Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mysterious Ways, Indeed

In her recent column in the Washington Post sports section, Sally Jenkins makes the salient point that athletes seem to be in touch with something that the rest of us cannot grasp. Indeed, as is the case with the greatest actuaries and Perl programmers, super-athletes have a kind of ...
... knowledge the rest of us can learn from, bound as we are by our ordinary, trudging, cumbersome selves. Ever get the feeling that they are in touch with something that we aren't? What is that thing? Could it be their random, mutant talent, or could it be evidence of, gulp, intelligent design?
She cites specific examples, most notably, Joe DiMaggio.
And try telling a baseball fan that pure Darwinism explains Joe DiMaggio. As Tommy Lasorda once said, "If you said to God, 'Create someone who was what a baseball player should be,' God would have created Joe DiMaggio — and he did."
More than that, God designed us so intelligently that he programmed us to invent baseball, as if to allow us to set him up with a big alley-oop: BAM! Joe DiMaggio.

One might think that Ms. Jenkins with her gym teacher hairdo would have little time for a fruity sport like cycling, but in fact she co-authored Lance Armstrong's autobiography. How odd, then, that she should have passed on the greatest story of intelligent design in all of sports.

If you were seated on a bus between Shaquille O'Neal and Lance Armstrong you might not realize that the latter is just as much a physical freak as the former. With his oversized heart, enormous lung capacity, low muscle-to-tendon ratio, unusually long femurs, and mass distribution favoring his lower body, Armstrong was intelligently designed to win three-week-long bicycle races. But it wasn't always that way. Early in his career Armstrong sported the massive upper musculature of a swimmer. Indeed, he came to European road cycling from the world of triathlons. But this upper-body musculature is just dead weight when climbing Mt. Ventoux.

To the Darwinian, cancer is just random happenstance, unexplainable, without meaning. The Darwinian cannot explain how it is that Lance Armstrong's body changed in ways that made it possible for him to become the most dominant rider of cycling's most prestigious race. But could it just be that God designed Armstrong's balls so intelligently that they exploded with cancer at just the right time, a cancer that quickly metstasized to his lungs and brain, necessitating surgery and chemotherapy which would forever change his body type and prompt him to win seven Tours de France? It could be. Certainly Darwinians have no proof to the contrary.

Joe DiMaggio, Lance Armstrong ... what will God intelligently design next?

Neighborhood #12 (North 6th Street)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Neighborhood #11 (Bedford Ave. Window Dressing)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We Don't Get to Vote on the Truth

Matthew Yglesias notes that 55% of Americans believe that our children ought to be taught evolution, creationism, and "intelligent design." His point seems to be that truth and reason aren't testing well with target audiences, and so we ought to come up with some more persuasive marketing.

How's this? Teach your kids science or else their children and grandchildren will be too busy digging for grubs with sticks to worry about any "controversy."

The real problem, of course, is that so few adult Americans ever learned any science. Witness the witless ID reports in The New York Times this past week.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Neighborhood #2.2 (Aurora Update)

Lillet and I often walk by the sinkhole construction site of Aurora: The Dawn of Luxury. Not much seems to happen there, but one day we saw this new banner on the facade.

What's this? The ikon? Did the Developers Group change the name in the hopes of hastening construction? Wait ... will there be no dawn of luxury? Days later, the ikon banner was gone. What's going on here?

Not to fear. The southern end of McCarren Park will soon see the dawn of a new age and time enduring beauty and strength.

Things seem to be going slowly at the Aurora, at least in the sense of any actual construction taking place. But, hey, you can't rush the Dawn of Luxury. At least landscaping seems to be going apace.

The Developers Group, by the way, are the same people who are bringing us the 342 Bedford Condominiums.

And around the corner, on Richardson Street of all places, say hello to LUXE226.

Neighborhood #10 (Conselyea St. Statuary)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Neighborhood #9 (Emily's Pork Store)

We also invite you to Joel's neighborhood in Paris.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Focus On Insanity

The gay panic in our country is reaching a new low with this garbage: “Is My Child Becoming Homosexual?” courtesy of Focus on the Family’s website.

A little roughhousing, boys?

Here are some of the warning signs, per Dr. James Dobson:
Before puberty, children aren’t normally heterosexual or homosexual. They’re definitely gender conscious. But young children are not sexual beings yet — unless something sexual in nature has interrupted their developmental phases.

Still, it’s not uncommon for children to experience gender confusion during the elementary school years. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi reports, “In one study of 60 effeminate boys ages 4 to 11, 98 percent of them engaged in cross-dressing, and 83 percent said they wished they had been born a girl.”

