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: Made Me Laugh And Sniffle: Saw the Hitchhiker's Guide movie and liked it far more than I thought I would! I especially understood Zaphod, Trillian, and Adams's joyful atheism more than I ever had before. Recommended.

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: Argh: "Status." The word means "situation" or "state of affairs." When I ask you about the status of a person's membership, just consider for half a second what I might mean by that! Valid answers would be "expired" or "valid" or "paid-up" or "current" or "invalid" or "eligible for renewal" or something like that. This is not rocket science! This is not postmodern literary theory jargon! Argh!

: "Illusions, Dad! You don't have time for my illusions!": Leonard bought the Arrested Development DVD and we can't stop watching it. The early episodes, even ones I've seen over and over, still make me laugh. Thanks, Leonard.

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: On Removing Sweeping Generalizations: Me to an editor today:

"I know this paragraph makes me sound arrogant. But I'm right!"



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: This One Goes In the "Comedy" And "Religion" Categories: While in Utah, I got to meet many of Leonard's relatives, including the Omans. I got to tell them that I really enjoy Nate's posts on Times And Seasons. Today I read just such an example.

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: The Sandman Knows Russian: I discovered a few Russian-language internet radio stations. At first it was nice to listen to Russian again and pick out words I understood. Then I had a nightmare about trying to catch a plane out of St. Petersburg.

: Bookishness: At Sam Weller's bookstore in Salt Lake City, as I bought books to read on the train ride back home, I considered getting a copy of Pilgrim's Progress to read for the first time. Then I realized that I'd want a copy of the Bible next to me so I'd get all the references. Like many US public school graduates, I don't know nearly enough about the Bible to get all the Biblical references in great works of literature. Mr. Hatch in American Literature ameliorated that but not enough. I was too dumb to understand what he was trying to do and how hamstrung he was.

I bought and read Twain's hilarious Roughing It, which I enjoyed for the whole ride. Am now reading Margaret Atwood's Orxy and Crake, which takes about three paragraphs to get going. My review of Douglas Coupland's new book is up at Bookslut.

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: Diversity Daze: My column this week complains about insipid, superficial celebrations of diversity, and suggests possibly offensive measures that would help.

Yet dance and clothes are but the trappings of a culture, and plates of dumplings are hardly informative. If I square-danced up to you wearing a tie-dyed shirt and offered you a plate of hush puppies, how much would you have learned about American culture?

If you don't know why square dancing started, or the social implications of tie-dyed clothes, or the geographic and economic conditions that led to the invention of hush puppies, then I've entertained your senses of sight and sound and taste, but I've left your mind as empty or full as before.

: Department Store: Hugo Schwyzer reprints a poignant poem by Carl Dennis for the occasion of Mother's Day.

: Another Pleasant Internet Radio Station: EggRadio, which purports to appeal to "Geeks With Taste." Songs and interstitial bits include "Fifty Nifty United States," The Big Lebowski clips, and some sort of Muppet coming-out celebration.

: Oryx & Crake: If you have read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, and you believe you understand the ending, please tell me your interpretation. I finished it last night and felt as though my copy were missing two pages. Since this actually happened to me with Gilgamesh it's not TOO farfetched.

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: Report A Spam Result: "If your Google search returns a result that you suspect is spam, please let us know using this form....In especially egregious cases, we will remove spammers from our index immediately, so they do not show up in search results at all."

: Uncle Morty's Dub Shack: ImaginAsian TV's Uncle Morty's Dub Shack makes me laugh very, very hard. Think Mystery Science Theater 3000 for kung fu and Bollywood flicks, and only a half hour long. Absolutely worth taping.

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: This Morning On Diversity BART: On my left, a woman read the New Testament on a PDA, probably a PalmPilot. On my right, a man with a yarmulke and a prayer shawl on his head strapped tefillin to his arms, prayed quietly, and then removed all his accoutrements and packed them away. He had a tattoo on one arm, which intrigues me, since I thought Orthodox Jews refused tattoos.

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: Totally Blah Experience: Remind me to avoid hospitals as though they were the plague, instead of plague-curers who carry their own other plagues, such as antibiotic-resistant staph.

: Day Quality: Today I got to talk to famous people about Star Trek. And Leonard made me dinner and it had pesto in it. And none of the customers I dealt with made me want to commit felonies. So that was good.

: Requires Flash, But Isn't Flashy: The Morning News pointed me to this great explanation of the Social Security reform issue.

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: I Don't Miss Econ - Maybe I Took It Wrong: I haven't been reading enough history. Brad DeLong reminds me why I love history - the whys!

