Friday, December 31, 2004

the comic genius of Amie's little brother

This is from the user comments section of's review of The Sponge Bob Squarepants Movie.

"This movie is degrading. I have a 4 year old brother who is in love with Sponge Bob and acts just like him. After watching the show my family was at a small restaurant having a good time when my little brother pulled down his pants howling with laughter. My parents were so appalled that Sponge Bob is no longer allowed."
   -Amie, age 17

Q & A, Episode Dos! Guest is Brian Williams

to watch the show click here

Again, this theme music is just so relaxing. I'm not even being sarcastic. I bet 10% of "Q & A" viewers fall into a blissful sleep before the show even starts, dreaming of Brian Lamb fanning them with a copy of the US Constitution.

Speaking of, Lamb is interviewing again, and the interview is in Brian Williams' office.

Williams just said that he is writing a book about the death of president Garfield, so I guess he must have a pretty legitimate knowledge of history. And now Williams is going into the details of the story. (Garfield was shot leaving Union Station to join his wife at the Jersey shore.)

I had no idea Brian Williams was such a geek. Good for him. I just assumed he was a sharp looking anchor guy. The book actually does sound really fascinating. Listen to Williams here:

"The story of Garfield's death involves really the invention of modern air conditioning. It involves Alexander Graham Bell. It involves complete strangers doing what just seemed to them to be the patriotic American thing and making his train ride to the Jersey shore, his last wish, more comfortable by stuffing straw and dirt under the train tracks wherever they could, by lining up along the train tracks as their president drove by. It involved 500 men pushing the train car up freshly laid track to the front door of this seaside inn in Elberon (ph), New Jersey. In a very dramatic final scene, where he only lived for a few days, but did get to taste the sea air he thought would have a restorative power."

Williams says it will be like the book "Isaac's Storm" in size, scope, and "gee whiz power." I've never heard of that book, so here's the Amazon link.

Wow, Williams is really selling his book well here. This is must see material for anyone who wants to know about the art of pitching a book. He's passionate about the subject matter and he knows exactly what makes the story interesting.

He just mentioned this Beschloss guy for the second time, this time between McCullough and Doris Kearns Goodwim, so I've got to google this guy. Here's a short bio. He probably met Williams at the annual Handsome Historians Luncheon.

Williams was friends with Ed Gillespie (chairman of the Republican National Committee)in college. It's amazing how big shots know each other like that.

Arggh. RealPlayer just crapped out again, now I have to reload the show again. In the meantime, I love how the slogan for "Q & A" is "Interesting People. Informative Conversations." Only C-SPAN could come up with such an undynamic motto. The word "informative" just doesn't have pizzaz. No business actually subject to market forces could ever have such a bland slogan. Imagine... "Rocco's Pizza: Delicious Food, Reasonable Ambience."

Ok, we're back. And, we're not back. Thanks RealPlayer. Awesome. The only good part about this is that I get to hear the theme song every time I reload the program. So it could be worse.

Ohhh, so Williams is from the Jersey shore! Yeah Jeeerrrsssaaaay!

Ok, RealPlayer just shut down again so I guess I am just going to read the transcript. This is a real low point in the evolution of C-Spantastic. I am not on a treadmill and I'm not even watching C-SPAN, on television or on my computer. At this point the web site should probably be called Transcriptarriffic. Or Lazybumtacular. Anyway, onward...

Williams never graduated from college. Interesting. I guess his obsession with keeping track of current events has more than compensated for this...

I made a deal with myself at age 14 never to let a day go by without finishing that day's newspaper, usually the "New York Times." When I come back from vacation, it's not uncommon that I'll tell the person who's bringing in the paper at our house to save them all and I'll sit down and get through every newspaper. It's just a thing I have. My biggest worry is that a fact will get by me, that there will be a fact in the ether as you speak of out there, that I wonÕt know about and I hate that feeling.

