Monday, December 14, 2009

Fake Languages

During my first stay in Nicaragua, I was delighted to hear little kids speaking fake English. I speak all sorts of fake languages, but I don't think it ever occurred to me what it would sound like to be French person hearing me speak fake French. According to the kids in Nicaragua, English sounds like this: "Glock glock glock." It's pretty close to how an American kids might imitate Chinese, I think.

So, imagine my delight when my pal Gerry put up a link to this video of an Italian songwriter's attempt to write a song in fake American English. Awesome.

But then I started to wonder: are there others videos in this genre? It turns out there are, including this challenge from a very good speaker of a multitude of fake languages.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


An early version of Kermit the Frog sells coffee through the base use of cartoon violence. Jim Henson, I thought better of you.

And as a bonus, a little early pro-muppet propaganda. Note the last 25 secords or so presage the conclusion to The Great Muppet Caper.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Christmas List

If I were still to have a garden after Christmas, I would put this at the top of my list.

Unfortunately, they only made about 100 of them.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Joey Ramone - "What a Wonderful World"


Israel Kamakawiwo - "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

taping toy guns to trees

Al Gore, taking it to the next level.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

In listening to some of the commentary of Rene Clair's film, À Nous La Liberté (1931), I learned that Chaplin once cited the following Disney film as an influence on Modern Times (1935).

It makes me think that the Santa story is itself the product of a modern state-industrial system. Before the modern machine age, Santa must have looked much different--perhaps even a craftsman.

Monday, November 16, 2009


The various word-of-the-year contests seem always to be a let down, but somehow "unfriend" seems especially bathetic given that it really can only be used in one context. Equally unexciting is the list of Obama-related words or "Obamaisms" (remember when we had Bushisms?):

Ok, "Obamaeur" is kind of a good one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cartoon break

In the course of looking around the web for information about Nazis and the science of human behavior, I cam across this anti-Nazi Donald Duck cartoon.

I can't get over what an awesome satire of (imagined) Nazi automaticity this is. This cartoon seems to even visually quote Chaplin's Modern Times as it conflates political discipline with industrial discipline. That the bombs Donald makes take over and become the instruments creating him is a very telling image of the imaginary surrounding Nazi discipline.

See also Disney's rendering of Nazi education.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You just kicked me in my mouth, so be careful please.

An old school youtube video of Black Flag, including a very young, very thin Bill Stevenson pontificating about punk rock and the social rewards of self-imitation.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Power of Acronyms

Not that anybody cares what the professionals and the vulnerable think, but the largest association of physicians and medical students in the United States (the AMA) and one of the nation's largest membership organizations for people age 50 (AARP) have both endorsed the House health care bill.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is trumpeting endorsements from the AARP and the American Medical Association of House Democrats' health care legislation.

Making a rare appearance at the White House briefing Thursday, Obama told reporters that those endorsement are no small accomplishments. He urged Congress to listen to the AARP and AMA and pass the health care overhaul.

Obama says AARP, the nation's premier lobbying group for the elderly, has looked at the bill and is supporting it in the interest of seniors.

He also says the AMA wouldn't be supporting the bill it if would lead to health decisions being made by government bureaucrats or damage doctor-patient relationships. He says those medical professionals have seen firsthand the costs of inaction on health care.

fiscally and imaginatively conservative

My man Gerry links us up with Ezra Klein's article on the Republican health care plan, an article that deserves to be read in full:

Late last night, the Congressional Budget Office released its initial analysis of the health-care reform plan that Republican Minority Leader John Boehner offered as a substitute to the Democratic legislation. CBO begins with the baseline estimate that 17 percent of legal, non-elderly residents won't have health-care insurance in 2010. In 2019, after 10 years of the Republican plan, CBO estimates that ...17 percent of legal, non-elderly residents won't have health-care insurance. The Republican alternative will have helped 3 million people secure coverage, which is barely keeping up with population growth. Compare that to the Democratic bill, which covers 36 million more people and cuts the uninsured population to 4 percent.

But maybe, you say, the Republican bill does a really good job cutting costs. According to CBO, the GOP's alternative will shave $68 billion off the deficit in the next 10 years. The Democrats, CBO says, will slice $104 billion off the deficit.

The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan. And amazingly, the Democratic bill has already been through three committees and a merger process. It's already been shown to interest groups and advocacy organizations and industry stakeholders. It's already made its compromises with reality. It's already been through the legislative sausage grinder. And yet it saves more money and covers more people than the blank-slate alternative proposed by John Boehner and the House Republicans. The Democrats, constrained by reality, produced a far better plan than Boehner, who was constrained solely by his political imagination and legislative skill.

This is a major embarrassment for the Republicans. It's one thing to keep your cards close to your chest. Republicans are in the minority, after all, and their plan stands no chance of passage. It's another to lay them out on the table and show everyone that you have no hand, and aren't even totally sure how to play the game. The Democratic plan isn't perfect, but in comparison, it's looking astonishingly good.

Update: Think Progress reports "it’s unlikely that any of the members of the Republican House Leadership would be able to find affordable insurance under their own proposal, should they chose to give up their government-sponsored plans."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

RIP Claude Levi-Strauss

PARIS (AP) -- The Academie Francaise says that Claude Levi-Strauss, an influential French intellectual who was widely considered the father of modern anthropology, has died. He was 100.

Levi-Strauss was widely regarded as having reshaped the field of anthropology, introducing new concepts concerning common patterns of behavior and thought, especially myths, in primitive and modern societies.

During his 6-decade-long career, he authored many literary and anthropological classics, including ''Tristes Tropiques'' (1955), ''The Savage Mind'' (1963) and ''The Raw and the Cooked'' (1964).

The Academie Francaise said Tuesday that it plans a tribute later in the week.

It did not give the cause of death or say when Levi-Strauss had died.

I'd slap that shit off the table

Somehow it doesn't seem ethical, but a 70 year-old lobster dubbed "Larry" is on the menu for $275 at New York City restaurant.

When asked whether preparing such an old creature gives him pause, McLaughlin said that “to a certain degree, it does.” However, the lobster is being given his “just due” at the restaurant and that he “will be enjoyed.”

The banking executive who wrote us figured the lobster would probably die to satisfy someone’s bragging rights.

Of all the lobsters I’ve dined on recently, and I’ve dined on many, Oceana’s have been my favorite. But this 11-pounder is not for me. It’s his age that moves me -- we don’t often contemplate the age of the animals we eat. When I asked about the lobster, I wasn’t told the age until I specifically asked: How old is he?
Just think of it: that bastard lived through the entirety of WWII, was 30 years old when humans walked on the moon, and was well into his silver years when the internet was born. Via Harper's.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Alien Radio

I wish I still did community radio. If I did, I would use the audio of this to build a sweet station id.

Plus it gives you cavities

In case you didn't already know, "most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches."

I always thought there was something evil about candy corn.

"Master race" has such negative connotations

Colbert was ON FIRE with last night's Word.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - You-Genics
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorReligion

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

3 Joes

Philly Joe Jones:

And Papa Jo Jones:

And Joe Morello:

trailer time

Because it's almost Halloween:

And some bonus trivia: Burt Bacharach wrote the groovy intro music.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This machine never stops

News from the Reatardiverse:

After the acrimonious departure of his backing band earlier this month, Jay Reatard has found a new band just two weeks later. The new group features Anders Thode (bass) and Jacob Elving (drums), both from Danish punk outfit, the Cola Freaks. The new lineup comes on the heels of the announcement that Reatard has been tapped to support the legendary Pixies on their Doolittle tour. The Memphis garage punk musician is supporting his recent Matador Records release Watch Me Fall.
I guess it doesn't surprise me that Jay's band left him mid-tour. He seems like that kind. Anyways, the Cola Freaks are decent. Here's a link to their Myspace page. I've always thought one of the beauties about punk rock is that you can listen to music in a language you don't know without feeling any loss at all.

Apparently these guys will be backing Jay when he plays at the Local 506 in December.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


A. O. Scott pans Lars von Trier's newest, Antichrist:

Women: intrinsically evil or tragically misunderstood? If this strikes you as a fruitful topic of discussion, then you may wish to see — or perhaps I should say endure — Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist,” a film that has already set off carefully orchestrated frissons of disturbance at film festivals around the world. It starts with a slow-motion, black-and-white sequence, scored to a Handel aria, of graphic sex (with a snippet of hard core thrown in just for fun) and climaxes with two vivid scenes of genital mutilation.

Mr. von Trier has said that making the movie helped him overcome a crippling depression. I’m glad he feels better. He has certainly lost none of the impish, assaultive sensationalism that has made him both a darling and a scapegoat of film critics. But the formal rigor and intellectual brio that made his best films — “Breaking the Waves” and “Dogville” — as hard to dismiss as they were easy to loathe seems to have abandoned him. The scandal of “Antichrist” is not that it is grisly or upsetting but that it is so ponderous, so conceptually thin and so dull.
I'm feeling less and less certain that I want to see this movie. Considering how much I've been enjoying Charlie Chaplin of late, it hardly seems like the time for me.

Plus, I'm not certain I could convince anyone to come see this with me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Picture it

From Outside Online -- the stories and images behind the hardest-earned shots of thirteen different photographers. Here's a good one, from Matthieu Paley:

I was in Siberia, at frozen Lake Baikal, and there were five of us crammed into a Russian jeep. The others were drinking vodka. I told them I was going up a small cliff to shoot this rider, and as I walked back I saw the jeep start up and drive off: They had forgotten me. I started running, then screaming. It was getting dark, and it was about to be 35 below. I freaked out. I started thinking that I should've had a kid, to leave something behind. After an hour of trudging through snow, I saw a fisherman sitting beside a hole in the ice. I ran to him, waving like a madman, and tried to explain the situation in the little Russian I knew. He held out a vodka bottle to me, then gestured up a hill. At the top of it, there was a road. I sat beside it in this scary Siberian silence until I heard "Matthieuuuu." It was the driver and translator. When we arrived at the hotel, I called my girlfriend—now my wife—and told her I would love to have a kid one of these days. He's two and a half years old now.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

After having seen a killer performance of Mr. Brain Blade under the guise of Hallelujah Train, I feel duty-bound to offer a few clips of the man going crazy on the skins:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Opting in and out

Nate Silver, political gem, explains why the clause being floated that may allow states to opt out of the public option aint all that bad. Here are his first four points:

1) If the public option is indeed popular -- and the preponderance of public polling suggests that it is -- we should expect the solid majority of states to elect to retain it. Perhaps some Republican governors or legislatures would seek to override the popular will in their states -- but they would do so at their own peril (and at Democrats' gain).

2) Behavioral economics further suggests that default preferences are extremely powerful. Making the public option the default would probably lead to much greater adaptation than requiring states to "opt in".

3) If the public option indeed reduces the costs of insurance -- and most of the evidence suggests that it will -- than the states that opt out of it will have a pretty compelling reason to opt back in. Say that Kansas opts out of the public option and Missouri keeps it. If a Kansan realizes that his friend across the border is buying the same quality health insurance for $300 less per month, he's going to vote restore the public plan in a referendum or demand that his legislator does the same in Topeka.

4) Even in states that do opt out of the public option, the fact that voters could presumably elect later to restore it creates an extremely credible threat to the private insurance industry that will itself help to create price competition.
Could we really be on the verge of making this happen?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

See, Bob Dole gets it:

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kans.) told a group of local Kansas reporters on Wednesday, that opposition to the president's health care package had been driven by knee-jerk partisanship and urged Congressional Republicans to get on board a version of reform.

The 1996 Republican presidential candidate also predicted, following a speech at a health care reform summit in Kansas, that "there will be a signing ceremony" for a reform bill sometime this year or early in 2010.

But the comments that seem likely to create the most ripples were those that dealt with congressional opposition to the White House. Dole, according to reports, framed the pushback to Barack Obama's reform agenda as almost perfunctory in nature.

"Sometimes people fight you just to fight you," he said, according to The Kansas City Star. "They don't want Reagan to get it, they don't want Obama to get it, so we've got to kill it...

"Health care is one of those things," he added. "Now we've got to do something."

Too bad nobody listens to Bob Dole anymore.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Get excited! We're bombing the moon! The moon men have had this coming for ages!

Monday, October 5, 2009


I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I think I would enjoy this article about the hi-tech search for a missing da Vinci painting hidden behind a mural in Florence's city hall if it weren't for Dan Brown. That bastard ruins everything.

The best protest picture ever.

Here's the story, from the NYT. Thanks, Kendra!

The Immigrants Want to Sing All Night Long

Because it's rainy in Durham, and it always seems like the right time to miss Joe Strummer: "Straight to Hell."

If you can play on the fiddle
How's about a British jig and reel?
Speaking King's English in quotation
As railhead towns feel the steel mills rust water froze
In the generation
Clear as winter ice
This is your paradise

There ain't no need for ya
There ain't no need for ya
Go straight to Hell boys
Go straight to Hell boys

I would've liked to find a good version of the Clash doing this, but it's a hard song to make work live, so the youtube videos don't do the song the justice that the Mescaleros do it. Here's a nice live Clash version, but without a video.

Water water everywhere

When Nalgene announced a year and half ago that a majority of the water bottles they sold have the capacity to leach the toxic chemical BPA, many people that I know switched to the aluminum bottles produced by SIGG. The SIGG company went from nothing to having a huge share of the water bottle market almost overnight.

At the time I did a little research to ensure that these bottles were everything that my once-trusted Nalgene was not, and they seemed to pass the test. Then, a few months ago, it was revealed that all SIGG bottles produced before 2008 also had the capacity to leach BPA. Of course, SIGG did not do what Nalgene did by announcing that this was the case and publicly taking steps to fix things. Instead, they let Nalgene's bad luck play itself out, and in the process acquired a much greater market share, all the while leading people like me to believe that they were not ingesting BPA.

Well, I am back on the Nalgene kick, and very, very happy about it. And what makes me especially happy is the fact that SIGG is now doing a voluntary recall program. So even though I will never buy another SIGG on account of their clear deception, I will avail myself of the opportunity to make them pay for a replacement. And if you have a bottle with one of the old liners in it, I recommend you do the same.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

This Python is Dead

“I’m proud to be a Python. It’s a badge of silliness, which is quite important. I was the gay lumberjack, I was the Spanish Inquisition, I was one-half of the fish-slapping dance. I look at myself and think that may be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
Michael Palin self-diagnoses in a fascinating and personal article in the NYT on an upcoming, six-hour documentary on Monty Python. Here's the IFC blurb on the documentary, Almost the Truth: The Lawyer's Cut. And here's a clip:

More video here.


Nate Silver on what it means that conservatives cheered when the US lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics:

That the conservative intelligentsia reacted giddily to news of the Americans losing is telling. It's telling of a movement that was long ago knocked off its intellectual moorings and has lost the capacity to think about what people outside the room think about.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Awesome: Kansas City artists creating "nerdbots," robot sculptures made out of old junk. Must visit. Located on 9th St. in downtown KC.

From boingboing.


Stephen Joyce should never have gone done this road with a professor at a university with such a good law school.

As Stanford University reported a couple of days ago and Inside Higher Ed noted, the estate of James Joyce, headed up by James Joyce’s grandson, Stephen James Joyce, has lost a lawsuit with English professor Carol Loeb Shloss and must pay her legal fees and costs of nearly a quarter-million dollars.

This finding appears to end the almost two-decade battle with the estate by Shloss, and to represent relief for other Joyce scholars who’ve felt the estate to be unfair and unreasonable in the number of demands and limitations imposed on them. [...]

Shloss, the author of Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake (2003), had been forced to remove supporting research from her revisionist book on James Joyce’s daughter, which led to mixed reviews. [...]

In the intervening years since the original publication of the expurgated biography, Shloss has already won in suit the right to “domestic online publication of the supportive scholarship” and the right to republish the book in the U.S. with the missing material restored. Now she’ll be reimbursed for her expenses too, which will clearly make her lawyers—Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin, Keker & Van Nest, and Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson, as well as the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society's Fair Use Project—yes, rejoice.

I met Schloss a couple of years ago, and I gather that the well-publicized legal aspects of this case only barely gesture at what a jerk Stephen Joyce actually is. Every time someone finds an unknown Joyce letter in an archive somewhere, they have to grovel before this guy just to get permission to publish something nobody living today knew existed.

Thanks to Gerry for the link.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Stevie Wonder on the drums, y'all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mainstream Surrealism

I don't have a tv, so I don't normally have a sense of what commercials are on, but I have to assume that THIS THING is far from ordinary:

Walt Whitman + imagery of passion (animal, sexual, natural) + Jeans = The most surreal thing you are likely to see on television anytime soon.

At least this commercial has some jeans in it. This one hardly has any:

These things have a cinematic quality that make them almost seem like cinepoems. If only they weren't trying to sell me something.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

drink it up!

Since my homeboy Gerry Canavan just finished his exams, here's a tribute to his love of soda, idiosyncrasy, and weird obsessions:

By the way, this place is called Galco’s Soda Pop Stop, and it is located at 5702 York Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Monday, September 21, 2009

One Too Many


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gasoline [updated]

Newsflash: Rush Limbaugh is a race-baiter. Fresh proof. Reiteration from the election: this is incitement to violence. See also Tim Wise on CNN a few days ago.

