Saturday, April 25, 2009


If you're quick on the uptake, you may have noticed that not much posting is going on around here lately. Time to face it, this thing is done.

TwitterIf either of my former readers are finding it hard to get through the day without these invaluable links to other sites, then you can follow me on Twitter. It's like a Reader's Digest Condensed version of this blog, but with bonus randomness, non-sequiturs and inside jokes that you probably aren't in on. FTW!

Monday, September 29, 2008

The scariest thing about Sarah Palin

Via jwz, an absolutely stunner of a rant by Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi: "The scariest thing about Sarah Palin isn't how unqualified she is - it's what her candidacy says about America".

He's basically pointing out Palin's candidacy as a milestone on the road to the brainless consumerist bottom-of-the-barrel reality we may be headed for. E.g., the one hilariously depicted in the movie Idiocracy (which you may have read about before).

It's hard to pick out the best bits to quote, because the whole thing is so good. But here goes.

[Watching] Palin's speech, I had no doubt that I was witnessing a historic, iconic performance. The candidate sauntered to the lectern with the assurance of a sleepwalker - and immediately launched into a symphony of snorting and sneering remarks, taking time out in between the superior invective to present herself as just a humble gal with a beefcake husband and a brood of healthy, combat-ready spawn who just happened to be the innocent targets of a communist and probably also homosexual media conspiracy. It was a virtuoso performance. She appeared to be completely without shame and utterly full of shit, awing a room full of hardened reporters with her sickly sweet line about the high-school-flame-turned-hubby who, "five children later" is "still my guy." It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag.

... We're used to seeing such blatant cultural caricaturing in our politicians. But Sarah Palin is something new. She's all caricature. As the candidate of a party whose positions on individual issues are poll losers almost across the board, her shtick is not even designed to sell a line of policies. It's just designed to sell her. . . . The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters.

... The truly disgusting thing about Sarah Palin isn't that she's totally unqualified, or a religious zealot, or married to a secessionist, or unable to educate her own daughter about sex, or a fake conservative who raised taxes and horked up earmark millions every chance she got. No, the most disgusting thing about her is what she says about us: that you can ram us in the ass for eight solid years, and we'll not only thank you for your trouble, we'll sign you up for eight more years, if only you promise to stroke us in the right spot for a few hours around election time.

P.S. On a lighter note, the Onion knows fish in a barrel when they see 'em: "Palin Brushing Up On Foreign Policy At Epcot".

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Filthy Critic on WALL•E

Taking the kids to see WALL•E this afternoon (2nd time for me & the girl; 1st for the boy and the cousin). Surfing some of the reviews, I came across the classic old movie review site The Filthy Critic. He likes WALL•E too, giving it 4 fingers. He says he "imagine[s] it represents the true storyteller's fantasy of his idea reaching the screen the way he wanted, or with improvements he approved along the way to the screen."

I agree, and urge you to see it if you haven't. It's a good one.

But I'm posting this for Filthy's other comments, which address the "controversy" of WALL•E. (I didn't even know there was any controversy, until I heard about it from a coworker.)
Maybe fat people will be offended because it shows fat people acting fat. Fuck them. And fuck anyone who doesn't like the message that you can consume yourself into oblivion. First, that's not a political sentiment; it's been politicized by assholes with political agendas, mostly those who want your support in exchange for their assurance you can be as big a pig as you want and it'll never affect anything. Second, if you can't enjoy incredibly well-made movies just because they don't share your opinions, you're a fucking douche. Grow a thicker skin and get your head out of Fox News' asshole long enough to appreciate art and diversity. Probably these same dipshits will label it more Hollywood liberal propaganda. It's not. The way this movie is not Hollywood-style in any way, but that fact will be lost on those people.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Apparently E-Voting Machines Are Bad

Good thing I was sitting down when I read this one. The validity and veracity of e-votes is hardly getting any better, according to this: Vendor misinformation in the e-voting world.
the bottom line is that many jurisdictions in Texas and elsewhere in the country will be using e-voting equipment this November with known security vulnerabilities, and the procedures and controls they are using will not be sufficient to either prevent or detect sophisticated attacks on their e-voting equipment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

This American Life: Giant Pool of Money

I mentioned in a recent post (recent by number of posts, if not by date) that the radio show/podcast This American Life rocks. I continue to be right about that, and if you continue to ignore my advice to hook yourself up, I simply can't be held responsible.

