Monday, December 29, 2008

James Wolcott's Blog:
"To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other, jobless and hungry, in vast, sagging tower blocks. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean, and Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall - as they are doing now with more deadly force than at any time since 1967 - there is nowhere to hide."

It's like poking a chained, starving, angry pit bull in the face with a stick then beating it senseless with a lead pipe when it barks at you. "If only it wouldn't keep barking at me we could have peace! It barks at me and I have to live in fear!" I simply cannot understand why Obama says nothing. All that hope I had is just about all gone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 In Review: Movies

**** Speed Racer
**** Vicky Cristina Barcelona
*** Burn After Reading
*** I Have Loved You So Long
*** Wall-E
** Dark Knight
* Iron Man
* Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D
* Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
* Quantum of Solace

Monday, December 22, 2008

Loud Family - Ask Scott:
"Not to say this would be true of you, but for some reason it's generally a mild shock to people that songs aren't autobiographical, when something like a film or a novel, which goes into much greater detail, is just assumed to be a complete invention."

My first thought upon reading this was that perhaps we think songs are more autobiographical because they become that way for us, the listeners. Parts of our own lives fill in the gaps in the song, the song fills in some of the gaps in our own lives. I would also say that the best novels fill the same function and are thought to be autobiographical too to a certain extent. I think films tend to be less so because there are fewer gaps that need filling so they don't become so personal. But a song, like "Inverness" which is about a feeling, a feeling we all have known at one time or another, becomes such a part of our lives when we experience it that we assume it began as a part of the composer's life too.

Just a thought.
12/22/2008 - Bruce's return only illustrates decline of Rams -
"Before Sunday's game, Rams general manager Jay Zygmunt hobnobbed with 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the Rams' head coach from 2000-2005. The former enemies shook hands, smiled and chatted. I can't curse in the newspaper, so let me say this: The Martz-Zygmunt blood feud was a significant factor in the premature destruction of the Greatest Show Era. And so now they're shaking hands and being buddies? A little late, wouldn't you say? I wouldn't expect Isaac Bruce to understand the depth of that anger, which is shared by many here."

Another fine example of why I don't read most sportswriters often. Some actually stick to the facts, some actually have some expertise. Then there are others like Bernie Miklasz. "The depth of that anger"??? Perspective please! This is a sporting event! And the so-called "blood feud" between Martz and Zygmunt is conjecture or disgruntled 3rd party opinion. Maybe Zygmunt was talking to Martz about his heart condition (which both men share) and the fact that he was going to resign the next day (today). And this idiot gets all huffy because two possibly former enemies/rivals have made up, treated each other as they should with human dignity and respect? Shouldn't that be celebrated? Isn't that what sport is all about?

What sportswriters need to do is educate their readership on a fact of life: shit happens! Randomness rules! The Rams had some great seasons, now they are having some bad ones. The 49ers had some great seasons. Now they are struggling. You can do this with EVERY TEAM IN THE NFL! Nobody wins forever, all the time. Bill Belicheck was horseshit when he coached in Cleveland. He moves to New England and now he's a god. People have got to stop thinking that winning equates to worthwhile. There is a lot of entertaining stuff going on in any NFL game if you enjoy the sport. Don't get me wrong, I root for my team as much as anyone and am disappointed when they lose or play poorly. But to have a "depth of anger" inexpressible in polite company, and to carry grudges for years and years is just obscene. Even the best sometimes lose and lose often. This is why players get pissed off at the fans who boo. They know what it is like to give your best and have the ball bounce another way. Some things, MOST things, are just out of your control.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Glenn Greenwald: Senate report links Bush to detainee homicides; media yawns
(reg. required):

"There are countless other episodes like this of human beings in American custody dying because of the mistreatment -- authorized by Bush, Rumsfeld and others -- to which we subjected them. These are murders and war crimes in every sense of the word. That the highest level Bush officials and the President himself are responsible for the policies that spawned these crimes against humanity have been long known to anyone paying minimal attention, but now we have a bipartisan Senate Report -- signed by the presidential nominee of Bush's own political party -- that directly assigns culpability for these war crimes to the President and his policies. It's nothing less than a formal declaration from the Senate that the President and his top aides are war criminals.

"This Report was issued on Thursday. Not a single mention was made of it on any of the Sunday news talk shows, with the sole exception being when John McCain told George Stephanopoulos that it was "not his job" to opine on whether criminal prosecutions were warranted for the Bush officials whose policies led to these crimes. What really matters, explained McCain, was not that we get caught up in the past, but instead, that we ensure this never happens again -- yet, like everyone else who makes this argument, he offered no explanation as to how we could possibly ensure that "it never happens again" if we simultaneously announce that our political leaders will be immunized, not prosecuted, when they commit war crimes. Doesn't that mindset, rather obviously, substantially increase the likelihood -- if not render inevitable -- that such behavior will occur again? Other than that brief exchange, this Senate Report was a non-entity on the Sunday shows."

Why are war crimes a bad thing everywhere in the world except in the good ol' U.S. of A? Where is the precious "change" if we do not prosecute these animals? Maybe Nixon was right that if the president does it that means it is not illegal?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

2008 In Review: Music

**** Aimee Mann - @#%&! Smilers
**** Army Navy - Army Navy
**** Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
**** Delays, The - Everything's The Rush
**** Elvis Costello - Momofuku
**** Ladytron - Velocifero
**** Lindsey Buckingham - Gift of Screws
**** Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
**** REM - Accelerate
**** Sloan - Parallel Play
**** Submarines - Honeysuckle Weeks
**** Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
*** Blitzen Trapper - Furr
*** Broken West, The - Now or Heaven
*** Duke Spirit - Neptune
*** I Love Math - Getting To The Point Is Beside It
*** Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
*** Keane - Perfect Symmetry
*** Lake - Oh, the Places We'll Go
*** Long Blondes - Couples
*** Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete
*** Ray Davies - Working Man's Cafe
*** She and Him - Volume One
*** Sheryl Crow - Detours
*** Thee Make-Out Party!!! - Play Pretend
*** We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery
** Breeders - Mountain Battles
** British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music
** Dido - Safe Trip Home
** Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
** Future Clouds and Radar - Peoria
** Jules Shear - More
** Juliana Hatfield - How to Walk Away
** Killers, The - Day and Age
** Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
** M83 - Saturdays = Youth
** Matthew Sweet - Sunshine Lies
** Old 97s - Blame It On Gravity
** Ringo Starr - Liverpool 8
** Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything
** Santogold - Santogold
** Sixpence None the Richer - The Dawn of Grace
** Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns
** Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
* Basia Bulat - Oh My Darling
* Bob Mould - District Line
* Chris Difford - Last Temptation of Chris
* Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams
* Enya - And Winter Came
* Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
* Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
* Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
* Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster
* Raconteurs, The - Consolers of the Lonely
* Was (Not Was) - Boo!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Lady Vanishes (1938)***
While watching this film, an entertaining blend of comedy and suspense, I finally "got" Hitchcock's last film Family Plot. When I first saw it, I was disappointed because I had grown up with Psycho, The Birds, Torn Curtain, Frenzy, not nearly as light as Family Plot and it struck me as a sort of letdown from The Master. But really, it was a return to an earlier style for Hitch, as exemplified by The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps among others. I think I'll take another look at Family Plot soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Business Spectator - A tsunami of hope or terror?:
"It is now getting very interesting. The three Icelandic banks have defaulted, as has Countrywide, Lehman and Bear Stearns. AIG has been taken over by the US Government, which is counted as a part-default, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are in “conservatorship”, which is also a part default – a 'part default' does not count as a 'full default' in calculating the nine that would trigger the CDS liabilities. Ambac, MBIA, PMI, General Motors, Ford and a lot of US home builders are teetering. If the list of defaults – full and partial – gets to nine, then a mass transfer of money will take place from unsuspecting investors around the world into the banking system. How much? Nobody knows, but it’s many trillions."

