Thursday, February 28, 2008

Better Men than Me

A few days ago, an Israeli general named Dan Shomron died, aged 70. General Shomron served in the Six-day War and all the major Israeli actions after that. He served as the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces from 1987-1991.

However, Gen. Shomron's greatest achievement was his command of Operation Entebbe in 1976. On June 27th, 1976, and Air France flight from Tel Aviv was hijacked by Palestinians from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (shades of "Life of Brian" here) as well as two Germans cooperating with them. They directed the plane to Benghazi, Libya, and after refuelling, on to Entebbe Airport in Uganda.

Once in Uganda, several new hijackers joined them, encouraged by Uganda's dictator Idi Amin. They demanded the release of 40 Palestinian terrorists in Israel and 13 others held in other places. They released many of the non-Jewish hostages over the next few days, but retained their hold on 105 Israelis and French Jews in an abandoned terminal building at the airport.

On July 1st, the terrorists deadline, the Israeli government announced they would negotiate. Through the next few days, while they ostensibly bargained with the hijackers, the Israeli Defense Force was directed to plan a rescue mission. Brigadier General Shomron was selected to plan and lead the mission.

After only two days of planning, four C-130's left Israel and flew the 2300 miles to Entebbe airport without the aid of any ground control whatsoever. They landed one hour before midnight with their cargo doors open. The first person to leave the plane was General Shomron. He was followed by a black Mercedes decorated with Ugandan flags and two Land Rovers. These were used to give the impression that Amin had come to visit the hijackers, when in reality they were loaded with Israeli commandos.

Stopped by two Ugandan sentries who realized Amin had recently switched to a white Mercedes, the Israelis shot both and proceeded to the main entrance to the terminal. There they burst from the vehicles and into the main hall, where they screamed at the hostages to stay down while they opened fire on the hijackers. They then proceeded to a back room where, using grenades and assault rifles, they dispatched the remaining hijackers. The commandos were intimately aware of the layout of the location given that an Israeli firm had built the terminal and still had the blueprints.

While the Israeli forces loaded the hostages onto the C-130's, armored personnel carriers brought from Israel destroyed Ugandan fighter planes on the ground. In the end, all four planes took off successfully and landed in Nairobi, Kenya. From there, after refuelling, they returned to Israel.

In th 30 minute raid, all seven hijackers were killed. Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu (brother of the future Prime Minister of Israel) was the sole Israeli commando to be killed, although 5 others were wounded. Three hostages were killed by crossfire and 10 wounded. 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed.

General Shomron, in the space of three days, organized, planned, and executed the rescue of 105 hostages from a hostile airport 2300 miles from Israel and without the assistance of any foreign government or local operatives. The plan and its execution are considered the benchmark against which other commando style raids should be judged.

If you've seen The Delta Force, then you've gotten a fictionalized version of this raid. But it's pretty stunning to realize that there are actually people out there who have done this kind of thing - spectacularly and successfully.

Too important to skip

I implore you, especially those of you with children, to watch this. It just might save a life.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

US Weekly Update

One more week to go after this one. Get your new rosters ready.

For the week:
1. F-ing French (21)
Ocean's Fifteen (21)
3. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (18)
4. The Boob Jobs (17)
5. Papa Razzies (16)

For the season:
1. The Boob Jobs (435)
2. F-ing French (400)
3. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (345)
4. CM's (320)
5. Fourteen Freaks and a Kid (318)

Monday, February 25, 2008

More Movie Fun

Ranking actor/actresses by number of nominations for Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress.