The fact that Williams is secretly a geek made me like him, and the fact that he is from Jersey added to that, but this is the line that has truly warmed my heart:

"I don't need more than two pairs of shoes. I'm not into shoes; my dad wasnÕt into shoes. I don't understand people who have a closet full of them."

The three papers delivered to Williams' house:

1) USA Today
2) Wall Street Journal
3) New York Times

Other periodicals he says he reads:

- The Weekly Standard
- Time
- Newsweek
- Claremont Review of Books
- New York Review of Books

I'm excited to check out the Claremont Review of Books, I've never heard of that.

Williams says he has called in to the Rush Limbaugh show. "I think it's my duty to listen to Rush."

Now Williams is just putting on a geek clinic. Amazing. Bask in the geekitude which follows...

LAMB: How many books do you read on average, I mean day to day?

WILLIAMS: Well I probably have five going at any one time and among them, presidential fact books, I'll reread a chapter on Chester A. Arthur for fun or to help myself go to sleep at night. And a lot of political nonfiction I will just read in a three-day sitting or over two plane flights. I'll keep one book in my briefcase. For the long time it was a book called "Cod," about the cod fish and its importance in the American economy. And that was a great piece of airplane reading.

My biggest fear in life is being on a plane with nothing to read. I look at these people who take the free magazine out of the seat back pocket and I shake my head and I say what did you not know about your day today that you werenÕt going to need reading material? I get shaky when I think about the prospect of a plane flight without a book.

That is just great stuff. Any book lover knows exactly what he is talking about.

It's breaking my heart that I'm reading the transcript of this and not seeing it.

He even says he flies Jet Blue with his family. Goodness. I wish I had a daughter so she could marry this man.

Here's his tip for picking a tie that will look good on television: look at it from about 10 feet away.

Williams just made a comment about Lyndon Johnson's jowls, which is interesting because my comment about Roger Ailes jowls drew complaints from 1moreslogger, a loyal C-spantastic reader

Okay, so that's the end. What a show! I can't wait to actually see it. I think Brian Williams is the Tony Robbins of the news industry. It's comforting to see someone who reads a lot actually succeed. With Bush getting a second term I was starting to get the feeling that reading books was actually harmful to one's chances at achieving worldly success. Like him or hate him, Dubya is not a "reader" and yet he's a political wonderboy. Anyway, God bless Brian Williams, new anchor of the NBC Nightly News and President of the Ambitious Bookworm Club.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Grumpy Amazon Reviewer of the Day: Jake FOGERTY

Click here to see Jake's body of work.

"You know what "deja vu" refers to, but what about the meaning of "vu deja"? Vu deja can occur when you go to a new place for the first time and you know, that you have never been there before." Jake Fogerty

At first it looks like Jake is going to hate everything, but not so. Wait until you see his review of "I am Sam," where he passionately defends this movie against people who give it a poor review. Of course, Jake's more critical reviews are admittedly his best work, and have a more comprehensive, poetic feel to them (see: Badder Santa: Bad is Only One Way to Describe This Flick). One of my favorite things about Jake's reviews is his tendency to compliment a musician he has just given a one-star review to. After his review of Johnny Cash's America III (Give Me a Break!, Oct. 30, 2000), Jake says, "Love you Mr. Cash. You were one of the best..." Other highlights are Jake's extensive coverage of the "Pickin on" series of bluegrass cover discs, especially his review of "Pickin on U2" (You Two, Will Agree! August 13, 2001).

Bush's response to tsunami = sub-par

I really do want to give Bush a chance, but 50,000 people have died and he doesn't even want to leave his ranch, much less stop "clearing brush and bicycling." It's enough to drive a person crazy.

Can't you picture the history books in 2030: "The most effictive period of George W. Bush's presidency began on June 12, 2006, the day he finished clearing the last of the brush at his Texas estate. With his time and energy now freed to focus on political matters, Pres. Bush showed an almost preternatural skill for stewarding the nations of the world towards a peaceful and productive co-existence."

