Tuesday, October 31, 2006

John Kerry's "botched joke."

Kerry delivered a speech to college students in California today and opened with this:

"You know, education -- if you make the most of it, you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

He's refusing to apologize, though he called the remark a "botched joke" meant for the president. Here's what he was supposed to say:

"I can't overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq."

He was supposed to make a joke at the president's expense, and ended up calling American troops lazy and uneducated. That is one huge Freudian slip.

"Promisekeepers on crack."

Eileen Finan of Newsweek reports on a group of Christian men who meet together and "let guys be guys."

'"In most churches, you'll see flowers and ferns at the front," says Stine. "That's saying," This is a place that a woman has composed." So GodMen sought to create a place where men could admit to flaws without being judged bad Christians and be unapologetically male, including plenty of rock and roll and sex talk."'

Flower arrangements mean "a woman composed this?" What? That's horribly sexist. And talking about sex and rock and roll is "unapologetically male?"

Of course there are differences between men and women, but asserting them like this strikes me as wrong the same way militant feminism does. Both -- aggressive feminists and these men -- are over-expressing certain attributes, asserting how important they are and how they shouldn't be ashamed of those characteristics. We should be past this by now.

Blotter cry fo' help of the week:

"I have a problem. It's my rock. I needs help." (Charleston City Paper)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Borat comes out this weekend. College of Charleston gave out free passes to see an advanced screening of the movie a few weeks ago, which I attended and wrote about here. It opens nationwide this weekend, so critics' reviews are coming out now along with a deluge of TV ads. The ones I've seen prominently feature a quote from Entertainment Weekly: "Borat: Funniest movie ever?"

New York Magazine's David Edelstein frets over the "squirm comedy" aspect of the film: making the audience laugh at the discomfort and embarrassment of an actual person. Edelstein has a point. The people who interacted with Borat didn't know what they were signing up for, and their responses are actual humiliation, not acting. Or maybe we're laughing because we're embarrassed for ourselves. The people represent a cross section of Americans from all over the nation in all different industries, so the audience is sure to relate to at least one of them. I squirmed when the road-tripping USC fraternity boys in the movie delivered their drunken racist and sexist rants, because I know guys like that. Guys from that walk of life are some of my closest friends, and their prejudices were being exposed.

Scott Renshaw at the Charleston City Paper thinks the movie succeeds because of Sacha Baron Cohen's dedication to the character of Borat. Once you've seen the film, that statement is difficult to argue with.

Does access to porn prevent rape?

Steven Landsburg asserts that internet access to porn prevents rape. This is wholly against conventional wisdom and the conservative argument that porn puts misogynistic images in a person's mind, making them more likely to act out the things they see on screen. However, Landsburg quotes some convincing statistics:

"A 10 percent increase in Net access yields about a 7.3 percent decrease in reported rapes. States that adopted the Internet quickly saw the biggest declines."

I'd be interested to see the study that these numbers came from. And even if the studies do confirm that there's a correlation, that's not evidence that access to internet porn causes instances of rape to decline. The classic example that professors use to reinforce the difference between correlation and causation deals with ice cream and crime. Ice cream consumption and crime rates both generally go up during the summer, but does that mean that ice cream causes people to commit crimes? Obviously not.

But the connection between porn and rape is much more substantial than anything connecting ice cream and crime. Although I'm not fully convinced of his argument, it is plausible.

Monday, October 30, 2006

O'Reilly v. Letterman: Round 2

Bill O'Reilly came back for round 2 on Letterman last night. I didn't watch it last night, but I did find it on YouTube today. There's some genuine animosity here.

Andre Bauer fundraiser on Thursday.

The Charlestonian is an organization that meets weekly for different social and networking events. My friend and coworker (ok, I'm a receptionist in his office, but I can still say "coworker") Scott Key founded it two years ago, and there are now over 6,000 people on the mailing list.

Scott put together a fundraiser for Lt. Governor Andre Bauer's re-election campaign. It's at the Harbor Hilton at Patriot's Point from 6-8:00 this Thursday, Nov. 2. There will be a wine tasting and Lt. Gov. Bauer will be there; it'll be a great chance to meet Andre and people involved in local politics and business.

I also think it's important for college students to be active in community events. Too many people my age (I'm 21) are intimidated by situations like this, but by this time we should be comfortable socializing with people older than us. If we're not comfortable talking to people older than us, who'll speak for my generation in the long run? Besides, we're seniors in college, and we'll have to do this next year anyway.

I'll probably be there early, so give me a call.

Since tomorrow is Halloween...

...you'll have to tolerate a few more creepy posts.

The Stranger's Dan Ruisi discusses the moral dilemmas involved with taking a job at "Bodies: The Exhibition," the traveling museum of preserved corpses.

"This man was stunning when he was alive."

I almost passed out at the Holocaust museum -- I would not survive this exhibit.

Katie's Revenge

A ten year old girl named Katie was murdered, and Katie's killer was put in the same prison as her cousin.

Ready for the creepiest part?

Katie's cousin forcibly tattooed "Katie's Revenge" on her killer's forehead.

Red Bull and teenagers.

Fox News has an article speculating on the amounts and dangers of energy drink use by teens. New brands are being created daily, and the drinks aren't regulated by the government.

There's no evidence that these drinks are actually dangerous, although nasty side effects can make you feel sick for a few hours. I "overdosed" on caffeine once studying for an exam by drinking too many coffees with extra espresso in a row, and although it didn't hurt me in the long run, I was nauseated and shaky for 5 or 6 hours.

Energy drinks are self-limiting in a way. The website www.energyfiend.com has a calculator where you enter your weight and favorite energy drink, and it tells you how many you'd have to drink for it to be deadly. I'd have to drink 115 Red Bulls to kill myself, according to the Energy Fiend calculation. I'd be shaky and sick to my stomach after 3, so that's not going to happen.

Since the "deadly amount" of these drinks is so impossibly high for normal people, and because caffeine causes people to be nauseated way before that point, energy drinks sound like the safest way to consume caffeine. Even if some reckless teenager drank as many as they could in a row, they'd be vomiting way before the toxic point. Caffeine pills would be a more logical target of ominous articles like this one.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Expats and art.

Rolf Potts muses that expats seem to be all talk about art and writing when very little quality art and literature actually results:

"If you're a self-styled bohemian writer, however—if you aspire to live the life of a Henry Miller or a Charles Bukowski—you are by definition obligated to seek a seedy variation of authenticity. You can't settle for video games and fan conventions. To truly embrace your fantasies, you must actively booze, brawl, and womanize until you've achieved something resembling oblivion. And if you don't have the money, courage, or social cachet to do this in your hometown, moving overseas to indulge your inner misanthrope is a sensible and time-honored solution. In nearly every expat setting I've visited as a traveler—from Prague to Phuket to Porto-Novo—there seems to be this notion that being a writer has more to do with drinking and screwing than actually writing."

There does seem to be a prevalent idea in creative circles along the lines of "If only I could have extraordinary experiences, I could be a great writer." (or artist, etc.) But if you're actually talented, you should be able to take "ordinary" experiences and express them in captivating ways. It's more challenging to take an interesting photograph of a house in Kansas than a beach in Greece.

Obligatory pop-culture reference: the 2002 movie Orange County is a (surprising) source of commentary on this subject. [SPOILER ALERT] The main character decides to stay at home and go to community college so he can be with his friends and family instead of attending Stanford.

I'm a huge advocate of travel and being independent. I think it's vital to get out on your own and test yourself, to have solitary experiences. But Potts does have a point: extraordinary experiences do not always, or even often, translate into extraordinary art. Talent and practice are needed for that.

Ahoy maties!

Did you dress up for Halloween this weekend? I'm wondering when I'll be too old to dress up. Probably when my friends stop throwing Halloween parties, which I hope will be never.

