Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6157

Steve and Katie's wedding was designed around their shared enthusiasm for the oeuvre of Quentin Tarantino: the grooms' procession was a homage to Reservoir Dogs, the bridegrooms' outfits came from Kill Bill, and as for the wedding night, well, don't ask.
(Image originally uploaded by originalrocker; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, January 30, 2010

David Brooks, Oligarch Stroker

I don't know that there's any big-name opinion columnist (and, God help us, frequent PBS/NPR guest bloviator) that I despise more than I despise David Brooks, and there is no one who takes him down better for his deceptive, whiny, toadying, class-war-decrying, privilege-serving missives than Matt Taibbi:

And even if I were to accept the Brooksian view of an upper class that must be looked to to fix things and take care of the lower classes and create the needed wealth to help us escape our economic crisis, the whole point is that this upper class he is talking about has abdicated that very responsibility — and, perhaps having reached the cynical conclusion that our society is not worth saving, has taken on a new mission that involves not creating wealth for all but simply absconding with whatever wealth is remaining.

It’s not pessimism or “combative divisiveness” to talk about these problems and insist that they get fixed. On the contrary, it’s a very positive view of what citizenship is to believe that everyone has a real role in fixing his country’s problems, and that when we identify problems, we should try to do something about them because we might actually succeed.

On the other hand, telling oneself that when powerful people “rig the game” one should just tolerate it, because one’s best hope for seeing the situation fixed rests in hoping those same powerful people fix it themselves — I would describe that as pessimism, or something worse than pessimism. The whole point of America is that we are all supposed to be our own masters, never viewing anyone as being by birth or situation inherently better or more capable than ourselves, and so the notion of relying upon some nebulous class of investment bankers to “channel opportunity” from on high strikes me as being un-American.

And besides, the fact that a lot of these guys have made a lot of money recently doesn’t make them “upper class.” They’re the same assholes we all were in high school and college, except that they made some very particular moral choices in adulthood, and became criminals, and have now arranged things so that they’re going to be tough as hell to catch. And when they fall, which a lot of them will… I mean a lot of these guys are ten seconds from losing it all and spending the next ten years working the laundry room at Danbury or pushing shopping carts under the FDR expressway. And they know it. These people aren’t the nobility. They’re people just like us, only stupider and less ashamed of themselves.

Which perhaps explains Brooks' desperate defense of them against the envious, self-destructive straw-man populists that rampage through his column (and perhaps through his mind as well, though I doubt that he actually believes the caricatures he traffics in): he can't help but rally to the aid of his own kind.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1752

Let's close out the week with a threefer.

Hell of a time for Sudden Onset OCPD to strike. "Oh God, this baseline is FILTHY."
Experienced golfers know that victory on the 14th hole at Mecklenburg Mini-Putt can only be attained by first assuaging the fierce territoriality of Napoleon, the course's "built-in biohazard," with either Snausages or reasonably thick ankle-high boots—and they come prepared accordingly.
Douglas Sirkderbirds are GO!
(Images originally uploaded by dragonsfanatic, espressoDOM, and Zallia; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, January 29, 2010

In the Darkness Bind Them

Jim Naureckas at FAIR does a great job of shredding Joe Klein over a Swampland post wherein Klein blames the public for being too stupid to understand that they've benefited from last year's stimulus package. Naureckas points out that the corporate media deserve a large portion of the blame for any such ignorance thanks to its penchant for unenlightening, faux-objective he-said/she-said reporting:

Here's how you're supposed to report on the stimulus, if you work for a newspaper or daily TV news program:

Obama, GOP Spokesman Differ on Stimulus Results

That's from the Boston Globe (11/27/09), considered one of the most "liberal" corporate news outlets. The story that followed dutifully quoted the president claiming he had cut taxes and extended jobless benefits, followed by Rep. Mike Pence (R.-Ind)  saying that Democrats had taken the economy "from bad to worse with their failed economic agenda and big government plans." Who was right? The story gave readers not a clue, allowing the Globe to successfully avoid taking sides.

Or look at the piece from CNN (1/25/10) that set Klein off, reporting on a poll that found "3 of 4 Americans Say Much of Stimulus Money Wasted."  Is the public right to think that?  The CNN story doesn't say--it's just telling us what we think, not what the facts are.

