Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy MMIX

The inclement weather meant a half-day at work today. Yup, I can handle that. Then a chancy trip to the supermarket, but that worked out okay. Hung out at/near home for a while, then had dinner and then drinks with a few friends. A most convivial New Year's Eve. So I'm feeling fairly up now.

Hope 2009 treats you well, my lovelies. Especially those of you--and I know there are some--who may have gotten some rude shocks from 2008.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Okay, so they're a little pale

Totally not seasonal at all, but rather charming I think. Yes, puppets Porgy-and-Bessin' it with the voices of Ella and Satchmo. Feel yourself transported.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Joined at the Strip

In response to recent rocket attacks, Israel is once again going to town on Gaza militants. Actually, you can pretty much drop the "militants" part, by the IDF's own account.

After this operation there will not be a single Hamas building left standing in Gaza, and we plan to change the rules of the game," said armed forces deputy chief of staff Brigadier General Dan Harel, quoted by the YNet News website.

"We are hitting not only terrorists and launchers, but also the whole Hamas government and all its wings," Harel said.

At least 57 Palestinian civilians, including 21 children, have been killed in the Israeli bombardment, a UN spokesman said.

Now with the Gaza Strip taking a further pounding in addition to the blockade that's already wrung the civilian population, where do you think The Wall Street Journal sits? Go ahead, guess.

Israel's air assault on Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks is inspiring familiar international denunciations. But the best commentary we've heard might be this one: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do everything to stop that, and would expect Israel to do the same thing."

Barack Obama said those words in July while visiting Israel as a Presidential candidate.

Now as President-elect, Mr. Obama is maintaining an appropriate silence while deferring to the Bush Administration before his Inauguration. But his July remarks capture the essence of Israel's right to self-defense. Moreover, the more successful Israel is this week in damaging Hamas as a terrorist force, the better chance Mr. Obama will have to make progress in facilitating a genuine Mideast peace.

All this is rich in ways the average WSJ reader can only imagine being? First of all, "familiar international denunciations"? Seriously? Familiar to whom? Not to most of the American people. If you're hearing more than the mildest criticism of Israeli actions, it's from the foreign press or some left-wing newsweekly. One with a circulation under 300 and a publishing office located in a dorm.

And with all due respect to President-elect Obama, it's a very good thing to imagine how the other guy feels. As your predecessor might know, Jesus spoke highly of this kind of exercise. But the imaginations of our political leaders only seem to extend to one side here.

Try projecting yourself into the mind of a Gaza resident. Your government is of the wrong party as far as Israel and the US are concerned. The party is supposed to be a terrorist front, which no one has ever tried to prove to you. So your whole province suffers: lack of electricity, lack of power, difficulty in buying food and medicine. Punctuated by attacks on civilian homes and hospitals. Now how much will you care about a lasting piece with Israel and America, or even believe it possible?

Not to mention the fourth Geneva Convention, which is pretty clear.

Article 3
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

There is not a lot of wiggle room here, which is the kind of thing your supposed to tell your friends and allies when they're on the wrong track. And in more than one way, it looks like our Mideastern ally is:

Michael Hudson, professor of international relations at Georgetown University said that by backing Israel's position the US was opening itself up to attack.

"If you're identified with an Israel that is bombing indiscriminately and disproportionately, this is really good for Osama Bin laden, it's good for extremists all across the region and I fear that Americans as well as Israelis will now suffer," he told Al Jazeera.

I, for one, have not forgotten September 11th. And if our Mideast policy is making life easier for those who committed that atrocity or would like to repeat it, that's something we need to stop doing! Our not-so-friends in the region have gotten used to sticks. Maybe we should remind them what carrots taste like.

UPDATE: Turns out Greenwald had a lot of the same concerns and expressed them well. As to Marty Peretz, he's semiretired I guess but sold TNR to a multinational that replicates all his prejudices. Life is good.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The last Friday Saturday Random Ten of '08

Nice weekend, although this past week's quick accumulation of snow, followed by an almost complete thaw within a couple of days, is kind of creepy.

My hopes for the coming year? That my family and friends stay healthy and happy. That Final Crisis has a satisfying conclusion. That Barack Obama bitch-slaps anyone who tells him that we have to balance the budget right now.

Anyway, the roster of songs.

1. Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross--Two for the Blues
2. Battles--Race:In
3. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention--Brown Shoes Don't Make It
4. 8½ Souvenirs--L'Amour Toujours
5. They Might Be Giants--Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
6. Ben Folds Five--Jackson Cannery
7. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach--The Sweetest Punch
8. The Go Go's--Our Lips Are Sealed
9. Ladytron--Burning Up
10. The White Stripes--As Ugly as I Seem

Keep it real, y'all.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Raise a glass to the muy cool Eartha Kitt, who passed Christmas Day at age 81. She was truly one of a kind. Yes, even in a hall of mirrors.

Lazy-ass blogger update.

Sheez, I know. Friday Random Ten is not in the cards tonight, however. My recharge/refresh schedule got thrown off, a little. So this may be another Saturday Random Ten week. But we'll get this crazy thing back on traxxx.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Random associations (or not)

A Japanese woodblock print. Birds over the city. Beautiful and serene, right?

Well, beautiful at any rate. Who knows what else could happen?
(This may be the most micro-targeted blog post ever, so don't worry about it.)
Merry Christmas, folks.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Oh my stars and sabers

Via The Comic's Comic, Vanity Fair has a retrospective on the making of the Star Wars Holiday Special, widely known as a television event that will live in infamy. Actually I'm pretty sure I saw it when I was a kid, and I don't think I found it agonizing. Still, I'm not surprised that Hamill, Fisher, and Ford were less than thrilled to be there. Nothing short of a kidnapped granddaughter could have made Sir Alec show up, I'm sure.

Here's a clip.

I like to think that what Artoo is really saying is, "Holy shit! These hairy crackers just started shooting meth. We need to get out of here before things get ugly."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

All the best cowboys have hornrim glasses

Elvis Costello. Singing Merle Haggard. In a ten gallon hat. Today--with him interviewing Elton John and Bill Clinton on his talk show--it might not raise an eyebrow. Back in 1981, it was like, "Is this a put-on?"

Still boycotting YouTube, as you can see. Actually it's not really a boycott. It's just that their videos keep stopping every three seconds to buffer. Don't need it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A warm Friday Random Ten for when Winter kicks in

Yes indeed, we got that snowstorm I pretty muched wished for the other day. Well, except for a certain erraticism in roads and buses, I've got nothing to complain about. They kicked us out of work at one, before a single flake had fallen, at least in RI. Now I'm bundled up at home, writing this.

1. Chris Thomas King--Hard Time Killing Floor Blues
2. Joni Mitchell--A Strange Boy
3. Fiona Apple--Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)
4. Ben Folds Five--Philosophy
5. 8½ Souvenirs--Dancin'
6. Roxy Music--Bitters End
7. Charles Mingus--Spur of the Moment
8. Outkast--The Rooster
9. Nat King Cole--Thou Swell
10. Ladytron--They Gave You a Heart, They Gave You a Name

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nature's blanket

We're not seeing this yet.

Watch snow in Travel Videos  |  View More Free Videos Online at
But we could soon, and I really don't mind. A lot of people I work with hate snow more than anything. For me it's a natural part of winter, one that lets you know where you are. Of course it may help that I don't have to shovel out a car. But it's also a kind of annual cleanup, something that soothes the ground.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's just not his bag, dad

What can I say? Those Iraqis sure have a quirky way of greeting liberators.

Seriously, though, that dude by now I'm sure has bigger worries than whether or not he'll get his shoes back. But it does poke a hole in the party line that we've done so much for those Mesopotamians and we've left them such happy campers. If Bush has to duck at a staged, screened event with Maliki, what would they throw at him in Anbar province?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Random Ten with weather updates

This morning it was wet, windy and warm. Now it's dry and cold, like German humor. Ach, sorry, shouldn't stereotype. Anyway, it's still windy.

1. Talking Heads--The Great Curve
2. Roxy Music--Sea Breezes
3. Mika--Love Today
4. Sarah Vaughan--I Wish I Were in Love Again
5. Soul Coughing--St Louise is Listening
6. They Might Be Giants--Twisting
7. Dressy Bessy--If You Should Try to Kiss Her
8. The Stanley Brothers--Too Late to Cry
9. Joni Mitchell--Amelia
10. Don Byron--Frasquita Serenade

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's been raining all week. Heavy and sometimes hard. The kind of rain that makes people hide. The kind of rain that makes you sound like a half-assed movie detective.

