Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WTF??? Moment of the Day

The Washington Post has a bizarre article about an annual kite-flying festival in Pakistan. During the course of the festival, 11 people died in four different ways: of electrocution from getting their kites tangled in power lines, of falling off roofs, of gunshot wounds from celebratory gunfire, and, my personal favorite, of having their throats slit by kites using sharpened wire instead of string. The sharpened wires were apparently used to destroy the kites of one's competitors.

I'm sure that educated people in Pakistan can look to American culture and come up with a long list of things they consider to be totally absurd about it. Nonetheless, do you trust these people to help us win the war on terror? Do to the bulk of the ground-level work on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden? I for one do not.

Thanks to Chris for the tip.

Great Free Concerts on NPR

Being the son of Frank Heller, I've long been a fan of National Public Radio. NPR is many things, but few would call it "cool" -- until now. NPR has restarted its intermittent series of live rock concerts, broadcast live from the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C.

Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah have played in recent weeks, and prior concerts have featured The New Pornographers, The White Stripes, Neko Case, Interpol, Bloc Party, David Gray, Death Cab For Cutie, the Arctic Monkeys, Iron & Wine, Paul Simon, The Decemberists, Jenny Lewis, Regina Spektor, Sleater-Kinney, Bright Eyes, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's first tour, among others. This concerts are legit, and many of them are preceeded by interviews with the band. They're definitely worth a listen.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Top Ten Law Firm Interview Questions

Courtesy of Craigslist.

If you don't think this is accurate, you haven't been to law school.

Absurdities in Criminal Sentencing

Morton R. Berger, a 57-year-old former high school teacher, has been sentenced to 200 years in an Arizona state prison for possessing 20 pornographic photographs of minors.

In most states, these sentences would run concurrently. However, under Arizona law he must serve all ten sentences back-to-back, which means that he will die in prison for possessing ten illegal photographs. Under Federal law, the sentence would be only five years. In most states, the criminal penalty for actual child molestation is in the 5-10 year range.

I read this article right after I scheduled a job interview with a District Attorney's office. As a potential future prosecutor, I'm worried that these draconian sentences, passed under the guise of "getting tough on crime," actually reduce people's respect for the law. What are you more likely to obey, a law that's fair or a law that strikes you as being totally arbitrary and excessive?

I have previously blogged about excessive criminal sentences here.

Fun In the Snow

When I left Madison on Thursday, the temperature was in the 40s and spring seemed to be in the air. When I returned to Madison this morning, it was 25 degrees and windy, and there were 15 inches of snow on the ground.

My neighbors have decorated their front lawns with a series of creative snowmen, all of which call to mind Calvin & Hobbes' Snow Art Gallery. The snow-art gallery is one of my all-time favorite winter-themed internet pages, so all of you should read it if you haven't already.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Best SNL Skit Since 'Dick In A Box'

Once again, its a digital short.

Rainn Wilson was hilarious and, as usual, Arcade Fire sounded great. My only complaint is that the second half of the program is long of advertisement breaks but short on funny skits. When your musical guest is that fantastic, why not give them a third song? Why not two extra songs? In an attempt to stay relevant, SNL has finally started booking hipper bands that appeal to younger audiences. Why not give them more of a chance to be heard? You might gain a lot of new viewers who tune in just to see the band, and retain them by elimintating weaker sketches.

I Hate Celebrities

If I have to see one more picture of Britney Spears' shaven head, I'm going to throw my coffee mug at my tv/computer screen. Some are saying that Spears shaved her head because she was desperate for attention. Ann Althouse advocates the unlikely theory that women who shave their head (like Demi Moore, Natalie Portman and now Spears) do so to show off their perfect, unadorned beauty to the world. I imagine that Moore took that role as an attempt to rejuvenate her dying career, and Portman took hers to prove that she's more than just a pretty girl. As usual, Althouse arrogantly goes out of her way to tell readers who disagree with her to think again. But hey, she teaches law in Madison, Wisconsin so I'm sure she knows exactly what 25 year-old movie stars are thinking. Let's move on.

Hair traps and holds chemicals from illegal drugs, and this is one well-known reason why, say, certain pro athletes shave their heads before taking physicals. It seems obvious to me that Britney Spears shaved her head to prevent her ex-husband and the court from testing it to determine what drugs she had used in recent months. Federline is making that argument that, though he doesn't really do anything for a living, he's a better parent than Britney, who parties too hard and too often and passes off her parental obligations to hired nannies and babysitters. Proving that Britney has uses drugs would be an enormous advantage to him when his attorneys draft up the divorce settlement.

The two possible explanations are: either she's trying to show the world her flawless beauty, or else she's trying to keep
her drug use a secret. Which do you think is more likely?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Simpsons Movie Trailer

Here it is.

Great Goalie Fights

In honor of Thursday night's Sabres-Senators brawl, and in eager expectation of tonight's Sabres-Senators brawl, here are 15 of the greatest hockey goalie fights.

Sabres-Senators: The Rematch

By now, you've probably heard about Thursday night's brawl between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators. In recent years, as both teams have found themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, an excellent rivalry has developed, highlighted by the fact that both teams have loyal fans who know the ins and outs of the game, travel to the opposing city, and geniunely dislike each other.

On Thursday, one of Ottawa's enforcers, Chris Neil, got away with a penalty when he hit Sabres star Tim Drury a stride or two after Drury had passed the puck away. It definitely should have been a penalty, albeit a minor one -- when both teams are playing hard, those plays happen all the time. Still as any hockey fan knows, you always follow-up a shift like that by putting your checking line onto the ice. Anytime you get away with a penalty on an opposing team's star player, the other team is going to want payback, especially if its playing at home. Whatever you do, you never follow up a questionable hit like that by putting your scoring line on the ice; that's just asking for an ass-whooping. Sure enoug, that's what the Senators did, and the Sabres countering with their checking line, barely waited for the puck to hit the ice before they started knocing Senators on their behinds. The entirely predictable brawl resulted in a staggering 100 penalty minutes! Somewhere, Don Cherry was smiling. Special props go out to Patrick Kaleta, the Buffalo native and recent IHL call-up who rushed to protect his teammates, as well as to the goalies, whose fights, even the one-sided ones - always please the crowd. (Note to Marty Biron: learn to fight before you take on Ray Emery a second time.)

Oh, did I mention that the hockey game was really good? It was a close, high-scoring game, ending 5-5 after regulation before the Sabres won in a shootout.

You can listen to tonight's rematch here.

Here's video of the fight:

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Sports Link: The Argentinian Men's Basketball Team

I make no attempt to hide my man-love for the Argentinian Men's National team. Their style of play is more exciting and fun to watch than any basketball team since the mid-1980's Los Angeles Lakers, and their roster includes not only six active NBA players, but also the consensus best player in the world outside of the NBA, power forward Luis Scola.

I've got to run, but I'll type more on them later. In the meantime, enjoy this video of Argentina absolutely dismantling the U.S. National team in the 2002 World Cup:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

"Instincts Took Over"

This story could really only happen in Wisconsin. We know how to do crazy here.

I tried to blog about this last night, but network difficulties got in the way. Anyway, James van Iveren was sitting in his apartment in Oconomowoc last night when he thought he overheard a woman being raped in the apartment above him. He grabbed his family heirloom cavalry sword, ran upstairs, and kicked in the door, only to find out that the sounds he heard were just the sqeals from a porno movie his neighbor was watching.

Oh, I love this story - there are so many weird little details! Van Iveren is thirty-nine years old, lives with his mother, and looks like Satan. The only weapon in his house is an antique cavalry sword. He had to take matters into his own hands, because he doesn't own a phone and therefore couldn't call the policy. So this guy sounds like a winner. What would he have done if the guy actually was raping a girl? Would he have decapitated him, or just run him through?

What about the upstairs neighbor? Oconomowoc is a blue-collar suburb. Maybe you come home from a long day of work, heat up a tv dinner, eat it standing over the sink, then sit down to relax with a cold beer and an Aurora Snow movie. Ain't nothin' wrong with that! The next thing you know, a total stranger breaks your door down brandishing a sword. Some guys just can't catch a break!

Hello, Cleveland!!!

Look out, Cleveland, a storm is coming through, And its running right up on you!!! Look out Houston, there'll be thunder on the hill, Come on Baby, don't you lie so still.

I apologize for yesterday's light blogging, but I had a big oral argument in my Con Law/Supreme Court seminar, followed by a flurry of last-minute packing. My regular friday morning Advanced Legal Writing seminar isn't meeting this week, so I am taking advantage of the opportunity to get out of town. And where else would I go in mid-February than Cleveland, Ohio? I added The Band's "Look Out, Cleveland" to my iPod playlist, drove to Milwaukee and hopped a puddle jumper.

Observations on the trip thus far:

1) Round-trip flight to Cleveland: $920. Round trip flight to Cleveland with a rental car: $228. How can throwing in a car save you $700? How is that even possible?

2) The last 10 minutes of my flight were absolutely horrifying. Once we descened below the cloud bank, we encountered some of the worst wind through which I have ever flown. Our little twin-engine was literally fishtailing. Good times! Its always good to start a trip off on the right foot.

3) Every bathroom in the Cleveland Airport and the adjacent car rental station had a medical disposal unit for syringes and needles, and all of them were pretty close to full. What's the deal with that? Is this city full of junkies? Is the airport just particularly sensitive towards the needs of diabetics? I need to figure out what's going on there.

4) On the shuttle to the car rental terminal, I was seated next to a woman who was wearing Glen Close's hair from Fatal Attraction and a woman who was wearing Kelli's hair from 90210. It was weird -- a definite "you're in Cleveland" moment.

5) I had signed up for a compact car, expecting a Chevy Malibu or something like that. I ended up with a Chrysler PT Cruiser, which has a ton of leg room, but puts you really high off the ground. Its like driving a shorter, narrower SUV, with no trunk and an analog clock on the dashboard. Oh, and the power window controls are beneath the radio, which makes about as much sense as mint-flavored Drano.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Classy Buffalo Chicks Like the Sabres

This photo makes me nostalgic for home. Too bad I live 750 miles away and there are no jobs there to lure me back. Good times!

Thanks to Jack for the tip.

Tellin' It Like It Is

A blogger named Dave Shearson calls out University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ann Althouse for her enormously self-serving editorial in yesterday's New York Times.

As far as I'm concerned, Shearson's story is a must-read for law students and their friends. Anecdotally, everything he says is supported by my own law school experience.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Demographics of Smart and Dumb

This Boston Globe article describes changing trends in the romantic life of the well-educated. The stereotype that well-educated women have difficulty finding a husband is no longer accurate. For the record, I have never understood this. I can understand how some guys would want to marry a woman who is willing to stay home to raise children for a couple of years, but men who refuse to date well-educated woman for fear that they'll be too independent, or too unwilling to put up with their condescension and unequal treatment, or too unwilling to stroke a their ego are, quite frankly, pathetic. I still know some guys like this, but I suspect they are enormously less prevalent than they used to be. Anyway, as it turns out, the reason that fewer well-educated women are married relative to uneducated women is that they tend to wait until they start their careers to get married, and that often is not until their late 20's or early 30's. The odds of their getting married eventually are in fact higher than those of less well-educated women, and they tend to have happier marriages, and fewer divorces, once they do get married.

I would be interested in a study of the fertility rates of well-educated women as compared to those of high school-educated women. It reminds me of "Idiocracy", which should have been much more popular than it was. It has 'cult classic' written all over it, much like "Offce Space," Mike Judge's other classic movie.

The Supreme Court Overturns $79 Million Punitive Damages Award

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 today to overturn an Oregon jury's award of $79.5 million dollars in punitive damages to a widow whose husband died of lung cancer. Its an interesting case for a number of reasons, and one of the rare times in which Justices Scalia, Thomas, Ginsberg, and Stevens find themselves on the same side.

Jesse Williams died of lung cancer in 1997. He had smoked as many as three packs of cigarettes a day for 45 years, dating back to his service in the Korean War. Fearing for his health, his wife and children attempted to persuade him to quit smoking from roughly the 1970's through his cancer diagnosis in the mid-1990's. During that time, he claimed that, if cigarettes were actually dangerous, the tobacco companies would say so, and when he was diagnosed with cancer he said that he felt that Philip Morris had lied to him. His widow Mayola Williams sued on behalf of his estate, and the jury awarded her $800,000 for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It then awarded her $79.5 million in punitive damages, essentially to send a message to the tobacco company and to punish them for being bad citizens. Philip Morris appealed the punitive damages verdict on the grounds that the punitive damages were excessive.

Punitive damages serve to punish defendants whose illegal behavior is more serious than the amount of actual damages would indicate. It is frequently used in products liability lawsuits, or for instance when a repeat-offending drunk driver causes a car accident that results in only a few thousand dollars' worth of damage. The general rule of law is that the punitive damages must bear some relation to the actual injury -- for instance, some multiple of the actual damages. The jury in this case set the punitive damages at almost 100 times the actual damages.

Though juries are given wide discretion, its probably bad for society to have untrained juries set damages at any amount that pleases them. Consistency is important, and under the current system the next litigant, suffering from identical injuries, might receive an entirely different award from a different jury. Furthermore, juries should not be able to punish cigarette companies for all of the harm they've ever done to the people of Oregon, and then give that award to a single litigant. If somebody sues Philip Morris two years later, would Philip Morris be right in saying that the $80 million verdict had already punished it for its bad behavior? Maybe so. Could the next litigant get $80 million as well? If so, where would it end? If there are 10,000 injured smokers in Oregon, can they each sue on behalf of the other 9,999? If the $80 million is meant to punish them for injuries to third parties uninvolved in the lawsuit, then that runs afoul of all off sorts of Due Process concerns. What if Philip Morris had defenses against some of those hypothetical third-party defendants?

As hard as it is for me to say this, I would have voted in favor of Philip Morris, and overturning the jury's damages award. Philip Morris deserves to pay, but not 100 times the actual amount of damages. Fair is fair, and a smaller multiple -- say, $5 million dollars -- is more than enough money to punish their bad behavior.

I haven't seen the opinion yet, but Scalia and Thomas generally give juries wide discretion, while Ginsberg and Stevens have been known to favor punitive damages to punish corporations for whom run-of-the-mill verdicts do not provide sufficient deterrance. On the other hand, the majority of the court, including Chief Justice Roberts and, to my surprise, Justice Alito, took the more centrist substantive due process position that such outrageously large verdicts are patently unfair, even if they were awarded by a fair and impartial jury. An interesting split . . . we'll see how these Due Process cases play out in the future, when abortion and right-to-die issues are at stake.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Who Is the World's Craziest Person?

Some recent headlines have gotten me thinking . . . who is the world's craziest person?

Is it Mike Tyson?
Is it Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, who thinks he's God incarnate?
Is it this crazy bride?
Or is it the recently shaven Britney Spears?

Update! Jerry nominates The Ultimate Warrior. This guy is ten pounds of crazy in a five-pound bag.

Please feel free to vote or nominate other people in the comments.

Really Horrible Idea of the Day

The Mitchell Dental Spa in Chicago offers back and foot massages to its patients, as well as something called "cooling eye masks." Other dentists offices are now apparently offering facials and manicures.

I understand that women are all about the pampering sap treatments, but as a heterosexual male, all of this stuff scares the crap out of me. Ever since the movie Pulp Fiction came out, foot massages have had all sorts of scary and messed-up connotations. If the guys at Capitol Square Dental offered me a foot massage, I'd probably tell them where they can stick their Steely Dan cd and get the hell out of there ASAP.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Only in Madison . . .

Standing in line at Trader Joe's this afternoon, I overheard a conversation between two women standing behind me in line. One of them asked, "Can you believe how beautiful the weather has been today?" to which the other one replied "I know, its gorgeous."

It is about 15 degrees outside.

Hits and Misses: All-Star Weekend

How impressive was David Lee in the rookies vs. sophomores game? Shades of Bill Walton, going 14-for-14 from the field, hitting the boards and hooking up teammates with some nice passes. How is his athleticism surprising anybody at this point? He won the 2001 McDonald's High School Slam Dunk competition over Julius Hodge and James White. He's 6'8" power forward who routinely outrebounds players three or four inches taller than him and can 'steal' minutes at both small forward and center. He's made the most famous play of the season thus far. He's a star in the making -- so why is he coming off the bench for one of the worst teams in the league?

Other Hits thus far:
-Dwight Howards's sticker dunk. One of the cooler dunk-contest slams I've ever seen. Two years from now, this is the only dunk anybody will remember.
-Shaq doing the worm.
-Tracy McGrady saying, of the Barkley-Bavetta race, "Dick is going to spank that ass."

-The NBA skills competition, which manages to spread out thirty minutes worth of dribbling, dunking and shooting competitions over the span of four hours.
-Sacremento Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof bringing an all-star game to Las Vegas (after years of lobbying) despite the fact that Sacremento which has the most loyal fans in the NBA, has never hosted one. Good job, guys.
-The awkward silence that accompanies Nate Robinson's 17 missed dunk attempts every year. When are they going to stop inviting him? Does he practice any of his dunks in advance? It seemed to drag on forever on tv; I can only imagine how much worse it was to have to sit through it in person.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The State of Alabama's Irrational Basis

The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the State of Alabama's prohibition on the sale of sex toys. The 11th Circuit held that the state legislature's right to regulate public morals provided a rational basis for the law. There's little to argue with from a Constitutional point of view, but I can't help but think that this law is discriminatory. The State of Alabama doesn't outlaw virility medication, which helps old, heterosexual state legislators get erections, and it doesn't regulate condoms, which help keep them from having having to raise or pay for the upbringing of unwanted children. However, dildos and sex toys are most frequently used by single women, gays and lesbians. Banning them is possible because, in the deep south, nobody is going to risk social ostracism by admitting they use sex toys, and any state legislator who opposed the bill would have some serious church-sponsored music to face.

Doesn't Alambama's State Legislature has more important things to worry about? Alabama's most famous son, Charles Barkley, once said of Alabama's state government "If it wasn't for Arkansas and Mississippi, we'd be dead last in everything. I think we can do better." They can, and they even might, if they stopped wasting their time with foolish laws like this one.

Update! This video, from the late, great Molly Ivins, details Texas' similar sex laws.

I've previously blogged about the State of Georgia's sex laws here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Sports Link: Tom Chambers

Bill Simmons has a great column the 1987 NBA all-star game, which was the best and most competitive of all time. The 2001 All-Star game is underrated, but its still a distant second. In that game, the West getting out to a 21-point first-half lead, but the East turned the offense over to Allen Iverson, and Dikembe Mutombo kept the East in the game with about 16 second-half rebounds, and Iverson hit a pull-up jumper to win the game at the buzzer.

The MVP of the 1987 all-star game was Tom Chambers, author of the famous "kiss the rim" dunk against the New York Knicks, which is considered one of the greatest in-game dunks of all time. Other jaw-dropping Chambers dunks can be seen here, here, here, here, and here. I love Charles Barkley's reaction to the final dunk, from Game 5 of the NBA finals.

Footnote: Chambers' "kiss the rim" is often referred to as the best dunk ever made by a white player. I'd have to agree, though Andreas Nocioni's reverse over Kevin Garnett in the 1999 World Championships is in the conversation.

Thanks to Chris for the Chambers videos.

A Public School District With No Schools???

Some prick in Arizona named Patrick Flynn has succeeded in incorporation his community, on the outskirts of Scottsdale, Arizona, as a public school distrct without any schools. You see, public schools are funded by property taxes, and if you don't have any public schools, then you don't have any property taxes. Flynn's children are already out of school, so he doesn't have much use for property taxes anymore. This is ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuur country!

Selfish retirees like Flynn are the reason why public high schools in Florida and Arizons are so poorly regarded, despite the fact that their states are flush with cash. Until I started law school, I had attended private schools for my entire life, but for the life of me I cannot understand where these people get off. My parents don't have any children in the military. Should they get a discount on their income taxes? What has the army done for them lately? Nothing! So why pay for it? For that matter, gay people can't serve in the armed forces. According to Flynn's logic, none of them have or will ever receive any benefit from the military. Like Flynn with the public schools, they can claim to be 'big supporters' of the military, but not of funding it. We all benefit from having a minimum level of education in this country, and spreading the costs out among as many people as possible is the only way to successfully achieve it. I hope Bill Flynn gets bitten by a rattlesnake.

Arcade Fire in the New Yorker

The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones covers the London opening of the Neon Bible tour.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Very Weird News Day

There were some weird stories in the news today. An overview:

Ben & Jerry's Named An Ice Cream Flavor After Stephen Colbert. I was hoping they would name it Truthilicious, but Americone Dream is pretty good. But nothing tastes as good as Cherries Garcia.

Howard Stern got engaged. He did so by telling his girlfriend Beth Ostrosky "I love you. You're everything to me. This is so gay. ... I'm asking you to spend the rest of your life with me." Isn't that romantic?

The Buffalo News continues its decent into irrelevancy.
If this isn't the worst-written headline I've ever read, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Worst of the Worst: Vermont Teddy Bears

Everybody associated with the Vermont Teddy Bear company needs to be dragged outside and shot in the back of the head from very close range. Their advertisements are hands-down the worst on TV. Their spots simpering, corny, overacted, and narrated by Adam Corrolla. They are 90 seconds or two minutes long, instead of the usual 30 seconds. They are apparently aimed at men of very low intelligence. But most offensively to me, they are broadcast during every advertising break during every sporting event during the month of February. You literally can't escape their advertisements. These make the John Mellencamp Chevy Silverado ads look as rare as The Ties That Bind by comparison. Enough is enough!

Happy Valentine's Day

I know I'm not the only blogger to post this video today, but I watched this movie again over the weekend and was amazed at how well it applied to Valentine's Day. Nobody's better than the South Park guys at making fun of people who take this stuff too seriously.

Random Thoughts on Valentine's Day

1) Don't call it a holiday - its an observance, like St. Patrick's Day.
2) Valentine's Day advertisements all have one of two messages: If you don't give your wife/girlfriend one of our products, you'll be in deep trouble (see any chocolate ad) or, in the alternative, if you give your wife/girlfriend one of our products, she'll want to have sex with you! I don't know which of these two themes is more disgusting to me -- bribing your own wife to have sex with you or giving gifts out of fear of failing to live up to her Valentine's expectations. This is ouuuuuuuuuuuur country.
3) The Russell Stover and Whitman advertisements are the worst - if you give your girlfriend mass-produced, pre-packaged chocolates, you are an idiot.
4) the V-Day campain that's catching on around college campuses is just plain silly. What the hell is a "vagina-friendly" bake sale? Are regular bakeries not vagina-friendly? Having a rape-free zone at the student union? Is the union normally a pro-rape zone? I don't understand.
5) Valentine's Day isn't about couples. Its about pampering women. Can you think of a male equivalent to Valentine's Day? Does anybody want to think of what that would entail?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Has Saturday Night Live Found Its Mojo?

