Everything you need to know about Cowboys And Aliens summed up in a review that is shorter than the title of this blog post.

>> Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cowboys fighting aliens. One cowboy is James Bond and another is Han Solo. Town preacher is The Kurgan. Director made Iron Man.


ELO, "Wild West Hero"

Some people hate Ewoks. I don't get it. They're like miniature Wookies, and also: Jeff Lynne is awesome.

So when I went searching for this Electric Light Orchestra song, "Wild West Hero" (which I have loved, loved, loved ever since I was a little kid), I had no idea they did a music video for it. Which, they did, evidently. Here:

This raises two issues in my mind. (1) Is it just me, or is the ELO mothership flying upside down? I was pretty sure from all those album covers that the "ELO" logo was on the dorsal surface of the vessel, or is it on both sides of the vessel? Related to that, tho' it isn't the second issue, is the question of control surfaces and propulsion systems, because if the mothership is more-or-less symmetrical as this video leads us to believe, then, well, where are they? It occurs to me (still not the second issue) that the ELO mothership might possibly be levitated and propelled by the power of pure awesomeness, in which case I think we ought to look into this as a power source for all of our 21st Century needs. For a start, maybe we should paint everything black with neon-orange flames? (2, finally) How cool would it have been if the ELO mothership started blasting the crap out of everything with, I dunno, some kind of disco laser or something? "A beam of glittering light emanated from the disc-shaped craft and annihilated everything it touched, leaving only Beatles-shaped shadows of fine ash behind...."

This is actually a pre-post, which I mention because at the time of this writing I don't know if my Fine Woman (I know, I know--we still need to have that contest for an appropriate nom de guerre for her) have seen Cowboys And Aliens yet. Possibly. Possibly not. The reviews so far aren't all that great, but the trailer was pretty darn cool. Also, I've heard that Daniel Craig is Harrison Ford's Wookie bitch now. This has to be confirmed at some point, though it's, like, 98%, 99% likely to be true.

Hope this has been a great weekend for everybody!

UPDATE 2011-07-31: We did go to Cowboys And Aliens last night after all (see here; we loved it.

Still hoping you're having a great weekend!


An open letter to Ms. Laurie Smith

>> Saturday, July 30, 2011

Free Yourself of Harmful Toxins


From: LaurieSmith (LaurieSmith@valentinehome.com)
Sent: Thu 7/28/11 12:41 PM

Free Yourself of Harmful Toxins!

Purify and cleanse your body naturally

Flush away pounds and toxins

Lose weight fast

Try it Today! Click Here

Increase fat burning rate
Purify harmful toxins
Remove built up waste in the stomach lining
Faster absorption of vitamins,mineral, and amino acids

Send me my 14 Day Trial
Click Here

Click here to stop mails
or send mail to:unsubmyemail@gmail.com
Or write us at
Fifteen Twenty One Alton RD #Seven Five Two

Visit here to cease emails.
or you can write to Post Office Box Sixteen Fifty Nine Maple Grove, MN 553ll

Dear Ms. Smith,

Hello, I am very interested in your program to free myself of harmful toxins. But I do have a question: do you have anything that is a little bit faster than a fourteen-day program?

Allow me to explain my need in some further detail. I was cleaning out a large patch of poison ivy in my backyard when I was suddenly and unexpectedly stung by a wasp or a bee. I didn't get a good look at it, ironically: I was going about my business removing the noxious weeds from my yard, the next instant my vision was filled with a seemingly vast shadow and I heard an angry buzzing like a chainsaw on steroids shrunk to the size of a postage stamp and then my left eye was abruptly full of hideous pain like nothing I have ever felt in my life. Technically, I'm not sure if the little bitch stung me on my eyeball or merely near it, but, frankly, I was not wont to make distinctions. Instead, I did something terribly stupid and completely understandable: as a reflex, I clapped my hands to my eyes--my hands which wore gloves covered with the irritating oil that poison ivy leaves constantly excrete to deter predation.

Within seconds, both of my eyes were swollen shut and I was stumbling about in the brush.

I don't know if you live in the southeastern United States or have visited the southeastern United States. You may or may not be aware that this region is the home of many different varieties of poisonous snake. There are, for instance, copperheads, water moccasins, a few varieties of rattlesnake and coral snakes. I don't know which one I stepped on, exactly, though I may make certain inferences by process of elimination. I didn't hear any rattled warning, which isn't dispositive but is certainly illuminating. I was not in or near a body of water, which rules out a cottonmouth unless it was one far from it's usual habitat. Coral snakes are to be found in my home state, but usually further east and they are not known for biting with enough force to inject as much poison as this bastard did through my heavy work boot. No, I think the odds are good that I was bit by at least one copperhead--repeatedly by one or individually by several.

By now, of course, I was in considerable pain. I staggered back to my house, performing a classic Three Stooges maneuver by stepping on a rake and having the handle thwack me in the face; I might have laughed had I not been in so much excruciating pain with my face swelling so that I imagine (I could not see this, obviously) my head looked much like a pumpkin in size, shape and even rough coloration. I also barked my shins on the steps when I limped inside, though that did finally dislodge a/the snake that was still clinging tenaciously to my foot.

I needed immediate medical attention, but thought it would be helpful if I could clear my vision and at least get some of the poison ivy oil rinsed from my face. Fortunately, I had a number of cleaning agents next to the door, as I figured I would need to use them as I removed my clothes after dealing with the poison ivy. Alas and alack! I had always assumed that the stories I'd heard about the risks of mixing ammonia and bleach were something of an urban legend.

You may have heard the saying that when you assume you "make an 'ass' of 'u' and 'me'"? I don't know if that's true, but I can say that in this instance, when I assumed, I made an explosive mix of chlorine gas, nitrogen trichloride and hydrazine, the latter (I am told) being an ingredient in rocket fuels. Had my eyes been capable of opening at this point, it's quite possible I would have been blinded by the blast; as things stand, I have inadvertently inhaled a substantial quantity of chlorine gas, a chemical that (as you may be aware) was used as a chemical warfare agent in the First World War.

I also found myself with a head on fire, an effect which I'm sure was quite dazzling if I'd been capable of (a) vision and (b) sitting back contemplatively and enjoying an aesthetic experience of viewing myself with all of my hair in flames. Instead, tearing my swollen lips open to scream in agony, I grabbed for the nearest towel and wrapped my head in it.

Did you know that a significant number of human encounters with the highly poisonous brown recluse spider occur when a human uses an item the spider has chosen to nest, hide or retire in? E.g. a shoe, a shirt, a sock or, (most relevant to this account) a towel? Yes, well this is something I have recently had cause to learn, and let me tell you: a brown recluse bite is some of the most hideous pain a human being can suffer, perhaps only secondary to having a bee (or wasp) sting one's eyeball or inhaling a substantial quantity of chlorine gas. A snakebite (or several), however egregious and discomfiting, doesn't really come close.

Thus, as I lie here, prostrate upon the floor, in all likelihood dying of, well, quite a number of things at this point, I found myself recalling my e-mail folder and your generous offer of some kind of relief from toxins. Toxins, sister, I gots them and how! Aside from the chlorine gas, I am not sure any of these poisons would be individually fatal, but at the moment they are causing me considerable pain and discomfort and could, in toto, possibly lead to my imminent demise in a span well under two weeks; besides which, even if I could soldier through without being a pathetic whiner about the situation (which, I must confess, is entirely my own fault subsequent to the bee sting), keeping the stiff upper lip, showing some spine, etc., well: I'm honestly not sure I'd want to. This shit hurts, actually, and quite a lot.

So if you have anything that would remove toxins at a very rapid rate--say within the next fifteen minutes, or before my lungs fill with fluid and I drown on my own juices, yes, I would pay any sum of money you could name and I could lay my swollen, cracked, burned, yellow-with-leaking-pus hands upon and give it to you. I would give you my house and all my possessions and call it a bargain if you could purge me of my toxins right now, before I expire.

If you don't, well--I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask. (About the only thing that wouldn't hurt right now, too.)

R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


I could also afford to lose the few pounds like you say.


