Saturday, May 31, 2008

First Contact

The picture above shows members of a heretofore unknown and uncontacted tribe indigenous to the Brazilian rain forests along the Peruvian border. Upon seeing the craft overhead they retreated into the jungle, only to reemerge covered from head to toe in red paint and started firing their longbows at the aircraft during it's subsequent passes. It's amazing that these groups of people still exist untouched by the modern world, and quite sad that the unceasing encroachment of rain forest logging will eventually destroy their ancestral home forever. The Guardian.uk has the full story here.

Laudo Pro Dies

"Whiskey has killed more men than bullets, but most men would rather be full of whiskey than bullets." -Logan Pearsall Smith

Pale Blue Dot

A skeptic shines a ray of hope on our tiny world:

An Inconvenient Tenor?

If you thought the Barackula musical was artsy, you're going to love this one. From The Guardian.uk:

For a man sometimes described as the world's most famous loser, Al Gore is quite a winner. Since the start of last year alone, he has picked up an honorary fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, prizes in Spain and Sweden, several honorary doctorates, the Sir David Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Film-making and an Emmy - not to mention the Nobel peace prize.

But even Gore may feel humbled by the latest distinction to come his way. The legendary La Scala opera house in Milan has commissioned a full-length work to be based on his book, An Inconvenient Truth, and the Oscar-winning documentary of the same title.

La Scala's artistic director, Stephane Lissner, told a press conference the new opera had been commissioned from an Italian composer, Giorgio Battistelli. He said it would be staged in 2011.
Al Gore's quest against global warming has become a cultural juggernaut. I wonder what part my kids will someday play in their elementary school production of An Inconvenient Truth? I'm hoping for either cherry picker or laptop.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fascism Advances Another Step

A story about FBI efforts to recruit spies to infiltrate protest groups ahead of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis this fall. Disgusting:

What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant—someone to show up at “vegan potlucks” throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort’s primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division’s website, is to “investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines.”
J. Edgar Hoover just smiled in his grave, and free speech just died a little more. This is your government under the Bush Administration.

Q, Ahead Of His Time

An article in New Scientist details some of the fictional spy gadgets that have now become factual. So where's my invisible car already?

Laudo Pro Dies

"Requiring every student to swim three laps and understand Renaissance art is not elitist. It’s essential for any person.” -Columbia University's Stephanie Quan, a student on the 2009 Class Council, on the charges of Barack Obama's elitism

The Real McCain

I had so much more respect for this guy 7 years ago:

Robot Mule Freaks Me Out

From Wired.com:

Real-life, robotic pack mules are slowly starting to get ready for war. After years of developing four-legged 'bots, the roboteers at Boston Dynamics have just snagged a major Pentagon contract, worth up to $40 million. The goal: give their mechanical quadrupeds "the performance and reliability needed for military use," Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics' chief, tells DANGER ROOM.

Already, Raibert's main creation -- the 165-pound, two-and-a-half foot tall, alarmingly life-likeBigdog robot -- performs pretty damn impressively. Check out this new video from Boston Dynamics: the thing hauls 150 pounds, picks its way across rocky fields and steep slopes, and leaps into the air like a steeplechasing horse. But what remains BigDog's most impressive feature is its ability to maintain its balance, without human intervention; the Dog is so surefooted, it'll take a hard kick, and still stay upright.

I love robots and all of their practical applications but this thing is just way too bio-morphic and annoying for me; I know it's not alive but I really want to kick the shit out of it.

Gayness By Peer Pressure

From Ed Brayton:

Okay folks, it's time to award another Robert O'Brien Trophy for Idiot of the Month. And this month's winner is a real doozy: Linda Harvey of Mission America. She's receiving the trophy for this stunningly idiotic anti-gay screed. Do not read it while drinking a beverage; the urge to spit-take may be overwhelming and you could ruin a keyboard or monitor.
I'm not gay, nor have I ever felt gay, but I completely sympathize with every gay person out there who has had to deal with this kind of bullshit from ignorant jackasses. Having someone tell you that the feelings you experience are totally different and completely wrong from the exact same feelings that everyone else experiences is the epitome of emotional abuse. Linda Harvey should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Dark Side

From Andrew Sullivan:

A page from a newly released but heavily redacted document pertaining to the CIA’s interrogation and detention program...
Makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it? (click to enlarge)

I Kick Five Year Old Ass

I could take out 22 of the little bastards. See how you'd do.

(Hat tip: Sterling)

Young Hillary Clinton

Apparently, she has a history of this kind of behavior:
And who knew that young Obama was a nose picker?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Beauty Of Bridges

To commemorate the 71st anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday, Wired.com featured a photo gallery of important and unique bridges from around the world:

The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) across the River Arno in Florence, Italy, dates back to Roman times, but the current bridge (so to speak) dates back to 1345 (by Taddeo Gaddi), with the long upper gallery added by the great Renaissance architect Giorgio Vasari in 1564. It is probably the oldest segmental-arch (that is, the arches are not the full semicircles of Roman design) bridge in Europe. It is certainly among the most romantic.
From personal experience, I can certainly attest to their description of this beautiful span...from the outside. The interior however, is crowded with cheesy shops hocking gaudy jewelery to slack-jawed tourists; the experience was as if I had wandered into a strip mall filled with Zales. Slightly less than magical.

