Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In the Similitude of Dihydrogen Monoxide

Glenn Beck, that prankster, has created a sticker to put on your car that says "Hydrocarbon Powered Eco-Vehicle."

And he's invited his readers to share the public's reaction to the sticker. In only one case did someone clue in and — wait for it — black out the sticker with a Sharpie®. (Imagine the uproar on the left if someone blacked out a vulgar bumpersticker or a rainbow square.)

In the other cases, people were duly impressed and wondered how they could convert their car to burn hydrocarbons.

Morons. I bet most of them vote, too.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Another John Francois Kerry?

The identity of The New Republic's source in their scandalous stories about soldiers is finally out, one "Scott Thomas Beauchamp." (His pseudonym was "Scott Thomas"; good security there.)

Here's an entry from his blog from 24 May 2006:
...there could be no other way to appreciate what I had or what I'm going to have once I get out other than enduring this now when all I really want to do is teach history and lay around and read and hustle around and repair the world (tikkun olam) [Heb: "repair the world"] and sift through knowledge and improve culture and learn how to sail and work in soup kitchens and start a family and really, I mean REALLY study the best the western civilization has to offer and facilitiate the mystery and power through everything I do, but I cant do it without getting through this army experience first, which will add a legitimacy to EVERYTHING i do afterwards, and totally bolster my opinions on defense, etc,...

He's in it for the LEGITIMACY, folks, figuring that if he's worn the uniform (he's in Germany), he's an Unimpeachable Source. Earlier in that post he remarks, "Every morning I get up and I'm a little more liberal than the day before."

Those who have been in the military say that every unit has a Scott Thomas, someone who whines and complains and feels victimized and picked on.

The guy, from his MySpace material and stuff, seems borderline psycho. I mean, if you're going to tell a story about a Bradley careening through the streets, killing dogs that you espy on the right side of the vehicle, you should at least get the facts straight, especially when you're familiar with a Bradley, as he has been. (Debunkers of the story note that when you're driving a Bradley, you can't see anything near you on the right of the vehicle.)

As for the story of the unearthed graveyard, he should know that people could look into the records and see that no mass grave was unearthed near FOB Falcon, where Beauchamp was stationed for a time.

The best part is that TNR didn't bother to check the verifiable facts before running the story, nor did they attempt to alert the Army to these blatant rules violations.

Tools. You can tell by the style of his blog writing that he's a couple of units short of a batallion. But no, they HAD to run a fake story.

BECAUSE OF THE NARRATIVE!

And that guy at Amazon had him PEGGED: the guy's an aspiring writer/academic who wants to appear tough and all but knows that he's really not, so he affects sociopathy.
He (it is always a he) is an MFA candidate or recent graduate at one of the big-name creative writing programs in the USA, sometimes in poetry, usually in fiction, and increasingly in "creative non-fiction" (the litsy byline that "feature writing" took on when it moved uptown, became significant, and stopped having lunch with its old buds at the newspapers). Usually he is in his mid-twenties and is probably among the bright stars in the tiny constellation (and complicated pecking order) that MFA programs create. His particular niche in that social ecology will be the Big Talent With Big Balls, a role that requires some claim to a "dangerous" or "edgy" past, meaning some connection to interpersonal violence and to having seen some gruesome sights. (Being recently back from combat duty in Iraq, particularly if the young man is a reservist who will be going back for another hitch there, would certainly fit the bill nicely ...).

This is just another piece of fiction to him, another exercise in setting the scene and crap. But it's how he feels, so the facts shouldn't be taken literally. Except the part about U.S. soldiers being animals.

Again, what a tool.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Well. The Times Certainly Have Changed

This from my online Page-a-Day calendar:
The Japanese sent 9,300 balloon bombs floating across the Pacific Ocean during World War II. Though probably fewer than 1,000 balloons made it all the way across the Pacific, several did cause damage when they exploded into fiery balls in places like Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota, and Canada. Called FU-GO by the Japanese, the balloons carried bombs that were mostly intended to start forest fires. In general, the incidents were not reported in newspapers, because the United States didn’t want Japan to know whether their plan had been successful.
(emphasis mine)

What an interesting time that must have been, when the newspapers and/or government officials knew how to keep their pie holes shut when it counted.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Shocka: NY Times prints HP spoilers

I don't read NYT, so I wasn't spoiled, but really, is anyone surprised anymore? At The Leaky Cauldron, they organized a letter-writing campaign to NYT to castigate them for their insensitivity.

So of course, I had to get my licks in:

SUBJECT: What WON'T you print?

So, it appears that Harry Potter spoilers are fit to print.

What a bunch of smug, selfish, elitists you all are. HP fans been waiting for ten years to let the story unfold by itself, but no, you have to spoil it for a lot of people. I would cancel my subscription, but fortunately, I don't have one, and I don't read your miserable excuse for a newspaper, so I wasn't spoiled.

Do you also go around telling little kids that Santa isn't real?

What's next, publishing details on national security?

OH WAIT, YOU'VE ALREADY DONE THAT.

Paper of record, indeed. I'm glad your enterprise is circling the drain. You make The Daily Prophet look like a model of journalistic integrity.

With all due respect, which is to say, none at all,

<my real name>

Oh, and I finished it today at 7:30pm, having begun reading at 1:45pm (I was way back in the line at B&N) and taken about 3.5 hours break. That's, hmmm.... about 14 hours.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Why I Am Not a Marxist

I never was a Marxist, but Alan Johnson was, and he enumerates his reasons why he discontinued this particular worldview here.

