One blogger’s personal bridge to nowhere

Even Willy Wonka wouldn’t have done this

Death by chocolate turns morbid:

A man fell into a vat of hot melted chocolate and died on Wednesday at a factory in New Jersey, a spokesman for the local public prosecutor said.


July 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Sarah Palin not corrupt, says Sarah Palin’s Web site

sarah palin maskI just read on Mike Tomasky’s blog that the Web site for Sarah Palin’s political action committee, “SarahPAC,” doesn’t “offer anything that resembles, you know, an idea or proposal.” That couldn’t be true, I thought. This is the woman who is…you know, from Alaska. And…something about a pitbull. And all those other substantive ideas and proposals that she brought to the GOP ticket last fall!

Turns out, I was right! The SarahPAC Web site features a “news update” on the latest “frivolous” ethics “complaints” against her to have been dismissed. That’s it. There’s nothing that says Palin 2012 than “I’m not just another corrupt Alaska politician…despite what everyone else says about me!”

(image from flickr user billypalooza under a Creative Commons license)

June 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Mainers respond to topless coffee shop with mindless arson

Via The Daily Beast, the topless coffee shop in Maine that I mused about a few months ago has been burned to the ground.

Crabtree said he did not have insurance for the Grand View. If necessary, he said, he would be willing to reopen in a temporary mobile trailer on the site of the topless — and now roofless — coffee shop.

Crabtree said his 10 female and three male employees are “in shock.”

I implied objectification in my earlier post, but this stupid act of protest reorients my feelings about this; if it was indeed a business modeled on free expression, not exploitation, then down with the ignorant arsonists of puritanism (and even if it were a crassly sexist enterprise, engaging in criminal activity is obviously completely inappropriate).

Title of this post notwithstanding, I think it is in poor taste for CNN to mock the “roofless” coffee shop, which was also connected to the home of the owner, Donald Crabtree, and his family.  And I can see nothing but prurience in the decision to divulge that a preponderance of the employees happened to be female.

June 4, 2009 Posted by | media, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Supermodels must support torture

missuniverseSure, it’s good for an ironic laugh when “Miss Universe” lauds Guantanamo Bay as a “relaxing, calm, beautiful place” where she had “a loooot of fun!”  But more disturbing is the sexism underwriting all this bemusement.  The subtext seems very clearly to be along the lines of “this bimbo is so naive that she thinks high-security prisons are great fun!”  Which is more offensive: that a beauty queen had an good time on the beach in the Caribbean (she was brought there, it bears mentioning, to entertain the troops, which is disgusting enough), or that a United States government supported a facility whose inmates were routinely tortured?

(image from flickr user jorgemejia under a Creative Commons license)

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

The New York Times ponders a horse-dominated world

horsesThe editorial board must have been letting their minds wander

[D]omestication isn’t just the conquering of one species by another. It’s the willing collaboration between two species, a sharing of benefits. There is something in the equine nature — genetic or social — that allowed it to partner with humans, just as there was in the character of dogs.

You might also say that there is something in human nature that allowed us to seek out this partnership. Among all the animal species on this planet, humans have domesticated only a handful. And that fact gives rise to a thought-experiment. What if that genetic or social something had been missing in horses? What if they had remained resolutely wild, refusing the domestic kinship humans tried to impose upon them?

Yeaaaaah…it’s the human-horse connection, maaaaaan!

(image from flickr user Desert Rider under a Creative Commons license)

March 18, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Topless lawmaking

Will Starbucks go nude next?

Will Starbucks go nude next?

Apprised of the existence of a “topless coffee shop” in Maine by Tyler Cowen, Matt Yglesias comments on how “the lack of regulatory barriers to topless non-alcoholic venues could have important implications for the business model.” Yes, and the implications extend beyond  things like creating other topless coffee shops. I see Yglesias’ point and all (which extends to bars, strip clubs, and other seedy establishments), but it seems like there are more fundamental logical-legislative issues at play here. Namely, Cowen’s confusion at how Mainers came to have to vote in a town meeting whether or not to explicitly prohibit topless coffee shops:

Wait a minute. Topless coffee shops are allowed? Unless otherwise specified?

I ask because a topless coffee shop opened in Vassalboro, Maine, and the only way to prevent copycat businesses — say, a topless auto shop or a topless supermarket — is to pass an ordinance to ban nudity at town businesses. Is this true in all municipalities? Nudity allowed until specified otherwise? Who knew?