Now, you do find the occasional report on a study that finds that, in fact, increased government spending does seem to result in lower unemployment. But such stories are  greatly outnumbered by the he-said, she-said of routine political coverage--few if any of which will refer back to the coverage that cited actual data about the stimulus program.  Expecting citizens to figure out on their own which side's line of the day is more credible is like randomly inserting passages from The Lord of the Rings into a history textbook and being surprised when students think Gandalf was a real person.

But hey, if Texas textbook revisionists get their way, in a decade or two our kids might all be believing that Joe McCarthy saved the world by poking out the Eye of Sauron with his rolled-up list of State Department communists.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7638

Competition is fierce at The Casting Call of the Wild.
(Image originally uploaded by Cosmohome; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 28, 2010

RIP Howard Zinn

I was all set to hunt up and read the text of the State of the Union Address this morning (I couldn't watch it last night and haven't perused the blogospheric reaction yet) and see what my reactions were, but almost the first thing I found out upon going online was that the great populist historian Howard Zinn died yesterday (h/t TMW). Damn. So there's one thing we know about the State of the Union this morning: It's immeasurably poorer.

Zinn appeared often on Democracy Now! (good luck finding people like him on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, etc.), and it's a safe bet that they'll have a good retrospective on him—if not today, then quite soon. They've already got up a great memorial page with a brief bio and links to his many DN! appearances stretching back to 1996. I'll be spending some time there myself when I can.

Class conflict was one of the main lenses through which Zinn looked at history, and I doubt that any modern-day big-name historian was better at paying attention to the people that official and school history often ignores, distorts, or outright lies about: the marginalized, the losers, the poor, the despised, the downtrodden. His A People's History of the United States is like a big Bible of the Ignored, a great compendium of American tales that the schoolbook histories generally breeze past. I had in my notes a link to his "Three Holy Wars" talk—a look at little-noticed class issues in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World War II—given for the 100th anniversary of The Progressive magazine; it's well worth a read and/or a listen.

"You should notice. You should take notice of these little things." Yes. But as of 7:13 this morning, Howard Zinn was nowhere to be found on the front page of Google News—though Jay Leno, Bradgelina, and the iPad were.


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1519

These so-limited-they-practically-don't-exist-edition Manos: The Hands of Fate shower curtains now fetch a hefty price on eBay.
(Image originally uploaded by Swansea Photographer; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Casino Jack and the United States of Money

Yesterday's Democracy Now! has a nice segment on Alex Gibney's new film about shameless überlobbyist Jack Abramoff and his astonishing record of greed, mendacity, and right-wing activism. Excerpt:

NEIL VOLZ [former Congressional staffer and Abramoff associate]: The first time I met Jack Abramoff was in the Majority Whip’s office at an event. Jack is one of a kind. I mean, Jack Abramoff could sweet talk a dog off a meat truck. He’s that persuasive. And he’s the king of K Street. This is the guy. And he comes in for five minutes, sits down next to somebody who’s willing to spend millions of dollars, you know, to lobby Washington, and then he leaves in five minutes. And the guy or the woman thinks that Jack’s talking to the President, but he’s probably playing solitaire on his computer. And then he comes back in, and it’s like, “Hey, you know, sorry about that, but you got two more minutes. And by the way, I need about $250,000 a month,” and then walks out the door. One of a kind. One of a kind.
If only that were true.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5813

There is no more fun place to be assimilated than the bacchanalian carnival that is Mardi Borg.
(Image originally uploaded by Olivia Gray; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


An ACORN Primer

With fortuitous timing, Jim Hightower offers a great cut-the-crap overview of the manufactured controversy surrounding ACORN—right before the dirty-tricks apprentice who shot (and carefully edited) covert video in a lame takedown attempt last year gets busted trying to bug a Congressional office.

Anything that seeks to empower the poor must be demonized by any means necessary, up to and including outright mendacity. Judging by their reactions to public health care, organized labor, voter registration drives, etc., this seems to be a credo for some on the right.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4507

"I know what you're thinking: 'Is that a dinner roll? Is it a rock? Is it his own feces?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as I'm gonna fling something, the question you've got to ask yourself is, 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya?"
(Image originally uploaded by rasquelfr; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, January 25, 2010

The Corporate Rights Portal

The fine folks at SourceWatch have put up an excellent page with information on the already infamous Citizens United decision, the Move to Amend coalition, the Americans Before Corporations amendment, etc.

