26 March 2008

"There is no such thing as an antiwar film to a US Marine"

Holy Baudriard, Batman. Soldiers in Iraq appear to have learned how to decorate a military encampment by watching reruns of M*A*S*H.

21 March 2008

Bisy backson

I've gone beyond so busy that I'm only posting links to YouTube videos all the way to so busy that I'm posting links to old posts of my own.

Cuteness and punk rock

20 March 2008


I plan to spend the day looking for balance ....

18 March 2008


Five years today.

I have neither the time nor the inclination today to outline the numberless Iraqi dead, the almost four thousand American dead, the thousands more American soldiers maimed in mind or body, the war crimes, the erosion of our armed forces' strength, the lost mystique of our intelligence services, the strengthening of al Qaeda and Islamist jihadism, the unrecoverable loss of American credibility, the corrosive effect on our whole political culture. I'll just give you this piece from the Financial Times about the money: Iraq war costs inspire shock and awe.

Six months before the start of the US led-invasion, Larry Lindsey, then White House economic adviser, estimated that the war in Iraq could cost as much as $200bn.

The claim, which cost Mr Lindsey his job, was dismissed as baloney by Donald Rumsfeld, the then defence secretary whose own estimate was $50bn to $60bn. Andrew Natsios, head of the Agency for International Development, estimated the reconstruction of Iraq would cost the US $1.7bn (€1.1bn, £849m).

These estimates have proved to be what the war’s critics say is just one of many grievous miscalculations. The Iraq war will be five years old on Tuesday, and serious estimates suggest it will be, with the exception of the second world war, the most costly in US history. Two academics estimate the government is spending $12bn a month in Iraq, while the Joint Economic Committee of Congress says the war has so far cost a US family of four $16,900, a bill that could rise to $37,000 by 2017.

The most conservative estimate of the war’s cost comes from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whose remit limits its analysis to US government spending. Up to September 30, the end of the 2007 fiscal year, it says $413bn was spent on Iraq. From then until the end of 2017, it calculates overall spending on Iraq and Afghanistan at $570bn-$1,055bn, depending on how quickly troop numbers are reduced. If three-quarters of the budget is spent on Iraq, the ratio of recent years, future direct budgetary costs would be a further $428bn to $788bn.

Interest payments on debt raised so far and attributable to the Iraq war would cost $290bn up to 2017, with a ­further $131bn to $218bn ­covering spending over the next 10 years. This would bring the US government bill until 2017 for Iraq to $1,300bn-$2,000bn.

That's right. More than a trillion dollars.

If you had a trillion dollars, what would be the first thing you would spent it on?

16 March 2008

Google Sky

Today I think of what Galileo would have given to have access to Google Sky.

15 March 2008


Despite being crazy busy with work and meshugass the last couple of weeks, I've stumbled into a few reports about this tiresome Eliot Spitzer sex scandal thing. It's evidently everywhere. Blah blah blah, famed breaker of prostitution rings spends thousands on call girls, blah blah blah. I didn't care until I saw this comment from Dragon Lady Flame.

2) Do I think Spitzer was a hypocrite? Maybe. I've thought over and over about what was going through his head. Did his urge to punish johns come from a deep-seated guilt? Did his dogged work against prostitution rings also arise partly from that deep-seated guilt?

2a) I doubt it. Why? Because, as was best summed up by my friend Zach (who once interned with Spitzer), "the hooker rings he busted as an AG were more of the human trafficking variety than the $5000/hr variety." In other words, the prostitution that Spitzer cracked down on was closer to rape / abuse / sex slavery than it was to a white, educated, English-speaking American citizen freely consenting to have sex for money. And, of course, the johns he thought deserved punishment were doing something a lot more analogous to paying for rape than paying for consensual sex.


I don't have to get my feminism on and rant about how consent is not that %&*@!! difficult a #*&@!! concept because she's done it for me.

The papers, TV, etc. are treating this case as if it's all about insane hypocrisy — he brought down prostitution and yet patronized prostitutes! gasp! — when a minimum of reflection will show that Eliot Spitzer was not patronizing the kind of prostitutes whose activities he aimed to take down. There's a huge difference between (a) an illiterate downtrodden woman whose pimp beats her, rapes her and takes all her money ... and (b) Ashley Alexandra Dupré. There's a world of difference. Eliot Spitzer was patronizing the second, not the first — and it really says something about how fucked up Americans are, that everyone seems to think that patronizing the second is practically the same as the first.

The distinction is more than just important. It's crucial. Apparently, most Americans consider Ashley Alexandra Dupré to be just as victimized as your average street whore — or, conversely, they consider your average street whore to be just as empowered as Ashley Alexandra Dupré. The failure to grasp the difference is at the heart of much current commentary on this issue.

And while we're on the subject, I may as well offer a long reflection by a former escorts' booking agent which makes some sense of Mr Spitzer ... and offers a pretty bleak view of the human condition.


Of interest to my readers working in IT and suchlike fields of endeavor: David Gewirtz' article about the White House email archiving scandal. Here's the bit that hooked me:

Yes, boys and girls, the White House archives its email to PST files.

14 March 2008

Hint: It involves the internet

Via Content Love, I have the answer to the baffling question, “What do these things have in common?”

  1. K. D. Lang (or k. d. lang)
  2. Oral sex
  3. Olivia Newton-John
  4. Rotary International
  5. Pop-punk
  6. Speedy Gonzales
  7. Barry Manilow
  8. Bonnie and Clyde
  9. 4Kids Entertainment
  10. Geordi La Forge
  11. Spam
  12. Truth

Go ahead, guess.

