This page shows all the posts for the "About Me" Category from E Pluribus Unum
The most current posts are on the main page.

December 02, 2007

Blog Upgrade: Changes Coming

I'm upgrading to Movable Type 4.1. Things will look different around here...soon.

Carry on.

November 28, 2007

Nasreddin Hoja

Today, completely by chance, I came across a name that I hadn't heard since my childhood: Nasreddin Hoja. My father and (especially) my mother used to love to tell stories in which Hodja usually did or said something that seemed stupid or illogical, but upon closer examination turned out to be very wise in a kind of Zen, flip-absurdist, Marx Brothers way.

Nasreddin sat on a river bank when someone shouted to him from the opposite side:
- "Hey! how do I get across?"
- "You are across!" Nasreddin shouted back.
I hadn't thought about him in, oh, decades but as soon as I tripped over his name (in a profile of Dennis Kucinich of all people -- no, wait: that's actually perfect) it all came back to me.
Once, Nasreddin was invited to deliver a sermon. When he got on the pulpit, he asked "Do you know what I am going to say?" The audience replied "NO", so he announced "I have no desire to speak to people who don't even know what I will be talking about" and he left.

The people felt embarrassed and called him back again the next day. This time when he asked the same question, the people replied "YES". So Nasreddin said, "Well, since you already know what I am going to say, I won't waste any more of your time" and he left.

Now the people were really perplexed. They decided to try one more time and once again invited the Mullah to speak the following week. Once again he asked the same question - "Do you know what I am going to say?" Now the people were prepared and so half of them answered "YES" while the other half replied "NO". So Nasreddin said "The half who know what I am going to say, tell it to the other half" and he left!

According to Wikipedia:
Nasreddin (Persian ملا نصرالدین, Arabic: جحا transl.: Joĥa ,نصرالدين meaning "Victory of the Faith," Turkish Nasreddin Hoca, Bosnian Nasrudin hodža) was a satirical sufi figure who lived during the Middle Ages (around 13th century), somewhere in Greater Khorasan,[1] under the Seljuq rule. Many nations of the Near, Middle East and Central Asia claim the Nasreddin as their own, (Afghans, Iranians, Turks, and Uzbeks).

[Note: ...and apparently the Armenians as well.]

His name is spelled differently in various cultures and is often preceded or followed by titles "Hodja", "Mullah", or "Effendi" (see section "Name variants"). Nasreddin was a populist philosopher and wise man, remembered for his funny stories and anecdotes. In China he is known as Afanti, a folk hero of the Uyghurs (a Turkic people).

That's quite a heritage. Anyway, finding him after all these years was quite a treat.
Nasreddin Hoja (hoja means "teacher" in Turkish) is both crafty and naive, wise and foolish, a trickster and the butt of tricks.
Dude, he's Bugs Bunny!
"How old are you, Hoja?"


"But you said that two years ago when I asked."

"That's right. I always stand by my word!"

That's my story and I'm stickin to it.
In the old days, men were permitted to have more than one wife. Nasreddin Hoja himself took a second wife who was younger than the first one. One evening he came home to find them quarreling about which of them Molla loved more.

At first, Nasreddin Hoja told them he loved them both, but neither of them were satisfied with his answer. Then the older one asked, "Well, just suppose the three of us were in a boat, and it started to sink. Which of us would you try to save?"

Hoja thought for a moment, and then said to his older wife, "My dear, you know how to swim, don't you?"

OK, that's enough for now. [Pause] Oh, just one more!
One day, Nasreddin Hoja and his son went on a journey. Hoja preferred to let his son ride the donkey while he walked. Along the way, they passed some travelers.

"Look at that healthy young boy on the donkey! That's today's youth for you! They have no respect for their elders! He rides while his poor father walks!"

The words made the lad feel very ashamed, and he insisted that his father ride while he walked. So Nasreddin Hoja climbed on the donkey and the boy walked by his side. Soon they met another group.

"Well, look at that! Poor little boy has to walk while his father rides the donkey," they exclaimed.

This time, Hoja climbed onto the donkey behind his son.

Soon they met another group, who said, "Look at that poor donkey! He has to carry the weight of two people."

Hoja then told his son, "The best thing is for both of us to walk. Then no one can complain."

So they continued their journey on foot. Again they met some travelers.

"Just look at those fools. Both of them are walking under this hot sun and neither of them is riding the donkey!"

In exasperation, Hoja lifted the donkey onto his shoulders and said, "Come on, if we don't do this, it will be impossible to make people stop talking."

Ain't it the truth.

November 24, 2007

When I Grow Up, I Want To Live In The Future

The title of this post was the punchline of a comic strip I drew in college when I was 20. Now author William Gibson (Neuromancer, Pattern Recognition) shares what it feels like to have arrived here, in this future, from those days long ago

William Gibson:

If one had gone to talk to a publisher in 1977 with a scenario for a science-fiction novel that was in effect the scenario for the year 2007, nobody would buy anything like it. It's too complex, with too many huge sci-fi tropes: global warming; the lethal, sexually transmitted immune-system disease; the United States, attacked by crazy terrorists, invading the wrong country. Any one of these would have been more than adequate for a science-fiction novel. But if you suggested doing them all and presenting that as an imaginary future, they'd not only show you the door, they'd probably call security.

November 22, 2007

How's that Thanksgiving meal doing right about now?

From Mark Freunenfelder:

Man as Industrial Palace was created by Fritz Kahn in 1926. A high-res scan is available from the Dream Anatomy gallery of the National Institutes of Health.

Kahn’s modernist visualization of the digestive and respiratory system as "industrial palace," really a chemical plant, was conceived in a period when the German chemical industry was the world’s most advanced.

Click image for closer view

September 12, 2007

L'Shanah Tovah

apphoney1cp.jpg.jpegTonight begins the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

Judaism 101:

Rosh Hashanah occurs on the first and second days of Tishri. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah means, literally, "head of the year" or "first of the year." Rosh Hashanah is commonly known as the Jewish New Year. This name is somewhat deceptive, because there is little similarity between Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the year, and the American midnight drinking bash and daytime football game.
That's an understatement.

That said, there are similarities. This holiday begins perhaps the most solemn days of the Jewish year. Prior to this, Jews begin a period of self-examination and repentance, a process that culminates in The Ten Days of Repentance, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with the holiday of Yom Kippur. So, just as many Americans use the New Year as a time to plan a better life, making "resolutions," the Jewish New Year is a time to begin introspection, looking back at the mistakes of the past year and planning the changes to make in the new year.

September 11, 2007



(HT to The Village Voice)

September 05, 2007

Blogroll: August 2007

As I've mentioned before, I've been using Google Reader to keep up with the blogs I read. They have a neat feature called "Trends" that tracks my reading habits. Accordingly, here are the blogs from whom I read the greatest number of posts (during August, 2007):

  1. The Huffington Post
  2. Crooks and Liars
  3. Think Progress
  4. Boing Boing
  5. Daily Kos
  6. Techmeme
  7. The Blog
  8. Dependable Renegade
  9. Firedoglake
  10. AMERICAblog

Now, some blogs do not post anywhere near the volume that these blogs do. Accordingly, the following blogs are ranked by the percentage of their new posts that I've read:

  1. Dispassionate Liberal
  2. Dependable Renegade
  3. James Wolcott
  5. The Queen of All Evil
  6. TPM Election Central
  7. Pollster
  8. Likelihood of Success
  9. TIME: Swampland
  10. Digital Inspiration

Anyway, there you are: a different kind of blogroll -- one that actually presents some meaningful information...about me.

August 30, 2007

Still in the bunker... posting is kind of sparse.

Hang in there and try not to shoot anyone in the face while I'm not looking.

August 16, 2007

And In Other News: Here Comes Hurricane Dean

Yep. It's a hurricane with winds at 80 mph as of 8am CDT. Those who know think it may end up being a Category 4. But a lot depends on whether it hits the Yucatan peninsula or veers and hits the Keys. Too early to tell.

I'll try to keep you posted.

(Click to see larger image)

July 30, 2007

Summertime and the Livin Is Easy

School starts in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime Miss Julie and the boys are spending some time on the lake. And, on occasion, I emerge from the bunker to join them.

Is this the best, or what?

July 10, 2007

I'm On Deadline... an undisclosed location for a couple of weeks. So blogging will be light. In the meantime, Mark and shep will be carrying the load around here. Thanks, guys!

June 26, 2007

Memphis Scrapbook

Miss Julie and I drove to Memphis last week and took some time off. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Roll your mouse over the bottom edge of the picture frame to get the controls. Click on the icon to view the captions.

P.S. If you don't have the latest version of Flash, this might not work. If that is the case, click below to see the scrapbook posted at Picasa:


Summer Flying Turns Ugly

I don't fly as much as some, but I fly a lot more than most. And I can tell you that the last couple of months have been hell at airports all over the country.

And it's not just me...the WSJ had a piece on it this morning ("Summer Flying Turns Ugly"):

The number of flights canceled in the first 15 days of June was up a whopping 91% compared with the same period last year, and the number of flights that were excessively late -- more than 45 minutes -- jumped 61%, according to the

"I fly a lot, and I've never seen it this bad this systematically. It's like the Italian train system," said Nick Abbott, a vice president at [yadda yadda yadda]...

Do we need another Mussolini to make the trains run on time? After my last two trips, I'm seriously considering it.

I flew to Seattle in late May and then Washington DC in early June and both times the experience was FUBAR -- flights delayed, flights cancelled, missed connections, sitting on the tarmac for hours at a time, etc. It was gruesome, I tell you, gruesome!

Here are some words to the wise if you are booking air travel this summer:

  • Fly early in the day
    It's the same as seeing your doctor: get that first slot in the in the morning because delays build all day. By late afternoon who knows how late you'll be? Which leads to the next tip...

  • Don't book tight connections
    You can easily get from one end to the other of any major airport in the US in under 60 minutes -- if your inbound flight is on time (see above). But if your inbound flight is late, you are going to be stranded. And the airline will not (repeat NOT) bend over backwards to put you on the next available flight to your destination. Put your airline company on speed-dial and be prepared to call them to re-book asap if you think you will miss your connection.

    And that fantasy you had about getting a free hotel room? Bwahahahahahaha! Wake up, it's time for school.

    Bottom line: don't book a layover of less than two hours.

  • Carry on food and water
    This has always been a good idea. After all, who wants to eat overpriced, high-sugar, high-sodium airport/airplane food? After you eat it, the last thing you want to do is sit on a plane, if you catch my drift (no pun intended).

    Nowadays, if you take an empty water bottle through security they're OK with that and you can fill it from the drinking fountain near your gate. And I always pack (or buy) a couple of bananas because they are the perfect snack.

    But the real reason to pack food and water? You just never really know how long you'll be sitting on the tarmac.

  • Bonus Tip
    Guys, an airsickness bag can come in handy once the airplane bathrooms shut down from overuse after several hours on the ground. (Don't ask me how I know this.)
Bon voyage!

June 20, 2007

On The Road: Memphis

Posting light. Will try to get you some pictures of Graceland and Beale Street. TTFN.

June 15, 2007

How I Happened To Meet Karl Rove

You're not going to believe this next one...

As you know, I was in Washington DC this week.

So Thursday, late afternoon, I get to the airport and I make it to the gate with plenty of time to spare. I'm feeling pretty good about that, all told. And how about that -- the flight is on time. So I'm kicking back, sitting there reading the Wall Street Journal, with one eye cocked on the gate listening for any changes in the schedule. You know, you have to be careful -- sometimes they'll change the departure gate on you with no warning.

Anyway, a few minutes before they start to board I get up and move toward the doorway when I see this guy standing there with his carry-on luggage. He's wearing a blue sport coat over a plaid button-down shirt and tan slacks. He's a middle-aged guy, balding, with frizzy gray hair on top of his dome-like skull. He's wearing wire-rim glasses.

Holy crap! It's Karl Rove.

Moving carefully, I take a few steps forward. I take his picture.


Then he walks up to one of the gate agents and, smiling, says something while motioning with his hands. The two of them look at each other for a moment and then the gate agent lets him board first, before everyone else. After he disappears down the jetway, I turn to the guy next to me and say, "Is it me, or did that guy look just like Karl Rove?" The guy answers, "That was Rove, all right."

Hunh. Karl Rove. On my flight! What are the odds?

So I'm thinking, "OK, he'll be seated in first class, so get your cellphone ready. When you walk onto the plane, pretend like you're checking your email and snap his photo."

I wait while they board the other zones. Then as they call my zone, I get my camera ready. I walk down the jetway and onto the plane. I'm in first class. No Rove. Dang!

Then I pass into coach and there he is, in 19B (a middle seat), five rows in front of where I'll be sitting. Karl Rove in coach? By himself? Hunh. I stop in the aisle in front of him.

The guy behind him is leaning over the seat talking to him. I don't hear what he's saying exactly, but he's really chatting him up in a fawning way. I've got about five seconds to decide what I'm going to do.

Now, another man might have called him a douchebag, another one might simply have gotten angry and yet another one might have walked right on by, saying nothing. And of course there's always the possibility that "Rove" is some sort of pathetic celebrity impersonator. Although -- my G-d! -- who would want a career impersonating Karl freaking Rove? I'm also thinking I don't want to miss the moment and/but I definitely don't want to be detained by security and taken off the plane.

Rove looks at me. I look back. "Holy crap!" I say. "It's MC Rove." He tilts his head back and laughs. "Oh, gosh, no," he says, all modest.

"Can I have your autograph?" I hand him my boarding pass but instead of taking it, he reaches into his jacket pocket and takes out his billfold. "Here's a pen," says The Goofball behind him. Without glancing back, Rove takes out a business card (and his own pen). He signs the card. He hands it to me.

(Click image to see a larger version. Note: the card wasn't one of those crappy ones printed with thermographic ink -- it was embossed.)

The Goofball rattles on. "Would you sign an autograph for me, Mr. Rove? It would mean so much to my wife..." He's a douchebag.

Now, like I said, another man might have unpacked a short rant. Me? I took out my cellphone and snapped his picture because, after all, you never know: maybe a photograph really does steal a man's soul.


June 14, 2007

On The Road Again: Washington DC

I've been in Washington DC for the past couple of days, so posting has been light. The pic below is from the World War II Memorial which is in between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Note how the eagles face is turned to the right (toward the arrows) instead of the left, as it is today (toward the olive branch). When Harry Truman mentioned to Winston Churchill that he had ordered the change as a reflection of the post-war, peacetime aims of the US government (Dept. of War then becoming the Dept. of Defense, etc) Churchil said, "You should put it on a swivel." Heh.