This week's podcast is a great example, even though it's not like most shows. It's a co-production with NPR News: the story of the subprime lending crisis. Sounds boring, in a dry, economics-lesson kind of way, doesn't it? But it's not. It's quite great, actually. It's a mini documentary on all the crazy shit that went down and how it nearly ruined the global economy. It includes clear but not patronizing descriptions of why it happened, how it played out, and who it affected. From people getting half-million dollar loans when they don't have "a pot to piss in", to the mortgage broker partying with b-list celebrities and thousand-dollar bottles of Cristal, to the title character itself — The Giant Pool of Money — it's good stuff.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

New Book: Nixonland

Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. Looks fascinating. Read Digby's story, then buy the book.
I believed we had reached a new sort of cultural and political consensus: the culture was liberal even if our politics were conservative. It made me feel naively confident that the culture war was some sort of phony problem that would eventually right itself as soon as we could defeat these awful conservatives who were stoking these unnatural resentments.

I was wrong about that. The culture war is real, not some sort of mistaken division created out of whole cloth by wily conservative politicians to gain office.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Worst. President. Ever.

Via a blog entry on Harper's, an informal poll among historians on how the Bush presidency stacks up, historically. (Spoiler alert: not very well.)

“No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”

“With his unprovoked and disastrous war of aggression in Iraq and his monstrous deficits, Bush has set this country on a course that will take decades to correct,” said another historian. “When future historians look back to identify the moment at which the United States began to lose its position of world leadership, they will point—rightly—to the Bush presidency. Thanks to his policies, it is now easy to see America losing out to its competitors in any number of area: China is rapidly becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the next century, India the high tech and services leader, and Europe the region with the best quality of life.”

(According to The Onion, however, Bush may have the last laugh. Bush: 'History Cannot Judge Me If I End It Soon')

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

This American Life

Dear readers, please be advised: if you're not listening to This American Life, you're seriously missing out. I've subscribed to their podcast (I use iTunes, which makes podcasting dead simple; see This American Life's podcast page for more info).

I've never listened to this show on the radio -- in fact I don't even know when it's broadcast on my public radio station -- but this is one of my favorite podcasts.

It's an hour-long documentary show, sometimes one long story, but usually 3 or 4 shorter stories, all within some theme. Usually, the story will start, and I'll wonder what crazy, boring subject they've got this time. But invariably, it will turn out to be fascinating. No, really. Riveting. Hell, downright enriching.

This week's episode is a great example. It's political, which most of their shows aren't. Titled "The Audacity of Government", the description is: "Stories of the Bush Administration, its unique style of asserting presidential authority, and its quest to redefine the limits of presidential power." As the current episode, it's available to download as an MP3, after next week it will still be freely available, but only as streaming audio. (And if you subscribe to the podcast, iTunes just gets the new ones when they're available, and keeps them until you listen to them.)

Check it out. And if you're not absolutely thrilled, I'll give you a full refund.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Onion: You Know What's Stupid?

The Onion: You Know What's Stupid? Everything I Don't Understand
Will you look at all this stuff I have neither the intellect nor the maturity level to process? What a load of crap. It's in my face every day, doing lots of things I don't have an immediate desire to do and saying things I can't identify with at this stage in my life. How lame is that? I mean, what kind of pathetic loser would actually enjoy something that's so incredibly not among my personal preferences? Not me, that's for sure.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

David Rees for Obama

David Rees, the cartoonist behind the so-funny-it-hurts Get Your War On comic, has a new blog post on Huffington Post: Clinton, Obama, and Cluster Bombs.

Over 150 nations have signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. It pains me that our great nation has not. But in the autumn of 2006, there was a chance to take a step in the right direction: Senate Amendment No. 4882, an amendment to a Pentagon appropriations bill that would have banned the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas.

Senator Obama of Illinois voted IN FAVOR of the ban.

Senator Clinton of New York voted AGAINST the ban.

Analysts say Clinton did not want to risk appearing "soft on terror," as it would have harmed her electibility.

I'm not a single-issue voter. But as Obama and Clinton share many policy positions, this vote was revelatory for me. After all, Amendment No. 4882 was an easy one to vote against: Who'd want to risk accusation of "tying the hands of the Pentagon" during a never-ending, global War on Terror? As is so often the case, there was no political cost to doing the wrong thing. And there was no political reward for doing the right thing.

But Senator Obama did the right thing.

Is Senator Obama perfect? Of course not. Nobody who voted for 2005's wack-ass energy bill is perfect. Nobody who voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act is perfect.

But of the two remaining Democratic candidates, one decided her vote on Amendment No. 4882 according to a political calculation. The other used a moral calculation.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Onion Radio News & Idiocracy

Funny bit from the Onion Radio News: Study: Uneducated Outbreeding Intelligentsia Two-To-One (careful, the audio on that page may start playing automatically).

