Monday, May 09, 2005


Forget all the Diebold conspiracy theories. Forget those speed-dailing freaks obsessed with American Idol. Thanks to the Serious Journalists(tm) at CNN, here's a poll everyone can agree accurately reflects our collective consciousness:

Do you believe a dog could care for a baby?

100719 votes



55697 votes
Total: 156416 votes

You might look at this and see 156,416 fatuous and somewhat disengaged folks, most likely browsing the Web on company time, succumbing to the ongoing infantilization of what people used to like to call "news." Me? I see 156,416 patriots.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


It's been a few months since my lucrative side gig of writing fake amazon reviews was brought to an untimely end, and the painful memories of Black Thursday have finally started to fade. So what do I get in my e-mail inbox?
Dear reviewer:

Who are the people writing reviews at Why do they do it? And how often?

Answers to such questions can enable designers of online forums to better facilitate participation. As a participant at you can help us by taking a few minutes to share your experiences.

We are academic researchers in the Information and Decision Sciences Department of the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota... working on an academic research project to examine individual behavior in online forums.

Despite breaking into the vaunted top 2000 reviewers during my brief yet meteoric run, I'm not entirely sure I'm the person they're hoping to reach here. The survey asked a lot of questions about whether you've included your Amazon reviews on your resume and/or to get a job. Call me a cynic, but somehow I doubt pointing a prospective employer to a page like this would really help get your foot in the door.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Went up to New York City earlier this week for a magazine awards ceremony (the short version of the story: a bodyguard-adorned Martha Stewart won, we didn't). I spent a beautiful spring afternoon wandering around, catching up with friends and taking a Clark Griswold-like 55-minute sprint through the newly reopened MOMA, which now looks 45% more like the Paramus IKEA, only without the helpful pre-painted footprints to vector you into the Swedish meatball buffet line at the kafeteria.

Every time I go to NYC, there's at least one "only in New York" moment, and this trip was no exception. As I was walking past Penn Station towards Chelsea, the entire station disgorged itself -- apparently an underground track fire prompted a mass evacuation, and suddenly there were thousands of additional people out on the streets. Or maybe everyone was just trying to score scalped tickets for that evening's Duran Duran concert at Madison Square Garden. It was kind of hard to tell.

What was telling, though, was the absolute lack of panic--if anything, people were amused by the disruption. Of course, if the same thing had happened at, say, Metro Center in DC, you'd see nothing but throngs of attorneys attempting to beat each other back with their Blackberrys as they tried to fight their way up the (broken) escalators.

Monday, April 11, 2005



I've always been obsessed with maps. And since all the Interweb kool kidz are doing it these days, I couldn't resist quickly throwing together a couple of memory maps made with Google's satellite imagery, complete with the requisite hipper-than-thou annotations from my not-quite-so-kool life (click on each image above to see them). Would-be stalkers, grab a magnifying glass and prepare yourself for hours of squint-rific fun!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Okay, so maybe this humble blog isn't exactly setting the world on fire -- no book deals, no angry denunciations from the ever-defensive mainstream media, no journalists forced to resign in the wake of stunning exposes revealed here. But this site is up to #6 -- with a bullet! -- on a little site the folks on the Internets like to call Google. Perhaps you've heard of it.

No, really. It's number six -- that is, if you do a Google search for mud trucks. And judging by my server logs, there are a lot of people out there doing just that. (It beats the one lost depraved soul who was searching for a "wireframe image of Lucinda Dickey," the one-time star of several seminal 1980s movies about breakdancing and ninjas. But that's a different story for a different day.)

Of course, I have only myself to blame. You see, what all these mud truck aficionados are finding when they hit this site is this brilliant essay, which I wrote while I was in college. You've got to give the people what they want, after all. And coming soon: Lucinda Dickey fan fiction! (Lucinda stopped breakdancing and crouched into her ninja stance. "I think there's trouble," she said. "Where's my wireframe image?")

Or not.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Well, ever since the evil editors at laid down the smack, I've needed some sort of outlet for my brilliant critical interpretations of our cultural effluvia. Or something.