Couple of other thoughts about DC:

  • Schools out and the town is flooded with families with kids. Young people everywhere you look; it makes me feel somewhat optimistic about the future. "Yes," said my 19-year old son, "until you hit the House and Senate office buildings and meet the staffers; you realize then that they're running the country and you're quickly brought back to reality."

  • Speaking of reality, I strolled down to the Capitol building and discovered that the western entrance is being guarded by Capitol police armed with rifles. Big rifles. Very big rifles. Haven't seen that before.

  • If you plan on driving in or around the DC area, bring maps and have someone navigating -- carefully. The freeways here are among the most poorly marked I've seen in the US. And I've driven all over the country.

  • Most architecturally interesting museum building in DC: The National Museum of the American Indian.


  • Have any of you flown recently? Are you finding what I'm finding -- that the odds of being stranded in a stopover airport are alarmingly high? I don't like to have a layover of less that 90-120 minutes because the in-bound flights are almost always late. This means you stand a pretty good chance of missing your connecting flight. I hate when that happens.

Anyhow, I just read back over this post and realized it sounds like I'm griping. Sorry about that.

See you soon.

June 04, 2007

Blogs I Read

As I've mentioned before, I've been using Google Reader to keep up with the blogs I read. They have a neat feature called "Trends" that tracks my reading habits. Accordingly, here are the blogs from whom I read the greatest number of posts (as of June 4, 2007):

  1. The Huffington Post - Newswire
  2. Think Progress
  3. Boing Boing
  4. Daily Kos
  5. Crooks and Liars
  6. AMERICAblog
  7. Firedoglake
  8. Slate Magazine
  9. Eschaton
  10. MyDD

Now, some blogs do not post anywhere near the volume that these blogs do. Accordingly, the following blogs are ranked by the percentage of their new posts that I've read:

  1. Video On The Web
  3. Online Auction Blog
  4. Dispassionate Liberal
  5. The Queen of All Evil
  6. James Wolcott
  7. John Chow dot Com
  8. Blogging Tips
  9. Digital Inspiration

Anyway, there you are: a different kind of blogroll -- one that actually presents some meaningful information...about me.

May 29, 2007

How I Set Scandinavia Buzzing

Over 30 months ago, on the eve of the 2004 election, I wrote a blog post about Bush's heart problem. Or what I speculated was the possibility that Bush might be hiding a heart problem from the public. The post got some notice. I even re-published it a couple of times.

Then I forgot about it.

Scandinavia buzz copy.jpgThen, this past weekend (and over 30 months after I originally posted it) it went viral in Scandinavia.

A website called linked to it and my traffic quadrupled. Drilling down through the log files I found that the biggest chunk of traffic was coming from Stockholm but other cities like Malmo, Umea, and Uppsala were abuzz as well. It was even noticed in Finland ... and at least two guys from the fjords of Norway.

It's an interesting snapshot of how stuff goes viral in unexpected ways.

April 26, 2007

“How Old Would You Be, If You Didn't Know How Old You Was?”

That was the question baseball's immortal (and ageless) Satchel Paige asked the interviewer, turning the tables when he was asked to reveal his real age.

And since today is my birthday, I'll answer it: I feel like I'm 19. I guess I feel that way partly because the past 35 years (you do the math) have passed in a blur. It never ceases to amaze me that what seems like another age in the history books is just a couple of calendar pages in my own mind. I guess, like dpu says, "memory is the second thing to go."

Whatever it is, at this stage of my life I wake up every morning with a feeling of wonderment thinking, I can't wait to see what happens next.

(That's me in the middle, with my older sister and my mom. From the look on my face, it's apparently the first time I've ever seen a real cake -- and it was to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Click to see a larger image.)

April 19, 2007

60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For

It's from Esquire Magazine and without getting too specific, the list includes (among other things) unhealthy but delicious foods, extreme surfing, organ donation, bullfighting, butter, drugs, and punching Barry Bonds in the face.

In short, you really have to read the whole thing.

Here's my favorite:

32. Carousing with the Mob (by Colum McCann)

It happened one night in a bar near the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. I was researching a novel and found myself deep in conversation with a number of ballet dancers. Don't laugh. Dancers drink. Dancers smoke. Dancers believe in the short life.

Two in the morning. We had all been overserved. It was time for one last song. I closed my eyes and belted it out. The bartender grabbed me by the shoulder. "Shut up," he said. I've heard the complaints before. "Shut the f-ck up," he said. "Look."

I turned and saw a number of impeccably dressed men walking into the bar. They were packing guns. One of them stopped and stared at me. It was as if all the oxygen was gone from the air. They cased the bar and abruptly left. I started singing again. The bartender grabbed my arm. Seconds later the real mob -- without their well-dressed bodyguards -- walked in: fat and unshaven and scruffy. Each had a bouquet of beautiful women on his arm.

Continue reading "60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For" »

April 08, 2007

What happened to the warm weather?

I'll be away from the Internets through next week, looking and hoping for warm weather. In the meantime, Mark and Shep will keep things together while I'm gone.

March 27, 2007

A Minor Note Of Ominous Foreboding (Update)

Holy crap! Just when you thought there were just too many bombshells to keep up with in the news, here comes this little blip on the radar, threatening to, ahem, put it all into perspective (click to see larger image):

P.S. Isn't this just like the opening scene of a science fiction movie? Cue the music with a small note of ominous foreboding.

P.P.S. More on this unique planetary phenomenon.

Update: Apparently you can produce the same hexagonal effect in a bucket of water if you spin the water fast enough. But still -- that stuff on Saturn is big and so it must be spinning at ginormous speed.

March 22, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards

What shocked me most about Elizabeth Edwards' statement today was that her cancer is now considered "treatable" but not "curable." Being the son of a cancer victim myself, I remember that it was chiefly the hope (and belief) that my father was going to pull out of it that kept me going; when he died it was a double shock. Hearing that Mrs. Edwards will live with cancer for the rest of her life was especially discouraging. All the more impressive, then, is her public attitude of en(courage)ment. Not to mention that she is the 57 year old mother of 6- and 8-year old children.

Here's a short anecdote from Ana Marie Cox about what it was like meeting Elizabeth Edwards for the first time:

She was, as most will tell you, animated and interested, very knowledgeable about blogs and quick to laugh. After a bit, she asked if we'd "like to meet John." (Husband and I had hung back, as Edwards was receiving a long line of admirers.) We at first demurred but she sort of pulled us to the head of the informal line and said, "John, I'd like you to meet..." and introduced us.

Anyone who's been around politicians when they're on the job would have recognized the somewhat frozen smile and half-glassy eyes that Edwards then turned on us. He's got charisma, but he's human, and you can't get through years of shaking hands with strangers without developing the ability to do it by rote. But Elizabeth saw that same automatic gesture and she cut him off mid-"how do you do?"

She hit him gently on the arm in a loving, spousal way. "No, John," she said, "I want you to meet them." He looked at her, a little surprised I think, and then broke into a genuine smile as she re-introduced us. It was the difference between shaking hands with a stranger and shaking hands with a friend of a friend. I feel very lucky to have met someone with such heartfelt charm, and I don't mean John.

Doesn't that just make you want to be friends with her? Doesn't it make you feel like you already are?

Here's a different kind of blogroll

I've been using Google Reader to keep up with the blogs I read. They have a neat feature called "Trends" that tracks my reading habits. Accordingly, here are the blogs from whom I read the greatest number of posts:

  1. The Huffington Post
  2. Boing Boing
  3. Firedoglake
  4. digg
  5. Daily Kos
  6. AMERICAblog
  7. Think Progress
  8. Crooks and Liars
  9. Talking Points Memo
  10. Lifehacker

Now, some blogs do not post anywhere near the volume that these blogs do. Accordingly, the following list is a list of blogs ranked by percentage of new posts that I've read:

  1. The Queen of All Evil
  2. Dispassionate Liberal
  3. Likelihood of Success
  4. Firedoglake
  5. Internet Marketing Monitor
  6. John Chow dot Com
  7. Boing Boing
  8. Daily Kos
  9. AMERICAblog
  10. The Huffington Post

Anyway, there you are: a different kind of blogroll -- one that actually presents some meaningful information.

March 01, 2007

Ara Answers The Proust Questionnaire

OK, so it's not going to be published on the last page of Vanity Fair, but I thought I'd share this with you, regardless...

AraWhat is your idea of perfect happiness?
I remember standing on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan at sunset one summer evening thinking, "This must be what heaven is like."

What is your greatest fear?
Letting down the ones I love.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I literally cannot think of a single one; too many come to mind.

Which living person do you most admire?
I try not to put too much hope or admiration into any single individual. That way I figure I won't be disappointed. That said, Barack Obama is pretty cool.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I cannot seem to eat just one Oreo cookie.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Can I combine three traits in one? Willfully arrogant shallowness.

What is your greatest extravagance?
The overhead I pay to support my blogs.

What is your favorite journey?
Driving away from the airport car rental desk on the way to my hotel. Double extra-super bonus points if I've never been in that city before.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
The strong silent type.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My gut is a bit too large for my liking.

What living person do you most despise?
I don't hate anyone. It's like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. That said, I occasionally want to slap Dick Cheney upside the head.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"Listen to me." Also, "Can I tell you something?"

What is your greatest regret?
That I didn't pay closer attention in college.

Which talent would you most like to have?
To accompany myself on the piano while singing.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
Nothing. I love them just the way they are.

What do you consider your greatest achievment?
I successfully ran the gauntlet of turn-of-the-century IT certifications.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
If possible, I'd like to come back as Pete Townshend of The Who.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
No question about it: unrequited love.

What is your most marked characteristic?
I'm loud.

What do you value most in your friends?
I love it when we can laugh at the same things.

Who are your favorite writers?
Larry McMurtry, Ann Lamott, David McCullough, James Thurber, Bob Dylan, Gore Vidal, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, to name a few off the top of my head.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Captain Augustus McCrae, co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company and Livery Emporium of Lonesome Dove, Texas.

What are your favorite names?
Strega Nona, Bambalona, Condaleeza, and Jambalaya.

What is it that you most dislike?
Lima beans. Lima bean puree.

How would you like to die?
Now you see me, now you don't.

What is your motto?
"It's not how hard you fall, it's how high you bounce."

March 2007: In Like A Lion

I grew up in Michigan and I'm well acquainted with the old saying about the month of March -- "In like a lion, out like a lamb" (or occasionally vice-versa).

Well, here's hoping that March 2007 goes out like a lamb.


Above: Some 60 vehicles were involved in this pile-up Wednesday evening outside of Seattle, Wash., at a mountain overpass on Interstate 90.

What's the weather like where you are?

Here's the Baton Rouge forecast for the next couple of days:

February 19, 2007

Mardi Gras 2007
This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Mardi Gras 2007. Make your own badge here.
Yesterday, we spent the day in uptown New Orleans attending 4 parades for Mardi Gras (click, left, to watch a brief slideshow). We shared a spot with some friends on "the neutral ground" (what Michiganders call "the boulevard strip") at Napolean and Chestnut, which was near the beginning of all the parades (the crowed being rated "G" or "PG"); they eventually wind their way through the city and pass through the French Quarter on Canal Street (the crowd being rated "R" or even "NC-17").

We watched the Okeanos, Thoth, Mid-City, and Bacchus parades, the last one being a night parade.

But wait! There's more:

James Gandolfini, who plays the Mafia boss on the Emmy and Peabody-winning HBO series The Sopranos, ...arrived in New Orleans to begin his reign over one of the city's biggest Mardi Gras parades [Bacchus]...Gandolfini was crowned Bacchus XXXIX, as such he will ride in Sunday night's parade and rule at the Carnival Krewe's ball.
Yes, indeed. Gandolfini (below, left, click for larger image from the Times-Picayune) was high atop the very first float, wearing a white toga and a black homburg, throwing doubloons by the fistful to the crowd. Later on, down the line, we spotted his fellow cast member John Ventimiglia -- Artie Bucco! -- on another float accompanied by the actor who plays one of Junior's flunkies. Steven Schirripa who plays Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri.

Tony Soprano, click to see larger imageIn between parades, we went back to the car and unloaded about 20 pounds of Mardi Gras beads. But along the way, we spotted a 6-piece jazz band giving an impromptu concert on the front-porch of a house at Jena & Chestnut streets. It was terrific! Two trombones, a trumpet, drums, tuba and a guitar. They were riffing on two songs: Dr. John's "Must Have Been The Right Place (But It Must Have Been The Wrong Time)" and the Stones' "I Used To Love Her (But It's All Over Now)." There were about 100 people standing outside the fence around the yard (and an equal number inside) watching, listening and dancing. What a show!

Mardi Gras 2007: "In being some days in preparation, a splendid time was guaranteed for all."

P.S. I've got some video and as soon as I can edit it, I'll bring it here for you.

UPDATE: Here's the multimedia photo and video gallery from the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

January 10, 2007

Bush Speaks

Not sure I'm going to watch Bush tonight. I mean, I'm mildly curious in the same way you might be if you're surfing channels and you come upon a scene of a chimpanzee from Animal Planet jumping up and down and flinging feces around his cage. You might stop for a moment. But other than that? Enh.

Hunter put it best:

And so here's the problem with blogging, in '07. It's going to take a superhuman effort to even take any of this nonsense seriously. It's not a question of "rebutting", or "disagreeing", or God forbid "contradicting". It's not a matter of "pointing out inconsistencies of" or "offering contrary evidence to". It's not mere disagreement, anymore.

It's more of a question of even being able to take any of these political voices seriously at all -- even seriously enough to mock.

Only 741 days to go.

P.S. Speaking of 2007: This month marks the beginning of my sixth year of blogging. I've kept at it this long because I've never been at a loss for words and I have a pretty high opinion of my, well, opinions. The fact that I've attracted a small audience along the way is amazing. But more than that: the fact that I've made friends with many of you is really pretty gratifying.

So if you've come this far with me, I want to say this: I hope you get one-tenth the satisfaction reading this as I do in writing it. Thanks again and I hope to talk to you soon.

December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

I'll be away for a few days -- see you in a bit. In the meantime, I hope you all have a great new year.

Just to make sure, go on and eat some black-eyed peas and cabbage on New Year's Day.

December 29, 2006

Top Posts of 2006

Without further ado (or waiting til Dec. 31), here are E Pluribus Unum's most-read posts of 2006:

10. Dad Gave Me The Keys (Mark Adams)

Wow, a real blog. How cool is this.
Mark's debut at EPU! Dude -- how cool are you?

