This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation.
When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good guys. Bad guys. I report, you decide.

This is Jay Inslee. He is a Democratic representative from the great state of Washington. He has introduced a resolution to impeach the lying scum bastard Alberto Gonzales, the worst attorney general our country has ever had, and that includes the convicted criminal John Mitchell, who held the job under Richard Nixon.

Dear readers who are U.S. citizens, please call or write your representative and ask them pretty please to be a co-sponsor of this excellent idea. Be nice. Offer to bake cookies or something.





This is Alaskan senator Ted Stevens. He has been in the Senate forever. To give you an idea of how long, when he was first elected, the New York Jets were a really good football team and young, attractive women actually wanted to have sex with Joe Namath. Yeah, that long ago.

IRS and FBI agents raided his home yesterday. It appears the place may have gotten some renovations paid for by an Alaskan company that Stevens did some favors for. By "some renovations", we mean the house doubled in size and by "some favors", we mean passing legislation giving tax breaks to the company owned by a guy who has now plead guilty to bribing other Alaskan politicians, though not Stevens himself. Yet.

Sen. Stevens says he will not comment during ongoing criminal investigations. Republicans seem to say that a lot these days.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bill Walsh 1931-2007


The sad news today is that Bill Walsh, the former coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Stanford Cardinal football teams, has passed away at the age of 75. The cause of death is leukemia, which was diagnosed three years ago.

Walsh was credited as a "genius" and an innovator and the like, but the thing that really set him apart was that he wasn't a screamer, like Vince Lombardi or Woody Hayes or Bill Parcells, and he wasn't a cold fish like Tom Landry or Bud Grant. He actually did treat his players as though they were adults. He had a sense of humor, most famously shown when dressed in a doorman's outfit and brought his players' bags into the hotel during the first of the three Super Bowl appearances the 49ers made when he was head coach.

Simply put, I wouldn't mind having Bill Walsh as my boss. That's a rarity in sports. Heck, it's a rarity in real life.

I don't want to get too sentimental here. Football, perhaps more than any other sport, is business at its most vicious, and the 49ers were no exception. Every Niner fan knows that Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice all ended their careers playing for other teams, with many productive seasons after the 49ers decided they were expendable. Part of that can be laid on the shoulders of Eddie DeBartolo and management, but Walsh has to take some blame for that as well.

For all that, I will miss Bill Walsh, and I send my heartfelt best wishes to his friends and family, from one of his many admirers.

My two cents about Newton

On my local PBS station, they are sporadically showing Jonathan Miller's new series A Brief History of Disbelief, wherein the famed British smart guy tells us a lot about how atheists and agnostics and other people who aren't completely on board with the whole religion thing first showed up. Miller also delves into what society thought of them and how their ideas spread despite widespread hatred of their views. That hatred including laws that could put a self-proclaimed atheist to death, not just in the Catholic countries like Italy and Spain, but also in England, where the first such law was passed in 1690. I've enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who can find it on their PBS schedule between the cooking shows and 1960's oldies concerts.

On the show where Miller discusses the time period from about 1500 to 1900, of course he has to bring up Newton. Modern biographers of Newton all have to bring up the new information about how much time he spent studying alchemy and religion; from his letters, it seems clear that he spent more time studying each of these two topics than he spent on either mathematics or physics. Modern defenders of alchemy think this vindicates alchemy. Most biographers call Newton pious.

Matty Boy would politely like to tell these people to go soak their heads.

With both alchemy and religion, he spent massive amounts of time studying, but never published. He wrote about his research in letters to friends, but never a word saw the business end of printing press. With the alchemy, the reason he didn't publish was because he came up with squat. Nothing worked. It was hokum, but he didn't know it was hokum until he tried it himself. I believe he might have wanted alchemy to work, and was disappointed when it didn't, but he never considered writing a diatribe ripping the lid off the topic. That wasn't his style.

With the religion, he held some heretical views for his day. He didn't believe in the Trinity. Let me restate that. He came up with a mathematical proof that the Trinity was impossible. I don't know if he came up with this proof before or after the 1690 law that made heresy punishable by death, but in either case he knew it would be seen as heretical, and wanted to avoid the controversy. He didn't like controversy.

When he was a young man, it took a while before he was accepted into the Royal Academy of Science, and there he had his detractors, including a still famous pinhead named Robert Hooke, who said that Newton's masterwork Principia Mathematica wasn't very important and didn't really say much new, and all the new stuff Hooke had already said and figured out himself. Of the opinion that the Principia wasn't important, recall there was some goofball who turned down signing the Beatles to a recording contract because guitar groups were on the way out. It's just an opinion, but it's 100% dead wrong. As for Hooke coming up with all the important stuff himself, here he's just a fucking liar. (Idiot opinions and fucking lies... why am I reminded of someone?)

As much as Newton disliked controversy when he had the whole truth and nothing but the truth on his side, his proof against the existence of the Trinity would have created a firestorm if he had published. I think a lot of his undeniable piety may be a man trying to prove to himself that he wasn't the monster the public would have thought him to be had they known his true heart.

