May 03, 2007

Nun wollen wir singen das Mailied

Mailied (Literally, Maysong)

Wie herrlich leuchtet
Mir die Natur!
Wie glänzt die Sonne!
Wie lacht die Flur!

Es dringen Blüten
Aus jedem Zweig
Und tausend Stimmen
Aus dem Gesträuch

Und Freud' und Wonne
Aus jeder Brust.
O Erd', o Sonne!
O Glück, o Lust!

O Lieb', o Liebe!
So golden schön,
Wie Morgenwolken
Auf jenen Höhn!

Du segnest herrlich
Das frische Feld,
Im Blütendampfe
Die volle Welt.

O Mädchen, Mädchen,
Wie lieb' ich dich!
Wie blickt dein Auge!
Wie liebst du mich!

So liebt die Lerche
Gesang und Luft,
Und Morgenblumen
Den Himmelsduft,

Wie ich dich liebe
Mit warmem Blut,
Die du mir Jugend
Und Freud' und Mut

Zu neuen Liedern
Und Tänzen gibst.
Sei ewig glücklich,
Wie du mich liebst!

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ~1775

English translation here.

Posted by JohnL at 02:04 PM | Comments (0) |
April 25, 2007

Latin Fun

Robert the Llamabutcher reports that British public schools are reintroducing Latin into their curricula. (Note the proper Latin plural!)

This reminds me of the fantastic scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian where John Cleese surely channels a Latin teacher from his past.

Posted by JohnL at 08:22 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
January 30, 2007

More Top Chef

Well, my last post jokingly referred to a Top Chef Tragedy. This is a real tragedy. Hitting Marcel/Wolverine with a bottle? Right out.

Surfing around on the term "Top Chef," I found this great guest blog entry by chef Anthony Bourdain (whose No Reservations is another item of must-see TV for me). Bourdain served a stint as guest judge for Top Chef earlier in the season and his assessments of the various contestants (other than Ilan) squares with my own.

The finale airs tomorrow at 9:00CST on Bravo.

Posted by JohnL at 08:20 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
January 25, 2007

Top Chef Tragedy

Well not really a tragedy, but I can't believe the Top Chef judges are letting that little crapweasel Wolverine wannabe go to the grand finale next week.

Ilan's fine with me, but my two favorite Chefs, Sam and Elia, got eliminated last night.

My wife thinks the voting was rigged, since Ilan and Marcel have had so much bad blood this season. Say it ain't so! This isn't simply reality TV designed to draw ratings, is it???

Posted by JohnL at 09:01 AM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack
November 26, 2006

Plano as The New Peoria

Virginia Postrel has authored an enlightening article in the December issue of Texas Monthly addressing the perception of Plano as the bellwether for "red-state" America.

Read the whole thing (registration required - visit Virginia's site to get the special password).

Posted by JohnL at 10:22 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
September 13, 2006

Pendulous Reading

I am about 2/3 of the way through Umberto Eco's excellent Foucault's Pendulum, which I started during the cruise last week. I hope to get most of the way to the end tonight after I stop blogging here.

A couple of thoughts so far:

I wish I knew Italian so that I could read this in its original form. It is multilingual anyway, with lots of French, Latin, and Old French. But I can tell that there is lots of clever wordplay, which never translates perfectly.

Best way to summarize the story and style? Imagine that Neal Stephenson had written The Da Vinci Code instead of Dan Brown.

I would like to see them try to translate this to film, since I rather enjoyed the movie version of Eco's The Name of the Rose. But Da Vinci Code (in both book and film form) has probably oversaturated the market for Holy Grail/Templar/Rosicrucian/Illuminati conspiracy stories.

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August 21, 2006

Bill Watterson Rarities

I have loved Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes from the first time I read it (a day or two after it first ran in 1985) up to the present; my wife even got me the hard-bound Complete Calvin and Hobbes collection for Christmas last year.

So I was really tickled to check out this collection of Watterson rarities that Lynn found. It's neat to see his pre-Calvin work, as well as examples of the only couple of authorized Calvin and Hobbes items that Watterson ever licensed.

My sons both love these books, and I wish I could get them an authorized t-shirt to keep the characters alive as they were intended to be seen, not as some peeing or praying little boy sticker planted on the back of redneck pickup trucks.

Posted by JohnL at 10:18 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 15, 2006

Halo Lego Videos

I love the "narrowcasting" enabled by the ubiquity of television channels and the internet. But d-i-y videos can be a hit-or-miss proposition. So I'll do a little filtering for y'all. A "value add," if you will.


A nicely done reenactment of the Halo 2 trailer using stop-motion Lego animation:


A mixture of live action and crude stop motion to tell an original story set in the Halo universe:

If I had a few more hours a day to goof off, I could see the fun in putting something like these together. And now there's a global audience ready to consume whatever is posted for their viewing pleasure. Maybe someday...

Posted by JohnL at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 13, 2006

The Substance of Style at McDonald's

Today's Business section in the Dallas Morning News tells the story of Ed Bailey, whose ownership of 61 McDonald's locations in the ultra-competitive Dallas dining market has made him one of the most successful restaurant franchisees in the world.

Mr. Bailey's success as an entrepreneur began in the fashion business. Having first worked as a traveling dress salesman, Mr. Bailey soon opened and ran a successful men's designer clothing store in Cincinnati for 10 years. When he got his first franchise from McDonald's in 1984, he moved his family to Plano (a great place to live!) and was successful enough in the difficult Valley View Mall food court location that he obtained a second franchise within a year. Over the next 22 years, he added 59 more stores to his portfolio.

His story could have ended there as a great tribute to the American Dream lived by so many successful small business owners. But as the article points out, there's a special angle to Mr. Bailey's success. In the early 1990s, Mr. Bailey decided to distinguish his franchises by spending money to make them more aesthetically pleasing at the same time as his corporate management was pushing cost controls:

In 1992, Mr. Bailey opened unit No. 7 at Preston Road and Royal Lane just as McDonald's was entering its low-cost era....

It was the most expensive McDonald's built in the United States that year, with a $650,000 tab. A company-owned unit less than three miles away was the cheapest, costing half as much. The regional vice president chastised Mr. Bailey severely for this perceived folly.

"Two and a half years later, I bought that store because McDonald's wasn't making any money," he says, stating fact more than bragging. "I was doing 40 percent more in sales in basically the same trade area."

Mr. Bailey knew then what Virginia Postrel would later identify as the "aesthetic imperative." In Ms. Postrel's words:

Aesthetics--the look and feel of people, places, and things--is increasingly important as a source of value, both economic and cultural....

Aesthetics shows up where function used to be the only thing that mattered, from toilet brushes to business memos to computers and cell phones. And people's expectations keep rising. New tract homes have granite countertops, so hotel rooms have to have granite countertops too. Family restaurants used to be all about price and food, but now they have to worry about their decor. We've gone from Pizza Hut to California Pizza Kitchen. If you're in business, you have to invest in aesthetics simply to keep up with the competition.

Or, as Mr. Bailey's experience showed, to beat the competition.

For more in the same vein, check out Ms. Postrel's The Substance of Style. And be sure to read the entire Morning News article about Mr. Bailey.

Posted by JohnL at 09:57 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
July 24, 2006

Killer App for Space Tourism

I wonder if private space travel will follow in the steps of the Internet, where sex was one of the earliest successful commercial ventures.

While joining the 250-mile-high-club would certainly be uniquely stimulating, it won't necessarily be easy, was the message of a panel of experts at the recently-concluded Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2006 conference in Las Vegas.

NASA (not speaking for the agency, of course) doctor Jim Logan had the money quote:

"It's a pretty messy environment, when you think about it....And for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However ... I can well imagine how compelling, inspiring, and quite frankly stimulating choreographed sex in zero-G might be in the hands of a skilled and talented cinematographer with appropriate lighting and music....I'm not kidding: Sex in zero-G is going to have to be more or less choreographed. Otherwise it's just going to be a wild flail."

Alan Boyle and Rand Simberg have much more on this, er, titillating topic.

Posted by JohnL at 09:12 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
June 05, 2006

The Instamatic

One of the benefits of moving from time to time is the opportunity to go through old boxes of stuff. Last year's move unearthed an old box of pictures that I took with my first camera, a Kodak Instamatic 44. I had great fun going through the old pictures with my kids, including showing them some pictures of places that still exist (the Dinosaur statues in Glen Rose, for example, which they have seen in person several times).

Tonight I scanned the first few of what I expect to be many. I'll do a bigger post on the camera itself someday (I also have pictures taken with a Kodak Disc camera -- a film disc, not a digital disc and my mom's old Kodak Retina).

Your humble author, making himself the center of attention even then:


A successful fishing trip at Lake Lavon:


Colorful Colorado:


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May 23, 2006

Beastly Dates Ahead

Owlish relates a conversation with someone concerned about the impending 6/6/6 date. Of course the world didn't end on June 6, 1906 (or 1806, or 1706, etc.) And which number of the beast applies? Some early manuscripts of the Revelation make the number 616, others 666. So look out on June 1. Unless you're someone other than a US civilian, since the rest of the world orders their calendar dates differently, and your world didn't end on January 6.

Posted by JohnL at 09:29 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

The Safety Nazis

Well, I've been pretty incommunicative around here recently. Sorry about that, but I've had my hands full with my job, family, and fighting a [so far losing] battle against the safety Nazis in Texas government.

Virginia Postrel has already posted a good wrapup, and I can't describe the situation better than Tim Rogers at D Magazine. Seriously. Go read those before you continue, or it might not make sense.

Back? OK. I would only add that Reason's Hit and Run recently referenced a Baby Blues cartoon that perfectly describes the current trend of protecting our kids out of their childhoods.

As I've written before, I'm a board member for The Texas Pool (whose website I happened to design and author during my copious free time).

For four and a half decades, the pool has operated without any diving board injuries that would have been prevented by the new regulations. When looking at the cost-benefit analysis of the new FINA-derived standards, it seems that our benevolent state government believes even one potential injury sometime in the future would be too many. That of course disregards the many risks that responsible individuals take and allow their kids to take every single day. I put my kids at greater jeopardy every time I drive them to school. Or let them ride their bikes to school. Or even let them walk across the busy street to school.

But what really cranks me is that this regulation was slipped through on the sly. There was no public comment and no public record in the Texas Register of any kind of justification for the retroactive application of the new depth and spacing standards to existing diving facilities. Also, the standards come from a set of rules governing competitive diving. It's HARD to hit the bottom of a 10-foot pool unless you dive with a really good form, and kids doing cannonballs is hardly good form (I doubt most of them ever get below 5 or 6 feet).

So how can you begin to fight the professional government inflicted on us by the late 19th-century progressives? Our approach is really two phases (possibly three): (1) ask the State Department of Health to reconsider their decision not to include a grandfather clause for existing facilities, (2) ask our state legislators to overrule the administrative agency, and apply a grandfather clause, and (3) initiate appropriate litigation, contingent on finding an interested pro bono firm.

This would be a great opportunity to try out an "Army of Davids" approach. I can't really take the time to research the epidemiology of diving board/pool depth injuries and in any case don't have ready access to a university library with medical or sports injury journals. But from everything I've read to date, there's no real evidence of significant danger, even from a 3-meter diving board, when the diving well is at least 10 feet deep (as is ours). Most injuries occur in less than 5 feet of water.

Would any of my intrepid readers like to take on a pro bono research project? I already have some leads (authors, journal and article titles). I'm totally serious. If so, contact me at

I will be blogging more, on this and other things.

Posted by JohnL at 09:06 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
May 14, 2006

Tongue Tied and Twisted

Lots to say, but no time to say it, really. Hoping to reengage here really soon.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of that new Burger King commercial (I Am Man, Hear Me Roar), found thanks to Lynn:

Nothing much to add, except to note that the product being hawked is NOT the Massachusetts Double Whopper. I wonder why.


Posted by JohnL at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
March 22, 2006

South Park - The Return of Chef

Oh my. Nicely done.

Anyone else want to take the hint and Google-bomb "that fruity little club"?

Posted by JohnL at 09:39 PM | Comments (6) | | TrackBack
February 22, 2006

Good News For Aging Men

According to this report, men in their 50s are more satisfied with their sex lives than at any other time in their lives except their 20s. On a scale of zero to four, men reported satisfaction as follows:

20s - 2.79
30s - 2.55
40s - 2.72
50s - 2.77
60s - 2.46
70s - 2.14

After giving this just a moment's thought, I realized that one little word explains this: kids.

Seriously. Most people start their families in their late 20s or 30s. Before a guy in his 20s settles down, there's likely some fun on the dating scene. But once you find "the one," nothing tops the excitement of the courtship, honeymoon, and early years together without kids.

After the children appear, you find that both of you are a bit more tired, a bit less attentive to looks or clothing, a bit more prone to headaches and irritability, and less likely to enjoy the less-frequent sex. As the kids get older and more independent, they continue to invade your space and their schedules become more demanding.

Once the kids leave the nest, it seems that one of two things happens: (1) husband and wife fall in love all over again and experience some really great time together, going at it like newlyweds, or (2) husband, now financially successful and confident, dumps the old bag for a trophy wife 20 years his junior. (Two of the four commenters over at Science Blog tend to confirm this latter point). In either case, the man is likely to be more satisfied with sex than at any time since before he had kids.


Ouch! That was my wife taking a swipe at me for the "old bag" comment. For the record: she in no way resembles any sort of bag (unless it's one that's sleek and fashionable and will never go out of style...)

(Hat tip: Instapundit).

Posted by JohnL at 09:39 PM | Comments (4) | | TrackBack
February 21, 2006

I Can't Get Behind That Kinda, Like, English

The Crack Young Staff, proprietors of the humble "weblog" entitled Hatemongers Quarterly, are not impressed with the linguistic skills of today's youth.

Frankly, neither am I. My wife and I refer to clueless teens generically as "like-you-knows."

But who cares what we think when even Captain Kirk agrees? *

(*)Musical excerpt from the "song" I Can't Get Behind That from Has Been, by William Shatner and the awesome Ben Folds, about which I previously blogged here.

(Hat tip: LLamas).

Posted by JohnL at 07:21 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
February 15, 2006

Dirty Older English

Check out this 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence.


SUCH A REASON PIST MY GOOSE, or MY GOOSE PIST. Said when any one offers an absurd reason.

TWIDDLE POOP. An effeminate looking fellow.

TO WIN. To steal. The cull has won a couple of rum glimsticks; the fellow has stolen a pair of fine candlesticks.

WOMAN'S CONSCIENCE. Never satisfied.

ZAD. Crooked like the letter Z. He is a mere zad, or perhaps zed; a description of a very crooked or deformed person.

(Via Gravity Lens).

Posted by JohnL at 11:12 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
February 14, 2006

Random Surfing

Here's a public service announcement: use caution when tripping around cyberspace using the "Next Blog" feature in Blog*Spot, as you are likely to encounter some dummy blogs featuring porn and spam. Having made that disclaimer, here are some links for your edification and enjoyment that I discovered tonight:

Native Eye, a New York photoblog. (This Reinventing Monet is quite cool, as is this lovely Red Hyacinth. Wow - stunning composition).

A lefty Australian's blog: Lindsay's Lobes. Disregard the occasional politics and new agey vibe here. Instead, focus on the clean prose, tasteful site design, several beautiful pictures of a New Zealand holiday, and entertaining musings on family, the environment, and culture.

Finally, here's a Texan cyclist's site: Wallace Alaniz. Lots of really cool pictures from in and around Austin, Texas, one of the greatest places on Earth to live or visit. (Check out the pic accompanying this post).