Evidences of gender confusion or doubt in boys ages 5 to 11 may include:
  1. A strong feeling that they are “different” from other boys.
  2. A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.
  3. A persistent preference to play female roles in make-believe play.
  4. A strong preference to spend time in the company of girls and participate in their games and other pastimes.
  5. A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them “queer,” “fag,” and “gay.”
  6. A tendency to walk, talk, dress and even “think” effeminately.
Wow. You know, my own husband was a morbidly sensitive, intellectual, skinny, handsome blond boy growing up on Christopher Street in the 1970’s. I know he had a strong feeling he was “different” and didn’t "enjoy roughhousing" and liked to go to the library alone and played competitive chess. I also know, being married to him, that he is 100% heterosexual, and if you were watching what goes on in our bedroom [NO, MIKA!] or walking by on the street while we are making love you too would be convinced. But that's irrelevant. Were my husband gay I couldn't do much about it, despite my amazing rack.

And before puberty children are totally aware of sexual energy — not the way they
will be in puberty and adulthood, but they are aware. Every single gay person I know knew they were gay since they were prepubescent (and almost every lesbian my age knew because their first crush was on Kate Jackson!) I know I was vividly conscious of my own sexuality as young as four — there was definitely an erotic component to my insistence on always being the maiden tied to a tree or captured by the enemy when playing “war” or “pirates” with neighborhood kids. And although I idolized Wonder Woman and wanted to be her, I always liked the parts when she’s tied up before busting her bonds and kicking some ass! And since I’m MARRIED, my husband can tie me up six ways to Sunday and fuck me all day and night until Santorum repeals Griswold and then we’ll have to resort to sodomy as family planning (but I like that kind of thing, unlike poor Mrs. Hager!)

Lillet in college

It is this kind of bullshit that is responsible for such atrocities as the man who beat his three year old son to death while trying to teach him to box so he wouldn’t be gay. The ignorance in this country is absolutely OBSCENE.

It’s criminally insane that this crap appears alongside a sidebar promising that subscribing to the Focus on Your Child newsletter will “provide you with expert information and resources to help you raise healthy, confident and well-adjusted children.” Yeah, a kid is going to be real well–adjusted when he’s being monitored for fagginess every five seconds. Above this claim is a link to “Protecting Your Child From Sexual Abuse.” [Here’s a tip — keep them away from members of the clergy!]

Maybe someone should tell Dr. Dobson that per his diagnostic criteria, Jesus Christ has to have been TOTALLY QUEER? Check it out!

  1. Long hippie hair
  2. Turning the other cheek = “disliking roughhousing”
  3. "Tendency to cry easily"
  4. Mama’s boy
  5. Absent father (per Dobson, when the dad’s away the kid turns gay)
  6. “Bullied by other boys” You bet!
  7. Teased unmercifully
  8. Dressing effeminately (see #1)
  9. All that girly empathy

Too bad Exodus wasn’t around back then — Jesus could have learned the error of his
homo ways, kicked some Roman ass like a real roughhousing manly man, thus avoiding crucifixion which would leave Dr. James Dobson a JEW and would have saved Madonna all that time she took to finally find the Kabbalah Centre!

Examples of hypocrisy from Christian groups become exponentially egregious by the day, it seems. Everyone’s clinging to the ID nonsense — "The world is so complicated it HAD to be designed” — though it would be just too icky and scary to acknowledge that MAYBE said designer designed homosexuals too, and not just as a hook for your sick, bigoted projections. Maybe if the world is so complex that it demands the supposition of an almighty designer, it’s more complex than your warped and narrow interpretation of your slave religion, did you ever think of that?

Jesus spoke of peace and ending poverty and loving your neighbor as yourself. Focus your fucking focus on THAT.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

We're Number $even!

The New York Post's politics and journalism are of course vile, not even worth discussing. But I am interested in the way the Post presents New York to its own citizens, because it does something you'd think would be utterly unnecessary. The Post is head cheerleader for New York, never letting us forget that we live in the Greatest City on Earth, and — especially — never allowing us to doubt that. Any put-down of the city or even a suggestion that anything or anyone here might not be the brightest and the best is quickly dispatched.

I wonder whether it has ever occurred to the Post's editorial board that there is nothing so indicative of a second-class city as continual insistence that it is not second-class, particularly by means of dubious claims to uniqueness. Seattle may not be as glamorous as Los Angeles, but does Los Angeles have the Space Needle? Hey, St. Louis: nice arch! The only thing that could make New York seem like a second-class city is to enter into this kind of stupid competition, and the Post fills out our entry form daily.

The Post's August 3rd edition contained a particularly loud but also illuminating example of its mindless, pointless boosterism of New York. It seems that GQ dared suggest that New York is not one of the world's four greatest cities for restaurants. Of course, a real New Yorker, a citizen of a truly first-class city, would not give a fuck what GQ has to say. And someone of even modest intelligence living anywhere at all would understand that such articles are designed to be mildly controversial. The Post is incensed, though, and trots out Anthony Bourdain as if to say, I got your steak tartare, right here.

But it gets worse, because the intern from some suburb assigned to research all of the reasons New York is the GREATEST GASTRONOMIC CITY IN THE WORLD came up with four separate space needles.

