Friday, July 31, 2009

Something Someone Else Said II

"Thank God that we have a President who can rise above the fray, bridge age-old differences and transform events such as this into a moment in the evolution of our society’s attitudes about race and difference. President Obama is a man who understands tolerance and forgiveness, and our country is blessed to have such a leader.

The national conversation over the past week about my arrest has been rowdy, not to say tumultuous and unruly. But we’ve learned that we can have our differences without demonizing one another. There’s reason to hope that many people have emerged with greater sympathy for the daily perils of policing, on the one hand, and for the genuine fears about racial profiling, on the other hand." -Henry Louis Gates, Jr., at a beer-fueled White House conference with the police officer who arrested him for disorderly conduct outside his own home and the president and vice president of the United States of America.


Something Someone Else Said

"More fundamentally, so what if he was born somewhere else? If he was, he was teleported to Hawaii in nanoseconds. There is no more an American story than Barack Obama. The rationale for Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution, which bars foreigners from becoming president, was to eliminate the possibility of America’s leader from holding dual or treacherous alliances with other countries. The Founding Fathers wrote this clause into the Constitution in 1789 because of scandal in Europe involving Austrians moving to other countries. So what would be the legitimate concern about Obama? There isn’t one. All the birthers really care about is clinging to a conspiracy that could deny the presidency to someone they simply don’t like and disagree with politically. Me? I wouldn’t give a damn if Obama was born in a cave in Afghanistan." -Mark McKinnon, The Daily Beast


[Update: The Daily Show had a Moment of Zen I just had to post:

And he knows the island, baby.]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Shatner Reads Palin's Tweets

Comedic genius that he is, Conan O'Brien has hit upon a magical formula:

You can watch Shatner performing her farewell speech here. And I've revised my usual mantra: Palin-Shatner (as interpreter) in 2012!


Graph Of The Day

If you don't get this one, you and I are obviously from two different generations.


GOP Sees Death In Health Care

Rachel Maddow breaks down how the meme about senior citizens being rounded up and put to death by President Obama's health care reform bill makes its way from fringe crazies on far right blogs and magazines to being repeated on FOX News and conservative talk radio to its actual injection into the public discourse:

While killing all of the old people in our society might be something I've contemplated from time to time when I've been stuck behind one of them in traffic, the very idea that it's a substantive arm of Obama's plan would be laughable if he weren't getting actual questions about it at town hall meetings. And Bernie Sanders is absolutely correct: The Democrats need to do a much better job of explaining a fairly complicated social program because the lack of that explanation has allowed the Republicans to push this kind of ludicrous bullshit much farther into the public psyche than should have ever been allowed to happen.

I'm with Sanders on his endorsement of a single-payer system but lacking that I'd at least like a public option, although I'm unsure how much it will reduce the general bureaucracy involved in private health insurers as Sanders claims. And I'm fairly pessimistic about the millions of Americans Sanders says need to stand up and demand real change from their government on this issue actually doing so. I'm afraid that in the end we'll wind up with watered-down health care legislation that the insurance companies will be able to exploit just as much as they have the current system. And it'll happen because we've had to put our prospects for health care reform in the hands of selfish, self-serving politicians (on both sides of the aisle) who are more concerned with winning their next election than they are with the welfare of the American people. And I become just a bit more cynical, and I open my second bottle of Chardonnay...


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kanye West: "I Am The New King Of Pop"

Apparently Michael Jackson is now finally dead enough:

"You know everyone loves and respects Michael but times change. It's so sad to see Michael gone but it makes a path for a new King of Pop and I'm willing to take that on," so he told Scrape TV.

On what makes him deserve the title, Kanye said, "There's nobody who can match me in sales and in respect so it only makes sense for me to take over Michael's crown and become the new King." The rapper then added, "First there was Elvis [Presley], then there was Michael, now in the 21st century it's Kanye's time to rule. I have nothing but respect for Michael but someone needs to pick up where he left off and there's nobody better than me to do that. I am the new King of Pop."

Furthermore, Kanye reportedly has reached out to the Jackson family to obtain official permission to use the title but so far received no response from them. It is believed that the family is still mourning over Michael's death.
Huh, you'd think that Jackson's family could get over the grief of losing a beloved family member long enough to anoint someone else as his self-proclaimed successor but I guess they're just going to continue to be jerks about it. And correct me if I'm wrong but I don't remember Michael Jackson ever declaring that he was the King of Pop. It was only after expending a lot of talent and hard work that he was finally dubbed as such by his fans and critics alike. I admittedly don't follow West's career that closely but speaking as a big Michael Jackson fan I have to say that South Park really had this guy's number a few months back:

[Update: It seems that this was a fake story (told you I didn't follow him that closely) although a quick perusal of the Internets has made it clear that I wasn't the only one fooled by the prospects of West's jackassery. My apologies for the mistake, just the same.]

Bill O'Reilly: Number Cruncher Extraordinaire

Maybe I slept through too many statistics courses when I was younger but I'm having a hard time making sense of this claim:

Umm...what? How does having a larger population affect life-expectancy? Having ten times the population obviously means having ten times the accidents and crimes (and everything else); it's pretty much the definition of the term "per capita" but again, what does it have to do with life-expectancy? Canada's life-expectancy is 10th in the world while ours here in the States is 45th. They live on average a full two years longer than we do because what? They have less people? By that logic people in Vatican City should be living well into their 120's while the Chinese all die by 40. Or maybe Bill O'Reilly is merely a dishonest dolt who will say anything to discredit any health-care system besides his own despite statistical and empirical evidence to the contrary. The bar for getting your own television show in this country is set depressingly low.


[Update: Following up on my post about FOX News trashing the Netherlands the Dutch have similarly responded by using verifiable facts and figures to counter the slander put forth by people who most likely couldn't be bothered to visit that country before espousing their biased opinions as if they were true:

Sullivan has this to add:

The issue O'Reilly has with Holland is that, compared with the US in many respects, it values individual liberty.
Well said. If you have to trash someone else in order to make yourself look better, you probably don't look as good as you think you do. Unfortunately, this is what passes for introspection and honest self-assessment about our country amongst many on the political right these days.]

