June 30, 2008

Bedtime Music: Foreigner - Cold as Ice

One of the things that amazes me about rock music is the timeless quality a lot of songs have. Here's a song, Cold as Ice, by Foreigner, that came out when I was a sophomore in high school (yeah, I know ... dating myself), and it still sounds as good now as it did when it first came out back in March 1977. The song peaked at #6 in the U.S. charts.

Lee Iacocca: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Amen! This is an excerpt from Lee Iacocca's book, Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, 'Stay the course.'

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

& someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions.

That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty & I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them — or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. & That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq — a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith-based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: 'Where have all the leaders gone?' Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina & Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing & Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry ...

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises ... If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's ... go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough."

HT: Oroville Mercury-Register.com

State Rankings by Social and Economic Liberalism/Conservatism

This is an interesting graph showing where the states in the continental U.S. rank in terms of social and economic liberalism vs. conservatism. The data used to make this graph is somewhat old (from the 2000 election season).

Here's a graph of the 50 states (actually, I think Alaska and Hawaii are missing), showing the average economic and social ideology of adults within each state. Each of these is scaled so that negative numbers are liberal and positive are conservative; thus, people in Massachusetts are the most liberal on economic issues and people in Idaho are the most conservative:

West Virginians are on the liberal side economically but are extremely socially conservative, whereas Vermont is about the same as West Virginian on the economic dimension but is the most socially liberal of all the states. Coloradans are economically conservative (on average) but socially moderate (or, perhaps, socially divided; these are averages only).

Read the rest of the post here.

HT: Economist's View

A question that would interest me is, by how much do states shift in terms of their economic and social beliefs over time? One would think that they do to a degree, but not by that much. However, a recent article in The Economist (The Big Sort), discusses how Americans are segregating themselves into geographical areas by political beliefs:

Americans move house often, usually for practical reasons. Before choosing a new neighborhood, they drive around it. They notice whether it has gun shops, evangelical churches and “W” bumper stickers, or yoga classes and organic fruit shops. Perhaps unconsciously, they are drawn to places where they expect to fit in.

Where you live is partly determined by where you can afford to live, of course. But the “Big Sort” does not seem to be driven by economic factors. Income is a poor predictor of party preference in America; cultural factors matter more. For Americans who move to a new city, the choice is often not between a posh neighborhood and a run-down one, but between several different neighborhoods that are economically similar but culturally distinct.


Because Americans are so mobile, even a mild preference for living with like-minded neighbors leads over time to severe segregation. An accountant in Texas, for example, can live anywhere she wants, so the liberal ones move to the funky bits of Austin while the more conservative ones prefer the exurbs of Dallas. Conservative Californians can find refuge in Orange County or the Central Valley.

Over time, this means Americans are ever less exposed to contrary views. ... Americans were the least likely of all to talk about politics with those who disagreed with them.

Intriguingly, the more educated Americans become, the more insular they are. ... Better-educated people tend to be richer, so they have more choice about where they live. And they are more mobile. One study that covered most of the 1980s and 1990s found that 45% of young Americans with a college degree moved state within five years of graduating, whereas only 19% of those with only a high-school education did.

There is a danger in this. Studies suggest that when a group is ideologically homogeneous, its members tend to grow more extreme. Even clever, fair-minded people are not immune. ... Republican-appointed judges vote more conservatively when sitting on a panel with other Republicans than when sitting with Democrats. Democratic judges become more liberal when on the bench with fellow Democrats.

Residential segregation is not the only force Balkanizing American politics, frets Mr Bishop. Multiple cable channels allow viewers to watch only news that reinforces their prejudices. The Internet offers an even finer filter. Websites such as conservativedates.com or democraticsingles.net help Americans find ideologically predictable mates.

And the home-schooling movement, which has grown rapidly in recent decades, shields more than 1m American children from almost any ideas their parents dislike.


Voters in landslide districts tend to elect more extreme members of Congress. Moderates who might otherwise run for office decide not to. Debates turn into shouting matches. Bitterly partisan lawmakers cannot reach the necessary consensus to fix long-term problems such as the tottering pensions and health-care systems.

America, says Mr Bishop, is splitting into "balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible." He has a point. Republicans who never meet Democrats tend to assume that Democrats believe more extreme things than they really do, and vice versa. This contributes to the nasty tone of many political campaigns.

This last paragraph also helps to explain why most non-Muslim Americans are so Islamophobic and xenophobic: Not knowing any Muslims they are more susceptible to believing the lies spread by the haters.

Seen in Little India

Today's bumper sticker:

Terrorists don't scare me.
Your driving, that scares me!

Watts Zap Best of 2006 (#2)

While we're waiting for the Tour de France to start, I'd say that Alejandro Valverde of Spain is probably the man to beat at this time. He's won two major races so far this year, the Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April, and the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré in June.

June 29, 2008

The Meeting between Umar and Hurmuzān

Another story from Hugh Kennedy's book, The Great Arab Conquests (pp. 130-31). As the Arab army swept through Khūzestān (in what is now southwestern Iran), the Persian general Hurmuzān (Hormozan) fled to the city of Tustar (now Shushtar), where he and his forces were besieged by the army of Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari for at least eighteen months (some records say two years). Shustar finally fell when one or two of the city residents befriended the Arab soldiers and agreed to help them in exchange for a third of the spoils. The Arabs then tunneled under the city walls, and the city was eventually taken. However, the decision was made to send Hurmuzān to the Caliph Umar, who would decide his fate:

After his surrender at Tustar, he was brought to Medina to be presented to the caliph. Before he and his escort entered the city, they arrayed him in all his finery, his brocade and cloth-of-gold robes and a crown studded with rubies. Then they led him through the streets so that everyone could see him. When they reached Umar's house, however, they found that he was not there, so they went to look for him in the mosque but could not find him there either. Finally they passed a group of boys playing in the street, who told them that the caliph was asleep in a corner of the mosque with his cloak folded under his head for a pillow.

When they returned to the mosque they found him as the boys had said. He had just received a delegation of visitors from Kūfa and, when they had left, he had simply put his head down for a nap. Apart from him there was no one in the mosque. They sat down a little way from him. Hurmuzān enquired where his guards and attendants were but was told he had none. "Then he must be a prophet," the Persian said. "No," his escort replied, "but he does the things prophets do." Meanwhile more people gathered round and the noise woke Umar up. He sat up and saw the Persian and the escort asked him to talk to the "king of Ahvaz." Umar refused as long as he was wearing all his finery, and only when the prisoner had been stripped as far as decency allowed and reclad in a coarse robe did the interrogation begin.

Umar asked Hurmuzān what he thought about the recent turn of events, to which the Persian replied that in the old days God was not on the side of the Persians or the Arabs and the Persians were in the ascendancy, but now God was favoring the Arabs and they had won. Umar replied that the real reason was that the Persians had previously been united while the Arabs had not. Umar was inclined to execute him in revenge for the Muslims he had slain. Hurmuzān asked for some water, and when it was given to him he said he was afraid he would be killed while he was drinking. The caliph replied that he would not be killed before he had drunk the water, whereupon Hurmuzān allowed his hands to tremble and the water was spilled. When Umar again threatened to kill him, the Persian said that he had already been given immunity; after all, he had not drunk the water. Umar was furious, but the assembled company agreed that Hurmuzān was right. In the end, he was converted to Islam, allowed to live in Medina and given a substantial pension.

