Oliver Clement Brighouse Mothersname was born this morning (Wednesday) at about 8.40 central time, by C-section. At 8lbs he has the smallest birthweight of our children, much to his oldest sister’s joy. Both he and his mother are doing well.

He’ll have two adoring sisters and parents who want him (even if they had a hard time figuring out a name). My greatest wishes for him are that he gives and receives a great deal of love, happiness and laughter in his life, and that he has the self confidence that enables him to find his own way while treating others kindly. A life-long enjoyment of Round The Horne, Bob Newhart and a facility with Unwinese would be big bonuses. His sisters will work on those.

I had a close encounter with the Reaper this summer. I don’t know exactly how close, but closer than I’d like. He was waiting on a winding hill road in south east Ohio, keeping an appointment with an 18 year old kid who was driving too fast and on the wrong side of the road. Seeing me coming the other way in my Camry he thought he spotted a twofer, and got greedy. What was the chance that I’d be a middle aged man who drives like an old granny but has reactions honed by spending my teenage (pre-helmet) years standing at silly mid-off (because I was too fat to be put anywhere else)? I slammed on the brakes, remembered that I’d just doubled my life insurance, hoped my daughter would be fine, thought about what a nice life I’ve had, and waited.

There’s such a thing as overreaching and the reaper departed wicket-less, succeeding only in causing a few injuries, a fair amount of pain, and making a mockery of this old post. The upshot is along with the adoring sisters and the perfect mother, Oliver Clement gets to have a father. And a minivan. (But not, regrettably for him, the name Reginald).

I get to see him and his sisters grow up. They are materially comfortable, and no gifts you might offer to him will make us better parents, which is what they need. But if you did feel like celebrating our delight in his birth, you could do what I did tonight: pour yourself a glass of fresh grapefruit juice, listen to The Goons with your kids, and make a small, medium-sized, or, best of all, large donation to Oxfam (UK, Aus, elsewhere).

The shocking truth: politicians lie

by Eszter Hargittai on September 20, 2006

People have been asking me to comment on the recent riots in Budapest so I thought I would say a few words. First, a necessary caveat. I don’t follow Hungarian politics closely.* In fact, I don’t follow Hungarian politics much at all. I could probably write a whole separate post as to why not, suffice it to say that I don’t live in that country for a reason (or two or three) and years ago I decided that it was simply not good for my blood pressure to keep track of events. So I don’t. That said, when something especially noteworthy happens, I am curious to know what it is and will go to Hungarian sources instead of relying on various international reports. I’ve read up on recent events a little bit so here is a quick summary.

Politicians lie. Yawn. The twist here is that apparently many Hungarians naively assumed that they don’t. Worse yet, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány was caught on tape saying that his party lied a lot before the elections last Spring. To clarify, the instigator of the riots was not some public speech the Prime Minister made in the last few days. Rather, someone taped and recently leaked a discussion [link to Hungarian text] he had with a a few top people about 180 of his party representatives back in the Spring.

The level of honesty in his comments is naive, refreshing and scary all at the same time. Imagine if you could give some magic potion to a president or prime minister of your choice that would lead the person to talk about his/her actions and policies from the last few years completely openly and eagerly. It could result in some frightening and fascinating speeches. And who knows where that would lead.

Hungary’s got a lot of problems. The main point of Gyurcsány’s speech was that it was time to fix at least some of them. Yes, the irony is that the point of the speech was to say that it was time to stop the lies and make some difficult, but important changes.

[click to continue…]

Breathe into a Paper Bag and Count to Ten, Slowly

by Scott McLemee on September 20, 2006

A couple of days ago, in passing, I referred to the president of the United States at our Dear Leader. This has caused some hyperventillation. Just to clarify: The idea that the US and North Korea are in any way similar in polity or social structure never crossed my mind.

That sort of thing is, rather, a right-wing specialty: Gibberish about “totalitarian political correctness” of the Democratic Leadership Committee, etc. is a convenient way for crazy people to signal one another, so they can meet to discuss their shared feelings of persecution.

No, my intended parallel was between the men, not the regimes.

At that level, the element of sarcastic excess, while open to misinterpretation, came pretty close to bordering on the obvious: In each case, a personally unaccomplished and otherwise altogether unimpressive son, guided by his father’s old retainers, makes his country look both terrifying and ridiculous to the rest of the world.

Hysterics love hyperbole. But not all hyperbole is hysteria.