Cartoon Of The Day

I'll bet the sky there is a really pretty color.


Blue Thousand And One

I'll admit that I consider The Blue Man Group to be a bit passé at this point but this new advertisement for their show is very well done and really fun to watch. Is there anything that isn't improved by watching it in extreme slow-motion?:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Projections On Buildings

Once again the Dutch impress me:

NuFormer is a company in the Netherlands that creates amazing, 3D projection displays on buildings. Basically they manage to sync up the projected image with the building just so, and then they can make it look the building is collapsing, like water is flooding down the roof, like ghostly lights are dancing in the windows or twirling around the columns.
This is really cool. At times I forgot that this was all just projections:

Something Really Stupid Someone Else Said

"The world is literally her oyster," -Meg Stapleton, spokeswoman for Sarah Palin.

“You know one of the things I can’t stand; one of my like pet peeves is people who misuse the word literally. That drives me up a wall because when you misuse the word literally you are using it in the exact opposite way it was intended. When you fuck that up, you fuck it up so bad. Its not like a little goof. You should stop using the word forever until you fucking figure it out." -Comedian David Cross.

Birthers On The Hill

Mike Stark does some literal legwork to ask assorted GOP congressmen if they believe that President Obama was born in this country:

I can't decide if I liked the guy hiding out in the office supply store or the guy who lamely tried to run away more. And grudging respect to Rep. Tommy Franks (R-AZ) for actually having the sack to give a straight answer, even though he followed it up with a handful of tired talking points/political slurs. Jane Hamsher adds this:

Update: House just passed H.Res 593, which says "the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, was born in Hawaii." It passed 378-0, with 55 not voting. Michelle Bachman, who earlier tried to block the resolution, voted "aye."
It looks like the Republicans are starting to realize how crazy this birther bullshit is making them look to those outside their core wingnut constituency as they contemplate reelection. Also, Andrew Sullivan divulges this tidbit:
In 2001 - the state of Hawaii Health Department went paperless. Paper documents were discarded. The official record of Obama's birth is now an official ELECTRONIC record Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department told the Honolulu Star Bulletin, "At that time, all information for births from 1908 (on) was put into electronic files for consistent reporting," she said.
So now we know that for anyone who has half a brain this matter should be completely settled, right? Of course, having half a brain obviously over-qualifies you for membership within the birther movement so I'm not holding my breath.

(hat tip: Leslie Parsley)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Something Racist Someone Else Said

"Why are they just picking on the hot dogs? That's the starting point. After that, they'll go to bacon. And after that, they'll go to baloney. And whatever processed meats, after -- they'll try to put Boar's Head out of business. And after that, they're gonna come for potato chips. And after that, they're gonna go after wine. And after that, they're gonna go after Oreos -- might have to put that off until Obama's out of office, but they'll eventually go after Oreos." -Rush Limbaugh, on a report indicating that processed meats such as hot dogs increase rates of colo-rectal cancer.

This is the face of the modern Republican party. Disgusting and sad.


Brilliant Woman Fixes California

This is why there should be a requirement to at least be able to complete a Denny's place mat maze in order to vote in America. Have I mentioned how much I love California?:

Wow. It looks like Sarah Palin has some stiff competition.


Something Someone Else Said

"And getting up here I say it is the best road trip in America soaring through nature's finest show. Denali, the great one, soaring under the midnight sun. And then the extremes. In the winter time it's the frozen road that is competing with the view of ice fogged frigid beauty, the cold though, doesn't it split the Cheechakos from the Sourdoughs? And then in the summertime such extreme summertime about a hundred and fifty degrees hotter than just some months ago, than just some months from now, with fireweed blooming along the frost heaves and merciless rivers that are rushing and carving and reminding us that here, Mother Nature wins. It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future. That is what we get to see every day. Now what the rest of America gets to see along with us is in this last frontier there is hope and opportunity and there is country pride." -Sarah Palin, in her farewell address resigning as Alaska's governor.

She should just change her middle name to "Incoherent" and get it over with. I was just reading an article that questioned whether the media has been too hard on her since she debuted on the national stage. To answer that question: When you say things like "It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future." why would you possibly expect the media to take you seriously as a politician, or even as a supposedly educated adult? Palin in 2012!

[Update: Bill Shatner reads it as it was meant to be heard:

[Update II: I went to the NBC website to get their media player so the video of Shatner is back up. Annoying corporate bullshit.]

Things Overheard At Palin's Farewell Party

Yesterday was her last day as Alaska's governor (but she didn't quit, of course). David Letterman has the top ten list. Number three is my fave:


In Praise Of Brain Rage

Regular readers might have noticed a new commenter around here by the name of "Parsley's Pics" (and more recently just "Leslie"). Leslie Parsley of the site Parsley's Pics is a newcomer to the blogosphere from a less than digital generation (I've never been rude enough to ask her exact age but from her comments about the sixties and the addition of "aka Mom" to her signature in her emails I assume that she's roughly the same age as my own beloved momma) whom I've been mentoring a bit on the ins and outs of HTML, amongst other things blogorific.