Two hilarious Saturday Night Live clips are clogging up bandwith all over the country: The Weekend Update segment "Really" and the digital short "Sloths."

These videos come on the heels of the wildly successful (but quickly played out) "Dick In A Box" video, which according to some music industry rankings was actually the #1 most-played song in America for three consecutive weeks. It was so popular that even its parody, the corny, half-assed and sadly inevitable "My Box In A Box" video reached #5 on the singles chart. Go back and read that again -- it actually happened. And just a year ago, "Lazy Sunday" and Natalie Portman's rap song achieved wide-spread cult followings over the internet.

One thing that all of these successful bits have in common is that they are pre-recorded. It makes sense to me that, as cameras get smaller and editing gets easier, Saturday Night Live would evolve into a format with less live comedy and more pre-recorded skits, which can easily be set to music and garnished with computer effects. The last six Saturday Night Live internet crazes have all been digital shorts. Let's hope the trend continues.

Only In New York . . .

There have been some classic "only in New York" stories in the past few weeks. Here are some of my favorites:

The Hero of Harlem. When a 19 year-old student had a seizure and fell off a subway platform and onto the tracks, a 50 year-old construction worker jumped down after him, wrestled him between the tracks, and laid on top of him as the oncoming train rumbled overheard, clearing them by mere inches. The construction worker was honored by Mayor Bloomberg, given a cash award by Donald Trump, and showered with gift certificates from restaurants all over the city. Pretty cool stuff.

Cabbie returns diamond rings A cabbie retured a black bag full of 31 diamond rings to a female jeweler who forgot to take the bag with her when she got out of his cab. Amazingly, the jeweler had given him only a 30-cent tip for the $11 cab ride, and gave him only a $100 reward for returning the diamong rings. If I had to guess, this happened on the upper east side.

Official New York City condoms! The City of New York, which has long been one of the largest distributors of free condoms in the world, is releasing its own unique model of condom. The condoms are to be made by the Lifestyles corporation and is going to feature a subway map on the wrapper. This will come in handy when you need to plot your escape from that ugly chick's apartment!

More Thoughts On the Decline of the Printed Word

Earlier today I posted about eighth-grade students in Florida who employ text messaging jargon in their homework assignments. As it turns out, that was merely the first blow the printed word suffered on Monday. The world's oldest newspaper, Sweden's Post-och Inrikes Tidningar, went out of printed circulation on Monday, though its online publication will continue. Founded in 1645 with a grant from Sweden's Queen Kristina, the paper had a limited circulation, and its decision to cease printed publication on the same day that CNN decided to publish its story about the Florida middle schoolers is just a coincidence.

The juxtaposition of these two stories has led me to ponder our evolving media. I've always been proud to be a bookworm. I like the smell of libraries and used bookstores, read on airplanes and subway cars, and, as a law student, frequently find myself in the middle of thick, heavy tomes. Smug bloggers can talk all they want about how theirs is the medium of the future, but those remarks hide a deeper insecurity. Blogging is fun, but it is also cheap and easy. It is impermanent and, arguably, insubstantial. You can type a couple of paragraphs and post it in a matter of seconds. By comparison, printing a book or a magazine is slow and expensive. However, that added time and expense brings with it a great deal of quality control: if you're going to invest the time and money to publish something on paper, you are going to check its facts and deliver a minimum quality of writing. My grandparents used to send and receive letters that were several pages long. When was the last time you wrote an e-mail that was more than a couple of paragraphs? I enjoy my new pasttime, but the day on which the electronic word replaces the written word will be very sad indeed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Mr. Chips Would Roll Over In His Grave. And then He Would Throw Up

According to this CNN report, middle-school students are now using shorthand expressions from Instant Messenger and text messaging in their homework assignments. I'll have to check my Bible, but I'm pretty sure that this is a sign that the apocalypse is coming.

I think back to my eighth and ninth grade literature classes, and I remember how inspired I was by the classic works of literature that we read. The foundation of any reader's love of literature is their love of language. These middle-school students don't love language enough to actually spell out words in their formal scholastic assignments. What will happen when this country is faced with an entire generation of adults raised on Instant Messenger? Who wants to live to see that day?

