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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Almost forgot!

Jamie and I had such a good time out at this place today that I neglected my hockey duties.  So, without further ado:

Penguins in seven. Yes, I know this requires them to win in Detroit on June 12.  But remember, I was 6-2 in the opening round, 2-2 in the second, and 2-0 in the conference finals.  My only worry is that the Penguins had such a merry time scoring bunches of goals against Carolina that they may have forgotten what the Capitals series was like—when every loose puck and every errant pass was potentially game-deciding.  Also, we’ll have to see whether they’ve developed the virus that has devastated the St. Louis Blues for 15 years, namely, wingedwheelophobia, a rare but deadly disease that causes entire teams to lose all their large-muscle-group coordination when they gaze upon Detroit’s awesome logo.

But, still.  Pens in seven.  It’ll be a great day for hockey.

Posted by Michael on 05/30 at 07:22 PM
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Friday, May 29, 2009

ABF Friday:  Very Arbitrary Edition!

Oh, all right.  Since you insisted, I’ll post a couple of arbitrary but fun things for the weekend.  First, a long-overdue thanks to Oaktown Girl, who, in this ancient comment thread, introduced me to the Simpson Crazy website, thus enriching my life immeasurably.  Sure, my DVDs of the first ten seasons of The Simpsons also enriched my life immeasurably, but you can’t compare immeasurablies, because they’re so immeasurable.  Simpson Crazy is always great fun.  Thanks, Ms. Girl!

Second, about Metatron.  This is for all of you who, in the course of demonstrating that I are in fact a total ignoramus, reminded me that Metatron is not only No. 1 Angel in Ye Olde Kabbalistic Tradition but also is played by Alan Rickman in Dogma:

The bit at 2:20-2:30 is just for me.  Dear Moloch, it’s amazing how much one forgets in the course of a lifetime.  I think the only thing I remember about this movie is Alanis Morissette singing the Canadian national anthem at the end.

Third, Sotomayor and Alito.  Adam Serwer’s response to Stuart Taylor’s and Pat Buchanan’s identity-politics shell game is absolutely perfect (even though, on my Internets, Ye Olde American Prospect usually takes about half an hour to load):

The conservative freakout over Sotomayor’s remarks, as opposed to the way Alito’s were marketed as a selling point for him as a judge, makes a remarkably salient case for why we still need affirmative action. Two judges made similar points--one was an Italian American man, the other was a Latino woman, both accomplished on the bench--but what was sold as a strength for Alito makes Sotomayor a racist. Taylor and Buchanan, while attacking Sotomayor, have inadvertently made the case for a policy they’d like to see eliminated, by proving that all things being equal, a minority woman is held to a different standard than the white man of similar background and experience.

And yet, upon further reflection, one wants to add (if one is me) that if we’re comparing Alito and Sotomayor, then it’s worth remembering Alito’s youthful involvement with the far-right Concerned Alumni of Princeton.  After all, as Jerome Karabel pointed out, there was a good reason those alumni were so concerned: “the animating force behind the alumni revolt at Princeton was the university’s decision in January 1969 to admit women.” Had they known, back then, that one of those women would soon show up eating mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir and would grow up to write in the Berkeley Loony Left La Raza Kill-the-Gringos Law Journal about her superiority to white men, those alumni surely would have been even more concerned!  Well, that’s what happens when you let those women of color play identity politics.

Fourth, more drumming!  This is for everyone who complained that my last selection was a mere snippet and that it came from the “we all know rock music attained perfection in 1974” set list.  This is a whole entire song, start to finish, and it comes from an album released in ought-five, though I think the kids today say “compact disc.” I first heard it on a “compilation compact disc” Nick made for Jamie, and halfway through, I thought, dang, this song makes me want to be in a band again. It’s not much on the bass drum, just twos and fours, but the rest of it is pretty distinctive, which is why it’s here.  (And yes, it’s supposed to stop abruptly on the floor tom like that, with no cymbal crash.) Though I have to say (a) I never tried to play it before yesterday, which accounts for a couple (though not all) of the mistakes here, and (b) it sounds lonely all by itself.  So, if you must know what song it is, you can go to YouTube and look at the comment I’ve appended to the clip.

