Friday, June 29, 2007

Yet another incredible photo

I'm not going to turn this blog into a thing where I just post funny photos and make fun of them, but the following really makes me laugh. It's taken from a serious story--the efforts of London police to track down the person(s) responsible for today's barely-avoided bombing--but it has a certain Keystone Kops quality to it. "Oy! Is 'e in the phone both, then?" And the guy climbing the ladder to...where, exactly? Plus the TGI Fridays sign adds a subtle bit of wackiness to the whole endeavor. Awesome.

NBA Draft yields greatest photo of all time

Words are unable to capture my delight everytime I take a look at this awesome photo of Joakim Noah being congratulated by David Stern. It is all kinds of awesome.

(Don't know if you can tell with this image size, but that's a seersucker suit. Awwww, yeah.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Republicans and their manly fake names

The last post about Dick Cheney got me thinking about His Evilness's assorted henchmen, and none of said goons loom as large in the American political landscape as Scooter Libby. That, in turn, got me wondering about why there are so many Republicans who choose to use as their name something more manly or dashing than their actual name. Consider:

"Scooter Libby," actual name Irving Lewis Libby
"Jeb Bush," actual name John Ellis Bush*
"Mitt Romney," actual name Willard Mitt Romney

What's the deal here? Why is it that Republicans, who always want to embrace the authentically American self, are so anxious to run away from their real names, instead giving themselves a more suitably masculine identity? Are they latter-day Gatsbys, running away from their real identities, instead choosing to hide behind a constructed self?

*In the case of Jeb Bush, it's kind of hilarious, because "Jeb" is short for John Ellis Bush. So when you say "Jeb Bush," you are actually saying "John Ellis Bush Bush."

Cheney now to discover "legislative privilege"

The AP has breaking news that the Senate Judiciary Committee has just supoenaed the White House and the Vice President's office for materials relating to the warrantless eavesdropping program.

The committee wants documents that might shed light on internal squabbles within the administration over the legality of the program, said a congressional official speaking on condition of anonymity because the subpoenas had not been made public.
Well, this is sure to be hilarious. The natural response of Cheney's office will be to claim executive privilege, but this might be complicated by the fact that as recently as three days ago they were claiming that his office is not IN the executive branch. So the Senate Democrats called his bluff and subpoenaed him. Well played, indeed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

This post is about raccoon crap

One of Portland's alt-weeklies, Willamette Week, runs a story in the latest issue about a change in city policy towards unwanted raccoons. Used to be that the city used to take the unwanted creatures out to the Columbia Gorge and just drop them off. Well, this has the unfortunate side effect of disrupting the ecosystem wherever the critters are dropped off, so the city now just offs the beasties. Ok, yeah, interesting story. But, as they are wont to do, the Willy Week buries the most interesting part of the story halfway down:

But the more prevalent problem is roundworm, which is carried by an estimated 58 percent of raccoons and can afflict humans by ingestion—usually accidental—of raccoon crap.
Stop. "Usually accidental." Which means that, however rare, there are cases of roundworm transmission via the intentional consumption of raccoon crap. What the hell, this should be the real front page story here!

Me corporation! Me make good thing!

Lost in the hubbub of recent days, what with Paris going to, and then getting out of, jail, Dick Cheney inventing a magical new fourth branch of government, and the Portland Trailblazers preparing to select a 76 year old with the #1 pick in the draft, is news that apparently RadioShack has picked a new slogan for its fleet of stores that sell weird electronic parts. Ok, new slogan, sounds good--companies that have fallen upon hard times need to show consumers that they are fighting back, and are ready to compete in the new global marketplace. With this in mind, RadioShack has selected a real winner: "Do Stuff." Huh? "Do stuff?" In what sense is this a good slogan? Is this proof of a new trend in corporate slogans, a desperate race to the bottom that will see McDonald's go with "Eat Now!," Coke with "It's good!" and Starbucks with "Ooooh! Coffee!"?? What the hell, America.

Holy crap, I'm old!

Today while driving in to work, I heard the following on the radio

And happy birthday to Prince, who turns 52 years old today.
If my life was the trailer to a movie, that would be the part where there was a loud turntable needle scratching sound. FIFTY TWO??? Unreal.

