I'm guessing that today was the day my appliances, never getting the memo from Congress, believed that Daylight Savings Time would begin. At least, my VCR tells me it's 11:53 am, my computer 10:53 and my iPod 9:53. Best April Fool's prank ever.
Shaker Heights is noted for its diversity, but as far as its street names go, it's wall-to-wall whitey here. Every road bears a faux tweedy, upper-crust English moniker, with some lowlands Scots mixed in around the bad parts of town. This can get a little confusing, so if you're driving by Horseshoe Lake, and you see me out running, and if my body, forced to consume its own fatty deposits, has decided to ignore my belly and instead start eating into my gray matter, and you ask me how to get to Claythorne Road, it is entirely likely that I will give you authoritative, impeccably correct directions to Sherbrooke.

There is a cliché, or to a sociobiologist, a datum, that men are less willing to stop and ask for directions than are women. I cannot speak to the accuracy of such a suggestion, or to its possible cause, but I know that I'll almost never ask a stranger for assistance. I suspect though that this is not due to some innate feature of the Y chromosome, but instead is a behavioral tendency learned after a long history of being stopped and asked for directions. I am a very courteous person -- does a good deed daily -- and I have a phenomenal geographic sense -- taught the orienteering merit badge -- so I always try to help people out. But ten minutes later I realize that the directions which seemed so sensible at the time I gave them were in some way crap and I've just made things immensely worse. I suspect many people have had this experience, and been discouraged from asking for directions of their own by their own examples. Perhaps it is an experience shared by a larger proportion of men than of women, because at the same time that the patriarchy is spewing out misdirection and confuddlement, we're also serving up large amounts of propaganda extolling our putative superior spatial facilities.

So, really, ask women for directions, or just anyone but me, and try to live in a city with the streets laid out in a nice numbered grid.
Bitch, Ph.D., does not quit smoking:
Don't congratulate me, please.

Because, in defiance of all the crappy advice out there about how to quit smoking, I did not set a "quit date"; I did not get rid of my lighters (or even the empty packs, which are still sitting in the porch); I did not tell anyone I was doing it. (Mr. B. didn't notice for three days.) In fact, I did not decide to quit, and I don't think I actually am quitting.

What I think is this. 1) Having run out of the brand of cigarettes I prefer last Wednesday; 2) being unable to get them in Tinytown; and 3) not having a car that's reliable enough to drive to Big City, I am A) too goddamn lazy to take a bus in order to buy fucking cigarettes; B) too goddamn picky to continue to spend money on crappy smokes; and C) too stubborn to allow myself to smoke for any reason but pleasure. Oh, and PK started bugging me to quit a while back, and I told him I would.
This is almost (except for the influnce of a pseudonymous kid) exactly how I ended up quitting smoking. The grocery store which I habituated for its low price on Winstons as much as for its convenience closed, and I was too obstinately stingy to pay drugstore prices for cartons, and too lazy to figure out where the next cheapest merchant was. And, indeed, the first serious temptation I've had in a year was when I saw a gas station here in Memphis advertising cartons at twenty-four dollars. I could party like it's 1997!
So I need to get myself back to the point of being a "social smoker." Which means not smoking lame cigarettes just for the sake of smoking. Only smoking one or two occasionally, when I'm out with someone who happens to have my brand (yes, I know that "social smokers" are the bane of real smokers everywhere, but tough shit: I've always been a generous smoker to my "non-smoking" friends, so now my smoking friends can be generous to me). Only buying a pack my own goddamn self once in a blue, blue moon and then making it last for a couple of weeks.
Of course, I was better positioned than Dr. B. for the next important step: not having friends.

