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January 31, 2009
Zombies On My Shoulder
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:23 PM * 127 comments

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.
If I had a gun that I could give you
I’d give to you a gun that’s just like mine
If I had a torch that I could light for you
I’d light that torch so you could see it shine.

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.
If I had a car that I could drive for you
I’d weld on armor and a big plow blade
And if I saw you bitten by a zombie
I’d cut your fucking head off with a spade.

Zombies in the graveyard make me fearful,
Zombies ’round the farmhouse make me sigh
Zombies munching mommy make me angry
Zombies in the mall can make me die.

Zombies almost always make me fearful, mmmmmmm….
Zombies always want to make me die….

January 28, 2009
Butterfly wings
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:30 PM *

A brief post, because life is busy and I am weary.

In the shower this evening, for no reason whatsoever, the memory of a speaker who came round my high school popped up. He was in his early twenties, and was doing a speaking tour on behalf of MADD*. As a high school student, he’d crashed his car while drinking and killed one of his closest friends, so he did rather know what he was talking about. He discussed not only the accident and the death, but also his struggles to cope in the aftermath of that night. He returned to school after his time in the hospital, and found himself entirely shunned. He quickly fell into despair.

“And then,” he said, “one of my friends came up to me in the hall and gave me a stick of gum. And you know, I think that gum saved my life.”

So. What otherwise insignificant events have changed your life the way the gift of a stick of gum changed his? You can tell the story or leave it a mystery. The exercise in imagination will do us good.

I get to start. The fact that I knew the lyrics to Subdivisions, by Rush when no one else in my social group did. Not telling why.

* I don’t know how effective he was at convincing my fellow students not to drink and drive; it was less than four months later that we lost one of the guys in the year above me to a drunk driving accident. The alcohol caused the crash, but the lack of a seatbelt contributed to the death.

January 26, 2009
Posted by Teresa at 07:22 PM * 81 comments

—to Neil Gaiman for winning “what is widely considered the most prestigious honor in children’s literature,” the Newbery Medal, for The Graveyard Book.

Neil is famous, of course, but front-page-of-the-New York Times-famous? Woo.

Of course, the entire science fiction field asks only one question, and we ask it with one voice…did Neil say “Fuck! I’ve won the Newbery Medal!”

Posted by Patrick at 03:17 PM * 65 comments

Grand jury duty: finished. Overdue Tor work: immense. Joints: aching. Fever: yes. Viral cold: probably. Morale: low. Back to bed for the day: yes.

January 21, 2009
Up to the skies
Posted by Avram Grumer at 04:29 PM * 66 comments

Y’know that great big GeoEye satellite photo of the Obama inauguration that everyone’s been linking to? If you go to GeoEye’s website you can download the original — a massive 8218-by-7608 JPEG that’ll squat on ten megs of your hard drive. (Granted, most of us have more storage than that dangling off our keychains nowadays.)

If you look down from the Washington Monument, you can see another satellite that was passing underneath GeoEye’s satellite as the photo was being taken.

Satellite photo of satellite

Update: Oops, maybe not a satellite.

January 20, 2009
From catchy to clichéd in no time flat
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:13 PM *

Gamma is a Dutch chain that sells everything from hardware (paint, wood, tools) to, well, hardware (computer).

Front page of the flyer that dropped through our mailbox today:


(The rest of the flyer is in Dutch.)

Online live video streams
Posted by Teresa at 10:58 AM * 177 comments

Extensive list here.

Not “the first president with a foreign father”
Posted by Patrick at 08:47 AM * 96 comments

In an overview of Barack Obama’s life, the Washington Post gets a little carried away with the firsts:

The first president to enter the White House with a literate and introspective memoir behind him, Obama is his own book of firsts. He is the first president with a foreign father.
Hardly. Andrew Jackson was the son of two Irish immigrants. James Buchanan and Chester Alan Arthur both had Irish fathers. In addition, Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson had English mothers, and Herbert Hoover’s mother was born in Canada.

As you can see, even with Obama, we have yet to have a President with a foreign-born parent who wasn’t a British subject, since those Irish, English, and Canadian presidential parents were all born subjects of the Crown, and so was Barack Obama, Sr. of Nayang’oma Kogela, Nyanza Province, Kenya.

It’s striking that the false assertion that Obama will be “the first President with a foreign father” has been uncorrected on the Washington Post’s web site since Sunday, and I haven’t seen anyone else make note of it.

He is the first president to grow up in Hawaii, the 50th state. He is the first president whose parents earned doctoral degrees. He is the first president who once could speak the Indonesian language. He is the first president who was president of the Harvard Law Review. He is the first president who was a hapa, as they are called in Hawaii, with parents of different races. He is the first president who has a sister from Asia and a sister from Africa and a wife from the black working-class South Side of Chicago. And he is the first African American president, yet one with no slaves but a few slaveholders in his ancestry.
All that is true, to the best of my knowledge.

Fired up!
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:10 AM *


Flag on my house in Noord-Holland. The poster says “Obama wordt beëdigd als president”, meaning, “Obama is being sworn in as President.” Just in case my neighbors want to know why I have the flag out today.

Today is like a wedding.

Promises are made, as are speeches. Everyone gets together to compare notes about the years since the last time. With luck, old fights are resolved. Without it, they break out anew and spawn yet more grudges. Drunken uncles misbehave. Children run around shrieking from too much sugar.

Now, a wedding is not a marriage. You can have a beautiful wedding followed by years of emotional and physical abuse, or a hasty gathering consisting only of a couple of friends that leads to years of happiness. Of course we scrutinize the groom and wonder if he’s as good as he seems; we’ve been burned before. Of course we wonder whether he can keep all the promises he makes today.

But the marriage is for later. Today we rejoice. How are you celebrating?

January 19, 2009
The true history of the Bush years
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 AM *

The Bush administration is ending. If Bush & Co. didn’t entirely wreck the place, it was for no lack of trying. George himself achieved astonishing depths of failure. His most notable achievements were all unintentional, and he still doesn’t know what they were.

Here’s the biggest one: Although the American people have been fed a diet of cynical disinformation about government for the last half-century or more, the Bush years re-taught millions of them that voting is important, that established parties aren’t identical, that primaries are a mechanism for assessing and refining candidates, and that campaign speeches don’t have to consist entirely of hot air and patriotic-sounding generalities.

There will be histories written about the Bush administration. They’ll be privy to information we don’t have yet, because the future is like that. On the other hand, we have our own privileged knowledge: We know how the story looked like to people who didn’t know how it was going to come out.

