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January 28, 2004
Open thread 5. Sidelights, technical problems, cannibals and kings.

[04:25 PM : 74 comments]

Rock and roll never forgets. However, I do, all the time, so before that happens I’d better mention that Whisperado will appear this Friday, January 30, at Freddy’s (“One of the Ten Best Dive Bars in Brooklyn”) at 9:30 PM. That’s 485 Dean Street, in Prospect Heights, just a few blocks from the giant chrome-steel-and-glass headquarters of And, come to think of it, not too darn far from certain other webloggers we could mention.

Whisperado’s set will be followed by The Halley DeVestern Band (“Lands a shattering uppercut” —Newsday), with whom we share bass player and prolific songwriter Jon Sobel. Halley is a phenomenal vocalist and her band is very much worth seeing if you like melodic, hard-driving blues-rock with really smart lyrics, which of course you do. The HdVB also have a new CD out: Superhero Killer.

[01:34 PM : 4 comments]

January 26, 2004
The past isn’t dead, reprise. Via Language Hat, the website of the Shetland & Orkney Udal Law Group, crusading to overturn that recent and unjust imposition on their traditional way of life—Scottish feudal law. To which one can only say right on! Fight the power!

Really, I’m sure it’s a serious issue; I just can’t help but reflect that no system of social organization ever actually goes completely away. Inevitably, somewhere in the world, the cutting edge of controversy is that suspiciously modern system, feudalism…

[04:54 PM : 27 comments]

Egoboo. As Teresa mentions here, she’s a finalist in three categories of the “Koufax Awards,” a poll of the readers and writers of liberal-ish weblogs. She’s been nominated in the categories of Best Writing; Best Post, for The Fabric of the City; and Best Series, for her posts on the ongoing Iraqi-antiquies story: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Voting is pretty informal; go to the January archive page of Mary Beth Williams’ and Dwight Meredith’s weblog Wampum and search on “Koufax Awards”, where the finalists in each category are listed in a series of posts and you can cast your vote in the comments section—or email your votes to them at

Electrolite is also up for Best Design, which is gratifying. Electrolite and all its little templates and cascading style sheets thank you.

[12:21 PM : 19 comments]

Your morning irony. Calpundit has a must-read post on what really happened to the WMDs and how our own intelligence agencies managed to blow it. Short version: If you’re a scientist trying to survive in a police state, selling your credulous overseers on wacky super-weapon programs is a pretty sensible way to stay funded. This is of course an excellent illustration of the general principle that the guy on top is often the most misinformed of all, because everybodies lies upward.

[09:09 AM : 48 comments]

January 24, 2004
Okay. Because so many readers seem to want it, I’ve resumed the syndication of full-text Electrolite posts via RSS. Readers who just want to get excerpts can have it their way, too. Links to each on the sidebar to the left.

If you don’t know what this is about, don’t worry. Stay indoors and await further instructions.

[06:41 PM : 9 comments]

Brief pause for mental calibration. Nate Bruinooge of Polytropos makes an observation all political bloggers should probably tape to their computer monitors for the next nine months:
I was watching CSPAN while giving Ella a bottle just now; they were showing John Kerry mingling with supporters somewhere in New Hampshire. He was clearly feeling under the weather, but nevertheless talked one on one with dozens of people, each with their own individual problems or comments. He posed for pictures. He answered questions. And it struck me: what’s this nonsense about him being “wooden?” Here he is, obviously exhausted, and he can still work a crowd with the best of them. Of course he can: he wouldn’t have made it this far if he couldn’t.

This goes for everybody else, too. Kerry isn’t wooden. Gore wasn’t a robot. Dean isn’t angry, either, and Bush isn’t stupid. Heck, I saw Lieberman on CSPAN a few months ago doing the same sort of thing as Kerry, and even he was impressive. They all do have their individual tics, their strengths and weaknesses, but if they didn’t have that weird ability to connect to perfect strangers, they wouldn’t be in this business in the first place. We do all candidates a disservice by judging them by their performances in front of the bright lights, and by going along with the shorthand evaluations that a culture of sound bites inevitably creates. In a perfect world each citizen would be able to look each candidate in the eye; as it is, everyone should watch them mingle with the crowds on CSPAN. You’ll learn a lot.

