Friday, October 30, 2009

Joe Lieberman plans to run for re-election?

I find this incredibly hard to believe. Lieberman's numbers have been consistently negative in Connecticut since his last re-election; in fact, I remember polls only months after the election showing that Ned Lamont would win a rematch handily. I can easily see all of Joementum's backstabbing and sudden shifts in position being cynical plays in the service of some crazy re-election strategy, but for the life of me I can't figure out what that strategy would be. It truly escapes me how campaigning for Republicans and against Barack Obama and the public option could possibly benefit Lieberman electorally, unless he thinks he can still split the Democratic vote and win over the GOP like in '06. Even still, the path of least resistance is obviously Joe securing the Democratic nomination.

I suppose the more plausible explanation is that Lieberman's head has gotten so bloated from all the years in the Senate, the VP nod in 2000, the victory in '06, and all the media attention since, that he must think he's untouchable. The polls are meaningless, as the Democrats wouldn't dare try something in 2012 after what happened last time. Besides, by then he will have beaten down President Obama so completely that it will be a Republican wave year and he'd coast over any liberal opposition.

I sincerely hope his people are doing their best to convince him how crazy this is. Better yet, I hope they aren't.

the link between news and opinion on FOX News

As perfectly presented by Jon Stewart.

Paranormal Activity

Got to go see a horror movie at the theater for the first time since, God, Blair Witch, maybe? Go figure, the movie we saw was pretty much Blair Witch 2009.

Despite the occasionally cringeworthy dialog and the protagonist's annoying obtuseness, as well as the hilarious way that every shot in the second half of the movie centers on Katie's rack, it was a fun movie. I had forgotten how much fun it can be to watch scary movies in the middle of an audience.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The best column I've seen on Saturday's game yet, from Dan Wetzel.


I love that, for this article on people's worries about the H1N1 vaccine, the South Bend Tribune went to a chiropractor for expert advice.

In other news, the health section of the SBT will be classified under "astrology."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

IN-02: Jackie Walorski (R-Mars) to run against Donnelly

Please, God, tell me the voter of this district are smarter than that. Every time this woman shoves her face into the TV cameras (which is A LOT) she spews her hateful bile all over the screen. I swear she sounds like a tape recorder of RNC talking points. She makes Chris Chocola look like Olympia Snowe, and he was about as lock-step a Republican as they come.

In a lot of ways, she's the quintessential 21st century Republican. She's a belligerent, small-minded, selfish, lily white suburbanite with a bloated sense of entitlement and a chip on her shoulder about not having this country all to herself anymore.

UPDATE: edited to nix an erroneous educational comment. My bad!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

there's a word for this

The insurance lobby is telling us that they will raise our premiums if we dare create a public option or regulate them out of their coverage canceling loopholes. That's what they are doing. Obviously they don't have to do that; they could cut into their recession-defying, eye-popping profit margins, but they're saying they'll just pass all the extra costs to us so that they can keep the same rate of profit.

There is a term for this. It's "coercion," or if we're being less charitable "extortion."

Chinatown in light of recent happenings

An interesting look at Polanski's masterpiece, reading the director's own demons into it. Interesting, at least, aside from the tiresome "pox on both your houses" cop-out.

There is more that can be said here, though. I recently had the opportunity to watch Chinatown, and it is a masterpiece, no doubt. Nevertheless, what O'Hehir hints at but never comes out and admits is that the movie's message, like that of Polanski's "self-imposed exile" and like the maddening neither-left-nor-right ducking of reporters and editors, is rooted in moral cowardice. The central theme of the movie is the futility of good intentions, this is true, and the message telegraphed to the audience at the end is that Gittes' first mistake was even bothering to try to help someone in need. Evil always prevails and the good guys always lose, so you might as well just get yours and get out. It's an emotionally charged philosophy rooted in fear and despair, one just as delusional as the much maligned "starry-eyed optimism," but without its courage or productiveness. As a philosophy, however, it does hold one great advantage: it's wonderfully convenient for justifying all manner of selfishness and criminality, as well as the evasion of the consequences of said depravity.

That, I think, is the most interesting parallel between Polanski's life and work.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

sustainable living: layin' off the sauce (BBQ sauce, that is)

Ezra Klein brings up an important point that isn't often talked about in conversations about living "green": the contributions of a high meat diet to environmental devastation.

Yeah, I know. Meat is awesome. Meat is so awesome that even vegans want the flavor. The pig alone may be the source of more little moments of joy in this world than 100 years of Disneyland. There's no denying it, though: livestock (cattle in particular) contribute to climate change in a number of different ways that other food crops do not, all while significantly contributing to rates of obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure in the process because humans just weren't designed to eat a 1/3 lb. hunk of meat with every meal.

