Monday, February 28, 2005

Carson Update

Various news reports this evening said that Carson was "uninjured" and released after two days of observation at Methodist hospital. (That US Congressional health plan must not be so bad after all.) Her office told reporters she was "pretty banged up". Either way, pictures of the car show quite a bit of front end damage directly across the entire front of the car with slightly more on the front left side. I'm going to be curious to see how this was soley the result of the other car running a red light (or stop sign). Police say the report is "still being prepared." Carson's office says she is going to try to be back in DC Wednesday.

2005 Tournament of Books Winner

WOW! -- did the publishing press ever get this one wrong. Publisher's Lunch reported the winner this morning as Philip Roth's The Plot Against America in a close vote against David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas in the final round. Ouch!

Sponsors The Morning News and Powell's congratulate Cloud Atlas the winner of the 2005 Tournament of Books beating The Plot Against America in a final round vote of 10 to 5. (The final round was decided by 15 judges.) Final reviews and summaries are here.

Opening Arguments

Both sides laid their cases out today for the jury in the Michael Jackson trial. A few things I found notable:

Reports say that MJ fidgeted, picked at his nails, and rolled his eyes during the prosecution presentation. This behavior isn't going to play well to the jury. It makes MJ come off as jeuvenile and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. Makes him less credible.

The defense sounds like they might really be reaching on their case. Could be interesting. They're going to play the celebrity angle while the prosecution is going to try to keep it simple.

The jury is going to have to be adept at sorting out the charges as they hear testimony. There are 10 felony counts in there including molestation, attempted molestation, child endangerment as well as the alcohol, imprisonment, and conspiracy charges.

For daily real time coverage, check the Smoking Gun. Links to today's coverage gives an update every 10 minutes their in court.

Of Interest in Blogland

Limon by Laura Lemay has a great pointer to Bob Bergman's Dakar Diary. Very cool first hand account of the Dakar Rally.

Terrific media gossip especially for the magazine and New York media scene over at Gawker -- including the latest on Radar's relaunch, the "padded" Swimsuit issue, and Defamer's live blog coverage of Oscar night.

At About Politics, they have details on flamingo flocking, possibly my most favorite new fundraising idea.

The Indiana state house and senate are running up against deadlines for bills to be passed out of each respective house by end of day Tuesday. As always, Doug Masson has the roundup of what's coming up, including HB1034 (DST) and it's chances of passing today or tomorrow.

And scroll down to entries from last Friday and Saturday and the Erudite Redneck discusses blogging and its potential for freedom of expression, especially for people like Amarji in places like Damascus.

What's the Matter with Julia?

District 7 US Representative Julia Carson was slightly injured Saturday afternoon in a car accident at 25th and Talbott. She was relatively unhurt but still stayed overnight in at Methodist hospital for observation. The police reports have been unavailable but the state Democratic party was quick to issue a statement emphasizing it was the other driver's fault (because with Julia, it always is.)

First elected in 1996, Carson's health problems have been on of the few highlights of her career on Capitol Hill. She's had major absences during every one of her terms mainly for health reasons, but also for family issues. She was out a good deal of last summer's session due to an unknown ailment she described as general tiredness, and in October she was hospitalized for what she said was a "bad reaction to a flu shot." Her health was a taboo issue during the 2004 campaign as Republican opponent Andy Horning will tell you. He was viciously attacked (verbally and practically physically) when he dared raise the topic during the debate she actually showed up for. We'll see how long how many votes she can stretch this into missing.

It's time for District 7 to elect a representative who can be a credible voice in Washington. We need a rep who can travel, attend sessions, participate in votes, and chair committee meetings. We need a representative who can not only attend as a functioning representative but also bring a strong measure of credibility and respect to one of Indiana's most important districts. I understand the sentimental attachment parts of the district have to a plucky black woman who made herself from nothing into a US congresswoman. But sentimentality is no reason to mortgage our future. We need a leader who can be effective in Washington for the betterment of Indianapolis and Indiana. In 2006, we need to let Julia take a good long rest and put someone else in DC who can get some work done.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

A Cellular Jammer Dare

The ad for says: Are cellular phones a problem? Then we have the solution for you!

If you remember my rant on cell phone use in restaurants a couple of weeks ago, then you'll appreciate the Curmudgeon's rant on private conversations in public via cell phone. How could he have missed the cool cellular jammer in the Jennifer Lopez movie Enough? She uses it to block her evil ex-husband's call for help while she beats the stuffing out of him. (Maybe all this pop culture knowledge isn't so useless after all.)

Cellular jammers are pretty cool little trinkets. I think we should chip in and get him one, but only if he'll blog about his day-to-day observations as people come in to his favorite coffee spot and try to use their cellular phones. (For a mere $500-$600, you, too, can be cellular free.)

As far as private conversations go, his rant just confirms for me that men just don't talk on the mobile phones in public restrooms the way some women do. I am completely mystified by these women who either don't think their caller can hear toilets flushing in the background or they don't care. Maybe someday soon there will be a personal sized purse jammer. For $100, I'd buy one just to keep the bathrooms call free when there.

MJ: Opening Arguments Monday

We'll cut through all the defense driven sensationalism and get right to what was accomplished by the court on the case this week. The defense is doing what it's paid to do, get the press really interested in all of their mystery witnesses, possible defense strategies and more. While public opinion technically makes no difference, if Jackson has any smart PR people, they're telling him that public opinion will make a huge difference in whether or not he ever makes an album again that will sell more than 1000 copies.

The jury was selected in record time when court came back on Tuesday. By Weds afternoon they had a full panel and alternates were in place by Thursday afternoon. The jury is not currently sequestered.

Friday, Judge Melville heard arguments on several motions including two for the defense: to allow discussion of previous legal history of the mother and family; and another request to disallow Tom Sneddon to try the case for the prosecution.

Melville ruled in favor of the defense regarding the use of prior legal history and testimony of "Jane Doe", the mother of the boy Jackson is accused of molesting. The defense laid out a good deal of their strategy in order to explain their request. A strategy that revolves discrediting the mother and family will be critical in Jackson's defense of the imprisonment charges. (This strategy is probably the best they have in light of the potentially damaging hard evidence seen by the grand jury on these charges. The imprisonment is the one that may sink Jackson's ship.)

The judge also denied a second defense request to have the district attorney's office recuse themselves from prosecuting the case.

Opening arguments are scheduled to being on Monday morning.

Tournament of Books -- Final Round

The brackets are filled in and in what was a very close semi-final match between I Am Charlotte Simmons and Cloud Atlas, Cloud Atlas advances to face Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. The final round will be decided by Feb 28.

The Plot Against America won fairly easily over Heir to a Glimmering World. Both books focused on Jewish plights during WWII, one a fictional account of a New Jersey Jewish family under a Lindbergh presidency, the other focusing on Jews fleeing Nazi Europe.

Most interesting to me, though, has been the legs under I Am Charlotte Simmons. For every reviewer who hates the book, they all acknowledge that they just can't put it down! While it was evenly panned, mainly for not being Bonfire of the Vanities, a Man in Full was incredible even with all its faults. Some of the most enduring characters from Wolfe's Atlanta still live in my head today. But, reviewer and editor Rosecrans Baldwin says it better than I can in a terrific review of Charlotte Simmons (and explanation as to why Cloud Atlas finally knocked the Wolfe behemoth out. )

And for more on Wolfe and his world view on "those kids today", or if you really just want to feel old, read his book of essays Hooking Up (2000 Picador). The title essay "Hooking Up: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the Second Millennium: An American's World" is a great basis for understanding the origins of I Am Charlotte Simmons. (The book also includes one of the best histories for non-technical people that I've read on the beginnings of the semiconductor business and how Silicon Valley become the center of it all called "Two Young Men Who Went West.")

Friday, February 25, 2005

And in Yesterday's News...

Slate does a wonderful essay on Chris Rock and the Oscars. Any writer who can find a way to compare Rock to William F. Buckley is a good one in my book.

An Illinois appeals court rules that a man can sue a woman over a surprise pregnancy. He can sue for emotional distress, he just can't sue for theft of sperm. (She says it was a gift. Either way, I'm still stuck on how she got pregnant giving a blow job.)

And in Colorado: I don't even need to offer commentary here, this is the actual story):

At the time this was written Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, still hadn't forthrightly apologized for warning a colleague Tuesday on the floor of the House, "If you try that again, I'll ram my fist up your ass."

HB 1034 Vote Delayed

Vote was delayed Thursday on HB 1034 -- the bill that could bring Indiana into the 20th century by allowing us to observe daylight savings time. Two key supporters were absent even though others (including House speaker Brian Bosma) braved illness to attend. The bill's sponsor decided to risk the weekend and bring it to the floor for a vote early next week, but there is still a chance that this bill will not pass the Indiana House. The Indianapolis Star reports that if the bill isn't voted on by Tuesday, it's nominally dead for this session. So, today or Monday, call your representative. Write their offices and tell them that you want them to vote for this bill. (I just emailed Greg Porter's office.) I truly believe the most vocal opponents to this bill are in the minority, especially in Marion county where most of our state representatives are Democrats. So it's worth everyone's time today to give a call or email to their state representative's office.

To find your House District number, use this page.
To confirm that you're in the specific district you selected, use this page.
To find your representative by district, use this page.

For those of us in Marion County:
District 86: Contact David Orentlichter
District 96: Contact Greg Porter
District 98: Contact William Crawford
District 99: Contact Vanessa Summers

Thursday, February 24, 2005

More on the Jackson Jury

More on the jury from the Santa Maria Times:

The 79-year-old panelist is a woman whose grandson is a registered sex offender.

Another juror helped a niece who told her about being molested by a family member.

A juror from Solvang works as a horse trainer and riding instructor.

A Santa Maria juror uses a wheelchair and is studying to be a motor-sports journalist.

One juror's first language is Spanish, while another first learned to speak Indonesian.

Several jurors are in their early 20s, and most are middle-aged or senior citizens.

No jurors are between the ages of 22 and 39.

Most have at least some college education, and some have postgraduate degrees.

Eight of the jurors are parents, but most have grown children.

Here's a complete list with all the details for each.

DST Bill -- in the House

The House DST bill hits the floor today at 1:30. It's sponsor will have to call it up for a vote. As of this morning, it's expected to pass and Senate leadership has said it will send the bill directly to committee -- and to a committee for real work, not a committee expected to hold it up. It could come up for a vote in the Indiana State Senate in time for implementation in April. As Doug Masson likes to point out, we'll always have that extra hour of darkness to contend with in April. Sure, but we'll have a lovely extra hour of evening daylight in April, too. Offset that early a.m. sunrise by firing up the grill in the evening since by April, the weather gets better. I, for one, will be happy to be able to get in a great walk or bike ride without having to rush home from my office at 5:00 p.m. Ahhhh, finally, summer!

Jury Selection in Record Time

The 12-member panel for the Michael Jackson trial has been selected with attorneys on both sides finished much earlier than expected. In session only two days since Jackson's hospitalization for a "flu-like illness", jury selection was expected to take about five weeks. What we know so far:

Men: 4
Women: 8
Youngest: 20 (female)
Oldest: 79 (female)
Ethnicity: 3 Hispanics, 8 nono-Hispanic, 1 Asian (no African Americans)

Judge will now start ruling on the motions pending including one from the defense calling to introduce the litigation history of Jackson's accusers. (I'll try to find a list of the other motions for the play at home game.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Details on the Bush Ranch

Seems like there's been a little debate on the size and operation of the Bush ranch. I thought I'd see if I could provide a bit of additional information.

The Bush ranch is in Crawford, south of Dallas, about 20 miles west of Waco. The 1550-acre property is small by Texas ranch standards, but was sold as a parcel of a larger property. The property was purchased by the Bushs in 1999 during Bush's second term as Texas governor with money thought to have come from an approximate $14 million profit in the sale of the Texas Rangers. They paid a reported $1.3 million for the property (about $800 an acre). The parcel was part of a larger ranch still owned by a family named Engelbrecht. Kenneth Engelbrecht leases the grass rights for cattle. I was unable to find how many head of cattle they run at Prairie Chapel specifically, but the Engelbrecht operation is a sizeable one and they do actively run cattle on the land.

The new house was designed by Austin architect David Heymann. They also renovated a 60-year-old farmhouse on the property. I don't know if they lease mineral rights down in that part of the country like we do out in West Texas and don't know if there are any active wells on the property.

Does Bush work his ranch personally? Of course not. My father has been a farmer all his life but I've never seen him on a tractor. He's been lucky to have good tenants to farm his section and a half in north Texas. That's the way it works out there -- lots of people have farms and ranches and they keep a lot of good farmers and ranchers employed. For many people, farm and ranch management is serious business and for others it takes very little time. Some leave much of it to their tenants and others are very involved. Often, the manager's level of involvement is proportional to the amount of income the realize from the property. For a small operation, it's not a full-time job, but I'd call it more than a hobby. But whether they farm it, ranch it or manage it, they all still sweat the the weather, talk to their tenants, worry about water pumps, and ask if it rains every day. It's hard to explain how outsiders come to love this land and life. A lot of people live in that part of the country their entire lives and don't understand it, or they hate it and run.

Tournament of Books -- The Final Four

The results are in and brackets filled in for the semi-final round of the Tournament of Books. (See below.) Interestingly enough, three of the four books advancing were number one seeds, books very heavily promoted on release.

The Plot Against America (1) by Philip Roth will face Heir to the Glimmering World (2) by Cynthia Ozick. Both books carry themes of Jewish life with Nazis in the WWII era. The winner of this round will face the winner of the match-up between Cloud Atlas (1 ) by David Mitchell and I Am Charlotte Simmons (1) by Tom Wolfe. Simmons has almost been knocked out twice and Cloud Atlas has received glowing reviews as it's ascended the ranks. Both interesting rounds as we get the final matchup.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Good Cowboys Are Hard to Find

Everyone is busy trying to interpret what Bush meant when he answered his now famous weekend question in France.

Reporter: "Will you be inviting President Chirac to your ranch in Texas?"

President Bush: "Well, I've been looking for a good cowboy."
There are as many headlines as opinions. Did he mean Chirac is unpredictable? That Chirac would not be welcome as a guest? Does he sees the French president as subservient to him? Does he disrepect what Chirac is doing in France? One reporter speculated on what it meant that Bush thinks Chirac is a "good cowboy", while other pundits compared Bush's supposed gaffe to Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner."

For all of the wondering about the metaphorical meanings, I think reporters are missing that Bush, faced with an impertinent question, gave them a nice, Texas-style response. And being the consummate rancher, he told them what's on his mind. He really needs a good cowboy.

It's really something to be connected to the land and those close to him will tell you that the President calls Crawford every day to find out what's happening on the ranch. Did it rain today? How's calving going? Did the brush get cleared out of the north pasture? How much fence mending will need to be done next time I'm there before we drive the cattle out to better grass?

Real-life cowboys work ranches all over the western states including Texas and good ones are in high demand. While today they're just as likely to carry a cellular phone as a six-shooter and sometimes ride an ATV instead of a horse, they are the ones responsible for the neverending day-to-day work of the ranch. Spring is coming which means getting the herds in for vaccinations, tagging, branding, and castrating. Good, reliable cowboys are hard to come by this time of year.

So, if you're wondering what kind of response Bush was expecting, I suspect he's hoping he gets a few phone calls down in Crawford. French President or not, he really just needs a good cowboy.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, RIP

Hunter S. Thompson. Even if you didn't come to love him in for his drug-addled craziness in the 70's, you came to love him for his rare ability to not only tell the truth, but make you see it from his perspective. No matter how you felt about him -- or his politics -- you couldn't deny the talent, the force, and that people in the media world (much wiser than me) called on him for his insight and opinions. And many got them unasked for. When I was fresh out of college and first exploring the wide world, I loved Rolling Stone. Between those oversized pages, I discovered voices that later I'd come to know as some of my favorite writers in the world telling their truths on stories that were overlooked and underreported. And offering a fair amount of commentary along the way: Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, Joe Eszterhas, PJ O'Rourke, and Hunter S. Thompson.

Before I read anything else, I think I'll re-read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I hope I can always find the courage to live on the edge of my own life the way Thompson lived on the edge of his. We'll miss you, Duke.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005

The photos are fantastic and the descriptions inspiring. It's the last week to see Christo and Jean-Claude's Gates in Central Park. The installation -- the biggest art project in New York history -- includes 7500 archways, 16-feet high with banners of saffron-colored fabric. The gates provide ribbons of bright orange color through the park against the varying grays of the city in winter. Best views are from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum and several of the hotels on Central Park South, plus, of course, wondering through them on the paths of the park. The installation will last 16 days. The artists are best known for their large, fabric-based installations such as "Wrapped Reichstag" where they wrapped the German Parliament building in Berlin in silvery fabric in 1995 and "The Umbrellas" which featured 3100 large umbrellas opened in the valleys of California and Japan in 1991.

Weekend Reading

Finished two big books this weekend and finally feel like I accomplished something. Really loved Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (thought provoking for today's world) and also enjoyed Susannah Clark's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, (especially the last 150 pages) although its nearly 800-page size made it a bit of an odessey. I'm now ready to tackle I Am Charlotte Simmons, but I'll probably throw in Louis Bayard's Mr. Timothy or Alan Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty before I get back to it. (I'm already about 100 pages in.) At some point, I promise, I'll read the next two Jasper Ffordes -- Something Rotten and The Well of Lost Plots, both of which are now out in trade paperback, but I bought in hardcover months ago. Still to come in the spring reading stack is Michael Korda's Horse People (he's one of my favorite non-fiction authors), Joe Trippi's book about Dean's campaign which I still haven't finished, John Lee Anderson's The Fall of Baghdad (hyped but never took off), and Paul Theroux's The Kingdom By the Sea, bought before my vacation and still unread.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Cats and Monkeys

``Never ever grind DARK ROAST on 1, or cats and monkeys will breed together and take over the world.''

Someone just called me to ask what I meant by responding in the comments section below about cats and monkeys. I have no idea the origin of the phrase, but in my mind it's always come to signify "unnatural-ness." Jon Carroll, the venerable columnist from the San Francisco Chronicle, says it better than I can in an
old column I've had clipped for ages (and SFGate is kind enough to have archived.)

America's New Favorite Couple

Photo ops with America's two new sweethearts are the hottest media ticket in town. Shown standing together, smiling, waving, on the front page of every major American newspaper, they're the adorable elderly couple who've found themselves together after separate lives for all these years -- George Herbert Walker Bush and William Jefferson Clinton. It makes you wonder who defaulted on their deal with Faust.

Seen everywhere together from the Super Bowl to their hit TV commercial hawking tsunami relief, it makes you wonder what it must be like for two men with such different worldviews -- and certainly differing feelings about our current President -- to spend so much quality time together. Like more than a few other celebrity couples, I wonder if their outwardly solid public unity is even better behind the curtain or worse?

With their national barnstorming tour and their current trip to the Indian ocean, I'd love to know what it must be like on the plane. Do they play gin, talk about what they'd do if they were President, and watch the world go by? Or do they retreat with their respective staffers to continue advising, book writing, and generally working at opposing ends. I can just see George on the phone to his son, Cheney, and fellow members of the Trilateral commission while Bill is talking to Howard Dean and flirting with the buxom flight attendant.

While it is nice to see these former political enemies working together for common good, it's a little weird to see them playing so nicely together. ("Barb? Don't wait up. I'm having dinner at Bill's house.") It's also downright creepy to see them dressed in matching blazers and golf shirts like aging PGA stars revisiting Augusta. At least they haven't crossed into the errant hug territory that haunted John Kerry and John Edwards. Every photo of them together looked like they were about to kiss.

2005 Tournament of Books

Forget March Madness, The Morning News and Powell's brings us the Tournament of Books. Touted in Thursday's NYTimes as "literary sport", 16 books have been seeded and laddered into an NCAA-like bracket to be paired head-to-head until only one is left standing. Literary sport is a brilliant concept. In the spirit of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels, I think we can all agree that we need more soccer stadiums full of Shakespeare fans (or, hey, that we just need "a" soccer stadium full of Shakespeare fans.)

Here's how it works: The judge for each individual pairing reads both works and chooses. It is a somewhat transparent and arbitrary process reflecting how randomly many book awards are chosen, reviews written and bestseller lists compiled. Judges include TMN editors and writers as well as literary bloggers Maud Newton (, Jessica Crispin (bookslut) and MarkSarvas (Elegant Variation).

In each grouping, the seedings were determined by how much pre or post-publication hype a novel received. First seeds in each of the four divisions include The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. Other novels include those generally recognized on many end of year "best-of" lists and chosen by TMN editors and writers.

But on to what you've been waiting for! Who's been knocked out so far and who's still alive in the tournament? (You can download a bracket so you can play along at home.)

In the 2nd round, number one seeded The Plot Against America by Philip Roth has beaten the number three seed Inner Circle by TC Boyle. Plot advances to the semi-finals and will face Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick which beat Human Capital by Stephone Amidon in the first round and overcame a tough 2nd round challenge by the number one seed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark. Strange has been a strong competitor but the judge noted its confection just didn't stand up to the solid performance of Heir.

In divisions 3 and 4, second round play continues today with matches between David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (1) and Ward Just's Unfinished Season (2) and big number one seed I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe and number two seed Birds Without Wings by Louis De Bernieres. Winners of these two will face either other in the semi-finals next week. Winner will move on to the finals to face the winner of the Plot/Heir match.

It's a brilliant concept -- now... how to get it into a stadium full of screaming fans.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Evidence We Might Not See

If you haven't read the grand jury testimony yet for the Michael Jackson case, it's worth your time, especially if there's any doubt in your mind about his involvement with this crime. In today's world of the celebrity witch hunt, this case has been largely free from commentary by the doubters except for die-hard Jackson fans. The grand jury testimony alone is pretty damning on all counts -- the imprisonment, the serving of alcohol to a child, and the molestation.

While this case is every bit as freakish as the recent Scott Peterson trial, it's freakish in a completely different way. The judge on the case has gone out of his way to clear the courtroom of distractions as well as anything that could contribute to a circus-like atmosphere. He also seems to have little patience for delay most of which is coming from the defense. (Certainly Mesereau's sister didn't die to help their case, but Jackson's "illness" and the latest motion by his team to spend more time questioning each juror haven't helped. The judge denied their motion and has made it clear he expects Jackson back on Tuesday.)

Whether or not the prosecution is successful in making their case and whether or not the defense is able to take advantage of doubt, the grand jury had a very clear cut reason to send this case to trial. And if a tenth of the information heard by the grand jury and used to make their decisions is heard by the court, I suspect Jackson is going to be facing some tough legal problems. Ultimately, based on more solid evidence than "he said/he said", Jackson may be caught by the alcohol and imprisonment charges. Some of the evidence is pretty damning.

In this particular case, I join with many people in thinking it's high time to shut down the child machine at Neverland ranch. And hopefully, the system will work and Jackson's career as a "friend to children" will be over.

Update on the Cow

For the last two mornings, I have tried to observe the cow at 43rd and Meridian without having a head-on collision (or rear-ending someone.) My conclusions: a) I was wrong, the cow is defnitely not a long-horn, and b) the cow is a bull.

Still looking for any one who knows anything about this oddity. Special prize to the winner!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Armstrong's in Tour de France!

Lance Armstrong announced today that he will race in the 2005 Tour de France. If he wins, it will be his 7th Tour win in a row. He set the record with 6 consecutive wins in 2004. He will be leading the Discover Channel team.

How Can We Miss You If You Won't Go Away?

George Michael is not just retiring from pop life, he's disappearing. He's so fed up with the media criticism of his political views that he's bowing out of pop. But what I find most irritating about this talented musician's complaints is what he thinks of invisibility. "Perhaps it will mean writing for other people. I have an ambition to write a truly contemporary musical, not necessarily even for the stage, but for the screen ... I have got to find ways to make music and enjoy it the way I used to."

Gee, George, thanks for giving so much credit to the 1000s of working muscians out there who are successful, happy, known to their colleagues and critiques alike who aren't "famous" but most certainly aren't invisible. We wish you well, George, in your new disappearing act. And may you just take pride in doing something you love whether there's recognition in there for you or not. I'm sure we'll be seeing you.

Life on Mars!

Look! They have fluorescent cave slime there, too! Stay tuned for more news in 2009.

Sister Mary Elizabeth Tells It All

As the city of New York considers its stance on the future of Catholic education, Mary Elizabeth Williams (who I used to dish often in SF with about Anna Nicole Smith!) tells you the great benefits she's had in life from attending Catholic school. (And "benefits" is a broad term!) From the Observer:

My eight years of religious education may have been cruel and often grueling, but they paid for themselves in getting me action. You want to take away Catholic schools? O.K., but don’t come crying to me in 20 years when you have to go tapping the Mormon states to find the kind of girls who can give you something to repent about.

She also covers the great influence a Catholic education has had on others:

That’s the power of the uniform: It’s a social leveler, it’s your gang colors, and it is, of course, a fetish object par excellence. Could Britney Spears have launched a career if she’d strutted down that hallway in regulation public-school jeans and T-shirt? Au contraire.

And for more on hot Catholic schoolgirl action, is your place today!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

And Last But Not Least...

English papers report a giant asteroid, 3 "football pitches" long is due to narrowly miss Earth on Friday, April 13th, 2029. I'll be 62 years old. Still probably working since I will have squandered my retirement, been abandoned for a younger woman, and never had children to take care of me. How depressing! Let's try this again. I'll be a hot socialite making my husband look great, throwing better parties than Nan Kempner, and still wearing expensive high heels.

DST: Yes! Cell phone ban: No!

House Bill 1034 (observation of Daylight Savings Time) is expected to make it out of committee shortly, and a few lawmakers are predicting it may narrowly pass in the Indiana House. It will be the first time since 1955 that legislation about DST has made it to the floor of either chamber of the Assembly. And it will be the 24th piece of DST legislation in the past 30 years to be considered. I think the most compelling argument I heard from a commerce perspective focused on our inability to get a an airline hub here due to the time issues. With the expense of the new airport's mid-field terminal (and the article yesterday about long taxi times becoming longer), airline business could be a major factor.

And, thankfully, House Bill 1508 is going to be held up in the Roads and Transporation Commitee. 1508 would have outlawed the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. The fine for breaking this law would have been $25.

Jackson: Flu Difficult with No Nose

Michael Jackson, who yesterday showed no visible signs of illness, called in sick today forcing cancellation of the 2nd day of jury selection for his child molestation trial. He was taken to the local hospital in Santa Mariawhere he was diagnosed with what doctors called a "flu-like illness."

He apparently became ill in the car on the way to the trial. The judge in the case held a 30-minute conference call with doctors to confirm the extent of his illness.

The trial resumed Monday after last week off for the death of defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr's sister. Judge Melville has ordered the court to reconvene next week. The "flu" tactic is one he used previously in Indiana when called to give a deposition on a music rights dispute. Experts predict he will next fake an injury, hear of the death of both grandmothers, and acquire a dog to eat his homework.

Prior to today's delay, the judge and legal teams were working through the first 113 of the 242-person jury pool. They interviewed approximately 18 potential jurors on Monday. The defense and prosecution have released star-studded witness lists. The defense list includes a bevy of high profile celebrities as character witnesses, former attorney Mark Geragos (on both lists), and Jackson's own children, Paris and Prince Michael. The prosecution list includes additional names such as Debbie Rowe, mother to at least two of his children. There may be some news on unspecified motions tomorrow. Otherwise, jury selection will resume on 2/22.

I can't even offer any commentary on this because it's nutty enough just as it is. No. Really.

White Cow? Anyone? Anyone?

Every morning I drive up Meridian Street with its large, stately homes, lushly landscaped yards, and historic architecture. On the east side of the street at the corner of 43rd and Meridian is a low-slung contemporary house with glass, wood, and orange exposed I-beams. I love the house, but what is the deal with the life-sized, all-white long horn cow in their front yard?

It looks like a long horn, and you know, in my limited experience with cattle (sarcasm alert), I'm pretty sure that's what it is. It could, I guess, be a bull. I haven't looked at the statue that closely. Plus, it's not painted like a cow with brown horns or hooves. It's just all white.

