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Thursday, February 17, 2005

NHL cancels season

The last time the Stanley Cup lay dormant like this, it was 1919, and the league-- which consisted of three teams-- cancelled the Cup finals on account of the global influenza epidemic that killed twenty million people.  And yet yesterday’s ESPN poll suggested that over 68 percent of their viewers (with over 100,000 voting) couldn’t care less that the NHL has shut down its entire season.  Well, people, it’s time to take down the elite, arrogant, Northeastern MSM!!!!  We’ll show ESPN a thing or two-- we’ll conduct our own poll to see who cares about their poll!  The blogosphere will be reckoned with!!!

While we’re demolishing Old Sports Media and ushering in the totally radical Bloggers’ Revolution, in which ordinary people will complain about the old sports media, we have to figure out who’s to blame for this world-historical debacle.  Pick one of the options below, or make up your own in the comments section!

___ The greedy players, for pulling in $10 million salaries and paying no attention to the fact that ESPN telecasts of NHL games get beaten in the ratings by Full House marathons on UPN.

___ The dunderheaded owners, for advocating socialist, un-American controls on free-market sports economics.  Why do they hate freedom?

___ Gary Bettman, just because he’s a schmuck with a whiny voice.

___ Me, because I left the rink in a computer-crash-induced panic Sunday night, possibly causing my A team to lose 4-3 and almost certainly bringing NHLPA negotiations to a halt the next day.

___ Jose Canseco.

Bonus question:  which great players will now retire, having played their final game in the spring of 2004 without our realizing it at the time?

UPDATE:  In other news, Bush has nominated death-squad enabler John Negroponte as the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.  Oddly, the online ESPN poll suggests that over 68 percent of their viewers couldn’t care less about this, either.  Similar polls can be found at MSNBC, CBS/New York Times, and the U.S. Senate.

Posted by Michael on 02/17 at 11:59 AM
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005

International leftist network exposed!

The latest product of the fertile mind of David Horowitz is finally available for public use!  It’s Discover the Network, and no, it’s not a cable channel that shows mammals doing the nasty.  It’s “A Guide to the Political Left"-- that’s right, a comprehensive introduction to some of the world’s leading traitors, terrorists, and useful idiots!!

And be sure to check out the “individuals” page, kids!  Because before today, you could plausibly say that you just weren’t aware of the connections between:

Bruce Springsteen and Mohammed Atta;
Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and Roger Ebert;
Martin Sheen and Ramzi Yousef;
Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Sean Penn;
Susan Sarandon and Zacarias Moussaoui;
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Rob Reiner; and, of course,
Barbra Streisand and the Ayatollah Khomeini

--but now you can’t use that excuse any longer!

So, kids, join the global war against the American entertainment industry and its alliance with Islamist religious fundamentalists whose beliefs about women, sexuality, and secularists only appear to be similar to those of Christian religious fundamentalists but are really allied with the decadent Fifth Columnists who introduced soul-sucking concepts like “the weekend” and “the minimum wage” into American life!  Remember, everyone can fight in this war-- even Sean Hannity and Jonah Goldberg!  Enlist today!

(Hat tip to Pete Simon.)

UPDATE:  Apparently Alex of Buck Hill was on the case yesterday, while I was still noodling around with my computer troubles.  But he’s got one important detail wrong:  Danny Glover is not connected to Mohammed Atta.  Danny Glover is connected to Fidel Castro.  Just FYI. 

Posted by Michael on 02/16 at 11:35 AM
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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Artificial intelligence

– A Harrowing True Story of Truth and Harrowing –

On Sunday night I was scheduled to play two hockey games, one in the 7:45 slot (Capitals v. Wizzards) and one in the 10:15 slot (CCM v. Blues).  Here’s what that means: I would play my B-league game for 60 minutes, sit out the second game, then play my A-league game.  This is a bit tiring, needless to say, but it’s easier (at my age) than playing games back to back, so long as I warm up adequately for game two.