Well, Leslie was kind enough to write a post in praise of yours truly (in addition to Ron Chusid of Liberal Values) and this humble site entitled "Hot Blogs: Take a Good Look":

Brain Rage is authored by James B. Webb who offers up solid commentary, provoking thoughts and the most amazing graphics I've seen yet. He's a talented writer, he's witty and he loves to throw darts at the status-quo. This is not always a site for the faint of heart but it is definitely worth visiting and taking a tour. Just click here and here and here for a taste of his graphics and videos. For a personal perspective read his Health Care Reform in America. Make sure to read the comments.
Regular readers also know that I'm a sucker for compliments so please forgive my lack of humility by reproducing them here. Leslie, I'm truly flattered, Ma'am. Blog on.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Picture Of The Day

I was watching The Matrix Revolutions last night and the opening computer-generated sequence got me thinking about fractals. If you're unfamiliar:

A fractal is generally "a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole,"[1] a property called self-similarity. Roots of mathematical interest on fractals can be traced back to the late 19th Century, the term however was coined by Benoît Mandelbrot in 1975 and was derived from the Latin fractus meaning "broken" or "fractured."
Basically, it's something that looks the same no matter how much you magnify it. They occur in nature all the time and they're some of the most goddamn beautiful things on the planet. The picture above is of Romanesco Broccoli or Roman Cauliflower, an edible variant form of cauliflower. I've never eaten it myself but I could look at it all day long.

Miles Fisher Covers The Talking Heads

I've never heard of Fisher before although I am a Talking Heads fan but the reason I'm posting this one is because of how precisely he recreates these scenes from the movie American Psycho (a personal favorite of mine), right down to Bale's various farcical facial expressions. Uncanny (although not nearly as gory):


[Update: It appears that Fisher is a native of my birthplace, Dallas, Texas. Glad to give a hometown boy a bump. Check him out as Tom Cruise in the admittedly otherwise weak Superhero Movie. Spot on.]

Jupiter's New Scar

I'm starting to feel very small again:

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the sharpest visible-light picture yet of atmospheric debris from an object that collided with Jupiter on July 19. NASA scientists decided to interrupt the recently refurbished observatory's checkout and calibration to take the image of a new, expanding spot on the giant planet on July 23.

Discovered by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley, the spot was created when a small comet or asteroid plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. The only other time such a feature has been seen on Jupiter was 15 years ago after the collision of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9.

"Because we believe this magnitude of impact is rare, we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble," said Amy Simon-Miller of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter's atmosphere."
Scientists have estimated that the object that struck Jupiter was the size of several football fields and that the impact was thousands of times more powerful than the Tunguska Event over Russia in 1908. And the scar's diameter? About the same as the Earth. Amazing, and humbling. It could still happen to us. I keep saying it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cutting Edge Prosthetic Arms

I've showcased and discussed prosthetic limbs before here, here and here because I find the science of changing and even enhancing our bodies with technology quite fascinating. If the unthinkable ever does happen and I require a prosthetic limb myself someday I imagine the hardest decision will be whether to go shiny-new Anakan style or old-school Luke:


How DNA Copies Itself

The complex inner workings of the human body always amaze me:


The World's Second Largest Aquarium Tank


The main tank at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. The 'Kuroshio Sea' holds 7,500 cubic meters (1,981,290 gallons) of water. The music accompanying the video is "Please Don't Go" by Barcelona.

It's a beautiful and majestic sight. I think one can't help but have a moment's dismay at the loss of freedom for these creatures that were previously cruising an unlimited expanse of ocean, but perhaps if displays like this draw the public's attention to the wonders of the ocean, then that provides sufficient justification.
Watch it full screen for maximum coolness:

If Man Walked On The Moon Today

Got a lot of reading to do for my book club meeting/BBQ tomorrow (it's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil if you're curious) so we're going with science-themed videos all day. This imagining of what the media coverage would be like if man first walked on the moon today feels pretty accurate, partly because it's mostly made up of footage about President Obama winning last year's election and partly because this non-stop overkill of coverage is pretty much how the media does business these days (see: Michael Jackson, death of):


Friday, July 24, 2009

TDS: The Born Identity

I've noticed that a lot of the 24 hour news networks have been committing a significant amount of time to the Obama "birther" movement and their insane message lately so I was all ready to write a post about how stupid and nonsensical it all is when I saw this clip from the Daily Show tying everything together in a nice, neat, insane, right-wing compilation:

There's also a site that answers this compelling question even more succinctly than Stewart and his merry cadre of writers ever could. Case closed, as far as rational people are concerned. The political right in this country? Just wait...

ESPN's Roethlisberger News Blackout

This actually doesn't really surprise me except for how blatant and transparent it is:

The accusations of sexual assault contained in a civil lawsuit filed against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have been widely reported in the sports and entertainment news media — except by ESPN.

The sports-media giant’s single exemption from its reporting blackout has been to let its ESPN Radio station in Pittsburgh update the case in news reports. But the station’s talk-show hosts are prohibited from discussing it…

...The ban on reporting the lawsuit was issued on ESPN’s internal newswire and e-mail system at 10:48 p.m. Eastern Monday, after the news began to break. Doria said ESPN’s caution was to protect Roethlisberger from the fallout of potentially false allegations, not to shield its TV partner, the N.F.L.

Just who do they think they're fooling by ignoring this story? If you're not much of a sports fan you may not have heard about it but ESPN's core audience eats, drinks and breathes sports and has obviously heard about the story through alternate media sources. And yes, of course it's because he's the quarterback of the current Super Bowl champions. If this is where the bar is set for the level of journalistic integrity at ESPN I'm pretty sure that Payton Peyton Manning could bomb a children's hospital and it wouldn't make that night's Sportcenter.

[Update: ESPN has apparently decided to cover the story after Reno law enforcement officials have announced that they will not investigate the accusations unless the woman files a criminal complaint against Roethlisberger. Now don't get me wrong: I like Ben Roethlisberger and I love NFL football; I wouldn't want to see any type of false accusations or lawsuits damage that sport. But this is news in the sporting world and ESPN had an obligation to report on it, regardless of their conflict of interest. Glad they finally came to their senses.]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Map Of The Day

Although I dismiss the myth that young people are getting their news predominantly from the Daily Show (one requires prior knowledge of the various news stories in order to get most of the jokes) Stewart is definitely one of the more honest voices out there right now speaking truth to power. His influence amongst the young is why presidential candidates know they have to appear on his show and his ability to intelligently grill those with whom he disagrees is why Republicans try so hard to dismiss and vilify him. I don't see his popularity waining any time soon and in this era of infotainment and watered-down news sources, why should it?