A bit of Googling reveals that white cows were a symbol of St. Brigit and there's some Scottish pagan significance. It could be some sort of Balinese feng shui only with a white cow in the front yard instead of those yard ducks that are really popular in Michigan. (I've never seen the cow dressed up in a little outfit, though.) The cow faces south which could be meaningful.

I checked with Indy's foremost expert on big (and weird) things. No love.

Anyone have any info on the mysterious Meridian St. cow?

Monday, February 14, 2005

My Neighbor, the Violinist

My next door neighbor is a violinist. I'm convinced of it. Often, late in the evening, when I've left the computer and turned off the television, in that moment when it first becomes very quiet, I can hear him playing. Never scales or arpeggios but beautiful concert-perfect pieces. I think he must be a music student at Butler.

When I first began to hear the violin, I thought it had to be a recording. Finally, I thought, an intelligent neighbor who prefers violin concertos to rock music. But often I'd hear the same piece over and over again, with stops and starts. Gradually, it began to dawn on me that he's the violinist. I have assumed he's a student since the apartment next to mine has long been in use by a rotating group attending Butler. I've heard some interesting things through my bedroom wall -- great arguments, better make-ups, phone calls to parents, laughing, parties.

The violin has been the best thing to hear. He plays most often between nine and ten at night and plays pieces straight through. In fact, it took me a long time to convince myself he was really a musician, not just a student with great taste. But I can hear him working on passages, slowing them down, playing them through. In my head I can see him working on fingerings and then playing at full speed with a flourish of the bow.

I've seen him and he doesn't look like a musician. He looks like an average college boy -- tall, short brown hair, polo shirt. I've never actually seen evidence of the violin. But I believe in it -- in the Bach and the Mozart and the Hayden. Even here in Indiana in this white bread professional apartment building with smart young couples, doctors, and political staffers. It makes me feel part of something, like he's sharing his practice with me. (There he goes working on a five note passage again, slowly, now very quick!) Play on, neighbor. Sing me to sleep.

The Healing Power of a Kiss

The other day on the WeLL, Judith Newman (author of You Make Me Feel Like an Unnatural Woman: Diary of a New (Older) Mother, Miramax, 2004) made a poignant comment in the parenting conference. She was discussing her twins, Henry and Gus, now toddlers. "You know what's one of the few things about these early years I'll genuinely miss? The healing power of the kiss."

Judith was talking about bumped elbows and bruised knees, but it made me feel, in a way, a little sad. How is it that we as adults forget the healing power of the kiss?

At 12 or 14, our first kiss is exciting in the mystery and anticipation of where it will lead. In college, we learn a kiss can be equally passionless. Later, we discover a peck on the lips at the end of a date generally means he's not calling, and after a few breakups, we decide a kiss isn't to be trusted. We learn the lesson that no matter how much you wish he loved you, you can't make it true.

In our 20s, we became jaded. We began to think a kiss was meaningless, only about control or need. At some point, we even discovered we didn't even need to love the person whose lips were touching ours. Sex became easy, and kissing became complacency. And worse, we found that a kiss became different yet again. It was harder to give. It was personal. It was the last bit of yourself that you had to share with someone.

In a marriage -- our friends' or even our own -- we watched the kiss that sealed the vow become the blessing on the bargain. Then we watched it devalue it itself as it became an easy way out, an explanation, an escape for everything we couldn't say, understand, or explain. Somewhere along the line, it became easier to kiss the pain away than apologize and give it words. Somehow, without us realizing, the kiss became less about a child's magic and innocent belief in healing and more like medicine, designed to mask the symptoms. We've learned that a kiss can't heal a failed relationship or a broken heart.

I heard a statistic the other day. Children laugh up to 400 times a day and adults only 15. Like Judith's observation, it struck me as incredibly sad. How is it that we lose the childlike ability to enjoy our lives, enjoy our love, and let a simple thing like a kiss heal?

If I were a better Christian, I'd turn a lovely phrase about how love heals all wounds and helps all things. But all I can say today, on this day of all days, is to think about what your kiss can heal, no matter how small. Maybe a bumped elbow or a bruised heart -- even if it's not of your making. Kiss someone today. Make it count. Wish it so. Make it heal.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Saturday Afternoon Comfort Food

Between work and the weather, I've been exhausted. Not just merely tired, the kind of tired a nap can fix, but that bottom-of-the-bones, need-to-be-sleeping, can't-focus-on-anything kind of tired. So, Saturday, after waking up just as weary as the night before, I didn't cook. I just lazed on the couch all day watching the Discovery Channel. I took a couple of short naps, but it was all I could do to venture out to the grocery store. For a week, I've been down to plain rice and a lot of ingredients that on their own make up nothing to actually eat.

At the grocery store I struggled to fill my four basic food groups -- noodlely, crunchy, drinkable, and frozen. As I was lamenting the replacement of my favorite small-sized can of turkey chili with mondo sized cans of some other brand now called "Tantalizin' Turkey", I had a thought. A comforting thought. And I smiled and turned my cart around to the chips aisle. Frito Pie!

Now, I'm not sure about Indiana. The comfort foods you all grew up with here are different. Breaded pork tenderloin, elephant ears, corn. Where I'm from, we have a whole different range of comfort food. Chicken-fried steak with white pepper gravy (oooohhh); tex-mex mexican food from small local places (and those big, flufffy sophapillas, oh, yeah!) and biscuits and gravy for breakfast (Yes! Yes! Yes!). But one of my favorite comfort foods from childhood was Frito pie.

From first grade through high school, we had Frito pie for school lunches, usually every other Friday, at least until the Reagan administration. (How frightening is it that I can't remember important things like my bank PIN, but I can sure as hell remember we had Frito pie every other Friday for lunch!)

