James Choi's .Plan
Archive #19

"Up and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has told captors a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting at gunpoint, threatened with death by tough loyalists of President Saddam Hussein."
--Dexter Filkins, NYT, explaining the surprising tenacity of the Iraqi regular military

Science fiction becoming science reality. The invisible suit, as reported by the NYT. Like something out of Ghost in the Shell.

"The [Iraqi] driver's most emphatic statement was: 'All Iraqi people want this war.' He seemed convinced that civilian casualties would be small; he had such enormous faith in the American war machine to follow through on its promises. Certainly more faith than any of us had. Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam Hussein had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: `Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come?'"
--Daniel Pepper, Daily Telegraph, on his experience as a human shield

"Men are not narrow in their intellectual interests by nature; it takes special and rigorous training to accomplish that end."
--Jacob Viner, perhaps commenting on the Ph.D. process

"The global stock market's war rally that began more than a week ago in advance of the military action has been like a tide lifting all boats. Virtually every market around the world has climbed in unison... The great irony of the war rally: It has driven prices most forcefully on the major stock indexes of two countries that worked hardest in diplomatic opposition to military force, France and Germany."
--Steven Syre, Boston Globe, on the financial impact of the war

"Becky Bond, a creative director for Working Assets Radio, was among those awaiting arrest on Franklin. Interviewed via cell phone, she said that among the cruel-and-unusual punishment the protesters had to put up with was being trapped with each other's company: 'A white girl with a dandelion behind her ear is singing Bob Marley into a megaphone,' Bond, 33, reported. 'I think this might be worse than being arrested.'"
--Katharine Mieskowski, Salon.com, on San Francisco anti-war protesters

"Chomsky is a man who thinks the entire world operates on simple and rational principles. The reason he's able to crank out these thousands of pages a year on all subjects is because he has an extremely simple analysis: Evil American corporations are acting in their own self-interest and trying to increase and spread their exploitation around the world... And the response of other people in the world is that of resistance as inspired by an instinct for human freedom, even if the resistance sometimes takes a perverse and unfortunate form... It's a very simpleminded view in which nothing inexplicable ever occurs. "
--Paul Berman, Salon.com, on Noam Chomsky's worldview

"You just arrived. You're late. What took you so long? God help you become victorious. I want to say hello to Bush, to shake his hand. We came out of the grave."
--Ajami Saadoun Khlis, an Iraqi whose son and brother were executed under the Saddam regime, welcoming U.S. and British troops

"Uh, Boris, it's just easier in principle if we don't say anything deprecatory about a black African country, and since Guinea and Chile are both members of the UN Security Council, and since it doesn’t affect your point, we would like to say Chile."
--A New York Times op-ed editor censoring op-ed contributor Boris Johnson

"We have a bad impression of the human shields. Some of them are crazy."
--Anonymous Iraqi Foreign Ministry official to the SF Chronicle

"Happiness and dread rose together today from this desolate border village, where some of the first Iraqis liberated by American and British troops found the joy of their deliverance muted by the fear that it was too good to last."
--Dexter Filkins, NYT, on Iraqi attitudes to the war

"Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking."
--John Maynard Keynes

"Whole Foods owes part of its success to an understanding of its customers. Experts familiar with the natural foods industry say the company also has an impressive database guiding its real estate decisions. It moves into prosperous neighborhoods, searching out the natural foods enthusiasts - relying upon demographic telltale signs: frequent flier miles (they travel), college degrees (80 percent of the company's regular customers graduated), and subscriptions to Yoga or Gourmet magazines. (And what do natural foods groceries avoid? Neighborhoods with concentrations of handgun owners and bowling devotees.)"
--Patricia Kilday Hart, Boston Globe, on identifying yuppies

"In the March 11 New York Times, Neil MacFarquhar notes in passing, 'Most Iraqi households own at least one gun.' This comes as a shock to those of us who've been hearing for years from the gun lobby that widespread firearms ownership is necessary to prevent the United States from becoming a police state."
--Timothy Noah, Slate, on the myth of gun ownership being intimately linked with freedom

"I spent some time with my wife -- catching up from twenty years of ignoring her. But I realized she wasn't just willing to drop everything for me now that I'm home. She's got her foundation work, and the work she does with the public schools, and she had her friend network that she's not willing to give up."
--"Arthur," a laid-off investment banker, on the heavy cost of investment banking

My New York Times debut: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/13/business/13SCEN.html

"Someone told [four-time Super Bowler] Jerry Rice in the middle of the third quarter after he had made his first catch, 'Welcome to the Super Bowl, Jerry.'"
--Tampa Bay Buc Warren Sapp on the best piece of trash talk he heard at this year's Super Bowl

"If only Saddam Hussein would open an all-male country club somewhere in Iraq, so the [New York] Times could get behind this invasion."
--Dennis Miller

"So romantic that wives feel like mistresses and vice versa."
--Restaurant review from Zagat's "Unfit For Print"

"But why do so many drugs sound alike? It turns out that not all letters or sounds are created equal. Names that start with z or x are popular because they convey a sense of dynamism and the future, according to some branding experts. And no drug name nowadays will contain super or excel to avoid the appearance of hyperbole or exaggerated claim."
--Richard Friedman, NYT, on drug branding

"Almost all of the first British 'human shields' to go to Iraq were on their way home last night after deciding that their much-heralded task was now too dangerous."
--Charlotte Edwardes, Daily Telegraph, on human shields finally coming to an obvious conclusion

"I don't think that first and foremost this is about them as much as it's about us and how we act in the world."
--Eli Pariser, a leader of the U.S. anti-war movement, on whether the views of Iraqis on Gulf War II should be taken into account

"Except for a brief post-cold-war period, the United Nations has been a service agency its entire life. The experiment, the brief experiment of a decade and half, in which it was there to curtail war, or to confine going to war within some loosely defined international parameters set by the Security Council, has failed."
--James Hoge, editor of Foreign Affairs, on the role of the U.N. in armed conflict

"'I got wolfish looks from men and complicit smiles from blond women, who seemed to acknowledge my beaconlike hair as if I was now a member of an elite club,' [Joanna Pitman] writes, recalling that she was suddenly given preferential treatment at the market as well as at the London Library. Her new look also made her feel 'younger and, strangely, more positive.' And she muses: 'After a while I wondered whether I could afford not to be blond.'"
--NYT on the power of blondeness, as told by Joanna Pitman, author of On Blondes

"While among white American and northern European women, only one in 20 blondes is naturally so, in the urban West, Ms. Pitman writes, 'one in three white adult female heads is dyed a shade of blond...'"
--NYT on incentive consequences

"Bartender Adam Snyder has said he and a friend, Jade Santoro, were walking to their cars when three [police] officers demanded Snyder's bag of steak fajitas. When he refused, Snyder said, he and Santoro were attacked."
--CNN on
a San Francisco police scandal

"those must be good fajitas. we should go try them."