Tom Arnold: Political Pugilist

Yes, that Tom Arnold. The one who fucked Rosanne. Yes, Rosanne:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Tom Arnold is not exactly known as a towering intellect. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure he's a very nice man; he's certainly built a pretty decent career in a notoriously difficult industry, no small feat. But when you think of politically astute Hollywood types, Tom Arnold isn't exactly the person that comes to mind.

Clearly, Hannity assumed that Arnold is a Republican (I'm guessing that Hannity's researchers got no further than a picture of Tom Arnold endorsing Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor, since Tom has publicly said he's a Democrat), because I can't imagine Hannity asking a Democrat on.

But the multi-millionaire Hannity (who is so out of touch with everyday Americans he insists that ham costs on 79 cents/pound) didn't count on the former meat packer from Iowa whose whole act centered around being a common man actually championing policies that help the average American, instead of the corporate oligarchy.
This takes Arnold up several notches on my respectometer (and I already love True Lies):

Oh yeah, no fraud and abuse in the private sector. The main (and openly stated) goal of practically every corporation in the country is to make as much money as possible, first and foremost, above all other considerations. But yeah, no fraud and abuse. And since when are U.S. citizens not allowed to sue their government? It happens all the time. And what Hannity says is mostly true: We don't deny people health care because of their inability to pay. We just allow corporate America to squeeze them dry for the rest of their lives if they find themselves in an emergency medical situation where they're not covered by insurance.

Now, is our government perfect or relatively free from the aforementioned fraud and abuse? Of course not, and I wouldn't expect a government run health care system to be either one of these things but just take an honest look at the numbers. We're the richest, most powerful country on the face of the planet, right now and all the way back through recorded history. And 45 million of us have no health care coverage at the dawn of the 21st century. Something has to change.

Cracking The Colonel's Secret Recipe

Forget the Lost Ark, the Holy Grail and even the Crystal Skulls. This is a discovery of historical significance:

The obsession started years ago after a challenge from his wife: Could finance manager Ron Douglas, an avid cook and Kentucky Fried Chicken fan, really crack the code to the best-kept culinary secret in the country? After several attempts, the Long Island, N.Y., man says he may know the 11 herbs and spices in KFC’s recipe — and now he's sharing the secret with the world.

Douglas, 34, began his quest by searching the Internet for clues to the recipe. He found that there were thousands of people looking for directions to help them duplicate their favorite restaurant meals at home. In answer to their prayers, he started the Web site recipesecrets.net...

...The decision has so far paid off: Douglas scored a deal with Simon & Schuster, which published his "America's Most Wanted Recipes" earlier this month. The book includes a recipe for KFC's 11 herbs and spices — which Douglas says he discovered after six attempts.

"The exact recipe has never been released," Douglas admitted, "but mine comes really, really close. I kept trying, and with the help of the online community, we figured out a recipe that's so good most people can't tell the difference".
I just fried up a whole mess of catfish a couple of nights ago so I may wait a bit before I try this out but trust me, it's gonna happen. Here's the list:
— 1 teaspoon ground oregano
— 1 teaspoon chili powder
— 1 teaspoon ground sage
— 1 teaspoon dried basil
— 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
— 1 teaspoon pepper
— 2 teaspoons salt
— 2 tablespoons paprika
— 1 teaspoon onion salt
— 1 teaspoon garlic powder
— 2 tablespoons Accent
As a KFC aficionado/addict I'm eminently qualified to judge the veracity of Douglas' claims. I'll let you all know how it turns out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TDS: Cap'n Trade

Jon Stewart gives one of the most concise examples I've heard yet for why the United States government sucks so much ass so much of the time:

I Love The Japanese

I've never really been a big Asahi or Sapporo or any other Japanese beer fan but I'd definitely try this brew just for the novelty:

Abashiri is a microbrewery located on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. Owned and operated by the Takahashi Company, Abashiri has been turning heads (and possibly stomachs) for some time now with its unusual beers - and by "unusual" I mean Scallop Beer and Bilk. The latter, an incongruous combination of beer and milk meant to appeal to the female demographic, deservedly made the Ten Even More Weird And Bizarre Japanese Soft Drinks listing last year - and hasn't been heard from since.

In any case, Okhotsk Blue Draft stands out for its cool color and interesting (yet not off-putting) ingredients. The brew is made using water melted from icebergs that float each year onto Hokkaido beaches from the chilly Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the North Pacific ocean bordered by Japan and Russia. Fine & dandy, and a good selling point to boot.
Then Abashiri went one step further and used seaweed to give their brew and icy blue tint. Perhaps not the greatest selling point but it does make Okhotsk Blue look, well, different. As for the taste... reports state that Ryuho isn't at all bad as beers go, and if you didn't know there was seaweed in it, you likely wouldn't guess there was.
Not my thing but I'm glad that it's out there.


Never Gonna Give Your Teen Spirit Up

Or "Smells Like Rick Roll". These two extremely disparate songs mashup surprisingly well:


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Something Anal Someone Else Said

"Am I the only one to notice that President Obama's angrier critics have a curious habit of associating him with an extremely unpleasant form of bodily invasion?

Rush Limbaugh has complained, "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles . . . because this is the first black president." You can buy T-shirts and bumper stickers that say, "Bend over, here it comes," with the "o" in "over" duplicating the one in Obama's campaign logo. National Review's latest cover features a cartoon of Obama grinnng diabolically in a doctor's lab coat, pulling a latex glove over his hand, and saying, "Just relax."

Get it? Obama's policies are the equivalent of having something shoved not down your throat but up your lower digestive tract--or worse yet, being sexually assaulted.

It's an extreme image, and as far as I can tell, a new one. Liberals who detested George Bush didn't depict him this way, and conservatives who loathed Bill Clinton found other ways to express their feelings.

