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A celebration of the bizarre, live from Los Angeles.

Yesterday I signed up for this year's National Novel Writing Month. That means I'll be writing a 50,000 word "novel" during the month of November. Well, theoretically. Last year I was a big flunkie and dropped out at 25,000 words.

It's the best way to get over the "this is crap" feeling that stops people from writing. It's all about quantity, not quality! The race to the finish line doesn't have to be pretty.

posted by Sara 8:52:00 AM
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There's a maze of tunnels under Liverpool, built by an eccentric millionaire--"Joseph Williamson, tobacco magnate, philanthropist, recluse and 'mad mole'"--in the early 1800s. (Thanks to Jesse for the sending the link.)

The article says his reasons for digging are a big mystery, but it seems pretty obvious: Underground tunnels are cool. That's why 160 volunteers are now cleaning up Liverpool's maze.

In the past few months I've linked to stories about tunneling under Los Vegas and in Paris' Catacombs in the 6th Arr. Time to find some L.A. tunnels--I've heard they're here. Anyone?

Aside: The brilliant, somewhat incoherently edited Emir Kosturica movie Underground plays with the oddball idea that a web of tunnels connects European countries.

posted by Sara 9:45:00 AM
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I have Editor's Links up on Reason Online today: Verichip, the Mark of the Beast. Fun mostly because I got to reference my favorite Coen Bros. movie, *The Hudsucker Proxy*.

posted by Sara 3:05:00 PM
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From "A group of real-life barbers from the National Association of Cosmetologists, led by Chief Executive James Stern, are asking the Rev. Jesse Jackson to apologize for demanding an apology from the filmmakers of Barbershop. Jackson made it known last month that he and several black leaders were offended by some of the off-color jokes made by a character (played by Cedric the Entertainer) about civil rights pioneers Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and asked for an apology, which the filmmakers provided. After viewing the film themselves and finding nothing offensive about it, Stern told Reuters he and his group feel Jackson's remarks have hurt the creativity of black filmmakers, as well as their own businesses. 'Reverend Jackson did not consider the future of black filmmakers,' Stern said to Reuters. He also said that if Jackson did not apologize himself, his group would sue for defamation of character."

posted by Sara 2:59:00 PM
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Need a good road trip? Jesse Walker just forwarded me this AP story, about the establishment of the Global Country of World Peace. Although the GCWP doesn't have any borders, its capitol is housed in an old hotel in Vedic City, Iowa, and it has it's own currency and king. Its national pasttime—indeed, its raison d'etre—appears to be transcendental meditation.

John Hagelin, former presidential candidate for the Natural Law Party, is Global Country's Minister of Science & Technology. I liked his presidential campaign proposal (you know, for the "real" government) to create world peace by teaching yoga to school children. He says in the AP story, "Just like the United Nations exists in New York to provide support to every country, the global country of world peace will not usurp the responsibility of government." 

Even so, Costa Rica reportedly deported members of the group for trying to create a sovereign state there. Is this for real?

posted by Sara 4:12:00 PM
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I have no idea what's going on in the world, and no opinion on it. Don't tell anyone.

posted by Sara 6:12:00 PM
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A Parisian court has ruled Michel Houellebecq can say whatever he wants about Islam, even in France. Good. Too bad French law could allow such a case to go to trial.

posted by Sara 12:03:00 PM
. . . "We hope you think we're as awesome as the Black community does!!"

posted by Sara 8:31:00 AM
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They've made a condom for three-minute eggs. Don't tell the abstinence-only crowd, but this should do wonders for teen sex.

posted by Sara 10:17:00 AM
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I am shocked, totally shocked, that the Bali bombings aren't a bigger story in U.S. media. Thank god for the Internet.

posted by Sara 12:35:00 PM
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CLARIFICATION: Judging by some comments I've received on my piece yesterday, I think I need to emphasize that I still think we need to change U.S. foreign policy on moral grounds, whether it will defuse terrorism or not.

MORE ON WHY I THINK IT WON'T: Bombs killed 5 today in the Philippines. Yeah, that's nothing new there, I know, but it adds to the feeling that bin Laden has succeeded in setting a spark. He has re-popularized terrorism. He's given Muslims extremists (and idiosyncratic, lone wolf kookoos) the world over a new sense of energy and community. And I think there's little we can do about it.

posted by Sara 10:23:00 AM
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I know that officially, toxoplasmosis is what pregnant women get when they get a little too up close and personal with their cat's litter box. However, I'd like to recoin the word, because lately, when I feel really shitty, that's what pops into mind: Toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmatic. Acutely toxoplasmatic.