Meanwhile, over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen presents his symmetry thesis, which is cheering and jovial and possibly entirely wrong; I'm quite taken with the phrase "low-key intertemporal seduction."
I'm peeling the banana from both ends today. I've decided that this should be a new idiom, a complement to the frayed, frazzled lucubration of "burning the candle at both ends," a zesty, breakfasty metaphor for eagerly embracing the day. Not that I'm zesty or eagerly embrachial, just inspired by one of Steve Landsburg's Slate articles (pointed out by Fred Clark):
My friend Petal peels her bananas from the bottom. Well, it's the top, actually, since bananas grow upside down. Come to think of it, that's not quite right either—bananas grow the way they grow, which should be right-side up by definition, even if we think of them as upside down. So let me start over. Petal peels her bananas from the end without the stem.
Halfway through slicing my morning banana onto my oatmeal, I decided to try this. The lack of nature's own pull-tab is immediately apparent, but easily overcome through judicious application of the thumbnail. I am agnostic as to the purported relative ease of string-removal. The trial subject was the last of last week's bananas and so a little on the soft side. Further research will be required.
Since I first got contact lenses I've dreaded this day, having witnessed [livejournal.com profile] rahael's painful experiences with the affliction. Last night, after going for an evening walk, I noticed that the astigmatism in my right eye was more prominent than usual. A couple of hours later, the vision in that eye developed a milky cast; when I went to the bathroom to remove my contact, I was confronted with a blazingly red bloodshot eye. Goop was starting to collect under the lower eyelid, itself already sensitive to the touch. I washed it out and went to bed, sure that I'd wake up with my eyelashes encrusted together. I'm almost certain that this is a hay fever reaction, as the crud and the sensitivity have disappeared since I took a Claritin, but in consulting Dr. Google, the hypochondriac's friend, I was surprised to learn that there's an actual epidemic. I'll have to see the optometrist tomorrow; though the goop and pain have subsided the redness remains. The one positive, though, is that being against a blood red background really brings out the green in my eye. It's almost Christmassy!

I've been thinking recently about ways to accentuate the colors of my eyes -- the irises, though, rather than the whites. My eye has, at certain times, a gold ring around the pupil, and I'm convinced that this is a product of exposure to the sun. Now harnessing the power of light for cosmetic reasons is a technology as old as lemon juice, and it's been artificially applied to methods for taking the brown out of your teeth and putting it into your skin. But I don't think anyone's capitalized yet on the photoreactivity of irises. I propose the creation of a portable, antiseptic, home bleaching system for the iris. This would consist of a small but powerful blue-white light bulb -- I'd guess that about 150 watts would do it -- with a comfortable shroud for isolating each eye, perhaps clamping back those pesky eyelids, and a convenient rechargeable battery pack. I haven't yet moved into the prototype phase, but I have expectations that it could significantly lighten and brighten the user's irises, and should be effective enough to produce whitening of the cornea as well. I discussed this idea with my optometrist, but she wasn't enthusiastic. And I thought eye care professionals were supposed to be crafty investors.
Today, I ran ) for 28 minutes, being in the middle of the eighth week of the Couch-To-5K nine-week plan. Of course, as I've been following the designated times rather than the designated distances, and as I've been "pacing myself," I'm not quite on track for five kilometers next week, as, according to the Gmap Pedometer, I ran only 2.38 miles. All of it, I might add, was uphill. It amazes me, but until I started running I had no idea that I could leave my house and travel a complete circuit through the neighborhood without ever descending. Apparently I live on a moebius strip. Today's more linear route was my attempt to limit the amount of climbing I would have to do: I spent much of it following the watershed of one of the ancient creeks. And yet still my body sends the message: "THIS IS UPHILL" while my brain divides the route into treacherous hills, steep climbs, steady uphill grades, and the occasional short stretch of almost, but not quite, sheer cliff face.

One thing that running has taught me is that my brain, much as I have trusted it over the years, doesn't always have my best interests at heart. Given half an hour of leisure time while my body and I are off jogging, it does nothing but concoct reasons why we should just go back to bed. For example, on Thursday, after about nine minutes of running and the hill out of the creekbed that I'm now sure is, if not K2, then at least K-twenty or twenty-five, my right Achilles' tendon issued a sensation. Not pain, not even discomfort, just a sensation. My body relays this to me as, "Uh, your Achilles' tendon would like you to know that it's here, and, on the whole, it would rather be sitting in a jacuzzi." Well, my brain overhears this, and it starts screaming, "It's going to SNAP and you'll be CRIPPLED and in a WHEELCHAIR and they better find a DOUBLE-WIDE WHEELCHAIR 'cause you'll be FAT ANYWAY so you should GO HOME and read the internet but DON'T POST or COMMENT because NO ONE WANTS TO READ YOU . . . " Meanwhile, my Achilles' tendon has long ago messaged "kthxbye!" and my body is wrapped up in trying to get over what we had previously believed to be a nice rolling lane but which evidence now suggests is a seriously disoriented Himalaya.