Now, in this moment before a changing world overwrites our memories of the era, let us pause to salute our constant companion of those years: The Onion. Other histories of the Bush years will doubtless be more factual, but none will ever be truer.

January 26, 2000: Bush Reaches Out To Hispanic Community With Generous Tip.
March 8, 2000: Bush ‘Refuses To Dignify’ Mass-Murder Allegations.
July, 26, 2000: Bush Reluctantly Accepts Donation From Parents.
August 9, 2000: Republicans’ ‘Diversity Through Imported Africans’ Plan Criticized.
September 13, 2000: Bush Surges Ahead In Polls After Strong Showing On Pommel Horse.
October 4, 2000: Bush Vows To Do ‘That Thing Gore Just Said, Only Better’.
October 18, 2000: Bush Horrified To Learn Presidential Salary.
November 15, 2000: Bush Executes 253 New Mexico Democrats.
November 15, 2000: Nation Plunges Into Chaos: Pro-Bush Rebels Seize Power In West; D.C. In Flames.
November 15, 2000: Serbia Deploys Peacekeeping Forces To U.S.
December 20, 2000: Bush Calls For End To ‘Era Of Political Argument’.
January 17, 2001: Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’.
January 24, 2001: ’80s Retro Craze Sweeps Executive Branch.
March 21, 2001: Congress Adds ‘All Your Base Are Belong To Us’ Amendment To Bankruptcy Bill.
April 18, 2001: Bush Regales Dinner Guests With Impromptu Oratory On Virgil’s Minor Works.
May 9, 2001: After Careful Consideration, Bush Recommends Oil Drilling.
May 30, 2001: Bush Actually President, Nation Suddenly Realizes.
June 20, 2001: Bush Trying To Decide How To Spend His Tax Refund
July 18, 2001: Bush Vows To Remove Toxic Petroleum From National Parks.
August 1, 2001: Bush Finds Error In Fermilab Calculations.
August 22, 2001: Bush Vows To Wipe Out Prescription-Drug Addiction Among Seniors.
September 26, 2001: American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie.
September 26, 2001: Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell.
September 26, 2001: God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule.
September 26, 2001: Hugging Up 76,000 Percent.
September 26, 2001: Arab-American Third-Grader Returns From Recess Crying, Saying He Didn’t Kill Anyone.
September 26, 2001: Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake.
September 26, 2001: Bush Sr. Apologizes To Son For Funding Bin Laden In ’80s.
September 26, 2001: Report: Gen X Irony, Cynicism May Be Permanently Obsolete.
September 26, 2001: Jerry Falwell: Is That Guy A Dick Or What?
September 26, 2001: The U.S. Military Is Pondering Its Response Options.
September 26, 2001: Talking To Your Child About The WTC Attack.
September 26, 2001: U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We’re At War With.
September 26, 2001: President Urges Calm, Restraint Among Nation’s Ballad Singers.
September 26, 2001: Statshot: How Have We Spent the Last Two Weeks?
September 26, 2001: Dinty Moore Breaks Long Silence On Terrorism With Full-Page Ad.
September 26, 2001: Point/Counterpoint: We Must Retaliate With Blind Rage…
September 26, 2001: Infographic: Making America Safer.
October 3, 2001: U.S. Urges Bin Laden To Form Nation It Can Attack.
October 10, 2001: Freedoms Curtailed In Defense Of Liberty.
October 17, 2001: Woman With Sore Throat Thinks It Might Be Anthrax.
October 31, 2001: CIA Admits It’s Good At Overthrowing Stuff, Not So Much The Intelligence.
November 14, 2001: U.S. To Arab World: ‘Stop Hating Us Or Suffer The Consequences’.
December 05, 2001: All Proceeds No Longer Going To Charity.
December 5, 2001: America Is Ready To Laugh At Me Again.
December 19, 2001: What Is Sexy In The Wake Of Sept. 11?
January 16, 2002: Bush Attempts To Distance Self From Yet Another Failed Business.
February 6, 2002: Bush Earmarks 1.5 Billion Gold Stars For Education.
February 20, 2002: Americans Would Be Outraged If They Understood Enron Collapse.
February 27, 2002: $5 Million Bounty Placed On Recession.
March 6, 2002: Bush Calls On Business Leaders To Create 500,000 Shitty Jobs By 2003.
June 5, 2002: Life Jackets Issued To All Americans For Some Reason.
June 20, 2002: Fan-Favorite First Season Of Bush Administration Released On DVD.
July 24, 2002: Bush Begins Hunger Strike To Protest Human-Rights Abuses In Nepal.
July 31, 2002: U.S. Takes Out Debt-Consolidation Loan.
August 7, 2002: Lou Dobbs Hosts Moneyline From Window Ledge.
September 11, 2002: Second Birthday In A Row Ruined By Terrorism.
September 11, 2002: Bush Won’t Stop Asking Cheney If We Can Invade Yet.
September 18, 2002: Bush Sends Troops To West Nile.
October 2, 2002: Bush Seeks U.N. Support For ‘U.S. Does Whatever It Wants’ Plan.
October 16, 2002: Bush On Economy: ‘Saddam Must Be Overthrown’.
November 20, 2002: When I’m Feeling Blue, I Can Always Go To My Undisclosed Location.
December 4, 2002: Report: Presidents Washington Through Bush May Have Lied About Key Matters.
December 11, 2002: Bush Gives France 30 Days To Speak English.
December 18, 2002: Bill Of Rights Pared Down To A Manageable Six.
January 15, 2003: Bush On North Korea: ‘We Must Invade Iraq’.
February 5, 2003: Department Of The Interior Sets Aside Two Million Acres For Car Commercials.
February 12, 2003: Saddam Enrages Bush With Full Compliance.
February 12, 2003: Ashcroft Orders Staff To Chain Him Tightly Before Next Full Moon.
February 12, 2003: North Korea Wondering What It Has To Do To Attract U.S. Military Attention.
February 19, 2003: Terrorism ‘Not Likely’ Cause Of Fire At Local Laundromat.
March 5, 2003: Bush Offers Taxpayers Another $300 If We Go To War.
March 12, 2003: Bush Orders Iraq To Disarm Before Start Of War.
March 12, 2003: Congress Accidentally Approves Arts Funding.
March 26, 2003: Bush Bravely Leads 3rd Infantry Into Battle.
March 26, 2003: Vital Info On Iraqi Chemical Weapons Provided By U.S. Company That Made Them.