9. Ohio Republicans, Offers That Can't Be Refused (Mark Adams)

In France, you can't even get away with taking a Viagra before a silly bike race. If they could prove that the Browns and the Cavaliers were "fixing" point spreads, or the Indians were throwing games, there'd be riots on Euclid Avenue. Push some inconvenient voters in the wrong direction, undermine our very democracy, and it's just business as usual.

8. Movie trailer mash-ups
Where else are you going to see the movie trailer for Brokeback To Future? OK, besides and every other blog and website on the Internets. All I can say is: God bless Google.

7. Marbury vs. Madison
I posted this in April, 2005 and it is still one of the most widely-read things I've ever written. It has bounced around in the top 50 sites (out of 175 thousand) at Google for the eponymous keyword phrase -- and it made a star out of our buddy Wince from Kansas:

Some would say God's Law is most high. Perhaps it is, as defined (for example) in the Bible. But we are not a nation that is governed by the church or the temple. Even if we were, all you have to do is look at the Talmud to understand that there is always more than one opinion about everything.

No, we are not a government ruled by the church. We are a government of the people, for the people and by the people. We follow a document that WE wrote.

Some would hope that God guided us in that ongoing endeavor. But if that is the case, it is also certainly true that God helps those who helps themselves.

It's hard to make your way through the difficult questions Wince, I know. But we all agreed, long ago, that this was a job for the people to do. We don't wait for God to judge these difficult cases for us.

6. What does leadership mean?

I think it was Chris Matthews who said voters respond most favorably to the candidate who can best articulate the following simple message: "Follow me!"
Bush did it better than Kerry and he won. The End.

5. Intelligent Design: “The sky is blue because God wants it that way.”
The title (and the post) is borrowed from Nobel Prize winner Eric Cornell. What more is there to add?

4. Commerce Committee to Vote on Net Neutrality Wednesday
This post contained the names and numbers of the everyone on the Senate Commerce Committee and I urged you to call them and tell them to support the Snowe/Dorgan amendment. Net Neutrality survived -- for now. Stay tuned.

3. Top Ten Chuck Norris Facts
Jeez, I didn't even write it. And/But this post ranks #9 out of 480 thousand sites listed on Google. I'm baffled...but endlessly amused (along with, apparently, the rest of the Internets):

A blind man once stepped on Chuck Norris' shoe. Chuck replied, "Don't you know who I am? I'm Chuck Norris!" The mere mention of his name cured this man blindness. Sadly, the first, last, and only thing this man ever saw was a fatal roundhouse kick delivered by Chuck Norris.

2. Foley Scandal: What's up with Rep. Rodney Alexander?
Major hat tip to Miss Julie, who asked the title question thereby inspiring this post, early in the Foley scandal.

And the #1 most widely-read post of the year...

1. Bush-Cheney Escape War Crimes Prosecution
Go ahead, click the link -- you'll notice that this post was "dugg" 854 times so far (and viewed nearly 4 thousand times at Google Video -- with a strange spike in traffic on the day after Christmas). It's Jack Cafferty breathing fire:

Under the War Crimes Act, violations of the Geneva Conventions are felonies, in some cases punishable by death. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Geneva Convention applied to al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, President Bush and his boys were suddenly in big trouble.
I'll say. Senator Bill Frist, Congressman Dennis Hastert and their Republican stooges passed the Military Commission Act of 2006, destroying habeas corpus -- and allowing Bush-Cheney to get away without a scratch. This is a story that historians will be telling for decades to come.

P.S. Sometime soon, I promise to post E Pluribus Unum's Top 10 most widely viewed videos -- including the one of Stephen Colbert showing (and dissing) my ad for congressional candidate, Carol Gay.

December 01, 2006

Odds & Sods #21: The Bigfoot Edition

  • I was in Chicago Tues-Thurs and flew out yesterday morning just ahead of that monster storm. I understand 265 flights were canceled at O'Hare alone. It was cold in Baton Rouge last night too -- we got hit by the same cold front and the temp this morning just after sun-up was 40 degrees.

  • There are a few speakers who I always want to listen to if I have the chance, e.g., Robert Reich, Mario Cuomo, Arianna Huffington, Christopher Hitchens, Bill Clinton, Camille Paglia, Newt Gingrich and Kristina Vanden Heuvel are a just a few off the top of my head. I don't always agree with them and often I am diametrically opposed to their positions; but they are always interesting, articulate and challenging. David Gergen is also in that group.

  • Speaking of a collection of "Bigfoots," the Baker Commission's recommendations are due out next week and can I tell you that I have SO moved on in my mind to other stuff. To be blunt, it sounds like they've come up with a solution that is designed to please everyone but will, in fact, piss everyone off to one degree or another. Besides which, Maliki has already said that he wants the US to begin pulling out of Iraq by next summer -- and "don't let the door hit you in the butt yadda yadda yadda."

  • Speaking of Maliki, you had to laugh reading the Hadley Memo's description of the Iraqi leader as someone who is the captive of "a small circle" of advisors who are "coloring his actions and his interpretations of reality." Ouch!

  • Speaking of hypocritical bigfoots, it seems that Gov. Mitt Romney hired illegal immigrants to do landscaping at his private home.
    Asked by a reporter yesterday about his use of Community Lawn Service with a Heart, Romney, who was hosting the Republican Governors Association conference in Miami, said, "Aw, geez," and walked away.
    Brilliant comeback, Governor!

  • At least Romney's lame comment was brief, unlike the logorrhea that Dennis Prager, et. al, suffer from. It seems that they're upset that -- wait for it -- Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) wants to be sworn into office using a copy of the Koran and not the Bible!. Prager & Co. remind me of what Lincoln said about an acquaintance: "He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." [P.S. Did you know that Congressmen are routinely sworn in without resting their left hand on any book at all?]

  • Crikey -- first we hear that two British Airways planes showed traces of radioactivity and now ABC News is reporting that an Italian security expert who met that Russian ex-spy has tested positive for a radioactive substance. Quick! Turn out the lights! You know you're going to have a bad day if you glow in the dark.

  • Speaking of medical tests for bigfoots, I hear that Sen. Obama will publicly be tested for AIDS. Let's see Hillary top that!

  • Speaking of bigfoots running for president, Kerry wants everyone to forget the botched joke and focus on serious stuff. Good luck on that, Senator. Maybe you should call Howard Dean for advice on just exactly how that works.

November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

We'll be taking a short break for the holidays -- back on Saturday. Hope you and yours have a nice holiday.

October 29, 2006

Digg this blog post

Today, I found a way to put the big yellow digg button (showing the number of diggs) right in the body of the article itself ( <== look over there, to the left). This is an improvement over what I had before, which was a text link after every post that linked back to

What's that you say -- " What is"

Digg is a user driven social content website.

Ok, so what the heck does that mean?

Well, everything on digg is submitted by the digg user community (that would be you and me). After one of us submits an article, or any other kind of content, other digg users read the submission and digg what they like best. If the story rocks and receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of digg visitors to see.

So if you like an article or a video or anything, just click the big yellow digg button directly. Thanks!

P.S. Of course, you must have a digg account to participate. It's free -- visit the digg registration page and get started!

October 25, 2006

Pardon Our Dust

I've been tearing apart and re-assembling large parts of the site over the last few days. I realized that left and right sidebars were taking up too much real estate on the screen. Earlier, I put my Blogroll into a drop-down box; I did the same for the Category list and the Monthly Archives list. Next, I removed the left sidebar altogether and I'll be moving the components that were there over to the right sidebar. I've also concentrated the AdSense ads into the first post on the page -- one above the post, one inside the post and one below the post. I'm also seriously considering limiting the number of posts on the page to 10 (or less). If y'all are seeing any chaos on the screen (and I know you are), hang in there. It'll get worse.


Just kidding.

October 23, 2006

I am truly a singular person
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

October 22, 2006

Crum-believable! I was on the Colbert Report!

(Cross posted on Daily Kos)

OK, he showed one of my videos, and really just part of it, but still...crum-believable!

Continue reading "Crum-believable! I was on the Colbert Report!" »

October 18, 2006

Detroit Tigers: Here's how they're introduced at the ballpark

There are three things that I follow with a passion: baseball, movies and rock & roll. So it's no surprise that I think one of the most memorable scenes in Major League (a hugely under-rated baseball movie), is the one wherein Charlie Sheen's character, relief pitcher Rick Vaughn, is called in from the bullpen to the X version of Wild Thing . [Warning: Language not office-safe!]:

Well, since then, a lot of ballclubs have encouraged the players to choose their own "theme music." And the World Series-bound Detroit Tigers are no different:

  • Center fielder Curtis Granderson likes 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted from Tupac Shakur.
  • First baseman Sean Casey prefers Even Flow (Pearl Jam).
  • Relievers Jason Grilli and Jamie Walker prefer (respectively) Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N' Roses and Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water.
  • But my favorite is Joel Zumaya (another reliever!) who likes the park sound system to crank it up with Hendrix's Voodoo Chile.
Bill McGraw has the whole list.

October 13, 2006

Armenian genocide: A political football

In Turkey, it is a crime to write about the Armenian genocide. Now, the French legislature has approved a bill that would make it a crime to deny that same genocide.

The Turkish law has been on the books for quite some time; the French law was passed in an attempt to block Turkey's entry into the EU. President Chirac is not expected to sign it into law.

The Turkish law is an outrage and/but the French legislation is simply assinine. Simply put, the genocide occured and people should just deal with it by talking about it openly and freely.

Speaking strictly for myself, I'm not interested in "debating" it with anyone, nor watching any such debate. The fact is, both my parents were born in Turkey, had first-hand experience with the genocide and so I know all I need to know. I don't have any need (nor desire) to engage the deniers in any way; that would simply dignify them and their message. But that doesn't mean the deniers shouldn't have a voice.

That said, I was intrigued to hear that the Turkish government has officially congratulated Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's best-known novelist, on his being awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. This is the same writer who had previously been put on trial by the Turkish government for "insulting Turkishness." Translation: "writing about the genocide."

[Note: Pamuk was one of the first Muslims to openly denounce the fatwah against Salmon Rushdie.]

Eventually the charges against Pamuk were dropped, but other writers in Turkey have not been so fortunate.

September 26, 2006

Comments are not working again

I am working to resolve the situation.

If you are experiencing the inability to leave comments, please let me know ( And if you are experiencing no problems, please let me know THAT too. Thanks.

UPDATE: All fixed.

September 16, 2006

New Feature: bookmark your favorite posts with


I've added a link to for every post at E Pluribus Unum.

What is is a collection of favorites - yours and everyone else's. Use to:

  • Keep links to your favorite articles, blogs, music, restaurant reviews, and more on and access them from any computer on the web.
  • Share favorites with friends, family, and colleagues.
  • Discover new things. Everything on is someone's favorite - they've already done the work of finding it. Explore and enjoy.
You do need to open an account to start putting your bookmarks into

So...anytime you read a post that you want to save and/or share with someone else -- click the link and bookmark it.

P.S. As you might imagine, is similar to digg. If you can't decide which one to use, upload links to both!

September 12, 2006

New Feature: Digg It

Now you can post any of our stuff on Digg.


What is Digg?

Digg is a user driven social content website. Ok, so what the heck does that mean? Well, everything on digg is submitted by the digg user community (that would be you). After you submit content, other digg users read your submission and digg what they like best. If your story rocks and receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of digg visitors to see.

You must become a registered user at Digg to submit news stories and websites (like ours). Once you've done that, you can submit any story you like, from any website you come across.

In our case, I've made that process super-easy by placing the "Post This To Digg" link at the bottom of every story we put up at E Pluribus Unum.

For example, I posted one of my "Had Enough?" videos to Digg about an hour ago (click the image to go there):


As you'll see, the entries invite comments from anyone. Heh.

Come on -- Digg it! Become a registered user and rock!

September 06, 2006

Meta Info For E Pluribus Unum (August 2006)

Top Ten most frequently-read posts:

  1. Commerce Committee to Vote on Net Neutrality Wednesday (June, 2006)
  2. Top Ten Chuck Norris Facts (December, 2005)
  3. Kana: Not the first time it happened (July, 2006)
  4. Dad Gave Me The Keys (Mark Adams, April, 2006))
  5. Intelligent Design: "The sky is blue because God wants it that way." (November, 2005)
  6. What does leadership mean? (March, 2003)
  7. Mastercard Commercial From Hell (April, 2002)
  8. After the Israel-Lebanon war is over... (August, 2006)
  9. What Congressional Democrats Must Do To Win In November (August, 2006)
  10. Win Or Lose, "Netroots" gets bashed (Mark Adams, August, 2006)

Continue reading "Meta Info For E Pluribus Unum (August 2006)" »

August 29, 2006

Katrina Anniversary

I won't be able to hear the wind again, here in Baton Rouge, without thinking of the day Katrina hit Louisiana.

I shot this video in my back yard at about 7:30 am on August 29, 2005. Less than half an hour later, one of these trees came down on top of another one, snapping it off about 5 feet from ground level, making a loud cracking sound like a massive gunshot. The broken tree then fell on the power lines taking them all down. We were without power for five days after that.

In the front yard, an 80 foot water oak tree popped out of the ground and fell parallel to the house. When it came down we felt the impact come across the floor, up through the soles of our feet, causing our stomachs to bounce in a sickening way. It crushed the sidewalk, demolished our neighbor's cars and took out part of his carport. Somehow, no one was injured.

The tree lay in the driveway blocking our way out. Miraculously, we were able to get a man to come out nearly right away and cut a pathway for us. The rest of the tree, including its 10-foot diameter root ball and 4-foot diameter trunk, lay in the front yard for many days. We became quite the tourist attraction, as cars would stop and people took snapshots and videos. I told my neighbor we should make postcards and sell them at the curb for $1 each. Eventually, the rest of the tree was cut up and moved to the street where a truck with a giant claw came and took it away, but not before we got a chainsaw and cut ourselves a season's worth of fireplace logs.

The worst part? Rita hit us less than a month later, causing even more damage. A couple of trees hit the back of the house damaging the roof and burying the backyard in tree limbs. More on that another time -- I'm exhausted just remembering it all.

August 28, 2006

Thanks again for stopping by

I just wanted to say "Thank You" for being loyal readers of this blog. You make it all worthwhile. Thanks again.

August 25, 2006

Holy crap! Here we go again: Ernesto is on the way

Click to see the full-size pic.

P.S. X marks the spot -- That's us in the top-left.

