Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

Making trouble today for a better tomorrow…

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Entries from July 2004

Coffee and dish with Zoe VanderWolk

July 29th, 2004 · Comments Off on Coffee and dish with Zoe VanderWolk

Gadflyer blogger Zoe VanderWolk at the DNCC. The other, less famous (to me) person with her is Jerry Springer.) 

been following the Democratic National Convention in the Feedster
and on the hotel TV. Now that I’m back in Cambridge, I was
lucky enough to have a real DNCC blogger staying with us–Zoe
VanderWolk of Gadflyer. Here is some of the dish from the nosebleed seats that she said I could share with you:

  • The
    convention is fascinating and hanging out with other bloggers is lots
    of fun–but many “real” reporters seem half-asleep with been-there, done-that boredom.
  • Last night’s big story on CNN News was not
    the Democratic Convention but the release by the Bush team of a brand-new
    anti-Kerry ad. This gave CNN an excuse to play the Bush ad for free as
    part of its “news” reporting.
  • Two
    “real” reporters made their way up to the bloggers’ section where, as
    Dave Winer reports
    , you can’t hear the speeches unless you pay close
    attention. Said one reporter to the other, “This sucks, I can’t hear a
    thing. I’m just going to write that it was a lousy speech.”
  • Ann
    Coulter’s rejected article about the “Spawn of Satan” convention is
    getting a lot of laughs there, not least for her description of “the
    corn-fed, no make-up,
    natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat
    fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call ‘women’ at the Democratic
    National Convention.” Er, Ann, you mean women like Zoe, for instance?

If you haven’t read Zoe’s blistering account of the DNCC bloggers’s
with Russell Mears, you should. I sure hope she doesn’t blog this morning’s coffee with me in the same vein…

Tags: Invisible primary

Santa Fe mantra

July 27th, 2004 · Comments Off on Santa Fe mantra

Santa Fe, NM reacted to the challenge of outlying malls by turning its downtown into a tourist mecca.

This works in a basically honest kind of way here–Santa Fe has been a marketplace/meetingplace almost since its founding in 1610. Spanish and Moorish and Mexican and Native American and Anglo architectural history get all mixed together here under dramatic sky-fuls of hot sunshine, huge white clouds, enormous black thunderstorms.

The downside, for an incidental visitor like me (I’m here because Frank is here giving some physics lectures) is that walking downtown requires huge self-control. So I invented and now keep repeating a Santa Fe mantra:

  • I don’t need any silver-and-turquoise jewelry.
  • I don’t have a museum in my house for Indian pottery.
  • I don’t wear broomstick skirts or cowboy boots.
  • My religious beliefs do not require Mexican holy wood carvings.

This mantra is working quite well, although I did give in to buying a red straw hat. Wow, sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous here, and the wide desert sky has room for so much of them. So maybe I should add one more line to my mantra:

  • I do not plan to become an oil painter dedicating a lifetime to magnificent sky scapes.

Whew! Wish me luck, I’m off to climb a mountain.

Tags: Pilgrimages

Dramatic theory with mosquito continuo

July 23rd, 2004 · Comments Off on Dramatic theory with mosquito continuo

I heard about the Gary Wills review of Bill Clinton’s book from my husband, as we went for a humid twilight stroll.

Frank’s one-sentence synopsis of Gary Wills: “Wills says Bill Clinton is a tragic hero.”

Frank one-sentence improvement of Gary Wills: “In other words, Bill Clinton’s a great big jerk.”

Betsy’s commentary on Frank comment: I think that’s a really deep
interpretation not only of Bill Clinton but also of tragedy. Think
about it–Oedipus–Antigone–Macbeth–Hamlet–royal pains in the ass,
every one of them.

Tags: Heroes and funny folks

Syrian bandwagon

July 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on Syrian bandwagon

Did you see the story about 14 Middle Eastern men flying to LA whose behavior spooked a WSJ reporter?

The reporter may have over-reacted to innocent activities. If you read
Annie Jacobson’s story believing (as authorities later told her told
her) that the men were all in a band flying to an engagement, you see
it with different eyes.

Jacobson was unnerved when men in different seating groups swapped
significant glances–maybe they weren’t being sneaky by sitting
separately, maybe they just couldn’t all get seats
together. She thought they might have planned making a bomb in the
bathroom–but maybe they were conspiring to get high in there. She was
upset that a man coming out of the bathroom pantomimed to his friend
the action of cutting his own throat and saying “no”–maybe he was just
dramatizing the disgusting state that he’d found the bathroom in.

How can we keep terrorists out of airlines? I
strongly disagree with Annie Jacobson’s conclusion that racial profiling
is the best answer to this real and serious question. I strongly
disagree with James Lileks’s idea that we should happily throw civil
liberties out the window to ensure our safety. Uh huh–is that the kind of safety Israelis enjoy from Palestinians?