Seriously, people aren't really into going out now. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a little baby boom in nine months. Not the greatest economy to start a family, but what are you gonna do?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Getting to the bottom of the barrel story

God bless Philip J. Berg. Thanks to him our "president" "elect" may be forced to answer some tough, necessary questions. Such as the following.

Mr. Obama, you say you were born in Hawaii, a place real Americans have never heard of. Can you prove that this "Hawaii" exists? Or the laughable claim that it is part of these United States?

Your Kenyan born father was named Barack Obama. You are named Barack Obama. The two of you have not been seen together in well over three decades. Can you prove that you and your father are not the same man?

When your parents had you, was it more fraud for Communism's sake or Communism for the sake of fraud?

Are you positive you were born in Hawaii? Absolutely sure?

Caught you! No one remembers their own birth. Except for Martians!

Would you be willing to name the other members of the Martian scouting party?

And on it could go, into sweet eternity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Over the counter medical advice

The wrapping on some packages of cough drops advertises "soothing syrup center." Stating outright that this syrupy goodness is what will ease your ailing throat.


If you have a bad cough, what you need is time, patience, and a clean sensation to distract you from your pain. If your lozenge breaks apart after a minute or so and leaves you with a moughful of sugary goo, that could be billed as "counterproductive."

We hope this item from our consumer affairs desk helps.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Welcomme to the Friday Random Ten

Things'll pick up again, at some point.

1. Duke Ellington--The Sidewalks of New York
2. Randy Newman--God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)
3. The Go Go's--Head Over Heels
4. Bonzo Dog Band--You Done My Brain In
5. Soul Coughing--Maybe I'll Come Down
6. Nellie McKay--I Will Be There
7. Roxy Music--The Bob (Medley)
8. Outkast w/ Khujo & Cee-Lo--Reset
9. Thelonious Monk--In Walked Bud
10. The Beatles--Ticket to Ride

Thursday, December 4, 2008


A suitably shambolic look at artist Jason Rhoades' final installation, "Black Pussy." Why? Well, the title subject interested no less a personage than Thomas Jefferson.

More seriously, I'm interested in artists--Rhoades among them--who work in disorganized styles. Note that this assemblage is basically just a big pile of stuff in a room. While he did pass away while working on this pooject, his untimely death is not really the reason it looks like that. Piles of stuff were basically what he did. But interesting stuff. Where did the interest come from, then?

This intrigues me because I am myself basically a black hole of indiscipline. Certain artists--Sarah Sze, maybe Matthew Ritchie--show signs of overpowering energy, again, out of all proportion with the level to which they are organized. It's an intriguing idea to me: using creativity without harnessing it in any conventional sense.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Foreign perspective

Blogging may have been a little lighter than usual recently because I've had a raw throat, trouble sleeping, fatigue, etc. Just waiting it out at this point.

I have been reading East of Eden though. Reading and reading and reading. It's a big book, and it will be significantly overdue when I return it to the library. The length ultimately works for it, though. What it allows Steinbeck to do is present every evil and trauma you can imagine without the novel being a constant onrush of doom and despair. There's plenty of room for good conversation and fleeting happiness. Accent on fleeting.

From what I understand--not having seen it--Elia Kazan's movie version adapts only the last quarter or so and drops a large number of significant characters. Pragmatic, so as not to wind up with a seven hour film, but no substitute I imagine. Anyway, it's such a rich volume that I'll likely return to it blogwise when my head's a little more together.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Still thankful Friday Random Ten

'Nother day off, which works just fine for me.

This list is a little different than it might have been. There's a song that I would have put on, but some kind of loading glitch means that it cuts off midway through. I don't feel like I should commemorate it if I can't really enjoy it. Bummer. Still plays on the laptop's iTunes player, though.

1. Tom Waits--Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis
2. The 5,6,7,8's--Let's Go Boogaloo
3. Mika--Any Other World
4. Battles--Tij
5. Arcade Fire--Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
6. Duke Ellington--Bakiff
7. XTC--Great Fire
8. Velvet Underground--Venus in Furs
9. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross--Down for Double
10. Joni Mitchell--Furry Sings the Blues

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Meet your maker

My friend has this. The free version, anyway. His bright 8 year old son gave me a tour of it, then Ron refreshed me on a few points. I wound up creating this green & pink creature with long limbs, hands for feet, and eyestalks. A self-portrait, basically. I tend to doubt many of the creatures created on Spore would do well in the three dimensional universe. But until they give home computers the power of spontaneous matter creation, it's a moot point.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I'm a little tired, a little under-the-weather, and due to go into work tomorrow. Then it's a four day weekend, Hallelujah. Anyway, no time for a big post, but I thought this was a nice clip. Catch ya.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Through Muslimah Media Watch I found this affecting open letter recently. It kind of pinpoints what I like about our most recent election.

I will say one thing for the horrid events of September 11, 2001. Had they not happened, we as Americans would not have had the chance to plumb the depths of the hatred for and fear of the “other” that we hide within. Before 9/11, harassment was tolerated, allowed to happen with merely the shake of a head or a click of the tongue. “What a shame,” we subjects of discrimination were told. “Some people just don’t understand.” We were then laden with the responsibility to understand for them, to forgive them for their ignorance. We were expected not to educate.

9/11 ended the “do nothing” period for Muslims in America and around the world. Suddenly, we were targets due to the crimes of those who perpetuated terror in the name of our faith. Our majority was forced to stand up and shout until we were blue in the face that we do not tolerate, accept or condone this type of violence. That we, the Muslim masses, believe in democracy, in the freedom of religion the Constitution promises.

We could no longer sit idly by. Our friends and family were being whisked away to detention centers, fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers detained, tortured, murdered in response to the acts of unilateral thinkers whose views we did not share. We had to speak up, to claim in voices rough with tears that we are people too. Like those minorities before us, we will not be denied our civil rights in a country we love because of its promised equality. Perhaps the writers of the Constitution were not so forward thinking when they promised freedom of religion–perhaps it only applied to those who worship in churches–but we would not let our mosques be riddled with bullets or burned to the ground.

My precious boys, neither of you is old enough to understand why the tears keep falling from my eyes yet I cannot stop smiling. My silent treatment of you will likely be forgiven by its omission from your memories. I am writing this because I want you to understand the incredible blessings of the world you have been born into. There is adversity at every corner, but with adversity comes hope. Barack Obama’s election proves this. He is a man of color elected as president in a country built from the blood of minorities. He is not a Muslim. He did not make a strong standing for Muslims in his campaign, but unlike his contemporaries, he has not incited hatred against us, derided us for our beliefs or used our differences of faith as cause to exclude us from our rightful category of American.

I think it matters that Obama was born to a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother, as he says. It is also significant that he was born in Hawaii, then a state for less than two years. And for that matter that he was born in the early space age, during the presidency of the confident Jack Kennedy. Because while there was still legal segregation, it was also a time of optimism and openness. Recently we have lived through a much more locked-down, suspicious time. If Barack Obama still carries with him the idealism and the open-heartedness that his parents showed back then, something good has to come from his presidency.

As Shawna points out, he did not always stand up for Muslims during his campaign. This was a sad necessity, considering how many voters consider a Muslim--or any non-Christian--president as an unthinkable abomination. It's also likely that the US will continue for now to regard Israel as the hero of the Mideast and most of its neighbors as villains. This is simplistic, to say the least. But the fact that during his campaign he travelled to both Jerusalem and Ramallah is a sign of a more pluralistic viewpoint.

God only knows that there are compromises and disappointments in store. For all that, I feel a little more hopeful about the future.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Last minuteses Friday Random Ten

Probably seemed like I forgot. Nope. Well, nope quite.

1. Ben Folds Five--Philosophy
2. Fats Domino--Going to the River
3. Duke Ellington--John Hardy's Wife
4. REM--Feeling Gravity's Pull
5. Bob Dylan--It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
6, Charles Mingus--Thrice Upon a Time
7. The Go Go's--Skidmarks on My Heart
8. Sarah Vaughan--Come Spring*
9. Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach--The Long Division
10. Joni Mitchell--Refuge of the Roads

I know, I know.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smiley's people's smileys

Up-and-coming emoticons, coming soon to a message board near you.

