Fri 19 May 2006
A box where you keep your stuff
You know, I never thought there were that many yuppies in this town, overpriced real estate aside. Sure, we have Rich Wankers who live high on the hill in their sprawling pseudo-Craftsman mansions -- I know this because I have accidentally become trapped in their cul-de-sacs of doom -- but I didn't think we had many yuppies. We don't seem to have much in the way of yuppie jobs, yuppie clothes, yuppie restaurants, or even yuppie behavior. We don't have super-trendy restaurants where everybody wears an Italian suit and orders off the menu and spends the entire meal talking on their cell phones to LA or New York.
But some developer apparently thinks there is an underserved yuppie market here, and to tap into it Bellingham needs a sparkly tower of in-your-face yuppiness like what you might find in the lower mainland of BC, or San Diego, or some other locale with moderate weather and stratospherically overpriced real-estate.
Now, I abhor this manner of architectural abomination anywhere, and this particular project is hideously out of scale and out of character with the buildings around it, and, worse, if it is successful it will just encourage more of that sort of thing, which I will hate so much it destroys my ability to think straight, so, anyway, I will be praying every night that the project fails miserably, preferably before any ground is broken, like maybe whoever is behind it isn't really a real estate developer, but is in fact a con artist, and will be skedaddling to the Cayman Islands with all the money gullible yuppies have paid to reserve spaces in the proposed Towering Infernal.
Sigh. One can dream.
But I also despise this kind of stupid high-concept marketing for condos or apartments or whatever, where they always call them "homes" and try to make it seem like, somehow, if you live there you will have exquisite taste, fashionable friends, a personal maid, and a renewed dedication to your fitness regimen.
Oooo, and note the little slogan, so carefully spelled out with lower case letters, but periods, as if each word is a sentence all to itself, but somehow understated at the same time, like some moronic little post-modern poetic exercise: water. sky. home.
A condo is not a LIFESTYLE, okay? It's a BOX where you KEEP YOUR STUFF.
Addendum: As of March 2, 2008 the developers of Bay View Tower are refunding deposits. According to project manager Robert Howe, the project isn't dead. But they have vacated their sales office.
Bay View Tower update.
Permalink : A box where you keep your stuff
Fri 19 May 2006
High School of the Damned: Percival and the Brain (4)
So, this is it -- the end of "Percival and the Brain." The next series
is "Terra Goes to Hell," followed by "Pages Torn Out of Alexandra's
Notebook." All three cover the title character's life from early childhood
until the summer of 1983 -- right before their senior year in high school.
Because, by the last couple of drawings of Percival and the Brain, it was
already 1983, I checked out my senior year high school yearbook to see what
their hair should look like.
All I can say is.... ew.
I knew that 80s had some very unfortunate hair trends, you know, the kind
of thing that makes a mohawk look like a reasonable alternative, but I think
my memory of the actual time period was influenced too much by pop culture --
that is, I knew what actors and musicians and counterculture types looked like
in 1983, and forgot how irredeemably dorky actual middle America teenagers looked.
Helmet hair. It's amazing. I had forgotten all about helmet hair.
Also, something extraordinary has happened. I knew it would, based on having
laughed my way through my mother's 1964 yearbook, but I wasn't paying attention
and so it still came as a surprise: enough time has passed that I can no longer
tell, just by looking, who was cool and who wasn't.
You can tell who was a cheerleader, and who was dating a cheerleader, on account
of homecoming photos and things like that. And you can guess who was popular
based on how frequently they turn up in the incidental shots. And there are
a few people who are obviously studs, because they have that look in their eyes,
and a few who are obviously nerds, because they have that look in their eyes
too. And of course, I remember -- but imperfectly. There are seniors in those
pages whose names don't ring even a small, tinkly little bell.
And even the "cute" boys have ridiculous hair.
Permalink : Percival and the Brain (4)
Fri 19 May 2006
So, according to the Federal Government, I am perpetually
pre-pregnant until hitting menopause. Because the guidelines don't say
"all women who are PLANNING to get pregnant." No, of course not. They say,
"all women who are CAPABLE of getting pregnant." Because, apparently, they
are issuing guidelines for the Republic of Gilead they're planning, where
whether I WANT to have a baby or not isn't part of the equation. And why are
these guidelines are being issued now? Because:
Progress toward further reducing the rate of unhealthy pregnancy results,
including premature birth, low birthweight and infant mortality, has slowed
in the United States since 1996 "in part because of inconsistent delivery
and implementation of interventions before pregnancy to detect, treat and
help women modify behaviors, health conditions and risk factors that contribute
to adverse maternal and infant outcomes," according to the report.