First up is Arcade Fire's Funeral, the best new album I've heard in some time (it's also the only new album I've heard in some time, so take that with a grain of salt). Their music has been pretty much universally compared to Roxy Music, but I hear bits and pieces of all kinds of 80s influences here -- everything from the straightforward pop drive of the likes of Simple Minds or U2 to the moody eclecticism of David Byrne. Yet it's not at all imitative -- it's like they've co-opted chunks of the DNA of the 80s wave sound and recombined it in unique ways. I'm not exactly sure who their audience is, but I'm enjoying it.

Next up is the Battle of Algiers, which has to be one of the few movies to ever have been banned by the French. Centered around the urban insurrection during the Algerian war for independence,the movie, which was made in the late 1960s, wound up being redistributed last year after it was revealed that folks in the Pentagon screened it following the invasion of Iraq (though the object lessons of the movie suggest that perhaps they should have screened it beforehand). In truth, it's not particularly fair to make direct comparisons between Algeria and Iraq, but depending on your poltical leanings and/or proclivities towards wearing tinfoil hats, there's quite a bit to chew on here. It's also a well-done movie that, unlike most of the war films before it, definitely avoids black-and-white portrayals of what was a complicated historical situation (about which the film assumes some level of knowledge on the part of the viewer).

Well, that's certainly an eclectic combination of music and cinema. Something tells me the old Dark Side of the Moon-Wizard of Oz trick won't work here.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I always suspected that my idyllic, planned community of Reston(tm) had a darker side (though I'm sure it's actually an HOA-approved shade of russert brown). Little did I know, though, that it has an evil twin.

Located on the other side of Washington, D.C. in Maryland, Columbia has all the same hallmarks of a master-planned community -- the goofy, sylvan community names, persistent earth tones, questionable contemporary architecture, etc. Only, instead of a fake downtown, they plopped a generic shopping mall into the middle of "town," right next to an outdoor music venue where you can still hear all your favorite hair bands from the 1980s.

Sure, all this speaks to the banality of evil. But Columbia apparently isn't at all shy about its wicked ways. While Reston has street names evoking sunrises, sunsets, and Wiehles (whatever they are), Columbia has Satan Wood Drive.

Of course, I probably shouldn't be so smug -- as this handy search of Google Maps can attest. Who knew I was just 19 miles from that well-known locus of nefarity, NBC News?

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


Regular readers know about the helpful job postings that continually get e-mailed to me, whether I want them or not. So what am I to make of the two listings that found their way to me today? All I know is that together, they pretty much say it all about the state of my chosen metier, ca. 2005:


I'll bet the commute to Beijing's a real bitch. Actually, this part was particularly intriguing:

The magazine has a circulation of 1.2 million domestic associates. It is produced by a two-person staff, which includes an Editor/Writer and a Creative Director.

If my math is right, that's a edit staff:circulation ratio of 1:600,000, a figure that would make the GM at even the smalllest, crappiest daily newspaper drool. And as if that wasn't bad enough, then there was this:


You read that right -- not a fact-checker, but a fact-writer. I'm seriously thinking about sending them a resume, using the name Winston Smith.

Monday, February 07, 2005


But from time to time, I actually get paid to dispense liberal doses of snark. (Note: Free but annoying registration probably required; try '' as a username and 'kos' as a password).

Thursday, February 03, 2005


At last, I have just the perfect thing to put on my Xtreme SUV as I tool around Reston(tm): a personalized license plate honoring traditional marriage. But don't thank me. Thank the Virginia General Assembly:

The capitalized "TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE" plate, showing two interlocked golden wedding bands over a red heart, would join scores of others for supporters of everything from fox hunting to Holstein cows.

Holstein cows? I mean, to each his own, but that's just creepy. What's next? Dogs and cats living together?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Well, Washington has a new daily newspaper, and already I'm underwhelmed. You see, I assumed I lived in one of the demographically desirable Zip codes that will get the new DC Examiner mass-mailed to them. Then I remembered I live in Reston(tm), which has more SWAT teams than Scan outlets.

