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“That his first article concerned alcohol is no accident of history”

[ 18 ] August 6, 2013 |

Is a line that can now appear in my obituary. (And the article’s about vodka no less.) In addition to writing articles, my duties at The Raw Story will include pulling and titling links to wire stories. They won’t be under my byline, but I have a feeling you’ll be able to tell which ones are mine.

I’ll still be writing here, though, as my job doesn’t entail the kind of editorializing I’m incapable of not doing. As a matter of fact, I’ll still be here when my other other gig starts on the 15th. (But more on that later.)

The New Doctor

[ 247 ] August 5, 2013 |

As anyone who cares enough to be reading this already knows, yesterday the BBC announced that it had cast the new Doctor, and to the shock of absolutely no one paying attention, he looks like this:

I confess to being disappointed: I’d hoped to see Idris Elba fulfil the Doctor’s wish of regenerating ginger—yes, you read that correctly—because a show whose operative principles are any thing, any where, any time shouldn’t limit its protagonist to white men from the British Isles. Endlessly doing so constitutes a failure of imagination on the part of a show predicated on imaginative possibility. I’m not claiming the new Doctor had to be a black man. Neil Gaiman introduced into canon the concept of regenerating into another gender in “The Doctor’s Wife,” so I would’ve been satisfied with a white woman.*

Essentially, I wanted Steven Moffat to make a selection as outrageously ambitious as the show itself can be, and Peter Capaldi is more of the same. Which isn’t to say he’ll be a terrible Doctor, as Capaldi’s a fine actor and will bring to the role a gravitas it’s lacked since the end of David Tennant’s run. But as heroes go, the Doctor’s just “a madman with a box” whose power, such as it is, is the ability to bluff his way out of a war. And as powers go, “intelligence” is limitless in its potential appeal because everyone likes to think they’re smart. Having him embodied by an endless parade of white British males creates an unwholesome and unnecessary connection between intelligence, acts of extreme whiteness and penises.

Why does that matter? I’ll tell you the same story I told my Doctor Who class when trying to explain its cultural significance to the British people:

One evening while I was trapped in North London by an Icelandic volcano, I noticed the streets were unusually empty. The hundreds of Pakistani children usually found playing in the street had vanished, so I decided to take advantage of the quiet and read on the front porch. About five minutes later, the Pakistani family that lived next door returned home from wherever they’d been and went inside. Five minutes after that, another Pakistani family from down the street walked up to and in my neighbor’s house. Five minutes after that, another Pakistani family, this one completely unfamiliar to me, did the same. This continued for about an hour, until the house was packed well beyond capacity.** I had no idea what was going on, so when one of the children I recognized was walking up, I asked.

“What’s going on?”

“The Doctor,” he said.

Imagine what the atmosphere in that house would be like if Matt Smith regenerated into someone who resembled them. Because that’s all you can do, imagine, for the time being.

*I’ve read that some are disappointed that the Doctor will be straight again. I sympathize—though the series deserves credit on that front for Captain Jack—but unless they have access to scripts Moffat hasn’t written yet, I’m not sure why anyone would conclude from Capaldi’s casting that the Doctor will be straight.

**Writing this story down is, believe it or not, the first time I’ve ever realized that the house was bigger on the inside. I’ve always worried people would think I was making some sort of derogatory statement about the living conditions of Pakistanis, when I should’ve been making it clear that they have a TARDIS and we don’t.

Hello, I’m SEK and I live in Mississippi.

[ 141 ] August 4, 2013 |

At least until I find a place in Baton Rouge. I feel obligated to write this post because of the concern espoused in a previous one about my travels in Texas. I attribute making it through unscathed to the gigantic Lincoln Navigator I was piloting: I looked far too wealthy and American to be pulled over.  Now here are some completely random notes:

  • Texas is too big. I’m familiar with its eastern bits — my parents live in Houston and my wife studied at UT — but that stretch between El Paso and San Antonio has no business existing.
  • It doesn’t matter how large your vehicle is when you share it with two howling cats who don’t even have the decency to harmonize. It just doesn’t.
  • The In Our Time podcast is as good as advertised. Given that I can attest to the quality of the material on matters I’m expert in — Joyce, Yeats, Alfred Russel Wallace, the history of evolutionary theory, etc. — I’m going to be quick to flash my vast store of new-found knowledge. (“Did you know there’s no solid evidence Marco Polo existed?” is something I will be saying at a dinner-party in the near future.)
  • Southern California produces better Mexican food than Texas and no cuisine in the world is comparable to Louisiana’s. These are facts that cannot be disputed.

The asemic style of conservative politics

[ 61 ] July 29, 2013 |

As outlined in the book of the same name, the paranoid style of American politics requires a philosophical rigor that contemporary conservatives simply lack. There’s a baroque grandeur to the pattern of perceived slights that’s admirable in its own way — as if a master archer decided to “paint” a pointillist self-portrait one arrow at a time. The style of contemporary conservatives is equally absurd, but it lacks the pointless beauty of paranoia — it’s akin to child who tosses a handful of bird shot into a lake and finds in the resulting ripples a fair resemblance of himself. By insisting his reflection is the result of his “artistry,” he communicates that he fundamentally misunderstands the nature of causality.

