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May 31, 2006
LiveJournal’s attack on women and mothers
Posted by Patrick at 08:20 PM *

Six Apart, creators of Movable Type and, more recently, owners of LiveJournal, have decided to harrass LiveJournal users whose default icons depict breastfeeding. LJ user (and mother) bohemiancoast has more details:

So, LJ has decided to be hardline on the breastfeeding photos. Think I’m joking? Here’s an example. They’ve sent a notice of suspension to a user using this painting as a default icon:

it's the BVM breastfeeding, natch

and have told our very own [info]ursinehenry that this image violates the TOS:

I can't actually see the nipple in this one

And of course, they’re still cracking down hard on obscenities like this one:

turning off your pics was a good idea because this one is really depraved

If you’re thinking “oh, it’s all right because they’re only restricting default icons”, or “they’re being reasonable by only restricting pictures with visible aereolas”, I’d like to disagree. Many women are put off breastfeeding, or discouraged or embarrassed about doing it in public, because they believe that people will be offended. The position LJ has taken is one that only works if you believe that breastfeeding is a little bit dirty; all right in private, or under a blanket, but not where people might see.

[…] Poorer, younger women, and those with less education, are less likely to breastfeed, and if they start, they’re more likely to stop quickly. And one reason for that is that they don’t feed comfortable about breastfeeding; they don’t see women around them doing it, and they don’t see positive images of breastfeeding. Lawmakers are beginning to understand this; California, where Six Apart is located, has express legal provision exempting breastfeeding from obscenity legislation. The NHS explains “What we need is an environment where women of all ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds are comfortable with feeding their baby anywhere and at any time”.

To make that vision a reality, we have to challenge those who attack it. It’s no good to decide that this time it’s trivial. Six Apart made a positive decision to go after a pile of entirely unobjectionable pictures of breastfeeding babies. I wouldn’t have been remotely as angry if they’d always banned nipples and said “sorry, breastfeeders, just bad luck”; though they’d still be wrong. But they specifically changed their TOS from “sexual or graphically violent” icons in order to trap and remove breastfeeding icons. Six Apart think these icons are “inappropriate”, and they’re wrong.

They are indeed wrong, and a growing number of LJ users are planning a one-day blackout as an initial protest. I have a (paid) LJ account myself, which I use more for commenting on friends’ LiveJournals than for anything else, and I’ll certainly join the blackout. As bohemiancoast says, it’s not trivial. It’s certainly risible that Ben and Mena Trott’s company should be getting bent out of shape over medieval art. But it’s not funny at all that, without even any evident legal need to do so, they’ve chosen to harrass users who were doing nothing objectionable, and to retroactively change their terms of service in order to justify that harrassment. And it’s not amusing at all when any corporation decides to endorse the view that breastfeeding is something scandalous that must happen only in private.

The Absolute Write diaspora: caches and contributions
Posted by Teresa at 03:06 AM *

See my previous post on this ongoing crisis.

Here’s the latest:

AW’s former hosting service, JC-Hosting/TotalWeb International Net Consulting of Nashville, TN, is being bizarrely intransigent about restoring AW’s databases to their owner, Jenna Glatzer. They’ve now blown off three deadlines for returning the databases. There are lawyers. It’s an ugly situation.

Jenna’s asking for help:

I’m sorry I have to ask. But I have to ask. This is now a full week with almost no site income, and bills piling up all over the place. Once again today, JC-Hosting missed their deadline and their lawyer made no contact with ours.

We remain committed to getting back our property (our databases) and it appears we will have to take legal action to do so. In the meantime, along with the help of some wonderful volunteers and some wonderful paid staff, I’m going to begin rebuilding the forums from the Google cache pages.

If you are able to help with a donation, I would appreciate it immensely. This is the Paypal button:

(The Paypal button is on Jenna’s site. Go there to interact with it.)

If you’d prefer to send a check or money order, the address is:

Absolute Write
PO Box 621
Islip, NY 11751

Thank you again for the tremendous moral support throughout this ordeal. Your words have meant so much not only to me, but to Charlie and Amy and our amazing moderators, who all care deeply about the site and the people who hang around it.

Meanwhile, over at the Absolute Write Refugee Camp, the AW community in exile has begun a project: recovering as much of the AW message base as possible from online caches. It’s discussed in the comment thread of my previous post, here and here. More to the point:
Basic instructions on how to search for one AW page at a time

Coordinating lists of what’s been grabbed so far and what still needs to be grabbed, here and here.

Shweta’s Perl Script, and instructions on how to use it.

The overall area for the Google Cache Project.

Act quickly. Caches expire.

Anyone else who’s kept a stash of AW text should go talk to the coordination thread.

We’re looking for a database angel.

Paging Lisa Spangenberg, paging Lisa Spangenberg, please note this comment.

The Mighty Dawno, she of the Sparkly Ears, has put up a CafePress site in support of Absolute Write.

Finally, HapiSofi opines in correspondence that:

The truly predatory con-artist agents and publishers couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present. AW was the biggest repository of ground-level information about them on the Internet.

Credit and thanks to Jim Macdonald, Roger Carlson, Shweta, Lori (Birol), and Dawno: Never give up, never surrender.

May 30, 2006
Whisperado
Posted by Patrick at 11:44 AM *

Tonight, 9:30, Lakeside Lounge, 162 Avenue B, between 10th & 11th streets. We’re the only band, so we may wind up doing a slightly longer set than our usual.

May 28, 2006
No, it really is a “substantive” disagreement
Posted by Patrick at 03:39 PM *

Kevin Drum is thinking about New Republic editor and onetime Iraq-adventure enthusiast Peter Beinart:

I read The Good Fight a couple of weeks ago, and Beinart is pretty clear that he now believes he was wrong about a whole host of things back in 2003. He was wrong about WMD, wrong about containment, wrong about the need for international legitimacy, etc. etc. If he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t have supported the war.

What’s more, his prescription for how liberals should approach foreign policy going forward is distinctly non-martial. He believes we need a sort of modern-day Marshall plan for the Middle East; a willingness to work with international institutions even if that sometimes restrains our actions; an acceptance that we should abide by the same restrictions that we demand of others; greater patience in foreign affairs; and a rededication to social justice both at home and abroad.

In other words, I think he could give the keynote address at YearlyKos and not really say much of anything the audience would disagree with. If Beinart really is the standard bearer for a new incarnation of liberal hawkishness, then we’re almost all liberal hawks now.

There’s a little more to it, of course, and Beinart remains critical of liberals who have gotten so disgusted with George Bush’s approach to terrorism that they’ve decided the whole war on terror is just a sham. Still, it’s an interesting transformation, and many of the differences that remain within liberal circles strike me as more rhetorical than substantive.

Atrios has some pungent remarks, including the observation that “these magical straw liberals who think terrorism isn’t an issue” are probably “hiding out in Beinart’s barn along with the rest of his straw monsters.”

But where Kevin Drum’s really wrong is in his claim that Beinart could address a hypothetical audience of left-leaning blog readers “and not really say much of anything the audience would disagree with.” Because the central thing being said by Beinart and people like Beinart, 24/7, is “Despite the fact that we were wrong about everything important for years, you should all still listen to us and treat us like the opinion leaders we’re entitled to be.”

Oddly enough, a lot of people don’t agree with this assessment of the value of Peter Beinart. Pace Kevin Drum, this isn’t merely a “rhetorical” disagreement. It’s about a real question of political power: whose opinion matters? A good word for this kind of disagreement is substantive.

May 27, 2006
Why things are the way they are
Posted by Patrick at 01:45 PM * 120 comments

Jamison Foser of Media Matters argues that the “defining issue of our time,” and our era’s “dominant political force,” is our catastrophically feckless political media. The overwhelming majority of what we Americans hear about our own politics is, 24 hours a day on all channels, being carefully lathed into a storyline in which every fact about conservatives, no matter how uncomplimentary, is evidence of their homespun authenticity; while every fact about liberals and progressives—no matter how positive—is evidence of our calculating dishonesty.

Nothing is exempt. Nothing. Read Slate editor Jacob Weisberg’s explanation of how the contents of Hillary Clinton’s iPod show her to be engaged in “premeditation, if not actual poll-testing.” As the covers of 1960s DC comics would say, “Not An Imaginary Story!” Weisberg is perfectly serious.

