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Archives for September, 2007

September 29, 2007

Behold, I establish my covenant

Daniel Radosh


After reading my Halo Op-Ed, Marjorie sent me this image from LOLtheist — not knowing that Christian pop culture is always one step ahead of parody.

From The Christian Post:

How to Share Your Faith Using Halo 3...

Halo is all about saving the galaxy from an invading force of aliens. Heroes and villains are locked in an intense battle. In fact, the Master Chief John 117 (the main good-guy hero of the Halo series) has been described as the man who "gave the world faith, gave humanity a future, and made mankind believe again." Does that have echoes of someone else you know? Someone who is not a fictional character, but a real-world Savior who has given humanity faith and a future? The Bible tells us that real-world Someone is Jesus...

Yet while the battle between good and evil on full display in Halo is imaginary, in the real world there really is a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil!...

What role are you being called to play in the battle for your friends' souls? Are you actively engaged in efforts to 'rescue them' from the clutches of the evil one? If not, step up and use the buzz surrounding Halo 3 to introduce some God-talk into your conversations. Here are some suggestions that might help you bring God up:

- Ask your friends if they believe there is a real cosmic battle being waged between good and evil. Ask them how they explain the reality of evil in the world. How did it get here? Share what you believe about this battle. For help explaining this, check out the GOSPEL Journey.
- There's lots of death and destruction in the realm of Halo. Use this as an opportunity to ask your friends about what they think happens when we die. After you hear their opinion, ask them if you can share what you believe based on what the Bible has to say on this topic.
- Everyone loves heroes who rescue others from destruction. Ask your friends who their real-life heroes are. Ask them if they've ever thought of Jesus as heroic. Perhaps you'll be surprised at what they say. Explain why you think Jesus is heroic.

Saving the world is at the center of Jesus' mission and message. Take this opportunity to let your friends know.

I wonder if Jesus rocks the BXR.

Of course, Marjorie has an excuse (*cough*jew*cough*). The Christ follower who created this satirical Halo Bible study should really have known that reality would trump it.

September 28, 2007

Are Congressional Democrats even American?

Daniel Radosh

A question from the new citizenship test: "What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?"

Damn, I used to know that one.

September 28, 2007

Say Halo 3 my little friend

Daniel Radosh

halofigurines.jpg Here's what's wrong with the MSM: There's brutal repression in Burma, children without health insurance, and a war against Islamofascism — and the New York Times op-ed page devotes 900 words to Halo 3.

Sure, I wrote the damn thing, but where were the grown-ups who should have stopped me?

Money quote: "Like cinema, games will need to embrace the dynamics of failure, tragedy, comedy and romance. They will need to stop pandering to the player’s desire for mastery in favor of enhancing the player’s emotional and intellectual life."

While I was working on this, I told you all that I was bracing myself for a serious fragging at the hands of hardcore gamers. My only hope is that I get at least one comment as awesome as this one, which was posted in response to an article yesterday in InformationWeek: "Second of all no one cares about the darn campagin unless 1) You are a n00b to halo and have no respect of your self 2) You cant play online cause you have no idea what BXR is or what the "n00b Combo" is. Face it, who cares what the guy wrote about the campain, he forgot about the biggest part. ONLINE GAMEPLAY!."

BXR is one of those new club drugs, right?

September 27, 2007

The slut shot

Daniel Radosh

Meghan O'Rourke has an article in Slate today about why the HPV vaccine doesn't cause promiscuity. It's a good essay, but overlooks a crucial piece of information about the abstinence zealots who oppose the vaccine, as does a recent American Council on Science and Health post, which notes that "There are many STDs that Gardasil offers no protection against—so to say that children will feel more inclined to have sex because they feel safer is simply not true." O'Rourke presents the flip side of that argument when she says that "there's already a vaccine out there designed to prevent a sexually transmitted disease [hepatitis B]—and it's not being protested by anyone on the grounds that it might encourage promiscuity."

But its precisely the difference between HPV and these other STDs that has led the abstinence movement to so vigorously oppose Gardasil. As I've written before, the opposition to the HPV vaccine stems very specifically from the claim that it is the one STD that is not blocked by condoms.

Continue reading "The slut shot" »

September 27, 2007

Bad Trade

Daniel Radosh

Trade, the film based on The Girls Next Door, Peter Landesman's 2004 New York Times magazine article about sex slaves, opens tomorrow. The L.A. Times has a story today about the controversy over Landesman's article, which, you may recall, I was somewhat involved in stirring up.

There are a few interesting new developments in the LAT piece, but first here's some background for new readers:

In his first article on The Girls Next Door, Slate's Jack Shafer wrote, "Landesman's supporting evidence is vague. Where it is not vague, it is anecdotal. Where it is anecdotal, it is often anonymous, too. And where it is not anecdotal or vague it is suspicious and slippery." Complaints about the piece, mostly, but not exclusively, from Shafer and myself, eventually led the New York Times to publish an editor's note (scroll down) about the article, and prompted the paper's ombudsman, Dan Okrent, to investigate as well.

My response to Okrent's column outlines most of the complaints and questions that still linger over Landesman's work, and is probably a good place to dive in. My initial post about the article is less coherent, but does explain why the article raised red flags for me in the first place. My specific concerns about the Internet auctions section of Landesman's article can be found here, along with the explanation of why, when the New York Times editors say the story was thoroughly checked, they don't necessarily mean that it's true. Finally, the LAT mentions the outdoor brothel at San Luis Rey. What it does not mention is that investigative reporter Debbie Nathan re-reported this section of Landesman's article for The Nation and found it wildly and irresponsibly exaggerated.

Readers curious about how Landesman himself defended his work can read his replies to my posts here, here, and here. Warning: not for the faint of heart or short of time.