Go! Make the Oligarchist Federalist Society cry.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1876

Los Angeles, 1979: From Malibu to Claremont to Irvine to Rancho Palos Verdes, pallid twins practice for their Shining auditions.
Extra: Help! Captioning is, in part, the art of coming up with contexts into which pictures can fit and then constructing these contexts with an economical, yet hopefully amusing, set of words. It is always possible to come up with a possible context for a picture; however, it is not always easy to come up with a funny context. This is never more frustratingly true than when you come up against a picture that seems an obviously fertile ground for humor, yet you can't figure out what to do with it. Perhaps there's such a thing as a comic interference pattern—created when possibilities proliferate to the point of canceling each other out. I don't know. But I seem to have run up against an impasse with this one, ripe with possibility as it is; perhaps my mind simply rebels against contemplating what might be responsible for this particular state of affairs:

*open mind*
*insert traumatic memory*
*years later experience inexplicable compulsions to donate to Humane Society*

If you have suggestions on this one, feel free to leave 'em in comments. Please note that Categorical Aperitif is not responsible for any moral, intellectual, or conceptual damage caused by prolonged contemplation of any possible explanatory context for this image. Caption at your own risk.

(Images originally uploaded by Jackie K Photography and CantoredOmbre; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)

Update: I see that the good Generik sent out an appeal to his armies of the night, and they responded in style. Dang, you people are good.


The Stray Dogs of Moscow has a quite interesting story about the thousands of stray dogs that have been a de facto part of Moscow's street life for decades—and about the astonishing adaptations they have made to survive in a gritty, cold human metropolis.

Example: Some "metro dogs" have even learned how to ride the subway.

The animal kingdom never ceases to amaze.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"But it seems we've spent the entire year moving our own goalposts farther away."

My favorite line in the blogospherically infamous email lament from an anonymous Democratic Senate staffer posted by TPM last week. The whole thing is definitely worth a read if you haven't.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2447

Movies We'd Like to See: Rickie Lee Jones and the Temple of Doom.
(Image originally uploaded by Yanda; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


That Was the Sucky Week That Was

Between the continuing horror of Haiti, the Scott Brown victory, and the Citizens United decision, last week was not a happy one to begin with.

And then I found out about poor Beckham. Somehow that felt like the saddest news of all.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7195

Let's close out the week with a threefer.

Kids camp out all night for the latest edition of Balalaika Hero!
America has "borrowed" many television shows from Great Britain, so it was nice to give something back with The Dukes of Pudsey.
Probably no other three-hour subtitled documentary about rugged Yemeni fishermen has benefited more from misspelling and carelessness with Netflix queues than The Dhow of Steve.

(Images originally uploaded by Elwyn / Elwynsattic, Dean Chipp-Smith, and Swiatoslaw Wojtkowiak; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, January 22, 2010

President-Elect Brown

The Daily Show puts things in hilarious perspective—and manages to get in another nice dig at Jim Cramer, too. (Why on Earth is he still on television?)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Indecision 2010 - The Re-Changening
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

"Think about what Brown had to overcome here. Many thought that Massachusetts was not yet ready to vote for a Republican-American. It wasn't long ago in that state when 'people like him' had to be content with running just the financial institutions and the restricted clubs."

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6973

Footage you did not see from the 2008 Democratic National Convention—and which you will never see again:

"Welcome back to MSNBC's coverage of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. There was some confusion a few moments ago when a man claiming to be a time traveler from the year 2010 emerged from some sort of vortex and sprinted toward the podium, yelling and waving a box of testosterone supplements, before being tackled by security and hustled to detention. No word yet on the man's identity, though Democratic officials seem inclined to shrug off the incident as a prank by an activist group such as The Yes Men or Code Pink, and the man's agitated screaming about 'teabaggers' only adds to the impression that this was some sort of bizarre joke. Now back to Keith Olbermann on the floor."

(Image originally uploaded by StuffEyeSee; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chatterbox Shuffleboard

So: NBC is going to pay Conan O'Brien around $32 million to go away—so it can give The Tonight Show back to Jay Leno?

NBC actually places that kind of value on Jay Leno?

Does Leno actually make them that much money?

Does he have pictures of somebody or something?

Was Bill Hicks right about him making an, um, deal with the Devil?

