Friday, May 28, 2004

The Media is a Fair Weather Friend: I should have known. We're all agreed that the media is about one thing--ratings. Hence they only bring up stories that are sensational or that they can sensationalize.

So all my worries about the media hyping the Atkins diet should have been tempered by the fact that, sooner or later, the headlines would change from "Atkins Diet Guaranteed Weight Loss Cure" to "Atkins Diet Will Kill You, Possibly By The End of the Day."

I guess this article is sort of an intermediate step.

Surrendering Vocabulary: My old friends at Freespace and Froggie's Lilypad have been discussing whether the terms "spirit" and "soul" are usable by atheists. Sandefur says, "Why should we surrender such lovely, expressive words to people who believe in ghosts?"

I think that vocabulary differences largely contribute to much of the argument between religious and non-religious people. Both are willing to couch all vocabulary in terms that make them look good, and the other people look bad.

For example, if I were to pick one word essential to religion that's been "surrendered" to anybody, it would be "Faith." Faith, as the atheist would have you believe, is believing in something that it makes no sense to believe in. In other words, they've built, right into the definition, something that makes it counterintuitive and illogical. It's weaker than belief.

But to the religious, that isn't faith. That's stupidity, just like it is to the non-religious. To the religious, faith is belief on something unknown based on evidence, based on some type of observation of reality or of experimentation. In fact, to Mormons, if what you're believing in isn't true, then what you're practicing isn't faith. This is stronger than belief.

This type of faith is, in fact, the basis of our entire criminal justice system. We get twelve people together with no "certain knowledge" of the facts, and continue pressing them with enough "evidence" until they come to a conclusion. We don't even ask them to be absolutely, completely convinced of what they decided, we just want any doubts to be, by one definition or another, "unreasonable."

The sad part of the non-religious definition of faith is that it's been adopted by so many of the religious. Lots of otherwise rational people subscribe to the idea that belief in God is counterintuitive, and that by believing in him they're doing something irrational, but that this is what God would want.

The even sadder part is, this definition of faith didn't start with the non-religious. It started with religious people as, I'm assuming, an easy way out when people asked hard questions. "Oh, you'll be fine, just rely on your faith," or "Don't question these things, that shows a lack of faith" (As if there were a way to gain faith other than by asking questions).

So as long as we're bandying about who has claim on what words, I want dibbs on this one.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Paradigms, Partisansism, and Pouch Cooking: So I'm sitting here watching Alton Brown do his thing tonight, making a mouth-watering mackerel, wrapped in parchment paper, and I'm thinking how good it looks when my wife mutters, "This is making me sick."

She's not into fish.

And I realize we're both sitting there, seeing the same thing, but we're both referencing a bunch of different stuff in our brains while we're watching it, so even though we're seeing the same thing, it's like we're looking in two different directions.

And it makes me wonder, you know?

Because I realize it's the exact same way I feel with this Iraq situation, with the whole war on terror, with pretty much every single bit of politics I've ever dealt with.

It's like, there's all these people I love and care about and respect, people who I know are good, honest people who want what's best for me and you, and yet we look at the same exact thing, hear the same exact words, and it's still like we're looking in two different directions.

And part of what draws me to blogging, to forums, draws me to even want to be a writer, is the idea that I can maybe straighten out a head or two that's not on straight, maybe even get my own head on a little straighter as I talk and examine and logically discuss issues--

But then I think about that fish, and I realize that no explaining, no appeal to logic, no appeal to emotion, nothing I say is going to change the effect that fish has on my wife. She's already got the mental baggage necessary to make her reaction, just like I've got mine.

I admit I'm a one-issue voter this election. A one issue voter for the first time in my life. It's clouding everything I see all of the candidates doing, and it's affecting every judgment I make.

That issue is the war on Terror. As longtime posters may remember, my daughter was born that week. When I took pictures of the hospital to send to my wife's folks, the flags outside were flying half mast.

