fuck yeah!

Alan Grayson shows how it's done. We need more representatives like this.


animal house

With CGI rapidly approaching the point at which it may finally be climbing up the far side of the uncanny valley, these two brief clips of a distinctly lower-tech approach to anthropomorphism are somehow, to me at least, kind of disturbing. But in a fascinating way.


bonus post

So yeah, this has been pretty much everywhere for the last week or so, but in light of the post below, I figure you just can't watch it too many times.

the politics of death

The man pictured to the left is Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the current House minority leader. It's his job to lead the Republicans in the House of Representatives in the accomplishment of their goal of totally undermining the Obama presidency by blocking any and all reform, no matter how inconsequential, proposed by the Democrats. No matter how much that reform may have the support of their constituents. (Of course, that statement is based on the incredibly naive assumption that their "constituents" are the people in their home districts who voted for them, as opposed to the corporations, banks, and insurance companies that pour millions of dollars into their campaign coffers and actually own our government.)

Last Friday, Boehner was interviewed on NPR. In the story on the NRP website (headlined, "Boehner: Slow Down Health Overhaul Negotiations") he bemoaned what he saw as the lack of "bipartisanship" in the health care reform negotiations. (Just to be clear, to the Republicans, "bipartisanship" means, "Despite the electorate having overwhelming rebuked pretty much everything we stand for, you can't pass anything we (and our corporate overlords) don't like.") Specifically, the fact that there is still some small chance that the Democrats may actually put forward a bill that includes a public option, an element of health care reform overwhelmingly favored by the American people (and therefore rabidly opposed by the Republicans), led Boehner to tell the NPR interviewer that it's a mistake for Obama to continue on his current path. According to Boehner, "it's time for the president to hit the reset button. Let's just stop all of this."

The young woman pictured to the left is Kimberly 'Kimi' Young. As a native of Wayne, Ohio, she is one of John Boehner's constituents. She graduated from college last December with a double major in international studies and fine arts photography and was an active member of the Students for Peace and Justice and the Association of Latin American Students. For the last three or four years, she had been working at two jobs, one at a coffee house, and another at a local deli.

About two weeks ago, Kimberly began feeling ill with flu symptoms, but didn’t seek medical care because she didn’t have health insurance and was worried about the cost, according to Brent Mowery, a friend and former roommate. She continued feeling worse, and eventually went to an urgent care facility in Hamilton, Ohio where she was given pain medication and then sent home.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, her condition suddenly worsened and her roommate drove her to McCullough Hyde Memorial Hospital in Oxford, where she was flown in critical condition to University Hospital in Cincinnati. She died there that night.

“That’s the most tragic part about it. If she had insurance, she would have gone to the doctor,” Mowery said.

She was 22.

So fuck John Boehner. Fuck the Republicans. Fuck the Blue Dog Democrats. Fuck everyone in this government who is acting on the assumption that their job is to protect record insurance company profits and obscene CEO bonuses at the potential cost of the lives of the people they're supposedly elected to represent.

Fuck them all.


america's finest news source

Once again, you can count on The Onion to get it right. From Twitter:
BREAKING: Democrats Hoping To Take Control Of Congress From Republican Minority In 2010


the stork is a lie

(If this doesn't make any sense to you, look here.)


brave new world

Via Clayton Cubitt, here's an interesting comparison of the future as depicted in George Orwell's 1984 and the future of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World:
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.”
Sound familiar? And while it would be easy to assume that this was written as a response to our current internet culture, with it's almost unimaginable information and distraction overload, it was, in fact, written in 1985 by Neil Postman in his seminal book of media criticism and analysis, Amusing Ourselves to Death. That's years before the web even existed and a decade and a half before Facebook, Twitter, Perez Hilton, World of Warcraft, MySpace, YouTube, lolcats, Drudge, Blogger, Tumblr, Gawker, etc., etc., etc.

The actual object of Mr. Postman's concern was the cultural impact of television on public discourse. In the context of today, that seems almost quaint.


picture of the day

Posted without comment.



Peter, Paul & Mary at an United Farm Workers rally in Watsonville, Calif., on Thursday, March 19, 1998.

(Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)


did glenn beck rape and murder a young girl in 1990?

That's the question being asked by a web site titled, appropriately enough, "DidGlennBeckRapeAndMurderAYoungGirlIn1990.com"

To quote from the site's welcome message:
"This site exists to try and help examine the vicious rumour that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990. We don't claim to know the truth -- only that the rumour floating around saying that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990 should be discussed. So we're going to do our part to try and help get to the bottom of this.

"Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations? We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 - in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?"
Readers can contribute their own evidence to the site. One reader writes:
"Not to add to the rumor mongering, but have no knowledge of any plausible alibi Glenn Beck has that would prove he didn't rape and murder that girl in 1990. Lexis Nexis provides 0 articles that state Glenn Beck didn't rape and murder a girl for the entire year of 1990."
Zero articles on Lexis Nexis! Why doesn't he just come forward and prove he didn't rape and murder a young girl in 1990? What does he have to hide?
Although I'm sure my regular readers don't need any clarification, for any random lawyers who might show up here as the result of a Google search, I quote the following from the bottom of the home page of the site in question:
"Notice: This site is parody/satire. We assume Glenn Beck did not rape and murder a young girl in 1990, although we haven't yet seen proof that he didn't. But we think Glenn Beck definitely uses tactics like this to spread lies and misinformation.

"Read the last sentence again. That's the point."


rubber johnny

By Chris Cunningham with music by Aphex Twin. From 2005. (I saw it back when it was new, but hadn't realized that it'd become available on YouTube.) If rapidly flashing lights bother you, you might want to give this one a pass.



our national discourse

Yesterday, somewhere between 30,000 and 110 Quizillion! largely white, middle-aged teabaggers descended on Washington DC to express their outrage at the impending destruction of our democratic society at the hands of affordable health care. Or something. (And no, the fact that we have a black president has absoutely nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing at all.)

Here, drawn from around the web, are a few examples of their well-reasoned expressions of concern:
That sign says:
"Obama, we have waken up to your evil plans to destroy our country. Take your racist un-american Acorn groups and arrogent wife back to your own country and strip their rights away!"
("arrogent wife" Issues much?)

Nazis? Astroturf!!!!? WTF?

And what is it about Fox "News" viewers and spelling?
(My apologies for no photo credits. I was just grabbing these as I found them and sloppily forgot to note their sources. Sorry.)

"we're doomed" watch

From the Telegraph:
A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.
We'll probably never get a movie of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow either, given how controversial the theory of gravity is among those who believe in Intelligent Falling.



Astonishingly, this is my 200th post since starting this thing on a whim last October. I initially thought I might stick with it for a week or two. I hate the process of writing and, given that I have to do quite a bit of it in my daily "real" life, the idea that I'd sign up for even more on a voluntary ongoing basis didn't seem too likely. But here I am.

More than anything, I guess it's been a combination of wanting to share the occasional cool stuff I come across with my three or four loyal readers (you know who you are), and wanting to have an outlet for the occasional rant about our country's ever-accelerating decent into a nation of fucking idiots.

To celebrate, I thought I'd post one of my favorite photos from 404. I like it a lot and it's nice to see it again.

In other news, the U.S. Census Bureau today announced its poverty figures for 2008. Here, in the richest country in the world, the percentage of people living in poverty rose to 13.2% in 2008, up from 12.5% in 2007. That translates to 39.8 million people living in poverty, 2.5 million more people than in 2007.

Additionally, real median household income fell 3.6% between 2007 and 2008 (the biggest drop in 40 years). And that doesn't even reflect all of the job losses in the first seven months of this year. But not to worry, we can all take solace in the fact that the richest tenth of one percent saw their incomes rise by 35% over the last 10 years. Because isn't that what America is all about? (At least for the teabaggers who seem to be so aggressively dedicated to giving up their opportunity to have affordable healthcare so that insurance company CEOs can still count on their multimillion dollar bonuses.)

See ya in another 200. Maybe.


geek news of the month

A week ago Monday, it was announced that Disney, in a totally surprise move, was buying Marvel Comics for $4 billion. The nerdosphere* immediately erupted in a paroxysm of concern and conjecture about what this unholy union might portend.

* of which I consider myself a member


we have decided not to die

Going through my repository of potential posts, I was about to discard the embed code for Daniel Askill's 2003 short film, We Have Decided Not To Die, because I was sure that I'd posted it long ago and just forgotten to erase it. But looking back, I see I never actually posted it. So here it is. It's a stunning piece of work


wall street wants to bet on your early death

God, talk about being oblivious to the symbolic meanings of things. When I read yesterday of our financial industry's latest scheme to make obscene amounts of money via arcane investment instruments (because we all know how well that worked out last time), I actually had to look carefully to make sure it wasn't The Onion channeling Jonathan Swift.

From yesterday's New York Times via digby:
After the mortgage business imploded last year, Wall Street investment banks began searching for another big idea to make money. They think they may have found one.

The bankers plan to buy “life settlements,” life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash — $400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to “securitize” these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die.

The earlier the policyholder dies, the bigger the return — though if people live longer than expected, investors could get poor returns or even lose money.

Either way, Wall Street would profit by pocketing sizable fees for creating the bonds, reselling them and subsequently trading them. But some who have studied life settlements warn that insurers might have to raise premiums in the short term if they end up having to pay out more death claims than they had anticipated.

The idea is still in the planning stages. But already “our phones have been ringing off the hook with inquiries,” says Kathleen Tillwitz, a senior vice president at DBRS, which gives risk ratings to investments and is reviewing nine proposals for life-insurance securitizations from private investors and financial firms, including Credit Suisse.

“We’re hoping to get a herd stampeding after the first offering,” said one investment banker not authorized to speak to the news media.

In the aftermath of the financial meltdown, exotic investments dreamed up by Wall Street got much of the blame. It was not just subprime mortgage securities but an array of products — credit-default swaps, structured investment vehicles, collateralized debt obligations — that proved far riskier than anticipated.

The debacle gave financial wizardry a bad name generally, but not on Wall Street. Even as Washington debates increased financial regulation, bankers are scurrying to concoct new products.
But the "best" (from a metaphorical point of view) perspective on the whole scheme was buried down toward the end of the article:
A bond made up of life settlements would ideally have policies from people with a range of diseases — leukemia, lung cancer, heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s. That is because if too many people with leukemia are in the securitization portfolio, and a cure is developed, the value of the bond would plummet.
That's right, these people are champing at the bit to make investments that render curing diseases and extending peoples lives financially disasterous.

Perfect. Just perfect.


the post option of last resort

Even when you're so lazy overwhelmed by life's responsibilities that even a vaguely creative post is out of the question, there're always...


Update 9/7:

Wait, even better...

Kittens and boobs!

And if you flip the photo and squint, it even looks like the Firefox logo. How cool is that?