(WARNING: Absolutely, positively not safe for work. And possibly anywhere else. h/t Dennis Perrin)

Admittedly, I'm rarely up at that hour and hardly ever see late-night TV, so perhaps the value of this exchange of one professionally genial chatterbox for another is lost on me. But $32 million to go away—to make room for Jay Leno? Sometimes, the corporate media is not only shallow, annoying, and irresponsible; it's also baffling.


Speaking of Christopher Hitchens: very nice piece on Robertson on Haiti.

His warmongering is one thing; his eloquent, two-fisted secularism is another. Oof.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6619

"Is beautiful. You will love it." *looks at sketch* " looks like Christopher Hitchens." "Yes, is beautiful." *flips through dozens of other sketches of dozens of other people* "But...these all look like Christopher Hitchens." "Yes, is beautiful."

*backs away slowly*

(Image originally uploaded by Mikhail Ocean Trigubenko; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Listen to the Krugmeister

Democrats: Stop being wimps, stop playing Republican-lite, pass health care reform, take on the big banks.

Coakley's crapout doesn't have to matter.

The Sad Decline of Brand Obama

Good reading for Day One of the spanking new post-Brown era of (what I fear will be) reinvigorated Democratic panic and retreat: Naomi Klein.

If there was ever a time to remember the lessons we learned at the turn of the millennium, it is now. One benefit of the international failure to regulate the financial sector, even after its catastrophic collapse, is that the economic model that dominates around the world has revealed itself not as "free market" but "crony capitalist"—politicians handing over public wealth to private players in exchange for political support. What used to be politely hidden is all out in the open now. Correspondingly, public rage at corporate greed is at its highest point not just in my lifetime but in my parents' lifetime as well. Many of the points supposedly marginal activists were making in the streets 10 years ago are now the accepted wisdom of cable news talk shows and mainstream op-ed pages.

And yet missing from this populist moment is what was beginning to emerge a decade ago: a movement that did not just respond to individual outrages but had a set of proactive demands for a more just and sustainable economic model. In the United States and many parts of Europe, it is far-right parties and even neofascism that are giving the loudest voice to anti-corporatist rage.

Personally, none of this makes me feel betrayed by Barack Obama. Rather I have a familiar ambivalence, the way I used to feel when brands like Nike and Apple started using revolutionary imagery in their transcendental branding campaigns. All of their high-priced market research had found a longing in people for something more than shopping—for social change, for public space, for greater equality and diversity. Of course the brands tried to exploit that longing to sell lattes and laptops. Yet it seemed to me that we on the left owed the marketers a debt of gratitude for all this: our ideas weren't as passé as we had been told. And since the brands couldn't fulfill the deep desires they were awakening, social movements had a new impetus to try.

Perhaps Obama should be viewed in much the same way. Once again, the market research has been done for us. What the election and the global embrace of Obama's brand proved decisively is that there is a tremendous appetite for progressive change—that many, many people do not want markets opened at gunpoint, are repelled by torture, believe passionately in civil liberties, want corporations out of politics, see global warming as the fight of our time, and very much want to be part of a political project larger than themselves.

Those kinds of transformative goals are only ever achieved when independent social movements build the numbers and the organizational power to make muscular demands of their elites. Obama won office by capitalizing on our profound nostalgia for those kinds of social movements. But it was only an echo, a memory. The task ahead is to build movements that are—to borrow an old Coke slogan—the real thing. As Studs Terkel, the great oral historian, used to say: "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."

Our current Democratic elites have mostly made a hash of their impressive late-Bush-era election victories; they have impressive majorities in the House and Senate, but they've used them to further stroke the finance industry, to pass a too-small stimulus package, and to bypass more popular healthcare reform ideas (single payer and public option) in favor of a corporate-friendly mandate system that inspires no great devotion among anyone, either right or left. Their tentative, apologetic steps in any progressive direction are usually followed by immediate retreats. I wish I could be confident that they'd draw the right lessons from the Coakley defeat—campaign like you actually want the job, don't piss off your base, stop retreating from popular ideas because of corporate/Villager opinion, etc.—but I'm not.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4153

Let's do a threefer today.

Deep in the bowels of the Death Star, a special detachment of Journotroopers toiled night and day on the Emperor's Twitter feed.

"We found this in the grinder. I'd cancel that APB on Dealer Smurf," said the detective. "And I'd avoid the breakfast sausage for a while, too."