I have a firmly-held belief that Halloween costumes should not be sexual. Scary and funny are fair game, but not sexual. Yes, I am staunchly anti-sexy (slutty) Halloween costumes. Because of that, I steer clear of costume stores and usually put one together from the thrift store dollar-bin. Last night I was a pirate, and laughed a hearty pirate laugh at the shivering girls dressed as sexy nurses. Sorry to break it to you, but blue skin and icy hands are not sexy. Hey, those girls were accidentally scary! Maybe their costumes did succeed after all.

Guess the political party and win.

"What Tennesseans will get will be a Jesus-loving, gun-supporting believer that families should come first, that taxes should be lower and America should be strong. When Tennesseans send us to the Senate, that's what they'll get in my votes and that's what they'll get in the kind of leadership that we have not had in the Senate over the last six years."

Democrat Harold Ford or Republican Bob Corker?

I'll give you a minute.

You're wrong. It was Democrat Harold Ford in a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Party Politics

Drudge has a good synopsis of the allegations flying in the Virginia Senate campaign between incumbent Sen. George Allen (R) and his challenger Jim Webb (D). This is an incredibly strange campaign because Webb has written several books that contain racy material. I haven't read his books, so the passages might be appropriate in context, but out of context they really do sound strange and creepy.

Don't write novels if you're planning to run for office.

Party Crashing

Wonkette crashed the party (opening? celebration? publicity stunt?) for John Ashcroft's book, "Never Again."

A party with John Ashcroft? Sounds like a wild and crazy time.

Party Schools

Ann Althouse is a law professor at the University of Wisconsin law school in Madison, and she has a great blog that I read daily. The police in Madison are planning (CNN) how to deal with the college and law students who have, in the past, celebrated Halloween in a mob of up to 100,000 people. Playboy named it the number one party school in the nation this year, a distinction which its students have hailed and administrators condemned.

It must be a mixed blessing for colleges to make the lists of top party schools. They usually don't keep their party-school designation for more than 2 or 3 years in a row because money is thrown at the police and campus security forces to crack down on partying, but free publicity isn't a bad thing.

"I guess I could sing..."

Ever do karaoke?

"I've never had the opportunity to be in a room where there was a karaoke setting, but I guess I could sing..."
-Aretha Franklin at the Americans for the Arts National Arts Awards at Cipriani, NYC

"I am more touched than a congressional page."

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is (apparently) cured of a rare disease.

British twins are born with different skin colors.

One was born with black skin, one with white. The mother is of mixed heritage, and the father is white. (MSNBC)

Friday, October 27, 2006

At least Cheney didn't shoot anyone this time.

The VP is in Charleston tonight for a fundraising event, and apparently several roads were closed for security reasons around the venue. I was just listening to the traffic report on the radio and people were calling in, ranting about how insensitive Cheney was for "waiting until 5:30 on a Friday to come to Charleston." The rants were funny, but I don't think this visit will help the SC Republican party much. Those people were pretty angry.

CNN has a new feature that summarizes the content of news stories in bullet form above the article. Above this article on Cheney's recent remarks on torture, the summary doesn't do much to clarify the content:
Story Highlights
• VP Cheney agrees in interview it's OK to dunk terrorists in water to save lives
• White House rejects accusations that statement endorses "water boarding"
• Rights group says Cheney statement is a "clear endorsement"
• President Bush: "This country doesn't torture"


I am thrilled about this 80's revival thing that is happening right now. If I had $89 I'd buy these sunglasses.

Rumors on the internets.

President Bush uses The Google to look up rumors on the internets.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Question of Priorities.

I have an op-ed in the GSO that came out today. Since it's out already and they don't update the website regularly, I can reprint the whole thing.

When I was a little kid, I was told by the big kids in my neighborhood that "snipes" were small creatures living in the woods which could be caught with plastic grocery bags. I begged them to let me come along when they set out "snipe hunting" one night, and stood bravely with my "snipe trap" (plastic bag), ready to catch one of the furry critters. I finally realized that snipes didn't exist after I was left alone in the dark woods for half an hour, the big kids safe inside their warm houses a block away. I had been the victim of a dirty trick.

The Charleston city council defines "snipe" a bit differently. According to the "Snipe Sign Ordinance" passed by the council, snipes are "leaflets, handbills, posters, flyers, announcements or any other advertising and informational materials that are tacked, nailed, posted, pasted, glued or otherwise attached to trees, poles, stakes, fences, buildings, or other objects" Snipes are illegal, and the fine assessed for each flyer is $1087.00 -- or up to 30 (THIRTY!) days in jail.

I am quite positive that there are criminals in our city more deserving of jail time than the mediocre band posting flyers about their weekend gig at the Music Farm.

Violent crime in Charleston is soaring. In the first half of 2006 there were 13 homicides -- more than any other full year in the past decade. When was the last time you went a week without finding a Community Watch Alert in your Edisto email account detailing the robbery or assault of a fellow student? The city council must be partaking in the crack that is abundant in Charleston ghettos for them to conclude that colored pieces of paper deserve their attention now, when the murder rate is on track to double 2005's.

In a warning letter to the community, Sgt. Dan Riccio ominously declared that the city will "...increase our enforcement of the laws applicable to this type of illegal activity and will prosecute violators of these laws." Police officers will enforce the ordinance, handing out tickets for those sinister enough to engage in the "illegal activity" If you hadn't read the first part of this article, you might have thought this paragraph was about drug dealers or, say, car thieves.

So the city council has given officers, whose plates are already full from dealing with real crimes, the extra duty of saving our city from the "visual blight" of illegal flyers? They have to be kidding.

Even at the local level, public policy is a game of allocating resources. Time and attention spent enforcing laws in one area diverts it from another. By passing this ordinance, the City Council has failed miserably at their primary job: appropriately prioritizing the needs of Charleston citizens.

Is keeping Charleston litter-free a good thing? Sure. Should it be a current priority? Absolutely not. There are much more pressing concerns in Charleston right now for the city council to be snipe hunting.

The news is boring me.

I need some frivolity, and I'm sharing it with you.

Learn how a restaurant critic stays slim (NY Magazine.) The last two restaurants I worked at gave the servers food every once in a while, and on those lucky days I freaked out the kitchen staffs by jumping up and down in response to particularly wonderful dishes. I've learned to contain my enthusiasm (physically), but expressing it as a food critic is on my list of dream jobs. (Tip: the key to my heart lies in an astonishingly good creme brulee.)

Michael Agger thinks the iPod wasn't all that revolutionary: "[Steven] Levy, a senior editor at Newsweek, is a prime example of the boomers who think the iPod is revolutionary. But really, they're grateful, because it's made them feel cool again. " IPods have made it a lot easier, and more common, for people to be in their own little worlds no matter where they are. It's increased the amount of time that we spend listening to music, but it also made music more of a solitary experience. A concert is a communal experience; iPod listening is not.

More on the border fence.

Media bias:

"President Bush signed a bill Thursday authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, hoping to give Republican candidates a pre-election platform for asserting they're tough on illegal immigration." (CNN)

Does CNN have a mind-reader on staff? How could they know this? It's believable that the president wanted to help Republicans in the midterm elections, but CNN is positioning this as his primary motivation. It's plausible, but it's purely speculation.

An assertion of speculative political motivation has no place in a news article, unless the article is reporting on the response of others to the particular action. If this had said "Critics say the president was hoping to give Republican candidates a pre-election platform for asserting..." then it would be (appropriate) reporting on the response.

Anyway, some of the issues here:

-National security and a country's right to regulate its borders.
-The PR angle: Does the US want to be seen as a fenced-in country? What will this do to our relationship with the Mexican government?
-The money: Is this the most efficient way to secure the border? Will it even work? Could the money be better used elsewhere?
-Is this closet racism or classism? There's no proposal to build a fence on the Canadian border, where (theoretically) the same threat exists (people or materials crossing the unregulated border illegally.)