August 15, 2006

My Dad

Today was his birthday. He would have been 90.

Dad, early 1940s.tilted.jpg

August 11, 2006

Friday Mind Blogging

(Click to see a larger version)


(HT to Motivator)

August 04, 2006

Friday Cloud Blogging

Seen outside my office window. Click thumbnail for larger image.

Love that Treo 600 camera phone.

August 03, 2006

Seen outside my office window Thursday morning

I've been watching the "parade" every morning this week. It is all part of the 2006 Baton Rouge Hot Air Balloon Festival Championship (at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center which is within a a short bike ride of our house).


Later, one of these balloons went, um, slightly off course and had to land on top of a parking garage across the street. Never a dull moment!

More Baton Rouge balloon pix, from a different photographer.

July 26, 2006

Flickr Slide Show

Some pix I took with my Treo. Click below to watch show.


July 25, 2006

Overheard in the playroom this morning...

Miss Julie swears this is true:

Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: No.
Boy #1: Is this your card?
Boy #2: Yes! How did you do that?

July 23, 2006

South Louisiana, Summer 2006

Is this the best, or what?

Click image to view my video.

July 18, 2006

Yes, The Comment Text Is Too Small

I'm working on it.

Watch this video in the meantime.

There. Doesn't everything look bigger already?

July 07, 2006

What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage

This article caused a minor sensation when I brought it home for Miss Julie to read.

If you're married, read it. Then (most definitely) show it to your spouse.

If you're not married, like the wind!


Just kidding.

July 04, 2006

Top Ten List for June, 2006

Here are the ten "most read posts" at EPU during the month of June, 2006:

  1. Intelligent Design: "The sky is blue because God wants it that way." (11/05)
  2. Dad Gave Me The Keys (Mark Adams) (04/06)
  3. Top Ten Chuck Norris Facts (12/05)
  4. What does leadership mean? (03/04)
  5. Movie trailer mash-ups (02/06)
  6. The problem with humanitarians (06/06)
  7. Scary pictures of Gore and Bush: Which one is worse? (05/04)
  8. How (and why) does anyone defend Ann Coulter? (06/06)
  9. For Mark Adams: Why Jeffrey Goldberg makes sense to me (06/06)
  10. War is over if you want it (06/06)

June 23, 2006

Friday Ara Blogging

by Mark Adams

The E. Pluribus Unum Braintrust

Ara Rubyan stopped by this afternoon, all the way from Baton Rouge to Toledo.

We laughed, we cried.  It became a part of me.

Thanks Ara, let's do it again.

April 26, 2006

The damn birthdays just keep on coming

Today is my birthday.

As usual, a couple of things occur to me:

  • You don't get wiser with age, but you do get more perspective.
  • The thirty-five years that separate 18 from 53 passes in a heartbeat and/but your body gets the message before your head does.
  • The older you get, the more you become like your true self.
  • Age is just mind over matter; if you don't mind, it don't matter.
I'm tempted to go on like an old fart, but because almost all the guys my own age bore the crap out of me, I'll cut it short.

I'll finish off by saying I have always looked forward to the future because every day is a miracle of wonder and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Rock on!

April 25, 2006

How We Spent Spring Break

See if you can spot the dolphins at the very beginning; hang around for the punchline at the end.

That's New Slang by The Shins on the soundtrack.

April 24, 2006

I'm back

What we did on our vacation:

  • We sat on the beach for hours every day.
  • We went body-surfing until we could barely stand up anymore.
  • We talked to each other. A lot.
  • We saw dolphins in the Gulf at sunrise; we also saw an alligator gar pop his head out of the water and wink at us.
  • We noticed that the night sky really is a blanket of stars.
  • We did read one day's worth of newspapers and a couple of magazines.
  • We didn't log on to the Internets, nor did we read a single blog. Near as I can tell, we didn't miss anything.
Mark has done a terrific job in covering the waterfront in my absence. I've asked him to continue posting whenever he feels like it. Thanks, Mark!

I'm also considering opening things up to another guest blogger. Anyone care to volunteer yourself or someone else who might be good? I can't guarantee I'll settle on anyone particular, but if you are interested, send me an email:


April 21, 2006

For Mom on her 80th birthday

[Note: I'll be away from my computer for the rest of this week. In the meantime, here is one of my more popular videos from the past.]

See if you can spot me: I'm the butterball in the sailor suit.

April 15, 2006

Dad Gave Me The Keys

by Mark Adams**

Wow, a real blog. How cool is this.

The biggest challenge filling in for our gracious host is quashing my usual tendency to go on, and on . . . like this. Face it, Ara's got a gift for saying much with very few words.

In that spirit, I'll leave you with this little factoid from another guest poster over at Firedoglake:

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future.

The new U.S. Embassy also seems as cloaked in secrecy as the ministate in Rome.

They stand up, we stand down really means when they "stand up" to us.

**You can learn more about Mark at his blog, Dispassionate Liberalism, where you can read much more long-winded dissertations about how the world would be a better place if everyone saw things his way.

I'll be away from my computer next week...

During the next week or so, I will be re-running a few pieces that have proven to be popular over time.

In additon, Mark Adams will be sitting in for me, covering current events and stirring things up in my absence.

April 10, 2006

It's close, but Santos beats Vinick

My favorite moments from last night's episode of The West Wing:

  • Donna and Josh, stricken, riding the elevator up to find God-knows-what about Leo's condition and having to listen to the Muzak version of Ma Cherie Amour. Time really does stand still at moments like this.

  • Lou arguing that they cannot release a statement about Leo's collapse because undecided voters on the West Coast will use this as an excuse to vote against Santos. "And another reason you can't release a statement," she says, "is that when Leo comes back, he'll kick your ass!" And you know he would, too.

  • The networks call California for Vinick and Oregon for Santos; it all comes down to Nevada. Santos: "Nevada? I have a vague memory of campaigning there once." Josh: "Yeah...Maybe we should have moved you there a year ago. You know, gotten you a gig a Caesar's Palace."

  • Josh, alone in the war room while Santos makes his victory speech, coloring Nevada blue and bringing the electoral vote total to 272. He turns to a snapshot of Leo on the bulletin board and says, "Thanks, boss."
Those are the ones that come to mind. How 'bout you?

P.S. Where was Toby??

March 19, 2006

My worst nightmare

Last night I dreamt I met Charlie Chaplin and H.G. Wells at Disney World...

...and I wasn't carrying my cameraphone.

The End.

March 07, 2006

The Top 10 Most Read Posts at E Pluribus Unum (calendar year to date)

Oddly enough, number 3 on the list is one that I wrote nearly a year ago -- and it gets some page-views even now.

  1. Here are a couple of tough issues that you need to consider
    February, 2006

  2. Top Ten Chuck Norris Facts
    December, 2005

  3. Marbury vs. Madison
    April, 2005

  4. Face Recognition Software: I look like Fidel!
    January, 2006

  5. Movie trailer mash-ups
    February, 2006

  6. Mixed bag
    January, 2006

  7. What Terrorists Do (and how Karl Rove & Chris Matthews are helping)
    January, 2006

  8. Krewe du Vieux says 'C'est Levee'
    February, 2006

  9. The "Pragmatist" of Hamas
    February, 2006

  10. I favor the separation of Church and War
    February, 2006

February 28, 2006

Mardi Gras: In the Mood

We're away from Louisiana during Mardi Gras this year, so I thought you'd enjoy a reprise of last year's celebration.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

(Video by Instant Video Generator)

February 24, 2006

Hello from the future past

This is a test of the "Scheduled Post" feature of Movable Type.

If this works, I'll be posting some articles on Friday, Feb. 24, in such a way that they'll appear each day next week.

[ Update: It works! ]

P.S. I'll be away from my computer for a while. Try not to shoot anyone in the face while I'm gone.

February 22, 2006

Artists paint Detroit's derelict buildings Tiggeriffic Orange

ddddetroit.jpgFrom, another terrific Detroit-themed blog:

In the "D", "D" doesn't really stand for "Detroit", but "Demolition." Take a look around and you'll notice a great number of buildings marked on the front with a circled "D" in faint chalk. Off to the side, many of these same buildings will also have a noticeable dot, courtesy of our own native son, Tyree Guyton. These dotted buildings have stood for so long that they have become, arguably, the most memorable landmarks of our fair city.

In addition to Tyree Guyton, Detroit has had more than its fair share of artists who have taken notice of this situation and done something about it. Recently, however, we have taken up a particular project that has actually netted results - faster than anyone, especially us, could have anticipated.

The artistic move is simple, cover the front in Tiggeriffic Orange - a color from the Mickey Mouse series, easily purchased from Home Depot. Every board, every door, every window, is caked in Tiggeriffic Orange. We paint the facades of abandoned houses whose most striking feature are their derelict appearance.

(HT to Cory)

Holy cow! This was my first computer, c. 1963

(Click to see a larger image.)

Apparently, these little gizmos are for sale again. Wow:

The Digicomp is a plastic mechanical computer from the 1960s. It offered three bits of tabletop computing, back in an age where corded telephones were considered high-tech. The machine arrived in kit form; your first task was to assemble the jumble of tubes, rods, and elastic bands into something that resembles a Jetson's parking garage. Once complete, it's a fantastic hands-on way to teach Boolean algebra and binary numbers.
It's hard to describe the feeling I'm having, looking at this blast from the past. It's a little like suddenly meeting a long-lost friend at your 30-year high school reunion and discovering you still have a lot in common. Except in this case, I was in elementary school.

Looking back on it, it's fun to realize that this little contraption actually was an educational toy -- and apparently it had quite an impact on me.

Would I buy another one? Not sure -- I guess it's probably best to leave well enough alone. But, dang! that was a cool little thing, wasn't it? I'm glad people are recognizing it now.

From the web site:

No one today would claim so reverently, as ESR did in 1963, that Digi-Comp is the "mechanical equivalent of an electronic digital computer" (probably quite a stretch, even back then). And is it still true, or was it ever, that "everything you learn on Digi-Comp can be used on large electronic digital computers"? Probably not. Today, there's no reason a 10-year-old can't sit down and learn HTML or Visual Basic on a microcomputer. And that's fine -- but it's not really what Digi-Comp is about.

What is it about, then? After months of playing (er, testing), we've concluded that Digi-Comp is an ingenious, transparent Logical Gizmo that can teach anyone about binary numbers and Boolean algebra, still fundamental concepts in digital circuitry. In an age when interfaces are all that most kids get to know about computers, when working mechanisms of any kind are getting harder to observe (much less get your hands on), we think Digi-Comp's unique combination of mechanics and logic forges a unique kind of connection between hand and mind. Like many great educational toys, it makes you think. But like almost no other toy we know, it also literally puts you in touch with a way of thinking.

Visit this site and read the comments from all the 52 year-old geeks that had one of these (including me). Heh.

(HT to Cory)

February 21, 2006

I'm through getting mad -- now I just want to get even

A couple of thoughts on Tuesday morning:

  1. President Bush is the lamest of ducks and has been since his Social Security destruction-plan flopped last year. So I don't want to waste any breath railing against his hideous inadequacies as President. If you like the guy, you won't listen, and if you already know about his horrific record as CinC then I'm just preaching to the choir.

    We had our shot at keeping Bush out of the Oval Office but he's there for the foreseeable future (see below for more).

    So, what does this mean? It means that the next best thing is to do whatever I can to enable the election of a Democratic Congress.

    • Only then will right-thinking people have a chance of stopping this guy's whacked-out agenda.
    • Only then will we have a chance to cut off funding of his Treasury-draining tax-cuts.
    • Only then will we have a chance to get to the truth of the matter about the lies told, and the crimes committed, by this White House.
    • Only then will we, the people, have a chance of holding these people accountable for what they've done.
    • Does that include impeaching the President? Well, the Constitution does give Congress that authority. But it will never happen as long as the Republicans control Congress. So it's imperative that the Democrats take control of at least the House and preferably the Senate as well. Then, and only then, do we have a chance of launching the necessary investigations of high crimes and misdemeanors.
  2. So what is the best way to get a Democratic Congress elected? The best way, of course, is to vote for the Democratic candidate for the House (and the Senate, if applicable) and to work to get others to do the same.

  3. But there is something else that I, we, can do: we can let Congress and the traditional media know that we won't stand for business as usual.

    So from now on, if I go off on a rant about something outrageous that this Republican-controlled government is doing, I am also going to include the names, phone/fax numbers, and email addresses for those members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, who need to hear that I'm unhappy and what I expect them to do about it.

    And/But I think there are members of the traditional media (network, cable, newspapers, magazines and their assorted advertisers) that also need to hear from me whenever they (i.e., Chris Matthews) say something that is factually inaccurate, intellectually dishonest, and/or parroting Republican talking points. So, where applicable, I'll include their email addresses (or websites organized for this purpose).

    And if, from time to time, that includes participating in advertiser boycotts, then so be it. Shy of getting people to shut off their TVs and/or cancel their subscriptions, it is advertising money that keeps the traditional media alive. The Sinclair Broadcasting advertiser boycott was a good case in point.

So that's it. I'm done getting mad -- now I want to get even.

It's the very least I can do. And I hope you'll join with me when I ask you to do the same.

New layout: Two new features, one possible bug?

New feature: The post footer now includes a listing of the categories with which that post has been tagged.

Click on any of the category links to read posts that are similarly tagged.

New feature: The right and left sidebars use text that is "x-small." What do you think? Is it OK? Or too small? Or so small that you've realized that you need to upgrade your eyeglass prescription?

Possible bug: Is it possible that the comments are not working correctly? Once you've read this, please leave some sort of comment so that I can tell if I have a problem or not. Thanks. If you cannot leave a comment, please send me an email describing the problem you encountered in trying. My email is ara-at-rubyan-dot-com.

P.S. One last thing: I'm turning off the Trackback feature; 99.99% of the trackbacks I get are spam.

February 19, 2006

I remodeled the site -- what do you think?

Ara2.gifI spent a few hours over the weekend remodeling the site. I'm almost done. Let me know how you like it.

In a related vein, I wanted to take a moment and observe an anniversary of sorts -- I've been blogging here since January of 2002. Back then, I called the site "Postmodern Politics" and I was running it on Blogger. And, any day now, I'm sure the comments will start working again.

Prior to that, my good friend Sandy and I used Yahoo Groups to document our daily email discussion of what I had naively called "The Campaign of the Century" -- the Presidential election of 2000. I think those emails are still on the Yahoo server somewhere, so when the Smithsonian calls, we'll be able to accomodate their request.

