31 July 2007

Bat For Lashes ~~~ Fur And Gold

Not a return of New Music Tuesdays, but it's an album just released in the United States, and it's Tuesday, so close enough.

Browsing Urge, I came upon this album, it's good. Any album where the first song rocks the harpsichord is all good (or at least the harpsichord sounding synth).

Also, auto harp is featured prominently.

I hadn't heard of Bat For Lashes, but it's an English band, featuring Natasha Khan as the lead singer.

Two videos are up at YouTube from this album, and they're interesting.

First up, "What's a Girl to Do?". The song is solid, and the video is creative. It's just people riding bikes on a darkened road. But, for those folks with a fetish for furries and bmx bikers, this video is for you!

Next up, "Prescilla", this should be something I loathe, but I like it anyway. The music could be straight out of 1987, and the video could be straight out of 1967, but it works.

Listening to the album, I'm reminded of that song from Wickerman, Willow Song. YouTube is dastardly, though. Found the music, but not Brit Ekland from the original film, instead some yobbo having a bit of fun.

The album's not bad, some moments are great, Natasha has an excellent voice, but some of the tracks are forgettable, and there's not a lot compellingly different about the album than the stuff from which it's derived. There's a hint of Sinead O'Connor in her vocals, and a strong whiff of pre-glam T.Rex in the overall faeries and dragons feel to the whole project (not musically, though, no white swans were ridden during the production of this album). Some tracks are seriously Bjork-ish (and that ain't bad).

Maybe I'm just being cranky old guy, who can't help but compare every new artist to someone else from 15, 20, 25, 30, or 40 years ago. It's hard to be original when every thing's already been done.

Originality is overrated, anyway. If you're going to be derivative, do it well. This album is mostly well done (and mostly derivative).

Congrats Celtics! (You Bastards)

Kevin McHale gave away Kevin Garnett to the Celtics. Bill Simmons, a Celtics fan, describes this as Kevin McHale's "last great Celtic act".

Jerry West never did anything like this for the Lakers while in Memphis. Elgin Baylor hasn't done anything like this while in Clipperland. Larry Bird hasn't done anything this stupid while at Indiana.

KG would have been great for the Lakers if they could have gotten away with giving up as little as the Celtics did to get him. But, now that's impossible. The Timberwolves still might have some assets they'd be willing to move that could help turn the Lakers from bottom of the playoff bracket to contenders, though (especially if McHale's willing to trade for cash and cap space and not talent).

30 July 2007

Had I Been Blogging This Weekend, That's Pretty Much What I Would Have Written . . .

Tammy Bruce on Sen. Clinton

Here's the quote of Sen. Clinton speaking before a conference of College Democrats from the AP article:

"I'm going to be asking a new generation to serve," she said. "I think just like our military academies, we need to give a totally all-paid education to young men and women who will serve their country in a public service position."

Why would anybody object to that?

(Tammy does a great job of objecting, she's got all my personal objections covered, so I'll just nod my assent to her objections rather than piling on my own)

What Should Be Done About Chief Justice Roberts . . .

. . . misleading post title of the day.

If his doctors say he's fine, then he's fine. I have no problem with him continuing to serve on the Supreme Court as long as he's fit but his drivers license should be revoked (or he should voluntarily surrender it).

Seizures and driving don't mix (even very rare ones). Seizures and listening to complicated court cases involving constitutional matters are a minor inconvenience.

Wishing him ill, is loathsome, though (and typical).

25 July 2007

College Mission Statement of the Day --- University of Colorado at Boulder

The Buffaloes have been in the news, so let's take a peek at their "role and mission statement":

The Boulder campus of the university of Colorado shall be a comprehensive graduate research university with selective admissions standards. The Boulder campus of the university of Colorado shall offer a comprehensive array of undergraduate, masters, and doctoral degree programs…”

As an added bonus they have a "vision statement":

“To lead in learning, research, teaching, and service to benefit and enhance the quality of life for the people of Colorado.”

Disappointingly straightforward and devoid of buzzwords. These statements leave me cold. They need to try harder, I expect more from a hippie ski town like Boulder (and no mention of the most famous fictional Boulderite?)

24 July 2007

College Mission Statement of the Day --- University of California, Merced

Bet most y'all haven't even heard of UC Merced. It's the newest UC campus, it's the 10th in the system, and it bills itself as a school for the 21st century. No musty traditions here, if you come you get to create the traditions. Their mission statement is a long one, and would seem to be the result of a committee process, here it is in full:

The University of California, Merced’s mission is embodied in its proud claim of being the first American research university of the twenty-first century. As the tenth campus of the University of California, UC Merced will achieve excellence in carrying out the University’s mission of teaching, research and service, benefiting society through discovering and transmitting new knowledge and functioning as an active repository of organized knowledge. As a key tenet in carrying out this mission, UC Merced promotes and celebrates the diversity of all members of its community.

A research university is a community bound by learning, discovery and engagement. As the first American student-centered research university of the twenty-first century, UC Merced’s strong graduate and research programs will mesh with high quality undergraduate programs. New knowledge increasingly depends on links among the disciplines, working together on questions that transcend the traditional disciplines. UC Merced fosters and encourages cross-disciplinary inquiry and discovery.

Interdisciplinary practice in research will nourish undergraduate learning, building a foundation in connecting the ways that academic disciplines understand and grapple with society’s problems. Undergraduates will experience education inside and outside the classroom, applying what they learn through undergraduate research, service learning and leadership development. As apprentice scholars, graduate students will build their understanding of and ability to do independent research in their chosen field, as the groundwork for entering professional life. Lifelong learners will continue to hone their knowledge and workplace skills.

The twenty-first century has opened with the promise of new ways of connecting people to new knowledge and to one another. UC Merced opens as a network, not simply a single place, linking its students, faculty and staff to the educational resources of the state, nation and world. The idea of network extends to UC Merced’s relationships with neighboring institutions: educational, cultural and social. Born as a member of the distinguished network known as the University of California, UC Merced seeks strong and mutually supportive relationships with a variety of collaborators in its region: public and private colleges and universities; federal and state organizations that share UC Merced’s educational and research goals; and cultural and social institutions.

The idea of network will also be realized through the physical and intellectual integration between UC Merced and its surrounding community. The campus is planned as a model of physical sustainability for the twenty-first century, inviting all members of the campus and surrounding community to think and act as good stewards of the environment that they will convey to future generations.

UC Merced celebrates its location in the San Joaquin Valley, reflecting the poetry of its landscape, history, resources and diverse cultures, while capitalizing on and expanding the Valley’s connections to the emerging global society. UC Merced recognizes that research that begins with the natural laboratory at home can extend what is known in the state, nation and world.

Did you soak all that in? I guess campuses in the 21st century aren't expected to produce editors. Everything about the place suggests a lot of 'process' goes into each decision. They used the mascot choosing process as an outreach program with local elementary schools and those kids came up with "Golden Bobcat" as their mascot. They don't have any teams yet, but their long term goal is to field teams in NCAA Div-II eventually. Judging from their selection of merchandise at their bookstore, I don't think their licensed merchandise is going to be a cash cow anytime soon (the bobcat is kind of cute, but not really golden, and way overpriced).

They're in the San Joaquin Valley about half way from Modesto and Fresno. The campus is on Lake Yosemite, and about 60 miles from Yosemite National Park. Browsing through the flickr photos tagged with ucmerced gives you some idea of what the campus is like. It's all spanking new. The google map also gives you an idea of how it's just kind of sprouted in the middle of not much else (also looks like the image was taken during construction before landscaping, check out the hybrid view).

I'm sure there are worse places to attend or teach than "the first American student-centered research university of the twenty-first century" (now if they could just find somebody to edit down their mission statement and press releases . . . )

Basketball's Troubles

Basketball has a scandal on its hand cause of one bad ref (hopefully only one). David Stern said all the right things in his press conference, and is no doubt sincere. It's going to be rough on all the refs for a few years, they're going to be under intense scrutiny.

Refs have to able to do their job, but there are some rule changes that can be made that limit a rogue ref's ability to effect the outcome of a game. It's a hard game to call, there are fouls on nearly every trip down the court, and it's difficult for the refs to be consistent on which fouls they call and which fouls they ignore.

