According to Essence, we narcissists are now paying morticians to do plastic surgery on our corpses.

How, I wonder? Are folks leaving aside money with an attorney directing him to have our boobs lifted while we're on the slab? I can't imagine my loved ones caring enough to spend their own cash on my huge pores and even huger butt. I've often wondered about my own death, but never, until now that is, how'd I'd look when dead. Thanks Essence.

Good thing I'm going for cremation, because my kids would probably have me 'Petie-eyed' for my funeral.

First I saw this silly article about women foregoing bikini waxes.

Then I read a WSJ article on laid-off execs growing beards.

Pubic hair. Beards.

I never wrote one word about the biggest story of my early journalism years: Monica Lewinsky. The controversy itself was so unworthy and the topic so beyond covered, I decided I'd hold off until and unless I had something worth saying about that topic. I never did, so I let that big story go without my 'expertise'. So here's my advice to writers trying to get in on Obama's win and the economy's losses: If you don't have something worthwhile to say, it's ok to say nothing. Really. A decent idea, or a story more in your line, will come along.

I will give the hair stories this though: Both the men and the women in these pieces feel like "real" men and women letting their hair go natural. What's up with that?

Given our economy, I'm with those who believe we owe our kids a thorough grounding in economics, both in elementary and high school. My kids, K and 2nd grade, make deposits in a local savings account every Wednesday, along with most other kids at the school. As I scramble around for money to tuck into their deposit envelopes Tuesday nights at midnight, I always think: Ok, this is a start. By fifth grade, maybe they'll be on to derivatives and exactly why they can never, ever trust the government with their money. As they age (our school is new and so far just K-2), we PTA Nazis plan to involve them in our fundraising activities, making budgets, figuring out profit margins, working the cash register, making change, deciding how to spend funds, etc.

Recently, an economist attempted much the same thing; he spent time teaching financial literacy to young mothers in homeless shelters, bless his heart. He learned many discomforting things (See his diary here) but I'm with him that one thing in particular is troubling. From the Economist:

mojo-photo-reznor2.jpgBack in February, we posted a "Torture Playlist" featuring songs that the American military had used to, um, "enhance" interrogations, including tracks by Eminem, Drowning Pool, Metallica, and Rage Against the Machine. As Jesse Finfrock covered here on Wednesday, musicians have joined forces with a human rights organization to put a stop to the use of music as torture. Now, Stereogum points out that another artist has joined the voices of protest: Trent Reznor, whose music as Nine Inch Nails was used to torture Chicago military contractor Donald Vance. Yesterday, Reznor posted an outraged message at his official website entitled "Regarding NIN music used at Guantanamo Bay for torture":

mojo-photo-governormcgraw.jpgFrom The New Republic (via Vulture) comes this news that could restore the faith of Democrats appalled by the antics of a certain Illinois governor: Tim McGraw to the rescue!

Word in Nashville has it that Tim McGraw is seriously considering a run at the governor's mansion in 2010. He's been floating the idea for a few years now, but with the recent thrashing of lawyer Bob Tuke by Lamar Alexander in last month's senate race, Tennessee Dems have been casting about desperately for a high-profile Democrat not named Harold Ford to take on Bill Frist, who is almost certainly going to run.

While Vulture hopes that his run is "more successful than his attempt at 'funny SNL host,'" I'd say he just has to avoid, say, cussing out Toby Keith on a tapped line for not playing ball on his Country Music Awards pay-for-play scheme, and he'll be fine. The New Republic also reminds us that Governor McGraw means First Lady Faith Hill! Hey, how funny would it be to post one of their videos after the jump?

FRIDAY CATBLOGGING....Like Rod Blagojevich until Patrick Fitzgerald got his mitts into him, Domino sees nothing but sunshine hanging over her. I'm pretty sure Fitz doesn't have her phones tapped — and in any case we all know that cats have interdimensional ways of communicating anyway — so I imagine her life will remain sunny and indictment free. Inkblot, on the other hand, apparently thinks someone is trying to watch us from behind our bathroom mirror, so maybe there's more going on here than I think.

