Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Willie's Big Thought

Mark Steyn on Willie Nelson's "philosophy of life":

"Willie’s Big Thought seems to be that you don’t want to clutter your head with too many of them."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Irish Yoga" Dept

Don Adam provides today's reminder that all cultures are surprisingly similar even though each culture has its own unique approach to common problems. Take yoga, for example. You could take the Indian approach of years of practice and self-discipline, like this fellow.

Or you could just take the Irish approach:

Monday, November 27, 2006

"How Do I Get Into the Witness Protection Program?" Dept

That is the question being asked by the young military cadet who suffers a petite-little-cheerleader butt-kicking, reminiscent of Ryan vs. Venturi, in this video, seen now by approximately all the people in the civilized world.

That guy's life is so over. Time for the permanently assumed name.

In actuality, the cheerleader, whose name is Carrie McPhee, is herself a military cadet whose hobbies include target shooting with rifles and who is scheduled to enter the Marines as a second lieutenant upon graduation from VMI. But she doesn't look like a Marine, and it's much more fun to think of her victim as having had his butt whomped by a cute little cheerleader than as having had his butt whomped by a Marine officer.

P.S. Can't very well refer to Ryan vs. Venturi without embedding that one as well. If this happened to every batter who charged the pitcher's mound, the world would be a better place. This is because brawls in baseball almost never happen unless a batter charges the mound, but they always happend when the batter charges. If every batter thinking of charging the mound knew that the first thing people would think of whenever his name was mentioned, for the rest of his life, was, "Oh, yeah, that guy that Nolan Ryan humiliated," very few batters would charge the mound and we would have very few baseball brawls. Robin Ventura was an outstanding baseball player -- but say the name "Robin Ventura" and of the people who don't say, "Who?" nine out of ten will instantly think, "Nolan Ryan" -- and start laughing.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Onion asks: What do you think about the recent poisoning of a former KGB spy?

And Linda Koelsch, Dog Groomer, responds: "Leave it to the Bond marketing team to really up the ante for opening weekend."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We're just too nice to give you people the criticism you so richly deserve...

Now, I love the Anchoress, who is a much nicer person than I am; let's say that up front. But she just loves this A. J. Strata post, whereas what strikes me is...well, this paragraph:

Bush Conservatives not only believe in Reagan’s 11th commandment to not speak ill of fellow conservatives - we live it. From the Gang of 14, to Harriet Miers, to Dubai Ports World and to the immigration issue - there has been a brand of Republican which eschewed the 11th commandment. So let the Republicans be defined by that group - Bush Conservatives will be defined by their antithesis. Bush conservatives are not afraid of the word ‘compromise’. They despise the word ‘failure’. If there is a good idea, we do not care what party gets credit - we care that the good ideas get enacted. It is not Party uber America anymore.

See, what A. J. and the Anchoress don't grasp is that if you think somebody else is being a jerk, you cannot communicate that fact without criticizing them, and if you think the reason they are being jerks is that they are expressing criticism of people they believe to be behaving badly, you cannot express moral condemnation of them without condemning yourself. All you manage to accomplish by trying to strike a pose of being the person who is morally above the fray and therefore superior to those whom you are careful to point out are not, is to make a hypocrite of yourself in a way that fools nobody but yourself.

Look at that paragraph. Can there be any doubt whatsoever that either A. J. is an appallingly incompetent writer, or else that he intends to draw an unflattering comparison between "Bush Conservatives" like himself (or herself I suppose but I don't care either way and will just say "himself" for convenience) and That Other Kind of Conservative? And let's have no attempt by A. J. to say, "Oh, but I'm not criticizing, I'm just pointing out a factual difference; if that's how they want to be, that's fine." Anybody who feels the need to express The Other Guy's position by presenting them as valuing party above country -- and who then feels that even that insult is inadequately biting unless it is also cast into German for the sake of a clear Nazi allusion -- can try to pretend that he isn't "speaking ill" of The Other Guys, I suppose. If he wants people to think that not only is he a hypocrite, but he also thinks his readers are very very stupid indeed, that is.

