Friday, February 24, 2006

I am doing it again

what the Big Pharaoh said (I know no way to say it better)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Brad deLong annoys me again

It has been a mild winter for us in Toronto, but it becomes easy to lose one's gratitude to the Fates for that when confronted with blog postings like this one.
Sitting outside in February, basking in the sun, with the temperature in the high 60sF, drinking iced lattes, ...

Does it get any better than this?*

Go read the post to see what hides in the ellipsis (sadism and masochism of sorts).

But it certainly made me recall my grad school years there, during years of drought that meant I did not have to face the normal winter rains to any serious degree, and because of my temporary presence, did not have to suffer the consequences of a few years of drought.

Slow days of Silliness coming up

I suspect this blog will quiet down for a while. Perhaps the other one will too but we'll try to keep some life in it.

Catching up on David Tufte and emitting tears

Wow. No doubt I am a bit more vulnerable with my cat approaching twenty, needing special medical care, and clearly becoming more incompetent (not to speak of myself!) but this post on Bounder was utterly lovely. I am utterly impressed at the human's ability to notice such lovely small details and recall them. Even
I'm saddened now that I can't remember the last time he did that ... two ... three ... four weeks ago ...
Thanks, vX. Thanks, Bounder. Thanks, Internet.

CSI Berkeley

Well that notion gave me a giggle. I encountered it on this post from voluntaryXchange, a blog by another economist who has interesting things to say about curling. (The other one I am aware of co-blogs with me (not here). It turns out there are some who have nothing interesting to say despite trying.)
So the idea CSI Berkeley comes from elsewhere, and not originally his post. I'd sure like to see the investigative team they assemble there. And they could have some pretty imaginative crimes, perhaps outdoing Miami in ridiculousness.
In any case, I love his point that a PVR (or in my less advanced case, 3 or 4 VCRs and some skill programming them) can mean one is perpetually overwhelmed by how much excellent television there is to watch in the time one has for it.
My faithful readers will understand how I might have gasped with recognition at this comment from him:
Oh, and by the way, the second season of the best show on TV right now - Slings and Arrows - is starting up on Sundance on the 19th. You can't beat a show where the director of a theatre company puts in his will that he wants to be rendered so that he can appear in every performance of Hamlet as Yorick.
I've seen the second season and endorse it thoroughly. It features much of the cream of Canadian theatre acting, enjoying taking off on their favourite subject.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More search links to my blog

a) hells angels eastern avenue
I hope this is someone thrilled tht we noticed their Christmas tree.

b) Flemming Rose
Excellent - he deserves a voice not invented by the leftie-bots

c) blogspot "how not to decorate"
OK they found home but I do not know how

We shall keep checking in on our fans!

OK I agree CSI Miami is ridiculous

I have now seen several episodes. The Las Vegas incarnaton has very nice ensemble acting, and a few years of growing complexities. I *like* all the characters, except for the rotten top manager (Eckley?).
The plots for the Miami shows just do not work so well. There is less of the interesting interplay between threads that occurs in CSI, but even worse, most of the plots I have now seen strive to be relevant, and this generally means stupid. The most recent syndicated episode I have seen of CSI:Miami featured sons of some Central American dictator who supposedly had diplomatic immunity in the US against even murder charges (really? sounds nuts) because their father, the local Generalissimo, tortured prisoners for the State Department. The number of ways that this was fatuous is pointless to describe. Of course in the end David Caruso wins on a technicality (this requires the bad guys to be really really dumb but that is a dramatic tradition of some importance), but when he does it is not very satisfying - a total deus ex machina. In a more recent episode there is deep meaningfulness related to finding sunken treasure. Almost all silly.
Maybe the nice thing is that Las Vegas is an environment for a crime show that requires no phony meaningfulness. It can always be refreshing. Miami still has its problems.
I have seen only one CSI:NY episode, and it featured Penelope Ann Miller's decolletage, and so it is hard to judge anything more than that. That part was realy good.

I rarely do this but

what he said

There are life lessons here, no doubt.

Update on Chapters

They sent me the note again and I thought about it some more so here is the whole thing.

"Start of my response":

Somehow I got this note again today from you. Makes me suspect it is a form letter, which was not so clear to me when I first received it.
I responded more tersely to the first note, simply affirming your right to make your decision and affiriming mine to decide to do no further business with you, earlier, but as you have now sent me this response twice, I have thought some more, and feel it makes sense to say some more.
"Let us be clear and state that we fully support freedom of the press and freedom of expression"
You provide no particular evidence to support that view at all. But I guess you know that. Of course it is easy to say and many have been saying it of late, also showing no evidence of really believeing it. Basically you have decided to do your bit to keep the Western Standard from distributing news it has decided, after its own weighty decisions, to report on.
Within that context, we believe that as a business operating in the private sector, we must also be free to make decisions on what we will carry.
I agree with you 100%. You do have that freedom. I would never think of challenging that notion.
In order for such rights to be exercised and upheld, there must be at the core of our society, a mutual respect for others’ beliefs and opinions, even if they are conflicting at times.
Hmm I am less sure what that means. But I do know what it means in this context. It means that when sorting this conflict out, you will choose to please the side that 'ignites extreme' demonstrations and threatens violence, rather than those of us who refrain from such behaviour, and prefer to proceed through argument and discussion, which you have chosen to suppress, or at least not to help distribute. Your notion of respect looks more to me like fear and caving in to intimidation.
We can all disagree honestly on this, I suppose, but I am shocked by this response. And have no further wish to buy from Chapters/Indigo and its affiliates.
I hope others will boycott you too.
----- Original Message -----
From: Sorya Gaulin
Sent: Wednesday, February 22, 2006 10:33 AM
Subject: Your comment re: The Western Standard

Thank you for your recent email that was forwarded to my attention. We appreciate the opportunity you have given us to respond to your concerns regarding the sale of the Western Standard magazine.

In light of the decision of this magazine to publish content which has been known to ignite extreme demonstrations and violence, Indigo Books & Music Inc. has chosen not to carry the upcoming issue of this publication. This particular issue of the magazine is still available through subscription and for sale at some other retailers in the country. The decision applies only to this upcoming issue and we will continue to carry future editions of the Western Standard.

I understand you might not agree with our decision but we have weighed the issues and feel our position is the right one for this company. Most news organizations in Canada and many other retailers have come to a similar conclusion on this issue.

Let us be clear and state that we fully support freedom of the press and freedom of expression. The exercise of these freedoms in our country is a right that we too cherish. Within that context, we believe that as a business operating in the private sector, we must also be free to make decisions on what we will carry. In order for such rights to be exercised and upheld, there must be at the core of our society, a mutual respect for others’ beliefs and opinions, even if they are conflicting at times. And so we appreciate and respect your position and thank you for sharing your views with us.


Sorya Ingrid Gaulin
V.P. Public Relations & Corporate Giving

!ndigo Books & Music Inc.

468 King Street West, Suite 500
Toronto (Ontario) M5V 1L8
T: 416.646.8965

Mobile: 647.283.4854

"End of my Response"

Grant McCracken is on a Roll

I always like reading his excellent and provocative blog; the balance of anthropology and economics, with an engagement in the realworld, makes it very entertaining.

He has been hitting the spot nicely in the last few days.

In a post on David Brooks' weekend column he discusses the relationship between commerce and culture (a relationship that is a great test of someone's basic orientations). Against Brooks' concern that 'cultural' issues are supplanting 'economic man', McCracken observes:
But notice, most of the irrationality that troubles the political world come from people who are not very good at being economic actors. Most of us suspect that if the countries and cultures of the Middle East had real economies, they would be very much less inclined to take umbrage against slights, real and imagined, inflicted or merely drawn. Certain Middle Eastern countries and cultures appear to live in a perpetual state of status anxiety, a condition exacerbated by the fact that they do not have real economies and the benefits, liberties, and dignities that flow there from.
It was as if the species always over-estimated the constraints that needed to be imposed, and the conformity that needed to be extracted, for a social world to work as a social world. We could read the West as an experiment in the dismantlement in these constraints, and the creation of a market economy as an "eureka moment" in this experiment. The more this market economy established itself, the smaller proved to be the constraint/conformity rule set required for social, cultural, and political order. Once the market economy was fully in place, once this served as the great gyroscope of the social world, individuals and groups were released to rework their cultural definitions. Now a great profusion of cultural invention was now inevitable. This invention may appear to efface the rationality and reasonableness of economic man. I prefer to think it demonstrates what can be accomplished once commerce is made to serve a platform for culture.
This is a delight in variety that I think is very healthy. Which plays a role in his concluding thought:
Certainly, it's true that there are parts of the economics model that require renovations more dramatic than anything ever dreamed of by a University of Chicago economist. But these will come in time. Truly, market societies release forces and powers that now make the world various and inscrutable. But we will come to terms with these mysteries not by displacing economic man, but seeing that he maximizes with a cunning we have yet to fathom.
And then he tackles Bernard-Henri Levy's American Odyssey, dismembered in other ways by Garrison Keillor, for example, in what seems to me a kinder and more understanding fashion (though maybe there is a contradiction there).

First we get:

Bernard-Henri Levy came to America "in the footsteps of Tocqueville" to study what he calls,

[a] crisis of identity. The powerful country in the world does not know what it is, it feels itself in a deep trauma, a deep neurosis. It was interesting to go behind the curtain.

Oh, please. This is the difference between America and France, isn't it? America knows perfectly well that it "does not know what it is," that it cannot know what it is. There are so many groups, driven by so many ideas, subject now to so many regional, ethnic, lifestyle, gender variations that America is a fountain of cultural invention.

Again, the theme of command-orientation, prior definition, against variety expressing itself and remaking its world.

One witty little comment, that places notions of American anti-intellectualism into a context that makes more sense than the one defined by the intellectuals:
(America learned long ago that intellectuals would necessary be the last ones to get the news and took pains fastidiously to ignore them. Only Robert Thompson is still consulted.) A visitor can penetrate the curtain in France, but this would be perhaps the worst place to go looking for national, cultural truths.
(In re Robert Thompson.)

Finally he responds to Larry Summers' resignation as the President of Harvard. Much has been written on this sorry tale, but count on McCracken to find the cultural divide in it.

It's a long and interesting essay; let this excerpt draw you into reading the whole thing:
Harvard has a little Yale, the scholars who occupy the liberal arts, the social sciences and the Yard. These people are largely shut out of, or kept from, Harvard's engagement with the world. Not for them the government posts, the consulting gigs, the television interviews, the world's eager consultation. For most of them the "ambit of influence" is the table they commandeer each day at the Faculty Club, and, outside of academic circles, not much more. (Notice I am using here a rhetorical trope here called "exaggeration".)