The biggest change that should be made is eliminate fouling out. Calling a couple of quick early fouls on a team's best player is one of the most effective ways for a ref determined to change a game to do so. If it's just free throws and not a threat of losing that player at the end of the game, then coaches wouldn't be forced to change their substitution patterns and game plan. Dick Vitale has been trying to push this change for college for some time. His suggestion would be that after a player gets past a certain number fouls, instead of fouling out, that the opposing team would get 2 shots and the ball, for each foul committed by a player with more than five fouls (or four in college). It's a good suggestion, would still force coaches to make decisions on players who accumulate fouls, but wouldn't deprive the team or fans of the opportunity of seeing the big stars at crunch time. It's tough agreeing with Vitale, but for the good of the league, I'll do so in this case.

The second change would be to pay these guys an obscene amount of money. Charge each team $1 million dollars a year to be put into a salary pool for the refs, and the league kick in another $20 million. The reason players aren't the target for game fixing schemes in the NBA is because the lowest paid players make over $500,000 a year, and most players make more than $3,000,000. The amount of money you'd have to pay people making that much money to throw a game is more than the money you'd make having the game fixed. But the refs don't make player type money, so they are a natural target. If refs had a pay scale that went from $250,000 to $1,000,000 or more, they'd not only attract more applicants, but they'd have to be really greedy or stupid to get as screwed up as Tim Donaghy is alleged being.

The third change would be to eliminate as many of the 'judgement call' type rules as you can. Let the players play, let coaches call whatever defense and whatever offense they want, keep the fouls that would endanger players if they were eliminated (like moving screens), and keep fouls like double dribble on traveling (even though those infractions are missed often), but take a careful look at all the other infractions and whittle them down where possible.

The league will take care of this problem, David Stern has been good at tackling whatever challenge is presented, it's still a great sport, and they've still got an amazing collection of athletes doing mind boggling things on a nightly basis.

The NBA will get past this, but problems will linger, this is a blow to their league, but not a fatal one.

23 July 2007

College Mission Statement of the Day --- University of Santa Monica

We have one university in Santa Monica, namely University of Santa Monica. It's not accredited by the usual bodies, but they are state approved to hand out degrees. They do focus on "soul-centered education". Rather than a mission statement, we've got "A Message from the Directors", here's a portion:

Throughout recorded history, those aware of themselves as travelers upon a spiritual journey have always pondered an essential question: “How can I live a loving, committed, and productive life in this world while being true to my spiritual quest?”


Since the University of Santa Monica is dedicated to the practical application of universal teachings, we continually use this question as a reference point for the relevancy of our educational process. And no matter how many times we ask this question, we always arrive at the same answer: “I can be true to both aspects of my journey by learning to love my Self unconditionally, by sharing my love in my relationships with others, and by demonstrating excellence and integrity in all my endeavors.”

Thus, the arena of Spiritual Psychology emerges as a common denominator bridging between the spiritual and that aspect of the spiritual we often refer to as the physical world. We are constantly rediscovering that by enhancing and refining our relationship with our Self and others, students, faculty, staff, and volunteers alike experience relevancy, meaning, fellowship, and intimacy. It is this educational process of refining our relationships that results in achieving program competencies.

Got all that? Are you aware of yourself as a traveler? Do we still have some folks in Santa Monica injesting psychotropic drugs recreationally?

If you are wondering what 'soul-centered education' means, here's a sample:

Soul-Centered education recognizes spiritual reality and begins with the assumption that we are not human beings who have a soul; rather, we are souls having a human experience. This evokes a radical paradigm shift that results in a psychological and educational process whose goal is to awaken us to a fuller realization and experience of who we truly are.

Are you a soul having a human experience?

I've passed by this place when folks were milling about outside, and I'll just say that it's mostly exactly the people you'd expect having the kinds of conversations you'd imagine.

If that's a horror or a dream, that's up to you.

22 July 2007

Now THAT'S a Friendly . . .

The friendly on Saturday between LA Galaxy and Chelsea wasn't that interesting, but today's "Blue" v "White" scrimmage for USA Basketball was a great show. Kobe hit a 19ft shot over Prince with 6 seconds left bringing the score to 104-103 to cap a "Blue" comeback from 11 back with about 2 minutes left. On the subsequent defensive sequence he forced LeBron into a really bad attempt. Kobe looks motivated, relaxed, and fit, he's going to dominate the upcoming tournament.


  • Jason Kidd is really, really good when he doesn't need to shoot.
  • Kevin Durant is going to do fine in the NBA, even if he doesn't bulk up.
  • Kobe Bryant (the new, sleeker, 20lb lighter, Kobe Bryant) is easily the best player in the world right now, he was brilliant tonight.
  • Dwight Howard is a monster rebounder.
  • Mark Miller will be one of the key players for USA Basketball in the FIBA Americas Championship.

If I were in charge of the whittling down these players into the 12 man roster for the tourney, I'd go with this starting five:

Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James (that's a frighteningly good starting five, right there)

Off the bench, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncy Billups, Mike Miller (3pt shooting is crucial in international play), Kevin Durant, Amare Stoudemire, Deron Williams, and Chris Bosh.

That group should be able to rip through the qualifying rounds and handle whatever Brazil or Argentina has to offer in the finals. Should be a fun tournament, it's tempting to move to Las Vegas for the two weeks of the tourney (Aug 22nd-Sept 2), but instead I'll just catch a few matches on TV, that will have to be good enough.

Also, Snapper Jones and Joel Meyers make a great broadcasting team, they should work together more often.

College Mission Statement of the Day --- Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles

Did the tribes yesterday on their holy day, figured I'd do Christians on a Sunday. First up for the followers of Christ I've got a school not far from here, Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles. They're a fine institution, and have a beautiful campus. They go with the short and sweet approach with their mission statement:

At Loyola Marymount University we balance a challenging liberal arts and sciences curriculum with outstanding professional programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Students grow to be fulfilled in their own lives and careers while also involved in the communities around them. As a Catholic university, LMU is deeply committed to social justice and ethical values and welcomes to its stunning campus in the heart of Southern California students from all spiritual, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

The school itself doesn't run away from its Catholic roots, but it's not a core emphasis, either (I blame the Jesuits, they're practically Buddhists). Their radio station was the best outlet for 'college radio' back when I was in high school in the mid 80s. KXLU was one of the stations that helped define 'college radio' as a genre both locally and nationally (despite having a transmitter that was hard to pick up beyond their own parking lot). Guess I'm being kind of nice to them, can't help it, every time I've visited that campus it's been on beautiful days and the it was full of cheery, happy people, it's just a really nice place. Those Jesuits do know how to create a sense of community and exhibit a real commitment to both intellectual and spiritual growth (those bastards!).

We Find Your Lack of Offense Offensive . . .

A Buddhist has been prevented from calling his restaurant Fat Buddha because some city council bureaucrat is afraid that the phrase "Fat Buddha" might be too provocative.

Have they not seen the many depictions of fat Buddhas throughout history?

Let me see if I can encapsulate the thought process coming from Tracey Ingle, head of the city council of Durham, England's cultural services, I imagine it's something like this . . .

I find your lack of offense at the offensive portrayal of an obese Buddha troublesome. Furthermore, would we allow you to depict the Buddha in such a manner, all references to his weight should be in phrases less provocative and more acceptable to our more sensitive modern mores, "Weight Challenged Buddha" or "Pleasantly Plump Buddha" or "Big Boned Buddha" or "I'm Not Fat I'm Just Hefty Buddha" would have all been acceptable.

However I've been informed by Ivor Biggerse the director for the city of Durham's health services that due to the pernicious influence of too many video games and American TV programmes on our children that we are facing an epidemic of obesity in our area, and as such, any positive depictions of 'jolly' fat people would be counterproductive towards the aim of reducing our growing obesity problem. Surely one of the more austere and ascetic depictions of the Buddha would be more appropriate given current health goals.

Actually I need to rethink that last suggestion as I've been informed by Ima Buttinsky from our city's mental health services that there are also many anorexic people in our city, so any depiction of an ascetic Buddha shouldn't be too thin as some of the afflicted might see these depictions and use them for 'thinspiration'.

Also, I'm afraid that the cultural sensitivities of our Islamic neighbours might come into play with the depiction of a figure of worship. As some within their faith believe in the banning of all images of not only Allah, Mohammed, and other lesser prophets, but of any human whatsoever, it would be best if your restaurant has no images within, or uses any images in their advertising of the Buddha.