There are many other issues involved, and feel free to comment.

I was in San Diego this summer, in the area where much of the fencing will go. The only regulation on the border going into Mexico was a red light that turned green when you paid a toll.

"Ours is a nation of immigrants. We're also a nation of law."

"Unfortunately the United States has not been in complete control of its borders for decades. Therefore illegal immigration has been on the rise." -President Bush (BBC link.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Politics is dirty, kids.

An ad for Democrat Claire McCaskill's Senate campaign in Missouri features Michael J. Fox swaying from the effects of Parkinson's disease while he talks about stem cell research. Treatment of Parkinson's is likely to benefit from the expansion of stem cell research, which is currently not federally funded.

Political ads using emotional issues like this seem exploitative to me. They always seem exploitative to the opposing party -- Republicans are expressing their "outrage" over this one, Dems do the same when Republicans use 9/11 images in their ads. But the ads aren't going away anytime soon, because people act based on their emotions. This type of campaign ad is effective. Should it be?

South Carolina's own Marriage Amendment.

The Charleston City Paper has a great article on the proposed "Marriage Amendment" that would ban gay marriage. The strange part is that SC already has a law that states:

"A marriage between persons of the same sex is void ab initio and against the public policy of this state."

"Ab initio" means "from the beginning." So the amendment would double-ban gay marriage. If you're voting in South Carolina, you'll get your chance to vote on it. Do your research.

The US and freedom of the press.

Reporters Without Borders publishes a list every year ranking countries by how much freedom the press has. The US began at number 17 in 2002, but this year is ranked number 53. We're tied with Tonga, Croatia and Botswana.

"The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

"Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year."


"Borat tricked me!"

Newsweek follows up on the "regular" people who appeared in Borat and their reactions as they find out they're in a soon-to-be blockbuster movie. The Explainer describes the release forms they signed, and how the crew convinced them to sign away their rights to sue. Linda Stein was one of those people, and tells her story in more detail here.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Stay the course."

Thank goodness the Bush administration is tossing this phrase. For too long they made it seem like the only two choices were "stay the course" or "cut and run." Give us a real plan now, please.

When religious practices and societal customs collide.

Anne Applebaum compares the controversy over Islamic women wearing a full veil in London to her experience as a college kid in Bali. She says that she dressed according to Indonesian custom, in a full length sarong, when she visited Balinese temples. Applebaum argues that the same logic should apply to Islamic women in London: dress according to societal customs.

She's ignoring a major part of the issue. It would be a violation of their religious doctrine for Islamic women in London to dress like most Brits. Applebaum wearing a sarong while visiting temples wasn't a violation of any fundamental belief; it was just different from what she'd normally wear.

Wearing a full veil in western societies is troublesome for other -- more significant -- reasons, and the argument for un-veiling deserves a better representation than this.

Bowen's Island restaurant burned down.

This restaurant was one of my favorites in Charleston. It was actually outside of Charleston, down a winding dirt road on a small island. You ordered seafood in a shack, ate it on a picnic table on the dock and paid afterwards in cash. It had one of the most beautiful views of any restaurant I've ever seen.

"The dingy interior, with its graffiti-filled walls, nickel jukebox, collection of old television sets and no-frills service, struck a chord with generations of patrons who came again and again for the crusty ambience and mouth- watering oysters."

Psychology in advertising (and faulty logic.)

Wray Herbert in Newseek discusses the use of psychology in advertising, specifically the ways advertisers aim for emotional responses in viewers. Cravings, feelings of attraction or just irrationally liking something pushes consumers to buy more often than reasonably weighing options does. He begins by describing an imaginary situation:

"Imagine that I have $100 and I offer you $20 of it, no strings attached. You'd take it, right? Any fool would; it's a windfall. But imagine further that you know I must give away part of my $100 or lose it all. All of a sudden my motives aren't entirely altruistic, but I'm still offering you free money. Take it or leave it, but no negotiation allowed.

Would your response change? I'd still take the money.

"If you were like a lot of people who have answered these questions in a psychological experiment over the years, you would now feel conflicted. Many of these people actually walked away from the deal, even though it would have meant a no-strings-attached twenty bucks in their pockets. Why? Because the arrangement is fundamentally unfair, and once you know this your basic sense of moral indignation clicks in. Your emotions and principles trump your pure rationality.

Why is the arrangement "fundamentally unfair?" We had no right to any of the money in the first place. Not receiving something we didn't deserve to begin with isn't "fundamentally unfair." And "the arrangement is fundamentally unfair" is a logical statement explaining the reaction. If the reaction can be explained rationally, then the statement "Your emotions and principles trump your rationality" can't be true.

The conclusion to the article is just the opposite:

"Despite remarkable progress in understanding the brain's anatomy and biochemistry, the organ is far too complex an array of interconnected circuits to be that easily manipulated with simple subliminal stimuli."

This tactic of beginning with a premise and arguing against it is often effective, but I cannot stand faulty logic. Far too many people read pieces like this and skim over the gaps -- which is why columnists keep getting away with it.

Universitas Civilitas

Helen VanWagoner and I went to high school together (at the Christian school in Annapolis, MD which I blogged about here) and she's a fellow College of Charleston senior. She interned this past summer for the State Department at the American embassy in The Hague and is studying this semester at Oxford.

She's also the yin to my yang.

As my closest friend and (like myself) a political science major, it's fortunate that her interest is in foreign policy whereas mine is in US politics; otherwise there might be some unpleasant competition. Luckily there is none, and she has a blog on international affairs that is much more detailed and dependable than the international coverage you'll find here.

If you read both of us, you'll be an incredibly informed citizen.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"Ibrahim Dimson and Edmund Duhaney both could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they're sentenced January 29."

For murder? Assault? Insider trading? Bank robbery, car theft?

For plotting to steal Coca-Cola secrets and sell them to PepsiCo. (Quote from CNN.com)

Coca-Cola headquarters are in Atlanta, and Coke people take the business quite seriously. I have a friend who descends from the Coca-Cola family, and when she was in kindergarten her teacher heard her tell a friend that she "knew a cuss word."

The word?

"Shhhh....It's Pepsi!"

Human remains found at the WTC site.

Multiple fragments of human remains were found on Sunday at ground zero of the World Trade Center site. The families of victims called for reconstruction to stop at the site until all the human remains are found, but Mayor Bloomberg has said that the construction will continue.

It has to, doesn't it? To stop it would be to give in once again, to halt normal activity because of terrorists. Proper respect for these people is for life to go on. Remember, the construction that the families are trying to halt is for a memorial to these victims.

Dirty tricks.

Dirty, political tricks using -- gasp! -- the internet. (Time.com)

The slacker's guide to voting.

This is an AARP website intended to help seniors get more information about the candidates in their districts. It's set up well -- very easy to navigate -- and it links to the candidates' homepages by state and district. It's so easy, in fact, that it works for lazy college kids and apathetic voters as well as seniors.

If you don't know who you're voting for yet, take a look.

Does sleep deprivation constitute torture?

Even after the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (the "torture bill") was passed, the guidelines are still not clear. (Newsweek)

"Now I have to tell them that they can't have a gingerbread man and they can only have a ginger person."

Bakeries in the UK have renamed their gingerbread men as "gingerbread persons" to "accommodate modern sexual sensibilities." Are they saying 'modern sexual sensibilities' prohibit identifying people as male or female? That's clearly not accurate. We may be breaking down traditionally restrictive gender roles, but it's hardly restrictive to name cookies or cartoon characters as male or female.

Hmmm...French would have been a lot easier to learn if nouns were gender-neutral. I wonder what they would do if the world saw gender labels as offensive.

Have anything to contribute or want to be linked to from here?

Send me an email with the link to your site or what you want to contribute. Senichols@gmail.com .

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blogs in the GSO.

