Sunday, September 28, 2008

Post-Debate Blues

Are the debates really just gonna be CliffsNotes for the kids who haven't been following the campaign?

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Slavoj Žižek Is A National Treasure.

It's a real shame he's not ours.
This recent interview covers all kinds of great territory—the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, Oliver Stone's failures as a polemicist, Žižek's defenses of the movie 300, of racism (yes!) and of dick jokes, as well as some of his praise (faint praise) for my boy Thomas Frank and Judith Butler's underrated partner, Wendy Brown.

[via BeepBoop, shared by susie]

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Is This Obama Vs. Palin Banner Ad For Real?

Who the eff made this? Is this just dumb? Or some kind of push poll for totally apathetic, disinterested people?

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Marcy Kaptur! Why Aren't You Obama's VP!

She's took some serious names last week on the financial bailout absurdity. [Thanks, Chris!]

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sitcom Filmed In IKEA During Store Hours

Q: Is this trailer for Guy Ben-Ner's family sitcom—using busy Ikea showroom floors as a set—any less jarring than the traditional three-camera sitcom (the ones with no fourth wall and a raucous studio audience)?

(It's a rhetorical question; found via Cabinet)

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Silver Jews' David Berman Writes To The NYT's [Actual Hot Air]

I haven't been able to find out if this letter in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine is the David Berman, but it's fun to pretend:

David Frum’s political view of inequality (Sept. 7) reads like an internal memo from the court of Louis XVI — equality is not a value to be pursued for its own sake but a concession that might have to be endured to avoid imminent revolution.

Equality is the value with which the framers began our founding document and what the progress of civilization has been primarily about. In fact, the redistribution of wealth — a conservative’s most feared and hated thing — is most of what governments do. Reasonable people can disagree about precisely how much wealth should be redistributed and where, but to say that “equality in itself never can be or should be a conservative goal” is tantamount to rejecting the last couple centuries of progress.

David Berman

Berman's comparison is particularly interesting as former presidential speech writer David Frum hails from the court of George Bush II. He's widely known to have written the "Axis of Evil" speech—though, his draft read "Axis of Hatred," which was changed, presumably, to avoid alienating the GOP's pro-hate wing. [via NYT, orbviorsly]

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Top 5 Cringe Inducing Videogame Raps

Friday, September 19, 2008

"What Did You Bring Me Daddy?" [Our 21st Century Mad Men]

Madison Avenue is always at its laziest and unintentionally creepy when marketing toys to kids. Like this:

[via BWE]

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Shape Is Desperate [Doo-Doo Economics]

[via Goatmilk via HuffPo's Nathan Gardels]

Joseph Stiglitz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001. I spoke with him Tuesday about the Wall Street meltdown.

Nathan Gardels: Barack Obama has said the Wall Street meltdown is the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. John McCain says the economy is threatened, but fundamentally strong. Which is it?

Joseph Stiglitz: Obama is much closer to the mark. Yes, America has talented people, great universities and a good hi-tech sector. But the financial markets have played a very important role, accounting for 30 percent of corporate profits in the last few years.

Those who run the financial markets have garnered those profits on the argument they were helping manage risk and efficiently allocating capital, which is why, they said, they “deserved” those high returns.

That’s been shown to be not true. They’ve managed it all badly. Now it has come back to bite them and now the rest of the economy will pay as the wheels of commerce slow because of the credit crunch. No modern economy can function well without a vibrant financial sector.

So, Obama’s diagnosis that our financial sector is in desperate shape is correct. And if it is in desperate shape, that means our economy is in desperate shape.

Even if we weren’t looking at the financial turmoil, but at the level of household, national and federal debt there is a major problem. We are drowning. If we look at inequality, which is the greatest since the Great Depression, there is a major problem. If we look at stagnating wages, there is a major problem.


Retreating Back Into Obscurity With The Aislers Set

This is a very personal reminiscence, but the fact that I had never heard of the San Francisco-based, M86-throwbacks The Aislers Set during my first years of college (when I was getting into their immediate Doppelgängers, like Belle and Sebastian) makes me love them even more. The fact that the band has been on "hiatus" since 2003 doesn't hurt either: I love them because they're not still together, because their defeatist sound hasn't been spoiled by a long-winding career pursuing stardom or relevance. Today, their music both sounds like and is a relic to wasted precocity. Here's them doing "the Walk" as a Peel session; as well as a live version of "Fire Engines."

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

George Bush Doesn't Care About Bald People?

Think again. [How totally behind am I on this animation's existence?]