Kennedy continues:

The story of Hurmuzān's trick is probably a folk motif grafted on to historical events, but it serves its purpose to illustrate the contrast between Persian pride and luxury and Muslim simplicity; the honesty of the Muslims and the integration of elements of the Persian elite into the Muslim hierarchy.

In E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, al-Hurzumān, described as the King of Susiana,

"...succeeded as saving his life by his cunning but only on condition that he adopted Islām. He was able to be useful to the Caliph in various ways on account of his knowledge of Persian affairs. But when 'Omar was murdered in 23 = 644 by a Persian Christian, al-Hurmuzān, probably without reason, was suspected of being an accomplice and killed by 'Ubaid Allāh, son of the Caliph." (p. 338)

Photo credit: Panoramio/shushtari

Watts Zap Best of 2006 (#1)

As I patiently wait for the Tour de France to start (July 5th), here's some more of the Watts Zap Best of... series. Parts 2 and 3 will be over the next two days.

Movie Sunday: Tron

We had been discussing the movie 300 and the state of CGI this week over at Izzy Mo's, and I had brought up the example of the 1982 movie, Tron, as a film that has poor to average computer graphics by today's standards, but was obviously at the forefront of CGI at the time.

In many ways,
Tron is actually a very good movie (at least in my opinion ;) ) What I like is the soundtrack by Wendy Carlos, whose musical work I've been familiar with since my teenage years, and the philosophical undertone of the movie, which suggests that, like the computer world of Tron, humanity is a form of organic computer in which we individuals are "bytes," interacting with each other, sharing, storing and creating data that allow our collective "program" to grow and be improved upon. (This, to me, is the meaning of the last scene in the movie, when we look over the sped-up cityscape at night.)

  • Jeff Bridges produced too much of a bulge in the crotch area in his computer outfit, so he was forced to wear a dance belt to conceal it.
  • Although the film was an initial failure, the arcade video game based on it proved to be a tremendous hit and actually out-grossed the film.
  • The movie was passed over for an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects because the Academy felt Tron "cheated" by using a computer. (Seven years later, The Abyss (1989) would win for its computer visual effects.)
  • Have you ever noticed how similar the scenes involving the character "V.I.K.I." in the 2004 movie, I, Robot, including Will Smith's sliding down the computer core and injecting the "nanites," are to Jeff Bridges' falling into the MCP to allow Bruce Boxleitner ("Tron") to throw in his identity disk? Milady did.

    BTW, I don't normally feature or remark about tribute videos, but I will say that I rather enjoyed watching this video that sets scenes from
    Tron to the Eiffel 65 song, Blue (Da Ba Dee).

    Tron: If you are a user, then everything you've done has been according to a plan.

    Kevin Flynn: Ha! You wish!

    Greetings, programs!
  • June 28, 2008

    The Conquest of Junday-Shapur

    Another story from Hugh Kennedy's book, The Great Arab Conquests (p. 128), this time dealing with the "conquest" of Junday-Shapur (also known as Jondisapur (p. 206) or Gundishapur), an ancient city that lies in the modern Iranian province of Khūzestān, between the cities of Dezful and Shustar.

    According to this story, the city resisted vigorously until one day, to the great surprise of the Muslims, the gates were flung open and the city was opened up. The Muslims asked the defenders what had come over them, to which they replied, "You have shot us an arrow with a message that safety would be granted to us. We have accepted this and set aside the tribute payments." The Muslims replied that they had done no such thing, but after extensive enquiries they found a slave, originally from Junday-shapur, who admitted that he had indeed written such a message. The Muslim commanders explained that this was the work of a slave with no authority to make such an offer, to which the inhabitants replied that they had no means of knowing that and finished by saying that they were going to keep their side of the bargain, even if the Muslims chose to act treacherously. The Muslims referred the matter to [the Caliph] Umar, who responded that the promise was in fact binding, for "God holds the keeping of promises in the highest esteem." The moral is clear: even the promise of a slave must be respected.

    Photo credit: Wikipedia/Zereshk - The interior of Masjid Jameh (Congregational Mosque) in Dezful, Iran.

    Drum Corps Saturday: 1975 Oakland Crusaders

    The sixth place corps in 1975 was the Oakland Crusaders, which was a merger between the Etobicoke Crusaders and the De La Salle Oaklands, both of whom were from the Toronto area. Both corps were strong Open Class corps in 1974 (De La Salle placed seventh in the 1974 DCI finals), and the merged corps continued to do well through the late 70s. In the early 80s, the corps went through a slow decline; in 1986, the Oakland Crusaders merged with the Ambassadors of Newmarket/Aurora, Ontario to form a corps called Out of the Blue, which competed for one season.

    Like the Royal Crusaders, who gave several corps a scare by doing well in the 1975 DCI prelims, the Oakland Crusaders also did very well in the prelims, scoring a 86.20 for fourth place. However, the corps slid down to sixth place in the finals, despite getting an 86.00.

  • In the first video, watch for the drum major bumping into the girl at the 1:19 mark.
  • Be sure to check out the De La Salle Oakland Crusaders Alumni website; there's also a page devoted to the Oakland Crusaders at the Optimists Alumni website.

    The Repertoire: Swan Lake * Jupiter (from The Planets) * Malaga * El Gato Triste

  • June 27, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Eagles - Hotel California

    This song really needs no introduction. This concert took place in November 2004 at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The trumpet introduction is a nice touch (one I hadn't heard before). I heard this song live back in the mid 80s when Don Henley came to Arizona State University for his "Building the Perfect Beast" tour.

    BTW, any guesses as to the new theme yet?

    June 26, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar On Me

    Def Leppard is about as hard rock as I go. I'm not into metal, but I do like hard rock. Hysteria was, in my opinion, one of the better hard rock albums, not just of Def Leppard's discography, but of the genre as a whole. Apparently, Pour Some Sugar On Me has become extremely popular at strip clubs; not that I would know. Seriously! :)

    The Economist: The Future of Energy

    I've been having a nice conversation with Terry, who is justifiably concerned with the amount of oil the U.S. has been importing. He mentioned recently that he believes in our pursuit of alternatives, and I wanted to let him (and others) know that this week's Economist magazine has a special report (nine articles) on the future of energy, which focuses primarily on prospects for various alternative energies. Below is a listing of links to all of the articles.