Monday, June 25, 2007

President Trashaholic, George W. Bush

Our lovely President, he of the inability to stand upon the Segway (which was designed so that virtually anyone could stand on it), and he of the inability to ride a mountain bike without taking out numerous Welsh/Scottish/Irish cops, has now gone a step farther and intruded upon the dignity of the famed Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. The Waldorf serves things like "slow poached vermont farm egg with lobster tails," and "pistachio crusted foie gras," but our magnificent president took a step beyond realms only imagined by mere mortals. Food and Wine reports:

I’m not sure what those famous guests eat/ate when they stay there, but I do know that when President George Bush stays at the hotel, he likes to order bologna sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise, with Doritos on the side.
Ugh. Bologna sandwich? From the freaking Waldorf?? There are times I think that the guy is just a well-bred Connecticut Yankee who is playing dumb to impress all the rubes, but then there are times, like this one, when I think he is an idiot savant without the savant part.

Tom Cruise ist verboten!

What are the chances that Germany would actually kick someone out of the country because of their religion? Uh, pretty good, sadly. What are the chances that I'd agree with them? Pretty remote. But consider:

Germany has barred the makers of a movie about a plot to kill Adolf Hitler from filming at German military sites because its star Tom Cruise is a Scientologist, the Defence Ministry said on Monday.

Cruise, also one of the film's producers, is a member of the Church of Scientology which the German government does not recognise as a church. Berlin says it masquerades as a religion to make money, a charge Scientology leaders reject.

Defence Ministry spokesman Harald Kammerbauer said the film makers "will not be allowed to film at German military sites if Count Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult".
Obviously I'd normally be kind of concerned that Germany was banning someone because of their religion. But when that religion is a freaky cult like Scientology, well, that's different.

Osama: untested rookie with some serious upside...

The Tennessean, today, writing about disgraced NFL defensive back/kick-returner Adam "Pacman" Jones, writes that some teams would consider trading for the guy, despite his many brushes with the law:

Even if he doesn't change his ways, Jones has a certain NFL street value if/when Goodell lifts the suspension. If the Titans cut him, they get nothing. If they shop him, they might squeeze a third- or fourth-round pick out of somebody in a trade.

Rest assured, there are plenty of people out there who would be interested — at the right price.

Some teams would sign Osama bin Laden if they thought he could help in the return game.
What a compelling image that is.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The good news is, we can remove your gallbladder...

Today the Oregonian tells the spellbinding tale of a local doctor who is pioneering "natural orifice" surgeries--that is, instead of creating a new opening in the body to do some sort of surgery, the surgeon uses an opening that is already there. Okaaaaaay, sounds kind of icky. And, case in the point, the specific surgery in this story was the removal of the gallbladder...through the mouth! Holy crap! "Hey, doc, why the hell does my throat hurt?" "Oh, yeah, we took your gallbladder from your abdomen, up through your throat, and then out through your mouth." Damn!

The article then goes on to say

He is part of a group of doctors and medical device manufacturers nationwide working to develop "natural orifice" surgeries — through the mouth, vagina and rectum — to help eliminate pain and scarring and reduce recovery time.
Back up. You're going to remove things through the rectum in order to reduce pain? Something about this word "pain" makes me think they really have no idea what that's all about.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The BBC really GETS American politics, man!

Leave it to our sophisticated betters at the BBC to come up with an eloquent turn of phrase that effortless captures the personality driven ennui of the American political system. Writing a short piece on the will-he-or-won't-he political game being played by Mike Bloomberg, they write:

Ok, look, BBC. This is Mike Freaking Bloomberg. Have you seen the guy? Please don't make me associate Mike Bloomberg and gonad tickling ever again. Thank you.

Dick Cheney discovers magical new fourth branch of government

The best-friend-shootingest Vice President in US History is back to his old tricks this week, as he has apparently discovered/decided that his office is a new fourth branch of government, the one that the Founding Fathers wrote about at length in the Constitution, but that nobody had ever really noticed before. Kind of like in one of those movies that has a part that you think is the end, only it's not really the end, except you stopped watching when you thought the end happened and so you missed the real end. That's Cheney's view of the fourth branch, I guess. Everyone got so excited by the whole Bill of Rights thing that they stopped reading right before the fourth branch was mentioned.