So my interest was piqued . . .  )
In Tunis, it seems that everyone speaks French, and if they don't speak French, they speak Arabic with accents out of the tenth arrondisement. I, misnamed as I am, do not, so communication could at times be dicey. I understood our cab driver when he told us (en Francais), as he whizzed an inch by the fender of the car stopped in the fast lane (they're all fast lanes), that he was the Schumacher of Tunisia, and was tuned-in enough to pun (in English) that I'd almost rather he be Willie than Michael. (Shoemaker, you see.) But I was much less confident that any understanding was reached when we asked him if he would return to the Bardo Musum at five o'clock. Partly this doubt was due to my confusion over whether our proffered "cinq heures" would lead him to arrive not at 5 p.m. but after five hours, but mostly I was worried that we should have mangled "dix et sept" instead as the twelve-hour clock might be to him nothing but a long-abandoned anachronistic chronometer.

See, I'd been reading Charles Stross's Singularity Sky, and I'd gotten to the bit where Martin Springfield is being held by the secret police for committing a political infraction the nature of which no one will tell him. Stross writes, "Outside the skylight, it was a clear, cold April afternoon; the clocks of St Michael had just finished striking fourteen hundred [ . . . ]" For some unlikely reason, my mind stretched back to the opening line of Orwell's 1984, which was always an eerie and ominous annoucement to this American reader, the clocks striking thirteen carrying a sense of otherworldly strangeness, plain wrongness, and invoking a hint of triskaidekaphobia. But had I grown up with the twenty-four hour clock, I may not have noticed any peculiarity.

I have no idea when the United Kingdom or the rest of Europe adopted the twenty-four hour clock for civilian time, so I have no idea whether Orwell intended the reference as a frightening anomaly, an allusion to the weird way they do things on the Continent, a symbol of the regimentation of Oceanic society, or an only slightly futuristic bit of realism. Britain, though, has a history of resistance to such government imposed rationalizations. Famously, for a hundred and seventy years it regarded as suspicious popishness. I remember as a child encountering generation-old Punch cartoons lampooning the opposition to decimalization of the Pound, and I think the metric system was rejected for some time as being too closely associated with the French Revolution. My ignorant impression is that the British, or elements of British society at least, look at government-imposed rationalizations as perniciously continental. Then a generation grows up with the new system, and people are incredulous that their elders could ever have been such paranoid, parochial provincials.

Over here in America, we have a civic ethos built on our inalienable right to be paranoid, parochial provincials. We're lucky that the Revolution took place after the UK adopted the Gregorian calendar, or we might have obstinately stuck with the Julian at least until the Red Scare. We still treat applications of the metric system as a Euro-weenification roughly tantamount to letting the UN land black helicopters on our front lawns and force us to listen to Robbie Williams. And though we've since relented, we initially regarded one of the most widespread government-imposed rationalizations as a Wilsonian internationalism as threatening to the American way of life as the League of Nations. I speak of daylight savings. )
Slightly shoddy research has led me to determine that the day I was born was the last day of the Chinese lunar year (of the boar), as well as the penultimate day of A.H. 1391. (The Chinese calendar begins its lunar months on the astronomical new moons, while the Islamic calendar delays a day and a half or two until somebody sharp-eyed sees the crescent moon in the evening sky. In fact, it's very hard to tell which day was the penultimate day of the year until the year is actually over.) So, as soon as the sun goes down, I'll be celebrating both my Chinese and Islamic birthdays! I must say I like the synergy of the convergence -- I think it happens only twice every thirty-three years.

