Get out the popcorn, it's Tuesday night (well, actually early Wednesday morning) at the movies. And it's a double feature.

First up is a short animated film by the Japanese artist Akino Kondoh. The title roughly translates as It Might Be a Train.

And then, from closer to home, comes Sweet Wishes, by the American artists Mark Ryden and Marion Peck.


jesus loves syphilis

A key element of the preposterous, largely religion-backed, abstinence-only sex education programs that hundreds of millions of your and my tax dollars continue to fund is the "virginity pledge," which encourages students (as young as 9 years old) to pledge to wait until marriage to have sex.

Now, the findings of a large study authored by Janet E. Rosenbaum, a post-doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have just been published in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics.

And I'm sure you saw this coming:
Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.
So lets follow the logic. God is all-knowing and all-powerful. And, according to his followers in the fantasy-based community (or at least the ones with enough clout to get these useless "education" programs funded by our government), he tells us that pretty much anything other than abstinence-only programs actively encourages kids to become sluts and nymphomaniacs. (Ever notice how it's always about the girls?)

But wait. God, being all-knowing, is fully aware that these programs don't work. Further, since he's all-powerful (and since everything that happens in the universe is the Will of God™ anyway), he clearly created them to be ineffective and to cause his young followers to use condoms less often than they otherwise might, thereby causing them to be more at risk for STDs than their unpledged brethren.




I've been intending for a while now to go off on the odious Rick Warren at the inauguration issue, but since about a zillion others have covered it about as well as it can be covered, I think I'll take a pass (apart from pointing out that as much as I respect Melissa Etheridge, she has clearly demonstrated that being gay and being gullible are not mutually exclusive). 

Instead, here's Sia Furler's perfomance of her song, Soon We'll Be Found, from a recent David Letterman Show. (You can, if desired, jump ahead to 00:35 to skip gratuitous Letterman shtick.)

More Sia in a future post.


the long tail: maybe not so long after all

As reported by the Times Online (UK), a new study by Will Page, chief economist of the MCPS-PRS Alliance, a not-for-profit royalty collection society, suggests that Chris Anderson's Long Tail principle as applied to internet music distribution may not be quite the revolutionary new business paradigm that Anderson proposes.

Mr. Anderson's thesis is that catering to niche markets is the road to success for internet sellers. Subtitles to his book include, How Endless Choice is Creating Unlimited Demand and Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. (Have you ever noticed how often the subtitles to business strategy books obviate the need to actually read the book?)

Mr. Page and his co-researcher Andrew Bud found that, for music at least, the niche market is not, in fact, a business bonanza and that internet sales success still largely relies on big hits. Most dramatically, they found that, of the 1.23 million(!) albums available online, only 173,000 were ever purchased, meaning that fully 85 per cent did not sell a single copy all year.

According to Mr. Bud:
“I think people believed in a fat, fertile long tail because they wanted it to be true...”
Gosh, that's never happened with a claimed "Revolutionary New Paradigm of Business Success!" before.

Oh, wait. Yes it has.

bikini sports ponchin

Japanese metal band Maximum The Hormone pretty much nails puberty. (Best played loud through speakers with sufficient bass.)


room at the inn

Dominican Hospital, Santa Cruz.

During the last four days, I've probably walked by this scene (shot with my phone cam though a corridor window) at least 25 times. And every time, the only thing I could think about was where life-size Joseph, Mary, little baby Jesus, and the ass were stored the other eleven months of the year. I would imagine Mary and Joseph kneeling in rapt adoration in a dark closet. The ass propped up on its (resist!) tail against a wall. Jesus placed carefully on a stack of surplus paper goods.

I am most definitely not a religious person, but even so, it made me kind of sad.



One of the cool things about the internet is that there seems to be an almost never-ending supply of intriguing micro-worlds to discover.

Just this week stumbled across the web site of a company called theory11. They basically produce tutorial videos that teach magic tricks and card manipulation ("flourishing"). They provide the typical Web 2.0 community features and seem designed to project a vaguely urban/underground vibe.

