October 10, 2012
September 14, 2012
September 11, 2012
September 1, 2012
Yet another example of a highly creative commercial.
August 29, 2012
July 29, 2012
Very good television from the late 1960's.
July 14, 2012
July 13, 2012
July 1, 2012
June 26, 2012
Frank Langella as a retired (maybe) jewel thief, a robot butler and Susan Sarandon as the love interest -- this could be pretty good.
June 17, 2012
June 11, 2012
I'm not usually a fan of wedding videos, but the one below is one of the best that I've seen. H/T Geoff Shackelford.
June 6, 2012
June 5, 2012
H/T NY Times Economix.
May 29, 2012
April 27, 2012
April 22, 2012
April 20, 2012
Two more segments in the continuing series on creative commercials, this time featuring Bones Mackay (Phil Mickelson's caddie) and Michael Jordan.
April 14, 2012
April 13, 2012
April 11, 2012
April 9, 2012
April 8, 2012
H/T Craig Newmark.
April 6, 2012
March 18, 2012
March 16, 2012
February 15, 2012
January 31, 2012
January 20, 2012
January 9, 2012
On the day of the BCS national championship game, this SNL video reminds us that there are way too many bowl games.
January 4, 2012
December 26, 2011
Don't miss the hilarious story in this video from the NORAD officer who took the calls from children looking for Santa based on a wrong phone number contained in a Sears catalog advertisement.
December 19, 2011
Continuing on the previous post's golf theme, here is another segment in our continuing series on creative commercials.
December 18, 2011
Another entry in our continuing series of innovative commercials.
December 11, 2011
H/T Greg Mankiw.
December 9, 2011
It's when he finally realized the importance of not giving a shit what people think.
November 26, 2011
November 22, 2011
Another great episode in our continuing series of wonderfully creative commercials.
November 17, 2011
Hayes Carll talks about his Arkansas project.
November 9, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 22, 2011
Yet another in our continuing series of creative commercials.
October 20, 2011
Merle Hazard's latest, Diamond Jim (H/T Greg Mankiw)
October 15, 2011
Gareth Maybin may not be as well known a professional golfer as his fellow Northern Ireland mates Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.
But he takes a back seat to none of them in terms of athletic ability.
September 28, 2011
September 18, 2011
September 16, 2011
As avant garde comedy, this University of Texas 2011 football video narrated by Matthew McConaughey is pretty good.
On the other hand, if not avant garde comedy, this video is seriously delusional and reflects much of why the UT is not a particularly attractive member for conference affiliation purposes right now.
August 27, 2011
If you have a hankering to attend a Kindergarten Party, then just file a frivolous motion to quash discovery in Austin-based U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks' court. Maybe he will issue an order similar to the one below.
August 24, 2011
H/T Interpretation by Design. The box leading in to the Texans is spot on.
August 19, 2011
August 15, 2011
August 13, 2011
John Cleese gets us ready for the first weekend of one of the most mind-numbing sport seasons of the year, NFL Pre-season football.
August 10, 2011
In the engaging TedXHouston video below, Chris insightfully talks about the power of stories in defining and directing our lives. Enjoy!
August 3, 2011
This is really remarkably creative advertising.
July 23, 2011
July 21, 2011
July 10, 2011
July 9, 2011
Richard Gillot performs an absolutely spot-on imitation of Colin Montgomery.
July 5, 2011
July 2, 2011
Another in our continuing series of creative commercials, an oldy but goody from Austrialia.
June 14, 2011
It's U.S. Open week at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, so it's time for Geoff Shackelford to renew the latest segment of his periodic interviews with Clear Thinkers favorite Dan Jenkins, who is covering his 207th (by my count) major golf championship. Any interview of Jenkins is good fun, but he particularly seems to rise to the occasion around major championships. For example:
Q: It's Saturday of this year's U.S. Open and you have a choice between watching the third round at Congressional or Obama v. Boehner whapping it around at Andrews Air Force Base. What do you choose?
"I wouldn't watch politicians do anything if it was happening in my retina."
"New book out on Deane Beman. My review in one sentence: Deane never lost a conversation."
Meanwhile, check out this slick Golf.com map and overview of the Congressional golf course (Bradley Klein chimes in with a good background piece on the course here). The U.S. Open's site also provides interesting flyovers of each hole along with a narrated description.
June 13, 2011
In our continuing series of creative commercials, Wild Turkey whiskey chimes in with a clever one to start the week.
June 12, 2011
My experience is that good commencement speeches are rare, but I know a good one when I read one. And this one by drama critic Terry Teachout is one of the best that I've read in years. Short, clever and insightful, Teachout weaves in a profound exchange from the movie Bull Durham and a funny anecdote about the legendary actor Rex Harrison and Broadway producer Leland Hayward. Then, he concludes with the following sage advice:
If there's ever a time in life for you to shoot high, it's now. So take a long, cool look at yourself and say, What do I really want out of life? What would keep me interested until the day I die? Do I have a realistic chance to get it? And if you think you do, then go for it. Work as hard to get it as you worked to get your degree here. Settle later, if you must--but don't spend the rest of your life eating your heart out because you didn't give it your very best shot right now.
And that's that. I congratulate you, members of the Class of 2011, for doing something truly remarkable.
Remember: be proud.
Don't be bored. Enjoy the moment.
And be sure to get a good lunch.
June 3, 2011
June 1, 2011
May 29, 2011
May 27, 2011
May 26, 2011
Yet another in our continuing series of the most creative product on television, commercials.
May 21, 2011
May 1, 2011
Led Zeppelin and James Brown? Genuis!.
April 30, 2011
The latest in our continuing series of creative commercials.
April 17, 2011
"For a Walken, adolescence is a difficult time. You feel like you're the only normal person in a school of nut jobs."
April 2, 2011
In our continuing series of innovative commercials, Bos Jackson and Diddley corroborate on a classic for Nike.
March 27, 2011
H/T The NY Times Magazine 6th Floor Blog:
March 26, 2011
March 13, 2011
Another in our continuing series of innovative commercials, this time for Swiss furniture maker Pfister.
March 7, 2011
This is an absolutely brilliant flowchart. Perfect for getting ready for the baseball season. Click the image to view a larger image.
February 27, 2011
Watch through the end.
February 20, 2011
February 11, 2011
In our continuing series of innovation commercials, check out this one from Norway. Outstanding!
February 7, 2011
This Japanese banana commercial is better than any of the commercials that I saw during this year's Super Bowl.
January 29, 2011
January 27, 2011
January 24, 2011
The late Johnny Carson's Tonight Show was an entry forum for some very talented comedians who went on to successful careers. Enjoy!
January 22, 2011
January 8, 2011
January 7, 2011
January 6, 2011
January 5, 2011
January 3, 2011
Golf Digest's December issue passes along a couple of dozen of those funny anecdotes (see more here) and I can think of no better way to start off the New Year than to take a few minutes and enjoy them all. One of my favorites is one that NBC golf commentator Roger Maltbie passes along about an interview with the legendary Sam Snead:
It's 1999, and we're doing the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. I'm in the tower at 18 with Dan Hicks. We decide to do an interview with Sam. He was what, 87 or something?
We were advised that Sam had good days and bad days, so we decided to do the interview on tape. The last thing you want to do is embarrass anybody.
It started slowly, but all of a sudden Sam turns to Dan and says, "You know, I sat down and thought about it once, and if I had shot 69 in the final round of the Open, I'd have won eight of them."
From that moment, he snapped in and he was lucid. Clear as a bell. So then Dan asked him about his longevity.
Sam said, "Well, I never drank much. Always took pretty good care of myself. Got to bed early, got a lot of sleep."
Then, with an old Sam Snead grin, he looked at Dan and said,
"Course, I did shake those bedsprings every now and then!"
With that, we lose it. So the interview never aired, but it was tremendous.
There are many other classics, such as the one about Boo Weekley's boxing match against an orangutan and Gary McCord's first meeting with Ben Hogan. And an article about funny golf stories would not be complete without one from Clear Thinkers favorite Dan Jenkins, who describes his nervousness in addressing his first tee shot while playing an exhibition with Arnold Palmer and Dow Finsterwald in front of a big gallery:
I simply stood there, waiting for some divine power to move the clubhead back. I don't have any idea how or where the ball went. All I could hear was Finsterwald saying, "Go ahead and hit another one."
I suavely turned around, pitched the driver to my caddie and said, "Let's play it, baby."
"It'll be kind of tough off that roof across the street," said Palmer.
Houston is well-represented, with anecdotes from longtime residents Jackie Burke and Steve Elkington, who tells a great one about watching Colin Montgomerie polishing off a massive dessert before a big match.
But the late Dave Marr -- who was one of Houston and golf's finest storytellers - takes the top prize among Houstonians with this anecdote about a pro-am incident involving the legendarily caustic wit of the late Tommy Armour:
The best one I remember hearing involved Tommy Armour, who was acute, to say the least, in his observations of people.
He was playing in a pro-am with a guy who showed up the first day in an all-blue outfit, including his bag and headcovers -- even his shoes. And he shot a 95.
The next day he came out in an all-red outfit -- bag, shirt, shoes, everything -- and this time he shot a 96.
And he said, "Mr. Armour, I've played two days with you, and I would really appreciate any comments you have about my golf game."
Armour looked at him a minute and then said,
"I think you're a shot better in blue."
January 1, 2011
The only thing better than this political ad from the 2010 campaign was the target study that concluded that it would be effective. You gotta love Arizona politics:
And amazingly, the foregoing political ad was pretty restrained in comparison to this classic plaintiff's lawyer's ad:
By the way, while growing up in Iowa City, I never realized that Cedar Rapids 20 miles to the north was such an interesting place:
Happy New Year!
December 25, 2010
Native Houstonian Robert Earl Keen sings his classic Texas country Christmas tune.
December 23, 2010
Following on this earlier video of former Montana Tech football coach Bob Green, Tennessee's Derek Dooley sounds as if he could be a worthy successor in the homespun humor department.
December 20, 2010
The late Ross Lence, my mentor in undergraduate school, used to laugh when his students decried the lies of politicians. Lence contended that we expect - indeed, we want - our politicians to lie in order to make us feel better about the myths that we rely on about ourselves and our country in our day-to-day lives.
The late Johnny Carson provides a hilarious take on politicians' lies in this classic video from almost 30 years ago. Enjoy.
December 19, 2010
December 17, 2010
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has filed a lawsuit against McDonald's Corp., claiming that the company's meals with toys unfairly entice children into eating food that can do them harm.
The Washington advocacy group warned McDonald's in June that it would sue if the company did not stop providing toys with children's meals that have high amounts of sugar, calories, fat and salt. The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, seeks class-action status.[. . .]
The lead plaintiff in the suit is Monica Parham, a mother of two from Sacramento who said the company "uses toys as bait to induce her kids to clamor to go to McDonald's," the organization said.
Ms. Parham has to sue McDonald's rather than simply telling her children "no"? Walter Olson chronicles here.
December 14, 2010
December 12, 2010
December 4, 2010
In this blog's continuing series of innovative commercials from over the years, here is another excellent one from Turkish Airlines with help from Manchester United.
December 2, 2010
Inasmuch as I believe the hoopla over the WikiLeaks disclosures is mostly overblown, I'm not going to post much on it. Except to point out again that the FT's Gideon Rachman really has the right perspective toward it all:
It's amusing for the rest of us to read US diplomats' frank and sometimes unflattering verdicts on foreign leaders, and it's obviously embarrassing for the Americans.
It's a bit like somebody getting drunk at a party and making bitchy comments in too loud a voice. Nobody is incredibly shocked that such things happen. But it's still awkward to be overheard by the person you are talking about.
November 27, 2010
A good lesson in psychology here.
November 24, 2010
There is no better way to get ready for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend of football than to take a dose of former Montana Tech football coach, Bob Green.
November 22, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 14, 2010
November 11, 2010
Given that the basketball season is now in full swing, don't miss the late Dennis Hopper comments on the best movie about basketball ever made, Hoosiers (1986), including his co-star Gene Hackman's trepidation during shooting of the movie's prospects for success.
October 24, 2010
Bob Newhart provides his hilarious version of cognitive behavioral therapy.
October 22, 2010
October 18, 2010
The genius of Tina Fey - the best of Liz Lemon.
October 17, 2010
Who would have thought that Ben Crane is the PGA Tour's budding comedian?
October 8, 2010
October 2, 2010
In our ongoing series of innovative commercials, Cindy Crawford reminds us of how good those old Pepsi commercials were.
September 27, 2010
Who needs enemies? That's what Nola.com's James Gill is asking after sitting through U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr.'s impeachment trial last week (previous post here). Several of the judge's friends testified for the defense about how they would slip him some money on the side:
Several of those friends were in the habit of slipping Porteous money, and Turley decided to put one of them, Don Gardner, on the stand. That was asking for trouble too, and Gardner promptly provided it by admitting that a federal litigant, alarmed to discover that the other side had retained some friends of Porteous, paid him $100,000 as a counterbalance.
Gardner conceded that he was recruited for the case, although he lacked any relevant expertise, as "a pretty face, someone who knew the judge." He added that he could have pocketed an extra $100,000 by persuading Porteous to recuse himself, but made no attempt to do so, not wanting to be a "whore."
Senators probably did not agree that Gardner's virtue was intact.
Which reminded me of one of the following joke about a crooked judge:
Taking his seat in his chambers, the judge faced the opposing lawyers.
"So," said the judge. "Each of you has presented me with a bribe."
Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably.
"You, attorney Mohanty, gave me $50,000," observed the judge. "And you, attorney Venkat, gave me $60,000."
The judge reached into his pocket, pulled out $10,000, and handed it to attorney Venkat.
"Now that I've returned $10,000 to attorney Venkat," exclaimed the judge proudly, "I'm going to decide this case solely on its merits!"
September 24, 2010
The fascinating culture of Texas A&M University football has been a frequent topic on this blog over the years. So, when a current student posted the following dilemma on an Aggie message board, hilarity ensued:
[A professor] scheduled a test on Thursday the 30th from 6-8. When we told him there is a game (Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State) that night, he just laughed. Here are a list of options I have, please offer any advice.
- Take the test quickly and watch second half
- Record game and start from beginning when I get home, roommates would not be happy
- skip test
- fake illness
- actually get sick and go to quack shack for a university excused absence
- drop the class
Help me out TexAgs.
My favorite response came from an alum who got kicked out of class for bringing Reveille, the collie that is the Aggie mascot, to the class. He advised the professor upon leaving:
"This is your class and I will respect your rules, but please know that you are more expendable to the university than this dog."
September 6, 2010
September 1, 2010
The draft of Year XXIII of the Fantasy Football League of Houston (yes, that's year 23 - our league was one of the first) was held last night and a good time was had by all. And thankfully, Norman Tugwater did not show up.
August 19, 2010
In several respects, my mentor and dear friend Ross Lence was similar to legendary Columbia philosophy professor Sidney Morgenbesser -- a consummate teacher and witty thinker who didn't care much for academia's preoccupation with publishing.
So, I enjoyed reading this James Ryerson/NY Times Magazine profile (H/T Al Roberts) of Morgenbesser that reminded me of a funny philosophy story involving Morgenbesser that Professor Lence had passed along to me with relish many years ago:
In the academic world, custom dictates that you may be considered a legend if there is more than one well-known anecdote about you.
Morgenbesser, with his Borscht Belt humor and preternaturally agile mind, was the subject of dozens. In the absence of a written record of his wisdom, this was how people related to him: by knowing the stories and wanting to know more.
The most widely circulated tale -- in many renditions it is even presented as a joke, not the true story that it is -- was his encounter with the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin.
During a talk on the philosophy of language at Columbia in the 50's, Austin noted that while a double negative amounts to a positive, never does a double positive amount to a negative.
From the audience, a familiar nasal voice muttered a dismissive, "Yeah, yeah."
August 12, 2010
August 6, 2010
Tiger Mike owned an independent exploration and production company in Houston during the boom days of the late 1970's and early 80's, and then directed his company through a volatile chapter 11 case during the depression in the oil and gas industry in the mid-80's. I have always thought that one of the most impressive credentials of Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edith Jones is that she represented Tiger Mike during his company's chapter 11 case. Based on her representation of Tiger Mike alone, Edith definitely understands the challenge of representing a difficult client.
Legend has it that Tiger Mike was born in Lebanon, had no formal education and eventually emigrated to the US, where he was a cabbie in Denver. He was hired by wealthy Helen Bonfils' husband and remained her chauffeur after his death, which eventually led to his marriage with the 70 year-old widow. After her death, Tiger Mike inherited a part of her fortune, which he invested in several drilling rigs that he later sold at a substantial profit. That was his stake into the exploration and production business, where he proceeded to drill 50-odd dry holes and spiraled into bankruptcy.
The stories of Tiger Mike resonate in Houston oil and gas circles to this day. At one point, Tiger Mike was allegedly carrying on a torrid affair with one of the McGuire sisters (a popular singing group from the 1960's) at the same time as Ms McGuire was the mistress of Sam Giancana, the notorious Chicago Mafia boss. No one was ever quite sure whether Tiger Mike had Sam's consent to that arrangement.
Another time, during a particularly difficult work-out negotiations over a botched drilling project, Tiger Mike waltzed into a conference room filled with creditors and their lawyers in his trademark one-piece khaki polyester leisure suit with white shoes and belt. He proceeded to throw his briefcase on the conference room table, grabbed a 45 caliber pistol out of the briefcase and slammed it on the table to the astonishment of everyone in the room.
"Now,"ť exclaimed Tiger Mike. "It's time to deal!"ť
All of which is a prelude to the the always-observant Letters of Note's posting of the hilarious Tiger Mike Memos,ť a series of 22 interoffice memos that the "incredibly amusing, painfully tactless, and seemingly constantly angry"ť Tiger Mike sent to his employees over the years.ť
To those of us in Houston who remember Tiger Mike, none of them are surprising in the slightest. But they are fun. Enjoy!
July 24, 2010
From a time when Eddie Murphy was very clever.
July 22, 2010
Sounds as if Louis CK has a wise doctor.
July 10, 2010
July 8, 2010
An SNL classic.
June 17, 2010
Stick with this interesting lecture to the end.
June 10, 2010
According to Andrea Donderi, as described here by The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman, it depends on the culture in which you were raised:
We are raised, the theory runs, in one of two cultures.
In Ask culture, people grow up believing they can ask for anything – a favour, a pay rise– fully realising the answer may be no.
In Guess culture, by contrast, you avoid "putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes… A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won't have to make the request directly; you'll get an offer. Even then, the offer may be genuine or pro forma; it takes yet more skill and delicacy to discern whether you should accept."
Neither's "wrong", but when an Asker meets a Guesser, unpleasantness results. An Asker won't think it's rude to request two weeks in your spare room, but a Guess culture person will hear it as presumptuous and resent the agony involved in saying no. . . .
This is a spectrum, not a dichotomy, and it explains cross-cultural awkwardnesses, too. Brits and Americans get discombobulated doing business in Japan, because it's a Guess culture, yet experience Russians as rude, because they're diehard Askers.
Applying this to legal education, my sense is that law schools try to develop Askers into trial lawyers, while the die-hard Guessers among law students probably gravitate toward non-litigation areas. Off hand, I cannot recall in my experience a particularly effective litigator who was anything other than an Asker. On the other hand, I know a number of good deal lawyers who are Guessers. What do you think?
May 16, 2010
April 30, 2010
You think the TSA is irritating? John Cleese provides a lesson on how to really irritate people.
April 25, 2010
April 22, 2010
By the way, check out the 2005 list of the Stros top ten prospects.
No wonder the local club is struggling.
April 17, 2010
When Don Rickles got on a roll, he was very, very funny.
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
The yell leaders could have some fun with this.
April 2, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 18, 2010
March 14, 2010
March 6, 2010
"How much of your hair is Red Bull?"
March 4, 2010
March 1, 2010
If this Larry Getlen/NY Post review of Jason Turbow and Michael Duca's new book The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime (Pantheon March 9, 2010) doesn’t get you in the mood for Major League Spring Training and the upcoming MLB season, then nothing will:
Unbeknownst to most outsiders, all aspects of baseball — from hitting, pitching, and baserunning to dealing with management and the media — are governed by the Code, a complex series of unwritten rules that have evolved since baseball's earliest days.
This Code, which the authors describe as "less strategic than moral," includes behavioral rules for common baseball situations; the punishment for flouting those rules; and the "omerta" that ballplayers must never, ever, discuss the rules of the Code outside the clubhouse. [. . .]
* Cardinal great Bob Gibson believed that the Code entitled him to knock down any batter who bested him with a grand slam. So when the Chicago Cubs Pete LaCock did just that, Gibson felt he owed him one — unfortunately, the homer came during Gibson's final game. Gibson finally took his revenge 15 years later, plugging LaCock in the back during an Old Timers Game.
* When the Yankees took on the Angels in 1987, the announcers discussed how Angels pitcher Don Sutton was scuffing the ball. Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, hearing this on TV, called Yankee manager Lou Piniella in a rage, demanding that the umpires inspect Sutton's glove. Piniella had to explain to the Boss, "The guy who taught Don everything he knows about cheating is pitching for us tonight. Want me to get Tommy John thrown out too?"
February 28, 2010
I never knew that the lobby of the Mayo Clinic could be such an entertaining place.
February 21, 2010
Mercedes-Benz contributes to the ongoing series of posts on creative commercials. Enjoy.
February 20, 2010
Uh, oh. Hitler isn’t pleased that Rice University rejected his application for graduate school in philosophy. As Brian Leiter notes, the rejection must have been a result of that Stalin recommendation.
February 11, 2010
In this clever sketch, That Mitchell and Webb Look channel the mentality behind the legislation discussed in yesterday’s post.
