A reader asked that I:

get down to it bobbers

And this I did not do.

Another requested:

the body of an american

But Dos Passos or MacGowan, I knew not which, and so I merely sat and mulled my whiskey straight.

And another would very much like please some:

tahitian vanilla…..

But who placed this order I do not know, although I suspect Clarence King.

Yet another informs me:

I spoke to a member of the loyal Naderite opposition in Boulder, and she told me after Allard’s win she’s focusing on her wedding plans, which involve avoiding all traditions of the “wedding-industrial complex.”

And I could have suggested she register at Cut Loose and yet the draw came tardily upon my hand.

Josh Lukin testifies:

I thought of your entry on memorable and moving last lines the other day as I read “The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories” by Etgar Keret, who Justine Larbalestier thinks is the Kelly Link of Tel Aviv: “I tried to imagine my mother’s uterus in the middle of a green, dew-covered field, floating in an ocean full of dolphins and tuna.” “Or else, if the broad in the square wouldn’t have had a boyfrined in the army and she’d given Tiran her phone number and we’d called Rabin Shalom, then he would have been run over anyway, but at least nobody would have got clobbered.” A whole book chock full of heartbreaking final lines.

Still, several days hence I have not read Etgar Keret’s prose collection nor even his comic book.

And when a final reader tells me of one who

was trying to remember the name of, and came up with “The Cruising Politician.”

I can only wonder at the undeserved bounty of my days and on my head.

� Ray Davis, Bellona Times

Get Ahead in Advertising:

“More universal than television, livelier than billboards — London marketing whiz kids have hit upon a new advertising medium: the human forehead.

In a national British campaign to be rolled out in coming weeks, marketing agency Cunning Stunts said on Friday it was about to start renting advertising space on the foreheads of university students.” Reuters

From Song of Myself — Walt Whitman


The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,
It flings my likeness after the rest and true as any on the shadow’d wilds,
It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at the runaway sun,
I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

(for George and Laura Bush as one in a continuing series honoring ‘banned’ poets of Feb. 12th)

Creationists’ evolving argument:

Speaking of the distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness (a loose association to the item above), here’s Ellen Goodman’s Boston Globe op-ed piece on the Michael Dini case. Am I the last one to hear about this Texas Tech biology professor — as an aside, apparently a devout Catholic — who is being sued and apparently made a cause celebre by the Ashcroft Justice Dept. for religious discrimination by someone he wouldn’t recommend for medical school admission because the student would not ‘ ”truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer” to the question: ”How do you think the human species originated?” ‘ ? Goodman, characterizing this as “the sort of frivolous lawsuit you thought conservatives opposed, but never mind”, notes that

“conservative lawyers are now agile and nervy enough to hijack liberal arguments for their own causes. Kelly Shackleford, the chief counsel, actually compared Dini’s attitude toward a creationist with that of a racist. What if Dini refused to write letters of recommendation to African-Americans? Shackleford asked. ”I can’t imagine the university would say, well, that’s a personal decision of one of our professors and we’re not going to interfere. Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religion is prohibited.”

Needless – or maybe not needless – to say, Dini’s refusal to recommend a creationist for a graduate degree in medicine or science is not like refusing to recommend an African-American. It’s like refusing to recognize someone who doesn’t believe in gravity for a PhD program in physics. But creationists who believe that the origin of species is an open-and-shut book – and the book is the Bible – now accuse evolutionists of being narrow-minded.”

Of course it is specious to make this an issue of intellectual freedom, as Dini’s detractors do. As Goodman concludes with acumen, this is symptomatic of the creationists’ and the dysadministration’s disingenuousness or cognitive difficulty in distniguishing belief from fact:

“If he is convicted of ‘discriminating’ against religion, surely every student can demand that a professor equate beliefs and facts. Next stop, astrology for astronomers? Feng Shui for physicists? Anyone want a recommendation? How about a lawyer instead?”