I'm not going to advocate for vegetarianism or veganism. I can understand the allure I guess, and I concede the dietary and environmental advantages of the lifestyle, sure, but I went vegan once for a Lenten fast. It was a harrowing experience involving 40 days of fairly serious legume-induced gassiness, always feeling hungry (does rice just vaporize when it hits stomach acid or something?), and experimenting with soy milk that I think led directly to my obsession with pizza.

Nevertheless, it's a virtual certainty that if you're not a vegetarian or vegan, you're eating too much meat.

An alternative is to slow down on the frequency with which we eat it. I have thus far had mixed success in this area, but I have found that it isn't as hard as one might think to have a meatless dinner at least a couple of times in a week. Usually in our house this happens when we make some big pot o' stuff that can't contain meat (since sap is vegetarian), which I'll have for dinner that night and at least one other night.

One of my most surprising discoveries during this process of finding "big pots o' stuff" is that many of my favorite meaty dishes don't actually need the meat. The vegetarian versions of jambalaya, gumbo, many soups, and chili are very good and plenty filling.

I also discovered that there's more incentive to have occasional meatless dinners when I buy higher quality meat. It doesn't take an Ag Ph.D. to recognize that Americans eat more meat than other people because meat is cheaper here compared with our salaries. Locally and humanely raised chicken quarters are great, but they cost a lot more than the stuff on the shelf at Wal-Mart, so I find myself having the urge to save them sometimes. Similarly, I'm not gonna throw that pound of grass finished ground beef in the chili when TVP will do. My local, free range pork kielbasa? That's for a special occasion.


For some reason, the notion of a brooding 200 year old getting texted by Anna Paquin gives me a chuckle.


Also, I'm a little weirded out that the last two shows I've watched have been about a small town girl with an odd first name and magical powers who's being pursued by her bartender, while her best friend is a sassy, intuitive black girl who is secretly in love with the heroine's older brother.

drinking and riding

After taking the subway home from a show last night one of the first things I saw on the teevee was an anti-drunk driving ad. It occurred to me that in all the years I've been seeing these things I don't remember a single one (I could be wrong!) suggesting people take mass transit instead of driving.

This is an odd mental block to see persisting for so long. I recall seeing one or two ads that involved calling a cab (still not really "mass transit"), but most involve making one friend go to the bar and drink coke all night while everyone else drinks to their hearts' content. The only people I've ever really known who do this effectively and consistently are married couples, probably for various reasons. Back in my rowdier, more single days, DD's were rare indeed.

I know that in both my current and former places of residence the local bus system would occasionally run pub crawl-type services or run buses to the party district, and both have ongoing free rides for students, but there was never much hype about it, and I do not recall any real effort to present the service as an alternative to being DD.

On the other hand, it should be noted that national efforts to combat drunk driving are clearly having some effect, as the number of alcohol-related fatalities has been in steady decline since the 1980's, with steep declines over the last 3 years. Of course, we're still talking about potentially thousands of people every year who die because somebody found carpooling, cabs, and mass transit insufficiently convenient.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

TV Tropes

DO NOT GO THERE if you have things to do. It's a magic time traveling website that causing you to instantly skip 3 hours into the future.

One of my favorite lines, from the entry on "Gannon-banning":
Confusing Star Wars with Star Trek in the presence of either fandom is one of the most brutal suicide methods known to man. This troper once saw a troll jokingly ask in a YouTube comment if TNG was "the one with the ewoks".

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"this week's game will be telling"

One always has the tendency to see the next game as one that "will really tell us where the team is at," especially throughout the first half of the season. Thinking about it, though, the last 4 games (Michigan, Michigan St., Purdue, Washington) I think established pretty clearly where we're at: roughly in the middle of the Pac 10 and Big 10. On par with the Spartans and Huskies, potentially dangerous to good teams but probably not a real threat to a team like the Tide or the Longhorns.

I hate to say it, but I think we know all too well who these two teams are that are playing in two weeks; we're just slow to admit it. I would be very surprised if we played at all competitively with Southern Cal. SC loses to an unranked team every year, usually right before they leave blue and gold splatter marks all over Notre Dame Stadium. Last year's Trojan D only allowed four Notre Dame first downs, and this year's D looks very similar so far. Yes, SC occasionally drops one to middling teams, but the better team is still more likely to win any given game.

I think we're started to get a sense of how the season is going to pan out for the Irish. In all likelihood, ND will finish its next game 4-2 with Pitt, UConn, Boston College, and Stanford as the remaining teams to beat. Last season ND went 7-5, meaning we'll have to beat 2 of these teams to show continued progress.

I hate to say, but things look pretty bleak from here for us, and even bleaker for Charlie Weis.

define "riskiest"

I'm going to guess that reporter ad libbed the sloppy language describing this study as describing "riskiest" foods rather than foods most likely to carry pathogens. It would be odd to call leafy greens the "riskiest" food in America without considering the "risk" of heart disease from consumption of partially hydrogenated soybean oil, meats, and dairy, or the risk of obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay from high fructose corn syrup. I bet a lot more people every year get sick and die from cheeseburger-induced heart disease than e. coli from spinach.

It's ill-considered language like this that gives fish a bad rep. Our eating habits are bad enough without irresponsible reporters telling people that leafy greens, tuna, tomatoes, sprouts, and berries are dangerous.

Monday, October 05, 2009

the death of punk

I think these conversations are fun to have, even if this particular point is a little stunted. Yes, today's "punk" kids are just buying into a sanitized, corporate, censor-approved mimicry of the original in the same way that sk8ers 15 years ago stopped tearing up their own normal clothes bailing from their boards and started buying $80 baggy jeans from mail order catalogs that also sold skateboards, decals, and sex wax (for lubricating rails and curbs).

Let's take it a little further. Why would the original punks (arguably) not have shopped at Hot Topic and listened to Avril Lavigne? What's wrong with major labels and national chains? There's an anti-authoritarian bent to old punk that extends to "suits," that is, corporations and their soulless, vampiric boards that take things that are fresh and vibrant and raw and sterilize them, wrap them up in pretty packaging, and sell them to entitled suburbanites looking to irk their parents and earn a little hardcore cred.

Admittedly, my experience with punk is limited. Nevertheless, I think I can say defensibly that punk was anarchistic, that is both anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist, but nobody nowadays wants to admit that they ever enjoyed or sympathized with such sentiment. It was this intellectual underpinning that bestowed all the trappings of the aesthetic with "a point," and separates old punk from the shallow, sterilized affect hawked at Hot Topic. At its best, punk was about snapping people out of their consumption-induced haze, about shocking people into waking up and looking at the world around them with clear eyes. Sure, the guys from Green Day might write songs that are critical of George W. Bush, but when the music is buffed to a glossy finish and released by Reprise Records with a mountain of manufactured, overpriced swag, it's just good ol' Starbucks and Apple Computers liberalism, not the gritty, half-smirking, half-sneering, violent thing that punk was.

I would also like to point out that the political lobotomy that punk suffered hardly happened in isolation. What ever happened to the cowboy hedonism and permissiveness toward drug use of outlaw country, and politics at all in rap music? What genre out there is expressing any actual political dissent, other than the occasional country tune supporting orthodox Republicanism or "punk"/rap song supporting Democrats? The only one I remember is a Rage Against the Machine video ten years ago supporting Ralph Nader.

Thursday, October 01, 2009


Since everyone else has already gone so much further into the details of the case than any of us ever wanted to read, I will just make one small contribution to the discussion. I'd like to provide some perspective on relative ages of teenagers and their sexual maturity that I think is sorely missing in this hyper-sexualized and sexually schizophrenic culture of ours.

I had the pleasure, if that is the word, of teaching reading classes to kids of all ages a couple of summers ago. I feel like I taught a healthy mix of urban and rural, rich and poor, white and minority children. Among those kids were somewhere around 100 junior high students and and the same number of high schoolers. New teachers are usually stricken by how young the high school kids look, as I was. The junior high kids, the 12-14 year olds, looked like awkward, oily children. The most "matured" among them could have passed for young, late-blooming high school juniors, but would have looked like little kids on any "high school" TV show.

Think about it: for most of us, the images we have of adolescents come from television, where the "high school age" characters are overwhelmingly played by people in the early 20's. 18 year olds look younger than you probably think. A 13 year old who "looks like she's 18" still looks very much like a kid.

For example, remember Freaks and Geeks? Linda Cardellini (Lindsay Weir) was 24 at the time. Natasha Melnick, who played Cindy Sanders (Sam Weir's love interest) was 15.

And don't forget, Polanski's crime was in 1970, and girls apparently mature a lot younger nowadays.

My point is that the girl he raped was much more a little girl than most people are probably imagining. When Roman Polanski and his apologists try to make his sexual proclivities look more normal by saying "she looked 18," she probably looked less like the lead actress in High School Musical and more like Winnie Cooper, season one.