"Money can't buy you happiness, so you might as well give your money to us."
--Dave Barry on the wedding industry's motto

Annual CD sales: $15 billion
Annual breakfast food sales: $16 billion
Annual wedding expenditures, including gifts and honeymoons: $47 billion
--From Bridal Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields

"A questionnaire designed to help defense lawyers and prosecutors select a jury for a federal attempted murder case indicated that Prospective Juror No. 142 was actually William Jefferson Clinton. Although Clinton's name was never revealed at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan on Friday, his answers, read aloud in the courtroom, provided the giveaway. Under previous jobs held, the respondent answered President of the United States. He also wrote that he thought he could be fair and impartial, despite his 'unusual experience with the O.I.C.,' or Office of Independent Counsel."
--Associated Press on Bill Clinton's jury duty

"Whence this paradox: the new world of President Bush, postmodern in its technology, seems premodern in its values. In its principles of action, America is two or three centuries behind 'old Europe.' Since our countries did not enter history at the same time, the gap should not surprise us."
--Regis Debray, former adviser to President Francois Mitterand of France, on his opinion of the U.S.

"There are no good wars, with the following exceptions: the American Revolution, World War II, and the Star Wars Trilogy."
--Bart Simpson

"American cyber-warfare experts recently waged an e-mail assault, directed at Iraq's political, military and economic leadership, urging them to break with Saddam Hussein's government. A wave of calls has gone to the private cellphone numbers of specially selected officials inside Iraq, according to leaders at the Pentagon and in the regional Central Command."
--Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, NYT, on spamming and telemarketing Saddam into submission. What a quintessentially American way of waging war: employ two of our most annoying inventions!

"I tell [Robert] Burrows that if he is willing to submit to an interview, I am willing to review his book at length in The Washington Post. The only catch, I said, is that I am going to say that it is, in my professional judgment, the worst novel ever published in the English language.


"'My review will reach 2 million people,' I said.

"'Okay,' he said."
--Gene Weingarten, Washington Post, on publicity at any cost

"On Sunday, Feb. 16, two red double-decker buses full of self-described human shields rolled into Iraq after a cross-continent journey that began in London, disgorging 75 Westerners who have sworn to put their bodies between American bombs and Iraqi civilians... They're willing, they say, to die for Iraq."
--Michelle Goldberg, Salon, on a bizarre offshoot of the anti-war movement

"According to this report in the Washington Post, Iraqi officials believe that last weekend's demonstrations expressed support for their regime -- and as a result have stalled their cooperation with inspections. (The Guardian also reports renewed frustration among the U.N. inspectors.) That is precisely the opposite of what the peace movement should want."
--Joe Conason, Salon, on counterproductive protests

"[Opponents of war] will continue to say that the mere presence of United Nations inspectors will prevent [Saddam] from building nuclear weapons, and that even if he were to acquire them he could still be contained. Unfortunately, these claims fly in the face of 12 years -- and in truth more like 30 years -- of history."
--Kenneth Pollack, NYT, making a strong argument that Saddam is close to getting nukes and is not deterrable

"It's been said that Pollack, a national-security official under Bill Clinton, is the Midas of the Iraq conflict: everyone he touches turns into a hawk."
--Seth Mnookin, MSNBC, on Kenneth Pollack

"Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing... after they have exhausted all other possibilities."
--Winston Churchill

"They missed a great opportunity to shut up."
--French President Jacques Chirac on the 13 European countries that signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq

"It was better to keep silent when you don't know what's going on."
--French defense minister Michele Alliot-Marie to Poland on their support for America

"For France, the European Union is a way for it to remain a big power in the world because it can use Europe to act and to have a certain influence in world affairs that it can't have anymore on its own."
--Gilles Lepesant, a French expert on European identity and Eastern Europe

"If France wants to lose all the sympathy it has in the East, this is the way to do it, to say you little guys will have to listen to us forever. You don't hear this kind of language from the United States."
--Sorin Ionita, director of the Romanian Academic Society, in response

"A better analogy is Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, who used to be denounced as the Hitler of the 1980's. Saddam and Colonel Qaddafi are little changed since those days, but back then we reviled Mr. Qaddafi -- while Don Rumsfeld was charming our man in Baghdad... But President Ronald Reagan wisely chose to contain Libya, not invade it -- and this worked. Does anybody think we would be better off today if we had invaded Libya and occupied it, spending the last two decades with our troops being shot at by Bedouins in the desert?"
--Nicholas Kristof, NYT, with an argument against war

"While regular people such as the Ibrahims don't have much of a choice but to remain at least outwardly loyal to the regime, one segment of society is clearly voting with its feet. [Iraq's] primitive stock exchange has been booming ever since the latest crisis broke out at the end of last year."
--Ferry Beidermann, Salon.com, on Iraqis' true assessment of the showdown with the U.S.

"A terrorist release of chemical weapons in an American city would probably have effects confined to a few blocks, making any one person's odds of harm far less than a million to one... The image of millions cowering behind plastic sheets as clouds of biological weapons envelop a city owes more to science fiction than reality..."
--Gregg Easterbrook, NYT, on misplaced terror fears

"The chance that a crude atomic device will someday detonate on American soil is, by a large margin, the worst terror threat the nation faces... To think the unthinkable, if an atomic device bearing about the yield of the Hiroshima weapon went off outside the White House, people for roughly a mile in each direction might die. But most people in the District of Columbia would survive, while the main effect on Washington's suburbs would be power failures and broken windows. So the majority of people in Washington and its suburbs who would not die would need to know what to do.

"(Here's what to do: Remain indoors at least 24 hours to avoid fallout; remain on ground floors or in the basements of buildings; if you are upwind of the explosion stay put; if downwind, flee by car only if roads are clear since buildings provide better fallout protection than cars.)"
--Gregg Easterbrook again

"We're fair and balanced. Why wouldn't we want to advertise in The Nation?"
--Fox News spokesman Robert Zimmerman responding to a furor over the liberal magazine's acceptance of a Fox News ad

"[French foreign minister] Mr. de Villepin also suggested that Saddam's government pass 'legislation to prohibit the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.' (I am not making this up.) That proposal alone is a reminder of why, if America didn't exist and Europe had to rely on France, most Europeans today would be speaking either German or Russian."
--Thomas Friedman, NYT, on silly French foreign policy stances

"Some economically-trained person with a social conscience could no doubt refute your arguments with a few well-phrased responses. I will offer only one... I should point out that my economic background is limited. In fact, and this will shock approximately 1,238 of you, I never took [an introductory economics class]."
--Anonymous, responding to an economic argument of mine. Why is it that people never tell a physicist, "I've never taken an introductory physics class, but your statement about physics is wrong," but don't feel idiotic saying the equivalent to an economist?

