Saturday, March 30, 2002

FOR YOU ALABAMA TOURISTS OUT THERE: the Unclaimed Baggage Center, which sells off items from your lost luggage.
ALSO VIA GARY FARBER: Tasteless skit by Katzenberg and Weinstein.
GARY FARBER HAS photos of Liberian money commemorating Star Trek. That's one way to get fanboy hard currency into a third-world economy.
FORBES demonstrates that Bud Selig is lying about the profitability of baseball. Big surprise.
Rabbit recommends "Angle of Repose" in the course of shouting down a supplicant.
Tom Green goes to Japan.
THIS SERIES OF photos from a Japanese robot convention is out of a science-fiction movie.
WHAT IT'S LIKE to eat at a fast-food restaurant in Israel.
REMEMBER THAT AWFUL footage of a Palestinian boy caught in the cross-fire of Israeli and Palestinian guns, killed despite being covered by his father? Remember the international outrage against Israel? Turns out he was shot by Palestinians.
BUILD WITH Legos on-line.
CRACK HOUNDS STEAL a Krispy Kreme truck and are caught by the trail of doughnuts. Perhaps they were preparing for a wedding.
THE NEW YORK TIMES' "Watching Movies" irregular series has been fascinating, and perhaps none more so than Barry Sonnenfeld on "Dr. Strangelove."
Hot Pocket autopsy.
THE Fighting Whites are knocked out of the playoffs, 56-33.
WHY DOES IT cost so much to buy real estate on the West and East Coasts?
I HAVE TOO MANY interests, and one of them is forensic engineering, so this report on the fall of the WTC caught my eye.
JUST THE PREVIEWS of the new Dennis Quaid movie, "The Rookie," can bring tears to a man's eyes, especially if he's been chopping onions. It's based on a true story. What's not told is that the true story is based on the hopes of feel-good media coverage. Jim Morris, at the age of 35, was inspirationally trying to bring his baseball career back to life on the basis of his 98 mph fastball -- and failing miserably at the minor-league level. Then ESPN and Sports Illustrated discovered him the same week, and lots of media followed. Once he was nationally known (but still stuggling in the minor leagues), then the last-place Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who until this year had spent their entire existence putting washed-up former stars on the field in the hopes that fans would show up and nostalgically watch the last days of Wade Boggs or Jose Canseco or other stars of the 1980's, brought him up to the majors and got themselves more media attention than they ever would've had otherwise. Morris did rise to the occasion by striking out his first batter, a journeyman shortstop, on four pitches. He pitched all of fifteen innings in the majors, with a 9-13 walk-to-strikeout ratio. When the reporters went away, so did Morris.
Glenn Reynolds points me to this excellent Victor Davis Hanson piece complaining about moral equations that aren't being challenged:
An ignorance of historical context is also critical for such postmodern revisionism. If the conflict is due to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, then the first three wars for the survival of Israel itself must be conveniently ignored. If there is a push for the exchange of land for peace, then we must overlook that some in the Arab world who have suggested just that bromide in the past three decades were either assassinated or executed. And if we accept that both sides are equally culpable for the current killing, we must forget that less than two years ago the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer to return 97 percent of the West Bank, along with other major concessions — assuming that unleashing the present intifada could get them still more.

Facts mean nothing. The dispute is purportedly over the principle of occupation — but next-door Syria holds far more Lebanese land than Israel does the West Bank. The dispute is supposedly over ethnic intolerance and gratuitous humiliation — but Kuwait, quite unlike Israel, ethnically cleansed their entire country of Palestinians after the Gulf War. The dispute is said to be about treating the "other" fairly — but Syria and Iraq summarily expelled over 7,000 Jews after the 1967 war, stole their property, and bragged that they had rid their country of them. The upcoming Arab Summit could spend weeks just investigating the Arab murder and persecution of its own people and Jews.

Multicultural distortion also appears in a variety of strange ways. Palestinian spokesmen harangue Americans about their tilt toward Israel. Yet they also speak in grandiose terms of an "Arab summit" and a global Islamic brotherhood. Apparently, fellow Muslims, Arabs — and kindred autocracies — are supposed to support Palestinians unquestioningly because of religious, cultural, and political affinities. Yet we multicultural Americans are not entitled to exhibit similar sympathy for Israel, which like us and unlike Mr. Arafat's regime, is a Western, democratic, open, and free society.

Why do such bankrupt arguments find resonance? I think the causes have now permeated well beyond a few coffeehouse theorists blabbering away in Cambridge or Palo Alto. Rather it is because we live in a society in which playground fights in our schools are now often adjudicated by concepts such as "zero tolerance" and "equal culpability." Rather than exercising moral judgment — and investing time and energy in such investigation — our school principals simply expel any student caught fighting, as if the bully and his victim occupy the same moral ground.