 I even more strongly disagree with some of my fellow
liberals. Instead of using this story as a springboard to discuss
government response to terrorism, many are sticking to diatribes
against the writer. She is a racist who thinks “flying while brown”
should be a crime. She got upset just because they used the rest room.
She is nothing but an emotional woman, a hysterical woman, a housewife,
a soccer mom–and her husband is a bigger pussy than she is. And the
flight attendant who tried to calm her fears should be fired at
once–so should security officials who later told her the men were a
band. Maybe the men were trying to put their fellow passengers in fear
of their lives just for fun, and they’re entitled to do so because
Annie Jacobson is such a racist….Or maybe she made a lot of this
stuff up anyway.*

Really, people, get a grip. Even if you could prove to the world that
Annie Jacobson is more evil than Hannibal Lecter, does that solve the
problem of balancing airplane security with civil liberties and common
sense? Wouldn’t you rather make a contribution to that more important

So, taking my own advice, I think that prosthetic shoes, etc. should
not be off-limits to airport security searches. I think the rule that
you can’t question more than two people of any ethnic group, if such a
rule exists, is dangerous hooey. I think that questioning people about
their flight plans, etc. does not violate their civil liberties. I
think that people who do weird stuff on airliners should be told by
flight attendants to behave themselves. I think that airline passengers
who intentionally scare other airline passengers should be charged with

And I think political discussions should try to steer clear of personal attacks on people who hold opposing viewpoints.

* Jeez–In this paragraph, I’m quoting some of the nasty things bloggers said about Annie Jacobson and her story, trying to make the point that too many ugly, personal attacks were getting mixed into the discussion. I’m not trying to write the mother of all ugly personal attacks myself, as some people who emailed me comments on this blogpost seemed to think.

Tags: Life, the universe, and everything

Feedster and ye shall find…

July 16th, 2004 · Comments Off on Feedster and ye shall find…

Congrats to Scott, Francois, and Scott, aka Feedster, for a whole new site look and lots of great new RSS search toys!

Tags: Feedster

“Postpone elections” trial balloon draws heavy fire

July 11th, 2004 · Comments Off on “Postpone elections” trial balloon draws heavy fire

Department of Homeland Security has asked the Justice Department last week
to review what legal steps would be needed to cancel or delay the November presidential election in case of terrorist attack.

So says a Newsweek story, cited this morning by Dave Winer, and now confirmed by Bush administration officials to Reuters, CNN, and more.

During the War of 1812, the British Army burned Washington and sacked
the White House. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln
campaigned for re-election and won. We managed to re-elect Franklin D
Roosevelt during World War II. No Federal elections have been delayed by any previous war.

During the 1950s in NH, my grammar school held weekly drills where we
crawled under our wooden desks
for protection against a Soviet atom bomb. Several big buildings
downtown had “bomb shelter” signs. One windowless room in the
basement of my house was kept stocked up with canned goods. Notice all
this was happening in New Hampshire–I can only imagine the
level of anxiety some place like Manhattan.

And yet, with the prospect of an attack that could level cities across
the nation, no plans were made to scrap the Constitution in response.

Brian Roehrkasse, from Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, says the Bush team is concerned that terrorists might influence US elections as did the train
bombings in Madrid, three days before the Spanish general
election. The ensuing Spanish election then threw out a pro-Bush government and installed an anti-Bush government.

Well, that’s a pretty naked revelation of
the Bush team’s motivation, and I’ll be surprised if Brian Roehrkasse
is still an official spokesman tomorrow.

Our Constitution makes no provision for an “emergency” that would let a
US President postpone Presidential elections. Can you guess why the
Constitution doesn’t allow for this? For extra credit, list three
“emergencies” that could have been cited by President Richard Nixon as
reasons to cancel the 1972 election.

Please blog this and please join me in shooting down this very
dangerous trial balloon from the Bush administration. I’m happy to say
that the conservatives over at (most of them) don’t
like this idea one bit better than I do.

This is a story I plan to follow, and if you want to join me, here’s the latest word online from Google News and from Feedster.

Tags: Good versus Evil

Comment spamalot

July 8th, 2004 · Comments Off on Comment spamalot

Sigh–I’ve turned off comments because spam comments have started pouring in.

It took me ages to delete 20 comments. Damn it, Manila design gurus! It needs to be easier to delete unwanted comments.

Furthermore, Manila design gurus–when somebody leaves more than one comment
a minute that person is probably not posting something the world wants to read.

Furthermore, Manila design gurus–I want the option to delete a (spam) comment up
at the top of the edit message page–not down at the bottom where I
have to scroll down past much less useful options to find it.

Furthermore, Manila design gurus–after I’ve deleted a comment left by sxssxsxs or ddffeddf
(two recent “members” here), I’d love the option to delete even more
comments left by the same member. I appreciate the merciful nature
shown by giving me the option to undelete a just-deleted comment, how
about adding the “delete all his comments” option for the bloodthirsty
among us? How about adding that option when I block or delete a member?

That said, I still love Manila but I think all blog-softwares will have
to evolve to survive the challenges of the spammers. Maybe a reasonable
economic model would be for blogwares to be free and new plug-ins as needed to
cost $5 or so to those who want them?

Tags: Metablogging

Gene Wolfe be-Knighted

July 4th, 2004 · Comments Off on Gene Wolfe be-Knighted

If you haven’t trailed after Severian the torturer or Latro the soldier, you’ve missed something great. Gene Wolfe’s genius breathes life into richly-imagined worlds, as different from one another as from our own.

I loved the aelf-haunted alternate universe in Wolfe’s latest novel The Knight. Sadly, the book falls short in other ways.

As young Sir Able of the High Heart moves through Wolfe’s glorious landscape winning the hearts of everyone he meets (except for a few skullduggerous bad guys), it begins to feel like a videogame where knightly courage in all situations is sure to win infinite one-ups.

A second flaw is that Wolfe’s multiple-world creation requires way too much exposition-disguised-as-dialogue. It’s like being invited to a magnificent banquet, then discovering that your host plans to spoon-feed you more than you want.

On the other hand, I read the whole book in two days. Maybe that’s the real review, just that fact.

Tags: Learn to write good