I just don't think the Bush Conservatives grasp the fundamental problem with their resentment -- and it is resentment -- of conservatives who have betrayed Bush -- and Bush Conservatives do feel betrayed on Bush's behalf. A libertarianesque conservative can say that Bush is immoral for using the coercive power of the government for pseudo-charitable ends, and do so without self-contradiction: his position is that the use of government force requires better justification than that, and if he were in Bush's position he would not violate that moral principle as Bush has violated it. A conservative who values strict judicial conservatism can say that it is immoral for Bush to nominate a crony explicitly because she is "loyal" and will therefore rule as she is supposed to (which is the impression Bush's team created with the Miers debacle), and he can say that without self-contradiction: his position is that putting people on the bench who will rule out of political agendas or personal loyalties rather than strict respect for the will of the People as it was expressed in the ratification of the laws, is immoral, even if it is a conservative agenda that will be advanced or Republican loyalties that will be honored, and if he were in Bush's position he would not violate that moral principle as Bush has violated it.

But when the Anchoress or A. J. decide to inform dissenting Republicans that their criticism of Bush represents a moral deficiency (and A. J.'s tone of moral condemnation is unmistakable, as has frequently been Her Anchorship's), the principle to which they wish to appeal is a principle they violate in the very act of appealing to it. Do they understand how counterproductive such an appeal is? I doubt it very seriously.

So, I'm not saying A.J. and Her Anchorship aren't right. But if they are right, then here's their challenge. The people whom they wish would shut up, feel at least as strongly that Bush is behaving in ways that are both immoral and destructive to the country, as A. J. and the Anchoress believe Bush's critics are behaving. Can A. J. and the Anchoress find a way to express the criticism that they believe Bush's critics need to hear (just as Bush's critics think Bush needs to hear their criticism), but to do so in a way that fully honors the very principle to which they appeal? Can they show us the way?

Because in that post of A.J.'s, he hasn't come close...and the Anchoress doesn't seem to mind it. In fact, you know that Deutschland uber Alles "Party uber America" paragraph? She likes it so much that that's a big chunk of what she excerpted.

Which is too bad because I think she's better than that.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thought for the day from Russkoye Radio

"Блондинка, это не только цвет волос, а еще и алиби."

Which is to say, "Blonde isn't just a hair color -- it's an excuse [literally 'an alibi']."

Anya was disturbingly eager to share that with me. We have to work on this whole honor-your-father concept...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Definition of the day (WARNING: will probably annoy my liberal friends)

It happens that today my favorite football columnist published, in the middle of his column about the past weekend in the NFL, a long passage about how important it is for well-off Christians to be "concerned for the poor" and to be willing to sacrifice their own financial well-being and vote for an increased minimum wage. (He appears completely unaware that those of us who oppose the minimum wage do so not so that we can keep our own costs down, but precisely because we are concerned for the poor and know that the personal prices imposed by the minimum wage fall upon precisely the poorest and most economically disadvantaged; but perhaps he was simply constrained by space and could not express his argument to its full advantage.) But that's by the by; what struck me is that he ended with an appeal to "social justice."

Now, for a cynic like me looking at the consequences of "social justice" policies, it's a long-standing joke that the linguistic function of the adjective "social" is the negation of the noun modified. "Social security" is nothing I'd bet a plugged nickel on; "social studies" are the realm of football coaches in high school and quite shamelessly intellectually lazy and unprofessional academics at universities; and most things proposed in the name of "social justice" are in fact I think quite nakedly unjust. Does Easterbrooke realize how emotionally loaded that term is, and how very much the opposite effect it has on many of us than he intends? Probably; he's a sharp guy, after all. And in the end it's just a football column.

At any rate, on the same day the TMQ did his social justice rant, Kathy the Relapsed Catholic did her own rant, this one about what she perceives as the bankruptcy of progressive thought as embodied in the extremely stuck-in-the-past Catholic New Times. It's hardly fair for her to take her dysfunctional former employer as a proxy for the progressive movement as a whole, but I did like her definition of "social justice":

"'Social justice' is the endless concoction by incompetent people of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems."

And now if Jim and Ghost Dansing and Arnie (whom I really truly haven't forgotten) and fellow progressives want to relieve their emotions by riffing on the incompetence of a certain world leader of non-progressive foreign policy leanings...well, that's what a comment section is for.