Get Sucked Up Into Your Mind at Bowie State!

(Images originally uploaded by ShellyS, gfixler, and BarronPhotos; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Family Values!

Dahr Jamail, "Army Files Charges Against Single Mother" who missed a deployment to Afghanistan while scrambling to find childcare options for her one-year-old son.

This has been your Price of Empire update.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

But It's the Subtle Differences that Count

Tom Tomorrow on Pat Robertson on Parallel Earth, where the Enlightenment was not just something that happened to other people.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8188

Movies we'd like to see: Zarathustra and Louise.
('cause they're atop a mountain in Bavaria, and...never mind. Image originally uploaded by Mace2000; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Monday, January 18, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3173

One celebrity who absolutely cannot be accused of talking green while maintaining a high-carbon-footprint lifestyle is El Kabong.
(Image originally uploaded by CapsLK; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


For MLK Day

You could do worse than to check out the well-chosen excerpts from his "Beyond Vietnam" and "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speeches at Democracy Now!, Joseph Stiglitz's new piece on "Moral Bankruptcy" at Mother Jones, and Noam Chomsky's overview of the last two centuries of Haiti's politico-economic history (nine segments) from his Year 501. The latter two echo in their ways the same thoughts as the climactic moments of "Beyond Vietnam":

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

Something tells me that Pat Robertson could not say these words without his tongue catching on fire.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2358

Episode XIX


"Who's with me, brothers? March for tuition reimbursement and better markmanship instruction! Come on! The Emperor can't mind-choke us all!"

*Emperor mind-chokes them all*

(Image originally uploaded by skimisphat; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, January 16, 2010


"Shut your pie hole, old man."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Haiti Earthquake Reactions
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Ironically, comedy Jew Jon Stewart actually does a better job of Christian preaching than a supposed Christian preacher.

Steve Rendall of FAIR points out something that hadn't even occurred to me about Robertson's remarks:

Robertson's audience reportedly runs into the millions, and many of them who might normally be willing to give support for disaster relief could take Robertson's words to heart and close their purses rather than give aid to servants of the Devil.
It would be ironic if a supposed Christian preacher's superstitious nonsense led any generous, charitable Christians to refrain from doing a very Christian thing that they would otherwise do.

No: not ironic.


Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6844

A haiku to close the week:

O Burj Khalifa
Mighty syringe for a cosmos
The KeithRichardsverse
(Image originally uploaded by cathyrnb_hk; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Can We Kick Him Out of Western Civilization Now?

Left Blogistan has been brimming with well-justified disgust at Pat Robertson's comments on Haiti, and I have little to say that hasn't already been said. Even supposing that he had any respectable evidence whatsoever to support his bizarre claim that two centuries ago some Haitians made a deal with the Devil to free themselves from the French, this would hardly alleviate the more glaring problem that, on Robertson's account, a professedly just and loving God is now inflicting death and misery upon thousands of people who had nothing to do with the deal and weren't even alive at the time as payback. I marvel at the kind of mind that can smugly offer this as a reasonable explanation of an awful human tragedy, and I am wary of exploring its blasted geography much further. Watch out for snakes.

But Robertson's weirdness doesn't stop there. I was struck by this part of his remarks, too:

You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It's cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti, on the other side is the Dominican republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc.. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.
It's not at all hard to believe that the Dominican Republic is better off than Haiti, and indeed, a look at the CIA World Factbook shows that the DR beats Haiti pretty much across the board. But does the Dominican Republic really merit the adjectives "healthy" and "prosperous"?
GDP per capita PPP: DR 119th, Haiti 203rd (out of 229)

Distribution of family income: Haiti 8th most unequal, DR 25th (out of 134)

GDP real growth rate: Haiti 168th, DR 78th (out of 217)

Life expectancy at birth: Haiti 181st (60.78), DR 99th (73.7) (out of 224)

Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1000 live births): Haiti 37th worst (56.69), DR 83rd worst (25.96)(out of 224)

Better off than Haiti it may be (doubly so in some categories), but if this is Pat Robertson's idea of "prosperous" and "healthy," then let me be the first to recommend that he decamp to this veritable paradise and trouble us no more with his sick attempts at theodicy.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #9654

If Katrina and the Waves were a question that nobody asked, then The Seppukids were Japan's answer.
(Image originally uploaded by sim3000; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8102

Neglect your poop-scooping if you wish, but be warned: Even the Dark Lord of Mordor himself would think twice before f*cking with the Rivendell Residents' Association.
(Image originally uploaded by Enlothien; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Well, I'll Be Damned

Ray Stevens is still alive?!?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0761

Target acquired. Moving in to investigate.