The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than those of most other industrialized
nations -- it's three times that of Japan and 2.5 times those of Norway,
Finland and Iceland, according to a report released last week by Save the
Children, an advocacy group.
Hear that, ladies? Because the United States has the most expensive, yet
suckiest, health care system in the developed world, you should take folic
Apparently, in the interest of providing a variety of community voices, the
PI has chosen to give a forum to nutty
9/11 conspiracy theorists.
No, I don't know why.
Last week, proponents of keeping the [estate] tax, held a press conference
in Washington, D.C., to reveal a "multimillion-dollar lobbying effort" to
repeal the tax. This effort, they said, is led by 18 "superwealthy families"
with a total net worth of $185 billion.
Also showing up (not by accident) was a parody group, Billionaires for Bush,
that frequently attacks the "Dynasty Tax." "We pay good money to get rid
of laws we don't like," said a woman who took the name Iva Fortune.
repeal: a morality play
It seems like I'm seeing a lot more stories about joined
twins being separated these days. Are there more being born? Is the technology
to separate them more advanced? Or is it simply a function of a global news
This story about Brits
using scissors and screwdrivers as toothpicks is just weird. Don't they
have toothpicks there? And what about floss? Also, do scissors even
work? Are British teeth simply farther apart than my American orthodontic-ed
I hate to say it, but maybe there's something to all those sitcom jokes about
British dental hygiene.
Noooo! Not the Trojan
cooling tower! I love the Trojan cooling tower!
I was even down in Longview a couple of weekends ago for a wedding (Hi, Eric
and Tina) and didn't stop to take pictures. I didn't realize it was my last
chance. They're blowing it up on Sunday, May 21.
One view of the Captains of Industry: They're
predators. You're prey.. Although if I had written this article, I probably
would have talked about vampires. But maybe that's just me.
I was going to express annoyance about the new revelations about DNS surveillance,
you know, putting all your phone calls into a big database and figuring out
if you call your mother often enough, but D.
Parvaz of the PI has already done it.
Except, once again, I am baffled that most paranoid anti-government types
seem so un-nonplussed when they find out about this sort of thing. As long
as it's a Republican government, it's all right. Republicans don't want to
take away your rights. Sure, they'll spy on you, hold you in secret prisons,
torture you, suppress your use of the first amendment. But they don't want
to take away your RIGHTS.
And speaking of Myspace, they think
they are the boss of you, or at least your content.
By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content, messages, text, files,
images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other
materials (collectively, "Content") on or through the Services, you hereby
grant to MySpace.com, a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide
license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees)
to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display,
store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such Content on and through the
At the risk of starting blasphemous rumors, I think a third Bush president
would be final proof that there
is no God. Or, perhaps that there is, and he really hates us. Or hates
America, at least.
Permalink : Zeitgeist 060519
Wed 10 May 2006
You know, it seems like the sort of thing that would be unconstitutional,
hire or fire someone based on their political beliefs. Yet U.S. Housing
and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson seems proud of it, here relaying
a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor:
"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years... He
made a heck of a proposal... he came to see me and thank me for selecting
him. Then he said something ... He said, 'I don't like President Bush.'
I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is
elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was
sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'"
"He didn't get the contract. Why should I reward someone who doesn't like
the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president?
Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."
I know you've all been waiting eagerly for closure
on the German Sex Cannibal. He was convicted of murder and "disturbing
the peace of the dead" and sentenced to life in prison. His lawyers were arguing
for the lesser offense of "killing on demand," since he does have the victim,
on video, allowing that he wants to be killed and eaten. In 2004, he was sentenced
to 8.5 years for manslaughter, a verdict that was appealed by the prosecuters.
I remember, about five or six years ago, reading a prediction that retiring
baby-boomers would cause a hiring boom starting around 2005.
In honor of the upcoming release of the movie version of The Da Vinci Code,
information about Opus Dei. Strangely, although they are a conservative
Catholic sect given to mild self-punishment, they are not generally called
upon to murder Tom Hanks... or are they?
computer scores another victory, this time against Apple Corps, the record
company founded by The Beatles. British High Court Judge Anthony Mann ruled
that the computer company's logo is used in association with the store - not
the music - and therefore did not breach a 1991 non-competition agreement.
Wow. Something where I'm
in the majority. (The six out of ten Americans who don't play video games.)
for those who plan ahead: a composition by John Cage called "As Slow as
Possible," being performed at St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany,
where the performance is scheduled to last 639 years. The piece began Sept.