Bumper sticker of the day

Seen on my way to work this morning:

"Jesus loves you, but I'm his favorite."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Have you said thank you yet?

And if not, why not?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"An Armed Society Is a Polite Society" Dept

Or, as Dave Barry observes in linking to this account of a Texas version of Miss Manners: "Justice in Texas: It is swift."

A pleasant mountain hike

UPDATED: Added the second half of the hike. (Blogspot wouldn't take the latter half at first.)

All I know about this is that it's somewhere in China, and that the pictures could be found on Chinese websites -- if one knew Chinese well enough to navigate said sites. Since I don't, I can't link to the original sites. My apologies to those whose copyrights I am therefore reluctantly violating.

Ready for a pleasant hike in the mountains? Let's first ride the skyway up to the head of the trail.

Now we take our first steps on the trail itself.

Remember, safety first: always hang onto the handrail.

You can always snicker at the people ahead of you, if you wish.

But it's a really bad idea to try to cut across the switchbacks. That leads to erosion, don't you see.

Eventually we get to the stairs. What do you mean you don't see any stairs? There they are on the left, cut into the rock face.

Well, okay, maybe it's more a ladder than a staircase.

This is the easy part.

And here we are at last.

Now you just have to go back down...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

On bad calls and BCS rankings

You know, I'd be very interested to see somebody do an analysis of how much the unbelievably bad Big Ten officiating in the Oklahoma/Oregon game has hurt Texas's title chances -- since the bogus Oklahoma loss decreases UT's computerized strength of standing and hence its BCS ranking. You figure an 8-1 OU would have to be ranked ahead of all the two-loss teams (i.e., no lower than #12) and probably above West Virginia and Arkansas. Furthermore, Oklahoma will probably win out even without Peterson and hence would represent even more of a quality win when the computers were churning out the only ranking that matters, i.e., the last one.

It will be particularly annoying if we see an Ohio State / Michigan rematch for the national championship, and the analysis shows that a victory over a one-loss #7 Oklahoma instead of a two-loss #15 Oklahoma would have been the difference. Not that I think that's probable, but the point is that in the BCS era you have to question the whole idea of officials from a "neutral" conference -- millions are at stake, and a Big Ten with two title contenders would certainly rather see an Oklahoma go down rather than an Oregon, since Oklahoma is a more realistic competitor for one of those two big-money spots. Oregon's victory over Oklahoma -- a victory made possible only by one of the all-time unspeakably incompetent officiating crews, which happens to have come from the Big Ten -- could wind up redirecting literally millions of dollars away from Big XII coffers and into Big Ten pockets.

Not that I'm saying the Big Ten officials cheated -- I really don't at all think they did; I think they were just unbelievably incompetent and unprofessional. But it's yet another reason the BCS sucks compared to a true playoff.

My own solution for a playoff/bowl game/BCS combination, devised several years ago, is the following:

The BCS teams are chosen the way they have been to date, more or less -- that selection process doesn't matter much to me; and the top four are in the playoffs. If you can't get into the top four by just about any remotely decent formula, then you can't complain that you're being shafted out of a deserved shot at the national championship. Every team that can legitimately claim to be the best team in the country, controls its own destiny at least to that level.

The three BCS bowls that did not get the be the national championship in the previous year, are the playoff bowls this year; and the top four BCS-ranked teams go to those bowls. Again, get into the top four or else don't whine about how you're really the best team.

The BCS game that gets to be the national championship in any given year, gets pushed back two weeks and matches up the winner of the two BCS playoff bowls. It also gets the bogus fifth BCS game if you're going to insist on having one.

The BCS game that is due to be next year's national championship, gets #1 against #4 on New Year's Day. The other playoff BCS game gets #2 against #3.

The BCS game that got last year's national championship, gets to invite anybody who isn't in the top 4.