Hope you enjoy these new sites.

Posted by JohnL at 10:03 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
February 13, 2006

Harold Edgerton Photos

You're probably familiar with the work of Harold "Doc" Edgerton.

I know I was. Familiar with the work, that is. Not the man who produced it.

Edgerton invented the technique of synchronizing a high-speed stroboscope to a high-shutter-speed camera to create super-realistic stop-motion photographs. As an example, here's an image of a drop of milk splashing as it hits a table top, captured using Edgerton's technique:

edgerton milk drop.jpg

In 1947, Edgerton developed a special camera (the Rapatronic) capable of capturing images of nuclear explosions from seven miles away, with some images as short as 10 nanoseconds.

I've always thought that nuclear explosions were eerily beautiful (not that I would ever want to witness one, unless from the safely-shielded command deck of an Orion starship). Here's a representative sample of an atomic fireball captured using a Rapatronic camera:


Check out more Rapatronic photos here.

(And for even more ultra-cool nuclear images and movies click here).

(Hat tip: Gravity Lens, who pointed out this article).

Update: Remember to Duck and Cover!

Posted by JohnL at 10:38 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
February 07, 2006

Liberalism versus "Liberals"

Here's some required reading: an interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born ex-Muslim woman.

It was her film, "Submission," that the late Theo Van Gogh directed. A Muslim took offense and, rather than debating the issue, pinned a note to Van Gogh with a knife.

Read what she has to say. She knows first-hand what it is like to live in an illiberal society. Can we (i.e., Western liberal democratic culture) survive? Will we assimilate and transform Islam into something modern and tolerant? Will we destroy Islam? Will we instead [shudder] submit?

Update: I titled the post before I was done editing. Quite simply, where are the "liberals" from the West? Arguing that the cartoon flap was a setup by Bush? Justifying the violent Muslim reaction as an understandable response to the existence of Israel and Western colonialism? Where are the grown-ups?

Fortunately, Ali demonstrates a true liberal analysis of the situation.

Posted by JohnL at 08:40 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

Required Reading

I don't have much of anything to add to the Cartoon Wars that hasn't already been covered by Jeff Goldstein.

Go there, and just keep scrolling up. He's a liberal, like I am, in the non-political, classical sense of the word. I just wish more "liberals" were.

Update: Did anyone else see tonight's Colbert Report? Hilarious critique of the cartoon violence. One of my favorite lines (paraphrased): "I have decided to take the brave and ethical stand of not showing the offending cartoons to avoid being killed..."

Posted by JohnL at 08:36 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
February 01, 2006

Gamers Gone Wild

This video would have cut a little too close to home for me about 20 years ago.

What cruel videos will they be making about bloggers 20 years from now???

(Via The Llamabutchers).

Posted by JohnL at 11:51 PM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
January 30, 2006

20th Century Kitsch

If you like James Lileks, you'll enjoy this site.

Love those satin gloves and pearls!


(Found via BoingBoing).

Posted by JohnL at 10:41 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
January 24, 2006

Cold Comfort

The Phantom Professor used to be an adjunct at Dallas' Southern Methodist University, located in Highland Park/University Park. The Park Cities (as they are known locally) are the lily-white old-money part of Dallas.

She frequently posts an (appropriately anonymized) story about her former students - many of them born and raised in the Park Cities bubble themselves. Painting with a broad brush, she tends to hit her mark (how's that for a mixed metaphor?)

Check out this story, related to her by one of her students. Here's a non-spoiling excerpt to whet your appetite:

Background needed. Many of the sorority girls who deign to take part-time jobs opt to become nannies to the wealthy families in the exclusive neighborhoods around the campus. We're talking estate-like mega-mansions, not the shoddy McMansions of the ugly suburbs. Even a teardown in this area can go for half a mil, with a $5 million, three-story behemoth taking the place of a 1950s one-story brick cottage.

So who lives in these places? Movers, shakers, big deal makers. They are still young, very ambitious and have children who still need minding. To help look after their offspring, lawyer-mommy and mogul-daddy hire a Tri-Delt or a Kappa to pick them up at school, haul them to soccer practice or gymnastics, and maybe get them fed and medicated (they're always medicated) before the parents get home late from their offices.

Tessa worked for such a family. She said the mom was a control freak extraordinaire. Left Post-It notes everywhere about everything. "Put Justine in the pink and black leotards for ballet. NOT the purple ones." Or "Phillip has a birthday party at the DeWildes' on Tuesday. Be sure to ask about peanuts. NO PEANUTS ALLOWED!" Another note said simply: "No TV--Enrichment activities only!"

Trying to raise her children via notes to the hired nanny, the mom rarely interacted with them herself. Tessa said she never saw either parent hug or kiss their kids. Or, for that matter, each other. They were an emotionally chilly family and the kids sometimes acted robotically emotion-free.

By the time you get to the end, you realize that material wealth alone provides - at best - cold comfort.

Posted by JohnL at 10:56 PM | Comments (6) | | TrackBack
December 15, 2005

Monkey See, Monkey Don't

Before it disappears behind their archive firewall, be sure to check out this interesting article in the New York Times by Carl Zimmer. He reports on a new study that builds on an earlier study contrasting the learning styles of young humans with chimpanzees.

The earlier study indicated that young humans are much more likely to "ape" (sorry!) their teacher than are chimpanzees. Both children and chimps were shown different boxes that they had to get something out of:

The [first] box was painted black and had a door on one side and a bolt running across the top. The food was hidden in a tube behind the door. When they showed the chimpanzees how to retrieve the food, the researchers added some unnecessary steps. Before they opened the door, they pulled back the bolt and tapped the top of the box with a stick. Only after they had pushed the bolt back in place did they finally open the door and fish out the food.

Because the chimps could not see inside, they could not tell that the extra steps were unnecessary. As a result, when the chimps were given the box, two-thirds faithfully imitated the scientists to retrieve the food.

The team then used a box with transparent walls and found a strikingly different result. Those chimps could see that the scientists were wasting their time sliding the bolt and tapping the top. None followed suit. They all went straight for the door.

When they turned to human children, however, 80% followed the unnecessary steps for the transparent box.

The more recent study built on these results, using new experiments designed to test the human child's tendency to "overimitate" versus a chimpanzee. Carl allowed his young daughter to participate in the study.

Using new puzzles, the researchers showed that children (who could solve the puzzles on their own) would faithfully "overimitate" their teachers by following extra and unnecessary steps. Thus:

Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the best way to learn. If he is right, this represents a big evolutionary change from our ape ancestors. Other primates are bad at imitation. When they watch another primate doing something, they seem to focus on what its goals are and ignore its actions.

As human ancestors began to make complicated tools, figuring out goals might not have been good enough anymore. Hominids needed a way to register automatically what other hominids did, even if they didn't understand the intentions behind them. They needed to imitate.

Not long ago, many psychologists thought that imitation was a simple, primitive action compared with figuring out the intentions of others. But that is changing. "Maybe imitation is a lot more sophisticated than people thought," Mr. Lyons said.

We don't appreciate just how automatically we rely on imitation, because usually it serves us so well. "It is so adaptive that it almost never sticks out this way," he added. "You have to create very artificial circumstances to see it."

Posted by JohnL at 11:27 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
December 12, 2005

More Religion

Jeff Goldstein style.

I liked mojo's comment, which seems to indicate some consistency from A (A is A for Aristotle) to Z (as in Zen):

“If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.”
-- Zen Proverb

Posted by JohnL at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Persistent Paper 2

Glenn Reynolds bets that books will be around for at least another ten years.

I think that's a pretty safe bet.

In fact, I'll go out on a limb and bet that "actual books" (including new books, not just archives and collections) will survive for at least another hundred years.

Update: I've changed the name of this post; I should have searched my archives before naming it. I did a post on this theme with an identical title more than two years ago, inspired by James Lileks and Neal Stephenson. Go read it.

Posted by JohnL at 09:42 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
December 08, 2005

Strange Theology

Stream of consciousness, folks, feel free to criticize in the comments:

During my adult life, I have not felt much of a personal or emotional link to the Deity, so I'm a bit at a loss when I encounter people or churches that really wear their faith on their sleeve. I grew up in a somewhat traditional Methodist church, with appropriate religious and classical music and a fairly academic, scholarly approach to matters of faith and scriptural interpretation. Everyone wore their Sunday best, and the service was a set liturgy.

I first began to notice as a teen and have continued to notice since then a rough correlation between the informality of the church and the fundamentalism of the theology. In other words, the more casual and loose the liturgy, the more fundamentalist the theology. This isn't an axiom, and I can think of the Eastern Orthodox churches as a specific counterexample, but among Protestant Christians, it seems to hold true.

One trait shared by the more fundamentalist Christian sects is active evangelism. The message of their evangelism is usually pretty simple: get baptized and accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior (remember the capital letters!) There's not much room in that message to explore possible contradictions in the text of the bible, to analyze the synoptic gospels or the four-source hypothesis of Old Testament authorship and redacting, or the doubtful historicity of many of the bible stories. Really, your best sales line is not to raise questions but to offer simple answers.

What's interesting to me is to observe how modern evangelism uses current technology to spread decidedly pre-modern ideas. I actually like Veggie Tales (and still have a soft spot in my heart for Davey and Goliath from my childhood), but am otherwise cold on specifically "Christian" videos. I'm definitely offended by televangelists (who I think are among the worst violators of Matthew 6:5-13). I also don't much like when church leaders get involved in politics.

Another area of "modern" evangelism that makes me uncomfortable is contemporary Christian music, mainly because the [substandard] music is made subservient to the [banal] lyrics.

So this is all a long-winded way to express my profound discomfort with Contemporary Christian Porn (as my wife dubbed it) exemplified in JC's GirlsGirlsGirls. I looked through this site and I am pretty sure that they are actually serious. There is a definite amount of earnestness here, not the easy-to-spot smart-assery of a Landover Baptist type of parody.

Sure, these ambassadors for JC are likely to get some attention:


But doesn't this somehow seem to cheapen the message? I would be interested in feedback.

(Hat tip to the Commissar).

Posted by JohnL at 09:53 PM | Comments (11) | | TrackBack
October 27, 2005

Photos From the Past

Instapundit highlights a nice collection of old photos, developed from film found in antique cameras. Be sure to click the pictures on the main page to access the complete collection for each.

Posted by JohnL at 11:47 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack

Cool Language Stuff

Did you know that dictionary editors will include fake words to help them spot competitors that copy their entries wholesale? I didn't.

This story just makes the language geek in me feel all cuddly and warm. How cool to spend your time reading a dictionary and trying to find the fake word.

What? Why are you looking at me like that?

(Via BoingBoing).

Posted by JohnL at 12:15 AM | Comments (2) | | TrackBack
September 28, 2005

Feminization of Modern Man

Virginia Postrel points to an interesting critique of an article in the Washington Post about the "growing trend" of macho Japanese men supposedly getting in touch with their feminine sides. Here are some representative excerpts from the original article:

Gender roles have been undergoing a redefinition in recent years as women enter the workforce as never before and men embrace less confining views of masculinity....

The market for male aesthetics has grown fourfold in the past seven years to $400 million annually, including day spas for slimming treatments, facials, manicures and painful sessions of eyebrow plucking. The largest such chain -- Dandy House -- has doubled in size since 2000, with 60 locations across the country.

Skin treatments have become particularly popular for bridegrooms, while many men are opting for costly electrolysis procedures for permanent removal of unsightly facial hair....

On busy Tokyo subways these days, it is not unusual to see men fishing for packs of Virginia Slims cigarettes in European-style male purses. They have many models to choose from at Isetan Men's -- the successful 10-story department store in chic west Tokyo that opened two years ago and is now the cathedral of masculine vanity....

Perhaps most inexplicably, male thugs in the yakuza -- or Japanese mafia -- are now known to wear pink women's sandals and floral-patterned shirts while prowling the streets late at night....

In an email to Ms. Postrel, I noted that the same article could have been written about American men a couple of years ago (remember "metrosexual"?) In any case, the trend of "feminization" - to the extent it exists - is not unique to Japan.

I think it is a reflection of our post-industrial culture. There are not many jobs left that require men to be stereotypically male all day. Most of us sit at a desk all day reading and typing. As a result, many of us have smooth hands and skin, and carry an extra bit of weight around.

Throw us back 100 years and most of us would be lost. How many of today's typical men could do the heavy manual labor performed by farm and factory workers of the early 20th century? Even a manufacturing worker today is more of a computer operator, pushing buttons to operate the robotic assembly line.

Just some random thoughts. And, on a humorous note, I have found definitive evidence of the feminization of a well-known "man" in Japan (click on the extended entry link):


(Image found here).

Posted by JohnL at 09:04 PM | Comments (7) | | TrackBack
September 20, 2005

Froehliches Oktoberfest


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September 16, 2005

Quick Movie Recommendation

My wife and I just finished watching The Aviator.

Very good movie. Excellent cinematography, screenplay, and acting. I'm not sure what my expectations really were going in, but this far exceeded them.

Now I want to go learn more about the real history of Howard Hughes. What a larger-than-life person. Texan, naturally. Many scenes in this movie recalled scenes from Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

I loved seeing Hughes put Kate Hepburn (portrayed by the lovely Cate Blanchett) in her place: "you're only a movie star!" Also worth the price of admission just to see Hughes put the senator (Alan Alda) in his place at the committee hearings toward the end. And note that Alec Baldwin did a great job playing the sleazy Pan Am boss.

(Geeky Aside: I remember a few years ago on the Star Wars fan sites there was a nasty rumor that Leonardo diCaprio would be playing Anakin Skywalker. You know what? He would have been excellent in that role. Watching his descent into OCD madness in this movie was a good example of how he could have portrayed the fall of Anakin.)

Posted by JohnL at 11:54 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
September 13, 2005

"There is Always a Buyer" (Velocinomics 101)

I meant to link this hilarious real estate economics lesson from Velociman a few weeks ago.

After winning a small real estate matter in justice court many moons ago, I took out my client representatives (both were apartment managers) for lunch, and they had fun telling me the weird stuff that their tenants did. Nothing quite like V-man's story, though.

Posted by JohnL at 10:52 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

As awful as things look now, they are certain to look even worse -- at least for the short term. However, I predict that five or ten years from now, New Orleans will be restored to much like it was before.

Tying this to a SciFi theme, I feel like I have "seen" this before, in my mind's eye, while reading Lucifer's Hammer, in the descriptions of the post-impact flooding. The looting, the rapid loss of civilization.

Also, I remember David Brin (a very good, albeit leftist, SF author) writing in Earth about the futility of holding back mother nature:

...The Big Easy had class all right. In decline, there remained an air of seedy blaisance, and even the inevitable bandit types believed in courtesy.

He listened to the barge horns and thought of the manatees that had inhabited this area, back when La Salle's men first poled their way through endless marshes, trading ax heads for furs. The manatees were long gone, of course. And soon...relatively would New Orleans.

The dying of any city begins at its foundation....

Logan had inspected hundreds of kilometers of embankments, thrown up in forlorn efforts to save the doomed shore. More tall levees contained the river, whose gradient flattened over time. Suspended silt began falling out even north of Baton Rouge. Soon the sluggish current no longer held back the sea. Salinity increased.

Upstream, the Mississippi fought like an anaconda, writhing to escape. The contest was one of raw power. And Logan knew where it would be lost....

Fortunately, Claire would move away long before the Mississippi burst through the Old River Control Structure or some other weak point, spilling into that peaceful plain of cane fields and fish farms....