Laudo Pro Dies

"The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return." -Gore Vidal

Barack Obama, Secret Muslim

Some disturbing results from a new Newsweek poll out this weekend:

Asked to identify his religion, 58 percent of respondents correctly said Obama was a Christian. But a surprising 11 percent said he was a Muslim. And 22 percent said they did not know what his religion was.

Almost one-fifth of white Democratic voters polled also said they had an unfavorable opinion of Obama because of his name.

As I've written in a previous post, I'm not entirely comfortable with Obama's embrace of religion in the public theatre but while I don't agree with his beliefs, I certainly don't think that it's reason enough to vote against the man. Sadly, many Americans do think this way and for such a significant portion of the voting public to be this ignorant about a presidential candidate while living in an age of instant, easily accessible information is truly depressing, if not entirely unsurprising.

And his name? This is how we're choosing the leader of the free world now? Hard to believe that we've come to this after electing guys named Millard, Grover and Chester, isn't it? Hell, millions of Evangelical Christians even voted for a guy named Bush. Bush! Sometimes white people really bother me.

[Update: Here are some more stats to put this in perspective:
22 percent believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
30 percent believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
23 percent believe they've been in the presence of a ghost.
18 percent believe the sun revolves around the Earth.
These numbers don't make me any more optimistic about the intelligence of the American people but they do explain the aforementioned ignorance.]

Nerd Love

I'm jealous:

University of Arizona's principle investigator for the Mars Phoenix Lander, Peter Smith, not only studies Mars but also has a special place in his heart and on his wedding ring for the red planet. He and his wife Dana have two-of-a-kind, specially designed Martian rings that include a red stone to symbolize Mars, two diamonds for its moons Phobos and Demos and a piece of Martian meteorite embedded next to them.
You know you've found a special lady when she's cool with putting a piece of another planet in her wedding ring. It's such a shame that I find so few women like this physically attractive.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Obama's Veep

MightyGodKing has posited some interesting options, including the Evil Barack Obama (or Kcarab Amabo) from The Mirror Universe, pictured above:

- All of the genius and inspiration of Barack Obama
- Just as likeable as Barack Obama
- In a pinch can replace Barack Obama if he shaves his goatee

- Evil
- Like, whoa, totally evil
- We are so not kidding about the evil

An Obama-Luthor '08 ticket would also be quite formidable but I don't know if we can risk possibly forcing Superman to support the Republican candidate. Plus, we don't even know if there's enough Kryptonite around to equip the Secret Service; one has to take these kinds of practicalities into consideration, after all. Oh, and how sad is it that Bill Richardson can not even compete with fictional characters for this job?

Homer Simpson, Cosmologist

First, an article published this week in Nature News:

The doughnut is making a comeback – at least as a possible shape for our Universe.

The idea that the universe is finite and relatively small, rather than infinitely large, first became popular in 2003, when cosmologists noticed unexpected patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – the relic radiation left behind by the Big Bang.

Now, this exchange in Moe's Tavern between Homer Simpson and physicist Stephen Hawking from the episode "They Saved Lisa's Brain" on May 9, 1999:
Hawking: Your theory of a donut shaped universe is intriguing Homer, I may have to steal it.

: Wow, I can't believe someone I never heard of is hanging out with a guy like me.
It appears Hawking and his colleagues made good on his threat.

Corn Flicks

From Advertising Age:

Thanks to the inflating cost of popcorn, the price of movie tickets is expected to skyrocket by as much as 30% this year, according to Ricard Gil, a University of Santa Cruz economist who studies the business. "You're going to see a one- to two-dollar increase in the price of a movie ticket," he said. "And that's being conservative."
Of course, ethanol and it's attendant industries are to blame for the ever increasing price of corn. And theatre owners' other option to make up profits aside from raising ticket prices? More ads and commercials before the shows. As far as I'm concerned, this is lose-lose for the consumer. I hate the advertising creep that has allowed commercials into the theatre and I can't afford to spend 8 bucks on a bucket of popcorn. My solution: get there 5 minutes late and start dating a girl with a really large purse.

Indy's Fedora: A Warning

In the wake of the release of the newest addition to the Indiana Jones saga, a Wired.com writer has some harsh words of reality for any would-be archaeological adventurers (with the obvious exception of myself, I'm sure).

Monday, May 26, 2008


This short film is an introduction to guerrilla artist Ron English. You may remember some of his creepier McDonald's themed art from the transition scenes in the Morgan Spurlock documentary Super Size Me. English is known as a guerilla artist because he hijacks billboards that are paid for and used by corporations to get his own artistic messages out to the public:

The Fail Blog

A website dedicated to those moments when things just don't go quite as you planned.

Frozen Grand Central

From Improv Everywhere, 207 agents freeze in place at the exact same time for five minutes in the middle of Grand Central Station:

Spitting Nerd Game

Over at Zaius Nation, the Doctor has posted his best geeky pickup lines. If you're any kind of self-respecting nerd (a term I do not consider an oxymoron), you'll check these out in order to up your chances of sealing the deal with an actual human female. My top three favorites follow:

You're like an exothermic reaction - you spread your hotness everywhere!

I'm the droid you're looking for.

Hi. They call me Dr. McCoy but you can call me "Bones."
If you laughed out loud at more than one of those, I hope that you either have a well made blow-up doll or that you own Microsoft. Good luck.

