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July 31, 2005

John Roberts meets with Democratic senators

"That's right, Judge Roberts. I think a woman has the right to an abortion until the child -- er, fetus -- is THIS BIG."

"I want you to assure me you won't vote with that N-N-N-N-N-Negro, Clarence Thomas, OK, Judge Roberts?"

"Please, God, how in Your infinite wisdom could You have put this man in the Senate?"

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July 29, 2005

Expose yourself to art

Remember the famous photo of the man flashing a statue? The man would later become mayor of Portland, Oregon.

Art imitates satire. A museum in Austria now is permitting visitors in without fee if they are naked (or wearing a swimsuit only). The excuse? A "midsummer heat wave" and an exhibit called "The Naked Truth," a collection of early 1900s erotic art.

UPDATE (8/1): Now Yahoo posts some photos (natch!). There's one of a guy, too, but you don't want to see it, do you?

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Christmas in July

In case you missed the Santa Claus convention in Denmark this week, you might regret it.

Or maybe not.

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Dr. Shotwire, call your office

Somehow, the invention of this Japanese female android reminds me of Hymie the Robot.

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July 28, 2005

Between a rock and a hard phallus

Perhaps the world's oldest sex toy has been discovered. The BBC, in an article entitled "Ancient phallus unearthed in cave," reports:

A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered, researchers say.

The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.

The prehistoric "tool" was reassembled from 14 fragments of siltstone.

Its life size suggests it may well have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers, scientists report.
For those who are curious about "life size," 20 cm converts to just under 8 inches. Considering that the average height of humans has been growing, we can assume that the people who used this object were relatively small in stature. In height, I mean.

The phallus was apparently in the possession of an ancient Lorena Bobbitt:
The Tübingen team working Hohle Fels already had 13 fractured parts of the phallus in storage, but it was only with the discovery of a 14th fragment last year that the team was able finally to put the "jigsaw" together.
Researchers think it was used to split flints. (Isn't that what every guy does?)

Now, what would you do if you found a 28,000-year-old stone phallus? Why, you'd take it on tour, naturally: "The Hohle Fels phallus will go on show at Blaubeuren prehistoric museum in an exhibition called Ice Art - Clearly Male."

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Photos, Part 3

Here's the final installment of photos of Israel from my trip. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here.

Having slept at a Bedouin camp in the desert, we awoke at 4:00 a.m. to climb Masada for sunrise.

Here's a shot of Masada itself.

We then hiked at Ein Gedi, up to the waterfall.

After Ein Gedi, we drove north to a beach at the Dead Sea. Floating in the Dead Sea is even stranger than it's made out to be. You guys will understand what I'm saying when I tell you that one of the sensations is a little like putting Ben-Gay in your jockstrap. Dead Sea mud is supposed to have healthful properties. Here's a photo of mud-bathers at the Dead Sea.

We spent a couple of nights in Tzfat (a/k/a Zefat), which is up in the mountains in northern Israel. This is a view from our hotel.

In Tzfat, the wall of a building shows damage from shelling during the 1948 war.

We visited soldiers at the Lebanese border and were shown the border by a member of a kibbutz at that location. We were literally 20 yards from Lebanon, separated by a dirt road and a fence. We were shown the drug crops being grown by Hizbullah-supported farmers on the other side and the Hizbullah observation posts at the top of the hills.

Later, back in Jerusalem, we watched from our hotel window as a robot checked out a suspicious package on the street below.

Last, here's Hurva Arch in the Old City.

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Photos, Part 2

Here are a few more photos from our Israel trip. Part 1 is here. Part 3 is here.

This is a view of the Old City wall from our hotel. The Jaffa Gate is toward the left.

Yemin Moshe is a beautiful Jerusalem neighborhood built in the 19th century and named for Sir Moses Montefiore.

A Pillage Idiot first. A photo of me, as I'm getting prepared to go rappelling at the Makhtesh Ramon crater in the Negev, assisted by a self-described "vanilla gorilla," an Israeli raised in Kenya. I picked the photo that most maintains my anonymity.

We took a jeep ride in the crater of Makhtesh Ramon. Here's a photo of one of the rock walls down inside.

We later hiked in Ein Avdat.

When they warned of an abyss, they weren't kidding.

More photos to follow.

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July 27, 2005

Photos, Part 1

I promised I'd show you some of the photos I took in Israel.

This is the view from our hotel in Tel Aviv, where we began our trip. On the beach, you can see the Dolphinarium, where a suicide bomber killed 21 and injured 120 in June 2001.

The City of David in Jerusalem, where excavations are proceeding.