Katie Abney, one of my brilliant editors, wrote an article for the Life section of the GSO about blogs. Enjoy: they're cooler than you thought.

Poor Madonna.

What a PR debacle this adoption has been for Madonna. First she's accused of pulling strings to get around adoption laws, and now the father of the boy (who was living in an orphanage) says that he didn't understand the process. The father is illiterate and apparently didn't understand the court papers he signed.

"I was never told that adoption means that David will no longer be my son... If I was told this, I would not have allowed the adoption. I want more clarification on the adoption. I would prefer that David goes back to the orphanage where I can see him any time I want, rather than send him away for good."

One would think that Madonna's entourage would have taken care of these details like, say, getting the father's consent before adopting a child. Or maybe adopting an actual orphan.

Ice Cream: Part II

I wasn't the only person who liked this song on the Intel commercial. I have a meter to track visits and the Google searches that lead people here, and right now my number one is people looking up the lyrics to Ice Cream by the New Young Pony Club (which I wrote about here.)

"I can give you what you want
I can make your heart beat short
I can make you ice cream
We could be a sweet team..."


I was wondering when the copyright infringement lawsuits would begin for YouTube. The suits will be endless unless a clear agreement is reached and standards enforced on the hugely successful site. I hope it's in a way that doesn't take all the fun out of YouTube.

The Panama Canal

There's a referendum being voted on today in Panama on whether or not to expand the (technically) continent-spanning canal. Will Panamanians agree to it?

Here we go...

Into the age when money, as in physical paper money, won't matter. Eventually it's all going to be abstract numbers in your bank account when you log into BofA on your computer and use from your debit or credit card.

But aren't business required by law to take your cash? It says on the bill that the cash is "legal tender for all debts, public and private."

As it turns out, businesses are not required to take cash, and some businesses are already switching over to plastic-only. It does make sense -- it's a liability to have all that cash inside a store. Why not let the banks do all your accounting for you?

"But some people like paying with cash. They like tangible-ity (made up word) and being able to see their purchases paid for out of their own pockets." That objection doesn't hold much weight. Since when has the market followed the strongly-held view of a minority? The market is going to do what is most profitable, what protects their bottom line. Also, consumers are getting more and more comfortable paying with plastic; it's pretty much the norm already. Goodbye cash...


I pick my favorite Postsecret every week and post it here. Postsecret is updated every Sunday.

Watch out, Atlanta.

How would you feel if you knew John Mark Karr had moved into your neighborhood? He hasn't been convicted of anything. Yet.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

"There's a reason this alt-weekly prefers to hang out in dangerous gray areas with a joint dangling from its mouth..."

"...it's a stance, however adolescent-seeming, that can lead to greater insight. It courts greater punishment, too."

This is from Jen Graves' commentary on the recent conflict of interest scandal at The Stranger.

John Roberts in Charleston

I wrote a piece for the GSO that will be out this week on the Chief Justice's visit to Charleston. I realized while writing this that I really don't like purely news reporting. You have to sift out opinion and anything about what the event meant, its significance or interpretation of Roberts' remarks. What's left is just a recording of the event, statement of fact. I'm not saying it's easy to do news writing; it's actually quite difficult (if not impossible) to completely remove opinion when you're writing. However, I do think that analysis is more important.

Usually I write for the op-ed section of the GSO, but I volunteer to do news pieces every once in a while. From now on I'll try to stick to op-ed.

Here's the full text:

Chief Justice John Roberts in Charleston

The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Roberts Jr., paid a visit to Charleston’s Gailliard Auditorium on Friday. Senator Lindsey Graham introduced the Chief Justice, who then answered questions from a panel of several area residents associated with the Charleston School of Law.

Included on the panel were US Court of Appeals Judge for the Fourth Circuit William Wilkins, US District Judge Patrick Michael Duffy, Charleston School of Law Professor John L.S. Simpkins and third-year Charleston School of Law student Ashley Rockwell. The auditorium was almost full to capacity with Charleston area lawyers, law students and a few lucky College of Charleston students whose professors made it possible for them to attend the event, which was not open to the public.

Chief Justice Roberts gave brief opening remarks, then the panel began asking questions. In the first question, Chief Judge Wilkins asked Chief Justice Roberts if he thought the confirmation process for US Supreme Court justices should be reformed. The process, which involves marathon questioning sessions of the nominee by the Senate, had been notoriously harsh in Chief Justice Roberts’ case. Roberts good-naturedly replied “Well, it’s worked pretty well recently.” before acknowledging that much of the questioning process had been unnecessary. Since the nominee is usually a judge in a lower court and judges are barred from commenting on cases that are currently being considered, the nominee is put in the awkward position of refusing to answer questions posed by the congressmen about those cases.

Since assuming his position in September of 2005, Chief Justice Roberts has tried to move the court away from split decisions and towards more unanimous rulings. In answering a question from Professor Simpkins, the Chief Justice emphasized his view that unanimity is desirable in every decision, not just in constitutional law cases.

Professor Simpkins also asked the Chief Justice what distinguishes the US judicial branch from other countries’ court systems. Roberts answered that the legal -- as opposed to political -- nature of the US Constitution goes great lengths to protect the US system from partiality. Every case is decided using the same reasoned steps, no matter what the issue is. He also spoke about the importance of having a single Supreme Court that decides all kinds of cases using the same basis for reasoning.

The event closed with the unveiling of a portrait of Senior US District Judge Sol Blatt, Jr. The portrait was painted by Michael Del Priore and will hang in the Charleston School of Law.

Judicial activism.

Ann Althouse has an insightful op-ed in today's Washington Post titled "No Exit: Judicial activism is inevitable."

Fun with puns.

Sharon (5:53:00 PM): so registration for spring is coming up, and I get to take a lot of fun classes
Sharon(5:53:12 PM): I only have to take 2 more to finish my majors, so i'm taking like tennis and sailing
Eric (5:53:16 PM): nice
Sharon (5:53:21 PM): and either a music class or human sexuality
Eric (5:53:28 PM): human sexuality
Eric (5:53:33 PM): sounds productive
Eric (5:53:36 PM): no pun intended

"Obviously, people are talking about whether I will or should be running for president, and I’m flattered by that.”

Said Hillary Clinton during her first debate with the challenger for her senate seat in NY. MSNBC has this quote as the centerpiece of an article with the headline "Clinton acknowledges she's thought of '08 [presidential] run." -- but that quote doesn't add up to an acknowledgement that she's considered running. Of course she has thought about it, and probably is planning on it, but misleading headlines are a dirty way to get people to read an article. And I fell for it.

"German prisoners have no obligation to agree to leave jail before their sentences have been completed."

An inmate turns down several offers of freedom to stay in prison.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gossip and Booze

Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette has been getting a ton of (apparently) un-earned coverage. Almost every review I've read has been mixed, but I still want to see it.

I have a confession.

A few years ago I coached at a basketball camp for kids. My team was 8-10 year old boys, some of them intense Spiderman fans. I was told, over and over, "Hey, you're Spiderman's girlfriend!" Ever since then I've gone to see every Kirsten Dunst movie, so I can re-affirm that I don't look like her.

I don't, right?

This is The Stranger's review, from which the title of this post is stolen, and here's New York Magazine's review, which is actually quite kind. Premiere reviewed it as well.

Does this count as child abuse?

Cheap, political, hilarious Halloween costumes for kids. I just might use one of these ideas for myself.

Look how smiley the kids are -- that makes it extra creepy.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

John Roberts Day.

Tomorrow is Chief Justice John Roberts Day, and I'm not missing it to be in the library like I missed the Mayor's talk tonight.

Tomorrow is also D-Day, as in the day when LSAT scores come out.

Yeah, I'm gonna sleep well tonight.

Fun with text messaging.