That's pretty good, but I'm really only bothering posting it as an excuse to promote the movie Idiocracy. A hilarious satire by Mike Judge (creator of both Beavis And Butt-head and Office Space), it takes that same joke from the Onion Radio News and makes a feature-length movie out of it.

I thought it was awesome, but it was barely promoted by the studio (it's that subversive), and without fail, nobody I've mentioned it to has even heard of it, let alone seen it.

Well, you should see it. The Onion's own AV Club gave it an "A-":
A perfectly cast Luke Wilson stars as a quintessential everyman who hibernates for centuries and wakes up in a society so degraded by insipid popular culture, crass consumerism, and rampant anti-intellectualism that he qualifies as the smartest man in the world. Corporations cater even more unashamedly to the primal needs of the lowest common denominator—Starbucks now traffics in handjobs as well as lattes—and the English language has devolved into a hilarious patois of hillbilly, Ebonics, and slang.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Randy Newman at Macworld

As a good little Apple fanboy, I followed Steve Jobs keynote speech at Macworld on Tuesday closely, via live bloggers. But at the end, when Randy Newman came out to perform the customary after-speech musical bit, I thought, WTF? Randy Newman? Oh, I get it, it's because of his soundtrack work for Pixar (e.g., Toy Story's "You've Got A Friend In Me").

And maybe that is why. But then I read Daring Fireball's keynote recap, which made me watch the video.
Randy Newman’s keynote-capping scathing anti-Bush administration song was quite a thing. I loved it, and it seemed like everyone around me in the press section was enjoying it thoroughly. But, quite obviously, for humorless Bush supporters, it must have been infuriating. The song is chock full of “I can’t believe he just said that” lines.

It’s certainly hard to imagine any other major corporation in the U.S. that would invite Randy Newman on stage to perform a song like that.

It's not quite as radical as I first thought from that description, but he's definitely right. For the closing of the celebrity CEO's very high-profile speech at a totally corporate event, it is pretty ballsy.

(YouTube link)

Update, adding: the lyrics to Randy Newman's song, "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country".

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nat'l Geo: Malaria

malaria patients at Kalene Mission Hospital in Zambia
Vunel Kasachi comforts her ten-month-old son, Nicholas, a malaria patient at Kalene Mission Hospital in Zambia. (photo: John Stanmeyer, National Geographic Magazine, July, 2007)

Check out this seriously "holy shit" article in National Geographic: Bedlam In The Blood: Malaria.

Some of the bits that made me say, "holy shit":
These are the one-celled malaria parasites, known as plasmodia. Fifty thousand of them could swim in a pool the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Typically, a couple of dozen slip into the bloodstream [of one bitten by a mosquito]. But it takes just one. A single plasmodium is enough to kill a person.

Holy shit, that's a pretty scary little bugger.

In some provinces [of Zambia], at any given moment, more than a third of all children under age five are sick with the disease.

Holy shit, that's a lot of sick kids. A third?

A nationwide health survey in 2005 concluded that for every thousand children under age five living in the North-Western Province [of Zambia], there were 1,353 cases of malaria. An annual rate of more than 100 percent seems impossible, a typo. It is not. What it means is that many children are infected with malaria more than once a year.

Holy shit, an infection rate greater than 100%?

few infectious agents can overwhelm the body as swiftly as [malaria parasites of type Plasmodium] falciparum. An African youth can be happily playing soccer in the morning and dead of falciparum malaria that night.

Holy shit, dead that night?

A million Union Army casualties in the U.S. Civil War are attributed to malaria [holy shit! a million?!], and in the Pacific theater of World War II casualties from the disease exceeded those from combat [holy shit!]. Some scientists believe that one out of every two people who have ever lived have died of malaria.
Holy, holy shit! Half the people who ever lived?!

One insidious thing about malaria is that many who don't die end up scarred for life. . . . "[Methyline Kumafumbo, a three-year-old girl who'd just come out of a malarial coma] may have permanent neurological damage." This legacy of malaria has sobering repercussions for people and nations. "It's possible," says [Robert] Gwadz [of the National Institutes of Health], "that due to malaria, almost every child in Africa is in some way neurologically scarred."

Holy shit, every child in Africa?

It's easy to list every vaccine that can prevent a parasitic disease in humans. There is none. Vaccines exist for bacteria and viruses, but these are comparatively simple organisms.

Holy shit, that doesn't sound good.

Holy shit, we better do something to help. Every five or ten bucks you can throw to any of those charities will buy and deliver insecticide-laden mosquito netting to Africa. Until someone does develop a vaccine, you can help protect a couple little kids from agony, neurological scarring, and possibly, death.