Oh, well. So far, I've missed out on such thought-provoking and only vaguely Onionesque editorials as "Hope Blossoms Where Bush Plants Democracy" and intimate personality profiles of the likes of Celine Dion -- both of which make me feel a bit relieved that I'm not in the right demographic. In fact, it seems like they're chasing the elusive wingnut audience championed by The Washington Times (a point-by-point comparison from a much funnier writer is here.)

Even so, the Post has got to be feeling some pressure, particularly when it comes to attracting younger readers. To wit: it ran a story this past weekend analyzing in excruciating detail a Saturday Night Live skit. From 2000.

Someone wake me when this newspaper war is over.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


First, they came for the Teletubbies. Then, they came for SpongeBob. And now, they're after Buster Baxter, the snack-food snarfing bunny known to any parent who's come within 100 feet of the book, TV and video empire inspired by Marc Brown's Arthur series (which are actually quite good, as kids books go, despite the fact that the author appears to have drawn them with his feet).

But I digress. Seems that Baxter unwittingly "visited" a real Vermont family that lives on a farm and makes maple syrup -- oh, and just happens to have two mommies. Or a step-mommy. Or something. So the Feds have layeth down the smack, ordering PBS to 86 this particular episode or lose a big chunk of funding.

To which I say bravo -- only they haven't gone far enough. If you've ever watched Arthur, you know that the universe in which these cartoon animals live has its own share of morally troubling issues. For starters, Baxter is growing up in a single-parent bunny household of his own. Apparently his father -- a hotshot pilot -- left his family, presumably after chasing another enticing critter down a rabbit hole. I mean, doesn't this just glorify tired old stereotypes about rabbits and their breeding habits? Or, worse, is it a way to inculcate impressionable youngsters to the coastal elitist moral relativism that gave us Bill Clinton, balanced budgets and unprecedented prosperity? Lest there be any lingering questions about this, consider that Baxter's mother -- his only parental influence -- is a newspaper reporter. With that horrifying fact in mind, I'm shocked that the FBI hasn't gone in to "rescue" him, Elian Gonzalez style.

You might think I'm blowing all this out of proportion. Perhaps. But when I get a sweet six-figure "grant" from a cabinet-level federal entity for my pro-traditional family proselytizing, we'll see who's laughing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Hey, remember that time when that journalist guy got paid $240,000 to shill for the Bush administration? Yeah, that was awesome. But as is usually the case in the writing business, turns out there's someone out there willing to work cheaper. Today's market price for integrity: a mere $21,500.

My favorite quote:

"Did I violate journalistic ethics by not disclosing it?" Gallagher said yesterday. "I don't know. You tell me."

Um, okay -- yes. Frankly, I'm just shocked that Gallagher is seen as having so much influence. Guess smashing watermelons with a mallet is a lot more persuasive than a bunch of stuffy op-ed pieces.

Friday, January 21, 2005


No, I'm not refering to the inaugural -- I'm too much of a fan of John Ashcroft's Goulet-inspired "Let the Eagles Soar" to call any event highlighting the song an unmitigated disaster. But is it any coincidence that on the same day, the evil editors at decided to systemically delete every last one of my 90-plus well-reasoned, articulate and objective reviews?

I think not.

Perhaps I overreached somewhat. For instance, referring to the movie The English Patient as the "best critique of the British single-payer health care system ever committed to celluloid" might have been a bit... oh, I dunno, over the top. And I suppose giving Amber Frey's tell-all memoir five stars and calling it an "invaluable how-to guide on picking up desperate, single massage therapists" could be considered callous and insensitive.

Fortunately, I managed to save my reviews for posterity here. And maybe, over time, I'll begin contributing again, presumably under a different pseudonym. Who knows, maybe ultimately I'll rise back up into the vaunted echelon of the top 2,500 Amazon reviewers (watch out "iheartcats57" of North Spittle, Arkansas -- I'm gunning for you!)

Or maybe I'll start torturing the folks at instead.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Don't get pulled over in Marshall County, Alabama. Meet the sheriff.

I was raised in era, the 1940's as a child and the 1950's as a teenager, which I remember with great affection.


Parents could allow their children to go to a movie without having to screen it first because the good guy always wore the white hats. There was no question who the "Good Guy" was. Even the "Bad Guy" in the movie didn't use foul language.