Our schoolbooks devote more space to Hiroshima than to the far, far greater casualties on Okinawa. Students are not told that the two tragedies are connected — as if the American bombing to prevent an enormous bloodbath on the Japanese mainland is somehow not a direct result of the Japanese imperial military's efforts a few weeks earlier to unleash 2,000 kamikazes, and through suicide attacks and banzai charges kill every American (and tens of thousands of civilians) on the island rather than surrender.
And he's right; I read Hersey, but I never read anything about Okinawa in school or college, except when I picked up Paul Fussell at the recommendation of a friend. Here's a small piece on Okinawa.
JOANNE JACOBS reminds us of the forgotten point that half of the Israeli population consists of Jewish refugees expelled from Arab nations after the creation of Israel, but the Saudi "peace plan" requires Israel to also take the Palestinian refugees. Plus good stuff about a Temple math professor kicked out for refusing to lower his standards; and wry commentary about the media's anti-Israel bias:
Israel attacked Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound, "plunging the region into violence and shattering hopes for a Mideast truce,'' declares on its message board.

Gee, it was all so peaceful till then.

AS I READ the obituaries pointing out that everyone bought televisions to watch Milton Berle perform, it occurred to me that he was the very first "killer app." Since I've had that thought, I've seen Jay Zilber and Forbes make the "killer app" analogy, but I still can't find anyone who's called Berle the first killer app. Perhaps I'm wrong -- maybe there was a 1910's album that made people rush out and buy phonographs or footage of a chorus girl showing her ankle that opened a thousand nickelodeons. (The Bible predates Gutenberg's printing press, and I can't think of any other works of literature that may have caused an explosion in the use of printing presses.)

Returning to Berle, this Slate commentary points out how Berle was one of the few television stars who refused to be de-Judafied. Carl Reiner had to turn himself into Dick Van Dyke, Seinfeld had to subscribe to the fiction that the lead characters weren't really Jewish, there's next-to-no acknowledgement that half the "Friends" are Jewish, but Berle laced his humor with Yiddishisms.
MATT WELCH points me to this index of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
I REMEMBER WAKING UP one morning in April 1994 to find Usenet in an uproar. A couple of lawyers had dared to post an advertising message -- a bad-enough breach of etiquette, but they had not only done it to a couple of relevant newsgroups, but to every newsgroup on the planet! "Spamming" had been invented. (Though, as Joe Bay pointed out, the original computer definition of spam came from MUDding.) Someone would've figured it out eventually: it's the tragedy of the commons. In retrospect, I'm surprised that Usenet had been an idyll as long as it had. Canter and Siegel, the original spammers, were bad people, but I'm not going to blame them for every spammer that followed. The two divorced, Siegel died, Canter was disbarred, and this interview (via Overlawyered) shows that he's still utterly clueless and amoral. He says he has no regrets about his spam, because it supposedly worked, and brought in a lot of business for his shyster law firm, but that he wouldn't spam today, because it would be too hard to make the spam stand out from the blizzard of other spammers. Not once does he realize his violation of etiquette: the reason that spam is distasteful is not some anti-commercial instinct of Internet users, as he liked to claim in interviews, but the realization that Usenet would only work if no one spammed. Once everyone spams, it's just noise. Bastage.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

RICH LOWRY DEMONSTRATES that campaign finance reform is needed--for Saudi money.
YOU CAN JUST SEE the LA Times press-room: there's this new Jodie Foster movie coming out about panic rooms, it must be a trend, right? You have to get about two thirds of the way through the story and fantastic discussions of six-digit rooms being secretly built and secretly torn out before the writer even hints that the concept is virtually entirely imaginary.
SO SUE ME; I have a soft spot for a sincere teenager with a futile cause who somehow manages to make waves.
NEXT TIME SOMEONE suggests stopping a war against terrorists for Ramadan, remember that Palestinians cheered a suicide bomber that massacred 19 civillians sitting down for a Passover Seder, with another 130 injured, many of those injuries life-changing. And that the massacres we see are only the tip of the iceberg of what is attempted -- Israeli forces found another bomb being smuggled in a Red Crescent ambulance: remember that, next time Palestinians complain that medical forces are being stopped at checkpoints.
AS THE NEW YORK TIMES reports on the Flight 93 tape, Megan McArdle points to a reminder of the people on the flight.
"NOWATERMELONS" suggests that the Israelis let the Palestinians open casinos. Hardy-har-har. Except this already happened. The fanatic Islamists protested dearly, and then the Palestinians decided to use the place for sniping. So much for economic development.
MICHELLE COTTLE POINTS OUT the futility of the color-coded Homeland Security warning system.

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

MARYLAND INVESTIGATORS ARE deciding whether to bring criminal charges against a fraternity that killed one of its pledges.
SADDAM HUSSEIN IS funding Palestinian suicide bombers. So all Arafat needs is some help from North Korea kidnapping movie stars or something, and he'll complete the axis-of-evil trifecta. Which leads Krauthammer and Will to wonder why exactly is the Bush administration making nice with Arafat?
"TROLLING" HAS COME TO mean something more malicious than it used to mean, but I still enjoyed the artists' rendition.
Halle Berry's acceptance speech (via Ken Goldstein)
THIS IS A phenomenal baseball site, including day-by-day pennant race reports throughout history.
J Bowen retells the story of Richard Speck's last days in prison, which goes a long way towards explaining why I support the death penalty.
INTRIGUING COMPARISON BETWEEN militant Islam and pre-World War II militant Japan.