5, 2001, on what would have been Cage's 89th birthday. Notes start or stop
once or twice a year, always on the fifth day of the month.
The Bush presidency officially descends into self-parody: when asked by the
German press about the best and worst moments of his presidency, Bush unsurprisingly
said "The most awful moment was September the 11th, 2001." But his best moment
a big fish?
The best moment was -- you know, I've had a lot of great moments. I don't know, it's hard to characterize the great moments. They've all been busy moments, by the way. I would say the best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half pound large mouth bass on my lake.
warming -- I'm sure it's still a myth. Go back to sleep.
Atmospheric circulation over the Pacific Ocean has weakened significantly during the past century, and scientists say the most likely explanation for the shift is human-induced climate change.
The head of the world's largest chipmaker unveiled a mobile personal computer... Intel Corp. Chief Executive Paul Otellini said the $400 machines, code-named "Eduwise," will feature built-in wireless and will be able to run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows or the Linux operating system.
Which is funny, because I always thought Obsession smelled like Play-Doh.
But I bet the Play-Doh doesn't smell like Obsession.
Sir Timothy "Tim" John Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web:
When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone's permission. . The new application rolled out over the existing Internet without modifying it. I tried then, and many people still work very hard still, to make the Web technology, in turn, a universal, neutral, platform. It must not discriminate against particular hardware, software, underlying network, language, culture, disability, or against particular types of data.
I guess that's one
way of measuring presidential performance: During the first three months
of the year, Bush has been the punch line of 307 monologue jokes by Jay Leno,
David Letterman and Conan O'Brien, according to the Center for Media and Public
affairs, which studies this sort of thing.
That compares to 197 jokes during the same period last year. For all of 2005,
the center counted 544 Bush jokes.
Permalink : Zeitgeist 060510
Wed 10 May 2006
The fallen are the virtuous among us
It's true. Deep
down, leaders in the anti-abortion movement really just want to punish women.
"Saving the babies" is their cover, their friendly crowd-pleasing message. They
clearly don't actually want to prevent any actual abortions.
Because they want to get
rid of birth control too.
But then, from this perspective, the pill began to do terrible damage. "I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill," Mohler [president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary], continued. "It became almost an assured form of contraception, something humans had never encountered before in history. Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."
Got that girls? You are evil, fallen, if you want to have sex and
not get pregnant.
(And a big, ahem here, their rhetoric decries sex without procreation as reducing
people to "bodies," but I can't help feeling that they are reducing me to less
than a human body, to an incubator, a life-support machine for a potential fetus.)
Now, these people seem kind of crazy to me. They seem like that guy in Dr.
Strangelove who keeps going on about "precious bodily fluids." But if all
they wanted was to convince people who already followed their wacky worldview
to eschew contraception, they wouldn't be any worse than people who believe
in astrology, or homeopathy, or the inerrancy of the Pope, or anything else
I don't personally believe in. People are free to believe that having lots of
sex infuses them with mystical energy, or that God wants them to have twelve
kids, or that total abstinence is the gateway to Heaven, or whatever.
It's still a free country.
Except these guys have something -- ambition, hubris, ego -- that makes them
want to force the rest of us to appear to share their worldview. Like
if an Amish cult took over and outlawed electricity. They don't want it to be
a free country. They want it to be a country according to their own design.
They have political schemes, and their schemes have no room for those of us
who simply don't agree with them.
Even if you don't like abortion, if you are a woman, or if you like women,
these people are not on your side. Shun them.
PS: The title is a Franz Ferdinand quote.
Permalink : The fallen are the virtuous among us
Mon 08 May 2006
High School of the Damned: Percival and the Brain (3)
Okay, so, this installment of "Percival and The Brain" was supposed to go up on Friday, but we had to leave for a wedding and I hadn't finished it yet. And we were out of town all weekend. So, here it is. Just one panel. I know.
Sometimes it just works out like that.
Permalink : Percival and the Brain (3)
Wed 03 May 2006
The Creationist Zone
Do do do do... next stop... the creationist
zone. The linked video is quite long, so I'll give highlights: an achingly
sincere and condescending Kirk Cameron, who spends the whole video acting like
he's trying to convince slightly dim high schoolers to sell magazines for Christ,
plus some Australian guy, are the hosts. They try to disprove evolution using
each of the following:
- Inability of high school students to adequately explain the theory of evolution.
- Gaps in the fossil record.
- Lack of table manners in even highly trained orang-outangs.
- Airline policy regarding orang-outangs.
- Sexism and racism in the writing of Charles Darwin.