Memorial Day

"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." -George Orwell

The Phoenix Has Landed

NASA's Phoenix Lander successfully touched down on the arctic surface of Mars today. The lander will bore into the planet's surface and extract soil samples which it will run through a series of tests in it's onboard laboratories. Ideally, these tests and other onboard sensors will send back data showing the existence of water and other signs of life on Mars. The picture above was taken earlier today on the surface of another planet; how cool is that?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blade Runner

Reason.com has an interesting article about the invasion of technology into competitive sports and the repercussions it will have as those technologies advance while we desperately hang on to the revered legends of old. An excerpt:

Tiger Woods is probably one of the greatest golfers of all time. But, his vision was so poor that he was almost legally blind without contact lenses or glasses. In 1999, he had laser surgery on his eyes and his vision improved to better than 20/20. He had another procedure performed last year leaving him not only with improved vision, but better vision than most humans. Does laser-eye surgery that improves vision past 20/20 confer an unfair advantage on Tiger? And what's the difference between superhuman legs and superhuman sight?

When a modern American Olympian benefits from training at high altitudes, counseling from a sports physiologist and psychologist, expert physical therapy and a finely tuned diet, these steps could just as easily be seen as conveying an unfair advantage.

I agree with the sentiment but not with the comparison: eyesight is an integral part of the golfing experience and being able to see where you're aiming is obviously a great advantage. On the flipside, Tiger's surgical enhancements don't do much more than his aforementioned glasses and contact lenses did, and every golfer has a caddy with whom they can confer on any shot. Moreover, those same golfers have the option (finances allowing) to have the same surgical procedures performed on themselves. While eyesight is integral, it is not paramount to the sport; there are a myriad of other factors involved in playing golf.

Within track and field competitions, the advantages of artificial carbon-fiber legs are much more apparent. Lets be honest: if your legs are substandard on a competitive level, no amount of surgical improvements are going to change that. The reasons I've heard to preclude double amputee Oscar Pistorius (pictured above) from competing with other Olympians focus almost exclusively on his "legs"; specifically, that they don't build up the same levels of lactic acid that other runners' legs do due to the fact the they lack the muscle tissues affected by acidosis. Put simply, his artificial legs don't start to burn and cramp the way human legs do, and the argument is that this confers an unfair advantage upon him.

Now one could make the counter argument that any other sprinter could have his legs amputated and enjoy the same advantages that Pistoius claims but I don't see that as a viable option; not knowing the guy from Adam, I would assume that he would give up most anything he owns to possess a pair of fully-functioning human legs. I just have to assume that human nature holds him within the same sway that it does us all. Hence, the comparisons are not equitable.

This line of thought does lead one to other avenues of speculation: how will competitive sports change in the next century and beyond? Will we as a society allow technological advancements within franchise sports to change the essential makeup of those games merely for entertainment value and monetary gain? Will we then hold the amateur status of the Olympic Games to a higher standard? The inclusion of professional basketball and hockey players, combined with the ever-present quest for ratings, would suggest "no" on that last count. Either way, the 21st century and all of the advancements it promises are sure to make for a brave new sporting world.

In Lieu Of Original Thoughts

Ten optical illusions in two minutes:
The robotic T-Rex is definitely my favorite.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

San Francisco Values

This commercial for Congressional hopeful Sam Graves from Missouri illustrates exactly how to run for public office in the midwest; you link your opponent to the sinful, sinful West coast:
Radley Balko at Reason.com asks:

I'm trying to figure out how the three dancers are supposed to represent "San Francisco values." Maybe the black guy in the cowboy hat is gay? But then why is he dancing with two women? Maybe it's because one of the women is white. But then, the white woman also has a lesbian haircut. Maybe it's the dancing itself? Or they're all illegal immigrants? Maybe they're planning a visit to the abortion clinic after happy hour.
I was too stunned by those incredible production values to think about it. What really makes me smile is imagining the group of midwestern Missourians picking out the costumes, actors and music and then filming that dance sequence, trying to make it look as gay as possible; that's probably why it looks like they stepped right out of 1986.

Barack To The Future

Knowing that he'll cure cancer was one thing but changing the timeline is pretty impressive; no wonder Clinton has been having so much trouble. From Oliver Willis:

In extended comments Wolfson said, “we intend to show that sometime in late January of 2008 this time traveling DeLorean somehow altered history. In the original, true timeline Senator Clinton won all the states on Super Tuesday and quickly became the Democratic nominee for president. Yet, right now Senator Obama is going to be the nominee and that disruption of the space time continuum is clearly to blame.
You just knew that there was something going on; how on Earth could this guy have known that people would want change during an expensive, hugely unpopular war and a fragile, tanking economy? To me, that doesn't say informed common sense and political savvy. That says time travel. If he switches his campaign theme song to "The Power of Love", we'll know for sure.

Weezer And The Youtubers

Are you a Weezer fan? Are you a Youtube addict? If you answered yes to either or both of those questions, then this post is for you. In the video for their new song "Pork and Beans", Weezer has collaborated with over a dozen of Youtube's most popular stars. They're all here: the Mentos guys, Dramatic Gopher, Afro Ninja; they even got the incredibly hot but tragically dumb Miss South Carolina to get down. Plus it's a pretty good song:
If you're unfamiliar with some of these instant Internet celebs, you can watch an edited to educate South Park scene here.