Say what you will about Hitler -- at least he didn't have a potty mouth.

It goes on and on, hitting all the expected talking points, but my favorite part is the reference to the halcyion 1940s and the 1950s. Let's just say I've lived in the South long enough to know that what he's nostalgic for isn't Big Band music.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Nothing like a quiet night in with your significant other, watching a romantic movie after the kids have gone to bed. Well, what passes for a romantic movie in our household, anyway.

The movie's a hoot--a clever but predictable premise you could jot down on the back of a business card, but so perfectly executed and well acted it's impossible not to laugh. A lot. In short, it's a romantic comedy for people who don't like romantic comedies (but do like zombies). Think Army of Darkness meets Four Weddings and a Funeral meets I Spit on Your Grave--or maybe that other well-known horror of horrors, Notting Hill. In fact, that's probably how it was pitched in the first place.

Friday, January 14, 2005


And hola, el zol. (I don't speak Spanish, but I'm guessing that, loosely translated, "siempre de fiesta" works out to "music everyone can agree on--even the boss.")

Long before the airwaves were paved over and strip-malled, WHFS was a legendary alternative-rock station. I remember listening to it when I was in high school, back when it was still on the trailing edge of being "cool" (the trailing part, though, is probably why I had actually heard of it). It had an awful signal back then, meaning that tuning it in from the Virginia suburbs was something of an accomplishment that, in its own right, gave one some limited hipster cred.

Of course, if HFS hadn't spent the past decade trying to attract a sliver of that lucrative 15-to-17-year-old skateboarder demo by playing Lincln Park (or whatever 3l33t misspelling they chose for their moniker) on the half-hour, maybe it wouldn't have come to siempre time. Of course, the same could be said for almost every cookie-cutter station out there. A few years back, I agreed to periodically listen to snippets of new "hot rotation" songs as part of an ongoing automated survey purportedly used to refine playlists at Top 40 and AC radio stations. A robotic voice would call, play six seconds of some crappy, angry-but-not-angry-enough-to-worry-the-parents Matchbox 20-sounding song and ask me to rate it from 1 ("like") to 6 ("really, really like"). The song would invariably suck, so I'd stab my phone's zero or star key until they'd pipe another snippet of an identical-sounding song down the line, which would also invariably suck.

Not surprisingly, the robot stopped calling me after a handful of times and, as we all know, Matchbox 20 achieved its longstanding goal of world domination shortly thereafter. Hey, don't blame me -- I tried.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Here's the most brilliant idea I've heard all week: Calling people who've canceled their newspaper subscription and asking them to reconsider by pointing out that you publish pieces that are supportive of the president. (Also note the patronizing comment about interacting with the huddled, non-cocktail party-attending masses -- "If they want to talk, that's a bummer.")

Hey, if declining circulation revenue is the worry and you have no qualms making what's essentially an implicit offer of fealty for cash, why not just cut out the middleman completely and go straight to the source?

(via Poynter).

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


See the footnote at the end of the display type touting the newest iPod's size? Here's exactly what the legalese says, buried amid a raft of other fine print involving AAC bit rates and Apple's always-questionable battery claims:

2. Do not eat iPod shuffle.

I don't know which explanation is more horrifying: that some corporate attorney billed upwards of $250 an hour coming up with that disclaimer, or that somewhere out there, someone might actually confuse a Flash player with a stick of Feenamint.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Move over, Jayson Blair and our friend with the soggy cheese on the private island off Sri Lanka. There's a new kid in town:

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.

Yeah, don't hold your breath.

Wow. Bear in mind that along with being a "pundit" (whatever that means), this guy is a newspaper columnist. I hate to add to the self-righteous rhetoric that pervades a profession that has long favored self-righteous rhetoric over actual ethics, but this is truly astonishing. I'm almost sick to my stomach.

(via USA Today via Eschaton).

Thursday, January 06, 2005


After two years at my current job, my ca. 1994 Megtron(tm)(R) PC has finally growled menacingly at Mothra for the last time. Much to my amazement, I now actually have a brand-name computer running this strange, futuristic OS by the name of -- what do the kids call it again? -- Windows XP.

