November 30, 2007

Incongruous congruence

The world works in mysterious ways. In the past two days we've seen the deaths of Henry Hyde, abortion opponent, House impeachment manager and man who wrote off an adulterous affair in his 40s as a youthful indiscretion, Roger Smith, former CEO of General Motors, immortalized in Michael Moore's film Roger and Me, and Evel Knievel, certified loony daredevil on two wheels.

What an odd group to be forever joined together by dates of death.

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Return of America Firsters

While the entire right-wing blogosphere is frothing about the political interests of some of the questioners whose queries were used by CNN on that YouTube Republican debate Wednesday night (see Skippy for a roundup), Walter Shapiro of Salon was disturbed by the questions not asked:

No, what sent me into a free fall of depression was CNN's instinct for the fatuous in choosing the debate questions. It is a disgrace that in a two-hour debate (it felt longer) there was not a single question about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the powder keg in Pakistan or Iran. The fault is not with the earnest YouTubers who sent in questions. The blame entirely rests with Anderson Cooper (a debate host who seemed incapable of asking a relevant follow-up question) and his CNN cohorts, who seemed more concerned with goosing the ratings than with grasping the world that the next president will inherit. (My emphasis)

He's got it right. The world is and will continue to be a messy place once the new President takes office in January 2009, but apparently CNN would rather ask divisive questions about the Bible, abortion, and guns than about substantive issues like American foreign policy.

I watched the first half-hour and concluded that none of those mean-spirited jerks have an ounce of empathy among them. They were competing to see who could be nastier about illegal immigrants, making me wonder if all of them claim their ancestry traces back to the Mayflower or the Roanoke colony.

via Paul Krugman

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November 29, 2007

Dogs, mice and lynx win one

Well well. Look what happened on the endangered species front yesterday:

The Fish and Wildlife Service reversed seven rulings that denied increased protection for endangered species, after an inquiry found that the actions had been tainted by political pressure from a former Interior Department official. In a letter to Representative Nick J. Rahall II, Democrat of West Virginia, the agency acknowledged that the actions had been “inappropriately influenced” and that “revising the seven identified decisions is supported by scientific evidence and the proper legal standards.” The ruling affects species including the white-tailed prairie dog, the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and the Canada lynx.

It's a small victory, but any pushback against Gale Norton and the minions she left behind at Interior is welcome.

This is what a Democratic president is going to have to face in January of 2009. He or she will find agencies that have been infiltrated by officials who don't believe the mission of the agencies is valid, and who will obstruct efforts of those agencies to perform as they were intended.

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November 28, 2007

Staple removal

Off to the vet this morning to have Tigger's excisions looked at and the staples holding them together removed. It's been very disconcerting to scratch behind her ears and find metal clips.

But it's raining and thundering, and she hates that. This may not be fun.

Update: The staples were removed, but more importantly the biopsy results from the growths taken off 10 days ago are back, and they're benign. Yay!

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November 27, 2007

Need a clock repaired?

Oh, this is too clever and too typical of bureaucracy; there's a clock in the Pantheon, France's National Mausoleum. It hasn't worked since the 1960s. A bunch of clandestine heritage restorers snuck into the place, fixed the clock (it took a year!) and then told the authorities about it. What did the authorities do? The Center of National Monuments was not amused; it fired the guy in charge of the monument and filed charges against the group.

Here's an interview the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. did with one of the ringleaders. Move the slider to the 20:00 minute mark.

CBC's lead-in to its interview:

In this age of hypersecurity, you'd think it would be nearly impossible to sneak into a world-renowned monument at all -- let alone slip inside, set up a workshop and, right under the noses of the staff, repair an antique clock. But that's just what a group of underground "cultural guerrillas" did, not so long ago in Paris at the famous Panthéon.

Lazar Kunstmann was one of the clandestine repairman who worked on the clock. We reached him in Paris.

Cleared! The judge threw the case out on Friday. From The Guardian:

For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon's unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid "illegal restorers" set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building's famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves.

"When we had finished the repairs, we had a big debate on whether we should let the Panthéon's officials know or not," said Lazar Klausmann, a spokesperson for the Untergunther. "We decided to tell them in the end so that they would know to wind the clock up so it would still work.

Isn't that wonderful?

(And no, I don't know why the Guardian has his name as Klausmann and the CBC has it as Kuntzmann.)