Where does this link between Obama and anal violation come from? Maybe it's just the next inevitable step in the coarsening of political discourse. Maybe it's derived from the jokes in raunchy movie comedies involving male buddies. Or maybe it's the product of some weird subliminal reaction to the first black president.

But whatever the source, it's an ugly tactic that conservatives ought to discard. I don't enjoy or expect to enjoy the results of many of Obama's policies. But I'm willing to bet they're nothing like being raped." -Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune

I too have noticed many conservatives' penchant for using the threat of an assault upon one's back road as a supposedly legitimate avenue (yes, pun intended) for political attack, be they petulant poli-sci profs (NTTAWWT!!!!!!) or lipless newspapermen (...go to a Castro Street glory hole, offering up your rump to complete strangers, while bragging that you've got more than 25,000 hits on your blog in the past 13 months...). As I've said before, these guys obviously have some real hangups when it comes to sex and especially when it comes to homosexuality, the latter of which automatically translates to the act of "butt sex" in their minds regardless of the topic or right actually being discussed.

Now regular readers know that I'm not one to nonchalantly play the so-called "race card" during political discussions or debates (as the aforementioned, petulant poli-sci prof so blithely did a short while back) but with Obama I can't help feeling that the recent conservative talk of cornhole violation is at least tangentially influenced by the fact of the guy's race. The anatomical legend of the black man's wedding tackle is well known and whether it's been scientifically proven or not (and before anyone says anything: No, I don't consider your porno collection "scientific"; I'm talking about actual demographic studies and they're mostly inconclusive at best, as far as I can tell in researching this post), these generalizations have been applied to several races across the spectrum of humanity (sorry, Asian guys). But to employ a well-used, if decidedly less than scientific, maxim: There's a reason that stereotypes exist. And it's not because they're always true, just that they're true enough of the time that it's difficult to dispute anecdotal evidence without hard data (that pun was also totally intended).

So when you combine this supposed cultural "knowledge" (some might call these stereotypes racist and they could very well be right: I lack enough scientific data to say for sure) with the fact that there is a fairly successful, specialized sub-genre of pornography out there dealing entirely with vulnerable white women being literally impaled by threateningly well-hung black dudes (whether this is either a cultural hold-over of racist attitudes from slave times or rather a cultural backlash against those same attitudes, I also lack enough historical data to say for sure) and then factor in the previously mentioned conservative anathema to any mention or thought of dirty sinful butt sex, the irrational fear of Nubian anal-penetration becomes something with which to adequately scare and rile up a relatively sexually repressed and increasingly Southern Republican voting block when there's a liberal black man living in the White House. Decide for yourselves, and don't drop the soap.


VF Copy-Edits Palin's Resignation Speech

Her speech was obviously rambling and incoherent by almost any reasonable political standards but it takes a professional editor to show just how badly it was written:

If you watched Sarah Palin’s resignation speech, you know one thing: her high-priced speechwriters moved back to the Beltway long ago. Just how poorly constructed was the governor’s holiday-weekend address? We asked V.F.’s red-pencil-wielding executive literary editor, Wayne Lawson, together with representatives from the research and copy departments, to whip it into publishable shape. Here is the colorful result.
The page below is just a sample (click to enlarge) but you can read the entire speech with edits at the above link:
Now of course to the neoconservative brain trust this atrocious piece of rhetoric and her obvious ignorance of the English language used to create it are just evidence of Sarah Palin's working-class, everywoman "real America"-ness while at the same time they also prove her rebellious maverickiness and just how politically savvy she really is. Oh, and the fact that I've written this post and actually dared to say anything negative about her abilities is also proof of my own misogyny and innate liberal fear of her and hatred for every one of the "traditional" values she represents. Just ask them.


Former Canadian Minister On Health Care

Per my post on American health care reform a few days ago Ojala Disangh, the former Canadian Minister of Health, logically and methodically debunks many of the right-wing talking points concerning the recent health care debate as they're haphazardly lobbed at him by CNN's Rick Sanchez:

Am I wrong or does this seem like a viable alternative to being either destroyed financially or dropped completely by our current private-industry system? Yeah it will cost some money but it will also provide care for everyone in the country, and isn't that what we should be striving for as a civilized society?

Picture Of The Day

Does the guy in the picture above look familiar? Back in the mid-eighties some thought that someday he might:

In its August 1985 issue, Ebony magazine ran a "Portraits of the Stars" feature in which it commissioned an artist to create portraits of how various black celebrities might look in the year 2000 (a date which was then still a good fourteen years in the future). Ebony's collection of artificially aged notables included Muhammad Ali, Billy Dee Williams, Kim Fields, Jayne Kennedy, Magic Johnson, Emmanuel Lewis, Debbie Allen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and, as the lead-off to the article, Michael Jackson. Jackson, who was 27 years old at the time, was pictured (as shown above) as the artist anticipated the popular singer might look in the year 2000 (when he would have been 41 years old): "He will have aged gracefully and will have a handsome, more mature look."
Now obviously this particular prediction did not come to pass but when I saw this picture for the first time without the attached explanation the first thought going through my head (and I swear that this is the truth) was, "Damn, that guy looks like Michael Jackson and Billy Dee Williams had a kid and then dressed him in some of Don Johnson's old clothes from Miami Vice!"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sardine Run

I've always thought that sardines came from little tins with a key attached to them but apparently I've been wrong:

This David Attenborough-narrated video from the Natures Great Events series is, in my view, one of the most spectacular nature segments I've ever seen. Off the coast of South Africa, a mass of sardines is attacked by a formidable array of predators. The surface view of the army of dolphins is impressive, but when the gannetts plunge like arrows into the ocean, then fly underwater, the scene is truly awe-inspiring.
I can't decide if I'd consider this more akin to a choreographed ballet or an aerial dogfight but either way it's incredible to watch:


Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen Review

This review didn't take much effort to write. If you're looking for massive Bay-esque battle scenes and explosions, big shiny robots kicking each other's asses and Megan Fox looking hotter than most women on the planet Earth: Go see this movie. If you're looking for a decent plot line, well-written dialogue and any semblance of logical character development or story progression: Save your ten dollars. I got what I was looking for.

