Saturday, August 29, 2009

Heinlein Homework

The Future of Reading - ‘Reading Workshop’ Approach Lets Students Pick the Books - Series - NYTimes.com: I would've loved to spend school time reading the Heinlein novels I was reading at home. I don't think I'd have been any worse off for it. But, I wonder if I'd been allowed to indulge and didn't have some of the classics assigned, how long it would've taken me to get to them? In some cases, I might've been better off getting to them late. If kids aren't picking up Mark Twain on their own, the schools better dang well be making sure they're getting their RDA.

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Now playing: The Toasters - Havana (This Gun for Hire)
via FoxyTunes

It All Comes Back to Buster Bars

ABOUT 241543903 | 241543903.com: My freezer is on the bottom. So, I don't stick my head in it. If this meme had been around a few years ago when I had a top freezer and was always looking to see if there was a bag of Buster Bars in there, then I could've taken part in this meme. Wait! We have a freezer in the garage. I could ... eh, what's the point? I know we don't have any Buster Bars.

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Now playing: Sloppy Seconds - Ice Cream Man
via FoxyTunes

Splenetic

Basics - Finally, the Spleen Gets Some Respect - NYTimes.com: I have been telling Mrs. C-Dog for years that the spleen is the most awesome and powerful of our internal organs, and the most misunderstood. Now, this article doesn't touch on the spleen's more amazing properties (its ability to travel around the body, its ability to take on the function of any other organ) or its propensity producing sudden sharp pains wherever in the body it might be but it is still provides valuable lessons for skeptics.

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Now playing: William Shatner - Spleen
via FoxyTunes

You La Tube

Yo La Tengo Pretty Into This YouTube Thing -- Vulture -- Entertainment & Culture Blog -- New York Magazine: Getting psyched for new Yo La Tengo. Big Day Coming: September 8 release date for Popular Songs.

Garden Yoda

12 weird sci-fi statues you can buy for your garden: "Your typical garden gnome might be good enough for some people, but not for those of us here at SCI FI Wire. We need something a little more exciting on our lawns, something that makes more of a statement, something a bit more ... well ... sci-fi!

Cement Yodas For Your Yard!

So when we saw the cement Yodas (above) that a savvy shopper spotted for sale this week in Raleigh, N.C., we realized just what we needed to liven up the yard. Here are some dinosaur, zombie and alien sculptures that will have you forgetting about bird baths forever."


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Now playing: Misfits - The Haunting
via FoxyTunes

Nessie

The Loch Ness Monster on Google Maps: "Nessie on Google Maps

UK tabloid The Sun claim to have found the Loch Ness monster in the satellite imagery of Google Maps and Google Earth. If you click on the image above you can have a close look at the image directly in Google Maps.

I don't want to influence your view about this but The Sun also claimed in February to have found Atlantis on Google Maps. They claimed the lines in the image below were the walls of the lost city.



Unfortunately for The Sun a Google spokeswoman later announced that the lines were the result of the sonar used by boats to map the ocean floor..."

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Now playing: Minor Threat - Filler
via FoxyTunes

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yes, They Did Laugh, With Good Reason

Music: Newswire:KRS-One writes 600 page hip-hop Bible; blueprint for rap religion:
Hip-hop legend KRS-One has never been afraid to court controversy and provoke strong reactions. Now the Boogie Down Productions legend has topped himself by writing The Gospel of Hip Hop: The First Instrument, a mammoth treatise on the spirituality of hip-hop he hopes will some day become a sacred text of a new hip-hop religion.
Laugh if you must, but people laughed at Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard when they set up their own religions. They're still laughing, and pointing, and giggle-snorting so hard milk comes out their noses.

Not that the world needs another religion. Still, it's KRS-One. Takin' titles and breakin' idols.

Monday, August 24, 2009

60!

Modern Drunkard Magazine Online - Andre the Giant: Simply amazing.
Another time, in the ‘70s, Andre was holding court at a beach-front bar in the Carolinas, boozing it up with fellow wrestlers Blackjack Mulligan, Dick Murdoch, and the inimitable Ric Flair. They’d been drinking with gusto for hours when Flair goaded Mulligan and Murdoch into some slap-boxing with Andre, who had poured over 60 beers down his gullet. One of the two “accidentally” sucker-punched Andre. The Giant became enraged, grabbed both Mulligan (6’5”, 250 lbs.) and Murdoch (6’3”, 240 lbs.) and dragged them into the ocean, one in each hand, where he proceeded to hold them under water. Flair intervened, and Andre released the men, assuring them he was only playing around. Murdoch and Mulligan, who had nearly drowned, weren’t so sure, but neither messed with Andre the Giant again. They also picked up the tab.