In regard to Bush's lack of a public response to the tsunami, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said, "The president wanted to be fully briefed on our efforts. He didn't want to make a symbolic statement about 'We feel your pain.'" That is just garbage. Pure garbage.

How would Americans have felt if other world leaders decided to stay at their vacation home after 9/11 instead of publicly expressing their sympathy and support. Imagine if Gerhard Schroeder had decided to remain cloistered in some mansion in the German countryside, busily mowing his lawn and making bratwurst while his aids told the press, "Chancellor Schroeder believes it would be manipulative and maudlin to express his sympathy at this time."

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Q & A, the first episode!! guest is Roger Ailes, CEO of FOX

This is the first episode of Q & A. I'm watching it online, if you want to see it click here and then click on the "watch program" link.

Wow, first of all, this theme song is really relaxing. Listening to it, I picture myself being woken up at sunrise by a beautiful maiden carrying a tray of hot pancakes.

And Brian Lamb is hosting? That's a surprise. I guess the end of Booknotes just means that he doesn't have to interview authors anymore.

The guest is Roger Ailes, Chairman & CEO of Fox News, and he has a pair of jowls to die for. [NOTE: I have removed a sentence here about jowls, sports bras, jogging, and pastry chefs that offended my father, P. "Bam Bam" Bana.] Now I feel bad about making fun of Roger. If you're out there Roger, feel free to make fun of me because I get a rash between my thighs when I walk more than 7 miles on a treadmill. Not even spraying PAM on my legs helps.

"Hate is something that you have to get over in your life... I can't think of anybody I hate." That's a nice sentiment. I give Rog credit for saying something like that.

Rogelio just dodged one of Lamb's patented 'what is your evidence for what you just asserted' questions. Look at this exchange...

LAMB: What evidence did you have at that school that the teachers did not like America?

AILES: Everything is negative. Everything is about -- look, 95 percent of our people are working, the other 5 percent are basically pretty well taken care of by the government. Health care is not bad here. Bill Clinton did all right under it. Most people who want surgery don’t go to Canada, they try to come here. This is a country where everybody is trying to get in and nobody is trying get out.

So it just occurs to me that some of that ought to be taught in context. Not that we don’t have problems, not that we don’t have deep problems in our cities, poverty and some other things, but this is the society that has cured and will continue to cure many of those problems. And I think that the context of all that has to be taught. And I don’t see it being taught very often.

LAMB: Mr. Ailes, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Okay, so that last part is from Billy Madison, but all of Ailes answer to the question is taken from the transcript word for word.

First of all, his answer does not contain anything that even comes close to being "evidence." And secondly, just because America is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the world does not mean that we should all just pat ourselves on the back and not get too upset about our failings.

A country (and an individual) should not judge themselves based on how their neighbors are doing, they should judge themselves based on their potential. Michael Jordan never said, "Well, I only scored 28 points tonight, but that's still more than most players usually score."

The question isn't, "Is the employment rate in the United States higher than it is in other countries?" The question is, "Are hard working Americans at the bottom of the social ladder being treated as fairly as hard working Americans at the top of the ladder?" The question isn't, "Is America's health care system better than Canada's?" The question is, "Is America's health system as good as it can possibly be?"

Mr. Ailes knows this well enough. He loves to remind people that he started out as a ditch digger, and it is clear as day that he is not the type of person to ask himself, "Well, how am I doing compared to other people who started out as ditch diggers?"

And this spicy little exchange about Ken Auletta shows that Ailes isn't as devoid of hate as he seems to think he is:

LAMB: In a recent "New Yorker" piece, Ken Auletta wrote that you've never worked in news, and I wondered if he...

AILES: Coming from an old Democratic consultant, that was an interesting comment.

LAMB: Well, I...

AILES: That's what he did for a living, except he lost his races, I won mine, but...