March 26, 2003: This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region/No it won’t.
March 26, 2003: U.S. Continues Proud Tradition Of Diversity On Front Lines.
April 2, 2003: Government No Longer Even Bothering To Hide Halliburton Favors.
April 2, 2003: Bush Thought War Would Be Over By Now.
April 2, 2003: I Should Not Be Allowed To Say The Following Things About America.
April 9, 2003: Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain For Invasion.
May 7, 2003: Bush Cites The Last Starfighter As Inspiration For Entering Politics.
June 4, 2003: Bush Visits U.S.S. Truman For Dramatic Veterans’-Benefits-Cutting Ceremony.
June 11, 2003: Infographic: Exaggerating the WMD Threat.
June 18, 2003: GOP Reports Record Second-Quarter Profits.
June 18, 2003: U.S. Refuses To Allow U.N. Weapons Inspectors Back Into Iraq.
July 2, 2003: Bush Asks Congress For $30 Billion To Help Fight War On Criticism.
July 23, 2003: Bush Not Heard From For Over A Month.
August 6, 2003: Cheney Regrets Buying Bush Laser Pointer.
August 14, 2003: Republicans Introduce Economic Equality Bill For Fun Of Shooting It Down.
August 20, 2003: Bush Diagnosed With Attention-To-Deficit Disorder.
September 10, 2003: Relations Break Down Between U.S. And Them.
September 10, 2003: White House Denied Third Mortgage.
September 17, 2003: Revised Patriot Act Will Make It Illegal To Read Patriot Act.
September 24, 2003: U.S. Government To Discontinue Long-Term, Low-Yield Investment In Nation’s Youth.
October 1, 2003: 85% Of Public Believes Bush’s Approval Rating Fell In Last Month.
October 1, 2003: Cheney Suspects Bush Listening In On Other Phone.
October 15, 2003: Bush Disappointed To Learn Chinese Foreign Minister Doesn’t Know Karate.
October 15, 2003: Lieberman Pledges To Gloss Over The Boring Issues.
October 22, 2003: CIA-Leak Scapegoat Still At Large.
November 5, 2003: Energy Secretary Just Assumed Cabinet Knew He Did Porn Films In The ’80s.
November 5, 2003: Karl Rove Ensures Republican Elected As Student Body President.
December 3, 2003: Bush Re-Election Campaign Creates Thousands Of New Jobs.
December 17, 2003: Bush Won’t Put Down New Football.
January 21, 2004: Bush Vows To Discover, Legalize Aliens On American, Martian Soil.
January 28, 2004: Bush 2004 Campaign Pledges To Restore Honor And Dignity To White House.
January 28, 2004: Rumsfeld Only One Who Can Change Toner In White House Printer.
February 25, 2004: Bush To Cut Deficit From Federal Budget.
March 3, 2004: Bush To Make Up Missed National Guard Service This Weekend.
March 10, 2004: Cheney Clotheslines Aide.
March 17, 2004: Rumsfeld Hosts No-Holds-Barred Martial Arts Tournament At Remote Island Fortress.
March 17, 2004: Bush Calls Incumbency Key Issue Of Campaign.
March 24, 2004: Bush Urges Iraqis To Pass Amendment Banning Gay Marriage.
March 31, 2004: Bush Addresses 8.2 Million Unemployed: ‘Get A Job’.
April 7, 2004: Price Of Nuclear Secrets Plummeting.
April 14, 2004: New Negative Campaign Ads Blast Voters Directly.
April 21, 2004: Cheney Wows Sept. 11 Commission By Drinking Glass Of Water While Bush Speaks.
April 21, 2004: Iraqis Arming Selves For Independence.
April 28, 2004: Bush To Iraqi Militants: ‘Please Stop Bringing It On’.
May 12, 2004: Bush Vows To Pay Closer Attention To Needs Of Non-Presidents.
May 19, 2004: U.S. To Fight Terror With Terror.
May 26, 2004: Fed-Up Cheney Enters Presidential Race Himself.
May 26, 2004: Bush Posts Classified Ad For 90,000 Troops.
June 16, 2004: Report: 9/11 Commission Could Have Been Prevented.
July 7, 2004: Devious Rabbit Tricks Bush Into Signing Gun Ban.
July 7, 2004: Nation’s Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue.
July 21, 2004: White House Declares War On DSL Provider.
July 21, 2004: Secretary Of Defense Humiliated As U.S. Credit Card Rejected.
August 4, 2004: CIA Asks Bush To Discontinue Blog.
August 11, 2004: Kerry Unveils One-Point Plan For Better America.
August 18, 2004: Bush Finally Gets Oval Office Just The Way He Wants It.
August 25, 2004: Swing States Roughed Up By Bush, Kerry Operatives.
September 1, 2004: Small Group Of Dedicated Rich People Change The World.
September 1, 2004: Vacationing Bush Accepts Republican Nomination Via Live Satellite Feed.
September 1, 2004: Cheney Urged Not To Work Blue During Convention.
September 8, 2004: Bush Campaign More Thought-Out Than Iraq War.
September 8, 2004: Hundreds Of Republicans Injured In Rush To Discredit Kerry.
September 15, 2004: Cheney Returns To Camp Crystal Lake.
September 22, 2004: Bush Introduces New Timmy Blanchard Left Behind Act.
September 29, 2004: Documents Reveal Gaps In Bush’s Service As President.
October 6, 2004: Irrelevant Pop Stars Unite Against Bush.
October 6, 2004: Bush Arrives At Debate Wearing Flight Suit.
October 13, 2004: Cheney Vows To Attack U.S. If Kerry Elected.
October 20, 2004: Nader Polling At 8% Among Past Supporters.
October 27, 2004: Republicans Urge Minorities To Get Out And Vote On Nov. 3.
October 27, 2004: Countdown To The Recount 2004.
November 3, 2004: Nader Supporters Blame Electoral Defeat On Bush, Kerry.
November 3, 2004: Millions Of Work Hours Lost To Voting.
November 3, 2004: U.S. Inspires World With Attempt At Democratic Election.
November 10, 2004: Bush Promises To Unite Nation For Real This Time.
November 10, 2004: Nation’s Poor Win Election For Nation’s Rich.
November 10, 2004: U.S. To Send 30,000 Mall Security Guards To Iraq.
November 17, 2004: Republicans Call For Privatization Of Next Election.
November 24, 2004: White House Thanksgiving Turkey Detained Without Counsel.
November 24, 2004: Swift Boat Veterans Still Hounding Kerry.
December 22, 2004: 44 Suspicious Packages Detonated Under White House Christmas Tree.
January 5, 2005: Bush Celebrates Millionth Utterance Of ‘Lessons Of Sept. 11’.
January 5, 2005: Bush Unveils New Blind-Faith-Based Initiatives.