Another twist to the collapse of the financial world and an intriguing possible answer as to why these bailouts are so very important to the big boys.

via Robot Wisdom
Consensus emerging on universal healthcare - Los Angeles Times:
"After decades of failed efforts to reshape the nation's healthcare system, a consensus appears to be emerging in Washington about how to achieve the elusive goal of providing medical insurance to all Americans.

The answer, say leading groups of businesses, hospitals, doctors, labor unions and insurance companies -- as well as senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the new Obama administration -- is unprecedented government intervention to create a system of universal protection.

At the same time, those groups, which span the ideological and political spectrum, largely have agreed to preserve the employer-based system through which most Americans get their health insurance.

The idea of a federal, single-payer system patterned on those in Europe and Canada, long a dream of the political left, is now virtually off the table."

Now we shall see what Obama is made of. Most of this "consensus" is from the power elite, NOT folks who know what they are talking about. There is no dispute that the simplest, cheapest, most effective solution is expanding Medicare coverage for all Americans. And there is tremendous support for this idea not only among the American electorate, but among most businesses that struggle to provide health care for their workers including automakers. So if Obama truly wants the best solution to a problem and not just what lobbyists are willing to settle for, the single payer solution needs to be on that table.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Congress takes first step on automaker bailout - Yahoo! News:
"U.S. automakers say they are urgently trying to overhaul their businesses to meet a global demand for fuel efficient products, like better performing gasoline engines, electric cars and more hybrids. But industry executives say they may never get there unless the bailout is approved. They add that the shock of any collapse will shake the economy. If the auto industry comes under severe pressure, GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said in a television interview on Sunday, 'the impact on the whole U.S. economy will be devastating.' All three companies have rejected reorganizing under bankruptcy protection."

Must be nice to just reject going bankrupt. Wish I could do that. Run a business into the ground and just expect the taxpayer to bail you out. ENOUGH! GM fucked up! This state of affairs is not out of the blue. It has been predicted for YEARS. And they invested more and more into SUVs, Hummers, Cadillacs while ignoring their workers. Fail, fail, fail. Set up transition funds for the workers and that is IT!
Clinton to accept offer of secretary of state job | World news | The Guardian:
"Clinton would be well placed to become the country's dominant voice in foreign affairs, replacing Condoleezza Rice. Since being elected senator for New York, she has specialised in foreign affairs and defence. Although she supported the war in Iraq, she and Obama basically agree on a withdrawal of American troops."

Well that didn't take long. So much for "change". Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers (potentially), Hillary Clinton (potentially), Joe Lieberman is still around for some unknown reason...WTF? Why is everyone letting Obama off the hook here? We did NOT vote for this! I think it was pretty clear that we wanted a CHANGE, not just a re-shuffling of the same players.

This is not good.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 The End by Michael Lewis:
'That’s when Eisman finally got it. Here he’d been making these side bets with Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank on the fate of the BBB tranche without fully understanding why those firms were so eager to make the bets. Now he saw. There weren’t enough Americans with shitty credit taking out loans to satisfy investors’ appetite for the end product. The firms used Eisman’s bet to synthesize more of them. Here, then, was the difference between fantasy finance and fantasy football: When a fantasy player drafts Peyton Manning, he doesn’t create a second Peyton Manning to inflate the league’s stats. But when Eisman bought a credit-default swap, he enabled Deutsche Bank to create another bond identical in every respect but one to the original. The only difference was that there was no actual homebuyer or borrower. The only assets backing the bonds were the side bets Eisman and others made with firms like Goldman Sachs. Eisman, in effect, was paying to Goldman the interest on a subprime mortgage. In fact, there was no mortgage at all. “They weren’t satisfied getting lots of unqualified borrowers to borrow money to buy a house they couldn’t afford,” Eisman says. “They were creating them out of whole cloth. One hundred times over! That’s why the losses are so much greater than the loans. But that’s when I realized they needed us to keep the machine running. I was like, This is allowed?”'

Essential exposé of the financial meltdown. It is way worse than you think.

via kottke

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama captures historic White House win - Yahoo! News:
"Obama led a Democratic electoral landslide that also expanded the party's majorities in both chambers of Congress and firmly repudiated eight years of Bush's leadership. The win by Obama, son of a black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas, marked a milestone in U.S. history. It came 45 years after the height of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King. The announcement of Obama's win on U.S. television networks set off celebrations by supporters around the country, from Times Square in New York to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King's home church.
'This is a great night. This is an unbelievable night,' said U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, during a voting rights march in the 1960s."

One of the encouraging aspects of Obama's historic victory is that even though it is obviously historic because of his race, the reason he won had nothing to do with it. But I think as time goes by, his race will become very significant and a very, very positive thing for America. And it helps that he seems to be a serious, thoughtful, INTELLIGENT person! Now the task will be to hold his feet to the fire and push him to make the changes he seemed to run away from in his campaign. I am still very leery of the advisors he had throughout the campaign and the rumors of possible cabinet and staff members, most of whom I do not like.

So while I am pleased in his victory, and hopeful for positive things to come for us and our country, I am very cautious and guarded. This is a good first step to rectifying the past 8 years. But it is one step of a long and arduous journey ahead of us.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bride of Frankenstein (1935)**
There is an extended scene early in the film where Dr. Pretorious is trying to convince Dr. Frankenstein to work with him to create a woman monster, and he brings out these jars filled with miniature human beings and the whole sequence is just way WAY out of place in the film. Really brings everything to a screeching halt and ruins the tone of the entire picture for me. Boris Karloff has more to do here and he is, again, very good, and the images and camera work are exceptional, but the film as a whole is not up to the original.
Transcript of second McCain, Obama debate -
"Brokaw: There are lots of issues that we are going to be dealing with here tonight. And we have a question from Langdon (ph) in Ballston Spa, New York, and that's about huge unfunded obligations for Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs that will soon eat up all of the revenue that's in place and then go into a deficit position. Since the rules are pretty loose here, I'm going to add my own to this one. Instead of having a discussion, let me ask you as a coda to that. Would you give Congress a date certain to reform Social Security and Medicare within two years after you take office? Because in a bipartisan way, everyone agrees, that's a big ticking time bomb that will eat us up maybe even more than the mortgage crisis."

