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Monday, February 28, 2011

Winning them over

My son recently finished his training at the reproduction Afghan village the Army has set up in the Mojave Desert. He has turned out to be the best shot in his squad, so is now their designated marksman, which means that he will be carrying an M14 rather than an M4 rifle on certain missions.

Johnny recently spoke to a liberal who, in reference to his recent training, asked, "That was about winning their hearts and minds, right?"

Johnny just grunted noncommittally.

I'm afraid the only way he has been trained to "win" anybody's heart or mind is by putting a well-placed bullet into each.

All I can do is fervently hope it's not the other way around.

I also hope, quite frankly, that he has an incredibly boring stint over in Afghanistan where the possibility of either occurrence is nil.

I like my thus-far non-PTSDed son just the way he is.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

MC Hammer

MC Hammer is the hip hop performer who was big in the late 80's and early 90's but who so (in)famously had to declare bankruptcy shortly after the height of his fame. He made a lot of money, but still managed to blow it all on extravagances like a $12 million mansion complete with a recording studio, a 33-seat theater, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, basketball courts, a bowling alley, $75,000 of mirrors, $2 million of marble floors and marble niches for his awards, a 17 car garage, and two gold-plated "Hammertime" gates at the entrance to his property. He also had a fleet of luxury cars, two helicopters, a leased Boeing 727, antique golf clubs, Etruscan sculpture, and gold chains for his four Rottweilers. He threw lavish parties and kept over 200 people on staff with an annual payroll of $6.8 million.

But Hammer at his peak was also one of the three best pop star dancers I've ever seen. It's supposed to be racist to say that black people are good dancers. But watch this video and tell me I'm wrong:

In particular, check out the segments from :39 to :50 and from 2:09 to 2:22. It's one of the coolest-looking dances I've ever seen; the coordination it takes to do it is amazing. Much of the rest of the dancing is a little -- I don't know how else to say it -- primitive. Some of those pneumatic female dancers are downright scary. 

If I found myself in the middle of that group, I'm not quite sure what I'd do.

Probably phone 911.

But that doesn't mean I'm not envious of their dancing ability.

[The third of the three greatest pop star/dancers is Michael Jackson, but I'm not going to bother to do a post on him; more than enough has already been said about him, and everybody has already seen him dance anyway.]

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Godfather of Soul

James Brown was one of the three greatest dancers among pop performers I've ever seen. He was also, at one point, known as "the hardest working man in show business." This is an early video of him singing I Feel Good, one of his trademark songs. I've never seen footwork quite like this:

This one is called James Brown gives you dancing lessons:

What's evident from these videos is that Brown could have been a world class sprinter, boxer, or running back. His power, speed, control, and balance are all impressive.

He probably led a better life for having been a world class singer and dancer though.

C'mon baby light my fire

The NY Post ran the following article today:

Deadly five alarm Brooklyn fire caused by candles that were knocked over during voodoo sex ritual

A windswept, five-alarm fire that killed an elderly Brooklyn woman was started by candles placed on the floor near a bed while a man and woman were having sex after a voodoo ritual, sources said today.

Fire marshals determined that the Feb. 20 blaze at 346 East 29th St. in Flatbush escalated to a fifth alarm because of an open door and delays, but that it was all started by black magic.

"Time and time again we respond to tragedies that could have been so easily prevented," said FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano. "This fire had so many of those elements -- candles left on the floor near combustible material, one of the occupants trying to douse the flames before calling 911 and an open door, which allowed fire to spread into the hallway. Hopefully others will learn from this tragedy."
The five-alarm fire left one person dead.

The five-alarm fire left one person dead. Retired guidance counselor Mary Feagin, 62, who lived on the sixth floor, died in the fire.

Fire Marshals said the blaze began around at 6:40 p.m., when a Brooklyn woman visited a fourth-floor apartment in the building, where she paid one of the male occupants $300 to perform a voodoo ceremony aimed at bringing her good luck.

After the ceremony, sources told The Post that the couple decided to have sex.

What strikes me about this is what a great gig that guy has. He gets paid $300 by some woman to light some candles and pretend to chase away evil spirits? It seems a fairly safe bet he wasn't planning to report that money to the IRS as taxable income, either. And then, afterward, he gets to have sex with some of these women? 

I'm guessing the entire ritual probably didn't take more than an hour or so. When you think about it, there are very few professionals who make $300 an hour. Wall Streeters, and some lawyers, do. But they only get to screw their clients metaphorically.

If you're a young student who's undecided about his major, I strongly suggest you get your degree in voodoo-ology. You don't even have to be that smart to get into the field, if this man's behavior when the fire started is any indication.

Two requests

I've been told that in order for this blog to grow virally I should request that you put it on your Facebook wall. So, if you've been enjoying it, please do so. You can still distance yourself from the more controversial opinions expressed herein with a statement like, "Sometimes I laugh with him, sometimes I laugh at him, but he does make me laugh." For even more distance, you could say, "An example of how not to think."

I don't mind, honestly. But please do put it up. I'd like to be a virus, or at least viral. Thank you.

Also, having only eleven "followers" makes the blog look a little lame; as grateful as I am to them for having signed up, according to recent page view counts, there are many more people than that who read the blog. So if you don't mind, please sign up. It's completely free. And you don't have to use your entire name, you can just use your first name, or even a pseudonym if you prefer. Think of it this way: if you're reading the blog anyway, this way you'll be alerted whenever there's a new post, and won't have to pull it up just to find that I haven't put up anything new since you last checked.  

