Saturday, October 19, 2002

VIA A FRIEND IN RHODE ISLAND who just sent me a couple of cans of Moxie, I found a site called Pop the Soda Shop from which you can order all sorts of fizzy beverages that aren't available where you live.

Hey, do they maybe deliver to Baghdad? (See the third comment.)
ANOTHER ONE FOR LILEKS: an archive of cigarette ads from the '30s, '40s and '50s, many of them in comic-book style.
LAST WEEK I NOTED an erroneous Canadian tabloid report claiming that we down here in the D.C. area had started referring to the sniper as the "Tarot-Card Killer". Though I jokingly suggested the Ludlumesque "The Tarot Sniper" as an alternative, it still hasn't caught on here in greater D.C., where we're still just saying "the sniper". Interestingly, though, I just noticed an article from Spain's El Mundo, referring to the shooting this evening in Ashland, that actually does refer to the killer as the Tarot Sniper ("el francotirador del tarot"). Does that mean the Iberian influence of my blogging is stronger than I would ever have expected?

The El Mundo article has an AP shot of that Texaco station in Virginia that has put up a tarp along its street side in hopes of shielding its customers from sniping. A photo from a different angle accompanies a WaPo piece from Saturday's front page that mentions the way the region's shut down outdoor activities, including an arts festival that was supposed to happen in one of the streets here in downtown Bethesda this weekend. (I noticed the "festival canceled" banners hanging up along the street when I was walking home from work a couple of days ago.)

By the way, if this shooting in Ashland -- which is really not part of the D.C. area -- was in fact connected to el francotirador del tarot, then this means el francotirador is getting even closer to Meryl. Stay safe down there, kids.

Friday, October 18, 2002

A SITE WITH all the Futurama songs, plus the Fatboy Slim remix of the theme song.
LAST NIGHT, JULIA and I ended up at the last minute at a Christopher Hitchens reading on Orwell. Hitchens ended up not doing any reading, but, rather, had a discussion with the audience for a little over an hour. The proceedings opened with a moment of "silent outrage" for the victims of the Bali bombing. Hitchens, in a rumpled jacket, and in desperate desire to smoke the cigarette he was holding, was utterly charming. A lot of the questions were of the nature of "What would Orwell think about modern phenomenon X," which would permit Hitchens to riff about what he thought.
"Brothers and sisters. Comrades. Can I call you comrades? Good."

The "root causes" of the Bali bombing: "Australia's support for the independence of East Timor."

On globalization and Michael Moore: Hitchens, working off an Orwell quote about the poverty of colonial Burma, noted that free trade worked to make the poor peoples of the world not so poor. So what if Mexico now imports corn and beans, said Hitchens, if they're now exporting computers and cars? It's racist to say that Mexicans should be restricted to corn and that the jobs in Flint, Michigan are "American jobs" rather than just jobs for Mexicans and Filipinos to compete for. "I've never had the desire to dress up as a turtle or a Teamster."

On Islamofascism: Hitchens noted that Taliban Afghanistan was viewed as a model government by the Islamic fundamentalist movement, and wasn't that argument enough against it? "It's not just a question of means, it's a question of ends." Hitchens pointed out that Orwell had noted the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Fascists of his day. (Paraphrasing:) "There's something totalitarian about an all-powerful central figure who needs to be worshipped, who is always watching you, and whom you can never escape, even in death. Even in North Korea, you can get out from under the government with death. This is a sort of Celestial Korea."

On the lack of an Arabic translation of Animal Farm: "Animal Farm" has never been made available in the Islamic world because of the "porcine representations." "Never underestimate the power of a people with dietary restrictions."
I'm not even beginning to do the hour justice. I'm not one for author readings generally, but Hitchens is always entertaining. Surprised not to see any bloggers there, though there was a spitting image of Listen Missy a few seats away from us.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

FOR MATT WELCH: A great story about the history of Thunderstix, which apparently originated with Korean baseball in the 1990s, and have made watching the Angels that much more entertaining. The Pac-10 spoilsports have banned them starting next year in college football.
THE CFR REPORT on Saudi funding of terrorism; the Washington Post summary.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

JUST REALIZED THAT the Trouser Press Record Guide reviews can be read online -- including the reviews from the guide to '90s music. Makes me remember my early teenage years, when I actually hadn't yet heard of a lot of the bands in those books.

Ahh, it was a good time to be a indie-rock snob.
TUESDAY, TIME AGAIN FOR Idiotarianism and its Metaphors. This week's variations on a theme: "Osama bin Laden as the scourge of God" and "The terrorist as idiotarian ventriloquist's dummy".
REUTERS "REPORTS" ON THE "ELECTION" in Iraq, noting that some "defiant Iraqis" used their own blood to mark "yes" on the ballots. Man alive, I wonder what tortures Uday had to threaten those guys with?
FROM THE FRIENDS-OF-BILL DEPT.: Early Friday morning, another person was shot at a gas station in Virginia, and police scrambled to get a dragnet going all over the area, including a blockade of Interstate 95. Scant hours later, Geraldo was 50 yards from the crime scene, autographing the perky orange-clad rear ends of Hooters girls.
WHY ARE PEOPLE standing still for two to three minutes as they're gassing their cars? Don't they understand there's a notch on the nozzle that allows you to fill the tank without personally holding it? I always multitask when I gas my car, what with windshields and headlights that invariably need cleaning in a smoggy city.
FEAR OF PUMPING GAS in DC. It somehow seems immoral to me to be asking for full-service gas if you wouldn't do so normally. That many gas station owners aren't charging extra for the privilege also goes to show something.

