"American Woman"

>> Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm guessing ol' Sam has been hanging out with Sarah Palin and the Tea Party crowd lately....



This... this is kinda brilliant. If you want the perfect summary of what's going on with the DC and Marvel comic-movie franchises... and if you also just happened to want it set to a showtune....

Well, hell yeah.

(H/T to io9!)


Sometimes you've got to take a stand and chew which side you're on...

>> Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hey, if you can't eat them....


An open letter to Dr. Chan John

>> Saturday, May 29, 2010

Await Your Response
From: DR CHAN JOHN (drchanjohn.012.hk@[])

Sent: Sun 5/23/10 1:41 PM

I am Dr Chan John (Managing Director and Deputy Chief Executive Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong), before the U.S and Iraqi war our client Gen. Zaki Zazidel who was with the Iraqi forces and also businessman made a numbered fixed deposit for 18 calendar months, with a value of Five million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars only in my branch.Upon maturity several noticiendes was sent to him, even during the war which began in 2003.

Again after the war another notification was sent and still no response came from him. We later find out that Gen. Zaki Zazidel along with his wife and only daughter had been killed during the war in a bomb blast that hit His Resident. After further investigation it was also discovered that Gen. Zaki Zazidel did not declare any next of kin in his official papers including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also confided in me the last time he was at my office that no one except me knew of his deposit in my bank. So, Five million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars is still lying in my bank and no one will ever come forward to claim it. What bothers me most is that according to the laws of my country at the expiration 5 years and six month the funds will revert to the ownership of the Hong Kong Government if nobody applies to claim the funds. Against this backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a foreigne


I want you to know that I have had everything planned out so that we shall come out successful. I have an attorney that will prepare the necessary document that will back you up as the next of kin to Gen. Zaki Zazidel , all that is required from you at this stage is for you to provide me with your personal phone number/fax so that the attorney can commence his job.After you have been made the next of kin, the attorney will also file in for claims on your behalf and secure the necessary approval and letter of probate in your favour for the move of the funds to an account that will be provided by you. There is no risk involved at all in this matter, as we are going to adopt a legalized method and the attorney will prepare all the necessary documents.

Please endeavor to observe utmost discretion in all matters concerning this issue, also please send me your personal private cell phone/fax number. And finally after that I shall provide you with more details of this operation. I shall be waiting for your response and assurance along with your recent residential address.

Kind Regards,
Dr Chan John

Dear Dr. John,

I regret having to confess, at the outset, that your blend of jazz-and-zydeco-inflected pop has never done all that much for me. I appreciate the obvious talent you bring to your craft, but I just don't personally enjoy your music that much.

That, however, is not the major obstacle to conducting business with you.

I first met Zaki in college in the mid-'90s. Actually, his real name back then was Zachary Quinn, but he began to go by the pseudonym "Zaki Zazidel" when he started his A Flock Of Seagulls tribute band, Beams Of Light in 1994. He had the most impressive winged mullet anybody had ever seen, but regrettably the fact that the only song Beams Of Light ever learned well enough to play out was "I Ran (So Far Away)", which they would play over and over again during a set, seriously limited the band's appeal to drunken frat parties where those in attendance were too busy vomiting and groping to notice the band was only playing one song over and over again. (Don't get me wrong, it's a great song, it just gets very old after about the third time through in succession.)

I didn't see Zaki for a number of years after graduation, but in 1998 we crossed paths unexpectedly when Zaki was severely beaten after ruining the engine of a redneck's Ford F-150 while demonstrating an "alternative fuel" Zaki had "invented" which turned out to consist essentially of grape-flavored Kool-Aid mixed with Boone's Farm and bat urine. I thought he'd learned his lesson when he was released from the hospital, but then the following year he was arrested by U.S. Wildlife Service Park Rangers while trying to "milk" endangered bats on Federal property. After a brief struggle with rabies and a short term in a psychiatric hospital, the Feds declined to prosecute mostly, I suspect, because the evidence was simply too disgusting to present to a Grand Jury.

I have to say that I don't believe Zaki was actively attempting to defraud anyone. After repeated contacts, including visits to the seaside hospital where he was receiving counseling and a brutal regimen of rabies vaccine shots that had turned most of his abdomen and buttocks a revolting shade somewhere between black and mauve, I remain convinced that Zaki sincerely believed that some sort of "cold fusion" process was occurring when the bat urine interacted with the grape Kool-Aid in a high-proof solution of alcohol (the Boone's Farm).

It was on this good faith basis that I loaned Zaki a considerable sum of money to help him get himself back on his feet after his discharge. This loan was documented in writing, and was to be repaid in full no later than 2005.

In 2000, however, Zaki completely vanished. For the next several years, rumors abounded: he'd re-launched his A Flock Of Seagulls cover band, he was working on an AIDS vaccine in Guatemala, he was working with the Florida Board Of Elections on ballot design; all of these things, remarkably, would turn out to be true, but they did not alter the fact that Zaki, who I once had regarded as a friend, had betrayed my trust and failed to reimburse me for the monies I'd advanced him in the hopes he'd get a nice little job pushing a mop or something equally suitable for his limited level of mental competence. In September 2002, there was brief word that Zaki had been asked to give some sort of PowerPoint presentation to Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley and Nicolò Pollari in Italy, then--nothing, he completely vanished.

It distresses me but does not surprise me that Zaki presented himself to your organization as a "general" or claimed to be with "Iraqi forces." Unfortunately, if you conduct a Google search, you'll find that the only hits for "Zaki Zazidel" are letters similar to the solicitation you sent to me, which is unsurprising--as I said, it's a pseudonym he invented for his awful little synth-pop band because he thought it was "really New Wave" and then reused over the years in various scams and schemes; in all fairness, I sometimes suspect Zaki took over Zachary and the young Econ major I sometimes drank beers with had died in the mid-'90s.

It also distresses me that he's gone now, but to be perfectly frank he'd gotten himself in with so many of the wrong people it doesn't surprise me that somebody happened to target a bomb against one of Zaki's roommates or houseguests while Zaki happened to be nearby. (Also: when you say "wife" and "daughter," are you sure you don't mean the miniature Dexter steer named Brian and an old dog-chewed tennis shoe he named Annie? You might be interested to know that neither the marriage to the bovine nor the adoption of the piece of footware was ever legally recognized anywhere, notwithstanding the homemade "Certificate Of Marriage" and "Really Valid Proof Of Adoption This Document Is Real" he liked to show people.)

But the ultimate issue is this: Zaki owed me money. Zaki owed me a lot of money. Plus interest. Therefore, next-of-kin or no (and I do not believe a shoe would be capable of inheriting anything even if it survived the blast), I hereby officially and publicly lay claim to the balance of accounts held by your bank as repayment-in-full of the debt owed to me by Zachary "Zaki Zazidel" Quinn. I imagine you will need to conduct an inventory and figure out shipping costs--I think it's a fairly safe bet that the bulk of this "fortune" actually consists of used baseball cards, backissues of Penthouse magazine, a Casio synthesizer, several vials of bat urine, a much-annotated copy of the piano sheet music for "I Ran (So Far Away)" and, possibly, an old copy of A Flock Of Seagulls' 1982 debut album, A Flock Of Seagulls. But I will take my chances. I'm sure I can sell some of it on eBay.

I will not, of course, be posing as Mr. Quinn's relative, nor will your "legalized method" be necessary. I have all copies of all documents necessary to demonstrate this property is owed to me as collateral/repayment on an outstanding debt. And you will, of course, be hearing from my own lawyer as soon as she sobers up and posts bond. Thank you for your consideration.

R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


My new tag

>> Friday, May 28, 2010

In a rant the other day, I decided I needed a new tag for that kind of thing: "I know that this is vitriol But I feel better having screamed." For those wondering, it's a great R.E.M. line from a great little song they did about Ronald Reagan back in 1992 that just seems to sum up a helluva lot even now--

I'm just profoundly frustrated by all this. So, fuck you, man (fuck 'em)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ignoreland. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ignoreland
If they wasn't there we would have created them. Maybe, it's true,
But I'm resentful all the same. Someone's got to take the blame
I know that this is vitriol. No solution, spleen venting,
But I feel better having screamed. Don't you?

--I mean, I think there's something phenomenal about a songwriter conceding that his whole tune is just a rant that doesn't fix anything, but dammit, he sure feels a little better getting it off his chest and he hopes you're with him.