Only the tourists eat at Olive Garden.
You know what? Not true. And anyway, what does the Olive Garden have to do with anything. But note ...
Even our malls — such as the Time Warner Center — have world-class four-star restaurants
... that in defending New York as a world capital, the Post finds it necessary to mention its malls and its Olive Gardens.
Only in New York could you have a "Zillion Dollar Frittata," a $1,000 omelet made with eggs, lobster and 10 ounces of servuga caviar.
Aside from being disgusting both gastronomically and morally, this is almost certainly untrue. I bet I could get one in Vegas. At 4AM. No problem.

But my favorite is this, which is just so Post.
There are nearly 18,000 restaurants in N.Y.C. [...] That's about one restaurant for every 40 people who live here.
Indeed it is, as long as only about 720,000 people live here. What the intern found out is that the city has about one restaurant for every 400 people who live here, but I guess the Post felt that was kinda crowded.

A further sidebar whines that "Oceana's Maine skate is apparently subpar to dishes in Los Angeles or Madrid. What were GQ editors smoking?"

Probably big, fat Cuban cigars, expensed, as were their dinners. A three course meal paired with wines at Oceana will run you $125. For a couple, with tip, that's a $300
meal. Now what I wonder is, how many faithful Post readers are dining at Oceana or Les Halles? It's entirely anecdotal evidence, but I'm going to suggest that Post readers are much more Gray's Papaya types. And I'm betting that the Post's editors know this, too. Maybe they even discuss it over dinner at Les Halles.

Why would Murdoch and his henchmen want their Garfield- and Michelle Malkin- and 3rd-race-at-Belmont-reading subscribers to swell with pride to think that restaurants they will never set foot in are better than those in Madrid? Keeps a solid base of domestic help in the city is what I'm thinking.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Neighborhood #8 (Najeeb's Falafel)

In our ethnic but not ethnically diverse neighborhood, there is a Middle Eastern restaurant that Lillet and I used to call Al Qaeda Falafel, only because we judged their chances of success to be no worse than had they really been so-named. Here, the taqueria and the little sliver of a sushi stand are but blips among the Italian restaurants, Italian delis, and pizzerias. We could not imagine a particularly warm reception for this new venture here, in this neighborhood where the New York Post is the paper of record and Al Jazeera is most likely believed to be the name of your uncle's bookie.

And we were right. The restaurant was always empty — one of those places that provided a daily surprise just by still being there. I winced when I noticed the desperate measure of placing a little Italian flag in the window. But one day Lillet came home with a glowing review for the cardamon iced coffee and then I had an excellent vegetarian platter and — wow — the rosewater lemonade was amazing!

I noticed right away two ouds hanging on the wall, and that the music being played was that of Simon Shaheen, the Palestinian oud virtuoso and one of my favorite musicians. I saw him perform only once, at Stanford some 15 years ago, but that concert has been in my head and heart ever since, like only a small handful of others have (Sun Ra at Soundscape in 1979 ... Dariush Talâ'i at Théâtre de la Ville in 1996 ... but this is another post).

A few days later Lillet and I stopped in for some lemonade and I noticed that several CDs were displayed for sale, all by Shaheen. I had to ask. "Do you have some relation to Simon Shaheen or are you just — like me — big fans?" No answer, really, from the counterman. He only went into the back to fetch a man with curly, salt-and-pepper hair and an imposing mustache. His name was Najeeb. Najeeb Shaheen, that is, Simon's brother. He could not have been more gracious to us, nor more excited to learn that my love of his brother's music was genuine. We were enthusiastically invited to their next concert — their next concert, as Najeeb is part of one of his brother's many ensembles.

I stopped by for dinner just the other evening and talked to Najeeb again. He has the most charming combination of Arab courtliness and a liking for the aggressive slang of jazz musicians. How was the concert in Minneapolis, I asked. Oh, my friend. We killed. We inflicted much damage upon this audience.

While we were talking, a handful of hipsters came in, and Najeeb welcomed all of them by name. Perhaps there are enough here now to allow his restaurant to thrive in the land of sausage-and-peppers.

When I think about what I have loved for all my life about New York, it is things like this: that your neighbor might not only be the brother of one of the world's greatest musicians, but that he is also more than happy to talk about him; that you can get an excellent meal for $10 and also talk to the man who made it about Fairuz, the legendary Lebanese singer; that the owner of your neighborhood falafel stand genuinely cares about your white-boy interest in the music of his culture and will turn you on to a CD recorded in 1972 by telling you, Trey, these guys are just smoking here, they will slay you!

Neighborhood #7 (Our Lady of the Snows Parade at 97°F)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

George W. Bush: Epistemologist

"I think it's an interesting part of knowledge [to have] a theory of evolution and a theory of creationism. People should be exposed to different points of view. I personally believe God created the Earth."

"[Rafael Palmeiro (who failed a steroid test after testifying to Congress that he had never used the drugs) is] the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him. Still do."