    The Power and the Glory (energy alternatives)
    Trade Winds (wind power)
    Dig Deep (carbon storage)
    Another Silicon Valley? (solar energy)
    Beneath Your Feet (geothermal generation)
    Grow Your Own (biofuels)
    The End of the Petrolhead (tomorrow's cars)
    Life After Death (nuclear energy)
    Flights of Fancy (energy's future)

    The Foundation Myth of Qayrawān

    Masjid Uqba and CemeteryI read this to Milady the other night before we went to bed. It's a cute foundation myth for the city of Qayrawān (aka Kairouan, located in Tunisia), which was founded around the year 670 by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi (whom the masjid in the picture to the left is named after). As Milady said to me the other night, this is the sort of story one would tell children. This story appears in Hugh Kennedy's book, The Great Arab Conquests (which I mentioned the other day), pp. 210-11:

    Uqba went on: "I have only chosen this place because it is well away from the sea and Roman ships cannot reach it and destroy it. It is well inland." Then he ordered his men to get building, but they complained that the scrub was full of lions and vagabonds and that they were afraid for their lives and refused to do it. So Uqba collected the members of his army who had been Companions of the Prophet [pbuh], twelve of them, and cried out, "O you lions and vermin, we are Companions of the Prophet of God [pbuh], so leave us and if we find any of you here we will kill them!" Then the people witnessed the most extraordinary sight, for the lions carried their cubs and the wolves carried their young and the snakes carried their offspring and they left, one group after another. Many Berbers were converted to Islam as a result of this.

    He then established the government house and the houses for the people around it and they lived there for forty years without ever seeing a snake or a scorpion. He laid out the mosque but was uncertain about the direction of the qibla and was very worried. Then he slept, and in the night heard a voice saying, "Tomorrow, go to the mosque and you will hear a voice saying Allahu akbar." Follow the direction of the voice and that will be the qibla God has made pleasing for the Muslims in this land." In the morning he heard the voice and established the qibla and all the other mosques copied it.

    Photo credit: Masjid Uqba and cemetery, courtesy of Wikipedia/Douya

    June 25, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Chicago - Hard to Say I'm Sorry

    As a teenager in the 70s, my favorite band was Chicago; I was involved with drum corps at the time (I played a baritone bugle), and getting into brass-oriented jazz and rock (e.g., Maynard Ferguson, Chuck Mangione) as a result. This particular song, the 1982 release, Hard to Say I'm Sorry, however, moves in the opposite direction, being horn-less and heavy on layered synths and distorted electric guitars. Still, the song was very successful, and reached #1 in September 1982, the band's first top-50 hit since their December 1978 release, No Tell Lover.

    State Coincident Indexes

    Every month, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia produces a "State Coincident Index" that allows economists to see how well each of the individual states are doing economically:

    The coincident indexes combine four state-level indicators to summarize current economic conditions in a single statistic. The four state-level variables in each coincident index are nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average). The trend for each state’s index is set to the trend of its gross domestic product (GDP), so long-term growth in the state’s index matches long-term growth in its GDP.

    What the graphs below show is a state-by-state analysis of the economy. The first three maps show the month of January for 2005, 2006 and 2007, respectively. (Note that in these maps, a five-point scale is used with dark blue being the best and dark red being the worst.) The last six maps are for the last six months available, December 2007 through May 2008. While the scale has been increased from five points to seven points, the same basic color scheme is still used; i.e., dark blue is the best, dark red is the worst.

    As you can see, the American economy has gotten quite bad over the past six months, especially in the Northwest and, to a slightly lesser degree, in the Midwest and South. Some of the states in the Mountain West and Northeast are doing well, with the best state currently being Texas. (I'd be tempted to say that Texas is doing well because of the multiplier effects from higher oil prices, but if that's the case, then why isn't Alaska doing well too?)

    HT: Economist's View

    June 24, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Boston - More Than a Feeling

    When I came up with the idea for the current theme (which you now may be able to guess at), Boston was a natural choice. The real problem is to find a decent video of one of the songs, especially with pre-MTV bands. In general, I prefer music videos or professional footage from concerts; with a band like Boston, however, most videos available are taken by fans at concerts that look like they've been recorded with a handphone camera. So I was rather happy that I could find a decent video of the 1976 hit, More Than a Feeling.

    Be a Man: Check 'Em

    These were ... uh ... different, especially the second one (ladies, you may not want to watch). And yet these PSAs are on an important health concern for men, that being testicular cancer. A friend of mine in college had already gone through it by the time I met him, even though he was only in his mid-20s. He was lucky to have lost only one testicle. (This is the cancer that bicyclist Lance Armstrong overcame.) So, guys (especially those of you between 15 and 35): be a man, and check 'em.

    June 23, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Aerosmith - Dude (Looks Like a Lady)

    New theme starting; guess what it is if you can. (You won't be able to guess until at least tomorrow night.)

    There are a lot of great Aerosmith songs to choose from; while this song isn't my first choice,
    Dude (Looks Like a Lady) has always been a favorite, if only for Robin Williams' dance to the song in the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire. What inspired the band to write this song?

    The song, which originally started out as "Cruisin' for a Lady," talks about a male with an effeminate appearance who is mistaken for a female. There is a story that the song was inspired by the glam look of the members of Mötley Crüe and their constant usage of the word "dude." Steven Tyler says in the book Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith, "Then one day we met Mötley Crüe, and they're all going, 'Dude!' Dude this and Dude that, everything was Dude. 'Dude (Looks Like a Lady)' came out of that session."


    In his recent book, The Heroin Diaries, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe claims that the song was specifically inspired by Vince Neil, singer with Mötley Crüe.

    Someone needs to work on their customer service skills...

    HT: Advertising Is Good For You

    June 22, 2008

    On the Difficulty of Conviction for Adultery under Shari'ah

    I've been reading Hugh Kennedy's book, The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In. The book has a number of short anecdotes that illustrate various points that are interesting in their own right. Insha'allah, I'll share several of them as I go through the book, but I thought I'd start with one that is relevant to current non-Muslim fears about shari'ah.

    One of the Islamophobe's fears is the punishment decreed for certain hudud crimes, an example of which is adultery:

    In the Shafii, Hanbali, Hanafi and the Shia law schools the stoning is imposed for the married adulterer and his partner only if the crime is proven, either by four male adults eyewitnessing the actual sexual intercourse at the same time, or by self-confession. In the Maliki school of law, however, evidence of pregnancy also constitutes sufficient proof. ... Ayatollah Shirazi states that the proof for adultery is very hard to establish, because no one commits adultery in public unless they are irreverent. For the establishment of adultery, four witnesses "must have seen the act in its most intimate details, i.e. the penetration (like 'a stick disappearing in a kohl container,'" as the fiqh books specify). If their testimonies do not satisfy the requirements, they can be sentenced to eighty lashes for unfounded accusation of fornication.

    However, what many non-Muslims don't understand is how difficult it is to actually convict a person of adultery and the severe consequences to those who do accuse another of adultery without being able to meet the very high standard of proof that shari'ah requires:

    Mughīra [b. Shu'ba] was a tough and resourceful leader but his career was soon engulfed in a scandal that almost cost him his life.