In some ways, I would make the present day analogy to a gay man who still strongly believes his every sexual thought is a sin, and does everything he can to hide his true nature. Along those lines, Newton famously wrote in a letter that he was proud and happy that he would die a virgin.

I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Michael Vick is Doomed.


Michael Vick's career is over. One of the most exciting quarterbacks in the NFL, if not one of the most successful, will probably never play another down. All the shoe and clothing companies have pulled his products from the shelves. Trading card companies won't have his cards in their latest sets. I have never seen an athlete accused of a crime become a non-person so quickly. Even if exonerated, his image is shot forever, worse than people accused of rape and murder, worse than people convicted of drug crimes.

Is it those nasty PETA wierdos that brought him down? Hell to the NO!

People love dogs.


Sleepy little kids love dogs.


Goofy college girls love dogs.


Episcopal priests in Panama love dogs.

Make no mistake. Vick merchandise could sell right now. Some people who think it's cool to be gangsta would buy it. Some diehard Atlanta Falcons fans would buy it. Some people who think every time a successful black man gets in trouble with the law it is due to white conspiracy would buy it.

But the other side of the coin is this. Some people who love dogs would remember who made a buck off this disgusting situation, and never buy a product from (fill in the blank) again.

The court case is months away, if not years. Maybe the prosecutors will screw it up and Vick will be found not guilty. Stranger things have hapened in courts of law recently. But regardless, Michael Vick is doomed. There is no way to explain eight dog corpses on his property, showing signs of death by torture. He had better invest the money he has now wisely, because the cash spigot is about to be turned off. Permanently.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

True lack of employment tales



This is Isaac Haqq. He ran a school in Oakland called University Prep. If the front of the school looks like it's in a shopping mall, that's because it is.

I work part time at several community colleges. This means in general that I am always looking for more work. A friend at one school where I teach told me that the high school was looking for someone to teach an SAT prep class for the students. I had taught some SAT students in the past, so I went to the shopping mall to talk to Isaac.

He was very busy. He was involved in everything. He kept me waiting about a half an hour. He told me about the job, which was a lot of hours for test prep, more than I thought made sense. The class would be nearly every afternoon for hours and hours at an off campus location. Isaac asked if I had a bus driver's license. When I said no, he asked if I'd be willing to apply for one.

He didn't mention money at first. He asked what I would want to be paid. I said nothing. At community colleges, I make in excess of $50 an hour, which would be a lot if I was paid for the time spent preparing, grading and all, but that's just for the time lecturing. I knew a high school wouldn't pay that, so I didn't mention a number. In some ways, the person who mentions a number first in these negotiations is technically the loser.

Isaac finally mentioned a number. He thought what the job was worth was $20 an hour. Again I said nothing. For teaching a classroom full of students, $20 an hour is babysitter money. The interview continued. I left. I called him and passed on the offer.

I told my friend who let me know about the gig. He was furious at Isaac and very apologetic to me. I let it pass. Bad job interviews happen.

This week, my friend let me know that Isaac Haqq had been forced to resign his position and will be arrested. He was fixing grades on a wholesale scale. D's and F's in the classroom were becoming C's and B's on report cards and A's on transcripts for college entrance.

Lucky for me, Issac Haqq was not only a lying criminal, he was a cheap bastard of a lying criminal, or I might be in the middle of this shit storm as well. Hooray for cheap lying bastards!




And, oh yeah, I have a new essay on The Smirking Chimp calling yet again for the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales.

Tagged by a monkey!

So yet another game of blogger tag, this time by Dr. Monkey. I guess if I'm involved in a game with a monkey, there could be much worse scenarios. The doctor asks five questions, and I must answer them.


1. Does this look infected to you?

Dammit, Jim, I'm not a doctor, I'm a mathematician!



2. What was the name of your kindergarten or first grade teacher?

Miss Shelley in first grade. I don't remember wearing short pants to school, but I've blocked out a lot of things about the period in my life. No teacher for kindergarten; I was kicked out. Or do they call it skipping a grade? As I've said, I've blocked a lot if this out.


3. Have you ever broken a bone in your body?

Pinky finger, left hand. Slipped rounding first playing kickball. So I have something in common with Lindsay Lohan, though my rap sheet is much more modest.


4. What's up with the humidity lately?

I live in the San Francsico Bay Area. You might as well ask how I'm preparing for hurricane season.



5. What kind of alcoholic beverage would you buy me if we went out for a drink?

Oh, great. We've never met, and already I'm buying drinks. I might invite you home and offer you a glass or two of Two Buck Chuck, cheap bastid that I am. I'd have to clean the place up, though. Bit of a pigsty right now.

I don't have any questions for anybody else. I'm more on the 'splainin' side rather than the askin' side.

Friday, July 27, 2007

They caved! We win! (You can thank me later.)


Yes, it's true! Only days after I blew the lid off of years of inattention to the weak U.S. dollar, today the greenback had its strongest showing in many a moon. The pound shrunk by two full pennies, as did the Euro and the Canadian dollar. Fear of further ridicule has brought our government to its senses!