I think it comes from reading Atkin's, which medicalizes its quackery with words like "ketoacidemia" and "lipolysis."

In any case, the only affect on me so far is a prolongued case of severe toxoplasmosis.
That is, "a prolongued case of severe shitty-feeling-ness."

This reminds me, I'm getting sick of the baby talk on Buffy. I used to think it was cute. But now it's obviously wearing off on me.

posted by Sara 9:38:00 AM
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I thought I'd better end my silence of several days. I'm trying to find out if eliminating carbohydrates will stop my blood-sugar mood swings. So far it's just taking me on little mental journeys to the moon. I'm a headachey space case by about noon. I also seem to be rhyming inadvertently. Hmmn. Anyway, that and a busy work schedule has led to an unintended blog boycott.

The most interesting thing I have seen on the Web today was Instapundit's link to a blog that seems to be by an Iraqi, commenting on, among other things, what its like to live life in expectation of U.S. annilhilation. Also what it's like to vote in Iraq. But I'm too lazy to link right now so you'll have to go to Reynold's site.

Evan McElravy also has good stuff up today. I was interested to find that we've had very similar reactions to the Bali bombing--so rather than try to write anything, I just refer you to him: I do have some comments on Reason Online today. Warning: They're a bit on the pessimistic, sky-is-falling side. That's what happens when I have to write in the morning, with no carbs and very little time.

posted by Sara 4:47:00 PM
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posted by Sara 3:47:00 PM
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Eventually, I'm going to rename this blog. I took the name from a column I used to write years ago for my student co-op. It's good for my own nostalgic purposes, but it doesn't match the spirit of the site (except maybe when I'm grumpy). But in the meantime, it's a bit alarming to see via my referral logs that people have hit this site with the search terms "buy arsensic." Or is it still commonly used as a rat poison?

Virginia Postrel jumps into the waltz today with a great post about Ann Coulter as minstrel. I only wish I had thought of that for my piece. Visiting Virginia's site reminds me: I missed Buffy last night! (I know she's a fan.) I had high hopes for the season after a hilarious first episode, but last week's "Buffy the Guidance Counselor" was disappointing. Anyone catch last night's show?

posted by Sara 9:59:00 AM
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VOMIT: "Being an artist, I thought what if this had been a performance piece and Osama bin Laden had declared himself an artist, how would the world have seen it then?" -- New Zealand artist Gail Haffern

Chuck Freund takes Haffern and her ilk to task in an excellent
piece in the SF Chronicle Online: "These artists represent an aesthetic barbarity not evident since the painters and writers of prewar Italy and France celebrated violence, destruction and martial strength as necessary to create a fascist order. These, too, saw something positive -- something wonderfully aesthetic -- in force, blood and mayhem, which is why the German critic and philosopher Walter Benjamin charged fascism with "aestheticizing" its repellent politics."

posted by Sara 10:16:00 AM
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SOUNDS LIKE A WINNER: My former Daily Texan editor and current phone friend Jim Dedman reports on his blog about actor Bruce Campbell's new movie, "Bubba Ho-tep, a bizarre horror flick in which he plays an elderly Elvis Presley who must fight an ancient Egyptian mummy to save his nursing home."

Jim didn't actually see the movie. But it's got a 7.2 rating on IMDB. Not too shabby.

posted by Sara 10:05:00 AM
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NOTHING IS WRITTEN: Last night I got to see *Lawrence of Arabia* (1962) on the big screen. Gasp, moan, sigh: What an amazing movie. It reminded me of a couple of other favorites: *Apocolypse Now* (1979) and Passolini's *The Gospel According to St. Matthew* (1964).

I've got a lot to say about this one, but it will have to wait.

posted by Sara 1:45:00 PM
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So, yesterday I had that rare chance to experience what every girl dreams of: I got to hear what conservative America thinks of my rack, courtesy of

The Freepers, as well as a brigade at, were angry about my piece on Ann Coulter, which pointed out that she uses her bomb-throwing rhetorical style to bring out the very worst in her opponents. She and her devotees, some of whom I had the pleasure of "meeting" yesterday, clearly thrive on the spectacle she so skillfully creates--and so do her mudslinging critics. That was the main point of my article.