But what to do with the down time?  I’m a busy man with a looming book deadline, after all, and I just can’t sit around in hockey rinks for 75 minutes with nothing to do.  So I brought my laptop to the rink along with my hockey gear, thinking that I would answer email between games.  Most of it was standard business mail, like “thanks for your essay,” “you need to revise that other essay,” and “when are we ever going to see that essay you promised us by November?” Some of it was casual correspondence from friends.  The usual.  And I thought that if I got my email in-box all clear on Sunday night, I could get right to work on chapter six first thing Monday morning, and finish it by the end of the week.  Which would leave me with only a short conclusion to write– along with the brief talk I’m supposed to give at my old school, the U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, at the end of the month.

So, dear reader, you understand that I was full of good intentions, doing my due diligence.  Except that when I plugged in the laptop, it didn’t . . . what is the technical term?  ah, yes– it didn’t work.  It wouldn’t even get past the “boot” screen, with the little Gateway and Intel emblems, and the keyboard appeared to be locked.

OK, you say, it’s a case of a Frozen Laptop.  Happens to everyone.  True enough, but– as the chill began to creep over my limbs– the frozen laptop in question contained the last two chapters of my book as well as my notes and drafts for the final two chapters.  Basically, everything I’d written since the New Year and hadn’t yet sent to my editor

But what about my backup copies?  Well, thanks to the fact that I got myself a sleek, thin-as-a-deck-of-cards laptop last August, I don’t have a floppy-disk drive anymore, so my only backup is a detachable zip drive, which I use every couple months or so.  In other words, I didn’t have backup copies.  But what about my hard copies?  Even in the summer of 2003, when my 13,000-word introduction to The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies mysteriously disappeared from my hard drive one evening just as I was preparing to ship it off to the publisher, I had a 40-page printout sitting on my desk.  And the prospect of retyping the thing from scratch, after finally putting together a project that had taken me three and a half years to complete, nearly brought me to tears.  But this time I didn’t even have hard copies, because . . . and here’s where the story gets involved . . . my laptop’s USB ports mysteriously kind of fried themselves three weeks ago, and I’ve been working without a mouse and without a printer ever since.

Why didn’t I bring the damn computer into tech support right away, you ask?  Because I’m a blithering idiot, that’s why, and I thought that I should finish the book first and then see what was going on with the USB ports.  Since the laptop wasn’t even recognizing that it had connections to its hardware, I feared that this was going to be a genuinely serious problem, so, of course, I put it off!

So there I was, half-dressed in my hockey gear between games one and two, thinking to myself that my ailing, six-month-old computer was now truly dead, and that I’d lost about five weeks and seventy-five pages of work.

What was curious about the panic that overtook me was how gradual, how gentle it was.  I could feel my chest tighten, but it was tightening very slowly, as if I wouldn’t really have to worry about actually suffocating for another few hours or so.  I began thinking over the arguments and narratives of those two chapters, and whether I could re-create them note for note; yes, I thought, I can probably come up with some plausible version of them, perhaps by the end of March.  But then I began to wonder whether I could even bear to try.

By that point I realized there was no way I could play game two.  I had to go home and try to see what was wrong with the laptop.  This made no sense, of course– unless the electricity in my house was somehow going to heal the computer where the rink electricity had failed– but I just couldn’t see myself concentrating on the game while desperately trying to remember the details of a 25,000-word chunk of writing.  So, making an incoherent apology to one of the players who, like me, was waiting around between games one and two, I undressed, showered, drove home, and plugged in the laptop again . . . with no luck.