Update: CNN's website features two headlines relating to the same news story. They read "Baby Born A Whopper in Mexico" and "Mexico Baby A Whopper." They're just headlines, but neither is anywhere close to being grammatically correct. Am I the other person who is bothered by this? The last I checked, people from Mexico are "Mexicans." Why not make the headline "Mexican Baby A Whopper?" or "Giant Baby Born in Mexico?" Apparently more than instant messenger and text messages are contributing to our nation's declining grammar.

New Zealand 'All Blacks' Are Tougher Than You

Once every five years or so, there is a dominant sports team that plays not only with enormous skill, but with such flair and style that it wins over people who are not otherwise interested in their sport. The physical style and ridiculous intensity of New Zealand's national rugby team, known as the All-Blacks, have captured my imagination like the Soviet Red Army hockey teams of the 1970's, the Brazilian soccer teams of the 1990's, or even the Argentinian National basketball team in recent years.

As an American, many of rugby's finer points are probably lost on me, but to my inexpert eye, rubgy features many of the best aspects of American football -- the athleticism, good hitting, crazy open-field runs and improvized blocking and lateralling -- but without the lagtime of timeouts, huddles, and kicking. Furthermore, every player on the rugby pitch has to sprint and carry the ball, so its broadly similar to watching a football game in which every player is a running back or wide receiver. Lumbering 340-pounders don't last very long in rugby - the positions are more interchangeable, and that requires more versatility on behalf of the individual players.

The All-Blacks start every match with the traditional Maori 'haka' dance. I don't know what effect it has on their opponents, but it intimidates the hell out of me, and I live 4,000 miles away.

Here's a video of the All-Blacks in action -- I bet you'll like it.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I Love Stuff Like This

RetroCrush tackles one of the burning issues of our time: why does every thrift store in the country carry the same books?

Is there anything more depressing than thrift store book collections? The last time I went to the Goodwill, to look for a Halloween costume, I took a minute to look at their book and record collections. The book collection included well-thumbed comic books, multiple copies of five Robert Ludlum novels, and more paperback romance novels (the polite term for 'female pornography') with covers featuring guys who look like Fabio riding horses on the beach. The best part was their sports section, which featured the 1999 ESPN NFL Digest and both of Reggie Jackson's autobiographies, both of which are named Reggie! and neither of which is worth reading. Across the aisle was its record collection, in which I found records by Englebert Humperdink, Styx and Starship, as well as Gerardo's Rico Suave. "Oh really, you don't want to hang onto that record anymore? Its funny that no used record shop would buy it from you!" If you're the Goodwill, why do you even put that stuff out for display? Who's going to buy it?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Hoohaa Monologues?

A theater in Jacksonville, Florida had to change its marquee earlier this week after neighborhood residents took offense to the 'vulgarity' of the title of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues." The theater responded to the complaints by changing the name of the play to "The Hoohaa Monologues."

This is sad and ironic in any number of ways, but particularly because the central theme of the play is that the vagina is a tool of female empowerment and something of which women shold be proud, not ashamed. Secondly, the likelihood of people being offended by slang is, or at least should be, far greater than that of somebody taking offense at the actual english-language word used to describe that part of a woman's anatomy.

In my opinion, the weirdest part of this story is that the first person to call and complain about the marquee was a woman who was offended that she had to explain to her nine year-old niece what the word "vagina" means. How can a nine year-old girl not know what it means? Is that even possible? What kind of childhood has she led? Is she being home-schooled or something?

Link: Here's CNN's coverage of the story.

Update! It appears as if the theater has finally come to its senses. And its a bunch of law students who are putting on the play! Good times.

Life Is A Pretty Sweet Fruit

This Kids In the Hall sketch has been on my mind a lot lately. Its appeal is pretty self-explanatory.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Andy Griffith Has Something To Tell the Attorney General About the Law

Below are two video clips, one of which is of testimony delivered by the Harvard Law School-educated Attorney General of the United States of America. The other is from a fictional, 1950's tv show about a small-town sheriff in the deep south. Which one shows a better understanding of the United States Constitution?

Has the Super Bowl Jumped the Shark?

Was anybody else disappointed by the advertisement in this year's Super Bowl? There were no real classics, no unintentionally hilarious catastrophe's, and no big surprises. It was just another highly-watched big game.

