Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another Embarassing Revelation

What the hell, I'm on a roll...

Last night, I dreamt that I was on an outing to Las Vegas with a group of Little People. Midgets. I was thinking, I'm 5'8", I really don't belong with these people. On the other hand they're perfectly nice folk and it IS an excuse to go to Vegas. And apparently 5'8" was right on the cutoff point for midgets, no matter how tall I looked in comparison to everyone else.

Thinking about it just now, it occurs to me that this relates to a long-running argument I'm having with Mrs. K. about my earning potential.

All right, I promise to spend the rest of the day OUTSIDE my head.

More On BYOR

Skot (BTW enough with the Anonymous! Just register for god's sake!) commented on yesterday's Karaoke bar piece. Interesting. Three things occur to me.

  1. Oh great, I'm back to where I was in the 90's -- writing a blog that reveals too much about me! Actually the problem then was I was revealing too much about everybody else, and I paid dearly for it. Truth is, I'm not really terrific at self-expression and blogging may be the only vehicle anyone will ever have to know what I really think - "anyone" includes me.
  2. The post would make a great prequel to EYES WIDE SHUT, n'est pas? That too was about the fear of things happening. It's a movie about sex, only no one actually HAS ANY. I think even the background people at the party were only dancing. I wonder if we can bring Spielberg in on this one too?
  3. Fear is indeed the mind-killer.

I should probably be embarrassed by the mere fact that I'm a Karaoke geek (take mime lessons while you're at it, dude!) but to make it worse I pride myself on my wide internal catalog of songs, and yet I know almost nothing past 1993. To me, Radiohead is still cutting-edge. EARLY Radiohead. Fortunately most of the crowd at Paoli's at least LOOKS older than me. Oh hell, they are.

One other thing - I scoured my archives and the post about the TV journalist full o'booze is probably gone forever, because it predates my LiveJournal effort by a couple months. I'll try to remember the best details and post it again, because as I grow old it will be one of my most treasured and reliable anecdotes.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apple Didn't Steal From Xerox, Dammit!

With the release of Microsoft Vista today, the geek mind wanders to the orgins of the GUI for personal computers. This essay (click on the title - an interface guy would hate the fact that I have to mention that) by interface designer Bill Horn makes a strong case that Apple made up their own interface and Windows did the stealing. Enjoy, Pointdexter!


Last night I went out to a Karaoke bar called Paoli's near my place. I do this about once a week, to mine my extensive knowledge of pop songs and show off my surprisingly good singing voice. It's odd too, because its a bar. I don't drink, and being married I'm not there to pick up chicks. It's an evening of counter-intuitive fun.

Even though I don't drink, I must admit that I have all kinds of fun watching other people get drunk. Maybe it's nostalgia for my dad, who drank himself to death the year that Star Wars came out. Maybe it's the smug feeling of superiority. Whatever, I love being around drunk folks. And last night, my ideal drunk person came out. She was beautiful, she had enormous breasts, disproportionately large lips, she dressed cheap and craved attention. The way she was acting you'd think someone had slipped her a roofie, but clearly she had brought her own roofies. She talked me into singing a couple of duets with her, allowed me to cop a feel (and my god, they are genuine!) and even invited me back to her place! Along with about 5 other guys, including the long-suffering boyfriend who brought her.

The other 4 went.

It's amazing that my lovely wife lets me go out to bars like this alone, but she knows how truly harmless a guy I am. I'm only there to sing, and to observe, and occasionally argue with Allen, the British guy with the C. Everett Koop beard and the Buddy Holly fetish, about who is the most attractive girl in the place. I swear, Karaoke is the best hobby ever.

I think somewhere on the Livejournal version of this blog is another account of the time I met a sloshed TV news reporter at Paoli's and he kept giving me advice on how to get chicks. If I find it I'll link to it here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Good Review for PAN

This weekend I managed to get out to see PAN'S LABYRINTH, the acclaimed foreign film from the guy who directed HELLBOY. I can't remember his name now and the firewall prevents me from looking it up, but I believe he also did BLADE 2, KRONOS and that Mira Sorvino movie about giant subway bugs.

The director's history is important here because the project is really really odd, in the same way that LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is odd. (What the hell is that guy's name? Benicio Del Toro? Nawww.) Just as Roberto Begnini got sparks by rubbing his normal goofy persona against the very serious subject of concentration camps, this movie gets its biggest charge from putting a monster fantasy in a brutal fascist command post in Franco's Spain.