I think it is about time we lose this idea of having "journalists" and TV anchorpersons moderate these "debates". Brokaw is an idiot. And a dangerous one at that because for some reason, people think he knows what he is talking about and look upon him as some sort of elder statesman. First of all he links Social Security and Medicare as if they are the same thing. No. They are fundamentally different and not at all alike. Secondly, Social Security is completely solvent and not projected to draw down on its assets until 2041. Got that? There has never been a time in its history when it was in as strong a financial position as it is now. What has everyone worried is the huge deficits we keep racking up year after year. And yet, we are able to pull $750B for Wall Street without too much trouble, $800B for the Iraq War ON TOP OF the regular appropriations for "defense" to the tune of $400B+ per year. "Entitlements" are not the problem. The problem is we lack the political will to spend our money wisely and appropriately. And McCain has no clue about it and Obama is willfully obtuse about it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Wolf Man (1941)**
Doesn't hold up and not just because many of the scenes have become cliché. Lon Chaney Jr. just cannot act and he is very distracting. There's a pervasive feeling to the film that it's existence was just an attempt to create another Universal monster franchise and it shows.
Frankenstein (1931)****
The film has achieved iconic/archetypal status of course, but it's not unearned. Whale's compositions, his use of dolly shots, some masterful cinematography and a career-defining performance by Boris Karloff make re-viewing always interesting and enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How Credit Default Swaps Became a Timebomb | Newsweek Business |
"By the mid-'90s, JPMorgan's books were loaded with tens of billions of dollars in loans to corporations and foreign governments, and by federal law it had to keep huge amounts of capital in reserve in case any of them went bad. But what if JPMorgan could create a device that would protect it if those loans defaulted, and free up that capital? What the bankers hit on was a sort of insurance policy: a third party would assume the risk of the debt going sour, and in exchange would receive regular payments from the bank, similar to insurance premiums. JPMorgan would then get to remove the risk from its books and free up the reserves. The scheme was called a 'credit default swap'..."

And it should have been (and possibly may have been) illegal. It is also called a Ponzi scheme. And the sheer gall of these persons now running to the taxpayer to cover their risk is beyond comprehension. In a fair world, they would be facing criminal charges for fraud at the very least. But we all know this world is many things but fair is not even in the ballpark.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1 - Army Times:
"In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it. They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack."

...or they may be called upon to do whatever the President tells them to do in accordance with his position as commander in chief! This is the first time since the Civil War that the US military has been deployed in the USA not in response to any disaster. Incredible. And who's to say the Wall Street meltdown won't provide a convenient excuse to suspend the election indefinitely? With a brigade at his disposal, Bush could remain in office for quite a while.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Study links oil prices to investor speculation - Yahoo! News:
"'We have clear evidence the fund flow pushed prices up and the fund flow pushed prices down,' said Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management, calling the amount of money moving into oil futures markets by large institutional investors in the early part of the year 'way off the scale.' Masters said its analysis shows investors 'began a massive stampede for the exits' on July 15 and that this caused the price decline. 'These large financial players have become the primary source of the dramatic and damaging volatility seen in oil prices,' concluded the report."

So the rush to open up ANWR and offshore drilling will serve just one purpose: enrich the oil companies even further. And at the same time though, it will WEAKEN our reserve of oil for the future and increase our national security risk.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Glenn Greenwald -
"Propaganda thrives -- predominates -- in our democracy for many reasons, the principal reason being that we don't have the sort of journalist class devoted to exposing it. Anyone who wants to contest that should examine the empirical data above, or more convincingly, just look at what the Bush administration has easily gotten away with over the last eight years -- the systematic deceit, the radicalism, the corruption, the crimes."

I hope to God I am wrong, but I'm afraid this election is over. In 2000 I thought there was no way a smart, thoughtful, kind of annoying person like Al Gore could lose to an obviously unqualified, barely coherent George W. Bush. In 2004 after 4 years of complete and abject disaster, I thought there was no way a smart, intelligent, war veteran like John Kerry could lose to the architect of the disaster. Now comes 2008.

Until McCain announced the choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate, I thought there was no way a smart, intelligent, thoughtful black man like Barack Obama could lose to an unhinged, disaster-in-waiting, sell-out like John McCain. But what I witnessed last Wednesday night and throughout the past few days has me nearly convinced that the Republicans have hit upon the magic formula once again. Do anything and everything to win at all costs. Why? Because it WORKS! They have absolutely NOTHING to run on. So just mock the other side. Say the vacuous magic words ("small town values", "POW", "God Bless America", "faith") over and over again, repeat lie after lie about the other guy endlessly. Sarah Palin is their mystery celebrity with the made to order dysfunctional family that "everyone can relate to". Remember how W was "the guy you'd like to have a beer with" because he wasn't smarter than you? Palin is the gal you'd like to hang out with because she's cute and knows how to hunt wolves from a helicopter. Just like us!

Don't laugh. This stuff works like a charm. Get ready for President McCain.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Alaska Lawmakers to Seek Subpoenas in Palin Inquiry -
"“I’m happy to comply, to cooperate,” Ms. Palin told the Anchorage television station KTUU in late July. “I have absolutely nothing to hide, no problem with an independent investigation.”

"In early August she said, “We are very, very open to answering any questions anybody has of me or my administrators.”

"But on Aug. 29, the day that Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, named Ms. Palin to his ticket, her lawyer, Mr. Van Flein, sent a letter to the state-appointed investigator asserting that, though he would cooperate with the Legislature’s inquiry, the accusations should be investigated by the state personnel board.

"According to the letter, obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Van Flein argued that state law made the personnel board “properly vested with primary jurisdiction.”

"Ms. Palin took the extraordinary step Tuesday of filing an ethics complaint against herself, making the matter fall within the bailiwick of the personnel board. Mr. Van Flein then asked the Legislature to drop its inquiry.

"The three members of the personnel board are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. The proceedings of the board are conducted in secret, in contrast with the public deliberations of the Legislature."

It appears that there is something that the McCain/Palin campaign is trying desperately to hide. This may or may not be it, but the extreme reaction to even the most basic of questions regarding almost any information about Ms. Palin's background is quite surprising to say the least.

In another article about Ms. Palin's religious background: "Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Ms. Palin had been baptized Roman Catholic as an infant, but declined to comment further.“We’re not going to get into discussing her religion,” she said."

Oh really? Why is that? Why is Sarah Palin's religion off limits and Barack Obama's isn't? And why is Ms. Palin being shuttled off to Alaska for a while away from national media scrutiny? There's something very strange going on and I am hopeful that journalists are now sufficiently outraged by the horrific police state of the RNC, the sophomoric and mocking tone of the speeches and the constant blaming of "the media" for every fault, to actually find out what is behind it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ending Tyranny - John Lewis Gaddis - The American Interest Magazine:
"Suddenly, it seemed, there might be an opportunity to speed up history: The Taliban had collapsed, after all, with only a slight push. So Bush and his advisers began planning to fight a war against terrorism by democratizing the Middle East, the one part of the world where that system had not yet taken root. Toppling a few more tyrants might be all that it would take to get this process going."