Actually, given that all variations and body types of the Buddha really can't satisfy all the differing sensitivities in our fine city, it would be best for everyone if you don't open up your restaurant at all. I realise you are poised to employ 60 people in your restaurant, but what's the potential employment of five dozen souls when weighed against the sensitivities of the entire community? Those jobs simply aren't worth the risk of offending one group or another.

I might have ruled differently had the owner of the restaurant not suggested such a provocative name in the first place, but given that initial provocation, my only recourse is to do what I can to prevent this business for operating for the sake of communal cohesion and peace and to preserve out community's reputation for tolerance, understanding, and reason.

Maybe one day when all prejudices, health problems, and religious issues are resolved in a manner that satisfies all parties, we could sit back and laugh or ignore things like a restaurant named "Fat Buddha", but the age we live in is not a time of laughter, and we musn't contribute to the problem of global insensitivity that plagues all aspects of life. I reject the name of your restaurant so that I may be part of the solution, not the problem, I hope everyone else will see the careful and considered reasoning that went into this decision.

Maybe Eddie Fung should have tried to open up his restaurant in the other, bigger, more laissez-faire Durham, instead.

By Overwhelming Popular Demand, We've Simplified Your Electoral Process

"President" Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is dropping even the pretense of multi-party rule.

He's on his way to becoming a permanent Líder Máximo, just like his hero Fidel.

This might shake a few more people out of their complacency regarding their faux-populist dictator. Resistance isn't futile, but it will be dangerous. Dictators don't give up easily.

Let the purges begin!

Expect some folks to 'disappear' soon.

Hopefully his mischief won't last long and won't spread beyond his own borders.

Stuff like this (pt. 1, 2) doesn't inspire confidence, though.

21 July 2007

Sen. Robert Byrd on Michael Vick

Part I

Part II

Part III

(25 Minutes of this!!!)

The voters in West Virginia should be forced to watch every second of his ramblings on the Senate floor as penance for electing this windbag over and over.

If Michael Vick is guilty of what he's accused, he does indeed deserve eternal damnation should he fail to be contrite and understand the evil of his actions and inactions. But, this is not a subject worth 25 minutes of rambling, paper shuffling, crazy old coot ramblings on the Senate floor.

It's strangely compelling to watch, Sen. Byrd in full coot mode, I'd love to see a reality show follow him around as he goes about his business in DC. I think it would be instructive, and maybe help cure voters nationwide of favoring incumbents over and over again.

And let's not forget, that man up there rambling is 4th in line for the Presidency. He's 3 heartbeats from being President (to extend the ' heartbeat' cliche a little farther than normal).

As an added bonus, here's the actual indictment (PDF) of Vick, love the a/k/a for each defendant:

a/k/a "P-Funk" and "Funk,"

a/k/a "Q,"

a/k/a "T,"

a/k/a "Ookie"


(got tired of Ron Mexico, I guess)


Here's a stupid YouTube trick. Play all three at once. Given the lengthy pauses and disjointed nature of his narrative, it makes just as much sense all at once as it would in order. He's elevated rambling old cootism into sophisticated performance art.

Bravo maestro, Bravo.

Lot's of Hype, Not Much Game . . .

The debut of Beckham just ended. He played the last 13+ minutes, had only a few touches, and got tackled in extra time which put a scare into the sold out Home Depot Center. Lucky for the LA Galaxy that Chelsea isn't in the same league, cause they aren't even close to being in the same league.

Chelsea plays at a completely different gear.

The final was 1-0, but it wasn't close, the game was played almost entirely in the Galaxy's end, but for solid goaltending by Cannon and excellent defense by Xavier, Chelsea would have scored 3 or 4 times.

Against another MLS team, they might be good, haven't been paying enough attention to know.

The ESPN coverage covered the 'stars' in the stands more than the game at times, Victoria Beckham was there of course, and she drug Eva Longoria and Katie Holmes (clutching Suri) with her. Kevin Garnett was here, I'll take that as a sign that a deal is getting done to send KG to LA. The Governator took some time off from Governating and brought the wife and kids. Drew Carey was there to actually watch the game, which seemed out of place.

College Mission Statement of the Day --- Brandeis University

It's the Sabbath, so figured I'd go with Brandeis University.

Brandeis University is a community of scholars and students united by their commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and its transmission from generation to generation. As a research university, Brandeis is dedicated to the advancement of the humanities, arts, and social, natural and physical sciences. As a liberal arts college, Brandeis affirms the importance of a broad and critical education in enriching the lives of students and preparing them for full participation in a changing society, capable of promoting their own welfare, yet remaining deeply concerned about the welfare of others.

In a world of challenging social and technological transformations, Brandeis remains a center of open inquiry and teaching, cherishing its independence from any doctrine or government. It strives to reflect the heterogeneity of the United States and of the world community whose ideas and concerns it shares. In the belief that the most important learning derives from the personal encounter and joint work of teacher and students, Brandeis encourages undergraduates and postgraduates to participate with distinguished faculty in research, scholarship and artistic activities.

Brandeis was founded in 1948 as a nonsectarian university under the sponsorship of the American Jewish community to embody its highest ethical and cultural values and to express its gratitude to the United States through the traditional Jewish commitment to education. By being a nonsectarian university that welcomes students, teachers, and staff of every nationality, religion, and political orientation, Brandeis renews the American heritage of cultural diversity, equal access to opportunity, and freedom of expression.

The University that carries the name of the justice who stood for the rights of individuals must be distinguished by academic excellence, by truth pursued wherever it may lead, and by awareness of the power and responsibilities that come with knowledge.

Not a lot to make fun of really, it's overly wordy, full of the usual 'mission statement' boilerplate. I find their commitment to the rhetoric of multi-culturalism interesting. The part about welcoming students and teachers of all nationalities, religions and political orientation is no doubt sincere (OK, maybe I doubt the sincerity about the political orientation bit), but I would hazard a guess that the enrollment of Saudi, Pakistani, or even Indonesian nationals is somewhat low (as in nil).

I could be wrong, I hope I'm wrong, I'm sure they'd be welcome at that campus, too.

That's what's different about those that embrace classical liberalism versus those that cling to primitivism and collectivism in all its most virulent forms (and at the moment militant Islamic supremacist fundamentalist are as viral as a movement gets in every sense of the term).

Checking what programs they have, they do list one lecturer under Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies who is Muslim. He's an Egyptian, Abdel Monem Said Aly. Can't find much on him using google, but this article by him about the aftermath of the Israeli-Hizbollah conflict in Lebanon seems mostly reasonable. For some reason he doesn't mention his connection with Brandeis at his CV page at Al-Ahram Center of Political & Strategic Studies in Cairo where he is Director. Probably a wise omission (also a bit of a sad one).

You Can Throw One Set of Bums Out, But That Only Brings to Fore the Other Set of Bums

(via Instapundit)

Buyers remorse for the 2006 election? According to Zogby (take with a grain of salt, in other words), the Democrat lead Congress is less popular with the 'very liberal' (10%) than they are with 'very conservative' (14%) or 'conservative' (14%)', with 'liberal' (21%) they're doing better, but not exactly great.

Not mentioned by Don Surber in the above linked article is the specific polling on the immigration issue. Congress managed a 3% approval, President Bush enjoys triple the approval rating, a still dismal 9%.

Is this an opportunity to do something in 2008?

Unfortunately, no, people on both sides of the spectrum HATE the Congress as a whole, but folks still tend to love their own personal Congress Critter. Ideally, each incumbent in the House would have a serious, well-financed, web savvy challenger in the primaries. Most districts are gerrymandered to the point where party switching is unlikely. That's why the switch in 2006 to a Democratic majority is impressive, and vulnerable. Most of their gains were in districts designed to favor Republicans, and the Democrats who grabbed seats from Republicans did so by running as moderates. They'll be attacked in 2008 and accused of being with the anti-American San Francisco Liberal Pelosi wing of the Defeat Party. That means trouble for the Democrats in 2008.

Their vocal base, and media enablers are likely to do more damage than help to the Democratic party in 2008. The Dems are dreaming of gaining even more seats, and getting control of both the presidency and strengthening their majority in both houses. But given the polls, that seems unlikely. More likely, the Dems lose the House, the GOP keeps the White House (still don't see which states flip from Red to Blue in 2008 given Obama or Clinton as standard bearer), and the Senate could go either way.

The gnashing of teeth in the press should the GOP regain both majorities and keep the executive branch in 2008 would be highly entertaining.

