July 30, 2003

American Idol?

American Idol? -- From the Daily Show's Back in Black segment...
"These are dark days for President Bush. His State of the Union controversy won't go away. Iraq is getting more and more expensive and more and more deadly. And he has the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover. So it's no wonder Bush's approval has plummeted all the way down to 59%.

FIFTY-NINE PERCENT?

Who's judging this guy - Paula Abdul???"
Funny stuff. Sad stuff. You decide.

The War is Over?

The War is Over? -- According to an MSNBC report, Air marshals pulled from key flights:
"Despite renewed warnings about possible airline hijackings, the Transportation Security Administration has alerted federal air marshals that as of Friday they will no longer be covering cross-country or international flights, MSNBC.com has learned. The decision to drop coverage on flights that many experts consider to be at the highest risk of attack apparently stems from a policy decision to rework schedules so that air marshals don't have to incur the expense of staying overnight in hotels."
Hotel expenses??? Four billion a month for a situation of questionable threat in which "major hostilities" are over but not enough for a few stays at Holiday Inns for defenders in the forgotten "war on terrorism?" Hey -- maybe we should cut some more taxes. Yeah, that's the ticket...

July 25, 2003

Wow!

Wow! -- (pointage supplied by the BWG)

July 24, 2003

Excelsior, You Fathead!!! Flick Lives!!!

Flick Lives!!! -- A recent post about NYC radio of my yoot' from Doc got me wondering...and Googling...about one of the core radio personalities from my tender years in the 60's...Jean Shepherd. Shep is probably best (not) known for the story behind what has become a holiday classic (A Christmas Story, played and appreciated ad infinitum every December now, and based on his classic book of stories, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash). (Another popular book of stories and essays is A Fistful of Fig Newtons. I've got an autographed copy.)

Jean Shepherd was a precursor to Garrison Keilor, broadcasting stories of his Hammond, Indiana childhood and his military life among commentary on pop culture and occasionally politics in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. On the web, he lives on primarily at a site named for one of his childhood friends/characters...Flick Lives!. Within that site are streaming versions of rebroadcasts of his best shows on the equally iconoclastic NYC radio station WBAI.

There is also the Jean Shepherd Archives, with searchable and browsable listing of mp3 files of his shows -- both the weekday 45 minutes and the Saturday night 2 hour live shows from the Limelight. Some of the best (mp3 files about 10mb each) are...
Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb

Salute to New Jersey

Slob Art
As Shep was wont to say..."Excelsior, you fathead!!!"

July 22, 2003

New Jersey in a Nutshell

New Jersey in a Nutshell --
"New Jersey - The most American of all states. It has everything from wilderness to the Mafia. All the great things and all the worst. For example, Route 22."
-- Jean Shepherd, January 11, 1970, Newark Sunday News
Truer words were never spoke regarding my beloved home state. (More from Shep to follow...)

July 15, 2003

Off the Deep End

The End of the Deep End -- from Mark Momford of SFGate.com a beautiful essay on the loss of the chance for a loss of innocence in this safety-obsessed, lawyer-oppressed world of ours...
"...if you're anywhere over 20 and grew up in just about any worthy suburban American town and endured anything resembling a worthy American childhood, the deep end of the swimming pool probably meant something to you, as a kid.

"Something mysterious. Something scary. Something foreboding and scary and magnificent, because when you were about six years old the deep end very much represented that sudden slap of terrifying summertime anxiety -- particularly if you were new to swimming, new to the pool's otherworldly challenges, its beckoning aura of happy splish-splash impending doom.

"It was powerful. It was magic and dark and transformative and the deep end was that area of the pool you ventured into extremely tentatively, excitedly, all about that rush of delicious fear and desire and quiet panic and determination. You know, just like life.