But my Megtron is still sitting forlornly in a corner of my office, waiting for me to offload the last of my files (assuming I can without it locking up). And every time I look over at it, memories wash over me.

  • No more rock-tumbler-like "fan" sound.
  • No more waiting for 2 minutes and 20 seconds for Microsoft Word to load (I timed it once when I first started working here, largely out of disbelief)
  • No more walking out of a meeting to see thick smoke billowing out of my office after my Megtron's attempt at self-immolation.
  • No more thinking I'd get a replacement PC after an inconsquential mishap like a fire, only to have the IT folks have it up and running again in 20 minutes (which, I guess, makes sense when you're talking about a machine with roughly three moving parts).
  • No more worrying about it crashing if I did something unadvisable, like attempt to work on two files at once.
  • No more trying to pop in a CD before remembering that the Megtron concept of a CD drive -- a permanent, hermetically sealed tomb for any item foolishly placed inside -- was a bit different than mine.

It's been a long decade, faithful friend. May you slumber in peace at the landfill.

(Note: I did a Web search to look for an image of the Megtron(tm)(R) logo, and apparently this particular brand can now only be found in Yugoslavia, Germany (presumably what used to be East Germany), and other decidedly non-Coalition of the Willing countries. But check out the great price on this German site. Who says you don't get what you pay for?)

Monday, January 03, 2005


Leave it to the Post to capture the full dimensions of the devastation wrought by the tsunami last week:

There were 15 of us gathered around the dinner table, from four continents, celebrating Christmas on a fantasy private island in the Indian Ocean... Hoots of laughter greeted my brother Geoffrey as he instructed us how to slice the Stilton cheese he had brought with him from England. On no account must the Stilton be dug into with a spoon, he insisted.

Sure, more than 150,000 people died, but I'll bet that Stilton got really, really soggy.

Monday, December 27, 2004


Oh, well. At least we didn't wait in line for two freaking hours to see Santa this year.

On the bright side, both girls awoke on Christmas morning besides themselves with excitement because they had heard not only Santa's heavy, plodding footsteps the night before, but also the flush of the toilet. (Apparently milk and cookies are a diuretic.) I'm not sure I'll ever have the heart to tell them that instead of Kris Kringle, it was most likely a jet-lagged and slightly inebriated aunt.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


As I continue my holiday shopping (though using the word "continue" suggests, perhaps incorrectly, that I've actually started), I found this thought-provoking quote in an ad in the Utne Reader (don't ask). Now, you may ask, what were Ghandi's philisophical teachings being used to sell -- world peace, perhaps? Not quite -- try a cuticle pusher.

That's the thing about Ghandi: Whether in the midst of a hunger strike, leading a nonviolent national movement, or just lounging around the house, his fingernails were always immaculate.

No wonder the red staters hate us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


The scary reviews don't stop 'til we get to the top. Here's some of the take-no-prisoners style of commentary you won't find in the New York Review of Books (scroll down to the user reviews). You probably won't find these fine products in the New York Review of Books, either, but that's hardly the point.




The full list

Until next time, keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


I've let my medical degree from one of the Carribean's most prestigious correspondence schools lapse, so I can't make heads or tails of this e-mail I just received.

These lozenges are just like typical pills but they are specially explicated to be coddled and dissolvable below the lingua. The lozenges is took up at the oral cavity and goes in the blood instantly instead of progressing through the stomach. This effects in a faster more strong effect which yet up to 39 hours!

Why, you may ask, am I actually reading my pharmaceutical-related spam? Um.. let's just say it has something to do with the size of my lingua, and leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Who knew that being a journalist didn't automatically exempt you from paying taxes?

Looks like I'll be spending my weekend filling out retroactive 1040 forms...

Monday, November 29, 2004


Since the Post has decided to make a cause out of running shorter stories, I thought I'd help them edit down this front-page story: Spoiled suburban kids like brand-name crap. I mean, who knew?

To be fair, the story has a great, great lead:

Brandon Singleton was 8 when he first saw the movie "Clueless," and it changed his life.