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November 26, 2007

Dick Cheney is a very thrifty man, not!

The nastiest man in the Administration was interviewed by Nina Easton of Fortune recently. Here's one of the passages which stood out for me:

No, if there's anything about the economy that keeps Dick Cheney up at night, it's the prospect of sabotage aimed at disrupting the oil market, he told FORTUNE.

"Clearly the world depends on a global supply of oil, and that will continue to be true for some considerable period of time. Efforts to shut down the flow of oil could conceivably have a significant impact."

So when President Bush's 2008 budget was coming together, with the goal of balancing the budget in five years, Cheney nevertheless insisted on a $947 million line item: a speedup of the flow of crude into the Texas and Louisiana salt caverns housing the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The budget guys pushed back: Can't we wait until crude prices level off? No, the word came back from Cheney, this was urgent. That was all it took. "He doesn't weigh in on a ton of issues," said a person close to those negotiations. "But when he does . . ."

You and I may think it's really really stupid to be buying reserves when the price is pushing $100bbl, but that's why Cheney gets the big bucks.

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November 25, 2007

The saga of the floor, complete

If Flickr allows photos to be reorganized into a different sequence from the one in which they were uploaded, I've yet to find out how.

Here then, somewhat out of order, is documentary evidence that the new floor exists.

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November 24, 2007

Yabba Dabba Doo!

It gives me great pleasure to announce two victories for the good guys overnight.

Australia's John Howard was defeated in his attempt at a fifth term, putting Labour in charge. Howard has been one of the dwindling number of foreign heads of state who supports GWB's Iraq policy.

The University of Hawai'i's Warriors soundly defeated Boise State last night, 39-27, giving them their first outright Western Athletic Conference championship after 29 years in the league and keeping their undefeated season going. They're now 11-0 with one game left against the University of Washington next Saturday.

The two local papers used what looked like 24-point type to headline UH's victory on the front pages today.

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November 23, 2007

Flooring in process

Promptly at 0800 this morning three guys showed up to start prepping our kitchen floor. This involved moving all the non-fixed-in-place furniture out of the room.

Water line -- will it have a shut-off valve or no?

New refrigerator location!

Refurnished dining room!

Tune in tomorrow for more exciting photos!

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November 22, 2007

Alice's Restaurant

Jane Hamsher has found an audio version of Arlo Guthrie's famous song here.

Lyrics here.

NPR 2005 interview with Arlo about the song here.

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God Bless us Everyone

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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November 21, 2007


There may be more serious forms of insanity, but surely having your entire kitchen floor replaced with new vinyl on the day after Thanksgiving is right up there.

It occurred to us yesterday that we'd completely forgotten what day of the year it was when we scheduled this job. Think about it: the refrigerator, newly groaning with leftover Turkey Day fixings, must be moved out of its niche and a new location found; all the breakfast room furniture must be moved into the dining room, which means the dining table (with its extra leaf and padding) must be shoved to one side; and meal preparation can't be done on kitchen counters either on Friday or Saturday.

What the hell were we thinking?

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November 20, 2007

Labor history, Hollywood edition

A brief history of labor relations between the producers and the writers.


From then on [1955, when fragmented groups of writers consolidated into Writers Guild West and Writers Guild East], the WGA's history is largely a series of strikes or threatened strikes, each of which resulted in the establishment of some new right or principle. They won the right to residuals when TV shows were rerun; they won the right to screen credits, setting up a system of rules and arbitrations that stopped the guy who ran the studio from slapping his nephew's name on your script. The strike of 1960--which lasted 151 days, making it the longest strike in Hollywood until the Writers Guild later bettered its own record--was the one that secured a pension plan as well as residual payments when a movie was run on television.

Gosh, what a concept. Pension plans. Residuals when your work is televised. Damn Commies! (Literally; that was one of the canards thrown at the writers when they first began to organize.)

This looks to be an interesting (and brand-new) book about screenwriting and Hollywood: "What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting," written by Marc Norman (co-writer and producer of "Shakespeare in Love"). As one of the editorial reviews says, it's astonishing no one has written it before.

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Baseball awards

By popular demand (well, Peter's comment down here), here's your one-stop shop for the baseball awards for 2007. All the usual suspects are there: MVP for each league (AL: Alex Rodriguez, NL: Jimmy Rollins), Rookie of the Year for each league (Dustin Pedroia in the AL, Ryan Braun in the NL), Cy Young (C.C. Sabathia, AL; Jake Peavy, NL), and Manager of the Year (Cleveland's Eric Wedge and Arizona's Bob Melvin).