The implications seem rather straightforward to me.  Rather than, say, go through each business, or practice, or policy one by one to determine what is or is not acceptable/legal, it would behoove lawmakers to draw bright lines (which the courts can subsequently shift). For example, no offensive and demeaning public policies that objectify women in order to sell a product.

(image from flickr user d’n’c under a Creative Commons license)

March 16, 2009 Posted by | Economics, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

What to say if you live in Fiji


Fiji declared a state of emergency and curfews after severe storms and flooding struck the Pacific island nation, killing eight people and forcing thousands to evacuate homes, officials said on Monday.

First they try to take away their peacekeepers, then they blast them with violent storms.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

“Political will” — them’s just words

Dahlia Lithwick, in a smart critique against why — legally — arguments that Obama should not investigate torture and abuses of power by top Bush administration officials don’t make the snuff, brings some important insight about that nebulous concept that gets bandied about so often — “political will.”

Of course all this is not the language of the law either. It is the language of self-fulfilling prophecy. With each successive recitation that there is no political will, the political will dissipates. With each repetition of the mantra that Americans just want to turn the page on the past eight years, Americans feel ever better about turning the page.

I think there’s something to be said for the notion that the concept of “political will” itself — with regard to most any object — only gets stronger the more we talk about.  Seen in that lens, even the efforts of advocacy organizations to muster — inevitably, political will must be mustard mustered — political will among legislators could be interpreted as, counterproductively, reifying the very concept of (insufficient) political will and thus making the target of the advocacy even more distant.  Because political will almost exclusively exists in its lack form, it’s acquired a rather negative connotation, and each time its lack is lamented, it is, effectively, legimated.  It’s not always intentionally self-fulfilling, but the “repetition of the mantra” does seem to accumulate into one giant snowball of political will.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Yes, it’s cold in the winter

All it takes to publish an op-ed sometimes is to transcribe an amusing conversation about the weather:

Bundle up!

Bundle up!

“Got to be below freezing,” he said, buttonholing me right out of the blue. It turned out he was heading into the gym I’d just departed, which might explain his presumption of intimacy. Or maybe he was simply a loony. Anyway, he went on: “What do you think it is, uh?

“About two degrees,” I offered.

“Minus two, uh?” he asked, suspiciously.

“Plus two, maybe.”

“No, no, no!” His tone was both challenging and aggrieved. I had betrayed him in some way. “Must be below freezing.”

“Cold enough anyway,” I suggested, as a compromise.

“Freezing,” he insisted.

“That’s winter for you,” I persevered, consolingly. “It gets cold.”

He glared at me as though I were a dangerous dissident and walked away.

I’ve experienced similar conversations, if perhaps without so much suspicion, aggrievement, betrayal, and angry glowering.  Usually, though, I’m told something just as obvious, but apparently equally unsatisfying to my interlocutor, as the fact that it’s cold in the wintertime — that I’m from New England.

(image from flickr user Logan Antill under a Creative Commons license)

January 6, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Safety…except for bridges and hurricanes

It’s not what he meant to do, but I think Eugene Robinson here gives a little too much credit to the Bush-Cheney legacy, even as he argues that, while he can understand the administration’s gut keep-America-safe-at-all-costs reaction, history will not forgive the Cheney-led refusal to ever veer from these instinct-driven principles in favor of cooler rational reflection.  Robinson cites Cheney’s stubborn mantra:

In an interview broadcast Sunday, [Cheney] invited Fox NewsChris Wallace to “go back and look at how eager the country was to have us work in the aftermath of 9/11 to make certain that that never happened again.” People have since become “complacent,” he said, but the administration’s actions have “produced a safe 7.5 years, and I think the record speaks for itself.”

Safety courtesty of the Bush administration

Safety courtesty of the Bush administration

He then duly dismantles this fiction with the reality of torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, and, of course, the invasion of Iraq.  Tellingly, though, he includes the overthrow of the Taliban in Cheney’s positive “record,” a piece of casuistry that is about as clear-cut as saying that the Iraq war is a net benefit because the world is without Saddam Hussein (a claim that, I would wager my house, Cheney fully embraces).

But what is most disturbing is that the meme of the “safe 7.5 years” seems to be so ironclad that it can roll right over things like Katrina and the Minneapolis bridge collapse without a second thought.  These were not terrorist attacks, no; but responding to nature and maintaining serviceable infrastructure are fundamental parts of keeping America safe, and the administration’s failures in these exponentially more straightforward responsibilities are even more egregious indices of its utter worthlessness.  Even if one can “understand” the sickeningly obsessive motivations to torture, wiretap, and murder every terrorist or potential terrorist out there, we can in no way even comprehend the unconscionably lax oversight of the most basic domestic security and protection systems, and criminal lack of response to some of the worst disasters ever to befall this country.