And as word started coming out about who had done this, and about the conditions the like-minded oppressors in Afghanistan were subjecting their people to, it was plain what had to be done.

My wife had been in the hospital for a staff infection when she went into labor--my daughter was born in the cardiac unit in a recovery room with the curtain half-open most of the time, instead of in a regular delivery room. Had we been in Afghanistan, my wife wouldn't have even been allowed in the hospital.

There were complications with the delivery, but the doctor who handled it was professional and made it look effortless. Had we been in Afghanistan, she wouldn't have been allowed to go to school.

My daughter had to spend a couple of hours in NICU. Not a big deal, here, but had we been in Afghanistan, who knows what the midwife could have done?

So we went to war there, we brought down a regime, and we freed a people.

And now I'm reading people questioning whether we did the right thing because it spread Al-Qaida out or made them harder to find or whatever, and I realize, we're looking at the same thing, but it's like we're looking in opposite directions.

So then we go to Iraq, talk of WMDs notwithstanding, with one grand and glorious vision in mind--the establishment of a bastion of democracy in the midst of oppression. To conduct a grand demonstration of the peace, joy, and prosperity that Muslims can experience under the rule of freedom. To let Muslims see that it is not freedom that is to be feared, not free people that need killed, but it is tyrants that need to be feared, it is dictatorships that need to be brought down, and that when you are free to go your way and I am free to go my way we can all find joy together.

It's an incredibly bold and noble plan--one of the grandest that has ever been undertaken. If it succeeds, it has the potential to transform a region of the world that has been war-torn since before our nation was born. If it fails, it dooms millions of middle-easterners to lifetimes of continued war and suffering.

We were content to let them have at it, when they were keeping to themselves. But once the bloodshed spilled to our shores, once we knew we were not safe, we were forced to attempt the grandest undertaking any President has undertaken in half a century. Introducing a contagious freedom.

But I read other blogs, and talk to other intelligent, caring people I know, and they don't see any of this. They look at this and see a petty, stupid man who's been manipulated into doing a favor for some oil buddies, and who's taking advantage of a chance to oppress and abuse while he's at it. A guy with no plan, no foresight to get him through the rest of the day, much less this thing in Iraq.

Looking at the same thing, but it's like we're looking in different directions.

So is it like the fish? Is this really all just a matter of taste, of opinion, and nobody's more right than anybody else?

Or is this about truth, right and wrong, good and evil, and there really is some plateau we can all reach through discourse and debate?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

On Garfield: Okay, I wasn't aware that Lorenzo Music had died. People need to tell me these things.

And since Lorenzo Music did the voice of the Bill Murray character in the Ghostbusters cartoon, it's pretty cool that Bill Murray is taking over the reigns now.

Are there any shoeprints left inside my mouth?

Monday, May 24, 2004

You Got Your Chocolate in My Peanut Butter: Homestar Runner and They Might Be Giants!?!?!? Yes, the two great tastes that go great together.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Doc on Diet: Okay, for some reason I'm really ticked off about the whole idea of the Atkins diet right now. Sure, everybody, go ahead and have some beef jerky, which is low fat and low carb, but is super saturated with sodium (about 5 times as much per oz as the same weight in potato chips) and has no other nutrients, but for heavens sake, don't touch apples or oranges, which have less than 100 calories and more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than any number of prepackaged "Atkins Approved" meals.

Which is really the problem. I agree with Alton Brown's latest couple of rants about HFCS and hydrogenated oils.

The entire problem with our diet is processed foods. The more that food has become a "convenience item" for us as a culture, the more they've packed a whole bunch of calories into a very little space.

Nature doesn't allot calories this way. It builds fibers into its sugars, and the fruits are actually already made in a way that's perfectly digestible and good. Vegetables have practically no calories at all--they're just minerals and water and fiber, with barely any starches and sugars. Even the most starch laden of vegetables, the potato, is perfectly fine and won't spike your insulin levels as long as you're pairing it with some meat, like chicken, and some vegetables, like broccoli.