In effect, he could only pray the Corps' new barriers were as good as they claimed. It was possible....

But rivers see decades, even centuries, as mere trifles.

The Mississippi rolled by. And, not for the first time, Logan wondered if Daisy might be right after all. I try to find solutions that work with Earth's forces. I like to think I've learned from the mistakes of past engineers.

But didn't they, too, think they built for the ages?

He remembered what Shelley had written, about an ancient pharaoh:

"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

...Can we build nothing that lasts? Nothing worth lasting?

Logan sighed. He had been away too long. He turned away from the patient river and took the rusted, creaking iron stairs back into the ancient city.

Posted by JohnL at 10:57 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack
August 22, 2005

MST3K Artworks

Jeff at Gravity Lens points us to a nice gallery of famous paintings featuring MST3K characters.

Very funny. I loved that show.

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Update on VT Separate and Unequal

Princess Cat emailed me a link to Virginia Tech's statement regarding the recent Saudi visit during which classes were segregated by sex.

Here's the nut of the statement:

Separation by gender in an instructional setting is not compatible with Virginia Tech policies and procedures. There is clearly a disconnect between our fundamental commitment to non-discrimination based on gender and our commitment to a climate for work and learning based on mutual respect and understanding.

Or, in other words, "our commitment not to discriminate based on sex conflicted with our commitment not to discriminate based upon culture."

That's the trick, isn't it? How do we maintain ourselves as an open, liberal culture in the face of backwards, closed cultures?

Posted by JohnL at 10:40 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 18, 2005

Brilliant Harry Potter Parody

Having recently completed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, I can endorse without any reservation whatsoever this hilarious, accurate, and spoiler-filled condensed version of the story: Part 1. Part2.

(Via GeekPress).

Posted by JohnL at 11:14 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 17, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities...

Check out this interesting play on the before-and-after meme.

Take scenes from Hitchcock's 1958 movie Vertigo and retrace them in modern-day (2003) San Francisco with camera in tow.

I've posted a representative pair of pics grabbed from the site in the extended entry. Go check out all the others.



Posted by JohnL at 09:35 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 11, 2005

The Loony Academic Left

Via James Taranto, I learned that the American Political Science Association will hold its annual convention in Washington, D.C. in just a few weeks. On the program is a panel discussion entitled "Is It Time to Call It Fascism?"

Do you think the good scholars will finally take an honest look at the parallels between the Ba'ath Party in Syria and the NSDAP in Germany?

Oh, don't be silly. The email forwarding the conference announcement states:

The panel, which is cosponsored by the Conference Group on Theory, Policy, & Society, the Latino Caucus, New Political Science, and the Women's Caucus, emerged from a question that Kathy Ferguson started asking last winter-spring (at ISA and WPSA) to focus on both substantive aspects and strategic/tactical ones: is there theoretical-definitional grounding to make a claim for the present US administration as fascist, and is it useful, critically, to use that language at this point in time? One of the original intentions was also to create a teaching tool out of this discussion--a handout that presents these questions and offers relevant information to students to think about it for themselves. (Emphasis added).

I would love to get my hands on one of those handouts. I wonder just how much they will encourage students to "think about it for themselves."

Here's a political science experiment: Establish how long a culture can survive philosophical poison like this.

Too bad we live in the experimental society and not the control group.

Posted by JohnL at 09:41 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack
August 10, 2005

Separate and Unequal

What happens when you inject a medieval culture into a modern one?

(Hat tip: Bryan).

Remember how VMI was made co-ed last decade? Why don't the same principles of law apply here? Where's NOW now?

Simple. Cowardice. An academic and political left that has become so accustomed to blaming western culture for all the ills of the world, it cannot find the indignation required to condemn a backwards, misogynistic society.

Shame on Virginia Tech. Shame.

For a lighter perspective on this dead-serious issue, check out Iowahawk.

Update: Lest you think I paint with too broad a brush, check out the words of Abd Al-Sabour Shahin, head of the Shari’a faculty at Al-Ahzar University, the most prestigious academy in Sunni Islam. He is a lecturer at Cairo University, and not some cave-dwelling terrorist firebrand.

Remember that shari'a is the legal system that our enemies want to subject us to. The same system that requires the separation of the sexes.

And note how closely the good professor's rhetoric tracks the fevered paranoia of the loony left - blame the Jews -- it's all about the oil. Do you think perhaps our cowardly leftist politicians, academics, and journalists have provided rhetorical cover for this kind of garbage? What can we do?

Just asking.

Posted by JohnL at 09:37 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

Shat on Stormtroopers


(From the latest edition of Movie Monkey, via Owlish).

Posted by JohnL at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
August 09, 2005

Abortion and Brain Life, Redux

I note with some pleasure that John Hood, a contributor to National Review Online's Corner expressed exactly the idea I framed last week about "brain life" being a way to start to untangle the emotional mess around abortion.

Not surprisingly, the dynamic half of the dogmatic duo, Ramesh Ponnuru (the other half being the grammaticaly-challenged but equally dogmatic Katherine Jean Lopez) leapt into the fray to defend the life-begins-at-conception idea. He did acknowledge the possibility that there is a distinction between human "life" and human "personhood" and even gave a nod to the idea that the key issue in Hood's (and my) proposal is a functioning cortex, though he wouldn't want to go too far down that road.

An emailer to "K-Lo" then criticized the whole concept of "brain birth" as fetishization of the brain. The same mailer later stated through Lopez that (paraphrasing) defining humanity based on brain function would lead to harvesting organs from people in comas. This is typical emotionally-charged sentimentalism that the mystics use to oppose human cloning and embryonic stem cell research (e.g., likening the harvesting of stem cells from a blastocyst to carving up people for spare parts).

In any case, National Review's pundits have taken up the issue and there is a good deal of civil, well-stated discourse. Just click to Hood's original post and scroll up.

Posted by JohnL at 11:01 PM | Comments (1) | | TrackBack

Libertarian Film Festival

I have yet to see Firefly, though it is in my Netflix queue. I would like to check it out before going to see Serenity, which is getting a great deal of buzz on SF and libertarian blogs.

Today an article about Serenity at Reason's Hit and Run led to some very interesting commentary about the libertarian themes in the original Firefly series. I am really getting psyched, and eagerly await the movie.

More fun than that, though, is this hilarious look at a fictional libertarian film festival, linked by Stevo Darkly in the comments there: Oscar Shrugged: The First Galt's Gulch Film Festival. You probably won't get it if you haven't read Atlas Shrugged.

If, however, you have. Click over there NOW. It is hilarious (and also led to me adding about 7 more movies to my queue).

Posted by JohnL at 10:38 PM | Comments (3) | | TrackBack
August 08, 2005

Blessing of Fonts

My oldest son is really into calligraphy. He is mastering several different types of formal script. Who knows, maybe he will design a new font someday.

Today, fonts seemed to be a recurrent theme in my blog-surfing.

God, how twee is that? “Slightly irritated by a typeface.” Put that on my tombstone.

- James Lileks, 8 August 2005 Bleat

Lynn muses about the emotional impact of fonts on a reader. She is seeking some input on what fonts you like, what color, size, style. Leave her a comment and let her know what you think.

I like sans-serif fonts the best. I use Verdana for most everything I write. It makes for wonderfully readable legal forms, not too busy and easy to fax or scan without too much clutter. For web style, I prefer dark text on light backgrounds, though there are some well-executed blogs that pull off the opposite.

If I had to use a serif font, I would choose Palatino, which is simply beautiful. I don't care for Times New Roman, as I associate it (and Courier) with poorly-drafted legalese. I see way too much lawyer work-product drafted in Times New Roman 12 pt., 1.25 inch margins (i.e. MS Word default settings).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Lemuel reveals himself to be a sans-serif man. I would think he would be a sans-blog man by now, since he keeps threatening to delete the thing.

On a wholly-unrelated note, I wonder whether anyone can guess the source of this post's title?

Posted by JohnL at 11:06 PM | Comments (5) | | TrackBack
July 27, 2005

Quirky Japanese Site

I work for a Japanese company, so I appreciate the occasional treasure trove of offbeat Japanese culture.

The mission of the site proprietor is to highlight the areas of Japan that are off the beaten path of the typical gaijin tourist.

I know I found this link thanks to someone else's blog, but for the life of me I can't remember the source and didn't note it when I copied the link. So, whoever you are, thanks!

Posted by JohnL at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) | | TrackBack
June 22, 2005

Yet Another Theology Quiz

Rob keeps retaking tests and getting the same result.

Here's a slightly more sophisticated one, the Belief-O-Matic, as it tests you on 20 questions ranked by importance.

I took this quiz a couple of years ago and it told me I was a Reform Jew. I definitely like the Reform Jew congregation members I have met, I just don't think I could ever adjust culturally to the different mode of communal worship. As long as there is a semi-traditional Methodist church around, that's where I'll be when I go to church.

In any case, my beliefs must have changed a small amount over the last few years, as I am now more Unitarian (100%) than Reform Jew (94%). I am also - disturbingly - barely more liberal Christian than Islamic.

I would be interested in seeing your top 5 results in comments (or post them at your blog and trackback here).

Here are my full results:

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Reform Judaism (94%)
3. Liberal Quakers (90%)
4. Secular Humanism (84%)
5. Neo-Pagan (83%)
6. Sikhism (78%)
7. Bahá'í Faith (77%)
8. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (71%)
9. Islam (70%)
10. Orthodox Judaism (70%)
11. New Age (66%)
12. Nontheist (65%)
13. Jainism (62%)
14. Mahayana Buddhism (62%)
15. Scientology (59%)
16. Theravada Buddhism (59%)
17. New Thought (57%)
18. Taoism (53%)
19. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (47%)
20. Hinduism (47%)
21. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (44%)
22. Orthodox Quaker (44%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (32%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (22%)
25. Jehovah's Witness (22%)
26. Roman Catholic (22%)
27. Seventh Day Adventist (18%)

Posted by JohnL at 11:24 PM | Comments (9) |
June 21, 2005

Top 100 Movie Quotes

Frankly, dear readers, I don't give a damn. Actually, that's not quite true. Many of these quotes were truly quote-worthy, while others seemed to be included out of a sense of duty.

A real travesty was number 21, a quote which always grates on me: "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."

You see, I think the original line in the book was far superior: "A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone."

Substituting Chianti for Amarone is like substituting Budweiser for Guinness. It's the kind of dumbing-down for which a real Dr. Lector would have eaten the screenwriter.

The top 25 quotes are below the fold:

1. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Gone with the Wind, 1939
2. "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." The Godfather, 1972
3. "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am." On the Waterfront, 1954
4. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." The Wizard of Oz, 1939
5. "Here's looking at you, kid." Casablanca, 1942
6. "Go ahead, make my day." Sudden Impact, 1983
7. "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." Sunset Boulevard., 1950
8. "May the Force be with you." Star Wars, 1977
9. "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." All About Eve, 1950
10. "You talking to me?" Taxi Driver, 1976
11. "What we've got here is failure to communicate." Cool Hand Luke, 1967
12. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." Apocalypse Now, 1979
13. "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Love Story, 1970
14. "The stuff that dreams are made of." The Maltese Falcon, 1941
15. "E.T. phone home." E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
16. "They call me Mister Tibbs!" In the Heat of the Night, 1967
17. "Rosebud." Citizen Kane, 1941
18. "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" White Heat, 1949
19. "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Network, 1976
20. "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Casablanca, 1942
21. "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." The Silence of the Lambs, 1991
22. "Bond. James Bond." Dr. No, 1962
23. "There's no place like home." The Wizard of Oz, 1939
24. "I am big! It's the pictures that got small." Sunset Boulevard, 1950
25. "Show me the money!" Jerry Maguire, 1996

Posted by JohnL at 11:09 PM | Comments (5) |
June 16, 2005

Lovecraftian Vegas

Pete at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog describes Las Vegas thus:

I mean, I always assumed Vegas (the Strip, especially) was this massive networked series of gaming and security systems, all run by some vaguely Yog-Sothothian being housed in a giant cave under Nellis Air Force Base. I just wasn't expecting it to be confirmed so conclusively.

Love the Lovecraftian vibe. Glad he made it back safely.

Posted by JohnL at 12:34 AM | Comments (0) |

Theological Profile

You scored as Classical Liberal. You are a classical liberal. You are sceptical about much of the historicity of the Bible, and the most important thing Jesus has done is to set us a good moral example that we are to follow. Doctrines like the trinity and the incarnation are speculative and not really important, and in the face of science and philosophy the surest way we can be certain about God is by our inner awareness of him. Discipleship is expressed by good moral behaviour, but inward religious feeling is most important.

Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal




Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Neo orthodox


Roman Catholic




Reformed Evangelical




What's your theological worldview?
created with

The Quiz is really aimed at Christians. I don't see how a different faith adherent could answer the questions posed and get any meaningful profile back.

(Via LDH).

Posted by JohnL at 12:23 AM | Comments (3) |
May 27, 2005

Fatal Flaw in Fatal Attraction

Pete at A Perfectly Cromulent Blog has been going through the movies on Bravo's list of The 100 Scariest Movie Moments. He posted comments on many (but not all) of the 100 today.

But that's not really what my post is about. Go read Pete's post, if the 100 movies are what you're interested in. Instead, I wanted to talk about something that's always bothered me about #59 on the list, Fatal Attraction. One thing necessary to make a good story is a willing suspension of disbelief. And I never could suspend my disbelief in Fatal Attraction, for the reason so eloquently stated by Pete in his post:

Then again, Adrian Lyne's AIDS allegory makes you think twice about something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. Namely, fooling around on the toothsome Anne Archer with the mannish Glenn Close.

That fatal flaw undermined my ability to get into this movie at all. I just simply couldn't believe that any man would be stupid enough to cheat on:




Gimme a break.

Posted by JohnL at 10:56 PM | Comments (0) |
May 25, 2005

All-Time 100 Movies

Lawren at Martinis, Persistence, and a Smile points us to yet another top-100 list of movies (this one in Time magazine).

On a related note, Jeff Goldstein has been assembling the compleat canon of essential 70s movies over the past week or so, too.

The Time list is below the fold, and I have bolded the ones I've seen (italicizing the ones I plan to see):

Aguirre: the Wrath of God (1972)

The Apu Trilogy (1955, 1956, 1959)

The Awful Truth (1937)

Baby Face (1933)

Bande à part (1964)

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)

Blade Runner (1982)

Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Brazil (1985)

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Camille (1936)

Casablanca (1942)

Charade (1963)

Children of Paradise (1945)

Chinatown (1974)

Chungking Express (1994)

Citizen Kane (1941)

City Lights (1931)

City of God (2002)

Closely Watched Trains (1966)

The Crime of Monsieur Lange (1936)

The Crowd (1928)

Day for Night (1973)

The Decalogue (1989)

Detour (1945)

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)

Dodsworth (1936)

Double Indemnity (1944)

Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Drunken Master II (1994)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

8 1/2 (1963)

The 400 Blows (1959)

Farewell My Concubine (1993)

Finding Nemo (2003)

The Fly (1986)

The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

Goodfellas (1990)

A Hard Day's Night (1964)

His Girl Friday (1940)

Ikiru (1952)

In A Lonely Place (1950)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

It's A Gift (1934)

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

Kandahar (2001)

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

King Kong (1933)

The Lady Eve (1941)

The Last Command (1928)

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Léolo (1992)

The Lord of the Rings (2001-03)

The Man With a Camera (1929)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Metropolis (1927)

Miller's Crossing (1990)

Mon oncle d'Amérique (1980)

Mouchette (1967)

Nayakan (1987)

Ninotchka (1939)

Notorious (1946)

Olympia, Parts 1 and 2 (1938)

On the Waterfront (1954)

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Out of the Past (1947)

Persona (1966)

Pinocchio (1940)

Psycho (1960)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

Pyaasa (1957)

Raging Bull (1980)

Schindler's List (1993)

The Searchers (1956)

Sherlock, Jr. (1924)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

The Singing Detective (1986)

Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Some Like It Hot (1959)

Star Wars (1977)

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Sunrise (1927)

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Swing Time (1936)

Talk to Her (2002)

Taxi Driver (1976)

Tokyo Story (1953)

A Touch of Zen (1971)

Ugetsu (1953)

Ulysses' Gaze (1995)

Umberto D (1952)

Unforgiven (1992)

White Heat (1949)

Wings of Desire (1987)

Yojimbo (1961)

Posted by JohnL at 12:03 AM | Comments (1) |
May 05, 2005

Feliz Cinco de Mayo, Y'All

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Hoist a Dos Equis and eat some good Mexican food.