A view of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock.

We were escorted through the Muslim Quarter in the Old City after emerging from the tunnels at the Temple. (The man you see from the rear is our friend; the woman is our first tour guide.)

A view of Jerusalem from the Haas Promenade.

A panoramic view, of which the photo above is a part, can be seen here. (The stitching isn't perfect, but it was the best I could do.)

Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

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Taxi theology

No matter whether you are a fervent believer, an agnostic, or even an atheist, you will find God in Jerusalem. As the joke goes, it's a local call.

Although I visited the Kotel twice, nothing made me think and feel that "Hashem is with us" more than riding in a taxi. Israel is a small country, and there are few places where that smallness is felt more than on the highway. Cars, which are small to begin with, take advantage of tiny spaces to dart in and out of lanes -- never signalling, of course; that is flat-out asur. And tailgating seems to be obligatory. The whole system almost defies the laws of physics. It occurred to me Hashem must be with us, because otherwise half the population of Jerusalem would be killed each year in car crashes.

I first had this sense when riding in a taxi into Jerusalem. The driver was swerving back and forth between lanes, driving with only his left hand. Had I been in Washington or New York, I would have been hanging on for dear life. As it was, I had a serene sense of confidence that all would be well.

I felt the same sense of confidence while in a taxi headed toward Tel Aviv. The driver, a woman who was as Israeli as they come, was impatient with the traffic jam on the highway and decided to move two lanes left to drive on the left shoulder. She cheerily announced to us that if the police stopped her, she would say, "I'm scared because the ABS light was on." A minute later, she decided to cross all the lanes through dense traffic to drive on the right shoulder. She announced to us that she would tell the police she had to drive there because she thought something else was wrong with the car. Then, a minute after this, she crossed back over all the lanes onto the left shoulder again, of course announcing to us once more what her excuse would be if she was stopped by the police. Not once did I have a premonition of doom; to the contrary, I knew that all would be well. Why? Because Hashem was with us.

Call me nuts, but it really is a local call.

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Still more signs

For American kids whose parents unreasonably make them keep kosher, the attraction of a kosher McDonald's is indescribable. There are a handful in Israel, and this became a running joke (at least for the adults in our three families) for the two weeks of our trip. Here is the kosher McDonald's in the Ben Gurion airport.

I guess McDonald's requires its signs to be in English, which is really too bad. There's so much Hebrew in Israel that is simply a transliteration of English in Hebrew letters, and it's a stitch to read it out loud. It's a little tricky, because Hebrew, as written, typically doesn't use vowels. Mrs. A was in a grocery reading these transliterations out loud to figure out what the products were, and she says she got a lot of stares from the Israelis. Here's a restaurant in Jerusalem called "Aroma Espresso Bar." The words are not Hebrew equivalents; they are literally aroma, espresso, and bar. (And, yes, I know that espresso is not really English at all.)

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July 26, 2005

A gentleman's "C"

Having been away when John Roberts was nominated to be a justice of the Supreme Court, I haven't read much of what others have written. But when I checked some of the usual suspects, I didn't detect any dissatisfaction. Personally, I give the nomination a gentleman's "C."

Roberts is an extremely smart, very successful lawyer, who served in an important position in the Solicitor General's office. But he seems far too much a part of the legal establishment, a fact that gives me little confidence. It's one thing to "grow" in office, as Justice Kennedy has done, seemingly eager for praise from the Washington Post's editorial board. It's another entirely to start with the Post's seal of approval.

It's not that I suspect that Roberts will be another Souter, who similarly lacked much of a track record, or even another O'Connor. It's that I see this as a missed opportunity to appoint someone who could be another Scalia or Thomas. Roberts will be easier to confirm, but the President has rarely acted to avoid a fight. In fact, he often seems to relish one. He could have had a good fight, a winnable one, with a nominee whose judicial approach was clearer and consistent with the President's own preference for Scalia and Thomas.

UPDATE (7/27): Fred Barnes writes about the vetting process in the Weekly Standard. I suspect Barnes left his skepticism at home that day, or else White House security refused to allow it in. Apparently, the President, Karl Rove, and staff were adamant about preventing another Souter and closely questioned potential nominees about their views to make sure they would still be conservative in 25 years. As if that can be determined through questioning. (If the 25-year mark of stability is what you want, the best candidate is Judge Luttig of the Fourth Circuit, who's been a judge for about 14 years and is still only 50 or 51 years old.) I think the President has excellent instincts on a lot of important matters. I only hope this is one of them.