February 3, 2010
2010 is a census year, so it’s a good time to recall one of the best Saturday Night Live skits ever, Christopher Walken answering a census taker’s questions. Enjoy.
January 30, 2010
From Big Think, Guy Talese wonders how on earth he and his co-workers at the New York Times ever got the paper to publication:
January 22, 2010
In our continuing series of splendidly creative commercials, check out this one for Norm’s Cheddar (H/T Bill Hesson):
January 13, 2010
But there are other areas in which Houston simply throttles Dallas, hands down.
For example, in connection with its mandate to promote Houston, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitor’s Bureau released the video below late last year. Featuring the edgy local band The TonTons, the video does a very nice job of providing an attractive introduction to Houston:
But I didn’t realize just how good the GHCVB’s video was until I came across the abominable video below that the City of Dallas recently produced for the Professional Convention Management Association:
Key tip to Dallas – you are trying way too hard.
January 10, 2010
January 9, 2010
The Daily Show's crack British correspondent, John Oliver, tells Jimmy Fallon about his first visit to Las Vegas and his first time shooting a rifle. And below that is an hilarious and surprisingly insightful recent report by Oliver from The Daily Show. Enjoy.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Even Better Than the Real Thing|
December 27, 2009
In the continuing series of remarkable commercials, Honda chips in.
December 24, 2009
It wouldn't be Christmas in Texas without taking a moment to listen to Texas singer-songwriter and Houston native Robert Earl Keen's classic Texas Christmas carol and video, Merry Christmas from the Family Keen is playing the House of Blues at 8 p.m. on Monday.
Have a restful, joyous and safe holiday!
December 13, 2009
Below is another in the continuing series of commercials that represent some of the most creative product on television.
December 5, 2009
As noted several times over the years, some of the most creative product generated for television are commercials. And as this Rice Krispies commercial from the 1960's reflects, creativity in commercials is not a new phenomena.
November 7, 2009
Robert Duvall -- in his classic role of former Texas Ranger Gus McCrae in Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove -- reminds a bartender the importance of good customer service.
November 6, 2009
Andrew Ferguson is not impressed with Bob Dylan or his new Christmas CD:
The production and packaging are professional. The band is competent in a midnight-at-the-Nashville Hyatt sort of way--maybe a little heavy on the tremolo but still. And the songs themselves are fine, of course. The arrangements, though, are jarringly slick, with sleigh bells and gossamer strings and cooing girl singers--as if Dylan had chosen to lift the backing tracks from an Andy Williams Christmas special circa 1968. Oozing just beneath his asthmatic croak, the arrangements give an effect of overwhelming creepiness. His voice gets worse with every track. You wonder whether someone left the karaoke machine on in the emphysema ward at the old folks' home. He doesn't sing notes so much as make exhausted gestures in their general direction, until at a break he falls silent and is rescued by the backup singers, who reestablish the melody in the proper key. But then he starts singing again.
Yeah well, maybe ol' Bob blew the Christmas CD. But even at the age of 50 in the video below from almost 20 years ago, Dylan could still rock with the best of them -- Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Neil Young, Eric Clapton and the late George Harrison. Enjoy.
October 31, 2009
Before Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, there was Jonathon Winters. Enjoy.
October 28, 2009
October 25, 2009
October 23, 2009
Mark over at the Kaddy's Korner provides this interesting post about his experience in filling in as Tom Watson's caddy during the Champions Tour's Administaff Open at the Tournament Course in The Woodlands last weekend. Mark concludes his post in the following manner about spending a week with a legend:
Growing up, most of my heroes were baseball players, and I might be too old for a new one, but I think I found one.
During the week, I watched one of the top-10 golfers of all time practice his trade. Most guys work into their practice routine slowly with their wedges first, but Tom started warming up each day with a 3-iron, and none of them sounded clunky. He made sure he acknowledged all the fans, sincerely understanding what they do for the game. He walked through the crowds gazing into their eyes, waving, and none of it was forced. Most guys work up a strained smile and a nod.
There were only two people at the tournament who gathered a larger following: Arnold Palmer and former President George H. W. Bush. That’s not bad company.
Which reminds me of the classic video below of Bill Murray hilariously describing the experience of looping a round with another legend. Hint -- he was very well compensated ;^):
October 20, 2009
Every single Kramer entrance from Seinfeld, in chronological order, in a little over six minutes. Enjoy!
October 18, 2009
Colbert was on fire this week.
October 17, 2009
October 6, 2009
September 5, 2009
Continuing on the thread of creative advertising, check out this brilliant series of Cinnamon Toast Crunch commercials by McCann Erickson/Campbell Mithun.
September 4, 2009
Anything that happens in U.S. Open tennis over the Labor Day weekend is unlikely to match this hilarious post-match interview of Andy Roddick during the 2007 Australian Open after Roger Federer had defeated him in particularly dominating style.
August 29, 2009
Food for thought from Father Guido Sarducci to collegians starting the new school year.
August 24, 2009
August 23, 2009
August 20, 2009
Given the achievement of covering his 200th major golf tournament at the U.S. Open this past June, Clear Thinkers favorite and fellow Texan Dan Jenkins has been making the interview rounds and it has been a rollicking good time.
Last week at the PGA Tournament (Jenkins' 201st major tournament), the PGA presented Jenkins to the press corps one afternoon and the interview session ended up being the most entertaining of the week. Here are a few snippets:
"It's been a great geographic trip, because I got to cover the dominant player in the world from Texas [Ben Hogan] and then the one from Pennsylvania [Arnold Palmer] and then the one from Ohio [Jack Nicklaus], the one from Missouri [Tom Watson] and the one from Spain [Seve Ballesteros], and now a guy from California [Tiger Woods]. Pretty good geographic journey."
Recalling an anecdote from an Atlanta hotel that Jenkins stayed in while covering a tournament:
Jenkins: "What exactly is the name of the property we're staying in?"
Julius Mason, a Jenkins friend: "It's the Sheraton Four Points."
Jenkins: "Four points out of 10? No air conditioning, no ice, no TV, no phone. It was a grand slam."
On his future:
Question: "How long are you going to keep doing this?"
Jenkins: "I'm not qualified to do anything else. So I'll be here until they carry me out and the message on my tombstone will be 'I knew this would happen.'"
On his two passions, golf and college football:
"Hey, golf is fun. It's beautiful. It's elite. It's gorgeous and all those things. But college football -- it's important. People live and die for that sport."
"Tiger three-putts for bogey. Still gets standing ovation."
"Tiger throws grass in the air on the fifth fairway. Gets another standing ovation."
On Vijay Singh's 3rd round putting woes:
"Vijay putted today like your member-guest partner. The partner you don't invite back."
"I see 'Squeaky' Fromme was let out of prison Friday. Maybe the Eagles will sign her."
"Female mixed martial arts seems to be catching on. Some of my friends believe they might have been married to a couple of them."
"I just noticed I'm closing in on 4,500 [Twitter] followers. My daughter says, 'Great, Dad. Still two million behind Britney Spears.'"
On Irishman Padrig Harrington's quintuple bogey 8 that took him out of contention on the final day:
"The Irish do love funerals."
On South Korean Y.E. Yang's victory in the PGA:
"After conquering the LPGA Tour, the South Koreans have now set their sights on the men. And after all we've done for them."
August 12, 2009
The crack about "certainly there was something they haven't deep-fat fried yet" is an instant classic.
August 4, 2009
August 3, 2009
August 1, 2009
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Current Events - Tasers|
July 31, 2009
Has there ever been a Treasury Secretary who has been an easier target than Timothy Geithner?
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Home Crisis Investigation|
July 30, 2009
July 20, 2009
If you haven't already seen it, then don't miss Jon Stewart's classic destruction of the fawning treatment that former Phillies and Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra received from several financial media outlets over the past several years in regard to his supposedly magical investment strategies. Ryan Chittum summarizes the media outlets' attraction in Dykstra's case to glitz over substance. Another reminder that the "too good to be true" rule is an important one to embrace when evaluating investment alternatives.
July 11, 2009
July 6, 2009
An instant classic from That Mitchell and Webb Look (H/T Kevin, M.D.). Enjoy.
July 5, 2009
June 29, 2009
June 28, 2009
The video of Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson posted earlier this week reminded me of this classic joke that the late Buddy Hackett told and acted out on the Tonight Show years ago. Enjoy.
June 26, 2009
After a short break, one of the best new websites of the year -- Old Jews Telling Jokes -- is back with a new round of jokes. Enjoy.
June 25, 2009
June 22, 2009
With the 2009 U.S. Open that is finishing today, Clear Thinkers favorite Dan Jenkins is covering his 200th major golf tournament. In one of the more remarkable developments of the tournament, the 79 year-old Jenkins has been reporting on developments through Twitter, where he has proved to be a natural (one of his recent posts: "If David Duval wins this thing, it'll be the biggest comeback from a slump since Mickey Rourke got nominated for an Oscar"). Below is a recent HBO interview of Jenkins talking about his friend Ben Hogan, who was the master of the U.S. Open during the late 1940's and early 50's. Enjoy a true Texas original reminiscing about another one:
June 19, 2009
June 16, 2009
Tongues were wagging in financial circles around the world last week regarding this Wall Street Journal article about Austin-based Amherst Holdings' amazing play in which they sold credit default swaps on mortgage bonds to a number of Wall Street and London's biggest banks. Amherst then turned around and bought the mortgages underlying the bonds upon which the CDS were written to prevent a default that would have triggered Amherst's obligation to pay on the CDS.
Thus, in short, Amherst sold CDS on bonds and then bought the security for the bonds, thereby rendering the CDS worthless. Although the amount of profit is somewhat unclear, Amherst reportedly pocketed tens of millions of dollars on the deal.
The Financial Times' economist Willem Buiter does an entertaining job of explaining Amherst's transactional plan in the context of gambling and the difficulties involved in regulating such transactions. In so doing, he makes the following observation:
"The scheme is beautiful in its simplicity, absolutely outrageous, quite unethical, deeply deceptive and duplicitous, indeed quite immoral, but apparently legal."
Geez, maybe these Amherst sharpies could have saved AIG?
June 14, 2009
Along those lines, Sarah Swisher, an old family friend and a columnist for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, penned this column regarding an hilarious caper from the early 1960's involving my mother and Sarah's mother, who were dear friends. What started out as an attempt to create a plot for an Alfred Hitchcock movie quickly transformed into an episode of I Love Lucy with a touch of The Honeymooners.
You really can't make this stuff up.
June 13, 2009
June 11, 2009
This fine Stephan Kanfer/City Journal piece on the late Richard Pryor reminded me of this old Saturday Night Live skit entitled "Word Association." Enjoy.
June 7, 2009
May 31, 2009
A friend of mine from London, on his first visit to Houston, candidly admitted that he was surprised that there were so many trees and no sagebrush or sandstorms. One can only imagine the similar misperceptions that this BBC video (H/T Professor Bainbridge) has created in English minds:
May 30, 2009
As noted in this earlier post, some of the most creative work on television these days is being done in commercials.
May 28, 2009
From one of the best new websites of the past year, Old Jews Telling Jokes.
May 26, 2009
With the passing of Memorial Day, it's officially baseball season, even though the dang NBA Playoffs seem endless. Thus, it's time for Tom Hanks as exasperated Manager Jimmy Dugan to remind us of the best baseball tirade in cinematic history. Enjoy.
May 24, 2009
May 17, 2009
May 8, 2009
With the latest Star Trek movie opening this weekend, you may want to pass the following video of an old William Shatner Saturday Night Life sketch along to your Trekkie friends. Be sure to watch through the end.
May 7, 2009
Clear Thinkers favorites Dan Jenkins, the dean of American golf writers, is making his first trek to TPC Sawgrass in a decade this week to cover my favorite tournament, The Players (which includes the always fun video of the 17th hole).
Geoff Shackelford scores this interview with Jenkins (which is a follow-up on this one from last year), and it is clear that Jenkins is already in mid-season form. The first part of the answer below is from last year's interview, the second from this year's:
The men's tour sucks. Everybody drives it 340 and shoots 63. I've never heard of half their names, and don't care to know them until they get back to me with two majors.
My fee for talking to Tiger Woods is going up every day. I've tried for 10 years to get a one-on-one with him---and can't. Why? Because Mark Steinberg says, "We have nothing to gain."
Can you imagine what the men's tour would look like if Tiger and Phil both suffered career-ending injuries? I'll tell you. It would look like what it looks like today when they aren't in the field. It would increase interest in polo.
. . .[I]in my declining years, I have arrived at the point where I don't give a damn about anything but the four majors and the Ryder Cup. They are important. The regular tour sucks.
I should mention that the regular tour didn't used to suck. It used to be quite glamorous, when the LA Open was always first, when the Crosby was the Crosby, when the players wore snappy clothes and movie stars hung around them, when the Florida swing had its own charm, same for Texas, and so on. But mainly when every winner was SOMEBODY.
I live in the past. It was a better world.
No doubt that more than a few of the folks attending the tournament this week will, at least part of the time, be enjoying Jenkins' classic “Mankind’s 10 Stages of Drunkenness” from his 1981 novel, Baja Oklahoma:
1) Witty and Charming
2) Rich and Powerful
5) F**k Dinner
7) Crank Up the Enola Gay
8) Witty and Charming, Part II
May 5, 2009
May 4, 2009
May 3, 2009
Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York has a discussion with Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview of There Will Be Blood.
May 2, 2009
Following up on this earlier post, isn't it interesting that some of the most creative product on television these days is in commercials?
April 21, 2009
April 19, 2009
April 17, 2009
April 12, 2009
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
April 4, 2009
March 9, 2009
I don't keep up on the market in the NFL for back-up wide receivers, but I was still surprised last week when the Texans matched Denver's $4.5 million offer (including a cool $1 million up front) to restricted free agent David Anderson.
$4.5 million for a back-up wide receiver and special teams guy? Really?
But now I know the real reason that the Texans re-signed Anderson -- he keeps the other players loose in the locker room. And based on the video below, he is well worth the $4.5 million. Check out Anderson's imitation of ESPN's NFL Gameday analyst Ron Jaworski. Absolutely spot on.
March 7, 2009
March 6, 2009
Writing in 1951 about popular attitudes toward income inequality in "The Ethics of Redistribution," Bertrand de Jouvenel observed the following (H/T WSJ):
The film-star or the crooner is not grudged the income that is grudged to the oil magnate, because the people appreciate the entertainer's accomplishment and not the entrepreneur's, and because the former's personality is liked and the latter's is not. They feel that consumption of the entertainer's income is itself an entertainment, while the capitalist's is not, and somehow think that what the entertainer enjoys is deliberately given by them while the capitalist's income is somehow filched from them.
In arguably the best financial blog post to date in 2009, the Epicurean Dealmaker analyzes the skewed dynamics that led to the Merrill Lynch high-level executive bonus pool and observes, among other things:
It would not be outlandish to consider the Merrill executives' bonus pool as the latest and largest campaign gift toward Mr. [Andrew] Cuomo's 2010 gubernatorial run.
Meanwhile, Andrew Morris wrote the following in a letter to the WSJ editor (H/T Don Boudreaux):
At first, when I read your headline “States give gambling a closer look” (Mar. 3) I thought you were reporting on yet another “stimulus” or “bailout” bill in which politicians played games of chance with taxpayers’ money. Hardly news -- just another “dog bites man” story.
Then I realized it was just a story about allowing ordinary people to risk their own money -- now that’s a “man bites dog” story!
Along the same lines, the WSJ's Notable and Quotable series provided the following excerpt from Friedrich A. Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" (1960) on the illusory nature of progressive taxation and large increases in governmental spending:
Not only is the revenue derived from the high rates levied on large incomes, particularly in the highest brackets, so small compared with the total revenue as to make hardly any difference to the burden borne by the rest; but for a long time . . . it was not the poorest who benefited from it but entirely the better-off working class and the lower strata of the middle class who provided the largest number of voters.
It would probably be true, on the other hand, to say that the illusion that by means of progressive taxation the burden can be shifted substantially onto the shoulders of the wealthy has been the chief reason why taxation has increased as fast as it has done and that, under the influence of this illusion, the masses have come to accept a much heavier load than they would have done otherwise. The only major result of the policy has been the severe limitation of the incomes that could be earned by the most successful and thereby gratification of the envy of the less-well-off.
And Jason Kottke noted the technological irony of the week:
Finally, legendary Houston trial lawyer Joe Jamail passes along this anecdote about the late, great Houston criminal defense lawyer, Percy Foreman:
In the early 1980s, Jamail represented his courtroom idol, Houston criminal defense attorney Percy Foreman, whose neck was injured when his car was rear-ended by a commercial truck. On direct examination, Foreman testified that he had not experienced any neck problems before the accident, and that he was entitled to $75,000 for lost income due to the injury.
But on cross-examination, the defense revealed that Foreman had been hospitalized nine times for neck problems prior to this accident.
“The jury looked at me, expecting me to give them an answer,” says Jamail. “So I told them that Percy had been a great lawyer throughout his life, but that he was now just an old man and was growing senile.”
At that moment, Foreman jumped up and yelled out across the courtroom, “You goddamned son of a bitch!”
“See what I mean,” Jamail immediately told jurors. “He doesn’t even know where he is right now.”
The jury awarded Foreman the sum of $75,004. Jamail says he never figured out why the extra $4.
February 27, 2009
Tiger Woods returned from major knee surgery to make his first appearance of the PGA Tour season this week, although Tim Clark made it a brief initial appearance.
Meanwhile, Woods' major sponsor Nike rolled out this commercial to celebrate Woods' return. It continues the trend of commercials representing some of the most creative product on television. Watch through the end and enjoy.
February 21, 2009
"The market wants Churchill and they keep tossing it Chamberlains."
John Nash (via David Henderson) on his progress out of mental illness in the late 1980's:
"Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort."
"In reality, no one spends someone else's money better than they spend their own. The charade of the current stimulus package, chockablock with earmarks to favored pet constituencies and virtually devoid of national policy considerations, is the logical consequence of Keynesianism in action. It is about politics and power, not sound economics, and I believe that the American people will reject it."
February 13, 2009
February 12, 2009
Golf Digest fashion director Marty Hackel takes Phil Mickelson to task for wearing a white belt with his otherwise all-black oufit at the PGA Tour stop last weekend at Torrey Pines in San Diego:
OK, I have had a look at it and it's not ideal. You are correct in that if you wear a white belt and have a big waist you should select trousers that have less contrast.
White belts are fine, but, and this is a big BUT, if your waist is big, DO NOT HAVE CONTRAST. The white belt with the black trousers called your eye and attention on his waist. Save the white belt for beige trousers and a white golf shirt!!
Golf Digest writer John Strege observes that Mickelson’s outfit might spur a new fashion rule:
One press tent wag suggested a Rule 32 apply, that if you're older than 32 or have a waist size larger than 32 you should not wear a white belt.
Meanwhile, while enduring less encouraging news about professional athletes, take a moment to check out this nice story about PGA Tour veteran J.P. Hayes, who is finding a welcome market for sponsor’s exemptions into Tour events after he disqualified himself over a technical rules violation during the PGA Tour Q-School last fall.
Sometimes, good guys really do win.
February 7, 2009
February 6, 2009
Golf Digest is running in this month's issue the results of an interesting survey that the magazine recently took of 25 of the top PGA Tour players.
Clear Thinkers favorite and longtime Houstonian Steve Elkington scores highly in one of the most important questions:
WHO'S THE BEST JOKE-TELLER ON TOUR?
Todd Hamilton: 17%
Steve Elkington: 13%
Harrison Frazar: 8%
Neal Lancaster: 8%
OTHERS RECEIVING VOTES: Paul Azinger, Rich Beem, Tim Clark, Carlos Franco, Paul Goydos, Peter Jacobsen, Peter Lonard, Nick Price, Chris Riley, Boo Weekley
And you have to like the answers to the question "Who would you rather have dinner with, Phil Mickelson or Vijay Singh?"
COMMENTS: "What are we eating?" ... "So either I listen to Phil tell me everything he thinks he knows, or I sit with Vijay while he says nothing." ... "Give me a choice!"
Moreover, in response to the "What's the worst course you play on Tour?" question, La Cantera in San Antonio was the runaway winner (good thing that tournament is moving to a new course next year), while the Shell Houston Open's Tournament Course at Redstone is one of a half-dozen courses in the "Others Receiving Votes" category for that question. That will go over like a lead balloon at Houston Golf Association's offices.
But my favorite answer came in the "Others Receiving Votes" category to the question "Who's the Slowest Player on Tour?"
February 1, 2009
January 22, 2009
January 17, 2009
Clear Thinkers favorite Hayes Carll sings "I Got a Gig" and tells the humorous story about about his first gigs in Crystal Beach, Texas.
January 14, 2009
Following on this earlier post, isn't it interesting that companies selling alcoholic beverages are funding some of the most creative product on television?
January 11, 2009
December 25, 2008
Back by popular demand is Texas singer-songwriter and Houston native Robert Earl Keen's classic Texas Christmas carol and video, Merry Christmas from the Family. Keen will be playing Houston's House of Blues on Sunday the 28th.
Happy holidays and thanks for reading HCT!
December 19, 2008
Posted by Tom at 12:01 AM
December 12, 2008
December 7, 2008
When it comes to playing golf, I'm decidedly old school. Weather permitting, I prefer to walk while playing, which puts me in a decided minority among American golfers, most of whom prefer to ride in a motorized cart.
Golfweek's British columnist Alistar Tait also prefers to walk, as do most golfers in the United Kingdom, where motorized carts are a rarity. Tait has just returned to the U.K. from his annual golfing trip to the U.S. and he weighs in with this clever article (entitled "Annoyed with America") in which he lists the "peculiarities" of playing golf in the U.S.