Cinco de mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day, as some in the blogosphere seem to believe. Instead it celebrates Mexico's surprise defeat of a French expeditionary force in 1862. From the Wikipedia article:

The battle between the French and Mexican armies occurred on May 5 when Zaragoza's ill-equipped militia of 4,500 men encountered the better armed French force. However, Zaragoza's small and nimble cavalry units were able to prevent French dragoons from taking the field and overwhelming the Mexican infantry. With the dragoons removed from the main attack, the Mexicans routed the remaining French soldiers with a combination of their tenacity, inhospitable terrain, and a stampede of cattle set off by local peasants. The invasion was stopped and crushed.

I really love that bit about the stampede of cattle helping to do in the bad guys, which reminds me of one of my favorite Westerns.

Unfortunately for the Mexicans, the French returned in greater numbers and won a rare victory in 1864, installing Archduke Maximillian of Austria as Emperor of Mexico. His reign ended three years later as all good tyrants' reigns should end: in front of a firing squad. His wife, understandably, went mad.

So even if you're not into sharing a fun excuse to celebrate our nation's considerable Hispanic heritage, you can at least celebrate a French defeat, right?

Posted by JohnL at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) |
May 04, 2005

I Said Homophone, not Homophobe

Do you read You really should. It requires a 10-second commitment per day to take in a picture depicting a humorously incorrect or inappropriate use of the English language.

In the extended entry, you'll see a recent posting (from April 29 -- I copied the pic, since I couldn't figure out where it would end up in the site's long-term archives), which plays on the juvenile pronunciation of the seventh planet's name.


Caption: Caution: sailors have been at sea too long.

Posted by JohnL at 12:01 AM | Comments (0) |
May 03, 2005

Abandoned Japanese Buildings

Via Bryan's Basement, an interesting link to many pictures of abandoned Japanese buildings. Bryan made exactly the comment I would have, expressing surprise that these sites had not been rebuilt or recycled in some way, given the scarcity of land in Japan.

My favorite was this abandoned amusement park (at least I think that's what it is), including the creepy Gulliver lying before Mt. Fuji (see in extended entry).


Posted by JohnL at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) |
April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day

Why should we cede a celebration of the earth to dirty hippies, luddite lefties, and their assorted anti-progress fellow-travelers? I love this beautiful planet. The oceans with their rhythmic surf, coral reefs, tide pools, and lightless trenches; the alpine meadows with glaciers, flowers, and deep blue skies; forests of all kinds; and the bustling cities where most of us live. If we are to survive in the long term, I believe we must move out and upward into the solar system and beyond. And as we move out, I know we will look back and remember this lovely cradle of humanity, perhaps hoping to return someday:

EarthriseNarrow.jpgThe Green Hills of Earth

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

. . .

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

-- Robert Heinlein

Posted by JohnL at 12:01 AM | Comments (3) |
April 14, 2005

Fear and Loathing in Disneyworld

I wonder if Rob the Llamabutcher is in any of these pictures?

Do these people look like they're having fun?

(Via BoingBoing).

Posted by JohnL at 12:02 AM | Comments (1) |
April 06, 2005

Those Sneaky Shopping Malls

I wonder if Virginia Postrel has seen this article in Slate yet (not sure how long the link will be viable).

From the opening sentence, Andrew Blum's article drips with condecension and scorn on commercially-motivated style (all emphases mine):

Like insecure teenagers, malls keep changing their style.

Once you get past his sarcasm, you actually learn that malls are updating their style, adding open-air plazas, sidewalks and street-side parking, and re-dubbing themselves "lifestyle centers." (I've been to one of those centers a few times here in Plano, called Legacy Town Center (or The Shops at Legacy). A near-perfect model of New Urbanist design if there can be one). A good thing, especially for a lefty writer at Slate, no? Well, actually, no:

[W]hile these new malls may appear to be public space, they're not public at all—at least if you want to do anything but shop. They represent a bait-and-switch routine on the part of developers, one that exchanges the public realm for the commercial one.

Got that? The commercial realm is exclusive of the public. It doesn't matter whether the style conforms to all the objectives of the (largely leftist) New Urbanism, it's all just a bait-and-switch routine because the developers want you to spend money in their shops.

Hmmm. I'm confused -- are developers just supposed to create these little New Urban oases without any thought of commerce? Does Blum's tone mean that he thinks the big sprawling suburban mall is better than this kind of development? Hold that thought -- next he goes on a walking tour of a few lifestyle centers and manages to get in a very subtle dig at Starbucks:

Parking my rented Chevy in front of a big-box emporium called Barbeques Galore, I walked through the arched portals that decorate the marketplace entrance. Inside, there were restaurants and stores lining a winding and narrow outdoor pedestrian street that opened up onto a series of little plazas. Padded wicker chairs were strewn about in a studied, casual way, and a huge fieldstone fireplace had benches built into it for those cool desert nights. This was a delightful place for a Frappuccino....

[At another lifestyle center], it immediately felt like a real, bustling neighborhood. The sidewalks were shaded from the sun by flowered trellises, and the streets narrowed at the corners to give pedestrians an implied right of way. An urban plaza with a good café and a band shell provided a central gathering place.

Blum seems uncomfortable with the success of this kind of development, but fortunately he recognizes and acknowledges the irony of commercial developers implementing New Urbanism:

This is civic life in America, circa 2005, and it's spreading....

[Old-fashioned indoor malls] turn their backs to their surroundings and concentrate activity in and on themselves. By contrast, lifestyle centers gesture toward their environments....

More incredibly, lifestyle centers do all the things that urban planners have promoted for years as ways of counteracting sprawl: squeeze more into less space, combine a mix of activities, and employ a fine-grained street grid to create a public realm—a "sidewalk ballet," in Jane Jacobs' alluring phrase. The irony is almost too perfect: Malls are now being designed to resemble the downtown commercial districts they replaced. What sweet vindication for urban sophisticates!

But now we get to the core of his concern, the fact that these developments are privately-owned, "carefully insulated from the messiness of public life," in his words. Blum has issues with the lifestyle centers' codes of conduct:

The list of forbidden activities includes "non-commercial expressive activity"—not to mention "excessive staring" and "taking photos, video or audio recording of any store, product, employee, customer or officer." "Photos of shopping party with shopping center décor, as a backdrop," however, are permitted.

Finally, his thesis, buried at the end:

There's something a bit unhealthy about faux public places designed to attract rich people and make them feel comfortable. (At least the traditional mall didn't try to hide the fact that it was a shopping center.) The lifestyle center is a bizarre outgrowth of the suburban mentality: People want public space, even if making that space private is the only way to get it.

There's so much wrong with that, I just don't know where to start.

Would it be healthy instead to create faux public places to attract poor people and make them comfortable? Or is it OK to create "authentic" public places to attract rich people? Are New Urbanist developments only to be allowed in the central business district of an existing city? Would it be OK if the money to develop these lifestyle centers was public money rather than private?

Well, go read it yourself. Some people are just impossible to please.

Posted by JohnL at 11:36 PM | Comments (0) |
April 05, 2005

Art of Industrial Design

Virginia Postrel points to a fascinating site that mines old patents for examples of striking industrial design. They have a "what's new" blog, too, which I have added to the "Between Planets" section of the blogroll.

I also found a mother lode of incredible early aircraft designs via the site.

Some examples in the extended entry:




Posted by JohnL at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) |
April 01, 2005

Of Naked Emperors and Modern Art

I am not much of an expert on the modern visual arts. I trained in college as a performing musician (classical organ), so I feel much more comfortable discussing musical aesthetics.

When it comes to the visual arts, I like representational paintings, abstract sculptures, and modern architecture. But I don't like any art that needs a written explanation of its "concept" (this includes music, too, btw).

That's why I laughed out loud when I saw this Peter Bagge cartoon in my print version of Reason last year.

Bagge is a polarizing comic artist; you either love or hate his strips. In this sense, he is like many modern artists. On page 2 of this strip, he says what I have long thought about contemporary "fine" art:

My feelings toward the contemporary fine art world have always been a mix of bemusement, resentment, and contempt. 95% of what they're hyping is pure crap yet if you dare to say as much out loud you'll be looked upon as a clueless Philistine.

He points out that much of modern art criticism discounts the value of "craftsmanship," since those "self-appointed arbiters of taste feel compelled to denigrate anything that the average shmuck can recognize as quality work."

This issue exists in all arts, not just the contemporary ones. 2Blowhards touched on this with their brief acknowledgement of Julia Childs' passing last year:

By knocking the snobbery out of French cooking and bringing her own enthusiasm and her wonderfully eccentric character into living rooms, she made class and taste accessible and attractive to millions. The food revolution that has transformed middle- and highbrow American eating owes no one a greater debt.

I'm glad that technology and a prosperous economy allow more and more of us normal people to not only enjoy, but learn and practice arts that were once the sole province of artisans and artists or their wealthy patrons.

Posted by JohnL at 12:35 AM | Comments (2) |
March 23, 2005

Vintage Erotica

Via Rocket Jones, a very cool site featuring some pictures of lovely young ladies from early in the twentieth century. Even if you aren't interested in the pictures, you should check out the site layout -- the music and interactive interface. If you're not careful, you can even tear pages out of the photo album. As Ted says, this is a really well done site.

NSFW, but in a classy manner.

Posted by JohnL at 11:27 PM | Comments (2) |
March 17, 2005

Calypso Louie

Nation of Islam firebrand Louis Farrakhan was once-upon-a-time a calypso singer known as "The Charmer." One of his 1950s albums, Calypsos From The West Indies, contained a real gem of a song: Is She Is, Or Is She Ain't?, a song about a transsexual. I kid you not.

Where did I learn this? Well, I first heard it on James Lileks' third online installment of The Diner. I couldn't believe it, frankly, so I googled around until I had confirmed its authenticity.

If you want to sing along with any other of Calypso Louie's hits, click here.

Posted by JohnL at 11:55 PM | Comments (0) |

What is Glamour?

Virginia Postrel asked this question a long time ago, though I didn't answer her at the time.

Her statement the other day that she's adding a section on Glamour to her website reminded me to finally take a crack at answering her old question.

As a first step in defining glamour, I would point to one woman who clearly exemplifies it: Audrey Hepburn. I haven't seen her in many films, but was struck by her amazing, classically glamourous beauty in Roman Holiday, which my wife and I rented a few months ago.

Her character in the movie is a princess who tries to escape public scrutiny for a day to enjoy Rome as a normal person. The interesting thing is that, even when her character's hair is mussed and she is wearing ordinary clothes, there is an aura of glamour about her. Something of a casual confidence and poise that is hinted at. She appears just as comfortable later in the movie, when dressed in full royal regalia.

So for me glamour connotes more than just flashy or expensive beauty. It encompasses an underlying confidence or ease of manner that shows in all kinds of situations (common and formal both).

How's that?

Posted by JohnL at 11:20 PM | Comments (0) |
March 15, 2005

Selection Fatigue

Today, Virginia Postrel talks about too many choices on her blog and at Forbes. More accurately, she deconstructs the negative take on freedom of choice propounded in Barry Schwartz's recent The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, as applied to the current debate on giving Americans more control over their Social Security.

In his book, Schwartz takes a hard look at the multiplication of choices available to Americans, and contends that the overload on our psyches requires us to eliminate choice. According to the Publisher's Weekly excerpt at Amazon:

Like Thoreau and the band Devo, psychology professor Schwartz provides ample evidence that we are faced with far too many choices on a daily basis, providing an illusion of a multitude of options when few honestly different ones actually exist. The conclusions Schwartz draws will be familiar to anyone who has flipped through 900 eerily similar channels of cable television only to find that nothing good is on. Whether choosing a health-care plan, choosing a college class or even buying a pair of jeans, Schwartz, drawing extensively on his own work in the social sciences, shows that a bewildering array of choices floods our exhausted brains, ultimately restricting instead of freeing us. We normally assume in America that more options ("easy fit" or "relaxed fit"?) will make us happier, but Schwartz shows the opposite is true, arguing that having all these choices actually goes so far as to erode our psychological well-being. Part research summary, part introductory social sciences tutorial, part self-help guide, this book offers concrete steps on how to reduce stress in decision making. Some will find Schwartz's conclusions too obvious, and others may disagree with his points or find them too repetitive, but to the average lay reader, Schwartz's accessible style and helpful tone is likely to aid the quietly desperate.

As Ms. Postrel points out, Schwartz does not prescribe any governmental policy solutions to this perceived problem in his book, but in a recent op-ed on Social Security, he wrote: "[w]hether people are choosing jam in a grocery store or essay topics in a college class, the more options people have, the less likely they are to make a choice."

In her Forbes article, Virginia examines the experiment supporting Schwartz's "jam" thesis and discovers that he has conveniently omitted one of the three outcomes -- the one that would undermine his argument about Social Security. According to Ms. Postrel's summary of the experiment, the subjects had to select a chocolate from a group of Godiva chocolates, based on the name and appearance of each type of chocolate. One half had only 6 chocolates to choose from; the other half selected from 30. Then, half of each group (i.e., a quarter of the overall subjects) received the chocolate they'd picked, while the other half got a different sample, which was chosen for them by the experimenter.

The results showed that the people choosing from the group of 6 who received what they wanted were most satisfied. The ones receiving the chocolate they chose out of the group of 30 were less satisfied, as they were worried they hadn't selected the best. But the result omitted by Schwartz was that the group who received the chocolate chosen for them by the experimenter were the least satisfied of all.

Kind of knocks the legs out from under the one-size-fits-all ponzi scheme we have for Social Security right now, doesn't it?

I think it important to note that at some level I sympathize with Schwartz's thesis that we are faced with many many choices, and that learning to distinguish where there may be no real difference can cause fatigue. But I am not a passive consumer. When word-of-mouth fails, I can educate myself online, whether shopping for the best combination of price and features in a gas grill or checking out reviews at on digital cameras. Virginia specifically points this capability out in her Forbes article as an entrepreneurial opportunity. Services like's reader reviews and, heck, blogs help give us new means of making informed choices.

The only real frustration I have with new choices is when they eliminate some of my old ones. But that's just the looming old fogey in me. And, ending on this personal note, I can state with certainty that my family is not afraid of choices. Check out the toothpaste we keep in our bathroom drawers:

Toothpaste Choice.jpg

Posted by JohnL at 11:13 PM | Comments (3) |
January 31, 2005

Life's Too Short

Recently, Random's thoughts about his girl child's fourth birthday prompted me to muse about the passage of time.