Text conversation with Drew tonight, while I was seriously preoccupied with Jon Stewart:

Drew: Unitarian Universalism is going to save the world, look into it. Also Emersonian theories of originality and genius- interesting stuff.
Me: You're always the optimist Drew. It's almost endearing.
Drew: A realist, not an optimist- it's not so much in a religious capacity but in that its philosophy works toward being able to peaceably blend different religions within a single culture without violating the beliefs of any. And you know we're gonna blow ourselves to hell if something doesn't enable that.

Normal people use text messages for short thoughts and making plans, like "My house at 8." Philosophy majors aren't normal.

Also, last night I talked about John Ashcroft on The Daily Show, and the clip is here.

Steve Wynn destroyed a Picasso with his elbow.

Las Vegas millionaire Steve Wynn had just made a deal to sell his original Picasso for $139 million when he poked a hole in it with his elbow while telling what had to be the greatest story ever told at a cocktail party. No, really. He poked a hole in his Picasso while telling a story at a party.

I bet he was telling a story about how his painting La Reve (The Dream) would set a new record as the highest private art sale ever, $4 million more than the Klimt sold earlier this year. It's too bad that story didn't end happily ever after -- the sale is off now.

The Explainer Daniel Engber tells how it could possibly be mended.

NBC decides not to indulge Madonna.

The network is airing Madonna: The Confessions Tour on November 22. The 2-hour show includes Madonna's usual tactic of demanding attention by doing something offensive, then explaining it away in a statement released by her rep. This time, she hangs on a cross adorned with disco-ball style mirrored pieces while wearing a crown of thorns. NBC, however, decided to cut to other shots of the show while she does her mock crucifixion.

Speaking of YouTube...

...Troy Patterson argues that YouTube is like porn.


I ended up not making it Mayor Riley's talk tonight. I have a paper due tomorrow and stayed at the library to get that done.

I live an exciting life, let me tell you.

Here's his bio on the College website. If I can find it, I'll post a YouTube clip from the speech.

Coming soon:

Chief Justice John Roberts will be in Charleston tomorrow to speak to the law school and take part in a panel discussion. Senator Lindsey Graham will introduce him and say a few words as well. The event is only open to the law school and Charleston lawyers, but I'm in one of Judge Carr's classes (I'm in my senior year at CofC and he teaches a few sections at the college) and he worked it out so that his students could attend.

Also, tonight Mayor Riley is speaking at the College. I'll attend both events and post something about them tonight or tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

John Ashcroft on The Daily Show

He has a book coming out called "Never Again." Isn't that a statement associated with the Holocaust? That seems horribly exploitative to me.

I am, however, impressed with how articulate Ashcroft is. He seems more at ease than Bush would be in interviews like this (though I know Bush would never go on The Daily Show as president.)

Ashcroft on torture: "You play louder music in here than they do at...[Gitmo!]"

Project Runway Finale


Uli should have won.

I'm bitter.


I have never watched this show. My roommate Nicki is a fan, but I have intentionally steered clear of Lost because I've heard how addicting it could be. I do not need another TV show to watch every week.

That being said, I'm watching right now because Nicki's watching it and (regrettably) my laziness prohibits me from getting off the couch.

I thought this show was about people stranded on an island! So far I've heard references to magic, Mr. Echo the dolphin, an imploding underground hatch, a drug dealing priest and a polar bear. What kind of island is this?

Also, I think the show has some kind of magic power that makes people get physically excited when it's on: jumping, fidgeting, spontaneous yelling of things like "Locke was going to save Echo and kill BEARS!" I've also heard about paralysis and cancer being cured by the show.

Oh wait, that was on the show. I've been corrected.

The story of a North Korean defector.

Soyoung Ho of Slate traveled to South Korea and interviewed a man who escaped from North Korea and is now living in the capitalist south.

"Stephen Colbert has America by the Ballots."

I subscribe to New York magazine for articles just like this one about Stephen Colbert. In it, Adam Sternbergh compares Colbert to Ann Coulter in part of the article, and lists quotes by both without attribution so the reader can guess whether the quote was from Colbert or Coulter. It's surprisingly difficult to tell who said what; I didn't do well matching them.

Try it, maybe you'll do better than I did.

Speaking of clothes...

The Look Book: Aaliyah Taylor, Patti La Belle's stylist.

A little junk food for the mind.

I've had midterms the past two days, which means I've had very little sleep. My reward for working hard: goofing off at work by indulging in some junk food for the brain.

Like looking at the Project Runway collections and predicting who will win. My choice is Uli. I'm partial to beachy clothes, and that's what she does best, but I also like the non-Miami clothes in her collection, like the silver minidress with long sleeves. The best piece is the green dress at the end.

Here's Laura's collection, which is different variations of lace and feathers and black and white. Some pieces are elegant, but most of it is quite boring to me. Michael's collection was so disappointing! His clothes on the show had such reach; usually he came up with something stunning, no matter what the style. His collection for fashion week is very limited. It gives off an ostentatious in-da-club vibe, like a 50 Cent video. I can see it on beautiful, rich black women, but that's about it. He was absolutely my favorite on the show, but his collection changed my mind.

And here's Jeffrey, doing his '80s rocker thing again. It's different, I guess, but none of it is attractive. Isn't that the goal? To make creative, innovative, attractive clothes?

Conclusion: Uli wins.

UPDATE: I was wrong, but at least the Fug Girls agreed with me. Congrats, Jeffrey, but I wouldn't wear your clothes. Take that.


Sunrise, sunrise
Looks like morning in your eyes

Near-death by naval piercing; mom's going to jail.

A girl in Boston almost died because her do-it-yourself belly button piercing got infected. She was 13 and wasted away on the couch for a few weeks (dropped from 115 to 75 pounds) because her mother didn't take her to the hospital.

The mom was convicted of endangering her daughter's life.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Area Woman Emotionally Invested in Jennifer Aniston's Well-Being"

Because we all need some cheer on days like these.

CBGB closes.

And I never got the chance to go! Did you know it stands (stood?) for Country, Bluegrass and Blues?

Evangelicals and the White House.

In my mind, I really pull for the good in people to come out. I generally give people the benefit of the doubt; sometimes even a little too much.

But that's just my hopeful side coming out. In reality, people are absolutely selfish. Some people do a wonderful job of thinking about others first, but only after they've overcome that first instinct to protect themselves. Especially in politics.

That's why I don't doubt David Kuo's story of how the White House views Evangelical Christians. Kuo was deputy head of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives for Bush, and is now coming out with a book about his experience. Kuo says that he doesn't doubt Bush's faith, but that the president has treated Evangelicals as a way to win elections. Here's a quote from the excerpt of the book in Time:

"...President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them."

I've had numerous discussions with my parents and others about faith and politics, and all that I've concluded is that religion and politics don't mix. I went to the Southern Baptist Convention with my dad this year and was dismayed at what I saw. The word "liberal" was being thrown around as a surrogate for "evil," and all the political talk just came across as hateful. Isn't the church supposed to care for poor and hopeless? Where in the Bible does it say that the church should slander political opponents? Where does it say the church should take political positions at all?

While there are still millions of people dying from disease and starvation in the world, churches have better things they should be doing.

I wish Evangelicals and all religious organizations would stay out of politics. Of course people have the right to organize and lobby the government, but not under the name of a church or religion. "Republican" does not equal "morally right," and the Bible doesn't belong to a political party. Reputations (and more) are damaged on both sides when churches and the government do business together.

As Helen put it, "People need to stop being so naive." But then again, David Kuo has a motive: he has book to sell.

NBC's 'Heroes' tarnishes the brand name of a garbage disposal. Forever.

Emerson Electric is suing NBC because in the first episode of their new show Heroes, a cheerleader with superpowers shoves her hand in an Emerson-made garbage disposal to show that it won't hurt her. The brand name was visible in the scene.