Over the years I’ve seen a few national-level politicians in person, even conversed with a few, and none of them seemed particularly similar to their media stereotypes. “Remote and intellectual” Eugene McCarthy was extroverted and full of backslapping bonhomie. Well-known extremist madman Barry Goldwater was thoughtful and considerate. In 1992 I watched robotic, inauthentic Al Gore deliver a stemwinder strong enough to peel the paint off a refrigerator; I thought the crowd was going to levitate. The Howard Dean I saw a few months ago was full of happy-warrior pizzazz, not this dire “anger” stuff we’re constantly hearing about. Okay, there was [nationally famous conservative leader’s name withheld for reasons of professional courtesy], who really did seem to be the grating smartypants everyone says he is, but by and large it’s pretty clear that we should regard these media tags as having somewhat less credibility than Page 6 gossip. And more to the point, always ask ourselves whose interest is being served when we lazily retransmit them.

[06:03 PM : 47 comments]

January 23, 2004
Not an artist’s representation.

“A landscape which has been predominantly shaped by the erosional action of water.”


Spectacularly vivid photographs from the European Space Agency’s “Mars Express” orbiter. This shot of a 3km-deep caldera is stunning as well. (Via Tristero.)

[04:35 PM : 23 comments]

January 22, 2004
Welcome to the future. Okay, I’m old, but this was genuinely startling.

Not that a four-star general running for President would give an interview to a nationally-distributed newsstand magazine for gay people. But, rather, that he’d be comfortable doing that particular cover shoot.

Don’t worry, the linked image is entirely SFW, as they say. It’s just a stance and an expression that enacts a startling level of personal confidence, given who Clark is, who the Advocate’s readers are, and how some of our more deranged countrymen are likely to react when the magazine hits the stands. This is psychosexual politics of a very high order, and significantly raises my opinion of Clark.

(Via The Poor Man.)

[12:42 PM : 36 comments]

Laugh it off. Tom Tomorrow has exactly the right advice for Howard Dean:
If I were in the Dean camp right now, I’d be trying to pull a little jiu-jitsu—turn that “yeaarrggh” thing around, make it a joke, embrace it. Open campaign rallies with that remix that’s floating around the ‘net. Hand out t-shirts to volunteers which just say “YEEAAARRRGGH” across the front. Maybe have Dean open speeches with some mildly self-deprecating joke: “I’ve taken a lot of kidding for my speech in Iowa—but if you think I was hollering then, wait till you get the bill for Bush’s spending spree!”

You can’t make it go away, but you can turn it around.

Just so. Along with a fifty-state organization and a pile of cash, one of Dean’s biggest assets is that he’s a rock star. Trying to recover from Iowa by going completely bland isn’t going to work, because charisma is inextricably linked with having actual personality quirks. Americans are fine with their Presidents having quirks; real leaders have strengths and weaknesses, at least in the stories you actually want to read and imagine yourself part of.

Americans do, however, want their charismatic leaders to show some humor about their own foibles. The guy who goes “yeaarrggh” under stress and then makes fun of himself the next day is a Good Egg and probably trustworthy. The guy who goes “yeaarrggh” and then is later all bland and softspoken like it never happened, on the other hand, is a bit scary. (Whether Dean is being treated fairly about this is a non-issue. Of course it’s unfair. Among other things, voters want to see how potential Presidents handle being treated unfairly.)

This sense of humor about one’s self can even be 100% synthetic. Richard Nixon was basically a bastard whose actual sense of humor was coarse at best, but a carefully-scripted imitation of wryly humorous self-regard was an important element of the “New Nixon” persona that won the 1968 election.