I Respect Their Opinions on These Matters

Playlist - Yo La Tengo - Yo La Tengo, Listening to the Glands, Lambchop, Miighty Flashlight, the Move, My Bloody Valentine and Kurt Vile - Question - NYTimes.com
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Now playing: Yo La Tengo - Autumn Sweater (remixed by Kevin Shields)
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Don't Hold Back

Merciless:
"This blog is not only my [Charlie Stross] personal soapbox, it's my public face. Folks who read what I post here may or may not thereafter buy my books. Consequently, these days I try to avoid writing about stuff that is likely to be controversial. Call it the chilling effect of capitalism; I can say what I want if and only if I'm willing to do without that portion of my book royalties that comes from the folks I piss off.

There are some folks I can do without, mind you. (If you're a BNP member or voter you can fuck off right now. I don't care if you don't buy my books; I don't want your bloody money.)

However, this comes at a cost. I don't like biting my tongue continuously. I have strong opinions on a number of subjects — including politics — and what use is a soapbox if I can't use it from time to time? ...
This brings me to my topic of the day: mercy, and the lack of it.
I've been suppressing the urge to explode angrily ever since Thursday, when Abdelbaset Al Megrahi was officially released from prison and flown home to Libya. His release — on compassionate grounds, as he is suffering from terminal cancer and has weeks to live. Mr Al Megrahi was serving a life sentence, handed down by a rather oddly constituted Scottish court for his part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 — the biggest aviation disaster ever in British airspace, and one of the biggest acts of terrorism of that decade.

What am I angry about?

Let's leave aside the fact that many people (including the UN observer at the trial) consider Al Megrahi's conviction to be a serious miscarriage of justice. (The allegations of fabricated evidence should to be taken seriously; the Flight 103 investigation took place in the middle of a very chilly period in US/Libyan relations, and we have seen since then that the CIA is a pliant tool in the hands of those who want to fabricate evidence justifying action against uncooperative Middle Eastern nations. The CIA is an intelligence and covert operations agency under political direction, not an independent investigatory/detective bureau; its emissions should be considered with the utmost skepticism.)

What makes me angry ... Well, to start with it's worth noting that the loudest denunciations came from the White House — an entity with no legal standing whatsoever in the Scottish judicial system. But we expect external interference from the White House: it's what the Imperial Presidency is there for.
What bugs me is the complete lack of comprehension of the quality of mercy that seems to have crept over the US political class this century.
Even if Al Megrahi is a mass-murderer, the fact remains that he is dying. It is long-standing policy in Scotland to exercise the prerogative of mercy when possible; in general, if an imprisoned criminal is terminally ill, a request for release (for hospice care, basically) is usually granted unless they are believed to be a danger to the public.
That's because the justice system isn't solely about punishment. It's about respect for the greater good of society, which is better served by rehabilitation and reconcilliation than by revenge. We do not make ourselves better people by exercising a gruesome revenge on the bodies of our vanquished foes. Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Minister, did exactly the right thing in sending Al Megrahi home to die.

Meanwhile, the angry spectators who're throwing scat come from a country where prison rape is endemic and tolerated to the point where it's a subject for cheap jokes.

American attitudes to crime and punishment are unspeakable; disturbing, mediaeval, and barbaric are some of the adjectives that spring to mind. But above all, the word that most thoroughly applies is merciless. The commission of a crime is taken as an excuse to unleash the demons of the subconscious, however dark, however disproportionate, upon the perpetrator. Once labeled a criminal, an individual's right to fair treatment is utterly expunged, and any violation or degradation, however grotesque, is seen as something that they brought on themselves.

Why?

Well, let's pan across the political landscape and look at another current cause celebre that provides a window into the darker corners of the American psyche; the issue of healthcare reform.

I've been watching the war of words with increasing disbelief for the past month, trying to get my head around the reason why so many loud, vocal citizens seem to be so adamantly opposed to something that's in their own best interests — the US healthcare system is utterly dysfunctional, even for those with health insurance costs are spiraling out of control, and the current system is becoming a major drag on economic productivity — many business start-ups abort because the founders can't obtain healthcare, many novelists of my acquaintance are in serious financial trouble or are terrified of giving up the day job (that comes with insurance), and so on. The current mess is responsible for 22,000 avoidable deaths per year — a 9/11 scale catastrophe every six weeks.

