Archive for January, 2008

Words with a "D" This Time

Posted on January 31st, 2008 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

In honor of Henry Allen (see below), I post this old video of King Crimson playing their brilliantly Dada-esque song, “Elephant Talk.” Incredible guitar playing by Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp (seated), with Tony Levin—whom I met once at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, which was cool—on that weird bass.

Not to everyone’s taste, probably, but an amazing song.

As in Deadly

Posted on January 31st, 2008 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Henry Allen of the Washington Post has written an entire column about words that begin with “D.”

There’s something about the word “disembowel.” Or “depravity,” or “disfigurement” — about so many words that begin with the letter “d.” Divorce, destitution, doubt, drugs, dirt, dwindle. So many of them are on our lips just now….

And they say newspapers aren’t on the cutting edge….

Let Freedom Ring…like a Sharapovian Grunt

Posted on January 31st, 2008 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

In Slate, Anne Applebaum addresses one of the most important issues of our day: Why are there so many gorgeous female tennis players from the former Soviet Union?

To put it bluntly, in the Soviet Union there was no market for female beauty. No fashion magazines featured beautiful women, since there weren’t any fashion magazines. No TV series depended upon beautiful women for high ratings, since there weren’t any ratings. There weren’t many men rich enough to seek out beautiful women and marry them…..

But freedom (well, kind of) has changed everything!

In the past, you had to play chess or be a champion gymnast to come to international attention if you were born in the Eastern bloc—chess and competitive sports figuring among the few party-approved export industries. Nowadays, stars in fields previously unsanctioned by the party—crime novelists, conceptual artists, computer whizzes—from Russia, Hungary, or Uzbekistan have a shot at fame and fortune, too….

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall indeed.

Maria Sharapova: Proof that capitalism works.

Summers on the Endowment

Posted on January 31st, 2008 in Uncategorized | 20 Comments »

In what is apparently an interview with the Crimson, Larry Summers took exception to the idea, which has some currency in Washington, of mandated endowment payout levels.

“I sympathize with the impulse, but worry about straitjackets,” he said.

Summers also claimed that he had tried to raise the income level under which a student could get free tuition to $100,000, but had been resisted by the faculty and overruled by the Corporation.

If so, that would be a rare instance where the Corporation did not do what Summers told it to.

A side note: I think it’s fair to say that Summers is not taking the Derek Bok, post-presidency approach of not commenting on university matters so as not to create tensions with the person currently holding the job….

Bye-Bye, HMI

Posted on January 31st, 2008 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

The Crimson lands the story:

The University is planning to spin off part of Harvard Medical International (HMI), a major not-for-profit subsidiary of Harvard Medical School, to Partners HealthCare, a non-profit that owns several major Massachusetts hospitals.

University and Medical School officials involved in the discussions expressed concern that the organization’s activities no longer fully reflected Harvard’s core mission of education and research.

As one reads the Crimson piece, which is full of assertions that this is a good thing for HMI to lose the Harvard name, one can’t help but feel that there’s a whole lot of spinning going on….

A Giant Challenge

Posted on January 31st, 2008 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

In the New York Sun, Eric Edholm lists 10 obstacles the Giants face in trying to beat the Patriots.

1) Relative inexperience
2) Brady in big games
3) Eli Manning as the center of attention
4) The Patriots’ running game
5) Wes Welker
6) Mike Vrabel
7) Vince Wilfork
8) the lack of Jeremy Shockey
9) Randy Moss
10) Bill Belichick and his tendency for surprise

It’s true—the Patriots have a lot of weapons. Nonetheless….go Giants!

He’s Gone

Posted on January 30th, 2008 in Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Rudy Giuliani is dropping out of the presidential race. Yay! Now, instead of cynically exploiting 9/11 in a presidential campaign, he can go back to cynically exploiting 9/11 in order to enrich his own coffers. Still offensive, but at least he’ll no longer be offering to turn this country into an armed camp so as to fulfill his delusions of omnipotence.

Meanwhile, John McCain is in serious need of some Crest White Strips. Dude looks old!

More on the Origins of TheRoot

Posted on January 30th, 2008 in Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

The Times covers Skip Gates’ new venture,, and its odd connection to the genetic testing company he co-founded, AfricanDNA.