Prior to that, I wrote an email newsletter called "Democratic Issues" during the years after the 1994 midterm elections and leading up to the Presidential election of 1996. Back then, blogs didn't exist, yet somehow we managed to defeat Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.

And prior to that, well, I guess I've been talking and reading about politics since I turned on a TV and watched the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960. I was seven years old and didn't have a computer. Yet.

Not sure what else to say except "Thanks" -- for reading, for commenting and for offering your feedback (positive and negative) over the years.

P.S. If I was having more fun, I'd have to be twins.


February 17, 2006

I'm looking for two committed activists

To all of you reading this that believe that our country is headed in the wrong direction: I'm looking for (at least) two of you to join me in getting actively involved in changing things.

What do I want you to do? It's simple:

  1. On occasion, I want you to each make phone calls, send emails and/or faxes when the timing and the issues are right.

    AND (most importantly...)

  2. I want you each to recruit (at least) two committed individuals to do the same for you. And I want THEM each to commit to the same type of recruitment.
Call it whatever you want: a phone tree, multi-level marketing (!), I don't care.

It's time for concerned people, people who are committed, to DO SOMETHING to change the dangerous direction that this country is headed in.

Now, if you like the direction this country is going in, simply ignore my request. But those of you believe we're headed in the wrong direction, I'm urging you to get involved. Unless substantial numbers of us stand up and say something, our country will continue to sink into dangerous waters.

I am not asking you to donate, I'm not asking you to get others to donate, I'm not asking you to host a house party or leave home, or talk to strangers --

All I'm asking you to do is to occasionally respond to my requests that you please make some phone calls, send some emails and/or faxes to Congress and/or traditional media outlets (TV, newspapers, magazines). All I'm asking you to do is commit some time to raising your voice and be heard where and when it counts. And find two people of your own to do the same thing, and so forth.

Who wants to be the first two volunteers?

P.S. This post is an example of the kind of activity I'm talking about. Once you decide to be a part of my group, this will be the first activity I want you to get involved in. Read the post. It will only take a few minutes of your time. But if just two of you commit to it, and each of you gets two people who will commit to it, and each of THEM get two people, etc., we can make an impact with relatively little tiime and effort.

Please contact me if you would like to be my first two active volunteers. Thanks.
Respond in the comments or send me an email: ara-at-rubyan-dot-com
But please don't contact me unless you are serious and ready to get involved.

February 04, 2006

“How to cook an egg with two mobile phones”

Me: "That's a vaguely scary headline."

Miss Julie: "Yeah. Who are these people?"

Me: "I don't know. But it makes me want to throw my cell phone away."

Detroit Blog: Super Bowl XL

If you already haven't done so, check out Detroit Blog. The blogger has been writing some excellent posts (and snapping some excellent pics) documenting my hometown's rendezvous with Super Bowl XL.

February 01, 2006

Attention: Presidential Trivia Experts

John Edwards probably would like to be elected President in 2008. But he has a tough obstacle to overcome: he was the VP nominee for the Democrats when they lost in 2004 and losers don't often come back to win under those circumstances.

However, another man who faced similar circumstances did win election to the Oval Office. What is his name?

P.S. I can't stop you from googling the answer. But it's only fair to tell you I didn't need to do so myself.

So there.

January 27, 2006

Detroit Pistons 35-5 at season midpoint

These guys are awesome.

Who cares about Kobe's 81 points? Who cares about Miami and Phoenix? Who cares about the Spurs?

Who cares about the Olympics?

Who cares about the Super Bowl?


Oh, wait -- it's being played in Motown!

January 19, 2006

“Kill or be killed Porkchop”

The title of this post is lifted from some graffiti I saw as a teenager growing up in Detroit. I was always intrigued by it and much later on, I decided it would make a great epitaph or perhaps even the title of my autobiography (Vol. 1).

(The image on the left [click it] has a similar look and feel. It's from a show featuring murals by local graffiti artists at the Shrangi-La Gallery in the Atlas Building on Gratiot.)

In any case, I recently came across Detroit Blog, which is devoted to "all things Detroit: politics, urban exploration, news, photos, and commentary about the city."

The authors loves Detroit, "even the old Detroit of blight, waste and emptiness. Hockeytown. Motown. I grew up here, had my best times here. It’s my home."

I don't live there any more myself, but I'm proud to say I did grow up (and lived much of my life) there. My kids were born there and my mother still lives there.

Once upon a time, Detroit was American industry. Detroit was American music. Detroit was American sports. Some of the most interesting and vital people in American history are from Detroit.

Me? I'm a proud product of Detroit Public Schools, and if you've got a problem with that, why don't we step outside and discuss it?

I guess as long as any of my family still live there, I'll miss it.

P.S. You can take the boy out of the city...and so forth and so on.

How I plan to continue my shameless traffic mongering

Tony Danza reads Chuck Norris Facts to Chuck Norris.

(HT to Xeni)

January 17, 2006

Face Recognition Software: I look like Fidel!

Miss Julie and I are always casting characters in books or documentary films with well-known actors. Recently we were watching How to Draw a Bunny, a documentary about artist Ray Johnson. I suggested that John Malkovich would be perfect in the role. Creepily enough, during the final credits, we discovered that Malkovich was the executive producer.

Can I pick em or what?

We've even gone so far as to cast the actor who should play me in the imaginary movie based on my life. We both settled on Alfred Molina. Right.

Now, it seems there is a site called My Heritage that is developing software (now in beta) that compares your photo with their database and comes up with some matches.


Christian Slater (the eyebrows?) 61%
Michel Platini (?) 47%
Marshall McLuhan 47%
Andrei Sakharov 44%
George Martin 43%
Ralph Nader 43%
Bjarne Stroustrup (?) 43%
Edmund Stoiber (?) 40%
....and last but not least:
Fidel Castro! 39%

And for Miss Julie:

Halle Berry 67% (I kid you not!)
Marianne Faithfull 65%
Sofia Coppola 65%
Hilary Swank 63%
Kirsten Dunst 63%
Helena Bonham Carter 62%
Charlize Theron 62%

Gentlemen, I am blessed.

P.S. OK, OK, a few false positives:

Miss Julie:
Roger Moore
Kenneth Branagh (redhead)
Whoopi Goldberg

Susan Sontag (definitely not a hair thing)

(HT to Double Plus Ungood who clocks in with Gary Oldman, Danny Kaye, John Travolta, Richard Strauss, Edward Elgar, Billy Bob Thorton, Stephen Spielberg, Ehud Barak, and/or Nikolaus Harnoncourt. False positive: Ayn Rand.)

January 11, 2006

Subscribe to E Pluribus Unum

Those of you that want to read this blog via a web-based news reader can now choose from several popular choices listed below. You can also find these links near the bottom of my sidebar, just below the Search box.

Just curious -- how many of you do this and what readers do you use?

Subscribe to E Pluribus Unum
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January 09, 2006

Is this what they mean by a “zero-sum game?”

Sharon breathing on own

Cheney hospitalized for shortness of breath

January 07, 2006

For Mom, On Her 80th Birthday

I'm stuck at home with pneumonia and can't be with my mother on her birthday -- she lives 1400 miles away in Detroit. My sisters and brother are there and I'll miss them too.

I made the following 2-minute video in her honor. My son is going to take the DVD over to show her. Hope they (and you) enjoy it.

P.S. I'm in it -- see if you can pick me out. I'm the butterball in the sailor suit.

Love you Mom. Sorry I couldn't be there.

(HT to the unbelievably easy-to-use Instant Video Generator)

January 05, 2006

Holy crap -- I've got pneumonia

I'm serious.

I'm going to bed. I promise I'll have more on this tomorrow.


Friday morning update:
All of you men who hate going to the doctor -- pay attention here: my life is a cautionary tale for you.

After two months of "Katrina Cough," and after a nasty bout with a sinus infection in the spring of '05, I've gotten used to visiting the doc when something doesn't feel right. Also, what the hell, I have an OK health plan.

Anyway, I went to the doctor on Thursday morning only after enduring 3 days of severe back pain. My mother's 80th birthday is Sunday and Miss Julie and I were flying up to Michigan for the festivities. But with the way my back felt, no way was I getting on a plane without some serious pain medication.

"How'd you hurt your back?" asked the doc.

"Honestly, I think it's from coughing on and off for 4 months. I finally coughed so much I pulled a muscle in my back. I'll bet you that knocked a vertabrae out of alignment which pinched a nerve."

The doc suggested that the cough -- a dry cough, really -- might be a side-effect of blood pressure medication I'm taking.

"Your chest sounds fine," he says after examining me with the stethoscope. "I'm going to give you some pain meds to help you get through the trip, but I also want to make sure that we check every possibility with that cough. So I'd like you to get a couple of X-rays. If I see anything unusual, I'll call you later. Otherwise, have a nice trip and I'll see you next week."

I crawl to the pharmacy, get the pain meds and then crawl home. I'm napping when Miss Julie comes in with the phone. "It's the doctor. He says you have pneumonia."

Say what?

"The radiologist looked at the X-ray and you have a consolidation on the lower lobe of your right lung. That means you have pneumonia."

Holy crap. But then he told me something worse. "You are not leaving town, my friend. Do NOT get on that plane."

Well, to make a short story even longer, I called my mom and broke the bad news: we wouldn't be with her on her 80th birthday. I don't know who was more disappointed -- her or me. I felt like crying.

Anyway, it's Friday morning and the doc called back after looking at the X-ray for himself. "Don't exert yourself. Stay around the house. Take it easy. I'd like to see you in about ten days for a follow-up."

Back in the day, I guess they used to call this "walking pneumonia." I know this because my mother actually had it herself.

So...guys: if you feel bad -- see the doc, OK? God only knows how long I've had this and how much worse it might have gotten without proper care.

P.S. Later, Miss Julie apologized. "For what?" says I.

"Here I thought you were being a titty-baby," says my beautiful bride, "slouching around, whimpering about your back. But knowing you had pneumonia and knowing all the stuff we did over the holiday break -- riding bikes, going to the park, playing with the boys -- it makes me realize you're as strong as an ox."


January 03, 2006

Happy New Year? Internet collapses, bloggers become street-people

From Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Awesome sf author/satirist Paul Di Filippo has published a short story in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in his "Plumage from Pegasus" column in which the collapse of the Internet ("chaos of viruses, worms, spam, terrorism and busts by the FBI anti-porn squad") turns bloggers (including me) into crazed San Francisco street-people who shove bits of paper into the faces of passers-by, hoping to interest them with novel tidbits...
This makes me think of something Miss Julie pointed out, early in our relationship -- that one phrase I used a lot in conversation was, "Listen to me!"

We concluded it came from my having been born third in a family of four children.

P.S. In the movie Parenthood, Mary Steenbergen comments on how parents get more lax with each new child until "By the third kid, you know, you let them juggle knives." Heh.

December 30, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging (with New Year wishes)


December 27, 2005

Baton Rouge: After the hurricanes and the earthquake...

...after all that, the high today will be 79. And sunny. In late December.


December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays. You got a problem with that?

Happy Holidays to you and yours. Hope you can spend time with those you love.


(HT to Pat Oliphant)

April 20, 2005

On turning 52

Long post here, musing about my impending 52nd birthday (Tuesday, April 26, and yes, you can find my wish list here. I'm just saying.)

Via Ezra I happened to read a great article from John Powers wherein he suggests that the recent deaths of so many greats from the 20th century (Susan Sontag, Johnny Carson, Arthur Miller, Hunter Thompson, George Kennan, Saul Bellow, Phillip Johnson, Pope John Paul II, etc.) might lead one to subscribe to what he calls Declinism, i.e., the belief that our best days are past.

He chides David Brooks:

Where Bellow’s work was a pas de deux between Europe and America, Brooks argued, we’re now “living in a unipolar culture, and it’s lonely at the top.” (Spoken like a true neoconservative.)

This claim might be more persuasive if Brooks hadn’t identified himself as one of those “who don’t pay attention to what is being written and said in Europe because it doesn’t seem that exciting. (Quick, what book is the talk of Berlin? Who is the Francois Truffaut of our moment?)”

What Brooks seems not to realize is that world culture hasn’t stood still over the two decades since he graduated from the University of Chicago. Only his thinking about it has.

Contemporary American culture seems unipolar only if you aren’t paying attention. These days Berliners are talking about Orham Pamuk’s novel Snow — a labyrinthine look at the pressures of Islamic fundamentalism — while our moment’s Truffaut (since you ask) comes with names like Wong Kar-Wai, Alfonso Cuarón, Satoshi Kon and Jafar Panahi. You won’t hear them bemoaning decline.

All well and good. I'm old enough to fall into that trap: there is more of my life behind me than there is in front of me.

But I refuse to be one of those old farts.

I always believed that I would grow up to live in the future. I believed it the same way others believed they would grow up and own a fancy house, or a flashy car or have lots of money. I'm always looking for new ideas, new people, new landscapes. Who I am is shaped (but not limited) by where I came from. I value the past but I want to live in the future.

One side-effect of having come this far is that everything I experience does remind me of something else, but so what? That just means I have more perspective (if not more wisdom).

I still look forward to every new day. Like Frankie Valli says, "I thank God I'm alive."

April 07, 2005

The West Wing

If you did not see last night's episode, not to worry: no spoilers here.

I did want to share a couple of quotes I found about how the viewing audience has (perhaps) changed in the years since the show debuted in 1999. Let Gloria Goodale of the Seattle Times tell it:

Continue reading "The West Wing" »

April 06, 2005

Somewhere, Dan Champion is laughing his ass off

So I send this pic to Miss Julie....(I'm like, "AWWWWwwwwww!")


...and she emails me back and says, "Dude, do you serve them over rice, or what?"

So I'm like, "No, dude! You can eat them plain...."


This one's for you, Big Dan.

March 30, 2005

1,001 things to do with Liquid Nitrogen

From the Physics Dept. web site at the University of Augsburg, Germany:

In the course of studying physics, one is officially taught that liquid nitrogen is simply (and mainly) used to cool things down to 77 degrees (K).

But everybody who once has observed students in practical courses "working" with this stuff knows that this is not true.

My intention is now to tell the truth about what is really done with liquid N2 before its remains are taken and used for cooling.


  1. Freeze a can of shaving cream.
  2. Peel the can away from the cream.
  3. Put the canless cream into someone's car.
  4. Let the oven-like heat from the car's sitting in the sun defrost the shaving cream.

2 cans will fill an entire car.

Please, please, please if anyone reading this ever gets the chance to do this, would you please invite me to watch? Or at least take some pictures?

