June 2002 Archives

Right On, Brutha

When I learned that the Ninth Circuit had declared the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional, my initial reaction was well, it's about freakin' time.

When I was in Jr. High, we had to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day at the beginning of class. And so we'd all stand up and say the pledge. Well, all except for me, 'cause I'd usually skip the "under God" bit.

Why?

Well, I've never really been a religious fellow. In fact, you could say that I'm fairly areligious (or secular, if you want to put it that way). I don't believe in God; I don't believe that there's any particularly good reason to believe in God. On the flip side, I don't believe that God doesn't exist -- if there really is a omnipotent supernatural being, his/her/their existence will not be provable, nor will it be disprovable, at least in this universe. In short, you can't really ever know. So I didn't believe, and so I skipped over it.

That was then.

Today, I still skip over those words. And I still don't believe. But that's not the only reason I skip them. I skip them because I don't believe that they are really American.

We are not one nation under God.

Amendment I to the Constitution of the United States: (in part)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Who is an American? Being American means that you believe that all men are created equal; that you believe all men have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Being American means that you have the right to worship whomever or whatever you want. And you have the right not to worship if you don't want. And you have the right to worship without fear.

A little history. The original pledge was adopted by an act of Congress in 1942, and it was pretty much identical to the one we have today, with one teeny-weeny exception: the words "under God" were nowhere to be found. In 1954, Congress added those two words.

Why?

Well, we were fighting Godless Communism.

Or, as President Eisenhower put it,

From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural schoolhouse, the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty.

Nice sentiment, except for two little problems. The first, of course, is that pesky little First Amendment.

The second problem is the vexing issue of which Almighty? If you're Christian, it's obviously God as embodied by the Holy Trinity (though who gets to talk to them and how depends on which branch of Christianity you belong to). Unless, of course, you're Unitarian. Or Mormon. If you're Jewish, it's the same God -- Yaweh -- as the Christian one, but he's in one piece, not three. If you're Muslim, then it's the same God (once again) but you call him Allah instead. Buddhists don't have gods in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word; Daoists have gods for just about everything, including the kitchen; and the Hindu have got plenty of gods, but they're all subservient to the Wheel of Life. I'm not even going to get into voodoo, the cargo cults, and the heretics who are skeptical about this whole God thing to begin with.

The very idea that the government should explicitly promote religion is fundamentally un-American. The Pilgrims, after all, were on the run from a repressive theocracy. Every man (and woman) should be free to worship in his (and her) own way, and the government should have nothing to do with it.

Being American means believing that all men are created equal; that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are unalienable rights; that government comes from the consent of the governed. It means believing that we all have the rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of assembly; we have the right to a fair trial, and to be judged by a jury of our peers. It means that we will fight for these rights and beliefs. These are the beliefs and the ideas that tie us together as Americans; these are the ideas and beliefs that make America a great nation. In those few times that America has been attacked, we Americans of all races, colors, and creeds have come together in strength, bonded by neither religion nor a common heritage but by the simple fact that we are Americans, and we are America.

We are one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Read The Damn Decision

Bubble Bursting

Bye-bye, WorldCom.

Hopefully I'll stop getting these come-ons to switch my long-distance service.

That's What I Said

For years, I've been saying that

Yeah, sweatshops suck, and in a perfect world they wouldn't exist, but what would you prefer? 8 hours a day, sitting down and hunched over making sneakers or 10 hours a day knee-deep in a rice paddy, bent over in the blazing sun?

For many folks, making sneakers for Nike (or sewing pants together for KMart, or printing T-shirts for Old Navy) is pretty much the only route available for upward social mobility. It's true that conditions are often horrible, and that the workers don't get paid much, and there's lots of room for improvement. But it's easier work than farming, and they do get paid.

Anyway, today in the Times, Nick Kristof says pretty much the same thing.

As a side note, I suspect that Kristof arrived at his conclusion as a result of his many years living overseas as one of the best foreign correspondents of our generation (his wife is also brilliant, which makes me wonder why he got the column in the Times and she didn't). It's easy to criticize globalism from an armchair in Manhattan; travelling through and living in the third world expands one's horizons significantly.

Thanks to Sasha for pointing this out.