Michele Catalano recently posted some similar thoughts of her own on the subject.

Last night, I found this video of a hilarious (but unaired) XBOX ad that really encapsulates the feeling I've been having recently. (Via New Links).

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) |
January 27, 2005

Nostalgia Unlimited

Graham at Point2Point points out this archive of colorful illustrations from the 1940s and 1950s. Looks like the kind of place where Lileks would feel right at home.

Posted by JohnL at 10:14 PM | Comments (0) |

Auschwitz +60

Kathy the Cake Eater has a thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz today.

Posted by JohnL at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) |
January 23, 2005

Crisis for Conservatives!


I'm sure this particular issue has not received the attention it properly deserves!

Write your congressmen!


I mean it!

Forward this to everyone in your address book!

I really, really mean it! This is so much more important than Kid Rock and Spongebob!

</sarcasm ends>

Via Rand Simberg, with whom I agree 100 percent on this.

I stopped using cursive in eighth grade. For quick notetaking I use a modified (and largely illegible to others) hybrid of print and script. Whenever I have tried to "fancy up" a thank you note by writing it in cursive, it looks like an eighth-grader's messy writing. Much better to print legibly than to adhere to a pointless old tradition.

I do almost all writing (including outlining and drafting, when applicable) on a keyboard these days. I occasionally plot out visual works (slideshows, web pages) with pen and ink, but do all content at the computer.

I say give the kids typing lessons for most of the time spent on cursive, and use just a small amount of time to teach them how to read cursive, which is still a valuable skill (the reading, that is). Let them learn it with calligraphy as an elective for occasional use. Otherwise, pitch it overboard.

Posted by JohnL at 10:44 PM | Comments (1) |
January 20, 2005

7 Word Movie Reviews

Nothing much tonight. Lots to write about but no energy. The stress of the week has strangled my muse.

Here's a link to Michele, who came up with the idea of summarizing your favorite movie in exactly seven words -- no more, no less. At last count, she had well over 400 comments (2 by me).

My movie, in seven words:

Jail. Mission. Reunion. Concert. Car Chase. Jail.

Know which one it is?

Posted by JohnL at 09:42 PM | Comments (9) |
January 19, 2005

Der Ring des Niebelungen

Via Crooked Timber, yet another reason (#957?) to love the Internet:

I'm not a huge fan of Wagner, but the Goethe Institute has prepared an interactive multimedia site covering his Ring of the Niebelungen. While aimed at youth, the site is quite rewarding (and presented in German or English).

I paged through some of the comic strip version in German and found it quite entertaining and interesting. This would definitely be a great resource for anyone seeking greater familiarity with the Ring, with the German language, or both.

Posted by JohnL at 11:51 PM | Comments (1) |
January 18, 2005

Parents, Be Good Sports

I coach my sons' recreational soccer teams. My daughter (age 5) played soccer for the first time in the Fall in a different rec league. A referee made a good call in one of her games that led to the other team's not getting a goal. At the end of the game, which they tied, the other team's coach was telling his little girls that it was all right, they won anyway, and the score was really one for his team, one for their opponents, and one for the ref.

Five year olds.


Fortunately, most parents, coaches, and refs over the five years that I've been coaching have been very positive. They want the kids to learn to play and to play their best, but only as a means of having fun and getting some exercise. They have not been fanatical about winning or ashamed of losing.

So I'm glad to see that Hockey Canada has assembled a set of wonderful public service announcements to drive home the message that parents should be good sports.

If you've got a fast internet connection, check out the videos here.

The kids are watching. And they repeat what they see and hear.

(link via Bad Jocks).

Posted by JohnL at 09:41 PM | Comments (2) |
January 13, 2005

Bumper Sticker "Wisdom"

I saw this slogan on the bumper of a car this morning: Some Things Exist Whether Or Not You Believe In Them. It was black with an eldritch white script. Made me think of something a neo-pagan or wiccan would sport.

I usually don't parse bumper stickers too closely, but this one really got the neuronic flywheel spinning. I'm sure it was meant to assert a reality beyond this one, whether or not you believe in it. But if you take it literally, it really describes nothing mystical at all.

I mean, the Internet exists, whether or not I believe in it.

And that table exists, whether or not I believe in it.

Her car exists, whether or not I believe in it.

You get the idea. I guess you could just say that existence exists, whether or not you believe in it.

Posted by JohnL at 10:03 PM | Comments (0) |
January 12, 2005


Today's Geekpress contained a link to this fascinating article explaining how to write English like Chinese (Hanzi or Kanji).

I've been beating my head against Kanji and the Kana alphabets of Japan for the past few years. This article really enlightened me on the radical-root system for listing Chinese characters. Check it out.

Posted by JohnL at 10:47 PM | Comments (0) |
January 08, 2005

Album Cover Art

Cheesecake, electric organs -- what more could you ask for? All this and more from this great gallery of album covers (mostly from the late-50s to early 60s, judging by their look). It doesn't have Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's Whipped Cream and Other Delights, which was the raciest-looking album in my parents' collection, but I won't hold that against them.

(Via J-Walk, via RocketJones).

Posted by JohnL at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) |
January 06, 2005

Book Meme

A cool book meme (from Lintefiniel Musing aka Jen Speaks, via the Llamabutchers). Remove the names of the authors you don't have currently on your bookshelves and bold the ones you've added.

1. Michael Crichton
2. Neal Stephenson
3. Tom Clancy
4. Robert Heinlein
5. CS Lewis
6. JRR Tolkien
7. Ayn Rand
8. Larry Niven
9. Yann Martel
10. David James Duncan

Posted by JohnL at 10:36 PM | Comments (2) |

Jacko the Whacko

Everything you wanted to know (and some stuff you didn't) about the Michael Jackson creepy pedophile allegations.

Posted by JohnL at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) |
January 04, 2005

Meat Puppetry

For those of you who don't follow Neal Stephenson or SF, The Baroque Cycle is an ambitious trilogy of 900-plus page novels, all set during the height of the Enlightenment in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. I have just finished reading Quicksilver, the first volume, which Stephenson painstakingly wrote in longhand on cotton parchment with a fountain pen (to get into the historical mindframe).

There are no significant spoilers here, but if you haven't read any of it yet and are sensitive to learning any details ahead of time, don't read any further. The rest of this is below the fold:

Stephenson's tremendous amount of research is reflected in his obsessive attention to detail and frequent excursions from the main storyline to share some explanation of the workings of the Royal Society, the Amsterdam and London Stock Exchanges, the etymology of the word "bank" as it pertains to a place that deals in money, etc. For readers unfamiliar with Stephenson's style, these discursions will make you love him or hate him. I liked them in Cryptonomicon, and they continued to delight me here.

Throughout the first book, Stephenson acquaints us with some of the original and early members of the Royal Society and walks us through details of some of their experiments. On the 139th page of the paperback version of Quicksilver, we learn of an experiment conducted by John Wilkins and Robert Hooke to learn how the human mouth forms phonemes:

...Charles Comstock was rousted from bed and ordered to dissect the corpse, as a lesson in anatomy (and as a way of getting rid of it). Meanwhile, Hooke and Wilkins connected the head's windpipe to a large set of fireplace-bellows, so that they could blow air through his voice-box. Daniel was detailed to saw off the top of the skull and get rid of the brains so that he could reach in through the back and get hold of the soft palate, tongue, and other meaty bits responsible for making sounds. With Daniel thus acting as a sort of meat puppeteer, and Hooke manipulating the lips and nostrils, and Wilkins plying the bellows, they were able to make the head speak...."

Though I wasn't much of a fan of theirs, the old eighties alterna-punk band "The Meat Puppets" came immediately to mind as I read that, and I wondered whether this was a hidden tribute to them. After exhaustive Googling, I couldn't find a plausible direct link between Stephenson and that band, but I did learn of the etymology of the phrase "meat puppet," which seems to have been invented by William Gibson in his groundbreaking Neuromancer (in reference to Molly's original profession as a sense-blocked prostitute).

Now, Neuromancer came out about the same time as The Meat Puppets debuted in 1980 -- could there be a link? Hmmm.

In any case, based on interviews, Stephenson is clearly aware of Gibson, and I can't help thinking this may have been a deeply embedded tribute by him to the father of cyberpunk. Although this book will provide many rewarding nuggets like this for obsessive geeks to research, it should also appeal even to those with just a casual interest in history, as it makes this exciting time of intellectual ferment come to life.

Highly recommended.

Posted by JohnL at 09:33 PM | Comments (2) |
January 03, 2005

Religion Article Delayed

I have to apologize that my earlier-promised essay on religion has stalled. I thank everyone who replied to the poll, but I'm encountering one of the great frustrations with blogging: I keep finding that others are already writing on the same subject matter and stimulating some great commentary. At this point, I don't know what I can add.

I'll provide my answers to my poll, along with some general commentary soon. In the meantime, check out Naked Villainy, Bill, Rand Simberg, John Scalzi, and Timothy Sandefur (and guests) for some thought-provoking material.

Posted by JohnL at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) |
December 19, 2004

Those Lexus Commercials

You know -- the ones with the big bows and obnoxious yuppies?

They're really, really dumb.

Posted by JohnL at 11:02 PM | Comments (2) |
December 16, 2004

Multiple Movie Viewings

Ted asks which movies I could watch over and over and over again.

Well, I'm not sure if once a year every year counts, but each Christmas season we watch:

A Christmas Carol (usually the weekend after Thanksgiving)
Elf (a new tradition in our house)
Miracle on 34th Street (the original B&W version)
It's A Wonderful Life (on Christmas Eve)

Now, for the other, non-seasonal movies:

Star Wars
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
When Harry Met Sally

Posted by JohnL at 08:06 PM | Comments (4) |
December 09, 2004

Religion Preview

One reason I've been blogging so lightly this week is that I have been reading intensely (with all marginal notes and some comparative translations) the book of Job for the Disciple I bible-study class I have been taking with my wife.

While I've read most of the bible many times in the past, and I had some fairly sophisticated theology classes at my Jesuit high school, it seems my current stage in life has opened me (and closed me) to bible stories in a way unlike any earlier time in my life.

Job is undoubtedly one of my favorites, as it addresses (without really answering) one of the most logical arguments against an omniscient, omnipotent, merciful God: namely, why do bad things happen to good people? I'm not really satisfied with the [non]-answer, but I appreciate the fact that this struggle to understand the meaning of things stretches back thousands of years.

Posted by JohnL at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) |

Feather-Light Fare

Tonight's menu contains but a light snack. Feather-light, you might say. (Via Ilyka Damen).

Posted by JohnL at 10:19 PM | Comments (0) |
December 06, 2004

Religion Quiz Reminder

I would like to thank those readers (including the best kind -- those I haven't heard from before) who have replied to the questions on religion I posed yesterday.

If you haven't read or replied yet, please take a few minutes to do so.


Posted by JohnL at 09:56 PM | Comments (0) |
December 05, 2004

Religion Quiz

Sorry for the cryptic nature of this quiz, and the lack of much context, but I've been giving a lot of thought to what will be a fairly lengthy essay on religion. If you wouldn't mind posting a comment or sending me an email on the following questions, I would appreciate your input (if you want to remain anonymous, please let me know). Even if you're an atheist, your input is welcomed and encouraged on many of these questions.

Note to regular readers: please spread the word on this and point as many people here as possible - the larger the sample set, the better, even though I have no pretensions of this being a formal survey.

1. Do you believe in God/gods?
2. What religion/philosophy/tradition, if any, were you raised in? (If your answer to question 1 was "no," you can now skip to question 8).
3. What religion, if any, do you currently observe/practice?
4. If your answer to 3 differs from 2, please explain why you changed.
5. How frequently do you pray?
6. How frequently do you attend church/temple/synagogue/mosque?
7. What is the object of your religion (i.e., why do you believe what you do, what do you hope to get out of your belief)?
8. What do you think is the purpose of religion (broadly defined as an organized faith in the supernatural), in general?
9. Describe your understanding of the basic principles of Christianity.
10. Describe your understanding of the basic principles of Judaism.
11. Optional: Describe your understanding of the basic principles of your religion (if neither Christianity nor Judaism) or of any other religion that you would like to comment upon.

Update: Just to be clear, there's no obligation to answer all 11 questions - answer whatever you're comfortable with. I'm most interested in general comments on 9 and 10, and asked the others mainly to frame those two questions.

Posted by JohnL at 07:20 PM | Comments (9) |
December 01, 2004

He Said She Said

Annika has an amusing poem up this week.

A word of warning to married men, though. Do not laugh out loud at this one anywhere within earshot of your [perfect-in-every-way-love-you-very-much-dear] wives.

All I can say is that I am truly glad I'm not married to the stereotypical nag. My wife is more of the "Very Cool" wife model, according to Ted.

Posted by JohnL at 11:04 PM | Comments (1) |

Awful Cosmetic Makeover

Via Naked Villainy, a frightening picture of Paris Hilton at The Mirthful Ones.

Now Ms. Hilton was never really my type. But at least in her blond-ditz Simple Life incarnation, she was pretty in a blond-ditz sort of way. But give her trout-pout collagen lips and a stark black wig (or is that a bad dye and cut?) and she looks simply awful.

I wonder how long until her entries at Awful Plastic Surgery are updated?

Posted by JohnL at 08:40 PM | Comments (0) |
November 28, 2004

Da Vinci Code Reviews

Michele at A Small Victory has posted a review of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

I posted my take on the book and some thoughts on religion over at Freespace.

Posted by JohnL at 10:39 AM | Comments (0) |
October 15, 2004

Another 80s Playlist

Random Penseur in comments to this post mentioned some more stereotypically "80s" groups than the rock groups I listed.

I couldn't find my 80s "pop" mix in the car, but poking around in iTunes, I put together as much of the mix as possible from memory:

1. Miami Vice Theme - Jan Hammer
2. Call Me - Blondie
3. Video Killed the Radio Star - The Buggles
4. The One Thing - INXS
5. Fascination - Human League
6. Obsession - Animotion
7. Cars - Gary Numan
8. Doctor Doctor - Thompson Twins
9. Metro - Berlin
10. On the Loose - Saga
11. Red Skies at Night - The Fixx
12. I Ran - A Flock of Seagulls
13. Beverly Hills Cop Theme - Harold Faltermeyer
14. Safety Dance - Men Without Hats
15. Airlane - Gary Numan
16. Whip It - Devo
17. She Blinded Me With Science - Thomas Dolby
18. Don't Change - INXS
19. Astradyne - Ultravox

I just burned it and now have a replacement disc!

Most people have probably heard of many of these but probably not all. Airlane and Astradyne in particular are two obscure but great synthesizer-based instrumentals that perfectly capture the peak of the analog synth sound before "digital" became the next big thing.

Update: I should note again that Ace set this meme in motion with his pop quiz the other day.

Posted by JohnL at 11:41 PM | Comments (5) |
October 14, 2004

80s Pop Culture Sample

Ace put up a pop-culture quiz yesterday (I'm not telling my score, except to say that even though the questions <whiny teen voice>weren't fair</whiny teen voice>, I did much better than Robert).

This isn't a quiz, but more of a music sampler. I put together a road-trip CD earlier this year when I took my sons to the USS Lexington. It's simply entitled "80s Rock." Kind of a dream mix of the rock songs of my youth to make a 9-hour drive go more quickly (and many of these weren't necessarily my favorites back then). This isn't 80s pop, a separate CD of which I burned, but rock.

What would be your "road trip" mix of 80s rock? Let me know.

Open the extended entry to view the song list.