Resulting playoff games, since 2000:
1999: Florida St. vs. Alabama, Va. Tech vs. Nebraska.
2000: Oklahoma vs. Washington, Florida St. vs. Miami (Fla.). (Miami was furious that Florida St. was given the shot at Oklahoma even though Miami had beaten Florida State that October on "Wide Right III.")
2001: Miami (Fla.) vs. Oregon, Nebraska vs. Colorado. (This was the year Nebraska went to the BCS title game without winning its own conference, and after losing its last regular season game to Colorado 62-36. 62!!!!!! The #3-ranked BCS team, whom Nebraska beat out by 0.05 points? The very Colorado team that had just gotten through dropping 62 points of whoop-ass on them, and had followed that up by winning the Big XII conference championship.)
2002: Miami (Fla.) vs. USC, Ohio State vs. Georgia.
2003: Oklahoma vs. Michigan, LSU vs. USC. (The year the BCS couldn't even deliver a unified national championship -- and, for the second time in three years, a Big XII team that couldn't win its own conference championship went to the big game anyway, where it proceeded to lose.)
2004: USC vs. Texas, Oklahoma vs. Auburn. (The year Auburn went undefeated in the SEC and got locked out of the title game, and thus got to sit home and watch Oklahoma completely disgrace itself.)
2005: USC vs. Ohio State, Texas vs. Penn State.

Meanwhile, consider this: if Oklahoma doesn't get absolutely cheated out of their win at Oregon (though they had every opportunity to take care of business and win it a second time and have only themselves to blame for failing to do so), then both they and Texas are once again right there in the mix of one-loss teams vying for a shot at the title game. This even with the loss of both their blue-chip QB (to stupidity/cupidity) and their Heisman-candidate freak-of-nature running back (to freakish injury), and playing fewer seniors than any other big-time program in football. The Horns haven't lost to any team not ranked #1 in a very long time, and even that loss came with a freshman quarterback starting his second game; Ohio State probably would prefer not to have to face the quarterback McCoy will be by the time the New Year rolls around -- and he's going to be around (barring injury) for a while yet. All in all, the quality of the Big XII drops off pretty dramatically after those two, but I think at this point you can pencil in the Red River Shootout and the Ohio State / Michigan game as the two games that you will pretty much be able to count on every year as having national championship implications. (Think of the sad and pitiful farce that Florida State / Miami has come to be, for example.)

Canon in D

Update: I actually illustrated my own point about the way in which an inspired YouTube video inspires imitation...the video I first posted was not in fact JerryC, but was funtwo covering JerryC. And Jerry's is better, though funtwo's is bloody good; plus Jerry's the guy who created the piece to being with. So now I'm leading with JerryC, and funtwo gets a link instead of an embed. Nothin' personal, funtwo, but Jerry earns the top bill.

Do you know the really nice thing, that makes me feel that I'm not a total 100% failure as a parent? The Princess likes classical music enough to be familiar with Pachelbel's Canon and therefore to appreciate what Jerry C. does with it here.

Man, I do like watching people who are freaky-good at something do their stuff. And this guy is just doing his chops in his dorm room...I love the internet and YouTube. No mute, inglorious Milton is this dude.

I especially like the variation in the minor introduced at about the 3:50 mark.

HT: I came across this by following Ace's sidebar link to Riehl World Vision's link to funtwo's cover of Jerry's piece -- which is first-rate in its own right, and which was actually what I originally posted before realizing funtwo and JerryC weren't the same guy.

While we're here and mentioning the Princess, we might as well bring up the copyright-violating but who the heck cares (copyright laws in the U.S. are in drastic need of revision; and art forms like this one, and the ensuing persecution of YouTube by the media giants, is a perfect example of why the whole intellectual-property legal landscape needs a 7.0-Richter-scale shakeup)...ahem, sorry, what was my point? Oh, yes, the Princess, along with approximately a Brazilian teenagers world wide, loves the following parody video in which The Lord of the Rings is mined for comic relief and for the satisfaction of Erwin Beekveld's creative urge. This whole genre of faux trailers and subversively parodic use of iconic pop-culture images is something that has never been possible before -- and we are societally the richer for it, while the entertainment industry is not harmed in the slightest. And there's another stage of creative chaos that follows on this one...but first, because you'll need the point of reference, spend two minutes and nine seconds watching the now-classic "They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard."

But now -- and this is what I think is so very cool -- once "They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard" becomes a huge viral-video hit, it becomes part of the pop culture landscape in its own right, and teenagers throughout the world can be confident that their peers not only know all about The Lord of the Rings, but that their peers have all seen and enjoyed "Isengard." Which makes it possible to parody the parody. All the world's a stage, but if you've got the creativity, your bedroom can become all of Middle-Earth, complete with mountain ridges suitable for manly long-shot running scenes.

