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Ethel the Blog
Observations (and occasional brash opining) on science, computers, books, music and other shiny things that catch my mind's eye. There's a home page with ostensibly more permanent stuff. This is intended to be more functional than decorative. I neither intend nor want to surf on the bleeding edge, keep it real, redefine journalism or attract nyphomaniacal groupies (well, maybe a wee bit of the latter). The occasional cheap laugh, raised eyebrow or provocation of interest are all I'll plead guilty to in the matter of intent. Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

The usual copyright stuff applies, but I probably won't get enraged until I find a clone site with absolutely no attribution (which, by the way, has happened twice with some of my other stuff). Finally, if anyone's offended by anything on this site then please do notify me immediately. I like to keep track of those times when I get something right.


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use perl
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"When they say, 'Gee it's an information explosion!', no, it's not an explosion, it's a disgorgement of the bowels is what it is. Every idiotic thing that anybody could possibly write or say or think can get into the body politic now, where before things would have to have some merit to go through the publishing routine, now, ANYTHING." - Harlan Ellison

Old pals Rumsy and Saddam

Other stuff of mild interest to some:
unusual literature
scientific software blog
physical oceanography glossary
computer-related tutorials and texts

Saturday, June 17, 2000


I'm always amused when I hear a conservative attempt to nominate H. L. Mencken as a patron saint of the movement. For example, Insight Magazine found him second only to Ayn "rhymes with MINE!!!" Rand as the top conservative writer of the 20th century. One wonders if the boobs doing the voting have ever read any Mencken other than collections of carefully culled quotations, or if they're just pathologically incapable of understanding passages like the following from Mencken's Homo Neanderthalensis (part of his coverage of the Scopes Trial):

Such obscenities as the forthcoming trial of the Tennessee evolutionist, if they serve no other purpose, at least call attention dramatically to the fact that enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed. It is common to assume that human progress affects everyone -- that even the dullest man, in these bright days, knows more than any man of, say, the Eighteenth Century, and is far more civilized. This assumption is quite erroneous. The men of the educated minority, no doubt, know more than their predecessors, and of some of them, perhaps, it may be said that they are more civilized -- though I should not like to be put to giving names -- but the great masses of men, even in this inspired republic, are precisely where the mob was at the dawn of history. They are ignorant, they are dishonest, they are cowardly, they are ignoble. They know little if anything that is worth knowing, and there is not the slightest sign of a natural desire among them to increase their knowledge.


The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life. Certainly it cannot have gone unnoticed that their membership is recruited, in the overwhelming main, from the lower orders -- that no man of any education or other human dignity belongs to them. What they propose to do, at bottom and in brief, is to make the superior man infamous -- by mere abuse if it is sufficient, and if it is not, then by law.

Such organizations, of course, must have leaders; there must be men in them whose ignorance and imbecility are measurably less abject than the ignorance and imbecility of the average. These super-Chandala often attain to a considerable power, especially in democratic states. Their followers trust them and look up to them; sometimes, when the pack is on the loose, it is necessary to conciliate them. But their puissance cannot conceal their incurable inferiority. They belong to the mob as surely as their dupes, and the thing that animates them is precisely the mob's hatred of superiority. Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil. A glass of wine delights civilized men; they themselves, drinking it, would get drunk. Ergo, wine must be prohibited. The hypothesis of evolution is credited by all men of education; they themselves can't understand it. Ergo, its teaching must be put down.

This simple fact explains such phenomena as the Tennessee buffoonery. Nothing else can. We must think of human progress, not as of something going on in the race in general, but as of something going on in a small minority, perpetually beleaguered in a few walled towns. Now and then the horde of barbarians outside breaks through, and we have an armed effort to halt the process. That is, we have a Reformation, a French Revolution, a war for democracy, a Great Awakening. The minority is decimated and driven to cover. But a few survive -- and a few are enough to carry on.


The popularity of Fundamentalism among the inferior orders of men is explicable in exactly the same way. The cosmogonies that educated men toy with are all inordinately complex. To comprehend their veriest outlines requires an immense stock of knowledge, and a habit of thought. It would be as vain to try to teach to peasants or to the city proletariat as it would be to try to teach them to streptococci. But the cosmogony of Genesis is so simple that even a yokel can grasp it. It is set forth in a few phrases. It offers, to an ignorant man, the irresistible reasonableness of the nonsensical. So he accepts it with loud hosannas, and has one more excuse for hating his betters.


What all this amounts to is that the human race is divided into two sharply differentiated and mutually antagonistic classes, almost two genera -- a small minority that plays with ideas and is capable of taking them in, and a vast majority that finds them painful, and is thus arrayed against them, and against all who have traffic with them. The intellectual heritage of the race belongs to the minority, and to the minority only. The majority has no more to do with it than it has to do with ecclesiastic politics on Mars. In so far as that heritage is apprehended, it is viewed with enmity. But in the main it is not apprehended at all.

Yep, that would go over like gangbusters at any GOP convention, especially if read right after the obligatory circle-jerk about equal time for all theories of human origins in the schools.
posted by Steven Baum 6/17/2000 01:58:48 PM | link

On October 1, 1993, Bill Hicks became the first comedian to be censored on the David Letterman Show. That incident is the basis for
Chapter 4 of Will Kaufman's The Comedian as Confidence Man: Studies in Irony Fatigue, in which Hicks is described thusly:
Bill Hicks was a progressive and a civil libertarian, a complex figure in which the paradoxes of his cultural and political milieu came to light. On the libertarian side, his routines dwelt on such issues as the legalization of drugs, sexual openness, freedom of all and any expression (including the pornographic), abortion, and the rights of smokers. He was defiantly, politically incorrect. As a progressive, he reserved his most scathing attacks for the arms trade, the domestic gun lobby, the Christian fundamentalist-Republican axis, the anti-abortion movement, and American militarism at home and abroad. His intellectual hero was Noam Chomsky (he enjoyed being called "Chomsky with dick jokes").
Hicks is not widely known today and never really was, even at his death from pancreatic cancer just four months after the Letterman fiasco. Actually, while he was never well-known in the USA he was elsewhere, as Kaufman notes:
The death of this Texan comedian at the age of thirty-two attracted nowhere near the media attention devoted the following month to his fellow-southerner, Lewis Grizzard -- at least, not in America. In Britain, where Hicks had been lionized, the quality dailies carried illustrated obituaries, documentary tributes were broadcast on network television, and on the first anniversary of his death, appreciations appeared in newspapers and on television. In America, Hicks had never gained the popular following of the sentimental, conservative Grizzard; he was rather, in Mike Sager's words, the "best-known unknown in the business. The comics' comic. The critics' comic."
The most interesting part of Kaufman's piece is where he supplies the 7 minutes of Hicks' routine that were censored. A bit of it follows:
Good evening! I'm very excited to be here tonight! I just got some great news today. I finally got my own show on TV coming out this fall as a replacement series.