I know, two favors in one post is a lot to ask, but I'd be grateful.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kristina Wayborn

While doing the post on the Bond girls, I noticed that most of the women featured had both good pictures and bad. Generally I didn't have a hard time choosing their best picture. But with Wayborn, I had a hard time since there were several that just made me ache.

In keeping with the recent superficial theme of this blog, I would like to share those pictures with my readership -- who generally prefer, or so I've been told, to be my viewership anyway:

I have no idea what heaven is like. But I would imagine when you first get there, your guide -- if you're a guy -- must look something like Wayborn. The two of you are walking along a mountainside in a place that resembles Hana, Maui, except that it's more lush and less humid. The ambient temperature is around 75 degrees, and though the sun is shining you are on a shaded path. She seems to know everything about you; but there is no disapproval in the way she looks at you, merely gentle bemusement. She is explaining what is in store for you in heaven, but hasn't mentioned sex with her as one of the possibilities. Nonetheless, you can tell from her expression and general demeanor that should you so desire, she'd be willing. In the meantime you're so awestruck at the beauty of your surroundings, and of your guide, that it actually robs you of any physical desire.

Yep. I'm gonna be good.

Well, maybe not. But if I really believed in that version of heaven, I wouldn't even jaywalk.

(Trying to remember: when was it exactly that this blog became soft core porn?)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Everything you need to know about politics

The standoff in Wisconsin has been a wonderful prism through which to view the Democratic mindset.

First, Governor Scott Walker's opponents have likened him to Mubarak and Hitler. This is a typically well-reasoned, cogent, liberal opinion, backed by indisputable fact. After all, Walker has undoubtedly enriched himself to the tune of fifty billion dollars or so while in office, in much the same way Mubarak did. And he does jail opposition journalists. Right?

And it's only right to compare Walker to Hitler: he did put a lot of Jewish people in concentration camps and then gas them. And, just as Hitler invaded Austria, Walker will probably march the Wisconsin State Guard over to Springfield Illinois and declare a coup d'etat in that state. Right?

Actually, the only Wisconsinites going to Illinois are the Democratic state legislators who have fled to neighboring states in order to prevent a vote on the union issue.

That too, provides a compelling insight. These politicians are simply refusing to do the job they were elected to do. When people in the private sector do that, they are fired. But the Democratic legislators don't feel that the same rules that apply in the private sector should apply to them -- or to the unions who helped elect them.

Let's hope the Wisconsin electorate takes this into account in the the next election.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Ed Zigo, the NYPD detective who cracked open the Son of Sam case back in 1977, died yesterday. The NY Post ran the following article this morning:

Detective Ed Zigo -- the NYPD legend who cracked the "Son of Sam" case and slapped the handcuffs on serial killer David Berkowitz -- has died, The Post has learned. He was 84.

Zigo solved the confounding 1977 case by checking out a parking ticket issued to Berkowitz at the scene of his last murder.

"My father's deductive reasoning was: 'What is a Jewish guy from Yonkers doing parked in an Italian neighborhood at two in the morning?' " recalled Ed Zigo III, whose dad died of cancer Saturday at his Lynbrook, LI, home.

On August 10, 1977, Detective Zigo went to Berkowitz's home. The suspect had already killed six people and wounded seven others. 

This was blatant racial profiling. The courts should do the right thing here, and reverse Berkowitz's conviction on those grounds.

I for one will have much more faith in our legal system knowing that Mr. Berkowitz can once again walk the streets a free man, protected from such unjust racial/ethnic harassment.

The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas represented the sappiest of the Flower Power ethos. But John Phillips, their songwriter, came up with some beautiful tunes before he got totally washed out on drugs. To this day their plaintive music evokes all sorts of emotions for me. Some of their work:

Boys and girls together. Somehow they make the Latin brass mix well with the rest of ballad. One of my favorites; I'm surprised the Youtube video has only had 176 viewings:

I Saw Her Again Last Night. Usually a good piece of music can make you feel either euphoric or plaintive. This song manages to do both:

California Dreamin', one of their biggest hits. It made me feel homesick for California even though I wasn't from there:

Dream a Little Dream of Me, not an original Mamas and Papas song, but a tour de force by Cass Eliot:

To make this song work for you, it helps to imagine the words coming out of Michelle Phillips' mouth. Cass and Michelle are living proof of the rule that a female pop star's singing ability is almost always in inverse proportion to her looks. (Think of Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Ella Fitzgerald. Then think of Olivia Newton John and The Spice Girls.)

Michelle Phillips had a voice that would put you in mind of a passable high school glee club member. Cass Elliott had a voice that could make you dream of....Michelle Phillips.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not Tunisia

Saturday's NY Times featured the following headline and (excerpted) article:

Wisconsin leads way as workers fight state cuts.

The unrest in Wisconsin this week over Gov. Scott Walker's plan to cut the bargaining rights and benefits of public workers is spreading to other states....The images from Wisconsin -- with its protests, shutdown of some public services, and missing Democratic senators, who fled the state to block a vote -- evoked the Middle East more than the Midwest. The parallels raise the inevitable question: is Wisconsin the Tunisia of collective bargaining rights?

This is typical Times, trying to put the unions on the side of righteousness. But that comparison is simply silly. Governor Scott Walker is not another Ben Ali. He did not come to power in a coup d'etat. He did not get elected by being the only candidate running. He does not jail opposition journalists. Interpol has not issued a warrant for his arrest. And if Walker flees Wisconsin because of this "popular" uprising, it is a safe bet that he will not take 1.5 tons of gold from Wisconsin's treasury and settle in Saudi Arabia.