The third major part of the new site, titled “Roots,” will have online tools for people to build their family trees, link to or add information to other people’s trees and construct maps showing their ancestral trails. It will also urge people to have DNA testing, which can help them trace their backgrounds to specific ethnic groups and parts of the world. It will offer links to companies that do the testing.

One such company the site will direct people to,, is co-owned by Mr. Gates, a relationship that would be prohibited at some publications.

“I don’t see a conflict of interest,” he said, because The Root will fully disclose his roles and will link to every company that does the DNA testing.

I find this all very odd. There is an entire section of TheRoot devoted to DNA testing; the very name of the publication is connected to genealogy; and frankly, there seems much more care devoted to the DNA testing part of the site than there is to the actual online magazine part of the site.

Is this a real magazine, or just a front to drum up business for Skip Gates’ new company?

Moreover, TheRoot doesn’t link to every other company that does DNA testing. It links to some of them—sort of.

When you click on a box labeled “DNA testing,” a small “Disclosure” form briefly pops up—far too quickly to be read— then goes away and is replaced by a video promoting genetic testing. If you stop the process (for me, holding my space bar did it), you can actually read the box, which says,

Though has a business relationship with, which was co-founded by Henry Louis Gates Jr., there are many other companies that offer DNA testing services. Among those that you can choose from are,, The Genographic Project ( ) and .

Companies aimed specifically at African Americans include Prices and services vary by company.

In type that is about twice the point size, the disclosure form then provides a link: CONTINUE TO AFRICANDNA.COM.

Given that Skip Gates is all over the site, and that his affiliation with is probably a selling point, and the site is designed to funnel traffic to, which genetic testing service do you think most readers will go to?

In another video, with the author Bliss Broyard, Gates hands Broyard a piece of paper and says, “For you, with our special test…” The paper discloses that she is 17.2% black.

As the Times points out, is co-founded by Don Graham, publisher of the Washington Post. Graham should know better than to permit this kind of arrangement in a publication that defines itself as a magazine. It’d be akin to him devoting the entire editorial page of the Washington Post to a company in which he was a primary investor—every day.

Should the entire “Roots” section of be considered an advertisement? (Yes.) Should the details of Gates’ business relationship with AfricanDNA be disclosed? (Yes.) Should the exact nature of the site’s “business relationship” with be disclosed. (Well, obviously.) Can you trust the “editorial” of TheRoot? No.

I look, for example, at the first two stories on the site, which are both about Kenya, and I think, Are they there because of all the turbulence going on in Kenya? Or are they there to further the readers’ mental and emotional connection to Africa, so that they will start to think seriously about investigating their genetic origins?

The idea of an online magazine devoted to black issues is a great one. It’s unfortunate that this magazine is fundamentally compromised from its inception.


Posted on January 30th, 2008 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

New York wide receiver Plaxico Burress has predicted a Giant win, 23-17.


Such a bad move….and so unlike the Giants, who have been low-key all season.

Also, Eli Manning was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

These are two bad omens…..

Bush’s State of the Union

Posted on January 29th, 2008 in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

If you were president, and you were giving your last State of the Union address after eight years, wouldn’t you want to say something sort of thoughtful and interesting? Maybe wax philosophical a bit, or try to inspire the nation?

Yeah. Me too. But then, we’re not George W. Bush.

Here’s the Washington Post’s Tom Shales on the speech:

Last night Bush was assertive nearly to the point of bellicosity as he discussed his pursuit of the war in Iraq and his version of U.S. foreign policy, which dominated the second half of the speech. “We will deliver justice to our enemies,” he said with a kind of Old Testament thunder. “Al-Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated,” he declared, adding, a little later, “We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated.”

He did not speak softly, but he carried a big shtick.

The Republicans in the House chamber naturally loved it and interrupted the president with applause more times than even he appeared to expect. There was one dramatic wide shot of the chamber right after Bush demanded renewed funding for the interception of communications among terrorist groups. “The time to act is now,” he said, and in the shot one could see precisely half the assemblage — the Republican half — rise as if one person, while the Democrats, in the foreground, sat still in their seats.

Will somebody please tell members of both parties that all the standing and knee-jerk applause amakes them all look like complete and utter sycophants?

And so, by the way, does the pleading way in which they thrust out their programs for Bush to sign…..