I'll avoid as many spoilers as I can here. Suffice it to say that it structurally winds up being two stories, both of which would be well-made but so-so movies in their own right, but when you put them together they augment each other in surprising ways. And because the fantasy element is so well integrated it makes for an ending which is both heart-breakingly tragic and transcendentally joyous. I love it when a movie fixes it so that it can have it both ways. This also goes for the fascist captain, well played by... uh, some Spanish guy. He gives his cruelty a full humanity which paradoxically makes him less sympathetic, because you realize that he's capable of avoiding such monstrous behavior but he chooses not to.

Since I'm a moonbat liberal I'll add that, yes, he is a Fascist who tortures his victims and that seems much much too familiar nowadays. Note to my friends at there is a reason why the torturers are always the villains in movies. Torture is evil! Even Jack Bauer has a pretty rotten life. Fascists have only fared well in movies directed by Leni Riefenstahl. I hope you see where I'm going with this.

Guillermo Del Toro. I knew it would come to me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Dead Horse Named Bill Clinton

Scalia, answering questions after a speech, also said that critics of the 5-4 ruling in Bush v. Gore need to move on six years after the electoral drama of December 2000, when it seemed the whole nation hung by a chad awaiting the outcome of the presidential election. "It's water over the deck — get over it," Scalia said, drawing laughs from his audience.
-Mark Sherman, Associated Press

Yeah, here's the thing about that. "Water under the bridge" is the normal phrase. "Water over the deck" indicates that the ship is sinking and the wrong guy is captain.

I'm in a quandary here because I keep thinking about something I've heard from a couple of Republicans during the troop surge debate. Escalation? Augmentation? Anyway, more than once some have said that to even debate this only emboldens our enemies.

So publicly disagreeing with the president is aiding and abetting the enemy.

So why haven't all those senators who criticized Clinton when he sent troops into Kosovo turned themselves in? Why isn't Tom DeLay in Gitmo right now? I'm limiting my scope here to wartime behavior. Although, as has often been pointed out, Clinton didn't do enough to stop Bin Laden; isn't is possible that he was distracted during the six-year unprecedented criminal investigation which yielded no actual charges other than lying to the grand jury about an unrelated personal matter? Could THAT have taken his eye off the ball a little?

I'm just saying. And the other day, at WHERE ARE MY KEYS, I was in a comment section debate about this. Madeline's Dad said,

When the 9/11 Commission did their investigation, and the resulting report, all we kept hearing about was how the Clinton guys gave all this info to the Bush guys, describing what a threat Bin Laden, et al were/are. If that's the case, that al-Q was the biggest thing out there, why didn't the American people know anything about them?

This from the side that routinely calls the New York Times a branch of Al-Jazeera for reporting UN-classified information. I think I had a stroke when I read that. I brought up the fact that Bush wasn't exactly giving daily Bin Laden briefings before 9/11 either. He eventually said he gives both sides a pass for what they did BEFORE 9/11. I believe he is worried that as we speak, congress is housing an Al-Quaeda office in that basement conference room they had to meet in a couple of years ago. If there is another attack on American soil, it will be because the Republicans are no longer running all the branches of government.

The way I see it, the biggest assault on our nation occurred under exactly that scenario, but MD and the other Bush apologists cannot admit that. It's the elephant in the room, if you will.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State Of The Union - Whatever, Listen To This

I didn't listen to the State of the Union address last night. I hate 'em. I hated Clinton's SOTUs too. In the vast Kabuki which is politics, the SOTU is like some play within a play, a guy miming a puppet show. It's a mighty waste of time and effort, and everyone knows it.

I believe that the original intent of the speech was for the President to report on the State of the Union. This is ridiculous on its face. The President has no more information than congress or the Senate does, and if he does he's going to keep it to himself. Therefore, the exercise has mutated into a policy statement, in which the President pretends to ask congress for things he pretends to want, and Congress pretends to listen. It's a pageant, made even more unnecessary by the refusal of everyone to wear top hats.

The President says something like, I call on Congress to tax oil companies! Congress applauds. The next day they pretend it never happened. We, the American public, turn off the TV and say, "wow, I didn't know the president wanted to tax oil companies! He's not so bad after all." And then we forget it ever happened. Or if we don't forget, the President can say he called for it but he doesn't make the laws. Congress can say they're working on it. The oil companies wire another sum to a series of offshore accounts. Everybody wins.

