Saturday, May 31, 2008

Chairman of the (water)board

What can I say? Sales jobs suck even more than I remember. Their best defense is "We're not the mean waterboarding company that people think we are"? Lucky for them the economy is tanking, or else that would really hurt recruitment.

It's going to be an experience trying a case where even the victim hedges on whether water torture is wrong. Deep down he's still a team player.

Friday, May 30, 2008

What else you got?

Looking back at the Presidential election of 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was important and historical, but as a running mate she wasn't particularly helpful. Reagan wound up winning the State of New York, as well as the majority of women and Catholics. Will "Not helpful" wind up as Ferraro's epitaph? She seems determined to make it so. Because as determined as she is to cut Barack Obama down to size, it's difficult at this point to see any good she's doing Hillary Clinton.

The former Representative has written an election pre-postmortem for the Boston Globe, and while I won't go into everything wrong with it (I do have to sleep sometime), a couple of things stand out amid the grey type.

The reaction to the questions being raised has been not to listen to the message and try to find out how to deal with the problem, but rather to denigrate the messenger. Sore loser, petty, silly, vengeful are words that have dominated the headlines. But scolding and name calling don't resolve disputes. The truth is that tens of thousands of women have watched how Clinton has been treated and are not happy. We feel that if society can allow sexism to impact a woman's candidacy to deny her the presidency, it sends a direct signal that sexism is OK in all of society.

No doubt you can find plenty of instances of Hillary Clinton being dismissed in sexist terms, although laying it at the feet of Barack Obama is another matter. On the other hand, nobody cares what Clinton's former pastor may have said at any point in time, nor is she called on to renounce every woman who says something stupid in America. And the very fact that she's still in the race calls into question the idea that sexism is really holding her back. For whatever reason, West Virginia and Kentucky voted for her late in the race. Take yes for an answer.

But it does not look like she'll be the nominee this year, and therefore won't actually become President. Was there supposed to be a guarantee on this?

Later in the op-ed is a passage of coded language worthy of Captain Midnight

As for Reagan Democrats, how Clinton was treated is not their issue. They are more concerned with how they have been treated. Since March, when I was accused of being racist for a statement I made about the influence of blacks on Obama's historic campaign, people have been stopping me to express a common sentiment: If you're white you can't open your mouth without being accused of being racist. They see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign and no one calling him for it as frightening. They're not upset with Obama because he's black; they're upset because they don't expect to be treated fairly because they're white. It's not racism that is driving them, it's racial resentment. And that is enforced because they don't believe he understands them and their problems. That when he said in South Carolina after his victory "Our Time Has Come" they believe he is telling them that their time has passed.

Emphasis mine. Does "Obama's playing the race card" in this case mean anything beyond "being black at an inconvenient time"? If it does, Ferraro provides no supporting examples. But hey, it's nice that she's so tight with the Reagan Democrats who kept her off Air Force Two. Guess they found a common enemy.

Chock full o' Summer Fun Friday Random Ten

Felt like Summer today, at least. It's after Memorial Day, before Solstice. And I was doing some summery hanging about in Newport, so some of the list reflects that.

1. Fats Domino--I'm Walkin'
2. Neko Case--Whip the Blankets
3. Eurythmics--Love is a Stranger
4. Talking Heads--Don't Worry About the Government
5. XTC--Yacht Dance
6. Art Blakey--Moon River
7. Roxy Music--The Bogus Man
8. Captain Beefheart--Yellow Brick Road
9. Beck--Soldier Jane
10. The Brunettes--Small Town Crew

Yeah, #5 especially.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


The RISD Museum was partially closed off, and therefore free. Not a bad deal. The main event was a first floor exhibit of styrofoam-based works, including a couple of wall-hangings by Sol LeWitt. Not uninteresting.