1. Tom Sawyer - Rush
2. Jukebox Hero - Foreigner
3. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) - ACDC
4. The Cradle Will Rock - Van Halen
5. Games People Play - Alan Parsons Project
6. Sultans of Swing - Dire Straits
7. Baker Street - Gerry Rafferty
8. Ah Leah! - Donnie Iris
9. Children of the Sun - Billy Thorpe
10. You've Got Another Thing Comin' - Judas Priest
11. Eyes Without a Face - Billy Idol
12. Life is Just a Fantasy - Aldo Nova
13. Synchronicity 2 - Police
14. Magic Power - Triumph
15. Take Me Home - Phil Collins (remix with Peter Gabriel and Sting)

Posted by JohnL at 08:29 AM | Comments (13) |
October 12, 2004

Photos From the Front

I've seen these WWI color photos in a couple spots now (most recently at Point2Point).

I linked to a similar collection, along with links to descriptions of the color photography ("autochrome") process back at the end of March.

As I pointed out in that post, lest we think of the autochrome process as "primitive," the method of taking three greyscale pictures with three colored filters and then projecting the images through colored lenses is essentially the same technique used by the Mars Exploration Rovers to create color images today.

Posted by JohnL at 08:33 PM | Comments (0) |
August 10, 2004

Go Ask Arice

This striking Japanese girl who goes by the name Glass Doll portrays a few of the characters from one of my favorite classic stories, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (Online version here).

Take a look at her main and schedule pages, and you'll also see some Engrish ("Plofile" instead of "Profile" and "Dead or Arive" instead of "Dead or Alive" to name a couple). Of course I'm sure she would get a greater kick out of my lame attempts at rendering Kanji or even just Kana.

Click through her various galleries and you'll see that her schtick is enacting movie and video game characters. Geek paradise.

Hat tip: BoingBoing.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (1) |
August 05, 2004

Memory Lane

Again, forwarding information you would find if you only surfed Gravity Lens every day, take a trip down memory lane, circa 1978, through the pages of the Sears catalog, thanks to RetroCrush.

The pictures are great, but the commentary's even better. Enjoy.

Posted by JohnL at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) |
August 02, 2004

My Ten Books

Got this idea from Chan, who read about it at normblog.

Paraphrasing Norm's criteria, these are not necessarily the ten most important works I've ever read (I suppose by some "objective" standard) but instead the books that have had a "marked and lasting influence on the way I think about the world." These are books I find myself re-reading periodically, as opposed to others that go straight to half-price books.

I'll try to follow Chan's pattern placing them in the order they entered my reading life:

1. The Bible, (I like the Jerusalem Bible translation)
2. Cosmos, Carl Sagan
3. Tunnel in the Sky, Robert Heinlein
4. Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (does it count as 1, 3, or 6?)
5. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
6. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
7. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter
8. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein
9. Lucifer's Hammer, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
10. The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell

Wonder what that says about me?

Update: I added links to Amazon, so you can check editorial and reader reviews.

Posted by JohnL at 08:56 PM | Comments (4) |
July 29, 2004

Very Baddiwad My Droogies

O my brothers, have you got a malenky malchick or devotchka who likes the old in-out in-out, like lubbilubbing? Are you tired of the like sarky chumble of the little bratchnys? Do the little kiddie widdies have any problems with drugs or are they puffing like on the cancers?

Hear me now, o my brothers: A real like horror show place for pee and em to send them off to. Not a Staja, but better.

Now if you don't mind, it's time to slosshy some Ludwig van Carlos, my droogies.

(Hat tip: Hit and Run).

P.S. Having problems remembering your Nadsat? Here's a glossary.

Posted by JohnL at 08:39 PM | Comments (3) |
July 28, 2004

Frodo Bogart


This represents the best argument I think I have ever seen for a vibrant public domain. It technically infringes the trademarks and copyrights of Warner Bros and the Tolkien estate, at a minimum. But who cares?

Humphrey Bogart as Frodo Baggins in a brilliant 9-minute rendition of The Lord of the Rings. Particularly inspired -- Peter Lorre as Gollum at around 6:30 into the film.

I bet even Robert the Llamabutcher would enjoy this.

Hat tip: Chalybeous.

Posted by JohnL at 10:37 PM | Comments (3) |

Channeling Lileks

A great photojournal of a June 1968 trip to Disneyland.

Hat tip: BoingBoing.

Posted by JohnL at 10:04 PM | Comments (2) |
June 21, 2004

Movie Meme Propagation

I saw this first at The Llamabutchers. It goes like this. Take this list of the 100 top-grossing movies of all time and bold the titles of the ones you have seen. I am following the lead of others and bolding the ones I remember mainly from having seen them in the theater, and italicizing the ones I primarily remember having seen on the small screen (VHS/DVD/Cable, etc.):

1. Titanic (1997) $600,779,824
2. Star Wars (1977) $460,935,665
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) $434,949,459
4. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) $431,065,444 - Darth Vader is nicknamed "Annie?" Aw c'mon! (Cue music: "When I'm stuck a day, That's gray, And lonely, I just stick out my chin, And Grin, And Say, Oh! Tomorrow, Tomorrow. . . ")
5. Spider-Man (2002) $403,706,375
6. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) $377,019,252 - I reserve final judgment until the extended edition comes out on DVD.
7. Passion of the Christ, The (2004) $370,025,697
8. Jurassic Park (1993) $356,784,000
9. Shrek 2 (2004) $356,211,000 - Worth it just to see the Fairy Godmother's musical number. Top-notch satire of the Mouse-house.
10. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002) $340,478,898 - Ditto Robert the Llamabutcher here - "Evidently the Cliffnotes didn't cover Farimir very well."
11. Finding Nemo (2003) $339,714,367
12. Forrest Gump (1994) $329,691,196
13. Lion King, The (1994) $328,423,001
14. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) $317,557,891 - You don't have to be a wizard or a kid to enjoy the magical world of Harry Potter!
15. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001) $313,837,577 - truest of the three to the original works.
16. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) $310,675,583
17. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) $309,125,409 - Again, echoing Robert the Llamabutcher here: "Die, Ewoks! Die!"
18. Independence Day (1996) $306,124,059
19. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) $305,411,224
20. Sixth Sense, The (1999) $293,501,675
21. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) $290,158,751
22. Home Alone (1990) $285,761,243
23. Matrix Reloaded, The (2003) $281,492,479
24. Shrek (2001) $267,652,016
25. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) $261,970,615
26. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) $260,031,035
27. Jaws (1975) $260,000,000
28. Monsters, Inc. (2001) $255,870,172
29. Batman (1989) $251,188,924
30. Men in Black (1997) $250,147,615
31. Toy Story 2 (1999) $245,823,397
32. Bruce Almighty (2003) $242,589,580
33. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) $242,374,454
34. Twister (1996) $241,700,000
35. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) $241,437,427
36. Ghost Busters (1984) $238,600,000
37. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) $234,760,500
38. Cast Away (2000) $233,630,478
39. Lost World: Jurassic Park, The (1997) $229,074,524
40. Signs (2002) $227,965,690
41. Rush Hour 2 (2001) $226,138,454
42. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) $219,200,000
43. Ghost (1990) $217,631,306
44. Aladdin (1992) $217,350,219
45. Saving Private Ryan (1998) $216,119,491
46. Mission: Impossible II (2000) $215,397,307
47. X2 (2003) $214,948,780
48. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) $213,079,163
49. Back to the Future (1985) $210,609,762
50. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999) $205,399,422
51. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) $204,843,350
52. Exorcist, The (1973) $204,565,000
53. Mummy Returns, The (2001) $202,007,640
54. Armageddon (1998) $201,573,391 - One of the worst space-themed movies of all time, and it got the stamp of approval from NASA. Typical. (Deep Impact, while slower and sappier, was the better of the asteroid movies that year).
55. Gone with the Wind (1939) $198,655,278 - Believe it or not, I have never seen this entire movie, despite the efforts of many to convince me to see it. Sorry, but subjecting myself to the perpetuation of the myth of the "noble" southern aristocracy and their happy darkies is a colossal waste of my time.
56. Pearl Harbor (2001) $198,539,855
57. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) $197,171,806
58. Toy Story (1995) $191,800,000 - Love the simple perfection of this movie.
59. Men in Black II (2002) $190,418,803
60. Gladiator (2000) $187,670,866
61. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) $184,925,485 - Only seen parts of this. The ear-splitting singing in the woods led to the wonderful spoof in Shrek of Princess Fiona singing until the songbird blew up.
62. Dances with Wolves (1990) $184,208,848
63. Batman Forever (1995) $184,031,112
64. Fugitive, The (1993) $183,875,760
65. Ocean's Eleven (2001) $183,405,771
66. What Women Want (2000) $182,805,123
67. Perfect Storm, The (2000) $182,618,434
68. Liar Liar (1997) $181,395,380 - The "my dad's a liar/lawyer" line is one of my favorites.
69. Grease (1978) $181,360,000
70. Jurassic Park III (2001) $181,166,115
71. Mission: Impossible (1996) $180,965,237
72. Planet of the Apes (2001) $180,011,740 - I don't know why.
73. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) $179,870,271 - I haven't seen this and don't really plan to. I've heard it's mostly an extended scream by Kate Capshaw.
74. Pretty Woman (1990) $178,406,268
75. Tootsie (1982) $177,200,000
76. Top Gun (1986) $176,781,728
77. There's Something About Mary (1998) $176,483,808
78. Ice Age (2002) $176,387,405
79. Crocodile Dundee (1986) $174,635,000
80. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) $173,585,516
81. Elf (2003) $173,381,405 - If you missed this last year, be sure to catch it this Christmas. Very warm-hearted with several knowing nods to its influences (esp. the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials many of us grew up with).
82. Air Force One (1997) $172,888,056
83. Rain Man (1988) $172,825,435
84. Apollo 13 (1995) $172,071,312
85. Matrix, The (1999) $171,383,253
86. Beauty and the Beast (1991) $171,301,428
87. Tarzan (1999) $171,085,177 - Eh. Better than a lot of the recent Disney dreck, but not by much.
88. Beautiful Mind, A (2001) $170,708,996
89. Chicago (2002) $170,684,505
90. Three Men and a Baby (1987) $167,780,960
91. Meet the Parents (2000) $166,225,040 - Funny, but I couldn't figure out why he would marry into that family after the abuse he took. The sequel looks funny.
92. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)$165,500,000
93. Hannibal (2001) $165,091,464
94. Catch Me If You Can (2002) $164,435,221
95. Big Daddy (1999) $163,479,795
96. Sound of Music, The (1965) $163,214,286
97. Batman Returns (1992) $162,831,698
98. Bug's Life, A (1998) $162,792,677
99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) $161,963,000
100. Waterboy, The (1998) $161,487,252

Posted by JohnL at 07:08 PM | Comments (4) |
June 02, 2004

Ominous Parallels?

When I was a real Randroid back in college, I slogged my way through Leonard Peikoff's 1982 book, Ominous Parallels. The thesis of the book is that America was (is?) vulnerable to a fascist takeover in much the same way the Weimar Republic was susceptible to takeover by the Nazis as a result of our worship of unreason, demand for self-sacrifice, and elevation of society above the individual.

These days, I am much more optimistic, and think that external fascism is a greater threat than any sort of rot from within. And I think our dynamic culture is much less susceptible to authoritarianism than it was in, say, the 1930s.

When I read this (I presume the picture is of the American Idol stage, but am not sure since I haven't ever seen the show), I couldn't help thinking of Peikoff's thesis again.

Posted by JohnL at 09:37 PM | Comments (2) |
March 31, 2004

Arrogant Protestant Ignorance On Parade

I'm not a Roman Catholic (more a Deist Methodist), but I would think this were offensive if it weren't so laughable. (Hat tip: Fr. Jim Tucker who found it at Ship of Fools' Fruitcake Zone).

On a related note, Belle Waring at Crooked Timber links to a wicked riff by Michael Berube on the Left Behind series.

(I have to be careful not to be too scathing as I know several otherwise smart and educated friends and colleagues who have read those stories and not only liked them, but found them to be spiritually meaningful. For a more fun story about the end times, I instead would recommend this latter-day Heinlein).

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |

Paris or Marge?

When I saw the title to this post at Transterrestrial Musings, I thought for sure that Rand had also seen the March 29 entry at Gravity Lens (probably will be archived here soon), regarding the Maxim covers that simultaneously featured both Marge Simpson and Paris Hilton. Apparently, the Marge version is selling out faster than the Paris version. Maybe there is some hope for Western Civilization.

Posted by JohnL at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) |
March 29, 2004

Classical Readings

Father Jim Tucker, a libertarian Catholic priest in the diocese of Arlington, VA (where I lived during law school) points to this site, where you can hear audio clips of Greek and Latin classics with their original "classical" pronunciations (as I learned them in high school).

Posted by JohnL at 11:30 PM | Comments (0) |
March 25, 2004

I Wonder if Pee Wee Likes to Pluck His Twanger?

I used to like Pee Wee's playhouse, especially after staying up all Friday night on a few occasions back in college.

Now Paul Reubens (a/k/a Pee Wee) is back in the news, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor obscenity charge in exchange for dismissal of the more serious child pornography charge leveled against him because of some questionable photographs seized from his home three years ago. Under the terms of the deal, Pee Wee cannot have unsupervised contact with minors, must register as a sex offender, pay a $100 fine, and enter counseling.

That's all just background for you to watch this neat little gem of children's programming.

Posted by JohnL at 08:53 PM | Comments (0) |
March 22, 2004

Fifty-Word Fiction

Last week, Ted at RocketJones pointed to this site featuring 50-word fictional works.

Here's my entry (logging in at 49 words, including the title):

The Sixth Republic

Beautiful bodies on the beach -- the Riviera.
Then, the bomb.
Like Byzantium's Hagia Sophia, Notre Dame is now a mosque.
As with Spain (now Andalusia), we could have fought.
We didn't.
France has its sixth republic: La Republique Islamique.
Baggy burkhas on the beach -- the Riviera.

I've been trying to expand this to a novella or novel length, but to little success so far. The bracketing lines of this story come from this image contrasted with this one.

Posted by JohnL at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) |

It Ain't Over 'Til. . .

The London Royal Opera House recently fired Rubenesque American soprano Deborah Voigt from a role in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos that would have required her to wear a small black evening dress. This has led to some interesting but predictable hand-wringing over merit versus looks. After all, isn't opera all about the music?

Well, no, not exactly. This article cites a couple of good reasons that an opera company may legitimately exclude a plus-sized singer: if the role calls for a starving or sickly character (such as Mimi in La Boheme), or if the staging calls for active movements (say, up and down stairs on stage).

[Warning! Gratuitous name-dropping moment: please note the mention in the Miami Herald piece of my childhood friend Laura Claycomb, a rising star in the opera world, with whom I had the pleasure of singing and touring in my old church's youth choir back in the mid-1980s].

This debate calls to mind last year's blog coverage of the report that good-looking college professors score higher on course evaluations than the more homely.

Posted by JohnL at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) |
March 01, 2004

Sad News

Lawyer, historian, and former librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin passed away on Sunday at the age of 89 from pneumonia. Obituaries here, here, and here.

I read (and quite enjoyed) his The Discoverers. A much better read than Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I am still slogging my way through. I have been meaning to read Boorstin's next two books in his intellectual history series, The Creators and The Seekers, and will now make a point of doing so. Favorite line from the New York times obit: "In the late 1960's, when antiwar protests swept the nation, he was a target of student radicals whom he denounced as 'incoherent kooks' and 'barbarians.'"

