Monday, January 31, 2005

Hate Bush? Love Freedom?

Instapundit links to an account of a Bush-hater who went to the polls in Washington, D.C. over the weekend to interview American Iraqis voting in the Iraqi election.
You may think that you have felt dumb before, but let me tell you something: until you have stood in front of a man who knows real pain and told him that you are against your country's alleviation of his country's state-sponsored murderous suffering, you have not felt truly, deeply, like a total fucking moron.

Sick to our Stomachs. Thanks, NYT

Bob Herbert wrote a column in Monday's NY Times that we did not find edifying. Normally we don't get too excited (or, uh, excitable) when we read something we disagree with, especially in the Times, but in light of the courageous acts of millions of Iraqis on Sunday, we think we might be experiencing a little righteous indignation. It's not that Herbert plays the Chicken-Little-the-sky-is-falling-in-Iraq card (he does); it's that he starts out the piece acknowledging the power of the statement made by the Iraqi people, but only as a rhetorical device, using it as a setup for his grand reveal of how things "really are."

You'd have to be pretty hardhearted not to be moved by the courage of the millions of Iraqis who insisted on turning out to vote yesterday despite the very real threat that they would be walking into mayhem and violent death at the polls.

At polling stations across the country there were women in veils holding the hands of children, and men on crutches, and people who had been maimed during the terrible years of Saddam, and old people. Among those lined up to vote in Baghdad was Samir Hassan, a 32-year-old man who lost a leg in the blast of a car bomb last year. He told a reporter, "I would have crawled here if I had to."

In a war with very few feel-good moments, yesterday's election would qualify as one. But (ah, yes, the magical BUT) as with any positive development in Iraq, this one was riddled with caveats. For one thing, dozens of people were, in fact, killed in election day attacks. And shortly after the polls closed, a British military transport plane crashed northwest of Baghdad.

So there was no respite from the carnage. (Mentioning the crash seems to us to be quite the non sequitur. He might as well list all the traffic accidents in Baghdad -- no respite from the carnage!)

And we should keep in mind that despite the feelings of pride and accomplishment experienced by so many of the voters, yesterday's election was hardly a textbook example of democracy in action. A real democracy requires an informed electorate. What we saw yesterday was an uncommonly brave electorate. But it was woefully uninformed.

Much of the electorate was voting blind. Half or more of those who went to the polls believed they were voting for a president. They weren't. They were electing a transitional national assembly that will have as its primary task the drafting of a constitution. The Washington Post noted that because of the extreme violence that preceded the election "almost none of the 7,700 candidates for the National Assembly campaigned publicly or even announced their names."

It's interesting that Herbert quotes the Washington Post directly but fails to reveal his source for his claim that "half or more" Iraqis went to the poll thinking they were voting for a president. Not that we wouldn't give Herbert the benefit of the doubt -- it is the New York Times, after all (snicker) -- but if what he says is true, it's an important part of the story. If it's just his conjecture, it's very disingenuous.
The desire of the U.S., as embodied by the Bush administration, is to exercise as much control as possible over the Middle East and its crucial oil reserves. There is very little concern here about the plight of ordinary Iraqis, which is why the horrendous casualties being suffered by Iraqi civilians, including women and children, get so little attention.
Yes, yes, no blood for oil. We got the memo. It's one thing to spout it while commenting on a Kos post; it's quite another to print it -- completely unsubstantiated and unsupported -- in our nation's "paper of record."
In large swaths of the country, death at the hands of insurgents seems always just moments away. It's also extremely easy for innocent Iraqis to get blown away by Americans. That can occur if drivers get too close - or try to pass - an American military convoy. Or if confusion arising from language barriers, or ignorance of the rules, or just plain nervousness results in an unfortunate move by a vehicle at a checkpoint. Or if someone objects too vociferously to degrading treatment by U.S. forces. Or if someone is simply suspected, wrongly, of being an insurgent.
Now Herbert alleges U.S. soldiers of killing -- no, "blowing away" Iraqis for arguing or looking suspicious. Again, it would be nice if these were backed up by any facts. Herbert supplies none, leaving us to assume that he does not possess them. In light of the job our forces did in preventing carnage at the polls Sunday, this is shameful.

Crime in many areas is completely out of control. Kidnapping for ransom, including the kidnapping of children, is ubiquitous. Carjackings are commonplace. Rape and murder are widespread.

Sounds like New York City! But joking aside, Herbert's broad generalizations (once again, absent of anything to support them) are a hallmark of poor writing and would incur the wrath of our sixth grade English teacher. But not, apparently, any editor at the New York Times.

It appears that Herbert wrote this column prior to the election, and then was forced to amend it after its unexpected (at least to him) success. So he tacked on some paragraphs at the beginning, then left the rest, and in so doing, turned a bad column into an indefensible one.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Dispatches from the Rear

We just got off the phone with a friend of ours who was an opponent of the war in Iraq from the very beginning. He seemed to be of the Pat Buchanan school of thinking, that we were just getting ourselves into a lot of trouble, and that we had no business being there. We didn't call to talk about yesterday's election, but it came up. Here is what he said:
I think it is one of the most magnificent things that's happened in the past ten years.
It proved to us that yes, there are critics of the war who can acknowledge that yesterday's election was a huge success and also a vindication of sorts -- provided that things continue on the current path. Our friend was even talking about the power of freedom and his hopefulness that these elections in Afghanistan and Iraq are a signal of where the Middle East is headed. No bitterness in his voice. Only pride -- in what our soldiers and the Iraqi people have accomplished.

We'd posit that there are many other war critics out there who feel the same way. Here's hoping that they're welcomed onto the bandwagon of freedom, and not taunted with I-told-you-so's. Because we're all on the same team here -- war critics, war supporters, and, as is now clear, every Iraqi citizen.

Getting Misty-eyed



It's been quite a day for the people of Iraq -- enough to cause cynical louts like us shed a tear. We defer to Mohammed and Omar, the blogging brothers at Iraq the Model:
Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not...

Could any bravery match the Iraqis'!? Let the remaining tyrants of the world learn the lesson from this day...

These are stories that will be written on the brightest pages of history...

Today, there's no voice louder than that of freedom.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

News You Need To Know

Even in the midst of moving, this story is worth posting (via Drudge):
A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains...

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."
Now, call us crazy, but couldn't he have just poured (or spat) the beer on the snow instead of drinking it all and then urinating? Unless he had to "warm" it first, to maximize the snow melting. Then it would make complete sense. Or if he was an alcoholic.

Update!

We're moving today (in the real world, not the blogosphere -- which means actual work), so don't expect any insightful commentary until tomorrow (or late tonight if you're lucky!). Yes, because everytime you click on those links to the side of this post, we make a fraction of a cent, we've been able to upgrade to a considerably nicer new HQ. So keep clicking and soon we'll be blogging from Malibu!

Friday, January 28, 2005

In the News

From today's Studio Briefing:
The Rotterdam International Film Festival has canceled a screening of Submission Part One, Theo Van Gogh's film about a Muslim woman who is forced into a marriage with a man who beats her and who is later accused of adultery when her uncle rapes her. Last year, Van Gogh was killed by an Islamist militant, who left a message on the knife that he used, blaming the movie for his act. The writer of the film has since gone into hiding. The film had been scheduled to be shown on Sunday during a discussion on freedom of speech in film at the festival. The producer of Submission, Gijs van de Westelaken, said Thursday, "We do not want to take any chance of endangering anyone else who participated in the film."

The President Assists the NY Times


An excerpt from the President's interview with the New York Times:

And I believe there will be a Palestinian state. I'm surprised you haven't asked me the question about it, so I'll ask myself: How are things going? They are going fine. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] - he's got the will of the people with him, and that inspires leaders. That gives a leader a sense of - an extra sense of purpose.

And Abu Mazen has shown strength in the early phases of his administration. And he is consolidating security forces in Gaza. He is sending assurances that he will put a 100-percent effort into protecting the people on both sides of the issue from terrorists. And to me, that's an impressive start.

Gladiators of the Gridiron

Next weekend is the Super Bowl (yes, we know, we only watch it for the commercials, too) which has us in a football mood, it seems. The big question surrounding the game is whether or not the Philadelphia Eagles' star wide receiver, Terrell Owens, will play. He injured his ankle on December 19th and has yet to be cleared by doctors to play, though he vows he will be on the field next Sunday.


The late Mike Webster with a photo of himself during his playing days

We've been reading with much interest a series of articles on ESPN.com about the late Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the former owner of four Super Bowl rings. Webster played back in the days when men were men, and the physical pounding he receieved over the course of his career took its toll, turning a college honors student into a mentally disabled drifter.

His family is suing the NFL over disability compensation it believes is owed to them (Webster's mental problems weren't acknowledged until the late 90s), but the merits of their particular case wasn't what fascinated us about Webster's story. No, what we found intriguing was the relationship between the sacrifices Webster made with regard to his body, the glory they earned him (Webster was named one of the best 75 professional football players of all time), and the costly toll they took after he retired, alienating him from his family and in essence if not in fact causing his death.
His days were filled with pain from his numerous football injuries. He often slept only a few hours each night, usually sitting up in a chair because the ache was too great to lie down. By that time, he was taking Vicodin regularly and, at different times, Darvocet, Ultram and Lorcet. He also had a regular prescription for Ritalin and used Paxil and Prozac to dull his demons. Sometimes, the only thing that brought him relief was a black Taser gun. He would ask Sunny or his son Garrett to stun him into unconsciousness, usually in the thigh but sometimes in the back and neck. When no one was there, which was often, he would try to do it himself.
Webster was certainly not the only former professional athlete tormented in retirement by injuries. Who knows how many former athletes (and their families) battle with the after effects of years of subjugating their bodies to what can only be characterized as physical abuse?

Webster's oldest son, Colin, tells the story of the doctor, who, upon examining an MRI of Webster's, asked if he had been in a car accident.

"Yeah," the old center said, "about 350,000 car accidents."

Because of advancements in medicine and protective equipment, today's players have a lesser chance of following in Webster's footsteps, but they still are at risk. It's not uncommon to hear about an injured player taking a cortisone shot before a big game -- a decision that in the moment seems like a noble and laudable one, but one that certainly could have lasting consequences. It's worth keeping in mind the plight of Mike Webster in those situations.

Is Terrell Owens listening?

Enjoying the Cold

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Mea Culpa

Just when we start complaining that there's nothing interesting in the news, Drudge flashes a Michael Jackson headline. Finally, something surfaces about which we've got plenty to say.

Geraldo Rivera -- yes, the Edward R. Murrow of our day -- apparently alleged on Los Angeles radio station KFI that the current case against Jackson is destined to fall apart when it finally goes to trial. Now, it's not that we'd doubt something Geraldo told us, but considering Jackson's past pay-offs and continuing bizarre behavior, we're going to wait until all the facts are in before making a judgment for ourselves.

Speaking of Geraldo's assurances that Jackson is innocent (of these particular charges, it should be noted), we've been bothered since this fiasco began by the "outpouring of love and support" from Jackson's fans, who say that they just know in their hearts that the King of Pop is innocent. Echoing the critical thinking skills of the left-wing die-hards in Evan Coyne Maloney's recent short documentary on inauguration protestors, the only evidence these Jackson supporters cite is their own love of his music. They transfer that love of a Jackson product over to Jackson himself -- a dangerous but not unprecedented behavior.

From O.J. Simpson to Kobe Bryant, fans of troubled celebrities have always rushed forward to maintain their hero's innocence, with little regard to the evidence or, more importantly, the victims of these alleged crimes. Perhaps Simpson and Bryant are poor examples, as both were exonerated (more or less -- neither was convicted of a crime) in the court system, but it's not as if their fans knew before the end of the trial that would be the case. Similarly, even if these charges against Jackson do not result in a conviction, the quality of his music will not be the reason why.

We should add say that we're also fans of Jackson's music, but that doesn't make us Jacko apologists. We find this situation very sad -- our sympathy goes out first to the victims (if indeed they prove to be) and we also find ourselves feeling sorry for Michael, though certainly not enough to excuse this kind of (alleged) behavior. He was a celebrity by age 9, but even before that he was a singer first and a little boy second. He never went to school -- the kind of school that you and I attended, where we developed our social skills -- a day in his life. His father, as has been documented, was not the most kind. Being a superstar kept him from having any semblance of a normal life, preventing him from being able to go out in public and imprisioning him inside the world he was forced to create. Remember, this was not the life that he chose, but one that was chosen for him.



And then there is his ghastly appearance. An accident in 1984, when his hair caught fire while filming a commercial for Pepsi, may have been what led him to plastic surgery (it's unclear whether he had gone under the knife earlier), which obviously for Jackson has become an addiction. But he also suffers from a rare skin disease called vitiligo, best described as "albino spots" caused by loss of pigmentation. This is a very real condition (several of our family members have it) and one that can be particularly destructive psychologically, especially for a black man and one whose job involves being in the public eye. Additionally, the 46 year-old Jackson also suffers from lupus, according to a source who worked with him on his landmark music video, Thriller.

As to whether Michael Jackson is guilty or innocent, we're not sure. But one thing is certain: his life, which we once thought was the quintessial American success story, is actually an American tragedy.

Trying To Stay Awake

Our apologies for the sporadic posting over the last day or so (especially in light of our prolific blogging over the weekend), but there just doesn't seem to be that much out there which strikes our fancy.

Maggie Gallagher is involved in some payola scandal, apparently, but Instapundit says it's not as bad as it sounds.

Ted Turner is making an ass of himself again, as if anyone cares (or would have noticed had Drudge not splashed it all over yesterday).

The New York Times had a mildly interesting editorial in today's edition about the current subway delays caused by one of the many homeless who inhabit NYC's subway tunnels. It's amusing (at least to us) to see a paper that so often lives in a liberal world of make-believe have to confront a very real problem that personally affects them so deeply. While clearly trying to create a much more nuanced argument, the editorial board's essential message was: Get the homeless out of the subways, dammit! But as with every dark cloud, there's always a silver lining, even for the Times: their unfamiliar dose of common sense led to one of the Times' best editorials of the year!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Star Sighting!

We must admit that our earlier "celebrity-sighting" is much less enlightening than Soxblog's similar first-hand account of running into 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta.
Shortly after 9/11 I was reading the coverage of that horrible day. I was focusing on a profile of Mohammed Atta. In this story I read that he and I had worked out at the same World Gym in south Florida. After reading this, I knew exactly who he was – Mohammed Atta was that skinny little asshole who worked out like a nut on the machines (never wiping them) and when he was done he went into the self defense class held primarily for the benefit of blue-hairs who were unduly concerned about muggers. You read that right – the killer of thousands was learning the tricks of the trade in a class intended for snow-birding grandmothers.
Soxblog's point -- that these terrorists, while certainly able to do much damage, aren't necessarily the killing machines they're often made out to be -- is an important one, especially as we turn our attention toward the elections in Iraq. If one assumes that we're fighting against near-mythic religious zealots, it doesn't seem crazy to try to talk nice and not "inflame" the Arab world, to keep from potentially creating more terrorists. But if, as we suspect, most are more like Atta, the President's tough talk makes a lot of sense. And it's worked before with an enemy that many thought was more than our equal. Remember the Soviet Union?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Back To Work...Kind Of

Her father having recently returned to the Senate, Alexandra Kerry is back to work as well, surfacing over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. You'll recall that last year the filmmaker and sometime actress (she seems to be a favorite of David Mamet, who cast her in bit parts in his movies State and Main and Spartan) turned heads with a see-through dress at Cannes; this year, in the heart of Mormon (and Bush) country, she took a much more modest tack at the premiere of Why We Fight, a documentary on the Iraq War and the forces driving American militarism. The film features prominent policy wonks like John McCain, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol...and Graydon Carter?


A tired-looking Alexandra Kerry at the premiere of Why We Fight

The Pac 10: Impressive!

In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy, USC quarterback Matt Leinart was named by the Pacific 10 Conference as their Co-Offensive Player of the Year (an award he shared with teammate Reggie Bush). One would think that the Pac 10 would be particularly proud of Leinart, arguably its best quarterback since John Elway, especially in light of his recent decision to return to USC as a fifth year senior.

But alas, the conference didn't even spell his name right on the trophy. (No word on whether Leinart's name was misspelled last year as well, when he won the same award.)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

New Stem Cell Controversy

According to a report in Monday's LA Times, all human embryonic stem cell lines approved for use in federally funded research may be contaminated and thus potentially unusable for medical therapies. Now, this is the LA Times, so we'll hold off making any grand pronouncements until the rest of the scientific community has a chance to weigh in (we're talking about scientists in the blogosphere, of course), but this could be very big news. Expect to hear a lot more about it in the coming days -- but remember, you heard it here first.

Impressing Junior

If you happen to have a child in college right now, you can earn some "Cool Points" by casually mentioning The Facebook in your next conversation. Trust us -- it's the Next Big Thing, and a lot cheaper than an iPod (like, free, dude). An online directory of college students' profiles that is interconnected with more than 300 colleges and universities (and still growing! Wow!), it is, as this LA Times article notes, extremely addictive. (Trust us.)
The site is "a huge time waster," said Liz Pardue, 22, a Pomona senior majoring in psychology who quotes Buddha and Charles Darwin on her listing. "It's fun, but it's about the most superficial contact in the world."
Which is exactly why we love it.

Obligatory Johnny Carson Post



Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" certainly was something, but, honestly, we're already getting sick of people talking about how much they loved him. Not that any of those feelings are invalid, mind you, but we get the impression that all these "remembrances" have more to do with the teller and less to do with Carson. It's pretty clear to us that he succeeded in keeping his personal life a mystery to the public (unlike one Britney Spears, as we've noted) but from the way people are talking about him, he comes off as a good friend. No, he wasn't -- he was a hell of an entertainer, and maybe even transcended that a bit. But it's hard for us to buy his death as a "personal" loss for anyone other than members of his family or his close (true) friends.

That's not to deny his profound impact on the medium of television, or the development of comedy. The LA Times has a nice piece about his penchant for helping out young comics (Letterman, Leno, Roseanne, etc.) by showcasing up-and-coming standups. That benevolent assistance may be the best indicator of Carson's personal character, though we'll probably never really know. Which is likely just what Johnny wanted.

So, we say: Johnny, rest in peace. We hardly knew ye.

Bitch Set Me Up!

Our old friend (not personally, of course) Marion Barry is back -- you may have already heard that he's on the D.C. City Council and making a fuss about the city having to foot some of the bill for inaguration security. What we love about Marion is his out-and-out honesty, in our current Age of Euphemism. In an interview with TIME magazine, he talks about his recent election success:
Without being egotistical, I knew I was going to win. I'm one of the best political strategists in the country. God blessed me. I wasn't surprised. I knew I was going to win.

Not Again!

We wish we were kidding folks -- we really do. But it seems as if "60 Minutes" has done it again. First fake documents, and now this:
60 Minutes did a profile on Manchester United goalkeeper Tim Howard last week. Nice piece, but the show never mentioned the fact that Howard lost his starting job a couple months ago. The piece made it sound like he was still United's No. 1 keeper, which is just ridiculous and very misleading.
Now, this certainly doesn't rise to the level of Rathergate, but, come on, people at CBS News, what are you thinking?! Time to hire someone to be the fact-checker! (Hmm...we're currently unemployed...Mr. Heyward: casualobserver@gmail.com!)

It's one thing to have something like this happen in a hit-piece on a President running for re-election -- people just assume it's politcal bias -- but when it occurs in a story about soccer (the red-headed stepchild of sports as far as most Americans are concerned), we start to think that "60 Minutes" is just populated with a bunch of idiots.

Ah, Syndicated Columnists...

The Boys at Powerline (specifically The Big Trunk -- cool nicknames, guys!) have apparently turned into a Pulitzer-lobbying organization (how about a blog category this year -- I nominate Powerline!). They recently called for Steven Sharkansky to receive one for his coverage of the Washington gubernatorial election, and today, they want Mark Steyn to get one, too!
In the categories of commentary and criticism, will somebody please get Steyn a Pulitzer for his his work in the Sun-Times, the Atlantic, the New Criterion, and National Review? He is in a class by himself.
We agee (or concur; whichever you prefer); Steyn consistently hits it out of the park. He reminds us of another friend of ours on the op-ed page, Dr. Krauthammer. Check out his prescient piece from last Friday on our enemy in the next great conflict. It's worth noting that each of our great struggles in the 20th century was birthed in the preceding one: Hitler's rise to power was greatly aided by the punitive attitude the world took toward Germany after The Great War; The Iron Curtain was the product of the U.S. - Soviet alliance to beat the Axis in WWII; and we're all aware of how our aid to fighters of the Soviets (like one Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan) has come back to haunt us in our present conflict. So who is our current ally in the War on Terron that will be our enemy in the next great struggle?
Krauthammer just might have the answer.

Related: Steyn's column on, well, what's on his mind. Via Powerline.

The Man In Charge

Ann Althouse (that's Professor Ann Althouse to you, my friend) takes a (mild) jab at Harvard president Larry Summers -- not for saying what he said, but for being dumb enough to think that he might be able to say what he said without provoking the reaction he got when he said what he said (yes, it's complicated, we know).
He would be woefully oblivious if he hadn't noticed the ideology in the academic culture he's working in. Those who are committed to science ought to be scientific enough to observe and analyze their own surroundings.
We're well aware of the academic ideology she refers to, having spent the last few years at a major research university (that haven of diversity and dissent...or not), but we're not sure we agree with Prof. Althouse that anticipating that what you're about to say might be a little controversial has much to do with this particular controversy; just as it's hard to anticipate what a crazy person might do, it's difficult to predetermine who on campus will be offended by what. No doubt President Summers is aware that he has a talent for pissing some academics off (see: West, Cornel), but that certainly shouldn't stop him from saying things which are controversial. His "self-awareness" of their potential controversiality (is that even a word? We don't care; we're using it) seems to be a tertiary or secondary issue at best.

For the best, most level-headed response to this whole flap, check out Will Saletan's piece on Slate.com. We'll hold off on the proverbial Saletan Election joke, just because that's the kind of people we are. (Our friend Soxblog has also weighed in, but we've been less impressed with his verbiage on the subject; he's a Harvard alum with a less nuanced view of the situation, so he never took the time to break down the situation and expose the ludicrousness [another potentially invented word!] of it like Saletan has.)

UPDATE: Because we've gotten a link from Soxblog (a very rare thing indeed), we feel it's necessary to point out that the above note is not a criticism of his blog, just us acknowledging that he wrote a bit on the subject but not with the breadth and depth that Saletan did.

UPDATE AGAIN: Proof of just how plugged in Summers is to what's happening on his campus is this anecdote from an LA Times piece on thefacebook.com, an online directory (think Friendster) for college students that just turned a year old and is rapidly becoming the Next Big Thing.
Nonetheless, Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers, welcoming new freshmen in the fall, quipped that he already knew them from perusing [thefacebook.com].
BONUS: Lawrence Summers' Facebook profile*


Saturday, January 22, 2005

Redeeming Value?



We'll admit, we were almost just as mad as Jeff Jarvis over Sarah Boxer's irresponsible piece on Iraq the Model in the New York Times earlier in the week. It's not like we believe much of what we read in the Times anyway, but occasionally we'll find something interesting (like Manohla Dargis, who we even liked when she was at the LA Times) in the paper the Times' Sunday magazine. (Can we all agree that it beats the hell out of PARADE?) Deborah Solomon usually says something horribly cocoonish, offensive, or hilarious (usually a combination of all three -- we noted one such instance here) in her interviews, and there's usually at least one feature worth reading. In this weekend's edition, it's a darkly fascinating look at the rehabilitation of a child molester. We haven't got a snarky comment for such sensitive subject matter -- even we have some amount of taste.

Snobbery

No, we don't have a Windows-run computer. (And neither should you, but you'll figure that out for yourself in due time.) As far as Apple is concerned, we're true believers, (typing these very words on a state-of-the-art iMac G5 right now!), and we've been helping friends and family make the jump from the Dark Side over to the joy that is using a Macintosh. (Okay, so it's not all seashells and balloons, but compared to our -- and most people's, from what we hear -- nightmare with Windows, using a Mac is pretty close to bliss.)