:$ = Expensive dental work

:E = Cheap, unreliable dental work

:# = Hannibal Lecter

:U = How the hell did my mouth get like that? Maybe I should see a doctor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Damn, it's cold. But the cold may have granted me greater focus in some areas. Probably not this blog, but you know how that goes. Anyway, I have some hopes for other projects, more on which later. Maybe.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just being herselves

This is a treat gathered from a little surfing, and a mention on TVTropes.

It's the first episode of a British kid's show from the early 60's called Sara and Hoppity. Beautiful work with the puppets, more expressive than realistic. Really, considering how many Doctor Who episodes from later in the decade were destroyed by the BBC, it's amazing this still even exists.

If this isn't too heavy, I think Hoppity does serve as part of the girl's psyche. An inner force that is often unwise and sometimes destructive, but also keeps things unpredictable. The father seems to be more understanding of this inner need than the mother. Note that Sarah grudgingly agrees to nourish her personal demon/daemon.

Well, that's my tuppence at least.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oh yes, Friday Random Ten

A lady where I work, in the office right next to mine, apologized for noise her client was making. I told her I hadn't heard anything, and strangely enough I wasn't just being polite. Was I listening to an especially loud song. Dunno. Anyway...

1. Nellie McKay--Tipperary
2. The Sons of the Pioneers--Out California Way
3. Louis Armstrong--St. James Infirmary
4. Jane Monheit--My Foolish Heart
5. The 5,6,7,8's--(I'm Sorry Mama) I'm a Wild One
6. Bonzo Dog Band--Mr. Apollo
7. Randy Newman--Political Science
8. Brian Eno--Cindy Tells Me
9. The Kinks--Funny Face
10. The Cowboy Junkies--Blue Eyed Saviour

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Learning to love bad 80's action flicks

A worthwhile nugget from Funny or Die. Remember Tango & Cash? Rings a sort of ominous bell. Here the denouement is reenacted by Janeane Garofalo and Casey Wilson in the title roles, with Paul Rust lending support.
See more Janeane Garofalo videos at Funny or Die

Yes, Rust is trying to be wooden. I'm sure if I were lying between those two I'd have my share of wood as well. That's another story.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jacoby relativism

So Jeff Jacoby's grand defense of the gay marriage ban is that Jim Crow was worse.

I'm truly amazed. I never thought to argue that something isn't an injustice unless you can prove it's the greatest injustice ever. Talk about setting the bar high. Or is that low?

Try this on for size. The afternoon of 9/11, suppose you went around saying, "Yeah, it sucks. But the Nanking massacre was really horrible, so how 'bout we let this one slide.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes, we can

You may or may not know this, but the bromance between Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable--dramatized in David Rees' Get Your War On--has gone animated. Semi-regular updates can be seen at 23/6, and this is an especially hilarious one. Oh, why did we not listen to those seers at National Review.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Random Ten: Back to Friday

Seems like it's been a big week, for some reason. Now I'm just chilling at the end of the day. Anyhoozle:

1. XTC--Deliver Us from the Elements
2. Ladytron--Deep Blue
3. Bonzo Dog Band--Hunting Tigers Out in "Indiah"
4. Jane Monheit--Dindi
5. Arcade Fire--Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
6. Barenaked Ladies--Call Me Calmly
7. Fats Domino--Whole Lotta Loving
8. Beach House--Lovelier Girl
9. Radiohead--In Limbo
10. Rasputina--If Your Kisses Can't Hold the Man You Love

Thursday, November 6, 2008

4-evah is a long time

Ah, what to say about Sarah Palin? Well, she certainly did her part to make the McCain campaign memorable. This is especially the case if the towel story is true, but even if it isn't.

She's not good at playing it cagey. Her ambitions for the next presidential election are pretty close to the surface. But don't get your hopes/fears up. I'm not convinced she can rise within the GOP.

She was popular with the base this year. That was the whole point. And she did the job of dragging the ticket to the right. Cons who distrusted John McCain were much more intrigued by her.

But consider: there's no separate primary for Vice Presidential candidates. She was annointed, and then it was everyone else's job to support her. It wasn't in any Republican's interest to tear her down.

Running for president is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. You can count on at least four or five guys in addition to her chasing "the true conservative vote." And then it's no holds barred. Everything that was off-limits unless you were a liberal traitor will be back on-limits. Teenage daughter's active vagina? Check. Being a secessionist back when Obama wasn't even President? Check. Innuendo that hasn't been made up yet? Throw it in!

This thought doesn't bring me any great pleasure. I'm mostly turned off by Palin's public persona, and don't like what I think she'd want to do to the country. But there's a great chance she'll be shivved by someone as bad or worse. Eric Cantor is one possibility, and there are others. It wouldn't be too much of a surprise if those who carried her banner this time around introduced her to the bus. The monster must be fed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

... and I have the sticker to prove it

Did I vote? Yes, right after work. I can't brag too much. There was one couple ahead of me, so my trip to the polling place took a little over five minutes.

Thus far the news looks pretty good. Yeah, I'm still using qualifiers. If there's some wacky turnaround between now and the time I pour coffee down my gullet, I'll be disappointed, but not that surprised.

So fingers crossed. If the news stays good, it's only a shame Mrs Dunham wasn't able to see it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Stay classy

With the polls opening in a matter of hours, good news has been somewhat scarce for John McCain. (This is me knocking on wood.) One rare triumph has been the candidate's November 1 appearance on Saturday Night Live. The performance isn't likely to get him votes, but it does show grace and good humor.

His entourage seems determined to ruin it though. Certain advisors and fauxletarian shills have been spreading a foolish brand of gossip.

MSNBC's Coutney Hazlett reports today that there were observations of "frosty" chemistry between Fey and McCain, and during the show I observed that she looked like she was having less fun than usual (though she looked like she relished "going rogue").

That's just the goodbyes though — GOP strategist Martin Eisenstadt, invited to join the McCain camp, wrote on his blog that both McCain and Cindy attended the after-party. He also noted another member of the McCain entourage: Joe the Plumber! That guy is DEFINITELY better off than he was four years ago.

Eisenstadt also noted two pieces of gossip about Joe the Plumber, one which I have debunked: That he "got some 'quality' alone time with a certain female cast member." Eisenstadt isn't "that familiar with the show" (um...following politics much these days?) and thought it was "the skinny brunette...Kirsten (sic) maybe?" (That would be Kristen Wiig, who has a boyfriend; fellow non-Fey non-Poehler female cast member Casey Wilson also has a boyfriend.) Eisenstadt didn't see "what time they left," wasn't sure of the people involved, and could not get a confirmation from Joe, but nonetheless said that he "wouldn't surprise me if someone got her drain snaked last night." Ew. Our sources — who were also at the after party, and the after-after party — DEFINITELY say that did NOT happen (per my source: "Fuck that guy!...Nothing is true.")

Saying, "I totally did her," when your contact with her is limited to standing in line for the punchbowl can only lead to embarassment. Most men learn this in high school, although some have to relearn it in college. But it's nice to know they've still got a sure aim at their feet.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

And now for something completely... Saturday Random Ten!

Last night I had a Halloween party to go to. It was nice. Good food, good company, and a couple of neat macabre films. I brought the eerie no-budgeter Carnival of Souls while the host provided the Canadian-made black comedy Fido. That was fascinating and funny, because the zombie satire was grafted onto a look and sound that could be mistaken for the Douglas Sirk era. But anyway, good party.

And as I promised, we now have our first Saturday Random Ten. Little more time for it today.

1. Love--Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale
2. Tito Puente--China
3. The White Stripes--The Denial Twist
4. Brian Eno--Some of Them Are Old
5. Queen--Who Needs You
6. XTC--The Beating of Hearts*
7. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--You Belong to Me
8. Outkast--Ghettomusick
9. Tom Waits--Red Shoes by the Drugstore
10. The Kinks--Harry Rag

*Available here, of course.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't do it like this

Tomorrow is All Hallow's Eve, when all the ghoulies and ghosties are out. If your school or work allows you to dress up when you go in, go wild. But not like this unknown comic.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Police say a Halloween getup apparently caused a scare that led to a search at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Police searched the campus Wednesday night after receiving a report of a man with a gun.