And to share the celebrations, let me get an early start and wish everyone happy Chinese Lunar and Islamic New Years. (How come every year when Rosh Hashanah rolls around, I see people saying, "Happy Rosh Hashanah to all my Jewish friends, including [livejournal.com profile] dlgood, [livejournal.com profile] graffitiandsara, and [livejournal.com profile] buffyannotater!" but I have never once seen anyone say, "Happy Chinese New Year to [livejournal.com profile] scrollgirl and [livejournal.com profile] deevalish"?) And happy early socially-hegemonic Gregorian birthdays to [livejournal.com profile] wisewoman and [livejournal.com profile] scrollgirl! Parties all around!
I don't think it would come as any surprise that Tyler Cowen of George Mason University and Marginal Revolution knows something I don't -- it's probable he knows quite a bit I don't -- but I am surprised to find that one fantasy I've enjoyed is, instead, fact:
What were the most blogged about books in 2005?

Here is a New York Times list, no permalink yet. The data are drawn from an automated survey of the top 5000 blogs. Freakonomics, Harry Potter, Blink, and The World is Flat lead the list. Jared Diamond has two in the top ten. Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds is #12. The first work of fiction is The da Vinci Code at #10. Orwell and Narnia are not far behind. I conclude, tentatively, that the blogosphere is increasing the influence of non-fiction books, relative to fiction.
Well, that explains that bespectacled punk who keeps coming around claiming that my Pinewood Derby trophy is some sort of "horcrux."
Deep within The New York Times's write-up of the new computer game adaptation of Walter Hill's The Warriors, Dan Houser, Creative Vice President of Rockstar Games, says:
"There were other things that we would watch once or so, but we kept sort of going back to 'The Warriors' and watching it sort of obsessively," Mr. Houser recalled. It turns out that the episodic pacing and cartoony visual style of "The Warriors" were just about perfect for adapting the film into a video game.

"When you watch it as a 7-year-old kid, it seems super-weird and terrifying," Mr. Houser said. "When you watch today, it's over the top. It's sort of surreal in most of the points. But the structure and the style translate perfectly into a video game world. The structure of the journey - encountering people and defeating them on the route - was a fighting game in a movie format before it was ever a video game.

"In a lot of films you look at the way the narrative is designed, and the way the focus is so heavily on characters or the period means they wouldn't translate into good video games," Mr. Houser said. "Maybe in 20 years time you can make a game that's more sophisticated at a character level, but we're still at a point in the evolution of games that physical actions are more effective to convey than emotions or conversations."
The Warriors itself is loosely based on the Anabasis of the classical Greek historian Xenophon. I wonder what then would be the literary equivalent of Pac-Man. Probably one of the Homeric Hymns.
Why did no one tell me that Foucault's Pendulum name-checks the Abbé d'Herblay?
He sneers. "We met in other times, when you tried to pull me away from the deathbed of Postel, when under the name Abbé d'Herblay I led you to end one of your incarnations in the heart of the Bastille."
Coming as the reference did on page 502, I was exhilarated but not flabbergasted to see it; by that point I had come to expect that Umberto Eco would refer to every obscure esotericon he or I could think of (excluding only, strangely for a book set in Milan, any idea that Leonardo Da Vinci had encoded messages into The Last Supper); and indeed the book had been warming up to both the Jesuits and Dumas for a few previous chapters.