Washington, D.C. — The Oversight Committee has learned that over the objections of the National Archives, Vice President Cheney exempted his office from the presidential order that establishes government-wide procedures for safeguarding classified national security information. The Vice President asserts that his office is not an “entity within the executive branch.”
That's pretty brazen. I mean, he's literally within the executive branch--he works out of the freaking White House. Second, he reports to the guy who is the head of the Executive Branch. What the hell is he talking about?

Aid for the fearful flyer

This past week I did something I really hate to do: flew in an airplane. For some reason known only to teams of psychologists, I have this completely illogical and paralyzing fear of flying. Well, ok, it's not that bad, but it's no fun. About a week before I'm due to fly, the unease arrives, and I get pretty jittery up until the moment that the plane takes off. While trolling around the internet the week before I flew, I found this nifty website,, which does just what its name suggests: it gives forecasts for the country's turbulence. You can even post a message providing your flight plan, and they'll let you know what kind of turbulence to expect. Now, of course, you're probably asking: what if you get a horrible forecast, and they tell you to expect some severe turbulence? Ah, good question. I suppose in theory it would make things better because you'd be prepared for the bumps, no? In my case it would just add to my general paranoia the week beforehand, however. Anyway, here's a link to the site--it's pretty nifty.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Once again I am bitterly envious of the Japanese

Yesterday saw news that Pepsi is introducing a new summer beverage to quench the thirst of its parched consumers: Pepsi Ice Cucumber, an artificially flavored beverage designed to taste like refreshing cucumber. I think this sounds awesome--on a hot day, cucumber is incredible stuff. However, there is just one drawback; the drink is only available in Japan. COME ON! What, does Pepsi assume that Americans are such unsophisticated consumers that they'll refuse to drink a soft drink that tastes like a vegetable? Ok...well, Americans probably are that unsophisticated, but I still think this would develop quite a cult following. I would buy cases, I can assure you. If you need to test this beverage in America, Pepsi, call me! (Or email me...the link is right over there to the right.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Two more songs for the desert island

In an earlier post, I talked about my list of "desert island songs," which are songs that have been so horribly overplayed by idiot radio DJs that they need to be forever banished to some remote tropic locale so that decent people don't ever have to hear them again. Today I have two more to add to the list:

1. Jesus Jones, "Right Here, Right Now." At the time (early 1990s), it was an inspiring anthem for people caught up in the unstoppable march of freedom as it rolled like a very large steamroller over the anachronistic communist countries of eastern Europe. "Right here, right now, there is no other place I'd rather be...watching the world wake up from history." Ok, first of all, that makes no sense, but dispensing with the nonsensical nature of the lyrics, we are forced to realize that this song has reached a point where it is the "go-to" pick for any DJ whose station's management has forced him, apparently at gunpoint, to reach into his archives for some "topical" early 90s music. What was once fresh and urgent is now stale and hackneyed, and we would all be better off never listening to this song again.

2. Beck, "Where It's At." When this song was released, wow, what a revelation. Beck had all kinds of crazy sounds going on, he had a guy who sounded like a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica (the cool one with Dirk Benedict, not the new one that is all revisionist and whatnot), he had random drum breaks, and it was loaded with hipster 90s self-referential irony. And, predictably, it became driven into the ground by radio stations looking for "something new and fresh." So, yeah, take the samples, take the chick saying "that's beautiful, dad," and take everything else about this precious song, and ship it off to the island.

Mike Gravel: last in the polls, first in our hearts

Ever since John Kennedy's makeup technician won a hard-fought victory over Richard Nixon's counterpart, television has assumed an increasingly important role in the campaign cycle. Witness, for example, Ronald Reagan's famous "bear in the woods" ad (which, to be honest, makes no sense to me), Michael Dukakis's hilariously unwise tank photo shoot in 1988, and Lloyd Bentsen's "You're no JFK" retort to Dan Quayle in the VP debate. Adding his name to this illustrious list is former senator Mike Gravel, who has composed a brilliant Brechtian vision of the American political landscape. Witness his masterpiece, "Rock." This video resists our urge to categorize it--indeed, like Whitman, it contains multitudes.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I don't get the Fred Thompson thing...