Authorities concluded the man, who was dressed in military fatigues and had his face painted, was likely toting a plastic pistol as part of a costume.

Campus police spokeswoman Milissa Wright says authorities were called about 8:30 p.m. after a report of a suspicious man at Maucker Union, where a costume party was being held.

Wright says police didn't find the man. But after interviewing witnesses, they believe he was carrying a fake gun.

Yeah, real fatigues and fake gun. That'll make some people edgy. And sometimes security is actually on top of things like this. So if "Travis Bickle" is on your list of potential costumes, see what's right after it.

And for a greeting, stick with "Happy Halloween!", "Trick or treat," and a simple "Boo!" Not, "God has chosen me as his earthly instrument of retribution." It's kind of wordy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Know your plumbers

The pipes in your house give off this ominous gurgling sound every ten minutes. When you flush the toilet, the water level in the bathtub rises. That ain't good, but who do you call?

This plumber has his hands full now. He may be available in about a week's time. There may be a hitch with his paperwork, though.

This plumber is currently more focused on actual plumbing. Once you've made a joking reference to him being the other plumber, he'll probably expect you to move on.

This plumber would be pleasantly surprised if you told him you needed him to "snake your drain" in a suggestive moan.

Hope we've been of service.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

heads up

Just a lack of service advisory here. Things are happening on All Hallow's Eve which may prevent me from doing the Friday Random Ten. Nothing bad, I assure you. But I may not have the time that day it often takes to tabulate (secret recipe.) Ah, but this week we may see a Saturday Random Ten. Don't want to jinx it, though.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Com-Ick! Factor

So "Batman, R.I.P" continues. One interesting aspect is that this time the Dark Knight's downfall appears to be caused not by a brokeded back but rather by a Freudian return of the repressed. Specifically, the man pulling the strings on his doom seems to be his own father, long thought dead. That dad may be alive, that he seems to suspect Bruce is the product of Alfred/Mrs. Wayne monkeysex, that he has been stalking his vigilante son all through out the latter's life... These are heavy things for any man to bear.

IGN says of Batman # 680, "it's not for the squeamish." The Joker--not too surprisingly--has been roped into the plot. At one point he DEAR GOD HE SLICES HIS OWN TONGUE IN HALF WITH A STRAIGHTRAZOR! IT'S NOT RIGHT. Making it wronger is the fact that he keeps on talking! As if it were the most natural thing in the world. If you're self-preservation instincts even allow you to do this, you won't say anything more complex than "mmph mmph." So I'm chalking this one up to Bats hallucinating. Grant too, but that goes without saying.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chille Autumne Friday Random Ten

The landlord turned on the heat today. That means that when I take my socks and underwear off the radiator in the morning now, they'll be toasty warm. A counterintuitive aspect of late Fall/Winter. Anyway, back to the music.

1. The White Stripes--Little Ghost
2. Sly & the Family Stone--You Can Make It If You Try
3. The Kinks--Lazy Old Sun
4. Tom Waits--Blue Valentines
5. Radiohead--Kid A
6. Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley--Never Will I Marry
7. The Sons of the Pioneers--Wind
8. Dressy Bessy--Extra-Ordinary
9. Ladytron--I'm Not Scared
10. Soul Coughing--Lazybones

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Character building weather

The temperature has dropped quite a bit in the past couple of weeks, and we've had at least one below-freezing night. So I was looking on thinkexist for appropriate cold weather quotes, and came across this gem from Shakespeare.
Two women placed together makes cold weather.

I don't get it. So this is what an MFF threesome is like? What the hell was that friend of mine bragging about?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

From the woodwork they came

At the close of a pretty comprehensive post on the extremist right's media's reaction to probable Obama victory, David Corn writes:

Some of these attacks do seem silly and are probably designed more to squeeze money out of paranoid rightwing contributors than to sway swing voters. (Don't vote for Obama because he will let Soros loot the US treasury?) But they are something of a warning: if Obama wins, this is the tenor of the conservative opposition he will face right out of the box: sensationalized, racialized, apocalyptic, and crazy.

Well, yeah. Some of that happened with Clinton, and he was a white Southerner. The nineties, though, may have been just a faint foreshadowing. If visiting your sick grandmother only makes you more evil, you're not dealing with people who even see you as human.

Put it this way: don't be too surprised if in a few months you see the president being hanged and burned in effigy while fundamentalist clerics whip up the crowds. In Iran, Idaho, or both.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Having a doo-dah dog time

This is Neil Innes, one of the founders of the Bonzo Dog Band.

This particular song, "Catch Phrase", I remember differently. It was a toe-tapping piano number when he recorded it. This TV appearance he's gone in a Teddy boy punk direction. Apparently he liked/likes to keep the audience on its toes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Happy glitch day! It's the Friday Random Ten

Wow man. Had Little China-style big trouble with Explorer tonight. Every time I opened it, Windows would close it again. Solved the problem by disabling the phishing filter, but it's no wonder so many people pree-fur other browsers.

With no further ado.

1. --Bob Dylan's 115th Dream
2. Tito Puente--Mambo Diablo
3. The Velvet Underground--All Tomorrow's Parties
4. Nat King Cole--The Very Thought of You
5. David Bowie--Queen Bitch
6. Beach House--Saltwater
7. Dressy Bessy--Little TV
8. Radiohead--The National Anthem
9. Animal Collective--Cuckoo, Cuckoo
10. Neko Case--Mood to Burn Bridges

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Leading the blind

A friend of mine wanted to see if he could write a short story, which is something I sometimes do. After a bit of back and forth I gave him an assignment, nearly at random. He's working on that, and tonight I was sort of talking him through the rough spots.

Strange because I'm completely unpublished myself. Those who can't do, teach? Well, I think I can do, and I think I've gotten better recently. But it's an interesting project, bringing my wisdom to someone who foolishly asked for it.

Woody Allen said those who can't teach teach gym. It's hard to picture myself...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Two lines, no some waiting

Being a fan of comic strip deconstruction, I've started my own blog in that vein. It's called I, Snuffy. Basic premise: Snuffy Smith, the hillbilly petty thief and erratically lucky gambler, is actually a Bond level supervillain. He's biding his time by maintaining an unimpressive Appalachian front, and all the while his genius level intellect laughs maniacally.

This is partly inspired by Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible, a superhero/supervillain novel that for me aroused more sympathy for the villain. (The greenhorn superheroine who narrates isn't bad, but most of the rest of them are insufferable. Popular kids who never lost the sense of superiority.) But it's also based on the idea that the people who you may be quickest to dismiss have raging hidden depths, for better and for worse.

Anyway, that's my "other self" for as long as I can keep it going.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"I don't think we're in Bangalore anymore, Toto"

Here's a neat little tidbit. Bollywood studios are shooting a couple of films in Philadelphia. It's not that unusual for movies to be shot in any big city, of course. And Philadelphia is home to falling star auteur M. Night Shyamalan, who's done a lot of his shooting in the are. Still, filmmaking in Hindi. That is different.

Wherever she is now, I'm sure Enid approves.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Indian Summer-y Friday Random Ten

1. Beach House--Master of None
2. Nat King Cole--That Sunday, That Summer
3. The Kinks--Waterloo Sunset
4. The Beatles--Helter Skelter
5. Neko Case--Mood to Burn Bridges
6. Sly & the Family Stone--Sing a Simple Song
7. Talking Heads--The Overload
8. Beck--Profanity Prayers
9. Sarah Vaughan--Lazy Afternoon
10. Roxy Music--Angel Eyes

The mildish weather seems to go hand-in-hand with the pantheistic-type songs that popped up. This includes the Nat Cole, Kinks, and Sarah Vaughan selections. Sassy is not singing the Kinks' "Lazy Afternoon", although that might be interesting. I have heard Tom Jones do it.

UPDATE: Let there be video! Here's Baltimore's finest, Beach House.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On watch

"The visionary director of 300"? Seriously?

I liked Zack Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead, but it was a fun ride, not an imaginative breakthrough. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive.) Now George Romero, who started the whole ball rolling on the living dead, he might count as a visionary. Snyder has gone on to direct two painstakingly faithful (by the looks of the trailer) graphic novel adaptations. If he's had an original thought, he's wisely kept it to himself.

