Friday, January 17, 2003
Mitch Daniels, the White House budget director, says $300 billion deficits are "modest". In other news, it turns out Ronald Reagan's deficits were so damn humble they qualify for sainthood.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
I'll be going in for hand surgery next month. Those of you who know me know that I have some weird neurological problems, which include finger contractures. Most of the fingers on my right hand have curled inward so much they're basically useless. I'll be having the middle joints fused at about a thirty-degree angle, which should theoretically make them significantly more useful.
It means I'll be healing for several months, though. My entire hand will be in a splint for three weeks after the operation, and I'll have metal pins in for eight weeks. (My wrist won't need to be immobilized, fortunately. After I had surgery on the other hand, my wrist got thoroughly messed up and now I can barely move it.)
I'm stocking up on books and DVD's. I'll probably stay at my mother's house until I have the use of both hands. I should have a laptop by then, so I should still be able to log on, but I may not be typing very much.
I think my DVD player is a dud. It doesn't handle dirty or scratched DVD's at all well (I've had to unplug it twice because it froze up and wouldn't respond to the remote, or even the power button on the case), and even with clean DVD's it occasionally skips annoyingly.
Fortunately, Circuit City has a good return policy, so I should be able to exchange it for a different brand. (This one's a Zenith. Not good. I've been happy with JVC in the past.)
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Brad DeLong posted a puzzle about an alien who presents you with two boxes. One is clear and contains a $10 bill. The other is opaque. The alien tells you that he has perfect information about the state of your mind. If you are the sort of person who would leave the $10 bill, then he has put $1,000,000 in the opaque box. If you are the sort of person who would take the $10 bill, then the opaque box is empty. What do you do?
I answered, I would toss a lit match into the box, record the destruction of the currency with a videocamera, and ask the Treasury Department to replace the $10 bill.
Lilo and Stitch was a fun movie, with genuinely funny lines. It shows the importance of a good script. And it was nice to see a non-Caucasian cast. Worth checking out.
Monday, January 13, 2003
Bob Graham is planning to run for President. At this point, I'd vote for a syphilitic hyena over George W. Bush, so the prospect of a Democrat cleaning Bush's clock is awfully alluring, and Graham is popular enough in Florida to almost certainly be able to win it. That makes it a lot harder for Bush to win the election--he'd have to pick off two or three states that went to Gore last time, which is possible but hearteningly tough.
That aside, I don't know much about Graham. Most of what I know about him comes from an old Dave Barry column:
In an effort to find out what the federal government is doing about this, I called U.S. Sen. Bob "Bob'' Graham of Florida, who is -- and I mean this as a compliment -- the weirdest major politician I have ever met. I first interviewed him back when he was governor of Florida. In an effort to throw him off base, I asked him what I thought was a ridiculous question, demanding to know what he had done, as governor, to promote harmonica safety. Without a moment's hesitation, he delivered a two-minute, well-organized and extremely persuasive speech, featuring statistics, in which he claimed that his predecessor was responsible for most of Florida's harmonica-related deaths.
So I figured Sen. Graham was the man to call about this issue. I had barely got the words "accordion-repair crisis'' out of my mouth when he launched into a lengthy, impassioned oration, from which I got the following quotes, which I swear I am not making up:
"Just last night I ate at an Italian restaurant which, like thousands of other Italian restaurants across America, is now without
music, because their accordion is in disrepair and has been returned from Winona, Minn., with postage due.''
"We are preparing an anti-dumping order against Liechtenstein, which has become the center of accordion repair on a global basis and has developed some ferociously anti-competitive practices.''
"I don't know whether the actual use of nuclear weapons is called for, but I do think we need a credible military threat.''
(Bear in mind that this man is on the Senate Intelligence Committee.)
Based on that, I'm cautiously optimistic that he can't be too bad.
The Columbia Mall is getting a 14-screen movie theater
, which may open as soon as November. My family moved to Columbia when I was four years old, and I remember when it was just an itty-bitty thing. Now it's the second-largest mall in Maryland, if I remember correctly. Times sure do change.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
Someone posted to Google Answers offering $100 for dirt on Paul Krugman. Krugman answered.
I believe that aristocrats are thugs. It's part of my American heritage. So when I watch a costume drama like Vatel, I bring a certain amount of baggage. The story deals with the visit of Louis XIV to the Prince de Condé, who is deeply in debt and desperately needs the king's favor to regain his fortunes. Louis XIV, in return, needs the Prince's military genius for a possible war with Holland. François Vatel is the Prince de Condé's steward, responsible for the opulent entertainments the king demands, and the story is told from his perspective. He's a good man serving a rotten cause--the Prince can't afford to pay for the extraordinary amount of labor required to provide his feasts and pageantries, so all this work is done on the chance that they might be repaid. (One of the nice things about this movie is that Tom Stoppard (who adapted the story into English) never loses sight of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the utter worthlessness of the people at the top.) Vatel is a genius at his craft, and convinces himself that his master's fortunes depend on how well the king is pleased with the festivities. But it isn't true. His master's fortunes depend on whether the king needs a general or not. A scene at the end, showing ice sculptures crumbling in the sun, with the discarded shells of seafish scattered around, shows how truly ephemereal his efforts are. One wants to see herculean labors rewarded. The villainy of Versailles is that a nation's labor was squandered on pointless, extravagant, waste.
I wonder if someone less politically radical than myself might have a very different take on this movie. There was a strong element of frustration in watching this movie, as I knew that (in a sense) the bad guys would win. I want people who are exploiting and oppressing others to realize how wrong they are--or at least for the people they're oppressing to realize it, and protest, or fight back. Someone who wasn't looking so hard for a statement in favor of the poor and the powerless might see other themes I overlooked.
In the end, this movie made me think, which is what I ask for from art, and it was extremely well made. I have to recommend it.
This week's Style Invitational is a good one. The contest was to describe what would happen if existing companies ran a different business:
If Greyhound ran a psychiatric clinic, it would charge more for extra baggage.
If General Dynamics or some other Pentagon contractor ran Starbucks, a grande skim latte would cost, well, about what it does now. Maybe a little less.
If Johnson & Johnson made wedding cakes, there'd be no more tiers.
If Chevrolet made boats, it would change the "Like a Rock" campaign.
If AOL made Viagra, women would have to deal with even more of those annoying pop-ups.