"A former senior firearms industry executive said in an affidavit filed in court in San Diego yesterday that gun manufacturers had long known that some of their dealers corruptly sold guns to criminals but pressured one another into remaining silent for fear of legal liability."
--Fox Butterfield, NYT, on the shadiness of the firearm industry

"To the dismay of many older (and some not-so-old) South Koreans, the honorifics system of Korean language is often ignored on the Web, and this allows communication between generations on a more equal basis."
--Sangmee Bak, Washington Post, on the effect of the Internet on Korean culture

"At the University of California at Irvine, experiments in rats indicate that the brain's hormonal reactions to fear can be inhibited, softening the formation of memories and the emotions they evoke. At New York University, researchers are mastering the means of short-circuiting the very wiring of primal fear. At Columbia University one Nobel laureate's lab has discovered the gene behind a fear-inhibiting protein, uncovering a vision of 'fight or flight' at the molecular level. In Puerto Rico, at the Ponce School of Medicine, scientists are discovering ways to help the brain unlearn fear and inhibitions by stimulating it with magnets. And at Harvard University, survivors of car accidents are already swallowing propranolol pills, in the first human trials of that common cardiac drug as a means to nip the effects of trauma in the bud."
--Erik Baard, Village Voice, on new research towards medicating away fear, trauma, and remorse

Another sign of the coming apocalypse: The National Geographic Swimsuit Issue

"Because it is Russian style! They try to plan all our society, but Russian people usually don't plan one day in their lives!"
--Fyodor Burlatsky, Khrushchev's speechwriter during the Cuban Missile Crisis, at a 1987 Harvard conference, on why the Soviet military didn't camouflage the missiles

"Marx and Engels, Mr de Soto's pet dogs, were so named because 'they are German, hairy and have no respect for property.'"
--The Economist on Hernando de Soto's sly sense of humor

"For a card-carrying liberal, I was surprisingly unapologetic about our decision. Why should I sacrifice our daughter's future to an abstract principle? I wasn't up to battling the school system about class size, curriculum and extracurricular activities. And by the time any changes could be made, our daughter would have already missed out on a vibrant education."
--April Falcon Doss, letter to the Washington Post, on sending her daughter to private school. This illustrates the difficult moral position of any school voucher opponent who sends his or her children to private schools or who has made residence decisions in part due to the quality of the school district.

"Here in a nutshell is the definition of an American liberal: one who is willing to sacrifice the future of other people's children to an abstract principle."
--James Taranto, OpinionJournal, commenting on April Falcon Doss's letter. A completely unfair and inaccurate characterization, but funny nonetheless.

"The French never really liked the Clinton administration, either. In June 2000, during President Clinton's last year in office, France was the only one (talk about unilateralism) of 107 countries to refuse to sign a U.S. initiative aimed at encouraging democracy around the world. "
--Chris Suellentrop, Slate.com, refuting the notion that the French hate the U.S. only because of Bush

"Americans see France as akin to Portugal, a once-great power now in decline. But as part of its own 'special relationship' with the United States, France refuses to cede the world stage to the Americans... Which is why, in the end, France will go along with the Bush administration on Iraq. If France vetoes a Security Council resolution, and the Bush administration goes to war anyway, France will have been proved powerless."
--Chris Suellentrop on French irrelevance

"One of the problems with people who are auditory-digital and see a lot of grays in their world view, like Jimmy Carter, who was a Ph.D. in nuclear physics, is that you lose track of the fact that human beings need that simple lasered message."
--Speech consultant and communications expert Richard Greene, Salon.com, on when smarts can get in the way of effectiveness

"ABC producers promised that the pop stars they recruited for this year's Super Bowl halftime show would do their singing live -- no lip-syncing allowed. But what about country star Shania Twain, who seemed to hop around the stage without missing a note? Paul Liszewski, who produced the sound for the show, says Shania's mic was hot and her vocals were live. (Other audio engineers who watched the broadcast agreed.) Twain's accompaniment, however, was what's called a 'band in a box,' which means the back-up vocals and instrumentals we heard were prerecorded."
--Julia Turner, Slate.com, refuting an apparent lip-sync

"Japan's most visible pop icon, Sanrio's cartoon cat Hello Kitty, takes the national ambiguity of the Pada Pada further. Kitty is not actually supposed to be Japanese. In fact, Kitty's last name, announced for the first time in spring 2001 in Sanrio's official fan magazine, is White. Kitty White? Kitty is a WASP!... Hello Kitty is Western, so she will sell in Japan. She is Japanese, so she will sell in the West... A regular Davos cat."
--Douglas McGray, Foreign Policy, on Hello Kitty's secret identity

"The great combat historian of World War II, S.L.A. Marshall, wrote that fear affects all men, even those in the most highly motivated units. Marshall found that no more than a quarter of the men actually fired their weapons on the battlefield. Religious scruple against killing was one reason. A bigger factor was shock. In one study of a division that saw heavy fighting in World War II, a quarter of the soldiers admitted they had been so scared that they vomited. Almost a quarter lost control of their bowels. Ten percent urinated in their pants."
--Evan Thomas, Newsweek, on fear under fire

"The Bush administration has assembled what it believes to be significant intelligence showing that Iraq has been actively moving and concealing banned weapons systems and related equipment from United Nations inspectors, according to informed sources... In many cases, the United States has what one source called 'compelling' intelligence that is 'unambiguous' in proving that Iraq is hiding banned weapons."
--Bob Woodward, Washington Post, on Iraqi deceit

"Too little sleep -- or too much -- may raise the risk of developing heart disease, according to a Boston study of nearly 72,000 nurses. Women who averaged five hours or less of sleep a night were 39 percent more likely to develop heart disease than women who got eight hours. Those sleeping six hours a night had an 18 percent higher risk of developing blocked arteries than the eight-hour sleepers. And nine or more hours of shuteye was associated with a 37 percent higher risk of heart disease. Researchers could not explain that finding, but suggested those women might have slept more because of underlying illnesses."
--Associated Press on a cost of cheating sleep. Of course, it's possible that people with underlying illness are also less able to sleep for prolonged periods, so the causation runs the other way.

"The conventional analysis of toothbrushing has centerd around two basic models. The 'bad taste in one's mouth' model is based on the notion that each person has a 'taste for brushing,' and the fact that brushing frequencies differ is 'explained' by differences in tastes. Since any pattern of human behavior can be rationalized by such implicit theorizing, this model is devoid of empirically testable predictions, and hence uninteresting.

"The 'mother told me so' theory is based on differences in cultural upbringing. Here it is argued, for example, that thrice-a-day brushers brush three times daily because their mothers forced them to do so as children. Of course, this is hardly a complete explanation. Like most psychological theories, it leaves open the question of why mothers should want their children to brush after every meal."
--Alan Blinder, "The Economics of Brushing Teeth," Journal of Political Economy (1974), pp. 887-891. Kudos to Alex for finding this article. Alas, this is probably much funnier to an economist than to anybody else.

"A substantial literature on dental hygenics exists. It is ironic that economists are almost completely unaware of these studies, despite the fact that most economists brush their teeth."
--Alan Blinder again

"Of course, this raises the question, if [creative work] has no value, why do [pirating consumers] want it, and conversely, if they believe it has value, why do they feel there should be no compensation paid?"
--Brian Zick, Salon.com, on copyright violators

"One major drawback, according to Marketdata Enterprises, is that about 30 percent of the people using the services are married."
--Patricia Winters Lauro, NYT, on a peril of using online dating services

Toilet paper is a poor barrier between the hand and fecal matter. Of all foodborne illness eminating from the restroom, what percentage do you think are transferred by each of the following:

Percentage indicates
total respondent ratio
and parenthesis
indicates actual number
Less than 20% 20 to 39% 40 to 59% 60 to 79% 80% or more
1. from under or around fingernails 17%
2. from hands 17%
3. from other sources 63%

--From a survey of a 35-member national panel of environmental health professionals. Please wash your hands with soap after you do your bidness!