All the awards are subjective, of course. The MVP, Cy Young, ROY are voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The Hank Aaron award (best offensive performer) is voted on by radio and tv broadcasters; Rodriguez won in the AL, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder won in the NL. The Roberto Clemente award for humanitarian efforts is voted on by a panel of baseball "dignitaries" including the commissioner and Clemente's widow; this year the fans had an opportunity to vote on the All Star Game ballot. Each team nominates one of its members for the award. This year's winner was the Astro's Craig Biggio.

There's a new one this year sponsored by Pepsi, which really means that the company looked around, thought "How do we get our name in a new place this year?" and suggested it to MLB. MLB, always willing to sell its product, said "Fine!" and thus the "MLB Clutch Performer" award was born. It's given to "the player who performed his best when the game was on the line", and this year's recipient was (Surprise!) A-Rod.

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November 19, 2007

Beef, it's what's for dinner

When you're only cooking for two, a big slab of London Broil is too big, so my solution is to buy one, cut it into thirds and freeze each third in a separate baggie. Then when we want a steak I pull one out.

Then I get ready to cook.

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November 18, 2007

Spinning some records

Sunday afternoon on the turntable: History of British Rock and History of British Rock, Vol. 2.

These two 2-record sets were issued by Sire Records back in the 1970s. If you lived through the 1960s, you'll recognize most of the artists' names and many of the songs. There are no Beatles originals, no Stones or Animals cuts on these, probably for contractual reasons. But nonetheless, there are some good examples of British pop from the early 1960s.

The artists on the first album include: Manfred Mann, Gerry & the Pacemakers, Peter & Gordon, The Searchers, Cliff Richard, Dusty Springfield, The Kinks, the Dave Clark Five, the Bee Gees, and the Hollies.

On the second album you find: The Beatles (one of the covers they did, "Ain't She Sweet"), Donovan, Chad & Jeremy, Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, and some of the same artists on the first album (but different hits).

If you're a certain age, these songs bring back a lot of memories of AM radio in the early 1960s. There was an explosion of this light pop music back then. For an audience more familiar with Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" and the girl groups that copied his Ronettes, jangly rhythm guitars and pounding bass lines were something entirely different. Although Peter and Gordon as well as Chad and Jeremy could easily be compared to the Everly Brothers, what the heck was the average teenager to make of the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks?

It was quite an era. I don't miss it, but it's fun to go back and revisit it musically once in a while.

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November 17, 2007

She's home

The pooch is back home, although so far she doesn't seem quite sure of that. It's been just under 24 hours, and the anesthesia may not have worn off yet.

She had seven external tumors removed; she's got staples in all those spots. Only two of them looked potentially cancerous; the biopsy results will be back next week.

She's got an additional antibiotic pill, which means more cheese (or peanut butter -- note to those who suggested it: she loves it), so she's not unhappy with that outcome.

We'll see how it goes.

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November 16, 2007

Driving while dog-carting

The beastie's liver test came back high last week, and the vet recommended her teeth be cleaned as a possible treatment. No, I don't understand why that might work, but anyway...

Off I went to the vet with her this morning. I should point out that she really doesn't like riding in the car (see here), so I was prepared for some trauma.

Getting her into the car wasn't so bad, but in the process of her getting comfortable, she twisted herself into some odd positions. She ended up lying on her belly facing backwards between the bucket seats, and she rode that way the entire 13 miles to the vet's office.

Fine, yeah? Except that while she was getting settled her backside bumped the on-floor gearshift from drive into neutral, just as I was entering the freeway. Suddenly I found myself slowing down with four or five cars behind me accelerating up to highway speed.

Took me a few seconds to figure out what the hell was going on, but I managed to shift into drive with no harm done, other than my heart rate tripling.

Fun fact: while waiting at the vet I noticed a pile of frisbees in a pile labeled "Take One -- they're free."

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November 15, 2007

What is it with Republicans and Vietnam?

There's a profile of Mitt Romney in the NYT which argues his two-year mission in France was his defining moment. While I won't argue that, I did notice this:

Mr. Romney, though, said that he sometimes had wished he were in Vietnam instead of France. “There were surely times on my mission when I was having a particularly difficult time accomplishing very little when I would have longed for the chance to be serving in the military,” he said in an interview, “but that was not to be.”