20 July 2007

"Downright Annoyed"

Not the phrase I'd use in the lead to this story;

Merchants, visitors, residents and workers in downtown Oslo are becoming downright annoyed over open drug-dealing and prostitution on several city streets. Some offenders have taken to having sex in a downtown park, just behind the venerable Akershus Fortress and Castle.

Seems like a response a little stronger than 'annoyance' would be appropriate (even the 'downright' variety).

(and no, this isn't becoming the All Norway, All the Time, blog, just a story that caught my eye when reading those other stories I posted)

College Mission Statement of the Day --- Parsons

Art schools, gotta love them (and especially the women who attend them, they were a weakness for me back in my 20s).

Art school mission statements are also lovely. Parsons is one of the best Art Schools in the country, there mission statement is actually something of a disappointment.

Parsons focuses on creating engaged citizens and outstanding artists, designers, scholars and business leaders through a design-based professional and liberal education.

Parsons students learn to rise to the challenges of living, working and creative decision making in a world where human experience is increasingly designed. The school embraces curricular innovation, pioneering uses of technology, collaborative methods and global perspectives on the future of design.

It's straight forward, succinct, and short. What's up with that? I expected a lot more florid prose wrapped around some crazy ideas about what it means to be an artist in the 21st century. This mission statement leaves me wanting.

Guess I'll have to look at individual departments to find the good stuff.

Here's Lighting Design

The MFA program was the first in the field of architectural lighting, and is the only program focused primarily on design and social practice. An interdisciplinary education is offered in the intellectual, aesthetic, and technical aspects of lighting. At the core of the curriculum is the Lighting Design Studio, where students envision form and space "in light." A technology series complements the studio sequence, as well as courses in the cultural, historical, and perceptual components of lighting. A new dual-degree graduate program combines the MFA in Lighting Design and the M.Arch. The Department's journal, Scapes, focuses on global, metropolitan, and departmental perspectives on architecture. In 2007, AIDL sponsored AFTER TASTE a symposium exploring a symposium exploring new agendas for the study of the interior.

I love the typo with the repetition of symposium, unless it really was a symposium exploring a symposium, which is possible, in which case, even better if it wasn't a typo. And an MFA in Lighting Design? Really? It's important, but I can't see studying that as a main focus, seems like something you can knock off in a couple of quarters as part of your more general education in Architecture.

Here's what they say about Photography

Parsons' BFA in Photography and MFA in Photography educate students about the evolving creative position of the photographer today. Both programs provide a rigorous technical training marked by conceptual and critical thinking about photography's place in the global art and design world. Graduates enter the photographic industry fully prepared to be leaders in a rapidly changing work environment.

What they meant to say, 'you will rule at making photoshopped Bu$hHitler composites for TNR or Salon once we are done with you'.

I could dig around more, but I'll leave the fun of discovery up to you, I can't do all the work, I can only point the way.

If We Can Put a Man on the Moon, Why Can't We . . .

I don't quite understand what one has to do with the other. But seems like those that want the government to do everything and anything, that's a frequent catch phrase, "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we . . .".

The first part should be enough.


(38 years ago)

And even though I wasn't even a month old, my mother swears I watched intently as it happened.

So to all those folks who use that as a beginning of a conditional phrase, or all those people who believe it was on a soundstage.

Screw YOU!

We put a man on the moon, and that's still pretty amazing, even more amazing still when you consider what technology was like in 1969.

We (and in this case, the 'we' shouldn't just be NASA, but private organizations and a coalition of USA, EU and Japanese backed concerns) should put lots a people on the moon before it has been 50 years since Neil Armstrong made his first steps.

By 2019 I'd hope a proper research station would be possible.

As a destination in of itself there may not be much there (potentially a great tourist trap, eventually), but as a proving ground for extended low-g living and finding the adjustments needed to live long term places other than Earth, it's a needed first step.

A dozen men having trundled on the lunar surface is too few, let's get that number up by 2020.

Also, I think they had a bit more fun on Apollo 12. Check out the PDF of the cuff check list (especially page 6 and page 11).

Those dozen should get a name check today, so here are links to each of their wikis.

Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11)
Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11)
Charles Conrad (Apollo 12)
Alan Bean (Apollo 12)
Alan Shepard (Apollo 14)
Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14)
James Irwin (Apollo 15)
David Scott (Apollo 15)
Charles Duke (Apollo 16)
John Young (Apollo 16)
Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17)
Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17)

Someday this list will be too big to fit easily in a single post, but for now, those are the twelve men that should be remembered today (and if you forgot why Apollo 13 is missing, rent this).

19 July 2007

Punitive Communitarianism

After reading this article in Aftenposten, a Norwegian English language daily, I think I've come up with a new take on an old idea.

The thing going on in that fine Nordic country can only be described as punitive communitarianism. You're going to love your fellow man, even if it kills you. It's hard to measure comparative tax burdens, but I think an interesting measure is to look at what the government revenues are on a per capita basis, and by percentage of GDP.

When measured that way, the story in Norway is mindboggling.

Norway's a small country population wise, a wealthy one too. According to an article last week on the same website, they have the most 'dollar millionaires' per capita of any nation. Their per capita income is slightly better than $46,000 per year, putting them sixth on the per capita income list as ranked in The World Factbook.

For the sake of comparison let's look at the top nine (plus two other countries/dependencies) as ranked by the CIA.

#1 on the list is tiny Luxemborg. Population, 480,222, population growth rate of 1.207%, GDP (purchasing power parity) $33.87B, and a per capita of a whopping $71,400. Government revenues are 19.07B. That translates to 56.3% of GDP, and a per capita rate of government revenue rounded to about $39,700.

#2 on the list is Bermuda. The shorts business must be booming, that or lots of European tax exiles distorting the figures. Also, not fully independent of the UK. Population 66,163, population growth rate of .576%, GDP(ppp) $4.5B, per capita $69,900. The government revenue collected is a relatively minuscule $738M. That's only 16.4% of GDP, and a per capita govt revenue around $11,200 per shorts wearing Bermudan.

#3 on the list is Jersey. Another island dependency of the UK high on this list. Population 91,321, pop growth .244%, GDP(ppp) $5.1B, per capita $57,000. Gov't revenue only $829M. 16.3% of GDP in gov't revenue, which figures to a per cow/person basis around $9,000.

#4 on the list is Equatorial Guinea. An oil rich African military dictatorship that despite great wealth suffers from 30% unemployment and yet is still a destination country for the trafficking of children for labor and women and children for sex work, not exactly a tropical paradise. It's a poster child for how great natural wealth in a country doesn't equal prosperity, but the numbers look great on paper. Population 551,201, growth rate 2.015%, GDP(ppp) 25.69B, per capita $50,200. Gov't revenue 2.752B. 10.7% of GDP in gov't revenue, around $5000 per capita.

#5 on the list is United Arab Emirates. An oil rich Arab country on the Persian Gulf. Pop 4,444,011. Growth a very frisky 3.997%, GDP(ppp) $129.5B, per capita $49,700. Gov't rev is $60.3B, which gives them 46.6% gov't rev. as share of GDP, and shakes out to $13,600 per sheik.

#6 on the list is Norway. The poster child for a communitarian social welfare cradle to grave managed market paradise. Don't let the whiners in the article linked above scare you away with their tales of $9/gallon gasoline, or 2.5% tax on all real estate transactions. Instead revel in the numbers. Pop 4,627,926, growth rate a reserved .363%, GDP(ppp) $213.6B, per capita $46,300. Govt rev $195.8B, which only somebody who doesn't love their fellow man would complain about it's 91.7% share of GDP, or its per capita burden around $42,300 per Norwegian not pining for the fjords (no need to pine when the fjords are a short drive away, or maybe you might pine a little when you realize how much the petrol bill will run should you choose to drive to said fjords when all those gas taxes cause the cost of a gallon to be northward of $9).

#7 on the list is Guernsey cause the one thing you can't get enough on this list is UK dependencies. Another English Channel Island with a really high per capita income rate. Pop 65,573, growth .239%, GDP(ppp) $2.742B, per capita $44,600, gov't rev 563.6M. Comes out to a modest 20.6% and only $8,600 per Guernsey cow/person.

#8 on the list is Ireland. Yes, Ireland, the Emerald Isle, is now the surprisingly rich Emerald Isle. Pop 4,109,086 (isn't there more Irish than that in Massachusetts?), pop growth a healthy for Europe 1.143%, GDP(ppp) $180.7B per capita $44,500 (that's a lot of potatos), gov't revenue a reasonable (for an EU nation) $75.49B. That's a percentage of 41.8% and a per step dancer rate of $18,400.