I'm sure this rankles but it should not surprise. After all, most scholars in the humanities and social sciences have made Yale's bargain with the universe. They have insisted that they are much too good, too noble, too moral to engage with the world. They have, in sum, cultivated an obscurity of their own. They are now a little like ceremonial creatures of court removed from the world that they might commune with the gods. Not for them the rough and ready pragmatism of the outer rings. As keepers of the nobler view, they are, some of them, just a dubious hat and push cart away from wandering out of the Yard to shout imprecations at startled fellow Cantabridgians. (That pesky trope again.)

This strategy of absenting yourself from the real world has many implications. Some of them are tragic. (The social sciences and humanities are now frightfully out of touch with some of the real compelling intellectual issues of our day. Too bad. They might have been useful.) But here is the important implication for our purposes. If you are surrounded by power but kept from it, if you are made a ceremonial creature, but only that, if you absent yourself from the world, and rewarded with obscurity, if all these things are true, you are in a very bad temper a good deal of the time. The world has done you wrong.

Now, we know what happens to ceremonial creatures when they are wronged. They become obsessed with form. The world may not respond to their will, but they will have their due. They will insist upon a precise acknowledgement of every detail of the ritual regime. In President Summers' case, this means no gratuitous references to the ROTC program, that sterling demonstration of the military-industrial-educational complex. It means no reckless comments about women and science. This too is, forgive me, a "motherhood" issue in the Yard. And it means that the President may not evidence the arrogance of the CEO from the outer ring, nor the swash buckling style we might expect from a man who owes his Harvard position, in part at least, to the fact that he once had a corner office in the corridors of power.

Put his blog on your daily reading list. He cares about everyday life and how it is lived.

My view on the David Irving sentence

J. David Velleman said it on Left2Right as well as I could.

What a disaster.

The notorious Holocaust denier now says that he was wrong to claim that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz. His recantation came in an Austrian court shortly before he was sentenced to 3 years in prison for violating a law that applies to "whoever denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity in a print publication, in broadcast or other media."

Irving's forced confession of error does more to undermine belief in the Holocaust than his previous denials, by lending color to suspicions that the consensus among historians of the period is the product of coercion. The memory of the Holocaust can easily withstand the denials of someone like Mr. Irving, but only if the refusal of historians to agree with him is clearly due to the force of evidence rather than the force of law. The freedom to deny the Holocaust should therefore be precious to anyone who wants to keep the memory alive.

Historians: An Austrian judge has just usurped your epistemic authority. Why don't you protest?

And it is not as if the historians have not proven the guy to be a fool. Austria is helping nobody here.

UPDATE #2: UPDATE below shows the old fool cannot read. I should just trust these other smart people! Ignore what I say - neo-neocon and my sister are far more sensible than I!

UPDATE: My sister has linked to neo-neocon on this subject (and I think highly of both). And we do not all agree. I don't really see nuance here - I think with Velleman that this punishment legitimizes and magnifies Irving. He should simply become a bad joke. I grant that this is trickier in Austria and Germany, and maybe what worries me the most is that I know Canada has anti-hate laws that are likely not helpful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Flemming Rose gets a voice in the Washington Post

Many have described the original publication of the cartoons as provocation. In a very small way they are right, and the guy who made the call explains why it was a useful step forward (despite the widespread small-minded stupidity of his critics). Kudos to the Washington Post for giving him a North American forum (free registration required, I believe).
It's not clear to me how long it will be before we get to the Danish experiences but I expect they are coming. I hope we can learn in advance from them.
One key comment from Rose:
But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.
And it is pathetic how many Western political leaders (including, it seems, sadly, our new one) cannot get that simple distinction.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Well at least they are honest

When Ezra Levant chose to publish the Jylland-Posten cartoons in The Western Standard, I saw a news report that Chapters would not be distributing the issue in Canada. I sent a note to their customer support e-mail address, asking for confirmation, and pointing out that I intended no further purchases from them were this the case.
I am impressed by their response on many fronts:
a) It came from a V-P (of Public Relations and Corporate Giving), not some poor soul forced to occupy the front line of customer communication, defending some corporate policy that may be quite far from him/her;
b) It did not try to pretend their decision was based on some abstract principles of 'respect', etc. The V-P said flat-out,
In light of the decision of this magazine to publish content which has been known to ignite demonstrations, Indigo Books & Music Inc. has chosen not to carry the upcoming issue of this publication.

So now I now how to get something off the shelves at their store - find some infrantile idiots willing to to go around causing a lot of trouble and starting demonstrations. This is one sorry commitment.

I do respect their right to make this commercial decision.

And I will stick with mine. And it pains me, as I just paid $25 for their stupid discount card, which I have no further interest in using.

Would anyone else like my card (for a small fee), assuming it is transferable (in practice)?

Stupid Spin and False Advertising

I normally enjoy posts in the blog "On the Fence": but I don't enjoy posts that just get it wrong.

And J. Kelly Nestruck just gets it flatly wrong in the post "Math joins the postmodern world".

Let us start with the title, which suggests a level of relativism few mathematicians would buy into (I speak as a reformed one, now working on other things, but always caring about mathematics). The sole evidence for the post is a New Scientist article titled, "Mathematical proofs getting harder to verify". The substance of the article does not go beyond asserting that exhaustive searches in some proofs are being handed off to computers - and the proofs include the algorithms used. This is, to start with, old news, and actually a pretty incremental deivation from mathematical history. Proofs always need verification, and it can fail for all sorts of reasons; there is no major change in principle in allowing the refutation of a computer search to refute a purported proof.