Of course, I do it all for you my loyal readers, the little people out there without the voice to speak for yourselves. Granted, most of my regular readers are also bloggers, many with readerships that far outstrip mine, but no matter! It was my blog that made it clear to the powers that be that decent Americans will not stand for a weak dollar when we are so clearly Number One In The World! U.S.A.!!! U.S.A !!!

Of course, the world stock markets also took a serious tumble and crude oil climbed to $77.00 a barrel, but you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs.

(Note: I haven't tried this level of self-congratulation before, but given how well it works for Bill O'Reilly and Stephen Colbert, I thought I'd give it a whirl!)

Multitasking Friday

¡Hola, Venezuela! ¡Benvenidos a Lotsa 'Splainin'!



Okay, here's another ad I hate. Linebacker Brian Urlacher and designated hitter David Ortiz take up badminton and dominate all opponents. I know it's supposed to be comic violence and all, but the truth is that Urlacher on a badminton court would be merely outclassed, while Ortiz, if he actually put in an effort, would be in danger of losing his life.

Major sports in the U.S. are about being big and hitting hard, being able mete out and absorb physical punishment. Popular sports in other countries are about being fit. Urlacher is strong but his sport does not test fitness, since he doesn't play half the game and even when he does play, there is more time resting between the action than actual action. As for Ortiz, he is a big fat pig. Badminton would rip his lungs out.

I know it's just a joke. I know Mitt Romney would tell me to lighten up. The thing is, it's a bad joke, a stupid joke. Anyone with a little pride would be ashamed telling such a bad joke.

And with that, we go to this week's Random 10.

I've Been to Memphis Lyle Lovett
The Heart's Filthy Lesson David Bowie
Big Tears Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Lola The Kinks
Get Behind The Mule Tom Waits
Washboard Blues Hoagy Carmichael
The Nearness of You Norah Jones
Allamana Desmond Dekker
The Groove is in the Heart Deee-Lite
Be Thankful For What You’ve Got Portrait

And in regards to being thankful, thanks to my roommate Art Velasquez for letting me use his computer while mine is out of commission due to a faulty modem. The guy from customer service told me that an 11 month old modem is likely to fail, and I believe him, because I just fell off the turnip truck.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bill Flemming 1926-2007


Bill Flemming, the ABC sportscaster most identified with the Wide World of Sports show, died this week at the age of 80. Some of the young people may not remember him. Some others old enough to watch the show may have not watched it. It reminds me, the geezer who did watch it regularly back in the day, of just how much things have changed.

Look at this guy. Does he look like a jock to you? Hell to the NO! What he looks like (besides a realtor) is a reporter, and that's what he was. Wide World of Sports showed Americans a lot of sports they wouldn't have seen otherwise. There were almost always two man teams reporting, the announcer and the analyst. The announcer was supposed to take your place, the person who doesn't know squat about what he's watching, asking the analyst, an expert at the sport, questions about the action. He wasn't trying to be cool, he wasn't trying to be funny. He was a reporter. Of all the sports reporters of the time, the only tall nail that stuck out and almost screamed out to be hammered down was Howard Cosell. But even Cosell thought of himself as a reporter. He was just the guy who saw more of the picture and wanted to get the scoop, and wasn't afraid of being irritating.

Wide World of Sports tended to show simple sports without a lot of hard to understand rules. Not much soccer or rugby or cricket, but races or sports with judges were great. Easy to tell who won, even if you didn't completely understand it. Cliff diving from Acapulco is the perfect example. Also, you got to see Olympic style sports in non-Olympic years, so there was track and field, figure skating, weight lifting, that sort of thing. I think it must have been Wide World of Sports where I first saw top level table tennis. I played ping pong, but what I played didn't look anything like that. It was amazing!

Flemming's passing reminds me of what it was like when there were just three networks, public television (usually called educational television back in the day) and this new thing that might not catch on called UHF. You didn't get instant gratification. You wanted sports? They were for the weekends. Some (read very few) away games of the local baseball team might be aired during the week, but other than that, you waited until Saturday and Sunday. It was the same with cartoons. Cartoons were all Saturday morning, but come noon, it was time to get unglued from the TV set and go enjoy the rest of the day outside. There might be a couple cartoons on Sunday morning, and for addicts like me, you might even sit through Davey and Goliath just waiting for The Bullwinkle Show to come on.

It was the time before everything was focus grouped, and every kind of 24 hour (you name it) channel, and long, long before the internet. I don't want to go all YOU DAMN KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN! on the topic, but we've lost a lot in our society with the way we've decided to use technology. We get what we want, but we don't find out much about things we haven't tried yet. We aren't waiting for the next Bill Flemming, because his job has disappeared.

Rest in peace, Bill. And now we go back to the studio and Jim McKay.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

That's some Loonie monetary policy, eh?


So the Canadians have a dollar coin that they actually use. It has a loon on it so they call it a loonie. Beauty joke, eh?