The SOTU is, and has been for its history, an infomercial. There is, possibly, a slight chance that the president would ask for something he really wants, and be so convincing that Congress would listen to the American People and give it to us. You see that happening? Me either. So it's an infomercial which everybody knows is meaningless before it starts. No wonder McCain nodded off. The amazing thing is that everyone else doesn't.

I'm pushing for next year's SOTU to be a memo.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ha ha, That's Rich

The Washington Press Club Correspondants dinner (as you probably now know) has invited Rich Little to do the monolog this year, as a way of defusing the bad feelings brought about by Steven Colbert's monolog from last year. They want light, they want gentle, they want uncontroversial. Rich Little is most famous for his impressions of Johnny Carson and Richard Nixon, public figures who have been dead for half a decade.

Wonkette has a great throwaway line about this: Why can't he do an impression of Steven Colbert doing a funny speech? I have been thinking about this and it's the germ of a great idea. Go over to and flood him with requests to do Colbert. He doesn't have to say anything mean about anybody, even Colbert... just doing the impression will be enough to send shivers down the spines of the press club, and give the President hives. It would be classic.

Failing that, let's have him do Nixon talking Vietnam. Doesn't matter what he says there either.

Statistics Ruin My Life Again

According to a formula devised by Dr. Cliff Arnall in Cardiff, today is statistically the most depressing day of the year.

Arnall’s so-called formula looks like this: [W + (D-d)] x TQM x NA. All of the letters and symbols apparently represent a sort of mathematical code to track the following:
W: How bad the weather is at this time of year.
D: Amount of debt accumulated over the holidays minus how much is paid off.
T: The time since the holidays.
Q: Amount of time passed since New Year’s resolutions have gone south.
M: Our general motivation levels.
NA: The need to take action.
And of course, it's a Monday. I Don't Like Mondays.

The formula is, of course, ridiculous. For one thing it assumes bad weather. Where I am it's chilly but sunny, and therefore pretty good. On the other hand, I'm coming down with a cold, so that will push it in the other direction, but what if I hadn't noticed symptoms until Wednesday? I guess what I'm saying is formula or not, I was more depressed last month.

However, there is something to be said for January as the most miserable month. It is the dead of winter, and I personally know two people who lost parents in the last weeks. My sypathy goes out to them. And you got that post-holiday depression thing, coupled with the sudden lack of cool parties.

So if you're noticing that you're more depressed today than usual, blame the messenger Dr. Arnall. By the way, Dr. Who fans know that Torchwood has a base in Cardiff so maybe all the nearby alien tech is affecting people there. My advice to Arnall is to move out before he is swallowed by another temporal rift. I hate those.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Impact of a Semi-Deep Nature

It's cold outside, I got the house all to myself, and I'm feeling in a kind of fatalist mood... what better time to take in DEEP IMPACT on TNT?

DI was one of two comet-themed disaster movies to come out in 1998, the other being the more popular ARMAGEDDON. They were both pretty bad movies, and they both had the same impossible set of goals - make a film which promises to show you the end of the world and then delivers a happy ending. Come to think of it, INDEPENDENCE DAY had the same problem and they solved it by actually dismantling civilization; the happy ending is the revenge killing of the alien race. If they had been more honest about it, ID is a very grim story indeed, and perhaps thats why the sequel hasn't emerged.

Of the two comet movies, DI is the one most influenced by Irwin Allen. A series of big-name stars pursue their own separate agendas, from stopping the comet to reconciling with their parents. Where the movie fails, I think, is trying so hard to avoid the cheesy excesses of Irwin Allen. THE TOWERING INFERNO and THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE succeed partially on the strength of their sheer artifice - the bad writing and somnambulent acting give you a little distance from the tragic stories of these movies. It actually becomes funny watching these poor bastards burst into flames and plummet to their deaths. That's Entertainment!

I had high hopes for DI when I learned that the screenplay was credited to Bruce Joel Rubin and Michael Tolkin. Rubin is famous for, among other projects, GHOST, JACOB'S LADDER and BRAINSTORM -- movies about the afterlife. Tolkin is behind DEEP COVER, THE PLAYER, and THE RAPTURE, which have the darkest of dark sensibilities. You'd expect the comet to hit halfway through, and for the rest of the movie to be taken up with tales of people dying off during the consequent ice age.