Bullshit Statistics

Cracked.com addresses the 6 most frequently quoted bullshit statistics. #1 wasn't the most interesting but the picture was just too funny; and no, that's not Akroyd in Trading Places.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Han Solo Carbonite Desk

Ever wonder where Boba Fett sits to catch up on his light typing? Well wonder no longer; as this was a custom piece there was no price listed but I'm guessing that it costs much more than most cars I've ever owned.

The Cardoza 40

From Al Giordano at The Field:

The Field has learned that Cardoza is the first of a group of at least 40 Clinton delegates, many of them from California, that through talking among themselves came to a joint decision that all of them would vote for Obama at the convention. They have informed Senator Clinton that it’s time to unite around Obama, and that they will be coming out, one or two at a time, and announcing their switch between now and the convention if Senator Clinton doesn’t do the same.
The exodus has begun. This is why I've stopped worrying about the nomination anymore, despite Clinton's totally irresponsible comments about assassination today; the party insiders and king-makers are not going to let her take this away from him. It's apparent now that she's remained in this thing because she's positioning for something. VP, leader of the Senate, Supreme Court justice, who knows? I'm ready to find out though so we can move past her and on to bigger and better things.

State Gas Prices

From Wired.com:

Note how similar gas prices are within individual states and how much they vary between states. Using just gas price data, you could practically draw the state lines, if they weren't already inked in for you. Look at that Illinois-Missouri border!
Northern California looks like the surface of the sun; apt, because I'm getting burned on petrol out here.

The Hat Is Back

Just saw the new Indiana Jones flick with some friends tonight and I have to say that it was much better than I was expecting. For those who don't know, I'm a huge IJ fan; Raiders is my favorite movie of all time and I even own an official fedora, courtesy of my oldest sister after a visit to Universal Studios. So, I kind of consider myself a bit of an Indy expert and I have to say that this latest venture was definitely worth seeing.

Now before I effuse any more praise, I'll admit right up front that I was extremely wary going into this thing. As a virtual lifelong fan, I found myself actually starting to resent this new addition to the IJ trilogy. It was simply the corporatism; I should explain: I don't remember a time before I knew Raiders, Temple of Doom was the first movie I ever saw with a buddy without our moms driving us to the theatre and Last Crusade came out almost two decades ago. In short, I've grown up having watched these flicks without any hint of the marketing machine churning behind them; I was just too young to have noticed all of the product tie-ins and other callous corporate funding ventures.

Not so with this latest cinematic foray: it seems that I can't get away from Indy Whopper deals and Indy Lego sets no matter how hard I try to ignore the ensuing advertising blitz. I know, I know, the previous films were released under similar money-grubbing circumstances but I was never cognizant of it; I saw those films within an age-specific, advertising-proof bubble that has almost certainly mythologized them in my movie-going consciousness. Indiana Jones has always been cool to me without my having seen him on my large cup of Dr. Pepper.

That mythologizing aside, I definitely recommend this movie to anyone with a love of archaeology and fictional treasure hunting, a tangential sense of adventure and a healthy dose of cinematic suspension of disbelief. The disbelief is paramount during the 3-4 instances where Indy would have surely perished were he not wrapped firmly within a comfortable Spielberg/Lucas cocoon of inevitable survival. Aside from those few reality-based shortcomings, the schmaltzy ending and the overtly gross killer ant scene, make sure you check out the latest addition to my favorite trilogy ever; I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


What do you do to stoke it? Personally, I think pennies are an anachronism and should be phased out of our society but then again, I don't derive confidence from the insertion of them. Make your own judgements:

Laudo Pro Dies

"I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me." -Dave Barry

I'd like to think that this isn't an accurate description of myself but I fear that it might be. As the apparent "Captain of the Debate Team", I'm consciously working on it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

There Really Are No Accidents

A string of bloody PSA's from Canada; apparently this kind of stuff happens there all the time. That universal health care is coming in pretty handy right about now:

Kentucky/Oregon Primaries

Hillary Clinton won Kentucky with 20% of her voters stating that race was a factor for them, basically admitting that they voted against Barack Obama because he's black and no one on the cable news stations will address it. Obama won Oregon, getting over 50% of the non-college educated vote, a very good showing for him. Neither really matters since Obama will be the Democratic nominee eventually; we're just waiting for Clinton to decide when her ego has had enough. That's it. I'm sick of talking about this.


The Obamaian Era dawns:
Sure glad I'm not going to miss it. Jesus Christ?

Sulu Beams Up Husband

Following the recent ruling by the California Supreme Court reversing the ban on gay marriage, George Takei has announced that he and his partner of 21 years are to wed. Some telling words from his website:

As a Japanese American, I am keenly mindful of the subtle and not so subtle discrimination that the law can impose. During World War II, I grew up imprisoned behind the barbed wire fences of U.S. internment camps. Pearl Harbor had been bombed and Japanese Americans were rounded up and incarcerated simply because we happened to look like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor. Fear and war hysteria swept the nation. A Presidential Executive Order directed the internment of Japanese Americans as a matter of national security. Now, with the passage of time, we look back and see it as a shameful chapter of American history...With time, I know the opposition to same sex marriage, too, will be seen as an antique and discreditable part of our history...
Since I moved to California, I've met many people who were affected by the internments of World War II. Having happened so long ago, it's not something that people my age really think about in other parts of the country but then living here has opened my eyes to so many different experiences and points of view. I don't know if this ruling will be overturned by the voters in November but I sincerely hope not. I've always said that homosexuals deserve to be able to get married and become just as miserable as the rest of society; it's only fair.