Someday I should make a chart of all the books I've read that take the impartation of trivia as a narrative device and match them to their respective arcana. There was once a strange period of synchronicity over about a week in which it seemed that every book I read -- Barcelona, by Robert Hughes; Martin Gardner's Science, Good, Bad and Bogus; and the Roderick cycle of John Sladek -- mentioned the Catalan scholastic Ramon Llull. I think each book had spelled his name differently, Ramon Llull in the Hughes and Raymond Lull in the Sladek with something in between in the Gardner. And, indeed, when Eco mentions him in passing it's as Lullus. Longitude and Mason & Dixon both concern themselves with the English resistance to converting from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, and, lo, it's a major plot point in Foucault's Pendulum as well. The Golem of Prague, previously encountered in Roderick and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay, to take two just off the top of my head, also appears briefly.
Don't miss the story of the hoodwinked premillennialists, in which an LJer who had written a parodic Jack Chick-style diatribe against Harry Potter submits the essay to ExposingSatanism.org, which accepts it readily. (According to [livejournal.com profile] gehayi, the author also convinced a number of non-premillennialist Harry Potter fans of the sincerity of her condemnation in the process.) I haven't looked at too many of the responses on ExposingSatanism.org's forum, but this earnest rebuttal caught my eye:
I'm pretty sure that [Lurlene Tyranna] Shores is implying that Lily had sex with Black instead of James. However, I would like to remind you that Black is an Animagus, and can change from a human to an animal, or in this case a dog, and back again at will, thus negating Lily's need to do a perverse thing, such as having sex with a dog.
Which proves that this commenter doesn't hang out in certain circles of LiveJournal, where there are needs and then there are needs.
I wish to know where this "vibrating broomstick" is, or was, marketed so that I may check to see if this ever existed. I have neither read about, nor seen, this toy. Still, an interesting question arises: Who bought them this toy? Toys cost money, so I'm assuming a parent would have to pay for it. Also, would a parent not notice a child bringing home a toy large enough to teach "young girls how to abuse themselves"?
For the record. And, as long as I'm being pedantic, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter Twenty-Four:
"An excellent point," said Professor Dumbledore. "My own brother, Aberforth, was prosecuted for practicing inappropriate charms on a goat. It was all over the papers, but did Aberforth hide? No, he did not! He held his head high and went about his business as usual! Of course, I'm not entirely sure he can read, so that may not have been bravery. . .."
Yesterday's icon made me expand my wishlist. Making complex animations would go a lot easier if only I had my own East Asian sweatshop. After all, the producers of Futurama have their Korean animators, and they're able to get forty-five frames of a scene; by myself, I can manage only twenty-two. Yes, I definitely will be looking into this unfair labor practice idea. Maybe I could take on an unpaid iconing intern.

Speaking of unfair labor practices, my favorite quote in today's New York Times comes from this article on Wal-Mart's successful resistance to unionization:
Cody Fields, who earns $8.10 an hour after two years, said that he had originally backed the union "because we need a change" but that the videos had been effective. "It's just a bunch of brainwashing," Mr. Fields said, "but it kind of worked."
I guess it did.

Personally, I have no problems boycotting Wal-Mart; I find shopping there unpleasant and I am glad to avoid it. It's just that all the standard complaints about Wal-Mart can also be levelled against Target, which is often non-union, drives out local mom-and-pop stores, etc., and I love shopping at Target.

Also in today's Times is an article on some Alaskan bacteria that were revived after lying frozen in a pond for, possibly, 32,000 years. There's a techno-thriller plot in that; Michael Crichton might have to revise his stance on global warming.

And finally, the Times also contained an ad: "My kingdom for your old jewelry!" it proclaimed, above an etching of Henry VIII. "Henry VIII loved jewelry, and he didn't care about the cost. Windsor Jewelers is like him in this respect." Windsor Jewelers, Inc., apparently wants very much to associate itself with the British Crown and isn't too particular about those who wear it being distinct individuals.

Today I assembled a rolling tea cart from a cheap, drugstore-bought kit. The last line on the page of instructions was the boldfaced "CAUTION: Do Not Injured Yourself When Installing." That should hold up in court against any claims of liability. My East Asian sweatshop will have better proofreaders!
I don't turn to The Plain Dealer for deep insight; indeed, this morning I merely skimmed across the shallows of Chuck Yarborough's gossip roundup. But I was forced to stare into my own abyss by the following:
The New York Post asked a handwriting expert to examine the scrawlings of hotel heiress Paris Hilton. The samples were her love letters to an ex-lover, Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. One discovery: no lower loops, which indicates a complete lack of imagination. Surprised? Anyone? Anyone at all?
While I am dumbfounded by the concept of a grand epistolary romance between Paris Hilton and Nick Carter -- certainly it really took place between Paris's social secretary and a representative of whatever agency it is that provides beards to closeted celebrities (the Church of Scientology handles this in-house) -- what really brings me up short is simply that my handwriting doesn't have lower loops either. And while I knew this made it very difficult for me to mind my gs and qs, I never before realized that it was symptomatic of my lack of imagination!