*jams nose into crotch*

(Image originally uploaded by aussieglis; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Something You Don't See a Lot Down Here

Crunchy grass!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #6147

I made it through the Slavic reggae vibraphonists and the Celtic lounge didgeridooist at CultureMash 2009, but when they introduced the transgendered Polynesian trombone quartet, even I started to get dizzy.
(Image originally uploaded by K Brower; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Back? To the Fight?

Dan Froomkin has a nice piece on last week's wave of "Released Guantanamo detainees are going back to the fight!!!" stories—and how many in the media seem to have learned nothing from the last time the Pentagon trumpeted a wave of released-detainee recidivism (except, you know, they couldn't back up their numbers, and many of the detainees weren't known to be honest-to-gosh terrorists in the first place, and in some cases "returned to the fight" meant nothing more violent than "wrote an angry letter to the editor"). Says Froomkin, "Gullible, amnesiac journalists are a dangerous thing. Is our profession really incapable of learning anything from its mistakes?"

To be charitable, I suppose it's only ineptitude if you don't think it's your job to fall for official propaganda.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #2370

The worst thing about the The Newlywed Comics is that, as part of the divorce agreement, their 15 minutes were divided between them—so they each have 7:30 left.
(Image originally uploaded by techzulu; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


The Uh-Ohs

I agree: Great name for the "Decade of Conservative Failure."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #5178

Let's start the week with a threefer.

Things were heating up at the Venn diagram orgy.
Saddest. Honeymoon photos. Ever.
"That's it for this edition of Nose to Butt. Join us again next week when the panel will be discussing the new hydrants on State Street."

*music plays, credits roll, panelists sniff each other, bite fleas*

(Images originally uploaded by GBoGBo, HollywoodHeroes, and dogsbylori; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Great Paragraph Watch

Stuart Klawans:

Speaking of frantic: let me digress to warn you about Nine, the latest act of musical aggression from director Rob Marshall. I don’t know what he’s got against his fictionalized subject, Federico Fellini (or against Vincente Minnelli, for that matter), but he’s made sure that the score is orchestrated to the thickness of a seventeen-car pileup; the vocals are mixed to the level of screeching metal and shattering glass; and the editing approximates the moment of impact, when your head snaps every which way. Penélope Cruz escapes from the catastrophe unscratched, which shows she really can do anything. But Nine reveals that Daniel Day-Lewis does have his limits. He cannot sell a patter song while clambering up and down a jungle gym and screaming in an Italian accent.
The latter is clearly more DeNiro territory.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #7183

Series Premiere: Squeezeboxers. Once-rival buskers team up to roam the city and fight evil while tensely wooing the same mercurial Edith Piaf impersonator in Naughties Amsterdam. Starring

*series canceled*

(Image originally uploaded by sgrais; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Friday, January 08, 2010

Jeez, I Thought I've Had Rough Weeks

The next time I have a difficult stretch, I'm going to try to remember this:

Tsutomu Yamaguchi, Survivor of Both Atomic Bombings, Dies at 93

And in Japan, the only person known to have survived both US atomic attacks during World War II has died. Tsutomu Yamaguchi was ninety-three years old. Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima when the US dropped the first atomic bomb on August 6th, 1945. He suffered several wounds but returned to his hometown of Nagasaki, which was bombed three days later. In his elder years, Yamaguchi became a vocal proponent of nuclear abolition.

Emphasis added. Despite being something of a World War II nut when I was younger (long before the History Channel came along), I did not realize that there was anyone who had been on the receiving end of both bombings and had lived to talk about them. But then in those days I was much more enchanted with the machinery of war and found it easier not to think about the people involved—those who use it, and those whom it's used against. Nowadays, I can't help being awestruck by stories like this:
Mr Yamaguchi was a young engineer on a business trip to Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, when a B-29 US bomber dropped its payload – the "Little Boy", which would kill or injure 160,000 people by the end of the day. Three kilometres from Ground Zero, the blast temporarily blinded him, damaged his hearing and inflicted horrific burns over much of the top half of his body.

