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February 28, 2006

More cute things we don't need.


By fnord12 | February 28, 2006, 12:43 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Walkiebits

I was asked to blog about this. They're pastel robot turtles. What more can I say?

(Thanks to Julia for the link.)

By min | February 28, 2006, 12:43 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Pepsi-Man

You can find pictures of his action figure here. Long time Cha comics fans will want to click on the Details to read about his Schwaa action.

There's also commercials here.

(Both links via Tom Tomorrow)


By fnord12 | February 28, 2006, 12:32 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



Why the Port Deal Matters

I've had a discussion about this with a few people, so i thought i should put it my thoughts up here.

Generally, reasonable people seem to think that the controversy over Bush administration's decision to allow the United Arab Emirates to have control over our ports is a tempest in a teapot. Prior to this, a British company controlled the ports, and to some people this controversy smacks of racism because we'll let a European country have control but not an Arab one. Other people just think the security concerns are imagined and people are using the controversy to score cheap political points. I see it a different way.

Since September 11th, 2001, the Bush administration has told us that we needed to start taking extra precautions in order to be safe. We had to tone down any dissenting opinions. We had to give up our right to due process. We had to submit to wire tapping. We have to be harassed every time we go to the airport. We had to accept the logic that we had to invade Iraq because we couldn't risk the chance of any beligerant Arab country having weapons.

I wasn't willing to accept any of that. But a lot of people were, including the majority of pundits in the press. Now Bush is turning around and giving control of our ports to a country whose banks provided the money for the Sept 11th attacks, and whose royal family has ties with Osama bin Laden. When justifying the attacks on Afghanistan, Bush said that those who aid and abet terrorist will be treated no differently than the terrorists themselves. Today he is giving a country with closer ties to al-Qaeda than Iraq ever had access to our ports. It is mind blowing to those who naively took Bush at his word.

It's also an opportunity for those of us who have been jumping up and down for the past 5 years saying that we've been hoodwinked press the point. The mainstream Democrats have been acting 'reasonably' all along and have been pushed around and ignored. It's time to stop being reasonable and make an issue of this glaring contradiction between Bush's rhetoric and actions. Port security (an issue Democrats have been trying to push for a while now) is important, and it is an area where we really do need to be extra careful.

Millions of crates come into this country every day. The Bush Administration bypassed the routine security check that is required by law when a new company takes over control of our ports. Now they would be in the control of a country that has ties to Osama bin Laden. It doesn't make any sense, and it deserves to be focused on.

I have a problem with the deal from another point of view as well. The argument was made years ago that governments are less efficient than private corporations. It's not an argument i agree with - anyone trying to deal with a cable company or an insurance company knows that corporations are just as beaurocratic as you can get, and at least the government is technically accountable to voters. But it's a view that's generally been accepted by people so let's live with it for the sake of this posts: governments are too inefficient to control our ports, so we have to farm the work out to (foreign?) corporations. But the "corporation" that we are farming the work out to is an extension of the monarchy of the United Arab Emirates. It's not private in any way. Is the UAE's government more efficient than our own?

UPDATE: Looks like Tom Tomorrow beat me to it by 7 minutes.


By fnord12 | February 28, 2006, 10:57 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



What's the Weather Like in Sweden?

It could be a good second choice after Canada. It might even be better considering the Canadians just elected a conservative PM who is pro-Iraq invasion.

Sweden is to take the biggest energy step of any advanced western economy by trying to wean itself off oil completely within 15 years - without building a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Link


By min | February 28, 2006, 9:46 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 27, 2006

Sold!

There's been some debate on the Wachowski brothers' adaptation of V For Vendetta. After the disappointment of the two sequels to The Matrix, could they still make good movies? Was it was close enough to the spirit of the original comic (and should it have to be)? Did the comic book writer Alan Moore's disapproval of the film mean it was no good? Did the track record of awful movies based on Alan Moore comic books (From Hell, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) mean that it was impossible to do one right?

James Wolcott's review puts all those fears to rest for me (no spoilers).


By fnord12 | February 27, 2006, 4:12 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Evacuees Go Home!

Apparently, it's Mardi Gras time down in New Orleans. I was given this helpful information thru an email forwarded on a list-serv. This email was even more helpful in that it noted the following "bit of information":

- FEMA will be evicting most evacuees from their hotels on March 1. This should free up some more hotel space.

Well, isn't that great? Thanks to FEMA, I won't have to worry about evacuees filling up the hotels and making it difficult for me and other tourists to find lodging during Mardi Gras. That would have been a total drag.

Not content to rest in their mission to ruin people's lives, FEMA continues to find new and innovative ways to generate more misery. It's heart warming to see there are people out there able to appreciate FEMA's efforts. They aren't throwing people out to free up hotel space for themselves. It's all for YOU.

If I should ever have the opportunity to meet this person from the list-serv, they damn well better hope I don't get an opening to bring this up.


By min | February 27, 2006, 10:31 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



February 24, 2006

Playing Both Sides

Here's a little "Compare and Contrast" game for all of you.

Depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside, Mars, Inc. will have differing opinions on the health benefits of chocolate.

Here in the States, Mars, Inc. has launched a campaign for a new product that claims to be healthy.

Called CocoaVia, the products are made with a kind of dark chocolate high in flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that is thought to have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin and may even lower blood pressure. The snacks also are enriched with vitamins and injected with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols from soy.

The article goes on to quote a researcher saying there has been no link established between flavanols and a reduced risk of cancer or heart disease. And with the rising problem with obesity in this country "the last thing we need is for Americans to think they can eat more chocolate."

Such a trifle as an "established scientific link" will not cause Mars, Inc. to rethink their campaign nor will it discourage competitors such as Hershey Co. from jumping on the bandwagon.

However, if you happen to live on the European side of the ocean, you will be getting a different sort of message.

Chocolate bars and other sweets are to have a "health warning" printed on the back of their packaging as part of a major drive to educate the public, particularly children, on their diet.

[...]

Cadbury Trebor Bassett and rival Mars have joined forces in a £10m information campaign under the "Be treatwise" banner. Both companies will be changing their labelling over the coming months to include a detailed panel containing the nutritional content of their products.

So, if you eat chocolate in the U.S., it's healthy, but if you eat chocolate in Britain, it will be accompanied by a health warning. Make sure you take your bearings before chowing down on your next piece of confectionary.


By min | February 24, 2006, 1:48 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 23, 2006

The top cover songs

Based on a discussion with Adam (He's got his own, secret, list that i'm sure he's put more thought into than me), here's my list of the best cover songs.

The rules:


  1. The song has to be good. (!)
  2. The song shouldn't be a straight ("faithful") cover of the original - might as well listen to the original.
  3. However, the song has to still retain the spirit of the original, meaning it can't just be a whole new song with the same lyrics.
  4. It should highlight some aspect about the original song, or make you look at the original in a new way.
  5. It should highlight an aspect of the band that is covering it, showing how the band has developed from their influence and contributed something new to music.
  6. The covering band can't contain any members of the original band. So you can't count, for example, some fantastic Ozzy version of a Black Sabbath song with Randy Rhodes on guitar. For these purposes, a producer is considered a member of the band. So John Cale's cover of the Modern Lover's Pablo Picasso can't be counted.

The top five:


  1. The Slit's cover of Marvin Gaye's Heard It Through The Grapevine
  2. The Cure's cover of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze
  3. Disposable Heroes of Hiphophrosy's cover of the Dead Kennedy's California Uber Alles
  4. Johnny Cash's cover of U2's One
  5. Anti-Nowhere League's cover of the traditional Streets of London

Honorable Mentions:


  1. John Cale's cover of Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel (a little too much in violation of rule #3
  2. Metallica's cover of Holocaust's The Small Hours (nearly breaks rule #2)
  3. Jimi Hendrix's cover of Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower
  4. White Zombie's cover of Black Sabbath's Children of the Grave

I purposely excluded covers of blues songs. Adding all the reinterpretations of blues songs by Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, and others was just too monstrous of a task. What this means is that i had to exclude the holy trinity of Big Joe William's Baby Please Don't Go covers by Them, AC/DC, and Budgie. This made me very sad.

Similarly, i excluded covers of classical music, so i didn't consider Emerson Lake and Palmer interpretations of things like The Barbarian and Pictures at an Exhibition.

Lastly, i didn't include covers of the Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties, since that's its own list.



By fnord12 | February 23, 2006, 5:11 PM | Music | Comments (7) | Link



Memory Hole

Two examples of the government classifying information for (what seems to be) no good reason.

  1. They are re-classifying old previously unclassified documents. Some of the documents being re-classified don't contain any apparant state secrets and are very old (documents relating to the Korean War, for example).
  2. They are classifying death certificates. Even acquiring a close relative's record seems like it will now be very difficult.

What's that Jello Biafra line sampled in the Ice-T song...
"In reality, what they are really trying to do is control access to information itself."


By fnord12 | February 23, 2006, 5:10 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Margaret Atwood

Not content with simply writing science fiction, Margaret Atwood has gone and brought some into reality.


By fnord12 | February 23, 2006, 5:08 PM | Boooooks | Comments (0) | Link



Debate on Universal Health Care

Josh sent me this link to a debate on Universal Healthcare. I'm sure it's at least partially due to my bias, but i think the pro-UHC guy is more convincing.


By fnord12 | February 23, 2006, 5:08 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (2) | Link



February 21, 2006

I don't know what it means but i like it.

From The Einstein Intersection by Samuel Delany:

You remember the legend of the Beatles? You remember the Beatle Ringo left his love Maureen even though she treated him tender. He was the one Beatle who did not sing, so the earliest forms of the legend go. After a hard day's night he and the rest of the Beatles were torn apart by screaming girls, and he and the other Beatles returned, finally at one, with the great rock and the great roll... Well, that myth is a version of a much older story that is not so well known. There are no 45's or 33's from the time of this older story. There are only a few written versions, and reading is rapidly losing its interest for the young. In the older story Ringo was called Orpheus. He too was torn apart by screaming girls. But the details are different. He lost his love - in this version Eurydice - and she went straight to the great rock and the great roll, where Orpheus had to go to get her back. He went singing, for in this version Orpheus was the greatest singer, instead of the silent one. In myths things always turn into their opposites as one version supersedes the next.

By fnord12 | February 21, 2006, 2:12 PM | Boooooks & Music | Comments (1) | Link



Why are you going to McDonalds?

I don't get vegans who eat at Mcdonalds and then get outraged and sue when the food contains animal products.

McDonald's Corp. faces at least three lawsuits claiming the fast-food giant misled the public after it acknowledged earlier this week its french fries contain milk and wheat ingredients.
...
Nadia Sugich of Los Angeles sued Wednesday, saying she eats no animal products and would not have eaten the fries had she known they contained dairy ingredients.

By fnord12 | February 21, 2006, 8:54 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (3) | Link



February 20, 2006

It's My Blog And I'll Do What I Damn Well Please

Since Cheney shot that 78 year old man in the face, all the media has been abuzz about it. They can't stop talking about it. And unfortunately, neither can the blogs. They can't stop talking about it to the point where it's the only thing they have bothered to discuss. Their suspicions about Cheney's sobriety at the time, the odd delay before it was reported to the media, turning down a medical chopper for a slow ambulance ride to a non-trauma center, etc., etc. It's all important stuff that needs to be pointed out. Cheney's actions are all very questionable. I just wish they didn't get caught up in the sensationalism and develop tunnel vision. Up until Cheney shot that old man, there was a very important NSA hearing going on. Afterwards, it's like "what's NSA?". Even Cursor's caught up in it.

Rod says it's a non-issue. I don't agree. The act in itself, the apparent cover-up of some graver truths, is a pretty big deal. Should it get in the way of a hearing about the President breaking the law? No. But it's the only lie from the Bush Administration that the media has gotten up in arms about, so that in itself is significant. It's depressing and sad, but there it is.

So, after 5 days of this stuff, I got tired of it and wrote an email to Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake and said I wish they would talk about something else in addition to Cheney. The patriot act renewal is coming up. South Dakota is hoping to bring an anti-abortion case in front of the new Supreme Court. Hopefully Fitzgerald is still on the Libby case. Gonzales should recuse himself from the Abramoff thing. Anything. Just to break up the all day blogging on Cheney.

Rod tells me bloggers hate being told what to blog. I suppose it's like me telling someone what they should or shouldn't write about in their diary. So, i'm not surprised by the reply i got. It says that if I don't like it, there are plenty of other blogs on the net that are likely covering the topics i'd like to read about. She's perfectly in her right to say that. It's her blog. And what she says is true. There are other blogs out there.

The problem is that I always hope that the blogs are better than the mainstream media. I keep hoping they won't get caught up in the sensationalism. But when post after post after post is about nothing else and there's an underlying current of self-righteousness, i start to feel like the reason the story is such a hot topic is because Cheney shot someone rather than Cheney tried to hide information from the media. Everyone knows that a shooting is news. Politics is boring.

This could be a completely unfair assessment. Maybe they constantly blogged about Fitzgerald and Libby, but i didn't notice, and it didn't feel like sensationalism to me because nobody was in the ICU in this story. What with the contests to pick uncomplimentary nicknames for the network talking heads, the constant nitpicking of Pajamas Media, and the effort put forth to tank the Kate O'Beirne book on Amazon, i suppose i'm just a wee bit sensative to what the blogs are writing about. I'm an elitist, firm in my belief thatI am right, and i'm uncomfortable about it. I'm concerned that my favorite bloggers might be forgetting that they, too, should be uncomfortable with their own elitist attitudes.


By min | February 20, 2006, 1:31 PM | My stupid life | Comments (3) | Link



February 17, 2006

Anti-War Songs

This website has a list of anti-war songs, mostly pre-2001, and then makes this comment:

Less than five years after 9/11, the dearth of war-related songs from either the left or the right suggested that the fondest hopes of the Cheney-Rove crowd have been realized: We've normalized to being at war in perpetuity. Why sing about something that just is?

I've seen this complaint about a lack of current bands doing anti-war songs post-September 11th on a lot of lefty blogs as well. The thing is, i'm not sure that it's true. Without thinking too hard about it, you've got:

System of a Down - Boom!, among others
Green Day - an entire album, American Idiot
Sleater-Kinney - Combat Rock
Public Enemy - What Good is a Bomb?, among others
Dead Prez - Know Your Enemy
Saul Williams - Not In Our Name, among others
Trans Am - an entire album, Liberation

In addition you've had a couple of Rock Against Bush nu-punk compliations and i'm sure we could think of other examples. Is the problem that a lot of older people are remembering that songs like Merry Christmas (War Is Over) and Masters of War were actually on the radio back in the 60s and 70s, and they are wondering why the people on the radio today (Britany Spears and... my god, i don't even know who is on the radio) aren't coming out with political songs? They do know how commercialized music has become, right?