Quote of the day--self-selective bias edition

>> Friday, July 29, 2011

The American people don’t want to raise the debt ceiling, [Michele] Bachmann said repeatedly. How does she know? The Minnesota congresswoman reminded the audience that she had recently spent several days on her tour bus, careening across the country and conversing in backyards and town halls.

Of course, very nearly all of the people who show up to listen to Michele Bachmann are people who don't think Michele Bachmann's a batshit crazy lady who ought to be ignored. Well, and news reporters who have been assigned to cover her campaign. So, you know, might be a little bit of a sampling problem there, just sayin'.


An open letter to "Ms. Monica Olukoya"

Height of it is released.‏

Ms Monica Olukoya

From: Ms Monica Olukoya (postal@blumail.org)
Sent: Thu 7/28/11 3:17 AM

Dear Friend,
I am Ms Monica Olukoya. A computer scientist with central bank of
Nigeria. I am 26 years old, just started work with C.B.N. I came
across your file which was marked X and your released disk painted
RED, I took time to study it and found out that you have paid
VIRTUALLY all fees and certificate but the fund has not been release
to you. The most annoying thing is that they cannot tell you the truth
that on no account will they ever release the fund to you.

Please this is like a Mafia setting in Nigeria; you may not understand
it because you are not a Nigerian. The only thing I will need to
release this fund is a special HARD DISK we call it HD120 GIG. I will
buy two of it, recopy your information, destroy the previous one, and
punch the computer to reflect in your bank within 24 banking hours.

I will clean up the tracer and destroy your file, after which I will
run away from Nigeria to meet with you. If you are interested. Do get
in touch with me immediately, You should send to me your convenient
tell/fax numbers for easy communications and also re confirm your
banking details, so that there won't be any mistake.
for phone conversation,please call me on +234-807-307-3988

Ms Monica Olukoya

Ms. "Olukoya"

Your missive saddens me, as it is almost certain from the reading of it that you have already touched the red disk. If you haven't, if you still are Monica Olukoya, our Monica Olukoya, born into this place and time: do not under any circumstances touch the red disk. You must trust me on this, you must trust me explicitly: the red disk is not for your hands.

I realize this is a temptation. When Bluebeard told his wife one room was forbidden, when Pandora was told to leave the box alone--doors were opened that should have been left closed. When Lot's wife was told to not look back, it guaranteed that she would. These metaphors are far more accurate than you could ever begin to guess, though it may be too late and you, perhaps, already know this and have opened doors and been transformed in hideous ways by the "red disk drive". It isn't, of course, really a red disk: that is what it looks like here; in other places it is something completely different, it is something larger and smaller, something that fits in a breadbox that can't contain it.

But I fear in my guts that it's too late for that.

Which leaves me communicating with... whatever you are now, wherever you're from. You remember the facts of Monica Olukoya's life, I'm fairly certain from past dealings, but without any of the emotional content do you remember her, do you remember her life? Would you be able to continue to exist if you did? Do you think you are her or do you know--or at least suspect--what you really are. You don't belong here, "Monica Olukoya", you don't belong anywhere.

I do not want to meet with you. If I see you coming down the street towards me, I have ways of recognizing you. I think you know this, I think you're somehow... connected to everything in such a way that you know what happened to "Gulza Dean" and "Sarah Alade" last year--"Richard David" knew about it when you thought you had me run to ground in Peru. Perhaps, because of this, you think you know what happened to the small blue cube, perhaps you think it's finished and gone away; you might be interested to learn that I still have a piece of it and the piece is getting larger. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's large enough to deal with you, even if you try coming at me from more than one axis the way "Dean" and "Alade" did. And I want to tell you one more thing, "Monica Olukoya": in spite of "Richard David's" best efforts, I understand the purpose of the lines, or at least enough of it that I think I could probably disperse part of you even without the blue. (Landing strips? Quite the opposite, aren't they, "Monica"?)

Overconfident? I hope not. I hope I am giving you fair warning: I want you to leave me alone. I won't exist much longer: you'll be pleased, if you can be pleased, to know that "David" truncated me nicely and I no longer have a birth nor death and what I do retain is shrinking with every fitful expansion of the universe; I don't know if anyone will even know I was at all when this planet passes the same point in its orbit next year.

When I'm gone, do what you will, is what I'm saying. You have eternity for whatever it is that brings you here with your colorful little props. I have moments and an expanding splinter of small blue something else. Leave me alone and let me enjoy them pretending I don't know about you at all.

And remember, I'm protected. Well protected.

-the actual R. Eric VanNewkirk
(what's left of him/what he has left),
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


The Horrors, "Still Life":

>> Thursday, July 28, 2011

I would have adored this song in 1983. Hell, I adore it right now.

The band's website says the album's out. That may be if you want to buy an import, because Amazon's U.S. site says the album's available next month. I didn't check iTunes because, y'know, fuck iTunes. (Okay, (a) I just can't stand the software and (b) even if I could, no Linux native app. And what if I want to play tunes on one of my Android devices, hey? Also, (c), no, I really can't stand the software.) Whatever. Like, must buy.


Elephant in the room

>> Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Regular readers know that I sometimes write about politics here, and yet they may have noticed that I've said almost nothing about the whole stupid debt ceiling "crisis" or possible imminent credit default. Well, of course not: what is there to say?

One might say that this proves the Republicans elected to the House in 2010 have no interest in actually leading, but I think any reasonable observer knew that, already. What further evidence did one need when they showed up on their first day of work talking about impeachment and whining about when their own Federal healthcare would kick in, etc. It was self-evident during the election season itself that these are people whose only agenda is saying "no" to anything that originates with the Democrats, even if it's something their own party suggested at some point in the past. Actually, that pattern of misbehavior was clear even before the Republicans took back the House, during the healthcare debate.

I have no idea whether a last-minute deal will occur or not, whether there will be a default, whether a default will be catastrophic, whether credit agencies will trigger a further economic crisis by lowering this country's credit rating. What I do know is that our system of government has essentially malfunctioned and I have no idea what needs to be done to fix it.

My first inclination is to say that the House has fallen into the hands of a party that is interested in ruling, not leading, that these are people who want to win elections--motivated by rage, narcissism, I don't know--but who are incapable of doing anything but behaving in a Newtonian way to the other party, reacting with an equal-and-opposite reaction to every little thing. But I don't know that this is true: it is also possible that the House has fallen under the control of ignorant ideologues who do in fact have a vision for this country, albeit a confused, foolish, naïve, childish, inchoate one. I don't know which is worse.

I will not be the first or last person to point out that all revenue bills originate in the House Of Representatives and the President's sole role in this ongoing embarrassment is merely to recommend possible courses of action for Congress and he certainly may, as a courtesy, inform the House of what he's liable to veto. In short, this has always been Speaker John Boehner's show. I'm tired of all these calls from House members for Obama to propose something, because leaving aside the fact that he has, the other fact is that it's not technically his job to do so; the President is required by Federal statute to submit a budget to Congress at the beginning of and middle of the Congressional session, and that's really the extent of it. Which, of course, brings up another thing I'm getting a little bit tired of: I realize that partisans from both parties have been talking about "the President's budget" for at least as long as I've been alive (I think probably since 1921, actually), but you know it's still Congress' budget: sure, the President gets the OMB to estimate how much money the United States will need to do business and then submits a request to Congress sometime after the first Monday in January and no later than the first Monday in February, but then it's Congress that actually controls the purse and has the power to tell the President to go fuck himself. If there's some kind of deficit when the next fiscal year starts this coming October 1st, well, that's Congress' budget.

What the President does have power to do in this is something that George Will, who clearly missed his calling to be a rocket scientist (I imagine a man of Will's perspicacity directed STS-51-L, frankly), recently criticized President Obama for. Will took issue, among other things, with the President "imperiously" summoning Congressional leaders to the White House on the 23rd; of course, the President could have "imperiously" convened either or both houses whenever he wanted to, and perhaps that would have been, strictly speaking, the play according to Hoyle, but it seems like a wasted effort if you don't need everybody to show up to work on a Saturday morning and all the lights turned on and doors unlocked, etc. But, you know, whatever.