And yet we hear rhetoric about death panels, idiotic allegations that Stephen Hawking would be dead if he lived in the UK and was dependent on the NHS (this just in: Stephen Hawking is British and, er, alive because of the NHS), and so on. What's going on?

What's noticable is that the 'debate' isn't about the need for healthcare, or about actual medical issues. It's about ideology, and outlook ...

Near as I can work it out from over here (caveat: I've spent somewhere between four and eight months of my life in the USA — this doesn't make me an expert) there is a small but significant proportion of the US population who hate the poor and want them to die. (Or at least to go somewhere where they're invisible and can't act as a perpetual reminder to the haters that their own security is at best tenuous.) I'm not sure why there's this hatred — my personal feeling is that it springs from numerous sources: from prosperity theology (if you're poor it's because you're ungodly and deserve to suffer), insecurity, lack of empathy, or a combination of these factors in different people. Other observers have different theories: M'Learned Friend opines that it's because the American conservative movement rejects Rawls's preconditions for justice. (That doesn't go far enough for my taste; they also seem to want to reject the entire concept of the Social Contract.) And then there's the growing tendency towards eliminationist rhetoric against socially sanctioned out-groups. (Arguably the endorsement of maltreatment of convicts is an emergent part of this trend, feeding into and normalising it.) .

The subjects vary — crime and penal policy, healthcare, don't get me started on foreign policy — but there is an ideological approach in America that is distinguished by one common characteristic: words and deeds utterly lacking in the quality of mercy.

There is a cancer in the collective American soul — a mercy deficit that has in recent years grown as alarmingly as the budget deficit. Nor is it as simple as a left/right thing: no political party has a monopoly on merciless behaviour. Rather, a creeping draconian absolutism has cast its penumbra across the entire arena of public discourse, tainting every debate, poisoning and hardening attitudes across the board.
Calls for revenge on a sick and dying man are part and parcel of the pathology, as are shrieks of outrage against the mere idea of subsidizing healthcare for the indigent or unlucky, or rough talk about 'every now and again ... pick[ing] up a crappy little country and throwing it against the wall just to prove we are serious'.
Mercy, it would seem, is a scarce commodity in the Empire.
Are you ashamed yet? If not, you're part of the problem.
(And by the way, I don't want your money.)"

Whither Lamont?

Lieberman To Alec Baldwin: "Make My Day" And Run Against Me (VIDEO):
"Senator Joseph Lieberman said on Sunday that he was more than ready to take on an election challenge from 30 Rock star and longtime Democratic activist Alec Baldwin.
'Make my day,' the Connecticut independent told CNN's 'State of the Union.' 'I respect Alec Baldwin as an actor and as a comedian, and if he wants to run, that's his right.'"

Make my day and get ousted by anyone (even Baldwin, who isn't really going to run) in 2012. Will Lamont will take another crack at him or run for Governor of CT instead?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hell Drivers

BRIT NOIR Series at Film Forum in New York City:
"HELL DRIVERS

(1957, Cy Endfield) Ex-con Stanley Baker joins William Hartnell’s crew of gravel-hauling truckers, unaware that Hartnell and his screw-loose foreman Patrick McGoohan are running a payroll-skimming scam, while encouraging hairraising reckless driving. Jam-packed cast includes Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy), Herbert Lom, David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and a pre-007 Sean Connery.
1:30, 5:20, 9:10

Click here to watch the trailer

“An unjustly neglected nail-biter. This is the stuff that B-movie dreams are made of, and Hell Drivers does its damnedest to deliver bottom-of-the-bill bliss. Rough, urgent cynicism is the name of the game; there’s precious little Hawksian camaraderie, only capitalism and cutthroat competition. Like its antiheroes, the film moves at a full-throttle pace and hugs the curves remarkably tightly.”
– David Fear, Time Out New York" (thanks email tipster -- must see movie list updated accordingly)

Getting a Bit Familiar, Aren't We?

Why we don't use Galileo's last name. - By Brian Palmer - Slate Magazine: "Why Do We Call Galileo Galilei by His First Name?We don't go around saying 'Albert' discovered relativity."