To reiterate, I lean to Dean, but in this election I’m something I’ve taken to calling a “gladiatorial Democrat.” I’m watching from the stands, and whichever one of the guys in this arena wins the prize, I’ll be for them against Bush. But the future of Dean is definitely one of the knife-edge subplots right at the moment.

[12:25 PM : 42 comments]

January 21, 2004
The past isn’t dead; it’s not even past. I knew that Ulster Protestant demagogue Ian Paisley was a member of the European Parliament. I had even noticed the recent reports that he intends, at age 77, to stand down.

I somehow missed knowing that, when the Pope addressed the European Parliament in 1988, the Rev. Paisley greeted him with a banner reading “JOHN PAUL II ANTICHRIST” and proceeded to provoke an imbroglio in which Margaret Thatcher was knocked to the ground and Paisley himself was brought to heel only by being frog-marched out of the room by Otto von Hapsburg, pretender to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire.

The things you learn in blogs. Now if we had a real news media interested in telling colorful stories, would I have missed hearing this? I ask you. (Via A Fistful of Euros.)

[11:11 PM : 40 comments]

“Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.”

I just wanted to hear that again.

“Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.”

Smoking gun-related activity program initiative!

Conclusive evidence-related involvement postulation enterprise!

This isn’t just moving the goalposts, it’s attaching the goalposts to a booster rocket and shooting them into the Sun. Look, a revitalized space program after all!

[02:40 PM : 40 comments]

Rocket Ship Machiavelli. I’ve been avoiding the subject of the Administration’s “space initiative,” partly because (I realize this may be a shock, coming from a professional science fiction editor) I’m very much in favor of exploring outer space, and partly because I’m acquainted with so many different people involved in so many different aspects of space research, exploration, and development, so I have a lively sense of how complicated the issues are and of how little I really know.

Still, it’s been hard to avoid the suspicion that the whole thing is little more than a fairly shameless piece of political performance art, a stab at the old Vision Thing, particularly when “unnamed Administration sources” more or less blatantly say so. As 5,271,009 bloggers have already remarked, the money isn’t even a sliver of what a real moonbase or Mars mission would cost, and the actual goals are comfortably far to the future of any plausible second Bush administration. Meanwhile, though, it definitely looks like the initiative’s immediate effects include cutting a lot of actual space science (never popular with this crowd) and handing off more bags of cash to politically friendly construction companies and aerospace firms.

’Twas ever so. The space program has always been a political exercise, and there’s nothing wrong with smart scientists and engineers using the political needs of elected officials as a way of getting useful work done. Nor am I unaware that NASA is a bureaucratic disaster in a lot of ways, arguably overdue for a complete re-think. I just have the sinking feeling that this Administration is unlikely to do a good job at this, certainly not if it turns out to involve spending any political capital at all. (Leaving aside, of course, the important business of surrounding the planet with orbiting American military technology as quickly and thoroughly as possible.) The phrase that summed up my reaction to Bush’s grandiloquent announcement last week: I felt trifled with. I wanted to say, this is stuff that matters, you lying sack of shit. Okay, obviously that’s not really a cool-eyed and dispassionate take, and I realize that smart friends and acquaintances of mine are right now combing through the fine print and making plans to use this “initiative” as a platform for good. I wish them well, but I don’t feel very optimistic.

So as you can imagine, it with with a bitter laugh that I greeted the news that Bush didn’t even mention space exploration in his State of the Union address last night. Although he did have a fair bit to say about steroid use by athletes. Yeah, space exploration, return to the Moon, mission to Mars. Sure.