#9 on the list is the greatest country in the history of the whole universe. That's right, it's the U S of A. Love it or leave it, as they say. Pop 301,139,947, pop growth .894%, GDP(ppp) a mind boggling $13.13 Trillion, per capita at an impressive $44,000. Government revenue is an obscene $2.409T (I bet we could get by with only $2T). Despite the government revenues seeming crazy, it's just 18.3% of GDP, and around $8000 per person.

Now let's look at the two places most similar to Norway in population for comparison

Georgia has 4,646,003, pop growth is -.329%, GDP(ppp) 17.88B, per capita income a paltry $3,800 (might help explain the negative growth rate), gov't revenue is $1.726B. That's only 9.7%, and only $372 per person. That's about as far away from Norway as you can get.

Singapore has 4,553,009 folks, pop growth 1.275%, GDP(ppp) 141.2B, per capita a solid $31,400. Gov't revenue is a restrained $19.71B. That's a rather unburdened 14% and a manageable $4300 per Singaporean.

I'm sure there's a reason that economists don't look at that number, or calculate government revenues as a percentage of GDP. Gov't revenue comes from many sources, and countries with lots of nationalized industries would have their results skewed (like Norway). But I think it gives you a sliver of a picture of the type of society a country has developed. Norway's punitive communitarianism is only sustainable so long as the government controls some natural resource that brings in solid revenues (in their case, oil). It's certainly better that they use that revenue on their people when compared to a country like Equatorial Guinea where all that oil wealth is just going to the few. But just looking at the numbers, Ireland would seem like a much better place to work and do business in Europe (and companies and people have been drawn there because of their low taxes, and still decent services), United States despite its huge economy manages to get by on a relatively small tax burden for a mature economy. Also, Singapore really does kick a lot of ass when it comes to economic freedom and pro-growth policies, too bad about the authoritarian streak when it comes to everything else.

Seems like Norway's way isn't as appealing as it once was for Norwegians, and that kind of punitive taxation must scare away any sort of business that isn't looking to work within the public or government controlled sector. That's not an environment that encourages innovation or problem solving skills. Looking at the top nine places in terms of GDP, Norway, Equatorial Guinea, and United Arab Emirates would collapse if oil prices dropped back down below $30 a barrel (not likely anytime soon barring a new technology drastically changing energy production and usage). Norway's screwed if that happens, they just don't realize it. Economic activity alone can't support the massive revenues their government demands. At least the folks in Norway are starting to question the point of tacking on punitive fees for every activity that people might engage in. And not surprisingly, all the various communitarian oriented NGOs and UN commissions think every place should be like Norway and Norway ranks highly in their rankings.

One last article from Aftenposten, if you want a good example of what happens when you put crazily punitive taxes on everything, two words for you, MEAT SMUGGLING.

(quit that snickering in the back, what's so funny about the phrase, 'meat smuggling'?)

College Mission Statement of the Day --- Pitzer College

You know what are fun? College mission statements. They're usually utter drivel. Not only are they drivel, they're self-important drivel that string together a bunch of touchy-feely buzzwords to absolutely no effect. In other words, the perfect target for ridicule.

I can't resist the ridiculous. I'm shallow that way. To kick this feature off, I'm not going after the worst, Pitzer College's mission statement is definitely middle of the pack as far as ridiculousness goes, but it's representative, and therefore a good starting point.

Pitzer College produces engaged, socially responsible citizens of the world through an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary liberal arts education emphasizing social justice, intercultural understanding and environmental sensitivity. The meaningful participation of students, faculty and staff in college governance and academic program design is a Pitzer core value. Our community thrives within the mutually supportive framework of the Claremont Colleges which provide an unsurpassed breadth of academic, athletic and social opportunities.

If I were to develop a checklist of things that are likely to show up in every "Mission Statement" I feature, I couldn't do a better job of 'buzzword bingo' than the above paragraph.

Socially responsible, yada yada yada, social justice, yada yada yada, environmental sensitivity, yada yada yada, community, yada, supportive, yada, unsurpassed breadth of academic, athletic and social opportunities. (I can't believe they left off 'diversity', you always got to tout, 'diversity', there's nothing more important than being, 'diverse', suppose they think that's implied by 'social justice')

The formula will vary some, but those are the bullet points. Course, the kiddies that attend these schools aren't looking for any of those things. They want to know, how easy will the grading be? Will going here help me get into a good grad school? Do hot (and easy) people go here? What's the drinking scene like? How far is it from dorm to classes? What's the meal plan like? If the kids going here aren't really, really hot, are they at least really, really easy? If I download and upload tons of songs and porn, will the administration bust me? Do they have wi-fi everywhere? What's the celphone reception like? Are there any hot teachers? Are the dorm bathrooms gross, really gross, or I'm better off at a truck stop gross?

For some reason none of those questions seem to get addressed in mission statements.

Oh well.

A Dangerous Assumption

This Rand study (pdf at link) suggests that older drivers need not be regulated more strictly as they voluntarily limit their behaviors as they get older, and even though they are far less capable as they get older, they don't present a much bigger risk to the general public to justify an increased regulatory regime aimed at getting those whose skills are inadequate off the roads.

The huge problem I see with this study, is that they make a basic assumption regarding old people that's dangerously false. Their basic assumption is that the people who turn 70 and 80 in the future will act and react to their aging process the same way as past and current 70 and 80 year olds did. I'm here to wave my hands, yell and scream and say, HELL NO.

In ten years the leading edge of the Boomer wave will be hitting 70. At every stop along the way they've trumpeted how 'different' they are from all other generations in their approach to aging. As the oldest of these folks are hitting 60, we're bombarded with articles about how Sixty=Sexy, and all that other nonsense. That's going to continue as long as they're around, and their Boomer narcissism won't recede with age, if anything they've shown a capacity to get increasingly narcissistic with each passing decade, and I don't expect them (as a cohort, individual boomers can be quite nice, but as a whole, they remain the ME generation) to be any different in their 70s, 80s, 90s or beyond.

Boomers will not voluntarily limit their behaviors or accept their diminished skillsets. I predict they will in far larger numbers than today's older elderly (75+) continue to drive, continue to work, and continue to think they aren't worse off than they were then when they were in their 40s.

You can create a set of driving regulations that ignore age all together, but require that all drivers be physically and mentally sharp enough to avoid collisions and react sensibly when an accident occurs.

To acknowledge that people fall apart as they get older isn't to discriminate against the elderly. It's to discriminate against the unfit, and that's the kind of discrimination I can whole heartedly back. Any oldster who wants to drive, should welcome the chance to prove it in a driving test that mixes on the road testing with a simulator that tests their reactions to emergency situations. Increase the licensing fees on driving (it is a privilege, not a right, especially as you get older) to pay for the increased testing, require driving road tests more frequently past the age of 65 (every other year until 75, then every single year once you past the age of 75). Also, require re-testing of driving skills within 6 months of any major emergency hospitalization that involves loss of consciousness, regardless of the person's age. It's about possible impairment and the danger that presents to everyone, not hating on old folks.

Just cause oldsters are acting semi-responsibly now, doesn't mean the next group of oldsters will continue to be so wise. If past performance is any indication of future returns, we can expect that the next wave of oldsters will most definitely not accept the fact of their decline and refuse to self-impose limits on their mobility.

Barring that, force old people into tiny electric vehicles, they mostly drive alone or in pairs, generally don't carry a lot of stuff, and don't travel more than 15 miles from home. So anybody over the age 75 of will be treated like anybody else, except their license will only be good for a GEM or GEM like vehicle (or at least no vehicles with a curb weight over 2000lbs). Do it for the environment's sake, I bet I could get the Goracle behind this if I sell it on that angle.

If a person over the age of 75 wants a license to drive a normal car, than they should be required to pass a more thorough test at their own expense, and agree to go through this process each year. That way, if they momentarily suffer from pedal confusion, they won't wipe out a whole Farmer's Market.

I'm normally against nannyism, but I don't see this as nannyism, I see this as common sense. Cars are too big, too powerful, and too easy to drive, someone not capable of reacting to a difficult situation as it presents itself shouldn't be driving. Old people get frail, that's life, and sometimes they get very frail, very quickly, that's why they need to be tested more often. Those that can handle the stress should be allowed to continue to assume the risk of driving, but as a group, old people should be scrutinized.

