator:Ok, ok, very good. To be fair now, let's give some time to the other side of the debate. Millicent from the perspective of the ACLU, how would you answer Al's points?

Millicent:Answer him? But... but I completely agree with him.

Moderator:You do? But I... Well, wouldn't the ACLU suggest that this comic book, and the many, many other Holy Korans which have been defiled, wouldn't you say they're only books, and that these, these desecrations can be protected as acts of free speech or artistic expression? As, for instance, the treatment of Christian...



Millicent:No. There's no comparison. Our free society cannot tolerate the desecration of the sacred, holy book of a noble and peace-loving religious tradition. But a free society must allow symbolic protest against its own rabid religious right wing fundamentalists who want to turn this country into a Taliban state.

Yusuf:Not that there's anything wrong with a Taliban state.

Al:[loud cough]

Millicent:You know, another thing we are seeing, now that we are finally hearing about this endemic abuse, is how the right wing thugs who are runnng this country have so intimidated its minorities, to the point they're afraid now to even report this rampant abuse.

Al:That's a great point Millicent, very nice. Even today, after all we've seen, it took the brave and persistent follow up of a concerned parent, Yusuf, to encourage his son to come forward with this atrocity which might otherwise never have seen the light of day.

Skippy:But you also helped Mr. Kaydah. You're a very brave man too. And thanks for the candy.

[Thanks owed to LGF, whose "Miscellaneous Links Thread" is a blast, and to any Lizardoids who clicked and read.]

Training for Javelin Toss 

A barefoot Palestinian security officer in Beit Lahiya in northen Gaza Strip Tuesday June 7, 2005, practicing for the "javelin toss" in the upcoming Palestinian Security Games. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa) (click picture for original caption)

Why yes, I do moisturize 

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, shakes hands with British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and shares moisturizing and exfolliation tips after a compliment from the Foreign minister during their meeting at Abbas' office in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Wednesday June 8, 2005. Israel blew up more Palestinians. A lot of them. (AP Photo/Palestinian Authority, Omar Rashidi) (click picture for original caption)

We're number one! 

Fans of the Hamas Intramural debating team shout "We're number one!" after a dramatic last-second victory over a team from Fatah lifted them into the quarter-finals. Hamas sealed the victory moments before the buzzer when their captain uttered the verse shown in their Korans followed by a closing cry of "Kill the Jews" as the assembled crowd went wild. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah (click picture for original caption)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Feed or Foment? 

DJ Andy Kershaw is starting a kerfuffle with the organizers of Live8, a benefit concert intended to fight poverty in Africa:

Anarchists from around the world are planning to cause chaos at next month's G8 summit in Gleneagles as a row broke out last night between Bob Geldof and DJ Andy Kershaw over the absence of black musicians at events staged to benefit Africans.

With police fears mounting over Geldof's call for one million people to protest at the summit, Kershaw last night condemned the almost exclusively white line-up for the pop concerts to coincide with the summit. 'If we are going to change the West's perception of Africa, events like this are the perfect opportunity to do something for Africa's self-esteem,' he said. 'But the choice of artists for the Live8 concerts will simply reinforce the global perception of Africa's inferiority.'
Let's ignore, for the moment, the wisdom of planning a benefit concert in the middle of a cesspool of violent protest, in an environment where anyone it inspires to help is as likely to toss a TV through a shop window as anything else.

What outrages me is the DJ's whine and how easily the media digests it.

Kershaw apparently feels any money or consciousness raised will bring only insult to its intended beneficiaries, suffering Africans, unless 50 Cent is there to keep it real. I'm sure starving Somalis and AIDS-afflicted Ugandans appreciate the DJ's idealogical purity.

Meanwhile the media salivates over the prospect of one white celebrity ringing another's bell. The benefit concert is a story, and all objections will be duly noted and publicized uncritically. Of course, we don't hear how any actual Africans might feel about this, but they probably just couldn't make it to the press conference and might never have heard of 50 Cent anyway.

I know I should just ignore it. He is, after all, just some stinking DJ, not a nuclear physicist. But this isn't the first important cause to benefit from the attention of his great intellect. There is, for example, his promotion of the North Korean "government". I worry he is overextending himself. The crusading DJ should rest up. I'm sure there will be plenty of anarchists and anti-globalization yahoos on hand to give Bob Geldof's benefit all the trouble it can handle. Meanwhile, Iran needs a little PR boost and could well be putting in a call to Kershaw any day now.

And I finally got to write something with the word kerfuffle in it. World peace must surely be at hand.

Body Part Falls From Plane 

Strange story with non-strange implications from AP via FoxNews

A body part apparently fell from the wheel well of a plane coming in for a landing on Tuesday at John F. Kennedy Airport and landed in a suburban backyard, authorities said.

More remains were found on a South African Airways flight after it landed at Kennedy, said Tony Ciavolella, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Police suspect the remains were that of a male stowaway, the spokesman said. He would not confirm that the incidents at the airport and Long Island were related, saying, "It's still under investigation." <...snip...> The South African Airways flight had originated in Johannesburg, but made one stop in Dakar, Senegal.
First, let's get the "ew"s and "yuck"s out of the way.

Good. Now let's consider what this means.

A plane was dropping body parts from its wheel well. This means that there was either a live person in there who met a gruesome end in-flight, or that there was a dead body or parts thereof. Why was it there? Investigators presume it was most likely a stowaway, undiscovered by "security checks" at previous stops in Senegal and/or Johannesburg.

We are gong to assume for the moment that the body parts found remaining in the wheel well, and those which bounced off a Long Island garage roof, were not attached to a suicide belt, that it was not a "work accident". But it easily could have been.