On a side note, you wouldn't believe how many Star Trek puns I went through trying to pick the best one for the title of this post; "Sulu takes relationship to warp speed" was a close second.

Monday, May 19, 2008

San Francisco, Downhill

One of the things I love about living in the Bay Area is my proximity to the city of San Francisco. If you've never been, SF combines the architecture of commence-de-siècle 1900's with gritty, new-millennial urban realism, overlaid with a passion for everything new and hip set against some of the most beautiful vistas you will ever find on this planet Earth. One of the other things I love are the ubiquitous, sometimes inordinate, hills: growing up in Texas (read: flat), I never had anything like the views I've seen in Northern California, and driving in The City is a singular experience (especially when you're driving a stick).

The other great thing to come about from this combination of anachronistic architecture and undulating geography is that so many commercials and art films are set there, as it's the perfect showcase for all types of random objects rolling/ bouncing/ tumbling down the severe slope of a modern American boulevard. Case in point is this commercial for the Sony Bravia television, complete with a quarter of a million Superballs in the thrall of that mysterious, elemental force known as gravity. Enjoy the magic:
You can check out the making of the commercial here.

Laudo Pro Dies

"The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm." -Victor Hugo

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Timewatch: Bloody Omaha

Just ran across this in an old email to a friend:

Linked to this from a blog and thought it was pretty cool...Starts out kind of slow but really shows how movies have been changed by increasing computer power:

If I possessed any kind of money or pull, I would have these guys working for me in some kind of creative capacity immediately; that was extremely impressive.

O'Reilly Goes Off

If you've been watching the Internets lately, you've seen this retro-video of Bill O'Reilly going ballistic on the pseudo-news show Inside Edition from over a decade ago. This remix in which someone added the commentary of his on-stage producer is absolutely beyond hilarious:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Golf War

I know, I know; I've already posted two videos about Bush's recent comments but that was just the lead up to what Jon Stewart had to say (one of my favorite bloggers has refered to Bush's words as "Stewart Bait"). As you'd expect, he calls Bush out on pandering to the Knesset in Israel, his underground, stealth golf plans and just generally dicking around:
"Can a brother get a shalom?"

RIP, Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi, the pioneering winemaker that put Northern California on the same par with Western Europe, died peacefully at his home in Yountville today. An enthusiastic proponent of the health benefits of moderate consumption of wine, he championed the use of cold fermentation, stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels. He also introduced blind tastings in Napa Valley and his winery was amongst the first to go public. Sometimes overshadowed by the familial turmoil that has become a dramatic California wine country legend, his winery produced consistently amazing vintages year after year, making his one of the most widely recognized and respected names in California viticulture. Raise a glass.

Living Color

Toxic nudibranchs—soft, seagoing slugs—produce a brilliant defense. Nature can be so deadly and so beautiful at the same time. Check out the rest here.

If I Were A Terrorist...

Check out this video from a good ol' boy named James Pence. This is my kind of patriotic old bastard:
Let's hope our enemies never think of this. Oh, wait...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Dude, Stop Digging!

I watch Hardball with Chris Matthews a lot and most of the time he comes off as a political blowhard that just likes to hear the sound of his own voice, but today he acted like the kind of political talk show moderator I love to see on television: he ignored the prepackaged talking points being spouted by one of his guests and simply called an ignorant talking head on his shit.

Right wing radio host Kevin James came on the show to defend remarks made by George W. Bush earlier today in which he compared the foreign policy plans of "some" (read: Barack Obama) towards Iran to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler by signing the Munich Agreement in 1938, which conceaded part of Czechoslovakia to the Nazi's. After parroting and defending Bush's words, he's asked flat out by Matthews exactly what Chamberlain did that he objected to and he had no fucking clue! Of course, that didn't stop him from embarrassing himself even further as he was berated by an incredulous Matthews; this is one of the more entertaining things I've seen on this show in quite a while:
On the same topic, Matthew Yglesias at The Atlantic (a fellow who's obviously read a history book or two) had this to say about Bush's comments:

Meanwhile, Bush continues to fundamentally misunderstand the purpose and nature of diplomacy. The idea of talks isn't that you marshall convincing arguments and beat your enemies back with force of words. The idea is that it's sometimes possible to achieve a reconciliation of partially divergent interests. Maybe Iran wants a nuclear weapon in order to deter American attack. And maybe America wants a nuclear-free Iran to help preserve stability in the region. Down one path, we have conflict and the U.S. sanctions and bombs Iran which causes suffering but only delays Iran's acquisition of a nuclear weapon. But down another path, each side discusses it's top priorities and we reach an agreement on verifiable disarmament in the context of security guarantees and a path to normalized relations. Down the road, that gives the U.S. the stability we want and creates more prosperity and security for Iran.
Will this approach work with our enemies and other foreign governments we consider a legitimate threat? No one can yet say, but the Bush policy of never talking to anyone we disagree with smacks of the negotiating tactics employed by five-year-olds; fitting, as that's the way this administration has always spoken to the American people: as if we were ignorant children that don't understand what they're trying to accomplish and just don't realize what a great job they're doing. 249 days left.