Foser:

According to Weisberg, Clinton’s explanation of what music is on her iPod was “premeditated” and the result of political “calculations.” For Weisberg to be right, Clinton’s answer must be dishonest. Now: Does anybody really believe that Clinton doesn’t like Aretha Franklin’s “Respect”? How many professional baby-boomer women don’t like “Respect”? Does anybody really believe Clinton doesn’t like the Beatles? They’re the Beatles! It’s hard to believe any rational person could assume that Clinton doesn’t actually like and listen to the music she listed. And if she does, Weisberg’s entire premise can be tossed out the window: There’s nothing calculated or insincere in answering a question about what music you like by listing the music you like.

But give Weisberg credit for trying: He describes Clinton’s stated fondness for both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as some sort of trying-to-have-it-both-ways Clintonian dishonesty. There’s a word for arguments like this: Stupid. How many Beatles fans actually dislike the Rolling Stones? How many Stones fans dislike the Beatles? It’s like suggesting someone is dishonest for saying they like both ice cream and cake: Who doesn’t like ice cream and cake?

No doubt somebody reading this doesn’t like ice cream and cake, or the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, but the point is that it’s completely retarded to suggest that liking (or disliking!) any combination of these things is evidence of anything about someone’s character. This blog is no hotbed of enthusiasm for a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. But this isn’t about Hillary Clinton. It’s about facing up to the fact that this kind of swill is now being firehosed at anyone to the left of Joe Lieberman, every minute of every day, by our political press corps. This is not the same old American same old. It’s a new phenomenon in our history. The commanding heights of our mass media are in the iron grip of a class of people as unreflective, as foolish, as corrupt, and as utterly divorced from normal life as the 19th-century Russian aristocracy. This is what has put us at the mercy of the wolves. This is what our enemy looks like.

May 26, 2006
I’m a little more dubious than I was yesterday
Posted by Teresa at 08:20 AM * 81 comments

Update: On the other hand, DNA evidence. (Thank you, Julia.)

(—-)

This morning I find myself with an odd thought about that story I posted yesterday.

Stephen Sakai’s shootings on Tuesday night were loud, gratuitous, public, and heedless, done in the heat of the moment using a big-ass .45. Irving Matos’ murder was quiet and tidy, done with a real economy of method and means. I suspect it was also dispassionate. Matos’ door was unlocked. He was shot from behind while sitting on his sofa, watching TV. That’s not what you do if the other person seems threatening.

One of these things is not like the other.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s legit. Maybe Sakai just up and started boasting about other people he’d killed. Maybe the police have ballistic evidence tieing the three unsolved murders to a gun Sakai owns. On the other hand, there’s this bit in Forbes:

Police also were probing whether Sakai was involved in three other fatal shootings, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been completed, said the suspect made statements implicating himself in those slayings.

One of the victims had worked as a bouncer at a topless bar in Brooklyn, one official said. His body was found Nov. 16 in a basement apartment; he had been shot in the back of the head.

Sakai’s lawyer, Edward D. Wilford, said Thursday police and prosecutors had interrogated his client for 21 hours without allowing him to see a lawyer.

Asked about reports that the bouncer had confessed to several killings, Wilford said, “As far as I’m concerned, it is a false confession.”

Sakai was taken into custody early Wednesday morning after a manhunt, but wasn’t formally charged by police until late at night.

I don’t know anything more than I knew yesterday. I just have a lot more doubts.

May 25, 2006
The guy who (reportedly) shot my next-door neighbor
Posted by Teresa at 04:34 PM *

My neighbor, Irving Matos, was killed in November of last year. His body was discovered a week later. The tip-off was the smell. I wrote about it twice—C4H12N2, when they found the body, and The story’s in the NYPost, when it came out that he’d been murdered.

It was a peculiar murder. He was shot while sitting in front of his TV. The door was unlocked. He was killed with a single .22 bullet, fired straight down through the top of his head.

The story’s been on hold since then, but that’s about to end. How can I tell? Because today I’ve had reporters from the Daily News and the New York Times ringing my doorbell, wanting to talk to me. Last time around it was police detectives. Once again, I learned more from the people questioning me than they learned from me. That’s not their fault, though; I just don’t know all that much.
[Addendum, 11:20 p.m.: Collect the set! I have now been phoned by a reporter from the New York Post, too. As soon as he identified himself, I said “Everything I know about Irving Matos went into my weblog. I put up a post today that links to both of the pieces I wrote about the case at the time. Make sure you read the comment threads.” Makes it all much easier.]
Some of you may have seen a recent news story about a bar bouncer named Stephen Sakai who worked in a Chelsea club called Opus. On Tuesday night Sakai got into a slanging match with four young men. He drew a .45 and, over the course of the next few minutes, shot all four of them, leaving one dead, one in grave condition (quadriplegic, shot through the neck), and the other two with holes in them. At that point, as the Daily News put it, “A small army of cops, heavily armed and in riot gear, descended on the club.” Sakai fled the scene but was picked up next morning in Brooklyn.

Judging from the stories that have come out so far, it appears that while in police custody, Sakai has boasted of other murders—including that of Irving Matos. If you’re interested in reading about it:

ABC Eyewitness News, very professional, written entirely in newspaperspeak. The quintessentially tabloid New York Post, with many vivid and heartwrenching details about the shootings on Tuesday night. The Gothamist, very local, with a discussion of the exact status of Sakai’s gun license. CBS News, which appears to have read everyone else’s write-ups. The New York Times, which has an excellent write-up of the Chelsea shootings but hasn’t heard about the late-breaking story. And the winner and still champeen, the New York Daily News, with its headline, RAGE FOR CLUB SLAY BOUNCER.

“Rage” seems about right. If I were a member of the Cuadros or Matos families, I’d feel the same way.

May 24, 2006
Absolute Write is gone
Posted by Teresa at 09:19 AM *

As of last night, Absolute Write was gone. It was one of the leading sites for information on writing and publishing, especially the scam versions thereof. Their ISP pulled the plug on them one hour’s notice. Now, where there should be a broad, deep online community with an enormous message base going back years, there’s this.

Among other things, AW was the main collection point for information about PublishAmerica.

How this happened: remember Barbara Bauer, that horrible old harridan and scam agent who tried to get me fired because I reproduced the Twenty Worst Agents list and she was on it?

Apparently Barbara Bauer made a screaming, abusive phone call to one Stephanie, the person who owned the web host. Bauer claimed that having AW’s scamhunters post her email address at AW was illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and that doing so had caused Bauer to get spam, which meant that AW was a spammer, and that this would get the web host put on every blacklist in the world.

Mind, the message that quoted Bauer’s e-mail address had some time ago been amended to remove that address. Furthermore, Barbara Bauer posts that exact same email address on her own website.

Stephanie had no more sense than to panic and shut down AW on an hour’s notice. I’m given to understand that some of AW’s message base was lost. For the record, AW was hosted at:
JC-Hosting TotalWeb International Net Consulting
4037 Navaho Trail
Nashville TN 37211 Toll Free: (877) 411-7891
Phone: (615) 469-7533
Fax: (615) 250-2430
Stephanie’s been known to post as “Moonshadow” at Absolute Write. The wonderful fact, for certain values of wonderful, is that Stephanie is one of PublishAmerica’s authors. Some people are just not smart enough to be allowed to run loose on the Internet.

Here’s what I’m told AW requires of a new host: 100-150 Gigabytes per month in traffic, plus 2 Gigabytes more of space, plus running a very active webboard based on MySql and a bunch of scripts.

Meanwhile, I have frantic email from a friend who posts to AW and is trying to figure out how to find versions of the texts of her messages there so she can save them. Any suggestions will be gratefully appreciated.

Addenda: Many members of the online writing community have responded to this appalling event by re-posting the 20 Worst Agents List that Barbara Bauer is trying to suppress.

Back when I first wrote about it, I linked to AW’s version of the list. Obviously, that’s a dead link now. Anyone else who’s linked to the AW version might want to consider re-linking to SFWAs instantiation of the list.

AW regulars Jim Hines and Dawno have their own suggestions for spreading the word.

Further: I’ve been seeing various mentions of this, now confirmed: Stephanie Cordray (that Stephanie) has chosen this week to announce her revival of her “comprehensive resource site” for writers, Writing Wise. (Why, yes, that is a nofollow link. Funny you should ask.)

Do I still believe in the culpability of Barbara Bauer? I certainly do. There’s too much corroborating evidence. I believe this Writing Wise thing is a separate piece of stupidity.

To extend what I’ve already said to Stephanie’s guy James, down in the comment thread, it looks bad for an ISP to pull the plug on a customer’s site for foolish reasons, and worse to do it for no reason at all, but it’s downright offputting to do it in the same week that you roll out a competing site of your own.