I am sort of curious about the actors involved, who seem to have something at stake. For example, depending on how this works out, Jeffrey Dean Morgan could join the ranks of great Big Scary Character Actors. Think Ron Perlman and Clancy Brown. In fact I could see the three of them uniting for a project called "The Three Stooges Kick Ass." 'Course it would take a while to decide who gets to be Moe.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We win. So, like, where's our prize?

From the frequently incisive snark of's Jeff Huber:

Like her prospective boss John McCain, Sarah speaks of "victory" in Iraq as if such a thing could be conjured.

Here's what would qualify as a victory in Iraq: Saddam Hussein meets young Mr. Bush on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and sits at a table in front of the ship's island, under the sign that says "Mission Accomplished," and writes his name on a bunch of papers that say the U.S. can establish permanent military bases in his country and take all the oil there and our soldiers and mercenaries and civilian contractors can pull any kind of shenanigans they want in Iraq and the puppet Iraqi government we set up can't do anything about it.

Unfortunately, that can't happen because Saddam Hussein is dead. Too bad none of the war experts at neocon central thought about needing somebody to surrender to us when we went off half-cocked and did that regime change stuff. Or maybe somebody at neocon central did think of that and didn't say anything. Too bad either way, huh?

I thought of this a long time ago. Was the assumption that without Saddam in his palace--without him breathing, for that matter--armed Iraqi resistance would just take a long nap? That everyone would fall behind a government that the Sunnis still don't trust? The neocons started drawing up Iraq invasion plans basically as soon as Poppy Bush pulled out the first time. That didn't make the plans good.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A peeling image

Man, sorry, but I've got to get some shut-eye. But before I go, a whazzup to Worth1000. They seem to have some useful Photoshop tutorials, which will come in handy if I ever get that program. (Mulling it over.) But really, I have to appreciate any site that brought me this.

Tropical fruit with wings. That's gonna stay with me.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

You want a war?

It should be obvious now. John McCain is not interested in running an honorable campaign. If he were, Sarah Palin would not be on the ticket. The running mate is basically Roy Cohn in heels. Bear witness.

No ramp-up time was needed for Palin, fresh off last Thursday night’s debate. She hit the ground in Colorado and California, ’spittin’ fire’ as the folksy governor might say.

“Our opponent … is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” she said, referring to a co-founder of the 1960s-era Weather Underground, an organization the FBI labeled as a domestic terrorist group.


In discussing Obama and Ayers, Palin cited the newspaper that the McCain-Palin campaign regards as a foe.

“I get to bring this up not to pick a fight, but it was there in the New York Times, so we are gonna talk about it,” she said. “Turns out one of Barack’s earliest supporters is a man who, according to the New York Times, and they are hardly ever wrong, was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that quote launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and US Capitol. Wow. These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes.”


In an email to reporters, Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan condemned Palin’s remarks and included a listing of media outlets that dispute the charge of any meaningful relationship between the two men.

“Governor Palin’s comments, while offensive, are not surprising, given the McCain campaign’s statement this morning that they would be launching Swiftboat-like attacks in hopes of deflecting attention from the nation’s economic ills. In fact, the very newspaper story Governor Palin cited in hurling her shameless attack made clear that Senator Obama is not close to Bill Ayers, much less ‘pals,’ and that he has strongly condemned the despicable acts Ayers committed 40 years ago, when Obama was eight.”

What she just said is, "Obama is a terrorist loving traitor." And you know what? It's not just her. It's McCain. It's Steve Schmidt who = Karl Rove by way of American History X. No one goes this far off-message in a campaign. A gaffe will take you a few degrees away from what you're supposed to say. It won't take you this far onto the dark side unless you were already there.

And no, shaking your head and saying, "We're disappointed but not surprised," is not an adequate response. It's a start, but this is a threat and an opportunity.

Gunter glieben glauten .

Someone in Obama's broad social circle engaged in revolutionary violence forty years ago. Obama and Bill Ayers aren't thumb-texting BFFs, but whatever.

Another group is encouraging terrorism NOW and giving aid to McCain/Palin NOW. The Clarion Fund are no better than the Weather Underground were. They are savvy enough not to get convicted of anything themselves.

Obama has done pretty well playing it cool. Good for him. But the GOP's #2 pointperson is rallying their troops with the sleaziest brand of propaganda. For precedent's sake, someone needs to stick it back in their faces. Deliver us from evil.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Random Ten with an arresting image

A pretty fun mix of tunes today. Not sure if there's a running theme or not.

1. David Bowie--Oh! You Pretty Things
2. Barenaked Ladies--The Old Apartment
3. Talking Heads--Houses in Motion
4. Neko Case--We've Never Met
5. Stanley Brothers--Hey! Hey! Hey!
6. Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley--Save Your Love for Me
7. Ladytron--Tomorrow
8. Brian Eno--Dead Finks Don't Talk
9. The Fiery Furnaces--Paw Paw Tree
10. Beck--Youthless

If your puzzled about the picture overhead, that's a recent Beetle Bailey reworked by Angry Kem at Japes for Owre Tymes, and she's got plenty more where that came from.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ultimate sidekick showdown!

Given the nature of the running mate position, a VP debate is as much a cheap shot contest as a policy session. Nay, more. By that standard Joe Biden does better than John Edwards did in the last election. Sarah Palin did just fine, by her standards. Yes, she basically is Tina Fey's caricature of her. Yes, she padded her responses with "maverick" this, "Joe Sixpack" that, and "hockey mom" the other thing. And yes, if Biden smirked as much as she's been doing he'd be crucified. (And that still might happen. Stay tuned.) But she knows her job is to throw out raw meat, not to tell you the nutritional content. The base Republicans who perked up when she was selected certainly got their jollies tonight.

Biden has been good and statesmanlike. Iraq is a vulnerability here, because while he and Obama are mostly on the same page now, Biden was one of the "responsible" leaders who helped sell the war in the first place, and part of the reason Democrats haven't been cohesive on it. The Republican message is "we're kicking ass, so let's keep kicking it." It's sort of delusional, but makes it easy to stay on message.

He did slap her to the ground on the issue of meeting with enemies, which is good. She had said that Obama wanted to meet with Ahmedinejad, and that it "goes beyond naivete." So she came pretty close to daring call it treason, and no doubt her fans will make the leap. So it's good that he pointed out that Ahmedinejad doesn't even control the state security forces. (In fact, the myth of the all powerful Iranian president is pretty damn new. Quick, name the guy who was president before him.)

Anyway, The Office should be back next week, so that's cool.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Make it a million, for when I get old

...Hell, those lyrics take on a new urgency in the Even Newer Economy, don't they?

These guys were huge and great for a few years in the seventies. Then the lineup changed and they weren't quite as great, and later stopped being huge too. C'est la vie but they made some insane music.

Not sure the nascent music video art form was their friend. Whatever was supposed to come through with the artificial wind blowing in Lol's hair doesn't. Oh well, there is such a thing as dorky charm. I hope.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Newman's own, indeed

Does the passing of Paul Newman make me sad? There's a twinge, sure. But I have to give him posthumous congratulations as well. No matter how much success he had, he never stopped trying.

Does that make sense? What I mean is that he could have phone it in, and much of the public would have accepted it. But he approached his roles all the way through as challenges. Fun challenges, and he most often conquered them. Being a Hitchcock hero didn't really pan out, but Hitch must take a portion of the blame there. And even if he finally won an Oscar for what is basically a microwave pizza (really, Marty, you don't need the Rocky training montage, you're better than that) his own performance as a man who has gained security and lost his soul is hard to fault.

His first outing as Fast Eddie in The Hustler was an absolute wonder. Pool was his religion, and he was as charismatic as any preacher could be. Cool Hand Luke speaks for itself. And I found him to be a beautiful cartoon villain in The Hudsucker Proxy.

His most lasting work, though, may be Sidney Lumet's The Verdict. As Frank Galvin, his feet have more than the RDA of clay. He's an alcoholic lawyer with bouts of depression and self-pity that almost sink his clients. He also punches out his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend in a bar, played by Charlotte Rampling as a schemer, but not a completely unsympathetic one. Galvin is a man needing redemption. When it comes, it feels right. Not permanent, but earned.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Random Ten with clarification

1. REM--Life and How to Live It
2. Ladytron--Ghosts
3. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--The Beat
4. Pink Grease--Remember Forever
5. Johnny Cash--Rowboat
6. Sly & the Family Stone--Stand!
7. Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley--The Old Country
8. David Bowie--The Bewlay Brothers
9. The Beatles--Good Night
10. Yo La Tengo--Don't Have to Be So Sad

Yes, we're finishing with Yo La Tengo. Yes, the Johnny Cash song is the Man in Black covering Beck. No, I don't consider myself a hipster. And I don't think my friends would call me one either, although I wouldn't be offended.