Galileo figures prominently in Kim Stanley Robinson's next novel, so he's on my historical blogging radar.

The Millions

The Millions: The Best Book Blog, Bar None:
"The Millions, online since 2003, is a book blog of exceptional breadth and depth, and 'an independent literature and culture publication that pays its writers.' Until recently, that breadth and depth was hard to fathom, as the site had outgrown its infrastructure. Now, however, its excellent features are easy to find, as are series like The Future of the Book, Ask a Book Question, and The Millions Interview. Superb reviews can be found as they happen or in the Book Review Index, and, a vestige of when The Millions was a one man operation, you can find out what C. Max Magee, founder of The Millions, is reading on the Book Lists page."

Racially Sensitive Auto-Tuned News w/ Pat Robertson



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Good Grief

Texas public schools now required to teach the Bible:
(August 19, 2009) - As of the 2009-2010 school year public schools in Texas are now required to offer a high school elective course on the literature of the Bible and history of that era.

So many thoughts, objections, observations about this it's difficult to even start. In the parlance of the times: Srsly? WTF?! Yes, it's an elective, but a mandated offering elective, to public schools. Keep your church out of the state for crying out loud. Look, I'm not saying there's not a place for study of comparative religion or even of religous texts for literary value, but it's the Bible in Texas schools, I don't think that's what's going on here.

Let's mandate Texas schools also offer elective courses on the Koran and the history of that era. Likewise the Book of Mormon, Dianetics, and any other ludicrous load of crap somebody thinks is divine.

If your term paper is full of logical inconsistencies, errors of scholarship, outright contradictions, historical inaccuracies, moral turpitude, and page after page of tedious imaginary genealogy, does it does it get an A for showing you've grokked the Holy Writ?

I hope atheist and free thinking kids sign up for that elective in droves, study their Harris and Dawkins so they're well prepared (though common sense is all they really need) and then sue the bejeebus out of the school system every time they receive anything less than an A+ for holding the lesson plan to the same standard as any other literature or history class.

Nice Catch 21

Ten random photos from the archives: Roberto Clemente: I especially like the triptych. Surpise, surprise.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rachel Rules Meet the Press

Rachel Rules: It's shameful the way most "journalists" on shows like Meet the Press let goons like Armey spout off without challenging them in any meaningful way. It would never occur to me to make MtP appointment TV but, if Rachel is going to be on again, I will.

Perhaps There Aren't Any Grown-Ups Anywhere

The Nobel laureate Sir William Golding, whose novel Lord of the Flies turned notions of childhood innocence on their head, admitted in private papers that he had tried to rape a 15-year-old girl during his teenage years, it emerged today.
Golding's papers also described how he had experimented, while a teacher at a public school, with setting boys against one another in the manner of Lord of the Flies, which tells the story of young air crash survivors on a desert island during a nuclear war.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/16/william-golding-lord-of-t_n_260674.html
--
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roger, Meet Armond

Roger Ebert's Journal: Not in defense of Armond White: Armond White is my favorite batshit insane movie reviewer. Ebert's post and the comments make for entertaining reading.

A Little Something for My Comrades in Crooklyn

"Brooklyn Typology

Brooklyn Typology is an investigation of the New York borough's population and urban form. The project consists of 2,100 photographs taken in a sample of blockgroups in Brooklyn, plus detailed census, historical, and typological data about the residential and housing in the area. Together, the interlinked photographs and data form a portrait of the urban fabric of Brooklyn.

The project, by Neil Freeman, is both a planning and an art project. Here's what he has to say about the project,

'I gathered census demographics for each block group, historical information on Brooklyn’s development, and made maps to guide me. Overall, this looked very much like the early analysis phases of a planning project.

Soon, I was riding my bike around the borough, visiting each site and photographing it in turn. I wanted to explore the city, visit every neighborhood, and see it from ground level. Once the photography was completed, the photographs and data were edited, collated, and organized onto the website.'

It is possible to browse a representative selection of the photographs directly from a Google Map of Brooklyn. Each map marker on the map opens to reveal a photograph of the type of building in that block, information about the population density and details about that neighbourhood.

Via: Digital Urban & Urban Omnibus"

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Like the Current Just Fine

Why Streamy Could be the Next FriendFeed: I've got a feeling the sale to Facebook means I'm going to need a new FriendFeed. But, I actually think it's going to be Google Reader.
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