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"A Miracle of Modern Science!"

Some friends of mine, a lesbian couple, recently had a baby. I asked myself, what's an appropriate gift for that situation? And I answered, "self, go find an old-fashioned turkey baster and have it bronzed."

This got the best possible response: "that looks just like the one we used!"

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Current Music: Lamb -- B Line ♬

Polar bears drown as ice shelf melts

This is the most fucked up headline I've seen in months:

Polar bears drown as ice shelf melts

The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart. Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.
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first-hand research on fascism!

Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth
A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request [...] He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."

Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.

The Homeland Security agents [...] brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student.

Remember when this was a plot element in Se7en and you thought, "oh, that's bullshit?"

Update: Ok, so turns out it was bullshit.

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Information Society vs. VH1

Kurt told me about this a while ago, but I hadn't read his full write-up of it until now. Wow, isn't TV awesome? VH1 has this horrid show where they go harass former members of 80s bands and try to browbeat them into doing a reunion show for free. They tried that with Information Society, and it... didn't go well:

InSoc vs. TV!

What irritated me throughout this process, but especially when they intruded into my company's building, was that they seemed to be walking in this cloud of unreality about the true nature of what was going on. Somehow they just seemed to think that once everyone realized that "it's for TV! it's for TV!", that suddenly no one would really mind the disruption and lack of respect for real people doing real work to create real content. As though they were just above the hum-drum reality of real people leading real lives, and that they were exempt from all social constraints because it's FOR TV! It offended me. If they wanted to do this, they could have told the truth up front, they could have made a damned appointment, they could have cleared it with my company's management. And god, they lured Paul to Burbank from Topanga telling him they were going to give him WORK! OMG! He has two kids to support, ferchrissakes. Paul didn't seem too upset by it, but I felt outraged for him.
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Today In Treason News

I'm sure you've heard by now, but Bush has admitted to breaking federal law and violating the Constitution by authorizing the NSA to spy on Americans within the US, without warrants:

  • President Bush secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.

  • Bush says he signed NSA wiretap order. "He's trying to claim somehow that the authorization for the Afghanistan attack after 9/11 permitted this, and that's just absurd," Sen. Russ Feingold said. "There's not a single senator or member of Congress who thought we were authorizing wiretaps."

  • Bush's unchecked Executive power v. the Founding principles of the U.S.: "Underlying all of the excesses and abuses of executive power claimed by the Bush Administration is a theory of absolute, unchecked power vested in the Presidency which literally could not be any more at odds with the central, founding principles of this country."

  • Washington Monthly: "For a President to order violations of the law meets my criteria for impeachment. This is exactly what got Nixon in trouble: he ordered his subordinates to obstruct justice. To the extent that the two cases differ, the differences make what Bush did worse: after all, it's not as though warrants are hard to get, or the law makes no provision for emergencies. Bush could have followed the law had he wanted to. He chose to set it aside. And this is something that no American should tolerate."

This is surely the most impeachable thing he's done yet. But let me remind you why that is maybe not such a good strategy:

  1. Vice President - Dick Cheney
  2. Speaker of the House of Representatives - Dennis Hastert
  3. President Pro Tempore of the Senate - Ted Stevens
    (See also "Who The Fuck Is Ted Stevens?")
  4. Secretary of State - Condoleeza Rice
  5. Secretary of the Treasury - John W. Snow
  6. Secretary of Defense - Donald Rumsfeld
  7. Attorney General - Alberto "Torture Lawyer" Gonzalez
  8. Secretary of the Interior
  9. Secretary of Agriculture
  10. Secretary of Commerce
  11. Secretary of Labor
  12. Secretary of Health and Human Services
  13. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  14. Secretary of Transportation
  15. Secretary of Energy
  16. Secretary of Education
  17. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
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Current Music: Goldfrapp -- Twist ♬

DNA Lounge: Wherein photos are presented.

Photos of the Conjure One + Unwoman show. I liked them both. Unwoman is cello and laptop, and Conjure One was basically the same as Fulber's previous band, Delerium. I was under the impression that Delerium was pretty popular, but the turnout was extremely light.

Also up are photos of Good Vibrations High School, which featured more plaid skirts than you'll find even at a ska show.

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song ratings

When I switched my music over from Gronk to iTunes earlier this year, I decided to rate all of my songs. This seemed like an interesting exercise for two reasons: first, iTunes has an option to play higher-rated songs more often; and second, it was an excuse to actually listen to, and put at least some thought in to, every song I have. This was fun, because it turned out that there was a lot of music in there that I didn't even recognize! It was a good way to discover that one really good track on an otherwise-crappy ten-year-old album. Sometimes it takes hearing a song out of context with the rest of its album to give it another chance.

I'm sure a lot of my ratings were pretty arbitrary, depending on what kind of musical mood I was in that day, but it's better than nothing.

The way I did this was I made a smart playlist called "Unrated" with the rules: "rating is 0 stars; match only checked songs", then set the "Source" in Party Shuffle to the "Unrated" playlist. This will cause it to play random unrated songs until you've rated them all.

The rating scheme I used was:

    0 stars:     I have not yet rated this song.
    un-checked:     I hate this song and never want to hear it again.     11%
    1 star:     I think I don't like this song, but I'm not yet sure enough to kill it outright.     11%
    2 stars:     It's ok. Don't love it, don't hate it.     33%
    3 stars:     This song is pretty good (but not great).     26%
    4 stars:     I love this song!     10%
    5 stars:     An ass-kicking, incredible, all-time favorite.     9%

That took about five months for somewhere around 19,000 songs.