She Sells Sea Shells By The Sea Shore

C. Solly gets it.

Bring It, Einstein

Mike Whybark seems to be under the impression that I'm a macho man. I don't know where he got that impression; after all, I don't like wrestling; I've never lived in the Village; I've never stayed at the YMCA; and I've definitely never been in the Navy.

As always, I blame Ken Goldstein.

Yum Yum, (you know the rest)

So does this mean that Claire Swire is the happiest person on earth?

A Fugue In The Whybarkian Manner

Buy Some Freakin' T-Shirts Already

The Jerk

Morto the Magician. Absolutely brilliant flash animation of The Worst Magic Show Ever.

And Who Watches The Watchers?

This is not good news. It's better than it was, but it's hardly great, either. Basically, this would kill web broadcasting as we know it. Who thinks that Clear Channel likes this decision? At least some of our intrepid legislators understand what a bad idea this is.

Isn't Bigfoot From Near Redmond?

Microsoft released IE 5.2 for Mac OS X a few days ago. If you're still using IE 5.1 for OS X, you really should upgrade. The new version looks much, much better.

Yes, I'm Snarky Sometimes

The guy(s?) behind urldir.com have put together a table comparing blogging tools. For some reason, they don't include my tools of choice...

Club Soda

Robert Parker Jr., the most important man in wine today.

No, I Can't Stand Up Right Now!

I need to get one of these shirts. Then maybe I could get a date with Caffine Girl. Then again, maybe not.

It's All About The Meatballs

I just noticed that I put totally the wrong date on yesterday's entry. OK then.

Are you a Swedish Furniture God? Play The Ikea Game!

Well, I Don't Have To Worry About That Now

Would someone please explain to me why today feels like Friday?

I'm afraid that I'll wake up tomorrow, think that it's Saturday, and not go to work.

No! Not Another List!

  • Elizabeth Spiers, inspired by Blogapalooza and Happy Robot's thoughts on it, does a little navel-gazing about blogs. On a totally unrelated note, UltraSparky does the same thing, though he's inspired by Tom Coates' little PowerPoint presentation (which is something I think everyone should check out).
  • Mike Whybark uncovers the real Deep Throat.
  • The Morning News uncovers the shocking scandal of steriod abuse by the theater crowd.
  • The New York Review looks at the David Brock controversy. Some quotes:
    A few of Brock's former comrades in arms [...] have denounced his credibility. Once a liar, always a liar, conservative critics have suggested, without following the logic backward into an examination of where that leaves his earlier work.
    [T]he transformation of Clinton's personal flaws first into documented scandals [...], then into legal battles, and finally [...] into a constitutional crisis was politically inspired and carried out by Clinton's opponents who, like Brock himself, didn't believe many of the stories.
    A bit lost in all of this is a remarkable development in what was supposed to be impossible to resolve:a he-said/she-said stand-off about whether Clarence Thomas lied under oath on his way to the Supreme Court. There used to be two sides to this debate. Now the leading author of Thomas's defense has thrown in the towel. Moreover, he has implicated quite a few others in the cover-up of the truth about Thomas, including the Justice himself.
  • Paul Kurtz should be (if he's not already) James Randi's best friend.
  • The life and times of Chet Baker.

It's Still Ken Goldstein's Fault

Blogapalooza roundup, part deux, in no orderwhatsoever:

Dr. Weevil discovered "salami pizza is surprisingly tasty" (he also has a picture of me up that's actually not half-bad); John Hiler discovers "that 'conversation' is a great technology"; Edie Singleton manages to work a Magnum, PI episode into her analysis; Ken Goldstein breaks out the thesaurus to call me "rakishly graceful"; 646 Guy comments that it's "refreshing to meet some new people who aren't psychotic"; Elizabeth Spiers "predictably went digging through people's blogs after meeting them" (like everyone else); Jim discovered that I am much taller in real life; Jessica finds that the Donk is a good man to have around "if ever you're waiting for an IRT train at some ungodly hour of the morning,"; C. Solly has a note for female bloggers: "If anyone ever hosts a blog party in your area, go go go. The ratio [...] will be strongly in your favor"; and Erin Hayes doesn't "know what is going on with [her] cheeks."

Mama Cass

I am so not ready for it to be Monday already.

It's All Ken Goldstein's Fault

So Blogapalooza was a great success.