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: You Should Know That It Sucks: Things You Should Know by A.M. Homes is very, very depressing. So far, every story I've read has felt like a parody of the "nothing happens" New Yorker style of modern fiction. I now completely understand why Dave Eggers put together a book of adventure/mystery/fantasy genre stories as a backlash.

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: Am I The Only One?: Leonard used the word "opportunistic" and I immediately thought "infection."

: Mulling The Uses And Abuses Of Fashion: My column this week has a bunch of Emerson.

Emerson, in my view, backed up my function-over-form lifestyle. I hated to fuss while getting ready in the morning. Why in the world did women waste thousands of dollars and hours per year on clothes, makeup and heels instead of wearing T-shirts, Payless sneakers, and thrift-store slacks? They did it for other people's approval, and I would have no truck with it.

: Homes Update: I finished What You Should Know. The best story in the collection, which mulls Nancy Reagan's day-to-day life caring for Ronald Reagan during his decline, made me weep. Like A.M. Homes's compelling New Yorker article about her adoption and her biological parents, the Reagan story draws on true events. My conclusion: instead of making up premises, stories, or characters, Homes should restrict herself to fictionalizing true stories from the newspaper. Thus, she will be assured of actually having a plot.

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: Validation: Will Franken won a "Best Comedian" award from the SF Weekly. Those of us who were fans several months ago get to nod in snobbish pride, while those of you who have foolishly prolonged the Frankenless portion of your existences can make up for lost time on May 26th, when Franken plays the Purple Onion on Columbus.

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: What A Dame: I interviewed Diana Abu-Jaber for Saucy Magazine. She said funny and interesting things and you'd probably enjoy it.

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: MC Masala Bookmarkable Link: If you'd like to link to my columns, you can link to link to this page, which links to the two most recent articles.

: YAYAYAYAY: Rachel C broke it to me: Fox renewed AD! The thought of losing Arrested Development and Star Trek hit me harder than I'd expected. I'm so glad AD is coming back!

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: Disclaiming, Declaiming: Brendan, you deserve to know that I had notes for questions to ask in that conversation with Abu-Jaber. Yes, notes. And included among them was the note "jalapeno-cheddar bagel," as borrowed from a Heather Gold throwaway line.

Also - there's some fantasy spy novel called Declare, which I didn't much care for but which had a similar plot device to the implied device in this Anacrusis.

: And Just Food, Apparently: KQED has a food blog?

: Reason # 1 I Should Have Had A Pet Growing Up: Leonard thinks Betty is not well. I agree with him. I've transferred her to the small tank and have given her smashed-up peas to eat. Leonard is more distraught than I am. I feel sort of callous and numb. What a rotten pet-owner I am. I hadn't been cleaning the tank and replacing the filter as diligently as I ought. This would be the first time my chronic lack of follow-through has killed a living thing.

: Some Lightsaber Wounds Never Really Heal: Why I'm not a Star Wars fan.

: Grump: Why am I always getting up, every day? Why can't up get me sometimes?

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: Announcement: Betty, my orange goldfish of fourteen months, has died. Leonard dug the grave, made the headstone, buried her, and said the eulogy this morning in the rain in the garden. I stood and couldn't say anything. Now all the pets I've ever owned are dead.

She was a good fish.

: Waiting For Hate Mail: This week's MC Masala: "Jesus and Krishna make the 9-to-5 bearable."

Oh, the place in the underworld I'd reserve for the truth-fudging whiners who want a refund after the 30-day free trial window closes.

: Movie Time: Leonard and I just rented some classics on DVD. Last night we watched The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin's great anti-Hitler movie that began production in 1937 and released in 1940. As Kris has pointed out in his comic, our contemporaries decades after the Holocaust think of Hitler as the sine qua non of evil, a synonym for Satan. But Chaplin, a contemporary of Hitler, made a movie that is much more specifically anti-Hitler. The satire is more audacious in hindsight. Leonard suggested that the original title of The Great Dictator was F$&# You, Hitler. It's that sort of spirit. Except the ending. That's a weird ending.

If someone remade The Great Dictator, who would be the new Hitler? Leonard suggests Mugabe but I'm not sure who would play him. Then again, I'm not sure who would play Jong Il, either.

We enjoyed The Ladykillers tonight - not the Tom Hanks remake, but the Alec Guinness original. Every single Ealing Studios film will eventually end up in our library, I just know it.