Don't worry, it's not a talk show.

Thank God! It's a half-hour weekly show that I will host, entitled "Let's Hunt and Kill Billy Ray Cyrus."

I think it's fairly self-explanatory: Each week we let the Hounds of Hell loose and chase that jar-head, no-talent, cracker idiot all over the globe 'til I finally catch that fruity little pony tail of his, pull him to his Chippendale knees, and put a gun in his mouth -- Pow!

Then we'll be back in '94 with "Let's Hunt and Kill Michael Bolton."

Yeah, so you can see, with guests like this, our run will be fairly limitless.

And we're kicking the whole series off with our M.C. Hammer/Vanilla Ice/Marky Mark Christmas Special.

And I don't want to give away any surprises, but the first one we hunt and kill on that show is Marky Mark...

... because his unbuttoned pants kept falling around his ankles, and he couldn't run away.

Yeah, I get to crossbow him right in the abs! It's a beautiful thing. Bring the whole family. Tape it! It's definitely a show for the nineties.


You know, I consider myself a fairly open-minded person, but speaking of homosexuality, something has come to my attention that has shocked even me. Have you heard about these new grade school books for children they're trying to add to the curriculum, to help children understand the gay lifestyle? One's called Heather's Two Mommies, the other one is called Daddy's New Roommate.

Folks, I gotta draw the line here and say this is absolutely disgusting. It is grotesque, and it is pure evil. (Pause) I'm talking, of course, about Daddy's New Roommate.

Heather's Two Mommies is quite fetching -- you know, they're hugging on page seven!

(Lasciviously) Oooh! Go, Mommies, go! Oooh! They kiss in chapter four!

Me and my nephew wrastle over that book every night. (Bill mimes his little nephew jumping up and down. As nephew:) "Uncle Bill, I've gotta do my homework!"

Shut up and go do your Math! I'm proofreading this for you.

Much more about Hicks can be found at Dark Times, including transcripts, CDs, videos, and audio clips. Had he lived, he'd no doubt be the comedian least likely to star in a heartwarming family sitcom chock full of toilet and boob jokes.
posted by Steven Baum 6/17/2000 01:23:45 PM | link

A more creative (or perhaps confused)
borborygmite than Captain Haddock of Tintin would be difficult to find. Here's a sample of him in action for the uninitiated:
Captain Haddock
A few of the choice epithets he's used over the years (with a much larger collection available elsewhere) are:
  • Slubberdegullions!
  • Miserable earthworms!
  • Vivisectionists!
  • Pithecanthropuses!
  • Rhizopods!
  • Fancy-dress freebooters!
  • Odd-toed ungulate!
  • Lily-livered bandicoots!
  • Squawking popinjay!
  • Ectoplasmic Byproduct!
  • Anamorphic aardvark!
  • Dunder-headed Ethelreds!
I really like that last one. There's even a site offering Haddockism definitions for those confused by the good Captain's polysyllabic sputterings.
posted by Steven Baum 6/17/2000 11:30:52 AM | link

Friday, June 16, 2000

In a
recent entry I offered a translation of a short passage of an early and scatalogical piece by Mr. Clemens entitled 1601. I've since been informed of the existence of a much more modern translation entitled 2401 whose origin is shrouded in mystery. It should ring not unfamiliarly to those of a certain nerdish, helicoper beanie-ish bent who've penned a parenthetical "get" immediately following the "life" entry on their "things to do" lists.

Yesternight, took my lady a fantasy, such as she sometimes hath, and had to her cabin those that give orders, follow them and suchlike in thecompany of her daughter, upon whose vessel my lady did visit. These being Captain Jean-Luc Picard, his beardiness Commander William Tell Riker, Commander Geordi LaForge, a moor, Beverly Crusher, a surgeon, her son Wesley, which being but sixteen had yet to murder one of his school mates while attempting a feat of tremendous stupidity and danger, Lieutenant Worf, a Klingon and my lady's daughter Deanna Troi who keeps company with all above as a counsellor. A right strange mixing truly, of mighty blood with mean, the more inespecial since my lady's grace was present as likewise these following, to wit: Chief Petty Officer Miles Edward O'Brien and his wyfe Keiko, the privateer Okana, the illustrious Mr Data, and great Romulan Tomalock.

I, Mr Hum, being her ladyship's cup-bearer had no choice but remain and behold the high holding converse with the low as upon equal terms this being the twenty-fourth century and an egalitarian one at that.

A great scandal did the universe hear thereof. In the heat of the talk, it befell that one did break wind yielding an exceeding mighty and distressful stink whereas all did laugh, and asked my lady, 'Really, in all myIah, in my years have I heard the fellow to this fart! It did seem by the great sound and clamour of it to belong to a gentleman, yet the belly it did lurk behind should lie flat against the spine of him that has been delivered of so stately and so vast a bulk; whereas the guts of those that do quifsplitters bear stand comely still and not deflated like an old condom. Well, who laid it? Will my Dr Crusher testify?'

And answered the physician, 'Excellency, my tricorder indicates the air pressure in the room has increased by an additional cubic meter of gas. There is no possible way I could contain the additional volume without severe abdominal distension causing pain on the diaphragm and abdominal vault. It was not I who could generate enough methane, nitrogen or hydrogen, or swallow enough air to generate such an overpowering and masterful fog, this nebulous organic brew. I'm afraid you'll have to seek further.'

And said my lady, 'Perhaps the gallant Romulan had done us this favour?'

And answered Commander Tomalock, 'So please you madam, most beautiful lady, my limbs are feeble with the weight of five and two hundred winters and it behoves me that I be tender unto them. Should I have contained this wonder I would have taken the whole evening for the dribbling of it out, not launched it suddenly in its matchless might like a newly-commissioned Warbird Dreadnought out of dock, taking my own life with violence, rending my weak frame like light, rotten rags. It was not I, your ladyship.'

And said my lady Lwaxana, 'By the Great Bird's name, who had favoured us? Has it come to pass that a fart shall fart itself? Not by a freak worm-hole I trove. Young master Crusher, but no, it would have sundered him like kleenex! The lady Keiko? OhQ! Don't blush, woman. You'll have to roger many an I.R.A. thug before you'd blowing out a maelstrom like this. Was it you, my learned and ingenious Captain?'

And replied Picard, 'So tremendous a blast in all my travels, my ears have never heard. Nor a scent so interesting yet toxic. I suspect that it was not a novice who performed it, but one of veteran experience, else had he failed of confidence the consequences might have courted disaster for all aboard the Enterprise. But, in the end, it was not I.'

And asked my lady, 'Commander Riker?'

And answered Commander Riker, 'Not from me did this muzzle flash burst forth, your grace. And it is not from some mediocrity such as myself that this miracle can issue. Though I did eat the Ydorap ambassador--they having strong resembelance to a plate of kolbasa and cheese, for which my service record has black tick.'