So anyway, you can see on the chart that in 2002, the Canadian dollar was worth about 66 cents U.S. What the chart doesn't show is that upward trend has continued, and as of this morning a Canadian dollar costs 96 cents U.S., which means they have the puck and are about to cross our blue line for the first time since Gerald Ford was president. (I changed the lines on the chart to make it look more like a hockey rink. Beauty pedagogical construct, eh?)

The U.S. dollar isn't just weak against the Canadian dollar. The British pound is well over $2 U.S. and the Euro is at record highs as well. A weak dollar isn't a 100% bad thing. It means other people (you know, foreigners) can afford to buy more of our stuff and visiting the United States is a bargain. The problem there is that air travel is kind of a pain in the ass worldwide, and a lot of other people think Americans are, well... assholes and they don't want to visit. I don't know how they got that impression, eh?

Not every world currency is gaining on the U.S. dollar at the same rate. The Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan are not showing the same strength as the Canadian, British or European currencies. That's because the Chinese and Japanese central banks are buying lots of dollars to make the dollar look artificially strong vis a vis their currencies. Where can they find all these dollars? Like, don't we need those dollars here in the U.S. to buy Pepsis and Slim Jims?

No worries! They are buying our debt. We produce a lot of debt, and they are willing to buy it, so their goods will be cheap here in the U.S. and we will buy more of their stuff. It's the genius of the marketplace!

Hang on a minute, I don't think genius is the word I want in that last sentence, eh? What's the word I was looking for? It was on the tip of my tongue just a minute ago...

Oh, yeah, sure I remember. That's some loony monetary policy, eh? No Canadian pun intended, so I spelled "loony" like an American.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cousins, degrees and removals


So here we have two sittin' on the floor babies, both of whom are my grand nephews. The musician hanging out between sessions is Calvin, son of Josh. The gambler playing solitaire is Emerson, sometimes known as Li'l E.

So what are they to each other? The answer is second cousins.

Lemme 'splain.




The common ancestor for these two little guys is three generations up, my parents. The first generation are siblings, the second generation whose closest relation is sharing a grandparent are first cousins, the third generation whose closest relation is sharing a great grandparent are second cousins.

So what's a first cousin once removed?

Removal deals with not being at the same generational level. The father of Calvin is Josh, the mother of Emerson is Nefera. Josh and Nefera are first cousins, Josh and Emerson are first cousins once removed, as are Nefera and Calvin. So the "once removed" relation is not symmetrical, but no special word exists to show this. The simplest non-symmetrical relation when dealing with generations but not direct ancestry is uncle (or aunt) to nephew (or niece). Here the words show which person is of the generation closer to the common ancestor.

Of course, a favorite family joke is much simpler and needs no 'splainin'.

He's my second cousin twice removed. Once for loitering, and once for vagrancy.

Monday, July 23, 2007

More bad news from the world of sports.

If you are a sports fan, you have a rich menu of bad news to choose from right now. The two stories will the most drama, since both will end up in court barring some strange reversal, are NBA ref Tim Donaghy (on left, listening to Kobe Bryant) and Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick. Donaghy has been charged with gambling on games he refereed, and with contact with organized crime figures. Vick allowed dog fights on his property, and in the charges against him, he is also accused of killing dogs that did not fight well enough in a variety of horrifying ways, including electrocution and drowning.

On ESPN.com, there is currently a poll asking which of these cases is more disturbing to fans. While as a mathematician, I know the results of such polls aren't reliable because of self-selection bias, the current results are 55% to 45% in favor of refs fixing games being the worse news. I voted in the majority on this one, but I also understand the position of those who feel Vick's case is worse.

My guess as to which of these outrages will be taking up more space in the media over the next few months would be the Vick story. I say this mostly because of star power, though race and morbid curiosity are also factors.

I voted the other way on the question of disturbing because I've thought for decades that referees were the weakest link in regards to the integrity of pro sports. If a game is going to be fixed so that gamblers can make money on it, it can't be cost effective to bribe a top pro athlete, a guy whose bad performance could reliably change the outcome of the game. I'm not even sure if you can blackmail one of these guys. Kobe Bryant was charged with rape, but not convicted, so it's ignored by the media now. All Pro linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens was charged and acquitted of murder; now, his endorsement deals are back. The most likely blackmail situation would be the threat of exposing a closeted gay athlete in a team sport.

As for college sports, all bets are off, or should be. The system is tailor made for corruption. The only people making so much you can't afford to bribe them are the coaches of top basketball and football programs.

The word right now is that the NFL and the Falcons both want Vick to take the year off and come back only if he is acquitted of the charges, and they might get the weak players' union to join in. While I agree with their position, this is effectively removing all protection from Vick, and the hounds of the press will now see an opportunity to attack. The NBA is already calling Donaghy "former ref Donaghy", even though his resignation came only this week once allegations were made public. While he will be at the center of a media feeding frenzy, I expect the pack of jackals to be smaller, and I know the NBA will trot out the "one bad apple" defense when shoring up the integrity of their league.

Personally, I don't believe there is just one bad apple, and I also don't think the problem is confined to pro basketball. Nearly every major sport is at the mercy of the officials to keep it clean, and these guys aren't being paid that much. If there are crooked cops and teachers willing to cheat, and there are, there are crooked officials in sports. Plural.