"But [Emerson spokesman Dan Callahan] also pointed out that, according to data from the government's Consumer Products Safety Commission, you are actually ten times more likely to get injured by your dishwasher than your garbage disposal."

It sounds like they're taking a little free publicity and using the court system to get some more. Had you ever heard of Emerson Electric before reading this?

Happy 300-Million Day.

The BBC has better coverage, and it's not as obsessive as the US news outlets. Obsessive is annoying.

"But it is not possible to say if the 300-millionth American will be born, or cross one of the country's borders. "

Monday, October 16, 2006

I just told the cashier at the grocery store that I wanted to be a pirate.

For Halloween. He looked like he was having a bad day, but he laughed when I told him that.

He laughed a little too much.

What, you don't think I could make a scary pirate?

I'll show all of you doubters. Wait and see.

"I've just got to live my life, this attention is negative..."

"...it's not something you want." -John Mark Karr, on Larry King Live. He's saying, on Larry King Live, that he doesn't want attention.

Then why give the interview?

"I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome."—Philadelphia, Dec. 12, 2005, on the reception of American forces in Iraq.

Anyone who has cameras recording their days for any significant amount of time will have some slip-ups, some statements that can be isolated and mocked. President Bush isn't just anyone. He's made comedians' jobs much easier by providing so much material.

It's his 6th year of being president. We should be used to it by now, but these are still funny to me. Jacob Weisberg has compiled the definitive Bushism list.

The HP Ads.

The only two computers I've ever owned are HPs. I'm a fan, and I love the new ads. You've probably seen them, and there's an interesting discussion of them here.

Weird dream.

I had a dream last night that was a little disturbing. I usually don't remember dreams, but this one I do, vividly.

I was traveling with a group of friends, and we were on an English speaking island somewhere near Australia. It was Sunday and we decided to go to church, but Helen had to leave to go home and the boat was leaving as church started. I went with her to the ferry and then came to church late to meet everyone. There was a line of men in suits, Secret Service style, standing in the back of the church, and for some reason I knew they worked for the government. After I sat down and everyone was singing, one of them came up behind me, and said "Next Sunday you're expected to be here, on time."

In the dream I was so angry! I turned around and said "Is it really the government's business whether I come to church?" and the guy, very sternly, said "Yes, it is." and walked to the back again.

Then my alarm clock went off, but I was angry at the government for a solid ten minutes or so until the dream wore off.

Have you ever had a dream so clear that you were angry/happy with someone in real life for what they did in the dream? I have, if only for a few minutes.

"Making men cry."

My little sister Grace is almost 16. I woke up to this IM from her:

Grace (8:56:50 PM): I read your blog and it was pretty interesting, you sound way too old though, when i read it i dont picture my 21 year old sister i picture a woman in a business suit making men cry.

300 Million

The Census Bureau says that the US will reach 300 million people at 7:46 am Eastern time on Tuesday. How can they know that? And will the parents of the 300 millionth person know about it when the baby is born? I'm assuming this means that the 300 millionth person will be born; but could it be someone moving here, or gaining citizenship, or illegally crossing the border?

CNN is making a big deal out of this. I suppose it should be a big deal- 300 million is quite the landmark. But their headline is "At 300 million, US enters uncharted territory." Every baby born or citizenship granted is "uncharted territory." There won't suddenly be a host of new needs the country has once that one baby is born.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

This picture is screaming for a caption.

Please, please somebody step in and give a caption to this picture of giant Paris and scared little girl Nicole.


It's fitting that Postsecret is updated every Sunday, when people wake up regretting the things they did Saturday night.

I like to focus on the funny secrets instead of the sad ones.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


Charleston has a book sale once a year where they sell books from the libraries that they want to take out of circulation. Paperbacks were 50 cents, hardbacks were $3.00. I walked away when it was getting difficult to carry all the books I wanted.

I bought some polisci staples: Henry Kissinger, a Bob Woodward book, the Washington Times' Starr Report. The classics: two by Faulkner, two by Hemingway, one Dostoevsky, one Salinger (NOT Catcher in the Rye). I filled out my philosophy shelf with some Aristotle and another version of the core Plato dialogues: Apology, Meno, Crito and Euthyphro. These four are almost always presented together, and when I see another version/printing that I don't own I feel compelled to get it. I have four so far. I bought a book of short stories by Jonathan Sanchez called "Fools All of Us: Tales from the White City." They're all about Charleston.

All of those, I think, were worthwhile purchases. But my favorites were several Better Homes and Gardens recipe pamphlets from the 70's and an Esquire cookbook from 1958. The Better Homes and Gardens ones have some frightening pictures of meals using jello and cheese. Microwaving is a primary cooking method, and the backgrounds are gloriously kitschy Brady Bunch kitchens.

Appetizing, no? I like these for some reason! Maybe just to look through them and gasp at what people actually found appealing. They remind me of this, Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 70's. Yum.

The Esquire book is different. It doesn't have any pictures, and it's a discussion of foods in Europe with some tips for men cooking for themselves. It's a companion for a "gentleman bachelor," because you know in the 50's if the man was married the wife would do the cooking.

Sitting on the floor.

It was a theme on Thursday. I went to a philosophy department talk on the appropriateness of teaching Intelligent Design in public schools. I arrived at 3:17 (it started at 3:15) and there were almost no seats left. There were already students sitting on the floor in the aisles, and rather than disrupt a row by making people stand while I slid past, I took a seat on the floor.

Dr. Nunan spoke mostly about the history of the ID movement, beginning with Creationism. The most interesting parts addressed what Creationists "did wrong" in terms of getting their proposed policy past the courts, and how ID advocates have changed their strategy.

Towards the end Dr. Nunan posed some questions about this issue that would have to be addressed in the future. He also recognized that although ID is often deemed outrageous by the secular world, religious parents have a legitimate concern: because school is compulsory and evolution seems to be necessary to science curriculum, shouldn't some alternative or an "opt-out" be offered as well? I enjoyed the talk, but it was more about process than ideology, so it would have been more appropriate as a political science department sponsored event.

After the talk, I met my friend Sarah and we went to see the advanced screening of Borat. We arrived half an hour early, and there was a line to the end of the parking lot. The organizers had given out too many passes! We stayed anyway, hoping for a spot, and it paid off. We were the last two people let in (have you ever had a velvet rope opened for you and then closed behind you? It's a good feeling. Then I had to remind myself that it was just a movie...)

There weren't two seats together, so we sat on the floor on the aisle. The movie was so wonderfully, universally offensive. I can't think of an ethnic/minority group that Borat didn't say something offensive about. Borat was traveling across the country, and there are a lot of his interactions with "regular" people in it. Borat would say something offensive, like an anti-Semitic comment or something about how women have smaller brains than men, and then the regular people would start their own tirades. I think some of it was acted, and the rest of the people had to sign waivers or releases, but this movie might get some people in trouble.

Here's my question: is something less offensive if it is universally offensive? Borat had demeaning views about Jews, black people, women, southerners, gay people, and almost everyone in between. Does the fact that we (the audience) can say "Oh, well he's like that about everyone." temper our personal reactions, whether or not we're offended? I don't get offended easily, especially from movies. But I can see a lot of people being offended by this one.

My recommendation: go see it. Laugh at Borat and how ridiculous he is, but don't turn this movie into an Old School-esque quote fest. That would get annoying very quickly.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Classic Colbert

I saw Borat last night, which I'll get around to posting about in a little while. I hadn't laughed that hard since I saw this, Stephen Colbert interviewing Eleanor Holmes Norton, congresswoman from DC.

"Thank you for taking time away from not voting to talk to me, congresswoman."

We all scream...

...for Ice Cream! Mary caught my mistake in the Ice Cream post and sent the link to the commercial. Either way, it's a great song. Here's the Intel commercial that made me want to look it up in the first place.

I dabble in Bad Jokes (capitalized).

This one is a philosophy joke.