As much as I dislike the work of Michael (ARMAGEDDON) Bay, his direction at least actively annoys me, while Mimi (DEEP IMPACT) Leder puts me to sleep. She has made a career of smoothing the rough edges off of projects that could have used them. I suppose it's all the television experience, but she really seems to flatten out any project she's involved with. Maybe it's just me. Some people loved PAY IT FORWARD.

Anyway, so the Earth isn't destroyed in DEEP IMPACT, and that disappoints me to this day. Sorry if I gave anything away. Oh, and Tea Leoni dies.

By the way, TNT did something that I hope isn't the first sign of a trend. You know how they'll take the credits, put them in a window and run ads for other stuff at the ends of movies? This is the first time I've ever seen this: TNT windowized the credits for Deep Impact, and launched right into the next movie in a separate window. Not only that, the other movie was ALSO DEEP IMPACT. They were running it again! It's wrong on so many levels I'm surprised that Martin Scorsese isn't testifying before congress about it now.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Speaking Ill Of The Dead

So off goes Art Buchwald, political satirist, as gently into as good a night as possible. He was kind enough to leave behind one last column, following in the footsteps of Isaac Asimov and L. Ron Hubbard, other people who didn't let death stop them from putting out fresh material.

I've admired Buchwald for years because he sued Paramount for his share of the profits of COMING TO AMERICA. He had signed a contract that entitled him to points after the movie turned a profit, and Paramount famously argued that the movie had grossed over 300 million dollars and was ALMOST profitable, but they didn't want to go into details. Normally these kinds of things are settled out of court for the obvious reason that no studio wants their books to be put into public evidence. Buchwald pressed ahead, recognizing that he could afford to destroy his chances of working in Hollywood again. He had nothing to lose, and as I recall he won.

Here's the thing about Buchwald though. I just never found him funny. I read his columns for a while in high school and gave up on them. And this was the golden age of Art Buchwald! He struck me as comedy-blind, a condition I invented to describe people who have good timing, understand joke structure, and can even turn out a creditable talk show appearance without ever actually delivering the laughs. They are the Salieris in a world of comedy Mozarts.

Even his treatment for COMING TO AMERICA was completely rewritten, retaining only the character names and the premise of an African prince in America.

So aloha Art B; I won't miss you much (and Sumner Redstone is surely dancing a jig), but the world is a little less ... I don't know, something... for your absence.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Complaining About The Weather, Doing Nothing To Fix It

About winter in Minnesota, Garrison Keillor once said "it's the time of year when nature makes a serious effort to kill you."

I live in California, where nature has no such sinister intention. Perhaps it is more laid back here. Still, it's relentlessly grim out there. It's overcast, it's bone-chilling cold. We've lost a year of one of our greatest exports, oranges, to frost. Fortunately, we are able to pump out bad TV in any weather. Still, if I could tolerate a climate like this, I'd move to someplace like Minnesota, where it's much much cheaper to live.

And this is southern California. I can only imagine how things are in my birth place of Santa Cruz, nestled on the sea between San Jose and Monterey. Those ocean breezes can be cruel and if the city wasn't at sea level it would probably snow often. They drink a LOT of coffee in Santa Cruz. Unlike Seattle, some people are probably drinking coffee and surfing at the same time.

Worst part of it is, it keeps threatening to rain but never quite does. And the static electricity is therefore building to Van De Graaf generator levels. Soon I expect to see a group of people warming their hands around the corpse of a goth who shuffled too far before trying to open the door.

If this is what the weather is like in the blue states, no wonder they laugh off global warming!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cold-hearted Orb Which Rules The Night

I have studiously avoided paying any attention to the Golden Globes this year, as I do every year. It's not that the Globes are less legitimate than the Oscars; indeed they're both equally bogus. However, I only have so much time to devote to this kind of nonsense, and I've made my choice.

I've got a tab open in my browser (Firefox, and even THAT'S a more interesting choice) to the nominees and winners, in case I feel compelled to refer to it as I write this. Looking over there, the one thing I'll say about the Globes is they have the sense to keep comedy and drama apart from each other, and they lump film and television into one awards show. That's good because it give the film and TV people a chance to rub elbows; I bet there would never have been a single Jenna Elfman movie had there not been Golden Globes. Conversely, would we have seen James Woods in SHARK without the Globes?