Ravenwolf has a write-up with pictures, as does Leonard of Unruled. Liz (she of the genius NYC Blogger map) has a nice write-up too (despite the lack of pictures, but whatever -- anyway, I didn't take a camera either, so let he who is without cast the first et cetera). She even worked it into her knitting blog (I didn't even know there was such a thing as a knitting blog, but apparently they're just huge).

Anyway.

A very good time was had by all. Shout-outs go to Jane for organizing (by fiat) this little event, La Blogatrice, C. Solly, The Blue-Collar Slob, Edie Singleton, The Illuminated Donkey, Jim (who provided me with my first-ever celebrity moment (i.e. when someone you've never met or communicated with before recognizes you in public), Jessica, Matt Johnson (who's not actually a blogger himself but wrote the backend code for the incredibly cool NYC Bloggers site), Elizabeth Spiers, John Hiler, Erin Hayes, and I'm sure many others who I'm just completely forgetting. If I left you out, it's not a dis, it's just the beer (not) talking.

Shazam!

There were two vaguely Asian tap-dancers on the 1 train platform at 59th Street last night, doing kind of a dance-off during rush hour. Early twenties, with baggy pants and trendy, if sparse, facial hair.

boom chicka-snicka-chicka POW POW

POW chicka boom boomb chic-chicka (beat) POW

ch-ch-ch-ch-chicka snap POW boom chic-chic-ch-chika-chicka POW

They were dancing on wood platforms that were obviously much loved -- one looked like it'd seen better days as the top of a card table; the other was simply a plain piece of plywood turned black by hour upon hour of practice.

snap boom chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka snick chick

chick-snap BOOM chicka-chicka (beat) POW

Underneath the wood, they'd laid down some cardboard to provide just a little cushioning. The wood above flexed and shifted as the dancers pounded out their rhythms.

snick bang chi-chicka BOOM pow (beat) snick slap-chick-boom-chicka

The train came, and I put a dollar in their little translucent red bowl and I got on the train. It rolled through the tunnel a shuddering, rumbling steel leviathan.

snap thud clickCLICK clickCLICK rumble clickCLICK

I heard the echo of those two kids tapping in the swaying of the train.

clickCLICK boom chick-snicka-chicka POW clickCLICK

Stop Me Before I FAQ Again

I have added a second part to my FAQ, wherein I attempt to answer the questions on other people's FAQ pages. Check it out.

I Will Tell You A Tale of Dogs and Cows

Clarus the Dogcow is back! Everybody say "Moof!"

Paris In The Park

Went to go see La Boheme in Central Park last night with Sasha and Steve. It was quite enjoyable, even given the tenor's rather uncharacteristic case of the yips. Central Park at night is rather beautiful, as you can see all of midtown Manhattan from Third Avenue all the way over to Ninth Avenue.

At least one other blogger made it out to the Great Lawn last night, too.

I should point out that I don't recommend just randomly wandering into the park at night, though.

Buy Now

Mandolins Rule

Had a little accident at Tower last night. Normally, I’d say that the highlight was the new Ursula 1000 disc. But I found something really extraordinary. Hayseed Dixie’s (say the name out loud, you’ll figure it out soon enough) A Tribute to Mountain Love. Some might say that it’s a surprisingly successful, albeit somewhat revisionist, attempt to prove that bluegrass is at the heart of all rock ‘n’ roll. The only thing I can say is check it out.

That's A Mighty Big Fig Leaf

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This is not quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. Click on the picture to download the video.

Sorry it’s a low-res .asf file, but it’s all I could find. You might have to download the link instead of just playing it for it to work properly.

They Ride In A Hole In The Ground!

June sixth is a date with a couple of interesting connotations.

First off, it's 6/6.

Which really means nothing, but it's pretty cool to write on a check. Just think: in four years, the date will be 6/6/6.

The most obvious connection is that 58 years ago today, Allied Forces invaded France and opened the final chapter in World War II's European Theater.

For me, though, June 6 is the day that I moved to New York City. June 6, 1996. I've been here six years now. It's the longest I've ever lived in one city, matched by my stays in Brookline, MA (Grades 1-6) and Tempe, AZ (Jr. High and High School). I've had some successes and I've had some failures. I've done a number of different things here, both personally and career-wise; some of them worked and some of them didn't. I grew from a callow youth to a man; I ran into some of my limitations and finally recognized them for what they were. I found that it's a town that's easy to fall in love with but it's a town where it's a little harder to fall in love in. I was here when the twentieth century peacefully expired, at midnight on December 31, 1999; I was here when the 21st century made its violent debut at 8:45 in the morning on September 11, 2001.