Constitutional crisis!
Posted by Patrick at 08:24 AM * 40 comments

Republican Congressional leaders discover the separation of powers.

Could these guys be more transparent if—

(1) …they were winking at one another and nudging each other theatrically while lighting Cuban cigars with $100 bills
(2) …they were actually fumbling with their paper-shredding machines while talking to the New York Times
(3) …they had plate glass installed in the sides of their heads?

Discuss.

May 23, 2006
Grease Monkey
Posted by Teresa at 02:38 PM * 149 comments

I’m happy. My second graphic novel is out: Grease Monkey, a 352-page hardcover written and drawn by Tim Eldred, with an intro by Kurt Busiek. Tim’s put up a Grease Monkey website, with all kinds of goodies on it, including an interview with the author and the entire first chapter in color. The second chapter goes up on June 01.

It’s gotten good reviews from the usual major venues—PW, Library Journal, Booklist—but so far my favorite reviewer comments have been “Gosh-a-rooty!” and “Let me say, wow wow wow, this graphic novel just kicks butt in that super cool gorillas as mechanics on a space stations sort of way. …”

There’s a guy named Joe Austin who used to work here in Legal, then went off to be an agent, then chucked it all to teach seventh-grade English in the NYC school system. He’s one of the good guys. Time before last when Joe came by to say hello and score some books, I gave him a copy of the advance bound galley of Grease Monkey. This last time Joe visited, he told me his seventh-graders have a waiting list to read it, and are despondent when it falls into the hands of one of his slower readers. (Also, they feel extremely cool about getting to read a book that hasn’t been published yet.) That made my month.

And an odd thing: some months after I acquired Grease Monkey, my friend Chris Couchserious academic, working comics editor, and old-time fanzine fan—dropped by my office and spotted some Grease Monkey pages that were lying on my desk. Chris broke out in a huge grin and said, “I edited that book!” And so he had: the first six issues, for Kitchen Sink Press. I’d had no idea.

Explaining Grease Monkey to Sales & Marketing has been a learning experience. So was my first graphic novel, Ballads, by Charles Vess et al. We’re still getting used to this whole graphic novel thing. One of the reasons Ballads was scheduled first was literally because it was easier to explain: “Look, it’s Charles Vess, who does such nice covers for us. Look, it’s Jane Yolen, Charles De Lint, Emma Bull, and other writers whom we publish, and Neil Gaiman and Sharyn McCrumb, who aren’t ours but are bestselling authors. With an essay by Terri Windling.” The weirdness of “graphic novel”* was offset by all those familiar names.

Obviously, I couldn’t do that with Grease Monkey. For months I got asked what other graphic novels it was like. Trouble was, there weren’t any. I was thus exceedingly grateful when Battlestar Galactica became a hit, because it meant I could say, “It’s a lot like Battlestar Galactica, only funnier, and with sentient gorillas.”

May 22, 2006
Not a review
Posted by Patrick at 03:24 PM *

An Inconvenient Truth is a feature-length documentary, opening in theaters on Wednesday, built around the global-warming presentation that Al Gore has been giving to audiences all over the world for the last three years.

We saw a screening in New York last month. It’s fantastic. Gore is funny, smart, engaging, passionate, deeply likable, and entirely on target. The post-2000 Gore has the sense of groundedness and self-possession that comes from knowing what you’re supposed to be doing in this world and doing it. As for the planet, first Gore scares you to death—not hard to do with the facts—and then he drops the real bomb: we can fix this. Without Reforming Society, or Becoming Better People, or anything utopian; just by stitching together a bunch of achievable goals reachable through normal political means. As Gore points out, we’ve already confronted one environmental crisis with coordinated planetary action, and as a result, the Antarctic ozone hole may be gone by midcentury.

This isn’t a real review. I kept meaning to write one and it kept eluding me, and now the movie is opening this week. I’m just saying: See it. Not out of any sense of grim obligation, but because it’s entertaining, and interesting, and leaves you with that most surprising takeaway: hope.

(Find a showing near you, here.)

May 21, 2006
Singing the news, astonishing London.
Posted by Teresa at 07:55 AM * 80 comments

Two nice chewy thoughtful links, both from i blog, you blog, they blog, weblog, which I hadn’t run into before.

The first is the Aural Times, whose motto is “We sing the news so you don’t have to.” I’ve gone a long time without realizing that was an obligation, so I’m glad they’ve got it covered.

(Singing the news is a great idea. More people should do it. Imagine a formal multipart a cappella arrangement of “farm-raised wingless quailtards.” But I digress.)

Some of the Aural Times’ songs can be a little shapeless and low-energy. More B- and C-parts would help. So would more harmony. Compare, for instance, the baldly monophonic Court: Hallucinogenic Tea OK with the far more successful barbershop-quartet-style Scientology Hayes Leaves South Park.

Some further songs I thought worked well:

Scott McClellan Stepping Down
Nintendo Names New System ‘Wii’
Homer Eagles Will Be Beggars No More
Berlusconi Will Not Admit Defeat
Polish Science Fiction Legend Stanislaw Lem Is Dead
At times the songs are pure formalist fantasias upon the text of a headline, as in Google Launches Calendar and Soda Czars Ceasing Sales to Schools. In the case of Tom Cruise Says He Won’t Eat the Placenta of His Child, the sung version does as much, and as little, as anyone ought to do with that story.

The second link from i.b.y.b.w.b.w. was to a piece by Michael Billington called Elephantine Infantilism, which appeared in the Guardian’s Culture Vulture blog. It was a doody-headed commentary on the recent appearance in London of The Sultan’s Elephant, an event Patrick blogged about here and here. The piece is valuable for the comment thread that follows it, but first here are Billington’s original remarks, just to establish the context:

So The Sultan’s Elephant has come and gone. And, without wishing to seem misanthropic, I am tempted to say good riddance, writes Michael Billington.

It doubtless made many people harmlessly happy. But its touted carnivalesque qualities were not apparent to anyone trying to get around Oxford Circus on a baking summer morning. More importantly, I question whether this kind of diversionary spectacle can really be classified as “theatre”.

Theatre, to me, is a public event that affects the mind and heart as well as the eyes, and which does something to change the human situation. The passage of a giant elephant through the streets of London—a kind of Gallic Trojan Horse—does none of those things.

What it does do is appeal to the mood of infantilism that seems to be taking over a lot of entertainment: we seem to have an unstoppable urge to become little children—gazing with open mouths, dilated pupils and dropping jaws at whatever is put in front of us.

Whatever happened to adult scepticism and rationality? For me The Sultan’s Elephant is simply a spectacular irrelevance to the real business of theatre.

But, then, there is nothing new in the English appetite for freakish sideshows. Remember how Trinculo in The Tempest, encountering what looks like a monstrous man-fish, thinks how it could be profitably exhibited back home? “There,” he says, “would this monster make a man. Any strange beast there makes a man. When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.” Clearly nothing changes.

The Sultan’s Elephant was a momentary distraction: good summer copy and a bizarre eruption onto our crowded streets—but nothing, in the end, to do with theatre.

“Michael Billington,” i.b.y.b.w.b.w. says with great precision, “is a joyless git.”

The comment thread erupts with Londoners forcefully and eloquently explaining “art” and “spectacle” to Billington. The London voice is distinctive. Today’s vocabulary list: wind-up, dodgy, po-faced git, chinstroking, pur-lease, bejesus, sub-Burchill, whingebag.

Some samples:

I have to agree with felik—this is a wind-up. Not only for being an over-the-top miserable git, but the disingenuous and irrelevant argument about whether it can be classified as theatre, and the dodgy Shakespeare reference—all evidence that the writer is having a laugh.

(…)

“harmlessly happy”…!
How patronising can you get. What is harmfully happy then? staying at home and trying to stick a copy of The Tempest up your backside, presumably.

(…)

Ho, ho, ho. Bloke gets stuck in traffic and suddenly rationality is under threat. Try the Blackwall Tunnel next time. Even less laughs down there, as you’ll discover.

The Elephant wasn’t a particularly stretching piece of open air theatre, but it was cheery, as if Marc Caro had collaborated with Bryan Talbot on the later parts of the Luther Arkwright series and they’d decided to throw in a comic interlude. So a general thumbs up to Helen Marriage.

I love conversations where people who aren’t habitual users of art-speak and litcrit-speak analyze some aesthetic experience they’ve found moving.

