Friday, June 02, 2006

You gotta love the French

Chances are, if you were going to start selling photographs (i.e., "fine art silver prints signed by famous photographers") over the internet, you'd probably call yourself an online gallery, or if you really wanted to sound sophisticated, a "virtual gallery," and let it go at that.

But in the land of Descartes, they have to try harder and intellectualize a bit more. It helps to deconstruct the very concept of a gallery. Start by creating an entire movement that has clearly been weighing heavily on the history of art, "gallerism." Suggest that this false god has done immense damage. Offer a solution. At, the "gallery without gallerist," promise to remove the dread gallerism from art history. Finally, commission an arty poster and translate the text awkwardly into English.

They also have a cute link to a paper pinhole camera you can download for free and assemble. I'm not so sure about the thing they have going with that "lighthouse in a tree."

The Red Sox won that year, and so did this guy

John Kerry drew 80,000 people to downtown Madison, WI the morning after his hometown underdogs won the World Series. He joked about the friend who had predicted earlier, “The Red Sox are more likely to win the World Series than you are to be elected president.”

His earlier campaign mistakes behind him, the man was on a roll. He had the energy and the rock star charisma that marks a winning presidential campaign. Hell, he even had the rock star -- Bruce Springsteen. It seemed to the crowd -- and to me, for I was one of those 80,000 -- that in just five days, the man up on the stage would be elected president. They were right. He was.

They say history is written by the winners, and from that point of view, John Kerry was rejected by the voters as a phony elitist, dragged down by a foreign wife and her money, his own inability to stand up to the Swift Boat Veterans, not to mention his overall stiffness and lack of appeal. By now, even most Democrats are sick of him, or so the story goes.

There's only one problem with this version of history. It's wrong.

Just how wrong is the subject of the current Rolling Stone cover story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stating that “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.”

The heavily footnoted article is especially scathing about the exit polls. With modern techniques, they’ve become astonishingly accurate and are considered by experts to be the gold standard in election fraud detection -- including the Bush administration, when it doesn’t like election results in other countries.
Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable. Unlike pre-election polls, in which voters are asked to predict their own behavior at some point in the future, exit polls ask voters leaving the voting booth to report an action they just executed. The results are exquisitely accurate: Exit polls in Germany, for example, have never missed the mark by more than three-tenths of one percent. (17) ''Exit polls are almost never wrong,'' Dick Morris, a political consultant who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, noted after the 2004 vote. Such surveys are ''so reliable,'' he added, ''that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries.''(18) In 2003, vote tampering revealed by exit polling in the Republic of Georgia forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down. (19) And in November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine -- paid for by the Bush administration -- exposed election fraud that denied Viktor Yushchenko the presidency. (20)
On election eve, the exit polls showed Kerry winning by a rout: at least 309 electoral votes to Bush's 174, with fifty-five too close to call. Then, mysteriously, the exit polls proved to be wrong as the evening wore on, and experts were found who could concoct BS explanations that ignored the obvious.

That’s all water under the bridge now, though it would be interesting to see what a Democratic Congress armed with subpoena powers could do with some of the allegations in the article. But first, Democrats have to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen this November. The name of the game is voter suppression, and the game is likely to be played with spurious ID challenges spawned by the current immigration hysteria.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bloggers as fastidious, mass-murdering nerd wannabes?

In The New Yorker this week, Adam Gopnik writes in “Headless Horseman: The Reign of Terror Revisited” about a couple of new books on the French Revolution and its aftermath -- “The Terror: The Merciless War for Freedom in Revolutionary France” and “Fatal Purity: Robespierre and the French Revolution.” Gopnik is particularly intrigued by the infamous Maximilien Robespierre, and “what Robespierre represents.”
… the ascent of the mass-murdering nerd—a man who, having read a book, resolves to kill all the people who don’t like it as much as he does. There is a case to be made that the real singularity of the Terror was the first appearance on the stage of history of this particular psychological type: not the tight-lipped inquisitor, alight with religious rage, but the small, fastidious intellectual, the man with an idea, the prototype of Lenin listening to his Beethoven as the Cheka begins its purges. In normal times, such men become college professors, or book reviewers or bloggers. It takes special historical circumstances for them to become killers: the removal of a ruling class without its replacement by a credible new one. In the confusion, their ethereal certainties look like the only solid thing to build on.
Bloggers?! Ouch. It's possible to imagine mild-mannered college professors harboring murderous urges. And, of course, book reviewers are always fair game. But bloggers? Has Gopnik had a recent run-in with some bloggers and their "ethereal certainties"? Or does this go beyond Gopnik? Is The New Yorker as an institution starting to get nervous about potential competitors out here in the blogosphere? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A mineral claim that's excessively global in scope?

Back when I was a kid playing "20 Questions," things were "animal, vegetable or mineral." Little did I know that before 1820, the choice was only between "animal" and "vegetable," as "mineral" had apparently not been dicovered yet.

This sign, photographed in Mineral Point, WI on Memorial Day, illustrates a problem opposite to the one so valiantly publicized by The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks. Sometimes you need the quotes. Perhaps the Quote Blog could donate a few of their unneeded quotation marks -- which, in any event, are restored here:
During the 1820s, prospectors were swarming over the hills of Southwestern Wisconsin looking for lead. After lead, or "mineral," was discovered here, a "lead rush" began and the mining camp that formed around the diggings eventually was called Mineral Point. Tradition dates permanent settlement by Europeans to 1827.
The Mineral Point sign makers could have avoided the problem by citing the actual mineral in question -- the lead ore called galena. But that would have meant promoting the name of a rival town 42 miles to the southwest that has been more successful in turning its pioneer lead mining history into a tourist magnet, Galena, IL. Plus, the latter has Ulysses S. Grant's home.