40th Anniversary Of The Moon Landing

And what better way to celebrate the anniversary of this incredible scientific achievement than by watching Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon's surface, punching an annoying moon landing conspiracy theorist in the face:

A true American hero, and a pretty scrappy old man.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Picture Of The Day

Several of the original Star Wars cast in an extremely awkward informal photograph, circa 1978. One can obviously identify the actors playing Luke, Han, Leia and R2D2 but I'm merely guessing that the bespeckled fellow is the actor who physically played Darth Vader (minus James Earl Jones' smooth bass, of course) and that the awkwardly gigantic fellow is the actor who physically played Chewbacca. For some reason this picture is one of those things I wish I could unsee. Weird, huh?


Health Care Reform In America

In the comment section of a recent post about Glenn Beck going off his nut on the air about health care reform my aptly screen-named brother-in-law one L bill made the observation that he wasn't sure how to handle this issue and I have to say that I pretty much agree with him on that tact. Although I've endorsed universal coverage for all Americans and stated my belief that basic health care is an issue of human rights rather than one of pure private industry I readily admit that I'm no expert on the subject (just as I've done on the issue of economics in the past) and that I'm also not sure how we should handle this complicated but obviously important topic (just as I'm not sure how we should handle our current economic woes). I wonder if the facts that I don't regularly visit the doctor and that I don't really have a lot of money contribute much to my ignorance in these respective areas but I suspect that it's more likely that I just find them both rather boring topics of conversation.

Most people probably know by now that the United States is the only industrialized western nation that does not provide universal health care for its citizens but what I find more persuading are the numbers when you compare us to these other nations:

Still, if you insist that the United States simply must be No.1, it is true that ours is by far the most expensive health care system on the globe. Go, USA! In 2004, spending averaged $6,280 for each man, woman, and child in America — more than double the average ($2,307 per capita) spent in all other industrial countries.

Over 16 percent of our economy ($1.9 trillion last year) goes into our corporatized system — 50 percent more than Switzerland’s universal system, which ranks second in spending per person. Not only does the United States drastically outspend everyone else, but it does so while leaving tens of millions of Americans outside the system. In contrast, Canada puts only 10 percent of its economy into health care, Australia 9 percent, and England 7 percent, and these countries manage to provide care for every one of their people.

While we Americans pay much more, we get far less. The World Health Organization’s latest survey ranks the quality of U.S. health care at — cue the trumpets — 37th in the world. Ta-da! Not only is our system’s performance beneath Canada, Japan and all of Europe, but it’s also beneath such powerhouses as Malta, Colombia, Morocco, Chile and Dominica. We’re only one notch above Slovenia, for godssake!
Now I hear people on the right like Beck constantly repeating the mantra that "we have the best health care system in the world!" yet I can't help wondering why the WHO has us ranked 37th overall but I think Beck hit on the answer in his hysterical rant when he mentioned that several world leaders from other countries come to the U.S. to get health care: We have the best health care system in the world if you can afford it. I'm sure that John Travolta had one of the best doctors taking care of his autistic son before he died; I'm sure that Michael Jackson had one of the best doctors prescribing him his various medications; I'm sure that Barack Obama as president of the United States has one of the best doctors giving him his annual physical. And the thing these people all have in common with those aforementioned world leaders coming here for treatment is that they're all a whole lot richer and better off than the vast majority of the American populace, and especially those 45 million Americans (again, living in the richest and most powerful country in the world) who lack even basic health care coverage.

Now of course I realize that the other nations that do have universal health care have their fair share of problems and that obviously no system is perfect but again I just can't look at the numbers above and not suspect that our own system needs to undergo some fundamental changes. And just as I'm aware that universal care is not quite the rosy scenario that Michael Moore portrays it in his latest documentary Sicko I also know that it wouldn't turn this country into a hellish dystopia where injured people wait years for treatment and the old and infirmed are euthanized because the state determined that they should be sacrificed for the common good as many conservatives would now have you believe. The truth obviously lies somewhere in between and a little less hysterical hyperbole from both sides would do much to advance the debate.

As near as I can tell (again, I'm obviously no expert) the problems here seem to lie with a powerful insurance industry that has the money and the means to successfully lobby congress to derail any substantive reforms that could possibly threaten their bottom line. When I hear right-wingers using the standard talking point about how under universal coverage there will now be a government bureaucrat standing between you and your doctor I always think, "What, like the insurance industry does now, only with much less incentive to deny coverage for expensive and supposedly pre-existing conditions?" And the ugly little secret that these same right-wingers won't talk about is that we already have a government run health care system in this country: It's called Medicare, Medicaid and the Veteran's Administration. Millions of Americans benefit from the coverage these government-run entities provide every day whilst not languishing in constant pain nor being shunted off to Carrousel.

But to bring the narrative back to the beginning, I have to confess that I have neither the expertise nor even the willingness to definitively decide what we should do as a nation in the face of this obviously looming crises. In the past I've asked readers of this blog living in other countries with universal health care to relate their own experiences within their respective systems and only one (quietmagpie, out of Australia) has been kind enough to oblige and I strongly urge you to read his heart-rending narrative on the subject. I know that it might not be indicative of every person's experiences under a government run system but it certainly makes a strong case for one substantially different from our own here in the States. As I've said, I don't have all the answers but I think that honestly asking these pertinent questions is a good place to start the discussion.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The World's Fastest...

Sometimes faster isn't always better but it's usually cooler:


RIP, Walter Cronkite

An American news legend passed away last night:

(CBS) The "most trusted man in America" is gone.

Walter Cronkite, who personified television journalism for more than a generation as anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News," has died. CBS vice president Linda Mason says Cronkite died at 7:42 p.m. Friday with his family by his side at his home in New York after a long illness. He was 92.