I am, Michael. Thanks, man.

Somewhere on my personal "Top-10 R.E.M. Songs" list (I just haven't decided where) "Ignoreland":


Spaniards and Aztecs

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

So apparently one of the latest bits of excitement in the Palinverse is that professional douchebag Joe McGinniss is going to rent the house next to Frau Palin's while he writes a book about her. Slate's Jack Shafer approves, and it seems I saw a favorable tweet from the generally awesome Bob Cesca earlier in the week.


Here's one of these things I think is funny in history: in 1519, the maniacal conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in what is now known as Mexico, and proceeded to destroy the dominant indigenous civilization, the Aztec. At the time, the Spanish Empire was the most religiously paranoid, xenophobic, bloodthirsty power in Europe, bent on conquering the entire world for the sake of gold and God, and many people incorrectly regard the conquest of Mexico as a great historical tragedy, an archetypal example of the ugly history of Europe's conquest of diverse and independent peoples.

The problem with this interpretation is this: the Aztec were the most religiously paranoid, xenophobic, bloodthirsty power in America, bent on conquering the entire world for the sake of gold and gods. Where the Spanish had the Inquisition, the Aztec dragged people to the Pyramid of Tenochtitlan and similar sites to cut their hearts out for the divine. Coincidentally, Wikipedia tells us the Spanish may have burned 2,000 people at the stake and the Aztec cut out the beating hearts of 2,000 people at the re-consecration of the Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, a lovely symmetry considering, basically, that the Aztec were the Spaniards of the New World. The Aztec were so appalling that the inhabitants of the vassal states of Mexico were more than happy to join Cortés when he went about destroying the Aztec. The only shame, really, you know, is that the Aztec and Spanish Empires didn't manage to wipe each other out in some sort of cultural matter-antimatter reaction.

Awful people, the whole lot of them. I know, this isn't the sort of thing you're supposed to say about anyone other than the Germans, but seriously--awful people, the whole lot of them.

I mention this because Joe McGinniss is an awful person.

He is most famous, of course, for befriending convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald and telling MacDonald he'd write a sympathetic book, only to decide MacDonald was guilty and write a book about that, Fatal Vision, which became a popular TV show in 1984. While some people might think (a) that it was awfully honest of McGinniss to write it the way he saw it and (b) a guy who was convicted of stabbing the shit out of his pregnant wife and two daughters gets what he deserves, those concerned with, you know, ethics were prompted to write things like:

Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction learns—when the article or book appears—his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and "the public's right to know"; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about "earning a living."

-Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer
qtd. in Wikipedia

Which is the problem. The problem isn't that McGinniss decided to write a book about a man's innocence, did some research, decided he was guilty, then wrote a book about that. The problem is that McGinniss told somebody he believed him, sucked up to him to take advantage of playing the role of confidante, decided he didn't believe him after all, and then kept sucking up to the dude and telling him he still believed him in order to continue serving as the confidante so he could ultimately stab the guy in the back. Or to put it another way: McGinniss lied to MacDonald1; a person who tells lies is a liar; therefore we know that McGinniss is a liar, we merely don't know for certain what he's lying about or what kind of liar he really is or how frequently he lies or to whom he lies beyond the observation he's evidently the sort of liar who betrays people whose trust he's obtained.

See the problem?

This would be enough, but I have to admit my biggest beef with McGinniss came from reading a fairly awful book McGinniss published in 1991 about the Pritchard case called Cruel Doubt, and yes, it was irritation fueled by being a gamer.

In North Carolina in 1988, a young man named Christopher Pritchard, along with some close friends, murdered his stepfather and assaulted his mother while they slept and was subsequently convicted. Now, it is probably irrelevant that Mr. Pritchard was in line to inherit two million dollars. It is also probably irrelevant that there was some evidence of tension between Mr. Pritchard and his stepfather and some indications that the household was not exactly happy (beyond the fact that the guy, you know, killed his stepfather, I mean, granted that stabbing your stepfather is possibly a warning sign that there are problems in your familial relationships). What is relevant, according to McGinniss, is that Pritchard and his codefendants liked playing Dungeons And Dragons. Which, you know, is what we crazy homicidal deviants all used to do before we got hold of computerized murder simulators like Grand Theft Auto.

He said with a sigh.

Because, see, the problem once again may not be what you think it is (or maybe it is, I don't know). The problem wouldn't be blaming D&D if there were actually any evidence that this was somehow a real factor in a homicide. The real problem is what McGinniss actually does in Doubt, which is to briefly mention the two million dollars and, oh yeah, some of the family issues, and then to go for the thing that will help you sell the TV rights to the book, which is the whole outré "They were obsessed with a fantasy world"/Mazes And Monsters angle.

It's ethically dubious, like telling a guy you're his best bud and trying to get him out of prison while behind his back you're talking to your editor about how to spin the story so said guy doesn't seem too repulsively screwy too early in the text. It's about selling the story--in the most literal movie-and-television-rights sense possible--as opposed to actually getting the facts right.

Like I said, douchebag.

Now, Sarah Palin is an inexpressibly awful human being (though if you follow that link, you'll recall that I've tried to express it). And Joe McGinniss is a professional douchebag who pretends he's a serious journalist while angling for the sleazy angle that will self-market the film rights. So it's Spaniards and Aztecs, the worst representatives of two worlds coming together to make a shit sandwich. Who cares who gets the worst of it, everybody involved ought to be shot off a really high cliff into shallow, shark-infested waters?

Jack Shafer at Slate writes:

It's called legwork, it's called immersion journalism, and it doesn't look pretty. But it should come as a surprise to only naive newspaper readers that every day journalists treat the subjects of investigations the way McGinniss is treating Palin.

--which would be nice if there was any reason to think that this wasn't stunt journalism performed by a fading hack who nobody should trust to write a straight story. The truth is that McGinniss will have as little access to Palin living next to her house (when she's even in it at all, and not out of town on the Perpetual Self-Promotion Tour through the Lower-48) as he'd have living in Guatemala, and I can't fault the Palins for that because I wouldn't trust McGinniss to write an astrology column for a bi-weekly 'zine.2 But when his book comes out, the big schtick on the cover and coverage will be "He lived next to the Palins--what did he find out?" The "assholery," contrary to what Shafer believes, isn't being perpetrated on the Palins, it's being perpetrated on the American public that will be exposed to McGinniss' book's marketing campaign in 2011. (There's something to look forward to.)

Shafer, for all his faults (he's sometimes a contrarian's contrarian), can usually be relied on to smell bullshit and call it what it is. He's frequently Slate's skeptical voice of reason, the noble curmudgeon who tells everyone to hold up just a minute, not so fast, hang on a second. One suspects in this case that he's so eager to see a reporter finally really be a dick to Sarah Palin (as opposed to ambushing her with softball questions about what she likes to read, for fuckssakes) that he's missing the obvious: that the joke is on the rest of us. I'm disappointed in him, really.

Meanwhile, who the fuck cares who gets the gold and glory, Palin or McGinniss, when it would just be better if they both went away?

1Per Wikipedia:

...McGinniss struck up a close friendship with the accused murderer Jeffrey MacDonald.

MacDonald, an Army physician, had been charged with the 1970 murders of his twenty-six year-old pregnant wife Collette and their two young daughters. McGinniss secured MacDonald's cooperation in turning his story into a book: the journalist would report from both the court room and MacDonald's side. McGinniss shared housing with his book's subject, exercised with him, and sat beside him at the defense table during his trial. As Malcolm writes, "They clothed their complicated business together in the mantle of friendship—in this case, friendship of a particularly American cast, whose emblems of intimacy are watching sports on television, drinking beer, running, and classifying women according to their looks." Within a month of MacDonald's conviction, the journalist began a series of letters. Malcolm quotes McGinniss' expressions of sympathy—"any fool can recognize within five minutes that you did not receive a fair trial...it was utter madness"—as well as his tacit assurances that the book would help win his release: "it's a hell of a thing—spend the summer making a new friend and the bastards come and lock him up. But not for long, Jeffrey—not for long."

In fact, as McGinniss would later admit, he had become swiftly and easily convinced of MacDonald's guilt during the trial; in the same months that he wrote warm letters to the now-jailed MacDonald, he was also writing to his editor Morgan Entrekin, discussing the technical problem of not spoiling his work's effect by making MacDonald, in the book, appear "too loathsome too soon."