Easy tiger! On side note, I wonder what races Ailes won. (Update: he was a consultant for Nixon, Reagan, and Bush the Elder.)

This next quote is Ailes at his best. I agree with him here, and I have a feeling that it's insights like these that have helped him succeed in the news industry:

It's what I used to call the "orchestra pit theory of politics." Two guys on a stage, one guy jumps up and says, I've got the solution to the problems in the Middle East. Other guy jumps up and falls in the orchestra pit. Who do you think's going to be on the front page of the paper? Who's going to lead the evening news? The guy laying on the bass drum.

Brian Lamb just asked Ailes how long he will stay in the news business and Ailes said, "As long as I'm having fun." And he seemed pretty sincere about it.

Hahah, this Ailes line is kind of funny:

I mean, focus groups, you go to a mall, you get 12 people who need $40 and somebody to talk to, and then you try to get them to explain how to do your job. That strikes me as pathetic.

I don't really agree with him there, but I am amazed that he has done as well as he has with that kind of attitude. Because really, what is a television audience but a huge focus group? You are eventually going to let 200 million people tell you how to do your job, why is it so unreasonable to see if 12 people can give you an insight into how those 200 million are going to react.

One thing that is striking about Ailes is that he seems to have a lot of faith in Americans. He says things like, "The public understands reality," and "The American people are very smart... and to underestimate them is a mistake." Even if he isn't entirely sincere, I give him credit for being savvy enough to look like he isn't paternalistic in his views of the common man.

Interestingly, this H.L. Mencken quote, which expresses the exact opposite opinion, ends with what many people would see as a perfect description of Fox News:

No one in this world, so far as I know... has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plainpeople.
The mistake that is made always runs the other way. Because the plain people are able to speak and understand and even, in many cases, to read and write, it is assumed that they have ideas in their heads, and an appetite for more. This assumption is folly. They dislike ideas, for ideas make them uncomfortable. The tabloids, seeking to force such things upon them, will inevitably alarm them and lose their trade. The journalism of the future--that is, the mob journalism--will move in the direction that I have indicated.

Also, Ailes says that when he left NBC to come to Fox, 82 people resigned and came to work for him at Fox. That is pretty impressive. I'm not convinced that most of those people didn't just feel like it was the best thing for their career, but I'll give Ailes the benefit of the doubt.

Wow, Ailes worked as a debate coach for Reagan. That's interesting.

And he was friends with Bob Squire, who was a big time liberal consultant, so that's interesting. He wrote the obituary for Squire in Time magazine.

Rogelio puts a big emphasis on how television personalities have to "get through the screen," as in, have a presence that makes the viewer feel engaged. That's a great concept.

The rest of the show has a lot of good stories that made me like Ailes more than I did at the halfway point of the show. I would recommend this show to anyone that just assumes that the CEO of Fox News must be some psycho conservative bastard. If anything, he comes off as an interesting iconoclast in the media industry with an uncanny sense of what works in television.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

funny picture link: sp?

(Somehow I didn't catch this story until yesterday, so if you've already seen it I apologize. If not, you are in for a treat.) This picture is from the White House Conference on the Economy. That's Bush on the left and Joshua Bolton, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, on the right.

In all fairness, at first I didn't notice that "challanges" was spelled wrong. But still, when a team of people messes up on a Power Point slide they know thousands of people will see, it makes you wonder what kind of ridiculous errors they are making on projects they know will receive little or no public attention. At first I thought that picture was hysterical, but now I'm starting to feel like it's equal parts funny and sad.

Here something to cheer people up, the full list of Andy8407's Amazon reviews. He's Amazon reviewer ranking is currently 3753, and his use of capital letters and eclectic subject matter will warm your heart. Plus, only 1 in 24 people found his review of "The Golden Girls - The Complete First Season" helpful, so I think he could use some support.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Picture of the Day: He's No Fran Drescher

When I first heard about the scandal that caused Bernard Kerik to withdraw his name for the post of Secretary of Homeland Security, I thought the whole matter was blown out of proportion. But that was before I saw what his "former housekeeper and nanny" looked like.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

dj cee-span / if a bill got an attitude...