1. Katherine Hepburn (12 noms; 4 wins)
2. Bette Davis (10;2)
Jack Nicholson (10;2)
Meryl Streep (10;2)
Laurence Olivier (10;1)
6. Spencer Tracy (9:2)
7. Marlon Brando (8;2)
Jack Lemmon (8;1)
Al Pacino (8;1)
Geraldine Page (8;1)
Paul Newman (8;1)
12. Ingrid Bergman (7;3)
Richard Burton (7;1)
Jane Fonda (7;2)
Greer Garson (7;1)
Peter O'Toole (7;0)


In honor of the Oscars, here's a list of nominated movies that did NOT win the Academy Award for Best Picture, by year:

1939: Of Mice and Men, The Wizard of Oz
1940: The Grapes of Wrath
1941: Citizen Kane (maybe the best movie ever didn't win the Oscar, How Green Was My Valley won), The Maltese Falcon
1946: It's a Wonderful Life
1947: Great Expectations
1948: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
1951: A Streetcar Named Desire
1953: Shane
1954: The Caine Mutiny
1956: The King and I, The Ten Commandments
1957: 12 Angry Men
1959: The Diary of Anne Frank
1961: The Hustler
1962: Mutiny on the Bounty, To Kill a Mockingbird
1964: Dr. Strangelove, Mary Poppins
1965: Dr. Zhivago
1967: Bonnie and Clyde, Doctor Dolittle, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (holy crap, these were the losers. Winner: In the Heat of the Night)
1968: Funny Girl, The Lion in Winter
1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1970: MASH, Love Story, Five Easy Pieces
1971: A Clockwork Orange, Fiddler on the Roof
1972: Deliverance, Cabaret
1973: American Graffiti, The Exorcist
1974: Chinatown
1975: Jaws
1976: All the President's Men, Network, Taxi Driver (again, holy crap, these were the losers. Winner: Rocky)
1977: Star Wars
1978: Midnight Express
1979: Apocalypse Now, Norma Rae
1980: Raging Bull, Coal Miner's Daughter
1981: On Golden Pond, Raiders of the Lost Ark
1982: E.T., Tootsie
1983: The Big Chill, The Right Stuff
1985: The Color Purple, Witness
1987: Fatal Attraction, Broadcast News, Moonstruck
1988: Dangerous Liasons, Mississippi Burning, Working Girl (honestly, this was nominted?)
1989: Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams
1990: Goodfellas
1991: JFK
1992: A Few Good Men, Scent of a Woman (huu-aah!)
1993: The Fugitive
1994: Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption (hands down the most unjust oversight in Oscar history. Forrest Gump my ass.)
1995: Apollo 13, Babe
1996: Fargo, Jerry Maguire
1997: As Good as it Gets, Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential (all lost to Titanic. Blech)
1998: Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line
1999: The Green Mile, The Insider, The Sixth Sense
2000: Traffic, Erin Brockovic
2001: LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring
2002: LOTR: The Two Towers
2003: Lost in Translation, Mystic River
2004: Ray, Sideways, The Aviator
2005: Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
2006: Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima

I'm not saying that the winners weren't good - but look at some of the oversights. Wow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

This cannot be bad...

Apparently David Simon (the guy who created and writes The Wire) is working on a new series about New Orleans, specifically the music community in New Orleans. Signs it could be good:

"Some of Simon's known research sources for the script include New Orleans locals intimate with the music scene -- Kermit Ruffins, members of the Rebirth Brass Band, Donald Harrison Jr., DJ/pianist Davis Rogan -- as well as media members, police and political players."

"..a particularly transformative experience at the Funky Butt in New Orleans."

As someone who is totally wrapped up in The Wire (we're just getting into season 3 right now), I'm pumped.

Vote Republican...., seriously. After you see this video, you'll want Richard Martin as YOUR representative.

The sad part was how little of this is actually a joke.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

More Best Lyrics Ever

Let's try some more:

  • "There must be some kind of way out of here, said the joker to the thief," Hendrix (Dylan, really)
  • "Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin' is gone," John Mellencougercamp
  • "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with," CSNY (but maybe someone else originally)
  • "She was a fast machine, she kept the motor clean, she was the best damn woman that I ever seen," AC/DC (ok, it's terrible, but is there anyone under 40 who doesn't know these words?)

Scary Pictures

So this is about the scariest photo I've seen in a long time. I don't get to watch a lot of hockey down here in Texas (shockingly, they don't broadcast a lot of games), but I happened to catch the first period of the Detroit/Colorado game where Lidstrom got clocked and stumbled off the ice. The two words "knee injury" linked to Lidstrom's name makes me nauseous. Their lead is so big that they'll still make the playoffs if he's out, but you can't win a Cup without this guy.