And this plane was allowed to land at JFK. Meanwhile, homeland security has its forces fanned out amongst the country's airports, confiscating nail clippers from grandmothers.

It's a good thing Al Qaeda doesn't monitor Fox News or the internet, or I'd be a little worried.

(hat tip: LGF commenter Village Idiot's Apprentice)

If you need a laugh.. 

Then put down your drink and have a look at Caption This. Funny photos, funnier captions. I mean it about the drink.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

OIC: Punish the Perps 

The OIC wants the US to punish the despicable Koran "Desecrators":

'The US must live up to its responsibilities and not be lenient with the perpetrators of the desecration and should bring those responsible for the despicable crime to justice immediately,' said OIC spokesman Ambassador Atta El-Manan Bakhit.
Hey, I for one would love to. Two problems. I don't know which cell block they're kept in, and I think the interrogators still have some more questions for them. Otherwise, why not? We could start with the detainee who really tried to flush his own copy of the Holy and Most Revered Book. I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to have him airlifted to Chop-Chop Square in Riyadh and dropped off for some Saudi-style sensitivity training.

But here's the deal Mr. Ambassador: the US has already handled this in a responsible way, and has no plans to start a "Military Center for the Decapitation of Naughty Soldiers" just to satisfy your people's homicidal frenzy after each outrageous press conference. It's your religion, your book, your desecration fetish. We infidels do not worship your book, that's your job. We treat it with a modicum of respect, as we treat all religions. If that isn't enough for you, too bad, hire more riot police or teach your people to meditate.

The spokesman for the world's largest Muslim organization also called for urgent measures to calm the tension caused by the incident in the Islamic world and ensure that such abhorrent acts are not repeated in the future.
These "urgent measures to calm the tension" I presume will begin immediately after you finish reading out this one last inflammatory condemnation of alleged incidents that your own people were in fact responsible for, correct? Or is this how you think tensions are "calmed"?

The OIC statement came after the US military admitted on Friday that those interrogating Muslim prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba had defiled [wow, there are never any scare quotes around when you really need them -- here, I found some, let me try: "defiled"] the holy book by splashing urine on it and also stepping on it.

The US Southern Command, which supervises the Guantanamo facility, confirmed at least five cases of intentional or unintentional mishandling of the holy book from among 19 alleged incidents since the detention facility opened in January 2002.

The OIC condemned the despicable acts committed by US personnel [while ignoring their own terrorists' intentional desecrations] and said it showed their blatant hatred for the faith of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims and created doubts about the nature of instructions given to American soldiers about religious values and tolerance.
Now I know how the "Arab street" feels because I'm starting to seethe.

All right, I took a few deep breaths, that helped. The angry Muslim "demonstrators" should try it, it really is quite refreshing.

Let me try to approach this from a practical angle, to see if we can improve the "nature of instructions" given to the soldiers. You see, as far as I can tell, the problem here isn't really with urine persay, since apparently a good Jihadi attempting to flush his own book is perfectly fine. The objection is only to infidel urine. So the US military needs to modify its procedures: if a Koran needs to come in contact with urine for some reason, a beaker of spare Muslim urine should be kept on hand just for that purpose, as it apparently doesn't have the power to defile.

And one correction to the article: it claims that the "defilement" was perpetrated by interrogators. But to the best of my knowledge, it appears to have been the guards, not the interrogators. The interrogators were too busy wondering why their requisitions for electrodes and cattle prods were rejected.

'These unequivocally rejected practices can only lead to the incitement of religious feelings and a deepening of the gulf of differences and intolerance between the Muslim world and the United States,' Bakhit said.
Well, technically, this could lead to a few other possible outcomes, but I'm assuming they've already been rejected out of hand -- like the Islamic world perhaps discovering what a chill pill is.

In Washington, a leading Senate Democrat said yesterday the United States needs to move toward shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
We do want to shut it down. As soon as terrorists stop blowing people up and having to get sent there, we can turn it into a Tolerance Museum and the Senator can hold the biggest scissors at the ribbon cutting photo-op.

'This has become the greatest propaganda tool that exists for recruiting of terrorists around the world. And it is unnecessary to be in that position,” said Sen. Joseph Biden.
Sen. Biden is right, this issue of respect for the Koran is a great propaganda tool, but not at all in the way he thinks. Sen. Biden is forgetting that the value of any propaganda is judged in its effect on the message's recipient, not on how it jibes with the politically convenient goals of pompous politicians far from the field of battle. He ignores the mind-set of the enemy fighters (assuming he even believes there is an enemy), all of them exhorted to a suicidal devotion to slaughter by their Koran-thumping leaders. What these "holy warriors" must think, watching their supposed captors deliver them copies of their "Holy Instruction Book for the Conquest of the Infidels", fetching it with gloved hands, always carrying with two out of deep respect, instructed not to mistreat it in any way and dismissed even for mistaken violations of these reverential requirements. What a propaganda victory it is for these otherwise defeated terrorists to witness the validation of their fighting faith that Allah will bring even the most powerful nation to its knees at their feet. They don't see us as compassionate in victory, for the victorious do not cower before the defeated. The senator is right though that it is unnecessary to be in that position, if by "that position" he means on our knees.

He proposed that an independent commission take a look at Guantanamo and make recommendations.
I'm not sure there's enough oxygen left in the blamosphere to support yet another investigation and all the media frenzy that entails. Plus, I think the usual panels of experts are all booked up through summer by Amnesty, so in meantime if the Senator still insists on bashing his own military in front of the klieg lights, even as it fights for his freedom, well, the Senator will just have to take a number.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: