G. A. Cerny
Friday, January 30, 2004
  So Texans are fair game, but schizos aren't?
The remake of the 1974 cult horror movie 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' opened Friday in Greece with an introduction demanded by psychiatrists: Schizophrenics aren't always violent.
The distributor of the film with the Greek title 'The Schizophrenic Murderer with the Chainsaw' said it added the preface prepared by the Research Institute for Psychological Health.
The distributor took the action after Greek psychiatrists demanded that the Greek title be changed because it insulted schizophrenics and stigmatized people with psychological disorders.
 
  The Deer Hunter Home Game, ages 5 and up
(via Bloopy
  And speaking of Czech ancestry...
John Kerry is Czech. (via Prague TV)
But so is George W. Bush
  So there will be "No McDonald's at Prague Castle..."
But Roy Kroc, the man who founded the McDonald's empire, was of Czech ancestry. If the Golden Arches had come to Hradcany, wouldn't that just be the Chicken McNuggets coming home to roost? 
Thursday, January 29, 2004
  If you care about next week's South Carolina primary, take a look at Wyethwire's excellent summary
  Poisonous tarantulas gone missing
Man skinned alive at slaughterhouse
INCREASING PROBLEM: Swedes have more and more animal sex

Nettavisen rocks. 
  Thirteen Mexican state police officers were arrested in the killings of 11 people found buried around a safe house for drug traffickers near the U.S. border, a federal official said Thursday.
Federal Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha also said at least four other officers, including a state commander, were on the run.

[...]
The 11 victims apparently were bound, gagged and suffocated or shot by suspected drug traffickers, then buried in shallow graves at the house in Ciudad Juarez.

Jesus.
I love Mexico, but it has the ability to inspire despair and horror like no place else that I know first-hand.  
  Every now and then, I really miss the old Spy
But The Times hasn’t been entirely spurned in its literary aspirations for its next food critic. Rumors aside, sources tell Off the Record that Bright Lights, Big City author Jay McInerney—who’s become an accomplished wine writer with his column at Condé Nast’s House and Garden is still in the running.

His talks with The Times, however, are continuing.


If nothing else, it's a pleasant diversion from the speculation over who will edit the Book Review.(NY Observer, end of the column) 
  Jean-Paul Sartre makes an omelet
October 3
Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.


October 4
Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.


October 6
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of a cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.

(via Idle Type
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
  He's like a Jewish Joe Coors, or a Hungarian Richard Scaife Mellon!
James Glassman writes, for the well-funded American Enterprise Institute, on "The Soros Threat":
My guess is that the $15 million Soros has spent is just the beginning. Most voters are blessedly immune to dumb arguments even when they are well-funded. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to take Soros lightly. He is emerging as a great threat not just to the re-election of George Bush, but to our truly open society as well. 
  In the coverage of the last presidential election, the expat vote was pretty much ignored until Florida went down to, and beyond, the wire, and absentee ballots became crucial.
The 2004 election may be almost as close as the last one, and no political party or interest group can afford to ignore the perhaps 6 million Americans overseas. Certainly the press, especially the English language press abroad, can be expected to give more coverage to the American election and to the role expat voters might play in it.

Just one problem. Nobody knows how many Americans there are overseas, where they are, if they vote, or how they vote.
Votes in American elections are collected and tabulated by the states. Expats vote according to their last address in the US. Most states make no distinction between an absentee ballot filed by an expatriate who has been in Paris for twenty years and an absentee ballot filed by a local because she is going to have root canal on election day.
Since the Census does not track Americans abroad, no one can say how many eligible voters there are abroad. Six million is number that comes up a lot, but that is just a guess.
Any group that claims to speak for Americans abroad-American Citizens Abroad, Republicans Abroad, Democrats Abroad, American Voices Abroad, etc- is, to say the least, overstating its influence. These groups know as much as you or I do about the actual numbers and political leanings of expats; nothing.
This piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will, I fear, be typical of the coverage we can expect of the overseas vote. There are no hard numbers, just assertions by partisans who fed the reporter imaginary numbers. The actual Americans she spoke to, at a Meet-up for a Democratic candidate in London, are there to prove...that she spoke with some actual Americans in London. Is there any reason to believe that they are representative of expat voters? Not particularly.
It's just a trend piece- like those stories about men shaving their balls, and similar fluff. Anecdotes aren't evidence, but that's all that they have. Just make sure you get three.

I hope that the inevitable stories this election season will be willing to pin down just how little anyone knows about the expat vote, and that their writers won't settle for getting easy but unverifiable quotes. Reporters and editors covering the election should make it a point to read this two year-old story by Rick Smith in the IHT. It's a solid piece of journalism.

UPDATE: Steve at PragueBlog just pointed me to this piece by Ken Livingston in the Prague Post, which I had not seen when I posted this.
No numbers at all; just assertions by various activists about how much enthusiasm they see for their efforts. It's not Livingston's fault, exactly. Hard numbers simply don't exist. But the article could have used more skepticism.
What exactly are they doing to organize?
Are these groups actually going to have an impact on the election?
Will there be an increase in voter participation by Americans in Prague, or just an increase in groups claiming to represent them? 
  Words fail me. And they really shouldn't, should they? When one is being so splendidly honoured for spending half a century spewing them out and stringing them together, words ought to have the decency to rise to the occasion. And what I need to say, simply, is that this is a great honour and one which, though I may have contemplated it in greedy fantasy, I never dreamed I'd receive. To be acknowledged for a lifetime of work by the most august and prestigious body of one's colleagues in the world. . .well, what can I say?

Congratulations to Lawrence Block, who has been awarded the Diamond Dagger of the British Crime Writer's Association for his body of work.
While I don't care for his last few novels, Block is one of the few "mystery" writers who has real literary skill. When the Sacred Ginmill Closes and Eight Million Ways to Die are fine novels that shouldn't be relegated to the mystery genre ghetto. 
  The Baltimore/Washington area was hit hard by winter storms this week. I don't know why Baltimore always gets paralyzed when it snows- it happens most evey year- but we do. A great many state and city employees take off whenever it snows more than an inch or two. Including prison guards.
I horned in on a conversation between some prison employees at the doughnut shop across the street from Maryland State Penitentiary in downtown Baltimore, which now goes by the Orwellian "Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center". Because of a lack of guards making it in to work, the prison employees said, the inmates would be on lockdown for Monday at least, and quite likely for much of the week.
Lockdown means they stay in their cells- no exercise, no showers, no visitors.
So, the people who see the sun for at most a few hours a week, will suffer more than anyone else in the city because of the weather
  If it is true that in a democracy people get the leaders they deserve, then last Thursday's Final Word is a depressing comment on the Czech people. Zeman and Klaus, together again. No wonder the Communists do so well in the polls.

It was only four years ago that thousands marched under the banner "Dik a odejdete."
Has that spirit vanished altogether? Can democracy prosper when the public seems so indifferent to who leads the nation?

Klaus, Zeman, and Havel- the one who most deserved thanks was the only one to get out. 
Tuesday, January 27, 2004
  The highpoint of the N.H. results was "Joe-mentum" Lieberman's victory speech. How could he claim victory when he finished a distant fifth?
Based on the returns that we've seen tonight, thanks to the people of New Hampshire, we are in a three-way split decision for third place.

No, really.
It reminds me of one of my favorite clues run by the NY Times' crossword. A four-letter word for "came in second": lost. 
  No Scarlett Johansson? No Goodbye, Lenin?
I demand a recount
  It's actually pretty easy to tell if you live under a totalitarian government.
If you write that the nation is a fascist police state in a major daily newspaper, under your own name, and you don't go into hiding or into exile, and you aren't dead or in prison, then you don't live in a fascist police state.
Simple, 'no? 
  Iraq: the "recast"
Seeking to recast its reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the Bush administration is sending high-ranking officials abroad to justify the war as good for humanity, despite increasing evidence that Baghdad did not possess stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

That Globe & Mail lede reminds me of a cartoon that Tom Tomorrow did more than a year ago. 
  We'll still have Howard Dean to kick around; the former governor of Vermont is hanging on to a strong second place in New Hampshire, according to the early exit polls.

The most tangible benefit blogs have brought to campaign coverage so far this year is that the exit polls are now widely known long before the networks release the information. Look for ponderous think-pieces about the "implications" of this on Romenesko tom. morning.

UPDATE: Looks like the early returns were off; Kerry won with a 13 point margin over Dean, a terrible blow for Brother Howard. 
  The Bush's are the WASP Corleones; Neil is Fredo.
For his part, Bush defended the fees he has received for consulting jobs. But he gave little insight into whether the women who offered him sex in Hong Kong and Taiwan were perhaps paid by mysterious benefactors.
In a deposition taken last March and reviewed by The Associated Press, Bush told the attorney for his wife of 23 years, Sharon, that the women did not ask him for money and he did not pay them anything.
Asked how he knew what to do when he opened his door and saw a woman standing there, the 48-year-old Bush replied: "Whatever happened, happened."

"It's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her," said the attorney, Marshall Davis Brown.

"It was very unusual," Bush replied.


 
Monday, January 26, 2004
  Ten dollars for a drink?!
Amy Langfield reports:
The NYC Blogger bash was too good for regrettable little bar/restaurant AZ on 17th which threw us out after the first round. Apparently too many people. Odd, since when I got my drink at the bar the bartender mentioned they usually aren't very crowded. You'd think they would have enjoyed the business, especially since we were paying $10 a drink. Some weird rules about ordering us all to put our drinks on one tab. Then we weren't allowed to order drinks from the bar. Then we had to sit. Then we all had to leave. I was there about an hour before we all got thrown out.

I now recall why I live in Baltimore and not New York.  
Sunday, January 25, 2004
  Local news from the capital of the greatest nation on earth:
A 14-year-old girl who was killed Friday night in Northwest Washington had been questioned by detectives the day before about another killing, and police said yesterday that she was targeted because she was believed to be a witness.

Jahkema Princess Hansen was shot in the head, torso and leg in a neighbor's townhouse off North Capitol Street NW. Authorities said she appeared to have been shot execution-style by a gunman who burst in and sprayed a room where Princess, as she was known, and at least one other girl were watching television.
 
Friday, January 23, 2004
  This article is likely the only inquiry into the roots of the names of famous Czechs that will ever appear in a Pakistani newspaper. 
  There ain't no Czechoslovakia no more!
ESPN The Magazine did a nice profile (not available online) of Ladislav Nagy, the Slovakian hockey star playing left wing for the Phoenix Coyotes.
How did they headline the piece on the SLOVAKIAN player?
"Hot Czech"
This appears to be a real problem for Nagy, or for the dolts who compile sports information. CBS Sportsline gives Nagy's birthplace as "Saca, Czechoslovakia." 
  She has returned:
Ana Marie Cox, the blogger formerly known as The Antic Muse, the Suck editor formerly known as Ann O'Tate, is now...the Wonkette!
Huzzah!

As I've said before, Ana Marie Cox does not tilt at windmills, she launches nuclear strikes on them. 
Thursday, January 22, 2004
  The good news: the federal government is finally taking steps to make it easier for Americans residing abroad to vote.
The bad news: it was handled by the Pentagon.
The really bad news: experts say it could be a disaster.
The experts specified these risks, among others:
There is no way to verify that the vote recorded inside the system is the same as the one cast by the voter.
It might be possible for hackers to determine how a particular individual voted, "an obvious privacy risk."
The system may be vulnerable to attacks from many quarters, some undetectable.

"Not only could a political party attempt to manipulate an election by attacking SERVE, but so could individual hackers, criminals, terrorists, organizations such as the Mafia and even other countries," the report said.