That young people drive more dangerously than they should doesn't excuse old people from being regulated more closely in light of their declining abilities. That's the argument the Rand study would seem to make, 'it's OK for the old to suck, cause kids suck worse', that's not an argument I'd make, and I find it strange that Rand would do so.

Would a Clinton Appointee Have Come Up With a Different Conclusion?

United States District Judge John D. Bates dismissed former CIA officer Valerie Plame's lawsuit against Vice President Cheney.

The same judge dismissed the GAO's suit against Vice President Cheney regarding the silliness of the energy meetings notes fodlerol.

Also, he was appointed in Dec 2001 by President Bush, and worked with Kenneth Starr (therefore he must be eeeevil with four e's).

Is he being principled? In both cases he narrowly interpreted whether or not civil service employees have standing when suing the Vice President's office.

Is he thwarting overreaching and preening petty bureaucrats from clogging the courts with endless, needless lawsuits whenever they feel 'dissed' by the Vice President's office?

Or is he a 'Bush Crony' rewarding his friends and preventing them from answering for their misdeeds?

I lean towards the petty bureaucrats are insane and looking to sabotage the current administration any way they can angle. I'm not an expert in this area, but it does seem that the ability for one part of the government to sue another part of the government should be severely limited, and only taken up in the most egregious of cases (neither of these would even remotely qualify).

There are those out there who want to make 'governing while Republican' a crime. That's the impression I get from much of this nonsense. Bureaucracy is always going to lean towards the party that favors entitlements, government programs, and federal micromanagement of all things great and small. Both parties can answer to that description to one degree or another, but the Democrats have no recent history of even the pretense of wanting small government to rein them in. That's why for now and the foreseeable future, the federal bureaucracies will lean heavily Democratic and play petty little game (leaks, lawsuits, malingering) whenever Republicans manage to gain control of the Executive branch.

When Oprah is President Obama's Vice President (you know the O&O ticket makes sense, don't you?), I'll bet she does things that would make even Cheney blush. I also bet there won't be a single lawsuit brought against her by some petty bureaucrat fearful of her secretive ways.

All this concern within the bureaucracy about the overreaching Vice President's office wasn't around when it was Vice President Al Gore doing the overreaching. In countless ways, Gore was Cheney's equal, if not superior in crafting new powers for his office. But he's a darling of the inside the beltway folks, so he got a pass. But he set a precedent that Cheney followed and expanded upon, and now the bureaucrats are upset, but they don't have a leg to stand on (or legal standing), to complain because of their silence when it was Al Gore doing his business.

Either put real limits into the job that the VP can do, or go back to directly electing the VP as we did in the past. Many states still elect their Lieutenant Governors, and so far, that hasn't lead to too much trouble (a little trouble here in CA back in the day when Mike Curb took advantage of some loopholes, but that was fun, and it was the late 70s). A person essentially appointed to the position (nominally elected), shouldn't wield real power, and should just be an understudy as it had been for most of the 20th century (until Gore decided to go crazy with the job). The executive has the right to delegate as he chooses, but I think it would be wise to choose not to delegate too much to an office that's nebulously defined constitutionally and traditionally weak.

If either of the eventual candidates for President wants to win points, they should pledge to NOT delegate too much responsibility on to their Veep.

Bring back the days of Dan Quayle, he was the perfect Veep.

Again With the Claiming Primacy with Regards to Certain Ideas . . .

Today, Ed Driscoll points to a CNN interview of Dave Chappelle, and Chappelle mentions he wouldn't mind being a White House Press Secretary.

Where have I heard that idea before?

Also, Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube from Zimbabwe said in London (as a critic of the administration, staying in Zimbabwe would mean certain death) that Mugabe must be destroyed from the outside before reform can begin inside.

Where have I heard that idea before?

(my claim on primacy on this one is weaker, since he's quoted well before I posted, but I only heard of what he said, after, so in my mind I said it first, and the suggestion is a more martial outgrowth of my modest proposal for Bill and Melinda Gates, so in that sense it definitely predates Archbishop Ncube's statement)


Ed Driscoll was kind enough to link my post from last year, now let's see if the Archbishop admits to reading my modest proposal from awhile back, also . . .

18 July 2007

But When They Drive Around In the ELDERMOBILE, Will They Notice That the Blinker's On . . .

The world's a mess, The Elder Squad to the rescue (so long as somebody keeps them supplied with Metamucil)[plenty of humor from Daniel Drezner at the link].

Sponsorsed by -----, and -----, as well as -----.

Not a lot of intellectual diversity going on in that bunch.

If I were to put together a group of Elder Superfriends to save the world, the list I put together wouldn't include a commie, an almost commie, a might as well be a commie, and an ultra nanny (and sufferer of a psychosomatic illness).

My Ultraspecial Elder Superfriends would include (but not be limited to) the following folks:

Abe Vigoda, cause he's Abe Vigoda, and I'm fairly certain he's still alive.
J.D. Salinger, you can't be a recluse the rest of your life, maybe while he's been brooding, he's come up with some great ideas.
Chuck Yeager, he's Chuck Effin Yeager, you need somebody on the team who can still kick some ass.
Sophia Loren, gotta have some Europeans, and women, so why not her?
Shintaro Tsuji, the evil mastermind behind Hello Kitty. You need a proper evil genius in any ultraspecial cool problem solving taskforce.
Nawal El Saadawi, fierce advocate for women's rights in Egypt. Tough, sensible, passionate, hated by the crazies.
Jerry Brown, he's currently California's A.G., but he could resign and help be an ultraspecial elder superfriend, he may have been Gov. Moonbeam, but he's always been a deep thinker and willing to follow where the people lead (rare traits in politicians).
UPDATE: Thought I'd expand the list a bit . . . .
Thomas Sowell, how'd I forget him? He'd be the brains of the bunch.
Cheech Marin, a little younger than the rest of the elders, but he's lived a hard life, so that counts, I'm sure he feels just as old as some of these other 'elders'.
Kip Thorne, why not bring in a brilliant theoretical physicist to the mix?
Deacon Jones, the 'Secretary of Defense' anybody Chuck couldn't take care of, Deacon would finish them off.
Liza Minelli, you don't want to mess with Liza, she'll go crazy on your ass. You need crazy on a group like this.
Yoko Ono, the token peacenik in the group. She would be the one everyone loves to hate, she's used to it, so she'd be good as the villain.

In the annals of rich people coming up with dumb ideas, this has to be one of the dumbest. Do they really expect sovereign nations to cede decision making authority to these codgers?

If so they're bigger jackasses than I realized.

You Were the Best Thing In Studio 60, But Dude, Lighten Up . . .

Steven Weber has An Open Letter to Republicans (at HuffPo)

Your faith is fierce, your devotion is duly noted. But before long, those noble qualities will be the very things that allow the hijackers occupying the White House to complete their sacking of the republic. Your misplaced loyalty will prove to have been the strength that is turned into weakness by the cunning, spirit destroying practitioners of the art of the overthrow.

Yet the apologists still sputter away, their sneers and snipes honed to perfect, diamond hardness. So intoxicated by the endless stream of endorphins released during their saber-rattling gallop over fifty years of progressive legislation, the Republican light brigade that once trumpeted Compassionate Conservatism is now comprised of rotting principles, thwarting functioning government and seeking to demonize common sense.

With rhetoric like that, I'm sure he'll persuade many folks to change their minds (or not).

It's a new tactic, I guess, instead of the 'all Rethuglicans are eeeevil' it's 'you neo-cons are just misled, and for the good of the nation must embrace the only rational and righteous path of the ever expanding, compassionate, massive, and massively involved in each and every aspect of your lives federal government, or you're a dope'. Also, leave Iraq yesterday, who cares about the consequences, worked out in Southeast Asia back in the 70s, didn't it? As I understand it, you are suggesting that 'progressivism' is merely common-sense, while any that oppose progressivism is an easily duped idiot who is helping destroy our country. Got it, makes perfect sense.

I won't write an "open letter", instead I'll just fire off a memo to Steven Weber . . .

Dude, talk to an actual conservative, hang out at the Reagan Library one Saturday, chat with some of the visitors, ask them non-leading questions about broad concepts like patriotism, federalism, or liberty, and maybe you'll realize how ridiculous and unpersuasive your 'open letter' is.

