I still have mad respect for the Wolf for calling Saddam Hussein a threat back in 1979- to date myself here, he's been right on that for almost as long as I've been alive. But Noah does point out that this does leave him being as inflexible as the Pope once he's decided he's infallible.
I am not a journalist. Or a writer.
posted by mike d
Which is why I need to get back into the practice of writing 100 words a day. So's I get better at expressing myself through writing. Right now I best express myself three Johnny Blacks into the evening. Which is a great place to be, but not always feasible at 10am...
Anyway, it's Tuesday, so: Örn, when are you coming to DC?
29 March 2004
Dick & Pat
posted by mike d
I just re-watched Nixon tonght. What a great film. Oliver Stone went a little overboard with the cinematographic tricks in what is strongest as a psychological portrait of a deeply tormented man. In addition to the traditional "American" tragedy the Nixon story is portrayed as, the film would be great just as a portrait of the marriage of Richard and Patricia Nixon.
Bud Light as metaphor
posted by mike d
This past weekend I went to a family wedding in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. As a penitent sun-worshipper, and as we were suffering 30-degree (F) weather a week ago here in Our Nation's Capital, I jumped at the opportunity. Florida -north or south- is in many ways a different country from the US, and I needed to "travel abroad".
I was anticipating the wedding itself (and the recepetion afterwards) with dread, however. The side of the family from which my (now-married) cousin comes is decidedly more conservative, both socially and politically, than my own. Whereas we combine a Irish-(lapsed-)Catholic fondness for tipple (but not smoking, it seems) with an east-coast big-city liberal outlook, they have taken the social restraint of the rural south and the (in their case soft-spoken) moral righteousness that comes with strict (Baptist) Christian belief. That belief was so strong that the cousin in question just finished studying theology at an unaccredited college (how many colleges do you know whose websites end in '.com'?).
This is not to say that we don't get along: they're wonderful people, I'm proud to have them as relatives, and Thanksgivings are always a good time with them. But we all know to steer clear of politics and religion over the turkey and candied yams.
While that divide meant that me & the folks (the token siblings were unable to join us) would be out of our element to begin with, the situation was only going to be made worse by the distinct lack of alcohol at the reception. The evangelical tradition in the US by and large foreswears alcohol; it what's led to the infamous dry counties, mostly in Kentucky (you're supposed to be unable to serve Jack Daniels in the county it's brewed in).
And as anyone can tell you, a wedding party without booze ain't a party.
When we arrived at the reception, our worst fears we confirmed- the strongest thing they were serving at the bar was Rose's Lime Juice. Curling myself up with a coke, I looked forward to a long night of inside jokes I wouldn't understand, all led by an overly jocular MC with the most egregious mullet inflicted on the new millenium.
And that's when relief came through. Lit by the light of the bathrooms, down the hall and around the corner, stood a cash bar. The taste of that Bud Light was the taste of tolerance and understanding for other beliefs. I'd like to think that if we can reach that on drinks at dinner, we can reach that on the bigger things, as well.
23 March 2004
18th St Success Story
posted by mike d
(those of you who don't give a damn about Adam's Morgan or the dynamics of owning a bar there, you can skip this)
Via our non-Icelandic arch-nemisis, Wonkette, the good-government types over at Fundrace.org have developed a nice little political data-mining tool to allow you to spy on your neighbors. and their political proclivities. Looking around Adams Morgan, one discovers that the owner of Cities has given $2000 to the now-defunct Edwards campaign. This non-tax-deductable donation was no doubt made with the current six week renovation that Cities is going through in mind. So in addition to the serious money invested in a renovation, the month and a half of foregone revenue, and the possible loss of clientele to the competition, the owner(s) of Cities are confident enough to drop two grand into presidential politics.
They must be doing something right over there.
UPDATE: An "Owner" of a "restaurant" at the same address gave $500 to fuel Joementum...
As an aside, an unnamed National Geographic "TV Executive" gave two g's to Fightin' Joe Lieberman, and an equally unnamed "Proposal Writer" for Deloitte & Touche gave a cool $1000 to Kucinich. As I have friends who could fill both these criteria, it'd be interesting to know who's doing what...
More seriously: sya what you will about the corruption in American poltiics (and I do) this kind of openess is cool...