But what really got me was something I saw upstairs. There's a smallish, wood-panelled room filled with surimono, privately commissioned Japanese woodcuts, albeit not the ones in the link. As pictures, these tend to be incomplete, with pictographic text sprinkled where the background would be. But the more you look at them, the more they have all they need.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No bluff, it really will ruin your life

One gold medal timewaster on the Interweb is the wiki TV Tropes. Despite its name, it's not strictly speaking about television. It's concerned with stories and storytelling in a bunch of formats, including real life. You might consider it a versatiel narratology wiki, although TV does come up a lot. So do anime, video games and pro wrestling.

Search is a little different. The search field won't take you directly to any articles. Instead you get a menu of articles that contain that combination of letters.

I think the real kick is the site's openness. While a lot of good things can be said for Wikipedia, you can be at the mercy of the humorless there. I've added good, reliable information to articles only to see it removed for fuzzy "relevance" issues minutes later. This is a combination of an ambition to be a real reference work and a lot of editing being done by loose-ends teens and preteens.

At TT, by contrast, anything that isn't out and out vandalism will probably stay. Anything well-intended, that is. That can result in some head-scratchers, but it's all another flavor in the soup.

Monday, May 26, 2008

All kinds of holes

Full disclosure: I'm more of a Nigella Lawson man myself.

Via the intrepid political/humor site SAdly, No!, it appears that at least three right wing blogs have gone on the warpath against Dunkin' Donuts because pitchwoman has been seen wearing a keffiyeh. Except she really hasn't. Not that any sane person would care. And DD may actually be taking these people seriously.

Anti-keffiyeh crusaders are--as one might expect--rabidly pro-Israel. There's a disconnect there. Say what you like about Israel, but I doubt this kind of hysteria would fly there. An Italian woman from Upstate New York wearing a checked scarf? Might fall short of red alert status when you've seen actual shelling.

Dennis Rodman's devil horns, on the other hand...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sibling revelry

Here's a... one of a kind sketch.

Family togetherness is great, but past a certain point... Anyway, the girl is Casey Wilson, as of this writing the newest cast member on Saturday Night Live. This was during her stint with the Upright Citizen's Brigade. For my money this really gets funny around the three minute mark, then gets horrifying. But still pretty funny.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Kick off summer blockbuster season with the Friday Random Ten

Mostly familiar faces/voices today, but still a good catch. Without further ado:

1. Charles Mingus--Stormy Weather
2. Rasputina--Secret Message
3. Dressy Bessy--Live to Tell All
4. Radiohead--Dollars and Cents
5. Love--Laughing Stock
6. The Veldt--It's Over
7. Brian Eno--Julie With
8. Macy Gray--Boo
9. Keith Jarrett--Little Girl Blue
10. XTC--Knuckle Down

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Thought" for the day

If you're in high school, here's a funny trick to play on your guidance counselor. Tell him/her your current career ambition is to be a prison trusty. Ask what kind of offenders are most likely to land this position, and which extracurriculars will best complement your upcoming felony.

The GC may well agree that this is your best option. In that case you'll have a lot to think about.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bust a Bat-cap in his ass

The comic world is fairly agog with the news: at the end of the loose arc that's been winding through Batman, Bruce Wayne will be the Caped Crusader no more. Which sounds like it will give him more time to work on his tennis serve, except that Grant Morrison says
It's so much better than death. People have killed characters in the past but to me, that kind of ends the story! I like to keep the story twisting and turning. So what I am doing is a fate worse than death. Things that no one would expect to happen to these guys at all. This is the end of Bruce Wayne as Batman.

And there's speculation about whether the cowl will pass to one of the Robins (stalwart Dick Grayson, homicidal Jason Todd, pure-of-heart Tim Drake) or someone else.

One relevant response is from io9's Graeme McMillan.
Well, we've already seen Bruce Wayne giving up the identity because he was crippled (Thankfully, his magic girlfriend fixed his spine), as well as he's gone insane more than a few times in the past... So exactly what fate worse than death are we talking about here? And, more importantly, how quickly will it end up being undone?

I'm not buying the "forever" aspect either. Bruce Wayne is part of the Batman brand. He is the brand. The two have been associated for nearly 70 years. Adam West and Michael Keaton played Bruce Wayne, and Christian Bale still is. Val Kilmer and George Clooney have, too, although those movies add nothing to my argument but quantity.

