"WHEN FASCISM COMES TO AMERICA IT WILL BE WRAPPED IN THE FLAG
AND CARRYING A CROSS." -SINCLAIR LEWIS

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Come Son Of Gore-Al, Kneel Before Zod!

We didn't listen! We didn't listen:

EARTH—Former vice president Al Gore—who for the past three decades has unsuccessfully attempted to warn humanity of the coming destruction of our planet, only to be mocked and derided by the very people he has tried to save—launched his infant son into space Monday in the faint hope that his only child would reach the safety of another world.

"I tried to warn them, but the Elders of this planet would not listen," said Gore, who in 2000 was nearly banished to a featureless realm of nonexistence for promoting his unpopular message. "They called me foolish and laughed at my predictions. Yet even now, the Midwest is flooded, the ice caps are melting, and the cities are rocked with tremors, just as I foretold. Fools! Why didn't they heed me before it was too late?"

Hubris is truly the folly of Man; remember, we were warned:

Something Telling Someone Else Said

"John's been a celebrity ever since he was shot down," Weaver said. "Whatever that means. And I recall Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush going overseas and all those waving American flags...For McCain to win in such troubled times, he needs to begin telling the American people how he intends to lead us. That McCain exists. He can inspire the country to greatness...There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn't at Obama's. For McCain's sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop." -John Weaver, former McCain strategist, commenting on his newest attack ad comparing Obama's celebrity status to that of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton

Sell Those Guns

A graph detailing the largest arms dealers and buyers in the world; guess who's number one?

JUST five countries supplied 80% of global arms exports between 2003 and 2007, according to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a think-tank. SIPRI counts the deliveries of large conventional weapons, each of which are assigned a value according to cost, strategic importance and other criteria. America supplied a third of global exports by this count, with South Korea and Israel the main buyers. China is Russia's best customer, taking 45% of its total exports. China is also the largest recipient of imports, accounting for 12% of the global total. Other big importers include India and the United Arab Emirates.
The US has been in the business of weapons manufacturing on a grand scale ever since we nationalized and converted our factories to do so during World War II; around the world, and especially in many of the most dangerous and impoverished nations of Africa, we're known as a nation chiefly for our culture of consumption and violence which we happily export for a sizeable profit. In fact, our treaties with Israel specifically state that they are required to spend a large portion of the money we give them in economic aid on weapons made by US firms. I honestly don't know if this will change at all under the next administration but I hope that it does.

Toe Jam

The fact that I've thought about trying to learn to play the guitar for some time now but still haven't because I've been too busy, too lazy, etc. is now extremely embarrassing:
I think it's safe to say that all of us with working arms and legs all too often take them for granted.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shrew Can Drink You Under The Table

I just found my next pet:

The Malaysian pen-tailed tree shrew could drink the most annoying drunken fratboys under the table. A new study found that the tiny animal subsists on a diet roughly equivalent to 100 percent beer, drinking up the fermented nectar of the flower buds of the bertam palm plant.

The nectar can reach up to 3.8 percent alcohol content, one of the highest alcohol concentrations ever recorded in a natural food...Amazingly, though the tree shrews drink like fish, they don't seem to get drunk. The researchers, led by Frank Wiens of Germany's University of Bayreuth, videotaped regular nocturnal feeding sessions and followed the movements of radio-tagged tree shrews. Though they measured blood-alcohol concentrations in the animals higher than those in humans with similarly high alcohol intake, the tree shrews showed no signs of intoxication.

The President We Need

If you have five minutes to spare, make your way over to Bloggingheads.tv and listen to Bruce Fein brilliantly and succinctly answering Jane Hamsher's question, "What would you like to see happen in a new administration?" I myself agree with pretty much everything he suggests.

Oh, Of Course!

Conservapedia, "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia", explains why I lack faith; it's all starting to make sense now.

Colour Like No Other

A Sony Bravia commercial from Great Britain explodes with color and yes, it's real:

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

One of the new classics:

Something Revealing Someone Else Said

"I used to say that Barack Obama raises taxes and John McCain cuts them, and I was convinced. I stand corrected." -Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief domestic policy adviser for Sen. John McCain, Time magazine

That Damn Liberal Media

The Los Angeles Times sites an interesting study:

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.
Of course, don't expect the right wing cries of liberal bias to go away just because it's untrue; they really don't have much else.

Red Meat

A meat commercial from Soviet-era Estonia; apparently the words "beef" and "chicken" are what's repeated throughout. It's kind of creepy and really doesn't make me want to eat meat at all:

Monday, July 28, 2008

Unscientific American

A sweet-ass parody of actual "scientific" hypothesis (click picture to enlarge).

Letter From A Desperate Soldier

Via PZ Myers' website, this letter from an actual American soldier in Iraq:

This is a request for help. Disabled veterans are being treated as if they are a burden on the government's checkbook, and the government is getting away with it, mainly because the situation is so far out of the public's collective eye that the military can quite effectively sweep it under the rug. Politicians are using our sacrifices as political capital in front of the nation, while the Army medical system turns around to our face and disdainfully treats us as if we are asking for something we do not deserve. All we want is the care we were promised, and all we are getting is organized resistance from the military medical bureaucracy. In some cases, this resistance amounts to the pure manipulation - and even alteration - of the medical regulations, for the sole purpose of reducing the amount of money the Army has to pay disabled vets upon their separation. I have turned to this kind of appeal, frankly, because I am out of options. I believe that the only thing that can even begin to fix a problem such as this one is true exposure to the bright lights of public scrutiny.