Most head-exploding point: after demonstrating similarities between humans
and orang-outangs, they show a biplane and a jumbo jet, "they look very similar,
does that mean one evolved from the other?" I thought they were going to go
with the watchmaker analogy here, because of course, a jumbo jet did
evolve from a biplane, but under human direction. But instead, they
claim the similarities are because God used a similar BLUEPRINT
to design both humans and apes. Oh, I see, it all makes sense now. Your God
-- the God you worship, the God you believe created the universe out of nothing,
the God you believe is the supreme and ultimate power in the eternity of the
universe -- made humans and apes look like each other because he ran out
Most unintentionally hilarious host performance: When Kirk explains that the
last couple of dozen times he has "witnessed" to someone, the subject of evolution
hasn't come up, because "when you learn to speak to a person's CONscience" (indicated
by two hands over the heart) "and circumNAVigate the INTELLECT -- " (indicated
by pointing to his temple with two fingers, like he's shooting himself in the
head) "the subject of evolution seems to... disappear." (indicated by an exaggerated,
wide-eyed shrug and a weird circular hand motion.) So, uh, this guy originally
made his living as an actor, huh? Wow.
At the end of the video, if you make it that far, you might notice they have
mentioned "the fossil record" a bunch of times, but they haven't mentioned DNA
Do you suppose it's because DNA would provide too much compelling evidence
in favor of the theory of evolution?
Permalink : The Creationist Zone
Wed 03 May 2006
I believe in America. I believe it exists.
Just in case you don't get C-SPAN, check out Stephen Colbert's hilarious presentation
at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Update: the original "youtube" links have been removed. (Hmm... suppression! It must be important!) So here is Colbert's routine in Bit Torrent format.Bit Torrent is here. Oh, and here's another Colbert link from filmportal.
There are some in the media who claim that his routine was a "flop" or "unfunny"
because the people at the event weren't laughing too much (except Supreme Court
Justice Antonin Scalia, who was guffawing fit to burst at an "improper Italian
hand gesture" sequence directed specifically at him). It's true there weren't
a lot of big laugh-getters, and when the camera showed the crowd, there were
a lot of expressions that read as "Omigod! I can't believe he just SAID
Which of course is what you'll get from most truly brilliant comedy -- the
first time around. It's a sad, shameful fact that safe and predictable jokes
are the most guaranteed laugh-getters. They just aren't the jokes that matter
But look at it this way. How many people go to a typical White House Correspondents
Dinner? A few hundred? (Um. Turns out it's 2,000, according to Paul, who's usually
right about such things.) How many people watch C-SPAN? A few thousand? And
how many people take a gander at a "hot" Internet video clip?
Well, I don't know, actually, but I'm betting it's more people than watch C-SPAN.
Anyway, the video is funnier (timing and all), but a nice dKos person has typed
up a reasonably
accurate transcript of the brilliance in case you can't watch the video.
Related footnote: Wanna know why
Democrats lose elections?
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) came to the defense of the commander in chief after Saturday’s White House Correspondents' Association dinner, where the president took a drubbing from comedian Stephen Colbert.
"I thought some of it was funny, but I think it got a little rough," Hoyer said.
"He is the president of the United States, and he deserves some respect."
Yeah, yeah. You gotta fight politics by the Marquess
of Queensberry rules. Except, when the Republicans are fighting a bar brawl,
you fight by the rules and you lose.
Permalink : I believe in America. I believe it exists.
Wed 03 May 2006
So, it turns out that Republicans won't be bribing us with $100 bucks each
public anger over soaring gasoline prices" after all.Which is a relief.
Because even though I would like $100 bucks, that's my tax money anyway and
I think there are better things it could be spent on.
I sort of hate paying for gas, because I know the money is going to horrid
gigantic corporations that routinely do things I find immoral, and burning the
product is causing all sorts of environmental devastation. And I buy it anyway,
and that makes me a hypocrite. And so I sometimes think, in spite of the chaos
that will result, we should just run out of oil already and get it over with
and start living in that Road Warrior world. (Although, in a world
where gas is supposed to be scarce, they spend an awful lot of time driving
cars in that movie... oh, well, it's still cool.)
The anger makes me wonder, though, weren't these people alive during the "gas
crisis" of the 70s? I know I was, and I'm not that old. The 70s were
kind of a warning shot. We could've learned something from it.
Instead we elected a president, Ronald Reagan, who promised us that "this
nation has been portrayed for too long a time to the people as being energy-poor
when it is energy-rich." See, that whole energy thing wasn't really a problem!
It was just, you know, bad propaganda! Now get out there and spend the next
twenty years buying cars that become steadily uglier and more gigantic!