Now, here's what today's LAT article adds to this story. The most important piece of new information is about those notorious "cyberauctions." Specifically that "a spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in Washington, D.C., which plays a key role in child pornography investigations, said he was not aware of any Internet auctions to purchase such victims."

The cyberauction section of Landesman's article takes place entirely at I.C.E. headquarters. It is I.C.E. agents who "verify" the auction site that Landesman found. When I posted my skepticism about this section, Landesman responded, "The website was examined by the Federal government's Cybercrimes unit, as I reported in the story, deemed authentic and criminal, and was subsequently investigated. Furthermore, this story was thoroughly factchecked by the Magazine's factchecking department; that includes this website. In other words, authorities much higher than Daniel Radosh have confirmed not only the information but the activity itself. If you really do doubt the existence of this website, or ones like it, you, like Shafer, need to get out more."

In other words, either the spokesman for the I.C.E. is unaware of the site that his own agency "deemed authentic," or Peter Landesman is a liar. (Note again that the Times never confirmed "the activity itself," only that PL passed muster because in his original article he "carefully hedged his statements with qualifiers.")

In the LAT, Landesman explains that while the film "strays for dramatic purposes," such auction sites do really exist, though the girls are overseas, not in the U.S. In other words, whatever web sites he allegedly found that form the basis for this section of the movie, they are not the same one he wrote about in his article and have never been verified by anyone. Unfortunately, that's a distinction that few people are likely to understand or appreciate. In the Boston Herald on Tuesday, Stephen Shaefer wrote that Trade "is based on a New York Times story three years ago that described a ring of sex traffickers who lured young women to Mexico, then transported them to New Jersey and sold them in online auctions."

Continue reading "Bad Trade" »

September 26, 2007

When you call me a nerd, smile

Daniel Radosh

73b2_1.JPG.jpg When a videogame leaves you breathless — you need the Halo 3 asthma inhaler. [Via SE]

By the way, I requested a review copy of H3 for that article I told you about and Bungie actually sent me the Legendary Edition. Any suggestions on what to do with the helmet? No, it's not wearable, even for a little person.

September 24, 2007

Four days before opening, Trade bombs at reality box office

Daniel Radosh

The Washington Post leaves a burning sack of shit on Peter Landesman's doorstep.

Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence

President Bush has blanketed the nation with 42 Justice Department task forces and spent more than $150 million -- all to find and help the estimated hundreds of thousands of victims of forced prostitution or labor in the United States.

But the government couldn't find them. Not in this country...

The administration has identified 1,362 victims of human trafficking brought into the United States since 2000, nowhere near the 50,000 a year the government had estimated.

September 24, 2007

This whole court is out of order

Daniel Radosh

Light blogging as my jury service begins today.


Update: Predictably, we sat around for two days while the lawyers negotiated a settlement. At least I got to read all of Hanna Rosin's excellent new book God's Harvard. More on that soon.

September 24, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #115

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.

NOW WITH PRIZES! Bring your A-game, folks. The winner and finalists in this week's contest will receive autographed copies of THE COUP, Jamie Malanowski's new satirical novel. (To be eligible, you must provide a working e-mail address (only I will see it) and be prepared to provide a real name and address. If one or more of the winning entries are not eligible, the prize(s) will be rolled over to next week's contest.)


"Why, I just got out of a toxic relationship, and I could really use a drink! No, but seriously, there was a chemical spill over on 43rd and hundreds are dead. I'm surprised you haven't heard." —J

"My wife left me for some guy that doesn't wear a radiation suit. How can I compete with that?" —Ed C

"Man, I am so wastered. I mean wasted. Well, back to work." —mypalmike

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #115" »

September 21, 2007

This means I'm gonna have to watch all season, doesn't it?

Daniel Radosh

One of the contestants on the new season of Survivor (yes, it's still on the air) is a Christian talk radio host. The first episode began with a ceremony at a Buddhist temple, and immediately I said, "there's no way she's gonna do this." Many evangelicals would happily attend such a ceremony without actually worshipping, as a simple sign of respect and politeness, but those are not qualities that get one a job as a talk radio host, and sure enough Leslie walked out after a few minutes.

When Jeff Probst asked her about it, she said, "I'm not a religious person, but I have a relationship with Jesus Christ" — totally confounding all the other players, and, no doubt, most of the audience. What you need to know is that evangelicalism today is all about being "not religious." It's a trope that started among the younger, hipper set ("the emerging church," or at least one definition of it) who wanted to distinguish their intense and dynamic personal relationship with Jesus with what they saw as the static and uninspired blandness of "religion" -- that is, mom and dad's church with all its habits and rules and consumer trappings, which had more to do with man than God. The youngsters who first expressed this probably meant it, but by now it's become so entrenched in the language of evangelicals that it's, well, just another habit. If anything, declaring yourself "not religious" is really a way of saying "more religious than you."

The "anti-religion" trope is well illustrated by a series of evangelical parodies of the Mac vs PC ads, which pit a cool "Christ-follower" against a dorky "Christian." The variation embedded here is particularly amusing because it inadvertently reveals how meaningless the trope has become.

It begins with Cool Sweatshirt Guy saying, "Hello, I'm a Christ-follower" and Stuffy Suit Guy saying, "And I'm a Christian." Christian guy then says something about his new "HSHD," to which Christ-Follower dude smirks, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Christianese." It's supposed to be a winning line: Christianese, the evangelical jargon that's pervasive in the church is supposedly anathema to the cool kids. (There's a hilarious glossary in The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right) But it's hard to pull that line off when you've just called yourself a "Christ-follower," which is about as Christianese as it gets. I'm not saying there aren't genuinely cool evangelicals — I've met many over the last two years — but these ads — and Survivor Leslie's calculatedly off-hand description of herself — only illustrate that the more some evangelicals think that they can "be cool" in order to "connect" with the rest of us, the more disconnected they sound.