Thank you, in advance.

(HT to Modnar)

March 27, 2005

What Bruce Springsteen wants from rock and roll

I recently caught this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction. I went out of my way to watch it because I liked all the bands that were inducted. I also enjoyed the folks that gave the keynote speeches for each group.

But I was especially impressed with Springsteen's induction speech for U2, not because I'm a huge Springsteen fan (I'm not); nor am I huge U2 fan (although I like them better than Springsteen). I just thought it was a great bit of writing and a great performance.

Uno, dos, tres, catorce.

That translates as one, two, three, fourteen. That is the correct math for a rock and roll band. For in art and love and rock and roll, the whole had better equal much more than the sum of its parts, or else you're just rubbing two sticks together searching for fire. A great rock band searches for the same kind of combustible force that fueled the expansion of the universe after the big bang. You want the earth to shake and spit fire. You want the sky to split apart and for God to pour out.

It's embarrassing to want so much, and to expect so much from music, except sometimes it happens -- the Sun Sessions, Highway 61, Sgt. Peppers, the Band, Robert Johnson, Exile on Main Street, Born to Run -- whoops, I meant to leave that one out (laughter) -- the Sex Pistols, Aretha Franklin, the Clash, James Brown...the proud and public enemies it takes a nation of millions to hold back.

This is music meant to take on not only the powers that be, but on a good day, the universe and God himself -- if he was listening. It's man's accountability, and U2 belongs on this list.

Springsteen goes on and it's plain that there is a lot of affection between Bruce and the boys in the band. The speech is also pretty funny -- lots of good natured ribbing. You have to hear him deliver it in that Jersey patois. But, shy of that, you can read it here. It's worth it.

March 09, 2005

Milton Glaser: “10 Things I Have Learned”

A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off.

The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week.

Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’

That story comes via Milton Glaser, one of the great illustrators of the 20th century. It's part of a talk he gave a couple of years ago called, 10 Things I Have Learned.

Read the article; here's the list:

  1. You can only work for people that you like.
  2. If you have a choice, never have a job.
  3. Some people are toxic -- avoid them.
  4. Professionalism is not enough (or "the good is the enemy of the great.")
  5. Less is not necessarily more.
  6. Style is not to be trusted.
  7. How you live changes your brain.
  8. Doubt is better than certainty.
  9. Solving the problem is more important than being right. (Contains the rabbit joke).
  10. Tell the truth.

February 19, 2005

How to have more fun than a human being should be allowed to have

This is more fun than a human being should be allowed to have.

I'm just saying.

P.S. Turn up your speakers.

The Top 100 Gadgets of All Time: How many of these have you owned?

Mobile PC Magazine has compiled the list. But before I ask you how many of the gadget you've owned...

...What constitutes a gadget?

  • It has to have electronic and/or moving parts of some kind.

  • It has to be a self-contained apparatus that can be used on its own, not a subset of another device.

  • It has to be smaller than the proverbial bread box.

You can see the entire list here.

OK, here's the thing -- how many of these have you owned at one time or another?

Rule: you have to have owned the actual brand-name version of the gadget.

Here's my ownership list.

Note: The dates are for the year the gadget was invented and not necessarily the year I bought it -- I'll let you guess which is which.

And it's amazing that almost half of these are toys that I bought for my kids.

89. RUBIK'S CUBE, 1974
86. TAMAGOTCHI, 1996
75. LASER POINTER, 1980s
50. ETCH-A-SKETCH, 1960
19. IBM THINKPAD 701C, 1995

February 12, 2005

Mardi Gras, 2005 (The Video)

Just press "play," spend 3 minutes watching Mardi Gras 2005 while listening to The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I dare you sit still!

February 10, 2005

Loudness looms large in me legend

I am -- how shall I put it? -- a loud person.

It's like Mel Brooks says:

Look, I don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive you've got to flap your arms and legs, you've got to jump around a lot, for life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must at very least think noisy and colorfully, or you're not alive.
Miss Julie, bless her heart, has learned to live with it. The stories are numerous and told with great relish. The boys even call me Shrek. Heh.

Anyway, my reputation for loudness has apparently finally reached the Internet.

(HT to Big Dan)

Mardi Gras, 2005: The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club


BTW, these pictures are all from the Zulu Parade. Some Mardi Gras history for y'all:
The Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club (founded 1916) is a New Orleans Carnival Krewe which puts on the Zulu parade each Mardi Gras Day. Zulu is New Orleans' largest predominently African American carnival organization.

The Zulu parade grew out of an older small working-class African American marching club called The Tramps in 1916. The members decided to satirize the conventions of white New Orleans Mardi Gras, particularly the Rex parade.

Zulu also satirized white society's attitudes towards and stereotypes of blacks. While Rex arrived at the foot of Canal Street in a yacht, the early versions of King Zulu arrived on Carondolet Canal in a coal barge, wearing a tin crown made from a lard can and holding a ham-bone, in parody of Rex's jeweled crown and scepter.

Members of the Zulus used black and white makeup on their face in an even more highly exagerated style than the blackface makeup of the minstrel show performers of the era. The Zulu court wore grass skirts. Back when the New Orleans police force was exclusively white, a contingent of Zulus paraded wearing accurate duplicates of New Orleans police uniforms.

Trust me when I tell you that you've probably never seen anything like the Zulu Parade.

Gosh, all of this was such a good time. My only wish is that you could hear the music, too. Mardi Gras (and especially the Zulu Parade) without the music is only half the show.

P.S. Among our beads and boodle, I got a Zulu spear and several rare and highly-coveted Zulu coconuts. Alas, only one coconut survived the trip. Don't ask what happened to the others. Just don't.

February 08, 2005

Here's some photos I took at Mardi Gras, 2005


As soon as I can, I'll post some more.

P.S. I did these with a Treo 600 and some minor tweaking with Picasa.

January 17, 2005

“The adventure that lies ahead, the journey that we can make together.”

A comedian once said that children are wonderful, "but who are we kidding? They're really here to replace us."

On Sunday evening, my son, Michael Rubyan, a high-school senior, delivered the keynote speech at his school's observance of Martin Luther King Day and I couldn't be more proud that he'll someday (God willing) be my replacement:

This evening, I would like to speak about our future -- a future of hope, a future of peace, a future of prosperity.

In this vision of the future, it doesn't matter who you are, who you know or how much money you have, but rather what you know, what you value and what you do with your life.

It’s a future where coalitions are formed between countries to achieve peace, rather than to fight wars.

It’s a future in which each of us deeply cares about one another.

In order to achieve this future, I believe we must check our politics at the door, color our map with one color instead of blue and red and work as one team, remembering that we live as one nation, in a world where we must all take care of each other.

It’s a world where we can rise above our differences of opinion, and find our similarities of cause.

It’s a world where caring for people in need supersedes all political disagreements.

It’s a world where open dialogue and endless opportunities for peace, replace closed doors and unbending policies.

Tonight we stand at a crucial point in world history. We have the responsibility to help make the future we are talking about possible. The only way to do this is to use the diverse nature of humanity as a strength that unifies us rather than a force that tears us apart.

Instead of pushing our diversity aside or pretending that it does not exist, we need to recognize that the unique characteristics we each hold play a crucial part in achieving a peaceful tomorrow.

Every person that walks the planet brings something different to the table. That means that being diverse in nature, culture, age gender, generation, religion, sexual preference and even personality is what makes our race, the human race, so powerful and beautiful.

Diversity surrounds us and is part of each of us. You know what the secret is – if all of us start thinking this way then we can share a grand future together. The only thing that stops us from getting there is ourselves. We hold the keys.

I ask all of you to join me in recognizing and appreciating the beauty and power of our diversity. Take a look around the room, around the neighborhood, around the community, around the world. Not just this evening, not just tomorrow, or this week or this month or this year.

Wherever you go, in whatever you do, find ways toward each other, rather than finding reasons to stay apart. Reach out to your neighbor, in good times and in times of need. Find ways to communicate and to share all that life has to offer.

Join me in the adventure that lies ahead, the journey that we can make together. Join the team of those who believe that our differences and our similarities are what we need in order to achieve a better world.

The journey of tomorrow lies in store for all of us. All we have to do to get there is reach out and grab it. Then, in this way, we can truly be one people, one race, the human race, sharing a future of peace and freedom forever.

January 13, 2005

Why I'm proud to call myself a Yellow Dog Democrat

Ken at Lying in Ponds has completed his yearly review of partisanship in the media. This year (as in years past) Ann Coulter and Paul Krugman took the top two spots. The rest of the top ten is about evenly split between GOP and Dem partisans. You can see the entire list here.

If you're a math geek, you might find his methodology interesting, but it misses (I think) an important dimension. The author's methodology doesn't have a way of measuring the truth and accuracy of a pundit's columns -- only the number of times he speaks highly of a Democrat or a Republican. Ken stipulates this right at the top:

The methods used here are an attempt to quantify only partisanship, and are not intended as a more general guide to the quality of a columnist. There are other important traits such as accuracy, relevance, fairness, civility and style, but Lying in Ponds makes no attempt to measure them.

In other words, if Paul Krugman says 100 negative things about Bush that are, ahem, true and Coulter says 100 negative things about Clinton that are a flight of deranged and vitriolic fancy, well then, they're both judged equally partisan. Oh well.

But, for fun, let's stipulate that all of Ann Coulter's columns are truthful and accurate. Is it really a bad thing for her to rant against liberals every day for the rest of her life? At least you know where she (and President Bush) stand on the issues that are important to conservatives.

Same goes for Krugman: if he uses well-established statistical analyses to blow apart the President's Social Insecurity initiative, why on earth is it a bad thing for him to point out those flaws every day?

In my mind, partisan pundits serve a useful purpose -- they define the length and breadth of the playing field. What makes them great is the thought that goes into their explanation of the issues, not that they skewer both sides on alternate Fridays.

But most people reject this concept of partisanship. I think it's because they don't want to have to read both Coulter and Krugman to see the whole field. To put it bluntly, most people are lazy.

So, hat's off to Coulter and Krugman -- they serve the national interest.

P.S. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm proud to call myself a Yellow Dog Democrat.

December 27, 2004

Christmas 2004

Well, we got to Detroit for the holiday weekend, but getting back to Baton Rouge was another story.

Remember all those Comair customers that had their flights cancelled? Miss Julie and I were two of them.

We got into Detroit just fine, barely avoiding the original meltdown of Comair's computers. But our Sunday morning flight back to New Orleans was cancelled, then re-booked, then finally revoked.

We stood in line for three hours at various ticket desks, spoke to various agents and endured what passes for customer service at Delta Airlines these days. At one point, I was convinced that the ticket agent scanning the system for our alternate flight info was, in reality, instant-messaging her boyfriend.

Needless to say, tempers, ah, "flared."

Note to service employees: no matter how bad your day is going, no matter how many hours in a row you've worked without a break, you should never, never, ever yell at a customer.

Finally, a great guy from Northwest booked us on a non-stop flight from Detroit to New Orleans...departure: Monday morning. So we holed up in a nearby hotel with "The Longest Continuous Hallway in Michigan" (I kid you not). We ordered in, read lots of books and watched HBO while, outside, the temperature hovered around 12 degrees.

Monday morning finally arrived and we flew out of Detroit and back to New Orleans. All is well.

But let me tell you about the scariest part of the trip...

Flying into Detroit on Thursday afternoon, Delta lost Miss Julie's bag. But that wasn't scary -- just annoying.

They promised to deliver it by Friday afternoon but, you guessed it, no bag. That still wasn't scary -- just disappointing.

Since I had to pick up my brother at the same terminal Friday evening, we decided to ask Delta about the bag. So while I circled the main access road, MJ walked into the terminal to find my brother and see about her bag. When I came back around, she had found her bag!

Still not scary -- just unbelievable. Delta didn't even make the effort to put the bag on a truck.

"It was just sitting there by the baggage carousel in a huge row of orphan suitcases," she says. "So I just picked it up and walked out."

"No one stopped you at the door for ID or anything?"


"Hunh. So in other words, someone could just rent a step-van, park at the curb, walk into the terminal and start loading stuff into the hold?" says I.

"Think of all the Christmas presents!" says she.

Ho, ho, ho. But that's still not the scariest part.

The scariest part is that anyone could have walked into the terminal (a few short steps off the sidewalk) and delivered a ticking suitcase bomb right into the middle of baggage claim. And then just walked away.

That's the scariest part.

(HT to Pat Oliphant)

July 20, 2004

Bill Moyers on America

I'm reading Moyers on America and (having some acquaintence with the alleged misdeeds of Majority Leader Tom Delay of Texas) I savored a particularly pungent description of practical politics in America:

I should make it clear that I don't harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy; after all, I worked for Lyndon Johnson. Nor do I romanticize "the people." You should read my mail or listen to the vitriol virtually spat at my answering machine. I understand what the politician meant who said of the Texas House of Representatives, "If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents."

P.S. To all of you wished Miss Julie and me well on our wedding day this past weekend, thank you.

July 14, 2004

I admit it: I hate Aaron Burr

The uber-rage-meister of Blog-land has finally pierced the thin tissue of lies wrapped around my contention that I don't hate anyone in American politics.

I admit it. I do hate someone.

I hate Aaron Burr:

There's a reason why Burr remains such a hated figure. Just look at the reprobate's resume:
  • 1776: George Washington hates him so much that he banishes him from his staff.
  • 1800: He runs as Thomas Jefferson's vice president, but then tries to get the House of Representatives to make him president when the two of them tie the electoral vote (not even Joe Lieberman would have done that).
  • 1804: He shoots Hamilton.
  • 1807: He conspires to break off a chunk of the Louisiana Purchase and declare himself the ruler.
  • 1865: He kills Abraham Lincoln.
  • 1939: He invades Poland.
  • 1972: He breaks into Democratic Party headquarters and then covers it up.
  • 2004: He pulls aside a senator from Vermont and tells him, "Go f—- yourself."
See? This is a bad man.
So, Casey, are you satisfied?

July 06, 2004

Here's the real me


You are a WEDL--Wacky Emotional Destructive Leader. This makes you an anarchist. You don't give a damn. When push comes to shove, you just forget about it--it's just not worth the heartache. What this means for others is that dealing with you can be aggravating, because they find they can't get you motivated about things they care about. What this means for you is that you are happier, calmer, and saner then they are on their best days.

You are near-immune to criticism, and those who know you well acknowledge and respect that. You may come across as lazy, but the truth is that you find little to get worked up about. Regardless, you have slews of friends, because they are fascinated by your world view, jealous of your lifestyle, and drawn to the fact that you are hilarious to be around.