Pop Music Of The Lambs

Came across this darkly entertaining little ditty today. It's fascinating the way culture feeds back on itself; a sort of Talking Heads-meets-serial killing kind of vibe. And dude, you better put the lotion in the fucking basket:

The Blogosphere Galaxy

From Andrew Sullivan:

This, apparently, is the "core" of the blogosphere...Explanations here.
I don't claim to be able to comprehend all of the mathematics behind this 3-dimensional representation of cyberspace but If I had to make a guess, I'd say that my relative position to the core is probably the same as Earth's is to the center of the Milky Way: the outer, low-excitement suburbs. It's quiet, nobody bothers me and there isn't a lot of traffic to keep me up at night.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Special Comment: Bush, Sacrifice And Golf

Today Countdown with Keith Olbermann ended with Keith's comment on Bush's latest words about his endless war, the dangers of electing a Democrat in November and what American's (him especially) are sacrificing to insure his legacy:

Only 250 days until we can finally get America out from under the shadow of this horrible administration. I'm already counting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clinton Wins West Virginia

No big surprises today; in fact, the pundits have literally known for months which way this one was going to go. A Southern state full of uneducated white people is custom made for a white woman married to the most popular, modern Southern politician and running against an educated black man with an extremely Muslim sounding name.

Not surprisingly, exit polls show that a full 25% of Clinton voters admitted that race was an important factor in their vote, and that's just the ones who actually admitted to it. Now I'm not saying that all West Virginians are deliberate racists; I'm just saying that a significant portion of West Virginia let racism deliberately influence their votes.

A fellow at Right-Thinking from the Left Coast (a site I only know of because they also linked to this blog during the Daily Dish influx) had this bitter, yet spot on prognostication:

Jesus, another primary? It seem like we’ve had 57 of these. Rather than comment on any of the remaining primaries, I’ll just preprint the Clinton Spin and you can fill in the blanks:

Senator Clinton’s stunning __-point win in __, despite having been outspent __-1 by the Obama campaign once again demonstrates that she is the only viable candidate for the November Election. Clinton has consistently won the hard-working, blue-collar white voters who are the backbone of this great nation while Obama just wins the latte-sippers and black people who are going to vote Democrat no matter what. We look forward to seating the Michigan and Florida delegations at the convention. If Barack Obama is very nice, we might let him stay a senator.

I'm no longer worrying about these kinds of landslide victories for the Clinton camp. West Virgina had 28 delegates up for grabs and even with her significant margin of victory, she'll only end up with 20 at the most. If you haven't yet heard, Obama has already picked up the endorsements of 27 super delegates in the last week, thus negating her apparent win tonight by far.

She has now taken on the dual rolls of sore loser and understudy for the democratic nomination: someone who doesn't know when to give up gracefully because there's always the outside chance that Barack Obama could be hit by a runaway bus or that he might rape a white woman on live TV, thus delivering the nomination to her by default. Barring these particularly heinous developments, what else could she realistically be expecting to save her?

Solar Lily Pads

This is just a digital rendering, both practical and surreal:

In a stunning example of biomimicry, Scottish architecture firm ZN Architecture have come up with a brilliant scheme to provide solar power to the city of Glasgow - and do so in a way that is provocative, creative, and aesthetically appealing. The proposal? To design Solar Lily Pads which will float in Glasgow’s River Clyde and soak up the sun’s rays, sending electricity to Glasgow’s grid while also stimulating urban riverfront activity.
Based on my travels across Europe and various architectural magazines and websites I've seen it seems that Europeans put a premium on deliberately infusing their urban development with playfulness and imagination, thereby creating beautifully anachronistic cities that juxtapose the shiny, twisted metal and glass of the future with the staid, weathered stone of many centuries past. This dichotomy didn't exist when I was growing up in Texas, where you would be hard pressed to find architecture more than a hundred years old anywhere; I guess that's why I find the duality so fascinating.

Every Simpsons Couch Gag Ever

Like watching hundreds of tiny art films; "Night of the Living Couches" has always been one of my favorites, specifically Moe all liquored up and holding his booths at bay with the 12 gauge:

Laudo Pro Dies

"Three quarters of the American population literally believe in religious miracles. The numbers who believe in the devil, in resurrection, in God doing this or that -- it's astonishing. These numbers aren't duplicated anywhere else in the industrial world. You'd have to maybe go to mosques in Iran or do a poll among old ladies in Sicily to get numbers like this. Yet this is the American population." -Noam Chomsky

They Said He Was Unprepared...

MoveOn.org has announced the winner of their "Obama in 30 Seconds" ad contest. You can watch the winning entry and the other finalists here. The overall winner was a pro-military, across the aisle message entitled Obamacan, but this one is my favorite:
Experience isn't everything.

The James Webb Space Telescope

That's right, NASA has decided to name their new orbiting space telescope after yours truly (or maybe it's in honor of the second director of the space agency who carried out Kennedy's promise of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth; I actually wasn't reading the article too closely). Either way though, it sounds pretty sweet:

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013. JWST will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. JWST will peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems, connecting the Milky Way to our own Solar System. JWST's instruments will be designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range.

JWST will have a large mirror, 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. Both the mirror and sunshade won't fit onto the rocket fully open, so both will fold up and open only once JWST is in outer space. JWST will reside in an orbit about 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from the Earth.