"When a philosphy major graduates, he won't get a job...but at least he'll know why."

Ashlee Simpson is shrinking.

She's verging on dieting herself to a little-girl body, like Nicole Richie's done. I guess it was inevitable.

Snow is evil.

In my mind, hell is more like Buffalo, NY today than a fiery pit. I belong in the tropics, where it's still 80 degrees in October and I can wear a skirt year-round. Charleston's a ringer on both counts.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Oh, you don't have a clue what's coming.

I don't think my editor realized the extent of my outrage at this new "Snipe Ordinance" in Charleston when she agreed to let me write an opinion piece about it. Expect bitter sarcasm and evisceration (Google says that's not a real word!) of the city council.

I'm on my way to a philosophy department talk, but later tonight when I finish the article I'll post it. It'll be the unedited version, of course; I don't think they'll actually print the real article. I'll probably have to tone it down and re-submit it, but it's fun writing a first copy without censoring my thoughts.

"I can give you what you want."

The new Intel commercial has a really catchy song in it. I searched the only lyrics that were in the commercial (it's short) and found the group that the song is by. Here are the lyrics from the commercial:

"I can give you what you want
I can make your heart beat short
I can make you ice cream
We could be a sweet team..."

Recognize it now? It's by a group called the New Young Pony Club from the UK, and it's called Ice Cream. Here's the video for the song, but I couldn't find a video of the Intel commercial online. Let me know if you have more luck, I'll link to it.

It's a great song for a commercial because it demands attention, but I have to confess that I didn't remember the brand associated with it until I looked it up. So I guess the commercial as a whole isn't that effective. They need a better balance- get a song that's good, but not so good that it overshadows the product.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"I would like to make romance inside of her."

I was given free passes today to an advanced screening of Borat, which is tomorrow night. In my excitement, I came home and looked up the trailer on YouTube, which I've linked to before, but I also stumbled on a clip of Borat on Conan.

I'm typing this with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.
Charleston's "Snipe Law."

The city recently passed a law making it illegal to post flyers on public property. The fine is $1087, or 30 (THIRTY) days in jail, and it also applies to flyers ("snipes") found on sidewalks or in the street. So if someone picks up a flyer at the Music Farm and drops it accidentally, the owner of the Farm is fined for it. Keep in mind that the number of robberies, murder, and assaults in Charleston has gone up this year, but instead of funding more patrols or hiring new officers, the city has deemed it more important to fight snipes.

The city council must be partaking in the crack that is abundant in Charleston ghettos for them to conclude that colored pieces of paper pose a greater threat to the city than violent crime.

Here's the City Paper piece on it.
I am irrationally fascinated with Scientology.

It started with the Southpark episode, which you can watch here. Then I met my friend Paco and read his absurdly charming story about identity issues, "Growing up Hispy," which includes this:

"In all, I’d say I’m a fairly standard American pseudo-intellectual. Oh, and I’m Hispanic. No, no… don’t worry; keep your wallet. All that means is that I’m perennially tanned. ...I was born under the glow of the Hollywood sign in a hospital on Sunset Blvd across the street from the Church of Scientology and the L. Ron Hubbard Center for Dianetics. Let the adventure begin."

Paco lives in California, and I visited him a few months ago. We went to LA for a day, and where was the first place he took me? The L. Ron Hubbard Center for Dianetics. It's a shame we didn't
go inside; I so would have been up for getting my thetan levels measured. But seeing it from the outside was enough to make me giggle for half an hour.

I like reading about Scientology because it has so much comedic potential. I'm not a naturally funny person, but I can't help but think of all the ways Scientology could be mocked and parodied. Yeah yeah, it's not nice to mock another religion. But this one was started by a science fiction writer and includes aliens; in my head, it's fair game.

Michael Crowley has a piece in Slate today on the life of L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard's biography includes witchcraft, science fiction, living in the desert and many legal problems. Despite all this, he was able to enlist millions of people for his "religion." That's frightening testimony to the power that charismatic people have.

Here's the Wikipedia entry on L. Ron Hubbard. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The new video from Jotto: Nashville in the Winter. Look for the drummer. He's a friend from Annapolis, Kristian Almgren.
How embarrassing.

A security camera caught a prosecutor walking around a government building after hours, completely naked. It happened in Hamilton, Ohio, and the guy is facing up to a month in jail.

What made this guy think that there weren't security cameras in a government-owned building? Walk around naked in your own house next time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Norks Have Nukes: Update

North Korea effectively said "up yours" to the US when they went ahead with their nuclear test. Don't worry though; someone at CNN is getting revenge, and having a little fun while they do it. Instead of running a picture of, say, a bomb or Kim Jong Il to accompany the story, they chose one of a boy in his Halloween costume throwing a rock.

And the caption further emphasizes the middle-school recess-spat feel of CNN's portrayal: "US: We won't bend to North Korea Bullying." The Norks need a lot bigger rocks to scare us!

Congratulations, CNN, for showing a sense of humor.
I know where you live.

Not exactly, but I do have a sitemeter that shows where people are who read my blog. In the past week people in Dubai, Moscow, Singapore, Egypt and France have wasted their time reading my thoughts and rants. I checked this morning, and since I'm getting some traffic from Berkeley, here's a shout out to their student-run webpage: The Heuristic Squelch. A friend recommended it to me a while back, and there is some truly funny material there. The top ten (and five) lists are especially funny:

Top Five Pickup Lines for Poli Sci Majors
5) "Need a job? Some money? Here is half my sandwich."
4) "How 'bout you show me your Capitol Hills?"
3) "All it took was a minute of legislative analysis and you gave me this Washington Monument."
2) "What's the point of going to college when you can get a B.A. in Poli Sci?"
1) "I'm seeing U.N. me getting it on, IMFing you from behind, and NAFTA we can get some breakfast. Just don't give me USAIDs."

I realize that by declaring this funny, I'm revealing just how uncool I am...but I'm pretty comfortable with that already.
"The Norks have Nukes."

This is a series of interesting pictures of North Korea. It just seems so odd that today there are whole countries that are cut off from the rest of the world. There is no internet and no cell phones in North Korea, and almost no oil, so most labor is done by hand.

After you look at those pictures and get good and depressed, click here and laugh at the clay figure of Kim Jong-il. Making a world leader into claymation just has a way of sucking all the scariness out of him.
Jon Stewart totally reads this.

I mean, of course he does- he confirmed it the other day. Jon Stewart reads blogs.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Learn from the Friend-Making Experts.

This is in an email that was sent to students at my college today:

"Need help learning how to meet people and make more friends?
Come to a FREE mini-class and learn from the experts.

Wednesday, October 11
12-1 PM
Small Bldg., Rm 319
Feel free to bring your lunch!

Call 953-5640 for more information.
Sponsored by Counseling & Substance Abuse Services"

First of all: there are experts in friend-making? That sounds slightly creepy to me. "Come learn how to persuade people to talk and hang out with you!" Secondly, this is sponsored by the substance abuse office, which makes me think the email should read "Come learn how to make friends while you're sober!"

I'm curious to know if anyone will show up to the friend-making workshop- and if cocktails will be served. Probably not. On both counts.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Change: Postsecret.
Story time.

I was an alcoholic in high school. Well, that's what they said about me. I went to a private Christian school in Maryland where it was common practice for the faculty to "investigate" rumors they heard about the students. "There was a party at Jane's house this weekend? With alcohol? We'd better call an assembly and interrogate the students. Lord KNOWS what kind of damage was done to their souls." I drank maybe once or twice a month, which is probably half of what normal kids did. My vice wasn't drinking too much; it was being really bad at getting away with it (or really good at getting caught.) By senior year, I was having regular chats with the administration about my "alcohol problem."