January 19, 2005: White House Dishwasher Tenders Resignation.
February 9, 2005: Bush Defends Deny-Side Economics.
February 23, 2005: Bush Determined To Find Warehouse Where Ark Of Covenant Is Stored.
March 9, 2005: Bush Announces Iraq Exit Strategy: ‘We’ll Go Through Iran’.
March 23, 2005: Colin Powell’s Tell-All Book: Steroid Use Rampant In White Houses.
March 30, 2005: Bush Launches Preemptive Attack On Social Security.
March 30, 2005: ‘Missed Connection’ Ad Obviously Cheney.
April 6, 2005: Cheney Offspring Bursts From Bush’s Chest.
April 27, 2005: Report: U.S. Foreign Policy Hurting American Students’ Chances Of Getting Laid Abroad.
May 4, 2005: Arizona Man Steals Bush’s Identity, Vetoes Bill, Meets With Mexican President.
May 19, 2005: Bush Challenges America To Produce The Perfect Romantic Comedy By 2009.
June 1, 2005: U.S. Intensifies Empty-Threat Campaign Against North Korea.
June 8, 2005: Bush Lifts Ban On Vigilantism: ‘Let’s See What Happens,’ Says President.
June 15, 2005: Bush Fishing For Compliments During Press Conference.
July 20, 2005: Marine Corps Shortens Slogan To ‘The Few’.
July 27, 2005: Bush To London Bombers: ‘Bring It On’.
July 27, 2005: Supreme Court Justices Devour Sandra Day O’Connor In Ancient Ritual.
August 3, 2005: White House Denies Existence Of Karl Rove.
August 3, 2005: Bush Acquired By Martian Zoo.
August 10, 2005: Bush Vows To Eliminate U.S. Dependence On Oil By 4920.
August 31, 2005: Bush: Vacation Ruined By ‘Stupid Dead Soldier’.
September 7, 2005: Cheney Dropped By White House HMO.
September 7, 2005: Bush Tearfully Addresses Nation After Watching Field Of Dreams.
September 14, 2005: Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses’ Teeth.
September 14, 2005: Bush Nominates First-Trimester Fetus To Supreme Court.
September 21, 2005: Bush Braces As Cindy Sheehan’s Other Son Drowns In New Orleans.
September 28, 2005: Bush’s Approval Rating Of Other Americans Also At All-Time Low.
September 28, 2005: U.S. Launches AIDS-Awareness Campaign In Botswana: ‘You All Have AIDS,’ Says U.S..
October 5, 2005: Halliburton Given Contract To Rebuild Cheney.
October 12, 2005: Bush To Appoint Someone To Be In Charge Of Country.
October 19, 2005: President Bush Urges Nation.
October 20, 2005: Bush To Throw Out First Through 120th Pitch Of World Series.
October 27, 2005: Bush To Nominate Next Person Who Walks Through Door.
November 2, 2005: ‘Scooter’ Libby Wishes He’d Ditched Nickname Before Media Coverage.
November 2, 2005: Bush Orders Mass Bald Eagle Slaughter To Stop Spread Of Bird Flu.
November 16, 2005: Long-Awaited Beer With Bush Really Awkward, Voter Reports.
November 23, 2005: Bush To Increase Funding For Hope-Based Initiatives.
November 23, 2005: Topeka Mayor Now Highest-Ranking Non-Indicted Republican Official.
December 7, 2005: More Americans Falling For ‘Get Rich Slowly Over A Lifetime Of Hard Work’ Schemes.
December 7, 2005: Voice Of God Revealed To Be Cheney On Intercom.
December 21, 2005: U.S. Troops Draw Up Own Exit Strategy.
December 28, 2005: Cloned Cheney Lacks Charm Of Original.
December 28, 2005: Bush Elected President Of Iraq.
December 28, 2005: White House Celebrates Fifth Straight Year Without Oral Sex.
December 28, 2005: Well-Rested Bush At The Top Of His Game.
December 28, 2005: North Korea Nukes Self In Desperate Plea For Attention.
January 17, 2006: U.S. Holds Going-Out-Of-Business Sale.
January 18, 2006: Bush Urges Senate To Give Alito Fair, Quick, Unanimous Confirmation.
January 20, 2006: CEO Needs $30 Million Aspen Home To Recharge Batteries.
February 1, 2006: President Creates Cabinet-Level Position To Coordinate Scandals.
February 8, 2006: White House Debuts Iraq War Infomercial.
February 14, 2006: Bush Hides U.S. Report Card In Sock Drawer.
February 15, 2006: President Bush Escapes From Weekly Bath.
February 20, 2006: White House Had Prior Knowledge Of Cheney Threat.
February 27, 2006: Democrats Vow Not To Give Up Hopelessness.
March 13, 2006: Bush Increasingly Focused On How Revisionist History Will See Him.
March 20, 2006: White House Reporter Asks How Many Mountain Dews The President Slams A Day.
March 23, 2006: World Leaders Urge Condoleezza Rice To Take NFL Commissioner’s Job.
March 28, 2006: President Bush Designates 1 Million Acres For Federally Protected Water Parks.
April 5, 2006: Detroit Sold For Scrap.
April 5, 2006: Critics Blast Bush For Not Praying Hard Enough.
April 26, 2006: EPA Didn’t Know Anybody Was Still Drinking Water.
April 26, 2006: Bush Calls Cabinet Meeting To Get Story Straight.
April 28, 2006: President Approval Rating Remains High On eBay.
May 17, 2006: Oil Executives March On D.C.
May 23, 2006: President Bush Invokes Executive Super Powers.
May 24, 2006: Bush Puts National Guard In Charge Of Public Relations.
May 24, 2006: Hillary Clinton Is Too Ambitious To Be The First Female President.
May 31, 2006: Critics Blast Al Gore’s Documentary As ‘Realistic’.
June 28, 2006: Insurgent Secretly Terrified Of Winning Control Of Iraq.
June 28, 2006: Government To Defend Marriage From Dashing Reginald St. Croix, Esq..
June 30, 2006: Vice President Cheney’s Severed Hand Chokes Chairman Of Ways And Means Committee.
July 17, 2006: Deadlocked Supreme Court: ‘Someone’s Voting Twice’.
July 18, 2006: Bush Quietly Rolls Back Iraq Death Toll To Zero.
July 19, 2006: Scratch ‘N Win Ballots To Debut In November.
July 21, 2006: U.S. Soldiers Ask Rumsfeld If They Could Get Surprise Visit From Loved Ones Instead.
August 1, 2006: Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self.
August 9, 2006: Condoleezza Rice Holds Bathtime Talks With Undersea Representatives.
August 15, 2006: U.S. Dedicates $64 Billion To Undermining Gates Foundation Efforts.
August 30, 2006: Bush Urges Nation To Be Quiet For A Minute While He Tries To Think.
August 30, 2006: Bush Gives Up Presidency For True Love.
