Patterico's Pontifications


Criss Angel’s: “Believe” [The Reviews Are In]

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 1:16 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

Initial reactions to magician Criss Angel’s new show in Vegas would seem to indicate that it is the Ishtar of magic shows.

Richard Abowitz –

The responses talking to people afterward fell into two camps: the horrified and the bored. The bored seemed to be folks who, like me, had free review tickets; the horrified seemed to be those who paid.

Doug Elfman –

Creatively, “Believe” is a possibly unsalvageable “waste of time” and a “dead end” that literally bored some audience members to sleep.

On Saturday night, reaction was even worse.

“Everyone in the bathroom was chanting ‘bull—-‘” from the urinals, Damon Ranger of Chicago told me Saturday. “It was absolutely awful. You can ‘Believe’ how bad it is — because it’s terrible!”

People streamed out of the theater on Saturday screaming about how poor it was. A group of six women was led by a woman yelling furiously, demanding their money back.

“Dude, it’s a train wreck,” Ranger said. On a scale of 1 to 10, he declared “Believe” a zero.

John and Gail Michalak came from Los Angeles to see “Believe” with Karla Delemos. On the 1-to-10 scale, John gave it a 1; Gail a 3; and Delemos didn’t rate it — she fell asleep.

“I just got screwed,” John said. “He pulled three doves out of his hat. Go to the Magic Castle in L.A. if you want to see magic. But don’t come here.”

And Ranger was glad about one thing. After spending $55 for cheap seats — tickets are discounted by 25 percent during these first run of “ticketed previews” — he was given a free drink coupon.

“The best thing was getting this free drink coupon – the worst $55 Bud Light I’ll ever have.”


– Justin Levine


Virtual Psychologists

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 7:02 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

NASA is working on a new program called the Virtual Space Station that makes available a private virtual psychology session for depressed astronauts:

“The new program is nothing like science fiction’s infamous HAL, the onboard artificial intelligence that goes awry in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The Virtual Space Station’s interaction between astronaut and computer is far less sophisticated and far more benevolent.

In the project, sponsored by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, a recorded video therapist guides astronauts through a widely used depression therapy called “problem-solving treatment.”

The recording helps astronauts identify reasons for their depression. Then the program helps them make a plan to fight the depression, based on the descriptions the astronauts type in about their problems.

Astronauts also can learn strategies for handling conflict through interactive role-playing, and even read psychology books.”

Like other examples of NASA’s research, this program also has civilian applications: It could help stressed-out employees having a hard day at work; students working on important tests or projects; and a mobile version might help drivers experiencing road rage.

Who knows? There could even be a version to calm irritated bloggers and commenters.



Continued Debate Over The Legacy Of David Foster Wallace (UPDATED)

Filed under: Books,Current Events,Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 7:08 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

John Ziegler posts his views on author David Wallace Foster’s suicide here. He is clearly challenging much of the standard narrative coming from the admirers of Wallace.

Ziegler also manages to make reference to a previous Patterico post (written by me) found here (which contains a link to Wallace’s article on Ziegler at issue).

— Justin Levine

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I am getting a lot of negative reaction to this post. I have asked some of the correspondents if they would like their negative feedback posted as an update. I’ll post some of it here as that feedback comes in.

It feels wrong to take the post down, since it’s been up for a while — whether I would have posted it or not. But I certainly believe in airing any criticism of the post. Send it on and I’ll post it.

UPDATE x2 BY PATTERICO: Scott Eric Kaufman has this reply to Ziegler. It appears clear that Scott doesn’t think much of Ziegler’s piece.

UPDATE x3 BY PATTERICO: I don’t really know anything about Wallace but I’ll add this as a general observation about depressed people who commit suicide. In my view, they are simply ill. Mental illness is a disease like any other. I don’t think depressed people should be faulted for being ill.

And I don’t like speaking ill of the recently dead.

And it would have been more courageous for Ziegler to write this post while Wallace was still alive and had the chance to defend himself.

UPDATE x4 BY PATTERICO: Eric Blair writes:

I have long been impressed by a story about Abraham Lincoln. When angry with someone, he would write an angry letter, detailing how he felt in every lurid detail. Then he would put the letter in a drawer. Soon he cooled off, and never actually sent the letter. The story goes on to relate that Lincoln had several drawers full of such unsent letters, which he felt showed him at his worst.

So it is with John Ziegler’s rant about the recent tragic suicide of David Foster Wallace. So it is with Justin Levine’s linking to that post. Unnecessary. Hurtful to the bereaved survivors of that tragedy. And perhaps most importantly, it changes no one’s mind, while inflaming further partisanship. I’m not saying that John Ziegler is wrong to be angry at David Foster Wallace’s article. Nor am I saying that David Foster Wallace was a great man. The tragedy of suicide is that we will never know what David Foster Wallace had in his future. And more to the point, his surviving friends and family do not either. Instead, they get to read someone saying unkind and angry things about their loved one, perhaps even before the funeral.

I was heartsick at the comments made by the Kos and DU types with the death of Tony Snow. John Ziegler’s unkind and hurtful words are not as bad as that, no. But many good people on the Left stood silent, and did not condemn those statements. I am writing to say this: we are supposed to be better than that. We should not be part of that kind of thing, in any way.

Justin Levine should have known better than to post that link. I’m deeply disappointed.