When wounded soldiers comes home, they have to go through an evaluation process in which a panel of Army doctors determines what their final disability rating will be. If they decide that the soldier rates less than 30%, then they can separate that soldier with merely a severance check, and never dole out another dollar to him or her again. Should the rating be above 30%, the Army is required to medically retire that soldier, and send him or her a monthly check after they leave the service. In principle, this makes sense. But this is being abused by those doctors, in that they are intentionally low-balling wounded vets in order to get them under the 30% ceiling and get them out, for obvious reasons of saving money. Just in my case alone, I have seen doctors lie on official reports about what I told them, make childishly snide comments about the appeals that I have written to the Physician Evaluation Board (PEB), and one doctor even suggested that a previous diagnosis was invalid simply because I was "fine" on the day he saw me. (And I have proof - to include hard copies of documents showing the offenses.) This does not stop with the low-level doctors, by any means. The Army PEBs operate on instructions given to them by their command, and one in particular is very telling. Since soldiers began coming home with serious concussion injuries, the Army medical community has seen fit to publish instructions to its PEBs concerning certain ratings and how they are to be 'interpreted' pertaining to veterans' disability claims. One of them that I ran directly into deals with the occurrence of migraine headaches, which many veterans with concussion injuries suffer from, and how they are to be viewed. The schedule that lists ratings that are to be applied states that for a 50% rating, migraines must meet the frequency requirement of at least two per month, and the severity must be prostrating. After veterans began receiving this rating for their complications from IED-induced concussions, an instruction to physicians was published informing them that from then on, the word 'prostrating' was not to be interpreted as it is defined, but rather for migraines to be considered prostrating for rating purposes, the soldier must have stopped and sought immediate, emergency medical attention. Due to the fact that it is very difficult for someone laying prostrate from a migraine to get up and make it to the ER, you can imagine how well this worked in reducing the number of veterans that received disability ratings for their migraines.

And aside from the failings of the rating process, once the soldier is done with that, then there is the incompetent bureaucracy within the ranks of those handling retired service members to deal with. I was retired in January, but did not see a single cent of my retirement money until June. And when it did begin, taxes were being deducted - which shouldn't happen, because combat wounded vets get tax exemption from their disability checks. After getting that fixed, I recently discovered that I have absolutely no medical coverage whatsoever - which I found out while trying to get my prescriptions filled - because my retirement documents never got to the agency responsible for administering my care as a medical retiree. The incompetence of those that handled my retirement file ensured that the necessary paperwork failed to reach almost all of the necessary agencies. And I am by no means the only one this type of injustice is happening to, but instead it is a widespread occurrence. The reason for this is that once the soldier leaves the service and begins the fight for his or her benefits, it is simply that soldier against the entire framework of the Army bureaucracy, and that is far from a fair fight. (They do allow you a liaison in order to to help you navigate the system, but if mine was any indication, this is more of a burden than a help - in asking her to participate in a conference call to discuss why I disagreed with my initial rating of 10%, she resisted and actually said to me, "I'm not here to hold your hand through this.") So I have ended up in a position quite familiar to veterans - broke, living with my parents, in debt up to my ears from the months without income, and having no consistent medical coverage.

So, if you read through this and it seems wrong to you, especially if it makes you a bit angry, then I'm asking for your help. The only thing that will fix this problem is to shine a spotlight on what is happening, because once that happens, the freedom of action that the Army medical community has enjoyed in bullying the wounded soldiers applying for disability will be gone. Once the public is cognizant of exactly what has been done to the veterans the government so profusely praises for their sacrifice, their hypocrisy will be laid bare. If you know anyone - journalist or not - that will take this story and tell it to the public, please let me know. The above injustices are only the tip of the iceberg, even in my case, and I have documentation of many more transgressions.

A disabled vet has fought far too much already to have to continue to fight with their own government like this when they get home. In this case, it is the soldier who is looking to citizen for help with this fight.

The failure of the Bush administration to respond to the continued pleas from our servicemen and women is to my mind a criminal act. 175 days left.

Something I Wish I'd Said

"There is a pleasure sure, in being mad, which none but madmen know."- John Dryden

The Dark Knight review is coming soon, just had a lot on my plate last week.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Cheap Ideas

An art project from New York:

Jake Bronstein recently bought a toy vending machine off the Internet. He filled the toy capsules with ideas of fun things to do and started placing the machine in various spots around New York. For 50 cents you get the original toy, an idea, and a map to guide you to the location for your idea. Each capsule also contains a quarter, refunding half of your purchase price (the machine wouldn’t let him charge less than 50 cents.)

George Lucas Frozen In Carbonite

Admit it: you've wanted to see this ever since you first saw Jar Jar Binks in Episode I; and he deserves it, the pretentious prick.

[Update: Apparently someone has made a frozen Jar Jar exhibit as well; I still think Lucas is a self-indulgent asshole though.]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Future History Artifacts

Marty McFly's hoverboard from Back To The Future II and yeah, it's up for sale on eBay for a whopping starting price of $30,000:

It is in used but outstanding condition, and is very rare in that it is entirely complete and intact. Given the wood build and use of metal components, it looks and feels like a "real" prop. This piece has the complete fully functional and rear ballbearing-mounted footpad that rotates 360 degrees, as well as the bottom "magnet plates". Of the two styles of stickers used for the effects, this prop has the "photoboard"-style sticker affixed. In addition, there is other textured styling and hand painting. This Hoverboard also features the hole in the top, representing where the handlebars were that "Marty" pulled off after borrowing the "toy" from the little girl in the film.