I slept about three hours Sunday night, and dreamt about connecting computers to telephones and microwaves.  From 3 a.m. to 8 a.m., I made notes for rewriting those chapters.  Then at eight I brought the laptop to the English department’s tech support department– where (you knew this was coming, right?) it promptly, happily, and inexplicably booted up without hesitation.  I immediately sent those chapters to my editor, and then (since I still couldn’t print) sent copies to myself and retrieved them on my office desktop.  Today, I dragged the damn laser printer into my office, hooked it up to the desktop, and printed hard copies of both chapters.  But now– even as I type this (on the desktop)– the laptop is in the shop, and it looks like those USB ports truly are beyond repair.  Which means not only that I can’t print from and can’t use a mouse with the laptop, but also that I won’t be able to use the zip drive, because the damn computer still can’t “see” new hardware.  To back up my work since my last zip, I’ll basically have to email everything to myself as attachments and refile it all on this end.

Once, nine years ago, the very first laptop I owned (and on which I wrote Life As We Know It in the fall of 1995) crashed as I was writing a 50-minute talk that I was supposed to deliver the next day.  The talk was about a couple of Richard Powers’s early novels, and I had just gotten to the point of the paper where I was about to discuss varieties of human and artificial intelligence in Galatea 2.2.  I am not making this up.  Then when I asked the laptop to open the pod bay doors, it told me it was sorry, but it couldn’t do that.  What’s the problem? I asked.  I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do, it said.  Then it told me that this conversation could serve no purpose any more, and it shut down.

I just don’t seem to have any damn luck with these things.  But still, I am vastly, vastly relieved to have my chapters back.  Thank you, Hal, for at least that much.

Posted by Michael on 02/15 at 11:23 AM
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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Mister Answer Man:  Special Koufax Finals Edition!

Dear Mister Answer Man:  I noted with interest your recent discussion of blog consciousness, in which you point out that blogs feel pain, have a sense of futurity, can recognize themselves in mirrors, and (in some cases) are capable of complex emotional states.  I have done some work in this area myself, most notably in my 1974 essay, “What is it Like to Be a Blog?”– which, I should add, predates your first blog entry by eleven years.  But I believe you are skirting the issue.  The question is not whether blogs have the kind of consciousness we associate with bare sentience.  The question is whether blogs have, for want of a better word, a ‘moral’ sense.  What do you think? – T. Nagel

Mister Answer Man replies:  Well, T., it sorta kinda depends on what blogs you’re talking about.  Some blogs have a highly developed moral sense and express it with a great deal of what the Greeks called θυμος; others seem to have no moral sense whatsoever, or perhaps a primitive form of outrage influenced by what the Greeks called μεθαμφεταμινε.

Personally, however, I’m more interested in whether other blogs have a sense of self-promotion.  ‘Cause this one certainly does!  Looking over the Koufax Finals, I find that this once-humble but now Koufax-obsessed blog is a contender in no less than three different categories!  I can hardly believe it, but . . . but . . . well, I can hardly believe it.  I’m not in danger of winning any one of ‘em, unlike Amanda over at Mouse Words, who’s simply running away with “Best New Blog” (how dramatically is she running away?  James Wolcott is a distant second with just over half as many votes), but still, I’m putting up a pretty decent showing, and as a result, I now know that blogs can feel “elation.”

As of 5 pm Eastern, here’s how things stand in the voting (my count is unofficial, of course):

In Best Writing: Digby starting to pull away from Meteor Blades, 80-72; then it’s Wolcott 53, Josh Marshall 45, me 43.  Cool.

In Best New Blog: Mouse Words 45, Wolcott 25, AmericaBlog 14, Bradblog 13, me 10.  Still a lot of time left on the clock, though, for those of you interested in the race for third.

In Most Humorous Post: woo hoo, my late-night Schwarzenegger riff from the second day of the RNC, capped off by the Bréton-and-Bataille meet Beavis-and-Butthead take on Jenna and not-Jenna, actually stands a chance here!  But the competition is very tough: Rude Pundit’s “What Kerry Should Say” 17, The Poor Man’s “Poker with Dick Cheney” 14 (these two are amazing posts), I’m Just Sayin’‘s “This or That” 13, me 10.  Too early to tell, but still, at the moment, I apparently have 2004’s fourth most humorous post among left-pitching bloggers, and you know, that makes even watching the damn Republican National Convention worthwhile.  Thanks to everyone who voted for me and for those of you thinking of voting sometime soon!  You too, Mr. Nagel!