UPDATE X 5 BY JUSTIN LEVINE: Since I didn’t offer any editorial opinion on this matter either way, I am utterly baffled by the reaction of Patterico, Eric Blair and others. Is the policy that blogs such as this shouldn’t even link to items that people find objectionable?? If you want to criticize Ziegler for what he wrote, have at it. That is why I still have pingbacks engaged on all my posts to allow for such feedback by those who want to take the time to post differing views. [I don’t allow comments because my experience tells me that it is far less conducive to intelligent debate than actual blog posts which are usually more carefully thought out.] But I’m bewildered by the “blame the messenger” mentality directed at me. Is the suggestion that Ziegler’s post should have been ignored? Will this be the new ground rule for all incendiary posts at Kos, Huffington Post, etc.? Are you directing the same criticism to Eric Kaufman who also links to Ziegler’s post and is giving it more attention? Of course Eric criticizes Ziegler. That’s fine. I just don’t get why people have a problem with my choosing to draw people’s attention to the Ziegler’s comments in an editorially neutral fashion.

I am equally disappointed by the reaction towards my merely choosing to link to the post and alert people to it.

UPDATE x6 BY PATTERICO 4-2-09: Having spoken to Ziegler recently, I come away with respect for him as someone who speaks the truth as he sees it, regardless of the consequences — and that causes me to view this controversy with new eyes. I still think the criticism would have been better leveled during Wallace’s life, but I am more receptive than before to the idea that Ziegler’s criticisms may nevertheless have been on target.


Author David Foster Wallace – Dead By Apparent Suicide

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 12:14 pm

[posted by Justin Levine]

Author David Foster Wallace is dead after reports that his wife found that he had hanged himself.

I once saw him while he was working on a piece about former KFI talk show host John Ziegler. Never bothered to introduce myself though.

Wallace’s article can be found here.  Ziegler’s reaction to the article can be found here.

Additional afterthought:  After re-reading Wallace’s article, I can’t help but be struck by the irony of his commenting on Ziegler’s “bleak and merciless” outlook on life. Yet it is Wallace himself who ended up committing suicide.

— Justin Levine


Browser Wars Reloaded: Google Chrome

Filed under: Gadgets,Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 3:18 pm

[by Justin Levine]

I’ve been playing with the new Google Chrome today.  Very impressive so far. I’d still give the current edge to Mozilla’s Firefox 3 because of all the great customizable add-ons it has. But if Google Chrome catches up to it in this department, I could see it becoming a choice browser.

Its hard to see how Microsoft’s Internet Explorer can recover from both of these superior competitors, but who knows. In the end, we computer users benefit.

– Justin Levine


The Sarah Palin Celebrity Look-Alike Contest

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 4:13 am

Tina Fey and Megan Mullay are in the running. [h/t: Instapundit]

I’d like to respectfully add a co-worker of mine who I think takes the gold here.

– Justin Levine


“Religion is Detrimental to the Progress of Society”

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 5:49 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

So says Bill Maher in his new documentary Religulous:

“Directed by Larry Charles, the man who put “Borat” together so skillfully, “Religulous” is blatant about Maher’s feelings: religion is bad. All religions are bad. They are ruining everything.”

Maher mocks Jews, Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Mormons, and Scientologists so it’s equal-opportunity religion bashing, although I’m not sure how many movie-goers think the world’s problems will be solved by getting rid of religion.



Is That All It Takes?

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Justin Levine @ 5:42 pm

A surefire back-up plan for getting out of jury duty.

Not that I would encourage this – especially on Patterico’s site. He needs a steady stream of fair-minded jurors to keep his job.  :-)

– Justin Levine


Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 7:31 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

US Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) died today at the Cleveland Clinic of a brain aneurysm:

“Tubbs Jones, 58, suffered the hemorrhage while driving her car in Cleveland Heights on Tuesday, said Dr. Gus Kious, president of Huron Hospital in East Cleveland. The congresswoman had been driving erratically and her vehicle crossed lanes of traffic before coming to a stop, police said.

Tubbs Jones “collapsed when she suffered a very serious brain hemorrhage caused by an aneurysm that burst in an inaccessible part of her brain,” Kious said during a news conference. A team of doctors who evaluated her determined she [had] limited brain function.”

I don’t recall hearing much about Stephanie Tubbs Jones before today but for some reason this story made an impact on me. Maybe it was seeing the smiling, vibrant photos of Tubbs Jones linked in the online reports. Maybe it was thinking about how, in the blink of an eye, she stopped being that vibrant person and realizing that could happen to anyone. Or maybe it was because the reports I read included descriptions of her broken-hearted friends and family.

RIP Stephanie Tubbs Jones and condolences to her family and friends.



Quote of the Day (Updated)

Filed under: Miscellaneous — DRJ @ 9:04 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

“They’ve got a king, and the king wants to sit on the throne.”

Statement by Kippen de Alba Chu, executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace, after he and other staff members were locked down in the palace and a nearby administration building during a takeover by “a group of Native Hawaiians claiming to be the state’s legitimate rulers.”

Hawaii’s Iolani Palace was also taken over in late April as discussed in this earlier post.

UPDATE 8/17/2008 –
The King couldn’t find the throne:

“The leader of a Hawaiian pro-sovereignty group that broke into a historic palace once home to royalty said he planned to chain himself to the throne but couldn’t find it because he had never been in the palace before.

But palace officials said three locks, including those securing the throne room, were damaged. No artifacts were damaged or stolen, but the group broke into a barracks building and raised a flag on the flagpole, officials said.

Police arrested 23 people during the stunt, in which members of the Kingdom of Hawaii locked the gates to the Iolani Palace on Friday.

The leader, 67-year-old James Kimo Akahi of Haiku, claims he is the rightful king of the islands. He told reporters Saturday that he had never been in the palace before Friday and didn’t know where the throne was kept.”


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