[12:01 PM : 30 comments]

Housekeeping notes from all over. We’ve made a bunch of small changes to the Nielsen Hayden weblogs over the last few days, some of which are prompted by comment spam and some of which are meant to enhance Your User Experience. Message: we care. Among them:
  • Each comment now has its own permalink, riding on its timestamp; you can use this to, for instance, put a link to someone else’s comment inside your own.
  • All comments now display the author’s name at their beginning, rather than at their end.
  • You must preview your comment before posting it.
  • Older comment threads have been closed; folks wishing to comment on old threads are encouraged to do so in the most recent “open thread.” If people seem interested in continuing or reviving an older thread, we’ll be happy to reopen it.
  • If you attach a URL to your comment header, Movable Type now renders it as a URL with a redirect to your site. This makes it harder for comment spammers to get Googlejuice out of writing their URLs to our comment threads.
  • Commenting is now throttled—you can’t post comments less than twenty seconds apart.
  • Javascripted “popup” windows have been eliminated. Everything now displays in a regular browser page.
If any of this causes plagues of locusts, rains of frogs, or comment threads turning Chinese, please don’t hesitate to let us know. However, the scary error message currently showing up at the bottom of the “preview” page is a known glitch of MT 2.661 which will presumably be shortly hunted down and destroyed from the giant steel-glass-and-chromium headquarters of Six Apart. Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem to be hurting anything.

[11:26 AM : 33 comments]

State of the union. The great feminist science fiction author Joanna Russ once remarked to me, “Homophobia isn’t there to keep homosexuals in line. Homophobia is there to keep everyone else in line.”

Caroline Payne is in her condition in order to keep the rest of us in line.

[12:37 AM : 42 comments]

January 20, 2004
New horizons in the war on you. Calpundit links to this report of the Bush Administration using traditionally-confidential census data in their forthcoming airline-passenger screening program, and remarks:
Black helicopter conspiracy theorists have been screeching for years that census information isn’t really private, and of course the census folks have responded by swearing on stacks of Bibles that yes it is private. Every bit of it. Absolutely.

But they were lying. Someone needs to be fired if this report turns out to be true.

To quote Teresa Nielsen Hayden: “I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist.”

UPDATE: Calpundit has further information that suggests that what happened here was less dire than it might appear. So does Alex R, in the comments at Calpundit and here. Good to know.

Teresa’s point is still germane, though.

[03:54 PM : 19 comments]

Must read. David Neiwert of Orcinus, on the Latin Americanization of America.

This is what I’m talking about when I say this administration is a clear and present danger to your life. And yours, and yours, and mine.

We will live to see an America in which the worst kinds of bosses have their way all of the time. Unless we fight, now.

UPDATE: Think I’m overstating the case? Here’s how the largest company in America now feels free to treat its workers. That’s your children’s future.

[02:30 PM : 21 comments]

Learning to make the sale. I don’t really intend for Electrolite to become an all-election all-the-time blog (there are already several of those, some quite good), but anyone trying to make sense of the Iowa results could probably do worse than to read this post by reporter Tom Schaller over at the Daily Kos, and this response by Nathan Newman. In essence, Schaller argues that Dean’s caucus precinct captains included far too many political greenhorns who didn’t know how to argue convincingly when it came time to convince supporters of the trailing candidates to come over to Dean, and who didn’t make much of an effort to conceal their sense of superiority to the other candidates’ supporters. Newman thinks Schaller’s analysis of Iowa is probably correct, but that this sort of thing is likely to be less of a problem in upcoming primaries and caucuses that don’t share the Iowa caucuses’ procedural peculiarities.