It's the miracle of the marketplace.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pete Wilson: 1945-2007

Pete Wilson the local newscaster, not Pete Wilson the anti-immigrant former California governor, died on Friday during a hip replacement surgery. He was 62.

I met Wilson on a Saturday evening 17 years ago this month. I can be fairly certain about the date because I met somebody else famous that same day and I told Pete Wilson about it.

I was in a restaurant bar up in Marin County, drinking a Scotch and reading a golf book, Ben Hogan's book on the fundamentals of the swing. I saw Wilson come into the place for dinner and recognized him from the TV. As he was leaving, he stopped by and said to me, "You know, that is going to ruin your life."

"Golf or Scotch?" I asked.

He laughed. "Well, I was thinking about the golf, but you might have a point about the Scotch as well."

Turns out he was an avid player. In the obituary on sfgate.com, one of his friends said he was thinking about how soon he was going to be able to return to the links after the surgery. A blood clot put an end to those plans, sadly.

Back those many years ago, I told him I saw a kid play that day whose name he should remember. At the 1990 U.S. Junior Amateur played at Lake Merced, I saw a 14 year old named Tiger Woods lose in the quarterfinal round. Turns out, I'm one of the few people in the world who can say with confidence they saw Tiger Woods lose as an amateur. He would win the U.S. Junior the next three years in a row.

So farewell to Pete Wilson, who went out of his way to chat up some fellow golfer way back when.


New on the Flags of Many Lands list:
Thailand.

Senegal.
Howdy!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Multitasking for lazy people.

This pretty flag belongs to the folks of Macao.


This simple geometric design is from the United Arab Emirates, and of course both these flags are here because Lotsa 'Splainin' has had recent visitors from these exotic locales. Welcome!

On Keith Olbermann's show, there are ads for both Viagra and Cialis, or at least there were until last week. This week, the Viagra ads disappeared! It is my theory that they were pulled by Pfizer because they realized these ads did a better job of selling Cialis that they do for selling Viagra.

Let me 'splain.

The Viagra ad has a couple of attractive people of a certain age on a lazy summer afternoon. The wife is in the hammock. The husband is washing his mint condition old Corvette. A sprinkler is watering the lawn. The wife, flirtatious little minx that she is, runs her foot through the sprinkler, smiles at her husband in that let's go play some Barry White records kind of way and heads indoors. Poor vexed hubby! The wife has her motor running, but he hasn't rinsed his superfine 'Vette yet! What to do, what to do?

Clever fellow brings the sprinkler over and puts it on the passenger side to rinse off the car. Problem solved! Time for Viagra!

Except... problem not solved. Only half the car will be rinsed, and a superfine ride like this deserves to be dried by hand, else water spots will be visible.

To differentiate themselves from the competition, Cialis says their pill gives you a 36 hour window in which your willie will be in fine working order. Unless the wife only gets in the mood for two minutes out of every two weeks, the fellow should be able to wash, rinse and dry his chick magnet properly and then be able to do his husbandly duty to her satisfaction.

Or at least to his. The important stuff first.

And yeah, I have another essay up at The Smirking Chimp, this time about the economy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Enjoy in the privacy of your own home. (Pants optional.)

There's a new hour long drama on a basic cable network. Mad Men, a show about advertising in the early 1960's, airs on Thursday nights on AMC. AMC is fairly viewed as second rate compared to Turner Classic Movies due to commercial interruption. With this show, commercial interruption is a positive boon. It would be much, much weaker without commercial interruption.

Basic cable dramas are a bit of a mixed bag. In general, the most of these shows have a "filmed in Canada" look to them, largely because they are. There have been some successes, like The Closer and Battlestar Galactica, but also a lot of mediocre stuff. I really wanted to like The Riches, for example, because of Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver at the top of the cast, but the writing wasn't up to snuff.

On Mad Men, the writing and directing credits are much stronger, with veterans of shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under leading the creative end. I cropped a much larger picture of the cast to spotlight the two youngest actors in the cast whom I recognized from other work. Elizabeth Moss plays a secretary on her first day at work, which allows other characters to explain things to her, and of course to us, as though she knows nothing about the world she just entered. Ms. Moss also played Zoey Bartlet on The West Wing. Vincent Kartheiser, who played Connor on the show Angel, plays a junior executive with no scruples whatsoever. His character is supposed to be 26; if you told me Kartheiser was 19, I'd believe you. The actor is actually 28.

The real reason to watch is the evocation of a time now long gone. We saw somewhat sanitized versions of ad executives of this era in the TV show Bewitched and romantic comedies like 1961's Lover Come Back with Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Mad Men isn't sanitized and not just because there are a few quick uses of obscenities, about one every half hour or so it seems. Details are emphasized for dramatic effect, but young people might ask themselves if it's just overstatement. People didn't actually drink a lot at work, did they? Did nearly everyone smoke? Were they really that openly racist, anti-Semitic and sexist? Were young women in the workplace really treated as little more than whores you didn't have to pay?