By fnord12 | February 17, 2006, 3:48 PM | Liberal Outrage & Music | Comments (2) | Link



February 16, 2006

Frank Miller's nuts

Josh informed me of this terrible development. You'd think i could rely on Wayne for DC related news, but apparently, no.

Washed up comic creator Frank Miller is working on a story where Batman fights Osama Bin Laden.

Holy Terror, Batman! is no joke. And Miller doesn't hold back on the true purpose of the book, calling it "a piece of propoganda, [sic]" where 'Batman kicks al Qaeda's ass."
...
The reason for this work, Miller said, was "an explosion from my gut reaction of what's happening now." He can't stand entertainers who lack the moxie of their '40s counterparts who stood up to Hitler. Holy Terror is "a reminder to people who seem to have forgotten who we're up against."

By fnord12 | February 16, 2006, 12:56 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 15, 2006

$2.25/gal for regular

I drive a VW Jetta. It has a 14gal gas tank. It's not unusual for me to pay $35 to fill up my tank. I can't tell you how much it warms my soul to read this in the Guardian Weekly:

Exxon Mobil set a new corporate profits record, chalking up annual figures of $36.13bn, 42% up on the previous year despite $18bn spent in share buybacks.

The price on a barrel of oil may keep going up, but luckily ExxonMobil is gouging you, the consumer, so much that it more than makes up for their increased expenditure.

I feel another CITGO plug coming on...

BUY VENEZUELAN


By min | February 15, 2006, 1:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Road Kill Stew, Anyone?

For most, a squashed hedgehog or flattened badger lying on the side of the road is a tragic sight - for Arthur Boyt it is an opportunity for a free, tasty and nutritious meal. Mr Boyt has spent the last 50 years scraping carcasses from the side of the road and chucking them, together with a few herbs and spices, into his cooking pot.
Link


By min | February 15, 2006, 12:33 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (0) | Link



February 14, 2006

New Music

Two new jams in the Skelly Gang section from a 1/15 Sunday at the Studio. Carpal Tunnel Vision and Tanked. Me on the little microKorg and Mike on drums. Plenty of mistakes on the keyboards, but it was still a pretty interesting section considering it was totally improved.


By fnord12 | February 14, 2006, 11:52 AM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



Choices

Iowa is debating whether to just give tickets to people who are using marijuana instead of arresting them, or to just ban all rock concerts and football games in the state.


By fnord12 | February 14, 2006, 9:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



And so it begins

The South Dakota House overwhelmingly passed a bill Thursday that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, ushering the issue to the Senate. Supporters are pushing the measure as a means of drawing the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping to set up a legal challenge that ultimately will result in reversal of the high court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

Link.


By fnord12 | February 14, 2006, 9:21 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 9, 2006

Sorry, Frenchie. The U.S. isn't a "free speech" zone.

Why should we let you come here, with your crazy ideas about naturally grown food?

French farmer Jose Bove, a prominent protester against genetically modified food and agricultural free trade, has been denied entry into the United States, officials of an event he was due to address said on Thursday.

By fnord12 | February 9, 2006, 3:14 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Who needs facts?

Just kick all the people out of your government that actually know anything, and replace them with partisan yes-men who will provide you with the "evidence" you need.

WASHINGTON - State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties.

The reorganization of the department's arms control and international security bureaus was intended to help it better deal with 21st-century threats. Instead, it's thrown the agency into turmoil and produced an exodus of experts with decades of experience in nuclear arms, chemical weapons and related matters, according to 11 current and former officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.


By fnord12 | February 9, 2006, 3:12 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Total Information Awareness version 8.5

Yep. They just keep trying and trying to come up with better acronyms for spying and data-mining. The latest iteration is ADVISE - Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement. They're data-mining emails, blogs, government records, and with the help of Yahoo and MSN, prolly your internet searches, as well. And you know what the best part is? Congressman with direct oversight of the people in charge of ADVISE don't actually know what's going on. But they're mostly ok with that.

"I am not fully briefed on ADVISE," wrote Rep. Curt Weldon (R) of Pennsylvania, vice chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in an e-mail. "I'll get briefed this week."

Sure he will. Then he'll be sworn to secrecy so that he can't actually do anything about any bits of information they deign to throw his way. Good on ya.

Read here for the Christian Science Monitor's article about the data-mining program and here for the FDL blog on it.

I wonder what Illuminati symbol ADVISE is using as their logo.