Schaller’s take surely isn’t the whole story, but speaking as a typical hyperverbal octoroon-Aspergers’ case who often strikes people as a standoffish git, I find his picture alarmingly believable. A lot of people are passionately convinced of the need to defeat Bush, and are ready to join any plausible crusade to do so. But effective politics often entails more than simply crushing the opposition with the splendidness of your rectitude. Despite his rather unfair rep as The Angry Guy (thank you, SCLM), Howard Dean is actually a fairly subtle and effective practitioner of interpersonal politics. A lot of his fired-up volunteers, on the other hand, seem to be a little bit hazy about this business of extending yourself toward people with whom you may have differences, in the hope of finding some basis for agreement. This has been intermittently evident on some of the Dean chat boards (I’m still shaking my head over the guy who condemned Joshua Micah Marshall and Matthew Yglesias as “heathers”) and it seems to have been a problem with at least some of Dean’s Iowa precinct captains as well. Fortunately, part of the package called “flawed human being” is a module called “capacity for learning,” which at least some of Kos’s Dean supporters posting in response to Schaller are demonstrating the use of. Even Democrats who support other candidates should hope they do, because whomever the party ultimately nominates is going to need help from a lot of these folks, and the sooner everyone has their important learning experiences, the better.

UPDATE: Garance Franke-Ruta of Tapped has more.

Many of the Perfect Stormers seemed out of place in Iowa, and the neighbor-to-neighbor strategies employed to get out the vote for Edwards and Kerry seemed to work better than the flood of outsiders brought in by Dean and Gephardt. The Deanies I ran into at the Kentucky Fried Chicken outside Newton had attitudes that suggested they might not have been the best advertisement for their candidate. “I feel like I’m in a foreign country,” said one Perfect Stomer wearing a lilac windbreaker. “I’m off the net. I’m not watching television. I can’t find the New York Times. When I’m at my desk, I read 40 papers a day, all the political pundit sites…Now I’m doing something different. I’m talking to real people who have real lives raising kids.” She looked around the KFC at the families eating extra-crispy chicken like they were a novelty, instead of her countrymen.
Hoo boy. That sort of thing isn’t good.

Also not good: too much argument-by-selective-anecdote. I’m sure the other candidates all have campaign workers who say stupid things in unguarded moments. And it’s easy to pick on an operation that’s just suffered a body blow. But the Dean campaign definitely needs to move fast to get outside the narrative now being written for it, in which it’s entirely a phenomenon of the wired bicoastal elite. They’re smart enough, and Dean himself certainly didn’t get re-elected governor of Vermont five times just by playing to Vermont’s population of latte-drinking body-pierced Belle and Sebastian fans. But can they do it fast enough? Well, they’ve surprised us before.

[01:41 PM : 18 comments]

Reasons to like Kerry. Nathan Newman reminds us of Kerry’s “investigation of the CIA-drugs-Contra connection where he almost single-handedly dogged the Reagan and Bush administration when the rest of the Democrats had slunk away after the Ollie North hearings.” As I so often remark about Newman, he’s not wrong.
So don’t buy any media line of Kerry as some cautious, blow-dried wonk. No one in the Senate has more experience dealing with terrorists, including those funded by the US through drug dollars down in Central America.

[12:24 AM : 8 comments]

Getting it. Joshua Micah Marshall has been talking to a fellow named Dick Bennett, who runs the ARG daily tracking poll.
Bennett’s theory is that this whole race is about who can beat Bush, and that candidates like Kerry—until quite recently—have been completely missing the boat by talking about their plan for the environment, or their plan for this, or their plan for that.

What people care about is who can beat Bush. Beat Bush, they reason, and everything else will fall into place. So who cares what your plan is.

You know, I’ve heard that said.

[12:10 AM : 8 comments]

January 19, 2004
Horse race. Kerry and Edwards, how about that.

I temperamentally lean to Dean, and I’ve tended to think that the real fissure among the leading Democratic candidates runs between the guys who felt compelled to support the invasion of Iraq (Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt, Leiberman) and the two who, however tentatively, opposed it to some degree (Dean and Clark). For a lot of people, I don’t think it’s so much about Iraq as about what Iraq represents. Over the last several months, Dean and Clark have been the major candidates who regularly talk as if this coming election were something other than another humdrum exercise of donkeys versus elephants. They’ve been the guys who talk as if this Administration really is a threat to our future, not just as a piece of speechmaking boilerplate, but rather a threat to the basic quality of your life just a few years from now. While it’s seemed as if the other group, Gephardt and Leiberman and Edwards and Kerry, really believe at the end of the day that people like Cheney and Bush and DeLay are just regular politicians and colleagues who can be negotiated with. Making matters worse, for all of Kerry’s experience and intellect, and all of Edwards’ rhetorical skill, every time I saw either of them speak on TV, I was (in Teresa’s words) overwhelmed by waves of ennui.