I mean, holy shit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Democrats for Mitt in Michigan

Democrats for Mitt
I think this is an excellent idea. If you -- or someone you know -- is a Democrat living in Michigan, take Kos' advice and screw with the Republican primary next Tuesday. There's no real Democratic primary (Hillary's alone on the ballot, so it's moot to vote whether you support her or not), so, what the hell? Keep Romney's campaign going, draining money and attention from the other evil bastards.

That's next Tuesday, January 15. Mark your calendar!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas From The Family

I agree with Fake Steve, this is still the finest Christmas song ever: "Merry Christmas from the Family" by Robert Earl Keen.

Fake Steve's second paragraph, by the way, refers to his recent posts, in which he seemed to discuss, semi-seriously and out of FSJ character, the prospect that Apple was going to pay him off to shut down (as may have happened to the Think Secret guy). At first I wondered if it was true, but realized it was just a masterful way to hype up his readership in order to fire this brilliant and dead-on missive across Apple's bow.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Onion: Rove Resigns To Shadows

Rove Resigns To Spend More Time In Shadows
Rove, who planned to return at the stroke of midnight Aug. 31 to the mysterious underworld from which he emerged two decades ago to do the bidding of masters unknown, claimed he never felt comfortable operating within the visible light spectrum.

. . .

"I am excited to give this new chapter of my life the shadowy obfuscation it deserves," Rove said. "There are some matters that should just be kept private, far from the prying gaze of mortal eyes and wicked Sun."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Catalog Choice

Via Joel Spolsky, check out this handy online service that helps you cancel unwanted snail-mail catalogs: Catalog Choice. We've been trying it out for a few weeks, and while it's too soon to know if L.L. Bean will leave us alone, there's still something satisfying about these "unsubscriptions".

Give it a spin. It's easy; almost fun!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Onion: New Fig Newtons Ad Preys On Inherent Human Weakness

New Fig Newtons Ad Preys On Inherent Human Weakness

A television commercial for Nabisco's Fig Newton bars that debuted Friday preys on a wide range of innate human weaknesses, from greed and gluttony to the compulsive need for self-gratification in an otherwise cold and uncaring world, industry sources reported Monday.

..."It's a perfect, wholesome snack for any time of the day," the commercial eagerly announces, while the image of a young child—himself a physical representation of purity—tempts viewers with the prospect of recapturing their long-lost sense of innocence. "Fig Newtons are ooey-gooey great!"

"Go on, you deserve it!" the psychologically manipulative onslaught persists, at once addressing, encouraging, and currying feelings of inferiority and self-doubt that have been a mainstay of the human condition for the past 6,000 years.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Seriously: What the Fuck?

Via Daring Fireball, an interesting New Republic article on profanity, past and present: What the F***?.

As secularization has rendered religious swear words less powerful, creative speakers have replaced them with words that have the same degree of affective clout according to the sensibilities of the day. This explains why taboo expressions can have such baffling syntax and semantics. To take just one example, why do people use the ungrammatical Fuck you? And why does no one have a clear sense of what, exactly, Fuck you means? . . . The most likely explanation is that these grammatically baffling curses originated in more intelligible religious curses during the transition from religious to sexual and scatological swearing in English-speaking countries:

Who (in) the hell are you? >> Who the fuck are you?

I don't give a damn >> I don't give a fuck; I don't give a shit.

Holy Mary! >> Holy shit! Holy fuck!

For God's sake >> For fuck's sake; For shit's sake.

Damn you! >> Fuck you!

Bonus bit from the Onion Radio News: Stupid Fucking Mistake Ruining Whole Fucking Day (warning: may play automatically (and loudly) when you click through).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Onion: Not-So-Horrible Thing Happens In Iraq

Iraqi bomb wreckage
Baghdadis gather round the wreckage to remark on
how much more gory the explosions clearly could have been.

BAGHDAD—In a development that Pentagon officials are calling not nearly as horrifying as usual, three car bombs ripped through a Baghdad marketplace Tuesday, killing fewer than 15 innocent civilians, severely injuring no more than 30, and merely maiming one U.S. soldier.

The car bombs, which were detonated by Iraqi insurgents at approximately 2 p.m., left slightly less than complete and utter devastation in their wake. As of press time, barely five families were believed to be trapped beneath the resulting wreckage, although upbeat U.S. authorities have estimated that number could be as low as four.

"Not bad—not bad at all," said Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, who claimed the attack is conclusive proof that the tide in Iraq is somewhat turning in a vaguely less-ghastly direction.

Full story