(cit. omit.)

2The joke here being, of course, that astrology is a bunch of made-up horseshit. Not sure if I needed to telegraph that point or not.


Guess which one of these candidates lost in the Idaho primaries yesterday?

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I believe the abbreviation is "ROFLMAO."

EDIT: Upon reflection, it occurs to me that the answer, sadly, might not be obvious.

It can be found here. See, sometimes the system works.


Ignorant fucking crackers

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Constitution Of The United States,
Amendment XIV, section 1

...49 percent say the U.S. should continue to grant citizenship to all children born in the United States, versus 46 percent who believe the law should be changed so that children of illegal immigrants are not automatically granted citizenship. (Among Latinos, a whopping 79 percent believe the country should continue to grant automatic citizenship.)

-Mark Murray, "On immigration, racial divide runs deep",
MSNBC, May 26th, 2010

So I'm waiting, checking news on my BlackBerry while I wait, and I read this MSNBC article about a poll conducted by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, and I get to the paragraph I quoted above, and my eyeball explodes. The right one, the one that I'm pretty sure will go if I ever actually have that stroke and my head really explodes. Blood and eye-juice all over the place--I kid, it only fell out and I popped it back in before anyone noticed; it would have been embarrassing if they had, of course.

What. The. Fuck?

No, I shouldn't be surprised. A large number of my fellow Americans are, as the scientific classification goes, homo ignarus crustulae, which is as close as I can get to a Latin classification of "ignorant cracker people" using online translation services and my complete lack of mastery of Latin (notwithstanding one semester of the language in high school, a course I frankly passed solely through being the only enthusiastic student in the class and not because I retained a single solitary declension); anybody who wants to suggest a better taxonomic label have at it.

What's the Latin for "fuck"--fucare or something like that? Ignorant fucking crackers is what we're talking about.

I have no idea how this poll would break down along party or ideological lines, though I fear I can guess. The proclivity of certain folks on the American right to favor immigration "reform" is matched by their ridiculous appeals to Constitutional originalism and fidelity. Which brings us to the irony, of course: that one suspects quite a lot of the people who perhaps think the Fourteenth Amendment ought to be repealed in whole or in part are people who rant and froth about how we should get back to the "original" Constitution, whatever the hell that is.

And that is what they're talking about, by-the-way. "Granting citizenship to children born in the United States" isn't something done by operation of statute or shady regulation of Immigration And Naturalization; it isn't policy or regulation. It's the Constitution Of The United States, the foundational document of who we are, made a part of the fundamental fabric of the Nation in the wake of the American Civil War as part of the process that made former slaves legal human beings instead of chattel.

(At which point it's also worth observing that the whole claim that certain folks--e.g. members of the teabag movement--aren't racists and it's mean and unfair to call them that may be laughable farce, since "racist" versus "person who wants to dial American Constitutional law back to 1860" may be a distinction with no meaningful difference whatsoever. After all, while not every early-19th-Century American was a racist, and some indeed were abolitionists, they lived in a country with a racist founding document, a country in which not only was apartheid legal but so was treating a man like a horse to be bought, sold, whipped or pampered per the whims of the possessor. Put another way, those early-19th-Century Americans who weren't racists didn't want to live in early-19th-Century America either and were often actively engaged in disturbing a longstanding status quo that American racists were trying to preserve. Draw your own conclusions.)

Now, there is a peculiar trick, a sort of loophole that you might try to slip a piece of nativist legislation through. Notice that the Fourteenth Amendment says (quite clearly) that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and , are citizens...." It seems that a few clever-ish Congresspersons have tried to pass legislation that would define children born in the United States to illegals as not being within U.S. jurisdiction and therefore, logically, not citizens.

Clever-ish, not clever. You do know, of course, that a court cannot hear a legal action--neither criminal nor civil--over somebody it doesn't have jurisdiction over. Indeed, a government can't do much of anything with somebody it doesn't have jurisdiction over, meaning that a piece of legislation as dubiously worded as the Citizenship Reform Act Of 2005 (or the nearly-identical Birthright Citizenship Act of 2007) could possibly have the accidental effect of giving a broad grant of civil and criminal immunity to the people it's trying to deny citizenship to. (The CRA and BCA tried to limit their application to the Immigration And Nationality Act, which looks like it would solve the immunity grant problem by making either act almost certainly unconstitutional by--wait for it--violating the Fourteenth Amendment Citizenship Clause. Gosh, talk about being made of win.1)

In trying to explain how ridiculously wrong and idiotic these people are, I'm actually starting to feel like I'm going down the rabbit hole myself. They can't do it because of x and they'll fail if they try to work around x with y and z is just no help; this becomes an example of how crazy is like dogshit--you step in it and it's impossible to get it totally out of the sole of your shoe. I've been at this longer than I meant to be and even ended up throwing a Supreme Court cite in when I said to myself I wasn't going to even go to that much trouble, was just going to do a sort of Internet drive-by on the raving incomprehensible idiocy. So I'm going to pull the plug on this instead of working through all the reasons you have to do a contortionist act to ignore the plain meaning of a Constitutional Amendment, and hope it's sufficient to say that the only way for them to get what they say they want is by way of a Constitutional Amendment that would repeal the Fourteenth Amendment in whole-or-part (and good luck getting the votes for that) and would not only do away with nearly a century of post-Civil War law but would probably have fucked their own ancestors if it had been the law whenever they came over on a boat.

I'm long out of patience with these jackasses. They are offended to be called "teabaggers" and "racists" and "ignorant fucking morons," but at some point a thing speaks for itself and obviously is what it is. These people do not have opinions that should be heard and respected and considered, they have prejudices that should be publicly aired and repudiated, and those bigots who are not educable should be humiliated for the greater benefit of society so that future idiots might be deterred if possible. It is possible, however unlikely, that they may indeed manage to take "their" country back, i.e. seize the reins of power by fair means or foul and, like many a reactionary rabble before them, drool and spasm until things fall apart and the grown-ups return to pick up their juvenile mess; that they might temporarily "succeed" in the vaguest possible sense of "briefly winning" does not alter the fact they are entitled to no more respect than any other mob of uneducated, bleating fools.

1I'm trying to keep this fairly simple, but see also Plyler v. Doe (457 U.S. 202 (1982)):

In appellants' view, persons who have entered the United States illegally are not "within the jurisdiction" of a State even if they are present within a State's boundaries and subject to its laws. Neither our cases nor the logic of the Fourteenth Amendment support that constricting construction of the phrase "within its jurisdiction."


Don't Panic!

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's a busy week thus far and I have nothing, really. So, rather than hit you fine folks with another open-letter response to a prospective online business partner (yes, I have another open letter in the can) and since it's Towel Day, have some Eagles--"Journey of the Sorcerer," from their 1975 album One Of These Nights, set to some nifty space animation.

And if you don't know why this track on this day, Belgium to you.

Happy Towel Day, froods!

(And a big ol' tip o' the hat to Carol Elaine and Michelle for the prods!)


Nada Surf: "Whose Authority"

>> Monday, May 24, 2010

The Internet costs me money, it's wonderful.

It works something like this: Indie Pop Rocks! was been playing Nada Surf's "Whose Authority" a bunch last week (lush harmonies, cute Zep reference in the first verse, ringing guitars with just the right bite of crunchiness, swelling electric organ, nice stuff). So I went on Amazon and bought their 2008 album Lucky online while I was sitting at the coffee shop checking the blog and so on. Instant gratification, instant access; here a song on the web, buy it on the web, don't need to wait or make a trip to the (I'm so sorry--I really will miss you when you're extinct) record store.

Oh yeah--here's the song. Good luck getting it out of your head, kids:


An open letter to Kofi Anthony Akponsah, Esq.

>> Sunday, May 23, 2010


From: Barrister Kofi Anthony Akponsah (barrwill@hotmail.com)

Sent: Wed 5/19/10 11:06 PM

Akponsah Associates & Chambers.
Solicitors & Advocates,


Accra - Ghana.