Postmodern? How? This just seems silly and glib. Does Nestruck have the vaguest idea what this all really means?

Women's Hockey Award Ceremony Strangely Moving

I tend to be pretty cynical about the Olympics.

And yet. And yet.

It was hard not to watch the women's hockey awards ceremony and maintain my normal emotional indifference. Somehow it forced me to recognize internally how much work went into the efforts of all the teams. And how impressive The participants are. 11 of the 18 Americans are at Ivy League colleges. They have to do more than play hockey! The various mothers on all teams have had to maintain a very difficult balance.

It is not far off the problem the students who performed in the Merry Widow had to address. Chasing dreams is hard work. It is wonderful to watch those who have done it successfully. (It is even instructive sometimes to see those who have doen the same with less success.) But the triumph is a pleasure to watch.

As it was for me today. Congratulations to the wonen's hockey teams from Canada, Sweden, and the USA. And to all the others who have made sacrifices to entertain us by putting themselves on the ine at the Olympic Games.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Latest search links to find my posts

There have been some worthwhile ones!

1) From Westmount, Quebec - "silly hair styles". 'Silly' is a great word.

2) From Pennsylvania - "pictures of oldsquaws"
Yay! More birdwatchers!

3) Nobody knows where this came from - they are looking for "Flirting watts"
Maybe it is whether Naomi Watts was an actress in the fine Australian film 'Flirting'. Maybe not.

4) From Stoke-on-Trent, UK, seeking "kwame salter speech 2005 2006"
Beats me

5) From Atlanta - "hilarious quotes" (this is the wrong place)

6) From Harrisburg, PA - "heaven, I'm in heaven"
I think I like this person! Astaire-land

BTW - I filter out now all the obvious friend and family searches. Among those, by the way, are the ones where "" gets typed into a Google window. I suggest the originator of those get his employer to give him a half-day course on the Web.

Sports can be wonderfully inane

Poor Kris Draper (who is he?) is being interviewd and he says "The Canadian team", apparently shut out now two games in a row, "has great character in the dressing room", though apparently not on the ice, and I am not going there. He says they need to go back to playing 'NHL hockey', which is apparently getting the puck to guys in front of the enemy net, from which position they shoot goals past the enemy goalie.
OK so maybe we forgot about that for two games.

A Near Standing Ovation - UWOpera's Merry Widow

With my busted and painful shoulder I drove all the way to London, Ontario and back on the weekend, primarily to see the production of Lehar's "The Merry Widow" put on by Western University's Opera Programme.
To my mind this has been a relatively bad year for theatre - I have sat through curtain calls and standing ovations this year that befuddled me, attending professional productions. My faithful readers will know some instances of this.
But last night, I almost leapt to my feet. And I am not sure why the 'almost'. Likely because I have seen no other version of the operetta. (One friend who dropped by after the first act commented that he had recently paid many times the cost of this show for a ticket in Vienna and it certainly was not twice so good - I wondered if it was better at all.)
University opera productions have certain likely problems. Often there is clumsiness in the staging. Timing is usually less than perfect. Casting sometimes suffers, as there is limited availability of players to fit roles. Often the performers just cannot perform credibly to the ages of the characters. The challenges to the voices can be serious - often several performers cannot hit the notes and still have decent diction so you lose key lyrics.
This production exhibited NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THOSE WEAKNESSES! Moreover, it was an incredibly complicated staging - for large parts of the operetta, the stage was full of people, moving around, engaged in marvellous slapstick, dancing, and there were no obvious missteps.
There were numerous scenes requiring amazing coordination of several performers. I saw nothing miss. It was delightful.
And then the operetta itself had justice done to it. Lehar fills it with moments of high comedy, and the cast performed them superbly.
And it has moments of high emotion. What was an impressive tribute to the key performers, and the overall direction, was that those key moments caused the audience to become as silent in paying attention to them and giving them their due respect, as they had been raucous in many of the raucous scenes, responding with laughter and clapping.
I cannot say enough about the performers. I'll trust my program, which tells me Geoffrey Sirett played Prince Danilo, and I remain stunned that he is a third-year student. But I am barely less stunned by the rest of the cast.
According to the program, Gillian Emberley played Anna, conveying the widow's longing and mischief very well. The scenes in which they do the famous waltz were magic for me. And when she sang the fairy story song the house went dead silent, a real tribute. Even my cough subsided.
Taylor Matheson was a very mischievous Valencienne, adding to Alberta's donation to Western's program. William Lewans made the count ridiculous and sympathetic at once. Paul Grambo used the third act to really mark his role . And the lead Grisette, Alicia Woynarski, sure did her job.
And I do not mean to suggest that those I did not mention did not carry their weight. I did not feel there was a single weak link in the chain behind this production.
We saw the last show in the run and I sure hope the whole team had an amazing time at the party afterwards. To make something like this work so well takes time and commitment I find hard to imagine to be consistent with surviving as a student!
Bravo to this program. And thanks for a glorious evening.
I recall one almost 30 years ago that has featured in previous posts. Maybe one day I will seee some of this cast on Canada AM.

Selective Memory - Revisionism - Is it so Easy to Lie?

I should start by admitting I am not much of a hockey fan, and particularly have never been much of a fan of the NHL, or Canadian National Teams. I did think the Olympic Final in Salt Lake City was exciting to watch, and there have been the odd few games late in a Stanley Cup Final where I can be motivated to watch the matches. But generally it just looks like random body-bashing to me.
I did not see the Swiss beat Canada at the Olympics yesterday, but I will admit I giggled when I heard the result. And am enjoying watching the Finns leading Canada today, as I watch bits of the match in breaks from golf.
But hockey really has never struck me as much of a sport - sure there are pockets of interest in the world but in the grand scale it's a sport with interest concentrated in a small fraction of the earth. And it can't decide between its roller derby aspects and its moments of elegance, which come and go over its history (and this tension regarding the elegance is very much a problem in the Canadian game). Suffice it to say I was amused when my wife reported that a CBC reporter had gone amongst the crowds in Turin to see who knew who Wayne Gretzky was and nobody knew. The importance of Gretzky's peripheral involvement in the gambling scandal in the Canadian press is a mark of a silly little country.
Even more so is another mark. This morning I heard a reporter on the CBC say something to the effect that the Swiss win yesterday was analagous to Canada's triumph in 1972, which surely must have been a reference to the 8-game series against the Soviet team. Nobody burst out laughing or tried to correct this reporter. Has silly little mythmaking gone this far? How old was this reporter? Was he alive then? Does he have any notion what happened? Other than Paul Henderson scoring some goal, almost by accident?
Let us recall what was happening in 1972. For many years Canada's international teams were being regularly defeated in major competitions by the Soviets in particular, but also by other national teams. Canadian national (hockey) pride absorbed this by observing correctly that Canada was not sending its best players, who were all in the NHL, and assuming very dubiously that our best players would destroy those other teams. This was far less clear, at least to skeptics like me.
The 1972 series was set up exactly to confirm this silly little theory; let the Soviets bring their best to play an NHL-all-Canadian team, and we would prove it. (No doubt there were broader business goals behind the idea of this series, and we now see their consequences, but I want to focus on what is essential that makes the reporter's comment ridiculous, well, silly.)
The Canadian hockey community was almost unanimous in the certainty that this series would be completely dominated by Canada. I recall casual predictions that the NHL Canadian team would outscore the Soviets 40-1 over the eight games. I recall essentially nobody in the sporting press giving the Soviets a chance (I say essentially, as I think there was a lone dissident, but this is over 30 years ago, and I was not really into it all.)
And as I recall it, early in the first game, this looked true, as the Soviets nervously allowed two cheap Canadian goals. And then the Series transformed itself! Suddenly the combination plays from those underrated Soviet players began to work; I recall the initial game was won by the Soviets 7-3. I definitely recall watching them scoring with delight (theirs and mine), repeatedly.
The Soviets won a later game in Canada 4-1, I believe, and one got tied. I don't recall all the details but in the end Canada prevailed over the whole series, I believe 4-3-1, squeaking the last game in Moscow out with a late goal by Paul Henderson, that Canadians are now taught to think of as a national version of the first shot at Bunker Hill. Along the way there was much national sturm and drang, all ridiculous.
So NO! NO! 1972 was not when downtrodden Canada proved their superiority to the Soviets. 1972 was when European hockey proved that Canada, long thinking it knew all there was to know in the world about hockey, could usefully take some lessons from the smooth passing and shotmaking, and great goalkeeping, that the elegant Soviets produced. (The series produced along the way the usual dirty play by Canadians against this style of hockey.)
The Swiss win yesterday as an analogy to 1972? Not in the smallest way. Unless you put the 1972 Soviets in the role of the Swiss, which is not remotely what our silly little reporter meant.
Have our sports historians really managed to make the truth about this series reverse itself, and turn what was truly an embarrassment into a pseudo-triumph?
In 1978 I was a visiting scholar at Oxford and one day in the photocopy room I ran into a Russian scholar; after some struggle across our language gaps, we began talking about that 1972 series. It was very clear he felt the series was an enormous triumph for the Soviet team. And I certainly would not disagree with him.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

User Manual vs Product

For a joint project I plan to engage in with EclectEcon I have followed his suggestion and purchased an Olympus WS-320-M. What amazes me about it is that is the first product I have ever bought whose user manual is many times larger than the product! Things sure change.

The Listener Infers

Sorting out Implies from Infers, that's what Bobby Goren says. He has it spot on!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bobby Goren

Law and Order : Criminal Intent is now being syndicated and run daily along with my beloved Law and Order : Special Victims Unit.
For the first many episodes of Criminal Intent, I found myself feeling quite unsympathetic to the detectives, especially the male partner, Bobby Goren, played by Vincent d'Onofrio.
But I find myself now quite sold on him. d'Onofrio is wonderful at conveying the guy's wackiness; this is combined in the series with an amazing effectiveness. He susses things out! He goes off and studies stuff. He reads the Koran. He goes to the Library. I think he is marvellous! And while this sub-series is straying wildly from Law and Order's general realism, it is a lot of fun.
I suspect my normal insistence on the stories I watch seeming plausible has been undermined by my newfound commitment to the various CSI incarnations. These are rife with material that cannot be real - my favourites still are the magical image enhancements - there are only 4 pixels left but the magic algorithm produces a clear picture, either with a licence number or the name on a driver's licence! This is utter nonsense, but surely so is most of what they show - immediate DNA identifications, immediate epithelial identifications. And man do they love epithelials - these are second only to flashlights!
In the end though, Vincent d'Onofrio is no match for Mariska Hargitay. Back to Law and Order : SVU!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What was the NY Times editor thinking?

