Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Perpetual Revulsion Machine

Spending an exciting Halloween at home taking care of a sick son, I found this hysterical Daily Show bit that explains - in an entirely entertaining and funny way - exactly how Fox News works. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Man is Vile

Lieberman's ego is too big for his own good.

From the Tell Me Something I Didn't Know Department

We tried hard to keep Hunter away from TV until he was two because that's what doctors reccomend. Still, the fact that Disney admits that Baby Einstein doesn't help babies is huge. As the Movie Mom sez:
The academic studies show that what infants learn from watching a family member once takes them four times as long to absorb in a DVD. And the very act of watching a DVD with the pulsing refresh rate of the screen can be at the same time soporific and stimulating, making it more difficult for them to get restful sleep. The only thing they learn from these DVDs is how to watch television.

Disney even has to offer a refund!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Deep Thought

Orlando without a car isn't all that exciting. Although the mini-golf volcano that "erupts" every hour or so keeps you on your toes.

Reading Mailer

I've always been impressed by Norman Mailer's writing. Not only is it intelligent and entertaining, it also combines all sorts of dissimilar elements together in an intoxicating brew. At his best, his writing illuminates its subject from many different angles, circling around it, probing, musing, and theorizing. This is the writing of The White Negro and the rest of Advertisements of Myself . When it doesn't work - as the interminable novel Ancient Evenings or most of his later writings - he comes off as self-indulgent, as someone that thinks too hard about subjects that don't necessarily deserve it, or that he tries too hard to mythologize the subject. The one standard is that he's never dull.
This is why I find myself reading Miami and the Siege of Chicago, his first-person account of the Republican and Democratic political conventions in 1968. He starts off talking about Miami, and makes many interesting observations about the city and the players involved:
Like pieces of flesh fragmented from the explosion of a grenade, echoses of the horror of Kennedy's assassination were thus everywhere: helicopters riding overhead like roller coasters, state troopers with magnums of their hip and crash helmets, squad cards, motorcycles, yet no real security, just powers of retaliation.
p. 20, emphasis mine
There was unity only in the way the complacency of the voice matched the complacency of the ideas. It was as if Richard Nixon were proving that a man who had never spent an instant inquiring whether family, state, church and flag were every wrong could go on in secure steps, denuded of risk, from office to office until he was President.

Another tactic he takes here that I found fascinating is an in-depth philosophical analysis of Nixon's press conference where Mailer shuffles Nixon's replies with his analysis... it's riveting, even when it sounds like hyperbole.

First lines of Miami and the Siege of Chicago

They snipped the ribbon in 1915, they popped the cork, Miami Beach was born. A modest burg they called a city, nine-tenths jungle. An island.

Norman Mailer

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quote of the Day

Without the presence of Negro American style, our jokes, our tall tales, even our sports would be lacking in the sudden turns, the shocks, the swift changes of pace (all jazz-shaped) that serve to remind us that the world is ever unexplored, and that while a complete mastery of life is mere illusion, the real secret of the game is to make life swing. It is its ability to articulate this tragic-comic attitude toward life that explains much of the mysterious power and attractiveness of that quality of Negro American style known as "soul." An expression of American diversity within unity, of blackness with whiteness, soul announces the presence of a creative struggle against the realities of existence.

- Ralph Ellison

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Want It!

Although I wasn't a huge fan of The Fortress of Solitude, I do like Jonatham Lethem's stories. His short stories are fantastic (particurally The Wall of the Sky, the Wall of the Eye, and his scifi/expermental fiction is fascinating.

Chronic  City sounds great. Nice to actually want a new book!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pixelated Reading

Some big thinkers talk about the problems inherit in eBooks, or reading from a computer screen. Some good bits:
Right now, networked digital media do a poor job of balancing focal and peripheral attention. We swing between two kinds of bad reading. We suffer tunnel vision, as when reading a single page, paragraph, or even “keyword in context” without an organized sense of the whole. Or we suffer marginal distraction, as when feeds or blogrolls in the margin (”sidebar”) of a blog let the whole blogosphere in.

- Alan Liu
Reading on screen requires slightly more effort and thus is more tiring, but the differences are small and probably matter only for difficult tasks. Paper retains substantial advantages, though, for types of reading that require flipping back and forth between pages, such as articles with end notes or figures.
To a great extent, the computer’s usefulness for serious reading depends on the user’s strength of character. Distractions abound on most people’s computer screens.

- Sandra Aamodt
Aside from my iPhone, I'm not yet a fan of eBooks, because I like the physical sensation of holding a tangible book in my hand.

Quote of the Day, or Why Background Beats are Bad for You

People are uncomfortable in silence because it can breed needless contemplation and may engender a floating into the deeper world of the self. In our moment of deracinated intimacy, too many of us have settled for a blob of backbeats and recording-studio tricks that do not swallow but melt away in the great force of music in a perpetual submission to contrived novelty.