September 20, 2007

Support The Coup

Daniel Radosh

My friend and former Spy magazine colleague Jamie Malanowski has just written a deliciously funny satirical novel that I think any reader of this site will enjoy. The Coup tells the story of a brilliant intellectual vice president trapped in his role as second banana to a buffoonish president. The veep's plot to engineer a scandal that will get the president impeached is both insanely twisted and utterly plausible.

The Coup is entertaining as hell and incredibly knowing about the machinations of politics and the media — it's kind of The West Wing's evil twin. The Wall Street Journal said it "out-Buckleys Christopher Buckley" and Entertainment Weekly called it “a Carl Hiaasen-style take on Washington's greed and power lust.” Both of those sum it up pretty nicely.

Update: Jamie has offered three copies of The Coup as prizes for next week's anti-caption contest. We're going high stakes, baby!

Bonus: The de rigueur YouTube trailer.

September 19, 2007

Peter Landesman now writing for The Onion

Daniel Radosh


14 American Apparel Models Freed In Daring Midnight Raid

The models, who range in age from 18 to 22 but appear to be 12 to 14, were taken to an emergency safehouse where they were given food, clothing, and access to soap. Officials said they were conducting tests to determine whether the girls were subjected to brainwashing during their captivity.

"I thought it would never end," said Fiara, a Brazilian-Finnish brunette who was held in an empty white room for weeks in nothing but Lycra tights and a halter top. "I can't believe how good it feels to wear something that buttons again."

September 19, 2007

The earth can be any shape you want it

Daniel Radosh

flat-earth-society.jpg A few weeks ago, Christian comedian Sherri Shepherd posted a message on her web site.

To those of you who prayed... let me tell you ... PRAYERS WORK! Because it is a miracle of God that I am now a co-host on The View... Now just keep praying, that every morning I don't put my foot in my mouth...

Guess her fans weren't praying hard enough, 'cause in a discussion on evolution, Shepherd left open the possibility that the world might be flat, saying she "never thought about it" (and apparently wasn't about to begin now).

I met Shepherd and saw her perform while researching my chapter on Christian comedy. I liked her quite a bit. First of all, her stand-up is amazingly good. I mean, way better than most comedians you see on the cable TV. She has a confessional, storytelling style that forgoes punchlines in favor of a steadily building yet totally unpredictable wave of hilarity. I don't watch The View, so I have no idea if this comes through in that format (and I can't find any clips online, not even on GodTube, the fastest growing site on the internets), but you'll have to trust me. (Or perhaps my friend, regular commenter and anti-Christian bigot Jake can back me up. He accompanied me to the show with great trepidation and came out totally won over).

More than that, Shepherd struck me as pretty bright. Not the kind of person who would entertain the idea that the earth is flat. So I think there are a couple of possibilities as to what happened here.

The most likely one is that she suspected (not entirely incorrectly) that Whoopi Goldberg was attempting to lead her into a trap. Sensing that it might be hard to get out of, she opted instead not to step inside at all, even if that meant dodging a question that she would have been quite comfortable answering in other circumstances.

Alternately, or perhaps as a contributing factor, Shepherd must be keenly aware, in her new position as a celebrity, of Corinthians 10:32, "Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God." Perhaps, not being steeped in the finer points of "creation science," she had a moment of panic: Maybe the Bible does say something about the earth being flat. Even if it were just the smallest doubt, she might prefer to dodge the question rather than say something potentially unbiblical to an audience of millions. Apparently Shepherd apologized today for having a "brain fart" (clip anyone? clip), but that could just be because she consulted her pastor who told her that, yes, the earth is round and creationists have no problem with that.

It should be noted, in case anyone is concerned, that Shepherd's open-mindeness about the shape of the planet does not represent even the fringiest strain of evangelical thought or Bible science. There are no flat-earthers anymore, Christian or otherwise (I looked hard). There's a minute fringe that... well, I'd better save something for the book tour. Suffice it to say that a flat earth is not a creationist belief, and no doubt creationists are cringing at being made to "look stupid" (I know, I know.)

On the other hand, Shepherd's hesitation to reject the notion outright does speak to the profound antipathy to natural science that is the bedrock of creationism and to the anti-intellectualism that infuses much (though not all) evangelicalism in general. So while it would be incorrect to say creationists "think the world is flat," it is perfectly accurate to say that instilling creationism in people seriously degrades their ability to think rationally (or at least scientifically) at all.

Having come to like and admire many evangelicals in the pop culture scene, I had hoped that Shepherd would be a kind of antitode to Elisabeth Hasselbeck — a woman who could show the world that not all evangelicals are humorless, uptight scolds. But I'm afraid that she's now going to be permanently known for something even worse.

September 19, 2007

NY Times editors are a bunch of goddamn James Blunts

Daniel Radosh

The New York Times' inane policy against printing "profanity" in quotations leads the paper to some of its most strenuous contortions yet in yesterday's article on censorship at the Emmys.

Ms. Field used an expletive in saying that if mothers ruled the world, there would be no wars. She won the Emmy for her performance as Nora Walker, a liberal matriarch whose son is headed to Iraq for combat duty, on the ABC drama “Brothers & Sisters.”

Backstage after her acceptance, Ms. Field said she “would have liked to say more four-letter words up there.”

But she added that she “probably shouldn’t have said” the word that was censored. “If they bleep it, oh well, I’ll just say it somewhere else,” she said.