Despite being factually inaccurate (the Taliban did not collapse and Bush and his advisers began planning to invade Iraq in early 2001), these statements are so wholly clueless and wholly arrogant and incredibly and cruelly naive as to defy belief. Yes, let's just topple a few more tyrants and get this whole "process" started shall we? It's such a grand game isn't it? My we are such wonderful people!
Bush Lets War Widow Punch His Arm Once | The Onion:
"In an unprecedented gesture of apology, President Bush allowed widow Mary Holt, 32, to punch him once on the left arm Monday as retribution for the death of her husband, Marine Pfc. David Holt, who was killed in a 2007 roadside bomb explosion outside Fallujah."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)****
On the surface, a breezy, colorful, sexy romp around northeastern Spain by gorgeous, wealthy people. It's also a perceptive character study and rumination on some of the mysteries of the human condition: our need for meaning and how love cannot be that meaning.
Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything (2008)**
A disappointing trend is afoot. In a vein way too similar to Aimee Mann, Ms. Phillips latest effort sounds WAY to much like her last 3 albums and each song sounds incredibly similar to each other. Now granted, these songs are intelligent, thoughtful, well-written, emotionally powerful but I defy you to listen to them in one sitting! I may bump the rating up a bit once I make it through them all but right now, she's lucky to have 2 stars.
McClatchy Washington Bureau | Rice warns Moscow about its bomber runs off Alaska:
"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday ruled out accelerating Georgia's admission to NATO in response to the Russian invasion. But she warned Moscow that it is playing 'a very dangerous game' by resuming Cold War-era strategic bomber patrols close to the Alaskan coast. 'Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power,' Rice told reporters en route to an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers set for Tuesday. 'That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.'"

I can't really believe she said that. That has to be a misquote, huh? Does she have the memory of a goldfish?

"Since the flights resumed in August 2007, U.S. and Canadian fighters have intercepted the Russian bombers and escorted them away from the U.S. coast. U.S. officials have previously attached little real significance to the flights by the turboprop-powered Cold War relics, and defense officials said Monday recent flights did not provoke concerns within the Pentagon."

So who is really trying to make a mountain out of a molehile here? And just to be clear, Georgia invaded South Ossetia. Russia did not seek to "send a message" but was responding to a request for help from the Ossetians. Recall when the US forces repelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991? They didn't stop at the Iraqi border. What's the difference here?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Dark Knight (2008)**
Not an enjoyable experience. I admired the cinematography, the stunts, the special effects up to a point. It does get repetitive especially in a 2.5 hour comic book movie. I just think the film takes itself way too seriously and is so unrelentingly dark and grim that the humongous gaping plot holes and ridiculousness gets to be too much to ignore. Plus the moral of the sordid tale is that absolute power must be given to certain individuals in order to protect us, but if they have it too long they will become the villain. And in such a twisted and heavily one-sided tale it makes all kinds of sense. In the real world though, it's poppycock.

Heath Ledger does turn in an interesting and mesmerizing performance, fully deserving of all the accolades. The role is big and juicy of course but he nails it. I am hopeful that Christopher Nolan is over his comic book phase and can get back to his "Memento" roots. I'm afraid with the success of this film though, he may be compelled to make another and complete the trilogy. Ugh.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

YouTube - Hearing on Limits of Executive Power: Vincent Bugliosi
It's about time, but watch the whole thing. It appears this hearing is just a going-through-the-motions sort of affair. Nothing will be done about it by this Congress, but they want to be able to say they DID do something. Shameful. Mr. Bugliosi, thanks for trying.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Christopher Lee on Middle Earth
Fascinating 4+ minutes with the great Christopher Lee regarding future plans for The Hobbit film and his potential participation. Lee is one of those actors who I feel should have received much more recognition for the great work he has done in dozens of films. The trouble is he was in so many "B" type movies so even if you are outstanding, because the film is second rate you get dismissed. I would think that if the producers of these films wanted to they could find a way, a la Speed Racer, to "green screen" Mr. Lee and include him in the film from London and not require him to make the arduous journey to New Zealand. (Although since everyone was on the same focus level in Speed Racer it was a much easier thing to splice actors from different sets and designs in to the same frame.)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Delays - Everything's the Rush (2008)****
Tremendous power pop album with the ballad of the year in "Silence". If you like jangly chords, heavy hooks, throbbing bass, smart lyrics and lots of uptempo, this is a must have.
Aimee Mann @#%&*! Smilers (2008)***
Much like Elvis Costello's 1984 release "Goodbye Cruel World", this is Aimee's worst album of individually good (and some great) material. There are 3 songs I would put up against anything she's ever done: "It's Over", "Freeway", "Thirty One Today". And the rest are well-made, intelligent pop songs. The problem is listening to the album is relentlessly depressing and morose. This was a trend for Aimee ever since 2002's "Lost In Space". She is in a deep rut musically and lyrically. But why do I feel this way? I just said 3 of these songs are tremendous and the rest are merely good. Give it a listen and you tell me.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Obama plan would expand faith-based program - IHT:
"Obama is proposing $500 million per year to provide summer learning for 1 million poor children to help close achievement gaps for students. He proposes elevating the program to the "moral center" of his administration, calling it the Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The plan was met with praise from officials who crafted the Bush administration's proposal, including John DiIulio, who in 2001 served as the director of Bush's office on faith based initiatives. 'Senator Barack Obama has offered a principled, prudent, and problem-solving vision for the future of community-serving partnerships involving religious nonprofit organizations,' DiIulio said in a statement. 'He has focused admirably on those groups that supply vital social services to people and communities in need. His plan reminds me of much that was best in both then-Vice President Al Gore's and then-Texas Governor George W. Bush's respective first speeches on the subject in 1999.'"

And so it continues. Obama's march to the center of NOTHING, his betrayal of his most ardent supporters, this mad rush to prove he is not different at all is continuing proof that he really does have what it takes to be president: he will do and say anything at all to get elected.

I am officially off this bandwagon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

IMAX - Wikipedia
I saw Speed Racer today at an IMAX theatre. My last experience at what I thought was an IMAX theatre turned out to be an OMNIMAX theatre which is very different than current standard IMAX. So I was disappointed to say the least. Not in the film itself, which not only holds up upon repeat viewings, but becomes even better. (John Goodman's performance is very good by the way.) If you have access to a digitally projected film theatre, there is no difference in clarity between that and IMAX. Not to my eyes. Yes, the IMAX screen is taller, but that is not relevant to a conventionally shot movie which is typically wider than it is tall. OMNIMAX is the greatest film experience but for some reason still deemed too expensive to film and there are not nearly enough screens to support such a film if it was to be made. I am hopeful that digital cameras could be cheaply made to support the OMNIMAX format and that digital projection of such "films" would be far cheaper and encourage the building of OMNIMAX screens.
WALL-E (2008)***
I liked the opening of the film and for the first 30 minutes we get a glimpse of what "life" is like for WALL-E the robot, left all alone to take all the mountains of trash in what appears to be NYC and stack it into neat and orderly cubes as tall as skyscrapers. But then EVE comes into the picture and things start to go downhill into ordinary Pixar-land. It's not nearly as profound as it wants to be, but the animation is so perfect and seamless, it never ceases to be interesting...except when it is on the spaceship. If they could have done the whole picture without any humans in it at all it would have possibly been a major work of art. As it is, it's an enjoyable piece of family entertainment.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A real pain in the gas - Folsom:
"“Then, apparently to make sure the way was opened really wide to potential market oil price manipulation, in January 2006, the George W Bush administration’s CFTC permitted the Intercontinental Exchange, the leading operator of electronic energy exchanges, to use its trading terminals in the United States for the trading of U.S. crude oil futures on the exchange in London - called “ICE Futures.”

The editorial takes the position that “how today’s oil prices are really determined is done by a process so opaque only a handful of major oil trading banks, such as Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, have any idea who is buying and who is selling oil futures or derivative contracts that set physical oil prices in this strange new world of ‘paper oil.’”

Ties exist between Phil Gramm and investors, including Goldman Sachs, who helped move regulation of WTI offshore, with the ICE Futures Europe purchase."