Oh yeah, I hate SHARK and find Jenna Elfman perky but irritating.

"Perky but irritating"... is there ever a need to use "but" instead of "and" in that construction? Interesting.

Also interesting is the fact that, looking over the list, the TV nominees seem far more compelling than the film ones. BABEL just looks like award-mongering to me; I'd never consider actually seeing it. MRS. HARRIS on the other hand was fascinating. THE DEPARTED had its moments but you got the feeling that everyone involved was dashing out takes between phone calls, and Scorcese gets all his best material out of the Hong Kong action movie he's remaking. It's a sleepwalk.

As for the other 4 TV movies, so are they, but it's 8 on the film talley. The comedies make up the good material there. BORAT and THANK YOU FOR SMOKING were the opposite of sleepwalks, they were tightrope walks. Both boasted horrible yet sympathetic lead characters, and both were virtual fonts of ugly truths about all of us, made palatable, nay delicious, by deft comic handling. Plus one of the two featured a brilliant sight gag involving a bear's head, though at this point I can't remember which one.

DREAMGIRLS? Not as much fun as CHICAGO. DEVIL WEARS PRADA? Pedestrian. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE? As familiar as it was delightful.

By the way, pity poor Leonaro DiCaprio, who aced himself out of two awards and still lost to someone else, and Helen Mirren, who was against herself in so many catagories that she's going to spend the next year musing about what she did wrong in THAT performance, the one where she didn't win.

I guess that in an awards environment, it is fair to expect the nominees to have a little experience under their belt - maybe you want a genre piece that's the best example of the genre ever. Which is fine, but boring to yours truely. I want genre-bending. I want postcards from the edge, where they haven't even built the genre yet. I want entertainment that is so new that you can't recognize that they're doing award-quality work.

Some movies are bedtime stories, entertaining because you know exactly what's going to happen and when; and those movies win the big awards. I don't like bedtime stories.

Monday, January 15, 2007

TalkDemonic, Candypants, Carolyn Edwards et. al.

I made the lonely trek out to Spaceland last night to dig the scene and hear a few bands, chief among them my beloved Candypants. Typically for me, the real crowd showed up to see another band, the Oregon-based TalkDemonic.

Didn't like 'em.

I can see how someone would. They have a very dense sound, and it's good solid trancey music. But it just seems wrong for a club date. First of all, there's only two people on stage. It's the only violin/drum band I've ever seen. The rest is supplied by a keyboard and a laptop, which means that much of the music was pre-sequenced. And if people aren't dancing, then it's not that interesting a visual unless you put the laptop on a light box or something. Second, no vocals. And to my ears, the music, while not sounding the same, did all tell the same story.

Still, the crowd was into it, perhaps because the violinist was with The Decemberists. I don't have any idea how many CDs they moved last night, but when TalkDemonic left the stage most of the audience went with them.

Candypants were fabulous as usual, though not particularly fresh. Maybe I just see them too much.

There was a band called Misfit Toys led by Carolyn Edwards and I found them appealing. Songs about mundane things, performed by people who resembled, in attitude, Shelly Long's character in CHEERS. Tasty keyboard work. (Carolyn just wrote to me to say that she introduced the band as the Misfit Toys, but she was only kidding.)

The closing band, The Sexies? Well, they're good at what they do but let's just say it's possible to be TOO retro.

I came in too late to judge Jeff Merchant's band, but I was impressed by the variety of instruments.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Multi-Culturism - You Can Go To Extremes With Impossible Schemes

If you are conservative, or right-leaning, or at times even if you're me, you think that the multi-culturism movement is bunk. It leads to isolation, you'll say, a country of Chinatowns and Little Italys. Better we should have assimilation from our foreigners, where they learn English and develop American habits and customs.

We live in a deeply polarized country right now, and this debate is a perfect example of why polarization is bad. Because either option in that above argument is horrible.

Multi-culturism, as normally defined, involves letting people hold on to their native culture rather than assimilating. Thus African Americans take Ebonics classes instead of English, Latinos get to celebrate their own holidays, stuff like that. It runs counter to the great American Melting Pot rhetoric we've been taught since we were kids - why don't those people just melt already?