Put differently: if he pissed on a mirror he’d crow about the transmogrifying powers of his urine.

Because he’s not paranoid — he’s an idiot. He’s out there kicking a watch to prove to David Hume that God designed the world to exist. At The National Review, for example, Stanley Kurtz recounts reading a book by James Kloppenberg in which Mike Kruglik “recalls that Obama had a special interest in the work of the radical historian Howard Zinn” in 1985. I had to add the date because Kurtz didn’t want to sully Kloppenberg’s account of Kruglik’s twenty-eight year old recollection of Obama’s “special interest” with its proper context. Had he done so, Paul Mirengoff of Powerline wouldn’t have been able to draw attention to “The Obama-Zinn Connection,” nor would he have been able to transform Obama’s “special interest” into overt “fan[dom],” and if he couldn’t call Obama a “fan” of Zinn, he couldn’t link to The National Review‘s “summar[y]” of “Zinn’s errors and distortions.”

This isn’t paranoia — grandiose or otherwise — it’s the self-fulfilling stupidity of three kids kicking a turtle they’ve mistaken for a watch who think they’re proving God and Samuel Johnson right. They’re not exactly sure how they’ve done so, but they’re damn sure that they have because it looks just like them.

Food recommendations on I-10 East from Corona, CA to Houston, TX

[ 57 ] July 28, 2013 |

Since this is now my personal Xanga/livejournal/Myspace page — and because the recommendations on the podcast thread were so exquisite I’m already listening to them while packing — I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask. I’m planning on doing 10 hours days from Corona to El Paso and then El Paso to Houston, so I don’t want to stop for a long lunch — nor will the three howling cats in my rented SUV — so places I can call in advance and eat on the way would be preferred. I’ve been looking online for such places, but they’re either far too fancy, which will kill my cats, or they’re perfect but have been recently burned down. I shit you not: four of the five places that initially excited me have burned down in the past few months.

So … recommendations? Including on the drive itself, places to stay that are cat-friendly, etc. Basically any recommendation you have that doesn’t amount to “DON’T BE DEAF YOU ANNOYING LITTLE COCKSUCKER.” (Which, when you think about it, is probably The Donalde’s way of saying he’s going to miss me when I’m gone. Not enough to stop sexually harassing his students, but enough to feel a pang above his waistline when he does so, you know, in the part of his brain where shame ought to live.)

The Saga of SEK & Hertz…

[ 87 ] July 27, 2013 |

…has reached its conclusion. After finally talking to someone in management with basic human decency, I can now say, without qualification, that the situation has been resolved to my great satisfaction.

UPDATE: In case you have no idea what I’m writing about.

Massive @Hertz fail, Twitter must be informed

[ 144 ] July 26, 2013 |

HERTZ AT ONTARIO, CA AIRPORT: Hello, welcome to Hertz Ontario!

SEK: Hi, I have a question about the A/V connection that only a deaf person (like myself) would have about the SUV I’ll be rent –


SEK: (master volume is already at JITTERBUG) Let me turn my volume up. (pretends to up the loudest setting to ludicrous, but really just starts shouting) IS THAT BETTER?





SEK: Must have been a bad connection. Let’s try it again from my wife’s phone: 1-909-937-8877. Ring, ring, telephone ring, hope somebody knows, what they’re doing

HERTZ AT ONTARIO, CA AIRPORT: Good morning, Hertz Ontario!

SEK: Hi, I just tried to call a second ago but I guess we had a bad connect –

HERTZ AT ONTARIO, CA AIRPORT: (to unknown compatriot) Him again. (more whispering) YES WE ARE HERTZ.






HERTZ AT ONTARIO, CA AIRPORT: (shuffling phones and flustering composure) HONESTLY UNCALLED FOR – WHAT DO YOU NEED?


HERTZ AT ONTARIO, CA AIRPORT: Please don’t call back.


SEK: Ring, ring, telephone ring


SEK: I know you can hear me. I just need to know whether there’s an A/V outlet on the SUV I rented

HERTZ AT ONTARIO, CA AIRPORT: (phones shuttled into other hands) SIR WE ASKED YOU NOT TO CALL BACK.

SEK: I just have a simple question about my reservation for Saturday –


SEK: You can’t. You don’t even have my information.


SEK: That’s my wife’s number. The reservation’s in my



SEK: I won’t. That’s what Twitter’s for.

Any car rental companies in the Corona and/or Ontario area that would like to shame Hertz are more than welcome to contact me via Twitter @scottekaufman, Facebook, or scotterickaufman (at) gmail (dot) com. I will return your call within the hour.

UPDATE: Nothing as yet, really, so it’s time to go Full Jew:

Maybe if enough people “like” and “share” the following, some important person will notice their blackberry’s been barking at them for hours now.