Phil Gramm is John McCain's economic "advisor".

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dana Milbank - It's a Mitzvah -
"A mere 12 hours after claiming the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee yesterday -- and changed himself into an Israel hard-liner.

He promised $30 billion in military assistance for Israel. He declared that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force has 'rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.' He used terms such as 'false prophets of extremism' and 'corrupt' while discussing Palestinians. And he promised that 'Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.'

Vowing to stop Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, the newly minted nominee apparent added: 'I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally, Israel. Do not be confused.'

I think I'm going to be sick. My only hope is that this is just for the election. Isn't that sad? That you HOPE your candidate is just a cynical anything-to-win pandering asshole? How can he not see that the entire fucking world is resting their hopes on his presidency and to turn around and pull this? This deal with Israel is just like Cuba. It's a small, powerful, moneyed group that influences, almost controls, our government's actions. I think most of us thought Obama would change stuff like that. I guess we were wrong. So friends, it's not going to be this guy but maybe the next one. We have another lesser-of-two-evils election coming up.
U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
"“Before taking the country to war, this Administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced. Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the Administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence,” Rockefeller said. “In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

“It is my belief that the Bush Administration was fixated on Iraq, and used the 9/11 attacks by al Qa’ida as justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. To accomplish this, top Administration officials made repeated statements that falsely linked Iraq and al Qa’ida as a single threat and insinuated that Iraq played a role in 9/11. Sadly, the Bush Administration led the nation into war under false pretenses.

“There is no question we all relied on flawed intelligence. But, there is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberately painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully accurate."

Um, I'm just a poor ignorant caveman, but doesn't this mean that Bush et al are guilty of war crimes? At the very least, shouldn't there be a trial? Isn't this significant enough evidence to have a fucking trial? How many more investigations, memos, testimonies, tell-all books is it going to take to get this man and his murderous cohorts in jail? You know, this isn't about lying about getting a blow job, lying about a civil lawsuit that was without merit to begin with, this is about lying in order to kill people. Human beings. Doesn't that matter to anyone? Isn't that significant? This needs to be on the front page of every newspaper, the lead story on every newscast, from now until the man is brought to justice. It boggles my mind why this is not the case.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Clinton wins, but Obama closer to nomination - Yahoo! News:
"Clinton's win in Puerto Rico, a territory where residents are not allowed to vote in the November election, gave her more fuel for her argument that she has won more popular votes in the five-month nominating fight and is the best Democrat to face Republican John McCain. But the results pushed Obama closer to the magic number of 2,118 delegates needed to become the nominee, and the Illinois senator already has turned his attention to a general election fight with McCain."

Will someone please tell me just what Ms. Clinton wants? She used to seem to be at least a rational person and at least fairly intelligent. But her behavior the past couple of months borders on idiocy. Each day she stays in this race she hurts her future chances of doing ANYTHING. The ability to understand when further action is HARMFUL not only to you but your allies, friends, compatriots is ESSENTIAL to a president. She has proven over and over again that she does not possess the ability to discern that. What a total moron.

UPDATE: James Fallows suggests an answer here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Rice says Iraq war was right thing to do - Yahoo! News:
"Speaking at a news conference ahead of an international conference on Iraq, Rice said she had not read the book by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan, but added that removing Saddam was 'the right thing to do.'"

Sure, getting rid of Saddam was a good thing. But the way they did it was, and continues to be, a very, very bad thing. Ms. Rice still can't realize that, because she sees the world from a perspective where human beings are pawns. Listen to what else she had to say:

"Rice said people often did not understand the full implications of events until long after they had happened."

Unbelievable to me that a US Secretary of State can use this as a defense. Essentially she is saying "I am incompetent." Everything that came to pass in Iraq was entirely predictable, and WAS predicted by many competent persons prior to the invasion.

""It was not the United States of America alone that believed that he had weapons of mass destruction that he was hiding," Rice said."

This is a bald faced lie and one that is often repeated especially by Bush. The rest of the world got their "intelligence" concerning Iraq FROM US! IF they believed it, and there was a lot of other countries who did not believe it, it was because WE told them to believe it. The intelligence was proved faulty PRIOR to the invasion. This is documented.

"She added: 'If the world did not believe that at the time, then I would ask why was Iraq under some of the most severe sanctions that the international community has ever imposed?'"

So she truly believes this? She is not only incompetent but naive.

"The U.N. resolutions showed that the world knew Saddam was a threat, she said. 'Why in the world would you allow the Iraqi people to suffer?'"

Unconscionable. 5 years after the so-called liberation, there is still inadequate WATER, power, safety, basic human necessities in most of the country.

Then she joked about going back to Stanford and overseeing dissertations about how the administration handled the war. Is anyone else sick of seeing these war criminals joking around about this?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ex-White House spokesman says Bush shaded truth on Iraq - Yahoo! News:
"Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan charges in an explosive new book that President George W. Bush and top aides shaded the truth to make the case for the Iraq war, which he declared unnecessary. McClellan, the first Bush insider to write a book criticizing his former boss and fellow Texan, drew instant fire on Wednesday from former White House colleagues with whom he was once close. They wondered why he stayed on the job if he had those feelings that he never expressed to them."

Wow, so many things in this brief article. Let's start with the big picture here and just say that this is yet another in a long line of ex-administration officials with a "tell-all" book way, WAY after the fact. I agree with his ex-cohorts: Why now? Why didn't you make a big stink BEFORE the invasion? And then to say that "they" are to blame? Scott, I have some news for you: YOU were a very big part of "they". And he calls the decision to invade a "misstep". MISSTEP! Like it was all a big misunderstanding or an accident. NO! This was an extremely premeditated crime.

Then we get this graf from Steve Holland the "journalist" who wrote the piece: "The Iraq war was fought over charges that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. Bush began building the case for war in 2002 after the violent upheaval caused by the September 11, 2001, attacks." Wrong, wrong, wrong! Mr. Holland needs to say "Bush CLAIMED the Iraq War was fought over charges of WMD..." And we have plenty of eyewitnesses, insiders, memos, that prove that Bush began "building the case for war" way, WAY before 9/11 ever occurred. Recall former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said the first meeting he attended invading Iraq came up. This was also one of the primary reasons for that secret energy meeting Cheney had with his cronies from the oil companies to develop "energy policy". It is ESSENTIAL that reporters stop spewing the lies of the powerful as if they are fact.

Then there is this wonderful bit from McClellan: "Bush and his top aides did not think through the implications of the conflict..." Oh how lovely! You know, we are not talking about buying a new car or considering some vacation property or deciding what to have for dinner or even your next career move. We are talking about making the decision to destroy a country in the most violent way imaginable, committing hundreds of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of human lives, as well as the reputation and goodwill America used to have, to the garbage. Was it too much to ask to "think this through" a little more?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Speed Racer (2008)****
Stunningly beautiful, fantastically successful merger of cartoon sensibilities with film's inherent weight and realism, this doesn't quite reach the heights it aspires to, but comes tantalizingly close. It's a long film but it never drags, and there is always something to wow at in each and every scene. Smoothly, stylishly directed and an example of a singular vision lifting a flimsy premise (the cartoon/comic book genre) into a work of art. Kids (probably boys mainly) will love it and fans of the original cartoon will not be disappointed. If you're a fan of movies you should see it and in a theater with digital projection.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Measure for Measure - New York Times Blog:
"In many great songs a larger, universal modicum of truth is revealed and resonates on a personal level with the listener, even when the facts make no sense at all. Sometimes especially when the facts make no sense at all. And, if everything goes well, you can also dance to it."