Though the subject be but a fart yet will this unlettered dolt tediously philosophize; meantime, did the foul and deadly stink pervade all places, to that degree that never did I smell the like. Yet dared I not to leave the presence albeit though I was like to suffocate. Then asketh my lady, 'What say the worshipful Mr Data?'

And replied the commander, 'Given my singular status, I can honestly proclaim my innocence, though the religion of Kakabendi lX have foretold the coming of a most desolating breath from a two-cheeked monster that shall scour the universe of all life; and that a gas-bag creature living on the Jovian world in Earth's solar system is a cigar-shaped bladder living in the storm-tossed clouds of that gas giant has an expurgatory function createing lightning storms ten-kilometers long; and several creation myths on a number of worlds claim a giant trolling thunder created sound when the planet itself split open to admit noise into the world; yet, I have no anus, hence it was not I.'

Then was there a silence, excluding the rumbling of the ship. And did all eyes turned to Worf, that burnished, bloodied and axe-throwing warrior, who, rising up, and simpering, did say, 'Most gracious lady, forgive me,' he said turning, 'Captain, Commander, It was I did it, but indeed it was so poor and frail a note compared to such as I am wont to furnish, that I was ashamed to call the weakling mine in the presence of my superiors. It was nothing, it was less than nothing.' Commander Data started at this logical puzzle but my lady's daughter did shush him down. 'I did it but to clear my nether-throat and keep it in practice, for flatulence can be useful in hand-to-hand combat. But, had I come in readiness, then I should have delivered something worthy of an Enterprise crewman! Bear with me, please, until I can prove myself worthy.'

Then did the ape deliver himself of such an unthinkable and genesis-device-like, moon-shattering blast that all were fain to stop their ears. And coming after it did come scent dense and black stinking fog such that the one which went before did seem a first-season special effect beside it. Then said the monster, feigning a purple blush and that he w as confused, 'It appears that I am weak to-day, and cannot do justice to the Klingon race's natural prowess in these matters.'

Then sat him down as though in the Klingon manner to challenge any in the *Perd*, the Klingon buttgust duel, as to say, 'While it is not much, any being in the room with an anus and backside to spare is free to match it if he thinks he can!'

By God! If I were Lwaxana Troi I would tip this swaggering braggart out of the cabin and let him air the grandeurs, and talents of he and his kind in the vacuum beyond, lest all we asphyxiate before the moor, LaForge, could siphon fresh air from the remainder of the ship.

Then did everyone fall into a conversation of the customs of the many different bump-headed and pointy-parted peoples in the galaxy, and Captain Picard did speak of the book by Sir Ira Graves where was contained a chapter that described how widows on the eastern continent of the planet Pustulous who, being still active and in vigor, do drive about in carriages wearing fashionable laces and linens capturing young boys and having their lustful ways with them to siphon their life's fluid in an attempt to retain their youth. Whereas my lady did laugh and said, 'Hot damn! It's about time for such thinking. That's what feminism is all about: the right for women to be sexist as well. Hey Commander, like the beard, it gives me something to hang onto!' she said punctuating her words with a pelvic thrust.

Captain Picard continued to remark that Sir Graves had also spoken of a certain Emperor of such mighty prowess that he did take ten maidenheads in the progress of a single night while his empress staged a palace coup, and blackmailing him with the holographs, chained him to a pole for the rest of his days.

Whereas Keiko said the Klingon Targ is the emperor's superior, for a stag Targ can tup above a thousand dams in the course of a single mating season's night. And if not satisfied, the hormone that controls seed production in the male will continue to produce, bloating the Targ until he explodes like a bomb, showering all objects in the region with his guts and seed.

Then spake the damned fool Okana of a people in the uppermost parts of Excretia's third moon who only copulate by rubbing their foreheads together and shouting in the shrillest of voices a limerick beginning with, 'There once was a Vulcan named Spock,' in an attempt to release their genitals from clamshell like doors in the skill which only open at a particular pitch.

And said my lady, 'How does Wesley like that? Shall the captain send you there so you can try out your singing voice?U

And answered the boy Wesley, 'Oh, no! I make too much in additional Holo-Deck time by selling drugs and potions from my mother's medicine cabinets. IUd be giving up a tremendous corner of the market, which I learned from a Feringhi is something not done.'

And muttered Commander Riker, 'Perhaps his fascination with Holo-Deck video-games will weaken when Mr Lackbeard feels his first testosterone storm.'

And answered Master Wesley, 'No, sir. It's happened already. You have no idea how embarrassing it is to as your Mum to give you shots to clear up Denebian clap,' he blushed as his parent cuffed him.

Then did my lady speak of how she met Admiral Kirk when she was but fifteen and he told her of a man his father knew who had detachable bollocks, whereupon a controversy erupted upon the spelling of the word. The contention running high between our host Captain and the idiot but firm first officer who insisted that it should spelt with an x. Until at last the good doctor, wearying of it all said, 'Gentleman, what does it matter how you spell the word. As long as your plumbing works when our taps start to flow who gives a flying turnip about the spelling! When I'm tiddling someone's hypothalamous I don't stop to consider the spelling of it. And Deanna, be content, they'll beat against your buttocks all the same no matter what the spelling be.'

Then said the Romulan, ignoring the android's separating his ballocks for juggling, 'The Romulan poet Serendipitous has a tale of a constable who arrested a suspected democrat and threw him into a cell for brutal torture. Kneeling to give thanks to the Great Bird for this chance to vent his sadism on someone not in any position to hit back, the constable became enraptured in prayer; but the Commodore, spying through the keyhole, saw the chained victim and flayed reformer with a knout. Thus when the bully looked up, he saw that his chance was gone, as he could not step close to pummel the prisoner for fear of having his back broken himself.'

Then did they converse of religion, and the mighty work the old, dead Surak did do. Then next about poetry and Mr Data did recite a part of his *Dishwashers by Moonlight*, which it seemed to me to be a collection of white noise and machine sounds heard on a poorly-tuned sub-space radio, yet they praised its ending, one and all. The same did read a portion of his *Scanning Your Hart for Love* to their prodigious admiration whereas I, being sleepy and fatigued with all, did deem it but shit. But again discomforted as the bloody Klingon fiend seemed desired to put wind in our ship's sails again, and did turn his tiny mind to farting with such vim and zeal that I was like to choke.

God damn this windy ruffian and all his breed, for he put Riker, the buccaneer Okana and Crusher the younger in mind of competition as they all began farting in tune. I would that hell might get them.

They talked about the wonderful defense Sir Samuel Cogley lV made for himself in the time of the late Romulan Emperor Marius, which was an unlucky topic to broach since it fetched out my lady with a, 'Pity that he, that had so much wit, did not have enough wit to save his daughter's maidenhead for her marriage bed,' and my lady did give the captain a look that made him wince, for she had not forgot that he had spurned her advances not long ago.

There was silence uncomfortable now, it was not a good turn for talk to take. Yet if my lady was not bemused by the notion that occasionally organs were stiff and others not unwilling to work the stiffness out of them, who in this company was sinless? Behold: was not her own daughter the mother to a child who nearly destroyed the Enterprise before he turned back into a bright glowing thing? Was not LaForge now barred from the Dolticon system for copulating with three Feringhi maids in the capitol building's library? Was not the boy Wesley born on his mother's wedding day? And were not the brave commanders and worthy foes Tomalock and Picard, gigolos from the cradle, chasing peasant girls in their villages from the moment their voices cracked?

In time they came to discourse of several authors and poets. Fine words and dainty phrases from the ladies and black-sea sailors now. One or two of them being, 'In other days, pupils of that poor actor Kirk, himself...' and I marked how Picard and Tomalock did fidget to discharge some venom of sarcasm, yet dared they not in the presence of my lady. There be they that, having a specialty and admiring it in themselves, be jealous when a neighbour does assay it, nor can abide it in them long. Whereupon I observed that my lady waxed uncontent; and in time, a laboured, grandiose speech from the mouth of the mechanical man who manifestly did take pride in his ability to bounce sound off the walls such that his words were underlined with sound-effects to aid our dulled imaginations as he discussed the different copulatory practices of many worlds, did quite excuse my lady's endurance, who listened Ttill the gaudy speech was done, then lifted up left brow in the fashion of a famous Vulcan, and mincing did say, 'Oh, shit!' And everyone did laugh save the Romulan whose home was much troubled by the agitations of this man.

Now was the Captain reminded of a tale once related to him by an old insane admiral about an Earth ambassador to the Klingon Empire who was about to be buggered by a dozen warriors on a charge of spying. The ambassador did accuse their leader of being his controller and Romulan *agent provocateur*, whereupon the became angry with him and he voiced his suspicions troop were disloyal. When the distrust gave birth to mutual accusation and carnage he was able to slip behind a tapestry and out a window without a bruise upon his flesh, proving once and forever the stupidity of police states.

Okay, that "shrouded in mystery" line was a crock. The particulars follow:
From ar_gura@pavo.concordia.ca Tue Jun 14 19:25:00 GMT 1994
Article: 5266 of alt.startrek.creative
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
From: ar_gura@pavo.concordia.ca (GURAL, ANDREW R)
Subject: 2401, a Lark with apologoies to S. Clemens
Message-ID: <12JUN199419550598@pavo.concordia.ca>
Organization: Concordia University
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 00:55:00 GMT
The original preface was:
This is a spoof of Twain's l60l, where Elizabeth l (not our present Sovereign, E ll,) is the hostess at an evening where Shakespeare, Johnson and the rest of that crowd are present.

Some special characters seem to behaving oddly, mind.

(with apologies to Mark Twain)
by A. Gural
Concordia University
I wrote this sometime in l993 as a lark for a friend. Enjoy.

All praise should be forwarded to the appropriate quarters.
posted by Steven Baum 6/16/2000 09:07:24 AM | link

Thursday, June 15, 2000

I've been looking for a solution to the problem of transferring large gobs of my vinyl LP collection to a computer disk and, of course, eventually to CD. I've got a fair amount of vinyl that hasn't been and probably won't be transferred to CD any time soon, and even with my newly acquired
Linn Axis turntable they ain't gonna last forever. I'd heard of this a while back and, of course, forgotten about it, so when a local bloke from across the pond reminded me about GramoFile I was most pleased. To begin with, it runs under Linux, so I don't have to make satan any richer. And then it has all sorts of nifty features like:
  • integrated sound recording and playback;
  • handling large sound files up to a few gigabytes;
  • signal peak level meter during recording;
  • playback of user-specifiable parts of sound files;
  • signal processing via nine available filter types, most of which have one or more tunable parameters, and any combination and number of which can be used during a single run;
  • reducing the effects of pops and ticks with the filters;
  • splitting a large sound file containing an entire vinyl album side into separate files individual tracks;
  • use of the WAV sound file format; and
  • extensive documentation explaining and providing examples of the filters and track splitting.
This program was developed as a project at the department of Information Technology and Systems at the Delft University of Technology by Anne Bezemer and Ton Le. Kudos to them.
posted by Steven Baum 6/15/2000 05:23:51 PM | link

where the hell are: all of which are easily swappable for, e.g. "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "City Slickers" (yuck), "9 to 5," "Big," "Moonstruck," "When Harry Met Sally," etc.

Addendum: Mr. Cock-Up seems to have been visiting this morning (with his visit noticed by the management at dumbmonkey). It would seem that "The Odd Couple" is indeed on the list, and also that it is of only American films, which disqualifies all but two of the rest of my list. While I think their omission of at least British films in wrong, it is their list. The list can also be found at the AFI site as can the list of 500 nominees. They also have an interactive voting thingie wherein the public has picked up its knuckles long enough to vote both "Porky's" and "Dumb and Dumber" in the top 10.
posted by Steven Baum 6/15/2000 11:23:54 AM | link

Democracy Now reports (6/15/2000) that the U.S. is attempting to get the International Court of Justice (a.k.a. the World Court) to agree to not prosecute any U.S. citizen. That is, the self-proclaimed bastion of freedom, democracy and justice wants to be automatically exempt from the rules it expects other nations to follow. More specifically, the U.S. is asking that the Court only prosecute violations of "international" law when the offenders are citizens of nations designated as "rogue" or "lawless" or "evil" or "nanny boo-boo." While this is certainly the de facto situation (as it has been for quite a while), attempting to officially codify it is at the very, very least utterly vulgar by a nation that so loves to smugly intone "we are a nation of laws, not men."
posted by Steven Baum 6/15/2000 10:35:58 AM | link

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

In a recent article in
Vanity Fair article by Bryan Burrough entitled "Invisible Enemies" the facts took second place to hyperbole and the need to create a melodramatic conflict between good and evil. If you haven't read it then you can skip this, but if you have then you owe it to yourself and those maligned in the article to have a look at a couple of rebuttals. The first was written by Brian Martin, a member of attrition.org, the organization getting the most shit flung at it in the article. The second - Daemons on the Net: Stereotyping the Hacker - was written by Carole Fennelly for her UNIX Security column in SunWorld. Disclaimer: I'm well acquainted personally with someone involved in this, but it hasn't affected my ability to recognize a turd when I smell it.
posted by Steven Baum 6/14/2000 05:55:27 PM | link

To your right you'll notice a new category called uPORTALS. While going through the
old stuff looking for something, I noticed that I've created what I'll call micro-portals for some scattered topics. They seem to be sufficient to get a good start on the topic, although they aren't quite exhaustive enough to be full portals, so I invented a word for them. To make an already too long story short, I've picked out what I consider to be the most complete of such things and put 'em under uPORTALS for easier access. Or, to put it another way, I'm trying to get y'all to buy a bunch of raisins I've put in a bag marked "grapes." All the usual warnings, disclaimers and rude noises apply.
posted by Steven Baum 6/14/2000 04:55:37 PM | link