As you probably know, the "expletive" Field said was "goddamn." As a political statement, there is a substantive difference between saying "there would be no more fucking wars" and "no more goddamn wars," and in leaving open the possibility that Field said the former rather than the latter, the Times actively misleads readers by attempting to protect their sensibilities. I made the same case for accurate quotation when the word in question is "shit" or "fuck," but to censor "goddamn" is simply bizarre. Afer all, the Times may only have broken the shit barrier during Watergate, and rarely ever since, but according to its searchable archive, it has printed "goddamn" (or "God damn") 847 times in its history — as far back as 1857* and as recently as three and a half weeks ago. William Safire has written no fewer than three On Language columns about the phrase.

The Times notes that Fox censored Field despite the FCC ruling that "fleeting expletives" are permissable because executives felt they had a "responsibility to keep objectionable language off broadcast television." Its one thing for Fox to set decency standards for its own broadcasts (and yes, I'm intentionally avoiding the issue of whether Field wasn't really silenced for her politics) but why should it get to set them for the Times too?

After all that, I'd understand if the Times didn't want to reprint every word of Ray Romano's censored joke ( "Kelsey Grammer is fucking my wife. Shame on you, we have TV children!") but surely it could have come up with a less tortured paraphrase.

Mr. Romano was censored when he made a joke about his former television wife — Patricia Heaton, his co-star on “Everybody Loves Raymond” — and her new character’s love affair with Kelsey Grammer’s character on “Back to You,” a Fox series that is to have its premiere this week. In doing so, Mr. Romano ignored Fox’s plea to television critics not to reveal the characters’ back story before the series’s broadcast.

Why bother to give so much detail if you're not going to give readers at least a shot at figuring out what was actually said?

There are instances when printing the actual taboo word may not be necessary. Today's Times article on James Blunt accomplishes all it needs to when it says the singer's name "entered the lexicon of Cockney rhyming slang as a particularly crude insult," but in the Emmy article its attempt to drop some clues about what Katherine Heigl said only makes matters worse.

Perhaps the most surprising bit of censorship came as Ms. Heigl mouthed a curse word normally associated with frustration or disgust when she was announced as the winner of an Emmy for her role on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” The word was not picked up by any microphones, but Fox nevertheless cut away so that viewers could not read Ms. Heigl’s lips and be offended.

Wait... Did Heigl really say "fuck me gently with a chainsaw"?

[Source: Vulture.]

Continue reading "NY Times editors are a bunch of goddamn James Blunts" »

September 19, 2007

You don't say, part II

Daniel Radosh

The Minneapolis airport bathroom where Sen. Larry Craig was caught in a gay sex sting has become a tourist attraction.

"Clutching his new walking stick from Yosemite National Park, Dr. Wolkomir, from Barneveld, Wis., planted himself at the entrance to the restroom where Senator Craig, Republican of Idaho, was arrested in June in an airport sex sting, and smiled through his thick white beard. 'It’s sort of a seminal event,' he said."

Previously: Part I

September 18, 2007

Suck it, Jesus

Daniel Radosh

444644481_d52cd45799.jpg I guess this means I know my stuff. Back when I first introduced Clique — now Clique Girlz — I wrote that I was getting a Christian vibe from them. And it's not like they were doing anything obvious like selling all their possessions and giving the money to the poor.

Well, looky who's performing this Thursday on Praise the Lord, the flagship program of the Trinity Broadcasting Company. Watch yer backs, Jump5!

September 17, 2007

You don't say

Daniel Radosh

The Minneapolis airport bathroom where Sen. Larry Craig was caught in a gay sex sting has become a tourist attraction.

"On their way to Guatemala, Jon and Sally Westby of Minneapolis made a visit. 'We had to just stop and check out the bathroom,' Sally said. 'In fact, it's Jon's second time — he was here last week already.'"

September 17, 2007

Making my job too easy

Daniel Radosh

Last week, Kathy Griffin had TV censors reaching for their scissors with her Emmy acceptance speech. "A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus... Suck it, Jesus. This award is my God now."

Now Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green has a rebuttal.

I don't know what went through her mind and why she would think that was cutting edge or even funny. But first, I want to actually show you that, in fact, Kathy Griffin is wrong. Jesus had everything to do with her winning that award. And here's the reasoning.

Jesus died on a cross 2,000 years ago. His dying words were, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." He died and they buried him in a rock cut tomb. Three days later, as the Bible says, he rose from the dead. That day...

Well, I'll stop there. Suffice to say that Green continues like that for 2000 years, linking the crucifixion directly to the advent of democracy and free speech. It's the most humorless response to a joke at an awards ceremony since Sean Penn called Jude Law one of our finest living actors.

Besides, it's not clear why Green thinks it will help Jesus' image for him to get credit for "My Life on the D List." Really, you're just giving Hitchens ammunition.

It's also amusing that Green starts out by saying that if Griffin had stopped after saying "no one had less to do with this award than Jesus," "I could have been mildly insulted at that and turned the other cheek, as the founder of Christianity taught." But it was after the, you know, punchline, that Green felt this was no longer an option. Because that's where the founder of Christianity drew the line. I came across this attitude a lot in talking to evangelicals for my book: I believe in turning the other cheek, but when you attack my family/country/ministry/god.... Please. I think if Jesus was still preaching forgiveness when they pounded nails into his hands, you can suck it up for a Creative Arts Emmy speech. It's not like it was the Primetimes.

September 17, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #114

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.


"That's the tower for your fucking cell phones, so you fucking out-of-towners don't have to suffer through five fucking minutes of being without your precious fucking cell phones. However, please note that despite my obvious contempt for your privileged lifestyle, I will still save you from drowning, should it come to that." —Francis

"On the plus side, from up there you can't see the corpses and turds strewn all over the beach." —JD

"GENESIS I: 6-8: 'And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven.' -- That other tower is for people who are drowning in the waters above the firmament." —Richard

September 14, 2007

I only keep posting these because Eichenwald is nearly as fun to say as Huckapoo

Daniel Radosh

Today's Kurt Eichenwald update.