I get the physical Sunday New York Times, and quite enjoy it. This weekend, it featured a column by Stanley Fish that was so fatuous I could not a) believe it was written by a human, and b) understand what the NY Times was doing publishing it. But it was so appalling I had no idea how to respond in any public way.
Fortunately, Brad deLong was not so inhibited and did the job nicely, with the usual touch of good humour as well, in this post.
deLong's telling point was what shocked me as I read the column.

Note that to Fish the problem with those he calls "liberals" is not that they are unwilling to die for their faith: it is that they are not willing enough to kill others--to "fight" for their faith, and to fight "to the death" for it. Fish admires rather than laughs at those whose theology is "Believe in a loving God, or die!" That's sad. That's perverted. That's funny.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Review of "I am my own Wife"

I cannot recall so many standing ovations in one year of my Canadian Stage subscription, and I cannot recall a more mediocre season overall. "Who is Sylvia?" and "A Number" have been briliiant (and did not get standing ovations), but so much else that has been so rewarded has been so disappointing.
"I am my own Wife" is an interesting play, about an interesting person. It has the problem that it is written by a complete enthusiast for the subject of the play; I think one symptom of this is that the author does not work hard enough to convince a skeptical audience that the subject is worthy of attention. We saw this earlier with Greenblatt's show based on Tom Lehrer - now the problem there is that Greenblatt's notion of Tom Lehrer is an infinitely more boring Tom Lehrer than the real man. The *real* Tom Lehrer is decidedly worthy of interest and attention - the Tom Lehrer imagined by Greenblatt is paper-thin and bland by comparison.
Here, with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, I have no idea. The person seems quite interesting, having survived what should have been enormous opposition to live out a life as a German transvestite in inimical environments (Nazi Germany and East Germany). This *is* remarkable, but given Doug Wright's somewhat confused idolatry, I have no idea what to believe from the play I saw. In any case, I never felt involved enough in Doug Wright's hero-worship to care a lot about the subject of the play.
Stephen Ouimette, an actor I loved in the second season of 'Slings and Arrows', had to play everybody in the play. Charlotte was a character worth playing, and I think I would have been more contented had there been no other characters. A play could have been written this way but Doug Wright chose not to - he even wrote himself in as a character. And it did not help. None of the secondary characters helped.
Two more show this year. Two more standing ovations?? In one way I hope so.

The Amateur reads the Kwan story nicely

My friend The Amateur posted a while ago, honestly somewhat against a little sparring we have been engaged in in a couple of different blogs, on the appalling decision of the US to send Michelle Kwan to the Olympics.

Kwan has now withdrawn and the US are desperately trying to get Emily Hughes, who should have been selected to the team originally, installed in palce of Kwan. For Hughes' benefit, I hope they succeed. For some discipline on stupid behaviours like this, I almost hope the IOC refuses the request (but not really - Hughes should get her due, whatever the stupidity of US figure skating administrators).

But my real reason for this post. In another recent posting, the Amateur pointed me to the very touching blog of Sami Joe Small. But he also revealed something else that made it clear why we can be so combative in a friendly way! He (he? I think so) is a Stanford grad! As a Berkeley grad, it becomes clear that almost all our arguments are based in a way on those simple facts.

Whatever his deviations, I do suggest going over to his blog and following his reports on the Olympics. He is always interesting.

Another Episode of "How they find my Blog"

Some more of the good recent searches:

1) From Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh - "chris evert nipples"

2) From Farum, Frederiksborg, Norway - ">west bengal denmark cartoons" (this might not be a native-born Norwegian searching)

3) From El Sobrante, California - "ward churchill 2006"

4) From Lancaster, England - "silly laws of different countries"

5) From Kingfisher, Oklahoma - "little country church photos"

6) From Surrey, PEI - "hells angles" (I love that one)

7) From Pleasanton, Ca - "denmark is good country" (Yay!)

8) From Maryland, US - "akkari bogus cartoons"

9) From Green Bay, WI - "hilarious quotes"

10) From Brussels, Belgium - "claus theo gartner" (Yay - oh where is German TV?)