El Homo XXV
posted by Örn
Happy birthday Jim. This is happy day in history. Mussolini formed his Fascist movement in 1919 and on this day in 1933 the Reichstag granted Adolf Schicklgruber Hitler dictorial powers. Jim should enter politics.
22 March 2004
posted by Örn
I have realized that I am by myself most of the time. I live alone and the person I spent most time with is my cat. His name is Hrólfur H. Karlsson ( The name Hrólfur is an old Viking name and the German name Rolf traces its roots to it, the last name is a bit of a word game and it can mean a son of a shark in Icelandic). Hrólfur is a Norwegian forest cat. We get along quite well. Just like me he is not very talkative and he also likes to drink.
Anyway, I have been thinking about the relationship that I have with my cat. When I lie in the sofa and read he is there with my and I pet him. When I dine he sits at a cheer next to my (a notable exception is when I dine at a restaurant). When I take a bath he comes into the room and keeps me company. To make a long story short he is great and the most deep and profound relationship I have with anyone right now is with my cat.
Most people would worry about this but I don’t. You see living with a cat, that is a cat of Hrólf´s caliber, is just like living with your inner self - a dark furry hairy inner self that likes both fish and mice. And now I can pet my inner self and all this makes me rather content and happy. But if I would have to move Brussels this summer I would probably have to leave my inner self behind here in Iceland. God knows where that would lead me.
Örn pay attention:
posted by mike d
Tomorrow is Jim's birthday. He turns 27. That is all.
yes, yes, I'm not posting about anything useful. I'm not feeling very useful. I'm going to Miami/Ft Lauderdale this weekend. I'm hoping to get some insight into something there. Leave me alone.
21 March 2004
What is it with Rio and Sex Ed?
posted by mike d
So following on my previous rant about the abuse of Rio de Janeiro by US advertisers, tonight I saw not one, but two ads with Rio in the background. The one that prompted this post was for a birth control pill. Once again, the Jardim Botânico was featured in the ad. Additionally, the Modern Art Museum in Niteroi was featured in the pill commercial, as it was in the first one tonight (whose sponsor I can't remember).
Could the post-99 devaluation be driving ad dollars to be spent in Rio? It's certainly more affordable than it was when the real was pegged to the dollar. Globalization once again rears it's head...
18 March 2004
Over at Memefirst
posted by mike d
Eurof (currently challenging Örn for the Barclay Card Most Difficult Name to Pronounce Cup) has just put up a post on this very deal, and he seems to be decrying the "with us or against us" paradigm that the administration keeps pushing on people like me:
...I see it as a terrible tragedy that Iraqi welfare seems to be aligned with that of a particularly unfortunate form of US superiority-ism. I’m trying to think of some way to separate them, to help Iraqis without helping out the neo-cons, and I think it involves an embarrassing climbdown, the electoral defeat of Dubya, possibly abandoning the federal solution currently in vogue, and UN control of the whole sorry mess. Any other ideas?
Örn, you might want to dip your toe (or your oar, or öår, or whatever...) into the water over there...
17 March 2004
More on Spain
posted by Örn
I diasagree with you Mike.
If members of Al-Qaida are not enthusastic diciples of Metternich or Bismarck they are surely that they are not able read anything into recent events. And their interpretation will guide their future actions. Therefore I am right concluding that the new government in Spain is playing a dangerous game – a game with a result that could hurt Europe.
And more on their grasp on Realpolitik. They seem to know quite well what happened in Beirut and that godforsaken African state. They view Americans as being weak. If you punch them they will go back home. Hopefully that will not happen in the future but it has happened in the past and that piece of history is fundmental for this whole Al-Quaida business.
And Zapatero is not pursuing this policy because he want´s a mandate from the UN. He is being a populist and this whole business is a bona fide example of a poor domestic policy triumphing over important foreign policy.
How all this will affect the European Cup this summer is another matter. My money is still on England but I reckon that Spain could go far.
Now let´s stop arguing and have some red wine...(and Mike do not start your next blog with the remark that I obviously had some read wine when I wrote this).