Posted by Michael on 02/13 at 05:10 PM
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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Cover coverage

Wow.  Amazing suggestions for the covers, folks, especially on the Beatles end.  As for Dylan, I have to admit that I have in fact been haunted by Van Morrison and Them doing “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” all week (which is why I posted that thing in the first place).  Thanks for giving it a nod, Morris and Alex.  Anyone interested in Siouxsie and the Banshees’ version of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”?

On the “best cover better than the original” bit, this humble blog refuses to intervene in what should hereafter be referred to as the John Cale-Jeff Buckley Hallelujah Controversy.  But now that I think of it, this category really should have an infinite number of subheadings (thanks, Nick-- very good to see you here, but why you no answer your email?).  Jazz reinterpretations are a thing unto themselves, right?  I mean, Monk doing “All the Things You Are” or Mingus doing “All the Things You Are in C Sharp Minor” are more like Coltrane doing “My Favorite Things” than they are like “All the Things You Are,” if you get my drift.  Also, it seems to me that for no good reason we should distinguish between covers that are almost contemporaneous (Aretha/Otis “Respect” and the “Grapevine” troika cited by Corndog, e.g., or Mr. Costello’s wonderful “Peace, Love, and Understanding") and covers that are more like historical allusions (where the original is ten years old or more).  And thanks so much to everyone for the “worst covers”!  How come no one mentioned Pearl Jam doing “Last Kiss”?  A hideous rendition of a hideous song . . . and there are just so many out there!  Feel free to add more . . . but remember, Chris Clarke has it right: no one can be nominated for “worst cover ever” if they once appeared on Star Trek.  Shatner’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and Nimoy’s “Proud Mary” are far, far beyond “worst covers ever.” How shall I put this?  Ah, I know-- they boldly go where no covers have gone before.  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Speaking of mustard-colored science fiction uniforms:  I found out yesterday that like unto the 1981-82 Vancouver Canucks, I have managed to sneak into the finals!  In this case, the Koufax finals for “Best Writing.” Needless to say, this is the coolest thing ever to have happened to this blog (yes, things can happen to blogs, for all you annoying philosophers of mind out there-- they can feel pain, they have a sense of the future, they can recognize themselves in mirrors, and some of them are capable of complex emotional states).  Right now the voting is basically split between Meteor Blades and Digby, with Josh Marshall, James Wolcott, and Billmon in a virtual tie for third, but as you can see, I’m in some serious company over there.  Thanks to everyone who cast a vote my way.  And don’t forget to thank the good people at Wampum for hosting the Koufaxes in the first place!

And Perry Como didn’t really cover “Wooly Bully,” right?  Two Sheds Jackson, you’re putting us on, aren’t you?  Aren’t you?

Posted by Michael on 02/12 at 10:05 AM
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Thursday, February 10, 2005

American Street day

I have a brief notice over on the Street today about the recent firing of University of Colorado environmental studies professor Adrienne Anderson.  Just a citation of a couple of area news items, really-- it’s not like I’ve done any independent investigative reporting on this one.  I cite, you decide!

But I also want to call your attention to the massive progressive blog index that Kevin Hayden has put together, state by state, now with an exhaustive and searchable “topics index” and reference section as well.  If you can, please drop a few bucks in the tip jar as a gesture of thanks for all of Kevin’s hard work on this.

See you all next week with more capsule movie reviews and fourth declension neuter nouns!  Until then, we’re taking suggestions for Best Cover of a Beatles Song, Best Cover of a Dylan Song, and Best Cover (Any Song) that’s Actually Better than the Original. 

Posted by Michael on 02/10 at 01:03 PM
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