He includes one of my favorite cart-riding absurdities -- the 90-degree rule -- which requires that you drive on the cart path until you are 90 degrees from your ball, then drive to your ball from the cart path, hit your shot, and then return on your 90 degree path to the cart path, where you proceed to 90 degrees from your shot landed. Tait notes:
The 90-degree rule – Tell a British golfer that the 90-degree rule is in effect and you’ll get a blank look. Since we don’t have carts and paths, there’s no need for a rule that says you drive on the cart path adjacent to your ball and then turn 90 degrees to your ball.
December 4, 2008
Jonathan Ehrlich is a Vancouver businessman who was in one of the hotels that was attacked last week in Mumbai. Take a few minutes to listen to his harrowing story and to read the email (under the fold below) that he sent to his family members and friends during his trip home after the attack. A good example of the fighting spirit that is needed to win this battle.
And don't miss this spot-on analysis of the Mumbai attacks by John Stewart and John Oliver:
Got all your notes. Thank you. I'm ok. A little shaky to be honest but really just happy to be here. I can't thank you enough for your notes.
You have no idea what the mean to me. Hope to see and speak to you all soon.
I wrote the following on the plane.
It's 3.33 am Thursday Nov 27th. And I am writing this from Jet Airways flight 0227, First leg of the Mumbai – Brussels - Toronto – Vancouver journey . It is a stream of "adrenaline" piece. I apologize in advance for the grammatical errors. But I wanted it raw and unedited.
First, some context.
I have always been truly blessed. Lucky to be born to the most love a child could ever wish for. Luck to be born into a family that prided itself on teaching me how to be a man. Lucky to have been protected and sheltered by three strong, decent brothers. Lucky to have found and married the kindest heart on the face of the earth. Lucky to be blessed beyond blessed with four healthy, beautiful children. Lucky to have wonderful friends who tolerate my idiosyncrasies.
Tonight, these blessings, these gifts of love and life bestowed upon me, this incredible good fortune, saved my life. And I honestly don't know why.
I am in Mumbai on business. I'm staying at the Trident hotel. It's sister hotel, the Oberai, is right next-door and attached by a small walkway.
I had dinner by myself in the Oberai lobby after some late meetings.
I retired upstairs to my room. About 10min later my colleague, Alex Chamerlin, text-ed asking me to join him and his friend in the Oberai lounge for a drink. I started to make my way out the door but decided that I was really too tired. I had a 7am flight, and needed to be up at 5. Rest beckoned. I closed the light, got into bed and quickly fell asleep. Lucky life-saving decision number 1.
About 1hree minutes later there was knock at my door. A few seconds later, the doorbell rang (they have doorbells for hotel rooms here – who'da thunk?). I thought – who the hell is knocking at my door? Turn down service? This late? Forget it. So I just lay there and hoped they would go away. Lucky life-saving decision number 2.
Five minutes later I heard and felt a huge bang. I got up and went to look out the window. A huge cloud of grey smoke billowed up from the road below. I thought. Fireworks? I didn't see anyone milling about so knew something wasn't right. I started to walk to the light switch when - BANG – another huge explosion shook the entire hotel.
Oh fuck, I thought. Is that what I think this is? I opened the door to the hallway. A few people were already outside.
I heard the word "bomb".
Oh shit. Oh shit I thought.
I'd like to tell you that I calmly collected my myself and my things and proceeded to the exits.
I didn't. An adrenaline explosion erupted inside me and almost lifted me off the floor. And I began to move. Really move.
I went back inside, quickly packed my stuff and went back into the hall.
I ran to the emergency exit and started making my way down the stairs (I was on the 18th floor).
There were a few people in the stairwell. I was flying by them. I swear I could have run a marathon in 2hrs. I felt like pure energy.
About halfway down, I called my friend Mark, told him what had happened and asked him to get me a flight – any flight – the hell out of Mumbai.
I got to the lobby level. There was a crowd of people in the corridor.
No one moving. No one doing anything. No hotel staff. No security people.
Shit. I thought. We are sitting ducks.
I decided to get out of there. First, into the lobby.
I stepped through the door into the silent lobby. My first sight was a blood soaked plastic bag and bloody footsteps leading into the reception area. I proceeded forward. The windows were shattered and glass was everywhere. There wasn't a soul around.
Bad decision, I thought. I quickly retreated to the corridor. The crowd of people had grown.
We've got to get out of here I yelled. Let's go.
I looked around for the emergency exit and started running towards it.
I made my way through the bowels of the hotel and out into a dark alley. It was empty and silent. I looked to my left and about 100m away saw a few security guards milling about.
Run they screamed. I began to move toward them.
I reached the main street and was immediately swept up into the Indian throngs (for those who have been to Mumbai, you know what I mean).
People everywhere. But they were all eerily quiet. No one was talking.
No car horns. Nothing.
I started yelling "airport airport".
Some one (a hotel cook I believe) grabbed me and my bag and threw me in a rusty mini-cab.
As I sped away, I didn't see a single police car nor hear a single siren. Just the sound of this shit-box car speeding down the deserted road.
Traffic was stop and go. I made it to the airport in about 1hr, cleared customs and buried myself in a corner of a packed departure lounge, called my wife, called my parents and brothers and started emailing those friends who knew I was in Mumbai.
Sadly, Alex - my colleague who texted me for a drink – and his friend were not so lucky. The terrorists stormed into the lobby bar and killed several people. They took Alex and his friend hostage and started to march them up to the roof of the hotel.
About half way up, Alex managed to escape (he ducked through an open door and hid) but his friend was caught. And as I write this, that poor man is still on the roof of the Oberai.
Alex is safe but as expected, extremely worried about his friend.
I'm telling you right now. If I decided to meet Alex for that drink tonight I'd either be dead, a hostage on the roof of a building 30 hours away from everyone I love or - if I had the balls of Alex – a stupid-but-lucky-to-be-alive jerk.
And remember that knock/ring at my door? Well, I subsequently learned that the first thing the terrorists did was get the names and room numbers of western guests. They then went to the rooms to find them.
Ehrlich, with an E, room 1820.
I'll bet my entire life savings that they were the knock at my door.
Thank god for jet lag.
Thank god for "cranky tired Jonny" (as many of my friends and family know so well) that compelled to get into and stay in bed.
Thank god for being on the 18th floor.
Thank god for the kind kind people of Mumbai of helped me tonight. The wonderfully kind hotel staff. That cook. My cab driver who constantly said "relaxation" "relaxation" "I help" and who kept me in the cab when we hit a particularly gnarly traffic jam and i wanted to get out and walk. And for other people in traffic who, upon hearing from my own cab driver that I was at the Oberai, literally risked life and limb to stop traffic to let us get by (as again, only those who have been to Mumbai can truly appreciate).
Mumbai is a tragically beautiful place. Incredibly sad. But I am convinced that its inhabitants are definitely children of some troubled but immensely soulfully god.
I'm sitting on plane (upgraded to first class….see, told you I'm lucky ?). Just had the best tasting bowl of corn flakes I've ever had in my life. Hennessey coursing through my veins. Concentration starting to loosen and sleep beginning to creep onto my horizon.
I still feel a bit numb. But mostly I feel like I've just watched a really really bad movie staring me. Because right now, it all doesn't feel real. Maybe a few hours of CNN will knock me into reality. But the truth is numb is fine with me for a while. If I do end up thinking about the what if's, I don't really want to do that until I'm much much closer to home. And I have 30 more hours of travel time to go.
But before I sign off, let me say this.
The people who did this have no souls. They have no hearts. They are simply the living manifestation of evil and they only know killing and murder. We – all of us - need to understand that. Their target tonight was first and foremost Americans. Why? Because they fear everything that America stands for. They fear hope and change and freedom and peace. Let's make no mistake; they would have shot me and my children point blank tonight with out a moment's hesitation. Most of us sorta know that but sometimes we equivocate. We can't equivocate. Not ever.
I know that I want to go back. Lay some flowers. Wrap my arms around these people. Say thank you. Spend some money on overpriced hotel gifts and tip well. And generally give the bastards who did this the big fuck you and
show them that I am not – I repeat not – afraid of them.
But first I need to go squeeze my wife. Dry her tears. Then have her dry mine as I hold my beautiful beautiful babies who will be (thankfully) oblivious to all of this. Because isn't that what life is really about?
I appreciate you taking the time to listen.
With much much love.
December 3, 2008
While General Motors is making its case in Congress for an $18 billion bailout (didn't GM need "just" $12 billion last week?), it's trying to cut corners in other areas, such as its endorsement deal with Tiger Woods that paid Woods $7 million annually over the past nine years.
As one sage headline writer put it -- "GM lays off Tiger Woods."
But Conan O'Brien had an even better crack about GM's termination of its relationship with Woods during one of his monologues last week:
"General Motors announced that they are ending their endorsement deal with Tiger Woods. When asked why, a spokesperson for General Motors said: 'Tiger Woods is successful, competitive, and popular. And that’s just not us.'”
November 29, 2008
November 26, 2008
November 23, 2008
November 21, 2008
November 12, 2008
As noted here earlier, years of mediocre football at Texas A&M has mellowed the formerly hard-knuckled 12th Man a bit. This week, A&M football team is a decided underdog to the fearsome the Baylor Bears (H/T Jay Christensen):
Meanwhile, watch out for the Houston Rockets' mascot, Clutch the Bear:
November 9, 2008
The folks over at WallStrip update us on the mercurial Krispy Kreme.
November 8, 2008
The unedited Saturday Night Live Economic Bailout News Conference Skit. Absolutely brutal, but quite funny.
The Onion News Network reports on the impact of Obama's victory on his obsessive supporters:
November 4, 2008
I lost an old friend and Houston lost one of its most colorful characters on this past Sunday morning -- legendary trial attorney Tom Alexander died of a heart attack at the age of 78 (the Chronicle story on Alexander's death is here and Richard Connelly of the Houston Press chimes in here). The memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, 5501 Fannin in the Museum District of Houston.
Alexander was one of Houston's most accomplished trial lawyers, the kind of rare quick-read who could prepare for a trial by reading the case file on his way to the courthouse. Inasmuch as he had such an engaging personality, articulate delivery and quick wit, judges and jurors naturally gravitated toward him.
But Alexander was one of those larger-than-life characters who was much more than just a fine trial lawyer. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather. He was a true sportsman who loved and supported intercollegiate and professional sports of all kinds. He loved to golf and was an original member of Champions Golf Club, where he owned a weekend cottage that allowed him to keep up with his good friend, Champions owner Jack Burke. Born and raised in Kentucky, Alexander was also an avid horseman who could handicap thoroughbreds with the best of them.
Moreover, it wasn't all trial tactics and sports with Alexander. Whether the subject was opera, politics, philosophy, poker, theology (he gave a lay sermon at church once entitled "Can You Fistfight and Still Be a Christian?") or simply the latest gossip in Houston's professional community, Tom Alexander would engage and stimulate you. Perhaps not always the way you wanted, but always in a way that would make you think about the basis of your beliefs.
Alexander's vivacious wit and personality is perhaps best summed up by one of the funniest Houston courthouse stories that I've ever heard.
Years ago, Alexander was hired by the rich husband in an ugly divorce. The vengeful wife hired another veteran of the Houston legal community, the late Robert Scardino, Sr., the father of noted Houston criminal defense attorney, Robert Scardino, Jr.
Inasmuch as there were no children of the marriage and the value of the community estate was well-established, there was really nothing for Alexander and Scardino to fight about in the divorce. However, the husband and wife hated each other, so they directed Alexander and Scardino to be nasty with each other for as long as possible. And these two old warhorses were happy to oblige.
After about a year or so of bickering, the Family Court finally set the case for trial. Realizing that there was really no reason to use precious court time to split a well-defined community estate, the Family Court Judge called Alexander and Scardino into his chambers before the trial was scheduled to begin and hammered out a property settlement in an acrimonious two-hour session.
Exhausted from dealing with the squabbling between Alexander and Scardino, the Family Court Judge addressed the final issue in the case at the conclusion of the session:
"Mr. Alexander and Mr. Scardino, thank you for working with me in settling this case and saving the court time for other cases."
"Now, the final issue is the amount of Mr. Scardino's fee for representing the wife in this case. Mr. Scardino, what do you think is fair?"
"Well, Judge," replied Scardino. "This has been a hard-fought case and I don't want the amount of my fee to be the final problem in the case. So, I tell you what I'm willing to do."
"I don't know what the amount of Mr. Alexander's fee has been for representing the husband in this case," Scardino observed. "But I trust Mr. Alexander."
"So, to put this all behind us," concluded Scardino. "Whatever Mr. Alexander's fee has been for representing the husband in this case, I'm willing to take the same amount for representing the wife. Whatever amount Mr. Alexander has accepted as a fee is acceptable to me."
"Why, Mr. Scardino," gushed the judge. "Thank you for that creative and statesmanlike approach to resolving this final issue. I really appreciate that."
Turning toward Alexander, the judge asked: "Mr. Alexander, what do you think about Mr. Scardino's eminently reasonable proposal?"
Alexander sat in deep thought for a moment. Then, he leaned toward Scardino, got right up in his face and -- undoubtedly with a twinkle in his eye -- declared:
"You greedy sonuvabitch!"
November 1, 2008
Comedian Louis CK sums it pretty well:
October 29, 2008
Although not many people care much, the 2008 World Series has turned into a first rate mess.
Game Five is currently suspended while the Phillies and Rays players sit around Philadelphia waiting for the inclement weather to end. This after they nearly injured themselves while inexplicably being forced to play 5.5 innings during a driving rainstorm on Monday night. The remainder of the Game Five might be played tonight.
Moreover, Game Four began at 10 p.m. EDT because of rain most of the day on Saturday. That game finished sometime after 2 a.m. Sunday on the east coast. Not exactly the way to keep the young fans interested in the game.
Meanwhile, the umpiring in the series has been atrocious, with multiple of MLB's supposedly best umpires blowing easy calls and routinely calling strikes on pitches that are clearly out of the strike zone.
And just to make matters utterly unbearable, Fox Sports imposes senseless announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on the few folks watching on television. These two babble on endlessly describing the utterly obvious without ever saying anything remotely insightful. Often, they say things that are simply flat wrong.
But as bad as the World Series has been, it's nothing compared to legendary Baylor and Chicago Bears linebacker Mike Singletary's first game this past Sunday as interim coach of the San Francisco 49'ers. Coach Singletary's post-game performance has already become an overnight YouTube sensation and is being touted as one of the all-time great coach tirades.
AP sportswriter Greg Beacham summed up Coach Singletary's bad first day at the office well:
Mike Singletary ended his head coaching debut by apologizing to 49ers fans above the locker room tunnel. Tight end Vernon Davis got sent to the showers like a petulant teenager, QB J.T. O’Sullivan was benched after his 11th fumble of the season, and the San Francisco defense let a 242-pound fullback catch two long touchdown passes.
October 28, 2008
In light of this NY Times article reporting that half of American doctors responding to a nationwide survey regularly prescribe placebos to their patients, I pass along the following business opportunity, courtesy of the ever-clever Dr. Boli:
October 19, 2008
October 18, 2008
"At a dinner party last Saturday I was asked by a fellow guest what I did and I said I was an investment banker. I might as well have said I was a paedophile. Suddenly the whole table – all friends of my wife from the art world – turned on me with such venom I was really taken aback. I tried to defend myself by saying that I had nothing to be ashamed of in the work that I do in M&A, but the more I argued the more hostile the other guests became."
"Next time this happens – and I fear there will be a next time – should I accept guilt for what isn’t my fault, or should I lie and say I’m a librarian?"
Investment banker, male, 42
Among the many entertaining reader comments to the letter were the following:
"Bit surprised you were invited to dinner in the first place."
"Confess and beg for another glass of wine."
"A sensitive investment banker……….. whatever next?"
October 8, 2008
Although things aren't going so well for the McCain-Palin campaign, it looks as if they have at least locked up The Villages, the golf-course retirement community in Florida that runs those cheesy commercials during PGA Tour golf tournament telecasts:
With thousands of supporters packing the streets and sidewalks of this massive retirement community, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin took the safe route Sunday and said she and John McCain would reform Washington, put America on the path to energy independence and nurse a struggling economy back to health. [ . . . ]
At one point while signing autographs for the sweltering crowd, a surprised Palin laughed when a supporter reached over and handed her a giant, plastic lipstick replica -- an obvious reference to a joke delivered by Palin at the Republican National Convention. Palin's comment about the only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom being lipstick has since inspired a volley of campaign rhetoric. As the crowd cheered, a smiling Palin autographed the novelty before moving on for more autographs and handshakes.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Obama-Biden campaign has conceded The Villages to McCain-Palin. At least that's what Senator Biden seems to indicate in the video below:
October 5, 2008
October 4, 2008
The creator and star of NBC's clever sitcom 30 Rock -- Tina Fey -- has been getting quite a bit of publicity lately because of her spot-on impersonation of GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin. But the real star of 30 Rock is Alec Baldwin, who plays Jack Donaghy, the self-important television executive who oversees the fictional television show that 30 Rock revolves around.
In the clip below, Baldwin's Donagy helps counsel Tracy Morgan’s character (who is the star of the fictional TV show) through a therapeutic role-playing session that a psychologist has arranged at Donagy's request to bring Morgan out of a personal crisis. In just over two minutes, Baldwin resolves the root cause of Morgan's crisis (estrangement from his family) by assuming the roles of Morgan’s father (a black man from "funky North Philly" with a droopy lip), Morgan’s mother, the white boyfriend of Morgan's mother, Morgan himself and a Hispanic neighbor of the family, Mrs. Rodriguez.
Television these days doesn't get any better than this.
October 1, 2008
The proposed Treasury bailout leads to an awkward loan interview:
September 26, 2008
September 21, 2008
September 10, 2008
2) Casablanca (1942): Great love story. Plus: Nazis!
32) The Godfather Part II (1974): Advice: stop after this one.
42) Rear Window (1954): Watch a guy watch guys.
Following on the movies theme, if you have a spare ten minutes, check out this incredible YouTube video entitled "100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers."
September 4, 2008
Inasmuch as the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign resembles a high school student council race in terms of sophistication, it appears that Jon Stewart and Comedy Central are going to have a field day between now and Election Day. Below are a recent segments on the "substance" of Obama's campaign and McCain's VP selection:
August 27, 2008
Dealbreaker's essential Opening Bell yesterday included the following note about the connection between the state of Florida and mortgage fraud:
This is not surprising... Florida is already a key location of the housing bubble. What's more, Florida tops every fraud list. Hello, Boca Raton? Clearwater? These cities are to fraud what Hungary is to Paprika. It's an industry. Plus, doesn't Florida have really lax mortgage/bankruptcy laws as it is?
However, what's most interesting about Florida is how relatively well the state has turned out given its checkered history. In his fine Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era 1829-1877 (HarperCollins 2008) (earlier blog post here), Walter A. McDougall provides the following colorful overview of Florida's evolution from the epitome of a backwater port:
From the day of the of the pirates to our day of offshore bank accounts, hedonistic resorts, and drug smuggling, Americans have found in the Caribbean an escape from their own laws and morals. The sand spit that Juan Ponce de Leon baptized La Florida was no exception.
In 1595, the Spaniards garrisoned Saint Augustine, the oldest European settlement on what became U.S. soil; and over a century Franciscans founded thirty-two missions to proselytize the Indians. But the province, which was 300 miles wide at the Panhandle and 400 miles long on the Atlantic coast, remained a derelict.
The whole Spanish navy could not have policed its 8,246 miles of tidal coastline, nor could the army police its 54,000 square miles of jungle and swamp. Nor could either defend the Indians from European infectious diseases or from the renegade Creeks they called cimarrones (whence “Seminoles”).
By the nineteenth century, the Native American Floridians were dead, the European population was measured in hundreds, and the whole peninsula from the Apalachicola River to Key West served as a refuge for Tampa Bay buccaneers, mutineers, deserters, fugitive slaves, Seminoles, and plunderers of shipwrecks (a frequent occurrence, especially during the hurricane season).
John Quincy Adams cited the anarchy as justification for the treaty of 1819 ceding Florida to the United States. But he was pretentious to think Americanization would ensure law and order. The mostly poor, mostly Scots-Irish “crackers” who spilled into the Panhandle had no patience for government. Hot blood, hot sunshine, laws so variable that even judges could not parse them, no jails, no constables, and plenty of places to hide encouraged “ingenious rascality.” Florida was “a rogue’s paradise.” [ . . .]
. . . [V]irtue was in short supply, not only among the murderers, gamblers, slavers, squatters, and drunks who poured over the border from Georgia, but among the erstwhile elite. One feud over banking provoked two duels, a murder and a lynching that left all parties dead. In 1827, Ralph Waldo Emerson found Tallahassee “a grotesque place . . . settled by public officers, land speculators, and desperadoes.” . . . [. . .]
The Jacksonian hatred of banks likewise prevailed. So stringent were the state’s restrictions that no state banks were chartered until the legislature itself chartered one in 1855. Education? The same story. In 1851, the state founded “seminaries” to train teachers at Ocala (parent of the University of Florida) and Tallahassee (the future Florida State University), but as late as 1860 the state counted just ninety-seven schools with 8,494 pupils.
The government showed vigor only in the enforcement of slave codes and the repression of free Negroes. As the state’s population rose from 87,445 in 1850 to 140,424 by 1860, the percentage of slaves remained above 40 percent. Disciplining that underclass was everyone’s business. Policing white people’s behavior was pretty much left up to the women and the Baptist and Methodist clergy. [. . .]
. . . Today [Florida] is home to Disney World, the space program, South Beach and golf and retirement complexes. But the original Florida will never die out so long as "darkies" gather in jook joints to dance the jubilee (jitterbug), bumper stickers proclaim "Redneck and Proud of it," policeman cruise with alcoholic "roaders" in hand, and transplanted Yankees are taught that "blacks is blacks, but there ain't nothin' sorrier than po' white trash."