Edwin Hubble was a near-sighted punk, man.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Federal Sanity On Cannabis

As if I needed another reason to vote for the guy:

At a November appearance in Audubon, Iowa, Obama recalled that his mother had died of cancer and said he saw no difference between doctor-prescribed morphine and marijuana as pain relievers. He said he would be open to allowing medical use of marijuana, if scientists and doctors concluded it was effective, but only under "strict guidelines," because he was "concerned about folks just kind of growing their own and saying it's for medicinal purposes."

Obama went a step further in an interview in March with the Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford, Ore. While still expressing qualms about patients growing their own supply or getting it from "mom-and-pop stores," he said it is "entirely appropriate" for a state to legalize the medical use of marijuana, "with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors."

In response to recent questions from The Chronicle about medical marijuana, Obama's campaign - the only one of the three contenders to reply - endorsed a hands-off federal policy.

You can read the entire article at SF Gate here. Of course I personally advocate for the complete legalization of cannabis but as with all things, one step at a time. The odds against Obama becoming president have always been long and to make the legalization of a substance that has been the focus of many decades of organized smear tactics and misinformation one of the central platforms of his campaign would only increase those odds, so it's not surprising that he is staying as moderate as he can on this issue. But when compared to the other serious contenders this year, and even the last several administrations, his views are light-years ahead of everyone else's in their progressiveness. America really does need this man, for so many reasons.

[Update: Shortly after writing this, I came across this post at The Agitator. Stories like this one make my blood boil; that movement you just felt was our country shifting one step closer to fascism.]

"I Am A Sore Loser"

Hillary Clinton finally admits what we've known all along:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Colossal Cephalopod

Wired.com has pictures of the dissection that has been much anticipated across the science blogs of late:

Scientists at the national museum of New Zealand, Te Papa, have recently completed dissections of several enormous squids, including pieces of a colossal squid -- the largest invertebrate ever caught. The female specimen weighs more than 1,000 pounds and measures 26 feet long.
That's a lot of calamari, folks. Check out the pictures here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Walk Of Shame

Admit it, you've all done it and if you haven't, you're either very religious, married or a virgin. If any of those terms apply to you, you and I obviously don't see eye-to-eye on very many subjects:
I hate kankles cankles! On a side note, Amp tastes like piss. Just saying...

Hillary Is Fucking Obama

This video has been out for a while now, following on the heals of these two and this other one, yet I neglected to post it in a timely fashion (truth be told: I thought I already had until it was brought to my attention). Of course, in lieu of the past month of scurilous attacks and reality twisting on the part of the Clinton camp, this little ditty has become oddly prophetic:
(Hat tip: Sterling)

Friday, May 9, 2008

End The Drug War

James Gibney of The Atlantic comments on the War on Drugs in response to this story about ninety-six people arrested in a San Diego State University drug bust this week. An excerpt:

You'd have to be sucking on a doobie as big as a submarine to think our current drug-control policies work: from 1982 to 2005, the Drug Enforcement Administration's budget increased roughly tenfold, the national arrest rate for drug offenses more than doubled (from 286 per 100,000 to 600 per 100,000) ... and a dangerous drug like cocaine became dramatically less expensive. Meanwhile, busts for the possession of marijuana, which also figured prominently in the San Diego State investigation, still account for the most drug arrests in this country.

The war on drugs not only wastes law-enforcement resources, it also corrodes our respect for the law in general. Using a relatively benign drug like marijuana should become a regulated pastime, indulged in by consenting adults, much like drinking alcohol or gambling. Drunk driving kills more than 17,000 people each year, and 3 percent of the U.S. population meets the criteria for "problem gamblers." But no one talks seriously about reviving the 18th Amendment or shuttering Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Why? Because Prohibition taught us that banning such activities creates a nation of lawbreakers and a popular culture that exalts criminality. Costly, dubious, and ineffective legal strictures just end up undermining the social compact they're intended to reinforce.

His subsequent point about changing the laws makes total sense from a logical, cost-benefit analysis point of view, but it is much harder to institute in the real world. Every group that has something to gain from keeping certain drugs illegal (liquor industry, cigarette industry, law enforcement and it's attendant bureaucracy, religious groups, etc.) have arrayed themselves together against any feasible legalization efforts thus far, with organized political lobbying and tax-payer financed PR efforts doing the lion's share of the work. Until we can have an honest policy discussion on this topic minus any fear-mongering and manipulated government statistics, this war will continue to waste billions of dollars and destroy countless families and lives.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Calling Down The Thunder

A picture of the Chaitén volcano in Chile erupting into a "dirty thunderstorm", so called because of the incredible amount of static electricity generated in a volcano's ash plume. Amazing.

McCain Declines Secret Service

Despite his age, McCain seems determined to prove to the country that he's one bad motherfucker. From The Onion News Network:

Action-Figure Tribute

Artist Robert Burden has created a series of large paintings honoring and incorporating the action figures he played with as a child, which he features in an exhibit called Toybox displayed at the Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle (click image). From Wired.com:

To rekindle that glamorous spirit, Burden created large canvases depicting his toys within beautiful shrines. "Maybe these paintings are a personal way for me to get back all of the naive and unabashed idealisms that I held as a kid," he says. "But aside from all of my conceptual reasons for making this work, part of me just wanted to see a really big Battle Cat painting..."
I played with various action figures all throughout my childhood and I really would consider some of them works of art in and of themselves. And I do love the way these paintings impart the dignity of a commissioned homage onto everyday objects; a sort of modern-day Medici for the masses. Plus it would be pretty cool to see a really big Battle Cat painting.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Collateral Friendage

Stephen Colbert explains why Jeremiah Wright will be a bigger liability in November than George W. Bush:
I'm still not convinced that human being and fish can co-exist peacefully but that's probably just the sushi lover in me.