Have a fun weekend, everyone, with plenty of patitas de cerdo con garbanzo and some of that la lengua y orejas de cuchifrito.

Posted by Michael on 05/29 at 10:07 AM
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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


You know that summer is here when:

the kids come to visit for Memorial Day weekend! Nick and Rachel were here, bringing sweetness and light and laundry to our doorstep.  And they took away . . . the Passat!  OK, that was my idea.  Those of you who have been reading this blog for years upon years will remember that back in 2006, my first two posts dealt with the Saga of the 1998 Subaru, which turned inside out and then exploded as Nick was taking care of Jamie while their parents attended the 2005 MLA convention.  So of course we bought a new car, and . . . refused to accept the ridiculously low trade-in offered on the Subaru (meaning, of course, that Janet refused to accept the ridiculously low trade-in offered on the Subaru), so we kept the Subaru in the spare parking space for a few months, which was a bad idea, since Firestone had screwed up the seal on the rear left tire, leaving it with a slow leak, so that by April I had to get out the bicycle pump just to fill the tire enough to get it to the nearest gas station and fill it with a real air hose. Eventually, we got the tire all fixed, and then we sold the car.  No, wait, we didn’t.  We gave it to Nick for his final year of college, and he drove the wheezing, rattling old thing around St. Louis until we showed up for his commencement last May and sold the car.  No, wait, we didn’t.  We piled all of Nick’s belongings into two cars and strapped his bicycle to the back of the Subaru, thinking that Nick and Jamie would drive that car while Janet and I luxuriated in the Toyota for the 800-mile drive home.  Except that when I took the Subaru down the road apiece for gas and (of course) air, I realized there was no way I was going to let both my offspring drive this wheezing, rattling thing across one-third of the continent, so I volunteered to drive it solo while the other three luxuriated in the Toyota, since Nick had to get back to State College the next day for a Crucial Appointment and I didn’t think the Subaru would be able to go more than 45 mph.  The good news is that the Subaru performed wonderfully at 70 mph the whole way and we made it back that night; the bad news is that this performance convinced Janet that Nick should take the Subaru with him to New Haven, where it has lived these past twelve months.  But the wheezing, rattling old thing needs all kinds of work, and we can’t ask Nick to spend that kind of money on car repair, so we sold it.  No, wait, we didn’t.  First we thought about getting Nick a new car, and then we thought about getting Nick a used car, and then a few weeks ago as I was spring-cleaning the Passat I realized we should simply give it to him.  So even though I dearly love that car, I took it to the local Deeply Incompetent Dealership, where they fixed the routine trouble with the rear left door and replaced a headlight while somehow killing the battery, so then we got a new battery, so Nick and Rachel drove off yesterday in a seven-year-old Passat with only 60,000 miles on it and a brand new battery, and we kept the Subaru, which we’re going to donate to charity.  No, wait, we’re not.  Even though that was the plan up to about 4 pm yesterday afternoon.  Now, apparently, we’re going to keep the wheezing, rattling thing for one more winter because it’s such a good snow car.  Even though Janet has been saying for two years that we have to get a Prius because otherwise the Earth will die, and even though I finally agreed and began checking out hybrids a few weeks ago.

So: Nick has the Passat, and I will not worry about his safety anymore because he is not driving a wheezing, rattling old thing.  And I wind up with the Subaru I’ve been trying to get rid of for three and a half years now.  To sum up:

Sometimes I think back to the years I lived in an urban hell hole and owned no car, and I say to myself, you know where you stand in a hell hole.

I go out golfing with the Bérubé Boys and shoot a 38 for nine holes! Yes, nothing says “summer” like pampered, golf-playing college professors bragging about the 20-foot par-saving putt they holed on 2, followed by the 15-foot birdie putt on 6 and the insane, steeply-downhill par-saving 25-footer on 9, unless it’s pampered, golf-playing college professors complaining that they would have shot even par 36 if they’d hit the six-footer on 5 after nicely blasting out of sand with an impossible downhill/sidehill lie and the steeply-downhill-and-sliding-right five-footer on 7 after nicely chipping from that impossible place where the first cut of greenside rough meets the second and you can’t get your clubface on the ball.  OK, well, at Nick’s suggestion, Jamie, Nick and I took a couple of hours on Sunday at Ye Olde Penn State white course.  Nick managed a crafty scrambling par on nine by driving well right, hacking an iron to within 50 yards, then bumping-and-running a difficult pitch to six feet and hitting the putt; Jamie outdrove us both on nine, hitting his best shot of the day, and also picked up a very nice bogey on five by lacing a drive into a greenside bunker, then using his brand-new sand wedge to pop the ball within 20, whence he two-putted.  Have I mentioned that Jamie is doing Special Olympics golf as well as swimming and basketball?  And that Special Olympics golf practices are Wednesdays at 5:30, just before our Tang Soo Do classes at 8?  And that Jamie got his brown belt in Tang Soo Do last week?  Well, now I have.  Maybe I’ll remember to put up a pic of Jamie in his brown belt uniform.

Anyway, this reminded me that (a) I last shot a 38 about 24 years ago, and (b) the last time Nick and Jamie and I all played together, Nick holed an insane 60-footer for birdie from the fringe on the first hole.  “You bum,” I cried.  “Thirty-something years I’ve been playing this game and I’ve never been under par.  Not once.  And you just show up and drain a putt that changed time zones on its way to the hole.  What is this, the first hole you’ve played all year?” Yes, it was the first hole he’d played all year.  He then proceeded to par number two, which made him an extra extra bum (and led Jamie to claim, erroneously but understandably, that he himself had eagled number three).

we see a Very Silly Movie! After Nick and Rachel left, Janet, Jamie and I took ourselves to Ye Olde Moving-Pictures Emporium to see Angels and Demons (Jamie’s insistence).  I have two things to say about Angels and Demons.  Thing one:  it may be the finest film ever made, if by “the finest film” you mean “the only film that features both a professor of religious symbology and an expert in bioentanglement physics.” And what’s not to like about a movie whose thriller/suspense scenes are drawn from a famous Monty Python bit?

Ah, I see commenter “Zelo77” on Ye Olde You Tube Threade had precisely the same thought I did!  Now that’s bioentanglement.

Thing two: it occurs to me that I have actually mentioned Angels and Demons on this blog before, in the seventh paragraph of this post about more serious matters:

Though Jimmy was barely able to walk, he and his brother Martin were bantering hilariously about the novels he’d been sent to keep him “occupied” during his hospitalization: someone had given him Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code, apparently unaware that the Crofts family is ridiculously well-read, having memorized most of everything from Spenser to Flann O’Brien, and Jimmy and Martin had us howling about the Dan Brown Howlers.  At one point the two brothers decided that the books were so bad that, on some level, they were aware of how bad they were, and had to be watched lest they slip off the shelf, wander into the back yard, and shoot themselves.

I get tired of blogging alla time! Sometimes that’s a sign that my appendix is about to burst, and sometimes it’s a sign that can only be read properly by a professor of religious symbology.  Anyway, I’m taking the rest of the week off.  I might be back on Friday with a song, but if I’m not, just remember this: it’s been 25 years since the Stanley Cup finals consisted of a rematch.  The Oilers crushed the Islanders in five after having been swept the previous year.  Go Pens!

Posted by Michael on 05/26 at 09:13 AM
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Konservative Koans

Without words, without silence, will you tell me the truth?

Merely “psychological” torture isn’t really torture because it merely induces psychosis.

Without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born.

Nancy Pelosi must resign because of her approval of psychological torture which isn’t torture anyway and which we strongly approve of.

Does a liberal have a Buddha-nature or not?

The Fairness Doctrine is a nanny-state abomination that must never afflict American media again and must be applied to universities instead.