They also produce promo videos for their products that are rather entertaining in their own right. Here are a few:

Thread by Wayne Houchin

Riot by Dan Hauss

Control by Wayne Houchin



San Francisco International Airport.

How long do you imagine it will be before kids look at this and wonder how he got such a long text message? 


little brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead

From The Museum of Jurassic Technology, we learn that:
The practice of telling the bees of important events in the lives of the family has been a widely observed practice for hundreds of years. Although it varies somewhat among peoples, it is invariably a most elaborate ceremonial. The procedure is that as soon as a member of the family has breathed his or her last breath, a younger member of the household (often a child) is told to visit the hives, rattle a chain of small keys, tap on the hive and whisper three times:
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
Little Brownies, little brownies, your mistress is dead.
A piece of funeral crepe is then tied to the hive and after a period of time funeral sweets are brought to the hives for the bees to feed upon. The bees are then invariably invited to the funeral and have on a number of recorded occasions seen fit to attend.



Continuing the recent advertising theme, this ad for Orangina, entitled "Naturally Juicy," has ended up on various Year's Best and (mostly) Year's Worst ad lists. 

Personally, despite liking Orangina, after watching the ad, the thought of actually ingesting the stuff leaves me a bit queasy.



I'm thinking that those last two posts really fucked up the blog's graphic language.

Content or style?

hurski murski

From the November 29 edition of Dagens Nyheter, Sweden's largest daily morning newspaper:

I only regret that Ingmar Bergman didn't live to see this day.

i guess it depends on how you define "advertising"

From an email received today:

And yes, the subject line was, "Unadvertised Christmas Specials."



(Don't know who to credit, but via Brand Mix)


bats for lashes

What's a Girl To Do?



Hey, if you can't post a picture of your grandchild to your own blog, what's the point?


you've come a long way, baby

Each year, the magazine Communication Arts publishes their Advertising Annual, one of the more prestigious compilations of what is supposed to be the outstanding advertising of the past year. Many thousands of ads are submitted, with a few hundred (those considered the "best" by each year's panel of judges) included in the magazine.

I used to look forward to these yearly issues, but lately it seems that not only has the general level of creativity of the work declined, but each year there are at least a few ads whose inclusion just makes me scratch my head in wonder.

Here are a couple from this year's annual.

First up is one of a series of ads for Skins She, apparently exercise apparel for women that is claimed to enhance the effect of one's exertion.
The first two sentences of the copy read:
Get the body every other woman would love. To spit on.
And then this one for fashion designer Nicola Finetti:

This year's panel of judges was made up of eight members. 

Three of them were women.



(Blogger's doing something weird with photos. Click for the full-size version.)


model world

Over the last few years there's been a boomlet in people photographing real landscapes and cityscapes using artificially shallow depth of field (usually via tilt lenses or post-processing in Photoshop), with the uncanny result that the photos appear to be of models (as in model railroad layouts) rather than the real world.

Australian photographer Keith Loutit has rather delightfully extended the technique to moving images.


the birds barbie

God, I would have loved to have been at the Mattel product planning meeting where it was decided that they were actually going to make this.


keeping the art in

The Sculpture Garden at Felix Kulpa Gallery, Santa Cruz.


why pastor rick warren and his purpose driven minions should be fucked in the ass with a barbed crucifix*

Today, Pastor Rick Warren, on behalf of his Global PEACE Coalition, presented President Bush with the Coalition's very first International Medal of PEACE.

No, really.

International. Medal. Of. PEACE.

Now admittedly, it's hugely tempting to simply end the post here and stand back and watch as each reader's hypocrisy meter goes critical and explodes into a million little pieces.

But that would be doing the details a disservice.

Per the press release, the award, presented on World AIDS Day, was given to President Bush in recognition of his "unprecedented contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS."

According to Warren, “No U.S. president or political leader has done more for global health than this Administration."