But there’s even more at stake. Writing references — of which I do alot — trades in the reputation and integrity of the reference-writer. It is a privilege, not a right, to get a good reference. If you don’t know me well enough to know what kind of reference you’re going to get from me, you probably shouldn’t ask me for a reference, because I don’t know you well enough to write a credible one. And, certainly, if you know you disagree with me on a criterion I have for judging your qualifications, I’m the last one you should go to for a recommendation unless you’re deliberately trying to compromise me because of our disagreement. We don’t yet live in a country where there is some ideological means test to qualify for a faculty position.

Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality:

Clay Shirky:

A persistent theme among people writing about the social aspects of weblogging is to note (and usually lament) the rise of an A-list, a small set of webloggers who account for a majority of the traffic in the weblog world. This complaint follows a common pattern we’ve seen with MUDs, BBSes, and online communities like Echo and the WELL. A new social system starts, and seems delightfully free of the elitism and cliquishness of the existing systems. Then, as the new system grows, problems of scale set in. Not everyone can participate in every conversation. Not everyone gets to be heard. Some core group seems more connected than the rest of us, and so on.

Prior to recent theoretical work on social networks, the usual explanations invoked individual behaviors: some members of the community had sold out, the spirit of the early days was being diluted by the newcomers, et cetera. We now know that these explanations are wrong, or at least beside the point. What matters is this: Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality.

In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution.

Expressing Anger May Protect Against Stroke And Heart Disease.

“Men who outwardly express anger at least some of the time may be doing their health a favor: A new study suggests that occasional anger expression is associated with decreased risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Men with moderate levels of anger expression had nearly half the risk of nonfatal heart attacks and a significant reduction in the risk of stroke compared to men with low levels of anger expression. In the case of stroke, the researchers found that the risk decreased in proportion to increasing levels of anger expression.” ScienceDaily Good thing there’s so much to be angry about. Thank you George, for one…

Coyle & Sharpe:

This tribute site by Jim Sharpe’s daughter Jennifer Sharpe (of sharpeworld fame) is getting blinked alot. I wasn’t familiar with this hilarious and irreverent duo who, according to the site, “roved the streets of San Francisco in the sixties looking to ‘terrorize’ people in the interest of humor. Their surreal encounters were captured on tape then broadcast on their nightly radio show, ‘On the Loose’ .”

On San Francisco’s Market Street last week, two somber-faced public-opinion ‘pollsters’ approached a young man, thrust a microphone in his face, and after a few minutes of earnest conversation asked: ‘Would you be interested in helping future generations to fly?’ When the young man said ‘yes,’ the pollsters asked: ‘Well, then, would you let us graft a pair of chicken wings on your forehead?’

BTW, as Jennifer suggests at her site:

embarrassed to be an american right now?

call the white house and tell them:

comment line: 202-456-1111

fax line: 202-456-2461

Kurt Vonnegut vs. the !&#*!@ —

An interview with the author at 80:

Q: My feeling from talking to readers and friends is that many people are beginning to despair. Do you think that we�ve lost reason to hope?

Vonnegut: I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d�etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka �Christians,� and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or �PPs.�

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete�s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose! In These Times

"I Knew Adlai Stevenson and You’re No Adlai Stevenson":

Different Man, Different Moment: ‘ Pundits and officials in Washington have dubbed Secretary of State Colin Powell’s attempt to make a case for war against Iraq in the United Nations Security Council an “Adlai Stevenson moment.”

I couldn’t disagree more. My father was Adlai Stevenson, who in 1962, as President Kennedy’s representative to the United Nations, presented the Security Council with incontrovertible proof that the Soviet Union, a nuclear superpower, was installing missiles in Cuba and threatening to upset the world’s “balance of terror.”

That “moment” had an obvious purpose: containing the Soviet Union and maintaining peace. It worked, and eventually the Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight. This moment has a different purpose: war.’ NY Times op-ed