UPDATE (7/27): WuzzaDem previews the Judiciary Committee hearings. Doesn't deal with my reservations, but it's a lot funnier than the real hearings will be. (Via Baseball Crank)

UPDATE (7/27): Terry Eastland seems cautiously optimistic about Roberts. Ann Coulter, on the other hand, shares my misgivings, only louder. Why, she asks, with the Senate in Republican control, must Bush send up a "stealth" nominee? She begins her most recent column with quotations praising Roberts -- only they turn out to be praise of Souter following his nomination.

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Another sign

A few days ago, B2 posted four amusing signs in Israel. Here's one I encountered in a hike through Ein Avdat*. It made me laugh, because it expresses what I've been worrying about my whole life.

Abyss * As far as I can tell, the English spelling of the national park is "Avdat" but the pronunciation is "Ovdat," apparently with a kametz katan.

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July 25, 2005

Finally back

We just arrived home 24 hours after I woke up in Jerusalem. I've had about two short naps along the way, so I'm going to crash. I hope to have a few pictures up and some comments in the next couple of days and then go back to my usual nonsense.

Again, many, many thanks to B2 and fee simple for guest-blogging.

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July 23, 2005

B2: The power of Christ compels you!

To the lady on my train (you know who you are):

Congratulations on your relationship with Jesus! From your appearance I might have assumed that you and the [alleged] Messiah were on the outs; certainly a woman who had a personal connection with God would dress a bit nattier, don't you think?

But no -- you may not dress the part, but you proclaim your faith so loudly and repeatedly that it must be true: Jesus is your personal savior, and more power to you. Or him.

I didn't have the chance earlier to discuss this topic at greater length with you, so let me take this opportunity to be more clear: please enjoy Jesus responsibly.

Jesus may be your favorite diety, but he's really not my cup of tea. And though I'm pleased to live in a country where everyone ostensibly gets to believe as they wish, I don't need to spend my hour-long commute listening to you sing praises and hymns to the glory of this guy.

And when I politely ask you to tone it down a little and let the rest of us go to hell in peace, I don't want to hear how you're doing holy work by being witness of Christ's love. I don't want to hear that when the spirit takes you, you can't hold it in.

Here's a tip: if you're looking for Jesus, try a church.

Please allow those of us who are misguided enough to believe in something other than your beliefs to go our merry ways without having to suffer through your tone-deaf halleluyahs.

God bless.

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July 22, 2005

Message from Jerusalem: Not so fast!

Attila here.

Just checking in from Jerusalem to find that B2 and fee simple have done a wonderful job in my absence, especially B2, who's posted more than I had reason to expect, all great stuff. I can't thank them enough. I'll bet my readers are going to wonder whether it's "good for the Jews" when I come back.

B2 is a little off on my return date. I'm actually scheduled back late Monday night, the 25th. B2 and fee simple are welcome to keep posting -- or not, as they choose. I'm sitting at a pay terminal in my hotel, a couple of hours before shabbat, and there's no way for me to upload photos. I do hope to have a few for you next week. It's been an amazing trip.

Anyway, like it or not, I'm back next week. Again, my thanks to my guest-bloggers.

-- Attila

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B2: Welcome Back, Attila!

Today is the day Attila is supposed to return to the States, and to his blog. I'm hoping that for the next month or so we get to see some nice pictures of Israel... in his honor, here are four I grabbed from Flickr:

Thanks for tolerating my presence, and if you ever want to hear from me again, feel free to stop by Toner Mishap.

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July 21, 2005

B2: More Terror in London

Explosions struck three London Underground stations and a bus at midday Thursday in a chilling but less deadly replay of the suicide bombings that killed 56 people two weeks ago. Only one person was reported wounded, but the lunch-hour explosions caused major disruption in the capital and were hauntingly similar to the July 7 bombings by four attackers.


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B2: Mutts Comic Tributes

Patrick McDonnell's "Mutts" is a great comic -- I particularly enjoy his tributes to more famous artwork. There's a gallery of such work here.

[Cross-posted at Toner Mishap.]

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July 20, 2005

B2: Creepy and Wrong



For the last time: if it's happening to your back, it's not a facial.

[Cross-posted at Toner Mishap.]

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July 19, 2005

B2: Trophies are delicious.

Trophies must be extremely tasty. They must be, because how else do you explain the spate of trophy-kissing going around. I noticed this phenomenon first when Christie Kerr won a golf tournament and was caught smooching the almost obscene-looking trophy:

Then I found out that it wasn't just the shape of this particular trophy; many athletes find their trophies to be so alluring that they can't resist a little lip action.

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