Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cuteness Showdown: Kitten v Japan's finance minister


or a drunken Shoichi Nakagawa?

Which one's cuter? It's a battle of the adorable! Bonzai!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Science of Hell

Supposedly a student at the University of Washington came up with a most profound explanation as to whether Hell is endothermic or exothermic. In response to a bonus question on his Chemistry mid-term, the student wrote:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave.

Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, thenthe temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.
2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh my God."

Wow, reading about the "afterlife" in scientific terms really magnifies the absurdity of the concept.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So glad I don't live in Montgomery

Because if I did, I would allow this man to sell me all his furniture as I danced my cares away.

Shepard Fairey picture subject of copyright heat

From the NYT:

In a pre-emptive strike, the street artist Shepard Fairey filed a lawsuit on Monday against The Associated Press, asking a federal judge to declare that he is protected from copyright infringement claims in his use of a news photograph as the basis for a now ubiquitous campaign poster image of President Obama.

What really gets me is this quote, from the photographer whose photo provided the template for the artwork:

“If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it’s had.”

--so the photographer, Garcia, is neither mad nor offended by the image's use. And the AP's impending lawsuit isn't frivolous because...?

Monday, February 09, 2009

Michael Cera does Christian Bale

Wait, that sounds rude...I mean, he does an awesome impression of Bale flipping out on the set:

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Illustration of a handmaid from Atwood's book

Religious leaders+a zealot president=human rights violation

That's my equation for what is going on with Eluana Englaro, the 38 year-old Italian woman who has been in a coma for 17 years and could stay that way forever if Silvio Berlusconi and the Vatican have anything to say about it.

This is like Italy's Terry Shiavo. Only, fortunately for this woman and her family who want nothing more than for her to die with dignity--to die the way she would have chosen to--the doctors are moving forward with her food rationing and letting her go, as the Italian supreme court had ruled in favor of.

What angers me most are these absurd comments made by Berlusconi:

"This is murder. I would be failing to rescue her. I'm not a Pontius Pilate."

--yeah, and she's not a Jesus, so get over it!

He also stated that Englaro was "in the condition to have babies."

--unbelievable. This is like Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, reducing a woman to indentured servitude to the State, simply because men in power like to control women's bodies en masse. The right to control her own body (or, in Englaro's case, how her family would control it) is not considered a civil right, after all, she's still fertile!

Again, as with my previous abortion rant, I must ask--what would happen if Englaro was a man? When one notices the double standard, we are left with an issue of women's rights. This "right to life" argument is just smoke and mirrors, a way to avoid the real topic at hand.

Free Eluana Englaro!

Liveblogging: a reading of "Lee Atwater's Last Campaign"

Right now I've got, in my hot little hands, a copy of LIFE magazine from February 1991. Inside of it, there is an article written by Lee Atwater, political adviser to Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush (later to become chairman of the RNC). Two months after this article was published, Atwater would die of a brain tumor.

Atwater was responsible for Dukakis's defeat against Bush I in 1988, when he decided to exploit the fact that Dukakis backed a furlough program in Massachusetts that saw convicted murderer Willie Horton rape and kill while out of prison. Atwater had attack ads run in the hopes of, in his words, "making Willie Horton a household name." Soon, the public was associating Dukakis with Horton. It worked, Bush I won.

So here we have a pretty good idea of the roots of neocon political strategy: exploit middle class fears of blacks and you have an economic foundation for cutting social spending, as well as a tangible target for fear and hate.

The following is an excerpt from Southern Politics in the 1990s :

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry Dent and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now [the new Southern Strategy of Ronald Reagan] doesn’t have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he’s campaigned on since 1964… and that’s fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster...

Questioner: But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps...?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can't say “nigger”—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

This ad that cost Dukakis the presidency, and, in my opinion, paved the way for the future ideologue prince that is Bush II:

Atwater had two high profile disciples: Tucker Eskew and Karl Rove. Eskew has been linked to the McCain/Palin strategy of smearing Obama by accusing him of "palling around with terrorists." I don't even need to get started on Karl Rove.

The rise and fall of this sinister, Machiavellian henchman is nearly operatic in its theatrical element; the LIFE article the only significant account of the man behind the legacy. In his own words, Atwater highlights his accomplishments, as well as the ugly remorse he held with him to his death bed.

And how, I shall read through it and break it down:

9:42: The article begins stretching over two pages, Atwater's massive, bloated face stretches across 1 1/2 pages with the title to the left of his gargatuan head. It appears that Atwater is looking into a sunset, with a crosshatch pattern of dark bars falling against his chin and darkening half of his face. This both brings out his turquoise blue peepers to make him look steely, and suggests that he is in some kind of prison. A prison of the mind, with no furlough in sight, haha!

9:46: His writing begins by talking about his awesome accomplishments before hitting the age of 40: managing a winning presidential campaign, and getting the chairmanship of the RNC. (At this point the reader is supposed to think, "whoa, this dude is so important. I better read about him!")

9:50: Atwater on top of the world, wife is preggers, what a MAN! Successful in every way! What cajones!

9:51: Recounts how he started spasming at a fundraising event and knew something was deeply wrong when he couldn't feel the left side of his body. Ironically, Atwater was trash-talking Dukakis at the time of spasing out, comparing him to "Rocky Squirrel" (whoever the hell that is).

I'm no god-believer, but you'd think the "man upstairs' was trying to tell Atwater something (perhaps something to the effect of, "Stop being evil, asshole! Or I shall punish thee for thy toxic tongue!")