Did we think that cheap gas was some kind of holy birthright? That it's in
the Constitution? Life, liberty and the pursuit of cheap gas?
are sick, I tell you.
White, middle-aged Americans - even those who are rich - are far less healthy
than their peers in England, according to stunning new research.
Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease
and cancer - findings that held true no matter what income or education level.
Those dismal results are despite the fact that U.S. health care spending is
double what England spends on each of its citizens.
The researchers crunched numbers to create a hypothetical statistical world
in which the English had American lifestyle risk factors, including being
as fat as Americans. In that model, Americans were still sicker.
The upper crust in both countries was healthier than middle-class and low-income
people in the same country. But richer Americans' health status resembled
the health of the low-income English.
Are you autistic?
Wired Magazine has a fun test to let you know. Apparently I'm not, so... good
for me. It doesn't explain why I'm still such a geek.
attempts to take over the world, part 1,546,315
Microsoft Corp.'s online unit has reached an agreement to provide underlying
technology for Amazon.com Inc.'s A9.com and Alexa search services, filling
a role previously held by Google, the Redmond company's rival.
Web and news-related queries made from A9.com, Alexa and a search box on
the Amazon.com home page now bring back results "powered by Windows Live Search,"
the new name for Microsoft's MSN Search service. Windows Live Search also
is selected by default on A9.com, a site that lets users query multiple search
Wait a minute, Google is Microsoft's rival? I thought that was Apple... or
Oh, I get it. Any company other than Microsoft that does anything
for computers is Microsoft's rival.
Speaking of Macs, it is being treated as a big deal that they are becoming
more vulnerable to viruses. Which seems like a no-brainer to me -- the
reason that Macs seemed invulnerable for so long was mostly because they were
such a niche market machine that nobody bothered with viruses. Yes,
the operating system is inherently more secure than Windows. More
secure doesn't mean perfectly secure.
Songs at Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes Music Store will remain 99 cents per
download after the company extended its distribution deals with major recording
The recording industry and Apple had been at odds over Apple's insistence
to keep its flat rate with some labels wanting variable pricing, including
higher prices for new releases.
Reading this, I can't help thinking that record industry executives
are kid of idiotic. They complain about pirating -- people sharing digital copies
of music without paying for them. Then Apple develops iTunes, and last year
digital music sales were $1.1 billion. So, because of that, the industry wants
to provide fresh incentives to piracy by raising prices. Yeah, you guys are
marketing geniuses, no wonder your entire industry is in a slump.
Interview with Joe
Klein, author of Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized
By People Who Think You're Stupid. Highlights of the interview:
"That's when the permanent campaign is born. And from that day to this, consultants
have been in the driver's seat to the point where, in the Bush administration,
which I call the final squalid perfection of the permanent campaign, they
had a consultant up until last week in charge of policy: Karl Rove."
"There is a whole generation of young Americans who think that political
discourse is Eleanor Clift yelling at Pat Buchanan. That's dangerous. I don't
want our political discourse to be seen as a debate between Rush Limbaugh
and Michael Moore."
"The greatest thing that we've lost during the time that I've been covering
politics is that sense of community and common good. Ronald Reagan said that
government isn't part of the solution but part of the problem, and that became
the central philosophy of the Republican Party. It's a direct line from him
saying that in the late '70s to Hurricane Katrina. If you think government
is part of the problem, you can't govern well when there's a crisis."
More legal troubles for that
druggie Rush Limbaugh. Which is funny, because he's such a venom-spewing
hypocrite on the subject. But more importantly it shows the hypocrisy of
our system: poor druggies go to jail, rich druggies go to rehab.
"What this says to me is that too many whites are getting away with drug
use, too many whites are getting away with drug sales, too many whites are
getting away with trafficking in this stuff. The answer to this disparity
is not to start letting people out of jail because we're not putting others
in jail who are breaking the law. The answer is to go out and find the ones
who are getting away with it, convict them and send them up the river, too."
-- Rush Limbaugh. October 5, 1995 show transcript.
Permalink : Zeitgeist 060503
Mon 01 May 2006
Schadenfreude and lots of it
A teen novel by a Harvard student accused of plagiarizing a successful author
of young adult fiction was yanked Thursday from bookstores by its publisher,
Little, Brown & Co.
"How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life" by 19-year-old sophomore
Viswanathan contained at least 40 passages similar or identical in theme
and content to parts of two novels by Megan McCafferty, "Sloppy Firsts" and
In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, Viswanathan, a fan
of McCafferty's novels, blamed her photographic memory. Earlier, she had apologized
to McCafferty, saying she did not consciously plagiarize her.