So the alternative is insisting they melt. They must dress like "us", speak like "us", go to the same festivals. And here's the problem with that - making different people try to be "us" gives us the home team advantage. It immediately relegates the outsiders to the status of bad impressionists. "Poor Pablo - no matter how hard he tries, he still can't get rid of that accent." How funny Salawa looks in tank top!

And African-Americans have it the worst of all. If you look at our nations history, then we abducted them and forced them to work for us, then let them go with the proviso that they not bother us, and now we're insisting that they BE us but we will probably still ignore them. Ebonics and hip-hop music are their way, perhaps, of building an area where they are first-class citizens.

I'm for the melting pot idea, still. Thing is, you have to be mindful that whatever is in the melting pot now absorbs the qualities of what you throw into it. The same people who insist that African-Americans assimilate are horrified at the prospect of Eminem. The question that all mono-culturists have to ask themselves is not "why can't they be more like us?" It is "how much more like them can I be?"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

An Inconvenient Theory

I was driving home today, thing to think of some way to explain to my conservative friends how global warming could result in the next ice age, and I had an epiphany. Not about global warming per se, that's for scientists. REAL scientists, not the guys who work for Exxon. no my theory will explain why Exxon hires those scientists.

Like me, you've assumed that the big energy companies are fighting the global warming concept because they want to protect their investment. You are thinking, "on some level they know it's happening but they want to pump the oil for a few more years while they still can, and hope the serious damage will wait until after they're dead."

My theory is this - whether it's uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold, PEOPLE WILL SPEND MORE ON ENERGY. Especially cold. An ice age would have the added advantage for usually clouded skies - no pesky solar energy to cut into profits! Nobody lives off the grid!

Remember they're not protecting their profits at all... they're pushing to expand the market.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Min Wage Raise - Why Do They Hate America?

Finally! Despite taking Monday off and refusing to let Republicans "participate", Congress has managed to grind out a minimum wage bill. It was supported with ayes from 60 vote-lovin' Republicans; what a difference a sea-change makes!

If I may make a modest proposal, let me suggest why they should have voted to lower the minimum wage to around $3.00 an hour.

If you believe that the brown man is trying to take over America, this minimum wage is a terrible idea. It's no secret that illegal immigrants (the Mexican ones, not Canadians) are drawn to our country by the jobs. (The Canadians are drawn here by dreams of starring in TV shows.) And it's also no secret that businesses, in order to keep profits at a comfortable level, must often pay these immigrants sub-minimum wages without benefits. It's the only way to stay competitive!

The only possible outcome of this bill is to produce massive legal employee layoffs, creating a vacuum that only undocumented workers will be able to fill. Once they're in, they will use up all our resources and probably participate in terrorism.

A more visionary congress would have dropped wages to levels just below what we are paying illegal immigrants. This would make crossing the border a less attractive option, while opening up opportunities for inner-city youths. Not only would more of them have jobs, many would take on two or three jobs! We could have over 100% employment!

Don't go throwing around the words "abject poverty" either. Yes people would earn much less money, but the invisible hand of economics would surely drop prices as the cost of production lowers. Suddenly a Happy Meal, powdered milk, a handful of millet and other essentials would be within the reach of your average poor person. Deflation will solve all our problems.

You can say I'm dreaming, that this economic scenario of deregulation, deflation and low wages would never work, but I'm telling you it can. Mexico has had a system like that for years.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Apparently it's Richard Nixon's birthday today, suggesting that Gerry Ford checked out a little early just to avoid the whole issue. Wonkette is running Nixon stories praising him for his surprisingly liberal policies while vilifying him for giving jobs to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumfeld, the two men who would ultimately destroy western civilization.

I'm reminded of Harry Shearer, and why he recommends a visit to the Nixon Memorial Library in Yorba Linda: "It's like a theme park, and the twin themes are paranoia and revenge."

Nixon looks pretty good from this vantage point. Okay, maybe he was sweaty and shifty in that debate with Kennedy but he won on substance, if you weren't watching on TV. Vietnam? He inherited it from Democrats. Paranoid racist who overstepped the limits of his office? Okay, yeah. But it was nothing LIKE the power grab going on in that office nowadays (said to be Cheney's idea, by the way) and you don't get more paranoid/racist than carpet-bombing two countries because they house people who look like the 19 guys who blew up your office buildings.