Prior for the first eighteen years of its existence, the Super bowl was exactly that - a big game, a highly-rated tv show, but not an "event." Then, in 1984 Apple came out with a classic 60-second advertisement introducing its new McIntosh line of computers. Inspired by George Orwell's 1984 and directed by Blade Runner's Ridley Scott, the ad blew people out of their seats and put the Apple brand on the map, but it also created a monster. For the next twenty years, non-football fans tuned in to the Super Bowl for the express purpose of watching the advertisements. in college, female friends of mine would have girls-only Super Bowl parties, talk during the game itself, and attentively watch the advertisements. At this point, the Super Bowl started to go downhill. It increased in popularity almost every year, but it did so by appealing to ever-larger numbers of non-fans. Networks broadcasting the game began to secretly require its stars to go to the game, so its cameras could 'just happen' to find them during the broadcast. The pre-game show, which used to be 60 minutes long, was expanded to 120 or 150 minutes, to allow television anchors like Katie Couric to do lengthy puff-pieces about various players, turning the NFL championship into something resembling Olympic figure skating in shoulder pads. "TV timeouts" -- regularly scheduled advertisement breaks unrelated to anything actually happening on the field -- became the norm in the Super Bowl, and then, when the NFL applied that idea to regular season games as well, the tv timeouts during the Super Bowl were expanded, to allow the networks to sell even more prime advertising time.

Half-time shows, which used to showcase local college marching bands, eventually turned into heavily-choreographed musical productions, often sub-contracted out to MTV to ensure the maximum star power. Every year, thousands of teenagers are paid to run out onto the field at halftime to jump up and down and wave glowsticks, as if they actually liked the music that was being played. In case you've forgotten, the past three Super Bowl performers have been Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and Prince, who were cool a combined 93 years ago and whose music the average American teenager can not easily identify. In order to accomodate these mini-concerts, the Super Bowl's halftime was extended to 45 minutes, instead of the regulation 30. Some months back, I was seated next to a middle-aged British couple on a flight from Chicago to New York City. We got to talking about sports, and they told me that the one American sport they were unable to get into was football. When I asked them why, they said that the only game the BBC broadcast was the Super Bowl, and the idea of a 60-minute game taking four hours to play struck them as totally absurd. They're not the only people who feel that way.

So, why do we watch the Super Bowl? The game itself is rarely well-played, and no small part of the explaination for that is the fact that the NFL forces two weeks of hype down everybody's throat and puts so many extended timeouts into the game that the players can't maintain any momentum. The NFL has added so much non-football-related content to Super Bowl Sunday that the game suffers as a result, leaving the fans little else but the advertisements and other peripherals to enjoy. Though few people, even serious football fans, could tell you the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVI, everybody remembers Budweiser's "Whazzuuuuuup!" advertising campaign. Personally, I've always been partial to the ads that poke fun at themselves, or at the Super Bowl, the best of which is this classic E-Trade "We Just Wasted 2 Million Dollars" video, which is hilarious despite the fact that it comes perilously close to violating my first rule of advertising: No anthropomorphic animals under any circumstances. Having said that, last weekend's Super Bowl forced me to make an exception to this rule, mainly because I'm a sucker for a good Ricardo Montalban reference. But then, who isn't? Its obscure! That makes it funny, right?

Due to the lack of well-played football, Prince's halftime show was the highlight of the evening. I love Prince as much as the next guy, but a three-song performance should not be the highlight of the Super Bowl. Anyway, here's the video:

Thursday, February 8, 2007

My City In the Snow

This is really cool.

Any jokes about how much better Buffalo looks when its lost in a snow cloud are, well, depressing accurate.

Ted Haggard Likes the Poonani

Preacher, meth user, adulterer, gay-baiter and all-around stand-up guy Ted Haggard emerged from three weeks of intensive Christian therapy today to state that he is 'completely heterosexual' and that he has finally gotten over his homosexual temptations. Anybody who believes this is a total retard. This sort of denial is more common than most people realize, and the unavoidable comparisons to Roy Cohn, though unfortunate, are absolutely deserved.

Before anybody accuses me of piling on, I'd like to remind everybody that this man and his network of followers has had a significant effect on social legislation in this country for the past ten years, particularly in regards to the state Constitutional bans on gay marriage and the bills limiting state and federal funding of potentially life-saving stem-cell research. Isn't it comforting to know that our legislation comes down as the result of reasoned, informed discussion and research, instead of fear-mongering wrapped in self-denial? This is ouuuuuuuuuuuuur country!!!

Ted Haggard may be out of rehab, but he still has some serious questions to answer, not the least of which is, if he's straight, then why do all of those homosexuals keep sucking his cock?

Update! According to Ted Haggard, evangelical couples have sex every day and their women always come. Well, isn't that speciaaaaaaaaaal? Except, of course, for the nights when their husbands aren't home because they're doing meth and buttsexing gay hookers.


Welcome to my new blog! Its title derives from one of my favorite quotations, often attributed to William James: "Common Sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing."