Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We've got to get ourselves back to the blog

Get YOURSELF back to the garden, it was your idea.
Been away from this blog for a few weeks, writing a Woodstock radio documentary, WOODSTOCK: 40 YEARS ON, hosted by David Dye from World Cafe. Listen for it in August on an NPR station near you. On it you will hear Pete Townshend clocking Abbie Hoffman! If you don’t know what that means, well, you’re probably not a baby boomer. Lucky you.

Animal moments
Outside Macy’s, after lunch with my daughter, we spotted a beggar on the street with a hound dog sleeping, and a cat sleeping on the hound dog. Many cell phone cameras from tourists and passersby took pictures of the phenomenon, mine among them.

And the Ominous Other and I were at a yard sale a few weekends back. One of the tables was “manned” by a sixty-ish woman in capris pants. A card on her table had her occupation as “Creativity Consultant.” She had a little dog, a chihuahua mix, that she had trained to scoot on a skateboard. The little dog actually performed this activity for the benefit of onlookers. It was pretty cool, but the coolness was offset by the rather frightened look the dog had on its face while scooting. It seemed to be thinking, “Must scoot, else I will be scourged.” Of course, that is anthropomorphism on my part, but I’ll still stand by that judgment.

Those who believe that President Obama was actually born in Kenya, and not Hawaii, now have a name. They are called “birthers.”

The main branch of Shi’ia Muslims are called “Twelvers.” Apparently, many of them believe that there is an Imam among us who is invisible, or hiding, and has been around since 872 AD. Maybe Obama is that guy? Just asking.

Amazon Woman on the Moon
Amazon took heat in July for recalling copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and ANIMAL FARM from its popular Kindle device. Apparently this was a result of a dispute with the book’s publisher, but it did generate a certain amount of controversy. The incident could be perceived as being “Orwellian,” after all.

Here's the message I'm getting. Once a book appears on line, it is no longer a book. It is now a service. If you purchase a book for your Kindle, you don’t own it. Amazon has just leased reading rights to you. You can’t pass the book on to somebody else when you’re done with it. And Amazon can snatch it back any time it feels like.

And here’s another thing….
James Wolcott in VANITY FAIR wonders what will happen when physical magazines, books, records, and movies finally disappear?

He writes, “As all this space opens up—as the tokens of our cultural snobbery or keen connoisseurship… recede into the hideaway shelves and flash drives—what will refill it?”

And whither the collector? Whither the snob? Whither the geekboy?

NYT: “In the short term, the industry that may have the most to gain from augmented reality is gaming. Although video games have traditionally pulled players out of the real world and into a virtual one, augmented-reality games have the potential to ‘engage people in the real world in a different way,’ said Daniel Sánchez-Crespo, a project leader at Novarama, a game developer based in Barcelona. ‘It finds a new meaning for space. Your kitchen counter is not just where you prepare dinner; it can be a virtual racetrack for a car game.’”

And: “’The real world is way too boring for many people,’ Mr. Sánchez-Crespo said with a laugh. ‘By making the real world a playground for the virtual world, we can make the real world much more interesting.’”

There you have it. In the boring world to come, vision itself will become a pay-as-you-go service.

News from other lands
Reuters: “German prosecutors in Nuremberg have launched an investigation into whether an artist's gold-coloured gnome giving a stiff-armed Hitler salute violates the country's strict laws against the use of Nazi symbols.”

I have seen this gnome. It appears to me that he is more wave-y than salute-y, but I am not as familiar with the fascist lawn gnome trope as I probably should be.

State fair news!
The butter sculpture of Michael Jackson at the Iowa State Fair has been banned. The State Fair’s people issued a statement which read in part, “Conservatives and traditionalists find themselves opposed to Jackson’s depiction in butter. The allegations of paedophilia and blatant bizarre behaviour are simply too much for them. Then we have PETA, which often goes to the extreme left to make its point. Both factions are likely voting as fast as they can to keep Jackson out of the exhibit for different reasons.”