I knew a guy in high school whose life was changed by a movie. Only that movie was "Cocktail," and instead of buying a $450 pair of shiny black pants, he spent far more sizable sums on a degree from the Bartender's Academy (as Seen on TV!) At last report, though, he has yet to shack up with Elizabeth Shue.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Given the calm, rational, even-handed way people have responded to the recent election, I couldn't help but find this funny:

For roughly a decade, a film has been shown to visitors at Washington's Lincoln Memorial, depicting historic events that have taken place there — from civil rights marches to antiwar demonstrations.

Then, one day the Rev. Lou Sheldon saw it. "It showed only those liberal, pro-abortion, pro-homosexual marches," said Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition.

Sheldon would like film of some conservative marches intercut as well, though it is unclear whether any major conservative marches have taken place at the Lincoln Memorial itself, which is the film's focus.

Funny, the only conservative-inspired march on Washington that I can think of is this.

It may be a scary four years, but at least it will be rife with irony.

Monday, November 22, 2004


Forget the Christmas decorations already beginning to pop up across the DC area's more tired-looking shopping centers. If you really want to announce to a Nation Divided(tm) that the holidays, with all their promise of hope and healing, are on their way, try something like this on for size:

I'm not particularly surprised that a coworker ran into something like this at a Cracker Barrel in quasisuburban Maryland (though I'm a bit more surprised that my coworker was inside a Cracker Barrel). What *does* surprise me is how many variations of this image pop up when Googling "confederate Santa," not to mention the specificity of the details. Turns out Mssr. Claus is a Colonel in the CSA, fully entitled to all the privileges and responsibilites that implies. (Who knows, perhaps his North Pole plantation wasn't sizeable enough to rate a General's commission.)

Kris Kringle: Another uniter, not a divider.

Saturday, November 20, 2004


I've joked with friends that one of the underlying, sub rosa themes of this past election is perhaps best exemplified by the tagline from one of Fox's quality reality TV programs, the gist of which apparently involves taking Ivy league MBAs and shooting water balloons at them ("We're sticking it to the smarties!") Happily, my brethren in the news media are finally getting with the program:

In an effort to win new readers, Downie said Post reporters will be required to write shorter stories. The paper's design and copy editors will be given more authority to make room for more photographs and graphics.

I'm going to resist the facile comparison to USA Today. Lest we forget, the much-maligned McPaper has actually started running longer stories. They've also shown a willingness to take risks, something the WP appears to have gotten a bit leery of, most notably during the run-up to Gulf War Deux (by burying stories with cautiously worded headlines like "Excuse Us For Saying This, But Administration WMD Intelligence Might Be A Teensy Bit Off. Or We Could Be Wrong" on page A95). And there are good ways and bad ways of trying to make a publication more engaging. At one point in the early 90s, the picture-to-word pendulum at Time Magazine swung so far away from literacy as to run a cover story headlined "EVIL: Does it exist?" that weighed in at about 1,800 words. Which works out to about a half-word for each year people have been pondering this question.

And the Post, of course, is one of the best newspapers in the country, so I'm sure they'll find an intelligent way of doing this. But the next time they decide to run a story about an all-you-can-eat steak joint on page A1, they'll have to find a way to do it in less than 3,000 words.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004



So, even before the election, I tried mightily to bring people together. But now, in this deeply divided country, is there any force strong enough to bring the coastal elites and the heartland value-types together?

I boldly say yes.

Forgive me if I get a bit emotional here.

Monday, November 01, 2004



Okay, so this maybe this isn't as scary as the previous photo. But imagine these guys up past their bedtime, on a sugar high...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


I think I've finally found the author of this letter to the editor. Nice to see she had a change of heart.

(image shamelessly appropriated from Wonkette.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004


I don't live in a blue state. I don't even live in a blue county. However, according to this helpful electoral map the folks at the Washington Post put together, I do live in a tiny island of blue, surrounded by a vertiable ocean of compassionate conservatism, with maybe an archipelago of libertarianism scattered somewhere along the I-95 corridor, but let's not go overboard with the nautical metaphors. (Overboard? Get it?)