Mortgage fraud doesn't sound all that out of place there, now does it? ;^)
August 25, 2008
Come to think of it, I always have wondered what lyrics Joe Cocker was singing during his famous rendition of "With a Little Help from My Friends" at Woodstock in 1969 (H/T Craig Newmark).
August 19, 2008
Inasmuch as my family and social groups include a large number of medical doctors, I've noticed that the slang that the docs use when they are talking shop can be incomprehensible at times. That's why this comprehensive list of Doctor's Slang, Medical Slang and Medical Acronyms will come in handy. A few good ones:
"Blade" -- Surgeon: dashing, bold, arrogant and often wrong, but never in doubt (very much appreciated by the primary care doctors);
"Captain Kangaroo" -- chairman of the pediatrics department;
"DTMA" -- Stands for "Don't Transfer to Me Again";
"Fonzie" -- Unflappable medic;
"Improving His Claim" -- Victim of minor accident, needs no treatment but wants something to support his insurance/legal claim;
"Masochist" -- Trauma surgeon;
"Sadomasochist" - Neurosurgeon
"NOCTOR"-- A nurse who has done a 6 week training course and acts like she or he is a Doctor;
"Two beers" -- the number of beers every patient involved in an alcohol-related automobile accident claims to have drunk before the accident.
Check out the entire list. Those docs are a tough bunch.
August 17, 2008
Check out Esquire's slideshow (on the left below) illustrating the evolution of men's fashion over the past 75 years. Then, take a look at this Time Magazine slideshow (on the right below) exhibiting the worst of golf fashion over the past century.
My sense is that there is a connection.
August 11, 2008
As political satire, the video below probably doesn't top this one, but it's close.
August 5, 2008
Come to think of it, I had a difficult time understanding Batman at times, too.
August 3, 2008
August 2, 2008
Moira Hodgson's W$J review of waiter/blogger Steve Dublanica's new book -- Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter -- is a rollicking good time. Check out Hodgson's analysis of the merits of Dublanica's background for waiting tables:
Considering some of the customers he has to deal with, Mr. Dublanica's background was the perfect training for his job: four years in a seminary studying to be a priest followed by work at rehab centers and homes for the mentally retarded. He says that 80% of the people he serves at The Bistro are perfectly nice; the rest are socially maladjusted psychopaths. He also has to contend with servers on drugs and an irritable, jumpy boss: "Like a soldier home from war, his eyes are always scanning the horizon for threats."
By the way, be careful about sending that food back to the kitchen:
The third time a woman sends back her de-caf coffee, saying it's not hot enough, he dumps regular coffee into her cup, places it in a 400-degree oven, takes it out with a pair of tongs and delivers it to her table. But that story pales beside Mr. Dublanica's account of a waiter who plays floor hockey in the kitchen with a returned hamburger patty before hosing it off and taking it back to the table.
July 26, 2008
The late Sam Kinison is a comedy legend who was part of a group of comedians nicknamed the Comedy Outlaws (Ron Shock and Bill Hicks were two other prominent members) that got their start in Houston during the early 1980's, most often at the LaughStop on West Gray. Here is a hilarious video of Kinison on the Tonight Show, which includes Kinison's under-appreciated singing voice and a lively discussion between Kinison and Johnny Carson on the subject of divorce. Enjoy!
July 17, 2008
"Beijing is flat and sprawling and smoggy and jammed with traffic and nearly all new, which is why an American friend who’s been working there for the last couple of years calls it 'the People’s Republic of Houston.'"
That's the opening of From Mao to Wow! by Kurt Anderson of Vanity Fair. He goes on to say that a more accurate comparison is Beijing now with New York City of a century ago.
July 10, 2008
When Starbucks announced last week that it is closing 600 stores and laying off 12,000 employees, the company did not disclose which stores would be shuttered (got to get those lease buyouts finalized). However, that hasn't stopped word from filtering out into the Web on the location of the shuttered stores. The Seattle Times has already generated this Google map containing a large number of the anticipated store closings.
View Larger Map
However, the question that is on most Houstonians' minds has not been answered. Will Lewis Black's "End of the Universe" cease to exist after Starbucks is finished closing stores?
This clip includes video of the two stores as Black comments on the end of the universe on The Daily Show (H/T Life is a Thrill):
Update: Here is the full list of the stores that will be closing.
July 2, 2008
The Tiger Chasm -- the widening netherworld of golf tournaments that don't attract much attention because Tiger Woods doesn't play in them -- has now swallowed even Tiger's own tournament, this weekend's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C.
Last year, most of the best PGA Tour players -- including Woods, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Vijay Singh, Geoff Ogilvy, and Justin Rose -- played in the AT&T National. With Tiger resting after recent knee surgery, none of those players are competing this year and only two top-10 player in the World Rankings -- Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi -- are bothering to show up, and only Jim Furyk (13), Trevor Immelman (14), Anthony Kim (20), Aaron Baddeley(22) and Andres Romero (24) among the top 25 are in the field.
To make matters worse, tournament title sponsor AT&T cannot be particularly happy about forking over the big bucks only to have USA Today run the headline above in its article on the tournament. (H/T Geoff Shackelford).
Welcome to the Tiger Chasm.
By the way, this Bloomberg.com article analyzes the probable technique used to repair Woods' ACL during the surgery. Definitely worth a read.
7/08/08 Update: Thomas Bonk of the LA Times reports that the ratings for the Tiger-less AT&T National confirmed its entry into the Tiger Chasm:
In a word: bad. The overnight ratings for Sunday's fourth round of the AT&T National on CBS were down 48%, from a 2.9 to a 1.5. The third-round overnight ratings were down 35%, from a 2.0 to a 1.3.
July 1, 2008
I swear, you can't make this stuff up.
The American Family Association apparently has a policy over at its new outlet, OneNewsNow, never to use the word "gay" in an article. Instead, the AFA always replaces "gay" with the supposedly more proper "homosexual."
Unfortunately for the AFA, someone forgot to check the automated changing of the word "gay" to "homosexual" when the subject of the article was Tyson Gay, who on Sunday nearly set a world record in the 100 meter sprint.
Update: By midday today, even the mainstream media was all over the gaffe.
June 28, 2008
June 26, 2008
June 13, 2008
June 8, 2008
By the way, check out Will's latest on Obama and McCain:
On Obama: "Obama's words mesmerize a nation accustomed to leaders who routinely use words with antic indifference to their accuracy."
On McCain: "If he really opposes torture, he will take pity on the public and master the use of a teleprompter."
May 18, 2008
Legendary defense lawyer Gerry Spence is defending Geoffrey Fieger on campaign finance charges in Detroit. Former Spence student Norm Pattis flew into the Motor City and took in a day of the trial last week. He passes along the following exchange that occurred while Spence was cross-examining a government witness:
Spence: "Can you tell me a case in the history of the world in which ..."
Spence: "Okay, the United States."
Pattis' collected posts on the Fieger trial are here. Very interesting, to say the least.
May 4, 2008
Beyond occasional gems such as John Adams or NBC's 30 Rock, I don't watch much television, so I'm pretty clueless on the latest TV ad campaigns. However, my wife and I laughed heartily last night when we saw this Helzberg Diamonds commercial below for the first time:
April 28, 2008
Putting aside for the moment airline industry's seemingly intractable financial problems, lousy airline service has become such an issue that even Judge Posner and Gary Becker are trying to figure out what to do about it. At least painful airline service provides the fodder for this amusing segment of Brian Regan's stand-up comedy show:
April 7, 2008
This Respectful Insolence blog post reports on yet another in an increasingly long line of medical studies that demonstrate that acupuncture is nothing more than an elaborate and fancy placebo. In this particular study involving patients in "true" acupuncture and "fake" acupuncture protocols, patients in the sham acupuncture group improved more than patients in the "true" acupuncture group.
My conclusion? On one hand, if you stick pins in people who are complaining about something, then some of them will eventually quit complaining. On the other hand, if you take pins out of some people who were previously complaining, then some of them will also stop complaining.
March 30, 2008
This blog is mostly about business and law, so Carl Icahn's activities have been a frequent topic. Likewise, this blog also centers on Houston, where the Pennzoil v. Texaco case from the mid-1980's is a part of the city's storied legal lore. Consequently, the video below of Icahn doing his equivalent of a standup comedy routine describing how he settled the Pennzoil-Texaco case with famed Houston plaintiff's lawyer Joe Jamail is an absolute classic for this blog. A very big hat tip to John Carney at Dealbreaker for the link to the Icahn video.
February 29, 2008
February 26, 2008
Kevin Whited over at BlogHouston.net notices a little news you can use from Houston's leading news source:
The Chronicle ran a correction that was notable for its length today:
An article in Feb. 18 editions repeated charges made by Republican candidate for Congress Dean Hrbacek that a law firm, Williams & Jensen, had ties to Jack Abramoff. The article also cited reports that the firm's managing partner, L. Steven Hart, traveled with a group of government officials and lobbyists to Scotland to play golf.
After being contacted by Williams & Jensen concerning the accuracy of the article, the Houston Chronicle's re-examination has revealed that Hart's correct name is J. Steven Hart, that there is no credible evidence that Hart traveled to Scotland with government officials on one of Abramoff's trips or otherwise, and, also, that there is no credible evidence that Williams and Jensen has any "ties" to Abramoff or his lobbying activities.
Gosh, given the results of the Chron's re-examination, where was the research for the original examination performed? Over a beer at the local icehouse?
February 20, 2008
Don't miss this Smithsonian.com excerpt from comedian Steve Martin's new autobiographical book, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life (Scribner 2007). Take, for example, Martin's hilarious description of the implementation of his novel theory of comedy in one of his initial shows:
A skillful comedian could coax a laugh with tiny indicators such as a vocal tic (Bob Hope's "But I wanna tell ya") or even a slight body shift. Jack E. Leonard used to punctuate jokes by slapping his stomach with his hand. One night, watching him on "The Tonight Show," I noticed that several of his punch lines had been unintelligible, and the audience had actually laughed at nothing but the cue of his hand slap.
These notions stayed with me until they formed an idea that revolutionized my comic direction: What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. This type of laugh seemed stronger to me, as they would be laughing at something they chose, rather than being told exactly when to laugh.
To test my idea, I went onstage and began: "I'd like to open up with sort of a 'funny comedy bit.' This has really been a big one for me...it's the one that put me where I am today. I'm sure most of you will recognize the title when I mention it; it's the "Nose on Microphone" routine [pause for imagined applause]. And it's always funny, no matter how many times you see it."
I leaned in and placed my nose on the mike for a few long seconds. Then I stopped and took several bows, saying, "Thank you very much." "That's it?" they thought. Yes, that was it. The laugh came not then, but only after they realized I had already moved on to the next bit.
Now that I had assigned myself to an act without jokes, I gave myself a rule. Never let them know I was bombing: this is funny, you just haven't gotten it yet. If I wasn't offering punch lines, I'd never be standing there with egg on my face. It was essential that I never show doubt about what I was doing. I would move through my act without pausing for the laugh, as though everything were an aside. Eventually, I thought, the laughs would be playing catch-up to what I was doing. Everything would be either delivered in passing, or the opposite, an elaborate presentation that climaxed in pointlessness. Another rule was to make the audience believe that I thought I was fantastic, that my confidence could not be shattered. They had to believe that I didn't care if they laughed at all and that this act was going on with or without them.
I was having trouble ending my show. I thought, "Why not make a virtue of it?" I started closing with extended bowing, as though I heard heavy applause. I kept insisting that I needed to "beg off." No, nothing, not even this ovation I am imagining, can make me stay. My goal was to make the audience laugh but leave them unable to describe what it was that had made them laugh. In other words, like the helpless state of giddiness experienced by close friends tuned in to each other's sense of humor, you had to be there.
At least that was the theory. And for the next eight years, I rolled it up a hill like Sisyphus.
My first reviews came in. One said, "This so-called 'comedian' should be told that jokes are supposed to have punch lines." Another said I represented "the most serious booking error in the history of Los Angeles music."
"Wait," I thought, "let me explain my theory!"
Martin also passes along an interesting observation about longtime Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson. It took some time for Martin to earn Carson's professional respect:
I was able to maintain a personal relationship with Johnny over the next 30 years, at least as personal as he or I could make it, and I was flattered that he came to respect my comedy. . . Johnny once joked in his monologue: "I announced that I was going to write my autobiography, and 19 publishers went out and copyrighted the title Cold and Aloof." This was the common perception of him. But Johnny was not aloof; he was polite. He did not presume intimate relationships where there were none; he took time, and with time grew trust. He preserved his dignity by maintaining the personality that was appropriate for him.
The excerpt also includes Martin's chance encounter with Elvis. Classic.
One of the funniest things I read from this past weekend was this W$J article about the earnings conferences calls being crashed by a faux-analyst named Joe Herrick:
At least seven times just the past three weeks, a mystery caller has cleverly insinuated himself into the normally well-manicured ritual of the quarterly calls. As top executives of publicly traded companies respond to securities analysts' questions about their balance sheets, he impersonates a well-known analyst to get called upon. Then, usually declaring himself to be "Joe Herrick of Gutterman Research," he launches into his own version of analyst-speak.
"Congratulations on the solid numbers -- you always seem to come through in challenging times," he said to Leo Kiely, president and chief executive officer of Molson Coors Brewing Co., on Feb. 12, convincingly parroting the obsequious banter common to the calls. "Can you provide some more color as to what you are doing for your supply chain initiatives to reduce manufacturing costs per hectoliter, as you originally promised $150 million in synergy or savings to decrease working capital?"
Analysts say the caller's questions, though credibly phrased, are too off-target for a real analyst. It's more like "consultant-speak," says a disdainful Bryan Spillane, a Banc of America Securities analyst, a victim of one of Mr. Herrick's impersonations. Analysts deal with often-wonky financial details, but "savings per hectoliter" rarely comes up.
But many CEO's have had more trouble telling the difference. Most have gamely tried to answer the questions. Mr. Kiely and two other Molson executives stuck politely with the caller through three detailed follow-ups. Timothy Wolf, the company's global chief financial officer, closed by telling him, "We think we will have some more positive encouraging things to share with you next month in New York," according to a transcript of the call. A Molson spokesman said that to him the caller sounded legitimate at the time. [. . .]
[On the Coca-Cola earnings conference call], Banc of America's Mr. Spillane, the earlier impersonation victim, posed a detailed question about how much of the company's currency-neutral operating profit growth was organic rather than coming from acquisitions or cost savings. "We hesitated on you for a minute because as we take these questions we are just trying to make sure that in fact you are who you say you are," Coke's chief financial officer, Gary Fayard, said before launching into an answer. "I am the real deal," Mr. Spillane replied.
All of which prompted the following crack from Mr. Juggles over at Long or Short Capital:
. . . the best part is that Joe Herrick asked questions that many companies tried to answer because, well, they were the same kind of inane crap questions that they EXPECT from your typical sell-side analyst.
February 17, 2008
David Letterman discusses body painting with Sports Illustrated cover girl Marisa Miller, who is a good sport about it all.
February 6, 2008
My standards for announcers of football games are not high, but it seemed to me that the Fox Sports announcing team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman in last weekend's Super Bowl LXII game were unusually bad. For example, neither of them made much of Coach Belichick's dubious decision of going for it on 4th and 13 on the Giants 32 yard line rather trying a long field goal (49 yards) that is made easier by the pristine conditions in which the game was played. In particular, Aikman -- who has that annoying ability to say absolutely nothing of substance while reciting overlapping clichés -- could not bring himself to stop rhapsodizing about Tom Brady's "coolness under fire" despite the fact that Brady was missing badly on relatively easy passes while looking antsy in the pocket over the brutal pounding that he was enduring from the Giants' front seven.
Noting the same mediocrity in announcing quality, Michael Bérubé takes up another key call in the game and provides this imaginary dialogue between Buck and Aikman.
We can only dream. ;^)
January 24, 2008
As noted earlier here, it's not easy being a fan of Houston sports teams. But as difficult as that may be, it's nothing compared to the angst that long-suffering New York Jets fans are enduring as a result of having their two most-hated rivals in Super Bowl XLII:
Perhaps the only thing worse for Jets fans than watching their team finish 4-12 this season, is knowing the historic Feb. 3 matchup pits their big-brother co-tenants, the Giants, against Bill Belichick and the ever-villainous Patriots.
"I can't wait for this to be over," said [longtime Jets fan Ira] Lieberfarb, a 53-year-old auto-parts wholesaler and a regular caller on local sports-talk radio who attends virtually every Jets game, home and away. "Whichever team wins it, I'm going to suffer. I grew up in Sheepshead Bay getting abused by Giants fans and mostly everyone at my party will be Giants fans. I can't escape that. But I don't know a single Jets fan that could root for the Patriots and Belichick."
Which reminds me of the funny video below that chronicles the reaction of Jets fans to their team's horrible draft picks from over the years:
January 9, 2008
This NY Times article from the other day reports on the increasing numbers of lawyers and doctors who are plagued by self-doubt (who'd have ever thought that?). Mr. Juggles over at Long & Short Capital has no sympathy:
To the lawyers:
In case the Neiman Marcus purchases succeeded in lifting your morale and left you with the impression that what you did counted for something, please let me add some critical information: It doesn’t. This is why you are paid, on an hourly-adjusted basis, like a recent (2nd tier) college graduate.
To the doctors:
The fact that I was able to diagnose my own illness after 15 min on WebMD speaks to the value of your knowledge. Perhaps our relationship would be more productive if you would stop making me wait 3 days for an appointment (and 90 minutes once I get to the office) to diagnose a sinus infection that I already know I have. Give me the antibiotics without the self-importance. I will come see you again when I have something you can actually be helpful with. For instance, after I break my arm trying to carry my bonus home, I will come see you and you can set the cast. Until then, please stop whining.
Midwesterner Larry Ribstein -- who is currently on leave from the University of Illinois Law School while teaching in New York City -- humorously experiences culture shock while shopping in the Big Apple.
January 7, 2008
Clear Thinkers favorite Stephen Colbert is back at it, this time taking dead aim at American Protestantism (Colbert is a Catholic) in his new book, I Am an American (and So Can You!) (Grand Central 2007). Ben Witherington has read the book and passes along Colbert's view on Religion from chapter 4:
Chapter 4 of the book is devoted to "Religion" and begins auspiciously with a quote from a Doobie Brothers song "Jesus is just alright with me." To this is added Colbert's retort-- "But are they alright with Jesus? Drop the reefer boys, and pick up a Bible!"
His discussion of denominations begins with the reminder that the Roman Catholic Church is "the church." He adds "Catholics have many advantages over other Christians. One is marble. For the buck I put into the collection plate, I want some production value. That means a church, not some community center that doubles as basketball court. Also Catholics have saints-- more than 10,000 of them. They're like God's customer service reps, and each of them has a speciality." (p. 53).
But then he gets down to brass tacks with Protestanism, here defined as "This is a variant form of Christianity, or 'heresy'." He adds "Protestants don't make me angry as much as disappointed. Unlike the world's crazy made up religions, they're so close to getting it right. They're a single Pope away from reaching their full potential." (p. 53). He says that now that Protestants have had "their little 490 year protest, it's time to move on and stop dwelling in the past." Here's his blow by blow account of various Protestant denominations:
Episcopal Church: "Why don't Episcopalians just come out and say it-- their Anglicans! A bunch of Tory Loyalist Brito-philes...waiting for the day America let's her guard down and they can reinstate Henry VIII"
Methodist Church: "What, the Church of England wasn't heretical enough for you?"
Presbyterian Church: "Presbyterians are identical to Methodists except that one of them says "debt's" instead of "trespasses" in the Lord's prayer. Hundreds of years of bitter armed conflict has failed to resolve this difference. How many more lives must be lost?"
Baptist Church: "I'm a pious guy but even I have my limits. I draw the line right around spending eight hours in church every Sunday. Church should be a solemn 45 minutes to sit quietly and feel guilty, with donuts at the end to make you feel better. I don't go for a full day of singing, dancing, and rejoicing, no matter how nice the hats are. I prefer my Gospel monotonously droned to me from the pulpit, thank you very much."
Quaker Church: "There folks produced only two things I like--Oatmeal and Richard Nixon."
(all the above is on pp. 54-55).
I will spare you his comments on Unitarians, Mormons, and Jews. He defines agnostics as "Atheists, without balls."
He also provides a svelte commentary on the nature of the Bible, for example stressing "After Jesus showed up, the Old Testament basically became a way for Bible publishers to keep their word count up." (p. 57).
This is one of the best ideas for a birthday party that I've seen in quite awhile.
My wife told me not to bother to sign up because she would kill me before I could even attend a practice. ;^)
January 1, 2008
Until coming across this recent Dick Cavett blog post, I had forgotten about the time that Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer showed up as guests on Cavett's old television show one evening in 1971. For a good laugh to start the New Year, check out Cavett's memories of the bizarre episode.
Happy New Year and here's hoping you have a great '08!
December 23, 2007
December 18, 2007
Charlie Brooker, writing in The Guardian about the dreadful quality of Christmas season television commercials, nails the line of the day (H/T Tim Worstall) with regard to the latest ad featuring those British icons, the Spice Girls:
Speaking of embarrassments, the Spice Girls have managed to imbue their long-awaited comeback with all the glamour and class of a hurried crap in a service station toilet by whoring themselves out to Tesco. The first instalment, in which the Girl Power quartet try to hide from each other while shopping for presents, represents a important landmark for the performing arts: Posh Spice becomes the first human being in history to be out-acted by a shopping trolley.
December 14, 2007
It's been such a tough run for the Texas A&M football program this decade that some folks are now questioning the legitimacy of the Aggie football heritage. But not to worry. The Aggies are now number 1 -- in bass fishing!
December 13, 2007
December 12, 2007
Admit it. You've had similar thoughts.
December 7, 2007
This map would be funnier if it wasn't so darn accurate.
December 5, 2007
(Dom Furore/Golf Digest photo) My old friend and prominent Las Vegas criminal defense attorney David Chesnoff introduced me to the late Evel Knievel back in the mid-1980's when we bumped into him while playing golf at Las Vegas Country Club. That led to an afternoon of David telling me stories about the high-stakes Vegas golf games in which Knievel regularly played, a good number of which involved Knievel's legendary ability to hold up well under extraordinary pressure.
Knievel's death last week reminded me of another story about Knievel thriving under pressure that Knievel told in this Golf Digest inteview from a couple of years ago:
I was playing 21 at the Aladdin in Las Vegas, betting $10,000 a hand. Arnold Palmer and Winnie are standing right behind me, watching. And I'm losing. The dealer is pulling 20 every time, and although I'm pulling my share of 20s, too, I can't win a hand, and I'm losing a lot of money. And I'm getting really angry. The next hand he deals me a 20, and he's got a face card showing. I'm certain he has 20, and I just can't bear tying again. So I ask for a hit.
The dealer freaks out, shuts the table down and screams for Ash Resnick, who runs the casino. Ash comes along and is told I want to hit 20. He looks at me for a long time and then says, "Give the kid a hit." The dealer gives me an ace, and when I turn around, Arnold's eyes are this big, and Winnie looks like she's going to be sick.
"I know what pressure is," Arnold said, "but you're too much."
Read the entire interview here.
November 30, 2007
As usual, the Onion identifies the issue with precision:
Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters
November 19, 2007
As economists such as Nouriel Roubini increasingly predict a recession and a hard landing for the U.S. economy, Merle Hazard channels Merle Haggard, Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, Mac Davis, Ben Bernanke and Elvis -- to name just a few -- in expressing Wall Street's current trepidation. It doesn't get any better than "In the Hamptons" (H/T to the NY Times via Larry Ribstein):
November 17, 2007
November 15, 2007
November 1, 2007
October 26, 2007
Key tip to Comfort Inn: don't ever -- ever -- take Megan McArdle's room reservation and then don't provide her with a room.
October 14, 2007
First, the somewhat geeky but very funny Yoram Bauman, the Standup Economist:
And clarifying the differences between Persians and Arabs, the quite clever Maz Jobrani:
October 9, 2007
I've had my email address for a long time, so I get a receive a lot of spam, which I ignore.
However, I thought I'd already seen every possible variation of the Nigeriam email scam imaginable, but I have to admit the one below that I received a few days ago is more imaginative than most:
Luciano Pavarotti (Next Of Kin)
My writing to you should be surprising but it’s not a mistake because I believe that I could confide in you on this business deal which would be highly beneficial to both of us only that you should promise me that you would not disappoint me at the conclusion of this deal. The main reason why I am contacting you today is to seek your assistance but firstly let me introduce myself before proceeding to the purpose of this letter.
I am Graham Robson Wallace from London in the United Kingdom and I worked as a personal assistant and attorney to one Luciano Pavarotti who died of pancreatic cancer on the September 06, 2007. I was so close to him that on the 27th of June 2005, before his untimely death, he deposited the sum of Thirty-Seven Million Dollars (US$37M) in the custody of a Security Company in London and Holland and this deposit was made known to me alone. The problem now is that these Security Company has written to me few days ago requesting that I provide the beneficiary and next of kin to the deposited fund hence the real depositor is dead.
I would have claimed the money but the company already knows me as the late Luciano Pavarotti's attorney and personal assistant. So that is why I am contacting you just to present you as the bonafide beneficiary and next of kin to the said fund and I would provide all necessary documents to back up the claim but you must promise me that you won’t disappear into tin air by the time the fund is remitted into you account and also bare in mind that you would be entitled to 35% of the said fund, though the percentage sharing is negotiable.
Please signify your interest by providing me the following: This is to enable me commence immediate preparation of all legal document that will back up our claim.
1. Full Name :
2. Your Telephone Number and Fax Number
3. Your Contact Address.
Your urgent response will be highly appreciated.
Mr. Graham R. Wallace
Based on this earlier post about the late Pavarotti, it doesn't sound as if he had $37 million laying around to give to Mr. Wallace. ;^)
September 27, 2007
We all got a few chuckles over the Oregon Duck mascot's mugging of the Houston Cougar mascot during the football game between the two institutions' teams earlier this season.
Well, the UH student newspaper provides this follow-up article on the student -- Kinesiology major Matt Stolt -- who mans the Cougar mascot costume. Stolt turns out to be a gentleman who handled the incident and the aftermath with admirable maturity and good nature. Bully for him!
"Jovorskie Lane finish with 2 carries for 2 yards. How is this possible?"
The TV Tan Line has more.
September 22, 2007
Stuart M. Rees of Stu's Views nails it again in depicting the true thoughts of most juries.
September 20, 2007
The legal problems of current and recent Texas Longhorn football players prompted this Book'em Horns post awhile back, but yesterday's news that yet another Longhorn football player had been arrested on criminal charges generated a new round of barbs toward the Longhorns, including the farked message below on the Godzillitron at UT's Royal-Memorial Stadium. Things have gotten so bad that Austin sports columnist Kirk Bohls is wondering whether the UT football team has replaced the University of Miami as the bad boys of big-time college football?
September 5, 2007
Those Texas Longhorns are playing football again (albeit not very impressively), so it's time for Ida Mae Crimpton to provide the inside scoop on the Horns first game, straight from her front porch in beautiful Elgin, Texas. According to Ida Mae, the first game was bad, but the after-the-game Longhorn locker room was much worse:
And based on what Mack's wife, Sally, told me, it wasn't any picnic in the locker room after the game, either. Sally said that Mack really read the guys the riot act. He yelled at them and told them that after the way they played, they didn't need to expect any post-game orange Gatorade, either (and he was true to his word, too…he made them stand in line at the water cooler). And then when Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis got back from gassing up Mack's car and bringing it around (he also lets the air conditioner run for a while so it's nice and cool when Mack gets in to drive home), he told the offense how disappointed he was. He said that Mack had every right to be pissed off and that they would be doing double drills this coming week in preparation for TCU. Well, that made the guys groan, let me tell you. It was a pretty glum locker room…you'd have thought we'd lost or something.
But that's not all. Read the entire piece.
August 31, 2007
A couple of interesting posts recently on the scourge of the business community -- the billable hour -- gives me the opportunity to pass along the cartoon on the left from the always-insightful Stuart M. Rees of Stu's Views.
First, local law school blawger Luke Gilman provides a compendium of links and analysis to his comprehensive review of the state of the billable hour. Meanwhile, Peter Lattman over at the WSJ Law Blog provides this post on the breaking of the heretofore sacrosanct $1,000-an-hour billing rate, which includes local attorney Steve Susman's classic observation that he charges in excess of a grand per hour "to discourage anyone hiring me" on an hourly basis.
Me, I continue to subscribe to the theory that I won't charge an hourly rate that is higher than I could afford to pay if I need to hire an attorney. ;^)
August 30, 2007
The discussion began last week when the New York Times ethicist, Randy Cohen, ran the following question in his column:
I am a lawyer. During a first date with another lawyer, we had sex, and I wore a condom. Days later, when I came down with a bad fever and couldn’t determine the cause, she revealed that she had genital herpes. A judgeship will soon open up in her county, and she’s a near lock for it. But if I report her lapse of sexual ethics, I doubt that the selection committee will pick her. Should I? — NAME WITHHELD
Cohen replied as follows:
You should not. No doubt your paramour acted dreadfully. She should have told you that she had herpes and let you decide whether you wished to accept that risk. But the selection committee is not choosing a role model for the kids or someone to ride the express elevator to heaven; it seeks a person who will excel at a particular job. I do not believe that this sort of sexual misconduct correlates with an inability to be a good judge. [. . .]
Some private conduct does bespeak an inability to do a job. A would-be jurist who belonged to the Klan or even one who regularly used racist slurs would not inspire confidence in his or her ability to dispense equal justice to all. You should come forward with relevant information like that. But being unscrupulous in bed does not presage being inept on the bench, and so you should keep this demoralizing episode to yourself. And your doctor.
So, then Peter Lattman over at the WSJ Law Blog ran a post on Cohen's column and all hell broke loose in the comment section to Lattman's post. A few choice ones:
"Who cares! Sue the condom maker!"
"Great question! I am posing it to my Professional Responsibility students immediately. Thanks for the help."
"Leave it up to bunch of lawyers to discuss medicine. Totally absurd. The law profession is essentially an STD of society, recurring pain and not curable. As far as I am concerned, this is medically inaccurate and you all deserve the real disease."
August 25, 2007
Scott Adams figures out the essential charm of capitalism:
I understand the math of capitalism, and how the few successes are so large they pay for all the failures and then some. But at any given moment, the majority of resources in a capitalist system are being pushed over a cliff by morons. This fascinates me. And it’s clearly the reason that humans rule the earth. We found a system to harness the power of stupid.
Read the entire post.
August 19, 2007
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' demagoguery has been a frequent topic on this blog, so I read with interest this Larry Ribstein post that analyzes Edwards' latest hypocrisy -- lambasting the actions of subprime lenders on the campaign trail while profiting from a company that invests substantial amounts in subprime lenders.
Meanwhile, the Onion brilliantly captures the essence of Edwards' vacuity in this article with the headline "John Edwards Vows To End All Bad Things By 2011."
August 17, 2007
The delightful Stuart M. Rees of Stu's Views nails it again.
August 15, 2007
August 5, 2007
My wife contends that she has endured precisely the same experience as the woman depicted in the cartoon on the left by the incomparable Stuart M. Rees of Stu's Views.
By the way, from several years ago, here is a short bio on Stu, who is a talented -- and very clever -- fellow.
July 30, 2007
First, there was this popular entry in the Wizard of Odds' digital billboard contest.
Then, that was followed by the NCAA leveling additional sanctions on the OU program, including making the Sooners vacate their 8 wins during the 2005 season and extending the program's probation through 2010.
Or maybe Coach Switzer had something else in mind than "Hook'em Horns?"
July 22, 2007
This Washington Post article reports on a U.S. Joint Forces Command commissioned Rand Corp. study that examines how U.S. credibility is often undermined when American media images are misinterpreted in foreign countries. Supporters of the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University will be happy to learn that the picture on the left of President Bush and others flashing the University of Texas' famous "Hook'em Horns" gesture was used as one of the study's examples, with the following description:
Background: President Bush makes a "hook'em horns" gesture familiar to University of Texas fans during the 2005 inaugural parade.
Rand Commentary: "Unfortunately, that particular gesture is not unique to Texas, and it carries different meanings elsewhere in the world. Norwegians seeing the image were shocked to see the president of the United States making the 'Sign of the devil.' Mediterranean viewers and those in parts of Central and South America . . . saw the president indicating that someone's wife was unfaithful."
Also looks like excellent material for the Marching Owl Band's halftime performance during Rice's September 22nd game against UT. ;^)
July 4, 2007
I don't know about you, but I didn't know that Kevin Spacey is almost as good an impressionist as he is an actor. Enjoy!
July 3, 2007
The concept of the home office has been elevated to an entirely new level.
June 25, 2007
Christopher Hitchens wrote this Vanity Fair piece earlier this year in which he explains why men are generally funnier than women. Dubuque (Iowa) Tribune-Herald columnist Rebecca Christian took offense to Hitchens' article (her column is not online) and, in so doing, made several disparaging remarks regarding those icons of American male comedy, The Three Stooges. Those are fightin' words to the Kirkendall brothers, prompting this letter to the editor (registration required) from my brother Matt, which provides as follows:
I am responding to a recent column from Saturday columnist, Ms. Rebecca Christian. She wrote expressing her irritation at a Vanity Fair article by Christopher Hitchens, but included in this a general meditation on women's inability to appreciate male humor. Unfortunately, she made several disparaging remarks about the Three Stooges with some particularly cheap shots directed at Curly.
In this way, she demonstrated a woeful lack of appreciation of the Three Stooges and by implication the entire male philosophical discipline known as "Stoogology" -- the study of the Three Stooges and their impact on society. Her comments demand a response.
She is correct in her assertion that women generally do not understand the Stooge phenomenon. For men, however, the Stooges provide a framework to develop an understanding of the world and their place in it.
One of the most important and time honored responsibilities of any father is passing on to his son a passion and proper respect for the Three Stooges.
In their unique way, the Stooges teach valuable life lessons that all men can identify with and can use to try to fashion their own lives. Some of these lessons include:
* Life can be painful (i.e. eye pokes, face slaps).
* Question authority (be it as a teacher, plumber, census taker, columnist; most any job can be pretty much made up as you go along).
* Despite your best efforts whatever you do may not be appreciated (ex: a pie in the face).
These are tough lessons to be sure. It is a choice, you can spend thousands of dollars and years of their lives sending your sons to university to study obscure philosophers to learn these lessons, or you can allow them to watch Stooge shorts on men focused cable channels to learn the same things.
An added advantage is that even basic Stooge knowledge can be broadening as it allows your son to come to appreciate other important social commentary of our time such as that provided by Benny Hill, Monty Python, ESPN commercials, and many others.
Several years ago, a national magazine proposed that every man's personality type could be summarized as being one of the Three Stooges.
Most men are Larry; they just want to get along with everyone. The forceful personality types are Moe. These are the guys that run businesses, are corporate types and are generally SOBs.
It was in fact the Curlys, that women found most fascinating. One woman noting, "I would marry a Larry, but dating a Curly would be the most fun." Curlys tend to be exciting and prone to excess. Typically they burn out early. Unfortunately, this describes the life of the real Curly, Jerome Horowitz, who was famous for his girlfriends, several wives and dying at a young age.
Other famous Curly types have included Marlon Brando, Babe Ruth, Elvis and John Lennon. Significantly, former President Bill Clinton was felt to be a Curly, whereas, President George W. Bush was classified as a Shemp. Go figure.
Within this framework, the columnist Christopher Hitchens can be classified as a Curly. He is prone to polemical excess and his schtick is to be controversial. He tries to impress the girls with his vocabulary, his British accent and his peculiar worldview.
However, the TH columnist should not take her dislike of Mr. Hitchens' column as an excuse to condemn Curlys as a whole. In that way, she is insulting a large part of the male population and she may be seriously limiting her options for fun dating in the future. She should remember that in the end: "Soitenly, we all are just victims of coicumstance, N'yuk, N'yuk, N'yuk!"
Matthew J. Kirkendall
Kirkendall is a physician at Dubuque Internal Medicine.
June 20, 2007
Meanwhile, the WSJ's ($) technology columnist Lee Gomes takes a look at the status of PowerPoint on its 20th (!) birthday.
June 15, 2007
One of my sons and I had a good laugh together watching this David Letterman interview of Robin Williams from a couple of years ago, so I am passing it along for you to enjoy at your leisure. Who other than Williams could, in the course of a 15-minute interview, generate laughs on subjects as diverse as the U.S. legal system, jury duty, golf announcers, linguistics, family therapy, acting with his daughter, welding, baseball, Barry Bonds, and Christopher Reeve? The first excerpt of the interview is below and the three other excerpts from the interview are after the hyperlinked break below:
June 14, 2007
May 31, 2007
May 25, 2007
Reports on the social affairs surrounding the Cannes Film Festival don't usually interest me much, but WaPo's William Booth does a great job of placing the annual Vanity Fair party in perspective:
The annual Vanity Fair Oscar party in Los Angeles is now an institution filled to the rafters with Hollywood celebrities, our celebrities, the ones in our tabloids. This Cannes VF gig is different. Here it's London socialite Jemima Khan, the ex-wife of Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan, daughter of Lady Annabel Goldsmith. She's hot. She's smart. She's rich. She's huge. But we are going to confess this as an innocent abroad: We kinda had to Google her.
Read the entire clever piece.
May 24, 2007
John Moe provides the fun. My favorite:
5. JOE BIDEN
Pro: Technically still running for president.
Con: Dude. Come on.
May 10, 2007
It's still five months until the annual Texas-OU Weekend in Dallas, but the Texas-OU rivalry is big news any time of the year. So, this billboard from the Wizard of Odd's ongoing digital billboard competition will definitely warm the hearts of the Longhorn faithful.
Update: Watch out, Longhorn fans. Phil Miller is already leading the counteroffensive.
May 4, 2007
A nice couple with a couple of adopted young chidren also enjoys adopting rescue dogs — those dogs that are ignored, abandoned, malnourished, and mistreated. After two of the family dogs passed away, the couple decides its time for a family outing to the local SPCA to adopt a new dog for the family. The couple picks out a lovable St. Bernard, but the SPCA representatives balk at approving the couple's request to adopt the dog. Interesting interaction results, but the bottom line is that the couple has "been declared fit to adopt two baby girls, but unfit to adopt a dog." Read the entire incredible story.
March 19, 2007
27 year-old PGA Tour golfer Sergio Garcia is the subject of this Golf World photoshoot and interview, in which he passes along that one of his best friends on the PGA Tour is the 26 year-old Englishman, Luke Donald.
Last year, when Donald passed Garcia in the World Golf Rankings for the first time, Garcia describes the text message that he received from Donald:
"Hi, No. 9. This is No. 8."
March 17, 2007
As if the image of controversial fight promoter Don King having an audience with Pope Benedict XVI isn't strange enough, things almost got completely out of hand when the New York Post ran a short report about King's upcoming meeting with the Pope:
When Ana Carril-Grumberg read on [New York Post column] Page Six yesterday that boxing promoter Don King is scheduled to meet Pope Benedict XVI next week, she called us to say that King's son, Eric, owes her $5,250 in child support for their daughter Nathalie, 16. "I want the pope to intervene," Carril-Grumberg said. From Paris, King responded, "I didn't sleep with her. My son may be a naughty boy, but he's a grown man." King characterized Carril-Grumberg as a gold-digger: "She thought she was striking gold, oil actually, because it's black," laughed King. But getting serious, he said, "I'll ask my son when I get back. If he's got obligations, I'll tell him to take care of them."
March 15, 2007
According to this Bloomberg article, it's alive and well in Switzerland:
Switzerland entered a treaty with the European Union to import workers, seeking more bankers, managers and academics.
What it got was an influx of prostitutes.
The number of people offering sex for money has risen by a third in Zurich and 80 percent in Geneva since Switzerland opened its borders to workers from the 15 EU-member states at the start of 2004, police estimate. Some lawmakers predict prostitution will grow even more after the government last year removed work restrictions for residents from 10 newer EU countries as well.
February 22, 2007
First, in this post, Jane Galt made the following pithy observation about the fallacy of reliance on governmental regulation:
"The post below also applies to behavioural economics, which the left seems to believe is a magical proof of the benevolence of government intervention, because after all, people are stupid, so they need the government to protect them from themselves. My take is a little subtler than that:
1) People are often stupid
2) Bureaucrats are the same stupid people, with bad incentives."
Then, during his monologue on Tuesday night's Tonight Show, Jay Leno observed the following about the cable television news networks' fascination (obsession?) with certain recent news events:
"Well, the big story in the news is that Britney Spears shaved her head. Can you believe this? Legitimate news organizations are actually breaking into their Anna Nicole Smith coverage to tell you this."
February 20, 2007
Although I find the NBA All-Star game and related activities excrutiatingly boring, I must admit that the challenge race (see video below) between former NBA great Charles Barkley and 67 year old, veteran NBA referee Dick Bavetta was pretty darn funny. Barkley -- who weighed in at a stout 325 lbs. -- had a classic line upon regaining his breath after winning the race. Checking out the $50,000 oversized check that signified the contribution being made to the Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club as a result of the race, Barkley -- who has been known to spend some time at the Vegas betting tables -- exclaimed proudly:
"We're giving two blackjack hands to charity!"
Unfortunately, the video clip below doesn't include the clever scene that TNT showed earlier in the evening of the stout Barkley "training" for the race by doing "situps" (moving only his head) while eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
February 6, 2007
It was a tough day for yuppies yesterday as this Consumer Reports analysis concluded that good ol' fashioned McDonald's coffee was superior to Starbuck's in taste testing. But both McDonald's and Starbucks are going to have a hard time competing with the new coffee franchise described in this LA Times article:
On a quick break from his job as a trash hauler, Rob Chapman was in the mood for some coffee. So he pulled his truck into the Sweet Spot Cafe, a drive-through espresso stand on busy Aurora Avenue here in the Seattle suburbs.
"Do you want a Wet Dream or the Sexual Mix today, honey?" asked barista Edie Smith, dressed in a tight-fitting yellow blouse that did a less than fully effective job of covering her cleavage. She leaned down in the window, perhaps all the closer to hear his order. He chose the first option: a coffee with white chocolate, milk and caramel sauce.
It is possible, of course, that Chapman and the dozens of other drive-by customers at the parking lot stand one recent morning stopped by only for the coffee.
But, as Chapman dryly observed, "I do enjoy coming here more than Starbucks."
In a way, it is perhaps stunning that it took so long for entrepreneurs here to figure out that coffee, the fabled Seattle obsession, mixes very well with sex, the fabled human obsession.
But apparently it does, to judge from the growing number of steamy espresso stands that have popped up around the region in the last year or so.
At the Sweet Spot here in Shoreline, the Natte Latte in Port Orchard and the Bikini Espresso in Renton, not to mention the multi-stand Cowgirls Espresso, the term "hot coffee" has clearly taken on a whole new meaning.
It's safe to say that it's only a matter of time before this type of coffee shop catches on in Houston.
February 2, 2007
Norm Pattis over at Crime & Federalism isn't impressed with the following offering by the University of Connecticut School of Law this semester:
Seminar: Therapeutic Jurisprudence 692
Professor: Robert G. Madden, LCSW, JD
Course Description: Therapeutic Jurisprudence is an interdisciplinary approach to law that focuses on the impact of legal rules, processes and institutions on people's emotional lives and psychological well-being. Using this perspective, the course examines recent developments in several areas, including collaborative divorce law; creative problem solving; the establishment of drug treatment, domestic violence, mental health and other specialized courts; preventive law; procedural and restorative justice; and alternative dispute resolution. Readings include materials from psychology, criminology, social work, and other disciplines. The course is designed to emphasize how therapeutic jurisprudence may enrich the practice of law through the integration of interdisciplinary, non-adversarial, nontraditional, creative, collaborative, and psychologically-beneficial legal experiences.
Imagine the implications for courtroom exchanges during courtroom testimony:
"Objection, your honor."
"What's your objection?"
"Contrary to sound social policy."
January 22, 2007
Legendary basketball coach Bobby Knight (prior posts here) is not everyone's cup of tea, but he sure keeps things entertaining.
After coaching for most of his career at Indiana University where basketball is king, Coach Knight has never been all that comfortable playing out his coaching string at Texas Tech, where basketball is just a distraction between football and spring football.
On Saturday, Coach Knight was not impressed that only about 11,000 fans showed up to see Tech beat perennial Big 12 basketball powerhouse Kansas despite a snowstorm that dumped several inches of snow in the Lubbock area. Coach Knight is amazed that Texans make such a big deal about winter weather (just imagine if he had been in Houston last week!):
"People in Texas gotta understand that goddamn snow, you drive through it. Jesus!" Knight observed in his post-game remarks. "I mean, they're selling out grocery stores."
Not missing a beat, Coach Knight then turned entreprenurial:
"I think I'm going to buy a store and start rumors about snowfall."
January 21, 2007
Steven Colbert and Bill O'Reilly recently agreed to be interviewed on each other's show, and the interviews took place this past week. O'Reilly is the more popular pundit and Colbert overmatches O'Reilly humor-wise, but neither man went for the jugular in the interviews, which is common with such highly-anticipated showdowns,
Nevertheless, Colbert did get in a couple of good cracks. After O'Reilly admitted that his TV show persona was all "an act," Colbert asked O'Reilly: "If you're an act, what am I?"
Another came during O'Reilly's interview of Colbert. "They criticize you for what you say," observed Colbert about O'Reilly's critics. "But they never give you credit for how loud you say it."
Finally, when Colbert pitched O'Reilly's new book, one of those large, red "30% Off" Barnes & Noble stickers blotted out a portion of O'Reilly's head during the close-up of the book's cover. O'Reilly did not appear pleased.
Here is the first interview, Colbert on O'Reilly:
And the second, O'Reilly on Colbert:
January 7, 2007
This earlier post noted the rather obsessive behavior of numerous University of Alabama football fans as they followed the University's courtship of former Miami Dolphins head coach, Nick Saban. This Tuscaloosa News article covers the greeting of Saban at the local airport by hundreds of the 'Bama faithful, which included the frisky female fan who managed to plant a welcome kiss on Saban pictured on the left. As the article notes, she wasn't the only female fan who was overwhelmed by the presence of the new Lord of Alabama Football:
Colette Connell, one of the more exuberant fans at the airport, even had her own Saban cheer: “Praise the Lord, God is so good, Nick is now in the Bama hood."
Later that day, Connell was arrested for driving under the influence.
December 1, 2006
After you get done playing a game of Teasip Bingo, take a moment to read this report on the Texas Longhorns' tough loss to the Texas Aggies by longtime Horns fan Ida Mae Crimpton, who writes regular reports on her beloved Horns from her perch in Elgin just east of Austin. Here's a part of what Ida Mae had to say about the Horns' most recent tough loss:
With Colt coming back off of his injury and since we were just playing the Aggies, no one really seriously thought that there was a possibility that we could lose. But when the game was finally over and we'd lost, a funny thing happened; Mack didn't seem to be too bothered. He went to midfield, shook coach Frangipani's hand and then led the team back to the locker room. Coach Chizik told Earl what happened next. Mack gave the guys a post game talk like he usually did but this one was different because of what he talked about. He told the guys not to worry too much about losing because there were other things more important than winning, like God, family, the Gross National Product, the danger posed by international communism, and erosion (which, if you stop to think about it, really is a problem in some areas of south Texas). Well, needless to say, there were more than one set of eyes rolling around that room as everybody tried to figure out what the heck the coach was talking about. Then, Mack told the whole team that they were invited to his house for cherry cheesecake and Frescas, which sent Sally into a panic when she heard about it because they didn't have any cherry cheesecake in the house and if the team did come over they'd just have to settle for Nabisco Honey Grahams with canned cake frosting (one of Mack's favorite snacks). But after Mack left, coach Chizik spoke to the team and told them that it probably wouldn't be a good night to drop by Mack's house and that maybe they could take a rain check.
You gotta love football in Texas.
November 14, 2006
The Houston Texans recent improved play is not being noticed yet in Austin, at least according to this letter from a local Austin television programing director to Texans fan Brian over at Longhorn Law:
The last Texans game we aired (last Sunday) was tuned-in by just 21,000 households in Austin (a city with 589,000 households). By comparison, the Titans game we aired on Oct 8th (after Vince Young became quarterback) was watched by over 53,000 households (152% more football fan’s homes). At one point during that game there were as many as 68,000 households tuned in. It was the most-watched “early” game we’ve aired all season. Actually, that game was watched by more Austin fans than any Texans game we’ve aired going all the way back to October of last season - with two notable exceptions. The first is when the Texans played the Cowboys on October 15th (which you could expect to be highly watched) and the other, honestly, was when the Texans played the Titans on October 29th. [. . .]
So, where does all this leave us now? To try and answer that, we need to go back to the start. In the Texans’ first season KEYE aired every Texans game we could get our hands on. In the second season we did the same thing, no matter how bad the actual football games were, and in the third season we did it yet again. (No one could claim that KEYE hadn’t done its best to put Texans games on the air in Austin).
In the fourth season, last year, we aired every Texans game we could - even after it was abundantly clear they would have their worst season to date. What was once just a steady flow of email to the station (questioning why the heck we were airing Texans games when there was much better competition) had become a roar that we simply could no longer ignore. In that season we aired every Texans game we could in August, September, October, and November. Our last Texans game was December 4th with just 15,000 households watching, and then we moved on to other games that had actual play-off implications. The very next non-Texans game we aired that year was tuned-in by almost 75,000 homes. In other words, we did the best we could do.
Hang in there, KEYE!
November 8, 2006
One does get the impression from the video below that country-music singer Faith Hill does not believe that former American Idol Carrie Underwood should have received the Best Female Country Singer Award at Monday Night's Country Music Awards Show in Nashville.
The Hill-McGraw public relations machine was in full gear afterward.
October 11, 2006
Reflecting that intense competition, you may recall this item from earlier this year in which an Auburn University professor charged that another university professor and the Auburn athletic department had engaged in academic fraud for the purpose of ensuring the eligibility of a large number of Auburn football players.
Those competitive fires boiled over again a couple of weeks ago when an Auburn football team laptop containing the team's confidential playbook turned up missing the week before Auburn played South Carolina in a big game. Although Auburn initially feared that South Carolina would end up with the missing playbook, it turned out that a homeless man had lifted the computer and it was returned to the Auburn team.
All of that leads to this Onion article that reports that the playbook was actually returned in, might we say, slightly altered form.
And, just to emphasize that truth is often stranger than fiction in the SEC, this State.com article reports that South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier dressed down one of his assistant coaches during the post-game press conference after the Gamecocks won this past week against Kentucky. Spurrier followed up that dressing-down with this apology. At least I think that's an apology.
October 6, 2006
According to this Jacquielynn Floyd/Dallas Morning News column, the author, humorist, syndicated columnist and creator of National Public Radio's venerable Prairie Home Companion show visited Dallas a week ago to promote his latest book, Homegrown Democrat. Highland Park United Methodist Church near the Southern Methodist University campus sponsored Keillor's visit, and over 1,000 of Keillor's adoring fans showed up for his hour-long lecture. The evening apparently went quite well -- the audience laughed and applauded throughout Keillor's talk and he even stuck around afterward to chat and sign a few copies of his book.
But Keillor apparently had a different view of how his trip to Dallas went. The following is what he wrote at the end of his Chicago Tribune column this week:
. . . our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism. If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.
I got some insight last week into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for "Homegrown Democrat," but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics--I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?
The Methodists of Dallas can be fairly sure that none of them will be snatched off the streets, flown to Guantanamo Bay, stripped naked, forced to stand for 48 hours in a freezing room with deafening noise. So why should they worry? It's only the Jews who are in danger, and the homosexuals and gypsies. The Christians are doing fine. If you can't trust a Methodist with absolute power to arrest people and not have to say why, then whom can you trust?
Dallas Methodists are the same as German appeasers of Nazi genocide? As Floyd's column relates, Keillor is probably at least exaggerating about what occurred during his visit.
July 31, 2006
Eventually, Congressional staffers are going to refuse to allow their bosses to be interviewed by Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert (previous posts here).
However, until they do, let's continue to enjoy Colbert exposing the hilarious (and somewhat frightening) lack of perspective among our nation's members of Congress, this time of Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia (remember, it's not a state):
July 26, 2006
Air France is right on the law in this recent Fifth Circuit decision (written by Judge Fortunato P. Benavides), but woefully wrong on the public relations front. In not settling the case, Air France has given an enterprising advertising firm for one of Air France's competitors the basis for an effective "we'd never do this to you" advertising campaign against the airline.
Here's what happened. Air France charged Edo Mbaba a $520 excess baggage fee for the four extra bags he took on his trip from Houston to Lagos. That was no problem, but when Mbaba flew through Paris, the flight was delayed and he missed his scheduled connection. As a result, he had to spend the night in the terminal and reclaim his baggage.
The next day, when Mbaba went to check his bags with Air France again for his flight to Lagos, Air France inexplicably advised him that he would have to pay another $4,000 in excess baggage fees. Thinking much as I would if confronted with such a demand, Mbaba requested that Air France simply return his luggage to Houston, which prompted the Air France personnel to inform Mbaba that if he didn't quit griping and pay the four grand fee, they would take his luggage outside and barbecue it. Mbaba paid the fee, but then sued Air France in Texas for breach of contract and other state law claims.
Alas, the U.S. District Court and the Fifth Circuit concluded that Mbaba’s claims are preempted by the Warsaw Convention. Nevertheless, here's hoping that some of Air France's competitors pick up on the decision and use it in the advertising wars so that the few bucks that Air France saved by stiffing Mbaba becomes an expensive lesson on how not to treat customers. Hat tip to Robert Loblaw for the link to the Fifth Circuit decision.
July 25, 2006
July 24, 2006
Given the recent downturn in Texas A&M football fortunes, rumor has it that Coach Fran is going to replace the Aggies' traditional pre-game ritual "Spirit of Aggieland" with the New Zealand National Rugby team's traditional pre-game HAKU.
July 7, 2006
When your team wins a national football championship in Texas, a vast array of interesting opportunities emerge. This Ed Bark/Dallas Morning News preview gives a hearty thumbs up to Friday Night Lights, a new television show that debuts this fall and includes a cameo role for University of Texas football coach Mack Brown. My sense is that Coach Brown is especially well-prepared to play this particular role:
"Friday Night Lights" (drama): A terrific continuation of the best-selling book and feature film, with Kyle Chandler the perfect choice to play under-the-gun new football coach Eric Taylor. Filmed in Austin, the pilot superbly sets a small-town West Texas stage in fictional Dillon, Texas. Football action is brilliantly choreographed, and the key players come off as far more than tackling dummies.
University of Texas coach Mack Brown has an effective cameo as a demanding booster who expects the Panthers to triumph at all costs.
July 4, 2006
I recognize that football recruiting at Texas A&M has not kept up with Big 12 competitors such as Texas and Oklahoma. The Coach Fran era has not gone as expected, and even the sacred 12th Man tradition is under attack. So, drastic measures are required to turn things around.
But a rap music video extolling the virtues of Bryan-College Station? Let's just say I'm still partial to the Aggie War Hymn.
Former A&M football coach Bear Bryant is turning over in his grave. Old Army will never be the same. Hat tip to the Burnt Orange Nation for the link.
Have a safe and happy 4th!
June 29, 2006
"Warren Buffet is so rich, he just hired Bill Gates to spend his money for him."
By the way, Larry Ribstein has an interesting perspective on the Buffett donation in relation to the growing effort of certain shareholders to pursue social causes through their corporate ownership.
June 15, 2006
I've been meaning to pass along the Securities and Exchange Commission's slick new full text search engine for regulatory filings. It's a very helpful resource.
On the other hand, as Paul Kedrosky notes, one of the unintended consequences of the new search engine is that management of publicly-owned companies may want to consider upgrading the proof-reading department.
June 1, 2006
R. Preston McAfee is the J. Stanley Johnson Professor of Business Economics and Management at Cal Tech and a renowned expert on issues relating to pricing of goods and services.
Before going to Cal Tech, Professor McAfee was the Murray S. Johnson Professor of Economics and former Chair of the Department of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. In this engaging lecture on how companies determine prices, Professor McAfee reveals that his decision to leave UT for Cal Tech was cemented when he received the following email from the UT administration regarding a message from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board:
From the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board:
Your last name is your password. If you have questions or have forgotten your password, please contact the Coordinating Board.
Hat tip to Craig Newmark for the link to Professor McAfee's lecture.
May 7, 2006
The Wall Street Journal ($) online edition has a section entitled "At a Glance," which contains several groupings of articles from the WSJ online edition. One of the grouping categories is called "Most Popular," which lists the articles that are receiving the most hits from WSJ readers.
On this weekend of Berkshire Hathaway's always popular shareholders meeting, the No. 1 article receiving the most hits in today's WSJ online edition is science columnist Susan Begley's column entitled Darwin Revisited: Females Don't Always Go for Hottest Mate.
May 4, 2006
I realize that he may have bombed at the recent White House Correspondents' Association awards dinner, but I'm still a big fan of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. Here is the recent 60 Minutes segment on Colbert (segment 2 and segment 3), which includes a good dose of Colbert's hilarious interviewing techniques.
By the way, one thing that I've always wondered about Colbert -- but that Morley Safer did not ask him in the 60 Minutes piece -- is whether the pronunciation of Colbert's name (prounouced "Cole-bear") on his show is a play on the wonderful Hyacinth Bucket character (pronounced "bouquet" by Hyacinth and "bucket" by everyone else) in the equally hilarious BBC comedy show, "Keeping Up With Appearances"? Anyone know the answer?
Update: In the small world department, turns out that Jeff Skilling's law firm -- O'Melveny & Myers -- has a Colbert connection. One of Colbert's older brothers is Jim Colbert (who pronounced his name with a good, hard "ert"), who was a litigation partner at O'Melveny for approximatey 30 years in Los Angeles. The elder Colbert was known at O'Melveny as a brilliant litigator with -- you guessed it -- a sharp wit.
March 19, 2006
You gotta love those Texas college rivalries!
By the way, LSU closed out the Aggies' most successful basketball season in a couple of decades on Saturday by beating the Ags with a buzzer-beater in their second-round NCAA Tournament game.
March 16, 2006
I count as friends a number of major college coaches, and so I have a special appreciation of the demands involved in being a big-time college football or basketball coach. Not only do such coaches have to deal with sometimes overbearing media, fans, and college administrations, they also have to oversee their athletes' off-the-field conduct, such as keeping the usually cash-deprived athletes away from the various sources of financial inducements that violate various NCAA rules that could lead to disastrous sanctions for the coach's program. Believe me, it's a full-time job.
Well, as difficult as their job already is, it now looks as if those college coaches are going to have to include review of their athletes' instant messenger habits in their oversight duties.
March 7, 2006
The indefatigable Peter Lattman shares with us this hilarious opinion by Bankruptcy Judge Leif Clark of San Antonio, who cites a scene from the Adam Sandler movie, Billy Madison, in concluding that "[t]he court cannot determine the substance, if any, of the Defendant’s legal argument, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting. The Defendant’s motion is accordingly denied for being incomprehensible.”
A friend of mine commented that Judge Clark's opinion reminded him of Houston-based U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes' reaction several years ago to a particularly illiterate FDIC motion to substitute counsel. After marking up the proposed form of order to delete surplusage, Judge Hughes wrote the following message in bold pen under his signature to the attorney who had drafted the motion:
"How did you write before your lobotomy?"
March 2, 2006
The Latin phrase sua sponte is often used in legal pleadings to refer to actions that the court takes in a case on its accord or motion. But this Law.com article ($) indicates that Santa Cruz, CA lawyer Arthur Dudley's use of that phrase will never quite be the same:
In an opening brief to San Francisco's 1st District Court of Appeal, a search-and-replace command by Dudley inexplicably inserted the words "sea sponge" instead of the legal term "sua sponte," . . .
"Spell check did not have sua sponte in it," said Dudley, who, not noticing the error, shipped the brief to court.
That left the justices reading -- and probably laughing at -- such classic statements as: "An appropriate instruction limiting the judge's criminal liability in such a prosecution must be given sea sponge explaining that certain acts or omissions by themselves are not sufficient to support a conviction."
And: "It is well settled that a trial court must instruct sea sponge on any defense, including a mistake of fact defense."
The sneaky "sea sponge" popped up at least five times.
At least grizzled courthouse veterans are honoring Dudley with a new characterization of the legal duty involved in his case:
The faux pas has made Dudley the butt of some mild ribbing around Santa Cruz. Local attorneys, he said, have started calling his unique defense the "sea sponge duty to instruct."
February 17, 2006
This Eyewitness News article reports on a rather unusual reason for a big-city traffic jam:
Drivers on the city's south side found themselves caught up in a very unusual traffic tie up overnight.
Officers are used to pulling over drivers, but a bull on the Beltway proved a much greater challenge. Authorities did finally catch the bull, but not before the animal ran loose for about 30 minutes.
The bull originally got loose at about 11pm, and started blocking the Beltway for drivers. It was spotted first headed east on the South Belt near Sabo.
At one point, someone had a rope around the bull, but that person was dragged a little bit and the bull got loose again. The bull jumped the median and started heading west, finally exiting at the Pearland Parkway, and U-turning through the underpass.
Officers from the Houston Police Department and the Constable's office finally managed to round the bull up and tie him to a fence.
December 17, 2005
Ah, the indiscretions of our youth. Hat tip to Eric McErlain for the Ditka link.
Apr. 5—The Baylor women's basketball team defeats Michigan State to win the NCAA women's championship, showing the nation and their own university what a Baylor team can do when it works hard, plays as a team, and does not conspire to murder one another.
Dec. 11—The Houston Texans, searching desperately for a way to improve and threatened by the potential for awfulness displayed by the Green Bay Packers, voluntarily forfeit the remainder of the 2005 season in order to draft Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush of USC.
Dec. 12—USC Trojans running back Reggie Bush announces that he has done much soul-searching and has decided to stay in school in order to complete his college degree, lead the Trojans to another national championship, and avoid playing for the Houston Texans.
Ouch! And while on the subject of tough football seasons, this Ebay seller's idea -- if successful -- could generate a flood of similar offers from Houston Texan fans. 12/28/05 Update: And here is the rest of the story.
November 21, 2005
My two teenage boys recommended the link for this Carlton Draught (an Australian beer) commercial, I think because they want an easy link to it for their friends. Maybe the friends will read a few other posts while they here, so what the heck. Besides, the commercial is pretty darn impressive. Hat tip to Adrianne Truett for the link.
October 31, 2005
In that regard, this Wall Street Journal ($) article examines the tradition of Cambridge University's King's College in regard to publishing obituaries of its alumni that, as the article puts it, reflect "an anthropological study of the eccentric ways of the British intelligentsia." For example, the Journal describes the obituary of the late novelist Simon Arthur Noel Raven, whose writing was described by some as "smut for its own sake":
At boarding school, "eventually his long-suffering headmaster had enough of his complete disregard for the school moral code and he was expelled in 1945 for what was euphemistically called 'the usual thing.'" Mr. Raven nevertheless secured admission to Cambridge, where, "although his preference was for boys and young men," he dabbled in heterosexuality and sired a child by a fellow student, the alumni report said. "He agreed to marry her to placate her family, on the understanding that he would never have to live with her."
They divorced eventually, and he paid for their son's education. "He did not always, however, give [the boy's mother] the help that she needed. Famously, she once wired him when she was desperately short of cash, saying 'Wife and baby starving send money soonest.' He characteristically replied 'Sorry no money suggest eat baby.' "
Enjoy the entire piece.
October 14, 2005
"We've had so much rain here this week. Do you realize that we are this close to being ignored by FEMA!"
Then, from Leno on the Minnesota Vikings players' recent Lake Minnetonka escapade:
"What are they, 1-3? That's the only offensive thing they've done all season."
October 3, 2005
"I'm not a self-hating Jew. Actually, to borrow a line from Lenny Bruce, I just thought Leibowitz was too Hollywood."
In the meantime, while discussing celebrities, the Onion reports that Lance Armstrong recently confronted an endurance test that almost overwhelmed him.
September 29, 2005
One of the best parts of the Houston Chronicle for many years has been the newspaper's Hunting and Outdoors section of its sports section. Inasmuch as my reaction to finding a rattlesnake would have been the same as the fellow's reaction as described in the following Chronicle article, I was glad to learn something from the Chronicle piece about dealing with dead rattlesnakes:
Even a dead rattlesnake can hurt you. Just ask Trey Hanover of College Station.