"The deep end was, of course, the place to face your demons. To test your mettle, your fortitude, your burgeoning superhero powers, to see if you could dog-paddle sufficiently frantically all the way to the opposite edge without drowning and when you made it you felt this crazy rush of pride and love and power, your little heart beating like a crazy techno remix because you were now strong. You were godlike. You were the water-bound Thwarter of Death. You were six years old.

"Here's why you should care: The deep end is vanishing. Maybe you didn't know this. Cities are filling them in, hotels are redesigning their outdoor amenities, backyard-pool manufacturers are no longer building pools with areas deeper than five feet."
The safety nuts have gone off the..., oh, never mind.

July 14, 2003

Brewski and WiFi

Brewski and WiFi -- The Lancaster Brewing Company has more than good suds to offer.

Late last week, I accompanied my wife to a social worker/psychology therapist seminar (put on by JK Seminars and highly recommended by her for a source of continuing education in that field). It was held in the center of Pennsylvania Amish country in Lancaster. The hotel did not have any sort of broadband internet access (yes -- I admit that I have become spoiled), so I looked upon the trip as an opportunity to explore the world of free wifi access hot spots.

Lancaster was listed as having two open access hot spots -- a residence and that was affiliated with Lancaster Brewing. I grabbed a copy of iStumbler for my old Titanium PowerBook, and went driving one morning. I found the brewery, pulled into their early morning empty parking lot, opened the PowerBook, turned on iStumbler, found their network -- even with the famously poor reception in the TiPB -- logged on, and proceded to download 150 emails (63% spam) and my NetNewsWire RSS feeds. Not quite "WarDriving", but I can now count myself in the wifi world -- that is, the wifi world beyond my basement.

While I was sitting there, someone else pulls into the parking lot -- an owner, manager, or employee of the brewery. I take a deep breath, roll down my window, and tell him "Thanks!" He say's "For what?" I say "The wireless access." He says "You could get on? Cool." Nice folks. I later paid them back by sampling their wares -- their Four-Grain Ale is highly recommended if you're ever in the area, and they've got something called a Milk Stout that, if it wasn't summer, would have grabbed my attention as well.

July 13, 2003

Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week -- Howard Dean is guest posting on Lawrence Lessig's blog next week. Slashdot noted it, and the usual rantings ensued. One voice of sanity: that of Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager, where he said:
And we are not trying to kid anybody -- particularly anyone here -- we know we ain't perfect -- and that we don't get it all -- but we are trying to get it -- trying to reach out to everyone using every tool we can -- because as someone who you will probably regard as a political hack -- who has worked on 6 Presidential campaigns -- I can tell you what you already know -- ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY -- The only way to put power back in people's hands is for the people to buy their government back. A million to two million Americans contributing $100 each or whatever they can -- will be a force that will not only win the Presidency -- but will also strike enough fear into everyone else in Washington -- that we can change our country's politics. The biggest challenge is to cut through people's cynicism -- nothing will change if we can not get beyond that and get people to participate in their self-government again -- and believe that together we have the power to protect our rights, and our civil liberties, and reclaim our government.
[from Backup Brain]

The idea of buying an election...of buying other's votes...is not new. The idea of buying one's own vote is something else again. It's something I can even afford.

July 09, 2003

This Should Sell a Lot of Dictionaries

100 Words That All High School Graduates -- And Their Parents -- Should Know -- from the editors of American Heritage dictionaries. Quick -- Use "moiety" in a sentence...other than "I don't know what moiety means."

July 06, 2003

To whom do I return my tax cut?

A Flame That Must Not Die -- A column by David Gergen in US News and World Report...
"...AmeriCorps is heading for a smashup. Officials in Washington say they have only enough money this coming year to support 28,000 volunteers--a calamitous cut of more than half. Of some 700 community programs, at least 300 could be wiped out; an additional 100 will be at serious risk..."
To whom do I return my tax cut?