A fascinating blog by Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega and others about songwriting. This particular entry, penned by Ms. Cash, informs us that Elvis Costello does indeed have and respond to emails, and that he, her and Kris Kristofferson just recorded a new song together which is sampled at the site. The quote I selected is about songs specifically, but this post could be about life in general and the relationship, or rather supposed/assumed relationship between facts and truth. Personally, I prefer to throw my lot with facts, as far as they can be known. Truth? Can it be known? Must it be known?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clinton takes Kentucky as Obama claims Oregon:
"His victory was tempered by another late-inning win in Kentucky by his still-hanging-tough competitor, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who bested him by a landslide 35 percentage points. Nonetheless, Obama has won 1,649.5 pledged delegates in the primaries and caucuses, surpassing the 1,627 needed to claim a majority, according to an Associated Press tally."

Because the quality of the "talent" and the writing/editing on television news is so bad, I rarely ever watch it intentionally but sometimes I mistakenly catch a glimpse of the horror. Such was the case last night when I landed upon Nightline for a brief moment after Obama had given his speech in Iowa, and one talking head says to the other "...but Obama supporters have yet another Clinton victory to explain" and the other moron says "Yes, they are having a tough time dealing with that" or some such nonsense. If these guys had any sort of personal understanding about what they are reporting they could offer some sort of perspective for the viewer: Kentucky, West Virginia, these are TINY states with just about 0 electoral importance, especially at this stage of the primary process. Hell, McCain lost to Romney in Utah by 90%! Nobody was running around demanding that McCain supporters explain that or deal with that. It doesn't matter!

And while I'm on the subject, just what the hell is wrong with Hillary Clinton? I never thought she was especially smart or savvy, but I am shocked at just how stupid she wants to be. Apparently she wants to be stupid all the way. Talk about burning bridges. Sheesh.
SFGate: Politics Blog : Schwarzenegger: Maria's Move to Obama was a Surprise:
"The take of the California governor, who has plenty of experience in connecting with an audience: ''When it comes to presidential elections, or any elections, people vote for a lot of things,'' he said. ''Most of them, the person: what does he have to offer, rather than the party...and do I believe him?''

''Now, with the close-ups you have on television, half-shots and three-quarters shots, now you're moving in on the eyes. They see the blinking of the eyes, the swallowing, the nervousness. You say something, they see the color change in the face.''

''They see so much now, and they're very much aware: maybe they cannot articulate the things that they see, but they know that they feel it.''
''And this is why you see, sometimes, changes,'' he said. Shriver's choice shifted, he said, ''because she watched.''"

Interesting insight from The Guvernator, but how does that explain Bush's success? Was there ever a worse candidate than he? He looks like he's lying ordering a cup of coffee! The shifty eyes, the stammering, the head tics... Yikes! Maybe though, it was all so over the top that people felt sorry for the guy? He was so bad he got the sympathy vote.
FRONTLINE: news war | PBS
I just caught the last half of part 3 of this 4 part series last night on PBS and in general it was an interesting look at how we get our news and the continued importance of newspapers to that end. They talked about the LA Times and how it is under pressure to cut costs on a constant basis and they came across this little tidbit that hit me: right now, the LA Times makes a 20% return on costs. TWENTY PERCENT! That is jaw-dropping amazing. And for a minute, the Frontline reporter asks "Well why is the paper under so much pressure then?" The suits tell him why, which is because "investors" demand growth not profits, basically. And then they all moved on! THAT is the story! Profitable businesses are no longer desirable. Isn't that obscene? Everything needs to be bled dry to satisfy someone's insatiable greed. This is the problem with American capitalism today: it is controlled by Wall Street. The tail is wagging the dog and has been for some 40 years.

Anyway they went back to the program and went on talking about how expensive it is to run a paper and how expensive it is to have foreign correspondents and how the LA Times needs to focus on what readers want to read, etc. But the readers HAVE spoken. They DO buy the paper. The paper MAKES MONEY. A LOT of money. What the LA Times are doing is right, smart, perfect. It's the people who want to make money off of the movement of money who are destroying newspapers.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Huckabee quips about gun aimed at Obama:
"Hearing a loud noise and interrupting his speech, Huckabee said: 'That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he — he dove for the floor.'"

Whoa. This is important. The quips and asides and off-the-cuff remarks these people make are usually telling. This should be the end of the career of Mr. Huckabee, but I predict nothing will happen and he may end up as McCain's vp candidate.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bush says gave up golf in solidarity with Iraq dead - Yahoo! News
"President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he quit playing golf in 2003 out of respect for the families of Americans killed in the war in Iraq. 'I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf,' Bush said in an interview with Yahoo and 'I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal,' he said."

And for 5 YEARS he has gone without GOLF! Oh the HUMANITY!!! No, this is not from The Onion. Oh, how I wish it were.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Elvis Costello - Momofuku (2008)****
You can't get recorded music any fresher than this. Written mainly in January/February 2008, "The entire record took a week to record and mix" according to Costello. And these are excellent rock and roll songs. "Go Away" is a standout, as well as "No Hiding Place", "Stella Hurt", and the ballads "Flutter & Wow" and "My Three Sons". Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley lends vocal support and the Imposters and in top form as usual.

UPDATE: I don't want to give the impression that because this record was built so quickly the songs are throwaways or off-the-cuff affairs. Give a listen to "Turpentine", as finely constructed and heartfelt as anything EC has done. This is a mini-masterpiece of guilt and regret all wrapped up in a dreamlike narrative of swirling guitars, keyboards and vocals. Stunning. So far, my Album of the Year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tim Goodman: Miley Cyrus on skin spin:
"Come on, she's not Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or Vanessa Hudgens (yet). It reminds us all that we live in a sublime world. Like when President Bush appeared on 'Deal or No Deal.' We're sure that if given the chance, John F. Kennedy or Franklin D. Roosevelt would have jumped at the chance to appear on a big screen next to Howie Mandel.

-- This is now, officially, the most depressing column ever written about our culture - and it didn't even mention Gary Coleman.

-- Oh, wait. Turns out the 'Diff'rent Strokes' star, now 40, will be appearing on 'Divorce Court' Thursday and Friday with his 22-year-old wife. And no, that's not a joke. And neither is the item about President Bush on 'Deal or No Deal.' In fact, it's all real. You may now go outside and fall on the ground and weep."

Tim Goodman is my favorite TV columnist/critic, and he touches on that supremely surreal Bush appearance on "Deal" and fails to also include his appearance on "Idol" in the same week! I half expected him to start The Siege of Iran last Friday just to see if his approval ratings could get any lower. Instead he moves yet another aircraft carrier into the gulf as "a warning". This is going to happen and nobody is going to lift a finger to stop him. Still! After 8 YEARS of this shit! We're more concerned about Miley's naked back! Sublime world indeed, Tim.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clinton moves on after Pennsylvania win - Yahoo! News:
"Hillary Clinton beat Democratic rival Barack Obama in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, prolonging an increasingly negative presidential nominating fight and keeping alive her slim White House hopes. Clinton's 10-point win paid immediate dividends in fund-raising for the cash-strapped New York senator and shaved off some of Obama's lead in popular votes and in delegates who select the Democratic nominee at the August convention. Both candidates immediately looked to the next round of contests on May 6 in North Carolina, where Obama is favored, and Indiana, which is considered a toss-up."