Shaking It Off

Video of a dude in North Carolina literally just shaking off having a car crash into him during his lunch break; the part where he nonchalantly puts his hat on after the crash is the best:

Obama Love

John McCain is unhappy that he's not getting the same media coverage that Barack Obama seems to be enjoying these days; I include this cheesy video with this post not because I dig it but because I find it particularly hilarious that corporate newsmen can rail against other corporate newsmen about bias in the media or a lack of media coverage and still be taken seriously by their colleagues and the public:
The news media in this country are in this for one reason only: ratings (=money). McCain has had his ass kissed by the media for years as the "Maverick" candidate and now he's whining because they've found someone else with a better story and the free ride's over. How "in the bag" is the news media for Obama? Check this out:

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has officially crowned Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-IL) relationship with his former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, “the dominant media story of the entire” presidential campaign, “by far.” Wright’s comments “received four times more coverage than any other theme or event throughout the campaign.” Reports of the superdelegate role and Obama’s so-called “bitter” comments were the second and third most covered stories, respectively. However, “[n]o other story line came close to attracting as much coverage as the Wright-Obama association, and most of it was negative.”
Not only was the Reverend Wright coverage the dominant media story in this election, it was one of two narratives in the top three that were also negative for Obama. In all the hustle and bustle of this election, people seem to have forgotten that real life isn't always fair; sometimes, one candidate is just more compelling and, yeah I'll say it, better than the other. Now, will Barack Obama be a great president? I can't say this for sure; but if you ask me if John McCain will be just more of the same Big Business, religious pandering that we've seen for the last 7 1/2 years from the Bush administration, I'd have to guess yes. And that, my friends, I can not abide.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama's Prayer

Here's a copy of the prayer Barack Obama left between the stones of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem today. When an Israeli newspaper printed it Shmuel Rabinovitz, the rabbi in charge of the wall, was a bit upset:

"The notes placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make any use of them," he told Army Radio. The publication "damages the Western Wall and damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves," he said.
I agree; how's God going to be able to read it if you don't leave it between the stones? It's not like he has super powers or anything.

Time At Your Fingertips

It may be a bit redundant with my implanted cell phone and my bionic contact lenses but I still want this tiny future tech:

The runner-up at the global watch design competition "Timex2154: The future of time" held by Timex and Core77, is a stunner that promises to fundamentally change the way watches are worn and used. TX54 is a concept for a translucent watch that can be worn on your . . . thumbnail. Add to that a lovely indiglo display with color options for the displayed text, and the translucent feature that allows the watch to blend completely into your nail unless it is "activated". A deadly combination of fashion and functionality, if you please.

Bloodsuckers

I always knew that there was some kind of correlation.

Something I Wish I'd Said

"Well, Nation, you've all heard the news. Jesus has returned to earth on a spaceship, cured cancer, and won the British Open. Did no one hear about that? Oh, maybe it's because Barack Obama decided to go backpacking overseas with a couple of his friends. You probably know his friends by their professional name: The entire media. Yes, they've all taken the next 10 days to find themselves on Barack Obama's Elitist Summer Abroad." -Stephen Colbert

Yeah, the media have been focusing on Obama this last week but consider this: who would you rather read about? This race, as with all other recent presidential runs, has become about who makes better press coverage: the old, white man who fought in a war and can't check his email or the young, educated black man with the weird name who talks about a better America? All of Obama's weaknesses seem to have become his strengths, and McCain and his campaign staff are mad about this yet apparently, have no coordinated efforts to combat it. Someone please tell this guy that this is a change election, and he certainly ain't change.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Osama Or Obama

Jon Stewart explains the differences between the two diametrically opposed men that the media just can't grasp; and yes, the Bush administration does seem to be spending a lot of energy trying to take down one of them:

Nature Vs. Nurture: The Lion King

This story and video are from the early seventies (as evidenced by the rocking haircuts you see on the guys) but I'd never heard anything about it until now, so here it is; amazing doesn't quite cover it:

Robert Novak, Lying Douchebag

Conservative columnist Robert Novak struck a 66 year old pedestrian in a crosswalk with his Corvette on a Washington, DC street yesterday and apparently never even noticed, despite an eyewitness testifying to the police that he saw the senior citizen rolling across Novak's windshield before he took a turn onto a side street:
video
Interestingly, we have this blurb from a 2001 Washington Post interview with Novak:

I really hate jaywalkers. I despise them. Since I don't run the country, all I can do is yell at 'em. The other option is to run 'em over, but as a compassionate conservative, I would never do that.
Since the fellow he hit was legally in a crosswalk, we're now left with but two options: 1) Novak hit this guy and knowingly fled the scene, yet was only charged with a $50 failure to yield citation and not a charged with leaving the scene of an accident nor given a field sobriety test, or 2) the 77 year old Novak hit another senior citizen with his car, rolling him across his windshield, and again never even noticed. Which leads me to two possible conclusions: 1) Novak is a lying douchebag or 2) Novak is too old to be allowed to drive the streets of Washington, DC.