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Yahoo Room Enthusiast

[from the ongoing McSweeney's DFW remembrance list]

I brought him to read at Cal Poly in February of 2004. He didn't do many public readings, and it had taken me a couple of years to get him to agree to visit. One day he sent me a postcard that read, "I don't take fees, but I'll come if you put me up for a few nights in the Yahoo room of the Madonna Inn." Here's the link to the room, as it really underscores Wallace's wonderful, manic sense of humor and love of kitsch:
—Adam Hill

[I put the guts of that link in down here]

Hidden away in the hill top unit is “Yahoo”...the days of cowboys and cattle drives are still alive (don’t confuse with At the end of the trail...after a long day on the off in the rock waterfall shower before falling asleep on the authentic “Buckboard” bed. Only rented on special occasions, this private room is filled with family memorabilia...a reflection of the Madonna Family’s lifestyle.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

"FDR basically had the coolest dog of any president"

[via NationMaster, yeah] On September 23, 1944, Roosevelt gave his famous "Fala speech" while campaigning in the 1944 presidential election. The 39.5 minute speech was delivered at a campaign dinner in Washington, D.C., before the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America. In the speech, Roosevelt attacks Republican opponents in Congress and details their attacks on him. Late in the speech, Roosevelt addressed false Republican charges that he had accidentally left Fala behind on the Aleutian Islands while on tour there and had sent a U.S. Navy destroyer to retrieve him at an exorbitant cost:

"These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. [laughter] Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks — but Fala does resent them. [laughter] You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him — at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or 20 million dollars — his Scotch soul was furious. [laughter] He has not been the same dog since! [laughter] I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself — such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog [laughter]."

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hope, Good Vibrations

[Link Fixed!] "just because it's a theme song don't mean it ain't true"

The Elle article and the Emily Gould reception.
(Did you know she's a featured buyer on Etsy? It's like making an iTunes playlist, only a little more ... Etsy!)

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"What will we do without him?"

While everybody and their brother seems to have grasped for meaning at the suicide references in DFW's 2005 commencement speech, Laura Miller is the first I've seen to chart his path to self-induced oblivion through the author's progressively dark fiction.

Needless to say, it's one of the better remembrances I've read today.


The Tina Fey As Sarah Palin Cold Open

So perfect. Other bits from the episode weren't too shabby either.

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"He was like a lot of postmodern novelists, but braver."

David Foster Wallace, dead at 46: suicide.

The news is still too fresh to process, but I can categorically say that I am heartbroken and have one less star to sail by.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Clooney To Play NYT's Columnist Paul Krugman In Biopic

LOLzzzz, myself. This image is actually from Burn After Reading—which everyone needs to see this weekend. [Red Band Trailer Here]

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pradeep Sharma's Close Encounters Of The So-Corrupt-You're-Fired Kind

The Mumbai Encounter Squad has always been something of a mystery to me. Since the 1980's, it has seemingly been an entire police outfit dedicated to provoking action-packed shootouts with gangsters.

While critics have blasted Encounter Squad for Dirty Harry-style vigilantism and have accused the police of concluding that this method was more efficient than court, a substantial portion of the public and the media in India continue to portray them as heroes. At over 112 confirmed kills (they keep score like American GI's in Vietnam), Pradeep Sharma was the most famous Encounter Squad member and now he has been fired due to corruption allegations. Unlike the rest of Mumbai's 39,000-strong police force—who detained 1,290 gangsters legally and without being dramatized in Bollywood movies—Sharma (pictured) is now following fellow MES officer Daya Nayak on the infamy downslope.

Fittingly, Sharma is being fired rather than charged with these crimes because it is ultimately "more efficient" than making those accusations stick:
A senior police officer corroborated his chief’s version, saying the decision was based on a variety of factors, including Sharma’s role as a middleman between gangster Chhota Shakeel and the builder mafia. “Telephonic interceptions have revealed that Sharma used to negotiate extortion threats received by builders and businessman. He also used to negotiate land deals. We wanted to put an end to this,’’ he said. Another officer said Sharma “is worth over Rs 3,000 crore’’. Although convinced about his underhand activities, the police knew that it would be difficult to prove them in court. Therefore, the government invoked Article 311 of the Indian constitution whereby an officer can be dismissed without holding an inquiry in such situations. This is also one of the rare cases in which the deputy chief minister took an active interest in ensuring the dismissal of a police inspector.
I'm sure Sharma is going to have no trouble finding an employer for his talents in the private sector, maybe even in construction.