Yo! C-SPAN is playing the classical song sampled on
"Look at this Face" by Handsome Boy Modeling
. Sweet! Any song with Chris Elliott in it has me at hello.

I wish there was a C-SPAN 4 that would play rap songs during the
interstitial sequences. I think that would get more young people
interested in the political process. Or maybe politicians could start
juicing up their speeches with rap slang. Rep. Duncan "Hines" Hunter
could be like, "Mr. President, unless we can ensure this intelligence
bill will not interfere with the military chain of command, we need to
drop it like it's hot."

(Oh, by the way, the Republican who was talking about renewable energy
was Craig "Mack" Thomas, from Wyoming, not Gordon "Lonnie" Smith.)

12/7 Senate Jam Session, cutting back on treadmill action

This has been a pretty interesting session. Byron "Allen" Dorgan, a
Democrat, just finished talking about protecting American industry
against the exportation of jobs- something I don't entirely agree with
because I think you should worry about people having jobs in other
countries too. And to be honest, I care more about a fourteen year-old
in China that has to work as a prostitute than I do about some factory
worker in North Dakota that can't afford cable. I mean, I care about
both of them, and it's a tragedy that anyone has to live without cable,
but if I had to pick one to help first I'm sticking with the adolescent
Chinese sex worker.

And then some Republican Senator who's name I missed (Gordon Smith
maybe?) just mentioned the importance of alternative and renewable
energy sources, so props to him. So this has been a great bipartisan
session for me.

Now they are playing classical music while the Senate gets ready to
take care of the intelligence bill. I think C-Span should have a little
caption that tells what classical song they are playing. Why not, you

Also, I have (temporarily) subtly modified the premise of this blog, in
that instead of walking on a treadmill while watching C-SPAN, I now eat
fried eggs. All the sweating was getting to me, and I think the eggs
are good for my skin.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The final episode of Booknotes!

The guest is Mark Edmundson, the author of "Why Read?" He is a professor of English at the University of Virginia.

Nice, now they are showing a clip from a tour of Shelby Foote's house. He was the guy with the southern accent from the Civil War show on PBS. Foote is saying that when he has a stretch of free time he rereads Proust. I think he must be talking about "The Remembrance of Things Past" but I'm not sure. He showed the back cover of the book, where he signs the date every time he finishes reading it. Damn, he has read it 9 times. It's 3000 pages.

Edmundson on Thoreau, "There is no writer who knows more about the perils of consumerism."

He just gave a good defense of allowing students to say racist and homophobic things in class. He said that he thinks a lot of right-wing Rush Limbaugh type conservatism comes from the fact that students don't feel comfortable saying those type of things in class, especially because teachers and professors tend to be liberal. So what happens is that those ideas just fester because they never get a chance to see the light of day. I think that's a good point. In a lot of ways it is probably better to encourage people put to their offensive opinions in the field of discussion sooner rather than later.

Interesting, this guy says he usually reads lying down. Also, he is wearing a leather blazer.

He just said his son is the best blues guitar improvisor that he knows, because his son just "lets it fly," and that this inspires him to be more improvisational when he writes. So that's a neat idea, that a father could admit to being inspired by his son.

Brian Lamb is so straightforward and sans bullshit its amazing. Ha, which is funny, because he just asked a question about why authors throw in phrases from other languages that a lot of readers won't know. He was basically implying that authors just do that to show how smart they are. But I just threw that in because there was a kid in my high school who used to say "sans" ("without" in French) and it would always crack me up. "Dude, I'm sans paper, can you lend me a piece."