Since I have always envied the imaginative, from now on I will endeavor to finish all my descenders with gargantuan, florid ellipses. One might think that something so personal as handwriting would be difficult to change, but there is precedence: I stopped using uppercase Es in my print handwriting after I read an article in which it was claimed that President Clinton writes with loopy Es so that he can finish the crossword faster, and I started crossing my Zs and 7s after I realized that I'm a precious and pretentious ass. Indeed, I've often thought that there should be a category of self-help literature dedicated to self-improvement through graphology. Certainly if something so malleable so rigidly reflects your character, you ought to be able to easily change your own essential self through just a few strokes of your pen. And, Google reveals, this idea is not only extant but on sale at Wal-Mart.
A graphic representation of the mental tendencies that shape our thinking, our handwriting naturally changes when our lives are dramatically altered. Now Vimala Rodgers demonstrates that the reverse is also true: when we purposefully change our handwriting, we develop new, more positive attitudes toward life.

A simple assessment test helps readers figure out what personality traits need to be worked on. Lessons covering every letter of the alphabet pinpoint how picking up a pen can solve a variety of problems. For example:
-- Modifying the letter "T" can help dieters stick to their diets
-- Trouble with your mother can be soothed with a change in Cs
-- Those suffering from writer's block should work on their Gs
(My own Gs are just fine, thank you very much.)

I suppose that one could not apply the same techniques to all other forms of character-divination -- it is hard to go back and change the day on which you were born, for example -- but I do think that there is a niche waiting to be filled by a self-help book based on the principles of phrenology. "Instead of just beating your head against the wall," it could say, "use it to knock open the doors to fame and fortune!"
I learn from one of the new Agitators that Jon Ronson, author of the amusing romp with terrorists Them, has come out with a new book about bizarre US military projects.
One operation details President Clinton's order for a Psychic Spying Unit to find the Loch Ness monster using telepathy. The operation cost 15 million pounds, which in today's dollars translates into over $28 million.
Though, to be fair, the dollar was much, much stronger during the Clinton administration.

I am reminded of the advertisement the CIA ran in my college newspaper for its summer internship program. It listed fields of experience they were interested in: philosophy was not one of these. "Remote viewing," on the other hand, was. I remember thinking at the time that remote viewing was something abstrusely technical, involving perhaps satellites or ultrasound or thermal imaging; certainly something you could major in only at CalTech or MIT. Little did I know that remote viewing was actually out in Uri Gellar territory. I know that some people have trouble accepting the softer side of the CIA as presented by Alias, but maybe there's something to the fascination with all the Rambaldi stuff. Maybe that's the true secret of the post-William Colby, pre-Porter Goss CIA; it was just a bunch of crystal-swinging, incense-burning new-agers . . .
Certainly, in these divisive times, there is one thing we can all agree on: the Nazis really hated Jews and gays. Right?

Uhhh . . .
I met two members of Una-Unso, a neo-Nazi party whose emblem is a swastika. They were unembarrassed about their allegiance, perhaps because last year Yushchenko and his allies stood up for the Socialist party newspaper, Silski Visti, after it ran an anti-semitic article claiming that Jews had invaded Ukraine alongside the Wehrmacht in 1941. On September 19 2004, Yushchenko's ally, Alexander Moroz, told JTA-Global Jewish News: "I have defended Silski Visti and will continue to do so. I personally think the argument ... citing 400,000 Jews in the SS is incorrect, but I am not in a position to know all the facts."
Hang on a minute . . .
Reisman also endorses a book called “The Pink Swastika,” which challenges the “myths” that gays were victimized in Nazi Germany. The Nazi Party and the Holocaust itself, she writes, were largely the creation of “the German homosexual movement.” Thanks to Alfred Kinsey, she warns, the American homosexual movement is poised to repeat those crimes. “Idealistic ‘gay youth’ groups are being formed and staffed in classrooms nationwide by recruiters too similar to those who formed the original ‘Hitler youth.’”
I look forward to further revelations that the Confederate States of America were secretly run by a cabal of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and the Pope.
[livejournal.com profile] nzraya has a flight of fancy on her trip down memory lane:
A passing thought...