ENOUGH! I'm done! I will ignore the entire enterprise until late October. I can't stand it any more.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Praying passenger is removed from San Francisco-bound flight:
"'He doesn't respond to them, but his friends explain that once you start praying you can't stop,' said Brafman, who was seated three rows away.
When the man finally stopped praying, he explained that he couldn't interrupt his religious ritual and wasn't trying to be rude. But the attendants summoned a guard to remove him, said Brafman, a writer who had been visiting New York to talk to publishers."

I wonder if his friends could explain why he has to stand near the lavatories to pray? Why he couldn't have prayed BEFORE boarding? Why he couldn't have gone INTO the lavatory?
Rowling says fan's book could endanger other authors - Yahoo! News:
"'Are we, or are we not, the owners of our own work?' said the author of the seven Harry Potter books that have sold about 400 million copies."

NOW we get to the heart of the matter. And I'm afraid I would have to answer to Ms. Rowling, no, you are not the owner of your work once it has been set free into society. Rowling did not sell 400 million copies to herself. Yes, this new book builds on her work. But that's how culture evolves. Copyright was never intended to stifle that. It was intended to allow authors to earn a living from their work, to encourage them to create. It was society's method of funding and rewarding creativity. It has now been perverted to reward corporations and businesses for precisely STIFLING creativity. In the age of zero cost distribution, copyright must be re-considered as a means to promote creativity. I mean, who profits when a book is copyrighted for 75 years after the authors death? Society doesn't. No, J. K. You want to sell your book to the public? Then you need to allow the public to build on your work as it sees fit. There are other ways to "protect" Harry Potter from errors and mis-interpretations. Everyone knows your name on a book is the official word. YOU are the brand not Harry Potter.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rowling tells court she's stopped working - Yahoo! News:
"'This is very personal to me,' said Rowling, who wrote the first Potter book as a poverty-stricken single mother and is now estimated by The Sunday Times to be worth about $1 billion. 'I am an author -- 17-years of my work is being exploited here. This is not about money.' Rowling has said she plans to write her own Harry Potter encyclopedia, which would include material that did not make it into the novels, and donate the proceeds to charity."

Now for all intents and purposes, Ms. Rowling appears to be an intelligent and business-savvy woman. But she is missing the point here. Third-party products don't ruin the core product, they enhance it. They cause it to become essential. Yes you could say it "exploits" it but that's technical. Besides, this lexicon is based on a fan site. You do not want to alienate your fans. She needs to relax, take a week off in one of her dozens of posh homes all over the world, have a mojito or two and just chill out.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

REM - Accelerate (2008)****
This release reminds me of Bruce Springsteen's latest in that both seem upon first listen to be composed of songs that consciously sound like past successes. But as you keep listening to the songs themselves they reveal themselves to be actually pretty darn good without all the context.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

53 million gallons in danger of leaking:
"'We could not tell you that there are no leaks happening today based on the monitoring they have,' said Jane Hedges, the nuclear waste manager for the state Ecology Department, which is responsible for making sure the cleanup is done right....The department believes that current engineering data show that the tanks 'structurally are sound and not in danger of any near-term collapse or failures,' Noyes said."

If they are unable to tell if the tanks are leaking, how do they know they are structurally sound? If it is still standing it is considered sound? WTF is going on here!?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bush says if younger, he would work in Afghanistan | Politics | Reuters:
"'I must say, I'm a little envious,' Bush said. 'If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks,' Bush said."

Too bad he didn't consider Vietnam very romantic when he was younger. He could have easily, you know, confronted danger, made history, had a fantastic experience.

This is a sick, sick individual.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stop Hyperventilating: Fallon Fired but Iran War Not Back On - The Washington Note:
"Rumors are running rampant now in the aftermath of Fallon's resignation today that Bush called a war room gathering on Saturday this past weekend -- and launched plans to hatch a strike of some sort on Iran this spring. Internet bulletin boards, listserves, and chatter among many on the left and the right are hyperventilating (and some excited) about the prospects of a hot conflict with Iran. My sources in the intelligence arena, in various command staff operations, near Defense Secretary Gates, and even in the White House tell me that nothing structural has changed in America's stance towards Iran. The US is still engaged in an effort to get Iran to the negotiating table if it stops its nuclear enrichment activities. It is continuing to apply UN sanctions pressure via unanimous consent of the UN Security Council to bring Iran into compliance with international obligations. And as Bush, Gates and others have said -- other options can be on the table."

Someone HAS to stop these people! "Launched plans to hatch a strike of some sort"???? This is mind boggling. You think you've heard it all, you think they can't go any further and they just keep right on going! Isn't anyone of any consequence a little nervous about this? Is there anyone in Washington with at least a modicum of statesmanship? And not the phony "patriotism" crap? I'm afraid to say this is a low point for my country because I now know it can get lower. And fast!
Dean Baker | Media Overlook Fed Bailout In Plain View:
"In response to this situation the Fed today announced that it would lend $200 billion to banks and other financial firms, accepting mortgage backed securities as collateral. This is effectively the same as saying that the Fed is going to lend money to banks and accept the counterfeit currency as collateral, treating it just as though it were real money.

The intended effect of this policy is to convince other investors that the counterfeit currency is in fact real currency, or at the very least that there is a really huge sucker out there (the Fed) which is prepared to treat the counterfeit currency as real currency.

So how does this story play out? Well, insofar as the Fed is successful, the counterfeit currency retains its value for a while longer. This allows Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Bears Stearns and the rest of the big boys more time to dump their counterfeit currency on suckers who haven’t figured out how the game is played."

Yep, there is absolutely no way we can afford single payor health coverage for all, nor to "save" Social Security, yet we can throw hundreds of billions at Iraq and we're ready to bail out our rich friends whenever they want it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Happiness Project: Why Alicia Silverstone’s “Dumbest Celeb Quote” actually gives profound insight into the nature of happiness.
"One mystery of happiness is why some people choose to be unhappy. One answer: It is easy to be heavy; hard to be light. And you don’t get credit for being light. It looks easy and effortless. No one thinks much about you or tries to accommodate you. You get taken for granted."

I think Ms. Rubin is missing the true nature of happiness. It's not something you choose, or something you strive for. In the words of Robertson Davies: "Happiness is always a by-product. It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular. But it is not something that can be demanded from life, and if you are not happy you had better stop worrying about it and see what treasures you can pluck from your own brand of unhappiness."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

IntLawGrrls: Justice Antonin Scalia on "so-called torture" and rights, if any, of Guantánamo detainees:
"BBC: If you look at countries with a common law tradition, of which we are one, and you are another, but also, lots of other countries around the world, and in the developing world – if they look at decision of the Supreme Court which affirm the death penalty, and which perhaps affirm torture, although that hasn’t happened yet, does that not set a moral tone?
SCALIA: Well, I urge them not to do that. I don’t look to their law. Why should they look to mine? I don’t purport to be prescribing some universal moral law. I am interpreting the meaning of the text of my Constitution, which was adopted at a certain time by my people, and had a meaning to those people at the time. That’s all I’m doing. I’m not charged with, with figuring out the content of the natural law. If you want to look at our decisions, what you could derive from it is what a wonderful Constitution we have. Or, if you don’t like it, you can say what a terrible Constitution we have. But we don’t pretend to be moral, you know, some Western mullahs, who what decide what is right and wrong for the whole world."