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo says that Fred Thompson is probably going to announce that he is in fact running for president after July 4. (Why, how positively decent of him, letting us have our national holiday to celebrate without him sucking all the oxygen out of the party tent! Well played, Fred!) I have to confess, I don't get this. Is the field of current candidates that scary that Republicans are driven to a state of panic, and are thus inclined to vote for the first actor who shows up, willing to act like a president for four years? Is that the deal here? Frankly, I'm unimpressed by the guy. He was known as being a tremendously lazy senator while he was in office, he married a woman, 24 years his junior, who is charitably compared to a stripper by the major media, and then there was that whole lobbying-for-years thing.

And, also, what is the deal with Republicans saying that they hate "Hollyweird," and then they can't vote fast enough for whatever random actor decides he's willing to pretend to be a Republican for a few years. I mean, c'mon--Ronald Reagan? Sonny Freaking Bono? The guy from "Love Boat"? And now Fred Thompson? The guy who makes David Brenner look like George Clooney's more attractive younger brother? Good lord, what an absurdist drama the 2008 campaign is going to become.

Someone at Sports Illustrated hates the Cornhuskers

Looking at this image, I get the sense that the person responsible for photo layout at CNNSI's "Truth & Rumors" section is a frustrated University of Colorado fan. Nothing else seems to explain the obvious scorn for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Huge house, huge bills, scary future

This weekend I went to a function at a huge Oregon-style McMansion. It was yoooooouge, right on the fairway of a golf course, fronted by a lawn large enough for a regulation game of Ultimate Frisbee, and containing rooms large enough to hold my house. (That is a slight exaggeration, but not much of one.) The house had crazy tall ceilings...maybe 16 feet? I my part of town, "high ceilings" means 10 feet. But then again, my house was built in 1903, and the thought of 16 foot ceilings would have probably terrified the primitive minds of early 20th century builders.

A friend also at the party confessed one of his first reactions to the house was: "Holy crap, how much does it cost to heat this thing?" Which is not to say that Oregon gets terribly cold at any point during the winter, but, still, it has its share of 30 degree days, and when the wind picks up, you can feel a brisk chill. So take the tremendous heating cost, take the fact you have to drive 10 miles to get anywhere, and take the fact that this place had a four car garage (again, for sake of comparison, my house doesn't even have a garage, nor a driveway, but it does have a neat-o metal ring attached to the curb where you can tie your horse), and wonder what kind of energy inputs this kind of place requires. Not simply cheap (or moderately priced) energy, but energy at all. If you are living this lifestyle and energy becomes not-so-commonplace, you are seriously screwed. And this is a fantastically expensive house, probably topping $1 million. In other words, this is what people aspire to own. Is that right? Is that a good idea? Probably not.

On the way home we talked about scary gloom-and-doom author James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, whose worldview is exceedingly pessimistic, basically taking the viewpoint that the world has declining stores of energy (read: oil), increasing demand for said oil, and simply cannot go on living a lifestyle that assumes the same level of energy inputs. The way of life lead by the folks out on the golfcourse will be about as sustainable as people who made their living selling roasted passenger pigeon in the 1800s. It's grim to think about, and I'm not sure what the answer is. Well, obviously the answer is that we completely reimagine the way we construct our cities, houses, and etc., but I think we could sooner wish the passenger pigeon back into existence than have this kind of conversation in America today.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Once again, the French insult the civilised world

Here's a photo of the leaders of the free world (plus Russia), assembled at the G-8 conference in Germany. Check out my man Sarkozy of France, using his cell phone during a photo op in a fitting display of hubris. WTF, mate.

In other news, I will never be obese...

Finally, news that directly affects me. For years my friends and enemies have remarked with great frequency that I tend to fidget. This was especially true in college: I'd finish dinner/lunch well ahead of my friends, and then would sit at the table and fidget until they were done. I'd look around, play with the silverware, assemble crude wax figurines out of candle meltings, and so forth. I wasn't even really aware that I was doing it, but my friends were. They mocked me for it, but once again science has vindicated me, and my ultimate reward will be laughing at them as their non-fidgeting selves get hugely and morbidly obese! Score! Take it away, BBC:

Are you the type of person who is constantly fidgeting - playing with pencils and pieces of paper, your legs jumping around under the office desk as you type?