Update: Think Progress ups the ante: "Federal authorities are now probing a possible hate crime that happened outside a Georgia Cracker Barrel restaurant. After Army reservist Tasha Hill, who is African-American, politely asked Troy Dale West, who is white, to be careful because he almost hit her daughter when opening the door, he began spewing racial epithets at her and punching and kicking her in front of her daughter. Will Limbaugh also condemn this incident today? (Unlikely, considering that in the past, he has praised slavery, said that James Earl Ray deserved the Medal of Honor, and claimed that “all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson.”)."


Update: And then the dude went off the deep-end by calling for segregation:

LIMBAUGH: I think the guy’s wrong. I think not only it was racism, it was justifiable racism. I mean, that’s the lesson we’re being taught here today. Kid shouldn’t have been on the bus anyway. We need segregated buses — it was invading space and stuff. This is Obama’s America.

Monday, September 14, 2009

What doctors say

Read it: 73% of American Medical Association doctors want a public option; 10% of those want to eliminate for-profit insurance altogether. Bam. (Pace Danny Wientzen)

Update: "A majority of physicians surveyed (58 percent) also supported expanding Medicare eligibility to those between the ages of 55 and 64." Via HuffPo.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Open Up

On a tip from Crooks and Liars, I checked out this Democracy Now! interview with Max Blumenthal in which he discusses his book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party. He says an interesting thing in this interview; in a discussion about Frank Schaeffer, an important figure in his genealogy of the religious right, he reports the following:

And his son says, you know, “My father would have been so upset to see what the Christian right and the Republican Party has become today. He despised the homophobia of the movement.”

And what Frank Schaeffer told me, which is most interesting, is that “This movement, we were like oncologists. We needed a crisis to keep occurring in American society in order for us to stay in business.” And that’s what we’re seeing with the healthcare debate, too. I mean, we’re seeing a movement that’s terrified that the government will start to be able to solve people’s crises, because they survive and thrive on manipulating people’s personal crises.
I found this really interesting, and it reminded me of something that my friend Nathan said to me the other night. Blumenthal's argument, in part, is that the religious right's M.O. is to oppose any and all efforts by the government to solve the problems of everyday people for the simple and cynical reason that by doing so, the government infringes on its territory--religion's capacity to serve as the crutch for any and all personal problems, no matter the size. This is an interesting hypothesis that potentially enables us to understand why the health care "debate" has taken the form it has.

But as Nathan, Anne and I were discussing health care, town halls, and the absolute weirdness of the right's characterization of Obama as an Orwellian overlord, Nathan made an interesting comment that I think better explains for me, at least at a topical level, the off-the-wall paranoia of recent conservative descriptions of Obama. In Nathan's view, the right promulgates a view of Obama as a dictator because it serves a psychological function; the Democractic dictator is the fantasy of the Republican party and the far right generally. Republicans would rather have a Hitlerian Democrat in power than a moderate one because such a situation allows the party to frame all political questions in terms of crisis. In other words, in addition to an ideology in which personal responsibility falls within the ken of a religious community, the right also thrives on the politics of enmity. Think of it this way: without a clear and present enemy like bin Laden or Saddam Hussein to rally around, the right has invented a new enemy. It's not a coincidence that the Right has tried each and every label on Obama. If they can't win an election against a "Muslim," maybe they should reach further back into the past and label him a socialist (not to mention a racist). Maybe that will work.

Maybe. The point here is not that this strategy doesn't work--in fact, it has worked well recently--but that by painting Obama as a 21st century Mao indoctrinating school children along party lines, the Right is in its element: he's not a citizen, Americorp is indoctrination, Obama is inflating the census count of minorities to redraw congressional districts, he introduced swine flu to the country, they're building death camps in the southwest, the legislation is going to result in rationing. On and on and on. These are just examples that I pulled off of the top of my head; they by no means represent a complete list of the crimes that the Right fantasizes about Obama committing. By creating this monster, the Right gets to relive the past; it's spring of 2003 again. And the reason for doing this is simple: the only way to win this fight is for the Right to change the subject. Never mind the crisis of health care; this is a constitutional crisis that strikes to the heart of American values.

Or so the logic goes. But buyer beware: that feeling of self-congratulatory righteous indignation that the Right is cultivating--it's is a placebo.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Willem Defoe is getting busy.

Here's a trailer for Lars von Trier's new film, Antichrist.

Lars von Trier's Antichrist - Official Trailer from Zentropa on Vimeo.

Does this look good? Hopefully it will at least be a departure for him.

And here's a trailer for the David Lynch-produced Werner Herzog film, My Son, My Son, What Have You Done?

Again, does this look good? I think I might prefer Herzog as a documentarian -- c.f. Encounters at the End of the World.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Go! Team video

This Go! Team song is called "Milk Crisis," and it appears to come from an extended release of Proof of Youth, which I have yet to see. In any event, the video rocks:


Nobody ever accused Jay Reatard of being smart, but in this NY Times article, he sounds like a smart musician, which he is:

“I’m not trying to be low fidelity,” he added. “I’m trying to be handmade. You don’t go into a bakery and say, ‘That apple pie is handmade, that’s a “lo-fi” pie.’ You realize the crust looks a little rough around the edges, it looks like somebody’s grandma made this, and all of a sudden it’s comforting.”
I'm still trying to make up my mind about Watch Me Fall, but I'm sure I will come around.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jay Reatard video

Jay Reatard's got a new album out, and he's got a fun video for one of the songs up at his website. Here it is:

Monday, May 18, 2009

The birds and the bees (and the pesticides)

Bee colony collapse solved? Salon's pointing fingers at ever-responsible agribusiness. Global ecological apocalypse averted ... for now.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mid-Exam Humor

Why had it not occurred to me before? The right wing loves TEA BAGGING. They're going to "lick" Obama's tax plan! It's going to take "dick army / Dick Armey" to tea bag the whole country! The jokes practically write themselves, as MSNBC clearly understood.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I don't really get down with kitten videos on the internet, and I don't really love LOLcats. But for some reason, "Kittens, inspired by kittens" gets to me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


The headline reads: "Pedestrian Is Struck, Then Dragged 17 Miles." Here's the lead: "A pedestrian was hit by an S.U.V. in Queens, then struck by a van and dragged into Brooklyn. He is dead."

That list bit seemed a little unnecessary, no?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

photographic punk

Here's an interesting 9-minute video about Glen E. Friedman, an early photographer of punk, skateboarding and hip-hop. If you're into any of those three things, you've no doubt seen his photos. From BoingBoing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Post-Bush, day 1

Quick thought:

Recently Christopher Hitchens threw a party, where he said an interesting thing:

Hitchens opined on whether the Obama administration should answers calls from the left to prosecute Bush administration officials for illegal interrogation of prisoners [...] Hitchens then claimed that the Bush administration's commitment to harsh interrogation techniques, which he considers torture, derived from a desire among Americans for a more “ruthless” government. “It has to be admitted by every American that in the majority after the 9/11 Commission, people wanted an administration that was much more ruthless than the one they'd had on September the 10th,” he said. “I know something for a sure thing,” Hitchens continued. “The demand for torture and other methods I would describe as illegal, the demand to go outside the Geneva conventions — all this came from below. What everyone wants to say is this came from a small clique around the vice-president. It's not educational. It doesn't enlighten anyone to behave as if that were true. This is our society wanting and demanding harsh measures.”
I have to admit that when I read this it struck me as correct. I think that Hitchens is a smart guy, and for as much as I sometimes dislike him, I think he is very good at calling out people for acting righteous when they aren't. After all, isn't the call for prosecution of Bush and Rumsfeld done in bad faith--at least a little? I think many Americans did want something like torture, and I think that members of Congress were perfectly happy to allow the law to be blurred for that reason. In this sense, the call for prosecutions is really done in bad faith; a prosecution of Bush/Rumsfeld is nothing other than our desire to prosecute ourselves for fucking it up--a way for us to feel good by projecting evil onto a finite group of people who is not us. Great.

And even as I say that, I have to think that Hitchens is still wrong. Mandates do come from below, yes, but if we know anything about the psychology of authority--if we've learned anything from the Holocaust, the Stanford Prison experiment or the Migram experiment--it is that the people below will do what they are told to do and to think what they are told to think. So where does blame lay--with the American public or with the leadership?

I suppose this begs the question of what we think leadership is. If we think the job of the leader is to enact those things that the populace wants, then we are guilty. But if we think leadership means the ability to lead, then prosecute away. So what was Bush, then? A terrible non-leader? Or a criminal? Those might be the two options.