: Machiavelli's The Little Prince: A while ago, I read Peter Singer's Writings on an Ethical Life, the reader he put together to fairly represent his controversial views on animal rights, ecology, poverty, abortion, infanticide, and right living. After reading his book, I think activist Harriet McBryde Johnson has a weaker case than I thought she did before reading Singer's book. However, I do think it would be good for us to have more information on the abilities of people with major physical disabilities to have fulfilling, happy lives; I have much less of a problem with the abortion of fetuses with entirely missing brains than I do with the abortion of fetuses with disabilities on the quality-of-life borderline (e.g., Downs syndrome, Klinefelter syndrome).

The weirdest thing Singer says in the whole book is that we can't derive morals from facts. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Maybe I'm like Cindi Lightballoon in Arrested Development misunderstanding that George Sr.'s statement "Faith is a fact" is on the blooper reel.

Anyway, there's a contradiction between Singer's views, as I see it, on the idea of "potential." When it comes to poverty and the responsibility of humans to help one another, he says that we're responsible for the easily foreseen consequences of our actions. However, on the issue of abortion, he dismisses "potential life"; since the embryo cannot desire anything now, aborting it does not thwart any desires, and hypotheticals as to its future wishes are irrelevant. I understand that introducing "potential" into the argument also invites a slippery slope regarding onanism and birth control, but Singer's method of dismissing it seems solipsistic.

Singer's points on euthanasia seem formidable, but Rivka points out that it is practically impossible to administer euthanasia (or Physician-Assisted Suicide) fairly and ethically in this society; the theory does not work in reality because of logistical and financial constraints in the health care system. As she points out, people with terminal illnesses want to die because of depression (curable) and fear of pain (curable with proper pain management). But she distinguishes cessation of treatment from active killing. I'm still struggling with that argument, as am I with Harriet McBryde Johnson's arguments in general.

Singer, Johnson, and Rivka all want better care for all patients concerned. After all, if we all had excellent preventive care, pain management, counseling, and family planning tools, then the ethics of conception and end-of-life care would cause less agony for all concerned. I think they're on the same side of many issues, but Rivka and Johnson infer policy implications from their beliefs and Singer's on the other side. I need to read up more.

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: Now Awaiting The "Publish" Cronjob: About four years ago, I wrote a story for Leonard's now-defunct geek humor site Segfault in which I listed nonsensical Salon headlines. A conversation with Farhad Manjoo reminded me of it, so I reproduce it here:

The Microsoft and franchise story jokes are showing their age; I think Salon has now done both of those.

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: The Trendiest Thing Ever: Open-source Islam!

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: Despite All Hamminess: I, too, have been an emcee for a gala. It's not fun. Tip: Never hire a belly dancer.

: $10 For Fifty Minutes Of Laughs: I'm seeing Will Franken at the Purple Onion tomorrow night - are you? I apologize in advance for how unfunny Bridget Schwartz will be.

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: How To Get Airplay: How to get your music on the radio. Assuming it's good.

: And She Wonders, Where Is Everybody?: The new MC Masala column is up. I survey recent South Asian and diaspora lit.

AUTHORS from the Indian subcontinent write lots of books. Some are fantastic. Vikram Seth's meganovel "A Suitable Boy" entranced me with its epic scope, its closely observed characters and its implicit history lessons.

And then there are the droning cookie-cutter novels that substitute magical realism for plot and pile on the descriptions of smells and tastes as though that makes for sensuous prose.

Just as smothering raw potatoes with rosemary does not make them homefries, a hundred food analogies will not make your book the next "The Mistress of Spices."

One of the books I review, Asra Nomani's Standing Alone in Mecca, will get a fuller review from me in the June issue of Bookslut. As I started reading the book, I mentioned it to Leonard. I started my sentence, "So, Asra Nomani's 'Standing Alone in Mecca'..." but he thought I was starting a joke. We tried to find a punchline for about half an hour and couldn't figure anything out. Suggestions?

For a lighter literary moment, read an old Salon article by Susan McCarthy on Gary Larson (so old that Premium membership isn't required to read it). I love the bit about switching captions with The Family Circus, and of course the reference to Cow Tools.

: Recommendations For Non-Light Reading: "Which academic books are fit for human consumption?" This list has added several titles to my wantlist.

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: Don't Try Anything: House's second-most-recent episode, "Three Stories," was great. Then the season finale was okay. Just like with Star Trek: Enterprise. Three will make a rule. I'm warning you, Burbank!

: Caustic Commentary & Time-Fillers: Get Your War On makes me laugh bitterly. On a scale of "how bitter is my laughter?" where ten equals "I am laughing black, black tears," The Daily Show is around a five and Get Your War On is a nine.