Laudo Pro Dies

"In the modern world, in which thousands of people are dying every hour as a consequence of politics, no writing anywhere can begin to be credible unless it is informed by political awareness and principles." -John Berger

The Obama Files

Watching the coverage of the Al Sharpton led protests disrupting traffic over the Sean Bell verdict in New York City today, I was reminded of this SNL cartoon from a few months back:
I've always wanted to visit Lower Zambuta.

This. Guy. Is. Old.

From Jonathan Martin at the Politico:

Yesterday -- channeling Woodrow Wilson and Henry Cabot Lodge -- McCain referred to the "League of Nations." He had meant to say "League of Democracies," his proposal for a new organization of allies beyond the U.N.
What's he going to do next: blame Ahmadinejad for the assassination of Kaiser Wilhelm?

Iron Man Meets Batman

Yeah, I think the whole "Mac/PC" parody thing has played itself out by now too but a "Marvel/DC" parody? That I can get behind; again, something for the Fanboys:

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Finally! Finally, right?

This isn't quite definitively definite yet but it certainly seems that the Clinton's have just about run out of options at this point, if not campaign cash. Obama took North Carolina by a solid 14 points and while she was apparently able to eke out a win in Indiana, the consensus of the media and much of the blogosphere is that he will now be the nominee despite her continued protestations. Of course, mathematically that has been the case for about a month but as I've said before, Clinton has been running on the perception of still having a chance at victory more than anything else.

In fact, Obama will pick up a net gain of 13-15 delegates tonight which effectively cancels out the 12 she gained from her solid win in Pennsylvania last month. Andrew Sullivan lays out the situation much more succinctly than myself:

There is no calculation that currently gives the Clintons a majority of the popular vote. There is now no mathematical possibility of them getting more delegates. Obama has won by far the most states. He has raised far more money; he has 1.5 million donors, mainly small sums. He has crushed her among new voters and young voters; and as a black politician, his support spans all races and classes. And recall: he is a freshman senator with a very funny name against the biggest brand name in American politics and a worldwide celebrity whose chief campaigner was a former two-term president of the United States.
So for all intents and purposes, this thing looks to be decided; Obama started this primary race against near impossible odds and has now seemingly surmounted them, all the while maintaining his dignity, cool and class. His post-election speech was inclusive and positive, emphasizing unity within the Democratic party and for America itself, while Clinton seemed a bit dejected, making a half-hearted appeal for more money but also, and to her credit, making a promise to (hopefully) support the Democratic nominee for president. Now the only real question seems to be how she is going to decide when to concede and how to do so while saving as much face and political capital as she can for her own future use.

Of course I'm happy that it looks like we can finally start to move past this seemingly endless primary process, partly because my nerves are just about completely frazzled but more so because I've been seriously worried about what effect an Obama loss (or more accurately, a Clinton win) would have had on the under-40 wing of the Democratic party. More than gender, race or class (with the exception being among black voters), age has been the decisive factor in determining how this race would play out and everything I've read or heard over the past few months told me that these kids were going to walk away from the political process in droves were it to appear that old school, back room political deal-making had taken the final choice out of the people's hands. I'm not saying that I agree that it would be the smart thing for them to do but now thankfully, it appears that this will not come to pass.

I can't bring myself to unclench just yet of course, as the real race has yet to really begin in earnest but I at least have the feeling that the infighting amongst the political left in this country will soon finally cease for the most part and that we'll be able to look forward to a substantive race focusing on important policy differences and actual issues in the near future. I've lost much respect for John McCain over the last eight years but I still think that he's at least capable of running a relatively clean general election campaign; of course, the 527's are another matter.

So I'm done with politics for this evening; again, a friendly welcome to any new readers we may have gained as a result of the link from The Daily Dish today. Here's hoping you find something here that is worthy of your valuable time and I promise to do my best to make that hope a reality. Oh, and if I'm completely wrong and this thing does keep going all the way through to the convention in August, all I ask is that there are enough vodka martinis in the world to get me there in one piece. I take mine very dry, with a twist of hope.

The Festo AirJelly

This lighter than air robotic jellyfish runs on a lithium-ion battery, an electric motor, and a bit of helium. The AirJelly looks like a self-propelled, airborn version of this fellow from a previous post, while both machines are exactly what I think robots should be: beautiful, elegant creations that evoke an element of other-worldliness and wonder. Can't you just imagine this thing floating tranquilly through the hydrogen clouds of Jupiter? Perhaps that's just me then:

Panderer's Box

Jon Stewart calls out both of the Ivy league educated millionaire Democratic candidates for their transparent attempts to appeal to middle America. You know, the "real" Americans; the ones who are so much better and more important than the rest of us elitist, latte-sipping, coastal-dwelling Sodomites. In the process he admits his ignorance of all things Guamish, explains how basketball skills translate directly to one's level of blackness and how Hillary Clinton doesn't trust economists...on the economy:

Cyclone Nargis

PZ Myers asks if we've been paying attention, and unfortunately he also seems to know how America will most likely deal with it:

It's an event that's caused more than 10,000 dead in Myanmar, and who knows how much devastation.

All we have to do, though, is wait a few days, and it will disappear from the news.