Dear Friend,

I crave your indulgence for the unsolicited nature of this letter, but it was borne out of desperation and current development. Please bear with me. My name
is Barrister Kofi Anthony Akponsah, a legal practitioner and the personal Attorney to late Mr. Micheal harris who died in Air France plane which
disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean were Brazilians and French nationals, airline officials said died along With his wife Mrs. Anne Harris on the 31
May 2009 Air France plane with other 447 passengers on board (May their soul rest in peace).I know that my client had no living kin but I went ahead and
made several inquiries to their embassy to locate any of my clients extended

relatives but this has proved unsuccessful.

You can confirm this from the website below which was published by

BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8077858.stm

I only did so to be double sure of this fact. I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the money and property left behind by my client before they
get confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where these huge deposits were lodged, particularly in the Stanbic Bank Ghana where the
deceased had an account valued at about $25 Million Dollars, The bank has issued me a notice that in the event that no next of kin comes up for the
claim, the account will be confiscated if not claimed and we have just about few months.

Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased so that the
proceeds of this account valued at US$25 Million Dollars can be paid into your nominated bank account and then you and me can share the money in the mode.
60% shall be for me and 35% for you and 5% shall be map out for expanse that are being made within the transfer.
I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. All I require is your honest co-operation to enable us see this deal
through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law.

Please your telephone and fax number urgently needed for further discussion. I look forward to your urgent response.

Best regards,
Barrister Kofi Anthony Akponsah Esq.

Dear Mr. Akponsah, Esq.,

Fact: on June 1st, 2009, Air France Flight 447 vanished from radar, without a trace, over a stretch of empty ocean. Fact: on June 6th, 2009, debris allegedly from the flight was found in the middle of the Atlantic.

This is what we know. What else do we know?

If you add 4 + 4 + 7, you get 15. If you add 1 + 5, you get 6. "447" is therefore numerologically the equivalent of the number six. June is the sixth month. The alleged debris was found on the sixth day of the sixth month.


It doesn't stop there.

The manufacturer's serial number of Flight 447 was 660--two sixes! The plane itself was an Airbus A330-203: 3 + 3 + 0 = 6 and 2 x 3 = 6, furthermore the second half of the plane model, 203, recapitulates the first half, i.e. two threes and a zero! Still say it's random chance? The plane first flew on February 25th, 2005--02/25/2005, a number with obvious symmetries; 0 + 2 + 2 + 5 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 5 = 16, and 1 x 6 equals... 6! The plane was registered as F-GZCP, a sequence of letters that is numerically equivalent to 6 - (7 + 26 + 3 + 16) = -46; if we multiply -4 x 6 and take the absolute value we get 24, and 2 + 4 = 6 yet again!

Last contact with the plane was at 1:33 UTC, a number with two threes. (Which, added together and multiplied by the one gives us--six!)

There were 216 passengers on board and 12 crew. 2 + 1 + 6 + 1 + 2 = 12, which is twice the number 6, or 6 + 6 + 0, the plane's serial number yet again!

There are six continents upon which humans are indigenous. Six points on a Star Of David. Six Islamic Articles Of Belief. Six sides on a cube. Six legs on a bug. Six degrees of separation between any two individuals. Six is powerful magic.

And now the really creepy part:


11 + 15 + 6 + 9 = 41 = 4 + 1 = 5


1 + 14 + 20 + 8 + 15 + 14 + 25 = 97 = 9 + 7 = 16 = 1 + 6 = 7


1 + 11 + 16 + 15 + 14 + 19 + 1 + 8 = 85 = 8 + 5 = 13 = 1 + 4 = 5

5 + 7 + 5 = 17

1 + 7 = 8 = 4 x 2; 4 + 2 = ...6!

And don't think I didn't notice you purport to be acting on behalf of the allegedly-late Michael Harris--Harris being a name with how many letters in it? Uh-huh. That's right, Mr. Akponsah--or are you really Mr. Harris?

What did you know Akponsah? When did you know it? What are you hiding? I think you were personally involved in the disappearance of the flight and the planting of so-called debris in the ocean. There were plenty of places that plane could have landed in North Africa--or it could even have been diverted to Ghana!

J'accuse, Mr. Akponsah! J'accuse! What are you hiding? What are you hiding?

The truth will out, Mr. Akponsah! It always does.

Meanwhile, rest assured I will be reporting this entire incident, including the results of my meticulous calculations, to the President Of The United States, the Director Of The FBI, and the Postmaster General.

R. Eric VanNewkirk (181; 1 + 8 + 1 = 10 = 1 + 0 = 1)
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


An open letter to Mr. James Wellington

>> Saturday, May 22, 2010

ticket numbers: EAASL-130877

From: Mr James Wellington (jameswellington.fedex.org@[])

Sent: Thu 5/20/10 9:23 AM

Microsoft Corporation,
40 Ryecroft Way Stopsley ,
London SW1E 5JL
FILE REF: HL/5564/06/07/MICS
BATCH: MC11/834/5PDH /EU


It is obvious that this notification will come to you as a surprise but please find time to read it carefully as we congratulate you over your success in the following official publication of results of the E-mail electronic online Sweepstakes organized by Microsoft, in conjunction with the foundation for the promotion of software products, (F.P.S.) held in London, United Kingdom. Were email address was randomly selected from over Three million email addresses of different people around the world without their knowledge and your email address emerged as one of the online Winning emails in the 2nd category and therefore attracted a cash award of 850,000.00 (Eight hundred and fifty Thousand pounds sterling). Our winners are arranged into four categories with different winning prizes accordingly in each category.

They are arranged in this format below:


1st. 2 ? 1,000,000.00 pounds each
2nd. 8 ? 850,000.00 pounds each
3rd. 13 ? 350,000.00 pounds each
4th. 27 ? 170,000.00 pounds each

We write to officially notify you of this award and to advise you to contact the processing office immediately upon receipt of this message for more information concerning the verification processing and eventual payment of the above prize to you.

For verification purpose be sure to include the following:

(1) Your Full Names.
(2) Your Tel/Fax numbers.
(3) Your Nationality/Country.
(4) Your contact address..
(5) Sex.
(6) Age.
(7) Occupation.
(8) Your Preferred Method of Receiving Your Price (From Below) Mode of Price Remittance.

(1)Courier Delivery Of your Certified Winning Cheque Name and other Documents safely to you.

It is important to note that your award information was released with the following particulars attached to it.
(1) These are your identification numbers: MCS-26799/097
(2) Award numbers: MCS-26799/097
(3) Email ticket numbers: EAASL-130877
(4) Batch numbers: MC11/834/8PDH /EU
(5) The file reference numbers: HL/5574/41/07/MICS
{6} Serial Numbers: McST/006/NL46560

To avoid unnecessary delays and complications, quote the following numbers above to the Microsoft Promotional claims manager who will by duty guide you on the step to take in collecting your prize.

E-mail 1: microsecurityclaimsdepartment1@discuz.org

The Microsoft Internet E-mail lottery Awards is sponsored by Microsoft Management, The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Acer Computers, and a consortium of software promotion companies, The Intel Group, Toshiba, Dell Computers and other International Companies such as Yahoo, British airways, Google. The Microsoft internet E-mail draw is held periodically and is organized to encourage the use of the Internet and promote computer literacy worldwide.

Once again on behalf of all our staff,


© 2001-2010 MICROSOFT WINDOWS®.77735 876378

Dear Mr. Wellington,


That's right, HA!

You can't fool me with such a transparent ploy!

I knew this was just a dirty, lowdown trick as soon as I saw that the prize was "Eight hundred and fifty Thousand pounds sterling". Well what, I'd like to know, am I going to do with four hundred and twenty-five tons of dinnerware!

I imagine you'll reply that I could throw an enormous dinner party for several thousand of my closest friends, because you're assuming I won't think of how many dishwasher loads that will be or how much time I'll have to spend polishing all that silver--well, I'll have you know, Mr. Wellington, I've thought about it. Assuming I can polish four ounces of silverware a minute and never sleep, I think it would take me approximately five months to get through all of it if I've done my math right.

Meanwhile, I'm sure you'll steal my cat or something along those lines. This kind of herculean task is exactly the kind of thing leprechauns are always tricking poor peasants into doing so the leprechauns can steal the poor peasants' children, and since I don't have a child, you'd probably take my cat, instead. Well, you can't have him. He doesn't like strangers, and while I'm sure your magic tree or whatever it is you live in is very nice, I think he likes living with me better. Besides which, he's my "plan B" in case I ever find my cupboards bare, refrigerator empty, and I'm unable to get to the supermarket.