13 March 2008

Big Day

The nice people at Volkswagen were kind enough to fund the creation of what may be my favourite 60-second film.

12 March 2008


I've recently learned that Steve Jackson, the famous game designer, is a collector of Pirate Legos. Unsurprisingly, he uses them to play Evil Stevie's Pirate Game.
This is a game, involving elements of both roleplaying and tactical combat, in which grown men and women sit on the floor and push toy pirate ships around, going “Arrrr!”
Sounds great.

Y'know, my nephew has quite a few pirate Legos ...

11 March 2008


Christopher B. Leinberger, writing in The Atlantic, writes about the coming decline of suburbs and observes how physically unprepared the 'burbs are to evolve into something more appropriate for the world of expensive oil we're soon to be living in.

Suburbia’s many small parcels of land, held by different owners with different motivations, make the purchase of whole neighborhoods almost unheard-of. Condemnation of single-family housing for “higher and better use” is politically difficult, and in most states it has become almost legally impossible in recent years. In any case, the infrastructure supporting large-lot suburban residential areas—roads, sewer and water lines—cannot support the dense development that urbanization would require, and is not easy to upgrade. Once large-lot, suburban residential landscapes are built, they are hard to unbuild.

The experience of cities during the 1950s through the ’80s suggests that the fate of many single-family homes on the metropolitan fringes will be resale, at rock-bottom prices, to lower-income families—and in all likelihood, eventual conversion to apartments.

This future is not likely to wear well on suburban housing. Many of the inner-city neighborhoods that began their decline in the 1960s consisted of sturdily built, turn-of-the-century row houses, tough enough to withstand being broken up into apartments, and requiring relatively little upkeep. By comparison, modern suburban houses, even high-end McMansions, are cheaply built. Hollow doors and wallboard are less durable than solid-oak doors and lath-and-plaster walls. The plywood floors that lurk under wood veneers or carpeting tend to break up and warp as the glue that holds the wood together dries out; asphalt-shingle roofs typically need replacing after 10 years. Many recently built houses take what structural integrity they have from drywall—their thin wooden frames are too flimsy to hold the houses up.

As the residents of inner-city neighborhoods did before them, suburban homeowners will surely try to prevent the division of neighborhood houses into rental units, which would herald the arrival of the poor. And many will likely succeed, for a time. But eventually, the owners of these fringe houses will have to sell to someone ...

James Howard Kunstler, as I mentioned a while back, calls this problem Peak Suburbia, and with the lending crisis growing ever worse, it's clear that this watershed has definitely arrived.

10 March 2008


Senator Obama may have the inspirational music—and it's worth thinking about what it means that as a candidate he's inspiring that flavour of enthusiasm—but Tina Fey makes the case for Senator Clinton with some mighty applied feminism.

09 March 2008


Ever wonder how the Beatles, circa 1964, would have performed Led Zeppelin's “Stairway to Heaven”?

Yeah, me neither.

Well, Beatles soundalike band The Beatnix have considered the question, and they have a pretty impressive answer.

08 March 2008


I'm not quite sure how I found this.
Meditation & Violence
A short video, using sock puppet actors, focusing on two incidents within the life and times of Allen Ginsberg; (1) a segment for an appearence on Firing Line w/ William F. Buckley, and (2) a sound collage from the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, IL. with Ginsberg chanting over top.
It is vastly more entertaining than it sounds.

07 March 2008


The Song Chart Meme has a bit of a poor signal-to-noise ratio, but the successful efforts are impressive.

If you liked that there's also Qwantz' Bullet Points Song Meme which I've contributed to myself ... and, of course, there's the infographic-porn video for Royksopp's song “Remind Me.”

06 March 2008

American music

I see that the Asylum Street Spankers are hitting the road again.

Austin readers: go to Momo's Friday night at 9:00 or the SXSW showcase at Esther's Follies on Thursday the 13th.

San Diego readers: I'll be at their 10 pm show at The Casbah on Sunday the 23rd.

Portland readers: They play the Aladdin on Saturday 29 March.

San Francisco readers: They're doing double shows, at 8:00 and 10:00 pm, at Du Nord on Friday the 4th of April.

LA readers: The next day, they'll be at Safari Sam's in Hollywood.

Someone once asked me what kind of music they play, and I realized that I didn't have a good name for it. “Uh ... American music.” You'd recognize it. Like you might hear on “West Coast Live” or “The Prairie Home Companion” and think ooh, that's really fun.

(Oh, and Mr James McMurtry: it is only because of this that I see you're playing Momo's on Saturday, since I've been foolish enough to think that your website is a good place to find your upcoming showtimes. See to that, would you? I'm looking for an opportunity to fly to Austin to see you, and this woulda been a good time.)

Back on the air

OK, it's been forever since I've been blogging regularly, thanks to some serious distractions, as well as the fact that I didn't get my home internet squared away until a few weeks ago.

I sort of made a resolution that I wouldn't go back to regular blogging until I had my New San Diego Life squared away. And I'm not quite there yet: my apartment remains in a bit of a state of chaos, I have a whopping five hundred unread emails in my inbox, there are a number of errands I still have dangling that are really a higher priority than blogging. But in the meantime, I've been tucking away the occasional tidbit for use here once I'm back to daily blogging, and they're starting to pile up.

And I really miss blogging.

So. I'm back to once a day. To my Faithful Readers, I apologize for being away for so long.