20 August 2004

MoveOn Ad Finalists

You’ve probably seen these by now, but here’s the winners and finalists for MoveOn’s planned ad campaign during the RNC.

Note the resemblance to Apple’s “Switch” campaign.

Posted in Politicks on 20 August 2004 at 10:07 pm by Nate

Swift boat veterans for “truth”

The Times does its usual workman job on filling in the details.  Also included is this very interesting graphic of the connections between the organization and the Bush world.


Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe rails on John O’Neill on the News Hour:

Again, the credibility problem, which is what keeps this thing
in the tabloids primarily and on cable television where there are different

Almost conclusive doesn’t cut it in the world’s parts of journalism
where I live, John. You have a burden here. And almost conclusive is
nowhere near what I’m looking for.

There are eyewitness accounts actually on all sides of this story.
The closer you get to Kerry, the more one-sided in favor of Kerry these
accounts tend to be.

There is a problem that one of your people, this Mr. Thurlow, has made
an allegation about there being no combat fire coming that day that
is contradicted by the citation of his own Bronze Star.

Now, you can then say, well, that was all made up and that Kerry lied
and produced that, for which you provide no evidence.

And we keep going in this endless cycle of, see, I put this out there,
I made this accusation, I made this charge, but held to a higher standard,
I’m not saying your… that this didn’t happen or that something did
happen, I’m saying that you haven’t come within a country mile of meeting
first-grade journalistic standards for accuracy.

Jon Stewart skewers the whole thing better than any mainstream reporter.

Posted in Politicks on 20 August 2004 at 12:46 pm by Nate

Whoa. Baguettes and pi

Last shorty item for the day.

The power of statistical aggregation and estimation.  Find the value of pi by tossing baguettes out the window.

Posted in IvoryTower on 20 August 2004 at 12:48 am by Nate

Very meta: which is the game?

You can try to win the election yourself.

Somebody please get this for me!

Posted in Politicks on 20 August 2004 at 12:42 am by Nate

Technical problems

If you’re trying to read this, you should know that the damn Harvard
Weblogs server was out again for about 12 hours today.  It affected all of us.

Here’s what I wrote earlier today on our e-mail group:

Here’s what I know, from people at Berkman itself.

There are
simply not enough tech resources to maintain adequately theHarvard
Weblogs server. The tech people (one on-site, one remote[Kentucky, I
think]) there have so much to do maintaining the computer stuff for
staff that they can only just keep the blog server running.

for yourself what you think of the explanation. I am simply the
messenger. But you should hope that what happened at www.weblogs.com
does not happen to us. (Read this for more detail on what happened
there: http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger/mtarchive/002739.html)

Posted in OnTheWeb on 20 August 2004 at 12:34 am by Nate
19 August 2004

U2 — Closet Christians?

A fantastic story about U2 over on GetReligion.

Posted in Rayleejun on 19 August 2004 at 8:15 pm by Nate

Coco Chanel

Coco was born on this date in 1883.  As the Writer’s Almanac put it this morning, “Along with the perfume Chanel No. 5, which came out in 1922, she introduced turtleneck sweaters, trench coats, costume jewelry, bell-bottom trousers, bobbed hair, and the ‘little black dress.’ Chanel said, ‘Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.'”

Posted in Day2Day on 19 August 2004 at 8:09 pm by Nate
18 August 2004

On Fear

From Life of Pi, by Jann Martel:

    I must say a word about fear.  It is life’s only true opponent. 
Only fear can defeat life.  It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I
know.  It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy.  It
goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease.  It begins in
your mind, always.  One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. 
Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind
like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out.  But
disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier.  Doubt does away with it with little
trouble.  You become anxious.  Reason comes to do battle for you.  You are
reassured.  Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology.  But,
to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable
victories, reason is laid low.  You feel yourself weakening, wavering.  Your
anxiety becomes dread.
    Fear next turns fully to your
body, which is already aware that something terribly wrong is going on.  Already
your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a
snake.  Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to
gallop on the spot.  Your ears go deaf.  Your muscles begin to shiver as if they
had malaria and your knees to shake as though they were dancing.  Your heart
strains too hard, while your sphincter relaxes too much.  And so with the rest
of your body.  Every part of you, in the manner most suited to it, falls apart. 
Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear.

    Quickly you make rash decisions.  You dismiss your last
allies:  hope and trust.  There, you’ve defeated yourself.  Fear, which is but
an impression, has triumphed over you.
    The matter is
difficult to put into words.  For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your
foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal
end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene:  it seeks to rot everything, even
the words with which to speak of it.  So you must fight hard to express it.  You
must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it.  Because if you don’t, if
your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to
forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly
fought the opponent who defeated you.