Now while I'm very open to the possibility of Novak being a lying douchebag (in fact I'm fairly certain of it; see: Novak outs an undercover CIA agent), I've always been a staunch advocate of increased regularity of driving and eye tests for senior citizen drivers. My plan is that starting at age 70, seniors should be required to come into the Dept. of Motor Vehicles every two years for an eye test and a short, fundamental driving test. This should be repeated every two years until they turn 85, when it should switch to every year.

Now I know some people will say, "Hey James, you're unfairly prosecuting all seniors for the actions of a few"; but when your reaction time has been considerably shortened, you senses are dulled and your mental faculties are breaking down, I believe society should step in and manage the problem effectively. And let's face it: what the hell else do these people have to do with their time? At least at the DMV they'll have somebody to talk to.

South Park, of course, is way ahead of the curve on this issue:

Norm Macdonald Is Ridiculous

I got a lot of positive feedback from the last Norm Macdonald post on this site so I've brought him back for a return engagement. As I said before, this man has absolutely no respect for boundaries of decorum and I love him for it; watch as Jon Stewart visibly squirms and begs Norm to quit making jokes (and subsequently making him laugh) about the death of crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, who had been killed by a stingray just over a week before the interview:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rednecks Go Geraldo

I'm kind of surprised this doesn't happen more often:

Something I Wish I'd Said

"The media will try to preserve the illusion of a toss-up; you'll keep seeing "Obama Leads, But Voters Have Concerns" headlines. But when Democrats are winning blood-red congressional districts in Mississippi and Louisiana, when the Republican President is down to 28% approval ratings, when the economy is tanking and world affairs keep breaking Obama's way, it shouldn't be heresy to recognize that McCain needs an improbable series of breaks. Analysts get paid to analyze and cable news has airtime to fill, so pundits have an incentive to make politics seem complicated. In the end, though, it's usually pretty simple. Everyone seems to agree that 2008 is a change election. Which of these guys looks like change?" -Michael Grunwald, Time magazine

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Velodrome Violence

This pile up during a Keirin at the Alpenrose Velodrome Challenge in southwest Portland Saturday reminds me why I drive a car; this happens at about 40 miles an hour yet no one was seriously injured. Still pretty painful I'd wager:
video

(hat tip: BD)

Star Wars Ren

This is Yoda Borguereau, one of the entries from an online photoshop contest:

I went to an art gallery the other day. The artworks were all right, I guess, but you know what they were missing? Wookiees. There wasn't one Wookiee in sight. Also no Jedis, no Storm Troopers ... in fact none of the artworks had any Star Wars elements at all!

In this contest we're going to rectify the art world's mistake by placing Star Wars character, items, vehicles and scenes into classic art works. Paintings, tapestries and sculptures are all allowed.
Even if you're not a fan of classic works of art or Star Wars, some of these are really beautiful on both an aesthetic and technical level. When geekdom and art collide...

Internet Killed The Radio Star

My struggle to keep from buying an iPhone gets harder every day:

I remember when the promise of Internet radio was totally hot back in 2000. But as long as it was tied to the PC and Internet radios, it was doomed to a second tier existence.

With the new 3g iPhone all that is changing; and fast. Services like Pandora are emerging as the killer apps of the iPhone. It’s a free, mobile, digital radio station that only plays music you like and lets you skip the stuff you don’t. It's currently the fourth most popular free app on iTunes (behind Apple’s Remote, AIM, and WeatherBug), and has reportedly been seeing a new listener every 2 seconds.

No Values Voters

Some candidates just care way too much; the picture of Obama is hilarious:

Vote Or Die (Or Don't Vote), But Vote

If you read this blog on any kind of regular basis, please take the time to vote on what you'd like to see more of in the right side bar; that's hot, and you know it is.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Octapult

Like something straight out of Da Vinci's workshop:

Something Stupid Someone Else Said

"I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot." -Michael Savage

Ambrosia From The Heartland

Somehow deep-frying and adding a stick makes every food better:

This year’s Indiana State Fair will offer deep-fried bananas foster cheesecake — on a stick, of course. The 2008 signature food, made by Urick Concessions of Carmel, features bites of velvety cheesecake filling, combined with a creamy layer of bananas foster wrapped in a cookie crumb breading and deep fried. Oh, there’s a dollop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with sweet caramel sauce too.
That twinge you just felt was your cholesterol level going up as you read that. First Larry Bird and now this; go Hoosiers!

Operation: Kick-Ass Meth-Eagle Stomp

Ever wonder how we get those cool names given to anti-drug initiatives and other sweet, well-financed government operations? Well, wonder no longer:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Something I Wish I'd Said

"Bush has agreed in all but name with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on a timetable for US troop withdrawal from that country. As usual Bush's staff made up an implausible euphemism for the timetable, calling it a "time horizon" for "aspirational goals?" Language like that is a sure sign that Bush is too embarrassed to call it like it is." -Juan Cole

I saw quotes from three different Bush administration officials who all used the word "horizon" in some context within the first article I read about this yesterday; apparently, they really want this one to stick.

The Most Beautiful Suicide

The caption from Life magazine, 1947:

On May Day, just after leaving her fiancé, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note. 'He is much better off without me ... I wouldn't make a good wife for anybody,' ... Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped. In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Across the street photography student Robert Wiles heard an explosive crash. Just four minutes after Evelyn McHale's death Wiles got this picture of death's violence and its composure.