"It is a fine line beer ads have to tread, to make the people in ads seem just like you, only a bit better -- the industry buzz word is aspirational."
--Chris Ballard, NYT Magazine, on how to make a beer ad

"Children growing up in single-parent families are twice as likely as their counterparts in two-parent families to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life, a Swedish study has found... Experts say the study, published this week in the British medical journal The Lancet, is convincing because it is unprecedented in scale and follow-up. It tracked about a million children for a decade, into their mid-20's."
--Associated Press on yet another tragedy of divorce and out-of-wedlock births

"You're too opinionated, James. Relax."
--Jimmy Quach reacting to my dim view of his penchant for wearing his girlfriend's jewelry

"My biggest fear is that I'll get too big for my shirts. My size is a medium. All my shirts are smalls."
--Joe Yang describing his misgivings about taking jujitsu classes

"Puppy dogs and pussy cats
In suspect suicide attacks
Captain Kirk from Planet Earth
Fights it out with Papa Smurf
Some phoney little ponies
Preying on the old and lonely
Making friends, robbing them
The X-Men taught them everything"
--Fluke, "Absurd," 1997. In a sly reference, this song is used in the original X-Men movie trailer, the part where the characters' names flash by, although the lyrics are never heard. See it here. It's trailer v. 2.

"Internet providers must agree to requests by the music industry to track down computer users who illegally download music, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in a case that could dramatically increase online pirates' risk of being caught."
--Ted Bridis, Associated Press, on the increasing risks of piracy

"[SUV drivers] tend to be people who are insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities. They are more restless, more sybaritic, and less social than most Americans are. They tend to like fine restaurants a lot more than off-road driving, seldom go to church and have limited interest in doing volunteer work to help others."
--Keith Bradsher, author of High and Mighty: SUVs--The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way, summarizing auto industry marketing research

"Government researchers have found that a behemoth like the four-ton Chevy Tahoe kills 122 people for every 1 million models on the road; by comparison, the Honda Accord only kills 21. Injuries in SUV-related accidents are likewise more severe."
--Stephanie Mencimer, Washington Monthly, on the SUV menace

"Finally, an unprecedented international public-opinion survey for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, involving 38,000 respondents in forty-four countries, found, as The New York Times reported in a passing sentence in the eighth paragraph of a story on page A22, that 'throughout Europe, at least two-thirds of the public' support the Bush-led U.S. campaign against terrorism... The inadvertently self-parodying Times headline: 'WORLD SURVEY SAYS NEGATIVE VIEWS OF U.S. ARE RISING.'"
--Michael Kelly, Atlantic Monthly, on the NYT's furious leftward spin

Graph from the January/February 2003 Atlantic Monthly, summarizing research indicating that those who value money highly tend to report themselves as less happy than those who value love highly:

Average income identified by U.S. adults as enough to "fulfill all your dreams" (again from the Atlantic):
$50,000 (1987)
$102,000 (1994)

"A final, less quantifiable development has served to snuff out marital sexuality, and it has to do with the way middle- and upper-middle-class adults think about family life and their role in it. There are many indications of this, but let us simply glance at the Disney catalogue. Not surprisingly, in addition to toys and figurines the catalogue features Disney-themed clothing: bathrobes with Winnie the Pooh appliques, stretch knit pants with a small Mickey Mouse at the hem, quilted 'Magic Winter Jackets' featuring a choice of Eeyore, Mickey, or Pooh. Here's the problem: all these items are for adults."
--Caitlin Flanagan, Atlantic Monthly, on the death of marital sex

"[Marital therapist] Michele Weiner Davis reminds women that one of the more effective ways to get a husband to be more considerate and helpful is to seduce him. She counsels a group of female clients who complain of angry, critical husbands to 'pay more attention to their physical relationships with their husbands,' to 'be sexier, more affectionate, attentive, responsive, and passionate.' Darned if the old bag of tricks doesn't work like a charm--the ladies arrive at the next therapy session giggling and thrilled with their new powers."
--Caitlin Flanagan on the wonders of marital sex

"The most recent comprehensive study of SUV performance and safety, published last July by the National Research Council (NRC), an affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences, found that occupant deaths were slightly higher in SUVs as a class than in cars as a class. That's right: in an accident, you and your family are more likely to die if you are riding in an SUV rather than in a car."
--Gregg Easterbrook, New Republic, debunking the myth of SUV safety

"One of the many practical jokes about SUVs is that as big and imposing as they appear, they cannot carry much more than regular cars. The maximum safe load for the pre-2002 Explorer was 1,300 pounds, the same limit as for the mid-size Ford Taurus."
--Gregg Easterbrook

"Harvard doesn't make you famous. You make your school famous."
--Olympic diving legend Sammy Lee expressing puzzlement about Koreans' curious obsession with Harvard

"A common question among passengers, and possibly among Greyhound executives, is how the companies can afford such low fares. What few people know is that, since May, they have been locked in a bitter price war involving cutthroat tactics. The tale is a tangled one."
--Steve Kurutz, NYT, telling the story of the Chinatown buses

"Architects loved Peabody Terrace then, and they still love it today. When it was new it won a national honor award for good design from the American Institute of Architects. Its principal designer, Josep Lluis Sert, longtime dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, later received the AIA's highest award, its Gold Medal for lifetime achievement. Yet the public hated it."
--Robert Campbell, Boston Globe, on Harvard's ugly grad student housing

"I could be wrong, but I think multiculturalism is on the run. Slowly on the run. Because so much of it, at the end of the day, was artificial, built on certain presumptions of ethnic-cultural nationalism. It's ironic, people fought on college campuses for decades for a kind of separate recognition. But then by the time someone is out of school and on the job, and people start coming up to them and wishing them 'Happy Kwanzaa' because they're black-folks resented it."
--Leon Wynter, author of "American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business & The End of White America," on post-racial America

"Those calling for speech codes frequently see themselves as victims, and victimism exploits its position by calling for greater 'diversity' in the community in which the victim exists... But that very diversity normally brings individuals with unpopular views into the academic community, precisely the views the proposed speech code would attempt to silence. Thus, the call for diversity is actually disingenuous -- what speech code advocates really want is a greater representation in their community of individuals who hold the same, not differing, opinions as them."
--Richard Cravatts, Harvard Crimson, on specious calls for diversity

"Now that hip-huggers are back in fashion, physicians can expect to see more patients with tingly thighs."
--Canadian doctor Malvinder Parmar warning against the sensory-nerve dangers of Britney-esque jeans in a letter to the Canadian Medical Association Journal

"All music snobs harbor a deep, dark secret -- the music they loved before they became cool. Maybe it was that first Earth, Wind, and Fire tape. Maybe it was Chicago."
--David Samuels, Slate, on the evolution of musical snobbery. For me, it was Milli Vanilli.