Q&A: Mercury Rev

mojo-photo-mercuryrev.jpgWhat do you do if you're making experimental films in Buffalo and you need a cool soundtrack? Well, you grab some friends and start making music, and eventually you become Mercury Rev, a band whose combination of psychedelic experimentation and melodic purity have made them longtime critical favorites. While the combo has had a famously rotating lineup, the current core group of singer Jonathan Donahue, guitarist Sean "Grasshopper" Mackowiak and drummer/keyboardist Jeff Mercel has been intact since 1998's Deserter's Songs. The band released two albums in September: Snowflake Midnight and a free-to-download bonus album of instrumentals called Strange Attractor. They're currently in the midst of a US tour, and I managed to catch Mercel on the phone before a sound check in Chicago.

For your viewing pleasure:

(1) A list of the 18 Republican Senators who voted for the $700 billion bailout for America's banks but against $14 billion to save America's automakers. (Cutting wages and benefits, which was of crucial importance when it came to the Detroit, didn't seem to matter all that much when it came to Wall Street.)

(2) A well-reasoned case by Nobel Laureate (and Mother Jones contributor/interviewee) Joe Stiglitz in favor of letting American automakers go into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Bailout Deal

THE BAILOUT DEAL....Here's the White House's response to the failure of the auto bailout bill last night:

"Under normal economic conditions we would prefer that markets determine the ultimate fate of private firms," Dana Perino, Mr. Bush's spokeswoman, said in a carefully nuanced statement released minutes before the financial markets opened in New York. "However, given the current weakened state of the U.S. economy, we will consider other options if necessary — including use of the TARP program — to prevent a collapse of troubled automakers."

The Treasury Department promptly indicated that it would provide short-term relief to the automakers. "Because Congress failed to act, we will stand ready to prevent an imminent failure until Congress reconvenes and acts to address the long-term viability of the industry," a Treasury spokeswoman, Brookly McLaughlin, said.

This whole thing just gets stranger and stranger. Bush sent a handpicked squad of West Wing bigfeet to Capitol Hill a couple of days ago to press Republicans to pass the bill, and they failed miserably. In one sense, of course, this is just more of the same: Bush is a lame duck, even his own party sneers at him these days, and this is yet another demonstration that they couldn't care less about what he does or doesn't want.

Fine. But did he tell the reluctant Republicans that the Senate bill was their best chance for genuine industry restructuring? That if they didn't pass it, he'd be forced to use TARP funds and both the UAW and the car companies would probably end up getting a better deal? And then they'd get a way better deal next month after Democrats took over?

If he didn't tell them that, why not? And if he did, did the Senate Republicans really decide they didn't care that they were giving up what little leverage they had? That they just wanted to make their point, and reality be damned? Are they really that nuts?

I guess so. I wonder if their constituents will ever figure this out?

Finnish Education

FINNISH EDUCATION....Matt Yglesias, no doubt after knocking back a few shots of vodka in a Helsinki sauna during his "educational" junket to Finland, reports that teaching programs are much more competitive in Finland than in the U.S.:

It's a bit hard to say what accounts for the strong level of interest in a teaching career in Finland. Finnish teacher compensation seems about average for the US [but] the relative salary is higher because other professionals such as lawyers and doctors earn less in Finland than do their US equivalents. And the subjective quality of the job experience seems better in Finland since the kids have many fewer discipline issues.

I guess it's not so hard to say after all. This seems like a pretty adequate explanation to me, and unfortunately it also demonstrates why international comparisons are so often unhelpful. We're not going to slash the pay of lawyers and doctors, after all (though Wall Street brokers better watch their Armani-clad backs), and there's no way that teacher salaries will ever rise high enough to be competitive with current salaries in those professions. And "discipline issues," which covers a very wide territory indeed, is only partly amenable to work in the classroom itself. Inner city poverty and the bane of broken families have to be largely addressed elsewhere.

Still, it reminds me of this story from earlier in the year about a school in Washington Heights that plans to pay teachers $125,000 or more as a way of recruiting a top notch faculty and turning it loose in a poor school. I remain uncertain what this will prove, since even if it works it's not really replicable on a wide scale, but it's still interesting. Perhaps we'll create a little slice of Finland in the middle of New York City.