September 7, 2006: Bush: ‘History Cannot Judge Me If I End It Soon’.
September 11, 2006: NYC Unveils 9/11 Memorial Hole.
September 27, 2006: New Job Posting On Craigslist Clearly For Secretary Of The Interior.
October 3, 2006: Flustered Bush Misses Air Force One Flight.
October 4, 2006: President Bush Decides The U.S. Will Fight The Terrorists In Ohio.
October 11, 2006: Bush Urges Expanded Drilling Of Alaskan Wildlife.
October 31, 2006: GOP Throws All Financial Support Behind One Candidate.
November 1, 2006: Bush: Thousands Of Registered Democrats Needed For ‘Extremely Important’ Mission.
November 3, 2006: President Bush Asks U.S. Soldiers To Stop Dying.
November 3, 2006: Laura Bush Suspects Anniversary Card Penned By Speech Writer.
November 7, 2006: Politicians Sweep Midterm Elections.
November 7, 2006: Republicans Blame Election Losses On Democrats.
November 7, 2006: Voter Turnout Reaches All-Time Low Of 17.
November 8, 2006: Rumsfeld: ‘My Half-Assed Job Here Is Done’.
November 22, 2006: CNN Renews This Week At War For Next Eight Seasons.
November 27, 2006: Troop Morale Boosted By Surprise Visit From First Dog.
November 29, 2006: President Bush Spills Coffee On Computer That Has All Of The Government’s Files On It.
December 11, 2006: Discouraged Bush Begins Seeking Approval Of Other Nations.
December 12, 2006: Marine Hopes To Spend Second Tour Of Duty On Different Baghdad City Block.
December 12, 2006: Clinton Finally Takes Responsibility For Bush Administration’s Failures.
December 13, 2006: Failed Attempt At Hyperbole Yields Dead-On Statistic.
December 18, 2006: Generous Vice President Cheney Gives Hard-Working Media Field Day.
December 18, 2006: Karl Rove Accused Of Throwing Midterm Elections.
December 18, 2006: Ken Lay’s Children Inherit 4,000 Pensions.
January 3, 2007: Laura Bush Crushes Life Out Of White House Intruder.
January 19, 2007: White House Hints At Surprise Twist Ending To Bush Presidency.
January 22, 2007: Bush Rushing To Get Nation In Order Before Hu Jintao’s Visit.
January 23, 2007: CIA Director Quietly Buys Nuclear-Attack Insurance.
January 29, 2007: Bush Commits One Additional Troop To Afghanistan.
January 31, 2007: White House Quietly Retracts Entire State Of The Union Address.
February 2, 2007: Bush Deploys 20,000 Wishful Thoughts To Iraq.
February 14, 2007: Bush Cuts Off Diplomatic Relations With Congress.
February 15, 2007: President Bush Sacrifices National Lamb.
February 21, 2007: Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11.
February 23, 2007: Dick Cheney Can’t Get Enough New Hearts.
February 28, 2007: Manny Ramirez Plays With Bush Family Dogs.
March 13, 2007: White House Adds Eight Inches To White House Fence.
March 26, 2007: Injured Troops Request Extended Tours To Avoid Being Sent To Walter Reed.
March 28, 2007: Heroic Secret Service Agent Takes Question Intended For Bush.
March 28, 2007: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Confesses To Confessing Under Torture.
April 2, 2007: Bush Refuses To Set Timetable For Withdrawal Of Head From White House Banister.
April 11, 2007: Cheney Spends 2-Week Vacation Lying Motionless In Open Grave.
April 11, 2007: U.S. Counter-Counterterrorism Unit Successfully Destroys Washington Monument.
April 23, 2007: Cheney Celebrates Earth Day By Breathing Oxygen.
April 25, 2007: President Bush Reaches Out To Nation’s Fallen Bees.
May 2, 2007: Bush Has One Of Those Days Where He Feels Like 68% Of People Hate Him.
May 17, 2007: Fall From Pommel Horse Puts Cheney’s 2008 Olympic Hopes In Doubt.
June 5, 2007: Secret Service Agent Takes Out Dandelion On White House Lawn.
June 6, 2007: Retired Gen. George Washington Criticizes Bush’s Handling Of Iraq War.
June 20, 2007: Addressing Climate Crisis, Bush Calls For Development Of National Air Conditioner.
July 16, 2007: Bush Orders F-16 Flyover To Cheer Himself Up.
July 24, 2007: Bush Texting While Mahmoud Abbas Speaks.
August 6, 2007: DNA Evidence Frees Man From Zoo.
August 24, 2007: Democratic Mob Censures Bush In Effigy.
August 31, 2007: Heartbroken Bush Runs After Departing Rove’s Car.
September 5, 2007: New Secret Service Agent Disappointed There Are No Decoy Presidents.
September 6, 2007: New Orleans Saints Relocated To Help Heal Utah.
September 12, 2007: Statshot: How is the New York Times padding its opinion page?
September 20, 2007: In The Know: White House Announces ‘Everything Is Great In Iraf’.
September 21, 2007: Fifteen Awesome Lies about Hillary Clinton.
September 26, 2007: Bush Makes Surprise Visit To Work.
October 3, 2007: New Heart Device Allows Cheney To Experience Love.
October 10, 2007: Cost Of Freedom At All-Time High.
October 13, 2007: Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man.
October 31, 2007: Child On White House Tour Momentarily Seizes Control Of Nation.
November 6, 2007: Bush Proud U.S. Economic Woes Can Still Depress World Markets.
November 7, 2007: Infographic: Democratic Candidates Turn On Clinton.
November 12, 2007: U.S. Intelligence: Iran Possesses Trillions Of Potentially Dangerous Atoms.
November 21, 2007: Proposed Bill Would Bring 4,000 Troops Back To Life.
December 10, 2007: Bush’s New Dentist Faces Tough Confirmation Hearing.
December 16, 2007: Iraq War No Longer Interesting Enough To Make List Of Year’s Top Stories.
December 17, 2007: Infographic: The Presidency In The Year 2007.
December 18, 2007: Gore Wins Oscar, Nobel Peace Prize For Slide-Show Presentation.
December 21, 2007: Bush Acknowledges Existence Of Carbon Dioxide.
January 1, 2008: The Candidates.
January 5, 2008: Bush Begins Preparations For Nation’s Final Year.
January 23, 2008: Bill Clinton: ‘Screw It, I’m Running For President’.
January 30, 2008: We Must All Do Our Part To Preserve This Climate Of Fear.
February 15, 2008: Asian Markets Fall Like Cherry Blossoms In Gentle Spring Rain.