The reports so far do not indicate a bad injury. Let's hope.

Stuff White People Like

An inspired blog. Daily entries on stuff that white people like - I especially enjoy the whole Crate and Barrel look of the site itself. Here are some of my favorites:

#1 - Coffee
#2 - Assists (think Gretzky and Steve Nash)
#23 - Microbrews
#30 - Wrigley Field
#36 - Breakfast places
#63 - Expensive sandwiches
#67 - Standing still at concerts

My unofficial tally has me guilty of about 30 of the 70 - so maybe I'm less white than I thought.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Snow White Cute.

They're almost too much.

Political Glossary

The Onion, once again, does not disappoint. A few of my favorite definitions:

Caucus - The process by which Americans are quadrenially reminded of Iowa's existence.

Corruption - The most effective and efficient way to produce results in government

Likability - The degree to which a candidate is able to hide the extent to which he or she is full of s*#*

How stupid are you?

So this article was in the Washington Post today. One Susan Jacoby has decided that we are all dumb. Americans are slowly dumbing themselves down, thanks to (no surprise): TV and the internet. We're obsessed with quick hits of info-tainment and are now incapable of extended periods of concentration.

I think it's safe to say that this is a complete load of bulls*#&. How dumb is Susan Jacoby's editorial? Let's consider it subject by subject:

1. Statistics. This one is simply - she has none. There are some statistics about how fewer Americans read books or poems these days, as compared to (when else, of course), the 1960's. However, if Ms. Jacoby had studied statistics she would realize that this proves absolutely nothing. She does not correlate this with any measure of "dumbness", and even if she did, it would not prove that lack of reading causes dumbness. It would simply be a correlation.

2. Math. Ms. Jacoby is not careful enough to distinguish between levels and growth rates. That is, she claims America is getting dumber. But how does one distinguish this from America just being dumb? That is, the level of dumbness could well be quite low (and I'd be the first to support that proposition), but that doesn't mean we're getting dumb-ER. This gets to the next subject.

3. History. This article could have been written at any point in, oh, the last 5000 years. Find me a single generation that hasn't considered the newest generation stupid. In fact, Jacoby begins her article by quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The mind of this country, taught to aim at low objects, eats upon itself." Everyone, everywhere, at all times, thinks that most everyone else is stupid. You know why? Because they are. People obsess over trivial matters, hold grudges, and fail to consider rational evidence. If there was a travelling American Idol contest that rolled from town to town in a stagecoach in the 19th century, it would have been the most popular entertainment around. There was NEVER a stage in history when people were cultured, well-read, and not interested in trashy entertainment.

4. Political science. Jacoby claims that this dumbing down is the reason negative ads work in politics (not that she provides evidence). This is patently stupid. Negative ads work because they work - people love snarky backbiting. And they have been going on probably since Ramses II called Ramses III an ignorant goat-banger. Ms. Jacoby should take a few minutes to research some newspapers from the 1820's, and see what they were calling Mr. Andrew Jackson, future president. It was worse than goat-banger. And their illustrious mental capabilities did not stop them from eating it up.

5. Geography. One of Jacoby's claims is that people were more intellectual during FDR's time. He took the time to explain the war to people over the radio, and asked them to get out maps of Europe and the Pacific so he could explain where exactly things were taking place. The reason he asked them is because they didn't know the geography in the first place. It's not like a random American in 1939 could have identified Iwo Jima on a map before the war. People are generally stupid.

The only difference from year to year is that people are generally stupid about different things. And that is what frustrates hyper-critical intellectual elitists like Ms. Jacoby. People today aren't exactly like her. They don't know the things she knows and they don't read the books she reads and they don't like the cultural activities that she likes. So to her it looks like the rest of us are dumb.

Ms. Jacoby would do well to get back to reading whatever it is she considers "intellectual" enough and leave the rest of us alone.