Hey, did I say "almost 70 years?" It will be exactly 70 in mid-2009. Prime time for a high-profile return, wouldn't you say? So this is likely to be a broad sideways step in the manner of Knightfall, which also involved another dude taking over as Batman. But if nothing else, this storyline involves the writing of Grant Morrison, who has a way of making these spandex soaps freaky and cool.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Comparisons are odorous

You may be familiar with Godwin's law, the net-age observation that
As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

It seems the same rule applies to campaign season. Perhaps you may substitute "Neville Chamberlain" or "William Borah" for Hitler himself. Same principle, though.

Bush's address to the Israeli Knesset has been fairly well covered, as has Senator Obama's response. But there is something that Obama isn't likely to say, nor will Sen. Clinton. And McCain? No way in Hell.

Hamas is not the Nazis.

Hitler, it should be remembered, not only had a desire to wipe out Europe's Jews. He also had resources and a workable plan. Hamas has none of that, and if they have the desire it's divorced from reality.

There are certainly elements of their past and associates which may make Israel uneasy. But as they've gotten closer to power, Hamas has backed off their most violent rhetoric. It's almost like they'd rather run their own country than get flattened in a war with Israel and the US.

The point is, a nation or political group doesn't become some world-devouring evil just because we declare it our enemy. And if the next president, whoever he or she may be, wants to restore America's standing, it would be a good start to stop crying wolf.

Going to the Love-In to Sit and Play My Bongos in the Dirt:Friday Random Ten

How many of you know which song the header is from? Well, if nothing else your first guess would probably be right.

1. The Bonzo Dog Band--Piggy Bank Love
2. Macy Gray--Relating to a Psychopath
3. Taj Mahal--She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride
4. The Beatles--The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
5. The Go Go's--Mercenary
6. Nellie McKay--Lali Est Paresseux
7. Martha & the Vandellas--(Love is Like a) Heat Wave
8. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention--Flower Punk
9. The Sonics--Strychnine
10. Gnarls Barkley--Crazy

"Piggy Bank Love" is like, the second song I heard this morning. As soon as it started playing I knew it would make the cut. The mixture of the brass and the voice and the self-parodyingly silly love song. While Viv Stanshall and Roger Ruskin Spear were both good songwriters, and Stanshall (RiP) was the best singer, the two of them also anchored a hell of a horn section.

Well, that's my amateur two cents anyway.

Update:Forgot to mention that Saturday is Taj Mahal's birthday. Or Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, as he came into this world.

Also, hell, why not make this a video post.

This concert footage was shot in the Netherlands. My guess is that Macy enjoyed all that Amsterdam has to offer, if you catch my drift.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keep up the good work.

From Deborah at If I Ran the Zoo, apparently the folks at CBS News liked Hillary Clinton's interview response so much, they plan to use it again and again. In all sorts of contexts too.

If they're going to use this method of just plugging things in, why not run election commentary from Orson Welles and Ed Sullivan?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Black and white weirdness

No, this isn't about the primary campaign.

This is a short film by South African artist William Kentridge. Some classically surrealist nudity may make it less than work-safe.

I like the way he uses silent movie techniques to look at the contemporary world. But it's fairly open to interpretation.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mini-Ministry of Truth

Cute chicks, if nothing else.

The above excerpt is from the current storyline of "Judge Parker." Steve Shannon, an attorney working in a firm... No, life is too short to explain why there is almost never a character named "Judge Parker" in this strip. Anyway, Steve used to be a Marine JAG in Afghanistan. He investigated charges that Americans had killed a village elder, and found the real culprits were evil warlords. In revenge, their militia planted a landmine outside his tent (again, don't ask), which is why he now walks on prosthetic legs, which you can't really see here.

But the revenge isn't over yet. Samira, pictured in the attractive black and mauve hijab, blames heroic Steve for the death of her father. Here she's determined to blow Steve, his sickly mother, his plucky secretary, an untold number of first responders, and herself sky high.