If you are there is a chance fidgeting may be in your genes - and the good news is that you are less likely to be fat, according to the new research.


Lead researcher Prof Mathias Treier says those who do fidget are getting valuable daily exercise even without knowing it.

"We're spending energy by doing that - and this is of course one of the key factors in energy balance," he says.
Sweet, sweet justice.

By the way, BBC, nice file photo you chose to run with this one. Ugh.

Joe Lieberman: Jackass loser who sucks and is a huge sucking loser

I hate Angelina Jolie because she is a self-centered egomaniac who selfishly puts her own image ahead of the lives of the thronging mass of kids she is acquiring like some demonic crazy old lady who hoards cats. Nevertheless, Angelina's various misdeeds only really affect her, her current male partner, and her kids. Not so for Joe Lieberman, the delusional and even more egomaniacal senator from Connecticut. As the only Democrat (although he's no longer technically a Democrat, since his party had the good sense to kick his ass out of the party during the 2006 primaries) who is a die-hard supporter of the Iraq War, Joe gets the chance to appear on TV with great regularity, proclaiming his belief that our cause is noble and just, and that we are winning. Today he took his delusions to new levels, though, claiming in an interview with CNN's John Roberts that our increasing death toll is...proof that we are winning:

ROBERTS: But, Senator Lieberman, how do you square your claim of significant progress with the fact that May was the deadliest month in at least a couple of years — 26 U.S. servicemembers have died so far this month, just the month of June alone — and the fact that sectarian deaths are apparently on the increase again?

LIEBERMAN: Well, two parts. Here’s the point: We’re in a war. The surge strategy, which is just beginning to be fully implemented, has worked. It has reduced sectarian deaths, particularly in Baghdad where we’re focused. [Note: actually Joe's completely full of it on this last point. Sectarian deaths in Baghdad were up in May.]

They ticked back up in the last month. Why did they do that? Because our enemies, the insurgents and Al Qaida — insurgents particularly supported by Iran — see us winning, and they’re doing desperate things. More of them are prepared to blow themselves up to kill Iraqis or American soldiers.
Got that? The number of US deaths is on the rise, and the number of sectarian deaths is also on the rise, because we are WINNING. So apparently our troop deaths would decline if we were losing. Glad we've got that figured out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Eat your heart out, Derrida

Every so often, there exists in the political world (or more accurately, the world of talking heads who talk about politics) a conversation that perfectly encapsulates the insane, absurdist realm we inhabit. Witness, for example, Bill O'Reilly talking with famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein, about Bernstein's latest book about Hillary Clinton.

O'REILLY: Did she break the law?
O'REILLY: OK. Good, I like this. How did she break the law?
BERNSTEIN: She broke the law if, indeed, she perjured herself.
O'REILLY: Well, you just said she did break the law.
BERNSTEIN: No. The special prosecutor determined that she did not.So he did not file the charge.
O'REILLY: So you think she did. But the special prosecutor, Ken Starr, said no.
BERNSTEIN: That is correct. You know what? Let me be really straightforward. I don't think she broke the law. I think there was a time that she did not tell the truth.
O'REILLY: Under oath?
BERNSTEIN: You know, I wasn't in the room.
(Rubs eyes.) Huh? Explain to me how Bernstein, in the span of five statements, manages to answer "yes," "no," and "maybe" to the same question. Remarkable. Not even Beckett was this good.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Angelina Jolie: spoiled, absurd, out of control

The hatred I feel in my heart towards Angelina Jolie is well documented, so I don't need to rehash that I view her as a selfish, unbalanced, egomaniac, right? Well, today comes news to kick my hatred into overdrive: yep, Angelina and that random guy who is currently her boyfriend are apparently planning to adopt AGAIN. Yes, I know, I can't believe it either.