You are a pillar in a sea of hot-bloodedness. You have a sweet tooth.

Wackiness: 60/100
Rationality: 38/100
Constructiveness: 46/100
Leadership: 62/100

Take the test for yourself.

(hat tip to Rosemary)

July 03, 2004

And I love her

beatles_a_hard_days_night_front.2.jpgTwo events occurred on July 3, 1964 that would change my life forever.

I heard about one of the events right away: it was the release of the Beatles' movie, A Hard Days Night. I was barely eleven, but I've been a Beatles fan ever since.

But it took me nearly forty years to find out about the other event: Miss Julie Hoffman had been born in Houston, Texas.

And I'm going to love her for the rest of my life.

Happy Birthday, darlin!

Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her

June 23, 2004

Single most intriguing sentence in the Clinton book

Page 197: "I was so exhausted I fell asleep while the stripper was dancing and the goat head was looking up at me."


P.S. Read other excerpts here.

June 16, 2004

Pistons pummel Lakers to win NBA crown

tx_pistons_celebrate_ap.jpgIn what will be remembered as one of the greatest upsets of all, the Detroit Pistons have defeated the LA Lakers in five games to become the NBA Champions of 2004.

Chauncey Billups wins the MVP, coach Larry Brown wins his first title, owner Bill Davidson wins the trifecta (WNBA, NHL, NBA!), Joe Dumars returns to the winner's circle, hmmm, let's see what else? Oh, the final score was 100-87 and, trust me, it wasn't nearly that close.

June 15, 2004

Detroit Pistons: One more victory

larry_zoom.jpgMitch Albom in the Detroit Free Press:

You look at Phil Jackson, who has nine championship rings as a coach, who got Karl Malone and Gary Payton for a price nobody else could, who has never failed in an NBA Finals but has never been to one without Jordan or Shaq -- you look at him, and then you see [Larry] Brown on the other end, shuffling Elden Campbell for Ben Wallace and Lindsey Hunter for Chauncey Billups and Darvin Ham for Corliss Williamson, and you can't help but think, it's a nice story, isn't it?
One more victory and it'll be a really nice story.

June 14, 2004

Lakers have Superman, Pistons have Kryptonite

sheed2.jpgShaq is awesome, but the rest of the Lakers are reduced to whining about the refs. Sheed (left) is on fire and the Pistons win, 88-80. Lead series 3-1, can close it out on Tuesday in Detroit.

June 13, 2004

EPluribusAudio™: My Top Ten List of Favorite Words

AraThe folks at Merriam-Webster Online have been asking people to mail them their favorite English words for the last several weeks, and they have finally released the ten most popular words according to dictionary fans.

I missed that whole process, but here's my Top Ten list of favorite words.
MovingArrow.gifClick to listen to my list:

(Audio by InstantAudio)

(hat tip to Dean)

Click here for more EPluribusAudio™.

June 11, 2004

Meanwhile, back at the Palace

pistons cartoon.gif

Pistons smother Lakers, 88-68

p1_payton_ap.jpgDefense, defense, defense -- in over 500 playoff games, the Lakers have never been held under 70 points in one game. Until tonight.

Oh, and Rip Hamilton outscored Kobe. And Shaq. Combined.

Pistons now lead the series 2-1.

P.S. Hey, Jack! You can't handle the truth!

June 10, 2004

Ray Charles, 1930-2004


Open Thread.

June 09, 2004

Lakers even series with OT victory

kobe.jpgPistons battle from behind but Kobe Bryant nails a three-pointer with seconds left in regulation to tie the game. After that, it was all-Lakers in OT as they beat the Pistons 99-91.

Mitch Albom (from his article entitled, The Empire Strikes Back):

[F]or those [Pistons fans] who might say, "Hey, it's not so bad, they played it really close," well, I think I can speak for the Pistons here. There are no moral victories. In fact, the close ones hurt more than the blowouts. And to have had the Lakers in such a precarious position and to fall victim to the very thing they had been so good at avoiding -- the long, miracle shot -- well, that hurts even more.

June 05, 2004

Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004

img alt="reagan_2.jpg" src="" width="150" height="194" border="0" align=left />

(hat tip to Buffalo Bill Museum)

June 02, 2004

Finalized! It's the Pistons vs. the Lakers

wallaceboard.gifThe storied Bad Boys of the NBA are gone now; only Joe Dumars remains as the president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons.

But last night some of them were at the Palace -- Vinnie Johnson, Bill Laimbeer, even former coach Chuck ("Daddy Rich") Daly -- to watch their heirs -- Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, et. al. -- finally graduate to the NBA Finals.

Mitch Albom writes this in the Detroit Free Press:

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends -- it just takes a hiatus for 14 years. June basketball -- championship basketball -- is here once more, honking the horn like an old high school buddy in his familiar sports car, top down, music blaring, harking back to days when we all had more hair and more energy, and this same blue-collar franchise did battle with the mambo kings of glitz, the L.A. Lakers.

Rev up the engines.

Bad is back.

Hey, listen -- the Shaq & Kobe Lakers have never lost in the Finals. Coach Phil Jackson has never lost in the Finals (remember Michael Jordan?). Karl Malone took peanuts to get to the Finals one more time.

All the same -- Bad is back.

P.S. Loved the reference to Ben Wallace's hair (above, left) in this Free Press headline: "Westward 'Fro!"

P.P.S. Swirlspice moved away, but she still loves her Pistons.

May 29, 2004

Never forget

There are two sides to every story. Except my side is always right.

I'm just saying.

May 27, 2004

Scary pictures of Gore and Bush: Which one is worse?


(hat tip to Juliette, Rosemary, and Michele.

April 27, 2004

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Mahalia.gifI was in New Orleans last weekend with Miss Julie from Baton Rouge and we went to Jazz Fest and had a terrific time. If you love good music (and especially if you love good food), this is the place to be. Here's a bit about the festival:

Mahalia Jackson, often called the greatest gospel singer, returned to her hometown to appear at the first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in April of 1970. While attending the Louisiana Heritage Fair in Congo Square (then known as Beauregard Square), she and Duke Ellington, who also appeared at the event, came upon the Eureka Brass Band leading a crowd of second-line revelers through the Festival grounds. George Wein, producer of the Festival, handed Ms. Jackson a microphone, she sang along with the band and joined the parade…and the spirit of Jazz Fest was born.

This spontaneous, momentous scene—this meeting of jazz and heritage—has stood for decades since as a stirring symbol of the authenticity of the celebration that was destined to become a cultural force.

mardiGrasIndians.gifThe Festival has always blended in a wide mix of internationally renowned guests, among them: Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Santana, Sarah Vaughan, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett, Max Roach, B.B. King, Dave Matthews Band, Patti LaBelle, Tito Puente, the Allman Brothers Band, Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Linda Ronstadt, Lenny Kravitz, Sonny Rollins, Bonnie Raitt, James Brown, Celia Cruz, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hugh Masekela, Cassandra Wilson, Willie Nelson, The Temptations, Burning Spear,Van Morrison, LL Cool J, Abbey Lincoln, Erykah Badu, Dave Brubeck, Gladys Knight, Youssou N’Dour and many, many others.

What a country! E Pluribus Unum, indeed.

More pictures here.

P.S. For good measure, we went to Camille's Cajun Cafe out on highway 190. Heh.

sundown playboys.gif

April 26, 2004

Thoughts on turning 51

Today is my birthday; I'm 51 years old. A couple of things occur to me:

  • You don't get wiser with age, but you do get more perspective.
  • The thirty-five years that separate 16 from 51 passes in a heartbeat. Trust me.
  • The older you get, the more you become like your true self.
  • Age is just mind over matter; if you don't mind, it don't matter.
End of sermon.


P.S. How old would you be, if you didn't know how old you were?

April 25, 2004

Happy Birthday to the Queen of All Evil

Rosemary Esmay's birthday is today. Go on over to her new blog here and wish her a happy birthday.

I asked her once if there was any truth to the rumor that she was the illegitimate child of Bill Bennett and Janis Joplin. She just smiled and turned away.

Later she came back (tires squealing and guns blazing) and shot out the windshield of my car while I waited at a traffic light.

"Hey you jerkoff! Is it true that you're the bastard spawn of Mort Kondracke and Susan Estrich? Bwahahahahahahaha!"

She let fly with another shotgun blast and blew out my right front passenger window. I ducked. She left skid marks as she pulled away from the intersection.

I could hear sirens in the distance and dogs barking. She was long gone. I sat up in the front seat and dusted the broken glass off the dashboard.

Many happy returns, Queen.

March 30, 2004

Presidential trivia

It is said that a sitting President running in an election is really subjecting himself to a referendum on his Presidency. In other words, the election is largely his to lose. And 20th century history shows that the sitting President rarely loses that election.

But it has happened.

And here's the interesting thing: if it happens that the sitting President loses that election, it is almost always to a man who is himself elected to at least two terms.

This is interesting because it says that we almost always replace a sitting President with someone that we like so much that we elect him again.

Almost always.

So here's the Presidential trivia quiz question of the day:

Only one sitting President in the 20th century was defeated by a candidate who did NOT win re-election himself. Name either the sitting President or the man who defeated him (and who failed to win re-election).

Continue reading "Presidential trivia" »

Alistair Cooke, 1908-2004

alistair.cooke.gifThe legendary broadcaster Alistair Cooke has died at the age of 95. Mr. Cooke broadcast his Letter from America for 58 years on the British Broadcasting Corporation.

He was also the host of Masterpiece Theater for twenty years and was the author of the enormously entertaining and enlightening book, America.

He knew everyone and had an interesting and insightful story to tell about them as well. On one of his broadcasts he told the story of how he convinced a young Leonard Bernstein to conduct a performance of Handel's Messiah, which Bernstein (up to that point) was not familiar with. In the very same broadcast, he told of playing golf with Bing Crosby.

Above all, he was a terrific writer. Here is his eyewitness account of Bobby Kennedy's assassination:

“Then. Above the bassy boom of the television there was a banging repetition of sounds. Like somebody dropping a rack of trays, or banging a single tray against a wall. Half a dozen of us were startled enough to head for the swinging doors, and suddenly we were jolted through by a flying wedge of other men. ...

"There was a head on the floor streaming blood, and somebody put a Kennedy boater under it, and the blood trickled down the sides like chocolate sauce on an iced cake. There were splashes of flash bulbs, and infernal heat, and the button eyes of Ethel Kennedy turned to cinders. She was wrestling or slapping a young man and he was saying, ‘Listen, lady, I’m hurt, too.’

"And then she was on her knees cradling him briefly, and in another little pool of light on the greasy floor was a huddle of clothes and staring out of it the face of Bobby Kennedy, like the stone face of a child’s effigy on a cathedral tomb. ...

"Everybody wanted to make space and air, but everybody also wanted to see the worst. By now, the baying and the moaning had carried over into the ballroom, and it sounded like a great hospital bombed and in panic.”

Read Richard Corliss' obit in Time Magazine.

March 07, 2004

Passion of the Christ: The alternate ending you never saw

From CNN:

With a little divine help, Mel Gibson remained the top draw at the North American box office as the filmmaker's controversial movie, "The Passion of the Christ," topped ticket sales with an estimated haul of $51.4 million in its second weekend, its distributor said on Sunday.

After 12 days in release, the gritty recount of the last 12 hours of Christ's life has soared to $212 million (including $3 million in private group sales the prior two days), said Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films.

Obviously, this movie is a real crowd-pleaser.


The surprise ending doesn't hurt either -- you know, the part where Jesus escapes the mob with the help of a cleverly disguised double (above, left).

Woo hoo!

February 12, 2004

John Edwards and southern men (in general)

Caught John Edwards on the Imus Show this morning (and I'm paraphrasing):

IMUS: I'm sure your staff told you that our show is not exactly "Meet The Press," nor is it Comedy Central. We're somewhere in between.


IMUS: I've listened to your speeches and I agree with what you say about Two Americas. I agree with what you say about how President Bush mislead the American people about WMD before the war. I think you are intelligent and well-spoken. I like the way you have elevated the tone of the campaign with your positive message. But I have a question for you.


What is that on your lip?

EDWARDS: (giddy laughter) Lots of people have asked me that. My daughter wants me to have it removed. It's been there for a long time.

Overall, I found Edwards to be loose and engaging and a good sport. He seemed to give as good as he got; he knew enough about Imus to tweak the old man about his 5 year old son Wyatt watching the evening news (instead of "Scooby Do," like Edwards' daughter).

Later, when I was recounting this exchange to Miss Julie from Baton Rouge, she opined that that thing on his lip gives him a coquette-ish Marilyn Monroe/Madonna kind of vibe. I agreed that Edwards is handsome but I described it as Rob Lowe handsome, or Brad Pitt handsome, for God's sake!

"Sweepea," she says in that way that makes me love her, "whatever it is, men from the South are just more handsome than men from the North."


That said, she is going to marry me and not Ashley Wilkes.

I'm just saying.

January 23, 2004

Bob Keeshan, 1927-2004


(CNN) -- Television's Captain Kangaroo, Bob Keeshan, died Friday morning in Vermont, a family friend told CNN. He was 76.

"Captain Kangaroo," a children's show, featured the walrus-mustached, bowl-haircut Keeshan entertaining youngsters with his gentle, whimsical humor. Among the show's other characters were the puppets Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose, as well as Dancing Bear and the laconic Mr. Green Jeans (Hugh Brannum).

The show ran on CBS from 1955 to 1985, and then moved to public television for six more years. The show won six Emmys and three Peabody Awards.

The format was simplicity itself: Keeshan would wander through the Treasure House, wearing his distinctive big-pocketed coat, and talk with Brannum and the puppets. He'd meet with guests, tell stories, and generally entertain.

December 19, 2003

The greatest week in rock history

Eric Boehlert writes this in Salon:

Thirty-four years ago this week, the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Temptations, Santana, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Creedence Clearwater all shared top billing on the Billboard album chart.

There's never been another lineup quite like it -- and there will never be again.