Presidential Speechifying

I was asked a while back in the comments of a previous post about my supposed infatuation with Barack Obama. I'll be honest and admit that his speeches are one of the substantial things I like about the guy; it's not the soaring rhetoric about hope or change that moves me (although I do understand it's appeal) but rather that I don't feel like I'm being talked down to when I hear him speak. The man stands in front of teachers unions and talks about merit based raises or black churches and talks about the responsibilities of parenthood; he speaks hard truths to the very electorate he's trying to woo and he does it with intelligence and aplomb.

Does he pander at times? Of course, he's a politician. Sadly, you don't get elected in this country without it and it's become more prevalent over the years but as Sam Anderson writes in New York Magazine, Obama's highly educated speaking style is breaking away from this trend:

In a new book, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, Elvin T. Lim subjects all the words ever publicly intoned by American presidents to a thorough statistical analysis—and he finds, unsurprisingly, an alarmingly steady decline. A century ago, Lim writes, presidential speeches were pitched at a college reading level; today, they’re down to eighth grade...Since 1913, the length of the average presidential sentence has fallen from 35 words to 22. Between Nixon and the second Bush, the average presidential sound bite shrank from 42 seconds to 7. Today’s State of the Unions inspire roughly 30 seconds of applause for every 60 seconds of speech. Although it’s tempting to blame the sorry state of things on the current malapropist-in-chief, Bush is only the latest flower (though, obviously, a particularly striking one) on a very deep weed. Our most brilliant presidents, Lim says, often work hard to seem publicly dumb in order to avoid the stain of elitism—amazingly, Bill Clinton’s total rhetorical output checks in at a lower reading level than Bush’s. Clinton’s former speechwriters told Lim that their image-conscious boss always demanded that his speeches be “more talky”; today, he’s widely remembered as a brilliant speaker who never gave a memorable speech.

Obama seems to have taken the opposite tack: He’s a Clinton-style natural who flaunts the artifice of his speeches and refuses to strategically hide his intelligence. Compared with his rivals, Obama’s skill-set seems almost otherworldly. His phrases line up regularly in striking and meaningful patterns; his cliché ratio is, for a politician, admirably low; his stresses and pauses seem dictated less by the usual metronome of generic political speech than by the actual structures of meaning behind his words. He tolerates complexity to such an extent that he’s sometimes criticized as “professorial,” which allows him to get away with inspirational catchphrases that would sound like platitudes coming from anyone else. His naïve-sounding calls for change are persuasive largely because he’s already managed to improve one of our most intractable political problems: the decades-old, increasingly virulent plague of terrible speechifying.

As the last seven years have proven, pretending to be a regular guy that America would like to have a beer with is hardly a qualification to be the president; it requires exceptional intelligence, executive prowess, thoughtful analysis and honest communication. One of the reasons I support Barack Obama is that I can see him actually taking the time to think about the questions he's asked before he answers them, a true rarity in this day and age. I get the sense that he wants to become president not for the power or the fame or to increase the fortunes of his political cronies but to make America a better place for everyone here and to renew our reputation on the world stage. In this, he and I share the same goals.

[Update: One of Andrew Sullivan's readers makes what I think is a very smart observation:
...I think part of the reason Bill resents Obama is because he's doing a lot of things the way Bill wanted to do them, but was talked out of by his advisors.

Obama's speechifying is everything Clinton's could have been - unrestrained, rhetorically brilliant, unapologetic - except that Bill chose to go the "dumb-down" route and so eschewed all the intellectual acclaim that the former Rhodes Scholar could have claimed. He chose to accept the conventional wisdom that the average American was too dumb to follow a collegiate level speech. Seeing Obama pull it off must be infuriating - it's like watching someone win a race you know you could have won too, except everyone told you not to enter.]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Something I Wish I'd Said

"President Bush signed a bill giving phone companies immunity for letting the government spy on its customers without a warrant. Isn't that unbelievable? President Bush said 9/11 changed everything. And you know, he's right, because violating the Constitution and breaking the law used to mean jail time. Apparently no more." –Jay Leno, still not funny but at least he's speaking the truth

Nozzle Rage

The message is similar to this previous post, and I'd say that the metaphor in this film is just about right:

(hat tip: Doug E)

I Need More Cowbell

If you don't know why this graph is funny, you should.

Blue Marble Receding

A while back NASA's EPOXI spacecraft was launched into orbit around our sun with the intent of studying what other Earth-like planets and Moon-like moons looked like from great distances. Last December, it passed by the Earth for a gravity assist before heading back out but on the way it looked back in late May and shot these amazing time lapsed photos of our home world and it's largest satellite from 31 million miles away; images like this humble me as a human being:

Friday, July 18, 2008

It's The Stupid Economy

As I recently stated in the comment section of a previous post on the economy, I myself am no economist; that's why, like other intelligent people, I listen to economists when I want to learn about it. George W. Bush isn't an economist either but that doesn't stop him from directly contradicting a man who has spent his entire life studying economics and whom Bush hired to run the economy! Of course at this point, displaying complete disdain and contempt for so-called "experts", with their "facts", is just par for the course with this idiot and his administration. Jon Stewart crunches the numbers:

People Getting Punched Just Before Eating

Yep, it's exactly what it sounds like, and it's hilarious:
Jovi was obvious but did you catch the Foo Fighters' cameo?

Designing For Batman

A contest to redesign everyday objects for use by the Dark Knight:

Batman proved to the world that every object can be improved by making it black and bat-shaped. We wondered what everyday household objects would look like if Batman was put in charge of the design.
They've posted the 20 best entries from the contest; I loved the toilet paper but the pearls are for the true Batman fans.