Maybe they’re better now. Maybe they’ve figured out how to connect. Maybe nearly falling out of the bottom of the race has put “fire in their belly,” itch powder in their underwear, and steroids into their Wheaties. Maybe one of them will be the nominee and come roaring out of Boston to clean GWB’s clock. Or maybe Dean and Clark (obviously, tonight’s results represent a real threat to Clark in New Hampshire and beyond) will storm back at them, and one of those guys will get the nomination after all. Maybe George W. Bush will leave Laura for Dennis Kucinich. Maybe aliens will land.

I don’t know at this point. I just want a Democratic candidate who knows in his gut that the Bush Administration is a national crisis that has got to be stopped. If Kerry or Edwards turns out to be that guy, I’ll be happy to work for them. If Dean recovers from this, or if Clark manages to thread his way to the front of the pack, I’ll be on their side too.

I do think it’s a four-man race now. Gephardt is the cartoon character who’s just had the safe fall on him, and he’s out of money besides. Sharpton is running for something other than President; if any of the others do well against him with black voters in South Carolina, he’s probably done. Leiberman may actually pull an upset or two in some state that fell off everyone’s radar, but there is no plausible alternate future in which he gets the nomination. Wait, yes there is: all the other candidates die from eating spoiled ham sandwiches backstage at a debate, leaving Leiberman facing only Dennis Kucinich, vegan. I think that pretty much sums everybody up.

Now I’ll go read everyone’s spin. Prediction: many, many people will be discussing the Iowa caucuses’ poor record at picking the winner. Bush 1 beat Reagan in 1980, Dole beat Bush 1 in 1988, the other Democrats didn’t even try to fight Harkin in 1992, et cet. All true. Also, Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln! Wait, wrong argument.

[10:31 PM : 38 comments]

You can’t fight a war against lunchmeat without breaking eggs. Various anti-comment-spam measures have been taken, some of which will be evident to longtime readers. One such measure entails closing all comment threads over 60 days old, and I hope to to soon work out how to automate this on a constant basis.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that the comment-entry form stays present even on a page for an Electrolite entry that’s had commenting set to “closed.” This seems unfair to the casual reader who might well invest some time in typing up a comment, only to find at the end of the process that it won’t post. Any suggestions from Movable Type adepts about how to make the form go away, while keeping the old comments visible, would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: Ginger Stampley emailed the missing piece. I had managed to lose track of whatever neurons remembered how <MTEntryIfAllowComments> and <MTEntryIfCommentsOpen> work together.

[09:40 PM : 3 comments]

Why we are in truly deep shit. “America as a One-Party State.” Read it and don’t weep. Don’t mourn, organize.

[01:33 AM : 21 comments]

January 18, 2004
Back in business. We are, and you may resume commenting whenever you wish. With the patient assistance of Steve Cook (check out his splendid weblog), we appear to have successfully ported all of Making Light and Electrolite from gunky old Berkeley DB to snazzy, fast-moving MySQL. Yes, just days ago we would have said “huh?” just like you’re doing now, but rest assured this will give us ever so many more tools for fighting evil and doing good. Right now we’re both going to have a stiff drink.

It’s possible some formatting oddities will turn up in the archives as a result of all this. Please feel free to let us know about them so we can fix them.

[10:43 PM : 8 comments]

Announcement. If you try to comment to Making Light or Electrolite for the next little while, chances are your comment won’t properly post. This is because we’re trying once again to convert the site to a MySQL backend. We’ll amend this post immediately once this is complete.

Thanks to blogger and database-slinger Steve Cook for his copious help with this.