February 22, 2008: Bush Hopes Recession Doesn’t Affect Sales Of His Memoirs.
February 27, 2008: Bush Vows To Make It Up To Country Somehow.
March 18, 2008: President Bush Accidentally Signs Cast Into Law.
March 19, 2008: Infographic: McCain’s Running Mate.
March 21, 2008: JPMorgan Chase Acquires Bear Stearns In Tedious-To-Read News Article.
April 9, 2008: Cheney Re-Grows Limb In Front Of Shocked Advisers.
April 9, 2008: Iraq War Memorial Planners Forced To Revise Length Again.
April 10, 2008: $46,000 Vacuumed Out Of White House Couch.
May 1, 2008: President Bush Unveils New ‘Impotence Only’ Sex Policy.
May 14, 2008: Obama Voicemail Message Not That Inspiring.
May 14, 2008: Everything Falling Apart, Reports Institute For Somehow Managing To Hold It All Together.
May 23, 2008: Bush Announces 8-Month Plan To Steal Favorite Desk Lamp.
May 28, 2008: President Bush Converts West Wing Into Injured Animal Shelter.
June 11, 2008: Latest Cheney Tape May Contain Evidence Of His Whereabouts.
June 16, 2008: Grandmother Proud To Have Lived Long Enough To See First Viable Female Candidate Torn Apart.
June 18, 2008: Bush Says He Still Believes Iraq War Was The Fun Thing To Do.
July 2, 2008: Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency.
July 7, 2008: Steven Tyler Laid Off From Aerosmith As Band’s Jobless Rate Hits 20%.
July 9, 2008: Bill Clinton Sadly Folds First Lady Dress Back Into Box.
July 11, 2008: Debt: Should The World Forgive Ours So We Can Be Rich Again?.
July 14, 2008: Recession-Plagued Nation Demands New Bubble To Invest In.
July 30, 2008: Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet.
August 12, 2008: Cheney On The Court.
August 20, 2008: Basketball Rolls To Stop At Cheney’s Foot.
August 22, 2008: Bush Told To Sign Birthday Treaty For Someone Named ‘Kyoto’.
August 26, 2008: Bush Lets War Widow Punch His Arm Once.
August 27, 2008: Cheney To Speak At Republican Convention From Section 109, Row 56, Seat 3.
September 1, 2008: Cheney Waits Until Last Minute Again To Buy Sept. 11 Gifts.
September 2, 2008: Gay War Hero Awarded Posthumous Dishonorable Discharge At White House Ceremony.
September 3, 2008: Top Story On John McCain Run Out Of Obligation.
September 10, 2008: President Bush Only Has To Spend 20 Trillion To Inherit Bush Family Fortune.
September 10, 2008: Economists Warn Anti-Bush Merchandise Market Close To Collapse.
September 17, 2008: Infographic: Rumors Swirl Around Palin.
September 11, 2008: Obama Suddenly Panicked After Gazing Too Far Into Future.
September 17, 2008: Obama Deletes Another Unread E-Mail.
September 22, 2008: Man Succumbs To Seven-Year Battle With Health Insurance.
September 24, 2008: Point/Counterpoint: Gov. Palin Has No Foreign Policy Experience…
September 29, 2008: Palin Brushing Up On Foreign Policy At Epcot.
October 3, 2008: Bush Goes Blonde For Remainder Of Presidency.
October 7, 2008: Gunman Kills 15 Potential Voters In Crucial Swing State.
October 13, 2008: Michelle Obama All That Stands Between Love-Struck Media, Barack Obama.
October 15, 2008: Bush Calls For Panic.
October 13, 2008: Financial Planner Advises Shorter Life Span.
October 17, 2008: John McCain Not Going To Ask Cindy McCain Twice.
October 20, 2008: Fleet Of Alien Destroyers Demand Details Of Obama’s Universal Health Care Plan.
October 24, 2008: Palin Family Just Sitting Around Living Room Eating Jerky.
October 24, 2008: Ron Paul Promises To Return When Country Needs Him Most.
October 26, 2008: Lieberman’s Overlords Most Displeased.
October 29, 2008: As Election Draws Near, Area Man Moves To All-Obama T-Shirt Rotation.
October 30, 2008: Struggling Lower Class Still Unsure How Best To Fuck Selves With Vote.
November 1, 2008: Barbara Bush Runs Aground Off Coast Of Maine.
November 3, 2008: Bush Asks Advice For This Friend Of His Who Invaded Iraq.
November 4, 2008: Millions Of Voters Refuse To Exit Polls.
November 4, 2008: Bush: ‘Can I Stop Being President Now?’
November 5, 2008: Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job.
November 12, 2008: Bush Tumbles Wildly Down Washington Monument Staircase.
November 17, 2008: Fraternity In Danger Of Losing House Launches Harebrained Scheme To Fix Economy.
November 19, 2008: Crocodile Bites Off Bush’s Arm.
November 24, 2008: In Thanksgiving Tradition, Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Costume.
November 26, 2008: Vice President Cheney Burns Down White House Aviary.
November 28, 2008: Bush Passes Three-Pound Kidney Stone.
December 1, 2008: I’m Really Gonna Miss Systematically Destroying This Place.
December 2, 2008: U.S. Economy Continues Campaigning For Barack Obama.
December 4, 2008: Bush Dragged Behind Presidential Motorcade For 26 Blocks.
December 8, 2008: Bush’s Eyelid Accidentally Nailed To Wall.
December 9, 2008: Supreme Court Overturns Bush v. Gore.
December 10, 2008: Bush Picks Laser Background For Presidential Portrait.
December 14, 2008: Bush Frustrated By Mother’s Constant Questioning Of His Plans Post-White House.
December 16, 2008: WaMu Files For ChapLev.
December 16, 2008: $700 Billion Bailout Celebrated With Lavish $800 Billion Executive Party.
December 17, 2008: Outgoing First Lady Laura Bush Shows Michelle Obama Secret White House Bone Closet.
December 18, 2008: America’s First Gay President Concludes Historic Second Term.
January 6, 2009: Single-Engine Cessna Crashes Into Bush.
January 9, 2009: Vice President Cheney Seen Dragging Egg Sac Through West Wing.
January 12, 2009: Bush Spends Day Feverishly Booby-Trapping Desk.
January 13, 2009: Vice Presidential Handlers Lure Cheney Into Traveling Crate.
January 13, 2009: Congress Debates Adding Elaborate Dance To Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony.
January 14, 2009: Spider Eggs Hatch In Bush’s Brain.
January 14, 2009: Bush, Cheney Stand Back-To-Back, Cock Shotguns One Last Time.

