Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nothing to blog here. Keep moving.

This N That
Just got back from Portland-ish (Forest Grove, actually, at Pacific University), taping a show with Philosophy Talk. In Oregon, by the way, Ken Taylor and John Perry are worshiped as GODS (, for those interested).

After the show, a few local ales went down. At our table was a philosophy professor, originally from Romania. The conversation turned, for some reason, to left-handedness. She volunteered the information that when she was a child, she would often practice writing with her left hand – if she should ever become captured by an enemy, and her right hand was cut off, she would still be able to communicate.

Intrigued, we pursued her on this. It turns out, she said, that when she was a child, there were no western movies, and certainly no Romanian movies. Instead, her pop culture experience consisted of Word War II propaganda films, in which Nazis do horrible things to people.

As a result, she spent a lot of time as a child terrified of Nazis, and preparing for how she would endure their torments, should she ever be captured. In addition to her left-hand writing exercises, she would also practice staring directly into strong lights without blinking. She teaches ethics.

Just Walk Away
President Obama doesn’t want us to think about torture any more. Will do! I mean, will NOT do! I mean….

Tea Bags
What was THAT all about? People unaffected by new taxations are ticked that rich people will have to pay a little less that what they paid during the Reagan administration?

Glenn Beck Mystery
Why is he always bursting into tears?

John Batchelor, Republican, on the state of the Republican Party, from The Daily Beast
“Vigilant Democrats worry today that the Republican Party is only playing possum, or that it can be revived by extraordinary means such as a Martian invasion. In fact, the GOP is a mummy-wrapped skeleton sitting in its own chilly mausoleum of bilious resentments and creepy sentimentality. What remains to call themselves Republicans are baldly badly educated or just prankish Confederate re-enactors—chubby men in gray and butternut suits with gold buttons and feather-tipped hats, clanking down stairs with shiny sabers. A handful of them are just boors from the South who look poorly on horseback and wave unread Bibles while calling for Billy Sunday to rise like the gold market.”

“The Republican Party’s death doesn’t really threaten anyone, and I puzzle why Democrats and independents who vote Democratic spend words and worry debating the look of the corpse. We few Republicans with long memories wander around the cemetery admiring the tombstones and enjoying the rain. I can hear you doubting that this could truly be the end. The final stage of grief is acceptance.”

Wow! Google really IS evil! Who knew?
Henry Porter, in The Observer:
“Despite the aura of heroic young enterprise that still miraculously attaches to the web, what we are seeing is a much older and toxic capitalist model - the classic monopoly that destroys industries and individual enterprise in its bid for ever greater profits. Despite its diversification, Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time. On the back of the labour of others it makes vast advertising revenues - in the final quarter of last year its revenues were $5.7bn, and it currently sits on a cash pile of $8.6bn. Its monopolistic tendencies took an extra twist this weekend with rumours that it may buy the micro-blogging site Twitter and its plans - contested by academics - to scan a vast library of books that are out of print but still in copyright.”

“Of course the company founded by Sergey Brin and Larry Page in 1998 - now reckoned to be the world's most powerful brand - does not offer any substitute for the originators of content nor does it allow this to touch its corporate conscience. That is probably because one detects in Google something that is delinquent and sociopathic, perhaps the character of a nightmarish 11-year-old.”

When I was 11…
My friends and I would devise elaborate methods of torture for ourselves, and then debate what would make us “talk” or not. Curiously enough, the torturers of our imaginings were either Nazis or Japanese, because pop culture of the fifties was still permeated with the propaganda tropes of World War II.

In our little imaginations, nothing an enemy could do would ever make us reveal anything. But then again, we were kids. Even as adults, I have a hunch we have no idea what we would do. I suspect that we would fold pretty much immediately, and tell our captors everything they want to know. On the other hand, and this is perhaps our saving grace, we no longer know anything, and therefore have nothing to reveal.

New York Times
Schools around the nation are trying to teach their students empathy; this is Seattle: “Within the charter network KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, some schools are focusing more on empathy, with lessons about the Holocaust, role-playing and a ‘values jingle’ sung to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells.’”

So the choice has finally come down to this: a nation of sociopaths, or a nation of cheerful yet humorless boosters?

Viral Video
This is a prose poem I found, by Kimberly King Parsons. It appealed to me….

1. The dog should be a little terrifying. The baby will be touching the dog, a wolfhound, a mastiff. Something foamy. The baby should be malformed in some way that is not unsettling. The head kind of dented, eyes a bit bulgy. The creepy baby touches the big dog. The baby regards the dog's sizeable paw; the dog regards the baby's liverish hand. Cue baby's smile. All of this takes place somewhere gentle. A carpet, a rug. A picnic blanket would be a nice touch.

2. This man is obese but that is not the joke. He is singing a song everyone knows, a song originally sung by a woman. The man is wearing a black leotard. He is dancing, really giving it his all. The tripod shakes. The camera topples over. We get a good look at the man's baseboards, a potted plant that's dying.

3. The worst thing about the boy is that someone taught him to play the pan flute. The pan flute in Argentina. The pan flute in the Republic of Lithuania. There he is, in different clothes on different days, playing that same song in country after country. The natives can't get enough. They flee their stoops, fight their way into the shot. They are clapping along, encouraging him. This is more than I can stand.

Presidential Puppy
This is from the Huffington Post, describing a photograph of Obama running down a hallway in the White House with Bo:

“There are all kinds of interesting elements here. Bo running free, though leashed. Obama and the dog clearly relating to one another, Obama looking back -- already creating a bond with the puppy. And especially, the new President at full sprint -- completely off the ground. ...