But I digress. This would be all fine and good, if I lived in some sort of commune, what with all the attendant perks like free love and readily accessible compost piles. Instead, I wind up having to read real estate ads like this and watch the SWAT team make its appointed rounds.

Friday, October 15, 2004


I once had a coworker who invited as many people as could fit into his car to see the odometer roll over at 100,000 miles. In much the same spirit, I'm happy to report this humble Web site has broken the 10,000 visit mark. Now, if this was 1996 or something, this would be impressive. Or, if a couple of sites of this caliber hadn't cranked up the same kinds of numbers in a matter of weeks, it might even be somewhat inspiring. As it is, I'll just celebrate it as a pathetic little milestone and get back to frenetically clicking the reload button.

Friday, October 08, 2004


One thing Blogger's been doing of late is adding that nifty blue bar at the top of the page, complete with the handy "NEXT BLOG" button. (Yes, I know there's a way of turning it off that totally p3n3z Blogger and everything, but I don't really care. Also, I'm lazy.) And besides, Blogger's parent company, Google, is well-known for its ability to generate contextual links between different sites that not only discuss similar issues, but approach them from the same worldview (like the helpful ad that once ran at the top of this page). So it's all good, as the kids like to say.

So, posted without comment, are two sites from whence some hapless person followed the NEXT BLOG button to this little dead end of the Internet. I'm sure they were thrilled. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to bulk up for my next match. And learn Taiwanese.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


During a whirlwind 8-hour trip to Chicago earlier this week, I was mesmerized by this giant mirrored jellybean in the city's new Millennium Park. I walked around it, gazing dumbfounded at the ever-shifting skyline behind me, and took scads of pictures. It wasn't until I saw my own reflection and started pecking at it that the security guard pulled me away.

(this space semi-intentionally left blank)

Monday, September 27, 2004


Ever ones to be about 36 months behind the times, we got our 6-year-old daughter a scooter for her birthday. See the red warning label affixed to the handlebars? At first, I thought it would include some lawyered-up-but-within-the-realm-of-common-sense cautions along the lines of wearing a helmet or getting involved in a land war in Asia. Silly me. No, here's exactly what it said:

WARNING: This product moves when used.

Imagine that. An object with wheels might move. I guess were the scooter to fall through some sort of vortex back to the time of the cavemen (or at least to the set of the seminal Ringo Starr movie of the same name), this might be helpful, but otherwise, I've got nothing.

If I had the common sense to go to law school like 99.5 percent of my friends, this probably wouldn't have shocked me. Of course, if I had the common sense to go to law school, I'd have better things to do with my time than worry about a warning label on my kid's scooter. Or if not, at least I'd be racking up some sweet billable hours while doing so.

Friday, September 17, 2004


As someone who, you know, reads the newspapers every now and then, I feel a tiny bit more guilty with every passing day for driving an XTreme SUV (but don't worry -- it's electric). Luckily, there's now an antidote for my self-loathing, and it only costs $93,000:

Knowing the Northern Virginia area, and its abundance of treacherous terrain and road hazzards (i.e., dorks on recumbent bikes and Kerry-lovers clogging the HOV lanes), I'm betting I see the first one of these roughing it in the Tysons Deux parking lot before Thanksgiving.

As I've said before, as a society we've completely blown through the line that separates ostentation and deliberate irritation. There's simply no other way of explaining this. Well, except maybe for having a place to stow your bitchin' ATV.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


People always venture well into the realm of the absurd when they start planning their weddings -- we decided, for some reason, to inconvenience all our family and friends by not only having our wedding out of town and on a Sunday, but out of town and on the Sunday before Christmas. Having said all that, I wish I had some of what this couple was smoking:

BEN LOMOND, Calif. - The marriage of [names withheld], took place June 17, 2004, beneath the redwoods at the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond. Wizard [name withheld], brother of the groom, officiated at the double-tattoo ceremony.

The bride, dressed in her mother's ivory satin wedding gown, was escorted by dancing woodland fairies and other forest beings. The groom, resplendent in white formal attire and derby embellished with kaleidoscopic braid and feathers, was followed by frolicking elves. The couple were attended by a cast of forest deities. Ceremonies concluded in the evening with a burning of the groom's interactive sculpture, The Swirling Cosmic Mystery.