A New York Times reporter not only gave money to a child pornographer, but did business with him and even signed on to an illegal porn website as a member and administrator, documents unsealed yesterday in a federal criminal proceeding in Nashville reveal. He claims in one court document, he only "posed" as a pedophile. 

September 14, 2007

Nair 4 kidz

Daniel Radosh

brats_introimage.gifIntroducing the concept of the nymphet in the first pages of Lolita, Humbert Humbert insists that there are "ineffable signs" that distinguish these "deadly demons" from the wholesome children who are their peers. One of these is "the slenderness of a downy limb," and he returns to this physical characteristic repeatedly, referring to Lo as "my hot downy darling" and "a little downy girl still wearing poppies." (More obliquely, he also describes "early spring mountains with young-elephant lanugo along their spines.")

So poor Hum would be distressed to pick up today's New York Times and discover the launch of Nair Pretty, "aimed at 10- to 15-year-olds or, in industry parlance, 'first-time hair removers.'"

Come to think of it, almost anyone should be distressed by this, though perhaps not for the same reasons. Tweens being sold hair-removal as a form of empowerment? There's a hall of mirrors aspect to all this that I can't quite get my head around. The marketing tells children that if they want to feel grown up they need to start waxing, because grown-ups wax, because marketers tell them they're supposed to look like children.

The article also describes a classic example of a company creating a problem to sell a product:

Although Nair researchers had men in mind when first developing the depilatory in the 1930s, the brand did not introduce its line of products for men until 2001. Scientists had originally been trying to create a depilatory as an alternative to shaving, but found that beards would require chemicals beyond what the face could tolerate.

“They realized the concentration and density of hair was so high that it was invented instead for women’s legs,” said Mr. Fowler, the Nair researcher. The product was introduced in 1940.

Note when he says it was "invented intead" for women, he means "marketed to instead." Indeed, while the shaved armpit look had been introduced in 1915, few women were worried about their leg hair before 1940.

According to the Nair Pretty site, the "juicy and delicious" product is made for "legs, arms, underarms, or bikini area." I guess we can be glad that there's no way they can justify a High School Musical tie-in (NSFW).

September 14, 2007

What's so funny?

Daniel Radosh

Waiting to be selected for a jury on Wednesday (which I was, and will have to report for duty a week from Monday) I got a chance to catch up on this week's New Yorker. I've never understood the reputation New Yorker cartoons have for being obscure. If anything, I've always found the opposite to be true. But I admit to being totally stumped by this one.


Seriously. I stared at this for five minutes trying to figure out the joke. The description at the Cartoon Bank provides little help: "A person quiets another sitting next to them in the movie theater where a crazy action movie plays."

Quieting people at movie theaters is an utterly routine event. There's nothing funny about it. Crazy action movies are also quite mundane, and while this one is crazier than most — they're shooting machine guns at burning buildings in outer space! — it is not inherently humorous. Therefore the joke must somehow be in the juxtaposition: Ha ha! The person is quieting another person at a movie that is itself quite loud. But that makes no sense either. No matter how loud the film is, if the person speaking is speaking loud enough to be heard over it by his friend, then he is speaking loud enough to be heard by the stranger quieting him, and so quieting him is the ordinary and common sense reaction to that behavior. The only thing I could come up with is that there is nothing worth hearing in an action movie, so asking someone to be quiet during one is comical, but the worth of an action film's dialogue or sound design would seem to be something best determined by its audience, so the fact that a person in the theater would rather hear the movie than the conversation of the people next to him necessarily refutes that premise. Indeed, I can only salvage this interpretation by giving it a meta twist: the real target is The New Yorker's reputation as a magazine for old fogies who don't like action movies and think it's funny that people would want to go to one and then actually hear what's happening on the screen. The true punchline, then, is Thank you for reading Grumpy Old Man Weekly. Alternately, the New Yorker is much younger and hipper than I am giving it credit for, and the joke is that people attending a youth-oriented film are actually talking to their friends, rather than texting them.

Since none of this is remotely plausible, I am narrowing in on the fact that the people in the audience are apparently a pair of elves sitting between two cardboard cutouts of humans, one of which is listing in its seat. Also: The elves may or may not be identical twins; neither elf is watching the movie; the elf on the left may in fact be not quieting the other one, but blowing him (her?) a kiss. If you have a better idea, I'd like to hear it.

Or maybe the caption that would make the cartoon funny was inadvertently left off. In which case, go ahead and supply it.

September 11, 2007

A short break

Daniel Radosh

Blogging will be light for the next few days. I have jury duty. Which I may have to skip a day of for Rosh Hashana. Apparently, the courts are actually open on the high holidays. I wonder if any lawyers show up.

Anyway, the card below was sent to me by Marjorie Ingall as an example of "sexism in Jewish hipsterism" or something. Aren't chicks adorable? Shana tova!


September 11, 2007

bald-headed lies?

Daniel Radosh

britney-bald2.jpgA debate is brewing over the recent New York Times article exposing the secrets of hair-donation charities. In the original article, freelancer Elizabeth Hayt wrote,

But although charities have been highly effective at stirring the passions of donors, they have been less successful at finding a use for the mountains of hair sent to them as a result. As much as 80 percent of the hair donated to Locks of Love, the best known of the charities, is unusable for its wigs, the group says. Many people are unaware of the hair donation guidelines and send in hair that is gray, wet or moldy, too short, or too processed, some of which is immediately thrown away. Even hair that survives the winnowing may not go to the gravely ill, but may be sold to help pay for charities’ organizational costs.

When I read it, I thought it was a good, well-reported piece. And it may well be. But Locks of Love isn't having it. Romenesko links to an article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy about LoL's objections, but the real action is over at the blog of Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator. Stamp was contacted by Locks of Love and summarized the group's complaints.