Only raises more questions

McCain, who sounds like he's grumpy because they're keeping him up after his bedtime, plumped nuclear power because not only will it promote enerfy independence, but it will also help us fight climate change. Apparently, though, we prefer Iran to keep pumping out those greenhouse gases.

PS Oh God, no one else is calling him a maverick, so he did it himself. And trying to sell Palin as one too. I can't keep watching him while I'm sober.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Your moment of Modernist Zen

This is from a poetess and youtuber who goes by the name "Idlinfarm."

It's a Marianne Moore poem called "What Are Years?", one that the brilliant if somewhat psychotic Ezra Pound read in public as his memorial to her. It gets a very lovely reading hear too.

Poetry: never a bad thing to add to your diet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Culture war is hell

Lisa : It is better to remain silent and be thought the fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Homer's brain : Uh-oh what did that mean. Better say something or they'll think you're stupid.
Homer : Takes one to know one!
Homer' s Brain : Swish!

Could I make this up? No, I could not. The right-wing tempest in this moment's teapot is a skit on Saturday Night Live lampooning the snooty provincialism of the Eastern Establishment press, specifically relating to Sarah Palin and Alaska. One pissed off lackey writes:
For the second week in a row Saturday Night Live has taken shots at Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin — but this time it moves from mocking to blatant smearing by suggesting in a skit that the Alaska governor’s husband, Todd Palin, was having sex with the couple’s daughters.

A quick aside. I found this in a random Google search. Not even remotely was I seeking this kind of nuttiness.

But it bears repeating: the New York Times is the target of the somewhat amusing skit. At least one of the commenters on rightpundits pointed this out, but he had to duck to avoid the katanas everyone else was swinging around like crazy. To believe that SNL was "suggesting" actual incest in the Palin family--even as a joke--you'd have to have a soggy box of baking soda where your brain should be.

The almighty base is still not really in love with John McCain. Sarah Palin is another story, but her supporters have taken on a passive-aggressive, persecuted stance. Now the GOP narrative seems largely built around victimization. A winning strategy? Well, if the options are that or defend looting the treasury...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rest in peace... or something like it

Not much time tonight. Want to do some other-stuff writing, which I didn't get a chance to do earlier this evening when the laptop was BSODing up a storm. But I wanted to point out this reminiscence on the recently deceased Thomas M. Disch.

Disch could be a depressing writer, no doubt. To be frank, it may be a surprise that it took him so long to kill himself. He was also a sharp wit. In the novels I've read by him, the balance is a little unbalanced. After a while he runs out of things to do with his characters, besides kill them off in horrible ways. But he did some unnervingly good short stories (e.g. "Come to Venus Melancholy", "The Asian Shore") and was a gifted poet. He made more of a mark than he may have known.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Why are the last two posts showing as going up at the exact same time when they were nearly a day apart? Something hinky here.

After the weird wipeout: Friday Random Ten

Strangely enough, my iTunes lost everything when I plugged in the 'pod last night. Managed to find the stuff I had purchased from the iTunes store and restore it, which is the important thing. The final upshot was that the housecleaning/rotating I had planned to do was a little quicker and more drastic than I had meant. Anyway, here's today's list.

1. The Stanley Brothers--Pretty Polly
2. The Beatles--Cry Baby Cry
3. Tricky--Christiansands*
4. Sonic Youth--Dirty Boots
5. Nellie McKay--Columbia is Bleeding
6. Beck--Chemtrails
7. Pink Grease--High Strung Chironi
8. The Fiery Furnaces--Chris Michaels
9. Roxy Music--Still Falls the Rain
10. Thelonious Monk--Humph

*Dare I ask how you even get a voice like that?

Someone gets burned all right

It's kind of weird to see a woman throw herself on the mercies of a plastic surgeon, encouraging him to find more flaws to fix. This is especially true when she's played by an actress married to one of the directors. That's Burn After Reading for you. Frances McDormand's character, Linda Litzke, is two parts self-loathing to one part obliviousness, although the ratio varies. If her marriage to Joel Coen isn't in real trouble, I think this movie is coming from a place of anger.

And yeah, you find hints of anger throughout the film. It may be less bleak that No Country for Old Men, but that's like saying that Sylvia Plath was more balanced than Sarah Kane. The tone is set at the beginning when the story's only faithful spouse--played by John Malkovich--is fired from his job as a CIA consultant. For all his foibles it's hard to see how he deserves the abuse that comes his way. And mild spoilers here if you feel any affection for any of the characters, you can pretty much count on them coming to a grisly end.

Burn has gotten some critical hostility, probably because of its unusual tone. No one wants to see goofy slapstick go wrong this bad. But while it may not be the best thing the Coen brothers have ever done, it does give evidence that they're still on a roll.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Belzer ringing

Things are slow in these parts, but anyway...

No, Richard Belzer is not only a second-banana vice cop. He's also a funny man. And I'm pretty sure Salman Rushdie isn't thin-skinned enough to take offense. (And wasn't twenty years ago, natch)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dale Carnegie is dead

Well, they're certainly committed to looking like bigshots. In order to put pressure on Iran for those nuclear weapons we know--damnit, we just know!--that they're developing, the US and the UN have opened a can of financial whupass in the form of wide-ranging sanctions. So banking and insurance have taken a hit, as explained by T-man Stuart Levey:

Stuart Levey, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Western banks had reined in dealings with Iran in the light of successive U.N. Security Council resolutions, but argued there was potential scope for the insurance sector to get tougher.

"I think that is something that is worth looking at and we are in discussions about that," Levey told Reuters in an interview during a European trip including talks with officials in Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands and Germany.

"Have we applied all the prohibitions in the U.N. Security Council resolutions that apply to financial services to Iran? Have those been applied to insurance, and have insurance companies grappled with the issue?" he said.

Levey declined to detail specific measures which the sector could take in its dealings with Iran. "We are still in discussions with our allies about these issues," he said.

Let's leave aside, for the time being, how these sanctions are being perceived in Persia itself, although that is probably a mess in itself. But the effects of the sanctions are certainly being felt among those Iranians trying to make the nut outside of the country.

Home / News / World
Crackdown squeezes Iranians in Dubai
US policy hurting small businesses
Two men passed by the main branch of Bank Melli Iran, the National Bank of Iran in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in July. (Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press)
By Farah Stockman
Globe Staff / September 15, 2008
Email| Print| Single Page| Yahoo! Buzz| ShareThisText size – + DUBAI - This freewheeling boomtown has always been the place where Iranians go to escape US sanctions. Since US laws stopped the sale of American products to Iran in the 1980s, Iranian traders have made the short boat ride here to buy what they want. When the US Treasury banned key Iranian banks a year ago, Iranian businessmen flocked here, to the financial capital of the Middle East, to open new bank accounts.

But in recent months US pressure has prompted a crackdown in the United Arab Emirates, Iran's largest trading partner and home to some 450,000 Iranian citizens.

After visits from President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Treasury undersecretary Stuart Levey, UAE officials have dramatically reduced the number of business licenses to Iranian citizens, according to US officials and a Globe analysis of business statistics.

Less than 1 percent of the 10,800 businesses registered in Dubai during the first three months of 2008 had an Iranian partner, according to an analysis of statistics from Dubai Chamber of Commerce, down from about 6 percent in 2007 and 2006.

In addition, authorities in the trade-free zones have begun to refuse to register Iranian work visas, and most international banks in the UAE have stopped opening new accounts for Iranians, according to interviews with more than a dozen Iranian businessmen.

US officials have praised the recent actions of the UAE, seeing the crackdown as a victory for US policy, which seeks to use economic pressure to persuade Iran's regime to halt its controversial nuclear program.

"The UAE is taking steps to be vigilant," said Levey, a key architect of the banking sanctions, who has traveled to Dubai eight times about the issue. "They have a challenge there and they are starting to grapple with it."

But while aimed at crippling Iranian banks and corporations connected to the regime, the policy also punishes small businesses owned by individual Iranians who have no political connections and are often at odds with their government.