That is enough for now.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I mentioned earlier that sleeplessness was allowing me to spend several hours a night studying the CSI phenomenon.
I mentioned in a post long ago my taste for German Krimis, crime shows. Many of these shows are police procedurals featuring a team of investigators, led by a senior investigator, who sends his team off to perform various tasks, and synthesizes the solution just before the end of each show. This is not a form much used in American crime shows; Law and Order is fairly procedural but the hierarchical nature of the team is not so obvious. Moreover, Law and Order deliberately features not simply investigation but also prosecution.
The CSIs, all three of the series that I have investigated (Las Vegas, Miami, and New York), have surprising similarities to German procedurals. In fact, the Las Vegas team's hierarchy seems to be emphasized about every third episode, as Gil Grissom bristles because one of his team has communicated something directly to another team member without going through him first. A very bureaucratic style indeed.
I am still working on what I think of the shows. They seem to be one long-running commercial for flashlights. Even when a room clearly has better lighting available, the investigators all tend to whip out their flashlights and start waving them about. The love for flashlights means that quite a bit has to be staged in relative darkness too.
Another gimmick is the odd thing they do showing a viewer the gory details of analyses; if during the autopsy someone says that the bullet entered the right occipital whatever, next thing you know there will be a whooshing sound and the viewer will be riding the bullet into the poor victim's brain. I am not quite sure what the point of this repeated idea is. I suspect to make one feel one is not far from playing a video game.
And all those instruments and chemistry sets! It sure looks sort of like science. And a lot of it sure seems dubious.
And the music. Hmmm.
I have concluded that I have not seen enough episodes yet. My friend EclectEcon says
The Miami CSI is so bad, I laugh at it
and to be honest I have yet to find it more laughable than the Las Vegas CSI. For me the main difference between the two is that I have long been a fan of William Peterson and of Marg Helgenberger, and I have never much liked David Caruso. It's also true that Gil Grissom's crustiness is more fun to watch than Horatio's endless sympathy.
My studies must continue, and at four episodes a day, I should soon have some feel for this odd form of art.

The End of the One-Handed Life

The rather draconian orders never to get out of my very cumbersome sling (a two-piece thick foam piece of work that was pretty confining), issued at Emergency and repeated in a subsequent phone discussion, became, in an instant during my follow-up visit to a fracture doctor, an assertion that the sling was now optional and purely for my convenience. Moreover, I have a nice new light sling, almost thoroughly unobtrusive. And I now am functioning with one and a fraction hands, where the fraction is large.
This is a little disappointing, as it removes a good deal of challenge from life. Certainly there is no element of the exercises my physiotherapist has prescribed that will do much to stimulate the brain, beyond the requirement of counting to 20.
The hard part now will be holding myself back and not pushing the recovery faster than it can safely go.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A Cartoon adding some Perspective

Over at LGF.

Cartoon Fatigue

Unless something interesting happens beyond the infantile destruction being carried out (likely with state connivance) I've had enough of this subject.
In many of the debates I have seen on the topic one exceptionally stupid assertion is frequently made (either disingenuously or ignorantly) - that appeals to free speech are all very well, but it is used in the West only against Muslims - Damian Penny demolishes it in this welcome post. The comments thread is interesting as well.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The 'Saudi Press Secretary' advises the King yet again

The Religious Policeman has been leaked another memo (for some reason the direct link does not work so go here and scroll down to 'Another Memo').

Own Goals

I suspect several own goals have been scored in the Copenhagen cartoons history. Steve at Angry in the Great White North shows us one, which is thoroughly entertaining, and very encouraging.
The protesters, people who want to make sure the Prophet is never mocked, satirized, or disrespected, have succeeded in making sure more people have looked at the image of the Prophet and laughed than if they had simply kept silent.
I too am getting referrals from searches on the cartoon story; mine come largely from the US., though one came from Denmark.

One-Handed Life, part 1

Wearing a sling has created many challenges. It is remarkable how much more efficiently and easily one can do many things with two hands rather than one (actually, one free hand, and one hand permanently positioned near the navel).

My injury is a sort of blessing. They say that solving puzzles helps keep us as we age from developing dementia, and I am truly grateful to be able to stave off dementia for the next few weeks by overcoming the obstacles that show up.

Let me enumerate some of the trickier operations and my current solution. Any improvements to these solutions are welcome. And by the way, a little more good fortune - my free hand is my dominant hand.

a) Brushing teeth. The main problem is getting the toothpaste on the toothbrush. Lay the toothbrush on its back (brushes up) and squeeze very gently, lest the paste being applied knock it on its side.

b) Washing my hands, well hand. One can apply fingers to any finger and the palm, but the back of the hand is a problem - I get the washcloth soaped up and rub the back of the hand against it.

c) Cutting vegetables. When not held down, they escape all over when I apply a knife. At the moment I am eating them whole (well, I might stop halfway and store the leftover).

d) Tying shoelaces. I went to Zeller's (there is no nearby Wal-Mart) and bought a pair of shoes that are secured by velcro.

e) Using my super-duper brand-new camera. I am using a tripod, a good idea in any case, if you don't need too much spontaneity.

f) Washing dishes. This is easy - the dishwasher is finally getting used.

g) Combing my hair. I had never thought about this but I comb with my left hand. And it is quite awkward with the right; I suspect this is because my hair parts on the left. My solution here is to lower my standards regarding well-combed hair.

More to come later.

I should point out that one-handed typing is very slow.

The Whimsical Near-Kidnap Victim

Patrick Belton almost continues in his direct experience of various hotspots. After being mugged in the Paris banlieues, he passes up on being kidnapped in the West Bank, in favour of a hot date.

SpikeTV's Monkey

The combination of sleeping uncomfortably, and therefore not much, and a curiosity regarding EclectEcon's professed taste for the CSI series (that's the plural of series) has put me on the path of taping all the CSIs I can find each day and watching them during the long periods of sleeplessness. (There are not enough episodes of Law and Order, only 3-5 a day, and I am starting to remember some of them, and each weekday features at least 3 CSIs. Syndication into the 500-channel universe is wonderful.)

Two of the episodes I pick up are on a network called SpikeTV.

Currently the network is running an ad for itself; the conceit is that all the regular staff have gone for the weekend to the SuperBowl, and so they have left weekend programming in the hands of a monkey (they say monkey, but a chimpanzee appears on the screen). The ad ends with the claim that SpikeTV is "the only network with the balls to let a monkey make programming decisions". Apparently a feature show on the weekend is the programmer's personal favourite, "When Animals Attack".