You run into the unlimited kookery of Dan Burton (R-Mars) in the strangest places. In the June 2, 2000 issue of
Science there's an article entitled "Stephen Straus's Impossible Job" starting on page 1568. Straus is the head of the NIH's newly created National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), an institute set up to evaluate the efficacy of the claims of alternative alternative in a rigorous scientific environment. NCCAM is the successor to the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM), which was set up in 1992 and gained "a reputation as a counterculture enclave for pseudoscience." Straus was chosen to prevent the bad reputation of its predecessor from tainting the NCCAM because he had ...
... the right combination of receptiveness to new ideas and scientific rigor to pull it off. A longtime NIH physician and virologist, the soft-spoken Straus has strong scientific credentials earned during his studies of infectious diseases, from AIDS to herpes. And from his high-profile research on chronic fatique syndrome, Straus is no stranger to controversy.
Of the 2000 budget, 21% is taken up by clinical trials of compounds such as botanicals or shark cartilage in which their claimed effectiveness will be tested in double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. Straus is enthusiastic about most of the upcoming trials, although one seems a wee bit less promising than the others.
Yet principles aside, Straus also has to follow the mandate of Congress - and some of its, well, less-than-scientific members. NCCAM is stuck funding a 5-year, $1.4 million trial of an unusual protocol designed to treat terminal pancreatic cancer by physician Nicolas Gonzalez. The so-called Gonzalez Protocol - a hodge-podge of pancreatic enzymes, coffee enemas, and up to 150 dietary supplements a day - caught the attention of Rep. Dan Burton (R-Mars), who in 1998 encouraged the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study it. Even though Straus considers the evidence just an "aggregate of interesting anecdotes," he defends the trial - albeit lukewarmly. "I'm more comfortable and find it easier to approach and fund things that already make a lot more sense to me," he admits. "But the mandate here is ... to be willing to take more risks for things that are novel."
That $1.4 million is, by the way, almost exactly a tenth of what Burton has spent in his committee attempting to convict Hillary Clinton of the murder of Vince Foster and Al Gore of personally shooting students in Tianamen Square. While the Gonzalez Protocol could be considered as nothing more than Burton getting involved in yet more quackery, it could also be a brilliant plan wherein he - when dragged kicking and screaming into the dock - presents the "coffee enema defense" as a logical successor to the "twinkie defense." On the other hand, given that the only brilliant thing about Burton is the Sun's rays reflecting off the tinfoil he keeps under his hat to ward off mind control rays, it's probably just garden-variety quackery. Leave it to Deranged Dan to give medical quackery a bad name. By the way, Google gives 16 matches for the phrase "enema within."
posted by Steven Baum 6/14/2000 03:44:06 PM | link

current edition of Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater Digest (via chess log) features his deft, surgical demolition of the smug sophistry of the Wall Street Journal's idiotorial page brayings about the Microsoft case. Here's an example that almost brings tears to my eyes:
Here is the first sentence from a 6/9/00 article on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page by a conservative legal scholar named Richard Epstein:
To no one's surprise, an angry and distrustful Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson adopted almost word for word the final judgement against Microsoft proposed by the US Justice Department and state attorneys general.
In a normal world, the fact that a conservative, Reagan-appointed, pro-business judge accepted the government's remedy whole would count as evidence for its moderation. But in this world, the judge is "angry and distrustful". Observe the fancy ambiguity in this phrase. The judge certainly did express anger and distrust when Microsoft employees defied his orders, introduced faked evidence, made numerous false statements, claimed at length not to remember or understand their own words, and so on. But here, as very often, the phrase "angry and distrustful" insinuates that the judge has some sort of emotional problem, that he is an angry and distrustful person. Richard Epstein is not a hack, and it is depressing to see him using this sort of language, which in the old days was routinely used to mock people who were remonstrating against an injustice. I guess the traditional values are coming back.
This is quite simply a masterful, textbook example of how to demolish this sort of paralogical bullshit, and without tossing in extraneous (albeit viscerally pleasing) vulgarisms like I just did with "bullshit." The rest is every bit as good, with the Digest bits unrelated to the Microsoft case equally well written and thought provoking. If I were significantly less of a glib, pyroverbalistic wiseass than I am, I could probably approach doing what Phil does after about ten years of practice.
posted by Steven Baum 6/14/2000 10:15:56 AM | link

The attention-seeking missile was out of fud again, so another early A.M. trip to the grocery store was in order. The trip there - all three miles of it - was surprisingly smooth, although I was going against the incoming university traffic flow. I pulled into a space with empty spaces on either side in the nearly empty lot and went in to fetch the appropriate victuals, stopping on the way out to play the slot machine (i.e. ATM). I get to the truck and find that some knuckle-dragging SHPOS-boy has managed to park - in the nearly empty lot - such that his ramshackle pickup truck is less than a foot away from mine on the driver's side. This Nobel-prizeworthy feat required that he straddle the line by about a foot and a half on my side. And on his other side? A car parked in the last space against the curb, leaving a good 5 feet between him and the line.
Inbred Jed wasn't forced into missing the space - he freely chose to be a mouth-breathing, sister-chasing, nose-picking, sheep-shagging dumbass who's about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.

I go around to the passenger side, open the door, grab my yellow pad, write the usual friendly greeting ("Nice job, you [ inbred redneck | shit-for-brains yuppie | etc ] asshole. Leave a can opener next time so I can [ get in my fucking car | get my fucking car out ], shithead."), put it on his broken windshield, get in my truck from the passenger side (first letting the fud monster out who was along for the ridies), start 'er up, and back out of the space. To my utter and total non-surprise, when I had backed up sufficiently to see the tailgate, it featured no less than three bumper stickers. Two prominently featured the word "BUBBA" and the other - you guessed it - "DITTO!" That barely sentient walking argument for retroactive abortion is undoubtedly going to be listening to his favorite rant radio this afternoon and muttering to himself (and anyone else unlucky enough to be within droolshot) about how "them goddam lib'rals are fuckin' up God's country." Come the revolution ...