So there. All that remains now is for Bush to spend the rest of his life doing penitential good works.*

Addendum: Trust The Onion to bring the whole Bush saga to a tidy conclusion:

January 20, 2009: Bush Dies Peacefully In His Sleep.

George W. Bush, 43rd president of the United States of America, passed away painlessly in his sleep Monday night, White House sources confirmed. The 62-year-old Bush was reportedly discovered lying unresponsive in his bed by first lady Laura Bush, a gentle smile still on his lips. “It was as though he knew it was his time to go,” said longtime family physician Dr. Harold Ditmas, who pronounced the president dead of natural causes at 7:24 a.m. Plans for Bush’s funeral have been postponed indefinitely following an unexpected incident in which the president’s corpse was sucked through an Air Force One jet engine.
* Or not; see also, I’m Not One Of Those Insecure Generals Who Needs To Win A Lot Of Battles, April 16, 2009.

January 18, 2009
Nobody living can ever stop me
Posted by Patrick at 04:25 PM * 132 comments

Okay, I admit it, my heart skipped a beat when I realized that Pete Seeger was really going to sing the whole song, including the “controversial” verse:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
The sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

In front of 750,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial, including the President-elect.

That was pretty cool.

January 17, 2009
AbsoluteWrite Down
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 01:28 PM *

AbsoluteWrite is down again, reason unknown, and has been down since about 1700 yesterday.

The Refugee Camp is open.

(Update by Abi, pulling a link out of the comments) The AW sister forum is open as well. And, of course, y’all are welcome here.

January 16, 2009
Open thread 118
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 03:30 PM *

In the UK, the monopoly on the provision of directory enquiries was removed in August of 2003. Rather than the old numbers, 192 (domestic) and 153 (foreign), British people can now choose from a variety of services with the format 118 nnn. British Telecom’s service, for instance, is reachable via 118 500.

The various services advertise, of course. The most entertaining adverts come from 118 118, which personifies its service with a couple of 70’s mustachioed runners*.

In addition to fairly twee informative adverts, they have spoofed a number of popular films, music videos and car ads.

* David Bedford sued The Number, the owners of the 118 118 service, for using his likeness without his permission. They claimed that their inspiration was actually Steve Prefontaine.

Brooklyn grand jury service
Posted by Patrick at 09:18 AM * 38 comments

I’m under oath to not discuss any details. But just a little over a year ago, Michael Froomkin’s always-excellent law blog presented a guest essay by human rights lawyer John Sifton about his own experience serving on a grand jury in Brooklyn; for all I know, in the same room in which I’ve been spending eight to ten hours a day. Read it here.

Sifton gets it all pretty much right. He does seem to have ultimately enjoyed the experience more than I have. Maybe I’ll get there. One more week to go.

January 14, 2009
Separated at birth?
Posted by Patrick at 10:50 PM * 54 comments

New Pepsi logo
Dick Cheney smiling

We rest our case.

January 13, 2009
Leavin’ on a jet plane? A few handy links before you go
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:41 PM *

My better half has been in the travel industry for the past few years. One of the neat side effects of this1 is that whenever we need some obscure piece of flight information, he knows some neat and useful website that has it.

I finally reminded him that I know where he sleeps sweetly asked him to list some of them for our greater interest and enlightenment2

This site gives you detailed information on flights, airports and airlines. We use the Flight Status and Flight Tracker functions before going to the airport to pick up visitors; they give real-time information about whether a particular flight is early, delayed or on time. You can also get historic information about which flights tend to be late or early, if you’re planning a trip and worrying about a tight connection3.
Seat Guru
If you know the airline and plane type (which you can get from FlightStats above for known flights!), this site gives you seat by seat information: what has extra legroom, which seats don’t recline fully, even were the power sockets are. It’s particularly useful during electronic checkin when you get the chance to specify seats.
Social networking for the jet set. If you’re part of a community of frequent travelers, you can use this to see who else will be in whatever strange town you’re scheduled to fly to.
Rick Seany’s Fare Compare: US Airline fees
This is a handy repository of the various fees and charges you’ll get added to your ticket for US domestic flights. He does other useful charts, such as baggage allowances on major global airlines.
The Practical Nomad
Martin described Edward Hasbrouck as “the Bruce Schneier of travel”. He writes not just about going places, but also about closely interlinked issues like government surveillance of travelers, RFID in passports, and Passenger Name Record (PNR) data sharing.
SkyScanner Route Map
Full disclosure: these guys are my husband’s employers; they do flight price comparisons. The link above is to their route map, which is a neat little page for telling you what airports you can fly to in one (green dot) or two (orange dot) jumps from the selected airport.

  1. in addition to his ability to give you the three letter code for pretty much any airport in North America and Europe
  2. note that these are probably going to be subject to link rot over time. Indeed, some of Martin’s favorite links are already gone. There used to be a site that gave you an estimate of how far ahead of time you should buy tickets to get the best price, for instance.
  3. Note that the technical term for the time you should allow between the arriving and departing flights is Minimum Connection Time, or MCT. The only feeds we know about are proprietary and paid, so there don’t appear to be any comprehensive sites. But if you search for your airport and those terms you can find it for each individual case.

January 11, 2009
Next Actions
Posted by Patrick at 09:24 PM *

I have jury duty for the next two weeks. Grand jury duty, M-F, all day every day. I’ve deferred it twice; given New York State’s newly-aggressive “everybody serves” policy, best to get it over with. But it means I’ll be substantially away from the office for most of that time, using my evenings to try to deal the day’s most important work-related email. (Needless to say, smartphones and broadband-equipped notebook computers are not allowed in grand jury hearing rooms.)