[Via The Times of India]

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Saucy Youth Remains Defiant [PG-13 Edition]

I have very little idea who took this picture, though the subject and style is very derivative of Terry Richardson, if he isn't the culprit.

You can buy (a whiter and less interesting) version of the shirt here.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

I Wish Italian Spiderman Was Funnier

The trailer that took the internet by semi-storm in November of 2007

The 10 installments of it over the course of this past summer.

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Alec Baldwin On Planning Your Social Engagements

"Whenever you see an invitation that says 'What could be more magical than an evening under the stars in the Hamptons?' you press delete." This and other pearls of wisdom from the hilarious and awesome Alec Baldwin can be found in this recent and sprawling (I know. What other kind is there?) New Yorker piece.


Friday, September 05, 2008

The New Yorker McCain Cover: Funny Because It's True

... and frankly that's the problem, because their Obama cover is funny because it's false.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

You Know, For Kids! [Me And My Cartooning]

As of today (Friday), little ones across America are seeing this issue of Current Science with my comic, "Lab Rats," and a cover I drew! Heady days over here!

Please Note: I was not responsible for the text (or the font of the text) on the cover!

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That Last Post Was Too Depressing, So "Pic Unrelated"

What Do U.S. Prisoners Make For Below Minimum Wage?

Guess What? It's hard to decriminalize drug possession and our country's scandalously high incarceration rate when it's supplying a cheap labor force for corporations operating in the U.S. — especially when those corporations fund lobbyists, think tanks and university grants. What ever happened to those Halcyon days when all prisoners had to make were shivs and Pruno, clocks out of popsicle sticks and spit-Papier-mâché chessboards?

Forget about illegal immigrations, blue-collar America. This is where you( and you)r jobs are going:

Tens of thousands of US inmates are paid from pennies to minimum wage—minus fines and victim compensation—for everything from grunt work to firefighting to specialized labor. Here's a sampling of what they make, and for whom.

Eating in: Each month, California inmates process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens). Starbucks subcontractor Signature Packaging Solutions has hired Washington prisoners to package holiday coffees (as well as Nintendo Game Boys). Confronted by a reporter in 2001, a Starbucks rep called the setup "entirely consistent with our mission statement."

Around the Big House: Texas inmates produce brooms and brushes, bedding and mattresses, toilets, sinks, showers, and bullwhips. Bullwhips?

Windows dressing: In the mid-1990s, Washington prisoners shrink-wrapped software and up to 20,000 Microsoft mouses for subcontractor Exmark (other reported clients: Costco and JanSport). "We don't see this as a negative," a Microsoft spokesman said at the time. Dell used federal prisoners for PC recycling in 2003, but stopped after a watchdog group warned that it might expose inmates to toxins.

[via Mother Jones]

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Sterling Cooper 2008 AD: Parallel Universe Alert

Out of character, the cast of AMC's The Hidden Persuaders looka like 'dis:

[via Subtlety in Excess]

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The Simultaneous Decline Of Reportage and Rise Of Pollsters

In his ceaselessly amazing ability to digest the stalest of middlebrow horseshit from the (assumably overly generous) book deals granted our country's pundit class, Thomas Frank compares the arrogant and (incite/insight)ful coverage of the '68 Chicago riots by Norman Mailer to the fluffy, self-congratulatory "adventures in polling data" found in political consultant Douglas Schoe's Declaring Independence and pollster John Zogby's The Way We’ll Be. Here's the meat:
At the pinnacle of all these trite formulations, the pollster places the sleepiest, most shopworn cliché of them all, the cliché to which Zogby has dedicated his book and apparently his life: the “American Dream” and its “Transformation.” To me the idea is so thickly meaningless, so impenetrable, that I would rather just forget the whole thing. Zogby insists, however, that the American people get it and even adore it. Yes, “the public understands the new American dream just fine.” Apparently, what he means is this: Americans used to want merely to get rich, but now they understand that there are limits, and so they want greenness and authenticity and all the other aforementioned clichés, clichés that (by the way) powered countless similarly banal books all through the 1970s and beyond.

I mock, but the American Dream is a banality that apparently never requires definition and yet is capable of launching our pundit class on endless expeditions to the shimmering El Dorado of . . . the center.