UPDATE: The conversion ran for nearly two hours and failed; we’re going to chase down glitches in the database and then try again later today. Once again, we’ll update this post when we do; meanwhile, for the moment, comments can be posted normally.

FURTHER UPDATE (4:30 EST): Okay, lay off attempting to post comments for a little while, once again. Thanks.

[12:01 PM : 0 comments]

January 14, 2004
Apologies to anyone who tried to post a comment during the last couple of hours, and got an error message. That was a side effect of our failed attempt to convert the Nielsen Hayden weblogs to a MySQL backend, the better (that was the theory) to flexibly deal with comment spam. Anyway, Movable Type’s conversion script ran for over two hours and wound up mysteriously aborting when it was about 85% done. It’s 1 AM; I’m going to bed, and when I get up, I may well heave the entire computer and blog apparatus into the East River. I’ve had it.

[01:46 AM : 7 comments]

January 13, 2004
Technical blip. Okay, so why would modifying my RSS templates so that they syndicate excerpts only, rather than full posts, cause my RSS feeds to go completely blank? Let’s see what happens when we add a new post.

UPDATE: Okay, so once you rebuild and add a new post, the feeds regenerate themselves. Learn a new thing every day.

[02:25 PM : 27 comments]

January 12, 2004
Red fish, blue fish. Andrew Northrup reads Slate so we don’t have to.
3. Shorter Thomas Friedman: There were four reasons for going into Iraq—stated reason, the moral reason, the right reason, the real reason, the borrowed reason, the blue reason, and the One True Reason — exactly as fortold in the ancient prophecy. We had to attack Iraq in order to show the Arabs who’s baddest. We just had to, alright? I don’t have to make sense — I work for the Times.

[11:17 PM : 36 comments]

The true and the real. Ken MacLeod shows, here and here, how to negotiate the treacherous shoals of left sectarianism and emerge with something close to poetry. As you’d expect.

[10:43 PM : 3 comments]

Mrrrrrow. Jim Henley wins the Would You Like A Saucer Of Milk With That award:
Ten years ago, my foreign policy views would have been indistinguishable from Glenn Reynolds—if Glenn Reynolds had had foreign policy views back then.

[10:27 PM : 4 comments]

Down in the trenches in the war on lunchmeat. If you run a Movable Type weblog, or if you’re simply curious about the mass of nonsensical comments that briefly appeared on the Nielsen Hayden blogs earlier this evening, you may be interested in this post in which Teresa explains all.

[09:57 PM : 0 comments]

Such valuable advice. Also according to the Washington Post, Howard Dean’s staffers are hyper-competitive obsessives who don’t know when to “leave it at the office,” and who don’t hang out in bars after hours with folks from rival Democratic camps. This prompted the observation by Zizka, commenting in Matthew Yglesias’s blog, that clearly the Deanies “still haven’t mastered the sophisticated political methods which ended up handing all three branches of government over to the Republicans.” Yeah, darn those Dean staffers.

Zizka goes on:

No, I’m not a Dean partisan. I’m Dean/Clark neutral, not necessarily in that order. It does seem to me that the Democratic Party should get a new political establishment while it is still a viable national party. The combative spirit and vigor the Dem establishment shows when swatting down challenges from within the party must have been held in reserve from the 2000 Presidential campaign, when it was not in evidence.
Pretty much right on, if you ask me. There’s plenty to criticize about Dean (and Clark), but the fact that the biggest paper in the nation’s capital is running a feature story devoted to complaints that (actual quote from an alleged grownup) “the Dean people don’t party with us” tells you pretty much what you need to know about modern political journalism. I mean, next thing you know, the New York Times will be expending space on its op-ed page analyzing General Clark’s choice of sweater. Oh, wait

[12:46 PM : 23 comments]

January 11, 2004
Wall of death. Kevin Phillips, in American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush (quoted in Jonathan Yardley’s review in the Washington Post):
ad.jpg All in all, if presidential family connections were theme parks, Bush World would be a sight to behold. Mideast banks tied to the CIA would crowd alongside Florida S&Ls that once laundered money for the Nicaraguan contras. Dozens of oil wells would run eternally without finding oil, thanks to periodic cash deposits by old men wearing Reagan-Bush buttons and smoking twenty-dollar cigars. Visitors to “Prescott Bush’s Tokyo” could try to make an investment deal without falling into the clutches of the yakuza or Japanese mob.