"Consumers fall more neatly into categories than we might wish. Moments after we met, one Nike guy correctly guessed I wear New Balance. I was wearing plain black dress shoes at the time."
--Seth Stevenson, NYT Magazine, on our illusions of uniqueness

"You know, Yao Ming is pretty adorable."
--Jimmy Quach, again without irony

"Some people avoid milk because they are lactose-intolerant and experience flatulence or diarrhea when drinking the milk on an empty stomach. Nutritionists, however, have found that most lactose-intolerant people can handle up to three glasses a day if they are consumed slowly and with meals."
--Jane Brody, NYT, on the red herring of lactose intolerance

"No region in the country has a lower percentage of churchgoers than the Pacific Northwest. But ask people here about the existence of a camera-resistant, grooming-challenged, upright biped known as Bigfoot or Sasquatch and the true believers shout to the misty heavens in affirmation. So it came as a considerable blow when the children of Ray L. Wallace announced that their prank-loving pop had created the modern myth of Bigfoot when he used a pair of carved wooden feet to stomp a track of oversized footprints in a Northern California logging camp in 1958."
--Timothy Egan, NYT, on a legend that won't die

"C'mon, shouldn't the pope be Catholic?"
--Laura Vellenga, InterVarsity director for central and southern New Jersey, reacting to the Rutgers InterVarsity Multiethnic Christian Fellowship being kicked off campus because it insists that its leaders be Christian. Nope, there are no thought police on campuses today; the free exchange of ideas is what today's universities are all about!

"Seven Westfield High School students were notified early yesterday that they would be suspended from class for distributing candy canes with religious notes to their classmates before Christmas."
--Michele Kurtz, Boston Globe, on more respect for the First Amendment

Click here for a counterscript to torture telemarketers. Hilarious.

"Until Mr. Hanson arrived in May 1983, the new software was called Interface Manager, which the programmers liked."
--Steve Lohr, NYT, on the original name of Microsoft Windows

"Using data from the Chicago Public Schools, we estimate that serious cases of teacher or administrator cheating on standardized tests occur in 4-5 percent of elementary school classrooms annually. Moreover, the observed frequency of cheating appears to respond strongly to relatively minor changes in incentives. Our results suggest that introducing high-stakes testing without appropriate safeguards will likely lead to widespread cheating."
--Brian Jacob and Steven Levitt, "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," on an undiscussed pitfall of school testing

"My favorite polling result of the 2000 election was a Time magazine survey that revealed that 19 percent of Americans believe that they have incomes in the top 1 percent, and a further 20 percent believe they will someday."
--David Brooks, NYT, on ignorance about income distribution

"Nowadays people don't want you to sing good. They want you to sing sloppy and have a good beat to your songs. That's what angle I'm going to shoot for. That's where the money is. So just in case about three or four months from now you might hear a record by me which sounds terrible, don't feel ashamed, just wait until the money rolls in because every day people are singing worse and worse on purpose and the public buys more and more records."
--Jimi Hendrix in a letter to his father

"Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, who will be majority leader instead of Lott, is a Southern politician who avoided Lott's tragedy by having the courage to be born a decade later."
--Michael Kinsley, Slate.com, on going with the flow

"[Religion] may outlast the party and the state."
--Chinese President Jiang Zemin at a religious affairs conference last December

"Next time you reread [Lord of the Rings], count the number of powerful beings who are vastly uglier than anybody with that kind of power would allow themselves to be. Why? How does being grotesquely ugly help you govern an empire?"
--David Brin, Salon.com, on why the LOTR is biased towards the victors

"Now ponder something that comes through even the party-line demonization of a crushed enemy -- this clear-cut and undeniable fact: Sauron's army was the one that included every species and race on Middle Earth, including all the despised colors of humanity, and all the lower classes. Hmm. Did they all leave their homes and march to war thinking, 'Oh, goody, let's go serve an evil Dark Lord'? Or might they instead have thought they were the 'good guys,' with a justifiable grievance worth fighting for, rebelling against an ancient, rigid, pyramid-shaped, feudal hierarchy topped by invader-alien elfs and their Numenorean-colonialist human lackeys?"
--David Brin on Sauron's side of the LOTR

"Most professors are liberals, and it's true that in its wisdom American society has decided to warehouse its radical lunatics on university campuses -- in specialized departments that operate as nunneries for the perpetually alienated."
--David Brooks, Weekly Standard, on academic ideologies

"So I wait for terrorists to attack
Every time a truck backfires I fire back
I look for shelter when a plane is over me
Remember Pearl Harbor? New York could be over, G
Kamikaze, strapped with bombs
No peace in the East, they want revenge for Saddam"
--Eric B. and Rakim, "Casualties of War," 1992. Eerily prescient.

"It's great fun to differentiate Arctan(x)! Here are the first 20 derivatives."
--Jason Hildebrand, Arctan() Appreciation Home Page

"The First Commandment is not a commandment but a theological statement, and it is a theological statement I reject."
--Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum, NYT, on what he believes

"According to a study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in January, about a third of college women now have pierced navels."
--Clive Thompson, NYT Magazine, on navel enhancement

"We've even developed a navel aesthetic. Charles L. Puckett of the University of Missouri, determined to find out exactly what it is, conducted an experiment that he published in a journal article, 'In Search of the Ideal Female Umbilicus.' ('To reconstruct or improve the umbilical appearance,' Puckett intoned, 'the ideal must be known.') He showed photos of 147 female bellybuttons to a group of judges, including 15 men and 6 women. The verdict? Attractive navels are small and vertical in orientation, or have a T shape -- a thin vertical hollow capped by 'a superior hood or shelf.' Ugly navels are horizontal, a shape that often comes -- what do you know -- from age, pregnancy or weight gain. And there are the unlucky few (10 percent of women) who have a 'distorted' or irregular navel. As for you 'outies' -- well, keep your shirts on."
--Clive Thompson, NYT Magazine, on the perfect navel

"Pamela Dalton, a resident scientist, rose to the challenge of developing 'psychologically toxic' odors -- smells that would cause sniffers to lose their appetites for aggression. But this challenge came with a catch: the military wanted an equal-opportunity odor, something offensive to everyone, everywhere, and not just to members of certain cultural groups."
--Stephen Mihm, NYT Magazine, on stench warfare

"To have pulled out of the papal residence in a van with Bono and have the mobs chasing behind us, like in a Beatles movie -- it's fun, I have to say. I leaned over to [Bono], and I said, 'Look, they always do that with macroeconomists.' And he looked at me, like, 'Yeah, right.'"
--Jeffrey Sachs on the perks of being a celebrity economist

"'For a full hour, I will talk about my hopes and dreams for the people in this state and this country, regardless of their race, and to make sure that African-Americans have the opportunities that they deserve,' [Trent Lott] promised the press in Pascagoula. For the love of Amos 'n' Andy, hasn't Mr. Lott punished the black man enough?"
--Maureen Dowd, NYT, on Trent Lott's furious backpedalling