"It's a difficult balance," said Ethan Chorin, a specialist on Middle Eastern economies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. "You want to keep the regime under pressure and you want to do it in such a way that you are not targeting . . . the little guys."

The Iranian regime issues lucrative monopolies to a vast empire of parastatal companies, and controls an estimated 85 percent of Iran's economy. But many of the Iranian businesses in Dubai are run by small traders from Iran's tiny, struggling private sector that is often at odds with officials in Tehran.

Ali Reza, a former student at the University of Tehran, came to Dubai after the government harassed him for participating in student protests. He found work at a small company owned by an Iranian that exported rice and mineral water to Iran.

The company struggled to survive as it tried to compete against politically connected figures who received special subsidies and customs exemptions from the Iranian regime, Reza said.

But the real blow came in October, when Bush announced sanctions against Bank Melli and Bank Saderat, two top Iranian banks where the company kept its funds. As banks around the world cut off dealings with those banks, Reza's boss was unable to obtain credit to buy more supplies. He went bankrupt and fled Dubai in February, Reza said, adding that he knew of two dozen other small Iranian companies that also folded at that time.

Unless your social circle extends that far, it's hard to tell if these guys in Dubai sympathize at all with Ahmedinejad and his goals. Most likely they're determined to stay afloat regardless of who's in power, hence Dubai. With the body blows we're dealing to their livelihood, however, it's hard to see them becoming friends of America.

But hey, Bush and Cheney have only been there for eight years. Can we expect them to know anything about soft power?

Friday, September 12, 2008

You are not to blame for a bittersweet Friday Random Ten

Still reading Nights at the Circus which has only gotten awesomer. Managed to keep myself (very) busy at work as well. Now the music.

1. The Beatles--Blackbird
2. Loretta Lynn--Little Red Shoes
3. Radiohead--Reckoner
4. Stone Temple Pilots--Adhesive
5. Tori Amos--Doughnut Song
6. Queen--Get Down, Make Love
7. Brian Eno--Bottomliners
8. 8½ Souvenirs--L'Amour Toujours
9. Rosemary Clooney--Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me
10. Tom Waits--On the Nickel

Damn, Interweb connection is shaky tonight. Hope this doesn't take too long to post.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nothing Astro about that turf

The New Agenda describes the Agenda's agenda thusly:

The New Agenda, through its members and partner organizations, seeks to advance women’s rights. The New Agenda will bring about a systemic change in the way women are treated in the media, by the government, at the workplace, and at home. To achieve our goals, we will empower women by working towards parity in the government and in the workplace. The New Agenda will also formulate an agenda based on core women’s issues which we will promote in a non-partisan fashion. The New Agenda will speak out for the millions of women in this great country who often have no voice.

It might be noted that these "core women's issues" explicitly do not include reproductive rights. That's lucky for... someone. The stated reason is that "Choice is an issue that’s been used to divide women from one another and take away our power." The wording puts me in the mind of something, but I can't quite place it.

The New Agenda's website make's several mentions of the sexism that Hillary Clinton faced during the primaries, but its help does not seem to have been available while the New York Senator was actually running. In fact, judging by its first press release and initial blog post, the 'genda has only been up and running since the end of August. That seems like strangely convenient timing for someone, but perhaps this person is just inordinately lucky.

It would be nice if this someone had earned the time, money, and artful web design expended on her behalf. Yes, it would be nice.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Literary clown car

I hadn't read any Angela Carter until this year. Quite some time ago, I saw Neil Jordan's movie adaptation of A Company of Wolves, and if it's at all faithful it showed that she did some intense imagery. But I might have been put off because her reputation as a feminist intellectual seemed to imply that she was ultra-serious.

Which she was, apparently. (Carter died in 1992.) But she mixes in a lot of comedy with the tragedy and commentary. Earlier this year I read the early novel Heroes and Villains, which had nothing to do with the Beach Boys but did have an interesting post-Apocalyptic setting. (Apparently the English class system would be the same, but different.)

Right now I'm in the middle of Nights at the Circus. It may be fitting that the title mashes up two Marx brothers movies. In a way the book is a series of "can you top this?" tall-tales, of the kind Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce liked to spring. The titular hero is, in fact, a roving American reporter. He joins the circus to cover a Cockney performer who happens to have wings. And is quite the scene-stealer.

There are also some hyper-intelligent chimps, but I haven't been able to place their accents.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Unconventional Friday Random Ten

No mention of Sarah Palin will be made in this post. Except for that mention, of course.

1. Sarah Vaughan--Can't Get Out of This Mood
2. The Beatles--Dear Prudence
3. Beth Custer & the Joe Goode Performance Group--You Are Song
4. Loretta Lynn--Van Lear Rose
5. Brian Eno--Caught Between
6. Barenaked Ladies--Some Fantastic
7. The White Stripes--Forever for Her (Is Over for Me)
8. Nick Drake--Hazy Jane II
9. The Sonics--Night Time is the Right Time
10. Laurie Anderson--Example #22

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mania in Minneapolis

"You're going to do right by this little girl. Understood? And you're gonna help me become Commander in Chief, right? RIGHT?"
"Please, you're hurting me."
"I can't hear you!"
"Sir! You're hurting me! Sir!"

I just caught some of McCain's speech at the convention. It's fairly rousing. Maybe too much so. At the "what I'm fighting for" part, he called out members of the audience and recited some of their recent tragedies, while the cameras sought out these people who were largely either teary or stone-faced. The crowd of delegates applauded and cried out "whoooo!" These weren't really "whoooo" moments.

McCain's pick for #2, Sarah Palin, has been... Well, suffice it to say you've probably heard of her now even if you're not a political junkie. One question is whether she'll attract more women--and specifically Hil Clinton supporters--to vote for the Republican ticket. I can honestly say that there's no simple answer to that. Earlier this week I was marinating in coffee and sugar at Dunkin' Donuts and I overheard some normal-looking older women talking about her. They were not hostile towards her, but at least a couple of members of this group seemed less than starry-eyed about her balancing the presidential race with caring for a Down's syndrome baby. There's no uniform woman bloc, obviously.

Then there comes Palin's not-always-winning personal style, per Barry Crimmins.

How much Palin's primetime sneer appealed to the evangelical community is another question. There was nothing blessed or meek in her remarks and her only real mentions of religion were used to kneecap her opponents. What has Governor Palin's faith done for her other than elevate her to a place where she can walk on the stage at a political convention and say, "Blessed are the power elite!" She didn't discuss the beauty and majesty of Alaska, she belittled the places where tens of millions of Americans live. She ran a town that was bolstered by almost $30 million in pork barrel graft from Sleazy Ted Stevens but she disparaged the people who reside in places where fundraisers have to be done to buy rudimentary items like textbooks. And she's going to ride into office by dissing the people who organize the underprivileged? Well maybe.

Palin was also supposed to win over a lot of women who supported Hillary Clinton. Many of these people are mothers. Mothers say things like, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." This would have limited Palin to discussing her own family and John McCain's shoulders (Jesus, do they have a sign in the wings at that convention that reminds every speaker to mention McCain's shoulders, or what?)

Of course, mean is at least part of what she's supposed to bring to the table. The question is how well her particular brand sells this year. It's gotten some traction in Alaska, and this anecdote from her mayoral race in Wasilla is a cute illustration. (NYT article via Tom Hilton)

The traditional turning points that had decided municipal elections in this town of less than 7,000 people — Should we pave the dirt roads? Put in sewers? Which candidate is your hunting buddy? — seemed all but obsolete the year Ms. Palin, then 32, challenged the three-term incumbent, John C. Stein.

Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin’s behalf.

Two years after Representative Newt Gingrich helped draft the Contract With America to advance Republican positions, Ms. Palin and her passion for Republican ideology and religious faith overtook a town known for a wide libertarian streak and for helping start the Iditarod sled dog race.

“Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ ”

“I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?’ ” recalled Mr. Stein, who was raised Lutheran, and later went to work as the administrator for the city of Sitka in southeast Alaska. “The point was that she was a born-again Christian.”

You read that right. The good Gov Palin won her first race through the Ashkenazic sound of her opponents name and the suggestion that he and his values might be *ahem* foreign to those of other Wasillans.