Huh? "I would have longed for the chance to be serving in the military but that was not to be?" What, divine intervention prevented you? Um, enlistment was an option, Mitt. That's what I did.

The Republicans spent the better part of the 1992 campaign maligning Bill Clinton for not serving in a war he opposed. Now we see that Mitt Romney claims to have supported it, but didn't serve due to a religious mission deferment and regrets it.

Shades of Dick Cheney ("better things to do") and Tom Delay ("some minority guy took my spot") and, lest we forget, George W. Bush ("Texas Air National Guard when I felt like it").

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November 14, 2007

Tigger, aka Diana

"I may be 15 years old, but I still got it."

Then the owner had to figure out how to get it away from her and cart it off to the trash can.

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November 13, 2007

Notable SF writer visits Creation Museum

Let me say this much: I have to admit admiration for the pure balls-out, high-octane creationism that’s on offer here. Not for the Creation Museum that mamby-pamby weak sauce known as “Intelligent Design,” which tries to slip God by as some random designer, who just sort of got the ball rolling by accident. Screw that, pal: The Creation Museum’s God is hands on! He made every one of those animals from the damn mud and he did it no earlier than 4004 BC, or thereabouts. It’s all there in the book, son, all you have to do is look. Indeed, every single thing on display in the Creation Museum is either caused by or a consequence of exactly three things:

1. The six-day creation;

2. Adam eating from the tree of life;

3. Noah’s flood.

Really, that’s it. That’s the Holy Trinity of explanations and rationalizations.

That's from John Scalzi's report on his long-awaited trip to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. He also has a 101-photo slideshow, which is a must-see. John's captions and the comments are high on the snarkiness scale.

Back in June his commenters raised $5,118.36 to fund his trip there; he donated it to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Scalzi's a science fiction author (bibliography) with a widely-read blog (he claims up to 45,000 visitors a day; I just went over 90,000 in six years).

I'm ashamed to say that, while I own Old Man's War, I haven't read it yet.

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Is our verb forms failing us?

Since when is the past tense of the verb "shine" "shined" rather than "shone?"

Example: In this NYT op/ed discussing America's failing infrastructure we find the following sentence:

The deadly collapse of a Minnesota highway bridge in August shined a light on the poor state of the nation’s bridges, many thousands of which are “structurally deficient” by federal standards.

It sounds, reads, and looks wrong.

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November 12, 2007

My head is spinning

Overheard on NPR's "All Things Considered" this afternoon during an otherwise innocuous story about a Vietnamese actress's show's cancellation due to a graphic sex tape's appearance on the Internet: "Mr. XXXX, CEO of one of Hanoi's largest public relations firms..."

If you had suggested to me in 1973 when I was in the Navy that Hanoi would someday have an economy which would support a public relations firm I'd have looked at you as though you were green.

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Ron Paul's anti-government campaign

Via Making Light, here's a list of laws Ron Paul has introduced during his years in Congress.

It ain't pretty.

He's anti-abortion, anti-antitrust, anti-regulation, anti-flag burning, anti-OSHA, anti-minimum and prevailing wage regulation, and anti-mandatory Social Security contributions.

When you next hear a friend cheering for Mr. Paul, point that friend to the link above.

Update: Glenn Greenwald points out an error in David Niewert's list, saying of Paul,

He introduced that amendment solely to make a point -- one he makes frequently -- that the legislation being offered to criminalize flag burning was plainly unconstitutional, and that the only legitimate way to ban flag burning was to amend the First Amendment.

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Damon Lindelof, the writer and co-creator of "Lost," wrote an op-ed for the NYT which appeared on Sunday. Here's part of what he had to say:

I am angry because I am accused of being greedy by studios that are being greedy. I am angry because my greed is fair and reasonable: if money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece. The studios’ greed, on the other hand, is hidden behind cynical, disingenuous claims that they make nothing on the Web — that the streaming and downloading of our shows is purely “promotional.” Seriously?

Most of all, I’m angry that I’m not working. Not working means not getting paid. My weekly salary is considerably more than the small percentage of Internet gains we are hoping to make in this negotiation and if I’m on the picket line for just three months, I will never recoup those losses, no matter what deal gets made.

But I am willing to hold firm for considerably longer than three months because this is a fight for the livelihoods of a future generation of writers, whose work will never “air,” but instead be streamed, beamed or zapped onto a tiny chip.