Posted by Michael on 05/25 at 10:42 AM
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Some News Analyses Are Made Totally of Straw

Like Helene Cooper’s in today’s New York Times, “Some Obama Enemies Are Made Totally of Straw”:

Mr. Obama continued on the offensive against straw men that day in Los Angeles, pointing out that critics told him not to go on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on NBC because “I can’t handle that and the economy at the same time.” Then, his audience primed, he delivered his standard kill line: “Listen, here’s what I say. I say our challenges are too big to ignore.”

And who can argue with that? Like most straw men, Mr. Obama’s are not complete fabrications. White House officials correctly pointed out that Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, took a crack at Mr. Obama for appearing on the Leno show, saying that his “suggestion is that he come back, since he’s taken full responsibility, and get his people together” to confer on the budget.

But that is still a ways from the tortuous construct which Mr. Obama ended up with, that turned Mr. Kyl’s remark into one that somehow needed the “our challenges are too big to ignore” rebuttal, since it suggests that one of those challenges was apparently appearing on Leno.

That “tortuous construct,” Ms. Cooper, in which one suggests that appearing on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” is a big challenge that cannot be ignored, is what is colloquially known as a “joke.” Because, as you correctly point out in your “analysis,” going on Leno is not really a big challenge.  In fact, it is totally not any kind of challenge at all!  And that is what makes the “joke” so “funny,” you see.

I look forward to future analyses in this vein, in which we will learn that Obama totally lied about Sasha and Malia flying Air Force One over Manhattan.

Posted by Michael on 05/24 at 10:40 AM
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Friday, May 22, 2009

ABF Friday:  Music and Detention edition!

All right, time for yet another blog experiment.

I’m curious as to how identifiable this song is by the drum part alone.  I deliberately chose (what I think of as) an easy one, but I stayed away from the Very Famous Drum Openings genre, like “This Year’s Model” or “New Lace Sleeves” from the Declan McManus songbook.  Instead, I chose a drum part that has, in places, its own kind of melody—which is why I think it’s pretty easily identifiable.

And yes, I’m a bit rusty.  What do you want?  The last time I played in public was quite some time ago, and even then I wasn’t playing on my own kit.  Speaking of which: the thin crash on my right, your left, is about to fall apart.  And I really don’t like the way this ride cymbal sounds here—way too bright and tinny and overtoney.  I’m thinking of replacing it with the glorious old 22-inch thing I bought used from a midtown NYC studio for all of $18 in 1981.  Eighteen dollars!  Of course, back then we had to say “dickety” because the Kaiser stole our word “eighteen.”

So, here’s Song in 100 Seconds (apologies to Josh Marshall):

And also apologies to Jim Gordon.

Oh yes, about that Obama fellow.  You know, I’d almost forgotten all about him!  Yes, that was a pretty good speech he gave yesterday.  He seems to be quite talented at that sort of thing.  I don’t have anything to add that Greenwald and Digby haven’t said already (apologies to Greenwald and Digby!  Also, read Greenwald’s Fifth Update to today’s post).  Am I disappointed in the guy generally?  Well, yes and no.  No, because I expected to be disappointed, which kind of throws the whole category of “disappointment” into epistemological crisis.  Yes, because “preventative detention” goes way beyond anything I’d expected to be disappointed by, and I think he’s already (and quite needlessly) blown a couple of much easier opportunities to restore the principles to which he’s appealing, like lifting the Bush-Cheney ban on Very Dangerous Furren Scholars like Scary Tariq Ramadan.  (Yes, I know the professional bedwetters at Fox would scream bloody murder at the idea that Scary Tariq Ramadan might come to a college in your neighborhood.  But that’s nothing compared to the bloody murder they’re screaming at Obama’s seekrit Muslim plan to give everyone in Gitmo a weekend furlough to your house.  The political fallout for reversing the Dangerous Furren Scholars ban would last maybe twenty seconds.) Anyway, probably the best that can be said for yesterday’s speech is that its best passages set a standard by which Obama’s actual policies can be weighed in the scales and found wanting, beginning with the “preventative detention” outrage.  But after hearing that other fellow’s speech yesterday, do I have any regrets about supporting B. Hussein?  Nope, not a one.

Posted by Michael on 05/22 at 04:11 PM
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