From the monthly archives:

March 2004

Seasonal goodies

by Eszter Hargittai on March 31, 2004

Since we’re on the topic of peeps, bunnies and bilbies, let’s not forget the seasonal reason for oranges. Is that confusing? Then you should take a look at a humanist feminist modern-version Haggadah for Passover. My referral logs from last year tell me that there are definitely others out there who seek such a text so I was happy to make one available. To elaborate, humanist means that there is no mention of a higher power and feminist refers to the inclusion of the orange on the Seder plate. It’s a modern version Haggadah because it does not only refer to events from thousands of years ago but also makes reference to the Holocaust and hardships of today. The plagues are not frogs and wild beasts but hunger and war. In general, it’s a more inclusive text. To spice things up a bit, you can also plan to have a chocolate seder plate for dessert. The first night of Passover this year falls on Monday, April 5th.

Michael Bérubé asks the important questions about the eschatological, best-selling Left Behind series.

First of all, what does the Book of Revelations say about fundamentalist-Christian pulp-fiction writers who are trying to complete their Revelations-based book series before they’re raptured into heaven? Does Scripture itself predict whether novels about the Final Days will be published during the Final Days? Do they arrive in bookstores just after the seven-eyed, seven-horned Lamb opens the first of the seven seals (6:1), or do we have to wait until the appearance of the seven-headed, ten-horned dragon (12:3)? Second, when Christ returns, will He hang out for a while– maybe even serving as an editorial consultant on the remaining “Left Behind” books– before initiating the series of events leading to the Apocalypse, or will He just be all about the Apocalypse?

I must admit that there is a certain prima facie plausibility to the idea that the popularity of these books is a sign of the end times, in some sense. (We’re in the Kali yuga, you know, where the bull of Truth is standing on only one leg.) This reminds me of a good friend whose mother, a devout Catholic, wrote a Christian thriller of this sort. In it, people on a plane about to crash confront their mortality and faith. My friend’s mom modelled the doomed atheist figure on him.

Bunnies vs bilbies

by John Q on March 31, 2004

Following up Belle’s post, In Australia, as Easter approaches, the big question is: Bunny or Bilby? To give as fair and balanced a presentation as possible of the main issues, the rabbit is a voracious alien pest[1] marketed in chocolate form by greedy multinationals, while the bilby is an appealing, and endangered, native marsupial made available for Easter celebration by public spirited Australians, helping to raise both awareness and much-needed funds. We report, you decide.

fn1. Matched only by the fox


by Belle Waring on March 31, 2004

Now that Easter is coming, it’s time to focus on what matters: Marshmallow Peeps. This special, nauseating American food product may be a more worthless candy than the apparently styrofoam-based Circus Peanuts. Nah, Peeps are #2; the Circus Peanuts are the worst. But did you know you can pay top dollar for gourmet passion-fruit flavored Peeps in NYC? Or that with a little Martha-like craftiness you can decorate an entire office with Peeps? Here’s my special fun-filled Peeps trick: put a marshmallow Peep in the microwave (on a plate) and set for one minute. It’s a flaming orgy of sadistic Peeps-destruction! Mel Gibson’s got nothing on me (though I doubt the edifying spectacle will cause anyone to confess to murder.)

Psephological Concussion

by Henry Farrell on March 31, 2004

One of the better indicators of statistical significance is the so-called “interocular trauma test.” It’s only satisfied when you have results that are so glaringly obvious that they hit you between the eyes. “Nasi Lemak,” a barely anonymous political scientist, uses data on Bush’s approval ratings to come up with “two graphs”: that pass this test with flying colours. Of course, trends can change over time, but there sure looks to be something important happening here …

Goodbye, Mr Cooke

by Tom on March 30, 2004

I wrote what I wanted to say about Alistair Cooke when he announced, not very long ago, that he didn’t feel he could continue to write his ‘Letter from America’ any more.