Although her novel received mixed reviews, Viswanathan had been the subject
of positive news stories, mostly focusing on her youth, her ethnicity (she
was born in India) and her two-book deal, worth a reported $500,000. DreamWorks
optioned the book for a movie.
Now, let's go back in time and react to an article on Viswanathan from a year ago.
Kaavya Viswanathan is set on becoming an investment banker when she
graduates from Harvard University in 2008 <..> Agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh
of the William Morris Agency, [told her] that Little Brown & Company, one of
the oldest and most prestigious American publishers - now part of the Time Warner
Group - agreed to a two-book deal with the teenager. The sum approached $500,000.
Ms. Viswanathan said she expects to deliver the first volume, tentatively titled
"How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got In," by the end of next month.
The novel is expected to be published next spring. Ms. Viswanathan said she's
already written more than 150 pages, or more than a third of the manuscript.
Just a moment, while I reattach my exploding head. There. Okay. She is... a
teenager and... unpublished and... she is getting $500,000 from a major publisher
for two books she hasn't even finished yet?
All you other writers out there finished attaching your exploding heads? Okay.
And stop grinding your teeth. Yes, I know anomalies like this are why the average
person labors under the misapprehension that writers 1. Get lots of money for
what they write, and 2. Get published without having to go through the emotional
cheesegrater of rejection just because they're reasonably good, or your precious
talented little girl, or any of those other sweet but unhelpful things that
friends and family tend to think.
But the question is why? How?
"My parents had gone to college in India, and they felt unfamiliar with the
college-application process in America," Ms. Viswanathan said. "So they signed
me up with Dr. Katherine Cohen's IvyWise as an extra safeguard." IvyWise is
a service that prepares students for college admissions.
"I was so charmed by what I read," Ms. Cohen said [of Viswanathan's novel].
"I immediately sensed that here was a star in the making. So I called my own
agent at William Morris, Suzanne Gluck, and told her about Kaavya."
Ms. Gluck showed the manuscript to Ms. Walsh, who handles fiction at the
agency. She was impressed and shopped it around, and Little, Brown offered
the highest advance. Ms. Viswanathan was the youngest writer the agency had
taken on in its 109-year history.
Oh, I see. Because Viswanathan is already privileged enough to have an expensive
college application coach and go to Harvard, and because somebody knows somebody,
she gets to bypass the cheesegrater of rejection.
So I guess that explains how... but it still, in my mind, does not adequately
explain why. Is the unfinished novel really that good? Are the publishing
houses really that desperate for another "chick-lit" star? Or was there a directive
from up above that she happened to fit, something like, "hey, we need more ethnic
diversity, and teenagers, in chick-lit!"
This article in Slate
suggests that, indeed, she was selected on the basis of a larger-scale marketing
strategy. The still-unfinished book was processed through a "book packager"
called 17th Street Productions, which describes itself as "a creative think
tank that develops and produces original books, television series and feature
films" with a focus on the teen market. (Horrified shudder.) Previous 17th Street
sins include the Sweet Valley High series, so that tells you right there what
kind of evil they're capable of. In fact, the Salon article makes it sound like
the final product, I mean book, no I mean product, was as worked-over by lame
marketing hacks as the stinkiest Hollywood tripe.
I've heard that Stephen King benefitted from something similar -- that the
publisher was looking for the "next Exorcist" and Carrie happened to
be sitting on their desk. But, you know, it was a finished novel. And
also brilliant. And King had been writing for years and had actually published
a few short stories by that point. He hit the jackpot, yeah, but he hit it honestly.
"The main character is a girl of Indian descent who's totally academically driven, and when she senses from a Harvard admissions officer that her personal life wasn't perhaps well-rounded, Ms. Mehta goes out and does what she thinks 'regular' American kids do - get drunk, kiss boys, dance on the table," Ms. Viswanathan said.
Does her fictional character get into Harvard? Only the novel will tell.
Um, no, that's incorrect -- the (awful) working title tells you she "got in,"
what, are you brain damaged or something?
I suppose that's why it was changed before release to "got a life," which doesn't
reveal the climax, but is, if anything, worse. And man, does that description
make the book sound tedious.
So, there's a thing I'm feeling now, taking those two articles together. I
think that feeling is schadenfreude -- best expressed with a big ole' Nelson
I'm not just gloating over the seeming karmic balance of big misfortune following
great success. Well, I guess I am. But an important balance has been restored.