So Senator Lieberman, how do you like your new friends?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

From the archives

There are things I mignt blog about later on if I don't get too depressed about it. Right now I'm sticking with a topic that at least involves little wooden people dancing around.

Hungarian émigré George Pal was a gifted filmmaker and a visionary puppeteer--or vice versa--but some of his work may not translate very well across the decades. Or if you're going to enjoy it, you need to take into account the possibility of seeing things that are somewhat offensive. Here's a case in point, perhaps not work safe, but for different reasons than the usual NSFW warning.

Actually the question also occurs to me of just how much would a walking scarecrow and his talking crow friend be freaked by a haunted house. Look at yourselves!

But yeah, the big league eye-rolling and the "Spook" imprint at the end press certain buttons. Which they always did, but more people are bothered by it now.

Look beyond the gratuitous minstrelsy and it's still a beautiful piece of animation. The way things move when you know they shouldn't is miraculous.

Here's a later ('62 as opposed to '42) George Pal work, less obscure. It's a scene from The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm.

Okay, so shoemaking elves have kind of an abusive group dynamic. Still, it's funny.

3D animation is quite commonplace now, of course. This is a different animal. On the one hand you see whimsy and playful motion. Yet in the occasional bout of shakiness you can feel the labor that went in. I at least have to hope--and I have no problem with computer animators doing their thing--that handcrafted animation survives.

Maybe not with all the wide-eyed golliwogs, though.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The big uneasy

It seems to have occurred to George Bush that if he had returned to Washington three years ago and taken his job seriously, he'd be something less of a pariah today. Behold!

Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney canceled scheduled appearances at the convention, determined to avoid appearing neglectful of the storm-torn region.

However, first lady Laura Bush did address the convention alongside Cindy McCain, the wife of John McCain. Both urged delegates to open their wallets to residents hit hard by the storm.

“I would ask that each one of us commit to join together to aid those in need as quickly as possible,” McCain told the roughly 4,000 delegates assembled in the center. “As John has been saying for the last several days, this is a time when we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.”

Quite right. In fact this is a time when your Republican hat would make it that much easier for the villagers to find you with their pitchforks and torches. Rome has been burning for at least six years now (that's an *ahem* conservative estimate) and now might not be the best time for a fiddlefest in the Twin Cities.

Brad Reed takes a good look at how the current hurricane and/or possible storm might be used, and he concludes it well.

Which brings us back to Hurricane Gustav. While it's unlikely that the GOP will totally undo the damage that the Bush years have wrought to its brand, the Republicans will likely attempt to show the public that during an election year they can at least try to govern in a manner that isn't wholly reminiscent of the Keystone Cops. Expect to see Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal giving us regular updates via satellite feed proclaiming that unlike in years past, federal relief workers are doing a heck of a job. Texas Governor Rick Perry will offer us heartfelt testimony from hurricane refugees grateful for the help they've been receiving. And finally, we'll probably watch Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour tell us that the government's excellent response to the hurricane shows that Barack Obama is dangerously unqualified to be president.

While you'd be right to call this cynical pandering, there are a couple of upsides to it. After all, assuming that the Republicans don't simply funnel all the money to Blackwater, it will be good to mobilize people to give money for hurricane relief. And let's face it, it is nice to now have two major political parties at least paying lip service to the radical idea that the government shouldn't simply sit by while its citizens drown.

Of course, it's nice that everyone will care a lot and say so. But it doesn't change the fact that years of not so benign neglect have made the situation in the Delta more precarious than it needs to be.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

2 comx 2 luk n2 (sorry)

The other day the Globe ran a story on Maryland-to-Mass emigre Jeph Jacques and his creation Questionable Content. There are so many webcomics out there that it's a little difficult to stand out. It's a good thing that QC has succeeded where others have failed.

If Jacques' work is likely to be confused with anyone else's, it's RK Milholland's Something Positive. Both are set in the world of contemporary twenty-somethings, but QC is probably a little sunnier that s*p. The flights of fancy elements are quite distinct as well. Anyway, the world must be broad enough to accomodate both.

Very different, but well worth the time to seek it out, is Josh Pasto's The Other Kids. Currently "Kids" is showing on's Comics Sherpa service. It's there to get noticed, and may if it's lucky appear in newspapers in a few years. You know, if there are newspapers in a few years. Anyway, Pasto has a fresh and mordant take on childhood long after I would have thought that vein was fully tapped. As seen in the example below, he's also got a sharp and forward eye for design.

The way he keeps the upper right of the panel "clean" until he's ready to use it suggests a sophisticated Japanese influence. More power to him.

Friday, August 29, 2008

We don't get much call for it around here.

I'll be posting again this weekend, I think. Have to investigate current events a little more. Rumor has it that John McCain has named Michael Palin as his running mate. That's a good choice, because it gives him the element of surprise. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. But doesn't the VP have to be from here? And isn't Palin from Dutchland or someplace. Like I said, I have to do some digging.

Non-leaked Friday Random Ten

Looking up "blogger" on, I saw a report that a blogger had been arrested for leaking new Guns n' Roses tracks on the internet. That puts kind of a crimp in my plans. I was going to leak a new joint recorded by Jimi Hendrix and Tupac. (Yeah, I thought so too, but it turns out they;ve both just been lying low for a while.) Oh well, looks like I'll have to stick to floating titles.

1. Tom Waits--Jesus Gonna Be Here
2. Duke Ellington--So Far So Good
3. Regina Carter--Don't Explain
4. Gnarls Barkley--St. Elsewhere
5. Ruby--Tiny Meat
6. The 5,6,7,8's--I've Got a Man
7. The Who--Armenia, City in the Sky
8. Randy Newman--Guilty
9. Battles--Atlas
10. Tori Amos--Talula (The Tornado Mix)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Getting Mile High

I did happen to see Obama's acceptance speech tonight. It followed a formula, as they all do. But overall, I think it ranks as a success.

Barack Obama certainly comes off as All-American here. Granted, Appalachians and a lot of older voters may have different criteria--to put it nicely--for what's American and what ain't. But I think people watching at home, those who are somewhat open at least, can look at this performance and say, "What? This is the guy I'm supposed to be afraid of?'

The most important thing he did was to praise John McCain for valor in fighting for America, then ripping him a new one on just about everything else. It's an important point to make: the presidency isn't a military pension. "Thanks for goint to Vietnam 40 years ago" does not translate into, "Here's the missile launch codes. Good luck."

Obama also shot back at the charge that he hasn't put the country first. Of course as much as he was responding to McCain and his campaign, that part was aimed even more at Joe Lieberman, who'll be addressing the Republicans in the Twin Cities in a few days. Hey, if you can rally the troops by tapping their resentment of that sanctimonious wiener, go for it.

Finally, it was nice to hear wild applause for the speech's references to same-sex partner rights. Yes, the crowd might be expected to be a little more liberal than average, but I'd guess straight males are at least a plurality. A standing O for the nominee addressing "our gay brothers and sisters" would not have happened just a few short years ago.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I'm an elite. In current usage I am, at least. This despite living in a one-room apartment, having a good number of miners and assembly-line workers in my family tree, and working my own first jobs as a dishwasher and mail-sorter.

That's because "elite", now that it's been divorced from economics and class, has basically taken on the meaning of "different." It's become a dysphemism or cacophemism in that way. You can't just accuse someone of being different in those exact words without tipping your hand that your appealing to dumb prejudice. Throw around "elite" though, and you pick up a salt-of-the-earth quality.

Politicians who aim high are vulnerable to accusations of eliteness, because they've led lives and may stand out in some ways. Barack Obama is a black man from a mostly Asian-Pacific state, and has a half-sister who identifies as Buddhist, for starters. Hillary Clinton kept her maiden name during Bill's first term as Arkansas governor, and named her daughter after a Joni Mitchell song. McCain has worn the POW background into mundanity. Otherwise, that might strike voters as a trifle peculiar as well.

This weaponizing of "elite"ness is not good for any politico with a brain, but some of them deal with it better than others. Unfortunately the damage spreads further. A lot of Americans have opinions and backgrounds that mark them as different. To dismiss them as "elite" is to discourage people who consider themselves "normal" from giving half a thought to what they have to say.

I guess my point is that while presidential candidates wolf down chili dogs and choose neutral ties, the rest of us need to reclaim the weird. Weird is beautiful.

BTW, you know what "dysphemism" is now, so you're elite too.