So now, I present to you, in all of it's beautiful glory, the Doc Magik guide to eating healthy. I will not make nearly the money off of this Dr. Atkins did off his travesty, but that does not mean it can't work for you.

Drink water. Drink it all the time. Drink it during meals, drink it before meals, and drink it after meals. Don't drink less than about sixteen glasses a day. If you're not drinking that much, you may want to work up to it gradually, but get there.

Why? Water is the basis of your body's function. Such a high percentage of our body is water that the body is in constant need of hydration. Studies have shown wonderful things about water: The vast majority of headaches can be cured with water, most feelings people mistake for hunger are actually signs of dehydration, two cups of ice water can be as effective as a cup of coffee to get you going in the morning, and if you drink ice water, it can increase your metabolism for up to 30 minutes afterwards, even if you're inert, as the body heats the water up to 98.6 degrees. Also, if you have a problem retaining water, drinking more water will actually help your body overcome that.

Don't drink anything else. Not coffee, not soda, not even fruit juice. Not even Gatorade.

Why? We all know the sodium in soda is bad for you, and can dehydrate you. You may not know that even the phosphates in soda (even diet soda) can coat your fat cells, meaning your body has to burn them off before it can burn off the fat. As for juices and regular sodas, liquid calories are one of the most notorious culprits when it comes to weight loss. Studies were done where they gave test subjects 100 extra calories of jelly beans, and another group of test subjects 100 extra calories of juice. They found that while the people who'd eaten the jelly beans slightly modified their diet for the rest of the day to compensate for the extra calories, the people who drank the juice didn't make any changes at all. And since they're packed with High Fructose Corn Syrup, they're really, really loaded with calories.

But what about Gatorade? Isn't that healthy?

Sure, it's healthy, but it's not a diet drink. It's packed with calories. It's packed with calories on purpose. It's made to help athletes who are running out of sugars in their blood stream to get sugar back into their blood stream. If you aren't actually running or jogging or playing football--in other words, if your blood sugar isn't actually down--you'll just spike your blood sugar with it, and your body will be forced to store the excess as fat to compensate. In other words, if you've got "it" in you, you better get "it" out of you, before "it" stays in you, around your middle.

So print it in hundred feet high letters and fly it behind a zepplin--Gatorade isn't a diet drink.

Have dairy every day. Women should have yogurt every day. If you have to break the last rule, do it with milk. Yes, I am aware that milk is one of the highest allergens on the planet. It's still the only exception I'll make for liquid calories.

Why? Milk has it's own food group for a reason. It's got a lot of the protein of the meat group, but also a lot of the nutrients of the vegetable group. Studies show that calcium also has a fiber-like effect on digestion--the more you consume, the slower calories are absorbed, and the fewer calories are converted to fat.

What about yogurt? The live and active cultures in yogurt are good for anybody (look for Acidopholous and Bifidus) but especially for women. A lot of female problems can be avoided by the daily consumption of yogurt.

Never miss a meal. Make sure you're getting three squares a day.

Why? I know a lot of people whose diet basically consists of "I'm skipping lunch this week, because I have a dress I want to fit into."

The problem with these diets is two-fold. First, when you miss meals, you eat too much at the next meal to compensate. This is also done with crash diets--after a week of denying all cravings, a gorging generally results.

But the problem is even more insidious. When our body goes too long without eating, it starts to metabolize in such a way as to allow for more fat storage, so it can get by during those times. Ironically, in order to keep ourselves slim, we do need to be eating all the time.

Instead of trying to make sure you're not getting something, make sure you are getting everything. What does that mean? Well, it means that instead of trying to eliminate carbs or fats or protein from your diet, based on whatever this year's fad diet is, instead you should make sure you have some of each at every meal, along with some fiber.