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JOUST!

"An ostrich jockey rides a two-year old male ostrich during a training at a Ostrich farm in Kitengela, Kenya. (AFP/Simon Maina)"

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recent movies

Cube Zero:
    This movie was just ok. Backing up a little bit for context, I really liked Cube. I thought the "Lord of the Flies" aspect of the mistrust between the prisoners was done well, and the punchline -- (mild spoiler, I guess) -- that no one person really designed the thing, that it just sort of happened -- was a really nice alegory for how profound evil can occur in the world simply through bureaucracy rather than malice.

    Cube 2: Hypercube wasn't terrible, but it wasn't really very good either. Not only did it go into impossibly magical technology (where Cube hadn't) but it gave us actual bad guys, which I thought weakened it a lot.

    Cube Zero is a prequel that deals with the behind-the-scenes operators of the machine, and how they don't really know the whole story of what they're doing or why. In that respect, it's more in line with the first movie, but it still brings in a lot more fantasy elements. It seems like they wanted the ending of Cube Zero to mesh with the beginning of Cube, but it doesn't quite.

A History of Violence:
    This is great. Definitely Cronenberg's least weird movie ever, and as such, not as creepy as you'd expect from him, but still very good. It's all about violence begetting violence, and it's handled really well. The violence is pretty graphic, but in a realistic way that makes you not want to be anywhere near it, instead of the usual Hollywood way. All the actors are fantastic.

The Aristocrats:
    This is Penn Jillette's documentary about the history of a particular joke. The structure of the joke is such that it's an excuse for the teller to just be as crude as possible for as long as they can keep it up. There are a lot of different tellings of the joke itself, which are awesome, and that's not as repetetive as you might think, but there's also a lot of discussion about why the joke works, and why it's funny. I really didn't expect a concept like this to be able to hold it together for the length of a whole movie, but it really does. It's hilarious. There's a mime version of the joke. There's a version done as a card trick!

Clockwatchers:
    This is old, but somehow I missed it. It's great: it's about a bunch of temps working in an office and how they start out as friends but eventually get beaten down by the system and turn on each other. It's kind of a sadder, less-comedic version of Office Space.

Party Girl:
    I liked Clockwatchers so much, I made that night a Parker Posey double bill. I'd seen this a long time ago, but it's still awesome. Shallow, directionless club promoter finds her true calling as a librarian, re-arranges room-mate dj's records by the Dewey-Decimal system.

Aeon Flux:
    If you were completely unaware that there had ever been a cartoon called "Aeon Flux", you might have enjoyed this movie. Since I was a huge fan of the cartoon, this movie was a huge disapointment. Not just because the story and characters bore only the slightest resemblance to those in the cartoon, but because it wasn't even the same kind of story. It wasn't even remotely weird enough. This wasn't a surprise, though; trying to make a live-action version of that cartoon was obviously a terrible idea from the start, even if everyone involved had been fans. I doubt it could be accomplished at all. I guess it wasn't the train wreck I expected it to be, but it still wasn't very good. Bad science, worse fiction.

    The plot of this one will remind everybody who hasn't forgotten about it already of the execrable The Island, making this a stupid re-tread of a stupid re-tread.

    The one good thing to come out of this movie is that they finally re-released the whole cartoon series as a 3-DVD set.

The Cooler:
    The always-awesome William H. Macy plays a miserable casino employee whose job it is to screw up people's winning streaks: but he does this just by standing near them, since his super power is that he is incredibly bad luck. Then he falls in love with a girl, which is of course his kryptonite.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
    I loved these books when I was little, though I haven't read them since I was 9 or 10, I guess? From what I can remember, the story was very faithful to the book. The acting was decent, and the effects were ok. I thought they did a lot better with the realistic animals than the fantastic animals: e.g., I thought the centaurs were kind of hokey, but the beavers were great. The big battle scene was mercifully brief. Still, there was something kind of flat about the whole thing. I can't put my finger on it, since all the right elements were there, but I came out thinking it was just ok.

    Still, I liked it a lot more than the Lord of the Rings movies. I thought Fellowship was ok, but by 40 minutes into Two Towers, I was done. It turns out that about 4 hours of Tolkien is all I can stand: I never even bothered seeing Return.

    There's been a lot of talk about the Christian overtones in Lion, but really, who cares? It's still a good story, and as far as I can tell, they didn't mess with the book at all.

    Until he appeared on screen, I had completely forgotten that Santa Claus is in the story: he's their arms dealer! Onward Christmas Soldiers!

Good Night and Good Luck:
    This is about Edward Murrow going after Joe McCarthy. It was a great movie, and the analogies to modern goings-on were subtle (an easy mistake to make in a movie like this would be to beat you over the head with it, which they didn't.) I had heard that all of the McCarthy footage was historical, because they didn't want anyone accusing them of putting words in his mouth, and I was expecting some kind of CGI trickery, but it was a lot more interesting than that: they just showed you everyone watching him on tv. You get the strong impression that through this battle, Murrow and McCarthy never actually met face to face, which hadn't occurred to me.

    Overall, though, it felt like kind of a small story about office politics; I understand that standing up to McCarthy was an incredibly risky and surprising thing for someone to have done at the time, but it seemed like they didn't sell that very well.

    I kept thinking about The Insider, the story about the tobacco industry whistleblower who got left out in the cold by 60 Minutes when their corporate owners pulled the plug on the story.

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