Ah, the center! Now there is the place to be. The existential radical Mailer wouldn’t be caught dead there, but at least he was willing to identify its coordinates correctly: In 1968, “the center” obviously meant the Great Society liberalism that was shared by Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Nelson Rockefeller alike. Corporate liberalism was simply the logic of the nation’s political machinery, and everyone knew it—although plenty of people hated it. These days, of course, the proper political writer is no existentialist, and he dares not locate himself anywhere but the almighty center, that omphalos of triangulated righteousness. It is simply understood that you cannot possibly have anything worthwhile to say about American politics unless you can see the error of “both extremes” and know in your heart that the two parties behave in every situation as precise mirror images of each other.

There’s another telling difference: When our contemporary pundits take up the banner of centrism, they never mean Great Society liberalism, even though it’s easy to find polls that show the public still strongly approves of, say, national health care, safe workplaces, equality, the public financing of Social Security, and so on. To them, “the center” always seems to mean a sort of soft libertarianism: free markets, free trade, low taxes, and no more of that infernal bawling about moral values. The center, in other words, always turns out to be a perfect reflection of the political longings of the white-collar class.

[via Maud Newton]

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A Walking Tour Of The Homes Of Washington DC's Plutocratic Overlords

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mutually Consensual Murder In 18th Century New England

From contributing editor for Rolling Stone and Harper's, Jeff Sharlet:

There aren't a lot of readers out there who'll be intrigued by the news that Library Journal's Nancy E. Adams considers my "evocation of the mood of theologian Jonathan Edwards’s work" in my recent book The Family "one of the most compelling this reviewer has ever read," but for a literary sinner in the hands of an angry God like me, it's high praise. The media response to the book has focused almost entirely on the contemporary politics of The Family and the group's role in the Cold War, but for my money, the scariest pages in the book are those about Jonathan Edwards, the most brilliant thinker -- and possibly the creepiest -- in 18th century New England. I wrote part of my chapter about Edwards in a cabin in the woods at the MacDowell Colony. I'd stay up late into the night, reading and re-reading a crumbling, early 19th century edition of Edwards' A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton, a bestseller in its day. I was stuck on -- maybe trapped in -- the story of a young woman named Abigail Hutchinson, a subject of great fascination to the theologian. But I didn't know why until one night, around three in the morning, the fog of arcane language cleared. I realized that I was reading an account of a mutually consensual murder; perverse ascetism; the slow starvation to death of Hutchinson under Edwards' approving gaze.

I ran through the woods in the dark up to the main hall of the writer's colony, where there's a stack of VHS tapes next to an old TV. Somebody had left P.T. Anderson's Boogie Nights, behind. I'd seen it before, but I watched it again, an escape, both fabulous and bleak, from the Edwardsian mood that in the woods seemed to surround me.

[via the Revealer, which I always knew I had in my Google reader for a reason.]

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Monday, September 01, 2008

UN Diplomats Using Immunity Status For Human Trafficking, Cooking, Cleaning and the Dishes

Meet Lauro Baja: a former UN Ambassador with a smile like some Filipino Rupert Murdoch. Baja's a defendant (along with his wife Norma, their adult daughter and the family-owned Labaire Travel Agency) in 15 civil charges including trafficking, forced labor and racketeering. After filing a motion motion to dismiss all 15 civil charges last July, Baja is now invoking the Vienna Convention and is seeking the shelter of diplomatic immunity.

While most of these specific charges stem from the Baja's escaped housekeeper, Marichu Baoanan, the practice seems to be scandalously widespread with upwards of 42 separate allegations noted by the Government Accounting Office. Worse still, the U.S. State Department keeps no record of abuse allegations accusing foreign diplomats—probably for the same reason that the Department of the Interior is toking up, snorting blow and having sex with oil industry reps. But let's take these scandals one at a time:

Baoanan, 39, a nurse, came to New York from Manila to the United States to earn money for her family. According to a federal lawsuit filed in June, she paid $5,000 to Baja and a travel agency run by Baja's wife for a promised nursing job.

But she ended up working full-time as the Baja's personal maid and was paid only $100 for three months of work, including cooking, doing laundry and cleaning the four-level ambassador's residence in Manhattan, she said.

[...] besides long hours with low pay, Baoanan was forced to sleep in the basement with only a sheet, her employers refused to buy proper shoes and clothes, and she was called "stupid" and "slow."

During one incident, she said the former ambassador "just stared" and did nothing as Facundo's 5-year-old son hit her with a broom, spat and kicked her in the face.

"My eyes became blurry ... from crying every night," she said, breaking down. "They did not treat me like a person."

After three months, she eventually escaped with the help of a fellow Filipina, lawyers for Baoanan said.
In the Bajas' defense, they do throw a nice cotillion:

[Via The Phillipine Reporter, The Epoch Times and the activist blog, End Trafficking]

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