One of the more dysfunctional subliminal messages broadcast by our culture is You don’t know what art is. You don’t understand art. You like the wrong things for the wrong reasons. This message goes out in tandem with This stuff over here that looks like a weird mess to you? It’s art. It’s important and valuable art. If you were the right kind of person, you could see that for yourself. (IMO, Outsider Art is art created by people who either aren’t getting the broadcast messages, or who ignore the messages and make art anyway. But I digress again.)

People put up with this far more than they should. It makes them hesitant to talk about art in terms that go beyond liking or disliking. Then a work of art will come along that moves them so much that they’ll put aside their hesitancy and talk about how and why it did what it did, because they’re unbudgeably certain that something profound happened to them:

So it wasn’t strictly ‘theatre’ in the way Michael Billington likes to think of it. But it was FUN. And imaginative, very French, exciting and entirely different. And moving. The first time I saw it on Saturday, in the rain, by accident, coming around the corner by the National Gallery, I just laughed, yes, like a child who has seen something really delightful (how come we hardly see that word used any more?) and then I nearly cried because it was so insane and fabulous and bonkers to have a 40 foot high mechanical elephant parading the streets of London. Which were beautifully empty. And people were dancing along and grinning at each other in the rain. At least where I was.

I took a friend along on Sunday and she laughed and we chatted to total strangers, tried not to stare too much at Rolf Harris who was in the crowd and got pushed around. And then I got spurted with water and I didn’t care. It was surreal and funny and exciting and if the idea of thousands of people wandering through the streets after a giant puppet because it was fun and surreal and exciting doesn’t make you smile a little, then you are missing the point about what ‘theatre’ in whatever guise is for. Thoughtful, uplifiting and it made you think about the nature of imagination, cities, ‘art’—lots of things to be rational about after the fun faded.

Bravo.

May 20, 2006
Open thread ’65
Posted by Patrick at 12:02 AM *

This happened once before.

May 19, 2006
Greetings from the melting pot
Posted by Teresa at 02:34 PM * 350 comments

A general question for the faux-militant would-be defenders of our sovereign national borders:

If immigrants are so overwhelmingly scary and unassimilable, and such a drain on the communities that harbor them, how come my city can kick your city’s ass?

(Hint: don’t say “it’s because you’re subsidized,” because you’ll just look stupid. We aren’t. We pay more into state and federal coffers, on a constant basis, than we’ll ever get back. Almost all the cities do that. It’s the burbs and rural areas that are pigs to the trough.)

Our schools and churches and other social institutions cope with a constant influx of polyglot unassimilated immigrants from all over the world, and not all of them are legal. We do okay. They learn to be Americans. We learn to eat their cuisine twenty years earlier than you do.

That’s the way it works. That’s the way it’s always worked. So sit down and shut up and try not to be so provincial. You’re embarrassing the rest of us.

May 17, 2006
Why I’m alarmed by proposals to militarize our borders
Posted by Teresa at 04:11 PM * 124 comments

George said:

…in coordination with governors, up to 6,000 [national] guard members will be deployed to our southern border. The Border Patrol will remain in the lead. The guard will assist the Border Patrol by operating surveillance systems, analyzing intelligence, installing fences and vehicle barriers, building patrol roads, and providing training.

“Securing our borders” is a worthless fraud. It conflates foreign terrorists with illegal immigrants who are only here for economic reasons. It implies that there’s something newly insecure about our borders, which is absolutely untrue. And I’m deeply, deeply suspicious about the sudden upwelling of loony-right hysteria about how the usual individuals and small groups coming over the border constitutes an invasion and a threat to our national sovreignty.

And why are people suddenly professing to be worried about what MEChA says? They never were before; and MEChA’s been around, chanting SI SE PUEDE and making Large Statements about Aztlan, since grandma was a sprat. And the use of Reconquista? It was more than half a joke. How come all of a sudden nobody knows that?

“Authentic grassroots sentiment” is not the phrase that crosses my mind when I see Michelle Malkin weighing in on an issue.

Our border with Mexico is nearly two thousand miles long, and it runs through a lot of rough, empty country. What are we going to do, build the Great Wall of Immigration? Even if we were that insanely stupid, it wouldn’t stop illegal immigration. The U.S.-Mexican border is the most-crossed international border in the world. Vast numbers of Mexicans cross it legally each day. We’d do weird and awful things to the border economy if we tried to stop them. This just doesn’t make sense.

Here’s what worries me: go back to that description of what George is going to have the National Guard do. I don’t like it at all. Infrastructure that will keep immigrants from coming in over the borders will keep us from going out over them. I find I don’t want to see that power in the hands of George Bush and his successors and cronies.

The Bush Administration has no use for democracy. They don’t count votes. They use the national intelligence apparatus to conduct domestic spying operations on U.S. citizens. They’re spying on journalists, not for national security but to intimidate and suppress criticism. They arrest people and hold them indefinitely without charging them, and they deny them access to counsel. They operate secret prisons. They set up isolated “free speech zones” for protesters, hoping we’ll forget that this entire country used to be a free speech zone. They don’t consider themselves accountable to us; for example, they took us into war by blatantly lying to us about the danger posed by the weapons of mass destruction Iraq turned out not to have.

As I said in 2000, when out-of-state Republican campaign workers attacked and suppressed a Florida vote recount operation, these people aim to never go out of power. Too much of what they do is indefensible under basic U.S. law. They’d never misbehave so blatantly if they thought there was any chance that their opponents might come into power.

That alone is enough to tell you they’re not on the side of freedom and democracy. In a democratic system of government, no elected individual or political party can ever be certain that they won’t be turfed out in the next election. It’s an inherent property of democracy. A political organization that’s staked everything on the assumption that they’ll never fall out of power or be called to account for their misdeeds is one that doesn’t support democratic systems of government, howevermuch lip service they pay to our free and independent political institutions.

I don’t want them to be able to close the border. It’s too easy to scare people into silence when they know they can’t get out.

I still resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist. But dammit, that’s how I feel.

May 15, 2006
You really thought they weren’t going to start using all that surveillance on their political opponents?
Posted by Patrick at 02:41 PM *

Welcome to Soviet America.

“These are our lives these people are talking about.”
Posted by Patrick at 08:37 AM * 150 comments

Monday morning, and I see that the New York Times web site is still flogging Adam Nagourney’s weekend article about how “some Democrats” think it might be better to not win back one or both houses of Congress in November, so as to better position the party for 2008.

I enjoyed Julia’s takedown of this nonsense, including the observation that “that shadowy but powerful group within the Democratic Party, the ‘some’ Democrats” seems to largely amount to no-accounts like disgraced former Congressman Tony Coelho.

Scott Lemieux observes:

The strange thing is that this kind of argument resurfaces all the time. It’s the same illogic behind the fake-Democratic contrarian’s all-time favorite, “what the hell, let’s sacrifice Roe: that will screw the GOP!” The problem, of course, is that there’s no end to it. For that matter, let’s let the Republicans privatize Social Security! Repeal the Clean Air Act! Put Roy Moore on the Supreme Court! We’ll really have a shot to win the 2016 election then! One problem with people who care about their own alleged cleverness is that they forget that the point of politics is to achieve good outcomes.

Elsewhere, Matthew Yglesias reminds us of the full implication of the current Administration’s various declarations about what it’s okay for them to do:

Turns out the NSA, with the collaboration of every phone company except Qwest, is monitoring all of our calls—not to listen in to what’s being said, but simply to gather data about the calls and draw inferences from that. It’s important to link this up to the broader chain. One thing the Bush administration says it can do with this meta-data is to start tapping your calls and listening in, without getting a warrant from anyone. Having listened in on your calls, the administration asserts that if it doesn’t like what it hears, it has the authority to detain you indefinitely without trial or charges, torture you until you confess or implicate others, extradite you to a Third World country to be tortured, ship you to a secret prison facility in Eastern Europe, or all of the above. If, having kidnapped and tortured you, the administration determines you were innocent after all, you’ll be dumped without papers somewhere in Albania left to fend for yourself.

Tell us again why it would be better not to win at least one house of Congress. (A prize that, as we’re reminded with increasing frequency, comes with subpoena power.)

Digby spins out the patent nuttiness of the “let the Republicans stew in their own juices” position attributed by Nagourney to his “some Democrats”:”

In fact, the best thing to do would be to keep losing until everything is perfect so they don’t have to do anything unpleasant and the loud and angry left will have nothing to scream about.

If anyone’s wondering what the Democrats’ master plan has been for the last few years, I think we’ve found it.

Memo to the party mandarins dispensing all this wise advice: If you have a chance to win, you win. Not because you want to do a victory lap but because you care about the country and you will do anything you can to stop the hell these crazy bastards have unleashed and start down a new path. Do you want them to continue to have free reign over the next two years while they pump up this phony threat with Iran? Do you want them to be in charge of another natural disaster like Katrina? More money thrown into the black maw of GOP contributors? What are you thinking?

This is why the establishment is becoming irrelevant. It isn’t a game to us hicks out here in America. These are our lives these people are talking about.

Finally, Atrios nails it:

Shorter “Leading Democrats”: We are losers who fear responsibility.

The plain fact is that if we don’t want to spend the rest of our lives in a science-fictional dystopia, our single most important job is to start kicking the current crazy people out, and to keep them out long enough to start fixing things.

It’s our lives.

May 13, 2006
Rumor
Posted by Teresa at 10:44 PM * 101 comments

I know Truthout.org isn’t always perfectly reliable, but —

Oh please Santy, please please please …

May 09, 2006
Styrofoam tits
Posted by Teresa at 03:49 PM * 363 comments

Earlier today I Particle’d this LiveJournal post, with its wonderful collection of suggested DC cover art. It’s making fun of this Frank Miller cover: an egregious butt shot.

That wasn’t the only thing that bothered me about the Frank Miller cover. Look at the upper left portion of the illustration. That thing in the corner is in theory her left breast. So what, you may ask, is that strange excrescence partway up her ribcage?

I believe I can explain it. I’ve seen its like before.

What you have to understand is that the breasts you see in comics are made of styrofoam, which is why they’re pretty much the same from one female character to another, don’t affect the wearer’s center of gravity, and don’t change shape under acceleration. Unless they’re built into the costume, the styro-tits are worn in a sort of tight-fitting flesh-colored stretch halter thingy.

Anyway, what sometimes happens is that the artist’s mind will wander, and their hindbrain (which had human anatomy drilled into it, way back in art school) will try to put a normal human breast into a normal position, underneath the stretch halter with its styrofoam prostheses.

I’m trying to remember now where I first observed the phenomenon. The breast in question was green, so it was either the She-Hulk, or a female superhero who wears a green uniform. It was shown from the front. You could see the normal supporting musculature and some of the breast tissue belonging to the intrusive normal anatomy. Slightly below and to the side of it was a structurally unrelated styro-tit.

This bothered me. I could tell something was wrong, but not what it was, so I stared at that green-tinted breast until I could see what was actually there. It’s quite bizarre, once you realize what’s going on.

No, if you’ll go back to the Frank Miller illustration, what you’ll see is that that “ribcage deformity” is actually located where a normal breast would be, and in fact is shaped quite a lot like a real breast. It follows that the woman’s brown upper garment (with its defective lacing pattern) must be the harness for the styro-tits.

This raises the question of where her left arm could be. On reflection, I think it’s sticking straight up, and that what we’re seeing is this character pulling the styro-tit halter off over her head. I expect it’s a relief to get it off.

Remember to tune in next time, when we’ll be discussing the role of high heels and lordosis in modern crimefighting.

May 08, 2006
Historical re-creationism
Posted by Patrick at 07:58 AM * 148 comments

The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel offers a contribution to the immigration debate:

The Vatican has for decades promoted excessive immigration in the U.S., both legal and illegal. Vast numbers of immigrants are Catholics intended to increase the Vaticanís political influence. Most Hispanics marching in rallies are pawns of a church that promotes violation of immigration laws. […] Immigration issues run deeper than most are aware of. Most Hispanics are unaware of how the Vatican uses them as pawns. The Vatican is slowly destroying the U.S. with excessive immigration to advance the Vaticanís own power in the U.S. and the world. […]

It is not mere coincidence that our middle class is disappearing. There are those who plan to do away completely with our borders so they can put our middle class in competition against the worldís most impoverished masses. Our borders provide the “protected environment” in which we may experiment and excel to make our country great. Without such a “protected environment,” we will be enmeshed in a world-wide sea of muck. The U.S. cannot be a beacon to the world if we allow ourselves to be dragged down into that muck. It is the solemn and absolute duty of our government to preserve and control our borders. Refusal to do so is tantamount to treason.

Leaving aside the fact that the author photo made me briefly wonder if I was reading the Onion, this blend of nativism and anti-Catholicism reads like it parachuted in from 1886. Note in particular the repeated references to vastness, masses, and being “dragged down” into “muck.” I guess if modern America can have a years-long temper tantrum about the perfidious French (the French? Hello? What century is this?), it’s no more outrageous to revive the rhetoric of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion”. Still, have we so thoroughly run out of history that all we get is repeats?

May 05, 2006
Joy
Posted by Patrick at 11:13 PM * 134 comments

The Sultan and his giant time-travelling mechanical Elephant wander through London streets, encountering, among other things, the girl from the space capsule that crash-landed in Waterloo Place.

More from the drab, cheerless, socialist hell that is Europe today.

For some reason I’m reminded of Ken MacLeod:

This is Europe. We took it from nobody; we won it from the bare soil that the ice left. The bones of our ancestors, and the stones of their works, are everywhere. Our liberties were won in wars and revolutions so terrible that we do not fear our governors: they fear us. Our children giggle and eat ice-cream in the palaces of past rulers. We snap our fingers at kings. We laugh at popes.

The “American century.” So over.

UPDATE: Before jumping in to argue with MacLeod’s fantasia, read this.

Lenticular formation*
Posted by Teresa at 08:41 PM * 57 comments

1 bag of lentils, standard brown or French blue or Beluga black
several lobes of garlic, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
a fistful of sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
2 cups or more of bell pepper strips
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
2 cups frozen chopped collard greens
1 cup frozen chopped turnip greens
1 cup frozen chopped mustard greens
a healthy dollop of whatever wine you have standing open
butter or olive oil
wine vinegar
black pepper, white pepper, salt; other spices as you please

Cook the lentils until tender but not mushy.

Heat some butter or olive oil in a pan over a fast fire. Toss in the garlic and onion. Stir a time or two as needed. Presently, throw in the sun-dried tomato. Then the bell pepper. Then the tomatoes. If you’re reasonably fast at chopping vegetables, the point at which you add the next veggie is also the point at which you’ve finished chopping it.

By now, the mixture in the pan should be throwing off liquid. Stir in the greens, add a good dollop of wine, season to taste, slap a lid on it, and turn the fire way down. If you’re short on wine, beer will work just fine in this recipe.

Go read one online political post, but don’t follow the links. When you’re done, the vegetables should be ready. Put a good layer of lentils into a bowl, spoon some of the vegetable mix on top, and add a light sprinkling of wine vinegar.

This is very good. It goes well with any chilled beverage in the yellow-white range.

[Recipe Index]

“Just because computers were a liberating force in the past doesn’t mean they will be in the future.”
Posted by Patrick at 01:18 PM * 22 comments

Bruce Schneier asks: “Who owns your computer?”

Really don’t try this at home
Posted by Teresa at 11:12 AM * 75 comments

From MetaFilter, a collection of Thermite and other memorable experiments:

Unsafe-science-experiments-you-did-in-class-Friday: an advisory on dangerous chemistry experiments (they mention Nitrogen Triiodide, Chromate Volcanos, Whoosh Bottles, and Potassium Chlorate and Sugar), unwise microwave oven experiments, and, of course, thermite (and a great thermite video). I am amazed anyone survives high school. … Read the warnings.

The thermite page has a nice little video of its own, but the separate thermite video shows a couple of obvious lunatics using much larger quantities of thermite to (1.) drop white-hot molten iron into liquid nitrogen; (2.) burn through the engine block of a small French car; and (3.) burn through the roof, passenger compartment, and fuel tank of said car, having thoughtfully filled the fuel tank first.

Note: Nitrogen triiodide is what Heinlein was trying to explain how to manufacture in Farnham’s Freehold. Good thing he got it wrong. The video clip linked from MetaFilter will show why you shouldn’t mess with the stuff.

The guy who does the Unwise Microwave Experiments, also an obvious lunatic, is affiliated with the University of Washington, and is available to do what he calls “An Unwise Science Presentation.” (Puget Sound-area conventions take note, if they haven’t done so already.) He does jolly things like liquefying Pyrex, melting garden-variety ornamental red rocks until magma pours out, and this thing:

During WEIRD GENIUS REAL SCIENCE I tried some extremely pure argon in a spherical glass flask with a tiny piece of aluminum foil as an igniter inside. (The argon used previously had quite a bit of air mixed in.) Hit the button. WAAAA! THE WHOLE GLASS FLASK FILLS WITH BLUE WHITE LIGHTNING! Tiny bright lightning filaments! And afterwards the flask was full of transparent orange gas.

So next, I put a little bit of argon in a white kitchen trash bag, threw in a piece of carbon fiber, then squeezed out the argon (to flush any nitrogen totally out.) Then I filled half the bag with argon, tied it off with a plastic tie, and stuffed it into the oven. Close the door. Hit the start button. Ten seconds of stunning noise, lights, and patterns, and the small audience broke into spontaneous applause, because…

  • First the ENTIRE OVEN FILLED WITH JITTERING LIGHTING BOLTS
  • Next the bag started melting and collapsing, holes appeared
  • The lightning spewed right into the air through the holes as the bag shrunk
  • The lightning remaining in the bag turned into bright turquoise plasma
  • As the bag entirely collapsed, brilliant plasma amoebas crawled frantically around, burning the bag and finding every last bit of remaining argon.
  • Silence. Darkness. The stunned crowd cheers.
The patterns are easily visible with white kitchen trash bags, although a clear plastic bag might work better. Argon can be had from any welders’ suppply outlet, and a tankful costs about $20… but you need a constant-flow regulator. These cost about $70 new. And there’s a rental charge if you don’t buy your own metal tank. But man, it’s worth it.

At the end of his list of high-voltage kitchen experiments, he says:

Now go play w/dangerous supermagnets.

Why am I not surprised that he links to Jon Singer?

Addendum: Erik Olson, in the comment thread:

Thermite is actually very useful for welding rails together. Otherwise, I find it best consumed 1500 pounds at a time. Every state should have a volcano, and if your state wasn’t issued one, make one.

May 04, 2006
Rumsfeld: “Why Did You Lie?”
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 05:53 PM * 33 comments

From the good folks at Think Progress:

Speaking in Atlanta today [at the Southern Center for International Studies], Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was sharply questioned about his pre-war claims about WMD in Iraq. An audience member confronted Rumsfeld with his 2003 claim about WMD, “We know where they are.” Rumsfeld falsely claimed he never said it. The audience member then read Rumsfeld’s quote back to him, leaving the defense secretary speechless.

They’ve got the video. And a transcript.

Rummy’s excuses: Colin Powell believed that there were WMDs (and who told him they were there?) and the US troops wore chemical protective suits because they thought there were WMDs (and who ordered them to wear ‘em?) Weak. Lame.

Back on 04MAY03 Rumsfeld did, in fact, say “We know where they [the WMDs] are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” He said it on national TV. Has everyone forgotten?

Oh — and the questioner was a 27-year CIA veteran. One of his former tasks at the Company was to be Daily Presidential Briefer for George H. W. Bush.

Wrestling with “network neutrality”
Posted by Patrick at 11:14 AM * 34 comments

The peculiar thing about former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry’s recent Huffington Post comments attacking advocates of “net neutrality”—the cause extolled by Save the Internet and Rep. Markey’s proposed “Internet Neutrality Act“—isn’t that the “net neutrality” position is obviously 100% right. Cory Doctorow, no pro-business libertarian, raises some interesting doubts:

I agree with net-neutralists—the Bells’ and cable-companies’ plans to put toll roads on the Internet’s pipes are evil incarnate, and the Bells’ arguments that they’re currently delivering packets for Google “for free” are steaming BS. Google pays for its bandwidth, and pays handsomely.

That said, I remain skeptical of the idea that this is a problem with a regulatory solution. The FCC is slow, often captured, and breathtakingly dumb about technology (this is the agency that passed the initial Broadcast Flag rule, after all). Asking them to write a set of rules describing “neutrality” and then enforce them seems like a recipe for trouble to me.

For example, say that your university maintained a pool of DSL lines for students, and a data-center for courseware, and created dedicated connections between them—is that “neutral?” What about Akamai: they put servers in ISPs’ NOCs around the world, and then sell mirror-space on those servers to people who want optimized delivery to those ISPs’ customers. Is that “neutral?” How will you tell, from the outside, whether an ISP is delivering slow packets to you because it’s “non-neutral” as opposed to badly managed, overloaded, or staggering from some kind of net-quake?

At the end of the day, we’re talking about a set of rules governing networking configurations. Network configurations aren’t something that we have ongoing, permanent consensus on—rather, they’re a hodgepodge of each admin’s idea of the best way of provisioning her network for her customers and users. Trying to write a regulation—or even comprehensive best practices—for a “neutral” network is going to be really hard. Getting it wrong could mean screwing things up even worse—imagine if the FCC could be convinced to create a neutrality rule that preserved Akamai’s business-model but punished their innovative competitors.

The plans to put toll-roads on the Net are terrible and we need to do something about them. I just don’t know what we should do.

Rather, what’s interesting about McCurry’s posts is the way he manages, while ostensibly decrying the incivility of Internet discourse, to display contempt for his audience in practically every line. “I feel like screaming ‘puh-leeeze.’…Oh yeah, how many of you lifted a finger to protect the First Amendment when the Washington Post and other ‘MSM’ cited it to ferret out the truth about WMD and the wars inside the U.S. intelligence community over the pre-Iraq war (and now pre-Iran war)?…You all worship at Vince Cerf who has a clear financial interest in the outcome of this debate but you immediately castigate all of us who disagree and impune our motives.” Leaving aside the mispellings, not to mention McCurry’s alternate-world notion that nobody in the blog world criticized the Administration’s misuse of intelligence during the runup to the Iraq war, it’s simply hard to believe that this ranting nitwit was once the press secretary to a President of the United States. After watching his you-kids-get-offa-my-lawn routine, it comes as no surprise that McCurry’s representation of the regulatory history in question turns out to be a flat-out lie; nor, for that matter, that Mr. Liberal Mike McCurry is in fact a cozy inside-the-Beltway business partner with wingnuts galore. Whoever’s right in this argument, it seems pretty likely that whatever side this dingbat is declaring for is wrong.

It’s like the argument over nuclear power. In an abstract sense, nuclear energy probably is one of the few possible ways out of our civilization’s energy-and-environment crisis. In the real world, every known iteration of the “nuclear industry” has so thoroughly discredited itself as an honest player that it’s hard to imagine anyone with a brain trusting such people with the rhetorically-traditional burnt-out match, much less an operating nuclear reactor.

Someone on Politech opined that the “net neutrality” argument comes down to whether you fear government failure or market failure more. That’s an attractive simplification, but I suspect posterity will regard it as a petty distinction. The real fight is between cronyism and the rest of us, and an advantage of democratic government, even in its debased forms, is that its failures can sometimes be exposed and addressed.

What the telcos want isn’t to optimize the pipes for the benefit of all. What the telcos want is exactly the kind of secret, monopolistic power to propose and dispose that Adam Smith warned us all business combinations tend toward. In essence, they want to be Tony Soprano, except without any imaginable check on their dealings.

Regulatory capture is a real problem, and governments can be secretive and tyrannical, but even dumb agencies—even in the age of Cheney!—have handles by which they can be brought to account. Multinational corporations, on the other hand, are basically accountable to no one. In the unending war against self-dealing, corruption, and cronyism—really, organized crime, although we don’t call it that often enough—sometimes the bad guys are wearing “government” hats and the good guys are labelled “business.” And sometimes the hats and labels are reversed.

May 02, 2006
The Feeste of Kalamazoo
Posted by Teresa at 08:06 PM *

Posted upon the occasion of the annual gathering in Kalamazoo, Galfridus Chauceres Lyns of Picke-Vppe: the only set of pick-up lines I’ve ever seen that would have made a positive impression on me, back when I was yong and ful of ragerye:

Yf thou were a latyn tretise ich wolde putte thee in the vernacular.

Ich loved thy papere, but yt wolde looke much better yscattred across the floore of myn rentede dorme roome at dawne.

Thou lookst so mvch lyk an aungel that the friares haue lefte the roome yn terror!

Woldstow haue me shyfte thyne voweles?

Were thou yn my seisin, ich wolde nevir escheat on thee.

The preeste telleth me that we aren more than VII degrees of consanguinitee. Game on!

Let vs breake oure mornyng faste togedir tomorrowe. Shal ich sende a page wyth a message for thee, or shal ich wake thee wyth an aubade composid ex tempore?

Ich haue the tale of Lancelot yn myn roome. Woldstow rede of yt wyth me?

Woldstow be myn Gaveston?

If ich sayde that thou hadde a bele chose, woldstow holde it ayeinst me?

And the ever-popular

Makstow a pilgrymage heere often?

Glass flow
Posted by Teresa at 10:00 AM *

Most of us will have heard that because glass is a supercooled liquid,* or an extremely viscous liquid, or an amorphous solid, or anyway a material with some very odd properties, old panes of window glass will gradually, over time, flow downward and become thicker at the bottom. Have we also heard that this is in fact untrue?

There are several ways to prove it, ranging from hm&te scientific demonstrations, to the simple observation that whereas old glass windowpanes do tend to be thicker at the bottom and thinner at the top, no one has ever spotted an instance where the supposedly flowy glass has actually flooped out over the edge of the framing material.

In my opinion, this one’s simple. Old manufacturing methods produced glass of irregular thickness. If you were a glazier, almost every pane you installed would have a thicker end and a thinner end. The lower portion of the pane bears more weight, so you put the thick end at the bottom. Light normally comes from above, so you put the thinner and more transparent end at the top. The arrangement is no more evidence that glass flows, than tapered wooden shingles are evidence that wood flows.

May 01, 2006
Dreadful phrases
Posted by Teresa at 11:05 AM * 905 comments

One does run across them in one’s reading. I’m particularly fond of phonetic near-misses.

For a while, I was adding new-found specimens to the collection in item #4, “Author is on bad terms with the Muse of Language,” in Slushkiller’s list of reasons for rejection: hare’s breath escape, plaintiff melody, causal/casual, clamoured to his feet, a shutter went through her body, his body went ridged, empirical storm troopers, ex-patriot Englishmen, et cetera; but there came to be too many of them, so now I just keep a list:

I’m loathed to do it spurn him to greater effort
have the since to come in out of the rain
steak tar-tar
passed history not with standing
kids-our-us
the illusive details
malice of forethought
pre-imminent expert
he was the hunter, and she his query
he was too forgone to hear him
fox paws

And, from the comment thread:
it’s a doggy-dog world (Maud)
their cloaks bellowed behind them (Renee)
for all intensive purposes (Tara)
Wallah! (TexAnne)
Viola! (TexAnne)
reign in one’s enthusiasm (Lizzy Lynn)
treat this client with kit gloves (Paula Helm Murray)
baited breath (Chryss)
pealing paint (Dirty Davey)
on the lamb (Deborah Roggie)
speak my peace (ksgreer)
she balled her eyes out (Mris)
the succession to the thrown (Pedantic Peasant)
two sense worth (Lloyd Burchill)
Earth fell under the alien yolk (Lisa Goldstein)
he had the patients of an angle (Lisa Goldstein)
the point is mute (Mike Jones)
to wreck havoc (Renee)
would that be exceptable? (Janet Croft)
a Flamingo dress, as worn by a Flamingo dancer (Linda Fox)
what the hay (Renee)
to hit the hey (Renee)
he brooched the subject (Emma)
she wore his broach proudly (Emma)
yay, verily (Owlmirror)
I’m siked about that test (Owlmirror)
he poured over the textbooks for hours (Robert Legault)
just desserts (Scraps)
he put his hands around her waste (Mrs. TD)
Post-Dramatic Stress Disorder (Ariella)
that medieval system of government … called Futilism (Ariella)
rabid typist (Harry Connolly)
Democracy has been running rapid in the Middle East (Fragano Ledgister)
low and behold (Writerious)
she galloped passed (Writerious)
nauseous/nauseated (Writerious)
it peaked/peeked his curiosity (Writerious)
they stood in a cue (Writerious)
“Bare with me,” said the stripper. (Writerious)
they excepted his application (Writerious)
he makes boo-koo bucks (Writerious)
I’ll have it for you toot sweet (Writerious)
don’t rein in my parade (Xopher)
this has lead to … (Xopher)
forward (as in part of a book’s frontmatter) (Kate Nepveu)
misquote spray* (Ann Rose)
broad soldiers (Ann Rose)
peachy king (Ann Rose)
the automobile’s breaks (—E)
taught muscles (Aquila)
writhing under his administrations (Myles Corcoran)
faze/phase (Jen Roth)
wreckless driving (Jen Wroth)
serendipitous/surreptitious (Miriam Beetle)
in intimate danger (Miriam Beetle)
Cleopatra memorised the Roman men (Candle)
Pompey and Crassus sited their views in public (Candle)
the first Roman sea exhibition outside the Mediterranean (Candle)
Suetonius’ Life of the Defiled Julius (Candle)
compose/comprise (Mike Ford)
he gave her organism after organism (galley slave)
Why are you her? (Vicki)
stay within earshout (Melissa Mead)
enormity/enormousness (Scraps)
fortuitous/fortunate (Scraps)
composer/compositor (TNH)
marquis candidate (Julia, quoting TBogg)
the human gnome project (ley)
straight-laced (The Grauniad)
the literary cannon (Aquila)
hair-brained (mk)
struck a cord (mk)
the judicial and penile system (Tom Recht)
cup of chino (Steve Taylor)
Straights of Hormuz (John M. Ford)
straight-jacket (John M. Ford)
Tor Nay Does (John M. Ford)
Surtsey was formed by undersea fishers (Sharon Mock)
Don’t tell Jane—shed freak. (Renee)
hammy downs (Kate)
back round (Kate)
poke-a-dotted (Kate)
prime Madonna (Kate)
one nation in a dirigible (Serge)
conscious/conscience (TNH)
dually elected (Candle)
the underlining principles (Dana)
quaffed hair (A. J. Luxton)
since time in memorial (Michael Croft)
they think they’re such a laugh ride (Kip W.)
rain of terror (Zingerella)
self-depreciating (TNH)
prehensile tissue (referring to nipples) (Sarah S)
climatic battle (NelC)
flaunted/flouted (Lori Coulson)
vice grips (Claire)
enclosed is a synapse plus three chapters… (BetsyB)
beckon call (pb)
they went out shooting peasants* (Xopher)
gantlet/gauntlet (Ledasmom)
cavalry/Calvary (Ledasmom)
discreet/discrete (Jerry Kindall)
founder/flounder (Marilee)
a right of passage (Clark E Myers)
extracting vengeance on him (TNH)
he gave a look of otter confusion (miwahni)
the body cannot with stain, what the mind does not understand (Fragano Ledgister)
take stalk of (Sara)
sewing her wild oats (Lisa Goldstein)
dragging his heals like a child (Sharon Mock)
teachers, formally enthusiastic about their subject… (Dave Luckett)
rod iron (Ulrika)
in tact (Ulrika)
last vestibules of fun and merriment (Fragano Ledgister)
it is a tenant among evangelical Christians (David Goldfarb)
Symphony in A Flat (Jasper Milvain)
gradually the spirit solidified into corporal form (Eleanor)
I had the bad luck to see this autrocity (TNH)
our hospital was in the mist of a project (Bill Burns)
a fine tooth-comb (Ajay)
mid-evil style jewelry (Maximus)
music played on queue (Maximus)
I can’t be asked to do that (UK) (Eleanor)
low-and-behold (Mary Aileen Buss)
rot iron (Glen Fisher)
thirty yacht six (Greg London)
he couldn’t believe how well she was fairing (TNH)
she was fiberglasted (Suzanne)
it doesn’t pass mustard (L.B. Lidsky)
taking the United States as a hole (Eric Nelson)
she was still milling over it (TNH)
wholistic approach (Susan)
on tenderhooks (abi)
a whole nother thing (Xopher)
I was apart of the group (rm)
the Klux Klutz Klan (rm)
pneumonic/pneumatic device (i.e., an aid to memory) (rm)
a grizzly crime (Cassandra)
it exuberates the problem (Steve Taylor)
boil a cup of rice and through in some saffron (jennie)
“I don’t like it a bit,” he grossed. (TNH)
how do we diffuse the bomb? (TNH)
stars in the fundament of our genre (Dave Langford)
it played on my mind (TNH)
democracy is running rabid in the Middle East (0qwerty0)
died-in-the-wool (yucca)
photogenic memory (avva)
he washed the ruminants of sorrow from her face (TNH)
the experience had wizened him to the ways of the world (TNH)
he was sword to protect them (A. J. Luxton)
a bellweather borough (Fragano Ledgister)
seeing her naked was a peek experience (nalo)
she’s a teatotaller (nalo)
bubble bees are not aerodynamically equipped to fly (elise)
don’t scratch it, you’ll only excoriate the problem (Joanne)
your gentile organs (elise)
pornographic memory (P J Evans)
moral/morale (P J Evans)
knit one, pearl two (Melissa Mead)
wring the changes (Lisa Goldstein)
scolding hot water (Xopher)
bearfooted Carmelites (pip)
biopsy/biography (Karen Funk Blocher)
public sediments on the issue (Xopher)
a regiment of diet and exercise (Lisa Goldstein)
people had to live on their own reconnaissance (Fragano Ledgister)
the voting ballads where unreliable and contained falsies (Fragano Ledgister)
hand’s on training (rm)
safe confinds (rm)
randomality (rm)
fender binders (rm)
a three-foot ring tale diamondback rattlesnake (P J Evans)
Seattle Odyssey is an incredulous journey… (TNH)
the Dodge of Venice (TNH)
the Republicans are a shoe-in (thank you, Raw Data)
farbeit for me to refuse… (TNH)
cast a pallor over the occasion (TNH)
malice of forethought (Dave Langford)
his necktie was slightly eschew (TNH)
muttering explicatives under his breath (TNH)
descention in the ranks (TNH)
they put out a want for his arrest (TNH)
with all the strappings of state (TNH)
surviving the eminent holocaust (dagny)
do un to others as you would have them do un to you (David King)
KU Med. Center Defends Its Brain-Dead Tests (Paula Helm Murray)
declare it a federal disaster (Fragano Ledgister)
embroidered in battle (Jing Mei)
he slashed cream across her new dress (Jing Mei)
the girl’s new outfit was electrical (Jing Mei)
he wants to ring the author’s neck (Deborah Roggie)
it’s like an Alcatraz around my neck (Scraps)
he is not aloud to say a word (Xopher)
an outer body experience (Xopher)
“succame”, past tense of “succumb” (Erik Nelson)
annunciating each word clearly (TNH)
the total annihilation of all assistance (TNH)
snuff said (Alex Halavais)
the gapping whole their departure left (TNH)
piss pour timing (TNH)
he was weekend by the loss of blood (TNH)
psycho tropical drugs (TNH)
cow towing to the powers that be (TNH)
root tail quartz (also: retaliated quartz) (TNH)
they chorused their ascent to the question (TNH)
he took a skewered view of things (TNH)
The Magesterian gives the Pope teaching authority. (TNH)
in a fracture of a second; he leaned forward a fracture of an inch (TNH)
if he ever wizened up to what you’ve been doing (TNH)
nothing in this world is real; it’s just an illustration (TNH)
the surgery was much more evasive than I expected (TNH)
at a more desecrate distance, he followed her in (TNH)
how dare they try and sensor him? (TNH)
face-to-face with the nozzle of a gun (TNH)
a none disclosure agreement (TNH)
looking a bit worse for the wearer (TNH)
standing in the face in danger (TNH)
the two of you have been playing at a crossroads (TNH)
apples to apples, dust to dust (TNH)
we could just let the robots fight the war on our behalves (TNH)
loud scream of furry (TNH)
He’s diluted if he thinks that! (TNH)
That jives with most of the commentary I’ve heard. (TNH)
quote un quote (Kyle Armbruster)
I don’t want to sound like a no-it-all, but … (TNH)
trying to illicit sympathy (TNH)
that’s mox nix (Om)
I’d dishone you (TNH)
the project whithered on the vine (TNH)
it’s just here-say (TNH)
This specimen was deposited by glaziers on the Holderness Coast. (TNH)
It is easy to caste dispersion on the FDA (TNH)
Jane Fonda: “All tolled, abstinence-only education has failed miserably.” (TNH)
I know saludvictorians in my class who cheated their way to the top. (TNH)
She lay unconscience on the floor. (TNH)
They were in the throngs of an argument. (TNH)
Barely registers a blimp on the radar (KévinT)
Wreaking haddock (Steve C.)
If you have the mullah to pay for it (TNH)
There was a black and blue striped toboggan pulled over her head. (TNH)
“Having formerly worked for the now defunked EC comics…” (TNH)
She had a fairly tail wedding. (Collected in the wild! Honest!) (TNH)
We were upset by his gregarious interference. (TNH)
It was a problem even she couldn’t phantom. (TNH)
ex-patriots (David Bratmen)
He looked down at the bludge in his pants. (TNH)
He had a bugle in his pants. (Megpie71)
The book was a first addition. (TNH)
A dog y dog world. (Dan Hoey)
He lay prostate on the ground. (Em)
Well, the peachy king did have that illicit affair with the rabid typist, but I’m afraid they’ve now been sentenced to the penile system. (Melanie S.)
This afternoon I heard a Katrina survivor say that he’d lived in FEMA trailers, tents, and “Kwanzaa huts.” (Xopher)
A full-pledged author. (Pendrift)
Listening serupticiously (Lee)
In a candidate’s bio for elective office in King County, WA: “During my teenier as Chair I increased our partnerships with Landowners within King County either privately or entity owned.” (Tom Whitmore)
George Cowley was a bonnified Scotsman. (Beth Friedman)
He was a bonified Scotsman. (Julia Hendricks)
Those who paid full price when the trend was at the pentacle of its height (TNH)
She heard them arguing in sotto voices. (TNH)
Tom Bombadil is a not-quite-explained abhorition. (TNH)
I became memorized as I watched him work. (TNH)
They were revulsed by my description of the monster. (TNH)
I love how you play with the cannon in this story. (TNH)
My black lab is ten years old and has arthuritis. (TNH)
She gave the instructions verbably. (Deb/Dyb in Nashville)
I pacifically told him not to do that. (Grewgirl in Denver)
They wanted him for breading stock. (TNH)
… tusks protruding from the jaundiced skin of his joules. (TNH)
He was wearing denim overhauls. (TNH)
There was an almost palatable sense of relief. (TNH)
Even the most common placed things. (TNH)
I have a date with a gorgeous read-head. (TNH)
Owsome jewelry clasp! (TNH)
The sensation ran like lightning through the pleasure synopses of his brain. (TNH)
A fission of something close to fear rolled through him. (TNH)
It sheered free in two blows. (TNH)
Running rim-shot over the guards. (TNH)
He peered at them, his glasses eschew on the end of his nose. (TNH)
He forwent his shower. (TNH)

What puzzles me is how many of the words and phrases are uncommon in spoken English, and thus were probably picked up from reading, where the readers would have seen the correct forms. I can only hypothesize that their ears remember better than their eyes do.

Addenda:

Glen Blankenship collects variant misunderstandings of ‘voil√†’. His current collection: Wha-la, Wallah, whah-lah, ouala, walla, ouila, wa-la, Wa La, wahLah, viola, V’iola, voi l√†, wah-lah, walah, wah lah, and vuala.

Michael gives us “Similar-Sounding Cousins: A Comedy of Manors”

Earnest is an ex-patriot Englishman, escaping from his sorted passed in New York. Jack is his wealthy American cousin (a reel blew bloodied type, to the manner borne). When Earnest looses his job righting insincere rejection letters for TOR Books, he moves in with Jack in his stately sub urban home. Hijinks insue.

We had practically simultaneous posts from Sarah Sabine, Naomi Parkhurst, and Grant Barret, explaining that over at Language Log these are known as “eggcorns,” and that there’s a database devoted to them. I recommend it. A sampling:

trite and true, ad homonym, eurologist, scarlet teenager (a bird), lazy fare, lack toast and intolerant, from the gecko, go at it hammer and thongs, pigment of the imagination, Cadillac converter, bumpetta-bumpetta, outer body experience, whoa is me, pre-madonna, Southern brawl, fair to midland, don’t know buttkiss, a posable thumb, she got her ten-year at the university, in lame man’s terms, eggtopic pregnancy, come to not, pigment of the imagination, get one’s gander up, like a bowl in a china shop, at lagerheads, Hobbesian choice, put the cat before the horse, cut to the cheese, cyberstocking, pier-to-pier network, post-pardon depression, nip in the butt, by enlarge, and what in the sand hill were you thinking?

Finally, GLD gave us an unnerving specimen collected in the wild (i.e., a church bulletin):
[A]s the priest preyed over the elements on the alter, they were altared into the real presents of the devine.

And a further addendum: The reason the main list ends with a long string of examples credited to me is that I’ve continued to add new specimens I’ve collected in the wild. —TNH

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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.