For spring break of senior year, my family and a couple other families went on a cruise to Mexico together. Justin was one of my closest friends, and he had a girlfriend named Lindsay. Both of their families went on the cruise. Justin and I snuck some tequila shots when our parents weren't looking, and that fact mysteriously made it back to our principal once we were back in the states. I was effectively kicked out of student government because Lindsay, it turns out, thought something was going on between Justin and me and got her revenge by telling on me for drinking in Mexico. Good thing she's such a good Christian.

Fast forward 4 years. Last night, Justin called me. He was in Maryland on fall break and had gone to a party. A few minutes after he got there, some guys come downstairs looking for "The guy who just came in- some kid named Justin who made the girl upstairs cry."

The girl upstairs was Lindsay's little sister. She was crying because she was drunk, and because Justin "ruined" her sister's life by cheating on Lindsay with me four years ago.

This story is humorous for several reasons.

1) Justin and I have never, ever been more than just friends. Nothing happened in Mexico except illicit tequila shots and ridiculous souvenir purchases.
2) Lindsay's sister, who was driven to drunken hysterics by the sight of Justin, is underage. Nineteen, I believe.
3) I got Justin kicked out of a party in 2006 for something that didn't happen in 2003.

I'm glad my legacy is still going strong.

Justin summed it up nicely in an IM earlier today:

Justin (5:25:00 PM): ...what a loser, i can't believe i had an affair with you
Justin (5:25:38 PM): actually, i feel powerful knowing i've had such an impact on people's lives
Justin (5:26:30 PM): i mean hell, if i don't even do anything and girls' little sisters are still traumatized four years later, imagine what i could do if i TRIED to mess people up
Justin (5:26:36 PM): thats power

Justin could rule the world one day, and I'll still be riding his coattails.
"Is it weird that I'm getting a little emotionable?"

I have a strange fondness for Jessica Simpson. She sounds like she's incredibly dumb, but her stupid comments helped make her a millionaire. She invented a new word, "emotionable," at the VH1 Big in 2005 awards.

Friday, October 06, 2006

How do you feel about Friday afternoons?

This semester, I'm not working and I don't have class on Friday afternoon. I also can't get my body to cooperate and take satisfying naps anymore. So while everyone finishes up class and work for the week, I'm just waiting. I'd rather be working! I'd always rather be working than just waiting.

But I'd rather be shopping than waiting, so that's what I'm on my way to do.
Tara Reid is not a rock scientist.

Or a rocket scientist, for that matter. She accurately recognized that she was sounding dumb in an interview, and attempted to play it off by saying:

"I'm sounding worse than Jessica Simpson right now. She's sounding like a rock scientist!"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nicki's friends amuse me.

Message Nicki received tonight: "Lets get naked chug tacos it's Gage's birthday!"

"Chug tacos"? I can't decide which mental image is worse.
Pink does more than you think.

The new pepto bismol commercial is great! I think its length made me notice it: it's only long enough to make you realize what they're rapping about, then you're left to giggle through the next commercial. "Was that a pepto bismol commercial? With white guys rapping? And dancing?"

"I always think, When I die, they’ll lay me out in a casket, and who’s going to do my mustache?"

The Look Book: the attorney.

They find such eccentric-yet-cool people to profile in this section. It ignites this urge of mine to move to NYC and cultivate my own eccentric-yet-cool persona; never wear a polo shirt again. Play guitar and wear funky clothes and be too cool to care.

But what sober person, really, is too cool to care?
The rational basis for banning gay marriage.

What is it? I think the strongest argument is probably:

- The government has an obligation to act in society's best interest;
- It is in society's best interest for citizens to procreate;
- Children are more likely to be productive citizens when they're raised in homes with both a mother and a father.

But gay couples are already allowed to adopt (along with single people, etc), and surely adopted children are better off in homes with gay parents who are legally bound to each other than in a home with gay parents who aren't. A legal contract would either be neutral or increase stability; it wouldn't decrease the stability or longevity of a union.

So what's the rational basis for banning gay marriage? There's a good discussion about it here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The LSAT drained my patience supply.

I cannot study like I used to! Maybe this will go away in a few weeks, and I hope so. Lately I haven't been able to sit still and study for longer than a few hours. I have a test tomorrow in Constitutional Rights of the Accused, and it's not even that complicated -- just memorizing some cases-- but I can't make myself do it!

My plan now is to get up at 5:30 tomorrow morning and memorize them quickly. I do work better under pressure, but this is pushing it.

Wish me luck.
"Muslims to Boycott All Pope Merchandise"

From The Onion.

"We are sending a message to Rome that they cannot insult the prophet, may Allah's blessings be upon him, and if they do, we will close our hearts and our pocketbooks to their extensive line of retail products," said Pakistani cleric Sheikh Othman Malik, who spoke to an estimated crowd of 10,000 in downtown Karachi Monday. "Our only recourse is to refuse to buy anything—be it candles, incense, Pope Oaties breakfast cereal, Popeshine shampoo...'"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mark Foley is so off my buddy list.

This whole situation is horrifying. From the fact that he was an advocate for laws protecting children from pedophiles, to his "confession" today that he was molested by a clergyman as a child...didn't I see this on Law and Order once?

This is just begging to be made into an SNL skit. Or a hundred. Alex has been going crazy at Wonkette, and who can blame him? So, so much material here.

"Closet drinker." Hahaha.
Can the Amish ride in helicopters?

It depends on their ordnung.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Sharon's finally ready to talk about the LSAT.

After months of study and a 3-week pause in my social life, I took the LSAT on Saturday. It was the first step in a long process, and I'm glad it's over. Like exam week, huge tests like the LSAT create a sort of bond between people studying for them. I was in the library practically all of last week, and I met quite a few people with their Kaplan books spread out and their eyes glazed over.

I thought my primary enemy would be fatigue, that my concentration would fade and I'd become careless towards the end of the test. It is a 5+ hour ordeal. I was surprised when I found it hard to concentrate in the beginning. Worries kept creeping in, irrelevant thoughts. After the first two sections my focus returned, and I think I finished strongly. Scores come out in 2-3 weeks, so we'll see.

I feel like taking that test was an official declaration of intent. Like it's binding now: Sharon's going to law school. That's assuming I'll be accepted. If I get in, I'll continue this blog and join the flock of law school students with blogs. If I'm rejected, I'll probably keep writing anyway, but I'll have more interesting things to write about.

I'm just glad I can get back to the enjoyable tangents of senior year. Happy hour, anyone?
We should kick chaplains out of the military.

Or so James Madison said (as reported by Christopher Hitchens.) It is hard to get around the fact that chaplains are spokespeople for religion being paid by taxpayers' money. But should we deny soldiers whatever comfort they might get from talking to a chaplain or attending a religious service because of a church-and-state debate? That seems backwards. Sometimes the pragmatic concern outweighs the ideological one, and Hitchens is too caught up in the false piety of his own position to consider the effect this would have on soldiers.

He does, however, bring up an interesting point. If the military provides chaplains and/or religious services for every major religion represented, what about Muslim services that would be segregated by gender? When religious teachings interfere with military protocol or standards, the situation becomes much less clear.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Holy Photoshop!

Generally, airbrushing improves the appearance of the person in the photograph. In this case, Janet's neck was swallowed by a 1980s aerobics instructor. I guess this was the best the editing department could do with the aftermath. Jazzercise, anyone?
"Sometimes holes were cut in the paddle to make the beating more painful."

The NYT has a piece on corporal punishment in public schools. Of the 300,000 students punished by being popped with a paddle in public schools in 2002-3, seventy percent were from 5 southern states: Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. The south just doesn't like change.

I was spanked growing up. It worked, and it didn't make me any more likely to punch someone on the playground. But I would not want a school principle to touch my child, especially with a wooden board.
"You're just going to end up doing the 'walk of shame,' and that's not cute."

Fox has a video about college students have sex (via Wonkette.) Fox News' "relationship expert" even advises against spending the night afterwards. Because the walk of shame is so not cute.