- Stanley Crouch, writing about Duke Ellington in the June 2009 issue of Harpers.  
I'm as guilty of this as anyone, mainly because of two reasons:
- I need music to block out perferial noises at work so that I can concentrate on what i'm writing and/or reading.
- I like the energy of music as i'm doing housework, even if i'm not necessairly listening to the actual melody.
The sad thing is that there are times when I sit and actual listen to a song that i've heard many times before in the above situations, I often get things out of it that I never knew were there. It's a shame that I don't have time to concentrate on music the way I used to.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

401(ahhhhhh)!

Having bounced around from job to job during my adult life, I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about 401(k)s and other retirement tools and bemoaning their weaknesses. The big problems seem to be that they don't really work for the self-employed, vesting schedules make employer matches meaningless (they're supposed to promote staying at your job but there's no such incentive for a company not to fire you), and actually getting real money out of your plan is a crapshoot that the market is high when you retire. This Time article is a bit inflammatory, but raises these points and more:
But retire rich? Don't bet on it. The average 401(k) has a balance of $45,519. That's not retirement. That's two years of college. Even worse, 46% of all 401(k) accounts have less than $10,000. Today, just 21% of all U.S. workers are covered by traditional pensions, and the number shrinks every year
.
It'll be interesting to see where mine ends up in 30 years, but I don't have a lot of confidence that I'll be living the high life...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Did Sagan Join "Air"?

This video actually makes Carl Sagan look and sound hip. Plus, it incorporates his always admirable words and thoughts and retains his sense of wonder. Well played.

Underrated, It Is

Obama's sense of humor, I mean. Grab a Mop, willya?

Nice Pictures

And Then Comes Halloween,” by Tom Brenner looks like a most excellent childrens book.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comix as Confession

Not sure I entirely agree with this but it sure is interesting to contemplate:
When the neurotics appropriated the strip cartoon we witnessed the ideal marriage of form and content. They subverted its innocence and filled its thought balloons with their wretched, guilt-sodden solilioquies. The strip cartoon turned out to be a splendid medium for confessions. And we, the audience, found ourselves called upon to perform the duties of the Catholic priest.

Waldemar Januszczak, from The Guardian, July 24 1984, talking first about Spiegelman's Prisoner of The Hell Planet.

Promethia

Even though I have all of the regular issues, I would love this. Looks really pretty, and the amazing artwork really does lend itself to a bigger format.

Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the Scenes

I had always thought of the US Chamber of Commerce as being a pretty honorable and worthwhile institution. However, it appears that it's currently being headed by Tom Donahue, a venial and corrupt man who is using the institution to support an extreme right-wing agenda, including lobbying to support Creationism. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce's position on Global Warming is so backwards that members are starting to drop out in protest. Just another example of why you should always question authority and institutions, I suppose.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Boooooo...

This is what you get when your coach is stoopid enough to start 3 rookie linemen in a no-huddle offense and also fire the OC 5 days before start of season. The Buffalo Bills are bad for many reasons, but the lack of any kind of plan is the most infuriating. And the whole TO situation is even more bizarre than ever; if anything, this team might actually befefit from him going off on the coach, but it seems like TO's going to play the good soldier and try to convince a good team to pay him next year.
I never thought I'd do this, but I'm putting away my jersey and flag and mug and hat until the team shows me they give a damn. Unfortunately, this probably won't happens until Ralph Wilson dies and the team goes to someone who is willing to spend some money on good players, but this owner is also probably going to look to move the team.
These are dark days for Bills fans, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Don't Judge a Person by their Face

A fascinating study that presents different pictures in order to question why people perceive other people's faces in the way that they do. The first image is one of the most interesting.
The two side-by-side faces are perceived as male (right) and female (left). However, both of them are versions of the same androgynous face. The two images are exactly identical, except that the contrast between the eyes and mouth and the rest of the face is higher for the face on the left than for the face on the right. This illusion shows that contrast is an important cue for determining the sex of a face, with low-contrast faces appearing male and high-contrast faces appearing female. And it may also explain why females in many cultures darken their eyes and mouths with make-up. A made-up face looks more feminine than a fresh face.

Who knew how much difference a bit of makeup could make?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Not Talking Sports Today

I don't want to think about any of my sports teams today. The Sox look pathetic and the Bills just look inept. You couldn't pay me to watch the snoozefest of the Browns/Bills game tomorrow. (actually, you could. But I wouldn't be happy about it.)
Blah.

Deep Thought

There's nothing quite like splitting wood to make you feel like a real man.

Nip Watch Ctd.

Now that Bella's ACL is essentially healed, we've been able to start taking walks again. And as you longtime readers may remember, I instituted a Nip Watch for our walks down to Green street. Here's what I picked up on our walk today:
3 water bottles
2 plastic hip flasks of vodka
4 aluminum cans
1 Dunkin Donuts plastic cup
10 nips, mainly Stoli and Absolute vodka

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Now?