"When you're making a soup, you might buy young, fragile carrots. You put those in a canned soup, they won't last. They'll disintegrate. So companies grow special carrots for soups. They look like tree limbs -- they're like baseball bats. But once they go through the cooking process, they come out looking like the small young ones that you'd put into your soup."
--David Gombas, former Campbell Soup research scientist, on what goes into canned soup

"Today we literally have rappers who simply cannot speak, much less have a limited vocabulary of 50-100 words. In the past we accepted this as regional slang and accent, whereas a rapper chose to not use the king's English, as opposed to not knowing it entirely... With this in mind EMINEM has gained the throne of hip hop consciousness if you can call it that, by default. The hip hop nation slides into settling for 'dumbassification' while the opinion, wit, and words come from a white kid from the suburbs of DETROIT. Nothing wrong with EM being brilliant, the kid is like a rap ROY JONES Jr."
--Chuck D, Public Enemy, on the state of hip hop

"In medieval Europe, a conviction for murder required either two eyewitnesses or a confession by the perpetrator. This made it almost impossible to punish the crime of murder, which was an intolerable situation. So, torture developed as a way to extract the necessary confessions. Plea bargaining evolved the same way, [Yale law professor John] Langbein explained. As our official system of justice became larded with more and more protections for the accused, actually going through the process of catching, prosecuting, and convicting a criminal the official way became impossibly burdensome. So, the government offered the accused a deal: You get a lighter sentence if you save us the trouble of a trial. Or, to put it in a more sinister way: You get a heavier sentence if you insist on asserting your constitutional rights to a trial, to confront your accusers, to privacy from searches without probable cause, to avoid incriminating yourself, etc."
--Michael Kinsley, Slate.com, on why innocent people confess

"The sad part of the story is he was running as fast as he could."
--Jerry Perisho on Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag's being fined $7,500 for failing to immediately leave the court after being ejected from the Lakers game on Sunday

"Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be called for interviews than were those with black-sounding names. Interviews were requested for 10.1 percent of applicants with white-sounding names and only 6.7 percent of those with black-sounding names. Within racial groups, applications with men's or women's names were equally likely to result in calls for interviews, providing little evidence of discrimination based on sex in these entry-level jobs."
--Alan Krueger, NYT, on a racial discrimination experiment

"Born-again Christian Alice Cooper deems his concerts, with their simulated beheadings and spattering blood, 'very anti-satanic.'"
--Stephen Bates, Weekly Standard, on the unlikely Christian

Some churches have waaay too much time on their hands. Check out http://www-personal.engin.umich.edu/~wangpl/new7/other/Whoomp_Praise_the_Lord_20149.wmv

"[Jack] Nicholson says that some part of him envies Warren Schmidt for having spent his life with one woman, and occasionally (very occasionally, probably) wishes he had: 'You know, then the archives of our memories and so forth would be intertwined.'"
--Jeff Giles, Newsweek, on the advantages of monogamy

"If that image [of the terrifying Yankee] has subsequently withstood what Americans would consider convincing evidence of our goodwill -- two world war rescues, followed by the Marshall Plan -- it's in part because it fulfills a need among the French intellectual elite. Spanning the political spectrum from left to right, anti-Americanism is the great unifier here, 'the only "French passion,"' [French intellectual historian Philippe] Roger writes, 'that calms the other passions, softens antagonisms, and reconciles the most bitter adversaries.'"
--Robert Kunzig, U.S. News and World Report, on French anti-Americanism

"France, to many, is the country where people are always either on strike or on vacation."
--Robert Kunzig on American attitudes towards France

"Evidence suggests that evolutionary processes in the composition of genetic traits may be rather rapid and even the time period between the Neolithic Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that lasted nearly 10,000 years is sufficient for significant evolutionary changes... For instance, lactose tolerance was developed among European and Near Easterners since the domestication of dairy animals in the course of the Neolithic Revolution, whereas in regions that were exposed to dairy animals in later stages the population does not retain the ability to digest lactose into adulthood."
--Oded Galor and Omer Moav, "Natural Selection and the Origin of Economic Growth," Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2002

"The experts say a marriage goes through three stages: one, romantic infatuation, two, power struggles, three, mutual acceptance. I am in the fourth stage, abject surrender."
--Al Gore, Harvard Crimson

"I saw a lawyer the other day, and he said, 'My client wants $12 million.' I said, 'That client's not getting $12 million.' He said, 'Well, then, he'll litigate.' I said: 'Go ahead. Go litigate. And do me a favor, hold a press conference, O.K.? And tell everyone how that $4 million I was willing to give you was too low, and say you wanted 12. Go on national TV and all the networks and let people know how unfair Feinberg's been in not giving you $12 million.'"
--Kenneth Feinberg, special master of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, on greed in the wake of 9/11

"'Dear Mr. Feinberg, My husband died in the World Trade Center in '93. Why aren't I eligible?' 'Dear Mr. Feinberg, Last year my husband saved three little girls from drowning in the Mississippi River, and then he went under and died, a hero -- why aren't I eligible?' 'Dear Mr. Feinberg, Last year I got rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver and got laid up for six months. Where's my $1.8 million?'"
--Kenneth Feinberg on comments he receives that reveal the fatal flaw of the Victim Compensation Fund

"i've also realized that i'm bad at thinking up costumes for theme parties. we were supposed to wear ugly christmas sweaters or other garish holiday stuff to this one. my excuse is that only white people buy those things."
--Anonymous Asian friend

"Chronic guilt is the price we're willing to pay to avoid changing our ways."
--Daniel Harrell, Park Street Church, on sin

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
--Trent Lott at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party

"I want to tell you, ladies and gentleman, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."
--Strom Thurmond during his 1948 presidential campaign. Food for thought: how was Southern segregation different from Augusta's all-male policy? Why do I (and most Americans) feel outraged by the former but not the latter? Perhaps it's because the former was motivated by feelings of racial superiority, whereas the latter is arguably a private gathering that doesn't presume gender superiority, any more than a fraternity is not inherently sexist. But I do admit to being troubled by this.

"The New York Times plans to run this weekend the two previously spiked sports columns that contradicted the paper's editorial position on Augusta National, the all-male country club that hosts the Masters Tournament, according to one of the columnists."
--Seth Mnookin, Newsweek, on the NYT eating crow. See the 12/2 and 12/5 .plan entries

"I sometimes think I should feel bad, but honestly the way they work us here, I don't think there's anything wrong with it. I think you pick and choose the rules that should apply to you in some cases, and in this case, I just think we can't be expected to learn all this stuff."
--Harvard undergrad "Luke," who cheats both academically and romantically

"There are a number of people who just can't take that kind of cut in pay, even given their desire to be a public servant. I'm concerned that given those pay levels that at some point only wealthy people will be able to step forward."
--Massachusetts governor-elect Mitt Romney on the puzzling notion that $110,000 cabinet salaries attract only wealthy people

"Hasbro said that the [artificial] cat, whose target audience is 6- to-12-year-old girls, has found a second one: people in nursing homes who want the companionship of a cat without the litter box."
--Saul Hansell, NYT, on the odd phenomenon of seeking companionship from robots