The far better parallel to the Wisconsin protest would be the May 2010 protests in Greece, where public sector employees rioted for several days when it became apparent that their cushy jobs and benefits might be on the table because of the Greek debt crisis.

Governor Scott Walker -- perhaps we should just call him Ali for short -- had the temerity to suggest that public sector employees in Wisconsin contribute 5% toward their pensions and that they double the share of their health premiums they pay, to 12%, which is still only half of what the average private sector employee pays. So the unions, outraged at the thought that any of their benefits might be cut, have organized a mass sit-in at the Statehouse.

The unions certainly have the right to protest. But overall voter sympathy for public sector employees has dried up. Walker was elected this past November with a mandate to get the Wisconsin deficit down from its current $3.6 billion. And much of that deficit is due to the benefits that the unions have arranged for their members. It's understandable that their members want to preserve those benefits, which are far better than workers in the private sector get. But in a democracy the majority gets its way, and the majority voted for Walker.

It couldn't be clearer that this is Greece II, rather than Son of Tunisia. But since the Times is Tass II, they will spin whatever misleading analogies they can.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Bonds

The various actors who have played James Bond are a perfect illustration of the fact that it is not enough for a man to have good features -- to be really good-looking, he must look tough as well. A couple of the Bonds have been abysmal failures on this score. Roger Moore had all the machismo of a clothing store mannequin -- and a fussy one at that. Moore, like all the actors who portrayed Bond, came from a working class background; his portrayal of Bond as an upper class twit never sat right. Had the series originated with him, it probably wouldn't have continued.

Somehow it seems only fitting that Moore's body was as soft as his face. And that he seemed to think his moobs quite the thing.

Timothy Dalton was masculine enough, but not really tough. His background as a Shakespearian actor kept showing through: he played Bond as if he had a license to equivocate rather than kill. A real Bond would have known that he was to be, and his enemies not to be -- no deliberation needed.

Producer Cubby Broccoli first offered Dalton the role of Bond in 1968, when Dalton was only 22. But Dalton turned it down in favor of playing Philip II of France in The Lion in Winter.

Pierce Brosnan's Bond always came across like an aging preppy. Brosnan's own background was much more hardscrabble: he grew up Catholic in Ireland, never knew his father, and was raised mostly by his grandparents while his mother worked as a nurse in England. Yet he still managed to come across as if he were extremely pleased with himself for having landed the title role in his prep school production of a James Bond play.

Maybe Brosnan, like Moore, was trying so hard to come across like someone who'd been educated at Eton and Oxford that he forgot he was supposed to act macho as well. Or maybe it just wasn't in him. Is it possible that working class Brits will overdo a plummy accent in the same way that in the US most Northerners will overdo a Southern accent? Personally, I'd prefer a good-looking Cockney Bond who knew how to be a hard case. (Vinnie Jones?)

Daniel Craig plays Bond with a gritty intensity that makes you believe that he is actually engaged in a life and death business. Feature by feature, he's not classically good-looking; but because he's tough-looking, he's more appealing to watch.

I keep hearing rumors that Craig is a homosexual. But at least he comes across like the kind of guy you'd want on your side in a gay bar fight. And even if he's obviously on steroids, he manages not to seem overly pleased with his store-bought muscles. Verdict: second best Bond ever.

This bring us to the foregone conclusion of this post. Sean Connery is not only the template for James Bond, but for manliness in general, the perfect amalgam of male beauty and toughness.

Perhaps the reason Connery was able to play tough onscreen is that he was that way offscreen as well. My two favorite Connery stories:

In 1957, the 27 year old Connery was cast in Another Time, Another Place along with Lana Turner. Rumors quickly reached Turner's boyfriend back in the US, Johnny Stompanato, that the two were having an affair in London. Stompanato, a small time hood with Mafia connections, flew to London to break up the romance.

Stompanato arrived on the set and waved a gun in Connery's face. Connery knocked the gun aside and then knocked Stompanato out with a right cross.

Many years later, Connery was at a comedy club in Los Angeles with his friend Michael Caine. According to Caine, they were listening to a comedian who wasn't very funny, and there was a group of guys sitting behind Connery and Caine who kept heckling him. Finally Connery lost his patience. He turned around, lifted their ringleader up by his lapels, and snarled, "Give the bloke a chance or I'll knock the lot of you through the wall."

They shut up.

In 1953 -- the pre-steroid era -- Connery placed third in the Mr. Universe competition in the tall division.

Somehow that, too, seems only fitting. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Favorite Bond girls

For some reason I just found myself looking at a collection of pictures of all the Bond girls since 1962. What struck me was how ordinary looking several of them actually were. But most were beautiful, and some of the most beautiful didn't even have the lead female role. Here are my choices for the six most attractive, in order of when their movies came out:

Ursula Andress:

She may be the most iconic of all the Bond girls, having appeared in the very first film, Dr. No, in 1962, and also in the 1967 spoof Casino Royale. Andress, whose German diplomat father disappeared during WWII, had her voice completely dubbed over in Dr. No because of her heavy Swiss-German accent. But that was her real voice, accent and all, you heard in Casino Royale.

Shirley Eaton:

The combination of her initial playfulness with Bond and her starkly sexual murder in Goldfinger somehow combined to make her one of the most appealing women in movie history. Eaton retired from acting five years later at age 32 to concentrate on raising a family. She told an interviewer, "A career is a career, but you're a mother until you die."

Tania Mallet:

Mallet played Shirley Eaton's sister who is out for revenge against Goldfinger. Her character, Tilly Masterson, was brisk and imperious with Bond at first, but once she saw what Bond was about, she warmed up. Unfortunately, it was too late for any romance, as she was about to be decapitated by Oddjob's bowler hat. Mallet had tested for the lead role in From Russia With Love but was rejected because of her English accent. After Goldfinger, Mallet turned down all subsequent film offers, partly because acting didn't pay nearly as well as modeling for her.

Luciana Paluzzi:

Part of Paluzzi's sexual appeal seemed to lie in her villainy. As Thunderball's Fiona Volpe, she was one of the few women whom Bond was unable to win over. When they traded barbs after having spent the afternoon in bed it struck the ten-year-old me as Paluzzi had been turned down for the part of Domino, the female lead in the film, but later said that "it was more fun to play a bad girl."

Martine Beswick:

I remember wondering why Beswick didn't have a larger role in Thunderball; she, too, was more attractive than Claudine Auger, who was cast in the lead. I hadn't realized until today that Beswick also played one of the two Gypsy girls who fought each other in that scene in From Russia with Love.

Kristina Wayborn:

Wayborn had a relatively minor role in Octopussy, but I always thought her far more beautiful than that movie's female lead, Maud Adams. Wayborn, nee Britt-Inger Johansson, was a former Miss Sweden and Miss Scandinavia. She broke several of her toes during the filming of one of the fight scenes in the movie.

This list leaves out some of the most celebrated Bond women, like Honor Blackman (Pussy Galore), Jill St. John, Kim Basinger, Barbara Carrera, and Halle Berry. But the six pictured above would be my top choices.

Addendum, next day: Hmm. I seem to have given short shrift to the question of their acting ability. Oh well.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Message boards

There was an illuminative exchange in the comments after this post from a week ago:

The point of the post about Guy de Chimay was to show how sociopaths can actually enjoy their ill gotten gains even when they know their whole scheme is about to unravel.

I had never heard of xG Technologies before, but a couple of people involved with the company evidently had internet feeds set up to alert them whenever anybody related to the company -- such as Guy de Chimay, who was slated to buy stock in the company -- appeared on the net. They saw the post.

The first commenter, who is probably short the stock, pointed out that xG Technologies itself was "stuffed full of sociopaths." Then someone else commented, "Anon sounds like you are some kind of wannabe shrink on line...I wonder if you would identify yourself and mention your theory to Col. Coleman [who works for xG]. He probably would blow your stinkin head off!"

At this point I wasn't sure whom to believe. These types of battles between longs and shorts play out all the time on the Yahoo stock message boards. It's often hard to tell who is telling the truth and who isn't. Sometimes the company being discussed has a good product and is well run and is unjustly attacked by shorts who lie in order to push the price down. And sometimes the company is essentially a scam, and it's the shorts telling the truth.

Oftentimes by reading between the lines you can tell who the good guys and who the bad guys are. The good guys tend to stick to factual debate, and generally sound more intelligent. The bad guys tend to engage in personal invective and pseudo macho posturing. They often type in all caps, boast about their personal wealth, contradict themselves, and show their hypocrisy. They also attack other commenters on specious personal grounds.

Neither of the commenters here did all of those things. But one of them did a few of them. Check out the exchange in the comments after the post linked above and decide for yourself which side you would put your trust in.

I made that judgment for myself, based purely on the comments after that post, and woke up last Friday intending to short XGT.L. But when I looked it up, I saw that it was trading at fourteen cents, down from a high of roughly $17.50 back in 2007.

The market had already rendered its verdict.

Look for more nasty comments after this post.

Monday, February 14, 2011

More sprinter names

There is a high school girl from Connecticut who has run a mile in 4:49 and two miles in 10:24 this indoor season. I was wondering how those times ranked nationally, so I looked her up, and sure enough, she is number one in both events. 

While looking her up, I was once again sidetracked by the high percentage of unique names among the sprinters.

Certain names have actually become semi-legitimized by their increasing frequency, for instance, Hakeem and Jamal: I no longer take note of these. Both of those names, by the way, are actual Muslim names you find in the Middle East. (In Arabic, "Jamal" means handsome, and "Hakeem" can mean either wise one or doctor.)

It has always mystified me that so many African-Americans have adopted Muslim culture as their own, when sub-Saharan Africans' primary contact with Muslims was with the slavers who came south to capture them. So while "Reginald Jones" may be a slave name, so in fact is "Jamal." 

Certain female names such as Shaniqua and Lashondra have also gained a certain legitimacy through repetition.

Many of these names have a very distinct flavor. They seem to rely heavily on q's, v's, z's, and weirdly, apostrophes. One example would be the name of the nation's top-rated high school football prospect, Jadeveon Clowney, who announced today that he would attend South Carolina. That name couldn't possibly belong to somebody from another ethnic group. And maybe that's the point: the parents don't want to give their child some boring old white name. But the price the kids pay is that they often end up sounding a bit, well, clowny.

There are also names like Donte and Jeryl and Leshon, which, though they have none of those letters, are still unmistakably black. Many of these names seem to be accented on the second syllable.

Some of the names are naively aspirational, like the "Lexus" I referred to four posts ago. When I was at Columbia Business School there was a guy who worked in the locker room there named "Harvard," and he told me he had two brothers named "Cornell" and "Yale." A black friend once told me that there were two boys at his middle school named "Colonel" and "General." (My friend added, "It makes you want to take the parents by the neck and ask them, what were you thinking?")

A fair number of the names seem merely like unintentional misspellings. Antwan, for instance, is probably just a misspelled Antoine. (What must it be like to go through your entire life as a misspelling?) Some of the variation may be intentional -- such as Tikuan for Tyquan -- but it's hard to escape the suspicion that there is also some error involved.

In today's politically correct world, it feels almost a little wrong, even indecent, to be examining these names so closely. (After all, political correctness is often a matter of averting one's eyes.) But names are in the public record, and the parents were aware of this when they named their children.

Here are a few examples from the national high school track rankings, along with some speculation as to what the parents might have been thinking.

Boys' names:

-Majique. (Were his parents thinking "magic" or "majestic" or perhaps a combination?)

-Jihaad. (Hard not to wonder about the patriotism of his parents.)

-Jermey. (Will this young man grow up to be germ-phobic?)

-Torri. (Isn't that more of a girl's name? Was his father not planning to stick around, and thinking along the same lines as the father in A Boy Named Sue?)

-Nainy. (Sounds like something something little kids say to each other on the playground: nyaah nyaah, nainy nainy boo boo.)

-Jaquon. (However strange this name may sound, it is still infinitely preferable to Jaquoff.)

-Defario. (It's striking how many of these names have an Italianate flavor.)

-L'Zereck. (I honestly can't think of anything to say about this one, but feel compelled to include it anyway.)

-Mar-Keo (Runners: on your mar-keo, get set, go!)

-J'Tier (An apostrophe always makes me wonder what the missing letters are -- J'hn.)

-Champ (He has run a 35.03 for the 300, so his parents were actually somewhat prescient.)

-Darious (His parents must have thought that he would be like the Persian king Darius, without actually being him.)

[Note: should any of these young men happen to read this post, be incensed by it, and want to come after me, I won't exactly be able to outrun them; each name listed so far belongs to a sprinter who is at least borderline world class.] 

Girls' names:

-Myasia (Does this not sound vaguely like a disease? Were her parents possibly inspired by something they read at the hospital?)

-Sheniece (Was she named by her aunt or uncle rather than her parents?)

-Tynia (It's hard for me not to hear "tin ear," but then again, I have one myself.)

-Dynasty (Were her parents fans of that TV show? As much of a fan of a certain show as I am, I would never have named my daughter "Jeopardy." )

-Rushell. (This young lady runs a 200 indoors in 25.25, so at least lives up to her name.)

-Nyanka. (She must run the anka leg on the relay.)

-Shakia (As in, shake ya booty?)

-Qualitra (One can't help but wonder which quality her parents thought they were instilling with this name.)

-Dezerea, Chrystal, Taranisha, Chamique, Mikiah, Jenira, Tahje, Aneesha, Devanae, Lequisha, Keondra, Shenika, Jande, Demeshia, Dephanie, Kadecia, Javette, Kamilah. With their vowel endings, these are all sound like female names, but somehow they're not....quite.

It is probably time for me to open up my mind on this issue. Maybe I'm just jealous because I have such a boring name.

And perhaps I'm being a bit superficial. After all, in only a slight paraphrase of Shakespeare, a Demeshia by any other name would smell as sweet.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heroes and villains

My son is now incommunicado for two weeks in the middle of the Mojave Desert, training at that ersatz Afghan village the Army has set up there. Before he left Alaska, the last time we Skyped him, he offered to show us the body armor and helmet he had been issued. We said we'd like to see it, and he put it on.

It was a little disconcerting to see him in the armor; he looked like those soldiers you see on the news reports from the war front.

I said, "Johnny, when you were a little boy and watched Star Wars, you probably identified with Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. Little did you know you were actually going to grow up to be one of the Imperial Storm Troopers."

I can only hope when he deploys to Afghanistan that The Force is with him. 


Certain actors seem to be ubiquitous. A while back Tommy Lee Jones seemed to appear in a lot of movies (five in 1994 alone), and managed to diminish his appeal that way. He was a ruggedly handsome guy, but seemed to have about as much dramatic range as his former college roommate Al Gore. So theatergoers tired of his gruff-but-good-hearted coot act, and he now appears in fewer movies. 

More recently, Ben Stiller has been Zelig-like. From 2004 to 2010 he appeared in 22 movies. He's actually underrated as an actor, utterly fearless and without vanity. But despite those two admirable traits, he, too, has suffered from overexposure. Look for his output to diminish.

Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in 132 movies (including voice only roles). This is overexposure by any standard. Filmmakers seem to rely on him for all their strident black man roles, and he always obliges. (Al Pacino takes the rest of those roles.) As a result it's hard to repress an "oh him again" feeling whenever Jackson marches onscreen and starts talking/yelling in that stentorian voice.

Most recently, it has been Jennifer Aniston. Most of her movies have been critically panned. But she keeps managing to snag roles by trading off her popularity from Friends and, perhaps, off the public's sympathy for her as the "wronged woman" in the Aniston-Pitt-Jolie love triangle. She is unwilling to take risks as an actress, and appears in one unfunny romantic "comedy" after another.

The other day it hit me who she is: the new Doris Day.

A few decades from now moviegoers will laugh at us for ever having been able to stomach a bland actress of such modest talent and beauty.

Is this the face of a man who would have stolen $50 billion?

For some reason it's always gratifying when someone looks the part he is playing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Track meet results

Looking over my daughter's state Class L championship track meet results from last night, I couldn't help but be struck by some of the competitors' first names. Here are some of my favorite girls' names:

-Chalsea (She won the 55 meter dash; second place went to a girl named Chelsea, which proves that spelling ability and sprinting ability are not perfectly correlated.)