Why? Just because something is bad for you if you eat it in excess doesn't mean it isn't necessary to function. Think about salt. Lots of salt can cause dehydration, it can aggravate asthma, and can affect blood pressure. But without it, you'd also die. That's why, even though they go to all that trouble to bring pure water for sailors, they still bring salt tablets. Because the crew needs the sodium, just not so much.

Your body needs carbs. Carbs are its primary energy source. Protein is necessary for muscle development. Fat and oils also give energy, and, in moderation, can actually help your blood pressure and cholesterol. Fiber slows digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients at a reasonable rate.

So you need them all. However, not all nutrients are created equal. Therefore . . .

Try to get these nutrients from as natural a source as possible. This is a fancy way of saying avoid processed foods. The closer they are to the way mother nature made them, the quicker you should be to snatch them up.

Why? Most of the "processes" to which our food is subjected eliminate nutrients and fiber. Two of the biggest staples of the American diet, white bread and pasta, are made of wheat flour that's been refined to a point where they're nearly instantly digestible by the body. They're calorie bombs, and they go off fast.

The energy from that explosion then has to go somewhere. Your body as two choices--either burn it then, or store it for later use. If you're active, you can burn it then and there, but if you're not, or if you've eaten more than you can burn, all of that energy instead goes straight to your middle.

You can think of fiber as a timer on that explosive process. Since the fiber slows the rate at which grains are absorbed into the body, you have more time to burn the calories off naturally, rather than having to store them.

So some carbs are better than others. However, other things also slow this process. For instance, if you ate that white bread with other things--say there was a good piece of meat in there, or you also had an apple or some other fiber rich food--all of those things also slow down the digestion of the white bread similarly to the way the fiber would in wheat bread.

So I'm not saying carbs are out--I'm not saying any food is "out." I'm just saying when given choices, go for the one that's the most natural.

Reconsider portion size. Just because we're eating all the time doesn't mean that we're going to be eating a lot. Your serving of protein should be something like a chicken breast or a fish fillet or a lean cut of meat that's the size of the palm of your hand. Ditto the carbs. A potato or a scoop of brown rice or an apple that's the size of your fist.

As for vegetables--well, I say go as big as you want on the vegetables. Be careful of dressings on salads, but as for vegetables themselves--you can eat them until the end of forever and you won't get any bigger (This is another of my gripes with Atkins. Broccoli has kind of a high Glycemic Index, but I promise you, left hand on the bible, without ever having met you, broccoli did not, nor will it ever, make you overweight). The only exception to this is potatoes, which count more as a carb.

Eat fruits and vegetables. Rather than focusing on what you can't eat, again, focus on things you should eat. Fruits and vegetables are these things.

Why? Aside from the fiber, and the vitamins, and the minerals (Aren't those enough?) there's the antioxidants. And the fun thing about antioxidants is, you can tell what antioxidant is in the fruit or vegetable by what color it is. The richer the color, the more of the antioxidant it contains (Hence a strawberry or red pepper have more vitamin C than an orange). So if you want to get a bunch of different antioxidants, eat a bunch of different colored fruits and vegetables.

Be careful at restaurants. Yeah, it says, grilled chicken salad, but what are they going to bring you? On my way back through Nevada the other day, I grabbed a "Shrimp and Avocado Salad" that was roughly the size--I kid you not--of the salad bowl my mom used to feed the family of eight with when I was growing up.

And portions aren't the only problem. Restaurants prepare meat different than you do--I was reading about how Chinese Restaurants make stir-fry. They start of going for the fattest cuts, because they make for the most tender meat, then they coat them in corn starch to tenderize them, and then they cook them in tons of oil, which again, does little for the flavor, but makes the meat seem juicier and moister. Naturally, all of this means more calories than if you had carefully selected lean cuts and cooked them yourself at home.

Snack between meals. Fruit, yogurt, even a candy bar once in a while. Have something to tide you over and keep your blood sugar up from one meal to the next.