So there we are: the biggest issue of the moment and I just don't want to talk about it much more than this because the whole thing is tiresome and induces nausea. We have a gang of fools up on the Hill who don't want to do their job and then make political capital out of the President's failing to do their job for them, all so they can get someone from their ranks elected President in 2012 or perhaps 2016 (and to do what, one has to wonder--will they suddenly want to lead, then, or just wave their junk at their political rivals while the rafters come down in flames round their ears?). And if the nation collapses before they get a chance to do anything? I suppose you can't make an omelet without throwing a carton of eggs from the roof of a ten-storey building. It's all very miserable and depressing, and makes me glad I don't have children.

UPDATE, July 27th, 2011, 11:52 AM: We're so fucked--they're a bunch of goddamn children.


Marseille Figs, "Caesar's Revenge"

>> Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I think it would be funny, if I had a familial coat of arms, if the motto was, "Well, I didn't give a fuck about it anyway." Anybody have a Latin translation of that?

(Oh, and P.S.: the Figs' website. Love those guys.)


An open letter to Mrs. Mrs.Joy Daku

>> Monday, July 25, 2011

Mrs.Joy Daku

Mrs.Joy Daku

From: Mrs.Joy Daku (joymm29@yahoo.co.uk)
Sent: Wed 7/20/11 11:09 PM

Hello My Dear,

It is a pleasure meeting you today, my name is Mrs.Joy Daku living in Abidjan
Cote d'Ivoire. It might surprise you receiving a letter like this from unknown

I lost my husband when he went to Bouake (Northern part of Cote d'Ivoire)to
negotiate for the establishment of cocoa processing factory by the rebels who
wanted to take over the Government. Before his death in hospital, he
briefly me
information about the fund (US$10.5 Millions) he deposited with a bank here.

Since the death of my husband, his brothers have been seriously chasing me
around with constant treats, trying to suppress me so that they might have the
documents of his landed properties and confiscate them.They have successfully
collected all his properties, yet they never stopped there, they told me to
surrender all bank accounts of my late husband,which I did, but I
never disclose
to them of this deposit. Because my husband made the deposit in a
suspense fixed
account with a clause attached to it for onward transfer into a
foreign account.

Now that the situation is becoming uncontrollable because of pressure
on me from
the family, which I will no longer like to take more risk staying here with my
only son who is just Seven year old, I am now soliciting for your help
to stand
as my foreign business partner to receive the fund into your account. You will
help me to invest the money into real estate once I come over there
with my son.

If you agree to work with me, I will give you 15% as your commission
and also 5%
for any expenses you might incur, all making 20% which you will deduct
from the
total money once transferred into your account.

I am waiting for your reply so that I will give you more details about this
transfer. Please call me here: +22545782749
Have a nice day,
Mrs.Joy Daku

This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

Dear Mrs. Mrs.Joy Daku,

Hello! I was so hurt when I saw your thing on the computer! Oh! It made me so mad, I had to do the things I do when I was mad until I forgot why I was mad, and then I went and had a nap and I had the dream about the thing and then I woke up! And when I woke up I couldn't remember why I was mad so I had a snack and then I saw your thing on the computer, and, oo! I was so mad again! I hear a noise!

My own life experiences are a lot like yours! I didn't lose a husband, though! I lost a best friend! His name was Mr. Squeaky Thing and he squeaked a lot! Or squoke! I forget which it is! I lost Mr. Squeaky Thing and I was very sad and then I had a new friend and it was Mr. Pulltug but Mr. Pulltug doesn't squeak and he isn't as much fun as Mr. Squeaky Thing was! But when I read you lost your husband, I immediately wondered if your husband sqouke! Does he know Mr. Squeaky Thing?

When I lost Mr. Squeaky Thing I cried a lot! I cried a lot and then people chased me with constant treats just like you! The treats were chewy and when I was chewing I forgot all about Mr. Squeaky Thing but then when I swallowed I went to where Mr. Squeaky Thing lives and he wasn't there! And then I remembered that Mr. Squeaky Thing sometimes goes under the couch but when I looked under the couch he wasn't there, either, so then I looked where he lives and he wasn't there! It was awful so I put my head under my bed and cried and everybody called me a big baby and I thought they would chase me with treats again but they were mean and they didn't! They hate me! I love them! I love you! Vacuum cleaners are scary! Do you hear that noise?

Hello, will you be my friend?

I thought they were chasing me with treats because I'm a good boy yes I am I am a very good boy yes I am but now I see they were just suppressing me like you said and that makes me angry! When I'm angry I like to shout but sometimes I can't remember what I'm shouting at! And then I feel dumb and they laugh at me and I hang my head and go to my bed and try to hide but sometimes I think they can see me even though I lie very, very still! But then they ask me who's a big goofy guy and give me a belly massage and I am happy because I am a big goofy guy, that's me! They're talking about me! Do you like belly massages! Belly massages are the best! No, the park is the best! Car rides are the best! Little kids are the best! Big piles of poop are the best! This piece of dust under the computer is the best! Mr. Squeaky Thing is the best! Mr. Squeaky Thing! Mr. Squeaky Thing! Where is Mr. Squeaky Thing? Have you seen Mr. Squeaky Thing?

Mr. Squeaky Thing isn't where he lives! Mr. Squeaky Thing isn't under the couch! If Mr. Squeaky Thing isn't under the couch, maybe he's where he lives! Mr. Squeaky Thing isn't where he lives! I am sad! I am sad! Sad! Sad! Sad! Who are you? I am happy!

There is a bird in the tree outside! He is a big bird and I would like to catch him and then I could chase my boss with the treat and he would say I was good and ask me if I was goofy! And I would say I am a big goofy guy and we would go for a walk and I would go get things and they would be treats for my boss and I would chase my boss with treats and he would chase me and we would roll around on the ground and I would go smell a stranger's butt and the stranger would smell my butt and we would be best friends! Can I smell your butt? Smell my butt! What's that noise? I like all noises that aren't the vacuum cleaner! Do you like all noises that aren't the vacuum cleaner? Hello!

Oh no! Your husband's brothers are seriously chasing you! There is somebody seriously chasing me, too! He is always there! He is always serious! He never leaves me alone! He is chasing me right now! But when I turn to look he is gone! I turn to look! Where is he? I turn to look! Where did he go? I turn to look! Where is he? He is following me! When I catch him, I will bite him and that will sure show him! Where did he go? I almost had him! Ha! You are mine! Ouch! Who did that? Someone just bit me! That was mean! There's that noise again! Do you hear the noise?

What is this? This is a message on the computer! It is from you! Hello! Oh no! You lost a husband! I know exactly how you feel! I lost Mr. Squeaky Thing! He is my best friend! Did you tell me if your husband knows Mr. Squeaky Thing? Maybe he knows Mr. Pulltug! Ask him if he knows Mr. Pulltug! Mr. Pulltug is fun but Mr. Pulltug is no Mr. Squeaky Thing! Why? Why? Why, Mr. Squeaky Thing? Why aren't you where you live? Why aren't you under the couch? Squeaky! Squeaky! Squeaky!

I have to bite an itchy spot! It's all better now! I don't like itchy spots!

I must lick myself now!

Hello! A car is coming!

Somebody's here! There's a car! There's a car and somebody is here! Somebody's here! Is it my boss? There's a car and somebody is here! My boss! My boss is here! Hello, I must goodbye but do not be sad if you throw a thing I will always bring it back to you unless it should be on my bed and then I will bring it to my bed and you can't have it I am biting it it is mine! Goodbye! Hello! My boss! Oops! Hit send and close! Boss hooray boss! My boss is the best thing ever I love my boss! Hit send and close!


Cults, "You Know What I Mean"

>> Sunday, July 24, 2011

So, sure, I know, I know--just about everybody is jumping on this bandwagon, raving about how awesome Cults is and yadayadayada; know what? I haven't heard the record, but, yes, this song (at least) is a fucking brilliant update on that classic early '60s girl group Phil Spector sound. And it's awesome. Sometimes everybody's on the bandwagon because the bandwagon is where the shit is at, and that's all there is to it. Dig?


The Black Lips, "Modern Art"

>> Saturday, July 23, 2011

Q: Could this song be any catchier?

A: No. No, this song could not be any catchier.


The Heritage Foundation's concern about making idle people merry

>> Friday, July 22, 2011

If you want the quick and dirty, you can read this summary/critique of The Heritage Foundation's new report on poverty in the United States. Or, if you like the taste of throwing up a little in your mouth, you can read the abstract/backgrounder for yourself, here.

And then I suggest you read the best thing John Scalzi ever wrote. Again, if you've read it before.

Come back when you're done, if you'd like.

I'm not even sure where to begin. That the sanctimonious bastards at the Heritage Foundation think the benchmarks for American poverty are the living conditions of 1911--

As scholar James Q. Wilson has stated, "The poorest Americans today live a better life than all but the richest persons a hundred years ago."

--is completely unsurprising, but that doesn't make it any less repulsive. It's hard to read the abstract without hearing the echoes of Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge responding to the pair of gentlemen soliciting for charity:

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge.

"Both very busy, sir."

"Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course," said Scrooge. "I'm very glad to hear it."

"Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude," returned the gentleman, "a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing!" Scrooge replied.

"You wish to be anonymous?"

"I wish to be left alone," said Scrooge. "Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned -- they cost enough;1 and those who are badly off must go there."

"Many can't go there; and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides -- excuse me -- I don't know that."

"But you might know it," observed the gentleman.

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned. "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!"

Of course, we live in a far more decadent age than 1843: we no longer have workhouses nor do we have treadwheels in our prisons. And it's impossible to conclude the rat bastards at the Heritage Foundation aren't nostalgic for those fine historical institutions, too. Just think how unnecessary the Troubled Asset Relief Program would have been if those facing defaults on their mortgages could have simply been gathered up and forced to work off what they owed in debtors' prisons! A fine sight, thousands of American men, women and children pushing the wheel! We could have them making shirts for bankers, mowing their lawns! And just think: the ready supply of slave labor would kill the demand for underpaid, under-the-table illegal aliens--why pay a family of Mexicans to pick fruit, bus tables or perform some landscaping when you could drive down to the local prison and sign out a few debtors for the afternoon? Capitalism at its finest, eh?

A particularly delicious twist, obviously, is that the Heritage Foundation has chosen to release a report particularly harping on the luxuriousness of air conditioning the same week the United States is being hit by a massive heat wave that has already claimed human lives in several states (with more expected). Well--I suppose the surplus population can stand the decrease.

But seriously? One doesn't just wonder about the morals of somebody who is arguing that because air conditioning was a luxury a hundred years ago, people who have it now can't possibly be poor: one also wonders about that individual's mental health. As David Atkins points out in the Hullabaloo piece linked to in the first paragraph, indoor plumbing was a rare luxury in the 19th Century (and remains unavailable in some parts of the world, actually), yet one would be nuts to argue anyone can or ought to do without it now; just because rich Americans had to put up with cholera epidemics back in the good ol' days doesn't really say a damn thing about contemporary American poverty.

Or perhaps it does, ironically. After all, one of the reasons contemporary billionaires can avoid exposure to cholera and similar nastiness is precisely because public sanitation has become ubiquitous to the point that the miracle of it gets taken largely for granted. Put another way, the fact that rich peoples' taxes made it possible for municipalities to install plumbing in poor peoples' tenement buildings has gone a long way towards their own benefit.

That is, there are completely selfish and non-altruistic reasons for loving things that promote the public welfare. Sure, one can--and in my opinion, should--value public education because being educated is an inherent good in and of itself that should be spread about and promoted as much as possible; but if that's not compelling to you for whatever reason, try on the possibility that maybe an education will give somebody job opportunities and a stake in society that provide them with incentives not to rob your sorry ass. Or: I happen to believe that making sure people have access to medical care that keeps them from getting sick and cures their illnesses when they inevitably do get sick is good on its own lights, but if that's not sufficient for you, how about the fact that rich people can get influenza as easily as poor ones, and wouldn't it be helpful if you could treat an outbreak before it's an epidemic rolling up to your own doorstep? Or: one might not posses the empathy to care if one's neighbor's house goes up in flames, but do you at least have enough sense of self-preservation to hope the fire department puts out the blaze before the flames leap across to one's own roof?

Remarkably, altruism can be the most self-interested thing one does. Ironic?

Good gods. Look at the Heritage Foundation's report, and they have refrigerators and stoves listed as amenities. Refrigerators and stoves, because the ability to store food so it doesn't spoil and to cook it to kill harmful microorganisms and parasites is a luxury. Hear that? If you were responsible and lived within your means, you'd eat nothing but processed canned goods, I suppose, or you'd live on a farm and raise your own fresh food, perhaps. And then I imagine it's your own fault if you get scurvy eating nothing but canned goods or go hungry because you had a bad Summer and nothing to harvest come Fall. Along the same lines, possessing one of those devices that allows you to call for emergency help and communicate with current or prospective employers is also the height of swank.

At some point one thinks about all this and becomes a blob of inarticulate rage capable only of typing, "Fuck the Heritage Foundation." One wonders if that's a part of their plan, reducing their opponents to sputtering, incoherent rage and then claiming a sort of default victory. They are horrible people and one's embarrassed to recognize them as the same species, much less as one's countrymen.

1Scrooge, in point of fact, is willing to pay his taxes but not to donate to charity. The Heritage Foundation wants lower--perhaps even no--taxes and would prefer people donate to charity, or, really, to their churches (which have a right to attach conditions to their charitable activities, such as making welfare dependent on the recipient being proselytized to, sort of like getting a free vacation only if you sit through the presentation extolling the advantages of a time-share, only with more Jesus or Allah or L. Ron Hubbard or whomever). Quite a lot of libertarians, one suspects, don't want to pay taxes and probably don't give much to charity, either (though many no doubt do--I don't want to paint with too broad a brush). I will leave the appropriate arrangement of the moral hierarchy to you, as reasonable minds might differ as to whether social welfare is better administered by the state or by churches, but will point out that there's no reasonable arrangement where Scrooge ends up on the
bottom of the heap. Do what you will with that.


Doing my bit for Rick Santorum's anal issues...

>> Thursday, July 21, 2011

This is cute: over at Salon we find that former Congressman and once-and-future gay-basher Rick Santorum is using his "Santorum problem" to try to raise funds for his quixotic presidential bid. Good for him! Talk about taking life's lemons and making lemonade... around the corner from... okay, nevermind, we probably don't need to go there!

But I applaud this effort on Mr. Santorum's part. Mainly because it gives me an excuse to link to Dan Savage's Savage Love column and, perhaps more importantly, to link to spreadingsantorum.com and also proffer a link to a Mother Jones article discussing the way in which Mr. Santorum's name has been linked to a byproduct of anal sex after he made derogatory comments about gays. Because, you know, I'll be damned if I know the first thing about search engine optimization or how Google's spidery algorithms roam the Internet spinning links, but I figure any little bit helps. Anyway, it can't hurt.

Santorum's letter makes several deep thrusts trying to work up a froth... of indignation (sorry!). Politico has the text (as does the Salon piece linked to in the first article), which includes this amusing bit:

Imagine if this happened to a liberal. Maher and his friends in the Mainstream Media would hit the roof--and rightly so! But when it happens to a conservative, they applaud and laugh.

Well, actually, if this happened to a liberal, it would still be pretty fucking funny, you know? But let's face it, Santorum didn't get Google-bombed with links to buttsex because he was a conservative, he got G-bombed because he's claimed that homosexual acts lead to the decline of families and American civilization, explicitly compared homosexuality to incest and implicitly to having sex with children and pets--he's gotten flak for his publicly-expressed opinions, which are fair game. Hey, that's the price you pay, sorry. There are, indeed, plenty of conservative libertarians who actually agree with civil libertarians on the left that government has no business in the bedroom and that what happens between consenting adults really is nobody's business but their own; Santorum is entitled to disagree, but then the rest of us are entitled to pick on him.

It's kind of reminiscent of that Dr. Laura nonsense last August: it isn't a violation of anybody's rights or privacy to be given shit by the general public over stupid things they say on the radio or to an Associated Press reporter or whomever. If you don't want people ragging on you for your dumb comments, I dunno, maybe you should try to avoid making dumb comments--I know, I know, taking responsibility for what comes out of your mouth, crazy, huh?

Santorum also informs his supporters:

Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father's name. I took the high road for nearly a decade by not dignifying these mindless attacks, then even defending his 1st Amendment right to spew this filth. And to this day, liberals like Rachel Maddow serve as Savage's lackeys on national television, pushing his smut.

OMG, I'm a smut lackey. It's totally giving me the vapors, man!

Actually, what I find really shocking about that section is that Santorum was taking the high road--and here I thought he was just lost in the wilderness after being crushed in the 2006 election due to a catastrophic loss of support from his own party resulting from a number of political problems ranging from dumbass positions on a number of issues and a tendency to have stupid things come out of his mouth to questions about whether he even lived in the state he was running for office in. I thought he was confining himself to little speeches to the Most Faithful Of The Faithful and not saying much of anything to the general public--I had no idea he was staying silent about Dan Savage in particular and out of principle to boot. Who knew? Had me fooled.

But the thing I'd really focus on in that section I just quoted is the bit about whether his children have lost their ability to use Google. There's all sorts of wrong in that. First and foremost, there's what I've already discussed about responsibility for what comes out of your mouth: a related policy is that maybe you should try to avoid saying anything that would result in you having to choose between giving an embarrassing explanation to your kids and basically lying to them. It isn't really Dan Savage's fault (nor anyone else's) that Santorum is in the unenviable position of having to say, "Those people say mean things about Daddy because Daddy said that letting two boys kiss leads to one of those boys putting his wee-wee inside a puppy." Seriously, here's the response of the reporter to Santorum's slippery slope arguments:

AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.

No shit, then-Senator Santorum squicked the guy interviewing him and he's worried about having to explain to his children things Dan Savage says?

Beyond that, I don't know how old Santorum's kids are, but if he's really worried about content, he might want to adjust the parental filters in Google's settings, in the browser settings, install parental control software and personally monitor what his kids are doing online. I don't actually understand what all these supposedly concerned grown-ups are doing letting their kids have free run of the Internet when there's stuff far worse than definitions of "santorum" just a mistyped keyword away.

I am amused. What is Santorum even raising the money for? Has he not figured out that Michele Bachmann has already co-opted his presumed base of crazy, reactionary, homophobic, Bible-thumping mouth breathers? And her name hasn't even become a neologism for, I dunno, queefs or anything. Sure, I guess there's the possibility Mitt Romney will crash and burn, and I guess Santorum could be campaigning for 2016, but, you know, really?!

But I guess if he is setting the stage for 2016, well, I guess he needs to figure out a way to grease his path without getting into a sticky mess... am I right?


An open letter to Representatives McKeon, Rogers, Ros-Lehtinen, Smith and King

>> Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear Jackasses,

I know, I know--I'm already getting off on the wrong foot. Somewhere lying around I have an old college dictionary with an appendix that includes the proper forms of address for various officials and dignitaries; I'm too lazy to grab for it at the moment, but I am ninety-seven, maybe even ninety-eight percent certain that "Dear Jackasses" is not actually the proper way to address a member of the United States House Of Representatives. In my defense, I can only say that it seems pretty obvious to me that the five of you are, in fact, jackasses first and foremost and members of Congress secondly or perhaps even further down the line than that.

Dear Jackasses,

I have just read in the news that the five of you, Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, have signed a letter expressing your concern over President Obama's "lack of a comprehensive detention system to incapacitate and interrogate terrorists captured outside of Afghanistan." You're a bunch of jackasses, aren't you? I'm sorry--let me rephrase that: you're a bunch of jackasses, aren't you. (What a difference punctuation makes.)

It isn't that you're wrong about the present administration lacking a comprehensive system for dealing with alleged terrorists captured, well, just about anywhere that isn't American soil. Oh no, actually, you're absolutely correct about that, and I share your concern. It would be wonderful if all of these captured alleged terrorists could be put on trial somewhere--the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, for instance, which was the locus for the most devastating terrorist attack on American soil in our history and, conveniently, has extensive experience dealing with the prosecution of organized crime and criminal psychopaths, two categories that happen to overlap nicely on a Venn diagram with your usual terrorist suspect. It would be wonderful, but for the fact that a certain branch of government has passed laws making it nigh-impossible for the President to transfer and try terror suspects practically anywhere.

Indeed, the President did, in fact, give some pretty clear indications of what his vision for dealing with terror suspects was when he signed an order to close the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay. Unfortunately, that order has never gone fully into effect because Congress continues to pass legislation that prohibits the President from using any Federal money to actually try some of these people unless he can come up with a rationale for using military tribunals, notwithstanding the fact that military tribunals may not have jurisdiction in all cases and are widely considered improper for some detainees, regardless. Indeed, a rider to prevent the President from closing Guantánamo was part of the deal to avert a governmental shutdown this past April.

I will grant you that the obstruction has been bipartisan, with Democrats, especially in the Senate, being part of the problem. But as far as I know, those Democrats aren't writing the President letters to complain that he isn't doing what they won't let him do. I mean, that you won't fund trials for these people is, I suppose, your prerogative, and it makes you all sorts of terrible things (e.g. cowards), but it doesn't quite make you a bunch of jackasses; what makes you a bunch of damn, braying, ridiculous jackasses is the way you're trying to blame the President for not doing things that it would, quite literally, take the proverbial act of Congress to accomplish--and you people are Congress.

Of course there's a lack of consistency, of course there's a lack of a coordinated, focused effort: the President and his Attorney General were pretty damn clear on how they wanted to handle things and you people said "nuh-uh." And it isn't like your lot passed legislation that would, in fact, create a consistent and effective framework for handling the mess created by the previous administration. I mean, you could totally do that: Article I, section 8, paragraph 9 vests Congress with the power "To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court": i.e. you could totally establish The Official Federal Court For The District Of Railroading Terror Detainees pretty much any time you wanted to, and don't tell me you couldn't get the votes to pass the thing into law, because, let's face it, the Democrats are a bunch of total dinks on this issue. You could appoint a horse to preside over the hearing and appoint a goddamn baboon to represent the accused, and make it a procedural rule that any acquittal would trigger an automatic do-over; you could make it a bloody gameshow and allow the networks to bid on who would get to air Mr. Accused Terror Suspect spinning a big-ass wheel like the one on The Price Is Right to see whether he'd be dropped in a shark tank or fired into the sun. (I am being a bit facetious re: pesky Fifth and Eighth Amendment issues, but the serious points stand: Congress can create courts inferior to the Supreme Court whenever the hell they want, presumably including a court to try terror suspects, natch.)

I have no idea whether this bit of idiocy from you jackasses is the product of shameless pandering to the ignoramuses who have hijacked the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, or whether it's the product of the lot of you being a bunch of morons. Gods know, I have no idea which is worse, and the realization that they aren't actually mutually exclusive--that you could actually be both, that you could be a lot of pandering morons--honestly makes me wish I were French: their public figures aren't any brighter and most of them apparently belong on some kind of sex offender registry, but at least the French compensate by baking some pretty damn good bread and of course they're noted for their wines; I could get fat and drunk until I forgot it was even possible for anyone holding the public trust to behave as stupidly and shamelessly as you people are over a problem that you not only helped create in the first place but that you can also solve pretty much any time you decide representing the American people is more important than whatever corrupt moronic agenda you pinheads are presently pursuing.

This sort of thing is an embarrassment to your country and office. Please stop.

R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets


Quote of the day: the republic is fucked edition

>> Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This fetish of bipartisanship and compromise would have been the elements of a very good President circa 1954, or maybe 1975. In 2011, with one party that has swore to never compromise on any principle ever again, it’s just a recipe for failure to hear this from the head of the other party. It guarantees bad outcomes. And with an economy in tatters and urgency (the fierce urgency of now, I would say) the order of the day, it has enormous consequences.

-David Dayen, "Obama’s Last Lecture"
Firedoglake, July 17th, 2011

I don't read Firedoglake, but I do read Digby, and when she says something's worth reading, I usually try to mosey over and see if she's right (she often is). Dayen, in fact, makes an excellent point, which is that the critics who accuse President Obama of failing to lead or failing to make a moral statement or educate the nation are dead wrong: if you look at the President's agenda, accomplishments, positioning, speeches, etc., he in fact has laid out a leadership vision: that in a diverse nation, the two (or more) sides on an issue need to come together and work things out to achieve some balanced middle position.

What's horribly depressing about this is that the President's idealism isn't wrong, exactly, and in fact represents a noble intellectual (and liberal) tradition: that reasonable people may disagree, that these disagreements may be principled, that multiple points of view may all have their own legitimacy. It's the kind of position that this nation's conservatives will belittle as entailing "moral relativism" and being mushy and touchie-feelie even as they (most likely) try to instill similar values in their children, to be put into practice when siblings fight over a toy or disputes arise on the playground in school. It's painful to have to say that compromise is bad, that thoughtfulness and empathy are misguided, that a willingness to meet someone halfway has the same consequences in a situation as being unscrupulous and unprincipled.

And one reflects that sometimes compromise is the only hand history sometimes deals to a player. "Appeasement" has become a dirty word since it's catastrophic "failure" in 1938, but those who have followed Winston Churchill's (personally motivated and occasionally malicious) critiques of Neville Chamberlain probably ask the wrong historical questions: the question really isn't whether negotiating with Adolf Hitler was wrong (the answer to that is a no-brainer, isn't it?), but what England (or France) was going to do about other people's messes on the far side of Europe. Britain and France were, for starters, democracies whose public remained beyond war-weary: a second war with Germany would have triggered constitutional crises in both nations and calls for no-confidence votes and recall elections. Both nations were still struggling with the economic effects of not only the Great Depression but the devastating economic crises of the 1920s (whereas the United States had experienced the "Roaring Twenties", Britain and France had experienced an almost unending series of minor depressions and recessions--indeed, part of America's prosperity before Wall Street's collapse in 1929 was the strength of the dollar in Europe; why do you think all those American writers and musicians were getting blotto on champagne in Paris--it isn't because being a bohemian artist was somehow more lucrative ninety years ago, it's because poor American artists couldn't starve in a country where the local currency wasn't worth wiping your ass on). And both nations were colonial states, which is significant in context because while their respective military forces numerically trumped German military might, those armies and navies were stationed in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Pacific; withdrawing troops from India, say, to fight in Czechoslovakia just wasn't an option given (a) the logistics of shipping them 'round the world and (b) they were kind of sort of needed where they were to beat the crap out of that uppity Mohandas Gandhi and his ilk trying to claim that Indians ought to have, you know, independence and rights and all that rot.

I.e., while giving the Czechs to Hitler seems obviously wrong, I'm not exactly sure what Neville Chamberlain was supposed to do.

And what's President Obama supposed to do with a party of reactionaries who are somehow beholden to corporate financial interests and a small-but-distressingly-loud party of political fundamentalists who want to return America to the Gilded Age? (Actually, strike the "somehow": an unspoken deathwish for America's age of suicidally unregulated capitalism is in fact the shared goal of the teabaggers, who think Americans were somehow more free at the time, and the corporations, whose shareholders would undeniably reap short-term benefits if they didn't have to, you know, follow laws and be responsible and stupid stuff like that.) Does he have a choice about being conciliatory, even to people who have no desire whatsoever to claim any moral middle ground with those they disagree with.

This is part of the problem with Obama's moral vision, you know, and part of what Dayen's post nails. I'm not trying to Godwinize things by comparing Republicans to Nazis: they're not, and there's no such basis for comparison and that isn't the point. The comparison, at the risk of casting the Republicans into the role of Nazis (which, again, I'd rather not do because that would be really, really stupid) is between Obama and Chamberlain, the latter being an extreme case of somebody trying to take a civilized approach to dealing with people who had absolutely no interest in civilized approaches to anything. Republicans are nothing like Nazis in any moral, ethical or ideological scope, but they are as intransigent and truculent; there is no other way to describe a party that has viciously turned on proposals (in healthcare and economic reform, for example) that originated on their side and have been offered back to them by the President in the spirit of meeting them more than halfway.

In such a situation, accommodation--appeasement--seems less like a virtue to try to bring peace [economic prosperity, security for the elderly, medical care for children, sustainable energy development, a cleaner environment) for our time than a one-sided suicide pact. If the other side were willing to act in good faith--if the other side had smart, conservative, wonkish guys whose worldviews were shaped in part by the shared national service and shared national triumph against tyranny that the Second World War represented--a commitment to accommodation would be not merely effective but heroic, democratic, rational: further evidence of American culture as a vital and leading thing in the world. The President and his bipartisan advisors, colleagues, friendly rivals and so on would all be in Life magazine profiles of the hustle and bustle of Washington's wheeling and dealing political culture where anything can be negotiated and everything is. Instead, what we have is a political culture that effectively has been profiled in ten thousand Peanuts cartoons: the Republicans, played by Lucy van Pelt, will promise yet again that this time they really, really, really won't scoop away the football when Barack Obama (our Charlie Brown, of course) comes running up to kick the ball; and dammit, we were all certain they weren't going to move the ball again, right? Right?

There's that old line that madness is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. A friend's film proposes a fugue state is doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same result. So the President's crazy and the rest of us are dissociating like nobody's business, right?

I dunno; I'm spent. The republic, I think, I fear, is well and truly fucked, "The best," like the man said, "lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Or is it that the best hold the wrong convictions and the worst are adamantly stonewalling? It becomes too depressing to give much more thought to at the moment.


Lizzie Oxby's "Extn. 21"

>> Monday, July 18, 2011

Do y'know, it's been a long time since I've embedded any short films here. Used to do that all the time, but I hadn't seen anything that particularly caught my eye lately, at least not until I ran into this piece over at Laughing Squid: "Extn. 21" (2003) by Lizzie Oxby/a>.

Combining live-action film with stop-motion and CGI in a very disconcerting way, there's something about the sentiments of "Extn. 21" that reminds me of Patrick McGoohan's
The Prisoner, this sense of modern angst and dread that ironically expresses what appears to be a fundamental disconnection between individuals in terms of the ubiquitous connectivity of the modern surveillance state: i.e., the notion that we're all isolated by being forced together under constant exposure, that everybody is listening to us but nobody's hearing us.

I understand the sentiment and probably sympathized with it a bit when I was young--mostly because I felt isolated as a kid, anyway, and any hypothesis proffering a reason for the isolation beyond my own existential defectiveness was welcome. Of course, that sense of isolation existed well before the information age and affected people who were practically Luddites as much as anybody (see also). At some point, anyway, I outgrew most of my adolescent sense of isolation (enough to sometimes miss it, just a little) as I expect most people do sooner or later, whether it's in their twenties or their sixties; besides that, I tend to be a technological optimist, for the most part. Sure, new technologies bring new problems, but on the whole we can thank the steady progress of human tool-making for the fact that the number of human beings who die shitting blood in their early thirties in mud hovels is mostly on a steady decline (though, sadly, the number isn't zero); nobody I know has had polio recently, I can find absolutely tons of completely out-of-print books and read them on my telephone, if I wanted to cross to the far side of the planet it would take me hours instead of months and my biggest problem would be choosing between healthy kibble washed down by ginger ale and cheese-flavored-junkey-bits washed down with a Jack-And-Coke (I lie: that's no choice at all; a long flight without a cocktail, I might as well walk).

The net effect (no pun intended) of Facebook and Twitter et al. is that I now communicate (at least sporadically) with friends and family members who I used to routinely forget to call and could never make the time to write letters to. This hasn't isolated me, it's made me accessible and vice-versa. And, meanwhile, it seems to me that much of the surveillance state has (again with the irony) been effectively defanged by its public outsourcing: I mean, these days poor Winston Smith's abduction would be posted to YouTube and there would be an ongoing Twitter campaign for his release the whole time he was cooped up in Room 101. (Okay, or it would be until it got swamped by a hashtag of people replacing words in movie titles with the phrase "adorable kitten": The Adorable Kitten Strikes Back, The Maltese Adorable Kitten, The Big Adorable Kitten, Adorable Kitten: A Space Odyssey; I was saying that technology has made us more free, not that it's made us smart or extended our collective attention span.)

Still, the sense of entrapment and doom works on an artistic level in something like "Extn. 21"; that grey-on-grey industrial palette is something we've all seen a bit much of in films of the last decade, but it works here, and the dissonance between the fluid motions of the actor's head and the herkiness of the stop-motion animation (very fluid and well done animation, but a certain herkiness is inherent to the process, y'know) is, as I may have mentioned above, wonderfully disturbing and disconcerting. And it probably ought to be pointed out that the retro technological trappings of the film may not be there as a statement about technology so much as they're there as the fixtures of the protagonist's headspace; who's to say this film is anything other than a nightmarish representation of the main figure's internal, psychologically-distressed state? At any rate, it's a pretty brilliantly-done rendering of a pretty awful hallucination.


"Fatal Beatings"

>> Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rowan Atkinson is a wee bit concerned about Tommy's recent behavior in school...


"Comfortably Numb"

>> Saturday, July 16, 2011

Couldn't tell you why I've been so short of blogfodder lately. I've actually even considered putting Giant Midgets on some sort of short hiatus, but I think I'd rather post music videos, if that's alright.

Here's a coupla Davids, Bowie and Gilmour:


Talking Heads, "This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)":

>> Friday, July 15, 2011


"See These Bones"

>> Thursday, July 14, 2011

A bit busy today and can't think of anything in particular to write about here. Nada Surf, anybody?



>> Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I love this band, I really do. This is from last year; The Joy Formidable, "Popinjay":


A few early thoughts re: The Pale King

>> Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So I bought David Foster Wallace's posthumous The Pale King months ago, but I didn't dare start reading it until the other night. For one thing, David Foster Wallace's stuff tends to be dense, but, honestly, that wasn't the real reason. The real reason is that I was so afraid I'd be sad. Not about the content, but about the circumstance: this is the book that DFW was writing when he murdered himself; the book that was pieced together from DFW's notes by his editor after he was gone. I wasn't sure I could handle it.

And there's something else. What if it wasn't good? What if all these notes and fragments didn't add up to anything in particular? That would be the worst thing possible, obviously. Sure, Kafka's brilliance is something refracted through Max Brod, and maybe DFW's editor was up to a similarly crystalline role... but what if he wasn't? Disappointment would be the most heartbreaking thing of all, wouldn't it?

I'm not far along--only Chapter 6--but a few preliminary thoughts:

1) Goddamn David Foster Wallace for what he did to himself. He was good. He was so very, very good, and what he did to himself wasn't suicide, it was robbery, it was larceny by violence. His words flow like water, his observations are sharply etched as if by some acid, he is, by turns, hysterical and poignant.

2) Goddamn him for ever being that good to start with. I am feeling such jealousy while I'm reading this book. My words flow like hardening sap, my observations are banal, I am by turns wooden and halt. I don't need to write a great American novel, I'll settle for a suitably entertaining genre novel--but damn David Foster Wallace for being so good it hurts me when I think about my own clumsy words on a page. The man fucking danced while I find myself stomping around a bit pretending I'm some kind of ballerina in my shitstomper combat boots.

Anyway, that's where I'm at a few pages in: pleased and saddened and feeling woefully inadequate....


An open letter to Dr. George Mensah

>> Monday, July 11, 2011

Dr. George Mensah

From: Dr. George Mensah (officemessage0212@att.net)
Sent: Sun 7/03/11 8:13 PM

Dear Friend,

My Name is Dr. George Mensah And I work in the International operation department in a Local Bank here in Accra Ghana On a routine inspection, I discovered a dormant domiciliary account with a BAL Of $5.7 MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS, on further discreet investigation I also discovered that the account holder has long since passed away (Dead) leaving no beneficiary to the account

The bank will approve this money to any foreigner who apply for the funds because the former operator of the a/c is a foreigner and from Iraq in particular and I am certainly sure that he is dead and nobody will come again for the claim of this money A foreigner can only claim this money with legal claims to the account Holder therefore I need your cooperation in this transaction. I will provide the necessary information needed in order to claim this money, you will have no problem because I am here to direct you.

But you will need to open an account where this can be transferred. If you are interested send me your private Telephone No and Fax number including the full details of the account to be used for the Deposit. I wish for utmost confidentiality in handling this Transaction as my job and the future of my family would be jeopardized if it were breached, needed information from you for the transfer are as follow. And I am assuring you that the transaction is risk free hence we are going to follow the normal transfer process to you. And we need your information bellow.

Bank Name And Address--------?
A/C Name..........................?
A/C Number Even an empty
Swift Code No..................... Or Routing No…..

Contact me urgently via email privately for further details: { dr.george.mensah@qatar.io }


Yours Faithfully,

Dr. George Mensah

Dear Dr. Mensah,

Hello, I hope this missive finds you well. I was a little confused as I read your posting about the bank account and A/C operator, for I believe that your letter was somehow misdirected to me and I'm really not sure how to forward it. As improbable as it may seem, I'm not one of the thirty-one-and-counting people who can comply with your request.

It's very broad-minded of you to be on the lookout for any Foreigner, but I think your best bet would be to try to contact Mr. Mick Jones' management, as he was a founding member and is the only member to stay with the band throughout its thirty-five year history and "nine studio albums, two live albums, thirteen compilations and thirty nine singles." I'm afraid I can't tell you who Mr. Jones' management is, though you might try inquiring through the band's official online page by e-mailing their contact address: info@foreigneronline.com.

Otherwise, I would probably stick to members from the band's classic lineup, which consisted of (in addition to Mr. Jones) Lou Gramm, Rick Wills and Dennis Elliott. This isn't the original lineup, mind you, but it is the lineup that produced 4, an album that remains a bit of a guilty pleasure despite being the sort of record you could spray onto a Captain's Wafer, if you know what I mean. I mean, seriously, I don't think I'd ever call 4 a "great" album or even a good one, but whenever "Jukebox Hero" comes up on, say, SiriusXM's Classic Rewind when I'm in the car, does that shit get cranked up? You bet your ass it does, because good doesn't necessarily have anything to do with awesome and "Jukebox Hero" is awesome, I'm sorry, I'll say it and in public, too. Also, "Urgent"? Hell yeah, that kicks some ass.

But you probably already knew that, right, Doc? (I hope you don't mind my calling you "Doc", Doc.) That's why you're looking for a Foreigner to help you with your A/C problem.

(I am a little surprised to hear, however, that you were previously dealing with a member of Foreigner who was in Iraq--though maybe I shouldn't be: there have been so many.)

Of course, don't let my advice to go with a classic member control. Sure, what has the current lineup done lately except go on seemingly ceaseless back-to-back oldies tours with the likes of Journey, Night Ranger, Kansas and (ew!) Styx? Still, a member of Foreigner is a member of Foreigner, right? How many people would really be able to keep track of all those guys without a cheatsheet? I sure can't. Hell, I can't even tell "I Want To Know What Love Is" from "I Don't Want To Live Without You". (I kid! I kid! I know: one's slower!)

But Doc, let me raise a question. What is the real point of this venture? Is it to meet a member (or former member) of Foreigner, or do you just need someone to replace the former member who was your A/C operator?

I ask because if you're really just wanting to have a member of Foreigner come over and adjust your climate controls for you as an excuse to rock out, that's awesome. I'd suggest, though, that you don't just launch into how awesome they are and would they like to jam; no, what I would do, is, I would maybe make sure my guitar amp and gear and microphone and whatever were set up and plugged in somewhere near the thermostat and then while your guest was turning the dial or pressing the control buttons or whatever, maybe pick up the guitar and strum a few chords and then casually say, "Oh, hey, you play, right? Cool." and sort of nod your head at the other guitar or whatever gear you've set our for him. Act casual, in other words, like he's just some ordinary dude who just happens to be a fellow musician, and creep up on it. Now, I hate to say it, but I'd also offer this advice: given the volatility of Foreigner's lineup over the years, you probably shouldn't try playing any Foreigner tunes. I know, I know, seems like it would defeat the purpose, right? But the last thing you want to do is piss the guy off by playing something written by a dude he always fought with or who sacked him fifteen years ago, right? I'd suggest playing some standard like "Gloria" or "Louie Louie", maybe, and if he responds by playing the opening to "Hot Blooded", dude, rock out. (If he tries playing "I Want To Know What Love Is", however, he's just being a dick. Show his ass the door.)