God bless him. May he rest in peace.

Posted by JohnL at 10:44 PM | Comments (0) |
February 25, 2004

Gallery of Regrettable Mags

Ever wondered what the Maxim or FHM of the 1950s looked like?

Wait no longer.

Lileks' latest: Stagworld.

Posted by JohnL at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) |
February 21, 2004

World Religions on the Net

Razib at Gene Expression ran the names of the five major world religions -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism -- through Google and evaluated the content, tone, and presentation of the first 10 hits for each. Interesting, if not completely surprising results.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 05:33 PM | Comments (0) |
February 20, 2004

Neat Poe Archive

If you've been meaning to catch up on your 19th-century-gothic reading, this is a good place to start.

Posted by JohnL at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) |

Definitive Piece on Offended Canadians

Essential Mark Steyn (via the Corner).

Posted by JohnL at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) |
February 18, 2004

A.I. Constructs and Cyborgs First

Virginia Postrel introduces the concept of dynamism versus stasism in The Future And Its Enemies by referring to the common ground found between "leftist" Jeremy Rifkin and "right-winger" Pat Buchanan in their disdain for and fear of the future.

I get used to seeing dynamist opinions expressed by libertarians almost exclusively. These days, most of the left seems to be anti-western, anti-progress. So it is interesting (and heartening) to run across a leftist site dedicated to an optimistic future achieved through technology. While the bloggers at Cyborg Democracy show a little too much comfort with a "soft" precautionary principle, they are in favor of change, and are giving a great deal of thought to many issues surrounding transhumanism.

Check it out.

Posted by JohnL at 11:28 PM | Comments (0) |
February 12, 2004

"A lot of people don't know what freedom means. I do."

Jan Cydzik survived the Nazis. Then, he suffered the Soviets. He got a $1500 reparations check from the German government and bought a grandfather clock to commemorate the three years of slave labor he performed for the Germans. The Russians haven't paid him anything. Not that he's complaining.

Read the whole thing (minimal registration required to access).

(Hat tip: Catallarchy).

Posted by JohnL at 08:42 PM | Comments (0) |
February 05, 2004

Frail Roots of Celebrity

A Trio Channel rerun tonight of a 1983 episode of Late Night With David Letterman makes Robert the Llama Butcher reminisce. (Scroll down if the link doesn't work -- I had that problem, too, until I emailed Blogger [ed. note - this post is from my Blogspot days] technical support and they fixed my permalinks right up).

I liked REM's Murmur, too, (high school for me, not college) and remember playing Radio Free Europe in my first rock band, "Call Us Radical."

It's not only interesting to see how celebrities age, but to look back and see how they started out. Robert nails this point:

This particular Letterman was rather funny, in that Michael Sipe and the rest of the Artistes just looked like some garage-band made up of Mickey-D and WalMart employees, rather than the Sages they have since become. The performance was rushed and nervous. Sipe was in his pre-bald days and just looked like the average teenage punk wanting to know if you want fries with that. Heh. Doesn't change my appreciation of the album. Does remind me of the frail roots of all celebrity. Keep that in mind the next time Bono or Babwa Streisand starts bloviating about the Way Things Ought To be.

Indeed (although I find Bono far less annoying than Babs).

Posted by JohnL at 11:00 PM | Comments (0) |

Classic Lileks

He's got a fantastic screed up today, covering everything from Captain Weenie to baby boomer "culture."

My favorite part (emphasis added):

God no. Please no. I think I speak for millions when I say that I am deathly sick of the counterculture sixties. The music, the war, the protests, all the hagiography - it's not a reflection of the era's importance but the self-importance of the generation who hung on the bus as it trundled along down the same old rutted road of history. I'm tired of hearing about the boomers' days of whine and neuroses; I'm weary of ritual genuflection to their musical icons; I'm utterly disinterested in most of the pop-cult trivia they hold so dear. We'll probably be better off when that demographic pig has been excreted from the python so we can see the era clearly without choking on the smoke.

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 09:01 PM | Comments (0) |
February 04, 2004

Is This Really Surprising?

Patrick Stewart (a/k/a weenie Captain Jean Luc Picard) opposes human exploration of outer space.

Reason: "It would take up so many resources, which I personally feel should be directed at our own planet."

Posted by JohnL at 09:18 PM | Comments (0) |
February 03, 2004

Long John Silver's

I've always liked Long John Silver's, even though Mrs. Texasbestgrok's shellfish allergy has cut down on my opportunities to visit.

Turns out they have offered a free giant shrimp to anyone asking for it on March 15, 2004, but only if NASA discovers and announces "conclusive evidence" of an ocean on Mars before February 29, 2004.

Here are the official terms of the offer, for any lawyerly types. I particularly like this line in the press release: "In the letter [to NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe], [Long John Silver's President] Davis also officially registered interest in Long John Silver's becoming the first seafood restaurant on Mars. 'It's not a matter of "if," it's just a matter of "when" human beings are able to live permanently on Mars. Long John Silver's mission is to feed people with delicious seafood wherever they are -- on earth or even outer space.'"

It may be a gimmick, but I plan to pay to sample a few of these giant shrimp as soon as they are available on February 15.

Update: I should have put a hat-tip to SFSignal in this article.

Posted by JohnL at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) |

A Different Perspective on the Superbowl

Steven den Beste always makes me think, regardless of the topic he is covering.

Predictably, much of the major blogosphere's coverage of the Superbowl has focused on Nipplegate.

By contrast, Den Beste provides a more thoughtful commentary on the importance of the [non]event.

Posted by JohnL at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) |

Metaphysical Spam

A few weeks ago, I noted the strangely poetic nature of some spam that I had received.

James Lileks works this theme to better effect in this Backfence article.

Best lines: "The purpose, I think, is to see whether or not the e-mail address is valid. If the letter doesn't bounce back, then the address is valid. It's spam designed to sense whether you exist. It's almost metaphysical in its intent."

Read and enjoy.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |

Flatulent Televangelist

Some of you may remember Robert Tilton, the smarmy televangelist who used to broadcast from Carrollton, Texas (just a 'burb or two over from here).

A good friend of mine in Iowa sent me this hilarious video of Tilton at his slimy best, with some extra sound effects. Warning -- make sure you do not have any drink in your mouth while viewing this. I will not be held responsible for any damage to monitors or keyboards if you disregard this warning.

Posted by JohnL at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) |
February 02, 2004

Just Say No

Strategy Page has a video demonstrating the effects of LSD on British troops in a test that appears to have been conducted in the early 1960s.

Posted by JohnL at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) |
January 29, 2004

Truth is Fiction

Growing up in the Cold War, I remember when I first grokked the irony of the communist party's propaganda rag being named "Truth." I wonder what old Trotsky would think if he were alive today to see the mouthpiece of the most murderous regime in human history turned into a sad imitation of the National Enquirer: UFOs, dragons, Noah's Ark, X-ray vision, and other apocryphal or mythical tales reported as fact.

Posted by JohnL at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) |
January 28, 2004

Kirk v. Spock

Check out the new Priceline commercials here.

Posted by JohnL at 09:36 PM | Comments (0) |
January 19, 2004

Dancing Robots

I meant to link to this last week, when I first saw it on Geekpress.

Amazing. Kitschy. Fun. The QRIO.

Posted by JohnL at 08:57 PM | Comments (0) |
January 13, 2004

Excellent Opinion Piece on Medicare Expansion

Scott Burns, a financial affairs columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has an excellent piece today spelling out the true impact of the recent Medicare expansion. (Free registration required. Destined for the archives in the near future).

Scott is a member of the boomer generation, but his thinking on this issue is, refreshingly, fair and clear. He calculates the bill that our current elders are presenting to my children as $43.5 trillion. He essentially restates the libertarian nugget "TANSTAAFL." At some point benefits must be decreased or taxes increased (no!) to prevent a massive default under the system.

I hope in my lifetime to see some significant extension of the human lifespan. I expect it, actually. I am ready for the future of Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire,
even its dystopian aspects.

As a consequence, I think we need to be ready to rethink our "social obligation" to our elders. Medicare and Social Security, in my mind, are unconstitutional -- they are well beyond any reasonably necessary or proper enumerated power of the federal government. But are we ready as a society to take more personal responsibility for saving, for being ready to work in our retirements, to take care of our parents and grandparents? We need to be. Fortunately, if we do see some sort of "boosterspice" in our lifetimes, we will be young and healthy enough, even at the age of 65, 70, or even 90 to continue to be active and productive citizens and not wards of the state.

Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |

Excellent Opinion Piece on Medicare Expansion

Scott Burns, a financial affairs columnist for the Dallas Morning News, has an excellent piece today spelling out the true impact of the recent Medicare expansion. (Free registration required. Destined for the archives in the near future).

Scott is a member of the boomer generation, but his thinking on this issue is, refreshingly, fair and clear. He calculates the bill that our current elders are presenting to my children as $43.5 trillion. He essentially restates the libertarian nugget "TANSTAAFL." At some point benefits must be decreased or taxes increased (no!) to prevent a massive default under the system.

I hope in my lifetime to see some significant extension of the human lifespan. I expect it, actually. I am ready for the future of Bruce Sterling's Holy Fire,
even its dystopian aspects.

As a consequence, I think we need to be ready to rethink our "social obligation" to our elders. Medicare and Social Security, in my mind, are unconstitutional -- they are well beyond any reasonably necessary or proper enumerated power of the federal government. But are we ready as a society to take more personal responsibility for saving, for being ready to work in our retirements, to take care of our parents and grandparents? We need to be. Fortunately, if we do see some sort of "boosterspice" in our lifetimes, we will be young and healthy enough, even at the age of 65, 70, or even 90 to continue to be active and productive citizens and not wards of the state.

Posted by JohnL at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) |

Who the Heck is Hayek?

The 1974 Nobel-prize winner in economics.

The author of The Road to Serfdom.

One of the great proto-libertarians of the twentieth century.

That's who.

But if you're reading this, you probably already knew that. Virginia Postrel has an excellent background on this champion of liberty here.

Posted by JohnL at 09:05 PM | Comments (0) |
January 08, 2004

Objectivist Ethics

If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged, you may want to skip this post, as it contains a mild spoiler.

William H. Stoddard at New Troy has an interesting article about the ethics of Ayn Rand. As he explains, objectivist ethics rely upon the premise that it is only the concept of life that makes value possible. As value is something that one acts to gain or keep, all ethical actions should be directed to keeping oneself alive. Thus every function of a living organism is (or should be) directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival. But, as Mr. Stoddard illustrates, this isn't, in general, true. He uses the tale of the "Wet Nurse" (Tony) in Atlas Shrugged to illustrate that
merely preserving one's life is not always the ethical choice. Instead of a pure "survival" ethics, Mr. Stoddard posits a "legacy" ethics, the selfish desire to have something of value survive beyond one's own life.

I particularly like his discussion of the possible influence of Aristotle's metabiology on Rand's thinking here, when Darwinian biology would point more towards a legacy system of ethics. If you are into Rand, objectivism, darwinism, or any of the above, read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) |
January 07, 2004

Generalists Rule

. . . . Or do they?

Robert Heinlein once stated:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and lastly die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

For my entire adult life, I have avoided specialization, maintaining a broad range of interests and pursuits (while semi-specializing in a couple -- at least enough to make a living!) And in fact the conventional wisdom holds that evolution favors generalist species over highly specialized ones. Carl Zimmer summarizes this wisdom and points to the early hominid Paranthropus as the classic example of an over-specialized evolutionary dead-end. But then he points to an abstract of an article "in press"(*) that challenges this conventional view of Paranthropus and concludes that Paranthropus was likely an ecological generalist like early Homo.

If true, then why did Paranthropus die out and Homo survive? Are we technologically-empowered super-generalists secure in our evolutionary niche? As Carl concludes: "Paranthropus looks on our happy beliefs from its oblivion and wonders."

(*)"In Press" here means the article has been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication, but not yet published.

Posted by JohnL at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) |
January 06, 2004

Ayn Rand

Last weekend in his regular "Libertarian Bookwork" post, Tim Sandefur recommended Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand. In the process, he provided us with a very well-written overview of Ayn Rand's life and her work.

I would recommend this essay highly to anyone new to Rand's works, and even to those who have read her before.

Like Tim, The Fountainhead is my favorite of her fictional works, although I also love Anthem.

Posted by JohnL at 09:47 PM | Comments (0) |
December 23, 2003

Christmas Enlightenment

Through her blog, Virginia Postrel points to a couple of her recent articles (subscription required to access the WSJ piece) on the economic implications of Christmas lighting.

This isn't the first time she has touched on the topic of Christmas lights (visit here and here and scroll down or search for "lights").

Her Reason piece highlights elegantly how global capitalism leads not only to more affordable lights for the retail customer, but also to a specialized service industry that installs professional lighting displays for people who are not necessarily the most affluent customers. The article concludes with a nod to the real benefits of free trade and the value of aesthetics:

"We mourn the loss of manufacturing jobs - 'real jobs' - and ignore growing aesthetic professions, from installing holiday lights and landscaping lawns to giving manicures and facials, from designing brochures to crafting granite countertops. "Yet in an advanced economy, in which competition is pushing the prices of goods ever lower and their quality ever higher, enhancing the look and feel of people, places, and things will become more and more important over time. Just as surely as the horsepower of a car engine or the warmth of
a blanket, the pleasure of twinkling Christmas lights offers real value."

I don't think I could wrap this up any better than that.

Posted by JohnL at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) |
December 18, 2003

Return of the King

[Warning! Spoilers Ahead!]

I ventured out to see the 10:00 PM showing of The Return of The King last night, continuing my tradition of viewing the Lord of the Rings movies on opening night. While I'm reserving final judgment until I have seen it again in the theater and, more importantly, until I have seen the extended version on DVD, I can say that, purely as a movie, this is the best of the three.

But as an interpretation of Tolkien in letter and spirit, it ranks second behind The Fellowship of the Ring, which I think was most faithful to the source material, and well ahead of The Two Towers, which is in a distant third. I can look over the minor quibbles I have with some of Jackson's choices (like giving new footage to Pippin while deleting key aspects of Faramir's and Denethor's characters), because when Jackson gets it right, he gets it perfectly right -- The Ride of the Rohirrim, The Death of the Witch King and of King Theoden, and the entire Cracks of Doom sequence. And I can't complain about his omission of the Scouring of the Shire, which, like the Tom Bombadil chapter in the first book, would have been nice to see, but not essential to the story.

Update: What he said.

Posted by JohnL at 09:21 PM | Comments (0) |
December 16, 2003

Obscene Waste of Police Resources

Now this makes me soooo proud to be a Texan.

Good coverage of this particular case on Instapundit, Volokh, and Freespace. And be sure to check out the comments at Hit and Run, where I first learned of this particular bust.

Posted by JohnL at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) |
December 08, 2003

Black Velveteen Always is Ready to Dance

Lenny Kravitz fans and old movie aficionados shouldn't have any problem recognizing the potential in this concept (WARNING -- not a family-friendly link).

Glenn Reynolds, from whom I first learned the term "robosexual," reveals another new coinage -- "prosthetute" in this TCS article about robots and unemployment. He also links to this excellent, if not a little creepy, Salon article that made him aware of Real Dolls.

Gene Expression picked up this theme today (linked article has a moderately racy picture!) reviewing the Salon article and then running with the concept (linking to sites covering all the tech needed to create a Stepford Wife). It's neat that the good SF seems to come true around us all the time, but if we get the personal communicators, world-wide-web, and nanobots, then we should also expect to get some of the tech envisioned in the B-movies.

