Archive for May, 2005

Bar Man’s Quest

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

It’s only the end of May, and he’s already up to bar #528. Guy’s gonna make it if his liver holds out: 1000 bars.

Spirit Fingers Does the Miss Universe Pageant

Tuesday, May 31st, 2005

I realize it’s been a while since I watched a televised beauty pageant, and one has to allow for some random memetic drift over time in cultural attitudes regarding glamour and fashion, but lordy; this is just weird. From Spirit Fingers, via Emu: Miss Universe: The major players.

Nifty Computer Art

Monday, May 30th, 2005

From Aaron/Hiro: POVCOMP 2004: Viewing page for top 25 entries.

Time on Wikipedia

Monday, May 30th, 2005

From Time magazine, a piece on wikis, in particular Wikipedia and its founder, Jimbo Wales: It’s a wiki, wiki world.

I was saying to Hiro the other day that Wikipedia had recently crossed some sort of threshhold into mind-boggling usefulness, and that I was thinking of switching from Google to Wikipedia as my browser’s default startup page.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Product Pitchman

Monday, May 30th, 2005

Yet another one for Sven, this time from weblogger and indepdendent filmmaker Brian Flemming: Just when you thought Arnold couldn’t get any more shameless.

Apparently Schwarzenegger’s new campaign commercial features careful, prominent placement of products sold by his major corporate campaign contributors (Arrowhead, Pepsi, etc.).

Flemming’s take:

Attention reporters:

Arnold’s claim:

[begin quote]

Todd Harris, a Schwarzenegger campaign spokesman, said nothing should be read into the arranging of the products in the commercial.

“The reason those particular products were on a table is we were in a cafeteria and that’s what those people bought,” Harris said.

[end quote]

This product placement absolutely did not happen by accident. Not a chance. And with some digging, you can likely prove it.

Someone chose to dress this set not using the typical generic items that a designer would normally choose. Someone selected these particular branded items and placed them carefully in the frame. And the director and the director of photography both said, Yes, that looks good like that.

It could not have happened any other way in the real world of film production.

Putting Half-Life Characters in Real-World Photos

Monday, May 30th, 2005

From E46Fanatics: Coolest thing ever, Half-life in real life. I’d call what they’re doing “Photoshopping,” except it appears no Photoshop was involved. Anyway, it’s impressive.

The Mr. Gray Spaceman Show

Monday, May 30th, 2005

This really is about the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time: The Junior Christian Teaching Bible Lesson Show. I ended up watching the whole thing, waiting for it to become normal. Then my nose fell off.

J.A.Y.S.O.N.: It’s a must-view for you.

Improv Everywhere’s Not Quite U2

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

They crossed another line that I’m not sure they should have crossed, but it’s still pretty funny: Improv Everywhere mission: Even better than the real thing.

Also covered in the NY Times: Where the streets have no shame.

Still More on the Downing Street Memo

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

Several recent items on the Downing Street Memo (the consensus term for what I’ve hitherto been referring to as the “secret Tony Blair memo,” the one from July 2002 describing Bush’s early decision to go to war in Iraq) have come to my attention via the story’s page at Wikipedia (linked above). I know this became boring to most of you a long time ago, but you know how it is when I’m in the grip of an obsession. It’s best if you just let me indulge myself; the fit will pass sooner that way.

First, from Christy of Think Progress: Take the McClellan challenge.

You can also take a look at

Then there’s conservative pundit Paul Craig Roberts’ May 18 call for impeachment: A reputation in tatters.

Similarly interested in impeachment are the usual Bush haters described in this item at The Raw Story: Coalition of citizen groups seek formal inquiry into whether Bush acted illegally in push for Iraq war. This appears to be referring to the same people behind

Hm. I’m not going to hold my breath on that impeachment thing.

Finally, here’s an item from Matthew Clark of the Christian Science Monitor: Why has ‘Downing Street memo’ story been a ‘dud’ in US?. It’s 11 days old at this point, but I missed it the first time around, and figured it was worth including in my big roundup.

There. I think that covers it for now.

Lies of Commission

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

I got an interesting story suggestion from Sam Pender the other day. Sam Pender, it turns out, is a guy who has self-published (using the virtualbookworm print-on-demand vanity press) at least five books with titles like Iraq’s Smoking Gun, America’s War with Saddam, and Saddam’s Ties To Al Queda. His books feature “editorial descriptions” like the following:

WARNING: This book is not conservative, liberal, or even bi-partisan in its perspective methods, or conclusions. It is an ANTI-PARTISAN examination of the cold, hard facts provided by history, the documented results of the UN inspection program, and more. Baseless rhetoric and lies have been left to other books written for politically-partisan proponents and not readers who are: interested in finding the truth, and willing to accept the facts even when they are difficult or too uncomfortable for people of either political party to accept. People who are interested in rhetoric instead of such facts should buy a different book!

Protestations of objectivity and anti-partisanship aside, Mr. Pender seems to have a collection of opinions that fall pretty close to those of a standard-issue Bush supporter, at least as far as the Iraq war is concerned. But he’s been consistently polite in his email correspondence with me, and when I focused on one particular part of his initial story suggestion, asking if he could provide more detail on just what it was he was alleging, he complied quickly and graciously. And while I don’t agree with his conclusions, common courtesy (and my own promise early in the correspondence), require me to publish the following. It’s kind of long, so I’m going to put the rest of it “below the fold,” but I heartily encourage you to click the link below (or scroll down) and see what you think.


Slate’s Torture Primer

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Here’s an interesting little interactive space to explore the details on the use of torture by the US government: What is torture? – An interactive primer on American interrogation.

It’s from Slate, which presumably will cause some to ignore it as biased. But I think they do a really good job of separating the facts from their commentary on the facts.

A discussion of the same information was apparently broadcast as a joint venture between NPR and Slate, and is available for listening via Realmedia at Slate’s Jurisprudence: Torture and ‘War on Terror’.

Conetta, Doolittle on the Current Dynamic of the US Occupation of Iraq

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Here are two pieces, very different in approach, but both communicating a similar message. First, from Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives, a think tank that works on post-Cold War de-militarization issues: Vicious circle: The dynamics of occupation and resistance in Iraq. And from Jerome Doolittle: Preemptive policing.

The first looks at the big picture: public opinion polls, broad trends, the interests of the various collective actors. It’s cold, detached, objective, analytical. The second looks at a microcosm of those big forces: a single incident that led to the the trial (and yesterday, the acquittal) of US Marine Lieutenant Ilario Pantano, who last year killed two unarmed Iraqis “in self defense.” Doolittle’s commentary is subjective, angry, and apt.

These two accounts are describing the same thing, and it has a strong bearing on what the future of the US occupation of Iraq will look like. I’m ready to make a prediction: Forget the Bush team’s fantasies of bringing democracy to Iraq. Not only are they not going to achieve that, they’re not going to be able to achieve even a modicum of stability under the ‘Saddam Lite’ of a pro-US dictator. The chances of their pulling it off were never very good, but now they’re effectively zero. The Bush team’s final justification for going to war is toast.

This war is not going to make things better in the middle east. It’s going to make them dramatically worse. And it’s going to continue to do so as long as the notoriously inward-facing American electorate continues to give Bush a pass on his decision to use war as a first option, rather than a last resort.

As we did in Vietnam, the US will continue to pour dollars and blood into a yawning hole in Iraq, a hole that will only grow larger the longer we try to fill it. How will that process end? I don’t know; my crystal ball fails me there. The two things I’m reasonably sure of are that it’s going to take a long time, and it’s going to be ugly. By the time it’s over we may find ourselves actually wishing it had been only a second Vietnam we were creating. With the actual nuclear weapons that have been proliferating in the region while Bush struggles with the tarbaby of Saddam’s imaginary ones, this could spiral down into something I don’t even want to imagine.

Friedman, Amnesty International: Shut Down Guantanamo

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Thomas Friedman and Amnesty International are channeling each other. From Friedman: Just shut it down. And from the Amnesty folk, courtesy their annual report: Amnesty International calls for Guantanamo shutdown.

Krugman on the Housing Bubble

Friday, May 27th, 2005

As someone who lives in coastal California, owns his home, and recently refinanced it to build an addition, I confess to being concerned at the talk of a housing bubble about to burst. Given that I’m also someone who bought into the tech stock bubble almost precisely at its peak makes me wonder if I’m about to learn the same painful lesson over again.

Krugman seems to be leaning that way: Running out of bubbles.

Philosoraptor on Putting Yourself in the Other Guy’s Shoes

Friday, May 27th, 2005

I really liked this item: Tips on thinking: What if the tables were turned?

Disturbing Art by the ParkeHarrisons

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Check out the gallery of Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison. Funky, dark stuff. But interesting.

Schwarzenegger Makes Potholes to Fix Them

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Here’s one for Sven: Governor digs fixing potholes.

George Bush’s Picture and Laura’s Interview on Air Force One

Friday, May 27th, 2005

From BAGnewsNotes, an interesting deconstruction of a single image of Laura Bush, taken on Air Force One during her recent tour of the middle east: Twice to the pyramids.

Thanks to Miniver Cheevy for the link.

Morton Blackwell’s Modest Plan for Global Right-Wing Domination

Friday, May 27th, 2005

Interesting story from Salon’s Jeff Horwitz on how he attended a training seminar run by Morton Blackwell: My right-wing degree (one-day pass required). Makes an interesting (if depressing) case that the reason us liberals are getting our collective asses whupped at the polls lately is because we just haven’t been doing the kind of long-term organizing that the right wing has — and that’s not the kind of thing we’re going to be able to turn around quickly.

The Pleasure of Steve Martin’s Company

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

So, I’m screwing up my courage to begin Seriously Writing a Book (again). And I think (for me at least) this is a little like a mother deciding to have another child: Sufficient time since the first birth has to have elapsed for the memory of the pain and inconvenience to have faded, and you have to have enough happy memories of snuggling with the kid or watching her laugh or whatever to overcome the ones about how hard it was to make the damn thing and push it out. (Or not. I could be completely talking out my ass here, being blessedly male.)

Where was I? Oh, right. Anyway, you may have noticed that Steve Martin writes books (and essays) these days. Here’s an item from The Believer, in which herself-an-author Meghan Daum interviews him about a bunch of stuff, including what it’s like for him to write books: Interview with Steve Martin.