If environmentalist groups had a shred of sense they'd crib the bogus "buying drugs supports terrorism" public-service ads and more accurately point out that "buying oil supports terrorism." But that would be inconsistent with opposing opening up ANWAR, so it won't happen. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
NEW YORK STATE permits drunk drivers to recover for their injuries in car accidents from auto companies under the theory of "crashworthiness."
AN INTERESTING EXAMPLE of the free market at work: the Chinese obsession with Las Vegas in a society that bars gambling. (China-owned Macao has casinos, but also Chinese government agents who keep an eye out for high rollers.)
Chinese began flocking to Las Vegas in the 1980s on government-organized "research" teams. By the mid-1990s, almost every group of Chinese officials heading to the United States wanted Las Vegas on the itinerary. The justification bordered on the fantastic. One Communist Party document said studying in Las Vegas was good for Communist cadres because they could learn how a poor area in the desert became rich.
The story humors some racial stereotypes that are hardly unique to Chinese gamblers:
Gambling industry sources said Chinese players exhibit some unusual characteristics. One is the size of their bets. Another is the ability to play without sleep.

"It is really amazing," said Robert Goodman, who runs a firm called Great Harvest, which specializes in helping Chinese gamblers get U.S. visas. "The gamblers will stay inside for three days and three nights, never go outside. They don't know what time it is, what day it is. They sit there eating instant noodles, going from baccarat table to table, gambling everything."

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

I WONDERED WHAT Paul Cassell was going to do with his life after the Supreme Court rejected his attempt to repeal Miranda, and it seems he's been nominated to a district court.
BUT "EVIL" IS so judgmental! Iraq threatens family members of exiled opponents. (via WSJ Best-of-the-Web)
WOODY ALLEN, ON the heels of his Oscar appearance, is coming in for a fresh round of bashing, so it's useful to remember the following facts: When Mia Farrow married Frank Sinatra,
(1) she was younger than Soon-Yi is when she started her affair with Woody, and
(2) the age difference was greater than that between Woody & Soon-Yi.

OK, it's still not defensible. But it was always made to sound much worse than it was, because of the technicality of the de jure stepfather-stepdaughter relationship combined with Farrow's bogus allegations of child molestation.

Both Woody Allen and Spike Lee named their first children Satchel.
Handpainted resin statues on a solid wood base are the perfect gift for every young Catholic athlete. (via Andrew Sullivan)

Monday, March 25, 2002

DAVID PACHECO GIVES up on being a superhero.

Sunday, March 24, 2002

JONAH GOLDBERG, correctly in my view, calls for less squeamishness in the broadcasting of the horrors that happened to us on September 11. It's easier for Ted Rall and Michael Moore to minimize September 11 because of the sanitized broadcasts Americans have been receiving.

This well-known site contains a lot of photos of September 11. I would like to link to captures of broadcast video footage of people forced to leap from the WTC that was censored in this country; it's footage that instantly steels the spine to stop worrying about "exit strategies." It's available on the Web to anyone who wants to look for it and knows how to use Google. Unfortunately, the only footage I've found includes tasteless music over-dubbing, and I'm not even going to link to it indirectly. Perhaps someone more technically competent than me can silence the audio on this footage and give it the dignified distribution it deserves.
MORE ACTRESSES SHOULD adopt the see-through top look on Oscar night, if only to make the TV producers earn their money through judicious cropping.
THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN patent law and antitrust is in the news again. Here's the Cohen-Lemley California Law Review piece referenced in the article.
FOR THE N-TH TIME, appellate judges try to restrict the hiring of new law clerks. Each previous time, the system has unravelled. The linked news report is silent on whether Judge Kozinski has signed on.
THE HOUSE PASSES the Class Action Fairness Act, but it's already stalled in the Senate.
LILEKS JOINS the scrum deservedly piling on Michael Moore.
BOOK MAGAZINE, in a nice publicity stunt, ranks the 100 best fictional characters since 1900. Portnoy and Nathan Zuckerman are there (Zuckerman is mysteriously ranked lower, but perhaps only one "performance" per character is counted.) Pooh, Eeyore, Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Tarzan, Toad, Charlotte, and the Cat in the Hat are in, but there's no sign of anyone from "The Wizard of Oz." Harry Potter is one of three characters from the 1990s who makes the list, not that I can make any suggestions for replacements--though if Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Jeeves, George Smiley, and James Bond get to make the list, I don't see any reason to exclude Hannibal Lecter. Nick and Nora Charles are given #65 together; #97 Quentin Compson is left ambiguous. "To Kill A Mockingbird" leads all twentieth-century works with three characters, though "Ulysses" joins that distinction if one counts Stephen Dedalus towards that work. Salinger, Hammett, and Nabokov are the only other authors with three characters, though Phoebe Caulfield is a stretch in my mind.
ISRAELI TEAM Hapoel was knocked out of the UEFA Cup Thursday after losing its home field advantage.