The publishing world has been smacked down by the universe for their sins. And
I certainly hope that all the suffering is theirs -- the recalled books, the
broken movie deals, the unexpected spotlight shone on their cynical marketing
schemes. It's horrid when any art is treated as a hollow lifestyle
accoutrement, but doing that to novels... it just seems extra wicked.
I don't really feel sorry for Viswanathan, since her family is still loaded,
and she will become an investment banker when she graduates from Harvard.
Okay, maybe I feel a little sorry for her. She was only 17 when she wrote the
novel. Many people involved in this were old enough to know better, but not
her. Second, when I actually looked at some of the passages in comparison -- it seemed to me that the copying was very deliberate
but not deliberately plagiarism. She started with passages from McCafferty's
books, possibly even because the publisher told her to make it similar
to the other writer, and then changed them. She changed them the way you change
encyclopedia entries when you're writing a paper, the way you rewrite nonfiction.
And maybe she just didn't know any better.
Permalink : Schadenfreude and lots of it
Mon 01 May 2006
Argh! Not again!
killer, 12, linked to goth site. Allegedly this girl, possibly with the
assistance of her 23-year-old boyfriend, killed three members of her own family.
After going "goth." And now, of course, goth
culture defended in wake of triple murder.
I want to point out something here. Historically, an awful lot of crazy murderers
have talked about God, or Jesus, but there's no "rush to defend Christian culture"
whenever a religious fanatic drowns her family in order to save them from the
devil, or whatever. Why? Because being Christian is already assumed to be "mainstream,"
therefore a crazy Christian killer is automatically assumed to be a statistically
insignificant deviant from the norm of being Christian.
So, I shouldn't have to point out that "goths" who murder are statistically
insignificant crazy weirdoes, just like "rednecks" who murder or "holy
rollers" who murder or "investment bankers" who murder. I just
feel the need to remind everyone about that.
Permalink : Argh! Not again!
Mon 01 May 2006
Scotty, we hardly knew ye
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route New Orleans, Louisiana
Q It's come to my attention that there's been requests -- this is a serious question -- to turn these TVs onto a station other than Fox, and that those have been denied. My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?
MR. McCLELLAN: Never heard of any such thing. My TVs are on four different channels at all times.
Q Because you have four different TVs. But every time I've ever been --
MR. McCLELLAN: Every TV in the White House also has channels every -- has a split screen, where they can --
Q Well, they always seem to be tuned to Fox, and there's been requests, and these are paid for by taxpayer dollars. And my understanding is that you guys have to watch Fox on Air Force One. Is that true?
MR. McCLELLAN: First time I've ever heard of it. First time you've brought it to my attention, meaning the first time the press corps has brought it to my attention. In fact, I've watched other channels on here.
Q There's one --
MR. McCLELLAN: Hang on, Jim, come on. I've watched other channels on here, so I don't know where you're hearing that. But it's the first time anyone in the press has raised that question with me.
Q You've watched other channels other than Fox?
MR. McCLELLAN: On here, yes, sure.
Q I've never seen -- they're always turned to Fox, which a lot of people consider a Republican-leaning network.
Q Scott, is it one -- on the airplane, is it one for all? I mean, if it's tuned for Fox here, is it Fox everywhere?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that certain areas may be interconnected, but I'll have to double-check which.
Q Is yours off, wherever you are?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the conference room, or the senior staff office, the staff office, they're different TVs, and you can switch to different channels. I'm not sure if some of these in the back are connected to some of the others that are watching right here, right now. It doesn't look like it to me. I've never known anyone that's raised a complaint about a request from back here to watch a different channel.
Q I'm officially raising it and officially complaining about it.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I'm going to go see if we can change the channel for you. Have you called up?
Q I was the Fox victim, and I was told -- the quote was, "No," when I asked for CNN.
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know who you talked to, so -- it didn't come to my attention. You don't know who you talked to either?
Q Well, the magic people at the other end off the phone.
MR. McCLELLAN: The magic people at the other end of the phone. Well, I'll see if this cabin is --
Q I was told, "We don't watch CNN here, you can only watch Fox."
MR. McCLELLAN: As I said, it's hard to respond to something when I don't know who it is you talked to.
Q I used the phone back here.
MR. McCLELLAN: I find this all quite amusing, to tell you the truth. I mean, there are a lot of people on this plane that do watch that channel.
Q I've never been told, no. They're such nice guys up there.
MR. McCLELLAN: First time you brought it to my attention. I'll go see what we can do on it.
* * * * *
MR. McCLELLAN: We just called up. They're going to be changing it, at your all's request, to the channel that you requested, which is CNN -- from the press corps.