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are reportedly planning to adopt another child - an orphan boy from the Czech Republic. Jolie, who is in the Czech capital Prague to film her latest movie Wanted, has become besotted with the child there after paying regular trips to a Catholic orphanage, according to British newspaper The Sun.


A source tells The Sun, "Angelina celebrated her 32nd birthday yesterday and had told Brad she felt it was time to extend the family again. Her maternal instincts are in overdrive and she felt a bond with the kid straight away. She called Brad and said she had found a child who would fit in perfectly with the other kids."
Look, she is an addict. She has an addictive personality. She is quite literally addicted to the rush that comes from getting a new kid. And, as with hard core drug addicts, she can wait less and less time between hits before the rush wears off and she needs a new one. Someone really needs to call her on this behavior, other than a bunch of random bloggers.

And, also, wtf, Brad Pitt. Is he that cowed by her that he can't say, yo, this is absurd? Apparently not, what a tool.

This radio station has stupid listeners

Do you ever think about what a radio station's ads tell you about its listeners? Today I was driving back to work from lunch, and, seriously, every ad I heard on this one station was either for companies that will extend credit to people who have gone through bankruptcy or some such, or for a company that will help people in bankruptcy deal with their bills. And I thought, Jesus Christ, the people who listen to this station must be complete jackass losers. And switched the channel.

(I should note that I was not listening to my usual station because it was playing a block of songs by a group I hate, but when I switched back it was playing commercials, and the first two were for beer, and the third was for coffee. Much more my speed.)

In other news, the "local angle" sucks

My least favorite thing about major news stories is the way that local news affiliates are motivated by some insane obsession to find a "local angle" to the story. This is annoying for two reasons: first, it shows a healthy disrespect for their viewers, as if they could only find interest in a major story if it had some connection, however obscure, to their home city; second, the local angle frequently has absolutely nothing to do with the story at hand.

For example, take the (completely laughable, incidentally) case of the four hapless idiots in New York who wanted to blow up JFK by detonating explosives in the fuel lines that feed the airport. Ok, whatever, sounds quasi treacherous, until you realize that the guys are complete fools who lacked the training, expertise, supplies, access, and everything else to pull off this stunt.

But wading into the fray, predictably, comes one of Portland's finest news stations, breathless with news that it has found a "local connection."

Newschannel 8, obtained public records that appear to indicate [plot leader Russell] Defreitas worked for McMinnville-based Evergreen Eagle, a division of Evergreen Aviation.

The record indicates Defreitas worked for Evergreen Eagle from July, 2000 to May, 2001.
OMG! A ten month period of residency, doing something aviation-related! It's like the whole state of Oregon is practically in on the plot!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ha ha ha, we're all sick!

The "Washington Whispers" section of US News & World Report notes that hand-annotated copies of President Reagan's speeches have recently come on the market. Interestingly, the speeches reveal, apparently, that symptoms of his Alzheimer's started well before he left office. What does the column cite as evidence of the onset of Reagan's Alzheimer's? Observe:

The edits also reveal the beginnings of Reagan's Alzheimer's: misspellings, misplaced punctuation, and labored handwriting.
Well, goddam. If this is the criteria we're now using to diagnose Alzheimers, apparently every high school student in the country, a good half of my co-workers, and virtually everyone else I know has it.

When similes go bad...

There's a story today in the Oregonian about a local school principal who overcame a horrible childhood (substance-abusing mother, domestic violence, foster care, etc.) and made something of his life. It is a genuinely good article, except for a horribly mangled simile that the writer tries--and fails--to make work.

His mother, Colleen Smyth, was a former nurse, a witty and bright woman whose dependence on alcohol steadily worsened after she was disfigured by burns on her face, neck and hands.

She was like a marshmallow, Smyth says, burned on the outside, but warm, sticky and wonderful on the inside.
Sticky? Weird.

Friday, June 1, 2007

TB guy...revealed!

So the big news of the day is that we now know the secret identity of "TB guy," the prat who, after being told he had the super bad kind of TB, the one that drugs are apparently unable to cure, flew around the world, got married, and exposed god knows how many people to TB. Yay, TB guy! U rule! But, upon seeing his photo on ABC New, I suddenly realized where I had seen him before. It all fits!