Three days later, he was back in his home city of Nagasaki, 190 miles away, explaining his injuries to his boss, when the same white light filled the room. "I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima," he said later. The "Fat Man" bomb killed about 70,000 people and created a city where, in the famous words of its mayor, "not even the sound of insects could be heard".

His exposure to so much radiation led to years of agony. He went bald and developed skin cancers. His son Katsutoshi died of cancer in 2005 aged 59, and his daughter Naoko never enjoyed good health. His wife died in 2008 of kidney and liver cancer. Toshiko suffered one of the many symptoms of fallout survivors: an abnormally low white blood cell count.

But once he recovered, he returned to work as a ship engineer and rarely discussed what happened to him. He quietly raised his family and declined to campaign against nuclear weapons until he felt the weight of his experiences and began to speak out. In his eighties, he wrote a book about his experiences, and took part in a documentary called Nijuuhibaku. The film shows him weeping as he describes watching bloated corpses floating in the city's rivers and encountering the walking dead of Hiroshima, whose melting flesh hung from them like "giant gloves".

"The same white light filled the room." Somehow that's one of the most chilling sentences I've ever read.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8448

"I am 'diminutive yet well-rounded', thank you very much, and if you apply pejorative terms to me again, sir, you shall hear from my lawyers before you can even finish your slanderous bit of doggerel. Harrumph."
(Image originally uploaded by ; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Five Figures and a Private Jet?

Michael Tomasky notes some speculation about how much bling Sarah Palin is getting for her upcoming appearance at the first national tea-party convention—and what is known about how much Glenn Beck charges.

Jeebus. Socrates and/or Immanuel Kant could come back from the dead, and I don't think they'd deserve $60-$70K and a private jet. (Nor, I'm sure, would they think of asking for such.) What on Earth could people like Beck or Palin say, what kind of wisdom could they share, that would merit such a payday? Or is this just some kind of accepted reward for occupying the particular niches they've carved out for themselves in the reigning media-political ecosystem?

Like John Dolan said: Millionaires and suckers.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8825

Meanwhile, at the RenFest, a breaking point is reached.

"But soft: what doth yon squire with yon windowéd box aforest yon face? Couldst witchcraft it be? Attempteth he to stealeth my soul, prithee mayhap?"

"Oh, #$%& it."

*drops camera, pulls out machine gun*

(Image originally uploaded by K Brower; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Don't Say He Didn't Warn Us

I was going through my files and I was reminded that, way back on the day after the election in 2008, Sam Smith posted a long cautionary note about Obama; the past year has proven it remarkably prescient. From his conclusion:

As things now stand, the election primarily represents the extremist center seizing power back from the extremist right. We have moved from the prospect of disasters to the relative comfort of mere crises.

Using the word 'extreme' alongside the term 'center' is no exaggeration. Nearly all major damage to the United States in recent years - a rare exception being 9/11 - has been the result of decisions made not by right or left but by the post partisan middle: Vietnam, Iraq, the assault on constitutional liberties, the huge damage to the environment, and the collapse of the economy - to name a few. Go back further in history and you'll find, for example, the KKK riddled with members of the establishment including - in Colorado - a future governor, senator and mayor after whom Denver's airport is named. The center, to which Obama pays such homage, has always been where most of the trouble lies.

The only thing that will make Obama the president pictured in the campaign fantasy is unapologetic, unswerving and unendingly pressure on him in a progressive and moral direction, for he will not go there on his own. But what, say, gave the New Deal its progressive nature was pressure from the left of a sort that simply doesn't exist today.

Unfortunately, this administration seems far more hostile to "pressure from the left" than it does to pressure from the right—as when it sat patiently through months of tea partying, orchestrated town meeting shoutdowns, gun-slinging, talk of "death panels," and so on only to lash out at Howard Dean ("no rational person") when he had the temerity to suggest that the Senate's version of health care reform had been watered down to the point of pointlessness. That may be the anecdote that broke the camel's back in my case. I'd have been thrilled to hear a Democratic administration aver repeatedly that "no rational person" would say the sorts of things that routinely flow forth from the bilge pipes of Fox and friends, but no—they save that bare-knuckled rhetoric for Howard Dean.

That's just sad.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8981

Everybody was eager to see Crusher Lundquist's new baby pictures.
(Image originally uploaded by smelikian; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)



It's almost awe-inspiring to think that Glenn Beck could respond to being named Media Matters' 2009 Misinformer of the Year—and to the reams upon reams of documentation behind the dishonor—by simply telling his audience that MM "didn't back it up with any facts."