Well, (to steal a favourite Cooke sentence-opener), AC died today, so the ‘Letter’ really is done forever, and there’s no hope of a reprise.

[click to continue…]

The Full Lineout

by Kieran Healy on March 30, 2004

ct-lineout Having John and Belle join us brings the CT roster to 15, which means we are now available for rugby matches against “similarly-sized”: “group”: “blogs”: Bring ’em on, I say. As you can see to the right, our front row is easily amongst the best in the world. Hooker “John Quiggin”: is complemented by English hard-man “Bertram”: and Welsh terror “Davies”: Flankers “Weatherson”: and new acquisition “Holbo”: combine to ensure mobility amongst the forwards, while second-rows “Farrell”: (H) and “Barlow”: are big enough to catch anything thrown at them in the lineout. Number 8 “Man-Mountain Micah” “Schwartzman”: anchors the forward line. Scrum-half “Farrell”: (M) provides the crucial link between the heavy-hitting forwards and the nimbler back line. At out-half, “Runnacles”: is equally well-able to run with the ball or kick for possession deep in opposition territory. Centers “Hargittai”: and “Waring”: are quick on the break while wingers “Brighouse”: and “Mandle”: create havoc with the slower defences of other blogs. Finally “Healy”: at full back is perhaps the only question mark in an otherwise impeccable line-up.

And in case anyone’s wondering, rugby-team size seems to be optimal. Despite appearances to the contrary, and unlike the State or the Market (depending on your temperament), CT has no inbuilt tendency to expand indefinitely until it takes over every aspect of life.

When recipes attack

by Henry Farrell on March 30, 2004

From “Southern Living Magazine”:,13676,605096,00.html


Click here for more information.

Please DO NOT USE the Icebox Rolls recipe that appeared on p. 154 of the April 2004 issue of Southern Living. Combining the water and shortening as described in the recipe may cause the mixture to ignite, is extremely dangerous, and could result in fire and safety hazards. DO NOT USE this recipe. For the corrected recipe, click here. It will also be reprinted in the May 2004 issue. If you have any questions, please call 1-888-836-9327.

(found via “Jessa Crispin”:

Welcome to John and Belle

by John Q on March 30, 2004

I’m pleased to announce that John Holbo and Belle Waring have joined our group and will be posting regularly on Crooked Timber from now on. John and Belle are famous for the catchphrase “and a pony!”, but apart from that I’m not going to attempt to summarise them.

Like me, and some other members of the group, they’ll be maintaining their own excellent blog as well.

big girl’s blouse

by John Holbo on March 30, 2004

Is this thing on? OK this question is really more of a digression. The Poor Man’s proposed Bush reelection ad raised a lot of hackles … and a lot of questions. Specifically, I have long known that the English – perhaps all denizens of Great Britain and (some) former British colonies? – use the phrase ‘big girl’s blouse’ in a derogatory manner. But I don’t know how to pronounce it. I don’t know where the stress should fall. Presumably on the element that makes the item of apparel self-evidently bad. But I am afraid my moral intuitions fail me on this point. Is it bad to be a girl, or a BIG girl (hence the blouse is only bad by metonymic association); or is it bad to be a blouse, or a BIG blouse, or a big GIRL’S blouse, or a BIG GIRL’S blouse, or all of these at once? (In which case the stress would naturally fall evenly on all three elements?)

It all just goes to show that English is a tonal language. All answers should be formulated, likewise, as digressions.

UPDATE: Woah. I posted this thing after Kieran and Quiggin posted theirs, but here it is underneath. That’s time zones for you, I guess.