Now Edmundson is saying that the vast majority of students feel like politics is a big sham and that every politician is the same as the next. Which is interesting, because that's exactly what my younger brother, a junior in college, says. And it is just too skeptical a view for my taste. I know that there is a lot of bullshit in politics, but there is no denying that a lot of important things get accomplished through politics. To dismiss the whole thing as a sham is to consciously reject one of the most effective avenues for positive social change.

When you think about it, the people who think politics is a sham usually think that is because they think that politicians are drunk on power and corporate money. But both of those things prove exactly how crucial politics is. Those "corrupt" men and women wouldn't want those positions if they didn't actually provide genuine power; and corporations wouldn't give all that money if it didn't actually influence things in the direction they wanted. So it is extremely counterproductive for young people who are skeptical of politics to refuse to interest themselves in it, because by doing so they cede all that influence to the very people they are complaining are corrupt.

So I guess the upshot is, it's okay to think politics is a sham, but that should make you more interested in following it, not less. Its not good policy to turn your attention away from the parts of life that are riddled with immorality simply because those parts of life are ugly to look at.

Great clip of Cornell West: "If you are really going to live life intensely then something in you aught to die every day, some bad habit, some pretension..."

Another great clip of Milton Friedman, talking about how "well meaning people who want the best for the world often make choices that have the opposite effect," an idea which he is taking from a book by F.A. Hayek called "The Road to Serfdom." That book sounds sweet.

Wow, so that is the end of Booknotes. I can't believe it just ended like that. 800 episodes, and no sappy montage, no "I hope you had the time of your life" by Green Day. Not even a final statement by Brian Lamb. It's pretty awesome when you think about it. There couldn't have been less drama.

One thing I love about Booknotes is the way Brain Lamb asks questions like "What town were you born in?" and "Where did you go to high school?" Questions like these make you realize that in most interviews people are treated purely in terms of what they are famous for. Writers are asked deep questions about language and art and style; an athlete is asked about what it's like to have thousands of people cheering for her, or to sit on the bench during a big game. But when Brian Lamb asks someone something like "Where were you born?" he is putting the spotlight on their common humanity. They cease to be a star or a pundit on a plane apart from everyday people. And that is something you almost never see in the media, because it is exactly the extraordinary qualities of people that makes viewers tune in. Media outlets have a vested interest in creating superstars, and conversely, don't really stand to benefit from treating people like typical human beings. So good people are made to look better than they are, and bad people are made to look worse. So god bless C-SPAN and Brian Lamb for having the guts to dwell on the ordinary, and for making an effort to show that famous people are human beings too.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

12/1 Washington Journal

We're in the middle of open phone lines, and that was two psycho callers in a row. Back-to-back dingers, baby, Conseco and McGuire style. Those two ladies were the bash brothers of politics-loving nutso spinsters.

If this continues C-SPAN is going to need a new phone line, just for psycho people. They could get rid of the independent line, or at least make independents share a line with crazy people. Steve Scully could be like, "Okay now, remember the number is 202-628-0205 for people who support President Bush, 202-727-0002 for people who support the Democrats, and 202-628-0184 for independents and people who are completely off their rocker."

I'm going to start keeping track of which line the crazies use the most. It's got to be either the Republican or the Democrat line, because being moderate just doesn't seem to jive well with being mentally unbalanced. "Oh, Frank? He's crazy as a goddamn loon, but politically he's pretty middle of the road."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

post script

I jogged another mile while watching the head of the Motion Picture Association talk, so that's 5.8 miles for the day. And I did that mile in 10 minutes, which I think is the first time in my life I've ever run a mile in less than 14 minutes. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Picture of the Day: Priorities

money for Nasa for 2005 = 16.2 billion dollars

money for world aids for 2005 = 2.8 billion dollars

Yeah, a lot of my neighbors are sick and need help, but I've already budgeted most of my money for the flying car I'm building in my garage.

(4.71 miles)

Photo of the Day: Smokin Sensi

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R - Wisc) takes time off from protesting the new intelligence-overhaul bill to accept the Vibe lifetime achievement award.