Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sopranos's "Luxury Lounge" episode

Here are the best observations I read about last week's episode of the Sapranos:

[Luxury Lounge] goes along with the general season theme of people seeing how their lives could have been, while being dissatisfied with their own, rightfully so or not. People have mentioned Tony/Finnerty, Vito in NH, and Chris in the movie business, but there is also Carmela having to imagine life without Tony's protections/money and seeing Angie Bompinsero running her own business. In each case however, family lets the person down. Tony is shot by his Uncle, Carmela's father and husband let her down as far as assisting with her spec house, Vito's cousin wants him dead, and Tony does not support Chris's movie ambitions. Meanwhile, Artie, Barone Jr., Eugene, and Ray Curto either are dissatisfied but straight or try to become so, and all end up hurt or dead."
Moreover, when Christopher meets Lauren Bacal, he mistakes the title of her first movie as "The Haves and Have Nots." It was "To Have and Have Not." In Hollywood, Christopher was very much the covetous Have Not, driving him to mug Bacal of her gift basket, the contents of which seemed a lot less grand in the cold light of New Jersey and Tony.

Finally, the seen where Artie shoots the rabbit in his garden is another of the show's use of animals as symbolism, such as the bear representing Tony and the family of ducks that sent Tony in his first anxiety attack. In the case of rabbit, this bunny represented Benny. The bunney was taking Artie's stuff at home. Benny was hording in on Artie's hostess/sex object at work.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Addicted to oil (and laziness)

The U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hasert attended a press conference on alternative fuels. As soon as he got out of the sight of the crowd, he hopped from a hybrid (left) to his gas guzzling Suburban to travel to Capitol Hill which was ONLY A FEW BLOCKS AWAY. On a Spring day, no less. I guess he doesn't think he needs the exercise.

Debt up $23 TRILLION under Bush

Actually Bush's debt increase is $23.1 trillion. But, hell, what's a measly $100 billion detail?

At least we still have friends, a strong military, and international credibility. Ooops. Never mind.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Presidential Character" by James David Barber

Back in the 80's, Duke prof. James David Barber wrote a book that set out a method of analyzing a President's character. Now, John Dean, White House Counsel under Nixon, has used Barber's system to evaluate George W. Bush. Here's the link:

Barber catagorized presidents by:

Active postive (FDR)
Passive positive (Reagan)
Active negative (Nixon, LBJ)
Passive negative (Jefferson)

Dean concludes that, like Dean's old boss, Bush 2 is active negative. According to Barber, active negatives are the worst.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Temporarily-humanoid immortal starseed that styles itself 'Tom Cruise' "

Here's a great ode to "the infant daughter of the actress Katie Holmes and the temporarily-humanoid immortal starseed that styles itself 'Tom Cruise' "

Also, here a good blog post on the media coverage of the Duke lacrosse players. The coverage is excessive and highly unfair to the victim or victims, but it is has many precedents and could very well be productive in the long run. At the very least, whether the players are innocent or guilty, this will be a well know, cautionary tale for testosterone-crazed college athletes for many years to come.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Duke Lacrosse, "American Psycho," and "I am Charlotte Simmons"

One of the most powerful details used against the Lacrosse players at my alma mater is the email from one of the players to his teammates that says, "I plan on killing the bitches as soon as the [sic] walk in and proceding [sic] to cut their skin off." This has been blared across the media without the explanation that this is a reference to the film "American Psycho," which is apparently a campus cult classic. One of the teammates cleverly replied, "I'll bring the Phil Collins."

On the flight back from Buenos Aires, I read Tom Wolfe's "I am Charlotte Simmons." Even if Wolfe's account is highly exaggerated, the level of misogyny, debauchery, and cynical, sarcastic stupidity at our nation’s best colleges is just amazing.

Does Wolfe exaggerate? I was at The New York Times during the Tawana Brawley days, and, boy, Wolfe was pretty prescient and accurate in “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Nevertheless, his account of lawlessness in the South Bronx was highly exaggerated, making me scared to death when the Times sent me up there alone to cover a story. Also in "I am Charlotte Simmons" he says that Nike's marketing budget is $200 billion. That blew me away. So I asked Gary what he thought Nike's budget is. He guessed $1 billion. So I googled it. Gary was exactly right - $1 billion, not $200 billion.

Back to “I am Charlotte Simmons.” The fictional “Dupont University” is said to be based on Duke, and Dupont has a large share of crass Lacrosse players, one of whom attacks Charlotte sexually in a drunken stupor. Pretty amazing, aye?

Personally, when at Duke 20 years ago, I didn’t see any of the jerks or debauchery described by Wolfe or indicated by the Lacrosse team’s email or stripper show. That’s probably because 1986 is now officially ancient times and because I didn’t run with the self-proclaimed “cool” kids.

Duke was big enough that one can easily stay away from these people. That undermines a central assumption in Wolfe’s novel: Charlotte could not help but be corrupted by her social surroundings. My boarding school, however, was small, and I had to eat and live with just the sort of lacrosse-frat types that are described so richly by Wolfe.

It is easy to see how the snobby, highly conformist attitudes incubated in boarding schools and elite day schools can lead to the behavior exhibited by Tom Wolfe's monsters.

straight acting - a minority within a minority

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Two interesting articles about abortion today.

One suggests that the North Dakota law outlawing abortions is likely to get overturned by popular referendum this November.

The other is a NYT magazine article about El Salvadorians deal with their national law against abortion, which includes penalties of up to 30 years prison for the mother. It turns out the women are still getting abortions (surprise, surprise). Luckily, drug technology has made it safer and easier to get around intrusive laws. They using misoprostol, a widely available "ulcer drug that, when inserted in the vagina, can provoke contractions and cause bleeding that looks, in an emergency room, just like a miscarriage."

Both stories suggest that there are going to be a lot of unintended consequences for the Religious Right when Roe v. Wade is overturned.