-Ali (What are the odds her father was not a boxing fan?)

-Arabia (It does have a sort of romantic, thousand and one nights feel to it.)

-Mercedes (The car company was originally named after a young girl, though I suspect this runner's parents did not know that; things have now come full circle.)

-Applelonia (Apollonia is the female variant of Apollo, who was the god of sunshine, music, and poetry; Applelonia must have been the goddess of apples.)

-McKinley (The lone white entrant. When someone is given a last name for a first name, you need no other data points: you know the family is pretentious. It's only fitting that they reside in Darien.)

-Danyelle (It's striking how many sprinters' names are just slight misspellings of common names. She finished ahead of a Danielle in the 55 meter hurdles, proving the same point Chalsea did.)

-Janae, Denese, Joya, Dannielle (Change or subtract just one letter of each of these names to get a normal name.)

And from the boys' results:

-Tirrell (If I had a dime for every variant of that name I've ever seen...)

-Donarth (As in "Don't arth, don't tell.")

-D'Vonte (Certain segments of the population seem to favor apostrophes.)

-Taj (Perhaps his parents enjoyed a streak of luck at Donald Trump's casino.)

-Lexus (My personal favorite; his parents are obviously aspirational.)

-Brydell (He only got fourth in the 300 meter dash: always a bridesmaid, but never a....)

-Storm (He is a 12th grader, too old to have been named after the X-Men character, who was a woman anyway.)

-Lake (I actually like that name, it's got a nice peaceful, bucolic feel to it.)

-Synque (An athlete definitely has to be in sync to run the hurdles, which is his event.)

-Adante ("Andante" actually means a slow tempo, which is slower than allegretto but faster than adagio; Adante undoubtedly has a good sense of rhythm.)

-Kwency (It's rare to see both Anglophilia and Afrocentrism combined in the same name.)

-Amanze (He won the high jump with the less than amazing height of 6' 2", but also won the long jump with an amazing leap of 23' 3".)

-Darius (Roman names, too, seem to be favored among a certain sector of the populace)

Perhaps I am too closed-minded. There is something to be said for a completely new name: it makes you more memorable. My own name, John, is the most common in the English language: you don't get any more boring than that. And many is the person who hasn't been able to remember my name -- for that, or other reasons.

On the other hand, if you're a Lexus, no one will ever not remember your name.

The royals

One thing I've never quite understood is the fascination with the British royals. I guess they are supposed to represent the most elite group of human beings on earth; I guess you don't get any fancier than the Queen of England, or Duke of York.

It's just that the human beings who happen to have those titles seem so.....common.

King Arthur, if we are to believe the legends, was anything but common. But historians debate his existence; if he lived, it would have been around 500 AD.

The descendants of his knights in shining armor now work on Fleet Street. And the round tables they sit around are the ones in their conference rooms, where the only thing they joust about is which royal tidbit to put on the front page. (Hardly a noble undertaking.)

There have been interesting royals to follow in the past. If Henry VIII were on the throne now, though, he might find it a bit harder to rid himself of his exes -- which would make him far less colorful. And Richard III might find that fingerprints and DNA testing and surveillance cameras would cramp his style. But they'd still probably make for more entertaining copy than the current crop.

If Scotland attempted independence again, and it were up to Queen Elizabeth to crush the rebellion, then things might get interesting again. But, alas, power -- and charisma -- have long since passed the monarchy by.

I've never once read about a current royal and thought, wow, what a tough guy! Or, what a wit! (I have, however, thought, what a twit -- which is not a combination of the other two.)

I'd love to see a list of their IQ's published. Queen Elizabeth, 106. Prince Charles, 104. Prince Andrew, 101. Princess Di, 94.

Okay, I just made those scores up. But I don't think they're too far off -- and they're not exactly, uh, regal. 

As for the younger generation, Princess Di's sons? Perfect examples of why you don't subscribe to frat house newsletters. And now that Prince William is settling down, all those pictures of him and his fiance are like a summer vacation slide show of your blandest acquaintances. (Perhaps when he acquires his first mistress he will get a tad more interesting.)

Princess Di herself was one of the most overrated "beauties" ever. That's probably what a title -- and the world's best makeup artists and couturiers -- do for you: they turn you from a 6.5 into a 9. For a picture of the 6.5 (and that's being generous), scroll to the top of this post. Put that face behind the cash register at your local Stop & Shop and you wouldn't look twice. But dress it up in $4000 worth of clothes, crown it with a tiara, slaver it with makeup, sit it on a throne, and -- oh, she's so beautiful!

I read enough fairy tales when I was young so as to believe that a princess was supposed to look like, say, Grace Kelly, not all those jug-eared, gap-toothed, overly inbred Yorks. (Though, now that I think of it, I've only not been disappointed in that expectation once.)

The whole family is a bit reminiscent of the Baby Boomer Kennedy's. Even if by chance one of them had inherited the right genes for an IQ of 150 -- which none of them did -- he would probably have ended up a substance-abusing wastrel like all his cousins. The Baby Boomer Kennedy's were so caught up in being Kennedy's that they didn't have time to be anything else.

The British royals are even more so. When you're always being observed yourself, you cannot really observe others. And when you're a royal, you can never observe others acting like themselves; you can only observe them fawning in your presence. Thus you can never really develop a sense of self, let alone a sense of humor. And as a result, you're not really fun to be around. Or to read about.

I prefer to follow people of more intellectual heft and accomplishment.

Like Lindsay Lohan.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New season of Justified

Just a brief plug for Justified, the show I raved about back in May. Along with The Shield, it's one of the two best TV shows I've seen in the last two decades.

The season premiere was on last night, and the hero was as wry and laconic, the dialogue as witty, and the villains as colorfully charming as ever.

The premiere will probably be shown again on Sunday evening, if last year's scheduling can be used as a guide. This season will probably run for roughly three months. It's on Wednesdays at 10PM on FX.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The business of big money marriages

Left, casino billionaire Phillip Ruffin, 72, with bride Oleksandra Nikolayenko, 26, a former Miss Ukraine; below, pop star Billy Joel with third wife Katie Lee

An earlier post about Hugh Hefner mentioned his engagement to Crystal Harris. This is a classic May-December romance, (in this case, perhaps May -- December 28th): a rich older man and an attractive younger woman. But anyone with an even passing familiarity with human nature knows that beautiful women rarely marry poor men. (Are there no idealistic beauties?) And billionaires almost never marry plain women either.

It would take an awfully crass person to actually assign monetary values to different traits. Well, here goes:

The first general rule governing the marriage market seems to be that each million a man owns takes roughly one year off of his age. Thus, a forty-five year old with twenty million is effectively twenty-five. A famous man also commands a certain premium. (Strangely, this is even true of infamous men, as the inevitable groupies attracted to well-known serial killers demonstrate.)

At some point, added years become a plus. For 27-year-old Anna Nicole Smith, it was probably preferable that J. Howard Marshall, the oilman worth 500 million dollars whom she married in 1994, was 89, as opposed to, say, 79.

Enough money can even compensate for obvious personality defects. Twenty million can make a guy seem suddenly better-looking. A man may have a bad temper, but forty million pays for a lot of tantrums. Sixty million will even cure Aspergers.

As far as intelligence goes, the rough equation is that every million raises your IQ by about three points. So whether you're a dumb-and-sleazy Wall Street broker who got his money dishonestly or a professional athlete who barely graduated high school, enough cash is better than a Rhodes Scholarship.

Love doesn't make the world go round; money does.

For any but the richest woman, her biggest bargaining chip is her looks, which along with her age accounts for roughly 90% of her bargaining value. A girl can study hard in high school, keep her nose clean, get into a great college, make Phi Beta Kappa, join Amnesty, and become an All-American lacrosse player, and it all matters little. If she's plain, she won't snag a rich man.

The girls who get the centimillionaires tend to look like models. They may have dropped out of high school, slutted around, and developed a substance abuse problem along the way. But as long as they can hide their pasts, they are hot tickets. Even if they have baggage like embarrassing families, it's okay. (Men who know how to make money generally know how to avoid their in-laws anyway.)

Diamonds are not a girl's best friend; plastic surgery is.

One possible drawback to a woman, no matter how beautiful, is children from previous relationships. Unlike male lions coming into a new pride, men cannot just kill existing offspring (much as they'd like to); there are legal consequences to that. So women with existing children, no matter how cute, are at a disadvantage.

Age, of course, is a factor. Hollywood, that great bastion of liberalism and equal rights, is the cruelest place to women past child-bearing. Once an actress, no matter how big a star, hits forty-five, she simply disappears. What was the last big movie Michelle Pfeiffer starred in? Or Sharon Stone? Or any of the other great beauties of the 80's? The big money marriage market is slightly more forgiving, but evolutionary instincts still rule.

There are, of course, exceptions to all these rules, but they are just that.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Hell, if it works the way it ought, is where all sociopaths should go when they die. You have undoubtedly known some of these in your life, even if you haven't known them well enough to recognize their sociopathy. If you're not familiar with the syndrome, just think of the most dishonest, hypocritical, disloyal, destructive person you've ever known. That person was undoubtedly a sociopath. (Now doesn't the idea of the existence of an actual hell suddenly seem more appealing?)

It would be tempting to also send the 20% or so of the population which is narcissistic, but they probably don't quite deserve it.

In any case, a sociopath's hell should consist of reliving all of his victims' experiences of him, and feeling all the  negative emotions he has engendered. Then, he should relieve his own life, but with a conscience installed, feeling the shame and embarrassment that he never felt during his lifetime.

After ten rounds of this, then maybe he can go to heaven.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I don't believe in heaven. But if it exists, I would want it to consist of the opportunity to occupy the mind and body of every creature who ever lived. You would retain a sliver of consciousness that you were not that creature, but you could experience all of the thoughts and emotions and sensations that creature did, at any point in its life. 

You could be Genghis Khan sacking a recalcitrant Chinese city. Or Usain Bolt winning the 100 meter dash at the Beijing Olympics. Or Beethoven composing the Ninth. You could be John F. Kennedy having sex with Marilyn Monroe. Or Monroe with Kennedy. You could be anybody having sex with anybody. You could, through the process of gradual exploration, find out which was the greatest orgasm of all time. And if you were so inclined, you could experience it as many times as you pleased, in an endless loop.

(That last is not so far in spirit from the Muslim version of heaven with 72 virgins.)

But heaven wouldn't have to be just about triumphs, and pleasure. It could be about having your curiosity satisfied as well. 

You could be your mother giving birth to you. Or you could relive your own birth. You could be your worst enemy at the moment he hated you the most. You could find out what it was like to be Ted Bundy. Or Stephen Hawking.

And you wouldn't be limited to human beings. You could see what it was like to be a whale. Or a tiger. Or a pig. Or a hawk. Or a cobra. Or an amoeba. Or a tyrannosaurus rex.

The possibilities are near limitless.

And that's just on this planet. 