"Editors of The New York Times killed a column by Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Anderson that disagreed with an editorial about Tiger Woods and Augusta National's refusal to admit women as members. A column by sportswriter Harvey Araton also was zapped, sources said, because it differed with the paper's editorial opinion about the golf club standoff."
--Paul Colford, New York Daily News, on journalistic freedom at the New York Times

"According to conventional wisdom, mom-and-pop stores are dying. But not according to the Census Bureau. USAT's Page One graphic illustrates census data showing that mom-and-pop operations—defined, kind of loosely, as small businesses that don't have any employees—are becoming slightly more common. There were six percent more of them in 2000 than in 1997."
--Eric Umansky, Slate.com, on the true state of small businesses

"That is, unless a student is Christian, he or she may not be an officer of [the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship]. This rule is indisputably discriminatory and in violation of not only the council's non-discrimination clauses, but also of the College's non-discrimination policy... I see, therefore, no evidence whatsoever that the HRCF has a compelling reason for requiring that its officers be Christian. Aside from, of course, discriminatory and unfairly biased reasons."
--Jason Lurie, Harvard Crimson, on the right of the people peaceably to assemble. To my surprise, this editorial is not a parody.

"On Nov. 25, the New York Times ran a front-page story headlined CBS STAYING SILENT IN DEBATE ON WOMEN JOINING AUGUSTA. It was the 32d piece the Times had run in just under three months on the issue of whether the Augusta National Golf Club, which hosts the Masters Tournament, would admit women as members. The story spanked the TV network that has a contract to air the Masters for 'resisting the argument that it can do something to alter the club's policy,' although it was unclear who -- other than the Times -- was making the argument; as the piece eventually noted, 'public pressure on CBS to take a stand has been glancing.' 'That was just shocking,' one Times staffer said on the condition that his name not be used. 'It makes it hard for us to have credibility on other issues. We don't run articles that just say so-and-so is staying silent. We run articles when something important actually happens.'"
--Seth Mnookin, Newsweek, on activist bias at the New York Times

"Instead of encouraging Tiger Woods to boycott the Masters, The New York Times should make its own statement by refusing to cover the prestigious golf tournament until Augusta National admits a female member."
--Jerry Heaster, Kansas City Star

"In August, the paper printed two consecutive front-page stories incorrectly including Henry Kissinger among the 'prominent Republicans' opposing war with Iraq (Kissinger had expressed realpolitik reservations but stopped far short of arguing against an attack). After an ensuing flap, the paper assigned a media reporter a story on how the American press was increasingly seen as driving the debate on Iraq. According to a number of sources at the Times, the reporter, David Carr, went back to his editors and told them the media, per se, weren’t driving anything: the only publication injecting itself into the policy debate was the Times itself."
--Seth Mnookin

I'm becoming a big fan of DJ D:Fuse, who spins progressive trance out of (gasp!) Austin, Texas. Listen to hourlong RealAudio streams of his sets here.

"I recall sitting in Edward Bennett Williams's box at a Redskins game in Henry's heyday. Our quarterback threw a touchdown pass, but an official threw a flag for offensive interference. 'Bad call!' shouted Williams. Former Chief Justice Earl Warren, in the next seat, shook his head sadly and said, 'Poor judgment.' Henry [Kissinger] leaped to his feet, shook his fists and yelled, 'On vot theory?'"
--William Safire, NYT, on Henry Kissinger's approach to life

"James Logan has won a patent for a timepiece that deliberately runs fast at random intervals during the day. His invention can be a wristwatch, pocket watch, clock or computer clock. It intermittently displays a time of day that is several minutes fast to encourage punctuality. The watch can be set so the person who consults it does not know whether it is fast or not at any given time. This feature can also be used only on days 'when promptness is particularly important.' Mr. Logan won patent 6,411,568."
--Sabra Chartrand, NYT, on an updated version of setting your clock fast

"When he first arrived, he made a wrong turn down a one-way street. Instead of screaming at him, people on the street wagged fingers -- 'as if to say, "You're not doing your part to support a better Sweden,"' he said. 'That bothered me more than someone giving me the finger.'"
--John Leland, NYT, on an American's introduction to Sweden

"Even a snitch sophisticated enough to check out the rewards offered by the State Department on its Internet site (www.rewardsforjustice.net) might well give up. The Web site warns that 'we closely examine the backgrounds of those individuals nominated for awards.' Further, it notes that the secretary of state 'may' offer rewards 'up to $25 million,' but only after the Interagency Rewards Committee -- comprising 10 separate bureaucracies, from the National Security Council and the Department of Energy -- has signed off. At this point, the cash may start to look like a long shot, especially given the immediate risks. Al Qaeda probably doesn't require a committee vote to execute a snitch."
--John Tierney, NYT, on why the State Department's $25 million price on Osama bin Laden hasn't worked yet

"It's an odd comeback attempt, because most people can't be sure exactly what Ms. Carey is coming back from. She has to make her fans forget a movie they probably didn't see and an album they probably didn't buy."
--Kelefa Sanneh, NYT, on Mariah Carey's comeback attempt

"More subtly, [David] Bayer also orchestrated mathematics to trace the ups and downs of Nash's struggle with schizophrenia. In the movie, at the time of his breakdown Nash is working on a famous still-unsolved problem called the Riemann Hypothesis, and he continues to work on it as he recovers. Bayer carefully crafted Nash's work so that in the depths of his illness it verges on arithmetical gibberish but later becomes a plausible attack on the problem... The best-informed critic of all seems to be satisfied. John Nash... wrote Bayer that he appreciated the 'bona fide sophistication' of the math in the movie--although he added that in the film's portrayal of his later work, the fictional Nash seems to know some things that 'the real Nash (me)' never did."
--Dana MacKenzie, Science, February 1, 2002 on A Beautiful Mind's mathematical consultant David Bayer

"This paper has argued that the FDA definition of effectiveness as 'effective beyond a placebo' is an improper policy that is detrimental to public health. The effectiveness standards deny consumers the benefit of a proven placebo treatment that would improve their condition, even when this may be the only, or at least is the safest treatment available. A free market in over-the-counter medicines, with laws regarding only the factual content of statements, would result in an improvement in public health."
--Russell Sobel, Cato Journal, Winter 2002

"Hundreds of eager volunteers kept the phones ringing off the hook this week at the Pine Street Inn. The volunteer coordinator at the St. Francis House stopped taking calls because he was fed up explaining why there were no more jobs left to fill. And the director of the First Church shelter in Cambridge described the raft of callers as 'frantic' and 'outraged' that there wasn't a place for them to help ladle gravy on Thanksgiving... 'We appreciate the help, but where are they the rest of the year?' said Jim Stewart, the director of the First Church shelter. 'There's a sense of entitlement that people should be able to pitch in this time of year. But when I suggest they call me later in the year, they rarely do.'... Volunteering around Thanksgiving is so competitive at Pine Street that Bostonians start calling the shelter as early as August to sign up."
--David Abel, Boston Globe, on why Thanksgiving is the worst time for the truly compassionate to volunteer