Mr. Lindelof, assuming he hasn't spent all his salary as a writer of one of the top hits on TV the last three years, has a far larger financial cushion than the average writer, I'd imagine. Nonetheless, he's willing to forgo the salary for a while for the sake of his fellow writers. That's part of what unionism is all about; fighting not just for yourself but for your fellow and future union members.

But unionism is on the decline in this country.

From the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In 2006, 12.0 percent of employed wage and salary workers were union members, down from 12.5 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of persons belonging to a union fell by 326,000 in 2006 to 15.4 million. The union membership rate has steadily declined from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.

Partly that's due to the continuing loss of manufacturing jobs in America, but it's also due to hostility from both industry (regrettable but understandable) and the US government. The US National Labor Relations Board has been stacked with people who come to it from the employer side of the equation. The chairman, Robert Battista, formerly represented companies, multi-employer associations, public employers, and educational institutions. Another member, Peter Kirsanow, formerly represented a large transportation firm and the City of Cleveland. A third member, Peter Schaumber, formerly represented the District of Columbia. I think it's safe to say these folks are likely to come down on the side of the employer on any dispute which reaches them.

By the way, the largest private employer in the US is now Wal-Mart, with 1.9 million employees, and we all know how Wal-Mart takes to attempts to unionize its workforce, right?

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November 11, 2007

November 11, 1918

Terms of the Armistice, November 11, 1918:

I. Military Clauses on Western Front

One - Cessation of operations by land and in the air six hours after the signature of the armistice.

Two - Immediate evacuation of invaded countries: Belgium, France, Alsace-Lorraine, Luxemburg, so ordered as to be completed within fourteen days from the signature of the armistice. German troops which have not left the above-mentioned territories within the period fixed will become prisoners of war. Occupation by the allied and United States forces jointly will keep pace with evacuation in these areas. All movements of evacuation and occupation will be regulated in accordance with a note annexed to the stated terms.

Three - Reparation beginning at once to be completed within fifteen days of all the inhabitants of the countries above enumerated (including hostages, persons under trial or convicted).


VII. The Limit for Reply

Thirty-five - This armistice to be accepted or refused by Germany within seventy-two hours of notification.

This armistice has been signed the Eleventh of November, Nineteen Eighteen, at 5 o'clock French time.


From First World War.Com:

The Army of Death
by Charles Hamilton Sorley

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you'll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, "They are dead." Then add thereto,
"Yet many a better one has died before."
Then, scanning all the o'ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

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November 10, 2007


Get started on your Christmas candy-making early.

Easy Peanut Brittle:

In a large microwaveable bowl combine:

1 ½ cup sugar
¾ cup white corn syrup
Microwave at High 4 minutes

Add a 12 oz. can of cocktail peanuts to the mix (may substitute dry roasted peanuts, cashews, pecans, almonds. Hell, shell pistachios if you want to.)
Stir well
Microwave at High 3 to 5 minutes, until light brown

Add 1 ½ teaspoon butter
Add 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend well
Microwave at High 1 to 2 minutes
Peanuts will be lightly browned and syrup very hot

Add 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
Stir gently until light and foamy

Spread mixture onto lightly greased cookie sheet, or ungreased non-stick cookie sheet. Let cool ½ hour to 1 hour. Break into small pieces and store in tight container.

This makes about 1 to 1 ½ pounds.


Credit General Electric's "The Microwave Guide & Cookbook" for the basic recipe. I modified the quantities. Requisite disclaimer: Microwave power varies among makes and models. Your times may need to be adjusted accordingly.

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November 09, 2007

Six-plus years? Can that be right?

Melissa at Shakespeare's Sister congratulated some folks on their blog anniversary dates yesterday, which prompted me to look back to see when I'd started.

October 7, 2001, with a couple of housekeeping entries at LiveJournal. I moved to Blogger in November of that year, and to Movable Type in March of 2002.

After all that time, shouldn't I be famous?