By min | February 9, 2006, 12:22 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 8, 2006

Some obvious thoughts on Iran

  1. It's hypocritical of us to say that Iran can't have nukes when we tolerate Israel and Pakistan and India having nukes.
  2. We lost any high moral ground when we broke our no new nukes treaty with Russia on the laughable grounds that we actually made the treaty with the Soviet Union and they no longer exist, and started developing "bunker busters" for tactical usage.
  3. Our invasion of Iraq has made it clear to every country that we are belligerent towards that they had better get nukes if they don't want to be invaded.
  4. If we were serious about stopping terrorists from getting nuclear materials, we would be getting all the russian material off the black market. There is no serious effort going on right now to do this, despite our "War on Terror" (this was one of John Kerry's ignored talking points during the election). Additionally, we would be hiring or otherwise paying off all the Russian nuclear scientists that are now unemployed since Russia's attempt at capitalism destroyed their economy.
  5. Everything i've seen from international and UN sources seems to indicate that Iran really is pursuing a nuclear power plant agenda, as opposed to weapons. Why would a country supposedly sitting on huge reserves of oil need nuclear power? Is it possible that the Peak Oil people are right and the Middle East oil fields are drying up? Or is Iran just doing a good job of fooling everyone except the US?
  6. Considering our lies regarding Iraq's WMD's, if we are right this time and the rest of the world is fooled, i guess it's too late for the Bush administration to read, er, be read The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

By fnord12 | February 8, 2006, 4:09 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



How long does it take to read a comic book?

As i've been going through the comics i bought when me and wayne went on our shopping spree, i'm noticing that comics written 15+ years ago take a lot longer than comics written today. I have nothing against Bendis, but i can blow through one of his Daredevil or New Avengers comics in about 5 minutes, where comics from like 1983 take me at least 15. And they were 60 cents each, as opposed to $2.99 (even taking inflation into account, that's a huge difference). It's no wonder that kids aren't buying comics anymore; they're barely worth the money, regardless of the quality of the stories (and there were good stories then and good stories now. In my opinion Marvel's been on an upswing in the past decade after recovering from the horrible 90s, but i don't believe that comics written today are inherently better than they were during the Jim Shooter years.).

Most people blame what they call "decompressed storytelling", which means that a story arc that would have been told in one issue in 1985 now takes 6 issues. This is a question of pacing, and allows more room for dialogue, etc. There's nothing intrinsically good or bad about this approach. In Bruce Jone's Hulk story, it didn't work at all because nothing ever seemed to happen in any particular issue, to the point where you didn't even see the Hulk. In Bendis' Avengers, it gives us more time to look at character reactions to what's going on and interactions with each other, which i quite enjoy. But the fact that there is less going on in a particular issue means there is less exposition, and therefore less to read.


I think the real problem is due to the art style. The art is definitely more detailed, more realistic than it was in earlier decades. (By realistic i don't mean that they're drawing women in more realistic proportions, of course. I just mean that the characters are more 3d, less... 'cartoony' isn't quite the right word but it's close.) Again, not saying one is better than the other. It's a question of style and preference. I was really enjoying some of the Byrne/Austin art from some of the X-men comics i recently bought, for example. But the changes in art style have led to two problems.

One is the amount of time it takes to produce a book. Artists in the 80s could also draw the way current artists do, but they usually only did it for prestige format mini-series and graphic novels, where they could afford to take more time. Today, comics just come out late on a regular basis.

Second is the fact that in order to accomodate the new style, or maybe in order to get the books done quicker, there are less panels per page. The standard number of panels per page seems to be about 6. But older books had a tendency to go beyond that, and frequently did, whereas for newer books, 6 seems to be about the maximum, with a tendency to do less, and more splash pages or half pages.

Removed from the price factor, i don't think that there's a problem. The new stories can be very good, and it's introduced a new type of storytelling which i enjoy. But when you factor in the bang for your buck, i have to say that it almost doesn't seem worth it.

I think it's a vicious cycle. Today, kids don't read comic books. The audience is largely adults who grew up on the comics. And they're likely to have more spending money, and can afford to pay $2.99 a book. And the comic companies need to charge that much in order to make a profit considering the decline in readership (i.e., we're paying niche market prices, not mass market prices). But because the books cost so much, they're much less likely to attract kids, who are more likely to save up their money and get a video game. Is that a vicious cycle or a downward spiral?


By fnord12 | February 8, 2006, 3:44 PM | Comics | Comments (0) | Link



Some good old fashioned ranting

From Joe Bageant, which i'll just reprint in its near entirety. Please read.

When I was a boy on my grandparents' farm in the 1950s the neighbors always banded together to make lard and apple butter, put up feed corn, bale hay, thresh wheat, pick apples, plow snow off roads. One neighbor cut hair, another mended shoes and welded. With so little money available in those days in rural America, there was no way to get by without neighbors. And besides, all the money in the world would not get the lard cooked down and the peaches put up for the winter. You needed neighbors and they needed you. From birth to the grave. I was very lucky to have seen that culture which showed me that a real community of shared labor is possible -- or at least was at one time in this country. And if I ever doubt it I can go up to those hill farms and look into the clouded old eyes and wrinkled visages of the people who once babysat me as a child and with whom I shot my first rabbit and quail.
...

Whatever the case, we no longer depend upon community and other people around us. We live in our houses, idiotically sited vinyl "Tudor-esque" fuck-boxes with brick facade (sorry Neddie, I just had to steal that lick) which grow bigger each year in order to accommodate our massive asses, egos and collection of goods, and we "order out." Or go shopping for it at the mall. Beyond the need to get laid, there is little real reason to be together with other thinking, feeling adults. We do not need each other to do anything important in our lives, because all those things are performed by strangers, often as not thousands of miles away. Including the sex, if your are an internet porn fan. Which leaves us strangers to the natural human community.

After all, what can we really do together? Consume. Drink. Consume. Talk. Consume tickets to entertainment. Consume. There is little else to do with other human beings in America than consume. So most of our primary life activity is solitary. We drive, do housework, pay bills, watch television... When we do "get together with friends," there is little to talk about, other than one form or another of consumption, consuming music, or movies or whatever. We can not tell each other anything new because we all get the same news and information from the same monolithic sources. At the same time we try to fill the loneliness for a real human community that we have never experienced by calling any group of people who come together in any way a "community." Online community. Planned community.

...

Still, what about those cages in Gitmo? Or global warming? You and I may presently be yammering our asses off in cyberspace (talk about inauthentic!) about such topics, but most Americans, if they dialogue about those things at all, conduct the dialogue with that voices inside our heads, the one that says: Things cannot be as bad as the alarmists say. They cannot be as bad as I often suspect they are. If there really were such a thing as global warming they would be starting to do something about it. And besides, even if it were true, science will find a way to fix it. If there really were genocide going on in so many places far more people would be concerned. At the same time, every commercial and piece of sports hoopla, every celebrity news item leaves us with the impression that, if we have time and money for such things, then matters cannot be all that bad, can they? If the earth were heating up we would surely notice it. If our soldiers and government agencies were torturing people around the world it would make the news. If millions were being exterminated, it would be more obvious, would it not? Look around. Nobody seems worried. Look how normal everything is every day. Look at your wife and your own family. No one is worried. Things cannot be that bad.

Joe Bageant's little inner voice is like everyone else's. Whenever I shudder at the condition of the republic, whenever I feel its utter absence of community, it scolds me and tells me I am crazy: Nothing is wrong. This is merely the way things are. It has always been this way. You cannot change that. You expect too much. Look at your wife. She's not upset. She wonders why you cannot just go ahead and be happy. What you see around you is normalcy. Take care of your own family. Relax. Buy something. And I do too. Which is why I own nine guitars, though I can only play one at a time, and even then not very well. The voice made me do it. I was bored.

Bored plus anxious. Hell, I could lose my job. I could lose everything. And if I lost my job I would indeed lose everything. Social status, family, the accumulated net worth of a lifetime. Which, believe me, ain't much after two divorces and a run-in with cocaine.

Adding to the anxiety is the lack of evidence that the world needs you or me at all. In this totally commoditized life we are dispensable. Everything is standardized. It really doesn't matter who grows our food or makes our clothing. If we don't make it, it someone else will. If we don't buy it, someone else will. Some other faceless person will step forward to fill in our place. The same goes for the engineers who created this computer and the same goes for your own job. The machine rolls on. With us or without us. Naturally, we have our loved ones and our friends. But increasingly even these relationships are monetized for all classes. Family and leisure activity has become intensely commoditized. Never has there been such a lonely and inauthentic civilization as the American middle class.

...

You would think owning jack shit and expecting nothing would allow a guy slightly more freedom from toil, would you not? Yet, even though I never wish to own a car again, or ever own another house, don't care about clothes, could easily live on grains, fruits and vegetables, and am willing to work maybe 20 hours a week at some mindless occupation so long as it does not contribute to the world's misery and doesn't require heavy lifting or good memory, and willing to live in the tiniest of rooms, it's still impossible to do so inside this nation, once you've signed the middle class blood oath. Even if I managed to talk my wife into such a life, this is the one thing I am not free to do in the good old land of the free. In this country, buster, you keep paying the going rate, even if you don't care about going. Like the Cajuns say, you will know when you are dead because the bills will quit coming in.

And so about a year or so ago I swore in print and on the net that I was going to buy a cottage in some warm and simpler place abroad. Someplace VERY cheap that I can go and write and make music with these hands and this tired but willing voice. And I am getting closer to that goal, despite the blackmailers. For starters, I have gotten over the American fetish of ownership -- I can rent a place from some deserving poor native family who needs the income. Maybe build an addition onto their house for them for free. Maybe we can go into business together, a small bodega on a dusty street, mango stand, take in laundry or whatever. I will be the old white guy who lives in the back room, plays banjo and guitar and writes. This is the one promise I intended to keep to myself. I still do.

But I never in my life imagined it would be so hard to escape the various American forms of institutionalized extortion and blackmail. Becoming debt free was the least of it. And having everyone you know and love believe your have slipped your moorings is just the beginning. Meanwhile, you become a Kafkaesque character wondering if you've gone nuts, as you simmer in the ambient wrongness pervading American society and watch the futility of our vast life-consuming program of intense management and control of everything, the money, the bombs, the roads, the retirement fund, the communications, the propaganda, the entire buzzing tower of bullshit so massive as to make Babel look like a chicken coop. And you ask every passing stranger in the shopping mall "Is all this fucking necessary?" Only to discover that you are in an isolation chamber, a vacuum, a void in which no one can hear your voice at all. They are sleepwalking. They are shopping. Shhhh ...

The loss of our human kinship identities has left us to define ourselves by what we own, where we live or what sports teams we support. But even more insidiously, our lost stories of community and kinship are replaced by the work of unseen professionals over the distant horizon. TV and movie producers, the news media and educational establishment. They provide the answer to the most important spiritual kinship and identity question we will ever ask ourselves: Who are my people? Some of the worst people on the planet are ready to answer that question for us in a way that serves their own ends. They stand ready to answer other questions too, such as, where did we come from? Why are we here? They are the cadre of empire's paid professionals who write the history and the news stories that fill the deep need for a "story of the people." The most horrific events of history have nearly always been set in motion by manipulation of this national story.

After a while, it does not matter that the story was manipulated. Deep need for a national story drives most to come to love and accept the story over time. It is the only one they have. And if the story is sufficiently intolerant and mean, we don't care about Iraqi deaths. And we come to love empire and capitalism. Beyond that, many would have become bullies anyway, without any help from the national storyline. They don't value democracy, or the ecology or liberty, but they do believe in authority and discipline. Aw come on! It ain't just Dick Cheney and his pet president Sparky doing all this. At least half the country is loving the queer bashing and the bombing and the god rhetoric. We should quit pretending that a very large portion of Americans are not degraded human beings. They are. Skeptics are welcome to visit me here in the armed and inbred environs of Winchester, Virginia. It no longer matters what or who degraded them. Much time has passed and this is how many Americans have become. Fundamentalist cults abound, both religious and economic. Millions upon millions of Christians live in hermetic worlds of their own, with their own books stores, schools, media. Millions of middle class Americans both conservative and liberal live in suburbs and condos and brownstone row houses completely surrounded by their own kind, all of them worshippers in the American value cult, commodity fetishists. They are differentiated mainly in their own minds and the narratives they have made up for themselves. And of course in their consumption.

After 35 years of inattention to these not-so-nice Americans among us (in another time they would have been called fascists, but now they are considered merely a political "base," which is in itself a strange sort of national acceptance of cruelty as part of the national character) we are now watching them consolidate power. For the time being they control the presidency, the Congress, the media, the Supreme Court, the federal courts, most governorships, and most state legislatures. And if their manipulation of congressional districts stays put they could feasibly stay in power indefinitely. Do these people, this half of our population which cheers on unprovoked wars abroad, spying on the citizenry and demonizing of the poor truly hate democracy? Fuck if I know. But after generations of brainwashing and psychological molding and exploitation of their fears, I suspect they never really knew what democracy was.

If anyone is going to turn the ship of the republic around, put us on a course more in the direction of liberty and openness, it will require the navigational help of those among us who can still remember what it was like before totalistic capitalism took such grip. People who can remember that genuine good will and intent were once alive in the hearts of most people even if never in the halls of Congress. Remember when at least some human and social progress was evident around us, thereby giving reason to hope.

And these sorts of people are indeed still with us, though quiet, perhaps out of insecurity. Only last Saturday I saw them at the Jiffy Lube. Sitting in the waiting room with our little Jiffy Lube paper coffee cups, waiting for our cars to be finished, we were watching on CNN the placement of the casket of Coretta Scott King in the rotunda of the Georgia State Capitol. To my right there was the huge black lady with corn rows and two bright eyed children hanging on her ankles. There was the thin young 30-something half-black dude who had just got off his cell to his wife (Yeah honey, it's on CNN. Bye.) There was the very straight suburban blonde yuppie woman with her sculpted pony tail sticking through the back of her aubergine Eddie Bauer ball cap. And as those Georgia state troopers on CNN, looking so much like the very same kind who once struck fear into the Martins and the Medgars of the South, were climbing those marble stairs under the gray February Georgia sky, one step at a time, then a pause, then one more step ... There was not a dry eye a dry eye in that Jiffy Lube waiting room. It was not just the cheap emotionalism of televised pandering. Everyone there remembered, by God! Remembered or found reason to believe in, an America that at one moment in history at least, rose from its stupor to struggle forward toward something higher. Something better. And yes, noble even.

And when I was finished blubbering inside, I thought to myself, "Well, that small room in St. Kitts, or the tarpon fishing in Belize, they can probably wait one more year."


By fnord12 | February 8, 2006, 3:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 7, 2006

Gung Ho Was Right All Along

Link

The Mental Health Foundation says scientific studies have clearly linked attention deficit disorder, depression, Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia to junk food and the absence of essential fats, vitamins and minerals in industrialised diets.

[snip]

Rates of depression have been shown to be higher in countries with low intakes of fish, for example. Lack of folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and the amino acid tryptophan are thought to play an important role in the illness. Deficiencies of essential fats and antioxidant vitamins are also thought to be a contributory factor in schizophrenia.