"City life generates enough daily anxiety to fuel a moon rocket. But now comes one more daily chore that for some people has been transformed into an emotionally fraught experience: a visit to the restaurant restroom. The issue, to be more precise, is not the restroom itself, but the restroom attendant. Like an endangered species that suddenly appears in every backyard, restroom attendants are showing up in restaurants where you least expect to find them, and in greater numbers than you might imagine."
--Eric Asimov, NYT, on unwanted help

"She never broke when she was tortured with beatings and electrical shocks, and even when she was close to death she refused to disclose the names of members of her congregation or sign a statement renouncing her Christian faith. But now, months later, Ma Yuqin abruptly chokes and her eyes well with tears as she recounts her worst memory: As she was being battered in one room, her son was tortured in the next so that each could hear the other's screams, as encouragement to betray their church."
--Nicholas Kristof, NYT, on the persecution of Christians in China

"If national governments discarded the patent system in the medication market and instead assumed responsibility for researching and developing new medicines, the incentive problem could be avoided without creating state-protected monopolies."
--The Harvard Crimson editorial staff showing tremendous faith in the ability of government to be creative and innovative

"The justices of the high court listen to arguments for 12 hours a month, six months a year -- the functional equivalent of three days down a coal mine. The rest of their time is devoted to deciding which meager 80 cases they'll hear all year, how they'll vote, and writing opinions -- for which a good deal of the research and drafting is done by law clerks who never sleep or eat. In sum, a Supreme Court justiceship is a dream job for anyone over the age of 80 or under the age of 7."
--Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com, on the advantages of being a Supreme Court justice

"In the world outside New Haven, being an Eli may get you a summer internship, but being a Johnny will get you pseudo-religious reverence."
--Marta Herschkopf, Yale '06, on Harvard's overwhelming dominance over Yale

"My mom was a bitch too, but I don't go writing songs about it."
--Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Eminem

"He'll have to be very smart and very wicked if he doesn't want to hear himself in elevators."
--Maureen Dowd, NYT, on Eminem's growing mainstream acceptance

"Man, there's nothing in the world that makes me as nervous as seeing white people dance."
--Charles Barkley

"Sometimes even when you win, you lose."
--TNT basketball analyst Kenny Smith in response to Charles Barkley's having to kiss Smith's butt on the air after losing a bet that Yao Ming would not score more than 19 points in a game. Just two nights after the bet was made, Yao scored 20.

"What do you tell our girls? Not to play?"
--Walkerville High athletics director Ron Stoneman after his girls basketball team beat Lakeshore 115-2

"Private, fire the Tomahawk!"

"It won't let me log in. Something about a space in my loginname name."

"Just put a _ between your first and last name."

"Yessir. OK, it logged me in. It asked me if I want me to report the error condition."
--Slate Fray poster on the revelation that the computers the Navy uses to fire Tomahawk missiles run on Windows NT

My Website is censored by the Chinese government!
"Testing complete for http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~jjchoi. Result:
Reported as inaccessible in China"
Test your Website at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/filtering/china/test

"Mitchell, the Penn quarterback, said players have been joking with one another about beating 'the school where you couldn't get accepted.'"
--Jere Longman, NYT, on the Harvard-UPenn football game

"There's a lot of music you can't play when you've got a guy that looks like Edge in the band."
--Larry Mullen Jr., U2

"Beware the DTR, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!"
--JJC dispensing relationship advice

"In the future, we will all be married to J.Lo for 15 minutes."
--Renee Graham, Boston Globe, on the irrelevancy of Jennifer Lopez

"Then again, this is just a guess, but Vice City might be the first video game to satirize the right-wing effort to cut federal funding for National Public Radio. On VCPR, Vice City's version of public radio, the talk show is constantly interrupted by an increasingly frantic pledge drive. If the funds don't arrive, the hosts warn, 'Liberals will be burned alive in the streets!'"
--Wagner James Au, Salon.com, on the art of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

"Asked a question by a Japanese reporter, [Ichiro] began responding in Japanese before Jason Giambi yelled at him to stop. 'Hey, you've got to speak English. You're a big leaguer.' Ichiro's response: 'Shut up, dude.'"
--Jim Caple, ESPN.com, on Ichiro's assimilation into American culture

"In the suites, bathrooms were placed so that 'a man should be able to entertain a lady friend so that his roommate can run naked to the bathroom without offending her.'"
--Jean Paul Carlhian, architect of Mather House, offering explanations for Mather House's design

"The farmer would point out that even vegans have a 'serious clash of interests' with other animals. The grain that the vegan eats is harvested with a combine that shreds field mice, while the farmer's tractor crushes woodchucks in their burrows, and his pesticides drop songbirds from the sky. Steve Davis, an animal scientist at Oregon State University, has estimated that if America were to adopt a strictly vegetarian diet, the total number of animals killed every year would actually increase, as animal pasture gave way to row crops. Davis contends that if our goal is to kill as few animals as possible, then people should eat the largest possible animal that can live on the least intensively cultivated land: grass-fed beef for everybody. It would appear that killing animals is unavoidable no matter what we choose to eat."
--Michael Pollan, NYT Magazine, on the moral problem of eating meat

"Colleagues on both sides of the aisle have some advice for Senator James M. Jeffords: now is probably not the best time to get money for a new bridge in Vermont. Officially, the word from the Republican leadership is that there will be no retribution against Mr. Jeffords, the Vermont senator whose defection from the party last year cost Republicans control of the Senate. Unofficially, Republicans are amusing themselves with other possibilities as they return to power. Would Vermont's Mount Snow be a good spot for the national depository of nuclear waste? Could that controversial bombing range in Puerto Rico be moved to Lake Champlain? Will Mr. Jeffords still have an office when he returns to Washington?"
--John Tierney, NYT, on a Republican defector in a Republican Senate

"Any time a billionaire asks you for my phone number, go ahead and give it to him. I'll sort things out later."
--Bill James, newly hired by the Red Sox, reacting to Rob Neyer's giving his phone number to Red Sox owner John Henry without his permission

"I don't think he's that cute!"
--Jimmy Quach, without irony, on actor Paul Rudd

"Lynne Cheney and Congressional scolds notwithstanding, even the United States government has joined the Eminem bandwagon: this summer it started broadcasting his songs in the Middle East as part of its propaganda campaign to enhance America's image to young radio listeners in the Arab world."
--Frank Rich, NYT Magazine, on Eminem's crossover to the mainstream

"My films always make me physically ill."
--Hugh Grant on the quality of his films

"Basically, McCain will never forgive Bush for the South Carolina primary, when a flyer circulated characterizing McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter as the love child of an illicit tryst with a black woman. Nor will he speak of that moment except to note 'I was angry in South Carolina.'"
--Charles Bowden, GQ, reminding us of the evil of Bush's primary campaign

Worst girl-watching city: San Francisco.
The country's most beautiful city, in fact, has precious little scenery -- at least the living, breathing kind. Blame it on Jerry Garcia, the abundance of Polarfleece, or the crappy, cloudy-all-year weather. Come for Pac Bell Park, the burritos, or the Golden Gate -- just don't come for the women.

You are visitor number since February 26, 2002.