The correct answers to those questions are yes, yes, pretty much and yes. In that order.

Other details evocative of the era are the changes that are coming, including the government starting its crackdown on cigarette advertising by disallowing doctor's recommendations and that women are using birth control. At that time, Freud's work was taken very seriously by advertisers, though the grip was slipping. Another little throwaway detail is the power held by the women operators responsible for getting outside phone lines.

And then there are the commercial interruptions. Here, AMC has borrowed and improved upon a trick from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim by having silent bumpers in between the commercials. On Adult Swim, the bumpers are snarky comments or quick reminders of products the network hawks, like some show's release onto DVD or a change in the schedule. The bumpers on Mad Men are little fun facts about the history of advertising in general. It's brilliant stuff.

The series appears to be only six episodes. I hope this is just the first installment and more can be made with the same production values and attention to detail. These kinds of short runs are part of the reason the best of British television maintains its high standards.

Matty Boy says check it out. You'll love the taste because it's toasted.

And with that, we close with the Friday Random 10.

This Wheel’s On Fire The Band
Beat on the Brat The Ramones
Satisfy My Soul Bob Marley & The Wailers
Got To Get You Into My Life The Beatles
I’m Afraid Of Americans David Bowie
Do You Want My Job Little Village
You Don’t Know Me Ray Charles
Join The Navy The Wonders of Science
Cigarette Ben Folds Five
At Last Etta James
bonus track:
I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter Fats Waller

Slightly obscure: Little Village was a band of songwriters who got together to put out an album. John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder and Jim Keltner. Do You Want My Job is a terrific song about what globalization looked like in 1991.

The truly obscure: The Wonders of Science are my band. (Technically, the band belongs to Padre Mickey and me. If both of us show up, it can be called a Wonders of Science gig. If either of us is missing, you have to call it something else.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bravely ripping the lid off this whole Chuck Norris thing!

It was my sister Karla who first introduced me to the Chuck Norris jokes that currently are sweeping the internets. For the uninitiated, let me explain.

Meta joke: Chuck Norris is the manliest example of manhood ever since God created testosterone. All other men have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. His manliness trumps all other forces of nature.

Example: When Chuck Norris goes into the ocean for a swim, he doesn't get wet. The Ocean gets Chuck Norris.

And much is the general amusement.

Here's the thing. No one seems to want to bring it up. The real Chuck Norris, actor, athlete and star of infomercials, suffers from the debilitating syndrome known as R.F.S., or Rock F*#king Stupidity. It is not fair to say Chuck Norris is as dumb as a bag full of hammers. It is not fair to the hammers.

Watch him the next time he is on TV. He can't speak his lines. Reading off a cue card is much too hard for him. Next to him, Christie Brinkley looks like Dame Judi Damn Dench! In comparison to Chuck Norris, Mr. T seems like Sir Ian Freakin' McKellan!

You might think I am being cruel because Chuck Norris is a Republican. Let me say some nice things about Republican actors. Clint Eastwood: good actor and better director. Fred Dalton Thompson: lovely speaking voice. Arnold Schwarzenegger: knows how to be funny, both on screen and in real life. Bo Derek:...

Okay, to be fair, Bo Derek sucks as bad at acting as Chuck Norris does.

Please, Mr. Norris, learn to read or get the hell off the stage. You've only been doing this for a living for three decades; you should be better at it than you are by now.

Maybe it's not completely your fault, Chuck. Maybe doing your own stunts for decades have scrambled your poor brains. Whatever it is, anyone with any sense of pride or ability to feel shame at giving such a weak accounting for himself would retire gracefully.

But then again, Mr. Norris, you are a 21st Century Republican. Pride and the ability to feel shame don't come as standard features on the latest models of Republicans.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Prettying things up a little.

Okay. Prettying up things a lot! After the pig man ambassador and Cheney on back to back days, I thought my loyal readers deserved something nicer.

This is a picture of Padma Lakshmi, the Anglo-Indian model/actress/cookbook author/TV hostess. In 2004, she married Salman Rushdie, but those crazy kids just couldn't make it work out, and they have filed for divorce. This means Ms. Lakshmi is once more a free agent.

So she goes for older guys who are writers. Hmm...

You know, Padma, I'm a little older than you. And I'm a writer.

Maybe she goes for famous writers. Award winning writers. Writers who can fairly be called the voice of their generation. Writers of big sprawling novels, filled with well-delineated characters, intricate plotlines, a wonderful sense of period and place, brilliant wordplay. Novels that are some of the best novels in English in the past thirty years or so.

Umm... err... well...

Padma, did I mention I'm good at maths, too?

(Notice I used the British maths instead of the American math. It's this close attention to detail that always gets the honeys. My advice on the subject is free, as always. And worth every penny.)

I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome two new blog Buddies, Blue Gal In A Red State and Cat In The Bag, to the Lotsa 'Splainin' pantheon of pals.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To paraphrase Stephen Sondheim

Cheney was smooth

Cheney was subtle

Cheney would blink

And rats would scuttle.