Conspicuous by his absence

by Henry Farrell on March 29, 2004

Forbes is the latest magazine trying to capitalize on the blogging thing by holding a “best blog competition”: across various categories. It’s interesting to note that no less than “53%”: of voters say that the best blog on the economy is “none of the above” (no other entry gets more than 11%). I imagine that the glaring absence of a certain Berkeley economics professor from the shortlist helps explain this rather peculiar outcome … (via “The Decembrist”:

Books, journals and incentive structures

by Henry Farrell on March 29, 2004

As Kieran “says”:, social scientists are very easily seduced by their models, even when these models are actively misleading. Good social science should not only develop models, it should test them. Which is all in the way of an extended health warning for the following argument, which I’ve no intention of testing, and am not even sure I subscribe to myself. It’s indisputable that US social scientists look down their noses at their mainland European colleagues, who in turn are quite naturally resentful. Americans often justify their snobbishness by pointing to the failure of most mainland European academics to publish in the top journals of the field (which are usually US or UK based). Europeans tend instead to publish in edited volumes or non-peer reviewed journals. What I want to argue is that this difference isn’t because Europeans are any stupider than Americans, or less able to write interesting pieces – it’s because both Europeans and Americans are responding rationally to different systems of resource allocation.

[click to continue…]

Blog coverage

by Eszter Hargittai on March 29, 2004

For the data geeks in the audience, here’s an updated version of the graph I created last year (see disclaimers there) tracking the coverage of the word “weblog” and “blog” in 47 US and international (English-language) dailies. Of course, this doesn’t mean too much except that the term and the artifact of blogging is diffusing in mainstream media coverage (notice the change in the ratio of the two words). It is unclear, for example, how often journalists in such newspapers acknowledge blogs as sources of information when they get a story or an idea from them. That would be something interesting to look at, but would require much more work than running some queries on Lexis-Nexis and may also involve collecting some qualitative data. Since this is not part of my research, I’m going to leave detailed investigations to others.

How do you roux?

by Maria on March 29, 2004

Here is something I just had to share, even though it has nothing to do with politics, philosophy, and the assorted types of cleverology we generally deal with on CT. But it is a solution to a particularly vexed question nonetheless; how to make an unlumpy roux. Roux are the bane of many cooks, since they so often end up either lumpy or burnt. But as they’re the basis of so many sauces, it really helps if you know you can rely on yours.

Like many culinary innovations – malted hops, blue cheese, potato crisps – my discovery occurred by accident/necessity. I was trying to prepare a chicken and broccoli bake and a chocolate and orange cake using only two saucepans and in under an hour to have them both in the oven by the start of the England-France rugby match and be able to serve them at half time.

So, instead of doing the roux in a saucepan (both were being used already), I made it in a tin bowl sitting on top of the blanching broccoli, just as you would to melt chocolate if you don’t have a microwave. The steam of the boiling water melted the butter quickly but didn’t burn it, and the flour mixed in without a single lump as the heat was so evenly dispersed. There was barely any need to stir and the whole thing took about 3 minutes from start to finish.

People are always saying their methods are foolproof when they’re not, but I promise that this one cannot fail…

The Zarqawi scandal

by John Q on March 28, 2004

As Richard Clarke’s unsurprising revelations continue to receive blanket coverage around the blogosphere and elsewhere, I’ve been increasingly puzzled by the failure of the Zarqawi scandal to make a bigger stir. As far as I can determine, the following facts are undisputed

* Abu Musab Zarqawi, leader of the group Ansar al-Islam is one of the most dangerous Islamist terrorists currently active. He is the prime suspect for both the Karbala and Madrid atrocities and the alleged author of a letter setting out al Qaeda’s strategy for jihad in Iraq. Although he has become increasingly prominent in the past year, he has been well-known as a terrorist for many years
* For some years, until March 2003, Ansar al-Islam was based primarily at Kirma in Northern Iraq, in part of the region of Iraq generally controlled by the Kurds and included in the no-fly zone enforced by the US and UK. In other words, the group was an easy target for either a US air attack, a land attack by some special forces and/or Kurdish militia or a combination of the two
* Nothing was done until the invasion of Iraq proper, by which time the group had fled

These facts alone would indicate a failure comparable in every way to the missed opportunities to kill or capture bin Laden before S11. But the reality appears to be far worse.

[click to continue…]