Posted by JohnL at 10:59 PM | Comments (0) |

Horrors of Plastic Surgery Revisited

Back on October 28, I linked to a site devoted to awful plastic surgery.

Of course, the self-styled king of pop makes quite an awful appearance on the site (and see this, which is linked from there).

All this is a setup for this image of what Michael Jackson would possibly look like today, had he foregone all the surgeries (using forensic age projection from a picture of a younger, unmodified Michael).

Posted by JohnL at 10:31 PM | Comments (0) |
December 04, 2003

Blue, Blue, My Law is Blue

Growing up in Texas, I remember real blue laws, which forbade sales of anything other than basic foodstuffs on Sundays. Thank the maker those were repealed several years ago so that I can now buy batteries or paper or hardware on Sundays. But our alcohol laws continue to reflect early-twentieth-century sensibilities, and efforts to change them usually arouse quite a bit of controversy.

The city I live in, Plano, allows sales of beer and wine in grocery and convenience stores 7 days a week (you have to wait until after noon on Sundays). Still, to buy anything else (port, sake, tequila), I need to drive 20 minutes or so to a "wet" area of Dallas. Many towns around here (including many areas of Dallas proper) are completely dry. This article and this one nicely summarize the situation in Plano (free registration required to read the Dallas Morning News article).

So I could really appreciate Mike Alissi's report at Reason's Hit and Run blog about some surprising bedfellows in Connecticut who would like to keep Sundays dry there.

Here's the money 'graph:

"Bottoms up to the bizarro world of booze politics where liquor store owners team up with MADD to keep Sundays dry, and proponents of allowing retailers to serve customers whenever they want are considered enemies of free enterprise."

Read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) |
December 02, 2003

Nanotech Grab-Bag

Are molecular assemblers feasible? As I pointed out here, an Israeli team has reportedly used a DNA molecule to assemble a transistor.

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds posted a wealth of links on the debate over the feasibility of nanotech molecular assemblers. I like how he works Clarke's first law
into his commentary, too: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Lots of good stuff there, so read the whole thing, along with the linked articles.

Posted by JohnL at 10:41 PM | Comments (0) |
November 25, 2003

Outsourcing Meme Spreads

Regular readers of Instapundit have probably noted his continuing focus on the outsourcing of "white collar" jobs (software support to India, for example) as a potential campaign issue next year (representative posts here, here, and here).

Scott Adams, who has already lampooned the outsourcing fad in Dilbert with his fictional country of "Elbonia" spreads the meme further in today's strip.

Posted by JohnL at 02:20 PM | Comments (0) |
November 22, 2003

First Biologically Self-Assembled Nanotransistor

More science fiction becomes science fact, as a team at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have built a nano-scale transistor using a DNA molecule as the "assembler."

According to this article, the team started with a long strand of DNA to use as the template for the device. They coated graphite nanotubes with antibodies that caused them to bind to the DNA strand in the desired locations. Then, the team turned the remainder of the DNA molecule into a conducting wire by adding a solution of silver ions that chemically attached themselves to the phosphate backbone of the DNA, "condensing" as silver metal after the team added aldehyde to the solution. With the addition of gold (which, according to the article, "nucleated" on the silver), the team produced functioning carbon nanotube transistors with gold and silver leads.

I am certainly not a molecular biologist, so I hope I properly summarized the technique used here. This sure seems like big stuff for small stuff.

(Via Geekpress).

Posted by JohnL at 12:34 AM | Comments (0) |
November 19, 2003

Marriage and Power Struggles

Yesterday, the GNXPers examined the sacred institution of marriage from a variety of angles. Any summary I gave couldn't do it any greater justice than their own:

Observation: only on GNXP can you get quotes on [Blow Jobs] and a symmetrized Gale-Shapley alternative in the same post...

So go read the whole thing.

Posted by JohnL at 10:12 PM | Comments (0) |

Quote of the Day

Mensa is "the society for overintelligent underachievers."

Double heh.

(I have to confess that I was actually "in" Mensa in High School, which means I passed the test and got my parents to pay for the membership fee. But I never participated in any of the special interest groups -- highly oriented towards adult activities -- and dropped out altogether when I encountered a real merit-based system in college)

(Via Anthony, in his comments to this amazing Gene Expression article on Marriage, Money, and Evolutionary Psych).

Posted by JohnL at 09:50 PM | Comments (0) |
November 17, 2003

Galileo. Figaro. Magnifico.

Ever wondered what Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody would look like in Japanese?

Wait no longer. . . (Be sure you have Asian character sets installed).

Posted by JohnL at 11:54 PM | Comments (0) |
November 13, 2003

No More Moore

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary voted today to remove Judge Roy Moore from office as a result of his defiance of a federal court's order to remove the graven image of the [Baptist version of the] Ten Commandments from the rotunda of the Alabama State Supreme Court building.

About da*n time. This joker has no business presiding over the highest court of any state in the Union, even Alabama. Although the order he defied was based on a 1st Amendment Establishment Clause basis, this need not be a federal issue. Judge Moore quite clearly defied the letter of the Alabama Constitution, section 3 of which reads:

[That the great, general, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, we declare]: that no religion shall be established by law; that no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship; that no one shall be compelled by law to attend any place of worship; nor to pay any tithes, taxes, or other rate for building or repairing any place of worship, or for maintaining any minister or ministry; that no religious test shall be required as a
qualification to any office or public trust under this state; and that the civil rights, privileges, and capacities of any citizen shall not be in any manner affected by his religious principles.

As I have discussed elsewhere, the very listing of the 10 Commandments on "Roy's Rock" slights both the Jewish and the Catholic/Lutheran traditions. By presenting the Southern Baptist list of the Decalogue, Judge Moore gave preference to the Southern Baptists in the building that housed the highest court in the State of Alabama. Forget the federal case, this guy thumbed his nose at the Alabama Constitution.

It will be interesting to see what Roy does next, as he clearly shows no signs of fading away into the background. He should read his bible: "a man's pride will bring him low." (Proverbs 29:23).

Posted by JohnL at 11:53 PM | Comments (0) |
November 06, 2003

More Phylogenetics

I came across science writer Carl Zimmer's excellent blog "The Loom" for the first time today. Take the time to read through his entire site.

If you enjoyed the Gene Expression article I linked to last week, you should definitely read Zimmer's October 26 entry on mapping evolutionary trees. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed the phylogeny of seven species of yeast whose genomes had been completely sequenced. Using a set of 106 genes, they were able to map the evolutionary family tree of the yeast with 100% confidence at each node. More importantly, they were able to achieve the same result by paring down the number of genes examined to 20.

It will be interesting to see how this technique can be extended to more complex organisms in the coming years.

Posted by JohnL at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) |
November 05, 2003

Letterman A Dad

David Letterman became a dad Monday night, naming the baby after David's father.

Letterman, whose show has been struggling in the ratings against Jay Leno's Tonight show, has seemed notably mellower since his brush with mortality a few years ago.

I've always preferred Letterman to Leno, in much the same way that I prefer Monty Python's Flying Circus to the Benny Hill show. I wish him and his family all the best, and look forward to his take on this new adventure.

Posted by JohnL at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) |
October 30, 2003

Some Kind of Pictures on the Sense O'clock News

Guest Volokh co-conspirator Cori Dauber deconstructs the kabuki dance of the media's disaster coverage, which she calls the "tragedy template:"

We have a cycle and a geography of tragedy in this country. On the west coast, earthquakes and fire, in the square states, more fire, floods and tornadoes for the midwest, hurricanes for the southeast, blizzards for the northeast, and horrifying transportation accidents anywhere anytime. Whatever the tragedy, the networks immediately launch into their utterly predictable, by now completely ritualized disaster protocals -- a template for the coverage of tragedy. The greater the magnitude of the disaster, the more coverage there has to be, whether extra coverage is more information, or more ritual, as if to give less air time is to be disrespectful to those suffering, who no doubt have more on their minds than watching news coverage. The anchors must fly to the scene forthwith, donning khaki, even if it means anchoring, in Peter Jennings' striking words the other night, "from the ruin's of someone else's life."

One upside to this is that the tragedy template has temporarily displaced the Tet template.

Posted by JohnL at 11:26 PM | Comments (0) |

Matters Theological

In my first post, I alluded to being an amateur theologian. I was raised (and remain) United Methodist, and am a member of a large and vibrant congregation here in Plano. I am by nature a rationalist, and struggle regularly with the tension of reason versus faith. Although I grew up Methodist, I spent the years K-8 in Missouri Synod Lutheran Schools, learning literalist fundamentalism the Lutheran way. From there, I encountered the opposite end of the spectrum at the local Jesuit high school, where I was taught a Thomistic, rationalist, scholarly approach to theological matters.

I am now largely a deist, much like the founders of our country, but continue to find fellowship, comfort, and fulfillment in my church. My wife and I attend a self-led adult Sunday school class, in which I have taught many different lessons covering biblical history, early church history, Judaism, and current events. I have no formal theological training, just five translations of the bible, Google, and some secondary sources.

Because of my profession [lawyer], I was recently invited by my parents-in-law to teach their Sunday school class about matters of church and state. The main case study in my lesson was Roy's Rock -- a/k/a the ten commandments dispute continuing in Alabama.

In the course of my research, I discovered a couple of interesting tidbits.

First, historically, the denomination most strongly in favor of a strong separation of church and state was the Baptists! The denomination of Roy Moore. The denomination that most people in our country would associate with the "Religious Right." The denomination that wants prayer in schools, "under G-d" in the pledge, and their ten commandments in courthouses everywhere. The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was founded by Baptist Roger Williams.

It was founded on the principle of religious liberty, and attracted refugees from the several colonies that had established Christian churches.

How ironic that such a high-profile member of the denomination in America originally tied so closely to religious liberty now seeks to display its version of the ten commandments in a state courthouse! That is the second tidbit I learned in preparing the lesson. Using the same source text, three different traditional listings of the ten commandments emerge. One used by Jews, one used by Roman Catholics and Lutherans, and one used by other Protestants. Guess which version Judge Roy had engraved on his rock?

Posted by JohnL at 12:11 AM | Comments (0) |
October 19, 2003

The Oaks Are Just Too Lofty

According to this report, size matters.

Based on their analysis of four large-scale studies (three in the USA and one in the UK), Professors Timothy Judge and Daniel Cable will report in the Spring 2004 issue of Applied Psychology that each additional inch of height yields, on average, an additional $789 in earnings per year. Good news for me, at six inches above the average male height stated in the article.

Posted by JohnL at 11:15 PM | Comments (0) |
October 15, 2003

Persistent Paper

Yesterday Lileks related his encounter with an early 1990s CD version of Art Spiegelman's "Maus" done in HyperCard (an Apple hypertext program that I remember using on my old Mac Classic to organize term paper notes):

This Maus CD is something else, though. It hails from the early 90s, when CD-ROMs! promised to revolutionize the way we used computers. Thanks to computers, we would soon be experiencing . . . MULTIMEDIA! Which mean pictures and text and sound, all coming at you at once! Over six hundred megabytes of information - it staggered the mind. Why, that was 30 hard drives on a single platter! Think what you could do!

Remember, at this point "cyberspace" was still just a really cool consensual hallucination in William Gibson's Sprawl-based science fiction dystopia.

And as Lileks points out, no one wanted to read a "fancy-shmancy" book on their computer anyway and the concept died out. But this CD was apparently well-done despite the limitations inherent in the medium:

This Maus CD has some interesting features; you can see the rough sketches of the drawings (not very helpful, since Spiegelman's finished drawings still look rather rough; we're not talking Herge here.) Best of all: excerpts of the interviews with his father, the words that formed the basis of the story. The old man sounds exactly like you think he'd sound. It's a perfect example of what might have made the format work. . . .

But it didn't work, which leads to the gem of an observation that Lileks almost always embeds somewhere in his articles:

. . . in ten years I doubt my computer will run Hypercard. And that book on the shelf will still work the moment I boot it up - er, open it to the beginning.

When I read that, I immediately recalled Glenn's interview with Neal Stephenson last week, particularly this exchange:

TCS: I understand that you did all the writing on the Baroque Cycle books by hand, using a fountain pen. Did that make a difference?

NS: Absolutely. The key difference is that it's slower. It's like when you're writing, there's a kind of buffer in your head where the next sentence sits while you're outputting the last one. As long as it's still in your head, it's easy to manipulate that next sentence, or even to reject it. Once it's out, well. . . When you're using a high-speed output method there's less of that. In my opinion, the first draft quality winds up being higher with a pen. It's easier to edit -- to scratch out a word is easier than backspacing over it. What this enables me to do is to get words down in a way that's closer to the final version. And it's more stable: no hard-drive crashes, accidentally deleted files, and so on. Paper's a really advanced technology. That was brought home to me by working on this, when I read a lot of documents from that era, which were put down on really good, acid-free paper. They're all pretty much as good as they were the day they were made 300 or 350 years ago. This is not going to be true of today's electronic media in 300 years. There's a lesson there. (Emphasis added)

There appears to be a proto-meme working its way to the surface here. I know my wife has been making similar observations for the last year or so. Important emails, ones that would have been letters in a bygone era, she now prints (not sure if the paper is acid-free, but problems related to high acid content may be overstated and the remedies prescribed for it more extreme than the problem itself).

Paper persists.

Posted by JohnL at 10:15 PM | Comments (0) |
October 14, 2003

Nader's Golden Arch Enemy

Dynamic Virginia Postrel reports that she will be on CNN tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9:30 EDT to debate Commercial Alert's campaign against McDonalds' sponsorship of Sesame Street. Virginia links to the offending commercial here.

I agree with her that it seems pretty innocuous. The local PBS affiliate here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area regularly runs about 5 minutes of corporate-sponsor mini-ads each half hour. Naturally, the ones in the morning are aimed at kids (and their parents!) And I speak from experience on how effective they can be. When our children were younger, we succumbed to their pleas for us to buy Juicy Juice, which was advertised before and after the PBS show, Arthur. While we had given money to PBS before, it was nice to be able to support the show we liked by supporting its sponsor. But that's nothing nefarious, just effective advertising. Run your ads when your target market is likely to watch them. Does that mean that we or our kids are mindless drones, programmed to eat and drink whatever swill our corporate masters manipulate us into buying? Absolutely not. However, Ralph Nader and his friends might disagree.

You heard that right. Commercial Alert was founded by Ralph Nader in 1998 and claims as its mission the goals of "keep[ing] the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and [preventing] it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy." I suspect this is another area where the loony left can make common cause with the knuckle-dragging right, an area touched on in the opening chapters of Postrel's The Future and Its Enemies.

Thanks, Ralph, but I don't need you defining and controlling the "proper" sphere of commercialism for me. The proper sphere is whatever sphere the consumer defines it to be. As a parent, that means I need to help my children learn how to define it. First, teach them limits. Say no. Repeat. Repeat again. Repeat again. After several repeats, teach them scepticism. Ask why. Repeat as necessary. Teach them to say no to their impulses and then to question them. As much as the kill-joy culture (and food) police would like to make us (and trial juries) believe that we are not responsible for our actions and are susceptible to corporate manipulation, we are in fact responsible. We can make choices. My choice? Buy McDonalds for lunch tomorrow. Just to stick a finger in Nader's eye.

And now, a word from our sponsor:

Sunny Day - Sweeping the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get,
How to get McDonald's to eat?

Posted by JohnL at 12:17 AM | Comments (0) |