All this makes for some campy entertainment if you don't take it too seriously. It's also part of the "Muslims want to kill us! Kill us all!" meme that does so much to keep our foreign policy from approaching anything rational. Newspaper comics are mostly read by people who are somewhat older than average. Judging by this, maybe more conservative too. You can look at things from a lot of levels.

I often hear laments about how there was a moment of unity after 9/11, but now it's gone. But a good part of that unity had to do with a sudden upswing of xenophobia. And part of it was a façade, based on fear of not seeming patriotic. Amiable disunion may be a more realistic hope.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Estimated Friday Top Ten

The entries on this list are solid, but the order is in some measure of doubt. I forgot the paper I recorded the early ones on at work, and wasn't going to dash back in the rain to get it. Without further ado.

1. Sun Ra--Jet Flight
2. The Kinks--Skin and Bone
3. Gang of Four--Ether
4. Elton John--This Song Has No Title
5. Radiohead--Backdrifts
6. Moby--Find My Baby
7. Luscious Jackson--Why do I Lie?
8. Ladytron--Fighting in Built Up Areas
9. Sammy Davis Jr.--Hey There
10. Laurie Anderson--From the Air

The Kinks song is absolutely irresistible, and I knew it would make the cut. Reviews I've read of "Muswell Hillbillies" tend to ignore it, but come on! Goofy as it sounds--and that's a big part of its appeal--what other rock star of the earlie seventies had eating disorders on his radar?

There, that's my example of more than meets the eye silliness.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Just found this Flash (or some other program) animation adaptation of Kelly Link's "The Specialist's Hat." It's hard to think of another author who can inspire such gloriously whacked out projects. Thomas Ligotti, sure, but the list from there on down must be pretty short. Anyway, the Terry Gilliam-meets-Homestar Runner style of the animation is about perfect.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I dozed off a little bit ago. Was playing Animal Crossing, in a chair but leaning against the mattress. Which turned into half-laying on it, and that led to a light slumber. So anyway, it's a good thing nobody asked me to deliver any letters. You get chewed out if you fail to deliver a letter.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Epic: The First Friday Random Ten of May

A brisk start to May, but that's A-OK.

1. Soul Coughing--Sleepless
2. XTC--Runaways
3. Duke Ellington--My Little Brown Book
5. David Bowie--Always Crashing in the Same Car
6. Luscious Jackson--One Thing
7. Elton John--Sweet Painted Lady
8. Joni Mitchell--Raised on Robbery
9. Sarah Vaughan--Lorelei
10. Bob Dylan--Love Minus Zero/No Limits
Bonus 'cuz I feel like it: The Beatles--Got to Get You Into My Life

Always a pleasure. And you?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Things to know, sponsored by London Academy Laboratories

I just reread Flann O'Brien's The Hard Life, a short novel by an author who came from the same Dublin as James Joyce, and who had a somewhat troubled mutual admiration society with that author. I absorbed more from it this time, and it's becoming one of my favorite books. Feel the need to enumerate some facts about it in a list. Not just because I'm lazy, although that's part of it. It's also a matter of form following function. Without further ado:

1. This is the first item.
2. The next item will be a spoiler.
3. The last word in the English language edition is "vomit.'
4. O'Brien was actually a pseudomym of Brian Ó Nualláin, or more commonly, Brian O'Nolan.
5. O'Nolan/O'Brien dedicates this "misterpiece" to Graham Greene.
5a. O'Brien and Greene were co-religionists, namely adherents of the Roman Catholic Church.
5b. Nonetheless, few would mistake the writing of one for the writing of the other.
6. While a Catholic, O'Brien felt free to include in this novel a Dublin pensioner and a German priest having a row with His Holiness the Pope.
7. The German priest's name is Father Kurt Fahrt. Yes, in many ways it's that kind of book.
8. There is tightrope walking in this book. It's one of the first things that the narrator's brother convinces himself that he has learned, and is qualified to teach others.
9. Numerous Gaelic words and phrases appear in this novel. The non-speaker can fill just about all of them in through context.
10. Gravid water. You just have to see for yourself.