 
  Thump on the Bible to get the votes of the black folk? So argues Steven Waldman in Slate.
Do you suppose that David Brooks, Gregg Easterbrook, and Waldman go out and get drunk together after a hard day of being shallow and condescending?
 
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
  Czech cuisine gains acceptance as the NY Times food section holds a bacon tasting party:
Tossing a couple pounds of bacon into the oven turns out to be a fine way to cook it, especially when you are handling quantity and a party is going on. My guests were trying 11 kinds of bacon that night, an unexplored area of connoisseurship for them, and for me. 
  Trying to come up with something to say about Bush's State of the Union speech last night, I realized that Jaroslav Hasek had already given a fair summation:
Ja mam moc rad, kdyz tak lidi blbou na kvadarat.  
  Frog-bashing at Poe's grave
For years, someone has been leaving cognac and roses at the grave of Edgar Poe. A Baltimore tradition. But anti-French fervor has sullied even this simple affair:
"The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac," the note read. "With great reluctance but for respect for family tradition the cognac is' placed at the grave.

Ironically, it was the French who rescued Poe from obscurity. H. L. Mencken (yes, twice in one day) wrote
It was Baudelaire's French translation of the prose tales and Mallarme's translation of the poems that bought Poe to Valhalla.

Mencken also noted
It is surely not without significance that it took ten years of effort to raise money enough to put up a cheap and hideous tombstone upon his neglected grave in Baltimore, that it was not actually set up until he had been dead twenty-six years, that no contemporary American writer took any part in furthering the project, and that the only one who attended the final ceremony was Whitman.
 
  Elections, 2004
I won't post any lengthy analysis of the Iowa results, mainly because I established last year, beyond all doubting, that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.
A few of my insights into the race for the Democratic nomination:
Dean has the lead in the polls, lots of footsoldiers, and lots of money. His nomination is not quite inevitable. But does anyone want to make a bet against it? Me neither.
It's going to be Dean.

The only scenario where he can be stopped is for Wesley Clark (or somebody else, but he has the best chance) to win South Carolina on February 3.
[...]
Dean's brilliant use of the internet (and it has been brilliant) and his open opposition to the war have effectively ended the primary season before the question was asked, let alone before primary voters were able to answer it.

That there were many as wrong, or almost as wrong, as I was, doesn't make the crow taste any better. This is what Andrew Sullivan would feel like every week if he had any shame.
In my defense, my post did have a few qualifications in it:
Of course, there are eleven months until the election. Much can happen. Alot always happens in a presidential election.

And I think that Mr. Dean's concession speech on Monday rather supports my contention that
Dean is, in person and on television, a bad speaker. That's not fatal; look at Bush. But Bush is, at least to many Americans other than myself, likeable. Bush projects affability. The only emotion that Dean is able to project is anger. Worse, Dean seems to think that it is a good thing, and he has stepped up attacks on Bush, and their disdainful tone, even as he has gotten closer to the nomination.
This is, I think a mistake.


Hey, that's right on the money! Maybe I'm the heir of Nostradamus after all.

There is a story about H.L. Mencken covering a convention, I think the 1920 GOP convention that nominated Harding (though it may have been another). Mencken closed his article with the sentence, "Only one thing is certain: Harding will not be the nominee."
A few hours after he filed the story to the Baltimore Sun, the convention nominated Harding.
Mencken thought for a minute. "I hope those idiots have the brains to take out the 'not'." 
  And back to blogging...
Apologies for not posting this year until now. No, it was not a New Year's resolution to get a life; it was my laptop's lack of life. The piece of crap crashed, and then informed me that it did not have a hard drive. It is now back on my lap, and it does again have a hard drive.
I have made a resolution to never again purchase anything made by Toshiba.
I'd post that to Scott's blog, or Petr's, but their comments are down again.
I am touched that anyone noticed that I was absent. 
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