In junior high, when we could finally go "off campus" for lunch, we would go to the only place around our school, "the candy store". Now, I don't really know what this place was called. There was no sign. It was just a shop in an anonymous storefront in what was largely a residential neighborhood that sold every type of sugary treat known to kids.

To me, my parents said "the candy store" was forbidden. I don't know why -- I was one of those kids who always assumed that there was more to the story than met the eye, and that my parents must know it. Although, it could have just simply been that a) they didn't know the people who ran it, b) didn't trust what they were giving us kids, and c) just wanted to curtail any pre-dinner or daytime unsupervised candy eating activity. It could have been a combination of all three. Either way, I envisioned my parents must have heard that the three or four seemingly very nice little old ladies who ran the place must be on the run from the law, or acccused of giving drug-laced candy to children, or maybe that there was a secret candy workshop in the back for kids who were cooler or more in-the-know than me.

When you walked into the candy store, you were immediately confronted with a big, L-shaped counter and a large counter window of candies. And aside from the regular candy (and those huge dill pickles), they also had lunches. Hamburgers, hot dogs and ... Frito pie.

Frito pie is, for those not in the know, Fritos corn chips, covered in chili and topped with cheese. Fritos are essential instead of some other knockoff chip since the salt and corn crunchiness is what makes the dish work. (Listen to me, I sound like I'm writing for Gourmet). Old-timers will say that the small Fritos bags would actually be clipped open in order to accommodate the toppings, but the nice little old ladies at least had us eat in bowls. (At least our parents would have been happy about something.) They also had a variation called something like "nachos with chili" which was was essentially the same thing but with Doritos instead of Fritos and the chili was on top of cheese sauce. Oh, and how could I forget the chili cheese french fries. It was heaven.

Despite what it all says about me yearning for childhood or my carefree junior high days (right, like I had less stress in my life then, junior high was hell!), yesterday, I had Frito pie. I'm sure my parents knew exactly which days I skipped over to the candy store for lunch. (By 9th grade, Reagan had made ketchup a vegetable.) But to me it was a clandestine activity. It was just as much about the sneaking of the Frito pie as the tasty, decadent treat itself. Today, it's a little different. We all choose what we eat every day, but for someone watching their weight or cholesterol or trying to eat a little better, I guess there's still room for the clandestine excitement of comfort food. One or two servings usually seems to satisfy the craving and I'll be really tired of it by the time I finish up the whole bag of Fritos. Besides, I bought Tater Tots, too.

For more on my weird eating habits or just general info on food and wine around Indy, check out my wine/food blog.

And for more down home comfort from my home state, check out my favorite Okie blog .

Saturday, February 12, 2005

And in Indiana News

This Monday, the Indiana House will hold a public hearing on whether or not we should adopt Daylight Savings Time. For more information (and for a darn good summary of daily Indiana statehouse business) check out my pal Doug Masson's blog.

And, you know, we can't even bring up DST without a causing a great debate, but our legislature can raise the Interstate speed limit to 70 mph faster than...well, faster than a 70 mph speeder. Thanks, guys! Now, can you fix that time thing?

"Please Turn Off All Cellular Phones"

I think most people would agree that manners matter. As people go, Hoosiers are pretty mannerly, but sometimes we could improve. Take, for example, cellular phones.

Just so you know, I'm not an anti-cell phone zealot. I love my phone. (I secretly revel in its tinyness.) I couldn't live without it, but sometimes, I think we should learn to do without once in a while in the name of good manners.

A couple of weeks ago, I was traveling and witnessed the most amazing thing. At dinner in a fairly nice Thai restaurant, a business guy's phone rang. "Ring!!!" He answered. I heard it from three tables away. He did not seem to have the ability to talk in a lower tone of voice -- only at full volume.

When it became obvious after the first few seconds that he wasn't going to hang up with a polite "Hey, I'm in the middle of dinner, can I call you back?" the manager went over to his table -- and very politely asked him to take it outside. I was terribly impressed.

The man on the phone wasn't angry. He didn't complain, or make a snarky comment or swear he was never coming back. He just politely took the call outside where I’m guessing the temperature cut things short. It was as if he didn't even realize he was disrupting other meals and conversations. But yet, people were surprised.

Was the manger's behavior out of line?Another scenario: Guys may not have this problem, but girls, you know you've heard that woman in the restroom at a restaurant or the movies chatting away on her mobile phone. It's much more disturbing than overhearing someone in a restaurant, but could you ask her to take it outside? Would you?

It makes you wonder what ever happened to self-awareness. With the ability to turn your ringer off (ooh, or to "vibrate") and with headsets with tiny microphones, nothing is stopping people from exercising mannerly use of phones. If you're speaking in a low tone of voice, not interfering with anyone's meal, then your conversation is fine with me.

While I would support a smoking ban for local bars and restaurants, I'm not sure I'd feel the same about "Please turn off all cellular phones" policies in all my favorite establishments (except maybe the bathrooms.) I think we all need to exercise some self-awareness and police ourselves.

And as enforcements go, my phone already goes dead at the Oceanaire bar making it a de facto "no cell phone" zone. If they could fix that, I'd promise to try to be more self-aware. But I'm sure I wouldn't mind if a few more managers asked people to take it outside.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Jackson Case Updates

I'll warn readers now, I'm going to be in complete newsgeeky joy all spring with this case. This trial is such a wonderful serendipity of bizarre personalities, weird sex, dirty money, and questionable reputations, all mixed together with a wacky California jury. (Beat until smooth and bake at 350 degrees.) If anyone's interested, I can recap the most of the judge's rulings from last week. (He hasn't ruled on all motions filed.) But for today, we have the results of jury questionnaires. (This is the stuff I love!)

Average: woman, 45, married with kids, has seen media reports, has discussed it with friends (man, this has to be a defense nightmare.)