The drive back was pretty much routine with only two idiots pulling out in front of me from side streets and causing me to brake, and only the single tailgater. It is, after all, only three miles.
posted by Steven Baum 6/14/2000 09:12:04 AM | link

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Bart Hopkin's
Gravikords, Whirlies and Pyrophones: Experimental Musical Instruments is both a fascinating book on what strange materials and methods can be used to make music, and a CD with samples thereof. Tom Waits contributes a forword about his forays into experimental music. It starts with:
Here's something I stumbled upon at my daughter's birthday party: I rubbed the outside of a large tight balloon and obtained the familiar screaming warble you hear when clowns are making balloon animals. I found if you put cornstarch on your hands and "play" it, it sounds very much like an Eric Dolphy solo, or a monkey with his hair on fire.
This same sort of spirit permeates the people who populate this book, with varying degrees of formality also thrown in the mix. What follows is a list of those who appear in the book and links to their web presences (should they exist): Miscellaneous experimental music links:
posted by Steven Baum 6/13/2000 05:28:25 PM | link

All I have to "add" about
this is that I read the first 3 or 4 messages, searched the rest for any mention of my blog (to no avail), got bored, and went looking for pr0n. And while we're on the topic (the former, not the latter), would y'all please stop using the word "nonetheless"? It really bollixes up the signal to noise ratio when I search for "ethel," and all those false positives are just playing hell with the crass ego gratification thing.
posted by Steven Baum 6/13/2000 02:22:39 PM | link

picture of the day, i.e.

Duroc pig

comes from the organization of the day, i.e.

Duroc pig
My favorite section is Ask the Rabbi.
posted by Steven Baum 6/13/2000 02:01:16 PM | link

Looks like Dan Burton (R-Mars) may get what he richly deserves, and get it good and hard.
Ampol's article Dan Burton - The Final Chapter Begins is a delicious read. It starts out with the author's mole in Burton's office reporting:
I found Burton under his desk crying this afternoon. I had to drag him out, give him a shot, and convince him he wasn't going to jail.
Burton's most recent bit of lunacy was going on Fox "News" Sunday (a three-ring circus with unfunny clowns that would break Charles Manson out of prison if they could get him to denounce Clinton on the air) and calling for the next President to carry out a criminal investigation of Janet Reno. So what prompted melonhead Dan - who first gained infamy shooting melons in his backyard to "prove" that the Clintons offed Vince Foster in gangland fashion - to his latest bit of jackassery? It was apparently an attempt at misdirection. According to the author:
The Justice Department has the goods on Burton, past and present. I do not have information on the past alleged crimes he may have committed, but I do know what DOJ prosecutors are looking seriously at charging him, his staff, and some of his colleagues with, nothing less than:
  • Fraud,
  • Conspiracy to overthrow the government,
  • Conspiracy to lie to the Congress while under oath,
  • Conspiracy to have other elected and appointed officials lie under oath including two of his own staff members,
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States Congress -- more than once -- in Washington and Indiana,
  • Conspiracy to present false expense reports to the United States government,
  • Conspiracy with certain individuals in the Justice Department to provide false and malicious information to the Attorney General of the United States and to the Government Reform Committee,
  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States Congress, and
  • Knowingly submitting false affidavits and false and fraudulent documents into the Congressional Record [check out the web site of The Committee on Government Reform headed by Burton for some real chuckles].
Even his own party has been steering clear of Burton's hysterical obsessions, especially those whose careers he's jeopardized. For instance, Fred Thompson (another actor who once would be king) jumped on Burton's "Al Gore is Mao with pancake make-up and epicanthically unfolded" bandwagon in the Senate a few years ago to his present regret:
Thompson is rumored to have said "I'm gonna kill that f@#&in' weasel" after Burton's top "witnesses" testified time and again on behalf of the President and against Burton in front of his Senate Committee. Thompson's own circus nearly cost him his Senate seat -- and certainly cost him any consideration at all by the powers that be in the Grand Ole Party for the Presidency.
Deranged Dan, who keeps files on his fellow congresscritters, is considered a high security risk by many in Congress - including the current Speaker of the House. He is also considered by the FBI and Justice Department to be one of the top security risks in Congress, as he was well before 1992. Some in his party are attempting to get him to resign before he's put in the dock, although I doubt that this loon's last moments as the D.C. village idiot will be any less spectacularly stupid than most of the preceding ones. I'd like to say that I'll be sorry to see him go, but even with his entertainment value he's one jackass whose south end I'll be more than happy to see join his sanity around the bend.
posted by Steven Baum 6/13/2000 11:12:30 AM | link

EEEEEK!!! I mean OCH!!!!! The
4-H I knew as a lad has been transmogrified from a humble pig 'n' cow raisin' group into a "an uncommon youth development organization fostering innovation and shared learning for youth workers and young leaders." **SHUDDER** Four of my least favorite babblespeak buzzwords in one frigging sentence: "development," "fostering," "innovation" and "leaders." The rest of their mission vision is full of equally horrifying babblespeak. When I think of 4-H, I think of county fairs with pigs, cows, sheep and prize punkins - and most definitely not of "accelerated, positive change through youth and adults learning and taking action together." That's sounds about as much fun as a root canal, not to mention vaguely obscene.

Ah well, at least they can't take the swine-flavored memories away from me. I was in the organization for the entire allowed time, i.e. about ten years between the ages of 6 and 16 (if memory serves, which it does about as well as Bobby Rigby these days). This would have been from 1965 to 1974, by the way. I raised pigs for all but 1 of those years, when I got all highfalutin' and went for a steer (for you city slickers, that's one of those big, four-legged things from which beef is extracted).

Although there are quite a few swine breeds in the world today, like dogs they have a common ancestor in fairly recent times:

It is believed that the majority of the breeds we now know are descended from the Eurasian Wild Boar (Sus scrofa). Archaeological evidence from the Middle East indicates domestication of the pig occurs as early as 9,000 years ago, with some evidence for domestication even earlier in China. Figurines, as well as bones, dating to the sixth and seventh millennia BC have been found at sites in the Middle East. Pigs were also a popular subject for statuettes in ancient Persia.
I always raised one of two varieties, which (at least in the midwest about 20 years ago) constituted the majority of all pigs raised. These were the Duroc:
Duroc pig
and the Hampshire:
Hampshire pig
with a couple more breeds of interest being the spiffily named Gloucester Old Spots (which sounds sort of like a cheese) and the currently popular (as a pet since they usually top out at 150 lb. as opposed to 1000+ lbs. for most breeds) Vietnamese Potbelly. I only raised Durocs for a couple of years, but they provided me with one of the few legitimate trophies I've ever won, the trophy for Reserve Grand Champion hog in 1973. I should perhaps translate that into more recent and understandable Americaspeak: Reserve Grand Champion = second place = LOSER!!!!! (After all, shoe commercials can't be wrong.)

The most interesting book about hogs I've ever encountered - and a fine one for those of a literary bent or, indeed, those who are just bent - is William Hedgepeth's The Hog Book. I distinctly remember buying the trade paperback version at the bookstore in the Arts and Industries Building at the Smithsonian in 1975. I lost it sometime during the next decade, but am happy to see that it's now back in print via the University of Georgia Press. I agree with one of the reviewers on Amazon who states: "I laughed, I cried, I had swine visions." The writing is very good, the illustrations are good and occasionally hilarious, and even the photographs are worthy. If you take a chance on one book this year, let it be this one.
posted by Steven Baum 6/13/2000 09:11:14 AM | link

The out-of-print
"If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say ... Come Sit Next to Me" is a goldmine of the rich and famous slagging the bejesus out of each other. Some nuggets:
He hardly drank tea without a stratagem. - Sam Johnson about Alexander Pope

There are two ways of disliking poetry. One is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope. - Oscar "I wish I'd said that" Wilde on Pope

I had thought that there could be only two worse writers than Stephen Crane, namely two Stephen Cranes. - Ambrose Bierce

Every generation gets the Tiny Tim that it deserves. - Gore Vidal about Truman Capote

The nicest old lady I ever met. - William Faulkner about Henry James

You had a choice of either being a knave or a fool, and you seem to have opted for both. - John Simon on Erich Segal

Then Edith Sitwell appeared, her nose longer than an anteater's, and read some of her absurd stuff. - Lytton Strachey

He is a sheep in sheep's clothing. - Churchill on Clement Attlee

Looks and sounds not unlike Hitler, but without the charm. - Gore Vidal on William F. Buckley, Jr.

He would make a drum out of the skin of his own mother in order to sound his own praises. - David Lloyd George on Churchill

He is the president of every place in this country that does not have a bookstore - Murray Kempton on Richard Nixon

posted by Steven Baum 6/13/2000 12:12:03 AM | link

Monday, June 12, 2000

The aforementioned albums, sweating out some poisons over at the gym, putting some more poison in (i.e. Franziskaner), and currently listening to a 3 album vinyl set of Keith Jarrett's
Solo Concerts - Bremen/Lausanne. Oh yeah, and making definite plans to join the local Hashers.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 11:30:32 PM | link

Speaking of that overly played warhorse I mentioned in the previous entry, I've got a vague memory of listening to one of John Schaefer's
New Sounds programs in which he played nothing but extremely weird (and mostly interesting) versions of it. (They used to play that program locally many years ago, although at 6 AM on Saturday, making most of my memories thereof filtered through nasty hangovers.) I can't find any mention of it at his WNYC web site, although I did find a P's C Web Site that lists enough versions to raise even the biggest fanatic's gore, including a buttload of MIDI files with various versions.

Anyhow, I'm not sure if there's a better program (radio or otherwise) on the planet as musically interesting and eclectic as Schaefer's. If it's not being played in your area, then you can listen to his archived programs using the G2 RealAudio player. I'm pleased to see that rather than the weekly show we used to get here he's got a daily show on WNYC. Recent programs include New Music for Guitar(s), New Music Remixes, The New Sound of the Duduk (a traditional reed instrument of Armenia), The American Festival of Microtonal Music, Themes and Variations: The Lion Sleeps Tonight (one I'll probably give a skip), New Music for Invented Instruments, The Lighter Side of New Music, Unusual Chamber Music Ensembles, New Arrangements of Songs by the Medieval German Minnesingers, English Music for Bells and 1200 Years of New Music by Women. There are many, many more and they get as weird as you could possibly want them to get. Schaefer also put out a reference book called "New Sounds" about a decade ago that's well worth picking up if you find it.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 10:54:17 PM | link

Something that got lost in the hype about
jazz fusion (i.e. a fusion of the rock and jazz music genres) in the 70s was the other fusion, i.e. between the jazz and classical genres. Both hybrid genres produced some very fine recordings as well as much aimless noodling. While you can read about the former at the link already given, I figured I'd pour forth an ocean (or at least a meandering stream) of wisdom about the latter, with the whole matter prompted by my recent acquisition of a cherry vinyl copy of Live at the Meridien by the Claude Bolling Big Band, a fine live set by this heavily Ellington-influenced outlet. Bolling's minutes of fame exceeded 15 by a fair amount in the mid-1970s when he hit upon the idea of recording a series of albums featuring his jazz piano with various reknowned classical musicians.

If you're a bit of a jazz or classical fan and wish to attempt to access the other genre, then these are pretty good places to begin. On the other hand, if you're an insufferable classical music snob (and you know who you are!!!!) then either shut up or buy me a beer. I'm certainly willing to compromise (well, at least about this), as is duly evidenced by the fact that even as I type this I'm listening to a vinyl copy of Brass in Berlin. And even though it starts with Pachelbel's Canon - the classical music equivalent of "Feelings" - it's a corking good listen.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 10:31:14 PM | link

We've snagged some more images of retreating glaciers from the friendly folks at the
NSIDC. Some are quite breathtaking at full size, including the following of the Chickuminuk Glacier in the Tikchik Mountains in Alaska:
Glacier #2
Thumbnail and full size versions of this and several others can be found on my Glaciers page, along with links to other glacier images around the world.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 05:46:41 PM | link

Shoe has always been in my top five of mainstream (i.e. those you see in most daily papers) comic strips. I can still clearly remember the first Shoe strip I ever saw circa 25 years ago. It was a Sunday color strip in which the Perfesser was taking Shoe into a country and western bar and talking about what a great place it was. He was telling Shoe what subtle insights about human nature could be gained from C&W tunes when the jukebox blurted out, "BETTER SHUT YER FACE BUDDY, 'FORE I SHOVE THIS BEER CAN UP YER NOSE!" I thought that priceless (and still do) and carried the strip around for years, finally losing track of it when switching local abodes in the late 1980s.

So it is with sadness that I learned from Cluttered of the passing of Jeff McNelly (from lymphoma), who drew the strip as well as editorial cartoons of sufficient quality to snag him three Pulitzer Prizes, many samples of both of which can be found on McNelly.com. Geez, first "Peanuts" and now "Shoe." What next, "Prince Valiant" or "Nancy and Sluggo"? Okay, just kidding. But if little Billy ever stops following that dotted line around the neighborhood or drawing those cartoons for dad on Father's Day I'll be inconsolable for weeks if not months.

P.S. Time to clear up at least one of life's mysteries, P.J.

P.P.S. It just occurred to me that he might be referring to another mystery, especially seeing how the box in the corner seems a bit emptier than it was.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 04:01:31 PM | link

I'll have to hand it to the author of
Toward a Unified Theory of William Jefferson Clinton (found via abuddhas memes), this is the first time I can recall him being referred to in print as a clinical psychopath, i.e.
I believe that I have also made the case that the policy chaos and paralysis that Efron described in Clinton and his administration are symptoms of a the same profound emotional deficit arising from and underlying his psychopathy. (Or, perhaps, he suffered some youthful trauma to his prefrontal cortex. Someday, perhaps, his medical records will solve the mystery.) What is certain is that, for all practical purposes, we are governed by an adaptive, charismatic psychopath, a supreme intraspecies predator, armed with mesmerizing powers of seduction -- even mass seduction. A leader with profound emotional, cognitive and moral deficits that paralyze his reason and interfere with the simplest decisions -- and endanger this Nation.

And there is virtually nothing that can be done about it.