Money quotes:
[First,] I no longer think that the bad bits in human beings can be swished away by replacing scarcity with 'abundance'. I think they are pretty much here to stay. And I think the bad bits amount to enough of the whole, enough of the time, to undermine the idea of a 'leap to the kingdom of freedom'. We are never going to reach a time when we each turn into a Goethe or a Beethoven, as Trotsky thought. I think we are 'ill-constituted beings' as Primo Levi put it, and as such we are never going to 'cleanse the world of all evil' as Trotsky hoped. We are not wholly bad by any means, but ill-constituted for sure, so pretty poor material for Marx's secularized version of the end-time. If we are lucky, and vigilant, we can create decent social democracies, maybe, but that's it. ....

[8.e.] the extraordinary romantic hostility to 'bourgeois' society that Marxism projects. Hatred of 'bourgeois' rights, 'bourgeois' democracy, 'bourgeois' morality, 'bourgeois' art, the 'bourgeois' family (and on and on), has fuelled hatred toward decent if prosaic societies and institutions and indulgence or worse toward appalling societies and institutions. ....

This animus against things 'bourgeois' I have come to despise. It is reckless about the defence of democratic society, insensible to how truly miserable the actually existing alternatives to 'bourgeois' society have been, and quick to morph into support for any thug who happens to be shooting at anything identified as 'bourgeois'. This animus is the common sense of much of the intellectual class in the West where it is called 'critical theory'. Inchoate negativism toward anything 'bourgeois' has morphed into support for anything that is 'transgressive'. We are all Hezbollah now.

9. I used to think Marx's thought had been distorted not disproved. But I have come to find compelling Irving Kristol's argument - any theory that can't stand being placed in the real world without turning into its opposite must be judged by that fact.

Emphasis mine.

h/t: AoSHQ

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Confessions of a Reformed BBC Producer

Here's a great article by a former BBCer who recognizes the folly of the journalistic mindset.

Spot on, mate, spot on.

h/t: Dan Collins over at Protein Wisdom
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Review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Orson Scott Card gave this movie a good review, which I read before I saw the movie.

Here's the part of the review with which I agree the most: "Without anyone taking much notice of it, Goldenberg has actually discovered what all those miserable little screenwriting classes pretend to teach: He has discovered how to tell a real story on film."

Goldenberg is one of the guys who wrote the 2003 Peter Pan movie with Jason Isaacs. That was truly a stunning bit of storytelling, I thought. And he's brought that same talent to OotP. For the first time, I felt as if I were watching a movie instead of the staging of a book. The narrative moved smoothly instead of feeling blocky and awkward, as if they were concentrating more on recreating the cool scenes from the book instead of recreating the story that was told in the book.

In the OotP movie, they concentrated on Harry's psychological and emotional state. This of course means that many scenes and subplots have to fall by the wayside except where they reinforce the main thrust of the film. I actually liked watching Radcliffe in this one, and Ron, very happily, was not relegated to comic relief except for some genuine jokes in the book, such as having the emotional range of a teaspoon.

They also did a good job of showing Harry's relationship with Sirius and, as Card says, the other "communities" that needed to be built. Luna served a wonderful role as the only person who seemed to understand, empathize with, and accept Harry. Some of the narrative shortcuts they took made sense and weren't disruptive.

The only disappointment I have is that I would have liked to see the scene at the end where Harry trashes Dumbledore's office. I guess they didn't do it that way, though, because they put the emotional climax in the Ministry of Magic, when Voldemort possesses Harry.

Also missing, and a good thing, too, was the cleaning of Grimauld Place and all of the rooms in the MoM. And Quidditch. They left out Quidditch, but it wasn't needed this time around.

Oh, and Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix LeStrange was brilliant casting. She was truly deranged, dark, and almost sexy, if she weren't such a loony tune.

It drives me crazy when reviewers slam the film for not having "enough magic." Because by "magic" they mean awe and wonder and charm and sweetness and discovery and newness, which was fine for the first movie: it was the exposition movie/book. But that's really background noise compared to the larger themes in the series, on which JKR concentrates more heavily with each novel.

OotP wasn't "faithful" to the books in the sense that it sought to recreate them. But it was VERY faithful to the spirit and thematic material, which, IMO, is more important for the movie than the special effects (of which there were many, nonetheless). This movie wasn't made to please the kiddies, it was made to tell Harry's story.

Bravo! Encore!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ok, now I don't know what to think.

In this post, near the bottom, I cite the legend of St. Urho as evidence for the Medieval Warming Period. The man, if you'll remember, is celebrated for having driven a plague of grasshoppers out of Finland's vineyards long ago.

I was willing to concede that St. Urho himself might be fictional, or that the grasshoppers were, but—and this is my mighty logic in play here—no country celebrates a guy for saving a fictional crop.

Unless, of course, the country doesn't celebrate him at all. I turns out that St. Urho is the creation of Minnesotan Richard Mattson, who invented the tale to complement the Irish's St. Patrick so that the Finnish-American community could have its own blast.

The day? March 16th, one day before St. Paddy's day. Iz in UR holidaz eev, stealin' UR thundr, I guess.

Crap. That was such a good plank in the GW skeptic argument. But I can't find evidence of vineyards ever having existed in Finland during the Medieval period so I'll heave the plank over the side and stop using it in arguments.

Because if it's fake, it's NOT accurate.

UPDATE: OK, now I feel better.
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