16 March 2004
Why is it always about Al-Qaida? Why can't it be about sending me the wrong message?
posted by mike d
(I'd like to preface this by pointing out that I think it eminently fair for any country to reserve the right to do almost whatever the hell it wants after 200 of it's own people are brutally murdered. We did that after September 11th, and most sane people recognize the immediate subsequent action in Afghanistan was an appropriate response, some reasonable concerns notwithstanding. The fact that the Spanish people took all their anger and anguish and channeled it into one of the most fundamental symbols of what seperates us from terrorists is nothing short of amazing.)
Örn, articulating the conventional wisdom of those who see Al-Qaida's influence in Sunday's election in Spain, states below:
I am worried about the Spaniards recalling their troops from Iraq. It clearly sends a wrong message to the terrorists; a message that says Europe can be steered away from Washington.
What if it doesn't? What if the result on Sunday, and subsequent threats aren't about the message sent to Al-Qaida, but the message sent to Washington?
First, I don't think Al-Qaida is particularly listening on this one. The actions of that network over the past ten years do not show the kind of grasp of realpolitik necessary to use the Europeans against the US like the French used the Ottomans against the Holy League at Lepanto. While the fact that the bombing was three days before the election shows that those considerations cannot be ruled out, the various numerology theories running around (3/11, 911 er, 912 days since 9/11, etc.) suggest that the election might have been only a secondary consideration at best. This is something we can debate to no end, but as none of us has access to the minds of Al-Qaida top brass, it's hard to make definitive rulings on this one.
Also, strategically, Spain's withdrawl from Iraq will make little difference: Spanish troops are less than 1% of western forces in Iraq.
Second, I don't think Zapatero is talking to Al-Qaida on this one. He's talking to Washington (and London, but Blair abdicated independent action on the Iraq matter, so I'm going to be my Ameri-centric self and talk about Bush). He's not questioning whether we should be fighting terrorism, he's questioning whether what we're doing in Iraq is fighting terrorism. He's not quesitoning goals, he's questioning methods. He's the elected representative of what was called (by a man wittier than I) the "Anti This War Now Left". And one of the major reasons that Left was against the war was because there wasn't a UN mandate.
Now Zapatero sees a chance to influence Washington, and, like any good politician, he's using that leverage to the maximum. Not two months ago in the SOTU, Bush listed Spain as a vital ally in the "international coalition" in Iraq. Zapatero knows that it is in Bush's interest to keep Spain in Iraq. And so he's using that to get what he wants: a UN Mandate.
Lecture, worries, stupid professors, Splendor and my arse
posted by Örn
The lecture went quite well and I got the impression that people thought it was interesting. I focused mainly on the rational behind Washington’s war on terror, Iraq and etc. I tried my best to explain the American angle since most people here are primarily exposed to the typical stereotype of the current administration as a bunch of warmongering and cheeseburger eating idiots. Obviously the talk was colored by the horrific events of 3/11.
I am worried about the Spaniards recalling their troops from Iraq. It clearly sends a wrong message to the terrorists; a message that says Europe can be steered away from Washington. Maybe Kagan is right about the European perception on the international environment - maybe people here wrongly think that we are dealing with people that can be negotiated with and maybe Venus is about to be raped. A former professor of mine said in a interview in a Icelandic paper today that we should learn from the N-Ireland situation and try to negotiate with those people. This profound analysis clearly proves what I have always said: it is not very hard to be intelligent in Iceland.
I saw an awesome flick last night. It’s called American Splendor. It’s about this comic book writer from Cleveland (yeah I know Jim, Ohio is where it’s at) called Harvey Pekar. I guess he’s a cult figure in the States. He is odd, uncompromising and cranky and I guess that know you know why I liked the movie.
It’s a bit hard to find a cheap ticked to Baltimore these days. But I am trying. The biggest cost would be a hotel - can anyone help with that? But if I succeed in getting my arse over I will gladly explain and go into details of the structure of the society of the Vikings in Iceland - especially if I can do it over a couple of bottles of wine.
There are in fact victims from 11 countries, many of these countries surely being in Latin America. In fact so important is this question that José Maria Aznar spent a significant part of his public appearance this morning underlining that any person among the victims who was found to be 'undocumented' would automatically be 'regularised'. In addition any immigrants who have died in the attack and who had not been naturalised are automatically to be conceded the status of Spanish citizens, for themselves (posthumously) and for their families.
I was pleased to see this. The last time (I think) he was in DC, José Maria Aznar spoke at SAIS, it would have been about May of 2002. At the time the war in Afghanistan was being wound down, and while there were rumors of interest in Iraq, the push for war that would be seen in the summer and fall hadn't started up yet.
Aznar (who spoke in Spanish) gave what was no-doubt his stock "talk to the Americans" speech, and what surprised many of us was how a lot of the phrases he used had a racist, anti-immigrant undertone to them (this was toned down in the English translation).
I don't want to say I'm accusing Aznar of anything here: I don't remember exactly what he said (and can't be bothered to track down a transcript). And, given that Spain has a tradition of high unemployment, his subliminal resentment at the wave of Argentine or Moroccan or wherever immigration: while I don't approve of it, I understand it's source.
Suffice to say that the tone of his speech left a bad taste in the mouths of many of us in the audience. Lacking any further monitoring of the Spanish political scene, that taste was what first came to mind when my thoughts turned to Aznar.
However, a token action like this wipes that taste from the mouth, and reminds one of the difference between civilization and barbarity. He didn't have to do it, it won't change the world, but it was an acknowledgement that we are all brothers. It's something I could never imagine Osama bin Laden doing.
The Volokh Conspiracy
posted by mike d
Studiously ignoring what I wrote not five minutes ago, this post by Jacob Levy over at the Volokh Conspiracy is a great argument on how a vote for the PSOE on Sunday was not a vote for appeasement. A hat tip is necessary to the fact that Messr Levy was (and is) pro-Iraq War:
Was it 'appeasement' for us to leave [that is, get US troops out of Saudi]? No. It wasn't appeasement even though al-Qaeda wanting us out was relevant to the calculation of our interests. Neither is it appeasement for Spain to decide to withdraw peacekeeping troops from Iraq simply because al-Qaeda wanted all western troops out of Iraq as well. It's a legitimate choice for Spain to make about where to concentrate its efforts. And if it was a legitimate non-appeasing choice before last Thursday, it remains one after. [Emphasis original]
Because I feel like I haven't had a lot of "original" thoughts lately. I read somewhere once (see- another unoriginal thought!) that these things can be broken down into two types of blogs:
"portal" blogs (like the everreferenced Instapundit, Slashdot, or A & L Daily, these are more google-search-style lists of links that are useful to get a feel for what is being said, or just to catch an article you would never have seen otherwise); and
Broadly speaking, the latter feed content (along with "old" media sites and other sources, that provide content inadvertently) into the former for distribution. You can imagine it like energy distribution: there are opinion generators out there that are valued for their opinions, and then there are opinion distributers out there, valued for their ability to get said opinion out to a lot of people.
As I don't pretend to have a loyal following listening to everything that I say (oh, but one day I will, and that day some things will change...), I write here mostly with the idea that I have a "unique" perspective and opinion on "things", and that articulating that opinion will help me understand that better, and hopefully even result in a response questioning that opinion, allowing me to refine it even more.
But recently, those opinions refuse to form themselves of their own free will. I see a lot of things I agree with, some things I disagree with, and lots of stuff I find interesting, but there is no stroke of lightning (despite Jim's dabbling in interprative theology last night, I look forward to the lighting strikes) that impels me to strike the muse while the iron is hot (or some such thing). And so I don't write, as I don't think the "Look at this site" posting is particularly enlightening beyond the four seconds it takes you to check out the site. (I say that knowing full well I've done just such posts plenty of times before. In a perfect world, I would take the time to explain why the site is worth looking at).
Man, do I hate Mondays...
That aside, Örn, interesting article- it feels too brief, though. I don't know the first thing about mideval Iceland, and so feel that I'm losing a lot of what Friedman is saying because I don't have familiarity with the Saga of Njal. However, I'm intrigued by his idea of "Legal Systems Very Different from Ours," about which I know jack squat.
Also, you seem to take pleasure in ignoring the comments I put down there, so I'll re-ask my questions: How did your talk go on Friday? What did you talk about? What questions were asked?