Well, nothing except wait a few months for the next election and then, if Gore wins, come up with another steaming pile of psychobabble called "Son of Psychopath: Clinton's Revenge." Note the obligatory attempt to sound an apocalyptic note with that "and endanger this Nation," with the capitalized last word lending extra gravitas. All that's really missing is the author referring to the reader as "Citizen" a couple of dozen times. I've always found it entertaining how those who - while undoubtedly considering Freud and his successors as one of the primary evils of the last millennium - have no problems at all applying his "discredited" theories to their political enemies, albeit in a mindless pop-psych manner that would fit the format of any dumbass talk show like a glove.

The receptable from which this was plucked is the Laissez Faire City Times, whose current issue contains such titillating fare (at least for boneheaded libertarians) as:

  • Guns 'n' Rosie, a whine about how boring schlub Rosie O'Donnell has apparently gained sufficient super powers to take all our guns away;
  • Home Schooling Hurricane, a shrill warning on how the "psychopath" is going to kill and eat all the precious children (MY GOD!!! ISN"T ANYONE THINKING OF THE CHILDREN!?!?!) even if they're being safely home-schooled in the intricacies of alien invasions and Jewish banking conspiracies;
  • P.C. Under the Microscope, where yet another molecule of the stupid dead horse called P.C. is found and flogged with the equally stupid whip called anti-P.C.; and
  • Cops and Robbers, an rant ostensibly about harassment and intimidation by police that - amazingly enough - manages to also blame the "psychopath" for police brutality, i.e. all the lads and lasses on the force are regular joes and jills who've just been corrupted by the "treasonous politicians in Washington" - you know, like when Clinton forced those N.Y.C. cops to jam their nightsticks up that Jamaican's ass until they hit his back teeth.
These people are every bit as doctrinaire as ... well .. I'll let my fellow Citizen's imaginations finish this sentence.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 01:41:48 PM | link

Blackest Heart Media claims to have "the coolest shit in cyberspace." They specialize in cult horror films and related paraphernalia, e.g. t-shirts, DVDs, soundtracks and books & magazines. They have a special fondness for the tasteless weirdness of Peter Jackson, creator of such subtle fare as Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles (i.e. the muppets on crack) and Brain Dead (the touching story of an aggie's coming of age). Jackson's best known recently for pumping $180 million out of movie studio executives to film the Lord of the Rings trilogy in its entirety.

Other splatterfests and ghoulish extravaganzas available in their full glory on DVD include:

  • Nekromantik (1987), described by director Jorg Buttgereit as "corpse fucking art";
  • Evil Dead Trap, a Japanese horror flick totally unrelated to the first 2/3 of its title;
  • Dario Argento's World of Horror, a documentary about the notorious horror film director;
  • Deadbeat at Dawn, wherein the protagonist tearfully disposes of his dead girlfriend's body in a trash compacter; and
  • Fando and Liz, a surreal flick whose premiere at the 1968 Acapulco Film Festival caused a riot and ultimately the premature closing of the festival.
It should be needless to say, but I'll mention anyway that these probably aren't your cup of tea if movie night around the old homestead consists of "Free Willy" and a cup of tea.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 11:07:50 AM | link

The 6/11/2000
NYTimes "Arts and Leisure" section has an article entitled "Robert Altman's Decade of Astonishments" that praises the 13 films he made in the 1970s, some more than others. The most ink goes to Altman's version of Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye (1973) with Elliot Gould playing Philip Marlowe, with McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) garnering the runner-up position. The others mentioned (a few of which are mildly famous) include MASH (1970), Nashville (1975), Three Women (1977), Brewster McCloud (1971), Thieves Like Us (1973) and California Split (1974). Those not mentioned in the article are Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976), Quintet (1979), A Wedding (1978), Images (1972) and A Perfect Couple (1979). One might also mention the strange Popeye (1980). I've only seen 8 of them, and half of those were over 20 years ago. Perhaps it's time for an Altman Film Fest.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 12:31:24 AM | link

Hash House Harriers are, according to their main site, a group consisting of "all drinkers with a running problem." They've even got a Glossary for Hashers to explain their specialized, slightly lewd vocabulary. One such term is "butt chug," although the "double butt chug" variation seems the more aesthetically pleasing option. I thought I'd guzzled beer in just about every way possible. It seems I've now got a goal, er, new goal in life.
posted by Steven Baum 6/12/2000 12:08:00 AM | link

Sunday, June 11, 2000

Have spent many a pleasurable hour over the last couple of months listening to Louis Armstrong's
Hot Fives and Sevens - the pioneering, seminal recordings of perhaps the greatest jazz musician of the recently departed century - I was quite pleased to see follow me here's link to an interview with Pat Metheny wherein he gives Kenny G - who's done for jazz what McDonald's has done for edible cuisine - a thorough lambasting for "adding" his meritricious tooting to the background of Armstrong's recording of "What a Wonderful World." Although that recording was made late in his career when Armstrong's instrumental prowess was slowly fading (after all, he'd been performing and recording tirelessly for 40 years by the time 1960 rolled around), he still had the taste and talent to turn in a fine and endearing performance. Kenny Gorelick, on the other hand, is a session player turned Muzak spewer who should be shelved in the "easy listening" rather than "jazz" section. While his noodling melodies have sold trillions of albums, they ain't jazz and he ain't fit to be Armstrong's bootlicker. And if you think that real jazz horn blowing can't be every bit as pleasing to the ear as the G's pabulum (as well as much more substantial and satisfying in the long and short term), then just try, for example, anything by John Coltrane before his avant-garde period (highly recommended is the 8-disc The Classic Quartet: Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings box set I've picked up about 6 months ago).

That being said, I'll let Metheny continue the bashfest:

but when kenny g decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that i would not have imagined possible. he, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that louis armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. by disrespecting louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, kenny g has created a new low point in modern culture - something that we all should be totally embarrassed about - and afraid of. we ignore this, let it slide, at our own peril.
It should once again be said here that - as good as Armstrong's performances were post-1950 (as reflected in such recordings as All Time Greatest Hits and Ella and Louis) - his earlier stuff (from 1920 to 1950, especially the Hot Fives and Sevens material) is simply matchless in inventiveness, skill and influence - although admittedly not recorded as well (in 1930) as Kenny's present day eructations. One of the three compliments Miles Davis was known to have given in his lifetime concerned Louis: "Ain't nobody doing anything now that Louis didn't do 30 years ago and better."

Addendum: Not five minutes after I posted this, I noticed that LOOKA! had noticed the crime on Saturday.
posted by Steven Baum 6/11/2000 10:22:54 PM | link





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mr. chuck show
mr. serpent
national geographic
new scientist
no depression
not bored
obscure store
on-line books
parking lot is full
pearly gates
phrase and fable
red meat
rough guides
sluggy freelance
straight dope
strenua inertia
tawdry town
too much coffee man
toon inn
vidal index
yes minister
you damn kid

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