On Labor Day weekend, Hanover and his father, Tommy Hanover, were working on their deer lease when they killed a big rattler. They shot the snake's head off with a shotgun and loaded the carcass in the truck to show other hunters on their lease that they needed to be careful.
"We hung the snake on the fence at the camphouse," Tommy Hanover said. "When we got ready to leave, Trey picked up the snake and threw it out in the pasture for the buzzards to eat."
By the time he'd driven to College Station, Trey Hanover's eyes were very irritated. By the next morning, his eyes were swollen shut. The doctor who examined Hanover said it looked like he'd suffered a chemical burn.
It took them a while to figure out that the shotgun load that vaporized the rattlesnake's head splattered the snake's venom over its body.
When Hanover handled the snake, he got the venom on his hands and later rubbed it in his eyes, made itchy by dust and ragweed. Sixteen days later, the vision in his right eye was back to normal. His left eye was still a little cloudy, but the doctor thought it would return to normal as well.
"We learned a valuable lesson about handling rattlesnakes — even dead ones," said Tommy Hanover.
September 19, 2005
The Texans firing of offensive coordinator Chris Palmer this morning did little to quell the anger of Texan fans over yesterday's debacle, one of whom emailed me as follows:
"The biggest joke of all is leaving the roof open. On Friday, I got an e-mail telling me that the roof would be open and that I should stay hydrated during the game. I couldn't believe they were sending out a heat related medical advisory on a stadium that has air conditioning. During the first year of the new stadium, management said it was going to keep the roof open in order to have an advantage over the teams that didn't practice in the Texas heat. So, yesterday, the Texans -- whose bench is on the sunny side of the field -- sat there and baked. The Steelers had air-conditioned benches (Texans not) and sat in the shade. Moreover, the Texans lost whatever home field advantage we might have had because half of the seats were emptied by people seeking refuge from the sun. What a bunch of Braniacs."
Key hint to the Texans' front office -- the only thing worse than an angry fan is an angry fan who is also hot and sweaty after boiling in the sun for three hours.
Looks like it's going to be a long season, folks.
Theodore Dalrymple is probably best known for his weekly columns in The Spectator and his essays in the American quarterly City Journal. He is a psychiatrist working in an inner city area in Britain where he is affiliated with a large hospital and a prison. His columns report on the lifestyles and ways of thinking of Britain's growing underclass, and in his book, Life at the Bottom, he warns that this underclass culture is spreading through society.
In his latest City Journal piece, Mr. Dalrymple expresses the frustration that he feels in responding to the various pooh-bah theories that seem to abound these days:
In Australia recently, I shared a public platform with an educationist, who had won awards for social innovation in the field of education for disadvantaged minorities. I was looking forward to what she had to say.
I was soon in a towering rage, however. She uttered some of the most foolish cliches of radical education theory, now about 40 years old—theories that I had fondly thought were now behind us, . . .
Halfway through my own reply, however, I suddenly became bored. Why do I spend so much time arguing against such obvious rubbish, which should be both self-refuting and auto-satirizing the moment someone utters it? Why not just go and read a good book?
The problem is that nonsense can and does go by default. It wins the argument by sheer persistence, by inexhaustible re-iteration, by staying at the meeting when everyone else has gone home, by monomania, by boring people into submission and indifference. And the reward of monomania? Power.
September 11, 2005
During the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, Lexus has been running a clever series of commercials featuring U.S. tennis star Andy Roddick. The series -- called "On the Road with Andy Roddick" -- features five different people talking to Mr. Roddick about various subjects while cruising with him in a convertible Lexus.
Click here to watch each of the five commercials. My favorite: "Catfish"
September 10, 2005
The Lazard investment banking empire -- Paris-based Lazard Frčres & Cie., London-based Lazard Brothers, and New York-based Lazard Frčres & Co. -- recently conducted the largest initial public offering by an investment bank since Goldman Sachs went public in 1999. The move was not without critics, particularly among certain sectors of the Lazard workforce. The following is the departing email of one of those critics to his fellow Lazard employees, as noted by the NY Times:
I will be leaving Lazard effective tomorrow after more than 32 years with various firms of the Group around the world. I will be pursuing my career in the general unemployment line, as I am neither old enough nor wealthy enough to retire. I wish myself every good fortune in the future.
I am leaving on the high note of the IPO of Lazard with the knowledge (i) that I will be contributing to the stated intent of reducing the employment costs at Lazard by a total of more than US$ 180 million per year and (ii) that I will not have to comply with the non-disparagement provisions contained in the agreement between Lazard and the "Historical Partners".
I wish to congratulate the Head of Lazard for his success in selling the Lazard IPO to the investment public and to most (!) of Lazard's "Working Members". This will probably be judged in years to come not only as an even bolder act of financial wizardry than the sale of Wasserstein Perella, but also as a gesture of extraordinary altruism, since it was essentially done - from a cash point of view - for the benefit of the Historical Partners.
I wish every success to the Lazard Working Members in their task of working down Lazard's mountain of debt and hopefully ultimately returning to a situation where the tangible book value attributable to their own (still indirect) interests in Lazard Ltd. will again be positive.
Finally, let me say how gratifying it is, as the only direct descendant of the founding Lazard brothers currently employed in the Group, to sever ties with Lazard around the same time as my distant uncle Michel David-Weill who was the last family member (albeit not a direct descendant of the founding brothers) to run the firm.
August 29, 2005
August 22, 2005
Best crack of the weekend came from CBS Golf on-course commentator, Irishman David Feherty, during the final round of the NEC Golf Championship, discussing Irish golfer Paul McGinley's background as a Gaelic football player:
"Gaelic football? Now, that's one tough sport. Just one rule: No homicide."
August 19, 2005
NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell is a part of one of Washington's most formidable power couples through her marriage to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Asked during a Time magazine/CNN.com interview this past week as to whether Mr. Greenspan ever engaged at home in "Greenspeak" -- i.e., the art of ambiguous economic pronouncements -- Ms. Mitchell observed:
"Occasionally. In fact, he claims he proposed three times before I was able to understand. He was so oblique."
August 10, 2005
I have no idea where my nephew Richard comes up with such things, but the two minute video that he links to in this blog post is pretty darn clever.
By the way, Rich, I highly recommend that you do not attempt to perfect the skill evidenced in the video while juggling your distractions this fall at Northwestern University Law School. Not that it would interfere with your studies that much. Rather, too many professors would be pestering you to teach them how to do it! ;^)
August 9, 2005
Rich Karlgaard is publisher of Forbes magazine and author of Life 2.0 (Crown Business, 2004). In this wonderful Wall Street Journal ($) op-ed, Mr. Kaalgaard examines the tremendous progress of the Internet over the past 20 years by pointing out that the risks taken in the booms and busts during the period are the engine of that progress. He uses the wildly over-priced Netscape IPO of 10 years ago (has it really been that long?) as one of his examples of the risk-taking that did not work out, and wryly passes along the following anecdote about one analyst's attempt at a joke about pricing Internet companies during those exuberant times:
Analyst Bill Gurley sends out a spoof email. After noting the history of deteriorating valuation benchmarks, from cash flow, to EBIT, to EBITDA, to "price-per-click," announces the ultimate Internet valuation benchmark: EBE, or "earnings before expenses." Most readers don't realize Mr. Gurley is joking.
August 5, 2005
As noted in this earlier post, I am a big fan of the English tradition of writing lighthearted obituaries. This Daily Telegraph obit is another wonderful example of that tradition, as reflected by the opening description of the decedent, former English barrister, Peter Parkenham:
Patrick Pakenham, who has died aged 68, was a talented barrister and the second son of the 7th Earl and Countess of Longford; highly intelligent, articulate and possessed of an attractive and powerful voice, Pakenham could have attained great professional heights, but his boisterous nature and bouts of mental illness rendered it impossible for him to adhere to the routine required to sustain his position at the Bar, and he retired after 10 years' practice.
But that overview is nothing compared to this anecdote:
During his legal career, Pakenham became something of a legend, and, 25 years on, accounts of his exploits are still current. During his appearance before an irascible and unpopular judge in a drugs case, the evidence, a bag of cannabis, was produced.
The judge, considering himself an expert on the subject, said to Pakenham, with whom he had clashed during the case: "Come on, hand the exhibit up to me quickly." Then he proceeded to open the package. Inserting the contents in his mouth, he chewed it and announced: "Yes, yes of course that is cannabis. Where was the substance found, Mr Pakenham?"
The reply came swiftly, if inaccurately: "In the defendant's anus, my Lord."
July 12, 2005
This post from yesterday made the point that that most medications are toxins that often have serious side effects, but that the risk of those side effects has to be weighed against the benefit that patients derive from the medications. However, the side effect noted in this article is, might we say, a bit difficult to weigh:
A Mayo Clinic study published Monday in July?s Archives of Neurology describes 11 other Parkinson?s patients who developed the unusual problem [of becoming compulsive gamblers] while taking Mirapex or similar drugs between 2002 and 2004. Doctors have since identified 14 additional Mayo patients with the problem, . . .
July 6, 2005
Well, this latest news report probably explains why Benny is a tad jumpy these days:
The IRS is questioning televangelist Benny Hinn's organization about its operations and finances issues that underlie its tax-exempt status as a church.
The inquiry into the flamboyant faith healer's ministry began a year ago, and the IRS has asked for dozens of detailed answers, according to documents provided to The Dallas Morning News by a watchdog group. . .
Separately, The News found that another watchdog group's complaint to the IRS that the ministry lacks financial oversight and independent governance may have led the agency to question the operation through what's called a church tax-inquiry letter.
While detractors argue that Mr. Hinn improperly profits from a ministry that hasn't met the IRS definition of a church for years, his public-relations contractor dismissed the possibility that the tax exemptions -- worth millions a year -- could be at risk. [Hinn's public relations contractor] repeatedly warned The News should "be very careful about what it reports."
Geez, Hinn's public relations contractor sounds a bit like Tom Hagen, Don Corleone's lawyer, don't you think?
By the way, did you know that Benny asserted at one time that the Trinity was comprised not of three persons, but nine?!
June 30, 2005
Rogers shoved two cameramen before the Rangers' game against Los Angeles on Wednesday in a videotaped tirade that included throwing a camera to the ground and threatening to break more.
"Kenny is having anger issues right now," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "I don't know what's going on inside. We're responding to something that's very unusual."
Rogers, who missed his last start with a broken pinkie he sustained during an outburst earlier this month, lashed out at the cameramen as they filmed him walking to the field for pregame stretching. He wasn't scheduled to pitch and was sent home by the club following the incidents . . .
The 40-year-old left-hander first shoved Fox Sports Net Southwest photographer David Mammeli, telling him: "I told you to get those cameras out of my face."
Rogers then approached a second cameraman. He wrestled the camera from Larry Rodriguez of Dallas-Fort Worth television station KDFW, threw it to the ground and kicked it.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound pitcher saw two other cameramen who were recording from the Rangers' dugout and walked toward them. He did not make contact with the men, who were backing away.
"I'll break every ... one of them," Rogers said before he was escorted to the clubhouse by catcher Rod Barajas.
The Rangers sent Rogers home about an hour later . . .
Texas lost eight of nine entering Wednesday night's game.
Rogers, who leads the team with nine wins, has refused to talk to reporters all season. He has also boycotted most media since a report before spring training that he threatened to retire if he wasn't given a contract extension.
But as impressive as Rogers' snit was, Hinn is not backing off. Unimpressed with the number of Nigerians who attended his latest crusade, Hinn went ballistic on the disrespectful Africans:
Whatever disappointment he felt on the first and second days of the miracle crusade, Hinn kept to himself - but he opened up with anger on the final day.
"Four million dollars down the drain," he shouted into the microphone from the huge rostrum.
He said that he had been assured by the local organising committee that at least six million people would attend the crusade - but the total turnout was only around one million. As a result, he realised that all the mega public address equipment he had flown in from the US was not needed.
He also complained about some claimed expenditures, the charges imposed on pastors who attended his day-time seminar, and journalists who sought to cover the crusade.
He then announced publicly that he would not provide any more funds, and that the local organisers should pay all outstanding bills from the collections they made on the first two days.
Winner of the snit contest to be announced in a few days. Hat tip to Chris Elam for the link to the Hinn article.
June 29, 2005
The Stros' future Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio set the modern Major League record for being hit by a pitch this afternoon in Denver during the Stros' game against the Rockies.
The Rockies Byung-Hyun Kim nailed Bidg in the 4th inning, which was the record setting 268th time that Bidg has been hit by a pitch. Bidg replaces Don Baylor as MLB's modern hit-by-pitch record holder.
The folks over at Plunk Biggio are going nuts. By the way, that blog has the best disclaimer that I have seen in the blogosphere:
Moral disclaimer: The author of this blog does not support or endorse intentionally throwing at Craig Biggio.
June 21, 2005
Earlier in my legal career, while managing a downtown Houston law firm for 20 years, I tried to foster collegial relationships between the attorneys and staff. In that connection, one of my steadfast rules for attorneys when something went wrong was the following: Don't blame a secretary.
This article -- which reports on the uproar over a senior associate at a major law firm requiring his secretary to pay for removal of a ketchup stain from his clothing -- reflects the validity of my rule.
Hat tip to Brian Leiter for the link to the article.
June 14, 2005
David Letterman last night on the not guilty verdict in the Michael Jackson trial in Santa Maria, CA:
"This just in . . . Saddam Hussein wants his trial moved to Santa Maria, California."
And from Jay Leno:
"This trial lasted 14 weeks. Do you realize that?s 6 weeks longer than average NBC sitcom?"
May 31, 2005
By the way, Fiesta Texas is directly adjacent to the Westin La Cantera Resort, which is one of the best resort properties in Texas. A part of one of the two La Cantera golf courses (the one on which the Texas Open is played) runs right next to the Rattler, one of the giant rollercoasters at Fiesta Texas.
Several years ago, my older brother Bud and I were playing a round at that La Cantera course with a club pro from East Texas. The club pro was not having a good round. After snap hooking one off the tee on the hole where you tee off right above -- and within earshot of the screams emanating from -- the Rattler, the club pro turned to Bud and me and said with utter exasperation:
"This sure as hell ain't Augusta National."
May 23, 2005
The youngest player to win an LPGA golf tournament in 50 years emerged yesterday as graduating high school student Paula Creamer won her first LPGA event at something called the Sybase Classic by sinking a clutch 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
For you fellow parents of teenage girls, I'm sure you can relate to Paula's following answer to a question during her post-round interview:
Q: You said yesterday you were anxious. Did you just handle that much better today?
A: Yes, I think so. I called Colin, my caddie. We talk a lot, every day, and we talked to Lance about it, and just things to help me be not anxious and be calm and patient out there. And it worked well for a while. It's funny, because on 17 I hit a pretty decent good shot and then Gloria hit it within two feet. And Lance was like, "Come on, you have to make this putt." And I'm like, "Listen, you need to settle down, not me. We have a hole and a half to play. Come on." It worked well.
There were times I tend to walk very fast when things are like on the last hole, 18, I was 50 yards in front of Lance. And Lance was screaming, "Paula, Paula, stop!" And I waited. And then we walked up. I just have to learn how to control it. The last putt, I was shaking because of nerves and just wanting to see what's going to happen.
It's only a matter of time before Dan Jenkins picks up on this material.
May 19, 2005
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - The World Anti-Doping Agency will consider restoring caffeine to its list of banned substances after Australian Rugby Union captain George Gregan said he used it to enhance performance.
WADA director general David Howman said Wednesday that reports of Gregan and other Australian athletes using caffeine to boost performance were disturbing.
Gregan said Tuesday that he'd been using caffeine tablets before matches - with the knowledge and approval of Australian sports authorities - since caffeine was removed from WADA's list of banned substances in January 2004.
He claimed the caffeine could improve performance by up to seven percent, citing research at the Australian Institute of Sport. But AIS director Peter Fricker said Gregan's figures on caffeine were inflated, saying any boost would be "in the region of three per cent."
Thank goodness there is no such proposed ban in regard to federal criminal trials.
Hat tip to Off Wing Opinion for the link.
May 11, 2005
Regular readers of this blog know that Dan Jenkins is my favorite golf writer, bar none. Mr. Jenkins still covers each golf major tournament for Golf Digest magazine, and his article (not yet online) on this year's Master's tournament appears in the current (June) Golf Digest issue. In the article, here's how Mr. Jenkins describes the unconventional putting grip of Chris DiMarco, who engaged in a spirited battle with Tiger Woods before losing to Woods in a playoff:
"[A] putting grip that looks like he's trying to change a tire or open a contrary bottle of wine."
Equally as priceless is Mr. Jenkins' description of the "green jacket" ceremony, in which - keeping with tradition - defending Master's champion Phil Mickelson helped Woods into his fourth green jacket signifying his latest Master's victory:
Speaking of a moment that lacked warmth, how about Phil as the defending champion giving Tiger the green jacket after it was over? They had gone 0-2 together in the Ryder Cup last fall, lowlighted by Phil putting Tiger up against a fence with his drive in the alternate shot [match]. So as Phil eased Tiger into his jacket, I could swear I heard Tiger say,
"Nice going, Phil, you hit my shoulders."
May 10, 2005
Michael Alcott was charged with bank fraud in September 2004 relating to a $2.5 million line of credit for his now defunct employment placement firm. The indictment alleges that he submitted a fraudulent audit opinion to the bank on the letterhead of a local auditing firm with the name of a fake partner.
Nevertheless, Mr. Alcott was free on bail pending trial. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Alcott submitted a letter to the court in his case from a doctor at Masschusetts General Hospital. The doctor's note stated that Mr. Alcott was being treated at the hospital for terminal cancer.
Yesterday, Mr. Alcott was arrested pending trial because the letter is a fake and he is not suffering from cancer.
H'mm, I don't think Mr. Alcott should testify at his upcoming trial on that fake audit opinion. ;^)
Hat tip to the White Collar Prof Blog for the link.
May 4, 2005
61 year old Bass player Jack Bruce has had a liver transplant and 65 year old drummer Ginger Baker suffers from arthritis, but Eric Clapton's first big rock group -- Cream (you know, Sunshine of Your Love, Badge, White Room, etc)-- lives on.
Cream reunites in concert. For those of you under 40: Cream was Eric Clapton's old band. Under 30: Clapton was once a big rock star. And for you under 20: Rock was a kind of music they used to play on the radio.
And don't miss Banjo Jones' musings on what happened to Cream after Clapton heard The Band.
April 18, 2005
One would normally not be all that surprised by reading this following news report coming out of California, but San Antonio?:
'Mad Max' Fan Convoy Ends in Arrests
SAN ANTONIO - Eleven "Mad Max" fans were arrested after alarming motorists as they made their way to a movie marathon in a theatrical convoy in which they surrounded a tanker truck armed with fake machine guns.
As the group was headed to San Antonio from nearby from Boerne on Saturday morning, police received several calls from motorists who reported a "militia" surrounding a tanker truck, a police report states.
Police charged nine people with obstruction of a highway and two others with possession of prohibited knives in addition to obstruction of a highway.
One of the organizers of the convoy, Chris Fenner, said the arrests were unfair. He said he didn't know why anyone would have confused the costumed crew recreating a scene from "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" - set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland - with a real threat.
"I honestly don't know how that could be, because 'Road Warrior' was so over the top," he said.
About 25 people participated in the convoy and more than twice that number were expected to attend the movie marathon, which was canceled after the arrests.
A reader reminds me that this event would not have made the news in California because it would not have been considered particularly unusual and certainly no one would have been arrested. ;^)
March 16, 2005
Dear Miss Manners:
At an apartment-warming I attended, a couple arrived about 30 minutes into the party. Within seconds, the family dog began making love to the female guest's leg. Her date grabbed her because she was struggling to stand.
The hostess said, "Down! Down!" The host said, "No, 'Big Boy!' No!" and tried to pull Big Boy off, without success. A nearby guest then leaned forward and gave the dog's tail a single tug. The dog let out a yelp, dropped to his feet and began inspecting his rear.
The yelp brought the party to a halt. In the silence that followed, the hostess said, "Did you jerk my dog's tail?" The tail-tugger turned red and looked ashamed, but said nothing. The moment passed and the party resumed.
Big Boy walked away. The tail-tugger did, too, in the opposite direction. The female guest later became pregnant, but not because of Big Boy. I don't think anyone handled this well.
What do you think?
Miss Manners' answer: That you had far too good a time at this party.
February 21, 2005
When Austin High School administrators removed candy from campus vending machines last year, the move was hailed as a step toward fighting obesity. What happened next shows how hard it can be for schools to control what students eat on campus.
The candy removal plan, according to students at Austin High, was thwarted by classmates who created an underground candy market, turning the hallways of the high school into Willy-Wonka-meets-Casablanca. . .
During the prohibition, one student, who asked not to be identified, said that he sold candy at the school and made as much as $50 in a day.
"It's all about supply and demand," said Austin junior Scott Roudebush. "We've got some entrepreneurs around here."
The Austin High administration, which won't elaborate on how much or little it knew about the candy black market, has since replenished the vending machines with some types of candy.
February 11, 2005
February 2, 2005
This previous post expressed skepticism that the city of Jacksonville would be able to handle the logistical nightmare of Super Bowl XXXIX. In this article, ESPN's Bill Simmons -- who believes that the Super Bowl should be played only in Las Vegas (in a to be-built stadium), Miami, New Orleans, and San Diego -- says that the disaster developing in Jacksonville is making Houston's performance hosting Super Bowl XXXVIII last year look good in comparison:
If anything, the past two days made me appreciate Houston's performance last year, a city that faced the same logistical problems and conquered many of them. I don't think Houston should have hosted a Super Bowl either, and those last two days were a certifiable train wreck. But at least they had enough hotels. At least there were a decent number of cabs. At least there was a recognizable downtown area. At least they had the Light Rail, with the bonus that you might get to see some drunken pedestrian bouncing off it. Houston was 10 times more prepared than Jacksonville is right now.
Thanks for the compliment, Bill. I think. ;^)
Hall of Famer Yogi Berra has filed a $10 million lawsuit against TBS, claiming the cable television network sullied his name by using it in a racy advertisement for its Sex and the City reruns.
Berra's papers . . . say the Turner Broadcasting System Inc. ad, which has appeared on buses and in subways, caused "severe damage to his reputation" with its reference to Kim Cattrall's sexually promiscuous character, Samantha.
The offending ad . . . queried readers about the definition of "yogasm." Possible definitions: (a) a type of yo-yo trick, (b) sex with Yogi Berra and (c) what Samantha has with a guy from yoga class. The answer is (c).
January 31, 2005
January 22, 2005
"Brad's always been a fan of Wittgenstein," confided Hanson Terrell, an assistant at the Plan B production company co-owned by the pair. "You know, kind of abstract, more focused on issues of language and so on. Jennifer, on the other hand, is a pure Karl Popper fan, all pragmatism. It's kind of amazing they got married in the first place."
"She felt Brad was screwing around with her, that when he stared into space at the beach he wasn't resolving apparent paradoxes through analyzing their phrasing, but instead checking out the brunette in the thong," said gossip columnist Mark Lisanti of The Defamer.
January 19, 2005
In a rare moment of candid introspection, the NY Times concedes that only New York could come up with a political race where Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of the late senator, would run for state attorney general (to replace Eliot Spitzer, of all people) against his brother-in-law, Andrew Cuomo, who is getting a divorce from Mr. Kennedy's sister, Kerry.
When I mentioned this to my wife, she thought I was talking about an episode in a T.V. sitcom.
January 8, 2005
I'm glad the feds got this guy. Think what might have happened when the Eagles get beat in the NFL playoffs?
December 24, 2004
Surgeons who play video games three hours a week have 37 percent fewer errors and accomplish tasks 27 percent faster, . . [based on] observation on results of tests using the video game Super Monkey Ball.
Link hat tip to Tyler Cowen, who hilariously suggests that maybe the surgeons and the patients could play each other?
December 16, 2004
Priceless, from Comedy Central.
December 13, 2004
My old friend David Chesnoff's law partner -- Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman -- has been lobbying Major League Baseball owners at the Winter Meetings in Anaheim to allow for the move of the Florida Marlins to Las Vegas. Argus Hamilton comments that such a move could resolve MLB's public relations problem relating to its players' steroid use:
"The Florida Marlins met with Nevada officials Tuesday about moving to Las Vegas. It could save the game. Expose entire baseball teams to round-the-clock strip bars and escort services and in no time they will make Barry Bonds look like Bishop Tutu."
December 12, 2004
December 9, 2004
December 8, 2004
The Onion hits home with an insight about public transportation that Houston's Metropolitan Transit Authority has been taking advantage of for years.
December 3, 2004
Argus Hamilton is a funny fellow, as reflected by this entry from his daily observations from November 30:
Annika Sorenstam competed with the men in the Skins Game Saturday. Last year at the Colonial she broke the barrier and became the first woman to play in a PGA tournament. Somehow you knew the Jackie Robinson of golf would be a Swedish blonde.
November 24, 2004
My wife has spent a fair amount of time in school car lines over the years, and she passes along the result of this serious breach of car line etiquette reported by the Chronicle:
A spat that started almost a year ago, in the line to pick up children after classes at the Village School, will move into a Houston municipal court today as a 40-year-old mother faces a misdemeanor assault charge.
Sandra Chiang denies reaching into Shannon Rechter's sport utility vehicle and slapping her in the face afterRechter cut in line while other parents were waiting and chatting outside the school. Chiang could be fined up to $500 if convicted.
The incident ignited a yearlong feud that has included the assault charge, a counterclaim of vandalism, allegations of harassment and the removal of Rechter's two children from the school.
The two stay-at-home mothers had never met before Dec. 13, 2003, when Chiang left her car idling as the carpool line moved forward, and Rechter, 38, wedged into the space ahead of her.
"She immediately began yelling at me for cutting in line, and the more I tried to explain the madder she became," Rech-ter said.
"At that point, she reached in, struck me across the face and quickly ran back to her car as if nothing happened."
Chiang contends that her SUV was "keyed" by Rechter several weeks later. The hood and a door were scraped, causing an estimated $1,600 in damage, she says.
For some reason, the case is not high on the radar screen of the Harris County District Attorney's Office:
Rechter says school officials and law enforcement authorities didn't take her seriously when she first reported the incident.
It took numerous calls to police and the city prosecutor's office to get the case scheduled for trial, she says.
My wife's question: If I was defending this case, would I try to strike for cause anyone on the jury panel who regularly has to sit in a car line?
My answer: Only if they don't cut in line. ;^)
November 23, 2004
This New York Law Journal article reports on the wrongful death case against Benihana that grew out of a customer's reaction to a chef's playful toss of a shrimp:
A piece of grilled shrimp flung playfully by a Japanese hibachi chef toward a tableside diner is being blamed for causing the man's death.
Making a proximate-cause argument, the lawyer for the deceased man's estate has alleged that the man's reflexive response -- to duck away from the flying food -- caused a neck injury that required surgery.
Complications from that first operation necessitated a second procedure. Five months later, [the customer] was dead of an illness that his family claims was proximately caused by the injury.
What a way to go.
November 18, 2004
October 18, 2004
October 13, 2004
I continue to be amazed at the entreprenurial spirit of some young folks. This NY Times article reports on a new business that brokers attractive young women to accompany young men to social gatherings for the purpose of making the young men appear more attractive to other women at the gathering. Amazing.
Hat tip to Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen for the link to the article, and Tyler's point that women judging a man by the quality of his girlfriend or wife is known in economic circles as a "sufficient statistic."
October 12, 2004
October 7, 2004
Former Republican senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson attended Tuesday's debate between Vice-Presidential candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards. During an interview after the refreshingly contentious debate, Mr. Simpson waxed nostalgic about the bygone days in which such contentiousness was the norm in such political exchanges, such as the time that Republican Sen. Wayne Morse of Oregon in 1957 called his "distinguished colleague" Republican Sen. Homer Capehart of Indiana "a tub of rancid ignorance."
October 5, 2004
September 17, 2004
On Saturday, one of my assignments for the day is to accompany one of my daughters to the appointment with a photographer in which her high school senior pictures will be taken.
September 16, 2004
From the always insightful Stu's Views:
September 12, 2004
Geez, I have enough problems just deciding on my Fantasy Football team's lineup each week without having to worry about this.
September 11, 2004
August 17, 2004
On the heels of the United States Olympic Basketball team's loss to Puerto Rico in the first round of the Olympic Basketball Tournament, Sportspickle.com reports the following:
Hat tip to Will Veber for the link.
Check out the Stairway Suite, in which University of New South Wales Orchestra plays Led Zeppelin's "classic" rock tune "Stairway to Heaven" as if it had been composed by composers Franz Schubert, Gustav Holst, Glen Miller, Gustav Mahler, Georges Bizet, and Ludwig von Beethoven. My favorites: Ludwig Von, with Glen Miller coming in a close second.
Hat tip to Newmark's Door for the link to this hilarious site.
August 11, 2004
Tour golf professional Chris DiMarco is interviewed in this month's Golf Digest. Asked to opine on the observation that younger Tour players don't seem to be having much fun while playing the Tour, DiMarco agrees and refers to a comment that fellow Tour professional Scott Hoch observed about fellow Tour pro Ty Tryon, who got his Tour card at the age of 17:
"Ty's not going to be able to experience some of the best nights that he can't remember."
August 4, 2004
From Stu's Views:
August 1, 2004
This NY Times article profiles the latest popular fad in Austin: Texas women's Roller Derby!:
Leave it to Austin, which prizes its weirdness, to foster this contagious blend of high performance sport and campy theatrics called not games but bouts, fought on traditional four-wheel skates. And to field the two feuding leagues - the Texas Rollergirls (www.txrollergirls.com) and the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls, also known as Bad Girl, Good Woman (www.bggw.com).
This is, at the very least, extreme roller skating, heavy on attitude and light on attire, the better to bare breathtaking tattoos. Social scientists may scratch their heads over the emergence of a new form of staged violence by macho women, but to the players, who don't get paid, it's easy to explain: it's fun.
"It's kind of like hockey in lipstick and fishnet stockings," said Lacy Attuso, 27, a computer publicist who goes by the rink name of Whiskey L'Amour. (Whiskey because she drinks it, she said, L'Amour from the Western writer Louis L'Amour.)
July 7, 2004
June 24, 2004
From the always entertaining Stu's Views:
June 17, 2004
From the incomparable Stu's Views:
June 15, 2004
I have a daughter graduating from high school next year. She will not be receiving this graduation present.
June 11, 2004
May 31, 2004
Subject: FW: Goodbye...
As many of you are aware, today is my last day at the firm. It is time for me to move on and I want you to know that I have accepted a position as "Trophy Husband". This decision was quite easy and took little consideration. However, I am confident this new role represents a welcome change in my life and a step up from my current situation. While I have a high degree of personal respect for PHJW as a law firm, and I have made wonderful friendships during my time here, I am no longer comfortable working for a group largely populated by gossips, backstabbers and Napoleonic personalities. In fact, I dare say that I would rather be dressed up like a pinata and beaten than remain with this group any longer. I wish you continued success in your goals to turn vibrant, productive, dedicated associates into an aimless, shambling group of dry, lifeless husks.
May the smoke from any bridges I burn today be seen far and wide.
ps. Achilles absent, was Achilles still. (Homer)
Hat tip to Brian Leiter for the link to this hilarious post.
May 20, 2004
As the members of my old Clear Thinkers email list know, I enjoy reading British obituaries. The British have a long and special talent for writing witty obituaries, and the good folks over at Southern Appeal point us to the latest example, this London Telegraph obituary of Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton, who died this past Sunday at the age of 89. The entire obituary is a hoot, and you get a flavor for it in the first two paragraphs:
Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton, who died on Sunday aged 89, was a formidable Chief of the Defence Staff before becoming the senior military officer in the Nato alliance; he also had a reputation for being one of the rudest men in the Royal Navy. Almost from the beginning of his career some considered him destined either to be court martialled or to end up as First Sea Lord. His reputation for ruthless efficiency and meticulousness, combined with good luck and an irritating habit of being right, took him to the top. This made it seem all the more strange when, as a retired officer in the House of Lords, he placed rather more credence on the possible existence of unidentified flying objects than did less talented individuals.
Sounding like a character out of the brilliant British comedy "Fawlty Towers," Lord Hill-Norton's immediate post-WWII duties are described as follows:
By now his reputation as an abrasive and short-tempered officer was well established. He was in the habit of answering the telephone with the words: "Gunnery Division. Hill-Norton. Kindly state your business briefly; we're busy men here." An inadequate response would result in the telephone receiver being slammed down.
Even in retirement, the Lord's demeanor did not improve, as is reflected by his reaction to some proposed cuts in military appropriations:
The defence cuts ordered by Options for Change did not improve his view of politicians, whom he regarded as sufferers from sea blindness. He was scathing about proposals to economise on Armed Forces pensions, and most notoriously called the then defence secretary Michael Portillo "a little creep" for suggesting the sale of Admiralty Arch.
But in classic British obituary style, Lord Hill-Norton's obit closes with an acknowledgement of his good side:
Although Hill-Norton was feared, hated and respected in equal measure he led from the front. His harsh manner and foul language belied a man who could, on rare occasions, demonstrate an otherwise well-concealed humanity. He was always receptive to sound arguments but would not suffer fools or those who weakened before his onslaughts.
He married, in 1936, Margaret Linstow, whom he selflessly brought out of hospital to nurse at home himself in recent years. She survives him, with their daughter and son, Vice-Admiral Sir Nicholas Hill-Norton.
April 22, 2004
From the "News in Brief" section of the Onion:
Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department
CHEYENNE, WY?After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down." Jacobs did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.
April 11, 2004
Children on Easter Egg Hunt Find Guns
April 10, 2004 11:17 p.m. EST
FLINT, Mich. - A group of children hunting for Easter eggs Saturday during a church event found two loaded handguns outside an elementary school.
Flint police said officers were called to the scene and also recovered a BB gun and a broken toy gun on the grounds of Gundry Elementary School. No one was injured, Sgt. Michael Coote said.
One of the guns discharged when it was dropped, according to a police report, but it was unclear who dropped it.
The pastor of Ruth Street Baptist Church told WJRT-TV of Friday that one of the handguns had a bullet in the chamber, and the other handgun's clip had bullets in it.
"It's terrible that something like this has happened," Pastor Namon Marshall told the station.
Coote said he did not know how long the guns had been in the park.
Police opened an investigation after confiscating the weapons.
April 9, 2004
From the incomparable Stu's Views:
March 23, 2004
March 22, 2004
One recalls the story of George Allen, who was hired off the staff of George Halas in Chicago to coach the Los Angeles Rams.
Halas was furious that the Rams failed to ask for his permission and threatened to take Allen to court. At a league meeting after the issue was resolved, Halas used the occasion to vent his anger at his former defensive coach.
"George Allen," Halas said, "is a man with no conscience. He is dishonest, deceptive, ruthless, consumed with his own ambition."
At that point, Vince Lombardi leaned over to the owner of the Rams and whispered, "Sounds to me like you've got yourself a helluva football coach."
March 19, 2004
Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world, has won 40 professional golf tournaments, and is worth several hundred million. Chris Riley is one of the best putters in professional golf, but has won only once on the PGA Tour and is worth several hundred thousand. Riley was asked this week about his bets with Tiger during their putting contests that they often engage in before rounds:
"When me and Tiger putt, I say, 'How much we putting for?' Tiger says, 'Whatever makes you nervous.' So, that's usually like $5.''
And when Tiger Woods says "whatever makes you nervous," he means whatever.
Thanks to Mr. Poon for the link to Riley's quote.
I know more than a few lawyers from the Midwest and Northeast who relate to this week's Stu's View cartoon:
From last night's show, David Letterman's Top Ten Signs that Your Supreme Court Justice Is On The Take:
10. Begins every case with, "We'll start the bribing at ten thousand."
9. His written opinions always have several mentions of the thirst-quenching taste of Mountain Dew.
8. Regularly convenes court at the dog track.
7. Asks, "Does either attorney plan on inviting me on any hunting trips?"
6. For a Supreme Court Justice he certainly is mentioned on "The Sopranos" a lot.
5. All the bling bling.
4. His last article in the "Law Journal" was about finding the right fence for your stolen goods.
3. When you have a meeting with him in chambers, frisks you for a wire.
2. He's on the Forbes 500 List between Bill Gates and Oprah.
1. Already declared Bush the winner of the November election.
Which reminds me of this old trial lawyer joke:
Taking his seat in his chambers, the judge faced the opposing lawyers.
"So," said the judge. "Each of you has presented me with a bribe."
Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably.
"You, attorney Mohanty, gave me $50,000," observed the judge. "And you, attorney Venkat, gave me $60,000."
The judge reached into his pocket, pulled out $10,000, and handed it to attorney Venkat.
"Now that I'm returning $10,000 to attorney Venkat," exclaimed the judge proudly, "I'm going to decide this case solely on its merits!"
March 9, 2004
The Daily Standard has the highlights of Vice President Dick Cheney's remarks at Saturday night's annual Gridiron dinner in Washington. The ending of Vice-President Cheney's remarks are absolutely appropriate and his other comments are clever, such as this one:
"Lots of familiar faces here tonight. I always feel a genuine bond whenever I see Senator Clinton. She's the only person who's the center of more conspiracy theories than I am."
February 27, 2004
Dr. Denton Cooley is one of Houston's many legendary doctors who have helped build the Texas Medical Center into one of the world's great medical centers. Dr. Cooley founded The Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, and he performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States in 1968 and the first involving an artificial heart in 1969.
As Houston sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz writes in this column today, Dr. Cooley was a starting basketball player at the University of Texas at Austin in the late 1930's, and UT is honoring Dr. Cooley by naming its new basketball practice facility after him. The entire column is worth reading, but this part is essential for all fans of legendary former UT football coach Darrell Royal:
Among the speakers in Austin the other night were Mack Brown and Rick Barnes, who coach the marquee men's sports at UT. But the one who stole the show was Jody Conradt, the Hall of Famer who gave the Longhorns a national championship in women's basketball.
"They built the Erwin Center 21 years ago," she said, "and obviously it never occurred to anyone that the women would need a separate locker room. So every room in this place had urinals in it.
"Now we have one of our own. Before one of our games, coach Darrell Royal was kind enough to speak to my team. Before he left, someone asked what the biggest difference was between our locker room and all the ones he knew from all his years of coaching. Coach Royal said, `Offhand, I can't remember anyone ironing anything before a game in one of our locker rooms.' "
February 26, 2004
Comedian Argus Hamilton is offering a strategy that would give Al Gore sweet revenge for Ralph Nader's costing him the 2000 Presidential election while guaranteeing that Mr. Nader wouldn't collect enough Democratic votes to alter this year's election outcome. "There's only one way Al Gore can get even with Ralph Nader," Mr. Hamilton advises. "He's got to wait for the crucial moment in the campaign and then endorse him."
February 25, 2004
College students or those of you with college age children, you will want to read this this piece about a job that will interest more than a few college students.
February 20, 2004
From the always insightful Stu's Views:
February 19, 2004
This London Telegraph story relates the hilarious story of an Oxford engineering student "blagging" his way through a series of lectures on global finance to Chinese business PhD students. The only problem was that the lectures were supposed to be given by a New York economics professor who happened to have the same name as the Oxford student. Ah, the inscrutable nature of economics!
February 17, 2004
A Sul Ross State economics professor who criticized his students' academic competence in an obscure magazine article was surprised to learn that his students (and the local townspeople) actually read the article.
I have returned to the office from jury duty, and I am happy to report that I did not traumatize any young attorneys during voir dire. Mike Mayes, Judge of the 410th District Court of Montgomery County, did a great job greeting the jurors and explaining the importance of citizen juries in our civil justice system. Mike is running for re-election in the Republican Primary, and is well-deserving of any Montgomery County citizen's vote.
February 16, 2004
Blogging will be light at least early tomorrow as I have been called for jury duty in the morning. I look forward to jury duty because it allows me to experience what jurors endure in connection with voir dire and measure how they react to it. It is a valuable learning experience.
The last time I was on jury duty several years ago, the panel was about 50 people for a DWI case. Both the prosecutor and the defense attorney were male, quite young, and neither could have been more than a few years out of law school. The prosecutor's voir dire was boring and dreadful, and included him asking the patronizing question to a housewife (she had three children) on the panel: "Do you have a job?" Ouch!
At any rate, after the prosecutor finished, the young defense attorney introduced himself and his client, and then launched into the opening of his voir dire:
"The State has accused my client of being a drunk driver. That's a very serious charge, my client denies it, and we will prove that it is a false charge. However, for some people, it is simply impossible to keep an open mind about a person who has consumed an alcoholic beverage and then driven a car. Out of fairness to my client, to serve on this jury, you need to have an open mind and not already determined that my client is guilty simply because he had a drink before driving his car."
"So," the young defense attorney asked the panel. "Do any of you already have a belief as to my client's guilt or innocence?"
Looking around and seeing no one else responding, I raised my hand.
"Yes," noted the defense attorney. "Juror number 32. Mr. Kirkendall. Do you have a belief as to my client's guilt or innocence?"
"Yes I do," I responded.
"What is it," asked the defense attorney.
"Your client is innocent," I observed. "Until proven guilty."
I don't know whether it was because the other jurors expected me to say that I could not have an open mind on a DWI case, the prosecutor's dreadfully boring voir dire, the formality of the courtroom, or a combination of those factors. However, the entire jury panel, the judge, the lawyers, the bailiffs, and the defendant all cracked up laughing over my response. "Thank you, Mr. Kirkendall," said the judge from the bench, still chuckling. "We all needed that."
To his credit, the young defense attorney recovered nicely, complimented me for my correct answer to his question, and finished his voir dire quickly. Although the prosecutor laughed at my response to the question, he immediately used one of his peremptory challenges to strike me from the panel.
I promise to behave myself tomorrow. ;^)
February 13, 2004
''Is that (Greg) Norman's boat?''
February 11, 2004
Jay Leno last night in his monologue on The Tonight Show:
"This is unbelievable to me. Vice President Dick Cheney went duck hunting with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, private jet, you know, a hunting reserve up in the mountains.
And Scalia went with him while the Supreme Court is still deciding a case involving Dick Cheney's energy task force. Cheney said today there is no conflict of interest.
And just to be sure, he said as soon as Halliburton finishes construction of Justice Scalia's new home, he will look into it personally to make sure there is no problem."
February 10, 2004
The thoughtful Daniel Drezner reminds us of the Economist's definition of when a recession becomes a depression:
When your neighbour loses his job it?s a slowdown (or, if you dislike him, a correction); when you lose yours, it?s a recession; when an economic journalist loses his, that?s a depression.
February 6, 2004
From the incomparable Stu's Views:
February 4, 2004
From Ryan Lizza's campaign journal at The New Republic, on the difference between the Howard Dean and John Edwards' campaigns:
"If Dean's events sometimes look like the bar scene from Star Wars, Edwards's traveling show has the feel of an Abercrombie and Fitch fashion shoot."
And James T. Hamilton, describing his theory of rational ignorance in his new book, "All the News That's Fit to Sell":
"The logic of rational ignorance predicts that many viewers will not choose to learn about politics and government, a logic confirmed every day by the relatively low audience for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS."
February 3, 2004
One of my many bright nephews suggests that this car is the one he really wants.