And note, I liked these guys' amateurish version just because I like to see kids having harmless and creative fun -- but there have to be forty or fifty different reworkings of the "Isengard" video...anime versions, a World of Warcraft version, a (very poorly executed, alas) Star Wars version in which Yoda and Samuel L. Jackson express their views on the hobbits destination (hint: they seem to think the hobbits are being taken to Isengard), a Little Rascals takeoff (for those of us old enough to remember Little Rascals reruns)...

I love the internet.

P.S. Oh, and for those of you who didn't catch the blonde-joke "Brazilian" allusion:

GUY IN BAR [reacting in shock to a headline in the paper he's perusing]: Ah, man, this is just awful. It says here that seven Brazilian skiers were killed yesterday in an avalanche.

BLONDE SITTING TWO STOOLS DOWN: Oh my Gawd! How many is a brazilian?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


John Kerry is just pathetic. And I mean that in the sense that he embodies pathos. You would have to have a heart of stone not to feel for a guy who wants something so badly that he can't help but make it impossible for himself to get it. Like the social misfit who pathetically always tries too hard...

But it would help if he were just honest. That was a joke? It was aimed at George Bush? I mean, how is that supposed to have worked? I presume that Bush was meant to be the bad example. But then the joke has to work like this:

On the one hand, you can study hard, get a good education, and go on to get a great job and succeed in life. On the other hand you could be like George Bush -- who has the most powerful job in the world (a job Kerry is pitifully desperate to win for himself), who got his degree from Yale -- and who studied hard enough to get better grades than John Kerry did. If Dubya was really Kerry's target, wouldn't Kerry be saying, "If you emulate Dubya by studying hard, getting a good education, and going on to get a great job, then you will wind up stuck in Iraq -- so don't go there, it ain't worth it"?

John Derbyshire may think it's "obvious" that that's what Kerry meant, but considering how at every possible point Bush is the opposite of the kind of bad example Kerry was trying to draw, I would say you can only say that Kerry "obviously" meant Bush if you are also prepared to say that Kerry "obviously" has the approximate IQ of a goldfish. Which, considering the mind-bogglingly creative ways that Kerry finds to make an utter ass of himself in public, is certainly a defensible position.

But I think it's much more likely that Kerry, who built his political career by denigrating American soldiers and holding them up to public contempt, simply forgot temporarily that outside of the fever-swaps of the nuttier Democratic fringe, Americans have long since moved past the negative and inaccurate Vietnam-era stereotype that anybody with half a brain would obviously find something more useful and congenial to do with his life than to waste it in the defense of his fellow-countrymen and their freedom. I think Kerry's true opinion of the average military man escaped into the open for a moment. But I could certainly be wrong. He could really just be that stupid.

Of course, since this is John Kerry we're talking about, the most likely explanation is that both theories (stupidity, and contempt for the military) are true: he holds grossly inaccurate stereotypes about American soldiers, and he was stupid enough to forget that he was supposed to be pretending to admire and respect the troops. Only Kerry knows, and I think we can count on him to say what he thinks he needs to say to get elected President rather than what is actually true...which of course means that we can count on him to use this opportunity to say all kinds of things that will actually keep him out of the Presidency, under the impression that he is helping his own cause.

However, if you're a Democrat in a borderline district, Kerry has just given you a huge opportunity. You should hold a press conference right now in which you condemn Kerry's statement and quote all the statistics on how well-educated and admirable our soldiers are. You should go out of your way to say that our military are the cream of the crop, and that anybody who looks at a college education and thinks, "Hey, that's a good way to keep from having to go into the military," is a person whose sentiments you hold in contempt. It's an absolutely golden opportunity to publicly place yourself in the mainstream. But you'd bloody well better take that opportunity to climb to success over the political corpse of the junior senator from Massachusetts...or else you're likely to be dragged down by association, because Sen. Kerry unfortunately has a (D) after his name rather than an (R).

At least that's how it appears to me.

What a maroon that guy is. I wonder how much Karl Rove is paying him...