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November 08, 2007

More on the writers' strike

Ron Moore is the executive producer of Battlestar Galactica. He spoke with Eric Goldman of IGN Entertainment:

"This is literally the future of my work in television and film and the work of my writers and everyone involved, because it's all going to become transmitted to people via the internet, in some way, shape or form. Whether it's on your cell phone, whether it's on your lap top, or whatever other devices come along, it's all going to go through that pipe. And either we participate in that formula or we're completely destroyed. If you buy a book, there's an expectation that every time you buy that book in hardback, the author gets a dollar. And if you buy it in paperback, he probably gets a dollar to[o]. Well, you have a situation where suddenly, he doesn't get paid anything if you buy the paperback, then guess what? Then they're only going to sell paperbacks. And that will happen with us too."

There's a strike blog here. The Huffington Post has been publishing opinions about the strike here.

Other than "Lost," I don't watch scripted television, so you could ask me "why do you care?" Easy. "The laborer is worthy of his hire." As I understand it, most writers are essentially free-lancers (like me) who may be in the chips when they've found a gig writing for a long-lasting series or late-night talk show (you mean Letterman, Leno and the rest don't write their own monologues?), but it's a chancy occupation. How many new network shows survive beyond their first 13 weeks? As we all know, not many. When the show you're writing for fails, you've got to go out and peddle your work to a new group of producers, and there are 12,000 other writers trying to do the same thing.

Meanwhile, you've still got kids to put through school, mortgages and utilities to pay, food to put on the table, and t-shirts and jeans to buy (or wash). And have you seen how much gas costs these days? In a town like L.A., that's no small expense.

It's not an easy life, no matter how the corporations portray it in their propaganda (from the President of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers: "It is unfortunate that they choose to take this irresponsible action."). They are primarily corporations, by the way: 350 motion picture and television producers (member companies include studios, broadcast networks, certain cable networks and independent producers). Viacom, Disney, General Electric, Sony, and Time-Warner are in that group.

I know where my sympathies lie.

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November 07, 2007

Polite but firm

"Nope," Tigger sez. "You can't fool me."

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Job Action: Hollywood

About the writers' strike: Via Making Light comes this "Why We Strike" comment from Joss Whedon, creator/writer of Buffy, Angel and Firefly:

. . .‘cause when it comes to the internet and the emerging media there’s nothing there for the artists. There’s no precedent; these media didn’t exist the last time a contract was negotiated. We’re not just talking about an unfair deal, we’re talking about no deal at all. Four cents from the sale of a DVD (the standing WGA deal) sounds exactly as paltry as it is, but in a decade DVD may have gone the way of the eight-track. We have to protect the rights of the people who tell the stories, however they’re told.

Put that way, it seems like it would be similar to the UAW negotiating for a contract just before the oil shock of 1973 and the subsequent collapse in demand for the big cars GM, Ford and Chrysler were making, with no idea that might happen.

Update: Adam Felber has more, in the form of a dialogue:

Bear with me. In 1988, during the last strike, the Writers Guild made a terrible mistake. They assumed that home video sales would never amount to much. So in order to get everyone back to work, they agreed to a deal that gave the studios 80% of the revenues from home video before calculating the writers li’l 1 or 2 percent.


Yes, that’s right. The assumption was that it would take the studios that 80% to recoup production, packaging and advertising costs. So the writers’ tiny percentage came from the remaining 20% of revenues.

But… but…

I know. Nobody saw how cheap and profitable the production of DVDs was going to be. Billions of dollars are being made, and writers see less than half a percent of it.

So that’s what the writers are fighting for. A bigger cut of DVD residuals.

Sort of. But as of Sunday’s negotiating session, the writers were even willing to let that stand.

What!? But - but - but…

Believe it or not, right now the writers are more worried about not letting this happen again with all the new methods of distribution and revenue, like the internet.

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November 06, 2007


Codex was okay, but ultimately not compelling. It really fizzled at the end; no grand confrontation, no thorough explanation of what the heck was going on throughout the first 325 pages, no nuthin'. Grossman has a way with words, but his storytelling skills need honing, or maybe he was aiming for something I didn't recognize. It was disappointing.

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November 05, 2007

Birthday books!

In sympathy with the Writers Guild strike, I might be taking the next couple of days off.

Well, no. I might, however, be busy reading The Coldest Winter, David Halberstam's book about the Korean War and its effect on America. He had just completed it when he was killed in that car accident several months ago. If not that, I'll be reading The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin's new book about the current members of the Supreme Court. And for my fiction needs, I'll then go to work on Codex, a 2004 book by Lev Grossman, the book critic for Time magazine. I'm amused by Booklist's description: "Grossman ... adds a new twist to the emerging bibliothriller subgenre by combining rare books with computer gaming." Who knew there was such a subgenre?