Specifically, he is being honored for the PEPFAR program, i.e, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This is the program that stipulates that 2/3 of funds allocated to behavioral prevention programs must go to abstinence-only/faithful-after-marriage programs (despite the fact that virtually every study has shown that such programs are essentially ineffective). Even if your program promotes abstinence and faithfulness, but also the efficacy of condoms in preventing HIV/AIDS, well sorry, you don't get any of that 2/3. The remaining 1/3 can go to condom programs, but only if those programs don't promote condoms to young people. Because everyone knows how effective selling abstinence to teenagers is.

So, what Bush is really being honored for is his unprecedented contribution to the religious right's Holy War on Fucking™.

And as a bonus, again from the press release, the award is "for outstanding contribution toward alleviating the five global giants recognized by the Coalition, including pandemic diseases, extreme poverty, illiteracy, self-centered leadership and spiritual emptiness."

Doesn't Bush personally embody at least three of the five global giants all by himself?

How cool is that?
*With apologies to The Rude Pundit for "borrowing" his schtick.



For something like 15 years, I subscribed to a magazine called Photo District News (later, no doubt recognizing that attention spans were becoming ever shorter, acronymed to PDN) that covers the world of commercial photography. Although I've never actually aspired to be a commercial photographer, I found the magazine offered an intriguing mix of business, product developments, technique and art.

A few years ago, they ran a story about an emerging trend of high-profile commercial photographers doing commissioned portraits for affluent individuals. The article was illustrated with a number of examples, including the photo below by the acclaimed portrait photographer
Marc Hauser. It's described in the caption as being of "Chicago stockbroker Phillip Sylvestor and his girlfriend at home."

I typically discarded PDNs after reading, but before throwing away this issue, I felt compelled to tear out the picture of Mr. Sylvestor and his girlfriend. It has since remained on my bedside table, under an ever-changing pile of to-be-read books, where it has suffered a fair amount of wrinkling and assorted other indignities.

© Marc Hauser

According to the article, Mr. Hauser charges between $2,500 and $10,000 for these portrait sessions. And again according to the photo caption, "Hauser's environmental portraits make statements." 

Ya think?


"as god is my witness...

...I thought turkeys could fly."
                                                     - Arthur Carlson


nothing's gonna change my world

A promotional music video directed by Paul Thomas Anderson for the movie Pleasantville. 

It is, in a slow-motion dreamlike way, transcendent. Although what exactly is being transcended, I've not yet quite decided.


big dog

Okay, like 7,000,000 people have watched this, so I'm not exactly presenting any obscure find here, but am I the only person who is made really sad by the interaction at 00:00:36? I mean I know it's only a machine, but somehow this just makes me despair for our species.



Well, so much for that euphoria.



great moments in american popular culture

Linda Blair, Keith Moon, and Linda Lovelace attend the premier of Linda Lovelace For President, 1975.


the ukulele orchestra of great britain

Fly Me Off The Handel
 (stick with it though the whole thing - trust me):

Shaft. (No, really. Shaft.):



Yesterday we noticed that Theya, one of our four doggie companions, appeared to have lost a lot of weight (but was otherwise her usual rambunctious self). Rocket Girl made plans to take her to the vet next week for a checkup.

This morning she seemed to be having trouble breathing, gasping for air and making distressing sounds in the process. We've known for a while that she has a heart murmur, with its attendant risk of congestive heart failure, so this is profoundly disturbing. At the moment, she's doing better, resting comfortably. If she remains so, she'll go to the vet tomorrow. If not, I'll take her to the emergency animal hospital today.

Either way, we're not expecting good news.

This royally sucks.

Update 11/10: The vet confirms it's congestive heart failure, but with medication, Thea still has many happy years ahead of her. Whew!


the will of god

From BBC News:
Stoning victim 'begged for mercy'
A young woman recently stoned to death in Somalia first pleaded for her life, a witness has told the BBC.

"Don't kill me, don't kill me," she said, according to the man who wanted to remain anonymous. A few minutes later, more than 50 men threw stones.

Human rights group Amnesty International says the victim was a 13-year-old girl who had been raped.

Initial reports had said she was a 23-year-old woman who had confessed to adultery before a Sharia court.

Numerous eye-witnesses say she was forced into a hole, buried up to her neck then pelted with stones until she died in front of more than 1,000 people last week.
Cameras were banned from the stoning in Kismayo, but print and radio journalists who were allowed to attend estimated that the woman, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was 23 years old.