9:55: Medical stuff. You must know the heartache, the intricacies of the doctors' visits, oh the horror! The horror! A "roller coaster of good news and bad news."

9:57: And I quote: "Though I've cried many times during the past year, that day I tried to be strong. 'Never underestimate your enemy,' I said, shaking my head." --wow. Confusing a brain tumor with Democrats. Sorry dude, but no attack ad can squash the grim reaper. *Also note, what a man! Of course he didn't cry when faced with his own mortality. What a man.

10:00: More medical details: decides to do some sort of experimental process whereby tubes or straws or something are inserted into the brain to inject some toxic gunk. Weird. Oh, a Plato quote! What a man of letters!

10:03: ...blah blah...."I had listened to the pundits of traditional Western medicine." --everybody's a pundit!...weird, he saw some Tibetans that told him to eat more herbs. This is why Tibetans aren't considered proper medical doctors in this country.

10:04: He watched movies to make him feel better--a little laugh therapy--oh and he lists them: Redneck Zombies and Hillbillies in a Haunted House are favs.

10:06: Daughter impersonates Oprah and does a mock interview, she is 11. Dan Quail makes a visit and it is surreal.

10:08: Moving back in time now, rant on personal politics. Atwater fancies himself a revolutionary--the 60s and 70s hippie liberal movement somehow didn't speak to him; it offended him.

10:09: Three books of inpsiration: Plato's Republic, Machiavelli's The Prince, and Sun Tzu's The Art of War. Wow, this man is just full of surprsies.

10:12: Third spread of pages now, note, there have been all sorts of pathetic pictures of this man in his hosptial bed all bloated. He likes to wear old school New Balance tennies. Oddly I want to purchase a pair.

10:13: Name-dropping visitors. Mrs. Bush visits him regularly because he is special.

10:15: Rediscovers Jesus. Previously had called himself Christian but never went to church or picked up the bible. I have a hard time conceptualizing a neocon that I am more religious than, but it's true.

10:16: "A group of young black kids came to visit their pal, a gunshot victim, and I talked to them about what is important in life...I felt someone else drawing me into the arena, someone else speaking my words for me..." Whoa. Heavy. This is the only moment in the reading that I am wanting him to have lived. Imagine if he went with this thought and became a civil rights leader or something? What if he used his evil powers for good?

10:19:The remorse is beginning to show. Quotes himself in '80 when launching a campaign against Democrat Tom Turnipseed, who had psychological problems and underwent electroshock therapy: "I'm not going to respond to allegations made by someone who was hooked up to jumper cables." --crap this man was evil. Also, when attacking Dukakis, said that he "would strip the bark off the little bastard" and "make Willie Horton his running mate."

10:22: Revelation: politics and human relationships are separate. Admits that he personally despised politicians he attacked professionally.

10:25: Moment drawing near. Funeral discussions.

10:26: Quoting Sun Tzu's quote about drawing enemies near. Finally realizes that cancer is not the same enemy as a Democrat.

10:27: More specifics about his physical pain and overcoming, blah blah...

10:29: "My illness helped me to see what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood." Talks of going beyond partisan politics. Amazing that it takes facing death to come to this recognition.

10:30: Ooh ooh! Commentary about the gluttony of the '80s, all about "acquiring"'s a quote for the modern times: "I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."

10:33: Okay, conclusion time. He now has a "fourth favorite book," has a few mantras about courage, likes to have his driver cruise around Capitol Hill so he can watch all the suits scurry about. Very sad indeed.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Oh snap!

For my second installment of snaps, I would like to revisit a time, two years ago, when I attended a talk and screening with Crispin Glover, author and actor best known for his role as George McFly in Back to the Future.

Glover held a screening of a film he had wrote, directed, starred in entitled, "What Is It?" at the Castro Theatre here in San Francisco. It is described, via IMDB, as "The adventures of a young man whose principle interests are snails, salt, a pipe, and how to get home. As tormented by an hubristic, racist inner psyche." This film features: nude female porn stars wearing animal heads, music by Charles Manson, a talking snail, and--most controversially--a lead character played by an actor with Down Syndrome. As of yet, the only way to see this film is to attend a talk with Crispin Glover himself, which allows for a slide show and Q and A session. I hope it stays that way. At least his acting career will be salvaged if it's never released.

While I actually sat through the entire film, I couldn't get through the Q and A because I was so angry and disappointed at Crispin Glover. When someone asked him what he would say to charges that the use of Down Sydrome actors was exploitative, he said that he talked to an audience of people who had Down Syndrome and they were happy to see others like them on the screen. He even told the audience that he is friends with the lead actor, and knows a lot of people in that community. That is when I walked out. I was indulging in an enormous amount of open mindedness up until that point. This is what I would have wanted to say to him:

I'm sorry, but will all due respect you as an artist, your justification for using people with Down Syndrome is complete bullshit. My question is, Mr.Glover, are you conscientiously trying to give the cliche excuse of "I'm not a racist, some of my best friends are black"? Down Syndrome people are not black people, Mr. Glover, they are mentally vulnerable and it is more than possible that they have no concept of being exploited when they are. In my opinion, you've done a really stupid thing here. I know the point is that you're trying to be thought-provoking, an agitator of incendiary symbology in a surrealist context to place you in line with the elite of the American avant-garde. But you're no Harmony Korine, or David Lynch for that matter. You should go back to making Charlie's Angels movies, amatuer.

for Maira Kalman and her NYT "And the Pursuit of Happiness" column: