Monday, December 31, 2007

Quote for the Day

If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad; if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."
- John F. Kennedy

In Memoriam

Kudos to The New York Times for mourning the loss of a great nation: the United States of America. The editors confess that often they don't recognize their own country:
It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lifestyle Choices

Bill Maher makes a great point about Larry Craig, et al:
Don't people like Larry Craig and Ted Haggard and Mark Foley prove that being gay really is a hard-wired thing — not, as the conservatives always claim, a "lifestyle choice"? If anyone could choose not to have gay sex, it would be these guys, since their whole careers are built on not having gay sex.


They used to call it 'water torture'

Writing on the Straight Dope boards, "Scylla" tells how he waterboarded himself - up to a point before having to call it off due to the horror he endured. His description of the climactic results:
The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vacuum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.

It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.

There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.

At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.

I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.

And I understood.

Waterboarding gets you to the point where you draw water up your respiratory tract triggering the drowning reflex. Once that happens, it's all over. No question. ...

So, is it torture?

I'll put it this way. If I had the choice of being waterboarded by a third party or having my fingers smashed one at a time by a sledgehammer, I'd take the fingers, no question.

It's horrible, terrible, inhuman torture. I can hardly imagine worse. I'd prefer permanent damage and disability to experiencing it again. I'd give up anything, say anything, do anything.

The Spanish Inquisition knew this. It was one of their favorite methods.

It's torture. No question. Terrible terrible torture. To experience it and understand it and then do it to another human being is to leave the realm of sanity and humanity forever.
And later on in the same thread:
It's not simulating drowning, it is drowning. It felt like dying. I can't put it any other way.
Some folks are OK with this, of course. They posit their ludicrous doomsday scenarios and tell us we need to have this sort of option in case we need to torture one person to save a million. Whatever. Their scenario's highly unlikely to occur - and they're not going to be convinced otherwise. They really have no problem with brutality and they're trying to justify it. Others, however, are still trying to convince themselves that waterboarding isn't torture. Folks like Missouri Senator Kit Bond, who says waterboarding is "like swimming, freestyle, backstroke." Right Senator, that's why they offering waterboarding at the Y, along with spinning and pilates. The Senator and others need to be directed to this thread, so they can snap out of it.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Congratulations Huckabee!

You have a Y chromosome. And anyone who votes for the President on the grounds of his ability to hunt for defenseless wild game deserves the President they get.

Additionally, how exactly does a highly-publicized hunt - scrutinized by journalists and photographers, illuminated by TV camera lights and flash photography - illustrate any sort of "authenticity"?

Next up, Huckabee drinks Schlitz and scratches navel while watching football.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Starck Reality

Who knew Philippe Starck was such a comedian? And so self-deprecating. Check out this TED talk he gave on design and god.

Just one of many great TED talks.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Bardem as Anton Chigurh

My contribution to the end-of-year top-10 navel-gazing. With everything in one post for the sake of sheer laziness. Reserving the right to make adjustments between now and December 31st. The year ain't over yet! Not necessarily in order of preference (I have to be difficult), though the number ones are my favorite picks.


Anton Chigurh: What's the most you ever lost on a coin toss.
Gas Station Owner: Sir?
Anton Chigurh: The most. You ever lost. On a coin toss.
Gas Station Owner: I don't know. I couldn't say.

- No Country for Old Men
  1. No Country for Old Men - just when I thought maybe the Coen brothers were starting to flag, they come back with this astonishing piece of work
  2. No End in Sight & Taxi to the Dark Side - saw the latter at TriBeCa Film Festival, so its wide release is 2008; ideally both films would be shown back-to-back on primetime television
  3. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - *added 12/27
  4. Michael Clayton - "I am Shiva, the god of death!"
  5. Red Road - which I almost forgot about, but which was excellent, if harrowing
  6. The Savages - alternately excruciating and hilarious
  7. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead - banner year for Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  8. After the Wedding
  9. This Is England - nobody went to see this - it was sensational
  10. Helvetica - forgot this gem of documentary - *added 12/27
Update: Knocked out of the top 10
  • Superbad - maybe Knocked Up if I'd seen it
  • Lars and the Real Girl - better than advertised
Plus these 5 special mentions:
  1. Lives of Others - actually an easy selection for near the top of the list, but, technically, I saw it last year
  2. Blade Runner - The Final Cut - one of my favorite movies of all time - a sci-fi Casablanca - seeing it in the theater for the first time was a real treat
  3. The Bourne Ultimatum - just because the trilogy is such a riot
  4. Zodiac - I loved it, but it just didn't stay with me
  5. The Wind That Shakes the Barley - as above
Plus these 5 I'm sure I'd love if I'd seen them:
  1. Persepolis - looks gorgeous and I enjoyed the book
  2. Rescue Dawn - Werner Herzog can do no wrong
  3. Eastern Promises - neither can Cronenberg
  4. Diving Bell & the Butterfly - nor Schnabel (Update: see above)
  5. Control - how did I not get around to seeing Anton Corbijn's debut as a director?
Make up something to believe in your heart of hearts
so you have something to wear on your sleeve of sleeves
so you swear you just saw a feathery woman
carry a blindfolded man through the trees
showered and blue-blazered, fill yourself with quarters
showered and blue-blazered, fill yourself with quarters

- The National, "Mistaken for Strangers" from Boxer
  1. The National - Boxer - sorry, but LCD Soundsystem's had a couple of actual groaners; Boxer only had a song or two that were simply less beautiful than the others
  2. Joan as Policewoman - Real Life (apparently, this came out last year; feel like this year to me); ravishingly good
  3. Cinematic Orchestra - Ma Fleur
  4. Radiohead - In Rainbows
  5. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
  6. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (well, it was really good)
  7. Feist - The Reminder
  8. Grinderman
  9. Blonde Redhead - 23
  10. Saul Williams - The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!
3 more definitely worth your time:
  1. Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position
  2. NIN - Year Zero (partly for it's amazing viral marketing campaign; trust me, I never thought I'd see NIN in any list of mine either)
  3. Atlas Sound - actually not out until next year; expect great things
5 I haven't gotten, but apparently need to:
  1. M.I.A.- Kala
  2. St. Vincent - Marry Me
  3. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
  4. Kanye West - Graduation
  5. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Massively over-rated:
  • The Good, The Bad, & The Queen
Since I make no particular effort to read what's on current best seller lists, this is a list of the top 10 books I read this year, regardless of when they were published.
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing direction. You change direction, but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you, something inside you. So all you can do is to give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand does not get in, and walk through it, step by step. There is no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverised bones.

- Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
  1. Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
  2. The Road - Cormac McCarthy
  3. Remainder - Tom McCarthy
  4. Martin Amis - House of Meetings
  5. Moth Smoke - Mohsin Hamid
  6. Out - Natsuo Kirino
  7. Motherless Brooklyn - Jonathan Lethem
  8. The Swallows of Kabul - Yasmina Khadra
  9. Survivor - Chuck Palahniuk
  10. The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell - John Crawford
Tell me your favorites in the comments. I wouldn't want to miss anything.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007



Tonight's the night. And it's going to happen again, and again. It has to happen. Nice night. - Dexter Morgan