Mrs. Mac Mini

What's that? You prefer your PC? Fine, don't get one -- it's not like you could right now anyway, according to this report. The new Mac Mini is flying off the shelves so fast that you have to wait three to four weeks for yours (you switcher, you!) and this obvious sign of strong demand for a risky product (just the computer -- no monitor, no keyboard, no mouse) is, predictably, drawing Chicken-Little-the-sky-is-falling responses from analysts who seem to make careers out of underestimating Apple.
Tim Deal, an industry analyst with Technology Business Research:

"It's a good sign; obviously people are excited about it," said Deal. But he added, "You want to be able to meet demand at this stage of game, or it's a good way to destroy your brand loyalty."
Well let me put your worst fears to rest, Mr. Deal. A three- or four-week wait is not going to destroy brand loyalty among Apple customers (who, we know from personal experience, can be almost religious in their reverence for the company and its fearless leader, Steve Jobs, peace be upon him), but even if it was, it wouldn't matter because the Mac Mini is a product specifically targeted at new Apple customers who want to switch from the Windows world -- that is, customers without any brand loyalty to Apple! So destroying non-existent loyalty with a three-week delay probably isn't that much of a concern to the folks at 1 Infinite Loop up in Cupertino! Nor will it be much of a concern for people buying Apple stock based on the Mac Mini's already strong performance (Jiminy Christmas, even Lileks got one!).

Now, Mr. Deal, who is the real analyst here?

The Excitable Boi From Troy...

...sounds like he's trying to whip up a scandal involving L.A. mayor Jim Hahn (not like that would be too hard). He's reminding us of Andrew Sullivan (and Drudge) with cryptic lines like BOIFROMTROY EXCLUSIVE *** -- but what do we know? Check it out for yourself. It just might be scandal-worthy.

Oh By The Way...

Mrs. Federline

We ran into Britney Spears at the gas station last week. No, really. (We're HQ'd in Los Angeles, just north of KausFiles HQ, in case you were wondering.) In lieu of sending in a cheesy "celebrity sighting" to Defamer (one of our favorite sites, by the way -- and juicier than a Georgia peach), which we're not that interested in doing, we're going to disclose what happened to you, our loyal reader(s).

As Matt Drudge would say, *EXCLUSIVE*... must credit US!!!

...So we're sitting at a stoplight (having just been to Ralph's to restock our toilet paper collection) when a black Escalade drives by, the passenger window down halfway. We spot a girl in the passenger seat, and we say to ourselves, "Selves, that is Britney Spears." We were right, but only halfway -- her name now is Mrs. Federline. So Britney pulls into a gas station on the corner of that intersection, and, even though we'd just gotten gas two hours earlier, we realized we were dangerously low on chewing gum. So we decided to pull into the gas station as well -- but not before two SUVs pull in behind the Escalade, jerk to a stop, and spit out three photographers each. It looked like an FBI swat team converging on a crazy man at the gas station, except that the man was Britney Spears (whoops, Federline, at least for now) and she wasn't crazy, just potentially pregnant. Whatever she was going to do at the gas station, she decided against and got back in the Escalade, which was being driven by a large black man named Britney's Bodyguard. She did not look amused -- who would with those guys following you all day. And we felt for her -- enough that it's going to be awfully hard for us to buy a copy of US Weekly again without feeling very, very guilty.

Of course, paging through it at the counter is another story.

UPDATE: And yes, Mrs. Federline was wearing shoes, which we've been asked more than once while recounting the tale.

We're Back!

What, you thought that we were like 95% of the people on Blogger who start a blog and post everyday for three months only to lose interest and let it languish without updates for weeks, months, even years (!) only to be viewed by the lonely late-night surfer paging through Blogger?

Well, we're not (like them, that is). No, we simply went on vacation for a few weeks (into the hammock, a certain formerly-level-headed Brit sometimes calls it) but forgot to tell our readers (all seven of them). It was really more like a sabatical, which we spent learning and growing in knowledge and learning things about knowledge. Semester break, our contemporaries call it -- but to us, it's just one long study break, which just supplies us more time to study. Ah, youth and knowledge. Never the twain shall meet, in most cases...

But, as the title of this post indicates, we're back! And, we presumptuously say, better than ever. We've become known for our innovative photoblogging during the presidential campaign, but our New Year's Resolution was to integrate both image AND text (novelty!) in our posts in 2005. We thank our supporters, including linking friends Soxblog and Vodkapundit, and hope to provide more and more exciting linkable material in these next few weeks, months, years, etc. "Think big!" is what we always say, and for once we're actually listening to ourselves (which is harder than you might think).

So sit back and read and laugh (guffaw even -- it's okay!) as we return to the blogosphere, not content to rest on our laurels until we get tired at 3:15 p.m. tomorrow and decide to take a nap. But until then...