Am I a fan of Coulter’s M.O.? No. Am I a fan of her post-9/11 politics? No. Even so, "bitch goddess" isn’t an insult. It’s a compliment: She’s at the top of her game. I can’t speak for the pundit, but I suspect she'd agree.

Over at, the fans were more reflective. They couldn’t decide whether I was a tramp, a Lesbian, dateless at the prom, or merely "a liberal, from her bobby pinned hair all the way down to her sensible shoes." (Is this what Cosmo has in mind when it advises me to "keep men guessing"?) But props to the guy who complimented the fine work of my long-dead namesake, Tillman Riemenschneider—and to the couple of readers who defended me or, even better, posted a critique that addressed the article, not my anatomical parts.

One final aside: I thought it was funny that many wanted to cast me as the feminista and Ann as the femme fatale. Depends on whose gaze I’m meeting across the table, darlings. But mostly, I found it funny because one of the few Coulter columns I kinda enjoyed was on that topic: "
Live by the breast, die by the breast," girls.

posted by Sara 1:15:00 PM
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The folks at have stumbled upon my tongue-in-cheek Ann Coulter column, Bitch Goddess: Ann Coulter’s perverse appeal. You can check the thread out here.

I'm getting flamed on e-mail, too. My personal fave so far:
"You dried up old lezzie. You'll never be able to match her for intelligence, wit, or looks. How does it feel to be so overmatched? Pathetic, I'll bet."

posted by Sara 11:43:00 AM
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Well, the New Times L.A. Web site is already history; the link shamelessly takes you to the LA Weekly. Jesus. I really hope that its former staffers are thinking big and banding together. Is there any reason they shouldn't or couldn't launch their own L.A. Newer Times? (Bashfully admitted: I'm fantasizing some kind of *It's a Wonderful Life* temporary collective economy to keep everyone eating until someone steps in and saves the Savings &, the newspaper.)

posted by Sara 4:52:00 PM
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Brian Doherty has posted a combination eulogy and defense of the New Times closure.

I agree that anti-trust law isn't the answer; I'd rather see that kind of time, energy, and money devoted to building up a new paper. But it's hard not to see this as a compelling argument for locally controlled media. Sure, there are benefits to having a corporate parent, but there can't be anything much more frustrating than working your ass off to put out a good paper and beat your competition -- and then having some CEO from the corporate office abruptly and arbitrarily pull the plug. Or more frustrating than enjoying your local paper -- and having it suddenly disappear.

But hopefully Brian is right, and the New Times void will soon be filled by something as good or better. I tend to be optimistic, especially since there are so many out of work journos around town these days...

posted by Sara 11:48:00 AM
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PREDICTION: The day this starts happening with any frequency to humans is the day we get serious about pollution. Poor polar bears!

posted by Sara 11:18:00 AM
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FROM THE DEPT. OF EXTRAORDINARILY BAD NEWS: The Los Angeles New Times is closing up shop; the Oct. 3 issue will be its last. The music editor just emailed Brian Doherty, who was to write something for an upcoming issue.

Having just read that the L.A. Weekly has something like a 20 percent profit margin, I can't believe that this town can't support two alt. weeklies. I also can't believe that the New Times -- quirkier, more insouciant, and less apt to take itself too seriously -- can't beat the pants of the weekly.

I've got just two more words: Bite Me!

UPDATE: News from Romanesko: Apparently, the shut down is the result of a deal between the L.A. Weekly and New Times corporate offices. The Village Voice, which owns the Weekly, dropped its paper in Cleveland so that the New Times could rule the roost; in exchange, no more New Times L.A.

Says the Village Voice CEO: "It was never our intention to give up that fight, but when the opportunity arose to consolidate and strengthen our position in LA, it was my judgment that the deal was just too attractive to pass up."

Once again, it's much easier to eliminate the competition than, uh, compete.

posted by Sara 9:42:00 AM
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The huffing and puffing over insults to civil rights leaders in *Barbershop* continues. Now Rosa Park's spokesman has requested, along with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, that the line "Rosa Parks ain't do nothin' but sit her black ass down" be snipped out of the DVD. I wrote about this the other day forReason, but didn't link to it here because I had planned to see it over the weekend and wanted to write a more informed wrap-up. Since that didn't happen, I'll go ahead and post it. But I'll save any further words for when I finally see the movie (which is, by most accounts, a damn good show).

posted by Sara 10:11:00 AM
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