Q Thanks, Scott.
Oh, Scotty, we're gonna miss ya.
Permalink : Scotty, we hardly knew ye
Mon 01 May 2006
Congress still hates you
On April 26 The House Committee on Energy and Commerce rejected
a bid to include strong network neutrality protections in a telecommunications
reform bill that is slated for a vote in the House in May.
The SaveTheInternet.com Coalition, which includes a diverse coalition of content
providers such as Google, Amazon, eBay and Microsoft, plus nonprofit organizations,
free speech groups and consumer advocates vowed to continue fighting for stronger
Meta-note: from this PC Magazine article you can find out that the
sponsor of the original bill is a Republican, and the person who tried to push
through the unsuccessful amendment to it is a Democrat, but the article itself
does not construe this as a partisan battle.
However, on the Google news roundup, several headlines do imply strong partisanship:
"US Democrats bid to write "net neutrality" into law fails" (Xinhua, China);
"US Democrats fail to win Internet neutrality" (Inquirer, UK); "Democrats lose
House vote on Net neutrality" (ZDNet and CNET News.com).
No, I don't know what it means. I just thought it was interesting.
Permalink : Congress still hates you
Mon 01 May 2006
English is the pirate whore of languages
national anthem should be sung in English -- not Spanish -- President Bush declared
Friday". Which I think is a remarkably stupid thing to say, given that it
was in response to a Spanish language version of the national anthem released
by a British music producer -- I mean, it's like saying there shouldn't be acoustic
versions of David Bowie songs in Portuguese, and we just KNOW
that's not true. But then Bush says something that I actually do agree with
(it happens sometimes, almost randomly, the way a stopped clock is right twice
"I think people who want to be citizens of this country ought to learn English,"
Bush said. And I agree.
What! (I can hear in my head the shocked, and appalled, reaction of the 70s liberal orthodoxy I vaguely remember from my youth.) You think that immigrants ought to learn English? What kind of a fascist are you?
An English language fascist, as anyone who's known me for a long time will attest.
Well, not really fascist -- exactly -- but I am fiercely partisan toward my
native tongue. English is a wild, undisciplined, slutty language, and I love
her without reservation, stupid nonsensical spelling rules and all. Since books
are pretty much the earliest things in my life I remember being passionate about,
you could say that English is my first love. And still my best love.
This does not mean that I dislike other languages. I love other languages.
English does, too -- she is a strumpet. She is also a pirate. If another
language has a word that expresses a useful concept, or has a nice sound to
it, she will steal it. Boldly. With a cutlass if necessary.
English is also, kind of, psychotic. She invents things, just makes 'em up
out of her head. Sometimes she breaks down completely, capable of nothing but
babbling to herself in grotesque nightmare fragments of meaning. In spite of
this, somehow, we feel we understand her. What self-respecting language would
allow a book like Finnegan's Wake to become a literary classic?
So, English is a psychotic pirate whore. How could you not love a language
Anyway, I don't think people worldwide ought to learn English just because I love it and already speak it. Although, I admit it is handy to be a native speaker of the current planetary lingua franca. (Heh. That's funny. Because the term "lingua franca" originally specifically referred to French, which was the lingua franca of Europe for a very long time.)
I think immigrants to the United States ought to learn English the same way that people moving to France ought to learn French.
I don't support political movements that seek to declare English the "official language" of a state, or the country, or whatever -- although the U.S. ENGLISH, Inc. people may be sincere in their belief that it will "expand opportunities for immigrants to learn and speak English" (perhaps by necessitating federal funding or something -- I don't know, and their mission statement doesn't explain it). The whole thing strikes me as misguided and beside the point and just a bit creepy. There are a lot of things that I think people ought to do -- it doesn't mean I want those things legislated from the highest levels of government.
(House Bill 23,343.5: The Federal Flossing Act.)
But I don't think it does immigrants, or anyone else, any favors for them to
remain in a little expatriate bubble forever. Do you want to do well in school?
You need to know English. Do you want to succeed in business? You need to know
English. Want to understand the political process, current events, pop culture,
your bank's loan policies? English. Sure, a lot of those things are also available
in Spanish (if that's your language), but if you never learn English, you will
always be getting a lesser, incomplete, afterthought version of the information.
You will never read the Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights,
in their original language. And it is likely that you will always be a second-class
citizen, easily exploited by those who prey on your isolation.
So, I think the US should welcome anybody who wants to become a citizen. But I think they ought to learn English when they come here.
Besides, English loves you. She is, as I mentioned, a woman of easily negotiated affection.
Permalink : English is the pirate whore of languages