Hi Hertz! Remember me? I’m the deaf guy your Ontario, CA employees mocked this morning. I spent the better part of the day talking my way up from one middle-manager to another and was PROMISED that I’d get a call “later” from someone with the authority to 1) answer my very simple, basic question and 2) explain to me why Hertz employees are encouraged to behave as they do. (Do you WANT to drive away customers? Because I don’t see that being a successful long-term business model.)

Point being, I’m supposed to pick up my SUV tomorrow morning, but as I told every rung on your corporate ladder, I refuse to honor my reservation if the people who willfully and maliciously dishonored me today are working the counter. I’ve asked for assurances that they wouldn’t be, but have heard nothing. I’ve asked for an explanation as to why they were allowed to do so in the first place, but I’ve heard nothing.

Basically, I’ve heard nothing except “later,” and now “later” is creeping into “tomorrow.” Should you ever again desire the business of the communities to which I belong — deaf and hearing alike — I strongly recommend that someone with the ability to address my concerns contacts me sooner rather than “later.”

Do you know of any podcasts that SEK would like to listen to?

[ 83 ] July 25, 2013 |

As I’m about to set off on a cross-country drive that’ll take me the better part of three days, it’d be nice to have something to listen to besides music, NPR, and what passes for “political commentary” in the vast Texas wastelands. So feel free to name — and if you’re feeling really charitable, link to — some of the better podcasts out there. I’m not too selective about the subject — and on a drive like this, the more variety the better — I’d just like it to be smart. So if you’ve got a favorite science/history/literary/whatever podcast, give it some love in the comments and I’ll repay with you with gratitude, because with the move that’s really all I can afford right now.

Ironically, of the eleven letters in “Ann Althouse,” not a one of them is an “F”

[ 111 ] July 25, 2013 |

Not even a week after Nate Silver’s departure from The New York Times prompted a generation of pundits to sigh mightily, turn to camera three, and continue talking about the prospect of Palin running in 2016, Ann Althouse defended her corporate masters with this little bit of innumerate lunacy:

I’m blogging this because it’s not an atypical incident and because too many people in America have unrealistic, idealized notions of the goodness of trains and their capacity to whisk everyone around everywhere at high speed.

So how about we take the country synonymous with “high speed” rails and look at it data. The most recent available, from 2011, indicates that 4,612 Japanese people were killed in motor vehicles accidents. How many were killed by trains of any kind [.pdf]?

Now I know what you’re thinking: one is still a lot of people to die on trains of any kind. Althouse is right to be suspicious of them. But care to guess how that one “Others” person died? According to page 79 of the aforelinked report, “a crossing rod that had been stuck in the lowered position was raised by an employee of the railway company, leading to a train colliding with a vehicle that had entered into the crossing.” So the only person killed by a train of any kind in the Land of the High Speed rail was in a car.

Take heed Americans!

Be very afraid!

Put aside the fact that, in 2011, 32,367 people died in car accidents, whereas as 759 were killed in non-high speed rail train accidents. I know 759 isn’t zero, but unless my maths deceive me, it’s quite a bit less than 32,367. But what am I saying?

Don’t be an unrealistic idealist!

Far better to live in a country where more people die on more dangerous tracks than risk being one of the non-existent victims of Japanese high-speed rail disasters!

I occasionally wonder how much They pay Althouse to play a craven jackass online, then I realize They probably just ply her with flowers and an Internet Husband and decide I’d rather not taste this morning’s breakfast again.

An LG&M podcast: “Lord Snow,” or “He may as well have been the air of Winterfell”

[ 16 ] July 25, 2013 |

Steven Attewell and I decided that we didn’t want to wait until next February to continue talking about Game of Thrones, and so we decided to start over. Here’s our take on “Lord Snow,” the series’ third episode. And before you ask: yes, the podcast did explode before we had a chance to finish it. We’ll cover the four minutes we lost in two weeks, after I’ve moved and settled in. Which also means, obviously, that there won’t be a podcast next week, as I’ll be moving and settling in. Try not to miss me too much.

Works SEK discusses:

Works Attewell discusses (warning, all of these posts contain spoilers for all five books):

  • Daenerys III (on assimilation and how Viserys fails to use its power)
  • Bran IV (old Nan’s stories and the meta-history of Westeros)
  • Eddard IV (Eddard’s first Small Council meeting, first assessment of his political skills, and the Littlefinger embezzlement question)
  • Catelyn IV (the knife, Littlefinger the gambler, his historical counterpart, and how he contrasts with Varys)
  • Jon III (the Watch as an institution in decline, Jon Snow getting over his privilege)
  • Arya II (Arya as a deconstruction of the fantasy heroic protagonist, Syrio Forel and famous swordswomen)



Archives: panders for hits …

[ 42 ] July 24, 2013 |

… but is smart enough not to let readers comment on “Teens Find Love With Each Other After Both Have Gender Reassignments.” According to the author, everyone should watch video because “[i]t’s very hard to do justice to young love.” I bet the bigoted hordes who comment at would’ve tried very hard to do something to that young love, but I seriously doubt it would’ve been “justice.”

As it turns out, Ryan Braun’s no good for the Jews.

[ 58 ] July 22, 2013 |

Farshporn zol er oyf tsu shteyn?

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