Known for his steady and straightforward delivery, his trim moustache, and his iconic sign-off line -"That’s the way it is" - Cronkite dominated the television news industry during one of the most volatile periods of American history. He broke the news of the Kennedy assassination, reported extensively on Vietnam and Civil Rights and Watergate, and seemed to be the very embodiment of TV journalism.
To be completely honest, I've never really felt a connection or even much of an affiliation with Cronkite. He was simply too far removed from me generationally. If my grandparents were alive today they'd probably have some heartfelt sentiments to share about the man and what he meant to their generation but for someone who's grown up engulfed in the cacophony of the 24-hour news cycle which has now been subsequently engulfed within the vast, global maw of the Internet old time newsmen like Cronkite are just very difficult to relate to for people from my generation.

So you're probably now asking, "Why the 'RIP' post, JBW? Folks die all the time and you rarely take the time to honor them unless you seem to have had a real personal affinity for them." That's true, and even the traditionally ubiquitous "RIP" undermines my own atheistic beliefs. I don't really believe that Cronkite is "resting in peace", I just believe that he's dead and gone. I don't believe that he's singing in a cloud choir anymore than I believe that he's roasting in a lake of fire. He's simply deceased. But when he was alive he, a famous orator known for his pithy take on events of incredible historical significance, was rendered virtually speechless when mankind finally set foot upon another world beyond our own:

And that's why I'll always feel a kinship towards the man. Because I share that childlike awe that the human species was able to accomplish such an extraordinary feat, even though it happened half a decade before my own birth. When I watch a speechless Walter Cronkite remove his glasses and wipe his face in obvious wonder at the scientific achievements of mankind I share that same wonder, and I like to think that people like myself are keeping it alive now that he's passed on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Picture Of The Day

The Blue Angels naval flight team exhibiting feats of precision choreography against the Statue of Liberty off the coast of New York last Memorial Day (click image for detailed view). America: Fuck yeah!

(hat tip: Intrepid Californio)

650 Million Years In 80 Seconds

A nice time-lapse video depicting the probable past and possible future of the Earth's various land masses:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Beck Loses His Mind Over Health Care

Wow. Glenn Beck reminds me of that doughy, middle management type guy who everyone knows goes home and talks to his gun collection while he sits and stews alone in his house: You hope he's not going to come in to work and kill everyone some day but you also wouldn't be very surprised if he did. For the sake of his fellow FOX News employees let's hope venting on the radio releases some of the pressure:

Picture Of The Day

Some of our more nefarious citizens will try to tell you that this is a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama lecherously checking out the well-rounded posterior of a sixteen-year-old girl overseas but Popped Culture knows better:

U.S. President Barack Obama, attending the G8 summit in Italy yesterday, was caught checking out the posterior of a young delegate. Or so it appears.

Upon further investigation by the fine folks at Fark, it turns out to be a Homer-esque sized misunderstanding. Seems the president has spotted the rare gummi Venus de Milo, carved by gummi artisans who work exclusively in the medium of gummi. He was just thinking about that sweet, sweet candy...
If you watch the video it's pretty obvious that he was just trying to help another woman down some stairs but even if he were not: Who fucking cares? Yeah, I'll say it: Sixteen-year-olds have incredible asses. Is this some kind of secret we've just now discovered since we've elected a black man president? It's not like he asked her to "poll the electorate" or anything like that. And if you want to get a better, less-Puritanical take on the whole matter just check out President Sarkozy. There's a Frenchman who knows how to appreciate a well-proportioned derriere. C'est tres bien.

Pat Buchanan Sees White People

Is there anybody older and whiter than Pat Buchanan left in the Republican party? Bob Dole I guess but is that guy even still alive, Viagra not withstanding? Regardless, he's obviously not making the recent talking head circuits because Buchanan is totally bitch-slapping his ass when it comes to making racist comments that can only hurt their party:

A provocative article by Pat Buchanan argues that contrary to conventional wisdom, Republicans shouldn't worry about alienating Hispanic voters, they should just focus on getting white people to like them more:

In 2008, Hispanics, according to the latest figures, were 7.4 percent of the total vote. White folks were 74 percent, 10 times as large. Adding just 1 percent to the white vote is thus the same as adding 10 percent to the candidate’s Hispanic vote.

If John McCain, instead of getting 55 percent of the white vote, got the 58 percent George W. Bush got in 2004, that would have had the same impact as lifting his share of the Hispanic vote from 32 percent to 62 percent.

And he sees race-baiting attacks as the way to do it:

Had McCain been willing to drape Jeremiah Wright around the neck of Barack Obama, as Lee Atwater draped Willie Horton around the neck of Michael Dukakis, the mainstream media might have howled.

And McCain might be president.

His specific argument about Sonia Sotomayor is that Republicans need to get more explicit about the idea that, as a Latina, she will make rulings that disadvantage white people and that white America ought therefore band together to stop her. This is already the subtext of their arguments but I guess he feels it’s not close enough to the surface.

Yeah! Put those dirty brown people in their place by ignoring them and focusing on the demographic that already overwhelmingly supports you, jackass. They're only the largest growing voting bloc in the United States but the answer is obviously to get more nonexistent white people to vote Republican. Uh huh, because white people have been wholly unaware up until now of how the Republican party can benefit them. Here's another tip: Start showing Friends reruns at your conventions. They'll kill, I promise.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We Choose The Moon

Regular readers know that I'm a big fan of all things space-related so naturally the upcoming anniversary of our first sojourn to the moon has been on my radar for some time but this site has definitely piqued my interest:

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the moon landing the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has launched a new website. The goal of the website is to allow visitors to experience the Apollo 11 mission in real time. In fact, the website will go live at 9:32am on July 16th which is exactly 40 years to the minute after the historic launch.

The website is sponsored by the JFK Presidential Library and Museum because it was under President Kennedy’s direction that a mission to the moon be planned and executed. To allow visitors to experience the Apollo 11 mission as it happened the website utilizes archival audio, video, photos and “real time” transmissions. Besides the AOL powered website, visitors can also receive mission updates through three different Twitter accounts.