Now begone with you, evil spirit, and darken my home no more with your evil, conniving, leprechaunish ways. I'm on to you. Don't make me say your name three times, Mr. Wellington, Mr. Wellington, because I will do it. Also, I have a camera and am perfectly willing to steal your soul, kosher salt which I'm willing to encircle you with, and I have a friend who knows leprechaun kung-fu. (One of these things is a lie, but I'm not telling you which one. I don't think you want to take the chance, now do you?)

Begone, foul spirit!

R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


The @LibTardBot machine

>> Friday, May 21, 2010

So I was just doing my usual computer stuff this weekend, with a Gwibber window open on the desktop, and I tweeted (i.e., for those who don't know, posted a comment on Twitter) something or another about teabaggers. It was probably funny at the time, I don't know. And a few minutes later, the most mildly marvelous thing happened: I was re-tweeted (i.e. my earlier message was repeated) by something or someone calling itself @LibTardBot, with the addendum, "Libtard detected! Approach w/caution, probably delusional." Which I guess puts me in my place or something.

Now, @LibTardBot isn't actually that interesting: somebody set up an automated system to grab tweets (messages) that mention the word "teabagger" and re-post them with whatever little message the creator hopes will get someone's goat. Sometimes, rarely, he (the creator) jumps in to add a direct comment or response, and he has the 'bot set to filter messages a little (I was hoping to ratchet up a cute little pinball score by just saying "teabagger" a lot more than usual but he stopped re-tweeting me). It's a pretty useful service @LibTardBot provides--I actually started to follow @LibTardBot because it's a nice way to aggregate what other liberals and progressives (and occasional mis-tagged conservatives) are saying on Twitter, though I can't wholly endorse following him/it just because he aggregates a lot of messages and Sturgeon's Law applies to Twitter as much as it applies anywhere. But this isn't really what I wanted to write about, anyway; it just seemed like a necessary intro.

No, the interesting part was @LibTardBot's homepage, which turned out to be the Urban Dictionary page for the word "libtard", and this turned out to be something sort of curious. See, one might think that "libtard" is a sort of Sovietesque syllabic abbreviation of the words "liberal" and "retard," and of course one would be absolutely correct. And one might then think that was all there was to it, that nothing more needed to be said on the subject.

One would, it turns out, be wrong.

You see, the fine mob authors of the Urban Dictionary are motivated not just by a desire to explore the emergent diversity of the English language, but by a desire to show off how clever and witty they are (they are, in other words, exactly like bloggers). It is insufficient to merely say that a libtard is a "liberal retard," a UD contributor must explain, expound and pontificate, offer examples of usage inspired by but not actually anything like the examples of usage offered in real dictionaries, etc.

This turns out to be fascinating and mildly amusing.

It turns out to be fascinating and mildly amusing because few things are as fascinating and mildly amusing as somebody who isn't really clever trying very, very hard to show off how clever they are, especially on a subject that doesn't actually merit that much effort--and don't you dare say anything. (There's not a whit of irony here, thank you, because while I hope I'm amusing you, I am definitely amusing myself, and masturbation mandates that we expend much effort on something very small by the mere nature of the act. And yes, I am speaking for myself, thank you, smartass.)

Many of the authors of the "libtard" entry, in fact, manage to expend so many words on the subject they manage to write themselves out of "libtardism" (the state of being a libtard, natch) being a bad thing at all. Take this, for instance:

As repetitive as it sounds, it stands for "liberal retard."

A libtard wants to live in a fantasy world (in which life is the way that they WISH IT WAS) as opposed to dealing with life the way it actually is.

(This explains the religious fervor that many of them demonstrate when it comes to smoking pot).

The most idealistic libtard envisions a time when science/technology and Socialism will eliminate all poverty, hunger, war, disease, injustice, unemployment and prejudice. (It is a nice pipe dream but human nature will forever stand in the way of that goal).

Most libtards subscribe to the notion that "people are basically good", and build their foundation for activism and "improving the human condition" on that faulty premise. Because they deny the facts about human nature, their "reasoning" is diametrically opposite to common sense (blue states vs. red states).

The reality that people have different initiative levels, are basically selfish, and often work for their own interests before helping others, puts a libtard's panties in a wad. So, when citizens will not voluntarily comply with various libtard prescriptions for "the common good", then laws must be passed, or force used, to MAKE them comply. (It is the gradual path to totalitarianism).

A libtard, in other words, is a Star Trek fan. Possibly one who likes weed.

I'm not even wholly joking, I mean, read this again--

The most idealistic libtard envisions a time when science/technology and Socialism will eliminate all poverty, hunger, war, disease, injustice, unemployment and prejudice. (It is a nice pipe dream but human nature will forever stand in the way of that goal).

--and ask yourself how on Earth this is actually a bad thing. It might be an unrealistic thing, to be sure--maybe, maybe not. But are we to infer from something like this that a "smartcon" (or whatever you'd like to call the exact opposite of a libtard) is somebody who aspires to a world in which superstition/brute force and capitalism create a world full of poverty, hunger, war, disease, injustice, unemployment and prejudice? Really? Really? I mean, I would have assumed that a conservative Utopian aspired to almost exactly the same things as the "most idealistic libtard" with the difference of replacing the word "Socialism" with "free enterprise" or something along those lines.

Image borrowed from Memory Alpha http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Time's_Arrow_(episode)A geek such as myself recalls that the "most idealistic libtard's" "pipe dream" is, indeed, more-or-less the future described to a fictionalized, time-traveling Mark Twain in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Time's Arrow." I don't know that Gene Roddenberry was particularly left-wing--his views seemed very Eisenhower-era Republican much of the time, to be honest--but there it is. And I have to admit I found ST:TNG's version of the future a bit facile and unrealistic, myself: I seem to recall somebody in that TNG episode telling Twain that poverty has been eradicated, which is a meaningless statement insofar as poverty is a relative state--if you're in a future where any item can be created by a fancy-schmancy replicator, it won't mean that there aren't any poor people, only that people who don't have replicators will be poor. Still, it's something to aspire to, however absurd or unrealistic or unachievable it might seem, no?

In a similar vein, this Urban Dictionary contributor possibly thinks libtards are martyrs:

A liberal ideolog who puts their political beliefs above their natural sense of self preservation.

Source: WikipediaSetting aside the misspelling of "ideologue," one boggles a little at the premise of the definition: generations of Americans, from the Revolutionary War to the present, have put political beliefs ahead of a sense of self preservation and have volunteered to go to war--instead of saying something like, "Well, you know, Bob, I really think Hitler is a fink and you know I'm opposed to totalitarianism and fascism, but those German guys are going to have guns--a guy could get shot!" Hell, Americans during the early years of the First World War and the Spanish Civil War (among other occasions), volunteered for wars America wasn't even involved in when they traveled abroad to enlist in the French Foreign Legion and the Lincoln Brigade.

This one is just kind of funny all around:

A person who has no opinion for their selves and will follow ideas with out any real logic. They usually believe in taking peoples money away that they worked for, and redistributing it to bums and minorities who dont want to work. Extremely hypocritical and selfish to the needs of honest people. Believes in nothing more than to destroy the American Constitution and will stop at nothing to make socialistic and communistic laws implemented into our society. A cross between a liberal, and a retard.

I'm leaving out the example in which this contributor spells "Pelosi" with a "w".

The common thread in nearly all of the entries over at the website is an almost pathologically-narcissistic selfishness, which I suppose I should find more sad than funny although I keep laughing at it. Libtards want to eliminate prejudice, redistribute money, sacrifice themselves and others for a greater good, and other such things that are inevitably doomed to failure because humans by their nature are small, selfish and stupid, or so we're told. It may be a sign of just how liberal and retarded I actually am that I read these definitions and can't help thinking, however, that libtardism as it's defined by these folks is at least virtuous; I would have thought conservatives of good will agreed to more-or-less the same ends as liberals such as myself, and that our argument was merely one (or perhaps profoundly one, actually) over the best means to those ends, silly things like minimizing or eliminating poverty, reducing injustice, that sort of thing. And if liberals and conservatives disagree over humanity's proclivity towards goodness, I might have hoped we at least agreed about humanity's potential; that is, liberals and conservatives might argue over whether Man is innately selfish while agreeing he has the potential for moral greatness if we knew how to nurture and sustain it.

I suspect the UD contributors are outliers, and that there's a mostly-silent majority of conservatives who are disagreeing about the means, not the ends; of course, this might be a symptom of my profound and congenital libtardation; perhaps the thoughtful and kind conservatives I know are, in fact, the outliers, and the majority of conservatives are unreconstructed Calvinists at heart.

What's most fascinating about the UD entries, of course, is that they provide a much greater insight into the authors than into the subject. Reading all of these entries, one finds that one actually knows little more than one already assumed about the word "libtard" and that this was in fact all one needed to know, but that one does have a sad-yet-comic insight into how some individuals evidently think (or in some of these samples, frankly, what some people do with their brains in lieu of thought).

It's self-evident that @LibTardBot, wherever and whomever he might be, thinks he's being biting and insulting. Looking over the page he links to and identifies with, it's obvious the contributors to the Urban Dictionary also think they're being smart, funny and cruel. In the process, @LibTardBot has connected me to a number of progressives and liberals whose short messages and links to blogs and news articles I would have otherwise missed, and the contributors to the UD create the singular impression that being liberal and stupid is preferable to being smart and conservative, or whatever else the opposition might represent. These facts would, if you're keeping track of such things, constitute examples of the much-abused word "irony." And so it is.


Rand Paul is a moron

>> Thursday, May 20, 2010

CORRECTION: Dagnabit. I'm a moron, too. This is a piece about Rand Paul, not Ron Paul. The name's been corrected throughout; I will say that, unlike Rand Paul, I knew what I was talking about and merely typed the father's first name instead of the son's.

Thanks for catching that, Carol Elaine!

I had a chance to watch Rand Paul's epic Civil Rights fail on the Maddow show.

My. My. My.

The problem isn't that Paul is being ambushed on a law that was passed when he was two, or that Democrats are trying to earn political capital on "an abstract, obscure conversation" or that Paul is a bigot. The problem is that Paul clearly has no comprehension of what the real issue is.

If you watch the clip, Paul wants to talk about First Amendment rights, Second Amendment rights, property rights under (one presumes) the Fifth Amendment (not that he mentions it by name). That's not what the issue is really about, either.

The issue is the proper role of government in general and specifically whether the Federal government has the power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment's proscription against enforcing laws that abridge the privileges and immunities of American citizens and the proscription against denying equal protection of the laws to any citizen within any State. In the general sense, it is about the Federal government's ability to promote fairness and equality by, for instance, outlawing the de facto segregation that occurs when private businesses are allowed to deny service on the basis of suspect categories such as race (as opposed to de jure segregation, i.e. segregation by explicit operation of the laws, which Paul repeatedly says he opposes). In the specific sense, Congress either has a Constitutional mandate from the Fourteenth Amendment or it doesn't, and caselaw upholding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 answers that in the affirmative.

Government has a longstanding traditional right to regulate the conduct of business. Counties pass zoning ordinances. States delegate the responsible practice of fields such as law and medicine to licensing and regulatory authorities rather than allow anybody to just hang out a shingle proclaiming themselves a lawyer or doctor (or, if you're dentist/lawyer/real estate agent Orly Taitz, a little bit of this and a little bit of that). Federal regulations keep you from simply opening up your very own radiological waste site or smuggling medicinal heroin across the border. Paul's libertarian position may well, in fact, be that he thinks all of these things are bad and that local, state and Federal authorities have no business interceding in the free market, and if people don't think you ought to be running a dogmeat slaughterhouse/rendering plant/crackhouse on top of the toxic waste dump you opened between a nursing home on one side and a daycare center on the other, they can choose not to patronize your business that it is your God-given right to own and operate as you see fit so long as it remains a profitable venture. This is, however, and contrary to what Paul and some Randian libertarians might think, an extreme minority opinion that most of the public likely regards as "batshit insane." (Granted, I am making an assumption there. I could be wrong.)

Of course, the idea that somebody might combine a dogmeat slaughterhouse with a rendering plant, crackhouse and toxic waste repository is perhaps a little far-fetched. Hence, the use of pre-1964 America as an illustration of why Federal regulation of socially-undesirable business practices is pertinent. Because while my example is highly improbable, it is well within the lifetime experiences of millions of Americans that a significant portion of the population once had to pack meals and bedding materials in their cars along with any clothing or vacation necessities they might want when going on car trips solely because they would not be able to eat in any restaurant or lodge in any motel en route due only to their skin color and not to their ability or willingness to pay for food and lodging. We are not talking, one should emphasize, about bringing a nice little lunch along for a happy little picnic in mid-route, or a tent and sleeping bags for happy camping: we are talking about bringing food and bedding for every day of a family trip or vacation because if you didn't, there would be no food for you, no room for you. Bugs got into the food for the second day? We could swing into a restaurant at the next exit! No, we can't. We're black.

That Paul seemingly thinks being refused service at every restaurant along the interstate is the same as one person saying the "n-word" in the parking lot in one of them indicates such a profound level of stupidity and ignorance that one wonders if it's willful.

Paul also whimpers a bit about the Second Amendment, and whether private businesses can exclude people bearing guns. This superficially very nearly sounds like a cogent argument, but it really isn't. What one would have to do to make Paul's point for him, I think, is to make the case that gun-bearers are being denied the benefit of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever a gun-bearer's Second Amendment right to bear arms is impinged upon by a private actor, and it will help (under the present understanding of the Constitution) if you can say that businesses excluding gun-bearers are having an effect upon interstate commerce. When one recalls that leaving one's firearm in the glove box is far easier than leaving one's skin in the car, this attempted line of reasoning begins to seem a little too silly to actually try to follow-through on; all a person bearing a gun needs to do to be served in a restaurant that bans guns is forgo carrying his firearm for a short period of time, whereupon he is presumably treated as any other individual wanting to partake of the fine dining of the Woolworth's lunch counter (or wherever).

This is actually a pretty good proof of Paul's idiocy and ignorance: that when you try to helpfully step in and lift up his fledgling argument for him, nurse it to health and move its wings about, you suddenly realize his little bird is ugly, and dead, and in fact was born without a brain (probably because of insufficient government regulation or enforcement concerning industrial pesticides), and that the only way it would ever get airborne would be if you threw it, and then it wouldn't travel very far and you'd look pretty stupid tossing a dead bird around. Sorry. That's possibly a terrible and disgusting metaphor. Still. It's a sorry thing, indeed, when your line of thought is so inept that when somebody tries to rescue it for you, you start to look even stupider than you did before.

Was somebody saying this man could be Presidential material?

Good Lord.

The Maddow clip in its entirety should post below, but it's acting finicky in preview. If it isn't appearing, I'll try to fix it later.


A song that needs no introduction...

...performed by The Hotrats... who are introduced by David Letterman. Well. Anyway.

So, it's Thursday, eh?


An open letter to Mr. David Moore

>> Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Contact Mr Bryan for your $600,000.00 Bank Draft. Thanks?‏

From: Mr David Moore (moore@mooreestate.com)
Sent: Tue 5/18/10 12:57 PM

Dear Friend,

How are you today?

Hope all is well with you and your family? I hope this mail meets you in a perfect condition. You may not understand why this mail came to you. But if you do not remember me, you might have received an email from me in the past regarding a multi-million-dollar business proposal which we never concluded.

I am using this opportunity to inform you that this multi-million-dollar business has been concluded with another person who financed it to a logical conclusion. I thank you for your great effort to our unfinished transfer of fund into your account due to one reason or the other best known to you.

But I want to inform you that I have successfully transferred the fund out of the security company to my new partner's account in London that was capable of assisting me in this great venture. Due to your effort, sincerity, courage and trustworthiness you showed during the course of the transaction I want to compensate you and show my gratitude to you with the sum of $600,000.00. I have left an international certified bank draft for you worth about $600,000.00 cash-able anywhere in the world.

My dear friend, I will like you to contact my lawyer Mr. Ellis Bryan for the collection of this international certified bank draft. I have authorized him to release the international certified bank draft to you as soon as you contact him regarding this issue.

At the moment, I'm very busy here because of the investment projects which myself my new partner are having at hand. Please I will like you to accept this token with good faith as this is from the bottom of my heart.

Also comply with Mr. Ellis Bryan so that he will send the draft to you without any delay.

CONTACT: Mr. Ellis Bryan
ADDRESS: 15 Millmark Groove SE14 6RL,. London United Kingdom
EMAIL: mrellisbryn@hosanna.net
Tel #: +447 024 077 554

Therefore, you should send him your full Name and telephone number/your address where you where you want him to send the draft to you. Thanks and God bless you and your family.

I am very busy now i may not reply to any email for some time.

Best Regards,
Mr. David Moore

Dear Mr. Moore,

You're welcome. I have to admit, our previous, never-concluded multi-million-dollar business transaction was among the easiest, smoothest, and most pleasantly-not-conducted multi-million-dollar business transactions I have ever left unfinished. Amazingly, I was able to accomplish exactly nothing by doing nothing, and I am very happy that the nothing which didn't happen was as satisfying for you when it went unfinished as it was for myself.

In the spirit of our previous non-transaction, I am eagerly looking forward to not-completing yet another non-transaction under a similar lack of terms and conditions as our first non-venture was rendered incomplete under. I trust this will be satisfactory to you, as well, since it will essentially be a non-reprise of the exchange we failed to conduct last time you were in contact with me to your expressed satisfaction. I hope, indeed, that our complete lack of action will produce even fewer results than we failed to produce through our previous inertia, for I strongly feel that this conspicuous and zealous inaction will bring even more satisfaction (both to ourselves, and also to Mr. Ellis Bryan, your lawyer, who I hope will fail to act with due passivity and restraint and thereby share our glowing sense of unachieved lack-of-result).

Along those lines, I regret to learn that you are having a busy time because of new projects at hand. I hope this is merely a temporary setback and the distressing flurry of activity and investment you're embroiled in will simmer, then cool into a turgid period of quiescence. We cannot always prevent tragedy from entering our lives, but please know that this phase of excitement will come to an eventual end, and you will soon be able to resign yourself to a happily indifferent lassitude.

Good luck, and my best wishes to you and yours.


Capitalism 5.0

>> Tuesday, May 18, 2010

At the center of the short-lived American Capitalism 5.0 model was the notion of shareholder value. Instead of being treated as social institutions chartered by government to carry out important functions in the economy, corporations were treated as the purely private property of shareholders. And in the absence of other measures to indicate the approval or disapproval of thousands or millions of mostly anonymous shareholders, stock and bond prices were treated as the measure of success or failure. Corporate executives who were compensated with stock options had a personal incentive to do whatever it took to crank up share prices. If that meant producing a superior product at a lower price while paying good wages to American workers, fine. If it meant transferring production to a foreign police state with low-wage labor while laying off the U.S. workforce, or breaking up the company and auctioning off its assets to the highest bidder, well, that was OK, too, if share prices went up.

-Michael Lind, "American capitalism 6.0: The search for a new model",
Salon, May 18th, 2010

There's actually not much to add: I think it's a fairly nice summary of the history of American capitalism, an on-point (if not necessarily original) indictment of what's been wrong with the most recent phase of American capitalism, and the above paragraph (which I liked as a summary, though, again, not necessarily original) was too long too tweet. The article doesn't quite live up to its rhetorical subheader ("The form of capitalism the U.S. has pursued for three decades has been discredited. What's next?"--the answer would seem to be that Lind doesn't know, either), but it's worth a gander if you have a few minutes.

Well: one point I would add or emphasize or ask you to note if you read Lind's piece is that he's right about the early version of American capitalism being a mixed enterprise system, with the entrepreneurial capitalism some conservatives laud and the finance and managerial capitalism we're really more familiar with being historical epochs, and not necessarily enduring ones. The fact takes special significance in light of so many members of the, ahem, teabagger persuasion taking it for granted that capitalism, by which they probably mean 19th Century entrepreneurial capitalism, is somehow inherently American or constitutionally decreed or was somehow on the minds of the Founding Fathers when it wouldn't actually be descriptive of the American economy until the Founders were dead or dying (of course, it's also hard to tell if the teabaggers mean anything, or know what they mean, given just how tenuous their grip on history actually is; something I've remarked on previously).


Yet another genre smackdown?

The other day a brief comment at io9 brought this to my attention: Jeffrey M. Anderson at Cinematical asks, "Genre Wars: Has Sci-Fi Surpassed Horror? and of course answers his own question in the affirmative.

It's the kind of idle thing that might not be worth too much attention, except Anderson starts so badly it's hard to resist:

My local library has a section for science fiction books but no section for horror titles. If you want horror masters like Stephen King or Richard Matheson, you have to look through the normal "fiction" section. This could mean one of two things. The first is that horror is now good enough to warrant inclusion with the regular section. But the second, and most likely, is that horror is not good enough for its own section. It occurred to me that maybe this thinking applied to movies as well.

I like SF. I like horror. I like SF in my horror and horror in my SF, which is why there's an Alien poster illustrating this blog entry and I'm a huge avowed fan of H.P. Lovecraft despite his being an inveterate racist, to the point that I have a Miskatonic University license plate frame on my car and would have to confess the fictional New England university-of-the-weird is my spiritual alma mater as much as Appalachian State University was the actual college I graduated from. So I don't really want to have to get into a pissing contest about which genre might have some smidgeon of alleged superiority. But what Anderson is saying is just wrong. (Yes, I know: somebody is wrong on the Internet. You know what? You're reading a blog. If you're one of the regulars, you probably write a blog. So shut up, that's why.)

Here's the thing: for better-or-worse, thrillers and horror novels have a more mainstream market penetration than pretty much anything in the SF market. Stephen King and Dean Koontz are in "Fiction" because the perception is that they're mainstream books for any ordinary housewife or traveling businessman, and Cherie Priest or whomever you'd like to pick on (and I'm not meaning to pick on Ms. Priest, whose works I haven't gotten around to; she's simply one of the bestselling SF authors of 2009 according to Amazon) is in the ghetto sandwiched between the manga and whatever gaming materials are still in print, alongside the Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer 40k, Halo and other franchise SF novels because that's where books for mouthbreathing nerds go, which I say as a member of that proud fraternity. (And this is perhaps if Ms. Priest is lucky: she might well be sandwiched, for better-or-worse, awkwardly alongside the Fantasy volumes.) Horror novels, in other words, aren't being stacked alongside mainstream fiction because horror has been so sidelined it no longer shows up as a genre, but because certain horror writers have gone completely mainstream.

Which is something else, that word "certain." Contrary to what Anderson thinks from his local library's odd practices, plenty of bookstores in the meatworld and the digital space have horror sections. And much as one can find plenty of dubious SF novels in the SF/Fantasy section, i.e. novels written about video games and onetime TV shows, there are certainly schlocky horror novels that have zero chance of appearing on the straight "Fiction" shelves. For that matter, on a related note, there are plenty of "Fiction" volumes that are really, really, deep down and underneath the mainstream dress (psst--don't tell anybody!) science-fiction novels. Bradbury, Vonnegut, and Pynchon are all as likely to be found with the straight, serious writers as they are to be found amidst the geeks and nerds.

Here we perhaps run into a simple truth: that the shelves of bookstores (and, for that matter, public libraries) are less-likely to be organized meaningfully according to genre and more likely to be organized around somebody's idea of what moves product, be it book sales at the store or circulation at the library. If Tolkien sells (or circulates) better with the mainstream fiction, that's where he's going to go, and not next to some pulpy volume with a Technicolor-blob-shooting wizard on the cover. And 1984 and Brave New World are going to go in the "Classics" section because that's how they're considered even if they're SF by any meaningful categorization, and Ratner's Star is going to go next to White Noise because why are you going to go and break up the DeLillos just because one of those is a dabbling in Pynchonesque SF (for that matter, you can expect to see VALIS on the SF shelf with an SF label because even if VALIS really isn't anything even close to being an actual SF novel, very nearly everything else Philip K. Dick wrote is and that's where people are going to look for him).

As for the bulk of Anderson's post--does his faulty premise about books carry over into movies?--well... whatever. No, seriously: it's hard to know how one should consider his cherry-picking. Horror films continue to do good box office, and SF films frequently do okay, too, though I don't think they're as reliable box office as horror flicks are. And Anderson's comment that "the most popular horror films tend to give horror a bad name," while true, doesn't give much thought to how embarrassing so many SF films are. (His statement that "like comedies and erotic films, [horror] will always be an embarrassment, something one enjoys inwardly but does not celebrate outwardly" is possibly insane.) Possibly the best SF film of 2009, Duncan Jones' Moon, did nearly zero box office because Sony essentially refused to distribute it. Avatar obviously had good box office--indeed, it can be considered an aberration along the lines of Titanic, Star Wars or Jaws; The Twilight Saga: New Moon, a movie I understand to ostensibly be about some kind of shiny variety of virginal vampire, was also one of the top films of 2009, unlike Moon or District 9. The only other more-or-less SF films on that list, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and 2012 are movies I haven't seen, either, but from reviews and statements of friends I have the distinct impression they're the kind of films that give SF a bad name and are an embarrassment to those serious about the genre. As for the present moment, according to IMDB, the top movie of the weekend was a superhero movie that might be called an SF film if you'd really, really like, though it's certainly not 2001; there's nothing else that might be considered an SF film, but no doubt that the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, at number six, is a horror film--actually, the dominant genre at the moment, with Robin Hood, How To Train Your Dragon and Clash Of The Titans would be fantasy, so I guess SF and horror must be on their ways out, we hardly knew ye and all that.

For something so iffy and all as Anderson's faulty premises and worse conclusions are, I suppose you may be wondering why I've even bothered. Well, honestly, I needed something to write about and it was basically this or an entry on the curious term "libtard," and you're likely to see that before the week is over anyway. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts about this or Anderson's original entry. I like talking books and movies, and I love talking about genre stuff. So, if you have something, take a whack at it. And if not... well, I'll try to come up with something else that'll interest you sometime this week. Cheers.


Campaign ad of the year?

>> Monday, May 17, 2010

It's possible this campaign ad is the most amazing thing ever. Dale Peterson is a Republican candidate for Alabama's Secretary Of Agriculture. He's also the inspiration for the title character in Walker, Texas Ranger:

Over at Salon, Gabriel Winant suggests this ad is a condescending cheap shot trying to appeal to a lowest-common-denominator of conservative, rural, blue collar voters. Winant writes:

It's really difficult to give the Peterson ad an honest viewing and come away thinking that this guy thinks highly of the people whose votes he's after. Besides the arguments being total nonsense, the symbolism is just way too aggressive. Peterson tips his cards when he edges that gun into the frame, as if to say, "Yeah, those idiots will eat this up."

I fear Winant is missing the larger point--I mean, he's probably right and all, but isn't the more interesting question raised by Peterson's ad how many people he could kill or injure in a roadhouse brawl? I'm not quite sure how often the Secretary Of Agriculture in Alabama is expected to get into vicious bare-knuckle dustups with drunken rednecks or shoot out the tires of an escaping drug dealer named Ramirez while pursuing on horseback at a full gallop, but it seems pretty evident from his ad that Mr. Peterson is probably capable of not merely this much, but if there's ever a need for a state cabinet member to ride his horse underneath a helicopter in the midst of taking off, stand up in the saddle and grab a landing skid, swing himself up onto the vehicle, punch through the glass door, pry it open, pull out the pilot and rescue the hostage, Alabamans could do a lot worse than Dale Peterson.

The funniest thing in all this, maybe, and the saddest, is that if you go to Peterson's page, it's not really as batshit crazy as you might hope from that campaign ad. There's a little bit of predictable corniness and some predictable vagueness about what he might actually do differently if elected, and some of the flag-waving here and there that you tend to take for granted with Southern politicians, and there is a page about a young lady who likes hunting that has no apparent context and I have no idea why it's there--but all of that taken in stride, Peterson doesn't actually seem like a bad guy from his campaign site. Not saying I'd vote for him if I lived in Alabama, or if he were running for office here, but, hey, he doesn't seem to be too bad a feller for the SecAG job. So why does he have to go and spoil that with a TV ad that's hysterically over-the-top?

Perhaps Peterson's getting some bad advice from the cynics Winant takes aim at. Seems likely enough, and a bit of a shame if true.

Or maybe I have it backwards. Maybe Peterson's site is deceptive, aimed at online denizens. Maybe Peterson really is the action hero the TV spot makes him out to be! There's only one way to be sure--I propose all candidates for Alabama Secretary Of Agriculture be flown out over Mobile Bay in single engine airplanes, each under-equipped in the fuel and functioning-landing-gear departments and over-furnished in the categories of pilot-with-heart-trouble and angry-grizzly-bear-in-cage-with-bad-lock. Whichever candidate can successfully land his plane will be elected... King Of America For Life.

And I don't care if he is a Republican. Man can land a plane with no fuel or landing gear while being attacked by a bear, man has my respect.


Still alive, old friends

>> Sunday, May 16, 2010

I got a text message from my Mom this morning:

Well that damn wreck was a year ago! What an experience for you. Love you.

Hm, yeah, I guess it was.

Time is a strangeness. I was thinking the other day about a kid I represented in juvenile court when he was ten or eleven years old, and that this must have been in 2000, 2001, sometime around then, and that he must be old enough to have graduated from high school now; hell, he's probably old enough to buy booze. And now here's another example of that inevitable flow. What, exactly, do you say about something so profound and so over-examined it's essentially cliché? I'll jokingly sing a few lines from the old Steve Miller Band song because, you know, there's something goofy and overwrought about the whole thing. And yet there it is. The wreck was a year ago, and it doesn't seem that long ago and it seems like something that happened to somebody else in a different universe somewhere, off to the side in another timeline. What do you say about that.

Hey, not dead. That's a point, right? Which seems somehow insufficient and yet, I'm a little surprised to admit, it means a great deal. Death isn't something I'm particularly scared of beyond the fact it terrifies me occasionally these days, which is also surprising. I tend to be fatalistic, except those moments of weakness when I, like anyone, lie awake in bleak existential panic wondering why I've bothered and what's it all going to come out to. It seems like a lot of heroes of mine were dead well before they got to my age, but if I can't write anything as good as "Love In Vain" or "A Song For You," there's one thing I can do those rhyming dead dudes can't, which is breathe, right?

So a year's gone by and I'm still alive. I am, in fact, another year older though people who tell you it's my birthday or unbirthday or whatever are just jiving; jiving out of goodwill, good intent and love, but still jiving. A year ago today--or a few hours from now to be more precise--I could have been dead in the middle of an intersection; so could several of my best friends, and they aren't either. It was a close thing, a matter of physics and angles, velocities and metal fatigue, some element of sheer chance, if our car had been further along or further behind, might have been a different outcome, death or a flipped bird and shaken heads as the kid streaked past us.

Something I think is a coincidence: as I typed that last paragraph, the computer was playing me Radiohead's "Airbag," live from a 1997 show--

In a fast German car
I'm amazed that I survived
An airbag saved my life

--or maybe not Synchronicity so much after all: I chose the album as I began to write today's post, perhaps there's subconscious noise going on and some recess of my brain remembered that track as I was scrolling through things to play, "Ah, I haven't listened to any Radiohead in a while; ah, that's a great show--" --mouseclick makes it so.

A lot of folks, I imagine, would point out we're all lucky to be alive; I've done it myself, and there's some merit in the observation. But I can't help thinking of that famous anecdote about George Orwell being laid up after being shot in the throat during the Spanish Civil War, while he'd been fighting alongside the other leftists against the fascists. The story goes that some friends went to see Orwell, recuperating from a sniper's bullet to the throat that he never fully recovered from because it ought to be obvious you never really recover from any kind of major injury, and the friends couldn't help observing how lucky Orwell had been, having survived a bullet through the throat, to which Orwell irritably and logically replied that if he'd really been "lucky" he wouldn't have been shot in the fucking throat in the first place. (I paraphrase, of course--probably, probably Orwell phrased it cuttingly and eloquently and without the f-bomb, but who'd blame him if he didn't?). Which isn't something you can really argue with, now is it?

It's good to be alive, it's good we didn't have anything worse than broken bones which, for most of us, have been set and we're doing as alright as you might be with bits of metal in you, and the gods know there are worse injuries we could have received and other people who have, in fact, received them by some unfortunate circumstance, but if we'd been lucky that kid would have remembered which pedal to put his foot on and we would have gone on to the bookstore and home to an evening of gaming, making fun of each other and rolling dice. But it is what it is and we're not dead.

I have no idea whether this was what I wanted to say, but it seemed like at least the first anniversary of the death of the Old Bug and continued life of the people who were in her needed to be noted and commented on and poked. I may drink a toast later. But life, happy to say, indeed goes on.

Iechyd da, everybody.


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