And no extra meaning should be given to our newest entry to the Flags of Many Lands, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from whence we had a visitor this weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2007

You! Sarek of Vulcan! How do YOU feel about organized religion?

Okay. First, my name’s not Sarek and second, I’m not from Vulcan.

But then there’s organized religion. It’s a fair question. I have links to sites like Padre Mickey’s Dance Party, run by an Episcopal priest, and FranIAm, run by an active Catholic layperson. I also link to Monkey Muck, who proudly shows his Blog Against Theocracy logo, and to Princess Sparkle Pony, who has the occasional nutty Christian label on her posts. New blog buddy Jess Wondrun went out of her way to mock Saint Clelia Barbieri this past week, and there’s also my sister Karla’s site Ars Dialectica, her effort to redefine her life after leaving the New Age Movement, where she used to be a popular author. (I’ve taken down the link because she doesn’t have time right now to make the changes she wants due to a new full time job. It’s has nothing to do with a bad family dynamic. Honest.)

Organized religion. My parents had no use for it. On the block where I grew up, we had religious families and non-religious families and when it came to dysfunctional, the religious families were steadily at the top of the league, year after year. It was a long time before I knew any religious people I had any respect for. It started with historical figures like Johann Sebastian Bach and Albert Schweitzer. Later, when I went to college and entered the workforce, I met a few more. But in general, I hung out with people who didn’t attend church and didn’t make a big fuss about it, what would now be called “secular progressives”.

In my late thirties, I was baptized into the Episcopal Church. I did this of my own volition, with the assistance of not yet Padre Mickey. I made a real effort for several years, but as I moved away from San Jose and joined another Episcopal church up in the East Bay, I drifted away. The Anglican Church is now being ripped apart by disagreements over the rights of gays to be clergy, and in some cases even the rights of gays to get communion. I’m not gay, as I have said before, but I saw this as a bad omen, one that wasn’t going to be solved anytime soon.

For the most part, I don’t judge people on their religion anymore. I can see there are people of good will inside and outside nearly any organization you can name. I do have a few exceptions. I see no good in the Unification Church. It’s run by a psychotic criminal, though I guess when you have enough money and power, claiming you are the messiah just makes you eccentric. From what I’ve seen of Scientology, it strikes me as completely bughouse crazy without the extenuating circumstance of being a remarkably ancient belief system. Also, their treatment of the ex-Scientologists is beyond creepy and verging towards criminal.

Rabbi Hillel, who taught about a century before Jesus showed up, has many famous sayings, some which show up quoted in the teachings of Jesus. Hillel’s version of The Golden Rule is “That which you find abhorrent, do to no other man.” Hillel’s version of the Great Commandment came as an answer to a question as to how to best sum up the Torah. “Love God and love what God has made. All the rest is commentary.”

Here’s my view as short and sweet as I can make it.

The heart of God is easy. Love God and love what God has made.

The mind of God is hard. That’s why we do mathematics.

And just to be clear, I'm Matty Boy of Earth. Not Sarek of Vulcan.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

And for those of you who love culture, there's sport!

I don't follow American summer sports the way I used to. When I was a kid, I loved the San Francisco Giants and had a passel of favorite players. I didn't just love Mays and Marichal and McCovey and Perry. I rooted for Ollie "Downtown" Brown to become a starter and for Fireball Frank Linzy when he came out of the bullpen. Now, I follow the Giants and A's with one eye on the standings once a week. I have a dear friend who is a Yankees fan, so I find out if they are hot or stink before I give her a call.

But right now there are two sporting events I do care about, at least to some extent. The hard-to-find cable network Versus is carrying the Tour de France, both live at an ungodly hour and on tape delay. I'm not rooting for anyone in particular, but boy, is it pretty to watch. The scenery is fantastic, the race is exciting, and when you think that these guys put out this much effort day after day for weeks, you have to respect anyone who finishes the race in one piece, let alone wins it seven times straight like Lance Armstrong did.

The Tour, and bicycle racing in general, suffers from the idea that there are a lot of people taking performance enhancement drugs. NEWS FLASH! Athletes in every money sport in the world are taking performance enhancement drugs. The difference is that in America, where we love to catch criminals and put them in jail, we do not give a rat's ass about catching performance enhancement drug users. The enforcement policies for all major sports in the United States are pathetic jokes compared to any major sport anywhere else is the world.


Off my soap box for a moment and back to being a fan, the final of Copa America is being played today in Venezuela. Copa America is the national team championship of South America, though now they invite a few teams from North America as well. This year they invited the U.S. and Mexico. We sent a truly crap team of nobodies and lost three straight games. Mexico sent their best, but got beat bad by Argentina in the semifinals.

So the finals are Argentina vs. Brazil. Argentina sent their A Team, while Brazil sent their B team. Brazil are Ronaldo free: no Ronaldinho, no Ronaldo, no Cristian Ronaldo. Brazil's best scoring threats are Robinho and Vagner Love, a name I... well, love. The Spanish language announcers love it, too. (VAG-ner Luh-uuuuuv!) A lot of fans blame Vagner Love for Brazil's poor showing in the last World Cup. Some stories about him mention that the teams he plays for professionally might have ownership groups that are a little... well, mobbed up, but right now, I'm a fan. I rooted for Brazil when I was a wee lad and I will always want them to win, up until the day (if any) when the United States can put a team on the pitch that deserves to beat them. I get the feeling they are going to break my heart today, but I'm going to watch anyway.