    He began an affair with a woman called Umm Jamīl, who was married to a man from the tribe of Thaqīf. Other members of the tribe caught wind of the affair and were determined to preserve the honour of their kin. They waited until he went to visit her and then crept up to see what was going on. They saw Mughīra and Umm Jamīl, both naked, he lying on top of her. They stole away and went to tell the caliph Umar. He in turn appointed the righteous Abū Mūsā al-Ash'arī to go and take over command in Basra and send Mughīra to him in Medina to be investigated. When he arrived Umar confronted him with the four witnesses. The first was emphatic about what he had seen: 'I saw him lying on the woman's front pressing into her and I saw him pushing in and withdrawing [his penis] as the applicator goes in and out of the make-up [kuhl] bottle.' The next two witnesses gave exactly the same testimony. Umar now turned to the fourth, the young Ziyād, who has already appeared [mentioned in the book] doing the army's accounts. The caliph hoped that his would not be the testimony to condemn a Companion of the Prophet to death. Ziyād showed a talent for diplomacy and quick thinking which was to serve him well in the rest of his life. 'I saw a scandalous sight,' he said, 'and I heard heavy breathing but I did not see whether he was actually penetrating her or not.' Since the Qur'an stipulates that conviction for adultery requires the unequivocal testimony of four witnesses, the case collapsed, and indeed we are told that Umar ordered that the other three witnesses be flogged for making unfounded allegations. The story was often repeated by Muslim lawyers, for here was the great Umar, after the Prophet himself the most important law giver in Sunni Islam, making conviction for adultery very problematic indeed.
    -- pp. 125-6

    Maz Jobrani on the Media's Coverage of Middle Easterners

    It's been a long time since I last put on a Maz Jobrani video here, but I just came across this one and Maz is spot on.

    ANWR: Too Little, Too Late

    Source: Wikipedia

    Based on some of the comments I've received recently, there seems to be some resistance to the idea that American oil production can be increased and gasoline prices lowered if only the U.S. will drill for more oil in various restricted areas, such as offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

    This ain't gonna happen, folks.

    Let's take the case of ANWR:

    In May of 2008 the Energy Information Administration released the following report:

    "The opening of the ANWR 1002 Area to oil and natural gas development is projected to increase domestic crude oil production starting in 2018. In the mean ANWR oil resource case, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR reaches 780,000 barrels per day in 2027 and then declines to 710,000 barrels per day in 2030. In the low and high ANWR oil resource cases, additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR peaks in 2028 at 510,000 and 1.45 million barrels per day, respectively. Between 2018 and 2030, cumulative additional oil production is 2.6 billion barrels for the mean oil resource case, while the low and high resource cases project a cumulative additional oil production of 1.9 and 4.3 billion barrels, respectively." [Source]

    The report also states:

    "Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States. The opening of ANWR is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light crude oil prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 for the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 for the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 for the high oil resource case, relative to the reference case." [Source; page 6]

    For the average case, drilling in ANWR would reduce crude oil by 75 cents, in 2025. The total production from ANWR would be between 0.4 and 1.2 percent of total world oil consumption in 2030. [Source; page 17]

    So, let's review the facts. If the U.S. were to begin drilling for oil in ANWR today, the earliest it would start to increase American oil production is ten years from now. This isn't some overnight cure or even something that will help us within a year or two. This is a "solution" that will take a DECADE to implement. What are you going to do in the meantime? Your gas prices won't go down just because ANWR was opened up to drilling.

    Then, in the best case scenario, oil pumped out of ANWR amounts to 1.45 million barrels per day. Sounds like a lot; it isn't. For 2007, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that a total of 82.501 million barrels of crude oil were pumped out of the earth every day. 1.45 million barrels compared to 82.501 million barrels is 1.76%. DROP IN THE F****** BUCKET, PEOPLE!

    How much will oil prices drop when ANWR finally goes on line? At best, a mere $1.44 per barrel (in 2006 dollars) in 2027, nineteen years from now. Right now, as I write this, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil is selling for $134.62. If we could apply that best case scenario of ANWR oil to current oil prices, then WTI oil might be down to $133.18 (at best). Wow, an astounding drop of... 1.07%. Such a bargain! NOT!

    ANWR will not solve America's oil problems. Offshore oil drilling will not solve America's oil problems. It's all too little, too late. Only a massive conservation effort in which crude oil consumption per person goes down by a huge level (at a minimum 50%) is going to help solve America's oil problems.

    Until then, you're screwed.

    Movie Sunday: What's Up, Doc?

    Yeah, another of my favorite movies. :) What's Up, Doc?, released in 1972, is actually a remake of another great movie, Bringing Up Baby (1938), which starred Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. This movie was the film debut for the great Madeline Kahn, who did a terrific job as Howard Bannister's (Ryan O'Neal) fiancé, Eunice Burns. Barbra Streisand actually didn't want to do the movie at first, and predicted it would be a flop. We're very fortunate she was wrong.

  • The fender bender Judy (Barbra Streisand) causes as she crosses the street to the Bristol Hotel was added on the spur of the moment. When no stunt cars were available, Bogdanovich instructed a crew member to rent two cars and make sure he got collision insurance. Then he staged the wreck before returning the battered cars.
  • It took a month to film the final chase scene (the second clip, below), and it cost $1 million - a quarter of the total budget. The segment with the giant pane of glass alone took four or five days.
  • The director, Peter Bogdanovich, didn't get permission from the city of San Francisco to drive cars down the concrete steps in Alta Plaza Park; these were badly damaged during filming and still show the scars today.
  • The long-haired blond delivery boy whose bike Judy steals is played by Kevin O'Neal, Ryan O'Neal's brother. The woman she sits next to on the plane in the final scene is Patricia O'Neal, their mother.
  • The line, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard," said by Ryan O'Neal (see the bottom quotation) is actually a spoof on O'Neal's 1970 movie, Love Story, the tag line of which is "Love means never having to say you're sorry" (which O'Neal said in that movie).

    Fritz: You will enter Mrs. Van Hoskins' room, through the adjoining room and you will take the jewel case to the basement.

    Harry: What if she wakes up and sees me?

    Fritz: You will tell her you are smitten with her, that you have have followed her all night, and you will make passionate love to her.

    Harry: Couldn't I just kill her?

    Judy: Love means never having to say you're sorry.

    Howard: That's the dumbest thing I ever heard.
  • June 21, 2008

    Questions Asked of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

    Apparently, the following appears in the foreward of Ghulam Sarwar's book, "Islam: Beliefs and Teachings." I'm not able to find out which collection this hadith comes from, although it appears on a number of Muslim blogs and Internet forums. According to a comment on one of the blogs I visited, the "traveler" was a Bedouin. (I've edited the hadith slightly; e.g., adding some definitions, correcting spellings, etc.)

    A traveler once came to the mosque to see the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). After greeting him, the prophet asked where the traveler was from. The traveler replied that he came from very far just to get a few questions answered.

    What follows is the dialog that took place between the traveler and the prophet:

    Traveler: I do not want adhaab (punishments) to be written in my account.
    Prophet: Behave well with your parents

    Traveler: I want to be known amongst people as an intelligent person.
    Prophet: Fear Allah (swt). Always.

    Traveler: I want to be counted amongst Allah’s favorites.
    Prophet: Recite the Qur'an every morning and evening.

    Traveler: I want my heart to always be enlightened.
    Prophet: Never forget death.

    Traveler: I never want to be away from Allah’s blessing.
    Prophet: Always treat fellow creatures well.

    Traveler: I never want to be harmed by my enemies.
    Prophet: Always have faith in only Allah.

    Traveler: I never want to be humiliated.
    Prophet: Be careful of your actions.

    Traveler: I wish to live long.
    Prophet: Always do sile rahm (goodness towards blood relations, neighbors, etc.).