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November 04, 2007

Creeping ever so slowly toward oblivion

Number 57

Yep, my birthday is today.

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November 03, 2007

Life is good

Holy smokes. Navy beat Notre Dame, breaking a 43-game losing streak to the Irish. Meanwhile, Arizona defeated UCLA.

My sports cup (no, not that one!) runneth over.

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Feeding frenzy

Heh. The Onion on A-Rod's departure from the Yankees.

The announcement, made during the late innings of what thankfully and at long last turned out to be the final game of the 2007 season, came as a welcome respite to many. For the past month, baseball fans around the nation endured the interminable and repetitive process of determining the two league champions, followed by the predictable coronation of one overall champion.

Nuff said.

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November 02, 2007

No more Dog, please

Dear media,

The only dog I care about is this one.


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Waste, fraud and abuse

Now this is what a captive agency looks like! Well done, Consumer Product Safety Commission!

The chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and her predecessor have taken dozens of trips at the expense of the toy, appliance and children's furniture industries and others they regulate, according to internal records obtained by The Washington Post. Some of the trips were sponsored by lobbying groups and lawyers representing the makers of products linked to consumer hazards.

The records document nearly 30 trips since 2002 by the agency's acting chairman, Nancy Nord, and the previous chairman, Hal Stratton, that were paid for in full or in part by trade associations or manufacturers of products ranging from space heaters to disinfectants. The airfares, hotels and meals totaled nearly $60,000, and the destinations included China, Spain, San Francisco, New Orleans and a golf resort on Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Let's see. Ms. Nord is the lady who told Congress the other day that she really didn't want more regulators or money for her agency. Hmm. That would be a hindrance; some of those regulators might not be bought. Besides, industry was already subsidizing the outfit; guess she thought it would be double-dipping for the taxpayers to pay too.

Impeach George Bush and everyone in his Administration. Impeach them now.

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November 01, 2007

Adieu, SI

If you deliberately let your subscription to a magazine lapse, do you feel regret? Does it make a difference if you've been a subscriber for most of the past 30 years?

I'm coming to the conclusion that Sports Illustrated (the print version) has succumbed to People magazine syndrome: athlete as celebrity. I'm getting profiles rather than game descriptions these days, as well as full-page descriptions (with illustrations!) of football players' workouts and little charts which tell me how four athletes fit in pop culture (sample question from the October 15 issue: "Celebrity I'd like to kiss").

SI used to be more focused on games, and about once a quarter you'd find an eight-page article about a serious issue (Steroid usage, college athlete recruitment). Not often, not anymore.

What brought this on? I was reading the Washington Post this morning and found a link to Josh Levin's article at the bottom of a page. When Levin wrote this:

To get a sense of what now populates SI's pages, please take a minute to read Michael Farber's recent profile of Seattle Mariners closer J.J. Putz. The story begins: "The first bars of AC/DC's Thunderstruck came at precisely 9:54 p.m. PDT, Putz Domination Time." In the next few pages—about three minutes of reading; please set your watches to Putz Domination Time—we learn the speed of our hero's fastball ("When Seattle's resident sandman tosses his magic dust in a hitter's eyes, it's usually at 96 mph"), the pronunciation of his last name ("puts as in 'puts up numbers so spectacular that they border on the implausible' "), and his prank of choice ("Putz generally eschews cutting up teammates' clothing ... having made the shaving-cream pie his signature bit"). We're never told, however, why we should give a damn about J.J. Putz. The piece, like the great majority of SI's profiles and game stories, is bereft of ideas—it never explains how it feels to close a baseball game or why Putz's magic dust is any different than Mariano's magic dust. The old SI used sports as a window onto life and culture beyond the playing field or, failing that, as a vehicle for great writing. The new SI uses sports as a window onto itself or, failing that, as a vehicle for cringe-inducing anecdotes.

I agreed with him.

So I'm thinking that I might let the subscription lapse and just pay the newsstand price for the particular issues I want (World Series, Super Bowl, Baseball Preview, and yes, the Swimsuit issue [gotta keep the collection alive!]).

Should I feel apologetic?

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Does this make my blog look fat?

In comments below Juli says:

By the way, your blog is acting strangely. The right hand column of archives and such is not on top of the center column, overlaying the rightmost text. This started yesterday, I think. Anyone else mentioned it?


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