Are you coming to DC this weekend? Do you know Bütros Bütros is scheduled to rock Grog & Tankard Stadium (home of the Fighting Bar Rats) this Friday?
14 March 2004
Friedman and D.C
posted by Örn
The author of this article is Milton´s son and it is rather interesting: http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Iceland/Iceland.html
Another thing - I am going to call up Icelandair tomorrow to find out if I can get a cheap flight to D.C this week.
11 March 2004
Siamo in Onda
posted by mike d
Sorry for the hiatus (although if Örn would put one-tenth the effort into writing that he does into reloading this page, we'd have the next Ulysses on our hands...). More coming soon. In the meantime, this guy is like my evil twin.
05 March 2004
American politics and a question
posted by Örn
I am giving a lecture for a group of fat cats in Reykjavík next friday. I am going to lecture about American politics and the trends that are currently shaping them and the upcoming elections. I would appreciate your thoughts on the subject along with potential jokes.
And now for the weekly question: Which of the Marx brothers, Karl, Groucho or Richard said the following: Man´s best friend outside the dog is the book. Inside the dog it is too dark to read?
The first one to come up with the right answer can claim a free beer at the Kaffibarinn in downtown Reykjavík.
The only time in my life I might spend $24 for a T-shirt.
BTW, this is a perfect example of the internet in action. The story so far: Urban Outfitters, a lame corporate chain store masquerading as a hip boutique, has started selling shirt proclaiming: "Voting is for Old People." Needless to say, various old people have gotten up in arms about this (Matlock must not have been on), and how it discourages the key 18-35 demographic group from exercising their fundamental rights. So some schmuck with a silk-screener responded with these, is now making a couple of thou off two minutes of inspiration while he was high.
As you've no doubt caught on, I'm a big fan of Rio de Janeiro, a place, as the song goes, blessed by God. One of the most beautiful places in Rio is the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden), which, the rare times I get my ass back down to Rio, I try to stop by.
So you can imagine my discomfort at a commercial currently airing on American TV (I'd link to it if I could, but I can't find a version online). It's a very tastefully done commercial, with a happy couple bicycling down the avenue of the Imperial Palms (left), and around corners with the distinctive "street" signs they have to guide you throught the garden. The commercial then closes with the same couple frolicking in the surf of Leblon beach in front of Dois Irmãos. It's a beautiful shot, and eu morro de saudade everytime I see it.
This is a commercial for Valtrex, a drug designed to suppress genital herpes.
You would be forgiven if you failed to notice the lack of any new Wonkette content today before about 12:45 PM. And, of course, 'new' is a relative term: The t-shirt scandal, funny pipictures of candidates, gay marriage. . . the jokes aren't really new, they're just linked to different stories. Once we work in some reference to Kerry's mortician mien, we'll have to start over at "Bush is dumb." Stay tuned! In any case, we couldn't post earlier because we were still a little drunk. OK, a lot drunk. Sorry.
I find this gay marriage controversy in the US rather funny. But I am not going to make fun of those puritans that live in the West. Instead I am proposing a solution – a pragmatic solution that everyone can live with.
First of all allow gay men to marry lesbians. This arrangement would be sort of a trial period that would go on for 20 years or so. If the marriages between the gays and the lesbians go well, and there won’t be any significant problems such as a generation of Americans growing up knowing how to dress properly and clean themselves, we would extend the law so that gays can marry gay men and lesbians can marry others lesbians.
If all goes sour, WHAM becomes popular again and Wal-Mart starts to sell fondue pots, simply ban the whole thing and write it stone.
We're starting to get a steady torrent (remember, that's by due torre standards, so we're talking three hits in a week here...) of referrals from the fine gentlemen at Memefirst, so I can no longer wait to think up something appropriately witty to say to announce that they have been kind enough to offer me a spot over there.
Being the popularity whore that I am, I of course immediately said yes, and have promptly brought down their collective age, intellect, and level of discussion. Whether my addition will prove fatal to what has up to now been a successful site remains to be seen.
For those of you poor lost souls visiting this barren part of the 'net, please stay a few minutes, and languor over Örn's impotent rage at Charlize Theron's success at the Oscars last night, or Jim's cryptic signals about the flaws in the armor of our society.
and, yes, I did verbify a noun there. and it felt good to do so...