Then again, it's early to say how GW Bush will be judged. Maybe 40 years from now I'll look back and say yeah, George wasn't as bad as I thought at the time - at least he allowed blogs! Then I'll shuffle back to my cot in the Atheist Internment Camp, gnaw on my boiled potato and wait for my weekly beating at the hands of ruthless guard robots.

(BTW, hat tip to Skot for the title of this post, an allusion to the helvetica medium typeface on the NIXON NOW! buttons, which spelled something else entirely when turned upside down.)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Power To The People

It takes so little to turn an ordinary evening completely surreal.

Last night, my little suburban neighborhood of West Hills was plunged into darkness. All day long we had been plagued by the Santa Anas; you may think that is a quartet of mini-skirted dancers badly rapping about a soft drink, but in fact its a weather phenomenon peculiar to the southwestern United States in which dry-hot winds sweep through the area. And like the Fantanas, they often come on with an annoyingly strong force. Unlike them, they don't come in bright primary colors.

Earlier that day we had tried to take the dogs out for a walk and only got about 2 blocks before turning around and heading home. And later we were at the hardware store garden department, and the nice plant lady kept having to right toppled bushes. It was that windy.

So it was around 8:00pm that night, as I had just surfed through the entire satellite collection and decided that the 150 choices it offered would not satisfy my entertainment needs. I had just made a plan to watch the Bittorrented DR. WHO Christmas episode in my office when the power went out. And it was out everywhere. We went outside and looked at the other houses in the neighborhood. All you could see were their silhouettes, contrasted against the eerie LA glow of the night sky. Somewhere there was electricity. Somewhere else.

We hunted down enough candles to keep from tripping over things, but soon the awful reality loomed before us - we were completely without entertainment, with no idea when there would be more.

It was a serious issue. We have a lot of money and time invested in a home entertainment center, and we depend on it night after night to occupy our minds. We couldn't watch television; we couldn't listen to radio or play CDs. We couldn't go online because even with my trusty iBook laptop, the router was out. Reading by candlelight was out of the question. YOU try it some time.

You may suggest, why not talk? We had actually spent the better part of the day arguing, and while that had all been settled neither of us was anxious to risk starting that up again. We were counting on television to help us avoid talking. And it's true that we easily could have hopped in the car and driven 2 miles to see a movie but it was Sunday night man! Sunday night is when you decompress from your weekend and prepare to face the world on Monday.

Ultimately I dug out the iPod and listened to Retrocrush while Mrs. K. curled up on the couch brooding, and we went to bed a half hour early in the eerie silence. Then at 3:00am the lights all came back on. I turned them off and settled into comfortable normalcy. But the incident nags at me, because I don't like to be reminded how much entertainment means to me. It's not the luxury we all consider it to be. Entertainment is the only thing that keeps us from going mad. If there was a sudden entertainment freeze, it's likely that we would descend into anarchy, chaos and petty land squabbles, just to fill the time. I'm only half kidding when I say this.

We trivialize this stuff at our own peril.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Use Of Torture

Tell them what you're going to say: The only legitimate use of torture is to supress freedom.

Say it: I've been kicking around again, looking for people to argue with. And James Biga, of Biga's Rants, has supplied me with with an epiphany. Today he put up a post entitled "Is The Use Of Torture Legitimate?" To his credit, he shows some ambivalence on the subject and indeed, decides that he wishes torture wasn't necessary. This is refreshing because he is so strongly anti-Muslim.

The main thrust of his argument is that sometimes torture is the only way to get information, and even if only 20% of the information you get from torture is accurate or useful, it's still wrong to not torture if it can save human lives. Call it the Bauer Doctrine, if you will. It's on this point that he and I differ. And good liberal that I am, I'm going to take the devil's advocate side and demonstrate the good use of torture.

Let's dispense with this information argument first. Pure nonsense. People will say anything to stop the pain. Sometime it's a betrayal of secrets, but surely in the vast majority of cases it's whatever the torturer wants to hear. Otherwise, why stop? So you're as likely to get dangerously wrong information ("the, uh, the bomb is.... under the bridge! Send all your men there before 4:00!") as useful.