For the long weekend, a bunch of free essays by Susan Orlean, Michael Lewis, Calvin Trillin, et al.

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: I Have Six Months: The Bookslut blog told me about The Twentysomething Writers Contest. Yes, I'd be giving up my rights to that essay in case Random House wanted to publish it, but it's not like my writing is a finite resource. So I have about 180 days to come up with between 500 and 5,000 words that define my generation.

: Useful Link: TiVo Tips And Tricks. According to another hack page, you could set the end-of-program button on the TiVo remote to go forward any number of seconds between 10 and 99! 27 seconds? 60 seconds? The choice is yours!

: Huge Trek Post Coming Soon: Anyone who is reading this and who knows Kannada knows that the letter for "ma" is, by all logical standards, the letter that should mean "wu" or "vu." That trips me up all the time.

Yeah, it's basically impossible to have a spelling bee for Kannada. Or for any language where the writing and phonetics of the language match up reasonably.

Busy weekend. Accidentally went to a sci-fi convention, helped make and apply an insane costume for and to a friend (gold body paint was involved), enjoyed barbecued brussels sprouts, found myself attempting to salsa dance, and watched the Star Trek Enterprise series finale for about the fourth time so as to point out its deficiencies to a friend.

Have you ever tried to impersonate Schwarzenegger while saying "L'état, c'est moi"? It works surprisingly well.

Whenever I find myself spending a Memorial Day or a Veterans Day without a proper ritual commemorating their sacrifice, I rationalize it by saying that my freedom and leisure symbolizes or embodies the principles the military protects. What a copout. But at least I send magazines and letters to Any Soldier throughout the year.

I finished Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers this morning. So, so good! I've been grabbing friends by the lapels to read them the end of chapter 15, where the author rants about spoilers and deception.

: Much Of The Essay I Couldn't Excerpt For Reasons Of Profanity: The Poor Man encapsulates modern US political thought (the second half of the essay).

If people say they are going to do something, and then they do it, and then they say they're going to do something else, and they do that, too, and on and on, you should assume they're going to do what they say they're going to do. Even if they aren't looking at you when they say it.

: Here Come The Oysters!: Mike Popovic's poem that he wrote for his daughter Zoe. I recall that he also illustrated it - where are the pictures, Mike?

: C.S. Lewis in Boulder, Colorado: Celestial Seasonings rooibos tea features, on the box, a very calm lion drinking drom a teacup. Leonard observed, "So he is a tame lion."

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: Does It?: Last night I dreamed that Alton Brown had adopted a disabled child that biologically belonged to the British royal family, and that therefore princes and princesses came over to his house all the time. "That explains a lot," I thought.

: Mt. Doom, Elev. A Billion Kajilion Feet: Found a bit of a 2001 article about Lord of the Rings and the problem of evil. Not theodicy, but the more pragmatic question of how we can and should fight evil. SPOILERS AHEAD!

But even the hobbits are not immune, and Frodo himself fails, finally, in his quest. He cannot relinquish the ring of power in the ultimate moment. "I will not do this deed," he cries on the brink of the volcano. "The ring is mine." And so there is not finally in Middle-earth an absolute good to counteract its absolute evil. Tolkien writes expressly about this in his letters. "The power of Evil in the world is not finally resistible by incarnate creatures," he notes, "however 'good.'"

Does the irresistible power of evil then make the hero's quest futile? No -- the hero's effort is necessary but not sufficient. Tolkien's other insight is that evil itself will take evil down....

In the end, it is the greed of Gollum, not the virtue of Frodo, that casts the ring to its destruction. One might even say that the ring annihilates itself, as Gollum's consuming desire is one effect of its evil power over him.

That makes the end make more sense. I always thought it made more sense for either Frodo or Sam to die, taking the ring into Mt. Doom's pit.

: Trying To Want To Sleep: Ebert asks the Heavenly Muse to sing on the new Adam Sandler movie. Speaking of movies, here are some movies I have not yet seen: the second and third Matrix movies, the second and third Lord of the Rings movies, at least one of the Godfather trilogy, Thelma and Louise, the Nemesis Star Trek movie, and the second and third episodes of Star Wars.

The unfinished chores rise around me like water from melting polar icecaps. I wasted too much of the weekend. But -- "nothing is finished, that no matter how strong the sense of lost hope, there is always going to be sleep. And then rising, feet on the floor, blinking hard at the light coming in through the blinds. It is not enough, but it is enough for now."

: Why Use Throwaway Sporks?: Reusable utensils to take with you in a nice cloth carrying case.

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