On an episode of Gung Ho, the kid was hiding his lunches in the couch because he wanted American style food like the other kids had, not Japanese lunches which apparently contained fish for the most part. His dad told him peanut butter would stick to his brain and that fish was good for him. Now I know he was actually giving a public service announcement and not just a witty sitcom reply.

On a separate note, as a child, I refused to eat peanut butter and jelly and felt quite abused when my babysitter offered this to me for lunch. My mother enjoys telling this story so if you'd like evidence of my snobbery even at the tender age of 5, you can ask her about it.


By min | February 7, 2006, 1:31 PM | Science | Comments (1) | Link



It's Not Brainwashing, It's Rehabilitation

Tony Blair has introduced a plan where antisocial behaviour gets you enrolled in a "rehabilitation" program where you get counseled on how to behave properly. Sometimes you get the counseling in your home and other times you have to move to some dedicated "secure" accomodations. Doesn't that sound lovely? I suppose sending people to re-education camps is a step up from just giving them a lobotomy.

Link

The interesting thing is that as much as the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives object to Blair's scheme, they don't seem to be bringing up the scary sci-fi aspect of it. They just say that this plan is not going to work. Perhaps they preferred the lobotomies.


By min | February 7, 2006, 1:14 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Media: Stop reminding Al Qaida

Found on Kos:

BIDEN: Thank you very much. General, how has this revelation damaged the program?

I'm almost confused by it but, I mean, it seems to presuppose that these very sophisticated Al Qaida folks didn't think we were intercepting their phone calls.

I mean, I'm a little confused. How did it damage this?

GONZALES: Well, Senator, I would first refer to the experts in the Intel Committee who are making that statement, first of all. I'm just the lawyer.

And so, when the director of the CIA says this should really damage our intel capabilities, I would defer to that statement. I think, based on my experience, it is true -- you would assume that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance.

But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget.

(LAUGHTER)


By fnord12 | February 7, 2006, 8:53 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 6, 2006

Shogun Warriors

I had some of these toys when i was a kid. I had Raydeen and Godzilla and Rodan. I had no idea they were part of the same toy line. I guess Godzilla's ability to shoot his arm should have been a clue that something was up. These toys now go for like $200 each on eBay. Lost in the flood. Oh well.

Check out the Gaggle of Godzillas, too.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2006, 1:35 PM | Godzilla | Comments (0) | Link



Odd instruments

Check out this page with some very unusual instruments. They don't have the "guitar" i had in middle school, though. (Thanks to Mike for the link.)


By fnord12 | February 6, 2006, 1:26 PM | Music | Comments (0) | Link



If true...

Actually, if true, it's nothing we haven't already suspected.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2006, 1:21 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Police Protest Police Protest Tactics Used on Police During Police Protest

Seriously.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2006, 1:19 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Should we be suspicious of all legally elected leaders?


Rumsfeld:

"I mean, we've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money," Rumsfeld added. "He's a person who was elected legally _ just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally _ and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others."



By fnord12 | February 6, 2006, 10:25 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



At least they got a recount

Republicans cheat at their own elections.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2006, 10:23 AM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 3, 2006

Bonus Rumsfeld Caption Post

This picture was in the BBC article from the previous post. I can't decide which caption to go with:

"And now, young Skywalker... you... will... die!"

"Only I surf the causeways of space with the cosmic power granted to me by the Devourer of Worlds"

"And how come Batman doesn't dance anymore?"


By fnord12 | February 3, 2006, 1:30 PM | Comics & Liberal Outrage & Star Wars | Comments (2) | Link



To destroy the internets...

According to this BBC article , the US military is working on plans to distrupt global communications.

"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads.
...
US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".

Consider that for a moment.

The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.


By fnord12 | February 3, 2006, 1:26 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



February 2, 2006

Psych!

Link:

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

Not literally. It was a metaphor. For not reducing America's dependence on Middle East oil.


By fnord12 | February 2, 2006, 3:38 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



Fair

So two people got kicked out of the State of the Union Address for wearing t-shirts: Cindy Sheehan, for wearing an anti-war t-shirt listing the number of US soldiers killed, and Rep. Bill Young (R-FL)'s wife, for wearing a Support Our Troops shirt. Both were accused of being "protestors" when neither actually did anything other than wear the t-shirt. Sheehan was shaken about a bit and arrested, Mrs. Young was just escorted to the lobby.

Today, the Washington Post says that Rep. Young is angry:

Young said he wouldn't be so mad if it were just Sheehan. "I totally disagree with everything she stands for," he said. But by removing his wife, Gainer's officers clearly "acted precipitously," Young said.

By fnord12 | February 2, 2006, 3:31 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



Norm Coleman is Skeletor

Penny Arcade knew what they were talking about.


By fnord12 | February 2, 2006, 3:29 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (0) | Link



February 1, 2006

Nope

It was spurs.


By fnord12 | February 1, 2006, 12:18 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



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