I hope you don't expect to persuade anybody, and this is just meant to get into some ultra-lefty cutie's pants, if that's the case, I understand, and sympathize.

Otherwise, dude, chill, seriously (and I mean it about visiting the Reagan Library, you might learn something).

17 July 2007

Why the Internet is the Greatest Invention Since Sliced Bread

Sliced bread really is a great innovation, few people (except the French) think it's a good idea to have to manually slice bread each time you want a sandwich. The time saved over the years is immeasurable, sliced bread has been a true boon to global productivity.

But sliced bread doesn't cough up videos like the one provided by Defamer of Homer Simpson meeting the 17th century "rude man" (or fertility symbol, whatever) in England.

Also, sliced bread doesn't take images from the same place and create the inevitable animated gif.

Jeebus bless teh internets.

Boxing Metaphors Are So 19th Century, I'm In the OCTAGON, Baby . . .

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.

I was cited as a "green journalist" before, so I guess this makes sense.

How to Win a Fight With a Liberal is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Conservative Identity:

You are a Freedom Crusader, also known as a neoconservative. You believe in taking the fight directly to the enemy, whether it’s terrorists abroad or the liberal terrorist appeasers at home who give them aid and comfort.

And that's just silly, I'm much more of a paleo-conservative than a neo-con.

Nuance isn't the strong suit of internet quizzes.

(hat tip RIA and Cal at Done With Mirrors)


Reader I Am responds in the comments (read it for yourself) and here's a partial response to her response:

The OCTAGON reference is to Mixed Martial Arts which is the newer, shinier, and growing in popularity version of man on man violence as spectacle.

"Duking it out" is an appropriate metaphor for politics, but Marquess of Queensburry rules are the 19th century part, in the 21st century we're seeing a return to valuing combatants who are capable of multiple modes of kicking another guy's (or gal's) ass (grappling, boxing, kickboxing).

Politics aren't by Queensburry rules, either, the politicians and political movements that thrive in the United States over the next few decades will be the ones that are willing to challenge the rules, skirt the rules without getting caught, and push the rules as far as they'll go while still being appealing to the spectators (like a good MMA combatant).

I think the MMA days of politics will be better, once everyone adjusts to the shift. More contact between the participants, will lead to more sharply defined positions during the campaigns, hopefully. With all the mud that will get slung, I think a return to ideas is inevitable. When every potential politician has a hard drive full of pictures of drunken high school and college bacchanals, they'll have no choice but to compete on ideas instead of which candidate is 'more pure'.

16 July 2007

"Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help."

Ouch, that'll leave a mark.

It would seem that misery is the most valued export Africa has to offer, from the perspective of the dogooders of the western world.

Support reform, demand accountability, and let Africans sort things out for themselves, find ways to help people and villages directly without enriching kleptocrats.

While you're at it, kill President Robert Mugabe and all his cronies, there's no hope for Zimbabwe otherwise.

I still think my modest proposal regarding helping Africa makes some sense, sadly.

14 July 2007


Pondering the 'new' Bin Laden tape. . .

People won't accept that he's bin Dead for awhile now, until the duet with Osama and Tupac finally hits the internet.

Prince, Great Performer, Even Greater Capitalist, Part II

Why would giving your music away make you a 'great capitalist'?

For one thing, the record companies have traditionally kept a big chunk of the album sales take, while artists reap more of the profits from concert performances.

By giving the album away, Prince reaches audiences that he may have trouble reaching otherwise. It builds buzz, it gets him positive press coverage.

Prince is shaking things up, the music industry is broken, and fans are disconnected from the artists, this might help repair the disconnect some.

The fanatics (like me) will buy the album when it comes out, even if there'll be a bunch of illegal mp3s floating around. Prince's concerts have been more profitable than any other time in his career, other than his absolute zenith.

He has remained much more relavent than a lot of his peers, and the music he puts out is still pretty awesome. Looking forward to Planet Earth when it hits stores July 24th. Lucky ducks in the UK who pick up their Sunday Daily Mail will get a head start, but that's OK, they can enjoy it, and spread the love.

The labels are pissed at this move, but screw them, not like Prince needs a lot of help from the labels to get people to notice what he's up to.

A Story That Doesn't Pass the Smell Test

Sniffing this story, and I get a strong whiff of patchouli.

Could it have happened as outlined in the article? Possibly, but it seems unlikely.

A scenario I imagine is a lot more likely is as follows;

A bunch of people gather, get themselves worked up into a lather about how messed up the world is and how we just need to practice more 'acts of random kindness' and 'love each other more' and 'group hug' more often.

Course those random acts of kindness are always so messy in real life. That homeless guy you give the meal to, pesters you for weeks afterward for a meal every day. That undocumented worker you hire to help with the lawn work pisses on your roses and drinks beer on the job. Sometimes the bumper stickers just aren't enough and small acts aren't enough.

But what if you made up one of those 'oddly enough' type stories that get so much play in the media? What if the 'oddly enough' scenario you spin is a perfect encapsulation of the kind of random act of kindness that everyone should be engaging in ten times a day?

Once the party comes to that decision, then the details require some hammering out. First, it should involve guns and poverty, cause guns are evil, and poverty, like, really, really sucks. Second, make sure the story has enough odd details that nobody would suspect you of making the whole thing up. A robber who when offered a fine wine decides to partake in said wine, and then comes to appreciate the wine seems so unlikely as to be beyond making up. Third, group hug, everyone loves a story that ends in a group hug, if more people practiced group hugs, there would be no war, no genocide, no Republicans, and no Global Warming.

There is some risk, filing a false police report is filing a false police report, and the 911 call you make will most likely be publicly available, so when you make the call, better make the performance convincing. Also everyone would need to get their description of the suspect fairly consistent, but also nebulous enough so that some poor schmo who actually was in the neighborhood, doesn't get wrongly accused.

The detail about the crystal glass being found unbroken in the alley, without any recoverable prints is what suggests to me that this is all crap. But really, if you can give the guy with a gun a 'group hug' you can disarm the criminal.

Also I find it unimaginable that after a gun is pointed at your 14 year old daughter that you don't rip the perp apart with your bare hands, rip off his balls, and stuff them in his mouth. Call me old fashioned, but I think my response (and just about everyone I know) would be more along those lines than, 'here take this bottle of Chateau Malescot St-Exupery"

Also if you're wondering what the man who would 'group hug' the perp who brandished a firearm at his 14 year old's head looks like, Ricky Carioti of WaPo was kindly enough to shoot him (lovely manbag he has, there).

Questions I have, the event happened June 16th, why all the publicity 4 weeks later? Why no description of the perp given in the story? Presumably you have an unstable individual desperate enough to threaten young girls within a party of folks with a gun, that person should be sought after, they may do something worse than drink wine next time, where's the description? Why the hell are you conducting multiple interviews (WaPo, Guardian, Today Show?!), and why the hell are you letting your daughter do interviews as well under her own (unusual, and very hippie-ish) name? Do you know how easy it was for me to find her on Myspace (at least it's private)?

Watching the Today Show interview linked above, and I get a serious dose of hippie bullshit.

Sorry, call me a cynic (I don't think Campbell Brown believed them either, she laughs at them throughout the whole interview).

"As we get better at the refinement we will be able to remove virgin rape from the process"

Context, really, really, really, is everything.

13 July 2007

Big Deal? Seriously?

Becks and Posh arrived here in Los Angeles today. The Mayor of Los Angeles himself greeted David Beckham (Villaraigosa was booed at the press conference, the local news anchor pointed out that the boos were because Villaraigosa is a Chivas fan (the other MLS team in town), and not due to his recently made public affair).

The coverage is pretty intense here, but the coverage is more about the coverage, and about how excited we're supposed to be, rather than any real excitement over the prospect of watching Beckham bend it at Home Depot Center in Carson.

They got the usual ritzy mansion in Beverly Hills for themselves, I would have been more impressed if he chose a compound in Carson and built some massively gaudy mansion near the place he'll play.

One annoying note from the coverage locally, they kept referring to the FIELD at Home Depot as the PITCH. Take your Britishisms and stuff 'em up yer arse, I say. If Beckham can call the sport he plays soccer, than we can keep calling the field, a field.

Speaking of coverage, here's BBC, The Sun, Guardian, and Evening Standard going crazy over this crap. Here's the video (with the reporter calling the field a pitch) from the local newscast on KCAL 9. And here's what his commute might look like (don't know the exact location of his new mansion, but it has to be up in those hills somewhere). I wouldn't want to drive it, the 405 is a nightmare, usually.