New PETA Teen Sex Ad

Please spay or neuter your teen:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Batman Tones It Down

Yeah, he's a little high strung; give the guy a break, he watched his parents get killed:

Radiohead - House Of Cards

No cameras or lights were used to film the new Radiohead video. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geomtric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes; we've come a long way from Video Killed The Radio Star:

Russian Tradition

A tradition of the Soviet/Russian space program has been for the cosmonauts to piss on the wheel of the bus that takes them to the launch site; apparently they've been doing this for over 40 years now. What the women did to fulfill this tradition is mostly suspect and frankly, I don't want to know.

Mesmerizing Starlings

A flock of thousands of the small black birds moves as a single entity; incredibly beautiful and fascinating to watch:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Time For Some Campaignin'

Say what you want about these political parody songs (I eventually start to find them a bit annoying as the election season goes on) but the folks over at JibJib really do have everyone's number this year; and yes, that's me guest starring at the end as the voter taking it in the rear. Please send your fan mail to the usual locations:

Jedi Gym

Sure, it all seems like fun and games until someone takes it way too seriously; pour a little of your 40 out for Fat Lando:

McCain's National Review Cover

Fictional of course but I don't see a conservative publication ever actually trying to do irony at the level of the liberal New Yorker with the Republican candidate; the right wing noise machine just seems too organized and disciplined for that. I like the replacement of the American flag with the Constitution though.

Texting On The Go

Video of a guy in India texting while reclining on his motorcycle. On the freeway. Thank you, come again:
I love the phenomenon of another culture that's language, and subsequent accent, is extremely different from ours while at the same time totally co-opting our slang terms; to me it kind of exemplifies the embrace of the culturally new by the traditional old. Namasté, homies.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

At Least He Drives A Prius

This hilarious pseudo-ad campaign dreamed up by someone obviously tired of the self-righteousness of hybrid owners is taking the Internets by storm, placing the usually high-minded and selfless owner in an ethically questionable situation. Each driver is in the midst of perpetrating some kind of morally ambiguous act like hiring a prostitute or dumping a dead body in one of our nation's precious waterways. I want to save the environment but my neighbor just wouldn't shut his fucking mouth; does that make me a monster?

Aurora Australis

The Northern Lights usually get all of the positive press but this footage from the dirty, dirty South is extraordinarily beautiful. We here at Brain Rage eagerly await our first hit from Antarctica, completing the much sought after "continental septfecta"; for now, enjoy the collision of solar particles and Earth's atmosphere:

Russian Cheerleaders

Do the Russians have cheerleaders? As someone who loves cheerleaders and Eastern European women, I'm happy to report that yes, they certainly do. конфета = Russian for: sweet.

The Minnesota Senate Race

For those of you who don't follow politics as closely or rabidly as myself, you might not be aware of this particular electoral battle. Comedian, author and former Saturday Night Live alum Al Franken is trying to win the Senate seat currently held by Republican Norm Coleman; Coleman won the seat when the former Senator Paul Wellstone (who was a close family friend of Franken) died in a plane crash shortly before the '02 election.

Now a new political ad by a pro-business group is misrepresenting itself as fighting for worker's rights by playing on old mafia stereotypes surrounding unions; I actually remember seeing very similar ads here in California a few years ago using the same actor from The Sopranos. A local newscast in Minnesota does a good job of debunking this latest attempt to twist the truth about union organizers' rights:
When watching political ads like this, from either side of the aisle, I've found that a good rule of thumb is to wait for the end of the ad and then read the small print indicating who actually paid the bills. Taking a few minutes to Google these groups usually gives you a much better idea of what they're trying to accomplish than the actual ads themselves; politics as usual, I suppose.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Obama's New Yorker Cover

I won't call it tasteless because I get what they're trying to do here, and it's not unfunny when viewed in the context of what the right wing has been saying about the man for the last year. I do however consider it irresponsible; Andrew Sullivan disagrees:

I thought it was quite funny myself. This was obviously intended ironically, and it's not exactly Parade magazine.
He's right in a way; I agree that the intent of the New Yorker staff was indeed to be ironic and yes, the regular readers of the magazine are for the most part well educated and politically informed. But the editorial staff must have known that running this cover in the age of the 24 hour news cycle would garner a great deal of press (perhaps this was their motive all along) that will be seen by much more of the voting public than just their core of regular readers, and this is what I consider irresponsible.

The lies spewed by the right wing hate machine during this election cycle have been so over the top in their vitriol: he's a secret Muslim, she's a radical who hates America, he's not a patriot, the fist bump was a terrorist code sign (for Christ's sake!), that even a blatantly ironic parody of these lies is indistinguishable from the original Republican talking points. I mean, does any logical, thinking American really believe that Barack Obama hates his country and doesn't wear a flag pin to specifically call attention to that stance? Of course not, but does your average American who can't tell you how many Senators we have or find Iraq on a map, yet still votes for president, believe these things?

Polls tell us that unfortunately a significant percentage do, and they're the idiots who might well determine this election: undecideds who apparently need more information on the candidates but won't take the time or effort to do some elementary Internet research and find it for themselves. The New Yorker commits a serious lapse in judgement when they overestimate the intelligence of this voting block and I find this advocation of responsibility disturbing.