However, Amnesty said it had learned she was 13, and that her father had said she was raped by three men. When the family tried to report the rape, the girl was accused of adultery and detained, Amnesty said.

Convicting a girl of 13 for adultery would be illegal under Islamic law.


Court authorities have said the woman came to them admitting her guilt.

She was asked several times to review her confession but she stressed that she wanted Sharia law and the deserved punishment to apply, they said.

But a witness who spoke to the BBC's Today programme said she had been crying and had to be forced into a hole before the stoning, reported to have taken place in a football stadium.

"More than 1,000 people arrived there," he said.

"After two hours, the Islamic administration in Kismayo brought the lady to the place and when she came out she said: 'What do you want from me?'"

"They said: 'We will do what Allah has instructed us'. She said: 'I'm not going, I'm not going. Don't kill me, don't kill me.'

"A few minutes later more than 50 men tried to stone her."

'Checked by nurses'

The witness said people crowding round to see the execution said it was "awful".

"People were saying this was not good for Sharia law, this was not good for human rights, this was not good for anything."

But no-one tried to stop the Islamist officials, who were armed, the witness said. He said one boy was shot in the confusion.

According to Amnesty International, nurses were sent to check during the stoning whether the victim was still alive. They removed her from the ground and declared that she was, before she was replaced so the stoning could continue.

As unspeakably horrific as this is, I imagine that (most) of the intolerant religious bigots in this country would claim that they are, of course, beyond such barbarity. But as we've seen this week, it's really just a matter of degree. In a "civilized" society, they manifest their god-mandated hatred for anyone who doesn't share their delusions not by casting stones, but by casting votes.


old school

Back in the day, I (like seemingly everyone at the time) had an Atari 2600 video game system. It was actually my third video game system, following both a Fairchild Channel F and an original Magnavox Odyssey. I had a fair collection of Atari, Activision and Imagic games, including a Bridge game that resulted in my otherwise technophobic mom spending many happy hours with the system. (It was pretty primitive by current standards, but actually fairly engaging considering the memory limitations of its day.)

The reason I bring this up is that I see that earlier this year the folks over at MightyGodKing picked up a 2600 at a garage sale, along with a bunch of vintage games that for some reason never made it to my local Toys "R" Us.

These, for instance:

Many more here.


bearing false witness

While coming home from Tahoe on Saturday, we took a random freeway exit off of Hwy 50 east of Sacramento so that I could take over driving for a while. In the process of finding a place to stop and swap, we found ourselves in the middle of a Yes On Prop 8 demonstration. Quite a few people were lining a major road holding "Yes On 8" signs that implored all who agreed to honk their horns. There was a disheartening amount of honking going on.

Any impression that this was a spontaneous grassroots activity was belied by the alarming number of cars and trucks professionally painted with "Yes on Prop 8" and the Yes On 8 logo parked in a lot around the corner from the main street (where we happened to pull in to stop). Thanks Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., Mormons). You can get a lot of nicely painted cars (and TV ads full of lies) for $20,000,000.

As we were heading back to the freeway, we were stopped at a signal in the midst of the demonstrators. Rocket Girl gave the nearby folks a thumbs-down sign and then lowered her window and engaged the young man nearest to us. She asked him why he wanted to take away the rights of gay people to marry. He responded that unless Prop 8 passed, he would not have the right to educate his children as he saw fit (i.e., he would be prevented from indoctrinating his children in the hateful discrimination that he was convinced his imaginary magical sky daddy mandated). Although I had at first been reticent about this confrontation (Go Rocket Girl!), I was about to explain to this person that his claim (like virtually all of the Yes On 8 propaganda) was a lying, steaming, pile of shit, but he backed away and the light changed and we were back on our way, steam issuing metaphorically from our ears.

Personally, I'm usually of the opinion that if, in attempting to gather people to your cause, you have to lie about pretty much everything about your position, you may be on the wrong side of the argument. And if those lies are in support of hatred and discrimination, then you're almost certainly on the wrong side.