Me, I have a hybrid electric car, so I only gas up once or twice a month. I did wait for a windy night to get gas the last time, however. But I took my time to finish washing my windshield. There aren't any clear sight angles of 100 yards to the Hess on Wilson Boulevard.

I left work late tonight, and passed all the cars stuck on the north 395 as a swarm of police looked for vans--thousands of people must have been trapped for hours. I didn't know it at the time (though I marvelled that some people were so forlorn of making progress that they had switched off their car lights). I was listening to the baseball game. Kent had just gotten hit by a pitch, loading the bases for Barry Bonds, so instead of turning into my garage where I'd lose the signal, I continued on to the supermarket, and sat in the car for the remainder of the inning.

The supermarket was similarly deserted. The cashier wondered how she was going to get home with the 395 and the 66 shut down, and I reminded her about the Key Bridge.

In retrospect, the Seven Corners shooting seems inevitable. The name of the mall comes from the ludicrous number of intersecting roads there providing a potential escape route. (The shooting was at a mall in the southeastern wedge between the 50 and the 7.) And the shopping center there has a Michael's, if at the other end of the mall.

The eerie thing, of course, was that I was loitering in precisely that parking lot fifteen days ago, fitting an HVAC filter I had just bought into the trunk of my car.

I still don't see why they were blocking the north 395, but I suppose I'm lucky they didn't decide to block the south 395.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE SLOT MACHINES. I like Mark Evanier's line: "the Joe Piscopo machine is fun because, if you need change, Joe Piscopo himself brings it to you."
Stephen Ambrose Dies at 66.
TO RECAP EVENTS OF the last week: Jerry Falwell, asked point blank the question in a 60 Minutes interview, says "I think Muhammad was a terrorist. I read enough of the history of his life written by both Muslims and -- non-Muslims, (to know) that he was a -- a violent man, a man of war." Statement is broadcast; worldwide outrage; Muslim-led riots in India kill nine. Glenn Reynolds says
nasty remarks concerning religion have a historical tendency to cause violence that no one in Falwell's business should be able to miss. That's particularly so at present when the situation is tense to begin with. That's what made Falwell's remarks "dumb." (Well, it's one of the things that made them dumb).
Volokh and Buck have already commented; as Buck says,
If people who claim to follow a particular religion have a disproportionate tendency to inflict violence on others, and if the founder of that religion engaged in a great deal of violence during his own life on earth, it is incumbent on everyone else to refrain from pointing out these unfortunate facts, lest the adherents of that religion engage in even more violence. Huh?!?
This is a little strong, because Falwell also said "terrorist," which is a bit different than "warrior." And, given the Christian propensity for violence in the first thirteen centuries within its founding, Buck's use of "disproportionate" may not even be appropriate, even if the Christian Scriptures are of a more peaceful nature than the Koran.

That said, it's my turn now to come to the defense of Falwell, an unusual position for me to be in. Falwell has also made stupid criticisms of my fellow feminists and evolutionists. Somehow, however, the feminists and paleontologists have refrained from violent riots. As Volokh and Buck point out, the proximate cause here is the Muslim rioting, not the Falwell remarks. Moreover, that the Muslims riot like this in response should make them more susceptible to criticism than the feminists, not less.

I wonder if Glenn also feels that Salman Rushdie's book was "dumb" -- more people have died in Muslim rioting over that than for anything Falwell said, plus some perfectly useful bookstores in Berkeley were firebombed.

But let's assume for the moment that Falwell should know better and that saying "Mohammed is a terrorist" will "provoke" some lunatic imam in India to cause his congregation to riot.

Where does that put CBS? Not only did they ask the provocative question, they broadcast the provocative answer. That's two different places where they could have circumvented things. How could they not know any better than Falwell?

Falwell said what he said because he's stupid or because he was tired at the end of a long interview and made an impolitic remark. CBS broadcast it to make money.

Falwell said what he said on the spur of the moment with only a short time to reflect. (Pauses on television interviews make you look dishonest.) CBS had days to edit a 60-minute interview into parts of a 16-minute segment, and chose to highlight this remark.

For you "keg of dynamite" theorists out there, how is Falwell any more culpable than CBS?

Finally, imagine that CBS asked a different question: "Do you believe that Mohammed was divinely inspired?" or "Do you believe that the Koran is the received word of God?" Falwell is a Christian: he therefore has to say "No." CBS broadcasts this. Do you think the Muslim outrage over this equally blasphemous remark would be any different? Should sensitivity to Muslims (or to Muslim capacity for violence) keep Falwell from publicly speaking his religious beliefs?