I sometimes feel the itch for a change, but then I wonder: where would I go? My friends are here, my family's here. And in comparison, well, nothing else is quite the same. It's a town full of people from somewhere else, full of the self-invented and the re-invented. There's more to do and see and feel here.

New York, New York (it's a helluva town, the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, the people ride in a hole in the ground).

It's been six interesting years.

This Is Not My Beautiful House

This Is Not My Beautiful Beer

The Official This Is Not My Beautiful Beer Store is now open for business. Go buy a bunch of stuff (now, before I realize that my prices are ridiculously low and jack them up).

What? You're still here? Think about it. Where else will you be able to buy a shirt that "addresses issues of gender, power, dominance, identity, and control in a cheeky, sexy post-modern fashion statement"?

So go and buy stuff already.

Never Forget

We have a winner!

The fabulous Ravenwolf has correctly identified this month's title as coming from "June Afternoon" by Roxette.

Busted!

In other news, I broke my glasses last night, so I'm blind until I can get them replaced. C'est la vie, eh?

It's Just Like High School!

All the cool kids will be there.

Blogapalooza NYC: Click for details!

Thanks to Jane Galt for actually organizing this (by fiat) and Ravenwolf for doing the graphics and stuff.

Fabulous Prizes For Everybody!

OK, so here's my first contest.

The first lucky reader to provide proper attribution for this month's title (look up, it's in the title bar of the window you're reading this in) will win a fabulous prize (and immortality on these pages, to boot!). All you have to do is be the first reader to click this link and (correctly) tell me where this month's title comes from. Oh, and I'll need your name and address too (unless you don't want the fabulous prize, but what kind of loser doesn't want a fabulous prize?).

Gettin' Medieval On Your Asses

A brief note on the evolution vs. intelligent design/creationism (they are pretty much one and the same) thing going on in various parts of the blogsphere (interesting timing, considering Stephen Jay Gould's recent and untimely passing).

First is what I'm going to call Evolution for Beginners (in other words, this is the level that I understand it at).

The first part of evolution is the process of natural selection. Natural selection is really very simple: given two different organisms, the one that's more suited to life in that particular environment is more likely to survive (and by extension, pass on its genes to the next generation). That's pretty commonsense. We can all agree on this, right?

The second part of evolution is genetic mutation. Genetic mutation is what gives us the differences between the organisms that we saw in the above paragraph. Some mutations are beneficial to a species; for example, a mutation to be taller would be useful for a species that lived on a plain or prairie (you'd be taller, so you could see farther). Some mutations maybe be detrimental to a species; a mutation to grow heavier fur would not be an advantage for a species that lived in a hot desert (you'd be hotter and less able to cool yourself). Conversely, though, those mutations may have the opposite effect, depending on the environment: being taller wouldn't do you much good if you lived in densely overgrown jungle (you'd be less agile); having a heavier fur coat would be a good thing if you lived in a very cold place. Sometimes mutations are neither a benefit nor a hinderance: there is no particular benefit conferred by being either right-handed or left-handed.

Take the two mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection, add a few billion years, and you'll end up with pretty damn complex and interesting organisms (namely us). For more on how these two perfectly natural processes can combine to create incredibly complicated things, you should read The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins.

It's really rather simple, and is, in fact, testable in the laboratory on a small scale. There's no requirement for any intervention by any outside (or higher) power.

On the flip side, "Intelligent Design" stipulates that a higher power designed us by 'guiding' evolution. Unfortunately, there's no particular requirement for a higher power. Evolution can do the job just fine by itself. Here, "Intelligent Design" fails Occam's Razor in spectacular fashion.

The interesting thing is that evolution (or indeed, any science) does not disprove the existence of God. The very nature of deities is such that they can never be proven (by us); conversely, they can never be disproven. What evolution does prove is that, assuming the existence of God(s), He/She/It/They did not take an active role in our development.

Fight Club

I was watching a street brawl on TV tonight and then I realized that it was the Lakers-Kings playoff game. And yes, I thought that the officiating was terrible.

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