The New York Times says that, according to Locks of Love themselves, "80% of the hair donated to Locks of Love is unusable" and thus thrown out. Locks of Love president Madonna Coffman says she has no idea where the Times got that number. According to her, "the only hair that is ever thrown out is hair that has been swept off the floor or has become moldy from being packaged wet over a long period of time, prior to receipt."

As several commenters noted, LoL doesn't actually say that they don't throw out 80% of donated hair -- maybe that's how much is unusable. One commenter crunches the numbers LoL provides on its own site and finds the Times' analysis plausible.

But here's the juicy part:

Locks of Love says that the reporter in question, Elizabeth Hayt, acknowledged to them that her editors asked her to dig up "negative information." When she was unable to find any such information, Locks of Love says she resorted to "inaccurate quotations," "created quotes," and made up "conversations that did not occur." In a telephone discussion with Ms. Coffman of Locks of Love on Friday, she told me that the reporter from the Times had called her in tears, apologizing for what the Times editors had done to her story and the reputation of Locks and Love.

I know from personal experience that editors do sometimes push for negative information (though I'm surprised to see it happen in the Styles section) but that's part of their job. If there's negative information out there about a charity, we call that news. But making up quotes and conversations to appease them is a no-no. And crying to a source because you betrayed them is just tacky. Everyone knows journalism is morally indefensible. Drown your regrets in whiskey like the rest of us.

It's hard to tell from Stamp's version of Coffman's version of Hayt's version what's really going on here and who, if anyone, is at fault. But I'd love to have some answers. We can wait till Clark Hoyt gets around to investigating, but why? Hayt has a blog where she can speak for herself. (Warning: plays bad music) (Also: I'm totally adding pictures like that to my blog). So, Elizabeth: did you make stuff up about Locks of Love, or is Coffman making up stuff about you?

September 11, 2007

I remebered to forget to remember

Daniel Radosh

There's no shortage of dreadful sixth anniversary writing out there. I was going to let it all slide — my own contribution to the solemnity of the day — but Anna Quindlen's desparate search for metaphor in Newsweek simply begs for a response.

Everything about the enormous urban square where the World Trade Center once stood, once burned, once fell, is terribly sad because it has been so sanitized. THIS IS A SPECIAL PLACE, says one small sign on the construction fence, but there's no sign that that's true. Everything has been done to make it seem ordinary. Girders, cranes, gravel, hard hats—it looks no different from the places nearby where luxury condos rise.

Yes, how dare they construct four new towers using girders and cranes! Whose dumb idea was it to sully the Ground Hero site with mere gravel — couldn't they use tiny gold nuggets hand-gathered from the buried depositories? And why do workers on this sacred site need to wear hard hats? Won't angels magically cause any falling debris to turn into harmless marshmallows before they hit?

Quindlen is right: new buildings at the World Trade Center site must only be constructed of pure freedom held together by the spirit of America and tears.

Update: More bad anniversary writing after the jump.

Continue reading "I remebered to forget to remember" »

September 11, 2007

Daily snooze

Daniel Radosh

Update: When I wrote about Kevin's latest Hans Peterson scoop, I hastily snarked, "Let's see if the Chicago papers play catch-up again tomorrow."

I apologize to the Chicago Tribune. I should have said, "Let's see if they play catch-up again in two days."

The posts, which were first reported on a blog called The Outfit by Chicago writer Kevin Guilfoile, span five years and show a man distressed with what he said were side effects of taking Accutane twice in 2002.

September 10, 2007

The Physical Impossibility of a Decent Title in the Mind of Steven Spielberg

Daniel Radosh

hirst-skull.jpg Seriously, The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? What the fuck? Was The Phantom Menace taken or something?

September 10, 2007

No really, too soon?

Daniel Radosh

I'm sorry, but if you hear "Mexican dynamite truck explosion" and don't think of Wages of Fear, you haven't seen one of the most exciting movies ever made.

Here's a very solid assessment. Warning: Lots of little spoilers, but won't ruin the film for you.

September 10, 2007

Too soon?

Daniel Radosh

News item: Owen Wilson's Suicide Bid Was His Third Cry For Help

After Starsky & Hutch and You, Me and Dupree.

September 10, 2007

The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #113

Daniel Radosh

Submit the worst possible caption for this New Yorker cartoon. Click here for details. Click here to see last week's results.


"Sir or ma'am! You have violated one of the rules of our hotel! And I am overreacting in an improbable and deliciously comic way!" —My Man Godfrey

"People think that 'Shoot-you-in-your-sleep Inn' is just a funny name for a motel. But once I shoot them in their sleep, they don't think it's so fucking funny anymore." —Ed C

"Excuse me, ma'am, but is that a silencer on a revolver? That won't work; it'll just make the sound come out of the cylinder instead of the muzzle. You must be the worst assassin ever." —John Tabin

Continue reading "The New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption Contest #113" »

September 9, 2007

Accutane killed the MSM

Daniel Radosh

Last week in the saga of Accutane Killer Hans Peterson, Kevin Guilfoile found the first recent photo of HP and posted it over at his blog, The Collective. The next day, a newspaper called The Chicago Sun-Times put that photo on its front page.

Today, Kevin has an even bigger scoop (thanks to a tip from a reader of this site): Peterson's posts to an Accutane discussion forum in the months before and after the murder. Crazyscary posts like, "Justice will not be found through the legal system...Would taking some of their money even be justice? Their lives would go on, just with a little less money. Our lives will never be the same."

Let's see if the Chicago papers play catch-up again tomorrow.

September 7, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle 1918-2007

Daniel Radosh

"Georgie, porgie, pudding and pie," she yelled. "Kissed the girls and made them cry."