Like many if you, my first reaction upon hearing that Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize was "for what?" Digby, as always, puts it best:
I guess this Nobel Peace Prize is more about intentions than accomplishments, although the symbolism of the first African American ascending to the presidency is a sign of peaceful progress in America to be sure.

It's also pretty blatently a knock on recent American leaders. It's like they're saying "Thank God you got rid of Bush and didn't elect McCain."
It's dangerous though: it puts a lot of pressure on Obama to actually follow through on all of his promises: ending the wars, closing Gitmo, etc.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beef: it's what makes you sick...

Lee pointed me towards this disturbing NYTimes expose about the lax ground beef inspection standards and how it leads to an unacceptable risk of E. Coli. It's long but worth reading. If you eat ground beef, this will make you think twice!

The Title Says It All

Scary article:
Mom: Health insurance denied over condition she doesn't have
you'd think that the bad press alone would prevent practices like this but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Fundraising Sucks

I wish that WBUR would provide people that have already donated to the station a secret station where we could listen to the news without the begathon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Poem of the Day

The Dogdom of the Dead

There is no dog so loyal as the Dead,
Always with you, trotting along at your heels,
Or snoring lightly and taking up most of the bed,
Their paw pads twitching and their tails a-wag.

For even in your slumber, they still tag,
Dawdling behind and charging ahead,
Sniffing a memory out like a fleeting rabbit,
But always losing the scent when it crosses the Styx.

They are creatures of habit and cannot learn new tricks.
But what you would throw away, they fetch back for you,
A game they never tire of, and what you would keep,
They bury in the ground, a hoard of bones. 

If you try to sneak off without them, they sound such moans --
Wind skinning itself in the trees, the boo-hoo of trains --
And then come bounding behind you, faithful as shadows.
You will come to prefer them, dumb and dogged, forgiving,
For the Living, like cats, insinuate into your arms,
And when they’ve licked everything clean, dictated their terms,
They stray back into the moonlight and other kitchens,
Ungrateful creatures with their own lives.
- A.E. Stallings

Hat tip Andrew Sullivan

Silence Explained

I started a new job as an Instructional Designer at CA yesterday, so I've been really busy getting back into the swing of having a regular job and all of the routines that go along with it. There's a lot to process and it's mentaly tiring. I hope to be back to semi-regular posting next week.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The History Revealed

There was always a big mystery behind the unavailability of Alan Moore's great Miracleman (Marvelman on the US). Here's an interview that explains all.

It's Easy Seeing Green

From the common sense department, a study notes that nature calms you down:
I've written before about the powerful mental benefits of communing with nature - it leads to more self-control, increased working memory, lower levels of stress and better moods - but a new study by psychologists at the University of Rochester find that being exposed to wildlife also makes us more compassionate. Nature might be red in tooth and claw, but even a glimpse of greenery can make us behave in kinder, gentler ways.

although one astute comment thinks that the study has it all backwards:
...or maybe a mere glimpse of city life can make us more miserly? Why is the focus on nature here? ...
It is not like it is the default state of all humans to live in cities. I think large cities like New York do more to make us miserly to strangers than nature does to make us generous. In New York there are just too many people trying to scam you to trust everyone. I think a city picture would, for me at least, conjure up suspicion and stinginess. I'd be more likely to point to the city picture as a source of behavioral change than the nature picture.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hunter's Stats

Hunter just had his three-year checkup and we found that he's"
- 38.2" tall, well taller than 75% of the kids his age
- 34.4 pounds. So he's tall and skinny.
- Body mass index of 16.53.

His newest phrase is "that's fantastic!" which he uses from anything to being presented with sausage to finding out his favorite shirt is clean.

Quote of the Day

The mind should be a vastness like the sky. Mental events should be allowed to disperse like clouds.

Longchenpa

New Toons

My friend Eric records excellent music as Innerfuze, and just released his first song, which is available from most of the major outlets. I highly recommend picking it up - his music is energetic and entertaining. He started playing some of the Boston clubs, and i'm hoping to actually make it out of the house to see him spin one of these days. If I do, i'll be sure to let y'all know about it here.

A Walk in the Woods


I took advantage of a beautiful fall day and Bella's healed ACL to take the dog for a walk in the Ashland Town Forest today. The sun was shining, turning the light green as it dappled through the green beech leaves. The trails are mainly through a tree canopy so you feel like you're walking through a tunnel, although there are many open spaces. In the wetlands, the ferns are dying, opening up the soggy earth to light and exposing the squirrels and chipmunks as they race around gathering up all of the incredible profusion of acorns that are littering the forest floor.

Very peaceful. I wish I had more opportunities to take these walks, just me and the pup.