He's obviously not ignorant of what Media Matters says and does, so he must know that, in fact, they backed it up with many facts. So he's either insane—and in a quite frightening massive-denial-of-objective-reality kind of way—or he's astoundingly dishonest.

Either way, all his viewers have to do is spend an hour or so poking around at Media Matters, and they'll find dozens upon dozens of false claims of his—not least of which is the remarkable meta-falsehood noted above. It's almost like he's daring them to stick a toe outside of his crazy little cave.

C'mon, people! Take the dare! It's nice out here, honest.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #0013

I had that dream again where these guys stand under the Statue of Liberty shouting "Jump! Jump!"
(Image originally uploaded by tracy.hancock; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


The Christmas Sweatfest

Of all the things I read online over the holidays, this victim's guide to Glenn Beck's The Christmas Sweater massively (un)popular super simulcast event stands out.

My wife knew little of Glenn Beck before this show. She left the theater genuinely terrified.
The first commenter at IMDB offers what is perhaps the most awesomely underwhelming recommendation I have ever seen:
This man has a very dark soul and it is all on the screen - paranoia, death, fear, weirdness. I don't know who they expect to see this film (not really a film). It comes from a kid's point of view, but it is way to dark for kids. It is way to juvenile for any adult I know. I guess if you like last part of Old Yeller, you might like this.
Ouch. Seriously, read the True/Slant piece if you haven't. Beck's tour de farce sounds like it might give even The Star Wars Holiday Special a run for its money.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #8219

And soon, children came to associate the words "financial services corporation" with huge, bloated monstrosities, alight with the fires of hell, floating imperiously above the benighted land.

As well they should.

(Image originally uploaded by jillig; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Sunday, January 03, 2010


I know that those who live north of America's Wang can't sympathize much, but three days in a row down to or below freezing is pretty freaking rare here:

Clearly, global warming is all a big socialist hoax.</inhofe>

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #1624

Once he could do over 100 one-armed pushups while hardly breaking a sweat, Sammy knew he was ready to take on Apollo Creed.
(Image originally uploaded by preilly; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


Saturday, January 02, 2010


The ever-questing ProRev points us to, of all things, the Naval Safety Center, which features a frequently hilarious photoblog full of moments-before-everything-went-wrong gems like this:

Check it out.

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #4273

(Image originally uploaded by PaulLehrBMX; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)



I think I've mellowed a bit re. the health care bill since before Christmas. I still can't bring myself to believe it's "the greatest social achievement of our time"—not without wanting to jump off a bridge because of what that says about "our time," anyway—but over the holidays I had a chance to catch up with some people I trust, like Paul Krugman (see also here and here) and Wendell Potter, who aver that, for all its flaws, it's still a worthwhile piece of legislation, a healthy step in a progressive direction, the best we can get at this historical moment, something to build on, better than nothing, etc. So, while my heart remains with digby, I'm going to try to be upbeat as Congress gets to work on a final version. I'm going to try.

I can't say that I retain much enthusiasm for President Barack "Public Option? What Public Option?" Obama, though.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Daily Random Flickr Blogging, #3707

Happy New Year!

Let's see if we can't get this going again for the new year and keep up the spirit for awhile. Method: I use a random number generator to get a list of 4-digit numbers; for each day, I go to Flickr and search on "IMG_####" (using whatever the day's number is). I look at the first page of results; if I so desire, I roll a virtual die, take whatever number comes up, go that many pages over to a new page, and look at those results—repeating as desired until I have something I think I can work with (or until I give up in frustration and decide to work with whatever I've got). I then try to come up with a caption, funny or otherwise, for at least one of the images. Eventually I might try tightening the rules—using another die roll to restrict the number of pages I'm allowed to look at, for example, and cursing the randomness gods when I get stuck with a single page of uninspiring photos—but let's start the new year a little more downtight, shall we?

Snake charmers and their snakes really should take separate vacations. "The view on this side is even better. C'mon, take a look." "Sssssssss." "I swear, you can see almost all the way to Crete." "SsssSSSSssss." "Fine. Be that way." *pout*
(Image originally uploaded by from_the_sky; Random Flickr Blogging originally invented by Tom Hilton.)


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