That was no good. It was too easy for nursery rhymes to fall into the rhythm of IT.

She didn't know the Gettysburg Address. How did the Declaration of Independence begin? She had memorized t only that winter, not because she was required to at school, but simply because she liked it.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident!" she shouted, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

As she cried out the words she felt a mind moving in her own, felt IT seizing, squeezing her brain. Then she realized that Charles Wallace was speaking, or being spoken through by IT.

"But that's exactly what we have on Camazotz. Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike."

For a moment her brain reeled with confusion. Then came a moment of blazing truth. "No!" she cried triumphantly. "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!"

"Good girl, Meg!" her father shouted at her.

But Charles Wallace continued as though there had been no interruption. "In Camazotz all are equal. In Camazotz everybody is the same as everybody else," but he gave her no argument, provided no answer, and she held on to her moment of revelation.

Like and equal are two entirely different things.

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the very first books I remember that mattered to me. The scene quoted above, I discovered from Googling, is one of its most famous. But I didn't know that until now. I only know that I've never forgotten it.

I shook hands with Madeleine L'Engle once, at a book fair in New York a decade ago. I had that strange feeling of knowing that there was nothing I could say that could express what I felt about her work -- and also nothing that she hadn't heard many times before.

Apparently, L'Engle said last year that she had only read one Harry Potter book: "It's a nice story but there's nothing underneath it. I don't want to be bothered with stuff where there's nothing underneath." If anyone earned the right to say that, it was her. I wonder what she made of Philip Pullman.

September 6, 2007

Yeah, but what are you gonna do, buy a Zune?

Daniel Radosh

More bad news for Apple.

September 6, 2007

Gratuitous trash talk from Google

Daniel Radosh

According to this guy, the new Bush bio, Dead Certain, contains this hilarious quote from the then-governor of Texas: "I wouldn't [appoint someone] based on their gaydom. Or gayhood. But I dont know, its none of my business."

While trying to confirm this, I discovered what happens if you search for "gayhood" on Google:


September 6, 2007

Curious omission

Daniel Radosh

The headline of a new press release from the 9/11 conspiracy nuts is "51% of Americans Want Congress to Probe Bush/Cheney Regarding 9/11 Attacks."

As America nears the sixth anniversary of the world-churning events of September 11, 2001, a new Zogby International poll finds a majority of Americans still await a Congressional investigation of President Bush’ and Vice President Cheney’s actions before, during and after the 9/11 attacks. Over 30% also believe Bush and/or Cheney should be immediately impeached by the House of Representatives.

The 911truth.org–sponsored poll also found that over two-thirds of Americans say the 9/11 Commission should have investigated the still unexplained [sic] collapse of the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7 at 5:20 p.m. on September 11, 2001.

Looking at the actual survey questions, I wasn't surprised to find them heavily slanted in a variety of ways. But the best part is that the poll asked one question that somehow didn't get mentioned in the press release at all. You can find it towards the bottom -- question 405. Suffice it to say that an equally accuarate headline for the press release would have been "57% of Americans think 9/11 attacks were 'thoroughly investigated' and that speculation about U.S. involvement is 'absurd.'"

September 5, 2007

But you know how hard you try

Daniel Radosh

ygywgrab.jpgNow live: the full video for the Mark Ronson remix of Bob Dylan's Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine).

The video is fun, though like most Dylan tributes, it leans more heavily on nostalgia than the man himself has ever has. The music remix is.... OK. Mostly it left me wanting to listen to the original again.

Not much is really sacred update: Commenter Chris notes that one promotional gimmick for the new CD set allows users to write their own message on the cards from the Subterranean Homesick Blues film. Here's his smart, caustic version. And my juvenile but totally more viral one.

No success like failure update: So I got to thinking, what's the most subversive thing you could do with this? I came up with this and this. Post your best (or worst) efforts in the comments.

September 5, 2007

I am so gonna get fragged

Daniel Radosh

cass1.jpg So I'm working on a thumbsucker about videogames pegged to Halo 3 and loosely inspired by these posts. It deals with the issue of games as art (while dodging the actual Are Games Art? question) and will appear in a very mainstream publication read primarily by people who are not gamers.

So obviously I was interested in Lev Grossman's recent Time magazine article about Halo and, especially, the reaction from gamers.

Holy cats! What I read as a fairly straightforward essay by a guy who obviously likes videogames is being shredded to bits. One of the most polite responses (and, OK, one of the funniest) is: "I am seriously offended the way you present the article in Time magazine about the Halo community. I hope you do realize you've made a big mistake and would consider retracting the article."

And then there are the less polite responses. Yes, several people seem to have actually read and understood the article, but for the most part it's a bloodbath.

Now, I won't be using any of the charged (and misunderstood) language Grossman does, so I may be spared some of this. But a lot of the reaction to Grossman seems to be based simply on the assertion that he's not a serious enough gamer to be writing about the topic -- and he's far more serious than I am. I think I have something interesting to say, even as a casual gamer (in the sense of time devoted to gaming, not types of games played). But I'm beginning to realize that that's not gonna count for a whole lot.

Stay tuned for my funeral.

September 5, 2007

So he went nuts and killed a guy — his skin looks pretty decent

Daniel Radosh

Last week, guest blogger Kevin Guilfoile wrote extensively about Accutane Killer Hans Peterson. As Kevin noted in his original post at his own blog, the story has been so poorly covered by the media that nobody even had a recent picture of Peterson.

In today's scoop, Kevin has the first, an expressionless portrait possibly taken post-murder.

If they ever make a movie, this role has Colin Hanks' name all over it.