Enjoy eating. Remember the old song, "Love the One You're With"? Well, love the things you eat. Really enjoy it. Don't think of it as a diet--think of it as eating good.

If there's a food you don't like, don't eat it just because it's good for you. Yeah, pears are good for you, but I won't touch them to save my life. Maybe for you it's brussel spouts or cauliflower. If you're allergic to fish, don't eat them just to get the omega-3's--you can get omega-3's from nuts or from venison or buffalo. There's plenty of delicious foods that are good for you to choose from.

Have the slice of pie here or there, or the candy bar here or there. In fact, you can probably have a "bad" food every day and still be fine. The key is what the key's always been--moderation.

However, as was pointed out this week to me by an astute observer, moderation never made anybody a millionaire, so we're not too fond of preaching it in this country. So I'm sure they'll keep pushing "Eat as much as you want and still lose weight!" and "Secret no-work weight loss guide!"s down our throats until we all explode or have heart failure.

In the meantime, this permalink will be here, if you ever need it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Oscar Thing: Cool thing going on in Beverly Hills out at the Acadamy Gallery.

The Academy’s previous exhibition of the work of contemporary set decorators, installed in 1996, was such a hit it seemed logical to do it again, this time on a larger scale. A key component of every film, the work of the set decorator will be highlighted with an interactive installation that delights the eye and explores the creative solutions of the entire production design team.

The Academy Fourth Floor Gallery will be temporary home to worlds as diverse as those created for Dr. Seuss’ flights of fancy (The Cat in the Hat), modern and period horror stories (The Haunted Mansion and Van Helsing), swinging tales of ‘mod’ ‘60s singles (Down with Love), superheroes (Spiderman 2) crime-fighting vixens (Charlie’s Angels 2: Full Throttle), student magicians (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and modern families (Cheaper by the Dozen).

Each film will be represented by a 3-dimensional, interactive set, showcasing the set d├ęcor and prop items created for each of these films by the set decorator. A video reel containing film clips and interviews with the set decorators will allow the visitor to further understand the journey from set design to finished film.

On Andy: Oh, wait, he IS back!

No. No, he's not.

Really.

Monday, May 17, 2004

No Show: My brother called to let me know Andy Kaufman didn't show up last night.

Kid Gloves Coming Off: First, I'm going to be a professional writer. The workshop was fantastic, but the best part is that it isn't over. Dave Wolverton is going to walk me through an outline and a couple of drafts of a story--a good story I started developing during the workshop. Wolverton has given a lot of thought to a lot of aspects of writing--any writer should be anxiously waiting for him to refine the notes he gave us as a text into a finished manuscript.

Also, I'm ready to lose this weight. For the last few months I've been in my "about to go on a diet" phase--the one where I eat too much, justifying myself that it's because I'm about to go hardcore "next Monday." Whatever. Now, using the free calculators over at FitDay.com, I'm going to do what I did last time--eat right, count calories, and exercise.

So by the end of the year, I'm going to be strong, healthy, and professionally published.

Just watch.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Road Trip: I'm going out of town for the weekend, leaving the wife and kids in the capable hands of my brother-in-law, the midshipman.

I'll be attending a writer's workshop put on by Dave Wolverton, author of a bunch of really good books, including the powerful and award-winning On My Way To Paradise, which Timothy Sandefur picked up for me while I was in Brazil.

He's best known by his pseudonym, David Farland, under which he wrote the Runelords books, which, as I've mentioned before, are going to be made into a movie this year.

Wish me luck and lots of learning . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

On Photographs: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It's just a cliche, but it says that pictures can tell you a whole heck of a lot.

But if a picture is worth a thousand words, it can also evoke thousands of thousands. There's a book by Chris Van Allsburg, the guy who wrote Jumanji and The Polar Express, called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. The book is nothing more than captioned black and white pictures, with both the pictures and the captions being particularly evocative. Fantastic stuff.

