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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
NRO's The Corner, Keeping It Classy
Kathryn-Jean Lopez provides what is perhaps the most disingenuous political R.I.P. I've ever read:
When I interned at the Heritage Foundation, I would sometimes pop into Mass at Saint Joseph’s on the Hill at noon on a weekday. And I would almost always find myself sitting near Ted Kennedy.

He’s responsible for things that are deeply offensive to my conscience and diametrically opposed to the teachings of the Catholic faith, and he probably led some people astray by his example.But our faith also teaches that we are all sinners and that there is redemption.

Let's see, Ted Kennedy fought for equality under the law and was a champion for the rights of the poor; he opposed torture; opposed the war in Iraq; opposed the death penalty; and he believed, as the Catholic church teaches, that economies exist to serve people. not the other way around.

Maybe K-Lo ought to search her own conscience before bashing others for being bad Catholics. And maybe she should remember her scripture -- particularly Luke 18:9-14:

9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves
that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:

10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the
other a tax collector.

11 "The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank
You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or
even like this tax collector.

12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'

13 "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even
unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast,
saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'

14 "I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the
other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles
himself will be exalted."

Saturday, August 22, 2009
Ten years ago America was mesmerized by a ghastly train-wreck of a live television event. It was called Who Wants To Marry a Multi-Millionaire, and it was essentially a two-hour beauty pageant with a twist: the contestants were vying for a quickie marriage to a mysterious multi-millionaire who watched the proceedings from an undisclosed location. At the end of the evening, the would-be brides, decked out in identical wedding dresses, made their final pitch to a man they had never met, offering their lives, their fidelity, their honesty, their heart and soul, to someone about whom they knew absolutely nothing -- except, of course, that he had lots and lots of money.

When the multi-millionaire made his choice and emerged from the shadows, it was evident that Prince Charming he wasn't -- rather, the man who walked on stage was a rather inarticulate, goony-looking fellow named Rick Rockwell (as it turned out his name wasn't really Rockwell, he wasn't really a millionaire, and he certainly wasn't charming: he'd previously been served a restraining order for domestic violence and stalking). He and the "winner", Darva Conger, were married on the spot. Conger later claimed that she hadn't really meant it, she hadn't really wanted to win the competition, though she felt she was within her rights to sell the diamond ring and $100,000 worth of prizes that she'd taken home, and she wasn't above accepting a lucrative offer to pose nude in Playboy.

In the days and weeks that followed, there ensued a good deal of soul-searching and hand-wringing and tut-tutting from the appropriate corners. Was this what television had become? Was this what our society was turning into?

When network executives at Fox were asked why the multi-millionaire in question was so lacking in charm and personality, the answer seemed obvious: how many multi-millionaires would need a game show in order to find a wife? How many would put themselves through such a demeaning process?

Ah, what innocent times we lived in. Today, VH1's Megan Wants A Millionaire features a dozen wealthy would-be Romeos humiliating themselves for the attentions of one Megan Hauserman, a dim-witted, surgically enhanced skank whose sole claim to fame is having appeared on previous VH1 reality shows.

Week after week, viewers watched as the guys -- among them Francisco, "The Latin Lover", Ryan, "The Smooth Operator", Donald "The Movie Producer", Joe "The Trust Fund Baby", risked elimination in the standard reality-show challenges, putting it all on the line for a woman so vapid and uninteresting that her life's ambition was to be "a trophy wife".

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like we'll get to find out who wins fair Megan's heart. Like the producers of Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire, the producers of Megan Wants A Millionaire didn't seem to have vetted their candidates very well. Last week "Smooth Operator" Ryan Jenkins fled to Canada after the body of his ex-wife, Jasmine Fiore, was found stuffed in a suitcase. Shortly thereafter, Jenkins was charged with murder in absentia and is now the subject of an international manhunt. According to police, Fiore's teeth had been extracted and her fingers cut off her hands, presumably to slow attempts at identifying the body. It was eventually the serial numbers on the woman's breast implants that helped identify her.

Perhaps it's a testament to Megan's taste in men that Ryan was one of the show's finalists, the first of them to win a "solo date" with her.

It's too bad, really. I have a feeling Ryan would be just the sort of the man Megan was looking for.

UPDATE: CNN is reporting that Jenkins has been found dead in a hotel room in British Columbia; authorities say they suspect suicide.

This only makes me feel more confident in saying he's the perfect guy for Megan.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I Like Felix The Cat
And I don't appreciate Niall Ferguson using him as a political prop.

myspace layouts

That's really all I have to say on the matter.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Headline: Forty Percent Of Twitter Posts "Pointless Babble"
Only forty percent?

Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Good Things Don't Last

History shows that sooner or later, every nation ends. Doesn't matter how powerful, how wise, how ruthless the country is. Sooner or later it reaches the end of the line.