...and, I'm sure, a far from original one. But, having spent a fruitful morning going through an old videotape of MTV's 80s-retrospective programming in December 1989 (SO GLAD I taped that stuff, because half of what they put in as most characteristic of the '80s has gone well and truly down the memory hole now), I can't help but ponder, wistfully, the following question:

What if the December 8, 1980 assassination attempt against John Lennon had failed, and the March 30, 1981 assassination attempt against Ronald Reagan had succeeded?
I love counterfactuals. Let's see . . . George H. W. Bush has nearly as much of a first term as John Tyler. Freed from the constraints of Vice Presidential subservience to Reagan, he reverts to his 1980 support of abortion rights and leads the most Arab-friendly administration since Eisenhower's. His retinue of Rockefeller Republicans and foreign-policy realists alienate the Christian Right, which makes overtures to the blue-collar Catholics who had formed the bulk of the "Reagan Democrats" and to socially-conservative African-American Baptists. Pat Robertson leads a new Christian crusade for social justice. A booming economy, buoyed by Bush's moderate fiscal responsibility, propels Bush to a commanding victory over the newly black-friendly George Wallace, but in 1988, his Vice President (Howard Baker) must face a vital young Democrat who is extremely hawkish, pro-Israel, and is second to none in his credentialing as a campaigner for values and decency. In the clash of the Tennessee titans, Al Gore prevails, becoming the youngest President in American history.

As the years wind down, the Republican party becomes more and more the party of the Northeast, Great Plains and Southwest, while the industrial Midwest and the South define the Democrats. In 2004 the country faces a great drama when the Democrats nominate the ticket of Clinton-Buchanan against the Republicans' favored Rodham-McCain.

Meanwhile, John Lennon's 1984 movie Remember Me To Harold Lloyd is considered the greatest film disaster of the decade. A pair of phoned-in duets with Lionel Richie do not help his critical standing. By 2004, Britain collectively smirks when he makes a guest appearance on the Sugababes' single "Imagine (There's Disco Heaven)," and critics everywhere admit that the recently deceased George Harrison was the true genius of the Beatles.
Yesterday's Observer Music Monthly attempted a list of the 100 greatest British rock albums which compounded the usual problems of album-centered rock criticism (black artists are penalized for working in single-oriented genres) with the usual problems of British rock (there aren't enough black artists to penalize). My argument that Are You Experienced, recorded in London with a band that was 66.7% English, should count as a British album (in fact as the best British album) fell on deaf ears, since I never actually expressed it to anyone. In any case, I figured that there would be four albums that, due as much to their history of critical acclaim as any inherent quality, had to fall into the top ten: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Exile On Main Street, Never Mind The Bollocks, and London Calling. London Calling placed third, Sgt. Pepper's sixth, and Exile eighth. Never Mind The Bollocks, on the other hand, was placed way down at number fourteen, below even Metal Box by Public Image Ltd.

This reminds me that there used to be a joke commonly made on ignorant young pop music fans in the seventies and even into the eighties: "You mean Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?" This jibe could be transferred into the eighties and nineties with "You mean John Lydon was in a band before PiL?" and into the nineties and today with "You mean Dave Grohl was in a band before Foo Fighters?" It seems to me that we need to prepare for the future, and the obvious thing is for Chuck D. to form an ambitious, poppy, somewhat sterile supergroup so we old-timers who remember It Takes A Nation Of Millions can rib the younguns.
I met [livejournal.com profile] rahael at work yesterday and we walked over to Leicester Square to see Shaun of the Dead. I think I laughed more during that movie than at any movie I've seen in a theater since Soapdish (admittedly, I don't see many movies, especially comedies, in theaters). I am very happy that the movie was such a delight because, well, let's just say that ten and a half pounds seems a bit steep for anything that provokes a response less than ecstasy. I'll get the DVD (in America, presumably at Target) for less than ten and a half pounds! And since our evening viewing, at one of London's premier film-going locations, drew only nine people, I am convinced that it is time that theaters moved to a market-based pricing system. Why should a movie like The Chronicles of Riddick, which was hated by even [livejournal.com profile] buffyannotater, cost as much to see as Prisoner of Azkaban? I'm sure there are some people out there so driven to be the first to see Azkaban that they'd be willing to pay 10 quid 50 or more, but might be willing take a flyer on Riddick only if it were in the two-bob range. The airlines concentrate on capacity, on filling every seat on the airplane as efficiently as possible, and have developed a wealth of strategies for getting their seats filled at the prices people want to pay -- why should movie theaters not seek to maximize the capacity of their theaters?

The theaters could even adopt the techniques of internet commerce. I sat through twenty-two minutes of advertisements before Shaun of the Dead actually began. Certainly, some of this advertisement money must have subsidized my ticket somewhat (and I think Pearl & Dean, the ad brokers for London theaters, would be happier if their ads were being seen by more than nine people at a time). Perhaps the theaters could make the cheap cineastes sit through ad after ad before the movie, but offer a premium service where one could pay through the nose to just start watching the damn movie already.

Anyway, an extremely funny zombie caper. Spoilers for "Shaun of the Dead" )

Exiting the theater into a crisp London evening -- the temperature must have had dropped fifteen degrees since the day before -- and noting the general listlessness of the few people we passed walking through Chinatown, I saw a slight post-apocalyptic side to the city last night. A group of kids way in front of me smashed a beer bottle and the sound reverberated down Gerrard Street. The cords of people stacked outside De Hem's staring vacantly into the pub -- are they just Dutch footie fans trying to catch a glimpse of the Euro Cup, or are they . . . the walking dead?

I hope that [livejournal.com profile] rahael stores a few blunt objects in her garden shed. Just in case.
Interesting juxtaposition:
Bush did apparently reiterate the firmness of the June 30 handover of sovereignty to Iraqis and likened it to riding a bicycle.

"He talked about 'time to take the training wheels off,' " Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio) said. "The Iraqi people have been in training, and now it's time for them to take the bike and go forward."
-- Washington Post.
President Bush suffered minor abrasions after falling off a mountain bike while cycling on his Texas ranch on Saturday, the White House said.

The 57-year-old Republican president had cycled 16 miles of a 17-mile afternoon bike course when he toppled over while riding downhill on what the White House described as soil loosened by recent rainfall.

"He had minor abrasions and scratches on his chin, upper lip, his nose, right hand and both knees," White House spokesman Trent Duffy told reporters.
-- Reuters.

And, for an ideological balance that you won't find here that often:
Kerry told reporters in front of cameras, "Did the training wheels fall off?"
-- Drudge, according to Josh Marshall.
Bush's rival in this year's presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry, who fell off a bicycle and grazed his hand earlier this month, wished the president well after learning of Saturday's spill.
-- The Reuters story linked above.

Just a quick reminder that nation-building is hard whether it's done with liberal or conservative intentions. Harder, I suspect, than falling off a bicycle.

ETA: Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber points out something interesting:
Last year, I fell off my bike, and had to have my arm in a sling for a couple of days. I don’t care, even a little bit, that Bush had a spill. It happens.

But if the White House is going to come out and blame the fall on “what the White House described as soil loosened by recent rainfall”… (Here’s the quote: “It’s been raining a lot. The topsoil was loose.”)

Well, I can check that. There hasn’t been any rain in Crawford all week. The last day with more than an inch of precipitation was May 1.

Again, not a big deal, but why would they say that? And do you share my suspicion that Caren Bohan, who wrote the Reuters report from Crawford, knows perfectly well that there wasn’t any rain?

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