Lots of grade school teachers have their kids look at the pictures and write stories surrounding the pictures. They make up backstory or tell what happens next, and what comes out is a fun mix of Van Allburg's suggestions and the kid's imagination.

This is exactly what's happening with these pictures from the Iraqi prison. Clearly, what's depicted in those photos tells a story. It's a cruel story and one that's unacceptable to most of us. However, they're still snapshots. It's only a tiny fraction of a story. It is limited by the boundaries of the edges of the frame, and similarly framed in time around a few single moments. Even the video is framed around the moments the camera started and stopped.

Our mind doesn't deal well in singularities. When we see a piece of an object, our mind wants to fill in the rest. If a shoe is poking out from the bottom of a curtain, our mind does not stop at the shoe--it assumes a person has a foot in there, a person who's standing behind the curtain. If we see two sides of a box, our mind fills in the other two sides as being like the sides we see (That's how a box works, right?). As magicians, we like to exploit this trait people have to make assumptions.

So just like the elementary school kids, everybody's filling in the rest of the story from the pictures they've seen. And just like the elementary school kids, we're learning more about who the people looking at the photos are than we are about what actually went on in the pictures. The left has filled in the holes with the dark and viscous paste that is their assumption that all evil traces back to the Bush White House. The right is filling in the gaps with the airy and thin fluff that is the idea that because your intentions are good, diversion is justified, that since worse is being done to our people, this should be sneezed at.

Both positions are ludicrous. The people calling for Rumsfeld's resignation prove their own bias--at this point, shouldn't we just be calling for an investigation? Or more knowledge of what's being discovered in the current investigation?

And as for the assertion by the lawyers of the people who were in the pictures that their clients were under orders--that's the standard defense in most Military tribunals.

The fact is, we don't know what happened. I have opinions, but they're probably wrong. What you think is probably wrong, too. But a lot of what we think will also turn out to be right.

But I do think we need to wait and see.

The Sound of Music: Another travesty in this year's movie fare? That they're trying to make a movie out of Garfield that does not feature Lorenzo Music as the Fat Cat's voice.

I love Bill Murray. He could read the phone book and I'd be rolling on the floor holding my sides--and that's not sarcasm. He's funny.

But Lorenzo Music is amazing. He owns Garfield.

And, to make this even more geeky and pointless, Garfield doesn't talk, he thinks.

Petitioning Help: I got another email today asking me to handle large sums of money. Word must be getting around.

DEAR FRIEND,
MY NAME IS SAEED AHMED.I AM 65 YEARS OLD MAN.I AM FROM
DUBAI {UNITED ARAB EMIRATE}.I OWNED TWO BUSINESSES IN
DUBAI.I AM MARRIED WITH NO CHILDREN. MY WIFE
DIED IN A CAR ACCIDENT SIX YEARS AGO.

SINCE I HAVE NO CHILDREN OF MY OWN, I HAVE BEEN HELPING ORHANPS IN
ORPHANAGE/MOTHERLESS HOMES BY DONATING MONEY TO THEM.

PRESENTLY, I AM RECEIVING TREATMENT IN A HOSPITAL. MY DOCTORS TOLD ME THAT I
HAVE CANCER OF THE LUNGS AND THAT I HAVE FEW MONTHS TO LIVE.

BEFORE I BE CAME ILL, I SAVED SOME MONEY{5.5 MILLION DOLLARS}FIVE MILLION FIVE
HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS WITH A SECURITY COMPANY IN EUROPE.

PLEASE,I BEG YOU IN THE NAME OF ALLAH TO HELP ME
COLLECT THIS MONEY FROM THE SECURITY COMPANY.
AFTER COLLECTING THE MONEY , YOU WILL NOW HELP ME TO TAKE IT TO ONE ORHANPANGE
HOME IN LONDON OR ANY ORPHANANAGE HOME CLOSE TO YOU.