September 5, 2007

Maybe Dowd is the one who invented the Internet

Daniel Radosh

1998.jpg Reading the new Vanity Fair essay on how the media created an artificial persona for Al Gore in 2000, I was struck by Maureen Dowd's repeated appearance. Throughout the campaign, Dowd's limp-snarky exaggerations about Gore -- his ego, his artifice, his femininity -- helped set the tone for the rest of the press pack.

Dowd has since come around on Gore, but her M.O. has never changed. Remember, it was Dowd who invented John Kerry's supposed "Who among us doesn't like NASCAR" quote and distorted a Bush quote to make him look soft on Al Qaida (as if any distortion were necessary). She has also peddled similar too-good-to-check stories about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

All of which is why even an obvious, intentional exaggeration from MoDo can't simply be written off as an acceptable bit of humor. Everyone may know it's not literally true when they read it the first time, but once the idea behind it is part of the CW, Dowd's jokes carry the weight of fact.

Here is Dowd today on Obama: "The urbane young senator who rules over Chicago society with his wife, Michelle, the glamour boy who has graced more fashionable magazine covers than Heidi Klum, the debonair pol who has wowed crowds at white-tie and black-tie press dinners in D.C., suddenly started ranting about Washington pundits and other jades on the Potomac who don’t appreciate the thrilling loftiness of his message and purifying minimalism of his résumé." [emphasis added]

For the record. Number of fashionable magazine covers graced by Obama: 3 4 (GQ, Vibe, Wired, Men's Vogue; not counting the unfashionable Time, Newsweek or Ebony). Number graced by Klum: 25 (not counting TV Guide or dozens of European magazines).

And of course Spy had Hillary on the cover twice.

September 4, 2007

Hola! Soy Dora!

Daniel Radosh

The Washington Post has an article you absolutely must read if you've ever heard someone return from a delegation to Iraq and declare that they've seen with their own eyes that the surge is working.

Nearly every week, American generals and politicians visit Combat Outpost Gator, nestled behind a towering blast wall in the Dora market. They arrive in convoys of armored Humvees, sometimes accompanied by helicopter gunships, to see what U.S. commanders display as proof of the effectiveness of a seven-month-long security offensive, fueled by 30,000 U.S. reinforcements. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military leader in Iraq, frequently cites the market as a sign of progress....

Still, the Dora market is a Potemkin village of sorts. The U.S. military hands out $2,500 grants to shop owners to open or improve their businesses. The military has fixed windows and doors and even helped rebuild shops that had burned down, soldiers and others said.

"We helped them a lot. We gave them money, security, even the locks on their doors," said a 36-year-old Iraqi interpreter at the outpost whom U.S. soldiers call Jimmy for security reasons. He asked that his real name not be used. "Everything we gave them. That's why the violence has stopped. That's why they cooperate with us."

Noted: Staff Sgt. Josh Campbell hates the troops: ""Personally, I think it's a false representation...But what can I say? I'm just doing my job and don't ask questions."

Juan Cole expands the story.

And by the way, Potemkin never really built Potemkin villages.

September 4, 2007

How we'll know when things really are getting better in Iraq...

Daniel Radosh

They'll no longer have to rely on people named Kagan to say so.

I'm calling it Radosh's Benchmark.

September 3, 2007

Bourne in the USA

Daniel Radosh

Warning: This post contains MILD SPOILERS for any lamesters who have not yet seen The Bourne Ultimatum.

In our recent discussion of the politics of The Bourne Ultimatum, commenter Bettencourt wrote "I felt the news footage of congressional hearings should be followed by footage of Limbaugh, Coulter, O'Reilly and the like arguing that the Democrats are weak on terrorism because of their opposition to brainwashed amnesiac super-assassins killing English and American citizens and government employees."

Funny enough. But funnier still is that O'Reilly didn't need actual hearings to set him off — he just attacked the movie itself. Carrying Bill's water, Mickey Kaus declares the film anti-American. Mind you, not anti-Bush or anti-CIA or anti-brainwashed amnesiac super-assassins killing English and American citizens and government employees. No, to be any of those things these days is to be anti-American. "The film is unredeemed by any sense that America or the American government ever stands for or does anything that is right," Kaus rights. Except of course that it ends with a montage of the American government doing something very right: holding people accountable for monstrous crimes committed in the name of national security. If only the real American government could do that! As far as I'm concerned, the movie is far more pro-American than either branch of our current government.

TNR's Christopher Orr forces Kaus to concede that Joan Allen plays a heroic CIA deputy chief, but brushes this off by saying "she's a cardboard plot mechanism. The film's heart and energy go into depicting the evil U.S. bigwigs."

That's right, Mickey thinks the heart and energy of The Bourne Ultimatum is... David Strathairn! I guess all those scenes of Matt Damon busting his ass for truth, justice and — yes — the American way weren't energetic enough for him.

September 3, 2007

Honey, I'm Home (b/w Caption Contest News)

Daniel Radosh

OK, this is scary. Most people who sublet their apartment when they go away on vacation pray only that it will still be standing, with no heirlooms broken, when they return. But to come back and find that the visitors have left the place in better shape than they found it? That's against the order of the universe. From Guilfoile scripting a Law and Order episode before our eyes to Shay going Halo on Mahalo to Slutwench going all the way to Turkey to bring back the best example ever of the let me explain meme -- honestly, you probably wish these guys were around more.

And blogging isn't even what they do best. Shay is the author of a very funny and surprisingly touching novel called The End As I Know It, about a young man in 1998 who is desparate to persuade his friends and family of the imminent danger of the Y2K bug. Guilfoile is the author of a very smart and not-so-surprisingly scary novel called Cast of Shadows, about a doctor who uses crime scene evidence to clone his daughter's murderer. And Slutwench is the author of one of the most popular pages on Adult FriendFinder.

Thanks to them for a great week.

P.S. The New Yorker is off this week, so there's no new caption contest.

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