It's almost (but not quite - well, actually, not even close) worth hoping that their delusional mythology is actually the truth. Because isn't lying supposed to be something of a no-no? It would be interesting to see the expressions on their faces when, at the end of their days, instead of being welcomed by Jesus into heaven, they found themselves in a somewhat warmer environment.


Unfortunately, most of the No On 8 ads have been pretty lame. I don't know how effective this one is, but at least it's amusing.

Bottom line, both the citizen and Rocket Girl temporarily interrupt this blog to ask those of you in California to please vote No on Proposition 8.




In the spirits of the day (from my decade-ago dabbling in rubberstamp art).


The Souvenir King



So, out of desperation (see the 10/27 post), we decided to browse the book "department" at the nearby Raley's.

Despite lifetime shopping trips that probably number in the thousands (well, the high hundreds, anyway), I don't think I've ever really paid much attention to the book selection in supermarkets (except for that time in my teen years when, accompanying my mother grocery shopping, I discovered a copy of Frank Harris's My Life and Loves hiding behind the Louis L'Amours in the revolving rack near the checkout counters). As it turns out, if you're in the market for a romance, generic thriller, or late-period Stephen King, you're in luck. Otherwise, not so much.

Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised to find among the dross a trade paperback copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Its presence can probably be attributed more to the fact that it's "Soon to be a MAJOR MOTION PICTURE" than that it won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in fiction, but I was happy to snap it up.

So that evening I settled in for some serious reading. I made my way through the introductory pages of ecstatic blurbs and began to immerse myself in the book's grim world. But then, in the very second paragraph, I encountered:
He thought the month was October but he wasnt sure.
Whoa! Pulitzer Prize winner. 25th printing. And a typo still makes it through? Talk about being jerked out of the author's world.

But then I read the very next sentence:
He hadnt kept a calendar for years.
Uh oh. Apparently, the cataclysm that befell our planet not only incinerated our civilization, but all of the world's apostrophes as well.

But then, another two sentences on:
There'd be no surviving another winter here.

Are we supposed to assume that there were a few apostrophes down in the root cellar, or playing Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in their mom's basement when the unnamed whatever struck? And that McCarthy had to apportion them throughout the book with the same frugality with which his characters have to ration their precious food supply? And that every time this happens (and it happens a lot), the reader is popped right out of the book?

In other words, what the fuck? No, seriously. What the fuck?


a question

Does Blogger provide the option of requiring every comment to be in haiku form?

Just asking.



Thanks to the generosity of friends (Linda and Jeff!), the citizen and Rocket Girl are currently relaxing in paradise (and once again appreciating those anonymous folks who leave their wifi networks password-free).



context is everything

Via the endlessly fascinating If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats, comes this 1979 ad from Pakistan International Airlines.


baked or broiled?

David Sedaris in The New Yorker on undecided voters:
I look at these people and can't quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. "Can I interest you in the chicken?" she asks. "Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?"

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.



Kitty Winn studies (something?) during a break from a dress rehearsal of A.R. Gurney's The Middle Ages at the Mark Taper Forum Laboratory, 1977.

i was taught by adam but i blame it on eve

Heard this song on the radio while driving in to work today. 

Talk about inspirational.


camera club

Although I'm not a joiner by nature, back when I was student at UCLA (circa '69 or '70) I joined the UCLA Camera Club solely to have access to their communal darkroom. While working there one night, a fellow member mentioned that the club hosted occasional "model shoots" and as one was coming up, I should attend, as he was sure I'd enjoy it.

He was wrong.


the guardians

Via Yimmys Yayo (via god-knows-where*).

* In the (admittedly extraordinarily unlikely) event that you are the creator of this image and have somehow found your way here, please leave a comment and I will add a credit or delete the image - your choice.




From The Play Coalition. I would totally buy one of these, but I don't think one actually can. Plus, I think it would involve moving to a different country.


stick a fork in it

It's done.


I've been looking at this thing for like 8 years now. 
Symbolic of something?
(And yes, that's a built-in cabinet, not something just pushed up against a wall.)