On a parting note, later in the day Sullivan posts a reaction (similar to my own) from one of his readers:
Here's what's going to happen. Fox News is going to have a whole day where they talk about nothing but this and repeatedly show the image just like they did with Wright. Then Limbaugh will be saying "Well look, these liberals can make drawing like this and we call it harmless satire, so why did they give me so much grief when I played the song Obama the Magic Negro on my show. It's liberal hypocrisy I tell you!".
We've seen this scenario acted out in smear campaigns time and time again; the reason the right keeps doing it is because it works. And the staff at The New Yorker should realize this.

[Update: This poll at the right wing website WorldNetDaily is just a taste of the idiocy that's out there right now.]

Something Scary Someone Else Said

“They go on for me,” he said. “I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need.” -John McCain, on using the Internet, something which was created several decades ago and is now an integral part of every technological society on the planet.

This man wants to be the leader of the free world, and he's incapable of checking his own email. On a more practical note, this via Ben Smith at Politico.com:

"Where does he get his porn?" conservative talk show host Michael Smerconish asked me in an interview just now. "That’s what I want to know."

Bar Codes As Art

A new branch of pop art; I think Andy Warhol would have approved. Most of them are drawings or light installations but this building from the former Soviet Republic is my favorite.

Birth Control vs. Viagra

Insurance covers the latter but not the former; what's your opinion? Apparently, John McCain has none. Me, I'm in favor of both; of course I'm not pregnant nor do I have erection problems but I'm just trying to consider the greater good:
That was an 8 second pause after the second time she asked the question if you're scoring at home. Now chalk this up to him being very old or just not giving a damn about young women but either way, does this spouse of a nine figure heiress seem like he's connecting with you, the everyday voter? How long would you take to answer this question?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Human Mirror

An improv group has fun on the New York City subway with fifteen sets of twins; the same group is responsible for the Grand Central freeze here. People doing things like this make the world so much more fun to live in:

(hat tip: Jeremy)

Something Stupid Someone Else Said

"Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter." -George W. Bush, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ending a private meeting with other world leaders at the G8 Summit on climate change in Hokkaido, Japan. He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock. 190 days left.

Portman Drops Bombs

Dude, Natalie Portman totally owns you:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Drunk Soccer Ref

In Russia, of course:

Googling The Tour

Google Maps has set up a feature that allows you to view the entire route of the Tour de France from a rider's eye viewpoint. With 360 degree rotating street views you can even click on the route to follow it through the streets; this one's for you, BD my friend:

Ireland: Ahead Of The Curve Since 2004

This interview of President Bush is from 2004 but it's very telling even today; it's refreshing to see a journalist who isn't worried about a return interview or maintaining access when asking the President of the United States hard and pointed questions. That's one reason the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner has always made me so uncomfortable; aside from Stephen Colbert's masterful performance a few years back, it's always seemed like a big love-fest between the press corps and the very people they've been tasked with policing.

Notice how he has to continually interrupt her to be able to throw out the prewritten talking points he's usually able to spout off without any challenge from the cowtowing American media. Erin Go Bragh:

Friday, July 11, 2008

Something I Wish I'd Said

"Although Obama is likely to be more vocal about issues of racial discrimination as president than he has been as a candidate, his speeches about the importance of strong families and the responsibilities of parenthood carry a decided echo of the gospel according to a certain Mr. Cosby. In this sense, instead of sparking a revolution in black political strategies and agendas, an Obama presidency might simply lend further weight to increasingly frequent suggestions that the old knee-jerk response of treating most difficulties facing black Americans as a product of white racism has long since grown stale and counterproductive." -James C. Cobb, Spalding Distinguished Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens

The old Boomer narratives of black victimology and self-pity espoused by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are becoming increasingly irrelevant in today's political climate. Check out The Cos speaking about taking personal responsibility in the black community here.

3 Uninterrupted Minutes Of Goodfellas

A favorite blog has been posting some of cinema's best continuous tracking shots and I had to do the same with this one from Scorsese's Goodfellas; absolutely beautiful:

Black Communists

When smearing a prominent black politician with racial slurs and stereotypes isn't enough, thank the gods that there's always the evil specter of communism to fall back on; Andrew Sullivan puts together some telling quotes from the right, including one from this recently deceased douchebag. Was there ever a time when American politics wasn't this dirty and malicious?

Perceptive Pixel

A revolution in the field of human/pc interfacing:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Abraham Obama

This mural by guerrilla artist Ron English features composite portraits of Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln, their faces melded in a rainbow of color. The mural was legally commissioned by a local Boston art gallery but the enthusiasm of many younger fans illegally posting flyers all over the surrounding neighborhood set off a flurry of complaints from other galleries and business owners. Of course, this isn't the first comparison made between the two Illinois senators; this winning political ad from MoveOn.org focuses on the similarities of the two men. You may also remember this post about Ron English and his usually subversive street art; perhaps it's my distaste for authority but there's something a bit unsettling about seeing him creating legal art. I suppose the guy does have to put food on the table though.

Norm Macdonald, Chairman Of The Board

This clip of Norm Macdonald and Courtney Thorne-Smith with Conan O'Brien is a decade old but I just saw it for the first time and nearly pissed myself watching it. It seems that Courtney was quitting Melrose Place to film one of the worst movies ever made with prop comedian Carrot Top and Norm just unloads on the entire idea as if she wasn't there to promote it on that television show and sitting within earshot of his jokes. That's why I love this guy: he's completely unfiltered and never even bothers to look at where the lines are drawn, much less whether he's crossed one; the really funny stuff starts at about 1:45 in:

Nothing To Wine About

The end of a very long era:

While New World wines have adopted the screw top for years - with up to 90 per cent of New Zealand wines and 60 per cent of Australian bottles using them – giving up the time-honoured cork has met with much stiffer resistance in France beyond the cheaper end of the market.

But according to one wine expert, two of the world's top names - Domaine de la Romanée-Conti in Burgundy, whose bottles can sell for tens of thousands of pounds, and Bordeaux's legendary Chateau Margaux – are now looking into screw tops.

I don't even like synthetic corks so of course I consider screw caps to be an abomination but hey, that's progress. And admittedly, they do prevent oxidation much better and more consistently than either type of cork. I just like the ceremony of opening the bottle the old fashioned way; there's always an aura of anticipation for what you're going to get from that particular bottle that twisting off a screw cap just can't inspire. C'est le vin.

Introducing Obama

Barack Obama's first big ad buy of the general election, costing 15 million dollars and running in 18 states of which only 4 were won by the Democratic candidate in 2004:
This is all part of his larger 50 state strategy: to use his massive fundraising base to outspend John McCain in many of the closer "red" states normally ceded to the Republicans, taking the fight right to him and making him spread his resources thin across the country. Now I'm actually not a fan of the "winner take all" electoral college system we use to select our presidents but it's the system we have in place and just like the delegate system used in the primaries, Obama and his people have studied it well and are making the most of their strengths. The horse race has officially begun...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Betting Process

"Short version: McCain is a high-stakes craps player who loves the pure, adrenalin-pumping, rush of the game. Obama is an exceedingly low-stakes poker player who sizes up his odds methodically and rarely loses money." -political writer Noam Scheiber, summarizing Michael Scherer's and Michael Weisskopf's article in Time magazine on the candidates' respective gambling habits

Middle East 2.0

As the dollar wilts and many Americans struggle just to make their inflated mortgage payments, the folks in Dubai are paving their streets with gold and platinum-plating every new building in the country; OK, they're probably not doing that but they obviously aren't hurting for cash as they announce the latest of many grandiose construction projects for the upstart Arabian emirate:

Costing a whopping $281 million, the new fountains will shoot water 450 feet into the air and pump 22,000 gallons of water through it at any given time. 6,600 lights and 50 projectors will shoot video and images onto the spray as its in the air, making it a remarkable sight, especially seeing that it'll be installed in the middle of the desert. It should be complete sometime next year, if you're a fountain enthusiast and want to go check it out.
Some of you might remember the innovative dynamic architecture project from a few weeks back. I haven't ever had plans to visit Dubai City but if they follow through on all of their proposed architectural plans I just may have to drop in someday on the fastest growing city in the world. How cool would that be?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Obama: Smart On Crime

Video of Barack Obama, last September in New Hampshire, talking through a head cold with a compelling, common-sense, narrative on how the country's judicial system must be changed so as to stop over-clogging the system with nonviolent drug offenders:

The South Shall Snack Again

Fatness by state. Ya'll up for some fried Twinkies?

Dead Sea Stone

News from the land of the bible:

A three-foot-tall tablet with 87 lines of Hebrew found near the Dead Sea in Jordan that scholars believe dates from the decades just before the birth of Jesus is raising eyebrows in biblical and archaeological circles, especially because it is believed to speak of a messiah who will rise from the dead after three days, suggesting that the story of his death and resurrection was not unique but part of a recognized Jewish tradition at the time.

The tablet, which is similar in style to the Dead Sea Scrolls, is written, not engraved, across two neat columns, similar to columns in a Torah. But the stone is broken, and some of the text is faded, meaning that much of what it says is open to debate.
From what I've read there were a lot of so-called messiahs running around the Middle East 2000 years ago, so it's no surprise that the mythology surrounding Jesus incorporated a recognized tradition from Jewish folklore. From what I can tell though this isn't exactly earth shattering news; we know no more now about the actual Jesus than we did before this discovery and I don't expect that to change any time soon.

Conspiracy Theory Rock

Apparently this School House Rock parody was only shown once in it's original Saturday Night Live broadcast and then cut from the summer rerun. Lorne Michaels told the New York Daily News he "didn't think it worked comedically" but in an interview SNL alum Harry Shearer said "The truth is that Lorne wanted to continue working at 30 Rock." GE certainly takes a pounding here:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Goodbye Jesse Helms

Regular readers might notice the lack of my usual RIP; from Dispatches From The Culture Wars:

Jesse Helms died on the 4th of July and the nation celebrated with fireworks, BBQs and a day off for everyone. I can't think of a single nice to thing to say about him so I'll say accurate things instead. It is a matter of some dispute whether Helms' most obvious and prominent attribute was his ignorance or his bigotry. He was a malevolent voice for obscurantism and anti-modernism in every conceivable way. This was a man who, as late as 1995, was declaring that the Washington Post and the New York Times were "infested with homosexuals" and called gays "morally sick wretches." This is also the man who called the University of North Carolina the "university of negroes and communists" and who said, in response to vigils on college campuses by students in the wake of Martin Luther King's death, "They should ask their parents if it would be all right for their son or daughter to marry a Negro." No, I won't miss him, nor will the world. Rot in peace.
I've never had any problem speaking ill of the dead when they deserve it and I still don't, so fuck you, Jesse Helms; we're all better off as a race without this hateful bastard. Amen.