So, Viva Brazil!

And, oh yeah. Amelia Rosner, if you read this... Yankees suck.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Why impeachment is a good thing

So here's the "liberal" idea of good TV. Get three people, two liberals and one conservative, who agree on a topic to discuss the topic. Pretty dumb, huh? I mean, where's the excitement, where's the screaming? Well, I was doing some of the screaming, but not at anyone on the screen. I was screaming stuff like "What about Alberto?" and "Can the Democrats get past that jellyfish Pelosi?"

The TV show is Bill Moyers' Journal, which aired last night. Since it's on PBS, it will be repeated a jillion times, though exactly when on what station near you is homework you'll have to do on your own. The three people were Moyers himself, former Reagan Justice Department official Bruce Fein and author John Nichols from the magazine The Nation, both pictured below.

While they all agreed that impeachment is a wonderful tool put into the Constitution for reasons we are seeing abundantly clearly right now, each man came at it from a somewhat different angle. Moyers played devil's advocate as the host from time to time, asking the questions someone from Fox News might ask, with the main difference being he let the people speak after he asked the question. Obviously, he believes impeachment is a good idea. It's his show and he invited two guys on to talk about it for an hour and he didn't call them pinheads or cut off their microphones. Of course, those are the tactics of another Bill, and the other Bill considers Bill Moyers a threat and a traitor.

Remember when manners meant something?

John Nichols brought up that a group of Democrats went to Tip O'Neill in 1974 and wanted to continue the impeachment even after Nixon resigned, with the idea that future residents of the White House should know what the impeachable offenses were, to make sure they wouldn't be repeated. O'Neill said no, which is understandable given the political climate of the time. You kind of wish he had said yes.

Wanting the war in Iraq to be over is still played as a "far left" idea by reporters in Washington, even though it is an idea held by 70% of the public right now. It was our idea first, but it's not ours alone anymore. Impeachment is supposed to be a "far left" idea now, but only if we ignore Constitution lovers like the conservatives Fein, Paul Craig Roberts and Bob Barr.

Madame Speaker, take back your blanket statement. You can give one of those "after difficult consideration and much prayerful consideration" speeches. People love those. Let the impeachment of Alberto Gonzales begin, and follow it with the impeachments of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.

It's really important. Without a strong legislative body, our Republic will collapse into a monarchy.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Multitasking Friday II: This time, it's personal

This is the logo of Jess Wundrun, commenter both on my humble blog and at the place where all the cool kids meet, Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog. Jess has decided to start her own blog called I Was Just Wondering, and having read her work in the past, I gladly give it the Lotsa 'Splainin' Seal Of Approval.

These are the dogs of Jess Wundrun. I mean, really. I was gonna give Jess a plug anyway, but with these little guys? I can't not love these dogs.

And since it's Friday, I give you the Random 10 from my iPod. This week's list is a great mix of rock and roll and not rock and roll, and the closing act here is the same as the closing act at Woodstock.

Baubles Bangles & Beads Nina Simone
Spinning Away Brian Eno & John Cale
Love Train The O’Jays
Inoculated City The Clash
If It Isn’t Love Fats Waller
Hello, Mabel Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band
Who Will It Be Tomorrow? William Bell
Judy Hoagy Carmichael
Heathen Town Elvis Costello & The Attractions
If 6 Was 9 The Jimi Hendrix Experience

There's a lot of songs I love on this list, but If 6 Was 9 is the gotta-be-the-final-song killer on this list. It's so simple, but it simply kills. The lyrics don't exactly agree with the liberal blogosphere ideal of changing the world by changing people's minds, but I'm pretty sure even Gandhi woke up some mornings and thought:

If the mountains
Fell in the sea
Let it be...
It ain't me.
Got my own world to live through, and I ain't gonna copy you.

And on that note, I put a link to another screed of mine on the Smirking Chimp, hoping against hope that Nancy Pelosi will realize her little gavel may be the last defense against the complete lawlessness George W. Bush and his pals are currently inflicting on this great nation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Stealing from the best: Vol. 1

Here are the happy parents.

Here is their successful first born son. And they couldn't be prouder.



This visual joke was first mentioned in the comments of Princess Sparkle Pony. All I have done is put the pictures together and take the credit.

Enjoy!

Oh, goody! Multiple choice quiz!

That guy from The Empire Strikes Back movie with the things stuck permanently on his head looks like:

a) a valuable member of the Cloud City security task force
b) an unfortunate accident victim doing his best to make his way in the world despite his handicap
c) one creepy ass lookin' mofo



The folks walking around everywhere with their bluetooth phones stuck permanently on their heads look like:

a) Multitasking go-getters on their way to the top
b) Early adopters of the coolest new technology
c) some creepy ass lookin' mofos