  1. "Abbey Road," the Beatles
  2. "Led Zeppelin II," Led Zeppelin
  3. "Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas," Tom Jones
  4. "Green River," Creedence Clearwater Revival
  5. "Let It Bleed," the Rolling Stones
  6. "Santana," Santana
  7. "Puzzle People," the Temptations
  8. "Blood Sweat & Tears," Blood Sweat & Tears
  9. "Crosby, Stills & Nash," Crosby, Stills & Nash
  10. "Easy Rider" soundtrack (featuring the Byrds, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Steppenwolf)

Just imagine the mix tape possibilities from that single '69 week:

  • "Come Together,"
  • "Whole Lotta Love,"
  • "The Weight,"
  • "It's Not Unusual,"
  • "Green River,"
  • "You Can't Always Get What You Want,"
  • "Wooden Ships,"
  • "Gimme Shelter,"
  • "I Can't Get Next to You,"
  • "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding),"
  • "Here Comes the Sun,"
  • "Evil Ways,"
  • "And When I Die,"
  • "Bad Moon Rising,"
  • "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," and
  • "Born to Be Wild."

Seven of the acts from that December week have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And if you include the appearances of the Byrds and Jimi Hendrix on the "Easy Rider" soundtrack, as well as songwriting credits by Bob Dylan and The Band's Robbie Robertson, that's 11 Hall of Famers side-by-side in one week.

Not to mention some of rock's most inventive guitarists:

  • Keith Richards,
  • Roger McGuinn,
  • Jimmy Page,
  • George Harrison,
  • Carlos Santana and, of course,
  • Jimi Hendrix.

August 17, 2003

Remembering Rabindranath Tagore

I recently came across this poem by Rabindranath Tagore, India's Nobel laureate for literature (1913). He was a friend of Gandhi and actually gave him the name "Mahatma" or "great soul."

I found this poem very inspiring and thought you might, too. It's called Where the mind is without fear:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

If you've ever wondered about the miracle of thought and how it is translated into action, they you will enjoy reading about Rabindranath Tagore here and elsewhere.

July 31, 2003

Bob Hope, 1903 - 2003

lemondropkid.jpgFrancis Davis wrote this in The Nation back in June. Read the whole thing here, but in the meantime, here are a couple of excerpts.

This first excerpt reflects on the political Bob:

He has more in common with Jane Fonda than either might realize--they both were casualties of Vietnam. She's always going to be "Hanoi Jane" to right-wing talk-show hosts, and the left is never going to forgive him for mistaking Vietnam for Iwo Jima.

I say it's time we granted Hope amnesty, not because we owe it to him but because we owe it to ourselves.

He never made a movie as good as Klute or They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, but at least he never made one as sappy as On Golden Pond or as heavy-handed as Coming Home.

The second excerpt puts the comic Bob into perspective and is instructive for anyone under the age of 40:

Hope's influence has been ubiquitous, both as a stand-up comedian and as a comic actor.

Without him as the prototype, there would be no Johnny Carson, Steve Martin or Bill Murray--to say nothing of Maxwell Smart, Austin Powers, George Costanza, Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife and even M*A*S*H's Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce...

Conan O'Brien, when announcing that his guests that night include a supermodel or leggy movie star, might lick his index fingers and use them to smooth his eyebrows, like Hope primping for what he's only been led to believe will be a romantic rendezvous (it's usually some sort of scheme, with him as the sucker).

The host of Late Night also occasionally growls when an attractive female guest says something provocative, a variation on Hope's ejaculatory woof! And the premise of many of O'Brien's best sketches is either that he's sexually inadequate or that nobody thinks he's funny--two more pages straight out of Hope's book, as O'Brien would be the first to admit.

[Woody Allen] once admitted that "it's everything I can do at times not to imitate him."

RIP, Bob.

June 30, 2003

Katherine Hepburn, 1907-2003

kate-spence.jpgHarry Haun writes this at


Hepburn’s perverse sense of fun, it has been suggested, compelled her to wear high heels the day she first set eyes on the rumpled forehead of Spencer Tracy. Perhaps so. She and the co-star she had selected for “Woman of the Year” met in an MGM corridor, and the problem was readily apparent.

“I’m afraid I’m a little tall for you, Mr. Tracy,” she remarked coolly.

The next line is usually credited to Tracy, but it was really their producer, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who interceded with just the right retort:

“Don’t worry, Kate. He’ll cut you down to size.”

In that brief, sparky encounter is the stuff of which myths — and at least nine movies — are made, for it capsulizes the kind of affectionate tug-of-war that Tracy and Hepburn were to wage for the next 25 years.

As screen teams went, there were none better.


Indeed. Rest in peace, Kate. We won't see your equal ever again. I'll miss you.

April 28, 2003

The struggle of memory against forgetting

recognize-b.gifAndrew Bostom writes in Front Page magazine:

On April 24, 1915, the Turkish Interior Ministry issued an order authorizing the arrest of all Armenian political and community leaders suspected of...Armenian nationalist sentiments...

Continue reading "The struggle of memory against forgetting" »

April 26, 2003

"How old would you be, if you didn't know how old you are?"

pic2.jpgWell, I made it. Fifty years old today.

And even though I've now reached the mid-point of my life, I still feel like this (left) on some mornings.

But, on the whole, I'd have to say I'm enjoying being alive, now, more than ever.

Because it's like Satchel Paige used to say:

"Age is just mind over matter -- if you don't mind, it don't matter."

April 22, 2003

Biggest. Geek. Ever!

bones.jpgSigh. How can I explain this without sounding like a total geek?

I can't, so here goes...

Recently Dean Esmay, my good friend, was tickled that one of his readers presented him with a model of a Federation Starship dubbed "USS Esmay NCC-1865."

Biggest. Geek. Ever!

But wait, it gets better...

Continue reading "Biggest. Geek. Ever!" »

March 27, 2003

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003)

moynihan.jpgIf the Democrats find someone as tough on foreign policy and as creative on domestic programs, they can have the White House again. The message is there in [Moynihan's] speeches and writings, and like all good thought it still pertains.

Geo Beach, remembering D.P. Moynihan

March 15, 2003

What are my core beliefs?

pluribus.gifRecently, Rosemary Esmay, erstwhile denizen of Dean's World, dared me to take one of those silly little quizzes that tests to see if you are (truly, secretly?) a Republican or a Democrat.

I took the test and came up Republican. Like, right. I am so not a Republican that I just laughed it off. When I told her the whole thing was a crock, she sent back this comment:

I think you are in DENIAL.

I've always thought most of your views seemed rather Republican. I could never figure out why you pretended to be a Democrat. :-)

I told her that I'd give her an explanation. Here it is.

Continue reading "What are my core beliefs?" »

March 04, 2003

The shark swimming in an ocean of music

Recently read a piece over at Samizdata, a blog so good I linked to it.

Here's what caught my eye:

    It may be a response to our inability to halt the ageing process that causes so many of us to plot out our memories with milestones: first day at school, first kiss, first job, marriage, birth of child etc.

    I think we mark these milestones because they provide us with a certain comfort. If we cannot go back then at least we can progress. Change is an option and one never knows what tomorrow may bring.

    I say this because I think it is time for me to acknowledge another milestone. Truth be told, it was raised a little while ago but it is only now that I am forced to grant it full recognition: pop culture and I have gone our separate ways. It was a passionate and intimate relationship while it lasted, but now the 'spark' has gone. We've both moved on and changed. I'm not the same, it's not the same. There's no communication any more. Time to call it a day. Not only do I no longer know who is topping the charts, I no longer care....

You can read the rest here...

It prompted the following response from me:

In my opinion, we love dearly the things we discovered when we were young, not necessarily because they were good, but because youth is such a rush.

For example, I love the music of the 60's and 70's because I was a teenager and in my twenties then.

But I'm like a shark swimming in an ocean of music. I have to keep going or I'll die. To say I love all music is an understatement. To me, music is the language of emotion.

That said, I've often wondered whether music stimulates an emotion in me or perhaps provides one. I can't say for sure.

So for me to shut the door on contemporary music because I'm not "young" anymore would be ... unfortunate.

In part, that is why I am intensely interested in the music my two kids listen to. (The other part is that I'm their dad). They are both teens. My oldest, my son, loves movie soundtracks, Broadway musicals and classical music. I loved all of that when I was his age. It's easy for me to advise him, pointing out worthwhile stuff.

On the other hand, my daughter is completely absorbed in radio pop music, as was I at her age. But her taste is contemporary; so her favorite music is more ephemeral compared to my son's. For example she loves hip-hop.

She advises me on what she likes. When we're in the car, she controls the radio; we listen together and I grill her on who is singing which song. Being a parent, I also get a chance to gently steer her away from the crap and NC-17 stuff.

In turn, I advise her on worthwhile oldies; she likes the Beatles and the Beachboys, among others.

We crack up talking about how, when she's my age, Destiny's Child, Jay-Z, Nelly and Avril Lavigne will be on the oldies stations. Hee!

Someone made a comment about rap drawing the generations together. Maybe that's what's happening here. I can't say.

What I do know is that music is the language of emotion. And if a piece of music makes me resonate, then I listen to it.

And if it makes my kids resonate, then we listen to it together.

After all, age is just mind over matter -- if you don't mind, it don't matter.

February 28, 2003

Where my blog began

This is where my blog began in January of 2002.

April 30, 2002

Who's Anti-Semitic?

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post apparently wants you to know that he is definitely not an anti-Semite:

If I weren't a Jew, I might be called an anti-Semite. I have occasionally been critical of Israel. I have occasionally taken the Palestinians' side. I have always maintained that the occupation of the West Bank is wrong and while I am, to my marrow, a supporter of Israel, I insist that the Palestinian cause -- although sullied by terrorism -- is a worthy one.
Mr. Cohen's raises a valid point: thoughtful, discriminating analysis and dissent should not be punished by ostracizing the speaker.

I know how he feels. I have felt the same way when speaking up about this administration's prosecution of the war on terror. We don't like being called unpatriotic by anybody, especially AG John Ashcroft.

However, I found Mr. Cohen's piece to be oddly self-centered and self-absorbed. He fashions a test for anti-Semitism ("are you anti-Semitic or not?") in terms of the qualities he himself possesses ("are you like Mr. Cohen or not?") In other words, it is a given that Mr. Cohen is not an anti-Semite. So, if you are like Mr. Cohen, then you cannot be anti-Semitic. So, if you criticize Israel, you cannot be anti-Semitic. (Because Mr. Cohen criticizes Israel and he is not an anti-Semite). If you are an anti-Zionist, you cannot be anti-Semitic. (Because Mr. Cohen is, presumably, an anti-Zionist.) If you think the Palestinians deserve a homeland, you cannot be anti-Semitic. (Because of the example of Mr. Cohen.) If you think that Israel wrongfully violated the rights of pro-Palestinian foreigners...If you think it is wrong for Israel to tune out all foreign criticism...If you think it is wrong for American Jews to dehumanize all Palestinians...If you condemn the encroachment of Jewish settlements...If you protest "the cuffing" (whatever that is) that the Israelis give the international press...If you suggest that Ariel Sharon is a rejectionist who provocatively egged on the Palestinians.......and on and on.

I admire Mr. Cohen's ability to thoughtfully express his case. However, his argument is beside the point. Because the only time we actually find the word "terror" in Mr. Cohen's calm, well-stated piece is in the opening paragraph: "I insist that the Palestinian cause -- although sullied by terrorism -- is a worthy one."

"Although sullied by terrorism?" Mr. Cohen, if you think that terrorism is something so minor that it can only sully a worthy cause, then we have nothing more to talk about. Because your views give political cover to a band of thugs and murderers who will stop at nothing as they strive to destroy Israel and (eventually) you and your way of life.

January 12, 2002

Brokaw: News as entertainment

Everyone knows that news has become entertainment. And as we know, the higher the ratings, the higher the advertising revenues. So it is with some interest that we read the comments of NBC’s Tom Brokaw from the transcript of a special appearance in the Chat Room. Listen:

[I]f you go back and look at the so-called 'straight news' of the halcyon days of Huntley and Brinkley and Walter Cronkite, Chet and David made their reputation not just based on the news that they reported but on their anecdotal asides, the show biz chemistry between the two of them, David’s little essays on life in Washington...

Walter Cronkite was a paragon of the traditional news but one of his most popular features was Charles Kuralt on the Road doing little sidebar features about life in America almost like it was out of Reader’s Digest. So there’s always been a great mix of news and, if you will, the lighter side...

I often tell my friends in the newspaper business, "I dare you to try to survive by just printing the front page and the editorial page alone, without sports, obituaries, comics, weather and all the other parts of newspapers that draw readers to them."

January 07, 2002

Muhammad Ali, avatar of postmodern politics

Postmodern political analysis must be viewed through multiple lenses. Those lenses include entertainment, media and information technology as well as conventional politics.

Perhaps it is best to give an example. The first personality that we can point to that showed all of these facets in one package -- politics, entertainment, media, and information technology -- was Muhammad Ali. I'm reminded of this again, with the release of the mainstream blockbuster biopic, Ali.

Consider this:

  1. Entertaiment: He was the first (and perhaps) only boxer to add the surface gloss of mainstream entertainment to boxing. Up to that point, boxers were the strong silent type. Ali was charismatic, savvy with a soundbite, and pretty (his own description, of course). He was a star -- you literally could not take your eyes off of him.

  2. Politics: During the Viet Nam War, there was no more visible and controversial symbol of anti-war sentiment than Muhammad Ali. His refusal to be inducted into the military was a galvanizing event in the 1960's precisely because he had so much to lose. He was on the cutting edge of the anti-war movement at a time when it was gaining mainstream acceptance.

  3. Media: The TV cameras loved him and the feeling was mutual. His legendary love-hate relationship with Howard Cosell gave him an entry into millions of living rooms.

  4. Information Technology: The then-emerging technology of live satellite broadcasts made Ali, for a time, the most recognized man on the planet.
In all fairness, there are some who question the legend of Ali. Mark Kram, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues against the "totemization" of Ali, saying: "Mr. Ali wasn't for civil rights; the Muslims were for black separation. He wasn't for women's rights; their place was in the kitchen or bed. He wasn't against the draft, or for the counter-culture. Muhammad Ali was for Muhammad Ali -- and the Muslims who used him so badly. He was the greatest fighter who ever lived. Why should he even be mentioned in the same sentence as Martin Luther King Jr.? His magnificent figthts are critically uncontestable. Why isn't that enough?"

Kram's point is that Ali's social importance is overblown. But Kram is at once right and wrong. While it is true that he doesn't belong on Mt. Rushmore, he did carve a niche for himself that others have since tried to emulate. In other words, he became the complex role model for others who came after him.

For example, here's a quiz: What other nimble heavyweight can you name that had the master's touch with political soundbites, was sexy as hell, dominated the media and had more cross-talk devoted to him on the Internet and talk-radio than any other sentient being of his time?

Continue reading "Muhammad Ali, avatar of postmodern politics" »

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