So if morality, what is right, what is wrong, has no part in this Supreme Court justice's decisions, and it is only deciding if a certain legal ruling or piece of legislation is in accord with the literal text of a 200+ year old document, does "justice" have any meaning relevant to our lives in the real world? I really do not understand the incredibly smug mindset of people like this. And even worse than Scalia is Thomas. They say these words had a meaning to "those people at the time". But those people who wrote the Constitution had an understanding that natural law, common law, was "self-evident". Scalia is correct, morality is not mentioned specifically in the Constitution. But the writers DIDN'T THINK THEY NEEDED TO! It was SELF-EVIDENT!

Too bad for us that they wrote those words "self evident" down in another document, the Declaration of Independence, which is NOT a part of our Constitution. For justices Scalia and Thomas and many more like them, they have no bearing on anything at all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chaos In Food Webs: The Balance Of Nature Concept Takes A Beating | Scientific Blogging:
"The traditional idea of the balance of nature gets quite a beating by a study that appears in the current issue of Nature. Using a long-term laboratory experiment, the authors conclude that, even under constant conditions, all species in a food web continued to fluctuate in a chaotic fashion. Chaos makes long-term prediction of species abundances impossible. Theoretical ecologists already argued in the 1970s that populations of plants and animals might fluctuate in an unpredictable manner, even without external influences. These predictions, derived from chaos theory, attracted a lot of debate. However, only few scientists believed that species in real ecosystems would truly fluctuate in a chaotic fashion. The common perception was that species fluctuations result from changes in external conditions, driven by climate change or other disturbances of the balance of nature. This classic perspective has been radically changed by new findings of graduate student Elisa Beninc�and Professor Jef Huisman of the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics of the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, in collaboration with colleagues from Wageningen University (The Netherlands), the University of Rostock (Germany), and Cornell University (USA)."

Since the study was done on very small organisms, perhaps as the organism becomes larger and more complex the effect of chaos becomes less powerful because the organisms are more adaptable? And isn't it essential for evolutionary theory that chaos be not just possible but likely?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vampire Weekend (2008)****
Highly entertaining, smart sounding lyrics, precise production, hook-y melodies and bass lines. At times they sound like a mashup of The Police, The Strokes and Graceland-era Paul Simon but they make it all fit together in unpretentious-sized pop songs.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Tech.view | Hacking the vote |
"Bruce Schneier, a blogger on security technology, argues that the failure of electronic voting stems from the way technology invariably increases the number of steps in any process—with each step bringing yet more scope for errors.

Optical scanners, for instance, have twice as many steps as manual counting, making them at least twice as unreliable. First, the voter reads the ballot paper and fills in the ovals, the optical reader senses the blackened ovals, the scanner passes the vote to a tabulator, the tabulator collects all votes from that machine and then transmits the score to a central totaliser. Each step can have an error of a percentage point or two, giving the system as a whole something like a 5% error. That means one in 20 people using a DRE machine will have his or her vote counted incorrectly."

The article also mentions the New Hampshire primary where 80% of the vote relied on optical scanners and coincidentally had the exact reverse percentage for Obama and Clinton of the votes counted by hand, a HUGE red flag. Stupidly, Newsweek chided Kucinich, who got 2% of the vote, for suing for a recount under the mistaken assumption that Kucinich thought he would benefit from the recount. I guess it never occurred to Newsweek that someone would sue for a principal rather than personal gain. Remember the groundswell of support for Obama following Iowa? And he had a clear lead in the polls in NH. Then the stunning comeback by Clinton. Or was it? I don't think the Clinton campaign was guilty of fraud in this case. But someone wants her to win the nomination very badly. And I think those very same people are kind of leery of Obama. And I think there was some very serious voting fraud perpetrated in NH. And nobody cares, and nobody is going to do anything about it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

49ers hire Mike Martz as offensive coordinator / Can ex-Rams coach work Magic:
"While admitting he wants to be a head coach again, Martz said of his new role in San Francisco, 'I just love what I'm doing. To come into a situation like this, to put this thing together, is a thrill for me. I really do enjoy, particularly the quarterbacks, helping them achieve something they didn't think they could do.'"

Very, very exciting news for those of us in NorCal. We will finally have an interesting NFL team to watch each Sunday. The only downside will be the incessant and relentless sports pundits who will drone on and on about Martz's "huge ego" and nit pick every play call each and every Sunday. Head coach Mike Nolan and Mike Martz coached together under Norv Turner in Washington. Interesting that Nolan was able to hire his former head coach as OC and now Martz. Nolan is an interesting case. A very confident man, very secure in himself, very smart. He knows if Martz does indeed turn the offense around, he has a great chance of winning the division next year and securing his position as head coach. The main problem with the 49ers offense is the quarterback position and there is no doubt that Martz can make something happen there. I would wager that Shaun Hill will be the starter next year unless some free agent is signed. I just don't see Alex Smith working to learn a 200+ item playbook and submitting himself to Martz's often harsh criticisms. Welcome to San Franciso, Mike!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

collision detection: Why audiophiles are dying out:
"In fact, I've come to believe that crappy technology -- lousy studios, horrible playback devices -- is a boon to pop music. Because when you strip out the superhigh and superlow frequencies that send audiophiles -- planted with geometric triangulation betwixt their $325,000 Acapella speakers (pictured above!) -- into such supposedly quivering raptures, you're forced to reckon with a music simpler question, which is: Is the song any good? A really terrific pop song can survive almost any acoustic mangling and still be delightful. A mediocre one can't. A mediocre song needs a doubleplusgood sound-system to bring out its half-baked appeal; a truly excellent tune is catchy even when played on a kazoo."

Friday, January 04, 2008

Serious Eats: Michael Pollan's Twelve Commandments for Serious Eaters: Can You Live By Them?:
"7. 'Pay more, eat less.' Easy for him—or anybody else with enough discretionary spending power—to say. Not so easy for the working poor or even middle class folks who have very little extra money for anything.
8. "Eat a wide variety of species." But can't I eat heritage pork products more often than others?
9. "Eat food from animals that eat grass." As long as these animals can occasionally be finished on corn. Sorry, Michael: Beef from cows that eat grass and then corn taste better. "

A fairly snarky post at Serious Eats about Micheal Pollan's latest book. I haven't read the book so I can't comment on how forceful Pollan posits these "commandments" or even if he calls them that. But I think the point of #7 is to rearrange our priorities and change our perception regarding the true cost of our food. We have had artificially cheap food for decades and have gotten to expect it to stay that way forever. You can pay more simply by buying conventional produce rather than processed foods. You don't HAVE to buy organic, hand grown heritage stuff to make a difference. #9's comment that corn fed beef tastes better is ludicrous. Of course it is a matter of personal taste, but grass fed beef is WAY more flavorful than even prime corn fed beef for my money. The #8 comment as well as many others in the article, have to be considered as jokes taking Pollans' words way too literally and seriously. He's not after absolutes here. But much like Jesus' Golden Rule ("do unto others...") that "sums up The Law and The Prophets", Pollan HAS offered a succinct summary of his work: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."