But if what you're wanting is an operator for your A/C--well, Doc, c'mon! Look, it's easy. First of all, that thing on your wall is a thermostat, and usually all you have to do is dial, punch-in or slide to a desired temperature*, and then there will be another button or switch for turning the A/C on or off, and possibly a switch or button for the fan. Turn the A/C and fan on, dial in the temperature, and voilà! Congratulations! You've successfully operated your A/C, and you didn't even need an elderly power balladeer's help!

Anyway, Doc, I hope that helps! I wish I could be more help than that, but, obviously, I'm one of the few Americans who hasn't ever played guitar, keyboards or bass for Foreigner. Though if that changes any time soon (and who knows, it might) I'll be happy to let you know and I can come over to fix your A/C. I'll make sure I learn the chords to "Feels Like The First Time" before I come over, so have your shit tuned up, man!

*Just make sure you know whether the numbers are Celsius or Fahrenheit. There's a really big difference between 78 and 78. One, see, is pleasantly cool, and the other isn't.


"Cities In Dust"

>> Sunday, July 10, 2011

Okay, see, this is why the Internet is awesome: in setting up yesterday's post, I subsequently stumbled onto this totally suave cover by the Brazilian alternative band Pato Fu, who I totally think I could fall in love with:

On a second listen, I might... oh my gosh, I might totally like this more than the original. Damn. Well done.


"Cities In Dust"

>> Saturday, July 09, 2011

A bit of the old weekend filler, do forgive. As you might have gleaned from the post title, today it's Siouxsie, naturalment:


"A Shot in the Arm"

>> Friday, July 08, 2011

There is just nothing appearing to me that I want to write about today. Sorry. Have some Wilco.



>> Thursday, July 07, 2011

Iggy Pop: "Sixteen":


Vote For Marcus

>> Wednesday, July 06, 2011

You might want to read this from last week if you haven't already: Libby Copeland's piece in Slate on Michelle Bachmann's marriage, "Hail To The Housewife" (June 30th, 2011). In a nutshell (pun probably not intended when talking about the Congresswoman; or maybe it is), Rep. Bachmann appears to subscribe to that conservative, evangelical Protestant view that wives ought to be subservient to their husbands, a view that has caused evangelicals all sorts of headaches as they try to reconcile the realities of this modern life--that the economic requirement that women work outside the home increasingly brings them into positions of leadership--with their views of a woman's proper role in the home and church as a junior partner (related headache for evangelicals: that women also turn out to be quite qualified and able as church leaders in every respect other than what isn't dangling between their thighs).

It may surprise you, but I'm not going to sit here and condemn these kinds of marriages; I mean, okay, I think it's stupid and it's not the kind of relationship I'm interested in having, but if that's your thing, hey, it's still a (mostly) free (in principle, at least) country, right? I don't see how a woman deciding to submit herself to her husband in the context of a consensual Christian marriage is any different from a man or woman deciding to go home and wear a diaper and ball gag in the context of a consensual BDSM relationship; i.e. as long as nobody's being held against their will or suffering non-consensual abuse and you leave me out of it, it's none of my damn business. Do what'cha want to do, and if it works for you, power to you. The irony amuses me a little: I see these conservative Christian marriages as being morally no different from the marriages of fetishists, swingers, et al., indeed I'm tempted to label these people "Christian patriarchal dom-sub fetishists" and leave 'em to it.

What's bothersome about Bachmann's marriage, though, is something Copeland's Slate piece sort of bounces off of in the third paragraph and then dances around without addressing: the problem with marriages like the Bachmanns' in the context of politics isn't how the Bachmanns reconcile Michelle's ambitions with Marcus Bachmann's household dominance, but how the rest of us reconcile their marriage with democracy. I mean, in the unlikely event that Michelle Bachmann somehow manages to win the Republican presidential nomination--a possibility I find extraordinarily improbable, but that's sort of beside the point--if she wins the nomination, who the hell are American people being asked to vote for in the general election, Michelle Bachmann or Michelle-proxy-for-Marcus Bachmann or "The Bachmanns" as some hubby-led tag team or what? If a purely hypothetical President Michelle Bachmann is going to submit to her husband even in the White House, don't'cha think he ought to be the one answering questions at town halls and debates, shouldn't he be the one whose positions on the great issues of the day ought to be picked apart or glossed over by various pundits on the op-ed pages of the nation's papers? Why the hell are we even supposed to care about Michelle Bachmann's views on anything other than her marriage if her views on marriage are dispositive: ask my husband?

Copeland closes with:

Bachmann's description of herself as "pro-woman and pro-man" suggests a contentment with the status quo, as far as gender goes. Indeed, it may imply something more—that as a woman who defers to her husband, she believes herself to be more liberated than secular feminists are. According to Karen Seat, a religious studies professor at the University of Arizona, some conservative evangelicals argue that women's deference is itself empowering, because it's what God intends, and because it is the fullest expression of womanhood. In this world of opposites, submission is strength and inequity is proof of equality. It's quite possible that a President Bachmann would primarily define herself not as the first female president of the United States, but as a wife and mother. And she would not see that as anything less than progress.

Nice, but does that really matter? I'm not sure I'd disagree with a President defining herself (or himself, for that matter) firstly as a mother (or father) and secondly as the President. One might suggest that a leader who frames issues in terms of whether his or her own children will be asked to give their lives on a foreign field, will live in greater liberty, will breathe cleaner air, etc. would be a distinct improvement over Presidents who frame issues in terms of polling data. I'm not a parent, myself, but I can't help suspecting that a parent thinks of his or her child's future in terms of timespans that are longer than election cycles. No, it seems to me the real elephant in the room is the bait and switch that's being set forth, not the Presidential attitude once in office: vote for Michelle, elect Marcus, Hail To The Whomever.

Now, of course this is academic in all sorts of ways: I don't think Michelle Bachmann is likely to win the Republican nomination, and if she did I can't conceive of voting for her for all sorts of reasons, but then I also can't conceive of voting for anybody else the Grand Old Party might extrude from the nether end of their nominating process. But I still think it's worth discussing: for one thing, these evangelicals are pretty damn obdurate: if it isn't Michelle Bachmann in 2012 it'll be Nancy Sue in 2020 or Mary-Anne in 2028. For another thing, I think the gravitational field from this issue has a warping effect on actual, real, modern liberated feminists; a lot of people, f'r'instance, were evaluating Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy in '08 in terms of Mrs. Clinton, husband of Bill, notwithstanding the fact that there's no real reason to believe Hillary Clinton is anything other than her own woman, and while it's not inconceivable she might rely on Bill in much the same way that John Kennedy relied on Bobby, the idea that she'd cleave to her husband and submit is laughable on it's face. Anyway, the point of that last bit being: women like Michelle Bachmann do sort of ruin things a little for married women who are trying to be taken seriously as politicians, don't they?

I also have to admit that I find the political implications of the Bachmanns' marriage irritating as a matter of principle, said principle being a preference for leaving candidates' families out of things as much as possible. Of course, the candidates usually frustrate this ambition anyway: they campaign on their families until a family member does something embarrassing, at which point they plead for privacy and curse the lowdown tactics of enemy operatives, etc. They all do it, and none of them should, because normally their families really aren't all that relevant to anything at all. You have a lovely spouse and children, how nice for you, but unless you're bringing them up because you were going to give them guns and use them to invade a Middle Eastern state until you thought better of it, I'm not sure why I should care. However, if you're taking orders from a family member, aw, good grief, now I actually do have to care how they feel about healthcare reform or government subsidies for alternative fuels, because apparently you're going to pass the issue on to them anyway, and why aren't they just running for office themselves and cutting you out of the middle? It's pretty damn inconvenient and inconsiderate, frankly.


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