This is humour from the BudLight school of humour. Or perhaps the PLO school of humour. But I like it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some SuperBowl hype

deflated by Steve Rushin. (It is more deflating to see that two of the sources he cites of blatant misinformation are Canadian newspapers.)

Cartoons, all Cartoons

Some of the most interesting viewpoints I have read of late come from Harry's Place. This comment by dan to this post is a useful perspective:

You look at the "protestors" and they are the same old faces of the jihadist right-wing, whose support in places such as Indonesia and Malaysia is high localised. I am in Kolkata right now and the only protests going on are against airport privatisation. The Muslim population of West Bengal is about 25% - West Bengal's population is the same size as Germany, about 80 million, which means there are more Muslims here than in the entire European Union. Nobody is burning Danish flags, going on marches or even particularly interested. I am sure that if an Indian newspaper published these cartoons, it would be a different matter. But on the whole, Indian Muslims see it as another country's affairs and while they may object to the cartoons, it is not the most pressing issue facing them. Compared to the Gujarat massacre, the cartoons are small-fry.

The fundamentalists involved in flag burning and kalashnikov waving do not represent a "tide of anger". The Western media is really acting as a loud-hailer for extremists on this issue. Moreover, they confirm the prejudices against Islamic cultures. They should be ignored and we should get on with our lives. People do silly things and cartoonists earn their living from being silly and these cartoon are stupid and Muslims are not stupid enough to get as easily offended as the fundamentalists would like them to be.

I'd like to believe this.

In another post there is an interesting suggestion about how to keep the discussion going - rather than posting the original cartoons, try some others.

UPDATE: Helping my belief is this post from John Chilton at the Emirates Economist.

The Copenhagen Cartoons

I was interested to see our major news outlets finally report on the nonsensical brouhaha underway regarding the 12 Copenhagen cartoons (see the graphic - open separately to see somewhat enlarged). The versions of the story they report (for lack of time?) make several key elements of the story invisible.
First, that the cartoons were published in Jyllands-Posten four months ago. I have heard phrases like "cartoons published in newspapers in Denmark, Norway, France Germany,...". This is correct, but leaves out the fact that it is only this week that most of these newspapers took action, presumably as a response to the infantile and dangerous outburst in the Muslim world last week. For much of these four months, Denmark has stood alone defending some pretty basic Western values, facing major Dhimmi-like pronouncements from prominent Europeans, our Canadian star Louise Arbour, and, lately, Bill Clinton (sinking him deeply in my estimation).
Why the sudden change? Well, until pretty recently, the childish outbursts were primarily in Denmark itself, and Muslim communities in Europe, featuring the usual round of riots, pointless destruction, and of course, death threats.
After three months, the Danish imams realized they were not getting anywhere, so headed off on a tour of the Middle East, whipping up anger by displaying the fifteen offending cartoons. Yes, no longer twelve - they decided to add three of their own, perhaps because the originals were not offensive enough. One of the new ones features Mohammed with a pig's face! (And we know how offensive piglet dolls in British workplaces are now.) Needless to say, this tour serves the purposes of all the usual suspects (Middle Eastern governments, religious leaders, Hamas, Hezbollah, ...), and they have chosen to react in the usual manner, an extension of what I described above (adding on raiding embassies, firing guns off, behaving generically like enraged and thoughtless teenage males).
This is when our local media discovered the story, and they present it without important details. And without pointing out some of the idiocies - for example, the Muslim request for an apology from governments! The most stirring, intelligent, and consistent response of the Danish premier through all these months has been that he has no right to interfere with what a Danish newspaper chooses to publish, however much it may offend someone, and he has steadfastly refused even to discuss this with the various interest groups who have tried to lobby him. It is a very unfortunate observation from this event that such a simple idea is alien to much of the Muslim world.
There is a wonderful irony here - the cartoons are said to be offensive because they embody terrible Western stereotypes of Islam; well, stereotypes come from somewhere, and most of them are being confirmed very handily right now.
Which is not to say there are no exceptions; I have several friends who are clear exceptions. And my sister cites some examples here; regrettably, Damian Penny reports this morning that the Jordanian editor discovered the rewards of good sense in Jordanian society.
Interested readers can get a more detailed picture at other blogs; my recommendation is The Brussels Journal. In his post today he cites Sarko swimming against some of the tide:
He said that the reactions of extremist Muslims towards the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the original cartoons, and towards Denmark are shocking. Mr Sarkozy praised the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen for his determination and defense of freedom of expression. “Freedom of expression is not an issue for negotiation and I see no reason to give one religion a special treatment,” Mr Sarkozy said.
:shocking". Right on.

Another good source is the Viking Observer.

And also, Abiola Lapite's cool reason at work, and The Religious Policeman's witty take.

(Note: CTV has a debate on as I write - the Muslim representative mischaracterizes the history in Denmark, has a very confused notion of rights, thinks nobody should be offended by anything, and uses a typically disingenuous analogy, talking about slurs against ethnic groups. Islam in not an ethnic group - one chooses to say one believes all the nonsense, as Christians choose to believe their nonsense.)

UPDATE: Erik Svane reminds me of this as well from The Religious Policeman.

UPDATE #2: Perspective from The Big Pharaoh.