And I’ve long admired Ryan‘s review of the book:

…this is not a work of fiction which exists simply for our pleasure- it aims a bit higher. This novelist has a point,
a morality of stories which is the moral of the story. It’s simple and
challenging: If we can function with either of two stories, why not
choose a better story? The moral is stated with brutal precision in
Chapter 22, which I quote in full:

I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: “White, white!
L-L-Love! My God!”–and the deathbed leap of faith. Whereas the
agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden
to dry, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light
bathing him by saying, “Possibly a f-f-failing oxygenation of the
b-b-brain” and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better

This is a provocation both of serious believers and of skeptics,
both of whom feel that much more is at stake than a simple aesthetic or
literary choice. It’s also a point that could only be made in our
modern West, this singular space where we indeed have the choice of our
faiths. The mockery of the narrow minds of the priest, the pandit, and
the imam in Chapter 23, the cheerful ecumenical universalism of Pi,
this whole notion of the capability of choice, the very concept of
mapping faith onto story– all these allow us to locate Martel
squarely in the present, in the consumer-consumed marketplace of
believers and faiths. All this could have made the book a tiresome
rehashing of the “All you need is faith: any faith will do” genre of
literary and cinematic works. (Signs, anyone? Dogma?)

But Martel does something amazing in Life of Pi. He exposes
his readers to a world of doubles, and he leaves us with terrible
choices. All of the choices in the work, all of the stories offered to
the reader are full of savagery and horror, the naked power of death,
the remorseless brutality which underlies every will to live. If this
book fulfills its brash promise, if it does convince anyone
to believe in God, to choose the better story, the reader will also be
confronted with the inescapable terror of that choice, the fundamental
darkness. No matter which story we choose, we are hopelessly trapped on
Pi’s floating island of algae, that occult land on which we were always
already standing, that paradise of food and comfort and danger and
all-consuming death. It is this layer of persistent danger, amorality,
and darkness that saves Life of Pi from being yet another vacuous exhortation to faith, and transforms it into a nuanced, provocative, and delightful work.

Posted in Books on 18 August 2004 at 11:28 pm by Nate
17 August 2004

Save California!

We’re gonna burn up!

Seriously, the US needs us.  For basic economic reasons, at the least.  Besides, who will 8 out of 9 Americans laugh at if we burn to a crisp?  New Englanders? North Dakotans?  Come on….

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 17 August 2004 at 3:19 pm by Nate
15 August 2004

Olympic whining

BF and I have been watching the Olympics for the last couple of
days.  If you’ve been watching during this Olympics or any in the
past, you have seen at least some of these “athlete profiles” that they
do each time.  The trope is pretty much the same: lots of talent,
good but not great in the past, some sort of crystallizing event
(usually a tragedy of a personal nature), a renewed resolve to be
better and greater, and then some sort of preliminary result that
indicates that greatness could be around the corner for the
athlete.  But the personal tragedy often comes across as something
that mere mortals cannot understand, the sacrifices extreme, the penury
of their lives almost Russian in its tragic pathos.

And it’s just disgusting.

Case in point: gymnist Mohini Bhardwaj had a profile on Sunday
night, and the piece talked about the obstacles she has had to
overcome.  Made a comeback two years ago at 23, dislocated elbow
injury just recently, and the whole litany of the normal we hear. 
But then we get a decent amount of the piece, listening to Bhardwaj and
the people around her complain about the low-status, badly paying jobs
she has to work.  She has to deliver pizza to make money, she had
to live on PowerBars for a week because she couldn’t buy food, she just
never seems to have enough money to live on.  He coach thinks that
it’s wrong that a Olympic athlete has to live like this to pursue their
dream.  Bhardwaj comes across rather haughtily, saying that she’s
sure she could get a “real job,” but she guesses she’ll just have to
keep delivering pizzas if she wants to be an Olympic athlete.

What about the people who have to work these jobs because it’s all
they can do?  What about people who don’t have health insurance
but who also have kids to take care of?  What about people who
don’t have the option to go get a “real job”?  Besides, if money
seems that important to you, then give up the Olympics and get one of
those “real jobs.”  You’ve made choices to pursue your dreams and
the glory of the Olympics, and that may or may not include money or
ease. But don’t go to the Olympics and speak in such a way as make it
seem like you’re dealing with real adversity (when it seems that all
the adversity you face is aging and a low-paying pizza delivery job).

You have your health and a working, able body.  You have to
ability to take care of yourself.  You have a support structure of
some sort around you (coaches and trainers, at the least).  You
have the potential after the Olympics to use your status as an Olympian
to provide for yourself.

Let me be clear.  Bhardwaj certainly is not the only Olympian
who comes across in such a way in these pieces, but she seemed an
especially egregious version of the type.

After the piece, we learned that Bhardwaj got $20,000 from Pamela Anderson. 

Hmm.  A serving of adversity, anyone?  Sounds lucrative to me….

Posted in RmAuNsDiOnMg on 15 August 2004 at 10:53 pm by Nate