[05:58 PM : 8 comments]

Open thread 4. Haven’t had one of these in a while. No doubt somebody has a comment or three on recent sidebar links.

[03:34 PM : 26 comments]

January 10, 2004
What “real people” do and don’t do. Mike Kozlowski of Unmistakable Marks is exercised about Apple Computer’s decision to —
[…] enhance their newly-dubbed iLife suite with things like iMovie (a consumer-level film-editing program), iDVD (a consumer-level DVD-mastering tool), and now GarageBand (a consumer-level multi-track mixer and MIDI sequencer, apparently).
A strange thing to get bent out of shape over? But Mike explains:
Real people never create anything; they take advantage of specialization of labor to let the really good creators—the Peter Jacksons, the Steven Spielbergs, the Beatleses, the Vanilla Ices—make all the movies and music necessary, which they then purchase/steal and need help organizing and using.

I’ve never edited a movie in my life, never mastered a video DVD, and never even considered making a multi-track music recording. Neither have you, if I might be permitted to play the odds here. By aiming its media tools at creators instead of consumers, Apple is either confusing Jobs’ Pixar coworkers and celebrity friends for normal people, or deciding that its long-time 5% market-share is too big.

Well now. I’m not a wild-eyed Mac loyalist—I muck around semi-competently in several computing environments, and in fact this post is being drafted on my well-loved handbuilt Windows PC. And while I don’t think Apple is really pegging their future quite so much on little products like GarageBand as Mike seems to think, I acknowledge that I’m not really a knowledgeable analyst of computer companies, or of the consumer electronics business. (Besides, GarageBand’s system requirements are beyond any Mac currently in the house, so to heck with Apple.) But it’s interesting to hear that because I’ve helped make a multi-track music recording, I’m not “real people.”

One of Kozlowski’s commenters asks “If people don’t like to create, why didn’t camcorders fail in the marketplace a decade ago?” Kozlowski’s response is that “Camcorders still get sold for the same reason as Soloflexes: The triumph of imagination over reality.” This is of course silly. Exercise machines entail a great deal of pain and effort for a payoff in the distant future; camcorders entail a very small amount of effort for a big payoff that shows up almost immediately. As a further proof of this distinction, I can assure Mike Kozlowski that I rarely see camcorders being left out on the curb by people moving out of apartments in New York.

What I really don’t understand is why. Kozlowski is a good egg; I’ve been acquainted with him through Usenet and the blog world for a long time. So whence all this emphatic nastiness about how “real people” never create anything, and the gratuitous implication that those who do have something to do with celebrity elites? Millions of people play a musical instrument or knit or take pictures or do something else mildly creative. You don’t have to believe that everyone on the planet is potentially an artistic genius, or that Apple Computer is infallible, to think that maybe this kind of widespread creative amateurism constitutes a market worth catering to. Meanwhile, the sheer strenuousness of Kozlowski’s categorical claims about “real people” makes me suspect that anything I say will be dismissed by Mike because I’m one of those a priori not-real creative people whose views don’t matter.

[07:24 PM : 86 comments]

Service interruption. We were just now inaccessible to much of the net for a little while, due to a DOS attack against our provider’s provider’s nameserver.

For future reference, in circumstances like this, you may be able to get to Making Light and Electrolite via:
Note that the “~pnh” part of the URL is needed for both weblogs, not just the one maintained by the actual pnh.

[05:57 PM : 0 comments]