I'm going to assume good motives on the part of the administration. Only super villains run for office to destroy the world. Bush and Cheney and Company are in politics to make a positive difference. I can't see putting yourself through the hell of politics just to secure an oil investment. So, assuming they're good at heart, and not stupid (also probably true), why throw away all that political capital and international good will by publically supporting torture?

Because torture, while being a lousy information extraction mechanism, is quite useful as a threat.

Sensible people, seeing dissidents kidnapped and then returned with burn marks and rope scars, will seriously weigh the options of speaking out. How important is it to say their leaders are wrong, really? Dying for an ideal is one thing, but enduring extended pain for it quite another.

I think that the neo-con agenda is aimed at calming the world, at creating peace through the United States' unprecedented firepower. For obvious reasons, this idea doesn't sell well on its face because it sounds so much like, you know, fascism. So instead, we are doing all this to "protect ourselves" from "terrorists", such as "the democrats". Ha ha, just kidding Ann C. And George B. And Karl R and Tom DeL. Guess I'll throw in Michelle M. while I'm at it, and I hope they keep that graphic up!

Since the idea of jettisoning liberty and privacy is distasteful to Americans, I can only assume the PNAC looked at the horizon and saw Islamofascism rising, and decided that their only good option was an American version. Am I right? I don't know, but this narrative sure makes more sense than the one they're putting out.

And no, I don't think it's a good strategy. Based on my myriad of assumptions here, this is a bold and unbelievably stupid strategy. I think the best way to keep islamofascism down (if there would ever be such a thing) would be to stop buying their oil, because their tourism and agricultural resources are somewhat more limited. But hey, what do I know? I'm on my way to an Atheist Camp any day now. I look forward to showing off my scars.

Tell them what you said: The administration is lying to us about why they want to use torture. They think they have a noble reason to do so. They are wrong.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

I Should Consider Dropping the Music Show

I just was looking around for that mosquito ringtone - try it yourself, and see why you are closer to the end of your useful life than you thought!

Your ears aren't what they once were and you have resorted to doing online hearing tests.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 12kHz
Find out which ringtones you can hear!

Bias at CNN!

Proof that CNN has a liberal bias!

Proof that CNN has a conservative bias

So look, can we all admit that CNN has no bias, only a very bad graphics department?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

CE3K Revisited - This Means Something

New Year's day was an opportunity for me to re-examine a touchstone of my youth. I was laying on the couch, exhausted from dismantling the wormy old picnic table in our backyard, and I channel-surfed to HDNet where they were showing, in its full hi-def glory, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

I paid a lot of attention to that movie when it came out but somehow never bothered to consider what it might be about. Perhaps I was distracted by all the pretty lights and the massive game of Simon at the end, or maybe I got caught up in the trivia surrounding the production. Did you know that you can see R2-D2 hanging from the underside of the spaceship in one scene? That Gene Hackman turned down the role of Roy Neary because he was trying to save his own failing marriage? That CBS didn't allow Walter Cronkite to do a cameo, so they had to substitute Howard K. Smith? And that dude with the pipe is J. Allen Hyneck, noted UFOlogist?

So with all that going on, it's easy to think it's a movie about UFOs. CE3K, I now realize, is about Steven Spielberg's right to put artistic expression over everything else.

The emotional meat of the story (by the way if you go to mall right now, you can pick up Hickory Farms emotional meat at half price) concerns Roy Neary, the blue-collar suburbanite who witnesses a UFO appearance. Afterwards he becomes obsessed with a certain shape which haunts his imagination. He can't stop visualizing it - he starts carving it in shaving cream, mashed potatoes, clay, ultimately digging up his yard and building the thing in his living room. It turns out to be the landing site of the mothership. However, over the course of this obsession he loses his day job and drives away his family.

Every artist has had the experience of people telling them their vocation is impractical, every one of them has felt isolated by the need to get deep into their own head and produce the story/picture/chord that they find in there. And when you're plumbing the depths of your personal life for material, you inevitably run into the problem of dragging your loved ones into the work; and you often have to chose between depicting them realistically or kindly. A real artist always picks the work over the fragile feelings of those he loves.

In CE3K Neary is shunned by society for his efforts but ultimately is rewarded with a transcendent experience, going with an elite group of people on a journey with the aliens. He indulges his art and is rewarded not with heroin addiction (like Bukowski or Burroughs) nor financial success (like Dickens or Spielberg) but with transcendence. It's the best apologia for the bad behavior of artists that has ever been made.