Traditional? Good Eats for Fourth of July

Traditional (?) Good Eats for Fourth of July -- Traditional, that is, for my family, with it's Hungarian-American roots. It may also be the root of my cholesterol level, although it is only a once-a-year treat. It's sulunuh (although I must, with shame, admit not being sure about the spelling after eating it for more that 40 years. Phonically, all the u's are "soft" -- "uh" -- with the accent on the first syllable, and maybe a subtle "oo" sound in the second.) What is sulunuh, you ask?

Pork fat.

And we all know that "pork fat rules," don't we?

It looks like what southerners might recognize as fatback, a sort of bacon without the lean, still connected to the thick skin. But it is, I believe, also lightly smoked.

Preparing the Sulunah
It is prepared by scoring it so that the fat will run freely when heated, skewered, and held over an open fire. Wood is far preferable to charcoal -- primarily, I believe, due to the flavor-enhancing properties of good hard wood, but also to the fun of playing with fire and the flare-ups that accompany the resultant dripping fat. There's something primal about the men of the family sitting around a fire burning bacon, or as it is technically referred to, "shooting sulunuh."

Shooting Sulunuh
And in our family, it almost seems a coming of age rite of passage to take over providing the tasty outcome for ones parents. The picture of my nephew, Steven, shows good sulunah-shooting form. The future is safe, even as our family's Central European background is transformed by the marvelous infusion of Italian-, Mexican-, Irish-, Philippine-, and South African-American spouses.

Now, once the fat starts dripping, what then? The second major ingredient to the actual treat is good, hearty, chewy, crusty rye bread.

Drip...Drip...Drip...
Once the dripping starts, it's held over the bread, specking the bread (I've heard some Polish-American friends recognize sulunah as "spek" in their culinary heritage) with glistening spots of unctuous, smoky, salty goodness. Sometimes the sulunah actually catches lightly on fire, providing a "self-dripping" for a bit, with hot drops of fat that almost toast the bread on contact before cooling and turning to pure flavor.

The Purist Version

The "Healthy" Version
When the bread has a nice not-quite-greasy goodness, it's ready to eat, either as is, or -- to give it a layer of healthiness -- topped with any desired combination of sliced tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cukes -- maybe a bit of salt and pepper. Once the veggies are on it, one last return to the fire and a few more drips is one additional benefit of being one who wields the skewer. (Sometimes, if you are willing to throw caution to the wind, a little sliver of nitrite-rich charred sulunuh can be trimmed and added to the open-faced sandwich -- if my wife and mother aren't looking. Hey -- it's only once a year, afterall.)

The Aftermath
This may sound strange and unhealthy to some, but if you think of a BLT, but hold the mayo, and allow the bacon to only flavor the bread -- pulling the meat off before eating -- it might not be so foreign.

It is, however, definitely "good eats!"

July 05, 2003

It's Summer Sumo Time!

It's Summer Sumo Time! -- Did you know that the single current sport with the longest continuously recorded records -- about 900 years, if memory serves -- is sumo?

It's one of the simplest, and therefore, to my mind, purest competition between two people. Two guys and a ref enter a 15-foot circle of clay, and the first to be pushed, thrown, or otherwise finessed out of the circle, of to touch the ground with anything other than his feet, loses. A few sensible restrictions round out the rules...
Striking with fists, hair pulling, eye gouging, choking and kicking in the stomach or chest are prohibited. It is also against the rules to seize the part of the band covering the vital organs.
(Athough wedgies are permitted.)

The July Basho (one of six 15-day tournaments per year) is set to start on July 6 in Nagoya. Broadcast here in the states on NHK's cable/satellite channel live at about 3 in the morning (in the US east coast) and repeated about 12 hours later, live streaming video (if you're up at that hour) is also available online. Unfortunately, they don't archive them for later viewing. There are also good daily English language reports, written in colorful sports page cliches, available from the Mainichi Daily News.

This basho is of particular interest with the return of American yokozuna (top ranking champion) Musashimaru to active duty after missing several tournaments due to injury. This will be the first time that the exciting, recently elevated Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu will face one of equal rank since attaining that level. It should be interesting to watch the younger, smaller Mongolian deal with one of the really big boys still stepping into the dohyo.