Just think what you could learn. And how much fun you would have.

I don't really believe any of this. But I'm going to try to be good, just in case.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Can you imagine yourself doing this?

The NY Post ran the following article about a sociopath yesterday:  

Bogus Belgian blue-blood is headed behind bars

A bogus Belgian blue-blood who swindled friends and acquaintances out of $7 million is heading to prison for at least three years after pleaded guilty to his big-money Ponzi scheme today.

Guy De Chimay, 47 -- whose good suits and good looks give him the appearance of having just stepped out of a board meeting instead of a Riker's cell -- admitted he lied to victims about his assets, his connections to the Belgian royal family, and an imaginary investment fund he promised sky-high returns on.

"I did not have the intention or ability to return the investors' money," he told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro, in pleading guilty to first degree grand larceny and related crimes.

Guy de Chimay.

The dashing swindler told victims he was a member of the Chimay royal family of Belgium, with access to "family money" totaling more than $200 million.

And though he wasn't royalty -- De Chimay was actually born in Canada -- he lived royally while the scheme lasted, catching up on his credit cards, footing the bill on his divorce settlement, renting a summer home in the Hamptons, and paying off previous investors to keep his massive Ponzi scheme afloat, prosecutors said.

There was nothing particularly new or noteworthy about this story, but it illustrates one crucial point about recognizing sociopaths. If you're ever wondering whether someone is a sociopath, ask yourself the question, can you imagine yourself doing that? If not, the odds are much greater that the person in question is a sociopath. 

I can imagine myself doing all sorts of bad things. I could imagine lying about my background. I could see myself doing insider trading. I think that under the right circumstances, I'd even be capable of murder.

But one thing I could never, never imagine doing is living high off the proceeds from ripping my friends off and then actually enjoying that high life, even while knowing that I was soon to earn their undying enmity.

That's the crucial difference between us and sociopaths: they can actually enjoy themselves in those circumstances. That's what it means to have absolutely no conscience.

Coming of age

A week ago my daughter went out on her first official date, to a local dance (to which the girls ask the boys).

Every father has, at best, mixed feelings when his daughter starts to go out. I expressed mine by teasing her beforehand about what I was going to say when her date came to pick her up. 

I told her I would be cleaning one of my son's guns and would announce, "You know, you don't have to be a Muslim to believe in honor killings." (My son's take on this: "Yeah, but Dad, you wouldn't know how to do anything other than wipe the outside of the barrel.")

Anyway, when the fateful moment actually arrived, I was surprised by my reaction. I'd always thought that I would want to growl at whichever boy came to pick her up. But her date was such a decent, polite, wholesome kid, and my daughter so obviously happy, that I couldn't help but feel happy for her.

Even though I really don't want her to grow up.

Just not said

I've taken out the last post with the link to the video showing that killing. The animating spirit of this blog is supposed to be "just not said" -- not "just not shown." So I'm more honest -- or blunt, if you prefer -- than most about race, politics, IQ, sociopathy, dishonest public figures, and my own weaknesses. And I hope that attracts readers who can identify with my take on these things. But a video of a killing is basically pornography of the worst kind. Given that I don't show pornography of the best kind -- nude pictures of beautiful women -- I certainly shouldn't be showing the worst kind.

Apologies to those who were disturbed by it.

(Please note that I don't use the word "offended," as that is what I try to do to those whose sensibilities are too politically correct, and I make no apologies for that.)

The last two posts were an interesting exercise in manipulation, though: a 56-year-old manipulated by a 19-year-old into posting something against his better judgment?

A 56-year-old really can't get any more pathetic than that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


The NY Post featured an article this morning about a police officer named Quathisha Epps, who, according to the first paragraph, showed not only "uncommon valor" but "uncommon kindness" as well. When I read that first paragraph and saw the picture of Epps, my first reaction was to think, ho-hum, more media tripe where they try extra hard to shoehorn another black person into "positive role model" status, and the awkwardness of that effort is all too apparent.

But then I read the article. What Epps did was in fact amazing. After hearing gunshots from her apartment, she quickly put her baby in the crib and her two older children in the bathtub, then raced outside, barefoot and in her nightgown, clutching some towels, to try to save -- or at least comfort -- the boy who'd been mortally wounded outside. While doing this she saw a large knife lying on the ground and managed to put her toe on the knife to preserve possible evidence while the crowd grew. It turned out that the dying boy had actually helped one of her children seven years earlier....The story is worth reading, and actually quite moving. Here it is in its entirety:

My second reaction was, why did her parents have to name her Quathisha? As impressed as I was while reading her story -- her bravery and compassion and presence of mind were all exceptional -- I just kept stumbling over that name. 

Note to black parents: name your daughters Alison, or Sarah, or Julia, or Madeline. Not Sheniqua, or Malia, or Precious, or Pretty. Otherwise they will never be taken as seriously.

No matter how heroic they turn out to be.

Ragin' rhino

The reference in the previous post to getting a shot of testosterone reminded me of something I saw on a nature show recently.

A lion was getting ready to defend his pride against another male. Before doing so, he stopped to run his tongue around some rhinoceros dung. The announcer explained that the testosterone in the rhinoceros dung made the lion more aggressive and gave him courage.

I remember feeling slightly awed after hearing that. How manly are you when another male -- and a lion at that -- has only to lick your excrement in order to become more manly himself?

Some species have all the luck.

Rhinos are certainly ungainly looking beasts. It's as if someone decided to take a large pig, put it on steroids, and then graft on the head of a triceratops.

But I'd still be willing to look like that if only....