    Traveler: I want my sustenance to increase.
    Prophet: Always be in state of wudu (ablution).

    Traveler: I wish to stay free of adhaab (punishments) in the grave.
    Prophet: Always wear pure and clean clothes.

    Traveler: I never want to burn in hell.
    Prophet: Control your eyes and tongue.

    Traveler: How do I get my sins forgiven.
    Prophet: Always ask forgiveness from Allah (swt) with a lot of humility.

    Traveler: I want people to respect me always.
    Prophet: Never extend your hands of need at people (only ask from Allah’s Treasures).

    Traveler: I want to always be honored.
    Prophet: Never humiliate or put down anyone.

    Traveler: I don’t want to be squeezed by fishare qabr (squeezing in the grave).
    Prophet: Recite Sura Mulk (chapter 67 of the Qur'an) often.

    Traveler: I want my wealth to increase.
    Prophet: Recite Sura Waqi’ah (chapter 56 of the Qur'an) every night.

    Traveler: I want to be safe and at peace on day of Judgement.
    Prophet: Do dhikr (the remembrance) of Allah (swt) from dusk to night.

    Traveler: I want to be in full attention and concentration during namaaz (salat, prayer).
    Prophet: Always do wudu with concentration and attention.

    Robert Reich: "No" to Further Offshore Drilling

    The other day, in my update about how much oil the U.S. imports, I wrote:

    ...[S]hame on you ... if you believe either McCain or Cheney that drilling for oil offshore or up in Alaska will make a significant difference. Two reasons: "drop in the bucket" and "long-term projects," neither of which will lower your gas prices.

    On the same day that I wrote the above, Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration and currently a professor at the University of California (and a blogger), had a similar post on why the U.S. should not do further offshore drilling for oil. His first and second reasons are identical to what I wrote above, just further developed:

    First, the crude oil market is global. Oil companies sell all over the world. The price of crude is established by global supply and demand. So even if 3 million additional barrels a day could be extruded from lands and seabeds of the United States (that sum is the most optimistic figure, after all exploration is done), that sum is tiny compared to 86 million barrels now produced around the world. In other words, even under the best circumstances, the price to American consumers would hardly budge.

    Second, whatever impact such drilling might have would occur far in the future anyway. Oil isn't just waiting there to be pumped out of the earth. Exploration takes time. Erecting drilling equipment takes time. Getting the oil out takes time. Turning crude into various oil products takes time. According the the federal energy agency, if we opening drilling where drilling is now banned, there'd be no significant impact on domestic crude and natural gas production until 2030.

    Third, oil companies already hold a significant number of leases on federal lands and offshore seabeds where they are now allowed to drill, and which they have not yet fully explored. Why then would they seek more drilling rights? Because they want more leases now, when the Bushies are still in office. Ownership of these parcels would serve to to pump up their balance sheets even if no oil is pumped.

    Last but by no means least, environmental risks are still significant.

    HT: Economist's View

    The Foreign Fashion Models' Employment Relief Act of 2008

    An odd story out of The Economist this week: Apparently not enough foreign fashion models are able to get H-1B's, a temporary work visa the U.S. government gives to foreign nationals for specialized occupations. The H-1B, of which only 65,000 are allotted per year, is frequently given to tech workers; companies such as Microsoft and Infosys sponsor many of the H-1B employees, and even they are feeling the pinch from not enough foreign talent coming into the country. "Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman, testified to a Senate committee last year that the only way to solve the 'critical shortage of scientific talent' was to open up the country's doors."

    This is causing the New York fashion industry to get their knickers in a twist. Coming to the rescue is Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY09), who has proposed a bill that would allow models to be reclassified into their own special immigration category. "This would free up more visas for the nerds; and it would allow 1,000 models to strut their stuff in America each year, compared with just 349 in 2007, half the annual number admitted between 2000 and 2005."

    So why is Weiner sponsoring this bill?

    Steve King, an Iowa congressman, thinks the bill should be called the “Ugly American Act” because it implies there are not enough beautiful people in the United States. But Mr Weiner, a bachelor accused by the tabloids and his fellow politicians of using the visa issue to get himself a glamorous date, says he's only thinking of New York's economy, which is heavily involved in the fashion industry.

    The business generates thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue: the average photo-shoot costs about $100,000. If a foreign model is denied entry, he says, the production is likely to be lost to other countries. New York's skyline or California's hills can be easily photoshopped in later. This “beauty drain,” as the newspaper Politico calls it, affects make-up artists, stylists and photographers as well as media companies and advertising agencies.

    In other words, if this bill becomes law, all those foreign models, who have such limited prospects for modeling in their own countries, would be allowed to model in the U.S. if they're to avoid working at a real job.

    But what about the "supermodels," you ask? Fear not! There's some good news:

    ...[S]upermodels like Gisele Bündchen are in the clear. They are eligible for O-1 visas, given to those with “extraordinary ability,” like Nobel laureates.

    Drum Corps Saturday: 1975 Kilties

    Next is the Royal Crusaders of Finleyville, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh), who actually placed 7th in the prelims with a score of 84.85, but dropped down to 9th in the finals with an 82.40. This was their best season ever, having placed 16th and 17th in 1973 and '74, respectively, before dropping back down into the high teens-low 20s in the late 70s. I had the pleasure of competing against them a number of times in 1978 (in which they kicked our butts every time). The corps folded in 1981, although there was a brief comeback attempt in 1998.

    In eighth place was the Cavaliers of Park Ridge, Illinois. The Cavaliers had placed eleventh in the prelims with a score of 81.40; however, they had a slightly better showing in the finals with an 82.95. There is a video of this corps available at Youtube, but due to their role in the disqualification of the Hawthorne Muchachos, I will never play it on this blog.

    Which leads us to the Kilties of Racine, Wisconsin. The Mad Plaid, who were celebrating their 40th season in 1975, had placed eighth in the prelims with a score of 83.05; in the finals they moved up to seventh, with an 85.30.

    One other note: The 2008 drum corps season starts today in the U.S. Support the corps! Go to some shows and help the corps out in any way you can, even if it's buying some souvenirs.

    The Repertoire: The Third Hoorah * Carmina Burana * Roll Over Beethoven * Don't You Worry Bout A Thing * Auld Lang Syne

    June 20, 2008

    Bedtime Music: MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This

    I'm not going to spend any time discussing the song; we all know the song. ;) But did you know how MC Hammer got the "Hammer" nickname?

    From 1972 to 1980, [Stanley Kirk] Burrell served as a batboy with the Oakland Athletics under colorful team owner Charlie Finley, who lived in the Midwest and for whom Burrell was his "eyes and ears." Reggie Jackson, in describing Burrell's role for Finley, took credit for the "Hammer" nickname:

    Hell, our chief executive, the guy that ran our team, uh, that communicated [with] Charlie Finley, the top man there, was a 13-year old kid. I nicknamed him "Hammer," because he looked like [Hammerin'] Hank Aaron.

    Ron Bergman, at the time an Oakland Tribune writer who covered the A's, recalled that:

    He was an informant in the clubhouse, an informant for Charlie, and he got the nickname "Pipeline."