I AM BELIEVING THAT YOU WOULD OFFER THIS SERVICE FOR HUMANITY SAKE.IF YOU CAN
HELP ME.MAIL ME SO THAT I WILL GIVE YOU THE CONTACT DETAILS OF THE SECURITY
COMPANY. PLEASE RESPOND TO THIS MAIL USING MY ALTERNATIVE AND MORE SECURE EMAIL
ADDRESS

MAY THE GOOD ALLAH BLESS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.

I AWAIT YOUR RESPONSE.

REGARDS.

SAEED AHMED.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Summer Movies: Read the calendar section of the LA Times yesterday (Saturday night, actually, the future is NOW!) and I'm both excited and scared for this summer.

Excited for all the obvious ones--the new Harry Potter looks great, and even if Will Smith slaughters Asimov's I, Robot, by doing the film equivalent of rendering a fine, classic dish into snack food, I'm okay with that, I think. I like to snack on occasion, and it might just be the impetus for some smart, indie filmmaker to come along and do a story or two from the original book right.

What I'm the most upset about is that they're remaking the Japanese film Shall We Dance. The original film is one of the finest pieces of work Japan has produced, steeped in the artful subtlety that is so integral to Japanese culture, even while delving into strangeness.

They're remaking it with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez. No, no, no, no, no. This film will not work in an American context. To be true to the spirit of the original, the people in the film would have to be doing something WE thought of as strange and odd. Like, oh, I don't know. Exotic body piercing. Nah, that's already too mainstream. Um, Irish folk dancing. No, then they'd just seem behind the times, not strange.

The fact is, the message of the original movie isn't really one you can teach Americans, because it's so embedded in their collective psyche. Remember, the "Wacky comic relief" in the original movie showed his zaniness by wearing a slightly louder colored polo shirt than the men around him. Here, that would still place him squarely in the category of, well, square.

You can't do a subtle piece on pushing boundaries in a culture where boundaries have already been pushed to the point of farce.

From the Hammer: Rep. Maxine Waters of California is always good for a quote. At the pro-abortion rally in Washington last week she said, “I have to march because my mother could not have an abortion.” (In the Rhino Times)

Like many of you, I suspect, I received my nomination, my email begging, nay, pleading with me to allow the good folks at poetry.com to grace two pages of their upcoming book, sure to be a classic of the field, read by literature students for generations to come, Who's Who in Poetry.

And to think, this wonderful opportunity was dearly relegated to the "delete all" button as it somehow found its way into my "Junk Mail" folder! Alas!

Perhaps I shall write a poem about this!

Calloo! Callay!
Frajabulous Day!
I got a fine email from
The folks at poetry.com!
Oh what an opportunity
To write eloquent poetry!
To grace the pages of Who's Who
Is just what I was born to do!
I don't know what I would have thunk
If I'd hit the button, "Delete Junk"
But now all poets will know me
I'll carry this book as ID
They'll know I am a poemist zealot
Would that it fit inside my wallet.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Bloggin' in Baghdad: I don't know how much this has already been talked about, but it looks like freedom of speech is finding its way into the town that was the epitome of tyranny and oppression.

Iraq the Model is a fascinating blog, and links to other interesting Iraqi blogs and soldier blogs.

The Real Must See TV: In case you've given up on TV, and haven't seen the commercials, you may want to know that Monday night, ABC is showing A Wrinkle In Time.

Tuesday Night, CBS will air, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, a retrospective/reunion show for the best show ever to air on TV, bar none.

Because You Really Care About My Magic Career: Did a birthday party last night, and had a lot of fun. For those who care about such things, this was my set:

Sponge Balls
Cups and Balls
Thumbcuffs
Hyrum, the Hilarious Haunted Hank
Cut & Restored Rope
Sucker Torn & Restored Napkin
Sid Fleischman's "You, Too, Can Saw a Girl in Half"
David Regal's "Letter Perfect."

It went well. I cut my thumb (but not off) and the final letter in the birthday party boy's name didn't show up, but for my first paid show it didn't go too bad.

The kids are at that fun age where they're not really interested in applauding. When you hit a trick, they just sit there, silent, but their eyes get about as big around as quarters.

And I did hear one, "Now that was real magic."

Another interesting point--on Gazzo's "Cups and Balls" tape, he talks about how to make it look like the fruit produced at the end is too big for the cup. I thought this was kind of a stretch--what audience member pays that much attention?--but yes, one kid did say, "It doesn't look like it would fit." Thank you, Gazzo.

I had a good time.

A Quiet Place to Work: If you're tired of coffeehouses, and you're looking for a quiet, calm place to settle in and do some writing in a personalized workspace, you can go here and rent one at five dollars an hour.

Or, you could try a library.

24: I finally watched the first season, which means I am now only 2 seasons behind. I wanted to see this ever since I first saw the preview for it in a movie theatre years ago. The idea for it intrigued me, and I thought it looked great. Then a good friend of mine was an extra in it--he was one of the people at CTU in season one and a "civilian advisor to the President" in season two.

So it's about time I got around to watching it.

What did I think? About the first half, when we had no idea what was going on, was fantastic. Some of the best TV I've ever seen.

Then, when they started explaining things, my credulity started getting strained a little. As my wife pointed out, when the final twist came, it wasn't one of those Sixth Sense sort of twists (Of course! Now it all makes sense!), instead, it was one of those soap opera kind of twists (Say what? Where did that come from?!?!).

Speaking of soap operas, the low point was when the oh-so-cliche "amnesia dialogue" showed up, lifted in whole cloth from a thousand other movies and TV shows, I just about lost it.

But overall, I still liked it, and still recommend it.

Now on to season two.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Ebooks: Yes, I also use Fictionwise for Ebooks. I like their micropay feature. It means that sometimes when I'm broke, I can still buy stuff.

Maybe I should buy a book on the wisdom of buying stuff when you're broke.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Another great comic? Mitch Hedberg. He's the guy that comes across as slightly stoned, with one-liners that would probably seem really deep if you were stoned. If you're sober, they're just funny.

I don't have a girlfriend. But I do know a girl who'd be real mad if she heard me say that.

I like escalators, because escalators can never break. It can only become stairs. You would never see an "Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order" sign, just "Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience."

I wish I could play little league now. I'd be way better than before.

At my hotel room, my friend came over and asked to use the phone. I said "Certainly." He said "Do I need to dial 9?" I say "Yeah. Especially if it's in the number. You can try four and five back to back real quick."

You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They don't want to eat the fish, they just want to make it late for something.

I played golf ... I'm not very good at golf. I did not get a hole in one, but I did hit a guy, and that's way more satisfying... You're supposed to yell "Fore!" but I was too busy mumbing, "There's no way that's gonna hit him."

I opened-up a yogurt, underneath the lid it said, "Please try again." because they were having a contest that I was unaware of. I thought maybe I opened the yogurt wrong. ...Or maybe Yoplait was trying to inspire me... "Come on Mitchell, don't give up!" An inspirational message from your friends at Yoplait, fruit on the bottom, hope on top.

I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it.


More here.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Yeah, I know we're talking about the lack of women on the Comedy Central 100 funniest stand ups of all time, but I'm actually protesting the lack of John Mendoza. Here's some good lines.

I went skydiving the other day with a blind man. You ever hear a German Shepherd scream at thirty thousand feet?

Fear is being stuck in traffic after you just had 2 cups of coffee and a bran muffin.

If you're cross-eyed and have dyslexia, can you see okay?

I was a shepherd once ... but I got fired because I always fell asleep during inventory.

Ever wonder if illiterate people get the full effect of alphabet soup?

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Sir Damon: I don't know if I've linked to this before, but I like this article on plot by Damon Knight.