Yet More Desert Related Stuff . . .

. . . you may not have asked for it, you may not want it, but here it goes anyway. A YouTube video of portions of my trip at warp speed (with Orb's Outlands in the background).

The video above was shot during my daytrip on Sunday. The early bits are on National Trails Highway, aka Route 66. The road ain't what it used to be. Towards the end of the Route 66 portion I commit the sin of Shakycam. Films with budgets well over $100 million shouldn't have shakycam, dudes in a car using an inexpensive point and shoot, will give you shakycam from time to time.

The rest is on Kelbaker Rd., cutting through Mojave National Preserve, all the way into Baker, beautiful, beautiful Baker. The world's tallest thermometer towers above the town majestically (or phallically).

Speaking of YouTube, the Al Jazeera babe is really hot. I mean, really, really hot. Her shamelessly uncovered hair has totally messed me up with their wily feminine rays.

My suggestion for Al Jazeera, cover her hair, but otherwise, she should do the news topless. I'll be willing to watch internet feeds of their pro-crazy, anti-American propaganda, if it's delivered by topless cuties with their shiny hair rays properly shielded. Support religious freedom (even in Arab countries), denounce violent jihad and all acts of terror, quit spreading lies about Israel, quit saying one thing in Arabic and another in English, do all these things, and I'll watch your channel online, even without hot topless anchors, otherwise I want nipples, or I ain't watching.

A Truer Paragraph Never Written

Marc Stein drops some truth:

It's too early for full-fledged disappointments. The only true disappointment I've seen in Vegas so far was the unspeakable sight of a young man bringing a bag from McDonald's into an In-N-Out Burger on Tuesday afternoon, something I've never witnessed in 25 years as an In-N-Out zealot. He ate his McDonalds while his dining companion enjoyed the most sumptuous burger in the history of fast food. It was the epitome of sacrilege.

12 July 2007

An Excuse for a Movie List (F.C.I.L.F.) . . .

. . . MSN has a particularly dumb list of film folks and what wanting them says about you. For those that prefer men, this list, for those that prefer women, this list. Actually, I think a man on man list would be different than the men women want list, same as the woman on woman list would be very different from the women men want list.

Both lists suck, but they make a good jumping off point for my own list.

Given my biases, and orientation, I'll come up with my own top sixteen women in film, or F. C. I. L. F. (I'm assuming the "ILF" part is a pretty well known acronym by now, the F. C. stands for film characters), and then possibly have a relationship with or vice versa, with some the order is one, others it's the other. The list isn't really in order, just 16 women in film I could think of at the moment (on a different day, it might have been 16 other women in 16 different films). Besides, when most men fantasize about women on screen, I don't think the fantasies are generally as 'relationship' oriented as the MSN article would suggest.

1. Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity
The silly MSN list had no femme fatales. What kind of list of film ILFs doesn't include femme fatales? This is the best of the lot. Stanwyck may not be the sexiest woman in the world, or have the best body, but she exudes a combination of ferocity, intelligence, anger and even a touch of vulnerability that's hard to match. It'd be a sick, twisted relationship, that ends up in tears or blood (or tears and blood), but who wants to live forever? (besides we are talking fantasy, and not real life, real life stay far away from these types, but as a film fantasy, why the hell not?)

2. Nobuko Miyamoto as Ryoko Itakura, Tax Inspector in A Taxing Woman
Who knew tax collectors could be sexy? This movie rocks. Miyamoto is fantastic in this film, and sexy, and desirable. It's a brilliant film, fun characters, interesting plot, and breezily directed. What makes Miyamoto stand out is her steadfastness, intelligence and dedication. Those are all sexy characteristics in my book.

3. Shirley MacLaine as Bessie Sparrowbrush in Artists and Models
Shirley was incredibly sexy in a pixie-ish sort of way back in the day. Short red hair, pale skin, and dancer's legs is an intoxicating combination. Plus, any woman attracted to Jerry Lewis in full fool-mode is alright in my book.

4. Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger
So she's a vampire, nobody's perfect. She's a seriously hot vampire, plus she's got that old world charm going for her, and she's the epitome of sleek sexiness in this film. The film reads more like one long perfume commercial than a movie, but at least there's hot lesbian sex in it.

5. Salma Hayek as Rose in Timecode
Salma has to be on this list. Nothing to do with any of the roles she plays, just the fact of her Hayekness. When looking over her body of work, it mostly stinks. This is actually one of her better performances though. An interesting expermiment as a film, but not a good film overall. Saw it with the director in the theatre mixing the soundtrack live (4 separate images play as continuous takes, by choosing which audio to play, the director was foregrounding or backgrounding each subplot however he chose).

6. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia in Return of the Jedi
This one is obvious. Blame my age. Blame the metal bikini. Blame the hotness of potential Jedi powers. I could take out Han Solo no problem, he's a bit of a jerk, anyway, she could do better.

7. Myrna Loy as Nora Charles in The Thin Man
Just about the sexiest female character ever captured on screen. Intelligent, funny, attractive, and willing to drink six or seven martinis with you. What else could you want from a wife?

8. Paula Patton as Angel in Idlewild
Singers are usually sexy (in film), Angel in Idlewild is no exception. Not a particularly deeply written character, but Patton brings vivaciousness to a somewhat vacuous role that you wouldn't expect. She was also excellent in Deja Vu in another role that didn't demand much from her. It's hard being an insanely hot actress of color in Hollywood. Expect a career of damsel in distress, or trophy objects, that's all they'll feel comfortable casting her in. She brings a dignity and charm to those roles though, keep an eye on her.

9. Maggie Cheung as Maggie Cheung in Irma Vep
Maggie Cheung playing herself in a French film about a production gone awry. She's sleek and elegant in this film, basically the fantasy version of her you imagine her to be. Can't beat that. A worthwhile film to see, even if a bit arty for art's sake.

10. Shari Eubank as SuperAngel/SuperVixen in SuperVixens
Imagine a Chuck Jones cartoon, with real life people, most of those people being improbably large breasted women, then you have a small inkling of what this film is like. SuperAngel/SuperVixen is a dual role played by the improbably large (but all natural) breasted Shari Eubank. Angel is incredibly bad, Vixen is incredibly sweet, both are incredibly hot. Don't think of it as an exploitation film, think of it as a sophisticated filmed dissertation on the dichotomous nature of how men relate to women and the artificially forced polar mode of either whoredom or madonnadom faced by women. Or just dig on the amazing cinematography, outrageously over-the-top violence, and absurdly ribald scenarios.

11. Barbara Stanwyck as Jean Harrington in The Lady Eve
Barbara Stanwyck, an actress so nice she makes this list twice. Maybe it's the Edith Head costumes in both pictures. Maybe it's Stanwyck's ability to convey so many emotions so easily. Maybe I'm just weird. Jean Harrington, the con-artist, playing the Lady, falling for, then getting revenge upon, the falling again for Henry Fonda's egghead character is an irresistible character. Sexy on many levels.

12. Joan Whaley and Bridget Fonda as Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies in Scandal
OK, I'm cheating a bit. Can't pick between the two in this picture, they're both really sexy and interesting each in their own way. So I'll choose both in a typically boorish male fantasy sort of way. Exotic dancers and threesomes, what could go wrong?

13. Carmen Maura as Pepa in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
There've been sexier women in Almodovar pictures, but none more attractive than Pepa in this film. Maura brings a vulnerability, strength and smarts to this role that's hard to beat. She's someone you could imagine being around, always giving you something different, moment by moment. Depth is sexy.

14. Grace Jones as May Day in A View to a Kill
Crappy Bond film, crappy bond villainess role, yet Grace Jones makes it work anyway. She's sexy in a frightening sort of way. Strictly one night stand, a bit of athletic and insane fun, material. Still the best of the sexy Bond villainess roles, in my opinion, even if it was in the worst of the Bond films.

15. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Aliens
A protective mother who knows her way around large firearms. Now that's sexy. 'Nuff said.

16. Judy Davis as George Sands in Impromptu
There's something really sexy about Judy Davis. She always looks on the verge of something (usually a nervous breakdown, or consumption, or both), never sure what. Many of the characters she plays are shrill, and high strung, but they are shrill and high strung in a fascinating way. Her George Sands is a great character, one you'd want to know, one you'd want to be with. Great film, even for a chick flick (take that Ms. Steinem).