    According to Hammer:

    Charlie said, "I'm getting you a new hat. I don't want you to have a hat that says "A's" on it. I'm getting you a hat that says 'Ex VP,' that says 'Executive Vice President.' You're running the joint around here." . . . Every time I come down to the clubhouse, you know, Rollie would yell out "Oh, everybody be quiet! Here comes Pipeline!"


    June 19, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Was (Not Was) - Walk the Dinosaur

    I'm not terribly familiar with Was (Not Was); in fact, this is really the only song of theirs that I do know, the 1987/8 hit, Walk the Dinosaur. The song reached #10 in the UK, and #7 in the U.S.

    Update: How Much Oil Does America Import?

    Currently, my most popular blog post by far is How Much Oil Does America Import?, written back in May 2006, two years ago. I thought it was time to update the figures and see how the U.S. is doing since I first wrote that post.

    The U.S. gets its oil from two sources: either it pumps its own oil, called "Field Production" by the Department of Energy, or it imports oil from other countries around the world. In 2000, American commercial field production made up 38.69% of the total supply of crude oil, while imports made up 60.28%. In 2005, when I wrote the last post, those same percentages were 33.67% and 65.84%, respectively. (These numbers are different from what I wrote back in 2006 as adjustments have been made to the official statistics; these types of revisions are normal for economic statistics.) In 2007 (the most recent year), the percentages were 33.72% and 66.19%, respectively. While there has been an extremely slight increase in the amount of oil pumped domestically (0.05%), imports have also increased as well. (The reason why both numbers can increase is because a third number, "supply adjustments," fell.)

    In 2007, the U.S. imported a total of 3,656,170 thousand barrels. Of those 3.66 billion barrles, the U.S. imported from a total of 46 different countries. The top 5 importing countries were: Canada (18.61%), Saudi Arabia (14.50%), Mexico (14.07%), Venezuela (11.48%), and Nigeria (10.80%), for a total of 69.47% of all American imports. In contrast, imports from countries six through ten (Angola, Iraq, Algeria, Ecuador, and Kuwait) made up only 17.95% of the total; countries 11 through 46 made up the remaining 12.58%.

    Looking at petroleum imports in two other ways...
  • In 2007, imports from OPEC countries* made up 53.85% of all U.S. imports, compared to the 46.15% from non-OPEC countries. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. Since 1993, when the Energy Information Agency (EIA) started breaking out the statistics, non-OPEC countries have been the dominant exporters ten years out of the past fifteen. The year 2007 was the first time since 2001 that OPEC countries had sold more petroleum to the U.S. than non-OPEC countries.
  • With respect to the Persian Gulf, those countries** only made up 21.19% of the total imports. This is down slightly, one-half percent, from my 2006 analysis. Note that the U.S. imports no oil from Iran.

    Two years ago, I made four points as to how I thought things would go with respect to American oil imports and consumption. We'll look at how good or bad those predictions were:

    1. American field production will probably go below 25% of its total annual supply within the next five years.

    I think we can write this prediction off; I don't foresee this happening within the next three years (or perhaps even the next ten).

    2. In that same time frame, imports will probably be in the high 50s percentage (perhaps 58-59%).

    On the other hand, I think this prediction is very much a lock at this time. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this number goes back up again, remaining in the 60-65% range.

    3. America will continue to seek the majority of its oil from non-OPEC countries, such as Canada and Mexico, if only to avoid being as dependent on OPEC countries as they have been in the past. However, this will probably turn out to be a pipe dream in the long run unless Canadian oil reserve estimates turn out to be near the high end. (Estimates for Canada's proven oil reserves ranges from 4.7 billion barrels (World Oil) to 14.803 billion barrels (BP Statistical Review) to 178.792 billion barrels (Oil & Gas Journal). Obviously, this extremely wide range of guesses shows that no one truly knows how much oil Canada has.)

    Since I wrote this, I've gotten a better understanding with respect to Canada's oil reserves. The problem with the Canadian oil sands is that it is made up of a very dense and viscous type of petroleum called bitumen. Bitumen is like molasses at room temperature, and needs heating just to flow. (The tar that we pave roads with is bitumen.) Oil refineries are set up to process certain types of crude oils, and bitumen is normally not one of them. So, while Canada has a lot of proved oil reserves, most of it is not in the form the refineries need to produce products like gasoline. In this respect, the lower reserve amount mentioned above is probably closer to the amount of crude oil Canada actually has. In time, more refineries may convert to take advantage of the Canadian oil sands, but that will probably be a gradual process.

    4. Persian Gulf oil, which has ranged between 19.81% and 28.56% of all U.S. imports since 1996, will probably continue to hover in the high teens-low 20s, despite President Bush's goal to cut American consumption of Middle Eastern oil by 75% by 2025, per the latest State of the Union address.

    I don't see this forecast changing at all. What President Bush said in 2006 about cutting the amount of Middle Eastern oil America consumes was complete and utter bullshit (and shame on you if you believed him). BTW, shame on you again if you believe either McCain or Cheney that drilling for oil offshore or up in Alaska will make a significant difference. Two reasons: "drop in the bucket" and "long-term projects," neither of which will lower your gas prices. I may post on this in the near future, insha'allah, but in the meantime I recommend that you read John McCain's Oil Scam over at Informed Comment (Juan Cole), and Drilling Our Way to... by Menzie Chinn over at Econbrowser.

    US Crude Oil Supply and Disposition (DoE)
    US Crude Oil Imports by Country of Origin (DoE)

    * OPEC countries include Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Venezuela.
    ** Persian Gulf countries include Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. However, Iran and Qatar export no oil to the U.S.
  • June 18, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Baha Men - Who Let The Dogs Out?

    This song is an oddity in a number of ways. Who Let the Dogs Out? was originally written by Trinidadian musician Anslem Douglas for the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival season of 1998, except that he lost a lawsuit for having stolen the chorus, which was originally composed by Patrick Stephenson and Leroy Williams in 1995 as a radio jingle. The song was covered by the Baha Men, a Bahamian band whose only claim to fame is this song; their big break happened when WLtDO? appeared in the kids' movie, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie. The song made it to #1 in a couple of countries (#2 in the UK, #40 in the US), and won a Grammy for "Best Dance Recording" in 2001. Yet, the song is third on a Rolling Stone list of the top 10 "most annoying" songs. Still, the song (and variants) has become a staple at numerous college and professional sporting events worldwide.


    June 17, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Los Del Rio - Macarena

    I'd be curious to see what the overall memory of this song is. Did you like it? Hate it? Were you bored of it? Is there any other song that defines the mid 90s as well as this one? :)

    June 16, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Las Ketchup - Aserejé

    AKA "The Ketchup Song." This isn't the original video, but it is a bit tamer. This 2002 release reached #1 on 26 different charts worldwide although, ironically, it peaked at a mere #54 on the American Billboard Hot 100 and #39 on the Billboard Top 40. Weird. The song tells the story of a pimp-like "afro-gipsy, rastafari" character named Diego who walks into a crowded nightclub at midnight. The DJ, as he sees Diego walk in, plays the "twelve-o'clock anthem," "the song he desires most," which happens to be the 1979 rap hit "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang.

    As for why
    Las Ketchup calls themselves that, they are the daughters (Lucia, Lola and Pilar) of Juan Muñoz, a Spanish flamenco guitarist known as El Tomate (The Tomato).

    Watts Zap Best of 2007, Part 2

    And here's part two from Watts' Best of 2007.

    June 15, 2008

    Darn Baseball Terrorists!

    Mark Liberman at Language Log notes that Faux News isn't too concerned about the fifth column of terrorist baseball players that has infiltrated our great country:

    Pat Burrell (left) congratulates Ryan Howard on his first-inning home run, one batter after Chase Utley's solo blast. Burrell followed Howard with a homer of his own. Howard hit another shot later in the game in St. Louis.

    Fox News has apparently let their semiotic guard down on this one, because a search of their site turned up no evidence of concern that the "terrorist fist jab" may have infiltrated the national pastime.

    My question: Did E.D. Hill come up with this ridiculous assertion because she works for Faux News, or was it just because she's a blond? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

    HT: Economist's View
    Photo credit: TOM GANNAM / Associated Press


    Turns out the old man (George H. W. Bush) is a terrorist, too, along with former tennis star, Anna Kournikova. More at Wonkette.

    HT: Things More Muslim Than Obama

    Watts Zap Best of 2007, Part 1

    Here's the first of two parts for Watts' Best of 2007. There are a lot of funny moments here in a wide variety of sports. I'll have part 2 up tomorrow. Enjoy!

    Movie Sunday: Lawrence of Arabia

    This is another of my favorite movies (and one in which Milady finds something else to do while I watch it ;) ). And yet, as is frequently the case with respect to "historical" films, sifting the "Hollywood" away from the history can be a daunting task, especially for a film like Lawrence of Arabia in which there are serious debates not only about the accuracy of the historical events portrayed, but also about the man himself. Regardless, the movie has long been recognized for its excellence, and has frequently been listed among a number of "Top 10" lists of all-time movies. We also have this film to thank for inspiring a certain contemporary film director to go into film-making for his career.

    Interesting facts about
    Lawrence of Arabia:
  • No woman has a speaking role in the entire movie.
  • While the movie was originally planned to be filmed entirely in Jordan, many scenes were filmed in either Morocco (desert scenes and the Tafas massacre, where the Morrocan army was used to play the Ottoman army) and Spain (the attack on Aqaba, the train attacks, the city scenes of Cairo and Jerusalem, and all the interior scenes).
  • Henry Oscar, who has a small role in the film and recites an English translation from the Qur'an, received permission from Jordanian authorities to do so only on condition that an imam be present to ensure that there were no misquotes.
  • During the filming of the movie, King Hussein of Jordan met and later married an English secretary working on the set, Antoinette "Toni" Gardiner (now Princess Muna al-Hussein). Her first-born son from this marriage is King Abdullah II of Jordan.

    Well, I'll tell you. It's a little clash of temperament that's going on in there. Inevitably, one of them's half-mad - and the other, wholly unscrupulous.

    Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men: courage, and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace, and the vices of peace are the vices of old men: mistrust and caution.
  • June 14, 2008

    Watts Next?

    Milady and I finally upgraded our cable TV service last weekend. There was a free sports channel that I wasn't able to receive on our old analog set-box (Eurosports; a European version of ESPN), and Milady wanted to be able to watch a few channels for both herself (FoxCrime and Crime & Investigation) and the baby eventually (e.g., Disney Playhouse). We also picked up a Hubstation, which is one of those TiVo-type digital recorders.

    So, this past week I've been watching the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, which is a French bicycle race over eight days in the mountainous Dauphiné region of France (the southeast corner of the country, below Geneva, Switzerland). To fill the time before the next program (because the Critérium broadcasts are live), Eurosports plays a series of "Watts" videos. These are clips from various sporting events and sports-related commercials, often wacky in tone. I've never seen anything like these before, but they're pretty interesting and I've grabbed a random "Watts" video off of Youtube for your viewing pleasure.

    In this video (call it, "The Perils of Being a Ref"), I especially got a kick out of the boxer who gave the referee a standing eight count and the soccer referee who caught the hurtling glass bottle while he was giving the player a yellow card. I hope to put up more of these "Watts" videos in the future.

    Drum Corps Saturday - 1975 Phantom Regiment

    In 1975, the Garfield Cadets came in 9th for the prelims with a score of 82.35; however, they dropped down to 11th place in the finals with a score of 80.55. Unfortunately, I can't find a video of them on Youtube.

    In 10th place for both prelims and finals was Phantom Regiment, who scored 81.95 in prelims and an 81.30 in the finals. Phantom had made the DCI finals for the first time the previous year, placing 11th in the finals. In '75, the corps came back with new uniforms that radically changed the corps' image, which remains to this day. From 1970 through 1974, Phantom had worn a cadet-style uniform with shakos; in 1975, the corps began wearing long white jackets with a black sash, a two-color cape (red on the inside, black on the outside, black pants, and the now-signature pith helmet.

    The Repertoire: American Overture * Hungarian Dance No. 5 * Barber of Seville * An American in Paris * Tannhauser (Pilgrim's Chorus)

    Note: The quality of the second video becomes rather "sticky" in "An American in Paris," and remains that way through the end of the video.

    June 13, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Beach Boys - Good Vibrations

    The last multi-part musical collage I wanted to present this week is The Beach Boys' 1966 release, Good Vibrations. Brian Wilson's publicist, Derek Taylor, described Good Vibrations as a "pocket symphony." The song is known not only for its multiple thematic segments, but also for the wider range of instruments used than was normal for that time. One of those instruments was the electro-theremin played by Paul Taylor. The electro-theremin was similar to another electronic instrument known as the theremin, but allowed for greater control of pitch and attack, using mechanical controls such as a long slide bar for the pitch and a knob to adjust volume.

    I've chosen this older, black-and-white video because I thought it was truer to the song's original sound than some of the newer videos available.

    June 12, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Paul McCartney - Band on the Run (Live)

    After doing last night's Bedtime Music of Sowing the Seeds of Love, I thought I'd give two more examples of multi-part musical collages, one tonight and another tomorrow.

    The first is Paul McCartney & Wings' 1974 release,
    Band on the Run. As Wikipedia notes, the song "...is composed of a three-part structure that revolves around the themes of escape and liberation." George Harrison contributed one of the lines in the middle section, "If we ever get out of here." This particular concert was done at the Paris Olympia Music Hall on October 22, 2007.

    Odd-but-True Facts: (And this just goes to show you how weird 1970s musical tastes were at the time),
    Band on the Run, which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, was preceded by Ray Stevens's The Streak and was followed by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods' Billy, Don't Be a Hero.

    June 11, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Tears for Fears - Sowing the Seeds of Love

    OK, so I was listening to Tears for Fears' Sowing the Seeds of Love on the train home tonight, and I decided to include it for my Bedtime Music. I love this song. (Apparently a lot of other people do too. Funny that. ;) )

    It's said (in Wikipedia) that StSoL "is notable for being an intentional pastiche of The Beatles", and certainly there are a lot of Beatles-ish/Monty Python-ish elements to the video. But musically, I've always thought that StSoL was more in the vein of Paul McCartney & Wings'
    Band on the Run. Band on the Run is written in a three-part structure, and StSoL is not only a multi-part "musical collage," but I think it perfected this genre. Anyway, enough of my analysis. Watch the video!