Funny, I tried the whole "swirling cosmic mystery" line back in college, and all it got me was a faceful of mace. Of course, it gets worse. Not because I can picture one of my daughters coming home after their own "double-tattoo ceremony," but because the bride -- wait for it -- is an alum of my alma mater. All of which means I probably should have spent less time at the library and more time working on my interactive sculpting.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


A while back, I wrote about my thrilling new hobby. And, setting all false modesty aside, I'm proud to report that in just a few short weeks, I've skyrocketed up the reviewer charts to #23,907. Watch out, grillo7 of Kenai, Alaska -- you're GOING DOWN!

Ahem. Of course, it's not all fun and games. For some unexplicable reason, the editors decided to pull my review of this decidedly presidential work. I can't imagine why:

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
A masterpiece of semiotics -- and phonics, August 20, 2004
"My Pet Goat," the story at the physical and spiritual center of this collection of stories for the emerging semiotician, is at once more and less than the sum of its parts. When the narrator talks about the goat's propensity to eat anything in sight -- hats, capes, even Diebold records -- she perfectly embodies the spirit of the proud pet owner, willing to tolerate, even brag, about their pet's foibles. Yet when the goat -- at once both the story's protagonist and antagonist -- successfully wards off a mustachioed car thief considered an imminent threat by the narrator's avuncular, somewhat secretive father figure, one is left to wonder: Do the ends justify the means? Do they ever?

I rarely delve into the realm of the personal in my reviews, but here I must make an exception. I've often found my thoughts returning to this masterwork, only to discover that it had sparked in me a thirst for knowledge that no amount of brush clearing or pretzel consumption could quench. I am a changed person, and hopefully a better one, for having read My Pet Goat.

Damn you, uptight editors, damn you!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Here's more proof I'm a member of the liberal media power elite: Yet another nuanced letter to the editor at a newspaper I used to work for, complete with this fair and balanced headline: A Vote for Kerry is a Vote for Satan.

Here's my favorite part:

John Kerry says he "believes in a higher power". I wonder who that is?

He says his parents have "passed on." I wonder where to?

Wow. When the Styx Ferryboat Veterans for Truth start running commercials, I know where they'll get their talking points.

Monday, August 23, 2004


And it seems like mine has become having some fun with the user reviews on a certain bookselling site that shall remain nameless. Maybe someday this will land me a high-paying gig at the New York Review of Books, or, more likely, as a minimum-wage adjunct instructor at the Sally Struthers Correspondence School of Comparative Lit (right down the hall from the classes in gun repair.)

Of course, these reviews are purportedly vetted by editors, so there are some limits to what actually gets posted. Consider this well-reasoned, yet unjustly censored, critique of a book that's gotten a little attention of late.

Poor plotting muddles a good war yarn (3 of 5 stars)

Now, I'm as much of a fan of a good war story as the next guy -- I think
I've seen the epic "Heartbreak Ridge" at least 30 times, and I still cheer
every time the troops burst into the medical student's shower stall. But
this muddle of a book has me, quite frankly, a bit disappointed. First, I
thought the protagonists of war stories are supposed to be rugged,
salt-of-the-earth types -- tough but loveable characters like the Duke in
the "Sands of Iwo Jima", or even Ted Dansen's brief yet memorable role as a
lost army lieutennant in "Saving Private Ryan". Yet this book's main
character is portrayed as a self-serving, deceitful elistist who shows
little regard for anyone but himself. For that reason, I find it hard to
feel much empathy when he is wounded, ultimately winning three Purple
Hearts. Whoops, there goes the book's emotional core. Second, where is the
enemy in this book? To "sell" a war story to a large audience, there must be
at least some characterization of the enemy as evildoers, or otherwise
deserving of scorn. Yet the Viet Cong are really only a bit player in this
particular tale, leaving the reader wondering why various members of our own
military are throwing claims and counterclaims at each other. What's their
motivation, really? That's the kind of question that doesn't get asked in
"The Deer Hunter."