(image of I-35 bridge collapse from flickr user Poppyseed Bandits under a Creative Commons license)

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hookups: just like dating, except meaningful

Someone who actually remembers what the whole “dating” scene was really like opines on that brand new “hookup” culture:

Having dated extensively before settling down, I don’t recall ever having a meaningful relationship emanate from the classic dating scene. I hated the time, money and stress invested in this activity, which often led to boredom and disappointment.

True romances came through group interactions within meaningful contexts, including work and other activities. I guess these were “hookup” without yet having that title.

Ignoring the fact that the writer (or the Times‘ editors) still can’t seem to figure out the correct plural of “hookup” (hint: add an “s”), she at least understands that “hookups” represent a natural evolution — one that in many ways, particularly in terms of women’s empowerment, represents a significant improvement over an antiquated and rigid “dating” system.

December 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Malcolm Gladwell-esque thought of the day

malcolm-gladwellI was wondering…if our economy somehow more aggressively subsidized art, would we have more and better artists?

At first glance, the answer seems obvious. A major disincentive toward producing art for a living is the, er, rather poor remuneration that such work provides. So, make more money available for art (hello solution to the economic crisis?), you’ll have more people who want to become artist, you’ll draw from a larger pool of talent, and you’ll have more and better art. Right?

Well, here’s where the Gladwellian counterpoint comes in. I have no real proof of this (or that Gladwell woud think along these lines), but I suspect that the argument might go something like this: those who become artists are self-selecting; they know there is no money in art, but they choose to pursue a career in it despite this fact. By attracting those who are not in it for the money, the profession of art brings in those who are more committed to the “art” than to the “profession.” Perhaps fewer artists, but those who do go for it are more likely to be of higher quality.

UPDATE: TNR art critic Jed Perl says, basically, it doesn’t really matter.

(image from flickr user Pop!Tech under a Creative Commons license)

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Where B.C. and A.D. meet again

In the International Year of the Madonna and Child Potato, apparently.


In case you for some reason couldn’t tell, you are beholding an uncanny likeness of The Virgin Mary cradling Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Now available on eBay.

(hat tip, Alyssa)

December 15, 2008 Posted by | Humor, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

What is this “dating” of which you speak?

Evidence of a shocking generational gap, courtesy of a New York Times op-ed by Charles Blow (who doesn’t even look that old):

heartThe paradigm has shifted. Dating is dated. Hooking up is here to stay.

(For those over 30 years old: hooking up is a casual sexual encounter with no expectation of future emotional commitment. Think of it as a one-night stand with someone you know.)

According to a report released this spring by Child Trends, a Washington research group, there are now more high school seniors saying that they never date than seniors who say that they date frequently. Apparently, it’s all about the hookup.

Apparently?  Today is December 13, 2008.  My only question is, how did it take adults, or the older generation, or maybe just the stodgy editorial pages of The Old Grey Lady this long to figure out that this “strange culture” of “hooking up” — a sort of bizarro-dating world for Blow, who “first heard about hooking up” a few years ago — is very much the norm?  Did anyone who at all interacts with youths, even who just watches television, seriously think that young men were still calling up gals (on landbound telephones, of course) and taking them out to drive-in movies (or whatever one did back in the days of dating?)

The fact that members of a generation just one notch above my own have no real understanding of “hooking up,” and that this idea is even more foreign to them as a world of serial “dating” is to those in my own generation, might just be an indication of how cloistered I have been within my own age group’s cultural norms.  Or, it might just mean that people over 35 or so are just incorrigibly unhip.

(image from flickr user Henry 8.0 under a Creative Commons license)

December 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 3 Comments

Elevator music goes protectionist

On hold waiting for a customer service representative at an insurance company, I was greeted with, among other messages and the compulsory background music, this little tidbit of holiday shopping advice.

madeinchinaAlso consider where the toy was mad.  China hasn’t had the best safety record of late, so consider buying toys from countries with better safety records, like the U.S.

Who knew that insurance companies and American toy manufacturers were in cahoots?

(image from flickr user poritsky under a Creative Commons license)

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Economics, Humor, Uncategorized | | 2 Comments