The simulation goes live tomorrow morning exactly twelve hours from now (you can keep track of the time with the coolest watch ever) and you can watch it all happen here. While I have many happy memories from following NASA's space program and its accumulated milestones over my lifetime I've always envied my parent's generation for getting to watch this historic mission play out during that amazing week back in 1969. My own three most vivid memories of space history all involve the space shuttle program and sadly, two of those have been tragic accidents that I'm not going to expound upon here.

The third is actually one of the few happy memories that I can attribute to my pretty much asshole of a step-father. I don't know if he realized at the time how much I would cherish this experience but props to him for making the effort. He dragged my oldest little sister Holly and I out of bed when I was seven-years-old before 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning (no, we never went to church so this was quite unexpected) to watch live what he obviously considered history being made:
STS-1 was the first flight of the Space Shuttle program, launched on April 12, 1981, and returning to Earth April 14. Space Shuttle Columbia orbited the earth 37 times in this 54.5-hour mission. It was the first US manned space flight since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project on July 15, 1975, and the first (and so far only) manned maiden test flight of a new spacecraft system.
I won't even go into how many times I visited Space Center Houston over and over again while I was still living there in the nineties. I suspect that fascinations like this one have played a significant part in my never having actually felt like a real adult thus far in my lifetime, and I'm still not sure if I ever want that to change.

Heart Attack Grill

This is how I eventually want to go: Surrounded by hot chicks and fatty beef:

If you weigh over 160 kilograms (350 Pounds) then there is a restaurant where you can eat for free, the Heart Attack Grill!

With a warning on the door that’s it is bad for your health, you’ll find plenty of grease and fat for you to chew down on. The sexy waitresses, dressed as nurses will take good care of you and call 911 (Seeing as it is in the US) in case or an actual heart attack.

So if you happen to be in Chandler Arizona, swing by and get yourself a heart attack.
Did you notice the cigarette poster on the wall behind her? "Cancer too? Sure, why not?" This is the perfect follow-up to my post this morning comparing the United States to the Netherlands. Not only does it explain why we're so obese and dropping dead from heart disease but also why I love this country as much as I do.

Picture Of The Day

Thank Zeus that there are totally-straight, heterosexual individuals like these good Republican congressmen out there safe-guarding the sanctity of marriage for the rest of us honest, non-gay Americans. Just imagine the horrors of our society without them. Really: Just imagine it! One obviously shudders at the thought...


FOX News Trashes The Netherlands

It seems that the decidedly conservative network has a problem with Holland for being what they call "militantly secular", amongst other things:

Cheap legal cannabis, easily acquired casual sex, marriage equality for everyone and death with dignity: yeah, that place sounds like a real nightmare! I've personally been to the Netherlands and I have to say that I quite enjoyed myself there. In addition to the aforementioned amenities it's a beautiful country and the people are extremely polite and friendly to foreigners, so I decided to do some research to help explain the discrepancies between my own experiences there and FOX News' partisan condemnations.

Less than an hour on the Internets dredged up some very interesting information:

- life expectancy: Holland is 28th in the world; the U.S. is 45th

- per capita income: Holland is 10th; the U.S. is 15th

- percentage of the population living below the poverty line: Holland has 10.5%; the U.S. has 12%

- health care systems as ranked by the World Health Organization: Holland is 17th; the U.S. is 37th

- heart disease mortality rates per 100,000: Holland has 75.1; the U.S. has 106.5

- obesity rates: Holland is 20th with 10% of the pop. being obese; the U.S. is 1st in the world with 30.6% of the pop. being obese

- infant mortality rates per 1000 births: Holland has 4.7; the U.S. has 6.3

- teen pregnancy rates: Holland has 172 births per one million people; the U.S. has 1672 births per one million people

- murders per capita: Holland is 51st; the U.S. is 24th

- rapes per capita: Holland is 22nd; the U.S. is 9th

- firearm related deaths per capita: Holland is 22nd; the U.S. is 1st in the world

- divorce rates: Holland is 20th; the U.S. is 7th

- suicide rates per 100,000: Holland has 9.4; the U.S. has 11.1

- freedom of the press: Holland is tied for 16th with three other nations; the U.S. is tied for 36th with five other nations

- religious affiliations: Holland has 39% of the population claiming such; the U.S. has 83.1% of the population claiming such

- subjective well-being (happiness) ranking: Holland is 8th; the U.S. is 16th

The only significant statistics I could find where both countries basically tied were for literacy rates, alcoholism rates, drug abuse rates and STD infection rates, several of which would seem to defy the puritanical calls for harsher laws in the failed "war on drugs" in this country. But the obvious conclusion we can come to after processing all of this scientific data is this: The Netherlands needs more religion in their society! I mean, if they're only leading the most powerful nation in the world in each of these 16 categories with less than half as many religious citizens per capita then they're obviously failing as a country. Where's God to conveniently clean up their mess? I'm not sure but am I wrong here?

Now, am I saying that the Netherlands is a subjectively better country than the United States or that I'd rather live there than here? Fuck. No. I love my country and I absolutely love living in the lush, verdant bosom of Northern California. Now of course I'm not going to definitively say that this is "the greatest country in the world" in that knee-jerk fashion that conservatives and jingoists like to use because based on the percentages detailed above, how are they even logically coming to this conclusion? And for whom, other than their own obviously self-absorbed personas?

But I will say this: It's been the greatest country in the world for me to live in thus far and I've been to many other countries in my lifetime, so that's saying quite a bit. And might I suggest that what we as Americans need right now in relation to the rest of the world is a little less definitive declaration about how great we are and a little more measured qualification about how great we can become with a bit of hard work and some honest self-realization. We were once the shining city upon a hill and I truly believe that we can again achieve that goal, we just need a sufficient amount of measured humility and educated inspiration to show us the way. Proost!