The same goes for America, loathe as most Americans are to admit it. But how will it end?

Slate.com now has an entertaining game where you pick what you believe are the five most likely America-ending scenarios. Then you learn what your picks say about your general worldview.

Here's what I learned about myself:

You are a bloodthirsty misanthrope. You believe that mankind is stupid and fallible and will destroy itself in a bloody mess. You'll know you're right when: America succumbs to a torrent of Russian nukes; we clone ourselves, get bum genes and die.

I dunno. "Bloodthirsty misanthrope" seems to be overstating things. Doesn't everybody believe that mankind was stupid and fallible? The history books are chock-full of evidence for that.

Thought I was just a realist, but maybe that's synonymous with "bloodthirsty misanthrope". I don't know.

Saturday, August 08, 2009
The Death Panel
Our great nation has been on pins and needles lately, wondering when former Gov. Sarah Palin would weigh in on the health care reform debate. The suspense ended yesterday, when she delivered a major policy address on the subject to an audience at the Heritage Foundation.

Okay, I made that up. Actually, she wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, outlining her objections to the Obama plan and offering her own alternative.

Actually, no. I made that up too. But she did post something on Facebook.

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Well, it certainly would be "downright evil", Sarah, if any such system were under discussion.

I don't believe that she's saying these things to cynically whip up the base. She is the base. This is a textbook example of what psychologists call a fantasy-prone personality. An idea enters her head, and no matter how bizarre the idea is, the more she thinks about it, the more it seems to be true.

She has convinced herself that Obama is organizing "Death Panels" and they will decide whether her baby with Down Syndrome lives or dies based on its "level of productivity". Really. Sure.

Any sensible person would consider the facts and conclude that this sort of talk is crazy. Yet she believes it, talks about it openly. And her acolytes -- the tea-baggers and the birthers and the Moon hoaxers and the black helicopter crazies -- believe it too.

These are otherwise normal people, people who hold down jobs and maintain stable relationships and own property and wear shoes and socks.

One of Andrew Sullivan's commenters wrote a very good description of this peculiar stripe of American:

They have always been with us, the people who believed in manifest destiny, who delighted in the slaughter of this land's original inhabitants, who cheered a nation into a civil war to support an economic system of slavery that didn't even benefit them. They are the people who bashed the unions and cheered on the anti-sedition laws, who joined the Pinkertons and the No Nothing Party, who beat up Catholic immigrants and occasionally torched the black part of town. They rode through the Southern pine forests at night, they banned non-European immigration, they burned John Rockefeller Jr. in effigy for proposing the Grand Tetons National Park.

These are the folks who drove Teddy Roosevelt out of the Republican Party and called his cousin Franklin a communist, shut their town's borders to the Okies and played the protectionist card right up til Pearl Harbor, when they suddenly had a new foreign enemy to hate. They are with us, the John Birchers, the anti-flouride and black helicopter nuts, the squirrly commie-hating hysterics who always loved the loyalty oath, the forced confession, the auto-de-fe. Those who await with baited breath the race war, the nuclear holocaust, the cultural jihad, the second coming, they make up much more of America then you would care to think.

More than you would care to think. I get that. And they are likkered up with a daily diet of Limbaugh and Hannity and Palin and the rest of the right-wing media circus.

Sooner or later, it's going to spawn another Tim McVeigh. And on that day, those who have been whipping up this frenzy will flinch. It wasn't us, they'll say, just as they said in 1995. You can't blame me. I was just an entertainer. I never imagined that anyone would take me seriously.

Sunday, August 02, 2009
The Talented Mr. Burke

Think of James Burke as the coolest guy ever to wear a leisure suit.

Burke was (and I suppose still is) a British science writer and historian. He covered the Apollo moonshots in a smart and entertaining manner for the BBC, did a number of entertaining special programs on science through most of the 70s, and in 1978 hosted a fascinating 10-episode series called Connections. It was that last series got him some attention in the United States; Connections was broadcast on the PBS network, and was repeated several times through the early 1980s..

The series was built around the idea that technological innovation is driven not in the logical and orderly manner we're taught in school, but by disparate and seemingly implausible factors, and the history of technology is a dizzying story of unintended consequences and improbable asides.

In this world view, rug weavers gave birth to the modern computer, air conditioning was invented by people fearful of malaria, and a gadget used to apply perfume made the modern automobile possible . And running throughout the series is a single, powerful idea: that our technology-dependent society is fearfully vulnerable, largely because most of its citizens have no idea how any of it works or where any of it came from.

It's now available on DVD, but if you're willing to squint at a tiny screen on your computer, you can also see it on that vast warehouse of forgotten video, Youtube. In the first episode, Burke talks about the vulnerability of modern cities, while taking an elevator to the roof of the World Trade Center. It's eerie and strangely poignant, and you can see it here.

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