Jury pool: 240 total people.
Age range: 18-81
Women: 55%/Men 45%
22 years – average time jurors have lived in Santa Barbara County
74% -- are employed full or part time. 14% retired
38% -- have a college degree
34% -- have been arrested or know someone who has (hmmmm, that's an interesting data point)
14% -- they or someone close to them has been victim to or witnessed a serious crime.
7% -- they, a family member or friend has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior

14% -- they or someone close to them has been a victim of inappropriate sexual behavior
43% -- know a law enforcement officer (this is good for prosecution, I'd think.)
70% -- know "a little" about the case
19% -- know "a lot" about the case
66% -- have discussed it with their friends and/or family
60% -- have heard about previous sexual abuse allegations against Jackson in 1993.
7% -- know or have a friend or family member who knows Jackson.
15% -- have worked with groups interested in "child safety, child abuse or mistreatment or children's rights" (The defense is all over these people)

Other data points: Almost all are veterans or have a close relative who is; large number are educators or retail workers. Most are from Santa Maria or Lompoc with a "substantial number" from Santa Ynez Valley (where Neverland Ranch is.)

12 jurors will be selected along with 8 alternates.

And in More Jackson Case News…
The defense fires a PR volley by leaking information on the what the family ate, where they stayed, and what they did while "kidnapped". At the very least, I'd guess they still felt like intimidation was at work. At least, if I had to eat that many meals at Outback Steakhouse I'd consider myself under duress.,2933,146948,00.html

E!Networks has hired Edward Moss, a well-known Jackson impersonator, for their daily reenactments. Acting out a daily court scene is the same approach they used during the OJ Simpson civil trial where no cameras were allowed in court. The network will show portions of the trial based on the transcripts with actors. This particular Jackson impersonator has played Jackson in Nip/Tuck and Scary Movie 3.

The Non-news Newsday

Just marry her already: Prince Charles sets a date to make an honest woman of his mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles, in a civil ceremony with the blessing of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. The Archbishop of Canterbury will bless them afterwards. He'll be king, but she won't be queen. Everyone is either happy or doesn't care.

Newsflash! North Korea has nuclular weapons!

"Much, much more complicated": And last but not least, Soap Lake, Washington tries to assemble a 50-foot-lava lamp bought from...who else? Target.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dick Morris' Pipe Dream

Dick Morris is on crack again. His logic demonstrates how out of touch some Democratic PO's still are. I have no doubt that Hillary will run for 2008. I have a little more doubt that she'll win the nomination. But Morris has overestimated how ready middle American voters are for a female President. Seriously. No one likes to admit it, but your average, Republican, 65-year-old or older guy (and a lot of women, too) doesn't think we're ready for a woman in the White House. And while I would say "Hey, if anyone can do it, Hilary can," most Republicans would say "Absolutely not." And these voters are definitely not ready for Condi Rice. In his segment breakdowns, Morris has also overestimated how single woman would vote as well as the conservative right. The issue is the Republican nominee. Most solid voting blocks who rolled out en masse to vote against Kerry, will roll out to vote against Hilary. As if there was any real chance at all that Condi could get the GOP nomination.

From a political standpoint, a Condi v. Hil race would be pretty cool, but as much as I'd love to envision the pipe dream, I think I'll just leave Dick Morris to what he's already smoking. Maybe he's just looking for a hot, hair-pulling girl fight.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Dear God, in all your wisdom and glory,

Please, grant us daylight savings time. Please let the people of Indiana see the light and how wonderful it would be to have an extra hour of it on summer evenings. Please grant them enlightenment, that we may have a longer evening to boat, run, play, grill out, enjoy friends, watch the kids play in the yard, ride bicycles, and more. Please let those who say they couldn't sleep if it was twilight at 9:15 p.m. find window shades. Please let those who say that there's no provable economic impact have to shift meetings and face endless explanations twice a year. For those who say it's so easy to explain to customers and clients, let them spend time and money on software solutions and customer documentation to adjust for it. Please, let those who say the kids will have to wait for the bus in the dark understand that three more weeks of what they already do won't be harmful. For those who will miss the days of the 4:30 a.m. sunrise, please let them find solace in that glorious sunset instead -- at 9:00 p.m. For those who will lament the passing of the old Hoosier ways, that Indiana independence, please let them obsess on the abundance of other ancient, ridiculous customs we still have like the inability to buy beer on Sunday. Please hear us father, (and legislature). Please, hear our plea. April is almost upon us.

Monday, February 07, 2005

File under "news of the weird"

Oscar de la Renta rants that he's shocked (*shocked, I tell you*) that Hilary wore black to the inauguration. Honey, if you'd gained as much weight as she has, you'd wear black, too.

Michael Jackson's fans reveal that some of them are every bit as weird (OK, read "disturbed") as he is.

Howard Dean is about to become chairman of the DNC (this just gets weirder and weirder) ...

"Quirky" and "Eccentric"

A few weeks ago, I took myself on a good, long vacation. As I wondered the streets of London and roamed around New York, I did some great thinking and some mediocre writing. But at the end of the trip, I resolved to spend more time getting thoughts onto paper. Or in this case, on the screen.

A few weeks later I was at a dinner party and telling a story. It was something I'd seen while gone. One of the guests laughed and said "I like the way you think." She didn't mean it as the joke we've all heard -- "I *like* the way you *think*." She meant it as "I like the quirky way you look at things." I personally don't think my world view is so quirky, but I'm guessing a few friends would disagree. (As an aside, I quit dating a guy once because he called me "quirky and eccentric." Of course, I broke up with a boyfriend once because he was too well-endowed, so what do I know?)

So, here are the fruits of my late night labors. I hope you find something interesting. Or at least, maybe you'll find it quirky.

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