“One thing the photo does -- playing off an almost timeless domestic activity: running with your dog -- is to capture Obama thoroughly free of his often more self-contained manner. …”

And so on… I'm amazed that writers can find the time any more to do this sort of mindless parsing of the obvious.

The article also referenced the famous photograph of Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy (on the cover of LIFE Magazine) running on a beach with his dog. That dog was called Freckles. That photograph, to my knowledge, has never been parsed, though it is still ubiquitous.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sham Blog

America Rolls Up Its Sleeves!
NYT: “…Michelle Obama, during the meeting with the queen, touched her, raising already high-brows over on this side of the pond. Buckingham Palace protocol says that commoners must not touch the queen, a dictate that foreign leaders in the past have ignored at their own peril. When Prime Minister Paul Keating of Australia did the same thing back in 1992 the newspapers here called him the ‘Lizard of Oz.’

“But so high is the adulation that has been heaped on the Obamas from the normally caustic British press since their arrival that newspapers here said it was a sign of how well Mrs. Obama got along with the queen. In Mrs. Obama’s defense, the queen did touch her first, putting her arm around her as the two looked down at their feet, presumably talking about shoes.”

Where there are shoes, there also peace shall dwell.

Behind the Scenes at Google!
Designer Douglas Bowman, in his blog, telling readers why he left Google:
“Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that.”

Bowman now works for Twitter, which is pretty much design-free, near as I can tell, except for the Fail Whale. And word is that Google might buy Twitter. Which will probably mean a redesign of the Fail Whale, which will take months.

Mac Users Whiners! Hold Front Page!
From Good Morning Silicon Valley:
“ Now in heavy prime-time rotation, the initial installment of the "Laptop Hunters" ads features vivacious Lauren, who was recruited for what she believed was generic market research into laptop purchases, given a $1,000 budget, and turned loose to shop for a laptop that met her needs — in this case, something reasonably speedy with a 17-inch screen and a comfortable keyboard. Followed by a camera crew, Lauren makes a quick U-turn out of an Apple store after determining that the only Mac portable in her price range had a 13-inch screen. Later, at a Best Buy, Lauren bounces through a bountiful selection of Windows-based machines before picking an HP Pavilion for $699 and declaring, ‘I'm a PC and I got just what I wanted.’ And the money quote? In the car between stores, Lauren sighs in mock resignation, ‘I'm just not cool enough to be a Mac person.’”

“Well, you could practically hear the Mac hackles going up every time the commercial ran, and the fan sites quickly filled with indignation. … Doubts were raised over Lauren's veracity because she's an aspiring actress and her credibility as a bargain hunter because she's driving a nice Volkswagen. Still frames from the ad were analyzed like the Zapruder film for evidence of deceptive editing. And the machine that made Lauren so happy was derided as ‘a piece of crap’ and ‘the epitome of what people dislike about PCs.’ Throw in the ‘not cool enough’ line, says Technologizer's Ed Oswald, and the ad goes from misleading to ‘offensive.’”

Another Golden Idol Tarnished.
The Sham Wow Guy had a dust up with a hooker in Miami hotel. Sharing a kiss, she clamped down on his tongue (allegedly) with her teeth, causing him to hit her to make her let go. Bleeding, he stumbled down to the lobby. Authorities were summoned. According to The Smoking Gun, the police reported: "Both parties had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from their persons.”

Why I Love Wikipedia.
“The Lloyds Bank coprolite is a large human coprolite, or fossilized dung specimen, recovered by archaeologists excavating the Viking settlement of Jórvík (now York) in England. It was found in 1972 beneath the site of what was to become the York branch of Lloyds Bank and may be the largest example of fossilised human feces ever found.”

From a Christian Mommy Blog: No More Kids!
“I didn't want to impose the goat character upon my children. Our children should be different from the children of the world, anyway. I therefore made an effort to stop using the word 'kids'. Now I find that it grates upon me when I hear it.”

Elsewhere, she compares (at great length) goats and sheep. She writes, citing the Bible, “When God visits His flock, he will separate the sheep from the goats and punish the goats!” And “Goats by nature are independent, proud, rebellious, destructive and yet cowardly in the face of danger.” And “…[T]he goats would herd their young together in one spot on a knoll of a hill and leave them while they went off to forage for the day. They did not provide the same individual attention which the sheep gave to their offspring.”

Whatever. You lambs stay off my lawn!

Health Alert! Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“It has become LeBron James' trademark. Just before tipoff, he leans over the courtside scorers' table, pours a pile of powder on his hands and then -- poof! -- throws it skyward as if filling the arena with a cloud of magic dust.”

“Dr. Kathleen Fagan, an environmental health expert at Case Western Reserve University, wants the Cavaliers superstar to take a powder from the pregame ritual. She fears kids at home will mimic him, create cumulus clouds of their own and then inhale the dust. ‘It's not a good idea to throw powder up in the air and breathe it in,’ said Fagan, who's also an assistant professor at Case's medical school. The particles can irritate the lungs, eyes and nose, she added.”

Think of it. Throngs of children making cumulus clouds of powder, infecting their little lungs, and placing a thin sheen of white dust on the dining room furniture. Sounds more kidlike than lamblike, but again- whatever. You lambs stay off my lawn!

Things You Didn’t Know About Bobby Jindal.
Max Blumenthal, in The Daily Beast: “When he was four years old, Piyush changed his name to "Bobby" after becoming mesmerized by an episode of The Brady Bunch.” He converted to Catholicism as a teenager. When he was in college, performed an exorcism on his girlfriend. The demon was successfully driven out, by the way.

I Had a Dream!
I was standing in a driveway. A little fat dog waddled up to me with a red ball in its mouth, and dropped it at my feet. Then I woke up.