Here's a taste of the resilient Asashoryu (579kb RealVideo download) in the most recent May Basho, from a collection of recent years tournaments -- some with English language commentary that I can't get on my cable system.

July 04, 2003

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776...

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. [more]
Happy Birthday, America!

July 03, 2003

Two Headlines About Terror

Two Headlines About Terror - From the NY Times (free registration required)
U.S. Plans No Special Terror Alert for Holiday

Jobless Rate Rises to 6.4 Percent; Highest in More Than 9 Years
For a lot of folks, the second story makes the first one moot. Going into July 4, we've got life covered, liberty more or less OK if we're vigilant, but that pesky pursuit of happiness continues to be more pursuit than happiness for too many folks.

Macho America Storms Europe's Runways

Macho America Storms Europe's Runways -- This is a headline and link to a NYTimes article (free registration required, and this article may disappear in a few weeks). Along with the story is this picture and caption...

Tom Ford's designs for Gucci, shown last week in Milan, are typical of the new fashions that embrace an American tough-guy image.
hmmm..."macho?" "tough-guy?" Is there some new dictionary I need for my bookshelf?

There's also this flash fashion show that compounds the cognitive dissonance associated with the use of words like "virile," "macho," and "tough-guy" and the portrayal of the clothing they're trying to describe. After Jason Blair, et al, the Times could be more careful.

[Politically Correct Disclaimer: I'm not trying to support some stereotype of maleness, but merely wondering about clarity of language.]

July 02, 2003

The $7.5 Million-Dollar Man

The $7.5 Million-Dollar Man -- This analysis in The American Prospect looks at the appeal of Howard Dean...an appeal that has resulted in significant donations in the last quarter -- significant not only in the amount but in the amount of people involved.
Dean has been able to build a following and raise the bar on per-quarter fundraising not by working his friendships with wealthy trial lawyers, relying on decades of contacts with the rich and powerful, or building the best Internet-based campaign American politics has yet seen. He's done it by steadfastly promoting a pugnacious, optimistic, forward-looking message and by coupling it with a campaign organization smart enough to let his supporters help him. In the post-McCain-Feingold world, the Democratic Party has struggled to figure out how to attract small-sum donors: In the last election cycle, 64 percent of donations less than $200 went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, while Democrats grew fat and sick on big money from those who gave more than $1 million. Dean has cracked the nut and done what six months ago looked to be impossible: He has figured out how to compete based on donations the size of the fat cats' monthly Starbucks expenditures...

...In this world, whatever the mainstream press is saying about Dean's role as the campaign's angry candidate is rejected. His supporters say that they are drawn to him because they find his message inspiring, upbeat, honest and forward-looking -- and because it makes them feel strong again.

A quick summary of the main themes Dean's supporters returned to again and again during yesterday's "Deanathon" online fundraising drive shows that they believe his message is more about patriotism and hope than it is about disaffection or rage. Admittedly these comments all come from true believers. But when was the last time any Democratic candidate generated true belief?
With the exception of getting involved in an 18-year-old voting campaign 35 years ago, I've never really been all that politically active. However, I can see how all these people are supporting Dean.

He says things that resonate with me as well, in a manner that drowns out the wishy-washy "big name" candidates in today's Democratic field without the over-the-top histrionics of some of the other wannabes. He comes off to me as a credible, clearly progressive centrist. Someone who has the potential to get this aging boomer's political juices flowing in a way they did the night of Clinton's first inauguration. Someone who has seen one of the best minds of the political generation implode and will, I'm sure, do what's necessary to avoid the same hubris. Someone worth watching, especially with the recently demonstrated root-based support.

Of course, Dems and Dean can't get complacent. The Republicans have a popular incumbent and their right-wing supporters know how to work their roots as well. Of course, complacency can run both ways.