Just so they leave the pork tent alone.

More MJ
The latest rumor has it that Michael Jackson, at the time of his death, no longer had a nose.

Brent Bozell III, ladies and gentlemen!
His July 22 column chides liberals for being too mean to Rush Limbaugh.

And Wesley Pruden!
He has a blog! On Al Franken: “…the way he got to Washington, and the easy acceptance of fraud, will be remembered as typical of the times, an era when avarice reigned, and the clever swindle was a joke to be played by a clown.” Al Franken stole the election from Norm Coleman, it seems.

Not so sound like a conservative or anything, but….
Sacha Baron Cohen once again invades America with his sneaky persona-driven confrontations. This time around he’s masquerading as gay Austrian eurotrash, and I gather he confronts typical American janes and joes around homophobia and such.

Much has already been written about whether there’s really a satirical point to all this – he’s playing a flaming stereotypical queen being all in-your-face to folks who view gay men as flaming stereotypical queens. What, exactly, is being mocked?

As far as I know, Mr. Cohen was never beaten up or shot in the course of his pranks here. I wonder how his antics would play out in Saudi Arabia, North Korea, or Afghanistan? Just asking.

Anthony Lane, in the NEW YORKER: “BRUNO ends appallingly, with a musical montage of Sting, Bono, Elton John, and other well-meaners assisting mein Host in a sing-along. Here’s the deal, apparently: if celebrities aren’t famous enough for your liking (Ron Paul, Paula Abdul), or seem insufficiently schooled in irony, you make vicious sport of them, but if they’re A-listers, insanely keen to be in on the joke, they can join your congregation.”

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
What was THAT all about? A professor was inconvenienced. The nation erupts in… something.

Judith Warner has a blog with the New York Times: “The clash in Cambridge about ID and racial profiling, about identity and expectation and respect was just a snippet of our culture’s ongoing meta-narrative about race.”

Can we stop having “meta-narratives” now, please? And that goes for meta-narrative snippets as well. Thank you.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Blog Go Boom

The Fair
I just got back from the Marin County State Fair. The Dread Wife wanted to go into the Petting Zoo to pet the wallaby. Not getting the pleasure from petting wallabies, goats, deer, or even swine that I once did, I stayed behind, thus affording America's Youth greater and more Petting Opportunities.

While waiting for the Child Bride to Pet, my time was spent (1) aiding a young boy in search of a garbage can by directing him to said receptacle, and (2) aiding an elderly lady in figuring out how to work the hand-washing station by the Petting Zoo (hint: foot pedals).

When my Intimidating Other emerged from the Petting Zoo, and I informed her of my good deeds. She told me that my taking pictures of her petting the wallaby was misinterpreted by a Mom in the Zoo. The Mom was flashing me dirty looks and shielding her daughter with her own body, lest images of the child wind up on the Internets.

I therefore wonder am I the secret hero of the Marin County Fair, or an inadvertent voyeur pedophile? I ate some bleu cheese fries, and a Polish, if that helps.

The Cliffhanger
We stood watching fairgoers indulge in this ride. Towards the end of its duration, a blonde boy, around nine years old I’d judge, vomited mightily, some bits of which sprayed several onlookers at a high velocity. Fun!

In other news…
Speaking of alleged pedophiles, much has been written about Michael Jackson, in the wake of his death, which may turn out to be as weird as he was. A writer I like, James Howard Kunstler, wrote in his blog: “It's fascinating to follow the coverage of Michael Jackson's death, but especially the lavish tributes to his ‘genius’ and general wonderfulness. He was, in fact, a monster, and an apt reflection of America's extreme collective cultural confusion. He was a distillation of the lies America tells itself. He was infantile, grandiose, horrifying, and probably dangerous.”

“A distillation of the lies America tells itself.” Was this a role Jackson chose for himself, or a role thrust upon him? If it’s even true. What, after all, does this mean? What lies? About race? About sexuality? What?

Perhaps Mr. Kunstler should stick to dystopian speculations, and leave the King of Pop alone. He may have been a monster, in the sense that he was unique, and separate from the rest of us, and may even have been a pedophile. I remain unconvinced. His weirdness was the offshoot of a life deprived of childhood, and his talent emerged from that fact.

The nation’s horror of child molestation (despite the prevalence of it) was confounded by Jackson. His popularity did not wane as much as might one might expect. He was not shunned, at least. This may be because Michael Jackson did not want to have sex with seven year olds. Maybe he wanted to be seven years old.

Darwin bashing, from Patrick Buchanan.
He notes the “…publication of ‘The End of Darwinism: And How a Flawed and Disastrous Theory Was Stolen and Sold,’ by Eugene G. Windchy, a splendid little book ....

“That Darwinism has proven ‘disastrous theory’ is indisputable.

"’Karl Marx loved Darwinism,’ writes Windchy. ‘To him, survival of the fittest as the source of progress justified violence in bringing about social and political change, in other words, the revolution.’

"’Darwin suits my purpose,’ Marx wrote.

“Darwin suited Adolf Hitler's purposes, too.

"’Although born to a Catholic family Hitler become a hard-eyed Darwinist who saw life as a constant struggle between the strong and the weak. His Darwinism was so extreme that he thought it would have been better for the world if the Muslims had won the eighth century battle of Tours, which stopped the Arabs' advance into France. Had the Christians lost, (Hitler) reasoned, Germanic people would have acquired a more warlike creed and, because of their natural superiority, would have become the leaders of an Islamic empire.’

“Charles Darwin also suited the purpose of the eugenicists and Herbert Spencer, who preached a survival-of-the-fittest social Darwinism to robber baron industrialists exploiting 19th-century immigrants.”

And this is Darwin’s fault, how? It’s like blaming the Beatles for Charles Manson.

Buchanan writes, “Darwin…stole his theory from Alfred Wallace, who had sent him a ‘completed formal paper on evolution by natural selection.’”

That’s not even remotely true. Darwin did not steal his theory from Wallace. They came up with their theories independently. Wallace’s work did spur Darwin to finally publish ORIGIN OF SPECIES, after years of putting it off. Wallace became one of Darwin’s biggest defenders.

“… Darwinists still have not explained the origin of life, nor have they been able to produce life from non-life.”

And some non-Darwinist HAS explained the origin of life, and produced life from non-life?

Buchanan concludes: “Darwinism is not science. It is faith. Always was.”

This idea that Darwinism is some kind of religious cult is a relatively new trope. Evolution simply means that things change over time. How can you argue with that? And how is that “faith?

More Buchanan
He hosted a conference in June, discussing future Republican strategies to regain a majority. One discussion involved supporting English-only intitiatives. The banner above the English-only adherents misspelled conference as “Conferenece.”

News from the easily offended….
Slate, on the 4th of July: “Then, a bit after 8 p.m., the sun will set. The civilized thing to do at this juncture would be to go home, kick back with a little John Locke, and pass out fast. But, no, we must reckon with the stupid fireworks, an integral part of the Fourth of July since 1777, when they befouled the skies above Boston and Philadelphia. Even if you manage to avoid actually looking at their meaningless nonsense—which is essentially the same nonsense, show after show, year after year—their noise will disturb what should have been a pleasant lack of consciousness. Do we not have an unalienable right to be left alone?”

Pull a pillow over your head, and shut up.

More news from the mysteriously offended
Michael Wolff on Mrs. Sanford, in newser: “Jenny Sanford is haughty, self-righteous, condescending, and an egomaniac….”

Does Mr. Wolff really believe this, or is he just being provocative in the hope that more people might read him?

I received a robo-call the other day. A woman’s voice warned me of a “kitten damage alert.” Alarmed, I listened carefully. It turned out she was talking about a “kidney damage alert.” Thank God! The kittens are safe.

I have chosen to resign as governor of Alaska.