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!