US Weekly Update

Closing in on the end of Season #1. There are only 2 issues left to score this season (this Friday, and then th 29th). So get ready to update your rosters.

For the week:
1. F-ing French (38) - big Heidi Montag week
2. The Boob Jobs (27)
3. Fourteen Freaks and a Kid (25)
4. The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly (22)
5. Papa Razzies (19)

For the season:
1. The Boob Jobs (445)
2. F-ing French (417)
3. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (345)
4. Fourteen Freaks and Kid (328)
5. CM's (326)

And by the way, there was discussion here at pool HQ about what to do with that absolutely disturbing John Mayer picture (if you saw it, you know what I mean). There were thoughts of a -50 point deduction for that - but perhaps it's best if we never speak of it again.

Best Lyrics Ever

So this has been rattling around in my brain for a while. What are the greatest lines in music history? I've tried to impose as few criteria as possible:

1. Phrases and lines only - no whole verses
2. If I hear the first part, I instantly know the rest of the line
3. This is about words - so no crap like "Do be do be do"

Here's what I've got so far:
  • "That deaf dumb and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball" - The Who
  • "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you can get what you need" - The Stones
  • "Fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin' world go round" (I didn't say they had to be poignant) - Queen
  • "Tramps like us. Baby we were born to run" - Springsteen
  • "My redneck past is nipping at my heels" - Ben Folds
There must be a million more, so if you have any suggestions, let me know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Full US Weekly Update

Here's the full standings for the season so far. Remember, February 24th is the Oscar's, and our first season will be over. (For many of you, it already is) Make sure to remind your slacker friends and relatives to get in their lists of 15 celebs for the new season. Don't forget, as well, that YOU can update your own list of 15 celebs for the new season.

Season Standings:
1. The Boob Jobs (418)
2. F-ing French (379)
3. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (327)
4. CM's (312)
5. Fourteen Freaks and a Kid (303)
6. Los Chulos y Las Putas (288)
Ocean's Fifteen (288)
8. The Good, The Bad, and the Fugly (269)
9. Papa Razzies (240)

Well done, JD, well done.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Best. Products. Ever.

The countdown:

5) Fire
4) Food
3) Portable DVD players for plane rides with kids
2) The wheel


1) The Subtle Butt: disposable gas neutralizers.

That's it. That's the list. End of story. We have a winner. There will never, ever, be a greater invention in the history of mankind. How did this take until 2008 to get done? And if we can do this, how can we not come up with an alternate energy source?

The Subtle Butt is a discreet stench-absorbing pad that you stuff in your shorts. For $9.95, you can finally stop blaming the dog.

A Good List

Again, no reason for this, but I thought it was interesting to look over the top rated TV shows in each season since 1950-1951:

50-51: Texaco Star Theatre
51-52: Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (The American Idol of its day?)
52-53: I Love Lucy
53-54: I Love Lucy
54-55: I Love Lucy
55-56: The $64,000 Question
56-57: I Love Lucy (is it me, or does this show actually suck?)
57-58: Gunsmoke
58-59: Gunsmoke
59-60: Gunsmoke
60-61: Gunsmoke
61-62: Wagon Train
62-63: The Beverly Hillbillies
63-64: The Beverly Hillbillies (This is the best show on? No wonder hippies were mad)
64-65: Bonanza
65-66: Bonanza
66-67: Bonanza (do you see a trend from 57-67?)
67-68: The Andy Griffith Show (another one I can't stand)
68-69: Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in
69-70: Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in
70-71: Marcus Welby, M.D.
71-72: All in the Family
72-73: All in the Family
73-74: All in the Family
74-75: All in the Family
75-76: All in the Family (I had no idea how long this show was popular)
76-77: Happy Days
77-78: Laverne and Shirley
78-79: Laverne and Shirley (we are now entering my world of TV)
79-80: 60 Minutes (friggin Andy Rooney - was he old already then?)
80-81: Dallas
81-82: Dallas
82-83: 60 Minutes (who shot Andy Rooney?)
83-84: Dallas
84-85: Dynasty
85-86: The Cosby Show
86-87: The Cosby Show
87-88: The Cosby Show
88-89: The Cosby Show
89-90: The Cosby Show and Rosanne (tied)
90-91: Cheers (Norm!)
91-92: 60 Minutes
92-93: 60 Minutes (Die Andy Rooney Die!)
93-94: Home Improvement (Seriously. This crap?)
94-95: Seinfeld
95-96: ER
96-97: ER
97-98: Seinfeld
98-99: ER (early ER was one show I actually was afraid to miss)
99-00: Who Wants to be a Millionaire (slow year, I guess)
00-01: Survivor (no, not the band)
01-02: Friends
02-03: CSI
03-04: CSI
04-05: American Idol
05-06: American Idol
06-07: American Idol (I admit it, I'm part of the problem here)