I’m not thrilled. 2008 was a year in which I got more and more behind on the basics of my job. First because of my involvement with launching, then later because of other unexpected shocks. Teresa had a heart attack. My friend Soren had a frickin’ stroke. There were other distractions. By the holiday break, last month, my personal email inbox had 300 unanswered messages. My “Tor” inbox had over 800.

Email, all by itself, is a horror story. I’m about this far (holds up fingers in universal gesture of “not very damn far”) from declaring “email bankruptcy”, Lawrence Lessig-style. The trouble with email is that it’s so easy to get into the habit of letting your inbox be your to-do list, and then what you have is a world-writeable to-do list with no editable hierarchy. Worse, every attempt to winnow or organize it becomes a traumatic encounter with all your worst recent omissions. It’s a bad relationship to develop with your work. David Allen’s Getting Things Done describes the problem brilliantly. Unfortunately, as with many other reforming visionaries (Marx, Jesus, Bill James), GTD’s prescriptions are less obviously doable than the diagnosis is acute.

So here I am, a little over a week past fifty, a little over a month past Twenty Years At Tor, unhappily conscious of how much of my working life has lately consisted of running in a circle while dragging one wing. I have real work, important work, dealmaking and editing and scheduling and planning, that’s running months late. (My fabulous assistants bear no responsibility whatsoever for any of this.) I have authors and agents I’m genuinely fond of who are probably beginning to wonder, you know, WTF. I’ve seen other editors, good editors, get into this kind of slough-of-despond. I’ve even seen them emerge from it; I’m just a little unclear about how.

This is getting to sound awfully self-pitying, so in fairness I should say that I’ve contributed to the problem with conscious choices of my own. I’m in a band; indeed, we’ve started recording a full-length album. Like many people I know, I got unhealthily obsessed with the US election. Throughout the past year, I traveled, read books, and did other things that weren’t work-related. I certainly could have been more disciplined. As a rule, we dig ourselves into holes with a teaspoon, not a steam shovel.

At any rate, the prospect of being away from the office for two weeks does not fill me with joy. This is not a time when I want to be forced to the sidelines by yet another out-of-left-field emergency. For cry eye, I’m even going to miss watching the inauguration!

I really don’t know how I’m going to dig out from this. I probably will, some way or another. But I don’t have a tidy end for this post. And I’ll certainly be hard to reach for the next two weeks.

January 08, 2009
Belated Happy New Year
Posted by Patrick at 09:57 PM * 108 comments

Time for your every-so-often reminder that Slacktivist is the greatest blogger alive.

January 06, 2009
Strictly Morris
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:39 PM *

Rumours of my death

The Beeb, perhaps in search of alarming headlines, tells me that “Morris dancing could be ‘extinct’ within 20 years because young people are too embarrassed to take part.”

This warning is quoted unexamined from The Morris Ring, which describes itself as the National1 Association of Men’s Morris and Sword Dance Clubs. I note in passing that all of the dancers on the website landing page are male, beardless and wearing white2.

I was curious about the Morris Ring’s emphasis on men’s Morris and Sword dance. The site doesn’t mention women dancers at all, but I know there are some. So I went a-googling. Turns out there are two other prominent Morris dancing societies in England, the The Morris Federation and Open Morris, both of whom welcome male, female and mixed teams.

Neither organization appears to have been contacted by the BBC about the article.

Hey Nonny No No No

Then the things got strange, as they so often do on the internet.

I ran across an article in the Independent on Goth Morris. That led me to a couple more neat articles on Goths and Pagans and what they’re up to with sticks and hankies.

There are groups all over England doing really interesting things with Morris dancing. Look for groups that do “Border” or “Goth” Morris, black their faces, and wear top hats or bowlers and tattercoats.

Some, like Boggart’s Breakfast in Sheffield or Stone the Crows, are non-religious, mixed-sex groups that are just in it for the fun. Others, such as Hunter’s Moon Morris use Pagan imagery in their outfits. And some, like the Witchmen and Medusa Gothic, appear to have traveled all the way full circle back to single-sex groups performing Morris as a ritual.

I recognize the types I see on those webpages. These are the real-ale drinkers, the beardies and the crafters, the reconstructionists and the reenactors. I bet most of them are in fandom to one extent or another.

And, of course, this stuff is all over the shop on YouTube.

Pull the other one, it’s got bells on

It’s the perpetual tension between orthodoxy and relevance, of course. How far can a custom change before it is a new practice? How much can you preserve a tradition in a world whose tastes move on? How can you get the next generation interested in pastimes that are immutably associated with their elders?

I’ve never done Morris dancing, but like practically everyone in Scotland, I’ve done a bit of country dancing4, which confronts many of the same issues. Is it a living tradition when everyone only knows four dances6? Is it more important to have many people having fun with it, or should fewer people do it and do it right? Breadth, or depth?

My view? I think that a tradition that is not perpetually reinventing itself is dead.

Goth Morris, Pagan Morris, and whatever grows out of them (Emo Morris? Steampunk Morris?) are part of that process of reinvention. I’ve nothing against the white-clad traditional Morris dancers, mind, but I don’t think they have the monopoly on the custom that they think they do. Their branch may die (though it may not), but the body of tradition goes on.

And silently in Glasgow quick hands began
Angrily making cushions.

  1. English, of course
  2. Unless that Hobby Horse in the slideshow is female or bearded3
  3. obPratchett or both
  4. Country dancing, aka ceilidh5, tends to be part of most formal social dancing in Scotland. We had a ceilidh every year at the Price Waterhouse Christmas dinner, and the Royal Bank of Scotland’s post Y2K celebration was an extremely well-run country dance. They are ubiquitous at weddings.
  5. Pronounced Kaylee
  6. Strip the Willow, the Gay Gordons, the Dashing White Sergeant, and the Eightsome Reel, but I need a caller for that last one, please.

January 01, 2009
Posted by Patrick at 12:00 AM * 61 comments

Every man hath two birth-days: two days, at least, in every year, which set him upon revolving the lapse of time, as it affects his mortal duration. The one is that which in an especial manner he termeth his. In the gradual desuetude of old observances, this custom of solemnizing our proper birth-day hath nearly passed away, or is left to children, who reflect nothing at all about the matter, nor understand any thing in it beyond cake and orange. But the birth of a New Year is of an interest too wide to be pretermitted by king or cobbler. No one ever regarded the First of January with indifference. It is that from which all date their time, and count upon what is left. It is the nativity of our common Adam.
“New Year’s Eve” by Charles Lamb. Thank you, Maureen Kincaid Speller, for the pointer. And a happier, better new year to you all.

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