    June 10, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Lonestar - Amazed

    One other request by Ronin, which I'm more than happy to oblige: the 1999 hit, Amazed, by country music band Lonestar. (I'd been meaning to put on some country videos eventually, so I'm glad you recommended this song, Ronin!) Amazed is a musical rarity: a song that topped both the country charts and the Billboard Hot 100. The last single to do that had been Islands in the Stream by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton back in 1983.

    June 9, 2008

    Bedtime Music: Lenny Kravitz - Again

    Tonight's song is a request from Ronin, a Singaporean Malay Muslim blogger (whose blog, I'm sorry to say, is invitation-only). I had never heard Again, by Lenny Kravitz, until just a few minutes ago, but now that I've heard it I understand why this is such a popular song. "Again" was released in 2000 as a single on Kravitz's Greatest Hits album, and won Kravitz his his third straight Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance in 2001.

    Be warned: there's some tongue action and Kravitz's bare butt in the video. ;)

    Yahoo Sports on Dennis Johnson (1954-2007)

    There's a nice tribute essay to former NBA great Dennis Johnson at Yahoo Sports, now that the Lakers and Celtics are playing against each other once more in the NBA finals. "DJ" was a fan favorite in Phoenix when I lived there in the early 80s, but he didn't get along very well with the Suns' coaching staff and Jerry Colangelo traded him in what I consider the worst trade Colangelo ever made, for Rick Robey and draft picks.

    I appreciate this article because I can relate to "the grind of making it." When you're a naive high school teenager, it seems like life will remain as easy as it had been. But I found that, for me, getting through college and then creating a life, both at work and at home, wasn't nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Even having this child has been exceedingly difficult with a lot of false hope and emotional heartbreak over the past five years. So with the story of a guy like DJ, who overcame his odds yet remained true to himself when the limelight had passed him by, yeah, I can appreciate that type of story.

    Some excerpts:

    He was 52 years old Feb. 22, 2007, in the Austin Convention Center, coaching his second season for the Toros in the NBA Development League. Two years ago, Smith had been an undrafted NBA prospect out of the University of Maryland, arriving in town weeks ahead of his teammates. Without an apartment until the first of the next month, with nowhere to stay, Johnson invited Smith to stay with the coach’s wife and four children.

    After Smith moved out, he still had to wait for his washing machine to get hooked up. He stopped over to the Johnsons to throw a load into theirs. When Smith returned, he discovered that Johnson – cast to the bush leagues as a five-team NBA All-Star, a three-time world champion, an NBA Finals MVP, the most underappreciated player in the Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers Finals of the 1980s – had thrown his clothes into the dryer, folded them neatly and stacked them in a basket.

    “Here was a great player, a Hall of Fame player, who would do that for … me,” Smith said. “It just showed the kind of humble man he was.”

    And so, after that practice, D.J. had thrown up his hands in the face of Smith, until the player swished three, four, maybe five straight. Johnson laughed, and with a dismissive wave, said, “I ain’t messing with you no more.” He walked outside to his car with the team’s publicist, Perri Travillion, and teased her that the police had spared him the parking ticket they had tagged on her windshield.

    Together, they laughed. And then, he gulped, “Catch me!” and collapsed onto the sidewalk. Dennis Johnson died of cardiac arrest.

    When Magic Johnson thinks of the Celtics-Lakers battles in the 1980s, it isn’t just Bird that comes to his mind. “My rivalry was really with D.J.,” Magic said. He called him, “one of the best individual defensive players probably to ever play in the league,” and has never gotten over the way Johnson systemically took him out of the ‘84 Finals. Larry Bird called Johnson the best teammate he ever had.

    Johnson had 15,000 points and 5,000 assists with the Sonics, Suns and Celtics, one of just 11 players ever to do so. With the Suns in ‘80, he was first-team All-NBA with Kareem, Dr. J and Bird. He was the Finals MVP in 1979 with the Sonics, and an immense part of two Celtics titles in ‘84 and ‘86.

    Before arriving in Austin in 2005, he had run out of assistant coaching jobs and scouting jobs. He had a short run as an interim coach with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2003, but it never turned into something bigger. Bird, Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge had been NBA coaches and GMs. Even M.L. Carr had a turn running the Celtics.

    Nothing like that came for D.J., and no one ever heard him gripe about it. He belongs in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame...

    Whatever happened, Johnson coached his last team in Austin without nostalgia over what had been, without bitterness of what never was. The Toros never heard him talking about Bird and Magic, about winning Game 5 of the Finals in ‘85 with a jumper, about catching that pass off Bird’s steal in ‘87 and beating the Pistons with a twisting layup in the conference finals.

    It wouldn’t be long until his players understood the reason why: For him to help them chase a dream the way that he did, they needed to hear the stories of his own personal grind. He never talked much about the glamorous Big Eighties, but his own improbable passage in the Seventies.

    Johnson told them about how he had never gotten off the bench in high school, how he had been working in a warehouse when a junior college coach discovered him in a Los Angeles playground game. He told them about getting picked in the second round of the 1976 NBA draft out of Pepperdine, and how he was the last player to make the Sonics roster that season.

    “He always talked about the grind of making it,” Toros guard Cheyne Gadson said. “If you wanted to know a lot about the Celtics days, you’d have to look it up. But he wanted us to understand how hard it was to get from Pepperdine just into the NBA.”

    On the long D-League bus rides, Johnson sat in the front row. Never sleeping, he considered his responsibility to make sure the driver stayed awake. Whatever the job, he did it. He had so little ego, so much pride. For over a decade, he had been an assistant with the Celtics and Clippers. He did advance scouting, a grueling, thankless job that most ex-NBA players – never mind past stars – leave to the video coordinators and ex-college student managers on the way up.

    When the Toros hired him, he moved his wife, Donna, and his children to town. He immersed himself. He did every community event for the team. He spoke to every 4-H club, and rotary and biddy league basketball camp. “I don’t remember him ever turning one down,” Toros president Mike Berry said.


    They still revere him in Austin. He had been there simply a season and a half, but as San Antonio Spurs GM R.C. Buford said, “That community holds so much affection for him.”


    As it turned out, it wasn’t the old Celtics and Suns and Sonics carrying Dennis Johnson’s casket up that cemetery’s hill in Gardena, Calif.

    The players were the pallbearers, the Austin Toros. “An honor I’ll never forget,” Smith said.

    The Austin Toros carried their coach past Bird and McHale and Ainge, and laid him to rest. These kids were living the hardscrabble basketball stories that had so much in common with Johnson’s own journey. Now, it’s the Celtics and Lakers all over again, and Johnson has come back to life in the old footage. Maybe he would’ve made his way back with them, maybe not.

    “I know Dennis wanted to get back to the NBA, but I think he would’ve been fine if he never did,” Berry said. “He was at such peace with himself.”

    He was Magic’s greatest defender, Bird’s greatest teammate, but so much of the big heart that finally gave out on Dennis Johnson belonged in the bushes, belonged to his last team.