Count von *$&%*$

Someone with too much time on their hands.

No Reason

I just enjoyed this map.

School Spending

This picture is from last month's Atlantic magazine. It shows spending per pupil, by county, in the United States. In this post, a blogger at the Atlantic draws several conclusions regarding education. And I'm not sure they're right:

1) "That's the American tradition of local control at work. But while this is very much our tradition, it's not a very good one. It doesn't really make sense to have the standard of what counts as reading proficiency to be different in Massachusetts than it is in Alabama."
- My response to this is, why not? The alternative is a centrally mandated reading proficiency (or math, or science) standard. And while we could likely agree on the basics, what about at the margins? Should kids be required to take a literature class, to take a high level grammar class, to learn to write poetry? The argument is never about the obvious basics of education, the argument is always about the nuances. And having different localities able to enact their own nuanced versions of education seems the better way to approach things, since there is no right answer.

2) "Few other countries do things the American way, and they're generally getting better results. It's time for us to change."
- On what basis are we measuring this? Some standardized test scores? Do I really care that all the Japanese kids can answer a math test faster and more accurately than the American kids? If you want to drill children in how to answer standardized tests, then be my guest, and we can be #1! Yeah, America! However, when it comes to the actual application of human capital to things that matter, we do it better than anyone else. Everyone else copies our inventions, our culture, our products, and our businesses. Now locally, change may make sense if your school is failing, but that is different than presuming the whole system has to change as one.

3) "These huge gaps are hardly the be-all and end-all of our education problems in the United States, but they're hard to justify. It's just as important to educate children in Alabama as it is to educate them in Massachusetts, but kids in the latter state get double the money of kids in the former"
- The real question is why they get double the money. If you look at the map, there is a pretty close association with school spending and cost of living. While kids in Alabama only get half the money, it only costs half as much to hire teachers or build new schools in Alabama. Some, and I don't know how much, but some, of these discrepancies are just tied to differences in cost of living. Secondly, while I agree that each child deserves a decent education, I also believe that each family is ultimately responsible for their own child, so that if people in Alabama have chosen to educate their kids less, there is little I can do about it. The beauty of the local system of financing is that I am not subject to a one size fits all system. If you think people in Alabama should spend more on education, then go to Alabama and lobby for higher property taxes and increased spending.

Ultimately, I have a real problem with arguments that start with, "Look at X, it's so unequal across America. It should be the same everywhere." Why? On what authority? For what purpose? Inequality in outcomes is not sufficient to prove that "something is wrong." You have to actually document what is wrong with the discrepancy. And this post doesn't do that.

Monday, February 4, 2008

US Weekly Update

We're creeping up on the Oscars, so don't forget to think about your new list of 15 celebs for the new season. More reminders will be forthcoming.

For the week:
1. The Boob Jobs (42)
2. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (35)
3. F-ing French (330
4. CM's (32)
5. Fourteen Freaks and a Baby (30)

For the month of January:
1. The Boob Jobs (192)
2. F-ing French (172)
3. Dina Lohan's Playgroup (155)
4. CM's (152)
5. Fourteen Freaks and a Baby (141)

Once again, my ability to spot publicity-whores has outweighed all others! If only you could actually make money with this kind of talent.